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Jun 25 17

Help from the Lord

by J. M. Farro

   “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?   My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber.”  Psalm 121:1-3 NIV

   If you have ever had computer problems, then you know how frustrating and daunting they can be.  I was reminded of this very fact not too long ago, when my faithful computer of six years crashed.  I immediately cried out to God, and I asked Him to restore my machine, along with everything on it.  He did exactly that, but He impressed upon my heart that it was time to purchase another computer as soon as possible.  My husband, Joe, and I found a good, solid new machine at one of our local stores, and we set about moving all of my documents, emails, and information from my old device to my new one.  That’s when the real problems began, and no matter how we tried, we couldn’t properly transfer all of my “stuff” the way we needed to.

   I began to panic in earnest at this point.  I knew my husband was stumped.  I suggested that Joe start calling people we knew who might be able to help us.  He was reluctant to bother someone else with our problems, and when he did finally call someone, they weren’t available.  As I fretted and became more and more anxious and alarmed, the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV): “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?   My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  I knew that God was saying to me, “Look to ME for help, not others.  Keep your eyes on ME!”  I realized then that I had lost my spiritual focus.  I had begun looking to my husband and others to solve my problems for me.  While it was true that I was praying and seeking God, at the same time, I had become full of fear and doubt, and I had taken my eyes off the Lord.  I confessed my sin, and I asked God to help me to refocus and get back to looking to HIM for help.

    Later that day, the Lord led me to call my internet service provider, to ask them for assistance in transferring all of my documents and emails from my old computer to my new one.  Half way through the call, I was informed that I was going to lose much of what I had saved on my old machine – including a good amount of my writing over a period of twenty years.  My heart sank, and I whispered a silent plea to the Lord, clinging to His promise in Isaiah 12:2 (NLT): “See, God has come to save me.  I will trust in Him and not be afraid.  The Lord God is my strength and my song; He has given me victory.”  In Jesus’ name, I rebuked the fear coming against me, and I held tight to His Word.  Two hours later, everything was safely on my new machine, and I rejoiced in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness.

    This experience was a powerful reminder to me that even though God may send others to help us with our problems, He doesn’t want us focused on them.  Instead, He insists that we keep our eyes on Him alone.  He knows that when our focus begins to wander, we are likely to become fearful and fretful.  Then it’s almost impossible for us to receive the blessings and rewards He has for us in our situation.  The Bible says, “It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in people.” (Psalm 118:8 NLT)  Every time that we are faced with adversity, we will have to decide if we are going to put our faith and confidence in God, or in people.  Some of us are so used to relying on other people that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.  We need financial help, and we look to our jobs, our banks, or someone we know.  We need healing, and we right away reach for a pill, or make an appointment with a doctor.  We feel lonely, and we promptly pick up the phone.  These things are not necessarily wrong or sinful.  But if we do them without praying first – without receiving God’s wisdom, guidance, and counsel – then we could be missing out on the kind of help, relief, and provision that only He can give.

    One evening, when I was going through that difficult time with my computer problems, I remember feeling alone and abandoned when my husband went to bed knowing how much I was hurting.  As I turned to the Lord for consolation, He once again reminded me of His precious promises in Psalm 121: “[The Lord] will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:3 NIV)  I took great comfort in the fact that while my husband slept, God was wide awake and busy working behind the scenes to bring a favorable outcome to pass on my behalf.

    Perhaps you are going through a difficult time of your own today, and you are wondering where your help will come from.  You are not reading this message by mistake today, dear one.  The Lord is saying to you that if you will turn to Him first in your hour of need, and if you will keep your eyes firmly fixed on Him, He will protect and provide for you, and He will do what only He can do!

    Lord, I thank You that You are always willing and able to help me when I am in trouble.  Teach me how to look to You for help first, instead of turning to other people or resources without thinking.  Show me how to cooperate with You in the resolution process, so that I can receive all of the blessings, rewards, and opportunities You have in store for me.  Help me not to hinder Your work on my behalf by becoming angry, fearful, or doubtful.  Thank You that as I follow Your lead in every situation, nothing and no one will be able to keep my victories from me!

