In The Word

  • Your Mistakes Don’t Define You

    With Easter just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it must have been like for those closest to Jesus. Particularly, for Peter, one of his closest disciples and friends. In the days leading up to the crucifixion, we see Peter at the Last Supper proclaiming his undying devotion to Jesus. 

    “Peter declared, ‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.’

    Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.’

    ‘No!’ Peter insisted. ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!’ And all the other disciples vowed the same.

    But when the time came for Jesus to be arrested and taken away to be crucified, every one of the disciples deserted him and fled. Later that evening, Peter came to the courtyard. He stood nearby the place where Jesus was taken, maybe in hope of a miracle, maybe trying to figure out how to fix what had just happened. We don’t know, but l can imagine he was distraught and fearful. I’m sure this wasn’t how he thought it was supposed to end.

    As the night went on, different people in the courtyard recognized Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples, and each time he denied knowing Jesus. When he had denied Jesus the third time, Peter heard the rooster crow and remembered what Jesus had predicted. He went away, weeping bitterly.

    Have you ever done something you regret? Even if you didn’t plan on messing up, it happened anyway and you were left feeling guilty and remorseful. Even when we try our best, at times we still make mistakes. 

    I’m sure Peter left that night wondering how he even got to that point, feeling remorseful for turning his back on his Lord. 

    When we think of Peter, we also often think of his mistake. I wonder if He was haunted by it too, and saw himself as “the one who denied Jesus”. Often we also are tempted to let our past mistakes become part of our identity. Shame creeps in and tries to redefine how we see ourselves and makes us feel unworthy of forgiveness and love.

    But Peter also experienced Jesus’ resurrection and it changed his life forever. Through God’s forgiveness and redemption, Peter went on to be the rock the church stood upon. He went on to give a Holy Spirit inspired sermon to the very same people who had just crucified Jesus and 3000 people were saved that day! 

    Jesus did not let Peter’s mistake be the final thing that defined him. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be defined by our past sins and mistakes either. Despite our past, God can still work through our gifts and talents and redeem our mistakes for purpose. He will transform each of us into the people we were always meant to be. 

    This Easter we want to remind you that the most important part of your identity is that you are REDEEMED and LOVED!

    For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

    1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV

    This Scripture so beautifully captures not only what we were redeemed from, but shows the weight of the cost. In the New Testament, the word redemption is used to refer both to deliverance from sin and to freedom from captivity.

    When Adam and Eve chose disobedience and brought sin into the world, humanity became held captive by sin and death. This way of life only brought grief, evil, destruction and separation from God. Sin owned us–we were helpless against its power. This life of sin kept us from living the life we were intended to have–a life of joy and peace and flourishing.

    But God in His deep abiding love for us, began making a way for us to be brought back to full relationship with Him–restored to who He created us to be. He rescued us from darkness and a life of imprisonment to sin, and set us free so sin no longer had control over us. Jesus redeemed our life by restoring ownership to God.

    It is only through Jesus giving up His perfect life in exchange for ours, that we are redeemed. We were not redeemed by things that don’t last, but a once and for all act of mercy and grace. Our redemption cannot be undone–it is eternal.

    “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”

    Romans 5:1-2 NLT

    This redemption and new life that God has given us comes from the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Praise be to God! Not only are we redeemed but we are also chosen by God to be His sons and daughters. He has set us free in order that we may live in the world that He intended. As His redeemed, beloved daughters, we can boldly run into His arms without guilt, shame or hindrance. We are now His and we now belong to the Kingdom of God.

    As we prepare for Easter, let’s take some time to thank Jesus for rescuing us and redeeming us. Rejoice in knowing that Jesus has paid the price for our freedom and sees us in the light of His love, not by the shade of our mistakes. Because of Jesus, we can walk confidently and joyfully in God’s love and grace this Easter!

