A Prayer For Victims of Harvey

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Dear God,

Thank You for the many precious promises in Your Word that reassure us that the various sufferings that we face today are but for a short time, and are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us in the eternal ages to come.

Thank You that the pain we must endure is but for a season, and will give way to joys that are unspeakable and full of glory, knowing that we have been promised an eternal rest, when all tears will be wiped from our eyes.

All glory be to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves receive from the Lord - how we praise Your holy name,

Amen

Ways We Can Help Victims of Harvey

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General Relief

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner established a Harvey relief fund at The Greater Houston Community Foundation. The organization connects donors with a network of nonprofits and innovative solutions in the social sector.

GlobalGiving, which calls itself the largest global crowdfunding community, has a goal of raising $2 million for its Harvey relief fund. Funds will be used first for immediate needs of food, water and shelter and then transition to long-term recovery efforts.

United Way of Greater Houston has launched a relief fund for storm-related needs and recovery. The organization says it already maintains a disaster relief fund but anticipates the needs of Harvey will far exceed those existing resources.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has also launched a Hurricane Harvey relief fund. The organization says its strategy emphasizes "investing well rather than investing quickly, addressing the greatest needs and gaps in funding that may be yet to emerge."

GoFundMe, the social fundraising site, has created a landing page that gathers the campaigns on its platform related to Harvey.

The Salvation Army says it is providing food and water to first responders and preparing for massive feeding efforts for residents.

Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief says its teams began responding before Harvey made landfall and continues on-the-ground relief work.

Samaritan's Purse is accepting donations as well as volunteers for Harvey disaster relief for the coming months.

Blood

As well as the American Red Cross, local organizations accepting blood donations are Carter BloodCare and the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

Shelter

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County coordinates the city's response to homelessness, serving as "a backbone organization" to groups that offer direct service. It has been providing updated information on shelters with available beds.

Airbnb has set up an urgent accommodations site, where people can open their homes to evacuees from the storm or find shelter themselves. Service fees are waived for those who check in by Sept. 1.

Food

A number of food banks will be aiding the affected region. Consider donating money instead of food, as it allows a food bank to use your donation most efficiently.

Feeding Texas is a statewide nonprofit that works alongside state and federal relief efforts. The organization says it steps in during major disasters to "coordinate with the state and other providers so that relief reaches families quickly and the 'second disaster' of an unorganized response is avoided."

Here is its list of food banks in Texas likely to be affected by Harvey:

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Food Bank of the Golden Crescent (Victoria)

Corpus Christi Food Bank

Southeast Texas Food Bank (Beaumont)

Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (Pharr)

Brazos Valley Food Bank (Bryan)

Central Texas Food Bank (Austin)

San Antonio Food Bank

People With Disabilities

Portlight Strategies facilitates projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief work. The organization says its hotline for Inclusive Disaster Strategies has received urgent requests from people in need.

Kids

The Texas Diaper Bank, based in San Antonio, works to meet the basic needs of vulnerable babies, children with disabilities, and seniors. It focuses on providing partner agencies with diapers and goods.

Animals

The SPCA of Texas is organizing evacuations of pets in Texas (including 123 cats from a shelter in Corpus Christi) and offers resources on pet-friendly housing for evacuees.

Austin Pets Alive! says it has transported more than 235 animals to its shelter. The organization seeks donations, as well as people who can adopt animals. It says it has received so many donated supplies that it's running out of storage space, so financial donations are what it needs most.

Resources found HERE

Hurricane Harvey & Our Response to Pray and Help

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We’ve all been watching with concern these past few days as Hurricane Harvey ravages the countless communities and cities in South Texas. News reports continue to indicate that the storm’s heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding are unprecedented and exceeding expectations. According to ABC News, the United States government is responding through the deployment of 3,000 national and state guard service members, as well as 500 vehicles and 14 aircraft.

Although it is reassuring to see the ways government workers and officials are responding to the disaster, many still wonder: is there anything we can do to help? From far away, it is easy to feel powerless. Often, our immediate reaction is to try and find the nearest plane, train, or automobile, hitch a ride, and hope that our presence at the scene of the crisis will ultimately help serve those in need. Or, it is the exact opposite—we wring our hands and do nothing. But before you or anyone you know tries to go and singlehandedly rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, or just sits anxiously watching the television, here are some practical ways you can help right now.

First, pray. As Christ followers, our first inclination in times of struggle and strife should be to fix our eyes not on the disaster itself, but on the God who promises His steady presence throughout it. When we find ourselves slipping into dangerous patterns of worry on behalf of those in need, prayer is our best and surest remedy.

We can get together with fellow believers and pray for the safety of victims and their families. We can ask God to stop the storm and cause the floodwaters to recede. We can allow the Lord to reorient our hearts and fill our minds with the truth of His promises. He is, after all, the One who can calm every storm whether off the coast of Texas or in our very hearts.

Second, start thinking about the next opportunity today, and make plans to become a trained volunteer. Before a natural disaster is even on the Weather Channel’s radar, we can begin the work involved in preparing for its coming. Becoming an informed, well-trained volunteer will help ensure a more effective, timely relief effort in the event of natural disaster.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency formed Praise and Preparedness to help church congregations prepare themselves and their communities for natural disasters. According to Janay Stargell, GEMA’s faith-based and non-governmental organization coordinator, communities often look for “churches to help respond” during times of recovery from a disaster. As Christ’s Church, this gives us an incredible opportunity to be His hands and feet when disaster strikes, both at home in our own communities and beyond. But it takes preparing before the moment of crisis. You may not be ready to help on the ground today, but you could be ready for the next time of desperate need.

Third, be well informed. Even for those prayerfully engaging from a distance, it can be surprising how valuable knowledge of the situation and the victims’ specific needs can be. Sending socks, winter parkas, and snow boots is a nice gesture for victims of a snowstorm, but it would do nothing to assist victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Harvey today. That example is a bit silly, but it makes a point. There is always a way to find out the specific needs of a situation, and with all the communication today, it shouldn’t take you long to research. It’s a simple rule: before you try to help, make sure you know who you’re helping.

