Can We Trust God In Our Suffering?

If you’re reading the Bible this year Chronologically, you know we’re in the book of Job. It’s a unique book  that wrestles with questions like: If God is all-loving and merciful, why do the righteous suffer? Where is God in my trials. 

We also see the sovereignty of God. He is all supreme and in all control. Of Satan–he tells him how far he can go and Satan goes no further. And over our circumstances. Job isn’t privy to the heavenly conversation. He has no idea Satan has been prowling around looking to devour him, but can’t. So when Satan challenges God that the only reason Job worships him and is full of integrity is because he’s wealthy, healthy and protected. So God allows Satan a certain amount of leash. He knows the truth, but later we find that Job knows he’s being refined and coming out as gold through this testing. When taking all way from him, Job doesn’t curse God and die ie give up on God and abandon his faith in him. Satan says well it’s because you haven’t let me touch his skin. A sick man will curse you. So he’s allowed to harm his body but not kill him–though Job wishes for death. Yet God is protecting his life. 

In Job’s suffering, he makes wrong assumptions about God–which we all do when our pain lead the procession of thought about God. And God is silent. Job begs God to show up and tell him why he’s going through this suffering. 

His friends aren’t friends at all. They accuse him of sin and his children of sinning. Repent! But Job holds fast that he is righteous.

God is still silent.

Job still asks why.

Finally God speaks. He corrects Job’s false assumptions about him. And he rebukes his friends, except the youngest Elihu for their terrible advice. 

But he never answers the question Job wants. Why? But he does answer. 

Many times we don’t get what we want from God. But we always get what we need from him.

Job repents. Job never abandons God even when he thinks God has abandoned him. And this testing refines him. It also speaks to us, as scriptures do–so that we can learn from them as they give us hope while we ourselves wait patiently for God to fulfill his promises. 

Forward Reflection: When I go through suffering, what do I believe about God? Do I make wrong assumptions too? Am I going to give up on God when he doesn’t answer me? Or will I remain steadfast? 

What do you love most/least about the book of Job?

 

 

Two by Two…Nothing to Do with You!

Imagine building a massive boat when there’s never been rain? When no one believes you. Through hard labor, hard mocking, 120 years passing as Noah preached righteousness. No one surrendering their life. The boat is built. The animals were to come two by two. 

Note here that Noah did his part. He worked daily, he followed all the instructions and made sure he had all the specifications right.

God did all the rest. He brought brought what needed to be in the ark, into the ark and he himself closed the door. 

Knowing that two of each kind plus seven for sacrifice needed to be in the boat could have brought distraction and kept Noah from building and doing what God instructed him to do. “How will I get all these animals onboard? Where will I find them all? Ants are small! 

God rounded up the animals. “…two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female…” Genesis 2:9 NLT

Do what you’ve been tasked by God to do.  Don’t let other things distract you. You don’t have to do it all. You only have to do what God asks. He’ll take care of the the rest or He’ll give you additional instructions later. 

Maybe you’ve let the world’s influence distract you from living a holy life? It’s a slow fade. Maybe you’re distracted trying to do God’s part? You can’t ever do his part. You can only do your own!

Forward Reflection: Am I being distracted from what I know God has instructed me to do? Do I need to repent? Do I need to get back on task.

For fun: Which animal would you have “accidentally” forgotten on the ark? Me? Probably wasps. 🙂 

Hope Is Never Out of Reach

Welcome back to another Forward Friday. We’re moving forward every day in our personal relationship with Jesus. 

Today, I want to quickly look at Hagar. A woman who was a servant to Abraham and Sarah. In a circumstance she couldn’t control. When two people had to wait a very long time for a son of promise, things got scary. Uncertain. And like just like us, they took matters into their own hands to scheme to bring God’s promise to fulfillment.

But here’s the rub, friends. When we aren’t ones giving the promise, we can’t bring it to pass. God gives us steps sometimes, sure. Often it’s WAIT. Wait on Him. This produces trust and faith and dependance on Him.

They didn’t. Sarah decides she’ll give Hagar to Abraham as a surrogate wife which was custom and acceptable practice in that culture. But Abraham was to be set apart from the culture and customs of that day. Are you disobeying God because a practice in culture is acceptable and says you can? 

Once Hagar was pregnant, pride reared its ugly head and she treated Sarah with contempt. Sarah then went to Abraham and blamed him for everything. Sounds about right. We’re more prone to blame others for our mistakes than own up to them. He stays out of it and says do what seems best. She’s your servant. And Sarah treats her like trash. So bad she runs away.