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  • Enduring Hope

    What a year, right?! This has definitely been a year that has pushed our patience and endurance to the limits. Since March, we have all been expectantly waiting for this pandemic to end so we can return to life as we once knew it. We long for life to feel normal, for gatherings with loved ones, for outings and adventures. But more than that, this season has revealed a deeper need, one that has been there a lot longer than the pandemic–a longing for peace and justice, for the world to be made right, for healing and restoration, for Jesus to return and make things the way they were intended to be.

    In the book of Luke, we are introduced to a prophetess named Anna, who understood firsthand this kind of expectant waiting. She endured faithfully, waiting in hope for 84 years for the Messiah. 84 years! Can you even imagine??

    Anna had only been married 7 years when her husband passed. Instead of getting remarried, Anna dedicated herself to the Lord and lived in the Temple, fasting and praying every day as she waited expectantly for the Messiah to come and bring justice and peace to the world. One day, a devout man named Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, shows up at the Temple and experiences with Anna the fulfillment of a life-long hope.

    At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

    ….Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

    Luke 2:25-32, 36-38

    The season of Advent is a time of expectant waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. As we celebrate Advent each year, we often stop when we get to the scene in the manger. Jesus has arrived! But the advent story isn’t truly complete until we see those who have been waiting for the Messiah finally experience their hope fulfilled. What a glorious moment that must have been when Anna saw Jesus and Simeon held the Savior in his arms! Their prophetic testimony in the Christmas story brings a conclusion to this time of waiting and announces a new season has begun–the season of restoration and reconciliation!

    Like Anna, we too are expectantly waiting for Jesus to return and bring restoration and reconciliation to its fullness. But waiting is hard and enduring in hope can be even harder. Anna saw no evidence of God’s approach, no reassuring signs that pointed to the coming of the Messiah…and yet she persevered in hope because her confidence in God was sure.

    Hope isn’t just a wish that good things will happen, but rather confidence in the author of the outcome. True hope is deeper than mere wishful thinking–it is the confident belief that God is faithful and will complete what He has begun, that history in all it’s difficulties and details is fully under his control. And that God’s outcome will be good and glorious!

    Following Jesus is an exercise in hope. We spend much of our lives like Anna–being faithful in the waiting while God is powerfully (and often invisibly) at work all around us. Our hope is sustained in times of waiting because we know that the same God that kept His promises to Simeon and to Anna, will keep His promises to us.

    So today, wait patiently in hope, secure in the One that can be trusted with the future, the One who redeems the time of our enduring patience. Remind your friends and loved ones and be encouraged that hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

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  • Quiet Confidence

    As we enter into this advent season, my mind often turns to the women who played such an instrumental role in the Christmas story and what it must have been like to see the life of Jesus unfold firsthand. 

    Often we focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and understandably. A teenage, unwed virgin bearing the Son of God warrants noticing. But I’m also struck by her older cousin Elizabeth, who’s own miraculous story is intricately woven into the beautiful tapestry of the Christmas story.

    The name Elizabeth means “God is my oath” and it couldn’t be a better fit for her. In Luke 1:5-60, we learn that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were well along in years, but had no children. In Elizabeth’s day, a woman’s value was wrapped up in her ability to be able to bear children, and not just children, but a son to carry on the family name and her husband’s legacy. With each passing childless year, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s disappointment would have been profound. But where faith might falter for many, they instead leaned into the Lord’s faithfulness and continued to pray for a child. They continued to serve in the church and in their community. Elizabeth’s years of disappointment deepened rather than destroyed her faith. 

    Imagine her surprise when an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah to tell him that they would be parents to a son and they should name him John. And he wouldn’t be just any son, but great in the Lord’s eyes, a joy and a delight and one who would help prepare the hearts of all Israel for the coming Messiah. 

