It's beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas! What a beautiful morning with just a little snow to make things merry and bright--and no shoveling! Merry Christmas!
Good Morning Broken and Healing, Tested and True, Worshiping in the Storms, Showered with Love, Grace, and Mercy Children of the King of the Universe! Is that you? It sure can be! God is God and we are not. It's impossible to fathom and comprehend all His ways. But it is possible to know and understand that He has our best in mind always, even when we face some very hard testing of our faith, stretching of our faith, and even grief. He wants you to know and be assured that He really loves you, is with you and will help you through whatever you are facing today. Allow God to comfort, strengthen, grow and use you. He does have great plans awaiting the other side. Choose joy! Receive His shalom!
Some days, like this morning, it's very obvious that God is speaking to my heart with something for me and/or others. Last week and continuing into yesterday was not the most fun vacation yet Karen and I were able to choose joy, see God's hand in everything, praise Him and just know that He is at work. His ways are truly not ours and His plans don't always match our expectations, but so what? He knows best! And we have learned to trust Him, receive with thanksgiving His presence and stretching and peace. Yesterday continued the pattern of sickness, storms, and our plans not quite happening as we thought. BUT GOD! PTL! He always has something good in the works! Yesterday Karen started with my cold from last week on her very busy transition day back to work. God awoke me at 1:30 and we had a great quiet time. Expecting to be able to take a nice nap after I sent the blog before working on Sunday's message and plans, I turned around to find water lapping at my chair (my office is in the basement). This hasn't happened in the 4 years we lived here. (Didn't know our house came with a wadding pool!) God allowed Karen the grace and strength to have a pretty productive day. He also, showed me His loving presence with allowing me to complete Sunday's stuff and the strength and wisdom to get everything cleaned up and drying out. And He allowed me to sleep in until 3 this morning, healed and refreshed. PTL! He is really for us in spite of what we may think or our circumstances and His mercies are new every morning! PTL! I really love God and how He works! It's always something different, new, unexpected, exciting and cause for joy and thanksgiving. However, we sometimes have to choose those things and look for the silver linings as we try to count our many blessings. Wonder what all God has in store for today! Whatever, His grace will be sufficient and I have the opportunity to choose joy and receive His shalom. PTL!
Today, I believe God has a word for some of you too as we engage with Him through our devotionals. What's He saying to you? Journal it and discuss it with some friends and choose joy and receive shalom. Charles Stanley speaks about God's restorative mercy. He begins with this thought, "Today, you may be wondering, Can the Father bring joy and meaning back to my life? Can He really heal me of all my regrets?" Well, we all know the Sunday school answer to that, but do we really know and believe and experience the truth? Are we able to make the transition to receiving His loving best and choosing joy? Try to turn off the noise inside your head, of your circumstances and of the chaos all around and still yourself to know and receive. Next I read ODB about learning from our scars. How often have we wrestled with God? How many of us have that "limp" from His reminder and blessing? How has that been transformative as you shed your old ways and nature and step into your new name more fully? As I was meditating on that, I couldn't help but think about Paul's thorn in the flesh. Lo and behold I open TWFYT talking about that and being broken, restored and used by God as He and/or we humble ourselves. What "thorn" is keeping you humble and reliant on God? We remember who we were and how we used to be with regrets and Satan loves to keep bringing those failures to mind. Turn off that noise! You are forgiven--MUCH--Always! Humble yourself. Dying to self sometimes includes letting those past things go and refocusing on our Forgiver, Healer, Restorer. As I was recounting the new lives of Jacob/Israel and Saul/Paul, I started praising God for my new life and His growing me into His man doing His plans. Then I opened the UR reminder of celebrating with all our hearts as we remember and see and know God is at work! Even in the storms, we can choose to count our blessings and refocus. We may not feel like dancing but tapping toes to the beat of a great praise song or hymn can lead to happy feet that want to dance with Jesus! Try it! Keep building those gratitude lists! God is for us and His ways are not ours. Rejoice and keep trusting and growing in faith and usefulness!
