El-Roi

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“So she named the LORD who spoke to her, “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” Genesis 16:13 CSB

Invisible. Unseen. Forgotten. Ignored. Mistreated. Hagar probably would have described herself in any of these ways. In Genesis 16, we find the story of Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham), Sarai (eventually to be called Sarah), and Hagar, her Egyptian servant. God had promised Abram, had made a covenant with him, that he would be the father of a great nation and all peoples of the earth would be blessed through him (see Genesis 12:1-3). In Genesis 15, we read about Abraham asking God about this since he had no offspring. The LORD clearly answered that the heir would be one of his very own and that his offspring would be numerous.

Time passed and Sarai had not conceived and she decided to help out God with His plan a little bit. As often as I have heard this story, I have never been able to understand Sarai’s thought process on this one. She told her husband to take her maidservant, Hagar, and sleep with her, and subsequently build her family through her child. Why would Abram agree? What made Sarai think she wouldn’t be bothered by this arrangement? We may never know this side of heaven, but in their heads, this obviously made sense to both of them and so it was. It didn’t take too terribly long for the situation to go south. It was a bad plan from the start. Any time we try to help God along with His plans ahead of His timing, it inevitably ends in heartache of some sort, as was the case for the three of them in Genesis 16. I can just imagine the scene: Hagar has been given to Abram as a wife and bears him a child. She begins to treat Sarai with contempt, acting superior to her. Sarai is not having it, so she takes the responsibility of her misery and sets it squarely down at Abram’s feet, blaming him for her suffering (see Genesis 16:5) Translated in my 21st century way of thinking–“This is all YOUR fault, honey, now what are you going to do about my misery?” Can’t you just hear them now? Abram then tells Sarai that Hagar is her servant so do with her as she pleased. Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she ran away.

Yet she didn’t run too far from the eyes of God, for He pursued her and found her at a spring of water in the wilderness. God, in His great compassion and mercy, promised her that her offspring would also be too many to count and that the LORD had heard her cry of affliction (v.10-11). There she gave God the name, El-roi which is translated the God Who Sees. Hear it again, “The God Who Sees.” How beautiful a phrase. Doesn’t that just wash over you like a healing balm? Sometimes I need to be reminded that God is El-roi, that He is the God who sees ME.

More than a reminder, I need that to be a way of life for me. How transformed would my life be if I was content with that concept and that it was enough for God to see me? At times, it can feel like we are but a speck in this colossal universe and that no one could possibly notice us. When that happens, our minds can take us down paths that are unhealthy and negative. We can begin to think we are invisible and that we don’t matter to anyone. We can wonder if all the efforts we make and all the sacrifices given for others are worth it. The enemy of our souls thrives when we are in that place and he attacks us in those weakest moments. He fuels our insecurities about being invisible with quiet lies that he spews at us. And, because we are already in that mindset, we begin to believe him. What he wants us to believe more than anything is that we don’t matter to God and that God doesn’t see us or hear us, that God won’t come to our rescue to save us. And then when we take his bait, he sits back and laughs at us, and we are left to feel even smaller than before.

But Jesus sees us. God is El-roi. What if, instead of trying to ensure we are visible and not forgotten, we believed that God sees us? More than that, what if we rested in that promise? Rather than comforting ourselves with that as an afterthought when no one else notices, let’s begin to step fully into the truth that God sees us and allow that to dictate our thoughts and actions. Because God sees me, I can be kind and forgive even when it is the last thing I want to do. Because God sees me, I will do this 27th load of laundry in the last three days. Because God sees me, I will not demand my own way and be selfish because I feel like I deserve it. Because God sees me, I am free to be who He created me to be and not some mold others are trying to force me into. Because God sees me, I can release the need to be seen and validated by others. Because God sees me, I will walk in the light. Because God sees me, I will…fill in the blank. What is that for you, friend? What a gift we give ourselves and how we set others free when we believe that God is the God who sees me.

With Mother’s Day this weekend, I cannot help but think of all the women who may feel like they are unseen. Perhaps it is a feeling of being unseen and forgotten by God because He doesn’t seem to be answering you. Trust His promise that He sees you and He hears your cries of affliction. Maybe you love being a mother but, at times, it seems like no matter what you do, it will never be enough. Whisper this truth to yourself as often as you can, “My God is the God who sees me. God, You are El-roi.”

Motherhood can be a thankless job. No one can count the lost hours of sleep due to meeting the needs of one’s children or praying for them. No one can even begin to know the things you manage in order to keep the world of your family going round. Sometimes you may even wonder what would happen if weren’t always three steps ahead, anticipating everyone’s needs. God sees you, Mama, whatever phase of life you are in. If you are exhausted with toddlers underfoot, God sees you. Maybe you are entering your empty nest season, and God sees you too. This could be the first Mother’s Day after losing your mother or losing a child–know that you are right in the middle of God’s compassionate line of vision. If you are a woman who longs to be a mother, God sees you. If you are single, God sees you. If you are a single mother, God sees you. If you are a single father who has to be mother too, God sees you. To all of our spiritual mothers out there, God sees you! Let it be enough that God sees you. Say it aloud right now, “God sees me.” Relish the thought. Treasure it. Walk in that truth today. Rather than it be the afterthought, let “God sees me” be your first thought. Then ask Him to open your eyes to the countless ways He is showing you that He sees you, for He loves it when His children delight in Him. God sees you and He sees me. Be encouraged today with that truth!

Weeds or Wildflowers?

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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.” John 15:1

I love beautiful flowers with their vibrant colors, and I love the idea of planting flowers and growing plants. Two years ago, I was determined that it would be the year I planted a garden. I was gung-ho and had the boys out in the yard helping plow it up and get it all prepped and ready to go. I had visions of harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, and corn. I nearly could taste the BLT on my tongue with the juicy fresh tomatoes from my garden. I already knew just the recipes to use for zucchini chips and fried squash.

Yet I failed to plan for the one barrier that would prevent me from a successful gardening year–my lack of a green thumb. And I don’t mean that I just don’t have the niche for it. I am saying my thumb is black. I have the gardening black thumb of death. How I managed to raise four children and keep them alive along with the household pets is truly a miracle, considering my valiant failures at gardening. You know how it goes, they (whoever they may be) say to start small and see if you can keep a plant alive and then a fish and then a pet, working your way up to parenthood. Good thing I didn’t follow that logic. I would still be back at the phase 1 of plant parenting.

