Friday, December 31, 2010

Celebrating God's Goodness

"They will celebrate Your abundant goodness." Psalm 145:7a

God is good all the time, and all the time my God is good. His goodness abounds in big ways and small ones. Sometimes I get so caught up with the things that are weighing me down in life that I miss His daily displays of kindness. When I take time to recognize even the littlest things God does each day, I have much more to celebrate and praise Him for; my outlook on life is much more upbeat. "Celebrate" is an upbeat word that implies commemoration. It means to applaud, boost, bless, cheer, compliment, exalt, praise or proclaim. Celebrating and praising God in the day to day, not just when big things happen, changes my heart to one of gratitude and thanksgiving, vs. one that is dissatisfied or complaining. A life that seeks to celebrate God's goodness is one that surely encourages others and blesses the Father. His goodness abounds and God's Word instructs us to celebrate it!

How would my outlook on life change if I began to celebrate God's goodness in my words, actions and attitude on a regular basis? If I began to look for the good in things? In times past, while walking through difficult trials, celebrating or praising God in the little things gave me renewed strength and faith to press on, keep serving Him - believing and hoping He would eventually work it all out for my good.

The end of the year seems a fitting time to reflect back and "celebrate" - whether through words of praise, a testimony shared or a prayer of thanksgiving to the Father - all that God has done. Isaiah 63:7 says, "I will tell of the kindness of the LORD, the deeds for which He is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us - yes, the many good things He has done for [us], according to His compassion and many kindnesses."

At the Mattox house we have MUCH to celebrate and be grateful for. Though our personal list is much more specific, some general categories include:

  • spiritual growth
  • marriage blessings
  • deepening friendships
  • abundant provision
  • health and healing
  • ministry opportunities
  • answered prayer

How has God shown His abundant goodness to you this year? What's on your list to celebrate?

Father God, I thank You, I praise You, I celebrate Your goodness. Your compassions never fail. Your mercies are new every morning. Your kindness cannot be measured. Thank You for blessing me and my family. I love You Lord Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Be Still & Quiet, My Soul

"My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty... I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul... O [Pamela], put your hope in the LORD, both now and forevermore." Psalm 131

My heart should not be proud, nor my eyes haughty. I should not concern myself with great matters - especially those that do not involve me. For those I can just pray. Before the LORD I should still and quiet my soul, and always put my hope in Him.

Father God, please help me to be humble and gentle in all things. Keep my heart from thinking proud thoughts. Lord, I want my words and thoughts to always please You. Keep me courteous, gentle, modest, respectful, polite, reserved, simple and submissive as it pleases You. I ask this in Your Holy Name, Amen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Worth in God's Eyes

"Indeed, the very hairs on your head are numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:7

God's Word says that I have so much worth that He even keeps track, at any given moment, of how many hairs are on my head!

It matters not what the world says.
It matters not how I feel.
It matters not how others treat me.
All that matters is what God says.
He believes in me.
He cares so much that I am never forgotten by Him.
I am always on His mind.
He says I have great worth and value, period.

Father, help these truths sink in and penetrate my heart I pray. Use the truth to change the way I view myself on days that I struggle, and give me eyes to consistently see myself the way You do. I ask this in Your precious name, amen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fragrant Prayer

"May my prayers be set before You like incense..." Psalm 141:2

"...the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Revelation 5:8

My prayers, as a believer, are like incense to my Lord. Incense is a spice that generally produces a pleasing fragrance when burnt. An incense offering was meant to please God in hopes that He would respond favorably to a request or need, if it pleased Him to do so.

Prayer examined in contrast with incense indicates that petitions produce a fragrance that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. Just as smoke from the burning incense rises and is carried upward, it symbolizes the ascent of our prayers to God's heavenly throne. There the prayers of the saints (believers) are collected in golden bowls as incense producing a fragrant aroma before the Lord.

Every word of every prayer - whether spoken boldly, or uttered through tears, whispered quietly or prayed silently - produces a sweet and fragrant odor that is wafted up to my Father in heaven. He knows my heart, He sees my struggles, He hears my praises and sees my tears...and He counts them all precious. Like the beautiful fragrance of the finest perfume, my petitions please Him. He treats each one as something of great worth and value, collecting them in bowls of gold.

