Cheri's Blog

Pray for Focus

Pray for Focus

Welcome to a new year. I pray your season of celebration has been a good one. By now, I suspect you have moved past the Christmas decor and empty fudge tins to concentrating on what the next twelve months might bring. How does one prepare for what we hope will be better than the past? Pray. Pray for God to lead you and me toward who He wants us to become and what He has planned for us to do. In essence, we pray for focus.

It’s not just a good idea, it’s a perceptive pursuit. Solomon, the man known to us as the wisest in human history, made this suggestion:

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Proverbs 4:25

What does Solomon mean by calling us to look straight ahead?

According to biblical scholars, Solomon is referring to that which is straight in front of us, the right things, possessing a simplicity of aim, or singleness of motive. In other words, the king writes of the importance of setting God and His ways directly before us as our solitary focus. Fixing your gaze directly before you directs us to make seeking Him, knowing Him, and following Him our sole aim and primary ambition.

In everyday life, meeting this goal begins with prayer.

Maybe you feel like this is never going to work for you. Suppose you have tried but your thoughts run wild before the clock has moved forward ten minutes. How can you and I work toward placing God before us and looking straight ahead to right things? We start by praying for the focus we need.

Pray for what to focus upon. Often that is found in Scripture.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Psalm 1:1-5

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

I encourage you to pray these elements over your own life. Spurgeon once wrote, No one meanders into the kingdom of God. Neither does a person make God her aim without being intentional.

Once what you are to focus upon becomes more clear, pray for the ability to stay the course, with your eyes, heart, and mind gazing straight ahead. Friend, allow me to pray for focus in your life today.

A Prayer for Focus

Lord Jesus,pray for focus

I pray for my friend to make You her sole aim this year. I thank You for Your word which makes the right way to take clear. Today, I ask that You give my friend insights into Who You are and what You want her to be about. Help her to make time. Make Yourself clear. Give her insights she could not know whithout spending time with You, Also, make her aware of that which tugs at her thoughts and desires to move her off course. Give her Your strength and Your courage to keep steady her gaze on You. Make her aware of Your presence and activity in her very life. Help her know You love her and desire to be the delight of her life. 

In the Name of Jesus,

 Amen

 

XOXOXO

Before you Go

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5 Strategies for Practicing Biblical Hospitality

biblical hospitality cover

5 Strategies for Practicing Biblical Hospitality

Sometimes lessons that need to be learned must be experienced before they take root. When Chad and I were newlyweds, we relocated to a different city for work purposes. In no time we found our place in a local church that offered a weekly class with other newly married couples. In the midst of making new friends, serving, and learning more about the Bible, we also experienced what it looked like to practice Biblical hospitality. Essentially, it was a phenomenon caught rather than taught. Although we were only there for two or three years, the fruit from that era has lingered for decades.

A Real Live Example of Biblical Hospitality

Chuck and Kathy were old enough to be our parents. They were empty nesters who were spending their lives pouring into twenty-somethings. They did not teach that class filled with newlyweds, but they were the heart and soul of establishing a welcoming environment for anyone who showed up. From our first appearance on the premises, these two helped us feel as if we already belonged. In fact, I believe they invited us to their home for pizza within the first two weeks. This act, we learned was nothing special. It was simply the way they lived life. You were never an inconvenience, your need was never too great, and their doors were always unlocked.

At the time I couldn’t put my finger on why they were so different or what caused them to stick out in my head as examples of how to meaningfully engage with others. I just recognized the impact these ordinary lay leaders were having on those who happened in their sphere of influence. Today, I know we were simply experiencing a living example of Biblical hospitality.

What is Biblical Hospitality?

Hospitality can be defined as “the act or service of welcoming, receiving, hosting, or entertaining guests.” We often think of hosting a dinner or gathering, making sure everyone enjoys themselves and has everything they need. But Biblical hospitality is more than working a room and providing awesome hors d’oeuvres.

