The other day, my to-do-list seemed to grow faster than I could keep up with. Overwhelmed, I had placed another helping of ‘Yes, I can do that!” on my plate. Unfortunately, when my commitments get bigger and a little out of control, my quiet time with Jesus suffers and I neglect to sit and read Scripture, journal, or pray.
Psalm 81 is a call to obedience. Perhaps the people of Israel also struggled with prioritizing God over ll other tasks. I know I had a hard time this particular day, and began to let that to-do-list encroach upon my time with Him.
God declares, in Psalm 81:10, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” In that quick and unfocused quiet time, I did not open my mouth wide. Instead, I barely parted my lips; I opened myself up to just a smidge of what God had prepared. The temptation of getting started on my tasks for the day was greater than my desire to be filled with God’s Word. I opened my mouth to be filled with something else rather than what I genuinely need to feast on each day – time with Jesus.
In Psalm 81:10, God speaks of provision and release from bondage. Jesus has delivered us out of slavery and into freedom. And He who is faithful to deliver us from sin, shame, addiction, or that to-do-list is also faithful to provide for our every need. God declared, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” That, dear sister, is a promise.
Later that morning while I was working on our farm, conviction whispered to my heart. I stopped, dropped my tools and looked up to heaven. With a repentant heart, I closed my eyes, opened my mouth wide, and asked God to fill me up. He did. My day no longer seemed daunting; instead it became a chance to offer each item up to the Lord and ask for His strength and wisdom. I was no longer tackling things in my own strength, but God’s. I wasn’t tempted to shut God out, and instead partnered with Him. Be encouraged! Take him up on that promise, open yourself wide and be filled.
This devotional first appeared in Journey, April 2018, LifeWay Press.
We’re keeping the devotional on the shorter side of things today because there is also a fun announcement to share. I sure hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving last week. Our family celebration was full of family, laughter, great food, and a wild rumpus from a house full of kids. Our only formality is to leave having had fun, with a full heart and belly.
As we enter this season of celebrating our Savior’s birth, it’s easy to focus on what activities are taking place, what food do I need to take, and what food will be showing up. Food has a way of becoming the focal point, and all though necessary, let’s not allow it to overshadow a daily helping of eternal manna.
I recently came across this quote from Charles Spurgeon’s devotional book, Morning and Evening. “Labour to maintain a sense of thine entire dependence upon the Lord’s good will and pleasure for the continuance of thy richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or thou art done for ever.”
When the to-do list gets long, it’s tempting to let our quiet time with God slip away. As Mr. Spurgeon puts it, “Never try to live on the old manna…or thou art done for ever.” It’s tempting to live on the “old” manna, a word you received last month, last week, or even a year ago. I’m not knocking those things, they are vitally important and carry us. But let’s not forget to get a fresh word from God, in His Word, daily! The Israelites were to gather manna daily, leftovers would be found with maggots the next morning. (Exodus 16)
God’s word is our manna, it’s living and active. It has a way of feeding us, mind and soul. And just as the Israelites gathered manna daily, we are as well. So as we go through this Christmas season, let’s not forget to gather the manna daily. Lets not miss the rush of seeing something “new” in scripture. What if we could get as excited about unwrapping the Word of God as we are while unwrapping presents Christmas morning? Can I encourage you to go on a treasure hunt?! Daily?
That being said…would you share below what you may have learned in God’s Word – today? I love to hear how others are experiencing our God.
Alrighty – time for fun. I’m excited to share the Bible study, Courageous Faith, you!
Between today (11/29/18) and next Wednesday (12/5/18) you can register to win a copy of this Bible study on Joshua for yourself and one for a friend! (This would be a GREAT Christmas present!)
One winner and their winning friend will be announced on Thursday, December 6 and ship anywhere in the continental United States – you should have them in plenty of time to get them before Christmas.
Here’s what you need to do in order to register, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3!
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The last couple weeks we’ve taken a brief look at verse 16, “Rejoice always,” and then verse 17, “Pray Constantly”. Today we peer in to our third and final directive found in verse 18, “give thanks in everything”. It seems a bit cliché to write about thankfulness during the week of Thanksgiving, but it fits. This series on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is all about posturing our heart towards the Savior, and I know no better way than a heart full of gratitude.