Father God, thank You for silencing all of heaven to hear my prayers. Thank You that each word spoken in prayer is a fragrant offering, of great worth to You. Thank You for collecting each one. Just as You collect my tears in a bottle, you collect my prayers in bowls of gold. They are precious to You, which means I am precious to You. Thank You for loving me so! In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Love Notes

As I read from the Epistles of John this morning I noticed a common thread on the theme of love. I am calling these threads "Love Notes". I want to learn to how to weave this kind of love - God's love - into my life in such a way that I become more and more a reflection of Him in my earthly relationships...

God's love is made complete in me when I obey His Word. I must obey and love others.
(1 John 2:5; 4:12)

I must not love the world or anything in it. (1 John 2:15)

I am a child of God. I am so loved by my Father that He delights in lavishing His affections on me. (1 John 3:1)

From the beginning, God has commanded, "Love one another." (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11)

I know what love is, the deepest meaning of love, through Jesus' death on the cross. He laid down His very life for me. So I am commanded to lay down my life for others - putting them first, and me last. (1 John 3:16; 4:9-10)

Love gives out of abundance to those in need. (1 John 3:17)

Love does more than talk about it - love backs it up with actions that line up with God's Word. (1 John 3:18)

God is love. Because I live in love I live in God, and He in me. (1 John 4:16)

If my actions reflect Jesus in this world, I will be able to stand with confidence on the day of judgement. (1John 4:17)

Love does not fear. Perfect love drives fear out because fear cripples and hinders, but love grants peace and confidence. If I fear, I must have more growing to do in the understanding and application of love. (1 John 4:18)

The reason I can love is because He first loved me. Before I existed, He knew me. He was delighted in me and already loved me. (1 John 4:19)

Love is able to love the person, not the sin, regardless of the measure. I cannot hate someone and yet claim to love God. The two cannot co-exist. (1 John 4:20-21)

Because I love God, I must love His children and obey God's commands concerning them. (1 John 5:1-3)

I am called to walk in love. God's Word says this means walking in obedience to all that He commands. (2 John 6)

I am loving well when I am faithfully serving others - both those whom I know and those who are strangers - in a way that honors the Lord. (3 John 5-6)

A note penned on the pages of 1 John in my Bible sums these Love Notes up in this way: "My earthly relationships overflow from my relationship with God."

In other words, if I am not loving God well, with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, my earthly relationships will be lacking and suffer. I must learn to love God well!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

That You May Believe

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." John 20:31

All scripture is God-breathed. It is not reflective of any one author's personality because God supernaturally directed every word that was written to ensure its perfect accuracy. God's Word is His "infalible revelation to man". He chose to write it through select, chosen authors, but it is no less accurate than if He had written every word with His own hand.

The Word of God was written to record the events of the past, teach history, impart the law, share through literature, record prophetic messages and prophesy about the future. All this so that we might "believe that Jesus is the Christ" and have "life in His name", which is salvation.

Thank You Father for breathing life into Your Word so that I would believe. Thank You that Your Word is my manual for life, my daily bread, and the source by which I am equipped for every good work. In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Blessings

Wishing you a merry and blessed Christmas,
from our home to yours!

The Mattox Family

Friday, December 24, 2010


He came.
He died.
He rose.
I believe. you?

He came one starry night in Bethlehem. He came to live among us, so He could experience life as we know it. He could have stayed in heaven, but God sent Him down. He sent Him as a baby, born of a virgin, in a stable. No royal accommodations. He would sleep in a manger. As He grew, He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. At age thirty-three, He would fulfill His destiny. He was born to die... to pay the penalty for your sins and mine. He didn't deserve it. He had lived a perfect life. He was willing to die because great was His love for us. He would be buried in a tomb, but not for long. Three days later He rose from the dead. He conquered death on the cross. He gained the victory so that I might live forever with Him, pardoned from my sin, because I chose to believe. He did the same for you.

