“Jeeeeeeehoshaphat!”

(Joshua 21: 44-45) 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.


Screenshot 2016-05-12 07.22.25

Battles are trying, and they make us weary.  Over the course of our lives and our walks of faith, we face many of them, some of which seem to never end.  In the midst of it, we can begin to feel as if we just cannot continue on as is. 

Personally, I can’t identify with the fellows in the picture above in a literal sense, as I have never physically fought in a war.  I’ve never put on a military uniform, left my friends and loved ones, and traveled somewhere foreign to engage in life-threatening combat.  I don’t know that specific kind of fear and loneliness, and though I will most likely never have to experience it, I do know that as a person of faith in Christ, there is a much different type of warfare I must willfully face. 

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

It’s inevitable that we will encounter struggles, but we are not left powerless.  Paul goes on to say, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13). 

We are warriors who are equipped for battle.  All we have to do is brandish our faith, stand firm, and hold onto the promises of God, and at the end of every trial that we meet, just like the people of Israel, and much like the soldiers above, we will receive rest.  We are never done fighting, but we are always victorious, whether we see it or not, because that is the promise!  God is just as faithful to us today as he was and has been to Israel.  If you believe the word of the Lord, then your faith has no room for fear, doubt, discouragement or defeat. 

I am reminded of something that happened with the tribe of Judah when Jehoshaphat was their king.  Jehoshaphat was informed that three different tribes were on their way to wage war against Judah and were already close at hand.  These three tribes formed a huge army and Jehoshaphat became very alarmed.  Using great wisdom and exercising faith in what seemed like a hopeless situation, this king turned to God in prayer and called for a fast across the entire tribe of Judah.  In response to the prayers of his people, the Lord spoke to them and said, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…”  (2 Chronicles 20: 15,17)

The people of Judah, instead of cowering in fear, began to sing praises to the Lord, and that is how they marched toward the looming battle ahead.  When they finally came to a place where they would be able to see the approaching armies, they saw only the lifeless bodies of their enemies…not one soldier spared.  Ain’t that just like our God?  You see, the Lord has already gone before us.  He makes the rough places smooth, and he clears a path for us.  Sometimes that path leads us to battle, and we have to jump in and fight, but when we grow weary and are wounded there is rest.  He leads us beside the still waters, where we can drink deeply and regain our strength in him.  His promises are true, and he cannot fail us.    

(Jeremiah 31:2) “This is what the Lord says: ‘The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.’ ”


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, in my weakness I know that you are stronger.  In every situation, I trust you.  When darkness hangs heavy over my head, I will turn to you and sing your praises because I know that whatever I face, you’ve seen it already and you have prepared my path.  I know that I can be strong because in you I will always find rest on the other side of the battlefield.  Amen.

Witness

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37)

The other day, I was talking to a police officer and he began explaining the process of how he receives subpoenas and is required to give testimony in trial cases. Even though he has testified many times, he described feeling shaky and nervous on the stand, and it’s easy to understand why. All the attention is focused on the witness, the opposing lawyer is parsing every word, looking for some inconsistency or other way to discredit the testimony, and someone’s fate hangs in the balance. It’s a dramatic and nerve-wracking, but necessary, part of our justice system.

In a very similar way, disciples of Christ are also called to be witnesses. When you read through the gospels, Jesus often makes reference to the fact that one of the primary reasons he created his inner circle of disciples is so they could bear witness to the signs and wonders that he performed. When it was time to replace Judas, the disciples made a point of selecting someone who had been present from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and had witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The Holy Spirit was sent to the early church to empower them for witness, and even the manifestation of speaking in tongues was primarily given as a sign to convince unbelievers. Christians who are not giving witness to the truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are not doing their job!

However, when it is our turn to proclaim the gospel, too often we shrink from the opportunity. We worry that we’ll mess it up, say the wrong thing, or look foolish. We worry that we will appear judgmental, lose influence, or friends. There is a lot that can go wrong, and for that reason we are tempted to leave it for the next Christian that comes along. But the stakes are too high to just pass the buck.

