Ending one year, preparing the next year

Ending One Year, Preparing for the Next Year

Ending one year and preparing for the next year with purpose takes thought and prayer.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NIV

Another year will soon be over. Changing the 2019 calendar reminds us of how fast time moves. For some there’s a sigh of relief that the long year is finally over. Others might feel sadness for the end of a great year.  Reviewing the past year provides personal growth and perspective.

Think back over the past twelve months.

It is easy to remember the events or travels, but I encourage you to go deeper and ask yourself these questions:

  • What was a highlight? How did God show up? Remember His faithfulness and praise Him.
  • What was the biggest challenge? How did God help you in a tough situation? Thank Him for His presence.
  • What have you learned? What brought you closer to God? Rejoice in His loving kindness.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom, each year.

2019 was a year of major change for us, seeking God for the next season of our lives. My word for 2019 was “trust.”

Reading through my journals, I see how God presented new situations for me to deepen my trust in Him. Rick retired from pastoral ministry after 45 years, concluding the chapter of serving local churches in Illinois, Kansas, and Arkansas. He accepted a different type of ministry position that required us to move 500 miles. We sold our home in one state and downsized in another state. We travel a lot in the new position, visiting pastors in many states to listen to their struggles. Our desire is to encourage those who serve the Lord week after week. Ministry is hard, but that’s a topic for another day.

Once you’ve looked back, prepare your heart and mind for the next year.

But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

The apostle Paul gives us some wisdom for the transition from one year to another, from one season of life to another.

Prepare for the next year

  • Forget what is behind. “To forget” in the Bible means “no longer to be influenced by or affected by.”*

Use the lessons you learned from the past be a springboard to the future. What do you need to release? Use the past events to help you go forward to become the person God desires.

  • Strain toward what is ahead. “Straining” in Greek means “to stretch oneself forward to.”*

Grow forward in your faith. Many websites offer devotionals and Bible reading plans.

  • Press on. This verb is translated “I follow after” and carries the idea of intense endeavor.*

Be diligent in your pursuit of deepening your relationship with the Lord. Serve the Lord right where you are. Obstacles will arise, but don’t let them stop you. Press on with the Lord’s strength.

Reflecting on the past will propel you into the next year, the next decade.

A new year brings fresh hope.

A new decade is on the horizon. God is faithful and sovereign, no matter what occurs in the future.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 NIV

Focus on the future, knowing God will guide you as He has in the past.

I pray that you will walk with God this year, believing He will do great things.

*from the Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe

Imagine Mary's Deep Trust

Imagine Mary’s Deep Trust in God

Imagine the deep trust shown by Mary when the angel Gabriel came to her, changing her life (and ours) forever.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28 NIV

Questions were certain in her mind:

Who is this? Why me? 

She was deeply troubled by the greeting. Who wouldn’t be concerned by the appearance of an angel?

What does this mean? 

The angel spoke again with calm assurance, removing the fear.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  Luke 1:30 NIV

The angel called her by name. This brought good news and relief for her troubled heart. God had a specific message for Mary, someone chosen because she found favor with God. The word favor translates from grace in New Testament Greek. Chosen and called by name, she gave her full attention to the visitor.

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of this David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:31-33 NKJV

Mary doesn’t shrink back from the startling announcement. She didn’t hide or try to ignore the divine interruption.

Instead, Mary received the message, and answered with a bold question for the angel.

“How can this be?” Luke 1:34 NKJV

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:35-37 NKJV

So many feelings and questions must have flooded her mind.

Luke 1:37 Deep Trust

What? Shock, for her personal and life changing message from God.

Elizabeth? Wonder, that God is working in mysterious ways.

The messenger spoke another assurance of faith.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37 NKJV

Mary replied with deep trust, surrendering to receive the message and her part in God’s story of redemption.

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 NKJV

Mary teaches us the way of hard surrender and deep trust.

Hard surrender in accepting the fact that her life would be disrupted for a greater purpose.

Deep trust in the assurance from God, that the One who called Mary by name, will be with her in what seems to be a ridiculous message.

I pause in wonder at Mary’s faith, trust, and simple surrender.

Mary’s angelic encounter helps me as I wrestle with trust and obedience for issues in my life.

