EVERYTHING YOU NEED

…his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness… II Peter 1:3 (KJV)

I’m learning to use my new “Think Pad,” after the demise of my ancient laptop. My technician friend spent about an hour with me yesterday explaining the new features. And then he left a full-page list of directions among which are these sorts of instructions: Think twice before installing software that didn’t come from the manufacturer. Do not install browsers that didn’t come from the manufacturer. Don’t install malware software; you already have it. You have everything you need.
If there are any of you who don’t understand computer jargon, essentially my technician said, Just use what was installed by the manufacturer and not anything that comes from anyone else. You already have everything you need. And his note was written all in capital letters, which in computerese is like shouting or at least strongly emphasizing the message.
As I reflected on this, I thought about the times I look outside God’s provisions for an easier or better way to address my concerns. Perhaps that person could give me insight; that new book might shed light on the matter; or there may be a technique I haven’t yet tried. You know what I mean.
I recently was tempted to fret about a relational matter. I examined the situation from one side and then the other. I stewed about what seemed too complex to unwind. I knew to cast my cares on the Lord, but as soon as I had the opportunity, I hashed the whole thing out with a trusted person. Of course, that didn’t bring satisfaction, so I thought about contacting a counselor. In the meantime, I had created more than a tempest in a teapot.
I wish I’d had Ric’s directions to remind me to use only what was installed by the Manufacturer. You already have everything you need. God has, not will, already provided everything we need that pertains to life and godliness. He has said that we’re not to be anxious about anything but to pray and give thanks, and then God’s peace will fill our hearts and minds.  And there are so many other wonderful promises we can access when necessary.
After struggling with my concern and allowing it to distract me from the peace and trust that was already mine in Christ Jesus, I released the care and cast it on the Lord just as was advised in the Manufacturer’s directions. I haven’t added an inch to my stature or changed the circumstances, but I’ve put the issue where it belongs—on Jesus’ shoulders. And he’s giving grace that I need to move forward.
I’m going to keep Ric’s reminders close at hand: You already have what you need; use only what came from the Manufacturer; don’t add anything to that.

Father, thank you for the many ways you remind us to listen to you and to rely on your provisions. Forgive me when I forget. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

MOTHERING

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.  Isaiah 66:13

 

Can you imagine anything better than a mother’s love?  I admit, I could never have competed with either my daughter or daughter-in-law in discerning the unique gifts and personalities they nurture on a daily basis.  And then there’s the topic of energy…

Today marked the mid-point of Camp Curry.  I’ve often remarked that the miracle of Sarah and Abraham was not their producing Isaac, but it was their ability to keep up with him.  Or perhaps that’s what their household staff did.

Today’s parents, and especially the mothers who nurture the children while running the household and managing a career, are amazing.  They are routinely dealing with higher expectations than my generation experienced, and their children have greater temptations, information, and challenges than ours ever did.

As the crust of the earth was cooling, I remember my grandmother talking about doing the laundry one day, ironing another, baking took another whole day (Does anyone do that anymore?), mending was part of the schedule, and then there were grocery shopping and cleaning.  Between my daughter and daughter-in-law, each week they do most of the above PLUS gardening, chauffeuring children to school and extracurricular events, running a successful home business besides a full-time job, and participating in a lively social calendar.  They are not unlike other mothers today.

So what’s my point?  Having been with my precious grandchildren this week and getting ready to let them go back home, I am more strongly reminded of the need for prayer for our young family members and particularly the young mothers:  that the joy of the Lord will be their strength (Neh. 8:10); that they will look to him for encouragement (Isa. 41:10); that they will always experience God’s presence (Deut. 31:6); that they will know they are greatly loved by God (Romans 8:37-39); and that he will supply every need they have (Phil. 4:19).  AND that they will delight in being stewards of the precious treasures with which God has entrusted them.

I will miss the sweet grands, but they will be returning to the place where they belong and where they will be loved and shaped into the image God planned from the beginning of time.  And I will be here praying for them all, loving them, and waiting for the next visit.

