Monday, April 30, 2012

Keep Walking

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

I am cyclical in learning things. I don’t mind coming back around to things to get to the next step. When I think about my journeys in cooking and parenting, I can see how skills are built over time. As I was praying the other day, I realized that I was hesitating in taking the next step
in my spiritual walk, because I wasn’t sure I could commit to it. I wasn’t sure I was ready. In fact, I was allowing my own fear of failure stop me from stepping closer. Then, I realized that God was not asking me to take an impressive leap. He wanted me to keep taking steps, keep listening, keep looking toward Jesus. Would I rather stand still or keep walking? It’s okay to take small steps. It’s okay to find ourselves growing in an area that we’ve already covered. It’s okay for our discipleship path to by cyclical, building on the relationship that is most central to who we are and where we are going. Be patient with yourself as you do your best to stick by the Shepherd. Be there when that familiar voice calls your name and take a drink in the still water He’s offering you.

Jesus, You are generous in blessing. Please strengthen me for the next steps in my journey with You. Remove my fear and excuses and guide me to where You want me to be. You are my Shepherd and I am content in Your care. Amen

Friday, April 27, 2012

Top 10 Reasons I Share My Faith With My Child

10. I want my child to be as prepared as possible to handle the joys and challenges that life will bring her as she grows. “Train a child in the way he should go, and with he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

9. God has commanded me as a parent and adult to bring my child to Him. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

8. I want my child to know where to find comfort. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.” John 14:1

7. All of our gifts come from God, and I want my child to know who to thank for every one of their gifts and blessings. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

6. I want my child to understand and value the blessings given to us in God’s Word. “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God, and obey it.” Luke 11:28

5. There is only one who loves my child more than I do, and I want my child to know all about Him. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 16:12-14

4. My husband and I vowed to each other when we were married that our house would serve the Lord. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

3. I want my child to be filled with pure spiritual food, not junk. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2

2. I want my child to know the truth. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

1. I know just how much my Savior did for me, and that is just too good to not want to share every bit of it with my child. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Prayer: Thank you Heavenly Father for blessing me with the privilege of sharing my faith with my child and bringing her to you. Bless all parents who continue to share You with their children and bless our children and they continue to learn and grow in their faith in You. Amen.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Serve One Another In Love

Serve one another in love.  Galatians 5:13

We walk a delicate line in our house between encouraging our children to both serve and to let others serve them.  Each child wants to pour their own glass of milk, but one wants to pour for everyone.  Since there is really no wrong answer here, I am completely inconsistent, and the whole thing can be a little maddening.  I used to lean more toward independence, everyone doing for themselves, but I have recently shifted my focus on the issue to the words from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “Serve one another in love.” 

My kids don’t get to do that enough.  I don’t know that I get to do that enough.  Between teaching three grade levels and trying to manage the rest of the house, I feel pretty accomplished in the serving part most days; it’s the love part I think I may be missing out on.  I too often grump because I have to do this or that, instead of rejoicing in the fact that God has blessed my day with the chance to serve my children in every aspect of their lives.  What else could I possibly spend my day doing that is more meaningful? 

A willingness to serve is one of the things I want to instill in my children.  But if I want it to be a life long joy for them, I have to help them discover the everyday chances that they have to serve, and I have to model a servant’s heart myself.  I haven’t been very good at that lately.  Today, I start again today, knowing that I am forgiven for the mistakes of yesterday.  I start today, teaching my children that the opportunity to serve another child of God is a gift.  I start today showing them that serving one another in love is exactly what Jesus did for us, and in thankfulness to him, we will do it for one another.

Heavenly Father,
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.  I often look upon serving others as a hardship or an inconvenience.  Forgive me.  Where I have opportunities to serve, help me do so in love.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Seek first

We have a special devotion today from Leanna!

Admittedly, the words below are not mine, but the Holy Spirit really spoke to me through them when I read them and I wanted to share them with you. Pastor Jeske is a man of great wisdom whom God speaks through in simple but mighty ways!

