Maybe you need encouragement. What I want to tell you today, is: don’t give up.
It doesn’t matter what things look like. The tomb looked empty, but what it meant was — Jesus rose up and out of the grave.
It doesn’t matter what things feel like. Mary and Martha felt afraid because their brother was dead, until he was alive again.
It doesn’t matter what you think will happen. It seemed impossible for David to beat a giant, or for Sarah to have a baby at her age, but they did.
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Ps. 37:5)
It is as simple as: trust God and He will act.
It is as easy as: be faithful to Him who is faithful.
It speaks-out like: “I don’t have to believe, to see.”
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jo. 20:29)
You don’t even have to believe, necessarily in yourself or your thoughts; believe in God. God is who He is and who He is — He will always be.
“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (Nu. 23:19)
Lover of your Soul
Care for the helpless
Refuge in a time of trouble
Hope for the weary
God is who He is. The more you know who He is the more you’ll rest in how He’s bound to come through for you.
While I’m undoubtedly hesitant to admit this to you today, I’m going to: I missed the point of Thanksgiving this year. With all the travel, the family happenings, the busy rush of getting everything ready — I didn’t even think of what I was thankful for until. . . after Thanksgiving.
Then, I hastily jotted down the “10 Things I Am Thankful For” in my bible like I do every year. After, what took a few minutes, I shut the book on it.
Looking back, I feel a little guilty and convicted about my lack of thought or care around this important holiday. Things just got the better of me, I guess. . .
With all this said, I don’t want this to happen again, this Christmas. It’s easy to get caught up in things — the menus, the meals, the silverware, the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the details, the people coming over. With such little time to accomplish everything, it feels like there is no time for God and thinking about what Jesus has done.
But, I vehemently refuse, to be detoured from what matters most this time around. God, help me. . .
This is Christmas — is Christ’s party. All this is for Him, not them.
You, like me, may have a heart to put Christ first this season. How can we do it? Here are three ideas that I am focusing on:
One: Look upon the tree.
When I look upon the Christmas tree in my house, I can be reminded to look upon Jesus. Trees lined the ground outside his barn. Shepherds most certainly passed through them. Jesus was put up on one. I can look at the tree and ponder it. Think upon how Jesus was a simple man who walked among trees, to save me.
What can you think about as you look upon your tree and ponder Jesus?
While everything demands I move a mile-a-minute, I can revolt! I can just sit, when my body says, “Do!” I don’t have to listen to all the demands and desires, I can sit with Jesus, if only for a bit to say, “Thank you for coming into this earth to save me.”
Driving in the car, or doing mindless tasks, I can marvel. What kind of God is this who would leave the high and luxurious places of heaven to come to this death-filled and deplorable earth? What kind of God is this who chooses to enter into my life, in humble form and kindness? What kind of gift, have I not yet tapped, in Jesus?
I am adamantly intent on receiving Jesus this season. While everyone else wouldn’t receive the King in their hotel, I do not want to have a “No Vacancy” sign on my heart. What about you?
Prayer: God, apart from you, I’ll miss you. There is so much to do, to handle, to accomplish, to wrap, to give. . . the list goes on and on. . . I am asking you to invade my heart this season. Give me a crushing and burning desire to meet you, to connect with you and to see your heart for me, afresh. I want the best of you this Christmas. I want to honor you in all your ways. I want to thank and glorify you for coming into this world to save me. You are worthy of all my heart this season. Give me all I need to honor you rightly. You are my best gift. I am so honored to be your daughter. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
But, my heart thumped. Why? Because I knew I should raise mine.
But, how can I? The girl who wrote the book about fear? How can I admit today that I am struggling with fear? What will they think of me? How will I look? I’m a shame. I should be better than I am.”
But, I knew “my truth”. How I get afraid of powerless moments when I don’t know how to react. How I feel nervous that God won’t make a way for my dreams. I feel afraid that I may misinterpret scripture and lead his people or myself, astray (my worst nightmare). . .
As the man waited, I had to decide: Would I lie before man and God — by keeping my hand down — or would I admit my struggle, and raise it up?
I slowly inched my hand up, somehow signaling to the group: I am not perfect, not altogether and I struggling. . .
I half-expected them to laugh at me, to raise their chin up just a little higher than mine, or to question why I even write books. . . but they didn’t.
