Devotions from Judy’s heart
I love to ponder on what it means to live a carefree life; to be free as a child that has no worries and just enjoys the present moment delighting in what is happening right now? Doesn’t that sound heavenly? Wouldn’t we all like that to be our state of mind and heart each day and each moment? Sometimes I have had dreams of flying and it is the most wonderful exhilarating feeling, much like living carefree. Peter says in I Peter 5:7 (The Message), Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you.” We can only live carefree if we truly believe God loves and cares for us, and has our back. If we grew up in a home with lots of conflict, excessive rules, screaming and sharp remarks, it may be hard to imagine living carefree without expecting a boom to be lowered on us any second. But if we know God is our loving Father who is most careful with us, then our outlook each day will be changed. We won’t be overwhelmed with worries but can cast every concern we have on the Lord, knowing He is powerful enough to handle it all. We can be lighthearted and free to enjoy the present moment, knowing that we don’t need something else to make us happy but can enjoy what we have right now. We can embrace life and enjoy the little things and give praise to the Lord who made them. When Al and I go for our walk each day on the Paul Bunyan trail, my heart skips when I see the array of wildflowers of all colors decorating the woods. We can freely just enjoy creation and delight in its beauty and give praise to the Creator of it all. Part of living carefree is our focus. If it is on the Lord and the expectation that He is good, He is faithful, and He is loving and worthy of our trust, then we can live in abandonment to Him. When everything is put into His hands then we are set free to just be present in this moment and live life to the fullest. Let us live to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
Challenge for today: Give the Lord all your concerns and live carefree in His love.
Devotions from Judy’s heart
How well do our inner lives match what we say with our lips? Sometimes we can be doing right things but our hearts are not truly in it. There is perfect harmony within when our outward and inward match and we do things from right motives. I remember years ago when one of our parishioners brought a huge load of manure and put on my garden at the parsonage. It was the first time that I had space for a garden and I was so excited about all the veggies we were going to have to eat. I dreamed of picking my own greens and just serving them right away in a big chef salad. Well my garden grew quickly and it may have looked beautiful on top but when it came time to harvest and I pulled up some of the veggies, there was hardly anything at the other end. They were all stunted as too much manure had been put on. What was outwardly good was not good underneath! The Lord wants to continue to transform our lives so that our inward and outward match and that we become more and more like Him. I read today from II Cor. 3:18 (NRSV), “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is Spirit.” The word transformed here is the same word in Greek that is used when Jesus was transformed before the disciples on the Mount. We haven’t all arrived yet but we are in process of being transformed. This is a transformation of the Spirit and it is a gradual change. We fail in ways each day and need forgiveness but hopefully we are growing and maturing. As we read the Word and closely follow Him, it says in The Message translation that our lives become brighter and more beautiful and we become more like Him. May our outward lives be reflectors of a deep work He is doing in our hearts.
Challenge for today: Co-operate with the Holy Spirit as He brings change to your heart.
Devotions from Judy’s heart
Whose approval matters most in our lives? Do we care more about what others think than what God thinks? I read some quotes from actor Denzel Washington, who said, “You don’t have to be approved by man if you are approved by God.” It’s what God thinks of us that is important and not what we have or what others think of us: not even the awards we may have received or titles we have been given. Denzel’s mom told him that “Man give awards but God gives the reward.” Some of the people in the Bible were successes in God’s eye but not necessarily in the eyes of others around them. Think of poor Jeremiah. He was so faithful to do what God asked of him, preaching a message that others did not want to hear or respond to, and yet he was faithful in God’s sight. Whose approval do we seek when we begin each day? Are we diligent to want to know what God has on His agenda for us, or are we more concerned with how we will look before others? The Pharisees loved the approval of men and liked to parade around being seen in the best light. But often what God asks of us, may not be seen by others or approved by them. Our eyes are to be on the Lord and do our best for Him. Paul says in Rom. 14:7-8 (The Message), “It’s God we are answerable to-all the way from life to death and everything in between— each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that He cold be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.” When it doesn’t matter to us what others think, but only what God thinks, we will be carefree in His love and find true freedom. May we do our best to be approved by God, for one day God will examine what kind of lives we lived. May He say, “Well done!”
Challenge for today: Seek to listen to the Lord to know what His desire is for you.
What does it mean to give our all to the Lord…to be willing to do whatever He asks of us?
