My neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds has reached nearly 3 feet. It is a perfect hiding spot for a rabbit, that is, until my Labrador decides he wants to retrieve him. I keep him from having any success; however, this morning he did shock the rabbit he uncovered with his keen abilities. The rabbit, stunned and not really able to evaluate his options, ran right towards a pack of German Shepherds. He rebounded and finally found an escape route.
Watching the frazzled rabbit run from one point to the next haphazardly reminded me of how easy it is to get comfortable and feel safe somewhere only to find yourself under attack. This can happen in a relationship, at a job, in a circle of friends, and even at church. It is usually the people closest to us that hurt us most. We get comfortable. We feel safe. Then something happens. We all have moments, situations, events, etc. in life that shock us, open our eyes, hurt us, change us as people. We have the option to respond in whatever way we see fit. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we deny.
When we run, like the rabbit, we are running from something, and there’s always a place we are running toward. Maybe we attempt to nurse our brokenness with some self-soothing methods that are almost second-hand nature. Remember the Golden Girls moments when the cheesecake came out of the fridge? Perhaps your soothing is going to the gym, taking a shopping trip, having a few (or more) drinks. We all have our vices; some of us have multiple vices.
Whatever your situation may be, spend time with God. Take refuge in Him. People change; God is unchanging. People are unfaithful; God is faithful. People are broken, not-perfect, and many times selfish; God’s love is unfailing, His ways are perfect, and He pours out His blessing in abundance. As you cling to Him, may you realize you were never meant to hide in the safety of the overgrowth—you were made to soar! The people in your life are not to be your safety net, but they are part of your life to love, to encourage, to serve. The financial security of a good job and money in the bank is not for you to sit back and coast through life, but to glorify God. Often, when you are chased from the overgrowth, you are led to right where you are meant to be at this very moment. Let the Spirit guide your steps from the weeds to all that He has awaiting. It might not appear to be better than the pile of weeds, but you can trust that God has a great plan. In faith, in obedience, in love – press onward and soar!
“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” – Psalm 143:8 [NLT]
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” – Psalm 25:5 [NLT]
I had to chuckle the other evening as I drove home. I came across a deer-crossing street sign and someone had put a red nose on the deer. I said, “Look, it’s Rudolph,” as I passed by the sign. Then I pondered over what some may say when they see the same sign. I know that the sign is the property of the local government, and so technically the nose could be seen as defacement of property. Legal actions could be taken against the person who chose to apply the nose to the sign. At the same time, I found it comical. Please do not get me wrong—I am not in any way saying it’s okay to deface or damage property. What I am trying to express is how I saw this and had a laugh at the cute, comical image.
Over the years, I have found myself on a roller coaster ride with grace. When I was younger, I was happy about grace. I was glad that God gave me grace. I wanted grace. I was stingy and wanted to keep all the grace I could handle. As I got older, I started to learn more about the Law. I started to find myself a bit proud. I started to think better of myself. I sat myself up high. I was smug. I felt somewhat superior to some others. This grew as I attended university and increased my knowledge of the Bible. It’s interesting how we can grow in our knowledge of the Word of God, and separate ourselves so much from grace, because we stand on knowledge. We hold tightly to Scripture, but so tightly that we miss the common thread of love. We like the feeling of being right, being justified, being a child of God. We miss the “all fall short” and the “love others” and “honor everyone.” We become a Pharisee and can be blind to it for a long time, even years later.
As the years pass by, I slowly find myself more broken. I find myself understanding grace more. I find myself needing grace more. I look back on the person I used to be and see how God has changed me. He has shown me that I was sometimes a stumbling block when I should have been a bridge. He has reminded me that the grace I receive, is the same grace that I should pour out to others. He opens my eyes to love simply and deeply—to not make life so difficult and draining. I have long ago realized that the greatest threat to my relationship with God is not Satan; it’s me. I am a long way from the follow-the-rules-down-to-the-last-letter kid I once was in school. I have learned to live, to love, to laugh. I have learned that a Rudolph nose, despite the defacement of property, is funny. I have decided to love anyway, to laugh often, to forgive freely. Life is short. We need a few more Rudolph noses and a lot more love. We desperately all need Jesus. Oh, how sweet the sound of His amazing grace!
