Jesus Joy

Photo by Ian Beckley on Pexels.com

“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

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

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…”

Photo by emel ceren on Pexels.com

“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

Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Pexels.com

“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

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

“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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“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

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

“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!

Competent in Christ

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

2 Corinthians 3:5

I’ll never forget when my oldest child, my daughter, was a newborn. Being a first-time mom, I was exhausted and exhilarated and nervous all at once. I also didn’t know what I didn’t know. The time in the hospital had been a flurry of activity and, in retrospect, a bit of a blur. Someone was always close-by and I had not been alone with my newborn. I was ill-prepared for the first night of sleep, or lack thereof. Who knew that a little person so tiny could implode the normal sleep cycles of civilization? And who knew that one could survive with so little sleep? Apparently new moms throughout the ages were secret-keepers of this knowledge that a momma cannot grasp until she has experienced it firsthand. My immediate thought when I hear someone is expecting, after the congratulations of course, is they have no idea that their little newborn will be a tyrant who will invade any semblance of normal sleep. Yet, what I remember most of all from those initial weeks of being a brand-new mom is the pure panic I felt the first time I realized I was all alone with that baby girl and her well-being had become solely my responsibility. No nurses nearby to come to my aid and give me a breather. No mom to rush to my rescue. No husband to trade off with for a turn for sleep. Everyone had returned to normal life. Everyone except me. My normal no longer existed. I felt panicked when I realized people had left me alone with that sweet little baby girl. I wanted to shout to anyone who could hear, “Did you mean to leave me alone with her? How could I possibly be capable of caring for her? Am I competent enough to be her mother? How will I know what she needs?” By the grace of God, we managed just fine and she survived me and all of my glaring incompetence.

What a parallel that is to how we often feel about our callings in Christ. As believers, we know and understand that God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives. We love to quote the verse from Jeremiah 29:11 that says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD.”  Psalm 138:8 says, “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me.” Initially, this truth excites us and we expectantly look to God to fulfill it in us, through us, and for us. Then, gradually, life begins to throw us curve balls. Challenges derail us. Insecurities assail us. Fears plague us. Satan deceives us. We grow impatient. We lose faith. We begin to forget the truth that God does have a plan for our lives. Somewhere along the way, we twisted our theology and thought that, because God called us to something, then it would be simple. And perhaps we even thought that it wouldn’t require from us more than we felt capable of giving. We take our eyes off of Jesus, much like Peter did in Matthew 14:25-33. Peter and his pals were in a boat, having gone on ahead of Jesus while He remained behind to pray. When Jesus was ready to catch up with them, He decided to take a walk to them–right on top of the water. Peter needed some confirmation that it was indeed Jesus coming towards them so he asked Jesus to tell him to come to Him on the water. Jesus told him, “Come.” Then Peter, like Jesus, walked on the water. But Peter shifted his gaze from Jesus and onto the surrounding storm and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and caught Peter, asking him why he doubted. Isn’t that what we do too?  Jesus beckons each one of us to join Him in the work of fulfilling His calling and His purpose for each of our lives. Many of us jump right out of the boat like Peter, initially confident in the fact that Jesus did summon us. But then the winds start to howl and the tidal waves of life threaten to overtake us and we take our eyes off Jesus and His calling. We begin to wonder if He did call us. Perhaps we heard Him wrong. Maybe He meant this calling for someone else, who isn’t me. Sadly, we fall into the comparison trap, even in Christian circles. We wonder if our calling is as important as that person over there. We question if our skills and qualifications merit the calling. We measure our success by the world’s standards. When we do this, we short-change ourselves from God’s blessing in our lives and we short-change others because we don’t live up to the calling. Ultimately, it reveals a lack of faith in the God who calls us. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 tells us, “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.”

