He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
Do you like to do puzzles? I am not patient enough to do the 500 piece puzzles, but I enjoy one in the 30-60 piece range. Just for the record, I do those with some of our grandchildren, not by myself! It’s fun to find the corners and straight edges, filling in the border of the picture.
Sometimes, when I am reading God's Word, I feel like the Lord gives me puzzle pieces. I will read a verse or passage and meditate on it. Then He seems to give more understanding through other verses as the days go by. Eventually He brings the puzzle together for me.
A few weeks ago, the Lord began to lay out a new puzzle for me. My Sunday School class, studied Psalm 23. I continued to think about verse 23:2b-3a, “He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.” In other translations the waters are described as, “quiet or peaceful”, and our souls being, “refreshed or renewed.”
What a beautiful picture that can awaken strong emotions. We know that we are led to this place of refreshment by drawing near to God in His Word and through prayer.
Soon after my study in Psalm 23, I read Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
The Lord prompted my heart to camp on the last part of the verse.
“Ok Lord, you want my words to be filled with grace to others.” Then I was reminded of some wonderful times of fellowship I have spent with a dear mentor in my life. Whenever my friend and I part ways, I am usually challenged and excited to experience what the Lord may have in store for me. There have also been times, though, when she helps me move from fear and self-pity to see God’s hand in the situations of my life.
This dear friend speaks God’s grace into my life. I leave being refreshed, or in process of being restored. The Lord revealed to me that He first and foremost brings renewal through His Word. But He also allows us, as His children to be His voice of grace in the lives of others. It amazes me that by giving the gift of time and words, led by the Holy Spirit, our Lord will use us to lead others to quiet waters.
Here lies the question for our hearts today, “Do we allow our words to be part of God’s will to help others be refreshed in Him?” We learn from Proverbs 18:21a, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” May we all strive for tongues that are filled with life!
How can we work toward having words that are filled with life and grace? We seek the Lord each day, in His Word, knowing The Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12a). The Lord will guide us and empower us through the Holy Spirit, and we must rely on His wisdom.
James 3:17-18 reveals how our words, filled with God’s wisdom, will help us speak life into one another, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Lord, make us instruments of Your grace and life!
I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
I love walking on the beach! A year ago, I was taking a night stroll on the beach with some of my family members and we were searching for sea turtle’s nests. The stars were out but it was very dark. My 5-year old grandson and I were walking together and rather than carry a flashlight, he wore a headlight on his head so we could see where we were walking.
After walking for awhile, he casually mentioned that bugs were in his face. I hadn’t noticed any bugs, so we kept walking. A few steps later, he said that bugs were getting in his eyes. When I stopped and looked at him, I saw a swarm of bugs all around his face and entire head. They were attracted to the light!
I have never compared myself to a bug, but at that moment, I remembered that Jesus said, “…I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12, NKJV). Jesus is The Light of the world because in Him is the glory of God. He shines among us and He shines upon us. He invites us to follow Him and not walk in darkness and have the light of life. Like those bugs, we are drawn to His Light - His goodness, His kindness, His peace and His unconditional and sacrificial love that He has for each one of us!
If we walk in darkness, we will eventually get hurt. We desperately need The Light to expose things that the darkness hides. Recently, I read about three kinds of darknesses that we face when we choose to not follow the Light: darkness of ignorance, darkness of impurity and darkness of sorrow.** I am so thankful that the Lord is The Light for in Him there is no darkness.
In Psalm 119:105, Scripture is compared to a lamp, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Like that headlight that helped us navigate the dark beach, His Word lights our paths and guides our thoughts and actions to help keep us from stumbling. This is so exciting that Jesus, The Light of the world invites us to follow Him. When we follow HIm by reading His Word, praying and obeying His truths, we will not walk in darkness, we will have the light of life and He will light our path!
The next time you are outside and see a light in the darkness, watch how desperate the bugs are to get to the light and think of Jesus, THE LIGHT of the world.
I have played hide-and-seek with many children over the years. While older children understand the object of the game…when you are hiding, you try to not be found by the person doing the seeking, younger children view the game differently. In fact, younger children don’t seem to understand the point of the game at all. The biggest thrill for the hiding younger child is to be found.
Most of the time, when younger children are “hiding”, they giggle and talk, awaiting the exciting moment of being discovered by the seeker. And then, when the seeker finally uncovers their hiding place, they erupt in giggles and squeals of delight…they revel in being found.
One of my favorite Bible stories found in Luke 19, is about a man named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who had exchanged the honor of his heritage for employment with the Roman government; a government that was oppressing his people. Zacchaeus was a tax collector for the Romans.