    I can only imagine the flood of emotion and wonder that must have rushed over Elizabeth in that moment. Even though she was well past her childbearing years, she would be having a son! In her joy, she praises God, saying “How kind the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.” (Luke 1:25 NLT)

    What I love about Elizabeth is that she is a picture of calm, and quiet confidence. She appears to be unruffled by life and seems to take everything in stride. No doubt she experienced all sorts of emotions and feelings, but when we see her described, she is not ruled by her emotion, but by her faith. That quiet confidence came from her relationship with God and her heart being open to the Holy Spirit guiding and helping her. Her confidence was in God, because He has always been faithful. And now she was literally living out a miracle in her own story. 

    Because Elizabeth knew God, she didn’t question how He was working. She was secure in who He was, therefore she was secure herself. This translated to many different areas of her life: how she dealt with disappointment, grief and possibly shame during her childless years, as well as how she interacted in her relationships. Establishing her identity and confidence in the Lord, positively impacted her relationship with her husband by helping solidify their faith as a couple. It rippled out into her extended family and to her friends and neighbors as they shared her joy when her baby was born (vs. 58). Her God-confidence influenced how she navigated the unexpected surprise of a baby in her later years and how she related to her younger cousin, Mary, when she came to visit with the news that she too was pregnant with a miracle.  

    This interaction between Mary & Elizabeth is perhaps my favorite part of Elizabeth’s story and such a beautiful example of God’s provision of community. As baby John leaps in her womb upon hearing Mary’s voice, Elizabeth immediately recognizes that Mary is the mother of the Lord. It makes sense that she would recognize God’s handiwork having just experienced a miracle of her own. The joy and wonder she and Mary share as they marvel at how the Lord is at work in their lives, and through the lives of their children is a treasure.

    What a gift God gave them in being able to relate so deeply to one another, even just to process together all that was happening and unfolding.  It is such a beautiful example of God’s perfect provision and timing. John was going to prepare the people’s hearts for Jesus’ arrival. Had he come when Elizabeth had first prayed for a child, too much time could have gone by between John’s teaching and Jesus’ arrival, and the hearts of the people may have again grown cold. Perhaps God was preparing Elizabeth all this time, knowing that Mary would need a caring and wise, mature mentor to help her navigate the difficulties that lay ahead in her own story. Whatever the reasons, Elizabeth’s quiet confidence and mature faith, no doubt blessed Mary more that we can even know. 

    As we reflect on the Christmas story and the anticipation of Christmas itself, I want to encourage you, in your own season of waiting. Maybe you are bringing your own persistent prayer ever before Him or you’re eagerly awaiting the day when the Lord returns and sets all things right again. Perhaps you are experiencing the chronic disappointment of life not going at all the way you had hoped or planned, or you’re reeling from a sudden, unexpected change you didn’t see coming (good or bad). Know that the same God who loved and provided for Elizabeth, loves you and will provide for you too. He sees you and knows your needs. As you lean on Him, you can trust wholeheartedly that He will cultivate in you a faith that leads to joy and security in any situation. Because of your relationship with God, you too can have quiet confidence that God is working powerfully in your circumstances, and that the story He is writing in your life will also be one of His perfect provision and profound love. 

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  • What if your suffering didn’t define you?

    “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.

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  • Looking Ahead with Hope

    There is something both comforting and incredibly humbling knowing that the God who set the universe in motion has included us in His plans and knows our future. Not only that, but He loves us more than we can even imagine and is always at work on our behalf to bring about good in our lives.

    ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

    Jeremiah 29:11-13

    When my world begins to shake and the future looks unclear, I can lean into these words from God, and trust that His perfect plans are already in motion. That He knows what lies ahead and goes before me. God promises that when we pray to Him and look for Him with all our hearts, we will find Him and He will direct our steps. Because of that promise, we can have hope and look forward with anticipation to where God will lead. We don’t need to be afraid of what the future may hold, because the God of the universe is directing our steps into his amazing plan for our lives.

