The Vineyard Walking

"I am the vine, you are the branches: He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. " John 15:5 NKJV

I received a life blessing by being raised in what is called "the breadbasket of America", the San Joaquin Valley of California.
Growing up with crops of vegetables and fruits stretching out as far as I could see, my favorite crop was found in vineyards that produced grapes of various types. Thinking of being surrounded by crops was as normal as could be, my favorite thing was to walk in the vineyards and observe soothing sights.

I went away to college to learn about God's opinions about life at a school known to be true to the Word. But, I missed the vineyards of home. I pursued education for years and was branded with titles such as magna cum laude, yet never found the peace of the vineyard until I came to realize that I had developed spiritual heart disease. Developed minds don't automatically find satisfying lives if they develop spiritual plaque in their hearts from getting lost in the overzealous pursuit of knowledge.

I had stopped resting in my relationship with my Vine Jesus who had told me that "Without me, you can do nothing". I began to bear much fruit and found vineyard peace again once I remembered that my peace and joy was provided by my best friend and savior, Jesus.

Prayer:
Dear Father thank You for grafting us into Your vine, Jesus. Help us to remember with our hearts that without Him, we can do nothing of lasting value. In His name, Amen 

Dr. Bob, AZ

The Women of Matthew 1

"Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18


There are four women, other than Mary, in Jesus’ genealogy as listed in Matthew 1: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife.

Three of these were Gentiles. Rahab was an Amorite and a prostitute. Tamar a Canaanite, was denied her rights to marry Judah’s third son. She pretended to be a prostitute for Judah and bore him twin sons. Ruth was Naomi’s Moabite daughter-in-law, raised to worship false gods. She followed Naomi to Israel—and salvation.

Uriah’s wife was Bathsheba, an Israelite. David is often listed as the “bad boy” in this story, but why bathing on the roof, most likely knowing he was watching? She couldn’t turn him down, but she wasn’t faultless.

Is it selfish of me to be relieved at these women’s stories? To know that, despite their race or their sin, he allowed them to be in Christ’s lineage? To realize that, despite my sins and my mistakes, God loves me as much as He did those ladies and has invited me to be part of Christ’s family?

These scriptures offer comfort and hope:
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Psalm 103:10-11 “…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” 
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Father, thank you for your grace and forgiveness. Help me to live a life that demonstrates your love. Amen

Sharon (Arizona)

King's Crossroads

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV)

When the four of us were young our father used to lead us on long walks through the woods backing up to our house. Despite having no noticeable landmarks to go by he would somehow bring us out of the woods at the place of our beginnings.

Once during a private conversation with him years later when I was as gray as he was, I asked him how he managed to keep us from getting lost. He laughed and confessed that there was an occasion when he went into woods alone and got turned around, finally making his way out on a ridge on the highway aptly named King’s Crossroads, a good two miles from home and had to make the long exhausting hike back on foot.

It isn’t unusual for even the most seasoned Christians to find themselves in a spiritual quagmire, not unlike my father’s physical one. They realize they have lost their bearings and without God’s markers to guide them home, they can end up going very far astray. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on our own, sometimes confused, sense of direction when we have God to chart our course.

When we find ourselves lost and floundering, God’s help can be as simple as the lyrics of a beloved hymn that suddenly spring to mind or the spontaneous touch of a friend or family member that serves to ground us. Our thoughts and actions intersect with those of others for a purpose. They can be God’s understated way of signaling a needed course correction. He doesn’t have to grandstand to get our attention. The key is to pause and allow him to quiet the turmoil in our minds. He will then fill the void with his calm reassurance and guide us home.

Dear Lord, Help we your people to follow our spiritual compass when we go astray. Amen

Carol (NC)

PLS

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind." II Timothy 1:7 NKJV 

A young man had moved hundreds of miles away from home. He wanted to not only go to college, but he also wanted to find out what God had to say about things.

He chose a small private college that had a good reputation for the accurate study of the Bible. He didn't want to be a pastor but thought he'd first learn about what the Bible had to say about things and he'd figure life out from there. He felt he wasn't the smartest duck on the pond, but was determined and stubborn. He also felt that was good as his father, a construction man, had always said: "give me a stubborn boy anytime as they are the only ones who are going to survive".