*Join the new J. M. Farro Devotionals group on Facebook, and connect with J. M. Farro — with mini devotionals in addition to the standard weekly devotionals. You can access this group by clicking here!

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*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

Jun 19 17

God’s Antidote for Disappointment

by J. M. Farro

   “I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.”  Isaiah 49:23 NIV

   I once saw a famous baseball player talking about his faith on television.  He spoke about how placing our confidence in people was a mistake, and how we should only put our hope in God.  In fact, he made a startling statement like, “People will let us down 100 percent of the time, but God will never let us down.”  If I had heard this man talking like this before I became a committed Christian years ago, I might have thought he was being terribly cynical.  But now I know better.  The Bible says, “It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in people.” (Psalm 118:8 NLT)  The truth is, whenever we put our confidence in people, or become dependent upon them for our needs, we will be disappointed.  Only God can make the statement – “Those who hope in Me will not be disappointed” – and have it hold true. (Isaiah 49:23 NIV)  Jesus did not have a cynical or suspicious nature, and yet He did not put His confidence in people.  Scripture says:  “But Jesus didn’t trust them, because He knew what people were really like.  No one needed to tell Him about human nature.” (John 2:24-25 NLT)  Jesus loved people enough to die for them, but His faith and hope were in God, not in man.  We need to follow His example. (1 Peter 1:21)

   Years ago, I heard a godly man say that whenever we compromise God’s Word to gain or keep something or someone, we will lose what we are trying to hold on to.  I have learned the hard way that there is a lot of truth to that statement.  If you are involved in a relationship that is not God’s best for you, and you turn your back on the Lord’s will to please this person, you will either watch them slip away from you no matter what you do, or what is sweet between you now will eventually become sour.  Even when we are in God’s perfect will relationship-wise, we will face disappointment regularly.  So why would we want to be involved with a relationship that wasn’t God’s best for us?  If our confidence and hope are properly placed in God, HE will fulfill all our needs and desires.  Even when the Lord uses others to meet some of our needs, we are not to become dependent upon these people, or to place our confidence in them.  While we should appreciate them, we should depend only upon God.

   Some believers compromise their Christian values because they are afraid of being alone.  But those fears are unfounded because God has promised to provide ALL our needs if we let Him, and that includes our social and emotional needs.  Jesus knew better than anyone what it was like to be disappointed and alone.  Just before He went to the cross He said to His disciples:  “The time is coming – in fact, it is already here – when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving Me alone.  Yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:32 NLT)  Jesus knew that even if all of His loved ones deserted Him, His Heavenly Father would still be there for Him.  That’s a message for all of us to take to heart.  Today, it is my earnest prayer that you will put your wholehearted trust in the only One who can ever truthfully say – “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you!”  (Hebrews 13:15 TLB)

   Lord, right now, I commit myself to You and ask You to bring me into the center of Your will in every area of my life.  Don’t let me compromise my relationship with You to please myself or others.  When others disappointment me, I ask that You comfort me and remind me that Your presence and provision are always available to me.  Thank You that because my hope is in You, I won’t be disappointed!

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook!  You can access this group by clicking here!

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*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

Jun 12 17

Intervening Trials

by J. M. Farro

 “When evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”  Mark 4:35 NKJV

   I first read about the concept of “intervening trials” several years ago, during my daily quiet time with the Lord.  He spoke to my heart about the times when He will point His children in a certain direction, knowing that as we follow His lead, we will run into trouble and heartache, before we reach our destination and place of victory.  There is a passage in Mark 4 that provides a good illustration of this spiritual principle.

