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Archive for October, 2016

 

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Most of the children who come trick-or-treating at our doors tonight will be dressed as princesses and super heroes. According to statistics, those are the most popular costumes.

So even though Halloween is sometimes called Satan’s holiday, that bright red, fork-tailed, pointy-eared devil costume will not be a prevalent sight.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if the devil really did wear a bright red suit on his rounds. We might find it easier to spot him and put up our guard. In actuality, he’s quite the wily fellow.

For Eve, he took the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:4). An interesting choice. Serpents are noxious creatures that creep stealthily, hiss menacingly, and inject poison into their victims. Need we say more about the similarities between Satan and serpents?

He’s called the evil one in Matthew 13:19. Look up evil in the dictionary and his character is clearly described: morally reprehensible, wicked, offensive, causing harm, bringing sorrow, distress and calamity.

Satan is our enemy (1 Peter 5:8). He seeks to injure, overthrow, and confound us. He is a harmful and deadly opponent, hostile, and filled with ill will.

 

 

In the same verse above, Peter says, “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The Living Application Bible reminds us lions attack sick, young, and straggling animals, and Satan does the same. When we are suffering, depressed, or being persecuted, that’s when he loves to move in for the kill. And he often chooses a time when we’re alone and more easily swayed.

The devil is our accuser (Revelation 12:10). First, he lies to us, trying to convince us that whatever he’s suggesting will make us happy. Then he turns around and uses our sins to accuse us of disobedience and unfaithfulness before God! In fact, Satan in Hebrew means accuser.

 

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You’d think that all these abhorrent traits would repel us from the devil and his cohorts. But his opposition against us isn’t always obvious. 1) We cannot see the spiritual forces of evil, and 2) Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

But! In spite of his power (although limited) and sophisticated trickery, the devil has already been defeated.

I love what author and Bible teacher, Ann White, said years ago:

“The devil may prowl around like a lion, but Christ removed his teeth at Calvary!”

Jesus is much greater than Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15). And Jesus is within us (1 John 4:4), empowering us to fight against him.

 

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In fact, Jesus showed us how to fight him off. Remember the strong temptations he withstood in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)? Jesus used scripture to refute the devil’s lies and twists of truth.

We can do the same, starting with one of Jesus’ responses in the passage above:

“Away from me, Satan! It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (v. 10).

And now that we know a bit more about the opposition, such resistance can be even more successful.

We can be ready–red suit or not.

 

(Reblogged from 10-31-13)

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(Art & photo credits: http://www.haloweencostumes.com; http://www.buckshappeningmag.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.slideteam.net; http://www.interest.com.)

 

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Did your jaw drop when you saw that title? Are you wondering if I’ve suffered a brain injury and lost my ability to reason? Let me add a few words of clarification:

 

It doesn’t matter what we believe if our beliefs aren’t based on truth.

 

“Truth is incontrovertible.

Panic may resent it;

Ignorance may deride it;

Malice may distort it;

But there it is.”

–Winston Churchill

 

I can strongly believe that a coin tossed in a fountain will cause my wish to come true, or that a kind, friendly salesman has my best interest at heart, or a sad, desperate plea for financial help is legitimate.

But such beliefs can result in futility and misplaced trust. No, whenever possible I must verify the truth of my beliefs.

 

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On November 8, what we believe will guide us to make a very important choice—a choice for which many of us have grave concerns.   According to a Rasmussen Report released yesterday, 69% of Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction. No doubt these folks are asking: Which candidate will be the most likely to change our course and lead us in a more positive direction?

It is imperative we base our decision on the crucial matters impacting our country: national security and terrorism, unemployment and jobs, the national debt, and healthcare, to name a few. Our beliefs about which person is the candidate of choice must be verified by facts—to the best of our abilities.

 

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Let’s be honest, though. Neither candidate is perfect. Then again, I can’t very well hold them to a standard I haven’t achieved myself. Perhaps the answers to these questions will guide my decision:

  • What kind of leader does our country need?
  • What are the most pressing concerns? Which candidate addresses those concerns with realism, clarity, and insightful solutions?
  • Which candidate aligns with the truths I consider most important?

