Grace to Embrace

November 24, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cindy Martin –

Gifts have been opened, food has been consumed, diets have been started, mistletoe has dried up, and New Year’s resolutions have been promised and some already broken. Kinda’ sounds like a Charlie Brown Christmas review, doesn’t it?

The start of a new year can bring both anticipation and dread. Some folks can hardly wait to see what amazing adventures are waiting to be had in the coming months while others live in a paralyzing web of “what ifs”.

I suspect most of us live somewhere in between fear and exhilaration; simply asking God to give us grace to embrace whatever He has for us in 2014. What if that grace to embrace actually included embracing someone new in your life?

We’ve often heard that the holidays are a very lonely time and indeed they can be without close connections with family or friends to share the season with. But I would suggest that without meaningful connections in our lives, life can be extremely lonely all year long. Jesus teaches and models throughout the pages of Scripture that we were designed to live in community. He celebrated, wept, worked, rested and pursued His life’s mission in the context of other people. While He did spend precious time alone with His Father, the bulk of His time was spent “doing life” with people; simply showing them how to live life the way God designed.

In John 15:15 Jesus tells us, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (NIV).

I would suggest that the fulfillment that so many of us are seeking in our lives can be experienced as we follow the model Christ set out for us. Is there someone in your circle of influence or acquaintance that God is calling you to come alongside and include in both the memorable and mundane moments of your life?

Perhaps there’s someone for whom you could share the wisdom of experience you’ve had in life and in God’s Word that would propel them forward in their own faith journey. Such relationships may not always be convenient and might even get messy at times but God promises that His “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

To know that you have been used by Almighty God to facilitate transformation in someone else’s life is not only an amazing privilege, it is a sure path to a life of contentment, gratitude and joy. Why settle for anything less?

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, show me who by Your power and grace, You are asking me to come alongside and embrace.”

Scented Candles

November 2, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cindy Martin –

My teenage daughter loves scented candles. Glorious aromas waft out of her bedroom, her bathroom and our family room downstairs. More recently she has been “lending” them to me upstairs so that we can enjoy fabulous fragrances all throughout the house. Some of the candles are 3 wick candles and some of them are single wick; some have spring-time and summer scents while others infuse the room with spicy autumn and winter aromas.

This past weekend we were visiting with someone in our upstairs living room and I noticed our daughter had lit a large candle and set it on the counter. It was a dreary day outside and while the clouds choked out the sun, the soft warm glow of the 3 wick candle enveloped the room and made it feel like we were inside a giant snow globe.

My mother also loves scented candles but rarely lights one due to fire hazard concerns. Care and responsibility around candles is something I talk with my daughter about often but as I reflected on my mother and daughter’s love for candles, I was struck by their opposing responses. One motivated by sheer delight and the other snuffed out by fear. Carried to excess, both responses are dangerous, and extremes rarely serve us well. We can be guilty of either extreme when it comes to the way we reflect Christ.

As many of us head home during the holiday season to feasts of fragrances around the dinner table, I believe God would have us bring home the “pleasing aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV). However, emanating Christ’s character and grace can often be the hardest around family members. Rather than extremes, God offers a better way, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”(2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV).

As believers, the aroma of Christ is God’s gift to us. Gifts are meant for giving – don’t leave this one tucked away in a suitcase of insecurity or obscured in the valley of frenetic activity.
Instead, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, allow Your sweet aroma to permeate my soul so that the fragrance of Your Spirit draws others closer to You.

Quote: “There is nothing more beautiful than the light of a Candle and the Aroma of its Heart.”
Stanley Victor Paskavich

Organic Truth

October 3, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cindy Martin –

We live in an age where our focus has shifted to eating organic food to protect us from the harmful effects of GMO (genetically modified organisms) as well as toxic chemicals found in pesticides, growth hormones and food additives. It’s all about eating food in its purest form so that we can maximize its nutritional value in order to experience optimal physical health and healing.

As I pondered this trend in our thinking, I couldn’t help but think of the correlation to the effect God’s Word has on our lives. Organic by its very definition refers to something living. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is alive and powerful” (NLT). Psalm 119:9 tells us that the way to stay pure is to follow God’s Word.

The anticipated result of eating organic is that we’d live stronger, healthier lives and experience healing in parts of our body that require it. Psalm 119:50 reminds us, “This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me” (NASB).

