Category Archives: Devotions

The Joy Of Coming Clean


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Every year, our  pastor gives us a theme for the new year that always rhymes with the number of the year.

It makes it easier to remember and by the time January is over, we are filled with fresh resolve to follow hard after Jesus.

This year’s theme is: Coming Clean in 2014.

No more hiding. No more masks. No more pretending to be strong when you feel like you are going to shatter into a million pieces. And certainly no more trying to hide from your Savior. (A pointless effort if there ever was one).

The following day, an email arrived in my inbox from one of the ladies who was in my small group for the fall’s Bible study. (The same email came to the other three facilitators as well).

This sweet lady was led to write to us after listening to our pastor’s sermon. She was tired of hiding. She could not plaster a big smile on her face any longer, cheerfully declaring that she was fine when her heart was breaking.

His sermon gave her the courage to remove her mask and reveal her heart by sharing her pain.

That took guts.

It is not easy to come clean and admit that life isn’t perfect; that in fact, it is  one big mess.

I texted her immediately and invited her to come over the next night. One of my fellow facilitators joined us and we had the privilege of listening to this young woman’s heart. She was raw, honest, and real.

The mask shattered…and her journey to freedom began.

She did not receive the one thing she feared most, which was condemnation.

Do you know why that was?

Because my friend and I have walked long enough with our sweet Jesus that we KNOW how broken we are, that there is NOTHING good in us apart from Him. Our track records are poor and the hopes we thought that this world was going to fulfill have been shown to be absolutely empty, hollow, and meaningless. We have messed up more times than we can count.

But this we know: Jesus is faithful. He redeems, restores, and rebuilds and we can never go so far that His grace cannot reach us.

There were no rocks to throw. Only grace and love to extend. As has been said, the ground is level at the cross. We are all in need of a Savior.

I could weep at the beautiful heart of Jesus. He saw one of His own in pain and filled her with the courage to reach out, type that email, and press send. Then He came to her through my friend and me. His Spirit in us ministered to her hurting heart through our hugs, our encouragement, our listening ears ,compassionate hearts and heartfelt prayers.

When she left my home that night, she shared that she felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from her shoulders. Her life did not miraculously change the next day. However, she now knows she is not alone, that her sisters in Christ are standing in the gap for her and praying on her behalf even if she lacks the strength to do so. She also knows that He is always working even when she can’t see it and that her prayers will be answered in His perfect time and in His perfect way. (We already have a  plan to celebrate when that happens. 🙂 ).

All because she was willing to come clean and throw away the mask that only serves to suffocate.

How are you bringing the love of Christ to those around you? While He is with us by His Spirit and speaks to us through His Word, we are not yet with Him physically. But that awesome day WILL come! (Revelation 22:4).

However, we have the incredible privilege of being His hands, His feet, His mouth, His ears, His arms to those precious ones who populate our lives.

Are you sensitive to His leading? Is He bringing someone to mind who could use some of your time or your resources?

Are you a safe place for people to come to who are searching for His hope, peace, and joy?

You don’t have to have all the answers. (Nobody does). You just have to be available.

Have you allowed Jesus to heal and free you enough that you can come clean with others about how He has met you in your sin with His grace?

There is no greater privilege than to represent Him to a lost and dying world.

Your Redeemer lives.

Follow His fearless heart into your world and share that good news with others as He leads.

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Bold And Daring


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Happy 2014!

A couple of days ago, I read a Facebook friend’s review of a new movie. One of his readers breathlessly wrote that the film was “bold and daring.”

This film appears to be full of illicit sex, infidelity, lots of drug use, and people generally being rotten to each other. In other words, a whole lot of glorifying a whole lot of darkness.

Those words “bold” and “daring” continued to stay with me all day long and throughout the rest of the week.

What if, in this new year, we decide to live a bold and daring life?

The words bold and daring do not just apply to the broken things and cheap imitations of this world.

Jesus Christ lived the boldest, most daring life ever. God walking the earth in human form is radical.

God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In His Son Jesus, He personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. –Romans 8:3-4

And since it is His very Spirit that lives inside believers, why in the world tiptoe in fear through this  life?

