Monday, May 27, 2024

Yet Will I Praise Him - Karen Huffaker

yet I will praise him
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV

Ann almost shouted when she said, “Praise the Lord!”

This practice was not uncommon for my coworker. Neither was the phrase, “Thank you, Jesus!” She freely gave credit and glory to the Lord, no matter where she was. Her praise could be about little things or something big on her heart. She recognized God’s goodness and His hand in the everyday circumstances of life.

I, however, tend to whisper praise under my breath unless with family or friends. Then, I’m a bit more vocal with my gratitude.

Praise God when things are good.

That’s pretty easy if we remember. When things are going smoothly, relationships are good, health is excellent, and nothing is broken, we should give thanks and praise the Lord. But sometimes, we get complacent and take things for granted. Often, we forget that these things are the answers to our prayers.

Praise God when things are not so good.

Praise God anyway. We have good reasons to hope. We can thank God that He hears our prayers, knows our problems, and works to provide in many ways: a temporary job, housing, transportation, medication, doctors, helpers, repair technicians. He grants favors and blessings in big, little, and unique ways.

The Bible gives us instructions and examples about praise and thanksgiving. King David rejoiced, thanked God, and danced for joy before the people. He unashamedly expressed awe and reverence. Although David did many notable things, he also greatly sinned and paid the price for it. Yet, he still worshipped and praised God.

Reflect on recent days and consider how God worked in your situations, even if you didn’t notice it then. Recall the unexpected blessings that lifted your spirit. Journaling these things will encourage you. Then, praise God.

Whether you experience good things or not, praise God because He always works for our best and inhabits the praises of His people. 

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Karen Huffaker is a freelance Christian writer. She has taught children’s Sunday school and single mom’s Bible studies and written poetry. She is from the Deep South and loves reading Christian books, devotionals, genealogy adventures, fishing, and all things family. She is also passionate about her grandchildren’s sporting events. 


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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Casserole


Bacon Egg Cheese Casserole


Ingredients
2 CANS PILLSBURY CRESCENT ROLLS (ROLLED OUT FLAT)
   
6 EGGS (SCRAMBLED)

4 OUNCES CREAM CHEESE 

1/2 CUP MILK

1 CUP SHREDDED CHEESE 

2 BAGS OF OSCAR MAYER REAL BACON BITS

1 ONION (MINCED)

SALT/PEPPER

Directions
PLACE DOUGH ON COOKIE SHEET, PIZZA STONE, OR IN CASSEROLE DISH. 

SCRAMBLE EGGS. ADD CREAM CHEESE, MILK, SALT/PEPPER.

LAYER ON TOP OF DOUGH: EGGS, BACON, CHEESE, ONION.

MAKE 8 CUTS ON EACH SIDE OF THE DOUGH AND PULL OVER TO BRAID THE TOP.

BEAT 1 EGG WHITE AND BRUSH OVER DOUGH.

BAKE AT 350 DEGREES FOR 18 TO 20 MINUTES.


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Friday, May 24, 2024

Born for a Purpose - Martin Wiles

born for a purpose
Just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way.” Mark 1:2 NLT

Elvis Pressley was highly popular in the music world. In fact, fans knew him as the king of rock and roll. Robert Frost, a lifelong Elvis fan who had visited Graceland three times, was the first person to use the term. He worked as an entertainment reporter for the Memphis Press Scimitar and, in a May 1956 article, called Pressley “the fledgling king of rock'n'roll."

But Elvis’ success came only after failure. He failed his music classes and was a social misfit as a young boy. Later, he worked as a truck driver while trying to get his music career started. After his first paying gig, Pressley’s manager told him, You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

Elvis wouldn’t listen. His first recordings bombed out. When he tried to join a vocal quartet, the members told him he couldn’t sing. Finally, however, his music caught on, and he became one of the most popular recording artists in history.

 

Like Elvis, Van Gogh began as a failure. While alive, he slowly built a reputation—and a ton of critics. Van Gogh himself criticized his work, burning and destroying many of his paintings out of frustration. In fact, he was known to sell only one of his paintings. Unlike Elvis, Van Gogh did not work to overcome his failure. He killed himself instead. It wasn’t until after his death that his work gained critical and financial success.

 

But if I had a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, I would be sitting on a gold mine. Four of his masterpieces have sold for over one hundred million dollars each.   

