Stone Oak Church

Devotionals

Posted on September 16, 2019 10:43 PM by Laura McCroskey
Categories: Knowing God
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
                                           Psalm 91:11
 
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
                                             Psalm 23:4
 
In the first week of September, Don and I were on a seven-night Norwegian fjord cruise. It was a trip of a lifetime, as we’d always talked about cruising the fjords and now we finally got to do it. We visited four ports in Norway—Bergen, Ålesund, Flåm, and Stavanger. We visited quaint little stores as well grocery stores within a mall in the middle of Bergen, looking for chocolate or candy to take back to my co-workers. We took a ride on a RIB (rapid inflatable boat, apparently the kind Navy Seals use?) in Bergen, rode up in a ski gondola in Ålesund to enjoy breathtaking scenery and yummy waffles, and took a train up the mountains in Flåm and hiked 10 kilometers down the mountain, after enjoying another round of waffles with scrumptious sweet cream and strawberry compote. We saw green valleys, waterfalls, goats, rivers, and God’s beauty everywhere. We couldn’t have asked for better weather—high 50s to low 60s in each city, and no rain. It was wonderful.
 
And then there was Stavanger. It was out of Stavanger that we were going to hike Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, something I had written about in a previous devotional. I am not an outdoorsman; I hadn’t really hiked before, and I’m a big chicken. I was trepidatious, as we were pretty worn by the 10K hike, albeit down the mountain, the day before. It was about 55 degrees, and had been raining since I’d gotten up. I met the group of about 25 other people on the excursion at 7:45 a.m., nervous because I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, conserving my liquid intake (the whole bathroom thing, ya hear me?), and hiking by myself because Don decided not to go. After a 45-minute bus ride, and a seven-minute ferry ride, we arrived at the park. The hike to the top is 3800 meters (~2.6 miles), going from a starting point of 2.70 meters above sea level to a total of 604. There was a trail of sorts, over beautiful granite stones that were not always flat, and slippery due to the rainfall. I jumped over rainwater that had accumulated in the crevices of boulders, and found out that my hiking shoes weren’t 100% waterproof as I landed in a number of puddles. I’d congratulate myself for traversing a particularly difficult set of rocks and boulders, only to realize with chagrin that I’d have to come down those same rocks later on that day.
 
Because it was late in the season, and probably due to the rain, there weren’t a lot of people hiking, though there were more than I expected. I moved at my own pace, as did everyone else, moving to the side when I sensed that I was slowing people down (there was room really to go up and down single file safely). I consider myself to be in decent shape but I was winded, cold, and tired as I climbed up. I knew that the bus was waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain, and that I could turn around at any point, dignity and pride still (fairly) intact. But the Lord was with me as I walked. I cited the parts of Psalm 91 I could remember, and verse 4 of Psalm 23 kept coming to mind as I found my way through the rain-drenched rocks: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me”. Now this wasn’t the valley of the shadow of death, but He was with me nonetheless. I persevered, and finally, after about an hour and 30 minutes of uphill climbing, I reached the peak. The view was exquisitely breathtaking.
 
 
 
I had accomplished what I’d set out to do, and it was all because of His help, comfort, and companionship. I gave Him all the praise and glory because of what He enabled me to do. I delighted in His striking scenery. I rejoiced at the provision of bathrooms at the base of the trail, and I thanked Him for the bus that allowed me to get out of the rain, only to discover that my backpack was not waterproof and everything I had in there was drenched (but totally salvageable, God be praised!). My gratitude to Him overflowed at the fact that the premium drink package we had on the ship (thanks to a great internet deal) enabled my husband to get me two cappuccinos when I got back to the ship and was able to thaw out under an elegantly hot shower. God be praised!
 
Prayer Requests
·      For pastors Ray and Wayne, and pastors everywhere who are so diligent about doing the Lord’s work and giving Him glory
·      For those who are lonely and want more than just their own company
·      Praise for what seems to be have been quite a successful trip to Fort Worth to visit Jeff Gehle and Pathway Church  
·      Those facing challenging prognoses of health
·      For God’s will to be done in every aspect of our lives
 
Thank you for letting me share my [seemingly lame] triumph. God was with me as I walked, and He was with me as my calves and quads ached for about three days afterward. I draw such strength from Him, and pray that you do the same, my friends.
 
