Cross

 

 







 



Devotionals for Women

 

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[Photo of a woman touching the hem of Jesus' garment]


Issues

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood
twelve years, and had suffered many things of
many physicians, and had spent all that she had,
and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,

When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press
behind, and touched his garment. For she said,
If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made
thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
—Mark 5:25-28, 34 KJV

In our current culture, we use the word, “issues” in an entirely different manner than it was used historically. To us it means negative circumstances or questions. In the passage above, the word referred to a “discharge from the body.”

Nevertheless, I see a very real parallel between this Biblical story and current usage. We certainly deal with “issues” in our lives. Some wear us down, as the discharge of blood did this woman. Some make us physically sick, financially vulnerable, heart-wounded, grief-stricken, scared, lonely, hopeless, etc.

What are our “issues” today? Have we strained to reach out to Christ, who has power over all the woes of our lives and can help us make sense, or at least cope with all that happens?

The use of the word, “spent” in this story also speaks to me. The woman had spent all she had. And, even the doctors had come to the end of their solutions. As an old hymn states:1

When we have exhausted
   our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed
   ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end
   of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

A wonderful friend of mine has written a morning prayer on this subject. I give you some of her words:2

Quite literally, Lord, I am bleeding to death, so I press toward you this morning, because I realize I need only that which you can supply. It seems that I’m beholding you from afar. Although it is closer than I’ve ever been before, it is still not close enough to touch you. Do you know I’m here? Do you hear the pleading of my heart? Are you aware that I finally know that, without you, I can do nothing?

Just a touch this morning is all I need—no spouse’s touch, no physician’s touch, just your strengthening touch which will bring with it healing, wholeness and peace. Amen.

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1 Flint, Annie Johnson. He Giveth More Grace. Lillenas Publishing Co. 1941.

2 Ruffin, Clara V. “I Come With Issues.” From: He’s Prepared My Heart for Harvest. Hartford, Connecticut: Food for Thought, 1998. p. 18.

—Posted: Monday, May 22, 2017

 

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[Photo of <--description of image-->]


Whatever!

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is
admirable—if anything is excellent
or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
—Philippians 4:8

Do you catch yourself using the fad expression, “Whatever!”? I do. In our current culture, it has become an expression of resignation to something less than ideal we feel we have accept.

In the verse above, “whatever” indicates the importance of discrimination in choosing the things about which God expects us to think. He concerns Himself with not only what we do, but also with what we think about.

In Colossians 3:2, Paul admonishes us by saying:

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

The author of Hebrews, in Hebrews 3:1, says:

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus.

The list in Philippians contains descriptive adjectives we rarely use in our current culture: noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. Can we even define these words?

Christians, moved by God about their thoughts, will need to look in uncommon places to find such things on which to dwell. We can start with Scripture. How often do we put our minds to memorizing verses that God has brought to our attention? How many times God has brought to our awareness a verse that speaks to our needs?

We can also memorize the words to hymns that draw our attention to Christ. Many of us know familiar hymns, and with a little polishing could easily recite the texts from memory. The rhyme of the words and the tune will make remembering hymns even easier than memorizing Scripture verses.

I can’t count the number of times God has brought a line from a hymn to my mind while I’m praying to encourage me or counsel me. This kind of thinking fits perfectly with the adjectives in the verse at the beginning of this blog post.

Other beautiful and thought-worthy things with which we can fill our minds—uncommonly though they may occur in the surrounding culture—would include such things as good music, poetry, wholesome reading, nature walks, or conversation with uplifting friends.

Jesus said, as recorded in Mark 12:30:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Choosing to discipline our minds by thinking about praiseworthy things will help us go a long way toward fulfilling this command of our Lord.

Whatever! Indeed! Whatever fits the description of noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy! It takes discriminating taste and a mind to please our Lord. Let’s just think about that!

—Posted: Monday, May 15, 2017

 

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[Photo of woman with her head in her hand]


Because I Said So!