One day, he learned something that he hoped would change his life. He found II Timothy 1:7. It seemed to him that God was telling His people to: "don't be afraid, live the way I made you at your new birth birthday party."

He called it the PLS verse and learned the Father gives three special gifts to each person when they are born again: power, love, and a sound mind. He felt these three treasures were to live in harmony and spent his life in that pursuit.


"Help us, Father, to live out the qualities that You created in us when You made us a new creature. When the devil roars, we have the tendency to cower. Sorry, please help us in Jesus' name. Amen." 

Dr. Bob, AZ

Sentence Prayers

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 NIV)

Years ago I was at my hometown church one Sunday morning waiting for Sunday School to begin when one of the lay leaders came into the sanctuary and searched the crowd until his glance settled on me. It seemed he needed a substitute teacher for the four-year-olds. Now I was an unlikely candidate, but he was one of those people you didn’t like to say no to.

I rummaged through my mind for something from my own past to say to the amazingly quiet group that gathered in a basement room and what I came up with was sentence prayers. So I went around the room to each child, with some success until I came to one little girl who sat stone-faced, the only child who had a parent present to back her up. I tried to encourage her to ask God to bless her mommy and daddy or thank him for something special to her. Still, she sat speechless, without so much as a glance backward at her mother for direction or support. Finally, I was forced to move on.

In retrospect, the lesson I learned is that the stubborn little girl was right to stand her ground and not participate. True, heartfelt prayer cannot be prompted. Reducing the sentiment to a single sentence may be a good way to introduce the novice to a prayer life, but even then it must sprout from a kernel of conviction. Try as we might to draw confession or praise from someone we are trying to help, the words fall flat if not offered up in sincerity. 

There is no need to fret over what to say in prayer or how to say it. Prayers need not be overly long or eloquent to reach the heart of God. In fact, He prefers for them not to be. We shouldn’t be praying for the sake of impressing a human audience or God, for that matter. If we are willing to let down our guard for a moment and express our feelings to Him in earnest, He is always receptive to them.

Maybe starting with a sentence prayer is the way to go. The important thing is to make a start.

Heavenly Father, Help us to learn how to state our petitions to you with simplicity and sincerity. Amen

Carol (NC)

The Word

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (NIV)

I live with words. When I meet someone new and hear their name, I often ask for the spelling—it floats around in my head and I want to see it correctly. When I get an idea for a devotional such as this, the words pop into my brain fully formed. I read everything in my field of vision—and often proofread it. I dream full-blown stories and sometimes remember them when I awake. I always have a book—or two or three—ready to read. And lately, I’ve started playing word games on my phone; figuring them out has become a challenge.

I also tend to believe what’s in print, which can be a problem! I love to read travel literature and am sometimes disappointed when seeing the site to find it’s not as outstanding as described. Or reading an ad, buying the product, and discovering it’s not as advertised, either. 

Thankfully, there is one source that I can fully rely on and believe: the Bible. After many years as an editor and proofreader, I’ve realized I’ve never seen a typing or grammatical error in any Bible I’ve owned. In addition, archaeology repeatedly supports and confirms Bible history and events—experts say it never contradicts. Finally, its words, promises, commands, and guidelines have stood the test of time throughout the ages. 

John 1:1 assures us that Jesus is the eternal Word, the one who took on flesh and blood so we could know God's glory. He came to reveal God to man and redeem all who believe in Him from their sin. That’s a word we can believe!


Father, help us to focus on Your Word, to read it daily, to follow Your teachings. Help us to believe in You and everything you came to earth to give. Amen.

Sharon, Arizona

Reflecting God's Wishes

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27:19 NIV)


In a group setting several years ago, the instructor divided us into teams to play a simple game of checkers. The only catch was we were not allowed to communicate verbally while playing. We could use any other means at our disposal to convey our wishes; we just couldn’t speak. Smiles and nods were exchanged as the exercise progressed, as you might expect, but when my turn came my mood soured, and I grew testy when the instructor reached over to prompt me by lightly touching me on the arm. I responded impatiently by shrugging off this gesture. 