Like giving testimony on the stand, when we proclaim our faith we are stepping into the spotlight, and we will undergo intense scrutiny. People will look at the life you lead, the words you speak and the choices you make, to see whether or not you are sincere. Some will attempt to deconstruct your words, hoping to catch you in some inconsistency or make you look ignorant and foolish. But just like in a trial, another person’s fate hangs in the balance and for that reason we cannot remain silent.

Our world is hurting and many of the loudest voices are merely stoking the fires of conflict. People are confused and can’t figure out how to see their way clear of the problems facing them and their families. The need for a people who will proclaim Truth, who will speak Light & Life into the world even at a substantial personal cost, has never been greater.

God has given you a job. He has commissioned you to go, be His witness, and make disciples. Are you up for the challenge?

“For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth…”

PRAYER: Father, the thought of speaking up about our faith can be very intimidating sometimes. Thank you for being patient while we work up the courage to do it, and for sending the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us through the process. Help us to see the urgent need for more of your Truth in the world and to be your bold witness. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen!

Access Granted!

Mark 15 (vs.37-38)- And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last breath. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom…

This year I was able to spend a little time in the amazing New York City. While we were there, we determined to make time to view Trump Tower. The building was absolutely incredible; and very true to its name. It seemed to go on and on vertically for miles. We went up to every floor we could, but after about a quarter of the way up, there were no more visible escalators, other than the one that would begin our journey back down to the lobby. There were no points of visibility to see anything that reached further than the level we were standing and below. There were secured doors at every corner, but only those with special access codes were allowed to go beyond that point.

This is, of course, to be expected and the reasons behind such security are entirely understandable. Still, there was a daunting curiosity that was hard to ignore. I wonder what’s up there? Is President Elect Donald Trump here for the holidays? Is the rest of the building as breathtaking as this small portion we’ve already seen? So many questions floating around the brain that will (more than likely) never be answered. Only a select few are permitted to enter those doors… and I’m not one of them.

Back before Jesus was crucified, (paying the ultimate price for our sins), getting to God was pretty much the same way. Only priests were allowed to go behind the “curtain of the temple,” aka: the veil. No one else was able to come directly to Him and experience His presence. There were none worthy. Sacrifices could be made; commandments followed. However, feeling Him and coming into contact with Him was saved for those anointed as priests and prophets.

Jesus broke that barrier for us. The very fact that the veil was ripped from the top to the bottom is evidence enough that a strong, supernatural “Force” destroyed that separation between God and man. Now, any of us can approach the Father, by going through Jesus Christ, His Son. (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5) His sacrifice- His gift- when accepted, makes us worthy… because He stands in the gap for us, makes us clean, and intercedes for us. This allows God the Father to look at us and see spotless, perfect souls because of His Son.

How special does that make us to Him; that He would give us access to everything He possesses and all that He is. We don’t have to bare all of our soul before another individual in order to receive God’s acceptance. Kneeling humbly at His feet is all that is required. He will meet you where you are!

If you don’t know just how important you are to the Creator of this world, remember this occurrence. All those metaphorical doors needing special badges or access codes to reach your Savior- no longer stand in your way. YOU, I, WE have been given access to enter the door to reach our God. (John 10:9) There’s nothing standing in your way…

Prayer: God, I thank You for making a way for me to get to You. Thank You for taking my place and making me worthy enough to feel Your presence, Jesus. May I experience You near me each day. In Your name I pray, amen.

God’s Not a Chicken, Is He?

(Psalm 91:4) He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.


My husband’s grandfather is in love with chickens.  He took up the hobby of raising them in his yard over the last decade or so, and became lovingly dubbed (by my son) “Papaw Chicken.”  Chickens have been such a big part of this man’s life that my then 3-year-old directly associated them with Grandpa Hank.  Thus, the nickname.  Over the course of our many visits to his home over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch, chase, pet, and feed hens, roosters, and baby chicks.  I have to say, I think I fell in love with these silly birds myself.  What truly won me over was watching the hens with their chicks.  A mother hen is faithful.  She shields her offspring from would-be predators with her feathers, and it’s truly an amazing and endearing sight to behold! Have you ever seen a hen sitting still on the ground only to get up to reveal a dozen little chicks sheltered under her feathers?  The first time I saw this I was truly surprised to see them all under there, so snug and hidden so well.  And as that mother hen begins to move around the chicken yard, the babies move with her, safely scooped back into the refuge of her feathers by her gentle yet firm wing when they straggle behind.