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.”
—Proverbs 25:2

“Because I said so!” How many times have we heard our mothers’ voices come from our own lips as we repeated those words? Most times we give good reasons when we want children to respond positively to our decisions. However, sometimes when the matter seems either too complicated, because children can’t have the privileged information we have, or because we don’t have either the time or energy to discuss it, this particularly adult response comes from our lips.

Fortunately, we can take some comfort from the fact that God has been known to deal with us in the very same way. In Scripture, we read the stories of Moses, Job, David, Naomi, and others whom God dealt with in mysterious ways.

Joseph, in prison in Egypt, certainly didn’t know what God had in His plan. God had given Joseph dreams about a future in leadership that he had accepted by faith, yet everything seemed to go the in wrong direction for him. Sold by his brothers into Egypt, he had eventually been falsely accused and was now prison! Where did he go wrong? Only years later did he find out God’s awesome and complicated plan to rescue him and the entire nation of Israel.

Sometimes nothing seems to make sense to us. I’m thinking about those times when God requires us to experience failure, pain, or loss; when we have done all we thought God was asking of us and still things don’t turn out well, at least according to our human reasoning.

I love this old hymn. Here are a few verses:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.1

Do we trust God’s love enough to allow Him to keep silent regarding His plan for us? Maybe we can’t understand the complication of the matter. Maybe He hasn’t given us privileged information that He alone has.

But, what we should know, deep in our innermost beings, is that He does not withhold information from us simply because, unlike us, He doesn’t have the energy or time.

The question we must ask ourselves, “Do we trust His authority and His wisdom when He says to us, ‘Because I said so!’”

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1 Cowper, William, God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Public Domain.

—Posted: Monday, May 8, 2017

 

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[Photo of a child hugging his parent]


Following Hard

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with
Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were
astonished, while those who followed were afraid.”
—Mark 10:32

Have you ever watched a child cling to a parent and constantly step on the parent’s shoes while watching something scary? That’s how I feel sometimes with God. Life is scary, and the surest Help I have comes from Him.

It seems that all of us follow God more closely when we feel the need for Him the most. Yet, truthfully, we need to acknowledge our need and cling to Him in all circumstances—including those in which we feel confident.

We can become lost in the crowd, or confused by the signals we see. I remember my first experience with a subway and my mother telling me I had to stay close because the door could close on me and leave me behind.

In the Authorized King James Version of Psalm 63:8, we read:

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

We need that kind of confidence in God every day and in every place. We know that He never leaves us or forsakes us. But, how often do we forget Him and wonder away?

The moral of this story can be summed up, “In order to keep from getting lost, facing scary things alone, and being able to hear the voice of our Savior, we need to stay close to Him at all times.” Let’s make that our aim this week.

—Posted: Monday, May 1, 2017

 

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[Photo of a girl hugging her dad]


All Will Be Well

“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me
and keep all my commands always, so that it might
go well with them and their children forever.”
—Deuteronomy 5:2

When everything seems to go wrong, when life gets really hard, when disappointment and pain accompany us every day, do we, as adults, just wish our father would come and soothe our worries by taking over and making things right? We long for these words, “Everything will be okay.”

When my younger sister learned she had a very aggressive cancer that might take her life, she said to her weeping grandchildren, “I’ll be okay. And, even if I’m not, everything will still be okay.” In other words, God will work everything out as we hope. Or, He will work out everything to go well, just as He has planned.

We read in Isaiah 3 about the judgment God was about to bring on Jerusalem and Judah. He warned them that supplies of food and water would dry up, the military, legal, and governmental supports would become destroyed. He warned about oppression and disaster. Yet, He tells His people this in verse ten:

“Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.”

Even when all seems hopeless, we can trust God to bring good out of any evil. In His goodness, He rewards our faith with joy and peace. Our Heavenly Father comes and assures us that He has everything under His control. And, because this is so, it will be well.

