Perspective

My morning started to go downhill quickly with feelings of frustration, anger, fear and very little faith. After several seething breaths, I took a cleansing breath and reached for my phone to read the Bible.

The first thing I saw was today’s date: September 11

All of my negativity washed away in that moment of perspective. How grateful I am to be standing here today.

In memory of all who died and lost loved ones on 9/11. I pray God’s peace that surpasses all understanding for you.

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Holy, Holy, Holy

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Isaiah 6:3

As I prayed last night, Jesus gave me this image…

We are full of holes. Imperfect people who experience disappointment, hurt, pain, abandonment, addiction, lost dreams, unrealized hopes, and failure.

On the cross, nails bore holes into Jesus’ flesh. The holes filled with blood and His blood poured out over us to fill our holes – to heal and encourage and make us whole.

Psalm 138: a psalm of David

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;

David gave his whole, decisively undivided, heart to God. He demonstrated complete dedication to the one and only God.

 I will sing your praises before the gods.

 David –King David – could have let his status and reign create a false sense of security, strength and power; yet, he always expressed his dependence upon and thankfulness for God. Appointed by God for His glory, David ruled his people as God’s humble servant.

I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.

David bowed down to God gladly, willingly and in full submission – humbled and gracious in God’s presence – because God’s character is trustworthy and loving and He will never change.

As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me strength.

 David called. God answered. And His answer brought strength to David’s soul. God is always present and never puts us on hold because He loves us. It is an example of “cause and effect”: ask and you will receive.

Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord,
for all of them will hear your words.
Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways,
for the glory of the Lord is very great.

David understood the plan God has for everyone to know Him and David took on the responsibility of sharing about God. For kings to acknowledge and thank God requires a denial of the fleshly desire for personal power and praise. David did just that.

Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble,
but he keeps his distance from the proud.

David experienced both being cared for by God in his humility and the separation as a result of pride. Self-centeredness creates distance. It is not God who moves away, but us.

Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me.

David was no stranger to trials. Throughout his life, David’s dependence on God was a declaration that he had no sufficient solutions nor the strength to endure on his own.

 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

David made grave mistakes in his life and chose sinful ways instead of godly ways multiple times. However, he always turned in repentance and is proof that God’s plan will be carried out for His glory!

A Joyful Noise

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God’s sovereignty, love and “faithfulness to all generations.” In Genesis, we witness the beauty of God’s creation and the promise of a chosen people—God’s faithful deliverance of the Israelites in Exodus; the courageous acts of faith in Joshua, and on to Judges and the miracles God performed using an ordinary, imperfect man like Gideon. Each of these stories ring with praise and thanksgiving for a God who builds up, guides and fortifies His people with an endless expression of faithfulness and love.

Because of who God is, the psalmist draws us into a state of rejoicing in Psalm 100. Verses 1-3 begin with “Shout,” “Worship,” and “Acknowledge.” We are called to extol that everything God creates and does is worthy of sharing for all to hear. It is also for God to hear. As He is pleased with us, we should not hesitate to tell God how pleased we are with Him!

For that reason, verse 4 joins proclaiming God’s greatness with a grateful disposition. Being thankful is an act of praise, worship, faithfulness, and love in the eyes of the Lord. It also blesses us with a God-centric perspective to our circumstances.

Psalm 100 sings without music. It refreshes our spirits and refocuses our thoughts on He who is the only One worthy of that kind of attention and affection. Why do we get so energized by the sentiment of this Psalm? Verse 5 answers this with clarity: “For the Lord is good.” God’s love and faithfulness are for eternity.

 

 

Call Me

 

Do you ever find yourself with some alone time and you think, “I should give So-And-So a call. I have a bit of time.” You call and there’s no answer. So then you start through your mental list of friends you’d like to chat with and try them one-by-one.

I did this today and no one was home, but I wanted to talk…to anyone about anything! Then I heard Him kindly say, “Talk to me.” And I chuckled.