   Jesus had just finished a teaching session with the multitudes along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, when He told His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35 NKJV)  As their boat headed out across the water, “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.” (v. 37)  Where was Jesus while all this was happening?  “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.”  As the disciples begin to panic, they rouse Jesus and shout, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (v. 38)  Jesus rises up and rebukes the wind, and then He rebukes His disciples.  “Why are you so fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?” (v. 40)

   When obeying God leads us along the path of adversity, we mustn’t automatically think that we have missed God, or misinterpreted His directions.  The truth is that many times, an “intervening trial” will come between us and the blessing that the Lord has for us “on the other side.”  This is especially true if we have been standing on a promise or word from God.  When Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, He says that “trouble and persecution comes because of the Word.”  And He goes on to say that as a result, many people will “quickly fall away.” (Mark 4:17 NIV)  The Savior reveals in this parable that it is Satan who comes to stir up trouble in order to get us to turn our backs on God’s Word. (v. 15)  That’s why many times, when God speaks a promise to our hearts, and we receive it and make the decision to lay hold of it, we begin experiencing problems that are meant to discourage us and deter us from standing firm till we gain the victory.  How we respond to these “intervening trials” will determine whether we cross over to the other side to where our blessings are, or sink in a sea of defeat and disappointment.

   Suppose you see in God’s Word that because you have put your faith in Christ and received His precious gift of salvation, your family members will also be saved. (Acts 16:31)  You decide to act on that promise and begin praying and standing on it for your loved ones’ salvation.  But instead of your relatives getting better, they seem to be getting worse.  You try to ignore all the signs that tell you that your loved ones are doomed to destruction, but their behavior is so appalling that you begin to doubt God’s Word.  If you will recognize that it’s very likely that Satan is doing his best to discourage you from continuing to stand in faith for the victory, and if you’ll call upon God for help, and refuse to become offended and doubtful, you will witness the Lord moving mountains to fulfill His promise to you.

   The Lord has extraordinary rewards and blessings “on the other side,” just waiting for you.  Don’t “fall away” when trouble comes, and forfeit the good things God has in store for you.  Start seeing your “intervening trials” as faith-building bumps in the road that God will use to your advantage and for His glory!

   Lord, help me to follow You wholeheartedly wherever You lead me.  When I encounter trouble or heartache, remind me to rely on Your wisdom and strength, and not my own.  Thank You that as I refuse to give up or give in, I will lay hold of all of the rewards, opportunities, and blessings You have in store for me!

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook!  You can access this group by clicking here!

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*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

Jun 5 17

Favor with God and Man

by J. M. Farro

   “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”   Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV

   For most of my life, I had repeatedly heard the verses in the Bible that talked about how those who were devoted to the Lord would suffer persecution and criticism from others.  I got the impression that I always had to choose between having God’s favor or man’s.  Once I started studying the Scriptures for myself, I began to realize that many times, I could enjoy both.

   The verse above promises us favor in the sight of God AND man when we walk in God’s ways.  The apostle Paul records a similar statement in Romans 14:18 (NIV), where he describes true Kingdom behavior, and says, “Anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.”  The truth is that if we just concentrate on pleasing God, HE will give us favor with others when we need it most.  We can even ASK God to give us favor with others.  When we do that, we are not being selfish or prideful, but scriptural.

   Nehemiah was a devoted servant of the Lord.  He was called by God to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem during the reign of King Artaxerxes.  As cupbearer to the king, he asked the Lord to give him favor with the ruler, so that he could complete his God-given assignment.  “Give Your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11 NIV)  Here, we learn an important Bible principle – that God will grant us favor with others when it will help us carry out His will and plan.

   We can also pray for favor when we take a stand for the Lord.  In the first chapter of the Book of Daniel, the young prophet “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine,” and he needed the cooperation of the chief official in order to carry out his commitment. (Daniel 1:8 NIV)  Scripture says, “Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel.” (Daniel 1:9 NIV)  When receiving favor will glorify God, we should not hesitate to pray for it.

   It is true that believers who are really committed to God will sometimes experience criticism and persecution.  Jesus said we could count on it.  He wanted us to know what we were getting into when we made the decision to follow Him.  If we are making a difference for God, we cannot expect Satan to just sit back and do nothing to try to hinder us.  But the Bible teaches us that we can pray for God’s favor, which can be a powerful weapon against the enemy’s attacks.  Psalm 86:17 (NLT) says:  “Send me a sign of Your favor.  Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for You, O Lord, help and comfort me.”  And Psalm 5:12 (NIV) says, “Surely, O Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield.”  God’s favor provides us with supernatural protection and provision.

