When I was fifteen my family and I were living at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. It so happened that our housing was just a block away from the golf course. I became intrigued at golfers coming and going. One day I walked up and watched as men and women practiced on the putting green. There were several in our church who played golf. I was elated when, hearing of my interest to learn, they invited me to join them on Saturday mornings. I was always up at 5:00am eagerly waiting. Just one game and I was hooked. It’s my favorite sport to this day. I still get a thrill to hear the click of the club hitting the ball, then watching it soar across the sky. Because of my lifetime travels I have never been able to play as much as I would like, but it’s a time of sheer bliss when I do.
Imagine my excitement when, that Christmas at age fifteen, I came downstairs on Christmas morning and there stood a golf bag complete with a set of shiny clubs. It remains my best gift ever. I beam to this day when I play, when rather often, someone compliments me on my clubs. Yes, I still have the same ones, and I guess they’re now antiques!
My golf clubs are the best gift in my physical world, but what about my spiritual world? Well, for all of us who have received God’s gift of salvation, the promise of forgiveness of every sin, plus eternal life where joy never ends and no tears of sorrow exist, that is the best gift ever. However, there’s another gift that Jesus gave to all who personally know Him; it’s the gift of The Advocate. Aside from salvation, the coming of The Advocate or The Holy Spirit, is another amazing gift. Jesus said, in explaining His crucifixion and resurrection, in John 16:5-7, “Now I am going away to the One who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you.”
You see, when we have The Advocate residing within us, He reminds us of God’s Words and of God’s truth. He empowers us with strength to face any trial, with courage to walk into the unknown, with kindness to respond to the needs of others, with peace and joy in the midst of life’s turmoil. He gives us hope when dreams shatter, comfort when we grieve, and quiet joy in the most unimaginable of difficult circumstances. The gift of the Holy Spirit is amazing! If you don’t know Him, He’s only a prayer away. If you choose to receive Jesus this Christmas, not only comes forgiveness of all sin, with promise of eternal life with Him, but you get the added gift of The Holy Spirit — He and Jesus — the best gifts ever!
Our dog, Jack, has matured into a — most of the time — obedient dog. Once in a while he slips back into his former nature which is barking and snarling at would be assailants. Such was the case earlier this week. There we were enjoying a gentle stroll around the neighborhood when another dog comes on the scene. This other dog is also on a leash. He is on the other side of the road. He is minding his own business of sniffing pursuits. What does Jack do? He turns into the hound of the baskervilles!
I have a good grip on the leash as I command him to, “stop Jack!” We walk on. The incident is over but not really. A now contrite Jack peeks back at me over his shoulder. He knows his transgression. His eyes speak volumes — Everything okay? I keep my face stern. He walks on and looks back again — Everything okay? I smile then, pet him, and assure him, “I love you, Jack.” He lifts his head and walks on happily, safe in the assurance of my love for him.
Aren’t we the same in our walks with God? Perhaps you have been working on a personal weakness, a stance against some temptation. You’ve matured into an obedient Christ follower — most of the time — but the dreaded moments come when you succumb to something you never wanted to do or think or say again. You walk on but gingerly peek at God — Everything okay? Someone else enters the scene. His name is Demon. He speaks lies. He tells you that God is not pleased with you; therefore, His love has diminished. You hang your head as you consider the lie. You are disgusted with yourself. Your reasoning tells you, if you’re repulsed by your own actions, your Heavenly Father must be ready to give up entirely.
Perhaps you sink into despair that goes from a day to a week to a month or more. The assault of demon lies never cease. You can’t breathe in peace anymore. It’s gone! But wait! Once more you peek at God. You hear Him say, “If you confess your sin, I’ll forgive you. I’ll wash you all over. I’ll make you clean again.”* His words are tender and loving. You know they are true. You receive it. A burden floats away. Peace comes again. You lift your head and walk on happily, safe in the assurance of Father’s love for you.
*(I John 1:9 – paraphrase mine)
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.