Surrender to God's plan with deep trust

My word for 2019 is Trust, learning to trust Him in in deeper ways.

At the beginning of the year, Rick and I sensed God leading us to a different type of ministry. We had many questions. If he accepted the new position, we move to different city, 500 miles away.

Is this God’s plan for the next season of our lives?

How could this be? Why now?

In many ways the move didn’t make sense, starting over in a new location at the beginning of retirement. Leaving family and grandchildren. Leaving the form of ministry we had known for 45 years and accepting something new. Uprooting our lives would be difficult one so many levels.

I felt internal tension of wanting to say “no,” remaining comfortable with the routines of ministry, but also the pull of saying “yes” to God, trusting his greater plan for a new faith adventure.

I cried out to God for several months—praying and seeking Him with deep trust.

Waiting, wanting to trust but unsure of taking the step of surrender.

Then, at an unsuspecting moment during worship, I heard God whisper my name.

“Nancy….Nancy….I’ve heard your cries and your prayers. I will take care of you and your family.”

At that holy moment, tears fell onto my cheeks. God spoke assurance to my worried heart. He will be with us in the uncertainties that lie ahead.

He gave me peace about the decision to move.

We will trust and remember that He is Immanuel– the “with us God.”

I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. I’m learning more about trusting God.

“For with God nothing is impossible”—a message that brings hope and assurance in the uncertainties of life.

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

We are called to walk with faith and trust in our daily lives.

As Advent continues, remember Mary and the conversation with the angel.

Have you heard God speak your name?

Did you receive his message?

Will you accept God’s challenge to live by faith?

May your heart be quiet enough to her the still small voice of God.

Difference between praise & thanks

What’s the Difference Between Praise and Thanks?

What the difference between praise and thanks?

Many times we use them interchangeably in our prayers. Both of the words are nouns and verbs. Each word has a specific objective, yet the words overlap in purpose. Together, praise and thanksgiving lead us to worship God.

Praise is recognizing God’s character and nature.

It expresses awe for who God is.

Many of the Psalms lead us to praise God’s name and attributes, as shown in this verse.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8 NIV

In this verse the characteristics of compassion, grace, patience and love are mentioned. As I read them, my heart is stirred to praise God for who He is.

Thanks-giving is offering gratitude for what God has done.

Gratitude can be given for answered prayers, for how God has worked in situations and lives. Thanksgiving is offered for specific blessings.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and his wonderful deeds.” Psalm 107:31

As I read those verses, I pause to reflect on God’s wonderful deeds, past and present. God is active everyday; we need to open our eyes to see it and tell Him our gratitude.

The following quote by Ben Patterson further explains the difference between praise and thanks.

In thanksgiving we list God’s benefits, in praise God is the benefit. Thanksgiving is like a child opening a gift from a parent, a new doll or a baseball mitt, and throwing her arms around her mom and dad and saying, “Thank you, thank you! It’s just what I wanted. It’s wonderful!” Praise is what happens when that child can pause and look up from the gift into her folks’ eyes and say, “You are wonderful.” There is, in prayer and worship, a kind of ascendancy that moves from thanks to praise to wonder to awe and silence—and then back again to thanks to praise to wonder to awe to silence. (from Deepening your Conversation with God, by Ben Patterson).

praise and thanks

For instance, try this simple exercise in giving praise and thanks to God.

First, take a moment to give God praise.

  • Read Psalm 145. What attributes of God are listed? Which one touches you the most?

Next, take a moment to offer God thanks.

  • Read Psalm 118:1. Ask yourself, how have you seen God work in the past 12 months? What can you thank God for? What are daily blessings for which you can thank Him? How have you seen answered prayers?

Most importantly, in the Christian life, we offer God both praise and thanks. Praise for His greatness and thanks for the blessings and answers to prayer. These verses demonstrate both in the life of the believer:

“I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7:17

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

Praise and thanks are components of the Christian life. Both are essential in prayer and in worship.

In this Thanksgiving week, I hope you can make time for both praise and thanks. Look to the Lord with both praise and gratitude. It will improve your outlook.







Can You See Plentiful Blessings?

Can You See Plentiful Blessings?

Can you see plentiful blessings around you?

