Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Random Acts of Kindness

This week’s devotional will be my last devotional until June 3, 2020.  I will be taking a break for 6-weeks (or possibly longer). 

At this time, much is available on Facebook, Twitter, and the internet from our local churches to encourage people that I thought I would step back for these few weeks.  

Thanks for following my devotionals...and remember, I'll be back.  

I trust you will be blessed and encouraged by all that your local church is offering you online.  

See you in June. (or maybe later) 

It often takes a crisis to bring out the best in people.  When there is a crisis, this can be the Christian's opportunity to show the love of the Lord by ministering outside the box.  

Recently, I heard a few stories of people who choose to minister outside the box even amidst the social distancing. 

One person told me of a child in line at the grocery store who was looking at a small toy near the checkout line.  The three-year-old was looking at this toy with great interest.  This person in line in front of the child turned and asked the mother if it would be okay for them to buy the toy for her child.  

The mom was shocked at the kind request and agreed to the act of kindness by the stranger.  As this person paid for the toy then handed it to the mother, the cashier became moved with emotion and said that was the kindest thing she had seen in the grocery store that week.

Another story I heard was from a person who watched the man in front of him in line at the store realize as his grocery order was totaled that he didn't have enough money to buy his baby diapers.  The man said to put the diapers back.  That's when the person behind him stepped up and asked if he could buy the diapers.  

Another person told me of a wrong number she dialed and the young mom of four who answered the phone identified that the caller had definitely dialed the wrong number.  But the person felt prompted to ask the young mom if she needed prayer and the young mom said that she did.  The caller was able to pray with her and told the young mom to call if she had a need since she now had the caller's phone number.
Was that call a mistake?  Was it a mistake to buy the child a toy?  Was it a mistake to buy the diapers for the father who didn't have money or were each of these a moment surrendered to the Lord? 

When the world is going a little bit crazy,  it's the Christian's chance to remember we can’t turn a blind eye to the suffering nor the injustice of others.  Whatever small acts of kindness we can find to do, let us do them as unto the Lords.

We are called to be in relationship with Jesus, but we are also called to be in relationships with others.  The book of Amos helps us to focus on both the physical and the spiritual needs of people. 

Amos 5:24 says, But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.

In the weeks to come, I challenge you to be God’s arms extended to others as we roll on like a river and a never-failing stream in our acts of kindness to those around us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Back to the Basics

We have all had to get back to the basics this past month; like handwashing.  I was shocked by how little I thought about washing my hands until my health hung in the balance.

New terminology and practices have become the norm like; shelter in place, social distancing, self-quarantine, keeping a six-foot distance from everyone,  less than ten person gatherings, no face touching, no handshaking, detoxing groceries before bringing them into the house and wiping down surfaces more often.

I have disinfected my light switches, countertops, doorknobs, banishers, remotes, cell phone, iPad, and computer keyboard more in the last month than I had in my entire life proceeding this pandemic.  I've even wiped down my car steering wheel and all the places in the car that I touch.  I don't think I ever thought to disinfect my car before.  Clean yes, but disinfect--never.  But, I do now.

For the past few weeks, my new ritual of bringing groceries into my house is to empty all the groceries into the back of the van, throw away the contaminated plastic bags crawling with Covid-19 germs.  Then I sprayed the daylights out of all the items with Lysol spray and let it sit for 20 minutes before bringing them into the house where I then wiped each item down with a Clorox wipe.

I wonder if we will ever go back to our old ways.  In my many hours of quarantine, I have watched some movies, and I'm shocked to see people hugging and shaking hands, eating together in restaurants setting hip to hip in a booth, touching the table and then putting food in their mouths.

It's horrifying.

This Covid-19 virus has affected us to our very core.

I'm ready to get back to my life before the pandemic.  I'm ready for simple and uncomplicated living, and I'm ready for some good news.

In Joel 2:32 (NLT), there is a verse that takes us back to our core. It takes us back to the basics.  It's simple, uncomplicated, and excellent news.

It's the foundation that the Christian's life is built on.

But everyone who calls 
on the name of the Lord 
will be saved...

There ya go, simple, basic, uncomplicated and the best news ever!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

...And Yet His Love Endures

The book of Hosea is an enigma when it comes to faithfulness.  After all, this book of the Bible begins with a story about a wife who is unfaithful and a husband who is longsuffering.  

Most of us without a counseling degree or maybe even with one would be telling this husband, Hosea, to kick that girl, Gomer, to the curb and move on because we would tell Hosea that he deserves to be loved, respected and have all his wife's attention, and he did give her plenty of chances to behavior.

In the book of Hosea, when we look at this story as a living parable, it is easier to see the truth God is driving home to our hearts.  When we grasp the truth of this book, it will give us more compassion for Gomer and give us a new thankfulness for the ever-enduring Hosea.

