Tag Archives: Jesus

Miracle on Main Street

I live in a small town.

It is considered rural by today’s standards: 6400 souls call this beautiful place nestled in the lakes region of our state home.

Our church is small too, around 200 or so.

fourth of july 3 002

The regal old building stands on the corner of Main and High Streets, right across from the bustling post office and the local health food store. A simple white sign that announces  the service times, the name of our dear pastor, and upcoming special events (this day, a cheery, town-wide invitation for a Christmas caroling bonfire on Sunday) stands on the wide front lawn. A beacon of hope and light for all who pass by in the midst of their busy pursuits. A reminder that there is more to this life than what they can see. A reminder that a Savior has come into this dark world on a rescue mission for their souls.

FBC Women's Event 010

Through those doors, the Word of Life is held out to all who will come and take the time to hear. To see. To listen. 

fourth of july 3 045

The church may be small but our great God is mighty and HUGE within those walls.

Just this past Sunday, we were all reminded that with our God, nothing is impossible.

For the past many years, one of our beloved elders has struggled with kidney disease. Every week, he would get up to do the announcements and always share a groan-inducing joke that would have all of us laughing in spite of ourselves. Until he was no longer able to do even that and the jokes fell silent.

Still, he was in the same pew every Sunday, faithful and steady, choosing to trust his very good God, even  when he could not understand His ways. A smile often wreathed his face…even when one could clearly see the pain behind the upturned lips. His beautiful wife was always by his side. To me, she represents such a clear picture of the power of God’s grace that allows one to continue to stand and then, almost miraculously put one foot in front of the other when life hurts and hearts break and questions loom most loudly in the deepest dark of night.

Fervent prayers rose continually to the very Throne Room of Heaven. Day after day. Year after long year. We prayed full of certain and confident hope in the One who IS Hope. The One who hears every prayer, every heart- cry, every question, every wail of “Why???”  The One who  promises the comfort of His presence, the display of His power, the wisdom of His ways that are higher than ours, the One who joyfully declares that He is—even now in the midst of the mess—making all things new.

Unbeknownst to all but a very few, in the midst of all these prayers, the Holy Spirit began to whisper into the brave and selfless heart of a beautiful young mother within our congregation (who was no relation to this man) that she would have a part to play in this situation. Her husband was fully supportive. They waited for God’s timing.

Then one morning, our pastor stood up during the service. He said that the elder had not asked him to do this but he had to speak out on behalf of one of his dearest friends. With a voice filled with emotion, he told us of the seriousness of this man’s condition. Without a kidney transplant, he did not have long to live.

Would we please pray and ask God if we were the one to get tested, to offer the gift of life to his man who has done so much for so many?

God’s time had come.

This young woman was tested…and found to be a perfect match.

What are the odds that in our little church a perfect match would be found???!!!

Our God is the God of miracles!

On Monday of this week, the transplant was done.

We all waited with bated breath to hear the news. I must have checked my email a dozen times an hour.

The surgery was a success! The donated kidney was already working!

And in a hospital room in the hills of New England, was the joyful celebration of new life! 

A new beginning.

A fresh start.

Answered prayer…long (to us) in the answering, but right on time for the God whose timing is always perfect.

Hearts rejoice and spirits sing as we celebrate a Christmas miracle right in our midst of our little town.

The celebration of Christmas will be all the richer for members of our congregation this year, as we remember the ultimate stunning miracle of a God who came down to His creation in the form of a fragile baby to offer hope to the hopeless and the precious gift of LIFE to the dying. (John 3:16-17; Mt. 1:21;  Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 5:8; I John 2:2; Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

He gave us the supreme Gift of Life in Jesus: a precious gift that we endlessly celebrate, both here in this fleeting flash of time and on into Eternity.

Back in January, I was diagnosed with dangerously high blood pressure. On my first Sunday back at church after a week of rest, I was still feeling pretty shaky. At one point, from our customary seats in the back row, I felt dizzy and quite weak and suddenly realized how very frail I was. I am not a person who is given to dramatics, but the question, “Is this it for me? Is this where my road ends?” flashed through my mind.

If so, how fitting, I thought, to go out on a Sunday morning in church, sitting with my family, worshiping our merciful and gracious God with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The present moment took on a sharp focus as I became fully aware of everything and everyone around me. My eyes swept the breadth and length of that familiar sanctuary with its burnished wood, upholstered red pews. and stained glass windows.  My eyes landed for a few seconds  on each dear face and my heart overflowed with thanks to God for bringing us to this very special place: a place where God’s Name is lifted high, where His Word is revered and clung to and preached boldly and fearlessly,  where there is much shared laughter as well as pain, where prayer requests are shared, where I am encouraged to stand when I feel like giving up,  where I see living proof in so many of Christ’s power to completely transform a life.

