Friday, March 24, 2017

“Corner”


“Corner”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
John 20:26-28, “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (NIV)  

Devotion:
The smell of home cooked sausages and griddle pancakes wafted throughout the tiny cafĂ©.  The steamy air from the kitchen hung like a curtain throughout the crowded room, but we didn’t care. We jammed ourselves into the lobby and took a number.  My husband and I knew the piping hot breakfasts were worth the wait for a table. 

A young waitress, with spiky fuchsia hair, hustled from table to table juggling plates heaped with food and cups sloshing with fresh brewed coffee.  Her toned body appeared tireless as she scurried back to the kitchen. I would have dropped with exhaustion if we had traded places.

Finally, we were seated at a well-worn table that happened to be exactly where the energetic waitress bounded from the kitchen with each order.  However, she had a problem.  A corner wall blinded her sight when she scurried from the kitchen area with her orders to serve the hungry customers.   

However, the waitress solved the problem by each time she strode out of the cooking area she shouted, “Corner!” translating to anyone within colliding distance, she was coming around the corner and to watch out!

Throughout my breakfast, the repetitive shout, “Corner! Corner” peppered my ears.

As I thought about her succinct warning, I contemplated different corners in my life; points where I rounded a spiritual corner with such determination there was no stopping or going back.  

I remember the first corner. I knelt in a musty dank basement at the age of fifteen to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.   Deep within my spirit and soul, I recognized Jesus as my God, just as doubting Thomas did when the risen Jesus appeared to him.  

    Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
    But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 
    A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 
    Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  (John 20:24-28 NIV).”

That day Thomas declared Jesus not only as God, but also as the Lord of his life. However, I mistakenly chose Jesus only as God. I wanted to control my own destiny. I knew what I desired from life and believed I could accomplish my dreams without any help.  I did not need a Lord or Master.

Although almost fifteen years later, after making a broken shambles of my world, I made a life altering decision.  I shouted a faith-filled, “Corner! I am changing direction.” 

I decided to allow Jesus not only to be my God, but the Lord of my life,—my Master.

With that pronouncement, suddenly my path became clear.  Obstacles of indecision disappeared.  Faltering faith gave way to trusting the hand of God in my life.  Finally, the promised abundant life to me existed on a daily basis.   I turned a spiritual corner and I will not go back. 

Oh, I still juggle heavy plates of troubles.  Steaming disagreements with others still threaten to spill over into my life, but I know that if I allow Christ to lead me, I won’t bump into disastrous results of my own making.   Instead, I follow Him around the different corners of my life knowing and trusting He is in full control. I rely on 2 Corinthians 2:14 that promises, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ…” So within my spirit, (and sometimes aloud), I shout, “Corner!  My Lord and My God! My Jesus!”

Prayer:
Dear Father, Help me each morning to shout “Corner!”  I want you to be the Lord of my life in every situation.  I thank you for the patience you have with people like your doubting disciple Thomas and my stubborn self.  My Lord and my God, You are worthy of my praise, In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Application steps:  
 Today take an inventory of you life.  Think through situations where you doubt God’s ability to handle it.  Try to write on paper the areas in your life where He is not the Master.  Pray and ask Jesus to help you relinquish your life completely into His nail-scarred hands. 
  

Refection points:       
Why do I want to control my own destiny?

Do I trust God’s hand in my life and my family’s?

What “Corner!”  have I gone around in my spiritual walk of faith? 

 Power verses:
 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”  (NIV)  

Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (NIV)  

Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (NIV)  

John 14:1,”Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” (NASB)  



© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 20, 2017

“False Advertising”


“False Advertising”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.  John 1:47 (NIV)

Devotion:
A small car sped along side my van.  Hundreds of money-green dollar signs were painted against the car’s white exterior.  I noticed the name of a local bank displayed prominently between the dollar insignias.  Ah ha—what a clever way to advertise!

As we pulled to a stop at a red light, I spied very small black writing.  The fine print read, “Warning: This car carries no money, only documents.”  The thought struck me, “With all those dollars signs everywhere, I think that might be classified as false advertising.”  The money promised from the outside, held no reality on the inside. 

This made me pause and reflect on my own life.  How often do I display “false advertising” to other people around me?  Let me reveal three of my most common fraudulent appearances.

  1. I argue with my husband all the way to church.  Then as my car door opens to our church friends, I paste a big toothy smile on my face.  My grin implies, “My marriage is perfect.”

  1. I bump into an acquaintance at the grocery store.  I ask, “How are you?”  (I really don’t care and just want to get on with my day.)  My pretense of a caring friend falls flat as I glance at my watch as she begins to tell me her woes. 

