Serving with Joy

Let me be the first to admit that when I have a cold or any annoying ailment, I am not so fun to be around.  I get caught up in the sickness and it becomes my focus.  And that is just with the common virus that we all fight throughout the year.  Now, step it up a notch and give me a sickness that requires me to see a Doctor and I get all wrapped up in myself!  This is a battle that I have always fought.  A small illness afflicted me just this week and I was amazed when I began reading this chapter and heard about a man name Ephaphroditus and how he served the Lord with joy even through his sickness.  My daughter can attest, I was not serving the Lord with joy when I was feeling ill.

Today we are reading Philippians chapter 2.  The main theme of this chapter is finding joy in serving Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to express his gratitude and affection for the Philippian church, his strongest supporters in his ministry.  Paul drafted this letter during his two years of house arrest in Rome.  

Paul had established the church in Philippi approximately 10 years prior, during his second missionary journey recorded in Acts 16.  His tender love for the believers in Philippi is apparent in this writing.

Today, as we focus on Chapter 2, I want to look at a man named Epaphroditus.  He is only mentioned 2x in the Bible, first in chapter 2 verse 25 and then again in chapter 4 verse 18.  The church at Philippi had sent gifts to Paul while he was in chains.  These gifts were faithfully delivered by Epaphroditus.  He was a leader in the Philippian church who ended up assisting Paul with his ministry in Rome.  At some point while serving with Paul, he became dangerously sick and nearly died.  After his recovery, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi carrying with him his letter he wrote to the Philippian church.  

This is part of what Paul wrote:                                                   

“Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you.  He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier.  And he was your messenger to help me in my need.  I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill.  And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died.  But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.  So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you.  Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve.  For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.”  (Philippians 2:25–30 NLT).

To the Philippians, Epaphroditus was a messenger who delivered a package.  To Paul, however, he was so much more.  

He was a “brother” belonging to the same family.

He was a “co-worker” laboring toward the same goal.

He was a “fellow soldier” sharing the same trials.

Epaphroditus was a man of obvious devotion, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice.  He put the interest of others before himself and in doing this he modeled the mind of Christ.

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (2:4-5)

Epaphroditus took no thought of himself.  Rather, he was distressed because his church had heard of his illness, and he did not want them to worry.  

There is such a lesson for me in the life of Epaphroditus.  We all will face sickness, some of us to varying degrees.  But the demonstration that he showed even when experiencing such a severe illness is a model for us all.  He gave himself for the sake of God’s kingdom and many people benefited.  Even when we are facing hardship with our health (to any degree) we need to keep our focus on serving the Lord with joy and remeber this man as our example.

Your Will Be Done

He went a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father!  If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.  Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”               Matthew 26:39

How many times have you asked God to “take this cup from me”?  I can’t even count how many times over the past few months when I felt like I could not handle one more stress in my life.  I have asked, even pleaded with God to lighten my burden.  My stress and trouble usually revolves around a relationship, work situation, a health issue or anything thing that is not going the way I had planned or thought it would go. In my time of stress I think it would be really nice if I didn’t have to face a certain situation and would feel so relieved if God would just change the situation for my benefit.  I think I know best how a situation should turn out.

Then I pause and read the above verse from Matthew chapter 26.  I am brought to my knees with humility and shame when I realize how petty my so called trials and tribulations of life are.  Jesus must have felt that the world was closing in.  He knew what lay ahead and in the fullness of godhood and the fullness of manhood, Jesus understood what death on a cross involved.  The physical humiliation and agony of crucifixion would only be compounded by the horror of experiencing God’s wrath for the sins of the world.  There was only one solution for dealing with the feelings welling up inside Him — prayer!  So Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pour out His heart to the Father in private prayer.

In the garden we find Jesus asking God the Father to take away the immense physical pain and death he knows he will be suffering.  However, it is what Jesus says next that provides the most important lesson.  He says, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.  In other words, “God please don’t let me suffer a horrible death, find another way for me to save all of mankind, BUT if that is what YOU want, I want to carry out your will.”

