At first I thought it was about finding my focus. But then I realized that it wasn’t so much about finding my focus. It was about making a more conscious decision in regards to what I choose to focus on.
I choose where I focus my eyes. I choose what my thoughts dwell on. I choose what task to set my hands to. I choose what I listen to.
But we have to ask ourselves…Do I choose correctly?
We may start out with good intentions. But whenever you try to focus on something distraction comes. And that’s where we have to make a decision. Will we try to focus harder, even if it means we have to strain our eyes to see, or will we allow ourselves to be distracted? Will we go where distraction leads us?
Distraction is one of the tools Satan uses expertly. He knows exactly which carrot to dangle before you. He knows your weaknesses. He knows what will derail you.
IF YOU LET IT!!
Perhaps it’s time we stood our ground and showed him our strength.
May he know that (we) can do all things through Christ who strengthens (us). Philippians 4:13.
May he know that we stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and (will) not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1.
The verse I was given for 2020 was Habakkuk 2:1-4.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance that race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.” Matthew 27:32
I awoke this morning with these verses repeating through my mind. In my minds eye I could see it.
Jesus carrying His cross, His body already wounded and dripping and slippery with the sweat and blood and the tears pouring out, His legs buckling under the weight of His cross, under the weight of our sin, the weight of our shame, the weight of our brokenness, the weight of our suffering, the weight of our cares. The weight of the whole world from the beginning to the end, past present and future.
He could have carried His cross alone. He really could have, He had it within Him and still has it within Him to carry His cross alone. But He knew we needed Simon of Cyrene’s example. And oh to be Simon.
I can see it, Simon picking up the cross and following Jesus. Jesus’ blood already pouring down the cross and Simon’s grip gets slippery. Simon the first to receive a covering of Jesus’ blood. Simon the first to pick up the cross and follow Him.
Though the weight is enormous, Jesus still says today “cast it on Me, cast it all on Me, cast every weight on Me, I can still bear the weight of it all, it’s not yours to carry, I can handle it, My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.
The world is a better place because you are in it!!
God declared that over you the very moment He breathed life into Adam and Eve.
Genesis chapter 1 brings us the creation story. The story of how our world came to be and how we came to be on it.
At the end of day 1 (Genesis 1:4) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.
At the end of day 2 (Genesis 1:10) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.
At the end of day 3 (Genesis 1:12) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.
At the end of day 4 (Genesis 1:18) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.
At the end of day 5 (Genesis 1:21) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.
At the BEGINNING of day 6 (Genesis 1:25) He looked at everything He created and He said it was good.
At the END of day 6 (Genesis 1:31) He looked at YOU and He said it was VERY GOOD.
In one days time His opinion of His creation went from just good to very good.
And all because He created YOU!!
In Genesis 1:26-28 He decided that this good world He created needed something more; It needed YOU! So He made you to look like Him.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
He looks at this good world He created and sees His fingerprints but then He looks at you and sees His face.
Just like a newborn baby is a reflection of its parents, we are a reflection of the Father.
When people look at you do they see His face?
Do they see His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His gentleness, His goodness, His faith, His gentleness, His temperance?
God see’s it all and He see’s you and He calls it beautiful!
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs to it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10
These words have been a repetitive whisper all week. A constant reminder that the Name above all names is here.
Jesus is the name. Jesus is the strong tower. Jesus is the sanctuary.
Sanctuary: A place of refuge or safety. Shelter. Hiding place. Protection. Security.
In medieval times of battle people ran to the high towers of the castle to seek safety from the advancing enemy. They could see the enemy coming. They could see how much time they had to prepare for the coming battle. They could see how much time they had to sharpen their weaponry and strengthen their armor. They refused to go down without a fight and they refused to go into battle unprepared.
There was a day when one could run into a church building and claim sanctuary. The law and the government couldn’t touch them there because it was thought to be holy ground. A person could hide in the sanctuary.
Jesus is the shelter from the storm. Jesus is the place of refuge. Jesus is the hiding place.
Jesus is my covering, my shield, my hiding place, my sanctuary.
So today I run to Jesus; today I claim sanctuary.