Then, the most interesting thing happened. As the group wrapped up, a bunch of women came over to me. They said, “How do you spell your last name? We want to get your book. . . ”
And, so I consider today:
Maybe people don’t hate our weakness as much as we think they do.
Maybe our truth-telling doesn’t make people want to run as much as the enemy tries to convince us it does.
Maybe people aren’t looking for perfect friends, as much as they are honest ones.
Are you honest before man? Before God? Or, are you trying to hide the worst of you, because you figure no one will want you anymore?
Our revealing before God — and man — is our healing. But, our hiding often is — our increase of shame.
“Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,[c] circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized,[d] slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” (Col. 3:9-11 NLT)
“Where did that come from?” I asked as I pointed it out to my husband.
“I don’t know.” He said.
The next day, I looked down on the ground and there were probably about 5 more. What in the world?!
I had just put felt-bottoms on those chairs. It makes no sense at all that they would be damaging the floors like this. But, they were. . .
I got down on my hands and knees, flipped the chair over, only to find a rock about the size of two specks of pepper.
This little rock could do that much damage? I said to myself while holding it in my hand.
It certainly can.
What little rock do you have in your life right now? Mine is complaining.
I keep on speaking-out what is not right, what hasn’t happened, and what isn’t coming together. I’ve been griping a bit. I’ve been being a little dour and sour. Commenting on little things. . .far too much.
“Show hospitality to one another without complaining.” (1 Pet. 4:9)
But, the reality of this is: I haven’t been creating a hospitable atmosphere for my family. The environment shifts the second I speak-out — a bad attitude.
What about you?
Are you uplifting others or killing the joy? Speaking life or making everyone participate in your every annoying moment?
People don’t remember the food we made them, the house we let them walk into, nor the gifts we sent them away with — they remember how we made them feel. Even more, I wonder today, how am I making the Holy Spirit feel, as He lives within me.
Are we being hospitable to the Holy Spirit, who indwells within us?
Today, I commit to all of you, to do my best, to mind my mouth. To think before I speak. To bring my grievances to God. To gain perspective before blurting-out. Now, I probably won’t be perfect (because who is?), but I do plan to be mindful.
Prayer: Father God, may I speak only what is good, noble, worthy and of good report. I want to love others around them, not pull them down into my muck and mire. Give me the grace I need to focus on what is positive and powerful, in you. Then, I will be full of joy and life. Give me the wisdom, as well, to speak thanksgving more than complaint. When I think of it, I do have so much to be thankful for. I praise you today, In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
All four of us turned our head to look out the car window. Dozens of buzzards were feeding on a dead dear. It’s gross, I know.
They devoured it. They were shredding it. They were ruthless.
All this got me to thinking. . . the enemy feeds on death.
Whereas, “Jesus is . . . life.” (John 11:25)
When I am filled with Jesus, I am filled with life. There is nothing for the enemy to feed on. When I am filled with the Spirit, I abounding in the spiritual. There are no wounds for the enemy to gnaw open. When I am praying to the Father, there is no decay the enemy can use against me.
I realize, for many of us the attacks, the discouragement, the devastating news, the demoralization around us, the lay-offs are prevalent around us. I have seen it too. I know it is hard sometimes.
But, some of us need to do an about-face and look at life again — from a different angle. We need to look to Jesus. Because, the enemy is feeding off your despair, discouragement, and doubt. And, you’ve let Him for far too long.
The tide changes when you look full in Jesus’ face. When you access, remember and meditate on His mercy and grace.
Do something new.
Tell your own spirit, “No more. Then, remind yourself: ‘Jesus is resurrection and life. He can bring back, restore or renew anything.”
Then, focus on His names:
King of Kings
Light of the World
Prince of Peace
Son of God
Lamb of God
Remember what He’s done, look full in His face — and let Him bring you, again, new life.
“Jesus said to the dead man, “Young man, I say to thee, arise!” And he who was dead, sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (Lu. 7:14-15)
Prayer: God, give me eyes for you. Above all I see, I want to see you. I ask for you to grant me deeper knowledge of your providence and care. Will you help me to take my eyes off of the heaviness that surrounds so that I might see and seek your face, in full? Give me grace to know and love you more. Come to my rescue. Bring life to what appears dead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
You all should know by now that I love taking walks. I go outside and just enjoy the air. Usually, I look at trees and all around. But the other day, a singular flower caught my eye. All by itself, it poked out of a massive pile of leaves within a wooded area. But, there it was. It stood bright.