Sometimes we are the straggling chicks, aren’t we?  Because we are growing and maturing, there are times when we fall short and we have to be redirected, but our Father God is a faithful mother hen to us.  His wings are all-encompassing, and we are never left behind.  And His gentle hand draws us near to Him again. 

Growing up is not easy…

I can recall several instances in my life (in both childhood and my adult life) of being so fed up with making mistakes, learning from them, making more mistakes, and learning from those…just the endless pattern…it can be so frustrating!  As a child, on bad days, I remember getting as close as I possibly could to my mother…needing her shelter and comfort to see me through.  And as an adult, I’ve found that even though I still need my mother at times, on those rough days when I don’t have much faith in myself, I lean into Him, my heavenly Father, and I can’t seem to get quite close enough.  Why?  Because His faithfulness is my rampart, my shield, my defense.  When I’m not enough he sustains me.  When I’m weak, he strengthens me.  All I have to do is look back on my life and I see His hand in every blessing, in every trial, and in every victory.

(Lamentations 3:22-23) 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Just like those little chicks, shielded and safe from harm, we are held…


Prayer:  Father God, your love exceeds far beyond what I can comprehend, but I see the evidence of your faithfulness in my life.  Thank you for the shelter of your “mother hen” wings.  Amen.

“Giving My Best”

(John 12: 3-8, NLT) 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. 4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. 7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Perspective is such an important part of our spiritual growth.  The goal is that we can and will eventually see things through the lens of our faith in Christ and our devotion to that faith, yet our vision tends to get easily skewed.  It is very easy to get caught up in the habits and motions of the things that we do for the cause of Christ.  We have these ideas in our minds about all of the things that we should be doing — all of which are good and righteous deeds…worthy causes indeed — but if we are not careful, something momentous gets lost among the bustle of our church business.  When we are constantly in motion, we begin to miss out on moments of intimacy — opportunities to just sit in the presence of Christ and just love on Him…to bless Him with the sacrifice of our time…giving Him the best part of ourselves first. 

Christianity is most definitely intended to be a life of service to others.  We should give of our time and resources to help support those who are needy and lost.  We should be creative in our programming and events…making sure that we put forth our very best…in an effort to reach people who might otherwise be unreachable.  We should work hard in all ways to better and further the Kingdom of God.  It is, after all, our Great Commission.  However…what good is any of that if we lose sight of the most important part of who we are in Christ…love…our first love…the greatest commandment of all?  It is only then, when we have taken the time from our busy work, that we are able to reset and rest in that place of freedom and peace that is only found at His feet.  Before we ever attempt to love others, we must make sure that we have first given Jesus the time and consideration that he so deserves.  We simply cannot not love others adequately if we are constantly missing out on these invaluable opportunities with our Lord.    

(Matthew 22: 37-39, NLT) 37 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It truly is all about perspective.  We desperately need to see this world through the eyes of Christ, and in order to do so, we desperately need to spend time with Him…to better know His word, His heart, and His will.  It is very similar to a marriage, actually!  When you get too busy and start to simply co-exist parallel with your spouse, things start to fall apart.  You may say you love your husband or wife, you may do all of the things you’re supposed to do for him or her, but if you never take the time to sit and share your heart with that person, it all just seems pretty pointless. 

Perspective.  Don’t let your work for Jesus overshadow your love for Him.  Give Him the best part of your day, and the biggest part of your heart.  He will, in turn, fill you with all of the time, resources, and anointing that you need…to the point of overflowing…in order to do His work.  All things for, through, and by Christ…He’s the only way.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I get distracted so easily by my busy schedule.  My heart is always in a good place, but not necessarily always in the best or right place, because when I am neglecting my time with You, I become misguided and I begin to see things through my own perspective rather than through Your eyes.  Help me to stay focused on You.  You deserve my best, and that is only accomplished when I love You first…before anyone or anything else.  Amen.

