Monday, November 21, 2011

Can YOU cause an EARTHQUAKE?

Help! I needed a cake in a hurry and I discovered a recipe called Earthquake cake for which I had all the ingredients. It didn’t call for vigorously shaking the cake pans, rather its name came from the way it looked once cooked: chocolate cracks and crevices with cream cheese filling peeking through the surface. In spite of its lack of visual appeal, it was tasty enough to disappear at the church Youth Banquet. It further enabled me to boast that I had “caused” an “earthquake”, producing a chuckle or two from my (few) tolerant friends!

Recently, I discovered that there was a group of people who really did “cause” an “earthquake”…their story is found in Acts 4:23-31.  It occurs right after the apostles Peter and John are arrested for healing a lame man and then preaching Christ to the amazed crowd that gathered. Once released, they returned to the gathering of believers to report their experience and the whole group united in prayer and praise. A close look at their prayer, recorded by Luke, shows that they had a simple request of the Lord. In a similar situation, I probably would have prayed for future safety from the authorities or comfort in the midst of hardship. Surprisingly, that was the last thing on their minds, even though they weren’t unmindful of the dangers they faced. No, these dedicated disciples prayed for boldness!  Boldness to continue to tell about their resurrected Lord, boldness to heal in His name, boldness to show the unbelieving world the power of faith!  Their prayers so excited God that the Bible tells us “the place where they had gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).”  Not only did they “cause” an earthquake but also, their prayers were instantly answered! Wow!  What are you asking God for that might cause an earthquake in your prayer life or that might lead God to provide an instant answer? Comfort? Safety? Or boldness to share Christ?

© H. J B 11/11

Sunday, October 2, 2011


No pain no gain –that phrase has taken on new meaning in the wake of my second total knee replacement. After walking with pain in that leg for several years and enduring a difficult recovery after one knee replacement, I was ready for, but leery of, going under the knife a second time. When God seemed to open a door to a new doctor and a more efficient technique, I summoned the courage to step though it.

Even with a better technique, the screaming from injured nerves and tendons has sent the pain meter in my brain (and leg) soaring.  I have to keep reminding myself that this too shall pass…just not quickly. Eventually I anticipate the ability to walk pain-free on any surface.  The gateway to that gain is through the portal of pain.

Is there a spiritual perspective that might be gleaned from this struggle? I am reminded of the psalmist* saying, “It was good that I was afflicted”—pain—“that I might learn your decrees”—gain. We seek God out when we suffer. Needing comfort, answers, and understanding all drive us into His Word as well as His arms. But the best benefit is a closer relationship with our Lord as He reveals His nearness in the midst of our suffering. With pain can come great gain.

* Psalm 119:71
© HJB 10/11

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Lesson Learned from Failure

 Luke 12:48 To whom much is given, much is required.

“The awareness of a need and the capacity to meet that need:  this constitutes a call.” John R. Mott  

A lesson in obedience at the post office, no less!  I saw the need, I had the resources, and I refused to give up my place in line to help someone.
Clearly, I sensed a prompting from the Holy Spirit to assist a young mother in need of $20 for her sick child’s medicine. The check to cover the prescription hadn’t arrived in the mail that day and the postmaster sent her off sobbing and empty-handed. With just a few weeks until Christmas, I was third in line with many behind me—the “sacrifice” of leaving my spot seemed greater than the divine invitation to be a servant of Christ in providing needed resources.

That experience of failure reminded me of this quote from Dee Hock, the founder of Visa: “You learn nothing from your success except to think too much of yourself.  It is from failure that all growth comes, provided you can recognize it, admit it, learn from it, rise above it and then try again.”  God “called” me that day and I selfishly ignored His message. I always pray that I will answer and respond when He so prompts again. Lesson learned.

Dear God:  Please forgive me when I fail to heed the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Allow me opportunities to serve others as You would desire with the resources that You have provided. Amen.

©  J. Beckman August 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Paper Plate Miracle


I recently heard a devotional written by Ron Hutchcraft, called No Paper Plates, challenging the reader to consider the contrast between 2 plates: one, paper and the other, china.  Which one would you rather eat off of?  After you’ve eaten, what would you do with the paper one?  Throw it away!  If you’d eaten on the china one, what would you do with it?  Wash it!  Why?  Because it cost more, is worth more, could even be valuable.  If you could BE a plate, which one would you want to be?  China, of course. 

