Friday, July 22, 2016

Praise the LORD

It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name,
O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning 
and your faithfulness at night...

Psalm 92:1-2

I pray your today is blessed and beautiful in Him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Butterfly Box

…perfect through suffering.
                 Hebrews 2:10

          Once a young woman gave birth to a baby girl who was strong, healthy and beautiful. Faith had the usual infant maladies; runny nose, ear infection, colic. Then one evening Faith’s temperature shot up and up and up. Nothing the young mother did seemed to help. In a panic, she rushed her daughter to the emergency room where Faith’s temperature continued to rise. She was surrounded by doctors and nurses and packed in ice. After many long hours, her fever subsided and her temperature returned to normal—Faith never did.
     It was several months before this young mother noticed that her beautiful baby girl was not progressing with expected tasks; sitting, crawling; first words. She became concerned and upon further testing Faith was diagnosed with “intellectual disability”—after effects of the high fever.

     At first the young mother was devastated as she thought about the life Faith would lead. But then one day she noticed her little girl watching butterflies in the garden. She pointed as they fluttered from flower to flower and giggled when the beautiful wings spread wide atop a blossom. Mother sat silently and watched until the last butterfly and the last giggle disappeared.

     Late into the night this young mother stood over Faith’s crib and prayed. She thanked God for the blessing of the butterflies and questioned what she could do to bring that same smile to her daughter’s face. As the first light of dawn filtered through her bedroom window, she drifted off to sleep.

     A few hours later she awakened with a plan—a butterfly box. For the next few days, she spent every spare moment cutting, pasting, gluing, shaping, and praying, until finally the box was ready to present to Faith. Mother sat Faith on the carpet then placed the box on the floor as she wondered if an inanimate box could possibly bring the desired effect.

     Over the years the butterfly box became Faith’s most prized possession. Each night she would point and grunt until mother placed it on the chest next to her bed. For the remainder of her thirty years, the butterfly box would travel with Faith—from room to room, from home to store, on vacation, to the doctor’s office…

     Years later, upon mother’s death, Faith’s younger sister, Grace, sat in the garden holding the butterfly box. For the first time, she opened the lid of the well-worn and tattered gift and peeked inside. One note, in the shape of a butterfly, lay open on the box bottom—“I have faith…perfect through suffering!”  

     Grace sat in the garden watching the butterflies—pointing, giggling and remembering that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Her mother had lived that truth. Now she must do the same. She tucked the butterfly box under her arm—the gift of faith and she would never again leave home without it.

     If you are suffering today, I am praying for you.

©JP 2013   

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Seven Day Wait

And after seven days the
waters of the flood
came upon the earth.

Genesis 7:10 ESV

Imagine for a moment that you are in Noah’s position. God told him to build a boat because God was going to flood the earth. Noah obeyed, becoming the only man in his subdivision with a boat in his driveway. Neighbors began complaining about the eyesore distracting from the beautiful landscape of their peaceful community. They began to plead with Noah to tear that thing down or at least move it to some remote piece of land out of their sight. Then, after talking to him, they believed him to be crazy—build a boat—rain—God said? They decided to form a committee to pursue having him institutionalized.

His wife nagged him, his boys were embarrassed by his behavior—even the family dog seemed confused. But Noah kept building. Upon completion of the monstrosity, animals began showing up in the neighborhood—two by two they came. Giraffes! Elephants! Zebras! Sheep! They came, and they came and they came. Finally, amidst all the police cars, fire engines and ambulances, Noah escorted Mrs. Noah, his three boys and their wives into the ark. Then they waited!

Day one the crowds grew larger, day two they began taunting Noah, “Where is this rain you were talking about?” Noah believed God! Day three and four the crowds increased. Day five the crowds began to dwindle, walking away and shaking their heads in pity. Day six Mrs. Noah and the children are getting worried. Noah believed God! Day seven—a week of waiting!

Finally, after seven days, the rains came. Then the neighbors came—knocking on the ark begging Noah to open the door. The flood waters rose and the ark began to float. And life as Noah knew it would never be the same.

Have you been through a life-changing circumstance? Have you found yourself in a situation where you feel everything is out of control, and you are getting direction for your life from friends and family, but the problem seems to grow as each of them offers a different solution for your situation? Have you finally heard from God about the direction you should take but continue to get push back from those around you who believe you are making a mistake? Are you, like Noah, in that seven-day wait—believing God and hoping to be rescued?

