Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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
Repost

Sunday, July 8, 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 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

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Name of Jesus

She will give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the
name Jesus, because he will
save his people from their sins.
             Matthew 1:21  NIV

The name Jesus means “The LORD Saves,” but those who have known Him over time recognize that He does much more. Over my fifty-seven years of walking with Jesus, I have encountered Him in a myriad of circumstances.

I remember standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, awestruck by the majesty of God and breaking out in song. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; there’s just something about that name.” I recognized the truth of John 1:3 spread out before me in a beautiful display as ever-changing shadows danced across the canyon’s surface; knowing “Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus!

I remember standing by my son’s crib after the doctor said, “He will need surgery to correct his severely bowed legs.” Placing my hands on his tiny legs and whispering the name of Jesus, I asked for mercy and healing. “For he had healed many…” (Mark 3:10) Healing happened. Surgery did not. Jesus!

I remember sitting alone at the foot of my dying father’s bed; turning the pages of my Bible. Hoping for answers. Whispering Jesus. John 14:27 found me, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…” Jesus!

Over the decades, I have found these things to be true:
            Speak the name of Jesus, and the storms cease as the dark clouds open to allow the Son to shine through.
            Speak the name of Jesus, and my troubled heart calms as the raging battles of life swirl around me like a whirlpool trying to suck me in.
            Speak the name of Jesus, and bitterness, fear, and anger crack, break, and fall away as the warmth of His Presence covers me.
            Speak the name of Jesus, and the peace that passes all understanding calms my troubled soul.

            Today, I invite you to join me in speaking His Name, the Name above all Names, Emmanuel. God with Us. Prince of Peace. The Bread of Life. The Spring of Living Water. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!


© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Shout for Joy




God gives many reasons to shout and sing for joy. However, I often get bogged down on the treadmill of daily living and store my joy to be expressed at another time, in another place, or on another day.  Have you had that experience? Then with the passage of time cobwebs cover your joy, sorrows silence your joy, or life’s stresses push your joy to a dark and distant corner of your mind. And before you know it, your joy is neatly tucked away like hay in a barn.

I would challenge you to try this experiment today—choose joy! Open the barn door of your stored joy, remember the God moments of your life, see the great and mighty things God has done. Focus on the goodness of God and His loving, holy, merciful, and patient faithfulness. Choose to see Him in your circumstance. Choose to acknowledge Him in your situation. Choose to recognize Him in what may seem an impossible path.

Choose joy! Recognize the works of His hands today. Look around. He is everywhere. He whispers through the breeze and rides on the wind. He shines through the sun and watches through the clouds. He speaks through His Word and waits patiently for you and me to recognize Him and “shout for joy because of the works of Your (His) hands.”

In Christ, there is reason for much joy. Choose joy. Shout for joy!

© Joyce Powell

Thursday, April 12, 2018

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, March 30, 2018

Resurrection


Before sunrise woke the sleeping skies, they ran toward Jesus’ tomb
Their hands were filled with spices; their hearts were filled with gloom
For the one they loved lay silently within a stone cold grave,
And they worried who was strong enough to roll that stone away 

Imagine their surprise when they arrived and He was gone!
An angel said, “He is not here.” It did not take them long
To turn and run to tell their friends who ran so they could see
An empty tomb, and grave clothes lay where Jesus used to be 

They did not understand, their Lord was gone, they knew not where
They did not understand that all the time, the Lord was there
Walking in the garden, waiting to ascend
Then Mary met the Teacher, Master, Savior, Friend 

He said to her, now go and tell I’m going to my Father
So she hurried to the place where she could tell the others
Behind closed doors they waited now, in fear of what would come
When in their midst, they saw the one whose voice had calmed the storm 

His words were “Peace be unto you.”  He showed his hands and side
He showed them things we do not know and spoke to them of life
For all those who have never seen the Savior yet believe
 Everlasting life will be the gift that they receive 

For you and me and everyone who heeds the call to come
Unto the blessed Savior, for there is only one,
Who could pay the final sacrifice; one spotless, sinless Lamb
The only way, our debt to pay, to reach the Great I Am 

Just when we think it is hopeless, like those who saw the empty tomb
He steps into our midst and speaks sweet peace, dispels our gloom
Our job is to go and tell and spread the word “He’s Risen”
Salvation today and hope for tomorrow is what our Lord has given 

Don’t wait; don’t even hesitate, to bow before Him now
Give Him your heart, your life your all and He will show you how
To face each day with thankful hearts, with peace, and joy, and love
And when this life is ended He’ll transport us far above
The sun, the moon, the starry sky, to heaven’s peaceful shore
Where we’ll worship Him with glorious praise in heaven evermore.

© JP 2013