THE CHAIR

What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. [Isaiah 31:1 (NLT)]

The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you. [Psalm 33:16-17 (NLT)]

Lake LouiseThe small chair looked quite inviting but there was a note on it: “Broken—do not use.” That note has been resting on the same chair for several years. Had the chair been mine, it would have been repaired or at least hidden out of the way. As it is now, the chair is useless and an invitation to disaster. Just a slight breeze might blow the warning off the chair; the next person to come along could sit there and end up sprawled on the floor surrounded by splintered wood.

In contrast to the precarious antique chair at my friend’s house, is the large leather arm chair in our family room. It’s not there for looks—it’s there for support and comfort. Oversized and well-built, it’s strong enough to hold my weight and that of all the grands as they pile on it with me. It’s durable, comfortable, welcoming and dependable.

Some people depend on things as fragile as that broken chair—things that look nice but can’t be trusted like wealth, career, appearance, possessions, power, contacts, intelligence, or fame. They may appear sturdier than that broken chair but, like it, they can easily shatter and collapse when we need them most. Our circumstances can change in an instant and what we had yesterday may not be here tomorrow. The Old Testament is filled with stories showing the danger of relying on the wrong things. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah suffered for their dependence on idols, other nations, and themselves rather than God; we will, too. When we depend on anything as weak as a rickety old chair, eventually it will collapse and we’ll be left to pick up the broken pieces. As for me, I’d rather depend on a God who is like our arm chair—strong, steadfast and indestructible! Ours is a rock-solid God who won’t fail us, no matter how much weight we place on Him.

On who or what do you rely? Is it reliable….as reliable as God?

But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. [Psalm 33:19-22 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

MY VACUUM

Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know? It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea. [Job 11:7-9 (NLT)]

great blue heronAt our house, the closest thing we have to a pet is one of those robot vacuums. While it’s nearly as entertaining as a puppy, it needs far less care. As I watch it zip around the house, its movement appears to be entirely random. Sometimes it starts by spiraling outward in a circle and other times it heads for the perimeter of the room. Whenever it hits an obstacle, it seems to bounce off in another direction. Apparently, it has multiple sensors that help it calculate room size, detect obstacles, and adjust for variations in surface.

Sometimes I think I’m not even as smart as this silly machine. It knows enough to stop and beep if it gets in a tight spot; as for me—I usually think I can get out of tight spots on my own when I clearly can’t! I should call on God as readily as the robot beeps for me. The robot will stop when it is filled with dirt. Like it, I don’t function well when bogged down with the grime of my life. Unfortunately, I’m not very good about confessing my sins and asking God to empty me of my burdens. When its battery runs low, this little vac knows enough to find its way back to its recharging station, connect, and charge up again. I, however, tend to forget the importance of resting in God and letting Him power me up again. I often run myself ragged until I stop dead in my tracks.

In spite of reading various explanations of its programming, I have yet to figure out whatever logic is built into this robotic cleaner. Right now, it is zipping around my office, going under tables and chairs and ducking in and out of corners; I can see neither rhyme nor reason to its behavior. Nevertheless, that robot knows what it’s doing and, given enough time, does a good job. I can’t help but think of the often inexplicable way God runs the universe. The events of life often seem random, disconnected, and perplexing and yet they are all part of a program we simply don’t understand. Just because we don’t understand them doesn’t mean they’re not part of God’s perfect plan.

I can program the vacuum to clean on my schedule, move it wherever I want, and place it on or remove it from the charger. I can even erect a virtual wall with a battery-powered infrared beam so it stays where I want. Clearly, in the case of my vacuum, I’m the one with the power. With God and us, however, He’s the one with all of the power and we are at His mercy. He schedules our lives, gives us tasks, and erects life’s barriers. He moves us wherever and whenever He wants and determines when our running time has ended. We just need to remember that the way He orchestrates our lives, like the way my little robot works, is beyond our understanding.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

THE ENEMY – FEAR

Laudermilk Park Naples FLWe, therefore, can confidently say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ [Hebrews 13:6 (PHILLIPS)]

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address. It was 1933 and the nation was in the dark days of the Great Depression. Although the reason for our nation’s darkness differs, his words still hold true.

Like many others, our church spent last week discussing and implementing security measures. How can a house of worship—a place that welcomes the lost and the least, the weary and the burdened—protect itself from the violence that increasingly surrounds us? As so many schools do, should we require everyone to have laminated ID cards for entrance through our doors? Do we pat down people or pass them through metal detectors? Should we carry guns in shoulder holsters and purses? Do we cease welcoming strangers? Will we refuse entry to anyone involved in a domestic dispute lest their angry spouse chooses to vent his anger on our doorstep?

