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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

“April Showers”

Key Verse:
 “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains!” (Psalm 84:6 NLT) 

I gaped at the water pouring down through the vents in the ceiling. A surreal feeling overtook my thoughts—I couldn’t move. However, after a moment, I began to wade through the icy water, crying out in dismay, “Oh, no! Oh, no!” 

Apparently, a pipe had frozen and split during a recent cold snap. Then, when the warm weather brought a springtime thaw, I received April-like showers inside my home. As I walked upstairs to call a restoration service, I spotted my plaque that reads, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I had to smile. I could choose to “dance” in my rain. Yes, my home was a mess, but so what?

Many of my friends would trade my “rains” for their Valley of Weeping. Their lives hold divorce, illness, death---myriads of places of sorrows. God doesn’t promise us a trouble- free life, but He does say that Valleys of Weeping will eventually become pools of blessing. We choose our attitudes. We can decide to trust Him during the difficult seasons or we can bury ourselves in bitter self-pity.

Although the pain of life may linger, the Lord will lead us out of the Valley of Weeping. Let’s take to heart Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (NIV).

I recall the lines from a childhood poem, “April showers bring May flowers.” Hopefully, after everything in my basement is cleaned up and restored, I won’t discover any flowers growing in the carpet. But, I will look for those pools of blessing that the Lord will provide through my homeowner’s mishap.    

Dear Lord, life is hard. Walk me through the Valley of Weeping. Keep my heart focused on You and blessings You provide. Open my eyes to the pools of blessing that You supply. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application steps: 
Read Psalm 84. Journal your thoughts on each verse and how it applies to your life. Memorize Psalm 84:12, “O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.” (NIV)

Do I dance through the storms of life?

Can I encourage someone who is going through a Valley of Weeping?

What “pools of blessing” have I discovered after I have gone through a difficult time?

Power verses:
Psalm 135:7, “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. (NIV) 

Isaiah 55:12, “You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!” (NLT) 

Matthew 5:45b, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (NIV) 

© 2008 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.