Hospitality in the Old Testament

The concept of hospitality is introduced in the Old Testament. We find Abraham welcoming three men on a journey, spending the day with them, and providing a place to rest and food to eat (Genesis 18:2-5). As the men (or angels) move into Sodom and Gomorra, Lot meets them in the public square inviting them to his home for the same (Genesis 19:1-3). it was issued as an explicit command.

By the time Moses liberates the Israelites from Egypt and God directed them into the wilderness, hospitality is more than optional. It’s made part of the law.

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt” Leviticus 19:33-34.

Hospitality in the New Testament

In the New Testament, we find the word, hospitality, used four different times. In Greek, the word literally means ‘love of strangers.” It first shows up in Paul’s letter to the Romans where he encourages believers to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality,” (Romans 12:13). Biblical hospitality at its essence, is sharing who we are and what we have, not with those close to us, but also with those outside our circle. In fact, Paul calls the reader to look for opportunities to do so.

Such hospitable behavior is viewed by the early church leadership as virtuous—something to excel in and practice for a lifetime. To Timothy, Paul mentions hospitality as one of the requirements of widows who would receive assistance from the church (1 Timothy 5:10).

The Hard Work of Biblical Hospitality

But that kind of giving and serving is not easy. It’s not cheap, either, nor does it necessarily come naturally. The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:2) taps into this reality when he encourages believers to be hospitable because of the possibilities at stake. You just never know. By practicing hospitality, you may encounter an angel, harkening back to the experience of Abraham (Genesis 18). In other words, any expense or effort is worth it.

Peter also understands the demanding nature of biblical hospitality as he encourages those believers to whom he writes.

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9

Why might grumbling come with the responsibility of biblical hospitality? Because it’s not on our agenda. It often is needed at times when we have other things to do, other financial responsibilities, and we frankly just want to do something else. For many, expending themselves in hospitality is like asking your teenage son to take out the trash or clean the litter box. We just don’t want to do it.

Those who have gone before us, showing the importance, commending the actions, and calling us to persevere understand that the heart of the matter is that showing hospitality to others is really an extension of the Gospel.

Hospitality as The Gospel

Why all the fuss about something we deem as a skill some possess and some do not?

Because these early New Testament writers recognized that the Good News is best shared by word and deed, in relationship. At the core, real transformation is seen and heard in the everyday stuff of regular life. It’s how you interact with the person next door. Inviting them into your life—for something as simple as coffee can communicate more than small talk. We demonstratge the Good News when you and I handle difficult situations with joy instead of despair or extend a helping hand and expect nothing in return. It might even occur when you show up with a meal or gift card. Relationship and a sense of community is the starting point.

“Hospitality is the ground zero of the Christian life.” Rosaria Butterfield

Living a Life that Pursues Hospitality

Indeed, the Christian life calls us to live beyond ourselves. Maybe you don’t see yourself as the hospitable type. Paper plates and take-out pizza more your flare? No problem. Nowhere in the Bible does it specify how we demonstrate hospitality, just that we do it.

In a post-Covid world, most of us need to be reminded of how the simple act of showing hospitality can change a life. Not that we drag people into our circle to try to convert them, but to demonstrate what it looks like to be a believing mom, wife, or sister who is willing to share what she has as if she had known them for ages.

You and I also need encouragement. If you lack the How-To for Biblical hospitality, I have given you five strategies you can use, no matter your background or experience. You don’t need to be a Pinterest Queen or an excellent cook. Just take the next step. It might just be right across the street.

biblical hospitality stories

5 Strategies for Practicing Biblical Hospitality

Begin with “hello.” Remember the famous line from the movie, “You had me at ‘hello’”? (Jerry McGuire) That’s what we are aiming toward in extending hospitality to others. The examples I shared from my newlywed days have withstood decades of various moves and constant church-going. What I learned those years ago turned out to be spot on. Extending hospitality begins before offering any invitation. It starts with contact. Introduce yourself and take note of the person’s name.

