Made From the Dust

I’m sure you’ve hear people say that they have “felt like dirt” or have been “treated like dirt.” We immediately understand the implication. It means they have not been treated as they think they deserve.

But the truth is, that’s exactly what we are. Genesis 2:7 says, God formed man of dust from the ground.” And Genesis 3:19 says, “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That sounds pretty clear to me. Why should we think we deserve to be treated like anything more than the dust that we are?

Ah, but here is the amazing part.  God knows we are dust; after all He’s the one who made us. He knows our limitations. But He doesn’t treat us like the dirt.

I would encourage you to take some time today and read Psalm 103. It’s full of encouragement that God sees us as we really are but treats us as something much more valuable. Psalm 103:14 sums it up quite well when it says, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”

Our Heavenly Father will never treat us like dirt even though that’s exactly what we are. He has compassion on us and loves us. We are part of His creation…we are His.

Studying God’s Word Isn’t for a Test Score but for a Life Change

Last Sunday I took notes during the sermon. I also have many Bible study books full of notes I’ve taken over the years. I take notes at women’s conferences and file them in a folder when I get home.Lately, God has been speaking to my heart about all those volumes of notes and shelves full of study guides. I often refer to my notes to write these devotions. It makes me see that all that note-taking is useful.

However, the thing God has been speaking about isn’t my writing or reading or studying. It’s what I do with the information I’m learning. I have to admit that there are some pages of notes I never look at after I write them. You could argue that simply writing things down helps you remember them. In fact, I learned a long time ago that if I make a list for the grocery store, even if I forget and leave it on the counter, I can usually remember most of what I wrote down. If I tried to remember without writing anything it would be a useless trip to the store as I would forget much of what I went for.

But the notes I take when I’m listening to someone speak about the Bible are meant to have some sort of impact later. The idea is that I learn more about God and about myself in a way that brings about changes in me. The goal is to be more Christlike. If I take all these notes and even if I study them so I could pass a written test with flying colors, I would gain nothing unless it changed me.

I think God is saying to me, and perhaps to you as well, that it’s time to take my studies up a notch. I am challenging myself to actually revisit my notes and meditate on what God would have me do with what I am learning. I want to be more intentional about internalizing what I hear and not be just a collector of words on the page.

Let’s consider what we can do to become a more faithful students of God’s Word. The time we spend studying will never be wasted.

“Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15 (CSB)

“Let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance, for understanding a proverb or a parable, the words of the wise, and their riddles.” – Proverbs 1:5-6 (CSB)

Jesus Laughed

Sometimes I think we take life too seriously. I know I do. I get caught up in the pressures of my to-do list or the decisions I need to make. I think “if I can just get this or that done then I can relax.” I always seem to be waiting for one more thing to be resolved before I can set it all aside and rest for a while.

Jesus had an incredibly intense life at times, yet he was able to get away from the crowds and the demands and rest. He was able to spend time just hanging out with the disciples. Do you suppose they sat around the fire in the evening and talked about life? Can you picture them telling stories about things that happened to each of them? How about a funny story from Peter about a mess he got himself into? And at the punch line did Jesus laugh? I bet he did. He was able to focus on enjoying the moments in His life that were special. He knew He had a lot of difficult things to deal with, but I don’t believe He constantly thought about those things. I think He allowed himself to love life with His friends.

We can always use the excuse that there are too many important things to attend to at the moment. We can convince ourselves that life it too difficult just now to be able to relax and just have a good laugh. We can tell ourselves that it would be irresponsible to set those challenges aside for a time to just enjoy the life God has given us. But if we do, we will miss some of the most treasured moments of life.

Everyone knows that the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” That verse shows that He had emotions like we do. He wanted to show us that we could have compassion on others. I think He also would tell us that it’s okay to enjoy life and talk and laugh together. I wish there was a verse that said, “Jesus laughed!” I believe He did and that He still does in Heaven. When I get there, I can’t wait to hear Jesus laugh. I’ll bet He has a great laugh!

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22(ESV)

The Light of the World

Light is an interesting phenomenon. As you consider the properties of light, it’s easy to see why the Lord used light to help explain His character. Think of all the scriptures where the Lord calls himself the light or uses light to define his nature. Some of the ones I love are:

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

“But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ” I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

Picture yourself in a long, brightly lit hallway with many closed doors on both sides. Imagine that on the other side of all those doors are rooms in complete darkness.  Now consider what would happen if you went down that hallway and opened each door, flooding the rooms with light. Each room would no longer be in total darkness but would be influenced by the light from the hallway. However, the light in the hall would not be diminished at all. No matter how many doors you opened there would be no reduction of light in the hallway. The darkness cannot effect the light but the light definitely impacts the darkness.

When we allow the Lord to be light in our lives, we give him permission to reveal what the darkness would try to hide. We are promised that darkness will always be overcome with light and when we are willing to swing wide the doors of our hearts the Lord will surely keep his promise to shine His glorious light causing darkness to flee.

What Keeps You From Loving?

Last time we talked about how much easier it would be to extend grace if we could tell when a person was going through a rough time. We said that it would be easier to be patient, to forgive, and even  love others if we could tell what was going on in their lives. I called it Bad Behavior, Gauges, and Jesus.

But let’s take it a step further. We truly want to be more like Jesus every day, right? Jesus showed his patience with the woman at the well. He showed forgiveness to Peter after he denied Him. He offered mercy to many throughout the scriptures, as we talked about last time.

Have you ever thought about actions of Jesus at the last supper (John 13)? He came into a gathering of his disciples with the knowledge that it would be their last time together before He went to the cross.

He began by removing his robe and tying a towel around His waist. He washed the feet of the disciples and dried them with the towel. He showed love to all of them equally. And yet…Jesus already knew that Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him.  He KNEW what they were about to do and yet He showed them love anyway. He washed their feet as an act of love.