Jesus was not afraid to step into our disordered mess.

Which disordered mess in your life had you cowering through much of 2013? Armed with His supernatural strength and faith in His promises that cannot fail, march right into the center of that mess, trust Him to transfigure it to His glory and your good, and give Him all the praise in 2014!

A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death..God Himself has taken up residence in your life!—Romans 8:2,9

Do not let the world co-opt the words bold and daring.

Allow the world around you to see what Jesus can do through one person who is completely surrendered to Him!

Dare to live the life of the freed! 

What are you afraid of?!

The Lord God is your strength, your personal bravery, and your invincible army..He makes you to walk, not to stand still in terror but to walk and make progress… —Habakkuk 3:19.

As my pastor recently said, “You are invincible until the Lord calls you home.”

Do you know what invincible means? Just this: incapable of being conquered, defeated, or subdued.”

Let me ask you this: What would your life look like if you went forth from this moment on and lived as one  who is incapable of being conquered, defeated, or subdued because of the fact that Jesus Christ Himself lives in you?”

That is the very definition of one who lives a bold and daring life!

This is a new year, a fresh start.

His marvelous and astonishing mercies are new every single morning.

Today really can be different.

This year really can be different.

Your heritage in Him is victory.

He offers that very thing to you as He beckons you to follow Him fearlessly and joyfully into the next 365 days.

Will you take it?

The resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?”—Romans 8:15

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The Ultimate Gift


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This morning, I saw a very sad news story.

A thirteen year old girl had undergone a routine tonsillectomy. During the procedure, she went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. This happened on December 12th, just thirteen days before Christmas.

The state has declared her legally dead and ordered all life support be removed this Monday against the family’s wishes.

What kind of Christmas do you think her family had?

In my own life,  I received a text from a dear friend that her daughter was being rushed to the hospital because her G-tube had come out on the day before Christmas. A cousin is facing the heartbreaking decision of which nursing home to send her father to because she can no longer care for him at home. Another friend is dealing with her first Christmas without her husband of twenty one years. A family member still mourns the violent death of her son two years ago and cannot stop the torrent of tears.  Two high school classmates weep over the deaths of their sons just months apart and cling to friends, family, and  grandkids to make it through the season.

So much heartache at Christmastime.

The media does a fabulous job of painting the holidays in bright, happy, shiny colors. Lots of smiling faces, cheery Christmas carols  and warm, magical moments. And let’s not forget the beautifully wrapped packages under the tree.

All those things are wonderful and for some, they are true. I was extremely blessed this Christmas to spend time with family and enjoy the fact that everyone was healthy.

However, beneath the glitz and hype of this season, there is an emptiness and an ache that all the fabulous presents in the world cannot fill.

When your life caves in, like it did for the parents of that thirteen year old child, what does all the earthly trappings of the holiday season have to offer you?

Nothing at all.

In fact, it can be like a knife to the chest, an unintentional mockery of the vastness of your pain as the world around you celebrates while your heart has broken into a thousand little pieces.

What then?

What is a person to do when the shallow ways of the world fail in every way to satisfy? To comfort? To heal?

The answer lies in that baby in the manger that is at the center of Christmas.

This December, I decided to get off of the crazy merry-go-round of constant holiday activity and really reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Doing that changed everything.

For too many Christmases, I allowed the frenetic pace of the season to drive me and by the time Christmas day arrived, I was exhausted and depleted. The day was over in a flash and it all felt strangely empty.

It is possible to miss Jesus in the midst of Christmas.

I didn’t miss Him this year, though. I took the time to read, to pray, to reflect, to wonder at the sheer miracle of God Himself leaving Heaven and coming to earth on  a rescue mission for you and me.

And it made all the difference.

Jesus Himself is the Gift. The one, endless Gift that we can never lose, that never changes.

He never stops giving Himself to us.

But we can refuse to take Him.

We can ignore the astonishing fact that Jesus willingly chose to leave the splendor of Heaven and fold Himself quietly into the womb of a teenage girl and be born in a filthy stable…all for the love of you and me.