Last, consider donating. Even if you can’t go, you can help the relief workers and supplies get where they are most needed. In many cases, donations are just as effective as volunteer work. That being said, before writing the check or mailing the cash, it is important to find reputable, well-established relief agencies that are on the ground at the site of the disaster and ready to work. An arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board, promises donors that 100% of the donations they receive go directly to disaster relief efforts through their SEND Relief division. Groups like Convoy of Hope pride themselves on their rapid response times to ensure that victims get the help they need precisely when they need it. Also, consider other organizations that have good protocol during disaster relief times: Lutheran Church Missouri SynodSamaritan’s PurseReachGlobal (EFCA), and CAMA are just a few.

The One We Look To

Matthew 8 is a powerful example of what we are called to do when disasters are imminent and we feel out of control. We look to Jesus, the One who, by speaking a word, can calm all storms. We focus on Him, knowing that He is in control. And we do that by praying.

And then we follow Him into the disaster as He guides—whether through getting preparation for the next disaster or finding creative ways to help in the current crisis. Whatever He calls us to do, we can be sure of one thing: He isn’t calling us to do nothing. What we see on television impacts us whether we live in Texas or not. When one suffers, all suffer, and this can be the time when the Church shines the brightest.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Original article from Christianity Today

Blessings for the New School Year

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When my kids were young, I loved taking them to pick out their new backpacks, school supplies, clothes and shoes for school. We would spend the day knocking it all out at once as we store hopped on a determined buying mission. We checked it all off our lists as we braved the trenches of school supply aisles in the local super center. We would be armed and ready for whatever the new school year would bring.

As the first day of school closed in on us, endless questions plagued my anxious mind. Would the kids like their new teachers? Would they get to be in the same classroom as their best buddies?

We would all have to get into a new routine, back to making those bagged lunches and after school snacks. There would be rides to practices, and piles of homework. Of course there would always be a few extra trips to the school to schlep the carelessly forgotten gear, lunches, and assignments.

These days the school supplies in my family have been replaced with apartment furnishings, car insurance and college text books.

There are many times I wish I could go back to the days of making those early morning waffles floating in maple syrup before school. Those days that seemed so rushed, stressed and hurried now are just cherished memories of a time I wish I could have back again. It has flown by so quickly and without my permission. They are suddenly grown and gone.

I realized that as we are reluctantly handing our kids over to new teachers, dorms, coaches, and even their own apartments, we can simultaneously hand them over to the complete, unchanging, infinite, protection of God!

He can and will be there to pick up the slack for us weary, anxious, parents. We can trust Him to always be there when we cannot. Whether our kids are coloring at the first grade art table or they are 500 miles away from us on a college campus, We can trust that our almighty God is watching over them and He will never leave them nor forsake them (see Hebrews13:5).

I like to start my mornings, coffee and Bible in hand, sitting on my back patio with my dog curled up next to me. It's where I have my morning prayer time with God. It is where I hand it all over, my concerns, fears and worries and ask Him to amazingly bless the days of my children. I ask for His ultimate protection over them. I visualize them covered in the full, securing, armor of God. I pray that His perfect will be done in their lives, and that they would make wise choices according to His word. I ask for His unceasing favor and noble grace to be upon them. I ask for Him to send a legion of His heavenly angels to surround my children continuously and to pluck them out of harms way. I pray for wonderful Christian friends and teachers to surround them. I visualize the mighty hand of God holding them up, so safe and protected, so strong, changeless and unfailing. Then as I continue on in my day, I know that my words will not return to me void (see Isaiah 55:11). I know God has heard me and if it is His will, He will honor my requests.

So as we begin this and all new school years and as we are diligently packing up the school gear, waking the kids up early, and sending them out the door, let's send them securely wrapped in the Lord's arms with an abundance of favor and blessings heaped upon them, dressed in their new shoes and of course in the full armor of God!!

By Nina Keegan, find the original article HERE

How to Embrace Rest When Work Never Ends

After every vacation, my husband inevitably returns to work buried in emails. Since he’s in sales he always has customers in need of his product, so while he might be on vacation from work, his customers are not. In an ever-connected digital age, work never stops.

My experience after a vacation is a little different. While I may not come home to an inbox full of emails, I return to another monstrosity—laundry. Maybe it’s my season of life (three kids younger than 3) or maybe it’s just the fact that there are five people in our house, but laundry is my overflowing inbox. Everything else takes a vacation when we are gone (the cleaning, the cooking, and so on), but the laundry just keeps coming. It sleeps for no one.

Whatever part of your work is overflowing when you end your vacation, we all face this dilemma, don’t we? What do we do with the work that never ends? Taking it a step further, can rest sometimes look like work?

Work vs. Play

Since work is a fluid part of my life, with no real beginning and end, a question keeps arising in my own mind, and maybe in yours as well: What’s the difference between rest and play? Is it resting to read a book to your child? Is it resting to eat dinner when you open your home for hospitality? It can be difficult to discern what’s work and what’s play when it all melds together.

But if work is about people, our rest is as well. Just as we’re tempted to view our work as done for our own glory, we’re tempted to view our rest the same way. I see this in my own life when I lament my lack of rest—by which I mean I haven’t had a break from my kids in a while. But I can rest while watching a show with them, playing soccer with them outside, or eating dinner with them. Sometimes rest is watching Netflix by myself, and sometimes it’s eating pizza in the living room with my kids.

As Kevin DeYoung observes, “Effective love is rarely efficient. People take time. Relationships are messy.” Anyone who spends any amount of time investing in people knows this to be true. DeYoung isn’t saying we don’t rest when our work involves people; he’s simply saying a people-oriented life might change the way our rest looks—or might make us even busier than we intended to be. He goes on to write, “Stewarding my time is not about selfishly pursuing only the things I like to do. It’s about effectively serving others in the ways I’m best able to serve and in the ways I am most uniquely called to serve.” I long assumed I can only rest when doing the things I want to do, the things I find restful. But rest is sometimes about enjoying my kids, enjoying the fruit of my labors.

