What if I begin the New Year with full assurance of God’s love?
What if I begin the New Year knowing I am in a right relationship with God?
What if I choose to look more like Jesus and less like the world in 2016?
What if I read and mediate on God’s Word every day?
What if I let go and let God?
Psalm 91 (NLT)
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. 7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. 8 Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, 10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. 11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. 12 They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. 13 You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. 16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
“1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. 2 For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.
3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. 5 They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. 6 Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.
7 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 8 Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle. 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24 – NLT).
As I shop for just the right gifts for our family, as I lay awake pondering on all the activities of the season, as I decorate our home, as I recall loved ones who have passed,…there’s a longing in my heart to simply be with Jesus. Do I give the King of glory full entrance into the innermost and uppermost place in my soul? In all the “pomp of external ceremonies,” is there room for Jesus?
Matthew Henry Commentary
This psalm is concerning the kingdom of Jesus Christ, I. His providential kingdom, by which he rules the world (v. 1, v. 2). II. The kingdom of his grace, by which he rules in his church. 1. Concerning the subjects of that kingdom; their character (v. 4, v. 6), their charter (v. 5). Concerning the King of that kingdom; and a summons to all to give him admission (v. 7-10). It is supposed that the psalm was penned upon occasion of David’s bringing up the ark to the place prepared for it, and that the intention of it was to lead the people above the pomp of external ceremonies to a holy life and faith in Christ, of whom the ark was a type. A psalm of David.
Who is the King of glory? (Matthew Henry Commentary)
He is Jehovah, and will be Jehovah our righteousness, an all-sufficient Saviour to us, if we give him entrance and entertainment. He is strong and mighty, and the Lord of hosts; and therefore it is at our peril if we deny him entrance; for he is able to avenge the affront; he can force his way, and can break those in pieces with his iron rod that will not submit to his golden sceptre. In singing this let our hearts cheerfully answer to this call, as it is in the first words of the next psalm, Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul.
May we simply be with the King of glory this Christmas season.
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).
Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the blessings in our lives.
Let’s begin now…and continue all year long.
Our daughter started a new Thanksgiving tradition last year. Their family makes a Thankful Tree. The children find a tree branch and place it in a homemade container and then cut out leaves made from construction paper. Each day the children and their parents write something they want to thank God for on a leaf and then hang the leaves on the tree branch. — Adapted from Changing Seasons In Me, article originally written Nov. 13, 2014.
I’m not fond of the winter months. In fact, my wardrobe is indicative of this, having many more summer clothes than winter. My hands shiver when walking down the freezer aisle at the grocery store…in the summer!
A thankful spirit often requires a different or new perspective on life’s familiarities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking for granted the blessings right in front of us….our family, the changing colors of autumn, a red bird perched on a snow-covered branch, and so on. While driving home from work the other day, my husband called and told me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. I ran out on our deck, only to be disappointed I had missed the window of opportunity.
To keep our children from missing the windows of opportunity, we (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to train our children to have watchful eyes, for the many blessings we receive each day. This takes intentionality! Children and adults not fully surrendered to Christ, are naturally self-absorbed and can easily miss the joy God intends. Looking at the world through eternal lenses portrays true and lasting blessings. The following story depicts two diverse perspectives from ten men who received the same blessing.
Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy – Luke 17:11-19
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
After reading and contemplating the two varying responses to the lepers’ healing, ask yourself how you may have responded? Would it be more like the nine, or the one? I’d like to propose two diverse perspectives—the temporal and the eternal.
The temporal perspective:
“The nine” cleansed lepers missed their window of opportunity to receive an even greater blessing, far beyond their physical healing. Here are a few possible reasons “the nine” didn’t go back to thank Jesus.
Being in isolation for so long, their minds were solely focused on returning to their former lifestyle.
They may have thought Jesus was simply doing what He was “supposed” to do…heal people. Therefore, they took their healing for granted.
Some may have said something like, “I’m sure God wants me to get busy fulfilling the plans He purposed for my life.”