Needless to say, the harvest of 2019 left much to be desired. Somehow, if the vegetables appeared on the stems, they never survived to ripened maturity, sadly. Last year, I decided that I was not going have a repeat of the year before and invest all the hours in the garden just for another epic failure. I found the most delightfully beautiful hummingbird garden I would plant instead. I was not giving up, just changing course a little bit. I had plans to look out my window and behold the beauty of the flowers rather than the bane of my existence with vegetables.

Until…I began to notice some things I most definitely had not planted beginning to sprout in the once-vegetable now-flower garden. I set about weeding and determined to pull up all that did not belong there that would interfere with the healthy development of my lovely flowers that were sure to attract hummingbirds. What I quickly discovered was that rather than weeds and unwanted tufts of grass, tomato plants were popping up all over place, as were pepper plants and corn stalks. I thought to myself how hysterically rich this was turning out to be. The year I planted a garden, I had a minimal harvest, if at all. Yet the year I did not plant vegetables, they blossomed in abundance. 2020 in a nutshell!

Fast forward to this past weekend, and I had fashioned my to-do list to include pulling up the weeds from my flower garden, as it had been perennials I had planted and I had been watching new growth spring forth. Thankfully, ( I think), I did not see any rogue tomatoes, peppers, or stalks of corn. At first, it was easy to distinguish the difference between my desirable flower plants and the unwanted weeds. Yet the muddier my knees grew, the more convoluted the plants and the weeds became because some of the weeds resembled flowers.

I was knee-deep in the muck and began to second-guess some of what I had already ripped from the ground. Had I inadvertently uprooted my perennials? Was that one section I left alone really some of my flower plants or had I kept some undesirable weeds? Even the next day, after I had finished the arduous task of eradicating the weeds, I was still questioning if I had accidentally messed up. As I was walking my dogs at the park later, I saw some similar…weeds…to the ones I had pulled and reassured myself once and for all that I had chosen correctly when deciding what to keep and what to discard.

But, wow, what a parallel to our everyday lives and our walks with Christ. From a distance, it is easy to identify and discern what needs to be uprooted and weeded out of our lives–which activities, social media sites, tv shows, movies, music, books, etc. we should avoid and what unwanted character traits we possess that do not reflect Jesus. Yet once the weeds began to intermingle and grow amongst the desirable plants and we are in the middle of it, sometimes it can be hard for us to know what needs to go and what needs to remain.

Weeds can even be pretty. What begins as pretty can quickly disintegrate into the ugly. We allow the cares of this world and the worries of life to choke us and prevent us from breathing in the fresh air found in the Word of God. Or we see the smallest hint of the weed, poking its weak little head through the soil, and we ignore it because it’s not that big of a deal right? All of sudden it seems like the weeds and the wildflowers all look the same.

What do we do? We must carefully and watchfully tend to our gardens to protect us and our homes from an overgrowth and explosion of weeds. When I weed my garden, it becomes way more challenging if I have let it go for too long. The ideal way to manage it is to consistently tend to it and uproot the weeds. Not merely chop off the head and leave the root deep under the soil. If it has been around a while, the roots can become deep, widespread, and difficult to dig up. I was using some force and muscle to get to some of those weeds in my garden for that exact reason. When I grew tired, I was even tempted to just yank off the heads but thankfully, I stayed the course and continued uprooting.

So it goes in life. The garden may look pretty at first glance because the weeds have been decapitated, but if they have not been uprooted, then the ugly is spreading beneath the surface. When we are abiding in Christ, He will faithfully assist us in discerning the weeds from the wildflowers. He will show us what needs to be uprooted in our lives. Sometimes, the weeds in our lives are the external things. Other times, the weeds are growing from inside of us–pride, selfish ambitions, jealousy, greed, idolatry, slander, lying, impurity, and evil desires. Jesus continues to be the great Gardener. He will reveal to us what lies beneath the pretty exterior of the weeds. He will strengthen us through His Spirit to uproot the weeds rather than merely decapitating them. Just like with weeds, when the root remains imbedded in the soil, it will grow back.

I want to walk amongst the wildflowers, captivated by their beauty, enthralled with their Creator. I want to find my root in the Vinedresser, the great Gardener, Jesus Christ. The weeds hinder us from stepping into everything Jesus has for us. The weeds are deceptively sneaky and choke our spiritual growth and maturity. When we allow Jesus to untangle us from the weeds and uproot what does not belong, space is created for rich and beautiful wildflowers to bloom. We will bear the fruit of the Spirit.

My prayer for you and for me today, friend, is found in Ephesians 3:17-18, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”

Blessings!

Parenting Perseverance

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“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Parenthood is tough work. On the best of days, I can tumble into bed thinking I hopefully got 50% of it right that day, and the other 50%, by the grace of God, He will meet each of them where they are, filling in the holes left by my parenting fails. And then waking up just to do it all over again. On the worst of days, I am convinced countless hours of therapy are in their future because I may have a 1% parenting accuracy for the day. Those are the days when I am ready to throw in the towel, give up, and ask myself, “what is the point?”

I once thought that the years of chasing toddlers, changing diapers, mastering endless loads of laundry, and fighting bedtime battles were the toughest years. And wouldn’t it be wonderful when they got to an age where they were rational human beings and I could reason with them?! As I look in the rearview mirror of those days, I see beauty in every stage coupled with unique challenges specific to their developmental phases. Yet present in every stage were the long days where I was certain I was invisible and that the entire purpose of my existence was to serve at the pleasure of the people in my home and meet their needs. The highs were always great, and we celebrated those. But the highs were often overshadowed by the monotony of everyday life as we transitioned from diapers and strollers to a constant stream of driving to and from practices and always on to the next thing.

