Tuesday, August 15, 2017

God is in Control

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over
me if it were not given to you from above..."

John 19:11a

In John 19, the Bible shows Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified after asking Him this question. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus' answer was short and direct, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."

Each time I read this my heart is filled with gratitude knowing that nothing, absolutely nothing, can come into my life unless God allows it. Why? Because I am a child of God, a follower of Christ, an heir to the Royal Kingdom. I belong to the Father. And the great news is my Father is the Creator of all that is. My Father is Eternal...from before time as we know it and after time as we know it has passed away. My Father is Sovereign. He has all authority over everything in heaven and on earth. My Father is Omnipotent; powerful beyond man's wildest imaginations. My Father is Omnipresent; wherever I am, He is. 

And besides all of that, My Father is loving, holy, good, just, merciful, patient, faithful, and so much more.

Therefore, I can be at peace during chaos, at rest amid turmoil, and secure in the midst of doubt because I know He deeply loves me. He gave me Jesus. His Spirit of love is in my heart. (Romans 5:5, 8:39; 1 John 3:16, 4:19)

God knows me. (Romans 8:29; 2 Timothy 2:19)

I am taken care of. (John 6:37, Philippians 1:6, 4:19)

He is in control. Whatever touches me, has come through the hands of my Father. I am in His care and like Jesus said to Pilate I can say to all those who come against me-unless my Father gives you permission, you cannot hurt me.

And, I can have confidence in knowing that if my Father grants the evil one permission to come against me, he may mean it for evil, but God will use it for good.

If you have not yet accepted Christ as Savior, I am praying for you. God loves you (John 3:16) But your sin separates you from Him. (Romans 3:23, 6:23) But God, in love, made a provision for sinful man to reach the One and Only Holy God. (Romans 5:8) It is up to you to respond to the love of God. (Romans 10:9-10)

I pray that is also your testimony. I pray you have been rescued, ransomed, and redeemed by the blood of Jesus and born into the Kingdom of God. If you have, then you can join me in the blessed assurance that whatever comes our way there is no need to fear, stress, worry, or complain because our God is in control. 

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

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.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Living on 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 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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Surprise Blessing in an Unexpected Package

“But David encouraged himself
in the LORD his God.”
          1 Samuel 30:6b  KJV 

If anyone had told me that at my age I would be willing to sleep on a hard tile floor and shower in a utility closet, I would have said, “No Way!” But God had His plans for me.

Several years ago I, along with a group of others, ventured on a Mission Trip to the St Louis, Missouri area. We had three days of hot, sweaty, fun sleeping on the tile floor of a local church, bathing with a water hose in a utility closet and spending our days running block parties in the local area.  We pulled a trailer, cheerfully painted on the outside, to draw the attention of children as we passed through their neighborhoods. Filled with snowcone, popcorn, and drink machines, games of all sorts, food, and prizes galore, we definitely drew a crowd.

We set up five block parties in three days and had a great time providing food, fun, and the gospel. When it was over, we were physically wiped out—tired but happy and feeling good about our weekend and those who responded to the call of Christ.

On our trip home, we stopped in Terre Haute, Indiana, to fill our vehicles with fuel. As I stepped out of the van and walked toward the double glass doors of the convenience store, I noticed a man sitting on the curb. His only companion the hammered silver doors above his head which read, “Ice 99 cents a bag.”

His appearance startled me. He looked like my brother—wearing a black tee shirt and jeans, sporting a beard, and long salt and pepper hair pulled back in a ponytail under a baseball cap. His face told a thousand stories. I stared for a moment too long then continued into the store.

Once inside, I quietly asked a pastor friend, “Did you see that man sitting on the curb?” I did not wait for him to respond. “Somebody needs to talk to him about Jesus.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Me.” I queried?

“You,” he smiled and walked away.

Me! Okay then, I thought to myself as I meandered through the store trying to think about whether I had the courage to strike up a casual conversation about Jesus with this stranger.

Finally, I paid for my purchases and walked out the door.  After a few steps toward the van, my feet changed directions as my body followed.

“Sir, I am so sorry for staring at you, but you look just like my brother. 

I felt awkward and supposed he would think me crazy or rude for staring. His response surprised me.

“Do I?” he replied with a slight grin.

“Yes, sir you do. He wears black tee shirts and jeans and a baseball cap. His hair is like yours, and he wears it in a ponytail. He lives in North Carolina.”

“By the way, my name is Joyce,” I extended my hand.

“Hi, Joyce, I’m Harold. It’s nice to meet you.”

Our hands met in a quick hello, and I could feel my shoulders relaxing as my body breathed a sigh of relief.

“It’s nice to meet you as well, Harold. I’m with a church group going back to Michigan from St Louis,” I began. I rambled, and he listened.

