God’s Loving Arms

God’s Loving Arms

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
— 1 Chronicles 16:34

There once was a father who carried his son on his shoulders everywhere they walked. He cared for all his son’s needs, giving him food and drink, keeping him in the shade when it was hot, and walking in the sun when it got cold. A stranger passed by the pair one day, and the son casually asked him, “Have you seen my father?”

This anecdote teaches us about how we take so many of our gifts from our Father in Heaven for granted. We don’t even recognize that it is He who is giving us everything we have and everything we need. God carries us through life, but if we don’t look for Him, we won’t see Him.

Some people think that it is hard to have a loving relationship with God because He is so far from us, all the way in the heavens. But this story shows us that the opposite is true. The reason why so many of us don’t have a relationship with our Father is because He is so close to us! He is so close, and His presence so familiar, that we rarely notice Him.

Every breath we take is a gift from God. But how many of us feel that way throughout our busy days? We take the clean air and our ability to breathe for granted because we are given that gift every moment of our lives. But try holding your breath for a few minutes, and you might come to have a new appreciation for your next breath and the one after that.

In 1 Chronicles, after the Ark of the Covenant was brought into a special tent that King David had created for it, a ceremony took place involving sacrifices and offerings. But then David instructed the priests to constantly serve with words of praise and thanks to God. This was critical to their daily service. We read: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Giving thanks was the anthem of David’s life.

In fact, the sages teach that at one point during David’s reign, there was a plague that killed 100 people a day. Recognizing that this physical malady had a spiritual cause, David prescribed a spiritual cure: To recite 100 blessings each day. The plague stopped, and David’s prescription is followed by observant Jews to this very day!

Everyone is asking what will it take to put our world in a better state. We see all the bad things happening around us. But maybe the cure is to notice the good things, to give thanks for them, and to bless God for giving us all the gifts we have in our lives.

djs

 

Joy Comes In The Morning

Joy Comes In The Morning
Psalm 30:5 (WEB)
For his anger is but for a moment. His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

From Dust To Glory

From Dust To Glory

For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. — Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT)

Most of us would agree with the statement that we won’t live forever. But that isn’t entirely true. The issue is not if we live forever or not, but who “we” refers to.

If we think of ourselves as our body, then it’s true; we do not live forever, and knowing that should inspire us to make the most of the time we have. However, if we know the truth about who we are – that we are essentially a soul and not the body we have been given for a number of years – then it is true that we live forever, only not in physical form or on this planet, but in our spiritual form in our real home in Heaven.

As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” This perspective should also affect the way we live as well.

If you were going on a short trip for a week or two, you would never go on a vacation that would spoil your life after the trip. You wouldn’t squander all your money on this vacation and have nothing when you returned to your house. You wouldn’t quit your job or sever important relationships. At the same time, you also wouldn’t want to waste a minute of your vacation, and you would hope that the relaxation you experience while away would follow you into your daily routine.

The sages teach that we are each a soul, given the “clothing” of a physical body so that we can be here for a limited amount of time. Knowing this is a temporary state of being, like being on a trip, we wouldn’t want to do anything that would take away our reward in the afterlife. We wouldn’t want to forget that we have a job to do – to make ourselves and the world a better place. We wouldn’t want to waste a minute of our lives and would use every moment as a chance to develop our souls.

Knowing that we do live forever makes us pause and consider what we are doing today to ensure that our “forever” is the best that it possibly can be. How can we be more generous? How can we become more loving? In what ways can we overcome our shortcomings and develop our God-given talents?

One day, our bodies will be part of the earth. But our souls never die. We simply return to where we came from and live the rest and best part of our lives. On that day, all we will take with us are our good deeds.

How might that influence the decisions we make today?

djs

The Power Of Prayer In Our Changing World

The Power Of Prayer In Our Changing World

Hanging above the door in our house, my parent’s favorite plaque constantly reminded us, “Prayer changes things.” From an early age, I witnessed this powerful truth through their example. They would tell us about some difficulties they was facing and then have the family pray about them with them. And later, they always would be sure to give God the glory when sharing the awesome news that He had answered those prayers.

