I think we often focus on the infant form or crucified forms of Jesus, and we do not always consider what He looks like now or how He will be when we meet face-to-face. John gives a vivid image of our resurrected Messiah, including that His face was shining like the sun at full strength (Rev. 1:16). Revelation 22:4-5 says that we will see His face and people will no longer need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun because the Lord God will give us light. This echoes Isaiah’s words that the Lord (YHWH) will be our everlasting light, and we will no longer need the sun by day or the moon by night (Isa. 60:19). The glory of God will give our new dwelling place its light, and the Lamb will be our lamp (Rev. 21:23). Our eternal dwelling place will need no other light than that of the Lord.
When I consider these simple truths, it almost takes my breath away. I cannot look at the sun (or even its reflection in the snow surrounding me now), but I will one day be able to look at the face of the one whose face shines like the sun at full strength. I can hardly imagine.
Sit with this for a moment. Listen for His voice and what He is calling to your heart. We will one day leave this land we know and head to a new place with Him in all His glory.
Unlike the new things I had to learn to protect our family, our new home will be perfect…our new climate heavenly. We may not see Him in all His glory now, but He will reveal more and more as we seek Him for all He is. We find this promise in the psalms: “They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob” (Ps. 24:5-6). So, while we await a time where we will literally see Him face-to-face, let us heed the instruction in Psalm 105 to give thanks, call upon Him, sing His praise, rejoice, tell of His wonders and deeds, and seek His face always (Ps. 105:1-4). May He shine His face upon us as we journey with Him in our today and long for the time to come where we will see His face fully, in all of its radiance.
“My heart says of You, ‘Seek His face.’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8 (NIV)
In 1 John 1:5-6, the apostle John writes to Christian believers, “...God is Light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” John is telling the believers that if they want to enjoy a relationship with God they must be willing to allow His light to expose their sin, so they can ask for forgiveness.
This passage was prompting me to look at how I dealt with sin in my life. It was reminding me that sin disrupts my relationship with God, because light and darkness cannot coexist. So how do I respond? First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” In order to have an intimate relationship with God, I have to allow His light to show me the sin in my life so I can confess it and allow Him to guide my path.
John continues to speak to believers about their fellowship with God. First John 4:7-8 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Because God is love, a relationship with Him means that love must be evident in our lives; in words and in deeds.
Do I love my fellow believers and my neighbors? Is my love visible, sacrificial, and unconditional? Thinking about my behavior when the neighbor parks too close to my driveway, or when someone swipes the parking spot I was headed for, or when the family with six children under twelve sits in front of me in church, I feel convicted. Love is from God. If I am not demonstrating love, my fellowship with God is impacted.
Intimacy with God means walking in His light and sharing His love.
Maybe like me, you feel God using this passage to prompt you to examine your walk with Him? He is revealing truths that will lead to a more intimate relationship with Him. He wishes to shine His light into those dark areas that we try to keep hidden and His love to guide us to those with whom we need to share love. May we always act on the prompting the Holy Spirit places on our hearts.
“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)
God didn’t call us to control our child’s every decision. Our God-given parenting mission is to make disciples who follow Him. How, then, do we parent our children as they grow to live God-honoring lives while also honoring their God-given differences?
In 1 Peter, the apostle writes to the elders of the early church. We, as moms, are elders too! God has entrusted us with our own little churches or— our own little flocks. Peter’s exhortation is a word of wisdom to all of us.
He says, “…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pe. 5: 2-3 ESV, emphasis mine).
In short, we can shepherd well by:
1. Exercising oversight (not control). This is what God does with us. He gives us guidelines to live within, but also gives us freedom to make our own decisions.
2. Loving our children more than we love ourselves. Nothing reveals how selfish we are, as humans, faster than becoming a parent. Allowing our children to make decisions often means risking our own reputation, happiness, and comfort. When we love them, we care more for their long-term growth than our own short-term gain.
3. Being living examples. One of my favorite sayings is “what they see is what they’ll be.” How do you follow the Father? Do you seek His will for every area of your life? Are you enslaved to fear of what others may think or free to “keep in step with the Spirit?” (Gal. 5:25)
Peter’s following words provide two powerful keys to living this out: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV, emphasis mine).
First, we must be humble. We must admit that mother doesn’t always know best, but God always does and that we are incapable of shepherding well without the grace and wisdom He provides.
Second, we must cast all our anxieties on Him. Do you know what is at the root of control? Fear. What potential outcome are you worried about? Release it into the Father’s hands. He loves our children even more than we do, and is holding their life in His capable hands.
