25 Days of Advent

Let’s be honest, we have plenty of stuff, what we need is more Jesus.

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year!

But I think that all too often, we make it more about presents and getting what we want than celebrating it’s true purpose: Christ.

Each year our family tries to focus more on Christ than on stuff. Let’s be honest, we have plenty of stuff, what we need is more Jesus. Part of that process is to delve a little deeper into Advent. Last year, I put out 24 daily verses on Facebook that parents could share with their children. They were the same exact verses we recite in our home, and that worked well enough. But this year, I decided to put all of those verses on one page and to go one step further. We now have 25 daily verses because shouldn’t you have one on Christmas day too??

These verses are broken into the various categories surrounding Jesus: the Purpose and Glory of Christ, Prophecy of the Coming Christ, Birth of Christ, Journeys After the Birth of Christ, and we wrap it up with another dose of the Purpose and Glory of Christ. I would not begin to claim that I have an exhaustive list of verses that someone could use, but I feel as though these give us a great overview of the entire story.

I’d be honored if you’d take this simple sheet, post it in your home, and read over these with your family each day starting December 1st.

The blessing you see as they connect the Old Testament with the New Testament is absolutely precious.

Merry Christmas!

25 Days of Advent

Teaching to Learn

I pray that you may be active in sharing you faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. – Philemon vs. 6

Any teacher will tell you, the best way to learn something is to teach it. When I began teaching, I was assigned to 4th grade Math and Science. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about teaching Math. Multiplication facts are sort of a big deal in the 4th grade in case you didn’t know, and they certainly weren’t my strong suit. I just couldn’t get the hang of them as a kid, (really just mostly the 7s & 8s) and abandoned them nearly altogether as soon as we were allowed calculators.

So yeah, I wasn’t looking forward to that part. But as we started to go over them and over them, they started to click for me. It really stemmed from knowing that it was my job to help others to know that information. I had to know to be able to guide them. So the more I taught, the more I learned.

It’s the same way with any concept. Want to learn how to knit? Try to teach it to someone else. Want to study your Bible more? Lead a study group. We are told to be active in sharing our faith, so that we will have a good understanding of our blessings.

Sharing with and teaching others gives us an opportunity to think intentionally over the matter. We come to have a better understanding of that concept. To be active in sharing your faith, you have to know what you believe. You have to be able to reason with yourself first on why it is that you need a Savior.

What has Jesus done for me and why would anyone else need Him too?

The more I ask myself that question, the more I’m going to see every good thing I have in Christ. It might sound a little backwards, but it works. It’s like the saying:

God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

A bit counter-intuitive, but then, God’s known for working outside of the box on most days.

If you’re at a point in your life where you could really use a more personal relationship with Jesus, start sharing your faith with others. The rest will follow.


The One Whom Jesus Loved

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jn 1:14

I have always been drawn to the book of John.  This book is generally known to be the gospel of love, and it’s easy to see why.  One of the most well known verses in the Bible rests within this book:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Jn 3:16

But it’s more than just talking about love, it’s the way John writes.  You can hear his love and devotion to Jesus.  His gospel is the only one to begin with more than a matter-of-fact genealogy report or time line of events.  No, John’s gospel begins with 18 verses of devotion to Jesus.

In those verses, John refers to Jesus as: the Word, God, Life, the light of men, a light shinning in the darkness, the true light, glory, one and only, full of grace and truth, giving the right to become children of God, and at the Father’s side.  Can’t you just hear the devotion in his voice?

That’s how his entire gospel is written.  It’s dripping with love.  But there are two instances that always move me.  The first being at the Lord’s Supper in chapter 13.  I absolutely love the way John refers to himself as “the one whom Jesus loved.”  I don’t get the “pride” feeling from this, as though he is saying he is the only one that is loved, but more of an overwhelming confidence in the Savior’s love for him.  It’s a powerful thing to state out loud, “Jesus loves me,” or “You love me,” and really mean it.  More than just a children’s song, a deep truth that settles into your bones.