Now look in the mirror for a moment. Could you, knowing that someone was going to do you harm, love them? Could you extend grace KNOWING what they were about to do? We’re not talking about forgiveness after the fact. We are talking about  knowing ahead of time and STILL choosing to love.

How many of us still hold onto hurts and struggle to forgive others for their past actions? If we want to truly be like Jesus, we not only need to forgive, we need to be willing to love others KNOWING they will disappoint us, hurt us, reject us…the list is long.

Can you do it? Only with the help of Jesus. He can give you the strength to love no matter what. Ask Him.

“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.
 “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” – John 13:12-17(CSB)


Bad Behavior, Gauges, and Jesus

Wouldn’t it be great if we all walked around with little gauges over our heads. You know, like the lighbulb in comic strips?  It could be like the temperature gauge in a car only the C would be for calm and content and the H would be for hurting and life is HARD.

That way, when we had difficult encounters with people we could see that there are reasons behind their behavior.  If that guy who just cut you off in traffic had the needle on his gauge pointing clearly toward the H because he is on his way to the hospital hoping to get there in time to say goodbye to his father we might be more forgiving.

Or maybe the woman who was rude to the cashier, her gauge read H because she just lost her job.

And the young girl who rear-ended you at the traffic light because she was distracted. Not by her phone but because she’s pregnant and her father threw her out of the house this morning.

If we all had gauges we would be more patient with each other. When we saw that needle tipping toward the H we would offer hope instead of judgment. We would encourage instead of condemn.

But we don’t have gauges or any way to know what someone else is facing today. Perhaps if we could realize that we ALL are on H at times we could begin to offer understanding and patience. It’s what Jesus did.

It’s what He still does.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB)

What Are You Afraid of?

Fear: “A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger.” – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

So, what are you afraid of? If we asked people to list what they fear their lists might include, death, poverty, sickness…but perhaps things like public speaking, other’s opinions, failure, and rejection might also appear.

If we use Webster’s definition of fear, the expectation of evil or danger, we would have to revise our list.  What actual evil  threatens a person who fails, or who must speak in public? What danger presents itself in other’s opinions?

What if we revised our list to only include those things that truly brought the risk of danger? Let’s take a closer look.

Do you fear death? John 11:25: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

Do you fear poverty? Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Do you fear for your safety? Psalm27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” 

And just in case we forgot a few, God has already covered those too.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (ESV)

There will be times when we are afraid but David tells us the simple remedy.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 (ESV)

So again I ask, what are you afraid of?




Are Your Prayers Getting Through?

If you have a cell phone you are probably familiar with “dead spots.” Places in your house or in other buildings where you don’t get a good signal. Places where you might be talking and suddenly the call is dropped for no apparent reason.

We might experience the same sort of thing with prayer. You might have heard the expression “I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.” Why do we get that feeling and how can we get rid of it?

Scripture tells us many reasons why it seems our prayers aren’t being heard.

We pray with wrong motives: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

We pray without faith:  “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22)

We pray while we still have sin in our lives: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

If we want the Lord to hear and answer our prayers we must pray the way He requires us to.  We may try to blame our unanswered prayers on God or even on the devil but the biggest hinderance to answered prayers is us. WE are the ones who have to examine our hearts and our lives to remove the things that are blocking our prayers. It’s God’s desire to answer us!

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7(ESV)

Do You Trust Someone You Don’t Know?

First impressions aren’t always positive. Sometimes you can meet a person and be uncomfortable without knowing why. You wouldn’t trust them to watch your children or to enter your house when you are away. But then you spend more time with them and realize they are trustworthy. You can now leave them with your child and your house key without a second thought. They are the ones you can call in an emergency and know they will be there for you. They’ve become friends.

When we moved from Ohio to Iowa many years ago, we had to start fresh in a new place. The friends we’d left behind were people we trusted completely because we knew them well. It took time to build new relationships. We spent time with acquaintances and eventually embraced them as lifelong friends. We did the same thing when we moved to Florida a few years ago. Now we are making new friends again. Learning to trust people to come into our lives.

How does that happen? How to you learn to trust someone? The key is spending time with them. Getting to know them. Watching the way they live their lives to see if their “walk” is consistent with their “talk.”

It’s the same with God. He wants you to trust Him completely. But how can you trust Him if you barely know Him? If you haven’t spent time with Him, how do you know that He will be faithful to His promises? If you haven’t spent time in His word, learning about His character, how can you expect to believe He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do?

The best way to learn to trust Him is to get to know Him. Then you will be able to trust Him with your child, your house key, and your very life.

Paul says it well in 2 Timothy 1:12:

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (NASB)


Are You More Like Mary or Zachariah?

We often read the book of Luke at Christmas time. It tells the story of the birth of our Savior. But it also illustrates two different ways we respond to God when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

There are two accounts of a birth being foretold. The first is Zachariah being told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth is with child. Zechariah responds in astonishment but he makes a serious mistake as he speaks to the angel. He asks, “How will I know this?” He’s asking for more evidence, more proof.

The second account is of the angel telling Mary she will conceive and give birth to a son. Her response is not “prove it.” Instead, she says, “How will this be?” She’s asking in wonder for she knows she is a virgin. She wants to know HOW God will do it, not IF He will.

How do you respond when God gives you direction that seems impossible? Do you say, “yeah, right. How can THAT happen?” Or do you say, ” Yes Lord, show me how You want to do it. I’m ready to do it your way.”

Big difference.

Zachariah lost his ability to speak for months because of his slip of the tongue. But it was much more than that. It revealed what was in his heart. His doubt was made clear.

When we respond to God, we are to do so in faith and not doubt. What has God been saying to You? And how will you respond?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)