Remnants

a Tapestry with angels

When Judah was in great distress from an invading country, Judah’s king, Hezekiah, sent a plea to the prophet Isaiah. Here’s a snippet of king Hezekiah’s request: Isaiah, 37:4, “therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.

The world has been fractured since this pandemic hit. In America we have become a collection of remnants. Remnants of churches, of employers, of social services, of humble hearts, of human love.

Almighty God is a defender of remnants. There are so many accounts in the Bible of remnants that it’s apparent that there is a purpose in the heart of God for remnants. Consider this: In the English Standard Version of the Bible, there are 84 references to the word “remnants.” And if we search for remnants in the King James Version, we find 91 references.

God’s Word is Full of Remnants

Here are just a few passages about remnants that I’ve pulled from the ESV:

Genesis 45:7 And God sent me (Joseph) before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.

2 Kings 19:30, And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.

Isaiah 10:21, A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God

Amos 5:15, Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Acts 15:17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things

Romans 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant , chosen by grace.

God Specializes in Remnants

So, you get the idea; God works with remnants. Don’t become downhearted if just a remnant of your local church remains, or a remnant of your ministry remains, or a remnant of your family remains. God will still use and bless these remnants and prosper them.

Through the work of the Apostle Peter, Syria was one of the first regions to receive Christianity. Today, in Syria, only a remnant of Christians remain. As Christians, we need to lift our prayers for our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria, for they are in great distress.

Pray for Syria, pray for your remnants, pray for our nation’s remnants, pray in faith, believing in the steadfast love and power of God. Pray in the name of the Father’s beloved Son, Jesus. Together, through prayer and through Holy Spirit-directed action, we will see God use His remnants, sewn together to create a beautiful tapestry which glorifies God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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Why Pray?

person praying with hands on a Bible

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)” This is how Jesus began what we know as the opening to the 14th chapter of the book of John. 

You may rightly ask, “How can our hearts not be troubled when the whole world seems to be upside down?” But before you even ask this question, you already know the answer. We can find solace in Jesus, and we do find comfort in the very next statement that Jesus made. In John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” 

Not Our Final Destination

Thankfully, this world is not our final destination. In this world, we will have troubles. Jesus told us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) “

Now you may wonder, “why pray” if it’s inevitable that we will have troubles. I’m glad you wondered that. 😉

Jesus taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus taught us to ask, to seek, and to knock (Matthew 7:7–8) so that we might receive good gifts from our Father in heaven. And Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Therefore, God’s will is for us to pray and for Him to answer prayers. Within the sovereign will of God, there are actions that He will only do if a person or a people ask it of Him.

Join In

It’s rather staggering to consider. We come before the God of all creation to ask Him to intervene in situations, and if we ask within His will, He does! That is unfathomable love. Let’s not miss any opportunities to ask God for His help.

If you wonder how to pray, there’s a great answer on GotQuestions.org.

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A Lesson From My Sears Guitar

kid playing guitar

I learned to play guitar when I was in grade school. My parents doubted my commitment, thinking it an interest that would soon pass, like my love for school. They bought me the least expensive guitar that Sears carried. I’m confident Sears gave the guitar to my parents, just to get rid of it. With that Sears guitar in hand, my dad said, “Teach yourself to play a hymn, and I’ll get you a better guitar.” That was like saying, “Win the Indy 500 in this VW Bug, and I’ll buy you a real car!”

The strings on my new guitar were nearly impossible for my young fingers to press down to form a note – “a” musical note and chords were impossible. Since this was way before the Internet, the only guitar information I had was a booklet that came with my Sears acoustic. So every day after school I’d go to my bedroom and try to figure out how to read music and how to make my guitar play those notes. Having at least a modicum of musical talent would have helped.

Show Time!

Finally, the day came when I was confident. Dad got home, Mom finished up in the kitchen, and then I said I wanted to show them something. With my track record, those were frightening words to my folks! They both sat down on the sofa, braced themselves, and stared at me; I don’t blame them.

I ran to my bedroom and ran back into the living room with a hymnal and my guitar. I don’t remember which hymn I chose; no doubt, I’ve blocked it from my memory. Anyway, I played the hymn all the way through including each verse, note perfect’ ish. By the end, my fingers were bleeding; that week, Dad rented an electric guitar and amplifier, and signed me up for lessons – the horrid sound of that Sears guitar was a real blessing!

