Our sweet dog, Jack, is his own worst enemy. Next month he will be six years old. In that time we’ve taken him to the vet several times for tummy upsets. A year ago he was even in intensive care for four days! Why? He’s a scavenger and eats things he should not eat! The intensive care stay was a result of acorns. Last week and this week he’s been back to the vets because of devouring what he should never eat.
Jack has good food. We even have to buy expensive, grain free food for him. His treats are grain free. His water is filtered. It’s all good and plentiful, so why on earth will he be tempted by, and succumb, to nasty things that make him sick? Oh, that unwise at times, but lovable dog who captured our hearts. What will we do? We will continue to love him, comfort him, scold him when we catch him in the act, and then love him some more. We will always provide for his needs with the greatest of pleasure. We will not give up on him.
Aren’t all of God’s children, at times, just like scavenger Jack? Our Heavenly Father provides what we need everyday of our lives. He gives us His own courage, joy, peace, direction. Still, as we are running about in our personal busyness, we see things that look tasty. We are tempted to go where we should not go, to engage in something we should avoid, to speak words that should never come from our lips, behave in a manner that is not godly.
What happens when we succumb to such temptations? We become spiritually sick. If we stray too long from the good food our Father provides for us in His Word, or ignore communication with Him, we become distant, downcast, lacking inner peace, void of abiding joy. What can we do? Go back! Go back to that place we left His ways. Go back to the table He keeps prepared for us; tables laden with everything good for our everyday living. Eating from His table keeps us strong, ready to face the hardships this world throws at us.
When we stray, how lovely that we can return to our Father, knowing He waits with the door open, desiring to restore us, to bathe us in forgiveness and love. He may scold us, but His compassion and mercy is fresh every morning. It is His great pleasure to provide everything we need to get through everyday of our lives with our spiritual health intact. He will never give up on us.
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Yesterday, Americans around the world celebrated Thanksgiving Day. It’s a favorite holiday among many. There’s traditional turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and a variety of other foods to cover the table. We meet with family and friends to enjoy the feast. Most importantly, we remember to give thanks. We’re thankful for family, for our homes, for those who helped us get through a rough year, for the memories of those we love who have passed on.
Did you know that expressing thankfulness improves one’s overall sense of well-being? According to medical research, thanksgiving does the following: combats mental health issues, reduces headaches and gastrointestinal problems, improves sleep, and builds good self-esteem. Of course, God’s Word told us in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Job 8:21 tells us that God, “will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Medical research reveals that laughter: reduces pain, reduces blood sugar, improves job performance, enhances our relationships, and helps keep our thoughts focusing on the positive rather than the negative.
For many, this past year may have brought pain. There will be empty chairs around the table; perhaps through death or broken relationship. The absence of loved ones can seem intolerable. We need something to fill the empty spaces. We need our thoughts to be, not on the pain of loss, but on the beauty of what we shared together with those we love. Focusing on happy memories can be sweet, bringing healing to inner pain.
While practicing gratitude, laughter, and positive thinking may not solve a problem, it will definitely ease the burden, making it lighter to bear. When God created mankind, He did a great thing in developing the ability to know thankfulness, to laugh, and to choose to meditate upon things that are “true and honorable, right and pure, lovely and admirable.” (Philippians 4:8) Because of all the benefits we get from positive thinking, no wonder Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Why is it His will? Because He loves us so much, He wants the very best for us at all times. He doesn’t want us destroyed by the ugliness of life; He wants us to know joy and peace that only He can give in the most painful of life’s moments.
I wish you a heart of thankfulness. Laugh a lot. Meditate on what is true and brings joy. Then, know beyond doubt, as we are reminded in Romans 8:28 that, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Every now and again, our dog Jack, has a nightmare. Sometimes he trembles and even howls. He did this in the early hours of this morning. He was stretched alongside my legs when I heard the faint whimpers of what I knew was another nightmare. He then began a howl. I placed my hand on him and spoke reassuringly, “It’s okay, Jack. It’s okay. I’m here.” His quivering muscles relaxed as he continued on in quiet slumber.