And in that moment, all the prophecies about the coming Messiah were fulfilled to the letter. Our eternal rescue had been put into inexorable motion. In thirty-three short years, , death would be forever vanquished for those who would believe as our Creator allowed Himself to be nailed to a brutal wooden cross to take the punishment that should have been ours.

Hope would live. Joy would conquer. Light would win over darkness.

Because of Christmas, one day, “everything sad will come untrue.” (Tolkien).

Jesus is the ONLY Gift to give people who are hurting this holiday season.

Every other gift will break, wear out, ultimately disappoint, and prove endlessly inadequate.

Only Jesus can heal, bring beauty from the ashes, ascribe deep, eternal meaning to a life, fill every void, fulfill every deep longing, give the perfect love for which we all yearn, weave a beautiful tapestry with your life in such a way that the dark threads are all part of the grand Story  of redemption  that He is forever telling.

Only Jesus can redeem your pain, fill you to the brim with peace, and give you victory as you walked through this broken world.

He awaits your coming to Him through prayer and the pages of His love letter to you, the Bible.

When you call out to Him in faith, He promises to hear. No matter what you have done, no matter how many times you have failed, no matter how big a mess you have made.

His arms are open wide. His ears are open and attentive to your every cry. He sees every tear.

If you can’t find the words, open your Bible to the book of Psalms where you will find words for your pain, since every emotion known to man is included in those 150 chapters.

Or open the book of John and begin to read in chapter one of the Savior who came for you.

Whatever you have to do, get to Jesus.

He is your only hope, your ultimate Gift.

“the one who comes to Me, I will most certainly not cast out. I will never, no never reject one of them who comes to Me.” —Jesus (John 6:37).

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A Curve Ball


Life can take a nasty turn sometimes.

Our family had a wonderful Thanksgiving: lots of laughter, good food, and sweet fellowship. Thanksgiving 2013-0217-1

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The joy from the day was shattered 24 hours later with the phone call that everyone dreads.

Our brother-in-law Tony had had a heart attack and would require quadruple bypass surgery. Here is Tony just hours before, proudly displaying his impressive 25 pound turkey: Thanksgiving 2013-0094-1 The next couple of days were filled with sterile hospital halls, somber waiting rooms, many tears, powerful prayers, sleepless nights, bland cafeteria food, and agonizing waits.

In the midst of fear, sadness, and uncertainty, our family bonded tightly together throughout those scary hours.

Doug and I were so proud of our nephews and our niece (who are all adults now) for being so strong for their mom and for each other. We may only get together a couple of  times a year these days, but when tragedy strikes, we are there for each other, no question. That is such a gift.

But the greatest gift in the midst of a nightmare is the soothing, comforting, and strong and steady Presence of Jesus. It seems that when the heartache of this life crashes in, His Light shines the brightest, the Hope He offers blazes brilliantly, and His Peace covers my fearful heart like a security blanket.

The news was good. Tony survived and as I write this four days later, he will be released to rehabilitation tomorrow.

It is a miracle and I give the Author of Life all the praise.

However, before any of us knew how this story would end, I was sitting alone in the hallway outside of the surgical ICU waiting room. I needed a break from that somber place where grieving family members speak in hushed tones and the lights are dim. I sat for a moment with my eyes closed, enjoying the feel of  the warm sun that was shining from the floor-to-ceiling  windows.

Then I heard the music:  A woman’s voice raised in song rang through the hospital corridor.

She had one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard in my life: sweet, strong, and clear.

I couldn’t see her since I was too far down the hallway but I closed my eyes again and just let the music wash over my tired soul. She was singing in another tongue so I couldn’t understand any of the words, but  I imagined that is what the voice of an angel singing would sound like.

It was exquisite…a reminder straight from Heaven that because He lives, beauty lives…even on the most desperate of days and in the saddest of places.

Life is fragile but His love is not.

The fire of love stops at nothing—it sweeps everything before it. Flood waters can’t drown love, torrents of rain can’t put it out. (Song Of Songs 6:8).

I’m grateful for the little reminders of that love that come just when I need it the most.