On this, the eve of His birth, do you believe? Are you willing to trust Him with your life? Talk to Him in prayer. Tell Him that you believe. You believe He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died a cruel death on a cross, and rose again three days later, that you might live. When you trust Him and commit your life to Him, He is faithful to pardon your sin and give you best gift of all... eternal life in heaven with Him. He's offering the gift, no strings attached. Will you receive it?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Fruitful Life

The words of Jesus... "I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful... Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:1-2, 4-5

My Lord is the Master Gardener. He works to trim and prune, shape and water with the end product in mind, a tree that bears much fruit. His goal is to garden in such a way that He makes each branch on the vine more and more fruitful to the glory of God. This is what pleases Him. A fruitful life is one that He has cleansed, one that abides in Him, and one that walks in obedience to His will. Remaining or abiding in Christ means living a life in which I consciously choose not to allow things into (or back into) my life that separate me from My Father. The only way to bear this kind of beautiful fruit that pleases my Lord is to steep myself in Christ through prayer and time studying His Word; through listening for and responding to His voice, and acting in obedience. Then and only then will I bear "much" fruit. Fruit that glorifies the Father. Fruit that models Christian character, conducting myself in a moral and righteous way that reflects Christ. For apart from Christ, His Word says, I can do nothing... nothing that truly matters anyway.

My Lord has been cleansing and pruning this branch called "Pamela" for a number of years now, probably more than I can count or have even been aware of. He has been thoroughly cleansing me of the things that once hindered, pruning to the point that it hurts, and teaching me to walk more closely with Him. The more fully I know who the "Vine" is, the more this "branch" can know His will and produce good fruit for His glory, and not my own.

Lord Jesus, make me fruitful for You, whatever it takes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


"Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you." Acts 26:16

God appears to His people.
God appoints His people.
In this case, He is appointing Paul to be a servant and a witness for Him.
He is calling him to testify about what God has shown him, and what he will reveal to him in the future.

God has appointed me also, to be a servant and a witness for Him. To serve as He calls and to give witness to what He has done in my life, and we He has yet to do! Specifically He is calling me to put these things into words through journaling, writing and sharing via blog.

God's Word also says in Acts 23:11...

"The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, 'Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'"

This reminds me that I must be obedient to answer the call to future endeavors He puts before me, opportunities to share, and not just be content with what and where I have shared in the past.

The Lord also led me to this passage today, with instruction as to what and how to share:

"When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need - words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you." Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)

Words have the power to hurt. Words have the power to heal. Words have the power to make one stronger. Words can do a heart good. I must choose my words wisely.

Oh Father, I want to be obedient in this. Help me Father to choose to be. Help me to designate time to journal and write and blog, and when I do, give me Your words - words that will help others become stronger and do their heart good, as well as my own. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, December 20, 2010

He Loved Me Enough

"Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" John 8:31b-32

My words, my thoughts and my actions are the guage by which people can tell whether or not I am a follower of Christ. God's Word says if I am His disciple, I will strive to live according to His Word.

As I have sought to live in a manner consistent with God's Word; as I have basked in His truths and applied them to my life, they have proven powerful. Powerful enough to break the chains that bound me, heal the wounds that hindered me, correct my distorted views and set this captive free! I have learned God's truth and His truth has indeed set me free. My God loved me enough not to leave me in chains.

Father, Your Word is truth. Your Word has power. Your Word sets captives like me free. Praise You Lord, in Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sustained in Humility

"Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limits. The LORD sustains the humble... The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love." Psalm 147:5-6a, 11

My God is UNDERSTANDING; His ability to understand is not limited by anything! He promises to sustain the humble, not the proud. He delights in those who fear Him and put their hope in His love that does not fail.

When I fail and come to my Lord with a repentant heart, His understanding and ability to forgive have no limits. He is a merciful God. When I humble myself before Him in repentance, honesty about my failures, feelings or circumstances, He is faithful to uplift, uphold and sustain me... thank You Jesus. Thank You for delighting in me when I fear You (causing me to act in obedience according to Your will), and put my hope in Your fail-proof love.