But the actual part that I love is in verse 25, “leaning back against Jesus…”  Is that not the best?  Can’t you just picture John leaning against Jesus, knowing that he is loved, knowing that Jesus accepts him just as he is?  That’s what I want.

I’m a hugger.  I hug people that I love.  And not just one of those light, barely there hugs.  Nope.  I grip and squeeze because I want you to know that I love you.  When the day finally comes that I get to see Jesus face to face, you better bet that I’m going to be squeezing.  It’s a good thing that we will have all of eternity because I’m going to be there a while.

My other favorite instance is the last verse of John (21:25) which states,

Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

It’s like John’s whole heart is simply too full to even be able to write it down.  It’s as though he’s saying, “Jesus is too much for anyone to ever fully represent.”  There is so much “awe” in that sentence.

And let me tell you, if the Apostle John had written a thousand books, ten thousand books, I would have read them all.

Oh to finally be with You!

To grip You in tight embrace.

To spend my days holding the One willing,

To save me by His grace.

Never to let go.

Never to slip away.

Always to be there.

Always to say,

That I also am

The one whom Jesus loved.

Embracing Your God-Given Purpose Part 2

Recently, my church hosted a Ladies’ Conference.

The conference started on Friday night and picked back up for a full day on Saturday.  We had a worship team, three guest speakers, door prizes, lunch, security, prayer team, crafts, and some of the most beautiful shirts you have ever seen!

It was a jam-packed weekend.  I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times I’ve heard how great it was, how beautiful the music was, or how much the speakers really “spoke” to them.

And that’s wonderful.  But I’m going to have to take their word for it.  I don’t remember much of anything at all.

As part of the conference leadership team, my major responsibility was to handle all of the money.  And as tedious as that can be when you’re juggling payments coming in from all directions, I also happen to work at the church.  So anytime someone needed help with something, there I was.

I loved being busy at the conference.  I love doing things “behind the scenes” to make sure everything runs smoothly.  But all of that busyness kept me from really fulfilling the purpose of the conference: to be filled with God’s Word and to Worship Him without all of the distractions.  Mission NOT Accomplished.  Mission Failed.

Man!  Did I overdo it on the busyness!

But here’s the truth: I have let my busyness distract me from my God-given purpose too.  I have been letting what was “almost right” take the place of what was “right.”  And I’ve been doing it for a while now.

God’s Word says that He has a plan for me and you, a purpose.  But so many times we allow our to-do list to out weigh the purpose for our lives.  We put it on the back-burner until we forget all about it.  When we allow ourselves to become that distracted by busyness, we take away our blessings from those around us.  Those that need us most.  Those that need us to fulfill our purpose.

So, yes.  Dishes need to be done.  Bills need to be paid, and work needs to be completed.  Dinner needs to be cooked and laundry put away.  Kids need to be dropped off and picked up, and somewhere in there, a shower needs to be had.  And it is a lot.  It’s a lot everyday.  But God didn’t create us to live by a to-do list.  He created us for a purpose.

If you haven’t yet discovered your God-Given Purpose, I suggest you take a look at Part 1 where I discuss ways you might be able to discern that for your life.

After many long and stressful years, I finally embraced God’s purpose for my life.  And as amazing as it is to finally be here, bit by bit, I let my to-do list become such an overwhelming part of my life that my purpose was put right there on the back-burner.  Nearly extinguished.  I felt stagnant, lazy, and busy all at the same time!  I wasn’t feeling “amazing” anymore.

Maybe that’s where you are, too.  You know what it is that God has called you to do, but you’ve become a little bit too busy to see it through.

Well, I wasn’t going to take it anymore!  I wanted to get back on track.  So the very first step I took was to pray.  I sat down in my favorite chair and spent more than a minute talking to God about this whole thing.  I told Him how I was feeling, and then I actually waited around to hear what He had to say.  We did this for a few days, and along the way I had my friends and family pray for me too.

