“Peace Be Still”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  (Mark 4:39, NLT)

“Peace Be Still” (by The Belonging Co)

I don’t want to be afraid
Every time I face the waves
I don’t want to be afraid
I don’t want to be afraid
I don’t want to fear the storm
Just because I hear it roar
I don’t want to fear the storm
I don’t want to fear the storm

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh, peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks

I’m not gonna be afraid
‘Cause these waves are only waves
Oh, I’m not gonna be afraid
I’m not gonna be afraid
I’m not gonna fear the storm
You are greater than its roar
I’m not gonna fear the storm
Oh, I’m not gonna fear at all

Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Oh, peace be still
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks

Peace, peace
Over me

Let faith rise up
Oh heart, believe
Let faith rise up in me

 

Are you feeling lost?  Are you facing a storm, and you just don’t have the strength to stand against the waves?  Are you hurting or worried or afraid?

I speak Peace today…over YOU…your heart, your mind, your circumstance, your worries, your hurts, your grief…all of it.  May the peace of God wash over ever part of your life.  May it bolster you when you are weak.  May it soften and open your wounded and sequestered heart.  May it find you in your darkest hour and be a light when you are lost.  May it be a reminder of the greatness of our God, rebuilding your crumbled faith and giving you all of the strength you need to stand and say, “Peace be still!  You are here, so it is well!”

Let me tell you a little something about Jesus:  He’s bigger, He’s greater, He’s stronger, and He did not shed His blood in vain.  He came to Earth so that He could reach out to us in a very personal and experiential way.  He stepped out into the masses and got his hands dirty, reaching out to touch the lowliest of all, a direct response to His great love and compassion for humanity.  He was fully man so that He could have complete empathy for us, yet He was (and is…and forever will be) fully God so that He could be a direct line of supernatural power from God the Father to us.  He came to heal, restore, and break us free from the prison of sin…and through His death and resurrection it was all completed and accomplished.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. 

(Isaiah 53: 4-5, ESV)

So let your faith rise up from the ashes, and let your heart truly and fiercely believe that He has taken it ALL and is using every moment, every circumstance, everything that seems wrong, and everything that feels too big, to perfect His work in you.  In the midst of what feels like a storm, just trust Him, and speak His peace over your heart today.

These waves are only waves.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for Your peace.  I am confident, strong, and full of faith because of Your peace.  Amen. 

Can’t We All Just Get Along? 

(Psalm 133) 1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.


I look back on some of the most difficult times of my life and I am amazed to think of how much better bad situations were made by simply choosing to be in unity with my family.  Discord only serves to exacerbate the negativity that is already at hand, but when we instead become unified, with one mind, we are bound together…made stronger by love. 

God hasn’t promised us that life will be perfect.  In fact, quite the opposite.  We are guaranteed, because of sin, to encounter hardship and temptation.  How we opt to react is entirely up to us.  “Good and pleasant” doesn’t refer to the circumstance, it refers to our reaction TO circumstance!    When you’re in the midst of opposition, whatever it may be, it’s always “good and pleasant” to be able to come home to a family who speak lovingly to you and to one another.  It’s “good and pleasant” to have a church family that is unified…that will edify one another in truth and love…that is a safe place to come to when your home life is falling apart. 

You know, we serve a loving God, but there are certain things that He cannot abide.  I bet you would never dream something YOU do would be on that list…but let’s have a look anyway.

(Proverbs 6: 16-19) 16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him, 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

I don’t know about you, but if God hates it…I don’t want to be doing it!  A family is a delicate thing, and the church family is no different.  It is to be respected, each member treated with love and kindness.  This is where unity begins.  When you feel “good and pleasant” feelings toward your brothers and sisters, you are then able to come together as one, rather than a clique here and another clique there.  Setting all else aside, a body of believers can be a very powerful force in the lives of one another and more importantly in the world.  But…it takes unity…and unity requires love. 

We ought never allow Satan to send us on a detour through the desert by giving into our own pettiness and weakness of the flesh.  Instead, we have to bite back that untamed beast of a tongue, resist the temptation to have those whispered conversations in the church hallways and restrooms, and work together to create an atmosphere that is, yes you guessed it, “good and pleasant.”


Prayer:  Father in Heaven, I am humbled by the promises of Your word.  I know that through it, I am corrected, instructed, and made better.  Help me to never sow discord among Your people, but to always remember that unity is the lifeblood of Your church.  Amen.

“I Will Trust in You!”

(Psalm 105:39-41) 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert.