Doesn’t that happen to all of us at times? Sleep evades us in the night, a result of troubling thoughts, while in the waking hours, we can have a daymare; those same troubling thoughts of the night, disturbing the peace of our hearts. We feel our insides tremble. In the dark chambers of our minds we howl in our anxieties. But then? The loving hand of our Father touches us. He speaks reassuringly, “Come to me, weary one. I’ll give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 – paraphrase mine) When we hear His words of comfort, inner tensions ease, and we relax and continue on in peace, knowing He is with us. He won’t leave us.
Some ask, but how do we recognize His voice? That takes practice. For the whole of my life I have listened to my mother’s voice. Therefore, if I’m away and she phones me, she never has to identify herself. I recognize her voice. It’s the same in our relationship with our Father. The more we spend time reading His Words found in Scripture, the more we meditate upon those Words, the more we praise and worship Him, the more we communicate with Him in prayer, the better we are at recognizing when He speaks to us — and be assured — He will speak.
The Father heart of God longs to be invited into the lives of His children to intervene on their behalf. He desires always, to not only speak comforting Words, but to have us listen and contemplate them. He knows His perfect Words will always lead us correctly and give us the courage and peace we need to face our troubling days.
We all experience nightmares and daymares in our lives. Be assured, you never have to just lay there and howl. Father is ready to place upon you His hands of love, whisper words of comfort, and let you sleep beside Him with peaceful thoughts to quieten the anxious ones.
A spring is evidence of an underground reservoir called an aquifer. They work together. A spring does not exist without the aquifer. The aquifer is its source. This is the same in our spiritual world. Every child of God is a channel through whom the Holy Spirit, linked to Jesus, brings about Father’s will in our lives. How does this work?
The Holy Spirit within every Christian is evidence of His link to God. He is the third part of the Trinity. God the Father knows the mind of the Holy Spirit because He is part of Him. This makes Romans 8:27 all the more exciting. “The Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (NLT) The previous verse, 26, tells us that when we don’t know what to pray, “the Holy Spirit prays for us.” He prays in accordance with God’s own will for our lives.
We have all been in situations when we can’t guess what God’s will is for us. We truly want to do what He says to do, but as much as we ponder and pray, we come to no concrete conclusion. We seem to be without direction. Take heart in the reminder of the Holy Spirit representing us to the Father. When we come before God in prayer, and we don’t know for what we should pray, turn to the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for His presence in your life. Give praises to the Father for His provision. Give thanks to Jesus the Son for assuring us we would never be alone, because the Holy Spirit would always be with us to comfort, instruct, and guide.
When you don’t know how to pray, the most important thing to do is make certain your heart is leaning toward your Heavenly Father. When your focus and desire is for the perfect will of God to be done in your life, it is then the Holy Spirit speaks those desires to Father on your behalf, and Father’s will is then made perfect in you. I love the verse in Psalm 37:4 that promises that very thing, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” When you are meditating upon the things of God, looking faithfully into His Word, seeking His ways, desiring that His will be done, He takes note that your longing is for Him. When your hunger is for Him and His ways, the Holy Spirit, representing you before the Father and the Son, prays on your behalf within God’s perfect will. Don’t we have the most amazing representative?
We do our part to seek the Father’s will. The Holy Spirit does His part to speak to the Father on our behalf; He is our Advocate. The Father, knowing the mind of the Spirit, answers by revealing His will. The Spirit then opens the right doors of opportunity, He reveals hidden truth in Scripture to us, He stimulates, excites, and stirs up our faith. What happens then? Joy and peace springs forth from Jesus our Rock, our aquifer, through the power of the Holy Spirit, our link, in accordance with the will of our Heavenly Father.
There are two similar passages found in Matthew 7 and Luke 11. They both instruct followers of Christ to, “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” These words have brought both encouragement and dismay. I have listened to the tales of woe from Christians who have “asked believing” and what they asked for did not take place. They are perplexed and discouraged. Have you ever found yourself in that same sinking boat of despair?
