Category: <span>thoughts by Bill Strom</span>

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.” Isaiah 50:1-2a

In this passage, the Prophet Isaiah seeks to comfort the people of Israel. So, he begins with a plea: If you want to pursue a good and holy life, then listen to me. Pay attention to the One from whom you were created, and to the wise patriarchs from whom your identity was shaped.

Isaiah’s words are poetic and beautiful, but what does it mean to listen to God? How might we listen to Him today?

Recently I chatted with experts in listening attentively and empathetically to callers who suffer from depression, loneliness, or various life hang-ups. I asked, “What does it mean to listen to God? More than that, how do we listen to God?” The responses came quickly:

1.  Get still, and undistracted.
2. Pray and commune with God’s Spirit.
3. Read the Word and consider its meaning for you.
4. Seek counsel from godly people you trust.
5. Spend time in the grandeur of creation.

As follow-up, I asked another question. “What gets in the way of listening to God these ways?” One person smiled and said, “Just ignore the list above!” Upon further reflection, others offered that hindrances included busyness, computer screen time, worry, and not planning to listen.

Perhaps it is time to pause, get quiet, and listen for God’s still small voice in silence of prayer, His Word, observing His creation, or in an intentional conversation with a respected and godly friend. But, if we do that, will we listen?

Dear God, thank you for your presence. May I take steps today to slow down, become aware of your prompting, meditate on your Word, and listen well to a wise person, so I may hear your voice of comfort and conscience. Amen.

By Dr. Bill Strom
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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men

“…the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’” Luke 1:30-31 (Read the whole chapter)

Have you ever known a woman who is pregnant and whose baby is due around Christmas? Along with general anxiety regarding the delivery and health of her child, I wonder about other feelings and thoughts she may have. Will she rue that his or her birthday falls so close to Christmas? Will birthday celebrations get lost or muted amidst the hubbub of late December? Will the child feel cheated for not receiving gifts during another month of the year?

These matters only matter because of the holiday. What about the first Christmas? Have you ever wondered how Mary felt? Her anticipation must have been unique.

Mary learned of her pregnancy from the angel Gabriel. I wonder what Mary thought Jesus’ birth would bring. Did she expect hosts of angels trumpeting the news? Mary likely prepared her home for the delivery, expecting to have Jesus there. Did she anticipate a painful, awkward donkey ride to her in-laws’ town of origin? Could she ever have anticipated delivery in a barn? I wonder if she pondered how her God-child would look, act, live. Would he be like most kids? Could she ever predict he would be cherished and spurned, followed and chased, worshiped and demonized? Even with the Spirit of the Lord upon her, could she know that Jesus’ birth, while humble and simple, would be celebrated by millions upon millions for millennia? Could she have known that he would die a brutal death for her and our salvation?

We see these truths through history, and look forward to celebrating them. Yet like Mary we may not be able to predict all Christmas might bring, for we do not celebrate rituals, but the Christ-child, and when He is center to the party, angels may appear.

Dear God, thank you for the model of Mary who not knowing all that was to come still entered into your plan to save the world. May my anticipation for Christmas this year be enlarged by her example. Amen.

Thought: Ask people near you what they anticipate from God this Christmas. Ask them what they think was going through Mary’s head as delivery day approached.

What are your expectations for Christmas this year?

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

Christmas Poems

The Shepherd King by Kate Tompkins

Christmas in Heaven

The Streets of Bethlehem by Katy Kauffman

This Little Babe?

Bethlehem Song

The Innkeeper

Annunciation Day

The Angel Gabriel

The Wise men

The Praying Hands of Grandmother

I Testify that God is…. – by Wendy Patrick

A Morning Prayer by Malcolm Boyd

Seek – to seek God

 


thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


“The days are coming”, declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors.” Hebrews 8:8-9


Do you remember the film Monsters, Inc? In one scene, Mike Wazowski arrives at work and bumps into Roz, his boss. Roz chides him for not turning in his assignment and tells him she is watching him closely from now on in case he slips up again.