Do not despair! Believe God! Obey God! Trust God! Like Noah, you too can find grace in the eyes of the LORD. Today a fresh beginning will provide opportunity to walk with God in new and exciting adventures. Do not be discouraged, and do not give up hope. Like Noah, you may have a seven-day wait but when God says, “Let’s Go” I guarantee it will be the ride of your life.

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Life is Fragile

But we have this treasure in
jars of clay to show that this
all-surpassing power is from
God and not from us.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Life is fragile. The flesh and blood body that wraps our spirit and our soul is prone to illness, disease and decay. We are, the Apostle Paul says, jars of clay—scooped from the dust of the ground by the hand of the Almighty. We can be broken, stepped on and crushed by this world.

But, when through the Holy Spirit of the Living God, Christ dwells in us, God’s all-surpassing power can be demonstrated through us in the midst of every turmoil and crisis. When we think we are at the end of our rope, hope lives in us.  

Paul continues by saying, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (vs 8-9)

God is the source of our power, and it is our responsibility to remain plugged in, charged and recharged.

When life is hard and we are tempted to sequester ourselves from the world, when tragedy strikes and we are tempted to blame God, when we grow weary in well doing or are just tired of the rat race of life, God is our strength; Jesus is the treasure we hold in our clay jar. That it is God’s strength and power and not ours alone motivates us to put one foot in front of the other to make it through the day.

And in the doing of that…in the “making it through” in the not giving in or giving up, in the “staying plugged into the power” of the Almighty, we allow the light of the world to shine through the cracks in our clay jar.

So never forget, with Christ living in you and me, when the storms of life sweep over our clay jar and appear to be aimlessly tossing us about, when we are hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, and when the cracks in our clay seem to be widening, we hold this treasure of the “all-surpassing” power of the Living God who assures that we will not be destroyed.

In the end, the fragility of life allows us the privilege of proclaiming the power and glory of our Great God to the world. So don’t give in to despair and hopelessness when they come pounding against your jar. Plug into the power within you and remember the words of Paul, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (v 16)

© Joyce Powell

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Armed and Ready

Those who carried materials did their work with
one hand and held a weapon in the other, and
each of the builders wore his sword at his side
as he worked…
                           Nehemiah 4:17-18 NIV

     Recently, as my husband and I sat in our den, we heard a loud thump and felt something hit the outside of the house. Just as I raised my head and looked out the window, I saw a shower of white-winged dove feathers floating down along the outside of our deck. I stood just in time to notice a huge hawk doing somersaults over the deck and toward the back of the yard. By the time I got to the door, my nine-year-old gray-striped tabby, Rags, was headed down the deck stairs towards the bird bath where the hawk landed.

     Every bird in the neighborhood seemed to be watching and cheering for the hawk, and as Rags closed in, the hawk gathered himself enough to fly to a nearby low-hanging tree branch. Rags sat down to watch the stunned hawk as the neighborhood birds continued to sound the alarm. I stood watch until the hawk reclaimed his senses and continued his flight. After a few moments, the onlookers dispersed and Rags returned to his soft bed on the deck.

     While that is the first time I have witnessed this particular scenario, I have observed the gathering of the neighborhood birds on various occasions. Whenever a common predator is in the area, the community watch committee gathers in the trees and sounds the alarm. The cardinals and blue jays congregate with the black-capped chickadees and house finches as they call the tufted titmouse families and the Berwick wrens to join the fight. They will aggravate the predator, usually a snake, with their squawking and dive bombing until he finally moves on to a more restful area. Once the danger is over, they disperse and return to their daily routine.

     Watching this latest scene reminded me that as we step out to fulfill the calling God places on each of our lives, we should not have to face our common predator alone. Just as the Jewish people, with their weapons by their sides, worked together to complete the task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, and just as our neighborhood birds gather to fight their common predators, we need to be alert, armed and ready to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ during an hour of need.

     One of the tools satan has in his arsenal is to divide and conquer. While I focus on the direction God is taking my life, I can easily neglect the needs of my Christian family and friends struggling to survive in their battle with the enemy.

