Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Strong and Courageous

BeStrongAndCourageous-1

At the start of each year, I ask the Lord for a Scripture to guide the organization I lead. That Scripture becomes the theme for the year, as we seek to honor the Lord and expand our influence in the community. It is a source of encouragement when we face challenges, as well as a source of inspiration as we see God’s faithfulness in light of His specific Word to us. This year the Lord spoke Joshua 1:9 to my heart.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (NLT).

Joshua was chosen to be the successor to Moses. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Moses was the revered leader of the nation of Israel for over forty years. This was the man who received God’s call to lead from the burning bush. He led a multitude of people out of slavery into freedom. This was the man who spent weeks with God on the mountain, whose face glowed so brightly that he had to cover it in public. Moses performed fabulous miracles, and brought the Chosen People to the border of the Promised Land. Joshua had some very big shoes to fill.

But the Lord promised Joshua that if he diligently followed and relied on Him, the Lord would be with Joshua (See Joshua 1:8). He could set aside fear of the unknown and discouragement of not being good enough. Joshua was commanded to be strong and courageous. His strength and courage were not dependent on his warrior abilities. They came from trust in and obedience to God.

There is another passage that is similar to the encouragement Joshua received. It is found in Deuteronomy 31:6.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (NIV).

In the first passage, the Lord spoke to Joshua. In this second passage, Moses spoke to all the people. The great leader was now 120 years old and ready to pass the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses instructed the vast community to trust the Lord as they crossed over into the Promised Land. It wasn’t going to be easy. They would be stepping into enemy territory, but the Lord had told the Israelites to possess the land.

The ability to overcome the enemy came from the Lord’s presence. He was with His people and would never leave nor forsake them. They weren’t big enough, strong enough, or brave enough in their own strength to fulfill God’ plan. But the Lord was.

In the passage in Joshua, God’s strength and courage are available to the individual. In the Deuteronomy passage, they are available to the faith community.

The command to be strong and courageous is not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament gives Christ-followers the same encouragement.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 3:10-13 NIV).

There is a very real spiritual battle going on. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Life and death. Our enemies are not the people we can see. Your fight is not with the annoying person that perpetually rubs you the wrong way. It is not the group that opposes your beliefs and values. No, our true enemies are the unseen spiritual forces of wickedness. We fight the battle by praying, walking in God’s love, and representing His ways. This takes strength and courage, but again our source is Christ and His mighty power. He is already victorious. Our power to stand in the midst of the most troublesome situations is in Him.

What is the Lord calling you to do? Does it seem too big for you? Are you afraid, perhaps terrified? You’re in good company. Our God likes to stretch us beyond our comfort zones, because then we rely on Him.

No matter what 2018 may hold, we can be strong and courageous. We can stand victoriously against the devil’s schemes. We can advance God’s mission. We can thrive in the Lord’s mighty power individually and in the places we lead.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, be my strength when I am weak. Be my courage when I am discouraged. As I trust You and follow Your Word, equip me to answer Your call and do Your will. Remind me that I am never alone. You are with me, providing all I need every moment. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.

 

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Just Be

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I had the joy of attending my daughter-in-law’s baby shower this weekend. A group of her twenty-something year old friends and I celebrated the upcoming arrival of little Macallan Jon, due next month. This was a great setting for people-watching, one of my favorite activities.

My daughter-in-law and the other young women were lovely, each uniquely so. As they interacted I sensed the warmth of long-standing friendships. Also present were ever-so-subtle cues of insecurity. I recognized them right away, because of my close association with insecurity over the years.

Comments demeaning their own physical appearance.
Nervous expressions of self-doubt for not being a good friend.
An overly inflated air of confidence.

I smiled to myself as I remembered all the times I beat myself up for not being good enough in social settings, and I thanked God for walking with me to a place of acceptance. As an older woman with grandkids, I don’t compare myself with others like I used to. (Please know, I still struggle at times, but I’m not brutal to myself like I was as a younger woman.) I’m not trying to confirm my value, because I experience Christ’s deep love for me. Not in a general way — “for God so loved the world” — but in a very specific, personalized way. I know that I know that I know that I am loved and worthwhile. This knowledge helps me to lead and serve others well.

