Amanda is a writer for Revive Ministries and a regular speaker at the Revive! conference. Amanda is a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mother to 3 handsome boys. She and her family live in Prineville, Oregon and have been ministering with the Prineville Church of Christ for the past three years. Before that they spent 10 years as college ministers at Oregon State University. During those years, as she dealt with the ups and downs of campus ministry, caring for a sick child, and the general chaos of life, Amanda found her passion for prayer. Through prayer, God sustained her and brought peace that was beyond understanding (Phil 4:7). Now she is on a mission to share the joys of prayer with others!
The holiday season is coming. The local event schedule is filling up with holiday bazaars, concerts, and sales. The annual debate of whether listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving should be allowed is heating up on social media. The stores are filling up with Thanksgiving goodies and Christmas decorations. For many, it is a joyous time of year as they look forward to holiday traditions and time with family.
However, this time of year is not a joyous time for everyone. Unfortunately, many have lost a loved one around this time of year. For these people, it can be a time of sadness as they have to endure another milestone without the ones they love. If that is you, know I see you. I know it is hard.
I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your sadness. You have access to a God who wants to walk with you during this difficult season. Our God doesn’t stay up on his throne, indifferent to the pain of death and sadness. Our God doesn’t watch us suffer from heaven without a care about what we are feeling. No, we believe in a God who knows what it is like to lose a loved one because he lost his Son to the cross. We believe in a God who has promised to comfort us in our times of grief.
Jesus tells us, “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) He never promised life will be easy, but he does promise we don’t have to do it alone because we have God living within us through His Holy Spirit.
And as we slog our way through life, carrying the weight of having to lose the ones we love and other difficult trials, God gives us this glorious hope:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
During this holiday season, if you are looking forward to all the food, festivities, and time with family, I rejoice with you. I am thankful you get to enjoy all the joy the holidays were meant to bring. If you look at this holiday season with a sense of loss and grief, I pray you can find hope and comfort in the fact that our sympathetic and compassionate God walks with you in those hard emotions. May you also find hope and comfort in the promise that one day, God will wipe all the tears from your eyes for there will no longer be a reason to mourn.
A few miles from where I live, there is a butte that overlooks my town. I love driving to the top and gazing down on the place I call home. There is a little river that meanders through town with tall green deciduous trees adorning the landscape. Off in the distance, mountains call out to me, luring me to go hiking, fishing, and camping. For an outdoorsy girl like me, it is a great place to live. But I don’t go up there just to admire the beauty of the town. I go there to pray for the people who live there.
While everything can seem great from high on the hill, things are not all roses and daffodils down in the valley. It seems like every week I hear stories that break my heart: a kid is removed from their home because of abusive parents, another person who becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape emotional pain or stories of people struggling with loneliness and lack of self-worth. I know Jesus could speak into their hurt and pain, but only 1-2% of the population have a relationship with Jesus, and it doesn’t seem like the rest are interested.
I can’t help but feel the effects of the hard and heartbreaking things that are happening all around me. I get tired of watching helplessly as people struggle in pain and suffer the consequences of their own bad choices or the choices of others. Sometimes, my fatigue can even turn into frustration and anger directed toward these hurting people, instead of on their behalf.
Sometimes as Christians, it’s all too easy to build a metaphorical hedge around ourselves. We want to block it all out, and just live at peace with Jesus in our comfortable safe places. Then, once the world gets its act together, it can come visit us in our cozy “spiritual compounds.”
Yet we know that is not the heart of God. God did not sit back in his protected spiritual domain while the people He created needed a savior. Instead, He became one of us, suffered like one of us, to show us a better way to live. He did it because “God is patient towards us, not wishing anyone to perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Christ came and died for those of us who have accepted Him AND for those who don’t know Him yet. (1 Peter 3:18)
God calls us to come out from behind our “spiritual safety hedges” and share His gospel. But how do we begin reaching people in our own backyards with the gospel, when most of them don’t want to hear it? There are so many people that don’t know how much Jesus truly loves them and it seems overwhelming. The Bible shows that I should begin with prayer.
