Keep Pondering

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart….And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb….And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord….And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him….Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them….And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
Luke 2:19‭, ‬21‭-‬22‭, ‬33‭, ‬39‭-‬41‭, ‬51 ESV

It’s December 27th, two days after Christmas. All the presents have been unwrapped. The feasts have been eaten (and the weight has been gained). The family has come and in many cases has already gone. It’s pretty much back to normal. Some people have gone back to work; some people are still off work, but normalcy in general has begun to return. This year’s Christmas Day is already a memory.

Yet as we continue moving forward, I encourage you to follow the example of Mary and Joseph in the days following Jesus’ birth. Their son, the one God had promised would save the world, had been born in a manger behind an inn in a city that was not their home. Not exactly the birth of Mary’s dreams, I’m sure. Shortly after the birth, they had been visited by shepherds declaring angels had visited them to announce the birth of their precious son. But then the shepherds left, and Mary and Joseph were left to care for a newborn baby–and not just any baby–but the Son of God.

I know we tend to spiritualize the baby Jesus, but the baby Jesus was just like any other human baby. As an infant He required the same care an infant today would need–the diaper changes, the feedings, the nurturing.  I’m sure he looked similar to all infants as well. Sure, He was fully God and the promised Messiah, yet in the days following his birth, Jesus was just a boy. The angels didn’t continue to come, and the Magi had not yet come as we often depict. They would not come until weeks later, maybe even months or years seeing that the king put to death all those children who were under the age of 2. This means between the birth and the next “event” recorded spanned a decent length of time. In those days following the birth of our Savior, all Mary and Joseph had to go on for direction was a promise in their heart and the memories of the birth.

What was next, though? What were Mary and Joseph supposed to do with Jesus now that He was in the flesh as a precious newborn? What would they do each and every day?

Raise Him in the admonition of the Lord.

Yes, that’s it. But yet that’s everything. God chose Mary and Joseph to raise His son because He knew they’d raise Him according to the law. Sure, they did nothing spectacular according to the world’s standard, for they went on with daily life. They raised him as they felt God had led them to raise him in the same way we raise our own children. They did what the Lord required by circumcising him, dedicating him, and going to the temple as required. They fed him, clothed him, taught him a trade. Yes, every once in awhile something miraculous would occur to remind them who Jesus was: they met Simeon at the dedication, they met Anna the prophetess at the dedication, and the Magi came.

But those were events, not everyday occurrences. Mary and Joseph had to live day by day in faith that what God had promised, He was doing, even when things were “just normal.” They had to live in faith that God was in the diaper changes, the daily feedings, the laundry, the training, and every other mundane task that accompanied raising a little boy–even a little boy destined to save the world.

With this in mind, I want to encourage you today.  Continue to believe and to serve, even in the everyday moments of life. Christmas is over. Some gifts have already broken, some gifts have already been returned, the leftover Christmas decorations are on sale, and the reality of how much money we spent and food we ate is sinking in. Yet as you face the realities of everyday life again, do not face it with the same attitude. Mary and Joseph were never the same after Jesus. Sure, they went along with life. I’m sure those first few days and weeks of Jesus’ life, Mary was lost in the sleep deprived days of new motherhood. But in those days and weeks and years following the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary lived the everyday events pondering the promises of God.

I’m not sure what God has promised you. I’m not sure the last time God brought someone or something into your life to give you that physical reminder of His promise. But whether it’s been awhile or just recently, I encourage you to keep living in faith what you know in your heart. Ponder what God has promised you while continuing to do what is before you. Serve God in the little things; serve God in the big. Serve God as you know how, remembering God will certainly perform His will in your life in His time, and for His good pleasure. God has not forgotten His promise, God has not forgotten you, and God will never let you go. Therefore, “…hold fast the confession of [your] hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23 ESV).