Wait, you’re writing about fasting?

So what does this narcissistic story have to do with fasting? Before I answer, let’s read what Jesus said about fasting.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward…” Matthew 6:16

Jesus said, “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” He left us no elbow room. Fasting should be part of every Christian’s life. For those celebrating Lent, your fasting and abstinence from meat are already underway; I’m proud of you! For others, fasting and/or abstinence may be a new or atypical aspect of your walk with Jesus.

Fasting doesn’t need to be total self-denial of food. In fact, that can be dangerous or impossible for many people. The self-denial of food (i.e., fasting) is something you must discuss with your family doctor before trying it.

We each need to pray and ask Jesus to show us the things that have control over us. Food, TV, video games, shopping, and so forth; things that aren’t sin until they are. From your list allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to one and fast it. How long? It’s between you and Jesus.

Why Fast?

Why fast? Well, there is that directive from Jesus we just read. Also, fasting is intended to help us hear from God. We don’t change His will by fasting, and we don’t fast to lose weight. We fast to carve out more time for us to spend in prayer and to draw closer to our God.

Oh, how does the story about my first guitar fit with fasting? Well, learning on that Sears guitar was really difficult and really painful, but I didn’t care. I was learning something I loved; I still play. Like the Sears guitar, fasting is something that can be difficult and uncomfortable, but those annoyances pale in comparison to what we gain from walking more closely with Jesus.

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The Answering God

A group of people text messaging

A small frustration of mine is the plethora of messaging apps for mobile phones. Some people use Facebook Messenger and Google Messages, while others use Apple Messages and Microsoft Messenger or LinkedIn Messages. Some people prefer an open-source app like Jabber; that’s the shortlist!

Messages get lost because the person receiving the message may rarely check the app that received your message. For this reason, I consider text messaging unreliable. For example, if the person I’ve texted via Facebook Messenger has that app on his or her 5th screen of their phone, it may be days before they see, “Hey, can you pick me up now?” How can I remember which app each of my contacts uses?

God Hears And Answers Prayer

For the reason I stated above, I prefer a phone call to a text message, but that’s just me. (Now you can guess my age ;-)) But, here’s the thing, whether you need a “phone call” God, One you can talk to in that nanosecond, right before you wreck your car or a “texting” God, where you keep a journal and write down your praises, thankfulness, and prayer requests, either way, God hears you and will be there for you.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.1 John 5:14-15

He’s Not A “Can You Hear Me Now” God

Once you have received Jesus as your Savior and have the Holy Spirit within you, you have a direct line to God (Matthew 7:7). You never need to wonder if God heard you; He did. You don’t have to try, “Can you hear me now?” There are no “dead spots” with God, there are no roaming charges if you are in another country, and with God, you have unlimited text and talk! Plus, God has paid for this service (John 14:14).

So, with guaranteed delivery to the God of all Creation, we should use this service, for God not only listens, He answers. And He can make a way for you where there is no way (1 Corinthians 10:13)! Praise God!

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The Story of the Coffee Droplets

coffee cup sitting on coffee beans

A small array of coffee droplets were pooled upon my desk, forming a rough outline of Lake Michigan. They had arrived from sloshed coffee from my morning coffee cup; I like coffee cups.

The droplets did not land someplace that I could easily ignore, a place where I could clean them up later. Instead, they were positioned directly in front of my keyboard. I was thankful they had dodged my computer, but I was annoyed that I had to deal with them before getting down to business.

Looking around, I discovered that I didn’t have a single napkin, paper towel, old rag, or even a shirttail to remove Lake Michigan from my desk. Bummer. So I made my way back to my home, for you see, my office is separate from my house and I don’t walk well. Retrieving a bit of paper towel, I hobbled back to my office.

Sitting down, paper towel in hand, I looked at the droplets and saw a life lesson. How amazing that four or five drops of coffee, in just the right place, stopped my work, sending me off on an errand, and disrupting my morning plans.

A Few Drops of Coffee

Every day Godless people make plans. Some own lots of stuff and have lots of people at their disposal. But you and I can be their few drops of coffee.

Psalms 16:1-2 (ESV): The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Prayer: God lead us I pray so that our prayers and our actions disrupt the world’s plans of iniquity. Help us to be bold and allow You, our God, to use us like drops of coffee. In the Name of Your beloved Son, Father, we pray.