The struggle to find our purpose begins early in life—perhaps in middle school- but certainly by our adolescent journey. “Who am I?” and “Why am I here” become essential questions. If we don’t discover an answer, we carry this uncertainty into adulthood. This uncertainty might take us down many different avenues, leading to dead ends that don’t satisfy us.


Sometimes, we know our purpose early in life but don’t care to pursue it. I knew mine. As a young boy, I knew what God wanted from me. Initially, I was interested in God’s plan, but teenage rebellion doused my interest like water on a blazing fire. I wandered in a spiritual desert for many years before I got around to doing what God had planned for me--burning a lot of bridges in the process.

 

John the Baptist had no idea what God’s plan for him was—but God knew. God had spoken the plan many years before through the prophet Isaiah. John’s purpose was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. We’re not given the details of how he did it, but somehow John discovered his purpose.

 

God doesn’t arbitrarily create for the fun of it. He has a purpose for every child he brings into the world. Many never know the purpose; others know it but ignore it. But the purpose remains.

 

Our views of ourselves often prevent us from fulfilling our purpose. Sometimes, we learn our purpose later in life—after we’ve made mistakes or grown up in unfavorable circumstances. We’re distracted by the play toys in life. We want power, possessions, and position. Following God’s purpose would interfere with our plans.

 

Or, we many have grown up in a home where parents constantly made us feel as if we were failures. “You’ll never amount to anything,” reverberated in our ears. Perhaps we made our own mistakes along the way, providing our own label of “failure.” Either way, we can’t get beyond our view to see what God sees.

 

God didn’t change his purpose for me just because I chose to run the other way. He didn’t for Jonah, either. When Jonah came to his senses after his big-fish adventure, God still told him to go to Nineveh.

 

God brings us into this world for a reason, but He also gives us free will. We can choose to go his way—and enjoy life at its finest—or we can go our own way and experience misery. It’s our choice, just as it was Adam and Eve’s initially.

 

Somewhere along the way, John the Baptist said he’d obey God’s plan. Jesus did, too. And so have many others, myself included. Doing so ushers us into abundant life. At the same time, no one said following would be an easy decision or bring a life of ease. God’s plan may be the most challenging thing we could ever imagine, bringing pain along the way. But the inner pleasure of knowing we’re doing what we were born to do outweighs any challenges.

 

When unsure about your life’s purpose, prayer is the key. After all, God knows why he brought you into the world.

 

Father, show me your purpose for me . . . then give me the courage to obey. 



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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

In God’s Presence - Martin Wiles

In God's Presence
She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he said. Luke 10:39 NLT

We vowed we’d remain the best of friends, but distance fought against us. We attended church together, worked with the youth together, and ate at each other’s house almost every Saturday night. Don and Tessa Lisa were our best friends.

Then, one day, we received shocking news. They were moving. Originally, Tessa hailed from Denver, Colorado—almost clear across the United States. She and Don had met when he settled there after helping a friend move. They had moved back to South Carolina for him, his brother, and a cousin to begin a construction business. Now, the Denver National Airport—where he once worked—offered him a job. We promised each other distance wouldn’t separate us.

Initially, we called each other frequently. They even flew us out two times for a week of visiting. But eventually, the calls became more infrequent. We each got busy with our lives, and voicemail messages became more common than actual conversations. Before long, once-a-month conversations became the norm. Even then, it wasn’t the same. Presence was missing. Tech conversations can’t replace actual body and time spent together.

Martha and Lazarus had a sister who had her priorities in order. Mary could hear stories about Jesus, busy herself serving him like Mary, or simply revel in Jesus’ presence. Mary chose the latter. This would nurture her relationship with him more than anything else.

What Mary knew, I’ve had to learn, too. I can busy myself serving God in many capacities. Opportunities to do good abound. But the doing can’t replace what happens when I choose to sit in his presence. As I do, I may pray, read his Word, meditate, or simply listen for him to speak to my Spirit. The key, however, is reveling in his presence.

Getting alone with God is essential for spiritual health, as presence is necessary for friendships to develop and grow. Having a plan, a time, and a place ensures we’ll not neglect the power found from remaining in God’s presence.

Father, may my goal be to stay in your presence, where I can be taught, loved, and nurtured. 