We view rest and work as things that exist for us. But they don’t.

Rest as Neighbor Love

Marva Dawn, author of Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, says that this view of rest actually frees us to love people more, since we aren’t seeing them as a means to an end:

When we are not under the compulsion to be productive, we are given the time to dwell with others, to be with them and thereby to discover who they are.

Rest is about people as much as work is. People aren’t efficient, and can sometimes be draining, but they’re part of our Sabbath rest.

The church community must be our accountability here. We can serve our fellow believers in their quest for rest by helping with chores around their home, participating in a restful activity together, and even encouraging the weary to sleep. This is another reminder that, along with the work itself, the rest from it is a community effort. Left to ourselves, we would either be lazy or workaholics.

By embracing time in our Sabbath rest, we’re free to love others in our resting. Since we’re not bound to productivity or a schedule, people aren’t a hindrance to those things. Dawn notes that if we’re resting in God’s grace, we can fold others into that freedom also. When our kids interrupt us, but it doesn’t derail our day. When our neighbor needs help moving a piece of furniture, and we can joyfully serve. In our resting we’re not a slave to the clock. In Christ, we’re free to serve because he’s the Lord of the Sabbath. Dawn procceds to say that this ceasing opens us up for inefficient things like “sitting quietly together and enjoying each other’s company.” Without the demands of life and work, we aren’t blinded to the people in front of us. Rest gives us the chance to value the people for whom we labor every day.

While we might cease from work in our rest, we don’t cease from delight. Our resting makes way for feasting. And our ceasing makes way for embracing and loving others. Of course, this requires a shift in our thinking. Work and rest are about loving our neighbor. Work and rest are about worshiping God and enjoying the good things he has given us. Yes, balance is needed. Personality types and seasons of life determine how much individual rest we need. But it’s not all about our own personal gratification.

Sometimes our rest includes others (like playing with our children), and sometimes it’s just us. But it’s always about God. 

Article by Courtney Reissig / Click here to read the original article

What Does it Really Mean to #Blessed?

Feeling blessed is in vogue. 

A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble. 

College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed.

As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God? 

The Good Life

For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life.

But does it? If someone had all those things, would they be extraordinarily blessed? 

Rather than turning to God, they might feel self-sufficient and proud. Perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous. After all, their hard work would be yielding good fruit.

Moreover, they wouldn’t need to cry out to God for deliverance; everything would already be perfect. They wouldn’t need to trust God; they could trust in themselves. They wouldn’t need God to fill them; they would already be satisfied.

God’s Richest Blessings

My desire for God is greatly fueled by my need. And it is in the areas of loss where I feel my need most intensely. Unmet desires keep me on my knees. Deepen my prayer life. Make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.

Earthly blessings are temporary; they can all be taken away. Job’s blessings all disappeared in one fateful day. I, too, had a comfortable life that was stripped away within a span of weeks. My marriage dissolved. My children rebelled. My health spiraled downward. My family fell apart. My dreams were shattered. 

And yet, in the midst of those painful events, I experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could.

While my trials were not blessings in themselves, they were channels for them. As Laura Story asks in her song “Blessings,” “What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if trials of this life — the rain, the storms, the hardest nights — are your mercies in disguise?”

This revolutionary idea of blessing is also firmly established in Scripture.

The Common Thread

One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connect blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:

“Suffering and trials are not blessings in themselves, but they are channels for God’s grace.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–410–11)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. (Romans 4:7; quoting Psalm 32:1)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1319:9)

There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus. 

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).

What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that. 

Truly Blessed

“Unmet desires keep me on my knees and make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.”

Pain and loss transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what he can do or achieve for us. 

In pain and loss, we long for Presence. We long to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Great families, financial wealth, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in his gifts.

God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.

Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner, a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Desiring God. Click HERE to read the original article.

Fresh Ways to Refocus Your Mindset on God's Word

There are many ways to focus your mind on "what is above" (see Colossians 3:1-2). If you're feeling a bit stuck, try developing fresh habits. Whether you're getting back to spiritual disciplines, just starting out, or in the middle of a long run, here are some ideas you may want to try:

  • Write a prayer that expresses your heartfelt desire to follow God in this season of your life. If you keep it somewhere close, then you have a starting point for your daily time with God.
  • Read one Psalm each day.
  • Use a journal. You can write your prayers to God. You can list concerns or what you're grateful for. You can write the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what God is doing in your life.
  • Stop and listen. Too often we feel we aren't doing anything if we aren't doing anything. That's not true. Sit before God in silence, inviting Him to recalibrate your soul (see Psalm 46:10).
  • Practice posturing. Allow your body to reflect your heart. Bow low in humility before God, get on your knees in prayer, or hold your hands out in acknowledgement that anything you receive comes from God.
  • Get a Bible dictionary and read some background information about the Bible passage you're reading. Understand more about the ears those words first fell on. You might read something in a whole new light (see Psalm 119:33-35).
  • Think more deeply about small bits. Let that one verse roll around in your mind for a few minutes instead of reading five more verses. Give God room to surprise you with insight. If you read only three verses in that sitting, that's OK (see Psalm 119:47-48).
  • Pray Scripture back to God. Pick a passage and pray the same one for a week at a time, allowing it to fully sink in.
  • Get really honest with God. Let go of old ideas about how you "should" approach God. Pour out your heart to Him (see Psalm 62:8). Trust Him to be big enough to handle whatever you're dealing with.

Read the original article here

25 Ways to Spend Time with God on the Go

Are you longing to spend refreshing moments with God, your Bible, and a cup of coffee? The most important thing we can do as we minister to the next generation is to ensure that our relationship with God is strong. And devoted daily time with God is critical.

