Happy Valentine’s Day!

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At some point in time in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Lord impressed on my heart to stop hating Valentine’s Day and to see it as a day to love Jesus and love others. I was working in Skilled Nursing at the time and I felt like God wanted me to tell my patients and residents, especially those who were not regularly visited by family, relatives or friends that Jesus loves them, knows them and cares for them.

Precious Reader, whether you are single, dating, married, having relational issues please receive this: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

Whatever anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, burden that is plaguing you, remember that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Precious reader, if you are in Christ, there is no need to fear punishment, death or eternal separation from God. God loves with a love that we cannot even begin to comprehend this side of heaven. The fact that Jesus loved us so much, that He was willing to suffer and die for our sins, to reconcile us to the Father is truly life-changing.

Love is not floaty words and feelings. Love is a verb, it is an action and it is messy, painful and very hard work. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Precious Reader, I do not know the circumstances, trials, mountain top experiences you are having right now, but what I do know is that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  Please, take some time today to thank our Triune God for His love for you. Thank Him that even when the people whom we love the most let us down, that He loves us still. Today, I challenge you (and myself as well) to find someone and tell them they are loved.

I love you and thank you for the gift of your time.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Father God, thank You Lord for Your amazing love, mercy and grace. May we grow in our practice of loving and serving You and others not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.  Lord, for the person who is having a hard time accepting Your love for them, I ask that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to the Truth while softening and convicting their heart. Father God, thank You for Your perfect love. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

You Were…But God

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“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” (Eph 2:1 ESV) “But God being in rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” (Eph 2:4-5).

Yesterday’s sermon centered around the words “you were” and “but God.” The only thing I heard Pastor David say after those four words were “you were broken but God intervened…” This has rocked me to my core! For the past 24 hours I have been pondering how I turn the “you were/I was” past tense statements and situations in my life into present tense “I am” statements. For example:

“I am broken.”

“I am lost/homeless/vagabond.”

“I am unqualified.”

There are so many more I could add. “I am broken” is the toughest one because there are seasons where God breaks and bends to stretch us and mold our character more in His Image. Through brokenness we become more of who He wants us to be. In all honesty, my “I am broken” statement fuels the other two on this list. My problem is there is no “But God” Job like response, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). I become depressed and defeated. This is not God honoring. I need to remind myself that in the past “I was broken and defeated, but God intervened and pulled me from the muck and mire, restoring me.” This gets my thoughts off of me and onto God. I need to preach to myself that while I am momentarily broken, joy does come in the morning (Ps 30:5).

The devil enjoys throwing at me, “You were in a home but now you are a vagabond.”  Again, there is no “But God.” I need to rebuke myself saying, “yes, I was in a nice home, but God saw fit for it to be sold.” Either I can be bitter and angry about selling my house or I can trust God. I know that God is working on my character through this. If there is one thing that I know about God from personal experience is that when we rush God’s character development in us life only gets messier and more difficult.

I do not think/feel/believe my Master’s program in any way, shape or form prepared me for this PhD program. As such, I constantly berate myself saying, “I am absolutely unqualified to pursue a PhD,” but God has called me to Academia for His reason and purpose. I know this because I do not have God’s peace  to leave/quit the program. I am intimidated in many ways by my cohort’s knowledge, background and experience. I am afraid I will hold these great men of God back from learning all that God has for them. While it is hard and I struggle with anxiety and time management, it is like God is saying to me, “Mandy, you are focusing on the wrong things: work, learn, grow. Trust Me!”

All of this boils down to trust and control. I was not, am not, nor will I ever be in total control, but God is and He is worthy of my trust. I was/am broken, but God is in control and I can trust Him to develop my character as He wills, wants and desires. I was/am a vagabond, but God is in control of my housing situation, I need to trust Him. I was/am unqualified, but God is merciful and gracious to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16).

What are the “You Were…But God” situations in your life?

Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord, dispel the enemy’s lies with Your Truth. Lord God, for those of us who are hurting and broken whether it be through health struggles, family struggles and/or work struggles may we preach to ourselves that You are in our midst. Lord God, helps us to relinquish control and trust You. May we not rush nor despise the pruning that You are doing in our lives. Thank You God that we are no longer dead in our sins because of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, February 2020!

