Give me a word, Lord: LIVING WATER OR PUDDLE OF MUD?

Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!

John 7:37-39 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

John 4:13-14 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

In Jeremiah chapter 2, the prophet Jeremiah is proclaiming the Lord’s case against His people. His people had strayed away from God. They were doing their own thing and living their own lives without regard to God and His goodness. They had angered God, and He chose the prophet Jeremiah to make His case to the people. In verse 13 of this chapter, Jeremiah shares that the people have done two evil things in the eyes of God. The people abandoned God. They abandoned the fountain of living water. The second thing they did was that they dug for themselves and filled cracked cisterns that could not hold water. We see throughout the Bible scriptures that the living water is a reference to Christ. Just as we require water to live, we require the Living Water for eternal life.

There are multiple references in the Old Testament of thirsting after God. Two thirds of the human body is water. Water is an absolute necessity to live. When we haven’t had enough to drink, our mouths get parched and dry, and we crave water. We need it to survive. The same thing happens in our spiritual life. We need the Living Water to survive. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We need Christ, and when we distance ourselves from the Living Water, we end up with a pot full of mud. We get bogged down in the daily drudgery of life. Rather than filling up with the Living Water, we end up wallowing in a puddle of mud!

God proclaimed in Jeremiah that the people had abandoned the Living Water. They had the opportunity to walk right up to the well and fill their pots with fresh clean water. They had every opportunity to walk with God, quench their spiritual thirst with the Living Water that was so freely flowing. However, they abandoned God. Instead, they dug down below the free flowing well of Living Water and tried to fill their cisterns or clay pots with their own water source, but their pots were cracked…much like their lives, and the water leaked right out of the pots. Their pots were full of mud, but there was no Living Water.

I think that this is what is happening in today’s society. Christ is still offering the Living Water. It is flowing abundantly. It is the “fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” Our hearts crave this Living Water. We can’t survive without it, yet we try to do things on our own. We try to dig our own wells in life. We try to find our own sources of joy and happiness, and we try to fill our pots with things we hold dear. BUT…our pots are cracked, and in the end, the pots are just filled with nothing but mud. There is no true joy. There is no true happiness to be found in our pots. No, my friend, we can only find true joy and happiness from the river of Living Water.

Are you feeling thirsty today? Why don’t you go fill up at the spring of Living Water that flows eternally. Fill up with the Spirit. Get up, get dressed, and get to church! Choose the fresh, bubbling spring of Living Water that gives eternal life rather than an old mudhole that leaves you dirty and still thirsty at the end of the day.

Give me word, Lord: WALKING WITH GOD

Deuteronomy 5:33 Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.

Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

With the events of the past year now in our rearview mirror, many of us are not merely walking into the new year. Many of us are running into the new year! Everyone wants to move well past the turmoil of last year and jump right into a new year. A new year is like opening the cover of a brand new book. The book smells new and fresh. The pages are not worn, and they may even stick together at first. But wait, as you open the book, you find that the pages are blank. There is nothing there. The pages of the book for the new year are completely blank. It is a blank slate. Who knows what wonderful adventure lies within the cover of this new exciting book? In this particular book, only God knows. For you see, God is outside of time. He already knows what will happen in the coming year, and He knows exactly how to prepare you and help you make it through.

Our cousin, Carl Strosnider, shared this statement on his daily devotional site this morning, “Walk with God, and you will never step into anything He can’t bring you out of.” As I read those words, my mind said, “Whoa! That is deep, and deeply true!” It touched me, and really made me think about how I want to walk into the new year. How can we walk with God in the coming year? We only need to follow Christ with every part of our being. If we are following Christ in all of our actions, thoughts, and ways, we can’t help but stay on the right path. And we must ask Christ to walk before us and with us through each and every day of life. As you make your new year’s resolution this year, are you resolving to walk with God?

