August, already?!

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Father God, thank You Lord for this new month. Lord, thank You and praise You for new beginnings. Lord God, for those who had a difficult July with loss, heartache and pain, renew and comfort them in August. Lord, as hard as it may be, help us to spread the love and joy of Jesus by the smiles on our faces and the light in our eyes. Lord God, regardless of what climate this precious reader resides, may they delight in Your Word.

Father, life requires patience, may we rise to the challenge. Lord God, I am one of the most impatient people on this Earth; please have mercy on me, a sinner! Lord God, lead this reader by the hand, may they come to know You more and more this next month.

Lord God, prepare us for a new school season. Prepare students, teachers, drivers of every kind to be alert and focused! Lord God, thank You that Your Word does NOT return void! Lord, for those who are lost, give us an increased desire to pray for them. For those who are flailing, may we have grace to hear their hearts. Lord God, use this reader right where they are. Remind this reader that no matter where they go, they cannot escape Your presence, Your care, Your love, Your touch. Thank You Lord that we cannot out run You. Thank You for pursuing us, for choosing us. May we bask in that knowledge.

Lord God, thank You that August is the one year anniversary of this blog. Lord, I have grown and been stretched so much in this past year. Thank You for this reader, thank You for their grace, mercy, support, encouragement and love. Lord, bless this reader for blessing me. In Jesus’s Mighty and Holy Name I pray, Amen.

Words

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I am doing something I have never done before; I am stopping my God Time to share this. I am not on Twitter or Facebook; however, if I was, I would tweet out this quote. I just read Psalm 12. In James Boice’s Psalms, Vol 1: (Psalms 1-41): An Expositional Commentary he says, “Words are both our glory and our shame” (p 98).

Father God, far too often our words bring shame, hurt and pain. Lord, may our words honor and praise You while bolstering and encouraging others. Lord, too often I forget how powerful words are. I forget how tone drives how the words are perceived. Lord, I have brought shame on You, myself and others by speaking out of negative emotion, out of a heart void of You. Help me, help us to have words that reflect Your heart and character. This world craves words that align with their worldview and agenda. May we speak the Truth in love fearing You rather than man. May we not succumb to speaking false praise or flattery to promote ourselves for any kind of personal gain. Lord, may we exalt You and not ourselves. Lord, Your Word and words are true,  may the same be said of our words. This world lies and each day the lies are more arrogant, more boastful and more an affront to You. Father, may we take the time to read and heed Your Word. May we take the time to meditate (mutter/murmur) Your Word rather than on the words of this world. Good theology moves from head to heart to hand. May we hear Your Word, internalize Your Word so that we will speak and do Your Word. Lord, may it not be said of us that “the godly one is gone” (Ps 12:1 ESV) in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Personal Reflections on Moving

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I am absolutely NO different than the Israelites. In fact, I am probably worse! I can honestly say that I would totally grumble and complain every time the cloud lifted over a place, knowing I would have to pack up my stuff and leave. I know this because for the last year, I have not enjoyed having to shove my stuff in drawers at a moment’s notice when a prospective buyer requests a house showing. I can honestly say that I will not be partaking in any form of Sukkot (Feast of Booths/Feast of Tabernacles) to commemorate my time in the wilderness (I assure you if we were still commanded to celebrate this Feast, it would be my absolute least favorite! I do not like camping in any form. I most certainly will not sleep in a tent on the hard ground!). I understand that Christ is our center and everything else is periphery; however, I do need some sense of structure!

There is not one part of this moving process that I have enjoyed. Since I have gotten to Florida I have continued my grumbling and complaining. I had no idea how strong the Florida sun can be. I have been complaining that I miss my old life and my friends. I can say that I have an even greater appreciation for Sarah’s faith who up and left with Abraham when he received God’s call (Gen 12). I cannot help but wonder, if she ever asked herself, “why am I here?” or worse yet, “why did I get married?!” especially in light of Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18. (Thankfully, this has not happened to me; however, bad idea to ask your spouse “why did I get married?!” It will not go over well! Nathan, I love you, lesson learned!). I have a greater appreciation for Jacob and his hesitation on going down to Egypt in his older age (Gen 46:1-7) and for Ruth leaving Moab to be with Naomi.

I have seen God’s Hand in this moving process; yet, I choose to grumble and complain, rather than sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Warren Wiersbe says time and time again, “outlook determines outcome.” I do not want my outcome to be where people avoid me like the plague because I have a negative and critical spirit. Nor do I want to be a fraud and present myself online as a person who is void of struggles (that would negate the whole purpose of this blog!). To again quote Wiersbe, I want my past to be a “rudder not an anchor.” Either I can trust God will help me in this moving transition as He has done for His people since the dawn of time; or, I can rebel and suffer some hard lessons.