Let us allow this hymn text to encourage our faith today, no matter what our circumstances might be.

Through the love of God, our Savior,
All will be well;
Free and changeless is His favor,
All, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us,
Perfect is the grace that sealed us,
Strong the hand stretched out to shield us,
All must be well.

Though we pass through tribulation,
All will be well;
Ours is such a full salvation,
All, all is well.
Happy when in God confiding,
Fruitful if in Christ abiding,
Holy through the Spirit’s guiding,
All must be well.

We expect a bright tomorrow,
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All, all is well.
On our Father’s love relying,
Jesus ev’ry need supplying,
Or in living or in dying,
All must be well.1

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1 Peters, Mary. Through the Love of God, Our Savior. Public Domain.

—Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017

 

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[Photo of an Easter bonnet]


In Your Easter Bonnet

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a
manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
—Philippians 1:27

From early in the 20th century, people have known the lyrics to Irving Berlin’s “Easter Bonnet.”

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade…

Every year the Easter bonnet parade takes place along Fifth Avenue in New York City. As the years have gone by, the aim of most participants has grown increasingly to feature the most outlandish hats they can find, or build. However, once upon a time, the parade showed off the most beautiful and stylish of Easter outfits, topped off with “the hat.”

A genuine Easter outfit generally includes all pieces—dress, jacket, shoes, purse, and hat in a matching array, proudly displayed for its smart and “most together” choices. What would you say though, if in looking for a gorgeous, fitting outfit, you saw a beautiful Easter dress topped off with a pith helmet, or a beanie? Out of place. Right?

What if we viewed our Christian lives in the same way we examine an Easter outfit, intending for each piece to adorn Christ in holy living? In looking at us, could others conclude that our colors match, our gloves reveal the clean hands we pretend to possess, and our bonnet finishes off our attire in such a way that we well represent the beauty of Christ? Or, do we wear sinful and ugly components that improperly represent our Savior?

Like the Easter set of clothes, St. Paul, in Colossians 1:10-12, lists the accessories we should all possess in order to “adorn” the gospel of Christ:

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

As we put together our spring wardrobe, attempting to match every piece to make ourselves look appropriate, we should think about the spiritual likeness Christ desires for us. He wants to see us completely clothed with His adornments, with our word and our living matching in such a way to bring out the beauty of His life within us—and topped with the bonnet of His approval!

A blessed and Happy Easter.

—Posted: Monday, April 17, 2017-

 

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[Photo of a key card accessing an electronic door lock]


Access

“He came and preached peace to you who
were far away and peace to those who
were near. For through him we both
have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
—Ephesians 2:17-18

It’s not much of a perk, but I have security access at the hospital where I volunteer. Yes, my badge will get me into wings of the building where visitors cannot go. Similarly, those who have business in highly secured government buildings must go through lengthy security clearances, so that they can have access where they need it. They must show a badge or other certified proof of their right to enter.

When Jesus died on the cross and cried in a loud voice His final words, Matthew 27:51 records:

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

But what did that have to do with His death? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains:1

The temple at Jerusalem was divided into different places or courts. The most important place was the “holiest of all,” the innermost sanctuary, where the presence of God was revealed in the Shekinah glory over the mercy seat. And into that “holiest of all,” into the very presence of God, only one man was allowed to go. That was the high priest, and he only went in once a year.

Then there were the courts. The outermost court of all was called the “Court of the Gentiles.” They were the furthest away from God! They were not even allowed into the “Court of the People,” the Court of the Jews. The ordinary Jews were not allowed to go where the high priest went… They who were furthest away have been brought in, have been made nigh, in a most amazing manner… This is the position of all who are Christian.

What does this mean for us who have been born anew into God’s Kingdom? We now, by the gift of God’s grace, have an “access code” to the Father without any human intermediary. Jesus Himself became the eternal intermediary, in His role as our very own High Priest.

Hebrews 10:19-22 gives us this good news:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.

