{ God’s Valentine }

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Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name,

You  Are  Mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
  And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43: 1-3 ESV

~~~

Although this love message was written to God’s chosen people, Israel, it can speak comfort to all believers. In the New Testament, God’s never-changing love is affirmed in verses like Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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~~~

Photos:

Hush Naidoo

Chandan Chaurasia

 Ryan Stone

{ The Romans Farewell }

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This is all for Him, who can strengthen you, because of Jesus

Because of the gospel

That mystery that was hidden for thousands of years

That secluded secret that has now been whispered

And joyfully shouted

To you — to us —  to the world

 

This is all for Him, whose words can inspire faith and enable obedience

This is for Him, the only God

The wise God

Who deserves glory forever.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

From Romans 16:25-27

~~The Apostle Paul wrote 13 letters to the churches. The closing of each of these letters often read like a blessing or a doxology — a short passage of praise to God. I was reading over one of these the other day, noticing how Paul’s personality, passion for God and love for beloved, struggling pilgrims showed up in the letter closings. It made me want to try to understand each one. In future posts, I’m going to try to put each one of these in my own inarticulate words.

~~Photo:Aaron Burden

{ This Valley }

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This valley does not go on forever.

Just keep walking.

One step at a time. 

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While you are walking

While you are praying

While you are looking up

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The ground will rise to meet you,

The wind will suddenly be at your back

And sunlight will fall tenderly upon you.

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You will know that God

Has been

Holding you gently

  In His loving grip.

~~~

“May the road rise to meet you, and the wind always be at your back. May the rains fall softly on your fields. May God hold you gently in the palm of his hand. — Traditional Irish Blessing

~~~

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. — Numbers 6:24-26

~~~

Photos:

K

Jeremy Bishop

Wolfgang Lutz

 Marc-Olivier Jodoin

This is one of my all-time favorite devotional books: Streams in the Desert.

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{ Better Than }

God’s steadfast love is better than life. ~ Psalm 63:3

A good name is better than great riches. ~ Proverbs 22:1

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9

The end of a thing is better than its beginning. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:8

The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. ~  Ecclesiastes 7:8

To obey is better than sacrifice. ~ I Samuel 15:22

But God treats us much better than we deserve… ~ Romans 3:24

Consider others better than yourself. ~ Philippians 2:3

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Photos:

 Annie Spratt

 Michal Janek

 Tim Marshall

{War Declared on Sin Today }

War declared on

SIN

today.

Zero tolerance.

No exceptions.

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No questions asked.

No holds barred.

No ifs, ands or buts.

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The enemy–

Including but not limited to–

Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth,

Will be apprehended and arrested

Without a phone call,

A trial,

Or a last meal.

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Offenders will first be

Drowned in light,

Then beheaded with a double-edged sword

Followed by hanging from the highest gallows.

–The Management

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For when you live controlled by the flesh, you are about to die. But if the life of the Spirit puts to death the corrupt ways of the flesh, we then taste his abundant life. — Romans 8:13 TPT

~~~

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I am reading this book,thanks to Brenda, who recommended it. 

Photos:

Museums Victoria

Henry Hustava

Aaron Burden

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

{ My Psalm 139 }

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Dear God,

You have searched my heart

  • Inside and out
  • Up and down
  • All the way through

(and that would scare me a little, if the searcher was anyone but You)

Because there are some:

  • Cluttered corners
  • Dusty nooks
  • Untidy spots

In this heart of mine.

But because YOU are the One pointing the spotlight,

I know that you see it all and love me still.

Your searching light doesn’t drive me away…instead it draws me.

So go ahead and search –

(I can’t escape that loving lens anyway.)

If I try to hide under a pile of feeble plans and works

You smile and shine bright on me.

If I disguise myself in one of my favorite masks,

You lift it off and embrace me.

Using toys, tricks, and hopeless distractions

I cover myself.

But you know I’m there.

You saw all my thoughts and future words

even before I was born.

You scrutinized it all when you were:

  • Secretly crafting me
  • Masterfully molding me
  • Uniquely carving out my days and ways

And you keep on weaving, sculpting and sovereignly decorating me from the inside out.

Your work makes me

  • Stand up and celebrate
  • Kneel down and weep
  • Glad to praise you forever

And while You keep shining Your light,

We will keep clearing out the clutter.

I will grip Your hand and

Follow Your path into eternity.

~~~

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

{ Clean }

 

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I don’t dress like this when I clean the house.

 

I like a clean living space, but, cleaning is not a cherished hobby of mine. I generally value clutter-free over dust-free.

Years ago, my Spanish friend Ana invited me into her small apartment. I was amazed at how shiny-sparkly-clean it was and I commented on it.

“Yes, I like to do this!” Ana bubbled enthusiastically. I’ve never forgotten her radiant response; scrubbing the home spotless was a happy thing for her.

My Norwex-selling friend recently educated me on the stunning benefits of micro-fiber cleaning.

I’m totally not going to have a Norwex party, but I appreciated her zeal and knowledge; I really learned something.

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For a recent birthday, my daughter gave me a cleaning tote, stuffed with Mrs. Meyer’s sprays and other goodies. Was this gift a not-so-subtle hint, because she knows my housecleaning flaws? Hmmm….

Anyway, cleaning is more fun, now that I have Mrs. Meyer’s help.

I will now awkwardly transition to some brief thoughts about spiritual cleaning.

I was reading my Bible the other day and I cannot remember exactly what I was reading. I didn’t feel spiritually dirty and didn’t set out be to be purposefully “washed” that day, but suddenly I truly felt God’s words cascading over me, cleansing me.