Don’t walk, don’t crawl, run. Run like your life depends on it because it does.
I’m not one to make new years resolutions. A lot of people do and never follow through. And I’ve never been one to choose a word for the year as some of my friends have, although I have enjoyed reading their posts about the words they have chosen. On a whim I took Dayspring’s find your word for 2019 quiz. (You can take the quiz here) .
It gave me the word Courage.
At first I didn’t think anything of it but that word kept coming up. I read Isaiah 41 yesterday and that word echoed off the pages.
Isaiah 41:6 New King James Version (NKJV)
Everyone helped his neighbor,
And said to his brother,
“Be of good courage!”
Be of good courage. Eighteen times God tells us to be strong and of good courage. Just get on biblegateway.com and type in courage and read for yourself.
Good Courage. According to dictionary.com Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc.., without fear; bravery.
Be strong and without fear. Be strong and brave.
Whatever road you are on in 2018 and whatever road you go down in 2019, be strong and of good courage because:
Isaiah 41:13 New King James Version (NKJV)
For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’
So in 2019 I fight for courage. I fight to lay down fear and pick up the pen.
And while you are of good courage, be an encouragement to those around you. En: to cause to be. Courage: brave. Encouragement is to cause to be brave.
I am thankful for all of my encouragers. I’ve needed it more than you will ever know. And a special thank you to the friend whose simple “gotta start somewhere” gave me the courage I needed. You have no idea the power those simple words held.
I just celebrated my 32nd birthday a couple weeks ago. I was blessed to have celebrated my life with some pretty amazing people. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
I woke up that morning with these lyrics on my heart.
“It’s His breath in my lungs so I pour out my praise”. These words have weighed heavy since that morning. How often we need the reminder that we are not promised the next breath, we’re not guaranteed the next moment. How often I need that reminder.
In a split second car accidents happen and if you see it coming like I did, you close your eyes and hold your breath. Because in that split second of a moment, you don’t know if you’ll take the next breath, and you don’t want the impact to be the last thing you see.
There are those who have said that your whole life flashes before your eyes in those split second brushes with death, but none of that mattered to me. All that mattered in that split second was will I see Jesus when I open my eyes. So with that last breath that trajectory angles and force of impact say should have been my last, I simply say Jesus save me Jesus forgive me.
January 9th will mark 7 years since my car accident. It’s not a day I choose to remember but traumatic experiences are not easily forgotten. Every year I’m reminded that God chose to add to my life. He chose to continue to breath life into me. That as long as there is breath in my lungs there is purpose for my life.
So this year there were no secret birthday wishes when I blew out my candles, just a holy ventilation and a thank you Father for this breathe and the next breathe and every breathe after that.
Psalm 150 New King James Version (NKJV)
Let All Things Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
Praise Him for His mighty acts;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet;
Praise Him with the lute and harp!
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
” Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I’ve heard it quoted this way a thousand times. It makes sense. Give Jesus your burden and your load gets lighter. Give Jesus your burden and you trade weary for rest.
Yes, this makes sense. Because who doesn’t want a lighter load. Who doesn’t want rest. We’ve been living with a make-my-life-easier mentality. But we’ve been missing the mark here. When we quote it this way we’ve taken an all-or-nothing gospel and turned it into a take-what-you-want buffet style gospel. And boy have we messed this one up!
We’ve managed to leave out the most important part of this passage. We’ve skipped a verse.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Don’t just take what you’ve heard and run with it. Search out the scriptures for yourself. Is what you are hearing lining up with the word of God?
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (humble), and you will find rest for your souls.”
It’s a whole other ball game when we throw this verse into the mix. This one’s a game changer.
A yoke is a device used to train an animal to carry its load properly and to obey direction and commands. There are a few different kinds of yoke. Two of which are a single yoke and a double yoke. With a single yoke one is trained to work alone. With a double yoke two are trained to work as a team. One is dominant and leads the other but the two animals are working so closely together that one can’t tell that one is dominant. This article describes the different kinds and functions of a yoke.
When we take His yoke upon us, we’re trading the single yoke for a double yoke. We’re no longer trying to carry the load on our own like the stubborn donkeys we often are. When we take on His yoke we are yoked to Jesus. We learn His ways and learn to work together with Him and allow Him to be the dominant one.
