Category Archives: Devotional Thoughts

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Down to the Small Details

I am having such a good time making quilts! Yesterday I finished piecing the top for a new one. I’ve ordered backing fabric and am thinking about how to quilt it while I wait for the delivery. The most enjoyable thing about quilting is that God actually speaks to me about it. He gives me patterns, even tells me how to construct them. Sometimes the idea for a quilt comes in a dream and other times it just comes to me. Then He guides me through the construction process, down to the last detail of colors, piecing, quilting, and binding. His guidance is not dramatic, not sensational or emotional — no trumpet fanfares or flashes of lightening. It is everyday casual, but it is God. That is a revelation in itself.

This morning I was reading in Exodus about the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The instructions God gave to Moses were very specific and detailed, right down to the colors and patterns and materials to be used. I have always assumed that the tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem, were sacred places and that was why God spoke in such extraordinary detail about their construction.

Then I read about the priests that ministered in the tabernacle. They had extraordinary costumes to wear. God gave complicated and detailed instruction about those garments, right down to the underwear. I always figured those priests were special, holy people picked by God to minister to and for Him and that’s why He gave such detailed guidance for their clothing.

But consisder this: the New Testament tells us that every believer in Jesus Christ is a priest. Peter calls us “a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).  He says we are “living stones” being “built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” and are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). Our sacrifices as believers are not the slain animals of the Old Testament but a continual “sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). If God intimately guided the building of the tabernacle tent in the desert and if he gave detailed instructions concerning the brick and mortar temple in Jerusalem, shall He not also intimately guide us today in the building of His new temple, the Church of Jesus Christ? Is not the spiritual service of worship we are called to today at least as important as the sacrifices offered by those early priests?

I have not expected enough of God and he has come crashing into my low expectations by involving Himself in my making of quilts. There is precedent for this kind of guidance in the building of the Old Testament places of worship, but I would never have thought of myself as one of those special, holy priests except that God says I am oneBecause I am a priest of the Most High God, whatever I put my hands to matters. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you are a priest too and whatever you put your hands to matters.

God wants to be involved intimately and down to the fine details in everything I do. Whether I am making a quilt, cooking a meal, or working in an office, everything I do should be inspired by the Holy Spirit and bring glory to God. I can expect Him to guide me every step of the way, not just in the crises of my life or in those “mountain top” experiences of worship. He is an everyday, all the time God. He is teaching me to look for Him in the small details. I pray He will help all of us to look for and practice His Presence, to listen for His voice that is intimate and practical right down to our fingertips.

 

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What Do You Trust?

“Anything that depends on human effort for success is doomed to fail.”  I don’t know who first said that, but it has proven to be true in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of laziness! But I am an advocate of dependence upon God!

“God helps those who help themselves” is NOT in the Bible! What is in the Bible is

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And then there is

Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

There was a rich young man who came to Jesus and asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16) Jesus first told him to obey the scriptures. The young man replied that he had done that from his youth. Even so, he knew he was lacking something. What must he do? Mark’s account of this story tells us that Jesus “felt love for him” and so said to him, “One thing you lack; go, sell all you possess and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The sad thing is that “the young man went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” buy-and-sellJesus put His finger on the one place where the young man felt self-sufficient, the one place where he depended on himself, the one place where he perceived himself to be strong. Jesus saw that the young man’s properties were a hindrance, his perceived assets were a liability. In reality, all the riches he had accumulated had created a lack in his soul because he was depending on them instead of on God. Perhaps the property had been in his family for generations. Or perhaps he had worked hard and invested wisely to acquire wealth. Or perhaps he had written books or painted pictures or given wise counsel that had made him affluent. Whatever it was that had his trust, it stood in the way of obtaining the thing his heart longed for, eternal life with God.

richesWe tend to rely on whatever we perceive to be our strength. Money, physical strength, beauty, family, friends, artistic talent, a head for business, intellect, education, writing ability, a gift for public speaking. even the natural virtues of strength of character, knowledge and experience — all of these are desirable, but they can be a hindrance to knowing God if our trust is in them instead of in Him.strive-personalpowerOswald Chambers said it beautifully: “As long as you think there is something in you, He (Jesus) cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency then He can choose you . . .” ( My Utmost for His Highest, entry for August 17)creativity

 

We were created for dependence upon God. God did not give Adam an instruction book on how to be a good farmer. He gave him something much better, a relationship of intimacy with Himself. God came to the  garden in the cool of each day anddiploma they talked. Out of friendship with God would come the guidance Adam needed to be God’s gardener.

Of course, we know that Adam rejected the relationship of trust and dependence on God in favor of figuring things out for himself. The rich young man, though he longed for a relationship of security in God, was not willing to give up depending on his possessions in order to follow Jesus.