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” – Ephesians 1:7 [ESV]
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24 [ESV]
I love going to the gym as much as my schedule permits. The gym is my happy place. I put on some music and spend an hour trying to push my body. One thing that bothers me at the gym is when people sit at machines and do not exercise. The last time I was at the gym, I was exercising on the elliptical machine and peered out to see a handful of people sitting on the weight machines with cell phones in hand. The people sat at the machines the entire time I was on the elliptical machine. I became curious as to why the people would even come to the gym if they were not going to work out.
The people who sat at the machines could tell people that they went to the gym. Perhaps some of the group checked in at the gym on Facebook. Perhaps some of the group will tell friends or family that they were at the gym. They will even tell themselves they were at the gym. But to be at the gym and to actually work out at the gym are two different things. Anyone can go to the gym, but not everyone uses the gym equipment. People can see the check in on Facebook and believe their friend is getting buff, and in the end, their friend was scrolling their Facebook newsfeed. To the blind eye, it appears the person is getting fit; reality says something different.
This same façade is true in the life of a “Christian.” There are many people who claim to be Christians but when outsiders observe their lives, they are not seeing Jesus. There are people who attend church on a regular basis and people who do good deeds, who unfortunately do not know Jesus. These people may know of Jesus, but they never had the blessing of enjoying the presence of God in their lives because they were too busy trying to show everyone they had everything in order, too proud to lean into God, or too blinded by their own façade that they missed the grace so freely poured out. It is sad how many people still today think that they must try to earn their place in heaven.
We are each on a journey. We all need Jesus. Let us not sit at the machines pretending to be Christians. Instead, may our eyes be fixed on Jesus. May our words and our deeds point to Him. May we stop trying to cling to the title of Christian, and instead invest our time in following Jesus by responding to the great commands to love God and love others. Love is not a façade. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. It’s certainly not easy. Love God. Love others.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 [NIV]
The book of Jonah reminds us that God is in control. Even though it was obvious that the Ninevites were off course, and it was clear that Jonah had some issues against following God’s command to share His message with the Ninevites, God knew just what was needed. He knew that the Ninevites were open to hearing His truth, and He also was prepared to pour out some grace upon His not-so-compliant prophet too.
The word “wayman” means appointed or prepared. In the book of Jonah, we read that God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah after he was tossed overboard. At first glance, it seems as if this big fish was a punishment, but in fact, it was a picture of the awesome grace of God. Without the fish, Jonah would have most likely succumbed to the stormy waters. Instead, he was safe inside the great fish, and able to enjoy some quiet time with God alone.
Later we read in Jonah 4 of more appointments. God appointed a plant to grow to provide shade. God appointed a worm to eat the plant. God appointed wind to provide more heat. Again and again, we read of God’s preparation—of His appointments. Now don’t misread the situation—not everything that happens is not some pivotal part in God’s grand plan. Some situations and circumstances are not meant to be signs or tests. However, God does ordain each one of your days. God does promise that everything will be used for His good purpose. God is in control today, tomorrow, and forever. He reigns! No matter what you are dealing with today, remember Who is above all. Remember your Father and trust in His Word. His Word never fails. Today, thank Him for His goodness, His faithfulness, and His great plan.
“And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” – Jonah 1:17 [ESV]
“Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’” – Jonah 4:6-8 [ESV]
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalm 139:16 [NASB]
I do not have words to express the past six months. There are seasons of growth, seasons of service, seasons of suffering, seasons of plenty, seasons of lack, seasons of rest. The list goes on and on. However, this last season has probably been the most confusing and yet eye opening at the same time. I find myself today as more broken, and yet more complete. Through it all, I have gained fresh eyes, yet old eyes. I have seen truth in new light. Yet the foundation is still the same. My life is forever built on Jesus. My family verse is still the same 1 Corinthians 10:31, which reminds my children and myself to do everything for the glory of God.