"Misplaced Priorities
One of my persistent weaknesses is that I want to author my own play, the play of my life, in which I am the star, for which I would like to write the script. I can pretty much do fine on my own for a while, and then when I encounter a problem too big for me, I holler for God to show up on "my" stage, on my cue. He generally does not oblige me at such times. Hmm. Wonder why.

In the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus helped his disciples to see how the universe really operates. The more you grasp for material things, the more in love you are with yourself and your agenda, the less you will achieve and the less satisfaction you will feel.

Here is a better way: "Seek first his [i.e., God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). Seeking God's kingdom means seeing yourself as God's creation, placed here on earth for a mission, his mission. You are in his play, and he will let you know the role he needs you to play for him.

Seeking God's righteousness means choosing to value your forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus as your most precious possession. When you have that, everything else that God thinks you need will come flowing into your life.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of your precious forgiveness.  Please help me to always Seek First your Righteousness as I go through each of my days.

Monday, April 23, 2012

God Loves A Cheerful Giver

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, 
for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

Around Christmastime, I usually do a toy purge.  You know what I mean--going through all of the kids' toys, figuring out what they don't play with anymore, the broken, the Happy Meal toys, and giving them away to Goodwill or throwing them away.  I always try to do this when the kids are at school, because otherwise I hear the inevitable, "NO!  I NEED THAT!  THAT'S MY FAVORITE!", no matter if they've played with it lately or they haven't touched it for a year.  I always remind them that they're going to be blessed by Christmas, and by the time the day is over they won't remember the toys that were given away.

It's not always easy to teach our children good stewardship.  Think about when they get money for their Birthdays.  How many of us tell our children that they need to take 10% of that money, and put it in the church offering?  I know we haven't.  It would be so tough for them, that's for sure.

But like most other things, teaching our children good stewardship starts with us modeling good stewardship.  We need to remember that stewardship isn't all about money.  Stewardship, more specifically, is faith in action. It is giving of our time, our talents, our treasure.  When we have good stewardship, we are giving ourselves to the Lord, and making Jesus the focus of our lives.  Like our children giving their old toys to Goodwill or tithing from their birthday money, we are giving to the Lord as He has given to us.

The wonderful thing about good stewardship is the blessings that come from it.  Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  'Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it.'"  The more we give, the more blessings we get out of it.  When our children see this happening in our own lives, they will be happy to follow our example.

We pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gifts you give to us in our lives every day.  Help us to remember to be good stewards of those gifts, and help us to teach our children to be good stewards themselves.  We praise you for the blessings you shower upon us.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The One Who Doesn't Change...

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

I find myself clinging to this verse on the eve of what would be Samantha's first birthday. A year. It's been a year. I can still see the joy and fear on Travis and Stephanie's faces. I can remember going back in the room and seeing her. Taking a video of Travis whispering to his precious little girl how much he loved her. I remember trying to capture moments to take and show Stephanie as she was in recovery and her sweet daughter was in the NICU. So many memeories. I remember the people in the waiting room that day, sitting there with my mom, I remember watching the clock, getting a coffee (I realize that for me this probably doesn't seem like a 'vivid' memory since I'm always getting coffee, but they had an old fashioned coffee vending machine where the cup drops down and fills - I remember that). She was so beautiful. So much hair. So alive!

I'm terrified to start this four month period this year. A four month period that last year started with such joy and then ended so wrong, so horrible, so....hard. The four months of Samanta's life here on earth was the hardest four months I have ever lived through. Her life journey alone could have made it such - but added to it our immediate family went through two major surgeries as well as many of other 'normal' difficult things (lice, tax audit, etc.). I think back, I look back, I don't know how we did it. I don't know how we are still alive, still breathing, still walking, still talking, still pretending like somehow things are 'normal'. There is no more normal, at least not like it used to be. We are changed. We are different. One day accepting, the next day angry. Sometimes all the 'stuff' of those four months overwhelms me to the point that I feel like I'm suffocating and can't breath or take another step. Then the next day I am rejoicing and praising God for all He has brought us through and the healing (both temporal and eternal) He has given. But wherever the emotions of the given day are, it is still true that we are changed, there is no going back.

