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Honoring God

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The Unexpected Thanksgiving Feast

thanksgiving-turkey

 

“Lord,” prayed Linda, “show me some way to demonstrate your love to these women this Thanksgiving season.”

Linda works in an office near a women’s prison. Several prisoners come to clean her office building each week, so Linda got acquainted with them.

“I had a burden from the Lord to do something special for those women,” said Linda. “He answered my prayer in a conversation with my daughter. We knew without a doubt that we were supposed to plan a surprise Thanksgiving dinner for them, complete with all the trimmings. I wanted it to be special with my best tablecloth, china, and silver.”

Special rules apply to prisoners who work outside the prison walls, so it was difficult to get permission. Normally, they aren’t allowed to use “real” silverware. But Linda jumped through all the hoops and permission was finally granted.

“My biggest concern,” said Linda, “was not the details, but that the Lord would reveal to me how to let them know that this was ‘of the Lord’ and not of myself. I can cook for anybody, but I wanted them to know that the reason I did this was because of Jesus Christ and what He did for me.”

When the big day arrived, the women walked into that office and saw the beautiful table loaded with food. They assumed it was a Thanksgiving meal for the employees.

“No,” said Linda. “It’s for you.”

They were speechless for a moment, but then they couldn’t get the words out fast enough.

“This can’t be for real!” exclaimed one of the ladies.

“Look at that real turkey, not that pressed meat we’re used to!”

Another said, “Homemade yeast rolls and three kinds of pie to choose from!”

As one woman broke into tears, she said, “Those smells bring back so many memories. What I miss most is the feeling of family during the holidays.”

The ladies sat down at the table, amid tears and excited conversation. “I can’t believe someone cared enough to do this for us,” said one woman.

Just as Linda was about to lead them in prayer, one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Let’s all hold hands and pray.” She opened with prayer and others followed. Some prayed for forgiveness, some prayed for their families, and others thanked the Lord for the bountiful meal, an unexpected Thanksgiving feast.

Linda said, “My prayers were answered. All the glory went to the Lord for His provision. With no prompting from me, those precious ladies gave God the credit. God revealed Himself to them that day in ways I could not have done on my own.”

Linda lived the words Jesus spoke in Luke 14:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus Christ makes a place for all of us at his table.

 

The Last Days

by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25

Most of us don’t love to wait. We want to get on with things. Tie things up neatly so we can move on to the next thing. We often forget that in some cases, the opportunity to wait is an expression of God’s mercy.

You see, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. It came quickly this year. I was so busy preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost forgot about Advent. Thankfully, our reliable pastor will be decked out in purple this Sunday, scripture readings and hymns ready to go.

Advent isn’t really an event so much as a season set aside to wait for an event. We can choose how we want to practice Advent. We can see it as a burden, an afterthought, or a hindrance. Or we can see its greater application to all of life. We can recognize it for what it is: a reminder to stop, clear away some of the normal “stuff” of life, and remember that throughout our life here we are waiting for something big, something that needs our attention and preparation: The second coming of Christ.

Many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express the desire for the day to just get here already. Can’t we just end the wars and suffering… the waiting… and get on with Christ’s return? Many pick apart the Scriptures, looking for details, for signs, that Christ is coming soon. Groups form and debates rage about the finer details of the end times.

While I am sure God appreciates our interest in and desire for his arrival, I am not so sure we really know what we’re asking for when we say we wish he would hurry up and appear.

Think about it. Are we really ready? Is the world really ready? If you had to stand before Christ tomorrow, would you be ready? I don’t mean “ready” as having correctly predicted the dramatic events that would unfold during the end times. I mean would your life reflect service to him? Love of him? Submission to him?

Mine wouldn’t. At least not to the extent that it should. I’d like a few days, or um decades, to straighten things out. And to the best of my humble abilities, help a few more of those living in the dark find the light.

Suddenly, waiting doesn’t seem too bad. God’s plan to give me and the rest of the world a little more time doused with a lot of his grace doesn’t seem so frustrating.

After reading the above dramatic passage from Luke at an Advent Sunday service past, our pastor did not delve into prophecy or speculation about the last days. He backtracked a little, and instead opted to focus on the here and now. He challenged us to avoid the “drowsiness” that comes with our everyday cares and concerns. He challenged us to become disciplined people, Christians whose lives are truly transformed by Christ instead of by the seductive “spirit of the age.” He held up examples of fellow Christians who came before us and conquered their own contemporary challenges.

He reminded us that we will each have our own “last day” even if our lives here do not witness the Last Day.

That’s what Advent is really about… grace today for whatever may come tomorrow. It’s about God’s incredible patience and love for children who have much to learn and need plenty of precious time to allow for stumbling along the way. As for the final days, set aside the speculation and leave that to God’s perfect timing. He’ll know when we’re ready.

 

Sheltered in the Midst of the Storm

TRACIE BRAYLOCK, author, crosswalk.com

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

We were standing in the children’s section of the bookstore when the sirens went off.

I paused, looking around for answers from the other unsuspecting customers.

None of us seemed to know what was going on.

There was no sign of a storm when I entered the store with my little one several minutes earlier. But the beautiful, cloudless summer day didn’t tell the full story about what was to come.

A startling voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing that a tornado warning had been issued, and we were to take shelter immediately.

Taking my little one out of the stroller, I held him in my arms as we sat leaning against the towering shelves of books, waiting for the storm to pass.

But before it did, all of the customers were told to leave the building.

A bit stunned by the swift evacuation, we all found ourselves outside with an even greater awareness of the rapidly changing weather. Some simply stood there, staring at the approaching storm, while others scattered in all directions to escape it.

We made it home safely in the midst of the sirens and increasingly darkening sky, and all I could do was thank God for His presence and protection.

So much happened so quickly — from the loud, unexpected sounds of the alarms, to the realization we were in the path of the impending storm, to the sudden loss of perceived shelter.

In that moment, my dependence upon God, my need for His presence and the value of hiding His Word in my heart were ever so clear.

In that moment, I prayed, asking God to continue to keep us safe and thanking Him for doing that already.

In that moment, I chose not to rehearse that shaky voice who spoke to us over the loudspeaker and, instead, listen closely to the One who promised never to leave or forsake us.

Oftentimes, when life is coming at us quickly, we can become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

When we only use our natural senses to experience what’s taking place while we’re in the midst of troubling situations, we miss the opportunity to rely solely on God and trust all He has promised us.

We’re reminded in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

So, friend, be aware of — but not distracted by — the storms you’re experiencing.

They don’t change God’s presence, power, protection or provision.

He is indeed with you, showing you which way to go and offering you shelter in the midst of the storm.

Cherish and Believe God’s Word

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The Blessings of Loving God’s Word

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

During the pandemic, I have been watching a show from time to time. Daytime, nighttime, lunchtime, anytime! You might say I have become obsessed with catching up on all the seasons I have missed — and there are several.

I’m reading episode synopses and finding fresh things to talk about with my friends who have been die-hard fans for years. When I wake up in the morning, I am often thinking about the last episode I saw and wondering how it will resolve. It used to be that shows were only available once a week, and you had to wait to have your fill of your favorite sitcom or drama. But now, with streaming services, you can watch an entire season if you’re willing to stay awake.

Isn’t it crazy how something I’m watching, that has nothing to do with my life, can take so much of my time and mental energy? It’s like I’m meditating on the show. Thinking about the characters. Relishing the beginning of romance. Pondering the mysteries of the storyline.

We can get stuck on streaming, meditating on storylines that have little to do with real life. It’s so easy to get distracted with what our devices offer so easily. We gravitate toward entertainment, just like kids do. But the Bible directs us to a different path than modern media does. As today’s key verse says, we are to:

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

Ideally, what is supposed to be filling our minds and the topics of our conversations? What should be influencing our behavior? The Word of God. Not Netflix, Hulu or YouTube. Although you can find the Word of God in these places, you’re more likely to find something else.

The words in the key verse were spoken to Joshua as he was about to assume leadership from Israel’s man of God, Moses. Joshua was about to become the CEO of Israel, Incorporated. He was going to have more work than he had hours in the day, yet he was told to meditate. He was supposed to take time to understand the Book of the Law — and we are too.