    Whatever circumstance you might be facing right now, God gives us hope that our story doesn’t end here. As people who have put our trust in God, our future lies securely with Him. Because of Jesus, we have a wonderful hope that no matter what we face in this life, we are His children and we are safe forever in His Kingdom.

    Father God, in you the possibilities are endless. You have made us a part of your story and in you we have a hope and a future. Even when we cannot see what lies ahead, you do. You know our hearts, our joys and our sorrows. Help us to seek you with our whole heart. You are a God who does not hide from us, but pursues us faithfully. As we look toward the future, help us to keep our eyes fixed on you. Thank you for the hope that you give when we trust in you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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  • Our Shepherd and Provider

    As I drove to the store today, nothing felt right. All I could think about was that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. There is an eerie feeling of stillness to the world and an unnatural way of moving about in the world right now. We have to walk and stand away from others as if they have cooties. We avoid speaking or sometimes even making eye contact as we encounter someone walking past us. It goes against everything we are, especially if you are an extrovert.

    As people, we need community to thrive, we need hugs and embraces. We need to shake hands in solidarity or feel a comforting arm around our shoulders. We are made for touch and for community, for meaningful conversation with others, for being together to celebrate a marriage or a birth or standing beside someone as they’re grieving.

    This unusual time we are enduring right now can leave us feeling anxious and in need of the things that are lacking. Whether it is the need of companionship, comfort from a friend, a steady paycheck, or simply a roll of toilet paper, we are longing for provision and peace.

    Many of us have heard Psalm 23 many times, usually as a consoling scripture, but I want us to see it with fresh eyes as we read the Contemporary English Version:

    You, Lord, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s staff makes me feel safe. You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows. Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, Lord.” Psalm 23 CEV

    In light of our current circumstances, I found a whole new depth to this Scripture. It reminded me that God is our Shepherd–He is the one who looks out for us, takes care of us, provides for us. Just like a shepherd with his sheep, God tenderly cares for us and meets our every need.

    When we picture sheep in a pasture, we often think of a huge field of bright green grass where they roam. But in Israel, the land was often quite rocky with occasional tufts of grass. When the sheep went to graze, they couldn’t see very far, just what was in front of them. But the shepherd could see the whole land and knew it well, he could lead the sheep to where the best grass was for their sustenance and nourishment.

    Sheep are creatures that live moment by moment, focused on what is in front of them. That sounds a lot like how we are having to live right now, taking each day moment by moment. To survive, the sheep had to trust the shepherd to lead them safely to the next tuft of grass and provide all that they need each day. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does the very same thing for us.

    Right now, you might be feeling adrift. These are dark and difficult times we are facing together. It can feel like a dark valley that we are journeying. There are days that seem like we are just wandering about like sheep not knowing when this will end, feeling anxious and like there’s no end in sight. It’s hard to know what we are supposed to be doing other than staying away from one another.

    The best thing we can do right now is to listen for the voice of the Shepherd. He’s the one who sees the big picture, who knows what we need to nourish our body and our spirit, and will guide us and lead us through this dark valley. He knows where to find the peaceful streams in what feels like a desert. He knows exactly what we need and how to lead us to it.

    His guiding staff will protect us and keep us safe and on the right path. He will be our light when we can no longer see through the darkness. He’s walking us through this. Keep walking, He’s right beside you. He is faithful to provide exactly what you need, when you need it. Jesus, our loving Shepherd, provides in abundance as we place our trust in Him and gives us what we need to refresh our spirit through His ever-present kindness and love. He will lead you through the valley to fields of green and peaceful streams that will soothe your soul. Lean into Him, trust Him to guide you, comfort and protect you, and provide for all you need.

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  • Everlasting God

    Wow, what a week. I heard someone joke that they feel like a 4th grader is writing life right now: “and there was this virus and everyone was scared, and then the world ran out of toilet paper…yeah and then there was no school for like a month and then it snowed!”

