9 Ways to Guard Your Personal Relationship with God

Today I’m sharing from Crossway.org.

9 Ways to Guard
Your Personal Relationship
with God

by: David Murray

Time and Energy Required

Like all healthy and satisfying relationships, our relationship with God needs time and energy. But giving time and energy to our relationship with God actually increases free time and energy because it helps us get a better perspective on life and order our priorities better, it reduces the time we spend on image management, and it removes fear and anxiety.

Here are some things that have helped me to keep my personal relationship with God personal and avoid falling into the trap of relating to him only through my ministry to others:

1. Guarded Time

I try to guard personal Bible reading and prayer time as jealously as I guard my own children. I keep my 6:20 a.m. appointment with God each morning as zealously as if it were an appointment for kidney dialysis.

2. Undistracted Mind

In a survey of eight thousand of its readers, desiringGod.org found that 54 percent checked their smartphones within minutes of waking up. More than 70 percent admitted that they checked email and social media before their spiritual disciplines.1 I agree with Tony Reinke, who commented, “Whatever we focus our hearts on first in the morning will shape our entire day.” So I have resolved not to check email, social media, or the news before my devotional time, as I want to bring a mind that is as clear and focused as possible to God’s Word.

3. Vocal Prayers

As I always pray better when I pray out loud, I like to find a place where I can do so without embarrassment. Hearing my own prayers helps me improve the clarity and intensity of my prayer. Also, I cannot cover up a wandering heart or mind so easily when I pray out loud.

4. Varied Devotions

Sometimes I read a psalm, a chapter from the Old Testament, and a chapter from the New. Other times I read just one chapter or part of a chapter and spend longer meditating on it. Or I may read through a Bible book with a good commentary. Though the speed varies, I do try to make sure that I’m reading systematically through both testaments and not just jumping around here and there.

Read the rest here.

Are You Completely Surrendered to God?

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Are You Completely Surrendered to God?

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
 —
 Psalm 63:1-5

Are you seeking great things for yourself, instead of seeking to be a great person? God wants you to be in a much closer relationship with Himself than simply receiving His gifts—He wants you to get to know Him. Even some large thing we want is only incidental; it comes and it goes. But God never gives us anything incidental. There is nothing easier than getting into the right relationship with God, unless it is not God you seek, but only what He can give you.

If you have only come as far as asking God for things, you have never come to the point of understanding the least bit of what surrender really means.

Read the rest here.

Songs in the Night

I have the fun privilege of announcing that Pat’s new book, A FEAST OF JOY, is now available for purchase! FEAST OF JOY is Pat’s third book of devotionals in which she connects real-life situations with Biblical truths. Pat’s writing is so vividly descriptive that you will easily imagine yourself present in each story. She sprinkles pertinent Scripture references throughout her writing to help you apply the verses to your own life. Her writing is sure to inspire and teach you more about how to live daily with joy no matter what your circumstances may be. Below her post, I have placed links to online booksellers where you can buy FEAST OF JOY.

Songs in the Night

By Pat Knight

The evening was still and peaceful. Only the water’s rhythmical lapping against the shoreline was detectable. Suddenly, out of the silent night, a cacophony of sounds erupted, as if a celestial baton signaled nature to commence a disharmonic concert. The large, common loons were the first to warm up, with mournful, eerie cries. The vocal wail usually opened the birds’ evening conversation, followed by yodels and hoots for social interaction. As their powerful voices were propelled across the waters, human listeners were privileged to peer into the private verbal world of the prehistoric loons. Their variety of strident sounds comprised night choruses. At times, the loons’ calls were eerie; at others, musical. But they always pierced the tranquility of the night, shocking listeners with sudden exclamation and impetuous strength.

As if on cue, perching owls began to softly but persistently hoot, the tone increasing in intensity with mating calls, vociferous and overbearing to human ears. Then, when the imaginary baton snapped the animal world to attention, the plaintive wails produced a rackety, raucous ensemble of dissonant notes. With no attempt to harmonize, neighboring dogs and an occasional coyote chimed in. It was increasingly more difficult to merely listen to the developing discord of sounds. I had the growing urge to leap through the front door, yelling my own primitive, obnoxious sounds, to add a little more confused clatter. It was then I was reminded that there are no clashes in nature. Just as God created the improbable blending of conflicting color hues to form beautiful blankets of wildflowers on land, so the animal kingdom comingles with songs in the night.