Apparently, what the instructor was trying to illustrate to us was the value of recognizing the variety of nonverbal cues which pass between us over the normal course of human contact, whether it be a casual encounter or in a serious relationship. No doubt she wanted to point out just how advantageous it would be for us to hone the skill of attuning ourselves to these signs. It requires the kind of attention which comes with close observation, but in order to be put to its greatest use, it requires a degree of concern and care for the other person.

Chances are I never would have revisited that memory had it not been for an incident I witnessed several weeks ago where the subject lived his entire life interpreting people’s behavior based on visual signals. At first, I didn’t see anything different about the man. He was very attractive with gray hair that just clipped his shoulders, but this isn’t what attracted my attention. It was the fact he was so animated. Only then did I pick up on the fact he was gesturing because he was deaf and he wasn’t using sign language to communicate, just his face and hands. He was trying to point out to the lady traveling with him just how vain and inconsequential it seemed for her to be primping from her reflection in the car window just to go into the grocery store. They both laughed, sharing a moment I was lucky enough to be “listening in on.” Any mime would be envious of his considerable skills.

Where I, with all five of my senses intact had failed in that game of silent checkers years before, this man was taking full advantage of all the resources God had given him to deftly draw his companion into a conversation of warmth and humor. His enthusiasm was catching. It fed my spirit as I am sure it did hers.

The contrast between our two responses to being deprived of one of our senses couldn’t have been more stark. The deaf man’s playful but genuine manner reflected an open, receptive heart, while my negative reaction to the instructor’s touch revealed a heart shuttered to the touch of others. The difference was he was thinking about his friend, while, I, I am ashamed to say, was only concerned with myself. God wants us to be open to experiences with others to broaden our outlook, not shut ourselves off by shying away from them.

Dear Father, Please help us approach life with an open heart so we may experience all your glorious earth has to offer. Amen
Carol (NC)

Eternal Light

The city had no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light (Revelations 21:23 NKJV)

On one of our fall foliage trips, my family took in the mountains of Virginia, my son and I were part of one of the cavern tours there. Once we were deep in the caves the guide turned off all of the lights to expose us to the experience of being plunged into absolute blackness. I am surprised I didn’t become hysterical. Now I had never been one of those people who cower at not having a nightlight on, but this experience in the cave acquainted me with darkness as I had never known it. If the guide hadn’t mercifully flipped the light switch back on so quickly I am sure I would have become totally disoriented.

One Christmas shortly after that my late husband and I decided to exchange heavy duty flashlights as gifts, his a subdued black one, mine a jazzy electric blue. From that point on I became fixated on giving light sources as gifts and collecting some for myself along the way. There was the lantern I bought for my brother-in-law for power outages during storms, a flashlight like mine for my sister to keep by her bed, a headlamp for my son-in-law to use in his construction business when he found himself in tight spaces. And for good measure, a bright LED lantern for my own use, as well as a floating lantern to keep in my car. 

It’s easy to draw the conclusion I was obsessed with seeing to it that neither I nor anyone close to me ever found themselves in the scary position of being engulfed in absolute darkness like I was exposed to in those caverns. While it is natural for us to fear darkness in our earthly sojourn we believers should have no such fear of the hereafter. There will be no need for the sun, moon or any other outside light source in the Holy City, as it will be fully illumined around the clock by God’s glory and Christ the Lamb, who is known in scripture as the light of the world. (John 8:12 KJV) ) This light isn’t just figurative, in the sense that when we accept Christ as our Savior our minds are illumined with the truth, (which is reason enough for celebration) but is literal as well. How glorious that we shall no longer be plagued with those fears that hide in the shadows but will know God fully revealed, a true feast for the senses. Let us rejoice.

Dear Father, Please accept our joy over the prospect of spending eternity with you. Amen 

Carol (NC)

To Truly Change

Ephesians 3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being.” NIV 

During my initial stages of birth into the kingdom of God, I felt pressured to live a righteous life. Not knowing much about salvation, I desperately tried to change my old ways. However, I kept falling back, getting frustrated and guilty. I almost gave up the hope of ever changing. It was until I realized that in the same way I was saved, I need God through his Holy Spirit to walk with me on my spiritual journey.

