Apr 09

What do you need today?


Why do you have needs? Why do you need shelter or food? Why do you need emotional connections with other people? Why do you need to feel a sense of purpose?

You have needs because God created you with needs. He could have made you so that your shelter is on your back, as He did the turtle. He could have made you so that you could live a solitary, isolated life. But instead, He made you with needs. The reason is so that your needs could be His entry points. Your needs will point you to His supply.

The Father wants to meet your needs. He encourages you to look to Him to supply every need that arises. He takes pleasure in supplying you with everything you need.

Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

“Meet today’s needs,” Jesus taught us to pray. “Whatever arises today, Father I look to you for provision.”

I hear the Father whisper to me, “Nothing will come into your life today for which I have not already put provision in place. Just be alert and watchful. Look to Me first, I will point you to the supply.”

What an adventure it is to live this way! How it frees me from anxiety and frustration! I am learning that everything, from the major to the mundane, has been provided for by my Father. As needs arise from day to day, instead of asking, “Father, do something!” I just say, “Father, what have You already done? Where will I discover the answer You have provided?”

Please understand, God does not meet every need in the way that seems convenient to me. If that were my measuring stick, then I would often be frustrated. But if I have given myself to Him as a living offering, then I am open for Him to meet my needs in ways that will further my understanding of Him or advance His kingdom. You will only live in a state of blessedness when you have aligned yourself  with His will, so that your desire is to know Him at deeper and deeper levels.

If your motivating force is to get God to perform for you–to see Him bring about your agenda–you will not find the blessedness that Jesus offers. Often, what seems an inconvenience to me puts me on the path to an encounter the Lord has arranged for me. Or, something that throws off my schedule actually provides me with information I needed–sometimes before I know I needed it.

Sometimes God waits for you to ask, because until you see your need, you will not recognize His supply. He waits until you have come to the end of your own resources. He waits for you to turn to Him as the one and only source.

Blessedness comes in trusting His love for you and His wisdom. Peace is yours when you know that He will never withhold from you something that would truly make your life more complete.

Today’s blog is an excerpt from Set Apart: a 6-week study of the beatitudes by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, pp. 160-162. Copyright (c) 201. New Hope Publishers. Used with permission.


Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below, “The Lord’s Prayer” by then 13-year-old Jackie Evancho https://youtu.be/qayluuujauM


Mar 25

Shaking Things Up

Don’t wait. Not a minute. Not a second. Instead, praise God now. If you and I wait to praise God until after something earthshaking and amazing happens, we’ve got the wrong order. Praise comes first. Doubt that?

Consider the classic praise story in the Bible–this scenario (in Acts 16) where Paul and Silas, bound in chains in the dungeon of a jail, their bodies bruised and bloodied by their jailers, still lifted their voices  to praise God.

And what an odd sound. Praise in a jail. Sung by two beaten, bloodied prisoners. It’s not logical. But as the book of Acts records, as they praised God, the earth shook. “And the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” Praise is power, indeed. But praise comes first.

When we’re bound up by some situation, in the midst of that mess, it’s hard to remember that we should praise God first. Not after it’s all cleaned up. But, while it’s happening. That is the proper order of praise.

In fact, the word praise (which in Latin means “prize”) shares a root with the Latin word for preposition. As we recall from grammar lessons at school, a preposition is the word that comes before the main thing. Such words hold the “before” position–the preposition–setting up the main topic. In our spiritual lives, praise sits in the same place. It holds the preposition, setting up God’s power so it can follow, moving in our hearts and lives.

And no prison chains can tie down that power. So don’t wait for your chains to fall or your prison walls to crumble. Praise God first. Right now. Despite your circumstances. Praise Him for being God. For His mercy. For His deliverance. For His hope. For His blessing. For His empowering Spirit. Then stand back. Your prison walls are coming down! (Content taken from One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional by Patricia Raybon. Copyright © 2011. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.)

Today’s blog was written by Patricia Raybon, my friend and an award-winning, bestselling author. I love her writing, her teachings and that fact we both got our journalism degrees from THE Ohio State University (we even had the same favorite prof, “Mad Martha”!) You can connect with Patricia  on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patricia.raybon or on her website https://www.patriciaraybon.com. And if you love daily inspiration, check out her One Year God’s Great Blessings Devotional–one of my favorites!

When you have about 15 minutes to praise God, please listen to the music video below of our church’s worship pastor Eric Sumpter and the worship band. There are three songs with the words on the screen so you can sing along. I promise both God –and you–will be blessed. https://www.facebook.com/christschurchofthevalley/videos/508513459834041/

Mar 18

Where’s God when I really need Him?