I have been reading about Matthew, the tax collector, who walked away from everything, leaving his lucrative career, and went with Jesus when he said to him, “Come follow Me.” And James and John who left their nets and answered the call from Jesus to join Him. And the other disciples who who didn’t look back, and their lives were radically changed from time with Jesus.
When we give our all, it means we do what Jesus asks of us, like the disciples who were dogged tired after fishing all night and got skunked. But because Jesus told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they caught more than they could handle! All because they did what Jesus said.
This week we had Taylor for dinner and she is the one we all prayed for when she was on her mission to Africa and Thailand for 9 months. As we shared together, it was evident that Taylor spends time listening to the Lord and wanting to do whatever He asks of her. Recently she was enjoying some friends and they walking near a playground. On the other side she noticed a 15 year-old-boy and felt like God was impressing her with a message to give him. She didn’t hesitate even when asked by another guy who doesn’t yet acknowledge God, why she would do that. She just walked over to the teenager and told him who she was and that she felt God wanted him to know something. She told him God had forgiven him. He said thank you and left and that was that. But later he looked her up on Facebook and asked if she was the one who had spoken to him. He then told her how he had been tearing around in his car in an open field when the car overturned. His girlfriend got killed and he wondered if God had forgiven him.
How important it was that he heard the message of God’s forgiveness, especially from a stranger that knew nothing about it. God wants to use us and we can be like his hands and feet when we are willing. He says in Matt. 25:40 (The Message), “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was Me—you did it to me.”
Challenge for today: Don’t hold back from the Lord but give Him your all.
Many times, in the Word we are told to not be afraid. There are at least 80 “Fear nots” and I find it comforting to read verses on trusting the Lord and not being afraid. I read an article about Jill Briscoe who is a pastor’s wife, speaker who has gone around the world, author, and founder of Just Between Us magazine. I respect her so much and as I read about her, I discovered she is often afraid. That had my attention as I have fearful times. She has gone to places in the world where there has been unrest and Christians killed for their faith, just before she arrived. But she said she did many things afraid and remained scared, but God gave her courage to do whatever it was that He asked of her. Of course, the enemy would have us bound by our fears and not moving ahead, but we are given so many promises that the Lord will go with us wherever we go. I was reading from Joshua 1:9 (The Message) when God said to Joshua, “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” Maybe you are familiar with the song, “Be Not Afraid”. It was written by Bob Dufford in 1972 when he was on a Jesuit retreat for priests; he had fears of transitions he would make as a priest and questioned if he would be a good priest. He wrote the song, “Be not afraid I go before you always. Come, follow me and I will give you rest. If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown. If you walk amid the burning flames you shall not be harmed. If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all.” This song is often sung to those that are dying and brings comfort. No matter what fears we have, we are promised the Lord is right by our side and will give us the courage we need.
Challenge for today: Memorize a scripture on being not afraid and rehearse it when you are fearful.
How good are we at paying attention to warnings? Do we ignore them or do we know that they are there for our good and we need to take heed?
Not far from us we have a section blocked off where roadwork is being done and no matter how we feel about it, we have to take the detour. We can’t get through! We are warned ahead of time and can take the alternate way. Last night we also had warnings of storms coming and one friend who was at their camper had bags packed in case they had to go to a shelter quickly. We also heard a siren go off in the night and hoped we didn’t have to go downstairs to the underground garage…especially since my hair was in rollers!!
But more important are the warnings we are given in scripture of coming times to be alert and pay attention. When Jesus was with his disciples, he gave them warnings about what would happen after He left this world; in Matt. 24 He says that they will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes and Christians will be hated for being committed to Him. False prophets would arise and people would be deceived. Other places in scripture we are warned that men will be lovers of self, scoffers, arrogant, abusive, slanderous, profane and show no respect for what is holy and on and on. Doesn’t it sound like our world today?
But what are we to do as we see these things take place? We are told to stay alert, watch, and be awake spiritually and be in prayer. More than ever before we need to pray for our nation and as God told Solomon in II Chron. 7:15 (ESV), “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Now is the time to seek the Lord! Let us not dismiss the warnings but humbly pray!
Challenge for today: Pray to be awake spiritually and pray for repentance and healing of our land.
Life is exciting when we listen to the Holy Spirit and let Him direct how we spend our day. We never know what is on His agenda and sometimes we can be very surprised.