Quotes
“The cure to a lonely heart is to be alone with Jesus.”  
                                              
“Worship will get you through the roughest times in your life, because it shifts your focus from the problem to the problem solver.”                                                                 
Posted on August 26, 2019 9:10 PM by Admin
Categories: The Love of God
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
 
Philippians 3:20
 
As I’ve shared with you, my husband and I are taking a cruise out of Southampton, England through the Norwegian fjords, after spending some time in London checking out museums, the English countryside, and God willing, partaking in afternoon tea.
 
We applied for the government’s Global Entry program, one that allows you to pay a $100 application fee and if you’re approved, you are TSA PreCheck-enabled for five years, and you can bypass the line at customs and check in through a kiosk at the major airports. Don applied mid-April; I applied on April 27, 2019. We felt that this was plenty of time to get our applications approved and our interviews with the US Customs and Border Patrol complete.
 
Don received his conditional approval at the beginning of August and since the San Antonio Airport didn’t have any interview appointments until early September (too late for our cruise), he drove up to Austin Bergstrom Airport to be fingerprinted and interviewed. He received his Global Entry card about a week ago. I, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. I called the government call center (yes, two challenging concepts mushed together for an almost unbearable hold time), and explained that it had been over 100 days since I had applied. The call center agent escalated the issue and I received an email that stated that the normal response time for these escalations was three-to-eight weeks. Well, I’d be gone and home by then, so I figured there was nothing I could do. I can honestly say that I was not worried about it at all; it was in the Lord’s hand. I will admit, however, to fretting ever so slightly when my co-worker said that the line for customs at the Philadelphia airport upon returning home from a trip to Croatia (a line that she was fortunate to be able to bypass) was about 200 people long. I resolved to not let my lack of progress bring me down, though I did check the government website daily (sometimes twice daily). I cannot tell you the utter joy I felt when I got the email stating that my application’s status had been changed, and seeing the words “Conditionally approved” on the website. I was able to get an interview appointment at the Austin Bergstrom Airport at 6:30 a.m. last Friday - talk about cutting it close!
 
Praise be to God that we have the assurance of entering into Heaven when the Lord calls us home without any worry of whether or not things will happen at the right time. There are no applications to complete, no money to exchange, no interviews or background checks needed to vet us. Our heavenly entry is an expedited process! Jesus Christ did the work at the cross—all we have to do is repent and accept His offer. Eternal life is ours, all because Christ loves us so much and willingly sacrificed His life. Praise the Lord!  
 
Prayer Requests
·      For those who lead our church, formally and informally
·      For those who have faced unspeakable pain but still shine the light of Jesus to everyone they meet
·      Travel mercies to the team going up to Fort Worth within the next couple of weeks—may their trip be fruitful and blessed
·      God’s protection and support for Pastors Ray and Wayne
·      For God’s will to be done in every aspect of our lives
 
Y’all, the Lord is indescribably awesome and He loves us so!
 
 Quotes
“People are like tea bags—you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.”  
                                              
“Never look down on anyone. Only God sits that high.”                                                           
 
 
 
 
 
Posted on August 20, 2019 10:17 PM by Laura McCroskey
Categories: The Love of God
During that night the Lords aid to Gideon, “Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.”
 
 Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
 
                                               Judges 7: 9-11; 13-14
 
My husband and I moved our family from the northwest side of San Antonio to the Stone Oak area in February of 1999, but I still went to church on that side of town for a good five years. I served on Session there for three years, and would make the trek home once a month in the bedtime hours of the evening—close to 10:00 PM if the meeting was especially challenging.  I had just started getting into the music of Third Day, one of my now-favorite Christian bands. I also started reading a weight-loss book entitled The Weigh Down Diet, which focused on weight loss from God’s perspective. I’m sharing this fact with you because one of the sections in the book talks about asking God to show you signs of His presence, and I had not experienced that yet. I was struggling with my faith and, feeling like I was on a precipice of full-on or lackadaisical belief (it must’ve been one heck of a challenging Session meeting, hmm?). Listening to KLOVE and feeling bold, I asked God to let me know He knew of my faith struggles by having the next song on the radio be one of Third Day’s songs. The current song ended and then the station went to a commercial break. I recall that I was on 1604 by the exit for Northwest Military when the song “Show Me Your Glory” by Third Day came on right after the break.
 
