“There Will Come a Day”

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21: 3-7, NLT)

Of every promise in the Bible, this is the one that I hold onto with the most desperation.  I can’t tell you the many times that I have had to close my eyes for just a moment to meditate on this very thing – to know, on the bad days…when I am hurting…when I am frustrated…when I am lowly and discouraged, that one day I have the promise of EVERYTHING being made new…restored…perfected…that one day my tears will forever be wiped away by the very hand that created me.  That’s something I can be comforted by no matter what happens.

I can’t help but wonder…what will that feel like?  It is truly unimaginable!  We live amongst so much heartache and hatred.  We face it every day of our lives.  It’s in everything that we watch and listen to, and it’s on the faces of strangers that we encounter, and even in the eyes of our loved ones.   Because of the rapid progression of sin in our world, hostility, distrust and heavyheartedness have become commonplace for us all.  We are used to it, so a life lived without that is not something that I think any of us could ever envision.  However, even though I can’t fathom it, I desire it.  Life without worry, pain, uncertainty, and depression – without hatred, vengefulness, mockery, and prejudice – without death, destruction, destitution, and despair – I don’t know this life…but I want to live it.  I am not worthy of this sort of freedom, but because of God’s love for me, for us, it is a gift that He stands holding out to us.  We simply have to reach out to Him and accept it.

It’s like a gift card.  It may not seem like much at the moment – just a seemingly small thing – but it holds so much promise!  I can tuck it away, and sometimes just knowing that it’s there is enough to make me smile.  When I am having a bad day, I know that I have the promise of something good, something that is completely free to me.  Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A, they are all great and something nice to look forward to, but SALVATION, PEACE, ETERNAL JOY… now those are promises that I can live for each day!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the promise of a day when we all will forever be reunited with You.  Though things here get worse what seems like every day, there is nothing I can’t endure when I know that I have the fully redeemable gift of freedom in You that never expires.  Until that day, I will hold onto that assurance, and I will give this life the best of me while I am here.  May it be all for Your glory.  Amen.

Joyful Giver

“They will be my people and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I ill put a desire in their hearts to worship me , and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and whole-heartedly replant them in this land.” — Jeremiah 32:38-41

I am the worst gift giver.

For one, I couldn’t wrap a gift neatly if my life depended on it. At Christmas, there are always beautiful packages under the tree for everyone except my wife. Since I’m the one who wraps her gifts, they usually end up hidden somewhere in the back where no one can see them. When gift bags with some crumpled tissue paper became a thing, I rejoiced!

But worse than that, is that once I have purchased a gift for someone, I can barely contain myself until I give it to them. I have ruined many surprises because I just can’t help giving it away…I’m too excited! That’s the real reason that I wait until the last minute to do my Christmas and birthday shopping because then the agony of waiting to give the gift is shortened. Elizabeth’s brother and his wife usually have all of their Christmas shopping done by the time Black Friday rolls around and I think they’re crazy. If I have found the perfect gift for someone and purchased it, I don’t want it to collect dust in the closet for a month. I want to give it to them now!

Maybe I’m the crazy one…or maybe I’m just made in the image of my Heavenly Father.

When you read Scripture, you see a picture of a God who desires to bless his people. Go all the way back to Eden, and you see that when God had completed the process of creation and had fashioned Adam & Eve, he immediately gave it all to them!

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the seas, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground — everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
Then God looked over all he had made and he saw that it was very good! (Genesis 1:28-30)

God had crafted the world with great care and attention, but He didn’t do it for Himself. He made the world to share it with us!

As you continue reading, you see how God was good to his people, pouring out blessing after blessing to those who were faithful. Even when the Israelites turned from Him, God declared the blessings that he wanted to give them:

“If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight.” (Malachi 3:10-12)

And the giving didn’t stop in the Old Testament. He expanded the scope of His new covenant from “Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He gave His only Son to show us the way, and pay the price of redemption. He gave us His Holy Spirit to empower, counsel and comfort us. He gave us each a spiritual gift, to build each other up. Like ocean waves, the gifts just keep on coming.