The Word of God is to shape what comes out of our mouths. The orders and judgments from Joshua’s leadership had to be consistent with the Book of the Law. We may not be heading up a nation, but we are influencing people around us. We are told to meditate on the Word of God.

Let’s get real. This takes more effort than kicking back and streaming our favorite shows. Streaming services offer us endless choices that captivate our imaginations. It’s all about us and our preferences.

The Bible, however, is about God and His preferences. When we choose to love God’s law and delight in what He delights in, we unlock a “prosperous and successful” life. Psalm 37:4 says it this way, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV).

One thing that has helped me meditate on God’s Word during this pandemic is reading through Psalms and Proverbs with my daughter. It’s amazing how relevant these books are today. More than ever, with so many channels screaming and streaming to capture our attention, we’ve got to focus on the Word of God. Inside the pages of the Bible, there’s not only romance, drama, war and comedy — there is the path to everlasting life. That’s something that binge-watching can never deliver!

 

More Than Dust and Bone

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31 (ESV)

Remember who you are.

These are words I spoke to my children countless times when they were younger. I wanted them to remember they are children of the Almighty God. I knew if they remembered this truth, they would be better able to live this truth.

Genesis 1 and 2 read like this kind of reminder to me. A reminder I needed when my heart was broken and I could feel everything good slipping away from me. I felt so insignificant. I was trying to move forward after the deep pain of betrayal. I kept asking, “Is it even possible to heal from something like this?” As we navigate a world full of hurt and hearts so often full of shame, these first two chapters of the Bible feel like God whispering to us: “Remember who you are. Remember how I designed you. Remember all I’ve called you to be.”

When God formed, shaped and painted this world and its creatures into being, His goodness seeped in with every thought and touch. And when He was done, Genesis 1:31a says, God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

I love that God declared Adam and Eve to be exceedingly and abundantly good, even though the actual ingredients He used to make them were seemingly so very humble and basic. Dust and broken-off bone don’t seem like the most promising of beginnings.

Left on their own, these ingredients would amount to nothing. Insignificant. Unacceptable.

But chosen by God and then breathed on and touched by God, they became the only part of creation made in the image of God. They were “nothing,” turned into the most glorious “something.” They were made to be a reflection of the image of God. These image bearers made an invisible God’s image, visible.

And I don’t want us to miss the significance of Genesis 2:18 when God says He will make a helper suitable for Adam.

The Hebrew word for suitable is נֶגֶד neged, meaning “what is in front of you, in your sight, before your face in your view.” So, this word “suitable” gives meaning to the kind of help Adam needed. Beyond just needing help to work the garden or someone uniquely designed to be able to carry children so they could bring forth life, Adam needed a visual — something in front of him to view.

This seems to me to be a reflection. Not like a mirror reflecting only what you place in front of it. No, this is more like a reminder that what is standing in front of him is a reflection of God’s image.

It seems Eve, in being a helper suitable for him, was to be a reminder of who Adam was — a human made in God’s image. A reflection of the glory and goodness of God. It’s a reminder Eve would have needed as well. And together, they were to fill the earth with the glory of God. Not to just be fruitful and multiply it with children. But to multiply evidence of God Himself. (Genesis 1:28)

Their design in the image of God declared to the world, “God is worthy of praise!”

And their design declared to each other, “Remember who you are. You are of God. From God. Made in His image. Loved from the depth of God’s unfathomable Father’s heart. Treasured beyond imagination.”

This is the Divine Echo. This is what Adam and Eve were called to, and it’s what we’re called to as well. Not just married people, but every person with a beating heart. And the more we remind each other of who we really are, the more God’s goodness and glory will echo throughout the earth.

We aren’t just dust and bone.
We aren’t what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.
We aren’t the worst of what others have said about us.

We are the very breath and touch of God. Designed and loved by God. A reflection of the glory and goodness of God.

These are the truths I needed to remember about who I am. I am so much more than the sum total of my hurt and pain and insecurities. Maybe it’s what you need as well … so let me whisper to your soul, “Remember who you are.”

 

What We Value

by Inspiration Ministries

“How dark the gold has become, how the pure gold has changed … The precious sons of Zion, weighed against fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen jars, the work of a potter’s hands!” – Lamentations 4:1-2 NASB

Sometime around 1663, Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer finished a painting now known as Woman Holding a Balance, one of only thirty-six paintings he completed.

A Vermeer specialist recently described how this painting provides glimpses into seventeenth-century life. The only person pictured is a woman thought to be Vermeer’s wife. Holding a balance, she prepares to weigh gold and silver coins. Weighing coins was common at that time, the only way to learn their real value.

To understand Vermeer’s symbolism, we must consider a painting about the Last Judgment seen behind the woman. While the woman and her balance might seem dominant, the painting within the painting reminds us that God is weighing our lives. Counting gold also was important in Bible times. Gold could be used to honor God but also to form idols. And it symbolized worldly riches and wrong pursuits.

In the time of Jeremiah, many people focused on gold and forgot about God. In imagery similar to Vermeer’s symbolism, they once were “worth their weight in fine gold” but had become mere clay (v. 2 NLT). All their value had faded away.

God continues to weigh people and nations in His balance, to evaluate what we value and what is important to us. He measures where we invest our time and resources.

Make sure that you seek first the Kingdom that will never fade. Invest in the riches that cannot tarnish. Focus on God and His Kingdom.

God Can Forgive and Cleanse You

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The Speeding Ticket

The reflection of blue lights flashed in my rear-view mirror. Embarrassed, I pulled over.

“Ma’am, can you explain why you were speeding?”

“I wasn’t paying attention.” I knew not knowing my speed was no excuse. I was responsible for operating my vehicle safely. The officer ticketed me and I went my way.

When I got home, I looked up the potential consequences: one-year revocation of license, lawyer costs, court costs. I felt nauseous.

Rather than worrying further, I bowed and put the situation in God’s mighty hands. Father, You gave me the license, so it is Yours to take or to give as You desire. I release this situation to You. I called my husband, and he called our attorney.

“I can possibly get the charges reduced by 10 miles per hour,” the lawyer said, “or if we’re lucky the charges could be reduced to ‘improper equipment.’”  He explained his rates, court costs, and potential insurance rate hikes. “Do you have questions I can help you with? And try not to worry about this. I’ll do my best to get this matter resolved.”

“When I go to court, will you be with me?”

“No.”

“What?”

“I am going in your place. You stay home. I will speak to the judge on your behalf, and I will represent you.”

A few days later, my lawyer called. “Your case has been dismissed.”

“Dismissed? As in, forgiven?” I was shocked.

“Not exactly. It’s better than that.”

“Better?”

“Dismissed means we are acting as if this never happened. It will not appear on your record at all. You’ll owe no court costs, and this will not be reported to your insurance. Your slate is wiped clean.”

“Thank you for representing me. How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Are you sure?”

“That’s right. My services are gratuitous.”

The next morning, the scripture I read during my quiet time was,

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. (Psalm 86:5 KJV)”

God is good, and even if my license had been revoked, I would still have reason to believe this is true.

Father God loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place and to take the punishment for our transgressions—even the ones that are more serious than traffic violations. Every way we’ve messed up, Jesus has already paid for.

Father God has made it possible through belief in His Son Jesus, for our record of sins to be wiped away. Colossians 2:14 KJV reads,

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

Jesus erases the charges that are against us with His own shed blood. It is as if we have never sinned, even though we were the guilty ones. The work Jesus accomplished is beyond forgiveness; the charges against us have been dismissed.

When we get to heaven, no one will say, “Remember when you were speeding?” Not only are we forgiven, we are made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17b NLT reads,

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Thank You, God, for sending Jesus to wipe my record clean.

 

The Power of Forgiveness

Debbie Przybylski , crosswalk.com

“We have been sent into the world to implement the rule of God on earth. Where there is discord we are to replace it with harmony. Where there is hatred we are to replace it with agape. Where there is an offense simmering into a murderous conflict, we are to replace it with forgiveness. When we choose to forgive, we invade the realm of darkness and defeat those dark forces with the power of a resurrected life.” – Dudley Hall

Dear intercessors,

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful responses that we could ever have, yet the steps in forgiving others may be difficult. Forgiving others is very hard. The love of Christ is the only way we can set free those who have deeply wounded us. The love of Christ gives us the only context we have for believing God has forgiven us.

