“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14 AMP
As we gladly put 2020 in the rear view mirror and forge ahead eagerly into 2021, we typically resolve to eat better, lose weight, work out more, etc. May we not lose sight of seeking God in the year ahead and setting out on a spiritual journey. Look for ways to measure your spiritual growth—reading through the Bible in a year, consistent quiet times you document, scripture memorization with an accountability partner. At the end of 2021 you will find yourself looking back on an adventure with rewards to last a lifetime. Trek on!🚦
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3 NASB
Let’s face it: 2020 will go down in the books of our lives as one of the most memorable, though maybe we are thinking, “Uh, I won’t be remembering it as the best year ever.“😉 Isn’t it exciting to know that what feels like a total beat down is God getting rid of everything holding us back from really growing?! If it feels like you are banging your head against a wall, maybe you are really on the cusp of shattering a glass ceiling of sorts. Keep praying. Keep seeking Him in His Word. Let God be God, and you do you. Wait expectantly for what is to come. Friend, you and I are not having a breakdown; we are having a breakthrough! 🚦
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”￼ John 3:16 HCSB
“When the lightning writes the name of the Lord with flaming finger across the black brow of the tempest, we are compelled to see it; so also when love inscribes the cross on the tablet of our sin, even blind eyes must see that love consists in this.”
“He left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria, so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening. A woman of Samaria came to draw water.” John 4:3-7a HCSB
One year my family took a vacation to Tennessee to visit friends. On the way home my husband and I decided to take a big detour to Hot Springs, Arkansas to take our kids to our family favorite restaurant called Taco Mama. As we look back, this side trip was part of what made the vacation so memorable.
Jesus had been in Aenon of Judea, along the Jordan River midway between the northern tip of the Dead Sea and the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee. To go to Samaria, Jesus’s trip doubled in distance and would have added at least two days to the journey. This means Jesus was compelled to INTENTIONALLY go to Samaria to meet this woman of ill repute at Jacob’s Well. The well would have been a central congregating spot where locals and travelers alike went for refreshment and fellowship. There would have been community gatherings and meetings there, as well.
This Samaritan woman went to the well at a time of day when no one would typically be there because she was looked down upon for her multiple marriages and affairs. But Jesus saw her; he knew her story and still went to her. Because He was intentional and sacrificed His time, she came to faith in Him and then led her whole family to Christ!
Where is God telling you to be intentional to go out of your way, out of your comfort zone to tell others your story to draw them to Him? Are you willing to leave your safe space to do kingdom work?🚦
“When the head waiter tasted the water (after it had become wine),￼ he did not know where it came from – does the servants who had drawn the water new. He called the groom and told him, ‘Everyone sets out the fine wine first, then, after people are drunk, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.￼” John 2:9–11
Instead of turning the 20-30 gallon cisterns of water into the usual late celebration lesser quality wine, Jesus manifested His glory to a select group of people by turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.
This is what He does with us, His followers. He takes our brokenness, our hurts and the everyday triumphs and weaves them all together with His saving grace to make our flawed threads into an amazing tapestry.
God is using and will continue to use your current difficulties for good. How is His presence in the midst of the struggle drawing you to Him? How is God using your trials to draw others to Him, to bring them hope and light?🚦
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”” John 2:1-5 ESV
It was a big deal, in a negative way, if wine ran out at a wedding. Seeing this had happened, Mary took a step of faith. Having never seen Jesus do a miracle but knowing that while he was fully man He was also fully God, she asked Him to intervene with the miraculous. Even when Jesus tried to politely tell her, “no,” she turned to the servants and told them to follow Jesus’s instructions, knowing full well Jesus would do as she asked.
That’s faith, people! You and I have a record of many of Jesus’s miracles but still lack the faith He will work them for us. Mary had not yet seen Him do these things but knew and believed in her heart already.