Regardless of where we are in life, God wants to use each one of us and longs to fulfill His purposes in us and through us. Maybe your current season of life is a stay-at-home mom or dad and you feel invisible or even unimportant. Maybe you spend your days cleaning toilets. Maybe you have made one poor choice after another and no longer feel like God could have a purpose for your life now. Maybe you are a high-level executive at a successful company. It matters not because God can and will use and equip every single one of us when we surrender our lives and our callings to Him. He does not compare. He views each as important as the next and can use every situation for His honor and His glory. We must determine to keep our eyes fixed on Him.

Our competence for any position we hold is in God. Whether we feel overqualified, underqualified, or just right, our competency is in Christ. The Greek word for “competent” in 2 Corinthians 3:5 is “hikanos,” and it means “to reach, attain desired end. Sufficient; worthy, adequate, enough.” Doesn’t that change our perspective a little bit on any given situation in any circumstance? Not that we are sufficient, worthy, adequate, or enough to claim anything for ourselves, but our sufficiency, our worthiness, our adequacy, our enough-ness comes from God. Whew! The pressure is off of us. What is it God wants from you today? What is He calling you to? Don’t let your gaze focus on the surrounding circumstances. Don’t let your thoughts deceive you and make you think it all depends on you and that you are not enough. Friend, your worthiness, your adequacy, your sufficiency, your enough-ness–it all rests on God’s shoulders. He equips the called. The called merely need only respond. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Day-by-day. 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Jesus will use our weaknesses and make them sufficient. Take a step of faith today towards what God has been showing you. And I commit to do the same.

Blessings!

 

 

Say Less, Pray More

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

“The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.”

Exodus 14:14

I have a love-hate relationship with social media because it seems to perpetuate a sense of courage from behind a screen to say whatever one feels or thinks with little regard to other people while at the same time presenting the image of a picture-perfect life. Therefore, for me, I cycle on and off of it. As I was praying through an area of my life from which to fast for a period of time, the Lord laid on my heart to deactivate my Facebook account temporarily. I’ve done this several times through the years but never have I felt as liberated as I have this time. Lately, it has felt like people have lost the ability to be kind. Posts become the catalyst for arguments that are public for all the world to see and somehow there is a false sense of security to feel free to say or spew rude and harsh comments. For whatever reason, I have been super sensitive and hyper-aware of this. This world is divided and hostile enough with Satan and his minions at work in it as well as amongst people that reading it from the screen of my phone has become an unwelcome intrusion. Our local news station has a Facebook page and they post articles consistently throughout the day. Reading the comments on their page makes me cringe. People have become so emboldened to lash out and post hateful rhetoric. Yet, aren’t we all susceptible to doing the same thing?

We, probably now more than ever, are full of opinions and thoughts. God has been pressing upon me this concept to say less, pray more. It’s not as simple as merely uttering those four syllables. But with the heightened awareness of it, I have begun to realize just how much we seek to speak rather than listen, to fight rather than forgive. It is a humbling experience. Honestly, no one cares what I think, right? Words are valuable and hold meaning. We have become a society that loosely throws out words without evaluating their weight and their impact. Words wound, just as words have the power to heal. The better you are with words, the easier it is to use them as weapons with precision. I have been on the receiving end of verbal assaults just as I have been the vessel through which they have been delivered. And I am saying enough is enough. It is high time to begin to use words to build up, to lift up, to encourage, to heal, to bring life, and to point people to Jesus. My knee-jerk reaction to being on the receiving end of words that sting is to rise up, defend myself, and argue. Or to take it and then blow off the steam to my husband or a friend. But God is teaching me a better way. He has begun to whisper in my ear, say less, pray more. When I want to interject my thoughts or opinions, even when I am not fighting with someone or arguing with someone, He gently restrains me and reminds me, “say less and tell Me instead.” We have only begun this undertaking and already I see results. Before I respond or speak, I consider if what I have to say is even necessary. I am learning that often it is not necessary. And when I want to vent, I am learning that if I pray first, then I feel less inclined to share it with others. And if I still share it, it has been tamed by my time with Jesus. I am hearing more. In hearing and listening, I am learning and growing. Silence and quiet have become a haven and a refuge and prayer has become a retreat. God reminded me of the verse in Exodus, “The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.” How can God fight for me if I am too busy running my mouth and fighting for myself and against myself? God wants to fight on my behalf. If I don’t leave Him margin or offer Him the floor, then He becomes a bystander and observer of my verbal malfunction which serves no purpose. The more I practice becoming quiet, the quicker it becomes my response. Even today, I experienced this. I wanted to challenge something but I felt the Holy Spirit urge me to be quiet and to be patient. I’m glad I heeded and surrendered my seemingly justified feelings because if I had plowed ahead with half of the facts, I would have looked foolish and have needed to apologize. So I submitted to the urging of the Holy Spirit and was able to glorify Him with my response and offer Him thanks for shutting me up with the holy hush.