Have you thought about what God wants for your life?  He has the best plan, even if it is a hard path.  These 10 words can shift your thinking and direction when facing any hardship.  “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine”.  It is easy to get wrapped up in what we want or what we think would be the best outcome in a hard situation.  We try to assert our will over God’s will.  We want Him to remove all life’s trouble and pain (that is our will).  It is inherent in our fallen nature as human beings to think this way.  However, meditating on this verse helps us truly understand that God has a plan for us and in the end it is His WILL that we should pray comes to pass.

Where do you go when life seems unbearable, when stress is stretching every fiber of your being?  Jesus identifies with your pain and trial.  He knows how it feels to be overwhelmed with conflicting emotions.  But think about this:  the worst problem you will ever face is nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross.  And Jesus, who is God Himself handled His ordeal on earth by going to the Father in private prayer.

We need time alone with your heavenly Father.  We need solitude to read His Word, to communicate our deepest thoughts, and to discover His answers.  

Clarity

 

My son had to have a vision test done yesterday and the Dr remarked at his excellent 20/20 vision.  He said that he rarely sees anyone anymore with 20/20 vision.  I then discussed with Jackson about how as you age your vision declines and how now I have to wear “readers” and glasses for distance when I am driving.  I have also noticed at night and in the morning that if I try to read, it is blurry and it takes a few minutes for my eyes to adjust before I see clearly.  

Today we read Mark 8, I will focus on verses 22-26 from the New Living Translation.

When they arrived at Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus, and they begged him to touch the man and heal him.  Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.  Then, spitting on the man’s eyes, he laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see anything now?”  The man looked around.  “Yes,” he said, “I see people, but I can’t see them very clearly.  They look like trees walking around.”  Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened.  His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly.  Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back to your village on your way home.”

When we think of Jesus performing miracles, we usually think it happened all at once.  But, in this miracle, it happened in two stages.  Modern medicine has provided us with many studies and advancements.  We now know that when previously blind people have their physical sight restored, it takes time then for them to learn to process the images that their eyes can now see.  Though their eyes can see, their brains cannot handle the visual input they are now seeing.  Now we can read the above passage again and see that the man Jesus healed may have had similar conditions.

Earlier in this chapter in verses 11-21 we see Jesus also addresses spiritual blindness.  The disciples were worried about not having enough food to feed the crowd, even though they were with Jesus.  They had just experienced Jesus feeding thousands of people by multiplying a few loaves of bread and fish.  Yet here they were again among a crowd and worried about not having enough food.  Jesus says, 

“Why are you arguing about having no bread?  Don’t you know or understand even yet?  Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have ears—can’t you hear?’  Don’t you remember anything at all?  When I fed the 5000 with five loaves of bread…Don’t you understand yet?”  he asked them.  Mark 8:17-21

Through this miracle, Jesus was showing them that it isn’t enough just to see.  We must also understand that he is with us and that he is Lord over all things.  

Have you ever read scripture and it really didn’t pertain to you or make an impact, but then later heard or read the same scripture and it blew you away?  Sometimes, it takes time before we have clarity.

We are much like the disciples in questioning Jesus’ ability to provide for us.  Clarity does not always come in an instant.  We have spiritual blindness in our own lives that causes us to worry or to forget that we are never far from Jesus’ presence.  The disciples had trouble believing and Jesus was with them!  Jesus is with us, He makes everything clear to us in His time.  We only need to trust and believe.

Give us faith to see Jesus more clearly.

Do You Feel Blessed?

I have had a few people over the past few weeks say to me, “You are an open book” or “you wear your heart on your sleeve”.  My husband even told me last night that he is always wondering what details I am going to tell when talking to a friend.  See, the thing is, I tell it like it is.  I don’t worry about what people will think about me being honest about my situations.  If you ask me how things are going I will be totally honest with you.  And, if my husband had it his way, I wouldn’t be so honest.  