Praise to God is the ultimate expression of worship.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:1-2; 4-5).

Interestingly, God does not specify that we sing hymns of praise with perfect pitch or with trained voices. Our mass of vocal tones may reach God’s ears as discordant, just as we detect the animal concert. Of utmost importance to our Lord is our praise and gratitude, glorifying His name.

King Agrippa I (Herod) seized and imprisoned the apostle Peter, who was kept heavily guarded by four soldiers at all times. Peter prayed in prison, while in their homes, fellow Christians fervently petitioned God for his release. Assured of a guilty conviction, the night before Peter’s scheduled trial he was asleep in prison, chained between two soldiers. Guards stood at his prison door. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared, shining light in the dark dungeon, reflecting the glory of God. With immediacy, the angel jostled Peter awake and persuaded him to get up. As Peter stood, the chains spontaneously fell from his wrists. The angel instructed Peter to get dressed and follow him out of prison. They walked past guards without incident. The prison doors opened to them, as the angel escorted Peter the length of a city street and disappeared, leaving the disciple to mentally grasp the full ramifications of the miracle that had just occurred. “Peter admitted, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen’” (Acts 12:11). When Christians pray, God graciously answers, often with miraculous results.

The early Christian church grew exceptionally fast numerically and in faith, in spite of rabid persecution. Jesus had taught them while on earth that if they had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, “‘Nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20). The early Christians had embraced Christ’s teachings and were witnessing miraculous outcomes. When believers join in prayer, there is no limit to what God will accomplish in their lives, individually or collectively. God’s promises have not changed in centuries: His supreme power, like that which resurrected His Son from death, is available to each of us. “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2b-3).

God is neither a puppet provider nor a magician, who caters to our every materialistic whim and desire. But, if we have sincere, pressing needs in our lives, God listens to our requests, and He promises to respond positively, if the petition conforms to His will.

 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need”
(Hebrews 4:16).

Dorcas, an excellent seamstress, spent her days performing good deeds, helping the poor and sewing garments for the needy. As soon as her death was reported to the disciples, Peter traveled to her hometown of Joppa. The sight he witnessed was one of devotion and friendship: local widows readily displayed the clothing Dorcas had made for the desperate. Many recipients were in prayer for her recovery. Peter understood the loss of Dorcas’ love and good works to the community. When he prayed for her still life to revive, Dorcas immediately sat upright in response to the powers endowed on Jesus’ disciple. Her friends still talked about her miraculous healing days later, and many people believed in the Lord because of Dorcas’ life and her revival from the dead. Prayer by one or a multitude of people produces magnificent results. 

What a wonderful, unique privilege we are granted as children of the King! Our words are music to God, who separates the cacophony of sounds to create individual clarity from believers around the globe, all searching for Him at one time. Unlike the animal and bird calls that produce nighttime pandemonium, those seeking God approach the throne of grace with pure motives, making a joyful noise.


You can find FEAST OF JOY at:
Amazon
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Xulon

The Heart of God’s Character

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

The Heart of God’s Character

by John MacArthur

God is love.

That statement doesn’t only reflect popular modern sentiment. It is actually a direct quote from God’s Word—1 John 4:8, to be precise. But in what sense is it true?

There are many ways to misunderstand John’s meaning. In fact, 1 John 4:8 seems a particular favorite of cultists. All kinds of false sects from Christian Science to the Children of God have misapplied this verse to support wildly heretical notions—the former using it to portray “God as divine Principle, Love, rather than personality” [1]; and the latter using it to justify sexual promiscuity. [2] It is important that we understand and reject not only those doctrines, but also the false ideas on which they are based, lest we be led astray in our own thinking.

First, the expression “God is love” is not meant to depersonalize God or portray Him as a force, a sensation, a principle, or some sort of cosmic energy. He is a personal being with all the attributes of personality—volition, feeling, and intellect. In fact, what the apostle is saying is that God’s love is the highest expression of His person. Therefore, to use this text to attempt to depersonalize God is to do great violence to the clear meaning of Scripture. Such an interpretation actually turns this text on its head.

