ASH WEDNESDAY

Genesis 3:19; Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 103:13-14

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:12-14

Today will be a day when many Christians receive a cross of ashes upon their forehead.  This is done on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  What do ashes have to do with the season,though?

Ashes signify where we came from … dust. They signify God’s love, but also his punishment. They reflect our need for repentance from our uncleanliness and sin.  It is a reminder that we need to “cleanse our consciences … so that we may serve the living God.”  They were a sign in biblical times of humility and repentance. They serve as those same signs today.

We are broken people. We carry with us unclean hearts and consciences full of shame, guilt and many other things that can weigh us down. The only way we can be clean is by coming broken and humble before God and offering our complete selves to Him.

Let us humble ourselves before the Lord, confessing our sins in full repentance on this, the first day of Lent.

PRAYER

Lord, I humble myself before you on this, the first day of Lent. I pray that you cleanse me from any uncleanliness and sin that have been in my actions and words.  You and You alone can create in me a new heart and a new spirit. Amen.

© 2021 Raelyn Pracht

The Vinedresser

There is a lot involved in being a Vinedresser. It’s a year-round job that requires pruning skills, constant monitoring and evaluation plus the knowledge of all the pests which could possibly attack and ruin the fruit.

John 15:1 starts by saying

“I am the true vine and my father is the vinedresser.”

It’s a very simple statement, but there is so much to be thankful for in it. For me, it holds the same wonderful promise in Hebrews of never leaving us or forsaking us. It’s God remaining in us and by our side, constantly monitoring and evaluating our needs, pruning us through circumstances, both good and bad, so we can produce beautiful fruit. 

After reading, studying and rereading this verse, what stands out most to me, what I needed a reminder of right now, is His knowledge of all the pests which are trying to destroy us – the pests being our thoughts, our weaknesses, our bad habits . . . whatever the pest may be, I find tremendous comfort in His help in keeping the threat of these pests away.

And in the right time, I know we will see the harvest in the vineyard we call life.

REFOCUS

We all have something we have struggled with for as long as we can remember. For me, it is the struggle with self-discipline. Whether it’s in the area of diet, food, exercising, cleaning the house . . . it doesn’t matter. I struggle with self-discipline: – the discipline to start doing something or to stop.

I have learned one of the biggest and most meaningful lessons of my life because this struggle:

 I fail when I take my focus away from God. 

Peter is a great example of what happens when we take our focus away from God..Just look at Matthew 14:28-30:

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and focused instead on the wind. As soon as he did, he became afraid and started to sink. Sinking led to him calling out to the Lord to save him.

This is often what happens to us when we take our eyes off of Him, when we turn our focus to things or people in this world. Just look at the word “self-discipline” – it has the word “self” right in it. We fool ourselves into thinking we can do things on our own and only when we start to sink do we plead “Lord, save me!”

This isn’t what God intended for us. In fact, self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit we have been given. It is just a matter of diving in and grabbing hold of this gift to succeed. It’s about inviting Him to walk beside us in whatever we are doing. We must turn to Him, keep ourselves right beside Him where we belong. Most of all, if we want to succeed in anything, we must keep our eyes focused on Him. 

A TIME FOR REFLECTION

It’s so easy to lose your focus and turn to things, and yes, even people of this world. Even as well meaning and helpful as some of those things or people try to be. 

In what areas of your daily life do you take your focus off of Him and try to succeed on your own?

How can you keep you eyes on Him in these areas?

©2021 Raelyn Pracht

Throwback Thursday: PROVISION (2016)

Psalm 46:1; Acts 14:17; 1 Timothy 6:17

“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.”  Psalm 121:1-2

Recently I was dealing with something that I could not get through alone. I needed help. I had been praying every day, repeatedly saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”  Nothing seemed to be happening. I found myself still crying out for help, still waiting for it.  Days went by and I saw no evidence.  I was getting frustrated.  Where was He? Why wasn’t He coming to help me when I called?  Finally, after sharing this with a very wise friend, he said something I have since tattooed on my brain and heart.  He reminded me that sometimes the help we ask for comes from people God chooses to use to help us.

I was so focused on Jesus that I couldn’t see that He had placed the willingness to serve and help onto some of His servant’s hearts.  They were there all along just waiting for me.  I was too blinded by my own thoughts of how the help should come, and by my frustration, to see it.  It was a hard yet wonderful lesson to learn. It has forever changed how I look at His provision.

PRAYER

Lord, you always provide.  It is promised in your Word. Help us to have clear eyes and open hearts to accept and trust in the ways you will provide. They may not be the ways we expected, but our trust in your provision must be there still.

UNTITLED STORY – One Paragraph

The snow falling outside her upstairs window was a picturesque and peaceful scene. It was a Christmas card image come to life. As she sipped her chamomile tea and stared out at the fresh, pure white precipitation painting the canvas of her world, she couldn’t help but feel the sharp contrast between what was taking place outside and the turmoil swirling inside her head. Or more accurately, her heart.

© 2021 Raelyn Pracht

Throwback Thursday: SURRENDER ME (October 2020)

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12:1

In his book, “A Season for the Spirit,” Martin L. Smith defines surrender as

“the laying down of resistance to the One who loves me infinitely more than I can guess, the One who is more on my side than I am myself.” 

I would not describe myself as a person who needs to be in control. However, I would describe myself as someone who likes routine and is a creature of habit – both good and bad ones.

Surrendering is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I have discovered, at least for me, that surrendering involves presenting the first moments of my day before God and offering my whole self for Him to work through. 

Giving up control, even of those things that seem small and trivial, brings me closer to the God who loves and fully knows me – who is more on my side than I am myself. He already knows what the day ahead is going to look like – the temptations that will come, the struggles I will face. Surrendering makes my faith stronger, my trust in Him builds, and I continue to reflect on all His provision.

PRAYER

Lord, I surrender myself to you.  I give up my old self: who I was, my old habits, my sinful self, and ask you to create in me a new life, a new, clean heart – each day, everyday.

JONAH: A HAIKU

After studying the Book of Jonah, I wondered if I could summarize the theme of the story in a Haiku. Here is my answer to that challenge:

He stubbornly flees

God relentlessly pursues

Repentance begins

Oh, how often I have run! I am thankful to have a God who is relentless in His love and compassion. A God who sees me though I may try to hide.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

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