    In light of recent events, this “new normal” may have you feeling isolated or afraid and wondering where God is. It is hard to see how and where He is working in this when an itty-bitty virus manages to bring our entire world to a grinding halt. 

    It might feel like God is disinterested in our plight, or that He is absent in our time of need. I understand that. You may be feeling torn between alternating waves of faith and fear of the unknown, combined with guilt that the wave of faith didn’t completely wash away the fear. 

    My sweet friend, God is not only present and active in our situation, He is big enough to love us through all our fears and doubts. In Isaiah 40:26-28, God is responding to the Israleites who were feeling weary and afraid too, and they are reminded just how big God really is.

    “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.”

    This scripture paints such a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty and power, but also His attention to detail. I couldn’t tell you the name of more than five stars, let alone all of them. In fact, I can’t even see all of the stars from my limited perspective. I certainly couldn’t tell each one where to go and how to shine, night after night, without fail. 

    But God can behold the entire universe in one glance. He created each star in every galaxy and knows each one’s name. He pays attention to every single detail. Nothing escapes His notice and care. 

    Scripture then goes on to remind the Israelites that God gives the same close care and attention to the details of their own lives. 

    O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.”

    God sees their troubles. He pays attention to them and cares deeply for their needs. Then He calls them to a deeper understanding of who He is.

    We have exactly the same opportunity that the Israleites did. God sees our troubles now. He pays attention to us and cares deeply for our needs. He is calling us to a deeper understanding of who He is: strong, capable, constant, present, attentive, powerful, creative, caring and just. He is big and strong enough to carry the oceans in the cup of his hand and yet He wants us to know Him and be in a personal relationship with Him.

    He is here now, walking through these bizarre times with us. He holds us when we are lonely and is patient with us when we are unsure and fret. Later in the book of Isaiah, God reminds us that He will give us strength and power when we are weak and weary. 

    So even if we feel isolated or powerless and small in the wake of current events, remember that we are not alone. Our Heavenly Father is right by our side, working powerfully in the world. Look up, keep your eyes on Him. Then look for glimpses of Him working in the world around you. 

    He is working through the person serving their neighbor, and the family putting together free lunches for kids in need. He is working through the kindness shown to the grocery store clerk and gas station attendant. He is working through the creativity and brilliance of the scientists looking for ways to cure this illness. He works through the nurses and doctors caring for their patients, and through parents as they comfort their children. He hears every single prayer of praise and concern, and takes them all to heart. He is present and active this very moment, both in the world and in your life. Because of His great power and incomparable strength, there is not a detail he misses, nor a care that gets overlooked.

    He is the Everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. Before there was anything else, God was there, as He is now, and will be tomorrow. Let’s continue to look up and follow him, so that we may remember His character and experience His peace. May God may work through us to bring joy and hope to those around us, in any circumstance. 

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  • Finding Jesus in the Storm

    When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. John 6:16-21

    Picture this scene with me. After a long day of ministering and feeding 5000 people, Jesus goes up to a mountainside to pray. While He is there, His disciples decide to go ahead of Him to Capernaum.

    They take the only boat on the shore and start rowing. By now it is getting late and it is dark. They get to the middle of the lake and a strong wind starts blowing and the waves get rough.

    I don’t know if you have ever rowed a boat before, but it isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in the dark with strong winds and rough water! Even though they were experienced fishermen, the storm and waters were so rough that they struggled to get across to the other side.

    At just the right time, Jesus shows up, walking casually across the rough water, no less. I don’t blame the disciples for being frightened as He approached. It’s not every day you see a person just taking an unhurried stroll on a stormy sea!

    Jesus calls out to them, calming their fears by reminding them who He is. His voice calling out above the waves and the wind must have been the most welcome sound the disciples had ever heard. In that moment, they recognized Him and they were willing to take Him into the boat. As soon as He stepped into the boat, they instantly arrived at the shore.