For the lonely, for the lost; when you struggle to believe; when you feel forgotten, discouraged and defeated; when your money’s run out and your hope is spent…

For the childless woman with a mother’s heart, for the widow, for the bereaved; when you wonder why; when sadness overwhelms your heart…

For the broken family, for the abused and neglected; when you’re numb and your faith is dead; when guilt and shame have crushed your spirit…

(Psalm 139: 1-5) 1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

…the Lord knows.

Sometimes you have to take a look in the rearview mirror, to gain some retrospective.  I’m sure if you were to ask the Israelites in the midst of their journey through the wilderness how they felt about life, they probably wouldn’t have had much positive feedback.  They were, in fact, dealing with crisis after crisis, misery upon misery (or so it seemed to them).  When their exodus began, they were exhilarated by their deliverance and the miracles they had seen take place in order to set them free.  They set out toward the promised land much like a child sets out on a foot race…full speed ahead.  However, we all know what eventually happens to that eager runner.  Thirst, exhaustion, discouragement and frustration all seem to set in at once.  That’s when he is faced with the choice to either dread the long road ahead and quit, or to look back on what he has conquered thus far and finish what he started. 

For the Israelites, there were MANY stops and starts as they navigated their way toward something that, at times, I’m sure was hard to believe or trust.  Looking forward, it had to be unsettling to see no end to the struggles.  Thousands of years later, here we are, children of God, dealing with the same issue.  Because we are human, because our vision is limited and we cannot see the entire scope of what God is doing in our lives, we have to depend on our faith to keep us moving.  Looking back on the trials, the Israelites were able to recount what the Lord had done to sustain them. 

A good friend once told me to record my prayers (both great and small) in a journal and to go back after a year or so and allow myself to be encouraged and amazed at just how many of them were answered.  It doesn’t happen, rarely ever, the way that we would have imagined or hoped for it to…the answer, I mean…because you know what?  Sometimes the answer is a no, or the dreaded, “we’ll see.”  In our impatience and petulance, instead of forging on in faith, trusting the Creator of the world, we let our human”ness” bring us to a halt. 

In our loneliness we say, “I’m forgotten.” 

In our financial distress we declare, “This is hopeless.”

In our loss we cry out, “I can’t go on!”

In our shame we whisper, “I’m worthless.” 

But the word of the Lord says this:  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I look back on my life I see Your hand in all things, the joy and pain alike, and because of Your faithfulness I will continue to trust in You.  Amen. 

I Gave Them The Same Reply

When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that no gap was left in it — though at that time I had not installed the doors in the city gates — Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message: “Come, let’s meet together in the villages of the Ono Valley.” They were planning to harm me.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.

(Nehemiah 6)

Have you ever noticed that when you start to move in a positive direction, that’s when distractions and roadblocks seem to appear? As long as you are just drifting along, not making any waves, things seem to be so much easier. Sure, you might bump into a rock every now and then, but you can just go with the flow and move past it. But when you decide that you’re not going to just let life come to you, when you set a goal and start moving towards it, that’s when things get difficult.

As is illustrated in today’s passage, people will array themselves against you and try to stop you from accomplishing your purpose. Some will be enemies, as in Nehemiah’s case, but even more perplexing is when it is your friends and family are the ones speaking negativity into you! Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might experience pushback:

1. Fear of Change

Humans are creatures of habit. It helps us make sense of the chaos around us when we can recognize patterns of circumstances and behaviors. When you decide to change the status quo, it throws things off and can create anxiety for others.

2. Jealousy

Some people cannot bear to see someone else content, happy, and fulfilled when they are not feeling those things in their own life. They would rather tear you down or hold you back than to see you receive a blessing that they desire but lack.

3. Control

Some want, consciously or unconsciously, to manipulate others. When you choose to acknowledge God as the Lord of your life, and submit to him, it threatens their desire be in control. When you are heeding and moving with the Holy Spirit, people will see they don’t exercise power over you any more.

4. Conviction/Guilt

When you decide to improve yourself or obey a call of God on your life, it can spark conviction in the heart of others who know that they also need to make some changes. Maybe they aren’t ready to up their level of commitment, so seeing you make strides in your life or walk with God makes them see the need in their own life, and it makes them feel guilty.

As I mentioned above, it’s not always our enemies that attempt to frustrate, dissuade or discourage us, but Nehemiah modeled the perfect response for both friend and foe — “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” — He was confident that he was doing the right thing and would let nothing get in the way of accomplishing his goal. They were persistent in their attempts, but Nehemiah was consistent in his responses.