Father God, help us to have outlooks that are rooted and centered in You. Lord, thank You for this reader. Lord, Thank You for Your grace and mercy, as well as the courage to be vulnerable. Lord, help this reader to reflect on where they may be resisting making a move for You. Lord, I know first hand that You cannot use people who are unwilling to move. Whether it is a literal or figurative move, may the past be a rudder spurring us forward rather than an anchor holding us back. May we walk by faith and not by sight or feeling. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

“Are You Religious?!”

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Yesterday, the woman helping me at the Bank asked, “what do you do?” I responded, “I am a student.” She asked, “Of what?” I said, “Honestly, in the Fall I will begin my pursuit of a PhD in Biblical Studies.” Without missing a beat she asked me, “Are you religious?!”
I confess, I did not answer straight away. I waited a moment praying she would give me some context. By her body language I stated, “I am devout.” Immediately she responded saying, “That is how I am!” After hearing her story, I learned that she comes from a very legalistic background. God was to be feared not out of awe and reverence, but for His judgement. She also shared a personal story of how one of her family members will not associate with anyone or anything outside of their church.
Right or wrong I said, “That is a tough one. We are called to go out into the world; but, to not look like the world. We are not called to live in a bubble.” We each discussed our church experiences and she ended our time saying, “thank you for the conversation!”
I have been repeating this question in my mind over and over again. “Are you religious?!” and each time I think of how I could have answered differently. Then, this morning, in my TWiG (Time With God) I felt like the Lord asked me, “how would you respond if she asked you, “are you spiritual?!””
Ultimately, I am spiritual in my devotion to Christ. I am religious but not a legalist. I am devout, deeply devoted and committed to our Triune God. I am thankful the Holy Spirit helps us to speak when we do not know what to say! Peter tells us to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15 ESV). May we be prepared to speak anytime, anywhere, any place with any person!

Father God, thank You for this reader! Thank You for opportunities to grow and stretch our faith. Thank You for all the different ways You make Yourself known to us. Lord, grow us in our awe, reverence and devotion to You. May we always be prepared to share our faith, answering the questions that others have with gentleness, sincerity and authenticity. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments on how you would respond! Thank you in advance! Blessings, Mandy

Welcome, July!

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Father God, thank You that every day is Independence Day in Christ. Thank You Father, for the gift of freedom and liberty from bondage to sin. Lord God, many countries celebrate Independence Day in July, may our celebrations and thanksgiving lead us to worship and praise You. Lord God, for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution across this globe, we ask You to be with them and strengthen them.

Lord, may we not take our freedom for granted. Lord, for those of us who are in countries where we can worship You openly and publicly, may we do so authentically and sincerely. Lord God, prepare us for this new month. Prepare our characters to do the work that You are calling us to do. Thank You Lord, that each new day is an opportunity to love and serve You, if we are open and willing to do so. Lord, thank You SO much for convicting me of my wrong attitudes toward people and unpleasant situations.

Thank You that You are God in the Valley and on the Mountaintop! May we shout Your Name and praises from wherever it is that You have us. Lord God, for the reader who is struggling, fill them with the peace of Your presence. For the reader who is on the mountaintop, may they savor the moment knowing that it is You who brought them to the top and not themselves!

Lord God, thank You that You are Just! Lord, may we seek justice for all people. Your Word reveals that You have compassion on the oppressed and You also call the oppressor, may we join You in doing the same, even when it is hard and makes no sense.

Thank You Father, there is no such thing as luck or chance; You see and know it all! Lord God, thank You that no matter how dark or cruel life becomes, Your light shines in the darkness. Lord, may we be a people who do not just talk about meeting needs, but actually do it. Lord God, for anyone who is in the process of moving, please Lord God, keep them focused on You in their time of transition!

Lord God, for those who are married, may they lay their pride and desires at the foot of the cross, allowing You to transform them into the spouse their husband or wife needs. Lord God, for those who are single, give them strength and courage. Help them to know they are NOT alone and there is nothing wrong with them. Help all people Lord, whether single or married, to live in the freedom that Jesus has purchased for them.

Father God, I pray for safe handling of fireworks for those who will set them off this Independence Day. Lord God, thank You again for this reader. Thank You for the opportunity to pray with them and for them. Lord God, may we never lose sight of who You are and may we trust in You and not political parties.  Triune God, lead us into a deeper understanding of what it means that You are One God, Three Persons. Amen.