Zacchaeus was not just any tax collector, he was the chief tax collector, the man responsible for gathering all of the taxes in the region of Judea, with tax collectors of lesser rank working under him.
It seemed the trade-off was worth it to Zacchaeus. He liked being rich. And, Zacchaeus didn’t seem to mind being the object of contempt and disdain of his fellow countrymen.
But maybe the money couldn’t fill up the empty places deep within Zacchaeus. Maybe the lack of friends left him wanting; wanting something that a nice house and gold coins couldn’t satisfy.
As the story goes, the tax collector heard one day that Jesus would be passing through his town of Jericho. Zacchaeus wanted to see this Jesus whom he had heard so much about.
Crowds of people were everywhere trying to get a look at Jesus; there was no way that a person of shorter stature, like Zacchaeus, stood a chance at getting a glimpse of Jesus. Zacchaeus had an idea; he would run ahead of the crowds and climb up a sycamore tree that was beside the road.
It seemed a ridiculous idea for a man of his position to risk the humiliation that climbing a tree might bring if he were discovered. The people would surely mock him. But Zacchaeus just had to see this Jesus for himself.
Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed the tree. He stayed silent as he watched the crowd approach with Jesus in the center of the throng. He caught a glimpse of the Rabbi. The Rabbi’s steps came to a halt right underneath the tree. Jesus looked up and into the eyes of the tax collector. Jesus spoke and called him by name, “Zacchaeus! You must come down from the tree quickly because I am on my way to your house. I thought we would have a visit today.”
The surprised tax collector did just as Jesus told him. With great excitement and delight the chief tax collector escorted Jesus to his home.
We’re not told what the two men talked about that day. But we are told that their conversation wrought a change in Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus wanted to make restitution for all the money he had wrongly taken from his fellow citizens. Zacchaeus also wanted to give of his wealth to the poor.
On a day that Zacchaeus thought he would simply be a bystander in the crowd when Jesus came to town, he ended up playing host for the Rabbi. Zacchaeus gained a friend who changed his life forever. When Zacchaeus climbed up into that tree seeking to see, he did not know that it would lead to him being found by a loving Savior.
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
I love how the Lord can even use my dog to teach me great truth. I have a two-year-old Weimaraner who has captured my heart. An evening bike ride is one of our favorite things to do (well I ride he runs). Several months ago we were on one of our rides, as we passed by a house I noticed a lady standing in her front yard holding onto her dog. We got about a half a block away when her dog came flying out of nowhere and attacked Tahoe.
Now Tahoe is a lover not a fighter and as he was trying to get away from Cujo (not sure, but that might be his real name) his leash wrapped around the front of my bike and down I went. The lady finally caught her dog and dragged him back to her house. I checked Tahoe and myself for blood, picked up my bike and continued on our way.
I went from scared to fuming in about two seconds flat and for two blocks I had this dialog going on in my head, “I can’t believe that lady just let her dog go, she saw us riding by, she knows her dog is vicious and she just let him go, people like that should not have dogs...” I would have continued my rant if I hadn’t looked down to see Tahoe trotting along with a big smile on his face (oh yes he smiles). He had already forgiven the attack and was enjoying his run.
That is when I heard the Lord’s whisper to my heart “that is how quickly I want you to forgive.” 1 Corinthians 13 tells us “love keeps no record of wrong.” But let’s face it forgiveness is not always easy; like when your husbands says something that cuts, or you just can’t seem to please a critical parent, or a friend lets you down, the list goes on and on. If we are not careful these things can build up and make our hearts hard and bitter. Others have been hurt in deep, dark ways, that that are difficult to speak about and seem impossible to forgive.
In Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus “how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Essentially Jesus said unforgiveness is not an option and told the parable of the unforgiving servant who was thrown in prison to be tortured because he refused to extend the forgiveness he received to a fellow servant. Jesus is very clear in his command to forgive.
To paraphrase St. Augustine “Our Lord never commands what he does not also provide”. So how do we forgive?
Colossians 3:13 says "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." The key to forgiveness is to remember that we are forgiven.
His forgiveness is not based on our merit, there is not a single thing we can do to earn it, and we do not deserve it. Our sin and rebellion against the Holy, Righteous, Loving Almighty Creator of the universe pales in comparison to any sin that is committed against us Yet, through the blood of Jesus the Lord forgives us. When we allow the joy of that truth to penetrate our hearts it gives us the freedom and desire to do the same for the people in our lives.
Everything the Lord commands us to do is for His glory and our good. When we forgive we reflect His glory, we display a glimpse of what God’s forgiveness looks like. Forgiveness is also for our good; it sets us free from the prison of bitterness, anger and hatred and allows us to live the joy filled abundant life the Lord desires for us.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.