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Nothing Mattered More Than This

I remember a seminary course I took on the Old Testament several summers ago. The professor said the same thing over and over again about what mattered to God’s people. He cried out, “Nothing mattered more than securing the blessing of God.” God’s blessing was everything. God was the source of all life, all goodness, all peace, and and joy. Nothing mattered more in life than knowing you were living under the blessing of God. 

I think about him pacing around the classroom and reminding us how vital God’s blessing was to the Israelites. All of life was about securing this blessing. When I read Psalm 115:14 this morning, I note a special blessing that reminds me of that class: “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” 

May you be blessed by the Lord!

It occurs to me how all my attempts to control my life, to make good things happen, or to do this or matter not in this spiritual economy; it’s the Lord’s blessing that matters. Nothing matters more than securing the blessing of God.

But how do we secure it?

Jesus secures this blessing for us. We don’t offer more sacrifices or pray harder or arrange anything. We appeal to Jesus alone. That’s the marvel of the New Testament. It answers the question of how we enter into the blessing so desperately sought. And now we live under this glorious, incomprehensible blessing that matters more than anything else. And Jesus is ultimately this blessing in Himself.

With God’s blessing, everything aligns. Everything makes sense. Everything fills up with peace, joy, purpose.

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Decontaminate.

This morning I recalled 2 Corinthians 7:1 where Paul writes this: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

When I don’t feel well or if I feel overwhelmed or even off-center, I always remember this idea of decontaminating. Perhaps I’ve let in a contaminating presence. Perhaps I’m experiencing a call to decontaminate. What a sensitively calibrated thing our spirits are!

We often forget categories of what we can decontaminate. It’s not just physical space; we can purify and decontaminate our minds, our bodies, our habits, and even our conversations. We can replace the unhealthy with the healthy. We can think about nourishing food, thoughts, behaviors, and words. What if we asked God for the discernment to identify any poisoning or polluting things in our lives? I want to learn more and more to “sow to please the Spirit” and not the flesh. What a powerful concept here in Galatians 6:8 that “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

I don’t want destruction. I want life. 

I ask God what I can purify in my body and spirit today. I ask how I can sow to please the Spirit and purify my life for Him.

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Always Looking for the Good Things

In Psalm 103, we read all the benefits of following God. My favorite lines is this from verse 5: God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” 

I love thinking about the good things God has planned this very day. I pray we always look for those things and learn to perceive them.

Sometimes, we become so contaminated in our attitude through complaining, jealousy, bitterness, or entitlement that we fail to see the good things. Complaining clouds our vision and we cannot see the gifts. We cannot see the beauty. We cannot see the blessings.

Here’s a hint: Look for the things today that make you feel more youthful. The promise does, after all, refer to good things that make our “youth renewed like the eagles.” What will happen in our lives today to bring in that youthful cheer?

Last night, we entertained our sweet neighbors’ young daughters for an evening of s’mores, card games, and dancing. The two little girls reminded me that when something happens that makes you laugh, makes you want to dance and sing, or makes you want to enjoy sweet treats, a good, youthful thing is happening. The little girls were also full of curiosity and wonder. Children love animals and nature. They naturally love so many things!

Maybe today, you’ll enjoy a good thing that makes you feel young, free, and joyful. Take note of it and thank the Lord for His good gifts that satisfy the desires of your heart.

(I already recorded a good thing that made me feel young and free. My neighbors have a new Shiba Inu puppy that looks exactly like a baby red fox. Exactly! I love foxes, so last night I pet the Shiba Inu and felt like a little child with a fox. It made me laugh and made my heart so happy. If you want to enjoy a bit of what it was like, look up Shiba Inu puppies online and enjoy the pictures.)

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Amazing and Incredible

Every so often, devotions I once wrote for Camp Greystone campers will appear in my inbox. Today, I loved remembering this piece I wrote for young people on the incredible things God does.

You can find the devotion here https://devotions.campgreystone.com/blog/2021/6/incredible and also pasted below. At the time when I wrote this, I remembered reading this verse from Joshua 3 about the Lord who does “amazing things.” I wanted the children to realize how God does incredible things, so I called this post “Incredible.”

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

Aren’t you ready for something amazing? Do you sometimes feel so bored and confined that you just wish for a miracle? I do. Lately, I’ve been reading the book of Acts, and I’m just astounded by the crazy stuff that happens.

People just walk around in that book filled with awe and wonder all day long. It’s like their jaws are permanently dropped in amazement. So many incredible things happen with Jesus’ power that Peter and John simply say, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” As I read this book, I consider the extraordinary miracles God accomplished through ordinary men.

Does God change? Has He stopped being amazing? Has He stopped doing incredible things in our lives?

No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

One of the amazing, incredible, powerful, miraculous things God does is bring people back from the dead. Indeed, we were spiritually dead until we received Christ. We became spiritually alive the day we accepted the free gift of salvation. That’s incredible. That’s a miracle!

It doesn’t stop there. Our God is a God of miracles and “nothing is too hard for Him” (Jeremiah 32). Right at this very moment, He can supernaturally provide what you need.

What “amazing thing” are you trusting God for?

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The Universal Cure

This morning I read some words from Hannah Whitall Smith that ring true. She notes that yielding, trusting, and obeying God provide a “universal recipe for the cure of all spiritual diseases and difficulties.”

