Do You Know What Tomorrow Will Bring?

“How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone”— James 4:14 (TLB).

I have all the time in the world.” After reading this quote from a 25-year-old, who had just won a six-figure payout in a tournament competition, I wanted to tell him, “No, you don’t.”

His comment was in response to a reporter’s question about the young man’s plans for the prize money he had won. He planned to save it, for now, according to the newspaper article, but was considering a vacation with a college friend.

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While some of us may live 100-plus years, others are taken away much too soon. As I write this, my heart is sick for the loss of an elderly neighbor and friend. In his late 80s, Dave was killed in a car accident on May 30. His wife, Josie, had to undergo surgery for a broken leg and is still in critical condition.

My last glimpse of them had been that morning when they drove by my house. They waved and Dave honked as I was standing in my front yard visiting with other neighbors. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would ever see him—at least on earth.

This couple has experienced their own share of loss. Before they met and married, each had lost spouses at an early age. Dave had also lost a daughter to cancer. He once said to me, “You’re not supposed to outlive your children.”

Praising God Through the Trials and Turmoil

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God”— Psalm 43:5 (ESV).

Gulley-washing rains have plagued parts of the country during the past months, leaving a path of destruction behind in many areas. Lives have been lost and property has been destroyed due to the flooding.

Living close to the lake, I’ve seen the aftermath. My house is on higher ground but some of my neighbors have had to contend with rising water because their homes are lakefront property. One neighbor has even been fishing off his front deck, and a road running in front of his property is no longer passable.

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While on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I’ve watched as the rising waters have left the neighborhood lakeside picnic area unusable. The three concrete picnic tables and the large fire pit were swallowed by the rising lake levels.

When the rain abated for a week, the tops of the picnic tables came into view, as did part of the fire pit. The torrential rains returned and they disappeared once again. Now, as the water begins to recede, driftwood debris graces the shoreline. Some of the pieces are beautiful, even with the ugliness left behind.

While I contemplated the mess left behind by the storms, I thought about the trials we face in life. They come and go, just like the lake water levels rising and falling with our capricious weather.

Why Does God want us to Pray for Others?

“Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them”— 1 Timothy 2:1(TLB).

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I listened as a friend prayed with me over the phone about a family situation.  Melita is a true prayer warrior, and I treasure our bond as sisters-in-Christ.

I had called, leaving a voice message when she didn’t answer. I didn’t expect to hear back until the next day. It was late. However, my friend returned the call before she retired for the night. I was humbled by this beautiful friend’s willingness to return my call so late, even though she has to rise early each morning for work.

Having friends who will stand with you during trials is important. Even more important are those who will drop what they are doing to pray with you when asked.

We must believe our all-powerful God loves the people in our prayers.

I’ve learned to pray immediately when someone texts, emails or calls asking for prayer. If I don’t pray at the time of the request, I forget. I also add the person’s name and request to my list so I can continue to pray for God’s intervention or direction for an individual.

God instructs us to pray for others in several places in the Bible. In James 5:16, the apostle writes:  “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”

Seven Daily Steps to Trusting God

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”— Proverbs 3:5-6(NLT).

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Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my favorite scriptures. I’ve posted it on my computer monitor. I have it memorized as a daily reminder. As I’ve grown spiritually, letting go of the need to be in control, I’ve learned to lean on God.

In a recent “Bible Study Tools” article I read, the author gives readers seven daily steps to trusting God with all your heart. Following this advice each day will enable you to have a greater trust in where God is leading you and why.