Perhaps this is why I cling to the One who "doesn't change like shifting shadows." The same one who holds our past and holds us now also holds our furture. He will not change. He will not leave. He promises to take care of us and love us. Some things we can look back on with new understanding and appreication, other things still have me angry and wondering "why?" God doesn't promise that we will get to know the explanation. But He does promise that all He does and continues to do is for our good - and even though we may lose heart and struggle - He does not change. The one who holds our precious Samantha, also holds us here on earth and will continue to do so until we meet her again. That will not change. He does not change. She was a gift, that is now perfected in heaven with our Father, tomorrow we will celebrate that gift from above.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seek First His Kingdom

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you."

(Matthew 6: 33)
For as much as we may not want to admit it, the truth is most of us are worriers.  As we grow older, and especially when we become mothers, our tendency to worry becomes stronger. We go to bed with those nagging concerns about what will happen tomorrow-- how we are going to get the bills paid, the laundry folded, the groceries bought, the house cleaned--and still have enough energy to help the kids with their homework, make dinner, and have a smile on our face when our husbands walk in the door.  We love our families and care deeply for their well-being.  Yet, we can easily become distracted with all the expectations placed upon us, instead of focusing on our family's real needs and who truly provides for those needs.  Quickly, we can make the simple things in life complicated, and lose our focus on what's truly important.   

The Gospel of Matthew stresses the truth that by God's grace we are made complete in Christ.  In chapter 6, we are told not to become distracted with the worries of life.  We are reminded that we cannot find the answers to our fears and doubts within ourselves.  Rather, Matthew admonishes us to stay focused on Christ: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you."  In His own time and in His own way, our Heavenly Father always provides for our needs of both body and soul.  

Matthew chapter six ends with this poignant reminder: "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." As Christian women, God has equipped us with special qualities to care for and nurture those we love. The beautiful thing is that despite our worrisome, sinful ways--He loves us.  And, He uses us to care for and bless our families. So, may we daily heed the advice of the apostle Matthew--give our worries to God, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and trust in Christ alone to provide us with everything we could ever need.  

 Heavenly Father~
Thank you for providing for our families, and being everything we need.  Forgive us when we don't trust this truth.  Help us to daily seek Your kingdom first. 
In Christ's name~Amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit - fruit that will last. 
-John 15:16 

I was three days old when I was chosen.  Because my parents were told they could not have children of their own, they decided to make the choice and welcome a child into their home through adoption.  God reveals Himself in so many different ways because 10 months after I was adopted, my brother Andrew was born, followed by my brother Stephen two years later.  Growing up, my brothers and I would tease and torment each other (the way siblings often do).  My brothers would remind me that I was adopted, while I was quick to remind them that mom and dad got "stuck" with them and had no choice in the matter.  Mom and dad would "trump" all of our teasing and remind us that each were an important member of our family, and that in each person's own way, we were brought into this family. 

As Christians, we too have been chosen by our God.  At our baptism, the Holy Spirit calls us by name and we are made dead to sin, and through Jesus' death on the cross we are promised the gift of eternal life.  It is because of our chosenness that we are called to share the Good News with others.  Each of us has been brought into the forever family at various points in our lives, yet each one of us is an important part of the family.       

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for calling us by name through the waters of baptism.  Help us to share the Good News of your unending forgiveness and love with all people.  Bless and keep our families close to you.  In your name, Amen.


Monday, April 16, 2012


“He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:24b-25

Over the last couple of days, my family has been closely watching the weather. Violent storms have been predicted. Having lived in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri, we have been concerned that the forecasted storms might affect family and friends still located in these areas.

Storms can be devastating. While living in Nebraska, we endured days of bitter cold when the power went out after a major blizzard. When we lived in Missouri, a tornado touched down near our home. It caused massive destruction in the little town just 3 miles away. Storms are frightening. They can destroy homes, life-long memories, and even take lives.

One of my favorite Bible stories is of Jesus calming that storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus and the disciples were out in a boat when a storm arises without warning. Jesus is, amazingly, sleeping in the back of the boat while the disciples start to panic, fearing they will not make it out of the situation alive. They wake Jesus, who gets up and rebukes the wind and the waves. Peace is restored. Then, this is my favorite part, Jesus rebukes the disciples. He asks them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples are left wondering who this man Jesus really is.