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My Beloved Son

elderly hands folded in prayer

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

Prayer is a Healing Activity

Prayer is a healing activity for us. As believers, we pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But when we get alone with God (Matthew 6:6) and pray to the Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, hears us, consoles us, and acts on our behalf.

As part of our healing, before we pray, we need to settle any matter where someone has something against us (Matthew 5:23). As we enter into prayer, we believe that God is and that He answers prayers (James 1:6), knowing that “if we worship God and do His will, God listens to us (John 9:31).

Preparing for Prayer

Entering prayer, we draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We are entering our prayer time with confidence (1 John 5:14-15). We give thanks to God (Matthew 6:9-13). We confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9 ) and forgive anyone that has wronged us (Mark 11:25). As we pray, we should take time to be at peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

We Ask

Praying, we go before our Father, praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18 ). We pray on behalf of others that are in need (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We ask our Father for spiritual things, material things, emotional things, human things. We ask because our God has told us to ask (Matthew 7:7) and we remember that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

We pray to our Father, trusting that the Spirit leads us as we pray, and we know that Jesus is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5 ) between our humanity and God’s divinity. Most importantly, we pray for the will of Jesus, our Lord. That is what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:13).

God’s Beloved Son

So, whether we begin our prayer in the name of Jesus or close our prayer in His name, when bringing His name before our Father, I think it’s good to acknowledge that our petitions are in the name of God’s beloved Son (Matthew 3:17).

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Fear is Like a Tick

A hard-bodied tick of the family Ixodidae, the lone star tick

So much has changed in this world since I was a kid. As a kid, I spent most of my time outside. We didn’t have the vast array of entertainment options that kids have today. A couple of things I’m glad we didn’t have back then were mosquitoes that carried the West Nile virus and ticks that could infect us with Lyme disease. It was “safe” outside, so most of a kid’s world existed there. A side effect of outdoor life was that kids got ticks. I certainly got my share of them.

Bring In The Fire

Whenever Mom found a tick on my body (yes, Mom always checked), I knew what would happen next. It was imperative that the tick pulled its head out of my flesh. So, she would get a kitchen match, the kind that has a match head on one end of a short stick of wood. She would strike the match, get a good flame, blow out the match, and then she would take the hot match head and place it on the tick. 

The hot match would disturb the tick’s supper, and it would pull itself out of my body. Mom was always ready with Kleenex® tissues in her left hand. The moment the tick’s head was visible, Mom swooped in like a hawk grabbing a rabbit. It was a sight to behold. I’ve used her technique many times, and it has served me well (warningthis is not a medical recommendation). 

Get It All Out

Here’s the point of my story: For a Christian, fear is like a tick. It is alien to us*. It doesn’t exist in God. Fear stealthily crawls over us until it finds a place to feed. Then it then burrows into us and begins its damage. For us to remove fear it must be completely cast out. In the following verses, we can see that this is God’s will.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) and 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

It may not be obvious, but fear is the opposite of love – let that sink in. Love moves us towards others in the spirit of self-sacrifice while fear shrinks us back from others in the spirit of self-preservation. To get the fear (whatever kind it is) completely out of us we need perfect love.

The Opposite of Fear is Love

It’s simple math. Love and fear are opposites, therefore perfect love equates to zero fear. But how can we possibly have perfect love? If we try to remove fear without God’s help, just like a tick, a piece of that fear will remain in us and likely cause us much harm; God wants all of that fear out of us.

Hmm. Who do we know that has perfect love? Give me a moment. Yes! God is perfect love. So how do we get the tick of fear out of us? We ask the Holy Spirit to fill us up completely. If we are full of the Holy Spirit of God, then we are full of perfect love. Our thoughts, actions, ambitions, motives are transformed; our minds are transformed (Romans 12:2) when we are full of the Holy Spirit of God, full of perfect love. God’s love at work through us is like a hot match head applied to a tick; fear is cast out!


* The only fear a Christian should have is the kind referenced in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

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Imagined

a man kneeling and praying

It Started in a Swamp

Walt Disney imagined building a Florida theme park in 1959, and construction began in 1965. Most of the land was a swamp. However, Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, during the creation of the complex. Today, Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world, with an average annual attendance of more than 52 million.