The Angel of the Lord comes to her. He sees her distress and tells her to go back. To submit. To basically repent and humble yourself. This was his protection no doubt. Imagine a young pregnant woman with no protector or provision in the wilderness? And he gives her a promise too. 

She goes back. She submits. We read nothing more about mistreatment but when Sarah’s son Isaac–the son of promise–is made fun of by Ishmael, Hagar and Abraham’s son, it’s time to go (Genesis 21). She leaves and they run out of water. Has she forgotten the God who hears her, who sees her, who has made her a promise to make her son a nation? Maybe. Often in our suffering, doubts and fears we forget who God is, what he’s done and what he’s promised us.

He opens her eyes to see what was likely there all along…a well of water. Life. Salvation. Rescue! She gives the water to her son and they live. 

Hope was there all along. She just couldn’t see it through her fear, panic, dread, anxiety, suffering and uncertainty. 

Jesus is and always will be our hope. Sometimes we don’t see him for all the reasons Hagar didn’t see the water. He’s our living water. Our life. Our salvation. Our rescue. 

Forward Reflection: How do I respond in uncontrollable circumstances? Do I build my hope in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness? Do I remember that my ground is solid? Do I need to repent? Do I need God to open my eyes to hope? 

 

*I know during these accounts it’s Abram/Sarai but it’s just easier to say Abraham/Sarah.

 

Steadfast Hearts in 2023

Suffering isn’t a word we get excited about hearing. And what does it have to do with a steadfast heart? Good question. This year, as I read chronologically, the word or thread I’m tracing is suffering. Sounds like a fun time, huh? But the truth is, the world offers up a very different definition on how we should look at that word–as a four letter word. A word for the garbage heap. Sadly, this perception has made its way into many churches in America. God is yours to bring you blessing which typically equates to health, wealth and the “good life” or your “best life now.” But is that true? What does God say about suffering? How can we view suffering biblically and why should it matter.

Often when we tell Jesus to take the wheel of our lives it comes through the vehicle of suffering.

Suffering develops in us steadfastness. James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-8 ESV

What is steadfastness? What does steadfast mean?

  • It is a characteristic of a person who is not swerved from deliberate purpose and their loyalty to faith & dutiful devotion to God by even the greatest of trials and suffering.
  • It is a patient, enduring, sustaining
  • It implies a steady, unwavering course in love, allegiance, or conviction.
  • Some synonyms: faithful, devoted, ardent, passionate, dependable, unfaltering, unhesitating, trusty, determined, serious, avid, dyed-in-the-wool, solid, reliable, and constant.

This remind you of anyone? Yes! Jesus. His heart is steadfast to us. God showed his steadfast love and demonstrated it “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Christ is called the Suffering Servant, in fact many of your Bible translations have that as a heading in places. We see Christ as the Suffering Servant in the Servant Songs found in Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12.

This year I want to challenge you to a steadfast heart. To suffer a little by denying yourself–denying that extra 15 minutes of sleep or the mindless scrolling of social media accounts at lunch or the evening or fill in the blank–in order to read the Word and grow in knowledge and grace, to be transformed into his image and be more Christ-like i.e. applying the Word to your life. 

Paul himself says in Romans 12:1-3, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (bold type mine; ESV)

I’m leading a group of women this year in reading the Bible chronologically. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end including God’s story! Some of us are suffering in body. Some in mind. Some spiritually. Some emotionally and some all of the above. We need a biblical view of suffering for when we go through it and also to help and encourage others who are in the midst of fiery trials. Reading daily will be a living sacrifice. But it will also develop a steadfast heart.

Forward Reflection: Is my heart steadfast? How does my life reveal that truth? Am I daily disciplined in the Word, worship, and prayer? Am I growing in knowledge and grace? Can I tell the story of God if asked? Am I ready at any moment to lead someone to Jesus?

If you’d like to join the Facebook Online Community–Women Who ACT (Abide, Connect, Train in godliness) click the link. Answer the 3 simple questions and note “blog” when asked how you heard about the group. Invite some friends. Mature in the Lord with us.

Click Women who ACT. 

Until Next Forward Friday,

Jess

Forward Friday: From Rascal to Regardful.