Have you figured out yet that everything but God will fail you? Failure can be devastating, but it may also be your best friend if it brings about new dependence on God. Remember: anything that depends on human effort for success is doomed to fail.  I hope that young man experienced the failure of his riches and became a follower of Jesus.

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IMG_1440Some of you readers may not know that I had open heart surgery in 2014. It was a life-changer for me. Before surgery I was traveling full-time in ministry, mainly teaching and speaking to women but also ministering with my husband Michael. That all stopped after the surgery.

Something went wrong during the surgery. I lost a lot of blood, did not wake up for 3 days, and was very confused and disoriented when woke up. I was in the various levels of cardiac intensive care for almost 3 weeks. When I finally got home in familiar surroundings, the disorientation to time and place got better quickly. But I still had trouble with what the psychologists call sequencing. I could not put things together in logical order.The hospital therapist said I needed a project.

I said, “How about a quilt? I like to make quilts.”

She said, “Perfect!” However, she was not a quilter so she did not know what she was agreeing with!

When I began to feel better physically, I decided to start with a small quilt, but there was a problem. I could not remember how to start and I could not mentally process a written pattern.  Sequencing was missing. I wanted to make pillow shams for my bed, something I had done many times before, but I could not figure out how to do it. Then, one day I was sitting on the couch when how to start just popped into my head. I knew it was God speaking to me. So I went into the dining room where Michael had set up my sewing machine, and started. As I finished

First project after surgery.

First project after surgery.

the first step, I saw what to do next . . . and next . . . and next . . . until I had made a pillow sham. Then I made another, and then I made a pillow and another pillow, each project led in detail by the Holy Spirit.

Did you know that God can speak to us with such clarity and specificity on such a practical level? I didn’t. Of course, I knew He could speak that way — after all, He is God — but it was not my “norm” to experience it!

Then I had a dream and dreamed a quilt. It was God again. I knew it was God. But I didn’t know how to make it. So I prayed. And then, a few days later, I knew how to start! Just as with the first project, as I finished one step I would know what to do next. God was again leading me one step at a time. God was doing the sequencing for  me! It was amazing! I had never before designed a quilt — I had always followed another designer’s pattern — but here I was making original quilts. It was totally, awesomely supernatural!

I began to make quilts for my family. I would pray over each one and God would give me a design and tell me how to make it, one step at a time. Turns out it was the best therapy ever! The sequencing began to come back in my conversation, in my ability to write, in my ability to read with comprehension. God was restoring my mind.

Here is a quilt called “Like a Child” that I made during that first year. And here is another I made for my youngest granddaughter, Gloria Noelle.

Like a Child

Like a Child

I am still making quilts.

Gloria Noelle"s Quilt

Gloria Noelle”s Quilt

Sequencing is improving.
Recently, God told me, “I  like how you follow me when you make a quilt.”

 

I have just opened a shop on Etsy to sell some quilts, both mine and those of my quilty friends. There are pictures of my most recent quilts there. You can find them through this link if you like. http://www.etsy.com/shop/gloriasquiltdesigns

Michael says God is downright chatty. God likes to talk to us. Hearing Him is a learning process. The key to the learning is trusting Him, trusting Him to speak so that I understand, trusting His voice and doing what He says, right down to the fine details. And the more you listen, the more you hear.

“and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. . . and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. John 10:3-4

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How Great is Our God?

Over the years I have asked a lot of Christians, “Do  you believe people are basically good or basically bad — 0r perhaps you believe people are a mixture of good and bad?” An amazing number of Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people will say, “I think most people want to do good.” People have the idea that they should “think the best of people,” “give them the benefit of the doubt.” If you think that, the Bible says you are wrong!

The apostle Paul tells us, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Romans 7:18) .We could all make that same statement about ourselves and about everyone else. We all need saving! “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) It was not that God looked down from heaven and saw in you and me something worth saving. No, God saw us in our utterly depraved state, separated from Him and helpless to improve ourselves. He had created us and we had rebelled against Him, defaming His character and rejecting His goodness, but out of His great love and mercy He sent His Son to die in our place, to take the punishment we deserved, and to restore us to fellowship with Himself.

Here is the problem: if we don’t believe in the depravity of man, we cannot appreciate and understand the majestic sufficiency of the atoning blood of Jesus. We have to see how utterly bad the human race is in order to see the powerful, saving goodness of God. Only as I understand and accept what I was before Christ can I comprehend the magnitude of what He has done for me in Jesus Christ.

Christians should never be surprised (or intimidated) by the evil that is in the world, not because we are cynical but because of the reality of the atonement in our own lives. Jesus Himself, “was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25) Jesus was not cynical, but He was not surprised by iniquity and He certainly was not fearful of it! He believed in the depravity of man, but He also believed that His Father was greater.