I can’t help but think of the men walking to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Christ. “He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” (Luke 24:17-21) Do you remember the story? Two friends were walking along and sadly discussing the events. They must have been so distressed. They thought that Jesus was the Messiah. They thought that He had come to rescue them, but He was crucified. They thought that this was the end of the story. They thought that their Savior was gone. They had no idea that they were walking side by side with the Messiah.

Jesus spoke with them and took them through the scriptures explaining things concerning himself, but they could not see that it was Jesus himself walking with them. Finally, as they arrived home, it was getting late and they invited Jesus to have dinner with them. He then revealed Himself to the men. “As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!  They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them,  who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” (Luke 24:30-34)

The men had absolutely no idea that they were walking right along side of Christ the King! As we enter this new year, we remember the chaos of the past year. We recall the tragedies. We think about the heartaches. We remember the struggles. We talk about these things until we are blue in the face. We share our grief, anguish, and unrest with those around us. We try to handle everything on our own. We may even want to wallow in our own little pity party for a while. We may feel alone, isolated. Yes, this past year has been difficult, but there is great news! We do not have to walk into the unknown of the coming year alone! Christ cares about our troubles. He cares about our lives even down to the most minute detail. He wants to walk with you as you begin writing the pages of the book of the coming year. Just as He chose to walk with the two men on their way to Emmaus, Jesus chooses to walk with us too! And just as they asked Him to stay a little longer, we can ask too!

Yes, we have started a new year, a new book. We have no idea what will happen this year, but Jesus already does! He knows exactly how to prepare us for the things to come. He goes before you, and He walks with you! Let’s commit to walk with Christ this year!

Give me a word, Lord: HOPING FOR A HERO

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Yesterday, we closed the gate on 2020. It was a wet and rainy night here. We didn’t ring in the New Year with fireworks and blasts of excitement. We rang it in quietly tucked in our cozy, warm beds. No fireworks, no raising of an apple on Time Square, no, I just snuggled up in my big old king sized bed next to the man I love and thanked God for the past year, and I asked Him to be with me in the coming year. We spend this time of each year in great reflection. We remember the successes of the past year, and at the same time, we remember the trials and failures. We smile with pleasure as we remember the good times that we shared, and a frown sneaks across our brow as we remember the low times. As we walk into this new day and new year, we must forgive and forget, and move forward seeking the path that our Lord and Savior has planned for us. Oh what a plan He has for us!

I saw a thing on Facebook last night in which a friend asked that everyone share their favorite scripture. The scripture would then be written in a 52 week planner, and each week of the coming year, you would focus on that scripture for the week and also pray for the person who shared the scripture. I thought that this was an absolutely wonderful idea, and I shared it to my status on Facebook. I thought long and hard trying to figure out my favorite scripture. I have so many favorites, and I couldn’t choose just one. One of my very favorites is Philippians 4:6-7, but Jeremiah 29:11 is right up there on the top also.

If we read Jeremiah 29:11 in context we soon realize that it doesn’t mean what we thought it did. We cling to this verse with thoughts that God’s plan is to prosper me. However, there is a lot more to it than that. The Israelites were in exile, a punishment from God as a result of their disobedience. The prophet Jeremiah confronted the false prophet, Hananiah, who had boldly proclaimed that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years. (He did not, by the way.) Jeremiah called out Hananiah’s lie and then stated the promise we read in 29:11. God did indeed have a good plan for the Israelites, and it was a plan that would give them hope and a prospering future. But before He gave the promise, He shared instructions from God. In verse 7, he proclaimed, “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Wait, what? Surely that wasn’t what they wanted to hear! The Israelites wanted to go home. They didn’t want to stay in bondage any longer. They wanted God’s plan to be their plan…to get the heck out of Dodge. But that isn’t how God works. God wanted the people to stay right where they were and help the people that enslaved them prosper, and by helping their captors prosper, God promised that they too would prosper. But wait, there is more! In verse 10, Jeremiah delivered a little more distressing news from God. “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” The Israelites had to remain in captivity for seventy years. That had to hurt, but thankfully, the words of verse 11 came next. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Verse 11 is where it is at! God’s promise is to give us a future and a hope just as He promised the Israelites while they were in bondage. What does this mean for us? We are going to go through some very difficult days, and some of those days will be much more trying than others. We must remember God can turn those difficult situations into key moments that make His plans for us prosper. God is NOT out to bring harm on us. He loves us so much, but sometimes in our darkest hour, we feel that He isn’t there. We feel that He has left us. We ask Him why He isn’t there, or where did He go. He didn’t leave. He never leaves, but sometimes we endure dark moments so that we can experience the most important lessons to help us grow closer to God. It is always in my darkest days that I learn to depend totally on the Father!