And then there were the times when BOOM! An unexpected bombshell would drop and we would have to circle the wagons and reevaluate everything. Bombshells can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can be small and smoldering or large and like a landslide with its effects. Sometimes bombshells arrive as bullies in our kids’ schools, and we have to resist the urge to inflict war on adolescent girls and boys. The enemy throws darts and threatens the perimeter, looking for a means to infiltrate our home, at our weakest moments and in our weakest areas. Bombshells can be unforeseen illnesses with no cure. They can be found in broken hearts and unimaginable disappointments at the hands of others. Regardless of what shape they take, we all will or have experienced them at one point or another.

What a rosy picture of parenthood–not quite the one presented in baby commercials or the one we envisioned in our minds as we anticipated the arrival of our first child. It is easy to become disheartened and discouraged as a parent. It happens to each of us, inevitably, during one season or another. I have lived many days feeling like what I do simply doesn’t matter because, in the moment, it doesn’t feel like it matters. Then, when the tough things hit and we experience unanticipated challenges, it is easy to wonder if anything we’ve ever done has ever mattered or will ever make a difference. I once knew a woman who pretty much gave up parenting when her youngest child was around middle school age. I remember thinking at the time, “how does that happen?” Since then, though, I have had my days where I, too, wanted to quit. It seemed that none of the good I had been doing even mattered. I mean, no one appreciated it, right? And they all seemed to do what they wanted, make their own choices, and pretty much have the answer for everything. I seemed to exist in the backdrop of it all and felt rendered nearly obsolete.

This past February was one of those tough parenting months for me. I mean, Satan had me knocked down, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back up. I lamented the sacrifices that seemed to go unnoticed for years on end and the thanklessness of the role as mother. After all, no one really needed me anymore, right? I was woeful in spirit and truly began to think that, perhaps, it really had all been for naught. Did any of it matter? The tears, the prayers, the boundaries, the endlessness of meeting the plethora of needs. Did it matter? I was losing heart. But God so gently pulled me close and whispered His truth to me, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for you will reap a harvest at the proper time.” This was certainly not the harvesting season, but His words offered me hope that it was coming.

Teenagers have the freedom to make their own choices, and with those choices, they must accept the outcomes, whether good or bad. When they are young, we can quickly run to intervene and save them from dangers. But, as they grow older, we face the decision to fix it or to allow them the opportunity for failure. It is hard to watch them struggle, even harder to watch them fail. Yet as parents, we support them as they get back up and try again, hoping they have learned the lessons necessary to prevent a repeat offense. We plead to God on their behalf and often we become the fiercest of prayer warriors when our kids’ well-being is at stake. Somehow, God in His grace, gives us the strength to not grow weary in doing good by our children.

The harvest surely cometh, if we do not lose heart. How do I know? Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of visiting my oldest daughter in her world for the day. We had the best time, the best conversations, and the best food. I stepped into her world, watched her amongst her friends, and found my heart overflowing with joy. On my car ride home, I reflected on the joy I felt from the day. There was not one particular thing that had happened that made it special. I found myself pondering over what had stirred the abiding joy in my spirit that day. Then I realized, I was watching my daughter live out the life God created her to live and watching her become the woman He created her to be, fulfilling His will and His call on her life. Whoa! What a gift. My mind then shifted to Mary, the mother of Jesus. On two separate occasions in Scripture we read that she kept these things and pondered them in her heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if, despite the heartbreak and anguish she felt watching her Son suffer and die on the cross, she felt a joy in her heart knowing her Son was fulfilling the will of His Father. One day, I will ask her.

Be encouraged and continue doing good in parenting, friend. One day, the harvest will come. It may not be in one massive reaping, but in small portions. Enjoying the presence of my boys around me, eating food as quickly as I can fix it–a small harvest of joy. Sitting outside with my college-aged daughter, her boyfriend, my boys, my husband, and our dogs, grilling burgers, throwing football, enjoying the spring weather–a small harvest of joy. Take each victory and turn into motivation to keep doing good and to not give up or give in. Remember on the toughest of days when failure feels like your constant companion, that you will reap the benefits if you do not give up. Someone needs to hear that today! God has not abandoned you in your parenting. He loves your child more than you do, and He, too, wants to see them fulfill His purpose for their lives. The harvest is coming!

Blessings!

Jesus Joy

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“Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

Hebrews 12:2

I have had this verse running through my thoughts on repeat lately, trying to capture its meaning, and wrap my mind around it. What does this teach me about Jesus? I have asked myself many times as I say this verse, “what was the joy that lay before Jesus that He would endure the cross and bear my sins and shame?” Jesus’ home was in heaven prior to His incarnation, before He came to earth as the God-man, cloaked in human flesh. Yet when Jesus came, He was here to do the will of His Father in heaven. John 6:40 tells us this, “For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus’ purpose during His brief tenure here was clear: to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

What does all of this have to do with the joy that was set before Jesus? The path to saving the lost and the path to eternal life was, is, and forever will be the cross upon which Jesus suffered, bled, and died. Jesus couldn’t fulfill the will of His Father without enduring the cross. Easter is the day on the calendar each year that we set aside to remember and to recognize and to celebrate the high price Jesus paid to have eternal fellowship with those who believe in Him. Yet what if we started living daily with that same awareness and attitude of grateful celebration? Would our lives not then be filled with more joy?

Jesus endured the cross–the agony, the shame, and the separation from His Father–all so that we would not have to. Every day I realize how little I truly grasp the depth of the love of God and pray for a deeper, soul-level understanding of His amazing love for me. How frequently we hear the stories of Jesus’ love and yet how frequently we fail to absorb the magnitude of so great a love. The only reason Jesus would remain hanging on the cross, His body struggling to breathe, wounded and marred beyond recognition, was because He loved us so much that He would rather bear the cost of our sins and shame rather than bear an eternity without us present. Jesus’ joy, the joy that lay before Him, was fulfilling the will of His Father. Jesus carried our salvation to completion. As He uttered the words when He breathed His last breath, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was declaring the completion of His Father’s will, His plan for salvation for all mankind. If we only believe. He completed the work, and now it is ours to believe.