Slowly the fog on my life started to lift and I began to see that I had just lost sight of my purpose.  It wasn’t as important to me as it had been.  But I’m like you and there’s a lot on my list to get done, so I literally said, “God, there are only so many hours in a day.  How do you expect me to fit it all in?”

His response?  “How about some purposeful planning for your purpose?  Perhaps you’re not spending your time wisely.”

True.  I was busy but I wasn’t productive.

As my next step, I picked up my notebook and made a list of the goals that I had for my purpose and for my life.  Things that I wanted to see happen that didn’t seem too far out of reach, but still quite a bit further away than sitting in my chair was getting me.  I spent some quality time on this list, and then I prayed over that too!  I wanted to make sure that my goals matched His purpose.  I asked God to guide me in deciding which of those were the biggest priority and should, therefore, get more of my time.  I needed Him to show me how to make it work with the time I have to work in.

As it turns out, I was wasting a lot of time in the mornings looking at my phone and in the evenings watching one too many episodes of my favorite show!  Not to mention all of the little moments throughout the day where I would just take a minute or two, or twenty to sit and “veg” out.  I really wasn’t being as dedicated as I thought I had been.

Armed with goals and a plan for my purpose, I set out to find accountability partners.  I let those closest to me know what it was that I was trying to attempt and they continued to pray over me as well as keep me motivated.  In fact, I need them to keep questioning me!  I’m about as big a backslider as you can imagine!  I have to have someone keeping me honest!

And so far, God has provided blessings in accordance with my faithfulness, just like He always does!

I sincerely pray that God opens your eyes, ears, heart, and spirit to know your purpose.  And then I pray that you won’t allow busyness to distract you from that God-Given Purpose!


Embracing Your God-Given Purpose Part 1

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jer 1:5)

There’s this concept that when we have restrictions, we are actually being given freedoms.  Sounds counter-intuitive, right?  Well, maybe not.

Jeremiah tells us that God has a plan for us, a good plan (29:11) and that we have been set apart (1:5).  Romans tells us that we have been called according to His purpose (8:28).  Being told that you have been set apart for someone else’s purpose may sound like an overbearing restriction to the rest of the world, but it should sound like freedom to those who follow Christ.

At some point we all wander through this world trying to figure out what it is that we’re meant for.  Am I good at this?  Would I be good at that?  Some of us are given no direction at all while others are processing through the demands and expectations of those we love.  But at the end of all that wandering, there’s God.  Waiting.  In fact, He’s been waiting.  Since before you were born.  Since before He formed you in the womb.  Waiting to give you your purpose.  Or more rightly, His purpose for you.

But of course, His purpose for you can’t be everything.  No, it can only be one thing.  Which means you’re about to get quite a few restrictions.  But that’s okay!  Being restricted from doing all things, allows you the freedom to do your thing.  To focus all of the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given to you on your thing.  The thing God has set you apart for.

It used to bother me that I can’t sing.  Like really, really can’t sing.  I’m just not made for it.  That doesn’t keep me from singing in the shower or the car, but let’s just say I’m definitely not trying out for a solo in the church choir.  And I’ve learned not to sit around those women who can sing.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  I’m thinking they could have done opera at some point in their lives.  If I do accidentally place myself around one of those lovely women, I find myself trying to match their pitch.  Which, of course, I can’t.  So I end up sounding like a balloon with a slow leak in it.  Not a good thing my friends.

The good news is I finally came to terms with it.  Now, instead of stressing out about trying to find the right note, and wondering if everyone can hear how horrible I sound, I simply close my mouth and enjoy God’s gift.  Singing is not my purpose.  I’m clearly restricted from it, but that restriction gives me the freedom to embrace what’s meant for me, and to celebrate that purpose in others.

I simply want what God has set aside for me.

