Assurance

I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God. ~Phil 1:6-11 (CEB)

God is in the business of saving hearts. It may come in bits and pieces here and there but it doesn’t come over night. It takes time and it is a process. God changes our hearts through grace. It rewires us. In his book You Gotta Keep Dancin’ Tim Hansel says that we are rewired from insecure to God secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid-to-die to ready-to-fly.

As I enter into this second week of the New Year I am starting to question some of my New Year’s resolutions. When I was making them there were sound arguments for the changes that I wanted to make and with the New Year it seems like a good place for fresh starts. But change comes slowly.

The same Voice that calls for me to change will give me the strength to make the changes that are needed. I just need to hold onto God’s promise, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” (Ezk 36:26) But where does this “new heart” come from? Paul said in Gal 2:20 “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” When I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior he moved into my heart, transplanting my heart for his. I may not be perfect but Jesus is and through the grace that God has bestowed on me I am being changed every day, shaped every day, strengthened every day, emboldened every day… softened every day by that grace.

I may not always see the changes in me, but scripture tells me “… the one who started a good work in you will stay with [me] to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

So I have the assurance that maybe not in my time but in God’s timing I will one day be who I need to be.

Day by day, Lord, strengthen me, shape me, change me, embolden me and soften me so that I am always moving on towards that perfection that is promised me for the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.

In focus

A revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. Christ made it known by sending it through his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the witness of Jesus Christ, including all that John saw. Favored is the one who reads the words of this prophecy out loud, and favored are those who listen to it being read, and keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

John, to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace and peace to you from the one who is and was and is coming, and from the seven spirits that are before God’s throne, and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To the one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and always. Amen.

Look, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him. This is so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “ the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty. ” ~Rev. 1:1-8 (CEB)

“God presents himself to us little by little. The whole story of salvation is the story of God who comes.

It is always he who comes, even if he has not yet come in his fullness. But there is indeed one unique moment in his coming; the others were only preparations and announcement.

The hour of his coming is in the Incarnation.

The Incarnation brings the world his presence. It is a presence so complete that it overshadows every presence before it.

God is made human in Christ. God makes himself present to us with such a special presence, such an obvious presence, as to overthrow all the complicated calculations made about him in the past.

‘The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ.’

If Jesus is truly God, everything is clear; if I cannot believe this, everything darkens again.” ~From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto

Merry Christmas!

I thank You this day for Your presence in my life. I thank You for revealing Yourself to me piece by piece until complete clarity is finally achieved.  I thank You for sending Your son to bring into focus Your love for us. Amen.

The faith of my actions

I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. God won’t let your foot slip. Your protector won’t fall asleep on the job. No! Israel’s protector never sleeps or rests! The LORD is your protector; the LORD is your shade right beside you. The sun won’t strike you during the day; neither will the moon at night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; God will protect your very life. The LORD will protect you on your journeys— whether going or coming— from now until forever from now. ~Psalm 121:1-8 (CEB)

There is no need to multiply examples of what is so patently and essential condition of the Christian walk. We are saved through faith – an unflagging, unwavering attachment to the person of Jesus Christ.

What is the depth and quality of your faith commitment? In the last analysis, faith is not a way of speaking or even of thinking; it is a way of living. Maurice Blondel said, ‘If you want to know what a person really believes. Don’t listen to what he says but watch what he does.’ Only the practice of faith can verify what we believe. Does faith permeate the whole of your life? Does it influence the way you read the newspaper? DO you have a divine sense of humor that sees through people and events into the unfolding plan of God? When things are turbulent on the surface of your life, do you retain a quiet calm, firmly fixed in ultimate reality? As Therese of Lisieux said, ‘Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone remains.’ Does faith shape your Advent season this year?” ~From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

Heavenly Father, as I wait, I pay attention, keeping my focus on You. Help me to see You in the little things so I can be bolstered for the big. Help me be ever watchful as I wait for Your plans to unfold. Hold my hand in the dark moments as I look to the light of this season. Amen.

Seeds

Jesus began to teach beside the lake again. Such a large crowd gathered that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the whole crowd was nearby on the shore. He said many things to them in parables. While teaching them, he said, “Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.” He said, “Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!” ~Mark 4:1-9 (CEB)

“The words of the Lord are the seed sown by the sower. Into our hearts they must fall that they may grow. Meditation and prayer must water them, and obedience keep them in the sunlight. Thus will they bear fruit for the Lord’s gathering.“ ~From Life Essential New by George McDonald

“I have always marveled at how plants unconsciously seek the light and warmth of the sun and how persons unconsciously seek the light and warmth of God’s Love. As persons, we do this at the level both of our roots and of our fruits- at a level of both of our being and our doing. When we become aware that our roots have been reaching for God all along and that God’s Love has been sustaining us throughout, we begin consciously and willingly turning inward toward God in prayer. This moment of prayerful turning marks a major conversation in our life and growth as persons.” ~From The Art of Passingover by Francis Dorff

Heavenly Father, may I be fertile soil for the seeds You plant in me. Water my soul with Your Word. Breathe fresh Life into me. May I keep my Face this day turned to the Light so that my feet may find good footing along this journey. Amen.