If you’re not sure how to answer those questions, may I recommend you ask for advice from people you highly respect, people who are knowledgeable about current events and have demonstrated wisdom in the life-choices they’ve made. Who are they voting for and why? What news sources do they trust and why?

To be honest, no matter how the election turns out, I have deep concerns about the outcome. Perhaps you do, too. What’s a citizen to do?

Scripture and the forefathers of our faith give us indication:

  1. Be responsible, cooperative, and supportive citizens, as the Apostle Paul laid out in Romans 13:1-7.

 

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  1. Be realistic. Our pastor pointed out a few weeks ago that, much as it may disappoint us, we don’t have to live in a Christian nation in order to thrive as Christians.   Throughout the centuries, the church has actually strengthened and grown when under persecution.

 

  1. Be prayerful. That’s the most important instruction as we approach November 8. Again it is Paul offering wise advice:

 

“I urge then, first of all,

that requests, prayers, intercession and

thanksgiving be made for everyone—

for kings and all those in authority

that we may live peaceful and quiet lives

in all godliness and holiness.

This is good and pleases God our Savior

who wants all men to be saved

and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

–1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIV)

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.flickr.com (2); slideshare.net.

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"A pathway through the forest with bright sunlight."

 

“The path of the righteous is like

the first gleam of dawn;

shining ever brighter

till the full light of day.”

–Proverbs 4:18 NIV

 

I’ve been trekking along the path of the righteous since I was four years old, ever since I heard the story of Jesus dying on a cross to take the punishment each of us deserves for our wrongdoings. Miss Ruth, the storyteller, said if we asked him to forgive us, to be our forever Friend, and to take us to heaven when we die, Jesus would do all of that and more because he loves us so much. That very afternoon I prayed with Miss Ruth and embarked upon this adventurous* life-journey with Jesus.

Please understand: the path of the righteous has not been paved with my own righteousness. “I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9 GWT).

My Christian parents made sure the first gleam of dawn during childhood included many hours of Bible instruction in various settings. Sound boring? It wasn’t. The Bible contains some of the most exciting stories I’ve ever heard, and they’re true!

 

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The first gleam of dawn also included practical lessons of faith:

During one of Grandma’s babysitting-visits, she promised to take my brother and me for ice cream. But when the moment came to leave, we couldn’t find the house key. The three of us looked everywhere; no key. Grandma suggested we pray. The three of us perched on the lower stairs while we asked God to help us.

No sooner did we say “Amen” than Grandma again headed to the drawer where the extra key was kept. She’d already searched there a couple of times, but this time there it was.

 

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Now why hadn’t she seen it before? Perhaps so two little kids could learn that God hears and answers our prayers—even those of low-priority status.**

And as the years have passed, the faith-pathway has been shining ever brighter.

The Light of the world (John 8:12) has enlightened my mind and spirit, giving guidance and allaying fear. (To be truthful, I haven’t always followed his guidance nor have I lived totally fearless–but I’m learning!)

Sometimes God has directed, and I wasn’t even aware. My high school guidance counselor and two youth group sponsors at church happened to be alumni of the same Christian college about four hours away. Each of them took me to visit for homecoming and other events. Three years later I was attending that school, where I met my husband, Steve.

 

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After graduating with a teaching degree, I failed to secure a job in or near the small community where Steve would begin his seminary training the following fall.

“Aren’t you worried about what you’ll do if nothing turns up?” a family member asked. I honestly wasn’t overly concerned, perhaps because the situation was totally beyond my control.   I had no choice but to believe God would provide something.

At the beginning of August a principal called. Due to health reasons a veteran teacher had decided not to return; was I interested in the position? Three weeks later I was standing in front of my first class.

Fast forward through seminary, the births and raising of three children, the pastoral appointments for Steve in six churches, twenty-six years of teaching in four schools for me, and poof! We’ve traveled together forty-plus years down this path of the righteous.

 

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And I’m still rejoicing that God bestows more light as the days go by. He shines ever brighter and will continue to do so till the full light of daythe day I arrive in heaven.

Robert Browning wrote, “Progress is man’s distinctive mark alone.” How much more so for us Christians, whose progress toward maturity and completeness results in a delightful, distinctive mark: we become lights on the path of life, shining like stars and reflecting the Lord’s glory (Philippians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

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We, too, can shine ever brighter till the full light of day. What a glorious privilege he gives us!

