8/1/17: For Such a Time as This

•August 1, 2017 • 1 Comment

          Esther found herself in the thick of an issue. All she had done was obey her uncle and enter a beauty contest. To her surprise, she won and received the grand prize, King Ahasuerus as her husband. This was no small award. This guy “reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia” (Esther 1:1, NKJ). Esther was the new queen of all that; however, not long after the happy nuptials, a situation arose that could potentially jeopardize her position. The king promoted this guy named Haman to a position where he had the ear of the king. Haman hated the Jews and manipulated the king to write a decree giving the populace in all the king’s provinces the right to destroy the Jews and plunder their property. What the king didn’t know was that Esther was a Jew.

            When her uncle Mordecai found out about the king’s heinous decree, he sent word to Esther asking her to get the king to help them. This put her in a tough spot because one didn’t just walk up to the king without being summoned. When Esther sent her concerned response to Mordecai, he reminded her of her heritage and told her that as a Jew, she herself was one of the targets of her husband’s Haman-inspired decree. He also said, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)

We too sometimes find ourselves in the think of an issue. What seemed to be a tremendous blessing places us squarely in the crosshairs of trouble. We exult over the promotion only to discover the multiple downsides of the job. We enjoy our beautifully romantic wedding and honeymoon only to start realizing in the marriage the odd personal quirks of our spouse. We rejoice over the birth of our children only to discover their penchant for lying or cheating or you-name-it. We’re ecstatic as our young adults take flight only to be punched in the gut by the negative choices they make once they’re independent. We finally celebrate retirement only to find that our money is attacked by a myriad of onslaughts from inflation, to children’s and grandchildren’s needs, to taxes, to

state laws, to the downturn of the economy, and on and on.

Here’s the thing: Mordecai’s question to Esther fits for us too. For whatever we’ve bumped up against, who knows whether we have come to this place for such a time as this? We are where we are not by chance, but by God’s choice, in order for Him to make a difference through us in the situation. God placed us in this place so He could be in this place. I never would have applied for the major issue I am currently facing, but I have come to understand that others are helped as I step up, reveal and stand upon my heritage of faith, and speak out God’s truth about what I’m learning from Him while in this space.

It all worked out for Esther (read the short, ten-chapter book of Esther for the details) and as we are faithful to God’s leading, it will all work out for us too. Instead of crying and complaining, let’s seek the Lord as to how to live as a witness and use the very thing that’s hurting as a testimony. Indeed, as we live by faith, when we’re in the thick of it, remember that we have come to where we are on purpose – by God’s actual appointment – for such a time as this.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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7/24/17: Handling Hurts

•July 24, 2017 • 1 Comment

Life is full of joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain, uplift and disappointment. Besides the biggies like devastating disease, the end of a relationship, or death of a loved one, what hurts you? What situation can happen that turns the tide of a perfectly wonderful day into a destructive tsunami? For me, it’s misjudgment. When someone takes my words or actions out of context, completely misjudging my intentions and my motives, and spins them into something that I wasn’t even thinking.

I receive such misjudgments as attacks upon my personal character. And when I try to explain what I was thinking, to have my explanations rebuffed as well just further twists the knife. I know what I’m thinking. I know what I meant. I know what my intentions were. I know I am not what I’m being accused of, yet there is nothing I can do or say to change the other person’s opinion. And hurts of this kind only matter when the other person is someone who matters to me.

So what do I do? First, I shut down. That’s my way of managing the pain, of shielding myself from further onslaught. Then I start to strategize. My thought is, Fine, I will never give you another opening to attack me on that line again. Mind you, the strategy is not put in place because I think the person is right. The strategy is put in place so that I will be out of the line of fire of his/her misjudgment. That may mean that conversation about that subject won’t happen again, that activity won’t be shared, or I will just stop dealing with that person altogether. Since my motives were pure and right, and my explanation was disregarded, there’s nothing more to say about the subject. I’ll have to just be hurt because the other person cares not about my feelings and refuses to regard my explanations as plausible.

Oh, I want to yell back. Frankly, I want to spice my retorts with choice words that Christians ought not use. I want to defend myself and I want that person to see me the way I intended. Then I remember that Romans 12:17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (NKJ).

