Surprise!

Today’s reading:  Matthew 24:29-51

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “surprise”?  Something unexpected?  Do you think of something good, like a party or running into an old friend you didn’t expect to see?  Or do you think of something bad, like an unexpected bill or an unfavorable medical diagnosis you didn’t see coming?   When I think of surprises, I generally think of bad (or inconvenient) things.

  • Surprise, I’m going to show the house in an hour.  Can you go home and run the vacuum, make the bed and shine up the bathroom?
  • Surprise, my boyfriend is coming home with me after school.  I told him you would drive him home to Fox Creek (40 minutes round trip) before dinner.
  • Surprise, I am sick in bed and might need your help taking care of Grandma until your Dad gets home on Friday.

Yes, I can be surprised by good things too.  But I am a planner by nature.  If possible, I like to know what (good or bad) is coming so I can plan ahead.  I like to be prepared!

Our scripture for today is about being prepared for the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.  To people who don’t follow Jesus and/or don’t read the Bible, the second coming of Christ will likely feel like a surprise because no one (not even Jesus himself) knows the day or the hour of his return.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).

While we don’t know when, we do know for sure he is coming back.  As such, we should not be surprised when he gets here.  Between now and then, we should spend our time getting ready.  Since we know he is coming and we have plenty of time to prepare, we have no excuse for not being ready when he finally arrives.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him (Matthew 24:42-44).

So what does exactly does preparing for Christ’s return look like?

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it (Luke 9:23-24).

Don’t Panic!

If you invest in the stock market, you try to predict the future. We do this by combing yesterday’s results and today’s news. It doesn’t work. Instead of predictability, we get volatility. This is certainly true for the last several months. In fact, the last 6 months have produced significant losses. Maybe it is time to sell? You know how the pros answer. They say, “stay the course.” In other words, “do not be alarmed.” Wait, what? I am about to lose everything that I have worked my whole life for and you tell me not to panic? How can this be good advice?
Today, in Matthew 24, Jesus tells us the same thing. No, not about the stock market. Jesus is talking about our faith. “We’ve been going along pretty well lately,” he tells his disciples, “but bad things are going to happen.  I can’t tell you exactly what they are but droughts and earthquakes will be part of it. People are going to be suffering and hurting. “Even worse,” he says, “everyone will blame you.” That’s right, “all of this will happen and they will come after you. You may be thrown into jail. It’s even probable that you will be tortured.”
Why is Jesus telling us all of this? To prepare us.  He says it this way, “when all of this happens, do not be alarmed.” In other words, “don’t panic.” No, it is not time to sell! The goal has not changed!
Now, if you are like me, you still want to sell. It seems easier, and definitely safer. Tribulation garners the same reaction.  So rather than panic, let’s get back to what we know to be true.
We are not alarmed when we know God is in charge – he has a plan
We are not alarmed when we put our faith in God’s plan
We are not alarmed when his glorification is more important than our well-being

Make His Face Shine upon You

I love the outdoors.  The fresh air, the sounds of nature, the colors of trees and leaves, and the endless sight of the setting of the sky filled with clouds or stars.  When finding those moments of closeness to God and His presence, these times outdoors come to the forefront of a place that can help step away from the world’s hustle.  One of my favorite parts of the day is the sunrise that starts the day, revealing all God has created.  This morning as I watched the sunrise, the clouds turned an amazing red/ pink, illuminating the clouds closest to the sun.  A rainbow that stood out among the clouds still dark from the night appeared on the opposite side of the sun.  Amazing God’s daily presence.

When I pause in these moments, I can feel the sun on my face no matter the distance. God’s light is always there.  The grace and light He provides in the dark provide the necessary light to find your way out. The blessings provide the warmth and comfort to provide hope and life to overcome any circumstance we may be going through.

So today, no matter where you are in your circumstances, I pray that God may be gracious to you, bless you, and may His face shine upon you.

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—[b]
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Marvel at the Great Deeds

Today’s Reading: Psalm 66

Psalms 66: 1- 4

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
    sing the glory of his name;
    give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
    and sings praises to you;
    they sing praises to your name.” 

During the season of Thanksgiving, we take time to reflect on the things that we’ve been given throughout the year. This is the time that we can express our gratitude and appreciation to each other, and those around us for the many gifts that they have bestowed upon us.

In this Psalm, we were looking at the great deeds that God has done for us. The many mountains that he has moved for us, the many obstacles that we have overcome with His guidance. But what about the daily, hourly, and minutes that He has done such great deeds for us . If we look at our day from midnight to midnight how many great deeds has God done for us.

