God Knows

Developmental Behavior & Emotions, Age 2-5 Seminars Proactive Parenting |  Children hitting, Angry child, Kids and parenting

Joy is getting quite the vocabulary and she can tell me a lot of the time what she wants or needs. “Diaper.” “Juice.” “Snack.” “Music.” “Roly Poly Oly” “Down, please.” I do my best to meet every request. Then there are times when she is tired or frustrated or overwhelmed. She can’t verbalize what she wants or needs. She will cry and fuss and rant and thrown an all-out-temper-tantrum. Those are the times when I just pick her up and hold her close, I put her head on my chest and rest my face on the top of her head so that my breath makes her hair ruffle. Calm soon takes over her, and she will usually fall asleep.

There are days when the needs in my life are obvious: healing when I had my shoulder surgery, provision when our food and money had run out, wisdom when I faced a big decision, peace when my heart is filled with fear or frustration, hope when I don’t see any good resolution to a serious conflict. I can come to God and tell Him the problem (and solutions to the problem, but that was another post). God is faithful to meet my needs. He is healing my shoulder. He has sent food and money to get us through. He has spoken wisdom and peace and hope to me. 

Then there are days when I don’t know how to explain what’s wrong, and I don’t know what to ask of God, and I don’t know how to tell Him what I need. Truly, those days are when He seems to work the most powerfully. Because He knows my need, even if I am clueless. He knows my heart, even when I can’t hear a normal rhythm over the pounding of anxiety. He knows my thoughts though they are racing in a thousand different directions all at the same time. “What if . . . or what if . . . or I hope this doesn’t happen!” Those are the times when He draws me close, up into His big lap with His strong arms surrounding me.  He eases my head against His chest, resting His cheek on top and I can feel His breath ruffling the hair on the top of my head.  Calm descends and it becomes clear. All I needed was Him.

Beloved, you can always tell God what you need. And when you don’t know what you need, He does. He will meet your unspoken need. Especially when what you need is Him.

It Came to Pass . . .

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“So it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made” (Genesis 8:6)

When my son was a baby, a friend gave me some great advice: “Remember, the Bible says, ‘It came to pass,’ not it came to stay.” You can bet I passed it on to my daughter-in-law when my granddaughter was born. Those long sleepless nights will eventually pass and she will sleep through the night. Teething and colic eventually pass. When I spend a couple of hours holding her while she sleeps I remember that these days will pass all too quickly and I’ll miss watching her peaceful face. It’s good parenting advice, but it’s also good life advice.

We will all face difficult days and seasons. But it’s helpful to remind ourselves that those days come and go – they are not forever. In those times I look back at Noah’s story and remember that after many, many days aboard the ark, it came to pass that the waters began to recede and Noah opened the window to let out the dove and let in the fresh air and sunshine. My troubles will pass and so will yours.

Another way to look at this is that the days of our lives come to pass not to stay and the opportunities before us and the people around us are also not permanent.  I have many regrets over things I knew the Lord wanted me to do that I thought I could get around to later. But later never came and the window closed. This past year has taught me, as it has so many of us, that the people we love cannot stay in our lives forever. I never dreamed my big brother would be in heaven before the year’s end. I know many friends for whom COVID has caused great grief. Jobs and business were shown to be temporary, and even the highest office in the nation passed from one hand to another this year.

So here is my advice: Don’t fret the sleepless nights of parenthood, nor the difficult days of life. It does not seem so in the middle of it all, but they will pass. And don’t waste the opportunities God gives you, nor time with the people you love. Life on earth comes to pass, not to stay. Make it count Beloved.

For The One Who Loves a Prodigal

I wrote this almost 5 years ago and just rediscovered it. God’s timing is impeccable. I need this message now more than I did then. Someone else may need it too. It’s for those of us who love a prodigal.