If you struggle with names, come up with a system for remembering. I have people often repeat their name before we end the conversation (because I often have already moved on), and then I jot it down in my Notes section on my phone, along with some fact about them, such as profession, number of kids, or where they are from. You and I should work on being attentive. Doing so communicates more of Jesus in you than you might be aware. Currently, many in our midst feel as if they are unseen and unknown. Taking a moment to focus all of our attention on the person before us will fuel more than the conversation. It may be the very thing the person needs.

 

Start small. If you have little experience with carrying conversations with people you don’t know well – or the whole idea freaks you out, don’t go there yet. And when you do go forward, go with a plan. Come up with three or four general questions that require more than a yes/no response. Make your inquiry generic so that you can remember your go-to questions and use them whenever necessary. It will calm your nerves and give you the direction you need.

One thing I observed in my time with Chuck and Kathy was how much time they spent asking questions, allowing the person to talk about what was near and dear to them. The conversation focused on the other person. Biblical hospitality begins long before a person steps into your home, but with your first contact.

 

Develop a friendship instead of attempting to save their souls. Do you have a suspicion the person doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior? No problem. Be open and available to build a friendship with them. But it’s not our job to make them accept the Gospel. That role belongs to the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to show up, to speak the truth, and to extend compassion and love to them.

 

Add hospitality to your schedule. Although our desire should be to become hospitable people, we may find we don’t have room for it. Showing hospitality to others who might not be like us likely won’t come naturally. We need to pray, asking God to reveal what can go so that there is bandwidth for living out the Gospel where we are. It won’t just happen. You and I need to pivot toward being intentional about showering hospitality to others, making choices, even sacrificing what we want for what they need, and serving for the sake of Christ.

 

Just do it. Forget having the ideal conversation starters. Don’t worry about the aesthetics. Forget vacuuming. Feed them frozen pizza if you must. Your meeting together doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy. Just do it because hospitality is a kingdom-focused work God uses us to complete. Do it, because showing hospitality changes you and me.

 

When we practice hospitality, we experience the refreshing joy of becoming conduits of God’s hospitality rather than being self-decaying cul-de-sacs. The joy of receiving God’s hospitality decays and dies if it doesn’t flourish in our own hospitality to others. Saturate

This week, what is one thing you can do to show Biblical hospitality within your sphere of influence? I plan on inviting a few neighbors over for coffee. I’m putting it on the calendar. What about you?

I can’t wait to hear about it.

For His glory,

Did You Know?

For the one who feels invisible, largely passed over, and insignificant – Cheri has created a resource for you. Grab your copy of Can You See Me, Now? Good news for the lonely, left out, and less than and join the Strange Readers Café. We will be going through the book together beginning Oct. 3 until December 16 – just in time for Christmas.

Buy the Book 

Join the Group

Don’t forget to check out the latest FREE reading plan available from YouVersion!

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taking prayers digital 

 

Praying for the Wounded

praying for the wounded

Praying for the Wounded

The holidays can usher in emotions beyond the festive joy and excitement familiar to most. Seasons draped in Christmas cheer are not always shared when life has brought pain or loss. Maybe, like me, you have friends and family members who are missing someone for the first time due to tragedy, sickness, or failed relationships. The stale stench of difficulties galore can snuff out any celebratory aroma. For those of us finding the entry of December unwelcome, let us rely on the only One who can heal our hurts and mend our hearts. Today my prayer goes out to the wounded.

Our God declares Himself to be able and willing to heal as if it’s part of His character and nature to do so.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

He binds up their wounds.

Scholars note that message here pertains to “those who are afflicted with griefs and troubles. The reference is to mental sorrows; to a troubled spirit; to a heart made sad in any way. God has provided healing for such; on such he bestows peace.”