The Navy and the Cavapoo

I have lived across the street from Denise for three years. Much of this time was spent saying, “hi” or “we should get together sometime” yet, we never followed through. I knew from the beginning that Denise was retired Navy; yet, I had NEVER met or understood how anyone could wash their driveway (scrub the deck!) and run a leaf blower like Denise. This would drive me bonkers when I was working on assignments!

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Tiva sitting on Nathan’s lap

At some point in time last year Denise bought a puppy. Nathan absolutely loves dogs and so this gave Nathan an opportunity to speak with Denise and play with her cavapoo puppy named “Tiva.” Around this same time, I had a final discussion post for my Leader’s Life and Work class (Nov 2018) which challenged us to leave our comfort zone and interact with someone outside our normal sphere of influence. I felt like this was the opportunity to invite Denise for dinner. This invitation was more than just fulfilling an assignment, it was a chance to literally answer the question, “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

What transpired has profoundly changed my life! Denise is a fellow believer in Jesus Christ with a gift of hospitality second to none. Denise is one of the most honest, intelligent and authentic people I have ever met. I am grieved that I did not take the time to get to know Denise sooner.

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Denise and I at Graduation

On May 10, 2019 I graduated from Capital Seminary and Graduate School with a Master’s in Biblical Studies. Denise was at my graduation along with Nathan and my parents. Because of this assignment, I learned how much I love Denise and “Tiva” puppies (cavapoos). I am so thankful for Denise, I could not have asked for a better neighbor. On June 5, 2019 Nathan and I started our drive (move) to St. Petersburg, FL. While Denise and Tiva may not live across the street from us, I know for a fact they will come and stay with us and vice versa.

So, who is your “neighbor?” Who is the person in your backyard that you have seen but have not taken the opportunity to get to know? It is my heartfelt prayer that you will not wait to answer that question. It is sad that as we grew closer to Denise and Tiva, we were also closer to leaving. We shared many meals and laughs together over these past few months and in so doing, God has built a bond between us built on faith, love and loyalty.

Father God, make us sensitive to our neighbors. Help us to see past our own comforts and desires. Lord, we do not exist to please ourselves. Lord, I remember my patient Shirley who taught me that JOY stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself. Lord, may we put You first, followed by others and lastly ourselves. Lord, thank You for Denise and Tiva. Thank You Lord for the neighbor that You have for this reader. Lord, may we take steps towards people rather than steps from them. Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy. Thank You Lord for this reader! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

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Denise, Tiva, me and Nathan

Abba Father

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In light of tomorrow being Father’s Day in the United States, I wanted to share that Abba does NOT mean “daddy.” I know it is a popular teaching that God the Father is your heavenly daddy, but a closer look at the original languages reveals this is not the case.

Three times Abba Father is found in the New Testament (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Each time the Aramaic Abba is accompanied by the Greek word FatherAbba Father is a term of respect and reverence. It is an intimate term but again not a term of infancy (“daddy”). “It is a cry of the heart, not a word spoken calmly with personal detachment and reserve, but a word we ‘call’ or ‘cry out'” (George, Galatians NAC, 1994, p. 307). Kenneth Bailey notes, “The Aramaic word abba (father) was used by an Aramaic-speaking person in talking to his or her earthly father. It was also used to address a respected person of rank. A student could use this word to address a teacher or a child his father (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, 2008, p. 96).

All three times Abba Father is recorded in the NT is in conjunction with prayer. Jesus is praying (calling) to His Abba Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36),  Paul says the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers allows them to address God as Abba Father (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).  The word Abba is Jesus’s normal way of addressing God. Because Jesus called His Father Abba we too as believers may do the same.

Abba Father, thank You for all that You have done for us. May we worship You in a way that pleases and honors You. May we bring You glory in all that we say and do. Lord, may we revere You and keep your name holy. May our conduct reflect You and give You the respect that You deserve. Lord, thank You that You do not abandon us when we sin. Thank You that Your grace is greater! Prepare us Lord to celebrate Father’s Day. For some this day is one of the most difficult Sundays to attend church. Lord, may we not view You like a Father but as the Father, the ultimate Father and the One in whom all fatherhood flows. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord that You have designed and know all languages. No language is better than another, hence the Aramaic Abba alongside the Greek Father. Your Word is truly multilingual yet has one message, Christ crucified, buried, resurrected, ascended for the forgiveness of sins.  Lord, may this reader search for themselves what Abba means in its original context. May anyone who reads this blog be a Berean, holding this writing up to the light of Scripture. Father God, thank You for Your care and provision for us. Thank You for being intimately involved in our lives. Thank You that You care for us beyond what we can understand. Thank You Father that we can come to You through Jesus Christ Your Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.