All this to say, the past year, months, and weeks have been hard.  God has truly put a desire in mine and my husband’s hearts to follow Him closer.  We have felt the urging to live life differently than we have in the past.  This has meant looking at our lives in detail, where we live, where we work, how we do life.  We have and are making significant changes in how we do life.  But, of course I will be honest…I do not feel always feel blessed.  It is hard!  

I am thankful, once again, for this Bible Journal, it makes me spend more time than I normally would focusing on one chapter of scripture.  Today we are looking at Matthew 5, The Sermon on the Mount.  I am going to focus on the first 12 verses which are referred to as the Beatitudes.

Jesus gathered his disciples and began teaching.                                                       The disciples at this time were probably weary from all the work they were doing.  They were probably a lot like we are, exhausted by the end of the day. Constantly thinking about all they were  doing, and wondering if they were doing it right?  Were they pleasing god?  They might have been overcome with sin and shame or guilt.  But, Jesus looked at His followers and this is not what He saw, and that is not what He sees when He looks at us.  He sees the blessed sitting among Him.  

Here is what Jesus said to His Disciples and the large crowd that gathered.  This is from the Message…

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are-no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘careful,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world-your mind and heart-put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete for fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that-count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throu you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens-give a cheer, even!-for though they don’t like it, I do!  And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:3-12

God is not surprised by our circumstances.  He knew exactly what my husband and I would be facing in these days seeking Him.  He knew that we would face times of frustration and persecution.  This is why Jesus preached about these subjects in the Sermon on the Mount.  He gave His disciples and US promises to cling to in EVERY situation.  (read above if you skipped over it:)

We can stand strong under any attack and remain hopeful when everything and everyone else is telling us to give up.  God will come through for us.  He sees the faithfulness of His people, and He promises a great reward awaiting us in heaven.  

The Sermon on the Mount was so timely for me!  I have been mentally and physically exhausted by all that we are dealing with.  May I remember these Beatitudes and hide them in my heart.  Jesus is near and He can turn every poor situation for our good.  If you have hard situations in your life, read verses 3-13 and hold on to His promises!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plugged In

 

A common occurrence in our house is phones dying.  We have charging cords everywhere, in the kitchen, bedrooms, living room and even the car!  Sadly, the older the phones get, the quicker they lose their power and die.  We all know when we get the first warning at 20%, that we need to find a charger as soon as possible.

Where do you find your power?  Your strength to make it through another day?  It seems like it would be an easy fix to just plug in to a power source when we feel drained and overwhelmed and then be all set to go again.  There are many “power sources” that we try to use to fill us back up when we are drained.  We may try working out, taking a nap, reading, chatting with a friend at a coffee shop, going for a walk, having a glass of wine, or enjoying time with friends.  All of these are fine things and can help to revive us for a while.  But they are all temporal fillings.  They will not sustain us over the long haul or bring us consistent peace.

Tomorrow is the greatest celebration of the year!  A day to focus, remember and worship our Lord, Jesus Christ who Rose from the dead for You and for Me!  The power of His resurrection is the power that we have to tap into daily/hourly to keep going in this life.

Today our reading is Isaiah 40.  The Israelites had experienced the power of God.  They were delivered from slavery.  God gave them a cloud to follow by day and a fire by night.  They experienced food (manna) falling from the sky every morning.  And, they had their enemies delivered right into their hands.  

Even after experiencing all this power from God, the Israelites moved away from their source of power.  Praying became less of a daily habit.  Keeping the 10 commandments became optional.  Parents stopped talking about God with their children.  Judges became unjust.  And as a nation, their faith slowly fell away.  They separated themselves further and further from their Creator, and because of this they became exhausted.

Do you relate to this?  Has praying become a ritual that happens only before meals or only at Church?  When was the last time you sat down to read the Bible for an extended period of time?  Do you talk to your children about faith and what it looks like in your personal life?  Have you become exhausted like the Israelites and let your faith take a back seat or fall to the side? There are many times I fail at these things.