The Holy Spirit dwells in us as believers and has the power to reinforce our inner being helping us replace our destructive habits with healthy qualities. Since Gods spirit is divine, it cleanses US up so as to dwell in a holy place. It is wrong to think that changing our ways by legalistically following the rules is the way to go. Letting the Holy Spirit convict and change us from the inside changes our heart and mind giving a genuine want to be Christ-like day after day.

We invite the Holy Spirit change by repenting, asking God to continuously fill us with his Spirit and accept to be led. Our walk with God ought to be a life of joy and peace as opposed to the condemnation that arises from having tried in our human ways to be good.

Dear Lord, Thank you for your presence in my life. You know the habits that I have been trying to change on my own. This day I invite your spirit to fill me and change me from the inside. In Jesus mighty name, Amen

Doreen(Kenya)

A Good Death

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Psalm 116:15 

My wife asked me one day as we were driving: "have you ever wondered how you are going to die?"

I tried to ignore her as the traffic was nasty, but as usual, once she gets something into her mind, she wants an answer. I tried to mumble something that would distract her, but you'd think after all these years that I'd know better.
When we came to a stop sign, she turned her beautiful face toward me and said, "Well have you?"

I stayed quiet as I knew from experience that she had something to say. I was right as she then said, "I think I want to die the way your Dad did." He was having breakfast in his backyard under his grapevines and just fell face first onto the table. Mom had gone inside to get him some coffee and was startled by a white dove banging into the window trying to get inside. She went outside looking for the dove and saw a dove with a broken wing fly away when she saw Dad was gone. 

That brings goosebumps every time I think about how Dad left this world.
Dad understood Psalm 23 from his heart that cool morning that he met his Shepherd face to face." 

Prayer "Help us, Father, to understand Psalm 23 from our hearts so we can have a blessed life and dwell in Your house forever." In Jesus' name, Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ

A Giving Heart

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?- When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?- When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
- “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:38-40 NIV)

She was a very warm and pleasant woman who came into our office frequently to resolve some issue on her account. There took a degree of skill and patience to communicate with her as English was her second language, which she spoke shyly, unsure of her delivery. This was further complicated by the nervous habit she had of covering her mouth with her hand, self-conscious about her teeth which badly needed attention she couldn’t afford.

My coworker had become friendly with her over time and gained enough of her confidence for the lady to come to her on unrelated, personal matters. Such was the case this time when it soon became apparent that in order to help her customer out, she was going to have to go beyond the usual phone call or filling out some paperwork and actually accompany her to some government office to hash out the specifics. She would be put in the uncomfortable position of being an interpreter of sorts, a spokesperson, even though she didn’t know Spanish. 

When I asked why she was willing to go so far beyond the call of duty to help, my friend said, “I think God has sent her to me.” I am ashamed to say my complacency and callousness had prompted my asking her such a mean-spirited question. My friend was willing to go the extra mile without the benefit of praise or reward, and she isn’t the one who attends church regularly. Yet she was the one who saw God’s hand in the mix and responded.

Some of us aren’t called to be missionaries, going out and seeking those we can help. Sometimes those in need come to us under ordinary circumstances on an ordinary workday. We just need to be alert to God’s gentle persuasion in order to volunteer to do our part. He will never force or coerce; it is left to us to step up. He does it as much for our own wellbeing as he does for the people we are ministering to.

Dear Lord, Please help us to always have open hearts for all of the people you put in our path. Amen

Carol (NC)

Helping Christ's Mission

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16 NKJV)

We are entering the season where there will be a real push to solicit charitable donations prior to the holidays and year’s end. Assaulted on all sides with such requests, they come as what we call junk mail stuffed into our boxes, as earnest voices on the telephone, both landline, and cell, at home and at work. During commercial breaks, they invade our living rooms, sentimental music overlaid by the voice of a celebrity. When we check out at stores we are routinely asked if we would like to make a donation to the underprivileged. Even neglected animals get into the act, pleading with us from a photo taped to a jar at the cash register in a convenience store. And if we retreat into the normal commercial free land of public television, even there we are doomed to month-long pledge drives a couple of times a year that my family not so fondly refers to as “Begging for Bucks.”