Spend a few minutes admitting any areas where you have crossed over into control. Identify the fear at the root and give it over to God. Thank God for your child’s unique design and ask Him for increased grace to shepherd them well.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
In a moment, He addressed the grief I carried from the loss of my earthly dad, and addressed the lie of insignificance harbored in my soul by showing me He saw me and had in fact seen all my days. The healing that took place in my heart was nothing short of miraculous that day, and it gave me an abiding sense of purpose, value and communion with God. I'll never forget it.
In reading Paul’s letters to Timothy, I get the sense Timothy was needing this kind of ministry to stay at his post in Ephesus. Equally apparent is the evidence Paul really saw Timothy - his strengths and weaknesses, his gifts, his fears and troubles. Paul addressed Timothy as a son (1 Timothy 1:2) and expressed deep care, a desire to protect, train up, prepare and set him up for success.
Paul spoke plainly of the hardships to come and the need to stand firmly on the Truth, regardless of the environment. He reminded Timothy of the sound teaching and spiritual inheritance he received from his mother and grandmother, and then reminded him of prophetic words spoken over him by others. All of this had helped develop Timothy into the man of God he was. Remembering gave him strength to stand strong.
We all go through difficult seasons that make us long for God’s personal affirmation and attention. Psalm 139:1 says, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” We all desire to know He sees us. It is sheer grace from the Father that assigns us our value and significance (Ephesians 2:8-10), and unfathomable mercy that He will comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When He does, it is like adding legs to our faith, releasing us to run as ambassadors of the King.
I hope you have had similar experiences that have propelled you forward in your walk with God. If you can’t recall a specific time He spoke to the deepest parts of your heart, ask Him to. He is a God who gets personal. He is a God who loves you and longs for you to know it. Think of people in your life that have spoken life into you in moments of weariness, like Paul did for Timothy. Thank God for them. Once you do, go forth and be that life-giving presence for someone else. May God receive all the glory!
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” Psalm 139:1 (NIV)
Hebrews 11 will always remain a favorite chapter of mine and is known by many as the ‘faith chapter.’ The chapter is filled with examples of beautiful lives lived by faith. All of them lived in the tension of the ‘not yets’ between the promise and the promise fulfilled. The chapter begins with Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (emphasis mine). Faith is standing in the space of the ‘not-yet’ and anchoring ourselves to who God says He is. Faith is the bridge we walk on when our experience does not yet match the promise, when we feel disappointment in God, when we feel we have been left alone, when we feel as if we are not forgiven, when we feel unloved by Him or any other way that is contrary to what is promised in Scripture.
I love Hebrews 11:11, “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise” (emphasis mine). Sarah considered God faithful despite what she could see. She didn’t have faith in faith or her ability to believe, but centered her faith on the faithful God. She considered Him faithful. This little statement is the foundation of true faith. This is the question we must answer in our lives if we are to live faith-filled. Do we consider Him faithful? If so, we can anchor our lives to Him even when things go dark. When questions are large, the God who knows all continues to hold our lives in his hands. We can be confident and sure of this even when we can’t see.
Our faith is anchored to the good God, who even when things turn out differently than we expect or hope for, is still good and has our best in mind. God is strong enough to anchor our faith to no matter what is going on in our lives. Let’s put our faith in the God who holds our lives and trust Him in whatever season or circumstance we may find ourselves in. He will be faithful.
"And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.” Hebrews 11:11 (NIV)
Paul, traditionally thought to be in prison when he was writing this epistle, desired to instruct the church at Ephesus about the matter of Christian unity. Nearing the end of Paul’s ministry and life, he came quickly to his point and did not mince words. He knew that Gentiles were coming to faith and that may not settle well with the Jews. The sentiments are pointed: Always be humble. Be patient. Let your love for one another be the motivator to pursue unity.
And suddenly the thought occurred to me. The next step is mine. The ball is in my court to pursue unity with my co-worker. It is my responsibility to ask and inquire about her sudden change in disposition toward me. I need to investigate what caused the change in demeanor. I do not know what she will say or if she will even entertain the conversation, but I know I have to make every effort to pursue unity. As sisters in Christ and co-laborers in ministry, our Christian bond needs to be strengthened and this uncomfortable conversation may be the means to do that.
Is there strife or discord or misunderstanding in your relationships with Christian brothers or sisters? If so, maybe Paul’s words will hit you the way they landed for me. You can’t ignore this, do what you can, make every effort to make it right. Open the door to clear the air. The ball is in your court.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 3:3 (NIV)
I’ll never forget the day we walked through our potential first home. Almost everything in me was convinced it was ours. As I look back, however, I remember also experiencing uneasiness around the idea of moving into that home. But we proceeded forward, and I continued to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until everything fell apart that I realized we never invited God into the process. In spite of our disobedience and in spite of what our circumstances looked like, God was still faithful. I remember God promising us a home even better than the last. Within one year, He did just that. We were able to close on our first home just like He promised.