I want what I now call the Jesus joy. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is our example. He never lost sight of the joy that accompanied fulfilling the will of the Father. Joy comes when we fulfill the Father’s will, when we do what we know He wants us to do. Joy comes when we fulfill the Father’s will by demonstrating love, kindness, and patience to others. Joy comes when we place others first. Joy comes when we spend time with our Father. Joy comes when we are obedient to what God has asked of us. Oh how the Father longs for us to delight in Him. Jesus joy is always present when we are honoring God with our lives, our thoughts, our choices, our actions, our relationships, and our words. Jesus joy is not always going to feel happy. We must be careful to not confuse joy with happiness. No, Jesus joy is much more abiding. It is deeper. It is a satisfaction of our souls found only in Christ. Jesus wasn’t feeling happy as He was suffering and dying on the cross. In fact, He felt thirsty and forsaken. But He remained there–because of the joy that lay before Him. He kept His eyes on the completion of His Father’s will–to save us and to draw all men and women to Himself.

I have Jesus joy when I set down the shame I carry from past mistakes and sins. Jesus already bore the shame so I no longer need to. I have Jesus joy when my life reflects the heart of Jesus. I experience Jesus joy when I pray and confidently know that He is near, and He is listening. Jesus joy abounds because I know that He will never leave me alone. Jesus will not turn His back on His followers, His true believers, ever. You see, Jesus may have breathed His dying breath on the cross, but He didn’t stay dead for He was resurrected. He was brought back to life! My Jesus is more powerful than death and the grave. Hallelujah!

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 34:5: Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” Oh that my face would reflect the radiance of Christ, manifested in a joyful disposition. Today, if you feel like you’re in a joy deficit, take heart and be encouraged. Jesus joy is in abundance. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and not your surrounding circumstances because those who look to Him are radiant with joy. Follow His example of doing the will of the Father. Joy inevitably cometh!

The Son of Man

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Then the crowd replied to him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?” John 12:34

“Who is this Son of Man?” Is that not the question that has resonated within our hearts at some point in time or even now as you read those words? Who is this Son of Man? For many of us, our Sunday School upbringing or Vacation Bible School days can assist us in providing the answer that we know right off the top of our heads. Perhaps for others of us we don’t really know or understand what it means when we hear the phrase “Son of Man.”

While most of us know or could venture a best-guess at the answer, do we really grasp the meaning of Jesus as the Son of Man? I began to consider the concept of Jesus as a man. As a girl who grew up in Sunday School and church, one of my earliest memory verses was this truth that was pounded into my little brain: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but One who is tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

As a child and even a teenager, the takeaway was more judgmental in nature. In those days, what I heard in this verse was a harsh reminder that Jesus who was God dealt with all the same things I did, yet He was perfect. Therefore, there is no excuse for me to sin. While the sentiment was accurate, the tender encouragement behind the words used to be lost on me. It always felt like it was the adult attempt to prevent us from messing up. Not a very effective tactic, for sure. Probably because, somewhere within our human brains, we wrestle with the concept that Jesus was not only fully man on earth but also fully God. And the fully God part is where we get caught, where we get stuck.

Fast forward many years into adulthood, and this concept becomes even more challenging to grasp. Somehow, when we consider Jesus walking wrapped in flesh on planet Earth, we seem to view Him as an archaic superhero of sorts. In our minds, or maybe it is just me, we somehow think that because He was God, it made life easier for Him. Mistakenly, and often completely unaware of it, I have had this image of Jesus similar to Iron Man where He takes on the world but is immune to the effects of it. Fiery darts being shot at Jesus? No worries, they bounce right off his armor. Wounding words and insults hurled His direction? No matter—His superhero exterior kept Him safely from the pain of it. Consciously, this has never entered my mind because I love God’s Word, and I love reading the stories of the compassion, the grace, and the love of Jesus. I love knowing that He encountered the same feelings and temptations and emotions I have endured. Intellectually, I know that He was fully man. But somehow, I have negated that He is truly the high priest who suffered and was tempted in every single way that I have been. I have almost, at times, inadvertently, dehumanized the Son of Man. When I say that, I mean I have given God an out.

Recently, God brought to my attention this concept of Him being fully human and how my mind has processed it. Upon reading the brutality that Jesus endured, it is almost as if I cannot bear to read, to hear, to know what that must have felt like in human form. Jesus was beaten beyond human recognition, to the point He no longer resembled a man according to Isaiah 52:14. When I read these verses, I am so sickened by them and by the fact that it was my sin that caused him so much suffering. I practically discount it by assuming that it was easier for Him to endure because He was also God, as if being God lessened the pain that He felt.

I never realized before that I was attaching the disclaimer to this until God revealed to me that my human mind was doing so. Logically, when I hear of this degree of abuse and brutality, I think the human body cannot withstand such injury without succumbing to unconsciousness, to a coma, or even to death. Yet, Jesus did. He felt every single blow, just as we would, because He was cloaked in human flesh. He bled, just like you and me. He wept, just like you and me. He felt all the things we have felt. Yet, He remained sinless. How can our finite minds grasp so great a thought?  

What is one area of your life—one feeling, one emotion, one temptation, one experience—where you struggle to accept and to believe that Jesus felt it too? Take heart, friend. Jesus knows. Jesus loves you so much, and, for that reason, He did endure for you. He sees your honesty and He wants to meet you where you are. Confess to Him where you are struggling to believe He can relate to you in your situation. Then boldly ask Him for the courage to believe Him and to show you how He is right there in it with you.

Blessings!

“Father, forgive them…”

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“Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Forgiveness feels like a double-edged sword sometimes, doesn’t it? I am so aware of my own need for forgiveness from Jesus and from others, yet when the time comes to offer it, I am more than a little inclined to want to hold on just a little bit to that grudge, for one reason or another. I don’t know about you, but I start to squirm a little when I read verses like Colossians 3:13b that says, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” And then there is Ephesians 4:32 that tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Jesus Himself, when teaching the Sermon on the Mount, said, “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” (Matthew 6:14-15). This, friend, is a high calling. We are incapable of forgiving people on our own. Jesus’ disciples must have wrestled with this one as well because Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother when he had been wronged, thinking seven times seemed like a generous number. Jesus, though, probably rocked his world when He told Peter that it should be seventy times seven. Christ feels strongly about the concept of forgiveness. And so should we. Sometimes, being human is just so difficult. I desperately need forgiveness from Jesus, but by the same token, I feel justified when I cling to my own lack of forgiveness towards others. I long ago learned that one of my hang-ups with forgiveness was that I felt like by granting forgiveness, I was in essence saying that I was okay with whatever the offense was. Thankfully, Jesus has shown me a better way. He has taught me that by offering forgiveness, I am not letting someone else off the hook. No, by forgiving, I am releasing that person from any hold they have over me. And I am also trusting Jesus to deal with the offender rather than making myself the judge and jury. Forgiveness sets the offended one free. God’s Word does tell us that vengeance belongs to God (see Romans 12:19). Yet I still so frequently need this constant reminder. Learning to forgive easily and readily is a lifelong process, and at times, I get it right while other times, I fail the test. Again.