Those of us who are able probably shut out, justifiably, all but a few of the causes we deem most worthy, but there are those who are particularly vulnerable to the high-pressure tactics some use. My poor elderly aunt who lived alone fell prey to one of the phone scams the state attorney general warned us about. They knew they had a live one with her so they came back to the trough again and again, receiving sizable contributions from her each time. But the heavy-handed salesman’s tactics employed by shady organizations like that one aren’t the only way the vulnerable are exploited. Sometimes reputable charities get into the act too, droning on in infomercials where an audience captive to the impassioned voice of some famous pitchman responds to the appeals to their already fragile emotions. One of those well-honed TV pleas had my eighty-year-old mother scrambling to jot down the address.

Given the many ways charity fundraising can go wrong, leaving behind a bad lingering aftertaste, there is little wonder we are skeptical. We would do well to follow the example set by the early church which was a shining example of putting Christ’s teachings to work. He had made it clear that being a Christian meant using all the means we have at our disposal to administer to the needs of the poor, aid in healing the sick (both of body and soul), and spreading the good news of redemption and the offer of eternal life to all nations. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise these global efforts require funding. Our options to give to deserving causes are many. Organizations dig wells that provide a safe water source where none existed before, inner-city children are provided with safe places to gather after school, battered women are given shelter, Bibles are distributed for the first time translated in the receiver’s native tongue. By all means don’t be distracted by the noisemakers, but instead, seek out those who quietly go about God’s work and give to them as Christ would have us do.

Dear Father, Please guide us to give to causes which use their resources for the furthering of your kingdom. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Thank You Son

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" Philippians 4:11 NASB 

I have thought a lot about our conversation, son, and wanted to add a few additional thoughts with you. 

You mentioned that it has been bothering you that it is easy for those who have everything to talk about God's love and blessings, but for those who have nothing-not so much.

I've come to understand that each of the Lord's children has a different road to travel because our Father knows best and knows what is needed for each of His children to pass through. Life is but preparation for heavenly shores.

One thing came to me after our talk- Paul had no family, home or comforts. He experienced prison, stoning, medical problems yet, be had learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself, whether hungry or full.

Philippians, the fourth chapter reveals this reason for his contentment was simply his personal relationship with Jesus. This overcame all of life's changes by trusting faith in His savior's love and wisdom about what was best for him come what may.

When concern overwhelms focus on what our Lord suffered on the cross to pay for sin and suffering as He conquered death.


Dear Lord help us to remember that You are the way, the truth, and the life and to come to You when we are heavy laden. Thank You, Amen. 

Dr. Bob, AZ

Surving The Storm

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:27 (NIV)

As I read the familiar story of the fierce storm in Matthew 8, I reflected on my handwritten notes.

It was only about three miles across the lake; they weren’t expecting a problem. We usually aren’t expecting problems when they arise, are we? This was huge—I wrote “mega” next to the storm’s description. I've had “mega” storms; I imagine you have also.

His disciples, all experienced sailors, were terrified, but Jesus calmly slept through it all. He had been teaching all day and most likely was exhausted. I was a middle school teacher—I have an inkling of how he felt.

They couldn’t handle it any longer and woke Him up, probably yelling at Him over the storm to wake up and do something. “We’re going to drown!” They were certain it was the end. I’ve felt like yelling that at Jesus now and then.

I can imagine Jesus opening His eyes and calmly saying, “Stop—be still!”--and the fear and wonder of the disciples. At first, they didn’t think He could do anything, but they woke Him up anyway. Then, when everything instantly stilled, they couldn’t believe it. “Who is this man?” must have reverberated around that small boat. How often have we turned to friends with questions about our lives and disbelief at the outcome—either good or bad?

It's easy to empathize with the disciples. They went through a full spectrum of familiar emotions. They didn’t yet understand that Jesus could take care of them in any type of storm, physical, mental, or emotional. 

The passage ends with: “Even the wind and waves obey Him.” My notes: “Lord, make me like the wind!”

Lord, help us in the storms of life to look to you, to depend on you, and to obey your commandments. Amen.