   We are God’s children – His chosen, His elect.  And He is committed to protecting and providing for His own.  When we concentrate on pleasing God, we can depend on Him to change people’s hearts for our benefit.  Proverbs 16:7 (NIV) says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”  If God is willing and able to change the hearts of our enemies, surely we can expect Him to give us favor in the sight of our employers, neighbors, teachers, and others we come in contact with.  But we must not assume that this favor is automatic.  Often, we will have to ask God for it, expecting Him to act on our behalf.

   Over the years, when my children have been treated unfairly at school by their teachers or fellow students, I have asked the Lord to give them favor, and He has always been faithful.  I have also asked God to grant my family favor in the sight of bosses and coworkers, as well as potential employers.  And I have seen my family acquire jobs that we were not even qualified for, often with salaries well above what we expected.

   When you pray for favor, people will bless you, and they won’t even know why.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Begin today to pray for favor, and discover for yourself that “the Lord bestows favor and honor” upon His people!  (Psalm 84:11 NIV)

   Lord, help me to always concentrate on pleasing You above everyone else.  Teach me how to pray for favor with others, especially when I need it most.  Reveal to me how praying for favor can open doors that appear to be closed.  Thank You that blessing me with favor will bring You glory!

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook!  You can access this group by clicking here!

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*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

May 29 17

A Gateway of Hope

by J. M. Farro

   “But then I will win her back once again.  I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.  I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope.”  Hosea 2:14-15 NLT

   No matter how devoted to the Lord we are, we will occasionally experience “dry” times.  These are the times when it seems like doors are closing, and opportunities are evaporating.  And we feel like we are no longer making a difference in this world.  There is a passage in the book of Hosea that beautifully describes these dry times, and every time I read it, I feel encouraged and refreshed.

    “But then I will win her back once again.  I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.” (Hosea 2:14 NLT)  There are times when, in order to draw us closer to Himself, the Lord will lead us into the “desert,” or “wilderness,” as some translations say.  Sometimes, it’s because we have drifted away from Him and His purposes for our lives.  Other times, its simply because He has promotions up ahead that He needs to prepare us for.  Whatever the reason, if we will ask Him to “speak tenderly” to us while we are in the wilderness, He will reassure, comfort, and encourage us.  I often pray, “Lord, speak tenderly to me in this desert, and help me to hear and to heed Your voice.”  This sharpens my spiritual hearing, and positions me to receive the divine direction I desperately need during these times.

   “I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope.” (Hosea 2:15 NLT)  Here, the Lord promises to return to us our “vineyards” – our productivity, progress, and fruitfulness, which lead to abundance, blessings, and rewards.  And He transforms our “Valley of Trouble” – our trials and tribulations – into “a Gateway of Hope.”  If you study out “a Gateway of Hope,” you discover that it means “a new door of opportunity.”  This could mean new opportunities in your job, your business, your ministry, your health, or your relationships – virtually any and every area of your life.

    I love how the Message Bible says, “I’ll give her bouquets of roses.  I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.”  Hallelujah!  Perhaps you are going through a wilderness experience of your own right now.  I urge you to cling to the Lord and His promises, believing with all your heart that He will cause this difficult time to benefit you somehow. (Romans 8:28)  You have some extraordinary opportunities, promotions, and rewards coming.  So take heart and begin praising Him in advance for all the good things coming your way!

    Lord, speak tenderly to me in this desert.  Help me to hear and to heed Your voice.  Here and now, give me back my vineyards – my fruitfulness and my blessings – and transform my troubles into new opportunities and open doors for me.  Thank You that as I cling to You and Your promises during my wilderness times, You will bring me out better than ever before!

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook, and share your insights, experiences, and prayer needs.  You can access this group by clicking here!

*For information on how to purchase J. M. Farro books, click here!

*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

May 22 17

Whether They Listen or Not

by J. M. Farro

   “You must give them My messages whether they listen or not.”  Ezekiel 2:7 NLT

   As much as I like giving people messages that are encouraging and uplifting, there are times when the Lord calls me to teach messages that are challenging and difficult.  Some of these messages can even make some people defensive and angry.  Does God sometimes expect His servants to deliver messages to others that might cause them to meet with harsh criticism and abuse?  The answer is yes, and the life and ministry of the prophet Ezekiel is one such example.