Then, my kids and I approached our house after a day-out, and right in the middle of the mulch was another one. A flower. It popped up out of nowhere right in our mulch. Amazingly, there are not other flowers of its kind. But, there it was. Bright as day.
This morning, I walked through a grassy area and — guess what caught my eye? A purple flower shooting up. There weren’t any around it. Just an isolated flower.
Something woke up in me: God’s full-ability to turn any wilderness-wasteland into beauty. He specializes in this.
You see, what we see as ‘a nothing area’ or a ‘blah area’ is actually fertile ground for God’s growth. It doesn’t matter how we perceive it; it matters how God sees it.
God can do anything, anywhere. He makes beauty for ashes in the middle of the most war-torn marriage. He springs up the oil of gladness rather than mourning, even in the greatest loss. He rebuilds ancient ruins, from nothing, even if the foundations are cracked. He proclaims freedom to the captives in the most torturous of locations.
God is God; He is mighty to save?
What area of desolation are you facing?
Jesus came to. . .
“..bind up the brokenhearted, …proclaim freedom for the captives …release from darkness for the prisoners, …to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion…
..to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
…the oil of joy instead of mourning. . .” and the list goes on (See Is. 61).
This scripture has been fulfilled through Christ. Whatever desolate area you face, know that Christ has all-ability to spring life. Ask Him to do it; He is faithful.
Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lu. 4:20)
A few days ago, I watched an athlete in a TV interview. What struck me was not his confidence, but his lack thereof. He seemed unsure, insecure and hesitant. This is not common to champions. It seemed odd. Rather than saying something like, “I’m going to go out there and give it my all,” he spoke something like, “well, I am just going out there. . . and. . . we’ll see.”
I was intrigued by his words. I wanted to know how he was going to fare at the big athletic event that was coming up. I was pretty sure, he’d already counted himself out. I kept my eyes on the event. Sure enough, not much later, he got hurt and was out of the event.
Sadly, it wasn’t his athletic power or prowess that made him lose, but his mindset.
How often are we already defeated, before we even start?
Lately, I’ve been working on a project. If I’m honest with myself, my heart hasn’t been in it. I guess, underneath it all — I don’t want to fail and have bad results. I don’t want it to appear I didn’t do a great job at my work. I don’t want people to think bad things about me. I don’t want to try hard and then lose belief in my self.
“The timing isn’t right.”
“I don’t have the resources like I did last time.”
“I don’t feel good about how it is shaping up.”
“God probably is not calling me to do this.”
What excuses are you making — to not see through something you’ve promised to do?
Often, the Lord positions us to awkwardly trust Him rather than casually continuing our own way. We may see it as a position of: lack. But, God knows, it is a position of: power.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Ps. 127:1)
We build. It’s our construct.
He builds. It’s an impenetrable, unwavering, fortress, not easily tumbled down.
Which construct has a firmer foundation?
When God constructs, feelings, end results, people’s opinions, and outcomes don’t matter. When God constructs, we always get built up. It seems he’s coming to fix a window until He says, “Oh no, it goes much deeper than this — I have to get behind your walls.”
This is why sometimes outcomes don’t turn out as we expect. Because our good Father goes behind facades to build a sturdy house, rather than a feeble one. And, it is all for our good. For your good.
What are you building — a house of sticks? Or, one of materials that will last?
As we entrust our heart, our attitude, our will, and emotions to Him, He will build a construct that will not be tossed, thrown out or torn down — and that will endure all the way to and through heaven.
It is easier to give up than to endure with people. It is easier to walk away than to listen and understand. It is easier to “be right” and to decide them “all wrong” than to hear another perspective.
For years, I decided: 1. People would not understand me. 2. They’d hardly Listen. 3. They’d never change. So, when difficult conversations arose, irritants surfaced, or things got tough to handle — I’d pull-the-carpet out from under all of us. I’d quit the job. I’d run from the relationship. I’d decide the other party wasn’t – godly. I’d figure they didn’t have good intentions. I’d decide they were carrying too much “baggage”.
Areas where God wanted to grow me, I ran from. I started over with other people, rather than going deeper with people I’d already spent years getting to know. My loss.
