Saturday, March 10, 2018

Refreshing Hope

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1 NIV

Living in South Texas I am familiar with months of hot dry weather and landscape that is weary from the lack of refreshing rain. In the hot summer months the local meteorologists may predict a slight chance of rain, raising the hope of cattle ranchers, farmers, and citizens who long for the dust to be washed from the trees. However, forecast and reality often collide leaving nothing but dashed hope and continued longing for renewal. In years of true drought, prayers for rain rise up.

Life has taught me that my soul can also experience drought; times when the busyness of “doing” for God interferes with my “being” with God. When that happens, it is not long before my soul feels barren and dry, and I begin to wonder why God seems distant. Have you had that experience? If I am not careful, I will then begin to live in past journeys with God and past victories for God— only remembering when.

Then it happens! A loving, merciful, gracious God reminds me He is near; watching, waiting, calling me back to the throne room; drawing me back to His Word. It is there He reminds me that during the barren dry times of life, my soul thirsts for Him, and His love is better than life. He encourages me to remember He is my help and the reason I sing, and He cleanses my heart with His springs of living water.

Are you in the midst of a spiritual drought? I have good news. There is refreshing hope waiting for you in the presence of the Father. No fancy words required. A humble heart will do.

© Joyce Powell

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hope for the Battle

Put on the full armor
of God
so that you can take your stand
against the
devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:11

Roman soldiers, when marching into battle, carried a shield approximately four and one-half feet long by two and one-half feet wide. Usually made of three sheets of wood glued together and covered with canvas and leather, the shield protected the soldier from his chin to his knees. During times of siege, the soldiers would gather in a “tortoise” formation shaping a rectangle with shields raised around the perimeter.

The soldiers in the center would lift their shields, resting them on the Roman helmets and overlapping in order to prevent arrows from penetrating their tortoise-like shell. In this manner, the entire formation stood strong and protected from the enemy.

When writing to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul explained how, in the Christian life, we battle against spiritual forces. He used the wardrobe of the Roman soldier, something with which the people of Ephesus would have been familiar, to explain how to use the armor of God.

Paul not only listed the shield but told the church to “put on the full armor of God…” then proceeded to list the necessary items:

The belt of truth
The breastplate of righteousness
Feet fitted with the gospel of peace
The shield of faith
The helmet of salvation
The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God

And in verse eighteen he added:

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Here, Paul outlined what I like to call the Spiritual Tortoise Shell. After putting on all the armor, pray—in the Spirit—on all occasions—with all kinds of prayers and requests. And, do not forget to be alert, watchful, and attentive. Watch out for the snares or attacks of the enemy. And always keep on praying for all the saints.”

While this letter was written to the church at Ephesus, it was also intended for circulation among other churches. In this manner, the Apostle Paul emphasized the need for both individual submission to Christ as well as love, mercy, charity, and kindness toward all the saints—fellow believers and followers of Christ—through constant prayer.

Although written nearly two thousand years ago, these instructions remain valid and necessary. What would happen in our world today if every person who has surrendered to Christ as Lord would follow the instructions to keep on praying, in the Spirit, for all the saints? I hope the next time the enemy sets his sights on me, my fellow Christians will have me covered with a spiritual tortoise shell because of their constant prayers. God’s armor is our hope for the battle.

©Joyce Powell

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Faith to See

Hebrews 11:1 NIV
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope
for and certain of what we do not see.”

Webster’s dictionary defines faith as unquestioning belief that does not require proof. We practice faith every day. When we see a chair that is designed to hold our weight, we sit down. When we go to bed, we do not ask whether or not it is safe—in faith, we just do it.

Some would argue that unlike the chair or the bed, I cannot see God. I would disagree. Webster’s defines see as the ability to get knowledge or an awareness of through the eyes; perceive visually; look at; view or to visualize as though present; picture. By this definition, we see God daily.

As I walk through my home, familiar sights tell me that a loved one is in the house. I may not immediately see him, but the evidence of his presence is everywhere. I submit that the same is true of God. As you look around, you see clear evidence that He exists and that He is present.

When the sun rises, we see His glory shining through the heavens. At sunset, we watch as He dips His brush and paints the evening sky with peach and gold. We see songbirds and hear them lifting praise to their Creator. We stand amazed as lightening dances across the landscape, and we see evidence of God’s great power. When the oceans roar, we perceive the sound of His voice. Every day, we get knowledge or an awareness of God through our eyes. We see Him.