   Ezekiel was commissioned by God to preach truth to the people, and to challenge them to turn away from their sins.  The Lord told him:  “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.  Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’  And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:4-5 NIV)  God doesn’t just call you and me to deliver His messages to those who will be receptive to them.  No, He often assigns us to speak and teach His truth to those whom He knows in advance will refuse to listen.  He wants those people to know that they have been warned.  And you and I may be the only ones who will ever warn them.  In a world of growing political correctness, and in the name of “tolerance,” it has become unpopular and undesirable to say things to people that might offend them or wound their feelings.  But Christians cannot afford to adopt this worldly mindset when the eternal welfare of others is at stake.

   God went on to tell Ezekiel:  “Do not fear them or their words.  Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels.  You must give them my messages whether they listen or not.  But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!  Listen to what I say to you.  Do not join them in their rebellion.” (Ezekiel 2:6-8 NLT)  The Lord warns those who speak for Him – including you and me – not to fear the anger or abuse that will be heaped upon us as we confront those who are rebelling against God.  He also warns us to follow Him in faithful obedience, so that our conduct will stand out in the midst of a rebellious generation.

   Over and over, the Lord urges us to be prepared to speak truth to others, no matter how they respond.  “Give them My messages.  But [they] won’t listen to you any more than they listen to Me!  For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.  But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are.  I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock!  So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.” (Ezekiel 3:4, 7-9 NLT)  In other words, God is going to equip us with everything we need to face those who would oppose our message, and to continue to speak the truth with confidence and boldness.

   The Lord again stresses the importance of our own conduct.  “Let all My words sink deep into your own heart first.  Listen to them carefully for yourself.  Then go to your people…and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’  Do this whether they listen to you or not.” (Ezekiel 3:10-11 NLT)  We must take to heart God’s Word and truth for ourselves – letting them transform our own lives – before we can effectively help others to understand and apply the Gospel.

   Jesus indicated that every Christian has a part to play in the Great Commission. (Mark 16:15)  And Paul left us some powerful instructions that we are expected to take seriously while we are still here on earth.  “Preach the Word of God.  Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not.  Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.  For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching.  They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  They will reject the truth and chase after myths.  But you should keep a clear mind in every situation.  Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord.  Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” (2 Timothy 4:2-5 NLT)

   God is calling you to challenge others to believe His truth, and to turn from their sins.  How will you answer His call?

   Lord, forgive me for the times that I remained silent when You wanted me to speak about Your truth and Your righteousness.  Make me sensitive and obedient to Your Spirit’s leading, so that I will go where You want me to go, and say what You want me to say.  Thank You that as I choose to follow Your lead, You will use me to touch and change lives for all eternity!

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook, and share your insights, experiences, and prayer needs.  You can access this group by clicking here!

*For information on how to purchase J. M. Farro books, click here!

*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

May 15 17

Shake It Off!

by J. M. Farro

    “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.”  Matthew 10:14 NIV

   The Lord brought the above verse to my remembrance recently, when I was doing my best to give a loved one some godly advice.  I confess that it grieves my heart when I see people I care about casting aside God’s will for them, and choosing to go their own way.  Since I surrendered my life to the Lord years ago, and have gotten a taste of the abundant life that Jesus spoke of, I long to see others turn their own lives over to Him, and to experience the same blessings.  But sometimes, no matter how I try to reach out to others with the love and grace of God, my words go unheeded.  Maybe you have felt the same way about some of the people in your own life.  It’s not easy for us to watch loved ones make wrong choices, especially when they result in serious consequences.  If we are not careful, we can allow anger, bitterness, or resentment to worm their way into our hearts.

   On this particular occasion, the Lord gave me my own personal paraphrase of His words in Matthew 10:14.  He told me, “If someone will not listen to you, shake it off and move on!”  And I desperately needed to hear those words.  Instead of letting the matter go, and leaving this person in God’s hands, I was holding on to my frustration, my helplessness, and my resentment.  And I felt as though all of my peace and joy – gifts that Jesus died to give me – had flown out the window.  That’s when I turned to the Lord in heartfelt repentance, and asked Him to help me “shake off” the negative emotions that threatened to overwhelm me.  And He didn’t hesitate to answer that prayer.