“I’m Possible”

Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:36‭-‬38 NKJV

Her who is called barren. I can only imagine the joy Elizabeth must have felt as she experienced new life growing inside her once barren womb. I wonder how many years she had pined for the chance to bear new life? It must have been a long time since Luke reminds the reader both Elizabeth and Zecharias “were advanced in years” (Luke 1:7 ESV). I wonder how long it had been since she first heard the oppressive description “barren” used to describe her?  It must have been heart wrenching to hear, especially living in a society that equated loving God with having children.  Thankfully, Luke kindly makes it clear both Elizabeth and Zecharias were, “…righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6 ESV); this means being childless was not a result of sin–it was not because they didn’t deserve a child.  Some may say if anyone deserved a child, they did; they had faithfully served God day after day and year after year–despite the desire for children remaining an allusive dream.  I personally love how they did not allow the lack of children to deter them from serving God.  They had a dream. They had a desire, yet even though that dream appeared impossible, they still served. They still worshiped. They still walked blameless before the Lord.  What an inspiration and example to all of us who have dreams that appear to be beyond impossible.

In the case of Elizabeth and Zecharias,  God one day revealed that His plans for them included making the humanly impossible possible.  Yes, an impossibility became not only possible, not only probable, but present.  Awesome.

And in the 6th month, the angel visited Mary.  Can’t you almost see God smile as He explained to Mary what He was going to do for her and what He did for Elizabeth? Can you picture the glean in His eye as He revealed to Mary that impossible with man is more than possible with God?  Can you hear Him whisper in her ear,  “I’m possible!”?

Think about it. A virgin give birth? The impossible made possible.

The barren be with child?  Impossible made possible.

This is what we all must remember today:  The Great I Am Is Possible!

Elizabeth learned this; and Mary knew this as she responded joyfully to the angel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary knew that if God wanted to make the impossible a reality, then in no way was she going to stop Him.  Even more, she would serve Him and worship Him through it.

God is not man.  What is not possible with man is more than possible with God. Nothing is impossible with God. He who created the earth has power over all creation. He can make a donkey talk (ask Balaam). He can part the seas (ask Moses). He can use a fish to swallow a man (ask Jonah). God can do anything, anytime, anywhere–especially the impossible. God is not confined to human laws–nor to human understanding. His ways are so much higher than ours– more than we could ever grasp with our finite minds.

Therefore, I encourage you today, as you remember the birth of our Savior, as you celebrate the baby in the manger, listen for God’s still small voice whispering in your ear.  Listen as He whispers into your heart and into your dreams, “I’m possible!”


Whatever dreams, desires, prayers, and promises that appear allusive and out of reach to you right now, do not give up hope. Do not stop believing. Keep seeking, keep serving, and keep worshiping God for who He is.  Keep moving forward in your walk with God knowing nothing and no one is beyond His reach. What man declares impossible is God’s possible. I AM is possible because I AM is God.  And with God, all things are possible (Mathew 19:26).


Achor to Victory

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. – Hosea 2:14‭-‬15 ESV

God brought the above passage to mind as I read the account of the sin of Achan in Joshua 7. In Joshua 6 we read about the Israelites defeating Jericho. One of God’s stipulations in His promise of victory was that they take nothing for themselves. They were to take the gold and silver and precious things and devote them to God alone. We then read how Achan disobeyed that Commandment by taking some precious things for himself and hiding them in his tent. It was not until Joshua’s men attempted to defeat Ai that they realized there was sin in the camp. God through His sovereignty soon revealed Achan’s sin, and Achan was subsequently punished by death before all Israel; he was stoned and burned because of his blatant sin.

Now read with me verse 26: And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.  This means the Valley of Achor got its name from Achan, a man who blatantly sinned and was then punished for that sin. Even more, the first Valley of Achor was itself a door of hope, for it was through that death—the death of the sinful one–that God redeemed the Israelites.  And once God redeemed the Israelites, He sent them back into Ai–and they were victorious.

Through the death of sin, victory came.