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your unlimited forgiveness, understanding and sustaining power. Thank You for delighting in me. May my heart delight in obeying You. I love You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Practical Humility

"...when you are invited, take the lowest place... For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:10a, 11

I should make it my goal, my nature, to treat others as more important than myself, giving them the place of honor; this is true humility. When I don't, and think of myself more highly than I ought, God often humbles me in a matter of moments. When He does this, I am usually caught off guard and quickly realize the error of my ways, and the need to repent.

It is by watching the example of those more humble than I that I learn how to raise the bar of my own level of humility... hold a door, let others go first, go through the food line last (even if it means my favorite dish will be gone!), make others feel important in a sincere way, listen more and speak less.

Lord Jesus, thank You for modeling this kind of practical humility to me through people You have placed in my life throughout the years. Long after I have forgotten other details about these individuals, I still remember their kind, "others first" nature and the impact it had on my life. The mannerisms of a truly humble person stand out and look way more like You than this "me first" world we live in. I pray You would continue to show me ways to be humble in my words and actions towards others, that I may look more like You each day. In Your loving name I pray, Amen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Light Up Your World

"The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." John 1:5

Jesus is the "light". And I am a vessel through which the light of Jesus can shine. Believers are to be lights shining with and for Jesus in this dark and depraved world. Until the Lord opens the eyes and woos the heart of the unbeliever toward Him, the light in me does not make sense to them. It may seem foolish, be scoffed at, made fun of or turned away from because they have not yet realized their need for a Savior, redemption from sin, and simply believed.

This Christmas my heart's desire is to focus on Christ and shining a light for Him. I am choosing to simplify the season, serve the needy, spend time together as a family, and find ways to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness. How will you shine?

  • serve at a local ministry
  • give out of your abundance
  • spread God's love through word and deed
  • feed the hungry
  • visit the lonely
  • meet a need or volunteer a service
  • bless your enemies
Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus. Through His presence in my life I can reflect light into a dark world. Please give me opportunities to do this in practical ways I pray. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christian Conduct

"The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:7-11

God's Word is full of directives for conduct as a Christian. The book of Proverbs is bursting at the seams! But today the Lord had me focused on this passage in 1 Peter. It gives clear and simple instruction for these end times we are living in.

When I pray, pray with a clear mind and practice self-control. I am learning to keep a piece of paper handy when I have my quiet time. If I get distracted by my "to do" list or other things as I start praying, I can write my thoughts down therefore clearing my mind to pray. Having them written down assures me that I won't forget about them later.

I am also called to exercise self-control in order to have an effective prayer life. Indulging in or harboring things not pleasing to God will directly affect my communication with Him. I must come to Him with clean hands and a pure heart if I want my prayers to be heard and move His heart.

When I love, I am called to love others deeply. When I let my guard down and let people into my heart to love and be loved by, I am blessed. A love that grows and runs deep is very forgiving. When one of us falls down, the other loves enough to forgive or disregard the offense and the communication or relationship is restored. I am so thankful for friends and family in my life whose love runs deep.

When I am hospitable, I should be so with a happy heart. No one wants to be invited over to hear me grumble and complain. That wouldn't send them off feeling blessed or encouraged. I like people to walk away feeling loved on, hopeful and built up, even if they came in the door downtrodden. Much of that depends on the tone I set when I am exercising the gift of hospitality.

When I speak, I should speak as though God is speaking through me. I must seek to be yielded to the Holy Spirit and spend much time in prayer and God's Word, getting to know His character and His ways. Then prayerfully, the words I write and the words that come out of my mouth will be pleasing to the Father - a relection of Him - my mouth, a mouthpiece for His purposes.

When I serve, I should serve in God's strength. Whatever I try to accomplish in my own strength and power may eventually fail. If God has called me to serve Him in some way, I should work at it with all my heart, relying on the strength and power He desires to give me. In this way I am empowered by Him to accomplish the task in a way, and with an attitude, that prayerfully brings Him praise - not me.

