Wow, this is a dark time in our country, isn’t it?
Disrespect, discord, distrust, disgruntled, discrimination, discontented, discouraged. The ‘dis-es’ are one of the biggest pandemics infecting our culture today.
Do you find it hard not to get sucked into the darkness?
I look to the Light.
Love, peace, forgiveness and strength come from the Light and his name is Jesus. When I focus on Jesus, the darkness fades away.
Have you tried this when the darkness overwhelms you?
There are times that I forget darkness is not the opposite of light, it is the absence of light. When I let the Light of the World fill my mind and heart, the darkness is pushed away. ” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
It can be very hard to focus on Jesus in the blackest part of the night when worries and fear creep in. For many years, when my thoughts became anxious in the middle of the night, I would talk with my Father God. Eventually I started to find myself thinking about all of the ‘bad stuff’ instead of praying about it and the night would gradually become darker and heavier on my soul.
Recently, I have begun to fill my mind with praise songs when the negative thoughts start and the darkness threatens. Remember – darkness is the absence of light. When I let the words and the melodies of some of my favorite praise songs repeat over and over in my mind, my brain becomes filled with the Light. It doesn’t take very long before my fears and concerns are replaced by reminders of Jesus’ love and care for me. He brings peace and security…..
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your whole body is full of darkness.” Jesus tells us this very important truth which affects our whole body in Luke 11:34.
Our eyes determine our emotional, mental and spiritual health.
What am I looking at?
What are you focusing on?
What am I watching – letting all of it go directly into my brain?
What am you reading?
Who are the people that you and I are surrounding ourselves with, giving them influence on our lives? What behaviors and values do we see in them? Are those the same values and behaviors we want in our lives? I’m not judging them, I’m trying to make good choices about what my eyes regularly see – because it affects my whole body.
Do I want to live in the light? Or in the darkness?
It all goes into our brain through our eyes. Thoughts become attitudes and attitudes become actions.
Healthy or unhealthy – it’s our choice.
Please help us be very careful about what we let our eyes see, Abba Father.
Real friends are people who care about us, easily forgive us and want the best for us. They are the people in our lives who cheer us on in the good times and listen well with extra tissues ready during the bad times.
I am fortunate enough to have several real friends in my life.
These friends love me enough to speak up if I’m getting off track. They hold me accountable for behavior that is not good for me. They subtly (and not so subtly) ask questions about my choices when my behavior is not going to help me reach the goals they know I want to achieve. They love me enough to speak truth into my life at the right time.
These friends also have shared this journey of faith with me. They have walked beside me as, together, we experience the transforming power of God in our lives. They continue to encourage me as God molds me into the person he created me to be and they celebrate with me when I find victory in my life through my relationship with God.
They help bring me to Jesus.
This is just like the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus in the second chapter of Mark. Their friend couldn’t move, so his four friends carried him around on a mat. They heard that this man, Jesus, was healing people – even paralyzed people – so they were determined to get their friend to Jesus.
You might think they would have been discouraged when they arrived and saw the huge crowd of people around the house that Jesus was in. They didn’t care – this was their friend and this was going to happen….today…..right now.
So they carried their friend on his mat up to the top of the house and dug a hole in the roof right over Jesus’ head. Then they lowered the mat down in front of Jesus.
Seeing the faith of his friends, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ” Stand up, pick up your mat and go home.”
“And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat and walked through the stunned onlookers.” (Mark 2: 11-12)
Jesus honored the faith of this man’s friends and healed him by the touch of his hand.
I know I have some friends who need to get to Jesus.
Are we good enough friends to help them get close enough to be touched by our Savior?
This one sentence does a great job of summing up the Great News – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
If you wanted to memorize just one verse of the entire Bible, this would be it.
God loved us so much that he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for all of our sins for all time on the cross. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, those of us who put our faith in him can have an eternal relationship with God which starts here on earth and ends in heaven …. forever.
This is the most important news anyone can ever hear.
People who are not Christ-followers don’t realize it, but they are looking for Jesus. They might think they are looking for a better job, a better spouse or a better house, but they are really looking for Jesus. We were all created with a God – shaped hole which only God can fill. There will be an emptiness in our lives until we accept the salvation offered by Jesus, make him Lord of our lives and live in his Light.
