Category : Devotion of the Week
Category : Devotion of the Week
A few months ago, I was listening to Pastor David Jeremiah on the radio, and was inspired by his message. He was highlighting the stark contrast between how we, on Earth, assume a person’s identity from their academic, athletic, or career accomplishments; while God focuses on a person’s character and attributes. Their actions are a byproduct. We are excited about what a person does. We focus on the ministry. However, God is most excited about who a person is. God focuses on the minister. God looks to who a person is to determine identity. God’s preparation of the worker is most important to Him. God is more concerned about the worker than the work because if a person is who they should be, then what they do will be right.
During the radio program, I was scribbling notes as fast I could. After reading my notes again I was struck with the thought that I WAS MORE. More than what I did. More than what I know. More than my mistakes and awards. I was more important to God than all that.
Each of us are more important to God that all that. Because God focuses more on who we are. He shows us our value is internal. He focuses on our capacity to love, to forgive, to help others, to give grace—these are the things that matter to God.
During this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place, I have been able to enjoy a book I’ve wanted to read but just didn’t have the time—C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. A good friend gave me the book. For context, I’m a late bloomer Christian. I was in my thirties when the Lord wrapped His loving arms around me and changed my life. So I missed a lot not growing up in faith. As I dug into the book, I began to see how the environment, when Lewis wrote this series on the Christian faith, was strikingly similar to what we are experiencing today. But I was also struck that what Jeremiah was saying a few months ago and what Lewis had said decades ago was nearly identical.
What really matters is who we are on the inside.
What matters in society, in our lives, and to God is who we are in our hearts. We are more. We are divinely created to be kind, be of service, and love one another.
The revelations from Jeremiah’s and Lewis’ messages have been galvanized into my view of family, friends, colleagues because of a recent event. Just this past weekend my beloved father-in-law, Steve, passed away from cancer. I have been reminiscing over the nearly twenty-eight years I have known Steve and the humor that he brought to my life. None of what I remember has anything to do with things, money, or status. He brought laughter, a love of books and tea. He brought kindness and wit.
I remembered when I was struggling with the tenth revision of my dissertation and he offered to read it. Over two hundred pages about gender differences and what teachers need to know. He read ever word and gave me insight and edit suggestions that made my words better. Aside from my professors, I’m pretty sure he’s the only one who ever read my dissertation. It wasn’t the action of taking the time with my dissertation that defined Steve, but rather his natural encouragement, wisdom, and caring nature. That’s what God looks for.
And I’ve also concluded: Who we are is more than what we do.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
When I was in high school, there was a song that was popular called “All by Myself.” The singer, Eric Carmon, did not want to be all by himself anymore.
And that may be the way you are feeling right now. With the “Shelter-at-Home” Order about to enter its fourth week, some of us extroverts are needing our peeps!
I don’t know about you, but I am craving lunches and fun trips with friends, “unmasked” grocery shopping, and face-to-face ministry meetings. I am missing corporate worship at church, as well as hugs and handshakes. According to Healthline, in a study of over 400 adults, researchers found hugging may reduce the chance a person will get sick. Seems like an oxymoron to me. We can be healthier if we hug, but can’t hug right now because we might get sick.
This past week there was a day where I was feeling super lonely, so I prayed, “Lord, you say you will never leave us nor forsake us, so I pray you will do something to show that you are with me.” Not long after that prayer, my spiritual daughter, Lara, called and said she was going to bring some Easter treats over to me, then the founder of a ministry I volunteer with checked in and asked how she could pray for me. That afternoon, I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with someone else I know and we had an engaging theological discussion.
I was no longer lonely!
But this feeling of loneliness can come in waves. On Easter Sunday, as I enjoyed a walk alone in the brilliant sunshine, I was missing my family, I saw a lot of couples and their children walking, as well as people on family bike rides, and that “all by myself” feeling tried to set in again. I wished my husband would walk with me so I wouldn’t be out there alone, but power walks are really not his thing. However, as soon as I voiced this internal complaint I was convicted, as if God was saying, “Am I not enough? Aren’t I with you on your walks?” I generally spend my walks praying or listening to worship music. I told Him I was sorry, and realized the Holy Spirit Himself reminded me that He is with me.
We are not alone.
If you are starting to climb the walls and need a little social interaction, ask the Lord to show you He is nearby. Often, He uses other people to reach us. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And he does. I have seen Him provide joy when I’m sad. Peace when I’m anxious. Love when I feel rejected.
He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and He will provide supernaturally for our needs. We just need to ask.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
When I was a child, I came across half of a gold Mizpah necklace that my father gave my mother. A Mizpah coin is a traditional Jewish gift and on it is an Old Testament verse: “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from another.” The coin itself is cut into two jagged parts. My mom had one half of it, and I am sure my dad carried around the other half, so it was indicative of their love for each other and very special to me.
In Hebrew the term “Mizpah” means “outlook” or “watchtower” and was first used in the book of Genesis. One of the Old Testament patriarchs, Jacob, fell in love with his uncle Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and served his uncle for twenty years, primarily so that he could marry Rachel. Because of some trickery that Laban did, Jacob ended up marrying Rachel’s sister, Leah, as well. But after two decades of labor, Jacob was ready to go home and didn’t want his persuasive uncle to delay him any further, so he and his family stole away in the middle of the night without Laban knowing.
When Laban discovered that Jacob and his daughters had fled, he pursued them and overtook them seven days later at Gilead. After a heart-to-heart conversation with his son-in-law, it was there at Gilead that Laban relented and decided to let Jacob and his family go. The two came to a truce, and this place of covenant was also known as “Mizpah” when Laban said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other” (Genesis 31:49).