 

Father, thank you for the special times I have with all my sweet grandbabies.  Be with my friends who spend long seasons apart from their families and give them opportunities to bless those other children you’ve brought into their lives.  Make us your hands and feet as we love and touch those you’ve entrusted to us.  Keep their parents in you, and help us never to cease praying for them.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

STANDING FOR JESUS

But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.  Matthew 10:33  (NIV)

 

A new friend who works in a part of the world where terrorists operate said that they will knock on the doors of villagers asking them to name their religion.  If they say they are Christians, they have three options:  convert, pay an enormous tax, or leave.  If they elect to leave, they do not realize that groups of soldiers will be stationed on the roads leading out of the village to kill them as they flee.  Then my friend asked, “What would you say?”

O’Sullivan (National Review, April 24, 2013) determined after some historical research that “our present age is the Age of Christian Persecution.”  He looked at the early Church and the Church throughout time to make this determination.  I’d really like to think that the world is becoming a more tolerant and accepting place, but the facts dispute that.

The great question is what my friend asked, “What would you say?” if you were asked about your religion?  What would I say?  I would like to believe that we would all stand up for Jesus rather than betray him in a moment of fear.  Jesus said we are not to fear those who can kill the body (Matt. 10:28), but our respect is to be for the one who judges for eternity.

Perhaps we think we’ll never be in a position where we have to make a choice about standing for Jesus or denying him, but don’t we face that choice everyday with our words and attitudes and behavior?  Do our lifestyles betray Jesus for fear of our associates or social groups?  Or do we stand up for him in gentleness and love?

I think about Peter’s denial of Jesus.  On his final denial, Jesus heard him.   Luke (22:61, 62) records, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”  I don’t ever want to cause Jesus that kind of grief.  Never.

 

Father, all of us have opportunities to stand for Jesus or for ourselves.  Give us boldness to be true to Jesus and strengthen all those who daily must make this courageous choice.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  Esther 4:14b  (ESV)

 

I was standing in line to vote when the man next to me asked, “Where is Willie Nelson on this ballot?” which of course provoked a conversation about the candidates and the issues that concerned us.  (I had to agree that Willie would be a good write-in.)  As our discussion continued, I mentioned a blog Max Lucado had just published with his predictions for November 9.  Lucado confidently stated that God will still be in control no matter who is elected (https://maxlucado.com/prediction-november-9/).

That brought to mind the various people God has used in the Bible and in history to impact the culture.  I thought of Joseph whose gifts and wisdom brought about the saving of his family and adopted country; of how improbable Esther and her story illustrated God’s providence; of Daniel whose impeccable integrity and courage demonstrated godly commitment in a pagan environment; and of Nehemiah whose love for his homeland initiated the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

And then there’s the account of a retiring monk, Telemachus, who felt called to go to Rome without any clear indication of what he would do once he arrived.  Upon hearing the roar of the crowds when he neared the Coliseum, he ventured closer to learn that people were being sacrificed for entertainment.  It is said that the godly monk pushed his way through the barriers until he stood in the middle of the arena.  “Desist, desist,” he shouted.  This unexpected happening stunned the crowd to silence, and then they began to call for his blood even as he continued to shout for an end to the violence.  As he died, he did not know that his death would bring about the end of the gladiatorial games.

We’ve had visionaries on our own soil who pledged their lives and resources for the ideal of religious freedom.  In other places, Wilberforce dedicated his life and energies to abolishing slavery in Britain, while Bonhoeffer’s passion for living out the Gospel led him to perish attempting to destroy the evil that corrupted his beloved German homeland.  The list goes on and on…

History reminds us that God’s people always have a responsibility to understand the times and to respond in obedience to his providence.  To what has God called you for such a time as this?