I know this for a fact because I have felt that emptiness.
The reality of this unfilled God-sized hole in people’s lives explains a lot of what you and I are seeing in our world right now. People are looking for something and they aren’t finding it so there is anger, frustration, confusion and unrest. Evil thrives in this kind of environment.
Jesus is the only answer.
I cannot remember a time in my life when it was more important for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus to share our stories, share the Good News, share our trust in God and share that we know how this story is going to end. Judging those who do not know Jesus is not the right response to what we see happening in our world. Jesus reminds us today that loving those who haven’t accepted the free gift of salvation yet is the right answer.
You and I can see the darkness that Satan is masterminding in our broken world. Satan is winning some battles, but we have nothing to fear – God has already won the war.
Being ‘good enough’ is not my goal. Getting my act together is not my goal. Checking all the boxes – keeping busy with ‘God’ stuff – is not my goal.
The historical account of Jesus’ baptism tells me what pleases God.
When I trusted in Jesus, made him Lord of my life and was redeemed by his sacrifice on the cross, I was adopted by God and became one of his precious daughters. ‘Joint heirs with Jesus’ – as an old hymn describes it.
What Jesus did for me makes me ‘good enough’.
While reading about Jesus’ baptism, I realize that Jesus hadn’t started his ministry yet. He hadn’t DONE anything for God. But God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my son whom I love: with him I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22.
Let’s take a moment to let that soak in, my brothers and sisters. Jesus was God’s son and God was pleased with him – before his ministry began. Before he did any miracles. Before he did any teaching.
Accepting salvation through Jesus makes you and me children of God – and he is pleased with us.
Feel his smile shining down on you.
Feel his unconditional love.
Feel his forgiveness for any guilt that is weighing heavy on your shoulders.
Feel his peace flow over you in a supernatural way.
Feel his strength flow through you as he walks right beside you each day.
Let his joy fill your heart today.
Don’t DO anything. Just feel the pleasure he has as he looks at you. He sees himself in you. We are all created in his image, yet each one of us reflects different aspects of him – making us all uniquely his.
I am important to God. He has made me special.
You are very important to him. He has made you special.
When I see something that needs to be done or fixed, my first inclination is to make a plan, figure it out and get it done.
Do you do this, too?
God regularly stops me as I’m starting my ‘fix-it” mode and reminds me there is a better way. He challenges me to bring the issue that is bothering me to him and let him take care of it. He promises that the outcome will be better if I let him take control.
So I have to smile as I read Zechariah’s story in the book of Luke. Zechariah was a priest. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were old and childless when the angel of the LORD appeared to him. Interesting things always happen when Gabriel shows up.
Zechariah was “gripped with fear” when he saw Gabriel. Angels like Gabriel must be awesome creatures because the first thing they always say to us humans is, “Fear not”. Then Gabriel went on to tell Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were going to have a son who was going to do great things for God. They were to name this son John and he was going to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Immediately, Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?” Luke 1:18. He and his wife were obviously way too old to have a baby.
Gabriel looked at Zechariah (my interpretation), rolled his eyes and, with a hint of frustration in his voice, said, “God, the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe, the Great I AM, the most Holy One, sent me to tell you this great news and you ask that silly question? You need to stop talking and just watch God make it all happen just as he has said.”
Zechariah could not speak again until the baby was born.
I have learned that sometimes I need to stop asking questions, trust God and watch him work things out for my good right in front of my eyes – through his power and on his own timeline. It can be very difficult for me to patiently wait for him to move but, when he does, it’s the right thing at the right time, every time. It’s truly amazing to watch as God opens doors, moves mountains and orchestrates blessings in my life.
This hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn. It takes a lot of trust to give problems, issues and situations to God and leave it all in his hands.
The Old Testament ended on a high point of the Israelites turning back to God, listening to his Word and trying to obey. Then came a 400-year break in God’s Word to us.
We know the Israelites continued on with their lives during that time.
They were waiting….
expecting the Messiah to show up.
