Published every Monday
We hear it all the time – life is all about balance. We need to eat a well-balanced diet. We need to balance home life and work. We need to balance every detail of our lives very carefully. While this is all sound advice, it can become a little overwhelming because the question is not whether we are balancing it at all, but if we are balancing it properly. It is easy to fall into relying on our own strength. I’ve found, however, that when we make the Lord our first priority over all else and we ensure that we are getting a well-balanced spiritual diet staying immersed in His word and His presence, everything is simplified.
Spending time with the Lord doesn’t erase things from our to-do list. It doesn’t solve all of our problems, but it does deny fear and anxiety a place of influence over our lives and our decisions. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your steps.”
Jesus encouraged us in this matter so often. Matthew 6:33-34 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 11:29-30 says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I encourage you to rely on the Lord instead of your routine. Recent world events have shaken our routines to their very core, but the Lord is so wise and steadfast. Look to Him and He will establish your steps. Look to Him for peace amid your day-to-day chaos or the chaos you see on the news. Balancing life becomes so much easier when we take up His yoke.
Father, I thank you for your steadfastness. I thank you for your wisdom. I give all of my plans and all of my desires to you, please establish my steps in all I do so that I do it for Your glory and according to Your plan. Amen.
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:13-21).
The disciples, who had just seen Jesus heal all the sick people in this large crowd, and who had been exposed to the supernatural so intimately, naturally fell back into their own understanding. We all do this so frequently. They saw a great need and saw their lack and left it at that. Jesus just says, “No, YOU give them something to eat.” We, like the disciples, see a need and fret. We see what we lack and we worry. We see what we lack and we give up. Jesus sees a need and meets it. There are many times in my life that I have “sent people home”. There are many times in my life that I’ve seen needs and thought, there’s nothing I can do about this. I pray my thought process changes daily so my first response isn’t giving up because it’s impossible for me, but having faith and persevering because it is possible for God.
This is where our thinking needs to change. There is always something God can do about it, and often times, He wants to use us. It isn’t about being qualified, it isn’t about being perfect, it’s about having faith that God is the God of the impossible and that He places us in Divine situations and we need to realize that there is always more we can do. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”. The disciples could have sent the people into the village for food. The people still would have been fed for the day. But because the disciples listened to Jesus, looked beyond what they lacked and brought Him that tiny meal, the multitude was blessed by the miracle and so were the disciples.
I challenge you this week instead of telling someone you’ll pray for them, taking the time to pray with them right then and there, as one example. What is God asking you to do lately? What are ways you can do more with bigger faith? What are ways you can look beyond what you lack and see the Lord’s perfect provision?
Have you ever told the Lord it feels like you’re sacrificing too much for Him? Or perhaps you’ve not admitted it, but it feels that way. I have gotten to a point like that. I’ve thought, what about me? When do I get what I want or have been praying for? When do I get time for myself? I can’t believe He is asking me to give up THAT. Jesus was very direct about this: “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25). Jesus addressed this life in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
The life we lose is nothing compared to what we gain when we choose Him over all else. Choosing Him will not be easy. Jesus warned His disciples about this frequently. It will involve sacrifices on our behalf. It could be small things; it could be big things. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his dearly loved son, Isaac. Daniel was willing to sacrifice his life and freedom to prioritize the Lord in daily prayer. The benefits reaped from our daily decision to pick up our cross and follow Jesus and place Him above all else are eternal. It will cost us our whole lives, but that is the whole point. Anything we gain in this life that we cling to and don’t want to give up in order to pick up our cross is a temporary thing. It’s not eternal. Only Jesus can give that sort of life. The abundant life Jesus died for so we could have can only come through Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
David Livingstone, a great missionary and physician called to Africa in the mid-1800s, said of sacrifice and self-denial, “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of what a great debt owed to God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own best reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and the bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? I never made a sacrifice!”
Ask yourself today what areas you are clinging to in your life that are inhibiting you from picking up your cross and following Him. What areas in your life are you prioritizing over the Lord? Go to Him in prayer today and ask Him for strength in letting these things go and let Him know you are all in!
Names are important to the Lord. In the Bible, we read so many stories of God changing the names of His children after they’d been radically changed by Him. Abram was called Abraham. Jacob was called Israel. Simon was called Peter. Names in Jewish culture are extremely important. They aren’t simply something to call someone by, they are their identity. The meaning of the name is crucial and they become prophecies over the child’s life. When God changed names, He changed the person’s identity totally. He transformed them, gave them new life, hope, and a purpose. He made them who He has created them to be.
This is the good news, dear reader. You don’t have to let your troubled past define your kingdom future. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” God is still in the business of full transformations!
All you have to do is allow Him to do this. This is difficult for many of us. We live in a generation obsessed with identities. We are encouraged to go forth and find out who we are, what makes us happy, and be unique. Personality tests are increasingly popular, we are searching for our identities, trying so hard to solidify them. Those are not inherently bad things, but we are encouraged to find them though all means but the Lord, and in Him is exactly where they reside.