If I could give a gift to a younger generation of women, it would be an awareness on a soul-level of their immeasurable worth, based not on performance but on the grace and devotion of the Lord. I would impart to them some life-giving principles.

  • Your value is not determined by your physical appearance or the size of clothing you wear.
  • Your value is not based on how well you perform at work or how well you manage your household.
  • The harsh words of your spouse, parent, or friend do not diminish your value in any way.
  • You don’t have to prove your worth.
  • You are precious and priceless, loved dearly and fiercely by the Lord. Period.
  • Just be.

My youngest daughter recently self-published her first book entitled Be. The book is a romance. It is neither realistic or practical, and she didn’t intend it as that. I really like some of the lines spoken by Jasper, the main male character. Jasper’s words convey the value and worth of his beloved, Scarlette.

“You are who you are. And that is utterly stunning.”

“Please know this. Darling, you are desperately beautiful. Your shattered heart bleeds beauty. Your soul cries beauty. Your mind radiates beauty. Everything you are explodes beauty.”

“Just be, my darling. Because you are seen. You are enough.”

When I read these words, I imagine that Jasper is symbolic of my Jesus. Can you imagine that with me? You are the beloved of the Lord. You are desperately beautiful to Him. He sees you. You can cease your striving. Through Him, you are enough. Just be.

I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer (Psalm 94:18-19 NLT).

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love and acceptance. Open my eyes to see the ways that I try to prove my worth. Let me rest in the knowledge that I am Your beloved and nothing I do will make it more true. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be by Jordanne M. Babcock is available on amazon.com.

 

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

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Happy New Year! Most of us approach January 1st with hope and expectation. The new year signifies a fresh start and new beginnings. Social media is filled with New Year’s resolutions and advice for goal setting. In the midst of the excitement for striving for greatness, I would like to offer a different perspective. Instead of looking ahead to conquer thirty pounds or set action steps to achieve a goal in the next twelve months, simply focus on today.

This may seem odd coming from someone who believes in goals. After all, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in Strategic Planning. Sometimes, though, the quest for success can suck the life out of us. We get so fixated on the future that we lose sight of the present. Worry, anxiety, and stress rule our lives rather than the peace of God. If you can relate, this blog post is for you. (I am taking these words to heart, too.)

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

View this day as a gift from God. There are no guarantees that you will be alive tomorrow. I’m not being morbid or fatalistic. Our days are numbered. Approach the tasks in front of you as a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others.

Remember that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start. You do not need to be defined by the shortcomings or failures of the past (or even yesterday). Learn from mistakes, but do not be chained to them. This day is a new day.

Identify one thing you can do today to help you thrive. I know there are dozens of things clamoring for your attention. It is better to do one thing important to your well-being than to get pulled in so many directions that you end up doing nothing. It is also more manageable to make wise choices today instead of thinking long term. You can more easily give up sugar today than give it up for the next twelve months.

Open your heart to God’s presence. Don’t allow yourself to worry about possible outcomes in the future, whether at work, with your family, or in your personal life. Stop going down the road of potential worst case scenarios. Acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Express your trust in Him to take care of challenges.

When we live today, taking opportunities to honor the Lord and love others, it reduces the pressure caused by straining to achieve goals.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this New Year. Help me to live it one day at a time, making the most of each opportunity to love You and love my neighbors. Remind me that You are always near every moment in the midst of every situation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith

Love Revealed at Christmas

Love

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses in the New Testament and reveals the Gospel~the Good News~in a simple yet profound statement. The foundation of God’s character and all He does is love. God is Love. It was Love that drew me to follow Him over thirty-seven years ago. It is Love that continues to fill and sustain me. During this Christmas season, humanity is reminded that God loved people so much that He sent His Son in the form of a Baby to make a way to be with Him forever. We celebrate the gift of His love.

Two thousand plus years ago God came to us in simplicity. Born to a poor couple, the God-Babe arrived in a stable. He was placed in a feeding trough. The Most High Lord came in vulnerability. In those days, the mortality rate for newborns was much higher than today. Love came to the world as an innocent, helpless Baby who relied on his parents to care for all His needs.