Someday, we will all stand before God and answer for our actions. We will be called to account for our responses to his leading. When God placed a prompting in your spirit, or an opportunity to be busy about his business, what was your reply? What did you say to those tried to stop you? I hope that we will also be able to say, “I gave them the same reply.”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you have called us to grow in wisdom and righteousness, and we want to be faithful to that call. When others do not understand the call on our lives or are working counter to it, help us to shrug off the distraction and stay focused on what is important. Give us the confidence to be steadfast in our obedience to you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

No Separation Among Believers

Acts 10:27-29, 34, 44-45 – … “And as he (Peter) talked with him (Cornelius), he went in and found many persons gathered. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean…” So Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears Him and does what is right, is acceptable to Him…” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles…”

Stereotypes and classifications circulate around us in every aspect of life. From the time a child is born they’re required to have regular checkups to see exactly where they are in their development; what percentile do they fall into? They grow up and are watched by teachers and staff to see if they belong to group A (more-advanced learning abilities) or group B (the “average” learner.) As they enter high-school, even their peers are taught to start categorizing each other; who is most likely to succeed? Who’s the class clown? Who’s the best dressed?

As they grow into adulthood, they’re immediately poisoned by the media. Exaggerations and bullying of certain political and/or religious groups are on news channels and talk shows everyday. Are they going to be a democrat or republican? Maybe a libertarian? Do they want to be Pentecostal or Baptist? What occupation best suits them? Where should they choose to live? What type of person should they marry?

Separation all day long… Some of these things truly do help us make better choices, and we do have to try and figure out where in life we’re called to be. However, sometimes it becomes so common to pick out the pros and cons of everything, that we do it even when it’s completely out of line- without even realizing it!

I’ve been “in church” my entire life, and I’ve seen people classify other people as “unspiritual,” “liberal,” and “unqualified for ministry,” etc. The sad thing is, they weren’t even making these judgments based on Biblical principles, but on preferences alone. This caused division in the church, hurt in people’s hearts, and roots of confusion, bitterness, and isolation to spring up in the worst of places.

That’s why I love reading this portion of Scripture. God speaks to Peter and prepares his heart. Peter was open and ready to hear what God had to say, and he learned an important lesson, that served a whole lot of good just days later. God shows no partiality. He loves all of His children with an unconditional love. He instructed Peter to never call any person common or unclean. If they fear (respect) God and do what is right, they are acceptable to Him. We have no business classifying them based on our opinions. Sure, we should use discernment, as anyone can claim to be anything… but, discernment is more than a 3 second opinion based on appearance, so be prayerful, kind, gentle, longsuffering… (basically, put those fruits of the spirit into use! Galatians 5:22-23)

God has such a large kingdom! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all learn to work and serve alongside each other with a Godly love and acceptance? Encouraging and supporting each other in our daily endeavors to do what He’s called us to do? It’s not too late to start!

Find a fellow Christian today that you’ve never really spoken with, or even met, and talk about the goodness of the Lord. Share your callings and desires. Start up a friendship that will accomplish great things for Heaven. We’re family. We’re in this together for one purpose- to cause His family to grow! Let’s spread the hope of the Gospel, the peace it brings, and the blessings that come with it!

Let’s forget about who’s the smartest, most talented, and/or most fun to be around. Let’s not focus on “who’s most likely to succeed” anymore. Instead, let’s remember how we’re going to get the most done for the kingdom of God… TOGETHER!

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your unconditional love for each one of Your children. Help us to bridge the gaps that lie between us. Bring us together so we can accomplish the most for You. In Your precious and mighty name, amen.

“Always Stay Humble and Kind”

Screenshot 2016-08-26 08.26.47

(Luke 9: 46-48, The Message) They started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side. “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”

“You’re getting a little too big for your britches.”  My siblings and I heard that a few times in our growing up years. My mother was teaching us humility.  We were made to apologize.  We were held accountable for wrongdoings, and we certainly were not treated as if one of us was better than anyone else.  My mother would defend us, had we been treated unfairly, but she was also that mom who would side with the teacher when we got a negative phone call home or a bad grade.  I never felt unsupported, but I knew she wasn’t falling for any kind of bull I shot her way.  The few times in my life that I did manage to pull the wool over her eyes…well…I had to think and plan to get away with it.  Soooo not worth the time and guilt!  My mother kept us humble by holding us accountable.  No matter the amount of tears, stomping, yelling, protesting…we would suffer the consequences, and we would be made to do what was expected of us. 