Will we allow fear to stop us from attending church? If we do, we might as well stop going to concerts, schools, theaters, shopping centers, street festivals, airports, parades, marathons, or sporting events—all of which are perfect targets for both terrorists and the mentally ill. No place is entirely safe, especially when cars and trucks can become weapons with just a turn of the wheel and a little pressure on the gas pedal.

I admit to being more cautious nowadays. I look for exits and avoid confrontations but that’s being sensible rather than afraid. Told to say something if we see something, I am attentive to my surroundings but for what are we supposed to look? The concert goers in Las Vegas never saw the shooter and, by the time the parishioners in Texas saw the gunman, it was too late. Once it was easy to identify the deranged—they were the ones talking or screaming to themselves, gesturing wildly, or dancing to their own inner music. Now, because of cell phones, blue tooth, and iPods, many on the street seem unbalanced when they aren’t and terrorists don’t wear t-shirts announcing their hateful plans.

Admittedly, we live in a world of random violence but it’s not nearly as violent as we think it is. The odds of dying of either heart disease or cancer are more than 30,000 times greater than dying at the hands of a terrorist. While those odds are of no comfort to the families who have lost loved ones to terror, they tell us to be watchful rather than afraid.

There is more to FDR’s quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to turn retreat into advance.” When we allow fear to keep us from our daily routine, when fear keeps us from attending  our children’s football games or  flying on a plane, when we become too afraid to go the beach or even to church, we are retreating from the real enemy—Satan. Rather than arming ourselves with weapons, let’s put on the armor of God and, as Christ’s soldiers, bravely advance onward into battle.

Never be afraid of those who can kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul! Far better to stand in awe of the one who has the power to destroy body and soul in the fires of destruction! [Matthew 10:28 (PHILLIPS)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

ROSE-COLORED GLASSES

rose colored glassesAnd we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. [Romans 8:28 (TLB)]

When someone has an unduly optimistic or positive view of things, they are often said to be wearing “rose-colored glasses.” According to Adam Anderson, a University of Toronto professor of psychology, our moods actually affect the way we see things and, as moods change, so does our visual perception. “Good and bad moods literally change the way our visual cortex operates,” says the professor about a 2009 study he conducted. ”In a positive mood,” he explained, “our visual cortex takes in more information, while negative moods result in tunnel vision.” He concluded that the better our mood, the better able our brains are to comprehend what it is our eyes are seeing. In short, we see better when we have a positive outlook and are wearing rose-colored glasses!

I imagine it was a set of rose-colored glasses that allowed young David to see the possibility of defeating the huge Goliath with his sling. In all of Saul’s army, there had to have been other brave men equally skilled with a sling. Because of their despair and pessimism, however, they never saw what was right in front of them—an enormous man, encumbered by a coat of mail weighing 125 pounds, wearing heavy bronze leg armor, and carrying a javelin, spear and sword. Instead of seeing a man so weighed down that he needed another man to carry his shield, they saw an undefeatable opponent. David, however, saw someone who wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to dodge a well-aimed stone. That stone wasn’t from a child’s toy sling-shot; it came from a shepherd’s weapon used to kill wild animals. According to Malcom Gladwell, that sling had the stopping power of a .45 caliber handgun. With their defeatist attitude, Saul and his army only saw the power of the enemy. David’s optimism allowed him to clearly see both the enemy’s weakness and his own strength and skill!

Like Saul and his army, when the disciples found themselves in the midst of a storm, the fearful men had tunnel vision. They only saw danger and impending death. If they’d put on some rose-colored glasses, they would have seen the one who can calm storms sleeping in their boat! Rose-colored glasses can help us see what is right in front of us. A positive attitude is what helps us notice any weakness in the opposition, find detours in life’s roadblocks, identify solutions to our problems, and spot help when we need it.

We actually can purchase rose-colored glasses but, unless they have corrective lenses, they’ll not improve our eyesight. Faith in God, however, is what offers us the kind of rose-colored glasses that give clarity to life and allow us to see the big picture. It is knowing Jesus that enables us to face each morning with optimism, joy and hope. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that allows us to see our challenges as opportunities to do God’s will. So, put on your rose-colored glasses and see what wonderful things the day will bring!