Come and see what God has done:
    he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.(v5)

  • Restful sleep without seizures
  • Waking up with ease
  • Ability to move all limbs independently and voluntarily
  • Ability to use the bathroom without assistance and ease of moving in the dark and not falling

Bless our God, O peoples;
    let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living
    and has not let our feet slip. ( v8-9)

  • The ability to take a shower by yourself.  The warm and hot water that is available. The warm house and bathroom to use.
  • The ability to eat a morsel or more and the ability to have a cup of warm coffee.
  • The ability to have a vehicle that will work properly
  • The fuel to get to work

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
    and I will tell what he has done for my soul.(v16) 

  • The traveling mercies that allow you to get to and from work without incident.
  • The ability to work and be present at your place of employment
  • The ability to thank God continuously for the Spirit of God to be the protection for you and the love ones as they go about their daily and activities.

These are just a handful of things that go on a daily basis, and sometimes we can forget that each of those items can have hundreds of great deeds associated with them to perform those and to continue to grow.

During this next week find a day to see how many great deeds that God has done for you in the mist of you living your life.

Praise The Lord

Stop reading this post right now and look around you, what can you praise God for right at this moment? Maybe it is the roof you have over your head? Maybe the comfy chair you are sitting in and the cozy blanket that is covering you? Maybe it is the good news you just received this am? As I look out my window I see 3 deer running through the trees. I can only see them now that the leaves have fallen. I seem them leap and chase after one another. Thank You God for the creation of deer and the joy that I see in watching them play.

Just watching the deer frolic and play brought a smile to my face. Thanking God for that simple joy of watching them changed my thinking. That is what praising God does for us. It changes our thoughts and our minds. Praising God should not be reserved for Sunday mornings.

Psalms 150 instructs us to praise the Lord in ALL THINGS! When we praise the Lord we cause bondages to break loose, strongholds to come down and chains to fall. The devil does not like when we praise the name of Jesus and he has to flee. We are drawn closer to Jesus when we praise His name and our connection to Him is greater.

The last verse of the 150th Psalm talks about breath. Take a deep breath and feel the air fill in your lungs. Breathing deeply calms us and quiets the mind. God gave us that breath the minute that we were born and we will continue to take breaths until our very last one. The ability to breathe is the gift of life. If we are sitting here breathing, we have a gift. We can be grateful for our ability to breathe and the fact that we are living. As long as we are breathing we have the ability to hope, pray, and rely on God to grow and change us as He sees fit.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 150:6

Praise The Lord!

How Do I Measure Up?

Today’s reading is Psalm 147.

How do I measure up?

Whether you realize it or not, it’s probably something you are asking yourself subconsciously multiple times a day and even multiple times per hour and minute. From a very young age we can all probably remember getting a test back and saying to your friend, “What did you get?” I can remember in grade school not being able to sleep the night before the 1 on 1 competition at our school’s basketball camp because I wanted to prove I was the best. Now, the company I work emails production numbers every single day for each person in our organization. It’s hard to avoid scoreboard watching. I have not even yet discussed social media. There are a lot of good things from it too, but I truly believe we are having a mental health epidemic because we see everyone else’s highlight reel all the time. We don’t see the fight they had with their spouse before the smiling family picture, the financial troubles they are going through, or the struggles their child is having in school right before they posted that picture of the championship they just won. Have you ever seen a pro or college team’s “hype video” set to music before an upcoming game showing highlights of previous games? They can make a team that hasn’t won a game all year look like the best in the country. Perception is not reality, but we don’t grasp it. We think we are the only ones with problems.

As we read this on Thanksgiving, I’m extremely grateful that our Father in Heaven does not measure us by or care about our results.

Psalm 147:10-11 reads…

He delights not in the

strength of the horse,

nor his pleasure in the legs of a

man,

but the Lord takes pleasure in

those who fear him,

in those who hope in his

steadfast love.

I’ve written about it before, but I love the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Thankfully, what God cares about is about our heart for Him.

Despite our past, we all become perfect and washed clean of our past mistakes and failures through His blood on the cross.

Psalm 147:2-3 reads..

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the outcasts of

Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted

And binds up their wounds.

I pray that we can find our self-image in how He views us because of Jesus…perfect, blameless, and holy.

I pray that today on Thanksgiving and every day we can find joy and gratitude in His love for us despite our circumstances.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone!

Thank You

Today is a busy day. Tomorrow we will be attending or hosting a Thanksgiving meal. We either have to prepare a dish (maybe all the dishes) or run by the store to purchase something to contribute to the meal. I have found myself feeling anxious about numerous things for tomorrow…will I forget a needed ingredient? will the food turn out ok? will everyone feel welcome and at home? will my house be clean enough? will my kids truly enjoy being home? The list could go on and on. But, once again, God’s Word rings true and I am brought back to what truly brings me peace.