I have to get quiet. I have to hold back. I have to not pay back evil. I have to think of the good in the other person. I have to live peaceably with that person. I have to pray. I have to rely on God to work it out.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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7/3/17: A Parent’s Prayer

•July 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Few experiences compare in awesomeness to holding your firstborn child (or grandchild). That moment in that hospital room with my newborn changed my life forever. I was now personally responsible for another’s life. My hands held and comforted him, my boundaries protected him, my breasts nourished him. As he grew and was joined by his brother, the love multiplied. My words and my example became ever more important to me because those two sets of eyes were always watching, always recording, always learning, needing to know that my words and my actions were identical. They needed to understand that life with Christ worked and mattered.

Above all else that I wanted for my boys was the longing that they follow God. David felt the same way about his son. As he prepared to give Solomon his throne, he expressed his longing for him:

  • As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.” Then David gave his son Solomon the plans… 1 Chronicles 28:9 – 11a (NKJ).

The bottom line of my heart’s main desire for my children is that they know God, love God, serve Him with a loyal heart and willing mind, seek Him until they find Him, never forsake Him, and realize they have been chosen for a work He has purposed them to do.

Notice, though, that David didn’t stop his parenting at expressing his longing. He went further and “gave his son Solomon the plans.” In David’s and Solomon’s case, the plans were for building the actual, physical temple. In our case, we don’t stop parenting either. It’s our job to leave a legacy our children can step into, be it an actual business in which they can work, and/or being
sure they get the education they need for expanding God-given gifts we’ve help nurture over the years.

David continues by putting his longing for his son into a prayer. He prays, “And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision” 1 Chronicles 29:19 (NKJ).

Let’s turn David’s words into our own prayer for our children. We can fill our children’s names in the blanks as we pray:

Lord, please give ___________ a strong unction to know You, and serve You with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for You, Lord, search all hearts and understand all the intent of the thoughts. If ________ seeks You, God, I know You will be found; but if (he/she) forsakes You, please draw (him/her) back. Do not cast _______ off forever. Thank you, Lord, for choosing _________ to go forward in his/her gifts. Help _________ to be strong, and do it. Give _______ a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, for which I have prayed and worked over the years. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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7/1/17: On Knowing Grandma

•July 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As grandparents go, I only knew my maternal grandmother. Born in the 1880s, Mary Francis Magdelene Wormly Delacy JenFamily Picture Childhoodnings was an extremely fair-skinned African-American woman who had seven pregnancies, suffered through four still-births, and mourned the deaths of two husbands. My dad packed her along to California when he decided to move my mom (her only daughter) and two of her grandkids (my brother and sister) all the way across the country from Maryland. She was the quiet presence who listened to The Biola Hour radio program in her room, ironed sheets, and made our beds. She would let Cissi (my best friend) and me comb her completely white hair into all kinds of styles that looked amazing to us.

The manor in which Grandma influenced my life the most was in the area of music. When she recognized I would pick out little melodies rather than just bang on the piano keys, so started paying for me to take piano lessons. Starting when I was five-years-old, I took eleven years of classical piano lessons, starting with John Thompson’s Teaching Little Fingers to Play, and progressing all the way to playing the masterpieces by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, etc. Grandma sat through every 30-minute daily practice as if she were in a box seat at Carnegie Hall until she moved into the swanky senior citizens’ complex our church built. And oh my, my annual piano recitals might as well have been a command performance at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles or at Australia’s Opera House.

The only other things I know about my grandmother are her partial Native-American background, her inability to fully use one of her arms, the fact that she had sisters who lived in a fourth floor walk-up in a Harlem, New York tenement, and the fact that despite her intelligence, she was only allowed to received up to a fifth grade education. I knew she loved me, and hers was the first funeral of a family member I ever attended. I was twelve.

I wish I had known more about my grandmother. Knowing about her life wasn’t important to me then, but my ancestral background is very important to me now that I’m a grandmother myself. I not only want to know my own roots, but I desire for my grandchildren not only to know about me, but to actually know me, feel what I was all about, and by proud of the legacy I’m leaving for them. At least, whenever I play the piano, I can recall all the enjoyable hours I’ve spent at the keyboard, and know that it was my sweet grandmother who gave them to me.

