Thursday, January 28, 2016

happy dogs don't bite

Our sweet rescue dog, Lexie, was a delight to our family. Our hearts broke when she died in 2012 from a fall that severed her spinal cord. She left us with sweet and precious memories! This devotion was written a year before she died and was published in Totally Devoted 2.  

 “A happy heart makes the face cheerful.”
(Proverbs 15:13)

This morning I took Lexie, our adorable, adopted rescue dog for a long walk/jog. She has endeared herself to our family so much that we joke she’s an adopted sister of our daughters Grace and Mary.
Lexie is black and weighs 19 pounds. She a pug/terrier mix and a very happy dog who is well-fed, well-groomed, and overall very well loved and cared for by our whole family. She knows it, too. She’s a contented, happy, obedient dog. She wants to please us and is a delight to our family. Lexie wholeheartedly trusts her caretakers, so she’s very content and secure.

BAM! Right there is an analogy of how God wants us to be with Him; fully trusting Him to tenderly care for us, to provide for our every need, which then makes us totally content and secure. We have peace when we are trusting God. “A heart at peace gives life to the body” (Proverbs 14:30).

Lexie is so obedient that I’m able to let her run alongside me without her leash. I’ll only put it back on her as an act of courtesy when I see we are about to meet fellow joggers and walkers coming at us from another direction.  As soon as we pass, I take her off the leash and she stays near me as we make our way down the sidewalk than runs parallel to the neighborhood's golf course. Today as we approached an older couple, I put Lexie's leash on her as a courtesy until we passed by them. I jokingly said, "Look out, she's a vicious dog!" The lady smiled, looked down as Lexie and her smile grew and she said, "I don't think so." Her husband smiled, too. 

My comment was funny to me because I realize how much truth was in this whole life application: Lexie is happy and secure and would never growl or bite anyone. She doesn't even seem to want to lash out at someone with a loud, threatening bark. She is always happy to see others and is actually child-like in her behavior. Frankly, I think she is like the description of the verse, "A cheerful heart has a continual feast," (Proverbs 15:15). The NIV Bible commentary on this verse says, 'Life is as joyful and satisfying as the days of a festival."

What about the rest of us? Are we enjoying the life God has given us? Are we so cheerful that we are spreading that joy into the lives of others? Yes, I realize the Bible is talking about people, but dogs are also God's creatures and I believe He uses everything to speak to us and teach us about Himself and His ways.

Our dog entertains our family with her happy heart, and it’s contagious. She’s giving “life to the body” (Proverbs 14:30). That’s the way it should be with all of us. We should be contented, secure, joy-filled people who are so filled with Christ-centered cheer that our countenance and Spirit can light up a room.

I thought about people who will bite off our heads in anger, impatience, and fear. When we have people growling at us in response to something, it’s obvious they are unhappy. Some people get so mad, they noisily bark out their responses to us. If we ever get to that rabid, vicious attitude of a stray dog, we should ask ourselves where our anger and impatience is coming from? 

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." (Proverbs 15:30). Think about what happens to us physically, mentally, and spiritually when someone smiles at you. God has designed us to respond in all these ways. Its hard not to smile back, isn't it? I think that's why He says, "A merry heart is good medicine" (Proverbs 17:22). It's for the whole body...our own and His body of believers.

Happy dogs don't bite. Happy people don't either! 

For His glory,
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together!"
Psalm 34:3

This devotion will be included in the 
upcoming Kindle edition 
of Totally Devoted 2. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

She is Clothed for the Glory of God

Grace Balint, one of our daughters, on the set 
of the TV show, Criminal Minds,
 in Hollywood, CA

“She is clothed in strength and dignity...”
(Proverbs 31:25)

Uh-uh, Sisters, we're going to talk briefly about two passages in Proverbs 31, but we can’t skip over this devotion just because the woman described in Proverbs 31 intimidates us with her godliness and wisdom! This passage is meant to show us the significance of being wise and the influence we can be in this very dark world if we have a teachable heart. 

In all the years of women's ministry, I've often heard women moan about studying the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 because she's described as "an excellent wife" (v.10), "works with willing hands" (v. 13), "provides food for her household and portions for her maidens (v.15), "her lamp does not go out at night" [WHAAAAAT?] (v.18), and so on. Ladies in previous studies have asked,  "How can I ever measure up to her?" and "Who does ALL those things?" and even "Ugh, can't we study something else?" 

Let's put our Big Girl panties on and let God build our character so we, too, by choosing to spend more time with Him. Then we, too, can keep getting stronger in  strength and dignity because we have a close relationship with Him!

So let's not buy into the lie that Scripture was written to intimidate us! No! It’s a handbook for life that teaches us how to live godly lives, and thereby we glorify God and bless others. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the [wo]man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

God’s word is a powerful weapon in the hands of a Christian and is "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12). It’s full of wisdom, knowledge, love, and grace for a child of God.  Daughters of King Jesus should be running to God’s word to satisfy our hungry souls. We should be fueled His strength!