God has a way of using the scariest and darkest times of our lives to show us His saving power and grace. Everybody has their favorite superhero. Don’t you just love Superman, Batman, Ironman, or Spiderman? They always swoop in at exactly the right moment, just in the nick of time, to save the world from certain doom! Well, my friends, we have a real life superhero that puts all of these fictional heroes to shame! God sent His Son to save the world. That same God that sent His Son to forever change the world is the same God that is here with you and me today. And that same God has plans for you, and those plans include a future filled with HOPE! Today, rest in the arms of the true Superhero: Jesus Christ. Place your hope in Him. I leave you with these words from Paul in Ephesians 1:18. “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”

Give me a word, Lord: CLOSE EVERY GATE

Psalm 30:13-17 O Lord, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!

Today is New Year’s Eve, and this day marks the close of what most consider a pretty awful year. I have always been one to do a year end review at the end of each year as I reflect back on all of the blessings of the previous year. Despite the tragedies of this past year, there have still been a multitude of blessings. Tonight, our family will complete reading through the entire Bible as a family. We did this a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it so much. This year, we read the New Living Translation version, and we read and saw things that we had not even noticed before. God’s Word came alive as we read through the chapters nightly, and oh what a blessing we received. My husband, Jeff, retired from offshore a few years ago to manage our farm and help his dad out with his farm. He wasn’t looking for a job, but a new job fell right into his lap. It has been such a blessing. He is mostly working from home, and he is still able to do all of the farm work that needs to be completed. I have retained my job through this trying year. Many people lost their jobs, suffered pay cuts, and lay-offs, but I didn’t suffer the loss of even one days wage, not even when I missed two weeks work due to COVID. That was definitely a blessing. Our oldest is about to start a new and wonderful adventure. His beautiful wife started a new role in her employment this year and loves it. She is also working on her Master’s Degree while working full time. They have given us the most wonderful grandson, and he started kindergarten this year. He is bright and inquisitive, and he is an absolute joy. Our second son lost his job offshore, but was immediately blessed with a new position locally which he enjoyed, and before the year end, he was offered a new position offshore. His beautiful wife changed employment too, and due to the pandemic, she has had more days at home. We have been blessed with getting to see her a little more often. Our third son is residing with his biological parents in Arkansas, and he is starting a family of his own. Our youngest graduated high school this year and completed a Certified Nurse Assistant program. She spread her wings and sought out her biological parents this year and spent time with them, but she eventually flew back home to us. We live on an eighty acre park-like paradise with animals galore. Our home isn’t the finest one out there, but it suits us perfectly. It is cozy and warm, and it is full of family and life. We’ve endured sickness this year, and God protected us and healed us. We’ve all grown a year older, and with that year, with have been enriched with much wisdom! 2020 wasn’t really that bad after all, was it?

