New year, new me.
That's what they say, right? This is a phrase that almost always refers to a persons outward appearance. Sure, there is the occasional new year's resolution that involves the changing of behavior, actions, or habits (often still for the sake of losing weight), but most often, people focus on their physical health around this time. That is why there are so many fitness and diet ads, and so many gym membership discounts this time of year.
Physical health is a wonderful goal. We should all seek to be healthier for the sake of ourselves and our families.
But what I am talking about today, is a spiritual health; an awareness really, that what you have in you is greater than anything of this world. But you have to believe that.
There is a time for difficult conversations and convictions, but today, I want to uplift and encourage you in such a way, that you believe everything you set out to do is attainable through Christ!
I have spent way too much time and energy putting myself down, believing I'm either incapable, or undeserving. I often need to be remdinded of Who lives in me!
When people are in need of strength, they will often quote from Philippians 4:13; I can do all this through him who gives me strength. It is a wonderful verse, and no less true than 1 John 4:4. However, it is used so frequently, that perhaps some of us have forgotten just who it is that gives us that strength. Or, maybe it's just lost meaning as one of those way over quoted Bible verses.
Whatever the case may be, I want you to remember today that you are empowered by your maker. If you are making any changes this year, let this be the year that you know your value, know that which is in you, and seek His glory in all that you do.
As Christians in this world, we are told to be humble, and not to be vain. We are told to think of others above ourselves. We are taught, in this world, to be modest, almost to the point of self-deprecation. What we have forgotten, is that we may boast freely on the Lord! Boast upon Him who lives in you, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made and His works are wonderful. (Psalm 139:14) YOU are Maker Empowered, my friend!
As always, pray. Pray about what God would lead you to. If you are uncertain, pray and ask Him what gifts He has given you to use. Mostly, pray that you would learn to love yourself as He that is within you, loves you. No one knows you better. No one loves you more.
Our youngest daughter is less than 3 months away from turning 4 years old, and up until last week, we could not get her to use the toilet. There were none of the tell tale signs of being ready for potty training; no dry morning or post nap diapers, no warning signals as she was about to go. In fact, she didn't seem at all aware of when she was going. There was not a single motivating bribe that seemed to interest her to even try. I tried stickers, suckers, and chocolates. She would just say, "No, thanks." I bought fun, themed underpants of which she had little to no interest in wearing.
I actually gave up trying because my back wasn't well enough for the battles, and I could so much as dangle an M&M in front of her face, and she'd just say, "Nah," and proceed to use her diaper.
A little less than two weeks ago, she began telling us when she had to go, and suddenly, because it was hers, using the potty seemed like the best idea ever! And she didn't forget about those M&Ms tucked away in the cupboard either. After completing the task of using the potty, she exclaimed, "Yay! Now I can have my special treat!"
I had stopped bribing her. I had stopped offering her the candy. I had stopped forcing my own will upon her. She is living in a house with 5 other humans who know how to use the toilet. She has seen it done her whole life. She has had all the tools and all the knowledge she has needed, but until that very moment, she just wasn't ready.
How often do we turn away God's blessings; God's M&Ms if you will, because we are not ready for the responsibility? When we have not yet matured enough, spiritually, to do what God has called us to do, we are essentially saying, "Nah. No, thanks. I'm good just like this, sitting in my own mess." Nevermind all the M&Ms. Just the freedom alone that this task provides, is a blessing in and of itself.
My daughter may have felt that going potty was taking away valuable play time. She didn't realize that much more time was wasted on the changing table. She may have felt that the toilet was big and scary and loud, but really, it takes care of her messes for her, so she doesn't have to sit in them. She can be clean and free.
What does that sound like?
God has given us free will to choose. He has allowed for us to make our own decisions. But, He also has great plans for us if we follow His teachings. Sometimes that step toward His will can be scary. It can feel like we don't know what we're doing or we don't have the time. It might be loud, and it might be completely different from what we're used to. But if we lean into Him, there is freedom and cleansing in His will, and He is waiting there, with His blessing for our obedience.
When God holds that M&M out for you, will you be ready to receive it?
Last week we talked about how God is still working on us. We are a never ending work in progress. And instead of being hard on ourselves over the faults we have difficulty ridding ourselves of, we should use that opportunity to lean on Him even more.
We often have difficulty letting go of the things which have hurt us; whether they have deeply saddened us or angered us, that which has made us feel deeply, often stays with us, even if we don't want it to.
Today, in my daily devotional, I read some of Lamentations, which by its very definition, is about grief and sadness. It is understood that the book of Lamentations is a collection of songs written to express grief and suffering after experiencing the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, at the hands of the Babylonians. These are people of faith, crying out to God, putting their sadness and suffering into words, as they question why God would allow such a city to fall.
Yet, even these passionate expressions of deep grief, are not without hope.
The highlighted verse is often what Christians will quote. It is the hope that we hear of most frequently, and understandable so, but how much more might we relate to these people of the Bible, knowing that they struggled with the same doubts and sorrow that we do today? Here are the prior 21 verses:
I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me
in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand
again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh
and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded
with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of
he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
he dragged me from the path and
and left me without help.