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Father God, thank You for the start of this new month! Lord, for those of us in the North, help us to endure winter. Thank You that the sun is rise earlier and staying light later. Thank You Lord that Spring always follows every winter season, literally and figuratively.

Thank You Lord for this reader. Lord God, I do not know what all has happened in the past month for this reader; however, I ask for Your grace and mercy. For those who made New Year’s Resolutions or spiritual goals, help us to embrace the monotony of consistency. Help us to be diligent in reaching the goals that we have set.

Lord God, I ask that You remind us that You call us to love our fellow man, not just people who we agree with politically. Lord God, help us to rise above political parties and to live in and for Your Kingdom, bringing You glory. Help us Lord to listen, help us to have compassion. Lord God, Your Word says that we should be known for our love, we want and desire to live this command. May we desire and manifest the fruit of Your Spirit; rather than desiring and craving the lies of comfort, ease and excess that this world hurls at us.

Lord God, this life is not easy. Thank You Jesus for knowing, understanding and overcoming our weaknesses. Thank You Triune God for our salvation. As this world gets ever darker, help us to live more and more connected to You and Your Truth.

Thank You Father for never abandoning us. May we grow more in our devotion and application to You and Your Word in this new month. In  Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Malachi or Chronicles?!

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I love the Bible that Jesus read (aka the Old Testament). I do not want to ruffle any feathers; however, the Bible that Jesus read, taught, lived and loved is not ordered the same way as our English translations.

The Hebrew Bible is arranged in three major parts, known by the acronym TaNaK.

The T stands for Torah (Pentateuch in Greek) which means either Law or Instruction. These are the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The stands for Nevi’im which means Prophets.  This section is divided into the “Former Prophets” which consists of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings (in English we call these “Historical Books”) and the “Latter Prophets” Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve (which in English we call the “Minor Prophets”).

The K stands for Ketuvim which means Writings. This large section includes Psalms, Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes) and Post-Exilic Writings (Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles).

(Please note in the Hebrew Bible: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Ezra-Nehemiah, 1-2 Chronicles are all one book, they are not separate books as presented in our English translations.)

Every year at Christmas we hear how Malachi ends with God’s promise to send a forerunner for the Messiah (Mal 4:6 ESV). We also hear how Malachi ends the OT and that for 400 years God did not speak until Matthew 1. However, when we look at the Hebrew order, it is not Malachi that closes the Hebrew Bible but, 1-2 Chronicles.

Why does this matter? 1-2 Chronicles begins with a long genealogy (nine chapters). The book (OT) ends with Cyrus’s decree to allow the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple. While the literal physical exile was coming to a close, Israel was still in “spiritual” exile. In Matthew, the New Testament opens, with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the long awaited Davidic king. The genealogy of Jesus Christ found in Matthew 1 is the culmination of the genealogies of 1-2 Chronicles. When we read the Bible in this order, rather than in the order of our English translations, we will see the beauty, hope, anticipation and longing for Messiah. Ultimately, when we read the Hebrew Bible in this order, we read in the same order as Jesus Himself. God willing our English translations will follow the Hebrew order sooner rather than later!

Father God, thank You for Your Word! Thank You, Jesus, for all that You have done to end our captivity and exile both in this life and the next. Thank You for the gift of salvation. Lord regardless of what theological camp we may belong, may we be mindful that people do not roam around with big “E’s” on their forehead. May we be mindful to share and show Jesus to this dark and hurting world in a way that is authentic and bold; yet, brings glory and honor to Your Name. Lord God, help us to read Your Word as You originally intended. Lord God, thank You for the gift of communication, far too often we take this for granted. Lord God, thank You for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Vagabond

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Since getting married two years ago, I have been in a constant state of wandering. Nathan and I thought that God was moving us to Florida, listed the house for sale and off we went (the house sold the end of July 2019). Since moving back to PA (September 2019) we have been renting a place (which is nice do not get me wrong); however, it is not home. We have visited countless houses that are for sale. Multiple times a day I check the web to see if there are new listings in the area. I have also spoken with a contractor about building. So far, nothing has panned out.