Father, thank You for the clarity that comes from studying Your Word. Thank You for clear instruction on how I should behave as a Christian. Lord Jesus, I desire to represent You in a way that brings You honor and glory. Empower me to live a life and conduct myself in a way that accurately reflects You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Remain Faithful

"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh." Jude 20-23 

Building up myself in the most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit is a picture of sanctification. To be sanctified means to be set apart for God. Believers are set apart for God by redemption. At the moment they believe, they are saints made holy in God's sight. Believers are sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. John 17:17 says, "Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth." As I bask in the truths of God's Word and apply them to my life - allowing them to shape me and instruct me how to live - I become more and more like Him. I am transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Keeping myself in God's love as I wait for my eternity means obeying His commands; walking in obedience to the things my Lord asks of me. God's Word says in John 15:10, "If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love."

To those who doubt, hesitate or waiver in their faith, God calls me to be merciful. I should encourage them and build them up in the Lord. To those who are going the wrong way - those caught up in the sin and sensuality of the world - I should snatch them from the fire and share the Good News that they might be saved. To the sinner I must show mercy, but make clear that the sin does not please God. The Message version of the Bible puts it this way, "Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin." I should love the person, not the sin.

Father God, thank You for loving me enough to keep purifying and sanctifying my life. Thank You for setting me apart from the world for Your purposes. Help me to walk in obedience and remain in Your love. Help me to have a heart of compassion and show mercy to those who need it, encourage those who are hesitant, witness with my life, and deal tenderly with sinners just have You have dealt tenderly with me when I have sinned. Help me to remain faithful as I serve You. Thank You for empowering me to do such things through the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name I ask these things, Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just a Thought

Just a quick thought today...

"...we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter." Daniel 3:16

I am often prone to feeling a need to justify my words or actions. I know this is rooted in experiences from the past, and it is unhealthy and more importantly, unnecessary. As I read this word, knowing that I am justified in Christ and Christ alone, it prompted a prayer...

Lord, please prick my heart and shut my mouth when I feel the need to justify myself. As long as my words and actions line up with Your truths, I am good! And if they don't, I need to be repenting and seeking forgiveness vs. justifying wrong behavior. I ask this in Your precious name, Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bold Faith

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." Hebrews 10:35-39

Some days my confidence wanes, but most days my mustard seed faith keeps me moving forward, looking upward, believing God. His Word tells me that such confidence is richly rewarded. One day I will receive all that God has promised me. With that end in mind, I examine God's Word to see what I must do from now until then. It says that I must persevere, press on, endure the road laid out before me, and do my best to carry out God's will for my life. I must live by faith - not by sight -  and not shrink back if I want my Lord to be pleased with me. This to me describes bold faith. Unashamed faith. Believing faith. Confident faith. Pressing on through any kind of weather faith.

These are difficult days, but God says press on anyway. Do it in fear if you have to, but stand firm and do whatever God calls you to do. Embrace God's Word as you go. Ask the Lord for a word - a nugget of truth - each day as instruction and encouragement for the journey. Examine, embrace and uphold every word, and step out in faith.

Father God, I thank You for the living, breathing Word of God. It is Living Water for my thirsty soul. I thank You for the instruction and encouragement it gives me each time I drink it in. Prepare me Lord for the day ahead. I press on in You, believing Your promises. I ask You for bold faith and the temperment of a gentle and quiet spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Laughter & Joy

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." Job 8:21

Because of the great things my God has done for me my mouth shall be filled with laughter and my lips with shouts of joy!

My God has done so many wonderful things for me, they are too numerous to count. So why is my soul downcast today? I need to focus on the good things! I should speak about my God and His goodness, even in the midst of difficult situations, because my God who was faithful yesterday never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Though hard times come, joy comes in the morning. In other words, joy might seem to take a little vacation, but as sure as I can count on my God, I can count on my joy to return if my focus is on Him. Joy and laughter should be evidence of God's goodness in my life...and prayerfully it will draw people to Him.

