Great Love!

Do you feel it?

I do.

I see it in the gorgeous sunrise as God once again declares his faithfulness to me with the start of a new day.  I feel it in my 2 year-old granddaughter’s hug.  I see it in the smiles of my friends.  I feel it in the ‘love you’ from my husband of almost 40 years.

It’s the great love God has lavished upon me.

God tells me that I am a precious child and he proves that by showing his love for me in a multitude of ways, every day.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God.”  1 John 3: 1a

It’s very encouraging to realize that the closer I get to God, the more love of his love I feel pouring out over me.  As I’ve been consistently memorizing God’s scripture these last 5 years, I also feel his wisdom pouring out from his Word.  More knowledge.  More understanding.

I am his child!  How much more love and wisdom and knowledge and understanding does he have available for me?

There is no limit!

As 2020 comes to an end, God is revealing his goals for me in the new year.  Yesterday he started the list with fight the battle well,  hold onto the faith, hold onto a good conscience.  Today he stopped me with, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  1 John 4:11.

Love other people.  In my experience, the only way I can genuinely love people is to get close to God and let his love flow through me to others.   As I open up my heart to God, he fills it with so much love that it spills over into the lives of people around me.  It’s all about God, not about me.

I’m looking forward to the opportunities God is going to give me in 2021 to love others with the love God gives me.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Fight the Battle Well

2020 is almost over.  It was one of the longest years on record for me.

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, God did some incredible things in my life this year.  My husband and I sold a house, moved out of state and bought a house during the first nationwide shelter-in I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  The result is that we are right where we needed to be this year when our littlest grandson came into the world.

It also feels like God organized all this zooming for us – to help us transition from where we had lived for over 40 years to a new community, a new city, a new state.  This amount of zooming clearly would not have fit into a normal, non-pandemic calendar and it has helped us continue many relationships which have kept us grounded through all the changes and unknowns.

Now God is speaking to me about 2021.  He has plans.  Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them my ‘words’ for 2021, it’s obvious that God is using these last few days of 2020 to tell me what he wants me to focus on next year.

So God stopped me as Paul talks to Timothy in his first letter to him – “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience..”  1 Timothy 1: 18 & 19.

How do I fight the battle well 2021?  When I’m connected to God through his Word and through his people, he fights my battles with me – guiding me, encouraging me and giving me victory.

How do I hold onto the faith in 2021?  I have a hunger that growls in my soul with the desire to grow in my love for and knowledge of God.  I am confident that turning off the TV and putting down my phone so I have more time to read and study God’s Word is the right thing for me to do.  I’m adding another small group Bible study to my calendar this year.  My favorite thing about retirement – other than not having to set an alarm – is having all the time I want to spend with God.

How do I hold on to a good conscience in 2021?  When I’m in line with God, I know down to the depths of my heart and mind that I’m in the right place.  I feel God’s approval and blessing when I focus on him and what he is calling me to do.

So bring on 2021 with all its challenges and opportunities.   God is by my side.  I’m ready.

Thank you, Abba Father.

The Struggle

I don’t want it.

I don’t like it.

But I feel like I’ve earned my Doctorate in Struggling these last 4 1/2 years since my son, David Glasser, who was a Phoenix Police Officer, was killed in the line of duty.  My struggles before his death all pale in comparison.

If I got a doctorate in this area, my thesis would be, ” As we persevere with faith through our struggles, we grow, we mature.”

God tells us through James this morning that we can become wise through our trials.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like the wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”  James 1: 5 & 6. 

Its a fact – God gives a generous amount of wisdom to all of us who ask but we need to believe we have received it.  Too often we ask for wisdom but then doubt that God has given it to us.  So we don’t use it.  We don’t accept that we can now make a wiser choice.  We ignore the wisdom God has given us and continue to make the wrong decisions, going down a crooked path which often takes us to more trials. 

This is not what God wants for us.  This is not what he wants for me.

I have asked God repeatedly for more wisdom as I deal with the explosive tragedy that blew my world apart when my son was killed.  And God has given it to me.  He also revealed to me how he had prepared me for this tsunami beforehand by drawing me to himself through his Word.  He has taught me that the only way to survive – and thrive – through the struggles with loss and grief that are now a permanent part of my life is to stay close to him. 

I have learned just how dependent I need to be on God.  I can’t do this on my own.

And that is very wise.

Thank you, Abba Father.

A Tight Rein

Sometimes the truth stings.

Sometimes it hits us in a vulnerable spot – an area of weakness.

If we are believers, the Holy Spirit convicts me and convicts you of things in our lives that we need to change.  One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to point out things to us that we need to stop and other things that we need to start.  He does this in a positive “you have the potential to be better in this area” way.  He says, “you are loved as you are and changing this will help you grow into everything God created you to be”  in our heads. His voice can point very clearly to an issue but is always helpful and encouraging.