As I recount my testimony, I’m reminded of our devotional reading— Paul’s sail to Rome. After sailing for some time with Julius, the army officer, and other prisoners (including Paul himself), they came to a place called “Safe Harbor.” Paul knew that if they left this place, they would enter a place of trouble. He knew that if they journeyed ahead, there was potential for them to lose their lives. Wisely, Paul warned them of the dangerous journey ahead, but the Captain did not believe Paul and the army officer decided to continue on. Not surprisingly however, Paul was right. As they continued, the men encountered a storm that threatened their lives. Even still, God was in control.
God promised He would intervene for Paul and the rest of the men of the ship. In Acts 27:24 “The angel said, ‘Paul, don’t be afraid! You must stand before Caesar. And God has given you this promise: He will save the lives of all those sailing with you” (ERV). Interestingly, God’s promise of safety didn't change the physical circumstances around them. They were still in deep waters, the waves still continued to crash, and they were still being blown to and fro. Even still, none of their extenuating conditions stopped God from doing what He already promised, and all the men safely made it to land.
Friend, I am here to remind you that the promise God made YOU is not in vain.
God promises to never leave nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5).
God promises to supply all of your needs (Phil. 4:19).
God promises His peace (Phil. 4:6-7).
God promises His restoration (Deut. 30:3).
God promises to protect you (Ps. 91:4).
In spite of the circumstances surrounding you momentarily, cling tightly to the promises He has made you and cling just as tightly to His Word. The goal of the enemy is to steal this promise by convincing you that the current turmoil you may be experiencing will never end. However, the enemy has no authority to decide that. The enemy's tactics are merely an illusion and distraction. So I encourage you, just as I had to encourage myself in our home buying process, to keep your eyes focused on God and trust His Word. It will not return unto you void. Keep watch as the promise He gave you miraculously comes to pass.
“‘For no word from God will ever fail.’” Luke 1:37 (NIV)
Our hike required a heightened awareness of my surroundings, including my children. The same is true when I think about the fact that Jesus is coming back. I cannot think of a phrase that more powerfully calls us to wake up than that. This phrase calls us to repentance, to growth, to commitment to see others come to know Him, and to a deep joy at what is to come. These four words draw us, comfort us, and challenge us. The call to wake up, though, indicates that, in some ways, we are asleep. How easy is it to steer clear of the very challenges that will draw us closer to Him and to our purpose?
Romans 13:11 says “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Looking into the surrounding verses, we see the actions Paul intended for us to take include “putting off the deeds of darkness (Rom 13:12)” and “clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14).” Likewise, the church in Sardis was warned to wake up and repent, and that if they did not, He would come like a thief (Rev 3:2-3). Revelation 16:15 mirrors these two sections of Scripture so well: “Look, I come like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
Scripture upon scripture prods us to stay awake while the world around us increasingly tries to lull us back to sleep. I’ve been connected to this idea of awakening since 2020, when I chose the word “awake” for my word of the year. That year’s experiences, like the hike above, woke me up to fears I was mingling with faith and to things I couldn’t have learned about my children or myself without experiencing some turbulence. If we allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep, we won’t make it where He wants to take us.
Being awake is life giving, but not without its fair share of challenges. I know well the desire to check out for a moment of “peace.” But what if we didn’t? What if we didn’t check out but rather stayed awake and kept moving forward? As we start this time of fasting and prayer, let’s seek Him and what He wants to awaken in our lives.
“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
Paul tells us in Romans 8:15 that living as a child of God means we have an intimate, joyful relationship with God. A child of God can have a relationship with God so close that they may cry out, “Abba, Father” (Daddy!). As our father, God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need before we even know how to ask for it. The Holy Spirit’s help in intercession is perfect because He searches the hearts of those whom He helps, and He is able to guide our prayers according to the will of God. When we are weak, and do not know exactly how we should pray, God Himself (through the Holy Spirit) helps by interceding for us.
There are times when I am sure I act like a whiny tired two year old before God. Just today, I was in literal tears during my prayer time, telling God I didn’t know what I needed but that I knew He did. I take comfort in knowing that the Spirit helps me in my weakness. That even when I don’t know exactly what I need or how to get it, I can go to God in prayer confident that He knows my every need.
Friend, if you are struggling with how to pray today, don’t be afraid to sit in silence with God. He knows what you need, whether you know how to say it or not. Find a way to draw closer to Him today and just sit in His presence. You can trust that He will meet you and align your spirit with His truth. Rest in the comfort of knowing that He understands you better than you even understand yourself.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
We all need a little encouragement paired with God’s truth. This is exactly what the apostle Paul gave to new believers.