Father, lift up my downcast spirit today I pray. Help me to focus on Your goodness. You have done so much for me and I am ever so grateful. Fill my mouth with laughter and my lips with shouts of joy. I pray and ask this in the Matchless Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Depending on God

"But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my case before Him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted." Job 5:8-9

"With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies." Psalm 108:13

I should appeal my case to the Lord - the only One who can truly do something about it. I should expect Him to do wonders and miracles that I cannot even fathom. Through God I gain victory because He tramples my enemies, not me.

Hear my cry, oh Lord. Plead my case before the Father. Do wonderous and miraculous things as You answer, I pray. Be glorified and gain victory, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Godless Chatter

"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly." 2 Timothy 2:16

Godless chatter means talk that is worldly, empty, vain, useless, worthless or foolish. I believe this includes words that tear down instead of build up, rambling on about things of little importance, or talk about things that are none of my business (a.k.a. gossip). I am reminded of a word spoken by a pastor years ago that has always stuck with my husband and I: "If you're not part of the problem, or part of the solution, it's gossip." That instruction has both directed me and convicted me in many conversations over the years.

God's Word is saying if I elect to indulge or "treat myself to" such talk, I would be expressing words that hurt vs. words that heal, entertaining shallow conversations, talking about others to people I am not at liberty to share the information with, and would therefore reflect my Lord less and less. I must be diligent about guarding my tongue and choosing my words wisely, and selective about the company I keep. I like the way The Message version sums up this passage: "Words are not mere words, you know. If they're not backed up by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul."

If I want to live an effective life for Christ, I must continue to exercise restraint with my tongue. I must be careful about what I take in with my ears. I must build others up, and pray about any thoughts I am tempted to speak that would tear down. I must surround myself with godly, like-minded people who speak words of life and encouragement. In this way I will become more like Christ and look less and less like the world.

Father God, I ask You to put a muzzle over my mouth when I am tempted to speak in a way that would hurt, tear down others, or misrepresent You. Help me to guard my ears and avoid situations, conversations and entertainment that is not pleasing in Your sight. And I ask You Lord to surround me with people that are growing in their faith and are passionate about their love for You, so that I am encouraged and built up. In Jesus' Name I thank You for hearing my prayers and answering. Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Upward Focus

"I have often told your before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their God is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." Philippians 3:18-19

Many believers sadly are living in opposition to the cross. Living a life in which many other things are competing for first place in their lives, the place Christ must be. These rebels are destined for destruction. Their appetites for food and lust and things ungodly have becme their god. Instead of responding with conviction and turning from wicked, evil or immoral ways, they glory blindly in what should be their shame. Instead of focusing on God's work, they are siding with earthly things and mesmerized or captivated by the temporal and tempestuous things of this world.

How then shall we live? God's Word is full of instruction. Here are a few examples...

Live as children of the light, reflecting or glowing with the love of Christ. 
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:14

Carry out the Great Commission.
"Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation." Mark 16:15

Swim upstream, go against the grain. You are not to be like the world.
"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:19

Do not give in to and believe the world's lies. Renew your mind daily with the truth of God's Word so that you can know and do the will of God.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

In other words...

Light up your world.
Be kingdom focused.
Swim upstream.
Align yourself with God's will.

Father, help me to live in a way that is pleasing to You. In a way that reflects the love of Christ to those around me. Use me to lead others to You. Keep charting my course as I swim upstream and seek to know and do Your will in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Am Loved

Some days I have to show myself grace. Other days I must remind myself that I am loved. By the God of the universe, I am loved.

When I come under spiritual attack, I often take extra measures. I know I've heard Beth Moore talk about actually sleeping with the Bible open on her head or chest when necessary. When I feel the need, I tend to tuck an index card with scripture under my pillow before going to bed at night. The one currently on my nightstand says this:

I am loved.
I have always been loved.
I will forever be loved.

...because my God says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." (Jeremiah 31:3).

Think I'll tuck it under there tonight for good measure!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not My Will...

"'Abba Father,' He said, 'everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.'" Mark 14:36

The Father's will always prevails. He has the power to make anything possible, if and when He wills it. His timing is perfect. He keeps reminding me, His timing is perfect.