“How do you know me? “Nathanael asked. ‘Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,’ Jesus answer.￼” John 1:48
Each of us knows the feeling. We sense we are insignificant, as if our presence on this earth doesn’t really matter at all. We wonder, “Do I even make a difference?￼”
Jesus sees you, just as he saw Nathanael under the fig tree seeking shade. He sees not only the big accolades the world applauds, but He is there in the midst of the seemingly inconsequential details of our lives. Yes, in the thick of your trials, your grief, your daily grind, HE SEES YOU! Stand tall today knowing you matter to the God of this universe. 🚦
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Numbers 14:18 “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty.”
When I was younger I had a bad habit of holding grudges against those who had wounded me or a friend. I would sometimes hold onto the bitterness for many years. One day a dear friend explained how she was able to let offenses go; she trusted God to avenge the offender in His time where it was appropriate. After that I started working hard on forgiving a litany of violations. In one particular case it was not appropriate to talk to the “criminal” [Criminal only in my mind￼], but I could demonstrate my changed heart by shopping at the store owned by one of these people who’d hurt my friend some 20 years prior. What freedom and peace I began to experience! I was also better able to accept the grace God extends your me through Christ Jesus.
“It is important to extend grace and forgiveness to those who have wounded us. I know this can be easier said than done, but through Christ it is possible. Often the one who brought us pain has no idea the heartache they have caused. I often wonder whom I could have hurt without meaning to, and I hope and pray they forgive me for my thoughtless actions.” Shari Braendl
“Now when [the magi] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the Child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy him.”￼ Matthew 2:13 NASB
Just as God spoke to Joseph through an angel in a dream, the magi heard God’s clear instructions to leave Bethlehem following a different route from which they’d come. He’d also spoken to the shepherds who would visit Jesus by way of an angel. Did people in Biblical times have more encounters with angels and more visitations from God in dreams?
As a home health physical therapist for twenty of my thirty five year career, I’ve been in some extraordinarily wealthy neighborhoods, but I’ve also been in a home with no electricity and a floor caving in. I could sense the Lord’s protection over me as I prayed through some challenging situations. One afternoon I was only two blocks from the home of a patient in a less savory part of town when I clearly heard the voice of God shout, “GET OUT NOW!” Do you think I sat and analyzed this or questioned if this was from God or some other spirit? No! I immediately exited the area and went home. I knew that if I didn’t obey immediately I would be in danger. While I’ve never known what was going on that day, and our agency was unable to contact the patient again, I do know God’s hand of protection was upon me.
Are you listening to God through His Word and in daily life as you walk in the Spirit? Please share a time when God spoke to you, whether in a dream or in an audible voice, and you clearly understood and obeyed. What was the outcome? How did this experience affect you?
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Matthew 10:27 HCSB🚦
By the time you hit the full-head-of-gray-hair stage of life, you’ve known some amazing highs and some really challenging lows. It’s been that season for my family. WHICH season, you ask? Both, all mixed in together. As we anticipate enthusiastically one child’s wedding, we bemoan with sadness the incredible difficulty which lies before the other child. In the midst of it all, we have grappled with chronic health issues that have pushed the limits of our coping while social distancing and wearing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How does a person NOT lose hope during tumultuous seasons that threaten faith? After plenty of “winters” of life in which I did not suffer well, here are some keys I’ve learned through staying in God’s Word through the hard times:
1. Be still before God, remaining in prayer, and let Him do the heavy lifting. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 ESV
2. Walk in the Spirit with an attitude of prayer. “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV. Keep your eyes focused on the eternal things.
3. Seek wise counsel from godly friends or from professionals. This may even include your physician. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”Proverbs 19:20-21 ESV.
4. Wait expectantly for the victory that awaits! God’s name WILL be glorified. He WILL complete the good work He started. “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:6
5. Refuse to let circumstances dictate your mindset and the attitude in which you live. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,” Philippians 1:27 ESV.
6. Consider it joy that you have been chosen for suffering alongside of Christ. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8 ESV
7. Find joy in the ordinary. Flowers in the garden, a playful dog, sunshine on your face, a smiling stranger who waves at you. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.
This battle between flesh and spirit will continue until the day we are fully completed in Christ. Difficulty is NORMAL, so laugh in the crazy. 😎🚦