Monday, April 24, 2017

“A Cheerful Heart”
By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  (NIV)

Let’s call her Pamela.  Pamela’s disability keeps her from fitting in with average people.  I am not sure what is wrong with her, but she is different—physically and socially.  She limps as she busses tables for the hustling wait staff.  She struggles to wipe down tables.  Pamela grimaces when she needs to bend over to pick-up a left behind napkin lying on the floor.  She perseveres until the job is completed to perfection.  Struggles pervade every area of her life, but she doesn’t give up. 

However, that’s not what is amazing about Pamela.  She always keeps a smile on her face.  Pam’s memory for silly jokes amazes everyone.  She provides the opportunity for others to smile.  Sadly, some people laugh at her.  However, once someone gets to know Pamela they laugh with her. 

I only know part of her story.  Her life has been difficult from the day she was born with physical handicaps.  Children tormented her. They poked fun of her and the way she walked and talked.  Then in early adolescent, Pamela’s father abused her two sisters and was sent to prison.  The family fell apart.  She was left to fend for herself as a teenager.

However, when you hold a conversation with Pamela there is not a trace of bitterness.  She possesses the most positive outlook of anyone I know.  She makes Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch appear depressed.  Do you remember the old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?”  No sour lemons exist in Pam’s life. Instead, she pours refreshing laughter into other people’s lives.

I admire her.  For myself, I can harbor bitter feelings toward people and events.  Pamela reminds me that life is too short to be cranky and resentful.  I believe God placed her in my life to remind me that terrible things happen to everyone.  Even Jesus warned us of this fact in the Book of John, “‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.’” (16:33 NIV)  

If we carry bitterness in our hearts, it can dry up our spirits.  Even worse, it can lead others astray.  “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  (Hebrews 12:15. NIV).  We don’t want to turn out to be bitter old women.

So let’s take heart!  A cheerful heart is good medicine, no matter what the ailment.  We can seize cheer, because Jesus has overcome the world.  Let’s not become bitter with a crushed spirit and dried-up bones of a cranky personality.  Instead, let’s try to squeeze out some lemonade to sweeten other’s lives like my friend, Pamela.

Dear Lord, help me to keep a cheerful heart regardless of the difficulties in life.  Keep me from growing a heart of bitterness.  Help me to recall that You have overcome this world.  Let me become an example of joy, so that others will come to know You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Application steps: 
If possible, look at Proverbs 17:22 in a few different versions of the Bible.  Ponder the different phrasing.  Then write your own personalized version.  

Refection points:       
Do you consider yourself to be bitter over any circumstance in life?

Do others consider you to have a cheerful heart?

Do you know someone like Pamela?  If yes, how does she affect you?

Power verses:
James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  (NIV)  

Proverbs 14:10, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”  (NIV)  

Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (NIV)  

Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  (NIV)  

© 2006 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Clap for Jesus!

“Clap for Jesus!”

By Susanne Scheppmann
Key verse:
Isaiah 55:12, You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (NIV)  

I like to clap. We videotaped my son’s wedding. At the end of the video, you can see me clapping my hands in wild delight.  I wasn’t clapping congratulations for my son and his beautiful bride, but for Jesus.

After years of praying for a godly daughter-in-law, I witnessed God’s answer to my requests.  Christ through all sorts of twists and turns of life had brought this wedding to culmination in the beauty of a golden autumn wedding.  I clapped in applause of his delightful goodness.

I like to be demonstrative in my praise.  I have taught my kids to clap for God when they recognize a blessing from God.   Yes, they laugh at me.  They tease me about clapping for Jesus, but they join in with wide grins across their own faces.

A line in a current popular Christian song says, “Ain’t no rock gonna to cry in my place; as long as I am alive I will glorify the Lord.”    The song derives its lyrics from the following verses found in Luke 19:37-40.

    When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

    "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
        "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

    Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" 
    "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (NIV)  

“Ain’t no rock gonna cry in my place, as long as I am alive I will glorify the Lord”.  That’s exactly how I feel.  How about you? Whatever way you show your thankfulness to God, take a moment to praise Him right now.  Clap your hands for Jesus! Let him know how grateful you feel for the myriad of blessings in your life.

Lord, open my eyes today to the blessings you bestow upon me.  Help me to develop a heart of gratefulness.  Teach me to express praise to you in a new and fresh way; Lord, I don’t want a stone shouting praise in my place.