Prayer is where the early church started in its quest to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Before the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, you don’t see the disciples out evangelizing yet. Instead, Acts 1:12-14 shows them gathered together in prayer. At just the right time, God sent the Holy Spirit to empower them to spread the gospel. In Acts 2, we see Peter preach the first gospel sermon and he preached it to his own people. The very people who, just a few weeks earlier, wanted Jesus dead.
But Peter didn’t turn his back on them. Instead, God sent Peter to the very people that killed His Son, knowing they needed forgiveness and salvation, too. Thousands of people who once hated Jesus were now turning to Him for love and forgiveness.
Just like me, the early disciples didn’t know where to start or how to reach the vast number of people who still didn’t know Jesus. But instead of giving up and walking away, they met together and prayed. Then, at the right time, God sent his Spirit to empower them to reach people they never thought possible.
As a disciple in the 21st-century church, it is now my turn to pray for those around me. Instead of running away and ignoring the angry, hurt, and broken people around me, I get the privilege to intercede before God on their behalf.
So I head to the top of the hill and pray for them. I go to my kids’ sports events, and I pray. In my favorite prayer spot in my house, I pray for them. So far, thousands of people haven’t come flocking to my church, but my heart is changing. I have more compassion. I see the sin and brokenness in my community more through God’s eyes which gives me the boldness and strength to regularly sit before him and beg for my town’s salvation. It has given me the courage to step into the difficult lives of some of my fellow neighbors and share the good news about Jesus’ love and sacrifice, and the brand new life they can have in Him. And as I see small changes in them begin to happen, I am encouraged to pray all the more.
I don’t know what life is like in your town. I don’t know who your neighbors are. But I do know this: God loves them and desires them to have the same relationship with Him that you enjoy.
So how can you make time to pray for people around you who don’t know Jesus yet? If you’re looking for a way to get started, here are a few ways you can add this important calling into your prayer life:
Go on a regular walk around your neighborhood or town and pray for your neighbors and the people you see.
Pick one or two people you personally know who don’t have a relationship with Jesus and add them by name to your daily prayer list
Get together once a month with other Christians to pray specifically for your town.
As you pray, may your heart be transformed to be more like God, who stepped right into the middle of the mess to bring redemption, love, and hope. May He give you the courage and boldness to tell others about Jesus, so that all may truly know Him.
With warm tea in hand and a Bible open, I was excited to start my favorite time of week. It was an encouraging time when our friends from a Muslim-only country would come to our house, and we would study the Bible together. It was a joy to see their hearts leap with excitement as God revealed Himself to them through His word. Together we would read a passage of Scripture and discuss it. Then, because they were voraciously reading their Bibles at home, they would come with questions about what they had been reading.
On one particular Sunday afternoon, the woman posed a question that I never thought of before, but impacted me greatly. “In the Muslim religion, before we begin reading the Quran, we have to shower and clean ourselves before we open the book. As a Christian, is there a ritual we should follow before reading the Bible?”
The Bible doesn’t lay out a specific ritual we should follow, but in light of what the Bible is, is there an attitude we should have when we read the Bible? Before we answer this question, we need to think about what the Bible is.
What is the Bible?
In simple terms, the Bible is the written Word of God. As God communicated with people over the centuries, those people wrote those words down. Now, we who live today, can be blessed by words God has spoken through the centuries. The words found in the Bible are a testament to the character of God and how He wants to live in relationship with His creation. In other words, they are the actual words of a loving, powerful, creator God.
At first glance, the Bible can appear to be just words on a page, but when those words are read or heard, those words become active and powerful. We first see the Word of God in Genesis, when His word spoke creation into being. The word of the Lord caused the sinful nation of Nineveh to turn from their wickedness (Jonah 3:6-9). Jesus hushed the storm with his words in the Gospels. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead with his words in John. The outcast Samaritan woman, whom Jesus met at a well, was transformed by Jesus’s words. The list goes on and on. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It has the power to create worlds, control nature, bring life from death, and transform people’s lives.
How should we approach the Word of God?
In light of knowing that God’s Word is actual words from the ruler of the universe, in light of knowing these words have life and power in the here and now, what should our attitude be when we approach reading the Word of God?
