Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Hole in the Wall

Have you ever wondered if you’re making a difference? Have you thought about the purpose of your life? At times I’ve felt like all I do is spread peanut butter & jelly and clean up toys. Is this really what God had in mind when He created me?

And just in case you think what’s coming next is an Ecclesiastes feel-bad “meaningless” sermon, relax! I’m reading Nehemiah right now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday I read the first few chapters where Nehemiah began rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem after the exiles returned from captivity. In the second chapter, I noticed the phrase “because the gracious hand of God was on me” (Nehemiah 2:8). So, I knew it was important to pay attention to what I was reading – this was a ‘sign’ to me.

As I was reading about the repairs in chapters 3-4, I kept reading name after name of people who were repairing sections of the wall near where they lived. And, I’ll be honest in saying that nothing bores me more than reading lists of names. Why does this even matter? “The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenah…Mermoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz repaired the next section of the wall. Beside him were Meshullam son of Berekiah and grandson of Meshezabel, and then Zadok son of Baana. Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to help. The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah…Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, and people from Gibeon and Mizpah…Next was Uzziel son of Harhaiah…” (Nehemiah 3:3-8) and on and on and on. Name after name continued (I added a link above to chapters 3-4 so you can read them for yourself!).

Then it struck me. What I wrote in the margins of my Bible is that we each need to do our part. The wall around Jerusalem signified safety and if any one person would have refused to do the work, holes would have existed. The entire project would have been compromised.

The fourth chapter talked about the danger that these workers were in. As Nehemiah looked over the situation, he called together the leaders and the people and said “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your friends, your families, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:14). Verse 16 says that from then on, only half the men worked while the other half stood guard with spears and bows; verse 17 continues that the common laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. “During this time, none of us – not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me – ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water” (Nehemiah 4:23).

These people were in real, serious danger. They kept guard, always being dressed, always having a hand on their weapon. They knew that the wall they were rebuilding was important and each one did his part. Each person took a section to rebuild and was listed for his work.

And here is the point I took from this: God has placed you in your location so that you can do your part! YOU are here for such a time as this. If you weren’t in your spot, there would be a significant hole. Who are the people you directly affect – the kids you’re raising, the church where you’re serving, the neighbors who you live near, the co-workers you help, the organization where you volunteer? How would their lives be different without you involved? You do have purpose, meaning and significance!

Don’t let the mundane busyness of everyday life take your eyes off the work to be done in your wall. Don’t be like the leaders from Tekoa who refused to help. For whom should you be praying? Where do you need to serve? Who can you encourage? Who must you protect? Where can you stand in the gap?

You serve an important role right where you are. Pray about your location and what God has in mind; perhaps YOUR name is about to be listed as one who was extremely important in the work at hand…

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the Bible. Thank You for writing to us and reminding us of who You are and what You have in mind. Thank You for the faithfulness of those who served rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem despite intense opposition. God, our lives may look easier than that, but we know there is spiritual warfare that still happens today. Perhaps we feel like we live in a little “hole in the wall” town, but maybe there’s significance even in that expression! Where do you want us to be? Who are we to be helping? Where are the ‘gaps in the wall’ and how do you want us to fill in? Please help us do our part and realize our significance in being born at the time that we were and living in the area that we do. Who should we pray for? How can we serve and protect? Call us to where You want us to be and help us obey Your commands. May we live our lives for Your glory and honor. We love You. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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God is Speaking…Are You Listening?

Have you ever felt God was speaking directly to you? Perhaps you don’t hear His audible voice like Samuel did (1 Samuel 3), but you know in your spirit that God is talking directly to you.

Yesterday I felt that way, and sadly I almost missed it…

Each morning before breakfast, I read my Bible. Yesterday I read Ezra 7-8 where Ezra was traveling to Jerusalem, returning from exile. Ezra 8:21-23 says, “And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and pray and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that He would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children and our goods as we traveled. For I was too ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, ‘Our God protects all those who worship Him, but His fierce anger rages against those who abandon Him.’ So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and He heard our prayer.” (emphasis mine).

Then verse 31 says “We broke camp at the Ahava Canal on April 19 and started off to Jerusalem. And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from our enemies and bandits along the way.” (emphasis mine).

My last blog post was about God’s hand being on us – how I longed for that very thing to change my heart and my desires. Five different times in my reading yesterday morning, I saw the “gracious hand of God” being on Ezra (Ezra 7:6, 7:8, 7:28, 8:18, 8:31). It was far too many to be coincidence – I kept underlining them, just completely in awe of God reminding me of what I had read previously about His hand being on us. I was excited!

