Let’s Live It

The best apology may not be one you speak but one you live.

God spoke this to my heart this morning as I again approached Him about something I said in a conversation the other day. I say again because in recent weeks I have found myself leaving conversation after conversation with that sinking feeling that I said too much. Sometimes I spoke too much because I was frustrated. Other times I spoke too much because my personality leans toward analyzing and problem solving–even if others do not ask me to analyze a problem solve.

No matter my motivation for saying too much, though, after each conversation I would wrestle with whether or not I should go apologize to the one who had to listen to my words. I would ask God for forgiveness first (because all sin is first and foremost sin against God) and then ask Him if I should go back and make it right. Seriously, it has been a vicious cycle. Speak. Sin. Apologize. Repeat.

Until this morning–when God spoke to me the above. Rather than go back again and again to apologize for saying too much, I should work on ceasing the behavior itself.  God’s Word declares, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19). Therefore, instead of continuing to sin, I need to pray for the grace to change. I need to pray as David did: Set a guard, O Lord , over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalms 141:3). For I must remember, “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Now why do I share this with you this morning? Well, you you may be like me and find yourself apologizing for a repeated behavior. It could be speaking too much. It could be doing too much. It could be not doing enough. Whatever sin keeps creeping back day after day leading you to seek forgiveness again and again, I encourage you, instead of just seeking forgiveness, seek change as well. Ask God for the grace, wisdom, and strength to change your heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us all to, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  So join me today in choosing change. Let’s allow God to change our hearts as we follow His. Let’s not fall victim to the cycle of sin. Rather, let’s renew our hearts, refresh our minds, and rebuild our lives. Let’s not just say we’re sorry; let’s live it.

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Perspective Matters

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4‭-‬5 ESV

Perspective–the way we see things–matters. Two people can be watching the same event, but if the perspective from which each of them views it is different, then the descriptions they give about the event will differ as well. Think about those who referee NFL football games. There are times two well-qualified referees view the same play yet make opposing calls. Does this make one referee better than the other? Not in the least. It just demonstrates that different perspectives change what we see. One ref could have been looking at the backside of the play and thus did not see the ball touch the ground, so he called a catch. The other ref may have been on the front side of the play, so he viewed the ball hit the ground and thus called incomplete. Both made accurate calls from their individual perspectives, but their individual perspectives were not the same.

Now look at the verse above. Christ is called the Living Stone. Yet not everyone esteemed Him precious. He was despised and rejected by man. Yet He was loved by God. Throughout Jesus’s life people questioned Him, ridiculed Him, and accused Him of being a liar and a blasphemer.  They did not understand Him and did not like Him. The religious leaders of the day did not want Jesus to be the one in charge, for they assumed Jesus was there to take away what they had. From their perspective, Jesus was a threat, so they killed Him.

But Jesus did not come to take away; Jesus came to give–to give them what they so desperately needed. From God’s perspective, Jesus was chosen. Jesus was precious.

Yet Jesus was rejected by man. Same person. Same actions. Yet viewed from different perspectives.

Now look at verse five. Who else does the Bible say is like a living stone?

You.

Yes, you. As God’s child, you are a living stone–a living stone God is using to build His Kingdom. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” (1 Peter 2:9). You are precious in the sight of God.

Does this mean everyone you come across will love you? Not in the least. Actually, it may be the very opposite. Because you are precious in the sight of God, because you are God’s child, and because He is using you, many people may not like you. They may view you in the same way they viewed Jesus: a threat they must despise, reject, and attempt to remove.

Yet the rejection of man does not change who you are. Regardless of what man may say and what man may do, you are God’s beloved, and you are God’s instrument of righteousness on this Earth. God has designed you to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Acceptable to God, not man.

So walk like who you really are today: God’s child. Walk in the light. Be a light. Remember the words of Jesus:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 ESV)

Remember also these words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18‭-‬19 ESV)

Keep the right perspective today: God’s perspective. And sees yourself as God sees you: chosen, precious, beloved, and called. Called by God to love Him and to love people, even (and especially) when people don’t don’t understand and don’t love you back.

