Happy Valentine’s Day!

stack of love wooden blocks
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I am absolutely amazed by God’s hesed (covenant faithfulness, also translated loyal love).  Hesed is manifested in relationships whether between God and man or between two individuals. When God reveals Himself to Moses, He says, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love…” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV, italics added). In Hebrew the word keeping is a participle (verbal adjective). Participles in Hebrew indicate continuous action. God is continuous in keeping steadfast love. At no point in time will this be void.

The Apostle Paul says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8 ESV, c.f. 1 John 4:9-10). Based on this premise the Apostle John states, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4:16 NLT). Love is an action, it is a verb, it is something that we do. We love (action) because God first loved us (4:19). The love, faithfulness, kindness, holiness, righteousness of God is perfect. His perfect love expels all fear (4:18).  “Love is characterized by fear when there is a doubt it will be returned. We have no fear of this since God’s love was prior to ours” (Akin, 1,2,3, John, 2001, p. 187). Whatever your thoughts and feelings are toward Valentine’s Day, do not forget this truth: the Cross is the ultimate expression of God’s covenant faithfulness, loyal love. As God’s love and faithfulness are poured into you, may you pour out on those around you. Love does not happen in isolation (see 1 John 4:20-21). Whatever your thoughts and feelings are toward Valentine’s Day, may you be encouraged by God’s love (hesed) for you! Taste and see that the LORD is good (Ps 34:8).

Father, thank You for Your covenant faithfulness. Thank You that love is both Your nature (who You are) and Your action (what You do). Lord, help us to display Your hesed. Help us to be loyal and faithful to You and to those in our lives. Lord, may we not take Your love for granted nor as an excuse to do whatever we please. Lord, may we live and love in a way that brings Your name glory, honor and praise. Thank You Lord, for this reader. May this reader be overwhelmed, encouraged, motivated and awed by the incredible love that You have for them. May they drink and savor Your goodness. May they live free knowing that Your perfect love expels all fear. Hold this reader close to You. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

To or With?

backlit cemetery christianity clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was ten years ago, but it still resonates with me. At the time, I was allowing situations in life that were beyond my control to effect/affect me in some very negative ways. I loved having God Time in my mom’s living room when it was cold outside. I remember, saying to my mom, as I was heading into the room to be alone, “I need to talk to God.” My mom’s response seriously changed my life. She said, “what if you talked with God instead of to God?” I can attest first hand how changing the preposition changes everything.

If I am only talking to God, (which left unchecked can become talking at God) I will never hear God. I would also hate for God to stop listening to me because all I was doing was talking to Him, (no matter how reverent and sincere) rather than with Him. I would hate for God to not be able to speak freely with me. I know first hand that when I do not allow Him to speak freely with me, He will use some external intervention to get my attention (I have too many of those stories to write nor would you want to hear them all!).

What does your devotional time look like? Do you talk to God or with God? It is my heart’s desire for you to know that Jesus wants to dialogue with you. He wants you to come to Him and talk/speak/dialogue with Him and He with you. As you dialogue with our Triune God, may you grow in His love, grace, forgiveness and mercy. When you hear the Lord calling to spend time and speak with you, may you respond like David, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming'” (Psalm 27:8 NLT, emphasis mine).

Father God, thank You for the opportunity to come and talk with You because of Jesus’s work on the cross. Lord God, thank You for the gift of Your Presence and for never abandoning us and leaving us as orphans. Lord God, fill us with Your Holy Spirit, fill us with a desire to be with You above all else! Thank You Lord, for this reader/hearer. Thank You for their life. Help this reader/hearer endure what seems insurmountable. May this reader/hearer praise You Lord for all that You have done, are doing and will do. Lord God, be with this reader/hearer. May they draw near to You and dialogue with You and You with them. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Goodbye January, Welcome February!

