“And the ground began to shake…”

(Matthew 28:7, The Message) “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

“That’s the message,” the angel said.  Such a simple message to relay, yet it was the first act of our most important role as followers of Christ…our Great Commission.  It’s why we live and breath.  And this message is a three-fold message of hope.

  1. “He is risen from the dead.” — Without the resurrection, God’s promise to us would not be complete.  Now, because Christ lives, we are in covenant with God our Father who has faithfully fulfilled His end of the deal.  Our hope is in this great and final victory over sin and death.  1 Corinthians 15: 55-57 reminds us: 55 “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2.  “He is going on ahead of you to Galilee.” — Oh man I love this!  Yes, this was a message for the disciples who would be heading to Galilee, but…Galilee was Jesus’ home!  This is our hope…that our Lord Jesus is going ahead of us…preparing a place for us…in His home…our home…Heaven!!  (John 14:3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  And further still, we have hope in knowing that every path we take has been scouted out.  He has gone before us, and He sticks by our side…every single step of the way.  (Deuteronomy 31:8) The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
  3. “You will see Him there.” — This is our hope…our reward…that we will one day look upon the face of Christ.  We will see Him there.  Where?  Revelation 1:7 promises us:  “Riding the clouds, he’ll be seen by every eye…”  Whether your soul is at rest or still within your body doing work…no matter what you’re up to…every eye will see Him — face to face.  One of my favorite songs paints the picture so beautifully. 

“We Shall Behold Him”

The sky shall unfold

Preparing His entrance

The stars shall applaud Him

With thunders of praise

The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaiting

And we shall behold Him, then face to face

O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him

Face to face in all of His glory

O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him

Face to face, our Savior and Lord

The angel will sound, the shout of His coming

And the sleeping shall rise, from their slumbering place

And those remaining, shall be changed in a moment

And we shall behold him, then face to face.

And that, my friends, is the message:  He rose from the dead, He’s gone before us, and we will see Him there.  That’s our hope…a hope we so desperately need, as we are living in a world where evil is so common, so rampant, and so accepted.  We…have…hope! 

(Hebrews 6:18-20, The Message) We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us…

But it doesn’t end with our comfort in knowing we have hope, because (like Mary and Mary at the tomb) we have been instructed to go quickly and share our message of hope.  We are His ambassadors to the world.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for hope.  Through your word I am given every bit of strength, knowledge, wisdom and truth that I need to fulfill my end of the deal.  Until I see your face, I know that I have a job to do.  Help me to do it gracefully, boldly, and with the love and authority you have placed within me.  Amen.

“I Will Rise”

(Job 23: 13-14, The Message) “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him?  He does what he wants, when he wants to.  He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do.”

I hear ya, Job. 

A few years back, this was where I seemed to be lingering.  I was going through a very tough period in my life.  I had lost one of my grandfathers to Alzheimer’s Disease, one of my grandmothers was placed in a nursing home due to the same condition, my other grandmother passed away after 3 years of suffering the aftereffects of a severe stroke, and my dad was also diagnosed with early onset, rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s…as well as another type of dementia.  This all took place in a matter of months.  My inner strength was already faltering due to miscarriages and negative reports from my doctor about the condition of my reproductive system, so when the bad news just continued to pour in, I pumped the brakes and literally said to God, “What in the world??”  I was in every kind of pain…physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.  I spent a lot of time crying…just spells of hard sobs that came from a deep place of anguish…and when the crying finally ceased, I fell numb.  One day I looked at my husband and I said, “I have stopped asking God for anything.  He just does what He wants, so why even ask anymore?”  I meant it too.  I hadn’t stopped believing, or praying even…I still spoke to God regularly.  In my hurt and sorrow I would sing, “Peace, peace, wonderful peace.  Coming down from the Father above.  Sweep over my spirit, forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.”  I would tell God how much I hurt, and I wasn’t mad…just broken and defeated.  I was absolutely in a Job-like place. 

We are human, so we get into funks like that.  We want answers and resolutions.  We get very involved in the flesh and as a result our requests become centered around our own desires and ideas of what we think is best.  Our understanding is very limited and small in comparison to God’s omniscience, so it’s extremely difficult for us to see the master plan beyond what we are experiencing.  We are blind in many ways, and instead of trusting our guide, we instead try to feel our way around.  Then we get angry or upset when we bump into things and get hurt!  So what do we do then?  We just stand there in the safest spot we can find, still and useless…and pouty. 