The concept of gratitude is everywhere, signs adorn the walls of our homes and journals have been specially crafted in order to focus on the idea. Along with tangible reminders surrounding us, hundreds of studies have been done on thankfulness and gratitude. According to one article, thankfulness has the ability to improve our physical and psychological health, reduce aggression, enhance empathy, improve our sleep and self-esteem.[i] These are just a few of the benefits a heart of thankfulness can offer.
It turns out these studies have uncovered what I believe to be part of God’s original design for our heart, soul, mind, and strength – thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that it is God’s will for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks – at all times. While these three directives do not exhaust the will of God, they impact our obedience in fulfilling other aspects of God’s will. If a heart is not postured with thanks 365 days a year, I fear it will be incrementally more challenging to fulfill the individual details of God’s will as they are presented.
The story of Jonah comes to mind. He didn’t exactly tell God “thanks” for sending him to Nineveh. Rather than taking a posture of ‘thank you for using me’ he initially goes the opposite direction. This is a complex story in the Old Testament involving pride and hypocrisy, there is much more than a lack of gratitude involved. Yet I believe it may also serve as an example to us in the context we’re focusing on today. God’s will for the Ninevites to repent came to pass, yet Jonah’s experience in joining God in that will was nothing short of a challenge for him.
Giving thanks for everything cultivates an active and growing spiritual life, while fostering relationship with our Creator and others. Gratitude invites abundance. Through aggravations of this earth, impossible situations, and deep heartache, thankfulness has a way of lifting our eyes to the One who is higher and completely sovereign. Practicing gratitude provides contentedness, it holds an element of humility, ushers in peace, and provides space to experience God’s victory!
I’m not going to provide a list of various ideas to practice more gratitude, because it starts with simply and authentically stating, “thank you”. Tell God! Tell your spouse, parents, kids, pastor, friends, grocery clerk – everyone. Can I challenge you to make it personal, direct, and specific? Reflect back to God what your thankful for throughout the day.
Would you mind sharing your experiences here? Leave a comment! Let’s encourage and inspire one another with how God is using this in your life right now!
It’s my prayer these verses, along with our verse in 1 Thessalonians 5, would be used to posture our hearts this season by giving thanks and rejoicing in and for our Savior.
I’m so thankful to God for you,
A psalm of thanksgiving.
“Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God.
He made us, and we are his –
His people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the LORD is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
We’re doing a double portion on the blog this week. The regular Thursday post is coming your way, but I couldn’t resist sharing one of our family’s favorite side dishes. It came out of a magazine when I was a girl, and has become a staple on the table when the leaves turn every fall. So, as you plan your meal for Thursday (or another day this week) consider adding this to the menu. We think it’s spot on!
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
1/4 cup honey (I used less)
1/4 cup frozen apple or OJ concentrate (I used juice or whatever is on hand)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberries (fresh)
1/4-1/2 cup apples or pears (I use a whole fruit, whatever you have)
1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed
Mix ingredients together, bake uncovered for about an hour at 350*, until tender.
Honestly, it’s hard to mess it up. I never measure anything when making this dish – dump and bake. FYI, the leftovers are even better!
Have a wonderful celebration this week, wherever you find yourself, full and thanks and God’s never ending love.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Last week we took a brief look at verse 16, “Rejoice always”. Today we peer in to that second directive found in verse 17, “pray constantly”. It’s my prayer these verses would be used to posture our hearts for this season of giving thanks and rejoicing in and for our Savior.
I’ve heard it said that scripture tells us to fear not 365 times, enough for each day of the year. And while I’ve never counted those instances for myself, I did inquire and count how many times the holy scriptures speak about prayer. Looking up any form of the word pray, I discovered that it is used at least 545 times. That’s way more than one prayer per day. That’s relationship with a constant line of open communication.
In looking up some of those 545 verses a pattern began to emerge, one of remaining alert and persistence. We can see this pattern exhibited in the Old Testament story of Elijah and a rain cloud in 1 Kings 18:41-45. Elijah had been attuned to the Lord, communicating with Him. As the story unfolds, Elijah goes up to the summit of Carmel, bends down to the ground, face between his knees, and prays.