And I am most grateful for my beautiful God, who gives songs in the night. (Job 35:10).

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Defiance


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The word ‘defiant’ has negative connotations.

However, I learned today that defiance can be a good thing…when it is aimed at the enemy of our souls as he tries to bury us beneath an avalanche of fear and dread when painful circumstances hit our lives like a firestorm.

The book of Philippians is commonly known as “the book of joy.” The apostle Paul did not write this book during a happy time in his life. He wrote it when he was in a first century prison.

Today’s prisons make the one Paul inhabited look like a country club. Forget electricity, heat, air-conditioning, television, lights, windows, a bed, blanket and a pillow.

This is what Paul experienced: “Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped naked then flogged—a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated as prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, blood-stained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter. Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells of a prison, like the one Paul and Silas inhabited in Philippi. Unbearable cold, lack of  water, cramped quarters and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide.” (–reference: preachingtoday.com).

Picture being in those conditions and imagine writing these words: “Rejoice in the Lord always (delight, gladden yourselves in Him). Again I say rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

The words “joy” or “rejoice” are used 16 times in this short book of the Bible, written under the worst of human conditions! Amazing!

And what I learned today about that absolutely thrilled and inspired me. According to the Dictionary of New Testament Theology, “In Philippians, joy is thus a  continuous,’ defiant nevertheless’.”

A continuous, defiant NEVERTHELESS.

Continuous: never ceasing, never stopping, never giving up. No matter what. Uninterrupted.

Defiant: boldly resistant, challenging, gutsy, aggressive, daring.

Nevertheless: in spite of.

Think about this: the very same Person who inspired Paul to write those words and to overflow with JOY in the midst of hell on earth is the risen Jesus. And if you believe in Him and are one of His own, He is with you to give you the very same supernatural invincible, unconquerable, and undefeatable joy and strength that Paul had.

Yes, even in the very midst of your struggle.

Be defiant in the face of the enemy. Be bold in faith. Resist his plans for you, which are to cower in fear and allow depression to settle on your soul like a blanket. Challenge what you see and feel and aggressively fight back  by the power and truth of God’s Word. Be gutsy, not wimpy. In spite of your circumstance, choose His joy!

Dare to believe your God!

He is in FULL control and He can ONLY do good to you!

So, you can say with all Jesus-saturated confidence, “I will NOT let this beat me. I will make the choice to praise Him all day, every day. Yes, Jesus has allowed this into my life but I will trust Him. What the enemy means for evil, He intends for good. I will not deny that I am in a rough season. I will face it head on in the strength and power of His Name. For as long as I need to walk this difficult path, my spirit will be marked with a blazing NEVERTHELESS for all of earth and heaven to see. Jesus has never known defeat and I will not either as long as I am clinging to Him. He always leads me in triumph! ”

This is the same attitude that allowed Paul to write, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14)

Paul lived the continuous, defiant, nevertheless while inside a filthy prison cell  and that is why He could boldly press on.

You can too.

Do it.

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How Knowing His Revealed Will Sets Us Free


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Last Thursday night during Bible study, one of my friends said something that has profoundly affected me.

There are many unknowns in her life right now and she has been trying to discern God’s will about these matters. One night, she decided to open her Bible and begin to look at what He has already revealed about His will for our lives.

To her great joy, she discovered that when she plugged her various situations into His revealed will, she was given answers and direction!

I love a good challenge, so I went home and dug into my Bible to see what treasures I could find. What I found filled me with joy so I wanted to share them here.

(Disclaimer: these commands are impossible to follow in our own strength. They are purely supernatural and can only be accomplished when we die to self and  allow Jesus’ Spirit in us to take over. After all, that is how we live the Christian life (Galatians 2:20). You probably will not feel like doing any of these things…but then again, life isn’t about you. It is about Jesus and Him living His life through you as He advances His kingdom on the earth. Will they fly in the face of human logic? Absolutely. But His ways are higher than ours. Nothing about doing these things is easy. But Jesus never said life with Him would be easy. But it is  a life full of joy and love, meaning and purpose).