I chose the scripture from Psalm 90 this morning. The context of this Psalm is not a very happy one, and therefore, I felt it speaks to the heart of 2020. This is a Psalm of Moses and it was written in a time when God’s people were “consumed by [God’s] anger” and “overwhelmed” by God’s wrath (90:7) because of their “iniquities” (90:8). Nevertheless, beneath the bad news of God’s judgment lies a bedrock of confidence in God’s everlasting goodness. Rejoicing and prosperity will come again (90:14, 17). The psalm reveals a reflection of the timelessness of God, the shortness of our lives, and it reveals our dependence on God’s grace in order for our efforts to be successful. This year has been difficult. It has been hard. It has been long. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the New Year with hopes that it will be a better one as we close the gate on 2020. Let us closed the gate and latch it securely as we rejoice in God’s blessings and have faith in our futures knowing He holds us in His hands.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916-1922, George Lloyd, was playing golf with a friend when they had to go through a gate. His golfing partner pushed the gate closed, but he did not latch it. George noticed this, and he went back and secured the gate. Then George told of an old doctor friend who lay dying. After calling his family and friends to his bedside, he gave these parting words, “Close every gate through which you have passed.” Lloyd George went on to say that he owed more to that bit of wisdom than to anything else he had ever heard. I think we can glean some great knowledge from this as well. Life on the farm has taught us many times how important securing a gate when exiting can be. An unsecured gate can lead to a whole lot of extra work on the farm if the cows get out! Around here, every gate that is opened is then closed and latched. I even double check the latch most of the time!

Figuratively, as the sands of time trickle down at the close of this year, we need to close the gate. We need to latch it securely and walk away as we move into the coming year. Let’s close the gate on yesterday’s heartaches and failures. How do we close the gate? We must forgive and forget. God graciously forgives our mistakes and our failures, and when he does, he wipes the slate completely clean. The gate is closed. Once that gate is closed, we have to make sure it is securely latched. How do we do this? We forgive ourselves. This can be hard, especially if we spend the the end of the year reviewing all of our mistakes and failures rather than seeing the goodness and blessings of the past year, but God sent His Son to show us ultimate forgiveness. He sent the perfect example. He has forgiven us, and therefore, we can forgive ourselves, and we can then latch the gate securely, and move forward just as God wants us too. Why do cars have huge windshields and tiny little rearview mirrors? We need to check behind us occasionally, but we need to focus on what is in front of us! The future is bright my friends! Let us close the gate on 2020 and start walking cheerfully into 2021. Just keep holding onto the hand of the Lord and rest knowing that God has got you!

Give me a word, Lord: HELL, FIRE, & BRIMSTONE

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 25:46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.

Revelation 20:15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Anyone who reads my devotionals knows that I attempt to write to encourage and inspire. Today’s devotional may be a bit different, but hang with me, Peeps. I feel like it’s important. It may be the most important one of all. I keep hearing the words, “2020 has been a terrible year.” Perhaps it has been one of the worse years of your life, but I have to tell you something. If you don’t know Christ as your Lord and Savior, there will be an eternity of days worse than all of the days of 2020. You are probably thinking, “Okay, KK, we don’t need all this gloom and doom. We’ve already had enough this year. What’s up?” I’m here to tell you that I love you, and I’m truly concerned about your future.

Yes, part of the reason that these words came to me is because of some of the events of 2020. Just in the recently passed months, there have been several distressing losses and events that have brought much grief. A young pastor friend of ours died suddenly in a motor vehicle accident. COVID has wreaked havoc on the nation, and has touched many lives of loved ones and acquaintances. We suffered through the virus, but our symptoms were mild in comparison to many. People have lost their lives to this horrible virus, and others are surviving on oxygen and a prayer. A high school classmate is on life support in critical condition after sustaining head trauma in a motorcycle accident. Another high school classmate lost her son this week tragically. I’ve diagnosed two patients with metastatic cancer in the past month alone. One thing that I know is that death is sure. Unless Jesus raptures us home first, we will all die at some point, and the thing is, we don’t know when that time will be. Each person I’ve mentioned likely had plans for the following day. They had appointments scheduled on their calendars. They had plans with family and friends, but suddenly, their time on earth was over much sooner than they had planned.

