Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year's Prayer

Dear Readers,

I posted this last year and haven't had a chance to write something new, so am re-posting this.  Forgive the repeat, and I pray your new year gets off to a positive start.

This devotional is in a different format from my usual writings. Sometimes I like to use actual Scripture verses as prayers.  Psalm 90 (written by Moses) is one of my favorite Psalms. I am focusing on verses 12-17 as a prayer for the new year.

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.  Lord, I will need Your wisdom for so many things in this new year, whether they are related to my health, relationships, circumstances, or simply life in general.  Help me to seek Your guidance daily and trust You for the outcomes.  Help me also to be wise in the use of my time, staying focused on what is truly important in this life, rather than being caught up in the priorities of the world.

“Have compassion on your servants”.  Lord, you know my struggles with pain and problems.  You know how much I can bear.  I pray for your compassion and mercy through any difficult times that lie ahead.

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days”. Father, as I begin each new day, open my eyes to Your presence around me. Remind me that no matter how intense my pain or problems may be, I can rejoice in knowing that You love me and will carry me through all things.  Make me aware of the countless ways that You show Your love and presence to me each day.

“Make us glad for as many days as we have seen trouble”.  Lord, You said this world would be full of trials, but to rejoice for You have overcome the world.  Thank you for the assurance that even if my circumstances or health do not improve in this life, the glad days of eternal health and happiness are coming soon.  Help me persevere until then, and make me thankful for the blessings and gifts You give now.

“May your deeds be shown to your servants”.  O God, make me aware of opportunities to display Your glory in the coming year.  May I be a testimony to others of Your power and strength in my weaknesses.

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us”.  Lord God, may pleasing You be the greatest desire of my heart this year. Whatever plans You have for me to accomplish, I pray that You would bless me through them.  Let me remember that no matter what my limitations are, I can still be used by You and am important to You and Your kingdom work.

I pray these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dear Readers,

I just want to take a moment to wish each of you a blessed holiday. I pray that you will be as pain-free as possible, and that you will be able to find joy and even happiness on this special day, regardless of what your circumstances or conditions are. 

I pray that if you do have moments of discouragement or difficulties, you will be uplifted and comforted and filled with hope in the knowledge that Jesus is coming again, and that we
have unimaginable eternal wonders and perfect health to look forward to.  Until then, He is our strength.

Blessings to you,

What Gifts Can We Give to Jesus This Christmas?

“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh”
(Matthew 2:11).

In the Christmas movie, “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947), the bishop asked what gift we will we give to Jesus, because we remember everyone else but can forget about giving to the One whose birthday we are celebrating.  

Because of health problems, I sometimes feel I have no gift.  I can’t help out with preparing meals, providing transportation, or decorating, setting up, and cleaning up for church events.  There are places I would like to volunteer but can’t because of sitting and standing issues.

In the LifeGuide Bible study, The Cross, by John Stott, I came across a great list of Scriptural gifts which are not based on physical health.

Our bodies (Romans 12:1).
Praise, worship, and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15).
Prayer (Revelation 5:8).
A broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).
Faith (Philippians 2:17).
Gifts and good deeds (Hebrews 13:16).
Our lives even unto death (II Timothy 4:6).

We can offer our bodies to Jesus through godly actions, speech, and thoughts.  We can bring praise and worship through sickness and health, even when alone or housebound.

We can pray for family members and others who are suffering, along with countless other situations and groups who need prayer.  When discouraged, discontent, or angry about our problems, we can acknowledge our weaknesses and ask for forgiveness.

We can use our challenges to increase our faith and share these lessons with others.  If we are financially able, we can support Christian organizations and our local church, and we can impact our doctors, family members, and friends through our testimony of God’s faithfulness.

And if our sickness or pain leads to death, we can let our faith shine until the end comes.

Our gifts may not as be visible as others’, but they are ones which God has specifically asked for, and we can continue to give them throughout the coming year. 

Happy Birthday Jesus – I think You will like Your gifts.
Prayer:  Lord Jesus, what can I give you, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man I would do my part; yet what I can I give you - my heart, and body, and mind - today, and every day (adapted from the hymn “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” by Christina Rossetti).  Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What We Can Learn from the Magi

“We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him”
(Matthew 2:2).

Although Scripture does not tell us much about the magi, we know from historical information that they had been studying the stars and waiting for signs of the predicted king for a very long time. 

Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, Old Testament Scripture referred to the star the wise men would follow (Numbers 24:17).  These magi studied prophecies carefully. They did not forget what they read but sought to apply their knowledge as they watched and waited.   They never lost hope that the prophecy would be fulfilled.  And when it was, they were willing to take a long, arduous journey to worship the object of their waiting.

If we have chronic health problems, we know all about searching and waiting.  We research our illnesses and treatments in order to make wise decisions. We wait for appointments, tests, and results.  We watch for signs of improvement and decline.  And we go through discomfort as we wait.

We can learn some lessons from the magi.  We need to continually study Scripture and use it to refute untruths about God and our situations, holding on to the hope that the Lord fulfills His promises.

We need to notice signs of God’s presence in our lives through ways such as nature, His Word, answered prayers, the counsel of other believers, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us.

We need to be willing to suffer discomfort on our journey through this life, knowing that when we reach our final destination, it will be worth the wait.

And above all, as we journey, we need to bring gifts of praise, worship, and adoration to our Savior.

Prayer:  King Jesus, this Christmas season and beyond, help me to be diligent in my seeking, searching, persevering, and worshipping of You.  Amen.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Fears Which Led to Christmas Blessings

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

Over the past few months I have been living with the fear of possible shoulder surgery. In thinking about my fears, I realized that some key people in the Biblical Christmas story faced fear.

When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, foretelling the birth of John Baptist, and to Mary announcing her pregnancy, they were tempted to fear (Luke 1:13, 30).  Joseph feared taking Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20). The shepherds were told not to fear when angels appeared proclaiming Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:10).

Although Zechariah questioned the angel’s announcement, Mary replaced fear with faith and rejoicing in God.  Joseph replaced fear with obedience in marrying Mary. The shepherds replaced fear with worship at the manger.

These fears ultimately led to blessings.  The birth of John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.  Mary and Joseph parented God’s Son.  The shepherds were the first to see the newborn Messiah. 

Some of our greatest blessings may begin with fear.  We fear pain and suffering, but they draw us to God like nothing else can.  We fear the unknown, but God’s mighty hand is working everything out for our good.  We fear loss of abilities and activities, but God replaces them with greater faith and dependence on Him, and perhaps even new areas of ministry and service.

I recently received word that I don’t need surgery.  My fear has been replaced with thanks and praise, but I hope I would have responded with trust and faith if given a different diagnosis.

Whatever fears may plague us this Christmas season, if we face them with faith, obedience, and worship, God will bring blessings, even if it is in ways we cannot see this side of heaven.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, You know how easily I am tempted to fear, especially regarding my health concerns.  May my fears be replaced with increased faith, obedience, and worship this Christmas season, and thank you for the blessings You bring into my life. Amen.



Monday, December 1, 2014

Magnifying the Lord Instead of Our Problems

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46, 47 RSV).

I want to enjoy special holidays and events as much as possible, but health problems can make that challenging.

Each year as the holidays approach, I am torn between what I want to do and what I can realistically do.  I want to go to special programs in the community and church but have trouble sitting or standing for very long.  I want to share food with friends and family but know that many foods will give me migraines and sleeplessness.  I want to enjoy decorating and shopping but know my back pain will be worse because of it.  I want to have company but know that the preparation and cleanup are exhausting.  It becomes easy to magnify my problems. 

Mary may not have had chronic health problems, but she certainly had the major cultural problem of being an unwed mother.  Although that scenario is no longer taboo in our society, she could have been stoned for it.  She was faced with a very challenging and uncertain future.  Yet her ultimate response to her situation was not fear or complaint, but praise.  Her soul magnified God.  When something is magnified, it is enlarged beyond bounds. Rather than enlarging the negative aspects of her situation, her spirit rose up in praise and rejoicing to God, trusting in God’s plan and humbled by His work in her life.

I would like to follow Mary’s example.  This holiday season, when tempted to enlarge my pains and discouragements, I hope to focus instead on the gift of Jesus and His presence, power, and provision in my life each day.  Those things are worth magnifying, during the holidays and for all eternity.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me a heart attitude like Mary’s - one that accepts Your plans for my life, even when they are not of my choosing or understanding.  And as I magnify You, I will receive far greater blessings and joy than any earthly holiday or tradition could provide.  Amen.