I like to prepare my heart for Easter by focusing on the passages of Scriptures that cover the days of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Earlier this week, I again read the account of Jesus on the cross from the gospel according to Luke. The story is so familiar to me that I have had to make it a practice to guard against that when reading Scriptures that I know so well. I let the words Jesus prayed as He hung on the cross fall on me afresh when He said to God, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Even as I read it, deep down in my heart, I questioned–but didn’t they know what they were doing? They knowingly demanded Pilate release the criminal and hang the innocent Jesus on the cross. How could Jesus be so gracious and so loving in the midst of such horrific injustice and agony? Jesus knew their hearts, and He saw the hardness there. He also recognized their need for a Savior even when they didn’t. They didn’t acknowledge the Messiah among them, and they certainly could not understand that He willingly allowed them to hammer the nails into His wrists and ankles. He submitted to the will of Father in allowing Himself to be the sacrificial Lamb and have the sins of all humanity–past, present, and future–to be placed upon Him as He hung on the cross. Had that been you or I, we would have been compelled to declare our innocence and the injustice of it all. We, who are full of sin and in desperate need of forgiveness, would have pleaded for God’s wrath upon them, rather than His forgiveness. But not Jesus. Consider this: we are told to forgive others just as Christ has forgiven us. Yet the only perfect person who has ever trod the soil of this planet, who did not require forgiveness from anyone, asked His father to forgive those who wronged Him. Not only did they wrong Him, they crucified Him. Though you and I were not there at Calvary on that dark day of humanity, it was no less our sins, no less our shouts demanding His crucifixion than those present. We, too, are guilty of crying out for them to condemn Him to death–because of our sins. Jesus, both fully God and fully human, 100% perfect and without sin, who never wronged another a day in His life, forgives us and cried out for the forgiveness of those who stood before Him as He died.

How much more, then, should we be willing to forgive others when we ourselves have been forgiven so much? Even in my own mind, I hear that little word that packs a punch, “but…” We want an escape clause for the obedience Jesus requires of us when we are told to forgive. In our minds, we can add so many reasons or excuses not to forgive. God doesn’t say forgive except in situations like this or like that. God doesn’t tell us to merely forgive when others didn’t mean to hurt or wound us. God tells us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. Period. I have both willfully and unintentionally sinned against God and others. God has forgiven me for both, and His response remains the same: forgive just as I have forgiven you. It is a matter of the heart. Sometimes we feel like our lack of willingness to forgive is a protective barrier around our hearts, but we learn an added reason to forgive found in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11: “If you forgive anyone, I do too. For what I have forgiven–if I have forgiven anything–it is for you in the presence of Christ. I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (Emphasis added is mine). Satan capitalizes on our lack of forgiveness. It offers him a foothold into our worlds, and he will manipulate and use it to his advantage to further the kingdom of darkness in this world. And let’s be honest, our world doesn’t need any extra darkness in it. Rather, let’s be aware of his schemes and how he interferes in our relationships with each other ultimately attempting to create a wedge in our relationships with Christ and render us useless for God’s kingdom work. Not today, Satan!

Maybe we should begin offering others the benefit of the doubt and forgive them for both perceived slights and intentional wounds. Let’s examine our hearts and ask Jesus to show us where we are withholding forgiveness from someone. Or perhaps we know exactly who we are called to forgive. Let’s walk in the freedom of His forgiveness. When we do, we are free to love others and give them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, people intentionally wound us and those are more challenging to forgive, but by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can choose to forgive even the most unforgivable. We may have to daily ask God for the grace to forgive that person again for the same injury, but God is faithful. He will empower us to forgive. And we can trust that all of our sins are forgiven, and we can inhale the fragrant aroma of the presence and friendship of Jesus. Skies appear a bit bluer and the sun brighter when we walk in the light of Jesus’ forgiveness, thus freely offering to others what we have so generously received.

A prayer for forgiveness: Jesus, we come to You right now, again praising You for Your sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. We know that we don’t deserve Your forgiveness and that it is a gift of Your grace to us. As we have freely received this gift, let us also freely offer forgiveness others. Whether we have been intentionally wronged or if it’s a perceived slight, we ask You to empower us by Your Spirit with the grace and ability to forgive. Jesus, help us to know that You always are our shield and refuge, and this offers us the ability to love freely and be vulnerable because we are forever safe in You. Give us heightened awareness into the areas of our lives where a lack of forgiveness has invited the enemy of our souls into our worlds. Grant us the courage to forgive. When we don’t want to forgive, we ask you for a willing heart, Lord. Thank You, Jesus. We love You so much. Amen

The Myth of the Misfit

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“I am a stranger on earth.” Psalm 119:19a

We all long for a place of belonging. Many may not admit it, some may not even recognize the need exists, but deep down, within each of us, we long for a place to belong. We live in a time where connectedness is supposedly at its apex, and there is a place somewhere for everyone. By the same standard, sadly, people often feel more disconnected, isolated, and out-of-place more than ever. Social media presents only the best foot forward for all. If you want to indulge in a pity party, you need to look no further than Instagram or Facebook and start to scroll, then you can lament how everyone else’s life looks better than yours. Yet, all the while, the scrolling and the comparison trap only serve to further isolate us and feed discontentment and disconnectedness. We tend to think of the middle school years as the awkward years with kids on the brink of the teenage years yet still immature, gangly, and not quite even fitting into their own bodies. If we are honest with ourselves though, how many of can relate to that in the throes of our adult years? It doesn’t take much to catapult us backwards into those years where we were uncomfortable in our own skin and inwardly begging to not be noticed. But, in adulthood, it’s easier to hide that we don’t feel like we belong. At least in middle school, everyone there felt the same way so there was a built-in community of people who belonged together all feeling the same sort of awkward way. On the heels of those years, the high school days were the place of belonging, right? Friend groups abounded and you could pretty much identify which cluster best fit your needs and interests. Even the misfits fit together as their own group of outliers.