Does this scenario sound familiar? It should. We are all like Achan: sinful, selfish, and disobedient. We’ve all disobeyed the Holy One numerous times. And although we deserved to be destroyed for our sin as Achan was, God sent His only son Jesus to take that place for us.  Jesus suffered our penalty in that Valley of Achor so that we would not have to.

Jesus Himself in John 10:9 declares the following:  “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” This means Jesus IS the door of hope.  He is the way out of the valley.  No, we cannot avoid the Valley of Achor, for all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but when we look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, we find hope–a door of hope.

And all who enter that door will be saved.

Sin separates.  Sin leads us into the valley–a valley full of weeping, of mourning, and of death. But God.  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:4-5). God sent Jesus to be our door–our door of hope. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Today I encourage you with this:  allow Jesus to be your door of hope.  Allow the One who knew no sin to become sin for you.  No, it is not fair.  No, it does not seem right. But it is truth–God’s Truth.  God so loved you He sent Jesus to die on the cross for you.  All you need to do is believe–to open the door.  Open that door of hope.  He’s standing there waiting, knocking, praying for you to come unto Him (Revelation 3:20).

Sin can be the wall that keeps you separated from God, or it can become the avenue to Him. Allow it to be the avenue to Him.  Welcome Jesus into your heart and life today.  When you do–when you realize He has been alluring you this whole time–you will also realize that the very Valley of Achor that was destroying you has been transformed into the door of hope that has saved you.

Jesus loves you, my friend. Welcome Him into your heart today. You’ll be glad you did.



His Will on Earth

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 ESV

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
Matthew 6:10 ASV

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 KJV

Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 CEV

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 NLT

The model prayer. The “Our Father.” “The Lord’s Prayer.” This five verse prayer is well known by Christians and nonChristians alike. Even before I knew Jesus personally, I had memorized this prayer as part of my catechism.

Yet sometimes I feel we rush through it. The very prayer spoken by our Savior to teach us how to pray has become mere words spoken from memory. We say it because He told use to, but our hearts do not grasp its depth.

One verse I feel we tend to speak a little too quickly is Matthew 6:10. You will see by the various interpretations I listed above, the wording and punctuation differ slightly with each translation.

I’ve always read this verse as asking God to usher in His kingdom and asking that His will be done, not mine. In essence, I thought I was praying for His plans to come to pass, not my plans.

And while I don’t think that is wrong, the other day I read this passage in a little different light. I read it from the perspective of the CEV (shown above). What’s the difference? One asks God to orchestrate things according to His plan; the other asks God to grant us the ability to do His plan without question. One surrenders to His sovereignty; the other asks for the strength to submit to His sovereignty. Do you see the difference?

Let’s think about heaven for a minute. Heaven is lit by God’s presence–so it’s always light. We will dwell in His Presence continually thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And we will worship Him continually for eternity. In short, heaven is the place God always receives the glory and honor He deserves. Heaven is the place earth was intended to be before sin tainted it. There will be no sin, no tears, no grumbling, and no complaining in Heaven. Heaven is God’s will. Heaven is the place God always gets His way–and where everyone is happy about that.

Now look back to Matthew 6:10. When we pray God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven, we are going beyond just asking that God does His will. We are going beyond surrender and onto submission. Surrender says, “Okay, have it your way.” Submission says, “As you will, my Lord.” Or in the words of Jesus, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV)

One way Jesus brought Heaven to Earth was by always doing God’s will on earth as God’s will is done in heaven: without question.  So when we pray as Jesus prayed, we too are praying that we will obey God’s voice in the same way all of Heaven obeys Him without question. When we pray God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven, we are praying that we will do God’s will on earth in the same way we will do His will in heaven: immediately and with joy.