My dad’s version of teaching humility was a little different.  He simply modeled it through his life.  He was and is one of the humblest and meekest of all the people I have known in my life…always putting others before himself (especially his wife and children), and never seeking to be someone or something he was not.  A remarkably charismatic and intelligent preacher, he never sought anything further than seeing the lives of people truly, and miraculously changed by the presence and the word of God.  His humility often came in the form of an astonishingly great amount of patience and love.  Others above self…always. 

All of which to say, I am grateful for parents who saw the importance of humility and love…choosing to make those attributes a priority in their parenting.  We were always around people who were societal “misfits” so to speak.  My parents, through their own lives, taught us to be loving and accepting of everyone…to be Christ to others as much as possible. 

As children, I think that most everyone has the typical delusions of grandeur that are innate.  They’re housed in the part of our spirit that also produces our imagination, our sense of wonder, and our ability to love just about anyone.  We desire to be the best in all things.  Unfortunately, this seems to be the one and only thing from that part of our spirit that seems to survive past puberty.  We naturally get a little too big for our own proverbial “britches.”  Greatness isn’t a bad thing to strive for, but it’s how we achieve it that can take us into that place of haughtiness that is so dangerous and addictive to the human spirit.  Proverbs 16: 18 warns, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”  We have to be careful not to become like Jacob just before he wound up in a wrestling match with God, attempting to acquire everything we want and what we think we need by our own means and plans.  Jacob was definitely too big for his britches. 

If you become “great” by asserting it…proclaiming, “I am the greatest!!”…by going your own route…by acquiring things and wealth…by competing and winning…then you are looking at greatness as the world sees it, and not through the eyes of God.  But when you can accept that you need God…accept others as they are…accept yourself as God made you…your foundation of humility is the strength upon which true greatness can be built.

Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.

Prayer:  Lord I recognize that in order to make You bigger, in the world and in my life, I must make myself smaller.  Give me patience when I struggle through the times when you are breaking me down, making me humble, and helping me to build on that foundation.  Amen. 

Everything That Breathes

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his sanctuary.
Praise him in his mighty expanse.
Praise him for his powerful acts;
praise him for his abundant greatness.

Praise him with trumpet blast;
praise him with harp and lyre.
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and flute.
Praise him with resounding cymbals;
praise him with clashing cymbals.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.
Hallelujah!

Psalm 150

I love reading the Psalms. When I was younger, I did not appreciate them as much. I did not really enjoy them as much as reading the parts of the Bible that talked about miracles and battles and heroes of the faith. But as I grew older, I began to connect with the emotions that characterize many of the different Psalms — joy and sadness, triumph and defeat, determination and desperation, and running through it all a sense of awe and thankfulness for the grace and mercy of God. This collection of ancient poems and song lyrics speaks to every part of the human experience and it is comforting to know that the emotions you feel or the struggles you face are normal.

The book ends ends on a joyous note with the simple psalm listed above. It reminds us that we should always be engaged in worship. It is why we were created, and no one is exempt from the command. When you read through the book, the writers of the various Psalms demonstrate how it is possible to praise the Lord regardless of your circumstances, so we really have no excuse!

Let’s take a look at why worship is so important:

1. It is deeply ingrained in who you are.

Hammers are made for hammering. Computers are made for computing. People are made for worship. It’s a part of your design. If you are not worshiping, you are not performing one of your primary tasks! Is it any wonder that so many feel empty and unfulfilled when they are neglecting one of their most basic functions?

2. It ensures that you maintain perspective.

When we worship, we begin to realize the immensity and majesty of our Creator and the smallness of our individual part in his creation. It helps us find our place, our purpose, and it reminds us that God is so much bigger than all of those big, scary, hairy problems that we face.

3. It inoculates us against negative thinking and speech.

It is very difficult to praise your Creator with one breath and then turn around and bite the head off of a family member or co-worker. Worship elevates the mind and lifts you above petty conflicts, jealousies, and hurt feelings. When we worship negative thoughts and emotions can’t find purchase in our souls.

4. It unites us with each other and with the rest of creation.

When we participate in worship, we are just singing along with the sun, moon, stars, oceans, mountains, plants, animals and creepy crawlies. They all proclaim God’s glory. And when we worship, we are joining believers all around the world, from many different nations and cultures. It unites us despite our differences, and unity is something that is needed now more than ever!