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8)

Father God, thank You that spring literally and figuratively follows every winter season. Lord God, for those of us who struggle with winter, I ask for Your grace, mercy and strength to endure! For those who enjoy winter, I ask that You will fill them with adventure and wonder! Lord God, I ask that You prepare us for this upcoming short month. Lord, I do ask that we not have six more weeks of winter; however, I know that You are good NO matter what! I know that when we look to You that no shadow of shame or fear will be found on our faces and that we will radiate your joy. Thank You Lord that Your wisdom lights up a person’s face and softens its harshness (Ecc 8:1). Lord, for those who are struggling with their health, I ask for Your grace and mercy. Lord God, for those who are going through an unforeseen challenge, I ask for Your presence to envelope them through it. For those Lord, who are just coming out of the storm, may they reflect on how awesome You are and how much they have learned, that they otherwise would have missed! Lord God, thank You for this reader/hearer. Thank You for their prayers and kindness toward me! Lord, may we continue to grow in our love, devotion and faithfulness to You in this new month. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Favoritism

person wearing black zip hoodie sitting in front of gray wooden plank wall during nighttime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the greatest lies the enemy loves to heave at me is that I am not doing enough, I am not good enough and that God likes/loves everyone more than me. I know that is a lie and yet I allow it to render me completely ineffective and useless. It steals my joy, it paralyzes my walk with God and leads me to fear being replaced. I know that God is no respecter of persons, meaning he does not show partiality or favoritism but what exactly does that mean?!

In Hebrew (OT) the expression of not showing favoritism “refers literally to ‘the lifting up the face of another person,’ while in Greek (NT) the expression means to ‘receive the face’ of someone or to accept his or her external appearance as the real thing and to make an evaluation on that basis” (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, p. 1839). In both the OT and NT God is impartial and without prejudice and His people should be/do the same.

This has me questioning my own motives. To whom am I showing favoritism or worse yet, who am I undervaluing based on appearances and/or differences? As much as I fear being replaced by God, this also translates to my relationships with people. I have always been concerned that I will be replaced or second best. Who in my path and yours as well knows that we favor someone else over them?

James 2 admonishes us to not show favoritism because God does not show favoritism. James’s message affirms me in that God will not replace me that He will deal with me and reward me as He sees fit; yet, my behavior in certain instances does not match the obedience God requires.

Peter in Acts 10:34 stressed that God shows no favoritism. Peter’s vision led him to the conclusion that God does not discriminate! There are no divisions between “clean” and “unclean” people from God’s Sovereign and Divine perspective. God does discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors but He NEVER discriminates on the basis of race or ethnic background. Believers who revere God and practice what is right are acceptable to Him (10:35).

Father God, it is so easy to believe lies that say we are not good enough, that we will be replaced or that You disapprove of us. Lord God, it is easy to spend time with and look favorably on people who are most like us. Lord God, I ask that You help us to be a people who are secure and confident in our identity and position in You. Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy! Thank You that You meet with us and convict us personally! Lord God, reveal our hearts to us. Where are we showing favoritism in ways that are not from You? Teach us Lord to be more like Jesus and it is in His Name I pray, Amen.

 

Spiritual Goals

I am not a person who makes “resolutions” for the new year; however, I do have/make spiritual goals. These goals can occur at any time in the year and range between three and six months. The reason I call my goals “spiritual” is because the outcome will bring me closer to God and to other people. When I feel like God is stirring/nudging me to make something a goal, I acknowledge that I cannot attain this without His help. I know that I am absolutely unable to change myself with any lasting results! I know that I need God’s accountability, strength and motivation. I need God’s help to embrace the monotony of consistency. I also confess that if I am not willing to partner with God, He will not nor is He under any obligation to help me meet this goal!

How this works is that I write my goal(s) on an index card.  Sometimes I use Bible verses to support the goal, sometimes I write a prayer, other times I just write down the goal itself; then I place the notecard in my Bible. At first I read the card every day. As the goal seeps more into my brain the less I read it and the more I live it out. There are some goals that I have continued longer than three or six months. Some I am still working on!

Father God, thank You again for the gift of new beginnings! Father God, I ask that You help us to make, keep and achieve realistic goals that bring You glory rather than goals that elevate ourselves, status, position, possessions. Father, if Satan tried to tempt/test Jesus with power, prestige and possessions it is only logical that he would do the same to Your people. Lord God, refine our characters and help us to be more like Jesus. Thank You Father, for all that You have done, are doing and will do. Thank You Lord for this reader! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Cards
Picture of Mandy Sweigart-Quinn’s spiritual goals notecards.