Just Keep Singing

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord ; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord , our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture…
Psalms 95:1‭-‬7 ESV

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. What do we do? We swim!.” Ah, those words from that forgetful blue fish Dory in Finding Nemo often come to mind when I am facing unforeseen or unpleasant circumstances. They are not scripture, but they do point me to the truth in scripture they encapsulate.

What’s the truth? Just keep singing. Yes, regardless the circumstances of our lives, we must keep singing–singing praise to our God. Especially when we don’t feel like it. Actually, the very times we don’t feel like praising are the times we should be praising the most.

Why? Because God never changes. Circumstances change. People change. Everything in this life changes. Except God. God never changes.  He is steadfast, immovable, and the same yesterday,  today, and forever. He is our Rock. This means no matter how bad life gets, God is still good. No matter how uncertain our future appears, God is still in control.  No matter how shaky the ground feels beneath our feet, God remains a Firm Foundation.

God is sovereign over all creation. And nothing and no one has the power to take that from Him. This is why we, as the psalmist above declares, are to enter His Presence with singing. We are to sing, not because of what is going on around us, but because of who God is.

And who is God?

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

God is great. He is King. And everything–yes, everything–is His. You are His. Creation is His. And even the circumstances plaguing your life this very moment are His.  No, they are not His in that He caused them, for God is not the author of evil. But they are His in that they’re under His authority. If God didn’t want them then God would not have allowed them.

Life’s not easy. I get that. Sickness. Death. Loss. These and so much more blow into our lives like tornadoes, leaving us wondering what just happened as we stare at the debris of what once was. Yet regardless the storms that may rage in our lives (and there will be storms!), God holds us and our lives in the palm of His hands. Nothing surprises him. Nothing is too big for him. And nothing will ever snatch us from His hands.

So remember today, there is no temptation and no struggle that you will face that God does not have the power and ability to walk you through. And there is no struggle or temptation that you may face that will ever change who God is. Therefore, keep walking, and keep singing as you walk. Keep singing knowing that not only is God a great God, but also He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture.

 

 

Sought and Found

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
Luke 15:4 ESV

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
Luke 15:8 ESV

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20 ESV

Have you ever lost something? I have. Lots of times. And oh the joy that always comes when I find what I have been looking for!  Jesus talks about this joy in the above parables. He explains the joy that comes when the lost item is found. Yet today the Holy Spirit brought me to the other side of these “lost and found” parables: the perspective of the one searching.

In the first parable, the shepherd does not give up until he finds that one sheep. He searches high and low until he finds it, and then he brings it home. In the second parable, the woman turns the light on, cleans, and searches diligently for that lost coin. Like the shepherd, she does not give up until she finds it.  With the Prodigal Son, that father was always keeping an eye out for his little boy. He was always watching for any signs that his son was coming home. We can tell because on that day that his son did start coming home, the father noticed him while he was “still a long way off.” The dad did not then wait until his son was close. Rather, at the first sign that his son was coming home, the father ran out to meet him.

So here are two things God showed me through these passages this morning. First of all, God never gives up on us. He never stops seeking His children. God does not want anyone to suffer eternity in Hell. He is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). And since God longs for us to know Him intimately, He will continually provide opportunities for us to draw near to Him. He will send that friend, that stranger, that Pastor, pretty much anything He can think of (and He thinks up a lot!), to reach out and draw us into His presence. Like the shepherd, God searches actively for us. Like the woman with the lost coin, God never gives up. And like the father, He will immediately notice, even if we are still far off, when we take that first step.

