Are We Among the Last Hold Outs?

Be on the lookout for them in the next couple of weeks. The last hold-outs of autumn.

These stubborn fall leaves will not “go gentle into that good night” (Dylan Thomas). They will cling tightly to life and refuse—as long as possible—to fulfill their God-given destinies to fall to the ground with the rest of their comrades. You might say if they had fingernails, they’d be hanging on by them.

As we look at these last autumn hold-outs, maybe we need to ask ourselves if there is anything we’re clinging tightly to in spite of God’s direction to let go. Is there anything we’re refusing to submit to him?

Are we clinging to a behavior or an attitude that the Word of God clearly calls sin? Has the Holy Spirit shone his convicting light on an area we’re not quite ready to let go of yet? Or maybe we’re clinging to a person, a possession, or a goal when God has asked us to loosen our grip. It might even be something new or different we feel God is leading us to do, but we’re still at a point of resisting.

Let’s not be among the last hold-outs from God. Instead, let’s fulfill our God-given destinies. Let’s not refuse him any longer.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

*How is God speaking to your heart today?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out Nov. 1st. It’s still not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

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

*My photo

Prayer: Helping Others Stand

“. . . he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:10-11 NIV

We tend to forget how vital prayer is. If you’re like me, at some point in your life you’ve thought or said, “All I can do is pray.” We forget that we are indeed helping when we pray for others.

The apostle Paul wrote the words above after suffering extreme hardship and pressure so great that he described it as “far beyond our ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1:8 NIV). He said he despaired even of life and actually felt in his heart the sentence of death.

I wonder where he would have been without the “prayers of many”? (2 Corinthians 1:11)  Could the help he received through those prayers be the reason he was able to rely on God’s strength instead of his own?

John Wesley said, “Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees.” I’m reminded of Moses when the Israelites battled the Amalekites. As long as he held up the staff of God in his hands, the Israelites won. When he lowered his hands, the enemy began winning. When Moses grew tired, “Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” (Exodus 17:12 NIV)

Do we know people whose hands are hanging down, whose knees are now tottering? Is it obvious that without help they’ll surely fall? You may feel powerless to change their situation or help in any significant way, but don’t underestimate the support you can give them through your prayers. I’ve felt the support of prayers before, and it’s powerful. I felt as if I was being carried.

Are there some we know who need to be carried right now by our prayers? Let’s be faithful to do it. It may be our prayers that enable them to stand another day.

“I urge you brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” Romans 15:30 NIV

*Have you ever felt carried by the prayers of others before?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early November. Sign-up is FREE! *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*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 Irina Patrascu Gheorghita, Creative Commons License

An Unwanted Twist in Motives When Pride Sneaks In

It can come out of nowhere—or be so subtle I don’t even notice it at first. A twist in motives.

Pride slips in, unwanted yet there. My heart and thoughts can be in the right place as I start an activity—writing, singing, serving in ministry, helping someone, or even in online interactions. And then bam—a desire to impress pops up.  Whether ever so slightly or a glaring example, my motives take a twist. I hate it when it happens.

I’m not alone, though. A twist in motives can sneak up on any of us at any time, especially when we’re doing something we do rather well. It’s natural—and okay—to feel good about a job well done. The problem occurs when we start to puff up and get prideful, secretly wondering if we’ve impressed certain people. It’s crazy how we get prideful over the talents and abilities God alone has given us, isn’t it?

Thankfully the Lord has made me acutely aware of my prideful tendencies. Most of the time I immediately recognize a prideful thought and can go to battle against Satan as he tries to snare me in his trap. I go to prayer, confessing my twist in motives and ask the Lord to help me want “to bless and not impress.” (That’s a phrase I keep handy at all times—a phrase I strive to live by.)

Do any of you have a similar struggle with pride trying to weasel its way into your heart? I think the apostle Paul may have. Whether he battled pride or a different problem, he told the believers in Rome, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)

Let’s continually be on guard against the enemy’s attempts to get us to slip into pride, his plans to corrupt our initial desire to serve or bless. Let’s be on the lookout for a twist in motives.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 KJV

*How can you be more alert to pride sneaking in?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE. *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

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

*Flickr photo by .Bala, Creative Commons License

A Tactic of the Enemy: An Opportune Time

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 NIV

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, was well-acquainted with temptation during his days here on earth. Scripture tells us that immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit sent him into the desert where he was tempted by Satan for forty days (Mark 1:9-13.)

The gospels of Matthew and Luke show how the devil tried different tactics to cause the perfect Son of God to stumble and sin, but the enemy had no success. Jesus stood strong, using the Word of God as a shield and weapon against the devil’s schemes.

Satan lost the battle in the desert. As the above verse in Luke points out, he left Jesus—at least for the moment. He had plans though. Plans to attack again at an opportune time. And he did.

One of those times happened just after Jesus told his disciples he would suffer and be killed and then rise again on the third day (Mark 8:31-33.) When Peter tried to rebuke Jesus for speaking of such an unthinkable thing, Jesus recognized this as another temptation—another of the enemy’s attempts to cause him to stumble.

Satan must have thought Jesus would be more vulnerable as the time drew nearer for him to face death. Definitely, an opportune time to attack again. Combine that with the appeal of one of Jesus’ close friends, and he had the perfect opportunity indeed. But Jesus stood strong once again. “‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said.’” (Mark 8:33) He was ready to resist. Ready for Satan’s attacks during opportune moments.

Are we ready to resist when the enemy comes at us during times when we’re vulnerable or caught unaware?

What do our opportune times look like? Our opportune moments could come when we’re exhausted or sick or worried. They might happen when we experience either failure or success or when we’re on the cusp of a new venture or ministry (like Jesus’ temptation in the desert.) We’re especially vulnerable when we’ve neglected time in the Word or in prayer—when we’ve allowed ourselves to grow distant from Jesus or have become complacent in our spiritual lives.

Let’s be alert to Satan’s tactics. He will wait for an opportune time, and then he’ll be there, ready to tempt us. Will we be ready to resist?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NIV

*What can you do to be ready for Satan’s attacks?

*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.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*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 seyed mostafa zamani, Creative Commons License

Sow in Tears, Reap with Joy

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

What does it mean to sow in tears? I’m sure there’s more than one way to interpret these verses, but one thing I think of as I read them is prayer.

We sow seed as we pray for those who have never come to faith in Christ. We sow as we pray for those who have drifted away from God and as we pray for the needs of our churches. But how earnestly do we intercede for these deep needs?

When was the last time our tears flowed or we experienced internal anguish as we prayed for a family member, a friend, or someone else’s loved one to give his or her heart to the Lord? Or to come back to him? When was the last time we wept over a people group deluded by a false religion? When was the last time we sowed in tears? I admit these questions convict me, and I wonder if they do you as well.

If we’re not careful, our prayers can be half-hearted or superficial. To sow in tears we must take time to care. We must open our hearts and love people. If we do this, their separation from God will surely drive us to our knees—and to tears.

So yes, when we care, we will feel sorrow, but the Word tells us we will also “reap with songs of joy.” And when it comes to the salvation or restoration of a soul, one song of joy will be worth a thousand tears.

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people . . .” Romans 9:2-3 NIV

*When have you reaped with songs of joy after sowing in tears for someone?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early November. 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.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*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 MarLeah JoyCreative Commons License