I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you…. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
(Psalm 119:11, 15-16)
Knowing God’s Word helps us
…when difficult times come,
…when sin threatens to overwhelm us,
…when others question our faith, and
…when we want to share with others.
I am so thankful for the ability to search for scripture on my phone, tablet, or laptop. However, sometimes we lose our phones, have dead batteries in our tablets, and leave our laptops home.
Sometimes we need a verse to use immediately, and even the delay of a minute to look it up may cause the momentary need to pass. I don’t want to miss those opportunities.
We should be ready with God’s Word when we need it. Although technology helps, it is not always reliable or available. The best way to keep our minds focused on God and to be prepared to use scripture is to commit it to memory.
Choose a favorite.
Review some you already know.
Enlist a memory buddy.
Use an app.
Make it a priority.
Today we are honored to have my friend, Julie Shirkey, as our guest blogger. Welcome, Julie!
When We Finally Decide to Pray About Our Problems
When do you reach the point that you fall to your knees and pray?
Is it when you are desperate and everything else has failed?
When all the wisdom from your family or friends has failed you?
When you have no where else to turn?
Is this when you finally pray?
In the book of Jonah we see a man who was disobedient to God and thought he could run from God’s sight. You see, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of His upcoming judgement against their wickedness and the need for the people of Nineveh to repented. What did Jonah do instead? He ran to a boat that was going in the opposite direction from where God wanted him to go.
Did God ignore Jonah?
No, He didn’t.
Jonah faced a great storm on this boat. The crew on the boat asked why such a storm was happening and why Jonah was below deck sleeping! They inquired of Jonah and after casting lots it fell on Jonah to explain. Jonah confessed it was his fault and they should throw him, a prophet of The One True God, into the sea and the storm would end.
Wow! What did the crew do? They tried with all their might to row back to shore, but the storm was too great, the waves too high and the wind too forceful to row against them. They finally relented and threw Jonah overboard. But to everyone’s surprise, especially Jonah’s, a big fish swallowed him whole. Now I believe this not only shocked each person on board but probably Jonah the most! The crew on the boat believed this was the end of Jonah, and the storm ceased.
This might seem the end of the story,
but, alas, it is not.
What I find most fascinating is it took Jonah three days before he prayed while in the belly of this fish. Yuck! But if Jonah wasn’t praying before about where to go, which city, which boat or what direction, I’m sure it never entered his mind to pray about this fish!
How about you?
Do you pray about what you might face today?
Has it entered your mind to pray over any situation you might face?
There are many situations I have faced that I never thought to pray about. Oh, we all say those blanket prayers: for safe travels or like some like to say “for travel mercies.” Or to protect us as we go about our day, “put a hedge around it.” Keep my family safe. These prayers are all good, but when God gives you instructions, it’s best to do those instructions rather than not pray about it and run from God.
Back to Jonah…
can you imagine what might be in the belly of that fish? It’s lunch from that day, digestive fluids, darkness, and the stench? And Jonah waited three days to pray! But that’s what Jonah did. “And he said: ‘I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction. And He answered me.'” (Jonah 2:1-2 NKJV)
Do your circumstances seem like Jonah’s?
Are you in a smelly, messy, dark situation because of your disobedience?
We all have been there, don’t deny it. And some of you are there now, in the stench and mess of disobedience, in a smelly fish belly of your own. But you know what?! God heard Jonah in the belly of that fish! Wow! Isn’t that great!
God heard Jonah,
and that gives us hope that God hears us too.
Even in our mess.
How desperate are you for help? Have you hit the bottom and all you can see is a dark hole?
It doesn’t matter the mistakes you have made,
God will make a way.
What a sight we must be when we emerge from our dark hole. I can see Jonah, vomited up on the beach by this big fish, bleached white from stomach acids, seaweed dripping from his head and shoulders. He must have been quite a sight. “The waters encompassed me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5 NKJV) And yet, God still used Jonah for His purpose. God still sent Jonah to Nineveh. “Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.” (Jonah 2:6 NKJV)
When we pray, we might still be in our mess.
We might look a mess.
We might be a mess,
but when we truly pray and are obedient, we are victorious!
What is keeping you from obedience and praying?
Don’t wait until you are in a great mess to cry out to God.
