Signs and wonders

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If you happen to think to yourself,” These nations are greater than we are; how can we possibly possess their land?” don’t be afraid of them! Remember, instead, what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and all Egypt: the great trials that you saw with your own eyes, the signs and wonders, and the strong hand and outstretched arm the LORD your God used to rescue you. That’s what the LORD your God will do to any people you fear. The LORD your God will send terror on them until even the survivors and those hiding from you are destroyed. Don’t dread these nations because the LORD your God, the great and awesome God, is with you and among you. ~Deut.7:17-21 (CEB)

These verses jumped out at me three years ago after a particularly trying time. I was in the game of worrying about how I was going to fix everything and had myself convinced once again that I just needed to try-harder. I felt that God was telling me that even though I felt the problems I was dealing with were bigger than me I was not to be afraid of them. Instea, I was to think back to times where God had done signs and wonders in my life. I was to think of the times He had rescued me from storms where his strong arm had plucked me out of the drowning waters. I was not to fear the trials I was going through. When I read these verses instead of seeing this as a story about the Israelites I saw myself in these verses and I knew God would fight my battle!

Despite the wonders God has done in my life, despite the signs He has sent me to convince me of His love for me I still find that I keep slipping back behind the mask of trying-hard. I am not meant to fight these battles alone. The story was never meant to be “By Jennifer’s mighty strength the battle was won.” No, the story was always been, “See what the good Lord has done in Jennifer’s life? See the wonders! Look at these signs in her life and know that the Lord is good, that He will do for you what He has done for her.”

Heavenly Father, Thank You for always reminding me who is really winning the battles. I thank You that I don’t have to be strong enough, smart enough or patient enough. I thank You that You are. May Your love sustain me through this day through battles big and small. May I always give You the glory. Amen.

Hands to use

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Paul went to the synagogue and spoke confidently for the next three months. He interacted with those present and offered convincing arguments concerning the nature of God’s kingdom. Some people had closed their minds, though. They refused to believe and publicly slandered the Way. As a result, Paul left them, took the disciples with him, and continued his daily interactions in Tyrannus’ lecture hall.  This went on for two years, so that everyone living in the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the Lord’s word. God was doing unusual miracles through Paul. Even the small towels and aprons that had touched his skin were taken to the sick, and their diseases were cured and the evil spirits left them. ~Acts 19:8-12 (CEB)

God is looking for hands to use and feet to go about His work. I may not have anything special to offer, but if I give God a willing spirit He can use me for His good work. Through Paul’s hands, extraordinary deeds were being done in Ephesus. Sweatbands and aprons of the working men that had touched Paul were able to be carried on to others for further healing. It is important to note that it is not Paul who does these special acts but God through Paul.

This is not the only miracle of this passage. Paul taught in the hall of Tyrannus from 11-4 each day. This was the hottest part of the day when the people of Ephesus slept. It is said that there were more people sleeping soundly at 1 pm in Ephesus than 1 am. Another miracle I see is that Paul was so eager to teach that he worked all morning and evening and taught during the middle hours. Also, the people were so eager to hear God’s word they came and listened while others rested and slept.

This surely shames me when I think of how often I complain about not having enough time to get things done. What times could I be seizing that I would otherwise claim as too inconvenient? Sometimes I feel that miracles no longer happen. What would happen if I gave my hands for God’s work? In times that might be inconvenient if I gave my hands and feet for His service would I see miracles around me?

Heavenly Father, Help me to do Your work this day. May I not be too tired in my busy-ness. Out of my thankfulness may I be willing to give up the time I think so precious so that I can see You work miracles. Through me, may others see Your love. Amen.

Change

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There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens: a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for tearing down and a time for building up, a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing, a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces, a time for searching and a time for losing, a time for keeping and a time for throwing away, a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,  a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace. ~Ec c 3:1-8 (CEB)

Change, we have a love hate relationship. There are times I long for change, other times that I dread change.

Today will be our first day back to school. Starting school back is both a return to a certain structure and also a new beginning. As I contemplate this first day of our new school year I can’t help but wonder at the other changes on my horizon. I both anticipate and fear them at the same time. One part of me wants things to freeze in time; the other part of me is excited at the possibilities and long for them to hurry up.

But today I will concentrate on this season: the season for new books, and snuggles while reading, a time for teaching, a time for correcting. With this season I hope to remember to stay present in the moment not looking forward or back. The seasons, they are changing but here in this moment I will love and laugh and appreciate the now. I will remember to love and to smile. I will not let the fears of change threaten the excitement that newness holds.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for all seasons. Walk with us this day as we embark a new season of life. Guide our steps, help us remember to love and to laugh among the serious moments.

Do you want to get well

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A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty- eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “ Do you want to get well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “ Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.~John 5:5-9 (CEB)

“Do you want to get well?” These words always jump out at me.  Who wouldn’t want to get well? Thirty-eight years is a long time to be unwell.  After such a long time you might get used to being sick, and developed some strong bad habits that keep you sick. After closer inspection I am forced to ask, do I really want to get well? Sometimes I am so attached to my illness (or my addiction) that I prefer being sick. It has become comfortable. Or it could be the crutch I use to hide.

God doesn’t bring healing unless I want to be whole. I am asked to be part of the healing process. Even in miraculous healing, I am expected to participate in the process. The mental desire to be well must shift to a physical act. I am asked to walk through the doors of healing.