The truth is, we were made to be in deep connection with God (our power source).  We are called to pray without ceasing.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.                                                                               1 Thessalonians 5:17 & 18

If we have fallen away from our power source, that is when we find our batteries dying and life becomes exhausting.

But, thank You Jesus for your power!  Your power on the cross.  You died that we may have life, and have it abundantly.  The moment we turn to you, pray to You, read Your Word, and tell others about You, we will find our energy return.  

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  The will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

He Is Risen!  Plug into the one and only TRUE power Source, Jesus Christ our Risen Lord!

Make Me a Vessel

In Daniel chapter 5, the powerful King of Babylon, Belshazzar is having a huge party for his friends.  Everyone enjoys a good party or a get-together.  In todays day and age, I see many people gathering for “wine and charcuterie” or special dinner parties.  God has put an innate desire in each of us for community.  There is laughing and joy when relationships are deepening and hearts are being shared.  This is a true gift from God when we can share these times with family and friends.

In this instance from the book of Daniel, the people did not recognize God’s gift of community and were actually insulting God with their words and actions.  During the party king Belshazzar instructs his servants to bring in the gold and silver vessels that had been stolen from God’s temple in Jerusalem.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.  (v2)                        They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.(v4)

The party had taken a turn from community to dishonoring God.  God stepped in and judged Belshazzar and his court in a dramatic fashion.  Through mysterious and miraculous “handwriting on the wall,”  God judged their arrogance.  As the people were enjoying themselves fingers of a human had appeared and wrote on the wall.  Such a powerful event left the most powerful earthly king at this point in history with a pale face and legs that became weak.

Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him;  his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.  (v6)

God used Daniel, who was filled with His spirit to interpret the writing and tell Belshazzar exactly what the hand had written.  God made it clear that the king’s reign was coming to an end and his kingdom would be divided.  That very night, this king was killed and someone else took over his kingdom.  

King Balshazzar blatantly defied the Lord in word and deed.  He was puffed up with arrogance and turned to other gods.  He did not listen to Daniel’s interpretation of the writing and acknowledge that God was his only God.  

Within all of our lives, there are times that we need to recognize and acknowledge God’s “handwriting on the wall.”  As we know God better, we gain a greater understanding of how we have used “His vessel” (our bodies, minds, spirits, and people around us) in ways that are unpleasing to Him.

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  (2 Timothy 2:21)

We need to daily acknowledge the handwriting on the wall in our lives.  If we want our lives to be refined and grow in our faith, we must give the Holy Spirit permission to do His most important work of conviction.  We need to see and have a willingness to see the areas in our lives that need changing and respond accordingly.  

The gift we have received because of Jesus is more than we can ever deserve.  Because He died on the cross for each of our sins, there is no judgment.  We do not have to face the outcome that Belshazzar had to face.  We have the grace and mercy of Jesus on us.  We can start new every morning and follow Him.  We can ask Him to make us a new vessel every minute of every day.  

“Make me a vessel, make me an offering, make me whatever you want me to be….”  (New Wine, Hillsong Worship)

 

 

Disappointment

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word lament means: 1)Express passionate grief about. 2) Express regret or disappointment about something.

Jeremiah 15 is a prayer for the disappointed, a lament. This passage gives us insight into what we should do when we are disappointed. Especially, when we are disappointed with God.

Have you ever been disappointed with God? It is easy to admit when we are disappointed with other people, but how about when it is God? Have you ever been following God and doing exactly what you feel He has called you to do and yet God doesn’t seem to be providing what you need?

When we face disappointment with God, what do we do? We can put on a happy face and pretend everything is ok. (I know many people who do this.) We can live in denial or even lower our expectations of God. This means that we really stop trusting God. Or, we can deal with our disappointments. Today we read Jeremiahs prayer of lament, that is a prayer for the disappointed. It is a kind of prayer that can help us deal with our disappointment with God.

