Midweek Morsel: God’s Throne of Grace

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I have a tendency to approach God at times like He is a disapproving parent or some other harsh authority figure—a boss or a teacher, etc. I forget how much he loves me. I feel like he’s thinking instead of all my faults.

As a result, instead of running into his open arms with the abandon of a dearly loved child as I pray, I enter his presence with eyes downcast, weighed down by a load of guilt and feelings of failure.

But when that happens, I have it all wrong. This is how scripture tells us we can approach God:

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

What will we find at God’s throne? Grace, mercy, help. God wants us to approach him with confidence so he can freely give us his unconditional love. So let’s lift up our heads and eagerly run to the One who loves us like no other.

*How can we remind ourselves of God’s great love, mercy, and grace?

*Flickr photo by adwriter, Creative Commons License

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Be sure to enter the “Back At It” Giveaway. See post for details!

Wisdom from the Word When You’re Under Attack

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“An attacker advances against you, Ninevah. Guard the fortress, watch the road, brace yourselves, marshal your strength!” Nahum 2:1

In this imperfect world we live in, attacks on us and our loved ones will come. The attack might be physical, verbal, emotional, spiritual, or legal. We may have experienced a similar attack before or this type of assault may be completely foreign to us. We may have warning or it may hit us before we have time to blink.

One of my family members came under an unfair legal attack recently, and God used the above verse from Nahum to help me see that it’s okay to defend ourselves when we’re under attack.

Yes, God’s Word also tells of how Moses, when the Egyptians were hot on the heels of the Israelites, told the people, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14), but we also see from this passage in Nahum that sometimes it’s necessary to be proactive in defending ourselves. I think the key must be to seek God’s direction and listen for his leading.

So let’s look at the instructions this verse in Nahum gives for mounting a defense when we’re being attacked. Let’s think about how we might apply this plan of action to any situation we’re facing now. The points I list here are just a few applications. I’m sure you’ll think of others, too.

1) Guard the fortress. One person alone can’t guard a fortress adequately, can they? Sometimes we need to recruit help when we’re being attacked. This will look different for different situations.

2) Watch the road. We and our fellow guards need to be alert at all times and savvy to the tactics of the enemy. We need to watch for the attacker’s advance.

3) Brace yourselves. We need to prepare and strengthen ourselves for what may come so we’re not caught off guard. Again, this will look different in different situations, but it will involve educating ourselves or thinking through what’s needed to be prepared.

4) Marshal your strength. We need to gather our strength for the attack, whether that strength be physical, emotional, spiritual, or legal. For example, if the attack is spiritual, we’ll need extra time in the Word and in prayer as well prayer support from others. If it’s a legal attack, we’ll need advice and help from godly advisors, both legal and personal. We’ll need people to walk alongside us.

Isn’t God good to give us wisdom for the situations life throws at us? I pray this verse from Nahum will help any of you who may find yourselves in the midst of a present attack. And if you’re not currently under attack, why not keep this wisdom in mind for the future. It will be sure to help stabilize you when an assault comes your way.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

*What other applications or wisdom can you draw from this verse in Nahum?

*Be sure to enter the “Back At It” Giveaway. See post for details!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Flickr photo by PSParrot, Creative Commons License

Annual “Back At It” Giveaway Is Back!

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Summer Photo Fun has indeed been fun, but now it’s time to get “back at it”—back to my regular inspirational/devotional posts designed to refresh your spirits and nourish your souls. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos I’ve shared over the past several weeks, but now my desire is to bless you once again through the written word in the coming weeks and months.

Each year I like to kick off this back-at-it season with a little giveaway, and this year is no different. One lucky commenter on this post will win a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble. You know me, I like to support our good ole brick and mortar bookstores whenever I can. And a gift card to B&N is always a good thing, right?

To be included in the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post by 6 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday, August 27. I’ll announce the winner the next day in my Thursday Midweek Morsel post. If I don’t know you personally or cannot contact you via your blog, you must include your email address in your comment (i.e., cheryl at cherylbarker dot net) to be eligible for the giveaway.

Any comment will work, but to make it a little more fun, tell me what book is at the top of your wish list—and if not a book, how would you use the gift card if you win? A gift for someone? A new journal for yourself? Some yummy chocolate near the check-out counter?

Sure wish you could all win the giveaway, but since that’s not possible, here’s a winning scripture for each and every one of you. May it bless you today!

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

*Flickr photo by nicholasjon, Creative Commons License

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Vacation Snapshot: Day at the Cleveland Zoo

IMG_0239I don’t want to let Summer Photo Fun get away from us without giving you a glimpse of one of our vacation days. This year Don and I went to visit his sister Emily and her family in Ohio. Since we’d never been to Ohio before, we took time to see several of the sights.

We spotted wildlife in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and around Lake Erie, but we also got to see the exotic animals making their home in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. If you know me well, you can imagine how much fun I had snapping photos, trying my best to capture some real jewels.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from our zoo day. Hope you enjoy a peek at some of God’s amazing animals we rarely get to see. Thank you, Lord, for the beauty and creative variety of your world!

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Partner to the lovely Lioness above and general all-round King of the Forest.

IMG_0289This beauty is an Egyptian Goose.

IMG_0513Oh my goodness, who wouldn’t like this Koala cutie-pie?

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Well, hello there, Giraffie-poo! :)

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Here’s some Cheetah beauty. What a gorgeous animal!

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Thank goodness this Gorilla was the strong silent type!

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The Red-crowned Crane likes to high step!

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The always impressive Grizzly Bear. That poor ear of corn didn’t have a chance!

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Just when I didn’t think I could be more amazed, he stood for us. Now THAT was impressive. Wowzers!

“Praise the LORD from the earth . . . you great sea creatures . . . wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds . . . Let them praise the name of the LORD . . .” Psalm 148: 7a,10, 13a

*What animals do you most enjoy seeing at the zoo?

*My photos

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Bird Bonanza on Summer Photo Fun!

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You didn’t think I’d let Summer Photo Fun go by with showing you only that one little bird in my last post, did you?

If you’ve known me or followed my blog or personal Facebook page for very long, you know that I love trying to capture great pictures of birds. Summer Photo Fun provides the perfect opportunity to share some of my photos with you. How do you like the shot above of Daddy Cardinal feeding one of his young ones? (By the way, young birds are called juveniles.)

God’s creativity shines in so many ways in the natural world, and he really shows off through his birds. So many colors, sizes, patterns and markings, unique calls, and behavioral traits. If you haven’t taken time to notice some of these intricacies of our feathered friends, I encourage you to do so.

Some of the photos below are birds you’re probably very familiar with and some may be new to you. I’ll list the type of birds at the end of the post so you can test your knowledge as you scroll down. I’ll list them in order of appearance, making number one the first one below.

Hope you enjoy. Let me how many you got right or if any of them stumped you. Can’t wait to hear how many of you know your birds! :)

“And God said . . . ‘let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.’ So God created . . . every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:20-21

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How many did you guess right? 1. Tufted Titmouse  2. Mourning Dove (juvenile)  3. female Downy Woodpecker (left), male Downy Woodpecker (right)  4. Osprey  5. Eastern Phoebe  6. Carolina Wren  7. Northern Flicker (type of woodpecker)  8. American White Pelican

*My photos

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out the Monday. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!