Thursday, August 25, 2016

Borrowed Time

For everything there is a season, and a
time for every matter under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Like you, I have often heard the phrase “living on borrowed time.” We think of someone who survived a tragedy that should have ended in death yet that person walked away. We think of a friend or relative who had a massive heart attack and should have died yet to the surprise of a myriad of medical personnel, they survived. We think of someone who has battled cancer and survived over and over and over and we say—living on borrowed time.

But in reality, each of us lives on time borrowed from our Heavenly Father. He placed us right where we are for a season, a purpose, a reason, and when our purpose has been fulfilled, He will call us back to Himself and we will stand before Him to give an account of how we used our precious borrowed time.

Some live decades of time; some only hours or days. Yet even the infant who comes and goes quickly on this earth has fulfilled God’s plan for that tiny life. Time is a blessing! We cannot afford to take one moment for granted. Satan will try to lull you into thinking that there is plenty of time to accomplish God’s plan for your life—to live like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind and to “think about it tomorrow.” 

But tomorrow may not come. Like thousands who went to work in New York City on September 11th expecting the day to progress normally, this day could be your last—my last.

What is on your “bucket list?” Does it include a list of souls you would like to see brought into the Kingdom of God? Pray for the opportunity to invest in the lives of those people. Do you desire to travel? Don’t forget the clerk in the store, the cab driver, the single mother struggling with luggage and three small children—she might need Jesus! 

I need to improve on my use of time—laying aside the superficial and looking ahead to the “mark of the high calling” that God places on the lives of His children. What will you do while you are living on borrowed time?

©JP 2013

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Called to Hope

This is an excerpt from my new book 
"Words of Hope" (Help for The Hurting Heart)
which will be available mid-September.

I pray also that the eyes
of your heart
may be enlightened
in order that you may
know the hope
to which
He has called you.

Ephesians 1:18a

Decades ago I had a hemorrhage in the retina of my left eye. Unfortunately, by the time I saw the doctor and he diagnosed the problem, it was too late to remedy the situation. He tried blood thinners which only exacerbated my problem and sent me for a short stay in the hospital. 

Over the years, I have hoped that new technology would allow me to have improved vision in that eye. However, I have been told no technology exists to correct my problem. So I continue to see gray splotches through my left eye. My body has compensated for the inadequacies and while going through my daily routine, I rarely notice the issue; reading and depth perception create the most difficult challenges. 

Recently, while reading Ephesians 1:18, the words “eyes of your heart may be enlightened” seemed to jump off the page. I thought about my physical vision and how wonderful it would be to have the injured eye enlightened; no more gray spots. Illuminated. 

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul painted a beautiful picture of what happens when you allow Christ to become Lord of your life. His Holy Spirit moves into your heart shining His light that the “eyes of your heart” may be enlightened, informed, made aware, educated, and become grounded in the spiritual things of God. He does this so you may know—possess information, recognize, realize and understand— the hope to which He has called you. 

Once you and I believe Christ for salvation, we are not left to flounder like a fish out of water. Our hope lies in who we are in Christ. God’s Holy Spirit illuminates our heart in order that we may know the hope to which we are called. 

We are justified – declared not guilty of sin
We are sanctified – made holy and acceptable in Jesus Christ
We are righteous – in right standing with God through Christ
We are blessed – with every spiritual blessing
We are forgiven – our sin taken away

We can now come boldly before God’s throne of grace. While we walk this earth, we are in God’s care. When we leave this earth, we will see God face-to-face! He has called you, and he has called me, to know the hope that is found in Christ alone!

So today, let His power work its mighty strength in you so that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.”

©Joyce Powell

Sunday, August 7, 2016

When You Don't Feel Like Praying- Pray!

Cast all your anxiety on Him
because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Martin Luther said, “Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.” I agree. So why, with the availability of something so powerful, do we often wring our hands in anxiety rather than take full advantage of our most powerful weapon? Why panic? Why worry? Why brood, agonize, stew, mope and lose sleep when trouble comes our way?

If prayer is a fortress, a fortified place, a stronghold—large and permanent—why do we avoid talking to God about every need? Why do we avoid open communication with our Heavenly Father? Why do we avoid prayer?

I suppose the answer to those questions is complicated. Illness takes a physical toll and we can become too tired to pray. Stress takes a mental toll and we can become too emotionally distraught to pray. Life consumes our time and we can become too busy to pray. For every why not there is a because!

But God’s Word teaches us to make prayer a high priority. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.”

When we pray, we draw close to God as we enter into a relationship with Him. The more we pray the more we become like Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Prayer is powerful. As God hears and responds to our prayers, lives are changed. Circumstances are changed. But perhaps most importantly, we are changed. Philippians 4:6-7 explains, “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When we are enduring our most anxious moments, we often forget to do the one thing that will calm our troubled spirits and bring peace to our hand-wringing, teeth-grinding, palm-sweating circumstances.

When there is something I want to carve into my spirit, my emotions, my soul, I plaster it on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, the kitchen window and anywhere else that I spend time. Today is the day to remind myself—When You Don’t Feel Like Praying, Pray! How about you?