Well I got tired of being the useless and pouty believer, just taking up space and fulfilling obligations.  I had to trust my guide, because standing still was making me crazy!  I thought I knew what was best and I was wrong…it was time to accept that.  In my human brain I thought things like, “How can Alzheimer’s be in God’s plan for someone’s life?”  Yet in my spirit, the Lord began to whisper His truths, the truths of His word, and it was brining me back to life.

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 

(Isaiah 55: 8-9, The Message)

The truth is, we do not always know what He is doing through these things that happen…you know, the things we just don’t understand.  However, as hard as it is at times to walk in faith, there is peace when we trust Him.  Romans 15: 13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  We are not promised understanding; we are entitled to nothing.  Our faith is a work in progress, but it begins with trust.  Without that, our faith is dead.  In these days, which are likely the last, we are being watched by the world.  Our actions, reactions, and all of the words we speak in faith are being observed.  Let us be ever mindful that what we say we believe is what we must live

(Hebrews 12: 1-4) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I hurt, help me to remember that You have suffered the greatest anguish.  Help me to trust You, always, so that I live a life of joy and peace…reflecting Your strength and love to the world.  Amen.

“You Gotta Have Faith”

(1 Kings 17: 10-15)  When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Choosing to obey when it’s difficult is putting your faith into action.  I’ve always wondered why the widow in this account chose to believe what Elijah was telling her… promises that must have seemed lofty and somewhat sketchy at best.  But she did it.  I wonder, did she give up the last of her food because of the strength of her faith, or was it more of a gamble at seeing if this God would be true to His promises?  Maybe she said to herself, “It’s our last meal anyway.  We are going to starve either way, so I may as well feed this fellow too.”  However, it is also possible that something within her organically and innately just believed.

In our own lives, our faith often mirrors this widow…on both ends of the spectrum.  Sometimes our faith is strong and we jump right off of the cliff, KNOWING that we’ll be cushioned and held.  Yet at other times, it really is just a gamble.  We want to believe, but circumstance has brought us to a place of insecurity and doubt…yet off we go, over the edge, because we have nothing left to lose. 

Whether you act out of excitement or because of desperation, it’s all faith.  The faith is there, because movement and action…obedience…they require faith.  So don’t worry that when you jumped you were desperate or afraid, questioning even.  YOU JUMPED.  That’s what matters.  Moving forward in obedience…that’s faith.  When you’re still just standing there on the edge, questioning…pondering…trying to figure it all out…deciding…that’s when you should be worried about the measure of your faith.  Big faith isn’t always believing for the miraculous.  Sometimes big faith is making the sacrifices that are necessary.  Big faith is active.  So even when it hurts, move.  Even when you’re afraid, just jump.  Step over the edge and revel in the freedom that comes when you just obey.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I recognize that weakness comes from being sedentary.  Give me faith to continue on, no matter the sacrifice, regardless of how I feel.  My strength comes from You alone, and I am made stronger in my faith by moving forward at all times.  I trust You, Lord, in all things.  Amen.

“You Can Go Your Own Way”

(John 10:11-15) 11 I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. 12 Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don’t own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. 13 Hired workers run away because they don’t care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. 15 Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep.

Why is it so difficult for us to fully trust the Lord?  We like to say that we do, and sing songs about how we do, but our actions speak otherwise.  In God’s word, we have an unparalleled reference for living — the only truth that exists — yet we continually disregard the guidance and wisdom therein.  Instead of trusting the Good Shepherd, we follow every hired hand that comes along.  We are like magpies…distracted by any and every shiny thing that catches the eye. 

When I was little, I remember seeing a cartoon about the Pied Piper.  As I watched all of the children follow the piper from the town, I was worried and distressed.  I had always been warned and trained by my parents never to trust just anyone…and certainly not a stranger!  I feared for the fictional children on the screen!  Why?  Because I had been taught to know and to trust only the voices of my parents and certain loved ones.  Not everyone has good intentions, and not everyone has wisdom.  People are, because of a natural inclination toward sin, flawed.  People tend to lie, be selfishly motivated, and at times are downright evil.  Not to say that no one is to be trusted in the least, but certainly never more than we trust in our Heavenly Father! 