I Peter 3:4 says this of beauty, “Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” That verse often leaves me feeling guilty and condemned. By nature, I am loud and outgoing, if needed. People are often surprised to learn that I am a true introvert, that I find my recharge and refreshment from times of silence, quiet, and aloneness. After being in groups of people, I am depleted and want to escape to solitude. I prefer one-on-one time or a select few with those that are my people. But, if you’re around me in that capacity, you quickly learn that I am loud and can have lots to say. Thus, this verse in I Peter makes me feel like I am failing as a wife or a woman of true beauty. What God is already teaching me through our concept of say less, pray more is that a quiet spirit is a settled spirit. I am at rest and do not need to always speak or fight my battles with words. A quiet spirit knows who I am in Christ and trusts Christ to fight my battles for me on my behalf. A quiet spirit has full assurance and faith in her Savior. A quiet spirit has become attuned to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit within her. A quiet spirit exhibits self-control. And the payoff is always worth it. It is being able to speak but choosing, instead, to wait and to listen before moving forward. If only this had been a concept that had taken root sooner. But God’s timing is perfect and I am thankful that He is faithful to me and never gives up on me.

I can’t help but think of Psalm 46:10 as I conclude my thoughts. It is most commonly quoted as “Be still and know that I am God.” Many translations phrase is similar to this: “Stop your fighting–and know that I am God” (HCSB). This more aptly depicts an image of quieting one’s self before Him in total trust and surrender knowing that He will fight for us and His peace will transcend. As we each journey through our week, I encourage you to join me in practicing the simple concept of saying less, praying more. When I am tempted to speak, to react, to lash out, or to vent, instead may I turn what I am feeling, thinking, and wanting to speak into prayers to my Savior and my God who wants to fight for me. I pray that you will do the same.

Blessings!

Spiritual Training

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

“But have nothing to do with irreverent or silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

1 Timothy 4:7-8

The older I get, the more I treasure the words of Scripture. They hold life. They hold purpose. More than that, though, they are the spoken breath of God directly to me. God’s Word is truly alive and active. I feel it come alive each morning as I flip open its pages and my spirit stirs with anticipation at what the Father has come to say to me. I crave it, I thirst for it. At times, I am overwhelmed because it is vast and I want to remember every word I have read and desire for it to take root in my heart and affect how I live my daily life. Other times, I am frustrated because, as much as I long to live out what it says, I am baffled by how to do so and even feel like it is impossible because I don’t even fully understand it. Perhaps it’s just me who feels that way on occasion. Oh that I can absorb the words of Scripture into the marrow of my bones. In my quiet time this morning, it was no different. I found myself asking God to speak to me as I opened the pages of His book with reverence. Without realizing it, I had prayed these words to Him, “open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in Your Law.” And then proceeded to dive into studying it. I encountered the verses from 1 Timothy listed above. And they have fixated in my mind and on my heart all day long–thus this post being the by-product of the meditation. I kept saying to myself, “train yourself in godliness. Train yourself in godliness.” Then I felt this tension come alongside it. “But how? How am I supposed to train myself in godliness? What does that even mean?” Of course, intellectually and even spiritually, I can answer that question. But my question goes deeper than rote answers. I can give those “spiritual” responses in my sleep. I was raised in the church and attended a Christian school so I know the “right” response. I don’t want the right response. I want the path that leads me to action that produces lasting and sustaining change and transformation by the Holy Spirit. So how, then, do I train myself in godliness?