God must have felt awful realizing His children had forgotten the wonderful works He had done for them. Psalm 78:40-42 tells us that the people’s disobedience and forgetfulness actually upset God and limited what else He could do for them. The passage reads:

“How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, and again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power…”

 

Be thankful for Grandma and Grandpa, and their parents, and their parents, etc. And today, let’s make it a point to remember and be thankful for God who made the past possible. No matter what the circumstances were, only the exact pairings in each generation could have led to the person each of us became. And whether it was bad or good, the past led up to the present in which we stand, and because of God’s grace, we can move into a future of favor in His sight.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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6/21/17 When Miracles are Needed

•June 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

images-1            Sometimes we find ourselves in need of a miracle. It’s only natural to lean toward worry when faced with difficulties that are far beyond our ability to handle. We cry and hunt for answers. We do everything we can possibly do in our own power. Then, when we reach the end of that proverbial rope, we finally decide to pray. It’s almost as if we think we’ll be bothering God with our problems.

Acts 5:12-25 relates an incident that happened in the early days of the new Church. The apostles were performing signs, preaching, and teaching in the name of Jesus, and “believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” These actions angered the religious leaders who decided to throw the apostles in prison. “But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’” Well, in the morning, when the religious leaders gathered to deal with the apostles, they weren’t in the prison. Someone told them, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

Reading this account reminded me that when we are about God’s business, He will do theimages-1 miraculous for us. As Luke relates this incident, he does not say that the apostles even prayed about being released. God just handled the situation for them.

I am in need of a few miracles today as I’m sure you probably are as well. Let’s decide to just keep doing what God has set out for us to do and watch God do what only He can do for us.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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6/19/17: Filled, Now Pour

•June 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Lots of arguments have started and divisions have happened over the issue of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Are we “filled” at the moment of salvation or does the “filling” come later? Is the “filling” for everyone or for just a few who do something special? Do we know we are “filled” because we speak in tongues, some mysterious, unknown language only God can understand?

Denominations will probably keep arguing these and other points about this topic until Jesus returns, but we can deduce a particular truth. Each time Luke recorded an instance of the Holy Spirit’s filling, it was always accompanied by one corresponding action: people spoke. Sometimes they spoke in tongues, and sometimes they didn’t. The important thing to note is not how they spoke, but what they spoke. Every time people were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke boldly glorifying God. For example, Acts 4:31 says, “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (NKJ). Read also the context of the verses surrounding Acts 1:8, 2:4, 2:33 and 38, 4:8, 8:15 and17, 9:17, and 13:9.
We fill water bottles to drink from them. We fill the gas tanks in our cars because we have someplace to go. We fill our heads with the knowledge of our education so we can perform in our chosen careers. We fill our bodies with food that becomes fuel for the energy we need to live, work, play, serve, and love. Fillings are for pouring out. Fillings are for being used. The whole point of being filled with the Holy Spirit is so that we’ll have something to pour out. And what should be pouring out of our mouths are bold testimonies to the glory of God.

Romans 8:9b is clear, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (NKJ). If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit inside of us. We’ll never get more of Him because He doesn’t come on the installment plan; however, we can continually surrender more and more of ourselves to Him. Let’s walk in the knowledge that we are filled with the Spirit of God, and let’s open our mouths to boldly pour out words that glorify Him.

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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6/15/17: Think It, Say It, Do It

•June 15, 2017 • 1 Comment

Generally speaking, thoughts come before words, and words come before actions. What I think about, I end up talking about, and then eventually I carry out those thoughts and words in action. The key is to think about the right things, so I’ll say the right things, and then I’ll end up doing the right things.

Many readers of these devotions have heard someone quote the words of Scripture that say “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Usually, the people quoting these words are talking about physical death and they are saying that the verse means you can control how long you live by the words you speak. However, that’s not the context of these words. The writer of Proverbs is here discussing the power of words as they relate to the quality of your life, not the quantity of your life. The New Century Version (NCV) of the Bible renders Proverbs 18:20-21 like this: “People will be rewarded for what they say; they will be rewarded by how they speak. What you say can mean life or death. Those who speak with care will be rewarded.”

So before we open our mouths today in any kind of pledge, promise, or plan, let’s think it through first. I would rather be rewarded than cursed for my words that lead to my actions, wouldn’t you?

 

______________________

©2017 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.

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