Sometimes, though, we miss those times and can run on empty spiritually. Is lack of time forcing you to abandon your dream of a time alone with God each day? Instead of rushing off on a guilt trip, use these 25 tips to spend time with God on the go!

  1. As you drive around, tune in to a Christian station or play your favorite praise and worship music. Don’t be afraid to sing along as you drive. No one can hear you. And besides, your smile will be contagious.
  2. Sing your favorite praise songs as you mop up your chores.
  3. Whenever you’re faced with a dilemma, thank God for being with you in the midst of it. Then ask God to give you wisdom.
  4. Count your blessings whenever you write a check. Thank God for providing for you.
  5. On a 3X5 card, make a list of people who need prayer. Beside each name, jot a note to remind you of that person’s prayer need. Post the note in your kitchen. While you prepare a meal or clean up, glance at the list and pray.
  6. As you drive to work, think about each staff member. Create a prayer acrostic for each person to help you pray for him or her. For example, T — time he wants with his family; O — obedience to God even when it hurts; and M — ministry with fifth-graders will flourish.
  7. When you see a school, skyscraper, hospital, prison, business, or cult meeting area, ask God to break the power of the enemy on the lives of the people inside.
  8. At the sound of an approaching siren, ask God to protect the people involved in the emergency. Pray that God’s love will shine into that situation.
  9. If a face stands out in a crowd, pray for God’s blessing and guidance in that person’s life.
  10. Stuck in a traffic jam again? Don’t sweat it; pray for the other motorists around you.
  11. Get some fresh air and a renewed spirit with a listening walk — even if it’s only a quick trot to the mailbox or a whirl around the grocery store. Ask God to speak to you. Listen quietly for God’s voice.
  12. Whenever you look at your watch, take time to ask for God’s presence to guide you through the day.
  13. When you stop at a stop sign, stop and pray for someone in your family.
  14. Pray for your city, country, and leaders whenever you see a flag.
  15. Whenever you think of someone who has wronged you, ask God to give you the grace to forgive the person.
  16. If someone is rude to you, ask God to bless the person.
  17. As you kiss family members goodbye, ask God to bless and protect them through their day.
  18. Instead of looking at your speedometer when you pass a policeman, pray for his or her protection. Do the same for firefighters.
  19. Pick a different neighbor family to pray for each week. Whenever you pass their home, ask God to bless them and pray for any needs you know of.
  20. Whenever you see a cross, remember that Jesus died for you. Thank God for the gift of his Son.
  21. If you drive through the country, let the sight of sheep remind you of your good shepherd. Thank God for his love and care.
  22. Allow the sight of stained glass to remind you of the stains Christ removed from your life. Thank God.
  23. Leave your Bible by the television. Before you turn your television on, read a verse or two from Proverbs or Psalms.
  24. Trade Bible teaching tapes with your friends or church library and listen while you work.
  25. Listen to the Bible as you run errands in your car or wash dishes.

Read the original article here

5 Ways to Stay Strong in Your Faith During the Summer

by BRODY MCCURDY  

The school year is finally coming to a close and as we start to climb the giant mountain that is exam season, we are finally catching a glimpse of the promised land we have been waiting for since the first few days of school – summertime! The time for hanging out with friends, vegging out on the couch, taking cool trips, and of course bingeing on all the shows and movies that homework/studying prevented you from watching. 

But when it comes to our spiritual lives, summertime can be a time of spiritual dryness – a time when we fall off our spiritual path – especially when some youth groups don’t meet as often, if at all during the two months of summer break.

During the school year, youth groups serve as places where we can reenergize and rest from the many spiritual battles of the week – a place where we can talk spiritual strategy, encourage one another, and learn from our mistakes so that we can jump back into the battle, armed and ready for whatever weekly challenges lie ahead. But when this isn’t available to us during the summer, what can we do? How can we grow spiritually when it feels like we are left to fend for ourselves?

Pondering these questions, I challenged myself to investigate the best ways to prevent a summer vacation from turning into a temporary vacation from God and compiled them into this short survival guide so that you can be prepared for the months ahead.

1. Shoot for the Moon

Forgive me if I sound like a DIY self-improvement book, but one of the keys to accomplishing anything – in this case staying spiritually fit during the summer – is setting goals for yourself. And just like heading to the gym, learning a new language, or mastering the art of Kung fu, you have to set objectives or resolutions for your spiritual life in order to make/continue any progress.

Set reasonable goals for yourself, like making a commitment to pray a decade of the rosary every day or reading a small part of the Bible every morning, and be creative. I once had a friend who made entering the bathroom a reminder for her to pray. Although this might sound strange, designating a space (i.e. bathroom, the car, a classroom) you use daily to remind yourself of your goals (i.e. praying) is not only creative, but extremely effective.

2. Gather

I think one of the most important parts of youth group is the support that the members provide one another throughout the spiritual highs and lows we encounter. This network of support acts like a harness that keeps us from flying away during the twists and turns we so often face on a daily basis – and this support doesn’t have to end when youth group isn’t in session.

A great way to continue and deepen in our faith journey during the summer is to form a community of friends with whom we can build trust and establish relationships. In this way we can create a group of people (or even just one person) that can hold one another accountable, support one another, pray together, have fun and enjoy each other’s company. As Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

3. Answer the Call to Serve

By living out our faith it can grow tremendously. As stated in James 2:14-26, faith without works is dead, and thus service is the very embodiment of our faith put into action. Jesus calls on us to be His hands and feet to our neighbors and local communities by completing the Spiritual and Physical Works of mercy.

With no school, summer is a great time to meet Christ face to face out in the community through various volunteering opportunities like helping out at your church’s Vacation Bible School and/or CCD, or volunteering at a soup kitchen that serves the less fortunate in your area.

In any case find a cause or service you are passionate about and pursue it, not for the service hours, but for the greater glory of God. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body on earth now but yours” so this summer, be Christ’s body, live out your faith, and answer His call to serve.