I find it mystifying that the disciples would be so surprised that Jesus took care of the raging storm. They had been with him 24/7, and they had seen him perform numerous miracles. They had to have some idea of who he was and of what he was capable. He was right there with them when they faced danger. Yet they display a complete lack of faith, and in the end they are puzzled.

When I read the last part of this story, I feel it is written just for me. We face many storms in this life. Illness and loss, financial struggle, job insecurity, and parenting issues are a few of the storms we encounter. When faced with these storms, I worry. Sometimes my soul grieves, wondering if God cares about my day-to-day struggles.

Then I read Christ’s convicting question, “Where is your faith?” I know who God is. Scripture is full of descriptions of his love, his mighty deeds, his faithful acts, his sacrifice for my benefit. In the Word I have the promise that he is with me always. Yet, I forget and I fail to trust him.

When the worst storms rage within me, I return to these verses. Just as Jesus calmed the stormy sea with his spoken word, the written word speaks to me and my stormy soul experiences peace.

Dear Father, I place all of my struggles before your throne. Give me peace. Grant me your Spirit, that I might have faith that trusts through the storms.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rest for the Weary

And he said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14)

Moses had a tough job leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. To begin with, there were a lot of people, and in addition, he had Pharaoh to contend with. Even once they got free of Pharaoh, the people couldn't be satisfied. They grumbled and complained, and repeatedly forgot all that God had done for them. They turned away from God, they blamed Moses for their troubles, and their unfaithfulness to God resulted in an extremely long journey to the Promised Land. Moses must have been exhausted.

I'm exhausted, and I just have one four month old to contend with. I can't imagine how exhausted those of you with more than one child must be! My little guy, although a generally happy baby, is active. He gets bored easily, so I'm constantly moving him from one activity to the next. He doesn't like to nap and usually only sleeps for half an hour at a time during the day. The only thing (other than eating, which is probably his favorite activity) that seems to keep his attention for a while and wear him out is being outside. We take a lot of walks.

It's nothing like what Moses had to deal with, and yet, there are enough similarities that I feel like Moses must be a kindred spirit for mothers everywhere. And so, this promise God makes to Moses in Exodus 33:14 is one I claim for myself. "My presence will go with you and I will give you rest," God says to Moses.

God is with us
as we go throughout our we clean up messes, change diapers, provide entertainment, teach, feed, love...and he provides rest. Sometimes it's the rest of a few quiet moments alone in the bathroom and other times it's the rest of a nap with a sleeping baby lying in our arms.

In your prayers today, remember God's presence. Ask for Him to reveal to you those restful moments. Recognize and celebrate God's presence even in the midst of activity and busyness and occasional chaos. Rejoice in the strength He gives you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Come, Lord Jesus

"'...and they will call him Immanuel' - which means, 'God with us.'"
Matthew 1:23b

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”

Do you know this prayer? I’ve been a Lutheran my whole life, so I think I’ve probably said what we call the Common Table Prayer about 35,000 times, give or take a few. Of course, the “thy gifts” could be “these gifts” or “this food” or whatever else depending on whose table you’re sitting at or whose fellowship hall you’re standing in, but the words that I will think of differently from now on are the first ones: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Maranatha!

There are various ways to look at the definition of maranatha. I guess as a child, whenever we said the Common Table Prayer, I would kind of imagine Jesus coming to sit at an empty chair at the table with us. In any other context, “Come, Lord Jesus” has always been in the anticipation category in my mind looking forward to His return. Somehow I’ve missed the whole “Come, Lord Jesus, right here, right now, where I so desperately need You” part of the word maranatha.

The three year old is refusing to eat his dinner...again. Come, Lord Jesus!

It took 3 hours to get the kids to bed. Come, Lord Jesus!

We missed nap time, and now there are 2 fussy children under my feet while I am attempting to make a dinner that may or may not get eaten. Come, Lord Jesus!

