Monday, November 17, 2014

Give Thanks

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever…
                                Psalm 136:1 NIV

Sometimes when life knocks us down we reach into our closet of emotions and pull down the box labeled pity party. One by one we open the contents of the envelopes marked: Oh my! Why me? Why now? Why this? How long? How far? How could I have done that? Some grab it more quickly than others, but most have reached for it at least once.
Give Thanks
Perhaps satan set a snare for you, and you stepped into it. That innocent lunch became dinner and then dinner became something more and before you knew it... Maybe someone you love has a heart hurt that has driven him to the bottle; you want to help, but nothing is working. It could be that a devastating disease or loss of a loved one has you teetering on the brink of depression.

Any one of life’s hurts and tragedies can drive us over the edge of our emotional stability. Many situations require medical treatment or professional counseling. There is no shame in seeking help. Other predicaments seem less lethal and we struggle to handle them on our own.

I have found a good way to begin the emotional healing process is by giving thanks to our great God. You may think it strange to give thanks when you are in the pit. You may believe there is nothing for which to be thankful. Psalm 136 reminds us that God’s endless love never fails. I don’t know about you, but when I am in the midst of struggles or failure, I need to know that!

When we look for reasons to be thankful, we begin focusing on the goodness of God and often discover that along with our attitude of gratitude comes weight loss—our heavy heart grows lighter. While thankfulness may not change the situation or circumstances around me, I have found that thankfulness changes me.

When I begin to thank God, not for the situation but in the midst of the situation, I find that I am able to put away the envelopes of self-absorption and focus on my Heavenly Father’s love and mercy and goodness and grace.

My God gives drink to the dry and thirsty soul. He gives meat to the emaciated spirit. He gives strength for today and hope for tomorrow. He removes the clouds of doubt and fear and causes the sun to shine again.

He is God and He is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks!

© Joyce Powell

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life in the Little Things

So whether you eat or drink or whatever
you do, do it all for the glory of God.
                       I Corinthians 10:31 NIV 

Speaking of the shallow and the profound, Oswald Chambers wrote: “Determinedly take no one seriously but God, and the first person you find you have to leave severely alone as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.”

Fraud! Cheater! Imposter! These words speak to the motive of my heart. I used to think this verse related only to my actions, but was recently made aware that this verse penetrates to the marrow of my spiritual bones—not only what I do but what I think.
What do I think when my plans for the day are interrupted by someone else’s need? What do I think when I have made plans for money saved then someone presents a need I feel I must meet? What do I think when the mundane of daily life interferes with my plans for doing big things for God?

The record of the life of Christ on earth is the ultimate example of grace in the midst of the ordinary everyday common events of life. Christ was born into the ordinary, chose the ordinary to be His disciples and ministered most often to the common ordinary people met along His way—yet He is God!

Therefore, it is in the ordinary—not the great things I desire to do for God— where He reveals the motives of my heart. If I learn to live with Christ-like motives in the little things, then when and if God allows me to step out into the deep with Him, I will be able to look in my mirror without the fear of seeing an imposter.

The motive of my heart should always be—Lord, it is all about you and not about me. Today I pray that God will shake His children like a dust-filled blanket reminding each of us to check our motives as we go about doing the ordinary to the glory of God.

©Joyce Powell

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Power in the Blood

For this is my blood of the covenant,
which is poured out for many for the
forgiveness of sins.
                     Matthew 26:28  NIV

     A person can live only a few days without water. Without food one can survive several weeks—without oxygen only a few minutes. Without blood life ends! Blood supplies the means of travel for every necessary component to keep our bodies functioning properly. Medical research indicates that approximately three hundred billion red cells die and are replaced every day—the new strong clean blood replaces the toxic day after day, year after year throughout our life. There is power in the blood.
     Life is in the blood. The Jews understood and today practicing Jews continue to eat only kosher meat from an animal that has had all of the blood drained in preparation for cooking. Imagine the surprise and perhaps horror of the Jewish followers of Christ when he announced “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 ESV)

     Christ was teaching the truth of the spiritual life by teaching the truth of the physical life. He came to die, to shed His blood for the redemption of mankind—you and me. After His death on the Cross of Calvary, it would no longer be necessary to shed the blood of goats and bulls as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of man. Christ came to be the ultimate sacrifice.

     Christ’s blood has the power to cleanse us from our sin! Like me, you have probably heard this phrase: The red blood (of Christ) washes away my black sin and makes me white as snow. How is that possible? There is power in the blood of Christ! Just as the blood in our bodies cleanses toxins such as carbon dioxide from our bodies, the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin’s toxin.