As I read Solomon’s writings, I find this great reminder from the wise one. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Everything circles back to being all in—to surrendering all, to giving all, to pouring out all. This takes me back to my Grandma’s kitchen table, a bag full of pretzel nuggets, a deck of cards, and my aunt sitting across from me. As she tried to teach me the game of poker, and we put wagers in place that consisted of pretzel nuggets in our possessions, it was obvious that if you wanted to get the most return, you had to be all in. You couldn’t let fear dictate your moves. You couldn’t let a lack of resources keep you from acting in confidence. Now yes, when it came to that day long ago, the game ended only because we both ate all of the pretzel nuggets. We both won; we both lost. But in life, if you are not all in, you miss out. You have one opportunity. You have one chance You have one moment. Life is but a breath.
If you live your life in fear, not taking the step to be all in, you miss out. You won’t have a fulfilling relationship if you cannot be all in. You cannot be the parent you were designed to be if you miss out on the opportunity to be all in. You won’t find as much success at your job if you are not all in. Most importantly, you miss out on great revelation from God when you hold back—when you do not lean into Him with all of yourself. Remember, if you lean into Him, He will draw near to you.
So today, as you spend your day likely drowning in busyness, consider if you are an all in person. Are you using all your might? As a parent, are you devoting all your might? As an employee, are you devoting all of your might? As a child of God, are you living life with all your might (which actually includes God’s might – the Holy Spirit)? Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. To God be all honor, glory, and praise!
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10 [NASB]
Facebook and I have a love hate relationship. I am thankful for the ability to keep up with friends and family; however, the constant demand for attention and the heaps of negativity and drama are draining to life. Over the past few years, I have only skimmed my newsfeed and I ignore Messenger even if the constant new message notification icon frustrates my OCD tendencies. There is so much more to life. Nonetheless, I enjoy still keeping up with my family and friends, and I especially love looking at my memories each day. There is nothing like taking a walk down memory lane. For multiple reasons, my memory (both short-term and long-term) is not good. Taking these daily strolls is always an adventure. But this week, I got a surprise.
In my memory feed, I saw some old photos of my children and dogs. I saw events and gatherings. I saw some quotes I shared. Then I saw a blocked post. A blocked post! The reason? It “goes against our community standards.” Community standards? What? This is the word of God. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (NIV). This verse from Isaiah 12:2 was as important to me then as it is to me now. Such a powerful declaration, a memory that came on just the day when I needed to be reminded of it once again. But it doesn’t follow community standards. And what are the community standards? Safety, voice, and equity.
The Word of God will always convict the world. Though His Word is Truth and should be our plumb line in life, where we hold everything up to the True Standard—His standards, the world will always see this as folly. But these community standards speak of our God more than the world will ever know. When we find that there is no true safety from the dangers of this world, we find refuge in Him. We find salvation in Him. When we find that the voices of this world are often sharing lies and agendas and hate and destruction, we can rest in Him and trust Him. He is our strength and our defense. When the lies are spoken about us, He speaks over us His truth, His love, His grace. When the world seems like there is no fairness, no justice, no equality, we find that He so loved EVERYONE, that He sent His only Son to pay the ultimate price so that we ALL have the opportunity to come to Him, to be free, to be redeemed, to be healed, to live out a great inheritance as a child of God, a son or daughter of the God Most High. That despite the doings of the father of lies and our own sin and shortcomings, we can have a loving, eternal relationship with our Father. He is my safety, my voice, my equity.
And so today, even while the world has community standards and wants to block the truth and keep you from receiving all that God has for you, reach out to Him. Draw near to the One who is Hope. Cling to the One who is Peace. Rejoice in the One who is King. One day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess—JESUS IS LORD!