Which brings me to the second point. God does not make us walk all the way to Him. As soon as we take that first step toward Him, He comes running. I must admit I got teary-eyed this morning as I pictured the following scene from The Prodigal Son: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Oh, my heart! I could just imagine what that father was thinking as he looked out the window as he did so many times every day, hoping and waiting and praying that his son would come home. I could just picture how he caught his breath, rubbed his eyes, and thought to himself, “Is that really my son?!” And then when reality sunk in that it truly was his little boy coming home, the joy that must have overwhelmed him as he ran full force to greet his little boy!

And now you know this: that’s how God looks at you! God is not going to sit there looking out the window, see you coming, and then wait for you to get all the way back on your own. No, He’s going to run out to greet, to embrace, and to kiss you as He expresses such joy that you’re coming home. For the moment you draw near to God, He immediately draws near to you (James 4:8).  God will never deny the broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Therefore today, let me encourage you to take that first step back home. Take that first step knowing that God has never stopped seeking you. God has never given up on you. And He never will. At the first sign of you coming home–as soon as you turn around to focus on the right path, He will meet you right where you are. He will run up to you, put His arm around you, and rejoice exceedingly as He continues with you to walk you the rest of the way home.

God loves you, my friend. He not only longs for you to come home, but He has also been and will continue to search for you diligently until you make your way home. So seek your Savior today.  Don’t wait for “the right time,” for the right time is now. And know this: when  you seek, you will find. You will find  a Shepherd, a Father, and a Friend with arms open wide declaring with a smile on His face and joy in His heart, “Welcome home!”

Blessed

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, favored by God] is he whose transgression is forgiven, And whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute wickedness, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent about my sin , my body wasted away Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; My energy (vitality, strength) was drained away as with the burning heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And I did not hide my wickedness; I said, “I will confess [all] my transgressions to the Lord ”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You [for forgiveness] in a time when You [are near and] may be found; Surely when the great waters [of trial and distressing times] overflow they will not reach [the spirit in] him. You are my hiding place; You, Lord , protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you. Do not be like the horse or like the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bridle and rein to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in and relies on the Lord shall be surrounded with compassion and lovingkindness. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous [who actively seek right standing with Him]; Shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
PSALM 32:1‭-‬11 AMP

Yesterday I spent about 4 hours in the ER with my husband, who had been taken there by ambulance from his work. Gratefully, we are all back home again and he is on the mend. But even if he were not on the mend as well as he is today, and even in the ER yesterday when they were trying to determine what was wrong, I was blessed. My husband was blessed. My family was blessed. No, we were not blessed in the eyes of the world. An outsider looking in would not consider an ER visit being blessed. The world will never see such such things as being blessed. Because the world is short-sighted. The world looks at what it can see and feel and touch and hear. But true blessedness does not come from the world; it comes from God.

Look at Psalm 32. It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the man who doesn’t have to go to the ER.” It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the man who has money at his fingertips.” It doesn’t say, “Blessed is the man whose life is picture perfect.” It says, “Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven.” In other words, blessedness is a spiritual position, not a physical experience. No matter how we may feel or what we may see, if we are forgiven, then we are blessed.

Yet we also must remember that even forgiveness is not something we can obtain by earthly means. No one on earth has the power to take away our shame and our sinfulness. No one on earth has the power to save us. The only One with with the ability to forgive sins is God. This means God (and our relationship with Him) is the source our blessedness.

So today, if you have done what David declares and Psalm 32–if you have not hidden your wickedness but acknowledged and confessed your sin to the only One who can wipe it away–then you are blessed. If you have surrendered your heart to the only One with the power to heal it, then you are blessed. And therefore, “when the great waters [of trial and distressing times] overflow they will not reach [the spirit in]” you. Or as Jesus reminded his disciples and all of us, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).

My friend, being blessed cannot be bought. It can not be earned. And it cannot be taken away. For it is given–given by God to all who call upon Him–to all of you who “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead...” (Romans 10:9)

Therefore today, don’t let the world and all that is in it determine whether or not you are blessed. Choose it yourself. Choose Jesus.