But there are times in our lives when we feel more like a paper plate…someone used and thrown away. 

What would you call it if I could turn this paper plate into a china plate?  Magic.  But, what if I could turn a paper plate person into a china plate person…that would be a miracle. Yes? I’m not a magician or a miracle worker, but I know someone who is.

There are 2 little verses tucked away in the 15th chapter of Matthew that talk about a miracle like that.

v. 30-31  great multitudes came to Him [Jesus], bringing with them “paper plate” people…oh, wait a minute, that’s not exactly how the scripture reads…bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, those not able to speak and many others, and they laid them down at His feet… and He turned them into “china plate” people…or well, it actually says He healed them.
So that the crowds marveled as they saw them able to speak, the crippled restored, the lame walking and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

There were 4 categories of people mentioned specifically: the lame, the crippled, the blind and the mute. Perhaps you’ve experienced one of these conditions. 


First, there were the LAME.  I recently had a knee replaced so I’m familiar with being lame or having trouble walking. Between arthritis and a bad fall, the pain was constant so a long-term solution was needed. In fact, in a few weeks my other knee goes under the knife because it hurts whenever I walk. I sometimes have to use a cane for support. But there’s more than one way to walk through life: not just the physical, but consider the emotional. Have you been lame from the injury of abuse—either childhood or spousal abuse? When you are abused by a parent or other adult, especially as a child, you can be emotionally, physically or sexually lame—unable to walk through life without limping, without pain.

This verse in Matthew says that the lame were walking once again. Jesus had healed the injury. If you have suffered the injury of abuse, and feel that it has made you damaged goods—used up like a paper plate—Jesus wants you to understand that He came to heal that lameness and transform your walk through life so it can be steady & balanced with no need of crutches like alcohol or drugs. However, you may need some assistance for a while, just like I will need a Physical Therapist to help me with rehabilitation after my surgery. There are counselors, there are books like Jan Coates book: Set Free, there are support groups to assist you. God wants to heal your heart of lameness.

The 2nd category mentioned is similar—they brought the CRIPPLED to Jesus as well as the lame. This group of people didn’t just have an injury to their legs or feet; they were born that way. They were considered defective. Perhaps you were born with a permanent disability of some kind. Or maybe you found yourself in a family that would be considered defective in some way:  Perhaps your mother was a single parent and struggled raising you. Or maybe you were like me, and endured the distress and pain of your family breaking apart. You may see your situation as impossible. BUT God makes the impossible possible. The scripture tells us that Jesus restored the crippled. He made them whole, sound, reliable. He can make up for whatever is missing, whatever crippling influence is or was in your life. God wants to heal your life from being crippled.

Then the BLIND are mentioned—those who have no way to see.  Many of us were unable to see the dangers in our world and fell into the devil’s trap. I include myself in this group – one of my boyfriends in school went on to become one of the highest-ranking Hell’s Angels in the state of California. We were part of a gang that was looking for trouble because our world was full of darkness. We were enticed by evils that are pleasing to the world.  The book of 1 John speaks of 3 dangers in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. That triple threat held me captive to my own bad choices for many years. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, can heal our blindness to the consequences of evil that entices through the lust of the eyes.  Jesus said (Matt. 18:9) that if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. He didn’t mean for us to literally poke our eyes out but He wanted us to understand that a blinded eye is better than a blinded mind…have you had a blind spot for the things of God?  Jesus can restore your spiritual sight so you can see clearly to avoid the allure of evil and the lust of the eyes. God wants to heal your life of blindness.

The last group of people brought to Jesus that day were the MUTE or as the Bible calls them, the DUMB. They couldn’t speak. Many times we’re in situations where we can’t speak up for ourselves—whether at home or in a job or social situation. In your own mind, you may even feel dumb at those times but God always has something to say for every circumstance. His word imparts wisdom. The book of James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, … ask of God, who gives to all…generously and without reproach, and it will be given.” (1:5) God wants to heal your life from being mute.