I could add so many things to this list. I DESPERATELY need Jesus, right here, right now, and that will always be true no matter when right now is. Now when I pray that familiar prayer, I will be reminded that “maranatha” isn’t just for meal time or the end of time; it’s for right now in the messy details of my life. Maranatha!

To listen to the sermon that inspired this post, CLICK HERE.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for being with us at all times and in all places, and thank You most of all for what You did for us on the cross. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ordinary? No, Extraordinary!

1 Chronicles 18:20a David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you."

The daily grind can be just that, a grind. I can't read the word grind without thinking about a friction that causes something to break apart into smaller pieces. The sound of the word itself brings about images of an abrasive sound.

Oh how often spring becomes a grind. The kids are ready for summer break, we parents are ready for summer break and lets face it. Some day, for me most days, are set within the premise of survival mode.

With this framework set in place, it is so easy to fall into the thought that each day is ordinary. We moms don't really do anything extraordinary. We clean, we cook, we cheer for our kids in their various sporting activities, we poke and prod our kids to make it up out of bed, to the table and then on to school. Day in and day out.

Before you hit that exit key wondering why you bothered to read this devotion. I challenge you to continue to read on.

I was stuck in that same rut until the Holy Spirit prodded me to pull out a old book from my days of studying for my masters degree. Opening the pages of this book became a clarifying moment for me.

Yes, in many ways I am ordinary. I face the same challenges in my faith life that most moms do. I face the same disobedient children as most moms and I balance, sometimes rather ineffectively, the demands on my time as most others. And yet it is in that ordinary-ness that I am through the grace of God extraordinary!

Think about it for a minute. God sent his son, Jesus, down to this earth in the form of man. Jesus in great wisdom chose 12 of the most ordinary men he could find to be a part of the most extraordinary three years in history. He chose some of the most hated men, tax collectors to be a part of ministry. He chose men who caught fish for a living to become fishers of men!

Oh how inspired I become when I realize that just as these ordinary men were a part of something extraordinary. I too, am part of something extraordinary. Each task that was once mundane and ordinary has become extraordinary. I may not see the results of the extraordinary-ness but I know it is part of a bigger plan. I don't know what plans my Father in Heaven has for my two young boys but I do know that God has made me their mom for a reason. He will bless that role and every ordinary interaction I have with them as part of an extraordinary plan for their lives.

So, just as David spoke the words of wisdom to his son Solomon, I repeat them now to you. "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you."

Lord, Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to Earth. Thank you for choosing ordinary people to be part of your extraordinary plan. Thank you for loving us so much that your son willingly gave His life for mine. Give me encouragement to continue on during those grinding days where we feel broken down. In your name I pray, Amen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bold Assurance

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  Mark 16:6,7

This weekend packed a punch.  Several of my friends and/or their children were celebrating birthdays.  Friends were burying friends.  Family and neighbors were grieving loss.  And in the midst of it all, we celebrated the defeat of death, the risen Christ, the renewed life, on Easter Sunday.

In Pastor’s sermon this Easter Sunday, he pointed out that the day began with tears and then moved to fear.   (His message inspired this devotion.  Listen to it here.)  The grieving women went to the tomb with their tears and their traditions.  I think of my friends who have suffered loss so recently.  I can see the women, walking arm in arm, comforting each other as they walk down the road.  I know how important it is for those who mourn to feel like they have a task to attend to.  It had to be comforting for these women too, to make their way to the gravesite, on a mission. 

But nothing was as they expected when they arrived.  And after being addressed by an angel, the women were afraid.  Trumping their tears, was fear.  Throwing them off, stifling their expectations, confusing the norm.  They left – afraid.   

How do we leave the tomb?  How do we move forward from this weekend?  Does fear grip your heart as you consider life without a friend?  Does denial ensue when you realize the age of your growing children?   Do your expectations for this next week include feeling overwhelmed by your long to-do list? 

Fear is a very real part of our lives.  Whether it is something small, or something big - It can paralyze us.  The women who went to the tomb to carry-out their duties and their grief, found plenty of things to fear that day.  But we don’t have to live life this way.  We can live our lives with a boldness that only an empty tomb can provide.  We can approach our day with a boldness fitting the reality that a risen Savior brings.  We can begin our week, leaving our fears AT the empty tomb, and embracing the bold renewed LIFE that is gifted to us. 