The Holy Spirit is not the negative, whispering voice some of us hear in our heads reminding us of all our failures and telling us we’ll never be good enough.  That’s Satan.  Don’t listen to him.  Turn him off.

I love how God speaks with a practical and direct voice to me from the letter of James 1: 26,

“If anyone  considers himself religious and yet does not have a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Boom!

Ouch!

The first time I read this with my eyes really open, I spent several days thinking about how this related to me.  I took a critical look at what I talk about and who I talk about.  Are my conversations helpful?  Encouraging?  Building up the other person?  Building up the people who aren’t there?

First, I realized that my conversations could be more encouraging.  We all need encouragement- especially today.  I’m a thinker and a fixer so I can easily skip talking about all the things going well and focus on the issues being discussed.  I am now trying to make sure my conversations include regular and genuine encouragement.

Some of my conversations with my close, Christian friends get into discussing the difficult relationships in my life so they can be brutally honest and painful.  But having these discussions with mature Christians helps me get a different perspective of situations and that is very helpful to me.   After meditating on this verse,  I have tried to make sure in these conversations that I am presenting an evenhanded description of the issues, keeping unkind and venting-type discussion out of it.

One of the things God has called me to be is his light in this very dark and confused world.

What I say reflects on him – good or bad.

Please help me be a good reflection of your love and truth, Abba Father.

Wisdom for Each Day

I need to hear this again.

I’m still surprised some days at how practical God is as he speaks to me from his Word.  Yes, there are many complicated topics in the Bible and, yes, there is a lot of violence especially in the Old Testament.

But God speaks out of all of it when I’m listening.  This is my 9th year reading through the entire Bible and I’m amazed at how obvious God is as he reaches out of the pages to touch my heart and transform my mind.

God stopped me here today.  I have memorized this chapter so these words are etched on my mind and heart and God is highlighting them for you and I –

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  James 1:19

Wow!  I needed to hear this again.  It’s hard to listen – I have been working on this and God is saying I need to continue to work on it.  Got it!

It’s hard to be slow to speak – I’ve got an opinion about everything 🙂  God is telling me I have a ways to go on this one as well.  Got it!

Well, here’s one I don’t have a lot of issues with – anger.  I get frustrated but I have learned (most of the time) to keep my mouth shut during these situations.  It really helps when I consider whether I want to deal with the consequences of what I’m going to say before I say it.  Once it’s said, I can’t take it back.  I can say I’m sorry, but the unhelpful words are still out there – remembered and hurting.

This one verse holds so much wisdom for each day.

Being slow to speak will help me keep away from the temptation to say things I shouldn’t say.   It will give me more time to listen.

And, when I am frustrated, I need to do both – be quick to listen and slow to speak.  I want the words coming out of my mouth to be full of grace and wisdom.  That doesn’t happen when I’m frustrated.

Thank you for speaking to me on this verse again today, Abba Father.

 

How Can I?

The world is crazy.  Bad things just keep happening.  I’m disappointed so often.  I’ve lost so many people I love – one person in particular who should still be here.

God tells us through James to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ James 1: 2 & 3.

How I can I consider it all joy?  But I’m not happy about any of it.

Ok, I know that happiness is not the same as joy.  Happiness depends on my circumstances and joy comes from the condition of my soul.  But persevering is a hard thing to do.  It’s easier to give up when the going gets tough – get frustrated, get angry, get bitter.  Our culture teaches us to choose the ‘easy’ way, the fast way, the immediate gratification way.

God says to you and to me today that these choices don’t lead to maturity and completeness.

As I look back on my ‘trials of many kinds’, I can see God working through each of them.  He guided me, he comforted me and, probably most directly affecting my faith, he taught me many things about myself and about him.

One of the major lessons he gave me was the need for me to trust him in all of it.  That was difficult to do when my son, David Glasser, who was a Phoenix Police officer was killed in the line of duty 4 1/2 years ago.  As I leaned on God through this tragedy, I gradually learned to filter everything through these facts I know are true about God:

God is good, all the time.

God loves me with a perfect love and nothing is impossible for him.

God wants the best for me and he is working all things out for my good.

I have persevered through this tragedy, standing on these truths about God with a huge hole in my life and a heart broken into a million pieces.  Somehow this is the best for me.  Somehow God is working this all out for good for me.  I have learned a lot about trusting God on a whole new level – even when it doesn’t make sense.

God has been seriously working on maturing my faith.  Trusting him with all of this has deepened my love for him and helped me have a better understanding of how dependent I am on him.  I’ve been changed.  My eyes are refocused on God and my ‘forever home’ with him.

Trusting God, I have decided to persevere and grow my faith through my trials with him by my side.  He knows what’s best.

I trust you, Abba Father.

Always Ready……

to fight the enemy.

Prepared.

Equipped.