  1. I recite Scripture, attend a Bible study and exhibit outward behaviors of a model Christian woman.  However, on the inside I detect a few ungodly attitudes that mock me when I look in the mirror.

I know this is not how Christ wants me to function.  He desires authenticity in every area of my life

Although I know I will never be perfect this side of heaven, I do want to rid myself of “false advertising”.  I long for an inward attitude that matches my outward sponsorship of the Christian life.  I want Jesus to be able to say of me, “There is Susanne, a true Christian in whom there is nothing false." 
                                                                                                                  
A favorite verse from The Message reminds me to sweep clean my life of falsity. 

1 Peter 2:1-3, “So clean house!  Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk.  You've had a taste of God.  Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness.  Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God.”

Each phrase of this motivates me.  I need to examine myself for symptoms of malice, pretense, envy and hurtful talk.  I need to stay close to God and become a mature Christian in His eyes and an authentic Christian to others.  I truly desire genuineness with who I am when I look in the mirror.

Let’s take this challenge together today.  Let’s wipe false advertising from our behaviors.  Then Jesus will exclaim, “Look at her!  There is nothing false about her!”

Prayer:
Dear Lord, I want to please you in all that I say and do.  Teach me to be authentic.  Reveal to me where I might draw on “false advertising” when I am around other people.  Help me to be like your friend, Nathanael.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps  
Write the John 1:47 on an index card.  Write your first name in the place of “Nathanael” and position the card on your mirror.  You will have a daily reminder to rid yourself of any “false advertising” that you might be tempted to display to others.  Ask God each morning for authenticity in your daily encounters with others. 




© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 13, 2017

“A Bottle of Encouragement”


“A Bottle of Encouragement”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key verse:
Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)  

Devotion:
Do you ever fear where your next path in life might lead?  I do.  Recently I struggled to determine which path God wanted me to take in serving Him.  One lazy, late Sunday afternoon, I took some time to sit outside and bask in the setting orange-pink sunset. Discouragement crept in.  I moped about decisions and dilemmas that I faced.  Then I began to flip through the pages of my Bible and began to browse through Joshua 1.  

As I read, I realized how frightened Joshua must have been when he looked across the dry desert plain.  Consider the thousands of Israelites he needed to lead to the Promised Land.  After Moses died, Joshua's position required him to make the essential decision to lead the Israelites into enemy territory.  Suddenly, my own dilemmas didn’t seem so big.

God in His mercy used the same words of encouragement for me as He did with Joshua.  God told Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous.”  In fact one time God said, “Be strong and very courageous. . . Do not be terrified; do be discouraged but the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-9 NIV).   

As I stood up and stretched, I felt comforted.  I knew that whatever direction my life path took, I could be courageous.  I know the Lord my God would be with me wherever I went. 

One week later, I attended the She Speaks! Conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  As part of the staff, I had the privilege of attending a pre-conference session. As each of us arrived, we spied a basket of beautiful swirled glass bottles with a sheet of parchment inside.  We were instructed to pick one bottle to take back to the hotel with us each evening.  Our leader said, “Each bottle has a different Bible verse in it.  It is our prayer that each of you will be blessed by a meaningful verse that will speak to your individual hearts.” 

As what often happens in a conference atmosphere, more life-questions surfaced in my mind.  My head churned with the thoughts, so many ministry needs, so little time, so many directions and so few resources.  Both my head and my feet hurt as I treaded back to my room with the tortuous high heels in my hand.  As I opened the door, I spied my verse still waiting in the unopened bottle sitting on the hotel nightstand.  I gently pulled the paper from my own handpicked urn and read my message in the bottle.    
  
“ . . . Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed,
 For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9 NASB).

Encouragement swept through my soul.  I smiled to myself and to the Father.  He is aware and in control of everything!

Prayer: 
Father God, remind me time and time again that you are in control.  I do not need to be anxious about my path in life.  My fretting is futile because You are in complete control.  You know the desires and needs of every area of my life.  I praise You for going with me wherever I go.  Thank you for the encouragement and the reminder.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps:  
Read Joshua 1.  Underline in red pencil every time you see the words “Be strong and courageous”.  List a few things you need to be strong and courageous about in your life.  Then ask the Lord to remind you, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  
Refection points:       
 Do I believe God is aware of my circumstances?

Can I rely on the Father even when my questions seem to remain unanswered?

How has God proved Himself to be fully in control of my life?

