Tag Archives: devotions

Author Lynn L. Severance

Celebrating Friend and Author, Lynn L. Severance

Celebrating my friend and author, Lynn L. Severance.

Her book, “Seeking the Light of God’s Comforter When Challenges Dim Our View,” is an inspiring devotional and a beautiful work of art!

As I reflect on HOPE this year, I am encouraged by Lynn’s words in #11 – Remaining Hopeful  – “I rob the present of God’s peace when I worry.”

Congratulations, Lynn! Wishing you much success and looking forward to the next book!

Please visit her page for more information.

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Are We Prepared for the Job?

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“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
II Timothy 3:16-17(NIV)

We constantly hear negative things about our elected officials. In fact, criticism of their work is much more common than praise. As we gear up for major elections, we are bombarded with negative ads.

Even though we watch the commercials, read articles, or listen to the news analysts, we can only imagine how a politician would react if they are chosen for the office. They tell us where they stand on important issues. However, we have no way of knowing whether or not they will keep the promises they make when they’re campaigning.

They each tell us that they are equipped for the job. They share information about their education, military service, and why they believe they are better suited for the position.

We do as much research as we can to make an informed decision and head to the polls, praying for the best candidate for our communities. It takes a while for us to realize if we made a wise choice. If the public image they presented to us to gain our vote is a true representation of their character.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you actually called on one of your elected officials for help?

When we faced a major problem, we realized we were in over our heads and knew that we needed help to get the issue resolved. We were up against a prestigious establishment and needed someone with authority and power on our side.

So, we turned to our local politician. The man who promised to help whenever anyone in his district needed him. The man who promised he would always be available,

Because of his influence, we had support to help us with our fight, within twenty-four hours. His staff went above and beyond to assist us and to check in with us to make sure we had everything we needed.

We were shocked that he became personally involved in our lives – just like he’d promised in his ads during his campaign.

His position allowed us to have access to resources we would not have had access to without him.

Sometimes, living with chronic pain and illness make us feel helpless. When we are in a tough situation, we feel overwhelmed. There are times when we look at our lives and feel powerless.

If we’re not careful, we start to think of ourselves as worthless. When we look at our lives, all we see is our limitations. Physical illness. Broken relationships. Financial lack. Rebellious children. Unemployment.

These things make us believe that we are ineffective and that we can’t be used by God.

We thought our lives would have turned out different. We haven’t reached all of our dreams. Now, our goals seem too far away, simply impossible to accomplish. We sink into depression. Our hearts and minds filled with anxiety.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others when our lives are complicated by pain and suffering. But doing so paves the way for discouragement to set in.

And when we start comparing ourselves to other people, thinking their lives are much better than ours, we give bitterness and resentment an opportunity to take root in our hearts. Is that really fair?

How many of us have had people judge us based on the way we look? They think that we are fine and that our lives are put together. For those of us living with an invisible illness, our lives do not match our physical appearance. People can never guess or imagine the reality of our daily lives.

However, if we find the courage to share our story and to listen to the stories of others, we will that each one of us carries some type of burden. We may be inspired by them or shudder when we learn the hardships they struggle with daily.

That’s when we realize that even though we struggle we should be thankful to have the lives that we do.

God created us and knows just what we need to endure each challenge and season of adversity. He has the power to uplift us and keep us safe, no matter what comes against us (Psalm 91; Isaiah 41:10).

So when you’re in a tough situation and feel overwhelmed, seek God for help. He has a purpose for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and will complete the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6).

Today’s scripture (II Timothy 3:16-17) tells us why God wants us to be prepared. He trains us for righteous living so that we can spread the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). No matter what else is going on in our lives, we always have the ability to tell others about Christ.

Physical limitations should not stop us. We can share what God is doing in our lives and how He strengthens us to endure as we trust Him to care for us and help us (Isaiah 41:10).