I think about my own lifetime of choosing to surrender to God, of telling God that my life belongs to Him and He therefore can do what He pleases with it, and of living a “crucified life” (Galatians 2:20). What peace comes next! What joy that all will be well!

It also makes life a grand adventure. You’re now following a marvelous God who is taking care of everything.

We might make a daily practice of surrendering our lives each fresh morning. We can picture handing our whole day and all that includes–the family, friendships, work relationships, and tasks ahead of us–to God’s loving and wise care. And now? We relax and let the day peacefully unfold. It’s the famous invitation in Matthew 11:28 to come to Jesus with our weary lives to find His rest. What a different way to live as surrendered to God: the universal cure!

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Remember the Bonsai: Patience, Small Improvements, and Invisible Labor

My husband and I enjoyed a beautiful day at Longwood Gardens. I found myself returning several times to the bonsai display of azaleas.

When you see the magnificent blooms here, know they represent sometimes 60 years of training (if not more). While I only observed a select number of bonsai (since the display was under renovation), I’ve heard you can enjoy a bonsai tree from 1900 as well as a miniature pomegranate tree that grows real pomegranates.

I stand and marvel at these beautiful trees. I think of the gardener gently pruning for a lifetime. I think of the art of bonsai: the trimming, the shaping, the cutting, and the binding. I think of the patience. I think, too, how one goal of bonsai involves what’s called “no trace of the artist.” A viewer should not notice or even be able to detect at all any external cutting or shaping that would leave a scar. It’s an art where the artist disappears to let the tree’s beauty shine.

The goal of the bonsai artist: invisibility.

All day I think about those trees.

Bonsai: patience, small improvements, and invisible labor. 

I think of so many things in life that require patience and gentle care. I think of the invisible labor in marriage, parenting, and in keeping a home. Day after day, you craft a life. You make small changes. You prune and shape.

Stand back and observe the beauty. Yes, it’s invisible labor and years and years of patient work. The blooms might not even appear in your lifetime. The finished product and the fruit of your labor may come in 100 years. But one day, indeed, the blooms come. In God’s perfect timing, and in the hand of the Bonsai Master, they come.

 

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What We Need Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like It

This morning, as I help a writer edit some of her devotional writing, I discover a quote she writes about from Elisabeth Elliot that I haven’t heard before. I just love it!

“What God gives in answer to our prayers will always be the thing we most urgently need, and it will always be sufficient.”

The quote invites me to consider how God knows what I need even when I do not. I love thinking of God’s answer as the best, most sufficient thing.

God’s answer is what I needed, even if I cannot see it as good or feel that’s it good. 

I think of our family mottos that continue to prove true with every passing day:

Every delay is God’s way. 

Every rejection is God’s protection. 

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It Seems Impossible

I wander to the garden to feel the morning air on my skin. I sip coffee and meander about, just observing. I look at the ground cherry and marvel how the seed I planted once sat in my palm, no bigger than a grain of sand. And now? The whole plant seems impossible. One seed creates this plant whose fruit holds hundreds and hundreds of seeds.

Would we not discover God if we just asked about this whole seed business? Who thought of this process? How can we not worship? And why do we love thinking like this? Who put that inside of us to wonder over growing things and delight in growth at all? How uniquely human!

Next, I note the super sweet cherry tomato. I worried over these seeds. I worried I’d see no fruit. I hadn’t seen the normal rabble of bees to pollinate. My oldest daughter reminds me how easy pollination is and how the wind can do it. I find myself amazed at wind. Is that why we have wind? To pollinate when the bees cannot?

Finally, I note the potted mini sunflower. It follows the sun. Think about it. How does it do this? Who programmed it? How can we not worship this kind of God? I thank Him for the particular combination of yellow and cobalt blue–my favorite. Thank you for colors. Thank you for seeds. Thank you for the sun, for dirt, and for gardens. Thank you.

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3 Reasons to Start Your Own Record of God’s Faithfulness and Power

This morning, I read Psalm 68:19. It’s such a simple declaration about God, but it changes everything about how we approach the day ahead. We read, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”

It’s the daily part that comforts me and challenges me to remember this astonishing offer from the Lord. Today—this very day—God bears our burdens. He gives us power, strength, wisdom, peace, provision, and more. He gives us everything we need as we come to Him with our burdens for the day.

What a different kind of living!

I remember to write these burdens down and record God’s power. But why? Here are 3 reasons to begin your own record of God bearing you burdens.

First: It’s a way of fulfilling Psalm 102:8: Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. Keep a record for the next generation. 

Second: Writing down the daily story of God’s provision gives us stories to share with our friends who don’t yet know the Lord. You have ways to encourage others because of how God encouraged you. Can you imagine these joyful conversations around the dinner table or campfire? At the baseball game or at the pool? We’ll be like the psalmist who says, “Come and listen! Let me tell you what God has done for me (Psalm 66:16).”

Third: We build our faith when we record the faithfulness of God. We choose to remember. We shall not live like the wandering Israelites who “did not remember [God’s] kindnesses” and rebelled against Him (Psalm 106:7).

You can record your stories in a journal or blog. You can share them broadly or just keep them for your close circle. Know that God hears you and is already working. It’s going to be a great day!

 

 

 

 

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