What If…

What if we loved, truly loved.

Not as the songs go or as the movies depict neither as one’s feelings dictate or one’s self perceives.

But what if we loved as defined by Love Himself.

What if we died to ourselves for the glory of God and the joy of another.

What if we encouraged one another and built each other up.

What if our thoughts and words weren’t primarily for ourselves but were for the delight of the Father and the good of another.

What if we spoke the truth to one another not to shame but to mutually grow in grace and transformation.

What if we hid nothing but allowed another to weep with us when we weep or stumble and to rejoice with us in joy and success.

What if we knew one another fully and loved without hindrance.

What if we prayerfully waged war for another, against their hard places and biggest temptations, against our interactions, and against the world.

What if we took no pleasure in evil but rejoiced in the truth.

What if we bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, endured all things.

What if we loved, truly loved.

Love defined.

Love expressed.

“We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7


We want to be known…and loved.

Yet, we fear being known.

We hide from God and from those we love, fearful that if they knew us fully, their love would grow less; unaware that when we allow someone completely, even to our most vulnerable places, comfort is found for love is stronger than any hard place and trust is increased.

When we hide, trust is eroded and it conveys to the other person that we don’t trust them enough to allow them into either our wounded places or our deepest battles.

We think we are not known.

Yet, it is often true that those who love us most, know us better than we think…and still love without condition.

We often miss the joy of being fully known and fully loved because we functionally believe the whispers of the enemy of our souls more than God. He wants to rob us of truth and relationship; God is Truth and wants us to live in relationship with Him and others in light of that Truth.

And, all the more, there is One who knows us fully and loves us without fail.

The Lord will discipline those He loves, but He will not reject His children.

He will not allow us to hide or rationalize our self-loving choices that are contrary to His character and His commands.

He will expose us through conviction and sometimes to others, never to bring shame but to lead us to repentance, restoration, and so, steadfastness and true joy.

That is the place where we are confronted.

That is the place of refuge.

That is the place where we are to lay down our self-love and are loved well by the Father so we can learn to love Him more deeply and others as well.

That is the place where we are equipped to stand and find freedom, true satisfaction, and delight.

That is the place we are known and well-loved!


I’ll never be enough, and that’s good.

God is.

I am all God created and where I am not, in the things that matter, He refines.

Where I am not, He equips.

Where I am not, I rest in His power to recreate me.

Where I am not, I am called to intentionally “work out my salvation with fear and trembling” by His power.

Not for my glory. For His.

Not for my acclamation.  For His.

Not for the expectations of others. For His.

I am not called to blend in but to stand out.

If my actions and words in this life do not reflect a life redeemed, both privately and publicly, if they do not glorify Him, if they are not in line with His revealed will – they are selfish rebellion, and I must reject them. 

As we walk, stand, and sit in the presence of others, we are changed.

Are we changed more and more into His likeness or more and more into the likeness of those playing Christianity or rejecting it completely?

Are we changed more and more for His glory or for the selfish desires of our hearts?

The latter is more insidious because it deceives us into thinking that those rejecting God are okay and so are we.

We are not enough.

But we are called to strive, strain, press on in the power of the Holy Spirit to win the prize, to be restored, to be transformed…to more and more be set apart.

And that is more than good because…He is enough.

And always will be.

Dare to Hope for Joy Revisited

Joy to the world!

Christmas is glorious!

And Christmas is hard!

The babe in the manger would one day be whipped and tortured for declaring the Truth of Who He is, the Word made flesh!

The babe in the manger would one day hang on the cross, bearing the guilt of sin He did not, nor could not, commit.

The babe in the manger would one day die.

In those moments, there was no joy.

And yet…

“…for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2)

He did that for those who would one day call Him Savior and Lord, who would one day submit their hearts and live in relationship with Him!

In the moment, there was no joy.

And yet…

The babe in the manger did not stay buried.

The babe in the manger defeated death, and He was resurrected to life!

The babe in the manger was God Himself, born to die and to live again!

The babe in the manger reigns, and He is coming again!

The weary world rejoices.

Our world is weary.

Perhaps your world is particularly so.

Dare to take a breath, and call on Jesus for the next one.

Dare to pause, and let the tears fall.

Dare to let the Father hold your breaking heart.

Dare to be still in the midst of the unknown and the “what next.”

Dare to trust Jehovah Shalom, our God who is peace.

Dare to press into the One who knows, who has always known.

Rest at the manger, and look to the cross.

Lean into the sure Hope…

For the joy set before you is found in the babe in the manger, our Savior.

And you are not alone.



A Well-Watered Life

“Oh, to have one’s soul under heavenly cultivation; no longer a wilderness but a garden of the Lord! Enclosed from the waste, walled around by grace, planted by instruction, visited by love, weeded by heavenly discipline, and guarded by divine power, one’s favored soul is prepared to yield fruit unto the Lord.” Charles Spurgeon

We are well-watered and walk securely by the truth and wisdom of God’s Word, the whole counsel of the Bible not our emotions.

We love well as we know Him more and recognize that it is His love that compels us to live and speak in a way that is often misunderstood by those who don’t know Him.

But He is personal and able to be known by those who seek Him on His terms not their own; by those who humble themselves under His loving conviction and the free offer of His sweet redemption through faith by the grace of Jesus Christ.

“Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers!” Psalm 1

Joy Through Tears

Choosing joy through tears is hard.

But choosing joy through tears is what comes of turning to the God from whom true joy is derived.

We may derive happiness from people.

But people will disappoint us, wound us at times.

We may derive some level of satisfaction from experiences.

But experiences are temporary.

We may derive some fulfillment from a success.

But we will always be looking for the next achievement.

And when tears come from the words or actions of another,

When our experiences are few or not what we would want,

When our successes feel mundane,

When the enemy of our souls tempts us to feel defeated,

Will we run to broken cisterns?

Will we choose anything and everything over His ways, His joy, His satisfaction?

Will we seek Him, intentionally redirecting our thoughts and concerns, asking for a thankful heart that promotes truth and peace, regardless?

Will we distract ourselves with thoughts and choices that leave us restless?

And when we find ourselves in that place where joy is seemingly elusive,

Will we redirect our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus?

Will we remember that, for those in Christ, the hard things can and will be redeemed for His glory and our good?

Will we set our minds on things above not on earthly things even through what hurts or doesn’t satisfy?

Will we quiet the noise, run from the distractions, and rest in His grace?

Times of refreshing come from repentance and that rest.

Times of being still come from submitting hurts and difficult circumstances to His sovereign hand.

May we be refreshed and still…even as we weep!

“Oh Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to the sound of my cry for help…let all who take refuge in You be glad. Let them ever sing for joy…” (Psalm 5:1-2, 11)

A Life Redeemed

My story…and, if you are in Christ, your story as well.

Different places and circumstances and yet…

Laughter and tears.

Embraced and pushed away.

Rebellion followed by repentance.

Restoration and rest.

Falling down and getting up.

Hurt but not defeated.

Crushed but not destroyed.

Losing sight and resetting my gaze.

No longer I but Christ in me.

Delight and desiring more of Him.

The Father’s justice, mercy, and love.

The Son’s sacrifice for my salvation, now interceding for me.

The Holy Spirit convicting and enabling me to see through the lens of redemption.

I am forgiven.

I am held.

I am His.

My story because of His story.

A tree planted by streams of living water; He has watered, He waters still.

A heart after the God who allows me to run in freedom as I learn to walk in the delight of His commands.

Weeping is not gone this side of eternity, but joy comes in the morning…always!

A lifetime of gladness and sorrow, always filtered through the hands of the God who has drawn me to Himself and who renews and establishes me in times of both.

His Word is my authority and my sure hope.

His presence is my pleasure!

Oh, that I would know Him more in Spirit and in Truth and that my story may more faithfully reflect His story!

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.” John 20:31

“I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ!” Philippians 1:6

“In the morning, O LORD, You hear my voice; at daybreak I lay my plea before You and wait in expectation!” Psalms 5:3

Run in Freedom – Forgive

Forgiveness is a choice.