There is perhaps no greater gift you can offer God than a heart that knows the power of forgiveness and decides to set others free. Forgiving shows that the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus are operating in our lives. It is time to access this life-changing grace of forgiveness.

Is there someone who has offended you? Are you able to release the person in forgiveness? God gives us divine power to forgive. We who have received the freedom of forgiveness have the power to set one another free. This is a power that truly sets the captive free and can affect the whole world. Forgiveness defeats darkness on a massive scale because it involves the resurrection power of Jesus. Nothing can defeat the greatness and glory there is in one act of forgiveness.

The need for forgiveness can be seen in a story of a father and his son in Spain. They had become angry and bitter toward one another. The son finally left home and ran away. His father began to search for him but was unable to find him anywhere. After months of frantically searching, the father came to the end of his resources and sat down sadly in a coffee shop. Suddenly he had an idea!

He put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad said something like this: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the men’s clothes shop at 2 p.m. on Friday. You are forgiven. I love you. Your father.” On Friday at 2 p.m., eight hundred Pacos showed up! They were all looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. How important it is that we seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness to one another. It is critical to our lives in every dimension—spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

“Would you like to see the Lord shatter the spiritual prisons in your life, the areas where you feel trapped? Then forgive those who put you there, for surely the walls of your imprisonment are made of your own anger and unforgiveness toward others.” Francis Frangipane

Steps in Forgiving Others

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Here are some basic steps toward extending and receiving forgiveness:

  • Recognize and call sin what God calls it – Be specific and thorough. Remember that forgiveness is not excusing and approving of inappropriate behavior or saying that an offense isn’t important. Be honest with yourself 
and recognize your emotional response. You may feel angry, sad, let down, or disappointed. It isn’t wrong to have emotions. They are natural. It’s what you do with your emotions that can be sinful. Make sure there is no offensive way in you.“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).
  • Share with God honestly and let Him heal you – Tell God what happened to you and how you feel. Look at His evaluation of the situation. Focus on Him and His faithfulness. Spend time with Him, and let Him restore where sin has destroyed. Forgiveness releases God’s divine healing power.“O lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2).
  • Set the offender free, understanding that it is a process –  Declare forgiveness. Say, “I forgive [name the individualor group] for [name the offense].”Don’t say, “I wantto forgive.”It takes time to go through the process of forgiveness. The hurt can come up at different times, 
and we must choose to forgive again. It doesn’t mean we automatically forget the offense.“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Release the offender to God – Repent of your desire to punish or take revenge. Let God deal with the offense. Focus on today rather than the past. Let the offender off the hook. Declare God as judge over the person and the situation.“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the lord” (Romans 12:19).
  • Bless the offender – Apply God’s forgiveness. Trust and reconcile when possible, but realize that forgiveness does not always mean we have to relate to the person in the future. In some cases, this is not possible. Know God’s protection and justice. We are God’s called-out people, who know who we are in Christ and walk in love with God and one another. We become partakers of His resurrected life. Forgiveness is essential if we want to walk in personal and corporate revival.“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). 

God will give us the grace to fully set everyone free. May we be like Jesus, who was the first one to love. When God forgives us, He gives us the power to forgive. May the river of God’s life flow through us in that we bless everyone we meet. May we remind people of how much they are loved by God. As we give our lives away in love and forgiveness, we become free ourselves. Many of us don’t realize the power there is in truly forgiving one another. It is much greater and has a far greater consequence than any of us have ever realized.

 

True prayer—true power

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:24

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 6:5-13

Allow me to quote what an old preacher said upon the subject of prayer, and give it to you as a little word of advice—“Remember, the Lord will not hear thee, because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; he does not count their numbers. He will not hear thee because of the rhetoric of thy prayers; he does not care for the eloquent language in which they are conveyed. He will not listen to thee because of the geometry of thy prayers; he does not compute them by their length, or by their breadth. He will not regard thee because of the music of thy prayers; he doth not care for sweet voices, nor for harmonious periods. Neither will he look at thee because of the logic of thy prayers, or because they are well arranged. But he will hear thee, and he will measure the amount of the blessing he will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings which thou shalt ask, shall surely come unto thee.” Brethren, I would like to burn the whole stock of old prayers that we have been using this fifty years. That “oil that goes from vessel to vessel,”—that “horse that rushes into the battle,”—that misquoted mangled text, “where two or three are met together, thou wilt be in the midst of them, and that to bless them,” and all those other quotations which we have been manufacturing, and dislocating, and copying from man to man. I would that we came to speak to God, just out of our own hearts. It would be a grand thing for our prayer meetings.

For meditation: There is a world of difference between performing prayers and real praying (Luke 18:10-13).

Spontaneous Praise!

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Spontaneous Praise!

15 Bible Verses About Worship - Key Ingredients for Worshiping God

I arrived for my scheduled outpatient tests: an x-ray and a CT scan. Medical procedures always make me fearful. The examination room and table were no exception. Both were cold, matching the ice-cold fear of each heartbeat as I waited patiently for the radiologist to appear.

I was unaware of an attendant in the adjoining room until I heard a female voice softly filling the air with spontaneous praise. The song was familiar, “Holy Ground,” written by Geron Davis. In worship at my Church, it was sung often, and the words always reminded me that wherever I was, the ground became holy, accompanied by the presence of Jesus and angels. My icy heartbeats were warmed as spontaneous praise from the heart of an unashamed praiser helped refocus fear, apprehension, and anxiety, to my Heavenly Father.

After being saved and delivered out of the hands of the Egyptians, Miriam and all the women sang a spontaneous song of victory. Previously, they had focused on their bitterness and bondage (see Exodus 1:14). Now, they were focused on God’s power:

“Sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.” Exodus 15:21 (NLT)

Paul and Silas were wrongly accused, beaten, and thrown into prison. At midnight, they prayed and sang spontaneous praise songs. These focused songs of praise not only opened the prison doors, but the chains of all the prisoners fell off and the chief jailer was drawn by God’s power. Their singing allowed them the opportunity to share the gospel which was received by him and his entire household. (See Acts 16:25-34.)

Scripture encourages us to sing and make melody in our hearts:

“Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD!” Psalm 96:1 (NLT)

“Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Ephesians 5:19 (NLT)

David committed to singing as a part of his life:

“I will sing to the LORD as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!” Psalms 104:33 (NLT)

The results of my x-ray and scan were both abnormal, but thanks be to our God, successfully treated. I believe the soft spontaneous song of praise, reminding me of being surrounded by angels and the presence of Jesus, invited an inner God-given strength and peace in my soul. Even when I hear this song today, it turns my focus to Almighty God and His indescribable love, power to calm fears, strengthen, and heal, through songs of spontaneous praise.

On earth, I may never know the name of the attendant who was unashamed to offer a spontaneous song of praise to Jesus. That attendant may never know or imagine how her praise impacted the life of this then fearful young woman.

Has our Heavenly Father placed a song of praise in your heart? That song spontaneously sung could inspire you, or someone nearby, warming icy heartbeats, and refocusing fear, apprehension, and anxiety, into the presence of Jesus, and the holy angels.

Heavenly Father, may songs of spontaneous praise about You, Your presence, love, power, and peace, always be in our hearts, and on our lips, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Turning Worry Into Worship

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25 (NIV)

I think I have the worry gene. And I’m sure I got it from my mother. She passed down her aqua blue eyes to me, her slightly-crooked smile and her tendency to worry.

This trait didn’t show up when I was younger. In fact, when I was a teenager, I thought it strange that my mom couldn’t go to sleep until I got home. Then, I had teenagers of my own, and now I do what she did: sit on the couch appearing to watch television, while my mind rehearses the quickest route to the hospital, or perhaps even plans a funeral.

Before I had children, I didn’t understand the stories my mom shared about her concerns for my health. When I was a toddler, she took me to the doctor because I kept falling when I walked. After observing me play in his office, he assured her that my mind was working faster than my legs. I wanted one object and headed toward it, but then changed my mind and wanted something else.