He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
I became the laughingstock of all my
they mock me in song all day long.
He has filled me with bitter herbs
and given me gall to drink.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the
I remember my affliction and my
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
~Lamentations 3:1-21 NIV
There are 21 verses, before this often quoted verse; verses of doubt, bitterness, crying, blaming, despair, and yet, yet, there was hope. In my youth, I found this confusing, even contradictory.
How can someone seemingly blame God for their suffering, and still find hope in Him?
But this is real. That is real life. This is not hypocrisy. This is human emotion. We often express our sadness not only with this world, and the suffering around us, but with a God we cannot fully understand; wondering how He can allow suffering such as this, to happen.
God has actually shown us how normal this is! He has shown us that lamenting over our broken, suffering world is quite biblical. But because of God's great love, it need not consume us. Express your grief, your sadness, your misgivings and doubts. Cry them all out to Him; pour them onto paper. He knows them anyway!
Then remind yourself of the hope you still have in Him. Remind yourself of His blessings, big and small. Take comfort in His word; even the laments. They were included in His scriptures for a reason! Know that you are not alone in your emotions.
Bad things happen.
There are no disqualifiers here. They don't just happen to good people. They don't avoid bad people. They just happen.
They happen because we live in an imperfect world. They happen because this is not Heaven. This is not our permanent home. Imagine if bad things didn't happen at all, ever. How would we ever appreciate the good? How would we learn to rely on God? Why would we even look toward Heaven if we had it so good on earth?
God never promises us that bad things wouldn't happen. In fact, the Bible repeatedly warns us of hard times, and tries to teach us how to prepare for them.
One of my favorite songs in Sunday school as a child, was The Wise Man Built His House, based off the above verse. The song came complete with fun hand motions and everything, but an even more valuable lesson.
The storm was not diverted away from the wise man. The storm came to both the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. The storm hit them both. The only difference was that the wise man was better prepared with a stronger foundation.
Life is hard. Bad things happen...to everyone. This lesson is not only about how some bad situations are avoidable by making wise decisions, but also about preparing our foundation.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. ~Matthew 7:25
The storm still comes, with its dark clouds of sadness and difficult winds of change. You will still feel it sweep through, but you will not be broken. With God as your Rock, your Foundation, prepared with His Word, you will not fall.
Recently I began two different devotionals on my YouVersion App. They are each about completely different topics, which I feel hold constant relevance in my life. One covers the impact of evangelism, and the other talks about fear. As a woman of faith, I'd like to tell you that these two don't intersect at all, but what I found while reading these two completely different devotionals, about completely different areas of faith, is that they not only intersect. They full on collide with each other.
Not only do I still deal with fear as a Christian, but I deal with fear about my faith. Probably not in the way you might think. I don't know about you, but I am constantly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. When involved in conversation with people who don't share my faith, I struggle with fear so much, that I have a difficult time articulating my faith; why I believe what I believe, or why it is important to me. There is a very good reason I have taking to writing throughout my life. Public speaking is not my gift. I am awkward. I stumble upon my words, and tend to repeat myself a lot. If I have to talk about something that is not heavily rehearsed (like to the point of memorization), I tend to sound like a blundering idiot.
The above verse always made me a little nervous. Is it a requirement? No, I wouldn't call it that. We are told that our deeds are not what get us into Heaven, but rather just the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.
But yet, shouldn't our acceptance of Jesus into our hearts and lives move us toward this? I believe so. Then why am I still so scared to speak to people about Jesus?
This is where another verse, about a separate topic, collided for me this morning.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Like a breaking wave, this hit me, and washed over me today. I don't have to be a blundering idiot. I need not speak at all. I thought back on the people who have had the greatest impact on my life and my walk with Christ. It had next to nothing to do with what they said. It had everything to do with their actions.
For my 18th birthday, my older sister risked looking uncool, and without saying a word handed me a present. I opened it to find a Quest Study Bible. She wrote inside the cover, encouraging words and verses she had turned to in difficult times. That one, simple gesture, had and still has one of the greatest impacts on my life.
This is just one, clear example, but there are so many like this. Actions speak louder than words is such a cliche, and yet we are so often much more impacted by people who do not speak about their faith, but show us about their faith. And I am not talking about the social media, 'look what I did," posts. Not that we can't talk about our faith on social media, but the greatest impact you can have on people isn't in what you say, or even write; it is in what you do. How are you serving? How are you walking in your faith? Even, or especially when, you think no one's watching. In the quiet of your own room, how are you praying for the hearts and lives of the people you love?
The interesting thing here, is that this verse from Exodus is directly related to people being shown the power of God; not talked to about Him. Moses had great concerns about leading people. He even expressed to God that he was not eloquent, and he was slow of speech and tongue (Exodus 4:10). Here in Exodus 14, he now finds himself with a large group of doubting and fearful people. Trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, Moses needed to act in faith! Surrounded by people lacking faith, he needed to stand firm. So Moses heeded God's Word, he raised his staff, and he showed the Israelites the power of his God, the power of faith.
Yes, go and make disciples of nations, but know that God will fight for you; you need only to be still.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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