We must choose to forgive.

If we wait for someone to apologize to us, it may never happen.

If we wait for our feelings to lead us to it, it’s not going to happen.

Jesus didn’t say, “Forgive when your heart is healed, when you are no longer hurt or angry.” No, He said, “Forgive as I have forgiven you.” (Mark 11:25)

“Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

I daresay, in light of all of Scripture, persecution could easily include those who harm us physically or emotionally and, yet, Jesus tells us to love them, pray for them, forgive them. That might even include those in our families or circle of friends and acquaintances.

On the cross, He asked God the Father to forgive those who were putting Him to death. Yes, as God the Son He had the power to come down from the cross, but He submitted to the Father and allowed the wickedness of men’s hearts to be the avenue by which He paid the penalty for my sin, for yours. And still He said of those who were the instruments of His wounds, “Father, forgive them.”

In some instances, forgiveness comes easy.

In other circumstances, forgiveness is hard, and some would say, impossible.

But nothing that is in line with His character and will is impossible with God and, as in all things, if He calls us to it, He equips us with the grace needed; but we have to act on it, even if trembling as we go.

We may need to do it alone, laid bare before the Lord or we may need another to walk with us in the journey, but it must be a journey with the destination of forgiveness at its end.

Sometimes that forgiveness will come at a great cost to us as we have to let go and not hold the other person in the prison in which we believe we have entrapped them. 

I love the way Elisabeth Elliot describes it as a sacrifice, an offering.

“Forgiveness is a sacrifice – when you have to offer forgiveness to someone else, you are letting go of your right to an apology; letting go of your right to be right; letting go of the possible pleasure you might have if that person came to you and said, ‘You were right, and I was wrong.’ You are letting go of the entire thing – the hurt, the consequences, and everything else.  It is self-abandonment. That is the thing that simplifies our lives. And the result of that sacrifice is always joy.”

The reality is: forgiveness frees us; unforgiveness leads to bitterness and a prison of our own making that enslaves us far more than it hurts the other.

Sadly, many have deep wounds and feel the weight of the burden from them, assuming they will never heal.  But, too often, we are seeking to be free, to be whole without forgiveness and apart from that, we never will be fully unbound, released.

Brokenness is a condition of the heart brought on by sin – either that which has been perpetrated against us by another or by our own sin, and sometimes a combination of the two.  Jesus came to forgive sinners like me and like you, to free us from the life of self-rule that leads to those broken conditions, to release the captives – we don’t have to stay in the place of imprisonment to an unforgiving spirit.

Our forgiveness of another frees us and, as it does so, it begins to heal and transform us.  As Michael Card sings, “It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find in the things we leave behind.”

It does not mean that we will necessarily forget the offense, but, over time, we can remember it less often and with less pain in the memory. Though it may be part of our journey, it does not have to rob us of joy for the duration. 

God’s mercy is the basis for Him making a way to Himself for us, for His forgiveness of our own sinful hearts through Jesus.  Likewise, as we forgive another, we are reflecting the very character of God: mercy. We are living out the gift we have been given, and we may have opportunity to share the hope we have in Christ, the “why” we are able to forgive, leading others to a saving relationship with the Living God for the here and now and for eternity.

A sin against us does not have to define us, and when we forgive, we declare, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that it will not.

Instead, we can be defined by the love and grace of God to us, once rebels against the God who is Holy, separate, wholly Infinite because of His mercy.  He is not a better version of us, He is completely “other than us,” as R.C. Sproul says.  But, as we grow in grace and as we respond to sins against us, even the most grievous of offenses and the deepest of wounds, with forgiveness, we grow more into the likeness of His Son.

I’ve seen the beauty of a life softened and unchained simply by forgiving another.

I’ve seen the power of a life changed by the forgiveness of another, leading to humility and reconciliation with God and others.

But sadly, I’ve also seen others trapped by unforgiveness that has left them unsteady in their emotions or perpetually angry; they have allowed a root of bitterness to grow and it has led to further wounding themselves and others around them.

Often, either consciously or subconsciously, we don’t want the other person to be free, so we hold on to that unforgiveness like a security blanket.  But it neither brings security nor comfort; it perpetuates and even increases the wounds. If we will not pray for the person who has sinned against us, we continue to be bound. If we will not lay it down and release them, we will never free.

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

God repeatedly tells us to forgive; it isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command. Unforgiveness does not remain between just two people or even between two groups of people; it is first of all a transgression against God and then it causes bitterness and defiles many. It corrupts, contaminates, and taints the lives of all those who are in our sphere of influence to one degree or another.

But forgiveness does just the opposite. It frees, purifies, sanctifies; it honors God and sets us on a path for healing and to experience joy unexplained in human terms but fully evident as a work of the Spirit of God.

It allows us to pray “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation; and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12) and we are privileged to see Him do just that.

Sometimes we think that if we let go of unforgiveness, we will lose a piece of ourselves, we will lose some control over another person; that can be frightening for some.  But it is only in forgiveness that we can find true freedom in Christ, only in obedience to the One Who is mercy and grace that we are not bound to ourselves but to the God who created us, to the Savior who died to redeem us, to the Holy Spirit who enables us to walk securely in that freedom.

We choose forgiveness out of faithfulness to God, recognizing that He commands us to forgive and that “His commands are not burdensome.” (I John 5:3)

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have broadened my understanding. (You enlarge my heart)!” Psalm 119:32, NIV (ESV)

I cannot run in freedom if I am bound by bitterness and unforgiveness.

I cannot run in freedom if my feelings dictate my actions.

Feelings follow faithfulness.

Choose faithfulness this day.

Choose forgiveness.

“Forgiveness can do much for one; forgiveness can do very much indeed.”

His Tender Mercies: Exposing to Heal – A Return

Not too long ago, my daughter and I stripped some furniture of its old tired paint, sanding it down and getting below the surface.  It was a slow process, scraping and peeling away layers built up over time.  But once done, the wood beneath was exposed and the process of transforming a worn-out piece of furniture into a fresh, new creation was underway.  The end result was beautiful!

Our hearts and lives are sometimes like that.  While there are various experiences, choices, and decisions that create beauty, richness, and strength that increase with time, there are also those that create layer upon layer of pain, weariness, and self-focused striving and choices that wear upon our souls.  What is really needed is a tearing away, stripping down to the core to restore the loveliness of life and the strong beauty found in one grounded in Christ and living according to His will not our own.

When, in the course of making decisions in our lives, we base them on our deceitful hearts, choosing what “seems right” to us and what we allow ourselves to believe will enhance us and fulfill the longings we crave, we begin to form layers that detract from delight.  Rather than enrich and develop the God designed beauty for our lives, the consequences will start to bleed out and, that which we found so attractive in the beginning, will lead to lives faded, cracked, chipped, and in dire need of restoration.

Our choices have also, at times, led to an infection of our souls leaving us drained and afraid.  Continuing in the same pattern with an occasional cessation is like putting a band aid on an injury that is highly infected and needs serious attention, even at times, a cutting away.  At those times, there is much pain in opening those wounds and allowing the contamination to seep out so healing can begin; but to get to the root so that our souls and relationships can be restored, sometimes pain is a necessary part of the heart repair.

So, too, there are times the Lord must bring pain to our lives in order to open our eyes to the truth of what our choices are doing to us and to those around us.  Out of His great love for His children, He chips away at our layers and even, at times, must lance the destructive contagion warring on our hearts.  It is not comfortable and we can sometimes assume that it is an external force causing our pain rather than the loving hand of the Father disciplining and calling us to return.

It is His grace – so rich and so full, so much more than we often allow to penetrate our deepest sins and injuries. Yes, it is the gift undeserved freeing us from the penalty of sin, paid for by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and by His resurrection, defeating ultimate and eternal death!

But, if we stop there, we miss out on so much.  It is as if we open a gift bag, take out the first thing we see, and never look below the paper to the myriad of treasures beneath.