I have been so blessed to be a part of all this and to walk side by side and shoulder to shoulder with these dear ones. Tears shimmered that morning and my heart overflowed with gratitude.

Needless to say, my time on earth was not up that morning. I am still here (and much healthier at the end of the year than I was at the beginning!).

And I am privileged to be part of this church.

A place of miracles.


Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions

Let Me Count The Ways…

I recently heard Beth Moore recount to her audience all the reasons why she loves Jesus so much.

It was a long list… evidence of a wounded heart that has been touched by the Healer, leaving her transformed, whole, radiant and supremely grateful.

If someone were to ask you to do the same thing, what would you say?

He is everything to me. He fills my life with exquisite beauty and joy.

The story He is writing with my life often takes my breath away, leaving me stunned and full of wonder.

He speaks to me through His Word, giving me guidance, comfort, and precious promises that He invites me to cling to when life gets scary.

He laughs with me (oh yes, you had better believe it…Jesus laughs! I love  those times when I can just feel His smile).

I enjoy seeing His fingerprints and creative genius all around me…the golden sunshine,  the singing of the birds, the delightful & infectious laughter of a child, stars shining like diamonds in the night sky, the sheer power of a storm, the faces of those I love, the churning of the ocean and the peaceful stillness of the lake, the furry face and unconditional love of my dog, the intense bold colors of flowers, the refreshing feel of a summer breeze.

He has lovingly shown me my broken places and has never turned away in disgust. Rather, He invites me to bring them out of the darkness and into His light…and He has—miraculously and wondrously— healed me.

He picks me up when I fall.

He has chosen me to be His bride…wonder of wonders!

He fills me with His courage when I am afraid.

He has taught me that I do not need to hate my weaknesses (and there are so many). Rather, He asks me to embrace Him in the midst of my weakness so that He can show Himself strong and mighty.

I have walked with Him long enough to know that He can redeem and resurrect anything. Nothing—no thing—is impossible with Him.

I read Psalm 103 the other day and was struck by the astonishing and beautiful portrait  the psalmist painted with his words as he described Jesus. :


forgives all my sins

heals me

redeems my life from the pit

crowns me with steadfast love and mercy

satisfies me with good things

renews my energy

works justice on my behalf

 abounds in steadfast love for me

 removes my transgressions as far as the east is from the west

 shows compassion to me 

 knows how fragile I am

  establishes His throne 

 rules over all. 

He is magnificent!

This day, why don’t you try writing out a list of all the things you love about Him?

I promise that it will lead to a day filled with joy and thanksgiving!

He is so worthy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions


Earlier this week, I heard a heartbreaking story of innocence lost…and a young lady who lived in silence and shame for several months before taking the first halting, brave steps into the light to share her secret.

The rebuilding and healing has begun. It is my prayer that from this day forward, she will choose to see herself in light of Scripture, through the very eyes of Christ, the Healer; the Repairer of the broken; the One who gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for the spirit of despair.

The One who bore her shame so that she would never have to.

We were never created to wear shame. We have been fashioned in the image of our Creator.

As Beth Moore has said, “Shame is Satan’s calling card.” In the original language, the word for shame means: “disgrace, dishonor, to disfigure.”

If you are a Christ follower, Jesus bore your shame on the cross (Hebrews 12:2). You are never to wear it.

Jesus will NEVER shame you.

If I could sit down and talk to this young lady, I would take her hands, look her in the eye and say,

“Dear One,

You are precious and honored in the eyes of your God. He loves you. He has crowned you with glory and honor  and clothed you with strength and dignity. You are the apple of His eye. He speaks tenderly to you and is close to you when your heart is breaking. He will save you when you are crushed in spirit. He looks at you through eyes of mercy and forgiveness, through eyes of everlasting love and kindness. He delights in  your beauty. He will redeem your life from the pit and crown you with love and compassion. He is doing a NEW thing; He is making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. He will bless you with peace. You are beautiful to Him and He sees no flaw in you.”  

This is the heart of God for His own.

I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. —Psalm 34:4-5

(Scripture references: Is. 43:4; Ps. 8:5; Prov. 31:25; Deut. 32:10; Hosea 2:14; Ps. 34:18; Ps. 25:6-7 (Living Bible version); Ps. 45:11; Ps. 103:4; Is. 43:19; Ps. 29:11; Song of Songs 4:7).