Yes, we live in a world full of depraved men and women.  Self-seeking, self-centered, self-indulgent, egotistical, greedy, lying, cheating, stealing, ruthless, vengeful, God-hating . . . we could go on and on with the adjectives describing men without Jesus. And such were some of us before Jesus. (I Corinthians 6:11) But because we have experienced in our own lives the reality of the redemption of Jesus, we do not lose hope. Before Christ I was capable of any evil I see around me. Therefore I know there is no one and nothing too hard for God!

Christians are not allowed to give place to despair. Our God is that big. So while we resist evil with whatever tools God provides, let us also affirm the greatness and deuteronomy-32_3sovereignty of our God. He is in control. He is always good.  And He wins.

 

“I’m Right Here”

HEARTToday marks the second anniversary of my open-heart surgery. I am so grateful to be here! There were complications that arose during the surgery and I almost died. I did not wake up for three days, but sometime during those three days something very significant happened to me. God spoke to me, only three words, but they changed the way I think about Him.

I remember only a little from those three days. I remember hearing familiar voices though I could not get to where they were. I remember being confused and frightened. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened to me, but I knew God. I knew He promised never to leave me or forsake me, but I couldn’t find Him. I cried out to Him, “Where are You?” And immediately He answered me, “I’m right here.” It was the same quiet voice I had heard many times before, entirely loving, utterly void of condemnation. I was confused and troubled but He was not anxious, not surprised, not confused, not concerned. I said, “I thought You’d be different.” I thought because I was upset and confused and frightened, He would at least be concerned about my condition. It’s funny how we equate anxiety with love. But God was not anxious about me. He had me and nothing was out of control. I cannot tell you the peace that gave me.

I had forgotten that God never changes. He is never worried about me. He is never surprised or upset or confused. He is not even concerned because He is God and He already has a plan for everything. He knows the end from the beginning and holds it all in His hands. He cannot be overwhelmed by anything! He is the One fixed center around which all creation turns. He is the One absolute in the midst of universal wavering. His sovereignty is so unquestionable that with three words He quelled my fear and straightened out my perspective.

“I’m right here,” He said. and His Presence made everything alright. The circumstances were the same — I still did not know where I was or what had happened to me — but the reminder of His Presence with me settled my soul.

Today, two years later, I am so very grateful my heart still beats and there is breath in my body.  But I am even more grateful that God is in control and that His love for me is as unchangeable as His sovereign power.

. . . for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, . . . Hebrews 13:5-6 (NAS)

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ROYALTY By Mary Ellen Lively

Here is another treasure from the pen of my friend, Mary Ellen Lively. Enjoy!
As I was leaving my favorite local grocery store recently, I saw a family of four. (No doubt they too were armed with coupons and a budget that some specialty item or unadvertised bargain would try to derail.)  The father carried his young son as the mother walked with purpose slightly ahead of them. However, it was the daughter who caught my attention. She was about five years old and unlike her rather casually clad relatives, she was dressed like a Disney princess.  I had found yet another kindred spirit. As I drove off, I laughed and said, “Sometimes you have to wear your princess costume and mingle with the commoners!”
When the King of Kings and Lord of Lords came to earth, He “mingled with the commoners.” Their lives and subsequently, our lives, were changed forever.  His royalty and His majesty are undeniable. And as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), we have a perspective and an inheritance like none other. Yes, there are some days when we may feel like we are sitting among the ashes waiting for our circumstances to change, but we know that our victorious Redeemer lives and that He gives beauty for those ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Glass slippers, robes and scepters may not be our style, but we are royalty nonetheless. And one day, the crowns we receive will be given back to Him as an act of worship!
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Set-up for Glory

“But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.'” Exodus 14:13

There they were, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, so to speak. Pharaoh’s army was chasing them and the Red Sea blocked their escape — no place to run, no place to hide. And everything they loved and all they owned was with them — they had everything to lose.

It looked bad, but it was a set-up for God to be glorified.

You know the story: Just at the last moment, God parted the Red Sea and the Children of Israel walked across on dry land. Then, as Pharaoh and his army tried to follow them, God released the sea and all the Egyptian army was drowned in the crashing waters. God not only rescued His people but He also destroyed their enemy. It was a set-up for the glory of God!

More information on modern exploration of the Red Sea, what we today know as the Sea of Aqaba, can be seen at this websitehttp://www.discoverynews.us/DISCOVERY%20MUSEUM/BibleLandsDisplay/Red_Sea_Chariot_Wheels/Red_Sea_Chariot_Wheels_1.html

The circumstances of life, daunting for us in the moment, are often divine set-ups for His glory to be manifested. Like the Children of Israel, we are, each of us, in the middle of a story written by God. We cannot see the end yet,  but God has told us that He has arranged our lives to bring glory to Himself.