When you are troubled, what or who do you turn to first?  Do you pray?  Do you open your Bible?  Do you call your parents, or a good friend?  Answer that honestly.  Yes, there are those who are placed over us, in the Lord, as leaders who help provide spiritual guidance, but what good can these people do in your life if you haven’t taken the first and most important steps in seeking out what God has to say? 

9 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,

    a refuge in times of trouble.

10 Those who know your name trust in you,

    for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

(Psalm 9: 9-10)

We have to do our part, stop wandering off so much, and stop placing so much confidence in what the world has to offer!  We must develop some discernment and train our ears to the sound of God’s voice…so that we hear His direction and are able to receive from Him all that is offered and promised to us in His word.  When we seek Him, we will find Him.  We will know His name and His voice.  In seeking Him, we come to trust Him…truly. 

As for me, I don’t want to go my own way.  My way has only proven to lead me into places of sorrow and regret.  My way is a path shrouded in the darkness that is my own ignorance.  Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” 

You see, we are not simply a job for God to do…something with which to pass His time.  We aren’t borrowed or rented property.  We have been bought with a price…the price of God’s own son.  We matter to Him…more than anything.  Our Good Shepherd will never leave us to be devoured by the enemy.  We can trust Him…always.  We just have to put that faith and trust into action, and stop giving ourselves and others so much credit.    

Commit everything you do to the Lord.

    Trust him, and he will help you.

(Psalm 37:5)

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that when I am a lost sheep you correct me and guide me back to pasture.  Help me to trust you in all things, not just some things, and to come to better know your voice as I endeavor to seek you more each day.  Amen.

When I don’t understand…

(John 9:1-3, NLT)   As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.

Too often, we want to blame sickness, trials, and hardships on sin.  We see these things as curses…as punishment for sin.  Maybe sometimes our hardships are the results of poor decisions.  We absolutely do bring about negative consequences in our lives because of sin, but we also need to learn to trust God in those times when we sincerely wonder why “bad” things happen to “good” people.

We’ve all wondered it.  We’ve all seen children suffering from different types of cancer.  Many of us have witnessed a loved one become stricken with dementia, and have had to watch the disease slowly dissipate that person whom we love so much.  It is hard to understand.  Yet I can’t help but go back to this account of Jesus and the blind man, because I think it perfectly explains why we sometimes have to endure things that seem unfair.  This man was born blind.  He hadn’t yet had the opportunity to make choices between right and wrong, so it wasn’t some sort of consequence.  He came into life stricken with disability, and I’m sure he often wondered why himself.  Yet in his wondering, God had a purpose that was mapped out from the very start.

You see, everything that happens to us has the possibility to become a victory in our lives and therefore an addition to the great testimony of God’s power and providence in all things.

And what happened to this man who had been without sight all of his life?

10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”

11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”  (John 9: 10-11, NLT)

Healing and miracles come with responsibility, because we then have to transfer that joy and victory to the rest of the world.  That’s the reason for great victories!  Sometimes we are afflicted because we are destined to share something miraculous with others…so that they will believe…so that God gets glorified not only with our words but with our lives!

So when you question “why” remember the blind man.  Remember that our pain has a purpose.  We may not know what it is right now, but we can trust that God is always working for the good of those who love and honor Him.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for every aspect of my life…both the good and the bad.  I love You, and I praise You in all circumstances.  When I don’t understand, I still choose to love and honor You.  I trust You.  Amen.

“God is all around us.”

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.

(Psalm 19:1-2, NLT)

I love to look at the sky.  It doesn’t matter where I am, I can always look up at the sky and marvel at the work and creativity of God.

When I was a little girl, I remember sitting next to the window on long car rides (and we traveled a LOT), gazing up at the sky.  I loved watching the clouds move with us as we drove along and seeing how the sun would peek in and out.  I especially loved the occasional treat of seeing the sun rays shine through the clouds in a beautiful, heavenly burst of light…almost as if the Son of God Himself could come riding out of the clouds on His white horse at any moment.  What a glorious sight indeed.

