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.

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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

Into God’s Hands

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46 ESV

Into your hands I commit my spirit. These words has been rolling around in my head since I heard them spoken in a video yesterday. I’ve read them many times before, and I’ve heard them many times before, but yesterday those words resonated in my heart.

Jesus didn’t die the typical way men hung on the cross died. Yes, He suffered the same method, but He did not follow the same timeline. Many of those who were crucified could last for 24 hours. Depending on the method of crucifixion, they could sometimes last days. Jesus died in approximately 6 hours, and I don’t believe this coincidental; for God does not work by chance. I believe Jesus was on that cross for six hours because it took six hours to accomplish what God intended.

(As an interesting side note, Jesus was on that cross the same number of hours as there were days of creation. The One who created the world in 6 days saved the world in 6 hours. And just has He rested on the seventh day, His body rested the 7th hour.)

Here is what God has been speaking to my heart about those words spoken by our Savior. Jesus didn’t give in to death. He didn’t give up and die.  He gave what He had–his Spirit–to God. He committed it to Him. He willingly let God have it knowing God would do exactly what needed to be done with it. For He knew God was faithful.

Jesus suffered a horrific death. There is no sugar-coating the cruelty of the whippings and the nailing of his hands and feet to the cross. There’s no glossing over the ridicule and mocking that pierced his ears in the same way the nails pierced his flesh. Yet what God has reminded me through Jesus’s words on the cross is that the physical suffering didn’t kill him. Jesus surrendered Himself; He gave Himself to God. He committed His Spirit to God knowing that God would handle it in the best way possible for His glory.

And my prayer is that I may face this life with that same focus. David, a man with a heart like God’s, did. Read Psalm 31:5 with me: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”

David spent many years in hiding, running from a man who wanted him dead, yet he kept pressing on. He kept seeking God. For David knew God is faithful. David knew that nothing on this Earth can compare with God. Though the suffering was great and lasted for years, the suffering did not destroy David because David had already given God his heart.

Therefore, I encourage you today to join me in committing our hearts and our spirits to God. Let’s commit every aspect of ourselves to the only One who deserves them and the only One who can handle them. Let’s let God finish in our hearts what Jesus finished on the cross. Yet let us not offer ourselves begrudgingly, as a child surrendering a precious toy, but let us offer ourselves willingly and joyfully knowing as David knew and as Jesus knew: God has redeemed us and God is faithful. No, committing our hearts to God does not free us from suffering. In this world we will have trouble. But it does free us from succumbing to the suffering and from being overcome by the suffering. It does enable us to walk through this life with joy and peace. It does give us the strength to press on and press forward with the voice of our Savior whispering in our ear: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

Jesus was not overcome; He overcame. And so will we. When we follow in His steps. When we cry out as Jesus did–“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”–knowing He who promised is faithful. Always faithful.

 

 

 

Contagious

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Matthew 5:14 ESV

It is a couple hours before sunrise. I am currently huddling under blankets in a dark, cold house. Why? We have no power. We lost it yesterday and may not get it back for a day or two.

Yet as I sit here and reflect, God is reminding me of this: although I cannot choose whether or not to have power, I do still have a choice in this moment and throughout this day.  My choice is not whether or not to be contagious; but rather, it is what I am going to spread.

For we are all contagious. No, we are not contagious in the sense of spreading a physical sickness like a cold or the flu, but we are contagious when it comes to our attitude and our actions. What we do and the attitude in which we do it are easily caught. They are extremely contagious and will spread quickly throughout our home, our work, and everywhere we go.

What we “have” determines what we spread. So I ask you today? Are you spreading hope? Joy? Peace? Contentment? Commitment? A strong work ethic? People around you will not only notice, but after being exposed to you for a bit, they will catch it as well. Are you bitter? Angry?Discontent? Do you complain, slack off, and judge? People around you will notice that, too. And unfortunately, after too much exposure, they will catch that as well.