 

I’d love to hear  a story from your path of the righteous.  Please share in the Comments section below!

 

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*By adventurous, I am not referring to the hang-gliding, rock-climbing, parachuting kind. Rather, the I-wonder-what-God-is-going-to-do-next variety!

 

**Of course, God does not intervene in every situation. Even the most faithful believers sometimes endure pain and problems.   Yet, like another sufferer, Job, their hope in God remains strong. Their focus is on that day when all suffering will end and God will establish his perfect kingdom.  Meanwhile, he is their strength and song (Exodus 15:2).  Those saints are the true shining stars!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.christianphotoshops.com; http://www.goodnessofgodministries.wordpress.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.greatvaluecolleges.net; http://www.slideshare.nt; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Years ago I purchased Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World (Waterbrook/Multnomah Books, 1993). Have you by chance read it also? If so, you might remember that within its pages she calls attention to the many ways God meets us in the midst of the craziness, offering us a place of refuge, promise, confidence, and more.

One way to meet with God, no matter where we are or what we’re facing, is to fill our mouths with his praises (p. 141). If you know Joni’s story as a quadriplegic for over twenty-five years (when she wrote the book), you understand what an incredible statement that is. If she can praise God continually, I have no excuse.

It was during a recent rereading of A Quiet Place that Joni inspired me to conduct a word study of praise and fill an entire page with synonymns.

‘Care to guess how many I found, as one word led to another? Twenty-five!

Their definitions and synonymns overlap one another, like the pleasing harmonies of a pastoral symphony – a symphony of praise.

Not wanting to bore you (!), I’ll include just ten here, as I contemplate a few reasons for praising God’s wonderful deeds (Psalm 105:2):

 

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How do I praise thee, Lord? Let me count the ways.

 

I acclaim you, Father, with enthusiastic approval—

Even with passionate applause and loud shouts—

Because you watch over me with gracious, attentive care.

You uphold me every day of my life.

 

I adore you, my Redeemer, with profound love and reverence.

You provided the way of salvation for me

Through the sacrifice of your only Son.

Now I revel in the continual access of your presence.

 

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I am in awe of you, God Almighty.

With unspeakable wonder I contemplate your power—

Your ability to create out of nothing,

To preserve and protect with a word.

 

I celebrate you, Sovereign Lord,

To honor your magnificence and rejoice in your goodness.

Your reign is all-inclusive and spans all time.

You are good and compassionate on all you have made.

 

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I exalt you, King of Glory, in order to increase in my spirit

The intensity of your splendor—

Splendor that surrounds me but is only perceived in part,

Holy magnificence to be fully revealed one day in heaven!

 

I give tribute to you, Lord Jehovah,

With my testimony of praise,

Expressing gratitude for your benevolent gifts

And admiration for your astounding attributes.

 

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I glorify you, Creator God, with honor and high praise

For the perfection of all your works on the earth.

Billions of components function as a cohesive whole,

Manifesting your wisdom and power.

 

I honor you, God of Grace,

With deep respect and humble reverence.

Without you as my deliverer I’d drown in my failures,

But with you as my treasure I have all things in One.

 

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I marvel at your constancy, the one and only I AM.

You are self-existent and self-sufficient, dependent on no one.

You are always present, everywhere at once.

And you are pure, holy, and astonishingly perfect.

 

I revere you, God Most High,

With profound awe, deep respect, and grateful love

Because yours is the greatness and power, the glory and splendor.

All dominion belongs to you.

 

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And wonder of wonders, I belong to you, too.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.waterbrookmultnomah.com; http://www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.interest.com (3).

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Three-year old Elena (our granddaughter) had much to report about preschool last Thursday:

“Firemen came and they brought their fire truck! We got to hold the hose!”

Later Elena recited what to do if a fire occurred: 1) Don’t open a hot door, 2) To get out, crawl along the floor under the smoke, 3) Stop, drop, and roll if clothes catch fire, and 4)…

 

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“…CALL 9-1-1!” she announced loudly and firmly.

Isn’t it a comfort to know that with three quick taps on our phones we have access to emergency help almost anywhere at any time?   The process to develop such a system, however, was not quick. It took forty-some years to fully install the Emergency Call Answering System, from its inception in the 1950s to almost complete coverage of 911 service across all America by the 1990s.