Acts 8:26-40 records the account of Philip and the Ethiopian (go ahead and read it-I’ll wait right here for you). Philip met an angel of the Lord who sent him on a mission. “Go south to the road – the desert road – that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There Philip met an Ethiopian who served in the court of the queen of the Ethiopians. Scholars contend that he was a God-seeker who had not converted to full Judaism. He was returning from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship. He was riding in his chariot, reading from Isaiah – about the “sheep led to the slaughter,” and did not understand what he was reading  Enter Philip who clarified the Scriptures to the man, and from them, shared the good news about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit worked through The Word and Philip’s words and the man received Christ and immediately was baptized.

I want you to zero in on verse 29: “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.'” This phrase in Greek means “Go to that chariot and ‘stick with it.'” I thought about someone I love that I’ve been praying for many years and how I wonder if they will ever “get it.” The Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Stick with them.” In our human nature, it is easy to become weary and want to just give up on difficult people. But if God has set them in your life, no matter how stubborn they are, He has called you to “stick with them.” That means more than tolerating them. That means: Keep praying. “The prayer of a righteous man [woman, parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, pastor] offered in faith . . . is powerful and effective” (James 5:15,16). Keep loving. “Love always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:7,8). Keep forgiving. “I tell you, [forgive] not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Then trust God to do the rest. “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). 

Years later my prodigal is still a prodigal, but I’m sticking with them because God is faithful. Beloved, whom has God called you to stick with?

Make Every Minute Count

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A verse came to me this morning: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25). Then another: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). They were very convicting to me.  If I can truly say that earth has nothing I desire above God, and that Jesus alone has the words of eternal life, then why do I spend more time on Facebook than I do in the Good Book? Why do I listen to the opinions of others rather than listening to the only words that matter? And why does my quiet time get derailed by social media and emails and news and checking my bank account?

So I asked the Lord, “Have I forsaken my first love?” In Revelation, the Lord Jesus addressed seven churches, the first was the church in Ephesus (2:1-7). He commended them for their perseverance, endurance, and not tolerating wickedness and false apostles. But He also chastised them for “forsaking their first love” (v. 4) He said, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Remember the things you did at first” (v. 5). I remembered the days before the internet was part of my daily life. I would spend long stretches of time studying God’s Word and writing – prayers and devotions and lessons. I would spend days chewing on one passage or theme in Scripture. Those are the “things I did at first.” Granted, a lot more has changed in my life: work, school, my granddaughter, but those legitimate things should make me all the more determined to make every minute count when I have one.

Yet social media is a ministry platform, a way to speak life and truth and encouragement to others – to you. I believe God has called me to this.  But it should not take away from Him. I must allow the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of self-control in me.

Beloved, are you paying attention to how you spend the gift of precious minutes? Who gets the most – God or a hand-held device?  (Yes, I know, you’re probably reading this on your phone.) I would ask the same question another way – who sees your face the most – your children or your screens?  If I stepped on your toes, know that mine are also throbbing. To adapt Moses’ words: “Lord, teach us to number our minutes aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). What will you do to make every minute count?

Sing to the Lord

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Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the saints” (Psalm 149:1).

It didn’t take long to discover Joy’s favorite Christmas presents – they were all the toys that made music. She loves music. Music has always soothed her – and excited her.  Her mommy said that when she played “All My Hope” by Crowder, Joy would get very active in the womb. I sing when she is upset and I sing her to sleep with songs about Jesus. It is my favorite thing to do. And at 19 months she sings the “ABC Song,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “God is so Good” very clearly and is making up her own little songs all the time.  It makes this Nana’s heart burst with – well Joy!

The Bible tells us to sing more than 150 times. Psalm 8:2 says “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise,’ and Psalm 149: 5 says “Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for Joy on their beds.” We are called to sing because He is worthy. But singing praise songs is good for you and me too. Several years ago during a serious bout with depression, “After All/Holy” by (again) Crowder came on the radio. I tried to sing, but all I could do was sob until the 2nd verse and words began to replace my cries, and by the end of that song I was singing with full voice and a face full of tears. It was the turning point in my depression.

The urge to sing is part of what makes us uniquely like our Creator.  He loves to sing. What’s even more amazing is that He loves to sing over me and you. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Just like I sing to calm my granddaughter, God sings to “quiet you with His love.” God sings when our hearts are weary and sorrowful.  He sings when we are anxious and upset. He sings when we need rest.