We see the pattern of remaining alert and persistence unfold as Elijah prays and then looks for the answer to his prayers seven times. Seven. Elijah repeatedly asked his servant to, “Go up and look toward the sea.” He was expectant, alert, and vigilant for those prayers to be answered. He persisted until there was an answer, a small cloud the size of a man’s fist. As Elijah prayed, I believe He was earnestly pressing in and standing on the promise God had made to him. “I will send rain on the surface of the land.” (1 Kings 18:1)
While we may not have physical promises of rain, this pattern can be established in our walk with God. Pray constantly, persistently, and be vigilantly expectant.
The word being used in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray, is prŏsĕuchŏmai. It’s a two-part Greek word, which means to pray to God and holds the connotation of going before God in prayer and worship.[i]
Prayer is a lot of things. Some of which is humbly going before God, not someone else or ourselves, in faith. It’s an opportunity to ask Him your questions, present your petitions, and worship. It’s relationship and communication in our quietness, words, and action. It is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus to pray constantly – His desire. He desires that constant communication with us, omitting nothing. He wants that with you and I, because we are His children.
Last week we focused on experiencing God through rejoicing always. Would you join me this week in really focusing on praying constantly? We have an open invitation to commune with our Father at all times. Let us be persistent and alert for those answers to prayer. He hears you.
With Gratitude, Amy
“May my prayer be set before you as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering.” Psalm 141:2
“Devote yourself to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2
It seems fitting that the season outside my window reflects the season in my heart. As the leaves turn color and trees go dormant, the rest until spring begins. The world rests, and waits. It’s an active rest, roots still take up moisture and move nutrients. Slowly. I too find myself in a season of active rest and waiting. Life would seem so much easier if I just knew what the next step looked like. But I don’t. No matter how hard we desire skip winter and move in to spring, it’s necessary. And rather than push ahead, we can choose to enjoy the season, and wait.
Waiting is hard. It’s uncomfortable.
Oh, I could take a step. But would it be in-line with the direction where God is working, where he wants me to join him? Would it be God’s will? Who knows. But I do know, if your lost it’s best to not go wandering off. That’s a good time to stop, get your bearings, and perhaps wait for help to arrive.
When I stumbled upon 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 last week, it felt like receiving actionable steps for the waiting. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (CSB)
When the specific will of God seems to be foggy, this much is clear – rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Always, constantly, and in everything.
For me, it’s hard to picture what always rejoicing might look like, especially if your personality tends to be calm and quiet. Now some of my friends – they walk around with outward rejoicing all the time! Me, it just comes out different. Typically, I imagine rejoicing to be boisterous, outward exultation with a lot of seen emotion attached. But how can I possibly rejoice always? The truth is, rejoicing comes out differently in all of us, and in various situations.
Rejoice always – chairō pantŏtĕ in Greek. I so appreciate the Greek definition because it seems feasible to me. Rejoice, chairō, is to be calmly happy; be well, be glad, rejoice.[i] I also appreciate Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message translation, “Be cheerful no matter what.”[ii] Joy and cheer always, in all circumstances. It’s not a joy that goes where the winds blow, it’s eternal.
As a way to posture our hearts and attune our spiritual focus, let’s work on always rejoicing these next few days. And if the “calmly” thing isn’t your style, by all means let that exultation bubble over! Maybe you’ll splash that rejoicing on me or the person next to you. Wouldn’t that be fun?!
Next week we’ll look at the second part of those three directives in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – pray constantly.
Would you mind sharing your experience of rejoicing always here? I’d love to know how you are experiencing God through rejoicing.
Do you remember the story of Hansel and Gretel, where they leave a trail of bread crumbs so they can find their way home? It’s an interesting story, but I want to focus on the bread crumbs. Sometimes I feel like the Lord leaves me a trail of bread crumbs, not for the purpose of leading me home but as confirmation that I’m going the right way.
My most recent “bread crumb” was found in Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the LORD.” (CSB) At a time of uncertainty and questioning, this was peace to my unsettled soul. And unlike Hansel’s breadcrumbs that were eaten by birds, God’s Word does not return void. His Word is established and a firm foundation for direction and teaching.
Therefore, I wait.
In Psalm 27:14 the word ‘LORD’ is all capital letters, it lets me know this refers to God’s Promise Making, Promise Keeping character. He is our covenant God. In my questioning and doubts, I can wait on the Lord to be faithful in His promises. That’s claiming some earthly promised land. It’s still a bit uncomfortable, but that’s where trusting Him comes in to play. Trusting God’s timing, his provision, his goodness, and his faithfulness.
This particular “bread crumb” in Psalm 27:14 has been found in several separate areas of my life. Therefore, I wait.