Julie and her husband Steve reside in Jacksonville, IL. They enjoy the outdoors, working on their cars and seeking and sharing Jesus Christ through their ministry. Julie is not only a Christian author, she is also an audio technician, is self taught in the art of stained glass, and enjoys building her own furniture. Steve is an over the road truck driver who he enjoys hunting, fishing, and drag racing. (And helping Julie move her big, heavy, homemade furniture!) Their goal is to reach the world for Christ by sharing their testimonies and God’s Word. Visit julieshirkey.com/ to learn more about Julie’s ministry and to order her book, A Life in Christ: Seeking God’s Will.
Have you ever considered this question? Have you perchance asked this question of someone? There are all sorts of “good Fridays.” There is rejoicing because Friday, for most, is the last day of the work week, and the next two days are days to relax or take care of other things that you need to tend to. There are the Fridays that lead to extended weekends. We all love those 3 or 4 day weekends. There are those Fridays that are actually a Thursday. You know, you have Friday off so Thursday is your Friday. There is Black Friday. That’s a really good one. Just think of all the great deals you get.
However, there is only one Friday that is “Good Friday.” Why is it “Good Friday?” Jesus was arrested, tortured, beaten, spat upon, mocked, and so much more. He was hung on a cruel and rough hewn cross after having been tortured and having carried His cross through the crowded streets. He was nailed to the cross through His wrists and feet. He was bleeding, bruised, beaten. How can you call this good?
Before any of this, Jesus was in the Garden with His disciples. He asked them to wait and pray with Him. He went off to talk to His Father. When He returned they had fallen asleep. This was repeated 3 times. One of His very own betrayed Him to the soldiers to be arrested and dragged off. He was denied by another of His disciples 3 different times after pledging his undying love and following. How can you call this good?
Yet in the Garden, Jesus prayed, “…My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39, NASB) He came and checked on His disciples, found them sleeping, woke them up, admonished them, and went off once again. Once again He prayed to His Father, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it. Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) How can you call this good?
We can call this good. God is so good. It’s hard to understand. From our human point of view we have trouble reconciling all of this with the fact that we call this Good Friday. Oh, my friend, this IS Good Friday. Did you read those words that Jesus said to His Father? “Your will be done.” Jesus told God, “I don’t necessarily want to do it this way. It’s going to hurt bad, but God, I want to do your will.” It is good because it was for you and me that He did this. God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you and for me. It is good because Jesus willingly walked the path to the cross to pay the price for our sins.
My friend, the best is yet to come though. S.M. Lockridge coined the phrase, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s comin’.” If we didn’t have Good Friday, we wouldn’t be able to have Resurrection Sunday. Because of Good Friday, we have the opportunity to repent of our sins and accept Christ’s finished work on Calvary. We have the opportunity to go to heaven one day. There was a price that needed to be paid. Jesus paid that price. We have a sales slip so to speak with all our sins listed. When Jesus died that sales slip was stamped, “Paid in Full.”
So here is the most wonderful part: Jesus ROSE from the dead!. He did not stay dead but He arose. He is alive. Jesus bears the marks of our sins upon His body, but my friend, He is alive!
So what’s so good about Good Friday.
The answer is pure and simple: Because of Good Friday, we have Resurrection Sunday and the opportunity to live forever in Heaven with the One who loved us so very much that He did this for us.
Have you received Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life? Do you know that one day you will live in Heaven? If you can’t answer yes, please contact us, and we can help you know how this promise can be yours. God is good all the time, and He wants you to share everlasting life with Him in heaven.
“On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.’” “For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign.” (John 12:12-13, 18)
They took the palm branches to meet Jesus. They went to praise and adore Him. Why? The Bible tells us it was because of the mighty deeds He had done. The people of Israel had seen all the things He did, all the miracles He performed. They spent time with Him. Many came to see what else He would do. I imagine that many came thinking He was going to overthrow Rome and be their ruler. Verses 14-15 read, “Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written ‘Fear not daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” Whatever their reasoning for this display, they sang praises to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is and was Messiah.
Sometimes we hear these stories and think, “Well, I know that. What can you tell me that is new?” Let me challenge you to view this Palm Sunday with a new perspective. The story holds true and it never changes. It is God’s word. However, maybe we can change our heart as we celebrate the beginning of Holy Week.
