Monday, November 23, 2009

Checking the Fence

Read Psalm 119:97-106

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.
-2 Timothy 3:16 (TEV)

MANY mornings on my way to work, I see two ranchers carefully checking their fence that borders a busy road. They make sure the posts are secure and the wire is intact to keep their cattle safe from the dangers of the road and from wandering onto property that doesn't belong to the ranchers. Their diligence is necessary, since many times I see cattle leaning over the wire trying to snatch a mouthful of grass or to satisfy their curiosity. Without that fence, the cattle would wander.

In many ways, God's word is like that fence. The Bible tells me how to set safe boundaries in my life to keep me from the dangers of sinful actions and bad decisions. Whatever the day brings, God's word offers me the answers I need for living that day. But, like the ranchers, I need to "check my fence" daily. Some days I don't want to hear from God's word because I'm "leaning on the wire" trying to go my own way. But daily Bible reading keeps my spiritual fence in good repair and helps me remain in God's safe pasture.

by Laurinda Wallace (Arizona, USA)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Painting God

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
-Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

MY grandmother is a talented artist. She has twelve grandchildren, and we all had our turn in her studio to see if we inherited her gift. I soon realized that my talents lie elsewhere. As hard as I tried, I could never make my painting look real, as Grandma's did. My attempts at art looked more like cartoons. She told me that I should pay attention to what I was seeing and draw that, not what I thought my subject should look like. Although I never caught on to painting, Grandma did teach me a lesson about God.

I spent many years "painting" God as I thought God should be. Because I could not understand some things about God, I made up my own image. Like my paintings, the end result was pretty pathetic. And when times got hard for me, my hope crumbled. But my grandmother's advice has helped me in my Christian walk. It has helped me let go of what I think God should look like and look to the Bible to see what God is really like.

by Sarah Negroni (Louisiana, USA)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

God will strengthen us

Read Nehemiah 2:17-20 and 6:9, 15-16

The gracious hand of my God [was] upon me.
-Nehemiah 2:18 (NIV)

I kept fretting over the persistent pain in my hands. Housework, weeding the garden, and even helping my children dress caused my hands to scream in protest. When I tried to spend time with God, I found myself thinking about the pain instead.

At the time, I was reading the book of Nehemiah. This man who loved God was striving to rebuild the wall around God's city, Jerusalem. Nehemiah rallied hundreds to help. Throughout the massive project, Nehemiah prayed and then depended on God for success. Amazingly, in just 52 days the new wall was completed. Everyone knew it was a work of God.

During the rebuilding process, enemies of Israel threatened and taunted God's people, trying to intimidate the workers. These enemies cast doubt by shouting, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." Nehemiah wasn't distracted by their attempts at intimidation. Instead he prayed, "Now strengthen my hands" (Neh. 6:9).

As I read Nehemiah's prayer, I realized my focus was badly misplaced. Pain had distracted me from praying, but Nehemiah's life reminded me to pray despite obstacles. I adjusted my focus. Depending on God, I chose to watch for God's power in my life.

by Linda Walstrom (Illinois, USA)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Joyful Testimony

Read John 4:1-39

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."
-John 4:39 (NIV)

SOMETIMES I hesitate to talk about God with those around me. Feeling inadequate, I wonder how I can explain that Jesus is alive and loves us deeply. Arguing will not persuade them of the truth. Today's reading showed me how one woman successfully shared the good news about Jesus.

Quite simply, the woman at the well could not hide her excitement. "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did," she exclaimed, eager for others to get to know him, too. Instead of a clever argument, she enthusiastically described her meeting with the Savior, making him real to those who listened. Because of that woman's testimony, many Samaritans in her town believed in Jesus.

So when I struggle to find the right words, I think of the Samaritan woman and remind myself that I can simply explain that God knows all about me -- the good and the bad -- and still loves and accepts me. Why would I make sharing the gospel more complicated than this? No amount of clever arguments will win hearts as much as will our communicating the joy of knowing God -- and the joy of God's knowing all about us and loving us anyway.

Emma J. Peterson (Buckinghamshire, England)

A Lost Sheep

Read Luke 15:1-7

The Lord says, "I will come to you and save you."
-Jeremiah 30:11 (TEV)

AT one point in my life, my faith began to falter. I had abandoned my God and the strong faith I'd had since childhood. I was no longer wearing my cross, the symbol that constantly reminded me of Jesus' sacrifice. I had even removed all religious pictures from my walls. I'd had enough of religious dogma. I had not prayed for many days, and I felt lost. Eventually, when I could not bear my situation any longer, I turned to God for help.

I took the Bible from my bookshelf and held it in my hands, uttering desperately, "If there is a God, please help me. Maybe there is something you would like to tell me, Lord." Then I opened my Bible and read these words: "I am the Lord who created you; from the time you were born, I have helped you. Do not be afraid" (Isa. 44:2).

My eyes filled with tears. I clearly felt the strong presence of God's living Spirit coming that afternoon to guide me, a lost sheep.

Einar Ingvi Magnusson (Bratislava, Slovakia)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blessed by Beauty

Read Psalm 104:1-24

The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
-Psalm 24:1 (KJV)

I live in the beautiful city of Cape Town in South Africa. On my way home from dropping my children at school, I often go into a botanical garden situated on the slopes of Table Mountain. I spend half an hour walking, communing with God, before I start my day's work.

As I walk, I feel exhilarated by the fresh air, the sun on my face, and the rhythm of my body as I move. I am immersed in a feast for the senses: the glint of sunlight on water, the flash of red as a sunbird darts across my path, the rich scent of plants, and the calls of birds that fill the air. Towering against the brilliant blue of the sky is Table Mountain with its white tablecloth of cloud.

I walk nearly every day. If it's raining, I enjoy feeling the rain on my face, knowing that in our dry climate, water is life. I always return home feeling refreshed. My body is energized by the walk, my spirits are lifted, my hope is revived, and my heart rejoices in the beauty of the world God has given us. I am thankful for those who work to maintain this beautiful place and for the way God feeds my spirit through it. I am thankful for this and for all the ways God speaks to me.

by Sally Argent (Cape Town, South Africa)
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