Praise the Lord, that in the midst of it all – all that we have going on in our lives right now – we can lay our sadness and our fears down at the tomb, and leave with a bold assurance of eternal life and a merciful God.  A merciful God who comforts us, encourages us, empowers us, and inspires us to do the work that He has for us to do. 

Thank you, Lord.  Embolden me with the confidence of the cross.  Amen

Friday, April 6, 2012

Submission as Strength

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned Him as deserving death. Mark 14: 60-64
There Christ stood, as man, offering no defense of His own. "But he remained silent and made no answer."
Isaiah 53:7 prophesies, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth."
True man took the scoffings, the mockings, and the beatings, "yet he opened not his mouth."
Jesus knew that God, the Father, was about to speak to all of mankind with the greatest display of love, the sacrifice of His own Son. In Jesus's silence, God spoke through Him. Jesus did not assert His own will, the will of a man, in these final, long-suffering hours. He submitted to the will of His Father. And in this perfect submission, Christ had the strength to endure the sins of the world.
Submission as strength. What a beautiful picture and reminder for us all.
Lord, Quiet our minds, so Your wisdom can be heard.
Help us to be still and know that You are God, the Author and Perfector of our faith.
Dear God, Silent our earthly defenses, so Christ, our only sure defense, shines victoriously.
Heavenly Father, hold us in Your everlasting arms as we reflect on our Savior being nailed to the cross for our wretched sins.
Lord, strenthen our hope in Jesus "seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." AMEN.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Rest of the Story

“When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Mark 14:26

Radio personality, Paul Harvey, did much in his long career as a radio broadcaster. Yet, I would have to say that Harvey was best known for the radio show, The Rest of the Story. The show began broadcasting regularly in May of 1976 and continued until Harvey’s death in February of 2009. The Rest of the Story consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects with some key element of the story (usually the name of some well-known person) held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with a variation on the tag line "And now you know the rest of the story.”

In today’s Bible verse Jesus has just finished bringing the Lord’s Supper to his disciples in the upper room. Once that was over, they sang a hymn and departed for the Mount of Olives, which we know is where Jesus prayed while his disciples fell asleep and Jesus was arrested there and taken to appear in the temple.

As we consider the rest of the story, that time between the singing of the hymn and Jesus appearing in the temple of the high priest, what kind of things come to mind? Are we disappointed in the disciples? Perhaps – they said they’d stay faithful but, in the end, they fled. To be honest, we probably would have too, had we been there. Besides, when we sin, isn’t that just like fleeing from Jesus?

When we think about Jesus praying in the Garden, do our hearts ache for him? He knew what was coming, asked that it be removed, but deep down, he probably knew that his sufferings and death were inevitable. To think, it wasn’t even his own doing that put Jesus in this position. It was the sin of the world, including yours and mine.

As we ponder these and other parts of the rest of the story, we should keep in mind the last thing Jesus said to those who came to arrest him: “But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” When man first fell into sin, God promised a Savior. Throughout the Old Testament, there’s prophecy of this Savior who would give up his life for the salvation of all people. Jesus is that Savior and, if he didn’t fulfill what Scripture said about him, there would be no salvation for the sinful human race.

It is God’s greatest will that all people would be saved. Since we can’t do it on our own, God sent Jesus to become the perfect sacrifice. That means, God didn’t take the cup from Jesus. Instead, Jesus would go on to bear our sins on the cross. But, the cross wasn’t the end. Neither was the tomb. Jesus would rise from the dead and all who believe in him have forgiveness and eternal life. A hymn; a prayer in the garden; a betrayal; an arrest; disciples that fled; an unfair trial; a crucifixion; a death; a glorious resurrection; salvation for all who believe. Now you know the rest of the story!