How long were they going to have to wait?
I’m blogging through the Chronological Bible which means the Bible is re-organized so it resembles the actual timeline that things happened. I just finished the Old Testament and now I’m moving on to the New Testament.
It’s October. So 3/4 of the Bible is the Old Testament. If three-quarters of what God wants to reveal to us is in the Old Testament, then I’m very glad I read and study the Old Testament every year. After spending 3/4 of the year reading the Old Testament, I have a better understanding of how badly the world needed Jesus. My anticipation of the coming Messiah rises as I read over and over again of the Israelites turning away from God, getting lost in idol worship, paying the consequences and repenting. Then they get their spiritual act together – but just for a short time until they start wandering again.
Oh, how badly they needed a Savior!
It was hard to wait.
You and I live under the New Covenant with God. The Messiah has come. There is no more waiting. Jesus was sent to earth to offer free salvation to everyone who would put their faith in him. And it’s really clear right now that our culture needs saving just as badly as the Israelites did.
The last 1/4 of the Bible is so much easier to read than the Old Testament because Jesus’ love, grace, truth and light shines out of the New Testament. Jesus is our role-model for how God wants us to live our lives here on earth.
A smile spreads across my face as I begin to read the New Testament for the 11th time.
No more waiting. The Messiah has come. This is the really good stuff.
When ‘The Chosen’ series came out, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it because I usually don’t like the movie if I’ve read the book. And I’m reading this book – the Bible- for the 11th time.
So I started streaming it with critical eyes and my hand ready to turn it off if it was wrong and not representing my Father well. The first episode was about Mary who was possessed by many demons. I don’t know about you, but Satan turns my stomach. The Evil One is so real to me that it was very hard to watch Mary struggle with the demons on the screen. The characters in the show were trying to help her and I kept saying in my head with my stomach churning while watching this, “When is Jesus going to show up?”
I just finished reading the Old Testament in the Chronological Bible for the 11th time. It ended at a time that the Israelites had turned back to God and recommitted to following him. But the last 10 months of reading have been full of stories of people turning their back on God, disobeying him, and worshipping weird, worthless idols. The Old Testament ends with the faithful people saying, “When is the Messiah going to show up?”
Then I look up from my Bible and see the world around me. What a mess! Evil is revered and rampant. Important values are disappearing daily. Ignoring God and his truth is at an all time high – even in our churches. It would be easy to look around and say, “When is Jesus going to show up?”
The good news for us is that Jesus has already ‘showed up’. Over 2 thousand years ago he came to earth and sacrificed his life so we can have a personal relationship with God that starts here and continues on into eternity in heaven. After Jesus died for us and raised himself back to life before going back to heaven, he send his Spirit here to live inside all those who put their faith in him.
Jesus is here. His Spirit is alive here.
As I write that, I feel such a relief! Because when Jesus showed up for Mary in the “The Chosen”, he sent all the demons away and she transformed in a beautiful, happy woman who committed her life to serving Jesus. Jesus made all the difference.
Knowing Jesus is here gives me relief as I finish reading the Old Testament which is filled with stories of the Israelite’s lack of faith and hundreds of years of wavering commitment. When we choose to put our faith in him, his Spirit can help us remain faithful and committed. Jesus makes all the difference.
I even feel relieved when I look around at all the issues in our current culture. Jesus is here. He is in control. He gives me peace and love and fills my empty spaces in a world that is a ‘train wreck’.
Jesus makes all the difference today and every day.
I can’t imagine it – God being silent for 400 years.
That’s the amount of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament. So it is said that God was silent.
But was he? Really?
It’s hard for me to imagine that my Father God who loves us and cares for us so diligently each day would be quiet for 400 years. I think it’s very possible that he was speaking and interacting with people at that time but none of it was meant to become part of his revelation to us so it was not included in the Bible.
When I think about how much I need God each day and knowing that there were faithful people during that time as well, it doesn’t make sense that he was actually silent for 400 years. It doesn’t sound like something he would do.
But we know that there were 400 years between the two parts of the Bible. For some reason, God put in a significant break before he begins the account of his greatest Gift of all time – salvation through his son, Jesus Christ.