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Monday, May 20, 2024

Preparing the Vessel - Martin Wiles

preparing the vessel
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruing the skin. Matthew 9:17 NLT

If we didn’t prepare the vessel, the contents would spoil.

One year, my wife and I decided we’d can jelly. Our landlord had an apple tree loaded with apples he didn’t plan to pick. He invited us to pick as many as we wanted. We sat on our front porch in the old glider for hours and peeled away. 

Once we eliminated the peels, we boiled the apples, using the juice to make our jelly. But first, we had to prepare the jars. We didn’t have a canning system, so we boiled the empty jars in a large pot of water. Removing them one at a time, we filled them with the prepared apple juice and sealed them. One by one, we heard the tops pop, signifying the seal had secured the contents, which would shortly jell into jelly. Yet, had we not prepared the vessel, we would have had only juice—and it would have eventually ruined.

Putting new wine into old wineskins that had already been stretched from the fermenting process resulted in the skin either bursting or being lost. But Jesus wasn’t actually teaching how to make wine. He was warning against trying to put legalistic traditions into the truth skins He was re-instituting. A vessel had to be prepared to accept His teachings.

Enjoying the abundant life Jesus offers requires prepared vessels. We begin with a relationship initiated through a faith step in God’s direction. Then, we have to nurture our vessels so we can grow spiritually. Pouring His Word, prayer, relationships, spiritual disciplines, and witnessing about His love into our vessels propels us forward spiritually like a jet propelling off an aircraft carrier.

Preparation also takes place when we remember our vessel is a temple of God’s Spirit. Nothing should enter it that contaminates: addictive substances, unhealthy eating habits, unwise relationships, or focus-stealing hobbies.

Additionally, staying away from tempting situations helps us keep our vessels prepared. God gives wisdom to know what we’re easily tempted by. Acknowledging our weaknesses keeps us away from situations Satan would use to create havoc in our lives.

Prepare your vessel daily so God can fill it with abundant life.

Father, I dedicate my vessel to you. Fill it properly. 


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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Cheesy Bacon Dip

 

cheesy bacon dip

Ingredients
2 CUPS SOUR CREAM

1 JAR REAL BACON BITS

2 CUPS SHREDDED CHEDDAR CHEESE  

8 OUNCES CREAM CHEESE (SOFTENED)

Directions
COMBINE ALL INGREDIENTS TOGETHER AND PLACE IN A GREASED BAKING DISH.

BAKE AT 400 DEGREES FOR 25 TO 30 MINUTES.

DIP MAY ALSO BE PLACED IN A HOLLOWED ROUND FRENCH BREAD LOAF, WRAPPED IN FOIL, AND HEATED THE SAME TEMPERATURE AND TIME.


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Friday, May 17, 2024

The New Norm - Martin Wiles

the new norm
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance. Romans 5:3 NLT

He stood and talked to his brother, never realizing that in a few moments, his life would change forever.

When I became his pastor, he was a vibrant man and a diligent church worker. Some years before, his life had been changed when he was diagnosed with a type of cancer most don’t survive. But he had.

Then it happened. Not the return of cancer, but something more permanent. Neither he nor his brother knew what was happening but that something was, was evident. A stroke slithered into his life. Although he incurred no permanent paralysis, he did suffer life-changing brain damage. For months, he couldn’t stay alone. His short-term memory, for all practical purposes, disappeared. He blurted out things he wouldn’t have dreamed of saying before in public. Time dragged along, but he learned he must adapt to his new normal.

Paul says what we don’t enjoy hearing: troubling times produce perseverance, and perseverance ushers in new norms. God has sent me troubling times that tested my faith more than once. I haven’t enjoyed any of them, but I have learned to find peace in the new norms.

When God sends faith-testing trials, He doesn’t design them to destroy but to hone our faith. God rarely gives us the inside scoop on why He’s testing our faith, but we can know it’s for a good reason. He may need to stretch our faith or prepare us for a new assignment. Either way, when we endure the stretch with the right attitude, we enter into the new normal with the right spirit instead of a bitter spirit.

Rather than resist the new normal, God wants us to adapt, learn, and enjoy the new place He has brought. Typically, the new norm will give us opportunities we’ve never experienced. Using what God has taught us during the stretching period allows us to make good use of the new opportunities.

Rather than resisting your new norm, enjoy it and use it for God’s glory.

Father, give me faith and courage to live in the new normals you bring. 

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