Power verses:
Psalm 46:10-11, “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (NASB)  

 Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (NIV) 

Judges 6:12, “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." (NIV) 



© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 10, 2017

“Spiritual Bends”


“Spiritual Bends”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
Mark 9:2, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (NIV)  

Devotion:
Depression stalks me today.  My head aches, my mood stinks and sundry piles of laundry taunt me from the floor.  I have just returned from a Christian conference where I experienced a spiritual high—a mountain top experience.  Now, I have descended into the world of reality.  I carry a case of the “spiritual bends”.  

Are you familiar with the term “diver’s bends”?  It is a physical condition that occurs when a scuba diver returns to the ocean surface too quickly.  The body doesn’t have sufficient time to adjust to the difference between water pressure and air pressure.  The phenomenon is described on the website of How Stuff Works as, “If the diver were to swim quickly to the surface, it is just like uncorking a bottle of soda -- the gas is released. This can cause a very painful condition, and it is sometimes fatal.”

In the case of the “spiritual bends”, just the opposite happens.  I come down from a mountain top experience and ordinary daily difficulties cork my spirit.  Although it will not be fatal, it is an emotionally painful situation.  I would rather stay in the high places with Jesus.

It’s just like the incident Peter, James and John experienced.  The Bible gives us a glimpse of their unique experience in Mark 9:2-3, “ . . . Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them (NIV).  Now that would be a spiritual high to remember!

Next, Scripture records what the disciples experienced when they came down the rocky path to the valley of everyday life.  Let’s ferret out those key phrases and see if they might apply to our own lives.

Luke 9:37, “The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a     large crowd met him.” (NIV)   

We come home from a wonderful church service, a retreat or a conference.  We would like to cherish a little time alone to decompress from all the depth of emotion we have experienced.  Instead, family and friends swarm around us demanding our attention.

Mark 9:16, "What are you arguing with them about?" he asked. (NIV) 

Many times, we must listen to the squabbles of our children.  Or worse, someone picks a fight with us.  The peace evaporates into a steam of anger. 

Matthew 17:14-16, “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him.  “Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." (NIV)  

We are spiritually refreshed but physically exhausted.  Fatigue sets in due to lack of sleep, travel or the emotional high we experienced.  Yet, others want us to minister to them.  They need us regardless of our own current lack of physical stamina. 

So, what is the answer to the “spiritual bends”? 

I believe the key is to recognize the fact that sacred peaks do not last for long.  It’s like the familiar saying, “What goes up must come down.”  When the “bends” hit, you can eliminate the element of surprise if you expect them to occur.   You will recognize them for what they are—a return to normal life. Then, try to get as much physical rest as possible.   This will help you to decompress when the stresses of life come rushing in with gusto. 

So with that thought, the laundry can wait.  I will swallow two aspirin for my headache and sit on the couch.  I will attempt to decompress as my life swirls around me.  I need to spiritually decompress.

Prayer: 
Father God, I enjoy the mountain top experiences I have with You.  Help me to realize that they are blessings to be remembered and reflected upon.  However, I cannot stay there permanently.  I ask You to help me readjust to my daily life.  Let my light shine a little brighter to those who need me because of my time with you.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps:  
Take a moment to recall a special time you’ve shared with God.  For example, a retreat, a Sunday morning church service or a conference.  Jot down on a piece of paper your spiritual and emotional feelings prior to returning home.  Next, write down the experiences and moods you felt when life returned to your everyday activities.  Keep this as a reminder of the “spiritual bends” so they won’t come as a surprise.  You will be better equipped to decompress the next you must come down from a sacred peak.  
  
Refection points:       
Do I recognize the emotional let down after a wonderful spiritual experience?

How can I handle my mood swings in a more Christ-like manner?

Why do the “spiritual bends” occur?

Power verses:
Exodus 34:33-35, “When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out.  And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant.  Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” (NIV)  

Mark 6:3, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (NIV) 

2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” (NIV)  

Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)  

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 6, 2017

“The Wrong Gift” Part 1


“The Wrong Gift”  Part 1

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
2 Timothy 1:6, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” (NIV)  

Devotion:
All I longed for was a Mr. Ed Talking Puppet. He topped my wish list of items for that Christmas season when I was nine.  I adored horses.  As an only child, I needed a talking companion and he was a television celebrity. Oh, my friends would be so envious!  Mr. Ed would be the perfect gift.

Sure enough, on Christmas morning an oblong box wrapped in red tissue paper peeked from among various packages.  Mr. Ed!  I tore open the wrapping to discover a talking puppet, but it was a green sea serpent named, Cecil.  This puppet resulted from the old cartoon of Beanie and Cecil.  I couldn’t believe my eyes or hide my disappointment.

My mother tried to explain to me that Mr. Ed was sold out. She believed this outlandish emerald monster would be a good substitute. My childish heart filled with displeasure and anger.  I threw it on the floor, stomped out of the room, and refused to be consoled.