Sharon, Arizona

The Lasting Value of Joy


So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15 NIV)

The clamor of four jubilant boys like stairsteps tearing across the parking lot caught my attention. The youngest, two, maybe three, lost his footing in the rush and was on the verge of tears when his mother just scooped him up and set him upright. Undaunted, his celebratory mood returned and he caught up with the other three and climbed inside their SUV with them.

The whole while the father, a muscular, fit man was unloading the groceries into the open hatch. Theirs was a picture of perfection to me, so happy to be on vacation, so caught up in the moment. I smiled. 

Only then did my eye follow the father returning the shopping cart to the cart stand. What I saw surprised me. He was wearing a prosthetic leg below the knee. I didn’t know if he was a wounded veteran of an amputee because of some rapacious form of cancer. Does it really matter? He and the rest of his family knew the secret of finding joy in the here and now in even the simplest of tasks, like a trip to the grocery store.

I think the reason I found their unbridled joy so infectious was it spoke to the part of me where memories of my own family’s summer beach vacations sat dusty and unattended. Like that family, there were four of us kids. Towards the end of his life, my father told me every night of our annual week’s vacation he would count his money to make sure we could make it through another day.

We always stayed in a modest cottage and my mother cooked nearly all of our meals. It was a no-frills affair every year, but it was one we all lived for. Somehow, my father, through sheer ingenuity managed to weave adventure into the fabric of our days, transforming ordinary pastimes like a picnic lunch served from the back of our station wagon into memories I wouldn’t take anything for. It was good to see the magic is still there for the picking.

Every family has its challenges. My mother struggled with mental health issues all of her adult life and it was all she could do to see to it the simple bare necessities were taken care of. There was no extra energy for affection and interaction with us four on a personal level. So my father stepped in and tried to do the hands-on parenting for the both of them.

Regardless of our circumstances, God didn’t intend for us to go through life in sackcloth and ashes. He knows the value of taking time off to recharge and enjoy ourselves and he doesn’t begrudge us having that time. Some of our most meaningful memories are made during those times, ones that solidify the family unit and help us learn the value of a life well-lived. 

Dear Father, Please help us to be ever mindful of the role joy plays in our well-being. Amen.
Carol (NC)

At Face Value

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5 NIV)

My late husband was constantly trying to read my face as an indicator of what was going on with me internally. What I thought was a blank face, he interpreted in a variety of ways and his speculation only served to worsen my mood. When I am preoccupied with the mechanics of my life, you can read it in my demeanor. There are people who can project happiness whether they are or not; I struggle with whether this is a virtue or simply artifice.

In my family we disparage this as being “an act”, the implication being such people are less true to themselves than those whose faces betray them. I confess I envy them the luxury of being able to hide behind a mask. I suspect in their public lives at least, they are generating less fallout to be held accountable for than those of us who don’t go to all that trouble. 

The ones who masquerade behind a forced smile are subject to different kinds of repercussions than those whose faces we initially think are more inscrutable. Instead of being confronted with an endless string of “What’s the matter with you?” questions like I faced at home, they are met with suspicion and resentment. Each posture is a form of adaptation to guard against further pain and rejection. Each has its downside, but it isn’t up to us to sort it all out.

While we may think such guesswork facilitates a better understanding of those we encounter, it isn’t our responsibility to ascertain whether their outer personas accurately reflect the state of their inner man. That formidable responsibility falls to God and fortunately for us, he is more merciful in his judgments than we are. God finds in each of us something to value beyond the superficial and we would do well to copy his example.

Dear Father, Please strengthen us to withhold judgment of others and to extend mercy in its place. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Attitudes Grow


"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the works of His hands." Psalm 19:1 NASB

I have learned a lot by closely watching nature.

Before I began paying more attention to nature I often forgot that God, in creation, gave another revelation in addition to His revelation in His written Word, the Bible. It is interesting that in Psalm 19, The Spirit of God's inspired words mention the revelation found in nature before He mentions the written Word.

Of course, this order should not surprise us as Romans 1:20 reveals: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so they are without excuse.

Harmful attitudes are like harmful bushes that grow at an alarming rate if they are allowed to grow. Much of a successful Christian life is produced by being a gardener that consistently monitors his or hers heart's garden and pulls out the weeds before they can grow.