When I was seventeen, I was a brat. There. I said it. My deepest, darkest secret. Okay, it’s not. But it is true. Most seventeen year olds are brats. They have it all figured out. Know everything. Hey, if you weren’t, I said most not all. 

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Joseph. He’s great to study for character growth (writers, did you hear that?). At seventeen he’s a spoiled brat. Oh, yes. He is.

Genesis 37:3-4 MSG: Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the child of his old age. And he made him an elaborately embroidered coat. When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him—they wouldn’t even speak to him.

He was daddy’s fave and Daddy made no bones about it. He made this amazing coat of prestige and honor and Joseph wore it proudly. Didn’t seem to mind the fact that it hurt his brothers deeply or that being the fave caused hatred in their hearts. 

These brothers couldn’t even speak peaceably to him. Now, I don’t know about you but when someone is unhappy with me, I know it. I can see it on their faces and feel it when I enter a room. That’s just someone unhappy! Not hatred.

But Jospeh didn’t care. He didn’t bother to see. Instead he chose to tell them his dream about how they’d bow to him. Yeah, that’s what you do when you’re hated. You lord a dream over them. Not once. But twice! Nice work, Jo.

And one day, Daddy sends Joseph out to check on his brothers. Why wasn’t he out there helping in the first place? Oh yeah, he’s spoiled. He’s a rascal. Dons the coat, oh yes, he does. Because that’s what you do when you’re about to approach your own brothers. Rub it in their faces that you’re loved most. I kinda feel bad for the brothers. 

While Joseph was in the distance, the brothers plotted to kill Joseph.

Not just give him the business, but murder him. They’ve murdered before…remember poor Dinah and the revenge on the entire town for the act of one.

But they end up selling him as a slave.

I wish we had time to pick all this apart. But we don’t. Joseph ends up a slave and then imprisoned and what we learn is that Joseph grows and matures over this period of time. Because how can a rascal like Jospeh rule a nation humbly? He can’t. Not unless he’s been humbled and molded into the kind of man God would need to rule and lead.

There are many glimpses of Joseph’s maturity and humbling process, but this one is one of my favorites. In Genesis 40, the chief butler (cup bearer) and the chief baker are thrown into the prison for offending the Pharaoh. Joseph is put in charge of them. Day in. Day out. 

Verse 3-7 MSG: “After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in the jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning. When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?”

The NKJV says, “He saw they were sad.” 

At seventeen, he was oblivious. He ignored the hateful glares, the snarled lips. The disdain in their words. Maybe he saw the looks of sadness when he wore that coat the first time. But he didn’t think to spare them the pain by not wearing it. By not having some kind of conversation with them or Jacob. 

But now.

Now, he’s seeing. “You’re sad. What’s wrong?” Not only does he see, but he speaks. He inquires. “Why are you upset?”

Joseph was now hoping for the future, but living in the present.

I wonder if he’d regarded his brothers’ countenances and inquired if maybe things would have been different. Maybe. Maybe God would have gotten him to Egypt to fulfill his destiny and God-given dreams another way. I don’t know.

I do know this: Joseph had been more preoccupied with being the favorite and his future dreams than he was about the present. And he missed A LOT! 

Our God-given dreams require planning and preparation on our part.  I had to actually write and do the work to be published. And I admit, that for a time I became so focused on the gift that I neglected the present. I wasn’t awake to the “now.” I wasn’t paying attention to what God might doing right then in me, through me. 

Maybe that’s you. Don’t be so consumed with the dreams and the future that you neglect what’s right in front of you.  Wake up! Wake up and be present in the moment. See the people around you. Notice the hurt, the pain. Notice you might need a conversation with someone you love. Humble yourself now! Don’t go through a pit and a prison to do it. 

Don’t miss the moments. 

Don’t wait dozens of years to wake up. 

Yes, God has dreams for you in the future. But He also has dreams for you to walk into today! 

Forward Challenge: Be awake today. Remove the apps from your phone. Step away from working toward your dream for one hour, two, a day and be present in the moment. Who looks sad and needs encouragement from you? 

Forward Scripture: “…Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.” Proverbs 8:34 MSG

Forward Prayer: God, who made the day, awake me to present in it and responsive to Your will as You start Your day’s work. Thank you for Your good plans that include me. Open my ears to hear You and my eyes to see You and where You are at work. Help me to take notice of those around me and recognize when they need a word of hope, of encouragement and give me ,through Your Holy Spirit, the words to say. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

What do you need to do today in order to be AWAKE and present?

