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Holy Week Day #3 – Faith and A Fig Tree

On the way into Jerusalem on Monday Jesus cursed a fig tree that wasn’t producing any figs. (Mark 11:12-14) As Jesus and His disciples passed the tree on Tuesday it had withered away to its roots. When the disciples exclaimed at the event Jesus told the disciples they too could do mighty things through prayer if they had faith and did not doubt. (Mark 11:20-24)

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.      Mark 11:24

Later in the day as Jesus was teaching in the temple He watched as rich people put large sums into the offering box, making a show of how much they gave. Then a poor widow came and put in two small coins worth about a penny. No one paid attention to her, except for Jesus. He knew she gave all she had and had more faith than all those who came before. (Mark 12: 41-44)

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This week falls in the midst of uncertain times. Many of us have been out of work or staying at home for 2 or 3 weeks already and the end is likely weeks away. What effect is all of this having on your faith? Is income insecurity and lack of routine wearing on you? Has losing the consistency of meeting together to worship and study Scripture made it more difficult to stay in God’s Word and keep your faith strong? These are things that I struggle with.

When I consider that widow who gave everything she had I realize she probably didn’t know when she would have income again. But still she gave every last coin quietly and faithfully. No one knew those were her last coins but Jesus and He used her faith as another example to the disciples.

Wherever each of us is at today, I pray that we will have faith to believe whatever mountains we face will be thrown into the sea, and that like the widow we will believe and not doubt that God will sustain us when we give all we have to Him.

Blessings and peace to you today!
Paula

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Holy Week Day #2 – Turning the Tables

Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem Monday morning and approached the temple, finding it filled with money changers looking to cheat those coming to worship and merchants offering sacrificial animals for exorbitant amounts in order to make a nice profit for themselves. As He walked through the temple Jesus turned over the tables and seats of those trying to rob God and chased out anyone looking to take advantage of those coming to worship Him.

“Is is not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”        Mark 11:17

God’s temple had become a marketplace, and the act of worship was inhibited by men who were only interested in their own gain.

As I read this account of Jesus in the temple I’m challenged to ask myself what tables Jesus wants to turn over in my own life. When I sit down for my quiet time with God, am I truly interested in His desires for that time, entering into it prayerfully, or do I come with my ow agenda? What about when I attend church? If I am more interested in what I will gain from time with my Lord than simply being in His presence, wanting only to please Him, am I any better than those merchants and money changers?

Make time

This Easter we are given an opportunity to find a different focus, looking within at the attitude of worship within our own hearts, instead of whether the church service will be a celebration that meets our expectations. Let’s each take some time to examine our hearts and attitudes, allow God to clear out anything that is not pleasing to Him, and draw closer to the Lord we serve and worship each day this week and throughout the year!

blessings and peace…
Paula

 

 

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Holy Week Day 1 – Triumphal Entry

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”                                                                                   Luke 19:41-44

It was a Sunday like no other for Jesus and His disciples. The book of John tells us Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus where they had given a dinner for Him. (John 12: 1-8) The next morning Jesus prepared to walk a path that would lead to a painful earthly death. Reaching the Mount of Olives Jesus sent two of His disciples to fetch a humble colt on which He would ride into Jerusalem.

From the Mount of Olives the entire city of Jerusalem is spread out in view. As He waited for the colt Jesus would have had time to look over the city and consider all that lay before Him in the coming days.

Mount of Olives
View of Jerusalem from Mount of Olives – https://www.touristisrael.com/mount-of-olives/27213/

The disciples prepared the colt with garments as would be done for a king, and began leading Jesus on the half-mile descent of about 400 feet, cheering and proclaiming, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 ESV) As they walked people joined in the praise for Jesus, remembering all the mighty works they had seen Him do. It was a celebration!

