November 2019 Devotionals

Give Thanks in Everything?


A reminder of God's Grace from Elizabeth Handford

 

The Reader's Digest tells the true story of a man who forgot an appointment with his doctor. The nurse phoned to reschedule him. "Oh, you're

 right!" he said. "I can't remember anything, and I can't see and I can't hear and I can't walk, but at least I can still drive!" ( I think I ran into him on Woodruff Road the other day!)

 

Recently I found myself bemoaning all the hardships of growing old. I can't see as well as I used to, my hearing has deteriorated, odd pains crop up, knees are unreliable, and sometimes I can't remember a word I want to use. (But, yes, last year the DMV did renew my driver's license for another ten years!)


So, I am ashamed to admit, I began to feel sorry for myself. All these hardships. All these hassles. Everything harder than it used to be. Then I read First Thessalonians 5:18, which says:

 

In everything give thanks:
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus concerning you.

 

In focusing on myself and my trivial problems, I had forgotten all the extravagant gifts God showers on me, day after day, hour after hour, even minute by minute: Sunshine and rain. Air to breathe. Water. Food. Medicine. Convenient stores. Money to buy what I need.

 

But so much more important than those tangible things: A loving family. Compassionate and helpful friends. Work to do that enriches every day. Freedom to worship God as I desire.


But even more: God's great grace, as Romans 5:20 promises- "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." God's unstinting mercy, as Lamentations 3:22,23 proclaims: "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." And best of all, God's eternal, unending love, as He expresses it in Jeremiah 31:3: "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you."

 

So the Scripture says, "In everything give thanks." I can't find a loop-hole. Yet I am to "give thanks in everything"? How can I do that? Give thanks for vitiating pain? Give thanks for a devastating financial loss? The death of a beloved one? A terrible family crisis? Disillusionment in a respected friend? How can I possibly thank God for such tragedy?

 

Because, the Scripture says, "This is the will of God in Christ Jesus ." This circumstance is what your loving God has chosen for you because He loves you. You may not be able to understand the why, but you can trust the God who has proven, over and over again, His commitment and and unending love for you.


So this Thanksgiving, may you join me in saying,

 

"Thank you, dear Jesus, even for this!"

 

 

November 18, 2019

 

How to Get Ahead in Your Job
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford

 

My father was editor of a large weekly Christian magazine and publisher of many books. The staff were dedicated

 Christians, working for less money than they could have earned in the secular world. Daddy was burdened to develop his workers into innovative, effective leaders. So one morning at their daily devotional together, he said, "I want you to be ambitious to serve God well. Look for ways to increase our productivity. Encourage your fellow workers to do their best. I want to see some of you develop into dependable managers. This is God's work, and worthy of your best efforts."

When he went back to his office, he found six or seven employees waiting to talk to him. "They've taken to heart what I said," he thought. "They're going to share the burdens of this ministry."


To his dismay, every one of the employees said, in effect, "I am ready to be promoted to be the manager of my department. I've been needing more money." It seemed as if too many of them had envisioned, not the increased responsibility and wider ministry, but simply the prospect of more money. And that wasn't exactly what Dad had in mind. Jesus discusses this in Luke 16:10-13:

 

Unless you are faithful in small matters,
you won't be faithful in large ones.
If you cheat even a little,
you won't be honest with greater responsibilities.
And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth,
who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?
And if you are not faithful with other people's money,
why should you be trusted with money of your own?
No one can serve two masters.
For you will hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.

 

All of us, I believe, want to accomplish something truly important with our lives. We are not content simply to do an average job with average results, with no challenge, no incentive. It is right for us to be ambitious to be the best workers we can be, for God and for our families. But what we might miss, in our desire to "get ahead," is our great need to be faithful and trustworthy, effective and thoughtful in the job we are being paid to do today. Your supervisors at your job likely want to give you increased responsibilities and increased authority. They probably are looking for people who are fully prepared for such a challenge.

 

But, as Jesus said, you can't serve both God and money. You chief goal at work should be to serve God well in the place He has put you. God has a wonderful way of taking beautiful care of His servants, financially and spiritually, now and in the future.


So be faithful, dear friend, in whatever task you are given today, so God can "trust you with the true riches!"

 


 

 

November 11, 2019

 

Idiopathic?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford

 

Long ago I sat in my dentist's chair as he probed my mouth. We'd always had interesting conversations. But he had one very bad habit. If I disagreed with him, and started burbling my opinion, he would fill my mouth with cotton or blobs of something so that I couldn't maintain my side of the argument. This happened the morning I asked him if he would trust Jesus as his Savior. A month later, after Walt had led him to the Lord, I asked him if he'd stuffed my mouth on purpose to stop my asking, and he said, "Yes."

 

Once he commented on the odd-shaped tors in my jaw. "It's a good thing you haven't needed a partial plate," he said.

 

"Those tors would sure complicate fitting it."

 

"What causes them?"

 

"They're idiopathic."

 

"What does that mean?"

 

"I don't know."