 

Father, each of us has a role in your providential plan.  Open our eyes to see how we may faithfully serve you and the community in which you have placed us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

MEMORIAL DAY

 

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  Psalm 91:2  (KJV)

After much cajoling, my brother Jack reluctantly allowed me to polish his boots.  His ROTC unit was having a major inspection the next day, and he wanted to look his best.  I was confident a girl could make his shoes shine as much as any guy, so I spent the evening brushing and rubbing and buffing until the boots looked almost new.  And it worked.  I was commended for my efforts.

Not long after that, America became engaged in a brutal war in Viet Nam, and the draft was re-instituted.  Jack joined early on, following the tradition of his uncles on both sides of the family during World War II.  As he tends to do with all his undertakings, Jack focused on being prepared for battle in a place that had only recently become part of our daily news.  He graduated from basic training with top honors, and when he finished OCS as the top graduate, my father took his first airplane ride to see his son receive the commanding general’s award.

Deployment soon followed.  Jack had trained to be a Special Forces soldier, so we knew he’d be living in harm’s way throughout his assignment.  That’s when our mother, Momo, told us about the soldiers from her church.  With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, men all over the country (and from her small community church) formed lines to join the military.  (Those were the days of high patriotism:  nations were allied to preserve freedom; women went to work to fill the vacuum here in industry; rationing was instituted; and people prayed.)  Just before the young men deployed, their pastor called them all forward.  The congregation gathered ‘round, and they all prayed the 91st Psalm, the Soldier’s Psalm.  Every day during their absence in far-flung places around the world, the congregation prayed.  And every one of those boys returned.

The Sunday before Jack was to leave, our pastor called him forward, and the congregation prayed over him.  And our family prayed Psalm 91 for him every day:

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High

shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,

and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust:

his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness;

nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand;

but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge,

even the most High, thy habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder:

the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him:

I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble;

I will deliver him, and honour him.

With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

This weekend I sent a long email to Jack that he shared with his buddies from Viet Nam days to thank him and them for their selfless service to our beloved country and to thank God for protecting and keeping them safe.  Jack continues to pray the 91st Psalm for himself and his two boys who are now deployed.  God has blessed us with his mercy.

Father, your loving care is overwhelming.  We’ve all been through danger and difficulties but none like our military men and women.  Thank you for people who are willing to make the utmost sacrifice to keep us free, and keep them in your love .  God bless America.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

 

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.        I Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

One of my spiritual mentors said that we should seriously examine ourselves if we find that we are losing our sense of gratitude.  Through the years I’ve discovered this to be a wonderful measuring stick.  Can my faith see God’s faithfulness and his love in all circumstances?  Can I trust God to work everything for good in my life?  Can I believe him to be in the middle of difficulties.

I Thessalonians 5:18 doesn’t tell us we must be thankful for all things but that we should give thanks in all sorts of circumstances and situations.  When the Children of Israel were saying farewell to Joshua, he reminded them that not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel [had ever] failed; every one was fulfilled  (Joshua 21:45).  As we reflect on our personal Christian journeys, we can say the same—in retrospect.  Why not bolster our faith for each new challenge with a reminder of what God has done and been in the past?  Why wait to see his promises fulfilled?

I read about a little boy whose grandmother had promised a particular, special gift.  When the expected time arrived, there was no gift and no word from grandmother.  Days passed, and the boy began to think that perhaps his grandmother had forgotten her promise.  The little fellow’s mother suggested that he write grandmother a thank you note as a gentle reminder.  The boy did so, and by return mail, his grandmother sent her apologies with a check.  She had been trying unsuccessfully to find the gift, and since she couldn’t find what she had promised, she sent a check for her grandson to use in purchasing another gift of his choosing.

Gratitude can be our way of remembering God’s faithfulness of the past while reminding God of our trust in him for the present.  It’s really easy to be grateful if we’re honest and start looking outward instead of focusing on our own navels.