His grace “exposes us” and allows us to see the depth of need so we can truly understand the great gift we, who are in Christ, have received.  But it goes beyond a mere exchange of guilt to empowering us and freeing us, with the “same power that raised Jesus from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-20, Romans 8:11-14), to live new lives, to give “hope and courage,” to walk not according to our old sin-layered desires but according to the will and heart of God where true joy and true freedom are found.

Hidden sin gains power over our soul in darkness, but it is not benign. It does far more damage than we dare to believe for we begin to think deeds done in secret have no consequences.

The enemy of our souls wants to keep our “layers” out of the light of truth and transparency; to make us fear that if we are “known” we will not be loved.  That same enemy, the “roaring lion (who is) ready to devour” (I Peter 5:8), tells us that we either can’t or don’t need to change, that we are able to “handle” our rebellion against God’s design. And he perverts grace by telling us that, because of it, we are free to choose and do as we please without consequences. 

He seeks to convince us that we are free to step outside God’s protective boundaries, also known as His wisdom and His commands.  It is the same lie spoken long ago in the garden; the lie that says we can “be like God” and lures us to question without seeking the true answer to: “Did God really say…?”

But, if we grab hold of His grace, we can know what God has spoken! And if we trust God through Christ, who knows us intimately and has called us by name, we realize that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and we have the Truth found by abiding in Him and in His Word alone!  Not long before His time on earth was done, Jesus asked the Father to “Sanctify them (that would include His redeemed children today) by the Truth; Your Word is truth.”  (John 17:17)  His Word is part of His grace to us –  His gift so that we can know!

For the follower of Christ to say we are unable to break free, to exercise self-control, to act apart from our sin nature is to call God a liar and deny the power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For, if He has set commands before us for His praise, the good of those we love, and our own good, then He has also provided all we need to increasingly live them out faithfully including taking steps towards mutual accountability.

We may choose to ignore it or distort it to fit our purposes or desires, but if we are a child of God, His Spirit will not allow us to stay layered in darkness.  By His grace, He will confront us, making us restless and uncomfortable in order to bring light into the dark places, causing us to relinquish control and follow His design. If necessary, He may remove something that blocks our view of Him and of His truth. He delights to see His children, even if we come limping home; He runs to us and embraces us as we are, in humility setting our brokenness before Him.

But, if we choose to ignore His promptings or seek to stay in the shadows of our choices, out of His great love for us, He may allow further pain or expose us, causing another to see our need for change and repentance, prompting them to “speak the truth in love” for the purpose of restoration.  Whatever it takes to peel away the layers of sin that are hiding the magnificence of His design for us, He will do.  He loves us that much.  He desires an undivided heart and relationship with Him and He will accomplish it!

His pursuit is His tender mercy!  His open arms to receive us as we are are also His strong hands that don’t intend to leave us in “it.”  His intent is to re-establish our footsteps and again set us on the course He designed for us, that we might boldly and securely live out and reflect Him not only in our outward lives that people see but in the secret places of our hearts, in the hidden places where we have, at times, compromised truth.  It is for His glory and our greatest joy!

“God is working on something deep, necessary, and eternal.  If he was not working on this, He would not be faithful to His promises to you…Because He loves you, He will willingly interrupt or compromise your momentary happiness in order to accomplish one more step in the process of rescue and transformation, which He is unshakably committed to.”  (Paul David Tripp)

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.”  Job 5:17-18

God’s grace heals relationships as well; it teaches us and equips us to love and forgive and it allows us to receive that same love and forgiveness.  Grace enables us to know and be known so that in this journey we travel – one sinner among a world of sinners – we can give that healing and transforming grace.  We can forgive where others have wounded us, intentionally or unintentionally, because we know we have been forgiven much by the Savior.  We can speak into lives that are being crushed by the deceitfulness of sin and unwise choices because we know His grace is more than able to heal, bringing much needed transformation and the peace that is so deeply desired because we have been lifted up by that grace!

And, even more deeply, in marriage,  where two sinners have chosen to live as one both in body and soul, by grace we can each remove the protective veil over our hearts and lives and the layers that at times obscure transparency, allowing the very depth of who we are and what we do to be seen.  In God’s grace and in humble, growing reliance on His control, we can be vulnerable with one another, knowing we will still be loved and, through Him, we will walk together and grow in the strength and unity of that grace that is still in the process of forgiving, healing, and transforming us as individuals and as a couple into the likeness of Himself.  We grow in our delight of each other as we grow in our delight of His grace!

We can bend our knee.  We can lay down our layers unafraid and unashamed because His grace is far more amazing than we realize and exceedingly more powerful than we can imagine! 

His tender mercies expose us so that His love can transform us and the joy that comes from that transparent fresh start will be delightfully palpable!

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that becomes visible is light.  This is why it is said:“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:13,14

“Grace will expose things you want to deny but won’t leave you in despair, filling you with new found hope and courage.  When we hide and deny our sin, we’re not defending the gospel. No, we’re contradicting its central message. Our sin and weakness don’t mock the message of the gospel. No, they confirm the necessity of the gospel….Grace will require you to face your wrongs but won’t leave you condemned, granting you complete forgiveness; complete and eternal forgiveness… Grace will show you what a mess you are, then clean up your mess with divine, transforming power.”  (Paul David Tripp)

This is the Day

“This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

I sing this song from Psalm 118:24 in my head (or with the littles out loud) most every day. Some days it rings out with a smile, and I feel it with every part of me. Other days I have to sing it, let it seep into my weary soul, and change my perspective. But I sing it, and, in so doing, remind myself (and the littles) of what is true and unchanging.

There are months/times of the year with which I wrestle for various reasons. The first two months of every year is the time when the sun shines less, the temperatures are cold, some memories are hard and some are good, and it is just harder to jump out of bed in the dark. 

I love both the light and the warmth of the sun.

I love the sweeter memories of this time of year and have to ask the Lord to redeem the emotions surrounding the harder ones.

I love the warm days after the cold ones.

I love a good thunderstorm and the sound of rain coming down yet the days upon days of cold rain bring a dreariness that tends to weigh heavy.

But what I know, regardless of what I feel (in the temps and in my soul) is that: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness O Lord.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

It is these truths that remind my heart and mind, that renew my strength.

It is these truths that reset my gaze on my Savior!

There is no day – winter or summer, sun or no sun, cold or warm – that the Lord has not made. 

There is no day that the Lord’s steadfast love will cease, that His mercies will come to an end.

There is no day over which the Lord of the universe is not sovereign; indeed He sees and knows what each of our days will hold and has known long before we were even a thought in our parents’ minds.

Every morning of my life, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the emotions that stir my soul, God is faithful.  God is steadfast.  God is mighty. 

And, because of His Son, Jesus, and the redemption I have through Him, not because of anything good in me, I can rest.  I can rejoice.  I can be glad in this day and every day to come!

This is the day the Lord has made – today it is cold and rainy; tomorrow the sun may shine.

But, whatever tomorrow holds, God’s mercies are new every morning; His faithfulness never changes. He never changes.

This is the truth on which I stand even when I feel weak.

I will rejoice and be glad in that!

New Year

Every 365 days, other than a leap year, we welcome in a new year with great fanfare and hope!

We long for the “new” of another year – for new mercies, new hearts, new circumstances!

The truth is, we live day to day, continuously and, each one of us has the opportunity to live in the “new” every day; for those who, have received by faith the finished work of Jesus, not just for the here and now but also for eternity.

In Christ…

We serve the God of “new” for His mercies are new every morning; great is HIS faithfulness. *

We are redeemed by the One who is making all things new! **

We can rejoice as we, by faith, put our hope fully in Him because “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new…anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person.” ***

We are carried by the One who knows the beginning from the end, who will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus even when we cannot see and even when our emotions threaten to undo us as we set our eyes on what is true not on what is passing as truth.