I am still just as mesmerized by the sky today, as I was over 30 years ago.  No matter the season, no matter the time of day, no matter what part of the world you are in, it truly is a wondrous vision.  It is indescribable too, because it is ever-changing and moving.  It can go from blue, to pink, to purple, to green…all in one day.  There is no predicting what it will look like, and it can change in an instant.

Maybe you have been struggling lately, wondering, “God, are you even there?”  If you are anything like me, then you sometimes need a visual…something obvious that you can behold.  Even though God will mostly likely not show His literal self to you, if you are willing to stop and take a moment to behold what He has created, He will reveal Himself to you through it.

Today is a beautiful day to give it a try.  Step outside for a moment.  Breathe in some fresh air and take a look at the sky.  Be mindful of your surroundings, and ask The Lord to speak to you in His own way and timing.  Sometimes we just need to take a moment to allow our imaginations to guide us.  Sometimes we simply need to get back to a childlike place in our hearts and minds, and allow that same sense of wonder and amazement to set in and renew our understanding of who God is as our Creator and Lord.

So whether you are gazing at the clouds, watching them move and change shape – whether you are lying in the sun, allowing its warmth to soothe and warm you – whether you are catching a glimpse of the moon and stars, wondering what else is out there – or whether you are watching a storm pass, marveling at its strength and power…allow yourself to stop thinking so much and be open to experiencing God in a new way, through His creation and the majesty of His endless, spectacular sky.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I am so proud and so blessed to serve a Creator who provides everything that I need.  You know my every thought, and You see my individual longing to experience You in every part of my life.  I am so thankful that, through Your word, and through the wonder of Your matchless creation, I am always reminded that You are here.  I can have faith and take comfort in knowing that I am surrounded by You, God.  Amen.

Suit up!

Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. (Genesis 6:9, NLT)

We all know about Noah, how he built the ark, and whose righteousness saved the human race (and every other living creature today) from being completely obliterated by a disappointed, frustrated, and fed-up God.  In the midst of much ugliness, God looked upon His corrupted creation with disgust, to find but ONE righteous man among them all…Noah.  Thus the story of the ark unfolds, and because of such, our existence was enabled.

But I don’t want to talk about the ark and the flood.  When I think of this piece of history, I sometimes forget that Noah was the ONLY blameless person living at that time!  Think about that for just a moment.  In an earth full of people, only one had maintained his relationship with God in such a way that he was considered righteous and blameless in the eyes of God.  That is huge.  It says a lot about Noah, but it also says a lot about what was going on in the world at that time.  No wonder God was so angry, and so ready for a clean slate!  Can you imagine?

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” But Noah found favor with the Lord.  (Genesis 6: 5-7, NLT)

Today we are not too far off from this level of wickedness.  I don’t have to name it all off…we can each take a look and see the evil around us for what it is.  And I can’t help but wonder, if it came down to it, would I be the ONE?  Would I be considered righteous and blameless enough to find favor in His eyes?  Would my life, and the lives of those I hold most dear to my heart, be spared?  Being 100% honest here, I have to say no.  I don’t think I’d be the ONE person who had remained SO faithful, SO true, and SO righteous, that I could be chosen as the saving grace of the world!  But…I can be thankful in knowing that it will never come down to that again.  In Christ, we have a better hope…God’s promise of grace and mercy is fulfilled, for Christ is the ONE…chosen and given as a sacrifice for my (our) sins.  So no, we don’t have to worry about total obliteration, but it does bring up the very important subject of righteousness.  What is it exactly?  Why do we need to pursue it?

Righteousness is defined as: the quality of being morally right or justifiable.  Biblically, and in a way that can be applied to our spiritual lives, there are many examples of righteousness, but in the New Testament, James reminds us of who actually set the bar for righteousness…Abraham.

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.  (James 2: 21-24, NLT)

Righteousness is right relationship with God by a faith expressed in works.  It is not only “talking the talk” but also “walking the walk,” so to speak.  When we line our actions up with the word and commandments of God, we can be confident in our pursuit of righteousness.  When we say we believe it, and we back that proclamation up with dedication and love shown by what we actually do in our lives, then we are walking in the truth…in righteousness.