(A special thank you to my husband for sharing portions of his sermon for this evening, to be used in this devotion.)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we thank you for Your sacrifice on our behalf. Lord, help us to focus on You, on Your passion, on Your gift of forgiveness and salvation. Forgive us for the times that we flee from You. We praise and thank You for not fleeing from us in our greatest needs. Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Peace of Christ

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts….” Colossins 3:15

We were cleaning the girls’ room and my 7 year-old finds a pair of earrings in her jewelry box. (She does not have her ears pierced yet.) I see her looking at them and the wheels are turning.

“Mom? Can you ear pierce your own ear?”

I hesitate. “Well, you can. But it’s not really a good idea… It would hurt a lot and you could get an infection… It’s just not a good idea.”

Her face is scrunched up wondering about the pain and the possibilities.

“Ok.” She adds. “I like good ideas.”

I smile. I know you do, I think to myself. I love these ‘smart’ moments with my kids, when their true genius comes out. ;) It’s fun to watch them, isn’t it? I am fascinated by their questions and their logic. Sometimes I hold my breath, waiting to see what they think of a new discovery. Often I shake my head and giggle a little (especially when the 3 year-old announces her take on life).

I hope my kids understand the world better than I do. I pray that they “get it” a lot sooner than I did. I know they are smart kids and will probably make some really good decisions. But of course I worry about them. Moms know how painful learning can be.

A few years ago I wrote a prayer for my kids, based on some verses in Colossians. Actually, it is the verses fashioned into a prayer. I have it posted on my bathroom mirror so I say it for them daily. Paul talks a lot in Colossians about life – a life with Christ. I had been an adult for quite a while before I realized a lot of the Truths Paul shares. I hope I can help to pass them onto my children so they can enjoy some of these Truths sooner than later.

Paul talks about putting to death our earthly nature, and instead putting on compassion, kindness, and love. I pray that my children learn these behaviors. I pray that they can somehow understand how loved they are, by their Savior. I pray that they can grasp the Grace of our Father.

But I know real understanding of these things is nearly impossible. I know that the Holy Spirit is working in us, but that we continue to trip over ourselves and sometimes life is really hard. So, while I pray these things for my children, at the end I pray that “the peace of Christ (will) rule in their hearts.” So often we don’t “get it.” So often we are faced with not knowing the right answers. But Paul encourages us to “Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts,” because peace from Christ is the ultimate answer to all our questions.

Lord, Thank you for your Peace. Thank you for your comfort. As Moms we often feel like we need all the answers. Let our children see that we do not trust in ourselves, but in the Peace and answers that you provide. Help us to lean on you, Lord, for the sake of our families and ourselves. Amen.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Cross is Where it All Went Right

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20

Joseph was the most beloved son of his father. He received a lavish offering in the gift of a beautiful robe from his dad and he had had some amazing dreams that he actually understood. On top of that, he was a pretty good looking young man. Then all of a sudden he was thrown into a pit by his own brothers who were arguing over whether or not to kill him. Where did things go wrong?

One day he was living the good life, and the next he was being shipped off to a life where he would spend years away from his family, be accused of adultery, and rewarded with prison time. Yet because of him many people were kept alive. It was the God of his word and the God of detail that meticulously wove the lives of so many together for the salvation of his people. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” It was the God of love that Joseph served. This was where things went right.

Jesus was the most beloved Son of his Father. He rode into Jerusalem and was greeted with cries of, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” The people spread out their garments and cut palm branches. They lined the streets for just a glimpse of the Son of God. They begged for his attention, his healing, and his forgiveness. Then they gave him over willingly to be spat on, mocked, and beaten. Where did it all go wrong?

One day we are singing, “All glory, laud, and honor to You, Redeemer, King. To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.” And the next we are letting a murderer go free and nailing an innocent man to a cross. Yet, only because of Jesus are any of us kept alive. It is the God of his word and the God of unimaginable grace that can use our own wickedness to fulfill his promise for our ultimate good. It is the God of love that we serve. The cross is where it all went right.

Heavenly Father

You used our own sin to spare us the punishment for sin. What a great God you are! This week as we hear again exactly what the cost of our sin was, we praise you for sending your Son in our place. We say today and every day, “Hosanna, save us Lord.” Thank you for doing exactly that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.