Second, this verse by no means identifies God with everything our society labels love. Gordon Clark wrote, “John is not saying that all sorts of emotions called love are from God. The romanticism of Goethe, and much more the present sexual debauchery, are not from God.” [3] In fact, those who cite this verse to attempt to legitimize illicit forms of “love” are about as far from the apostle’s intent as it is possible to get. The love of which he speaks is a pure and holy love, consistent with all the divine attributes.

Third, this is not meant to be a definition of God or a summary of His attributes. Divine love in no way minimizes or nullifies God’s other attributes—His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His immutability, His lordship, His righteousness, His wrath against sin, or any of His glorious perfections. Deny any one of them, and you have denied the God of Scripture.

There is certainly more to God than love. Similar expressions elsewhere in Scripture demonstrate this. For example, the same apostle who penned these words also wrote, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Scripture also says, “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). And Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” The simple statement “God is love” obviously does not convey everything that can be known about God. We know from Scripture that He is also holy and righteous and true to His Word. God’s love does not contradict His holiness; instead, it complements and magnifies it and gives it its deepest meaning. So we cannot isolate this one phrase from the rest of Scripture and attempt to make love represent the sum of what we know about God.

Notice, by the way, that this phrase “God is love” is not even the only such statement in John’s first epistle.

Read the rest here.

Peace Like a River

All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You;
they will sing praises to Your name.
—Psalm 66:4

Does it seem possible that we are already into a new year? How did 2019 go for you and what does 2020 hold for each of us? I am not fond of making new year’s resolutions except for this one:

I want to seek the Lord more each day so I can know Him better.

We live in a world full of changes that threaten to rob us of our joy and peace in Jesus. Are you, like most of us, struggling to keep up with all the changes in our world that seek to destroy our faith? Are there stressful situations in your life that feel like they will never end? Do you long for the day when you can live with Jesus in heaven? Me too, Beloved, me too.

In the busy-ness of our lives, it is easy to get so involved with our work, our families, household tasks — even with what is necessary when serious illness or financial problems fill our lives — that praying and digging into the Bible gets pushed aside. I want to encourage all of us to start each day with Jesus before life intrudes with all its details, frustrations and disappointments. Talk to Him when you wake up, thanking Him for a new day and asking Him for everything you will need that day.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

—Psalm 121:1-8

One of the songs that gives me great peace during difficult times is “It Is Well With My Soul,” written by Ho­ra­tio G. Spaf­ford in 1872. This video is the Jeremy Riddle version of the Horatio Spafford hymn. Click here to read the amazing background story of how and why he wrote this song. The verses that impact me the most are:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

A Happy and Blessed 2020 to You!

This was our Christmas card for 2019. The pictures show some of the bright spots of our year. 

2019 passed much too quickly for us but it was a year of great joy in our family. Although Rick and I have considered ourselves grandparents to twins Austin and Alex since June 2016, their adoption became final on April 3, 2019. They will be 4 years old next February and are the light of our lives. Their cuteness and energy keep Alan and Denise very busy. It’s not easy keeping up with twins!

Although Rick and I are both dealing with health problems these days, we want to do more traveling and enjoyed a trip to Morro Bay last month. Morro Bay is a sweet town on the central California coast, one of our favorite places where we used to camp when we lived in California.

We have much to be joyful and thankful for this Christmas. In the busy-ness of our lives, let us never forget what the birth of Jesus means to us. Let us echo the angels in praising God.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Merry Christmas 2019!

Welcome to my annual Christmas post. From my house to yours, I wish you a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior!
He alone is the Reason for the Christmas season and our ultimate JOY!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

—Luke 2:8-14

The song “A Christmas Alleluia” is by Chris Tomlin featuring Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan. Close your eyes as you listen to this wonderful song of praise and worship to our Savior.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
to God who alone is wise,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 

—1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV)

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power
belong to the Lord our God!

For true and righteous are His judgments,
because He has judged the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her fornication;
and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

—Revelation 19:1-3 (NKJV)

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.