Filed under Devotions

Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 5

Years ago, a man from our church recounted to Doug and me about the first time he had met his friend Jimmy. He had been  attending a conference at a local church. As he walked past the sanctuary during a break, he heard the sound of sobbing. Curious, he quietly opened the door and peered inside.

A wooden cross stood imposingly in the center of the altar. There, at the bottom of the cross, lay Jimmy. He was clinging to that cross with both arms and he was sobbing. Deep, heaving sobs.

As our friend would later discover, Jimmy was desperate for God. And he knew the place to find Him was at the foot of the Cross.


It is finished.”

Such powerful words.

They are among the last words that Jesus spoke before He died and the  glorious offer of redemption was made to all.

He had endured betrayal, mockery, beatings so severe that He did not even look like a human being, searing pain, shame, ridicule, brutal savagery… and the worst punishment of all: separation from the Father for the very first time as He endured divine wrath on our behalf.

“What happened at the cross was not primarily about nails being thrust into Jesus’ hands and feet but about the wrath due your sin and my sin being thrust upon His soul. In that holy moment, all the righteous wrath and justice of God due us came rushing down like a torrent on Christ Himself. Some say, ‘God looked down and could not bear to see the suffering that the soldiers were inflicting on Jesus, so He turned away.’ But that is not true. God turned away because He could not bear to see your sin and my sin on His Son.

One preacher described it as if you and I were standing a short hundred yards away from a dam of water ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide. All of a sudden that dam was breached and a torrential flood of water came crashing toward us. Right before it reached our feet, the ground in front of us opened up and swallowed it all. At the Cross, Christ drank the full cup of the wrath of God and when he had downed the last drop, He turned the cup over and cried out, “It is finished.” –David Platt, Radical, p. 35-36)

Jesus took my place.

Jesus took your place.

Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering…He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 4-6

The cross is a horrifying instrument of torture…but it is  the most beautiful sight in the world to the sinner who realizes their complete and utter bankruptcy before a holy God.

I never want to get over the sheer miracle of what Jesus did for me on the Cross.

If He never does another thing for me, He has saved me from the penalty of my sin! And that means everything!

I am free!

I am forgiven!

I have been redeemed!

Because of the cross:

*I have passed from death to life (John 5:24).

*I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

*His peace and joy flood my soul (John 14:27; John 16:11)

*I live in Light, not in darkness (Ephesians 5:8)

* my future is secure (Jeremiah 29:11).

*my wounds are being healed by The Healer (Isaiah 53:5)

*all of Heaven has been opened to me (John 14:1-3).

*I need never live in fear (Joshua 1:9).

*I am out of  the enemy’s reach forever (James 4:7).

*I am held safe in His arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

*I will never be alone (Matthew 28:20).

Because of the cross, I will see His face (Revelation 22:4).

And that is what I live for…the moment that faith becomes sight and I finally look upon the beautiful face of the One who loved me enough to die rather than be without me.


“The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.”–A.W. Tozer. 


“It is finished; the battle is over

It is finished; there’ll be no more war

It is finished; the end of the conflict

It is finished and Jesus is Lord.” —Bill Gaither

1 Comment

Filed under Journey To the Cross

Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 3

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as He taught them, He said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.” 

The chief priests and teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill Him, for they feared Him, because the whole crowd was amazed at His teaching. —Mark 11:15-18

So much for the ‘Jesus- meek-and-mild’ caricature.

It is safe to assume that given the type of work Jesus did as a carpenter, He would have been quite muscular and strong. It is highly doutbtful that Jesus would have been the rather wan-looking, pale, skinny man so often represented in some of the Jesus movies of recent years. His hands would have been calloused and strong, His skin darkened by the sun.

We are told that several times that He spoke with great authority. His very presence must have radiated strength and resolute purpose.

Clearly, this was a stunningly bold act.

Why did He do it?

God was being grossly dishonored and the people who had come to the temple to worship Him were being exploited and oppressed.

In his book The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, John MacArthur explains:

“Jerusalem was jammed with pilgrims, not only from all over the land of  Israel, but also from Jewish communities throughout the Roman world…Of course, merchants throughout the city profited immensely from the revenue that came in from pilgrims during the holidays. The temple priests even had their own extremely profitable franchise set up right there on the temple grounds.

A portion of the massive outer court (known as the court of the Gentiles) had been turned into a bustling bazaar, filled with animal merchants and money changers. With multitudes coming to celebrate Passover…it was impossible for some of them to bring their own oxen, lambs, or doves for sacrifice.

Furthermore…sacrificial animals had to be flawless. Priests would therefore carefully inspect every animal…and if they found a defect, they would pronounce the animal unsuitable….So, the temple merchants sold preapproved animals—but at a very dear premium.