  1. Don’t depend on you. “We live in a world where trust must be earned and seems to be in short supply,” says the author.  But wise King Solomon, who wrote Proverbs, knew that trust is where we must start (see Proverbs 3:5). Disappointments teach us to depend upon ourselves. However, “living the life God has called us to means unlearning that lesson—to rest in God’s understanding” and not our own.” But, what if we don’t feel like we can trust Him completely? The author says, “That’s where step two comes in.”
  2. Cry out to God. “Surrendering to God begins with our lips and our thoughts,” the author adds. We need to cry out to Him to show we depend on Him (See Proverbs 3:6). When we pray, we’re confessing His ways are better. When we surrender our lives to Him, we have to remember step three.
  3. Run from evil. “So much in our world can clutter our relationship with God,” the author says. In 1 John 2:16, the writer describes “them as the desires of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride in our lives.” They become stumbling blocks when we think we deserve them to be happy. Instead, life works best when we remember God is the source of our blessings.
  4. Put God first in your life. We’re selfish beings; even so when we put God first, trusting everything we own to His keeping, including our money, we’re admitting how much we depend on Him.
  5. Check yourself by God’s Word. We’re not so good at evaluating ourselves. I know I’m not. We make excuses for our behavior. If we are to truly trust God, we need to know where we stand by studying His Truth.
  6. Listen to the Holy Spirit. As we go through our day, the Holy Spirit guides us. That means we’re never alone if we will listen (John 14:26).
  7. Rest in God’s Love. Living in a difficult world often makes us wonder if God even cares. You might ask, “Where is God when I need Him?” Solomon reminds us God never leaves us to fend for ourselves.

Even in the midst of turmoil, God is with us, using our challenges to teach us how to trust in Him with all our hearts. It takes whole-hearted commitment each day but we’re never alone (Matthew 28:20b).

I always love hearing from my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at carol@carolaround.com.

Serving God More Than Leftovers

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work”— 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NRSV).

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Does your family moan when you serve leftovers or are they grateful for the meal placed before them? Maybe it depends on what you’re serving.

In a recent “Upper Room” devotional, the author wrote, “I often serve my family leftovers to save myself a little time. The original meal is usually delicious. But when I serve the leftovers several days later, I sometimes feel that I haven’t given my best.”

The writer continued by comparing leftover food to serving herself spiritual leftovers as well. She doesn’t always make time for God. He isn’t her first priority. Like many, she says a quick thank-you each morning but doesn’t take the time to appreciate the opportunities God offers her.

That love flows from the very heart of God.

The writer also admits she doesn’t read God’s Word each day.

Just as physical food nourishes our bodies, God’s Word is meant to feed our souls, and we are invited to receive it afresh each day,” she adds.

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later”— Romans 8:18 (NLT).

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“Why does God allow bad things to happen?”

When one of my readers posed this question via email, I turned to scripture. I wanted to give an honest answer as best as I could. I didn’t want to rely on my knowledge or give a flippant reply.

We seek answers when a child is taken away from his parents too soon because of a rare disease or a freak accident. We seek answers when a college student perishes in a car crash on her way home or when a loved one receives a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and faces a regimen of treatments with no guarantee it will help.

God never promised Christians a pain-free life.

Writer Avery Foley, who holds a masters of arts in theological studies, wrote the following in an article: “One of the most common questions believers and unbelievers alike ask is why a loving and all-powerful God would allow bad things to happen. When many believers are asked this question, they freeze, not knowing what to say. Or they weakly reply, ‘Well, we don’t know why bad things happen, but we need to trust God.’ But those of us who start with the right foundation, God’s Word, have a solid answer that is based in the history of God’s Word. But those who don’t start with God’s Word have a difficult time providing a satisfactory answer to this important and often emotionally charged question.”

Foley points out we need to begin with Genesis, appropriate because the first words of this book say, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Finding the Best during the Worst of Times

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”—Isaiah 41:10 (NIV).

 

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

So begins “A Tale of Two Cities,” written by Charles Dickens, a prolific British author. Published in 1859, this historical novel takes place during the French Revolution. If you reread Dickens’ opening paragraph, you might think he was describing today’s world.

In a sermon by Pastor John Piper, he said, “The same is true today: It is the best of times and the worst of times. Perhaps this is true at every point in the history of a God-ruled, sin-pervaded world. It was true in 1859, and it is true today.”

He will not leave you or forsake you.

Since the beginning of creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, our world has been defined by the best of times and the worst of times. As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote in the first chapter, verse nine, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Recently, a 14-year-old Owasso, Okla., student, J.J. Willis, made the news with a poem he wrote and recorded inside his mother’s minivan where it was quiet. The poem was inspired by the current political atmosphere stirring up hateful arguments—even among Christians—across social media.

In his video, Willis said “We’re all proud and arrogant, and we believe we’re always right. Things should be different.”