Forward Friday: Refuse to Stay Dead

2018. I can’t count all the things I’d like to not see happen or live through in 2018 that I had to deal with in 2017. I’m sure you feel the same way. Maybe not. But probably.

This year, my one word is awake and Forward Fridays will be dedicated to what I’m studying, learning, and understanding about this word. I hope you’ll join me, learn something yourself and challenge yourself to move forward in this year, fully awake. And there will be some guest posts by some wonderful people. I think we can always learn from others’ experiences.

Today, I want to talk about a dead man. And more importantly the Man who raised him back to life.

Awake: to become aroused or active again (according to Merriam-Webster. ) It also means: alive.

Let’s unpack this amazing account. We won’t be able to touch every detail, but we will hit some highlights.

John 11.

I have it here for you in the MSG and NKJV. I’m going to use MSG to give it that one-two punch. 

The first thing we hear of is that a man, a friend of Jesus’s, was sick. Word gets around. But that’s not the only thing that Jesus heard when word was sent. “The one you love so very much is sick.” They weren’t just pals and fishing buddies. He loved him so very much. Like he loves you. Like he loves me. You’d think he’d be up on his feet, “Let’s go, people. I have to get to him.”

Isn’t that what we do when our loved ones are ill? We rush to their bedside, the hospital. We waste no time if it’s in our power to be there. It was in his power to be there sooner than when he got there.

But he waited two whole days! You ever feel like you need a miracle, help, provision, hope…fill in the blank and Jesus falls through–doesn’t show up and you know it’s in his power to do so? I have. 

Instead Jesus responds like this: “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”

Um…for those gathering around Lazarus, I’m sure they thought differently. I’m sure Lazarus thought differently. “I’m dying, here, Lord! I’m not gonna make it!” I can imagine Lazarus grabbing ahold of his sisters’ hands. “Go! Get Jesus.”

And they did. Because it was fatal! Wasn’t it? By human standards. 

Crickets.

But two days passed. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go back to Judea.” Now he wants to go. Now you want to show up? It’s too late now. The damage has been done. It’s final. Like we’ve buried this. It’s dead. We’re in the grieving stages. If you can’t show up when I ask you to the first time. Then why come at all? Ever had any of these thoughts? Questions? You could have done something. But you didn’t. You sat around ignoring our call for TWO DAYS! 

The disciples didn’t want him to go. “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?” You’ll die if you go back! They wanted to protect him over anything that might be done for Lazarus. Thomas the twin says (paraphrase): “Welp, let’s just go die with him then.” 

Opposition was in between Jesus and Lazarus. The Pharisees who wanted him dead. And death itself. But that didn’t stop him. Even if it felt too late to do a single thing.

Because to Jesus: “This sickness isn’t fatal…Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

“Then let him rest for crying out loud!” they said (paraphrase). Sleeping it off is the best medicine. Even back then, I guess.

Then Jesus got literal. “Lazarus died.” 

Oooh. Well…

“And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

New grounds: An area of knowledge or subject of discussion or thought. Factors forming a basis for action or justification for a belief.

It was time for them to see something new. To see a foreshadowing of what was soon to come so they could believe when it happened.

So, they went.

Four. Days. Dead. 

Jesus meets Martha and they have a conversation.

Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life…”

What do you need resurrected? Brought back to life? A marriage? A family restoration? Hope? Dreams? Promises? Health? Joy? Peace? Fill in the blank. What’s been dead and buried for so long that you’ve given up on ever believing Jesus can bring it back? Did you cry out and heard crickets? Saw nothing? Has your faith been buried in a tomb? 

Your sickness (loss of hope, faith, dreams, marriage…you name it) isn’t fatal to Jesus! 

The RIGHT NOW MOMENT for Jesus isn’t always the RIGHT NOW moment for us. RIGHT NOW for Jesus might mean decades later for you. Two days later. Four months. Six years… Or it could mean RIGHT NOW THIS MOMENT. Right now, he can bring back your hope, dead faith, joy…RIGHT NOW! THIS MOMENT! 

Move that stone. Oh, but the stench! EEK.

Move. That. Stone.

“Lazarus, you come out!” Jesus called.

There might have been some awkward tension as onlookers passed glances amongst each other. Some anticipation. Hope. But a lot of awkward glances, I’d think.

And then…a rustling. A scooting along the dirt.