It is so easy to lose faith in the middle of the story. When all we can see is the painful details of the set-up, we are tempted become angry at God and discouraged. We forget the promise and fall into fear, just like the Israelites.

God is honored and glorified in His supernatural rescues. As Christians we know the truth of that statement,  and most of us have experienced a rescue or two! God is exalted when, against all odds and when all of our attempts to rescue ourselves have failed, God saves us.  But we sometimes forget that in order for there to be a supernatural rescue, there must be a catastrophe! God is glorified when we receive His offered grace to persevere in faith as we wait for His rescue.

Our ultimate, bottom-line purpose is to glorify God in our lives here on earth. God is the One Who chooses and sets up the circumstances that will honor Him. Our part is to keep our eyes on Him and follow Him through to the end, trusting Him and obeying His every command.

Sometimes God’s set-ups are for a quick and dramatic resolution, like with the Children of Israel at the Red Sea. Other times they are more long term, as when a baby is born with permanent disabilities or when unrelenting illness strikes. But these persistent circumstances are also set-ups for God’s glory, worked out in the lives of everyone in the family. Whether it comes in healing or in grace to endure, God’s presence and intervention is powerful and personal and testifies to His faithfulness and love. No matter the circumstances of our lives, the prayer on our lips must be, “Let my life bring glory to Your name!”

Whatever the storm, we are covered by His grace and our lives are always a set-up for His glory. Remember: God gets glory from giving us grace.

Flame

Introductions

I have two friends who didn’t know one another until recently. I have long thought that they reminded me of one another and that it would be a great idea to introduce them to one another. Last week I finally did something about it. I made lunch for the three of us. 

In the interim, I thought and prayed about what to tell them about one another. I wanted them to like each other and, knowing that they wouldn’t have but a few hours to talk, I wanted to give them the best chance to get to know one another quickly. So, after praying about it, I told each of them this truth about the other one: she has a deep commitment to Jesus, has learned to hear His voice, hungers for the Presence of the Holy Spirit, and strives to obey Him with her life

The lunch was a success. They did instantly like one another and conversation was rich. We even prayed for one another before they left. What a joy! 

The next day I was reading in my Bible during my devotional time and came upon John the Baptist’s introduction of Jesus in Matthew 3:11. “As for Me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In every gospel, John’s introduction is quoted again. (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:26-34) Every gospel introduces Jesus as the One Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. 

John was the cousin of Jesus. They had grown up together and knew one another. John wanted people to know Jesus. He wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus, and John knew that Jesus would not be around very long. So I’m sure He considered carefully and prayed about what the people would need to know about Jesus in order to want to get to know Him. What was the most important thing they needed to know in the beginning about Jesus? 

At the end of Jesus’ time on earth, after his crucifixion and resurrection, He told His followers to go and “make disciples of all nations”; but He also told them “but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) He told them, “to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the HolySpirit, not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:4-5) Jesus quoted John the Baptist’s introduction again so that the first thing that was said about Jesus after He began His public ministry and the last thing that Jesus said about Himself as He was being taken up into heaven were the same: Jesus came to baptize believers in the Holy Spirit. Wait for it. That fact and exhortation must have great importance!   

John the Baptist and Jesus, knew something that we need to be continually reminded of: we can do nothing of any value, accomplish nothing of any lasting consequence, without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Put simply, we need God. We need God to save us from hell, to heal us, protect us, deliver us from evil, and guide us through the maze of our personal lives. But we also need God to enable us to live for Him, to have a part in advancing His Kingdom, to effectively touch the lives of others.

Jesus Himself said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative …” (John 5:30). He told the first disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing…” (John 6:63). It would seem, then, that the healthiest, most effective Christians are the ones who live their lives in the most dependence upon the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus’ followers gathered obediently in Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit. They waited and prayed for 40 days. Then the Holy Spirit came. (Acts 2 tells the story in detail.) After that, whenever people accepted Jesus, they were also given opportunity to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 8:17, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:1-6) Disciples of Jesus knew that they needed the power of God working in their lives by the Holy Spirt in order to live for God.

The same is true for us today. I don’t need to be smart, creative, intelligent, persuasive, competent, skillful, or articulate. What I need is the Holy Spirit indwelling my body! All of those things will be accomplished through me by the Holy Spirit, as needed, as I walk in obedient dependence on Him. May the cry of our hearts in 2012 be, “Come, Holy Spirit!” 

Cultivate the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Introduce someone to Jesus today.