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

 

 

 

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Finding Strength in Suffering

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This year has been a year characterized by suffering. I’m not saying this to be negative, and I’m not trying to gain sympathy. It’s simply a fact. As I look back over the last ten months, I can see personal trauma and multiple heartbreaking situations for those closest to me.

I am not a stranger to suffering, and I have learned to draw close to the Lord in the midst of it. Lately I have been pondering a passage in 1 Peter 5:8-11 that deals with suffering.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen (NLT).

The first thing I notice is that suffering is attributed to the work of our great enemy, the devil. His job is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). As he does his dirty work, he seeks to weaken our faith, because it is our faith in the Lord that keeps us strong. If we place the blame on the Lord, we become angry and bitter. There is nowhere else to turn. We stand firm against the devil and his plans by placing blame where it belongs and remaining strong in faith.

Isolation is another ploy of the enemy. In the midst of suffering, we may begin to believe that we are the only ones struggling. Nobody else can really understand, and we are all alone. We remove ourselves from our family of faith, the ones who can rally around us with support and prayer. The reality is that believers all over the world are suffering. It might not be the same situation or to the same degree, but they are suffering nonetheless. We must draw strength from each other.

Suffering, no matter how terrible, is temporary. My intention is not to minimize the pain that others experience. However, it is natural to feel that suffering (while in the middle of it) will last forever. We need to remember that there will be an end to it. Our God extends kindness to us. The enemy won’t win, because after we have suffered a little while the Lord Himself will restore, support, and strengthen us. The All Powerful One is absolutely trustworthy.

I know that suffering doesn’t make sense. Sometimes there are more questions than answers. Sometimes tragedy is so great and the pain seems unbearable. But we can find strength in suffering if we depend on the Lord and trust His goodness.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, may I lean on You in times of trouble. Help me to stand firm against the enemy through faith in You. Remind me that I am never alone. You are always near, and there are others in my life to stand with me. Help me to realize that suffering is temporary, and that You will make me stronger as a result. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

It’s Okay to Be Weak

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I don’t like feeling weak. It’s discouraging to know that I don’t have the skills, strength, confidence, or health needed to get the job done. I’m the lady who, when nine months pregnant, insisted on rearranging my living room furniture by myself. Don’t tell me that I can’t do something, because it will make me work even harder to prove you wrong. At least that’s the way it was when I was younger. However, for the last ten years or so, around the time I turned 40, I have started taking a more gentle and realistic approach, as the paradoxes of God’s Kingdom make more sense to me.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs (Matthew 5:3).

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12).

The poor are blessed; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. The greatest are servants. The humble are exalted.

Jesus’ teaching are contrary to the way things run in the world.

The Apostle Paul makes a statement that also seems contradictory.

Each time [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Throughout the Bible we see that the Lord called people who doubted their own abilities to accomplish His plans. He used them in miraculous ways. We’re in good company.

There is a saying that describes this principle, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”

This doesn’t mean that the Lord will only use people who are unqualified for a position. Rather He uses those who rely on Him to go beyond their own natural skills. As the Creator of the universe, He can take what we have, no matter how small, and turn it into so much more. He is not limited when we are weak. Instead the power of Christ works through our weaknesses. His presence and anointing make us strong. He can provide unseen opportunities by making a way where there seems to be no way.

Two times Jesus fed the multitudes. He took the few fish and loaves of bread offered to Him, and provided for the masses.

If you’re like me, the tendency is to resist when encountering weakness and obstacles. I get frustrated with my perceived lack of resources or ability. However, such a response is counter productive. The Lord delights when we respond by surrendering to His will and trusting Him to accomplish it. It may not seem possible. It may not make sense. Yet, we rely on Him to do amazing things.

It’s okay to be weak. Really. It’s then that the Lord reveals His mighty strength through us.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are strong and mighty. Nothing is impossible with You. Help me to trust in Your faithfulness, believing that You use foolish and weak things to confound the wise and mighty. I surrender to Your will, and ask that You take my life and use it for Your glory. I offer You my weaknesses. Flow through me with the strength of Your Spirit. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

The Healing Journey

I recently came across this blog post that I wrote three years ago. It was before I started working through my childhood trauma and now my family’s current traumatic event. Interestingly though, it applies just as much now as it did then…

new life through Christ

God has called us to participate in His journey of healing. We may be sick in body, or we may need to be transformed from unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. Regardless of the type and degree, God longs to show Himself as our healing God, the One who restores us to walk in His health. We all want healing to happen quickly, even miraculously. Right now would be perfect, thank you very much! While healing–spiritual, physical, and emotional–does occur miraculously at times, it is usually a process, a journey. This journey is full of the riches of discovery with plenty of opportunities to trust and become more like Jesus.

The healing process hits close to home right now, as I had my gall bladder removed one week ago. Even in the midst of a straight forward, easy recovery, I am aware of my restlessness with the healing process. I don’t like feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable. However, I am also aware of God’s still small voice encouraging me with gentle and loving instruction.