When we try to go it alone, the load just keeps getting heavier and there’s no time for rest because we have too much to do and to far to go. We buckle under the weight of it and we’re tired and wore out and we sometimes lose our way.
He never said He would take away the load. But He makes the load lighter. When we allow ourselves to be yoked to Him, He helps us carry the load. When we learn to do things His way the going gets a lot easier. Learn from Him. Learn His ways.
” And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask/ jar/ box of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke that flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.” Mark 14:3-5.
“And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” Luke 7:37-38.
I’ve started reading Lady In Waiting by Jackie Kendall & Debby Jones. It’s a book that every woman should read weather they are single or married. It’s relevant to both. In reading this book, I’ve stumble upon something of value.
When the woman broke her jar of oil at His feet the Pharisee’s criticized her for wasting such costly oil. They were only looking at it’s monetary value. They weren’t looking at what that oil meant to her. She wasn’t wasting money. Her sacrifice was much more meaningful than it’s monetary value.
” In the days Jesus was on earth, when a young woman reached the age of availability for marriage, her family would purchase an alabaster box for her and fill it with precious ointment. The size of the box and the value of the ointment would parallel her family’s wealth. This alabaster box would be part of her dowry. When a young man came to ask for her in marriage, she would respond by taking the alabaster box and breaking it at his feet. This gesture of anointing his feet showed him honor.” – Lady in Waiting”
I believe that when she broke her alabaster jar at His feet that what she was really saying, was “I choose Jesus. I choose to honor Jesus. I choose to love and obey Jesus. I choose to put Jesus first before all men. I choose to make Jesus my first love.”
She knew the monetary value of that oil. But she didn’t care about that. I imagine she wept for the sinner she was. She wept for the cost of her sin, not the cost of the oil.
The Pharisees may have criticized her, but Jesus championed her.
“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman had done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Matthew 26:13
She went down in history as the woman who poured out at Jesus’ feet.
James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
I’ve been wrestling with these words. Grasping for meaning. Searching for the other piece of the puzzle. Today it’s placed in my hands. It all makes sense now. Why I wasn’t getting very far.
Matthew 15:8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.”
It all makes sense now. I’ve been one of ‘those’ people. I’ve held out one hand saying pour in while I’ve clutched my heart shut with the other. Not in fear of it but in fear of what it may require. My heart must follow after my words.
I’ve got one foot in the laver trying to get ‘clean’ enough, good enough, worthy enough while the other foot slowly inches toward the brazen alter, the consuming fire. And yet the distance is too far, I have to step out of the laver. I have to stop looking back. It’s all or nothing, one or the other, I can’t stand in two places.
I must be poured in before I can pour out. And He’s standing there ready to pour, waiting for me to take that next step.
Acts 2:18 “On my handmaidens, I will pour out of My Spirit!”
I pick up my copy of The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. My highlighter bleeds on nearly every page. One line echoes off the page and seeps into my soul. And the tears spill. And my heart is rent in two as I remember. Because I
“was the friend who has slapped up cold, guarded walls to protect her heart at the cost of anyone else’s heart, the woman who’s been more interested in self-preservation than anyone else’s situation.”
I remember the moment that wall went up. I was walking down the hallway towards the students that would be my new classmates. I was terrified. I tried to hide behind my notebook. A voice without reason whispered they’re going to hurt you to. I didn’t want someone’s words to hurt me again. So my 10 year-old self picked up the bricks that had already been hurled at her in the form of words. Bricks stacked one on top of the other held together by a mortar made of lies formed a wall to protect the shattered remains of her heart.
It was 13 years later that I realized what I had done. That the wall didn’t protect my heart. In building that wall I not only hurt myself but I hurt other people. It literally took a woman kneeling on the floor in front of me, begging me to just say hello to her (you know who you are), for me to realize it. It’s true, hurt people hurt people. And I hurt so many people without realizing it until that day.
That day began the process of trying to find a way past the wall. The prison cell with no doors. A self-made prison is the worst kind and the hardest to escape from. It took Jesus to break that wall down, He’s the only One that could, the only One that held the right key.
