Category Archives: Reflections

Fortune Cookie Devotion Series: Plans of Failure

As the fortune cookie says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I certainly am not trying to get you to live a life without spontaneity; however, there is a big difference between not planning a day trip to the local shopping outlet and not planning as you purchase your first home. The Bible speaks often of making plans and counting the cost of our choices. 

One of my favorite moments of preparation in the Bible is when Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem. He did not simply jump into the task of rebuilding a wall after he arrived. He took the time to walk around the entire area. He spent days looking everything over. It was important for him to be prepared for the next step. For us, it is the same. We often are led to do things in faith, where we cannot plan much if anything, and we certainly cannot control the situation. At the same time, there are moments when it is important for us to use good discernment, to way options, to count the cost, to get all our ducks in a row. This is part of giving God our best. 

This doesn’t mean you have to plan every second. This doesn’t mean you must be a time-driven crazy person who does not allow for God ordained interruptions. Just don’t let yourself be so slack in life that you live a lazy life. Plans mean having a budget. Plans mean counting the cost to decide if it is worth the investment of your time, talent, and treasure. Plans mean scheduling time throughout your day to dive into the Scriptures, to pray, to meet with God. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

“So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding.” – Nehemiah 2:11-12 [NLT]

They Seemed to Have It Made

Today’s passage is a great reminder of the thoughts we have as we look at others who seem to have things going their way. We all get jealous. We have longing for things that other people own, or relationships other people are involved with, positions people hold, etc. It is so easy to look at people and declare the people “have it made.” Look at them. They have “no pain, no problems.” Look at them, they have been “indulging in whatever they wanted.”

We turn green with envy. We covet what we do not have. We start to take for granted our own blessings. We complain. We miss the truth. We succumb to our jealousy of others and miss out on the enjoyment from the great plan God has for our lives. 

The verses today speak of someone who is focused on what he or she wants, who is without care, living “as though life would never end.” Why do we want to be living focused on wants, when we were made to glorify God… when the wants are temporary and will rust and rot? Why do we want to live a life that is not mindful of the brevity of life and the importance of our Savior and a life with Him? Sometimes our focus is skewed—remember, they only seemed to have it made. Do not be deceived by the only seems of this world. God has so much more for you!

“Indulging in whatever they wanted, going where they wanted, doing what they wanted, and with no care in the world.No pain, no problems, they seemed to have it made. They lived as though life would never end.” – Psalm 73:4-5 [TPT]

The Easy Way Is Not Always Best

I love a good shortcut. Almost every day as I drive to work, I take a shortcut. Yet there are times in life when shortcuts are not best—when the easy way isn’t the best way.  

When we dream about something we desire for the future, we want a shortcut to reach the dream. We want the money, but we do not want to do all the work. We want the title, but we don’t want to start from the bottom. We want the stuff, when we do not yet have the money to pay for it. We want the relationship, yet we do not want to make the investment.

In today’s passage, we read of the Israelites leaving Egypt, and of how God did not lead the people to take the shorter route. It’s true—sometimes shortcuts are great. Yet in life, we oftentimes have something to learn on the journey that we can only learn by travelling for a longer length of time. Suffering less is desirable, yet in suffering we often grow in our dependence on God, and our faith flourishes. Next time you have the opportunity to choose a path to take, instead of immediately jumping at the quick results, ask God what will bring you closer to Him.

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17 [NIV]

The Gratitude of Grace

Today’s verse speaks of who truly honors God – “whoever offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (NASB). The Message translation calls this living the “praising life.” The Bible says that we were created to glorify God (see Isaiah 43:7). Psalm 50:23 makes it clear that we are living out our purpose to glorify God when we live “in the gratitude of grace.” The real question is how well are we bringing God glory with our gratitude of grace? 

If we are honest about this question, if we are honest about the thanksgiving we have lived out today, it is likely the thankfulness is not very evident. We spend so much of our time thinking we have earned what we have, that we are entitled to certain things. We overlook our daily blessings because we do not spend time considering life without them. When something good comes our way, our initial response usually isn’t to thank God for provision, for blessings, for protection, etc. Though God is alive and active, and very much moving in the world today, we oftentimes allow God to be boxed up, whereas we only need interact or thank Him when we have a grand request. Everything is separate. Everything else we can handle in our own strength. 

Without our life lived in the gratitude of grace, our testimony of the Gospel is silenced. If we do not spend time praising Him, pointing to Him, honoring Him, etc., what does everyone see? When we aren’t pointing to God, our fingers are always pointing elsewhere—to ourselves, to others, etc. 