The eternal perspective:
“The one” leper who came back to thank Jesus not only recognized the miraculous healing in his life, he experienced the greater blessing—the presence of a loving and merciful Savior. His perspective was filled with overflowing gratefulness, a direct result of being Christ-focused rather than self-absorbed.
The following quotes are from the book, Love Made Perfect—Foundations for the Holy Life (1997), authored by Dr. William M. Greathouse (April 29, 1919 – March 24, 2011), minister and emeritus general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
“Self-love is the disease of original sin.” “Idolatrous self-love is our sickness, but it is a sickness God wants to cure.”
To help our children develop a grateful heart like the “one leper,” I believe we must first explain that everyone is born with a sinful nature. The sinful nature will naturally dispose every human heart toward being self-absorbed. The only cure for a self-absorbed life is full surrender to Christ. I recommend reading Dr. Greathouse’s book, Love Made Perfect, for a fuller understanding of loving God with one’s whole heart, strength, and mind—a love perfected in us through Christ alone.
Secondly, we need to stop and “smell the roses.” I love this definition for the idiom “smell the roses.”
Take time to thank God throughout your day. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule or life’s distractions keep you from missing out on the blessings of life. Begin by thanking God for your precious children, spouse, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Practice pointing out the blessings of life to your children, as you drive along the road. The changing seasons exude with God’s blessings.
My new perspective of winter: I love sitting by a fire on a cold wintry day with my husband. Building snowmen with our grandchildren imparts cherished memories of innocent smiles and silly giggles into my heart. Christmas brings the greatest blessing of all, as our family gathers together to sing happy birthday to Jesus. God warms my heart throughout the winter.
Thanksgiving tablecloth. Using the same tablecloth every year, each family member writes what they are thankful for on the tablecloth. The little ones love to make turkeys as they trace around their hands. Use permanent fabric markers or pens.
Indian Corn: Our grandchildren help me place several kernels of Indian corn by each table setting. Before eating our meal everyone shares something they are thankful for and then they place a kernel of corn into a decorative basket. Our basket goes around the table several times because the children have such thankful hearts.
The first Sunday of Advent is November 29 this year (2015). There are limitless resources available to help families prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Advent wreath is one of my favorites.
“14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Spoken words are pleasing or unpleasing to God.
It’s relatively easy for me to speak kindly when “all is well.”
Not so easy, during stressful moments.
Yesterday was one of those moments. Thus, I hesitated to complete this post.
Prior to sinful words proceeding from the mouth, provoking thoughts loom.
Thoughts originating in the hidden places of the heart where only God can see.
18 “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:18-20 ESV).
Unspoken words identify the condition of one’s heart.
I have found that the only way to keep my thoughts pure is to meditate on the Word of God.
12 “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT).
Facebook friends: May the Psalms draw you near to God.
“1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. 2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. 3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. 5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. 6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.
7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. 9 Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19 NLT).
Faith at Home Moment:
Parents and grandparents, how is your Bible reading? Our children’s first impression of the Bible begins with us. When we exhibit a love for God’s Word through daily Scripture reading we are setting a holy precedence for our children to follow. Here are a few suggestions for reading the Bible.
– Set aside a specific time and place to read the Bible each day.
– Pray before reading the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit to give you clear understanding.
– Use a journal/notebook to write down the thoughts God gives you while reading the Bible.
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. (Psalm 16:11)”
Anticipating beautiful fall foliage in Minnesota – JOY!
A professor once told me, “Don’t miss the joy in the journey.”
He was right!
Awaiting Jeff’s graduation from Bible College, we explored the
Colorado Mountains…cheered at volleyball games & homecoming courts…made new friendships…and experienced God’s presence.
By the saving grace of Jesus, I anticipate my eternal home with gladness, and thank God for granting me joy in the journey of life.
Facebook Friends, May the Psalms draw you close to God.
1 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.
2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” 3 The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them! 4 Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods.
5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. 6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!
7 I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. 10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. 11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16, NLT).