“The money changers’ tables were likewise supposed to be a service for pilgrims and worshipers, because offerings to the temple had to be made with Jewish coins…they charged an exorbitant interest rate for their services…under Old Testament law, Jews were not permitted to charge interest to their own countrymen…so the fact that this was being done with the offerings of worshipers, on the temple grounds, under the temple authorities’ oversight and with their encouragement, was positively evil…the temple authorities were exploiting the very people they should have been ministering to.”

(In addition)…”it’s not hard to imagine what all this activity did to the ambience of the temple grounds…it was a hive of noise, dissonance, filth, and pandemonium. It was certainly no atmosphere for worship.” (pp. 34-36)

This is what greeted Jesus when He walked into the temple.

These people didn’t even set up their crooked schemes in front of the temple grounds…they chose to set everything up inside the temple doors! They did not care anything about God. Profit was their bottom line and they were shameless in their pursuit of it.

The temple was to be a place of refuge, safety, and beauty where one could freely worship God…and that day, it was none of those things. Those in authority were making it very difficult for the people to get to their God and that was inexcusable. There was a total lack of disregard for both God and His people.

Jesus would carefully and methodically have made a whip of small cords that was a harmless tool used for driving large animals. Such a whip did not inflict pain; it was a mild means of driving them from one place to another. There is no mention that He inflicted any physical injury on anyone. Jesus must have driven the animals out of the courtyard, which meant their owners were also forced to leave the area to chase after them.

Jesus’ decisiveness and power were impressive and must have been incredibly intimidating. His anger is evident; His zeal is grand and imposing; and the force of divine authority in His words is unmistakable…There must have been great tumult all around, but in the midst of it, Jesus appears unruffled–fierce in His anger, perhaps, but resolute, single-minded, stoic, and wholly composed. He is the very picture of self-control. This is truly righteous indignation, not a violent temper  that has gotten out of hand…(His) is a zealous fury that is not the selfish pique of someone who has suffered a personal insult. Instead, it is a deep outrage that comes from the realization that GOD is being dishonored…Jesus was moved by righteous indignation—springing from the purest motives of a chaste and virtuous heart.” (pp.38-38).

When one reads through the Gospels, an unmistakable fact emerges: Jesus made Himself available to anyone who was truly seeking Him. He is a God of relationship and His arms and heart were open to all.

So, when He saw that people were being hindered from coming to their God by the very people that should have been helping them, something had to be done.

His passion and zeal are breathtaking.

It is not…and never has been…difficult to get to Jesus.

Humbling? Yes…incredibly so.

Simple? Yes…beautifully so.

Costly? Oh yes…within days, it would cost Jesus absolutely everything to open the door to His Presence eternally for all who would choose to come.

That momentous moment was fast approaching…

Leave a comment

Filed under Journey To the Cross

Journey To The Cross: Snapshot 1

I know that I alluded to a continuation of Saturday’s post for Monday, but I am going to put that on hold until next week.

Since next week is Easter Sunday, I felt led to do a short series on the last week of Jesus’ life before He willingly went to the Cross. Each day, I will focus on one moment in time from each day.

At the beginning of His last week on earth, we are told that Jesus “steadfastly and determinedly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51).

In the original language, the word “set” means: “to make firm, to stand ready, prepared, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver, strong, immovable, establish.” In other words, nothing and no one would deter Jesus from marching straight into His appointed destiny.

Jesus knew exactly what awaited Him in Jerusalem at the end of that week. Michael Card writes: “More than anyone else, He knew that the script for His life had already been written across the pages of the Old Testament. As He made His way toward Golgotha, with every step He knew—detail for detail, agony by agony—how it would end and what it would cost…

He will be rejected by His own people (Is. 53:3).

He will be betrayed by a friend (Ps. 41:9).

He will be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).

He will be accused by false witnesses (Ps. 35:11).

He will be scorned and mocked. (Ps. 22:7).

He will be spat upon (Is. 50:6).

He will be crucified with criminals. (Is. 53:12). —Michael Card, A Violent Grace, pp.20-21

It is precisely because Jesus knew the horror that awaited Him that makes today’s snapshot so touching and precious.

The scene opens in the family home of sisters Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, who were close and treasured friends of Jesus. It is six days before the Passover and Jesus and His disciples have come for dinner.

This home must have represented a refuge for Jesus. The Gospels indicate that He spent a considerable amount of time there. Although He was fully God, He was also fully human. Consider the joy that your closest friendships have brought to your heart: the laughter, love, kindness, goodwill, happy memories.