Application steps: 
If the weather permits, go outside and studied the beauty of nature.  Watch the trees waving in the breeze.  Listen to tunes of songbirds.  Gaze upward and feel the warmth of the sun upon your face.  After a few moments, tell Jesus what blesses you the most. Then clap for Jesus.      

Refection points:       
How do I show my appreciation for the blessings in my life?

Does my family know when something blesses me?

How can I teach my children to praise God in everyday moments?

Power verses:  
Psalm 43:4, Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. (NIV)  

Psalm 111:2, Great is the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. (NIV)  

Exodus 15:2, The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. (NIV)   

Ephesians, 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (NIV)  

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hannah's Heart

“Hannah’s Heart”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key verse: 
1 Samuel 2:1, “Then Hannah prayed and said:  ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.  My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.’ ”  (NIV)  

Often when life’s problems seem to overwhelm me, I tend to forget that God knows exactly what I am going through at any given moment and just how much he loves me.   But when I read the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel my heart and soul become encouraged to know that I just need to seek God and he will be enough for all my needs.    

It astonishes me that although Hannah was infertile and endured ridicule from her husband’s other wife that her heart, though broken, didn’t become permanently embittered. She continued in her faith in God.  I admire Hannah and yearn to have a heart like hers.

So I ask myself, how did Hannah accomplish that amazing achievement? 

If we look closely at what Scripture tells us, I believe there were four components to Hannah’s heart that enabled her to not only survive life’s difficulties, but to overcome them through victoriously. 

First, Hannah realized that God saw her painful situation.  Verse 10 in I Samuel reveals these words, And she, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly (NASB).  Hannah, although greatly distressed sought the Lord for the answers to her problems. 

Next Hannah prayed for an answer to her dilemma. I Samuel records the prayer of Hannah’s heart; … Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."  (1 Samuel 1:11 NIV).

Thirdly, Hannah was a woman who kept her promises to God.  As you read the following verse, remember that Samuel probably would have been around the precious age of three when Hannah fulfilled her promise. 

 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." (1 Samuel 1:27-28 NIV)

Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for Hannah to release her most precious and priceless treasure, her son? She let loose her darling chubby-cheeked toddler because she was a woman who kept her vow, regardless of the new type heartache it created.

But God honored Hannah for keeping her promise.  This next verse persuades my soul to trust God’s provisions for my life,
God was most especially kind to Hannah. She had three more sons and two daughters! The boy Samuel stayed at the sanctuary and grew up with God.
(1 Samuel 2:21 The Message.)

Finally, Hannah not only kept her vow, but also praised God for his faithfulness and goodness in her life.  Listen to her prayer of praise.

I'm bursting with God-news!
I'm walking on air.
I'm laughing at my rivals.
I'm dancing my salvation.
Nothing and no one is holy like God,
no rock mountain like our God.
Don't dare talk pretentiously—
not a word of boasting, ever!
For God knows what's going on.
He takes the measure of everything that happens.
(1 Samuel 2:1-3 The Message)

So, as I review my life troubles, I want to react as Hannah did.  I need to believe that:
  • God sees my pain.
  • God listens to my prayers.
  • God honors a woman of promise.
  • God deserves my praise.

I want a heart like Hannah’s prayer-filled heart.  Don’t you?

Father, help me to obtain a heart like Hannah’s. Help me to realize you know all about the problems in my life and that you listen intently to my prayers.  Teach me how to become not only a woman who keeps her promises, but also a woman of praise. 

Application steps:  
Set aside 15 minutes for prayer, and then ask the Father to help you in the various difficulties you are facing.  Write down your prayers and the date.  Review them frequently to see how and when the Father might answer your prayers.  Then write a praise report next to your prayer request. 

Refection points:       
What are the major problems in my life right now?

Do I believe that God hears my prayers?

Can I praise God even when heartache envelopes me? 

Power verses:  
Romans 8:28, “That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (The Message) 

Matthew 10:30, “He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!” (The Message)

Hosea 11:4, “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them” (NIV)  

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (NIV) 

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 31, 2017

“Thank You”

“Thank You”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key verse:
1 Thessalonians 3:9, How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? (NIV)  

My sullen face, framed by stringy blonde hair, stared at the ground.  I did not want to be here, but the fragrance of hot cinnamon rolls tempted me to stay in the house. 