Some days it’s hard not to rebuild the wall. It’s a daily struggle to live vulnerable. A struggle to keep my heart guarded enough that the lies don’t get back in but un-guarded enough that the love does. It’s a struggle to find the balance between guarded to much and not guarded enough.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
Time and time again mustard seed faith is taught from the pulpit. We know this faith well. As Matthew 5:17 states “faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains”. Mustard seeds are tiny and miniscule. That’s not really much faith.
But still the smallest amount of faith accomplishes much.
In Hebrews 11, we are reminded of the great faith of Abraham and the faith the other biblical heroes and heroines had. We’re instructed to follow their example of faith. We know these examples well. We know their stories well. We want that kind of faith to be found in us.
But there is another kind of faith. One not widely spoken of.
Jesus Marveling Faith
Hidden in the pages of Matthew, we discover a different kind of faith. A kind of faith that has me questioning, Does Jesus see it in me?
In Matthew 8, Jesus arrives in Capernaum. A centurion, a gentile soldier, someone who was not of God’s chosen people seeks the healing of his servant. Jesus said that He would come with him and heal his servant, but the centurion’s response leaves Jesus standing in amazement.
The centurion humbly declares that “I am not worthy to have You enter my home: but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed (Matthew 8:8). The centurion goes on to say in verse 9 that when he commands his servant to go, his servant goes.
By saying what he says in verses 8 and 9, the centurion is making a profound statement.
Just as his word to a servant is carried out so is the Word of Jesus.
All Jesus has to do is speak it and it will be done. This was the kind of faith the centurion had.
What Jesus says in verse 10 must have caused a wave of questions in the multitudes that witnessed this encounter. “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed Him, ‘verily I say to you, I have not found so great a faith, no, not in Israel.'”(Matthew 8:10)
Jesus saw the greatest amount of faith in Him coming from a gentile soldier. This gentile soldier possessed Jesus marveling faith.
You’d think the greatest faith would have been found in one of His disciples or one of the multitude that followed Him or among His chosen people Israel. But the greatest faith was found in a man He didn’t come to save.
Ask yourself this question: Do I have Jesus marveling faith?
January 9th, 2013. Four years ago. The Facebook memory app just reminded me what happened that day. It’s not exactly a day I care to remember but it was a pivotal point in my life. An event that would cause me to re-evaluate my life and the choices I had made.
It was the hardest lesson that I ever had to learn. And I willingly chose to learn it the hard way. And four years later, I’m still paying the consequences.
In August 2012, I had applied for and got hired for a job in Florida. A job that would require me to move across multiple state lines. My reasons for applying for the job were for all the wrong reasons. I wasn’t supposed to go, but in my stubbornness, I ignored all the make a U-turn now signs and breezed past the stop signs. I went anyway.
The job didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would. I was downright miserable and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. But still I stayed.
On January 9th four years ago, I was in an automobile accident on the way to work. My wrist was in the surgeon’s words, shattered. Surgery was required. Surgery led to 3 months with a steel rod screwed into the outside of my arm. I was handicapped and unable to work, unable to write. Unable to wash and brush my own hair. This wasn’t part of my plan.
My well laid plans fell apart. I learned the hard way to be obedient and to always “acknowledge Him in all my ways” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In my devotions today I was reminded again of how important it is to include Him in my plans and to allow Him to have the final say. His will not mine.
” Hear counsel and receive instruction, that thou may be wise in thy latter end. There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”
2 Peter 1:10
“So then, brothers (and sisters), give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall.”
“Walk with Me in holy trust, responding to My initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your plans. I died to set you free, and that includes freedom from compulsive planning. When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice. A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control. Turn from this idolatry back to Me. Listen to Me and live abundantly!” – Sarah Young- Jesus Calling”
” In no way is it enough to set out cheerfully with God on any venture of faith. You must also be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the itinerary will happen as you expect. Your Guide will not keep to any beaten path. He will lead you through ways you would never have dreamed your eyes would see. He knows no fear, and He expects you to fear nothing while He is with you.”- Streams in the Desert”
” For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
When we walk by faith, we walk blindly. Walking by faith takes trust. Trusting that the One guiding us will not lead us astray; that He will keep us safe.