Let Us Go Also

Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

[Jesus replied] “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” — John 11:7-16

Loyalty is a word that has fallen out of favor and is not respected as highly as it once was. In fact, the most common place the word is used now is with Customer Loyalty Programs that might knock a couple bucks of your grocery bill, but are abandoned as soon as another store offers a lower price. In a society that looks at all forms of authority with suspicion, someone who is loyal is gullible—blindly believing what they are told, a “sheep”— or a fool denying themselves the benefits of hopping onto the next best thing. Even marriage vows, the most sacred, life-long commitment people should make, is viewed as something that is only honored as long as it is convenient.

For many, it is far more important to keep your options open, to be able to jump ship and position yourself to take advantage of whatever circumstance presents itself. Deep down we know that this is not right. It’s one of the reasons that we look down on “bandwagon fans,” who switch their loyalty all the time to make sure they are cheering for the winning team. We recognize the value of being a person of integrity, someone who stands by their words and follows through on their commitments, but we struggle when it comes to actually living that out.

In today’s Scripture, we see a great example of loyalty in action. Thomas had made a commitment to follow Jesus. He would go where Jesus led them, and do what Jesus told them to do. That meant he was even willing to follow him even unto death and encouraged the other disciples to do the same. He didn’t have to do that. In fact, many of Jesus’ other followers had abandoned him along the way, but not Thomas.

“Doubting” Thomas is most often remembered for his skepticism in the aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, I think Thomas’ skepticism was just a natural consequence of his pessimistic/realist way of viewing things. It didn’t mean that he wasn’t committed. He was all in, but he just needed a little assurance along the way, which is something I can easily relate to. Because he was loyal, Thomas was able to witness one of the greatest miracles in recorded history, the resurrection of Lazarus!

Like most commitments, being a disciple of Christ requires a daily decision to follow through. Each day presents another opportunity to leave the path. It is full of exit ramps and road-side attractions to distract you. However, we must stay focused on the destination and committed to the journey. When we are faithful to our commitment, God is sure to reward that loyalty!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for always being faithful to us. We can always count on You. Help us to display that same level of faithfulness and loyalty, to You and to the people around us. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Where Are You Taking Me?

Mark 8:22-25-  And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to Him a blind man and begged Him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when He had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

 
When I was a child, one of my favorite places to play was our attic. It was fairly large, very well-organized, and the perfect little hideaway for a gal that liked to dream and imagine. I had a few lamps plugged in up there, a recliner we no longer used, and all my favorite books and journals. It was my favorite place…

Until that night.

I was making my way to the back of the attic… during a storm. I wanted to get all cozy up there and read a little while listening to the rain hit our roof. I was even allowing my little brother and sister to join me. Just as I reached the back, BANG! Lightning hit somewhere not too far away and all the power went off in the house… including my little plugged-in lamps. With no windows and the darkness that loomed about outside, everything went black. I blindly reached for my siblings and led them as best I could out of the attic. We made it out after what seemed like forever, and the fear that had been hot on my trail finally grabbed me. The thought of being alone in that attic in the pitch black sent shivers down my spine. Never again. I decided to try out the front porch from that day forward…

I’m now 28 years old… but I’m not afraid to say that I still don’t like walking around in the dark. I’m still frightened at the possibility of someone… something lurking around a corner that I can’t see. (Talk about a legit case of the heebee-jeebees.) Unless something extremely important demands I do it, I just don’t. Simple. There’s not an overabundance of scenarios that are more unsettling to me.

I can only begin to imagine how this blind man felt in Mark 8. Scripture says some people brought him to Jesus, but I’m sure it was people he knew; people he was comfortable with. How was he feeling, though, when this Man he’d never met takes him by the hand and leads him away from the people, sounds, and streets that were familiar? Living with no vision offered little sense of security, and that all lied within the walls he had always known. Where was he headed now?