For those loved ones that have passed away that have placed trust in the Father and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we have comfort knowing that they are already in their heavenly home. We grieve the loss. We cry tears of loss, regret, and sadness caused by the loss, yet at the same time, we can rejoice because we know that they are in the arms of Jesus. They are no longer suffering. They no longer have pain or the troubles of this world. They are finally free! But what about those that didn’t choose Christ, oh how we mourn their loss! Perhaps they thought they had one more day to make the choice to follow Christ. Perhaps they thought they would do it next year. Perhaps they thought they weren’t good enough yet. Perhaps they just did not believe. The thought of even one lost family member or friend spending eternity in hell literally breaks my heart. We are not promised tomorrow, my friends. Today could be our very last day on earth.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the middle of a huge wildlife management area. It was heavily wooded. I was waiting for a deer to wander through, but because of the extensive underbrush and tree coverage, I only had a small trail with a width of about 20 feet to watch. I stared down that trail for three hours, and I saw a lot of birds, but not one deer. While I sat there waiting, still, not moving, I began praying. I began silently speaking prayers over all of the families I mentioned above. Then, I began wondering, did they all know Christ. I made a mental checklist in my brain of the ones who I had spoken with about Christ, and the ones that I knew without a shadow of a doubt were enjoying their heavenly home, and then I made a list of the ones that I had not had a conversation with regarding our Savior. Sadly, the second list was much longer.

This realization, my friends, is what prompted today’s devotional. This is the most important thing that I will ever say. Jesus Christ died for our sins…all of our sins. And just as prophesied, he was resurrected, and He will return some day. He came and suffered death on the cross so that we may be made right with God. When we leave this earth, whether by death or rapture, we are going to stand face to face with God. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, your name will be found in the Book of Life. You will spend eternity in your heavenly home. If your name is not written in the Book of Life at that moment in time, it will be too late. There won’t be any do-overs. There won’t be any second chances. No one back home can pray you through those pearly gates. Time is up, and you will be spending eternity in hell. Eternity in hell…it’s spoken of so light heartedly by many. I’ve heard the expression, “I’m going to bust the gates of hell wide open.” Oh, how I pray that you do not! It is not a place that you want to spend one second, much less eternity. “The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:11)

I do NOT want anyone to spend eternity in hell. I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want everyone to know about the wonderful, free gift of salvation. When we depart this earthly home, we are guaranteed to spend eternity in only one of two destinations. We have to choose our final destination while we are still here on earth, and we need to make that decision immediately. Tomorrow may not arrive for many of us. It will be too late. So, today, I ask you this very important question. Do you know where you will spend eternity? Are your sure? Will you walk the streets of gold singing praises to our Savior, or will you be in smoke and torment forever with no relief day or night? It is hard for me to write these words. I’m not trying to scare anyone into salvation, but please hear the cry of my heart today. If you haven’t made a decision to follow Christ, won’t you do it today before it’s too late? You alone get to choose. Please choose life everlasting with the Father. Don’t choose hell, fire, and brimstone!

Give me a word, Lord: STILLNESS OF THE DAWN

Psalm 62:1-2 I wait quietly before God,  for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation,  my fortress where I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:5-6 Let all that I am wait quietly before God,  for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation,  my fortress where I will not be shaken.

This morning, I’m not sitting at my cozy kitchen table writing, nor am I sitting on the back deck listening to the creek trickle along. Nope! Today I am writing to you from another one of my happy places. I am sitting way up high in an old hunting house…waiting on a deer. I’ll confess that when the alarm buzzed at 5:00 am, my body said that I should stay in that warm, comfy bed, but my brain said go so here I sit bundled up in my hunting suit feeling like the Pillsbury dough boy.

My husband drove me to the hunting house while it was still very dark out. However, the sky was clear and crisp, and a beautiful full moon lit up the dark night sky. I settled in, and I waited. It was very dark and very still. I sat here quietly waiting in the stillness for the dawn of a new day. Slowly, the sun began to make its presence known. The first glimmer of orange peeked through the pine trees. It looked as though the trees were on fire. Slowly, but surely, the sun gradually rose higher and the darkness was overcome by the light. Birds are happily singing praises to the new day. The cows are lowing in the distance. Three does have walked through already. This moment in time is absolutely splendid!

