Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Spiritual Exchanges

He gave me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.
Isaiah 61:3
The line at Returns and Exchanges wound from the Customer Service area to the food vendors. As I expected, I would be waiting a while. It was December 26th, a day known for its number of  returns and exchanges, no matter what store you visit.

Did you know that God is in the business of returns and exchanges?

Isaiah 63:3 lists just a few of the unwanted aspects of life that God replaces with blessings--beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for heaviness.

What about us? Couldn't we offer others the same kind of exchanges? When a co-worker criticizes another employee, might we find the courage to point out that person's positive traits? When someone laments over what they no longer have, could we show them an area of joy in the situation that they may have overlooked? In the midst of a friend's discouragement, can we help them see a blessing for which they can be truly thankful?

And dare we take this to a more personal level? When someone condemns us, can we not only resist lashing out in return, but interject beauty into the conversation? When we are feeling a deep sense of loss, might we be lifted up by reaching out to someone else who is lonely or hurting, who needs our overture of friendship? During times of stress and pressure, could we share our concerns with a friend who will pray with us, transferring those responsibilities to the shoulders of the One who can carry all of our heaviness?

What would you like to exchange? How has God taken a burden and replaced it with a blessing in your life?


©2013 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

“The Santa Claus”

Bernard (the elf): Did you or did you not read the card?
Scott Calvin: Yeah, I read the card.
Bernard: Then you're the new Santa. In putting on the hat and jacket you accepted the contract.
Scott C.: What contract?
Bernard: The card in the Santa suit. You said you read it, right? So when you put on the suit, you fell subject to the Santa Clause.
Scott C.: The Santa Claus? Oh, you mean the guy that fell off my roof?
Bernard: No, no, no, not Santa Claus, the person. Santa Clause, the clause.
Scott C.: What?
Bernard: You're a businessman, right?
Scott C.: Yeah.
Bernard: Okay. A clause is the last line of a contract. You got the card? Okay, see. The Santa Clause: "ln putting on this suit and entering the sleigh, the wearer waives any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus in perpetuity until such time that wearer becomes unable to do so by either accident or design." from The Santa Clause

I love the Christmas movies that air during the holiday season. The other evening, I watched The Santa Clause. In the above scene from the movie, Scott Calvin discovers that he is the new Santa Claus. Scott’s entire life changes because of this new identity.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, God says “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.” Just as Scott Calvin waived “any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied,” at salvation, our old life ends and we take on a new identity—that of God’s friend.

When we trust Christ, how we treat others, what is important to us, our level of integrity, and our perspective are all affected. At salvation, God begins to transform us. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to Him and is perfect.”

Just as stunning as the physical make-over we often see a person go through on a TV show, our spirit receives a make-over at salvation. Ephesians 4: 23-24 says, “Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.”

This transformation process is both instantaneous and gradual. Our sins are forgiven immediately. But, like Scott Calvin, whose attitude about his role as Santa took time to change, we require re-education to bring our old habits and mind-sets in line with Scripture.

How can we help the process along?

Be willing to be transformed by God. (Romans 12:2)
Get to know God better by reading the Bible and talking with God.
Spend time with other Christians in fellowship and study groups. (Hebrews 10:25)
Persevere. When we fall, the Lord will help us up. We need to keep going. (Psalm 37:23-24)
Keep focused on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

As you watch other Christmas specials and movies this year, I would love to hear about the lessons God revealed to you through them.


©2014 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Snow Job

Photo by Pam Williams

Are you always honest in your prayers? I have to admit, I am not. Sometimes I am afraid to tell God how I really feel. What if I offend him? I can be reluctant to ask for things because of what God’s answer may require of me. Sometimes I try to give him a snow job—obscuring my true feelings with empty phrases.

There are lots of ways I am not completely honest with God in prayer, and that is just ridiculous!  God knows my heart; He knows my thoughts. (Jeremiah 17:10) So why do I try to hide my real self from him? There is nowhere and no way to hide from God. (Hebrews 4:13) He knows me—inside and out. So I might as well be honest with Him.

The book of Psalms is full of honest prayers. The words we read there are simple, truthful outpourings of the heart—no frilly smokescreens, no sidestepping of issues, no cowering fear.