We want to first approach reading the Bible with joy. God desires to communicate with us. He longs to be in relationship with us. He could have just left us to our own devices, but He didn’t do that. Instead, He chose to share with us what is good, what is not good, and how much He loves us. His desire to reveal Himself to us was so great, His word became flesh in the form of Jesus, and walked among us (John 1:14). The words written on the pages of the Bible are a labor of love from our God, and spending time in His word can fill us with incredible joy.
We also want to read God’s word with hearts that are open, pliable, and ready to listen. If we know the Word of God is living and active and has the power to change us, we want to sit before the Word ready to hear what God desires to say to us.
The attitude of our heart is important
In Matthew 13:3-9, Jesus shares with us how the soil of a heart impacts how the Word of God can change us. If our heart is unengaged or hard, the word has no way to grow. If our heart is open and pliable, the word is able to grow into a harvest that blesses not only us, but those around us.
When we sit down to read the Word of God, we have to be ready to accept the words of love and encouragement written there, even if we don’t feel love for ourselves. We have to know those words are true, because that is what we base our identity on regardless of whether or not our feelings agree.
We also have to be willing to allow the words of God to reveal the sinful parts in our heart that need to change. Knowing that the Bible is a revelation from a good God that desires to bless us, allows us to courageously make room for Him to change the unrighteous behaviors in our lives.
When we come to the Bible with grateful joy and an open-heart, it honors the God who wrote it. As we honor Him in reading His word, He blesses us. I have seen this to be true in my own life. The word of God encouraged me when I didn’t know if my sick kid would ever get better. It was His very words, found in the Bible, that let me know He was walking with me during that difficult time.
When my mind spins on sinful negativity, it is His word that renews my mind and helps me set my mind on truth, instead of my negative perception. I could name countless other times where His Word has helped me navigate times of conflict and anxiety with wisdom and hope. I have truly been blessed by spending time listening to God’s loving voice as I read His word.
There are plenty of books and articles out there vying for our time and attention. Many of them promise to help make our lives better or to offer encouragement, but none can provide us with the love, wisdom, and challenge that the Word of God brings when we read it with a joyful, open heart.
While we may not have to shower and prepare ourselves with physical rituals, like my Muslim friends did with the Quran, we should come to the word of God with a heart ready to honor God and eagerly anticipate hearing from Him. My hope is that time in God’s Word will become something you look forward to. The Creator of the universe loves you so very much and has gone to great lengths to talk with you. As you spend time with Him in His Word, I know you will be greatly blessed.
When my kids were little and I was just starting out in campus ministry with my husband, God revealed to us the need to have people in our home for a meal and games. I will admit that this was not a calling I had wanted. I was nervous. I had seen the magazine headlines on the covers of home and garden magazines, “How to Wow Your Guests in 3 Easy Steps.” Included with the heading was a picture of a nicely dressed woman, with perfectly styled hair, serving mountains of gourmet food on a crystal platter. The dining room in which she was serving her smiling guests was the size of my kitchen, dining room, and living room combined and was perfectly decorated.
After seeing those pictures, I knew having people over to my house for a social gathering was not a good idea. First of all, my hair is never perfectly done. Second, my house was a total of 1,008 square feet. And finally, I am not a gourmet cook. If I try to make something fancy, it never ends up right. Just ask my family. I was overwhelmed and incompetent, or so I thought.
God continued to nudge me, and I took my first step toward hospitality. I decided the four-person table that barely fit my family of four needed to be replaced with something bigger. I headed to Craigslist to find a used table. If I was lucky, I could find something similar to what the magazine cover showed, but for a reasonable price. My house was not big, but perhaps I could wow my guests with a beautiful table. All the used beautiful hardwood tables still cost thousands of dollars. I simply couldn’t afford them.
After a couple of weeks of looking, I finally found a table that was larger than the one I had, and for the price I could afford. It was not solid wood. It was made out of pressboard with a plastic laminate top. I was disappointed. How was I going to do good hospitality in a small house with a pressboard table? It turns out, with the help of God, I could do a lot of good hospitality with unimpressive things.
Because you see, God saw what I could not: that there is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. Harvard University came out with an article recently that discusses this very thing. They found that one in three Americans frequently feel lonely. For mothers with young children, the percentage goes up to 51%. Then an amazing 61% of people ages 18-25 struggle with extreme loneliness.
That means that as we go to work, walk in the stores, and sit in our churches, we are surrounded by people who feel deprived of meaningful relationships with others. Perhaps you even fall into one of these categories.