   Notice that Jesus did not tell His disciples – “When people don’t listen to you, I want you to whine, complain, get depressed, and angry.  I want you to focus on their disobedience, and how they are ruining their own lives.  I want you to keep thinking about all of the blessings they are forfeiting, because they refuse to walk in the good plans I have for them.”  No, Jesus said, “Shake it off and move on!”  The Savior knows that it will do us no good to waste time fretting over the wrong choices that others make.  All it will do is hinder our prayers for these people, and make us ineffective witnesses for God.

   I like the way the Message Bible translates Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:14.  It says:  “If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw.  Don’t make a scene.  Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”  Even if our words fall on deaf ears, and we decide to walk away, we still have powerful spiritual weapons that can make a difference.  We can persist in prayer for these people, and we can consistently set a Christlike example for them, planting seeds in their lives that will eventually produce a heavenly harvest.

   The next time you minister words of wisdom to someone and they “blow you off,” don’t forget that that’s your cue to “shake it off!”

   Lord, forgive me for the times I reacted badly when I ministered to others, and didn’t get the response that I desired.  Teach me how to be more Christlike in this area, and help me to do my part in the process.  Remind me that it’s never Your will for me to hang on to negative emotions that will only hinder my prayers and my fellowship with You.  Thank You that as I walk as Jesus did, You will use me to touch and change lives for Your glory!

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook, and share your insights, experiences, and prayer needs.  You can access this group by clicking here!

*For information on how to purchase J. M. Farro books, click here!

*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

 

May 8 17

False Comforters, Gods, and Gumby

by J. M. Farro

  “Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up – make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God.”  Deuteronomy 8:12-14 MSG

   When my husband, Joe, called me from work to tell me that he just got a substantial raise in his salary, he couldn’t contain his joy and elation.  He had been doing the work of ten men on his job for years, and this raise was a long time coming.  That day, he had brought his Gumby toy figure to work with him, and he began joking that it was his new lucky charm, and that his raise was a result of Gumby’s mysterious power.  Do you know who Gumby is?  He is a green Claymation cartoon character from the 1950s and 60s, and he is very endearing to many of us who belong to the Baby Boomer generation.

   I knew that it was only because of my husband’s excitement that he was joking about Gumby getting his raise for him.  But I felt saddened at the time because I know that there are people who would give credit for their blessings to inanimate objects and other things that you and I would deem silly and nonsensical.  The Bible calls these things that take the place of God in people’s hearts “idols.”  In modern times, we tend to think of idols as only being like the golden calf that the Israelites crafted and worshiped in the desert after they left Egypt.  But the truth is that an idol can be any person, thing, or activity that is more important to us than our relationship with God.  An idol can be our work, our job, our ministry, or our career.  Even our family or other relationships can become idols to us.  These days, we see a lot of people whose idols are their pets.  Even addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, or sex can become idols.

   Before we got off the phone that day, I shared with my husband God’s words of warning from Deuteronomy.  “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’  But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV)  You see, the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves.  He is painfully aware that when we succeed at something – especially if our success comes with recognition and reward – we will be tempted to forget that our success depends on God, and we’ll neglect to give Him the glory.  But the Lord is dead serious about this sort of thing, and He tells us in the same passage:  “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 8:19 NIV)

    While I’m tempted to laugh at the idea of someone making an idol out of Gumby, I can’t help thinking of God’s words about this subject.  “To whom will you compare Me?  Who is My equal?  Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it.  Then they bow down and worship it!  They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there.  It can’t even move!  And when someone prays to it, there is no answer.  It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.” (Isaiah 46:5-7 NLT)  You and I can give credit to ourselves for our blessings.  We can look to other people for satisfaction, recognition, and reward.  We can depend on false comforters like drugs, drink, or food.  But in the end, relying on anything or anyone other than God will ultimately leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

   The Lord wants the best of our time and attention, and He deserves it.  He wants to be our highest priority all the days of our lives.  Why?  “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” (Exodus 20:5 NLT)  Like a loving spouse, God deeply desires our wholehearted devotion and unwavering loyalty.  Ask Him to show you if there’s anything or anyone in your life that is competing with Him today.