So, if you started the year with all the focus on making new choices and new beginnings, great! It is an opportunity to make so many plans. There can even be much refreshment in setting new goals, making new plans, desiring “new” in our lives. But don’t miss the joy and opportunity of every day being an opportunity for “new.” Don’t get down the road and become discouraged because those goals and plans and desires have not come to fruition. Reset or reconsider, but don’t despair.

Take hold of God’s new mercies every morning. 

We don’t have to live in the shadow of our past choices, the wearying tug of our past hurts, the persistence of “pet sins” that we have long coddled rather than battled, the cloud of sadness or fear of the present or future, or the regrets of today. We don’t have to live by our emotions and the “what ifs” or “might have beens.”

We can stop and submit all of that in each new morning and, in some circumstances, throughout each day, and know we will find fresh grace in our time of need; He will pour out His mercies and carry us, fight for us, battle with us, and equip us to live in newness of life! He will help us take every thought captive and deal with our very real emotions in a way that frees us and glorifies Him.

Don’t give into the meager attempts of the enemy of our souls to shift our gaze from our Living Hope and the true reality to the fading happinesses and discouragements of what we see and experience in this world. He has given us life to live abundantly; at times, it may be a battle to “feel” that abundance, that joy, and that hope, but we run to the truth and let that truth permeate our hearts and minds so that our feelings don’t define our emotions and our responses.

The Bible was written to a particular people in a particular time, but it was written for His people to come, those of us who have accepted and will by faith accept Jesus’ work on the cross – His death and resurrection – and are ready to lean in, learn from, and submit to a very good and gracious God, who is Mighty and Holy, Tender and Kind.  He makes us new creations…for our joy and for His glory!

If, in this new year, you know about God, but you don’t know Him, you can. 

Take joy, my friend, in seeking and knowing the One who created you, who calls His children by name, in whom we are His! Call on that One and dig into His Word in a new and fresh way, asking Him to give you all His wisdom and clarity, standing on what is true and unchanging, every word!

His mercies are new every year, but even better, they are new every morning, every minute that we call on Him!

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

(I John 5:11-13, 20)

As I lay out some of the Scriptures that came to mind as I wrote this and connect with the above, I also share some thoughts on them after each.  As you read the Word of God, read it in full. These are verses pulled and yet they are written in full books and chapters that God wants to us to hear and there is such joy in knowing more of the God who has written these words that we might KNOW Him!

Isaiah 40:11: “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in the fold of His robe…”

He is the like a Shepherd who guards and protects His sheep; in Christ, we are like those sheep and He guards and protects, even if at times His rebuke is for our good.

Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I love that we can come to Him and lay our requests before Him, but He tells us to do it with thanksgiving! We thank Him before the answer comes knowing His answer – be it yes, no or wait – is always from the heart of the good God who knows far more than we what the best answer will be. And we can come to Him with thanks, after the answer is clear, even if it is through tears, knowing He is faithful and true and will carry us when the answer is not what we would have wanted.

Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

We can be in His presence as we call on His Name, as we read His Word; we can be encouraged and challenged and find delight as we spend time with others who also love Him and are finding their joy in His true hope that does not disappoint!

Romans 5:1-6, 8-11: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

So, in this new year, in this new day, we can live with great joy and expectation as we give thanks for our Living Hope, that One, Jesus!

John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

*Lamentations 3:22-23

**Revelations 21:5

***2 Corinthians 5:17

Can You Choose Joy?

We HAVE joy in Jesus.

Sometimes that joy and our emotions are synced in such a way that we can literally feel it running over. Circumstances delight and moments of pleasure and gladness are etched on our faces, the eyes twinkle and the smiles come without a thought.

Yet, we all know that there are other times when moments of sadness are equally etched on our faces, and the ache of our hearts is physically painful.

If we are truly “in Christ,” JOY is a gift; we may not always “feel” it, yet the Truth is made secure in our souls.

But life is hard.

We have to choose – not a fake pasted smile or a masking of real hurt, but an abiding contentment and trust regardless of the circumstances.

But life is hard

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace…so, take heart,” Jesus said, and He meant it because He follows it with the truth of why we can, “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

But life is hard.

So, I have to intentionally set my gaze.

I have to deliberately take every thought captive.

I have to purposefully give my emotions to the One who carries me in the most stifling and frightening of circumstances.

When fear threatens to undo me…

When wounds both past and present sting and literally cause me to ache…

When everything feels shaky…

When God has plans for me for which I must reset my desires…

When the Lord reveals idols – even good things given too treasured a place in my heart – and tells me to leave them at His feet…

I have to intentionally rethink “how” I’m thinking.

If I dwell on all those “hard things” above, I can spiral just like the next person and joy will elude me.

But if I set my mind on things above not on earthly things…

If I set my eyes on the Truths of the God’s Word instead of the lies of the enemy…

If I remember that, as a child of the Living God, redeemed by Jesus, I don’t have to be ruled by the emotions that have often turned my eyes inward…

My feet will become like clay.

I remember as a teenager, I would literally watch the saddest movies and listen to the most depressing songs for the purpose of crying. Why I did that, I have no idea, other than maybe I thought that if I cried about someone else’s pain or another’s mixed up ideas about life, the things in my life that were sad and hard wouldn’t seem so bad or it would cause me to think more clearly. What a recipe for disaster and so contrary to what the Lord has told us to do with our thoughts.

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

If I am dwelling on a particular sorrow more than the God who has promised to “work all things together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) and who has continuously promised to never leave nor forsake those who are His, the load will grow heavier and my sight will be more clouded.

If I am holding onto my cares, rather than casting them onto Him, I will be crushed by the weight.

If I am running to any source that is offering comfort but is not rooted in His Truth, I am not choosing joy and will be robbed of peace.

Instead, we are told to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) It is there that true rest begins, even in sadness.

Giving our concerns, our fears, our deep sorrows to the Lord doesn’t deny their existence nor the weight of emotions we feel. It simply resets on what or on whom we will set our hearts and minds, who we will trust to carry us when our steps are weary and our hearts are troubled beneath that weight.

I have to speak to myself like the Psalmist,

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5, 11; Psalm 43:5)

I have to remind myself of what God has said and what is true lest I be deceived by the enemy of my soul who wants to take my eyes off the Lord, cause me to forget the steadfast mercies and provisions of the Lord in the past, and fear what lies ahead. Essentially, as from the beginning of time, the desire of the enemy is to get me to question the goodness and might of the God who is Sovereign and Almighty and who is also our Peace.

Instead, I will remember!

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord.”  (Psalm 77:11)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness, O Lord!”  (Lamentations 3:22-23)

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

“Is anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

He may not answer and “perform” the deeds as I would write the story, but He will do great deeds for His glory and according to His good plan.  And, in the process, He will move my heart, change my spirit, set my feet on solid ground. 

He will be “near to the brokenhearted; He will save those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

We may not “feel” happiness or a welling up of positive emotion in the midst of sadness, but I know that over again God has restored my soul in the midst of hard. He has given me a joyful peace in the in some of the most crushing moments in my life as I submitted my sorrow to His tender hands, and He comforted me in His great mercy, changing my perspective and heart towards either a person or a situation. Only He could do that; only He has.

THAT joy is unexplainable; THAT joy is a gift from a gracious God to His child. I could reject the gift and stay steeped in sorrow, hurt, or brokenness or I can lay down my emotions and allow them to be transformed by His Spirit, renewed by His Word.

But it all begins with a choice.

Will I set my eyes and my heart and choose Him, choose Truth, and so choose joy?

“Without truth there can be no peace; without Jesus there can be no truth.”  (Virgil Walker)

 “Who do I have in heaven but You? And with You, I desire nothing on earth! My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…but, as for me, the nearness of God is good for me; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, so that I may tell of all Your works.  (Psalm 73:25-28)

That’s where I run. 

I choose joy!

You Redeem

As I was driving the other day, I turned to one of my playlists and this song by Aaron Shust came on. It has stayed with me over these days.