     Our physical blood sustains our physical life. The blood of Christ, the purchase price for our eternal life, washes and sustains our life in Christ. Through His blood we are free from the burden of sin, the grasp of satan, the guilt and condemnation that encompassed life before Christ. It is not necessary, nor are we able to “clean up” before coming to Christ. As we accept Christ as Savior, His cleansing blood cleans us and transforms our life of sin washing away the toxins and replacing them with the power of Almighty God to live life in Christ Jesus.

     John 3:16 tells us that, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV) In the blood of Christ there is hope, there is salvation, there is LIFE eternal! There is power in the blood of Christ, and it is available to whoever believes. Will you believe?

©Joyce Powell

Monday, November 3, 2014

Memorial Stones

Set up road signs, put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway, the road
that you take.
                  Jeremiah 31:21 NIV

     The words road signs in the NIV and translated waymarks in the KJV mean exactly what they say. The Lord is instructing Jeremiah to inform God’s people that they are going into exile and on the way out they need to set up stones, raised pillars, road signs in order to mark their way home when exile is over.
     This weekend, as I have looked over photos and videos of our military grave markers, I have been reminded that those markers are road signs for Americans. As a nation, we have turned our back on God. Our WWI Veterans are deceased and in 2012 our WWII Veterans were dying at a rate of 670 per day. Korea, Vietnam and all the wars and battles since 1945 have continued to take a toll on the emotional and spiritual well being of our nation.

     Today, I challenge you to look back across the history of this great nation. Think about the lives lost from the beginning as we struggled for freedom from those who would keep us in bondage—even across the Atlantic. Think about the battle of brother against brother and father against son during the Civil War. Think about the tombstones, marked and unmarked, which are set as road signs across our nation and across the sea.

     If we once again fall into bondage, it will be of our own choosing. For just as the Israelites chose to ignore the prophet Jeremiah who spoke the warning issued by God to the Israelites, many of God’s people in America have become comfortable and lazy—choosing to ignore the neon warning signs now flashing across our land.

     We prefer sermons on grace, love and mercy over calls to repentance, holiness and obedience. In this entertain me age, we have limited our pastors to twenty minute sermons and taken the blood out of much of the new music. Many of us are no longer fit for duty. We are soldiers in name only.

     I challenge you and myself to stop and think! Look at the spiritual life of our great nation. Compare where we are spiritually against where we need to be. Remember the grave stones set as road signs against the landscape of America.

     Our freedom has been won and maintained because of the Hand of God. Today, let us choose to raise high the cross of Christ as we turn our hearts back to the God of our Fathers:

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

(George Warren, 1888)

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Have Faith

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished
and said to those following him, “I tell you
the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel
with such great faith.”
                        Matthew 8:10 NIV
     Matthew Eight recounts the story of a centurion with faith to believe that Jesus could perform a long-distance healing of his paralyzed suffering servant. He believed all Jesus had to do was speak the word and his servant would be healed. As a result of the centurion’s faith, his servant was healed and the centurion commended by Jesus for his great faith.
      “Indeed, there is nothing God will not do for those who will dare to step out in faith onto what appears to be only a mist. As they take their first step, they will find a rock beneath their feet.” F. B. Meyer
     We often hear the quote, “He is the wind beneath my wings.” True! But, I like this statement by F.B. Meyer. It reminds me that Christ is the rock on whom I stand.
There have been times in my life when I did not need wind to soar as I could not even get off the ground. Loneliness, inadequacy, the feeling of being forsaken, emptiness of spirit and prayers that seemed to hit the ceiling and bounce back in my face left me with one thing—faith! No matter what my circumstances, I have always known that although I may not feel the presence of God, He remains steadfast and strong and near. I cling to that faith when all else fails.
     One of the advantages of having decades of life behind me is the list of opportunities I have had to see God work. Faith builders! I have seen Him work miracles in the sanctuary as a young woman healed of cerebral palsy rose from her wheelchair and walked to her mother for the first time in years. I have been present when a pastor, after reminding his congregation that they may never have another opportunity to say yes to Christ, walked to the back of the sanctuary and dropped dead.  The church dropped to its knees and after many long minutes of waiting and praying God restored his life. Faith builder! (His wife told him never to use that illustration again!)
     While traveling on our bus during the years of our singing ministry, I heard Him speak to my heart with one word “Pray.” Although I did not know what it meant, I urged my friend to join me in prayer for our traveling safety only to avoid an accident before we could complete our prayers. Faith builder!
    I recognize the love, mercy, grace and hand of God in my life over the years. You do too. These examples are unique to me. I know you have your own. Remember them. Allow them to build your faith. Acknowledge that no matter the circumstances, when you step out in faith believing, Jesus is the Rock beneath your feet. He is the Cornerstone of our faith. He is the Rock of our salvation. Jesus never fails!
     The next time you feel defeat headed your way, do not slump down with your head bowed in that defeat. Stand straight and tall and remind yourself that you have faith in God through Christ, and that faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
 ©Joyce Powell