So what do we do?  If righteousness is an alignment of faith and action with God’s word, then I can’t help but go back to the full armor of God.

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  (Ephesians 6: 10-17, NLT)

Righteousness is our spiritual body armor – or breastplate.  It protects our very core from wounds.  It is a covering for the most vital parts of who we are as children of God and followers of Christ.  When we live our lives in right relationship with God, honoring His word with faithful works, we are covering our lives with the protection and grace of God.

So…suit up! Though we do not face the same things that Noah faced, you can be sure that darker days are coming in our world.  We are not promised that things will get better, or that life will be easy for us, but we are promised grace and mercy to carry us through every battle that we face.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I am not always the righteous one.  I falter, and I waver in my faith, but I am so grateful that You sent Your son to die for me, so that in my times of failure I am covered and redeemed by Your grace.  Help me, Lord, to be more committed to my own pursuit of righteousness.  If I am to be more like You, if I am to please You, then I must do what Your word tells me to do.  I am trying, but I need Your help…every day.  Amen.

“You May Not Know How, You May Not Know When”

(Psalm 126: 4-6, The Message) And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Summer, 1988…I was 7 years old, just out of second grade.  We lived in South Carolina and we were in the midst of a typical southern summer…muggy, scorching hot, and days so long you might find yourself praying for the sun to set.  At 7 years old, I didn’t understand what drought meant.  I heard about it on Good Morning America while I munched on my PopTarts and sipped my Tang from a crazy straw, but I didn’t experience it…other than being asked not to leave the hose turned on in the yard.  At 7 years old, I saw TIME magazine in the dentist’s office, and I knew there were farmers in trouble…fires burning in California…but I didn’t experience that.  My daddy was a preacher…I didn’t depend on the rain to ensure my livelihood.  To me, rain meant mud and thunder and a cool-down from the summer heat.  I never considered it a source of LIFE.  I didn’t know, because I hadn’t lived without it.

A drought sort of creeps up on you.  It’s not like a tornado, which is sudden and quick.  It’s not like a hurricane or flood, which is expected and passes soon.  A drought starts slowly, so slowly that maybe you don’t really notice how dry it’s been until things around you start to wilt and die, and when it’s in full swing, a drought devastates every component of our domain.  It is a genuine hell on earth. 

Just like the land becomes dry and thirsty, our souls go through times that seem like a dusty hell on earth.  However, in seasons when it seems useless to even try, we cannot lie down in the dirt and give up.  Instead we must continue on, in faith, and we must proclaim, “And now, God, do it again.”  He’s done it before…and that word “again” implies our faith in Him.  So what is a drought to us?   It’s a trial.  And what does the Word tell us about trials?  “7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”  (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)

So welcome the drought, and continue to plant your crops…even in despair…because it is through being forced to go without the things we’d never just give up on our own that our faith is perfected.  No trial lasts forever…no devastation is beyond repair…and when God allows drought we must keep moving in faith with arms open wide in expectation of the harvest and blessing ahead.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  (James 1: 2-4, The Message)

The drought of 1988 lasted well into 1989 and impacted our entire nation.  It was the worst natural disaster to take place since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and was so until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2004.  To the people directly affected, it must have seemed like eons passed before the rains finally fell and rejuvenated the earth.  Yet in the larger scope of time, it was but an instant.  It is a part of history, from which we are able to learn and use that knowledge to face similar difficulties in the future.  Experiences give us wisdom, and they are the foundation of our faith.

Prayer:  Father God, I trust You in all things.  Thank you for teaching me what it is to be without, and for helping me to understand that YOU are my source of life.  Amen.

“Promises, Promises”

(Psalm 119:147-148) 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. 148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

When the weight of life begins to fall
On the name of Jesus I will call
For I know my God is in control
And His purpose is unshakeable
Doesn’t matter what I feel
Doesn’t matter what I see
My hope will always be
Your promises to me.
– “Your Promises” by Elevation Worship

Because of humanity, because we are a mess, because of SIN…life is a guaranteed trial.  I don’t care what you say, who you are, or what you do…your life will not always be easy.  It just won’t!  We’ve been given many promises by God, and no, that’s not one of them…it’s just a consequence that we must endure for a time.  Into our lives, sin brings chaos and hurt, and there’s no stopping it sometimes, but as children of God we have been given all of the wisdom, power and authority needed to rise above. 