What you are about to read is what His grace and mercy  look like in a life fully surrendered to Him. And it is gloriously  beautiful.

“To discover grace is to discover God’s utter devotion to you, His stubborn resolve to give you a cleansing, healing, purging love that lifts the wounded back to their feet.”—Max Lucado

Are you filled with fear?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. —Joshua 1:9

Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith, no firmly relying trust? —Mark 4:40

Do you not know which way to turn?

Lean on, trust in and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight and understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. —Proverbs 3:5-6

Do you lack peace?

Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give to you… Do not let your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid. Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled. —John 14: 27

Daughter, your faith (your confidence and trust in Me) has made you well. Go (enter) into peace (untroubled, undisturbed well-being).—Luke 8:48

Do you have an enemy?

Love your enemies, treat well, do good to, act nobly toward those who detest you and pursue you with hatred. Invoke blessings upon and pray for the happiness of those who curse you; implore God’s blessing (favor) upon those who abuse you (who revile, reproach, disparage, and high-handedly misuse you). —Luke 6:27-28

Love your enemies and be kind and do good (doing favors so that someone derives benefit from them) and lend, expecting & hoping for nothing in return…then your reward will be great, rich, strong, intense, and abundant, and you will be sons (and daughters) of the Most High, for He is kind and charitable and good to the ungrateful, the selfish, and the wicked. So, be merciful, sympathetic, tender, responsive, and compassionate, even as your Father is all these things. —Luke 6:35-36

Do you struggle with forgiveness?

Forgive and release (give up resentment, let it drop) and you will be acquitted and forgiven and released. —Luke 6:37

Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop. —Mark 11: 25

Do you find it difficult to love others in a Christ-like manner? Are there people in your life who are driving you crazy?

Walk in love (esteeming and delighting in one another) as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. —Ephesians 5:2

Be helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted, compassionate, understanding, loving, forgiving one another readily and freely, as God in Christ forgave you. —Ephesians 4:32

Never return evil for evil or insult for insult (scolding, tongue-lashing, berating) but on the contrary blessing (praying for their welfare and happiness and protection and truly pitying and loving them). For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessings from God. —I Peter 3:9

Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults. —Galatians 6:2

Above all things, have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins (forgives and disregards the offenses of others).—I Peter 4:8

Do you struggle with greed, with keeping-up-with-the-Joneses?

Guard yourselves and keep free from all coveteousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more) for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. —Luke 12:15

Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in Heaven. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. —Matthew 6:20

Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” —Hebrews 13:5

Do you struggle with your tongue?

Do not judge, criticize and condemn others so that you may not be judged, criticized and condemned yourselves.—Matthew 7:1

Put away from you false and dishonest speech, as well as willful and contrary talk.—Proverbs 4:24

Let no foul or polluting language nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others…that it may be a blessing and give grace to those who hear it. —Ephesians 4;29

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it, we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. —James 3:9-10

Are you filled with worry?

Stop being perpetually uneasy, anxious, and worried about your life…do not worry and be anxious…your Heavenly Father knows what you need. Seek first of all His kingdom and His righteousness and then all these things will be given to you. So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow. —Matthew 6: 25, 32, 34

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened and I will cause you to rest. I will ease, relieve, and refresh your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me…for you will find rest, relief, and ease and refreshment and recreation, and blessed quiet for your souls. —Matthew 11:29

Are you searching for a lasting purpose?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind and all your heart and with your entire being and all your might. —Deuteronomy 6:5

Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature. —Matthew 16:15

Go and make disciples of all nations. —Matthew 28:19

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. But it is a place to start if you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed.  Jesus tells us that His Word is a light for our path. (Psalm 119:105). He has not left you in the dark, regardless of how you may feel.

Seek His Word and do what it says.

Then you will be in the midst of His will.

Your path will become clear.

Your peace will be great.

Your heart will sing with joy.

There is a plan and He has graciously allowed you to partner with Him.

What a gift!

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Yesterday, Today, and Forever


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Recently, my paths crossed with someone I hadn’t seen in a few months.