Chances are, you know what it’s like to be wounded mentally. Maybe you house a troubled spirit, or face a day with a heart made sad. And that’s okay. It’s okay as long as you and I go to the Healer who, in His time and in His way—assures us He heals. And when you do not possess the strength to do so, allow another to go on your behalf. I am more than willing, my heavy-hearted friend, to petition God on your behalf.

A Prayer for the Wounded

praying for the woundedLord Jesus,

In the midst of this season of joy, remember the one who is hurting. According to Your Word, be near the broken-hearted, healing her of the pain or loss and bind up in your loving arms that which grieves her. Give her Your healing power today and each day as she walks through this season – sensing your presence and peace like she has never before. Remind her of your love and care for her, as an individual You see and know intimately. I ask that you act on her behalf, doing what only You can do for the broken. And in Your timing, make her heavy heart rejoice once again.

In the Name of Jesus,

 Amen

Did You Know?

For the one who feels invisible, largely passed over, and insignificant – Cheri has created a resource for you. Grab your copy of Can You See Me, Now? Good news for the lonely, left out, and less than and join the Strange Readers Café. We will be going through the book together beginning Oct. 3 until December 16 – just in time for Christmas.

Buy the Book 

Join the Group

Don’t forget to check out the latest FREE reading plan available from YouVersion!

Have you received my FREE gift to you? Get 3 resources to help you experience more of God in your everyday life. It’s filled with practical helps for living out what really matters.

DOWNLOAD NOW

WAIT! THERE’S MORE.

If you would like to become a part of the private FB group, She Prays, we would love to have you. Click the image to join.

glimpses of she prays

 

You can meet Cheri on the She Yearns blog for more truth-saturated, Gospel-centered encouragement like this:

taking prayers digital

Asking God to Intervene

Asking God to Intervene

Are you hoping for a miracle? Need God to intervene? If you have not yet experienced the need, you likely will. It’s only a matter of time before life circumstances extend beyond our ability to manipulate and control. But I’m sure you know this. There is an accident that changes life forever. A loved one receives an unfavorable diagnosis. The phone rings with the police on the other end to give you unwanted news. Or you or your spouse lose a job calling into question how you will obtain basic necessities for your family. Someone you love experiences what can only be described as a freak accident or act of nature.

The reality is that you and I may have already experienced more than one of these catastrophic situations. Chances are you know all too well what it is like to cry out to God because you need Him to intervene as only He can. Honestly, my friends and family, even parts of my own crew, have experienced all of these possibilities and more. Things happen, leaving us no hope short of a divine work.

How does a person pray when we are in need of a miracle? What is the right approach when asking God to intervene Thankfully, you and I have resources at the tips of our fingers for effectively petitioning God regarding what lies beyond us. Psalm 77 is written with just such dire straits as we sometimes find ourselves called to encounter.

Using this Psalm as we pray in the midst of our deep need does not guarantee God will grant us our desired outcome, but it offers a model for how to make our requests and provides a reminder of who God is and what He can do.

A Pray for God to Intervene, Psalm 77:1-14

Let’s walk through these verses to glean what we can to prepare our hearts and minds for when we need a miracle only God can provide.

I cried out to God for help;

I cried out to God to hear me.

2When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

at night I stretched out untiring hands,

and I would not be comforted.

3I remembered you, God, and I groaned;

I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. Psalm 77:1-3

We first learn that crying out to God is exactly the right move.

Go to the One who can do something about it.

Cry out for help.

Ask Him to hear.

And it’s totally fine to do it as one HOT MESS IN DISTRESS. The Psalmist admits not being responsive to the comfort offered. This is where good-intentioning people say all the wrong things, leaving us speechless in our predicament. All grow heavier than we can stand.

And that’s okay. God will not leave you helpless.

You kept my eyes from closing;

I was too troubled to speak. Psalm 77:4

The Faithfulness of God in Our Deep Need

Even when we cannot help ourselves, He remains.