Parables have long been a means that both God the Father and Jesus, His Son have used to teach us.  The best description I've heard to describe a parable is this; words become a paintbrush to create a portrait of truth.  

The book of Hosea can be broken into two parts.  In chapters 1-3, we see Gomer’s unfaithfulness to her husband, Hosea.  And God continually telling him to return to his wife.  Then in chapters 4-14, the tables are turned and God shows us through the story of Hosea and Gomer; Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and God's willingness to accept back this nation that continually rejected the Father love.   

Looking closely at the brush strokes of this story, we will see the enduring love relationship between God and his wayward people.

Through all the beauty and raw truth of this Old Testament living parable, I landed on this verse in Hosea 6:6 to ponder this week. 

 “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, 
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”   

Here God is telling his people, Israel what he wants from them.  He wants them to desire Him and love Him more than anything this world has to offer.  He's not looking for self-sacrifice in the things we do, but He is calling for our hearts--our love.   

It's time to really love the One who chose us warts and all, just like Hosea chose Gomer and repeatedly took her back.  Jesus' enduring love for us is the same.  It's time to give God what He desires; our steadfast love.  

When we were unfaithful, undeserving, and behaving badly,  Jesus loved us and gave His life for us. 

Here's the message from the book of Hosea to us,  love Him because He desires our love more than anything else, and in the end, our actions will show our true love.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Favor of the Lord

I love it when I'm the favorite, but not so much when someone else is shown favor at my expense.  

In my life, I have known what it is like to be both the favorite and the invisible person in the room.  If it were up to me, being the favorite is my preferred choice of treatment.   

In large families, it can be nearly impossible to get floor time, you have to fight to be heard.  At times, this can cause people to talk over one another.  

I speak from experience here, so sorry to all those in my life that I’ve talked over because of my need to be heard.   

I remember the first time I heard this phrase prayed over someone at the altar; I pray that you will know The Favor of the Lord.  

I thought it was brilliant, and I wanted to pray that over everyone, and have it prayed over me.  The very thought of having the favor of the Lord was thrilling.  I wanted Jesus on my side at all times, and I wanted to receive the kind of special treatment only He could give.

I may sound a bit needy here, but come on, how special is it to be hand-picked by Jesus and then be shown His special favor.  

Daniel knew what this was like.  He was in captivity in Babylon, but even in his distress, God showed him special favor.

Daniel 1:9, says; Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel.

Jesus also knows a little something about favor.  In Luke 2:52 it says, And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Here is a definition of favor; to give unfairly preferential treatment to someone. 

In other words, it's favor we don't deserve, but we get it just the same.  This sounds a lot like grace—unmerited favor.

Daniel didn't deserve this favor.  He was a prisoner.  Yet, through God’s mercy, the officials showed him special favor.  

Why did the officials do this?  Because first and foremost Daniel had the favor of the Lord.

If you're like me, you probably want to know how you can get some of this undeserved favor.  

Here's how, when we come into a relationship with Jesus through salvation, He in return will bless, guide, and protect His children.  That doesn't mean our lives will be perfect without any form of suffering but knowing we are favored is to know that God is with us, and in control, no matter what we are facing.  

When you come to the full understanding that God is God, and He is still in control of our lives both in the good times and the bad then you'll better understand some of these familiar Bible stories.

  • God was still in control when Daniel was in the lion’s den.
  • God was still in control when Joseph was in prison and also when he was in the palace.  
  • God was still in control when Elisha was fleeing for his life and also when the raven fed him at the brook. 
  • God was still in control when David was tending the sheep in his father's fields and He was also in control when he slew the giant.
  • God was still in control when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was on her knees at the foot of the cross.  And He's still in control today!

It's time to stop second-guessing, and take hold of this truth; you are HIS favorite.

You have The Favor of The Lord.

Trust Him.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Sheep Whisper

A few years ago, in my preschool class at church, I had a wanderer.  
At three years old, she came into my class labeled because she had already wandered away on a Wednesday night when she was a toddler.  The church custodian found her by the dumpster on the far side of the parking lot.  
She had wandered a long way from the safety of the nursery.  The dumpster where she was found was only a few yards from a creek that runs along the back of the parking lot.  
I still shiver to think of it.  That incident put the fear of God in all the workers that Wednesday evening.  
So, when the little wanderer graduated into my class, I watched her well and for three years we were without incident.  
Then it happened.  
She wandered.  

There was an outside youth water activity that caused a crowd to gather in the hallway outside my classroom.  That hallway had a door that led outside where the youth were having their water event.  

With only a few minutes left before pick-up, I allowed my preschoolers to gathered at the window of the classroom to watch the fun. 
The little wanderer saw a family member outside and took it upon herself to join him, but she didn’t tell me.  When her mother came to pick her up a few minutes later, imagine my surprise when she was nowhere to be found. 

Her mother quickly located her and brought her back to me to apologize for leaving the classroom without permission.  