I am positive that God is alive and well. His face shines through the darkness of my despair. His love wraps around me like a warm blanket on a cold winter morning. His joy fills my heart to overflowing. His majesty and power surround me. Light is His garment, and He pulls the curtain of darkness across the evening sky. The lushness of a green valley is carpet for His feet. His moon marks the changing of seasons. He wants you and me to know him.

One day we will see Him face to face. Until then, we see Him through the world around us. In Jeremiah 29:13, God tells us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

The evidence that God is real, alive and well surrounds us. All it takes is faith to see.

©J Powell

Monday, January 22, 2018

Grandpa's Chewing Tobacco

The Word of the LORD came to Jonah…Go
To the great city of Nineveh and preach
against it…But Jonah ran away from the
LORD and headed for Tarshish.
Jonah 1:1-3

When I was eight years old, my mother and I bounced around in the top last row of a Greyhound double-decker bus from Michigan to Tennessee. Sliding left and right and jolting up and down for several hundred miles left a lasting impression on my stomach.

However, by day two at my grandparent’s house, my stomach returned to normal, and I was stepping on grandpa’s heels as he went about the business of working the farm. I kept noticing him tearing a piece of a dark substance off a block of something he pocketed in his bib overalls. He would put it in his mouth, chew, spit, and wipe his lips with the back of his hand. It looked good, so I kept asking, “Can I have some?” He continued to reply, “No,” until he became weary of my asking.

Finally, he tore off a small piece and handed it to me with careful instructions to not swallow either the juice or the plug of tobacco. I promised! Unfortunately, without thinking, I swallowed. I turned green. I gagged. I vomited. Grandpa smiled. He knew I would never again ask for a “chaw” of his tobacco. Lesson learned!

Jonah also learned a lesson. God called him to preach to the city of Nineveh “because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) Apparently, Jonah did not like what the LORD had to say and chose to run rather than obey. He went to the port of Joppa, paid his fare and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish; according to maps of the then-known world, that was as far as he could go in the opposite direction.

God sent a storm, the crew threw Jonah overboard, a great fish swallowed Jonah, the seas calmed, and after three days in the belly of that great fish and a powerful prayer, Jonah was vomited onto dry ground. Again, the word of the LORD came to Jonah “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” This time, Jonah obeyed! The city repented, God showed compassion, and destruction was averted.

Sometimes we get what we ask for only to find out it is not good for us. Sometimes we run from God. Sometimes our disobedience impacts others. And like my grandfather's "yes" to my request for tobacco, God sometimes allows us to learn the hard way. But God is the God of second chances. There is hope when you run to Him rather than from Him. What is He asking of you?

© Joyce Powell

Friday, January 12, 2018

Hope in the Face of Anxiety

Excerpt from "Words of Hope"

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Early this morning my husband and I received an urgent phone call from our son. “I need you to pray NOW, Mom.” My heart sank as I put the phone on speaker so his dad could hear. Police. Student. Accusation. Information. Our children. The longer he spoke, the more anxious I became. He and a team of adults, students, and our grandchildren held a kid’s camp for a church several states away and were ready to start home when the trouble arose. “Please call your prayer warriors, gotta go, call later, bye!” 

My husband and I immediately prayed then began petitioning others to pray urgently for God’s intervention. After an extremely long hour—it felt like three—and acknowledgement from a myriad of pray-ers confirming their petitions to God on behalf of the mission team, our son sent a text informing us they would soon start home although the situation was not yet fully resolved.

After praising and thanking God for His speedy answer and blessing, extending my gratitude to all who prayed, and deep breathing for a few moments, I sat down to write. My title and Scripture for this chapter, chosen weeks ago, reminded me once again of God’s perfect timing. There is Hope in the Face of Anxiety.

The Apostle Paul began Philippians 4:6 with these words, “Do not be anxious about anything…” I cannot honestly tell you that I earned an A on that portion of the test today. I definitely exhibited signs of concern and anxiety. But praise God for the remainder of that verse, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Can you imagine the seemingly impossible task of never being anxious about anything? So, what do we do with our anxious moments—times of stress—legitimate concerns?

