Category Archives: Soul Food (inspirational thoughts)

Devotions: What’s the Outcome?

Note: I apologize for how quiet it’s been on my blog the last couple of weeks. Life happens sometimes. Amiright? Updates to come… 

Bible with glasses

One of my favourite topics to write and speak about is something I used to struggle with for years and, I suspect is a common issue: my quiet time with God or, to put it another way, my devotional life.

You may be a new Christian who needs to learn how to develop a devotional life. Or maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while but your quiet times are dead in the water and need resuscitation. Maybe they’re just irregular and haphazard and you need some renewal. You may be very disciplined in your devotional life but feeling like you need a new spark, a bit of a turbo boost to take your quiet times to the next level.

Let’s look at why quiet time with God is essential to our spiritual growth:

  • Jesus demonstrated and talked about a devotional life. (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 21:37, Luke 5:16)
  • It is our primary source of spiritual nourishment and growth. (Psalm 1:1-3)
  • It protects us from sin and strengthens us in times of crisis and temptation. (Matthew 26:40-41, Psalm 119:11)
  • It guides us in our everyday lives and in long-term decisions. (John 10:27)
  • It results in fruitfulness. (John 15:4, 7)
  • It plugs us into God, our source of power. (John 7:37-38)

The first step to reviving our quiet times is to acknowledge that something is missing in our encounters with God and His Word. Then we must reconsider the value of the Bible in our lives (see Psalm 119:50) and start relating to it the way Jesus did. He knew Scripture intimately and used His knowledge to teach others. Jesus also lived Scripture and walked in fulfilment of God’s Word.

It’s important to remember that the Bible is not just a story—it’s your story. It explains your origins, your value, your redemption, your call and your future. When you can recapture that sense that God’s Word is living, breathing  and life-changing, you can begin to connect with Him in a new and exciting way.

Remember to focus on the outcome of your quiet times and not on the activity itself. Your goal shouldn’t be about how many chapters you read or how long you pray, but about really connecting with God and becoming more like Him.

Ann-Margret 

If you would like to read more about how to effectively engage with God’s Word, you can find my articles on the American Bible Society Bible Engager’s Blog here.

 

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You Can’t Clean with Filthy Rags

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

Can I assume we all enjoy living in a clean house? What might be less certain is how many of us enjoy cleaning our homes. Ironically, the more we avoid cleaning, the more cleaning we have to do when we reach the point that we can no longer ignore the dirt. . . or somebody is coming over and we couldn’t possibly let them see things less than perfect. Now we’ve got two problems: a big ugly mess and the daunting task of cleaning it up.

Conversely, some of us may work hard at keeping our homes clean (and Pinterest-worthy!) because it makes us feel good about ourselves, not necessarily for the sheer pleasure of having beautiful surroundings.

Some time ago, God showed me that this was my approach toward righteousness. Perhaps you can relate. We know it’s important to be pure and holy and we desire it because it makes us feel good, but we don’t necessarily pursue it for the right reasons or go about it the right way.

At our church Bible study one day, someone pointed out that righteousness and self-righteousness are not the same thing. Ironically, my reaction to that was self-righteous: I thought, “I’m not self-righteous. I’m painfully aware of my own sins and shortcomings!” However, I was confusing self-righteousness with arrogance or pride. It struck me later that self-righteousness is not thinking I’m righteous; rather, it’s trying to be righteous on my own strength and wisdom, doing it as a duty, or works.

Isaiah 65

The Bible warns us that our own righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). . .not even fit for cleaning our homes with! Scripture has many verses about delighting in the Lord, about finding our joy in Him and in His righteousness, not in our own. If we delight in the Lord and grow in our relationship with Him, He will make us righteous in a way that no amount of discipline and hard work ever could.

Ann-Margret

Saturday Round-up

I’m competing with the royal wedding this morning. Ah well. Hopefully some of you will drop by when the festivities are over. 🙂 (No, I’m not watching. I have a television but I don’t have TV, if you know what I mean. I just watch Netflix and DVDs. My current obsession is Lie to Me.)

Speaking of Royal Marriages…

Last week I learned that one of my favourite hymns, Unto the Hills, was penned by the fourth Governor General of Canada, John Douglas Campbell (1878 – 1883), and that he was married to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise. Useless information but still pretty cool, especially as I’m Canadian. The hymn is based on Psalm 121, by the way:

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;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

And that reminds me of this more modern take on the Psalm:

Are You Rejecting the Promised Land?

This year, I’m reading the through the Bible using the M’Cheyne Bible Calendar (it goes through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice). So, I’ve been in Numbers, a book that isn’t necessarily one you’d turn to for inspiration or spiritual enlightenment. That’s what made it all the more surprising when I tripped over this nugget several days ago:

“As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.” (Numbers 14:31)

What’s the big deal about this verse? Let me highlight the words the land you have rejected. The Israelites didn’t make it into the Promised Land for one simple reason: They rejected it. God didn’t take it away from them. For forty years, He patiently led them toward it and all they did was grumble and moan and complain and whine and murmur and reminisce about (of all things!) the garlic and onions back in Egypt. For forty years, they made it abundantly clear that they didn’t want the blessings God had in store for them. For forty years, they rejected His goodness.

It hit me right in the face: How many of God’s blessings, whether good health or success in my work or healthy relationships, have I missed out on because I was too busy navel-gazing at my pity parties? How many doors that God has opened have I not walked through because I didn’t want to leave something else behind?