Why doesn’t God keep little children from getting cancer?

Why didn’t God protect that family from the drunk driver?

Why did my friend have to bury yet-another spouse?

Why did God allow……………..you fill in the blanks.

We sometimes struggle with not sensing God’s nearness, not feeling His presence or not seeing His power in the way we had hoped. If you’ve ever agonizingly cried out “Where are you, God?” you know exactly what I mean.

I certainly would never attempt to explain all God’s actions (or perceived inactions), but I do believe there are spiritual truths which can help in those desperation times.

One of these truths is gleaned from Joshua 3* as the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River into the land God promised them:

“So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them.  It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge,  the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.”

Can you picture the one- to two- million people biblical scholars estimate stood at the river’s edge? As they watched the river overflow its banks, I can only only imagine their desperate thoughts: OK, God, where are you? We’re all going to die here!

But God didn’t push back the water right in front of His people. Instead He was working upstream at a town called Adam (estimated by scholars to be almost 20 miles away). That’s where the water backed up and allowed all those millions to walk across downstream on dry land.

I love how my pastor Brian Jones discusses this “upstream” phenomena in his book Second Guessing God:  Hanging on When You Can’t See His Plan:

“Where’s God? Whenever we face a problem in our lives—sickness, job loss, depression, tragedy, or discouragement—God is at work upstream in those situations, beyond our line of sight. The only thing the Israelites could see was the problem right in front of them. They could have concluded that since the raging river was there, God wasn’t actively involved in their situation, but they would have been wrong. He was there; they just couldn’t see him at work.”

Are you having trouble seeing God at work in your life or in the life of someone you love? Those are the times we all need to trust that our heavenly Father hears, cares and is at work……..upstream.

*This insight about God working upstream is not original as I have read several authors/speakers who have shared it.

Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below, “Way Maker” with Michael W. Smith.


Mar 04

Longing for Home

Our world could use some good news couldn’t it? In many ways it’s a frightening time in which to be living; wars, rumors of wars, the constant threat of terrorism, violence in the classrooms, families torn apart by abuse and divorce, and so many friends and relatives with cancer. Life is not only hard; it’s often downright unfair, as some people seem to have more than their share of troubles. You might even be one of those people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where everything was fair and people didn’t get sick, and sad things didn’t happen, and nobody had to die?

Did you ever wonder why there’s a longing in each of us for just such a kind of place? It’s a longing for home, you know. A longing for our real home. You see, we weren’t created to live in California or New York or anywhere else on this planet. We were created for our real home: Heaven.

The Bible describes Heaven in Revelation 21:4 as a place where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.”

And why won’t there be any more tears or death or sorrow or pain? Not because we’ll have all the money we ever wanted or all the fame or all the knowledge or any other tangible item.

It’s because we’ll have God Himself.

In Revelation 21:3, the verse right before the one about no more tears, it says: “Look! God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them and they will be his people.”

That’s why there won’t be any more tears or pain or death. We’ll have what we always really needed to be whole—the constant presence of God Himself.

The great 17th-century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote that inside each person is a “God-shaped vacuum.” There’s a hole, so to speak, in our hearts which leaves us longing for something more than this world has to offer. It’s a hole and a longing that God put in us when He created us. He knows only He can fill that hole even though we try to fill it ourselves with all sorts of things. Buying “stuff.” Relationships. Work. Sports. Learning. Religious rituals. Some even try things like food, sex, drugs or alcohol. But none of these can fill the God-shaped vacuum in us…instead they only make it bigger.

The only thing that fills that hole and makes us whole is when God fills it with Himself by putting His very Spirit inside us, one life at a time.

That’s right.  We find true joy, true fulfillment when we realize there’s Someone bigger than us. Someone greater than us. Someone worthy of every bit of praise we can give. We were created to praise God with our lips…and our lives.

And when we do, we experience a peace that hardly can be described. It’s a feeling that reminds us this world is not where we belong and that one day our longing for our real Home will be satisfied.

(Be sure to open this in your browser to enjoy the music video below “There Will Be a Day” by Jeremy Camp.)

Feb 19

How to Keep Calm and Carry On


What are your fighting against these days? Cancer? Addiction? Depression? Discouragement?

Or what are you fighting for?  Your marriage? A wayward loved one? Improved finances? Restored health?