4. Read Books for the Soul

Reading the Word of God is an essential part in any Christian’s spiritual journey, and thankfully it is the most widely available book in the world. But for many of us, we treat the Bible more as a paperweight than as the inspired Word of God, and it sits on a counter or bookshelf, untouched, unread, and unused.

Make this the summer that changes that.

Reading the Bible can seem like an insurmountable task. Its sheer length and complexity are enough to scare of any determined soul – and many times it is this seeming difficulty that prevents us from peeking into the book’s contents.

That’s why you need to find an approach that works best for you, whether that’s finding an app/website (see below) that gives you the Bible verse of the day, or setting a time or place where you commit yourself to reading a chapter of one of the gospels – anything, even the slightest steps, that gets you into the Word every day. 

But you don’t have to stop there. Because Christianity has been around for 2,000 years, there have been countless books written by amazing Christians who have gone before us. These authors, many of them saints, have walked the walk and have talked the talk and can help us do the same. These are some of the works I recommend, but there is no end to the list of spiritual reading: St. Thérèse of Lisieux (Story of a Soul), C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Space Trilogy, A Case for the Christian Faith), G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, The Father Brown Detective Series), St. Teresa of Avila (Interior Castle), The writings Mother Teresa (Come Be My Light), the Liturgy of the Hours, (a book that contains daily prayers, devotions, and scripture readings that every priest, nun, brother and deacon carries with them) and much, much more.

5. Stay Connected

We, undeniably, live in a highly connected world in which we are bombarded 24/7 with status updates, posts, and news feeds on social media – but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. There are also countless websites, apps, and Facebook pages that can shine the light of the Good News while you surf or scroll in the heat of the summer.

Read the original article here

Are you looking to the cross to find your way?

I am in a part of the world I've never been in before, St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands. It's near the equator that separates the northern and southern hemisphere's. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The water color is dark navy blue, light blue, and turquoise.

Last night, the boat captain pointed out that when you are this far south there are four stars that form a perfectly shaped cross, called, "the southern cross."

For centuries sailors have used the southern cross and the north star as guideposts for navigation. If they get disoriented they look to the cross to find their way. 

Jesus died willingly on the cross for you and me so that we can have eternal life if we believe in him. Are you looking to the cross to find your way? Jesus is waiting for you to ask him into your life so he can help you find your way.

Taking God with You

In Hebrews 13:5, God says 'I will never leave you nor forsake you." But are you actively taking God with you wherever you go? Here are 25 ways you can make God a part of your daily routine: 

  1. As you drive around, tune in to a Christian station or play your favorite praise and worship music. Don’t be afraid to sing along as you drive. No one can hear you. And besides, your smile will be contagious.
  2. Sing your favorite praise songs as you mop up your chores.
  3. Whenever you’re faced with a dilemma, thank God for being with you in the midst of it. Then ask God to give you wisdom.
  4. Count your blessings whenever you write a check. Thank God for providing for you.
  5. On a 3X5 card, make a list of people who need prayer. Beside each name, jot a note to remind you of that person’s prayer need. Post the note in your kitchen. While you prepare a meal or clean up, glance at the list and pray.
  6. As you drive to work, think about each staff member. Create a prayer acrostic for each person to help you pray for him or her. For example, T — time he wants with his family; O — obedience to God even when it hurts; and M — ministry with fifth-graders will flourish.
  7. When you see a school, skyscraper, hospital, prison, business, or cult meeting area, ask God to break the power of the enemy on the lives of the people inside.
  8. At the sound of an approaching siren, ask God to protect the people involved in the emergency. Pray that God’s love will shine into that situation.
  9. If a face stands out in a crowd, pray for God’s blessing and guidance in that person’s life.
  10. Stuck in a traffic jam again? Don’t sweat it; pray for the other motorists around you.
  11. Get some fresh air and a renewed spirit with a listening walk — even if it’s only a quick trot to the mailbox or a whirl around the grocery store. Ask God to speak to you. Listen quietly for God’s voice.
  12. Whenever you look at your watch, take time to ask for God’s presence to guide you through the day.
  13. When you stop at a stop sign, stop and pray for someone in your family.
  14. Pray for your city, country, and leaders whenever you see a flag.
  15. Whenever you think of someone who has wronged you, ask God to give you the grace to forgive the person.
  16. If someone is rude to you, ask God to bless the person.
  17. As you kiss family members goodbye, ask God to bless and protect them through their day.
  18. Instead of looking at your speedometer when you pass a policeman, pray for his or her protection. Do the same for firefighters.
  19. Pick a different neighbor family to pray for each week. Whenever you pass their home, ask God to bless them and pray for any needs you know of.
  20. Whenever you see a cross, remember that Jesus died for you. Thank God for the gift of his Son.
  21. If you drive through the country, let the sight of sheep remind you of your good shepherd. Thank God for his love and care.
  22. Allow the sight of stained glass to remind you of the stains Christ removed from your life. Thank God.
  23. Leave your Bible by the television. Before you turn your television on, read a verse or two from Proverbs or Psalms.
  24. Trade Bible teaching tapes with your friends or church library and listen while you work.
  25. Listen to the Bible as you run errands in your car or wash dishes.

These tips were taken from Children's Ministry Magazine, read the full article HERE

The Season for New Beginnings

It's the season for new beginnings, new eras, and new commitments. High school and college graduations are happening all over the world! A lot of people are very excited but also may be a little nervous as well. No matter what transition is going on in your life, don't forget to PRAY! Sometimes we don't know how to pray or what to ask for, so we are going to be posting prayers for the next couple of weeks to get you started. Below is a prayer for transition, we encourage you to pray this prayer with those in your life who are experiencing change. 

Dear Lord, 

As I start a new era and a new chapter in my life, please guide and direct me to the path you have chosen for me. Block my way if I go the wrong direction. I am available to you, please give me YOUR wisdom and knowledge. Help me be aware and attentive to what is going on around me, so I can see how you are working in my life. 