Then we grow up. We either go to college and often develop some lifelong friendships or we join the workforce. We often busy ourselves with the details of our lives and create our little worlds. Yet the longing of belonging resides deeply within us. We are quick to quiet and hush it and fill it with another activity, another notch in our belt up the corporate ladder, another vacation, another child, another ___________ fill-in-the-blank. Eventually we cannot escape the question: where do I belong? I remember being a girl of about eleven or twelve. We were at the beach, which is a haven, a refuge, and home for me. It was nighttime, and I was in awe of the God who created the night sky and the vast ocean before me. Even then, I loved to write and to journal. I felt this draw, this stirring in my soul, to connect to something. I remember sitting on our deck that led down to the beach and staring up at the sky, wondering where I belonged and what was my place in this world. Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and I am still that girl asking the same question: where do I belong? Except now the stakes feel higher and the price of admission seems to be perfection.

For many years, I attended church as a divorced woman. I felt like each week I sat there, wearing a scarlet A amongst the perfect little families with mothers, fathers, and their perfect four children all of whom were home-schooled. And there I sat, a working mom, a divorced woman, still longing to give my children the spiritual foundation of Jesus and a church home. But we struggled to find a place that made us feel welcomed as opposed to pitied or judged. I didn’t much like the antics of high schoolers at the time and never felt like I fit in there so I certainly was even less of a fan as a grown woman. I had enough on my plate to try to appease the people. I was too busy trying to prove to everyone that my children weren’t less than or lacking because I was a single mom. Looking back, even at that, I wish I had released the urge to please and to live up to someone else’s standards and expectations. The experiences from those church settings conjured up the long ago feelings of not belonging. When we feel like we don’t belong, we put ourselves at risk. The enemy sees us as vulnerable because we are. He loves nothing better than to foster feelings of isolation.

The myth every misfit believes is that no one sees me, no one understands me, and there is no place for me anywhere. The truth is this: there are no misfits in the kingdom of God. Every single one of us is offered a seat at His table. We need only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to accept Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, and we forever belong to Jesus and the family of God. On the pages of Scripture, we find fellow sojourners on this planet who identify with not belonging. The psalmist in Psalm 119 calls himself a stranger on earth. I can relate! I feel like a stranger on earth every day and it is merely getting worse. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! The patriarchs also were called foreigners and temporary residents on earth, seeking a homeland (Hebrews 11:13-14). Peter refers to fellow believers as strangers and temporary residents (I Peter 2:11). The truth is, as children of God, we do not belong here on this earth. We will never feel completely comfortable here because our eyes are looking heavenward and we are seeking a city whose Maker is the Lord.

We have been asking the wrong question. The question is not where do I belong. The question should be: to whom do I belong? We, in fact, are misfits on planet earth because our home is in heaven. We are temporarily passing through here so we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We must commit ourselves to kingdom work while we are strangers here. Hosea 2:19 beautifully states it this way: “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (ESV). How much more can we belong than being betrothed to the God of heaven and earth? He has betrothed us to Himself in love and in mercy. Sister, brother, we belong to Jesus.

Though I have not always felt like I belonged in certain churches, I do steadfastly believe that, as Christians, we also belong to each other and belong to the body of Christ. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually, members of one another” (Romans 12:5, ESV). As the body of Christ, we share a common goal, a common faith in our Savior, a common mission, and a common eternal destination. We may not always get it right when relating to one another, but we should never lose heart and discontinue meeting together as one body because we do belong to each other. Even now, I feel so out of place in a vast variety of social settings. I would rather crawl under the covers, snuggle my dogs, and retreat because I feel like I do not belong in most settings and places. But I know to whom I belong. And, because of that, I can embrace my inner misfit, allow myself to be vulnerable and love other people, and offer other misfits a place of true belonging in Christ Jesus. So can you!

Blessings!

Shielded and Strengthened

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“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.” Psalm 28:7

How is it that you can read a verse in Scripture several times and appreciate the words found therein, but, on any given random day, you could read it and it takes on a whole new meaning? Jesus does have a tendency to use His Word in our lives in that way. One morning in the last week, I experienced this again. I was reading during my daily coffee with Jesus and I read about how the Lord is our shield. It struck me with fresh wonder–this concept of the Lord being our shield. I couldn’t shake it. Rather than just read the words, I tried to envision what that would look like. God as my shield. Two images of shields popped into my mind. First, I thought of Captain America’s famous shield. I have sons and am quite familiar with this specific shield. The second image was this picture of the Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, Sir Lancelot, and the shields that were used as part of the armor. I saw this massive, old, and heavy piece of armor. I wrestled with this concept of God as a shield and tried to visualize what that meant for me and in my life. More than once in the Psalms, we read the phrase “The LORD is my shield.” David was well-familiar with battle and with his enemies coming after him. David more than anyone understood the significance of having a shield of protection. David needed the shield of the Lord around him, both physically and spiritually.

