Wednesday Whisper ~ Voices

All is well with my heart and soul until … What is that voice in my head? What is with the hateful, vengeful words that are trying to break into my mind, daggers of lies and blame aimed at my heart? Whether hauntings of our past or a battle in our present, there is a truth that rings louder and stronger if we listen carefully. Hear instead the end of the 23rd Psalm. Verse 6 says, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Heart Hands Sunset

Ah, love, God’s unfailing love, sometimes translated kindness and mercy, emotes a strong sense of goodwill especially to those in need. Remember that Shepherd who has been with us throughout everything? He not only leads us, but His love and goodness follow us. The word ‘follow’ in this verse means to literally pursue aggressively or chase, like an enemy with hostile intent. Only in this instance, the Shepherd’s love and goodness are coming for and enveloping us sheep … all the days of our life! 

So let’s pause and soak in His love. Let it flood and overflow our heart, mind, and soul. Allow His love to wash away the pain and bask in His goodness. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1). Open your ears and heart to hear His whisper, “I love you, I love youI love you!” Let it echo in your mind and replay it often, chasing the unpleasant away.

Enjoy being in His Presence here on earth and look forward to being “home in the house of GOD” in His heavenly kingdom. Know that He yearns for us to live with Him as His special guest in His holy, royal house. May we welcome and experience His love.

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Wednesday Whisper ~ Dinner, Anyone?

Just imagine … tables covered with the finest linens, china, crystal, and fresh flowers. The elegantly decorated room is humming with family and friends arriving for an elaborate dinner … all to honor you! Or, would you prefer a quaint table for two in a less conspicuous setting?

Ps. 23_5 (2)

What is the occasion? In ancient times, meals were an expression of the bond of friendship. Between national leaders, a meal signified the overlord offering protection to his guest as treaties and covenants were formed.

Psalm 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Now imagine you are having that dinner with your Lord. He has prepared the table just for you and Him. Your enemies, held back by His power, may not participate. They can merely watch and regret that they had not joined in a covenant with this King, rejecting His salvation time and time again.

As you feast with your Lord and King, He lifts a small bottle of oil and anoints your head. The anointing identifies you as the honored guest. As you bow before Him, you are overwhelmed with the thought that He has also chosen you. He has a special work for you to do and as you walk with Him in obedience, your banquet cup of blessing overflows. The blessings remind you that you have done nothing to deserve this honor. His love and desire to have a relationship with you made the way for you to banquet with Him. “He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4).

See you next Wednesday with the last verse of the 23rd Psalm.

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Wednesday Whisper ~ Victory in the Valley

Psalm 23:4 says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Ps. 23_4For those of you in that valley right now, this is a SHOUT OUT … because I’m there too. And, this is what I know:

  • I am walking. I am NOT standing still or quitting. I am making forward progress.
  • I will go THROUGH this valley. I will come out on the other side. The valley will end.
  • A valley is the low area between hills or mountains, which means I was on the mountain before and I will be AGAIN!
  • This is NOT death. This is a shadow. A shadow may darken what I see but it only blocks part of the light. A shadow itself is harmless.
  • Jesus not only conquered the shadow because He is the Light, but He decimated death. That is what we celebrate on Resurrection/Easter Sunday!
  • There is evil out there. (Drrr!) BUT, our God is bigger! “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
  • I will NOT live in fear. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Memorize that.
  • My God, the Holy Spirit, my Shepherd/Savior is with me everywhere, ALL the time, by my side.
  • With His rod, I imagine my Shepherd beating the living daylights out of whatever is trying to attack or harm me. My Shepherd is all powerful and ALWAYS on guard.
  • With His staff, the Shepherd gently guides and brings me back when I start to wander off.
  • Oh yeah, I forgot the first two words, ‘even though’. In other words, even IF or even WHEN the worst happens, we are not alone and God has a plan.
  • Finally, if you’re NOT going through a valley right now, you will or you have. Praise God for the mountains and hills for they strengthen us for the valleys. And remember, the cool, refreshing streams are found in the valleys.

See you next Wednesday with Psalm 23, verse 5.