    Did you catch that? They were in the middle of a lake, in a storm, waves crashing everywhere. They are rowing and rowing and not getting anywhere. Then Jesus shows up. Once they decided to invite Him into the boat, they miraculously were transported to the shore, to the exact place they were headed!

    Jesus didn’t calm the storm first and walk to the disciples on peaceful waters. He stepped right over the waves, because He himself was Peace. In His presence, they found a life-line that no circumstances could ever break. When we feel stuck in a rough situation that’s hard to see through, we need Jesus to show up. There is nothing, not the darkness of night, or the strongest of storms that can keep Jesus from coming to you.

    That rough water–He controls it. The wind obeys His commands. He is in control of all creation and has got you firmly in His grasp. He will not let you go under. He will keep you from sinking and lead you to safety.

    Jesus is present in your situation, even if you don’t always recognize Him there. When you take your eyes off the storm long enough to look toward Him, you will always find Him nearby, waiting to help. Listen for His voice above the wind and the waves. Will you let Him into the boat to be your peace and your life-line?

    Too often when I find myself in the middle of difficult circumstances, I work so hard to fix it by my own strength that I end up weary and distraught. In those situations, I’m like the disciples, rowing and rowing and not getting anywhere (except worn out!). How long do we needlessly struggle when simply allowing God into the boat will help us experience His strength and peace while we get to where we are supposed to be.

    When we are reminded of who God is and allow Him into our situation, we get to experience the peace of knowing we are safe in His love and protection. In His care, He is able to get us to the other side of our situation. He himself is our peace, we need not be afraid. He is always near and ready to step into any storm.

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  • Mighty God

    Each week during the month of December, we are taking a look at the names describing Jesus that we see in Isaiah 9:6-7. Last week we explored what it means to have Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor. This week we will discover what it means to have Jesus as our Mighty God.

    When I think of the word “mighty”, I think of someone capable, strong and powerful. In John 1:1-4, we see that Jesus was there in the beginning of creation–through Him all things were created. In Hebrews 1:3 we see that not only did Jesus create all things, but He continues to sustain everything by the mighty power of His command. As our creator and sustainer, Jesus is mighty enough to help us in whatever we may encounter.

    Why is it important for us to know Jesus as our Mighty God?

    We have all faced a situation that makes us feel afraid and powerless. Whether it is a health diagnosis, a financial burden, a wayward child or a broken relationship. When we are facing these types of situations, every day can seem like a battle that we feel helpless to win.

    If you are facing one of these seasons right now, this story from 2 Kings will hopefully bring you some encouragement. In this story, Elisha is a Prophet of God. The enemy nation’s plans kept getting foiled because Elisha would tell Israel when and where the enemy planned to attack next. Israel always seemed one step ahead of them. When the king of Aram found out that Elisha was the source of this knowledge, he set out to capture him.

    And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

    2 Kings 6:13-15

    Elisha woke up to an entire nation’s army surrounding him. The battle before him looked impossible to overcome on his own. It would be easy for him to feel like the battle was over before it even begun. With what appeared to be only one of him and thousands of soldiers surrounding him, it would seem rather hopeless. The young man with Elisha (who was probably an apprentice or a servant) was definitely worried and afraid. But Elisha was not.

    “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

    2 Kings 6:16-17

    Elisha could see what no one else could–God at work in his situation. The young man was afraid because he couldn’t see where the help would come from. He didn’t know that his help would come from the maker and creator of the universe–the only one who is mighty enough to save. When Elisha prayed for God to open the young man’s eyes, he saw a heavenly host, greater than any army of man, riding on chariots of fire surrounding the enemy army. They had been there all along, even before he could see them.

    You may not always feel like God is there intervening in your situation or that His mighty power is present. But if you allow God to open your eyes to see what He is doing, you may find that He is already in every detail. He delights to bring His heavenly army and all of Heaven’s might to your rescue. Nothing escapes His sight.

