Perfect Timing

standard January 24, 2018 Leave a response

Matthew 2:14

Do you ever stop to think about the concept of perfect timing?

Sometimes we’re delayed for an unknown reason and later we discover that there was an accident where we were traveling. Or maybe we’re supposed to be at an event, but due to illness we had miss it and it ends up being a good thing for the sake of our reputation that we weren’t there.

I always think it’s so interesting how God works things out for us in His perfect timing.

In Matthew 2 we are told that after the wise men left their gifts with Jesus an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and told him to get up and take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s plan to kill the Messiah. It says that Joseph did the following:

Got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.

 What struck me about this passage was not only the perfect timing of the angel’s message, but also Joseph’s immediate obedience to follow the angel’s instructions. He didn’t wait until morning to wake the newborn baby and exhausted mother. No, he left during the night!

Joseph’s example is a good reminder for us in our everyday lives. If God says to get up and go, we should obey right then because we never know what He may be trying to spare us from. His timing is always perfect.

 

Gentleness Matters

standard January 17, 2018 2 responses

Philippians 4:5

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something was off at our home.

The kids were constantly bickering with each other. My husband and I were short with our words. No one was being outright rude, but no one was being gentle either. And my spirit had had enough!

I realized that a change first needed to start in my heart, so I prayed that the Lord would help me change this spirit of dissension in my home. He led me to the book of Philippians where it seems that there were two women in the church that were not getting along so well.

Paul gave these words of advice to them when he said:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

I let that sink in for a minute. Had I been gentle with my husband and with my children? No, I had not, so how could I expect them to be gentle with each other??

First I had to change the tone in which I spoke to them and then ask that they do the same. And guess what? As I changed the way that I approached them, I started to see a positive change in them as well.

But my ultimate motivation for treating my family with gentleness is because I believe that the Lord is near and I certainly don’t want to disappoint Him. I can’t be short with my kids or husband and expect the Lord to be gentle with me.

If I truly want the Lord’s favor and blessing to fall on me, then I have to be willing to extend the same to others…

in the grocery store checkout line

in the committee meeting with the abrasive member

in my home as we rush out the door each morning

in my everyday life.

Gentleness matters. If by chance you find yourself in my shoes, remember Paul’s words and let your gentleness be evident to those you interact with because the Lord is near!

 

Push The Reset Button

standard January 10, 2018 Leave a response

It’s only the second week of January and it’s already hard to keep those New Year’s Reflections going. Right? I decided to take a much-needed break from sugar and by day four, I was showing all the symptoms of being “hangry.”

The ushering in a of new year means that we have a chance to push the “RESET” button on our lives and start living the way that we know that we should:

A little less cake, and a lot more salad.

A little less TV watching, and a lot more walking.

A little less sleeping in, and a lot more trips to the coffee pot.

But the new year also brings a chance for us to focus our hearts and minds on the Lord. God says in Ezekiel 36:26,

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

 I love that!

He gives us a new heart; one that desires to bless the Lord and bless others. And He gives us a new spirit, so that we can have the power and strength to live our lives to the fullest.

So, what is it that you desire to accomplish this year, Friend? Take a moment to push that RESET button and ask that the Lord would put His heart and spirit in you.

Let’s resolve to make 2018 the best year yet as we strive to live with a little less self, and a lot more of Jesus!

Not Finished Yet

standard January 3, 2018 Leave a response

Can you believe that another year has passed us by? Wow! That went quickly!

I do love a shiny new year, with all it’s potential and possibilities. I like seeing the months laid out and the calendar start to fill up with coffee dates, kids’ activities, conferences, and even project deadlines.

I feel such expectant hope at all that God is going to do in 2018 and I can’t wait to get started.

However, I still need to be mindful of the good work that God has already begun in me.

Philippians 1:6 says,
     “We can be confident that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

That simply means that God will be faithful to keep on developing us to our fullest potential in this coming year as well as the ones that follow, if we let Him. Even if we didn’t realize all our goals in 2017, we can rest assured that there is grace for 2018 and move forward with confidence knowing that God will keep working in us.

We’ve got to do our part to keep on shining in this new year. And as we reflect the light of Christ then others will see the good work that is in us and they will give glory to the very one who started it in us – God the Father. Isn’t that beautiful?