Pray—Petition God. Make a request. Ask for help.
Be Thankful
Praise God

Turn your worry into prayer. Worry Less—Pray More! When you “present your requests to God,” be specific. Yes, He already knows, but remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Be persistent in your pursuit of God. Do not give up. He is not running from you. Psalm 139 tells us there is no place we can go where God is not already there. When anxiety makes your stomach roll and your knees weak, run to God not from Him.

What will happen when you do that? Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That is your hope in times of anxiety. God’s peace guarding your heart and mind! Shielding your heart from the enemy.

We have lots of cattle ranches in Texas. As you drive along the highways, you often find areas where there is no fence across a driveway to keep the cattle inside the ranch, but rather a series of metal tubes spaced a few inches apart and buried in the ground with only the top of the tubes showing. Cattle will not cross the cattle guards. I like to think of God’s peace doing the same thing for your heart and mine. Peace places a protective guard around your heart making it more difficult for satan’s fiery darts to penetrate.

So, the next time you face anxiety, remember the HOPE! Present your requests to God and allow His peace that—exceeds, surpasses, goes beyond—transcends all understanding to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He is your hope in the face of anxiety

©Joyce Powell
Words of Hope-2016

Sunday, January 7, 2018

What Good is Prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer, being
watchful and thankful.
        Colossians 4:2  NIV 

I urge, then, first of all, that requests,
prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone.
         1 Timothy 2:1  NIV 

     E.M. Bounds said, “Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”

     In his letter to the church at Colosse, Paul admonished his brothers and sisters in Christ to devote themselves to prayer. The Greek word for devote conveys the meaning to join, to give attention to, be faithful to, to spend much time together.

     Prayer is not a solitary action. Although we often talk about being alone in prayer, it is always alone with God, the two of us spending time together discussing faith, friends, family, life… As we worship, we can feel His presence. As we confess our sin, we can realize His forgiveness. As we bring our requests to God, we recognize our dependence upon God and become thankful for His goodness, mercy, love, and grace. As we wait and listen for Him to speak, He teaches us and pulls us into a relationship with Him.

     Prayer draws us close to God. Prayer is our place of power as God hears and answers. Often the change most wrought by prayer is in me as God carefully shapes and forms me into the likeness of Christ.

     Prayer is a delight. It is like wiggling your toes in an icy spring on a hot summer day. It is like a drink of fresh cool water after an extended walk on a dusty trail. It is like the first glimpse of spring flowers after a long gray winter or first sight of a loved one not seen in years.

     Prayer humbles your heart before God and energizes you for the day’s journey. Time spent with God reassures you that you can make it through the trials of life, joyfully. Through prayer, you find the peace that passes all understanding. Through prayer, your disappointments become an assurance from God that He is working all things out for your good.

     Prayer allows you and me the privilege of a glimpse through that heavenly portal into the throne room of God—into the place where God’s glory shines too bright for our human eyes—“a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”

     What good is prayer?

© Joyce Powell

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Glory to God in the Highest

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good
will toward men.
Luke 2:14 KJV

This morning I am reminded of a night many years ago as our quartet practiced:

"How could I boast of anything I've ever seen or done?
How could I dare to claim as mine the victories God has won?
Where would I be had God not brought me gently to this place?
I'm here to say I'm nothing but a sinner saved by grace."

Tears fell like a babbling brook after a spring rain as my mind flashed to the 400 years of God's silence from Malachi to Matthew. The Jewish people awaited the promised Messiah. They heard nothing. Finally, God spoke; first through an angel announcing to Mary the coming of the long-awaited Messiah and then to the shepherds, "today the Christ is born."

Not only did God once again speak to his people, but He spoke through the Living Word, Emmanuel, God With Us, Christ in us the hope of glory. And, I wondered where would we be had God continued to be silent. We have had, through history, the opportunity to see the darkness when God does not speak and now we see the Light of the World in Jesus.

Anything good in my life, anything well done or prosperous, and anything that glorifies the Father comes because God gently brought His amazing grace to the world for me. The same is true for you sweet friend. We are all the same in God's eyes- sinner walking in darkness or sinner saved by grace walking in the Light. The Light is available to all.

Today I simply give Him glory for great things He has done.

© Joyce Powell