A Sheltered Spot for You

Tree by a Stream

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

Isaiah 26:3

All we need to do in time of sorrow and loneliness is to stay our minds upon God, to trust Him, to rest in Him, to nestle in His love. We remember where John was found the night of the Lord’s last supper with His disciples, – the darkest night the world ever saw, in the deepest sorrow men ever knew, – he was leaning on Jesus’ breast. He crept into that holy shelter to find quiet.

John was kept in perfect peace during all those terrible hours. Everything appeared to have slipped away and there was nothing that seemed abiding. But John crept into the shelter of love and simply trusted, and was kept in holy peace.

A beautiful story is told of Rudyard Kipling during a serious illness a few years since. The trained nurse was sitting at his bedside on one of the anxious nights when the sick man’s condition was most critical. She was watching him intently and noticed that his lips began to move. She bent over him, and heard him whisper the words of the old familiar prayer of childhood, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” The nurse, realizing that her patient did not require her services, and that he was praying, said in apology for having intruded upon him, “I beg your pardon, Mr. Kipling; I thought you wanted something.” “I do,” faintly replied the sick man: “I want my heavenly Father. He only can care for me now.

In his great weakness there was nothing that human help could do, and he turned to God and crept into His bosom, seeking the blessing and the care which none but God can give. That is what we need to do in every time of trial, of sorrow, – when the gentlest human love can do nothing, – creep into our heavenly Father’s bosom, saying, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” That is the way to peace. Earth has no shelter in which it can be found, but in God the feeblest may find it.  —JR Miller

Out of Darkness

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1 Peter 2:9 (WEB)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence
of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

Are you ready to march?

Think about the Christian you want to be. What qualities do you want to have: more compassion…more conviction…more courage? What attitudes do you want to discontinue: greed…guilt…endless negativity? With God’s help you can! You can close the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. Indeed, the person God made you to be. You can live “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To inherit your inheritance is God’s vision for your life! Imagine the thought. You as you were intended. It’s a life that is yours for the taking. You can expect to be challenged. The enemy won’t go down without a fight. But God’s promises outweigh personal problems. Victory becomes, dare we imagine, a way of life. Isn’t it time for you to change your mailing address from the wilderness to the promised land? Are you ready to march?

~ Max Lucado

We are the World! Happy New Year!

Praying for blessings to all of you around the world. May we all come together to find what is best in each of us. Love surely is better than hate. Working together, standing together, loving together will make the difference. If you are upset about something, find your voice. Go on Twitter, Facebook, start a Website, care and share positive ideas and progressive thinking instead of crying in a corner. We can all light the place where we stand and that light will shine enough to change things.

Be blessed with much love, joy, and happiness!

Sharon & Erick

We are the world!

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of Gods great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving

Why I love Christmas

When Christ was born, so was our hope! This is why I love Christmas. The event invites us to believe the wildest of promises! He did away with every barrier, fence, sin, bent, debt, and grave. Anything that might keep us from him was demolished.

He only awaits our word to walk through the door. Invite him in. Escort him to the seat of honor, and pull out his chair. Clear the table; clear the calendar. Call the kids and neighbors. Christmas is here. Christ is here. One request from you, and God will do again what he did then. He’ll scatter the night with everlasting light. He’ll be born in you.

Let “Silent Night” be sung! Every heart can be a manger. Every day can be a Christmas.  The Christmas miracle—a yearlong celebration! ~Max Lucado

The Heart of the Human Problem

The sinful nature is the stubborn, self-centered attitude that says, “My way or the highway.” The sinful nature is all about self: pleasing self, promoting self, preserving self. I have a sin nature! So do you. Under the right circumstances you will do the wrong thing. You’ll try not to, but you will. You have a sin nature. You were born with it. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart!

Christmas commemorates the day and the way God saved us from ourselves. The angel speaking to Mary in Matthew 1:21 says, “. . .you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Each of us entered the world with a sin nature. God entered the world to take it away!

~ Max Lucado

Worried Enough to Pray?

by Max Lucado
Last week’s blog struck a nerve. I wrote a piece entitled “Decency for President.” The premise was a simple one. Shouldn’t a presidential candidate who claims to be Christian talk like one? When a candidate waves a Bible in one speech and calls a reporter “bimbo” in the next, isn’t something awry? Specifically, when Donald Trump insists that he is a Christian (“a good Christian” to use his descriptor) and then blasts, belittles, and denigrates everyone from Barbara Bush to John McCain to Megyn Kelly, shouldn’t we speak up?

If the candidate is not a Christian, then I have no right to speak. But if the candidate does what Trump has done, wave a Bible and attempt to quote from it, then we, his fellow Christians need to call him to at least a modicum of Christian behavior, right?