This is by no means an exhaustive list and we could find many more reasons for or benefits derived from worship. It’s better than multi-vitamins, diet, exercise or any self-help regimen ever devised to get you on the right track. The great part is that we don’t have to wait until Sunday to get started. You can worship right now, wherever you are!

I encourage you to make some time today to engage in worship. Whether it’s during your commute or in your office, blaring through your stereo system or straight to your brain with headphones, during your quiet time or dancing around while you do your chores, there is no better activity to set the tone of your day!

PRAYER: Father, we stand in awe of Your majesty and power. We are overwhelmed by the splendor of Your creation and the never-ending grace and mercy that You constantly display. Your praise will forever be on our lips. Amen!

Let’s Tell Them What We Have!

Acts 3:1-8- Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

 

As of late, I’ve really been burdened with this thought: “Am I helping the people that are placed in my direct path every day?” So often we want to travel across the globe or change our life entirely to feel as if we’re doing something purposeful. But, I felt God dealing with me about this subject specifically not too long ago. So when I read this Scripture, my heart felt such joy!

See, Peter and John were simply traveling the same road they were used to traveling. They were headed to the temple to pray. While on their set path, they encountered a lame man, longing for help sitting right there… just right there!

How many days have flown past us in which we didn’t “see” hurting, helpless people traveling the road right beside us? Have we been in such a hurry to get to where we’re going, so caught up in our earthly responsibilities, that we honestly just forget to look? And then, if we do remember to glance around, do we just say, “Hey! You should come to church with me?” And by saying that, do we feel that our “job” is done?

One thing I noticed in this portion of Scripture is that Peter and John, although right at the door of the temple, did not use that line. (Peter DIRECTED his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us. I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”)  Peter was ready. He was attentive. He was anointed. He saw an opportunity to bring glory to Jesus Christ, while helping a hurting soul, and he didn’t let it pass him by! And because of the attention, the statement, and the actions they took OUTSIDE of the church house, a miracle was wrought in that lame man’s life that day.

And then- look at what happened next! (And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and ENTERED THE TEMPLE WITH THEM, walking and leaping and praising God.” If we do what we’re supposed to do in our daily lives; if we allow ourselves to be led by Jesus Christ; if our lives are a testimony to the goodness of our God; those around us will want to come to church. We may not even have to ask! We can offer something else… exhibit something else… so powerful and full of hope that they’ll be asking us where to go!

Through that one act of obedience, a domino effect is sure to occur. I remember this saying I heard in Sunday School years ago, “You may win one that wins many…” People notice life changes… Victory stands out… Hope and peace are contagious… Whatever part you play in planting a seed that brings about salvation in someONE’s life, will be used to reach many more, so long as life goes on. (Acts 3:9-10- And  all the people saw him walking and praising God,  and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.)

While getting people to a church service is a fantastic idea, we don’t have to wait for that. God has instilled within us a power and an anointing to draw them to Him in the grocery store, on the side of the road, and/or in McDonald’s parking lot. YOU, ME… all of us were commissioned to GO and tell the world of the Gospel and the hope of Jesus Christ. Let’s follow Peter and John’s example going forward! Let’s stop. Look. Listen. And offer what only Jesus Christ gives!

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for this example and reminder of what kind of power you’ve placed within me. Forgive me for neglecting to use it. Help me to change this beginning today and continuing from here on out. Give me Your eyes, to see those right on my path that need You! I love You, Lord. I’m grateful for Your relentless mercy. In Your name I pray, amen.

“Fear Not”

(Psalm 147: 1-5, NLT) 

Praise the Lord!

 

How good to sing praises to our God!
    How delightful and how fitting!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem
    and bringing the exiles back to Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name.
How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!

 

I kept trying to write last night before bed, and I knew I wanted to use this passage, but I just couldn’t get any thoughts together, so I decided to get some sleep and revisit it all in the morning.  Then this morning I wake up to a newsfeed full of reports of yet another tragic, seemingly random, shooting of innocent people…this time on the streets of Las Vegas.  I don’t usually comment on current events, nor do I make it a habit of using the tragedies and horrors that are happening in our world right now as a writing prompt.  Normally I just keep my thoughts to myself and I pray.  I ask God for protection for my family, for peace in the midst of so much hatred and violence, and for His name to be glorified and magnified despite it all.

But today…

In the face of even more death and violence, I want to be of encouragement to you all…because we so quickly go into fear mode.  We begin to wonder, “Am I next?”  We rush out to get guns and permits to carry them (I’m talking to myself on that one), we worry about End Times, and we begin to see our brothers and sisters – our fellow Americans – as potential threats.  Essentially, we allow Satan to have a stronghold on our minds and hearts – we give him exactly what he wants…which is for us to be afraid.