Do you ever feel like that blind man? You know Jesus; Who He is and what He’s capable of… but does He ever lead you on these journeys that take you far away from your comfort zone? Of course He does! While I can guarantee that it is never His intention to scare us, I can just as accurately promise that He doesn’t want us to stay in the same place for the rest of our lives. He longs to take us by the hand and lead us out away from the voices that echo all around us; from the walls that have long surrounded and held us captive; from the place that over time convinced us it was okay to live with whatever ailed us.

Jesus, however, knows much better! He longs to give us our vision back completely! That blind man was used to seeing nothing but utter darkness. The first time Jesus touched him provided a better way of living, no doubt. He could make out shapes and sizes and movement. (“I see people, but they look like trees walking.”)  But that wasn’t enough. He spent just a little more time with Jesus and his sight was fully restored! (Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.)

The more time we spend with Jesus the more we’ll learn to trust Him. The more we trust Him, the clearer our “vision” will become. When He grabs our hand and starts directing us down some unknown path, we won’t hesitate to move our feet. We’ll see over and over again how He can offer us restoration like nothing else ever could.

Don’t live with your “blindness.” Don’t settle for groping around in the darkness, relying on the walls you’ve gotten used to. Make your way to the Savior and follow Him wherever He leads you. There’s always a blessing waiting!

 

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for opening my eyes to Your truth. But, God, I know there’s still so much more for me to learn. I long to grow in You, and I understand that in order to know You better, I must follow wherever You lead. Help me trust You more and more. In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

 

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

(Habakkuk 3: 17-18, NLT) 

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

    and there are no grapes on the vines;

even though the olive crop fails,

    and the fields lie empty and barren;

even though the flocks die in the fields,

    and the cattle barns are empty,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

Sometimes you just don’t get what you want.  That thing you’ve longed for all of your days.  That expectation.  The ideal. You’ve prayed for it.  You’ve waited, and waited, and waited for it.  You’ve cried out to God, “WHY?!?”  You’ve been angry, sad, impatient.  You’ve been joyful, generous, understanding.  Yet still you wait, and still you stand with empty hands.  At least…that’s the way it feels…when you are left wanting and longing for something. 

This feeling applies to so much in our lives — as we are all different…with varying goals, dreams and desires — yet for so many of us, this feeling is a result of infertility.  It is a silent suffering that plagues the homes of more individuals, couples and families than we ever realize.  I don’t want to monopolize this opportunity to encourage others with my own personal struggle over this specific obstacle…as it pertains to my life, but suffice it to say that I have walked the road of loneliness and despair that comes when your body will not do what you so want it to do…when you don’t get what you want

I got pregnant with my son very quickly, and the pregnancy/birth experience was easy and pleasant (aside from those typical discomforts that all mothers have), so when we decided it was time to try for a second child, our assumption was that it would just happen.  Yet…happen it did not.  Until…one day it did!  Father’s Day 2010 we had a positive test, and we excitedly shared our news with family…yet within the coming week, we experienced the pain and gut-wrenching disbelief that is miscarriage.  Since then, it was much of the same…over and over and over again.  I asked my doctor, “Why is this happening to me?”  There were several physiological reasons that were working together to prevent a successful pregnancy.  I was given odds and statistics, and as a result…I felt like a huge disappointment…broken and faulty.  This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to be…how things were supposed to happen for us!  So, I lied to myself…and to others…oh Lord, did I lie! 

“We don’t want more children.” 

“We are content.”

“It’s been too long and I don’t want to start over.”

And on and on went the lies.  It made me feel better to lie, because when I was honest…I got mad.  The anger would then lead me to conviction, because I am well aware that being angry with God only leads to a hardened, sinful heart.  Yet no matter what I did…whether I was lying about and hiding my true feelings…or whether I was allowing the anger to sear my heart into a stony, protective shell…I was unhappy. 

But isn’t that where selfishness leads us to though?  Unhappiness?  How can it take us anywhere else?  I was thinking with my “Id” (that carnal, instinctual part of my psyche), and allowed it to just sort of take over.  I wasn’t thinking Heavenly thoughts anymore.  I was so focused on what I thought I wanted, that I was missing out on the joys of being grateful for always having what I needed.

