Purify Yourselves in Worship

John shrugs his shoulders, looks out across our wheat field. ‘Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop. And when you’re farming,’ he turns back toward me, ‘you are faced with it every day. You control so little. Really. It’s God who decides it all. Not us.’ He slips his big Dutch hands into frayed pockets, smiles easily. ‘It’s all good.’

‘…How do you know that, John? Deep down, how do you know that it really is all good. That God is good. That you can say yes – to whatever He gives?’ I know the story of the man I’m asking…

‘Tiff just noticed Dietrich had started breathing a bit heavier this after noon. …they said his lung had collapsed. It will just be a matter of hours. Like it was at the end for Austin.’ His firstborn, Austin, had died of the same genetic disease only eighteen months prior. 

‘…Well, even our boys…I don’t know why that all happened. …But do I have to? …maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.’

…There’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is. He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means.

…I wonder…if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually be places to see. …through to God. …that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. …To the God we endlessly crave.

…In our plain country church on the edge of that hayfield enclosed by an old cedar split-rail fence, once a week on Sunday, my soul’s macular holes spontaneously heal.”

“One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

* * * * * * *

Isaiah 52:1, 2, “Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, …Dress up in your Sunday best… Those who want no part of God have been culled out. They won’t be coming along. Brush off the dust and get to your feet… Throw off your chains, captive…” The Message

* * * * * * * * *

Isaiah 52:11, 12, “Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place! Don’t look back. Don’t contaminate yourself with plunder. Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves in the process of worship… (12) But you don’t have to be in a hurry. You’re not running from anybody! God is leading you out of here, and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Isaiah 54:7, 8, “Your Redeemer God says: ‘I left you but only for a moment. Now, with enormous compassion, I’m bringing you back. (8) In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you – but only for a moment. It’s with lasting love that I’m tenderly caring for you.” The Message

It doesn’t matter where you are on Saturday, brush off the dust and get up. Get out of there and purify yourself in worship. God is leading you and he has your back! You don’t want to miss a chance to have your soul’s holes heal.

You may say, “I don’t want to go back to church. I don’t like (fill in the blank) or I am angry and hurt by (fill in the blank).” 

“If I’m looking for reasons to be offended, looking for reasons to be angry, I should not be surprised when I find myself in a low emotional state. …How can I expect to walk in freedom if I have not chosen to walk in forgiveness? …I don’t forgive you for you. I forgive you because I want to be free.”

“Finding Freedom in Forgiveness” Steven Furtick – 1 Min Motivation

If you don’t have a church, I invite you to mine. You can visit the local satellite or listen to the sermon online at fcoc.net. And visit truelife.org for answers to life’s hardest questions.

I hope to see you there. We would like to introduce you to The Chain Breaker – Jesus Christ!

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Setting You Up as a Light for the Nations

David woke me to tell me he was leaving for work. “You can go back to sleep,” he said.

“No, I can’t.”

I woke up at 3:15 am and it took a long time to get back to sleep. I feel like God wakes me for a reason. I always pray and sometimes get up to read or write. David encourages me to sleep in after one of those nights.

Isaiah 40:4, 5, “The Master, God, has given me a well-taught tongue, so I know how to encourage a tired people. He wakes me up in the morning, wakes me up, opens my ears to listen as one ready to take orders. (5) The Master, God, opened my ears, and I didn’t go back to sleep, didn’t pull the covers back over my head.” The Message

Although tempted, I didn’t pull the covers back over my head. I got up and started my work. My goal is to encourage you, my faithful readers. I share the encouragement I find in the Bible each day.

Isaiah 50:10, “…for anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on God.” The Message

* * * * * * * *

Isaiah 49:23, “…No one who hopes in me [God] ever regrets it.” The Message

* * * * * * * *

“A servant of the Lord is one who voluntarily serves God…” Chronological Study Bible Notes

* * * * * * * * *

Isaiah 49:6, “He says, ‘But that’s not a big enough job for my servant…I’m setting you up as a light for the nations so that my salvation becomes global!’ ” The Message

* * * * * * * *

“…documentary, To Life…how the tiny state of Israel makes a huge impact around the world…Israel Defense Forces use medical expertise gained on the battlefield to rescue dying victims of natural disasters. …Why are Israelis doing this? …the rabbinical teachings of the Mishnah, says that to save one life is as if you’re saving the entire world. …when we ask why these volunteers leave their comfortable homes to do grueling work in horrific situations, they say, ‘We’re Israeli. It’s who we are. We’re called to be a light to the nations.’ This is based on Isaiah 49:6.”

“A Light to the Nations” by Gordon Robertson

“Frontlines” May 2018

Rise and shine!

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Three Steps to Living Well

“Blessings rolling in like waves from the sea!”