 

Happy New Year!

abstract bay boats bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Father God, thank You Lord for the gift of this New Year! Lord God, prepare this reader for 2019 and 2019 for this reader! Lord, we thank You for the gift of new beginnings.  Thank You Lord for being with us. Lord, I ask that You will guide this reader through this New Year and month. Lord, may this reader seek You and Your wisdom continuously. Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy. Lord, be VERY present with this reader and may they come to know how deeply loved and cared for they are. Father, I ask that You will give comfort to those who are hurting; I ask that You will give peace to those who do not know what to do. Father, I ask for Your light to shine in all the dark areas and places that surround this reader. Lord, for those who are seeking reconciliation with yourself and/or others, I pray this will be the year in which it happens. Thank You Father, that spring always follows winter both literally and figuratively. Father, in all things may we seek Your face, may we learn more of Your holiness and may we continue to give You all glory, honor and praise. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Reflection and Preparation

black and white blackboard business chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For the last ten years I have spent my New Year’s Eve looking back/reflecting on the year as a whole. (Please know this is NOT a form of condemnation or guilt, this is honest self-reflection, it is NOT chastisement or self-flagellation). I reflect on how I have seen God work in my life and the lives of others. I reflect on missed opportunities, areas I gave into my negative emotions and areas where I have hurt people or have been hurt. I reflect on how I could have done things differently as well as reflecting on the ways God has grown and stretched my character. From there I start praying and asking God to prepare me for the New Year and the New Year for me.

Memory, remembering, remembrance are concepts found in both the Old and New Testaments. This is not just cognitive/mental recall. Remembering in the Bible implies that we act in accordance with what we are remembering. Looking back on what God has done is the greatest reminder of trust and faith that we have. Remembering what God has done moves us closer to Him. While memories can be sad and painful, knowing that we are in the Lord and that He is in us will help us process what we have been through. When I look back and see what God has done (even the difficult and painful things) it cultivates in me a spirit of gratitude, thankfulness and an excitement to keep pressing on in and with the Lord.

When we take communion, we reflect on three things: the past in which we look back to Jesus’s work on the cross; the present as we reflect on what He is currently doing in our lives and the future as we reflect/look forward in anticipation to His return. Reflecting allows us to see God for who He is and what He has done. Reflecting on what God has done fills us with confidence that God will continue working out His plan in and through us (Rom 8:28-30). God remembers His promises to His people and He prepares His people to receive His promises. His Holy Spirit enables us to remember Him, be prepared by Him and live for and with Him daily.

God desires for His people to be prepared. Peter tells us to always be prepared to give a reason for the faith/hope that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), we should be prepared to stand firm against the enemy, lies and temptations that come our way (Ephesians 6:10-20). We are to be prepared (or look for ways) to encourage other believers (Heb 10:24). Everything that we go through in this life prepares us for eternity with Christ.

May you take some time to reflect on God and His promises, reflect on what He has done in your life this past year and as you do, I pray that you will allow God to prepare you for this coming year. May 2019 be your BEST year in the Lord yet! Dear reader, I am so thankful for you and for the time that you have given me this past year! Thank you!

Father God, help us to look back and see ALL that You have done for us this past year! Lord God, thank You for ALL the ways that You have grown and stretched us! Lord, I ask that You will prepare us for 2019 and 2019 for us! Lord God, this world is changing rapidly. Prepare us to face the storms and trials that are coming, prepare us to stand for Truth even when it costs us something. Lord God, may we look back on the lives of those who have gone before us and to use them as examples of how to live for You now. Lord God, prepare this reader for the joys, triumphs and difficulties this year may hold for them. Lord God, new beginnings can be scary and exciting. For those who have enjoyed 2018 and do not want to see it end, may You comfort them. For those who are eagerly awaiting 2019 and new beginnings, Lord, make Yourself known to them. Lord, prepare us, prepare Your people for the work You have for us and that work for us. Lord, may You not just prepare us, but prepare people, environments and circumstances for us. Lord God, thank You for being with this reader regardless of how they feel. Lord, each one of us is individually created to bring You glory, may You prepare us to do just that, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

Christmas Prayer

nativity scene table decor
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Father God, thank You Lord for the birth of Your Son. Jesus, Happy Birthday to You! Holy Spirit, thank You for always pointing us to Jesus. Lord Jesus, may we reflect on ALL that You have done for us today. May we be reminded that it is not about us, but about You. Lord God, thank You for the gift of new life and new opportunities. Father God, may we respond to Your Good News with a come and see mentality. May we invite others to come and see Jesus. Thank You Jesus, that You are Immanuel, thank You that You are with us regardless of what we feel. Thank You that You do not have favorites. Lord God, thank You Jesus for what You have done for us. May we celebrate You not just today, but every day. I ask Lord, that You will continue meeting people right where they are just like You did 2000 years ago. Thank You Jesus, that You are our Lord and our Savior and it is in Your Name I pray, Amen.