 

When I could talk past his instruments I protested. "Why in the world would you use a word when you don't even know what it means?"

 

"I do know what it means," he said reasonably. "It means ‘I don't know.'"


Oh.

 

 

So there's a word in the English language that I could use to confess I'm not the dispenser of all wisdom? Well, yes, there is. Idiopathic. Though it's actually a medical term, I need to learn to use it more often in my relationships with others.


We mothers are very accustomed to being right about everything when we talk with our children. No, I didn't say that right. I should say, " Mothers think they are always right when they're talking to their children." Actually, I've discovered, not only do my children know about things I know nothing about, like navigating the internet, they are often right about human relationships and matters of right and wrong, and I need to listen to them.

 

As a pastor's wife, I discovered that the people God sent to my husband and me to nurture spiritually often had a clearer insight into a certain passage of Scripture than I did. If I were really wise, I would say, "I don't know."

 

When I was the young office manager of my father's Christian book publishing company, I was managing many older, accomplished, smart employees, people who did their jobs well. I quickly learned that I needed to be teachable about many procedures. I didn't need to be the "know-it-all" solver of all the problems that crop up in a business. I wouldn't lose their respect when I said, "I don't know, and if you don't know, we'll find out together."


In Psalm 90:12, the prophet Moses prayed,
Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.

 

King Solomon said, in Proverbs 23:23:
Get the truth and don't ever sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and discernment.

 

I have learned I especially need to say to my Father/God, when I'm trying to figure out why I've missed the mark in my relationship with Him, "I don't know why that happened, dear Lord. I'm listening to what You want me to hear, and then I'll obey You as fast as I can."

 


 

 

November 4, 2019

 

If You Pay the Danes to Go Away,
They Will Certainly Come Back for More
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford

 

 

In the tenth century Saxon King Ethelred II the Unready thought he'd get rid of Danish invaders by paying them what they asked. His nickname, "The Unready," meant he was ill-advised, and so it turned out to be, because, of course, the Danes came back again and again for more!

 

British Prime Minister Chamberlain thought he'd appease Hitler in 1938, by conceding Czecho-slovakia to him in 1938, thinking to prevent war and "bring peace in our time." As we well know, it did not stop Hitler from coveting more lands.

 

I remember watching with great compassion a man who had lost his family because of his drinking. Walt and I went to his home to try to help him. In answer to Walt's offer to help, the man filled a glass with liquor, held it up, and said to us, "End Gate! This is the last glass I'll ever drink."

 

But five "End Gates" later he was too drunk to speak coherently. Why? To concede even a small point to the enemy only increases his appetite, and brings him back for more.


Proverbs 14:12 says,
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

 

So what does that have to do with you and me? It's a reminder that we cannot yield to any proposal that nibbles at our integrity. Every day the headlines tell us of someone who thought they could get by with a small infraction, yield just a tiny bit of their integrity, but who found the coils that entangled them were too great to break.

 

It isn't always easy to distinguish what is a proper compromise. In Matthew 5:25 Jesus said, "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him" When the other person is right, then of course you agree with him. Proverbs 20:19 counsels, "Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days."


But when it is plainly an important matter of right or wrong, we must never concede, never appease. If we can find a way to make the truth palatable to others, certainly we ought to try. If we can help others see how they will profit from choosing the right, we should. But let's never pay the Danes to go away, for they certainly will come back for more.

 

First Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God."

 

Whatever your task in life, you will never have to make a choice that will dishonor your Creator. No matter how you earn a living, you can honor God in every thing you do, at home, at work, on in your community.

 


 

 

November 19, 2018

 

Thankful for My Sorrows?
A Word of Thanksgiving from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

How grateful I am this Thanksgiving season for all the things that usually come to mind: a loving family, dear friends, good health, work to do, and most of all, the assurance that I am God's child, forgiven and promised Heaven.

 

But this year, through an odd memory, I began to think about the times in my life when I was most aware of God's intimate, sweet presence. To my surprise, those were times of deepest trouble and grief--

 

--A prodigal child far from home, a child abducted but found safe, a diagnosis of breast cancer, a new church building destroyed by a contractor's mistake, the death of beloved first-born grandson, and especially my loss of my husband.


As I relived these experiences, I remembered the emotions of helplessness and grief I felt. But even more, I remembered how I felt the presence of God sheltering me, holding me close to His heart, assuring me of His infinite love. So this thanksgiving I am thanking God that through every trial, every disappointment, every sorrow of my life, the Lord Jesus has walked with me through it.

 

I love the hymn, "The Sands of Time Are Sinking." The poet, Ann Cousins, uses the metaphor of an hourglass, when the sands have almost all fallen to the bottom, to symbolize a life that is coming to a close. One verse says:


With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove;
And always dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I'll bless the hand that guided, I'll bless the heart that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel's land.

 

Notice the line that says, "The dews of sorrow were lustered with His love." Lustered? Luster is "a glory or a distinction, or a coating giving an iridescent glaze to ceramics." So God's inexhaustible love can make our tears of sorrow holy and beautiful!