For many of us in the midst of isolation and social distancing, we are away from our families and our friends, who are like family, but until we see them again, we don’t need a necklace to remind us. We can pray the Mizpah over them.
There is evidence of something like a Mizpah prayer found in the New Testament. Before Jesus went to the cross, he celebrated Passover with his disciples. In Luke 22:15, it says he eagerly desired to eat this Passover with his twelve disciples before he suffered. This Greek word for “eagerly desired” also means “longing” or “craving.” Jesus had an intense desire to be with his disciples because he knew his time on earth was short. It may be the way we are feeling now. We are longing to be with family during this important season of remembrance.
After this intimate Passover meal between Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room, our Savior spent time at the Garden of Gethsemane, where he prayed this over his friends: “Holy Father protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11). Jesus understood the power found in praying the Mizpah, calling upon our heavenly protector, God the Father, to watch over loved ones.
Today, we have been given that power as well. As we prepare to celebrate the risen Christ, let’s spend time in God’s presence, lifting up our family members and friends who because of the “shelter-at-home” order we are separated from this Easter. They may be miles away or just a few minutes down the road—still apart—because of this period of isolation. Let’s pray the Mizpah together: “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.”
I pray you have a beautiful Easter celebration, and may the LORD watch over you.
Today’s guest blogger is Starlet Bell. Starlet is a Stonecroft speaker with the goal of leading dysfunctional, broken women into salvation. She is the creator of Shining Stars Coaching where she serves as a Professional Leadership Coach who coaches pastors and churches both locally and internationally. Lately, she has branched out into grief coaching where she works primarily with clients and caregivers who have lost individuals they love. Starlet is actively involved in Bible studies, speaking and Women’s Ministry. She loves children and has served happily as an educator for thirty years, and twelve years as a principal. Her students nicknamed her the “Praying Principal.” Starlet has authored two articles for major educational magazines in Texas. Starlet and her husband have five children and fourteen grandchildren. E-mail: email@example.com
How does God speak to you? God has a variety of ways that He connects with His people. Each person might not hear God in the same way or context. Some ways He speaks to you through your heart or mind are verbally, through scriptures, prophets, miracles, nature, through dreams or visions or through the world around us. No matter what, God deeply wants you to hear Him, and He will do almost anything necessary to speak to His people. However, if you do not listen, then you won’t hear what He is saying, and could miss out on something that hugely impacts your life.
Have you ever had a time when God spoke to you and asked you to do something for Him—not just anything, but something you feel is almost impossible to accomplish? You know, something that maybe makes you anxious and fearful? You are now experiencing that time in your life when he is challenging you to be obedient.
Many things He will ask you to do will make you feel uncomfortable and even stretch you; however, you must remember that He will always be with you when you feel like you have more than you can handle. He will not abandon you as you accomplish them, but he will be by your side through each accomplishment. Not only will He be by you, but He will give you his supernatural help through additional knowledge that you might not have known to help you flourish.
God has asked me to do quite a few “almost impossible” things in my lifetime. I am sharing one that happened while sitting in church with my friend. God began to speak to me in my heart and mind. He was letting me know that a university president in our town needed prayer as quickly as possible. I didn’t panic, but I quietly told my friend that someone needed prayer. She didn’t ask a word but followed me to my car. When we got into the car, I asked God for deeper understanding. I understood Him to say that the president needed healing and protection. I didn’t know where I would find him, but God knew that I had been a student there and he directed me to exactly where his office was located.
When I arrived at the outside door of his office, I placed my hands on it and I asked for supernatural help. As I prayed, I praised and worshipped my Father because of His sovereignty. My hands became hot. I began to feel a part of what the president was feeling, and I knew he was extremely hurt and in pain. It was at that point that I remembered that there had been a tragic accident on the campus earlier that year and that the president and staff had been involved in lawsuits. Three days after the prayer, the president resigned. Again, we never know how important our prayers can be. Upon reflection, I was most thankful to my friend who supported me and my Father who guided me.
To help you do the impossible when called upon, here are the steps to follow:
“Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything” (2 Corinthians 2:9).
My family and I have been doing all we can to stay focused on work and school, but it is hard to not notice the news and the changing shelter-in-place timeline. My husband keeps us informed with the latest updates, my daughters share cute clips to make us all smile, and I try to share the some joy and positivity. Staying calm in the middle of all this uncertainty can be a daunting task, but a truly important one.
Currently, I’m binge watching a PBS program called Downton Abby. Yes, I know it was all the rage a few years back, but like most of us, I was just too busy to engage. Now, with ample time on my hands I have loved diving into the saga of Lord Grantham and his family during World War 1. While so many we called to war in service to the King of England, many were left to help those who were wounded and left behind. Family bonds were strengthened and friendship formed as they all worked together. The job of Lord Grantham was to provide positive energy and respite for the returning soldiers.
That’s all some of us can do at this time. Remind our family and friends of our blessings and share our gratitude for all we have. Of course there are an abundance of opportunities to volunteer from our home and if funds can be spared, shared with those who have less. Yet, sometimes all we have is a heart filled with love and calming arms to hug those in our homes with us or an ear to listen to those who are at their wits end in their homes.
Laughter is in short supply, but research shows that just twenty minutes of laughter can change the chemistry of our minds and help with depression or anxiety, so laugh! The internet is filled with humor and things to cheer up just about anyone. Pets with attitude, quotes of positivity, or just hearing babies laugh.
Remember during this time of war, even with this invisible enemy, we NEED those who have the heart to share their resources, skills, or talents which includes calmness, hope and joy.
We at Pearls of Promise Ministries want you to know we love you. During this time of isolation, we pray for you to have the peace that passes understanding in our Lord, Jesus Christ, because staying connected to Jesus can calm you in the midst of the storm.