I hate to burst your bubble, but your life will never be perfect, for you live in a fallen world teeming with endless possibilities of things that can and will go wrong. And you will not have control over all of them. But you will always have control over one thing: how you choose to handle what comes your way.

So I encourage you today to choose to spread the good stuff. I encourage you to choose wisely–to choose life–to choose to go through today and every day spreading the love and joy and peace that come from a life lived in fellowship with God  Go ahead and spread the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22‭-‬23 ESV). And of course, “...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 5:16 ESV).

 

 

Greater Love

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:12‭-‬13 ESV

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
John 10:11‭,17-‬18 ESV

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1 John 3:16‭-‬17 ESV

“Lie” or “Lay.” The struggle to remember the difference is real for many. In short, “to lie” is to recline. When I lie down, I am not doing it to something; I am on something. For example, I am lying on the couch as I write this. “To lay” is to place. You are physically placing something somewhere. You are doing it to something. For instance, I lay the book on the desk (I am taking the book and placing it on the desk).

Why the grammar lesson? Well, when Jesus says that no greater love has someone than to lay down his life, He is reminding us that it is our life that we must place, and we must be purposeful in doing so. When we lay down our life, we are not simply just lying down on the ground and letting people walk all over us. We are not simply at rest either; we are actively placing. We are, as Jesus says, doing it of our own accord. We can choose to lay it down, and we can choose to take it up.

Laying our lives down for the sake of the Gospel is a daily, if not moment by moment, choice we must make. Do we continually push our agenda, or do we humbly submit to what God would have us do? Do we put our interests above all else, or do we put the well-being of others above our own? Do we lay down our selfishness and pride, or do we grasp them with clenched fists, refusing to give an ounce of anything to anyone but ourselves.

To love as Jesus loved requires purposeful action–purposefully living our lives with the “not my will but Thy will be done” mentality. No, laying our lives down does not necessarily mean that we will be physically martyred, although that might happen to some of us one day. It does mean, however, that we are willing to let go of ourselves for the sake of the Gospel. It does mean that we are willing to decrease in order for God to increase (John 3:30). Sometimes laying our lives down requires keeping our mouth shut when we really want to speak. Other times it means speaking when we would rather keep our mouths shut. Sometimes laying our lives down calls us off the couch and out of our comfort zones. Other times it commands us to take a seat for a little while. How we lay our lives down for the sake of the Gospel will differ from person to person and from situation to situation, but the key for all of us who desire to lay our lives down is this: love.  Yes, it is following Jesus’ command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37‭, 39 ESV).

Remember today that God’s perfect love casts out fear, even the fear of letting go. So join me in choosing to lay our lives down for the sake of the Gospel. Let’s choose life. Let’s choose love. Let’s choose to follow in His steps. Let us together lay ourselves down knowing not only has Jesus called us His friends but also “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:13-14).

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10 ESV

 

Always Hope

Sing praises to the Lord , O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalms 30:4‭-‬5 ESV

There is always hope in Christ. Know this today. God’s anger and our weeping do come, but neither are forever. Sure, they may tarry, but they will not remain forever.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “tarry” in few ways: “to delay or be tardy in acting or doing; to linger in expectation; to abide or stay in or at a place.”  The abiding in this case is not in the forever sense; it’s a temporary stay.  This means when something tarries, it is lingering. It hasn’t stopped moving; it is just moving slowly along. And it’s not staying forever; it just hasn’t left yet.

There’s great hope in this word “tarry,” for it means whatever heartache you are experiencing will not remain forever. That sickness will not last forever. Your heart will not hurt forever. Those tears will one day be wiped away. Joy will come. Healing will come. Tarry doesn’t mean that hardships never come; it just means they will not be around forever.

Tarry also means what God has promised will indeed come. Read with me the passage from Habakkuk 2:3.