Now that's something that every one of us, regardless of situation or circumstance, can be grateful for this Thanksgiving season.

 

Because of the exceeding grace of God in you,
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9:14,15

 

 
November 12, 2018

 

 

Trust How It Feels or What the Flight Instruments Say?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 


It was after midnight when Walt and I took off from a small airport near Knoxville in the middle of the Tennessee River to fly home. We would be flying in solid clouds under instrument conditions all the way. We knew the flight would be rough over the mountains, but our sturdy airplane was well-built and could handle the turbulence. Our flight instruments had been tested and were dependable. Walt had training and license for instrument flying and had flown many hours in this airplane.

 


Still, it's a little unnerving to know that the whole world is going to disappear about the time you lift off! As soon as we were airborne, we were in absolute darkness. We checked in with Atlanta ATC, and their cheerful, competent voices were reassuring in the dark night. We reached altitude. Walt eased back on the rpms, set fuel consumption, and turned on the automatic pilot. I flipped the radios to the next radio frequency.

 


The flight was going well. We sighed with relief. We felt comfortable, and safe-until I made a sweep of the instruments and noticed the attitude indicator.

 


It should have looked like this:

 

 

 

 

Instead, it looked like this:

 

 

 

 

 

We were in a deadly downward spiral that would end in terrible disaster if not corrected immediately. I yelled and pointed to the instrument. Walt acted immediately. We kept our eyes glued to that indicator as he pulled back on the yoke and leveled the wings, knowing we'd get vertigo from the sudden correction.

 


There! The instrument showed wings level, nose on the horizon. We were safe. But why had the autopilot stopped working? Evidently Walt had turned it off accidentally, since the switches for it and the radio were both on the yoke.
But more important, why didn't we realize the danger? Why didn't we feel we were spiraling down? How could you be in a downward flight that steep and not feel it? We were in mortal danger, but we had felt perfectly safe.


And that's why our flight instructor repeated over and over again, "Trust your instruments, not what you feel. Your only safety is to scan the instrument panel constantly. Look at every gauge. Believe what it says. If it says you are low on fuel, you are low on fuel. If it indicates your alternator has quit working, it's time to land. If your navigation instruments say you're 20 degrees off course, you are off course."

 

 

A woman once said, "I know he's married, but we love each other. Anything this beautiful has to be good. I have perfect peace about it." But she was in danger, and her heart will be broken even if it "feels right."

 


I tried to share the Gospel with a man, but he said, "Nah, I don't need Jesus, and I'm not scared to die, so quit bothering me." He felt fine, but his lack of fear didn't prove he was safe.

 


There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12,13.


Our only safety? Believe the written, unshakeable Word of God who promises you sure guidance.

 

The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you. . . .
Unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
" Psalm 32:8,10

 

November 6, 2018

 

Does It Matter If You Don't Vote Tomorrow?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

 

Should you vote tomorrow?

 

Absolutely, yes!

 

You ought to vote, and I say that without knowing which way you might vote. Your right to vote was purchased at the cost of people who gave up their lives just so you could have the freedom to vote tomorrow. You owe it to them to vote.

 

If you've never traveled to a country whose people don't have that right, you might not know what a precious gift it is.

 

Walt and I traveled to several countries which the U.S. State deemed "oppressive," and the relief we felt when we finally crossed the border to come home is indescribable.

 

Walt went to one eastern European country (with the U.S. State Department approval, and monitored by them) to plead the cause of a Christian pastor jailed for preaching the Gospel. Walt was followed by the secret police every moment of the day, and his hotel room was ransacked regularly. He barely made it out of the country without being detained.

 

Another time we traveled (with permission of the State Department) on behalf of persecuted Christians, to an Asian country ruled by a renegade army. Gross atrocities were committed-and still are-against Christians and Muslims in that country. Sham elections are held, but the ballots are counted by the people in power, so they are meaningless.

 

We once traveled to an African country ruled by a dictator notorious for his cruelty. No one had a vote in that country, no one but the thugs who ruled it. After the dictator's overthrow, indisputable evidence of his cannibalism was found.


How few people in this world enjoy the privilege of choosing their leaders!

 

And that's why you should vote tomorrow. There is no country in the world, developed or undeveloped, so blessed with the freedoms United States citizens enjoy. You may be troubled, as I am, by the bitterness and rancor of the current election rhetoric, but that does not lessen our obligation to vote-

-and to vote thoughtfully, intelligently, with as much information on the candidates as we are able to find-

 

-and to obey those who are elected. Our elected officials may not know it, but God says they are His ministers! Here's the way Romans 13:1-4 puts it: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. . . . For he [the ruler] is God's minister to you for good"-

 

-and to pray for those elected!

 

I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks
be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior

1 Timothy 2:1-3


How can we enjoy "a quiet and peaceable life in godliness"? By praying for "all who are in authority." One tremendous responsibility of citizenship is that we pray for our leaders. So, yes, please be sure to vote tomorrow, and then to pray for those whom God puts over us.