There is no one like our God. He made the world and all its individual nations and waterways. Every animal, bird, fish and flower are each their own design. And look how creative to make a giraffe so tall with such a long neck. A zebra that has the shape of a horse and yet is completely striped from head to hoof.
God took great pleasure in creating Adam and Eve. When He looked on all He had created He said “they are very good.” I love to imagine what it must have been like for Adam to name each of the animals…and…wait for God to come and visit in the garden during the cool of the evening. Can you just imagine?
In all the pleasure God took in His creation, He also knew that we would botch things up. Still He made us … and our way to redemption. Revelation 13:8 speaks of ‘the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world‘. From the very beginning…He knew.
God loves us just the way we are. And yet…He loves us too much to let us stay that way. God comforts us in our struggles and in our pain. At the same time, He also compels us, not to sit in our difficulties, but to grow and mature in our walk with Him. That’s the deepest love of all!
My favorite ice cream flavor is peanut butter. In fact, peanut butter anything is a favorite for me. And while we might consider the peanut butter and jelly sandwich a kid’s meal item….it’s still at the top of my list today.
So recently when I visited an iconic ice cream shop on Chincoteague Island (in VA), of all their interesting, unique and traditional flavors I would have absolutely gone for peanut butter cup the instant my eyes picked it out on the menu. Except for the fact that right before I went…someone who had been there before me said, ‘you have to try the pineapple upside down cake flavor! It’s the best thing on the menu!’
Standing there waiting to take my order the young man behind the counter heard me say “I really want the peanut butter cup….but I heard that the pineapple upside down cake is the best thing on your menu!” My friend who was with me said, ‘why don’t you taste it first and see what you think?’ One taste was enough for me to confirm my decision. “I’ll have the pineapple upside down cake, please!”
Someone planted the idea of it. And someone suggested I try just a taste to see if it was good to me. It was that easy! It is also the simplest way to share our faith. We tell of our experience to someone and ask if they would like to experience the Lord too. Psalm 34:8 (MSG) gives us the step by step. “Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.”
Peanut butter…pineapple upside down cake…are flavors that may bring you momentary happiness while you’re tasting them. But that treat is soon forgotten. But, when we taste and see for ourselves that God is good…and we experience His blessings and goodness over and over…we will want more and more. And it won’t be very long before we are telling someone else…”Hey, taste and see…that God is good!”
My neighbor had a big dog in her backyard when I was growing up. She kept him on a chain that stretched about 15 feet or so and he could run almost a full circle around the post to which his chain was attached. Our instructions were simple. If our neighbor wasn’t in the backyard – DON’T GO NEAR THE DOG.
When she was in the yard I liked to get close enough to pet the dog. After all, I am an animal lover. One day I was in MY backyard playing and I glanced over at her dog…all alone in the backyard. I wondered…did he have food in his bowl? was he out of water? had anyone petted him yet today so he would feel loved? Curiosity drew me closer and closer to the circle that dog was able to run on his chain. He was perfectly safe.
The closer I got to him the more confident I was that this dog knew me and would welcome me into his circle. But that was not the case. As soon as I stepped into his space that very big dog growled and lunged at me…right for my throat! I fell backward but not before he got a bite.
That day I learned an important lesson about following instructions, not letting overconfidence lead me into dangerous territory…and that there is a very real enemy…that sometimes disguises himself as something he is not. 1 Peter 5:8 is very clear. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
The enemy doesn’t always appear dangerous. Sometimes he disguises himself and tries to make us think that there’s no danger there. Don’t be fooled by his tactics. Listen to God’s instruction – stay alert! And stay out of the enemy’s path!
If you’ve ever watched a tv show or a movie about military fighters…or spies…you know when they get an assignment their leader will give them some direction and end with something like “wheels up in one hour!” Wow! Can you imagine being ready to move that quickly? They usually have a ‘go’ bag. Always packed with the essentials. Easily accessible. Ready to go at a moment’s notice.