Acts 20:1-2 tells us that Paul traveled from church to church speaking words of encouragement to the followers of Christ. Yet we know that He also admonished, corrected, and guided these new believers to help them stand firm in their faith.
Regular time in the Bible and gathering in community can provide us with encouragement while also pointing us to God’s truth and character. Our pastor, our small group, and God-loving friends can point us to Him when we feel overwhelmed, when we are grieved, or when we need guidance.
My small group has been instrumental in helping me on this journey of faith. I value our time in God’s word, their prayer and counsel, and the ability to enjoy life with others who are seeking after Jesus. As the apostle Paul taught, we can “encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11b). One of the greatest blessings God can give to us is a community of believers who care about our walk with Him.
If you are not connected to a community where you are invited to study God’s word, share your struggles and praises, and walk through this journey with others, I encourage you to seek out this type of community. Rooted Moms offers these groups and would love to help you get connected. Groups like these allow us to be encouraged as well as to encourage others, to have support as we study God’s word, and to share our struggles and experiences with others. We all need encouragement set alongside truth, and we can find that by seeking truth alongside others.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
In an instant, I felt the sheer peace that accompanied what He was trying to tell me fall like a shroud. I'd been hyperfocusing on the report that came with each new doctor's appointment, waiting with baited breath to hear the newest update. I’d let my line of sight drift, “fixing my eyes” on what the doctors were saying instead of on what we knew to be absolute truth. God was the one to be most trusted and His report was the only one that mattered.
In Corinthians, Paul encourages the Corinthian church, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16–18 NIV).
Paul delivers a bottom-liner that resounds with a fundamental truth - we will face tribulation and trials here on earth, but don’t lose heart, because He can be trusted. He can be trusted with our problems, both big and small, thus, He is where our focus must rest. When we find ourselves dwelling on the problem itself, it’s not very often we find a solution for that problem. It’s when we remain unmoved in our adherence to the Father that things begin to shift.
Friends, when we keep our countenance steady and interlocked with the Holy Spirit, we find our faith strengthened, our joy intact, and a wide open door for miraculous opportunity. Opportunity for healing, for faith building, for Him to wreck the expectations of the oncology board at Mayo - opportunity after opportunity for His Glory to shine.
Sister, I don’t know what you’re facing, but I do know that it doesn’t stand a chance against the Father we have. And I know that shifting the problem starts with keeping our focus on the Problem Solver. He is far more capable of taking care of any temporal problem than you or I, so when uncertainty in the midst of tribulation arises, close your eyes, lean in, and trust Him.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
When Paul writes to the Corinthians that are turning a blind eye to sin within the church, I am reminded of myself during those days. He tells them that all the sin they are partaking in such as being sexually immoral, idolaters, greedy, drunkards and much more will ruin them if they do not turn away from it. If they continue in their evil ways, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. I love that he doesn’t stop there and continues in 1 Corinthians 6:11, stating, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
By His mercy we can have our sins washed away simply by calling on His name (Acts 22:16). We have been sanctified and justified by God’s grace by the work of Jesus on the cross (Heb. 10:10, Rom. 3:24).
God loves us too much to leave us where we are and offers an abundant life when we entrust it to Him.
Friend, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), but we can learn from our mistakes and repent of our old ways. Whether you struggle with shame, addiction, greediness, sexual immorality or some other sin that haunts you, you can be free. Jesus paid the price for you, you are worthy of His love. You just have to receive it.
Hand your sin over to God today and live the life He has been so eagerly waiting to give you on this journey to eternity with Him.
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:5 (NIV)
In 2 Thessalonians 5: 2-9, Paul tells the church at Thessalonica to be prepared for the Lord’s return as He will come unexpectedly and quickly, like a thief in the night. In verse 6, he drills down on his message, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” Just like the assembly on the Capitol lawn that day awaiting an address from the President of the United States, Paul told the church that someone of utmost importance was going to make an appearance and they needed to be prepared. Paul even told the church how to keep vigilant in verse 8, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
The colloquial advice, “Wake up, dress up, show up” isn’t a hard concept. Get out of bed, make yourself presentable, and be where you are supposed to be. Truthfully, that simple phrase has prompted me to keep an appointment when I felt like canceling. It has also caused me to climb onto an elliptical when climbing back in bed felt more appealing. In short, it has caused me to pursue a more disciplined life.