A sheild

All God’s words are tried and true; a shield for those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

God knows we need places to hide. Not the masks of “I have it all together” but a shield of “I know I don’t have it all together but I know the One who does”. It seems the psalms are riddled with poetic lines that sing of safe places of rest and shields from the troubles that surround at all sides.

But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. ~Psalm 3:3

God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. ~Psalm 7:10

The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety. ~Psalm 18:2

God! His way is perfect; the Lord’s word is tried and true. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:30

You’ve given me the shield of your salvation; your strong hand has supported me; your help has made me great. ~Psalm 18:35

The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. ~Psalm 84:11

God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. ~Psalm 91:4

God is my loyal one, my fortress, my place of safety, my rescuer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, and the one who subdues people before me. ~Psalm 144:2

This Shield protects us while we figure out how to move on in our journey. It protects us as we try to move on in our lives. Life happens, someone dies, tragedy strikes, illness occurs, a court decision doesn’t go the way we think it should, a spouse falls back into addiction, a child has been arrested. God wants to provide us with a safe place while we struggle with questions of why and how to continue on. God gives us a resting place in him while we struggle with learning the Truths and until we are able to embrace them

How do you continue forward when your heart is breaking? I have asked this a lot…

Maybe it is in the little things: a smile at my son when I feel like crying, a walk with my husband though I want to be alone, a laugh with my daughter when there is so much to do, a cup of coffee with a friend despite a busy schedule, reading my Bible even though I am mad at God…

Maybe it is in the daily tasks: of doing laundry when I’d rather stay in bed, fixing my hair when I’d rather put it in a ponytail, cooking a meal when I’d rather not eat, dusting when I’d rather just read… It amazes me how much better I feel after doing these simple acts of life.

God shields my heart while I go through the act of living until it feels right again, one smile at a time, one task at a time, a gift of normalcy not meant to be a burden but a way for us to carry on.

We are supposed to ever move on. It is the nature of living.

Heavenly Father, shield my heart this day as I take this day one step at a time. I thank you for Your love and peace that passes my present understand. Be with me in all I do and say this day, may it ever be a reflection of Your love to those I meet. Amen.

The air I breathe

The LORD God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. ~ Ezekiel37:5 (CEB)

There was a time in my life that I struggled just to breathe. I carried such burdens inside of me I felt that there was no more space left for my lungs to fill with air. My breathing actually felt shallow. Breathing is essential but unless there is something wrong we never pay attention to the act of breathing. The Bible speaks about the Holy Spirit being the breath of God, breathing in us. The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma, which means “breath.”

There is a song by Mercy Me, “Breathe”. At times when I was almost gasping for air I would say in my heart, “You are the air I breathe; You are the air I breathe”. This was my prayer when no other words would form. Ezekiel 37:9 says, “Breathe into these dead bodies and let them live.” I feel that God has done that in my life. Every time I reached out to Him, He breathed life back into this dead heart bit by bit.

When I don’t have words to pray, Romans 8:36 assures me “In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans.” It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy. Lamentations 3:25 tells me “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the person who seeks Him”, so I hope in God with my whole heart. Psalm 130:5 says, “I hope, LORD. My whole being hopes, and I wait for God’s promise.” What is God’s promise to me? “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1Co 3:16) As long as I let Him live in me I can have life because it is His breath that breathes through me. When it is God’s breath flowing through my lungs it is not a struggle to breathe.

Lord, You are the air I breathe. I thank You for your Holy Presence that lives in me. I thank You that You give me words every day to tuck deep in my heart. I would be lost without You. May I always be desperate for Your love. Amen.

Power in thankfullness

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. ~Psalms 34:1 (NRSV)

I love to read the Psalms. The range of emotions expressed in Psalms helps me to find words for my own feelings. “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. (Ps 55:6 NRSV) “With the Lord on my side I do not fear” (Ps 118:6a NSRV) But I also find good instruction for daily life there as well. I know that there is so much for me to be grateful for, and I need to focus on it, every single day. In Psalm 50:23 the psalmist says that when we bring thanksgiving as our sacrifice we honor God. The psalmist in Psalm 69:31 says our thank offerings bring him pleasure.

There is power in thankfulness. Not only does it help set us free, but when we pause to give thanks to God for the blessings that we have in all our moments, we actually begin to find more blessings, even more to be thankful for. Psalm 100 puts this all in perspective: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is He that made us, and we are His; we are his people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Heavenly father, I thank You for the freedom I can find in thankfulness and praise. I know that I can always count on Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness. I know without You, I have nothing. I thank You for the goodness that You show to me every day. Amen.

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