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Wednesday Whisper ~ Restored!

Old cars, antique furniture, historic buildings, ancient works of art, and even broken relationships. What once was considered worthless, hopeless, and perhaps beyond recognition can be restored, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, and returned to its former state … or better.

Psalm 23:3 says, “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” So, why would we sheep, whose every need is met by the shepherd, need restored? Because, each of us was born with a sin nature. Our ideal relationship with God was damaged once sin entered the world. And once again, our Shepherd stepped up to meet our need. By dying for our sin, Jesus paid the price and took on our punishment. He made a way for us sheep to have a restored relationship with the Father/Shepherd.

But still being sheep, we tend to wander off, think we have a better plan, and doubt His goodness. Not having the best sense of direction, we usually head straight for trouble. The loving Shepherd, in His mercy, comes to search for us (Matthew 18:12) and if we allow Him, He sets us back on the right path.

Ps. 23_3

Walking with Him, day by day, the Good Shepherd transforms us pathetic humans (sheep) and gradually restores our hearts, souls, and minds. “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

See you next Wednesday with Psalm 23, verse 4.

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Wednesday Whisper ~Hammock & Ice Tea

Ah! My favorite resting place, a hammock strung between two tall pines near the lake with a glass of raspberry ice tea in reach. Time for some significant shut-eye, right? Well, that depends. If I start worrying about whether the rope holding the hammock is sufficiently knotted, or if the dam at the lake will give way and flood the campground, or if gnats are doing the backstroke in my tea, I will NOT be getting much sleep. We’ve all had restless nights in restful places, and many of us may be experiencing that now. So what can we do?Ps. 23_2As we continue to look at the 23rd Psalm, we see how a shepherd cares for his sheep. Verse two says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters.” Now if you are a human, that may not mean much, but if you imagine yourself as one of the shepherd’s sheep, it’s a whole, new, woolly story. First, the shepherd ‘makes’ the sheep lie down. Why? Are we too dumb to know that we need to stop what we are doing and take time to rest? Sometimes. So once down, will the flock rest? Only if they feel secure. Sheep are very fearful animals. If they sense danger or feel insecure, they will not rest. And neither do we.

When Jesus is our Shepherd, the ‘green pasture’ is a safe place because we know our mighty Defender is standing guard right beside us. The Shepherd provides, once again, everything His ‘sheep’ need, nourishing food, a calm source of water to drink, and a comfortable, safe place to rest. True rest is found when we trust Him with our anxious thoughts, fears, and worries. As you lie your head on the pillow tonight, visualize releasing your worries. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Be at peace and be refreshed. Your Shepherd is near saying, “I’ve got this.”

See you next Wednesday with Psalm 23, verse 3.

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Wednesday Whisper ~ Meet Needs?

Ps. 23_1

What roles or jobs have you had where you met the needs of others? What did you have to do to ensure that you carried out that task? My first job at age 15 was at Tastee Freez. I learned how to make ice cream treats, cook on the grill, work at the register, clean ice cream machines, and much more … all for $1 an hour! Without really thinking about it, I was meeting the needs of customers by helping provide a clean environment where they could enjoy tasty food … well usually. At least once, I forgot the banana on the banana split!

In the Old Testament, we find that as a youth, David was a shepherd in charge of his father’s sheep. He learned specifically what his sheep needed and what he had to do to keep them safe. In Psalm 23, David wrote about the Lord based on that experience but from an interesting perspective. He said the LORD was his shepherd, which made David a sheep. The Amplified Bible puts it this way, “The Lord is my shepherd [to feed, guide and shield me]; I shall not lack.” And The Message modernizes it like this, “GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing” (Psalm 23:1).

Why don’t we need a thing? Because when we accept the truth that we are like needy sheep who need a perfect Shepherd, He promises to meet our needs. Our God who loves us beyond comprehension wants to meet our needs and He already knows what they are. So, let’s stay near that Shepherd, trusting Him in our time of need.  Be encouraged with this, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

See you next Wednesday with Psalm 23, verse 2.

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Wednesday Whisper ~ Approach God?