Again, I struck a nerve. More than three million of you read the article in the first 36 hours! Thousands of you weighed in with your comments. They were fascinating to read. (Not all of them pleasant to read, mind you. The dozens of you who told me to stick to the pulpit and stop meddling in politics– I get it. By the way, I’d like to invite you to attend our services. My upcoming message is “Kindness”.) Detractors notwithstanding, your comments were heartfelt and passionate.

I detected a few themes.

You have a deep sense of love for our country. Patriotism oozed through your words. You cherish the uniqueness and wonder of the USA. You have varying opinions regarding leadership style, role of government, and political strategy. But when it comes to loving the country, you are unanimously off the charts.

You have an allergy to “convenient” Christians. You resist people who don the Christian title at convenient opportunities (i.e., presidential campaigns). You would prefer the candidate make no mention of faith rather than leave the appearance of a borrowed faith that will be returned to the lender after the election.

You are concerned, profoundly concerned, about the future of our country. The debt. Immorality. National security. The role of the Supreme Court. Immigration. Religious liberty. The list is as long as the worries are deep.

So where does this leave us? When a person treasures the country, but has trepidation about its future, what is the best course of action?

Elijah can weigh in on this question.

He lived during one of the darkest days in the history of Israel. The Northern Kingdom had 19 kings, each one of whom was evil. Hope had boarded the last train and optimism the final flight. The leaders were corrupt and the hearts of the people were cold. But comets are most visible against the black sky. And in the midst of the darkness, a fiery comet by the name of Elijah appeared.

The name Elijah means, “My God is Jehovah.” And he lived up to his name. He appeared in the throne room of evil King Ahab with a weather report. “‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1).

Elijah’s attack was calibrated. Baal was the fertility god of the pagans, the god to whom they looked for rain and fertile fields. Elijah called for a showdown: the true God of Israel against the false god of the pagans. How could Elijah be so confident of the impending drought? Because he had prayed.

Eight centuries later the prayers of Elijah were used as a model.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:16-18).

James was impressed that a prayer of such power came from a person so common. Elijah was “a human being” but his prayers were heard because he prayed earnestly. This was no casual prayer, comfortable prayer, but a radical prayer. “Do whatever it takes, Lord,” Elijah begged, “even if that means no water.”

What happened next is one of the greatest stories in the Bible. Elijah told the 450 prophets of Baal: You get a bull, I’ll get a bull. You build an altar, I’ll build an altar. You ask your god to send fire; I’ll ask my God to send fire. The God who answers by fire is the true God.

The prophets of Baal agreed and went first.

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’

“So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:27-29).

(Elijah would have flunked a course in diplomacy.) Though the prophets cut themselves and raved all afternoon, nothing happened. Finally Elijah asked for his turn.

“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel’” (1 Kings 18:30-31).

Elijah poured four jugs of water (remember, this was a time of drought) over the altar three times. Then Elijah prayed.

“LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.   Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36-37).

Note how quickly and dramatically God answered.

“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!’” (1 Kings 18:38-39).

“Pow!” the altar was ablaze. God delighted in and answered Elijah’s prayer. God delights in and answers our prayers as well.

Let’s start a fire, shall we?

If your responses to my blog are any indication, you are anxious. You love this country, yet you are troubled about the future. You wonder what the future holds and what we can do. Elijah’s story provides the answer. We can pray. We can offer earnest, passionate prayers.

It’s time to turn our concerns into a unified prayer. Let’s join our hearts and invite God to do again what he did then; demonstrate His power. Super Tuesday, March 1, is the perfect day for us to step into the presence of God.

Dear Lord,

You outrank any leader. You hold sway over every office. Greater is the occupant of Heaven’s throne than the occupant of the White House.

You have been good to this country. You have blessed us in spite of our sin and guarded us in spite of our rebellion.

We unite our hearts in one prayer. Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done. Please, speak through the electoral process to reveal your leader.

This we pray in the name of Jesus,

Amen

© Max Lucado
February 29, 2016

The Lost Art of Listening

Incourage.Me

I was listening to a podcast recently by two of my favorite human beings — Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at the Sky and Myquillyn Smith of The Nesting Place (this podcast is called, Hope*Ologie and I recommend it as a sort of Vitamin D for the soul). Anyway, they were each taking a turn answering listener questions but soon discovered that while one was sharing their answer the other was inevitably not listening because they were too busy trying to think up their own answer.

It made me laugh.

It made them laugh.

Listening to friends laughing while you’re folding laundry is a great way to start a week.

But it got me thinking.

Because some days I think friendship feels like that — one person sharing and another person thinking about what they’re going to say. Instead of listening to what’s being said.

Some days a friend is trying to share and instead of laying down all the things we’re mentally fiddling around with and focusing our heads, hearts, eyes, and mouths at our friend, we’re actually preoccupied with a sort of mental gymnastics planning what WE want to say next.