Allow yourself to be transformed radically today. Allow Him in, hiding no pieces of yourself, and let Him begin the process. Being healed, taught, changed and loved radically and totally by our loving Father is something we have the privilege of experiencing daily.
God has bigger plans for you than you have for yourself, and He created you for a more glorious and wonderful purpose than what you could ever imagine for yourself. He knows us better than we know ourselves. There is a plan for each of us, a divine plan. Trust in His plan, His wisdom, and His love today as He gives you an identity in Him.
Psalm 139 tells us exactly how well He knows each and every one of us:
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand--
when I awake, I am still with you.”
We sing a lot of songs about God being there in the hills and valleys, the trials and the triumphs. We don’t talk a lot about the ordinary days. We need to, because most of our lives are going to be the ordinary days.
I’ve spent so much of my twenties in discontentment. Before I had my second child, I had been working at a very high-stress job, but because I made the majority of our income at the time, I couldn’t leave. My husband and I had a dream that I would stay home with the children and he would find a better-paying job, but he searched and searched for almost three years and couldn’t find one that met the pay he would need to support all of us. This job I had was extremely demanding. I would sometimes work for an entire month without having a day off. I’d get calls on sick days or holidays and have to work from home. I had to travel a lot. It was all-consuming and it broke my heart because I barely had time to spend with our daughter. What I remember most about that time was that I placed myself in “the waiting room” as I call it. You know the place - the place we put ourselves in when we put our foot down with God. Our hearts basically say, “Well, I’m done here and I’m going to sit back and wait for you to change things.”
He was changing things, but not the things I was asking for. He was changing me. You are always going to be more important to the Lord than the miracle you’re contending for. Like a good Father, He works all things together for our good. Sometimes that won’t align with what we think is best for us at that moment, or what we want at that moment, but it’s always, always, always what we need. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
When we put ourselves in the waiting room, when we grow complacent and apathetic in our life because we aren’t in a peak season, we cause ourselves to miss out on the blessings of the Journey. We miss out on the joys of the day-to-day. We miss out on the gentle correction of the Holy Spirit.
Once I opened myself up to that correction and allowed the Lord to soften my heart, things changed rapidly. What I learned in that season was that I was desiring a peak season, a dream of mine, much more than I was desiring Him. I’d placed what He could do for me ahead of what I could offer Him. I’d stopped praying as Jesus taught us and showed us, “Thy will be done”. I’d stopped trusting His perfect timing and perfect plan for my life and began trusting my own plan.
I’d missed out on the joy of the journey. Walking with Him through the day-to-day, through the valleys and on the peaks will feel the same if your eyes are on Him. I want to live in such a way that when we reach a peak He has to remind me because He is first and foremost the desire of my heart.
I remember praying one night and instead of asking Him to change my circumstances, I asked Him to change my attitude about my circumstances. I remember pouring out my heart to Him and letting Him know how much I wanted this to happen, but telling Him I trusted in His plan and purpose for my life and I wanted His will to be done. I was ready for the peak for the first time and once we are ready, He doesn’t hesitate.
In July of that year I gave birth to my son, and then before my maternity leave was even over, my husband found the job, which meant, once we welcomed our son into our family, I did not have to return to working outside the home after all. His timing was perfect. It was a smooth transition and I am so thankful that He was patient with me during those years. I’m so thankful He didn’t place me on the peak before I was ready. If He did that, I would require the peaks to be happy. He knows it’s only when we delight in Him that we find true and lasting joy. I am so thankful for such a good and wise Father.
I challenge you this weekend to fix your eyes on Him. We often need to check our hearts to make sure He is the prize, the desire, and the priority. Then, enjoy the journey. There’s a beautiful song I love that goes
“And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am his own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known”
I read this quote about a year ago and it’s stuck with me ever since:
“One man once asked D.L. Moody, who worked tirelessly day and night for God, if he was tired of the work to which Moody replied, “I’m tired in the work but I’m not tired of the work" acknowledging that laboring for the Lord is tiring but he never tired of doing work for the Lord. There is a difference and D.L. Moody marked it well.”
Some of you reading this may be senior pastors, associate pastors, worship pastors, some of you may not hold a position in the church, but we are all in full-time ministry. Our job as Christians, given to us by Jesus, is to “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations...” (Matthew 28:19).
Colossians 3:17 tells us, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Kingdom work can be done in our day-to-day lives as much as it’s done from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. In fact, that is exactly what He is expecting of us. We have a responsibility to work tirelessly day and night for the Lord, honoring Him and letting Him shine through us in all areas of our lives. And while we may get tired (and in those tired seasons it is important to remember that rest is holy and imperative), we will never get tired of the work we are doing. Living in accordance with the will of God will always produce good fruit- the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.
I urge you to ask yourself a few questions today:
Am I tired and in need of rest, the kind of holy rest where I dwell in the presence of the Lord, study His word, listen to His voice and allow myself to be refreshed and renewed?