Essentially Paul was saying the same thing to the Thessalonians. Stay awake! Embrace a life of discipline so you can be prepared for what is ahead! Discipline involves training your character to do the right things: obey God, follow through on commitments, live within your means, be a good steward, get wisdom and pursue optimal health. When we are prepared, we have no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed because we will be prepared for Christ’s return. Whether He returns within our lifetime or after, making good use of the time and resources entrusted to us will bring honor and glory to His name.
What can you do today that causes you to be a more alert follower of Christ? Put it on your to-do list right now. Seize the opportunity to focus your energy on staying awake, being alert, and expectantly waiting on Jesus!
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” I Thessalonians 5: 8 (NIV)
Ouch. It hurt. But a lot of the time the truth does. The truth, however, is God’s way and it is meant to set us free. What a fun cliché right? As cheesy as it sounds, it is not to be taken lightly.
God calls us out of our pity party by telling us the truth: we are enslaved by living in our pity, our old and earthly ways. God has set us free from that, but it requires a different mindset.
We read in Galatians, the people of Galatia weren't putting God first so their spirits became weak. Paul wasn't here for their pity party though. Paul writes to them as the pity party pooper. The same Holy Spirit that spoke through Paul still urges us to remember this: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (Galatians 3:8-11). After saying these things, the Holy Spirit asks through Paul, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 3:16).
Sometimes I get caught up in my earthly desires and lose sight of where God is taking me. This day, I didn’t add a tally mark for the positive side when a student told me, “You're the best teacher ever,” or for the co-worker with good listening ears (as we teachers say) who was there for me. If I’m honest, I wanted to forget them because I wanted to pity myself. I was choosing to count my annoyances.
Today, together, let’s try a different approach. Let's focus on the good rather than the bad.
Just as Paul did in His letters, let’s lovingly encourage and challenge one another to surrender to God. Let’s allow him to render our hearts and minds of all things that are not of Him so that we would understand true joy.
We can not manifest our own joy; our joy comes from the Lord. By remembering His good works, praising Him for who He is, and delighting in Him, we draw closer to Him. God uses this to turn our eyes away from the world and towards Him. When we remember who He is, we remember we aren’t alone or forgotten. This gives us hope and joy in the midst of all the disappointments. Because our God isn’t just good, He is Holy! He is pure love. Today in your prayer time, remember the attributes of God and praise Him for who He is.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?” Psalms 77:11-14 (NIV)
With my keys, I was focused on a specific thing and my actions followed.
James wrote about a similar phenomenon. His book requires a lot of focused intentionality from the audience. In chapter 5, he addresses loving money; chapter 4, our motives; chapter 3, our tongue; chapter 2, how actionless faith undermines witness. But, successfully conquering these areas is impossible without correctly focused thoughts, as he warns in chapter 1, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15).
The same concept applies in all areas of life. Our thoughts, when fixed on earthly desires, overwhelm our brain and manifest as actions. James is saying, if it isn’t a Godly thought, don’t focus on “it.”
What is “it?” “It” is the object of your temptation. “It” is whatever you desire that points away from God’s righteousness.
Miraculously, I was able to retrieve my keys. They had gotten caught on an inner ledge with the ring popped up just enough for my finger to slide through. Intuitively, I knew to focus on the inside of the circle, not the edge. Why? Because if I focused on the edge, the chance was great that I would knock the keys into the abyss forever, but shifting my thinking to the center gave me true aim.
Friends, it has taken me years, and sometimes I still struggle with remembering that I can choose to think about what I think about. Scripture tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).
So, I challenge you to think about what you think about and encourage you , if your thoughts are not lining up with Philippians 4:8, to intentionally shift.
Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. This doesn’t mean ignoring the negative, it means focusing on God’s goodness. I suspect that if we do, we will find that joy and happiness are not elusive states and our actions will align much better with our intentions.
Friends, when life becomes overwhelming, an easy place to start is focusing on God’s goodness allowing the Holy Spirit to shift your hearts and minds through prayer.
Pray with me: “God, you said that if we focus on you, you will give us the desire of our hearts. Place within us those desires that are honoring to you, keep our focus pure. Amen.”
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
As I watched, I was reminded that this is Jesus’s intentions for the body of Christ—Unity with the purpose of advancing the kingdom. As believers, we were created with our own unique gifts and talents. More importantly, we are meant to use our God given gift to spread the message of Christ. In scripture, we hear Jesus’s prayer for his disciples as the hour of His crucifixion came near. After walking with his disciples and equipping them, He prayed for their safety as they would continue on their journey to spread the Gospel. He also prayed for those who would believe in Him because of their teachings. He prayed for oneness. In John 17:21 Jesus says, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus makes it clear that unity in the body of Christ further advances the kingdom.