When we walk by our own perceptions; we see what lies ahead. We see the hard and the change and the storm and the obstacles. We see the danger and the squalor and the pain and the suffering. We see what we don’t want to see. And fear takes hold. And so we look for the way out or the way around and oftentimes we find it.
Because we take the short-cut around; we miss out. We miss the mark. We lose the blessings that were rightfully ours. We learn our lessons the hard way. And while we’re still wallowing in our fear and self doubt; He sends the obedient ones to do the job He had for us. Because souls are at stake here. Hearts are hanging in the balance, some by a thread. And they needed us in that moment; and we failed them.
When we walk by faith, we don’t know what’s coming. We don’t know what He has in store for us. We just have to trust that wherever He leads us, is for our good. That the road He has us on is the right one, no matter how many hills and valleys. No matter the flying leaps of faith we must take. We have to trust that no matter what; He is right there by our side, guiding us and walking the road with us; and trust that if our foot slips, He will be there to catch us.
So this year, with blind faith, I write unhindered by fear and doubt. This year, I let the guardrails down and I allow my heart to spill out onto the pages. Because souls are at stake here; and I don’t want to fail them.
Titus 2:10 “…that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”
In Titus chapter 1, Paul gives Titus the task of seeking out and ordaining elders in every city. A daunting task I’m sure. Paul then goes on to describe the character qualifications that these elders must possess. In Titus chapter 2 Paul explains that the elders must be as described because it is their job and responsibility to ensure that the younger generations are properly trained in the way that they should go, for the younger generations would follow the example that was set before them. And then Paul makes this very profound statement: “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things”.
Let’s look at the words adorn and doctrine.
Oxford dictionaries defines adorn as to “make more beautiful or attractive” and defines doctrine as “the belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church”.
Lets for word that verse this way for clarification sake: that they may (make more beautiful or attractive) the (belief or set of beliefs held and taught by the church) of God our Saviour in all things. (emphasis mine)
Wow! What a weight of responsibility that is placed on our elders! And on us as we will become the next generation of elders!
This isn’t saying that the elders add to the gospel because no-one is supposed to do that. (See Deuteronomy 4:2).
What this is saying is that the life we lead and the fruit of our faith should lead one to desire to share in our faith.
So what kind of adornment are you? Do people see gaudy fake costume jewelry that screams look at me or do they see a diamond formed through life’s pressures and trials that shouts from the rooftops, Look to Jesus?
“The veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:15-17
My heart was once veiled to the truth. The truth that I am not what they said I was. When you hear something repeatedly, no matter how false it is, it begins to disguise itself as truth. That’s how the deceiver works. He reiterates himself until you believe. And he uses broken people to break you. Because “he came to steal, kill, and destroy”. (John 10:10 part a). And he will ravage your heart if you let him.
But Jesus!” He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly!” (John 10:10 part b).
He unveils our hearts so that we may see the truth. That we may see Him.
I imagine it’s like the groom removing the veil from his brides face, publicly declaring what’s his with a kiss.
He rushes in like the wind and mends our brokenness. And declares us His.
And He sets us free.
Beautiful things happen when we stand before the King with unveiled heart.
He turns our broken into beautiful. He replaces all the not good enoughs with “My grace is sufficient for you”. (2 Corinthians 12:9) He replaces all the not pretty enoughs with “Beautifully and wonderfully made in My image.” (Psalms 139:14). He replaces all the unloveds with “nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39). He replaces the alone with “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Mother Teresa was right. ” The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” I know; because I’ve lived it. Some days I’m still fighting it.
I may have only been 8 years old, but the words and actions of others still cut deep. Words planted so deep in my heart that those words became what defined me. I was alone, unwanted, unloved, not good enough. I was the outcast. I had closed the door of my heart, locking the words inside. And yet my prayer through all of this was “Just one friend, that’s all I want, just one friend.” That door was shut and locked and no-one was allowed in. People tried but because of those words that now defined me, I never opened the door. They had to try hard to even be able to slip in through a crack. Some doors only Jesus can open, He is the only one with the right key.