The day before I read this, my husband had traveled for work (unfortunately, an experience we have all too often). This time, however, the airline lost his luggage. He never checks his small suitcase but rather carries it on with him but this particular airline insisted that he check it and then promptly lost it. His nicest work clothes were in there, along with the brand new razor I had bought him for Christmas, his nice shoes with his custom orthotics for all his foot injuries, and many other personal belongings, including the pillow that he loves to sleep with. It wasn’t like they couldn’t be replaced but it would cost a lot and some of them were just ‘favorites’ that would be difficult to replicate. My heart sank when my husband told me. He had to go under-dressed to a meeting that he was over an hour late for because the flight had been delayed and then his luggage was lost. I prayed and prayed that the airline would find his belongings! I asked other people to pray, too. His phone was dead and not charging, so we chatted only briefly before going to bed and he said the airline found his suitcase in a different state and was supposed to deliver it by 3 am. I was skeptical due to the time but hopeful. Well, when he woke up, no luggage! He had to wait until the mall was open to buy clothes to wear to work, making him late once again.

Before hearing that he didn’t receive his things, I read these passages in Ezra. I thought about how God kept people safe who worship Him. I prayed that God would keep not only my husband safe but also his things, just like in Ezra. I continued to pray. And I’ll admit that I was angry with the airline when I later learned that it hadn’t kept its promise. I was feeling grumpy and distressed that I couldn’t help my man in any way.

My boys & I prayed together. In the car, I turned on my iPhone to listen to music and “randomly” Audrey Assad’s song “You Speak” came on (I put a video of it below with the lyrics). It says that when our hearts are quiet, God speaks to us. I finally listened. As the music played, I really really thought about what I had read. God cares for us! His hand is upon us! How had I missed that my devotions that very same morning were on almost EXACTLY the situation we were going through? How had I missed He was speaking directly to me? The God of the entire universe cared about our situation…WOW!!!

The boys and I continued to listen to worship music and sing along. My heart had changed; my attitude was improving. I wasn’t angry. I was experiencing a new peace. When we got home, Joshua (my oldest) even asked if he could read out of the New Testament Bible he had found. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, needless to say, my husband made it home safely from his work trip WITH his luggage this morning. And I learned something in the process – multiple things, but only one will I share now:

GOD IS SPEAKING! His Word is alive! He’s written these pages to us – this is His love letter. If we’ll take the time to press in, there is so much we can learn! I long to know the heart of God, and I believe He wants us to know Him. He promises to reveal Himself to us as we seek Him. If we truly want to know Him more, we need to spend time in His Word. Even doing that, we can sometimes miss it if we’re not focusing, if we’re not digesting, if we’re not thinking about what we read and applying it.

I am absolutely humbled that God would take the time to write to us, to tell us His story of His love for us. Are you listening as God speaks? There’s no time like now to go and see what He is saying to YOU!

Dear Heavenly Father, THANK YOU for Your Word! Thank You that You love us enough to speak directly to us. You are holy, awesome, all powerful, all knowing, and yet You still love us. I am truly humbled. God, we thank You for answering our prayers. Just like You answered the prayers of Ezra when he asked for protection for themselves and the stuff they were carrying, You answered my prayer for my husband’s safety and his suitcase. Thank You that even the little details don’t get by You. Thank You that Your gracious hand is on us! May we not forget! May we not take it lightly! Please help us to remember, to think about what that means, and to praise You for it. Thank You for protecting all those who worship You. May we continue to worship You, the One and only true God. We are grateful! Help everyone who is reading this to have time with You alone, to know You and Your Words. Please speak to them and help them listen. Thank You, God, again for Your hand in our lives. We love You! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

God’s Hand For Your Demands

“At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them a strong desire to unite in obeying the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 30:12

Have you ever known that you needed to make a change in your life, and yet you were struggling with where and how to start? More than that, you were struggling with the desire to really change…

Sure, you see your waist line expanding and the scale shows that you need to drop a few pounds. And yet, your favorites from the fridge and pantry are still calling your name. You know in your mind some possible steps to take and yet each one, no matter how small, feels almost unbearable.

Can you relate? I’ve been on this journey a long time and yet I’m feeling this exact same way today. Birthday and Father’s Day celebrations have come and gone, and I still feel the desire to overindulge. And with my Achilles being extremely sore, I can’t even “hide” some of the extra calories by exercising. Truly, though, you can’t really out-exercise bad eating habits. And really, if I’m being brutally honest, it isn’t an eating issue as much as a heart issue. Where do we turn for comfort? Why does laziness win out at times when making something healthy is more difficult than picking up a pizza?