On the other hand, Pastor Arnold Prater pointed out years ago in one of his sermons that King David of Bible times called 9-1-1.

Did you know that?  I didn’t.

David recorded his call in Psalm 91, verse one – 911:

 

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(“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”)

 

Notice his call was not characterized by panicked fear. Instead his attitude is one of calm faith.  David affirmed several important truths about Who he was calling and what the Almighty had to offer to those who dwell in His shelter.

Wait a minute. DWELL? How do we dwell in the presence of an unseen God?

By bringing our thoughts back to him throughout the day with praise, worship, and gratitude. We can:

 

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  • Say his name to center our attention. He has dozens but to get us started, he is God Almighty, Maker of all things, The Lord Who Provides, and our Helper. Let who he is impact how we function.
  • Breathe out the stressful, worrisome thoughts; breathe in the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4). Listen for his voice.
  • Pray, recite scripture, sing, even shout (Psalm 47:1-2)!

 

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David says we dwell in the SHELTER of God. Bible writers used the word, shelter, or synonyms like refuge and sanctuary, more than 40 times. In Psalm 91, David alludes to several details of God’s sheltering protection. He is trustworthy (v. 2), faithful (v. 4), watchful (v. 11), attentive (v. 15), thoughtful and compassionate (vs. 15-16).

These traits are just a few examples of our Heavenly Father’s character—which he brings to bear in our lives. He never responds out of character; he is always motivated by love and goodness. Take shelter in such glorious thoughts!

In addition to those mentioned above, the MOST HIGH is another meaningful name of God. One of the ancient creeds described him as “a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” No one can claim to be of higher capacity or higher worth.

 

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And in him we can REST. How? I like Spurgeon’s advice: “Use the Lord’s words as your pillows. Lie down and [rest] in Him.” We can collect pillow after pillow as we prayerfully read our Bibles, asking God to speak comfort and strength into our weary souls.

And in the SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY we find:

  • Security (Psalm 17:8),
  • Love and Kindness (Psalm 36:7),
  • Refuge (Psalm 57:1),
  • Satisfaction and Joy (Psalm 63:7).

 

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Now some readers of Psalm 9-1-1 might assume David was promising a delightful, problem-free life of ease. But his own life proved otherwise as he ran from murderous King Saul, lived as a fugitive in enemy territory, fought numerous battles, dealt with problem sons, and more.

No, David would be among the first to tell us that God doesn’t rescue us from all difficulty; he uses difficulties to nudge us closer to him.

In the shelter of the Most High.

In the shadow of the Almighty.

 

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What better place to be?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.pinterest (4).

 

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Between the putrid odors and stale air below decks, Francis Asbury chose to spend most of his time on the top deck, often taking his journal and pencils with him. The rolling of the ship caused unsteady handwriting, but recording his thoughts passed the time and focused his heart on what lay ahead.

Twenty-six year old Francis had left home in England, September 4,1771, at the invitation of John Wesley, the great Methodist evangelist. The growing colonies in America needed ministers, and Francis accepted the challenge. Nine years of experience in the pulpit had prepared him for the preaching; what else might be required only God knew.

 

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Francis put pencil to page. “Whither am I going? To the New World. What to do? To gain honor? No, if I know my own heart. To get money? No, I am going to live to God and to bring others to do so.”

Upon his arrival in America, Francis soon discovered colonial life was drastically different from that of England. Centuries of development and culture in Britain had created a civilized society. America was rough and raw by comparison, although the towns exhibited more refinement than outlying settlements.

 

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(Asbury disembarked at Philadelphia, home of Independence Hall.)

 

To make his home in one of these towns must have crossed his mind, but Francis was compelled to take his message of hope and peace to the villages and pioneers. He began twenty miles outside of New York in Westchester, and then visited other small hamlets as well. Soon he developed a “preaching circuit.” Other Methodist ministers followed his example. These circuit riders were so willing to travel in all sorts of weather, a saying became popularized: “Nobody out today but the crows and the Methodists.”

In 1775, several of his colleagues decided to return to England, as war between the colonies and Britain seemed imminent. But Francis chose to stay, impassioned as always to continue preaching about Jesus no matter the dangers.