“Life – full like a river!”

The secret to living well? Twice today I read – “live right and well.”

The first step to living well is to live right.

Isaiah 42:6, “I am God. I have called you to live right and well…” The Message

The second step?

Isaiah 47:2, “Get a job, any old job: clean gutters, scrub toilets…” The Message

God designed us to work. We need to take our work seriously and plan for tomorrow.

Isaiah 47:7, “…You took nothing seriously, took nothing to heart, never gave tomorrow a thought.” The Message

There will be times we cannot work: after surgery, a lay-off, or health problems. We need to plan and save for those days. We need to take our recovery time seriously, too.

“Often the Lord calls us aside from our work for a season and asks us to be still and learn before we go out again. …An ancient knight once realized, as he was fleeing from his enemies, that his horse needed a shoe replaced. …Although he heard the galloping hooves of the enemies’ horses close behind, he waited until his steed was reshod before continuing his escape. Just as the enemy appeared, only a hundred yards away, he jumped into the saddle and dashed away with the swiftness of the wind. Then he knew his stopping had actually hastened his escape. Quite often God will ask us to…fully recover…before entering the next stage of our journey and work.” “Days of Heaven upon Earth”

The third step is to listen to God. He directs our lives. He teaches us how to live right and well. If we listen, he will show us what to do.

Isaiah 48:17, 18, “I am God, your God, who teaches you how to live right and well. I show you what to do, where to go. (18) If you had listened all along to what I told you, your life would have flowed full like a river, blessings rolling in like waves from the sea.” The Message

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

God’s Word Stands Firm and Forever

On Wednesdays, I pray for America. I remind God this country was built on the Bible and it stands forever.

Isaiah 40:8, “True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.” The Message

What is your foundation? What are you building your life on?

“A strong mind is not something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock. Like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.”
“4 Secrets of a Strong Mind” by FBI Agent Larae Quy

* * * * * * * *

“What the exiles needed – hope, comfort, tender words, a future – could be found only in the faithfulness of Yahweh, their God. The prophet offers exactly that message in Isaiah 40, pointing away from the sins of the past, away from the conditions of the present, to a future when the exiles would experience divine faithfulness and be restored to their land.” Chronological Study Bible Notes

* * * * * * * *

Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.” The Message

* * * * * * * *

Isaiah 41:14-15, “Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob? Feel like a fragile insect, Israel? I’ll help you. I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, the Holy One of Israel. (15) I’m transforming you from worm to harrow, from insect to iron.” The Message

* * * * * * *

‘…those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life, through the One, Jesus Christ,’ Romans 5:17. The Greek word for reign here means to ‘rule from a foundation of power.’ When Paul talks about ‘reigning in life,’ he’s talking about having ruling power over sin – and not just in heaven but in this life. We are to reign over every demonic power, every lust, every principality that comes against us. That is true sanctification. …

…I asked him what had kept him true to Jesus all these years. He said, ‘Brother David, you told me once that Jesus loved me. I became convinced of that. So, I just started loving Him back. That’s what has kept me.’

Nicky didn’t have any theology of sanctification. But he was being sanctified – because he was loving his Father, and receiving his Father’s love…” David Wilkerson, “The Gift of Righteousness,” World Challenge Pulpit Series, February 19, 2018

The best foundation is loving Jesus – The Rock!

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Raise Your Standard of Living

One of my hobbies is Interior Design. I’ve considered buying a textbook to learn the basics. I get discouraged reading decorating blogs. They share what they bought or made to add to their space but they don’t tell you “Why.” I know there are rules and I want to learn them.

That’s why I love today’s verses. They are basic and simple instructions – rules to live by.

Isaiah 33:15-16, “The answer’s simple: Live right, speak the truth, despise exploitation, refuse bribes, reject violence, avoid evil amusements. (16) This is how you raise your standard of living! A safe and stable way to live. A nourishing, satisfying way to live.” The Message

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Happy 70th Birthday, Israel!

My friends went to Israel a few months ago and brought me this bookmark. It commemorates Israel’s 70th year as a nation!

Today is the day!

Seventy years ago, on May 14th, the Jews who immigrated from everywhere established Israel as a nation. It was born in one day, see Isaiah 66:8.

Isaiah 27:12, “…And you, people of Israel, will be selected grain by grain.” The Message

* * * * * *

Isaiah 27:6, “The days are coming when Jacob shall put down roots, Israel blossom and grow fresh branches, and fill the world with its fruit.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Isaiah 29:17, “And then before you know it, and without you having anything to do with it, wasted Lebanon will be transformed into lush gardens, and Mount Carmel reforested.” The Message

* * * * * * * *

Isaiah 28:26, “They know exactly what to do and when to do it. Their God is their teacher.” The Message

These verses were fulfilled! Israel raises enough food to feed her people and export it. You can read “The Top 12 Ways Israel Feeds the World” which Israel21c.org posted today.