Indeed, this is our confidence: Anything we pray for that aligns with the Father’s plan will be granted. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we’ll come to understand His will and how to pray for it.

Remember, prayer doesn’t change God’s mind, but it does transform the believer’s heart. Some requests are granted immediately, simply because our Father is good and He loves to give His children gifts. Other requests may require time or certain divine preparations before they can be given. We, meanwhile, must simply persevere in prayer.

Whatever the Lord’s response or timing, we trust that He has only the very best in store for His children. That means we might not receive exactly what we’re asking for, but something even better. Such is God’s great pleasure, for He alone perfectly knows each heart’s desire and wishes to fulfill it.

Our most powerful tool for shaping the world and lives around us is always available. Prayer lets us witness God’s hand in any situation. And as we give attention, time, and perseverance to conversation with Him, we find there’s no limit to what He can achieve in people’s hearts and circumstances.

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Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots
LORD, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.
Psalm 141:1

It took two years to paint A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the famous seaside scene. Each color that the eye sees is composed of countless contrasting dots. It is only as the viewer steps back from the painting that the picture emerges from the seemingly random dots.

When we are on the brink of despair, all we see is the color of our current situation. Our souls long for relief. When Job lost everything, he came to a point where he longed for death and wondered why God had forgotten him. Similarly the psalms of David are full of laments, heartfelt prayers to God expressing profound grief and sorrow. When we are in a dark place, it is comforting to know we are not alone.

Biblical stories can encourage us when we feel stuck and hopeless. This is not the end of our story but only a single dot or season. God is at work. He sees and affectionately holds the entire painting of our lives in His hands and has promised to create something beautiful. Don’t give up.

Is it not without its comfort that the two men that conversed with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration both broke under the strain of their ministry and prayed that they might die?
J. Oswald Sanders

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Praising HIS Name

Praising His Name

Jesus’ request as He looked to the cross was that He might glorify His Father. (See John 17:1) That is to be the desire of our hearts as well. From the moment we wake up each morning, and then as the day unfolds and as news of tragedy or success reaches us, our request is to be, “Father, glorify Yourself.” In the simplest tasks as well as in the hardest ones, a Christian’s longing should be to reflect the Lord to others.

When we pray for His glorification, we’re saying, “God, do whatever will bring You the greatest honor and make You known to the world.” It means that we are also surrendering what we want the outcome to be. God in His sovereignty will choose what will bring honor to His name. And whatever happens, we are to believe He has done just that.

It will come as no surprise to hear me say we live in a world that doesn’t always give God the honor due His name: There will always be some who reject the Son of God and refuse to believe in Him. But our desire should be the same as our Father’s—for people everywhere to know the perfection of His character, which never changes.

God calls us to praise His name and reveal Him. We honor the Lord as we worship in our churches, as we testify to His work in our lives, and as we proclaim the truth of His holy Word in our communities.

By our attitudes, actions, and words, we have the privilege of revealing our loving Father to a world that desperately needs Him. Let us join together, united in love, to give Him the glory.

djs

Walking Your Path In Love And Wisdom

Walking Your Path In Love And Wisdom

Although the Lord showers His goodness on all men and women, the ability to perceive and enjoy it is limited by a refusal to reverence Him as God. To experience the fullness of His kindness, we must honor Him by choosing His way of submission and obedience. The Lord will never withhold His goodness from those who walk uprightly with Him.

In love and wisdom, the Father has specifically designed a pathway for each of His children. Because no two people are alike, each path will look different. What may be best for one person may not be good for another. Comparison of God’s ways in different lives will lead only to discouragement and misjudgment. We have neither the wisdom nor the eternal perspective to understand why the Lord leads some people down a road of pain and hardship, but we can know that He is always good.

Every step on God’s pathway represents a deliberate choice to follow Him. By looking around instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus, we may start thinking that we are missing out on some really good experiences or possessions. If we leave the Lord’s course to follow one that looks better, we will forfeit His good blessings and discover, as Adam and Eve did, that any other way leads to loss.

Take time periodically to ask yourself, Am I on the path the Lord has chosen for me, or have I taken a detour to follow another direction that looks good? To build our own course and ignore the goodness and abundance of His pathway is foolishness. God alone knows the way we should take.

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