I am of the opinion that the transforming power of scripture has been greatly overlooked and underestimated in our culture. Our fast-food drive-thru approach to scripture reading and/or memorization has left us spiritually anemic and empty of things of lasting value much like fast food leaves our bodies devoid of any lasting nutritional value.

Trying to “do life” without the direction, truth and power of scripture is indeed like trying to eat burgers and fries hoping they won’t have any effect on our heart or our health.

A regular steady diet of God’s Word is absolutely essential to having a healthy spiritual heart. When we’re faced with temptation or difficulty, which is inevitable (“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” John 16:33 NLT), we need to follow the example Christ set for us. During His temptation in the desert, His immediate response to every antic of the enemy was “It is written…It is also written…It is written” (Matthew 4:4-10 NIV).

Christ knew the irrefutable power of God’s Word and leaned on its strength when His own was being tested. Friend, in all the moments of our lives, we need the truth, correction, comfort and guidance that God offers us in His Word.

“Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG).

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the power of Your Word. Create an appetite in my spirit for its transforming work in my life.

In The Shade of the Family Tree

September 18, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cindy Martin –

Like many of you, my summer vacation included attending a family reunion. In fact, this seemed to be the year for reunions so I attended a few. Amidst the individuality of each of them, two recurring themes emerged – family legacy and the value of belonging.

I am always amazed that even though we as family members may not have seen each other for months or even years, there is a bond of love and acceptance that exists just because we’re part of that particular family. We’re members. We go to the reunion because we belong there. We belong, not because of anything we have done or will do, but by virtue of our last name (or our mother’s maiden name). There is something very anchoring about belonging. It creates a sense of security and stability as well as helps to clarify our identity.

Notable at each of the reunions was that fact that there were folks that had been unofficially “adopted” into each of the families. Their name may not occupy a branch on the family tree yet they belonged – not by virtue of their last name but by the place they had found in the family’s collective heart.

This is such a poignant example to me of our place in God’s family as believers. We belong because God calls us His (we have His last name as it were) and we have a place in His heart.
My husband and I are blessed to be part of families where unconditional love, acceptance and a desire to have fun together are part of our heritage. Without question, that legacy has been handed down by those who not only loved us, but loved God as well. Historically, we have not only shared the same last name but also the same faith. As the family continues to grow, I feel challenged to steward our spiritual legacy well. I am mindful that our faith is the foundation on which our expressions of love and connection are built. Without it, there is little of lasting value to pass along to the current and future “buds” on the family tree.

“Let me rejoice in the joy of your people; let me praise you with those who are your heritage” (Psalm 106:5 NLT).

“Lord, thank You that You created families and a sense of belonging as a reflection of Your heart for us as Your people. May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

Harvest Bounty

August 30, 2022 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cindy Martin –

I’m writing this on the heels of canning some of the bountiful harvest available in our area. A soothing touch settles on my soul when I see jars of fruit, jams, jellies and other tasty delights lined up on my countertop and in my canning pantry. Besides the sense of accomplishment, it also brings feelings of satisfaction and a sense of being prepared for the long winter ahead. This year’s crops were especially abundant and as I reflected on the reason, I realized that it was because of all the rain. All the moisture (which seemed to arrive daily) sprinkled with periodic doses of sunshine, produced near perfect growing conditions for plants and weeds alike. Some of the places where I picked berries were knotted with weeds and thistles as high as the berry bushes, yet there was luscious fruit tucked under their vibrant green leaves. I was regularly surprised at where I’d find flourishing fruit.

It made me think of the life-giving power of God’s word. As the truth of His word saturates our souls, we are able to produce spiritual bounty in spite of the weeds in us and around us. Many times there are circumstances in our lives – some of our own making and some not – that would seem to choke out any attempts we may make at living a God honoring life. Yet letting the principles of God’s word transform our attitudes, actions and responses to the “weeds” of our life can and will produce the sustaining fruit of the Spirit -fruit that is real and meaningful, not fake and contrived.

While sunshine is definitely needed in the growth process, I was struck by the fact that it was heavy amounts of rain that brought the increase. Similarly, regular and sometimes intense doses of God’s word is what’s needed to keep us on track and develop the character that brings the spiritual increase we’re looking for.

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5 NKJV).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as rain brings life-giving moisture to the ground, may Your Spirit irrigate my soul with Your word.

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