When I asked her how things were going in her life, she quoted Hebrews 13:8, saying, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

At the time, I thought it was a rather strange response…but now I totally get it.

Nothing stays the same for long in this world, does it?

I hardly recognize this great country anymore. The evil tentacles of socialism are ever- expanding deeper into our society and that is terrifying.

As I write this, I am watching survivors of Superstorm Sandy relate their experience of losing everything (including loved ones) in the storm that roared to shore one year ago.

My kids are no longer little. They are teens who are taller than me and will soon be out of our home and on their own.

My brother and I took a road trip last week back to our hometown and it seemed that we spent much of our time remarking about how much things had changed.

Some family members were coping with physical challenges while we were there: one cousin was recovering from an extremely painful knee replacement surgery and one aunt had broken her foot in two places. Two active people stopped in their tracks by broken bodies.

We thought often about those  dear faces we used to see when we went home who are no longer there to greet us. Their number has grown over the years, causing us to deeply treasure the precious ones who are still with us. 

A simple look in the mirror reveals the march of time across my face.

Circumstances have changed over and over through the course of twenty one years of marriage. We have moved eleven times and owned four homes.

Trials, both large and small, have been permitted to enter our lives.

Currently, we are in the midst of a doozy, which has left us with many more questions than we have answers, sad hearts, some sleepless nights…and a dogged determination to cling to His Word and what we know is true of His character.

We have learned the art (and gift) of counting blessings in the midst of the hard. (That, by the way, is the key to guard against bitterness).

And yes, there have been many, many moments of joy and laughter.

My point is that life is in a constant state of flux. To search for security on this earth anywhere other than in Jesus is like trying to stand firmly on the surface of a restless ocean.

That’s why Hebrews 13:8 is such a comfort to us when our heads are spinning with the rapidity of change that we encounter on a daily basis.

Our risen Savior NEVER changes. Not one bit. Not ever. Not during job loss, divorce, illness, bankruptcy, funerals, difficult relationships, good times or bad times. He will never desert us. He will never stop loving us. He will never stop doing good to us all the days of our lives and into eternity.

Although we cannot see Him, He is more real than anything we can see or hear or touch.

We can firmly stake our lives on the absolute truth His Word. We can live by His promises. We can see by His Light.

We can visit His empty tomb and see that He has risen.

We live in anticipation of the fact that He is coming back in all His glorious power and every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame.
—(Hillsong) 

Long after everything on this earth is gone, Jesus will remain.

He is the sure and certain Anchor for our souls as we walk through our days. And when we close our eyes in this life, the first thing we will see as we enter eternity will be His face.

Take some time to really soak in this glorious truth today.

You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning and the heavens are the work of Your hands; they will perish but You will remain. They will wear out like a garment, like a robe, You will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But You are the same and Your years will have no end.” —Hebrews 1:10-12 

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Seemingly


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This morning, I came across Psalm 18 and this verse jumped out at me:

In my distress ( when seemingly closed in), I called upon the Lord and cried to my God. He heard my voice out of His temple (heavenly dwelling place), and my cry came before Him, into His very ears. (Ps. 18:6)

The key word in this verse is seemingly. 

In the psalmist’s view, his troubles were closing in on him.  His eyes and his mind could see no escape. Doom was certain.

If you are currently feeling that way, the enemy is having a field day with you. He wants to to be hopeless and see only the darkness of the pit.

But that is simply an illusion.

Your Savior sees you. He hears you. He knows the big picture. He knows exactly how He is going to rescue you. Psalm 18:19 describes His deliverance:

He brought me forth also into a large place; He was delivering me because He was pleased with me and delighted in me.

You are not meant to live in the pit.

Jesus will bring you out into a large place. The One who called you out of darkness (I Peter 2:9) intends for you to live in the Light of His Presence.

He is pleased with you.

He delights in you.

These things are true whether you feel it or not.

Your deliverance is on the way.

Count on it.

 

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An Answer To Prayer


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“Somebody needs to do this,” The man spoke earnestly to his friend who works in the school.

He had been praying and felt it was extremely important.

“That someone is you,” his friend said.