5I thought about the former days,

the years of long ago;

6I remembered my songs in the night.

My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

7“Will the Lord reject forever?

Will he never show his favor again?

8Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

Has his promise failed for all time?

9Has God forgotten to be merciful?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Psalm 77:5-9

In his needful moment, the Psalmist calls up his memory of the times and situations in which God has been faithful to see him through. He remembers the favor of the Lord, his mercy, and His unfailing love toward him. You and I can do the same. In fact, it is imperative that we take this reminder and put it to good use in moments like these because our faith depends upon it.

What I appreciate at this stage of the discourse is the rhetorical – maybe not-so-rhetorical questioning we read from this author. Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed? As to say, “Isn’t this the same God who is the omniscience, all-powerful, sovereign over the universe?” These thoughts move our hurting friend to do something on his own behalf.

Appealing for God to Intervene

10Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12I will consider all your works

and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:10-12

The author chooses to remember what God has done in the past, thinking back to prior graces granted and the miraculous workings of his experiences and those of others. It is in this mental framework he is able to meditate on God’s way and his Word until he is reminded of whom he is dealing:

13Your ways, God, are holy.

What god is as great as our God?

14You are the God who performs miracles;

you display your power among the peoples. Psalm 77:13-14

Readied for Asking for God to Intervene on our behalf

Only now is he ready to ask for what only God can grant. It took him a while to gather his courage and articulate his need. There were tears, sorrow, and a lack of adequate words. But he got there, just as you and I can approach God in like manner any time we need Him.

Sometimes you and I need a friend to help us ask for what we cannot. Wherever you are on your faith journey, I ask that you allow me to pray God’s Word over you. It could be there is no one else to do it. Or maybe you cannot yet do it for yourself. Standing in the gap for you is my very joy.

Asking God to InterveneA Prayer When We Need God to Intervene

Lord,

I lift up my friend today. Although I don’t know the details, I can imagine the emotional deficits. In the moments when nothing short of divine intervention will do, may we know nothing else but to call upon You. You are the God who performs miracles. Help this precious soul to know this truth about you. Grant her memories of when you have sustained her and displayed your power in the past. Even if it’s not been in her life as of yet, show her through others that you are this very God. Give her the courage to cry out in her pain, her lack of understanding, and in the middle of her sorrow for what she cannot control or understand. Hear her heart. Give her peace. Usher in a supernatural healing. Use her experiences for Your Glory and her good. In all these things we ask of the only One who can bring beauty out of ashes. Amen.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

For the one who feels invisible, largely passed over, and insignificant – I have created a resource for you. Grab your copy of Can You See Me, Now? Good news for the lonely, left out, and less than and join the Strange Readers Café. We will be going through the book together beginning Oct. 3 until December 16 – just in time for Christmas.

Buy the Book 

Join the Group

Don’t forget to check out the latest FREE reading plan available from YouVersion!

Have you received my FREE gift to you? Get 3 resources to help you experience more of God in your everyday life. It’s filled with practical helps for living out what really matters.

DOWNLOAD NOW

WAIT! THERE’S MORE.

If you would like to become a part of the private FB group, She Prays, we would love to have you. Click the image to join.

glimpses of she prays

Did you know Cheri has over TWENTY different reading plans for you to choose from? Just click on the images below to check them out:

The Journey Toward Waiting WellConquering Chaos

If you like She Prays for battling fear you will like finding light

You can meet Cheri on the She Yearns blog for more truth-saturated, Gospel-centered encouragement like this:

Times of testing

Choosing Joy in Life’s Hard Places

choosing joy

Choosing joy in life’s hard places is easier said than done, but it is possible. I had opportunity to make this choice after a difficult week filled with bad news: Two of my friends, both of them cancer survivors and mothers with young children, learned that their disease had returned with a vengeance. One of my ministry co-workers was battling COVID in ICU. Another was diagnosed with blood clots in his legs. Tension surfaced in my family over political differences.