Have you ever felt like Mike Wazowski in your walk with God? Do you feel like God is sitting in heaven with his with arms crossed, waiting for you to mess up?

The children of Israel likely felt so. The original deal God made with them was a contract: If you obey my laws, then I will prosper you. Eat this, avoid that. Work now, rest later. Sacrifice a goat, and then I will forgive you.

In time, the number of laws grew from the original Ten Commandments to over six hundred! And while God’s intentions were honest — he wanted them to realize their need for him, and to enjoy a holy life — nobody could jump that high or possibly keep every single one.

So God made a new plan, a new covenant. God sent Jesus to live and die for us, and provided his Spirit to bring light and bear fruit within us — putting his law of love in our hearts and minds.

So instead of God waiting for you to mess up, and we all mess up, he provided a way to forgive the mistakes and a Helper to guide your heart and mind to do better.

*Dear God, thank you for your new covenant, one that is “not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). May I rest in your grace to know that I need not ‘jump higher’ through hoops, but only trust in Jesus’ name. Amen.

It is always best to confess as soon after we mess up as possible. Today, will you do that with God, and if your goof affected someone else, with them?

By Bill Strom
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Further Reading

• God’s Covenant – Devotional by Terry Stead

A Clean Plate – A Devotional by Idelette McVicker

Unshakable – A Devotional by Roy Lessin


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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


Read Contentment by Richard Swen


…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13


Where I live October is a transition month. By October summer is all put away. The lawnmower sits idle in the shed, and deck chairs lean against the back of the house. Annual flowers once in full bloom now rot in compost piles, the wooden window boxes from which they came are empty, dusty, and gray. The garden hose is safely away where winter frost cannot freeze remaining water to bulge and crack its lining. Where I live October marks the time when maples once afire with reds and oranges begin looking skeleton, their stick bones arching into grey skies. Mornings turn cold, and you are happy to see the sun for half a day and rarely full-on warm. Geese cruise south in misshapen V’s, and somewhere up river salmon die by the millions after spawning. October is when we lessen outdoor activities and start trying to keep warm and dry. The morning mist and low clouds can get to you. In October the change from fun and sun to glum highlights the difference between happiness and joy of spirit. I have heard that the difference between the two is their source. Happiness derives from external things like merry-go-rounds, ice cream, and walks on the beach, while joy comes from an inner contentment from being known and loved.

Do you know that God loves you? That he yearns for you to invite him more deeply into your life? That he hopes to be your strength and contentment when seasons change?

Help me Lord to rest in your provision, that you know and love and care for me deeply. Help me open my life to you so I may know your joy more fully. Amen.

TODAY:  Thank God that despite the change of seasons His love for you is everlasting

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

• Secret of Contentment – by Phil Ware

Contentment – by Idelette McVicker

Peace and Contentment – A Poem to God by Margaret Mullings


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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men

“…Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell..” Matthew 5:22


Really? Wow. That’s harsh judgment just for calling someone an idiot, don’t you think? Some people deserve to be mocked, put in their place, or deemed off their rocker, don’t you agree?

Out of context Jesus’ words seem to be over the top. However, he’s saying something much more significant, something I need to hear, because way down deep I find it easy to judge others, to criticize, to find fault with them.

Here’s the full text:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, ’[a term of contempt] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Why? The best I can figure is that Jesus wants us to value people as he does. He said he came to redeem people, not judge them (John 3:16-17), and reminds us that everyone is made in God’s image, a precious creation of the Father and worthy of respect.

When we criticize, we play God. We sit on our puny little throne and look down at others with pointed finger and declare “I’m better than you, and you need to straighten up, get a life, and be as good as me!” How arrogant we are to see ourselves as so holy that we can judge others.

Are you like me in finding it all too easy to judge and name-call? Can you agree that we too mess up and need to show humility? What do people need besides our critical comments?

Dear God, thank you for your grace toward me, because I don’t measure up any more than people around me. Help me extend grace and patience to them just as I hope you will do towards me. Amen.