As clear as Jesus’s prayer is, it seems we have forgotten His command. Dissension in the body of Christ seems to be on display more than ever. Political disagreements, racial tensions, and our own personal preferences have dismantled the unity that Jesus intently prayed for. As tensions in the body of Christ persist, unbelievers question why they would want to follow Christ if those who believe can’t even love each other well. It is impossible to further the Gospel of Christ to the unsaved in the absence of unity.
How do we display biblical unity as believers? We do so by standing on God’s truth and not our feelings. We also do so by praying for those we don’t agree with and extending God’s unconditional love. The word of God never changes, and remains the only foundation for truth. It is imperative that we use His word as a guide for how we view the world around us. Also, what would it look like to pray for those in the body of Christ we disagree with and extend unconditional love? Oneness is only possible when we set our personal feelings aside and turn to God— our final authority. When we are united and walking in step with God’s truth, it is there that we reach lost souls. I encourage you to take time today to pray about areas in your own life where you could display unity in your community of believers. God has given us all unique gifts and we were made to use them to spread the good news of our salvation!
“That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21 (NIV)
In John 20, Mary Magdalene visits Jesus’ tomb and sees the stone rolled away and that it’s empty. Her mind immediately thinks his body has been stolen. Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary (Luke 8:2). She followed Jesus closely and listened to his teachings. Yet, when she saw his body gone she did not immediately hope for his resurrection, rather she panicked. She let her grief blind what she already knew and what was right in front of her. She relayed the news that his body was gone and two disciples came to see for themselves. John looked around the tomb and the Bible says “he believed”(John 20:8). There was nothing hindering his sight; he knew Jesus had risen and he didn’t need to see him for the proof.
Just like Mary, instead of feeling hopeful for what God could and would do for my mother-in-law, I let fear and panic cloud my mind. I’m not saying that if I had immediately remembered the full power of God's healing over my mother-in-law that the road to her healing would have been smooth. Finding hope in God’s promises can overshadow the feeling of grief and provide peace during the storm.
I encourage you today to root yourself in God’s word and remember the hope that is waiting for you when you remember the promise He has given us. Take time to pray today for God to lift what is blinding you, to release the blindfold tied over your eyes and to look for the hope of what He can and has done for you. Pray for God to guide you through the grief and fear that grips you and to fill you with the peace that only He can give you.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)
Then I’m reminded Jesus kneels at my feet, wiping away every tear. I am overwhelmed with His love. As I allow my heart to settle, I can see Jesus sharing the last meal with his disciples, His students. I see these men that have left all they had and followed him.
I see the remains of the meal still on the table. Jesus takes off his outer clothing, a picture of his humanity, and he wraps a towel of love around his waist.
He kneels and washes the feet of his disciples.
Not feet that were already clean, but feet that had walked with Him for three years.
Feet that had carried the Father’s message.
Feet that had witnessed blind men see again. Dead men live again.
They watched as the Son of God showed them how to love through serving.
He opened their ears to hear the cries of a broken world.
He knelt and began washing the feet of all the disciples. Peter, who would deny him. Thomas would doubt him. Judas who would betray him. Knowing that his time was coming to an end, Jesus took the time to show the heart of true leadership. Even as Jesus spent his last moments with his messengers, he taught them the most valuable lesson of all. When you are kneeling to serve others, your heart beats with the love God has for us, His children.
When I am kneeling to serve, I look up and see Imago Dei, the very image of God, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:15-16).
Jesus spent his time equipping the next generation to carry the Gospel, the Good News of the Father’s great love for us. As I shift my perspective from a life sentence to a life of serving future leaders, I don’t have to hide anymore.
Friend, if you feel trapped today, take a moment, kneel, and look up into the glorious face of God. He is your refuge and strength. He will carry you through.
“‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Mark 10:45 (NIV)
Much of our culture seems to find children to be a distraction or an issue. I wonder if that’s what the disciples were thinking when they tried to prevent the children from being brought to Jesus after a time of answering questions to have Him pray and lay hands on them (Matt. 19:13). Jesus, however, had no issue taking time with these children, even using it as a time to teach the disciples that “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (Matt. 19:14).” While culture may see children through a different lens, God says they are a gift and reward from Him (Psalm 127:3) and that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3).
My children are my greatest ministry, and I’m blessed to learn from them as well. Their pure devotion and clear sense of right and wrong are so easy to see, but the most transformative thing to realize for us has been that He has a purpose and a plan for every believer, no matter how small they are. The Lord speaks to them in the same ways He speaks to us. He can bring a Scripture or encouragement to their mind to share. They are quick to pray and believe over any need that arises. Children have the same power within them, and God wants to use them; there is no pint-sized Holy Spirit.