This epidemic of loneliness is heartbreaking and it is a real problem that affects not just our hearts and minds, but our overall health as well. According to the study, “loneliness is linked to early mortality, and a wide array of serious emotional and physical problems.”
The fact is that many people just don’t feel loved and valued. They don’t feel they can be open and vulnerable and still be worthy of love and included in relationship. And it’s no wonder when we were created to be in community. We were made to rejoice with one another, and share each other’s burdens.
How do we combat this pervasive epidemic of loneliness? God, in His infinite wisdom, tells us the remedy. Hospitality.
Romans 12:13 simply states, “Practice hospitality.” A simple command to practice hospitality. But when I ask people if they intentionally invite people into their lives for a game night, a meal, or even a walk around the neighborhood, a majority tell me they couldn’t do it. When I ask why they are hesitant, they say they are afraid of doing it wrong. What if my house is too small? What if I cook the wrong thing? What if I say something wrong? All the what-ifs make them too afraid to ask another person into their life.
This fear comes from thinking of hospitality from a worldly view, instead of from a Biblical understanding of hospitality. In America, when we think of hospitality we think of the hospitality industry. Their goal is to make sure customers have every need met and are always comfortable. If we approach personal hospitality with this mindset, it’s so easy to overthink things and let the what-ifs take over. If we think we have to anticipate and cater to our guest’s every possible need to be a good host, it can feel like we’ll never truly be up for the task. But the hospitality industry is trying to make money. Biblical hospitality is about caring for souls.
The Greek word for hospitality in the New Testament literally means ‘loving strangers’. It’s not fancy dishes, perfectly decorated homes, or fancy food. If you have these gifts and you love to share them, by all means, do it! But in a country where our physical needs are often met, loving strangers is less about perfecting all the physical details, and more about addressing the emotional needs. It’s about creating an environment where meaningful conversations happen. A place where people can feel loved and valued.
This can be done in large, beautiful homes with gourmet food, or over frozen pizza on paper plates in a cluttered house. It doesn’t have to look like a Pinterest-perfect event. The key is being present with those you are with. It is simply loving the person in front of you with your time and attention because they are worth it and loved by God.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel totally at ease the first couple (or ten) times you practice hospitality. Just like anything else, stepping outside of your comfort zone to try something new takes practice.
After placing our “new” table in our dining room, I began my journey into the world of hospitality and I’d love to say I immediately felt at ease. Honestly, for a while, I was a complete wreck every time we had people over. I still stressed over all the details. Was the house clean enough? Did I cook the right thing? I had toddlers, so in my eyes, my house was never as clean as I wanted. I would try to bake or cook fancy things, but they never looked like the magazine picture. After a couple of years, my husband gently told me, “Quit stressing. Nobody cares about those details but you. They are here for the conversation and the company. Not for your fancy punch recipe.” He was right. No one complained about the food or the cleanliness of my house. They always left saying they wanted to do it again sometime.
And once I got past stressing over details, I realized God had been working in my clumsy attempts of hospitality the whole time. Over my laminate table, I got to listen to people share their joys, fears, and sorrows.
God provided the space for a young married couple to share that they were pregnant after only being married for 6 months and their fears of how they were going to pay for a baby while still in college.
At my laminate table, I listened to an Iraqi couple share the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s genocide of the Kurdish people. I got to rejoice with a couple who had recently eloped but hadn’t told many people yet. I celebrated job promotions with some and cried with others as they shared family heartaches.
We prayed with all of them and parted a little closer, a little less lonely, and feeling much more loved. In the process, my heart overflowed with the joy of being with each person, and the little details that once felt so huge and important paled in comparison to what God was doing.
I share my story because I want you to know the joy God has in store for you when you practice biblical hospitality. Not only will you be battling this national epidemic, but God will walk with you and bless you. You don’t have to invite someone over for a meal and games like my family does. You could invite them on a walk or to a playdate in the park. Maybe you could invite someone to a conversation over a hot beverage at a local coffee shop. Do what fits you and experiment. The goal is to simply love that person by giving your time and attention. Look at your calendar and find a time to ‘love a stranger’ and start transforming loneliness into community.