As I’ve been wrestling with this (yet again!), I read the above verse in Chronicles that said “God’s hand was on the people…giving them the strong desire to unite in obeying…” and I couldn’t help but respond “YES! PLEASE!!!” This morning, I read twice that God “stirred the hearts” of the people to respond in obedienceย  (Ezra 1:1 and 1:5).

God can give us the strong desire to obey. God can stir our heart and make us want to obey more than we want to feed our flesh. And, I don’t know about you, but I *NEED* God to move my heart! I know I should automatically want to, but I’ll be the first to admit that I still struggle.

This reminds me of the story in Mark 9 where Jesus told a man that all things are possible for one who believes.ย Immediately the man exclaimed, โ€œI do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!โ€ (Mark 9:23-24).

We know we ought to believe that God can change us. But sometimes habits have been so ingrained that we struggle to know if reality can really look any different. We believe God can do anything and He can heal others. But, will He really help us? Can we really change? It’s okay to cry out to God and say “Help me overcome my unbelief!”

Not only can God heal us, He can help us overcome our unbelief. He can stir our hearts to do His will. He can put His hand on us and give us the strong desire to obey! So, let’s ask Him to do just that… HE IS FAITHFUL!

Dear Heavenly Father, You are all powerful. You are a holy and awesome God – the One and only true God who created the heavens and the earth. You created our bodies and You have a purpose and a plan for our lives. Lord, we come before you and confess that we are struggling. We want to change, and yet we lack the willpower and strong desire to change our habits. This is all we’ve ever known! But, we lay down our lives before You and give You control. Please put Your hand on us – just like You did for the people of Judah – and give us the strong desire to obey. Please stir our hearts to do Your will. May we want You and Your desires more than we want to satisfy our own cravings and flesh. May we honor You with all we say and do and put the past behind us, pressing on to fulfill our destiny and Your goals for us. Please help us overcome our unbelief! We need You! We ask You to change us! Please make us healthy and thin for Your glory! May we be overcomers, ready to do Your will and serve as Your hands and feet on earth. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Be On the Lookout!

“…This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15b

My devotions this morning were too good not to share! I am once again overwhelmed by our Almighty God!

In the 20th chapter of 2 Chronicles, messengers told King Jehoshaphat that a “vast army” was coming to attack him and were already close (verses 1-2). “Jehoshaphat was alarmed by the news and sought the Lord for guidance. He also gave orders that everyone throughout Judah should observe a fast,” (2 Chronicles 20:3, emphasis mine) so the people went to Jerusalem to seek the Lord.

May I interject here that we have a choice of how to respond when we receive bad news – even overwhelming news? We can cry. We can scream. We can panic. Or, we can seek the Lord and ask for His guidance.

From the temple, Jehoshaphat prayed, “O Lord, the God of our ancestors, You alone are the God who is in heaven. You are the ruler of all kingdoms of earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against You!” (2 Chronicles 3:6).

I think the next step would be to remember who God is! When we feel overwhelmed or discouraged, take a step back and think about all that God has done. Declare all that He is! No problem, no medical diagnosis, no situation is greater than the Sovereign Lord! Say it out loud! Don’t let your present anxiety cloud out your knowledge of Who is in control of all things!

One of my favorite verses from this chapter is next: “O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to You for help.” (2 Chronicles 20:12, emphasis mine).

When you have no idea what to do – when you are powerless to change your current circumstances, cry out to God and look to Him for help! Tell Him that you don’t know what to do and ask Him to intervene! I’ve watched my children struggling with things that would be easy for me to fix. My oldest son, especially, is a fiery little man! If I offer to help when he believes he can do it himself, he’ll shout at me for stepping in and he’ll fight with me that he doesn’t want me interfering with what he’s doing. But, when he’s come to the end of his own struggle, when he realizes that he can’t accomplish what he wants to, and when the frustration gives way to the sweet little boy in tears who comes to me gently and asks me to help him, there’s nothing that gives me more joy than to do what I can to bring him back to smiling. Perhaps, it’s just giving him a suggestion on how he can better attack the problem, still allowing him to do it but guiding him on a better way to complete his goal. But at times it’s me simply doing it because it requires something only an adult can do and a child of his age can’t.

Don’t you see how our loving Father knows when we can solve a problem and guide us in the best path to take to do it? And He also knows when we simply can’t handle it with our earthly bodies but He can step in and fix it instantly?

Going back to the Bible, God spoke through a prophet to His people saying, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat! Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15, emphasis mine).

In case you need to hear this, LISTEN! Don’t be afraid and discouraged by what’s going on in your life. Doesn’t it make you feel better that this isn’t your battle but God’s? Because who ALWAYS wins? You simply need to do what God tells you, and you will OVERCOME!!!

“Tomorrow, march out against them…But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Go out there tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” (2 Chronicles 20:16-17).