Prayer: "Dear Lord help us to be good gardeners as we go through Life. Help us to have clean hearts and hands so the Holy Spirit can grow His healing fruit in our lives. Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ 

Be More Kind


Hebrews 13:1-2,"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (NIV) 

I haven't really been as kind as I should. However, I often commit myself to be more kind as the day goes by. Our question today is whether we know how much a simple act of kindness may mean to someone. I realized that the other day I boarded a public van. My little sister and I were headed to a remote place that had few vehicles due to the impassable road. The vehicle was full. I sat on the remaining space holding a heavy luggage I had. My sister had to get a space to stand on.

As the vehicle drove through the hilly, curvy road, I could see her struggling to balance in the squeezed vehicle. She looked at me with her tired, innocent eyes expecting a response. I felt a deep pain since there was nothing I could do. A certain lady pitied the little girl, took her and held her. What a relief I felt seeing the smile on my sister's face. I literally cry when I remember that incident.

I realized that God expects us to show kindness to people including a stranger. In this busy world, with lots of evilness, as the child of God, I need to be the light. Even when people don’t seem to appreciate, I do it because that's what God expects of us.

Dear God, thank you for reminding me to be more kind. Show me the people who need my help today. Grant me a heart that cheerfully displays this kindness to your people. Amen

Doreen (Kenya)

Practical Advice


Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Prob. 3:5 KJV)


My father was known within our family for his fitting quips, many of which were gleaned from his knowledge of the book of Proverbs. Authored in most part by King Solomon, son of David, it is treasured for its wisdom and timelessness. Recognizing that it was full of practical advice concerning the predicaments we, imperfect people, are always finding ourselves in, my father drew from it to introduce levity into many situations; but at the same time, he was using the sayings to coach us in some life lesson.

When he wanted to advise us in keeping our tempers he cited Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” When the topic was friendship, he was likely to say, “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). To jar us out of a bad mood the chosen adage was “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 15:13). My own personal favorite probably came up more often than it should have when he found my mother to be particularly vexing. It is taken from Proverbs 21:9. “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” It may not be politically correct, but it was good for breaking the tension.

The findings in this collection speak to our modern sensibilities in surprising ways. A cautionary word concerning the perils of pursuing a dissolute lifestyle, featuring some colorful imagery can be found in Chapter 23: 29-35 (NKJV). To a world where so many people are litigious, Chapter 25: 8-10 (NKJV) offers legal advice. The case for a strong work ethic is made in several places, notably in Chapter 24: 27, 30-34 (NKJV). 

God didn’t intend for us to be set adrift in a threatening world without guidance. He knew we would wrestle with pragmatic issues as well as spiritual ones and he provided relevant instruction for us in the words of Solomon. Finding humor in them like my father did is to be expected, but underneath the surface of these brief soundbites is a current of plainspoken wisdom not to be overlooked.

Dear Lord, Please accept our petitions to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Amen

Carol (NC) 

Just One Thing

 

"I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NKJV) 

I have been met with a smirky little smile several times when I have quoted: "Without Me you can do nothing."

Sitting in my office one day interviewing some new patients, that a pastor had referred to me, I made a wrong assumption. As they were evidently Christians, I thought we were on the same page in regard to our need for Jesus' blessing to accomplish good things. They had a broken relationship that lacked warmth and friendship. The husband was a "I don't need anyone else" type of guy. Of course, this attitude left his wife feeling she wasn't needed and their problems spiraled from there.

He had written a book that was going to be published in the then near future. I was happy for him and mentioned the Lord's gracious help to each of us. He didn't want to hear about needing Jesus as he was as proud as a peacock. Thus, his smirky smile. He didn't realize that without Jesus, His children cannot bear kingdom fruit. I don't think he cared as all a peacock wants to do is to spread his tail and strut.

He didn't understand that there is only one thing God's children need to do each day: all a Christian needs to do each day is to rest in their relationship with Jesus and He will produce what this world needs- Kingdom fruit. 

Dear Lord help us to realize that when we trust You to produce fruit through us- we will be fruitful. In Your name, Amen.

Dr. Bob. AZ