Thought: Maybe you hammered someone with criticism in a holier-than-thou fashion. Why not talk to them and apologize and admit that you make mistakes too?

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

• Extending Grace to Others – by Katherine Kehler

Grace Moments – by Mary Pinckney

Grace Makes Life Not Fair A Devotional by Darren Hewer


thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.John 12:24


In a TV drama I recently watched, an artist sat deep in thought in front of a painting that hung in a gallery. The picture resembled two rectangles one atop the other, the bottom one black, the upper one yellow. On the horizon of the dark piece an errant bump broke the otherwise flat skyline.

The artist appeared despondent before the painting—his painting—and took out a knife to destroy it. His anguish rose over years as museum visitors ignored or derided his work. “Weird,” “dumb,” “meaningless” he heard, so he yearned to end the pain.

But today was different. A young boy approached the artist and thanked him for his art, and then handed him a “completed version” to consider. The child had redrawn the picture with one addition: the black bump sprouted a small flower. He said the bump spoke of the hope he longed for.

Jesus said similar things in John 12:24 when He predicted His death and spoke of seeds dying in order to multiply. In many respects His life was only a small black bump in the history of the universe, but down deep it offered hope for everyone. Through His obedience, and death, He provided a way for salvation and new life for all who believe. Jesus’ death and resurrection brings hope to those who lean on Him.

God, thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, and for raising him up again. In faith I accept Your payment for my sin in Jesus’ death, and new life in You through Jesus’ resurrection. Amen.

When you see flowers today, consider them a sign of new hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

by Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

• God does Big Things with Small Deeds–  by Max Lucado

A Timely Word A Devotional by Donna Mitchell

Seed Planters – What Seeds are You Planting? – by Shelaine Strom


thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28


Jesus words to his disciples confused me as a child, and honestly they still do now. When I was young I thought a godly life meant avoiding things that others in town enjoyed freely. I was on the outside looking in as my youthful peers spoke of their first cigarette, drink, and engagements with girls. Their lives seemed carefree, and mine a burden.

I remember commenting once to my father as a teenager that I wish I had come to faith from a life of drug addiction because then my testimony would be powerfully compelling. He smiled and said, “But just think of all the heartache you’ve avoided by the path you have taken.”

Dallas Willard speaks similarly in a chapter titled “The Secret of the Easy Yoke.” He writes, “To depart from righteousness is to choose a life of crushing burdens, failures, and disappointments, a life caught in the toils of endless problems that are never resolved. Here is the source of that unending soap opera, that sometimes horror show known as normal human life. The ‘cost of discipleship,’ though it may take all we have, is small when compared to the lot of those who don’t accept Christ’s invitation to be a part of his company in The Way of life.” (In The Spirit of the Disciplines).

Do you seek reprieve from a “soap opera” life? Have you been fed the lie that following God will mean just one more burden? What’s keeping you from leaning on God and following his ways? Doing so may bring rest for your soul like you have never known.

God, I desperately seek the restful yoke of following you. Help me choose your way so that I may know your pleasure and peace rather than the horror show I know today.

Thought: Name one thing you know you want to do but will only lead to heartache. Name an alternative action that you know will bring peace.

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

•  Yoke of Freedom or Bondage – by Karen Woodard

•   Invited to Rest – by Suzanne Benner

•  How to be Saved


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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


“Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” Proverbs 14: 9-10


A young girl visiting our home with her mother was getting bored so my wife led her to our billiard table and gave her free range to knock the balls around. She was thrilled. Sometime later her mother noticed that she kept touching the end of the cue, and mum asked her to stop. She removed her hand and declared, “I’m not touching it!” Again mum caught her, and requested her to stop, and again she boldly claimed “I’m not touching it!”

My wife winked at the 10-year-old and said, “Do you know what’s on the tip of that stick? Blue chalk. If you are not touching it, then your hand should be clean.” The youngster opened her hand to reveal a Smurf-blue palm. She froze, and made no comment. And never did.