Jesus, too, knew the deep joy of earthly friendships and these people were among His closest friends. How He must have treasured this time among those who truly loved Him, knowing that in a short while, He would be surrounded by angry mobs of people who would be intent on seeking His brutal death.

After dinner, Mary did an extraordinary thing.

“Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” —John 12:3

This all sounds very strange to our current culture, but everyone present that evening would have automatically grasped the incredible significance of Mary’s lavish gesture.

First of all, this perfume represented one year’s wages. It may have been Mary’s entire life savings.

The perfume would have been kept inside an alabaster jar with a long neck. She would have broken the neck of the jar, ensuring that it would never again be used for anyone else.

This was an act of extreme devotion.

In her fascinating  book, Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Ann Spangler shares insight into the culture of  the first century:  ” By anointing Him with expensive fragrances, Mary may well have been making a statement about who she believed Jesus was, proclaiming Him as Messiah…the Hebrew word for Messiah literally means “The Anointed One.” 

“The word “Messiah” alludes to the ceremony used to set apart someone chosen by God, like a king or a priest. Instead of being crowned during a coronation, Hebrew kings were anointed with sacred oil perfumed with extremely expensive spices….the sacred anointing oil would have been more valuable than diamonds. The marvelous scent that is left behind acted like an invisible ‘crown,’ conferring an aura of holiness on its recipients. Everything and everyone with that unique fragrance was recognized as belonging to God in a special way.

In the ancient Middle East, the majesty of a king was expressed not only by what he wore—his jewelry and robes—but by his royal ‘aroma.’…he would perfume his robes with precious oils for special occasions…during the royal processions, the fragrance of expensive oils would inform the crowds that a king was passing by…it seems likely that the smell of the perfume with which Mary anointed Jesus would have lingered for days. God may have used Mary’s act of devotion to telegraph a subtle but powerful message. Everywhere Jesus went during the final days of His life He had the fragrance of royalty. Jesus smelled like a King.”

Jewish women in that culture rarely were seen in public with their hair unbound, so the fact that Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her long hair was also stunning.  This was an act of  intense devotion and reverence.

And in the eyes of Jesus, this was a beautiful thing. It was one of the last acts of kindness that He experienced.

If you are not familiar with this story, you may wonder why Mary was so devoted to Jesus that she gave all she had to give.

Mary lived in the midst of a culture that was often hostile to women. Women could be divorced and discarded for such menial things as burning dinner. They were not allowed to own property. Their testimony alone was not considered valid in a court of law.  The men of Jesus’ day believed women to be intellectually inferior and incapable of any great spiritual insight. Some were vocal about preferring to burn the words of the law rather than share them with  a woman. No rabbi would have permitted a lowly woman to sit under his teaching.

In contrast, Jesus held women in high honor and esteem and treated them with great dignity and respect.

So, imagine her joy and elation when Jesus allowed her to sit at His feet the way the other disciples did and learn from Him, the very Word of God made flesh! (Luke 10:38-41).

Mary did not treat her privilege as a student of Jesus lightly. It is clear by her grand, heartfelt gesture that she listened and understood that His mission would end in a violent death. (unlike the male disciples, who didn’t clearly grasp His pointed references to the fact that His death was imminent).

I imagine that Mary’s tears mingled with the perfume that evening, as she contemplated saying goodbye (temporarily) to this gentle yet strong Man who had graced her life with  His dynamic, miraculous, loving, and utterly transforming Presence.

Her world…as well as the world of all those who lived in close friendship to Jesus…was about to go terribly, horribly dark in just a few short days.

But Sunday was coming….

1 Comment

Filed under Journey To the Cross

Face To Face

My family and I lived in south Florida for five years. Each December, the First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale presents an Emmy-winning Broadway-caliber Christmas pageant.

One year, my friend Madora treated a group of us to a matinee as an early Christmas gift. The sanctuary seats at least 3000 and is three stories high. We had wonderful seats on the ground floor in the first row of the second section.

As the the lights dimmed and the show began, an expectant hush fell over the crowd.  The first half celebrated the holiday season with dancing, singing, and numerous set changes. After intermission, the show switched gears to tell  the story of the life of Christ, from birth to resurrection. It was an amazing production, filled with real animals (a camel, a donkey, horses), as well as flying angels and the resurrected “Jesus” being lifted several feet off the stage to depict the Ascension.

At one point, during the Palm Sunday scene, the actor playing Jesus rode right past us on a donkey, bathed in the spotlight. He waved and smiled and every eye was on him as he made his way through the sanctuary lined with palm branches and up onto the stage.