Bound head to toe and face covered, Lazarus the mummy hobbled out like a bad game of Marco Polo. Shuffling toward the sounds outside because the poor dead-now-alive guy couldn’t see! He may have knocked a shoulder, stubbed a toe. He may have oomphed and grr’d his way out. 

But he came out into the light!

Alive. Resurrected.

But bound.

Jesus brought him to life. But he called on others to care for Lazarus in the aftermath, the follow up. “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

A gift! 

I love that phrase: let him loose. Not just to unbind him, but to give him freedom with no limits! Ever used that verbiage? I’d like to let Joanna Gaines loose on my house. 

Let a bound man who become free loose on the world and see what happens! Let a dead man who has been brought back to life loose on the world…see what happens!

Many that were there watching who didn’t believe, believed! In fact, the Word says, “That was a turnaround for many…”

When God brings something dead back to life, maybe YOU yourself, it can be a turnaround for many. Have you been lifeless and dead due to bitterness, tragedy, hurt? Have you given up on God, on life, on love? God can and will breathe new life into you. Ask him to call you out of the dead, musty tomb to live again. It will glorify Jesus. It will be the turnaround for many.

Awoken people turned loose…they set the world on fire with the love and passion of an all-consuming God.

What needs woken up in you? I’d love to pray for you.

Forward Challenge: Take a notebook, your bible, and a pen. Get alone with God and ask him to reveal areas in your life that need woken back up to life. Write them down and ask God to resurrect them.

Forward Scripture: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.” John 11:11 MSG

Forward Prayer: Jesus, I need you to wake up dead areas of life. Breathe into me new ___________. Thank you for coming for me. Thank you that even when I think you’ve dropped the ball, you never have. You never ignore me. Never fail me. Your timing is always the right timing and nothing is dead to you. For those loved ones, I can’t bring back, revive in me joy and hope and restore my heart, make me whole. Let my life glorify you and let it be the turnaround for others. And Lord, let me always be mindful of your work and care for those you’re bringing to life. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Forward Friday: One Word 2018

December has been a whirlwind, y’all! A good whirlwind, though. I spent less time on social media and more time with friends and family face-to-face. How about you? In fact, lately, I’ve been thinking about the time I spend. Time on social media. Time with my laptop. Time with family. Friends. Time with Jesus. 

Some days I feel the quantity but not the quality. 

I’ve been praying a lot about what God might have me place my focus on this year. It’s going to be another whirlwind–it’s true that the older you become, the faster time seems to pass. I have three books and one (maybe two) novellas releasing this new year. My daughter will be home for one summer before she truly will live somewhere else. My son is entering high school. Things are stirring in other personal areas, in my church. So, Lord, what should my focus be?

I learned several years ago, that resolutions don’t work for me. I give up. Of course, I set goals. I think it’s important to do that. But the ONE WORD or PHRASE for the year keeps me focused.

These past few months, the Lord has really pressed a word on my heart. It whispers through my lips in prayer. A friend ordered me a book and journal with the word and topic for Christmas, not knowing this word has been burning through me. 

AWAKE. I have to admit there are areas where I’ve been asleep, spiritually sluggish. Exhausted to the point of not being able to rouse myself. And the Lord in His tenderness has brought this to my attention and given me a good shake.

What exactly does AWAKE mean? What will this look like in my life? 

I want to be awake mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. I want to SEE all that God has for me and be growing daily. I want to heed what the Lord says and be on guard for distraction and temptation so I can bypass it! I want to be observant like Joseph when he noticed the countenance of the butler and the baker and saw they were upset (you know at one time he wouldn’t have noticed that). 

I want to be AWAKENED. Breathing in God and breathing Him out. 

So each week I’m going to unpack some verses that will help us all awaken, help us all grow and meditate on His word and what it means. I hope you’ll join me, share with your friends, and this year, be awake with me! 

What say you? Are you in?

Forward Challenge: Be awake in all things. Be present. Be observant for what God is doing. Be heedful and obey. 

Forward Scripture: “The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up…—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” 1 Kings 19:7 MSG

Forward Prayer: Awaken us, Lord. In every area where we’ve been dozing or full-on snoozing. Waken us to Your heartbeat. Your calling. Your Word. Breathe into us and make us live again. No more dry bones. Only life and life more abundantly, in Jesus name. Amen.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution, goal, one word or phrase, or a particular scripture for the new year? I’d love to hear it. 