Satan is plotting against me every day – watching for the weaknesses in my defense.  Satan is whispering in your ear – do you hear him?  Telling you you’re a loser or encouraging you to make decisions that are going to create negative consequences for you.

It’s a battle.

God has given you and I real armor in order to fight this battle.  He teaches us about how to use it through what Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:

The Belt of Truth needs to be buckled around our waist.  This is what we’re working on right now as we read God’s word – knowing and living the truth.  All the lies swirling around me are not going to change my thinking when I know the Truth.

The Breastplate of Righteousness needs to be in place – protecting our hearts.  I know the right thing to do because I know the truth. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living within me, I can do the right thing.

We must put on the the sandals of peace – always ready to share the Good News of Salvation.  The only real peace any of us will ever find here on earth is in a relationship with Jesus.

We carry our Shield of Faith with us everyday so we can deflect the flaming arrows coming at us from Satan and his army.  He’ll try to  distract me or harm me but my faith will keep me safe and steady.

We put on the Helmet of Salvation to protect our minds from the confusion, anger and evil which surround us.  My perspective is very different from the culture around me because the Spirit of God lives within me.

The Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon we need.  Satan has already lost the war.  And when I know and use the Word of God in my thinking, decisions and actions, Satan is reminded of his defeat and he retreats.  Every time.

Thank you for your perfect armor, Abba Father.

Unity

Unity is a popular buzzword in our culture.  We all want unity.

I’ve seen unity – significant, unexpected unity where disagreement becomes agreement.  But I’ve only seen genuine unity when God is involved.  God unifies us when we are all seeking his will.  God tells us through Paul this morning, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 11 – 13

Unity of the faith – it’s the only true unity I’ve seen.  This is unity where nobody gave up or gave in or walked away frustrated or angry.  This unity starts within our minds and hearts as God touches us, guides us and unifies us.

I’ve seen this in church when there are many differing opinions but, as we all focused upward, we came to the same conclusion.

I’ve seen this in discussions with people who were very far away from each other in perspectives but, when everybody talked to God about it and listened, suggestions and ideas started to flow which changed the decision into something everyone could agree upon.

Unity.

The place I have seen the most supernatural unity happen is in my own marriage.  My husband and I are opposites in many ways but we both love God and have a personal, daily relationship with him.  We’ve been married almost 40 years and have had to make many life-changing decisions over those years.  We have often not agreed initially on which direction to take but, as we each listened to God, he brought us to the same perspective on our next step.  Sometimes this happened gradually and other times it was quick.

Our most recent big decision was whether or not to move to Denver after living in the Phoenix area for over 40 years.  I was surprised when God said ‘move’ to each of us individually overnight.

Its much easier to make significant decisions when God puts us on the same page.  It’s not about what we want – it’s all about what he wants.

Thank you, Father God, for providing unity in faith.

 

 

 

It’s Hard

It’s very difficult to really understand.  The rest of our world doesn’t work like this.  It’s totally counter culture.

You and I have a tough time accepting the fact that when we put our faith in Jesus,  God forgives us for all our rebellion and self-centeredness and attempts to do things our way.  He loves us unconditionally – not because we are good, but because he is good.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God – not by works so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2: 8 & 9.

I memorized this verse many years ago and completed several Bible studies about God’s grace until – gradually – the truth sunk into my soul and changed my perspective.  I started to understand God’s grace.  I started to live in God’s grace.  When my heart and mind finally accepted that it was a free gift – nothing I could earn – my relationship with God flipped upside down.  I stopped trying to be good enough and started living in gratitude for everything God has done for me.

I was raised in a Christian family in a small town in Iowa.  There were a lot of rules for Christians in this small town – what we should wear, what we could and couldn’t do on Sundays, how often we should go to church, and the list goes on.  And everybody watched each other very closely.

When I moved away and matured, I realized that this was a fake, man-made way to ‘look like a Christian’.  I now know there is nothing I can do to earn God’s grace – Jesus did it all.  As I learned to love God without rules, he transformed my heart and my thinking which caused many outward changes to my behavior and priorities.  I gradually ‘looked more like a Christian’ because I was growing closer to God – nothing fake about it.

God’s grace was difficult for me at first to understand and accept, but when I ‘got it’, it rocked my world.

Thank you for your grace, Abba Father.

Paul’s Prayer…

and mine.

I join with Paul today as he prays for us in Ephesians 3,

“I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.

You are awesome, Father.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

Please give us your strength, Father.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.”

Make your home in our hearts, Jesus, and teach us how to grow our trust in you.

“Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Grow our roots, Father and keep us strong.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”

Please give us the power to feel the perfect love you pour out on us each day, Jesus.

“Then you will be made complete with all of the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Only you can make us complete, Abba.  The power to live a full life comes from you.

“Now all glory to God , who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

We believe, Father, that you can do anything – things beyond what we can imagine –  and that you want to accomplish your plans through us.  We are your hands and feet on earth.

“Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Amen.  Love you, Father.