You’d think the story would have calmed my own fears when I became a mom. Not so. When my first-born was more than a year old and not yet crawling, I was certain something was medically wrong and headed to the doctor.

Today, I find endless reasons to worry. Kids. Marriage. Finances. Health. Relationships. The future. If I let my thoughts run wild, I can concoct all sorts of terrible scenarios, all starting with “what if.” What if my husband gets laid off? What if my aging parent needs to move into a nursing home or live with us? What if I get sick and can no longer care for my family?

Over time, I’ve noticed something about worry: 99% of my past dreads never came true. However, I spent oodles of time fretting about them. How I wish I could redeem that time, to do something productive instead! What if I had turned my worry into worship?

Contrast my attitude with the woman in today’s key verse, Proverbs 31:25 says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” No weariness in her thoughts and actions. She laughed at the days to come! Not in a careless sort of way, but with a confidence that came from God.

Because she wore strength and dignity due to her faith in God, she had a smile on her face and a chuckle in her heart when considering the future. She trusted in God, whose faithfulness in the past assured her He would work out circumstances in the future.

This has happened many times in my life. Often, things that concerned me have turned out to be blessings instead. For example, when our son was in third grade, we discovered he had severe dyslexia. Oh, the time I spent worried about his academic progress! Even fun milestones for other children were cause for fretting. Would he pass his hunter safety course? His driver’s ed written test? And what about college?

God used my son’s learning disability to grow my faith. As I learned to turn my panic into fervent prayer and praise, and trust God’s plan and timing, my relationship with God strengthened. Plus, we saw our son grow stronger and more confident as he overcame each cognitive hurdle.

That’s just one way God worked in me to replace my worry gene with confidence in Him. Each time I’ve turned worry into worship, I find it easier to laugh at the days to come, like my Proverbs 31 sister.

God knows my future as well as He knows me. My job is to seek to know Him more as I place my future in His hands.

Oh, and to laugh a little more often.

 

What the Power of Praise Can Do

Debbie McDaniel

Crosswalk.com

 

We have so much to praise God for, there’s great power in giving honor to Him. And many of you live that truth out, every single day of your lives. The Bible is filled with examples of praise when we see His power released – life-changing miracles, dramatic stories of the enemy being halted or defeated, hearts being changed and drawn closer to Him.

Yet reality is that way too often, daily struggles or constant life demands can crowd out our praise to God.  We might check the worship box at church and somehow think we’re good for the week.  And all the while, with souls distant and cold, we sing words, we listen to music, then we go home.

Sometimes it really is a sacrifice to offer praise.  We may not feel like it.  We’re struggling.  We’re weary.  Or maybe, we feel like He let us down. We think God seems distant, like he’s far away, or doesn’t really care about what’s troubling us. Painful life blows and losses might have recently sent us spiraling.

Here’s what can make a lasting difference.  When we make that decision to fix our eyes on Him, and daily give Him praise, no matter what’s staring us straight in the face, we suddenly realize that God has already begun to release the grip those struggles can have over us.

There’s power in our acknowledgement that He is worthy, above all else, of our worship and praise.

His Spirit urges us onward, to press in close to him. Doesn’t matter how good or “not so good” we feel like we can sing, doesn’t matter if we like upbeat worship, more reflective songs, or traditional hymns. Doesn’t matter if we’re alone, with a few, or in a big group. Doesn’t even matter whether we “feel” like it or not.  What matters is this – our hearts in tune with our Creator and King.

God The Holy Spirit Will Teach You

 Spirituality | Holy spirit comeBe Filled With the Holy Spirit - Living the Spirit Filled Life ...

Top 7 Bible Verses On The Holy Spirit | Jack WellmanBible verses about the Holy Spirit – Faith Saturday

39 Bible Verses about the Holy Spirit - DailyVerses.netHoly Spirit - Bible Promises Spoken - YouTube

What Does The Bible Say About Gifts of Holy Spirit? | BiblePortalThe Holy Spirit | Bible truth

 Prompted by the Holy Spirit

“Lord, please take care of Jenny! Tell her I love her!”

It was the second week of May when Linda first felt a burden to pray for her 32-year-old daughter Jenny who had given birth to her second baby boy on May 2. There were no complications from the birth, but Linda said, “The feeling that I needed to pray for her was so intense that I wept.”

“I wasn’t myself at all that week,” Linda continued. “I had absolutely no energy. I prayed and cried before going to work and when I went home at noon. It was always the same prayer: ‘Lord, take care of Jenny.’”

On the morning of May 15, Jenny was in bed asleep. Her husband Randy had overslept by 15 minutes. Normally he was showered and out the door by that time of the morning. As he was getting ready to leave, he heard Jenny make a noise. He walked over to her and discovered she was blue and just barely breathing. He rolled her over as she took her last two breaths before she stopped breathing. He called 911 and started CPR. The police and EMTs were there in one minute and 43 seconds. They had to shock her heart to start it beating again. After they got her in the ambulance, Randy called Linda.

“You need to get to the hospital right away. Something is wrong with Jenny. Her heart stopped beating. They said they may not be able to save her.”

Linda said, “When you receive word that your daughter may be dying, the first thing you want to do is jump in the car and get to the hospital as fast as possible. But I had a special burden to get down on my knees and pray before doing anything else.”

Linda said to her husband and youngest daughter, “We can’t leave yet. We have to pray first.”

The three of them kneeled by the side of the bed while Linda prayed: “God, please be with Jenny. Don’t take her from these two little boys. Send angels to be with her. Work through the doctors’ hands. Please be with her, Lord!”

At the hospital, a cardiologist told them that Jenny was literally drowning in her own fluids. He said, “She’s very, very critical. Her organs may shut down. We don’t know how much oxygen she lost, so she could have brain damage. She’s on total life support right now. The only thing I can say is to pray and pray hard.”

“When they let us into the ICU,” said Linda, “I fell to my knees beside her bed and pleaded for her life: “Lord, she has two little boys who need her. Please don’t take her away from these little boys.”

At the end of that prayer Linda said, “A calm came over me. I knew she was going to be OK. It was in God’s hands.”

They continued praying for Jenny all day long. Her name was added to prayer chains from Indiana to Florida.

That evening the cardiologist came to them again. “I have never seen anything like this. It’s absolutely a miracle,” he said. “She has made a turn for the better—such a quick turnaround from so critical a state. It’s just a miracle.”

Jenny was diagnosed with post-partum cardiomyopathy—a rare, life-threatening condition that can occur after childbirth. She went home after two weeks with no brain or organ damage—truly a miraculous recovery.

“There were many miracles along the way,” Linda said. “Randy overslept that morning, something he never does. He had just completed a refresher course in CPR, and the ambulance arrived in less than two minutes. But the biggest miracle was that the Holy Spirit gave me a burden to pray for Jenny for an entire week before this happened.”

This confirms Paul’s teaching about the work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:26-27NIV

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside all believers. He prompts us to pray, sometimes when we don’t understand why.

 

What is the Holy Spirit & The Ways He Empowers You

Brittany Rustbrittanyrust.com

“The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.” –Billy Graham

The Holy Spirit is a beautiful and powerful part of who God is. We need Him in our life as a conduit to become who God created us to be, and through His power we have aid in all situations. Without Him, we are powerless.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

  • Our first encounter with the Holy Spirit is when He convicts us of our sin, shows us that none of us can live up to the righteousness of Jesus, and reveals to us the judgment that is coming to those who die without a Savior (John 16:8-11). As we repent, confess our sins and receive the gift of Salvation the Holy Spirit regenerates our dead inner human spirit which now becomes sensitive to the spiritual things of God (John 3:1-16; Acts 2:38).
  • There is a second work of the Holy Spirit when He baptizes a believer (Acts 2:1-4).  It’s available to all (Acts 2:39) and a gift of empowerment, helping the believer to live a holy life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, we become more like Jesus and are directed to do the Father’s will. Furthermore, the gift is primarily for the empowerment to witness to others (Acts 1:8).
  • We are encouraged to ask the Holy Spirit to fill us up on a regular basis. When you feel depleted or need strength, ask Him to replenish you (Ephesians 5:18).