Have you ever attended an event where it seemed everyone was celebrating, but then you glace across the crowd and find someone who seems to be struggling? I believe this was the case for Jesus as they approached Jerusalem. Our Scripture tells us Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I believe He wept not because of what would take place in His life in the days ahead, but because the people, especially the leaders, were so far from God’s plan for them. Jesus saw a time coming when Jerusalem would be destroyed and the leaders who thought they were great would be destroyed by their enemies.

This weekend we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry during an unprecedented time. There will be no celebrations of waving palm branches and shouts of Hosanna. Nor will there be excited conversations of this week’s preparations for a big celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. We may wonder if it’s worth celebrating at all.

My friends, we have an opportunity this week to see the world as Jesus did on the Mount of Olives. As we look out from our sadness over the celebrations we will be missing we will see a world outside our walls missing the very thing we celebrate this week.Look out over your neighborhood, or over the towns and cities you pass through if you’re out and about.

The uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a world to its knees that believed we could be in control of what happens around us. People are searching, not only for answers, but for the peace that comes with receiving salvation from Jesus and the peace beyond understanding that can only come from Him. We have an opportunity to weep as Jesus did for a world that is lost and searching, and to pray like never before.

  • Pray for unexpected opportunities to talk to someone about Jesus and His gift of salvation.
  • Pray for others who are in positions to share the good news with people in crisis every day.
  • Pray that during this Holy week people, with Easter egg hunts and family celebrations out of the picture that people who are hurting will tune in to an online Easter service and find the peace they are looking for.

May this week be a week of revival, both in our hearts and around the world, bringing many more into God’s kingdom and closer to the peace only Jesus can offer.

Blessings and peace…
Paula

 

 

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Jesus Doesn’t Do Social Distancing!

God with us – Emmanuel. No, I’m not confused about what time of year it is! Although we hear this phrase often as we approach Christmas it’s been coming to my mind a lot in the past few days. When Jesus was born He became God with us and walked among men and women just like us for over 30 years. As He returned to Heaven Jesus promised to be with His disciples, “to the very end of the age.” If we trust in Jesus this promise is true for us too.

Jesus said…”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b

We are in a tough time right now. We are distanced from loved ones and friends and outside our usual routines. With the distance comes a variety of emotions, and much uncertainty. We don’t know how long we will be adapting to working from home (or wondering when we’ll be able to work again), teaching from home or worshiping from home. Sometimes it can feel like we’re prisoners in our own homes. This whole new world can bring anxiety, loneliness, anger, frustration, and so many questions! Who do you turn to for those answers, or to be your calm in the midst of the craziness?

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Jesus hopes we will turn to Him. He is still here, as close as we’ll allow Him to be. He may not answer every question immediately, but He’ll never brush us off or make us feel silly for asking. He’s also sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, advocate, and remind us of everything Jesus taught. When we cry out to Him in the loneliness, anger, or confusion He will whisper His love and reach out to hold us in the uncertainty.

Jesus doesn’t believe in social distancing! Every day He waits for us to reach out and allow Him to fill the void left by uncertainty, soothe our anger, and offer hope. Don’t leave Him behind in the craziness! Allow Jesus to be front and center and welcome the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit. They will help you remember you are never alone.

blessings and peace,
Paula

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From WHY??? to WHAT?

In the past 10 days we have found ourselves thrust into unprecedented times. From news of Coronavirus in foreign countries leading to cautions about international travel to states “hitting the pause button” and asking everyone to stay home as much as possible, our lives have changed significantly in the past few days.

How many times in the past week have you said or heard the question, WHY? The question comes so easily and quickly for us; after all, we’ve been asking it since we were 3 or 4 years old! Humans are a thinking and reasoning people and we want to understand what is going on around us so we can move on to fixing it, bringing our lives back to normal.

My friends, this time around there isn’t an adequate answer to our questions of WHY? and it might seem like we are climbing our way into more uncertainty. We can speculate and wring our hands over the times in which we find ourselves, but those actions won’t bring resolution to our uncertainty. In fact, dwelling on the WHY? only increases the anxiety we may be experiencing.