Here is what has been kept for you… it was set aside for you for this occasion. 1 Samuel 9:24

So what if you don’t know what your purpose is?  What if you’re still wandering around searching?

First, it does help to have friends and family who will help guide you.  Saul was out wandering around, looking for some lost donkeys, and he just so happened to have his servant with him.  When Saul was ready to give up and head back home, his servant spoke up, “There is a man of God…let’s go there now.” (1 Sa 9:6)  And even when Saul was ready with the excuse that he had nothing to bring to the man of God, nothing to offer, his servant didn’t let him off so easily, “I will give [the silver] to the man of God.” (vs.8)  Having a person or even a team of people willing to push you to seek God’s wisdom for your life and your purpose is in and of itself a gift from God.  Seek out those who will pray for you and lend you wisdom as you seek to find your purpose.

Second, don’t be scared to go outside of your comfort zone.  Samuel, the man of God, had just been told by God Himself that Saul would be the one to govern His people.  And yet, when Saul was given this news, all he could think about was how small and insignificant his tribe and clan were.  How completely unimportant he was.  How he was not enough.  So many times the purpose that God has for our lives rests outside of our comfort zone, what we’re used to.  Our bubble.  To think of reaching outside of that zone is scary.  We begin to doubt if we’re good enough for the job.  Truth is, we’re not.  But God is.  And it’s His purpose we’re doing anyway so I’m pretty confident that He’s got that good plan tucked away just waiting for us to be willing to pick it up.

Third, respond to what God puts in your heart.  After being anointed with oil, Saul’s heart changed.  Not because of some oil, but because God changed it.

The spirit of God came upon him in power and he joined in their prophesying. (vs.9)

That moment when God reveals His purpose to you, it changes you.  Things that seemed important before, aren’t.  Doubt turns into anticipation.  Worry turns into hope.  A fire burns in you that only your purpose will satisfy.  It won’t even be reasonable to those around you.  The people who knew Saul saw him with the prophets and asked, “What is this that has happened to [Saul]?” (vs.11)  But it won’t matter.  You won’t be able to explain it.  Finding God’s purpose for your life means having a heart that’s open to that kind of burning fire.

Finally, be prepared to leave it all behind.  Even after being anointed with oil and being chosen as the leader of God’s people, Saul went back home to Gilbeah and his fields.  It wasn’t until he made a decision to step into his role, his purpose, as king that he effectively left behind who he used to be.  But when he did, he was able to fulfill the role God had for him.  Sometimes, God asks us to leave it all behind for him.  Maybe that’s your hometown.  Maybe that’s a career.  Maybe that’s just the “plan” that you had for your life.  To really be able to live out our God-given purpose, we have to be prepared to leave it all behind.

And remember, just because you finally find your purpose, doesn’t mean that you can stop seeking after God intently.  We live in the world, and the world is ruled by a liar.  A liar that wants nothing more than to destroy your purpose.  We must be diligent to seek God’s continued direction and guidance even within the purpose He’s given us.

We have to remain on guard between what’s right, and what’s almost right.

Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong.  It is knowing the difference between right and almost right. – Charles Spurgeon


But Mom! When God Uses Children To Teach Us About Himself

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the Lord gives us children in order to teach us more about Himself.  To allow glimpses of His infinite wisdom in our finite experiences.

How so?

Let’s start with my Little One.

This past Christmas was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for her.  Day after day she expressed a deep desire for two very specific Lego sets.  (Let me just say that Lego Ninjago knew exactly what it was doing by coming out even remotely close to Christmas.)

I can’t tell you how many times we talked about those two sets.  We looked them up on every online supplier just to see if they were still in stock and who had them for cheaper.  We had to convince her not to spend every single cent she had, plus some of her sister’s, to buy it for herself before Christmas ever came.  Those Lego sets were the thing of dreams.

So of course, they were wrapped under the tree just waiting for the great reveal!