I love Easter because it is a reminder of the new life we have in Jesus. I love reflecting on the foundation of our faith and resting in it. Resting in the truth that Jesus lived among us, died for us, and conquered death, paving the way for an eternal life with a loving, merciful Savior. But did you know eternal life with Jesus starts now? It isn’t a far off dream that begins when our life here on earth is done. Eternal life with Jesus started when you decided to be a follower of Jesus. After the resurrection, I believe the disciples understood this and it changed their lives forever.
Before Jesus’s death, the disciples had walked with Jesus for years. They watched Jesus perform amazing miracles and listened to his teachings. They were some of his closest friends and followers. Yet as close as they were, they all ran in fear when Jesus was arrested. Despite all the evidence of Jesus’s deity, fear in what would happen to their physical bodies was greater than their faith.
However, after Jesus rose from the dead, their fear was transformed into boldness. Those who had previously run from the soldiers when Jesus was arrested, were now willing to be beaten, imprisoned, and even killed for the good news of Jesus’s resurrection.
So what changed? What would cause a person who just months before ran in fear for his life so he wouldn’t be associated with Jesus, to now turn around and gladly take a beating for the name of Jesus? The answer: The truth of the resurrection.
The truth of the resurrection means eternal life with Jesus starts now. We get to live this life and the next with Jesus by our side. And just like the disciples, the truth of the resurrection has a transformational impact on how we live.
We get to live in confidence. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commissioned the disciples to continue to make disciples and further the kingdom of God. He ended his commission with these comforting words: “I will be with you always.” Not, “I will be with you after you get all your work done and you come to heaven with me.” He promises to be with us always and that includes now.
Before the resurrection, the disciples ran in fear because they thought they lost their Lord. Now they could live confidently, because they knew they would never lose him again. He would always be with them–a gift no one could take away. This confidence allowed them to boldly go into the world and preach the good news of Jesus.
We get to live in power. Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They would receive great power to witness about Jesus (Acts 1:8). As you continue to read in the book of Acts, you see evidence of this. Peter boldly proclaimed the message of Jesus on the day of Pentecost and thousands were saved, and despite persecution, the church grew.
But this promise of power wasn’t just for the disciples who walked with Jesus. It is for us, too! Ephesians 1:18-20 shares a prayer Paul often prayed for the Ephesians.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”
Wow. Paul said that as Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available for our lives. The resurrection made it possible for us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ living in us. How amazing is that?!
We get to live in peace. In John 16, Jesus warned the disciples of what was coming for them. He was going to die and ascend into heaven. After his ascension, they would preach the message for him and because of that they would face intense persecution. However, he would send the Holy Spirit as a comforter to help them. As he finishes up his warnings, Jesus tells them, “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)
In this world we will have trouble. You probably know this truth well. But we can have peace in our struggles knowing Jesus has already conquered the world. The end has already been written. We have already won the battle through Jesus’s death and resurrection. The disciples knew, when they were beaten or even killed, it didn’t matter because they were already living eternal life with their Savior now and nothing could take that away. The truth of the resurrection gave them peace to handle life’s hardships with confidence, knowing Jesus had overcome the world and their salvation was secure.
So what would your life look like if you lived daily in the truth of the resurrection? What would your life look like if you lived in confidence knowing your Savior walks the ups and downs with you every day? What would it look like to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and live into God’s calling in your life? Finally, what would it look like to live in peace knowing Jesus has already overcome the world?
It would look different for each of us, but one thing I know for sure, your life would be dramatically changed like the disciples’ lives changed. You could walk in boldness and faith, living out the truth of the resurrection, and it would change the world as we allow God to work through each of us to accomplish His work. So my prayer is that we do not leave the truth of the resurrection to one Sunday a year, but we live the truth of the resurrection every day and watch in awe as God changes the world through us!
The other morning, as I shuffled out into the kitchen to make my breakfast, my husband called to me, “Hey! You have to come watch this with me.”
I peered over his shoulder and saw a picture of the Oregon State University football stadium. Nothing was happening. The camera was focused on an area of seating. No fans. No music. Just empty seats. So far, the video wasn’t very exciting.
Uncertain of my husband’s sanity I asked, “What are we watching?”
“The imploding of the seating on the west side of the stadium.”