We moved into our new home the end of summer, when the mature oak trees provided wonderful shade. Many large trees in our neighborhood are beautiful as the branches reach over the street in a canopy.

As the season has changed, so have the trees. They have revealed their autumn splendor. Some branches are empty of leaves, while others remain full. Acorns have pelted our roof, especially after strong winds.

Each day the grass becomes covered with a blanket of leaves.

The other day Rick and I tackled the autumn ritual of raking the millions of leaves. It took both of us hours of continuous raking to clear the yard. My arms grew weary. This was the first time of many to come, as the next day more leaves had once again graced the landscape.

Each day leaves fall. Every single day they fill the yard. The raking will seem endless until the snow piles up.

give thanks in all circumstances

Are the trees still blessings even when they create a lot of work?

I love how they change with the season. I enjoy shuffling my feet through the leaves, hearing the distinctive crunch of autumn.

The leaves also remind me of the abundances from God.

God’s plentiful blessings are greater than the number of leaves that fall.

In my devotions, I came across a list of plenties and abundances in the Bible. Consider this list as you count your blessings.

  • Plenty of food:  “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord you God who has worked wonders for you.”(Joel 2:26)
  • God offers abounding love: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”  (Psalm 103:8)
  • Plentiful pardon: “Return to the Lord and he will have mercy on him and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:17)
  • Plentiful peace: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
  • Plentiful redemption: “With the Lord there is unfailing love, and with Him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7)
  • Plentiful grace: “God is able to make grace abound to you so that in all things at all times having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
  • Plentiful resources: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”  (Ephesians 3:20)
  • Plenty for the future: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (2 Corinthians 2:9)

(from Moments with Majesty, Jack Hayford, pp.235-236. All verses are NIV)

God's blessing are greater than the leaves that fall

Look around and  see all that the Lord has given us.

What should be our response?

 Gratitude and praise to God.

Even when problems pile up, God has given us more strength and provision for the day.

May God’s many blessings fill your heart with praise!

Draw Near to God in quietness

5 Ways to Draw Near to God in Quietness

Quietness is hard to find. With the constant stream of information and music on the internet, the busyness of our lives, and impatience in our souls, quietness escapes us.

The fast pace of life leaves us exhausted at the end of the day. We are emotionally worn out with little energy left for our important relationships. As a result, we become more irritable and grouchy instead of loving and kind.

Our relationship with God also suffers. We cannot focus because of all the distractions around us. The hurried soul jumps from one activity to another, trying to hang on to hope. Our prayers fall flat.

Jesus showed us the importance of quietness in the midst of busyness. Crowds came to hear Him for his healing touch. But He didn’t neglect the importance of quietness with God.

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16 NIV

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Mark 6:45-46 NIV

Jesus knew his strength came from His relationship with the Father.

We can learn from Jesus the importance of finding solitude and prayer.

Draw near to God in quietness to gain a new perspective.

  • Relax your mind. Intentionally put aside any anxious thoughts. It helps to write down the things I need to do, knowing I will come back to the list and won’t forget what needs done. My mind is calmer when I remove the clutter. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 NIV
  • Refocus on God’s love for you. Even when I have a bad day, the Lord brings to mind His words of love. I have to choose to believe Him and not listen to the discouraging lies from the enemy. His love reassures me. “I have love you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

5 Ways to Draw Near to God in Quietness

  • Pray. Jesus kept an open line of communication with God the Father. Prayer is the love language of our relationship with God. It is vital for us as we abide, or remain, in Him. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12 NIV
  • Release worries and burdens to the Lord. Realize that God is sovereign and knows your situation. Once you relinquish the problem, leave it at the throne of grace. Don’t pick it up again. “Let us then approach God’s 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 NIV
  • Rest in God’s presence restores hope. The pace of life wears us down, eliminating any time to slow down.

Jesus’ words are both comforting and convicting; comforting because the Savior calls to quietness and convicting because we are yoked to our burdens.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

Will you take a few moments to calm your mind in quietness?

Quietness in the Lord

If necessary, go outside for some fresh air. Step away from the pressures for just a minute to gain a better perspective. Breathe deeply. Offer a prayer of thanks for the blessings in your life.

Draw near to God with quietness.