I trust you Lord, it is in YOUR name, the name of Jesus I pray these things, 

Amen

When You Feel Like you Have Lost Everything...

When you pray, are you asking God for something? Do you thank Him when he answers your prayers? Do you see how he is working in your life? Do you feel God blesses you? Even in a crisis? 

As you might have heard East Texas was in the path of 5 tornadoes April 29th, 2017.

I drove to Canton, Texas to volunteer and help bring food, water, encouragement, prayer, and the Amazing Grace booklets to the survivors of the devastating storm system, I call them little “love gifts.” I had never done this before, and I had no idea what to expect. As I pulled into an area that was in the path of the tornado, it amazed me that more people didn’t die*.

When I heard about the storms, I began to pray immediately for the people in the path of the storms and God heard my prayers along with everyone else who was praying as well.

As I drove down the country roads to deliver “love gifts” to people, I wasn’t sure how they would respond. I smiled really big as I approached a man cleaning up his yard and said, “Hi! I’ve brought you some food and water.” He was so appreciative, and I found out his is a policeman. His girlfriend was so appreciative and nice. She told us the whole story of what happened. I told them, “even though I don’t know your names, I was praying for you.” The man’s eyes teared up, and he said, “I know that’s what got us through.” He got choked up, the so did I. My friend Joy, who is part of the AmazingGrace.Life team asked, “Can we pray for you?” So the six of us stood there in the midst of crushed trees, and metal wrapped around phone poles, and prayed. Joy thanked the Lord for sparing their lives and prayed for continued health and safety throughout the days ahead. She prayed for a lot of things, but mainly thanking the Lord for these people. That he saved them from injury and death. As she closed the prayer, she prayed, “and we pray all of this in the name of Jesus.” I noticed the man had taken his hat off to pray and again his eyes filled with tears.

We talked to a lot of people that day, and I was so encouraged that they had such a good attitude, they seemed happy and were so appreciative of our small little love gifts. They were happy because they were alive! God answered so many prayers that night. These people were blessed and spared by God. They had lost everything, and they were not afraid to say, “God has His hand on us.” They knew, because they experienced God’s grace and protection in the midst of the storm.. literally!

These people have a story. It’s their story. God intervened and saved their lives. They will forever be grateful for His mercy and protection. Like the man said, “God was with us.”

So even though these people lost everything, they were thankful to God for what they had… eachother, their lives being spared, and a new understanding of the power of prayer.

*Unfortunately, several people died in the storm. I did not meet anyone that knew that families of those that passed away. My heart goes out to them, and I pray for the Lord to bring them peace and comfort.

 

 

Lent: Day 39: Come to the Lord

Last August, my husband and I went to Seattle for a Christian counseling conference. The entire city was experiencing an “unprecedented heat wave” of 80-degree days, which to us felt like a welcome reprieve from the sweltering weather we’d been suffering in Tennessee. On the second to last day of the conference, we noticed another couple at our table smirk when the facilitator apologized yet again for the weather, and quickly struck up a conversation about our common hatred of humidity.

As it turned out, they were from Atlanta, and since we only had a few minutes to chat, the couple asked if we wanted to join them that night for dinner. They’d had reservations for their anniversary at an acclaimed waterfront restaurant for more than six months, but the wife assured me that she could call and get the hostess to add two more seats to the table.

What unfolded that night over dinner was nothing short of the gospel. As the sun melted into the water, our conversation went wide and deep, covering the vast terrain of our lives. We tasted grilled octopus and braised lamb shoulder and homemade pastas. When the entrees arrived, Patrick and I ordered the most expensive bottle of wine we could afford, hoping to offer a small gesture of gratitude to our new friends for sharing their anniversary reservation with us. I still remember looking at the price and wondering if we’d gone a little overboard. But this night was special; there was something providential about it. 

Several hours later, I noticed the waitress drop a black folded book in front of our new friends. I elbowed my husband in the ribs hard—the universal wife-code for ‘get out your wallet!’—but it was too late. The check had been paid. A signature was already on the bottom of the receipt. 

“But,” I started, embarrassed. “That was a really expensive meal. We wanted to…” I looked to Patrick for back-up. “…This was your anniversary!”

It’s hard to think of the extravagance of that night without imagining the extravagance of Jesus. Isaiah paints us a picture of the most opulent love—a free gift available to anyone and everyone. No one is excluded. No one is unwelcome. Our God says, “Come!” He prepares a table before us with food—not just for our bodies, but for our souls. And it costs us nothing. The view from that table will be magnificent because our host, our friend, is the Son of God. 

Isaiah and Jesus invite all to come. But as the bride of Christ, we, too, can join in offering the invitation, which echoes from the Old Testament straight through the book of Revelation:

The Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, Come! Whoever is thirsty let him come and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17

Let nothing keep us from joining in the feast. For as gracious as our God has been in His invitation, not one of us can fathom the goodness He’s prepared for us—for all who love Him—in the days to come (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

Thanks be to God.

By Claire Gibson

Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

Original article from She Reads Truth

What does the Bible say about overcoming grief?

Grief is an emotion common to the human experience, and we witness the process of grief throughout the biblical narrative. Multiple Bible characters experienced deep loss and sadness, including Job, Naomi, Hannah, and David. Even Jesus mourned (John 11:35Matthew 23:37-39). After Lazarus died, Jesus went to the village of Bethany, where Lazarus was buried. When Jesus saw Martha and the other mourners weeping, He also wept. He was moved by their grief and also by the fact of Lazarus’s death. The astounding thing is that, even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He chose to partake of the grief of the situation. Jesus truly is a high priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15).

One step in overcoming grief is having the right perspective on it. First, we recognize that grief is a natural response to pain and loss. There is nothing wrong with grieving. Second, we know that times of grief serve a purpose. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” This verse implies that grief can be good because it can refresh our perspective on life. Third, we remember that feelings of grief are temporary. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). There is an end to mourning. Grief has its purpose, but it also has its limit.