He wants to use us for God’s kingdom work and isn’t amazing how he brings people together from even opposites of the world if He has a special plan? But often it is in small ways that He whispers something for us to do. We have a 94 year-old friend who spends most of her day in her apt. due to the virus. She still drives and is sharp and fun and a joy to be around. She is also in our Soul Care Group but we haven’t been meeting again yet so the hours are long for her. But since she doesn’t have a computer, I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me to offer to put my daily devotion on her door each morning. So simple to print out and then on the other side of the paper I draw a comic picture of her with a special name I give her for the day, like “Liberated Lois.” I might put in a humorous photo from my past or whatever comes to mind. She tells me how much she appreciates opening her door each day to the message and I find great joy in doing it.
Now this is such a small thing but if something comes to our minds, we need to just pray and see if it is the Holy Spirit telling us what is for our agenda. It could be that we are led to pay for groceries for the stranger ahead of us in line, or to offer to babysit so a young mom can just have some time to get out. It could be that we offer to mentor a teen who is struggling; but whatever it is, we will experience the joy of pleasing our Father when we respond and obey.
Paul says in Phil. 2:13 (The Message), “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, and energy deep within you, God Himself willing and working at what will give Him the most pleasure.” Even when we don’t feel like it, He will give us the power and the desire to do whatever He asks.
Challenge for today: Ask for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and respond in obedience and joy.
There is a lot of pain in people’s lives; pain of every kind. One friend wrote of the severe physical pain she is having and unable to get into the Dr. for 2 weeks. Others wrote of the loss of a loved one.
Many speak of the pain of loneliness they are experiencing and that was even before the pandemic. Self-isolation and quarantine have only made matters worse. Some write about painful feelings of rejection but what do we do with all of those feelings? Do we give up? Think of King David whose own son rejected him or the apostle Paul who had to flee for his very life from those who hated him. We can all feel like victims when those hurtful things happen to us but that only makes us feel bitter and lash out at those around us.
We have a place to go for we can cry out to God who is the one who brings healing to our souls. Only He can give us a sense of belonging, love that is unconditional, and fill the empty space in our hearts. When we come to experience that love, we don’t need to have 1,000 likes online for we know we are loved by the One who is love. Even when things get difficult God uses those challenges to refine us.
I was amazed and touched when I read about a Jesuit priest, Walter Ciszek, who was accused of being a Vatican Spy. He spent five years in a Moscow prison and 15 years of hard labor in a Siberian prison camp, and yet he didn’t give up. In fact, he was thankful to God for stripping away his external comforts and offered his suffering to the Lord as it brought him closer.
We can all offer our pain, our rejections, our sorrows to the Lord and experience His presence and power. As it says in Psalm 91:1 (Amplified), “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty (Whose power no foe can withstand).” Let us run to that protective secret place and give all our hurts to Him.
Challenge for today: Give the Lord all your pain and sorrows and invite His power into your situation.
Devotions from Judy’s heart:
Would people around us say, “Oh she is a grateful person!” or “Oh he is one thankful guy!? It is good to do a check on ourselves often to see what our gratitude thermometer reads.
We have so many scriptures about thanking God and it says in Eph. 5:20 (The Word), “Always thank God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Message translation puts it as, “Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.”
Wouldn’t it be great if all Christians were overflowing with thanksgiving and praises? What a difference we would make in the world. I read what Mark Roberts at Fuller Seminary had to say about living fully, gratefully, and persistently. We are aware that we are to regularly give thanks to the Lord but the word persistently would mean even when things on not as we’d like. For me that means praising God even when my computer goes bonkers after the updates! (I find that hard but later, of course, I am full of thanksgiving when it is up and running again.) But we have the example of the apostle Paul who thanked God even when he was persecuted or in prison for the Lord’s sake; his praise wasn’t dependent on his circumstances but on God’s mercy to him in all things. He didn’t ask to be removed from his circumstances but asks God for strength to endure the hard things with joy. Really with joy!
We may not thank God for our problems but rather for His strength and all the good things He is building in us through our circumstances. Then we can be thankful at all times and for everything, knowing that he is depositing something good in us. Let us not wait for perfect circumstances to be grateful but to praise Him right now where He has us.
Challenge for today: Start a list of things you are grateful for and add more each day.