You redeem, You redeem
You restore what’s been stolen from me
You reclaim, You release
You rebuild with the words that You breathe.
You redeem.
Miracles will happen, healing will come
The plans of the enemy ruined, undone!
You redeem, You redeem
Let Your revival awaken me!
You reclaim, You release
You rebuild what’s been broken in me.
You redeem!

We live and breathe in a world that is in need of redemption; first from the penalty and power of sin that exists in each of us, but also from the brokenness that comes from our rebellion against God and also that of others which impacts us directly and indirectly.

We feel the groanings!

There are broken places in every life. We live in a fallen world where our Redeemer is at work, but we will not be free of the “fallenness” this side of eternity.  Some of those places are but small cracks, almost imperceptible over time, and easily shed from our souls, while others are cataclysmic and create gaping wounds that can heal when given over to the Savior’s hands for Him to mend and restore.  But, if not careful, they can also remain exposed or reopened and the wound deep and fresh.  If not ignored, healing can come again but, if disregarded and unguarded, that place will remain, as with a physical wound, a place of infection that can grow and spread. 

We can choose to make those gaps wider, deeper, and beyond repair, or we can submit them to the Lord and let Him rebuild us and those broken places.

For our God is the redeeming God, our Savior is the Repairer of the breaches, the Restorer of the broken places, the One who has taken the punishment. He is the One who is making all things new for those who have received His redemption by faith in Christ, even when we cannot see or feel it.

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making all things new.’… ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true!’” (Revelation 21:5)

The world and even other followers of Christ are going to hurt us; the enemy of our souls is seeking our demise physically, spiritually, and emotionally. But, as we intentionally set our gaze on God alone, as we lay down those “good things” that we have made idols, even those “holy expectations” of others that God intends and desires but that may not be so, and find our satisfaction in the love, faithfulness, and tenderness of the Father, we can be settled, content, and even full of joy regardless. 

God, the Repairer of the breaches, the One who is able to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,”* can also redeem and rebuild “what’s been broken” in us. He can and is calling us to die to ourselves because, in living for self-satisfying desires, we are walking with dead man’s bones and creating broken places. Yet, as we die to our self-focus, we can live in the joyful obedience of His presence.

He is more than able to revive, awaken, and redeem lost time and give us a boldness to stand in the gap for others, to stand against the schemes of the enemy that wants to destroy our walk, our witness, and our relationships, to march on in newness of life so can find healing for the broken places in ourselves and help others in their own.

Then can we sing, and even laugh with great joy, that “the plans of the enemy (are and can be) ruined, undone!” 

We are called to a more restful and less fearful place in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the love of the Father, and in the presence of Jesus who defeated the enemy of our souls on the cross and through His resurrection from death.

We can walk securely and boldly in the surety of hope that we don’t have to live in the broken places any longer! 

“You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

*Aaron Shust, You Redeem

**Hymnscape collection by Katelyn Harbaugh Art: “This is My Father’s World”

*Joel 2:25

For Such a Time As This

I was having a conversation the other day with a young woman who has a popular blog. Many young women are encouraged by her raw honesty, influenced in their thinking by her words.

As we spoke, she shared that people can be cruel online, that she had had people make harsh, unkind comments on her feed and in direct messages, calling her out and pushing back on some of her posts.  She admitted that, while she understood what was being said and agreed that she needed to be clearer about certain aspects of her writings, the way it was presented to her was not perceived as being “in love” but rather quite caustic, so it was hard to receive. 

For such a time as this, we must be willing to speak and hear truth and make sure others are as well, but we can do it in a way that the ones to whom we address will not be quick to disavow our comments because of the acidity of our presentation, the hammer with which we drive our words. 

Sometimes we need to speak the truth to people; even the sincerest believer can word something in a way that comes across incorrectly, define something in a way that is contrary to God’s Word, or make a choice that needs a reset.

Of course, we must hold one another accountable; the Bible makes that clear.  Of course, we must guard and protect the Truth of the Bible and the Gospel message.  And we need to be direct, so that the importance of the point is not lost in the shuffle to “be nice.”  But perhaps we can increasingly speak in a way that opens the avenues for dialog, training, mentoring, teaching, and leading back to the only source of Truth – the Word of God. 

Might that not be what Paul meant when he said, “Speaking the truth in love,” then proceeded with the purpose of speaking that truth, “…(so that) we will grow up to become in every aspect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15) rather than remaining “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” or living “in the futility of their thinking…darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18) 

We speak truth to one another, in a manner worthy of the Gospel, in love, for a God-centered purpose, to grow each other up in newness of life, to protect the Truth being presented in the marketplace of ideas and in relationships, to strengthen one another against the attempts of the enemy of our souls to make light of the fear of the Lord, His commands, and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Receiving truth, even spoken in love, is not always comfortable; in fact, it may feel harsh if it is pushing back on a “pillar” of our platform or a comfortable spot in our lives we don’t want to address and we may balk when it comes to us, but we must always ask the Lord, “What do you want me to hear from what is being said, is there truth in it, and how must I respond to be faithful to you?”  Don’t effectively shut down other believers and/or the people in your life who know you and love you most if they are not always just your “hype person,” one who makes you feel great about yourself but sometimes at the expense of truth.

Speaking the truth in love, we must take care to do just that…speak it in love but always first bathed in prayer, taken to the throne of God, and asking the Holy Spirit to direct both our words and the heart of the one to whom we communicate.

Whether it be speaking to a fellow believer or to an unbeliever with whom we hope to share the good news, Peter reminds us to do so “with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15) We can and must be faithful and uncompromising yet bold and kind, making sure our words are grounded in the whole counsel of the Word of God and not just a cultural preference.

Our words must always point others back to HIS Word!

The unbeliever may not be moved, but they will remember the way in which we interacted with them and, prayerfully, the Lord will use that in their journey towards an understanding of the Gospel and a surrender of their lives by faith to God through Jesus Christ.

Even when we speak the truth in love to another believer, be it one we know or don’t know, it may not be received in the way we intended, with a heart willing to hear, receive, and consider the validity of the comments.  Our motives may be misconstrued, and it may end poorly.  In fact, the person may reject what is said completely.  But our goal must always be obedient faithfulness to Christ, glory to God, and a desire for the good of the other person as well as any that will be affected by their words, as with a writer or speaker, or their actions and/or choices.

If the person is a true follower of Christ, even if their initial response is negative, they will heed the Holy Spirit’s prompting and either make a revision on their platform or reset their course so that God is glorified, and no one is hindered from coming to a true relationship with the Savior or injured in their walk with Christ.  Or, if the conflict is between two believers, they can return and say, “Let’s readdress that rightly and without fear of rejection.”  Both are attitudes bathed in the grace of God and desirous to be faithful to what is true. 

As believers, we have a responsibility to follow Jesus, to live by God’s commands. Our words must be faithful and true as we follow Him who is Himself, Faithful and True. Our actions must reflect a life submitted to the Lordship of Christ, not continuing in self-gratification and self-love. But, at times, we will fail to speak and live rightly, and it is the one who loves deeply that will communicate with us for the end goal of glory to God and restoration to us.

Let us love well in words and actions and receive that bold love well so that we may be display the true Gospel to ourselves and to the watching world.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins…(do all) so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen!”  (I Peter 4:8, 11)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  (Proverbs 27:17)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel.”  (Proverbs 12:15)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Dying to Self

We know what we want…so we get it.

We know what we feel…so we say it.

We know what we want to do…so we do it.

Even if we know it is not the right choice, we have long learned to live for self and ignore anything or anyone that gets in the way of our “pleasure.”

We may have a momentary hesitation of “maybe I should wait” or “maybe I shouldn’t do it at all” and we may experience a twinge of regret if we proceed, but we are masters at subduing that regret and rationalizing our actions.

When we have not prepared ourselves to say no to ourselves…

When we have not trained ourselves to walk away from what is not best or what is, in fact, wrong…

When we have not disciplined ourselves to stop and think about the effects of our actions on others…

We step out and do whatever we “feel” like doing without a true thought to anyone else.