We often hear the phrase “joyful giver” used to describe what our attitude should be towards God when we present our tithe and offerings to Him. When we take this approach, we are simply following in the steps of our Father who delights in blessing His children. Let’s all take a minute today to count the many ways that God has brought blessing and abundance to our lives and let Him know how grateful we are!

PRAYER: Father, we just want to pause and take a minute to acknowledge the gracious gifts that you give us day-after-day. Every morning dawns brimming with promise and possibility because of Your great love. We are humbled by Your generosity to us, even though we are undeserving. We will declare your righteousness and unfailing love forever. Amen!

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

(Habakkuk 3: 17-18, NLT) 

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

    and there are no grapes on the vines;

even though the olive crop fails,

    and the fields lie empty and barren;

even though the flocks die in the fields,

    and the cattle barns are empty,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

Sometimes you just don’t get what you want.  That thing you’ve longed for all of your days.  That expectation.  The ideal. You’ve prayed for it.  You’ve waited, and waited, and waited for it.  You’ve cried out to God, “WHY?!?”  You’ve been angry, sad, impatient.  You’ve been joyful, generous, understanding.  Yet still you wait, and still you stand with empty hands.  At least…that’s the way it feels…when you are left wanting and longing for something. 

This feeling applies to so much in our lives — as we are all different…with varying goals, dreams and desires — yet for so many of us, this feeling is a result of infertility.  It is a silent suffering that plagues the homes of more individuals, couples and families than we ever realize.  I don’t want to monopolize this opportunity to encourage others with my own personal struggle over this specific obstacle…as it pertains to my life, but suffice it to say that I have walked the road of loneliness and despair that comes when your body will not do what you so want it to do…when you don’t get what you want

I got pregnant with my son very quickly, and the pregnancy/birth experience was easy and pleasant (aside from those typical discomforts that all mothers have), so when we decided it was time to try for a second child, our assumption was that it would just happen.  Yet…happen it did not.  Until…one day it did!  Father’s Day 2010 we had a positive test, and we excitedly shared our news with family…yet within the coming week, we experienced the pain and gut-wrenching disbelief that is miscarriage.  Since then, it was much of the same…over and over and over again.  I asked my doctor, “Why is this happening to me?”  There were several physiological reasons that were working together to prevent a successful pregnancy.  I was given odds and statistics, and as a result…I felt like a huge disappointment…broken and faulty.  This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to be…how things were supposed to happen for us!  So, I lied to myself…and to others…oh Lord, did I lie! 

“We don’t want more children.” 

“We are content.”

“It’s been too long and I don’t want to start over.”

And on and on went the lies.  It made me feel better to lie, because when I was honest…I got mad.  The anger would then lead me to conviction, because I am well aware that being angry with God only leads to a hardened, sinful heart.  Yet no matter what I did…whether I was lying about and hiding my true feelings…or whether I was allowing the anger to sear my heart into a stony, protective shell…I was unhappy. 

But isn’t that where selfishness leads us to though?  Unhappiness?  How can it take us anywhere else?  I was thinking with my “Id” (that carnal, instinctual part of my psyche), and allowed it to just sort of take over.  I wasn’t thinking Heavenly thoughts anymore.  I was so focused on what I thought I wanted, that I was missing out on the joys of being grateful for always having what I needed.

Please let me encourage your heart today.  I know the frustration of feeling that your cries and prayers have fallen on deaf ears, but understand this…Father knows best. 

As a child, I remember asking for things that I just didn’t need, yet I wanted them so badly.  I would beg and plead, and though it pained my parents to have to say it, they would sometimes have to answer no…to which I would respond with ridiculous and petulant behavior. 

One time, when I was about 7 years old, we took a family vacation (as we did every summer of my childhood), and on our way back home we passed through Maggie Valley, TN.  We had spent a lot of time and money already, and we were on the last leg of our journey home.  (I can only imagine how tired my parents must have been, after a full week of summer fun with 5 kids under the age of thirteen!)  As I have always been one to notice and read billboards, while we passed through this particular region, I began to see signs for “Ghost Town in the Sky!”  Well hot dog…that sounded fun to me!!  So I asked, “Daddy, daddy, can we pleeeeeaaaasseee go to Ghost Town in the Sky?  Please???”  Well my dad, who only ever wanted to please and bless his family, agreed to check the prices.  This was the 1980’s, so no internet!  He had to actually pull in the parking lot, leave us all in the van, and walk to the gates to inquire about tickets.  As we sat there, I was SO expectant!  I just knew that we would be going in any minute.  When I saw my dad walking back toward the van in the distance, I was literally vibrating with excitement, yet…the closer he got, I could see he wasn’t smiling.  The answer was no.  It was too expensive.  Well, I cried, I wailed, and I just did not understand why we couldn’t go in!  I lamented, “I hate being poor!!”  (A statement I have yet to live down to this day!)  We were not poor!  Sometimes Daddy just had to say no…Father knows best.