Of course! No one answered the phone, but Jesus always does. Feel chatty? Talk to Jesus. Have a problem? Talk to Jesus first. Need to make a decision? Ask Jesus His opinion…it counts and it’s going to be better than anyone else’s.

I was also just having a conversation with a dear friend about our busy schedules, feeling disconnected and how important it is to be intentional about reaching out to others. It takes time, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. However, the effort has to be made and the time has to be set-aside for it.

The same is true with prayer – sharing life with Jesus. We have to be intentional. Relationships that flourish are nurtured and tended to. Relationships that become burdensome or forgotten and the ones we no longer take the time to feed.

It’s amazing how a little conversation here and there can keep a relationship intact and how you can walk away feeling buoyed by friendship. The same holds true with Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Never stop praying.” Keep that dialogue rolling with Jesus. You’ll be amazed at how your outlook on your day, responsibilities, others and life feels more positive and more purposeful.

So, the next time you want to chat, scroll through your list and make sure Jesus is on there.

Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again: Rejoice! ~Philippians 4:4

To Feel

 

There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, sad, anxious, worried, and even fearful. These are all emotions that sometimes, as Christians, we think are wrong to feel. But life is full of hard times, loss, and trials. God created us to be aware of difficult circumstances and to feel. If we did not feel, we wouldn’t care. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t love. And if we didn’t love we wouldn’t truly be made in the image of God.

Yes, we walk through hard times with God’s strength; He is a shield around us; we are called to hold our thoughts captive. Yes, there is a peace that surpasses all understanding found in Christ; and the joy of the Lord is real – something we cannot gain from the world but is gifted by God.

At the same time, these truths do not make us numb to feeling the circumstances that face us. We cast our cares on the Lord and He takes on the weight of our burdens as He walks side-by-side with us. The difficulty still remains, and that is no surprise to Jesus. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And that is the beauty and greatness of Jesus! He knows what’s coming in the next hour, next day, next year and He stands in an unshakable stance of victory. And guess what?! We stand with Him! Our difficult circumstances will not defeat us. So long as we abide in Christ – our Savior – we win! We have an eternal hope because Jesus overcame defeat and death when He died on the cross for us.

Jesus is with us in our suffering; and He will be with us after, always, and forever in ever-lasting victory.

 

Truths:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  ~2 Corinthians 10:5

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:7

 “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” ~Nehemiah 8:10  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John 14:27

 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. ~Psalm 55:22

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  ~Matthew 11:28-30

 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~1 Corinthians 15:57

 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ~John 15:7

 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  ~Isaiah 41:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Small Fish in a Big Pond

I read a lot of devotionals. It’s easy because they get emailed to me daily. There are so many people who author these devotionals. I’ve noticed that many (if not most) of those people have written at least one book. Many are on a speaking circuit and many have started wonderful ministries around the world.

So, I pause and think to myself, “Do we really need one more person writing devotionals?” Time and again I hear God answering me with a definitive, “Yes.” The world can have countless people sharing the Gospel, but until every ear has heard the Good News and has the opportunity to not only hear about Jesus, but to get a realistic knowledge of who He is, there cannot be too many words written about the Gospel.

From the start, Jesus knew countless people would spread the Word – from country to country and generation to generation. Jesus sent his disciples to go make disciples of the nations. (Matthew 28:19) He didn’t say, “Only you 12. Make sure no one else shares.” Teach one, who will teach two, who will teach three and so the multiplication begins. There can never be too many writers sharing their faith and hope that is in Christ.

Is there something you are passionate about, but are not going after with all your heart because someone (or some thousands of people) is already doing it? So long as there is demand, there is always room for more. Celebrate the uniqueness you will bring and get going.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. ~1 Peter 4:10

 

Hold Tight

 

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. ~Hebrews 10:23

A moment to breathe and she left. Only by the power and covering of the Spirit could she go. A baby on her hip, she quickly packed the car and went. The enemy had already come to steal and destroy. She was not going to let him kill.