How can we truly live in the gratitude of grace? We can devote more time listing reasons we are thankful, spending each day trying to find more reasons God deserves all praise and glory. We can receive the Gospel daily to remind us of the free gift of God’s grace. We can pour out that freshly received grace to others as we go about our day. We can pause to breathe in God’s grace and meditate on His goodness. What are you thankful for today?

“The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of grace, always choosing to walk with me in what is right. This is the sacrifice I desire from you. If you do this, more of my salvation will unfold for you.” – Psalm 50:23 [TPT]

An Empty Hope

The Psalmist states in today’s verse that trusting in a person is worthless or useless; the Psalmist declares a person cannot rescue another. This thinking is contrary to what the world exclaims. I remember growing up with the hope of being rescued. Remember the stories of a knight on a white horse? Today, our entertainment includes superheroes, and even underdog heroes. Lots of stories about people saving the day, rescuing people, getting the win—and these are the stories we cling to and celebrate. These stories do not simply entertain; the stories invade our thinking. We begin to think a person could help our situation and a person could even rescue us.

Yes, it is true. A person could help you. People help people daily. A person could rescue you. People rescue people every day. But the hope of man—the hope of man—it is in God alone. Here’s where we get caught up, where we all get caught up. When we are around a certain person, we feel happy and we begin to think that the person is the reason for our joy. When we are bailed out by someone from a financial hardship, we begin to think the person will help the next time. When our neighbor rescues us every time we have car trouble, we start to expect it. But people let people down. We are not strong enough to carry another. We can barely carry ourselves. Even though we have moments where we can be used to bless, to help, to rescue—we cannot carry another completely. Most importantly, we cannot offer a person hope. We cannot offer a person salvation.

We can point to hope. We can point to salvation. We can point to Jesus. We can lend a hand. We can speak life. We can be there to listen. We can be the hands and feet of Christ. Remember though, only God saves. Jesus is our only hope. Don’t put everything on another person’s shoulders. You have a Savior who already carried your burden and paid the price a million times over. An empty hope is no hope at all. Thank God for Christ Jesus!

“Give us a father’s help when we face our enemies. For to trust in any man is an empty hope.” – Psalm 60:11 [TPT]

Every Waking Hour

Did you ever hear the phrase, “There’s not enough time in the day” or even find yourself making the declaration? Even though we are gifted 24 hours a day, we never seem to find enough time. With the invention of new technology to help accomplish things with ease, it would seem as if we would have extra time to spend with God, yet the pleasures of the world usually take the driver’s seat.

The Psalmist speaks of different periods within the day, each focused on drawing near to God. Every evening, there is time to explain what needs are on the heart. Every morning, the Psalmist draws near to God. Every waking hour is considered worship time.

Most of us struggle with connecting with God on a daily basis. To consider God first each morning is foreign to most. To think of God every night, and to draw near to Him in prayer is also not a typical part of the daily routine in life. Do we just acknowledge these problems and admit we struggle with drawing near to our Creator, and then call it a night? No. If we believe and if we love God, we evaluate our schedule, we discern our priorities, and we make changes. These changes do not happen overnight. Baby steps. Aim to meet with God in the morning; aim to meet with God at night. Begin to meet with Him while at work, while at the gym, while at the grocery story. As you keep pressing into Him and experience His glory, you will begin to worship Him more. As you continue to water this seed, you will rejoice as it grows. As you spend time with Him, the more you will carve out for Him. May you one day spend every waking hour worshiping Him!

“Every evening I will explain my need to him. Every morning I will move my soul toward him. Every waking hour I will worship only him, and he will hear and respond to my cry.” – Psalm 55:17 [TPT]

Drink Deeply

These past few months I have been very intentional with my water drinking. Most people do not drink enough water, and even though I love water, it was clear I wasn’t drinking the recommended amount. Typically, we drink other liquids higher in a caloric intake, or we confuse thirst for hunger, and we end up eating and drinking a lot of calories to fill the void. For a healthier lifestyle, I recognized the need to drink deeply. As I have been tracking my intake and noticed a great increase from my daily due diligence, I have also noticed I’m even more thirsty for water. I am able to recognize that my body wants water, not a candy bar. I am seeing positive results from being intentional with my water drinking.

Today’s verse is one of those verses you can close your eyes and envision, especially if you live in Pennsylvania. I have seen deer crossing over to seek water. As it is essential to life, the deer make the journey to the streams that flow, because this is where the deer will have the necessary water to drink deep and be satisfied. Maybe you miss the awesomeness of this verse because you do not need to journey out for your water. When you work harder for something, you appreciate it more. I can imagine the deer are so happy when they get to partake of the water they sought.