Well, as the Brits like to say:


Keeping calm in the face of impending disaster actually is a recurring message throughout the Bible.

As the Israelites fled from Pharaoh’s enslavement, they panicked when the Egyptian army began overtaking them. “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue today…The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Sure enough, the Red Sea parted, the Israelites walked through on dry ground and then the waters rushed back, drowning all the pursuers.

There’s another great calming story  in 2 Chronicles 20. The short background is that the Jewish King Jehoshaphat was told that some great armies were coming to attack him. His response was not atypical from what ours might be—he “was terrified and begged the Lord for guidance.” Shortly, God answered his prayer by sending His Spirit to speak through one of the king’s men:

 He said, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them… But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” 

The king and his people believed God and began to worship Him, praise Him and sing to Him. At the very moment they did this, the Bible says God caused the approaching armies to fight amongst themselves and kill each other. The Israelites won the battle without a fight because God fought for them.

Standing still and being calm does not logically sound like a good way to win a battle. But then God’s ways are not always our ways, are they? The armies coming against the Israelites were way too large and powerful to be defeated. The situations were hopeless from God’s people’s perspective—but hope-filled from God’s vantage point.

Perhaps the problem  you or our loved one is facing seems too difficult or even hopeless. But as my pastor, Brian Jones, reminded our congregation recently: “Every miracle in the Bible is preceded by a problem.”

Whatever problem you are fighting against–or for–is setting the stage for God’s divine intervention. I can’t promise exactly how He will deliver–whether the situation will miraculously resolve or if He will supernaturally empower you to get through it.  But if you trust Him, you can keep calm and watch the Lord’s victory.

So stay calm, dear friend, and know that even if what you see doesn’t seem to make sense, God is fighting for you. And please remember…He’s never lost a battle.

(Be sure to open in your browser to hear the music video “Never Lost a Battle” by Elevation Worship.)


Feb 05

Dumping Our Anger


When I was in the hospital after my cancer surgery, a friend came into my room with a big smile and announced: “God is going to teach you great things through this trial!”

I wanted to take the IV out of my arm, stab it in hers, and tell her, “You get in the bed and learn great things from God, because I ­don’t want to learn this way!”

Of course, I didn’t say that. Instead I just smiled and hoped she would leave very soon.

If you had asked me in June of 1990 whether I was angry about the nightmare unfolding before me–stage 3 cancer at age 36 with three young daughters and a husband who already had buried his first wife--I would have insisted that I was not. After all, it’s not really proper for a Baptist minister’s wife to get angry, is it?

But as I look back on those dark days after diagnosis, I realize I experienced a bevy of emotions: shock, disbelief, denial, disappointment, frustration, sadness, worry and yes, anger.

I don’t know what deep suffering or  overwhelming struggles you’ve had to face. Maybe you’re not as angry as I was; perhaps you’re only just a tiny bit ticked. Then again, maybe “fury” better describes what you’re feeling today.

Where can you go to dump it?

I suggest you run where all those with great suffering need to run: to the only One whose shoulders are broad enough, whose arms are strong enough and whose love is deep enough.

“It’s all right—questions, pain, and stabbing anger can be poured out
to the Infinite One
and He will not be damaged…
For we beat on His chest from within the circle of His arms.”
 Anne Cetas, Our Daily Bread.

Can you visualize that for yourself? You crying out to God, beating your clenched fists upon His chest and Him holding you in His loving arms.

            I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.
Psalm 69:3

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, 
but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
Psalm 22:1-2

And then after you’ve hurled your questions heavenward, don’t forget to go to God’s Word to find His response. A good place to start might be the promise He gave to Jeremiah, who was filled with so much grief he has been called “the weeping prophet:”

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt…”

 Jeremiah 31:3, 4

I believe our heavenly Father is the best place to turn with our suffering. He’ll either give us the answers we seek, or the peace we need to live with the questions.

(Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video below “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day.)


Jan 23

Is the wildfire of fear, worry or anxiety burning in your life?

Fear is your enemy’s weapon. He uses it skillfully and often to great effect. Fear and its offshoots–worry and anxiety–are like a wildfire, encroaching on every area of your life and leaving destruction in their wake.

Fear eats its way into your emotions, robbing you of the peace and rest God intends for you. Fear burrows into your relationships and colors your interactions with those you love. Fear robs your body of its vigor, occupies your thoughts, and monopolizes your attention. Fear hijacks your life.