As I read through the Psalms, I find reflections of what is in my own heart. At times the words express disappointment and even anger. Where are you, God? (Psalm 10:1) Others share praise from a heart full to overflowing with wonder at God’s mercy and provision. O, Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1) Some psalms beg unashamedly for God’s intervention. Do something, God! (Psalm 82:8)

Psalms show me that God is okay with my honesty. In fact, he welcomes it over flowery, empty phrases that try to cover up the truth. God wants us to be real with him. Jesus said, “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long.” (Matthew 6:7)

So, will you join me in being more honest this year? Let’s give God the stark truth in 2015. He can take it. After all, when we aren’t honest, the only person we are fooling is ourselves.


 ©2015 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#1 Best Seller

“Although it is impossible to obtain exact figures, there is little doubt that the Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed book. . . Recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion.” –The Guinness Book of World Records

Most of us own at least one Bible, and many of us own two or three. We have given Bibles as gifts to children, graduates, and newlyweds. But how much of the Bible have we read?  How much of God’s Word do we know?

One of the spokes on the wheel of Christian growth advocated by the Navigators, an international, interdenominational Christian ministry, is the Bible. So, what makes it so important?

One reason the Bible is so important is its author. Thirty five different writers, some educated, some uneducated, penned the 66 books of the Bible over a period of 1500 years. Among them were an adopted prince, several kings, a few fishermen, some public officials, a farmer or two, a couple teachers and at least one doctor.

Despite the varied backgrounds of all these writers, the Bible presents a unified message with a common theme woven throughout. How do we explain 35 different people writing in absolute harmony? In 2 Timothy 3:16 we find the answer: “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The true author of each of the 66 books of the Bible is God; therefore it makes sense that they are unified.

If the Bible is not inspired by God, then it is merely the writings of men. If we do not believe that the Bible is God’s Word, then we are saying that what it teaches may or may not be true, and we have no basis for our faith. But the Scriptures ARE inspired by God and ARE true.

Not only was the Holy Spirit needed in penning the Bible, He is needed in order for us to understand it. (1 Corinthians 2:10-16) He knows the mind of God and can explain it to us. John Wesley recommended we begin Bible reading and study by praying that the Spirit will teach and guide us to a better understanding of God’s Holy Word and end our time in it by praying that the Spirit will help us follow God’s command in James 1:22, “Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to [God’s] word; instead, put it into practice.”

The Word of God is certainly worthy of living out. John 17:17 tells us it is truth and Isaiah 40:8 says it lasts forever. Hebrews 4:12 proclaims that the Word of God is alive, active and judges our hearts. Psalm 19:7-11 reminds us that it gives us new strength, wisdom, happiness, understanding and knowledge. Romans 15:4 declares that God’s Word gives us hope, patience, and encouragement. 2 Timothy 3:15-16 advocates that Scripture teaches truth, rebukes error, corrects faults, and gives instructions for right living!

Wow! That’s a lot of powerful direction and loving encouragement to be gained from one volume! No wonder it’s a best seller!

What other great reasons have you found for reading, studying, and applying the Word of God?


©2014 Pamela D. Williams

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brooke's Dog

Photo by Brooke Suter

My niece recently found the St. Bernard pictured above and took it in. What a sad, bedraggled sight! This poor dog needed food, water, a bath, and medical attention. Somehow he knew when he found Brooke, that his needs would be met, that he had stumbled across someone whose loving heart would embrace him—and she didn’t disappoint. His trust was well placed.

Earlier that day I had read the following prayer on Brooke’s post brought it back to mind:

“I am in your presence O Lord.
I will take refuge in your loving heart.
You are my strength in times of weakness.
You are my comforter in times of sorrow.”

At times the world can be a cold and cruel place—for people as well as dogs. We all need a Brooke from time to time—someone who will love us as we are, take us in, soothe our hurts, clean us up, and help us find our place.

Jesus is that person. He loves us so much he gave his own life for ours. He has the power to carry us through when we are too overwhelmed and beaten down to take another step on our own. Like Brooke with the dog, He notices our hurts and recognizes our needs, and gathers us to him. He sees the stains sin has left on our souls, and carefully, thoroughly washes us clean, leaving us forgiven and pure in his eyes.

And just as Brooke found a good home for the lost dog, Jesus welcomes us into his family and promises us a room in his mansion. When we feel lost and abandoned, there is a Rescuer reaching out his loving arms, calling to us, waiting patiently for us to turn to him--and he never disappoints. 

“Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7


©2014 Pamela D. Williams