Other perils included sickness, exposed as he was to inclement weather of all sorts. He preached numerous times with an ulcerated throat and high fever. Sometimes Francis was so weak, men would have to lift him onto his horse and tie him in the saddle. In later years, he resorted to a carriage due to rheumatism. Yet he preached on.

 

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(“Francis Asbury Preaching by Lamplight”

by Richard Douglas)

 

Francis also continued to journal about his experiences:

“Near midnight we stopped at A.’s…Our supper was tea…I lay along the floor on a few deerskins with the fleas. That night our poor horses got no corn, and next morning had to swim across the Monongahela.

“The gnats are almost as troublesome here as the mosquitoes in the lowlands of the seaboard. This country will require much work to make it tolerable” (West Virginia, July 10, 1788).

For 45 years Francis traveled throughout the colonies, from Georgia to Maine, and even into Canada. He covered an estimated 300,000 miles, delivered some 16,500 sermons, ordained nearly 700 preachers, and added well over 200,000 members to the Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

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Francis became so well-known, he received mail addressed simply, “Bishop Asbury, United States of America.”

Yet even as a bishop he earned only $80 per year, and that he mostly gave away. He also gave away the coats and shirts from his own back to anyone more destitute than himself.

On March 24, 1816, Francis Asbury preached his last sermon. He was seventy years old.

A week later, he finally succumbed to yet another bout of illness. The well-known bishop died penniless but “rich in souls” (Dan Graves), a tireless participant in the growth of Christian faith across the colonies that included the building of numerous churches and institutions of learning, impacting future generations to this day.

A little more than a century after his death, a statue of Asbury was erected in Washington, D.C. On October 15, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave the dedication address at the unveiling.

 

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

Monument to Francis Asbury in Washington, DC

 

His commendations included:

“He never had any of the luxuries of this life. Even its absolute necessities he had a scanty share…yet his great spirit pressed on to the end, always toward the mark of his high calling.”

Though Asbury is not listed among the founding fathers, President Coolidge affirmed during his address: “He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.”

Truly, Francis Asbury could say with the apostle Paul, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10 NASB). And Asbury’s example was as powerful as his preaching—his self-sacrifice, passion, and purpose recorded in his ship journal in 1771—a purpose from which he never wavered:

 

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“I am going to live to God and bring others to do so.”

 

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Lord, guide me to fulfill that same purpose! Keep me mindful that nothing else will provide such satisfaction and contentment as a life lived for you.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.christianity.com, “Francis Asbury” by Dan Graves.
  2. http://www.christianitytoday.com.
  3. Seedbed Sower’s Almanac and Seed Catalog, Seedbed Publishing, 2015-2016.
  4. http://www.wesleycenter.nnu.edu.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wallpaperbeautiful.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.place.asburyseminary.edu; http://www.fggam.org; http://www.bibleteachingresources.org.)

 

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“Come see what I found!” our middle-school neighbor called to us the other day.  Steve and I had just pulled into the driveway from doing errands.

We joined Emmie under their tall oak tree; she pointed to a fat,three-inch caterpillar slowly making his way up the trunk. It was the Hungry Caterpillar and he’d discovered steroids!

 

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“Do you know what kind of moth or butterfly he’ll become?” I asked Emmie.

“Yeah.  I looked him up on the internet.  He’s an Antheraea Polyphemus.  He’ll turn into a moth with big eyes on his wings.”

 

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Even though the metamorphosis of caterpillar to moth is a common occurrence, the process is still a miracle–a special revelation of God’s creative genius and power.

 

As I studied that chubby green fellow lumbering up the tree, I marveled again:

 

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“How many are your astounding works, O Lord!

In wisdom you have orchestrated billions of them;

the earth is full of your creatures—each one a glorious masterpiece.”

(Psalm 104:24, personally amplified)

 

Of course, God’s astounding works are not limited to creation.  Supernatural manifestations of his divine power occur all around us. Frequently.

Examples include those times when:

Events coincide to produce a glorious result.

My friend, K, was visiting from out of town, and we decided to get our hair done together.  At the time, my hairdresser’s son was dealing with a medication addiction, and K was able to speak with M from experience, about dealing with an addiction of a family member. M was so grateful for K’s wisdom. “God sent you here today!” she said to my friend as tears welled up in her eyes.