     Although God tendered Nehemiah’s heart toward the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, Nehemiah could not do it alone. He needed the help of his fellow Jews. They worked together, weapons by their side, to complete the work God set in motion in the heart of one man.

     Today might be a good day for you and me to reach out and help a struggling member of our Christian family. It might be a good day to ask God to reveal the name and need of a fellow citizen in the Kingdom of God. It might be a good day to remember that we are a family, a community of Christian believers. I believe it is the perfect day to show someone that they are not alone in their struggle.

     It is a great day to be armed and ready to fight our common predator as we battle the enemy instead of each other.

© Joyce Powell


Friday, July 1, 2016

Prayer is the Key

The prayer of a righteous man is
powerful and effective.
                          James 5:16:b

     A.W. Tozer wrote “When Tennyson wrote 'More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of' he probably uttered a truth of vaster significance than even he understood.”
     In Romans 8 we read that when we pray, the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. Hebrews 11:1 explains that faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
    When we combine our faith—our belief, assurance, conviction of God’s omnipotent power and boundless love for His children—with our prayers, we are stepping into the throne room of the Almighty! For it is only by faith that we understand “that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)
     It is only by faith that we believe God saved Noah and his family from a flood that destroyed every living thing that upon the earth. It is only by faith that we believe Moses led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt and across the Red Sea on dry ground. And it is only by faith that we believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died to redeem us from our sins and rose that we might live with Him eternally.
     And it is only because of our faith in a loving, merciful, wise, just, eternal Creator and our belief in His Son that we dare believe our prayers are heard and answered according to God’s will. If we have no faith, we have no reason to pray.
     So the next time you kneel, take a moment to think about this God to whom you pray. See God seated on His throne appearing like jasper with an emerald rainbow encircling His throne.  See the flashes of lightening and hear the rumblings of thunder and see the seven torches of fire and the sea so clear it appears like crystal. See the four living creatures that never cease to say; “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8) And see the twenty-four elders as they cast their crowns before the throne of God and praise Him:
     “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev 4:11)
     This is our God to whom we pray-in whom we believe! Are you hurting? Pray! Are you ill? Pray! Are you lonely? Pray! Do you lack faith? Pray for faith to believe. Prayer is the key that opens the doors of heaven. If we belong to Christ, we cannot lose the key, we can only refuse to pick up and use the key! The choice is ours. 

©Joyce Powell

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Grace Changes Everything

They have washed their robes and made
them white in the blood of the lamb.

                   Revelation 7:14 NIV

     I find it fascinating that God can take a heart made black by sin, dip it in the crimson blood of Jesus, and it becomes as white as snow. His grace, unmerited favor, loving-kindness, His outward expression of love for mankind—for you and for me—changes everything!

     The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well came in her sin and left with eternal salvation. The leper, one among ten, came to Jesus crying unclean and left in purity of body and soul. The woman with the issue of blood came to Jesus as a last resort after years of suffering, and with one touch of the hem of the garment of Jesus—whole! Throughout the Bible, we read accounts of how God’s grace changed life after life. God’s grace changes everything.

     God’s grace continues to change lives. Some years ago my husband and I sang in a Southern Gospel quartet. During a revival for a small church in our hometown, our group was asked to provide the music. One night we noticed a man seated near the back—alone. He appeared troubled but attentive to the songs. After the service, the men in our group made their way to the man on the pew. His story—chilling!

     Life had not been kind to him. On that particular evening, he planned to kill himself. While sitting with his loaded gun, he noticed the newspaper that told about a revival and the Southern Gospel music—his favorite. He decided to attend the revival to hear the music and then return home and pull the trigger. After the music, however, he was drawn to remain for the preaching.

     As the men spoke with him, heard his story, and ministered to his heart, God’s grace intervened, and he walked out of that little church a changed man. Hope replaced hopelessness. Mercy replaced despair. God’s grace changed everything.

     There is no pit so deep that God’s grace cannot pull you out. There is no sin so black that God’s grace cannot save you. There is no hurt so bad that God’s grace cannot heal it. God’s grace changes everything.

     Today, I pray for an opportunity to reach out and tell someone about God’s grace.

Grace is a river that flows from Calvary
Grace is a fountain of life for you and me
In the presence of Jehovah, grace makes paupers royalty
Sinners are made holy

For grace changes everything

©Joyce Powell