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” – Isaiah 12:2 [NIV]
March 7. Here it is again. I am sure I am not the only one with a day. A day is only a day in your eyes. As the world sees the day, it is very different from your vantagepoint. A day is filled with scars, with unanswered questions, with tragedy, with depth, with decisions, with memories that don’t quite add up. Today is my day.
When this day first became my day, it was a moment when my life forever changed. I had such dreams of what could be in my life; however, I found that life isn’t a Hallmark movie and what I had hoped would be my prayers answered and my white picket fence and my happily ever after became something different—something raw, uncontrollable, unsatisfactory to my plans. It was a day that began a long journey trying to process what was truth, what was the new normal, and what fears needed to be overcome to navigate the new waters. It took years to heal many of the scars, some of which went unnoticed for a long period of time. It required me to let God into the broken areas, to freely move, to reveal to me things I never wanted to see—so that He could repair—so that He could make new.
This was 2004. Every year since, I have celebrated this day. I rejoiced this day not because of what was lost and because of what I so desperately wanted to be truth back then. I rejoiced this day not because I lost my white picket fence and had to face reality. I rejoice because through the years I have been blessed to see God move again and again for my family. I have seen Him move mountains in my life. I have seen Him part waters when there was not a way to pass. He has provided me strength, comfort, and He has protected and provided for my family at every turn.
Today it was hard to celebrate. As I drove to the office knowing that this day was again another end to a season, I cried out the Lord. The brokenness and heartache that I felt back in 2004, has long since faded. I am not that same person. And the pain I felt that day is very different than the pain of today. It was strange as I was on my morning drive to consider that God knew even back in 2004, what would happen today. He knew when I was putting my hand to the plow, that this day would come.
But this day was different. In 2004, I didn’t have a real choice of anything. I had to get up off the floor, dust myself off, and press onward. It was either that or wallow for a time. But this day was a choice, a step forward that I have taken even knowing some of the brokenness that would follow. Sometimes we can see truth and we know it is truth, but we don’t want to receive it and be bold in faith. Sometimes we see truth but ask why God won’t change things so the truth could be different. Sometimes we are faced with the option of trusting God, stepping forward, letting go, and trusting that out of the brokenness He is still making all things new.
As I neared the office, and continued to seek comfort in Him, knowing that after today, so much of what was a huge part of my life is going to be changed, even seeing glimpses of those changes these past few weeks, Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You,” began to play. The lyrics reminded me of the battles over the years, reminded me of how things often make little sense when I’m faced with a road to take. It was in that car ride to work that I could continue to do what I’ve done each year on March 7th—celebrate Him! Not everyone will understand what I feel on this day. Not everyone will know all the hours of prayer leading up to this day. Not everyone will be excited for this day.
Even still, I rejoice. I rejoice in knowing that God is still God. I rejoice in knowing that He has a great plan, beautifully orchestrated. I rejoice in knowing that He is still Lord of my life, my Savior and King. I rejoice in knowing that He will still see me through these murky waters. Long ago, He gave me this calling to preach His Word. Following in faithful obedience to this calling led me up to this very day, and this very decision. As 1 Timothy 4:16 says, I must keep watch on my life and keep watch on my teaching and then in doing these things, may the hearers be saved. May I continue to be faithful to His calling upon my life. The Word will go out as He leads!
As this day, March 7thslowly ends, I question my verse for this season. The verse, 1 Chronicles 4:10, speaks of blessing and enlarging the ministry—praying that there would be no pain or harm allowed. None of these words make sense to me today. This doesn’t seem like the season I’m currently navigating; it seems like polar opposite. But so often, we do not know what He has planned. That is why it is called faith.
This is not a devotion. This is not a sermon. This is not a Bible study. This is not a poem. This is my day. This is my heart. This is my reality. May this testimony point to the One who is greater than I, to a Father who has never left my side, a Savior who paid something I could never pay, the Spirit who continues to reveal to me that I have a lot of growing yet needed.