No, choosing Jesus won’t take away all of the heartache and the pain and the trials that come with life on this Earth, but choosing Jesus does take away your sins. It does wipe away the eternal punishment that awaits those who choose the world instead. And that, my friend, makes you blessed.

Let God write the words of Psalm 32 on your heart today, so that whatever may come your way–whatever trial, whatever temptation, whatever heartbreak–you may sing like David:

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in and relies on the Lord shall be surrounded with compassion and lovingkindness.

And as you do, as you declare your spiritual state of blessedness, you will also sing out like David to all who cross your path:

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous [who actively seek right standing with Him]; Shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Shout for joy with me today. Give thanks to the Lord for all the great things He has done. Because if you are His child–if you have acknowledged Him as your Savior, then you are blessed. Truly blessed.

Broken

And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Luke 5:31‭-‬32 ESV

Below what I am writing now is something I wrote it in 2015–during one of the most difficult journeys of my life. God recently brought it back to mind as I was meditating the other day on what it means to be broken. Many Christians (me too!) tend to think that being broken negates Christ’s work. We don’t want to say we’re broken for fear others may realize we are. We put on our “I’m a good person with no issues” mask while inside we struggle. We assume that to show our need for a Savior somehow negates Christ’s saving work. But that’s a lie. It’s a lie from the pit of Hell aimed at keeping us from experiencing the true freedom Christ provided on the cross.

Our brokenness doesn’t negate salvation; it magnifies it! Who more than the broken one needs the Healer? Who more than the sick needs the Great Physician? Why do you think Jesus spent so much time with the sinners of the world? They knew and He knew they needed Him. Jesus didn’t call “perfect” people to be His disciples. He called those who knew they were sinners and wanted to change. The Sadducees and the Pharisees, the ones who thought they were the most righteous and most deserving of God’s favor, were in reality the most unrighteous and undeserving. Not because they didn’t need a Savior (for none are righteous, no not one) but because they didn’t want a Savior.

We must remember Jesus didn’t come to save the righteous. He didn’t come to save the ones who looked good in front of everyone, who always had the perfect Facebook profile, who never doubted, who never got scared, and who never made mistakes. He came to save sinners. Sinners like me. Sinners like you. Jesus came to save everyone who is willing to admit that they are not righteous, not perfect, and not holy. Jesus came to save those who realize being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re fixed. It just means you’ve accepted Jesus as the Fixer of your brokenness.

I believe the only truly broken people in this world are those who won’t admit they’re broken, for we’re all broken. We all struggle. We all need Jesus. But until we admit we are sick and go to the Great Physician, we will never get well.

Yesterday a piano tuner came to my house to tune my piano. I knew it wasn’t in tune, but I did not realize how bad it was until he fixed it. And the same goes for our walk with Jesus. If we do not realize or admit we are out of tune with His desires for us, and if we do not call on the Great Tuner, we will never realize the beautiful music He can play through us. We will never experience the beauty and joy of being “in tune.”

I believe it was my mentor who once shared with me that sometimes we do not realize how sick we are until we experience what healthy feels like. So I encourage you today to join me in two things. First of all, join me in admitting our brokenness. Let each of us confess before our Lord that we are not perfect, we never will be, and that we struggle. Let each of us realize that it is okay to be broken. And then let us seek our Savior. Let us go to the Great Physician. Let us reach out and accept the help of the One who reached down to pick us up before we ever realized we had fallen.

Admitting we are broken is not easy. It takes humility and trust. But from one broken believer to another, I encourage you to do it. For once you do, you will see that admitting you are broken is the very thing that makes you unbroken.

Below is the writing I mentioned at the beginning of this post. May God use it to show you it can be healthy to be broken and it is healthy to need healing.