What does this mean for us? Does your soul long for God? This is a tricky question. The truth is we are all longing for our Father God. We spend our lives seeking Him out. The problem is we can get sidetracked and replace God to worship something other than God. The truth is your soul is always longing for God—you may not realize it. As you are more intentional with seeking Him, you will find your thirst for Him increases. You will notice you true desire for Him. You will recognize when you are struggling because you lack time with Him. You will want nothing more than to drink deeply with God. Allow His power and His presence to move within you. You will be overwhelmed.

“I long to drink of you, O God, drinking deeply from the streams of pleasure flowing from your presence. My longings overwhelm me for more of you!” – Psalm 42:1 [TPT]

Small Beginnings

Today my daughter received her college acceptance letter. What an exciting moment celebrating her invitation into the biochemistry program she desires to begin her journey toward a career in pathology. Yet when I think of this new journey she is about to embark upon, I am reminded of a recent fortune cookie statement – “All great things had small beginnings.”

This interest she has in pathology was something she developed as a young child watching Dr. G: Medical Examinerwith me. This seed then blossomed over years of schooling and research. As we celebrate today as a family, we recognize it was small things that led to this great thing. It also will take a lot of study and sacrifice to reach the end goal; lots of small things that will lead up to the great things. 

With social media today, we are shown a lot of great things, but we do not see the back story. We see the grand vacation photos, but not the overtime hours or intense saving with a budget that went on to offer a great opportunity with no additional debt. We see well-behaved children and fancy dinners and homes decorated to look like the homes shown in magazines. We do not see the small beginnings; we do not see all that has led up to this very moment.

It is truly a blessing to look back on all the small beginnings of life and see how God has moved. It is awesome to look at how God used our faithful obedience, our struggles, etc. all for His good purpose and for His glory. May we give Him praise as we remember the small beginnings. May we stay focused on what matters, remembering that the social media posts we see are only showing us what someone wants us to see. May we stay humble, remembering that God is in control and every great thing is only great because He has paved the way and opened the doors. To Him be all glory, honor, and praise.

“He is your praise and he is your God, who has done for you these great and awe-inspiring works your eyes have seen.” – Deuteronomy 10:21 [CSB]

As For You

Our prayer lives are filled with cries to God for help. This is certainly something we see demonstrated throughout the Bible – and God wants us to come to Him. It is important for us to declare our dependence on God and to seek His will for our lives. Intercession on the behalf of others is also important.

Nonetheless, as we approach the Lord, there are moments when we expect Him to do something in particular to intervene and change situations when He wants to see us through the situation. There are moments when we pray for God to do something to help others, when He actually has something for us to do within the situation.

When the Israelites left Egypt, we read in Exodus 14 of the Israelites crying out to God for help when the big chase is happening. Moses tells the Israelites to fear not because God will fight for them. Yet immediately after this, God is asking why Moses is crying out to him. He says, “As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand… divide it.” Right here we see how God’s people with God’s power can achieve God’s will. Many times, it is people who will be used to answer prayers. As you cry out, be open to God’s voice for the response. There may be an “as for you” moment right around the corner. 

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to break camp. As for you, lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’” – Exodus 14:15-16 [CSB]

He Stooped Down

I’ve been struggling with a fever for days. Today I found myself on the floor at the foot of my Christmas tree, which happens to be a cross. As I looked up at the well-light, decorated cross tree, I considered the goodness of God. 

Our God, holy and almighty, stooped down to us. Not only did He stoop down, sending His one and only Son to live life in this broken world and die on the cross, but He continues to stoop down again and again, meeting us where we are in this broken world.

This is grace. Reaching down and lifting up to where you are. No one demonstrates grace like our Father. We cannot earn salvation. We don’t deserve it. Yet He gives it freely to all who believe. When we believe, we are called children of God—and co-heirs with Christ. We go from sinner to saint, from dead to alive. 

Every day, we need this reminder of His grace. You may feel down today, but you will not be down forever. You may feel pain today, but you will not feel pain forever. Breathe in some grace today, and then pour it out as well. We all need grace. 


“He stooped down to lift me out of danger from the desolate pit I was in, out of the muddy mess I had fallen into. Now he’s lifted me up into a firm, secure place and steadied me while I walk along his ascending path.” – Psalm 40:2 [TPT]