I am not sure what your life looks like today, but regardless of what it looks like, I pray that you will take the time to ask God’s will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Whether you pray with surrendering faith, trusting that His will will be done even though you may not understand the reason for the way things are–or whether you pray it as a request that He give you the strength to do His will even when you do not understand and may not want to–please pray.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9‭-‬13 ESV



Now Jericho [a fortified city with high walls] was tightly closed because [of the people’s fear] of the sons of Israel; no one went out or came in. The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the mighty warriors.
JOSHUA 6:1‭-‬2 AMP

“See!” We usually say or hear this when something occurs according to what we or someone else predicted right after the prediction was questioned or ridiculed. We just “knew” that something was going to happen, so when it does, we look at those doubters and say, “See, I told you so!”

What I love about passages like the one above, however, is that God tells the listener, “See!” before the physical evidence matches the promise. Joshua was outside the highly fortified walls of Jericho when God told him, “See, I have given it to you.” God had already promised Joshua Jericho was his, and He had already shown Joshua through the report of the two spies that the men of Jericho were afraid. The only thing missing was the physical evidence to match the promise. But Joshua knew–and we  must remember–in God’s Kingdom, what God promises, God delivers. What God promises we can see in faith even if–and especially when–our physical eyes cannot.

Gideon was a man who seemed to love to question God. When God called him out of the winepress, he asked, “Are you sure?” When God told him to take Midian, he asked God for a sign. But when push came to shove, so to speak, Gideon went forth trusting in God’s “See!” He trusted it so much he told his 300 men (that’s 300 men about to attack an army “as countless as the locusts”), “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hand”
Judges 7:15 AMP).

Yes, you read that correctly. Only 300 men against an army too numerous to count, yet Gideon saw the victory because God had promised the victory. And the victory he saw in faith soon became a victory in sight. Not because of anything Gideon did, but because of what God did through Gideon.

Second Corinthians 5:7 reminds us, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Although life would at first seem simple if we didn’t have to believe before seeing, our relationship with God would be shallow. A deeper relationship with God is not possible when our feet can still touch bottom. Faith comes when we can’t see or feel the bottom, but we know it’s there because God says it is.

So I ask you today, what has God promised you? If you are not sure, look in His word. His word is full of promises, and He is the Promise Keeper. If you do know what God has promised–whether it be the salvation of a family member, the health of a loved one, a new job, the purchase of a new home, or the selling of an old–whatever it is God has previously told you He would do–you can continue walking forward knowing He not only will do it, but also He has already done it. See, He has given it into your hands. Yes, see! What you see in faith you will soon see in sight. But don’t take my word for it; take His.

Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality–faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].
Hebrews 11:1 AMP


Good Came

Nathanael answered him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip replied, “Come and see.”

John 1:46

I’ve often read this verse as one which demeans Nazareth and denotes a sarcastic tone from Nathanael.  Yet after a little research, I found a different perspective–one that encourages me and I pray encourages you as well.

Instead of reading the above as Nathanael demeaning Nazareth, we should read it as Nathanael questioning God’s Anointed One being a Nazarene.   In other words, Nathanael was really asking, “Can the Messiah come from Nazareth?”  You see, everyone read the Scriptures and assumed Jesus would come from Bethlehem, and indeed He was born there, thus fulfilling the Scriptures.   Yet He was also a Nazarene, another prophecy that many Jews had not considered since it had only been spoken, not written (see Matthew 2:23).

So how is this encouraging? Well, Nazareth wasn’t an area of high regard.  It was considered lesser than the other areas of Galilee.  Yet God chose His Son to be a Nazarene.  The Savior of the world was raised in an overlooked area.  He wasn’t popular.  He wasn’t privileged.  He was a carpenter’s son living life in a small town.

So where do you live?  In a big city?  A little town?  A popular tourist destination? A town that rarely makes it on a map?   Well, regardless your location, God has a plan for your life.

Go ahead and place your town where it says Nazareth:  “Can anything good come out of _______?”

Can anything good come out of where you live?  Yes!  Yes it can.  Because if God can call His Son out of a detestable city, He can easily call you out of where you are. It’s not where you are that determines your future; it’s whose you are. And you, my friend, are a child of the King. Therefore God has not only called you, but God can and will use you. If you let Him.