Jesus, by way of the cross, changed His throne of judgment into a throne of grace. We may, at any time, along with any Jews or Gentiles who claim Christ’s clearance, go to the Father directly in prayer. We no longer are treated as strangers, but as sons and daughters. We have access into the Holy of Holies, and have fellowship with God. What a wonderful Easter gift!

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1 Lloyd-Jones, D.Martyn. God’s Way of Reconciliation. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972. p. 182.

—Posted: April 10, 2017

 

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[Photo of a person breaking a loaf of bread]


Chosen, Blessed, Broken

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed,
took bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said, “This is my body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
—1 Corinthians 11:23-24

Usually, we throw things away that get broken. A broken pitcher doesn’t seem much use to us. Yet, in Scripture, we find examples of the way God breaks things in order to use them.

Jesus praised Mary of Bethany, who just before the Romans arrested Him, anointed Him with perfume. Previous to this, Mary had known His blessing and we read about this response in Mark 14:3-9:

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head… Jesus said, “Leave her alone… she did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus gave a powerful illustration of His coming sacrifice when He chose the bread, broke it, blessed it and gave it to His disciples. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes:1

He summarized in these gestures his own life. Jesus is chosen from all eternity, blessed at his baptism in the Jordan River, broken on the cross, and given as bread to the world. Being chosen, blessed, broken, and given is the sacred journey of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

When we take bread, bless it, break it, and give it with the words, “This is the Body of Christ,” we express our commitment to make our lives conform to the life of Christ. We too want to live as people chosen, blessed, and broken and thus become food for the world.

We must realize that to be truly used by God, we must, like He did, go through the breaking process. He will bless us and give us to others, expanding our small supply like He did the bread in the boy’s lunch (John 6:1-15).

During this Lenten season, may the bread and cup taken during our Holy Communion services remind us not only of Christ’s sacrifice for us, but for His intention for us to be given to others in His name.

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1 Quotation by Henri J. M. Nouwen from Bread for the Journey appearing in Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck. A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2003. p. 294.

—Posted: Monday, April 3, 2017

 

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[Photo of picking up rocks]


Stones That Cry Out

When he came near the place where the road goes
down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of
disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud
voices for all the miracles they had seen:…
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to
Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep
quiet, the stones will cry out.”
—Luke 19:37-39

I don’t know about you, but I don’t do a lot of thinking about stones. At this time of year, when I was growing up on the farm, my dad would scour the fields for stones and pile them in his barn wagon. He cleared them because of the damage they often do to the farm equipment.

But, as to the uses and symbolism of stones in the Scriptures, I have largely ignored them. Upon reading a devotional by the great 19th century preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, I took another look.

Spurgeon points out that stones could testify to the wisdom and power of their Maker, who through the eons of time, brought about the beauty in them of His handiwork.

[Photo of desert hills]

The stones could cry out about the way in which His Word breaks our hearts for Him. As our Breaker, Jeremiah 23:29 reminds us:

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord,” and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”

Spurgeon reminds us that the stones would cry out in praise for the way in which God as Builder polishes us as stones for a palace and puts us in place in His holy temple. Ephesians 2:22 tells us:

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The stones might also cry out as memorials, as pillars of remembrance, as the early tribe of Israel did, recorded in 1 Samuel 7:12:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”

Indeed, the greatest stone to cry out may well be the stone that had been rolled in front of the tomb where they laid the body of Jesus after His crucifixion. Here, we rejoice over the stone of victory, for Jesus never let the grave hold Him. On Easter morning, He resurrected from death and lives to promise us the same living future, if we accept His gift of salvation.

Spurgeon concludes:1

Stones might well cry out, but we will not let them: we will hush their noise with ours; we will break forth into sacred song, and bless the majesty of the Most High, all our days glorifying Him who is called by Jacob the Shepherd and Stone of Israel.

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1 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, Morning and Evening. McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Company, Public Domain. p. 167.

—Posted: Monday, March 27, 2017