It’s not enough to exist with the belief that The Father and the Son are first and the Holy Spirit is secondary. They are equal and work in harmony with each other. The uniqueness of the Holy Spirit is His presence within us. Jesus said before he ascended to heaven that the Holy Spirit would come and dwell within us as a believer. With that, He empowers us to live victoriously for the cause of Christ and glory of the Father.

 

1. The Holy Spirit is your Helper.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you,”  John 16:7.

When I think of the Holy Spirit, this is how I primarily think of Him: God with us, helping and empowering us to live a flourishing life that radiates the goodness of God. I don’t know about you but I’m constantly aware of my need for divine help. As my flesh fights for control, it’s the Spirit that steps in and helps me to be who God created me to be.

When you are feeling powerless or tired or like your failing at life, you can have confidence as a believer that you’re not alone. You can start each day knowing the Holy Spirit is there to help you. He is the power that sustains, energizes, and keeps you on a holy path. Do not hesitate to invite Him in.

 

2. The Holy Spirit sanctifies you.

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” 1 Corinthians 6:11.

“Sanctified” means to be set apart as sacred. Essentially, it’s the purification of sin and spiritually maturing to become more Christlike. This is an important process for a believer–leaving behind the old and becoming a new person. But it’s a daily process, and it takes time.

The Holy Spirit wants to help you in this process of sanctification: to die to your old self and be all that God created you to be; to be free from the entanglement of sin and live victoriously.

 

3. He makes you more like Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Moses experienced God’s glory on the mountaintop but we have communion with Him every day! Theologian Warren Wiersbe writes,

“Moses reflected the glory of God, but you and I may radiate the glory of God. When we meditate on God’s Word and in it see God’s Son, then the Spirit transforms us! We become more like the Lord Jesus Christ as we grow ‘from glory to glory.”

Our goal is Christlikeness and this takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit. While we focused on sanctification and the diminishment of sin in the previous point, this is rather a transformation into the image of Christ.

 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

From: InTouch ministries
Acts 1:4-8   Have you ever felt inadequate to live the Christian life? If so, then you are exactly
where God wants you to be, because you have discovered a vital truth: No one has the power in
him- or herself to live a holy life. We are all in the same boat, but there is someone else with us
who has the power we need—the Holy Spirit.
 

When Jesus gave His disciples the task of preaching the gospel to the entire world, they had absolutely no ability to carry it out. That’s why He told them to wait until the Holy Spirit came. In the same way, if we hope to accomplish what God desires in our life, we need to live with full dependence on the third Person of the Godhead.

The power of the Spirit is God’s divine energy and authority released in believers’ lives for the purpose of righteous living and fruitful service. When we walk in the Spirit, we’re relying on His strength to accomplish God’s will. As a result, we experience the following benefits:

• We may get tired, but we won’t burn out.
• We’ll trust God instead of trying to manipulate our circumstances.
• We may experience distress, but we won’t become desperate.
• We won’t become overwhelmed with discouragement or obstacles, knowing the Spirit within us will enable us to do what He’s called us to accomplish.

When we do God’s work by His strength, in His way, and with His wisdom, we’ll be blessed no matter what goes on around us. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean life will be easy—but we never have to walk through it alone, because our Helper is always with us.

 

The Work of the Holy Spirit

by Inspiration Ministries

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 NASB

Luke described two ways that the Holy Spirit would change Mary’s life. First, the angel told her that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” She would experience the presence of the Spirit in new ways.

Second, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The Greek word here literally means to throw a shadow. To be enveloped as by a cloud. This was the same word that Luke used when describing the experience Jesus had during the transfiguration, when “a cloud formed and began to overshadow them.”

These examples help us see how the Spirit envelopes our lives, overtaking us in ways so overwhelming that we are capable of doing extraordinary things. These changes can take place at any time, in any place. As happened to Mary, we suddenly can be overwhelmed by His presence. Caught up into a spiritual dimension, empowered, changed.

The human mind can find it difficult to comprehend the dimension of the Spirit. But everything changes for those who understand the realm of the Spirit. Who realize that the Spirit operates in a different dimension. How He can change circumstances and enable “normal” people to do extraordinary things.

As a result of this kind of transformation, God’s Spirit can give us insights that are not our own. We can be inspired or supernaturally receive revelations about our own lives, or world conditions. At times like this, others may be tempted to think that we are special. But the fact is that we simply are vessels of His Spirit.

Ask God to help you be sensitive to the work of the Spirit in your life. Be ready for His transforming power anytime, day or night. And remember that through Him, there are no limits.

God Is Your Rock And Fortress

4/1/2020

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
God's protection-A true story – GLORY TO GOD Blog25 Verses About God's Protection - Kelly Balarie Christian Blog
January 13th 2019 – Under Gods Protection | Scriptural Seeds ...Do you want God's protection?
God's protection for you22 Encouraging Bible Verses About God's Protection - Life, Hope ...
Thankful For God's Protection – Seeking Passionate Prayer in ...God's protection | Inspirational words, Words, Inspirational quotes

 

God’s Protection

A Shepherd's Heart: God's Protection Over You.

A friend shared her story with me:

Mom married Dad and soon found herself in a horribly abusive union. His abuse didn’t stop with her. We children suffered under his tirades also. Many years later before she died, she shared a couple of incidents with me, her daughter.

At any minute Dad would fly into a rage with no real provocation. It could be caused by a slight misstep. A burned potato. Or a word said with a wrong inflection. All our lives were a constant tight-rope walk. His evil nature ever simmered below the surface like an agitated volcano, ready to erupt at any minute.

Mother learned early in life to rely on Jesus. Life married to Dad drove Mother more solidly into Jesus’ arms. I truly believe she would have died at Dad’s hand, had it not been for Jesus’ protection.

She told me about a time she stood in her bedroom and heard him snarl from the kitchen, “I’m going to kill you.”

By this time she was so worn from his explosions she prayed, “Lord, either save me or take me. I’m so weary.”

His stocky footsteps thundered down the hall toward the bedroom. She braced for what was coming.

When he reached the open doorway he bounced back as if he had hit an invisible plate glass door. The impact threw him to the ground.

Mom turned to see him on all fours shaking his full head of dark brown hair, stunned.

“I’ll get you for this,” he said as he rose to charge a second time. He hit the invisible shield again and bounced back. He turned, rubbed his head, and staggered to his easy chair in the living room.

“He never spoke of it again,” Mom said.

I asked her why she didn’t leave him.

“Our pastor told me it was immoral to divorce or leave him. He said I should not provoke him. I tried. It didn’t work.”

On another occasion, after the children were grown and married, they moved to an acreage with a pond on the outskirts of the city. Mom wasn’t a very proficient swimmer but did enjoy an occasional dip in cool water on a hot summer day. One day she floated in the pond. She saw Dad stomping toward her, fists clenched, spewing curses.

“You b—–! I’m going to drown you here and now.”

He waded into the water and reached for her arm with his huge hand. His grip failed. Each time he grabbed her he couldn’t hold on.

“It was like I was all greased up,” she said.

Finally, in frustration, he left, cursing as he went.

Shortly after, the Lord spoke to her heart. “I’ve saved you these many times from his murderous hand. You must not keep assuming I will rescue you. You must take responsibility. It’s time for you to get away from him. Leave him and don’t come back.”

Mom finally did leave him. It took all the children to help her escape. Finally, in her late 50s, she was free of his daily abuse.

God is merciful. He desires all to come to Him rather than spend an eternity in hell. He will go to any length to bring a wayward sheep home.

Dad found the Lord in his later years but was tormented by the memory of the hurt he had inflicted on others. He did not believe his sins would be completely covered by Jesus’ blood. He lived in daily fear of hell.

When Dad was in his 80s and still lucid, alone in a nursing home, his niece came to see him.

He greeted her with excitement and said, “I’m not going to hell. They called me on the phone and told me. They said when I die it will just be a transition; a change into another type of life.”

He was finally at peace. He died unexpectedly a month later. Oh, and Dad’s room didn’t have a phone.

“He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11 (NASB)

“…not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9b (NASB).

 

God Will Keep Your Way Secure

By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

 

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” 2 Samuel 22:33

 

I was sitting outside early one morning just before dawn. Rainstorms were all around, I could hear the distant thunder and feel the strong winds. But my little place under the roof awning with a hot cup of coffee, Bible, and favorite blanket was secure, safe, undisturbed, though all around me it was stormy.