 

God, I don’t have enough paper to even begin to list your goodness to me.  If all your material blessings disappeared in a puff, still I could go on thanking you.  Please help me remember that every single thing I enjoy, and especially your precious Son, comes from your bounty.  THANK YOU.  AMEN.

RECOLLECTIONS

 

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19  (KJV).

 

From time to time I enjoy recounting to my grown children the many times God’s faithfulness has been so evident.  One of them was sharing a particular need over the weekend, and I was reminded of this story.

 

After being a college “stop-out” for twelve years, I was given an opportunity to dip my toe back into the educational process by taking one university class.  It was do or die, and I would desperately need a student loan to finish the next two years.

 

I filled out the myriad pages of the loan application with information about my status:  single parent with two children, part time employment, debts (including a mortgage), and so on.  I prayed about the packet and mailed it in, confident that I would be approved.  After all, we were living under the official poverty line, and a degree would ensure my ability to provide for my children.

 

I plodded through my university class, studying after the children were in bed and doing projects or special reports when they were away from home.  My professor assured me that I was doing well (in spite of the twelve-year absence) and that I was capable of completing a degree.  All I needed was tuition funds.

 

Mid-semester was getting closer, the time when we were to pre-register for the spring semester.  The deadline for that funding was close enough to touch.  I was getting a bit anxious but also knew I was highly qualified for a student loan.

 

When the packet arrived from the New Jersey funder, I could hardly wait to rip it open and share the good news.  I couldn’t believe the stunning conclusion when I discovered that I had been rejected.  How could I not have been approved? I wondered.  My income was not at all adequate for college tuition, and there seemed to be no other opportunities in sight.  I was devastated.

 

I wept and wept over my broken dreams and the loss of a degree that had seemed so much closer.  Finally, I laid the rejection letter on the bed and fell down beside it.  “God, if this one semester is all I’m to have, I relinquish my dream to you,” I said.  After more sobbing, I abandoned my hopes and my plans to my Father.

 

The following day I went to class, and responding to an impulse, I dropped in to see my advisor.  “Oh, I’ve been looking for you,” she said.  “I want you to interview for a job at a nearby school.”  I protested, reminding her that I didn’t yet have a degree, but she was insistent.  She called the school, and they asked her to send me right away.

 

I drove to the church school and had the strangest sensation as I walked up the front stairs.  This job is mine, I thought.  The kind, early childhood coordinator interviewed me, enlisted me to do a trial teaching stint for a week (pro bono), and then added, “If we decide to hire you, we will pay your tuition until you finish your degree.”

 

I left with a lighter heart than I’d had in days and got home just in time to answer the phone.  Another school department was calling saying they would pay my tuition if I would work with their students.  And then the university President’s office wrote to announce that I had been awarded a full scholarship for the spring semester.

 

I was hired by the church school and taught there until our headmaster retired and I had completed two degrees.  I had wanted—and prayed for a loan—God had in mind a scholarship.

 

Father, your ways are always so much higher and better than ours.  Help us always to trust you in all things, even when it seems that nothing is working the way we’ve planned.  Thank you that your provisions are infinite and your gifts are abundant.  AMEN.

CONQUERORS

…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth… Philippians 2:10 (NIV)

I saw the Conquerors riding by
With cruel lips and faces wan:
Musing on kingdoms sacked and burned
There rode the Mongol Ghengis Khan;

And Alexander, like a god,
Who sought to weld the world in one;
And Caesar with his laurel wreath;
And like a thing from Hell the Hun;

And, leading like a star the van,
Heedless of upstretched arm and groan,
Inscrutable Napoleon went
Dreaming of empire, and alone. . . .

Then all they perished from the earth
As fleeting shadows from a glass,
And, conquering down the centuries,
Came Christ, the Swordless, on an ass!*

Father, amid all the chaos and atrocities abounding throughout our lawless world, Jesus remains Victor and has already won earth’s battles. Help us to remember to whose Kingdom we belong and live glorifying him even as we await his final coronation. In Jesus’ name. AMEN 

*by Harry Kemp