The impossible is made possible.

I thought I lost my watch at the Atlanta Airport. It turned up in my carry-on bag in the outside pocket. I’m quite sure God picked it up and put it there! Granted, some would call it a coincidence.  Most of you know what I call it: a God-incidence.

 

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A need is not just met, but supplied beyond what we’d even thought of.

The church my husband pastored for ten years awarded a number of scholarships each year to students furthering their education.  They provided our son a full scholarship to seminary.  He’s been a pastor now for six years.

Perfect, surprise blessings seem to fall from heaven itself.

In the 1980s our church enjoyed the ministry of an outstanding music director. However, Diane’s husband was transferred less than two years later and sadly, they had to move.

Fast forward twenty years.  Steve was pastor of a different church on the other side of the state. When we needed a music minister, guess who applied?! Diane and her husband lived just to the north.  Soon we were enjoying her creativity, passion, and expertise—all over again!

Sure disaster doesn’t materialize.

I pulled Steve’s new car into a parking space at a strip mall, so proud of driving his stick shift with no frog-jumps. Imagine my surprise, upon returning to the lot to discover the car had rolled across the aisle! I’d forgotten to set the brake. But the car sat in its new spot as if that were the space I’d pulled into—albeit backwards. One more God-incidence that filled me with wonder.

 

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And wonder is a perfect gateway to worship.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *   *

I praise you, O Father, for the countless miracles you perform, demonstrating your gracious compassion and the splendor of your glory. How awesome are your deeds on our behalf. Contemplation of your astounding works makes me giddy with joy!

(Psalm 77:11; Job 5:9; Psalm 66:5b; Psalm 92:4)

What sign or wonder provides a gateway to worship for you?  Please share in the comment section!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.bugguide.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

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How would you fill in the following blank?

 

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by _______________.

 

Pop psychologists might tell us that inner strength comes from:

  • Positive thinking,
  • Surrounding ourselves with uplifting, encouraging people, and
  • Appreciating our individual personality traits and abilities.

Their ideas aren’t wrong (The Bible even supports these steps in Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and Psalm 139:14); it’s just they’re leaving out the most important steps.

Turn to Nehemiah 8:10 and we learn:

 

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Our hearts are strengthened by JOY.

 

 I like the phrasing of GOD’S WORD Translation:  “The joy you have in the LORD is your strength.”  (Emphasis added.)

We have access to God’s effervescent joy because Jesus offers it (John 15:11). The question is, do we avail ourselves? Will we allow our thoughts to spiral around our problems, or will we train our thoughts to focus on God—his glorious attributes and wonderful deeds? It’s the latter, of course, that produces joy.

 

Our hearts are strengthened by HOPE (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Hope becomes confidence, confidence becomes strength. Part of the process is to affirm God’s many promises—promises for:

  • His unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39),
  • A prosperous* future (Jeremiah 29:11),
  • Reliable guidance (Psalm 32:8),
  • Help—sometimes out of trouble, sometimes in the distress (Psalm 34:19), and
  • Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

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Think of it: Our hope is in a God of overwhelming love who has planned the future down to the minutest detail. He is our all-wise God, ready to guide us into that future, and he is all-powerful, fully capable of providing the help we need. In the end, our final destiny is secure; the victory over death has already been won.

Do you feel your hope strengthened? That’s just a smidgen of what he’s guaranteed!

To embrace the promises in faith is not to ignore reality and live in a shell of denial. It means to view reality through a faith-lens, faith in the all-inclusive capability of our God.

 

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(“The permanence of God’s character

guarantees the fulfillment of his promise.”

–A. W. Pink (1886-1952, British Bible teacher)

 

But we still have not filled in the blank from the beginning of this post:

 

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by…

 

 GRACE.” (Hebrews 13:9).

 

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Why? Because God’s grace encompasses the full spectrum of his qualities, including joy and hope– each one contributing to our strength of spirit.

Just as brilliant white is the presence of all colors, God’s grace is the brilliant totality of all he is and does.