Please let me encourage your heart today.  I know the frustration of feeling that your cries and prayers have fallen on deaf ears, but understand this…Father knows best. 

As a child, I remember asking for things that I just didn’t need, yet I wanted them so badly.  I would beg and plead, and though it pained my parents to have to say it, they would sometimes have to answer no…to which I would respond with ridiculous and petulant behavior. 

One time, when I was about 7 years old, we took a family vacation (as we did every summer of my childhood), and on our way back home we passed through Maggie Valley, TN.  We had spent a lot of time and money already, and we were on the last leg of our journey home.  (I can only imagine how tired my parents must have been, after a full week of summer fun with 5 kids under the age of thirteen!)  As I have always been one to notice and read billboards, while we passed through this particular region, I began to see signs for “Ghost Town in the Sky!”  Well hot dog…that sounded fun to me!!  So I asked, “Daddy, daddy, can we pleeeeeaaaasseee go to Ghost Town in the Sky?  Please???”  Well my dad, who only ever wanted to please and bless his family, agreed to check the prices.  This was the 1980’s, so no internet!  He had to actually pull in the parking lot, leave us all in the van, and walk to the gates to inquire about tickets.  As we sat there, I was SO expectant!  I just knew that we would be going in any minute.  When I saw my dad walking back toward the van in the distance, I was literally vibrating with excitement, yet…the closer he got, I could see he wasn’t smiling.  The answer was no.  It was too expensive.  Well, I cried, I wailed, and I just did not understand why we couldn’t go in!  I lamented, “I hate being poor!!”  (A statement I have yet to live down to this day!)  We were not poor!  Sometimes Daddy just had to say no…Father knows best.

That entire ride the rest of the way home, I missed out on the joy of my now because of my sulking about the past

Friends, don’t sulk and wallow in your discontent.  Rejoice in the Lord, who has graciously given to you all that you could ever need.  He truly does know best.  There is so much about my life that would not have come to pass if I had been handed what I thought I wanted in the moment.  Babies are always a blessing, yet I know that there are things that I was meant and appointed by God to do that would not be possible if my life were any different than it is right now.  I am finding joy in that…in seeing that God is moving all around me, and using me in ways that I never would have come up with on my own. 

“You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need!”  – The Rolling Stones

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when things are not as I imagined — when I am hurt, questioning, and confused — help me to see Your hand in my life anyway.  Give me joy in my mourning, and help me to trust You at all times.  Amen.

Living Water

“Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

The story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the well is a very well-known passage of Scripture. For some, it is their favorite passage of Scripture and they love to read about Jesus reaching out to one considered “unworthy” because of her gender, nationality, and lifestyle. I’ve read it many times, and have probably heard more than a couple sermons about it over the years. It would be easy to assume that I have already learned everything there is to learn from this particular story, but it seems that each time you approach Scripture, God reveals something new or reminds you of something that you had forgotten. 

As I was thinking about this story today, I tried to put myself in the shoes of this woman, a woman just going about her normal, everyday business. I found it interesting that unlike so many other stories, this woman did not seek out Jesus. Jesus was the one who initiated the conversation. In fact, she didn’t even know who he was! Had she been too busy, ignored his request for water, or not taken the time to engage in conversation with him, she could have missed out on an incredible blessing. As we read further in the chapter, we see that she was not the only one to be profoundly influenced by the experience, but her whole town came to believe that Jesus was truly the Messiah!

I think we all would like for God to speak to us like he spoke to Moses through the burning bush or Isaiah’s dramatic vision in the temple or Mary’s angelic visitor, because then we would know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was God. We crave the certainty that would come with such a revelation. While God does occasionally show up and demonstrate his power in some amazing ways, these occurrences are not his normal method of communication with us. Most of the time, he speaks during our prayer time, or when we are reading Scripture. He can communicate to us through other godly men and women, and sometimes, it’s the weird guy begging for water at the town well.