In every situation we have hope, but the thing about hope is that you have to take ownership of it and once it is claimed you then have to decide where to place it.  You can place it in other people, you can place it in your career, you can place it in your church and all of the “good” things that you do to support it, but none of the above will ever hold out for long.  People fail us, jobs and careers can be lost, and yes even churches fall apart.  Do as you wish, but there is only one placement for your hope that is sure to stand above the waters and that is God’s word. 

As a believer you lay claim on His word, by your faith, that it is true.  So…when you read it and meditate on it, you are ingesting THE TRUTH.  God’s word is filled with many things, all of which benefit our walks through life in some way, and every word is perfect and established.  Therefore, we have what we need in order to pilot our way through this expedition.  Through His word we have our history (which gives us His plan), we are given our commission (which is our purpose), and we have access to the countless promises from God (which give us HOPE). 

Without hope, purpose and plan fall apart.  2 Peter 1: 3-4 tells us, “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” When we are able to place our hope in the promises, the “very great and precious promises” of God, we are empowered to fulfill the purpose and the plan set before us from the beginning. 

Gaining access to these promises does, however, require something from you.  It requires discipline.  You will have to read, you will have to meditate, you will have to actually CONVERSE with God, and you will have to make time for these things.  Yes, it is all easily accessible, but acquiring strength in spirit is a lot like building physical strength…you have to put in work.  It is a commitment, and what we all eventually learn about commitment is that sometimes it just doesn’t matter how you are feeling at the moment, or how things look through your natural eyes, because the foundation of a covenant is the promises that were made.  When the anxieties, hurts, and disturbances of life make you feel things that are contrary to the truth, if you will go back to the Word…to His promises…you will find that your Heavenly Father is deeply committed to loving you, blessing you, and ensuring that you fulfill your purpose. 

(Jeremiah 29: 11-14) 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the hope that is found in Your word.  Help me to remember it when my feelings take charge and my sight is skewed, so that I do not hinder my role in Your purpose and plan.  Give me strength to be more disciplined in my pursuit of You and my commitment to Your will.  Amen.

I Want To See

And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. (Mark 10)

I have always loved this story from the gospel of Mark. It is short and to the point, and yet it marks a huge turning point in Bartimaeus’ life. Isn’t it funny how something so huge and life-altering can happen so quickly, almost before we even realize what’s happening.

Although the Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of follow-up, I’m sure that it took some time for it to fully sink in, for Bartimaeus to adjust to the new normal. Things that once were impossible for him were suddenly available options. I don’t know about you, but I would love to have God bless me in such a way that a whole new world of opportunity opened up in front of me!

However, before Bartimaeus could receive his blessing there were a few prerequisites that had to be in place:

  1. He was humble — Bartimaeus realized that he was literally helpless. There was nothing he could do to restore his own sight. He recognized that he needed a miracle and cried out to Jesus for mercy. He placed himself fully in God’s hands.
  2. He was persistent — When others tried to quiet him, he just increased his volume. He didn’t care if it annoyed them or made them uncomfortable. All he knew was that he had an opportunity to have an encounter with God, and he was not going to miss his chance. Nothing was going to stand between him and his blessing.
  3. He was ready — When Jesus called for him, Bartimaeus threw off his coat and jumped up. It didn’t take him long to respond when Jesus called for him, because he was anticipating a response from God.
  4. He knew what he needed — When Jesus asked him what he wanted, Bartimaeus didn’t have to think about it or check his wishlist. He knew what his greatest need was and he brought it before the Lord with a clear and direct request.
  5. He had faith — His faith was the open door that allowed God to not only restore his physical sight but also save his soul! In one life-changing instant, Bartimaeus’ physical AND spiritual needs were met, but it would not have been possible without faith.

What is your greatest need? Have you made it a matter of humble, persistent prayer? Are you ready and anticipating a response from God? Do you trust that his answer, positive or negative, is perfect and the best outcome for you?

PRAYER: Father, have mercy on us! Thank you for your gracious and merciful provision in our times of need. You have been so good to us, and your promises have never failed. For our current and future needs, we trust and rely on you! In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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