As her mother directed her towards me, I could see her brown eyes pooled with tears.  Her sweet little heart was broken that she had caused me worry.  She knew she had done wrong to leave, but the enticement to be a part of something outside the safety of the classroom pulled her away.  

I bent down and opened my arms to her.  She ran to me and we hugged.  I whispered in her ear my concern for her safety and reminded her of the classroom rules.  

She hugged me a bit tighter.  

I held her in my arms.

She promised not to leave the classroom again without permission, and I kissed her cheek.  

I know this story isn’t a perfect match to Ezekiel 34:15-16 (TLB), but there are some similarities to our wandering ways and The Sheep Whisper who called us all by name. 

"I myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep 
and cause them to lie down in peace,” 
the Lord God says. 
“I will seek my lost ones, those who strayed away 
and bring them safely home again. 
I will put splints and bandages upon their broken limbs 
and heal the sick... 

This verse is a sweet reminder to me that I was once a wander with a bad reputation.  Then I responded to the kind voice of The Sheep Whisper.  He found me, embraced me, brought me into safety and forgave my wandering ways.  

This is what He did for me and this is what he will do for whosoever will.

v He gathers His sheep.  
v His sheep know His voice.  
v His sheep obey His voice.  
v When His sheep stray, He brings them back into the safety of His fold.  
v His compassion is without measure.  
v When sheep are wounded He cares for them.  
v The sheep that follow Him will be well fed and blessed.

Jesus is The Sheep Whisper.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A God Moment

Our first missionary photo from 1986.
The Sunday before we were to leave the United States and move to the Philippines to become missionaries, I sat in what would be our last church service in the USA for two years.  On my lap was my daughter, and my sons were sitting next to me in the church pew.  

The service had been a typical Sunday evening service that ended with a time of prayer at the altar.  The worship leader sang throughout the altar service.  

As this portion of the service was ending,  only a few people remained at the altar.  Then the worship leader began to sing one of my favorite songs; The Steadfast Love Of The Lord.  

I won’t lie to you, I had deep concerns about moving my family to a foreign country.  I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived with things like beggars, hungry children, masses of people, ridiculous amounts of traffic, military coups, would I know how to shop in the markets, would the heat be unbearable, I had to learn a new currency, new language, new school for my children, would we be effective for the Lord, what kind of house would we live in, etc. 

My mind raced at all the new things we were about to face.  I held my baby girl a bit tighter.  Would my children be safe, would we all be safe in another country?
Then it happened; God Moment.  

A God Moment is when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is using someone or something to speak directly to you.

The worship leader had sung my favorite song through a few times. 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness O Lord,
Great is Your faithfulness.

About the third time through, he came to this phrase of the song: They are new every morning.

This one line he repeated over and over again.  And when I say over and over, I’m not kidding.  It was as if God told him, don’t stop until she gets it!

They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning

And, I got it!  

About the fourth time he sang, They are new every morning, I was weeping as God in a supernatural way dropped into my heart the reminder that He is a God of unending love, mercy, and compassion and no matter what was ahead.  His love, mercy, and compassion was waiting for me new every morning.

I knew at that moment, He would not call me to go and then forget about me once I got on the plane.  

This is what Lamentations 3:21-24 tells us:

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

This passage of scripture will always hold a special place in my heart.  It is a love note sent directly to me from my Heavenly Father, to give me both strength and courage to look up and find hope. 

No matter what difficult situation you may be facing today, God is still God and in Him, you will find love, mercy, and compassion.

They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning
They are new every morning

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Special Invitation

Over the years, I’ve received many special invitations to different events.

With each invitation, I’ve felt honored to be included.  

I've received invitations to weddings, baby showers, graduation open houses, birthday parties, and many other events.  

When I receive one of these invitations, the first thing I do is go to my calendar to be sure I'm available.  Then I jot down the special event on the calendar as a reminder to participate. 

I think I have a pretty good memory, but many times I've had to rely on my calendar to remember a special event.

In Jeremiah 33:3, God jotted down for all humanity a special invitation.  All we have to do is remember it's available to us.   
This is what Jeremiah 33:3 says,
‘Call to me and I will answer you
and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

When we face difficulties, often calling on the Lord is the very last thing we remember to do.  In times of trouble, sickness, distress, danger, etc. who's your go-to person? 

One of my favorite things about receiving a special party invitation is the takeaway gift for all those who attended.   

It might be a slice of CAKE and who doesn't love cake!  Whatever the special event might be, usually, there's a little something for those who choose to participate.

And God's special invitation is no different.  His special parting gift to us is, "I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

We’re all invited.  

We’ve all received our special invitation.   

We only need to call on Him and He will answer.

Random Acts of Kindness

This week’s devotional will be my last devotional until June 3, 2020.  I will be taking a break for 6-weeks (or possibly longer).  At ...