I started thinking and asking myself some questions, what is the purpose of a shield? When would someone need a shield? Why a shield? The purpose of a shield is to protect or to guard someone or something from something that is dangerous, from attacks, from unpleasantness. A shield is a defensive weapon. Naturally, one would require a shield when one is being attacked or at risk in some way from something dangerous. The fact that the Lord was David’s shield in Psalm 28 resulted in increased trust in God and songs of rejoicing. The simple yet profound truth of God being my shield means that God will surround me with His protection from attacks from the external world around me, threats from the enemy of my soul, internal arrows directed at myself, and fiery darts from my fellow man. Note, it never says that attacks won’t come, but that the Lord is our shield. What has become so common in Christian circles of thinking is that to follow Jesus means insulation from hard and difficult things. Sadly, there is this increasingly popular school of thought that says that to follow Jesus means that life is good all the time. That is faulty reasoning and, quite frankly, the opposite of what is found in the Scriptures. Jesus said the world hated Him first and that the world would hate His followers. Jesus was perfect and lived a sinless life, yet during His time on earth, He faced rejection from His family, abandonment by His friends, ridicule out of the mouths of His enemies. He was not immune to the harsh realities of living in the fallen world. He experienced it fully. No, we definitely are subject to persecutions, hardships, difficulties, broken-heartedness, and various other forms of pain. Yet, in the midst of all of the above, God promises to be our shield. Attacks will come from all directions, and they will come in all shapes and sizes but they will not take us out. God places His shield around us to keep us safely in Him in the midst of all of the danger, pain, and unpleasantness of being human. He promises to be our strength during times of attack. For God to be our strength and our shield offers us a double layer of protection. If we were immune to attack then we would have no need for the shield and the protection of God.

Uncertainty has become the newest household member of life in the 2020s. But we love and serve a God who knows, a God who shields, and a God who strengthens in the midst of all of the uncertainties. Probably like many of you, I want to know that everything will be okay. Honestly, it would also be a relief to know how everything will be okay and what the outcome will be. Yet God doesn’t operate like that with us. He asks us to trust Him with all of our uncertainties. He asks us to release our vise-grip on fears, worries, and anxieties. I am learning that His shield is what protects me as we forge through the mountain of adversity rather than escape it or circumvent it. His shield is my cushion of comfort even when the attacks are raining down from every direction. His shield surrounds me with His love and provides me with the certainty that regardless of the outcome, I am His. He will never leave me nor abandon me. His shield is wide enough to absorb all of my tears and His strength carries me through even the hardest of times. His shield provides protection from the internal assault my thoughts can hurl at me.

The last few weeks in our house have been full of unexpected twists and turns, which is probably why the verse struck a chord with me when I read about how the Lord is my shield. Honestly, wouldn’t we all rather just be shielded from the tough stuff in life rather than shielded against them? Withdrawing is my go-to defense mechanism, but God has this way with me that pulls me into Him rather than into myself. He can handle my hurting questions. He can take it when, in my rawest state, I ask Him if it is worth it. God is so gentle and so kind with me. He welcomes my questions and even reveals to me what the real question is I am struggling to articulate. What He wants from me is to trust Him. And not just trust Him when all is right in my world and when I can see clearly what the outcome is or which path to take. Jesus treasures our relationship. Jesus has been faithfully showing me that He never leaves me, just as He has been teaching me to anchor myself in Him in the midst of the unknown and in the midst of the difficulty. I have found myself asking Him several times in the last week, what is it I need to learn from this? What are You trying to teach me during this season of life? The other question I have posed to Him is what is the work that God is trying to accomplish but the enemy is determined to interfere? Walking by faith has taken on an entire new dimension for me. I am taking one step in front of another and embracing the messy, embracing the chaos, embracing the uncertainty because I know that every step of the way God is in control.

So, this shield with which He surrounds me–I no longer see it as this Captain America weapon being held up to fend off the attacks from all around. Instead, I see this shield as encompassing me on every side and providing a barrier and shielding me as I journey from valley to mountaintop and everything in between. And His strength propels me forward, one foot in front of the other. With Jesus as our shield, we can find rest, reprieve, and recharge even in the most troubling of circumstances. Accept the gift of His shield!

Blessings!

Love Poured Out

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“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

One of my favorite love stories is found in the Bible. Granted, it is not a typical love story but what a true demonstration of love it depicts. I love a good love story. Hence, Hallmark movies tend to rank high on my to-watch list. Yet this love story is one that resonates long after you turn the page. Lean in close and I’ll tell you the story.

Picture the scene: Jesus was dining at the table of a Pharisee one day when this woman entered. She was not a socially acceptable woman. She was known to be a sinner, most likely a prostitute. As Jesus was reclining at the table, the woman came up behind Him and began to wash His feet with the fragrant oil from an alabaster jar. The oil was quite expensive, approximately two years’ worth of wages. As Jesus sat there, her tears poured over His feet from her weeping. She let down her hair (a societal no-no), and began to dry His feet with her tresses. She was kissing His feet and anointing them with the fragrant oil. The Pharisee, arrogantly and to himself, questioned Jesus’ true identity, because if He was who He said He was then He would have known the sinful woman that was touching Him. Jesus, in the way that was His way, responded to the thoughts of the Pharisee by presenting to him a parable. Jesus told Simon, the Pharisee, the story of two men who owed a creditor. One owed a small sum while the other a much larger sum of money. Yet the creditor graciously forgave both the debts. Jesus then asked Simon the Pharisee which of the two debtors would love the creditor. Reluctantly, it seems, he answered that the one who was forgiven the greater debt. Jesus then directed His attention to the woman at His feet. He told Simon the Pharisee that when He entered the home, Simon did not provide water for Him to wash His feet. Neither did he offer Jesus a kiss of greeting. Jesus pointed out that he also did not anoint His head with oil. But the woman, she had not ceased to kiss His feet. She washed His feet with her tears. She anointed His feet with her fragrant oil. Jesus then said that her many sins were forgiven. As a result of His generous forgiveness, she loved Him so abundantly in return.

Imagine being the Pharisee in that moment. What was he thinking? We don’t know how he responded to Jesus. Was his life changed? Did his heart soften? May we always be changed by our encounters with Jesus. Imagine being the woman. Oh how the parable Jesus told must have resonated within her as she couldn’t help but hear His words as she kissed His feet. She knew she was the one with the greatest debt of sins. She was so overwhelmed by love for her Savior that she blasted through the societal norms. She didn’t allow what others would think or how they would respond to her to prevent her from lavishing her love and gratitude upon Jesus. She recognized her great need of a Savior and her need of forgiveness. And she withheld nothing from Him.