That entire ride the rest of the way home, I missed out on the joy of my now because of my sulking about the past

Friends, don’t sulk and wallow in your discontent.  Rejoice in the Lord, who has graciously given to you all that you could ever need.  He truly does know best.  There is so much about my life that would not have come to pass if I had been handed what I thought I wanted in the moment.  Babies are always a blessing, yet I know that there are things that I was meant and appointed by God to do that would not be possible if my life were any different than it is right now.  I am finding joy in that…in seeing that God is moving all around me, and using me in ways that I never would have come up with on my own. 

“You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need!”  – The Rolling Stones

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when things are not as I imagined — when I am hurt, questioning, and confused — help me to see Your hand in my life anyway.  Give me joy in my mourning, and help me to trust You at all times.  Amen.

“I Give Myself Away”

(Psalm 43: 3-4, NLT)

3 Send out your light and your truth;

    let them guide me.

Let them lead me to your holy mountain,

    to the place where you live.

4 There I will go to the altar of God,

    to God—the source of all my joy.

I will praise you with my harp,

    O God, my God!

Looking back on the early days of my experience with motherhood — the pregnancy, the birth, bringing home a helpless infant and having no idea what to do with him or how to care for him, potty training, learning to discipline…just the newness of it ALL — the common denominator…the thing that governed my every waking moment…was sacrifice.  I sacrificed my body, my mind, my rest, and even my individuality.  I lost myself in this tiny human being, because becoming a mother meant that I must lay down my life in surrender to this gift — motherhood.  Those early days were hard ones.  I was learning so much…and I felt like I was failing every day in different ways.  Yet somewhere amid the loss of sleep, the crying (both my son’s tears as well as my own), the mistakes, and the endless amount of poop (soooo much poop), I found joy that filled me to the brim.  My sacrifices for my son were the source of what felt like the greatest joy of my life.  I had been given this extraordinary treasure, and because I felt endlessly unworthy to receive such a blessing, I willingly paid each price that this baby boy required of me. 

This is the great mystery of sacrifice — while inconvenient, and often painful, it has this odd way of producing joy.  It feels good to give.  It makes our hearts sing and and our spirits soar.  It is in the act of sacrifice that we find our greatest joys, our every freedom, and the fullness of peace and restoration that we seek. 

The fabric of who we are, what makes us human and sets us apart from the rest of creation, is that we are the image of God Himself.  He breathed into us His own breath of life.  He created us to love Him, to honor Him, to be like Him.  It is the natural inclination of our spirits to desire closeness with our Heavenly Father, and it is only through the mutual sacrifice of God and His children that this intimacy is fulfilled.  Sin is what separates us from God, but because of the blood of Christ (the greatest sacrifice) we have full and complete access to the throne of God — all of His love, grace, provision, and peace belongs to us.  We have only to kneel at the altar of God, in His holy place — His presence, and sacrifice our lives (every hope, every plan, every part of who we are).   When we offer ourselves to Him, in spirit and in truth, we become a living sacrifice, and that sacrifice is what unlocks the door to all that He has to offer us. 

So we must find within ourselves that sacrificial love, so often freely given to our friends and family, and we must be willing to pour it out on onto Jesus.  Like the oil from that alabaster box so treasured by Mary, we must break open our hearts and yield our everything, the most precious parts of who we are and what we hold dear, to the Lord. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for this reminder today that a life without sacrifice is a joyless one.  Help me have the devotion and strength to lay down my life fully, for others as well as for You — and when I start to get weary of the pain and struggle that sometimes comes with it, help me find the joy that comes from pleasing You.  Amen.

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