God’s reminder came: “You are secure in Me. You are held strong by My protection overhead though the storms of life may surround you. The winds can blow, the rains can beat down hard, the times may look dark, but My Presence surrounds and I am greater than the storm.”

Just because I was under the roof awning, it didn’t stop the storm. But it did provide protection during the storm.

Just because we are under God’s care, it doesn’t stop the storms from happening around us. But it does provide incredible strength and protection for every battle we face in this life.

Many of you might find yourselves facing huge storms in life right now. Maybe your storm is caused by circumstances that are out of your control. Maybe your storm is caused by people, broken relationships, and betrayal or hurt that has wounded you deeply. Maybe the biggest storm you face is caused by the enemy himself whose main goal is simply to bring you down, stop you in your tracks from being a light in this world. God reminds us in His word, that the enemy’s intent is always to steal, kill, and destroy. He will do all he can to prevent truth from being shared, and he is ruthless and cruel.

But the storms never have full reign, for right in the midst He reminds us: You are held secure by a Mighty God. You may feel some wind, you may hear the loud thunder, and see darkness or rain all around. But His covering of protection and love surround, you don’t face it alone. And in just a short time the storms will pass, the light will shine again, and you will be strengthened for a greater work ahead.

Press on my friends who are facing hard times.

He knows your way and has a plan.

You are held, and He is with you.

Peace.

 

Angels Watching Over Us

CBN.com I was preparing to return home after a visit with my sister who had surgery the week before. We tried to pack a lot into that day before the drive back to Virginia Beach. My sister surprised me in that we were going to see the play at Sight & Sound in Lancaster, PA, called “In the Beginning”.  We made the hour long ride back to York, Pennsylvania, where I dropped my sister off at her home and headed home. It was getting late. I entered the Pennsylvania highway at 9:15 p.m. to begin the six hour drive home.

I remember my prayer vividly because I asked the LORD, “Please give your angels charge over me and put your angels at the four corners of my vehicle. Also, place the angels assigned to me in the vehicle with me and take me home safely I ask in Jesus’ name!”

I was looking forward to the drive because I had some very good praise and worship music I was going to play. It was sitting on the seat next to me. I placed a very upbeat CD by Fred Hammond in the player. I opened my mouth to sing along, but to my surprise I began praying in the spirit.  I prayed with intensity not understanding what I was praying for. I had a sense that something very serious was taking place so I continued to pray. The traffic was moving quickly although the speed limit was 65 & 70 miles per hour on the interstate. I had no trouble keeping pace as I continued to pray.

After praying more than ten minutes, I shifted to praise & worship, because I sensed a release from praying so fervently. A driver was creeping up really close to my vehicle and seemed annoyed that I was not driving faster. I decided to move over to the left lane to get out of his way. He sped up and passed me. As he passed on the right, he was inches from the bumper of the car in front of him. He swerved into the left lane in front of me and lost control of his car.

I slowed my car and watched everything play out as if I were watching television on a wide screen. Praise the Lord for answered prayers. I’d not completely realized how important it was that I’d asked the Lord to send his angels when I first entered the highway. I experienced their protection first hand, as they kept my vehicle from becoming entangled in the accident.

When the driver lost control of his car, it hit the car to the right of him causing that car to spin sideways. It felt like my vehicle was being supernaturally held back a few feet from the accident. For what seemed minutes both cars were sideways in front of me on the two lane highway. The reckless driver spun his car around and began driving the wrong way on the highway and then his car went over the side of the road. I watched the tail end of his car as it appeared to flip over into the ravine. Immediately I pulled off the road onto the median on the side of the highway just before two tractor trailers sped by. It was a miracle that the semis weren’t involved in the accident as well because they were dangerously close. Everything on my passenger seat went crashing to the floor.

I reached for my phone to call 911 but couldn’t find it; the phone had slid under the console. I was shaking, but during the whole ordeal I had incredible peace.  I got out of the car trembling. I called across the street and asked where the guy was that was in the car that went over the side. They pointed out to me that he had not flipped but had driven back up the ravine and was walking toward the car he’d hit to exchange driver information. The reckless driver glared at me. I had an impression that he had been drinking. In retrospect, no one was injured, just shaken. The only damage was to the vehicles.

I realized my prayer was for the lives of the people whose car was hit by the drinking driver and for his life as well. I was grateful the Lord answered the prayer and that His Angels were in fact, watching over us!

Streams in the Desert – April 1

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15).

For I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
‘I trust in Thee.’

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses.
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored is this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
‘I do not doubt,’ so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.

“In fierce storms,” said an old seaman, “we must do one thing; there is only one way: we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.” This, Christian, is what you must do.

Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you; and then you can do but one thing; there is only one way. Reason cannot help you; past experiences give you no light. Even prayer fetches no consolation. Only a single course is left. You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.

You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may–winds, waves, cross-seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers–no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm, and hold fast your confidence in God’s faithfulness, His covenant engagement, His everlasting love in Christ Jesus.
–Richard Fuller

Take Time To Find God

 3/25/2020

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

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Image result for PIctures of people finding GodImage result for PIctures of people finding God
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Take Time to Find God

daisy flowers laying across a book

 

God desires to be a part of our everyday lives. He longs to show His love for us in special ways. If we will take the time, He will surprise us with special gifts of His love throughout our day.

Recently, this happened to a friend of mine. She took the time to find God. No, she didn’t just get up early in the morning and go outside to sit under a large, budding oak tree. She didn’t just stop and smell the fresh spring breeze and listen to the birds singing their songs of praise to God. She didn’t meditate all day while the warmth of the sun caressed her smiling face. She began her day as she always does — she spent time in the Word and then allowed God to show up in any part of her day that He chose. She went to work, and there were special surprises for her.

The Scripture she read that morning was from the Song of Solomon [Song of Songs in some versions]. It was a precious Scripture that she took with her in her heart. As she entered the building where she works, she saw something on the table in the lobby. She decided that she would pick up the small object and throw it away. She took pride in the area where she works and simply wanted to keep things looking nice. But to her surprise, it was a small flower. Now you say, “What’s the big deal?” Well, here is the Scripture that God gave her that morning:

“For the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up, and the time of singing birds has come, even the cooing of turtledoves” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12, The Book).

It meant so much to her. She giggled and said, “Thank you, Papa” (as she always did when speaking to her heavenly Father) and kept right on walking. God was speaking to her heart about His great love for her. He was sharing with her that just as it was beginning to be spring in the natural realm, in the spiritual realm she was starting into her own springtime. And as we all know, flowers are a sign of spring.

God had allowed someone to leave a special, little flower on that table so that as she entered the building she would discover it and feel His great love for her. Her heart was greatly touched by this incident, and I felt so blessed to be a part of it. I had been right behind her when she walked into the building that morning.

As I thought of how special that moment seemed to her (not knowing about the Scripture God had given her), I knew something very wonderful was happening. As I stepped into the elevator, God spoke to my heart and said, “She took the time to find ME.” She had taken the time to find God. She was continuing the day as we all have to do, working and taking care of family, yet this moment did not escape her.

“Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring” (Hosea 6:3, The Book).

Needless to say, I took the rest of the day to look for God. I made sure I gave eye contact to everyone I met and shared a kind word and a smile. I wanted to find God in my day, and I wanted to be God’s love to someone who might need to see Him in a tangible way.

We can find God. We can feel His love in wonderful ways. We don’t need to think that He is millions of miles away and too busy to care about our special needs each day.

Take time to find God.

 

Time To Pray

“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

GUILT. Many Christians I talk to equate this word with their prayer life, and I can relate.

I used to feel guilty. People would ask me to pray, or I would volunteer to when I heard they were going through something difficult. With a heart of compassion, I’d reply, “Oh, I’ll pray for you!” And I fully intended to. But then I’d forget … get busy … say that to five other people … and often never get around to doing it despite my good intentions.

I’d put off praying in the moment, in favor of waiting until I had a big chunk of time. Then life would happen and that chunk of time wouldn’t materialize. By the time I carved some out, I couldn’t remember all I’d intended to pray about.