With that wise commission, this beloved coach chose to leave his comfort zone and begin a Bible study that was open to all the kids in the high school.

The day arrived and both the doors and the coach’s heart were open.

One boy showed up.

And Jesus smiled.

This young man knew the coach, having played on his team. Unbeknownst to the coach, he had given his life to Christ last year during summer camp in the mountains.

But he was struggling to live his faith because he lacked a mentor. It’s hard for any of us to bravely live our faith in the midst of a sea of unbelievers; it is even more so for a young athlete trying to shine his light in the midst of a public high school.

Now this boy had a mentor and the coach rejoiced in how faithful Jesus is to meet us when we are willing to take one step outside of our comfort zones.

As I took a walk around the high school track the day after this happened, I found my eyes filling with tears at the tenderness of our magnificent Savior. In that building of hundreds, Jesus heard the prayers of one young man’s heart and He provided another one of His own to come alongside him just when he needed it most.

If you know Jesus, you are always being pursued by Him.

He hears your prayers.

He sees your need.

He knows the desires of your heart even more intimately than you do.

He cares.

He provides just what you need when you need it.

Keep your eyes open today to all the varied ways that He may answer your prayers. See who He might send across your path.

And if you feel Him inviting you to step out of your comfort zone…do it.

You never know who might be the beneficiary of your brave choice.

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A Call To Accountability


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“The King will reply, ‘Truly, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me’.”—Jesus

The church sits like a jewel in the middle of a bustling major U.S. city.

Every Sunday, the parking spaces closest to the main doors are filled with Mercedes, BMWs, and Lincoln Town cars.

This church boasts thousands of members, many of whom live in the wealthiest part of the state.

There are programs galore: Bible studies, softball teams, seminars on marriage and finances, all kinds of support groups, counseling, etc.

The message from the pulpit every Sunday is replete with Scriptural examples of God’s amazing, lavish, and incredible grace, sacrificial love, and eternal hope.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

That is exactly what a friend of mine thought.

She was anxious to use her gift of helping and finding resources for the poor in the Outreach department of the church. After all, the church member is encouraged to “Be the hands and feet of Christ” to the needy in the community.

And my goodness, there is a huge need.

This church is in one of the spiritually darkest cities in our nation and is filled with homelessness, drug abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, poverty, and hopelessness.

Imagine her shock when she was given a tour of the facilities after she signed on to volunteer.

The food pantry was almost empty. (There is no advertisement in the weekly bulletin or in the announcements that there even is a food pantry).

There were no Bibles to give to the people who showed up seeking services.

There was no central folder containing information on the resources people might need.

The director left the position and the person who took over barely shows up.

Every Sunday morning, those who need help in the community are asked to come to the outreach department. My friend was given to believe that food was provided for them. They would then be invited to attend the service and return afterward for the help they needed.

On average, thirty five people show up each Sunday morning. There is never any coffee, juice, or water.  The only food that is there is one box of munchkins from Dunkin Donuts.  That’s it. And  one of the volunteers in this department helps himself to most of them.

One morning, the church was hosting a big breakfast for all the members. All of the volunteers went to the breakfast, leaving nobody there to greet the people that day…except my friend. She would have liked to have gone to the breakfast but she decided to go to the outreach center instead, knowing the people were going to be there.

She was the only one who bothered to show up.

If she had not been there, the doors would have been locked to the hurting people in that community.

Isn’t that something? Take a minute to get a picture of what happened that day in your mind. The already well-fed, well-dressed people who had jobs, a roof over their heads, and reliable vehicles were enjoying a full breakfast.

Those outside the church walls, the hungry, the jobless, the homeless, would have been locked out with no one to talk to.

My friend had been given no training so she did the best she could. After getting a better idea of what these people needed, she put together a packet of local information that would help and sent it to the current director.

When she arrived the following week, not only had the information she had sent not been used in any way, the room where the people from the community gather was unavailable.

Why?

Because apparently, that room was now needed so that the members of the church could attend (yet another) Bible study!

My friend had brought lots of fresh food for the people…and now there was literally nowhere for her to put it.