Today we read Psalms 146.
David gives us 13 reasons to trust in God.

1-He is our help
2-He made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them
3-He remains faithful forever
4-He executes justice for the oppressed
5-He gives food to the hungry
6-He sets the prisoners free
7-He opens the eyes of the blind
8-He lifts up those who are bowed down
9-He loves the righteous
10- He watches over the sojourners
11-He upholds the widow and the fatherless
12-He brings the wicked to ruin
13-He will reign forever

We are not to rely on our human abilities, but we have a God who truly cares for us and loves us more than we can ever imagine. When something goes wrong tomorrow, and it probably will, turn to God. God is our help. God is our hope. God is our provider. He is the only one that can provide peace in a time of need.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Psalms 146:3-5

When we face a struggle or are stressed it is easy to turn to someone else to complain or ask for help. But, if we reach out to God first, He will bring us true peace and answers faster than any human can.

Thanksgiving is a perfect day to remember all the reasons  to thank God. Thank You God that we can come to You first. No problem we face is too small or too big for You. Thank You that in this 146th Psalm You have listed so many ways we have to be thankful. We praise You for the gift that we have in You.

We Thank You!

 

Salvation

I was thinking about my faith today and I narrowed it down to two things.

    1. Living on earth: The world we live in is incomprehensible. The sin, hate, sadness, and the many things we cannot understand force me to search for meaning.  I realize that I won’t understand why things on earth happen the way they do. I have come to trust and believe that God has a plan and no matter how awful or incomprehensible the circumstances, God is at work.  I believe that we can find “rest” and peace in God’s promise, to look over us, guide us, and lead us.
    2. The afterlife: What happens to my soul after my death is important to me. I do not believe that this world is the end my soul.  I believe that I am going to a better place after I die.  I also believe that I will see the many friends and family that have passed before me, again, if they too believed that Jesus died on the cross to forgive their sins. The hurt and pain of their deaths are temporary, as we will spend eternity together in Heaven.

The title of Psalm 115 is “The Futility of Idols and the Trustworthiness of God.”  We can be enamored with success, achievement, and ultimately material things that we believe will make us feel fulfilled.  Time and time again, we see examples of a lack of satisfaction and fulfillment with life on earth.  No matter how much money or stuff a person has, they typically feel like they are missing something.

This brings my focus back to what’s important.  The size of your house or the amount in your bank account does not matter at the end of our lives.  What matters is our faith in Jesus Christ and knowing that we are saved and fulfilled. Fulfillment comes from a life following Jesus and confidence in knowing that we are destined for a better afterlife, after this life.  How depressing to think that this life is as good as it gets!

The Bible tells us that we will rest in Paradise (Heaven) with our savior after we die.  As for me, I will follow Jesus and enjoy the rest in this life that comes from His peace and run for salvation after my life on earth.

Praise God for our salvation!

The joy that surrounds us!

Have you ever become so focused on problems that you fail to experience the joy surrounding you? There is a problem that I’ve been chasing and I’m working very hard to fix it. While it is suitable for me to use my gifts and talents to solve problems, it is wrong to let the issue consume me.

While reading today’s scripture (Psalm 106), the following verses were convicting in that my heart has been more “me” (and my problems) focused rather than outward, focusing on others and gratitude for what God has done and continues to do in my life.

7 Our ancestors in Egypt
    were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds.
They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them.
    Instead, they rebelled against him at the Red Sea.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
    they did not wait for his counsel.

21 They forgot God, their Savior,
    who had done great things in Egypt, (Psalm 106:7, 13, 21)

To make matters worse, upon forgetting God’s goodness, whatever we put before him becomes an idol. That’s what we see of the Israelites in verses 19-20. They made an idol and worshipped it.

It seems my problems and all sorts of other things have become idols. This focus left me feeling down and losing sleep. Yesterday I said to someone “I don’t really like myself right now”.

Fortunately, if we listen to the Holy Spirit and honestly confess our sins we are forgiven, redeemed, and set free. With a renewed commitment to be more grateful and to put God in his rightful place, I can say the joy has returned.

In addition to gratitude, what brings greater joy is serving others as we were not made to fulfill our own desires; we were made to give our lives away, with the ultimate example being Jesus. Today I read two questions Benjamin Franklin asked himself each day:

  1. What good shall I do this day?
  2. What good have I done today?

The answer to these two daily questions can be a good measure of whether we are living for ourselves and our idols, or a greater purpose, in line with our creator. Question two might also help us sleep a bit better. Today, how will you choose?