Thankfully, as I have matured in my walk with Christ, I have learned to take those questions directly to the author of both my faith and the words about which I am confused. I asked God, “what does it look like for me to train myself in godliness? How do I prevent myself from settling into the routine or getting stuck in a rut?” And God, oh how He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He faithfully responded to my question. He reminded me that I was practicing it already. I was in training. Even as I opened His Word, I had asked Him to open my eyes to behold wonderful things in His Law. At the time I petitioned Him for that, I was not even consciously aware that I was praying His own words back to Him, for those words are actually the words of the psalmist who penned Psalm 119:18. The words flowed from a heart and a mind that practiced meditating on God’s Word and memorizing it. By then, my wheels were turning.

If there is one thing I understand, it is training–at least in the physical sense. I applied the same approach to training in godliness. When I train for races, usually half-marathons, I begin with the end goal in full view. Run 13.1 miles in less than two hours. From there, I develop a training plan to make it happen. I research various training methods then decide on the one that best suits me. Then I make a commitment to follow the plan. Even when I don’t feel like it or even when it is 20 degrees outside and my bed beckons me to stay in it and stay warm. Hence, when I am training for godliness, the question is what is my goal? As a follower of Jesus, my ultimate goal is to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to be transformed into His image day-by-day. Be like Jesus! That’s the goal. In life. In love. In relationships. In secret. In public. In joyful times. In challenges and difficulties. When it is easy and when it feels impossible. Be like Jesus! That’s the goal–love Him and surrender to His transforming work in my life to become more and more like Him until that is perfected the day I meet Him in His kingdom. Since I know my goal, then I can develop the training steps to attain it. In order to love Him, I must know Him. I must communicate with Him. I must spend time with Him. And how do I do this? By being in His Word. And this is accomplished in many different settings. I am in His Word alone. I pray in private, in quiet, in the secret places. I sit under Biblical teaching in Bible study and under the spiritual authority of my pastors. I pray in community with other believers. I attend church. We discuss it in our home and seek to put God at the center. I study the Word and Bible commentaries to deepen my understanding and study words in the original languages to further inform my time in God’s Word.

Armed with the goal and the preparation, I must then commit to practice what God is teaching me during those private and corporate times of study and instruction. Implementation is usually the most challenging because, like with running, I don’t always feel like doing what I know I should. To activate the Word in my life, heart, and choices is the beauty of surrender and the strength of the Holy Spirit within me. Often, it won’t be the natural response or the easy path to take, but it is the right one and it is always worth it. Other times, like this morning, the words will flow in a heart attitude of prayer because I put in the work ahead of time. I knew what God said in His Word because I spent the time studying it and reading it.

There are moments when even the strongest believers face doubts and wonder, “is this all worth it? It seems like life around me is rapidly circling the drain and the faithless and godless are living their best lives.” God does not back down from those questions. His answer remains a resounding, “Yes.” The final part of the verse from 1 Timothy says, “but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” Take heart if you find yourself in this frame of mind today. Because godliness is beneficial right now and in eternity. The benefits may not seem immediate, but the promise is that they are coming. Following Jesus will always be worth the investment. The more I know Jesus, the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I love His Word. Fall in love with Jesus, friend. Fall in love with His Words. They are a salve to our souls. They hold instruction for life. They are our hope. Treasure them. Hide them in your heart. Then share them with others. People are hungry for God’s Word, for God’s truth, and they do not even realize it. Offer God’s light to those who are desperate for truth in this world. And continue to train in godliness–the results will be far too great to tally.

Be blessed!