So what I want to say this morning is:  remember who God is.  When we stare evil in the face, remember that our God – Creator, Redeemer, Healer, Deliverer, Soon and Coming King, Alpha, Omega, Lord of Everything – He is bringing back the exiles!  Sometimes it takes heartache and complete brokenness to catapult change and restoration…like a dilapidated, condemned building that has to be torn down completely before it can be rebuilt, or until something new can be constructed in its place.

Don’t ever forget, all of the hurting hearts will be healed, and all of the brokenness will be mended…because our God is making all things new!  It has been promised – a promise of victory!

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”  (Revelation 21: 3-5, NLT)

There is no denying that every day things are getting worse.  We may not know the minute or the hour that He is coming back for us, but we should have enough wisdom to realize that such a time is drawing very near…but we don’t have to worry or fret when things like this happen.  No!  Though we experience heartache, we can’t allow that to take us to a negative place.  Instead, we have to buckle down and prepare to work harder – reaching out, in love, to a world that truly is lost and dying.

 33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

So, as for me, I’m going to continue to say, “Praise the Lord!”  All of my days, I’m going to praise Him.  I’ll hand Him my sorrows, because I know He can (and will) turn them into great victories that bring joy unspeakable to my heart.  I’ll trust Him – no matter what – because I’d rather have hope than fear!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I lift up the victims of all of the violence in our country and in our world today.  Specifically, I pray for those hurt and killed today in Las Vegas.  I ask that You send armies of Your people – people who are full of Your love – to reach out and encourage these families as they deal with the trauma and grief in the aftermath of this tragedy.  I pray that Your healing hand would be upon each of them today and in the weeks to come, and may it all be for Your glory and for Your Kingdom.  May we not fear.  May we not give up.  Rather, I pray that Your children are encouraged, strengthened, and upheld in Your hands.  Amen. 

“You Matter”

(Luke 12: 6-7, NLT) 6 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Sometimes I get to feeling lost — insignificant.  I think it is within our human natures to desire, in our own ways, to be noticed and deemed worthy of love and affection.  We like getting “pats” on the back, and gaining recognition for the things we’ve done well, and more than anything, we crave attention and approval from the people that matter the most to us.  So, naturally, when we don’t get that, we are left feeling lonesome and under-appreciated. 

I grew up in a large family, the middle daughter of five children, and though my parents were very loving and present in our lives, I often felt lost in the mix.  Part of that is just who and how I am as a person.  Somewhat of a wallflower, I often feel as if I could simply fade into the background and no one would notice or care.  Surely, this is a lie from the lips of the devil, as I know in my heart that there are many people who love me and value me as a part of their lives, but I can tell you this:  the devil will quickly find your biggest weakness and that becomes the central focus of his scheme against you for your entire life.  For me, my own struggle with worthlessness has been, and remains, my biggest hindrance in life. 

Feelings of insignificance start so small — with a hurtful word spoken, with a cold shoulder turned your way, with rejection.  Maybe you are like me, and you can still hear hurtful words echoing in your mind — you can still feel that pain and rejection even after decades have passed.  Please know today, and let yourself be encouraged by the fact, that though these things leave scars and cause us to withdraw at times, they are not from God.  These things come from people — who are hurt, who are flawed, and who have much to overcome in their own lives.  People will fail us from time to time — that’s just a given — but we can be encouraged today and every day that God — who knows and sees all, and who has numbered each and every hair that will ever grow from our heads — He sees us in every moment of our lives.  Please, know this and never forget:  YOU MATTER.  In fact, you matter so much, that God gave up the most precious part of Himself — Jesus — to serve as the sacrifice for your failures.  You matter so much, that He was willing to leave a part of Himself here — His Holy Spirit — so that you never have to feel alone, so that you can experience perfect peace, and so that you can forever be directly connected to Him — your Heavenly Father.

So, no matter how people have caused you to feel…you matter.  You are important — an integral part of the body of Christ!  So when you feel unseen and cast aside, you must remember that the God of all Creation has his eye on you, and you are His treasure — irreplaceable, beautiful, and priceless — worth so much more than you could ever know.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for this loving reminder that to You I am significant and prized.  When I feel lonely and passed over, help me to remember that YOU see ME.  I am valued.  I am loved.  There is no greater thing in this world than that.  Thank You, God, for Your unfailing love for me.  I don’t deserve it, but I receive it.  Amen.