“Oh! That does sound exciting. Let’s get the boys up and have them watch, too.”
So my husband, two older boys, and I sat and stared at the computer screen for 15 minutes waiting for the exciting moment, when the athletic director would push the magic button, and the whole structure would come crashing down.
At around 8am that morning, he finally pushed the button. Immediately we saw a flash of light cut through the bottom row of bleachers, the foundation of the structure. In 3 seconds, it all toppled over. In 3 seconds, a structure that held thousands of people every football season, was just a pile of rubble. All because they took the foundation right out from underneath it.
While it was fun to watch the destruction of such a massive structure, it was also disconcerting that it was so easy to bring it down. Just take out the foundation and everything comes crashing down. A good foundation is essential. Without it, nothing can stand.
Jesus talks about the importance of a solid foundation in Matthew 7:24-27. In this parable, the wise man built his house upon the rock and when the storm hit, his house stayed firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand and when the storm hit, his house went SPLAT.
This Scripture got me thinking about the importance of having a strong foundation in my life. Recently, I’ve come to realize that I have been the foolish man a lot. I work really hard to balance all the things I think I should do, but wind up basing my actions on everyone else’s expectations of me. Then, all it takes is one criticism, one imperfection in my work, and my world comes crashing down, leaving me too fragile to overcome even the smallest obstacles. Then I begin to doubt my self-worth, wondering why I fall apart so easily. Could it be from building my identity on the shifting sand of what I want everyone else to think of me or on what I think I should be?
No one wants a fragile foundation, so what does a good foundation look like? What will stand the test of time and the storms of life?
We need to be constantly reminded of who God is and who we are in him. That’s exactly what Paul does when he writes his letter to the Ephesians. Paul starts out his book, reminding the Ephesians of what they gained when they chose to follow Christ. They were chosen by God. They were adopted into his family. They were redeemed, forgiven, and most importantly, loved. (Eph 1:3-14). Ephesus was a center of trade, and home to the temple of Artemis. Since they were surrounded by pagan culture, they needed to maintain a strong foundation to be able to stand up to the pressures of the world around them. They needed to remember the great lengths that God went to, to show His love for them. Paul reminded them who they are in Christ, and that they needed to stand firm in that reality.
Knowing who they are in Christ was only part of the puzzle. Paul also knew the Ephesians needed a firm understanding of who God is. In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul prays for them. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” When you know God, like “deep in your heart” know, the hope he has planned for you, your rich inheritance, and the incomparably great power that lives within you, then you will have a firm foundation that Satan cannot destroy. When the storms of life hit, you will survive. You will have the power to be strong.
How can you and I build this kind of strong foundation in Christ? Here are three practical ways that have helped me:
1) Spend intentional time with God
To know God better, we have to spend time with him. I know this sounds cliché, but it is true. You can’t get to know someone without spending time with them. You can’t trust that God’s promises are true if you don’t know what his promises are and how he has fulfilled them in His word. Make it a priority to build an indestructible foundation by spending time with God in His word, and choosing to take that wisdom and apply it in your everyday life.
2) Statements of affirmation
As you read through God’s word, find Scripture verses that encourage you. Then take those Scriptures and change them into personal, affirmative statements. For instance, when I am getting in my head and feeling down on myself, I recite that “I am worthy and valuable because I was not redeemed with money, but I was bought with the precious blood of Jesus.” (1 Peter 1:18-21). This statement of affirmation reminds me that I am loved enough for someone to die for me, even though I didn’t deserve the sacrifice.
3) Memorization of Scripture
This is similar to the statements of affirmation, except you memorize Scripture word for word. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Psalm 27:13. It says, “I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” When feeling overwhelmed, I recite this verse to myself. Rather than continue in the emotional storm, this verse is a reminder to stop, take a breath, and see how the Lord is working in the situation.
These are a few of the building blocks for a firm foundation in Christ. They remind us of God’s truth, give us strength when we are weak and help bolster our faith.
In this new year, there are still many things that are uncertain, but God is the solid rock upon which we build our life. I hope that you will take the time to intentionally build a firm and solid foundation in Jesus, so that whatever 2022 brings, you will be able to stand firm in the unfailing love and confidence God provides.