When I asked Harold if he lived in the area, he began telling me his story. Only passing through, he pointed across the street and down the highway as he explained that his car was sitting on the side of the road broken while he waited for a junk man to arrive and give him $50.00.

Before I knew what was happening, I began asking a plethora of questions. What are you going to do?  Do you have family you can call?  Where are you headed? Where are you going to sleep tonight?

His answers saddened me. “I don’t know what I am going to do. I haven’t seen my family in a very long time. I’m just driving. I heard there is a mission in town where I can spend the night.”

I do not know why he answered my questions except that I asked them. I wondered how long it had been since anyone had asked those kinds of questions of him.

I explained my sorrow because I didn’t know anything about the city. I suggested he call a local church and see if they might offer some help. He then asked me the question that sparked our Jesus conversation.

“What denomination are you?” he smiled.

“We’re Baptist,” I said holding my breath and hoping that he had never had a bad experience with Baptists.

“I’m a Baptist,” his smile broadened as he reached into his backpack and began pulling out a small tattered black leather Bible.

My heart raced as he stretched out his arm and handed me his prized possession.

Knowing that “being a Baptist” doesn’t mean that you know Jesus, I knew I needed to ask.

“Tell me, Harold, do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”

“Yes, November 14, 1978. I gave my heart to Jesus. I haven’t always stayed with Him, but He has never left me. I carry this Bible everywhere I go. It is a King James Bible. I read it a lot. Sometimes the language is hard to understand; especially when I am trying to explain it to other men I meet when I sleep in a mission or someplace like that.”

His words exposed what I already expected. Harold had been living like this for a very long time.

“Well Harold,” I began, we have been handing out New Testaments in a modern translation of the Bible. Would you like to have one to go along with your King James Version? It might be helpful. I would be happy to give you one.”

Harold affirmed that he would like that, and as I turned to walk toward the van, my pastor friend walked toward me—a Bible in hand. He wore a huge smile as he handed it to me. “Thought you might need this.”

Harold received it gratefully, and I knew that our time together was coming to a close. I assured Harold that I would be praying for him, reiterated my suggestion that he call a local church to see if they could help and suggested that he get back in touch with his family.

I extended my hand, and Harold received it warmly. Like me, he seemed to understand that we had made a lifetime connection. Feeling the tears welling up, I released his hand.

“God bless you, Harold.”

“God bless you, Joyce, and thank you.”

Tears flowed as we pulled away from the gas pumps and out of Harold’s life forever. I prayed that God would protect him and solve his current crisis, that he would reconnect with family and stop driving to nowhere, and that he would remember that someone was praying for him.

Several weeks later my husband and I, on our way to Illinois, drove west on I-40. As we neared the Terre Haute, Indiana exit, traffic was being diverted off the interstate and through Terre Haute. We followed the road until it came to an intersection and we turned left. That is when I saw it—The Lighthouse Mission. Immediately my mind raced backward to my recent encounter with Harold. I wondered if he might have spent the night in that mission. The sign out front displayed a phone number, and my sweet husband drove slowly until I could get a pen and write it down. I immediately began dialing. I wanted to hear someone tell me that Harold had been there and that he was ok.

I spoke with a woman giving details of the date and Harold’s full name hoping that she could tell me something. “No,” she said. They did require their guests to register but she could not find Harold listed for that weekend or any other. She offered the name and phone number of another ministry in town. I thanked her and quickly dialed the number. They had no record of Harold.

“Maybe he took my advice and called a church,” I tearfully smiled at my husband. “Maybe he called his family and went home.”

“Maybe he did, honey. I’m sure he is okay,” my sweetheart consoled me.

“I’m sure,” I replied. Maybe he was an angel, I thought to myself as a smile crept across my lips.

I never forgot Harold or our brief encounter. His sweet spirit and confidence in God reminded me that the outside wrapping does not necessarily display what is inside the package. As for me, I have remained grateful to God for interrupting my plans and allowing me to sleep on a cold tile floor and bathe in a utility closet for I was both encouraged and reminded that some of life’s greatest blessings come wrapped in the most unexpected packages.

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

For He Alone is Holy

“Do not come any closer,” God
said. “Take off your sandals, for
the place where you are standing
is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5

Recently there has been a video of a magician circulating on social media. He looks as if his body has been cut in half. Walking through the park his video crew captures the reaction of those he encounters. Some people scream and run, others look bewildered and some, recognizing a good trick, walk up and shake the magician’s hand. What would you do?

Moses faced that dilemma as he stood before a bush that burned yet was not consumed. Not only did he see the bush burning, but he heard a voice calling out to him from within the bush. “Moses, Moses!” His response, “Here I am.” God continued to speak from the bush, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Holy—a sacred place, a sanctuary, set apart as dedicated to God. This was a place set apart from the norm because God was present. Have you ever visited a place that overwhelmed you with the presence of the Holy God?