   Lord, I renounce idol worship of every kind, and I ask You to forgive me for putting anything or anyone above You.  Reveal to me if I am robbing You of the attention and devotion You desire and deserve because my priorities are wrong.  Help me to reorder and restructure my priorities according to Your perfect will.  Work in my heart so that I will never allow anything or anyone to displace You from Your rightful place in my life.  Thank You that as I love You, seek You, and serve You the way You desire and deserve, I will walk in the glorious freedom that Christ bought for me on the cross!

*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook, and share your insights, experiences, and prayer needs.  You can access this group by clicking here!

*For information on how to purchase J. M. Farro books, click here!

 

May 1 17

Ask for a Sign

by J. M. Farro

   “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”  Isaiah 7:11 NIV

   My husband, Joe, has a long-time friend who has struggled with his faith for years.  Recently, this man’s faith got a major boost when his grandson was hospitalized because of a sudden and serious affliction.  As he left his house to head for the emergency room to see his grandson, he spotted a neighbor walking along the road at a distance.  This neighbor had taken walks around the neighborhood every day for many years, and in all that time, she never so much as glanced at my husband’s friend whenever he drove by.  Desperate to hear from God that his grandchild would recover, this man prayed, “Lord, give me a sign that my grandson is going to be all right.”  Seconds later, the lady stopped in her tracks, looked at my husband’s friend, and gave him a huge wave.  Tears sprang to the man’s eyes as he recognized the sign from heaven that he had so desperately needed.  And he is telling everyone who will listen about the kindness and goodness of God.

   Many Christians are afraid to ask God for signs because of Jesus’ words in the Gospels, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” (Matthew 12:39 NKJV)  But we have to keep in mind that when the Master spoke these words, He was mainly addressing the religious people of His day who were not sincere God-seekers, and who would never believe in the Savior, no matter what He did.  Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see that not only did many of God’s people ask for signs, but in many cases, the Lord actually offered them signs, when He knew that it would strengthen their faith in Him. 

   Scripture tells us that God called King David “a man after My own heart.” (Acts 13:22)  Yet in the Book of Psalms, we discover that David prayed:  “Give me a sign of Your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.” (Psalm 86:17 NIV)  David was, in effect, asking God to give him a sign of His approval, some reassurance that the Lord was standing with him against his adversaries. 

   The prophet Isaiah records an occasion when God offered to give King Ahaz of Judah a sign.  “Ask me for a sign, Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised.  Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want.” (Isaiah 7:11 NLT)  Here, the Lord was willing to strengthen the king’s faith with a sign of impending victory.  Instead, Ahaz foolishly turned down God’s offer.  “No,” he said, “I wouldn’t test the Lord like that.” (Isaiah 7:12 NLT)  The verses that follow reveal that God was actually angered by the king’s refusal to ask for a sign.

   There are times when I feel impressed in my spirit to ask the Lord for a sign that would encourage my heart in a situation.  I receive confirmation that these impressions are from Him when I receive the answer to my request in defining ways. 

   God does not want us depending on signs as a way of living the Christian life.  We are to “live by faith,” not by sight or signs. (Romans 1:17)  But it would be wise for us to be sensitive to those times when the Lord is telling us – “Ask for a sign from your God.  Ask anything.  Be extravagant.  Ask for the moon!”  (Isaiah 7:11 MSG)

   Lord, teach me how to pray for signs when it’s Your will and pleasure for me to do so.  Help me to become more sensitive and obedient to Your Spirit’s leading by devoting myself to Your Word and prayer.  Thank You, Lord, that the signs I seek will increase my faith and glorify You!

*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionalsgroup on Facebook, and share your insights, experiences, and prayer needs.  You can access this group by clicking here!

*For information on how to purchase J. M. Farro books, click here!