A few years back I was rehearsing with my church choir for our annual Christmas program. To be honest, I didn’t want to be there. My Christmas spirit had up and left. It was difficult for a spirit of joy and anticipation to thrive in my mental state of mind on that day. There was just no place for joy to take root in my spirit of negativity and self-doubt. I had been fighting intrusive, negative thoughts most of the year and I was tired. Tired of not being good enough. Tired of the world being a broken place to live in. Tired of fighting to put one foot in front of the other. And that tiredness was manifesting itself into hopelessness. I was starting to believe things would never get better.
Then, we sang the first verse of “O Holy Night”: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks, a new a glorious morn.”
These words spoke directly to how I was feeling. Pining means mental and physical decline, especially because of a broken heart. That explained my heart exactly. By allowing negative intrusive thoughts to rule in my life, my heart was broken, and it was hard to feel joy. When I read the news headlines or ran into an unkind person in the store, it added to the sense of brokenness I felt. But “O Holy Night” revealed what God did to help that broken heart.
“Till He appeared…” Those living in the times of Jesus, were living in a broken world as well. They were under a harsh Roman rule. There were high taxes. Roman soldiers on every corner watching you. The religious leaders had created a law that was impossible to follow. It indeed appeared hopeless. Those that tried to throw off Roman rule were killed. Those that didn’t follow the man-made religious law, were outcasted. Their one lifeline of hope was the promise of a Savior. The promise of the Messiah, God’s anointed.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…” One evening some 2000 years ago, the long awaited day arrived. The promised Messiah, our hope of salvation, entered the world. Luke 2:10-11 describes the angelic birth announcement:
“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”
Isaiah 9:1-7 shares the hope the Messiah would bring to broken, hopeless hearts. “No more gloom for those who were in distress.” (vs 1) “People walking in darkness will see a great light.” (vs 2) “He will increase their joy.” (vs 3) “The yoke that burdens the people would be taken away.” (vs 4) “He will establish justice and righteousness.” (vs 7)
The Messiah was coming to take away the hopelessness and replace it with joy. He gives us hope that brokenness is not a place we have to live in any longer. In the gospels, we see time after time how Jesus shared hope with others. Jesus, forgiving the sins of the lame man on the mat, gives hope that living in the depth of sin is no longer a reality we have to live. Talking with an outcast woman at the well, He gives us hope that despite our past choices we can receive love and acceptance from Jesus. Jesus’s death and resurrection secures our victory over death giving us hope that no matter what happens in this life, we will rise to an amazing eternal life with a loving God.
The gospels show Jesus offering and proclaiming hope to those who believe, so why was I living as if Jesus never came? I struggled with living in the hopelessness that I am not good enough. That God will never fully accept me because of my shortcomings. That there is no hope for my brokenness or my broken world. As I lived in my false sense of hopelessness, I found myself giving up, becoming a recluse inside myself and my house. I realized, that is exactly where Satan wants me to be–living a life disregarding the fact that Hope has already entered the world, ignoring that Hope had chosen to live inside me though the Holy Spirit. When I live that way, I am unable to use the gifts and talents He gave me to bless the broken world I live in. But I don’t have to live in hopelessness and neither do you! God already gave the remedy for it–He sent Jesus on that “O Holy Night.”
“Yonder breaks and new a glorious morn…” The Christmas story reminds us of the ‘hope to which we are called’ (Eph 1:18). Hope came into the world, but we have to claim it. We no longer have to live in the darkness of hopelessness, but we can choose to stand in the light of a new morning filled with the hope and joy that we are loved despite our faults. To live in the joy that God still works and lives within us, transforming us into his vessel of hope and joy. To live in the truth that no matter what happens we have victory over sin and death, and a promised eternal life with God. Beloved, I hope that this Christmas you will be able to lay down any burden or hopelessness you carry and run like the shepherds did, to the presence of Jesus and rejoice.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” – Mark 5:34
In Mark 5:24-34, there is a woman who has impacted me greatly. Her story of suffering has given me hope and has helped me see my Savior in a new way. The story doesn’t tell us her name, we only know her as the “woman who suffers from bleeding”.