Faith at Home Moment:
Living for Jesus brings great joy into our lives. Yes, at times we have sad and lonely days during our days on earth, but praise be to God, His presence is with us, filling us with hope, peace, and eternal joy in the journey of life. Our children need to see the joy we experience by living for Jesus. The Gospel is Good News! Take a few minutes each day reading through the Gospel of John with your children. Pray that God will fill you with His joy even in the midst of struggles. An oldie but goodie song to sing along with children: Joy, Joy Down In My Heart – http://www.psalty.com/track/687853/joy-joy-down-in-my-heart?feature_id=140418
“Yes, may all the nations praise you. Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us” (Psalm 67:5-6).
Praise to God
A follow-up from my blog post last week.
God often places a song of praise on my lips. The song is often from days gone by; while other times, a fresh new song pops into my mind. Most recently, To God be the glory, great things He hath done (https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/39), keeps playing. Amazing! Every time I sing a song of praise to my Father in heaven, He fills me to overflowing…with joy, tears of gratefulness.
Join me today in giving praise to God. You will be blessed.
Facebook friends: May the Psalms draw you near to God.
“1 May God be merciful and bless us. May his face smile with favor on us. Interlude 2 May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. 3 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 4 Let the whole world sing for joy, because you govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world. Interlude 5 May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. 6 Then the earth will yield its harvests, and God, our God, will richly bless us. 7 Yes, God will bless us, and people all over the world will fear him” (Psalm 67).
Faith at Home Moment:
Teaching children and grandchildren to offer praise to God blesses them and honors God.
While taking a walk around the block or hiking in a park, stop and take special notice of all God has created for our enjoyment. After talking about the intricate detail and beauty of a butterfly, autumn leaf, or sun rays illuminating a waterfall, take your child’s hand and give praise to God for His amazing creation. During a worship service, sing to the Lord with all that is within you! God is an audience of One and we are the participants (worshipers).
“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).
I fondly recall my grandmother’s reverent posture as we entered the church sanctuary every Sunday morning. During my young impressionable years, I took notice. Soon after sitting on the pew, my grandmother quietly bowed her head in prayer. No one told her to do this, I thought. This simple act of worship remains in my heart and mind today.
Facebook friends: May the Psalms draw you near to God.
“1 Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. 2 Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. 3 He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. 4 He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. 5 He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6 The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7 He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 14 For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. 15 Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. 16 The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here. 17 But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children 18 of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!
19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything.
20 Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. 21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will! 22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom.
Let all that I am praise the Lord” (Psalm 103 NLT).
Faith At Home Moment
Reverence: Honor or respect that is shown to someone. A gesture of respect is to bow. (Webster Dictionary)
I sense a decline of reverence toward our Heavenly Father in our society. This saddens me. According to the Bible, “The fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
I know I fall short many times when it comes to honoring my Heavenly Father, through self-centered words, thoughts, and actions. My desire, however, is to please God by revering Him for who He is.
Teaching our children to honor and respect God should be a high priority. We honor God by making Him number one in our lives (at home, church, work, and play); secondly, we honor God by respecting others. Jesus summed it up this way: 37 “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a]38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:36-40 NLT).
Help your children memorize the Ten Commandments, and discuss how each commandment honors God and respects others. (Read Exodus 20:1-17)
The Children’s Version of the Ten Commandments
1. Have no other gods.
2. Have no idols.
3. Honor God’s name.
4. Honor the Sabbath day.
5. Honor your parents.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery.
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not lie.
10. Do not covet.
Family Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help me to honor you in all that I say and do. I can’t do this without your help. Please forgive me when I fall short of honoring you and respecting others. I ask this in your precious Son’s name, Jesus. Amen.
Over the past several years, I've blogged about my greatest passion--intentionally passing my faith in Christ to the next generation, beginning with my family.
I've been married to Jeff forever! We love spending time with our three children, six grandchildren, two son-in-laws, and our dog, Pepper.
Jeff and I gratefully serve as Pastor and wife at St. Paul's Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, MO; where people love God and each other.
Holding His Hand, my newest blog (2016) is dedicated to my mom, Audrey Lewis, who learned to trust in Jesus during her battle with cancer.