God's PresenceRemember in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her friends were terrified to go before the great and powerful Oz? The wizard was a frightening character, loud, angry, and intimidating! Dorothy and her friends, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, were quaking in their skin, straw, tin, and fur, nearly too petrified to explain their predicament and present their requests.

That should not, in any way, resemble our experience in approaching God. The one, true God actually yearns to have a relationship with us. He loves when we come before Him, seek Him, and speak with Him. Ephesians 3:12 says, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Hebrews 4:16 encourages us with, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What do we imagine being in the presence of God like? Are we afraid He will strike us with a bolt of lightning or zing us with relentless, thundering accusations? Or, do we envision a scene of peacefulness, joy, compassion, and hope? The story of the lost (prodigal) son (Luke 15:11-32) portrays God as a father who runs with welcoming arms to those ready to leave their rebellious way of life. Amazingly, we can be reassured He is waiting for us, longing for us to come ‘home’ to Him as well. I would encourage you to sit and have a daily chat with the Lord, for truly, “There’s no place like home.”

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Wed. Whisper ~ Effective & Productive

Character

Now, who wants to be effective and productive? All hands up? To be both effective and productive with your time and talents, at work and at home … would be a dream come true!

2 Peter 1:8 says, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive.” So, what qualities do I need in order not to be ineffective and unproductive? For that key, we need to back up a few verses. “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Notice that becoming effective and productive is not quick or easy. It is a process that begins with faith, believing in and choosing to live for Jesus. With faith and obedience to the Holy Spirit, our actions and words, or our character, begin to improve. As we apply spiritual knowledge, we gain self-control which helps us to persevere through difficult times. The next virtue, godliness, sounds virtually impossible until we know its meaning. Godliness for believers means being aware of God’s presence in our lives which in turn, effects how we treat others, mirroring how we want to be treated. The ultimate quality we strive for is love, God’s kind of sacrificial love.

Wow! That’s quite a list. Instead of being overwhelmed, like feeling stuck in concrete, listen how The Message translation encourages us, “So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given” (1 Peter 1:5a). The point is begin and build. And like all construction projects, there will be times, probably many, where we have to go back and work on something before becoming more effective and productive. Remember, the Master Builder lives in us and is transforming us. We are each His project under construction.

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From Failed to A+

F Failed

The test. Another dreaded exam from an aging professor where it seemed no matter how hard or how long I studied, the chapters I reviewed, and notes I memorized, it was never enough to score well. There were always test items that stumped me, which I had no knowledge of and therefore had little to no hope of a high grade.

Sometimes we may feel that way with God, that no matter how hard we work at trying to be obedient and do things right, we continue to fail. That’s where the good news comes in. God knows we have a sinful nature and could never get a perfect score. That’s why He sent His Son to take the test for us. Not only did Jesus take the test and score perfectly, never sinning, He gives His perfect test score to everyone who believes in Him!

In Romans 4:5-6, Paul explains that our “faith is credited as righteousness” and that “God credits righteousness apart from works.” Obviously, we could never work our way or score high enough to attain salvation or God’s heaven. Paul goes on, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him” and “God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:8, 24).

Faith not only permanently deletes our ‘F’ and replaces it with an ‘A+,’ but we receive Jesus’ extra credit, eternity with Him. May we thank the Lord for His grace in making a way for us to stand in righteousness before the throne of God!

A+

 

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Wednesday Whisper ~ The Potter’s Clay

IMG_5320 (2)This morning I was washing one of my favorite bowls, a work of art gifted by a potter, Ms. Dalton, a parent of one of my kindergarten students years ago. Imagining the time and effort it took to form the clay, add intricate details, fire and paint it, and whatever other steps required that I know little of, made me appreciate its beauty even more.

It reminded me that we are but clay in our Creator Father’s hands. Some days, we may be tempted to jump off the potter’s wheel because being transformed can be a painful and lengthy process. But we can be reassured God has a plan and purpose in mind for each of us crazy lumps of clay. He can shape us and mold us into amazing works of art, treasures of His design, when we surrender to His will and allow Him to do His work in our lives.

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” ~ Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)

May we be pliable clay in the Potter’s hands.

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