Praise to the King. The people sang “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosanna is used to express adoration, praise, or joy (especially in biblical, Judaic, and Christian use).” It is defined as “an expression of adoration, praise or joy” ( Internet Dictionary)Jesus is the King of Kings. There is none other like Him. He is loving, just, caring, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, faithful, and holy, just to name a few. Spend some time in worship praising the Lord for Who He is.
Adoration. While praise is defined in the internet dictionary as “the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something,” adoration is defined as “deep love and respect and worship. Synonyms include worship, glorify, praise, revere, reverence, exalt, laud, extol, esteem, pay homage to.” Adoration goes deeper. It brings us to the very throne of God. In the Christmas story, we see the wise men (magi) coming to “adore” the baby Jesus. Do we have that kind of deep love for Jesus? When we spend time with Jesus do we want to fall to our knees in worship and adoration?
Lifting holy hands. In I Timothy 2:1-8 we read, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” “Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; and they knelt down and worshiped the Lord with their faces toward the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:6) “Let my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” (Psalm 141:2)
In each of these verses, we see that the lifting of hands is equal to an offering of praise and worship to God. Some of us feel awkward at lifting our hands in public worship. It makes me wonder why? Why do we shy away from it? Are we simply afraid of what those around us may think? We need to realize that this is an act of worship. This worship is to God. May I challenge you on this Palm Sunday, this first day of the Holy Week, when you spend time with your Creator and Savior in praise and adoration to allow yourself to raise your hands as an act of worship?
Marvel. Dictionary.com defines marvel as “to be filled with wonder, admiration, or astonishment, as at something surprising or extraordinary.” Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon in Arizona? I have once. I remember the moment I laid on eyes on it. I wanted to cry and sing and praise God all at the same time. In fact I started singing How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God. My heart was so full that all I could do was pour out all I was feeling in worship of the One who created that magnificent sight. I marveled at it.
Do we marvel at God and all He has done? When we see God working in our lives and the lives of those around us do we say ‘I know that was you God” or do we think, cool? We need to make sure our praise and thanksgiving goes where it belongs. “…Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” (Revelation 15:3)
As we celebrate Palm Sunday may each of us come in Praise and Adoration, lifting holy hands as we Marvel at all God has done and continues do in our lives. Hallelujah to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Him [Jesus Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Serving God may require toil, the kind of hard work that wears us out. Doing God’s work can be a struggle because we are fighting an enemy (Satan) and overcoming obstacles.
Throughout our work for God, throughout the toil and struggle of our labor, we also know that it is God’s energy that keeps us going. He will work through us during our labor in a powerful way.
We must persist in the work of the Lord because others need to know the One who saved us and who is able to save them!
There is so much to fear in this world. If we let it, fear can paralyze us and render us useless. And rendering us useless in God’s battle plans is exactly what Satan is hoping for. He is a master at sidelining us. Sometimes we do not even recognize it.
For a long time I let fear paralyze me. Once I realized that fear was a problem, it took months to identify and deal with the different fears that were haunting me. The fact that I completed writing and publishing the ELIJAH study is proof that God is bigger than all our fears.
What do you fear? We worry about everything from our health to natural disaster. We worry that we can, that we can’t, that we will get hurt, that we will hurt others, that we will fail, that we will succeed. Our lives are filled with “what-ifs.” What if we followed Paul’s instruction to the Philippians?
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Paul tells us not to be anxious. Instead we are to make our requests known to God. This is more than just listing our problems for God. It includes prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. We are to talk with God, sharing our wishes with Him—that is prayer. We are to ask for His help—supplication. We are to do it all while thanking Him.
The Greek word used here for everything is pás. It “means ‘all’ in the sense of ‘each (every) part that applies.’ The emphasis of the total picture then is on ‘one piece at a time.’” When we are anxious, worried, and afraid, we feel torn apart, and our loyalties become divided. Paul encouraged the Philippians to place each part of each fear into God’s hands.
That’s exactly what I had to do. Now it is your turn. What are you afraid of? Take time to analyze your fear. Is it really more than one fear? Identify the different parts. Take a few minutes to place each of your fears into God’s hands. Do not forget to thank Him for all He is doing.
When we place our fears into God’s hands, God will replace that fistful of fear with His peace. Surpasses is the Greek word huperechó which means “to hold above, to rise above, to be superior.” The kind of peace that we will receive in exchange for placing our fears into God’s hand is a peace that rises above our fears. By holding us above our fears, God guards our hearts and minds. So as you place each part of each fear into God’s hands, allow His surpassing peace to hold you above your fear.