One perception I had was that I needed to spend a lot of time in prayer in order to do it “right.” I thought short prayers wouldn’t have much power or impact. Then I noticed something that shifted my thinking. In Matthew 6, Jesus is teaching about prayer. He says, “When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers. Don’t be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask” (Matthew 6:7-8, CEV).

Wow, so I don’t have to talk for hours, coming up with eloquent ways to phrase my petitions? It was freeing to see this coming from Jesus’ own lips.

That was followed by another ah-ha moment. In the next verse, Jesus said: “You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13, CEV). This is often called “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Pause, look at the clock, and recite the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Check the clock again. How long did that take? This was Jesus’ illustration of how to pray—what does that tell us about feeling we need to pray l-o-n-g prayers to be effective?

Hear me on this, there are needs that call for extended time in prayer (see Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46 for instance). But many things can be prayed for in short prayers as we move throughout our day.

Now, when a friend sends me an email with a troubled story, I rarely respond by saying, “I will pray for you.” Instead, I pause and pray for her, and then I reply, “I have prayed for you.” If someone calls me, or tells me in person about their prayer need, more often than not I’ll offer to pray with them right then.

If I encounter a reason to pray while reading the newspaper or scripture, I do it in the moment. My aim is not to be lengthy and elaborate with these prayers, but rather to do it while my mind is on it.

If I feel the need to pray for someone repeatedly over time, I follow through with my carefully considered plan as I’ve gotten intentional about prayer. Deciding several years ago to pray short, in the moment prayers, was key for me. It’s a doable way of “praying continually” and it helped relieve feelings of failure, pressure and guilt.

Most importantly, this ensures that people’s needs are in fact being prayed for—which is the ultimate goal, right?

As I read the Bible, I see instructions to pray frequently, to pray with faith and persistence, and to pray over all our cares and concerns. But I do not see that we must talk for hours over each request for God to hear them.

I hope that does for you what it did for me—replaces feelings of guilt with a renewed passion to pray.

My simple and humanly impossible goal this morning in this message is that you would all be devoted to prayer. This is my goal because this is what the Bible calls us to be. My text is Romans 12:12 which is part of a longer chain of exhortations. It says we are to be “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted (proskarterountes) to prayer.”

Your version might say, “constant in prayer” or “faithful in prayer.” Those all get at aspects of the word. “Devoted” is a good translation. The word is used in Mark 3:9 where it says, “[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready (proskartere) for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him.” A boat was to set apart — devoted — for the purpose of taking Jesus away in case the crowd became threatening. “Devoted” — dedicated for a task, appointed for it.

Now, boats just sit there. But people are not dedicated that way. When the word is applied to a person it means devoted or dedicated in the sense not only of designation and appointment but of action in the appointed task, and pressing on in it. So for example in Romans 13:6 Paul talks about the role of government like this: “You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” That is, they are not only designated by God for a task, but are giving themselves to it.

What’s remarkable about this word is that five of the ten New Testament uses apply to prayer. Listen, besides Romans 12:12 there are:

  • Acts 1:14 (after the ascension of Jesus while the disciples were waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit): “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
  • Acts 2:42 (Of the early converts in Jerusalem): “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
  • Acts 6:4 (The apostles say): “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
  • Colossians 4:2 (Paul says to all of us): “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”

So we may say from the New Testament Scriptures that the normal Christian life is a life devoted to prayer. And so you should ask as you turn from 2002 to 2003, “Am I devoted to prayer?”

It does not mean that prayer is all you do — any more than being devoted to a wife means all the husband does is hang out with his wife. But his devotion to her affects everything in his life and causes him to give himself to her in many different ways. So being devoted to prayer doesn’t mean that all you do is pray (though Paul does say in another place, “pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It means that there will be a pattern of praying that looks like devotion to prayer. It won’t be the same for everyone. But it will be something significant. Being devoted to prayer looks different from not being devoted to prayer. And God knows the difference. He will call us to account: Have we been devoted to prayer? Is there a pattern of praying in your life that can fairly be called “being devoted to prayer”?

“Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer.”

I think most of us would agree on some kinds of praying that would not be called “being devoted to prayer.” Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer. Praying only at meal times is a pattern, but does it correspond to Paul exhorting the church to “be devoted to prayer”? A short “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer at the end of the day is probably not “being devoted to prayer.” Hit and miss “Help me, Lord” in the car as you need a parking place is not “being devoted to prayer.” All those are good. But I think we would agree that Paul expects something more and different from followers of Christ when he says, “Be devoted to prayer.”

Let us not forget in all of this, as we saw last week, that the cross of Christ — his death in the place of sinners — is the foundation of all prayer. There would be no acceptable answer to why or how we pray if Christ had not died in our place. That’s why we pray “in Jesus name.”

 

Streams in the Desert – March 25

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6).

We all need faith for desperate days. The Bible is full of such days. Its record is made up of them, its songs are inspired by them, its prophecy is concerned with them, and its revelation has come through them. The desperate days are the stepping-stones in the path of light. They seem to have been God’s opportunity and man’s school of wisdom.

There is a story of an Old Testament love feast in Psalm 107, and in every story of deliverance the point of desperation gave God His chance. The “wit’s end” of desperation was the beginning of God’s power.

Recall the promise of seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sands of the sea, to a couple as good as dead. Read again the story of the Red Sea and its deliverance, and of Jordan with its ark standing mid-stream. Study once more the prayers of Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, when they were sore pressed and knew not what to do. Go over the history of Nehemiah, Daniel, Hosea, and Habakkuk. Stand with awe in the darkness of Gethsemane, and linger by the grave in Joseph’s garden through those terrible days. Call the witnesses of the early Church, and ask the apostles the story of their desperate days.

Desperation is better than despair. Faith did not make our desperate days. Its work is to sustain and solve them. The only alternative to a desperate faith is despair, and faith holds on and prevails.

There is no more heroic example of desperate faith than that of the three Hebrew children. The situation was desperate, but they answered bravely, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” I like that, “but if not !”

I have only space to mention Gethsemane. Ponder deeply its “Nevertheless.” “If it is possible…nevertheless!” Deep darkness had settled upon the soul of our Lord. Trust meant anguish unto blood and darkness to the descent of hell–Nevertheless! Nevertheless!

Now get your hymn book and sing your favorite hymn of desperate faith.
–Rev. S. Chadwick

When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do
And leave the rest to Thee.
And when there seems no chance, no change,
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And calmly waits for Thee.

God Loves His Children

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The Day God Hugged Me

After enduring a series of emotionally draining weeks, feeling unloved and in need of reassurance, I cried out to the Lord, “I know that You say You love me, but I don’t KNOW that You love me. God, help me understand that You really do love me.” I was desperate to understand this simple concept that kept confounding me.

I knew that God loved me from an intellectual standpoint. I knew He would think well of me when I did right and would somehow tolerate me when I did wrong. But somehow I couldn’t understand the unconditional love the Bible says defines my Lord and Savior, the kind with no strings attached, the kind that doesn’t depend on good behavior or a perfect report card.

For about a week, I prayed that prayer going to and from work. Then one particular day, I came home feeling very harried. I struggled to get the groceries in from the car and remain pleasant to my neighbor Tiffany and her 4-year-old son Jaelon, who were preparing to leave.

And then it happened.

After several trips to the house, I was finally down to my last few bags of groceries. I was heading for the door when I heard little Jaelon ask in his gentle voice, “Can I give you a hug?”

I was flabbergasted that a child who didn’t even know my name, who had never spent time at my house, who I had passed day after day without saying “hello” wanted to hug ME. Who am I that I deserve a hug?

Despite my initial hesitancy, deep down I was thrilled. I actually couldn’t wait to get hugged! So, I put my groceries down, walked over to that sweet little boy, knelt down, and received God’s wonderful blessing.

It was so simple, and yet such a pure act of love. A hug from a little child — no pretense, no hidden motives. Just a kid who saw a worried adult struggling and figured a hug would make it all better.

And he was right. I could barely fight back the tears of joy as I contemplated that brief gesture of acceptance. I quickly realized God had just answered my prayer in the most tangible and personal way.