Each time I read this story, my heart nearly bursts with joy, with tears, with gratefulness, and with solidarity. I am that woman. Her love story is my love story. I love Jesus so much. I know how undeserving I am of His grace, of His love, of His forgiveness, of His friendship. Yet He loves me anyway. He went to the cross anyway. He died anyway. He forgives me anyway. Loving Him is an overflow from a heart fully aware of just how much I have been forgiven. This woman in this story, she is an example to all of us. Her love for Jesus overshadowed any form of hostility or judgment she would face. I want my love for Jesus to overshadow everything else. Who cares what others think or how they will respond? Oh that my life would be poured out in much the same way as this sinful woman poured out her love, her tears, her gratitude, and her fragrant oil over the feet of Jesus. She heard the judgmental whispers of the others present. She kept washing His feet anyway. She knew they were discussing her reputation and who she had been. She kept kissing His feet anyway. The sinful woman didn’t fear what others would say or think of her. She withheld nothing from Jesus–neither her heart nor her resources. And she accepted His forgiveness and peace. In our modern, comfortable Western culture, we want a Christianity that is comfortable, a Christianity that doesn’t cost us anything. We can even set up tithing on a weekly or monthly basis without ever having to think about the act of giving. May our hearts become like that of the sinful woman, ever aware of the cost of the love of Jesus to us. And let our lives pour out love to Him. When we realize how precious the blood, how costly the love, and how rich the forgiveness of Christ, then we cannot help but love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds, and all of our strength. Others may have forever deemed her the sinful woman, but, in her heart, she was forever the forgiven woman. Loving Jesus will be the greatest love story of our lives. We want a Savior. We want one who will fight for us. We want a hero to our story. We want the happily-ever-after. We want the knight in shining armor. Jesus the Nazarene is that hero. Jesus protects us. Jesus rescues us. Jesus loves us unconditionally. Jesus died for us. Jesus redeemed us. And Jesus is coming again for us. This is the greatest love story of all time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Abundance Redefined

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“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10

Jesus referred to Himself as the good shepherd (see John 10:11,14). Shepherds were responsible for caring for the sheep and for their overall well-being. In Bible times, sheep played a significant role in the functioning of society. They provided both food and clothing, and prior to Jesus, they were also required for certain sacrifices in the Temple. In the midst of Jesus identifying Himself as both the door of the sheep and the good shepherd, He drops this powerful nugget of truth: “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they have life and have it in abundance.” His audience would have understood the threat of predators to sheep. Sheep were helpless to defend themselves against being attacked. They needed a shepherd.

So it is with us. We have a predator, a wolf, a lion prowling around us, seeking to devour us. The enemy of our soul longs to steal from us, to kill us, and to destroy us. Unlike sheep, our physical lives are not usually in danger. But what of our emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being? Our first mistake is that we frequently underestimate our enemy. Society has watered down our understanding of the devil, portraying him to be a little dude with red horns sitting on our shoulder whispering into our ear, alluring us with fun and games. Yet the game he plays is a deadly one. And he doesn’t mean it in any sort of fun way. Because we belong to Jesus, he wants us rendered utterly useless for the kingdom of Christ. He wants to see us destroyed. In this verse, the definition of his destruction includes the idea to decimate, to ravage, to demolish, to obliterate. This is not child’s play and the time has come for us to stop viewing the enemy as harmless. He seeks to attack us in our weakest areas. Not only does he want to attack us, but he also wants to decimate us. Not on the outside, but internally. Make no mistake, my brother or sister in Christ, Satan is doggedly determined to destroy us and he will not easily be dissuaded. He unleashes an onslaught against us targeting our identities as women, men, wives, husbands, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, and friends. He focuses his arsenal on our relationships, our peace, our joy, our contentment. He seeks to obliterate any and all sense of security to which we cling. He whispers lies. He shouts them. He sings them. He aims them. And he does all that he can to try to make us believe him.

Praise God this is not the end of the story. We have a good shepherd. One who willingly lays down His life for us. One who protects us from the thief who has come to steal and to kill and to destroy. Instead, He reminds us that He came to give us life–abundant life. We have been conditioned to define abundance in the material sense. In Old Testament days, God’s blessing was often found in the abundance of land, of harvest, of animals, of possessions. But, for us under the new covenant, abundant life is not found amongst that which we can see or count. We have an abundant spiritual inheritance. We have received the Holy Spirit within us as a down payment for our inheritance that is to come which is eternity in heaven with Christ. Jesus was not only referencing the abundant eternal life He has provided for us. He also made a way and desires for us to experience abundant life right now. Jesus offers us His peace that transcends all understanding. He presents us a new and secure identity in Him. He has forgiven us and does not condemn us. He is the means by which we can have health and happiness in our relationships. He is the source of our contentment. He fills us to the fullest measure so that we can be overflowing with His joy. He is our security. He is the anchor for our soul. He is our hope. He is our salvation. He offers us a life with Him that is abundant and beyond our wildest imaginations and dreams. His definition of abundance is exceedingly more than anything we can ask, think, or imagine. And not with regards to material possessions, though He does bless us beyond measure in that way as well. It is time for us to resist the schemes and plots of the devil and no longer allow him to rob us of our peace, joy, contentment, security, and any other form of abundance we have access to in Christ Jesus. Our promise is that Jesus Christ came to give us life and to give it to us in abundance. Abundant joy. Abundant peace. Abundance of Him. Abundant love. Abundant security. Abundant certainty of our identity. Abundance in relationships. Abundant contentment. Abundant fellowship. Abundant patience. Abundant sense of well-being.

The psalmist, David, wrote these treasured words found in Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd; therefore, we shall not want. He offers us green pastures, quiet waters, restoration of our souls, guidance, protection, comfort, goodness, mercy, and His presence forever. Sounds pretty abundant to me.

So what now? What do we do with all of this? We take action. We recognize that we are under attack from our enemy and we view him as the threat he is. Then we mobilize our forces by invoking the name of Jesus to come to our aid and to fight on our behalf. We release the hold the enemy has over our emotions, guilt, shame, and fears. We regain and reclaim the territory he has stolen and surrender it into the loving care of Jesus. We redefine abundance according to Jesus’ dictionary. We believe that Jesus did come for us to have abundant life and we take Him at His word. We expect Him to do exceedingly more than we could ever ask or imagine. And we receive from Him all He sacrificed to give us. He is the giver of all good gifts. The most valuable gifts we receive from Him are often the most intangible. Go forth in victory and claim the abundant life in Jesus’ name.

Be blessed!