We would love to hear your stories of overcoming fear in your life with God’s all-surpassing peace!
Today’s post was adapted from ELIJAH: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another by Trisha L. Knaul (Week 2, Day 4).
Do you see what is in front of you? Or what you want to see?
Several years ago my daughter-in-law and I went on a trip with Kids Around the World. On our way to our destination, we had a long layover in Paris and took the opportunity to visit the Louvre.
After roaming the halls filled with beautiful artwork for several hours, we came to a crowded room. At the end of this room, surrounded by people taking pictures and selfies, was the Mona Lisa. We didn’t even try to get through the crowd for a close look. I remember thinking it is smaller than I expected (a common first impression, apparently) and it isn’t anything special (sorry, art lovers).
What really blew me away though was what I saw when I turned around. On the opposing wall being virtually ignored by all those Mona Lisa worshipers, was a massive painting (22′ 3″ x 32′). Impressive in size, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese depicts Jesus’ first miracle where he turned water into wine (John 2:1-11).
While I won’t get into the historical accuracy of the painting, it is a beautiful work of art. Much more impressive that the Mona Lisa. Yet, people flock to the Louvre to see her and have their picture taken with her. Then, the vast majority of them walk out of that room giving Veronese’s work little or no notice. The whole scene (in the room, not in the painting) just struck me as ludicrous. People were so intent on a tiny painting of an average woman that they couldn’t see (or didn’t care about) the larger painting.
The scene in that room at the Louvre made me wonder how often I do the same thing. Do I only see what I want to see about God? Do I focus on some tiny, unimportant detail in my life? Do I miss the larger picture? Do I miss Jesus in the midst of the big picture or the problem? Do I fail to see what He is doing because I’m hyper-focused on some detail that really isn’t all that big? Or do I take time to sit and look at Jesus and wonder at what He is doing within the larger painting of my life?
Luke tells us of a time when Jesus visited Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). During his visit, Martha was distracted by all the things she had to do for Jesus and his disciples. Mary took time away from those very same preparations to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Mary was totally focused on Jesus. Martha was more than a little put out because her sister wasn’t helping so she went and complained to Jesus. Jesus recognized that Martha was worried and upset, but he also let her know that Mary’s priorities were right–only one thing in that home was necessary. Jesus.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [the things you need] will be give to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
Like Martha, do I get so caught up in the details of my day that I forget Jesus? Or am I like Mary who focused on Jesus and his words? Do I focus on the things of God first?
How about you? Do you only see what you want to see about God? Do you focus on some tiny, unimportant detail in your life? Do you miss the larger picture? Do you miss Jesus in the midst of the big picture or the problem? Do you fail to see what He is doing because you are hyper-focused on some detail that really is not all that big? Or do you take time to sit and look at Jesus and wonder at what He is doing within the larger painting of your life? Do you seek the things of God first?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of God’s creation, especially plants that bloom! My family moved into our current home sixteen years ago. It sets on approximately ¼ of an acre. At the time we moved in, there were lilac bushes bordering two sides of the property, spirea bushes along the front and back of the house, a 16’ length of fence with blackberries, and six fifty year old trees (three pine, three maple). To most people that would be more than enough, but not for me! I have transformed our property to include fourteen flower beds, a 48’ x 24’ fruit and vegetable garden with an arbor wall, a pergola, and a 7’ x 20’ pond (4’ deep). My husband says that’s enough every time I add something new, but he is always amazed by the beauty and enjoyment it brings.
All of the beauty in our yard is always dependent on the weather. As I’m sure you know, the amount of precipitation, sunlight, and nutrients determine the growth of the plant. The environment that the plants are exposed to directly affects the end result. Each plant has its own needs in order to thrive. Some need dry soil, some need swampy, and yet some need a perfect blend. It can be a delicate balancing act that you ultimately have no control over. It is hard (sometimes impossible) to recover the growing season once the plant has been exposed to the harsh elements. A succulent that gets flooded and sits in soggy soil for extended time will just rot. A delicate impatient that is baked in the hot sun with no water for days on end will most likely shrivel and dry up to a crisp twig. Both will be lost forever.