A few months ago I began a journey. It was a journey to “health.” I wasn’t exactly sure what healthy looked like, but in my mind I envisioned a day I’d get up and realize I was healthy. I’d feel it; someone would declare it; life would move on. And yes, I know, that sounds silly–even typing it now sounds silly–but that was my mindset–horribly wrong, but my mindset just the same. 🙂

Yet this past weekend two questions came to mind: “Am I healthy?” and “What is healthy?” It was in answering these questions, I realized my overall mindset about the whole process has actually changed. First of all, I’ve realized no one determines my “health” except God. He is the only one who truly knows my heart. To wait for someone else to declare me healthy is to put that person in God’s place. Not only is this sin, but it is also unfair to the one I put in that elevated place. I am to do life with people, not for people. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, so the life I now live in the flesh I must live by faith in Him–in Him alone. Second, I will never be completely healthy on this earth. I am broken. We are all broken. This is why we need Jesus. Our full restoration will not come until Jesus returns to usher us into eternity. Until that time, I am to daily surrender my broken self to Him. Which brings me to my final point: healthy isn’t even a destination. Healthy is a moment by moment surrendering of my unhealthy self to the wholeness that comes through knowing Christ, through intimacy with God, through prayer, through knowing His Word, and through trusting every aspect of my life to the One who gave me life and who gave His life for me.

God loves me–all of me–even the broken pieces. God loves you—all of you—even the broken pieces. And as you and I present our broken selves to Him, He takes each of us in our brokenness, loves us, and uses us, “that the excellence of the power may be of God” and not of us. (2 Cor. 4:7)

 

Leah: Loved By God

“So Jacob consummated his marriage and lived with Rachel [as his wife], and he loved Rachel more than Leah…”
Genesis 29:30

 Now when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He made her able to bear children… (Genesis 29:31), 

The sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun;
GENESIS 35:23 AMP

Many people know the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob despised, rejected, and sold by his brothers yet eventually used by God to save many.  All the injustices he endured faded away as he reunited with his brothers and spoke those famous words: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).  Even though he suffered much, Joseph saw the fruits of his labor before he died. He got a glimpse of God’s wisdom in allowing his life to follow the path it did.

But what about Leah?  Remember her?  You may not think much about her. After all, we don’t know much about her.   We know she was Laban’s oldest daughter, yet her younger sister Rachel stole the spotlight.  We also know she didn’t fit the mold of beauty in her day, having, as the Bible describes, weak eyes, which means her eyes weren’t bold and shining like her sister Rachel’s. She wasn’t the popular one.  She wasn’t the one everyone admired.  That was her sister Rachel.  Rachel got all the attention.  Leah was in the shadows. Even when it came time for marriage, a time when Leah should have had first dibs, she was not only given to a man who didn’t want her, but she was given to him via deception.  Her father actually made her pretend to be Rachel, the very one whose shadow she’d been forced behind for years.

I cannot imagine what Leah must have been thinking.  I cannot imagine the heartache and trauma and blow to her sense of self-worth it must have been knowing how unloved she was. Knowing her father had deceived Jacob.  Knowing not only did Jacob not love her, but knowing he loved her younger sister Rachel instead. I’m sure she knew she was not considered beautiful according to the standards of the day.  And then the hurt she must have felt as she watched the life she had probably once dreamed of as a child become a nightmare.  Sure, Jacob did what husbands did back then:  he used her to bear children.  But he never truly loved her. Even after Leah gave him five sons, Jacob still preferred Rachel. Nothing Leah could do could stop Jacob from favoring Rachel and Rachel’s sons. Nothing Leah could do could make Jacob love her. She just wasn’t on Jacob’s radar.  She wasn’t on anyone’s radar, really.

But she was on God’s. Yes, Leah was always on God’s radar.  And God loved her. God loved Leah even when no one else did. Leah’s life didn’t surprise God either. God knew it from the beginning.  He knew what she would look like. He knew how she’d be treated.  He knew she would be Jacob’s wife and bear Jacob six sons. And He also knew something that Leah herself probably never knew (or at least the Bible never lets on that she knew): one of her sons (not one of Rachel’s), would be in the lineage of the Savior of the world. Yes!  Leah, the one rejected by many in her day, was chosen by God to bear Judah, the son of Jacob listed in the lineage of Jesus.