 

Apr 24 17

When God Closes Doors

by J. M. Farro

   “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG 

   Before I began closely walking with the Lord and studying His Word in-depth, I didn’t understand the consequences that were associated with even little decisions I made in my everyday life.  Case in point – my pet situation.  Years ago, if my children wanted a pet, I would give it some thought, and then I would go about getting the pet I thought was right for us.  I did this time and time again, not realizing the impact that our pet situation had upon so many areas of our lives.  Now that I try to always follow the example of Jesus when He said, “I do nothing without consulting the Father” (John 5:30 NLT), I turn to the Lord for His guidance when I need to make pet-related decisions, and I do my best to follow His will.

   Last summer, our pet duck, Larry, turned 16 years old.  When my husband, Joe, and I took him to the vet for a routine checkup, we discovered that our former vet had left the clinic, and we were given a new vet in her place.  Dr. G was astonished that Larry was 16, saying that his breed typically lived 6 to 8 years at the most.  Because of his age, she wasn’t surprised that Larry had cataracts, and was basically blind in both eyes.  She made it clear that she didn’t expect Larry to live much longer.  That’s when we told her that when Larry died, we were not going to get our female, Libby, another mate, and we would try to find her a good home where she could be with other ducks.  Joe and I are in our 60s now, and considering how high maintenance ducks are as pets, we didn’t feel that we were up to the challenge as much as we used to be.  Dr. G said that when Larry died, she and her husband would be happy to adopt Libby.  As it turned out, her husband was a duck breeder, and she said that he would be thrilled to add a Khaki Campbell like Libby to his flock.  Joe and I were overjoyed and relieved that Libby would have a wonderful new home to go to after Larry was gone.  We knew that she would be happier with other ducks, rather than being alone with Joe and me, and we thanked God for giving us this option.

   That autumn, we brought Libby and Larry back to the vet for a checkup, and we discovered that Dr. G was no longer with the practice.  Joe and I were stunned.  Our first thought was, “What are we going to do with Libby when Larry dies?”  We explained our situation with the current vet, who happened to be the owner of the clinic, and we asked how we could get in touch with Dr. G.  He said that she had moved out of state, and that he didn’t know how to contact her.  Joe and I were frantic.  We combed the internet and made some calls, trying to find Dr. G, but she was nowhere to be found.  I was praying all along, and as I got quiet in my spirit, the Lord revealed to me that He was the One who closed the door on our giving Libby away, and He strongly impressed upon me that I was to stop my futile attempts to find our old vet.

   At first, all I could do was cry out, “Why, Lord?  Why would You close this door?  What are we supposed to do with Libby when Larry’s gone?”  Then one day, as I was cleaning up after our ducks and feeling sorry for myself, I heard the Lord’s voice inside my spirit saying, “Just trust Me.”  And I was reminded of a passage of Scripture that has guided me and comforted me so many times in the past.  “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG)  Every decision we make is important to God.  And it should be important to us, too.  If we will put aside our reasoning and rationale, if we will call upon Him for His wisdom and guidance in every situation, He will direct our steps in the paths of His greatest blessings.

   I have no idea what we’re going to do about Libby when Larry finally passes.  But I believe with all my heart that because I have put my trust in Him, He will show me exactly what to do, and He will give me the grace to do it.

   Lord, plant deep in my heart the truth that every decision I make has far-reaching consequences, and impacts every area of my life.  Teach me to call on You for divine wisdom and guidance when I have a choice to make.  Deliver me from the reasoning and rationale that would rob me of Your best.  Remind me often that when You close a door, You have a good reason for it, and You will make it work out for my good. (Romans 8:28)  Make me sensitive and obedient to Your voice in all things, so that my steps will be continually directed by you.  Thank You that as I trust You from the bottom of my heart, I will experience Your unshakable peace and unspeakable joy!

*Comments or Prayer Requests?  Please email Joanne (J. M.) Farro at jmf@jmfarro.com

*Join the new “J. M. Farro Devotionals” group on Facebook, and share your insights, experiences, and prayer needs.  You can access this group by clicking here!

*For information on how to purchase J. M. Farro books, click here!