Let's be honest. We want peace. We want to do what’s right. We’re tired. Ok, fine, so let’s each decide to take our own personal time each day to leap into the godly character traits in Proverbs 31:10-31 and set them as a goal, a focus for our lives. We should see them as a gift from God for us. 

“She is clothed in strength and dignity” (Proverbs 31:25). That’s definitely not a store-bought outfit. We can’t get that Holy Designer wear in any mall. Nope. This passage is talking about spiritual attire from the heart and hands of God alone. He is the Master Designer of all. These clothes -- strength and dignity --  will always fit us. They never go out of style or out of season! They are tailor made by God for His daughters. But we have to do something to get this kind of character...we have each seek God with our whole hearts.

Make no mistake, Precious Sister, the Mrs. Proverbs 31 Woman  cannot conjure up this strength by herself, no, it comes from God and even then she's only strong because she walks closely with her God! "Apart from me you can do nothing" Jesus warns in John 15:5. And it is her God who equips her to persevere in doing good, as well as to stand firm in His strength against powers of darkness.

What are we wearing today? Leggings of laziness? Shawls of shame? Garments of guilt? We need to dump that old wardrobe and get dressed in a “garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). How? Draw near to God. Call on His name. Pray to God and tell Him you want to be clothed in strength and dignity. I'm serious. We can pray to God about anything! Pray daily and seek His face. Believe me, Sister, He is not going to ignore a prayer like that! Pray faithfully and unceasingly and expect Him to answer you!

When God was restoring Israel, He clothed her beautifully, too: “ ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD,  ‘you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on like a bride.’” (Isaiah 49:18) These ornaments are symbols of strength and joy. (NIV commentary.)

And another thing, our Wonderful Father God wants us to have joy in our life journey: “...she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). The reason she can do this is because she trusts her LORD and is free from fear and anxiety. What freedom! Every woman wants that! She confidently stakes her life on the promises of God: “my God will meet all your needs…” (Philippians 4:19), “the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold” (Psalm 84:11), “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18), and she even has “confidence on the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17). She knows Him! Do we know Him like this?

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).

Our goal, Sisters, is not to strive to be the Proverbs 31 woman. No. The purpose for each of our lives is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! God has already told us how to dress for His glory and when we do, we will be "clothed in strength and dignity" and we will be able to "laugh at the days to come!" He'll see to it!

For His glory,
"Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His Name together!"
Psalm 34:3

This devotion is an updated version of my second book, Totally Devoted 2,
 in preparation for a Kindle edition! 
Copyright 2016 Totally Devoted 2 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

take heart....and keep pedaling

Yes, the battle is real. And Jesus is always the answer to the struggle Christians face every day: How do we stay faithful instead of freaking out when this world is like a relentless, spoiled brat desperate for our undivided attention? Jesus says we need to "take heart." 

Yep. "Take heart" even when we are tempted at every turn by the rowdy, rebellious kid who is deceitful, manipulative, and loud. Very loud. Worldly. Uh-huh. 

If we don't turn our backs on the world and turn our hearts to Jesus we won't know about His power or even see or experience the deep love Jesus has for His people. We won't know of His amazing, tender side, either. Yep. That's right. Even His tenderness is full of greatness! Nothing about Him can be contained! "...His greatness no one can fathom" (Psalm 145:3). 

The world speaks with a megaphone calling out to us to become idolaters, seekers of celebrity status, and instant gratification. God speaks to us with a still small voice and we have to "be still" (Psalm 46:10) to hear Him. Remember, He says, "My sheep know My voice and they follow Me" (John 10:27). 

Only God's children have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us Who can speak to our hearts and souls in this troubled world. Only Jesus can calm our troubled hearts in this sin-sick world. Yes! Yes! Yes! 

Check this out! He's saying, "Take heart, Child, I've got this!" [my paraphrase of course!]
  • Psalm 27:14 - "Wait for the LORD;  be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." ESV Bible commentary on Psalm 27:14 says, "In the midst of present trouble, do not give up; give God time to answer."
  • Matthew 9:22 - Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood after she got close enough to touch Him. Jesus' response to her was, '"Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed at that moment."'  (Amazing, isn't it, what happens to people who believe He is who He says He is and they are hungry to be close to Him?) 
  • Matthew 9:2 - "Some men brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."  ESV Bible commentary: "Forgiveness is the prerogative of the one who has been offended, and for Jesus to forgive sins was to claim divine authority."
  • Psalm 31:24 - "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD." 
  • John 16:33 -- "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). and this verse was referenced to this one: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me." (John 14:1) and "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27).

In light of Jesus' Words of Life, I'm gonna choose to "take heart" and keep on pedaling! He says, "You, dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). How about you, Sister?  Let's "take heart" and pedal together! 

For HIS glory,
Polly :)
"Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together!"
Psalm 34:3