Before coming out today, I was thinking about all of the blessings of 2020. As this year comes to a close, we thank God for helping us make it through the year. I bet that I could spend all morning making a list of all of the bad things that happened this past year, but instead I choose to see the goodness. I sit here in the stillness of the dawn thanking and praising God for the goodness of 2020 as well as the bad. A lot of great things happened this past year, and we received many blessings. We can’t discount those blessings and ignore them just because we think we saw more bad than good this year. Today I am able to be still and count those blessings and praise God for every single one!

We rush through life running from one task to the next. We wear ourselves down with the busyness of each day. We start each day overwhelmed with the pressures of society, and we are drained before we even walk out the door. It doesn’t have to be that way, my friends. We have to make time to be still. Take time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, and take time to be still in the presence of God as each new day dawns.

I love this old hunting house. I get to sit up here and see nature at its best. Through this dirty old window, I’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, hogs, bobcats, squirrels, and birds, and this morning I’ve already seen a doe, a yearling, a four point buck and a six point buck. I’ve enjoyed sunrises and sunsets. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but I must confess that the thing I love most about it is the stillness that I get to enjoy with my Lord and Savior.

Take some time today to be still with the Lord! I guarantee you that that stillness will be the best part of your day too!

Give me a word, Lord: NO FEAR!

Psalm 27:1-6 The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident. The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.

I love to read through the Psalms. David had a powerful way with words. Psalm 27 is a great Psalm to read when we are feeling fearful or afraid. David had many opportunities to be fearful. As a young teen, he cared for the family sheep and fought off wild animals. As he grew a little older, he took on the giant, Goliath, with a slingshot and stones. Later, he dealt with the wrath of King Saul. He fought many battles in his lifetime. I’m sure that he felt the darkness of fear creep in a time or two, but this Psalm gives us great insight of how David handled his fear. He recognized that God was his light and salvation, and he realized that God was enough. He didn’t have any reason to be fearful of anyone or anything because God was with him.

We all face fear in our lives. We face our own kind of giants on a daily basis. Some of the giants are much larger than Goliath. It seems that every morning we awake to new giants, new battles, and new heartaches. We may feel overwhelmed. We may not know how to approach these difficult life challenges. We may feel that we can’t stand up to the difficult circumstance that we are facing, BUT we can! We can stand up to every challenge and difficult situation we face just as David did. We too can be delivered from fear by focusing and depending on the Lord.

David knew that he could not stand up to the difficulties alone. He proclaimed that God was his light and salvation, and in doing so, he understood that God grants the right perspective for life. If we look at life’s challenges through our own clouded lenses, we can not see clearly. We allow the worries and fears to overshadow our perspective. But if we learn to lean on God and rely on Him through every situation, the clouds slowly fade away, and we begin to see life through God’s glorious perspective.

David said, “Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” Confident in what? He knew where his strength came from. He knew who fought his battles for him. He did not puff up with pride when he fought Goliath. Do you recall what he told Goliath as he stood before him? “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you.” (I Samuel 17:45-46) He didn’t proclaim that he would defeat Goliath himself. he informed Goliath that the Lord would conquer him. The Lord will fight our battles too if only we would believe in Him. We have nothing to fear.

God will provide whatever is needed to meet every circumstance and challenge that we face. He only asks that we live for Him and trust in Him. When we learn to place our focus on Christ rather than on our fears, He will give us the strength we need, and He will take away our fears. Today, give it to God. Get up, get dressed, and put on the full armor of God, and know that He is with you today and always. Let go, and let God! No fear! He is here!

Give me a word, Lord: TODAY IS A GOOD DAY FOR A GOOD DAY!