What do we do when there’s no resolution to our WHY?

A couple days ago when I felt my anxiety increasing and the WHY? question ringing ever louder in my head I had the sense God was telling me to shift my focus from WHY? to WHAT? I felt the reminder that while there is much out of my control these days, there are still things I can do in the midst of this crisis. Here are some ideas that came to mind:

We CAN stay connected! In addition to social media, e-mail and texts, let’s try calling people more…maybe even video chatting. Think especially of those who are suddenly alone in their homes, who won’t hear the sound of someone’s voice unless we reach out.

We CAN control what we allow into our minds and hearts. If we spend too much time on social media or watching/listening to the news, the negativity will overwhelm us. We need to balance what we consume, listening to praise songs and encouraging messages, reading books and magazines that help us escape to another world for a short time, teach us a new skill or help us grow in our Spiritual lives. Many museums, zoos and parks are offering free virtual tours and artists are offering free virtual lessons.

We CAN stay active. Many of us find ourselves working from home, furloughed from our jobs, or not going to the gym and social events that naturally encourage activity. This can be difficult, but we can still go outside for walks, runs, or maybe even yard work. Some friends of mine even walked together, keeping their distance and maintaining community at the same time. There are many athletic clubs and online programs that are offering free workouts or 30-day trials to their programs. This might be a great time to try something new!

We CAN have faith. In times like this it is sometimes a choice of mind over emotions, but God’s promises remain true! He is waiting for us to call on Him, and ready to comfort, encourage and strengthen us regardless of our circumstances. Let’s not allow our fear, anxiety or confusion keep us from the One who can be near us in this time of separation. Instead let’s bring to mind Scripture we have memorized, or do an online search for Scripture verses regarding whatever we are feeling. Posting them throughout our homes will remind us of God’s promises throughout the day. When we find ourselves with time on our hands let’s use some of it to read Scripture or spend more time in prayer.

It’s a natural thing for us to ask WHY? in the midst of this crisis, but I encourage you to join me in turning the WHY? to WHAT?. We may find ourselves coming out on the other side with stronger relationships, minds and closer to the Lord than we are now.

Blessings and peace to all…
Paula

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VALENTINE’S DAY ALERT!

2 DAYS UNTIL VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

This public service announcement is not only for those who have a significant other whom you should not forget on this special day.

It is also (perhaps especially) for those who look ahead with dread toward a day that reminds them of what they “have not”.

I know many see Valentine’s Day as an over-commercialized holiday, and perhaps it is. I also know plenty of married people who don’t even celebrate it. They downplay the day insisting it is more important to express love every day, not because the stores are filled with chocolates and roses. This is very true, and we would all do well to live this way.

But the other side of the coin is there are many who really struggle this time of the year. Their struggle is just as real as our attitude that Valentine’s Day is “just another day”. You see, when you struggle with feeling alone and unloved, it can be very difficult to hear those who appear to have what you are lacking tell you that the day of love doesn’t really matter.

Maybe you are one of those people.

Maybe you are sitting next to one.

I spent almost 20 years of my life as a single woman dreading Valentine’s Day. I felt that it wasn’t fair that other women could celebrate the day of love with their mate enjoying a romantic dinner, being surprised with roses or jewelry to commemorate their love for one another while I sat…

Alone

Wallowing

Trying to figure out what was wrong with me

Consuming large amounts of chocolates (that I bought for myself)

No amount of people telling me Valentine’s Day wasn’t important or that it is just another Hallmark holiday made me feel any better. In fact, it made me feel worse!

When I finally got out of my own self-pity I realized there are many others who struggle and could use a reminder that they are loved, And that changed my perspective on Valentine’s Day.

Now when I look toward Valentine’s Day I see many different people:

* I see those who are in love and I pray that they will be blessed with many joyous days together.

*I see those who have lost a mate (through death or divorce) and pray for them, that the Lord would meet them in their aloneness. Maybe I’ll even send a card.