If we go through financial difficulties, we can describe how we learned to trust God to provide for us (Philippians 4:19) and to give us peace so we wouldn’t worry (Matthew 6:25-43; Philippians 4:6-7).

Maybe a broken relationship leaves you feeling crushed, lonely, and defeated. But remember God promises to take care of us as members of His family (Psalm 27:10; Mark 3:35; Luke 18:29-30; Revelation 3:19-21).

And, He gives us His word to help us live in victory (John 10:10). The Bible is our measuring stick and guide.

No matter what we are trying to get through, we always have the capability to tell others about Jesus Christ. Paul did it while in prison (Acts 16:16-34; II Timothy 1:8-12) and he tells us that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Opportunities are all around us. Ideal conditions or perfect health are not requirements for us to talk about Christ. God works through us when we willingly submit to Him.

Pray for courage (Joshua 1:9; Hebrews 13:5).

Pray for strength. (Isaiah 40:28-31; II Corinthians 12:9)

Pray for the opportunity to share the Gospel (Colossians 4:3-4).
Prayer: Father, thank You for Jesus, the reason for the Gospel. Give us the courage to share Your message of love and redemption. Help us see ourselves as You see us and let us find joy, peace, and purpose as we go forward. Refresh us. Renew us. Fill us with Your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Am I In the Place of God?

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Proverbs 20:22(ESV) – “Do not say I will repay evil;” wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.

Additional scripture reading: Psalm 37

Hearing the word “gracious,” always makes me think of one of my former Bible class teachers. She was soft spoken, friendly, and always had a quick smile or kind word for everyone she met. She often told our class that she used to pray that God would give her a gentle and joyful spirit because she did not want to grow into a bitter old woman (I Peter 3:3-4).

Her words stick with me to this day, sometimes bringing me encouragement. But, more often than not, they bring conviction to my heart.

Although she never told us her entire life story, our teacher shared some of the hardships she endured in her life – unfair treatment on the job, a broken marriage, crime against her family, sickness, scorn and being shunned from the church. But as she told her story, there were no words of bitterness or hatred, only thanks to God for His mercy and grace, which kept her through several years of trials.

I continue to admire her for her honesty and courage.

I want to be a gracious woman of God, too. I want to set an example of extending love and mercy, but I’m afraid that I fail more often than I succeed.

I notice that it is easier for me to forgive strangers, co-workers, or people I’m not really close to when they hurt me or treat me wrong. But, when I am cut to the core by those closest to me – parents, brothers and sisters, best friends – I have a really hard time letting it go because that’s when the pain is the worst. Those closest to us have the potential to either build us up, or they tear us down and shake our confidence.

I find it difficult to let go and trust God when the very people I trust the most, end up doing the most harm to me. I am quick to want to retaliate and hurt them as deeply as they hurt me. But I know that if I act out how I really want to, any witness I might have had is ruined.

If you are like me, you can recall a situation that nearly devastated you. Whenever you think about it, you feel the same hurt, anger, frustration, embarrassment, or fear that you felt when the incident first occurred. It’s almost like it is happening all over again. You want to let go, but you find yourself feeling stuck.

Fear of being hurt again keeps us from fully engaging with the people in our lives, including the person who wronged us. We put up walls and go through the motions, but we are not actively or truthfully seeking fellowship. We are in survival mode, often thinking of safe guarding ourselves and pulling away as soon as friction begins. Our existence becomes shallow, maybe even false. What are we to do?

In the story of Joseph, he had a dream of a great future. When he shared it with his family, they ridiculed him, and the seed of jealously was planted. His brothers envied him, his dreams, and the special treatment his father gave him (Genesis 37).

I’m sure Joseph never imagined his brothers would sell him into slavery; a lie would send him to jail; or a famine would bring healing and restoration to his family (Genesis 37, Genesis 39-50).

Joseph knew that vengeance belonged to God, and that even though his brothers plotted evil against him, God turned their schemes into something good (Genesis 50:19-20; Romans 12:17-21).