    Our Mighty God shows up, not only to be present with His people, but to fight on their behalf. He doesn’t just walk alongside us, He goes before us. He knows what lies ahead and is prepared to walk us through whatever comes our way. Knowing we have a loving Savior, who is a Mighty God, brings us a long-awaited hope and peace!

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  • Overflowing With Thankfulness

    Do you ever find it hard to be grateful this time of year? Not that you aren’t sincerely thankful deep down, but experiencing the emotion of gratitude in a real way can be challenging during this busy season. Especially when the pressure is on to do all of the holiday things, while keeping your sanity and trying to live #blessed.

    “There is so much to be grateful for” echoes in my mind as I engineer the schedule to fit school conferences, work meetings and planning sessions. At the last minute I might throw caution to the wind and schedule a coffee date because miraculously, I still have friends who get me and my weird life.

    I am sincerely, truly grateful, but I’m also kinda tired. When the day to day wears me out, it is all too easy to drift into self-preservation mode. It’s hard to be thankful, because my blessings also make me want to take a nap.

    I was recently reading in Matthew 14:13-21 about the miracle of Jesus feeding a crowd of five thousand people. While many may be familiar with this story, something I hadn’t noticed is what happens right before it. Jesus gets word that his cousin, John the Baptist, was dead, cruelly executed by King Herod. Jesus slips away to a solitary place, no doubt to pray and grieve and regroup, but before His boat even lands at his destination, the crowds that had been following Him, caught up and were pressing in on all sides, desperate for Jesus to speak to them and heal them.

    As the day turns to evening, the crowd grows hungry. The disciples’ resources are few and their inclination is, understandably, to send the people away. After all, they only have five loaves of bread and two fish, there’s not a lot of daylight left, and they are out in the middle of nowhere.

    And then there’s Jesus.

    When He sees all the people before Him, He has compassion. He sees past the inconvenience and the overwhelming logistics, straight to their hearts. In the middle of His own grief and fatigue, Jesus loves them and heals them.

    It would have been understandable if He didn’t feel up to the task, but Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective. He regularly spent time alone with God the Father and knew the Source of His strength and perseverance. Because of this, instead of being overwhelmed, burned out and ineffective, Jesus had the strength and power He needed in that very moment.

    While the disciples fret about what they lack, Jesus prepares to do miraculous work and invites the disciples to be a part of it. Jesus asks them what they do have and instructs them to bring it to Him. He takes their meager offering, looks up toward heaven and gives thanks to God. Then Jesus multiplies their resources to bless and sustain the people in the crowd: physically by feeding all of them (with leftovers to spare) and spiritually, by building up their faith in God and all that He is capable of doing.

    Sometimes, when we feel like we’re a few loaves and fishes short of a miracle, it’s easy to start thinking that what we have isn’t enough for God to do anything meaningful with. But what if instead of stressing about what we lack, we brought what we do have to the One who is infinitely more creative and resourceful? I can imagine Jesus looking toward heaven, thanking God for our meager offering and then using it to do exponentially more than we could ever have imagined.

    And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

    Colossians 2:6-8 NLT

    Just like the disciples who followed Jesus, we cannot multiply loaves and fishes on our own. But we can stay close to the One who can. Jesus continued to spend time regularly with the Father, being filled and replenished so that He could continue His work on earth. We too must spend time regularly with the Father and continue to follow Jesus so that our roots can grow deep and we can be filled. We can build our lives on Christ and in doing so, our faith is built up as we witness God at work (even in our craziness of life). We will then overflow with thankfulness out of the fullness of our hearts. What a thought to be overwhelmed not by life’s pressures and stress, but with genuine gratitude as Jesus works in us and through us!

    So as the calendar fills up and you feel spread thin, my question to you is this: What do you have? What can you bring to Jesus? Bring Him whatever you got! When you follow close to Him, and build your life on the unwavering foundation of Christ, He can use even the most unlikely of things to do amazing miracles!

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