It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane.  There’s always a TPS report to file, a bill to pay, a ball practice your kids need to go to, and the dishes or laundry never stop piling up.  But I would hate to miss out on a blessing that God had in store for me, my family, or my community because I was too busy being busy.  I can imagine nothing more disappointing.

The Samaritan Woman could have filled her jug and gone on her way.  Her life could have continued down the path it was on, bouncing from one broken relationship to the next. Her town could have continued being on the outside of Jewish faith, needlessly anticipating a Savior that had already come. But God had a different end in mind for the woman and her community, but it all hinged upon whether or not this woman would respond to the simple request of a stranger.

We cannot know what opportunities and divine appointments lay behind our everyday situations and circumstances.  However, we can choose to be open to the possibilities, to listen for God’s voice, and heed him when we hear him call!

PRAYER: Father, help us to overcome the tyranny of the mundane, to quiet the busy-ness of our lives, so we can be open to your gracious invitation and your guidance. Thank you for not giving up on us when we allow the insignificant worries of this present life overshadow the eternal significance of our soul’s well-being.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Umm… You Can’t Talk to Me!

Mark 1:32-34 – That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak… … … they knew him.

The mind can be quite the playground for the devil if he’s allowed access. Whether you have trouble with anxiety on a regular basis or not, I guarantee you’ve had times in your life where you’ve assumed the worst of situations, drove yourself mad for a few days, and then realized all that negative energy was in vain. While you may have “turned out okay,” those moments in between had you worked up, distracted, and ineffective in radiating positivity and the joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Can we all now raise our right hands and plead guilty to that?

But let’s try and remember a few things:

1- “If destruction fails to entangle us, distraction will do it’s best.”- Beth Moore

This is why it’s so important that we keep our minds fixed on Jesus. He is the only one that provides true peace and clear direction. We should daily “feed” our Spirit with things that will keep our thoughts in order and our positivity on point. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3  God is not the author of confusion, but of peace… 1 Corinthians 14:33

 

2- “Don’t let the devil put a question mark where God has already put a period.”

If you read the account of Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11, you’ll see where Satan tried to tempt Him. He even used the very Scriptures to try and cause Jesus to rethink what He knew to be true; twist it in a way that would cause Him to fail. But, he did not succeed, for Jesus had kept His mind pure, so that the words in which God had spoken could not be taken out of context. Even in his most vulnerable state, because He kept his thoughts aligned with God Almighty, He wasn’t hindered in the slightest! Know the Word of God and hold to it tightly! For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

3- “Faith can move mountains. Doubt can create them.”

The just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17 But, what is faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 Faith is as solid and strong as cold, hard evidence. When you’re communing daily with Christ, there is an assurance He gives that can’t be explained, only experienced. So, when decisions need to be made, we don’t have to stress or try to figure it out on our own. We can ask Him to lead us, and that faith we’re carrying will hold us until the task is completed. There’s no need to analyze every possible outcome so we can better understand what He may be doing… that’s when problems arise! Satan’s entrance takes place here and he will start feeding you worries and “what if’s” to get you off track. Remember what God said and don’t stray from it! Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

4- “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” -Jesus Christ in John 14:12

We will also do the works that He did… and even greater? Yes, sir. Yes, ma’am. And what did He do in Mark 1? He would not permit the demons to speak… We don’t have to listen to the devil’s lies. John 8:44 We can refuse to even let him speak anything at all into our lives. Rebuke him in the name of Jesus Christ and go forward living life victoriously and confidently. This can be done! We have the power to achieve this through Him! Romans 8:11

We are children of the Most High King. The devil has no place, no power, and no authority in our lives! When you start to doubt what you know to be true, when fear begins to creep in and invade your mind, when anxiety steals your peace and cripples you, tell him to shut his mouth! Remind him that he does not have permission to speak to you. Remind those demons Who you belong to… because they know Him!

 

Prayer: Jesus, I thank You for reminding me how victoriously I can live every day of my life through You. Going forward I will not permit the devil to speak any lies into my life. I am Your child, and I know Your voice. You are the only One I will listen to. In Your precious and powerful name I pray, amen.