As I understand it, in 1971, near the opening day of the Magic Kingdom theme park, the chief architect was standing beside the widow of Walk Disney with a map of the 39 square miles targeted to be developed for what became Walk Disney World. He asked Walt’s widow, Lillian, if she could imagine such a large theme park. She said, “I don’t have too. Walt already did.”

Do the Imagined

Acts 2:12-14, 40-41, Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Peter had learned from the time he sank while walking on water. God’s opportunities may only last for an instant. He stood up in faith. Now Peter had faith, strong faith. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter preached Jesus and the cross; thousands were saved. No doubt, the number of people saved was more than the Pharisees ever imagined.

Throughout history, we have seen God use His people to accomplish things that others couldn’t imagine. God has used believers to build hospitals in impoverished nations, universities in newly formed countries, scientific breakthroughs that astounded academia, and more. Each time God’s servants did imagine these endeavors succeeding. They did these works because they trusted the one true God.

A Modern Example

If we consider just one modern example let’s consider 24-7 Prayer

Their story began in 1999 when some people started a prayer room in a warehouse on the south coast of England. Surprisingly, young people flocked to this prayer room. At some point, a person spray painted a poem on a wall; the poem went viral. 

That first prayer room has now touched more than two million people in more than ten thousand prayer rooms in most denominations and more than half the nations on earth. And it continues today. 

Now It’s Your Turn

God is still at work. He still uses ordinary people, as Jesus did with the fishermen. You’ve probably heard, “God’s not looking for ability but availability.” It’s true. He wants people that will drop what they’re doing and go where the Spirit leads them and not fear the wind and the waves. He wants you. He has a vision of who you could be. If you haven’t already done so, dive in because He’s calling.

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By the way, Lectio365 is part of my morning devotional.

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The Ear

an ear with posts and pins

We read in Proverbs 8:29, “when he (the LORD) assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,” 

A Boundry

I spent many years managing technical people, and an essential part of my job was hiring the right people. Many of my job candidates came through employment agencies. Both the agent and I worked together to make sure the agent understood the skills that I needed, and I appreciated the difficulty they faced in finding that person.

Down through the years, I worked with many highly professional agents. But occasionally, I’d get a clunker. Usually, the first indication was when the agent would “drop by” without an appointment, or they would invite me to lunch and “happen” to have a candidate with them.

Hiring is the single most important decision a manager makes. Therefore, it’s critical to follow a formal process so that every candidate receives the same opportunity to win the job. I dropped agents from my roster that regularly violated the boundary between employer and employment agent.

God’s Boundry

God, too, has a boundary when it comes to getting God’s ear. We see this in (John 9:31): We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 

You may not be able to get a Hollywood star on the phone or get the governor of your state to reply to your text, but you can have the ear of the God of all Creation if you do His will, and that begins by receiving salvation through His Son, Jesus!

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Secrets In God

a closet

If you are going to tell a friend a secret, Starbucks is the wrong setting. In fact, no coffee shop will work because everyone is listening to everyone else’s conversation. No, to tell your friend a secret, you need to go someplace private. That is what Jesus told us to do when we pray:

Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. – Matthew 6:6

Alone With God

I’ve found that the time I spend alone with God works just like regular friendships; it deepens with time. And with consistency, I don’t have to spend very much time on housekeeping. That way, we have time to intercede in prayer for people, pray for our leaders, our country, our pastor, and so forth. But then there needs to be a time when I speak with my God.

If God should desire to raise us to the position of one who is an intimate and shares his secrets, we ought to accept this gladly. – Saint Teresa of Avila

I need to hear from God, feel His presence, and share our secrets. What secrets? Well, if I told you… 😉 The truth is that in our intimacy with God, He will create secrets. “Give Joe an extra big tip next time.” Don’t tell anyone what you did. Or, “Tell Sue that you will bring her name before the God of all Creation.” It’s just between Us/us.

Profound Secrets

Sometimes God’s secrets are much more profound. They may deal with your relationship with the Holy Spirit. God may be planting a call to foreign missions in your heart. I personally knew a man that, during his prayer time, God promised to carry him through a difficult time. Less than a week later, he was diagnosed with cancer. God brought him through the medical process, and he is a cancer survivor.

If your prayer time tends to be a “shopping list,” carve out a little extra time to strengthen your relationship with the one true God. You may be surprised at the secrets He shares with you.

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