Sometimes,we may have to be a voice for our children just like Jesus was. I have had to advocate for my boys. I’ve felt the frustration of having to explain why we were going to keep our children with us in services. I’ve had a leader question my son’s salvation and refuse to baptize him, so we did it ourselves. Advocating for children can be exhausting, but I would repeat over and over that Jesus said “Let the little children come (Matt. 19:14).” Children who follow Jesus are a part of the body of Christ, and we function so much better together. Keep trusting Him as you raise your babies. Listen for Him moving, and believe God for His Spirit to work through their tiny frames. You’ll never regret it!
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
“Martha, Martha.” The Lord Answered, “ You are worried and upset about many things, but few are needed– or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
He loved Martha just as much as Mary and He didn’t blame her for trying to be a good hostess. However, He used Mary as an example to show her how her priorities may have been out of order. Serving Jesus is important, but our service should be the fruit that comes from being with Him, not the root. Being with Jesus is where our roots begin. Resting in Him and His promises should always be where we start. Like Jesus said to Martha, His promises, love, and His words to us will never be taken away (Life Application Study Bible, Luke 10:38-42 notes).
God doesn’t lose track of things like we humans do. God’s plan has never changed. From the beginning and still in this moment, God’s plan has and is to be with us. It is set in stone. His love is the gift that can never be taken away.
Matthew 6:21 tells us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”What is your treasure right now and where does it mean your heart is? If I replace the word ‘treasure’ in this verse with ‘wedding ring’ it says my heart is lost.
God is the treasure, and He wants your heart to be with Him.
Today, take a seat at the table and be with Him. Talk to Him about everything on your mind; listen to the words He pours over you. Sit with Him in silence and just be with Him.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (NIV)
Since He was fully man, think of all the worries that could have kept Jesus awake. He could have worried about His family and the disciples, or the increasing crowds with their overwhelming needs, or the future because He knew what His destiny was. The disciples were frustrated that Jesus was sleeping in the midst of chaos, but He was able to be at peace because He knew God is sovereign.
However, it was the disciples who awoke Jesus, not the wind, the waves, or the rocking of the boat. It was the cry of His disciples. The disciples were aware that even though they were helpless in the storm, Jesus was not, so they went to him. We, too, have the privilege to cry out to God when we feel helpless.
Jesus rebuked the winds and waves saying “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39) The force of the sea was silenced as Jesus restrained it with his sovereign word of authority.
As the world becomes more and more unstable, it’s easy to get sucked into the storm of fear and worry. In this world we will have trouble, but we can hold onto the peace that comes from knowing our good God is still in control. We can cry out to God when the worries mount and have faith knowing that He will hear our cry. He has the authority and power to calm any storm in which we find ourselves.
Jesus was able to sleep because of the peace that was within Him. As a mom, it is easy to worry about my family daily and before I know it, I get wrapped up or distracted in those worries. In order to fully embrace the beautiful moments around that God has given me, I have to have that same peace within me.
In order to have that peace, God has been showing me just how important it is to hand my worries over to Him. First Peter 5:7 says to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” So today, I invite you to do just that.. Cry out to God; give Him your worries and invite Him into your life and ask Him to calm the storm that is raging inside of you.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
The shifting of the clouds also brought about a shift in my soul. I began to ask myself why had the fiberglass hole taken up so much space in my mind? Why did I care so much about how I looked in shorts? Why were these holes taking over my life? How had the darkness of the holes taken over the beauty of the light?
The answer to all my questions became clear as I mindlessly reached for my phone. I had been passively scrolling down and actively soaking up the views and standards of this world.
I realized that as I spent more and more time on social media my focus began to to turn to myself, how I compared to the highlight reels and the things I thought I needed in life to be content. My inner light began to slowly fade and I found myself full of darkness.
Matthew 6:22-23 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
God used an ordinary moment to refocus my vision from the holes of discontentment to the beauty of the Holy God through His word.
During those times of darkness, God is faithful to restore our vision and light our path.
What if that hole of discontentment in your life is the window that God wants to shine His light through? Take a moment to think about what these holes are and ask God to light the path back to Him.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)
Scripture is awash with word pictures and statements concerning light. One of my favorites comes from the beautiful opening verses of John: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (1:4-5).”
Jesus, the Word, being God, is the source of all life and light; it can only come from Him. He expels the darkness, our own spiritual ignorance and sin as well as opposition from the enemy. And the Bible promises us that darkness can not overcome Him. We, you and I, dwelt in darkness until the light of our wonderful Savior shined in our hearts and minds through the work of the Holy Spirit, giving us life. But He doesn’t only give us life, He also continually gives us light. He enables us to participate in His divine nature, making us holy bit by bit, the fact of which just blows my mind. Like my spotlight, the Light protects us but it also allows life to flourish and grow. When we live within the light of Christ, we slowly become the light of Christ, sanctified by His nature in us.