What relationships have you run from?
In more recent years, my whole paradigm has shifted. Now, I realize:
People are growing just as I am.
When I give leeway, love, and a listening ear, others find radical growth with God.
More than changing them, God is usually up to changing me.
Fighting for “relationship” — and accepting hard truths about yourself — often means gaining a life-long friend or spouse.
There is usually more than meets the eye when it comes to a person’s offensive action.
Seeking to understand before seeking to run away is to uncover a deeper level of intimacy. This doesn’t mean there aren’t cases where it makes sense to put up a boundary, to set some distance or to end a relationship (that is a whole other post, for another day).
Love hopes: It hopes in the good coming for others. It hopes, believing they have good intentions. It hopes for great outcomes during hard-to-have conversations. It hopes in the Lord when the going gets tough. It hopes in miracles that proceed ardent prayer. It hopes to grow personally, more than it wants to fix others relationally.
Love perseveres: It tries again. It goes back to the drawing board to listen. It sees the potential and believes God to show up. It tells the truth, despite how hard it is. It shares the core-issue rather than covering over it and hiding it away. It gives the abundant grace needed, as much as it wants it for itself. It dies to fleshly responses.
“Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8)
Anything done in love, in God’s eyes, cannot fail. With “love,” you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Love lasts straight through earth into eternity. . . No man can halt, hinder or stop the lasting power of love you unleash. It is not dependent on them, but always reliant on God. To the complete extolment of God.
I was telling my 5-year old daughter about a Jesus story. He’d been teaching people all day and now the people were hungry. The disciples recognized a problem; there were only 5 loaves and 2 fish.
My daughter looked at me, oddly. . .
“If I was them I’d say, ‘Bring what you have to Jesus!'” She said.
Childlike faith nearly screamed out of her, “Just bring it to Jesus already”, “He’ll do it!”, “He can do anything!”
So, today, let my daughter’s words speak to you afresh: Bring what you have to Jesus!
Even if it looks like not enough. . . Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough know-how. Not enough answers. Not enough knowledge. Not enough wisdom. Not enough ability to ___. Not enough ability yourself to fix it. Not the right past actions. Whatever.
Just bring it to Jesus; run up to Him and say, “Jesus, this thing I’ve been handling — or mishandling for that matter – feels impossible, ugly, and unfixable. Frankly, it’s an issue I don’t know what to do with. I need you to handle it for me. Give me wisdom and instruction. I ask you for a miracle answer. You can do it!”
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves…They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Mt. 14:19-20)
All of Jesus can take your “hardly anything”, and multiply it into more-than-enough, with leftovers. Don’t doubt.
Asking is humility. Trust is your answer.
“For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory.” (1 Jo. 5:4 NLT)
Do you trust? If not, today’s your day to start afresh. To defeat the evil rising against you. To stand up against what has pushed you down for far too long.
Nothing can stop the Lord Almighty. May we agree and trust in Him today.
For instance, when a son arrives home from school, do we come down on him because he had go to school? Do we say, “You should already know this stuff.”
Or, when a kid says, “Why is the world not flat?”, do we berate them for not knowing.
Or, when they make a mistake, like blurting out a comment, do we hold it against them for a lifetime?
No. We know children:
“…For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (children).” Mt. 19:21
Likewise,we are children.
I don’t think God disdains the process of growing and learning as much as we do. He knows we are “becoming” like Christ.
We “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
This means we don’t already know everything. We will make mistakes. We take off one layer of the onion of __, only to 6 months experience a deeper layer God wants to remove. We find a more complete understanding of God’s Word that sets us free one year, and then it happens to a greater degree 2 years later.
God isn’t angry at us that we had things to learn. That we aren’t perfect. Or, that “only now, are we just getting it”. Or that “we’re so slow.” On the contrary, His process is our progress.
We are becoming, transforming and becoming liberated into the image of Christ. May we not despise the process. May we not run from the crafting work of the Master Creator. May we not think it is because we are ‘bad’ or not good enough. May we not disdain the fact that, like a child, we need Him. That He is helping us understand.
Going to school with God doesn’t mean that you are failing, it means He is growing you, renewing you and readying you for all that He has ahead.
Like a child, be okay with being in school.
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. . .” (Prov. 3:13)