I have to be honest, I really loved my house that I sold. I knew when Nathan and I got married that I would have to sell my house because, well, it was “my” house. I was critical of everything he did. I prided myself on having a clean and empty garage, that changed quickly! What I hold onto the most from my former house is the view. I was able to watch the sunrise every morning and there was a stream behind my house with weeping willow trees. I absolutely love willow trees. Try as I might to accept that this is a different time in life and that I needed to let go of that house and view, the loss still creeps in from time to time.

What makes this even more acute is that yesterday (January 14, 2020) I put an offer on a house, only to be told that another buyer offered more money. I refused to get in a bidding war and so my offer was not accepted. While to most people that may be a disappointment; however, I feel anger and discontentment rising in my being. Instead of lying or hiding this anger and discontentment, I will heed Tony Evan’s counsel, “tell the truth, shame the devil!”

I realize this post may sound really, really trivial. I know that God is growing and stretching my character. I have an ever greater appreciation for the Israelites 40 years of wandering. I am growing in my sensitivity that my desire and longing for home, will only be satisfied in Christ. I am so thankful that for those of us who know Christ we are never homeless (John 14:1-3). Peace is not a physical location, it is not a life free from conflict and struggle, peace is a Person and His Name is Jesus. I need that to be enough!

Father God, for anyone who is struggling and longing for home, may they come home to You. Thank You Father that You do not leave us on our own. Lord God, thank You that You give us community so that we do not have to do life alone, even if we feel alone. Lord God, draw us closer to Yourself. May we submit our longings, desires and weaknesses to You. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You for their care and encouragment. Lord God, fill us with the peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Welcome, 2020!

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Happy New Year! Happy January! May the 2020s be filled with joy and contentment, regardless of our circumstances!

Father God, thank You for this New Year and this new decade. Lord God, prepare us for this New Year. Prepare us for the difficulties and challenges that we may face. Lord God, only You know what this next year and dedicate holds. Lord, strengthen Your people to stand for Truth. Father God, for those who wept and mourned in 2019, may this new year be one of joy. Lord God, thank You that You are ALWAYS with us. Thank You that You never waste a hurt. Lord God, I do not know what this reader is facing; however, I know that You are in their boat and will calm their winds, waves and fears. Lord God, may You flood Your people with the peace of Your presence.

Lord God, only You know what will happen amongst the nations in this next decade. Thank You Lord that You always leave a remnant. May we have the courage and confidence to endure whatever may come our way. Lord God, as You know, suffering is not easy. However, to be a child of yours includes some form of suffering. May we suffer well for Your Name’s sake and glory. Lord God, grow us more to be like Christ. May we treasure Your Word in our heart more this year. May we preach Your Word to ourselves in times when our courage and confidence lacks. Lord, prepare us to be used by You.

Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord for all the love and support that I have received from readers in 2019. Lord, I ask that You will use this blog to bring glory, honor and praise to You and to encourage and strengthen my brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord God, thank You for this reader. May they set spiritual goals that will bring them closer to You and transform them more into Christ’s image. Lord, Thank You for the gift of life! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Christmas Prayer

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Sunrise, Lancaster, PA 25 December 2019. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Jesus, thank You for the opportunity to celebrate Your birth. Remind us that today is about You and what You have done. Jesus, Thank You for Your Incarnation. May we NEVER forget that for the first time in human history, when You were born was sinful man able to see God’s face and live. Thank You Jesus for coming and dwelling among us. May we give You the praise, glory, honor that is Yours, not just today but everyday.
Jesus, thank You that Your birth is the beginning of man’s reconciliation with God. Jesus, You are the Light of the World, may we never forget this Truth. May we be the light that You have called Your people to be, pointing others to You.

Triune God, thank You for the gift of salvation. Lord, for those who are hurting today, I ask that You will give them comfort. For those who are stressed by the consumerism and commercialism of this day, may they rest in knowing who You are. Lord, in all things may we be reminded that the baby in the manger, grew up, went to the cross and suffered and died for us and three days later rose from the grave defeating death, pain, sickness. Lord, this Christmas may we be reminded that Jesus’s presence is our greatest Christmas present. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.