What about you? What cruel situation do you find yourself in? Is there someone in your life who rubs you the wrong way? Are you holding on to a past hurt? Has someone offended you and you cannot forgive them, no matter how hard you try?

I’m not sure what you’ve been through, or what is weighing on your heart, but I would like to ask you to give it over to God. Trust Him to deliver you from the bondage of anger, hate, and fear. He will give you the strength and courage to forgive and to move forward. It may not be easy, but with the power of Holy Spirit, you can do it.

Joseph’s life is an example for us. We see how trusting God, even when we are wounded and hated, can lead us to blessings and put us in a position to help the very people who hurt or betrayed us. As we remain faithful to God, He will use our trials to bring deliverance into the lives of the very same people who tried to cause us harm. When they see the grace of God at work in our lives, they have no choice but to marvel at His power and love. When we conduct ourselves in the way that God wants us too, we allow God’s power to be reflected in a mighty way. And, we end up with a powerful testimony.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we give all of our anger, hurt, and frustration to You. Heal us from the damage and from any emotional pain that lingers from the past. Pour out Your Spirit on us every day, so that we can be an extension of Your love. Help us to trust You to bring good out of everything that happens to us, and let us live our lives as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5.

Does Reality TV Bring Out the Envy in You?

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The first time my sisters and I watched The Wizard of Oz, we were amazed. The colors, music, and characters kept us glued to the television. We were fascinated by Dorothy’s journey and rooted for her safe return home.

Emerald City, the answer to all of her problems, was beautiful, sparkling, and energetic. My sisters and I cheered! We just knew that Dorothy’s troubles were over. Then, the unthinkable happened. We discovered Oz was an illusion.

I thought about this movie after I had a conversation with a close friend. She confessed to loving reality TV – especially the “housewives” shows. She went as far as organizing her schedule around her favorite programs. She admitted to having a heated argument with her husband because he believed there was nothing “real” about the shows. He accused her of being addicted to drama.

Their biggest argument? The materialistic nature of the shows.

My friend did acknowledge that she desired the same designer clothes, bags, and shoes that she saw on TV. She kept asking for a nicer home, even though she already lived in an upscale area. She went on to say she wished her husband would take her on more than two exotic trips each year. The shows made her unhappy with her life (Ecclesiastes 5:10-17).

What could I say? I knew I couldn’t judge her or be critical of her. Why not? Because as I listened to her yearn for what someone else had, of coveting the possessions of others, I wondered how many of us, who deal with sickness, are also guilty of envy? How easy is it to let envy overrule our hearts when we struggle with chronic pain and illness on a daily basis?

Maybe we don’t dream about material things. But, what do we think about someone who walks without a limp? Who is pain free? Who has no dietary restrictions? Who never has to take a handful of pills each day?

If we’re not careful, we become angry, depressed, and bitter because of our limitations. What if our wish to have what others have, to desire a “better” life, will eventually lead us to emptiness?

Have we considered the truth of what we’re seeing when we catch a glimpse of the lives of other people? Are we willing to risk the corruption of our hearts by desiring what seems to be a better existence?

It can become easy to question God’s purpose for our pain and suffering.

One of my favorite scriptures is II Corinthians 12:9-10. Paul talks about his suffering and how he pleaded with God for healing. But God reminded Paul of His sustaining power, even in the midst of Paul’s infirmity.

Are we willing to follow Paul’s example and allow God to magnify His power and glory in our lives? Or, will we continue to chase after the lure of things, even the materialistic excesses, we see on TV?

If we seek anything other than what God has for us, we risk becoming weak, frustrated, and ineffective.

God wants us to be filled with His power, love and Spirit. He wants to use us, and our physical condition does not matter (Psalm 73:26; II Corinthians 4:7-16). God does all of the work through us. Living an authentic life is more beautiful and appealing than desiring to impress others.

I hope you realize how much God loves you (Ephesians 3:14-20; I John 4:7-16). If you keep your focus on Him and trust Him, He will lead you and guide you and strengthen you.