Why would God ask the people to march out? This was a VAST army. Couldn’t God just say “Hey, stay home and I’ll take care of it. Get comfy; make other plans! No worries, it’s already done.” Isn’t that what we want? To wake up and realize that the problem is behind us, rather than needing to face it head on? But, that’s not what happened, and I’m going to make two guesses as to why (again, simply reading the Bible and ‘digesting’ it). First, I think God wants to see our obedience. Do we trust Him? Are we willing to take a stand? Will we follow what He tells us to do, and do we BELIEVE and TRUST that He will take care of us? Second, I think that only from this vantage point can we “watch the Lord’s victory.” You see, when we have an overwhelming circumstance – something we simply can’t do on our own and has us shaking in our boots – only then do we KNOW that we KNOW that God has triumphed for us! Otherwise, this sneaky little evil called pride might come in and we think we defeated the problem on our own. Could God allow us to go through such times so that we can glorify Him and know that He still works miracles?

Friends, I’ll give you an example from my own life. I tried so many diets, I won’t even list them. But, I was still obese! It wasn’t until I finally believed that God could heal me and I began to humble myself and allowed Him to work victory in my life that I began to lose weight. When someone comments on my eating or exercising, I often cringe because I want to explain that it was truly God moving in me. This was a battle in my life that ONLY He could win. And this is just one example of many. The healing of my oldest son (the fiery little man I talked about earlier in this post) is another. And there are so many more I could share! But, this post isn’t about me…

“Then King Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:18). Now, this demonstrates exactly how I believe we need to respond to God (may I suggest right now?). This response happened BEFORE the people saw the victory; they just received the message that God would fight for them and that He was asking them to march out and take their positions the next day. Before the battle was won, the people were on their faces in worship.

As they marched out for battle early the next morning, Jehoshaphat reminded the people, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm” (verse 20).

Again, I pause and want you to reflect on your personal situation. Do you BELIEVE that the Lord your God can do anything? Do you believe that He will heal you? Do you trust that He is for you? Do you know that the battle belongs to Him? The first step to victory is belief!

The next wise thing the king did in our story from 2 Chronicles 20 was to appoint singers to walk ahead of the army “singing to the Lord and praising Him for His holy splendor. This is what they sang: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!'” (verse 21).

How do you respond to bad news? Do you focus on it? Do you dwell on your misery? Or, do you sing and thank God? Do you sing and praise Him in His holy splendor? Even if I die in battle, I would be honored to end my days singing thanks for God’s faithful love… This act of singing and praising takes our focus off ourselves and back to where it should be. The devil would love for us to be immobilized by our problems, so focused on our own pity party that we’re useless for anything else. But, when we remember to instead trust and praise God, the spiritual battle becomes very real. And we already know Who wins!!! Praise Him!

This is the part of the story that gave me chills: “At the moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves” (2 Chronicles 20:22). The teacher in me has to ask this question. Re-read this verse above and tell me when God gave them the victory.

Now, what should your response be to your situation?

You can read the rest of 2 Chronicles 20 (in fact, I recommend that you read the entire chapter on your own!). But, let me just give you a highlight: “So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, there were dead bodies lying on the ground for as far as they could see. Not a single one had escaped” (2 Chronicles 20:24). Not only that, they were then able to carry the plunder home – it took them three days to collect it all (verse 25)! They then gathered in the “Valley of Blessing” to praise and thank the Lord.

Could this problem turn into a memory of absolute blessing? Could the very thing that makes you feel sick to your stomach today become such an amazing victory that you call it a time of blessing in your life? Do you believe that God can? Do you trust that He will (enough to take your stand)? Have you gotten on your face and prayed, asking the Lord for help and guidance? Have you begun to thank Him, praising Him for His faithful love that endures FOREVER (even today!)?

Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word continues to inspire us. No matter how many times I read it, You reveal new truths and show Your glory and faithfulness. Lord, we thank You for being God of all. You are powerful and mighty and no one and nothing can stand up to You! We confess, Lord, that we are at a place where we don’t know what to do, so we’re asking for Your guidance. God, this battle seems far to overwhelming for us! In fact, on our own, we realize that we are doomed. But, thank You for reminding us that we are not on our own. You created us for this very moment – to reveal Your glory in this time. Lord, You are good! Your faithful love endures forever! Please act on our behalf! Please change the times, the circumstances, the things we can’t. We trust You, and we will obey what You tell us to do. We want to be at the exact place You call us to be so that we can look and see Your victory! May this moment in our lives be considered the “Valley of Blessing” where the enemy meant to destroy us and You rescued us! All for Your glory and renown. May we live for You alone – please be honored by all that we say and do, keeping us from sin and from pride. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!