Putting oily hands on cue tips is a small transgression; the larger problem was the girl’s stubbornness to admit her fault. Even when caught blue-handed she refused to make amends for disobeying her mum.

Have you met people who refuse to deal with sin in their life, who cross their arms and huff “I’ve done nothing wrong!”? Our pride makes it particularly hard to admit and confess our sin.

And yet consider God’s great love for us, prideful as we are. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God’s show of goodwill in providing Christ as a sacrifice for our sin is a wonderful gift. The humble person will admit their sin and accept Christ’s gift. A foolish person will continue on with crossed arms believing they don’t need forgiveness.

God’s sacrificial love is here for the taking. Have you confessed your sin and welcomed his forgiveness?

Dear God, my hands are blue with guilt for things I know displease you. Forgive me, and help me live responsibly in the joy of your forgiveness. Amen.

Thought: Confessing to friends or family kicks in accountability to stay clear of future sin. Open up with someone close to you about sin in your life.

As we experience God’s love, it spills to people around us.
Read ‘The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God’s Love Through You  by Jerry Bridges

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

•  Sin Whispers 

•  Aphids and Sin

•  Pressing the Reset Button on your Life

 


thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


“’But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’” Luke 15:20


The story of the father with two sons captures the gospel story for two sorts of people. The first are like the younger son who decided against his better judgment to demand his inheritance early, move to a distant land, and squander it on loose living with women and wine. When he came to his senses, he realized that his father’s servants living under his care and provision had it better than he did. So he went home.

The parallel is to all of us who have thumbed our nose at God, demanded life on our terms, and trudged off to enjoy worldly pleasures only to find they satisfy for a season.

The second are like the older son who remained faithful to father and home, working the fields and earning an honest wage. Yet when his little brother returned, his heart burned with anger against sibling and father, for in his eyes the first wasn’t worth celebrating and the latter was foolish for doing so. “You’ve never thrown a party for me,” he hurled. Dad’s response? ““My son … you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ (Luke 15:31)

Which son are you like?

Is God waiting for you to come down the lane, eager to throw his arms around you?

Or is God reminding you of the riches you already have in Him—His purpose, peace, and plans?

Dear God, it is so easy to think that life without you is free, fun, and easy. Help me see that in You I find significance. And once there, may I glory in Your riches, for they are new each day. Amen.

Repent of any narrow thinking that life on your terms is better than resting in the treasures of God.

by Bill Strom
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Further Reading

•  Success to Significance – Rick Brekelbaum on Success

•   Your Dream Job – by Christa Hardin

•  A Most Important Work – by Caran Jantzen


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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.” Judges 6:24


The story of God calling Gideon to deliver his people Israel begins unceremoniously. The Midianites are bullying their way through Jewish territory routinely, taking crops, slaughtering animals, and scaring Gideon’s people into the caves and ravines of local mountains. So desperate the times and dire their future, even Gideon, a soldier, threshed grain in the bottom of a dried up wine press so as to avoid detection from his enemies.

And then God’s angel approached him, saying, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” even though Gideon looked more like a scared school boy in a hopeless fight with recess meanies. But the Lord continued, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

When Gideon later realized that he had come face-to-face with the angel of the Lord and lived, he humbled himself and took up God’s call. He also built an altar and called it “The Lord Is Peace.”

I wonder why Gideon called God peace. Was it for sparing his life despite their close encounter? Was it for strength to know he could take on the Midianites and win? In the end Gideon didn’t raise a sword as God worked miraculously through 300 men to turn the Midianites upon themselves. Perhaps in this instance God wanted us to understand his peaceful intentions, his presence to find peace despite adversity all around.

God, you are Yahweh-Shalom, The Lord Is Peace. Help me know your peace and your ways to handle difficult people and situations today.

Thought:  One peaceful option for handling conflict is to forgive the perpetrator. Forgive someone who has hurt you.
Can you call God your peace? Do you lean on his peaceful ways to get through trials?