Then, with only about a week left until Christmas, she informs us that she has asked Santa for … an Elf on the Shelf.

What??!?!!  Excuse me?  Where did this come from?!

And for about 1,000 different reasons, that’s not happening.  As we lovingly explained to her that fact, she was crushed.

But why?  Why was she crushed?  Because all of her friends have one and she feels left out.  I’m so sorry kiddo, but that’s not reason enough.

Here it comes folks.  The Great God Moment.

She goes to bed, still upset, and I think to myself, “If she could just be patient for a few more days… What is already coming for her is so much better than a silly little doll.  It’s all she’s been dreaming of!”

I kid you not, I just felt like God was looking right over my shoulder going, “Yep.  I know what you mean.  It’s kind of like that dream that you’ve had.  You know, they one that you sit and talk to me about for hours on end?  But didn’t you also get upset with Me when I didn’t give you this other odd-ball thing that just popped into your head out of nowhere?  If you could only be patient for a little longer, what you have coming is so much better than you can imagine.”

You can bet that one hit me hard.

But God didn’t stop there.  I’ve got two daughters and He planned on using both of them.

My Oldest is basically a crazy cat lady in training.  I’m pretty sure she wants an indoor cat more than most people want their favorite sport team to win the championship.  The desire consumes her.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen.  It’s not like we haven’t gone down the road of animals.  We have.  And we have learned that we are not good animal parents.  It’s for the good of everyone, animal included, that we don’t bring a cat home.  It isn’t that I like to see her upset, I just know that it’s for the best.

And I’ve had to tell her that time after time, after time.  She just won’t give it up.

In fact, just the other day, when she began acting weird about going out of town, I finally got her to come clean that what she really wanted was to go by the Pet Store.

To which I said, “No.”  That wouldn’t be fair to her since it wouldn’t end the way she wanted.  I was trying to spare her feelings, really.  But it didn’t work.

Turn on the tears.  And the wailing.  And the gnashing of teeth.

Here it comes y’all.

I looked at her and said, “I am not the cause of your pain.  You are.  You allow yourself to have hope that there’s a chance I will change my mind.  But I don’t.  I don’t change.  My answer is always the same, and for reasons you don’t want to hear.  This pain comes from your failure to accept my answer.”

Oh goodness!  There’s God, right over my shoulder again saying, “Tell me about it!  It’s kind of like that thing you keep asking Me for even though you know almost as much as I do that it’s not the right thing for you.  My answer has never changed, only your ability to accept it.”

Okay.  Okay, I got it.  Well, I mean, I think I got it.

God has a plan.  He’s got a plan for me.  He’s got a good plan for me.

Can I please just trust Him?  Can I trust His timing?  Can I trust Him when He closes doors?  Can I trust that He hears me?  That He sees me?  That He loves me?

Can I trust that He loves me enough to keep me on the path that He has for me even when I get as distracted as a dog chasing a squirrel??

Man, I’m trying.

But if I forget again, at least He has two beautiful girls to use to help remind me.

Lord, please help me keep days of waiting from becoming days of doubt.  You are the God of split seas and crumbled walls, I know that You are ABLE!  Keep my eyes on YOU!


Falling & Rising

“No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall.

If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too may fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again.” 

– Martin Luther.

Peter’s name meant “rock.”  He was supposed to be the “rock” of Jesus’ church. (Mt. 16:18)  There are many times that he did exhibit this rock of faith: walking on water to reach Jesus (Mt. 14:29), confessing Jesus as the Christ (Mk 8:29), even injuring the servant of the high priest on the night Jesus was arrested (Jn 18:10).

But even this rock of faith was not enough to keep Peter from falling.  When the pressures of this world became real and overwhelming, Peter denied Jesus.  Denied even knowing him much less being the rock of His church.  Three times.  In One Night. (Jn 18:15-27)

Just like Jesus knew he would (Jn. 13:37-38).  God knew from the beginning of the world Peter’s story, and He still chose to call him.  Chose to use him to build His church, even though He knew Peter would fall.