Psalm 34:1 I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 31:7-8 I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemies but have set me in a safe place.

Have you ever considered that the frame of mind that you have when you start your day seems to set the mood for the rest of the day? If you wake up grumpy, then you are apt to stay grumpy all day long. Not only that, you are apt to let that grumpiness overflow onto everyone you come in contact with throughout the day. It’s true. And our attitude doesn’t merely determine the mood for our day, it sometimes sets the tone for our lives!

I read this funny story that I want to share today. There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and saw that she had only three hairs on her head. “Great,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did and had a wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmm,” she said, “I guess I’ll part my hair down the middle.” So she did and had a wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only one hair left on her head. “Wow,” she said, “today I get to wear my hair in a ponytail.” So she did and had a wonderful, wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Thank God!” she exclaimed. “I was running out of things to do with my hair!” I absolutely love this! Personally my hair has thinned significantly over the past year due to telogen effluvium. I fight with my curly locks each morning trying to cover the thinning areas, and I’ll confess that I need to adopt this lady’s attitude when it comes to my hair! If a bad hair day made for a bad day, this girl would have a bad day every day! This kinky hair is always having a bad day.

How can we make everyday a good day? I have found a simple solution. Start each day off in the Word of God. Seriously! It is such a simple, yet profound thing to do. Last March, I began writing a daily devotional. I have made it a priority in my life. I try to sit down and read scripture and write the devotional first thing everyday right after saying my morning prayers. I always ask God for a word to share, and He keeps providing things for me to write about. I have shared things related to personal experiences along with things that have been placed on my heart. Most days, I wake up and I don’t have a clue what I am going to write about, but God is always faithful. I read a little of His Word, and tada, a devotional forms.

We all have troubles in our lives. I have friends and families who are enduring great loss, others are dealing with sickness, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of a relationship, and so much more. When we are feeling those great losses, we must reflect on the Word. Turn to the book of Psalms. I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7-8) God knows our troubles. He knows exactly what is causing anguish within our souls. He KNOWS, and no matter what we are going through, His love never fails us. He is with us always! But note something important from this quote from Psalms. He said, “I will be glad and rejoice.” The psalmist, King David, made a choice. He chose to be glad and to rejoice in the unfailing love of God. It was a conscious decision. He chose to be glad and rejoice despite his circumstances. He was having trouble. There was anguish within him, yet he chose to be glad and rejoice.

We would do well to as David did. I am the only one who can control my attitude and outlook on life, and you are the only one who can control yours. We can choose to be grumpy Gus’, or we can choose to be happy and joyful. We can wake up each day and have a terrible, no good, very bad day, or we can wake up and have a joyful, happy, very good day. We get to choose. Today I have decided that today is a good day for a good day! This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Today, tomorrow, and the next day….they are all going to be great days thanks be to God!

Give me a word, Lord: HE’S ALWAYS HERE

John 14:15-21 “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

I read a meme this morning, “And just like that…Santa is gone until next year…But Jesus is still here with gifts that never end.” Consider this wonderful truth this morning. Oh, I’m not bashing the big man in the red suit. I love Santa Claus and all of the magical things he stands for. I even go to church with a real live Santa who shares the true Christmas story with children throughout the Christmas season. But it’s December 26th now, and old Santa has retired to his vacation home at the North Pole. We won’t see or hear about him until the end of next year. Yes, as Christmas day has drawn to an end, Santa has left us.

Now consider for a moment the period of time after Christ was crucified. The men who lived and walked and learned from Christ must have been quite distressed in the days immediately following His crucifixion. They had fully trusted that this Jesus was who He said He was, and then suddenly, He was gone. Was He who He said He was? Was He the Messiah? Was He God incarnate? Can you imagine their confusion and distress? They watched Him die. He was gone…forever…the One they loved…gone…or so they thought.