We experience fear when situations and people are not under our control. Fear is a feeling of powerlessness. We can’t control outcomes, events, or people. Anything you can control does not cause fear. As we recognize our vulnerabilities, we begin to fear. It comes naturally to us and puts down deep roots. Unless we guard against it, we grow in fear instead of growing in faith.

When you are experiencing fear in any of its forms, consider fear as an indicator you are trying to carry a burden that is not yours to carry. You are trying to do God’s job for Him. You feel the responsibility for managing the situation, and you inherently know you are not powerful enough. So fear sets in.

Fear is designed to steal every single thing Jesus wants to give you. Fear targets joy and peace like a heat-seeking missile… Introducing fear and worry into your thoughts is Satan’s attempt to dethrone God in your life. He hints to you that God might not be all He claims to be. Isn’t that the essence of fear?

Why does God repeat His injunction, “Do not fear,” over and over? Because there is so much to fear. If you were expected to navigate life on your own, in your own ability, then fear would be the only choice. He does not promise to give you a life that has nothing fearful in it, but He does promise to buffer you in such a way that fear does not have the last word. We don’t have to give fear free rein in our lives. We are not at the mercy of events outside us because we have the living, present Jesus inside us.

It seems our human nature, apart from the redeeming, restoring work of Jesus in us, is hardwired for fear. When challenges appear, we default to fear. Fear is our habit. So Jesus is saying over and over, “Do not fear.” It’s not a command. You can’t make yourself stop fearing. It’s an invitation . Maybe it sounds something like this: “Let that fear drive you to Me. You have no control, but I have complete control. Instead of wallowing in fear, let fear redirect your heart and fasten it on Me.”

Jesus is the fear-buster. His voice speaking to your heart has the power to decimate fear. The voice that called the world into being with the power of His word has direct access to your mind and emotions. The Father says, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35)

We will all find ourselves in circumstances that have the potential to produce fear, and Jesus will use those circumstances to makes us fearless.
Today’s blog is an excerpt from Prized: Experience the Tender Love of the Savior, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, pp. 106-108. Copyright (c) 2019 by the Praying Life Foundation. Published by New Hope Publishers. Used with permission. (Be sure to open this blog in your browser to enjoy the song below “Fear Not” by Kristene DiMarco.)

Jan 08

How’s your heart in this New Year?


Here’s what I know about the New Year ….

If your heart is beating, you have a purpose. It doesn’t matter if it’s a broken heart, grieving heart, sad heart, lonely heart, full heart…any kind of heart. If it’s beating, God has a plan for you and a purpose for each and every beat. Friend, your beating heart matters.


This is an ECMO machine that helped my sweet friend’s heart. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and is a lifesaving therapy which adds oxygen to the blood and pumps it throughout the patient like a heart normally would. This process takes place outside the body and lets the lungs and heart rest temporarily and have time to heal. I treasure this picture because it is a visual reminder that sometimes our hearts have seasons where they need help to beat. Moments to rest. Time to heal.



You are still here, you are still alive, your beating heart and your every breath still matter. So take on this next year with confidence and grace. Nothing is too broken for God to fix. You may be the one who needs “outside” help for your heart. Or perhaps you are the one God wants to use to give a hurting person time to rest and heal. Allow others to help and help others. Love deeply. Seek Jesus because as the song below says, every beat of your heart is calling out His Name.

I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7 NASB

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel36:26 NLT

P.S. Many thanks to my friend Joanna Dennstaedt who originally wrote this wonderful post and allowed me to tweak and expand a little upon it for this blog. Joanna is a 5-year survivor of stage 3 melanoma and founder of the nonprofit ministry Radiant Hope, which offers support/comfort/inspiration to cancer patients (including giving them a free copy of my book 50 Days of Hope!) You can connect with this beautiful lady at https://www.joannadennstaedt.com/?fbclid=IwAR3ISWHRUo0eFf9GQScAqUbWKEaVsRftys41lz3ift_JKAKGdypM1ceqWzc

Be sure to open in your browser to hear  the music video “Every Beat” by North Point InsideOut.

Dec 18


If only I hadn’t missed that one little step on the deck, fallen and broken my wrist fourteen months ago.  If only that tumble didn’t cause a nerve injury, greatly impeding my recovery and still needing prescription pain relief. If only all the trauma  didn’t bring on tachycardia, requiring a complete cardiac workup and lifestyle changes. If only a screw didn’t come loose a year later, necessitating removal of the hardware. If only being intubated for the surgery didn’t cause painful TMJ.  If only I didn’t have to start all over again with occupational therapy.