If all the conditions are right in early spring, the Bearded Iris will begin to sprout from the rhizome sitting on top of the soil. The straight, blade-like leaves will grow up to 18″ tall. In a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see a stalk rise above the leaves, and buds will poke through and swell with glorious anticipation. Then one by one, as the air warms each bud’s petals, they will show their glory with a sweet scent. Weeks of growth comes to a beautiful climax that lasts just one day. That’s right, each iris bloom lasts just one day. Then, it begins to shrink and curl up. Thankfully, there are multiple blooms on each stalk giving you many days of beauty. But, sooner than later all of the blooms are gone and the greens wither away.
I watch my favorite flower go through this process year after year, and I am always amazed at God’s intricate attention to beauty. The hard, brown, ginger-like root produces one of the most delicate flowing petals bringing beauty to the garden. I would be remiss if I didn’t bring this back to the beginning when I spoke of the conditions needed for blooming and how this is so different from our ability to bloom in God’s glory.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.” ∼1 Peter 1:23-24
In God’s garden, we are preserved for eternity. Adverse conditions won’t inhibit us from blooming, and we don’t shrivel up after one bloom. In fact, God often uses those adverse circumstances to bring the most beautiful blooms of His eternal glory. In order to bloom in God’s garden of glory, the first mandatory requirement is that we are born again believers. Once God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit, then he can bring beauty to any of our circumstances in His will. He gives us nourishment and everything we need to flourish.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” ∼John 15:16
Second, we must listen and obey. The lasting and meaningful fruit in our lives are not of our own accord. Have you ever tried so hard to make a situation thrive or recover it from despair only to find yourself busted and frustrated? Or, when we start to see it work just the way we want it, we see it wither away to nothing. In order to grow in God’s grace, we actually have to take in His living word and live by it.
God is the only one that can work blessings from hardships—blessings that will grow for eternity. Let me share how God tilled his grace into the garden of my life during some of the harshest conditions. My husband and I have been married for more than twenty years, and it has been a journey of love, joy, and adventures. But, like most marriages, it has had its fair share of trials, sickness, death, and despair. I became a born again Christian five years into our marriage. My husband grew up in the church but chose not to have a relationship with Christ. Our marriage was not created on the foundation of God and, until I became a Christian, neither of us cared.
I must have believed on some level: how could God fix something that he’s not fully a part of? My belief was full of unbelief. My fears continually won over my faith. A couple of years ago, we almost ended our commitment to each other. We had worked so hard through the years to save it by attending seminars and counseling and participating in exercise after exercise. None of our efforts made any lasting changes, until God stepped in when I finally stepped aside.
In my unbelief, I used to secretly ask God to give me an out. “Please, Lord, just make this long suffering end!” I longed for it to be over. I was so weary of trying everything known to man to save a relationship that seemed doomed from the beginning. Then, in the beginning of 2017, I had a complete breakthrough with God. I finally believed without a doubt, leaving no room for fear, that God loved me. This broken, bruised, tarnished, and tattered soul was actually whole, beautiful, blessed, without blemish, and strong. The circumstances in my life could not change it. No matter the outcome of whatever it is I face, I know that God has my best interest at hand. My Heavenly Father would not leave me.
So with this said, the night that my husband forced me to leave our home I had first thought, “Well, this is my out.” But was it? I was not even completely out of the driveway when I felt this sinking feeling in my gut that said this was wrong. I knew I was not to be leaving. I felt it at the core of my being. I knew that I could not just turn around and walk back in, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be forever. The very thing that I had been begging for to end my marriage was going to be the one thing that healed it.
Within the next few months, God brought women into my life who were going through similar struggles. We started meeting weekly as a group to encourage each other, pray for each other, and support each other. We cried a river of tears and laughed so hard we cried again. We began seeing blooms through the ice as pictured in Isaiah 35.
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” ∼Isaiah 35:1-2a
Joy and gladness returned where there was only sorrow and strife. But what changed? Our circumstances were still the same. Our lives were full of the same struggles. Then what made the difference? It was our obedience to God. God used a group of five broken women to bring blossoms of beauty in the most arid of desserts.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ∼Galatians 6:2
I encourage you to join me in God’s garden. If you allow him to give you living water by his word and feed you with his Holy Spirit, I can promise you that you will be blessed. The blessings may not be exactly what we want, but if we look between the thorns, we’ll see the beautiful rose blooming for all to see.
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. ∼Psalm 31:24