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

•  My Search for Peace – by Eva Reinhart

•  Piece versus Peace– by Julie Cosgrove

•  Salvation Explained


Thoughts by All thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Luke 10:27

Ever wonder what the Bible means when it says to love God with your heart, soul, strength, and mind? As one who does not know either Hebrew or Greek, I am prone, at first, to interpret these English words very basically as emotions, spirit, body, and intellect. However, even the shortest online search for studies on these terms tell us it isn’t so easy.

Some writers say these terms are not intended to divvy up human nature into neat categories. Others think they overlap like circles on a Venn diagram. Still others picture them as concentric circles with some more central and others on the edges. And few agree on psychological equivalents in human experience.

That’s why I like how one writer puts it: God wants us to love and obey him witheverything we’ve got.”

Remember young King Josiah? Of him it was written: “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25). Josiah gave it his all in line with God’s law.

In a new year we are tempted to make resolutions that are SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. There is much wisdom here. Yet I wonder if God wished we would focus less on outcomes and more about being His person, with everything we have, enjoying His fellowship, and obeying His commands. Doing so makes loving him less about us being successful, and more about Him being Lord.

Thank you God that you have made us complex so that we can love and obey you diversely! Please be my strength and comfort as I seek to make you Lord of my world. Amen.

* Think of a way you can practically work towards giving God all you’ve got.

by Bill Strom
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Further Reading

•   Heart Fully Committed to Him

•  Pressing On

•  Salvation Explained


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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men


“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans.” Proverb 16:3


In Whistle While You Work, Richard Leider and David Shapiro make the point that “calling” has traditionally been associated with God’s summoning of pastors or missionaries. We’ve likely heard such language as: “He was called to the ministry” or “she was called to missions.” When we adopt this way of thinking, we judge non-ministry work as second-class and less worthy.

But Leider and Shapiro suggest that calling is more inclusive than just to ministry; they believe calling is any inner tug or summoning to “give our gifts away.” We sense that bid for our heart when we’re doing what we do well and blessing others along the way.

What gifts do you love giving away? What activity brings you joy? Which of these joy-giving abilities do you value most?

Maybe your answer is serving people, working with technology, planning events, building things, performing music, or teaching others. God calls us to go for it as we love him and love others. As the proverb notes, when we commit our ways to Him, he will help us figure out the details.

Can you name a gift you passionately value? Are you willing to commit it to God? Doing so will help you discern your calling where you are right now.

Dear God, thank You for making sacred the work I do in Your name with the gifts You’ve given me to give away. Help me take stock of my gifts, passions, and values so I may discern how I may best invest my life loving You, people, and myself. May I know in my spirit Your summoning so I may joyfully give my gifts away. Amen.

By Bill Strom
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FURTHER READING

Learn more about knowing Jesus at: https://thoughts-about-god.com/four-laws/

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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  1 Corinthians 2:14

Ever wonder how we are nudged by God’s Spirit?

I have wondered if the Holy Spirit resides in my thoughts, feelings, or body. I consider this a mystery, however it works.

An example of God’s mysteries is his commandment that we forgive one another. During Jesus’ public ministry he forgave people routinely — and his critics hated him for it. But Jesus told us to forgive our sister or brother not seven times, but seven times seventy (Matthew 18:21-21). Outrageous!

Jesus’ lavish offering of forgiveness, and his call to forgive, may not seem wise today. One reason might be our pride. Studies show that when we are proud — when we are “full of ourselves” rather than God’s Spirit — we are prone to not forgive others, nor accept forgiveness from others. We may think that forgiveness shows weakness, lets the perpetrator “off the hook” or approves of what they did. We may not offer forgiveness because we want the wrong-doer to suffer.

Yet the Spirit prompts us to do it. Forgiving others make more sense when we remember what God did for us. He forgave us even while we were still sinners, and that Jesus suffered and died to make God’s redemption complete. Theologian Louis B. Smedes said,

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Do you feel nudged to forgive people who have hurt you? Or do you want to nurse your ego by not forgiving?