If God knew Peter’s story, then He knows yours, too.  He knows just how far and how hard you will fall.  Because we all fall.  Romans 3:10 tells us, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”  It’s not a matter of “if” you will fall, but “when.”

The key is to rise again.  Peter denied Jesus three times, but Jesus later reinstated Peter as his rock by confirming three times that Peter loved Him (Jn. 21:15-17).  One confirmation for each denial.  Then Peter truly became the Rock of Faith.

Jesus loves you.  He knows you.  He knows your sin, and still loves you.  Nothing “in all creation will be able to separate [you] from the love of God” (Rm. 8:39), not even your sin.  Not even your secret sin that no one else knows about.  Yes, yours.

You are not so fallen that Jesus can’t raise you back up.  For His glory.

Jesus, the friend of sinners, who has compassion and mercy on the guilty, wants you.  Wants to talk to you, to listen to you, to restore you.

He wants to raise you up out of sin and despair to deposit you into the Father’s hand where “no one can snatch [you] out” (Jn. 10:29), to keep you safe for all eternity.

Lord, help us to know that everyone falls, but that through You, we can rise again.  Let us never be fearful of coming to Your throne to seek redemption, which you freely give.  Help us through the pain of falling, and be with us in the joy of rising!


When Jesus Calms the Storm

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet!  Be still!”  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!” – Mark 4:37-41

I’ve always been interested in the account of Jesus calming the storm.  In truth, it’s a relatively small story within the three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but I think it speaks volumes as to a believer’s encounter with trials.

We’re in this boat

This story starts with Jesus taking his disciples and getting in a boat in order to travel to the other side of a lake, “Let us go over to the other side.”  In much the same way, Jesus calls us to travel with Him.  He instructs us to follow Him to the “other side.”  We’re told to leave our old self behind, and follow Him to this new life.  And we’re perfectly fine with that because, hey, we’re with Jesus.  He’s shown us things about ourselves and about the Father in such a way that we trust Him completely.  Nothing could possibly go wrong while we’re with Jesus.

A storm comes

Somewhere in the middle of the trip, far away from the shore, a “furious squall” comes and the waves are crashing over the boat, nearly taking it over.  Because no one, not even the disciples, not even me or you, can journey through this life without storms.  You’ve gone a distance with Jesus, things are looking pretty good, you’ve probably had a fantastic blessing or two, and then out of nowhere, a huge “furious” storm comes into your life and it nearly takes you down.  You’re close to losing it all.

But Jesus is sleeping

In the midst of this storm, with waves crashing all around them, and fearing for their very lives, the disciples don’t see Jesus.  He’s down below deck, out of sight.  Sleeping.  And even though He’s going through that storm as much as they are, He can’t be seen.  Those are the times, when we travel through the storms, that we are in desperate need of a word or comfort from Jesus, but He’s silent.  He’s not talking.  We’re looking at this raging storm and just thinking, “I’m not going to make it,” and feeling all alone.

So we reach out

In that moment, the disciples rush down to wake Jesus.  They ask the question we all want to know, “Don’t you care?”  In our storm, in that overwhelming situation, we cry out to our silent Savior, “Don’t you care?  Why aren’t you doing anything about this?  Can’t you see I need You?  Help me!”

And Jesus calms the storm

The account says that Jesus got up and “rebuked” the wind, telling it to “Be still,” and it was completely calm.  Psalm 46:10-11 also tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God,” then goes on to say that He will be exalted among the nations and the earth, and that He is our fortress.  When Jesus calms our storms, He is changing the situation for His glory.  That is not to say that He will answer our prayers in the exact way we request, because He often doesn’t.  But we can be sure that when all is Quiet and Still, He will have been glorified.