I could write a whole Bible study on this theme, and maybe I will one day, but I just wanted to share those thoughts for now. I’d love to hear your own comments!

Read a Good Book Recently?

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Why not take a few minutes to write a review on Amazon or another bookstore’s website that sells the book? I can tell you from personal experience that even a one-sentence positive review can be a huge boost to an author.

If you (or your kids) have read any of my books, would you please consider writing a review? If you have friends who have bought my book, could you encourage them to do the same? Thank you so much! You can find my books on Amazon here.

One for the Road

May this encourage you today: “God’s power, glory, and majesty make me feel like I don’t deserve to be in the same room with him. His love, mercy, and compassion let me know I don’t belong anywhere else.” — Eric Collier

See you on Tuesday!

Ann-Margret

Love: Just Do It

L'Engle 2

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21 NLT)

We often talk about the importance of loving other people but, if I’m completely honest, I think my biggest struggle is truly loving God. Loving Him, that is, beyond a mere emotional, mushy feeling of admiration and affection. Loving Him in all that I do. Loving Him in the way I live out what I read in His Word. Loving Him in the way I invest my time and energy and attention. 

Anyone else find this difficult at times? Let’s remember not to rely on our feelings, because (a) they’re not enough and (b) sometimes they’re not even there. We need to CHOOSE to love God, not only with all our heart, but also with all our soul and strength and mind. (Luke 10:27)

Not Spectacular

As a writer and artist, I constantly have to resist the siren call of fame and acclamation. I have to drown out the voices that tell me I’m not any good unless I’m the best at what I do. I have to be okay with placing fourth in a writing contest, having a smattering of followers on social media and, let’s face it, getting no responses to some of my blog posts (such as the one from last Saturday).

It comforted me to see this on my Facebook news feed this morning:

“God didn’t call us to be spectacular. He called us to be faithful.” Jon Weber

Today, I am resolving to be okay with being me. With God’s help, the best version of me, but not more than that. Not someone else. Not something else.

Last week, a newish friend (also a writer) listened as I expressed some of my self-doubts when it comes to my writing and then said: “Be you.”

Got it.

In light of that, I’m re-re-rethinking the purpose of this blog. As much as creativity is a huge part of who I am, I’m not sure it’s working to blog about it. I think I just need to do it. The last few months of “Creative Saturdays” posts will stay where they are, but I can’t keep it up, at least not now. Instead, I’m going to leave Saturdays open. I’ll still blog, but without confining myself to a particular topic. I may share graphics I’ve created with favourite quotes, which you’ll be welcome to share. I may just sit and chat with you like I am right now. I may yet suggest fun creative projects. We shall see!

L'Engle quote

On that note, here is something that jumped out at me this morning as I was reading A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle. (Click on the image to see it larger and download it.) I don’t need to be a spectacular creator, but I absolutely need to make sure I am building people up, adding beauty to the world and furthering God’s kingdom—not destroying, tearing down, cutting up.

Hmm. Deep thoughts this morning…

Ann-Margret

The Cross of Christ

To eradicate sin, absolute perfection had to be offered. That’s why Jesus came.

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A bonus post this week! I just wanted to share this Good Friday devotional I wrote for In Touch Ministries two years ago…

The Cross of Christ

Have a blessed day!

Ann-Margret

The (Undignified) Birth of Jesus

Luke 2:1-7

If it wasn’t for the census that Caesar Augustus decreed should be taken, Joseph and Mary would have been able to stay in Nazareth and properly prepare their home for the impending arrival of their first-born. They may not have decked out a nursery like many parents do today, but Mary could have spent the last stages of her pregnancy at home, in comfort, surrounded by family and loved ones. Her cousin, Elizabeth, likely would have doted on her and shared from her own recent experience of having a baby.

Instead, the young, betrothed couple made the long journey to Bethlehem (it’s about 69 miles from Nazareth. . . today), not even knowing where they would stay once they arrived. Joseph might have been able to register for the census by himself, but perhaps he didn’t want to leave Mary alone, especially in her condition, which might have appeared shameful to some.

Clearly, God had a plan for this couple and their child, even if they couldn’t see what it was. God could have easily arranged it that Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, would be born under remarkable, majestic circumstances, with fanfare and festivities. Instead, Mary and Joseph were very much alone and, when it came time for Jesus to be born, they didn’t even have a proper room for Mary’s delivery. There was no dignity, no comfortable bed, no clean sheets or sterile tools or painkillers.

Some historians suggest that it wasn’t uncommon for poor families to have a manger within the home instead of in a separate barn. If that was the case here, it’s likely that Mary and Joseph didn’t have any privacy either, but were surrounded by strangers who were also in town for the census.

And yet, none of that hindered God’s plan. The Son of God, the Savior, was born that night in Bethlehem and it wasn’t long before His glory was recognized and celebrated.

What a great reminder to us that it isn’t our circumstances or environment that matter when we seek to serve God and carry out His purpose. What matters is our obedience and willingness. His glory will shine through the humblest heart!

I wish you all a blessed Christmas!  

Ann-Margret Hovsepian

P.S. Be sure to subscribe to this blog or check in regularly. I will be shaking things up here! 🙂 (And if you don’t have a 2018 calendar yet, you’ll want to check out mine.)

heart in hand

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