Look to Him. Draw near to Him and watch how everything changes!
On a Saturday morning, I find myself sleeping in and spending more time in the Word. It is certainly a time of refreshment for me—the sleep and the time with God. We need rest. We need God.
Today’s verse speaks about how God restores and revives. The actual word translates to mean restore, refresh, renew, or revive. When you take a closer look, the Hebrew word “shub” means to turn back or return. This return is to a state you were once in, and this return is not from an occasional nap or reading the daily verse of the day. Shub points to a revival of your life, your strength, your energy. This is something God offers you daily, but it cannot happen if we are not staying connected and being mindful of His presence every day as we go through our day.
If you are feeling tired or drained or if you would like to sleep the next week of your life away, perhaps it is a good time to for shub, to turn back to Him and allow Him to pour into you. What is needed for shub? You simply return. Be intentional about prayer and reading your Bible. As you lean into Him in prayer, as you dig deeper into His Word, you will be restored and revived. Remember this shub isn’t a cat nap that gets you to finish your day with no major issues—there’s so much more! I pray this return to your first love will restore and revive you. The fruit of this revival points to the fullness of God.
“That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name. – Psalm 23:3 [TPT]
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- Love is Patient… fill in gaps with GRACE
- Love is Kind… do GOOD & be GENEROUS to all
- Love Rejoices with Truth… DELIGHT in truth
- Love Always
“Love Always”… used to use this as my signature for cards and letters
Realized that I do not “Love Always.”
Always means ALL THE TIME
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:7 Living Bible (TLB)
7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.
1 Corinthians 13:7 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
7 Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.
1 Corinthians 13:7 The Passion Translation (TPT)
7 Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love BEARS all things – Love BEARS always
YOU WILL BE LOYAL TO HIM NO MATTER WHAT THE COST
YOU WILL NEVER STOP BEING PATIENT
LOVE COVERS… PROTECTS
1 Peter 4:8 (NASB)
8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Charles Spurgeon noted that… “This love both covers and bears all things. It never proclaims the errors of others. It refuses to see faults unless it may kindly help in their removal. It stands in the presence of a fault with a finger on its lips.”
Love BELIEVES all things – Love BELIEVES always
YOU WILL ALWAYS BELIEVE IN HIM
Expect the best of others (of what’s in them now)
You recognize they are made in the image of God — you see the very best in them now
You believe in someone until you are shown otherwise – give benefit of the doubt
Romans 12:10 English Standard Version (ESV)
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Faith in what God has made available now
Love HOPES all things – Love HOPES always
YOU WILL ALWAYS EXPECT THE BEST OF HIM
Expect the best of others (of what is to come)
You recognize that God has a greater purpose in a person’s life, a plan & purpose of His design — you see what God wants to do in a person’s life.
Love looks forward with confidence & grace
Trust that expects fulfillment of the future promises of God
1 Timothy 4:10 English Standard Version (ESV)
10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Romans 8:24 The Passion Translation (TPT)
24 For this is the hope of our salvation.
But hope means that we must trust and wait for what is still unseen. For why would we need to hope for something we already have?
Love ENDURES all things – Love ENDURES always
YOU WILL ALWAYS STAND YOUR GROUND IN DEFENDING HIM
YOU WILL NEVER GIVES UP
To endure – To remain under
Perseveres despite situations / circumstances
No matter what!
1 Corinthians 9:12 (NASB)
12 If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.
In Closing, look to God to understand what it means to LOVE ALWAYS…
Love Bears… God bears… He pours out grace & mercy despite your sins and shortcomings. Your sins cannot stand up to His grace.
Love Believes… God believes the best in you – God designed you for His good purpose & God sees you as His Son.
Love Hopes… God has your future beautifully orchestrated & God sees who you will be – the beautiful masterpiece
Love Endures… God loves NO MATTER WHAT… He truly LOVES ALWAYS!