I was gobsmacked! My emotions ranged from shock to giddiness to gratitude to a humility that bordered shame that I had put the Lord to the test and then to joy. My thoughts raced over the concept that the Lord had willed that song to be played exactly when I had asked for it to play—He moved the radio host to line up that song on the proverbial turntable (or whatever they use these days). it was illogical. It was supernatural. It was glorious and I was the recipient of His answered prayer.
 
The Lord’s movement within the Midian camp in the time of Gideon, as referenced in the scripture above, struck me in a similar vein. You may recall Gideon’s story—he was one of the only (if not the only) judges to talk directly with the pre-incarnate Christ when the Angel of the Lord approached the young man to tell him He was sending Gideon into battle and win against the Midianites. Gideon also tested the Lord, twice, by having Him keep a fleece wet though the ground it was on was dry, and vice versa. The Lord culled Gideon’s 32,000-strong army down to three hundred so that everyone involved would know that the battle was the Lord’s to win, not Gideon’s. Given Gideon’s behavior since the Angel of the Lord met him, it was likely that Gideon needed reassurance that the battle would be won (that is not a dig; I can’t say I would feel any different!). So God, in His infinite wisdom and timing, sent Gideon down to the camp in the valley where the enemy’s numbers greatly exceeded the number in Gideon’s army—Scripture tells us that they “had settled in the valley, thick as locusts” and that “their camels could be no more counted than the sand on the seashore.” Gideon arrived at the very same moment when a man was telling a friend of a dream he had had, and the friend interpreted it, explaining that it was “nothing more than the sword of Gideon, son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.” This fantastic message gave Gideon the assurance he needed, and he went on to win the battle in the strength of the Lord.
 
When I read that, my mind reeled again at the level of involvement the Lord had in orchestrating all of these events. That Gideon, without instruction as to where in the Midianites’ camp to go, stopped in the middle of the night by the exact time that Midianite Man A was telling Midianite Man B about his dream? And that his friend had perfect knowledge of its interpretation?  Just the mere thought of His involvement to that degree blows me away. God be praised that He cares like He does to get involved in the lives of His children, all for His glory!
 
Speaking of getting so involved in the lives of His children… I was praying a couple of Sunday morning ago, and had just asked Him to use me to help His children-to be Jesus to someone that day when barely a nanosecond had gone by when I got a text from Huei-Yi, stating that she didn’t know what happened, but there was a mix-up in the VIA transit bus she ordered to take her to Sunday School that morning so it wouldn’t be picking her up, and could I come and get her, as she didn’t want to miss Sunday School because she was sharing the morning devotional in class? I will own up to the fact (ashamedly) that I initially protested, as I needed to wash my hair before church, and that going to get her way across town would preclude that from happening, but even my partially rebellious heart knew instantaneously that God was orchestrating these events, answering my prayers, and calling on me to step up. Of course I went and got her, my hair a little less than glamorous but my mind and heart full of wonder at His involvement in all of this, even to the degree of causing a mishap at VIA that results in the loss of a transit bus reservation.
 
Friends, the very God who set the world in motion knows the very number of hairs on your head. Scripture tells us that not a sparrow falls to the ground outside of His care. He knows your yesterdays, and your tomorrows, and is with you throughout, regardless of how close or distant He may feel to you right now. May that comfort you immensely.
 
Prayer Requests
· For all of the new starts this time of year—little ones starting their school career with kindergarten; young adults starting college.
· For those with family members who are afflicted with mental illness whose behavior can cause an unimaginable amount of stress in the home
· Praise for the new faces we’ve been seeing in church these past couple of weeks
· For those recovering from surgeries and illnesses
 
Dear ones, the Lord, before He ascended, told us that He is with us always. Rest in that promise.
 Quotes
“To trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust Him in the dark—that is faith.”   -- Charles Spurgeon
                                              
“God isn’t asking you to figure it out. He’s asking you to trust that He already has.”                                                             
 
 
 
 
 
 
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