The reputation of where you are from doesn’t determine where you will go. God doesn’t look at situations and circumstances; He looks at hearts. And a heart like His is a powerful tool.

Therefore let God use you today.  Allow His light to shine right where you are. And know that no matter where you are and where you are from, when Jesus shines through you, people will “...see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Nothing Too Difficult

Behold, I am the Lord , the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
Jeremiah 32:27 KJV

God does not get overwhelmed. This comforting truth calmed my soul as I prayed the other day. At the time, there were several people I knew who needed a special touch from God. Some needed healing, some grace, some strength, some wisdom. They all needed something I could not give but I knew God could.

We as humans can be bombarded to the point where we feel crushed, we feel weighted down, we feel pressed in on all sides. When everything in life seems to be out of our control, we tend to begin to feel out of control ourselves.

But not God. Nothing is too hard for God. He is always in control. He always knows what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. He knows. And He can handle it.

God does not get overwhelmed.

Furthermore, God does not get overwhelmed as we bombard him with our questions, our needs, our wants, and our cries. No matter what we bring to Him, and no matter how much we bring it, God does not get overwhelmed. He has the whole world on His shoulders and in His hands. He hears you, He hears me, He hears the baby, He hears the child, He hears the one at the beginning of the journey and the one at the end. God hears all, knows all, and sees all–yet God is never overwhelmed. It is never too much for God; it is never too hard for God

Why? Because God is God not man. This means we cannot and should not ascribe to Him the limitations of man. The gods of the heathens are ones they created. Those gods are limited; those gods are powerless. Those gods are not God. Yet our God is God. He is real. He is eternal. He is immortal. He is invincible. He is all and is in all. And most importantly: He created us, not we Him.

Therefore as a fellow child of God–a limited, human child of God–I encourage you in this truth: God does not get overwhelmed.

Whatever it is you are facing today–whatever mountain or mountain range looms before of you–remember God is more than able and more than enough. He can move that mountain. He can handle your pleas. He can handle it all.

Because He is God.

And God does not get overwhelmed.

His Word

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
James 1:19 ESV

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10‭-‬12 ESV

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 ESV

And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
Acts 13:22 ESV

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalms 51:10‭-‬12 ESV

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12‭-‬14 ESV

I messed up. I said (well, actually texted) something I shouldn’t have. And although my intent was not to hurt the recipient, I did. Guilt. Sorrow. Frustration. Those inevitable self-deprecating thoughts immediately began to plague my thought life.

But I stopped them. I arrested them. I took them captive. I followed the instructions found in 2 Corinthians 10: For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4‭-‬5 ESV)

And as I meditated on the passages above from God’s Word, my thoughts began to shift. My countenance began to change. The burden began to lift. No, I couldn’t change what had occurred, but through the power of God and His Word, I was able to get back up and keep moving forward.

It was actually this morning as I woke up still free from the burden of guilt God reminded me of the key to victorious living: His Word. In 2 Timothy we read the following: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16‭-‬17 ESV). Psalm 119:11 reads, I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Hebrews 4:12 reads  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s Word is indeed powerful. Its power was evident last night in those initial moments of recognizing my own selfish frailty. For as I confessed my sins (knowing according to 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness) God began to flood my mind with His Word. The verses listed at the beginning of this post are just some of those passages God’s Holy Spirit brought to mind. Each one played a part in enabling me to get back up, dust myself off, and to keep moving forward.

No, none of the above verses justifies my sin. But they do cleanse me. They do remind me who I am and whose I am.

And this is why I write all this to you today. I want to remind you God’s Word is powerful. God’s Word is life. None of us is perfect, but God’s Word is. So read it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Daily dwell in His Presence and in His Word. No, you will not achieve perfection, but you will be whole. You will be able to get back up after you fall and keep moving forward. You will be victorious knowing “…he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). For The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7‭-‬11 ESV)