As I have chewed on this the last few days, I have felt that reading God’s word is a powerful spiritual cleaning agent because:

  • It reminds me whose I am
  • It purifies my life perspective
  • It shines a loving light onto my heart
  • It pours hope down on me
  • It showers comfort over my soul
  • It cleanses festering wounds
  • It removes destructive thoughts and damaging lies.

~~~~~~~

“…wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

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“The Gospel is a cleansing agent, for it is the good news of Christ’s atoning death at Calvary. The Word is a cleansing agent also for sanctification. That’s why it’s important for us to read and study the Scriptures; they are a cleansing agent in our lives. It’s amazing what the Word of God will do with people when they read and study it. — John MacArthur

 

Bible photo:  Aaron Burden

{ God’s Math: 1 + 1 ≠ 2 }

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  —Isaiah 55:8-9 

I am not a math whiz.  Of all my extended family members, I am probably the least gifted with numbers.

My brain lives in the realm of pictures and approximations. Math is too exact; too detailed.

Yet, other family members seem to be fearless of numbers. My math-major sister-in-law said once in a casual setting, “I love abstract math.”  

What is that? Math with no visible symbols? Who would want to make math harder than it already is?

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So, the other day, I was visiting a church, watching a group of missionaries assemble at the front.

This caused me to think of my daughter, who is working at a refugee camp far away, going beyond her comfort zone, doing brave things in a company of global strangers.

Which caused me to consider all my children and who they are becoming.

I wondered: 

Lord, how did this happen? How can it be that you take children from a humble home, raised by imperfect parents, and grow them into amazing, beautiful souls?”

It doesn’t add up.

So, I was thinking about God’s kind of math, right there in the church service. 

God’s equations go beyond 1+1=2. God’s math goes beyond what seems logical or rational.  God’s math even seems to work backwards sometimes.

God’s kind of math says:

  • 2 small coins can sometimes mean more than a large sum of money.  (Mark 12:42)
  • Weak can be more powerful than strong. (Isaiah 40:29)
  • A few resources in God’s hands can multiply at a miraculous rate. (John 6:13)
  • Those who are last shall be first.  (Matt 20:16)
  • When you give to God, you get back way more than you gave. (Luke 6:38)

Things put into God’s hands seem to explode exponentially.

Finally, the omnipotent God is not only a master multiplier, he is a caring Creator. Which earthly number cruncher would not only count stars in the sky, but also lovingly name them?

He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4

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Photos:

John Moeses Bauan

Alexander Andrews

{ God’s Gym }

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Can I look at life trials like an athlete looks at barbells? She can’t weight to lift those heavy chunks of metal…because she knows they build muscle.

Here are 3 bodybuilding terms, tweaked for daily Christian living:

Gains

Gains = progress made. As an athlete builds endurance through hard work in the gym, a Christian builds endurance and patience by being exposed to difficult circumstances and responding in a spiritual way.  It’s not just being exposed to difficult times and people that achieves growth. Gains are made by exercising faith and obedience muscles –especially when it’s tough.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Weekend Warrior

There are people that hit the gym all week long, and there are people that only come a few hours on a weekend. Likewise, there are people sporadically go to church or read their Bibles and perhaps feel stirred…but never really change.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1: 22-25

Spotter

If you lift heavy weights in a gym, you may need a spotter. The spotter is there to prevent the weights from falling down and crushing you. Spotters may also boost the lifter’s morale by shouting encouraging phrases.

We need spiritual spotters — encouragers in life — to stand beside us as we lift emotional and spiritual weights. Spotters don’t do it for us, and they don’t tempt us to escape the gym. They are friends who stand alongside and encourage us to succeed. Their presence is comforting, helps us follow through, and prevents us from feeling crushed.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

Finishing Well

Lord, by your grace and power, may I make consistent gains as I press on in the Christian life.
May I actively look for ways to encourage others.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Trials need not deplete me, they are used by God to complete me.

 

 

 

{ Even Up Above Yourself }

Philippians is joyful letter, written by an incarcerated man of God, who loved his spiritual “children.” They were fellow believers, living miles away, who were struggling to live out their faith in a tempting and dark world.

I especially like chapter 2, though it’s easier to talk and write about it than it is to DO IT.

Anytime it happens, I know it’s only God working it out somehow through me.

Here is my paraphrase of this chapter, and unlike the true inspired words of scripture, it’s peppered with all my favorite punctuation marks — dashes, parentheses, ellipses, etc…

Anyway, it’s from the heart and I hope writing my version of Philippians 2:1-11 reminds me to do what it says:

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Following Christ brings encouragement, love, comfort, affection and a godly sympathy —

So, encourage me by living and walking together with unity.

Don’t be selfish or proud in your attitudes or actions.

Be humble — and lift people up — even up above yourself.

Don’t wallow in self-absorption; break out and joyfully meet a need…or two…or three!

Because (and only because) of Christ-in-you, you have His mind.

So…do things in the same way He did.

He came as a poor and lowly man…but in reality,

He was — and still is — G O D.

He willingly took on human form, with all of its earthly limitations.  He was a meek and loving servant — empty, humble and obedient.

His obedience took Him to the cross.

(But He didn’t stay there.)

After the unimaginable suffering came the unlimited triumph.

Now and forever, God has lifted Jesus up and given Him a name so powerful

it will make every knee bow

and every tongue admit

that yes —

Jesus Christ

really and eternally–

is  L O R D.

[And He — and we — will forever give God the glory He deserves!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Philippians 2: 1-11  ESV

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Photo Credit:michael schaffler