Marching Orders to Strengthen You

“March on, my soul; be strong!” Judges 5:21 NIV

I saw this verse years ago in one of Beth Moore’s blog posts. She was sharing scriptures about marching since it was the month of March, and I instantly fell in love with these simple yet powerful words: “March on, my soul; be strong!” And today in the midst of the national emergency we find ourselves in regarding COVID-19, these words take on new meaning.

Just reading or saying these precious words from the Word of God seems to infuse my soul with his encouragement and strength. I think most of us probably feel the need for such encouragement on a daily basis as we face the challenges of life, but there are times when the need for fresh strength eclipses everything else.

Are we faced with a difficult road to travel this month? Yes. Do fear and uncertainty loom ahead? Yes. Are we worried about the pandemic? Yes. And maybe some of us are facing other difficult roads as well. Maybe a continuation of an already difficult journey where no end is in sight.

Whatever the case, let’s allow the breath of heaven—the Word of God—to give us our marching orders and the strength to carry them out. Let’s march on!

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5 NIV

*What has God done recently to strengthen you for a difficult road?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by NINXIVICreative Commons License

Spirit and Soul Refreshment for Mothers of the Bride

In light of our current national emergency regarding COVID-19, some of you Mothers of the Bride will be facing some tough decisions along with your daughter and her soon-to-be groom. The stress you’re facing must be unbelievable. I hope the below post from Sept. 2014 will be an encouragement and help to you. And for others of you who are helping plan weddings for later this year or next year, may the following encourage you as well in the midst of all the normal stresses of wedding planning. Here you go:

Mothers of the Bride grow weary at times. Not only physically and mentally weary, but weary in spirit and soul as well. It goes with the territory.

As you add new wedding-planning duties and tasks to your already crowded schedule, MOB, it’s no wonder your spirit begins to droop and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Stress and exhaustion will do that to the best of us.

Spending time outside soaking up the beauty of God’s world always refreshes my spirit and soul, but the life-giving words found in the Word of God also breathe new life into me as I let them wash over me.

So, Mother of the Bride, allow me to share some passages with you that I pray will be just the balm your weary MOB soul may need today. From God and me with love—may you be encouraged and refreshed!

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’” Matthew 11:28-30

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake . . . You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:1-3, 5b-6

“‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.’” Deuteronomy 33:12

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

Feeling refreshed, MOB? I hope so. May you go forward in fresh strength!

*You might also like to read Time Out for Laughter and An MOB Prescription: Movie Fun!

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*My photo of Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Where Is God When Times Are Bad?

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

Nothing like a little gem from God’s Word to put things in perspective, huh?

Why is it, I wonder, we are so quick to thank God and acknowledge his presence and hand in the awesome blessings that come our way, but when something bad happens, we say, “Where were you, God? Why did you let that happen?”

When tough times come, has God really stepped away from us? When painful events descend, has he removed his hand from our lives?

If we believe the Word of God—and in particular the above verse from Ecclesiastes—no, God is not an aloof observer when our world is falling apart. He allows grief, hardship, and pain to touch our lives and will use those experiences for good in some way.

Romans 8:28 (KJV) says, ” And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The question is will we believe that truth and trust God when we are hurting?

Let’s remember that we are dearly loved children of God (1 John 3:1), and he stands ready, just as we do with our children, to help and comfort us through our bad times. Let’s not let our trials distance us from our Father. Let’s draw close to him and let him carry us, trusting all the while that he will not waste our pain.

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. ” Lamentations 3:32-33 NIV

*How has God used your pain to bring about something good?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Guest Post by James Watkins: Why? Why? Why?

A three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and an SUV, the three-ton vehicle is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals—Just take my hand, Johnnie!”

And on it goes—right into adulthood!

Why didn’t God heal my friend?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do I still have acne at 60?

But like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are often in the form of a question.

 

What can I know?

I can know the truth of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).

For instance, our group health insurance had very few maternity benefits, but had great “major medical” coverage. At the birth of our first child, my wife had complications and spent five days in Intensive Care. But, because the birth was now “major medical,” every penny of our daughter’s birth was covered. Sitting in ICU for five days waiting to know if my wife was going live or die was not good, but it did work for good.

However, it took me nearly thirty years to realize that Romans 8:28’s “purpose” is revealed in the following—and usually ignored—verse:

. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . . .

I may never know the answer to why, but I can know what is the purpose to which God is working all for our good. To be like Jesus! If you look for it, you’ll find throughout the New Testament. For instance:

 

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b, author’s emphasis).

 

How can I grow?

Jesus promises . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:1, 4-5 NLT).

Our spiritual lives depend on this intimate connection with Christ. His life flows into and through us causing us to become organically one with his character. That connection is strengthened through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. And suffering!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT, author’s emphasis).

When I think back to my “successful” years—award-winning author and editor, world-traveling conference speaker, denominational executive, and co-pastor of a growing church—I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years—years between book contracts, estranged relationships, being voted out of a church, and having to borrow money to make a living writing and speaking—that I have come to derive my self-identity and self-worth from simply being a loved child of God.

Who can I show?

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (NLT).

I now believe that God is more than willing to answer those questions and how they relate to living a life conformed to the image of His Son. Even why I still suffer from acne!

From God, I Don’t Understand, Copyright 2017, 2019 James N. Watkins. Available at Amazon.

Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as consulting in book development. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Small Seeds, Big Results

“‘. . . a mustard seed . . . the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” Mark 4:31-32 NIV

We’ve all heard the phrase “little but mighty.” These well-known words are an apt description for many people and situations, and they can certainly be applied to seeds and planting too.

In scripture, Jesus used the example of the mustard seed to show how something great—something big—can come from the smallest of seeds when planted. The humble little mustard seed can grow until it is one day large enough to provide shade for birds. What a perfect example of how something little can become something mighty.

Small seeds that yield big results are not only seen in the world of gardening and farming, though. They can be witnessed in finances, education, in developing talents and abilities, in building self-confidence, and in spiritual transformation as well as many other things.

Whenever and wherever seeds are planted, growth—yes, miracles—are bound to happen. A little boy who’s given a toy microscope as a child grows up to become a research scientist. A little girl receives a set of colored pencils for her birthday and one day opens her own graphic design business. A troubled teen accepts a New Testament during a Gideon distribution at school and later that year asks Jesus to be his Savior. Yes, planted seeds become miracles.

What small seeds can we plant in the coming days, weeks, and months? It might be as simple as an encouraging word to a struggling soul or a verse of scripture shared on social media. Perhaps we could give a scholarship to a camp, conference, or event that will be life-changing for the recipient. The possibilities are limitless.

Let’s do it. Let’s plant small seeds that could become mighty things. Let’s provide shade—or nourishment or inspiration or any number of other things that someone somewhere needs today. Let’s be part of a miracle!

I planted the seed . . . but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

*What seeds have been planted in your life that have become mighty things?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Kapitalist63, Creative Commons License