Mark’s account starts with, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the son of God”. (1:1)
John’s account starts, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (1:1)
The Light of the World was arriving – we would never be the same.
it’s the big equalizer among all of us. You have 24 hours in a day and I have 24 hours in a day.
So the ‘I don’t have time for God’ excuse just doesn’t fly. We all have 24 hours and some of us find regular time with God.
Yes, I know all of our situations are different – work schedules, kid’s schedules, and all kinds of commitments fill our calendars. That’s where the challenge comes – how we choose to fill our calendars. Because it’s a choice.
I am now in a very blessed time of my life in relation to time because I am retired. I retired 5 years ago and my new schedule is pretty incredible. My calendar is mainly filled with things I want to do but I don’t have to do. I have a lot of time for God.
But this was not true of my life before retirement. I worked for 34 1/2 years straight for Corporate Jack in the Box. I was married with a 9 month-old child when I started working for Jack and had another baby 4 years later. I traveled a lot and got promoted regularly gaining more and more responsibility.
With a husband who worked fulltime, 2 kids, a house, a dog and a 60-hour workweek, you can imagine my life. And right in the middle of all of that, God challenged me to put him first. I had been running on empty for quite awhile, not happy when I realized that this is how the rest of my life could be. So when I realized that God was offering me the only way I was going to find joy and purpose in the middle of this crazy time in my life, I accepted the challenge.
And I began to reorganize my priorities. I changed my focus from my career onto my relationship with God. I started using my time differently – I stopped working 60 hours a week. I cut down to 40 or 45 hours a week, always used all of my vacation days to spend with my family and asked God to take care of the next raise or promotion. Interesting – I performed better when I worked less and I ended up with a career that blessed my family instead of taking away from my family.
My week was still packed with work, kids, sports, work travel, and more. There wasn’t much I could do about that. So I revamped my weekends. I stopped planning anything on Saturday night that would make us too tired to get up for church on Sunday. I took cleaning totally off my list by hiring a service to clean my house twice a month and trained my kids to they clean it the other weeks. I started doing my laundry, shopping and errands on Saturday, leaving Sunday open for worship and time with my spiritual family in the morning. Sunday afternoon and evening became a great time to spend with my kids and husband, study the Bible and also meet with Bible study small groups. Sunday became God and family day – all day.
I admit, it was hard for me to find my personal time with God during the week. I have never been a ‘get up at 4 am to read my Bible type of person’. It just doesn’t work for me – I’m a ‘get up at 4 am and go right to work’ person. I’m also not a ‘read a devotional every day’ type person. I don’t get much from that, I want to dig deeper.
So in the middle of the busiest time of my life, I would try to find an hour or two here or there during the week with God, knowing that I was going to dedicate Sunday to him. I believe God honored my desire to spend time with him because, somehow, I would often find myself spending two or three precious hours with him on Saturday as well.
I find it interesting to read when Nehemiah confronts the leaders in Jerusalem about ‘neglecting God’. They had stopped supporting the Levites so the Levites had to go get jobs and were unable to serve in the temple. Everyone had started working on the Sabbath – selling all sorts of produce and merchandise inside the walls of Jerusalem.
This could not go on so Nehemiah shut the gates to Jerusalem when Sabbath started and they stayed closed until the Sabbath ended. He put guards on the gates and told everyone to start bringing their tithes to the temple again and start supporting the Levites so they could go back to their temple duties.
He shut the gates.
I feel like that is what I needed to do to find significant time to spend with God. I had to shut the gates on all the other things that me and my family could do on Sundays. I had to shut the gates to the things my family could do that would keep us out late or up late on Saturday. I had to reorganize Saturdays to make room for God in my weekends. Looking back, I feel like this re-prioritizing was a blessing for my entire family because it slowed down our Sundays and we had more time to hang out with each other.
And I saw God multiply my time on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturdays I could get all of my errands and chores done AND play in the pool, have friends over and have fun. On Sundays I had time for God – worship and service in church, small group Bible studies, time with my family AND extra time to read and study God’s word which eventually led to reading the entire Bible every year and writing this blog.