 

Merry Christmas Eve!

mountains nature arrow guide
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

I will never forget reading in the NLT Life Application Bible the commentary note on Matthew 2:3, “Divine guidance comes only to prepared hearts.” How true this is!

Divine guidance filled Joseph’s heart to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt so that Jesus would not be killed by Herod (2:1-9; 13-18).

Divine guidance filled the hearts of the Magi that when the star “came to rest over the place where the Child was…they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (vv. 9-10 ESV). Entering the house and seeing Mary and Jesus the Magi prostrated themselves before Him in worship. Divine guidance also came to the Magi in a dream warning them to return to their home country by another route (v. 12).

Divine guidance prepares us for worship and worship prepares us for divine guidance. May you allow God to prepare your heart for Christmas. May you be filled with love, awe and worship as you sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May the Holy Spirit prepare you to worship Jesus, celebrating His birthday with family and friends. May Divine guidance fill you with peace and assurance as you respond to what He has revealed to you.

Father God, prepare our hearts for Your Divine guidance this Christmas! Prepare us Father to respond to You and Your direction. Prepare our hearts to obey and worship You! Thank You Holy Spirit, for preparing our hearts for Jesus. Thank You Jesus, that Your birth, death, resurrection and ascension are preparing people’s hearts to receive Your salvation. It is not about us Lord but about You. Lord, prepare this reader’s heart for Your Divine guidance. Prepare them to respond to whatever it is that You have for them. The worst thing any believer can be is unprepared. Lord God, may we prepare room in our hearts for You and Your guidance so that we may glorify You not just at Christmas, but daily. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

Joy

brown joy candle holder
Photo by David Orsborne on Pexels.com

The lyrics from Chris Tomlin’s “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy)” keep replaying over and over again in my mind. I cannot help but to wonder, what does “unspeakable joy” look like? What does it look like to have joy year round and not just at Christmas?

The Bible tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4 see also 1 Thes 5:16). When great and exciting things are happening in our lives, we are to rejoice and sing songs of praise to God (Jas 5:13b). Jesus, Paul, James and Peter exhort us to rejoice while undergoing trials, sicknesses, weaknesses, hardships, troubles, persecutions (Matt 5:12; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 12:8-10; Jas 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6-9). We are to have “unspeakable joy” even when life is falling apart, run down and/or shattered. I know, I know easier said than done!

Joy, unspeakable and overflowing joy comes from God and God alone. Joy is produced in our lives by God’s Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). While I am not “bah humbug” when it comes to Christmas this year,  I am fully aware that what the world sells as “joy” is fleeting and temporary at best, lies and destruction at worst. The joy and peace that come from God are lasting and happen even in life’s difficulties. When you ask Your Heavenly Father for joy, wisdom, peace anything that aligns with His character, He will give to you! Precious reader, I ask that you keep your eyes and ears open to our brothers, sisters and neighbors who are hurting. As we all know, this can be an isolating and lonely time of year for people, may we not neglect them. May they not only see our joy that comes from God, may they experience that joy as well. God NEVER teaches us anything for us to keep it to ourselves. He blesses us so that we may be a blessing to others. The last thing this world needs is another jovial believer in name only. Jesus has told us who He is and what He is done so that our joy in Him may be full/complete (John 15:11).

Father God, thank You that You are Joy and that Joy comes from You! Thank You Lord, that we when we ask for anything that aligns with Your Name, character and will, You will give and do for us. Lord God, help us to be sensitive to those we encounter in this season. Lord, prepare our hearts for Christmas. Help us to have unspeakable and overflowing joy that results in our singing songs of praise to You. Thank You Father for the gift of salvation. Thank You for Jesus, thank You Jesus for entering this messy world to reconcile us to God. Lord, may we be known for our love and for our joy. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.