We see it all around us; self before God, self before others. Often, we shake our heads when we see others doing the very same thing – living in the moment for self, wondering how they could be so blind; yet how often do we move forward in the same mindset?

Everyone would understand, so it is okay.

No one will know; well, God will know – but He will understand my humanity and forgive.

Surely this is right because…and we fill in the blank.

There are no consequences; except there always are – to ourselves and, with very rare exceptions, to others in some way.

And, with each, we justify why we should please ourselves more than obey God and respect Him as well as ourselves and others.

Dying to self is hard.

Dying to self takes training; with every success, it is easier the next time.

Dying to self reveals the heart of one to the heart of God.

Dying to self leads to freedom for the believer and the unbeliever.

In a powerful scene from the movie “God’s Not Dead,” a mother, who has been unable to speak, speaks to her atheist son after he compares his “perfect” life to her life of physical problems. He has long “lived for self” and is certain he has the greater position.

Sometimes the devil allows people to lead a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. His sin is like a jail cell except it’s all nice and comfy, and there doesn’t seem to be any need to leave. The door is wide open. Then one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly, it’s too late.

God’s Not Dead

While it is true that the unbeliever often misses the grace and forgiveness of God, enamored with the “stuff of life,” might we also consider that, when people choose to live for self rather than dying to self, even those who are redeemed children of God, they are also living in a jail cell of their own making? God calls us to obedience, to dying to self, for His glory and our greatest good.  He has set boundaries that we may think, at times, are keeping us from experiencing happiness but which are actually intended to increase our joy. 

We can walk out of that jail cell and into the light by learning and training ourselves to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to what God says is right and good and is His best for us, that which is honoring to Him and to those around us, that which will ultimately give us lasting and deeper pleasure and joy than a momentary choice in time.

Will that always be easy? No, especially if we have long given in to those choices whether it be actions, thoughts, words, or attitudes. But how awesome to run the race with perseverance, to find grace in our time of need and celebrate it with the Lord and maybe another when we walk out of the jail cell and say “not today” making it easier the next time, and to be able to “feel His pleasure” as we die to self and live for the Lord.

We can be assured that, if we ask the Lord to show us those areas, He will be faithful to do that and sometimes use others to reveal and to encourage, and He will be equally faithful to be present in the moments ahead and give the joy and delight for which we long!

Then and only then will we truly live!

“I will run in the path of Your commands, for You will enlarge my heart.” Psalm 119:32

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” 2 Peter 1:3-9

My Anchor Holds

We feel it in these days.

Fear seems to be seeking a foothold and, in some instances, taking away the peace of many. 

I talk to friends and family, and it is the word most often on their lips, even as many of them seek to defy it.

Fear creeps in with circumstances that invade our lives, and we must choose how we will respond, giving in and feeding that apprehension or combating it to take it captive. Once it is allowed to settle into our hearts, it embeds itself like an anchor. The longer an anchor stays grounded in the ocean floor and the winds press against that to which it is attached, the more rooted it becomes. Similarly, as the winds of frightening situations assail us, either directly or indirectly, the anchor of fear becomes even more established into the soil of our souls.

It is important, then, to choose wisely where we will sink our anchor.

It is not that we deny the emotion of fear. Rather, we can acknowledge it, but then, we are called to anchor our lives, our hearts, and our minds in the Hope, which is unshakable, the faith in Him who is able to withstand whatever winds blow.

Jesus told his disciples, and so those of us throughout time that would follow Him, that trouble would come, and we know that often leaves us unsettled. But He also said in John 16:33, “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!”

Jesus calls us, as He called his disciple Peter, not to look at the waves that threatened to overwhelm but to intentionally set our gaze on Him, the Savior.

In Matthew 14, Peter ignored all fear and walked toward Jesus on the water, but when he remembered the vast waters around him and took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. And we will too. Where we set our eyes and on what we choose to dwell in our minds and hearts will determine how we think, what we do, and how we will respond to God Himself.

“Whatever you choose to set your mind on in those moments when you are feeling fearful and anxious – it’s a choice that you make – is precisely the thing that is going to guide and direct you in those moments.” (Darrell B. Harrison, Just Thinking)

Think on that. If we choose to focus on that thing that is most feared, that thing that most troubles our hearts and minds, that thing that sends us into a pit, we will go deeper into darkness that can be suffocating and, our anchor will be set on what we “feel” and “see” more than on what and Who we know!

But if we set our minds and our hearts on “the God of rest” (Ed Welch), then He will guard and protect our minds in Christ Jesus.

We can go to any number of counselors, seek the encouragement of friends, read encouraging books, listen to reassuring music, sermons, or podcasts, and I share some of those below. All of that has its place, and all of that can be good and helpful; but it cannot be our ultimate source. It cannot supplant the place of digging into God’s Word, time in prayer, and leaning on the Holy Spirit Comforter in the life of the follower of Christ.

For, if our hearts and minds are not set on the Sovereign God, who has promised to never leave us or forsake us, who is indeed in control of all things and will either bring us out of trouble or carry us through it, we will always go back to the pit, that place of great fear.

If we do not intentionally set our mind and thoughts, even speaking to ourselves with Truth to reset them, on the One who has His good purposes and is able to do good for, in, and through us with the circumstances of life, we will always be shaken.

He has promised to redeem every thing for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose so we will be more like Him (Romans 8), to carry His sheep tenderly and bring us “safely home” in the rightness of His time. We can lean hard into that!

For He is faithful to every promise He has made whether or not we feel or understand the “why!”

Many “peddle fear in these days” (Virgil Walker, Just Thinking), but we can refuse it.

The enemy of our souls wants to shift our gaze from the Savior to the waves, but we can reject that draw and choose sure sightedness and steadfast trust. In this way, we will find He gives us the grace to “not fear anything that is frightening.” (I Peter 3:6)

“What matters is what we do when fear arises.” (Darrell B. Harrison)

Cease wrestling with fear alone; give it to the One who has “not given us a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and of sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Call on Him to do battle against the fear that threatens to undo you, and He will faithfully do just that.

Rest in Him, and let the Savior remove the turmoil within.  

Take the circumstances as they come and immediately turn them over in prayer to His throne, wait on Him and see Him answer. Sometimes it may not be the answer we want, but He has promised to keep us and help us “endure to the end.” (Matthew 24:13)

It may be that you have to give that fear back to Him throughout your day; do it! He will carry you when you don’t have the strength to fight for peace.

Ask Him to increase your faith, to let you know His presence, to give you the supernatural peace that is not dependent on the outcome of any circumstance but on God alone!

Set scripture on your heart and mind that you can have on repeat in your head and on your lips when fear raises its head. For me, the easiest way is to set it to music or there are many already available that make it easy to hide God’s Word in your heart.  

Surround yourself with those who will encourage you in all these ways and for whom you can do the same, each strengthening the other with the Truth!

And above all, rejoice in the Lord, give Him thanks in the midst of unsteady emotions. Remind yourself of all the ways He has been faithful and, if you struggle to think of them, ask Him to bring them to mind!

Yes, set your anchor so that the waves will not overcome, but set it not in fear or worldly wisdom that is easily shaken. Instead, establish it in the firm hold of Jesus, faith in God alone, the Rock of our Salvation! Then, regardless of the circumstances, your foundation will be secure.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.”   Psalm 56:3-4

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

               I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

(Both of these verses are God’s Word I have sung and continue to sing to myself when I begin to feel the weight of fear creeping in. Reset!)

“He will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because He trusts in You, Lord.”  Isaiah 26:3

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:4-5

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…

               But as for me, it is good to draw near to God.