He has been reminding me…

God’s time table for me is unique. I can get easily discouraged when I look at the progress of others. At least a dozen people have shared their gall bladder removal stories with me. Their accounts–easy, in and out procedure, up and around in no time. One friend had surgery on Thursday and was back to work on Monday. I am definitely not on her time table! God has His own plan in motion.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
Psalm 139:13-14,16 NLT

I trust God’s good plans along with His timing. My process may not look like everyone else, but it doesn’t have to. This is a journey God intentionally designed for me.

Patience with the process is necessary. A part of me prefers the idea of quick fixes and immediate solutions. Another part of me realizes how superficial that is. To be honest, we all experience the consequences of decisions made over a long period of time. Why do we expect to step out of it immediately? I find it interesting that even though we are instantly forgiven and become new creations when we trust Jesus Christ as Savior, we are still called to engage in the transformation process.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

Changing the way you think and learning to know God’s will are not one time occurrences. Rather, they are on-going, active practices that contribute to growth over time. My part is to abide with Jesus, access the power He provides, and let God do the transforming in me. When I realize that God is the One at work, that it’s not all on my shoulders, I am able to rest and approach the process with patience.

God gives me the strength I need for the journey.  I confess…
There are days I feel like I don’t have enough energy to get out of bed.
There are days I feel like I have no encouraging, faith-filled words for others.
There are days I feel like life is unraveling at the seams and I simply cannot fix it.
I am weak.

Thankfully the Holy Spirit never allows me to wallow in this mess of feelings for very long!
Yes, I am weak, but my Jesus is strong. In fact, I have His promise that His power works best in weakness. Jesus offers me His grace, and it is the strength I need for the journey (2 Corinthians 12).

And just in case, this passage in 2 Corinthians 12 isn’t inspiring enough…

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 NLT

God has given everything I need for the journey He has set before me!

Whatever healing journey we are currently on, our loving heavenly Father has made all the provisions for our success. Will we trust Him to transform us through the process?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I come before You and acknowledge my need of You. Thank You for giving me new life through Jesus Christ. Thank You for providing me with all I need for becoming more like Jesus. Help me to trust You during this healing journey. Help me to be patient with the process. Help me to rely on Your strength in times of weakness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith

Living By Grace

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What was your life like when you surrendered to Jesus?

What would your life be like today if you had not trusted Him as Savior?

My husband posed these questions at church during a Sunday morning gathering.

I remembered my pain and desperation as a young teenage girl looking for unconditional love and meaning in life, and coming up empty. When I heard the message of Jesus, I opened my heart to Him, and was radically changed.

Then I imagined myself without Jesus. A woman who never found purpose and hope. A life marked by substance abuse, addiction, ravaged family relationships. Emptiness, despair, depression, attempted suicide, death.

These mental pictures remind me that I still desperately need Jesus, thirty-five years into this journey with Him.

I am an ordained ministered, and I direct a non-profit, Christ ministry. I have thirty years experience of mastering the ministry lifestyle, with the appropriate godly exterior and accompanying conversations. My struggles do not involve blatantly sinful behavior. I am not usually tempted to return to old habits or to leave my husband. Every so often though, pride subtly wraps itself around my soul, a silent weed slowly choking out spiritual life. I feel content by my condition, cloaked with smugness as I entertain the lie that, while not perfect, I have arrived. Apathy takes control until I can no longer ignore the nagging, gnawing dissatisfaction.

God, in His grace, reminds me of the truth. I realize that I stand today only because I am saved by grace, transformed by grace, and I live by grace. Christ in me makes me who I am and ignites my spiritual passion. Left to the devices of my old, sinful nature I am truly lost, selfish, without hope. Underneath my carefully decorated veneer, without Jesus I am a broken mess.

Thankfully I am not left alone. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in me, my new Christ-like self is in control. I am a child of God. I no longer live as a sinner. But I will always be a woman in need of my Savior. I will never arrive. I will always be in need of His grace.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless (Galatians 2:20-21a, NLT).
I simply cannot go through the so-called Christian motions. I cannot rely on my own human efforts to become transformed and live a God-honoring life. It is not enough to complete my checklist for Bible reading, prayer, fasting, giving, serving, and other important practices. These things are an extension of my love relationship with Jesus, an expression of His grace. I am absolutely dependent on walking closely with Jesus, abiding in His life-giving presence, being constantly aware that He lives in me.

Every moment Jesus extends His grace. Every moment I must live by His grace.

My life is demanding. There are times when being a leader feels overwhelming. The truth is I do not have what it takes to accomplish what God is asking of me. But He always does. Thriving happens when I stop striving and instead trust and rest in Him.

In the words of Ida Lewis, a courageous woman in the 1800s who spent her life as a lighthouse attendant and rescued dozens of people from the sea, “I am not that strong , but God  gives me the strength as I need it.”

Truly, there’s no greatness in what you see in me or in the things that I may achieve. Through it all, see the grace of Jesus. Amazing grace.

The Lord extends an invitation to you to live by grace. Will you accept it?

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14, NIV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I depend on You, but sometimes an independent spirit gets a hold of me. Open my eyes to see my need of You in every area of my life. Teach me to rely completely on You and Your grace. May I live and move and breathe by Your grace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.