I encourage you to look for the cracks. Look for the opportunity to shine Jesus’ love into someone’s heart. Because that light pierces through any darkness, that light shines through the cracks. It was people being the Love that Jesus calls us to be that convinced me to answer the door when Jesus knocked, He may have had to bust down the door of my heart; but once I allowed him to step across that threshold, I’ve never been the same. No matter how difficult the person is, keep trying. Don’t give up! Keep your door open and keep your light on.
“Once upon a time, I was the lonely one looking for companionship. Now I can be the one with room at my table-or space on my sofa- for someone who is in need of such love and acceptance.” – Karen Ehman #ListenLoveRepeat.
I guess you could call this my debut piece. I wrote it way back in 2008 when writing ‘notes’ on Facebook was the cool thing to do. It’s now here for safekeeping and for your benefit.
Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ And His disciples heard it.
Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.’
I don’t want to be a withered fig tree. When Jesus walks beside me, I want His hunger to be satisfied. I want to be fruitful in season and out of season.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
These are the fruits that we should be producing. Not just when we need them, but all the time. In season and out of season.
Got your steel toed boots on? Good, you’re going to need them. I’m wearing two pairs, one right over the other! You know for that extra protection needed for those toes that are about to be stomped on.
I’ve been reading Lisa Bevere’s book titled Girls With Swords. After coming across this line; MY toes are throbbing…so much for those steel toed boots!
“Let us now compare two warring kings-Israel’s first king, Saul, and her final and forever King, Jesus. Israel’s soldier-king, Saul, was anointed as both king and deliverer because Israel wanted to be like the other nations. They wanted a king to call their own-a figurehead of sorts that they could point to with pride. Rather than submitting to the invisible, invincible, eternal God Most High, they wanted someone they could see and touch. They wanted a human champion who could lead them into battle rather than a heavenly King who would fight for them.”-Lisa Bevere
OUCH! That one hurt!
I’m just like them. I want tangible. There are days when His invisible presence just isn’t good enough. At least that’s what my flesh tells me.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that it’s wrong to desire a tangible, affectionate relationship because it’s not. But it is wrong to place that desire above the desire for deeper more intimate relationship with Jesus.
God did give them the kings they wanted. But if you look at the lives all of those kings led, they had faults. They let the Israelites down.
Saul committed suicide. (1 Chronicles 10:4). David committed adultery. (2nd Samuel 11:2-4). Solomon had multiple wives and concubines. (1 Kings 11). Herod led an infanticide. (Matthew 2:16).
What we want isn’t always what we need. We don’t need a king; We need Jesus.
“God is everything we need but He sent His Son, Jesus, to be everything we want.” -Lysa TerKeurst
So which king do you seek? The one who will often fail you; or the One that will never leave you nor forsake you? (Hebrews 13:5).
I had originally written this as a submission for a devotional book, however the organization it was submitted to has not contacted me regarding the devotional book project. I believe since I did not hear back by the time I was supposed to hear back and the project has been removed from their website, that the project is no longer being done or my piece simply wasn’t selected and they failed to notify me. Whatever the case may be, it is now here for your benefit. May you be blessed by it.
No Matter The Cost
“Now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:22-24 “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13
Paul gives us one of the greatest lessons in obedience no matter the cost. He knew the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem. He knew that his hands would be bound in chains there. He knew that he would face trials there. Yet still he went. Going to Jerusalem was an act of obedience to what God had told him to do. He obeyed no matter the cost.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Were you obedient knowing there may be consequences to your obedience? I know I have. I know it is a hard place to be. Though I did not face prison, I did face heartbreak. A friend of mine was living in sin. She already knew she was; but God told me to speak to her about it. I had to be obedient knowing that there may be consequences. I did not know what the consequences would be; but I did know that she would not be receptive of what I had to say. I knew that she would take what I had to say the wrong way. Though I went to her in love and concern for her spiritual journey, she took my words as judgement. Though she needed to hear what I had to say, her heart was not ready to receive it in the way it was intended. I had to be obedient and then I had to place her and the situation in God’s hands. My friend cut off communication with me for six months and did not invite me to her wedding. This was the consequence of my obedience. But God brought me through it and honored my obedience. When her heart was ready to receive my words, our friendship was restored. My friendship with my friend is made stronger because of the trial we went through.
