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Archive for November, 2014

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.

“He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.”                            

John 9:3

Many nights as a four year old, I knelt holding my little sister’s hand and we prayed together that God would keep our baby sister alive and “not let her die.” Those prayers were more than 60 years ago; God heard and answered. Yes, that sister lived, but she has been physically and mentally severely impaired since that time because of an extremely high temperature that effectively destroyed her brain’s ability to function.

Growing up, some said she was in that condition because of my parents’ sins, or the sins of some family ancestor.  Jesus’ words from John 9:3 offered reassurance and comfort on many occasions as I reflected on “why.”

God has been glorified. How? By the grace and sustaining presence that has been evident in the ways my mom and dad dealt with decisions that had to be made. By the testimony of their perseverance in allowing God to use their story to help others; Mom became an educator working with special needs children and dad volunteered hundreds of hours at a camp for the disabled. Their witness and testimony led to other family members working with the disabled. Even my sister’s consistently sweet spirit is a testimony to those who care for her daily needs.

Joni Eareckson Tada is certainly another whose life serves as an example of what God can do when a prayer for healing isn’t answered as some might have urged. God’s ways are not our ways, but this we can know, when we pray and leave the answer in His capable hands, the result will bring Him glory and lead us to His perfect plan.

It is in the praying through of God’s promises that I have confidence and assurance that someday my sister will be fully whole and healthy celebrating with the Lord Jesus Christ.  But until then I will keep praying for God to be honored and glorified in how I respond to the answer I receive—whether, “yes,” “no” or “not yet.”

 

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Confession: I give myself rewards!  Could be a book purchase, could be a run to the coffee shop…all I know is that it works!

Rewards are great! They motivate us to get started and they inspire us to do more and better than we thought we could do. I used rewards with my kids as they grew up; there is amazing power in a small treat to bring about positive results! We want our kids to do right for the sake of doing the right thing, and sometimes we ask our kids to follow through just for the joy of a job being well done or for obedience sake…but it is always fun when a reward is involved.

As adults, we find ourselves confronted daily with big and small choices on whether we will keep going or quit, whether we will do what is right or take the short cut, whether we will follow the Lord’s will or follow the way of the world and our culture.  I am personally in a circumstance right now that is frustrating, a little scary, and I don’t really want to engage with this challenge in spiritually or emotionally healthy ways.  If you were able to sit with me over a cup of coffee, you most likely could share a few of your own challenges that feel daunting and tough.

These challenges are real and can feel overwhelming and discouraging! I am finding great encouragement from the promises in the Bible that God knows our struggles and He promises to reward us as His children as we walk through our challenges with integrity and trust. We became God’s child when He revealed to our hearts His gift of faith in Him, salvation by His grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9) As His children, He now promises rewards that are meant to encourage us to keep moving forward in His ways, even when things are tough and we are weary.

“…and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  Matthew 6:18b, 20

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”  Psalm 62:11,12

“…he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward. “ Proverbs 11:18b

“Blessed are you when people insult you…because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” Matthew 5:11-12a

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does…” Ephesians 6:7-8

“…the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ’Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” Genesis 15:1

This week, let’s meditate on and be encouraged by the fact that our Father in Heaven promises to send rewards our way, both here on earth with His Presence and Help, and also in the future with lasting treasures in heaven.

 

 

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How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!  (Psalm 139: 17-18)

Long ago, the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.”  (Jeremiah 31:3)

My family has a saying,“we may not always be right, but we are always certain.”  And whenever that sentiment is expressed, we always laugh over our emphatically stated opinion. For most of my life, there was one opinion I unequivocally believed, and it was nothing to laugh over:  I felt I was not as good as other people.

Examining why I held such a low opinion of myself has proven ineffective; there is nothing that shouts at me from my past to explain this negative opinion.  But for much of my life, on a scale of 0-10 I saw myself at -10 or lower. A few years ago, I turned a corner when I came to accept that I truly was the daughter of the King of Kings.  Yet still I struggled to view God’s many blessings as deserved and, therefore, I was often reluctant to take my concerns or needs to Him in prayer.

Recently, though, I have found myself overwhelmed with the sense that God loves me.  Yes, me! Worthy, but not because of anything I can do to deserve it—talent, looks, achievements, tangible or intangible attitudes or characteristics. Worthy, not because of me, but because He is God. My Heavenly Father, the Lord God, loves me because of Who He Is. God has chosen me! And I can be certain of His love because of His promises and assurances in His Word.

My mother loved me for me, and not because I was a good child. I also love my child, not because she is pretty, smart or well behaved. We easily understand that a parent loves (or should love) despite talent or behavior or looks. As a parent, I love my daughter just because she is my child. Sure, I can love her features, attitudes and behaviors, but even when she messes up—she is still mine and I love her. Similarly, God loves me.

I may not be certain why He loves me, but His promises assure me that He does. I have His promise. I can be certain! I am worthy of His love because He told me He loves me with an everlasting love and God does not lie! So, today, I confidently approach Him through His Word and in prayer and know that His promise of love is certain.  My Father God is prepared to meet me at my need with His love, grace and mercy.

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A grandfather was walking by his granddaughter’s bedroom one night when he overheard her praying the alphabet, “Dear God, a, b, c, d, e, f, g…” She didn’t stop until she reached “z” and then said, “Amen.” Curious, the grandfather asked, “Why were you praying that way?” The granddaughter quickly responded, “I didn’t know what to say so I figured I’d let God put the letters together however He saw fit.”

The story brings a smile, and I too can identify with the granddaughter. Sometimes I have no idea what to say when I pray.  I am learning that this is perfectly acceptable to my Lord God.

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…”  (Romans 8:26)

Praying can simply begin with getting into God’s presence and preparing myself to hear His plan and purpose for me in my life.

In addition, it is said in Scripture that God’s words never return void (Isaiah 55:11).  I believe this is true of our prayers, as we pray the promises of God we find in His Word and truly seek His will. The same God who created the world and brought every living creature into existence continues to be present today and watches over His Word and His promises to perform it in our lives. (Deut 7:9)

God promises are for my life every day. When I am afraid for my child or grandchildren, He reminds me through Luke 2:52 that He will protect and draw them to Himself. When I mess up and make mistakes, I am reminded in Psalm 84:11 that God will not withhold any good thing from my life, if I seek Him and ask forgiveness. I John 1:9 reminds me that when I ask, I receive forgiveness. Sometimes, I struggle with confidence and assurance that God is with me. Deut 33:16 reminds me, “…the Lord wants to bless with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of Him who dwelt in the burning bush.”

Praying God’s Promises draws me closer to His Throne of Grace. I gain confidence, security and peace as I read the Bible—His love letter.

Editor’s Note:  As we enter in to the busy holiday season,  our Given the Time devotionals will follow the theme of Praying God’s Promises.  Our hope is that we will be encouraged to seek God’s Word in our daily lives, we will grow in boldness and trust as we pray through some of the many promises God makes to His people in the Bible, and we will experience God’s answers to our prayers.

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