This year let’s resolve to be lights that shine brightly and then let’s keep on pointing others to one who started it all: our faithful God.

Bringing Him Our Treasure

standard December 20, 2017 Leave a response

 

No nativity is complete without the wise men coming by camel to bring their gifts to Jesus.  Am I right?

Matthew 2 tells us the wise men followed the eastern star and when they found the baby they worshipped him and opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Notice that they didn’t bring a whole convoy of objects. They brought a representation of their very best gifts. They chose to bring quality over quantity.  They presented Him with the things that they truly treasured.

What is it that you treasure? Take a moment to think about it. What would your gift be and how you can present it as an offering to your King today? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or perfectly wrapped. It just needs to be meaningful.

Maybe it’s taking the time to serve at the local soup kitchen and offering a kind word to those you meet. It could be as easy as slowing down enough to listen to someone who is struggling this season. Or it could be as difficult as giving up that treasured parking spot you’ve been waiting on at the mall (gasp!).

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season rob you of bringing your very best gifts. Resolve to choose quality over quantity. And remember, when you take the time to love others in His name, you bring something so valuable: a treasure fit for a King.

(The above painting is by Joellen Lee who uses her gift to bless others. )

Happiness in Giving

standard December 13, 2017 Leave a response

Each Christmas season our church group participates in blessing a lower-income school with gifts for each one of the children.

It takes much preparation and the generosity of many church members to pull this event off, but the outcome is pure joy! I love seeing the trailers fill up with the brightly wrapped boxes filled with warm clothes and toys for every child. But nothing compares to the children’s animated facial expressions as they unwrap a gift especially prepared for them.

Basketballs and sneakers, baby dolls and pjs. All unwrapped with squeals of delight.

Experiencing such fun made me think of this Scripture in Acts 20:

We must help the weak, remembering the word that the Lord Jesus himself said,

“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”

One little girl had asked for 3 matchbox trucks in her box so that she would have something to give to her brothers on Christmas morning. The thought of her sweet request made me want to weep and smile simultaneously because she understood the meaning of this Scripture.

As you make your Christmas shopping list, consider including someone who would never expect to receive a gift from you and use it as an opportunity to share the ultimate gift this Christmas: the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And then see if giving doesn’t make YOU the happiest of all.

 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

standard November 29, 2017 3 responses

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

Last fall I stood at the top of the Bethlehem Hills in Israel and experienced where these angels would have heralded the birth of our Savior to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. It was surreal to say the least.

However, in the near distance there is a beautiful mountain where Herod the Great had his servants chop off the top and resurrect a palace for himself there named Herodium. The audacity of Herod’s attempt to exalt himself above all others was glaring.

What struck me as ironic was that just a few miles away from Herod’s stately palace, there were angels proclaiming the arrival of the true king. One that was humble enough to be born in a manger and die on a cross for your sins and for mine.

Philippians 2 says this of Jesus’ act of humility:
For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is that not the most glorious thing you have ever heard?

No one ever puts a picture of Herodium on their Christmas cards. That’s because the true king came and His name is above every other name. His name is Jesus. 

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

A Life of Thanksgiving

standard November 15, 2017 Leave a response

We were sitting around my parent’s kitchen table with tears in our eyes but a smile on our lips, reading through a list that my brother had made named “Things to be Thankful for (Blessings).”

We found this list in Jeremy’s room after he had passed away in a tragic car accident at the age of 17. Topping the list was his relationship with God and his family members, but as the list progressed there were humorous entries such as, “cool personallity” and “fairly intelligent.” (Thank goodness he spelled that last one correctly!)

We couldn’t help but laugh through the pain.

I’ve often thought of this list and the positive impact that it has had on me. I was inspired to make my own list because I too wanted God and others to know just how thankful I am for each of them in my life.

Paul instructs us in Colossians 2:
You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. Quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Jeremy certainly did let his thanksgiving overflow within his short life and because he took the time to make his list of blessings, we can look back today and see how very much we meant to him.

I also loved that he was thankful for JOY because that is exactly what we all remember about Jeremy: his overwhelming joy.