In John 14, Jesus tried to explain and prepare the disciples for His bodily departure, but they were clueless. He explained of the Advocate that He would send. He would send the Holy Spirit to live within them…within each of us. The disciples didn’t get it at that moment. They didn’t understand until later after the resurrection, but just imagine the moment when they finally understood!

Yes, my friends, Christmas has come and gone once again. Santa has left us here to pick up the mess following the celebration, but we are not alone. Christ never leaves us. He has always been with us, and He promised that He would never leave us. He has never ever broken a promise. “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Christmas has come and gone, my friends, but Christ hasn’t gone anywhere! He is still here today, and He will always be with us! He will never leave. Recline in that thought today, Peeps!

Give me a word, Lord: IT MEANS MORE!

Isaiah 7:14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 6:9-7 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

The Grinch story written by Dr. Seuss years ago has been made into cartoons and movies for the whole world to see. The old green Grinch is a despised character with a tiny heart, sad and lonely, and his desire was to make the whole town of Whoville be as miserable as he was. He thought that he could steal Christmas, and if he took away all of the packages, ribbons, and tags, and even the lights from their trees and the roast beast, he would ruin Christmas for the Whos! He expected the town to wake up sad and broken the next morning, but to his great surprise, he had not stopped Christmas. The village came together singing a Christmas song with great cheer the next morning as they celebrated Christmas despite the absence of the material things of Christmas. This puzzled the Grinch, but he suddenly realized that maybe Christmas was something more. His old shriveled lonely heart grew three sizes, and he returned to Whoville with all of their belongings and celebrated a Whoville Christmas feast with the Whos. My favorite quote from the book is “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.

Isn’t it awesome that Dr. Seuss reminded children all over the world of his simple, fantastic fact in a children’s book. As we wake up on this cold and icy Christmas morning, the lights of our tree are shining brightly. There are packages neatly wrapped beneath the tree, and all is well in the Hodge home. But, it’s not the pretty lights nor the brightly colored packages that bring us the sense of Christmas. It is the fact that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior! We are celebrating the day that our Lord came to earth to be with His people so that we may have a way to spend eternity with Him!

God orchestrated the birth. Isaiah prophesied the coming King over 700 years before the birth of Christ. Micah again prophesied it 400 years before the birth. It had to occur in the tiny city of Bethlehem, and God made it happen. A census was ordered that brought Mary & Joseph to the Bethlehem just in time for the King to be born in the city of David. It was pre-ordained, and God work it out behind the scenes so that it would occur just as He planned. The birth event was something so extraordinary, something that have never before occurred. A miraculous virgin birth. Jesus came to us, fully God and fully man. Jesus left His heavenly throne and came to earth to live among man. God gave us the best gift ever on the very first Christmas day!

That baby grew up and walked with man. He felt all of the things that man felt. He felt joy, laughter, sadness, and tears. He felt pain and aches just like we do. And one horrific day, He suffered unimaginable pain on that old rugged cross so that we may be made right with the Father. That terrible dark day Christ died for our sins, and that dark day became the brightest day for us. His gracious, merciful act made us right with God so that we may be joined eternally with Him.

You may have received what you think is the best gift you could have ever received today, or you may have received the worse gift. No matter what kind of gift you received, it can not compare to the greatest gift ever given. Today we celebrate the birth of our King! He wasn’t born is an ornate castle with servants galore. He arrived in a stable, and was placed in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals. He wasn’t clothed in fine linen robes. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. He wasn’t surrounded by a paparazzi of people wanting to catch a glimpse of the King. He was born in a lowly stable surrounded by cattle, and poor, dirty shepherds were his first visitors. Christ didn’t arrive with all of the pomp and circumstance that one would expect, but He arrived just as it was prophesied and right on time. Dr. Seuss couldn’t have said it better! “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” Christmas really doesn’t come from a store. Today, let us give thanks to our heavenly Father for orchestrating the very best Christmas ever which changed our lives forever! Merry Christmas, my friends! Celebrate the Reason for the season today and everyday!