Dear God, forgive me for my unwillingness to forgive! Forgive me for squelching your Spirit! You have forgiven me of so much, and have provided your Spirit to guide me in wise choices. Help me listen authentically to your voice, and to accept the things that are of you. Amen.

Consider this question: how forgiving are you? Do you think everyone should be forgiven? Talk it over with some other people today and see what their answer is in comparison to Jesus’ in Matthew 18.

By Dr. Bill Strom
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Further Reading

Understanding the Holy Spirit

•  Spiritual Oxygen: Are You Getting Enough?

•  Salvation Explained


thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.” Psalm 28:2

How are you feeling as the world awakens from the pandemic? Are some days bright and light as you seize the opportunity to meet with long-separated loved ones? Me too. But what about other days? Personally, some days I slug along with blurred focus and little energy, wishing I felt happier and optimistic, but often feeling down and just plain blah.

Why so glum if things are looking better?

A key reason is because despite getting back to normal, we have lost much, and loss causes grief.

What did you lose during the pandemic? Many lost the effort and purpose of meaningful work. Most lost routines and habits that gave structure and benchmarks to each day. People also lost celebrating anniversaries and birthdays and weddings or gatherings to say goodbye to those who passed. So we became sad. We grieved.

According to medical staff at the Mayo Clinic, grief makes us “feel numb or empty, angry, or unable to feel joy or sadness.” Grief can also show up in physical issues such as insomnia, feeling tired, weakened muscles, and nightmares. For some people grief makes us want to socially withdraw.

In the Psalms, David often turns to God in times of loss, chaos, and remorse. He lifts his hands and cries out for mercy and God’s unfailing love. Doing so shows his posture of humility and God’s sufficiency.

How about you? What space has the pandemic left you in? One of anger or anxiety or regret or sadness? How can your life with God help bring healing and hope? Let us lean into God and his loving care as we grieve for what we have lost and are thankful for what we have, and especially for the future unfolding.

Dear God, this past season has been hard. We have lost many things never to be replaced or reclaimed. Yet you are plenty for us. I celebrate your sufficiency and gifts amidst this hardship, gifts such as friends, family, and church, and the brighter days to come. Thank you for showing mercy. I lift up my hands to you in praise and adoration.

Seize opportunities to turn your eyes upon Jesus, tell him how you feel, and worship and thank him for his compassionate presence.

By Bill Strom
Used by Permission

thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men

What are your expectations this Christmas? Can you let some go in order to make room for God’s holy one?


Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” Nehemiah 8:10

When I was twelve years old, Christmas let me down. I still believed that the holiday was about receiving, and that year my small pile of gifts didn’t stack up to expectations. I recall getting mopey and going to my room to lament. When my sister found me she asked what was wrong, and I put it simply, “I didn’t get cool stuff this year.”

As an adult it’s easy to fall into the same trap. I may not expect “cool stuff” for gifts, but I have great expectations nonetheless. I hope that my sons will be home on Christmas Eve and day, that we will cook a Butterball, and play games as a family. This year may be different as our grown sons make commitments to new friends far away who wish for their Christmas Day attention. Christmas traditions will change.

When Nehemiah had the book of Moses read to the people of Israel after years of being forgotten, the people began to grieve. Some had never heard the requirements of God’s law. But Nehemiah put it in perspective: You’ve heard the Word! This is a Holi-Day. Celebrate! Make awesome food for yourselves and give some of it away!

We sometimes say Christmas is a Holy Day, but personally I forget that too often amidst the tinsel, TV, toys and boys. I forget that genuine joy comes from celebrating Emmanuel, the Word putting on flesh so we could see, touch, and know Him.

Dear God, help me find peace and joy in my relationship with you, and thank you for sending Jesus to redeem us from our low expectations. Amen.

What are your expectations this Christmas? Can you let some go in order to make room for God’s holy one?

By Dr. Bill Strom
Used by Permission

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Further Reading

•  The Christmas Story – the story of Jesus Birth

•  Marvelous Love – A Story of a Mother’s Love

•  Salvation Explained


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thoughts by Bill Strom Thoughts by Men