For this woman, her suffering was physical. She had been bleeding for 12 years. That’s a long time! Loss of blood takes a toll on the body–it can cause anemia which lowers energy and is linked to depression. On top of the loss of blood, there was the physical pain of the procedures she endured to try to fix her problem. Scripture tells us that she went to many doctors, but it only made her condition worse.
As with most cases of suffering, the pain was multifaceted. It wasn’t just physical. There was emotional suffering involved as well. Because she was bleeding (assuming it was menstrual) she was considered unclean in her society. That meant she couldn’t be around other people, she couldn’t go to the temple to worship, she couldn’t even touch her own husband. This isolation would have been overwhelming. I wonder if this was the worst part of the suffering.
Then Jesus walks into the scene. His presence provides hope. She had heard the stories of healing. “Could He heal me?” she wonders. Could he erase 12 years of isolation, loneliness, pain and suffering? She is desperate and leaves her house and ventures out into public to meet Jesus. Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd and was headed on an urgent mission to help a man whose daughter was dying.
She sees Jesus, but doesn’t have the courage to walk up and ask him for help. Years of being isolated stole that confidence from her. But her faith gave her the courage to reach out to Him anyway. She sneaks up and touches His clothes and in Mark 5:29 it says “immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering”. After 12 long years, she finally receives the healing and relief she was so desperately seeking.
While she was now healed from her physical suffering, Jesus was not content with leaving it at that. Realizing what had just happened, Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched me?” He wanted to speak to the person who received the healing. Trembling, this woman who has been suffering and isolated for years, comes before Jesus and confesses what she did. Thinking she was going to be reprimanded, she instead receives words of encouragement. I can imagine Jesus smiling at her, reassuring her that going to him is never something you should be afraid to do and says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Have peace and be freed from your suffering.”
These two sentences that Jesus speaks to her are beautiful, and in the moment, it would be easy to miss what he is really saying. He first affirms her physical healing, declaring it for all to hear. But, he is not done yet. Next, he invites her to a completely new life… Jesus tells her to have peace and be freed from her suffering. Why would he need to command her to be freed from her suffering? He just told her she was healed. This is the beauty of Jesus. He knew that physical suffering was only a part of what this woman had suffered over the past 12 years. He knew for 12 years she had been identified as the “woman who suffered from bleeding”. Not only was this how everyone else saw her, but how she saw herself as well. It was a reality that consumed her life and left her feeling isolated and alone.
Now Jesus tells her to free herself from that identity and live in a new one. She has a new name. Daughter! Remember how Jesus addressed her? Daughter. No longer isolated but a part of a family, an heir in God’s kingdom. Bleeding was part of her story that definitely shaped her, but it was never meant to be her identity.
I can relate to this. I have often defined myself by my suffering. In my mind the suffering is all consuming and I allow it to become my identity. In my mind, I am “the woman with an anxiety disorder”. I have asked to be free from my anxiety, but it is still my constant companion. So how do I reconcile these different outcomes? I know God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t love some more than others. So what am I supposed to learn from this story?
As I asked God these questions, God spoke to me in this story. The key is identity. My identity is not a woman who struggles with anxiety from dusk to dawn. The anxiety is a part of my story, but it is not who I am. I am Daughter. And God is calling me to live within that identity because it affects the rest of my story. It impacts how I live within the suffering.
The truth of being called Daughter by God allows me to pause and hold on to God as my anchor when the storm of anxiety overwhelms me. His strength allows me to thrive in anxiety and not just survive.
It is this strength from God that brought me through one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I remember sitting anxiously in a room in Colorado, crying out in despair while my son continued to suffer debilitating seizures. It appeared that he would never be freed from them and I didn’t know how I was going to cope. God met me there and said, “Daughter, receive my peace and I promise to walk with you as you care for your son.” As I chose to embrace my identity as Daughter and take my suffering to God my Father, my story of pain and suffering became interwoven in a story of redemption, strength, and beauty. It became a testament to the amazing love of my Heavenly Father.
Are you going through a time of suffering now? If so, be encouraged that God invites you to come to Him with your suffering to receive strength, healing and a new identity. Even if full healing doesn’t happen this side of heaven, our story can change like the woman in this story. Her identity is no longer a woman with bleeding. She is called Daughter by her Savior, Jesus Christ. You also are not defined by your suffering. Your identity has been secured by the one who created you. You are Daughter.