It’s all to do with reading in context. For example, many people cling to verses 7-8 in Matthew 7 but they pay little attention to verses 9-11. Let’s look at it: Matthew 7:7-11, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents, if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him?” This same passage in Luke 11:13 reads, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” There are both “fruits” of the Spirit and “gifts” of the Spirit. An example of fruits are love, joy, and peace. An example of gifts are word of knowledge and word of wisdom.
When Jesus is speaking to His followers in these passages, He is addressing, not the tangible, but the spiritual. Does God care about the tangible in our lives? May we pray for physical needs? Absolutely! However, never lose sight of the fact that the tangible is temporary and fades. The spiritual, by contrast is full of lasting power, comfort, and strength to get us through the tangible difficulties that come to us all. By way of example, let’s say a loved one is ill. Death seems imminent. You “ask” believing you will “receive,” but your loved one passes away. Did God not answer your request when He promised He would? No! He promised to give you everything of the Holy Spirit that you would need to get through the darkness moments of your lives.
I encourage us all to look beyond the tangible. Look to the power of the Holy Spirit. How could Paul and Silas sing in prison? How could Daniel remain calm when he was thrown to the lions? It was solely because of the power of the Holy Spirit. When we ask, seek, and knock, then we discover that our Heavenly Father gives us everything we need to get through anything at all. The Holy Spirit is the most lovely answer to prayer that we can ever receive.
Whatever you are going through today — ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door of everything you need will be opened to you. “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37) Remember, too, the words of Jesus in John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”
May we all engage in the instruction Jesus gave us to, ask, seek and knock, knowing that we will receive all we need through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, filling us, empowering us. That’s why nothing is ever impossible for us to get through with God’s own peace, joy, strength, and courage.
I’m sure we’ve all had those moments when a thought or memory pops into our minds for no understandable reason. It just comes. Such was the case with me earlier this week. I recalled an incident that happened to me when I was eleven or twelve years old. It was the time my mother had announced with a smile that it was time I wore a training bra. Oh, the excitement! This was it! I was on the road to womanhood! How proud I felt wearing my training bra, which of course, was merely an elastic band with shoulder straps. Never mind! I was wearing a bra and that was significant! In no time at all, I was certain, I would be driving a car and renting my first apartment.
It wasn’t long after receiving my womanly bra that my mother gave me something else — a money pouch. She had sewn it herself. A tiny pale blue bag. She put a five dollar bill inside the pouch and then pinned it inside my elastic band, oops, I mean my bra. My mother explained that whenever I was away from home, whether at school, riding my bike around the neighborhood, going to the community swimming pool, anywhere at all; if I found myself in difficulty, I had my money pouch to help me out. I could phone home, call a taxi, pay for an unexpected something. The money in the pouch, in the elastic band bra, was my mother’s provision for times of trouble.
Now, you may laugh, but this memory made me think of the Holy Spirit. You see, Jesus assured us in John 14:16, that when He left earth, we would not be alone. He would ask His Father to send the Holy Spirit who would be our Advocate. The dictionary defines advocate as: protector, supporter, fighter. When you and I get into any kind of trouble, whether it be temptation, relationship struggles, unfair treatment from others, financial despair, anything at all; if we find ourselves in difficulty, we have the Holy Spirit to help us out. We can call upon Him at any time of day or night. The Holy Spirit dwelling within us is our Heavenly Father’s provision for times of trouble.
When difficulties come, the Holy Spirit reminds us of all the treasure we have in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit brings us to a place of praise for all the Lord has done for us in the past, and for all He is to us in the present. Praising is a wonderful antidote to despair. The Holy Spirit gives us a song to sing in our hearts even in times of deepest sorrow. The Holy Spirit is a constant presence of both gentleness and power. I close with the following passage in Psalm 34:1-6. Whatever you are going through today, remember the provision made for you; the presence of the sweet Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, and empower.
“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak His praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together. I prayed to the Lord and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; He saved me from all my troubles.”