As I watched him surrounded by people, tears unexpectedly filled my eyes and I found myself telling Him, “Lord, if I had been on the earth at the same time You were, I would have wanted You to know me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be  just to a face in the crowd. I would have wanted You to know my name.”

The show ended to thunderous and sustained applause. It truly was an incredible experience and we all felt blessed at having the chance to experience something so beautiful.

Afterward, I was browsing the wall of  books in the large lobby of the church when I heard someone come up behind me. I turned around, expecting to see one of my girlfriends. However…

There, standing in front of me was the actor who had played Jesus.

He was still dressed in his white resurrection robe and his smile was warm as he reached out to take my hand.

Then he asked me my name.

It took me a second to respond but I told him.

He asked if I had enjoyed the pageant, then gave my hand a gentle squeeze before leaving, saying, “God bless you, Susan.”

Then he was gone, melting into the crowd.

I was left speechless, knowing that the real Jesus had just let me know that He had heard the cry of my heart inside that sanctuary. Out of literally thousands of people who were present that day,  that actor had approached me to ask my name of all things!

Jesus was reminding me that He does see me. He does hear me. I am not just one of the crowd to Him.

He knows my name.

Just as He knows yours.

That day was also a reminder that there is coming a day when faith will become sight and I will finally see the very Face of Love, the beautiful Face of Jesus Himself in all His resurrected glory.

Brennan Manning has written, “The true Christian is the lover separated from his Beloved; the day of reunion cannot come too soon.”

I love this definition of Christianity. I am not following a myth or a figment of my imagination. I follow and have given all that I have and am to a Person who gave His all for me and has radically changed my life.

Christianity is not a religion. When He walked this earth, Jesus directed some of His harshest words toward the religious elite of His day.

It is a relationship! A stunning, utterly transforming, passionate love story between Jesus and His Bride (Revelation 19:6-9).

After the show that night, my girlfriends and I had dinner, then browsed the charming shops along Los Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. I found a necklace that I admired and as I was trying to decide if I should buy it, one of my friends suggested that I purchase it as a reminder of the day I met “Jesus.”  I thought that was a fabulous idea and although it is not an expensive necklace, it is precious to me.

It is a reminder of a day in south Florida when the real Jesus broke through an ordinary day to give me a moment that I will always treasure…and to remind me of a glorious day yet to come.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” — I Corinthians 13:12


Filed under Devotions

Not One Inch

I knew it was bad news as soon as I heard my husband’s voice on the phone that February day.

His job…along with several others at his company…had been cut as a result of the economic crisis.

I hung up the phone, shaking my head in disbelief. This had happened to us once before, when the economy took a nosedive after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I prayed it would never happen again.

But it did.

I chose the above photo for this post because it perfectly conveys how I felt at that moment in time. The skies had suddenly turned dark and ominous, warning that a powerful storm was on its way. I had no way of knowing what was around that  bend…or how long the road would be.

The first phone call I made was to my mom. Her heartbroken, shocked silence brought tears to my eyes and I let them fall while  I felt the clammy grip of fear begin to try to take hold around my heart.

I gave my mom the details; then suddenly, I heard myself speak these words, with a confidence I certainly didn’t feel at the moment: “You know what, Mom? I am not giving any ground to the Enemy on this one. None at all. NOT ONE INCH!!!”

At that moment,  I knew that those three words would comprise my battle plan for this new…and very unwanted…season of life.

Not. One. Inch.

It is at time like this when one’s professed faith is put to the test: Will I believe only what I can see with my physical eyes? Will I allow my feelings to run the show? Will I allow fear to fill my mind and poison my outlook on the future? Will I allow worry to steal my sleep and my peace?

OR…will I give priority to God’s eternal, unchanging Word? Will I rest and trust in His rock-solid promises, as well as His goodness? Will I approach this scary cirumstance in the attitude of conquest, filled with the courage that my Savior freely and fully offers me?

I had a ton of head knowledge about Jesus.  But He was about to take all that knowledge and make such a blazing imprint on my redeemed heart that I will never be the same again.  It was time for a dramatic encounter with my Savior.  I have learned that there are times when He will not hesitate to take drastic measures to not only get our attention, but to wake up a slumbering soul.

Before my husband even got home from his last day at work, I had a list of Scriptures ready to live on for the days, weeks, and months ahead. These promises would be my lifeline and I would cling to them with all the strength I had.  Jesus led me to Scripture after Scripture for my battle plan.

A crisis is no time for posturing or pretense…I needed to be totally honest with Jesus. So, the first thing I told Him, through many tears, was that I was disappointed and heartbroken that He has allowed this.