As this very difficult year draws to a close, may I encourage you to take some time to sit quietly in His presence and listen for the sound of heavenly music. The God of heaven and earth is singing over you Beloved. It is His favorite thing to do.

Grown-Up Faith

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“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15

I grew up in a Christian home, my mom took us to Sunday School, church, Sunbeams, Vacation Bible School, and so on.  I don’t recall a time when I didn’t know about the God who created the whole world and I always knew that Jesus loved me.  I asked Him into my heart when I was nine years old and was baptized.  For many years I did Christianity my own way until my way proved unstable and God drew me back to the church. But rather than learning Bible stories, this time I began to learn Bible truth, and I started to see things in Scripture I had never seen before. I realized that what I had was “faith” built on sweet Bible legends, but it was not saving faith for eternal life.

Biblical scholar Dr. Irwin Lutzer says that true faith is three-fold. “First it involves knowledge, the fact of Jesus’ death for sinners.  Second, it means we assent to the truths of salvation; finally, it involves trust, the transferring of all of our confidence to Christ alone.”[1]  We recognize our own need for a Savior, confess that Jesus’ death secured our salvation, and believe that through God’s grace we are forever redeemed and set free. Many of us who grew up going to church get to the first stage and most also reach the second. But few will go beyond knowledge and assent to trust.

Faith – saving faith – is more than knowing Bible stories. It is knowing the God behind the stories and surrendering your whole being to Him through trust in Jesus Christ. It is radical and extraordinary and if it doesn’t transform your life, it’s probably not saving faith.

I’m so grateful that the Lord opened my eyes to the truth nearly forty years ago. I decided to fully trust in Him and I’ve never looked back. He’s proven faithful and true every single day. Beloved is your faith in those sweet childhood stories about God or is it in God Himself? Is it time for your faith to grow up?

[1] Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians, (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1998), 99.

Do You Believe?

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But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Little children become lookouts on Christmas Eve. Their ears strain for the slightest whisper of sleigh bells and they stand attentive at the window, watching and waiting for Santa Claus. They have written their letters and made their pleas for toys and dolls and bikes. The cookies and milk are ready for him. Now they watch with confident hope and expectation that Santa will come. Oh sure, they heard the big kids laughing and saying that there is no Santa, but for them, the magic is real and they still believe. But we are grown-ups and we know that Santa is just a myth. We know who actually bought the dolls and the Legos and who has to put the bike together if the kids will ever go to sleep.

We live in a world that tries to tell us that God is not real, that he is a myth, a fool’s wishful thinking, an imaginary friend. They have lost their ability to believe in the Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth and you and me – and them. They tell us we are praying to the winds, there is no one there to hear us.

 But as for me . . . I will continue to believe. I will watch in hope for God to fulfill His promises – just as He did with a Baby in a manger. I will trust in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I will wait for Him because I know with all my heart that He is real and He is coming. I will proclaim His great name in every place and in every way. I will stand under the banner of Christ, even if no one else stands with me. And I will continue to bow my head in prayer because my God hears me. I know He is true.

Friend, won’t you come and stand watch with me at the window—I believe I hear the sounds of angels in the distance.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14).

We Want to See Jesus

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The teacher asked the boy. “What are you drawing?” “I’m drawing a picture of Jesus,” he answered. “But nobody knows what Jesus looked like,” she said. “They will when I’m done!” he replied.

That’s been one of the naysayer’s most fervent arguments against the existence of God: no one has ever seen Him. How can we believe in someone we’ve never seen. Or have we? The Old Testament prophet declared, “The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it” (Isaiah 40:5). God revealed His glory in His Son, the man Jesus. Paul said, “He [Jesus] is the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). John wrote, “The Word [who was God] became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn: 1,1, 14).  Jesus is God and He revealed God to mankind.  But “nobody knows what Jesus looked like., so we still don’t know what God looks like. Ah, but we’re looking for the wrong thing. Jesus – and thus God – looks like glory. The Greek word for glory is doxa, meaning the awesome, brilliant light that radiates from God’s presence.