I found it so ironic that the people who claim to know and walk with Jesus were so anxious to open His Word together and fatten their already fat heads with more knowledge that they did not give a second thought to the people outside that door…who happen to be the very people Jesus came to save!!!

Not only that, they are missing Jesus Himself! Even a brief look through the Gospels show the fact that Jesus was not locked behind the walls of the temple…He was out among the people, ministering, loving, caring, feeding, and healing.

I suppose I should be grateful that the disadvantaged are even allowed inside the church doors at all.

Unbelievably, the previous pastor  had allocated a small, closet-like room at the back of the church that could be opened from the outside for those in need of food. Inside, there was just a phone. The person could call up to the food pantry, relate what they needed, and then someone would come down to them with the needed items in a bag. They would then be expected to go on their way. 

We wouldn’t want the homeless and the hungry to taint the interior of our lovely church, would we?!

My friend attempted to make an appointment with the lead pastor at the church. She made it clear in her message that she was NOT coming to complain, take up a lot of his time, or to suggest that he should solve all of the church’s problems. She simply wanted to share her heart, her passion to help, and what she had seen. She felt he would want to know what is happening on the ground at the church that he agreed to lead (with much fanfare, I might add). She also had made a list of solutions that could be implemented with his blessing.

Not only did she never get to talk to him; she could not even speak to his assistant. His assistant passed her off to someone else, who assured her that the head pastor was “extremely busy” and just did not have the time  to meet. However, when his schedule opened up, she was told that she would be kept “on the radar” in the event that he had time to meet with her.

My blood is boiling. (I suppose that is obvious).

What does this tell the people who are invited to this church each week about Jesus Christ?

They hear about a God who became a Man and came to this earth to seek and save the lost. They hear about His love and kindness, especially to the poor, the despondent, the hopeless, the sick, the outcasts.

They hear about His open arms, His miracles, His attentiveness to people from all walks of life, His compassion, His love for children.

They hear about His willingness to pay the penalty that they deserved so that by His death and resurrection, they might live forever with Him.

They hear that He has commanded His people to love as He loves, to give as He gives, to extend grace as He graces all of us.

They hear about a God of abundance, who does more than we could ask or imagine.

They hear about the fact that He IS Love, Joy, Hope, and Peace incarnate.

And then they come to this church, which is supposed to be shining as brightly with Christ’s love as would a city on hill.

And they see empty shelves in the food pantry.

They see one pitiful box of donut holes.

They see church volunteers who may smile at them and chat for a few minutes before patting them on the back and sending on their way, empty-handed.

Don’t tell me that these people do not see the discrepancy between what they hear from the pulpit and what they experience at the back of that church every week.

Don’t tell me that they do not feel “less than” than the well-heeled church members.

Don’t tell me that they do not feel condescended to.

Don’t tell me they wonder where this Jesus they hear about each Sunday from the pulpit is after the sermon.

Our church is currently doing a Bible study by David Platt called Follow Me.  It is a no-holds barred look at exactly what Jesus said it means to follow Him. (Hint: it’s NOT to play country club at church each week). His call is a call to die to self, to let Him live His life through you in the power of His Holy Spirit, to love and serve others, to pray for your enemies, to find the joy in giving with abandon rather than receiving, to hold loosely to the stuff of earth because this planet  is not your home, to tell others the good news that a Savior has come to save your hopeless, sin-sick soul.

We who call ourselves Christians would do well to give sober thought to how we are living our lives. Does our walk match our talk? Do we put into practice the things we learn in Bible study or do we just continue to grow in knowledge with no action to back up what we say we believe? Do we think of ourselves last? Do we share the good news of the gospel with the people in our circle of influence? Do we feel the need to keep up with the Joneses  and amass treasure on this earth or do we gladly sacrifice for the good of others? Are our priorities His priorities? Do we live with an eternal perspective?

Jesus said it best (obviously): And He said to all, “Whoever would follow Me, let him deny himself, disown himself, lose sight of himself and his own interests…and take up his cross daily and follow Me (cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and if need be, in dying also).” (Luke 9: 23).

THIS is the call of Christ.

Are we living it or just playing church?

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