Through it all, God is faithful. There are many Scriptures that remind us of God’s faithfulness in times of mourning. He is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). When David sorrowed, he prayed this in Psalm 56:8: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (ESV). The touching image of God catching our tears is full of meaning. He sees our grief and does not disdain it. Like Jesus entered into the grief of the mourners in Bethany, God enters into our grief. At the same time, He reassures us that all is not lost. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “be still” and rest in the knowledge that He is God. He is our refuge (Psalm 91:1-2). He works all things together for the good of those He has called (Romans 8:28).

An important part of overcoming grief is expressing it to God. The Psalms contain numerous examples of pouring out one’s heart to God. Interestingly, the psalmist never ends where he began. He may start a psalm with expressions of grief, but, almost invariably, he will end it with praise (Psalm 13Psalm 23:4Psalm 30:11-12Psalm 56). God understands us (Psalm 139:2). When we commune with Him, we are able to open our minds to the truth that He loves us, that He is faithful, that He is in control, and that He knows how He is going to work it out for our good.

Another important step in overcoming grief is to share it with others. The body of Christ is designed to ease the burdens of its individual members (Galatians 6:2), and fellow believers have the ability to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Often, the grieving tend to shun others, increasing feelings of isolation and misery. It is much healthier to seek counseling, and group settings can be invaluable. Groups offer listening ears and helpful encouragement, camaraderie, and guidance in working through the grief. When we share our stories with God and others, our grief is lessened.

Sadly, grief is part of the human experience. Loss is part of life, and grief is a natural response to loss. But we have the hope of Christ, and we know that He is strong enough to carry our burdens (Matthew 11:30). We can give our hurt to Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We can find solace in the Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Paraclete (John 14:16). In grief, we cast our burdens on Him, rely on the community of the church, delve into the truth of the Word, and ultimately experience hope (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Read the original article HERE

Overcoming Anxiety

Historians will probably call our era “the age of anxiety.” Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us. —Billy Graham

When Billy Graham wrote those words in 1965, no one knew how true they would be 50 years later.

At its best, anxiety distracts us from our relationship with God and the truth that He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (Matthew 11:25). At its worst, anxiety is a crippling disease, taking over our minds and plunging our thoughts into darkness.

But God wants so much more for us than to walk through life full of fear, worry and anxiety.

“Do not be anxious about anything,” the Bible tells us in the book of Philippians, chapter 4, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our instructions don’t stop there. The chapter goes on to tell believers exactly what we should focus on. And it’s not fear, terrorism, illness, death or evil.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praisethink about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9, ESV, emphasis added).

The first step to an anxiety-free mind is to give your life to Jesus Christ. Once you’ve taken that step, it’s important to fix your thoughts on Jesus and the promise that He is preparing a place for His followers in heaven (John 14:2-3).

Below are some resources meant to help you overcome fear and anxiety and live life the way Jesus teaches us—a life full of faith, truth, hope, peace and joy:

 True peace comes from a relationship with Jesus. Choose peace with God today.

Read the original article on BillyGraham.org

Taking God with Me Wherever I Go

When I was a girl, I loved listening to Amy Grant sing.  Her songs were so powerful, evoking deep emotions, bringing healing as she sang about things that resonated with me.  We sometimes feel a sense of isolation and a haunting longing.  It’s really just the desire to belong.  Listening to Amy Grant’s songs, I thought someone else understood: what it was to be sad, to be happy, to want to cry, to celebrate.  Last week I found myself having lunch with Amy Grant, and listening to her sing again, while she talked about her journey in life.  It amazed me how decades had passed, and yet she still tracks with women like me as she sings about life’s ups and downs.  Then she said something that really resonated.
 
In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God. 
 
I realized that her ability to minister to women through music comes from a deep faith in the Lord Jesus.  She has leaned on Him herself for years, and uses language and music to express how He has carried her through joys and sorrows.  It’s the language that carries the power.  Words.  The Word.
 
Thinking about how to take God with me wherever I go, I have pondered the reality of practicing His presence.  He is omnipresent.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  I know in my head that it’s true.  He is the creator of the universe.  But my heart and soul sometimes still feel alone.  During a time of deep grief C.S. Lewis once said, “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and the sound of bolting and double bolting inside.  After that, silence.”  I’ve felt that alone.  But God IS with me, always.  How do I take hold of that head knowledge and make it heart knowledge?  It’s language that has always been key for me.  It’s His word. The power is in the WORD. 

“Is not my Word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29

I can practice His presence by meditating on His word.  I can chase away fear when I speak His word aloud.  I take Him with me by recalling verses I’ve memorized.  When I am joyful, I try to recite praise from the Psalms.  When I am lonely, I turn to Psalms of lament.  When I am afraid, I speak His name aloud, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”  Just the sound of His name is powerful.           
       

There are so many wonderful scripture tools we can use.  Bible verses appear in almost every medium.  On my computer, on my coffee cup, on my phone.  I’ve found that the slow process of soaking in His word, reading it every day, having it in my view throughout the day in myriad ways, has burned some into my memory.  But I don’t have to memorize it.  The discipline of reading it every day nourishes my heart. I have it with me wherever I go.  I always have my phone.  I keep a copy of the Psalms in my purse.  That’s how I take God with me wherever I go.  Because really, I am not taking Him with me, I’m just practicing His presence.  Because He goes before me, beside me, and brings up my rear guard.  That knowledge begins to seep from my head into my heart when I am intentional about the language of God.  His Word. 
           

C.S. Lewis later described emerging from his deep grief.  He surmised that he couldn’t feel God’s presence when he needed Him most because he was consumed by his own thoughts.  His self-focus drowned out the voice he really wanted to hear, “like a drowning man who cannot be helped because he clutches or grabs.”  I want to take God with me always, or practice His divine presence, by thinking of Him wherever I go.  I don’t want to clutch and grab only when I am desperate.  I choose the discipline of carving out intentional time to read his word.  Some days I fail.  But His mercies are new every morning.  So I pick up my bible and read when the sun comes up.  Or look at my coffee cup verse.  Or my phone app with scripture.  His Word.  And the Word was God. With me wherever I go. 