On a trip to Europe, we spent the night on San Clemente Island just off the shore of Venice, Italy. At one time the grand hotel had been a monastery. At the end of the restored building was a small church—untouched. Built in the 1100’s, the frescos hung faded and partially destroyed. In places, the walls crumbled. It was unlike the great cathedrals we visited in London; Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral where I was overwhelmed by the history and beauty of the building but felt no connection to my God.

Immediately upon stepping across the threshold and into the open sanctuary area of the neglected church, I felt the presence of God; holy ground. I remarked to the others that God had surely done something special in that place. Although time had robbed the building of its once displayed glory, the glory of our Holy God remained. It caught me by surprise. I wanted to whisper and walk gently—take off my shoes.

That experience reminded me that when I enter the presence of Jehovah God, I must remember that I am standing on holy ground; a sacred place. It is no casual thing to bow before the Living God! He is holy, and I am blessed to be able to come into His Presence.

Today is a good day to remember that we serve a Holy God! Moses and the Israelites got it right in their song of praise recorded in Exodus 15.

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

I think you would agree that there is none like Him for He alone is Holy! 

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Cheerful Look

A cheerful look brings
joy to the heart,
and good news gives
health to the bones.

Proverbs 15:30  NIV

1980 was an eventful—stressful “health” year in my life; a mixture of the greatest joy with the birth of our youngest son and the deepest anxiety and stress as I awaited news on three separate occasions for the outcome of tumor biopsies.

But, after each opportunity to trust God, there came a smile and good news from the doctor. I remember feeling immediate relief, my muscles relaxed, my shoulders straightened, and the seeming loss of a thousand pounds lifting from my heavy heart. The doctor’s cheerful look and good news erased my doubts and fears and restored joy to my physical body as well as my emotional psyche.

Proverbs 15:13 (HCSB) says, “A joyful heart makes a face cheerful, but a sad heart produces a broken spirit…” My heart condition shows on my face. So does yours! How about when circumstances are out of your control, when the diagnosis is grave, or when the trauma is too great for your human mind to comprehend? What then?

The answer to that question is one of the most beautiful things about belonging to a body of Christian believers. When tragedy or trauma strikes, when your heavy heart rips the smile from your heart and face, or when it appears that no good thing can possibly come from your circumstance…what then?

Then our Heavenly Father rallies the troops, gathers the encouragers, and provides those cheerful faces and warm hugs (along with casseroles, cakes, and cookies.) That’s when He supplies sitters to sit with you, listeners to listen to you, and prayers to pray for you. That’s when He rejuvenates your hope through a smiling face, warms your heart through a cheerful word, and reminds you that you are not forgotten, forsaken, or forlorn. That is good news that will help restore health to your bones.

If your present circumstance is filled with heartache, it is the perfect time for God to intervene on your behalf. Watch for Him! If you are in a happy place, it is a great time to spread a cheerful look all over your face and warm the hearts of others. When you think there is nothing you can do for someone, remember, a cheerful look brings joy to the heart!

© Joyce Powell

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rejoice Always

Rejoice always!
1 Thessalonians 5:15 HCSB

Recently, my husband and I had the pleasure of joining in worship in my hometown church. A lot has changed since my childhood; the church is larger both in the physical size of the building and the congregation. Many of the precious older folks that I loved so well now walk the golden streets of heaven, and like me, many of my childhood friends have moved away. However, there remains enough friends and familiar faces to still make it feel like home.

As my husband and I lifted our voices joyfully singing the old hymns that we love so much, a childhood friend stepped from his seat a couple of rows in front of us and made his way to the end of our row. Placing his arm around my husband, the three of us melted into a trio of harmony as our voices lifted the praises of our Lord, and our hearts swelled with joy.

I felt the words of Nehemiah 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” spring to life as verse after verse drew me back to bygone years and pulled me forward towards the day I will meet my Savior face to face. In those moments, rejoicing flowed as natural as cool water from the top of a rain-soaked mountain.

Rejoicing comes easy during those sweet moments. However, rejoicing at the bedside of a dying parent, rejoicing with your hand pressed against a glass as you stare at a child in an orange jumpsuit, rejoicing when a friend turns her back on you—not as easy. Yet the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Thessalonica to embolden them to forge ahead in the midst of persecution. Rejoice always!

Rejoicing bubbles up from the depths of your soul. You cannot manufacture rejoicing. You cannot bring it to the surface on command. You cannot call it forward by an act of your will. It happens! When you trust in the Lord with all your heart! When you know without a doubt that God is able and in control! When you cannot see God’s plan but you trust His hand! Then, although your heart may be broken, your life may seem shattered, or your future may look hopeless, then you can rejoice and gain strength from the Lord.

Be encouraged! Remember, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” and rejoice always!

© Joyce Powell