Then convicts our hearts

When it was completely calm, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Do you still have no faith?”  As His followers, they had been with Him, heard His teaching, seen His miracles, and still in that storm, they faltered.  And so do we.  We spend so much time focused on our storms that we stop focusing on our Savior and who He is.  We panic, and Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to.  We have Him in our boat.

It’s also interesting that Matthew’s account has the conviction of heart before Jesus calms the storm.  Out of the three gospels with this account, Matthew was the only one that was a disciple of Jesus.  Mark and Luke heard these accounts second-hand from Peter and Paul.  And yet, Matthew was there.  Clearly, he felt convicted even before Jesus changed the situation.

This can be common among believers.  When we are struggling through a storm, and reaching out in a panic for Jesus, there’s a huge part of our heart telling us, “Don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid.  You know Jesus is bigger than this problem.  He has provided so many times in so many ways, that there is no reason to stress like this.”  But it just doesn’t help.  Because we are human and finite.  We can’t see the big picture.  We get lost in ourselves and our storms.

And we stand amazed

At the end of the storm, in that moment of clarity, when we can finally take a breath, we stand in awe.  “Who is this?”  Even after all that we have gone through with Jesus, we are still constantly amazed at His greatness.  When our situation has finally been changed for His glory, we’re left standing there, dumbfounded, asking ourselves, “How is this possible?  Is there nothing He can’t do?”  And there’s not.  There’s nothing He can’t do.

We can’t stop a storm.  We don’t have that type of power.  All we can do is hold on, say a prayer, and trust that Jesus is with us.  Even if He’s silent.  When the storm is finally over, you can bet that your surroundings will look different.  There will be damages, but there will also be a chance to rebuild something even better.  For His Glory.

Lord, we don’t like storms.  We don’t enjoy the unknown and changes, but we know that You are with us, and You are for us.  Enable us to hold on to You, looking forward to the calm that You bring and the glory You receive.


What Use Is My Suffering?

“God uses suffering to strengthen our faith.”  That was the quote of the day in Our Daily Bread, and isn’t it the truth?  God allows us to go through suffering, and then He uses that to strengthen our faith in Him.  Unfortunately, no one wants to actually go through that suffering to get that stronger faith.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God just gave us stronger faith?  But the truth is, if we didn’t “earn” it through suffering that faith wouldn’t last.  Just like the difference between giving a child a new toy and making him work to earn it.  I have seen many times birthday toys tossed to the wayside, and yet the simple stuffed animal earned years ago still holds a place of honor in the center of the bed.  There is simply a longer lasting value in what you must earn.

But of what use is my suffering to God?  As the Bible tells me, “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Rm 8:28).  So if I am part of His family, then He is working even my suffering for good.  How is that?  How is suffering good?  That’s a very hard question to wrap your mind around, especially when you are the one going through a season of suffering.  In that moment, it’s hard to see how any good can come from it.

But it does.  In our times of pain and weakness, when we have exhausted ourselves through work and tears, when we have worried and screamed through our frustrations, when there is just nothing left of us, we turn to Him.  We speak to the Father more openly and honestly than ever before.  We confide in Him our doubts and our needs.  Our dependence on Him is critical because we can no longer depend on ourselves.  And bit by bit, He reveals Himself to us.  He gives us new strength.  He supplies provision and resources beyond our understanding, because He is faithful.

Then, when our storm is over, and we rest on calm waters again, He calls on us to be the provision for someone else.  Colossians 1:24 says, “… I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”  This was written by the Apostle Paul, and it is interesting that he states he is filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

Is there lacking in Christ’s afflictions?  What was Paul saying there?  No one could claim that Christ wasn’t afflicted.  Apart from the holy work of salvation on the cross, Christ was afflicted.  He suffered.  He suffered the loss of a friend, Lazarus.  He suffered loneliness.  He suffered betrayal.  He suffered alienation from his home town.  He suffered separation from the Father.  He suffered.  So, how can that be considered “lacking?”