So as if that wasn't enough, the last thing I did was open my prayer starter book with these prayer starters. Yes God is speaking to you and wants to speak to someone through you today! PTL! Pray along with me..."Praise God who has invited you into His circle of fellowship through Jesus Christ. Thank Him for His invitation to love Him with all your being (Mk.12:33). Confess to God that sometimes you don't love and honor Him as you should. Commit yourself to Deut. 10:12: 'To fear the Lord (YHWH) your God, to walk in His ways, to love Him, and to serve [Him] with all your heart and with all your soul.' Ask God to enable you to fulfill that commitment today. Think of the oldest and youngest members of your family today. Ask God to meet special needs of those two people. [I can't help but think of and pray for the Henley family at the loss of their 2 year old and the funeral Thurs. And how He wants us to minister to them?] Thank God that His love spans the generations. Pray that the evangelistic outreach of your church will be driven by simple love for people. Ask that any pride or self-will will be confessed and repented. [pray for our evangelistic worship and brunch Sunday to draw many to God and new life and for God to use each of us well] Pray that the knowledge of Christ will be spread throughout the world, even as tiny seeds grow into vigorous plants (Mk. 4:31). Pray for faithful preachers of the gospel (Mt. 24:14). [pray we would all be one, with words and deeds] Ask God to make you alert to the needs of unsaved people you know. Pray that God will show you practical ways you can minister to them and ultimately show them how to believe and become disciples of Jesus." Pray for me as I spend the next two days visiting and loving on our homebound members. (Health, wisdom and overflowing love and joy. Thanks!)
God is Love. He loves you beyond measure! He is with you always! And He is working all things together for those who believe (or will come to believe). He created you for such a time as this and is working you into your best in Christ and for His purposes. Yes sometimes it's hard to see it and know it, but it's always true. (I can't imagine what the HENLEY'S ARE GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW? But I do know that as they journey through this, God will be there holding them and ready when they are to come to His shalom.) I'm praying for all of you to journey well and with God always! I'm praying for you to be able to choose joy and continue to grow in faith. I love you all! Wish I could give you a big hug right now! God really does love you, know and care! Rejoice! 'Tis always the season for that! Again I say rejoice!
Shalom to you all!
Faye touched the scars on her abdomen. She had endured another surgery to remove esophageal-stomach cancer. This time doctors had taken part of her stomach and left a jagged scar that revealed the extent of their work. She told her husband, “Scars represent either the pain of cancer or the start of healing. I choose my scars to be symbols of healing.”
Jacob faced a similar choice after his all-night wrestling match with God. The divine assailant wrenched Jacob’s hip out of socket, so that Jacob was left exhausted and with a noticeable limp. Months later, when Jacob massaged his tender hip, I wonder what he reflected on?
Was he filled with regret for his years of deceit that forced this fateful match? The divine messenger had wrestled the truth out of him, refusing to bless him until Jacob owned up to who he was. He confessed he was Jacob, the “heel grabber” (see Genesis 25:26). He’d played tricks on his brother Esau and father-in-law Laban, tripping them to gain advantage. The divine wrestler said Jacob’s new name would be “Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (32:28).
Jacob’s limp represented the death of his old life of deceit and the beginning of his new life with God. The end of Jacob and the start of Israel. His limp led him to lean on God, who now moved powerfully in and through him.
By Mike Wittmer
REFLECT & PRAY
What spiritual scars do you have? How might they symbolize the end of something bad and the start of something new?
Father, my limp is a sign of Your love.
Learn more about finding God in life’s hurts.
The context of Jacob’s mysterious wrestling match (Genesis 32:22-32) is his coming encounter with his brother Esau (vv. 3-6). Because of Jacob’s past treachery (25:29-34; 26:34-27:41), he feared Esau would attack him and his family (32:6-12). Soon after, “a man wrestled with him till daybreak” (v. 24). In other passages of Scripture, when God reveals Himself in human form, people are initially unable to recognize the visitor as more than human (see Genesis 18:1-2; Judges 6:11-22; 13:10, 21-22). But as daybreak dawns, Jacob seems to grow aware that the stranger is more than human, so he clings in hope of blessing (Genesis 32:26-30).
Monica La Rose
UR: All My Might
David danced before the Lord with all his might. - 2 Samuel 6:14 (KJV)
On the last day of the school term, I went to my daughter’s class. The teacher had turned on a radio to entertain the children. Most of them were sitting and swaying their little bodies to the music. Then a very popular Christian song began to play, and the children jumped up from their desks. Gleefully they began singing along and dancing in unison. They all knew the dance moves for that particular song.
I was fascinated as I observed how one song could immediately change the atmosphere from calm to full of energy. I thought about the power of music and how in 2 Samuel 6:14-16, David “danced before the Lord with all his might” as he brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. I remembered also how Jehoshaphat appointed people to sing and praise the Lord, which changed the outcome of the battle they were facing. (See 2 Chron. 20:21)
From that day forward, as I offer my praise to God each day during my prayer time, peace and assurance flood my soul. I feel God’s presence and see God acting in my life whenever I worship through songs of praise. This thought keeps me joyful throughout the day and gives me assurance that God is always with me.
Dear God, help us to appreciate the importance of glorifying your holy name. We sing our heartfelt gratitude to you. Amen.