Sometimes I imagine those conversations like this:

Friend: Gah, I’m so sad today. I feel stupid and dumb at my job, and there’s this weird nagging loneliness I can’t seem to shake.

Me: (internally thinking: Oh man, I know EXACTLY how that feels — this week has been the WORST. Just wait till I tell her about how I blew that deadline and how I’m sure my boss thinks I’m stupid and why won’t my kids go to bed on time anymore.)

Friend takes a breath: —-

Me: Oh man, I know EXACTLY how that feels — this week has been the WORST. Just wait till I tell you about how I blew that deadline and how I’m sure my boss thinks I’m stupid and why won’t my kids go to bed on time anymore.

Friend: (stranded and without a way to steer the conversation back to the encouragement they so desperately need just feels even lonelier instead).

The thing is, sometimes it’s not our turn to talk.

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” {James 1: 19-21, MSG}

Sometimes, listening is the most powerful gift we can give a friend. Especially when they’re trying to share something that feels vulnerable to them or that feels vulnerable to us — for example, when they feel misunderstood and they’re trying to tell us about it.

Because sometimes our determination to speak before we’re properly done listening is an act of self-defense. We load our responses, our arguments, and our words up in front of us to block out what’s being said and lob our own point of view out into the conversation instead.

Nothing will shut down true communication faster.

But nothing will disarm a friend more than the grace you grant them when you listen with palms up and walls down — inviting their hurt or their joy, their exhaustion or their delight, their fear or their fun, into your own self so you can understand it from the inside out.

Nothing is more powerful than giving someone the gift of truly hearing them without tagging on your own conditions, explanations, or justifications.

Here are three easy ways to put this into practice:

1. Listen to the whole story before you start formulating a response.

2. Ask follow-up questions.

3. Repeat the key parts of what you heard, empathizing with them.

Question for you: What makes you feel truly heard? Let’s crowd-source some of the best ways we can revive the lost art of listening well. 

Sowing Seeds

Many parents aren’t proud of their family trees. The harvest was taken, but no seed was sown. Childhood memories bring more hurt than inspiration. If such is the case, put down the family scrapbook and pick up your Bible. John 3:6 reminds us, “Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit.” Your parents have given you genes, but God gives you grace.

Didn’t have a good father?  Galatians 4:7 says God will be your father. Didn’t have a good role model?  Ephesians 5:1 says, “You are God’s child whom He loves, so try to be like Him.”

You cannot control the way your forefathers responded to God. But you can control the way you respond to Him. The past does not have to be your prison. Choose well and someday—generations from now—your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will thank God for the seeds you sowed!

From When God Whispers Your Name

~ Max Lucado

And so I choose . . .

It’s quiet.

It’s early.

For the next 12 hours I’ll be exposed to the day’s demands.

It’s now that I must make a choice.

And so I choose—love.

I will love God and what God loves.

  • I choose joy.
  • I choose peace. I will live forgiven.
  • I choose patience—Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I’ll thank God for a moment to pray.
  • I choose kindness—for that’s how God has treated me.
  • I choose goodness.
  • I choose faithfulness.  Today I’ll keep my promises. My wife will not question my love.
  • I choose gentleness.  If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
  • I choose self-control.  I will be impassioned only by my faith and influenced only by God.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

When this day is done, I’ll place my head on my pillow and rest.

~ Max Lucado

Obeying God brings great joy

Have you experienced the joy of obedience?

No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what it right. O Lord Almighty, happy are those who trust in you.

Psalm 84:11-12 NLT

This is what I told them: “Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Only do as I say, and all will be well!”

Jeremiah 7:23 NLT

We all live in a web of relationships dependent upon obedience to authority. Like a loving parent, God sets standards for our good and to protect us from evil and harm. God desires obedience motivated not by fear but by love and trust. Ironically, obedience actually frees us up to enjoy life as God intended, because it keeps us from becoming entangled or enslaved to those things that distract us and cause us heartache. Even though God’s command is sometimes difficult, or doesn’t make sense from our human perspective, obedience will always bring blessing, joy, and peace.

adapted from TouchPoint Bible with devotional commentary by Ron Beers and Gilbert Beers, Tyndale House Publishers (1996), p 1238

Digging Deeper

For more on obedience, see End of the Spear by Steve Saint, Tyndale House Publishers (2005).

Steve Saint was five years old when his father, missionary pilot Nate Saint, was speared to death by a primitive Ecuadorian tribe. In adulthood, Steve, having left Ecuador for a successful business career in the United States, never imagined making the jungle his home again. But when that same tribe asks him to help them, Steve, his wife, and their teenage children move back to the jungle. There, Steve learns long-buried secrets about his father’s murder, confronts difficult choices, and finds himself caught between two worlds.

Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House