Monday, July 30, 2012

The Moon Waxes and Wanes, but God’s Presence with Us Does Not

“My salvation shall be forever, my righteousness shall not wane”
 (Isaiah 51:6b NASB).

During the summer I love to sit outside in the evenings and listen to the sights and sounds of nature. I haven’t been able to do that much this summer because it has either been too hot or I’ve been too tired.  But one night a few weeks ago the moon was bigger and more beautiful than I have ever seen it.

When I read this verse in Isaiah I remembered that moon. The moon waxes and wanes in earth’s sight depending upon its astronomical position, but it is always there.  I thought about my view of God.  There are times when I am struggling with a pain or problem and God shines forth in hugeness and greatness like that glorious moon I saw.  There are other times when His presence seems to wane and He is not as visible to me.

But He IS there, just as the moon is there.  God’s salvation - His saving power in my life to bring me through any and everything - does not wane.  I may not see it clearly all the time.  He may be hidden by clouds or my position may be such that He is not visible for a time, but He is always there.

In eternity God’s presence will be revealed completely - more beautiful and bright than the most spectacular moon here on earth.  Until then I treasure the moments when He shines in huge and visible ways to me here.  When His presence seems to wane, I know it is only a passing cloud or my position that is blocking my sight of Him.  Afterward I will appreciate the light and beauty of His presence even more, and hopefully will have grown in the assurance of that presence even during the waning moments of my life.

Prayer: Give me faith to believe You are there when the clouds and darkness of life seem to hide You.  Thank you that Your presence is constant and unchanging, even when my perception of You may wane.  Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is Our Self-Talk Contributing to Our Pain?

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).

We all are aware of the fact that we should speak kindly to others, encouraging and edifying them through our words.  But what about speaking to ourselves?  Even though we may not actually speak out loud to ourselves (which I do at times but don’t always want to admit it!), most of us probably do some mental self-talk.  We may not realize how harmful these words can be.

I read an interesting book recently entitled The Gift in You, by Dr. Caroline Leaf.  She gives much scientific information proving that if our thoughts and words have harmful or “toxic” emotions attached to them (such as saying something negative to ourselves), harmful chemicals are released into the body which negatively impact our health.  We hinder our abilities to use the gifts God has given us.  She asks a very thought-provoking question:  “Are you paying attention to what words you are saying and what words you are receiving into your spirit?”

When I examine my self-talk, much of it is untrue and is not based on Scripture at all.  My “deceitful tongue” says, “I can’t do this; This is too hard; I have no purpose; It’s hopeless.”  These words crush my spirit and deny Scriptural truths.  No, I can’t handle my pain and problems alone, but I will persevere through them by God’s power.  I do have a purpose – God created things for me to do before I was even born.  Yes, my life is very hard at times, but God has blessed me with His presence, power, and victory.

Although our self-talk will not completely heal all our physical problems, it does bring benefits.  Aside from releasing positive chemicals rather than negative ones, positive words develop more joy, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit in us.  We benefit physically and spiritually, and we may become even better at encouraging others as well.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, make me more aware of the words I speak to myself.  Help me speak words that are encouraging rather than harmful, to myself as well as to others.  Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Flourishing Like a Palm Tree Even through Pain

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree”
 (Psalm 92:12a).

One of my favorite trees is the palm tree.  I like them so much because I associate them with warm, sunny weather, and places of beauty and relaxation.

I did some research on palm trees.  Knowing how they will be used in the landscape is an important planting factor.  While some require humidity and heat, others can survive even in frost.  Some prefer full sun while others tolerate shade.  Some grow fast and others more slowly, and they vary in size and shape.  A flourishing palm tree sustains continuous, strong, steady growth because conditions are right. 

One devotional book I read mentioned that in Biblical times palm trees were used for shelter and food and were symbols of righteousness, beauty, and victory. We are probably most familiar with them being used to worship Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Palm trees were connected with places of rest and refreshment in the desert during the Israelites’ wanderings (Numbers 33:9). The branches were also used during the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles as a means of praise (Leviticus 23:40), as well as for constructing temporary shelters during the Feast of Booths (Nehemiah 8:15).

How can I flourish like a palm tree in my life of pain?  I can be consistent in praising God even on the worst days.  I can grow steadily in my walk with Him, finding my rest and refreshment in Him and sharing that refreshment with someone else.  I can be strong in claiming my victory through Christ even on the days that I fail.  I can continue having faith to believe that regardless of how this earthly body is deteriorating, my eternal perfection is coming.

We are all different, yet we share the same God-given purposes and promises.  Our physical conditions may not be optimal, but we have been divinely planted to flourish where we are.  By God’s grace we can still bear fruit, proclaiming the Lord is upright (Psalm 92:14, 15).

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, give me the faith to believe that Your power and strength will enable me to flourish even through my pain and problems.  Amen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Staying Plugged in to God's Power

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”
(Ephesians 6:10).

We recently experienced a severe wind storm called a derecho and were without power for almost three days.  Temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s made the situation even more uncomfortable.

I did not handle those three days too well.  I was thankful for the generator giving us fans and refrigeration.  I also had the option of going to my parents’ apartment to stay cool.  But one thing I did not do was to stay plugged in to God’s power.  I was hot and irritable.  I was frustrated that   I couldn’t be of more help. I didn’t feel like reading Scripture or praying, other than sending up prayers for power to be restored and thanking God for my wonderful husband and a generator. 

Without electricity our modern lives come to a halt – no refrigeration, no email, no cable TV, no air or heat, sometimes no water, and no Facebook J!  In order to benefit from electricity we must be plugged in through electrical wiring.  Otherwise the power is useless.  But what a blessing that power is when we are connected. 

Without staying plugged in to God’s Word and communication with Him, I lose important blessings as well, such as strength for difficult situations, a peaceful, positive attitude, patience, and less anxiety and stress. I didn’t experience many of those blessings because I didn’t maintain an ongoing connection with my power source.

Living with pain and problems is a continual test and life in general brings many additional trials.  I can only survive by God’s power and strength, not my own.  But I must stay plugged in to Him to benefit.  I imagine there will be plenty of other opportunities for me to practice what I have learned.  I hope the next time I’m faced with such a difficulty, I will stay connected with God whether I feel like it or not.  I do hope and pray though that it will be awhile before God tests me again with lack of power in the summer heat! 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, You are my source of strength and power.  Give me a willing and obedient spirit to maintain my connection with You, especially through the difficult times.  Amen.