Father God, I know that You see me. You see the aches, the passions, the desires of my heart. You never forget me. When I can't see Your hand, I know I can trust Your heart. I have faith that You are always working behind the scenes. I know that Your timing is perfect. Yet I keep asking and seeking and knocking. I ask You for comfort. I ask You to make a way for so many things where there seems to be no way. I ask You for provision. I ask You to do the impossible once again... but not My will, but Yours be done. You know what is best, and I choose to trust You, even when it hurts. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

God's Best

Borrowing this devo thought from a friends FB status yesterday...

... that every relationship rests on three legs: accepting, supporting and challenging. That's really it, isn't it? You want your relationships to be grounded on accepting each other as you are. On supporting each other through the inevitable ups and downs. On challenging each other to become more, to grow, to flourish. Which one of these is the more difficult one for you, and how are you going to practice it in the next 24 hours?

On this day, after investing years in growing a friendship, loving and accepting each other, leaning on each other through life's many ups and downs...encouraging some dear friends to grow and flourish is the hardest. Today, God's idea and mine on how to do this are far different. His idea is hard to swallow. As I have reflected on all that God is doing and how I can encourage my friends, a familiar verse from Proverbs echoes in my mind...

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

Selfishly, I want God to work out His challenging, growing and flourishing right here, locally. But His idea, is to do it somewhere else. Today I must practice this by loving my friends enough to let them go, knowing that when God determines their steps, His way is His best for them. As much as I may want things to work out my way, that's my selfish side talking. That's me planning the course of our future. But when I set that aside, and believe God is answering prayer, making a way where there seemed to be no way, doing what seemed impossible...I am reminded that He has everything under control, and He knows best. In that mindset, I can say to my friends in an unselfish way...

"May [God] give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed." Psalm 20:4

Sunday, December 5, 2010

God Gave Me An Idea...

"So God gave me the idea..." Nehemiah 7:5 (NLT)
"So my God put it into my heart..." Nehemiah 7:5 (NIV)

Nehemiah did not take credit for the idea he was about to execute. He fully understood that it was an idea imparted to him by God. For doesn't God's Word say that, "every good and perfect gift is from above"? A good thought or good idea would be a gift from God above, meant for the carrying out of His good works and purposes.

When I face challenges, I can ask God to give me an idea. A thought to solve the problem. A thought to change my perspective. A thought to direct my steps. I can ask Him to put a thought, an idea, in my heart.

Lord Jesus, I am facing some challenges in several areas of life. I ask You now to please put Your thoughts into my heart as I need to make changes, move forward, hold back. Change my faulty thinking and make my thoughts Your thoughts, so that I can be certain I am doing Your will and walking in Your ways. Let Your thoughts echo until I understand and do as You ask. In Jesus' Name I Pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Unexpected Blessings

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24

I was at the mall yesterday running an errand before meeting a friend for lunch when I got an unexpected blessing. As I rounded the corner headed to my destination a stranger spoke the words "God bless you ma'am!" in the sweetest way. It was spoken as if right into my ear because we passed in such close proximity. I was aware enough to know I was passing a couple walking hand in hand, but wasn't paying close attention, and didn't take note of their faces... I was in my own little world. I don't know what prompted the word of blessing, but it caught me off guard in a good way, and touched me!

After mentioning the experience to my friend, she was reminded of this video she'd seen of an unexpected Christmas blessing bestowed on unsuspecting patrons at a mall...

Unexpected blessing are sometimes the best kind. Little acts or words of kindness can make someone's day. And while we may never know how great the impact, God knows just what each person needs... and when. He might wish to use you, or He might want to use me, to express His love at just the right moment.