Now sometimes that process of becoming light, becoming holy, is uncomfortable, not quite what we want. I wanted to enjoy the stars and my fire in the darkness, not realizing that the light was what allowed my chickens and plants to continue to grow. If we want to live abundantly as the light of Christ, we must willingly allow the light to continue its work - the hard work of sanctification. We must not put it out, or stifle it.
This week, as you reach for your Bible, stop and pray for a moment. Invite Jesus to do His work. Ask Him to shine a light into the deep corners of your heart and dispel the darkness that lurks within and without. If it feels uncomfortable, lean into it and watch Him shine brightly through you, providing abundant life and growth to you and those around you.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…in the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:14,16 (NIV)
In Nehemiah 9, we find the Israelites were once again standing in repentance for forgetting God and turning their backs on him. They forgot the God who made the Heavens and Earth, the God who had seen their oppression and miraculously parted the Red Sea, the God who led them through the wilderness, the God who had gifted them the Sabbath, and the God who had provided water and food in the desert. They had seen His lovingkindness, care and miracles, but they forgot. The pain in their life was too loud. They only saw the desert, the tents, the danger and the utter dependence and helplessness that made up their day-to-day life.
The truth is, we don’t like to live like that either. It only takes a struggle with finances, health, our family, relationships or anything else in our lives we cannot control to cause us to sometimes lose sight of God and who He is. Nehemiah 9:17a says, “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery in Egypt.”
Gratefulness helps us to remember what God has done in the past and gives us the courage to lift our eyes above our circumstance and place them on the good God who holds our lives. This gives us hope for the future. When we don’t remember, we often come to the wrong conclusions about God and begin to hold him at arm’s length. Much like the Israelites, we become resistant to him. Forgetfulness leads to waywardness.
Even though the Israelites forgot and turned their back on God, they found He had never turned His back on them. Nehemiah 9:17b says, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, Therefore you did not desert them...” When we forget, we, too, will find God to be forgiving, gracious, compassionate, not angry and abounding with faithful love for us. Even in our forgetfulness, he never abandons us. Remembering leads to faithfulness. Let’s be ones who in the middle of hardship, begin to remember the good things God has done in all of our lives.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)
In Nehemiah Chapters 1 through 6, we see Nehemiah weeping and mourning for his country. He accepted the call from God to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls and the gates; this had not been accomplished in over 140 years. Though fearful of approaching King Artaxerxes for permission to leave court, Nehemiah trusted God to grant him favor with the king. He prayed, reminding himself of the God in whom he had faith, “... Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (Neh. 1:5).
Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah faced new hurdles for rebuilding the wall, from verbal discouragement to physical assaults. He was not deterred by the efforts of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem to derail God’s plan to restore His people to their homeland. Some of the men worked with one hand and carried a weapon in the other, while others worked with a sword girded to their side. Nehemiah’s encouragement, “Our God will fight for us,” (Neh. 4:20b) allowed them to continue working on the wall and accomplishing the task that God has called them to do; it was completed in 52 days. God gave Nehemiah success.
Despite the naysayers and mockers among my family members and friends, my son’s homeschool journey was a success. He completed high school with many college credits, attended a private Christian college, completed two Master’s degrees in Ministry and is now serving God as a Chaplain. God gave my son academic success, and is using him to reach the lost.
We often face challenges that seem too big to overcome. Like Nehemiah we need to remind ourselves of the great God we serve. Our God is sovereign. He is in control of everything that happens in our lives; our best made plans will fall apart without God’s gracious hand upon them. Trust the calling of your heart to the Lord, and He will go before you.
God wants to use us to accomplish His divine plans. He gives us opportunities to seek Him, trust Him, and hold fast to His promises. May we eagerly respond to His invitation to make an eternal impact on the lives of those around us. He alone can give us victory.
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)
Devotionals by Author
All Abby McDonald Angi Morrison Anne Say Audra Powers Breanna Faith Spearman Brenna Kurz Brittany Marlow Caroline Hultgren Courtney Filippin Dana Schaefer Danielle Biddy Debbie Burns Heather Kenny Jannetta Cox Jessica Parker Jess Ridgeway Joan Lavori Katelyn Wilson Katie Gibson Kelly Orlowski Kerri Barfield Keryn Stokes Kristen Williamson Laura Pendley Lindsay McNeely Lonette Baity Martha Rudolph Nancy Ehlinger Renee Robinson Saretta Wells Tara McGill Taylor Watkins Tierney Nashleanas Wendy Gerdes