This would be my first test: what do you do when your sovereign Savior allows one of your worst fear to come true?  When your spirit feels crushed and your heart is filled with pain?

Ps. 62:8 says, “Trust Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge.”

Let it all out. He can take it.  He is your safe place. He knows exactly how you feel. (Ps. 139:1-4). He sees each tear you cry. (Ps. 56:8).

Where in the world do we get this idea that we have to “clean ourselves up” before we can come to Jesus? We come to Him for the bath!  He would much rather have us approach Him with red-rimmed, puffy eyes, mascara streaks halfway down our faces, yet honest and real, as opposed to every hair in place, makeup perfectly done, pious-sounding words that we don’t mean coming from our lips, mask firmly in place, and  all the while, our hearts remain cold to His touch,  encased in bitterness and hurt feelings. He seeks…and sees…ALL of us…the good, the bad, and the ugly…and yet He loves us with a passion that is beyond our ability to fully grasp.

When we pour it all out and are empty and spent, we have made room for Jesus to then  fill the hollow places.

What does  He fill our hearts with?

*A gentle reminder that trials are part of life on this fallen planet, but He is in control: “In Me, you have perfect peace and confidence. In the world , you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted!). For I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.” —John 16:33 (Amplified Version).

Even in the face of one of my worst fears, Jesus was telling me that because I belonged to Him, I could be confident, certain, and undaunted. Courageous!

Beth Moore once said, ” There is no denial in courage. Courage is denying the reality its’ victory over you.”

Christians were never meant to live in denial. We can meet any circumstance straight on because  we have:

*the certain knowledge that He will never leave us: “…God Himself has said, “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. (I will not, I will not, I will not, in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down (relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!)” —Hebrews 13:5 (Amplified Version).

*the fact that we are more than  conquerors through Him. (Romans 8:37).  In the original language, the word conqueor means: “to gain a surpassing victory, to overcome, to prevail.” I am NOT a victim of my circumstances! Neither are you!  Because of  Christ’s strength working through us, we need NOT come through our tough seasons defeated and a shell of who we once were. Not on your life! We can emerge out of that battle stronger, more purposeful, filled to the brim with faith and grace, and more in love with our powerful Savior than we have ever been!

*overflowing HOPE: “May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing…that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.”–Romans 15:13 (Amplified version). Jesus Christ Himself IS our living Hope (I Peter 1:3). Hope for the Christian is never wishful thinking! Our hope is firmly anchored in the Person of Jesus, our resurrected Savior, who promises to work ALL things for our ultimate good! (Romans 8:28).  The King James Version declares this to be a “lively hope” meaning, ” to be fresh, strong, powerful, to have an expectation of good, joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.” Our hope in Jesus blows away the stale dustiness of our days and breathes fresh life into our souls, even in times of trial.

*the realization that most importantly, it’s ALL about HIM: In Him, all things were created…all things have been created by Him and through Him. He is before all things and in Him, all things hold together.”–Colossians 1:16-17. I exist to make much of Christ, not the other way around. The late Christian recording artist Rich Mullins once said that he wanted his life to be an arrow pointing to Christ and that is my desire as well. If I have to go through a trial so that others can see that Jesus is alive  and the supreme treasure of life, then it is all worth it!  Much like a diamond sparkles brightly against a black velvet backdrop, the dazzling beauty of Jesus can sometimes best be seen by a watching world  during our dark days.

This has been by far the hardest journey Jesus and I have ever taken together. There have been good days and bad days. It wasn’t always pretty and it has been scary and heartbreaking at times. It’s not even over yet. However, as I walked (and to be honest, sometimes stumbled or crawled) along this painful road, I made an amazing discovery:

He is more beautiful that I ever knew.

He is way more powerful than I ever imagined.

He is infinitely more tender than the sweetest human love.

He is firm—yet kind–in His conviction of sin in my life.

He is more wonderfully creative than I ever dreamed.

His resources truly are inexhaustible.

He is radically committed to bringing His light into all the dark corners of my heart.

He still does miracles.

He will not tolerate divided affections.  He wants ALL  of me.  He is LORD.

Sometimes, He shakes the foundations of our lives so that we can see what can’t be shaken. (Hebrews 12:27). My identity was all wrapped up in externals prior to this season (although I wasn’t even fully aware of that). He has shown me that I can be stripped of those things and still be okay—even thrive!— because they do not define me. Christ alone defines me…and He will never change. He is my sure Foundation.