What “bread crumbs” has he left for you recently? Where is he leading you?
Last week we talked about being Light Focused, asking for eyes to see and then walking in the light so that we can see. Today I wanted to share an insight I learned while participating in our final session of The Quest, Beth Moore’s latest study. (It’s great!) During that last teaching session Ms. Beth spoke about Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It’s one of those verses everyone seems to know and shake their heads in agreement when it’s mentioned. But what Ms. Beth said made me stop and think. She utilized the idea of holding a lamp in front of you, and that with a lamp you’re only able to see what is arms-length away. We don’t get the entire view of the path ahead, just what the lamp in your hand is able to illuminate.
According to this verse in Psalm 119 God’s word is a lamp, not a city illuminating stadium light. As someone who has made several trips around the sun, by now you’ve figured out that even though you may want to know what the path ahead looks like, it’s not likely to happen. We only get to see the path as we’re walking it. We get one lamp’s length at a time.
We don’t know who penned Psalm 119, but I wonder what lamp they may have used. My curious mind and a quick search came up with what archaeologists have discovered. Simple clay bowls with a pinched spout to support a wick, which was generally made with twisted flax.[i] They probably used olive oil, a common lamp fuel and precious resource. The psalmist’s lamp, and the light it cast, would have been dramatically different from our versions today.
Could you imagine carrying this lamp, having it’s dim light to guide your steps? This lamp had to be held intentionally, and so close that it’s warmth could be felt from the flame. I imagine the psalmists relationship with God and His Word to have been an intimate one, present and intentional.
God’s word illuminates each step, not the entire path like we may want. I love the CSB version of Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (emphasis mine) God’s word can be on the path with you, leading the way and showing where to place your foot next. We get just enough light to know where to step, and perhaps what we’re putting our foot on. It sets us up for relationship with the Father and His Word, and to be present with the Holy Spirit and others.
I’m curious, how do you use God’s word as a precious resource guiding the way? And, how does this idea effect your walk with the Lord and your relationship with His Word?
I’m so grateful for you.
[i] R. Dennis Cole. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pg. 1009; Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.
Where is your focus today? Is it on circumstances? Someone else’s perfect Instagram post? Perhaps your focus is held captive to worry? This question has been on repeat, continuing to surface in seemingly random places. What am I focusing on?
Our focus and our thoughts are connected, much like driving, and our thoughts produce actions. Wherever my eyes focus, that’s where the car tends to go. If I focus left I’m inching over into the lane next to me; looking right, and I’m hitting rumble strips.
During some time in scripture today, Psalm 36:11, became my focus. “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (ESV)
So often I ask God for eyes to see. But after that prayer, if I’m focused on the dark (those circumstances, unattainable social media posts, worry, etc.) even opened eyes wouldn’t be able to see in their surroundings. It is in His light, where we see light. This may sound a bit silly to you. Obviously, we can’t see clearly in the dark. Have you ever been deep inside a cave when they purposefully turn the lights off? It’s black. Eyes wide open and you can’t see your own hand in front of your face!
In His light, we see light. So today, can I challenge you (along with myself) to ask for eyes to see and a focus on heavenly things? Pay attention, where is your focus? Let’s allow a purposed focus towards light to direct our actions.
Praying for you, friend! God is so good, and in Him there is no darkness.
It occurred to me that I never announced the arrival of my “book baby”…over a month ago! September 1st to be exact. I guess thats what happens when you’re taking care of a new born.
The outpouring of love and support have been amazing. I’m so grateful and honored to have been on this journey with the Lord in writing Courageous Faith. The process continually stretched my thoughts and beliefs, yet with each challenging step I was met with God’s grace and loving kindness. Countless times I experienced His perfect timing and guidance.
This study continues to challenge me. You may know the Bible story of the walls of Jericho tumbling down, but Joshua’s journey with the Israelites is so much deeper. Faith is an action word, and Joshua’s life is filled with deep faith and courageous obedience as he lived out the promises of God. Each step of this journey has allowed my faith to take root deep into my heart, resulting in a close walk with the Lord and claimed ground. I’m praying that result for all who participate in this study.
Courageous Faith is now available on Amazon. So – grab a girlfriend, your women’s Bible study group, or challenge yourself to dig in to God’s Word with Courageous Faith. May God be glorified in your deeper relationship with Him.