                      I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may proclaim all Your works.”  Psalm 73:26,28

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4,6-7

Excellent Resources to further combat fear in these days.  I will add to this list from time to time. (some links provide but also available on various podcast outlets):

Just Thinking podcast, “Why Are You Afraid?” EP # 113 | Why Are You Afraid? – Just Thinking Ministries

Airing the Addisons podcast, “Let Not Your Heart Nor Your Children’s Heart Be Troubled.” (August 23, 2021)

“Fear Not” Aaron Shust, Ever Be

Do Not Fear (Isaiah 41:10)” Seeds Family Worship, Seeds of Courage

“My Soul Finds Rest (Psalm 62:12)” Seeds Family Worship, When You Lie Down

Be Still (Psalm 46:10) Seeds Family Worship, When You Lie Down

Watch Over Me” Aaron Shust, Whispered and Shouted

“Suffering is Never for Nothing” by Elisabeth Elliot

Photo creds: Mili Cook

Seeking to Find

We are seeking something every day, all the time.

We look for items to wear, things to eat, places to go.

We search for work, gifts, helpful things to use.

We use the search bars on our phones and computers.

We seek advice, wisdom, comfort.

We search for information and knowledge.

Depending on what we seek, we do so for our good or to our detriment.

And then, based on where we seek “wisdom” or pleasure, we grow wise, or we become fools.

We increase our strength and our ability to stand, or we weaken our ability to walk secure.

We increase our capacity to investigate and gain insight, or we adhere to the “easy” and lack discernment.

We walk in the light, or we hide in darkness.

We choose to love others, or we choose to love self; and that, in many ways, is dependent on our fear of God or our fear of man.

We intentionally choose to do what we know we should do, or we rationalize and intentionally go our own way.

We choose to feed our faith in the God who is Lord, or we choose to feed fear or anger.

We choose to let the Lord comfort us with His Word, or we seek comfort in the places that never satisfy and can rob us of the joy, comfort, and peace of walking in the light of His Truth.

We allow the Spirit of God to embolden us against the meager attempts of the enemy of our souls, or we give way to the desires of our hearts that are contrary to His.

We can even seek good things, but if we are not seeking the Source of all good things, it will always be watered down and/or we will make it the ultimate thing to our detriment. And when the time comes to choose, we will not draw from that well of strength but from broken cisterns.

Sometimes we thirst for and so seek distraction.

Sometimes we thirst for and so seek comfort.

Sometimes we thirst for and so seek presence.

May we intentionally search for that which will strengthen our souls and deepen our relationship with the Lord Himself, Maker of heaven and earth and Mighty God, and with those to whom we are committed – our spouse, our family, our friends – rather than seeking out distractions that deepen our self-focus and quite often devour what is good, leaving a trail of tears.

May we intentionally seek out the well that is full of Living Water rather than the pail of dry dust.

May we intentionally search for the God Who is I Am and Who is our Sure Hope.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near…” Isaiah 55:6

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

 “In the morning, O LORD, You hear my voice; at daybreak I lay my plea before You and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3

“I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.

Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:10-11

Keep Dancing

If you are married, you were born to dance.

It’s not the “every man to himself” bobbing up and down with no purpose, running into and catching the rhythm with whoever is in close proximity, roaming through the room with multiple dance partners catching your eye, but the steady, seamless cadence of being in step and moving as one.

You were born to dance in time with the one you love.

When you dance in such a way, it is exhilarating; far better than the exhaustion that comes from dancing out of step. Though there will be times we do “miss the beat” and trip over one another’s feet, the goal is then to reset sooner than later and as often as needed to keep in step.

Yes, we were born to dance but also to run the race. Not to win, as in competing against our spouse; rather, as a team, coming together, side by side, cheering each other on, lifting the other up when they stumble and fall.

In the past, dance marathons were a common occurrence. Two would begin and dance both fast and slow until the end…together. They didn’t change partners or walk away no matter how weary one of the two may have gotten, even if one had to literally carry the other.

We are called to lift our spouses. “Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Just as at some points in a dance marathon, one or the other may be able to move with more energy or strength, in marriage we will have times where one or the other is stronger and can “carry” the other more easily. There is no shame in that nor is it to be a contention; it is a gift.

Spiritually, there are times we each need the other to spur us on to look at the cross and to live in the power of that grace, to be challenged but oh to be encouraged! Yes, mutual love, mutual respect, mutual encouragement; but, at varying times, each will bear the other’s burden more intensely. God specifically gives us our husbands and wives to do just that, not in a condescending way, shame-inducing manner, or with a sigh, but in a joy-infused, deeply loving way that is faithfully and tenderly restorative.

“Your wife is the accountability partner God provided for you. And, wives, your husband is the accountability partner God provided for you. According to Him, the two of you are one single entity (the two shall become one)…so step into the light with your real accountabiility partner.” (Matthew L Jacobson, “Who is Your Real Accountability Partner?”)

It’s a gift, not a burden.

Part of keeping the rhythm is keeping all things that can cause us to stumble or create a gap between us cleared out from under our feet; secrets, hurts, weaknesses, fears, distractions from the outside pressing in. If we keep the ground clear, we can maneuver through them together; if we don’t, they will cause us to trip and sometimes fall and we can’t hide that from our dance partners no matter how much we try; we weren’t meant to.

We can’t hide on the dance floor, and we can’t hide in marriage. Why would we want to?

Have you ever seen the kind of “extreme” dancing where the man spins the woman out, lifts her high, pulls her around, and sometimes even flips her? That takes trust. At times, we may feel like our dancing is “extreme” and, in those times, we have to know we can trust the one gripping our hand, that the grip is secure. Trust is built when we intimately know each other, are holding each other up and, when we begin to or do fall; we have a spouse that is there to lift us up, hold us close, show us grace, and restore the rhythm of the music.

The more we each seek to serve the one we love, even in the hardest moments – be it physical distance for an extended time, illness, the busyness of life, temptations that bombard, conflict, or sin that has insidiously made its way in – the more our desire to love and serve them will increase and the more God will strengthen us against sin, chip away at our selfishness, and cause us to love them more deeply rather than ourselves and our selfish desires.

Additionally, the more we each set our intimate sights and imaginations on our spouse rather than on others, the more attractive the one we love will be to us – not just the physical appeal but every aspect. He or she will captivate us and draw us in.

Choose to remember what led you to them and intentionally be on the watch, even list out, those things about your spouse that are a joy to you and others! Delight in those things again and ask the Lord to show you even more. When we choose to think on those things, the lure of “other things” will be easier to pass by.

Don’t be distracted by “shiny things,” but choose to be fascinated by your “one and only” once again. Guard and keep your eyes – literally and figuratively – only for them. Deliberately find ways to increase that wonder and delight in the gift before you.

Speak truth and keep the dance floor clear underneath you.

On the other hand, the more we look around and intentionally or unintentionally compare our spouses to unrealistic images and expectations and/or the deceptive pull of a situation or a person – be it face to face or in some form of media – the less content we will become and the more the enemy will whisper in our ear, “Did God really say? What will it hurt?”

Slam the door on that whisper! Don’t entertain the lie and don’t, for an instant, believe that it is true! Nothing will disrupt the dance more than responding to another whisper.

Most importantly, the more we take our spouses, our marriage, and our own hearts humbly but boldly to the throne of grace, the more our God does exceedingly and abundantly more than we could think or ask, first in us and then in the heart of the one we love!

Whether it be as the dance is sweet and perfectly in time or at the first hint of the dance being interrupted, lean in and pull your bride or groom closer, even if they are far away physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Call out to the One who can battle for you and put a hedge around the dance floor!

Yes, some days and in some seasons, we will be out of sync; but we must never accept that as the norm or allow the enemy of our souls to make us think the music has ended and it is time to add lines to our dance cards or stop dancing altogether. That is not the melody of promise!

In those times, we should be deliberately taking the hand of our “one.” Then, if we stumble over each other’s feet or our own, it will be together.

It takes two to dance an intimate slow dance.  Whether it be dancing or walking as one, we must be intentional about choosing to step on each other’s toes or be afraid of the other’s next move. Rather, we should be able to trust because grace has done and is doing a work in the lives of each of us, and there is nothing hidden.

Dance with abandon because redemption has followed repentance and forgiveness in the small little irritations of life as well as the bigger, more hurtful situations.