Israel becoming a nation is a sign that Jesus will return soon. He said the generation that sees these signs will not die before He returns, see Matthew 24:34.

How long is a generation? Some believed it was 40 years. In 1988, there was a group convinced Jesus would return that year. They set a date. The day passed. They set another date. That day passed.

Others believe a generation is 70 years, 80 years, and 120 years. If the first group is right, Jesus could come today! The Bible is clear – only God knows the day and hour, see Matthew 24:36.

In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus told the “Parable of the Ten Minas.” The moral of the parable is to “Occupy until the master comes.” Whatever God gives you, work it to the best of your ability. Be fruitful and multiply it. Stay busy but look up! Jesus is coming soon!

Happy 70th Birthday, Israel!

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

God Will Wipe the Tears

David and I waited 4 years before having children. Mother’s Day didn’t bother me but I dreaded “Special Person’s Day.” It was the day they honored adults who were not parents. (Their heart was in the right place.)

Each year we stood with a handful of unmarried women and they told us we were special. (The single men wisely stayed home that weekend. The piano player and drummer were never excused.)

I remember feeling as if we didn’t belong. We didn’t fit the mold. We never have! We married young, waited to have children, and didn’t stop at 2!

I had a small taste of how women still waiting for their children feel on Mother’s Day. They do not choose to wait – they are forced to wait. Some have several children who went before them to heaven. They are mothers but go unrecognized. Their arms are aching and they feel like they don’t belong.

But they do. God has a plan that only He knows. He promises to banish death and wipe away every tear.

Isaiah 25:8, “Yes, He’ll banish death forever and God will wipe the tears from every face. He’ll remove every sign of disgrace from His people, wherever they are. Yes! God says so!” The Message

We get Mother’s Day turned around. It’s not about our children – it’s about our mothers. Every woman has a mother, grandmother, favorite aunt, or the surrogate mom who is there for them. Married women get additional support from their mother-in-law. (Hi, Jane! I know you are reading this!)

My oldest is married with a young daughter. I did not expect him to spend the day with me. I expected him to spend the day teaching his daughter to honor her mother. I was happy with a hug, a few minutes, and red velvet cupcakes.

My youngest plans to live in the basement until his wedding. (In 4 months and 8 days, but who’s counting.) He provided lunch! I still didn’t expect him to stay all day. They spent time with his fiancée’s mom, too.

You don’t need children to belong – you already do.  And it’s not about my children honoring me – it’s about me honoring Mom. She is why I belong.

“Oh, can you feel the gravity falling,

Calling us home?

Oh, did you see the stars colliding,

Shining just to show we belong,

We belong?” 

“Deciphering Me” – Brooke Fraser

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

The Cure for Depression

What a day! I started by doing a good deed and found the cure for depression!

Our electric guitar player was a college student. He’s abandoning us to take a job in Des Moines. (Okay, actually he got the job last summer and we knew he would only be here until this month.)

When he started playing with us, it was unclear if he could keep us in his schedule. So, I asked him what his favorite pie was. Coconut Cream. (I’ve never made one.)

His second choice was a pumpkin pie. The next time I made pumpkin pie, I made a small one for Ethan. I used pumpkin I had baked and frozen earlier. I made the shell using my Grandma W.’s recipe. It is always flaky.

He came back the next weekend and said, “Pam, that pie was amazing!” (Thank you, Grandma W.!)

This is his last weekend with us. I woke up to a dark, cold day. If I thought about losing Bill and Ethan, I would stay in bed all day. Instead, I made my first coconut cream pie.

Of course, I wanted to make everything from scratch. I’ve made chocolate and lemon pies with homemade pudding. I decided to do the same for the Coconut Cream pie.

I forgot how long you have to stir the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and milk for the pudding. (Don’t ask.) My old standby, the Betty Crocker Cookbook, said to cook it over medium heat. I thought I always made pudding over low heat.

I was right.

The pudding started to stick to the pan and I saw lumps. I got out another pan and a strainer. I strained the lumps out and switched pans before it could scorch.

Everything seemed to go well after that until I tried putting foil over the pie. I was tucking it under and the flimsy, disposable pan folded almost in half! I laid it flat and scrunched the excess foil around the edge. I put water in the pans to soak and left with David.

One of the distributors for the lumberyard had an open house. They asked David to stop by. A Mennonite man owns the business – in the middle of Amish country an hour away.

I think we were the only “Englishers” there! Every family had at least 3 children. Every other family had a baby. It was delightful watching all the small children playing with scooters and balloons.

And they had homemade pie!