So here is the point I want to make regarding Leah’s life.  While Joseph saw in his lifetime the results of the suffering he endured, Leah did not.  Leah lived her entire life unloved and practically unknown by those around her.  We never read in in the Bible that she experienced a moment like Joseph–a moment in which she and those around her were able to see God’s purpose for the events of her life.  She never had the chance to stand before those who rejected her and declare, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” Nope. All we read of her death is that she was buried in the same cave as Abraham and Isaac.

But just because Leah never saw God’s purpose on Earth, this does not mean God did not have one. God always has a plan. I repeat: God always has a plan.

Think about Leah’s death for a moment. When Rachel died, she was not buried with the other patriarchs and their wives. Yet when Leah died, she was.  It was like God was letting everyone know, “I always knew Leah’s purpose, and I always loved her.” Even though in life Leah was often left out, God made sure that in death she rested with the others whose names would be written in the lineage of Jesus.

Leah may have lived a life on earth unloved and unnoticed, but she was never out of God’s sight. She may have worked hard to earn the love of Jacob on earth, but she always had the love of her Father in heaven.

Now some of you reading this are, like Joseph and Leah, facing many struggles in this life. You have been suffering at the hands of others. You feel unloved, unnoticed, and unappreciated. You may often have extreme difficulty understanding God’s purpose for allowing all the pain in your life. And while some of you will one day be blessed with a Joseph moment before you die–a moment in which you look back over your life and declare, “Now I see what God was doing.” Some of you will not. Some of you may leave this earth never seeing a glimpse of God’s eternal purpose for your pain. For those of you who feel like this is you, let me encourage you in this. God sees you. God knows you. God loves you. And God has a plan. Nothing about you or your life is a mistake. No cry goes unheard and no tear goes unnoticed. You may never see the beautiful tapestry God is weaving with your life on on this side of Heaven, but you can still know that one day you will. God has a plan, and God makes all things beautiful in His time.

Although I wish I could, I cannot sit here today and give you the the perfect answer as to why things are the way they are. I can’t. Because I am not God. But what I can give you is hope and encouragement–hope that one day every tear will be wiped away and encouragement that your efforts are not in vain. So keep pressing on, my friend. Keep moving forward. Keep your faith. Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep trusting in the One who will never let you go. And finally, no matter how bad it gets, remember this: God is God, and you are His child. You are never alone, for God will never (never!) forsake His beloved, and His beloved you are. Yes, His beloved you are.

Already Sent

When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
Psalm 105:17

Had sent. In grammar terminology, this form of “to send” is the past perfect. It indicates the order of past events.  In Psalm 105, “had sent” means before the famine, God had sent Joseph.  Before the Israelites ever needed food, God had sent the one who would provide it for them.   This also means God knew Joseph’s future from before Joseph was born.  He placed those dreams in Joseph’s heart, He was present when Joseph’s brothers sold him to slave traders, and He understood the long, difficult road Joseph traveled.  God was not blind to the fact that Joseph’s  “feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron” (Psalm 105:18).  God knew the heartache, the pain, and the testing that Joseph endured in preparation for what was ahead, “until what He had said came to pass” (Psalm 105:18). 

Actually, that is the key to understanding the purpose for the pain:  God knew what was ahead.  God had a plan.  An ordained plan. A plan that would provide Him with the most glory. God knew the purpose of it all.  He knew He wanted Israel to come to Egypt.  He knew He wanted to make His people “very fruitful” and “stronger than their foes” (Psalm 105:24).  God knew.

Yes, even if in the midst of the plan, man could not understand it, God knew.

And this is where I want to encourage you today.  God has a plan.  He has a plans for a future and a hope.  As Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God knows where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going–and nothing surprises Him.  Nothing. So if you’re wondering when the answer to your prayers will come, remember this:  He has already sent the answer.  Yes, the answer has already been set in motion. It was ordained before the world began.  And it will come.  It will arrive at just the right moment–it will arrive exactly according to God’s plan.