Second Chances

Have you ever had a second chance before? I'm talking about any kind of second chance. For example, you escaped near death in a car accident or heart attack, or your parents gave you a "second chance" (probably 3, 4 or even 5 chances), a policeman gives you a "warning" and not a ticket. There are multiple ways you can receive a second chance.

I feel like God has given me many second chances! I've failed so many times and worst of all, I have failed God, but He continues to love me and give me second chances every day. When you ask Jesus into your heart, you are receiving a second chance! He will come into your life and transform it if you will let Him. God gives His favor to those that honor Him, love Him, and give Him glory. If you are not walking with God, how can you expect Him to bless you or give you a second chance?

God wants you to follow Him. Our hope is that AmazingGrace.Life will be a great a resource for you as you seek Him. 

Three Reasons Why History Matters to the Christian Faith

Did the events recorded in the pages of Scripture really happen in history? And does it matter? The short answer is … Yes and Yes! By the way, the longer answer is still yes and yes … but this is a short article, not a book.

Here are 3 reasons why history matters to the Christian faith.

(1) Biblical faith is not blind faith. Reason and evidence play an important role in the life of faith. God created us as rational beings with the capacity to weigh evidence and draw conclusions about what we are experiencing. We are called to give reasons for faith (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16).

I for one am so encouraged that when John the Baptist struggled with doubt and sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he truly was the long awaited Messiah that Jesus didn’t respond with an austere warning to just have more faith.

No, Jesus reminded John to pay attention to what he had heard and what he had seen — that will give you confidence of my true identity (cf. Matthew 11:2-5). Mere belief for the sake of belief is not true Christianity.

(2) The Central claim of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead. If you asked the Apostle Paul, he would agree that faith and history go together. If Jesus “has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). As Nancy Pearcey observes: “Biblical Christianity refuses to separate historical fact from spiritual meaning. Its core claim is that the living God has acted in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”

(3) Jesus of Nazareth believed the events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a the Old Testament) actually happened. If Jesus really rose from the dead (and there is powerful historical evidence that he did) then what did he think about the Old Testament?

Did he think Moses, David, and Noah were real? Yes (cf. Mark 12:26), yes (cf. Matthew 12:3) and yes (Matthew 24:37). Paul, who had seen the risen Jesus, even cites examples from the days of Moses to teach us, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11).

So, yes these things happened. And yes it matters to our faith.

If God has spoken and acted in the past — and this has been reliably preserved for us — then we can trust that he will act in the future as well.

To be sure there is more going in the Bible than just history, but certainly not less! After all, hope without history is simply wishful thinking.

Original Article HERE

Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I am making all things new... for these words are trustworthy and true."

All things new.  It's hard to imagine, in the world of aging and decay, death and destruction, that all things can be new. Not much is guaranteed to be trustworthy and true today.  But we long for a standard that doesn't shift, that we can count on.  Trustworthy and true sounds like security.
 

We tend to get caught in a trap of seeking new things just for their newness.  Even when we already have more than we need.  It's all a matter of perspective.  We live in a culture that worships the new.  Everyone, even living in poverty, must have a new phone every two years, new sneakers every six months, and new entertainment every day.  But God's promises tell us about renewal, refreshing, and a heavenly newness that is beyond our worldly imaginations.  Better than a new iPhone or new Jordans.  How can we anticipate the new year and look forward to novelty that draws us nearer to God's perspective on reality?
 
It could be quite simple.  Perhaps we just establish a few new habits.  And make them things that will refresh our perspective, renew our hearts, and remain steadfast, trustworthy and true.  Where do we look for that?
 
One important commodity that bears the ability to impart new things, or to remain stable, is the written word.  Our entertainment is carried along the moving thread of language.  Trends and ideas, new and old, are expressed in words.  Perhaps we can look to God's word that has lasted two thousand years and find some truth that is trustworthy and true.  Perhaps that is the foundation that will support the renewal we are looking for?
 

I've found that in years when I commit to a new habit of reading God's word each day, in whatever time or amount I can, that my life changes.  I learn new things, see new things, develop a better understanding of who God is. I think it is amazing that words I read and re-read, time and again, can continue to teach me new things.  I reflect on His understanding of the longings of our hearts when he said "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."  Ecclesiastes 3:11
 
What this passage means to me is that His word might be exactly what I need today and the very same text might mean something different, I might see it with new eyes, on another day in another year.  If I commit to reading the bible each day, I am renewed.  I find the newness that satisfies my longing, at exactly the right time.  It is trustworthy and true. 

Another new habit for the new year is to accompany bible reading with daily prayer.  Intentionally seeking God.  I write my prayers in a journal to help me focus, and to have a written record, so that I can see when He answers.  I ask the Lord to give me new eyes, so that I can see Him working in new ways.  Sometimes I remember good times past and feel a longing for the old and familiar.  But God's promise of renewal requires me to keep an open mind, and to trust Him.  I've found after several years of daily bible reading and prayer that I actually look forward to my time in God's word, like a visit with a friend.  
 
C.S. Lewis said, “we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at that moment, we expected some other good. Harking back to some occasion, which seemed to reach perfection, and depressed by the comparison. But the new occasion is full of its own new blessing, if only we open ourselves to it. God shows us a new facet of glory, and we refuse to look at it because we are still looking for the old one.”
 


I pray to receive new blessings with a willing heart and open mind.  I choose to trust that God is good and His promises are true.  Deciding to believe that God's word is TRUE is a choice.  But sometimes our hearts and minds can follow our actions.  Try action.  Read God’s word every day in 2017.  Pray daily.  Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth.  See what happens.  You might be surprised to be filled with the joy of something new, something trustworthy and true.