 

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To grow strong of heart, we need to:

  • Revel in the abundant life he provides.
  • Breathe deep the promises of God.
  • Immerse ourselves in his encouraging Word.
  • Bask in the many facets of his grace.

__________________________________________________

 

I praise you, Father, for your never-failing, all-pervasive grace that strengthens my heart as I turn my attention to you. How thrilling to realize your grace will only grow more delightful as the years pass, renewing me day by day, until I dwell in your house forever!

 

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(Psalm 73:26; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Psalm 23:6)

 

* A prosperous future with God has nothing to do with monetary blessing and everything to do with a contentedness of heart, soundness of spirit, and perfect peace.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (3); http://www.twitter.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.)

 

 

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(The famous Chicken Potholder)

 

The game is called “Chicken Run”; the rules are simple. IT tries to tag another player with a chicken-shaped potholder, or he/she may throw the potholder Frisbee-style, and snag someone that way. If the chicken touches you below the shoulder, you’re the next IT.

I love to play this game with our granddaughters because anyone of any age can participate, and laughter is guaranteed– sometimes the result of a clever move that avoids the potholder, or a “You-missed-me!” soon followed by a solid chicken-thwack.

 

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(A 30-second rest before the next round.)

 

Nobody keeps score.  When we get too tired to run, the game is over, yet everyone feels energized and relaxed. No surprise there. You’ve surely experienced how rejuvenating a bit of fun can be—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

But here’s an idea that may surprise you:  Fun also rejuvenates us spiritually.

Fun can impact our faith.

I admit: Faith and fun are two words we seldom use together. We sometimes feel guilty for having fun, asking with King Solomon, “What does pleasure accomplish (Ecclesiastes 2:2)?”

 

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But at least several benefits await those who embrace faith and fun together.

Before I list them, however, please understand: I am not suggesting that a bit of fun will erase all pain and sorrow. Trouble clearly overshadows fun–at least for a season. But, praise God, joy does come in the morning (Psalm 30:5)!

The benefits of embracing faith and fun together include:

  1. The euphoria of answered prayer.

God allows us to be a part of his miracles as we pray for the needs of others. What fun to see his answers come to pass—sometimes way beyond our requests or daydreams (Ephesians 3:20)!  Several years ago, I wrote about just such an incident in “Part of the Process.”

2.  The pursuit of all things praiseworthy.

God provides pleasurable fun for us to enjoy every day—even in the midst of difficulty. Such pleasures include: sliding into a fleecy robe on a chilly morning; catching the carefree laughter of children on the breeze; spooning into the season’s first bowl of autumn squash soup.

 

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  1. The realization that God has engineered circumstances—even in small matters.

Steve and I stopped at a store to inquire about a recliner we’d purchased there, because the bottom and top sections seemed to be separating.  A cheerful salesman showed us how to make the simple repair ourselves.

While there, we checked the clearance section and found a rug and another chair—absolutely perfect for our new home and super-bargain priced. What fun that we would “just happen” (A-hem!) into that store at that time!

 

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(Even prettier in person!)

  1. The special delight of faith-filled people who also know how to laugh.

Somehow God augments the pleasure of fun that rests on a foundation of faith—perhaps because a Christian secure in Jesus is not looking to impress others. They can even tell stories on themselves.

 

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My grandfather was just such a person. One time, as he was about to leave the mall, he put his key in the lock of his car and nothing happened. The key would not turn. (This happened before key-fobs.) He wondered if the lock had frozen up and he’d have to call Triple-A.

Suddenly a man’s voice from behind him said, “Here. Try this key.” It was the owner of the car. Gramps was trying to get into a similar-but-incorrect car. The two of them enjoyed a good chuckle and wide-eyed amazement that the car owner arrived on the scene when he did.

Now we never would have known about the incident except Gramps told us.  Unlike some who’d feel foolish after such a mistake, he had fun relating the story.  And perhaps without knowing it, Gramps modeled for us a humble, unself-conscious celebration of life—mistakes included–the result of his strong faith-foundation on Jesus. (You may enjoy Gramps’ amazing life-turnaround story  in “The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara.”)

Billy Sunday used to say:

 

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(“If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”)

 

Let’s plug the leaks with a little fun!

 

What kind of fun impacts your faith?  Please share in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.pinterest.com (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.quotesgram.com.)

 

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