The physical Jesus healed physical problems—but even though He isn’t physically present here today, He is the ultimate restorer who wants to heal the spiritual and emotional hurts in our lives through the Holy Spirit.  Prior to His touch, we may look and feel “paper plate”ish.  He wants us to understand that we are destined to be China plate people—not someone to be thrown away or discarded – rather a person to be cherished, useful to our Heavenly Master. Are you living up to your china plate potential? Have you had a miracle transformation from Jesus?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thou Shall Not Scream

During a visit with the grandchildren (Ben 5, Alexandra & Brianna 3), we had occasion to go by Ben’s preschool. My daughter ran in to see the teacher for a few minutes, leaving me in the car with the children. Now, every household has “family rules” and one of my daughter’s rules is: no screaming in the car. This rule is usually followed…with one big exception….when their mom isn’t IN the car, they figure that the rule doesn’t apply! No sooner had she disappeared into the school doorway, than Bri took the plunge and let out a whopper…eyes wide with delight, she shrieked unmercifully, nearly exploding my ears! Soon her sister Alex let loose and big brother, not to be outdone by the little ones, jumped in with gusto. Fortunately, my gloves helped me keep my remaining hearing in tact as I stuffed them into my ears, enduring several minutes of their enthusiastic harmonics. No telling what damage they were doing to themselves! I was especially grateful to see their mom appear soon so we could go back to a state where “house rules” rule!
Enjoying the memory later, it occurred to me that this was just the picture of original sin….Eve (and Adam) knew the “house rules”. But the minute God was out of sight and someone (the devil himself, in this case) drew their attention to that fact and threw temptation out, Eve marched onto dangerous ground, eyes wide open with delight . And Adam fell right in behind, unmindful of the true peril, just as my grandchildren were unaware of the auditory damage they could be causing themselves. The Bible tells us that we are sinners because of Adam and Eve…it is their legacy to the rest of mankind. Instead of man getting better and better as the intellectuals of our day proclaim, we are as vulnerable to being our own worst enemy as Adam and Eve were. Our sin nature is part of the human “package“…I am so thankful that God loves us so much that He made a way to get “rewrapped”! In robes of righteousness, thanks to the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ in dying for our sin. Romans 5:17-18 puts it this way: It is true that through the sin of one man death began to rule…but how much greater is the result of what was done by the one man, Jesus Christ. So then, as the one sin condemned all mankind, in the same way the one righteous act sets all mankind free and gives them life. Through Him, grace can take over as the “house rule“!
Ó H. J B February 2002

Monday, June 13, 2011


John 14:1-3 ...You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. The Message

Would you get on a plane if they made this announcement from the gate?

            “You are going to experience a very rough flight today due to weather conditions—but we will guarantee a safe landing.”

I suspect that most people would still climb aboard because the objective of their trip isn’t to have a smooth flight, but rather to land safely at their destination.  This is a descriptive metaphor of the Christian life.  God doesn’t promise us a calm passage through this earthly life, but He does guarantee us a safe landing.  Jesus put it this way: “In the world you WILL have tribulation...”. But He also assured us that He was going ahead of us to heaven to prepare a place for us. 
Bumpy flight—safe landing.
Our Savior and Lord had the same experience—the earthly turbulence started at birth with His first crib in a smelly stable. It continued through several attempts on His life, which finally succeeded in one of the most traumatic executions ever devised.  Jesus set the example for us of how to endure a turbulent life on this earth, trusting in the safe heavenly landing to come. So fasten your seat’s gonna get bumpy but heaven awaits!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Are you the car or the driver?

I enjoy driving. Fast. Not a good idea in my town, since it has numerous signs reminding me that slow is its automotive "motto". The town fathers don't seem to realize that my car is just an extension of me--always in a hurry (since I'm never early for anything).   Not only do I consider speed limits "ideal suggestions" but, it's almost a game (to get somewhere quick) that I'm determined to win. There's just one problem with this issue: I am the driver--the one in charge.  Maybe you wouldn't consider it a big problem when it comes to driving (except for the men-in-blue). But, it's a BIG problem when it comes to living! I tend to race around the corners of life just as my car races around the corners of town.