All these health struggles caused by one little missed step.

How about you? Any “if onlys” in your life or your loved one’s?

If only this diagnosis had not come right now. If only that distracted driver hadn’t rear ended us. If only my partner hadn’t been unfaithful. If only I didn’t lose my job. If only my loved one was still here with me. If only…you fill in the blanks.


In the Gospel of John we read about sisters Mary and Martha who sent a message to Jesus concerning their brother Lazarus: “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” Jesus got the message and then promptly stayed put for two more days. By the time he arrived at Lazarus’ home, his friend had been in the grave four days.

Martha ran outside the village to meet Jesus and told him: “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, italics mine)

Shortly, Mary arrived with the same heartbroken words: “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32, italics mine)

Jesus followed the two women to Lazarus’ grave and scripture tells us He was both angry and weeping. He knew His Heavenly Father was going to raise His friend back to life in a few moments, but that didn’t prevent Jesus from being mad and from crying.

Friends, I believe Jesus cares deeply about our “if onlys.” I believe He is angry when our frail bodies break down with sickness and injury. He’s angry when other people’s missteps cause us pain and suffering. He’s angry when partners are unfaithful. He’s angry when unfairness happens to us. He’s angry when death temporarily steals a loved one from us.

If you are wondering what Jesus thinks about your “if onlys”…He’s weeping with you.

He’s shedding tears because we have to experience trials in this life and He longs for us all to be in Heaven where the Book of Revelation tells us “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Right before Jesus prayed for Lazarus’ resurrection, He told all the weeping mourners: “Didn’t I tell you that you would see the glory of God if you believe?” (He didn’t add the word “only” but His message is the same.)

I can’t tell you exactly how God is going to respond to your painful “if only,” but I know He loves you and if only you believe–trust in Him–you will see His glory some how, some way, some time. He may bring physical healing or emotional soothing or relationship restoration or supernatural comfort.  As the song below reminds us: “When your pain runs deep, His love runs deeper still.”

Open in your browser to hear the music video “Somewhere in Your Silent Night” by Casting Crowns

Dec 04

How much praying is enough?

Guest blog by Julie Coleman author/speaker/teacher/cancer survivor http://juliecoleman.org

Is God more moved to answer our requests by persistence? If we pray hard enough or long enough will that increase our chance of getting the answer we are hoping for?

How persistent is enough? Praying for something 20 times? Fifty times? Five times a day? Ten?

The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to think in terms of big numbers. When his “thorn in the flesh” became unbearable, he prayed to God. Not 50 times or even 20. “I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me,” he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8.

Three times? I could knock that out in a half-hour. If persistence was the issue, don’t you think Paul would have made the request more times than that? 

You may have heard Jesus’ parable about the “persistent widow “(Luke 18:2-8). The woman was being harassed, so she approached a certain judge for assistance. The judge had no interest in her plea and ignored her protests. However, he finally tired of her constant badgering and gave in to her demands, saying: “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”

I’ve always heard it taught that this story teaches we need to be persistent in prayer, so God will give us what we want. But I believe the Luke 18 parable is not so much about the widow, but about the self-absorbed judge.

The judge is a real jerk: ignoring the pleas of the oppressed, refusing to respect God or people. Absolutely self-absorbed. Even when he finally acquiesces to the widow’s repeated requests, it’s all about him. “Because this widow bothers ME…otherwise by continually coming she will wear ME out.” (emphasis added)

Now seriously, is this depiction of the judge meant to represent God in any way?

No! Jesus contrasts the earthly judge with His heavenly Father so the disciples can see how different the two are.

“Then the Lord said, ‘Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you he will grant justice to them quickly!’” Luke 18:6-8

I believe Jesus is reassuring His disciples about the character of God, not giving them a burden of how persistently they ought to pray.

A careful look at the widow parable yields a much more accurate view of what Jesus was trying to communicate as Luke gives us a big clue in his introduction. “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” (italics added)

The disciples would not lose heart if they understood the character of God. He has a plan for this world and will bring it to fulfillment. Jesus is teaching them: God is on the throne. He wants you to trust Him…even when things get grim. He is NOT that self-absorbed judge. Don’t lose heart when opposition comes and circumstances pile up against you.

I don’t think this parable is about prayer at all. Instead it’s about who God is…and why we should never lose heart.


Be sure to open this blog in your browser to hear the music video “Do Not Lose Heart” by Caroline Cobb.




Read more of Julie’s wisdom at http://juliecoleman.org