When You Pray

But when you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen. Then your Father, who
who sees what is done in secret, will
reward you.
                         Matthew 6:6 NIV
     When you pray! When you pray! When you pray! For some reason, prayer—the most powerful tool in the Christian arsenal, is often our weapon of last resort. Be honest!
     When you realize that the month is longer than your money—do you first wring your hands…or pray? When you hear a doctor’s dire prognosis for a loved one—do you first panic in fear…or pray? When you have choices to make that could change the course of your life—do you try to logically decide the answer…or pray?
The suddenly moments in life, those moments that surprise, overtake and overwhelm us are often the moments when we least feel like praying. Yet, those moments, like all the common, mundane and everyday moments of life are important “pray first” opportunities.
Prayer is a matter of the heart. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught the disciples to go into a room and close the door—get alone with God. Prayer is about the privilege of emptying yourself before God and allowing Him to speak, uninterrupted by ringing phones and televisions. Prayer is a time set aside to “Be still and know that I Am God!” (Psalm 46:10)  
I wish I could say that I get it right every time. I do not! I wish I could say that prayer is always my first thought. I cannot! I wish I could say that in every dire circumstance of life, I have rushed directly to the throne room of my Heavenly Father. I have not!
     Like you, there are times that I wring my hands, walk the floor and shed my tears before I run to my Father. But, through the years, those times have become fewer and fewer. The longer I have walked with God, the more I have found Him faithful and constant and so close that when I turn to run to Him, He is already there—waiting.
     Prayer is about an intimate relationship with our loving Heavenly Father. He should be our first thought when we are in need. Rather than running for the phone to call a friend, we should run to our prayer closet to call on Our Father Who Art In Heaven. We will never get a busy signal. His number will never be disconnected, and we will never be put on hold while he answers another line.
     Have you prayed today—just to say, “Good morning, Lord. I love you. I don’t need anything—just wanted to say hello.” I wonder if that might be the prayer He enjoys the most.
     Whatever your day holds, don’t forget that God is ready and waiting to hear you when you pray.

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Am I Changing the World

You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world…
         Matthew 5:13-14 NIV  

     One time won’t hurt! Don’t rock the boat! Just do it! It will be okay; no one will know! It won’t hurt anyone! Life presents many opportunities to succumb to peer pressure. But each time we go along with the crowd because we do not want to stand out in the crowd we allow the world to change us.

     In chapter five of Matthew, Jesus explains the consequences of refusing to be salt and light to our world. In verse fourteen, He reminds us that by our refusal to flavor our world with Christ-like behavior, we become like salt that has lost its ability to flavor.

     That is a difficult concept for us as we see a box of Morton’s sitting in the cupboard month after month and year after year knowing that whenever we pull it out to sprinkle our food, it remains useable salt. However, at the time Jesus walked on the earth, when salt was exposed to too much moisture the good portion of the salt would evaporate leaving only tiny rocks. It became flavorless and useless for preserving foods. Therefore, like that old-world salt, Christians who refuse to affect the world around them are of little value in making God known in the world.

     Jesus continued in verse fifteen by explaining that we are the light of the world. We should glow for Jesus. But, by refusing to speak out for Christ, by remaining silent in the face of sin, by choosing to ignore the needs of others or by going along with the crowd we activate the dimmer switch on our light and are no longer valuable in drawing others to Jesus.

     Our world is filled with desperate hurting people who are seeking the Savior. Striving to fill life with possessions and relationships, many come to the end of their days still trying to understand what they missed and how they missed it—never knowing the fulfillment of life that is found in Christ alone.

     So each day we face the decision of whether we want to be salt and light to a world in need. Each day we must choose how to answer two questions. Is the world changing me, or am I changing the world?

© Joyce Powell