Dance with joy because we have “found the one whom my soul loves” (Song of Solomon 3:4) and we are growing in that love that is able to stand the test of time and the shifting winds that blow.

There is something beautiful about continually and intentionally choosing each other again and again; there is something about keeping our affections for and on our one.

There is wonder in rekindling desire with the one to whom we said “I do” when life has made us weary.

There is delight in transparency made possible by grace.

And there is great joy in picking up the beat of the music and the rhythm of their hearts, choosing once again to keep in step.

Hear the music and move as one. If the music has grown faint or even silent, be deliberate about making melody together again. You will be amazed at how your love, attraction, and desire for your husband or wife will rekindle and how refreshed your marriage can be.

But don’t stop there!

Keep choosing! Keep pursuing! Keep fixing your gaze first on the Savior and, immediately thereafter, on the one with whom you walked the aisle and promised, yes even vowed, to love, honor, and cherish.

See the beauty! See the holiness, the sacred delight of dancing with the one you love… all the way to the end!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up….Though one can be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

We Will Dance  

by Steven Curtis Chapman

I’ve watched the sunrise in your eyes And I’ve seen the tears fall like the rain You’ve seen me fight so brave and strong You’ve held my hand when I’m afraid

We’ve watched the seasons come and go We’ll see them come and go again But in winter’s chill, or summer’s breeze One thing will not be changin’

We will dance When the sun is shining In the pouring rain We’ll spin and we’ll sway And we will dance When the gentle breeze Becomes a hurricane The music will play And I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we will dance

Sometimes it’s hard to hold you tight Sometimes we feel so far apart Sometimes we dance as one And feel the beating of each others hearts

Some days the dance is slow and sweet Some days we’re bouncing off the walls No matter how this world may turn Our love will keep us from fallin’

And we will dance When the sun is shining In the pouring rain We’ll spin and we’ll sway And we will dance When the gentle breeze Becomes a hurricane The music will play And I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we will dance

The music will play And I’ll hold you close And I won’t let you go Even when our steps Grow weak and slow Still I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we, will dance.

Find Rest My Soul

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My Refuge and my Fortress, my God in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:1-2

There is rest…and there is a rest; one is temporary, the other eternal.

We can find a temporary rest by taking a nap, getting away to a quiet place, finding something that we enjoy outside of work and busyness.  All of those can be so good and necessary. I love getting away to places like the mountains or the beach, but I often find a sweet respite simply in my backyard  – hearing the birds, seeing the wild rabbit or two cautiously make their way in, feeling the gentle breezes or listening to the quiet rain.  But we all know it is temporary.  We get back to the “must dos” and “demands,” and no matter how much we enjoy the daily tasks of life, we will eventually want another “rest.”

But the “rest” that is eternal can be found even in the “busyness” or the “hard” and allows us to find joy in the wonderful as well as the impossible days and seasons! It is found in relationship with the One who has promised rest for our souls when we have been redeemed and are His children! “Times of refreshing” come when we repent (turn away from self-rule) and turn to God Himself (Acts 3:19), allowing Him to order our steps and settle our souls.

The Psalmist talks about the person who “dwells” in the shelter of the Most High; that person who settles his life under the Lordship of Christ, where he “lives and exists” in his actions and in the very being of his soul! And, when that is His “dwelling,” He will abide; yes, he will encamp and remain in that submitted heart and so be rooted and protected.  It is part of that perseverance with which the Holy Spirit equips us that gives us the ability to settle our lives in that “shelter” and there find rest, not just to get “back in the game,” as a dear friend says, but to walk even in the midst of the “game.”

As we intentionally set our gaze on the Most High God through His Word, staying in and standing on that which He has given us to “teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness,” His Spirit strengthens us and “equips for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

As we cry out to Him to give us the ability to focus our sight and to stay and stand, asking Him for that equipping, He meets His children and shelters us from the stormy blasts.  He may not take us out of the tempests, but He will settle our soul moment by moment.

As we intentionally remember His faithfulness in the past – yes, even recounting those instances to ourselves and others – and hold firmly to His promised faithfulness in the present and the future, we stand secure. 

As we lock arms with other believers, each taking the other boldly to the throne of grace when we are weary or when we long for a chorus of voices to be petitioning our Father, we strengthen one another against those who would tell us we will never have victory over sadness or sin.

Of course, we can choose the opposite of rest; we can choose to make ourselves “lord of our own lives” and live according to our own rules and the emotions that direct our decisions but leave us on shifting sand.  We can hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness for ourselves and others and find our souls are scarred and our relationship with the Lord hindered.

But why do we think we would find “rest” in defying the God of all Creation, whose love and justice and mercy are inextricably tied together to reign and rule and give us sure hope?

 Why would we choose turmoil when He has given us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and peace for the one whose mind is stayed on Him? (Isaiah 26:3)

Why would we choose to follow our deceitful hearts that lie to us when we can follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life and accept the free gift of grace – that Jesus willingly gave his life and was resurrected as payment for our rebellion – and turn from our self-rule and self-worship, throwing off “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles?” (Hebrews 12:1)

Why would we choose the restlessness that comes from following the world rather than the rest that comes from trusting the One who created and established the world and enables us to walk secure even over stony ground?

Though it is hard business at times, truly even the difficult moments ultimately work together for good (even when they are not in themselves “good”) by our faithful God for “those who do love Him and are called according to HIS purpose” not our own. (Romans 8:28)

We will weep, but He wipes our tears.

We will be wounded, but He binds our wounds and allows the scars to be “standing stones,” reminders of His faithfulness.

We will at times feel shaken, but, as we receive Christ Jesus the Lord and “so walk in Him,” we will be “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.” (Colossians 2:6-7) He will be our rock and our salvation, our fortress, so we will never be shaken! (Psalm 62:2)

We will be assaulted by those seeking, sometimes quite subtly, to whisper as the serpent did in the Garden, “Did God really say?” in an attempt to dissuade us from our sure hope, and so, our rest.  But we can and must stand on that which will never be shaken and will never change, His Word.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”  (Colossians 2:8)

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:5)

This world is not our home, but we travel it with joy.

This world is not our home, but we travel it delighting in the goodness of our God and His faithfulness.

This world is not our home, but we travel it by setting our hope fully on the grace of God, on Jesus the Author and Perfector of our faith, so that we can run the race set before us with perseverance and endurance, not begrudgingly, but with great expectation and delight.

And when we need that “rest” from the race, we can find it by calling to Him, finding any little spot or wide open space, with open Bible and open heart, and He will give you rest as you eagerly seek Him alone to establish your life and settle your soul even in the most tumultuous times.

“Call to Me, I will answer you and tell you wonderful things that you did not know!” Jeremiah 33:3

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart!…Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…” Hebrews 12:1-3, 28

Newness of Life in the Midst

Newness of life

In the midst of the shattered.

The enemy seeks to

Kill, steal, destroy with fear.

The Savior restores

The weary broken heart.

“No fear” is only possible

As Holy Spirit breathes life.

The world is shaken.

But God is not.

Life as we know it is changing.

But God changes not.

How we proceed is different.

Yet, not at all.

Still, settle our souls in the Almighty!

Still, set our hope in the Savior!

Still, preach the Gospel, the good news of Christ, to ourselves and others.

We are all sinners and this world is broken and bruised, heartache is real.

We are redeemed only by the grace and mercy of God through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus!

We are saved from the penalty and power or sin, which is rebellion against God.

So that…we are more than conquerors through Him.

So that…we can have hope in the hardest places of life, the places where there seem to be more questions than answers.

So that…we are able to lay aside everything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and hinders our hunger for Him and what delights Him and so will also delight us.

So that…we are transformed and being transformed more and more into the likeness of Him who is our joy as we renew our minds by the Word of God and truth in all places.

So that…we can stop hiding and run in freedom.

Newness of life

In the midst of the shattered

Where Christ reigns

And we are restored.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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. (Romans 12:2)