Jeremiah was set apart at birth by God to be a prophet. This was his calling. Jeremiah had to proclaim the message to the people that God was bringing severe judgment because they had forsaken Him. The people did not want to hear this message. There were many false prophets at this time speaking words that the people would rather listen to. Jeremiah was the lonely voice speaking truth. He was faithful to proclaim God’s message, but he didn’t see any results. All he saw was opposition and persecution. Thus being why he was disappointed with God.

Jeremiah did not put on a happy face nor did he lower his expectations of God. Instead, he prayed through his disappointment with God.

Jeremiah 15:10, 15-18 are the verses that he prays to God. Read through these verses. They are honest, gut-wrenching feelings that Jeremiah does not hold back from God.

Woe to me, my mother, that you have given birth to me. To be a man of strife and a man of contention to all the earth! I have not loaned, nor have men lent money to me, yet everyone curses me.
Jeremiah 15:10

After Jeremiah’s prayer of lament, God responds. But, notice that God does not start by speaking words of comfort.

Therefore this is what the Lord says; “if you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. Jeremiah 15:19

When we lament and when we get honest about how we feel, we need to be ready to receive God’s reply. God’s response might not be comfort, it might be rebuke. God tells Jeremiah he needs to repent. Sometimes, when we are upset we say things we don’t actually mean. We might accuse God of things that aren’t true or we may have a sinful attitude.
Jeremiah needed to return to his trust in god.

And if Jeremiah will return, God promises strength and endurance.

I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord. “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.” Jeremiah 15:20-21

Jeremiah had felt overwhelmed by the persecution that he faced, but God promised that if he will return to Him, his enemies will not prevail over him. These words strengthen him. Jeremiah gets to a better place not by denying his feelings, but by expressing them to God.

Do you feel free to express your disappointed feelings to God? To be totally honest with Him? He knows our every thought anyway, why not be honest and tell Him what you really feel just as Jeremiah did? Bring your disappointments to God through the prayer of lament.

Wounded Love

Being a parent is hard. I remember the many sleepless nights when my three were babies. I remember the days when I never thought I would get any time alone. And, I remember thinking that the day would never come when I was done raising littles. Now that my kids are all over the age of 15, I realize that I will never be done raising my children.  The struggles just become different.

As we watch our kids grow, we hold our breath, and are constantly questioning ourself. Is he ok? Is she happy? Are they safe? Will they make the right decisions? Can I protect them? We all know what it is like to be the parent and let your child have to face the consequences of a behavior. We know that it is best, but we would do anything to take their place and remove them from a hard situation.

Today we are reading in the book of Hosea, chapter 11. The prophet Hosea spends much time in his writings trying to persuade the people of Israel to turn from their ways. He wants them to turn back to God. Here in the 11th chapter, Hosea uses the language of a mother’s love for her children.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them up by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. Hosea 11:3-4

Both of the above verses are what we would call good parenting. Loving a child, teaching them to walk, helping them when they are sick, and feeding them are all things we do as a parent to the child we love.

But, the content of the chapter abruptly changes. The people will not turn back to God. Violence is devouring the cities. Because the people will not turn back to God, they will receive the natural consequences. These include either going back to Egypt, back into slavery or falling into the hands of Assyria.

Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? A sword will flash in their cities; it will devour their false prophets and put an end to their plans. My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them.
Hosea 11:6-7

But, keep reading, the text changes again! God can’t bear the thought of destroying His children. God says, My heart won’t let me do it. My compassion won’t let me do it.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities.” Hosea 11:8-9

Though Israel had not been obedient in turning back to God, God still loved them and longed for them to come back. His love for them was wounded, but never ending.  How often in our own lives have we not been completely faithful to God? How often have we not been obedient? We may struggle with putting God first and even turn away for a time, but God’s love for us remains the same. He will always be faithful, even though we may not.

…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

God is always longing for us to come back to Him, even when we have wounded him.   Let Him draw you up into His arms. He longs to have a relationship with you. He loves you with an everlasting love.