Happy New Year, Friends!

Forward Friday: Sheltered From Fear

The morning was overcast, but beautiful. The leaves were golden, crimson, burnt orange. Glorious. The weather was crisp but not cold and I spent the better part of it outside with my earbud in and worship music playing. Intimate worship–my favorite. Just me, the Creator of heaven and earth and ground to eat up as I walked and prayed and praised.

It started to rain (just a sprinkle but it was cold!) and I came inside and opened the curtains to our glass doors so I could view the pond and woods. One of the random cats in our neighborhood likes to roam around that pond, fishing I guess. Who knows! As long as he eats things I don’t want in my house, I’m happy and he can hang out as long as he’d like.

I was listening to Dara McLean’s song:  Find Rest  (so powerful, give it a listen!)  

The cat was strolling the bank, pausing, dipping his paw into the water then moseying on. I was worshiping inside. 

And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the cat spring into action and high-tailed it across the property. So. Fast. 

Something had startled him, frightened him. Threatened him–could have been a snake! He bolted.

That blur of white beelined it straight into our barn. At first, I thought maybe he was sick of getting wet. But the way he ran–the way it hit him out of nowhere…couldn’t be. It was barely sprinkling at this point.

He was afraid of something.

Ugly Cat (mean name but I can’t help it. He’s not an attractive cat!) raced right into the barn. But he never would have found shelter from his fears if the doors hadn’t been open. But they were.  

He found safety inside.

You and I have fears. Sometimes they hit us out of nowhere. Sometimes we see them creeping up on us day by day. Minute by minute.

It’s a loved one making choices that are going to affect them in horrific ways.

It’s the disturbing news.

The bad report from the doctor.

It’s a threat.

Circumstances.

Finances.

Loss of insurance.

Loneliness.

You fill in the blank.

But like that cat, we can run to safety. We can find shelter in the arms of our God. They are always open to us. Always a safe place to run. Always trustworthy.

Oh, but we run in so many other directions, don’t we? We run aimlessly which is exhausting, especially if we sprint. We run to things we call “guilty pleasures” and to comforts like food, shopping, entertainment etc…good things. Bad things. Doesn’t matter. We will not find rest. We will not find peace. We will not find joy unless we’re running to the LORD. Into His arms. Into His grace. Into His unfailing love. 

So many things ruin us. Let us be ruined for better, not worse. Let us be ruined for any useless thing because it’s in HIs shelter where we’re blessed, changed, made new. It’s in His shelter we find our identity. Our passion. Our purpose. You’ll find it nowhere else, friend. 

Let’s run to Him today, and not go back. 

Where do you run when you feel afraid? 

Forward Challenge: Whatever has you anxious, afraid, nervous–take it to the powerful arms of God today. Lay them at His feet. Let Him crush them for you today. There is nowhere safer to run than to His shelter.

Forward Prayer: Lord, thank you that we can run to Your loving arms when we’re afraid, nervous, insecure, concerned or even when everything is okay. They are always open under any circumstance. Today, Lord, show us somehow, some way how much You love us and want to secure us in Your arms. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Forward Scripture:  

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

Forward Friday: Flushing Fear

 

Fear and anxiety go hand in hand. We all have them. 

My son has a few “phobias.” He’s looked them up on the phobia website, so this past Sunday when our pastor preached on fear and brought up this website, he looked at me with a grin. But then he went on to talk about fear not being from God. My son grew quiet. We’ve talked about his fears and anxiety often. I’ve encouraged him to pray about them, through them.

God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Fear is paralyzing. Fear keeps us from moving forward. 

I had quite a bit of fear when I began writing. What if this doesn’t get published? What if I fail? What if I get laughed out of a room, a conference, a pitch session? Every “what if” was one of failure. God had to remind me: What if I succeed? What if I’m greeted into the industry with a smile and handshake or hug? What if these stories are published? What ifs don’t have to be scary. They just typically are. Because fear tends to dominate.

David told Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:20-21(MSG)“Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch. He’s at your side until every last detail is completed for conducting the worship of God.”

Whatever you face today, whatever fear is staring you down, paralyzing you, pushing you back from being obedient to God in whatever He’s asked you to do, know that he won’t walk off and leave you alone. He will finish what He started in you and bring it to completion.

“Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.” John 19:30 MSG. You may know the verse said like this: It is finished. Jesus hung there and stuck it all out for you and for me. 