The Creator of the Universe planned for humanity’s redemption millennia in advance. Nevertheless, He took a huge risk to include people in His plan. Love always involves risk.  The actors in the Christmas story were real-life flesh and blood. They had the ability to choose for themselves. Mary could have passed up the opportunity to be the Mother of God. She could have rejected the invitation to give birth and raise the Savior of the World. Similarly, Joseph could have run from the responsibility of being the earthly father to God’s Son. He could have divorced Mary quietly and left her to bear scandal on her own. At each turn of the story, saying “no” was a possibility. Thankfully they responded to God’s invitation of love with “yes,” and the Christmas story is as we know it.

True Love comes to us in simplicity and vulnerability. It always involves risk. However, Love is anything but weak. Darkness and evil can never overcome Love. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5, NLT). Love is greater than all fear. Perfect love expels all fear (1 John 5:18b). Love never fails. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

God revealed His love to us on the first Christmas. He reveals His love to us today. Rejoice in the wonders of His love.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son (John 1:14).

Prayer:

Thank You, Heavenly Father, that You are the God of perfect love. You are not far removed from us, but You sent Your love to us dwell among us. Help me to receive Your love this Christmas and always. Teach me to walk in Your love every day. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock

 

 

 

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Faith

Celebrating with the God of Joy

Joy

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Christmas time is a season of great joy. As followers of Jesus, we rejoice in the greatest gift given to humankind. We celebrate that God came to earth as the Baby who would be The Way to a relationship with Himself. We remember the glorious announcement made by angels, the excitement of the shepherds to find the Baby lying in a manger, and the determination of the wise men to follow the star and search for the Holy Child until they found Him. In the midst of all the splendor, we may lose sight that the God we serve is the God of Joy.

Yes, our Lord is all powerful and all knowing. He stands against sin and hates its consequences. He is also the God of perfect love, and the source of our joy.

Take a look at some Scriptures that illustrate God’s joy.

  • The first chapter of Genesis shows that God delighted in creation. The phrase “God saw that it was good” is repeated multiple times.
  • Nehemiah 8:10 says “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” This refers to the joy that He gives. It also refers to the joy that He experiences.
  • In John 15:11, Jesus states, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (NLT, bold emphasis mine).

I love the picture in Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord delights in us with gladness. He rejoices over us with joyful songs. This is not a stern and passively involved Savior. He is actively engaged in celebrating us.

As I understand that joy is part of God’s character, it changes the way I view the presence of joy in my life. Joy is available to me in the midst of difficult circumstances with family, ministry, or place of employment. No matter what challenging situation I face, I can walk in joy. But it goes beyond this. God’s presence is with me, and His Spirit dwells in me. In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). Joy is more than something God provides; joy is who He is.

This Christmas we celebrate the miracle of God’s love. Remember, too, that we are celebrating with the God of Joy.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving joy and being joy. Teach me that as I walk in Your presence, I walk in Your joy. During this Christmas season, may I rejoice with You and experience Your joy in deeper measure. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.

Posted in Character, Faith

Growing in Gratitude

Thank You

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I had several activities in mind for this Thanksgiving weekend. My daughter and I figured out a cooking schedule for all our dishes. Family from the Seattle area arrived Wednesday night. We were ready for a fun, food-filled celebration. Then, later that night, one of the granddaughters got sick. My daughter was up with her every hour. Some time during the night, my grandson also got sick. There was lots of laundry on Thanksgiving Day for the soiled bedding and towels. We still managed to prepare and enjoy our meal. Everyone was in good spirits, and it seemed like the worst was over. However, on Friday afternoon some of us started to feel sick. My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson went home for their second Thanksgiving celebration. By the evening both our households were miserable.

This isn’t the first time illness has visited a holiday celebration, and it probably won’t be the last. There have been many Christmases, Easters, and Mother’s Days when one or more family members got sick, requiring adjustments to my expectations. Each time I am faced with a decision—Will I practice gratitude? Or will I practice self-pity?