As a believer we need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. When God gives us an assignment, the only way we’ll be ready to jump in and move when He says move is to pack well ahead of time. What’s in YOUR ‘go’ bag? Spending time reading God’s Word will help us to know His heart, His plan, His purpose for our lives. Having conversation with God will help us to recognize His voice and know when it’s time to move. The relationships we build with others who are part of the family of God are another key element in our ‘go’ bag. Because we’ll know that while we’re on mission there will be those God has joined us with who will be praying for success in our mission. And we can’t forget to pack the Fruit of the Spirit! We’re going to need all of them wherever God sends us next.
2 Timothy 4:2 tells us, “be ready in season and out of season”. Get that ‘go’ bag ready. Wheels up in 20!
You know how you feel when someone gives you an especially thoughtful gift. Most likely that person knows you really well and is very attentive to the things you say and do. My daughter, Abby, has been giving thoughtful gifts from the time she could figure out how to gift wrap. One Christmas, when she was about four or five years old, she wrapped up things around the house to “give” us on Christmas day. One by one as each of us opened our gift from her she would stand right in front of us and watch us open up her gift, grinning ear to ear, she could hardly wait for us to get into it!
When it was my turn to unwrap her gift she brought me a shoebox sized package that felt very light. When I shook it nothing rattled. As I lifted the lid and peeked inside I saw that…there was nothing in the box. I looked up at this little bundle of joy, dancing around in front of me, as she declared, “it’s empty!…because I’M your present!” Oh how precious that memory is to me. And what a delightful gift she has indeed been to me from the moment she arrived!
I believe that day I got a little glimpse of our Father’s joy when we open up a gift He’s given us. How often do we leave His gifts to us unopened? Do we believe that we don’t deserve His gifts? Do we get so busy doing things on our own we don’t take time to sit with Him and open our hearts to what He has for us? Regardless of what hinders us…the bottom line is this…God is the giver of the best gifts of all! And I imagine that He excitedly leans in with great joy when we discover that HE is our greatest gift!
Matthew 7:11 (GNT) says, “As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” God has great things for us. Don’t miss out on what He has for you today!
We lived in a wooded area where I grew up which made cutting the grass around all the trees a job for Dad. After I begged and begged him to let me drive the lawnmower he finally gave in and let me give it a try. I won’t tell you the outcome of my first ride on the big mower…except to say….it was the LAST ride on it too!
As pesky as those trees were to maneuver around to cut the grass they provided beautiful shade in our yard. In the spring and summer they were absolutely gorgeous and helped keep us a little cooler when it got hot. But then, when the fall season came around and the leaves began to fall…well, there was another reason to not appreciate those trees in the yard. Between the wind and the rain eventually all the leaves would fall away…the family raking party would commence…and our woods looked empty, barren…like all the life was gone.
It was then that we could really notice them. Still vibrant green, lush branches, some with berries on them even. They each have a scientific name…but to us…they were all called…evergreens. It never mattered what season it was…you could always count on them to look like they had truly tapped in to the nutrients in the soil, the sun and the water source. Always…ever….green.
The truth is even an evergreen can lose its vibrancy if it doesn’t stay tapped into its source of life. For a plant, water is life! And so it is for us to remain vibrant…evergreen…we have to stay tapped into our source of life. Our physical body needs water and our spirit needs the living water! I love these words of Jesus to the woman at the well in John 4 (MSG)…“Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
In order to really thrive in this world we must stay connected to Jesus and His living water!
My husband, Ken, is a professional driver. He is such a good driver that I hardly ever play backseat driver from the passenger seat. But there have been times, when I drive, that Ken has called out about a road hazard or something that he thinks I might not have noticed. Of course, we both want to arrive safely at our destination but let’s face it…the view from the passenger seat can be very different than that of the driver’s side.
Riding in the passenger’s seat is a challenge. You give up control to the one behind the wheel. The more you trust your driver…the more enjoyable your ride will usually be. The less you trust the one steering you along…the more you will grip the seat anxiously…maybe even call out to… look out! Watch that turn! Slow down! or maybe even…do you think we could we get through this section a little faster??!!
How much do we trust God to steer us through life? When we are busy telling Him what we see from our passenger vantage point…we can’t hear Him say “I’m right here with you. I see those obstacles and I know there is a storm raging. If you will trust Me…I will deliver you through this…and it will be good. Because I am always at work for your good.”
Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.” We can trust His driving!
You’ve got to hand it to the mama who packed her little boy’s lunch with bread and fish. I mean think about that day when thousands of men, plus women and children, came to hear Jesus speak. While Jesus was asking the disciples to go find food to feed everyone, they were probably thinking, “why don’t we just send them home? why is this our responsibility?” and the more they searched the crowd the more they must have thought, “this is impossible! no one brought anything to eat!”
Imagine searching and searching only to find one little boy who had five pieces of bread and two fish. They brought that little lunch to Jesus and He did what only He could do. Luke 9 tells us that Jesus prayed over it and told His disciples to start handing it out. Somewhere between Jesus’ prayer over that little lunch and the very outskirts of the crowd that likely numbered more than 10,000 by the time you add in the women and the kiddos…every one was fed!
Think about the next service at your church. What if you carried in a basket with five little loaves of bread and two Mrs. Pauls Filet of Fish in it? You ask the blessing over it…and hand it to the person in the front and tell them to pass it around until everyone has their fill. Are you getting a visual? Would your faith be enough to believe that there would be something for everyone in the crowd in that basket?!
Maybe the better question to ask is this: what are your loaves and fishes? What do you have to offer the King? You might not think it is very much. You could be imagining that it’s not even worth anything to bring it to Him. It’s not our job to figure out what is or isn’t worthy to bring before God. What God asks of us is this – what do you have? Will you bring it to Me? Our job is to bring it. What God does with it will be miraculous…and truly what only God can do!
The home that I grew up in was directly under the landing path of a military airbase. Any time of the day or night enormously large aircraft would fly over our house as they were preparing to land. Honestly, growing up with that sound we got so used to it, we didn’t notice most of the time. When we DID notice it was when we had company. The sound would get louder and louder and our guests eyes would get bigger as they would ask, “what is THAT?!!”
It’s interesting what we can get used to in our day. Until someone else notices and reminds us that it’s unusual. We may think we are paying attention at home and in our workplace, but perhaps our habits and behavior may get a bit careless. Maybe we aren’t as respectful to one another as we should be. We might neglect the standard for our job and begin to take shortcuts.
A good way to check ourselves is to notice how we talk to each other when someone comes to visit. Do we step up our conversation, or change our tone, to make a good impression? What about how we work at our place of employment? When the boss comes around or our supervisor drops by do we change the way we do things?
Here’s what God wants us to pay attention to in our relationships at home, at our workplace & in life. Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Remembering that God is with us always isn’t just for when we need help out of a jam! It can also help us pay attention to how we treat each other and help us to do the right thing. After all, we are serving the King!
Do you remember what it was like in middle school? It wasn’t easy, was it?! When my girl, Abigail, was going through that stage I was already at work in the mornings when she would get ready for school. Other than stopping by her bedroom door to pray for her on my way out each morning, when she hit a really rough patch, I began writing a little note each morning and sticking it to her bathroom mirror. We didn’t really talk about the notes and I never saw them accumulate so I wasn’t even sure they meant anything to her.
The other day she was cleaning out her bedroom closet and brought a box out to show me her cards that she had collected over the years. Birthdays. Christmas. Easter. And then she pulled out a giant pile of wrinkled sticky notes and said, “remember these?” Abby had kept all those messages in her keepsake box. Messages like, “I believe in you”, “I love the amazing young lady you are becoming”, “I can’t wait to hear about your favorite thing that happens today!”. Just one or two little sentences per note reminding her that I was for her helped her get through the day. Yes, I shed a few tears when I realized that my words of hope really mattered to her.
When we read God’s Word and take it to heart, write it down, apply it to our hearts and live it out, I can just imagine God having a moment like I did that day. Writing down God’s heart for us in His Word was of such importance to Him that He breathed into it as He inspired men to capture it on paper. 2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “all scripture is God-breathed”. And John 20:31 (NIV) says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” His notes to us are so precious…and the best place to keep His Words of encouragement… is hidden in our heart!