If you consider this an analogy to the Christian life, we should be the CAR, not the driver. Christ should be the one directing the course, steering around life's curves, braking when there's a danger of careening out of control. "Christ in me, my only hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27) reminds me that my driving habits may be a reflection of who's really in control of my life. A Christian is...
 a mind through which Christ thinks,
 a heart through which Christ lives.
 a voice through which Christ speaks.
 a hand through which Christ helps.
  Am I letting Christ steer my mind, direct my heart, order my voice and shift my hands to arrive at the destination He desires? He is one driver who will never have to watch over his shoulder for blinking lights. Have you given him the keys to your life yet? Who is driving "your car"?

Monday, May 9, 2011


What if the worst thing that ever happened to you was actually the best thing that could ever happen to you?

Imagine:  here’s a young Jewish couple living in Rome.  They have a home and a successful business.  One day the governor of the city orders all the Jews to leave. Just like that.  No say in the matter, no appeal process...just get the heck out of town.   The worst thing that they could imagine...they lost nearly everything. (Acts 18:2)
Fast forward to the town where they ended up: Corinth in Greece.  They were able to start another business since they were tent makers.  Along comes a man who shares their occupation, another Jew, and he joins their enterprise. He has a remarkable story to tell of a man named Jesus. It isn’t long before the couple, Priscilla and Aquila, are converts to this new belief and have come to know God in a personal way through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Life-changing salvation is now theirs. The worst thing that could ever happen to them has suddenly become the best. God had a plan for their lives and it necessitated a huge loss followed by a huge gain. Perhaps that is why the scripture tells us to give “thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess.5:18)...the best of God’s plans for us may be just around the corner ...or down the road.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

WORKOUT WOES: All this (and guilt too) for only $29 a month!

I have a love-hate relationship with the place where I work out.  I love the results that I
can achieve by going there.  I hate going there.

I chose this particular place because it was relatively quick (30 min on the machines), had early morning hours, and was women-only.  I am not sociable or attractive at that time of day and if I’m up early, it means that I’ll be in a hurry all day! It seemed ideal! They recommend that you come at least three days a week to benefit from the program…so far, after a year of paying my $29 a month, I have managed to get there three times in a week TWICE!  I have the “perfect” place to keep myself in shape, regularly available, and I can only manage to show up two times a week at best.  Not only is that pathetic, it provides me with a load of guilt on a regular basis.  My doctor tells me to go, my body tells me to go, even my checkbook tells me to go--it’s just hard to get my will to cooperate!

As I was upbraiding myself about this situation, it suddenly occurred to me that this is a perfect parallel to what God has provided for keeping my spirit in shape…He’s given me His word, the Bible, in several versions, His Spirit to help me discern what I read, a me-only quiet place and the hours are convenient: it is always available!  Not only that, He
has paid the “fee” (“…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”[1][1]) for this to be at my disposal. But do I take advantage of what has been provided for my daily spiritual
exercise? Not always.  How pathetic!  My Lord tells me to come (“…abide in Me. [2][2]), my heart tells me to come (joy awaits), but making my will cooperate is another matter!

I want to cry with the apostle Paul, “O, wretched man that I am…I do the very thing I hate!” [3][3]…he certainly understood…all the resources and riches of Christ at our disposal and we settle for an occasional “work out”. Who can rescue us from ourselves?  Paul goes on to give us the answer:  “Jesus Christ can…He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”[4][4] When I’m willing to let my will be His will, a daily workout will be automatic…and maybe I’ll even show up at the gym!


[1][1] Romans 5:8 (NASB)
[2][2] John 15:4 (NASB)
[3][3] Romans 7:19,24 (KJV)
[4][4] Romans 7:25 (TM)

Monday, April 11, 2011


Read: Ps. 119:97-104  Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statues. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

A well-known restaurant’s motto is “Making Life Delicious” and having eaten there a few times, I can agree that they do produce flavorful and delicious meals. What we eat may be plain yet nourishing (think: school-cafeteria) but how much more we enjoy food when it goes to that next level of “flavorful and delicious”! In my mind, that’s the difference between EATING and DINING. Just the term dining makes me think of leisurely meals with a hint of graciousness.