If you need His touch, as I did, ask the Lord to show Himself to you. And then, wait expectantly for His outstretched arms to bring you comfort, safety, and provision.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, NLT)

After enduring a series of emotionally draining weeks, feeling unloved and in need of reassurance, I cried out to the Lord, “I know that You say You love me, but I don’t KNOW that You love me. God, help me understand that You really do love me.” I was desperate to understand this simple concept that kept confounding me.

I knew that God loved me from an intellectual standpoint. I knew He would think well of me when I did right and would somehow tolerate me when I did wrong. But somehow I couldn’t understand the unconditional love the Bible says defines my Lord and Savior, the kind with no strings attached, the kind that doesn’t depend on good behavior or a perfect report card.

For about a week, I prayed that prayer going to and from work. Then one particular day, I came home feeling very harried. I struggled to get the groceries in from the car and remain pleasant to my neighbor Tiffany and her 4-year-old son Jaelon, who were preparing to leave.

And then it happened.

After several trips to the house, I was finally down to my last few bags of groceries. I was heading for the door when I heard little Jaelon ask in his gentle voice, “Can I give you a hug?”

I was flabbergasted that a child who didn’t even know my name, who had never spent time at my house, who I had passed day after day without saying “hello” wanted to hug ME. Who am I that I deserve a hug?

Despite my initial hesitancy, deep down I was thrilled. I actually couldn’t wait to get hugged! So, I put my groceries down, walked over to that sweet little boy, knelt down, and received God’s wonderful blessing.

It was so simple, and yet such a pure act of love. A hug from a little child — no pretense, no hidden motives. Just a kid who saw a worried adult struggling and figured a hug would make it all better.

And he was right. I could barely fight back the tears of joy as I contemplated that brief gesture of acceptance. I quickly realized God had just answered my prayer in the most tangible and personal way.

If you need His touch, as I did, ask the Lord to show Himself to you. And then, wait expectantly for His outstretched arms to bring you comfort, safety, and provision.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3, NLT)

 

If You Don’t Get Flowers Today

FEBRUARY 14, 2020

I carefully lifted my windshield wiper to retrieve the frozen pink rose that cold Valentine’s Day years ago. A freshman in college, I had stopped by my car to eat a snack between my morning classes and excitedly wondered who sent me this surprise. My heart pounded in anticipation.

Starting up the engine for warmth, I rubbed my palms together before opening the attached card. The rose was from … my mom. Her words in the card were kind and encouraging. So why did I still feel empty inside?

The truth was, I wished the rose was from a secret admirer. A young man, not my mom. Since my last date had been an embarrassing dud, spaced far after the previous one, I longed for a new romance to fill me up. My guilt and loneliness combined into a frustrating mixture.

I felt like a cup with no bottom.

No matter what I put inside the cup, I didn’t feel full. Roses, chocolate, books, TV shows, fantasies and even relationships couldn’t fill it. Loneliness seemed to be the only thing filling that bottomless space, and I was weary of its constant, haunting presence.

My parents divorced when I was 4 years old, and the day my daddy left was the day loneliness took up permanent residence in my heart and mind. Though I wished it would go away, I had no power to push it out the door. Loneliness lingered every time I craved love and attention that was in such short supply.

Then in high school, I developed resentment over the flowers and gifts I saw lined up in the cafeteria every February 14. None of them were for me. I believed the devil’s whispered lie — None of them will ever be for you. You’ll always be lonely.

About 15 years after that frozen-rose morning, I sat in a counselor’s office. After listening to my stories of constant loneliness, he observed, “Relationships are very important to you, aren’t they?” His simple, judgment-free question was a pivotal point in my spiritual journey.

A few days after the counseling session, God nudged me with a new idea: Perhaps relationships were too important to me. Though I was a wife, mother of three and friend to many, I still felt lonely. But God was showing me a truth I needed to learn from His Word: “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people” (Psalm 118:8).

For far too long, I had looked to people to fill me. But my husband, children, best friend and small group companions couldn’t remove my loneliness. They were never designed to completely fill my needs. I began to realize only God could serve as my refuge, my safe place and my salvation.

Though people are wonderful, they are not infinite. They aren’t always available when we need them, and none of them provide perfect understanding.

However, God is infinite (Revelation 1:8), ever present (Deuteronomy 31:6) and all-knowing (1 Chronicles 28:9). As we study His ways, we learn God is ready, able and willing to fill us up with His love. We learn this best by hiding away with Him in a place of refuge.

The more time I spent in God’s presence, the less I depended on relationships to meet all my needs. Time with loved ones became bonuses on top of the loving intimacy I enjoyed with Jesus. I no longer required proof of human love on Valentine’s Day — or any other day. God is our refuge in lonely times, and that’s more than enough proof He loves us.

God, the all-seeing One

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?” Proverbs 15:11

Suggested Further Reading: Jeremiah 17:9,10

God knows the heart so well that he is said to ‘search’ it. We all understand the figure of a search. There is a search-warrant out against some man who is supposed to be harbouring a traitor in his house. The officer goes into the lower room, opens the door of every cupboard, looks into every closet, peers into every cranny, takes the key, descends into the cellar, turns over the coals, disturbs the wood, lest anyone should be hidden there. Up stairs he goes: there is an old room that has not been opened for years,—it is opened. There is a huge chest: the lock is forced and it is broken open. The very top of the house is searched, lest upon the slates or upon the tiles some one should be concealed. At last, when the search has been complete, the officer says, “It is impossible that there can be anybody here, for, from the tiles to the foundation, I have searched the house thoroughly; I know the very spiders well, for I have seen the house completely.” Now, it is just so God knows our heart. He searches it—searches into every nook, corner, crevice and secret part; and the figure of the Lord is pushed further still. “The candle of the Lord,” we are told, “searches the inward parts of the belly.” As when we wish to find something, we take a candle, and look down upon the ground with great care, and turn up the dust. If it is some little piece of money we desire to find, we light a candle and sweep the house, and search diligently till we find it. Even so it is with God. He searches Jerusalem with candles, and pulls everything to daylight. No partial search, like that of Laban, when he went into Rachel’s tent to look for his idols. She put them in the camel’s furniture and sat upon them; but God looks into the camel’s furniture, and all.

For meditation: God does not need a search-warrant or a torch to search your heart (Hebrews 4:13). What does he see there?

 

Streams in the Desert – February 14

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4).

It is a good thing to “rejoice in the Lord.” Perhaps you have tried it but seemed to fail at first. Don’t give it a second thought, and forge ahead. Even when you cannot feel any joy, there is no spring in your step, nor any comfort or encouragement in your life, continue to rejoice and “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2). “Whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), regard it as joy, delight in it, and God will reward your faith. Do you believe that your heavenly Father will let you carry the banner of His victory and joy to the very front of the battle, only to calmly withdraw to see you captured or beaten back by the enemy? NEVER! His Holy Spirit will sustain you in your bold advance and fill your heart with gladness and praise. You will find that your heart is exhilarated and refreshed by the fullness within.

Lord, teach me to rejoice in You – to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).
–selected

The weakest saint may Satan rout,
Who meets him with a praiseful shout.

Be filled with the Spirit… Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:18-19

In these verses, the apostle Paul urges us to use singing as inspiration in our spiritual life. He warns his readers to seek motivation not through the body but through the spirit, not by stimulating the flesh but by exalting the soul.

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings.

Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for in this way we give wings to heavy feet and turn weariness into strength.
–John Henry Jowett

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and signing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Acts 16:25

O Paul, what a wonderful example you are to us! You gloried in the fact that you “bear on [your] body the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). You bore the marks from nearly being stoned to death, from three times being “beaten with rods” (2 Cor. 11:25), from receiving 195 lashes from the Jews, and from being bloodily beaten in the Philippian jail. Surely the grace that enabled you to sing praises while enduring such suffering is sufficient for us.
–J. Roach

Oh, let us rejoice in the Lord, evermore,
When darts of the Tempter are flying,
For Satan still dreads, as he oft did before,
Our singing much more than our crying.

The Lord Restores My Soul

Psalm 23  (NKJV)

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not [a]want.
He makes me to lie down in [b]green pastures;
He leads me beside the [c]still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will [d]dwell in the house of the Lord
[e]Forever.