Were there days when I did give ground to the Enemy, despite my best intentions? Yes…sometimes it seemed that I gave up miles! Yet…Jesus was faithful to lift me out of that pit, dust me off, steady me, and put me back on my feet to walk the path He had chosen for me, hand in hand with Him. (see Psalm 18).  In His strength, I regained that lost ground and haven’t looked back.  Not one inch.

“…Even during storms when the winds are most intense, we are more than conquerors. You may be tempted to run from the ordeal of a fierce storm of testing but head straight for it! God is there to meet you in the center of each trial…He will whisper to you His secrets, which will bring you out with a radiant face and such an invincible faith that all the demons of hell will never be able to shake it.” —E.A. Kilbourne

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions

Fullness of Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand, there are pleasures evermore.–Ps. 16:11

One Sunday morning in January 2002, our small group leader posed a challenge to all of us in his class at our church: Ask Jesus to give you a verse for the new year so that by December, you will have lived that verse. The goal was that for the rest of our days, that Scripture would not just be words on a page to us;  but those words would be written forever on our hearts by the nail-scarred hand of our Savior.

That year was absolutely life-changing for me in so many ways. As a result, I have asked Jesus for the same gift every December. I then begin to keep my eyes and ears open and without fail, He begins to give me the same Scripture over and over again from a variety of sources. By December 31st, I have my verse and my theme for the upcoming year.

Imagine my delight when He disclosed the theme for 2009: JOY! My Scripture was Ps. 16:11 and I was ready for  what would surely be an amazing year! And it was.

However, not at all in the ways I had imagined.

I’ll never forget the day I excitedly told Doug that the theme Jesus had given to me for 2009 was joy. Rather than being as thrilled as I was—because he is a very wise man—he looked slightly green around the gills and tried to summon a faint smile. You see, he knew what I was conveniently overlooking: Jesus doesn’t have to teach you about joy when life is rosy.

Suffice it to say, life didn’t stay rosy for long; trials hit and they hit hard. Among other things, my husband’s job was cut and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  That was my invitation from Jesus to go deeper into relationship with Him…to take a journey into a joy that I had never known prior to that season.

Joy is NOT happiness. Happiness is dependent on favorable circumstances. Joy is a supernatural gift from heaven that can blaze strong and shine bright in spite of circumstances. “Joy (can) express itself in laughter and elation, yet it draws from a deep spring that keeps flowing long after the laughter has died and the tears have come.” —Sherwood Wirt.

Jesus is the personification of Joy. He IS joy. He is the Source of Joy.  Hebrews 1:9 boldly declares this about Jesus: “God has anointed You with the oil of exultant joy and gladness above and beyond Your companions.”

In his book, In The Footsteps of Jesus, author Bruce Marchiano writes: “Yes, Jesus smiled; yes, Jesus laughed. Jesus smiled wider and laughed heartier than any human being who has ever walked the planet. He was young. He radiated good cheer. The real Jesus was a man of such merriment, such gladness of heart, such freedom and openness, that He proved irresistable. He became known among Galilee for His genuine strength, the sparkle in His eyes, the spring in His gait, the heartiness in His laugh, the genuineness of His touch, His passion, playfulness, excitement and vitality: His JOY! He made a dazzling display of love. He set hearts on fire. He was an elated, triumphant young man with an incredible quality of life…so different from the solemn religious types He constantly encountered.”

Yet, Jesus Christ suffered more than anyone ever has or will on this planet. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah. 53:3). However, that immense suffering never affected his joy.  That blazing, divine joy remained abundant and overflowing, even as He went to the cross.

As the difficult season unfolded, I clung to Ps. 16:11. It said that He would show me the path of life.  He knows exactly what is on that path and where it leads. Sometimes that path has some painful detours, but my joy need not ever be affected. Why? Because 16:11 tells me that “in His Presence is fullness of joy.”  His Presence never leaves me;  so His joy is always available.

But I have to choose it.

As Henri Nouwen once said, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday.”

Choosing joy became my lifeline…especially when fear filled my heart and threatened to overwhelm me. I clung to the promises in God’s Word  with all my strength. I learned to live within today’s parameters and to focus on  my many blessings, rather than what I lacked. I learned to trust my Savior’s inexhaustible provision.  I learned that Jesus is ENOUGH.


The joy of the Lord truly became my strength…even when the storms grew in frightening intensity. Yet…to my great delight, I found that the joy of Jesus was…and is… always stronger than the storm.

At the end of 2009, my dear friend Penny made me a wonderful gift that I will always treasure:

This is the first thing I see when the day begins. It is a physical reminder of the intangible yet very real gift of joy.

Joy always triumphs.




Filed under Joy