Until it was finished.

Not a second sooner.

If He would go to those lengths to nail your fears and anxiety to the cross, why would He leave you now?

Too many people walk out on us, leaving us ripped up and scarred.

Jesus was scarred just to stay with us. To the very end.

I know my son was listening intently to that sermon on fear. He heard how God wants us to be like Gideon . To believe God sees us differently. He called Gideon a mighty warrior. My son’s first and middle name together mean: warrior/arrows. In God’s eyes he’s not a boy riddled with anxiety and fears. He’s fierce. A warrior. 

But my little warrior carries a fidget cube with him. It’s not because he’s antsy. It soothes his anxiety. He keeps it in his pocket and rolls the buttons around. His sister gave it to him to have at school. At the end of service, he asked me if he could go to the bathroom and I could tell he legit had to go, so I told him to go on.

When he came back he had this grin on his face. 

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well…I dropped my fidget cube in the toilet.”

I snickered of course. “Did you flush it?”

“No, I used a little piece of toilet paper and got it out, then washed it really good.”

Gross. Gross. Gross.

But the thought hit me Monday morning while talking with a friend on Voxer.  That fidget cube represents his fears and anxieties. Oh that he would flush the fear and not try to fish it out of the toilet.

Oh that I would flush my fears down the toilet and walk out of the bathroom trusting more in God and how He sees me. Instead, I’ve picked those fears out of the toilet when God was nudging me to flush the away. l’ve picked back old anxieties instead of letting them go down the drain.

My prayer is that my son will be able to dump the fidget cube. My prayer is that you and I will be able to dump our “fidget cubes” too.

Forward Challenge: Put God’s Word to your fear today. Out loud. You are an overcome. A warrior. A child of God. Whatever He’s called you to do, or to not do, you can. Don’t let fear hold you back!

Forward Prayer: Lord, you have not given us a spirit of fear. We know that tucked safely in Your arms we are sheltered. We can do all that You have asked us to do. We can give up all that you have asked us to give up from unhealthy habits to unhealthy relationships. Every weight and sin that hold us back and down, we can toss aside and lay at Your scarred feet. Give us the faith to believe. The strength to act. And the courage to boldly face those things we have feared. No longer in bondage to fear, we are free in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Forward Scripture: 

*I am not talking about clinical anxiety that requires medication. Some fear and anxiety (PTSD) need to be dealt with through professional help (and of course prayer). 

What about you? Do you have some fears you know you need to flush down the toilet instead of fishing them out, “cleaning them off” and pocketing them again?

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Forward Friday: Serving Family

A couple of Sundays ago, one of our pastors, Kevin Hauman, made a statement when talking about families that struck a chord in me. He said, “We have to serve our families.” Sounds simple and common sense, but I have to admit, I never really equated what I do at home as serving. Not really. I cook, clean, keep laundry (except my man’s because he likes to do his own and I don’t argue ;)) up and groceries bought etc…It’s just, you know, what I do as mom. Not that my husband doesn’t do any of these things, he does them often and my kids help out. But for the most part, I do these things. I do them without much thought. It is a labor of love but I haven’t thought of it as that.

Late that Sunday night after the sermon, my husband had a terrible toothache and his stirring with pain woke me. A quiet whisper entered my mind, “He needs an ice pack.” So I thought, “Great! I’ll tell him to go get one!” And Kevin’s words came back to me. “Serve your family.” The Lord spoke to my heart. “You go get him one.”

Was I tired? Yes. Would I have to go all the way downstairs? Yes. Would I probably be wide awake the rest of the night? Probably. But He was right. And so I did. I went downstairs and came back up and brought him an ice pack which helped! Did I lay awake awhile? Yes. But it felt good to serve him out of love. To do that simple task.

Like Mother Teresa said. It’s not how much we do, but how much love is behind it.

What are some simple things you do for your family that you don’t have to, but want to in order to show them how much you love them and want to serve them?

Forward Challenge: Do one thing for each of your immediate family members today that is small, but served with a lot of love. Note how it makes them feel and how it made you feel!

Forward Prayer: Lord, it’s easy to serve our family when it’s things we enjoy doing, but sometimes cooking one more meal, dropping off forgotten books when we are already running late for meetings, or cleaning gooey gum off shoes doesn’t feel loving. Help us to do it anyway and to love like You would. Fill us with overwhelming love and let it shine through our actions.

Forward Scripture: 

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