How interesting that the Bible tells us to “…taste and see that the Lord is good” Ps. 34:8 and again, “How sweet are thy words to my taste, yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” Ps. 119:103.  God’s word isn’t just nourishing to the soul but there is a goodness, a sweetness that takes “soul food” to the next level.  To the person who is hungering for God, there is a promise of not just satiety but of delightful pleasure in that satisfaction.  God seems to desire dining…when we dine, we take the time to taste our food, not just stuff it down…dining on His word, taking the time to taste the heavenly gift (Heb.6:4).

PLAN: Take time to feast on God’s word every day.
PRAY:  Dear Lord, thank you for the wonderful variety of “soul food” that you provide. 


Thursday, April 7, 2011


The sun was blinding as I stepped off the porch. It was going to be another scorching summer day in central Texas. Wanting to cut a few roses from the garden before it got too hot, I hurried to gather my gloves & clippers. For years I’ve had a “rose ministry” using these fragrant gifts from the garden to bless others and I already had a recipient in mind.
In the few days since I had checked on my bushes, one had apparently had a “power surge” and I could see a four-foot shoot protruding out over the lawn. On closer inspection, the hardy stem, although covered with foliage, had no buds. It was unfruitful and drawing much-needed nourishment away from the main bush, which was struggling to produce a few small roses. All that vigorous growth was producing nothing of value…I quickly cut it off as close to the root as I could.
Almost as soon as I did, the thoughts started coming to mind of how that shoot was the picture of a Christian, laboring fervently on something that God didn’t really want him doing, all the while draining energy away from the tasks He desired to have accomplished. One of my husband’s favorite sayings rang true:
There is nothing more futile than doing something well that you shouldn’t be doing at all! My pastor had recently put it another way: The greatest failure is being successful at the wrong thing!That branch from my rose bush was being successful at the wrong thing…and it was only fit for the garbage can. What we do in life either reflects that we are cooperating with God’s plans and producing everlasting “fruit” ( …walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work…Eph. 1:10 ) or following our own desires and producing temporal “trash”. I resolved to be careful to inspect my daily commitments and activities to ensure that I’m not drawing essential energy away from what God wants to accomplish in my life. And, I thanked God for another lesson from the rose garden.ã HJB1-02


What is the greatest word in the English language?  Love? That’s probably what most people would say.  Songs tell of it (“Love Makes the World Go Around”), books are full of it (romance novels are top sellers), wars have been fought over it and babies testify to its popularity. But I beg to differ.  I think the greatest word in the English language is hope. 

It’s one thing to know that God loves us. He could have just told us “I love you” and left it at that. But because He demonstrated that love, we can now have hope. 
Romans 5:8 states that “God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  The scripture also tells us that Jesus is the “blessed Hope”, not just because He died for our sins but, because He was supernaturally raised back to life, to prove that His sacrificial death was accepted as payment for our sins.

As a result of God’s love shown to us in Christ, we don’t just hope that all things in our lives will work out for some good purpose (Rom8:28) but we have hope of an eternal future when our physical lives end. Jesus is called that “blessed Hope” because he is the bridge from earth to heaven.

The Bible speaks of people who have no hope because they have no relationship with God. There is a bumper sticker that simplifies it:


We can only know peace though the Peacemaker, Jesus Christ, as we turn our lives over to Him.  He opens his arms and says “Come unto me and I will give you rest”.  That rest means peace for your heart here on earth and rest for your soul throughout eternity.


Psalm 46:1-11  "Be still and know that I am God…" v.10

On a recent vacation to Alaska, there were various places along the road to pull off and look out over the lush green landscape. “Breath-taking” is simply inadequate to describe the sense of wonder and awe at viewing such glorious natural beauty. We could still see the human activity below but we also encompassed the grandeur that surrounded that activity.  One such place was designated “Inspiration Point” and we wondered what the sight of that landscape had inspired in others. It inspired me to write this devotional!

As writers, we stand on the observation places of life—we take the time to observe and ponder the wonder and beauty of life as well as the daily hurry-scurry of those around us. We then record our thoughts and observations for others to consider—to help them see the vistas of life.  In order to accomplish that, we must “be still”.  In that stillness, the creative process is unleashed.  Quiet reflection is an anti-activity that God encourages in His word.  He can then allow us to “know” more—of Him and of what surrounds us.  That knowledge can then be shared with others through our writing.

WC:  Are you taking time to be still?
PRAYER:  “Dear God, help me to take time to stop and consider life from your observation place.”