If I am to be well I must be careful that my time is not spent in the waiting to be healed. Do I list reasons why I can’t get well? Do I blame my circumstances? Do I blame the people around me? Am I hanging out with others who are sick as well?

I can blame my circumstances or I can allow the healing waters inside of me to be stirred. In the getting up and rolling up my mat healing can occur.

Heavenly Father, stir the waters in my heart. Give me enough strength for this day to live healthily. Bring me one day closer to complete healing.  Amen.

Where there is hope

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Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable. Let’s also think about how to motivate each other to show love and to do good works. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. ~Heb. 10:23-25 (CEB)

There seems to be many people who have begun to lose hope. Those who hunger for life’s basic needs but see no relief; those who see too many problems and cannot see a solution. When there is no hope, there is no life- we lose our will to fight, to trust, or to live.

Sometimes problems seem hopeless both to the victims and bystanders. Hope is inseparably connected to love and faith… God’s love and faithfulness. We can trust and hope that He continues to supply the needs of many through us and through all the means available today.  Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering because the one who made the promises is reliable”. Empowered by hope in God we can do great things

I begin to lose hope when the world’s problems seem too big to handle. My heart cries out at the needs of others and I begin to feel overwhelmed with the needs. When Pastor Amy Probst said in her sermon series Sharing God’s Abundance the words, “There is too much for us to do everything but there is enough for each of us to do something”, I began to stop looking at the “big problem” of hunger. Instead, I began to see how I could help with “small actions” by collecting food at a food drive, serving meals at the Welcome Table and participating in Crop Drops.

When I ignore a problem, I begin to believe that there is no way that the situation can change. I sometimes find that I begin to accept that that is just the nature of things. I become blind to the need. With a sweet potato drop that I participated in a few weeks back, I felt that each potato I picked up was one more meal for someone who was hungry. The sweet potato drop was a tangible situation where I could be a part of the solution instead of just ignoring the problem. Who knew that hope could come in the form of a huge sweet potato that was too big for the market? Hope not just for the people who would receive a meal, but hope for the people who gave of their time to be a part of the solution.

Through our good works not only do we see hope begin to flicker in the eyes of others but we find by reaching out that hope begins to grow in us as well. Hope is the opportunity to be a part of the solution. As we reach out encouragement goes both ways and the lines between victim and bystander are demolished.

Heavenly Father, May I not become blind to the problems of the world. May I always see with Your eyes and feel with Your heart. May I see “small solutions” to the “big problems” that face our society and be Your hands and feet in the world. Amen.

Living past our expectations

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At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” ~Mark 10:6-9 (CEB)

26 years ago, this day was my wedding day. When vows are exchanged I think most people do mean them when they are said, but there is a lot to “for richer or poorer”, “in sickness or in health”, and “to death do us part.” There is a lot of living in these words. Words that are hard to comprehend until you have lived them.

It is beyond our comprehension what richer or poorer means when we first start out as a young couple. In sickness and in health is far beyond the common cold. And death? Well, who knew there could be “living-deaths”? There can be a lot of hurts collected in living through rough times. It is no wonder that 50% of marriages end in divorce. So when you look at a marriage that has lasted 10, 20…30 years you have to know that it was not because of “happily ever after” that they survived. It was work that kept them together.

The day I married my husband, I am sure there were stars in my eyes. I didn’t know then that living life would cause me to love my husband even more than I did that day. I didn’t know that our love was simply a seed and that living and loving and forgiving would cause us to grow closer and to love even more deeply.

There are many things in life that we can’t begin to grasp the full meaning of until we begin to live it out. When the disciples began their journey with Jesus they had certain expectations in mind. With Jesus’ death on the cross, their expectations were shattered. This was not the happily ever after they had had in mind when they followed after Christ. But once the pieces of their shattered expectations were collected and thrown away the reality of just what they did have begun to shine through. Being a disciple of Christ was different than what they had first understood it to be but far more wonderful than they had imagined.

Expectations can be hard to overcome. When they are shattered it is not the end, it is the beginning. Once we sweep away what we think should be we can then truly begin to live in the way that God intended.

Heavenly Father, I thank You this day for my husband and my family. I thank You for all of my life, the first part and the second. Continue to bless us with many more years to come. Amen.

Holy, Holy, Holy

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“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” ~Isa 6:3 (NIV)

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” ~Rev. 4:8 (NIV)

What do we mean when we say that God is holy? It is not that we are naming an attribute among many others such as love and mercy and wisdom and power. No, we are attempting to find something that collectively gathers and applies all His attributes. When we say God is Holy we are saying that He is unchangeable. Nothing about Him changes; His love never fluctuates; His mercy is inexhaustible; His wisdom cherishes all that is truly good; His power can always be trusted.

From One who never changes I do not need to wonder what will be the response when I turn to Him, whether in the dark of night or in the light of day. It matters not who I am or who I will be. It matters not where I have been or where I will go. I can seek Him in my strength and in my weakness. He is always God.

There are days that I fail family and friends. No matter how hard I try I cannot always be what they want me to be. Sometimes my failure may seem to push them away. They feel deprived of what they should have from me. But nothing is missing from God. Only He can handle all our high expectations. He will never disappoint. He knows the true desire of the heart and He answers those prayers.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that Your love never changes, Your mercy inexhaustible, Your wisdom timeless and Your power my only strength. Only You are Holy. Amen.

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