©JP 2013

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Saga of A Deflated Marshmallow

Is anything too hard for the LORD?

Genesis 18:14

Insight from the LORD sometimes comes from strange places. Several years ago I had the following encounter with a deflated marshmallow.

Have you ever seen a deflated marshmallow? It is not a pretty sight—not even the miniature kind. I opened a bag of the small, soft, white, air-filled pieces of puff and popped a few into my mouth. When I looked down at my hand, something remained. At first I thought it was a piece of ragged paper that had somehow gotten into the plastic bag. Upon closer inspection I discovered that it was indeed a marshmallow without any puff; deflated like someone had stuck a pin in it.

I began to think back trying to remember if I had ever seen a deflated marshmallow. No. Never, I decided. It looked almost like the unleavened bread used when taking communion at our church. I held it in my hand for quite some time thinking that there must be some significance to this airless unattractive marshmallow.

Then it struck me. That’s what the enemy wants to do to us—deflate our airbag so to speak. Have you ever looked around at Christians you know and thought to yourself, “Wow, they look happy, altogether, full of life.” Why not me? Maybe Satan has let the air out of your bag!

I left that piece of airless marshmallow lay on the counter for a while as I contemplated its significance. Now some may say this is way too much time to spend thinking about a marshmallow (especially a miniature one) but hold on and stay with me.

A couple of days after laying the marshmallow on the counter, I returned to look at it and think some more. When I reached down to pick it up, it felt different than when I first rested it on the counter. It had lost its softness. It was hard and dry and felt as if it might break if not treated with care. Not wanting to destroy it before I had completely understood what I was supposed to learn, I gently placed it back on the countertop. Then I began putting the pieces together in my mind.

I was reminded of how Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Breath of Life and how He is the only one that gives our lives that effervescent fullness that makes life worth living and how when we allow Him full control in our lives we stay soft, pliable, and moldable like a puffy marshmallow. But, the enemy prowls the land looking for those he can stick his pin in to let the air out of our bags. We usually don’t see the pin coming, but it is sharp and effective and before we know it, if we aren’t prepared, we are deflated.

Not only do we become deflated, but often, like that two days out of the bag marshmallow, we become dry and hard. We turn away from the things of God instead of running toward them. We sequester ourselves from fellowship with God’s people. We harden our hearts, and our spirits become dry and brittle.

I wanted to see if I could rehydrate that dried marshmallow so I turned on the faucet just enough to drip water over the shriveled sugar. I’m sure you already know what happened. It turned into icky slimy goo! All the water did for the marshmallow was wash it away.

Bingo! That is what the Living Water does for our deflated airbags—washes them clean, washes away the icky slimy goo left by the pin prick of the enemy and refills us with the breath of life. Unlike the marshmallow that can never be refilled, revived, or remolded, we can be made alive when the living breath of the Holy God breathes on us.

Wow I thought as I lifted my voice in prayer for those I knew whose airbags were presently deflated, and I asked the Father to allow His Holy Spirit to fill them and the Living Water to wash away all the icky slimy goo that bogged them down when the enemy set his snare for them. And I praised the Father that unlike that marshmallow there is hope for me and for you. Hallelujah! After all, is anything to hard for the LORD?

I do have a piece of advice for anyone preparing hot chocolate and marshmallows. If you plop your mouth full of those tiny puffballs but find you have one remaining deflated marshmallow left on your hand, and if you begin contemplating what that could mean, let me save you some time and trouble. Throw it away! It probably just means that at some time you shut the drawer on the bag and that poor lonely marshmallow was the one that got in the way!

© JP 2013

Sunday, July 31, 2016

God is our Refuge

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:7-8 NIV

Life oozes craziness. What should be called evil is applauded by society as good. People who speak God’s truth are labeled bigots and haters. Those who falsely believe God does not exist try to wipe out any public reminder of our Risen Lord. Some days we desire to hide from the outside world; to take refuge from evil.

Often our efforts for God appear thwarted by those working to discredit Christians. Once you make a public profession of faith in Christ, many expect you to be perfect. When you are not, others label you hypocrite, and you might feel the word flashing across your forehead like the scarlet letter around the neck of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s classic tale of sin, repentance and a struggle for dignity.

Fortunately, we have a refuge. His name is Jehovah. He is I AM—a shelter we can run to, a rock we can stand on and a refuge in the time of small irritations and great difficulty.

My salvation depends on God. My honor depends on God. My steadfast hope depends on God. Just as He cares for the lilies of the field and the beasts of the wild, He cares for you and me.

So the next time the nightly news makes you want to duck and run or your act of godliness is proclaimed bigoted and hateful and you need a shelter from life’s storm, REMEMBER our God—Creator of heaven and earth—our Salvation—our Mighty Rock, and run to Him.

Surely our God, who cares for the wild animals roaming free on our mountain tops and the microscopic plants dotting the hillsides, cares for His children. God is our refuge. Trust Him. Run to Him.

© Joyce Powell

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