One of the most amazing aspects of Jesus is that He left heaven and came to Earth to be one of us, to share in our existence, including love and joy, pain and sorrow.  But even though he clearly suffered, He could not possibly suffer everything in His short time on Earth.  He never suffered the death of His mother.  He never suffered the pain of divorce or adultery.  He never suffered the loss of a child to miscarriage.  He never suffered cancer.  He never suffered drug addiction, or a thousand other ways that we suffer.

You see, one of the greatest connections that we can make with someone is in the sharing of an affliction.  It is not joy.  It is suffering.  It is in that moment that we are at our lowest point that we need an anchor.  We need something to hold on to that will keep us from simply drifting away.  It is moments like those that believers get to come along side Jesus and minister to those that are hurting.  And unlike Job’s friends that could not understand his pain, we need someone who has been where we are.  It’s the widow who comforts the grieving wife who lost her husband much too soon.  It’s someone who can look us in the eye and say, “It gets better,” and know that they know.  Someone who can share the source of their hope that it does get better, Jesus.

This is true not only for the church as Paul states, but also for the unbeliever.  If God allowed His people to go through this life without suffering, then we could never be a source of hope to this world.  We could never come along side the lost to connect with them and to show them a God who loves them, a God who hurts when they hurt, a God who wants to restore them.

After all, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher,” (Lk. 6:40).  Jesus was “Rabonni!” (Jn 20:16).  He is the teacher.  We believers should not expect to be above Him, but we should expect to be like Him.  Jesus came and suffered so that He may save the world.  We should also expect to partake in suffering in order to show the world our teacher and our Savior.

Lord, allow us to embrace your will, not to hide from it.  Give us the faith, strength, and courage to face our storms so that we may be a help in times of suffering for others.  To You be the glory.


TidBits & Pieces – Why Do I Need A Savior?

As someone who loves to read, I’ve come across some pieces of writing in the past that have really stuck with me.  Rarely will an entire book stick with anyone.  It’s usually a little nugget of truth here or a new spin on a thought there.  Sometimes, it’s just a great illustration that catches my attention.  I’d like to share with you some of those TidBits & Pieces that I’ve collected along the way in hopes that they may be of use to you too.

One of those TidBits came from a relatively small book that I came across on day in Mardel.  (Don’t you just love Mardel?)  Anyway, it’s called Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory.  The idea behind it is a man, a non-believer, that receives an invitation to dinner from “Jesus.”  At the dinner, Jesus speaks openly about Himself with the man and allows him to ask questions.

Not everything in the book shares my outlook on the faith, namely the section where they discuss Creation, but there was one illustration used that caught my interest.  As the two are talking, the need for salvation comes up, obviously.  At this point the man gives a pretty common response.  Basically, he says, “I’m not evil.  I’m a good person.  Why do I need salvation?”  Have you ever gotten that response??

That’s when “Jesus” takes out a playing card and draws a line down it vertically.  He makes a mark halfway down.  He asks the man to name the most holy person he knows of: Mother Teresa.  She goes at the top of the card.  Then he has to name the most evil person he knows of: Hitler.  He goes at the bottom.  Now he must mark where he thinks he should go.  Tough choice, right?  How holy do you think you are??

That’s when “Jesus” explains that the card is not God’s view of holiness and perfection.  It’s more like putting that card up against the Empire State Building and “Perfect” is at the very top.  No one (else) is ever going to reach the perfect holiness that it would take to not need salvation.

Can you see why that would stick with me?  I love a good illustration and I think that one does a great job of opening the discussion to sin, how easy it is to sin, how destructive sin is to your relationship with the Father, and why we all need a Savior, Jesus Christ.

This book actually has two more in the series: Day With A Perfect Stranger and Night With A Perfect Stranger.  Again, not everything lines up with the way I see things, but they are quick easy reads with some pretty handy illustrations.