And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

What I love about this passage from the King James Version is the double use of tarry. In essence it says “If it delays, wait for it, because it will not delay.” At first glance this sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but think about it this way. In our house in order to curb overeating and snacking too much throughout the day, we have an eating and snacking schedule. The kids have breakfast when they get up, a snack at 10, lunch around 12, another snack at 3, and then dinner between 6 and 6:30. Of course, even though we have had the schedule for a while, this does not stop my kids from asking if it’s snack time yet. Some days from their perspective, they believe it takes forever for snack time to arrive. But that’s just because they are hungry. Snack time never changes, so from my viewpoint snack time is always on time. It does not delay because the time I intended it to be from the beginning has not changed. My plan remains the same regardless how the kids feel about it.

In the same way, the Promises of God may not come on our timetable or according to our expectations. But they will come.  Tarry to us is still on time to God. God doesn’t tarry according to His time. God is always on time in light of eternity. God’s promises do not delay; they just appear to from our limited viewpoint. God has known from the beginning of time exactly what He was going to do and when He was going to do it, so even though something tarries according to our desires, it does not tarry according to God’s plan.

Therefore, remember this today: a delay on our end is not a delay on God’s. Whatever struggles you are facing, whatever promises seem so far away, whatever sickness plagues you or someone you know—it will only tarry according God’s perfect plan.  The pain will not remain forever. That promise will indeed come.
Sure, the struggles and sickness and waiting may remain for years; they may even be with you until death. But there’s still hope in death; it’s heaven. God Himself declares in heaven, “[He] shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4 KJV).
What hope! What glorious hope! Whatever it is you are facing today–no matter how dark and no matter how devastating–you can have hope. And no matter how “just out of reach” that promise appears to be, you can have hope. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

In His Steps

It was during supper, when the devil had already put [the thought of] betraying Jesus into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that Jesus, knowing that the Father had put everything into His hands, and that He had come from God and was [now] returning to God, got up from supper, took off His [outer] robe, and taking a [servant’s] towel, He tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into the basin and began washing the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel which was tied around His waist. – John 13:2‭-‬5 AMP

Think about this: Knowing Judas was about to betray him, Jesus still got up from the table and chose to wash the feet of all the disciples. Yes, all the feet, not just the feet of those He knew would be faithful.

According to this portion of Scripture, Judas was still in the room when Jesus humbly performed an act usually relegated to a lowly servant. This means Jesus actually washed the very feet that would soon walk out that door to betray Him. He even indicates this during His exchange with Peter: “Jesus said to him, ‘Anyone who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, and is completely clean. And you [My disciples] are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew who was going to betray Him; for that reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’” (John 13:10‭-‬11 AMP).

According to 1 Peter 2:21, we are to follow in the steps of Jesus. We are to live our lives as He did, doing all for the glory of God, even if this means, as it oftentimes does, doing the opposite of what human nature wants to do. Human nature wants to get back at those who hurt us. Human nature wants to repay evil for evil. Human nature wants others to “get what they deserve.” But God calls us out of the ways of the world. He calls us to wash the feet of our enemies, pray for our enemies, and love our enemies. No, we are not to be doormats, for Jesus wasn’t a door mat. He chose to lay His life down. He chose the way of a servant. He walked humbly knowing full well His true position. Nevertheless, we must realize if Jesus willingly gave up His throne for a time to save sinners like us–if He willingly got on His knees to wash the feet of His betrayer–then we too must be willing to get off our man-made pedestals and serve. Even if this requires serving our enemies.

I am not sure what your life looks like today. You may be surrounded by people who encourage you and lift you up and support you. If so, be grateful. Or you may be surrounded by the enemy. Day after day you feel the familiar stab of betrayal at the hands of those you had once trusted. Well, I want to encourage you to remain faithful. Remain steadfast in your desire to follow the steps of our Lord. Remain diligent in your efforts not to stoop to the level of your enemy, or as my family often encourages each other: “Take the high road.” Take the road that leads to righteousness while trusting in God’s faithfulness to recompense each of us–including our enemies–according to our deeds. Walk this life as Jesus did. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).