My piece was black raspberry and you know that filling didn’t come from a can! While eating my pie, I explained my almost baking disaster this morning.

“I thought you baked a coconut cream pie like a pumpkin pie.”

The Amish lady walking by burst out laughing.

Anyway, Ethan is moving away. He’ll meet a girl, get married, have a couple of children, and then he’ll move back. He will want them to attend a small school with all its opportunities. (You get to try everything because there is little competition.)

And when he does, he’ll remember the coconut cream pie and come back to play with us. I’ll still be here. I’m like Bill, who was scheduled to play the day after he died!

The cure for depression? Do something nice for someone who can’t repay you.

Isaiah 19:10, “…dispirited, depressed in their forced idleness…” The Message

No one can force you to remain idle. Do something nice for someone. Write a letter to someone in a nursing home. Send cookies to a deployed soldier or take his family out to eat. Visit that neighbor whose children live far away.

It doesn’t have to be a big, grand gesture. It could be simple. Like going to watch a Mennonite man make metal siding. You might be rewarded with pie!

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

The Term of an Enlisted Soldier

Bill’s visitation was full of laughter. He rested peacefully as if taking a nap. Our eyes filled with tears but didn’t spill over in despair. We know we will see him again. We will sing together and play together again.

Bill was a good soldier. Had he not died on Saturday, he would have played on Sunday. He lived each day to its fullest.

Isaiah 16:14, “…no longer than the term of an enlisted soldier, …” The Message

* * * * * * *

“No life is too short or too long. You will live your prescribed number of days. You might change the quality of your days but not the quantity, (Psalms 139:16).”

“Anxious for Nothing” by Max Lucado

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

They Pour into the Streets Wearing Black

When I started my devotions, I thought, “I wish it were after Pentecost Sunday. We would be reading Acts, not Isaiah.” Then I picked up a newsletter Mom dropped off yesterday and read this:

“Bible scholars have said that even if we didn’t have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we would still have the Gospel in Isaiah, written five centuries before Christ: ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. …He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed. …The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. …For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.’ (Isaiah 53:3-8).” Gordon Robertson, “Frontlines” – April 2018

* * * * * * * *

Tonight is Bill’s visitation. I expect a line of people around 2 blocks waiting to get in. Isaiah 15 showed me God understands grief. He knows what we are feeling.

Isaiah 15:3-5, 8, “They pour into the streets wearing black. …everyone in tears, everyone in grief. (4) …sobs, shaking in grief. …trembles…” (5) …they weep…they cry their loss. (8) …Gut-wrenching sobs…heart-rending sobs…” The Message

After reading my chapters, I decided to bake the cookies for the funeral dinner. I measured the sugar and noticed it was lumpy. I sifted it to break up the lumps and saw bugs in the sugar!

I checked the canister – no bugs. They had to have come from the double sifter. I put the sifter in a pan with water and boiled it for 15 minutes.

I tossed that sugar and started over. You don’t have to sift flour for chocolate chip cookies. I decided to make them. But the chocolate chips were frozen! I put them in a bowl of warm water to thaw.

I washed dishes while I waited for all the ingredients to come to room temperature. Starting over with fresh sugar, I mixed up the cookies. Some of the chocolate chips had melted! They will be chocolate chip, streaked cookies.

I got out my new, cookie dough scoop to drop the cookies on the cookie sheet. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed the cookie scoop, dried it and slathered it with butter. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed it again, dried it and poured a tablespoon of oil in it. I rolled the oil around to coat all the surfaces of the scoop and dumped the extra.

6 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release! I just kept scooping and flicked my wrist to release the dough. (Can you get carpal tunnel from making cookies?)

I put the first sheet in the preheated oven and said, “I hope you’re watching, Bill, because this is freaking hilarious! I love you, man.” (See Hebrews 12:1.)

The first batch was darker than I wanted. I set the timer back 3 minutes. When I checked the second sheet, it was doughy. I added 2 minutes to the timer. The third sheet was fine.

I was putting in the fourth sheet when I heard someone at the door. I hit “stop” instead of “start” on the timer accidentally. The numbers were moving so I answered the door.

When I got back, there were 3 minutes on the timer. I started washing the baking dishes. The next time I checked, there were 6 minutes, 37 seconds on the timer. It took me about 30 seconds to realize my timer must have a “stopwatch” feature because it was gaining time!

I rescued the cookies. As I put in the last batch, I thought, “Bill, I am finished baking the cookies. The show’s over.”

I swear I heard him laughing.

Then I started laughing – the deep, belly laugh that works like medicine. Yes, there will be tears at Bill’s visitation tonight, but there will be more laughter. Deep, belly, laugh-until-you-cry laughter. Healing laughter. (See Proverbs 17:22.)

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.