If you knew Jeremy’s joy in a personal way, the Jeremy Barnhill Foundation for Christian Teens​ would like to invite you to share a memory that you have of him on our page. It would be a true blessing.

As you get ready to celebrate this season, I encourage you to make your own list of blessings. Let your daily living spill over into a life of thanksgiving.

Abide

standard November 8, 2017 2 responses

My nephew Jeremiah was barely a month old when I had an opportunity to babysit him for the afternoon. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him for a few hours and kiss on his sweet round cheeks.

If you’ve ever been around a newborn, then you know that they typically only eat and sleep which was just fine with me because I was ready to do some cuddling.

After feeding Jeremiah, he immediately went to sleep on my chest and his soft breathing in and out lulled me into a state of rest. With each sweet snore that he made my soul became more and more still.  As I soaked in the moment it reminded me of what it means to truly abide.

Jesus tells us in John 15:9:

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”     

The word “abide” in the original language also carries these definitions: to remain, to dwell, and my personal favorite, to be held.   

When you wake each morning take some time to spend with the Lord. As you do, you will feel that love growing stronger with each passing day. Jesus loves you so fully and completely.

Just as Jeremiah was content to be held and loved on by me that afternoon, allow yourself to feel the love of your Savior.

Just Abide.

Even If

standard October 18, 2017 20 responses

Sometimes you’re walking through life and it all makes total sense. A fall breeze is blowing and you’ve got your windows down and your favorite song is blasting on max volume.

And then there are times when absolutely nothing makes sense. You were minding your own business, but suddenly your legs were kicked out from under you, landing you flat on your behind wondering what in the world just happened.

How could your circumstances have changed so drastically within a 24-hour period? It’s a valid question and it’s one that I wish I had the answer to.

I’m sure Martha and Mary felt somewhat similar when they were just trucking through life in the quiet town of Bethany, enjoying being a part of this new movement called “the Way” that heralded Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah.  When all of a sudden their beloved brother falls ill. And it’s not a “he’ll sleep it off and be better by tomorrow” sort of sick, but it’s evident that he has a life-threatening illness that requires immediate attention. They do some quick thinking and send word to their friend Jesus and ask Him to come on the double!

Jesus receives the message and this is His response: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:5-6)

Wait. What??

One of His very best friends is sick, SO He stays put?  What kind of sacrificial love is that? That seems a little counterproductive, wouldn’t you say?

By the time Jesus gets there Lazarus is dead. Not just any kind of dead either, but dead-dead. Like four-day-old-stinking-in-the-grave dead. It’s bad. And Martha let’s Him know it.

Where have You been? If you would have been here, He would not be dead!

Adding to His mysterious behavior, Jesus replies in the most cryptic way. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Umm, yes…I think I do. But my brother’s still dead and I’m beyond devastated.

To say that we believe when life is good doesn’t take much faith.  But we have to be willing to ask ourselves this question when life throws us that inevitable curve ball.

Do I believe this?

Because believing Jesus is the truth is easy enough UNTIL…

your brother dies;

you miscarry that baby that you waited and prayed for;

your spouse confesses the unthinkable to you;

…THEN it’s personal.

But faith is believing EVEN IF…

your brother stays in the grave;

your arms remain empty;

your spouse refuses to come home;

…Trusting in His sovereign plan.

Jesus never said that life would be fair. In fact, He was perfectly straightforward when He told us that in this world we WILL have trouble, but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

He is still the Resurrection and Life, EVEN IF life does not work out the way we thought it would.

Jesus eventually kept His promise to raise Lazarus from the dead with the purpose that God would be glorified through the act (take time to read this incredible story in John 11 if you aren’t familiar with the details). Both Martha and Mary received their miracle that day when their brother was resurrected and reunited with them. However, this was not the case for my sister and me.  Why did God allow Lazarus to live and Jeremy to die? This is a question that I have often pondered and I still do not know the answer to. Nevertheless, I had a choice to make, just as you do.

When He says that He is the Resurrection and the Life and He then asks me, “April, do you believe this?” I answer Him wholeheartedly:

Yes, Lord. I believe You are the One who holds the resurrection power.

I believe You are the only Way to eternal life.

I believe You are the Truth.

Even if…

(“Even If” by Mercy Me)