*I see those who are in a struggling marriage or relationship who long for a mate who would tell them they were loved, much less bring them flowers or chocolates and I pray for their relationship to be mended, their love to be rekindled and the Lord to be in their midst.

*I see so many singles who are struggling and pray they will find contentment in each day, whether or not God gives them a mate.

Who do you see around you who might be struggling on Valentine’s Day? Along with praying for them, there are also tangible things you can do to brighten someone’s day.
Here are some ideas:
* Mail Valentine’s to those who are alone.
* Make cookies or cupcakes to share with friends, co-workers or neighbors.
* Pick up small Valentines or some candy and hand it out to people who look like they could use a smile. (I did this one year…got some interesting looks, but also many smiles!)
*Pick up the phone and call someone who might need a friend.

There are so many other options. Pray about what you could do, on your own, with your significant other or as a family.

Whether you are one who struggles this time of year or one whose life is filled with love, I encourage you to reach out. Remember we were not created to live this life alone, and looking outward at how you can brighten someone else’s day will surely bring you joy as well.
It’s not to late to think of something…big or small.

And let us know what you choose! I can’t wait to hear how you all made a difference for others!

I guarantee that as you reach out, God will reach in!!

Blessings and peace…Paula

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I RESOLVE

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year…a new decade and time to make resolutions! What’s that, you don’t make resolutions because you don’t stick to them after the first week or so? I don’t make New Year’s resolutions either. I do tend to set goals at the beginning of a new year but this year I was thinking about resolutions in a different way. As this new year dawns, consider resolving to…

R ejoice – Philippians 4:4 tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. That’s a lofty goal, and easily dismissed as impossible. But what if we started 2020 rejoicing in all the Lord has done in our lives instead of looking back at all the ways we failed?

E xamine – A new year is a good time to examine where we are at with our physical, spiritual and relational health. This year, let’s add the Lord into the equation, and as the Psalmist says in Psalm 26:2, let’s allow the Lord to examine our hearts and minds. See where there’s room for growth, but don’t forget to listen to the positives He finds during the examination as well!

S eek – Matthew 6:31-33 encourages us to seek God’s kingdom and not worldly desires and cares for the coming year. The things of this world are so obvious to us, but focusing on the things in God’s kingdom – faith, hope, love, joy and peace will make all the baggage that comes along with life much easier to handle. It might even help us drop some of those bags!

O ffer – What does God want the most from us in this new year? He wants us – all of us. Romans 12:1-2 encourages us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord, sacrificing our earthly desires to transform our minds to things of Christ. Imagine what great things the new year could hold for us if we changed the way we think!

L ook Ahead – There’s nothing wrong with looking ahead and considering plans and goals for the coming year. Just remember to include the Lord in your plans! Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that the Lord directs the steps of His believers. We make our plans, but He might direct us differently along the way. When that happens – remember the words of Romans 8:37-39, and be encouraged that nothing that happens in this new year can keep us from God!

V alue – This year let’s work on valuing the internal over the external. 1 Peter 3:3-4 instructs us that our beauty comes from our inner selves – a gentle and quiet spirit much more than outward adornments. It can be so easy for me to focus on the external to the point that I push aside the inner self too often. This year I’m going to work on a healthy balance in this area. Join me?

E xpect – What do you expect in this new year ahead of us? Are you expecting good things, or challenges? Let’s join the author of Hebrews and fix our eyes on Jesus, throwing off the things that hold us back and focusing on His presence in our lives. We can expect love and faithfulness to follow us when we plan the good things of God. (see Proverbs 14:22.)

Above all, this new year, may we resolve to love more and look for the peace of God in our journey! May God richly bless you throughout 2020!

Paula

ps – more about goals here: https://pauladavispeace.com/2014/01/11/dreaming-about-goals/ and here: https://pauladavispeace.com/2014/01/18/are-your-goals-s-m-a-r-t/