Home Sweet Home

The reading for today is Psalm 84
As I read the title for todays reading, Home Sweet Home, I immediately started to sing…“Sweet Home Alabama” (take a few seconds to finish that in your mind:)
Now keep reading and see if any other songs come to mind…
Verse 1-“How lovely is your dwelling place” any song?
Verse 10-“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” any song?
The words above bring to mind a very familiar song and I have been singing it all week as I have reread Psalm 84.

In Psalm 84 we read about the yearning of the pilgrim Israelites and their journey to Jerusalem to be with God in His temple. This is the temple that Solomon built as a dwelling place for God on earth. No expense was spared in building this structure, 1 Kings chapter 6 gives all the glorious details of the ornate carvings and beautiful work that was done. This was a place like no other. The temple was the literal home on earth of the presence of God.

Is there a place that you long to be? As a child I remember in the summer we would spend a week at our Aunt’s house. I would look forward to that week with my cousins on their farm, until I actually had to go to bed. As we would put on our pajamas and get ready to slide under the covers, it would hit me, “I am not at home”. Then the longing for home (and my mother) would become intense. Unfortunately, it would get so bad that I would make myself sick. Now we can look back and laugh at that, but even now at 50 years old, I can remember that yearning of wanting to be “home”.

Psalm 84 gives us a powerful sense of being “home”.
How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Psalm 84:1&2
The psalmist describes the anguish that comes from being separated from the temple courts. The temple is where the psalmist feels utterly at home. The Israelites longed to be home where they had a sense of complete belonging.

Is your heart yearning and even fainting to be in this place of complete belonging? We search for this belonging our whole life. Our immediate family is the first place we want to completely belong. We try to “fit-in” and belong at school when we are in our school years. Sometimes a sports team can give us the feeling of belonging. We want to find complete belonging in a significant other. Then we want to find the perfect career that makes us feel needed and at home. We continuously search for this longing. In all these ways we are yearning to be “home”. But do we realize this yearning is actually a yearning for the presence of God?

We no longer have a temple that we must pilgrim to and find the presence of God. The temple is now in us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own”
I Corinthians 6:19

Our bodies are the temple of God’s presence. Are we living like this? Are we yearning to be close to God daily? Every hour? Do we yearn to tell others of his dwelling in our hearts? Do we see the beauty of Christ in our life? Is Christ at home in us? We will not find our complete belonging in anything on this earth. We have to daily/hourly find our belonging only in Jesus, then we will truly be “home”.

Outdoor Lessons


“The red cardinal bird holds special spiritual meaning for Christians as they symbolize everlasting vitality (the faith in the blood of Christ as the birds are red in color), Christmas (the birth of christ) and are also considered a creative force (the red color equals vitality and creativity).” This quote was found at reference.com.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The Heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

How often do you take time to be amazed at the creation around us? My youngest daughter gets annoyed with me as I point out every detail of nature when we are in the car together. I think as I age I realize the power in a sunset, an amazing cloud, glistening snow, changing trees, and budding flowers. The response I get is, “I know Mom, I see it!” But, do we take the time to REALLY see it???

If you look out a window right now and up into the sky, do you SEE what God spoke into existence? God created such an awesome universe that surrounds us. Nature captures the glory of God.

As I have reflected on this verse the past few days, I have taken some extra time and been more aware of what is around me. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in my car and just stare out the window at the Illinois River and its surroundings. It was a grey, dreary day, nothing spectacular. As I stared down into the river I saw a few birds flitting from tree to tree and in the grasses. Before I realized it, I looked just beyond my car and a vibrant red cardinal was perched at the top of a long willowy grass. I was breath-taken at the color and stillness of that bird. I became more intent at watching for birds and my eyes were opened. There were cardinals, blue jays, robins, and a few other unidentified birds flying all around. At one point, three cardinals were pecking the ground 5 feet from my car. It is amazing what we see when we are still and really looking.

God created such an awesome universe that surrounds us. May we be inspired to live a life that shines with God’s glory and grace. Take the time today to notice His creation and worship Him for the incredible inspiration that surrounds us.