Even more, think about this: God has already sent you.  Yes, you.  You are the answer to someone’s prayer–a prayer that person may not even be aware of yet.  The road you are traveling this very moment is one God has set in motion as preparation for the day you “…may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort … [you are being] comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Isn’t that amazing?  God has not only already sent the one who will help you, but He has already sent you to be the help to another.   He is doing as He said He would do; He’s working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

So keep on keeping on.  Keep your eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of your faith. Don’t look away, not even for a moment.  Keep trusting.  Keep believing.  And keep knowing that one day you will stand on the other side of suffering; one day you’ll be able to declare something similar to Joseph when he reunited with his brothers: And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God (Genesis 45:7-8).

It was not you, but God. Remember this today.  God has a plan, and no man can alter it.  No man can stand in the way of what God has planned for you.  In fact,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”

(1 Corinthians 2:9)

‘Til All Is Well With Your Soul

Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your blessings, see what God has done
Count your blessings, ‘til all is well with your soul
As I listened to the song “Count It All” by the JJ Weeks band, one phrase in particular caught my attention: ‘til all is well with your soul. This means whether doubt and fear are pressing in–whether the darkness is thick and the hurt deep–whether the valley is low and the mountain high– there is still a song to sing. We are to count our blessings until our heart overflows–until all is well with our soul. Not necessarily our world. God doesn’t call us to count our blessings only when life is good; he calls us to count them at all times. We are to never forget all his benefits. There is still much to be thankful for even in the midst of fear, darkness, sickness, and uncertainty.
Why?  How?
Every blessing great and small
Every breath every step we walk
Is a gift we don’t deserve from a love we cannot earn
We can’t earn life.  God gives it.  Each breath.  Each step.  Each heartbeat. Every blessing great and small is a gift.  A gift we don’t deserve.  A gift we cannot earn.
God has been showing me this in large doses recently.  The last eight days have been wild ones for our family.  A beloved family member was admitted to the hospital, underwent major back surgery, and is now in the beginning stages of regaining her strength and ability to walk.  It has been an exhausting journey, and continues to be for her and for those who are with her right now.
I confess to you that during the blur of this past week’s events my daily quiet time with God suffered.  Yes, I continued to pray to Him on behalf of my family member. Yes, I called upon Him throughout the events of each day.  But I was unable to have that morning quiet–that sit and listen time I look forward to every day. And I was feeling it big time.  My attitude was not where it should be, and I was physically and emotionally tired.
But this morning.  Oh, this morning. I was finally able to sit and listen. And as I sat and listened, God used another devotional to remind me of the importance of continuing to count those blessings–of continuing to focus my thoughts on Him.  So I did. I began meditating on those familiar passages of Scripture (Philippians 4:4-9, Psalm 23, Psalm 91, Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 46:10). In essence, I counted my blessings ’til all was well with my soul.  No, my circumstances didn’t change.  But I did.  My demeanor did.  My attitude did.  I had counted God’s blessings until all was well with my soul.  And…
Oh the power that’s released
When you know what you received
Oh the strength that you will gain
With every whisper then
Oh the joy that comes alive
Oh the peace that won’t subside
And everything around you shakes
And still you say

Every blessing great and small
Every breath every step we walk
Is a gift we don’t deserve from a love we cannot earn
There’s still a song to sing even in our deepest need
The valley’s low and the mountains tall
Take a breath and count them all, count them all, count them all

Therefore, I encourage you today to count your blessings. Meditate on God’s Word.  Give thanks.  No matter the situation, take time to pause and to focus–to focus on who God is and all He has done in your life.  No, this does not mean all will be instantly well in your world, but it will be well with your soul.  And that, my friend, is worth far more than anything this world could ever provide.
Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 
Psalms 103:2‭-‬5‭