These thoughts reminded me of a note I used to have posted inside my bathroom cabinet that said "How can I bless others today?" In accordance with God's Word we are to spur one another on to love and do good deeds. Would you be willing to ask the Lord how you might bless someone unexpectedly in the coming days, and then come back and post a comment about what God prompted you to do? Or post how you've been blessed by someone else's unexpected act of kindness towards you, like my experience at the mall. Being a blessing IS a blessing. I would love to read about God's hand at work in and through your life! And as we share ideas, we also receive ideas, to spur one another on...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Build My People Up

"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up." Romans 15:1-2

After cross-referencing this verse in multiple translations, I understand it to say that especially when I am strong in my faith and convictions, I have an obligation to bear with or be considerate of those around me. Those who are sensitive, those who might fail or disappoint me, those who doubt or are weak in their faith. I must not seek to just please myself. I shouldn't be "me-focused" but "others-focused". I am called by God to help my neighbor, my family member, my friend, my co-worker, or whomever God puts in my path, to do what is right by edifying them, strengthening them, and building them up spiritually in the Lord.

Thank You Lord for the many people that have had (and continue to have) patience with me as I have grown up in my faith. Thank You for those that faithfully interceded on my behalf. Thank You for the timely advice and encouragement from friends. Thank You for giving me a song for every season to praise You, or to keep a flicker of hope alive. Thank You mostly for Your Word - the many scriptures that have sustained me. Help me Lord to be an encourager and lifter of spirits to those around me that need to be built up in You today. In Jesus' Name I Pray, Amen.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Beautiful the Feet...

The feet of my co-laborers and I spreading the Good News
of Jesus to people on the streets of New York City

"How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!'" Romans 10:14-15

This passage ends with a word of praise: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!" My God says to me that when I am sharing the Good News of Jesus with others, not only is the message and act of obedience a thing of beauty, but even so my feet.  Feet are beautiful in His eyes when they are used to walk across the room, across the street, or around the world as an instrument for His glory, to bring Good News to ears that need to hear.

Examining this passage in reverse order, I see God's instruction. In order for the lost to hear, I must go when and where God prompts. When I go, I must be willing to open my mouth and testify to what Christ has done for me, and what He has done for those I am speaking to. Once they have been told, they have the option to believe. They now have that choice as a result of the obedience of the one whose feet dared to go and bring them the Good News!

God's divine plan for all to know Him is carried out through the command of the great commission in Acts 1:8. His desire is that each one of us would dare to go somewhere. That we would boldly open our mouths and share the Gospel. That one by one, His children would be eternally delivered from sin and into a personal relationship with Him.

I am personally praying about the specific country God is calling me to next. Where is He calling you? Across the room, across the street, around the world? Don't be surprised if He calls you to all three or any combination thereof! How will they know unless we tell them? How would you have know had someone not dared to walk across the room and tell you?

Father God, I am eternally grateful for those that dared to open their mouths and tell me the Good News. And I am honored to be used by You to do the same. Thank You that already in my lifetime You have called me to Jerusalem (locally), Judea (Florida), Samaria (this nation), and to the ends of the earth (internationally). Please continue to use me to be Your hands and feet - my hands to write, my mouth to speak, and my feet to go - to testify about Your goodness. Each time You use me, I am blessed beyond measure! In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Am Secure

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus..." Romans 8:35, 37-39

God's Word says that nothing can separate the believer from the love of Christ. As a believer, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, I am secure. To be convinced of these things means I absolutely believe God's Word is true and am pursuaded beyond doubt. Nothing I could dream up, nothing I could imagine, nothing that I could say, do or think would ever cut me off from God's love for me. He will never throw His hands up at me and say, "That's it... she's crossed the line one too many times!", because my God also promises over and over in His Word to never leave me, forsake me or abandon me. And when my God says never, He means it to the 5th power... never, never, never, never, no never! He wants me to know He is serious about that and He keeps His word.

Now this is not to say that if I make poor choices I can just skate by. Poor choices without God's forgiveness lead to a break-down in communication with Him. When I say, do or think something that is not pleasing to Him or does not line up with His Word, it is my responsibility to seek His forgiveness and make right the situation. The keeps my hands clean and my heart pure before Holy God. Where sin keeps me bound up, repentance and forgiveness keep me free, unchained and in right relationship with Him. His Word is saying that even before I confess, when I am in between sin and forgiveness, or being attacked on all fronts, in the midst of trials and suffering, or persecution or poverty, under threats or oppression, or whatever the case, if by faith I have trusted Christ, my salvation is secure in Him.