I have lots of experience practicing self-pity. During my child-rearing years, feeling sorry for myself came easily. “Why is this happening to me?” “Bad things always happen on special days.” “It’s so unfair!” My mopey attitude would take an unfavorable situation and make it worse.

Many years ago I felt convicted by a passage of Scripture.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:14-15, NLT).

I have never liked arguing, but I can be really good at complaining. If I don’t guard my thoughts and attitudes, complaining can flow like water. Complaining spreads negativity and affects the people around me. Additionally, complaining damages my example as a Christ-follower. The light of Christ in me does not shine as brightly. I certainly don’t want that!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6).

Giving thanks is the opposite of complaining. (It is also a remedy to worrying.) I want to grow in gratitude. This Thanksgiving was a perfect opportunity to practice it. I was concerned that my family members felt terrible, and I did my best to help care for them. But, I wasn’t discouraged. I was out of commission for two and a half days. In the midst of my discomfort, I thanked the Lord for His continual presence with me and I prayed for healing of my family. I felt thankful that we had a long weekend to recover. I appreciated the kindness of a friend who went to the store to buy Gatorade when none of the adult in our home were able.

Every time we encounter circumstances that are less than what we would like, it is an opportunity to practice gratitude. When are you tempted to complain? How can you turn complaints into words of thanksgiving? Take the challenge to avoid complaining and practice gratitude.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are good and perfect, always loving and faithful. When times are tough at home, in the workplace, or other places in my life, help me to focus on your blessings and develop an attitude of gratitude. Help me to shine as a bright light of Christ through my attitude, words, and actions. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Finding Grace in Thanksgiving

I am grateful

The Thanksgiving weekend tops my list of favorite holiday celebrations. I love Christmas and Easter, because of their spiritual significance. I know the calendar dates are not accurate, but where would we be without the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? However, Thanksgiving is the pinnacle for me, as I reflect with gratitude on the many blessings of life surrounded by the people dearest to me.

We hear a lot about the importance of gratitude this time of year. The deliberate practice of gratitude comes to the forefront, especially for Christ followers. In fact, it is entirely possible to be thankful without expressing gratitude. We may recognize God’s blessings and appreciate the kindness of others (being thankful). The next step is to actively express that recognition and appreciation (being grateful).

There is another element we do not hear much about during this season. That is grace.

A thankful heart starts with finding grace. In the Old Testament God’s grace describes deliverance from enemies or adversity. It also speaks of empowerment, daily guidance, forgiveness, and protection. In the New Testament, God’s grace focuses on the provision of salvation. It is God’s love in action towards people who earn the opposite of love. (That would be all of us.) Grace is the undeserved favor of God.

The longer I follow Jesus, the more I’m aware that I don’t deserve any of God’s kindness. There is no way I can measure up to His standard of absolute perfection. He has already paid the penalty for every single wrong thing I have done and made the way for me to spend eternity with Him. I am truly entitled to nothing. Anything I receive is a beautiful gift of grace, and the Lord continues to give and give and give.

I am not suggesting that we become self-deprecating. We are highly valued and deeply loved by the Lord who created us and knows us by name. He desires to be in relationship with us. Nevertheless, His love and desire originate from the Lord Himself not from our own greatness.

Even though we have been given much, our human nature complains about what we don’t have and that what we do have is not enough. It zooms in on the suffering, the tragedies, the injustices and inequities. Thankfulness cannot be found among such negativity. I don’t want to ignore the sorrows or pretend that everything is rosy, but I want to view life through the lens of grace. The lens of grace helps me to see the good in the midst of messy relationships and a hurting world. It leads to a thankful heart, which I choose to express.

Cultivate an awareness of grace, and be thankful. Don’t let your thankfulness go unsaid. Practice gratitude by giving voice to your appreciation.

Have a grace-filled Thanksgiving, my friends.

PSALM 100 (NLT)

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
     Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.

 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for Your goodness and love. You have provided me salvation through Jesus Christ and pour out many blessings. Shine the light of Your Holy Spirit on the areas of my life affected by selfishness and entitlement. Teach me to see through the lens of grace, to recognize your gifts, and to express thanks. Empower me to be a person that practices gratitude well. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.