If you continue in Paul’s story through Acts 28, you see that God brought him through his trials as well. Though Paul endured beatings and persecutions and imprisonment for several years, he was set free in the end and continued on to minister to the people of Rome. Paul’s testimony was made stronger because of the trials that God brought him through.
If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. God never gives us more than we can handle. He will never ask us to do anything that we are not capable of doing, so long as we rely on Him to equip us for every good work. “ Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21
The story of Jonah is another example of the importance of obeying God. Jonah’s disobedience landed him in a lot of trouble with God. Paul’s story teaches us the blessings of obedience while Jonah’s story teaches us the dismay of disobedience.Jonah redeemed himself in the end, but how much better it would have been had he obeyed to begin with!
Friends, I encourage you to obey no matter the cost. Whether God is asking you to say something to someone, to take His story to a far off land, or to step out of your boat, do it! Do it in spite of your fears! Do it in spite of what the consequences may be! The blessings of obedience far outweigh any costs you may have to pay.
Father God, help me to know your perfect will in my life. Help me to always be obedient to Your voice. Help me to be obedient even when it’s hard, even when the odds are stacked against me. Help me to be obedient even when I am afraid. Your ways and Your thoughts are so much higher than mine. Help me to trust that You know best; to trust that You will take care of me. Help me to keep my eyes on the victory that is in You, for You fight my battles. In Jesus name I pray Amen.
I took this photo on my birthday last year. That day I had woken up to gray skies and threats of rain. That just made what I just knew would be a horrible day even worse. I kept thinking about that dreadful 30 coming next and the countless ways my life had gone so wrong. I was nowhere near where I wanted to be, hadn’t accomplished the long list of things I wanted to do with my life. I felt as if I was going nowhere fast. Twenty-nine wasn’t looking so good to me that day.
As my family and I were heading out the door that day, my mood was just as gray as the sky. I remember leaning against the doorway and thinking “Once, Just once; I would like to have blue sky on my birthday!” But blue sky in November just wasn’t going to happen. At least I had convinced myself of this.
On our drive to dinner and a movie, this woe is me self was staring out the window when all of a sudden the sky opened up and a shaft of light shined through. And there it was, a patch of blue sky in the shape of a heart!
And I didn’t even directly ask God for it. But He knows our thoughts. (Isaiah 66:18). He knew how desperately I needed that piece of blue sky.
It was as if He was saying, “I see you, I know, I am here, I love you.” In that moment I realized that God pursues us. He was pursuing me that day.
His pursuit of us is relentless. It is “immovable in purpose or will” and “occurring without interruption or end”.
These past couple of years for me have been about pursuing more of God. But in the midst of my pursuit, I failed to see the moments when He was already there. He’s already here!
Tokens of His affection are scattered all around us; we need only open our eyes to see and our hearts to receive.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:5
I will never forget that day I climbed into my father’s lap and asked him why we were not packing his things in boxes. I was five years old and didn’t fully understand what was going on. But I was observant. I knew enough to know that we weren’t packing his things. I looked him square in the eyes as he gave me a half-truth. The army wouldn’t let him go yet. He still had another year of service left at Fort Leavenworth. I will never forget looking into his eyes that day and seeing the heartbreak pooled there. It would be years later that my mother would reveal the full truth to me. She had every intention of filing for divorce that year. I am so thankful she didn’t. He may have been gone for that one year but by the grace of God, he won my mother’s heart back and is still here with us today.
I don’t know if it was because of that ‘lost’ year or those few scary times when we thought we might lose him to one health problem or another; but to this day my favorite place to be is in my father’s arms.
There is truly nothing like the sound of my father’s heartbeat.
The sound of his heartbeat takes away all the fear and melts away the stress. There, I am safe and secure. I’m a daddy’s girl through and through.
As much as my earthly father loves me, there will be and are days when he will fail me. I will be let down. Promises will be broken. His arms will fail me. He won’t always be there to catch me when I fall. I won’t always have the sound of his heartbeat.
But there is One whose arms are everlasting.