If you had been at the manger in Bethlehem two thousand years ago you would have seen it shining brightly. But you haven’t missed out on it entirely, it’s still visible today. No, it’s not in the candles in the church or the lights on your Christmas tree. It’s in the faces of every person who has bowed their heart and received Jesus as their Savior. Jesus – who is “the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12) transfers His light – His glory –  to those who believe that He is the Son of God – “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being,” (Heb. 1:3). That is why Jesus said to His followers, “You [now] are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Something happens when we let go of our guilt and shame and sin and receive the forgiveness and love of God through Jesus – the Baby in the manger. The glory of God lights up our hearts and our faces. Beloved, can the world see Jesus through you?

Be Silent

When I was in first grade I was put in the corner multiple times for talking. I have not outgrown that need to express myself. But I am learning about the power of God in silence. And it’s a very challenging lesson.  There is someone dear in my life who is making some very poor decisions and I have a LOT I want to say to him. But God has urged me to silence.

The lesson is rooted in the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (admit it – you started singing in your head didn’t you?) When Moses died, Joshua took over the leadership of the nation of Israel. He was well-suited for the next phase in their journey for they were facing a lot of warfare to take over possession of the Promised Land. Joshua was leading the people in the direction of Jericho when the “Commander of the army of the Lord” came to him with the strangest battle plan in history. But he followed it to a T. For six days the entire nation walked silently outside the walls of the city as the priests blew the trumpets. I would have shaken my fist and shouted to the people on the other side of that wall, “You’re going down! God is going to give us the city! You don’t stand a chance!” But that was not the plan. Words were nowhere near as intimidating as the sound of trumpets and shuffling feet.

God is telling me, “I know how frustrated you are. I know you have wise words you think will straighten him out, but he will never hear me with you running your mouth at him. Be silent.” Argh!  But, of course, He’s right. So like Joshua and the people of Israel, I am going to Stand Still (that’s a great song by the Issacs) and pray and watch. You know the rest of Joshua’s story. On the seventh day, the people marched and then the command was given to SHOUT – and the walls came tumbling down. I suspect I’m not the only person dealing with a stubborn stone wall. All your advice and – let’s be honest – nagging have has fallen on deaf ears. So Beloved, be silent. Stand Still. Let God do the work. And the talking

Shut up, Satan!

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants, You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:1-2

I have always read this verse with the image of the “Cherub Choir” of little children gathered in front of the church, singing (and wiggling and giggling and waving) to the delight of the congregation. It’s such a sweet vision. But God gave me another perspective of this verse as I wrote it in my prayer journal this morning.  “Ordained” jumped out at me, like the Spirit turned a spotlight on that specific word. Oh, the dig is on! This word means “to lay a foundation, to establish,” and as I researched farther I found a slightly different version of verse 8: “Through the praise of children and infants You have established a stronghold against Your enemies.” I got glory goosebumps as the Spirit turned that Cherub Choir into a fortress, a strong tower against the enemy that God and I – and you – share.

I have studied the Names of God for many years and one name that I use often is The Lord my Stronghold. When I call on Yahweh Metsudhathi He surrounds me and protects me from our enemy. This verse says that what builds that stronghold, that protective wall, is praise. That is why I always try to start my prayers – written or spoken – with praise. It’s not that God needs an ego boost, but I need to look at my struggles and trials and challenges in the shadow of the One who is greater than all of them. There is a bonus to praise that verse 2 presents. Read it again. Do you see how the praise of little children “silences the foe and the avenger.”? When you and I praise the Lord, the enemy shuts his lying mouth! Yes!! That’s the power of praising the mighty Name of God! Have you ever wanted to stop satan’s taunts? Praise the Lord!

You have a real enemy and you will never get through this battle without a strong tower, a fortress, a place of defense, and protection. Beloved, God is your Defender, and praise is your defense – it is your shield of faith. Tell the devil to shut his mouth by filling yours with praise!