The sad thing is I can still be disappointed with a gift purchased by a loved one.  Just a few years ago, I was certain my husband had secretly bought a new laptop computer for me.  Instead, I received several other beautiful gifts, but not a laptop.  As an adult, I hid my disappointment, but inside I still wished for the computer. 

As I reflect on this, I realize I often envy other Christian’s spiritual gifts and talents. Let me list a few gifts I covet:  to be a melodious musician, an adept artist, a merciful missionary or an effective evangelist.  It’s not that I can’t do a little of all of these things, but I want to be gifted.  I want to shine in those spiritual areas.  Oh, my Christian friends would be so envious!  Sometimes I still sound as I did at age nine.

I guess I need to grow-up and realize my gifts are not for me, but to serve others.   It’s just like in The Purpose Driven Life when .Rick Warren writes, “It’s not about you.”  He is right, it is not about me, it’s about God and His desired purpose in my life. I need to learn to utilize my own spiritual gifts and talents to benefit others, not myself. In other words, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV)  

God has granted each one of us with special gifts and talents.  He desires that we use our giftedness to bring glory to His Name and the Kingdom of God.   He wants our gifts to shine brightly to illuminate a dark world.  Here is just a short list of examples of things God may have endowed us to use.

  • Encouragement
  • Administration
  • Mercy
  • Vocal talent
  • Ability to write
  • Compassion
  • Opportunity to help the poor

The list could go on and on. Whatever it may be God never gives the wrong gift. 

I have decided to be grateful for my abilities and vow to use them as God intended them to be used—to aid others.  So will you join me in this endeavor?  As we wrap presents, bake gingerbread, and stoke the fireplace, let’s fan the flame of God’s gifts to each of us.  Let’s shine brightly for the Glory of God. 

Application steps:
Take a personal inventory of God’s spiritual gifts and talents in your own life.  Don’t be modest.  Acknowledge what you can do to help someone else.  Then resolve to use each gift or talent at least once during this month of celebration of Jesus’ birth.  

Refection points:       
Do I value my spiritual gifts?

How can I utilize my gifts and talents on a regular basis?

Why do I envy other peoples spiritual gifts?

Power verses:
James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. “ (NIV)  

 1 Corinthians 14:12, “So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” (NIV)  

Romans 12:6, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” (NIV)  

1 Corinthians 12:4, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. (NIV)  

1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” (NIV)  

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

“The Wrong Gift” Part 2”


“The Wrong Gift” Part 2”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
James 2:14-18, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)  

Devotion:
Yesterday, I confessed sometimes I feel like I receive the wrong gifts.  Today I need to admit that I often give the wrong gifts.  For example, one year for Christmas I gave my husband a beautiful flannel shirt.  He never wore it.  Why?  Because the design on the flannel displayed soft pastel colors.  The primary color, baby pink, didn’t fit my husband’s style.  What was I thinking?

The flannel shirt fiasco reminded me that I usually give gifts that I would rather receive.  I still own that shirt.  The fraying flannel exhibits how much I have worn the shirt I gave to my husband.  I love the soft flannel pink shirt.  

Another time I presented the right gift, but my timing was wrong.  A barefoot homeless person trekked our neighborhood.  For months, I spotted him trudging up and down a hilly street. The weather turned chilly.  As Christmas approached, I wrapped up a present for him.  I sent my nineteen-year-old son to present the destitute man with a ribbon and bowed package that held a fleece blanket and various fast food gift cards.  

He rejected my offering.  He told my son, “Tell your mother that I will not take it.  I will not accept gifts that are only given because of the season of the year.” 

Hmmm…I guess I need to represent Jesus all year round, in my gift giving

So, I have decided to look for what others want and need.  Moreover, to become aware of gifts I can give to others regardless of the time of year. 

I still don’t always get it right, but my heart aches to give proper gifts. I want to give gifts like our Father gives to us.  He gave us Jesus, His only Son, as our Savior. The Father gave sacrificially—the perfect gift at the right time.

It pleases God when we give sacrificially, too.  Luke 21:1-4 is a wonderful example of the opinion of our Lord on how to give, “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (NIV)  

Many times our gifts will consist of giving of our money.  This past year we were bombarded with worldwide disasters such as the tsunami in Asia, Hurricane Katrina and Rita and the various earthquakes around the globe. Each of these beckoned us to give of our monetary or material resources to others in need. 

However, other times God may ask us to give sacrificially of our time and energy. Although it may be easier to send a check or a bag of used clothes, it pleases God when we give of ourselves as He nudges us to help others.  