Don’t follow the path that leads to disillusionment. Live the life that God has ordained for you and watch Him use you to impact the people in your life.

Prayer: Father, keep us from looking at worthless things (Psalm 119:37). Let us find our purpose in You. Give us the courage to live authentic lives so that Your love, power, and glory will shine through us. Amen.

Do You Have Reserved Seating at Your Church?

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Luke 14:10 (NIV) – But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.

 

When we first joined our church, we had no idea that a lot of important people were members. What drew us to our place of worship was the unpretentious attitude of our pastor, his availability to everyone and his willingness to greet everyone he encountered. Most important of all was his dynamic teaching of God’s Word – the whole truth.

It’s normal for us to attend church and see celebrities, local and national political figures, sports stars, and community leaders. World renowned gospel artists stop by, often treating us to impromptu concerts. Military and law enforcement personnel or business executives worship right next to doctors, lawyers, teachers, and stay at home moms. We’re not limited to a single race because ethnic diversity is something that is celebrated.

When it comes to seating, we never worry about “our seats.” We remain flexible – sometimes sitting close to the pulpit on the main floor. Other times we sit up in the balcony. I like sitting in the balcony because I have a great vantage point.

I’m not so sure that I’ll think of the balcony’s view in the same way – ever again.

Why? Although I live in Los Angeles and have met celebrities – both at church and outside of any church related function, the majority of them have been kind, friendly and inviting.

With this background, it is easy to imagine my horror when I observed a celebrity’s wife abusing her power.

She waltzed into church late, right before the pastor got up to speak. She stood in the aisle near the front of the church and refused to take the seat the usher offered her, which was a few rows back. Finally, the usher whispered to the man sitting on the aisle and gestured to the empty seats behind him. He nodded, grabbed his things and moved.

The celebrity’s wife nodded and smiled at the usher, sat down, slipped off her sunglasses and gave a small wave to the pastor’s wife.

I was shocked because her husband is an A-list celebrity. We’ve seen him sit all around the sanctuary, including in the balcony!

A few months after that incident, this same woman was a guest on a Christian TV talk show. She looked just as beautiful and glamorous on TV as she did in person. But it saddened me when I heard her begin to give her testimony. She talked about her many blessings and about all the opportunities that were coming her way; about all that she was doing for the poor and those less fortunate than her; how she loved everyone; how she never abused her position in society to do good and to serve others; how she was blessed to have a servant’s heart.

All I could think about was the Sunday morning when she pulled her VIP card. I wondered if the person she uprooted from their seat was watching the same show on “Christian TV.” Were they calling her a hypocrite? Were they shocked and appalled that the words coming out of her mouth did not match the actions she had taken?

Had they told their family and friends about the incident? What did the people sitting near them that day at church think? What type of reputation did our church have now? Were we all labeled hypocrites and phonies?

This whole matter made me realize that our everyday actions, decisions, and choices matter, even though they are small. It’s those moments we think of as insignificant that have the potential to ruin our testimony for Christ. I never want to look at someone else in judgment because I’m capable of doing so much worse.

I’m reminded that a prideful spirit and attitude can strike any one of us, even when we believe we are in the center of God’s will (Philippians 2:3-5). And while her actions disturbed me, I’m also aware of my need for mercy and grace, which causes me to utter a prayer for her as well as for myself.

Prayer: Father, let us love not in word only but with our actions and deeds. Let us not think more highly of ourselves than we should think, but let us esteem others more highly than ourselves.

[Additional Scripture reading:  Matthew 23:1-12 (NIV); Acts 10:34 (ESV); Romans 2:11 ESV, and Luke 14:7-11 (NIV)]

 

The Butterfly Effect

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“Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek You be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.” (Psalm 69:6 ESV)

My daughter’s fascination with butterflies is just as strong as it has been since she was a little girl. I share her belief that their transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is spectacular. It demonstrates their strength and God’s creativity.