“Wanna have one?,” asked my future stepmother.

Contradicting emotions surged through my fourteen-year-old mind. Tears seared my eyes as my heart ached.  I should stay loyal to my mother.  I didn’t even know this woman who my father now loved. 

However, she seemed friendly—her voice joy-filled. Her laughter tickled my ears.  And of course, those yeasty sweet rolls called to me. 

I nodded to her.

It was the first nod in a long loved filled relationship.  My stepmother soon evolved into a dear friend.  Not only did she teach me how to make those delicious cinnamon treats, but also not long after, she introduced me to my sweet Savior, Jesus. 

“Would you like to ask Jesus to become your personal Savior?”

I nodded.

I owe her my gratitude.  This godly woman, who Christ placed in my life, brought an array of changes into my life.  Some small, others eternal.  She accomplished a myriad of blessings in my life day after day.  

Mother Teresa once said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”  My stepmother accomplished much in my life with great love and small actions. She loved me through my difficult teen years.  She modeled the Proverbs 31 attitude of devoting herself, first to Christ, then her husband, children and community.

Her life exemplified the instruction found in Titus 2:3-5, “Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don't want anyone looking down on God's Message because of their behavior.” (The Message) 

Perhaps there is a godly role model in your life you need to thank? Maybe your mom, a stepmom, an aunt, or a godly mentor is overdue for an expression of gratitude for their influence in your life.  Take a moment to say thank you and if possible take a box of cinnamon rolls to share.  It will be a sweet moment for both of you. 

Lord, I thank you for the women you have placed in my life to help me walk the path of faith.  And Lord, help me to mentor other women who You place in my life.  

Application steps:  
Make a list of the women in your life who modeled godly behavior to you.  Then write them a thank you note or call them.  Let them know how much their influence has shaped your life. 

Refection points:       
Whom do I influence on daily basis?

Is there someone who needs my friendship and encouragement?

Do I show my appreciation for others on a regular basis?

Power verses:  
Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (NIV)  

1 Thessalonians 1:2, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our 
prayers.” (NIV)  

Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (NIV)  

Ephesians 6:2, "Honor your father and mother--which is the first commandment with a promise.” (NIV)   

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 27, 2017

“If the Mama Ain’t Happy”

“If the Mama Ain’t Happy”

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key verse:
Philippians 2:5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)  

How does your attitude thermometer read today?  Women set the emotional tone for the entire household.  Several years ago a popular t-shirt slogan said, “If the mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  We laughed because it was funny, cute, and so true. 

Browse through the following “Mama ain’t happy attitudes.”  Which emotions do you wear most frequently?
  • I am the princess.  The world revolves around me.
  • I’m bored.  I need more excitement in my life
  • I’m grumpy.  Nothing ever goes my way.
  • Poor me.  I do all the work around here. 

I don’t know about you, but I wear those attitudes more often than I care to admit.  However, as Christian women we are called to a higher standard of emotional outlooks.  The Apostle Paul instructs us in the book of Philippians, “ Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (2:3-5 NIV) 

Let’s take a look at a few of the attitudes of Jesus.

  • Gentleness 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29 NIV)  
  • Joy  
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11 NIV) 
  • Love
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) 

  • Kindness and Mercy
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not                   because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4 NIV)

Each day, every moment we choose the attitudes we will wear.  Let’s decide right now to put on the attitude of Christ Jesus.  I believe our families will rejoice in the improved emotional climate of our homes. 

Lord Jesus, remind me each day to put on the right attitude. Help me incorporate your gentleness, joy, love, and kindness to every circumstance that comes my way today.  Let others see You in me. 

Application steps:  
On an index card, write down three negative moods that seem to plague you. Give some thought to three positive moods you desire more of in your life. Now in red pencil or ink cross out the negative and write next to it your three positive attitudes.  Tape it to your fridge as a reminder today of your need for an attitude adjustment. 

Refection points:       
What excuses do I use for my bad moods?

Would Jesus agree with my excuses? 

Which attitudes would my family say I “wear” the most?

How can I remind myself each morning to put on the attitudes of Jesus?

Power verses:  
Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (NIV)  

Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”   (NIV) 

2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  (NIV) 

© 2005 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 24, 2017



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)  

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!”

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)

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!”

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)  

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!

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)  

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.

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)  

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.