I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I want you to realize that God has been made rich because we who are Christ’s have been given to him! [Ephesians 1:16-18 (TLB)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

VAMPIRES – Halloween 2017

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. [Ephesians 5:16-19 (NLT)]

skeleton - halloweenAs a Christian, I don’t believe in hobgoblins, witches, ghouls, zombies, or ghosts but I do believe in vampires! No, not the fictional undead that live in coffins, shape shift into bats, have fangs but no reflection, and suck blood from the necks of the unsuspecting. I do believe in the emotional kind that can suck the life right out of us faster than a swarm of mosquitoes!

Sometimes these vampires actually are people; surely, you know the kind. There’s the Narcissist—the uncaring, selfish, and self-centered “me first” kind of person. Closely related to him is the Talker—the “listen to me” person who drones on and on, never lets you get a word in edgewise, and wouldn’t care what you had to say anyway. Then there’s the Martyr—the suffering victim with the “poor me” complaint and the “yes, but…” response to any helpful suggestion. The Boss is the “my way or the highway” kind of vampire who both dictates and demeans, insists and insults, commands and criticizes. Finally, we have the Drama Queen (or King) for whom everything (both big and little) creates a crisis and who wants to entangle you in the melodrama. In folklore, a hefty dose of garlic is said to ward off vampires. While it might work for these real vampires, there’s probably a better way. It’s been said that a vampire can’t enter your home unless you voluntarily invite him in; it’s probably wise to remember that same truth holds true for these emotional ones. As Christians, we may have to both love and forgive them and but we don’t have to welcome them into our lives, willingly open our collars, bare our necks, and submit to their torture!

Sometimes, however, life’s vampires aren’t people; they’re emotions that have already found a comfy home with us. They are negative mindsets like anger, anxiety, resentment, pessimism, insecurity, despondency, and fear; they, too, can suck the life right out of us. Those vampires may have brought along a few friends: the ghosts of regret, guilt, remorse and shame. These creatures of the dark whisper lies and half-truths in our ears as they suck the confidence, courage, hope and joy right out of our hearts.

In the old horror movies, there was a surefire way to destroy vampires: exposure to sunlight or a crucifix. The power of the Son and the cross continues to defeat those life-sucking emotional vampires today. With the power of Jesus, we can banish those people and emotions that are sucking the life from us. We can stand up for ourselves, forgive others (and ourselves), face our deepest secrets and fears, and choose God’s truth: the knowledge that we are valuable, loved, and forgiven. We are children of God and nothing and no one can take that away from us! With the power of the Son and the cross of Christ, we will be able to defeat vampires, ghosts, and anything else that goes bump in the night!

The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls. [Edgar Allen Poe]

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. [2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)]

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. [Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

TAKING A BATH

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. [Psalm 32:8 (NLT)]

mourning doves in poolI’m not a good sitter and I’m even worse at soaking in a tub. Just wanting to get clean and get on with my day, I’m a shower person. Friends insist that sitting in the tub and reading is the best way to relax but that doesn’t work for me. I don’t have the patience  to wait for the water to get high enough for a good soak or for the spa jets to work, I’ve never figured out how to turn pages without getting them wet and, rather than relaxing, I think about all the things I could and should be doing instead of sitting in hot water. I considered my inability to enjoy a bath when our pastor suggested that we bathe our decisions in prayer. Unfortunately, the same impatience that keeps me from enjoying my over-sized bath tub keeps me from bathing my decisions in prayer.

While most of us don’t neglect washing our bodies, whether in shower or tub, we tend to neglect bathing our decisions in prayer. Impatient, we tend to act before consulting God about our choices. Easy decisions may need only a quick shower of prayer and more significant ones might require a short soak. The critical ones, however, demand a long soak and should get thoroughly immersed. Bathing our decisions in prayer allows God to saturate our hearts and minds with His word and will. It also means waiting for His answer before getting out of the tub!

When we sit in the bathtub too long, the bath bubbles eventually dissolve, our skin wrinkles like that of a prune, the water gets cold, and someone is sure to complain about our monopolizing the bathroom. The only time a decision is bathed in prayer too long is when God has clearly given us an answer and we use continued prayer as an excuse to avoid His direction or to convince Him our plan is better than His!

James assures us that, if we need wisdom, all we need to do is ask; we do that by bathing our decisions in prayer. Our prayers, however, must be offered in faith and with a readiness to do as God directs. While some of us may not enjoy soaking in the bath tub, we can all benefit from immersing our decisions in prayer.

Goals not bathed in prayer or brought in humility before the Lord turn out to be downright useless. They don’t go anywhere. They don’t accomplish anything. [Charles R. Swindoll]

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. [James 1: 5 (NLT)]

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. [Psalm 40:1 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2017 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.