When she taught me about the “butterfly effect,” I was intrigued. It states that small things or changes on one part of a system, no matter how small, can have a huge effect on another one – like a ripple effect. The idea is that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings, could have a large impact halfway around the world.

According to my son, this is also known as the Chaos Theory.

When I read this verse in Psalms, I felt dismayed at the idea that I might cause someone else to stumble. I’ve never set out to cause harm to another person. Who does?

But, when I thought about the small, seemingly insignificant things I’m guilty of, I cringed at how easy it could be to harm those around me.

I wondered how many of us actually take time to consider the ramifications of our choices, words, and actions.

Sometimes our busy lives leave us feeling stretched to the limit. Chronic illness and pain magnify the pressures. We’re frazzled, exhausted, distracted, and impatient. We snap at family, friends, and co-workers before we have a chance to think about the cruel words pouring out of our mouths.

We may be quick to apologize, but the damage is done. We’re responsible for crushing and destroying another person’s hope, confidence, trust, and faith in their relationship with us. Maybe we’ve forgotten that we are our brother’s keeper, that we are to love one another, and that we must never be a stumbling block (Matthew 18:1-9; Matthew 22:35-41; John 13:34-36).

These little actions seem innocent enough (Song of Solomon 2:15), but they operate like rip currents – those dangerous and deadly currents below the surface of the water. Swimmers are often caught off guard and must fight to get out or have to get rescued because they can’t swim away.

When we speak or act unkind to others, we may not see an immediate reaction, but the damage has been done. Destructive seeds have been planted, and we are guilty of being responsible for the very things the Psalmist prayed against.

Prayer: Father, let us walk in wisdom, love, gentleness and kindness. Set a guard over our mouths and let everything we do come from hearts of love. Let us build each other up, and never tear each other down. Let our main focus be building Your kingdom. Let the world know that we are Your followers because of the love that we have for each other.

The Way of the Ant

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“Go to the ant…consider its ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6 NIV)

Not too long ago, I read over some old journal entries. One of them was from a few years back. I wrote it after spending time outdoors with my son. That day, we had worked on homeschool lessons while enjoying a pleasant and sunny afternoon. We took a break and ate banana-nut bread.

Joshua dropped a small piece of bread on the ground. Not long after he dropped it, he pointed to the line of ants around the bread. Each ant crawled over the bread and left with a tiny crumb. The ants continued to get pieces of the bread, carrying them away their ant hill, and repeating the process all over again. There was one line going to the bread and one line going away from the bread. Back and forth they went. Until, finally, the bread was gone.

Joshua and I had amused ourselves as we watched those ants working slowly and methodically.

Thinking about those ants reminded me of the many times when I have been forced to schedule my day in sections. Sometimes in hours, others in minutes. Like the ant, I move painstakingly slow, often wondering if I will be able to cross at least one thing off my “to do” list. Even though my rheumatologist had already warned me about the hazards of my “Type A” personality, I still had trouble breaking the habit of organizing my days, setting goals, and working hard (stressing) to get each thing done.

I have to constantly remind myself that God remains faithful. He has given each one of us everything we need to make it through each day, each task, and each challenge – even when we have to make it five minutes at a time.

There are still times when I have to break my day down into increments of activity and rest. The moment I open my eyes, I know whether or not I will have to fight to get things done, or whether my day is going to be easier to manage. On those fighting days, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed if I think past my morning shower! I’ve learned that as long as I focus on one thing at a time, and then stop to rest, I can accomplish so much more! At the end of the day, I become excited when I realize all the things I got done – those very things that I feared would be left undone.

So no matter what challenge you may face today, look to God to be your strength. He will give you the wisdom you need to make it through. Don’t beat yourself up over the things you can’t get done, celebrate the things that you can accomplish.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the example of the ant. Help us to break our tasks into manageable pieces. Help us to organize our day and maximize the times when we have the most energy. Help us to understand that we really can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Amen.