Deuteronomy 33:26-27New King James Version (NKJV)
26 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun (the upright one), Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. 27 The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, ‘Destroy!’
My heavenly Father desires me to depend on His everlasting arms more than I desire my earthly fathers arms.
Everything I need can only be found in my heavenly Father’s everlasting arms.
Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.
2 O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.” 3 As for the saints who are on the earth, “They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”
4 Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god; Their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, Nor take up their names on my lips.
5 O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. 6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.
7 I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
“All we find are Band-Aid cover-ups. The wound is still there, just hidden away.”
We are all in search of something.
We look for love. We look for a sense of belonging. We look for purpose. We look for security. We look for what we’ve lost.
Our heart longs to find that which it lacks.
We are so desperately hungry for it, that we look in all the wrong places. We look everywhere but the one place it can be found. We want love so we turn to people and our hearts get broken. We want to belong, to be accepted, so we try to fit in and we find ourselves trying to be something we’re not and end up hurting ourselves. We want to have purpose so we try anything and everything that we think might make us happy but end up more empty than before. We’ve lost things and people along the way and are grasping for something, anything to fill that void. But nothing we do works. All we find are Band-Aid cover-ups. The wound is still there, just hidden away.
Are you looking in the right place?
All these things and so much more can only be found in one place. They can only be found in Jesus. ” But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”- Matthew 6:33 Seek Him first! He should always be the first place we look. You need not look far. He said He will be found by us. “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
What if we had the imaging technology to see our hearts through God’s eyes?
Your heart is of great value to you. From a medical standpoint, it is of high import. As long as your heart is beating and your blood is coursing through your veins; all systems are go. A heart that stops beating typically results in death. We know to take care of our hearts for this reason. We even have the medical technology to see what our hearts look like, how they are functioning, and what might be blocking them or keeping them from functioning. We do everything we can to keep them going strong.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 KJV
As important as our heart is to our physical life, how much more important it is to our spiritual life!
The Darby Translation says to “keep thy heart more than anything that is guarded”. In addition to guarding (keeping) our heart we are also told to guard our mind (see Romans 8:5-6) and to guard our mouth (see Ephesians 4:29). All three are important. But the heart is of high import. I love the way the Living Bible puts it. “Above all else guard your affections. For they influence everything else in your life”.
What you do with your heart affects everything!
What if we had the imaging technology to see our hearts through God’s eyes. What would we see? Would it be well guarded as He advises us to do? Or would there be missing pieces, blockages, malfunctions or death?
Have we given our hearts to people it should not have been given to, only to be returned with pieces missing. Have we allowed things/sin into our hearts that have caused us to die a spiritual death. Have we held onto things we should have let go of that create blockages in our hearts. Have we let lies and doubts plant themselves in our hearts like seeds causing our hearts to malfunction.
Examine your heart. What you’re storing there comes out.
Luke 6:45 ” A good man out ofthe good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out ofthe evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out oftheabundanceoftheheart his mouth speaks.”
Jeremiah 24:7 KJV “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”
Today this verse strikes a cord with me. For the longest time, I knew about God. I had a heart to know about Him. I loved hearing the stories about him. I loved memorizing and reciting His word.
But I didn’t know Him. I didn’t have a heart to know him. I am discovering that there is a big difference between knowing Him and knowing about Him. Knowing about him is good but it doesn’t really mean anything until the head knowledge turns into heart knowledge.
Sometimes I look to other translations for different wordings for better understanding. In the amplified bible it says “a heart to know, recognize, understand, and be acquainted with Him”. Contemporary English version says “a desire to know him, and a want for him to be our God”. International Standard Version says “the ability to know him”. The living bible says “a heart that responds to him”. That’s a lot of responsibility on our part! But he’s already done His part.
He desires to know us! So much so that he gives us a desire to know him. It’s a relationship that requires communication and action! Let’s not be one-sided in this! We get more out of him than he gets out of us. Let’s make this personal. (He will give me a heart to know him, that he is my Lord: and I will be His, and He will be my God: for I will turn to him with my whole heart.) This implies an intimately close relationship. He desires to be with us in that secret place, the place that only He should ever be allowed to go.