Consequently, I need to become more aware of what the true needs of people are throughout the year.   As I approach another Christmas and a New Year, I want to give the ideal gifts to my family, my friends, and to whoever my God might lead me to give of my money, time or energy.  

Will you join me in this endeavor to give the right gifts and the right time? 

Prayer:
Father, help me to learn to give the right gifts at the right time.  Open my eyes to the needs and desires of others.  Instruct me how to give gifts that truly benefit and delight people.  Teach me to look beyond myself and to give sacrificially as You direct me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Take a few minutes to review the gifts you have purchased for Christmas presents this year.  Decide if you might have purchased the “wrong gift’ for the wrong reason.   Ask God to show you how to give the best gifts this year.  

Refection points:       
Do I buy gifts I would like to receive?

How can I give sacrificially to others?

Does my gift-giving attitude last throughout the whole year?

Power verses:
Proverbs 18:16, “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” (NIV)  

2 Corinthians 8:10, “And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.” (NIV)  

2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (NIV) 

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 3, 2017

“A Surprising Answer”


“A Surprising Answer”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key verse:
Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.   "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NIV)  

Devotion:
“I hate you!” she said as the door slammed behind her.  I recalled, with a sigh, the ten long years that I had been praying for the Lord to bring my stepdaughter, Erin, a Christian friend. Since she was living in another state, we held little sway of influence as Christian parents. My husband and I longed to raise her in our Christian home. 

Now however, she was sixteen and attending high school. I doubted we would ever have the opportunity for her to live with us. So what could I do? I prayed for a Christian friend to move into Erin’s life to introduce her to Jesus Christ.

I prayed. I wrote in my prayer journal of the desires and concerns regarding Erin. Yet, I saw few positive results.  In fact, just the opposite appeared to happen. We discovered Erin was getting involved in some questionable relationships. She started down a path of self-destruction. Although, familiar with Psalm 139:4, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord (NIV),” I began to question if God even heard my prayers for Erin. 

Then on a dreary December night, we received a call from Erin’s mother. A crisis hovered over us. Erin had locked herself in the bathroom, threatening suicide over an inappropriate relationship, which her mother had discovered. My husband immediately requested Erin stay with us, at least through the upcoming Christmas vacation. He left within the hour to be with her, pack her bags, and drive her to our home.

Erin arrived angry and full of rebellion.  Turmoil decorated our home, not pleasant Christmas memories.  Little did I know, I had just begun one of the most difficult seasons of my adult life.  With her mother’s grudging consent, Erin came to live with us on a full-time basis. As a blended family adjusting to a new member, we felt we were being pureed in a family-dysfunctional blender. We fought, we cried, and we prayed. I did not believe we would survive. My faith ran low in believing any change could occur. Although my faith faltered, my prayers prevailed.

The night she yelled, “I hate you!” I curled up in bed, discouraged and exhausted. Again, the question surfaced, “Lord, do you hear me at all?” I picked up my prayer journal from the nightstand, thumbed through the pages of the past year. The written record of my prayers pleaded, “Lord, bring her a Christian friend!” Suddenly, I saw the answer to my prayer. God could use me to be the friend who would point her to God.

From that moment on, I worked diligently to win her confidence and trust. Erin stayed with us until she graduated from high school two years later. As our friendship grew, I had the honor of seeing her accept Christ at a youth conference and then baptized shortly afterward.   

Was it easy? No. Does Erin still struggle with life issues and rebellion? Absolutely! Do I still pray for her? Yes, indeed!  I know God hears and answer my prayers. 

However, God affirms this verse in my life time and again, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.   "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV).” He surprises and challenges me with His answers. 

What surprise answers lay within your prayers? 

Prayer:
Lord, remind me how You always hear my prayers.  Open my eyes to the answers You give in response to my requests.  Help me to understand when You answer my prayers in completely different ways than what I may expect.  Let me accept that Your thoughts and ways are higher than mine.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Application steps:  
If you record your prayers in a journal, take 15 minutes to review past prayer requests.  Ask yourself, Has God answered any of these prayers, and have I overlooked His obvious answer?

Or begin today to record your prayer requests in a notebook.  Jot down the date and the request.  Leave room for notes on how God answers your prayers in the future. 

Refection points:       
Do I dictate to God how He should answer my prayers?

How has God surprised me with an answer different than the one I expected?

Do I acknowledge that His ways are “higher than my ways” when I pray?

Power verses:  
Psalm 91:15, “He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (NIV)  

Isaiah 58:9a, “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”(NIV)  
     
Psalm 34:17, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (NIV)  

Psalm 55:17, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” (NIV)  
© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.