She sped away from the abuse and into the loving arms of her parents. As her mom embraced her, she could feel the rapid decay of her presence as alcohol was taking the last sip of life from her mother. Within a year she was gone.

A single mom, facing a road of legal fights, financial struggles, loneliness and countless twists and turns, she had no idea what would come next. But with each step, she chose to live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

As her friend, how could I hold her hand tightly enough to fill it with a love that would fill the holes of betrayal and loss?

 “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. ~Zechariah 4:6

 

Nine years of chronic pain finally got a name – actually several names and none with a cure. The relief of finally knowing what was happening to her body was swallowed by the fact that it was not going away. It could stay the same. It could get worse. Too young to have her body betray her and too busy as a mom and wife to be slowed down, this was her new reality.

She literally had to give in to this body. She would push it to its limits, but she had to submit to the fact that strength could only be gained by acknowledging weakness. Humbled yet hopeful. Prayerful through pain.

As her friend, how could I hold her hand tightly enough to fill it with a love stronger than the pain surging through her body?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”             ~2 Corinthians 12:9

 

The older sister who always protected her baby brother just heard the words that he only had months left of his life. She knew she couldn’t protect him any longer. She knew God was in control. She knew it would take a miracle…and that anything was possible. She knew she had to set up doctors appointments and walk through chemo and be loving and not allow fear to rule and trust God and be an example of Christ through this trial…

But how? How would she get through watching her brother slip away? How would she face a future without new memories with him? How would she believe God was going to turn this into something good?   How could she know her faith and yet feel numb to her faith? She grasped for God’s peace and any inkling of His presence.

As her friend, how could I hold her hand tightly enough to fill it with a love stronger than the heartbreak of her brother’s diagnosis?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

 

As I held their hands, a friend at a loss for words and knowing I had nothing to offer, I felt love pouring back into my hand. I felt God’s love in their faith, in their struggles, in their questions, in their moments of doubt and in moments of silence.

As I held their hands, I learned that it’s okay to share verses when it seems redundant, because God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). His truths are not simply inspirational quotes.

I also learned through holding their hands that it’s okay to be angry, be searching, to question and to not have any answers or words that will make things better. God is in the middle of the flames (Daniel 3:23) and there is power in prayer. Prayer together and prayer in private. Prayers that are silent and prayers that are spoken by the Spirit. There is power and healing and strength and love in the name of Jesus.

 

There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. ~Jeremiah 10:6

 You keep track of all my sorrow. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
~Psalm 56:8

 Never stop praying.  ~1 Thessalonians 5:17

 

I Want…

Here is a total moment of honesty. I expect more of my young boys than I should. We are working on attitude, good work ethic and perseverance. A lot of times the complaining really starts to sound like nails on a chalkboard to me and I can’t stand it! I just want them to trust that their father and I make them do things (i.e. homework before play or basketball practice and not just games) to help them in the future.

I find myself spouting out statements that go over their heads – because they should. The life experience simply isn’t there yet. I tell them, “One day…You’ll be better off if…You’re going to have to do things you don’t like because…Trust me…”

Trust. It’s learned and earned. It is critical to the health of a relationship. It is what God calls us to do the moment we step into relationship with Him. Why? Because God is always loving, just, and with us. God is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. God already has plans and a future and hope for us.

In so many ways I am like my boys. I don’t always want to work hard – put in the time – to receive the reward. I want to spend my time the way I want to spend it, not the way that is most productive or beneficial. I want to see tomorrow today and I think I know what’s best for me.

My boys don’t and I don’t know what’s always best. Not by our fault, but by our infancy. Our Father in heaven knows our tomorrows, the best ways to get there, the ways in which we’ll get through valleys and the ways to triumphs. God is omniscient. God has a plan worth following and worth trusting even when blind curves stare us down.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

~Hebrews 13:7-8