“Seriously, God?” I prayed. “My heart can’t handle more sadness.” That’s when the Holy Spirit brought James 1:2 to mind. ”Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (NLT).

Considering troubles as opportunities for joy seems like a tall order, so it’s helpful to have a proper understanding of what true joy looks like. In her book, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough, Kay Warren writes, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Warren didn’t birth this definition lightly. She coined these phrases, wrestled through them, and learned to live from their truths in the wake of her son’s suicide. While our hardship might not resemble hers, our hurt is no less real and our need for joy is no less vital. Using her definition as a foundation, here are three insights that have helped me learn to apply James 1:2.

Joy is the Settled Assurance that God is in Control

Our hardships don’t surprise God. He doesn’t fall asleep on the job only to wake and discover that His purposes have taken a detour. He is intimately involved with every detail of our lives. We can rest assured that God Almighty has got this. We can trust Him because of who He is: He is wise (1 Timothy 1:17). He is strong (Isaiah 40:28-31). He is good (Psalm 100:5). All the time.

Joy is the Quiet Confidence That Everything’s Going to Be Okay

The difficult situation we face might not end as we hope, but we need to remember that we don’t see the whole picture. God does, though, and He will bring His purposes to pass. When we respond to Him with a surrendered heart, He brings beauty from ashes and replaces our mourning with joy (Isaiah 61:3). He uses our difficulties to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). Ultimately, He will wipe the tears from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Joy comes when we remember that God and His faithful ones always win in the end.

Joy is the Determined Choice to Praise God in Every Situation

We might not feel like praising God when we’re in distress, but we can choose to overrule our emotions and do what’s right. The list of things for which God deserves praise is as infinite as He is. For starters, we can extol Him for His mercies that come with a fresh supply every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). We can acknowledge His love from which nothing can separate us (Romans 8:38-39). In addition, we can worship Him for His power that’s able to accomplish more than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

choose joyWe can also thank God for promising to help when we call on Him and for working behind-the-scenes in ways we don’t yet see or understand. When we praise God for who He is and thank Him for all He’s done, we demonstrate faith that He is bigger than the hardship and will bring about the best outcome.

Unlike happiness, joy does not depend on our circumstances. We can experience it at all times because God is faithful no matter what our situation looks like. Author Henry Blackaby writes, “Conditions may change, but God remains steadfast. He may not remove your problems, but He will keep His hand on you. So choose to rejoice. After all, God is ever faithful.”

That truth—God is ever faithful—helped me choose joy in the midst of wave upon wave of bad news. Let it do the same for you. When our hearts feel like they can’t handle more hurt, let’s remember that God is in control. The outcome may or may not look like what we hope, but it will be good. And we can praise God in the middle of our distress because He is bigger.

Grace

grace fox

Grace Fox is a career missionary, author, co-host of the podcast “Your Daily Bible Verse,” and popular speaker at women’s events.

choose joy

Her new book, Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey is available wherever Christian books are sold.

https://www.gracefox.com

https://www.fb.com/gracefox.author

https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/

I very much appreciate Grace for sharing her wisdom with us today. Also, stop by her website. I have found it helpful, myself, along with her other books.

Don’t forget to check out the FREE reading plan available about the book from YouVersion!

Have you received my FREE gift to you? Get 3 resources to help you experience more of God in your everyday life. It’s filled with practical helps for living out what really matters.

Download Now

WAIT! THERE’S MORE.

If you would like to become a part of the private FB group, She Prays, we would love to have you. Click the image to join.

glimpses of she prays

Did you know Cheri has over TWENTY different reading plans for you to choose from? Just click on the images below to check them out:

The Journey Toward Waiting WellConquering Chaos

If you like She Prays for battling fear you will like finding light

You can meet Cheri on the She Yearns blog for more truth-saturated, Gospel-centered encouragement like this:

Times of testing