What kingdom work do I feel led to by the Holy Spirit? Is there more He is urging me to do? What areas in my day-to-day life do I need to focus more on doing as an act of worship and kingdom work before the Lord? What areas do I need to allow Him to shine through in?
“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20
Mustard seeds are 1-2mm in diameter. That is small. I love this illustration not only because it was another wonderful commonplace simile used by Jesus to help the people understand His teachings very well, but also because it teaches us so much. It shows us that God’s power is greater than we can imagine if faith that size could move a mountain. It also shows us that when our faith remains that size, it’s very easy to cover it with fear and doubt.
We have a tendency to climb mountains we were always intended to move. We have a tendency to let our doubt, and our own logic, cloud our minds and drown out our faith. The thing about mustard seeds is, they grow into 20ft trees. When we exercise our faith, it continues to grow so long as our roots are deeply rooted in the Lord. Each time we reach another hurdle, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that God’s past faithfulness demands our present trust.
Billy Graham said, ”Your faith may be just a little thread. It may be small and weak, but act on that faith. It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is.”
Father, I pray today that You help me grow in faith and trust in You. Help my unbelief. I thank You for Your past faithfulness in all areas of my life. Amen.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
I love this verse. As a perfectionist myself, I am constantly evaluating myself and looking for places in which I can improve. This verse is such a comfort to me at times where I’m feeling inadequate, unqualified, and unfinished. What a joy to be fully known. There is nothing you can tell the Lord that surprises Him. He sees all of you, He sees you where you are and where you need to be and loves you through the journey. He is patient with us, never forsaking us, even when we stumble.
Perhaps it is a blessing in this life that we can only see through the mirror dimly. It is a blessing that we are too close to the picture to see it in its fullness because then, we can rejoice in the small victories and progress, every individual shaping from the hand of the Father. If we would see all of it, we would see all the work yet to be done and become discouraged with ourselves. What an absolute joy when considering this, that we are loved by a Father who does see all of this and loves us where we are right now and is working and waiting and whittling away at our hearts in the most joyous anticipation of what we will become – what He’s created us to become. And at the end, when we finally see the full picture, we will be a finished product and we will see where His light was, and His goodness will overwhelm us in the best way.
C.S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “…God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in the least in your present attempts to be good, or even in your present failures. Each time you fall He will pick you up again. And He knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection. On the other hand, you must realize from the outset that the goal towards which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection, and no power in the universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do, and we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone…But this is the fatal mistake. Of course we never wanted, and never asked, to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death. That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well, he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along — illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation — he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, more more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.”
It is so easy to feel hopeless in the world today. Losing heart can happen to us so quickly and often. The world tells us one story, but Jesus tells us a different one: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
We will be tempted to place our hope in things here on earth. Everything on this earth will eventually fail us, but Christ is a solid rock on which we can stand, on Whom we can place our hope and trust. Billy Graham wrote in his book The Jesus Generation, “My hope does not rest in the affairs of this world. It rests in Christ who is coming again.”
Are you struggling today to take heart and take hold of the hope that the Lord has won for His children through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus? I would encourage you to start a new rhythm of reading your Bible as often as you read the news. Psalm 119:114 says, “Your word is my source of hope.” Connecting to our source of hope and reminding ourselves of the truth and the victory we have in Jesus is imperative in our walk through this life. Verses that encourage me on this subject are:
1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”
Ephesians 1:18: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,”
Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
Isaiah 40:31: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
A natural product of taking hold of our hope in Jesus is joy. Psalm 146:5 says, “Happy is he…whose hope is in the Lord his God.” God wants to give you hope today. He wants you to experience the true joy that comes from placing our hope and trust in Him. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”
Father we thank you for the hope we have through your son Jesus. Please help us to set our minds on things above. Help our unbelief, help our doubt, and help us not to lose heart. We thank you for the victory you have won over every power of darkness in this world. We place our trust in You. Amen.
When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder – absence seizures. When I was first diagnosed, I was having hundreds a day. It made making friends at school very difficult for me. It was hard for them to have a conversation with me when I would constantly “space off” and not remember what was being said when I came to.
Oh, but I desperately wanted friends. At church, we would sing this song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. I asked Jesus into my heart around this same time and I remember my parents describing prayer to me at my level, explaining that I could talk to Jesus like I talked to them, or a friend. All those things brought comfort to my lonely heart, and I remember sitting in the top bunk of the bunk bed I shared with my younger sister after everyone went to sleep. I’d look out the window and up at the starry night sky and talk to Jesus like a friend. I would tell Him about my day at school, my sisters, my parents. I chuckle a little when I think of those prayers, and I’m sure that He did too. “Jesus,” I would say, “today I got SO mad at my sister, she kept messing up the game I was playing.” Other times I would sit up there and weep. I wept for friends, for healing, all sorts of things that I couldn’t put into words at five years old. But the Bible says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27 NIV). Though I was only five and had no idea of the concept of praying for healing in my life, the Lord knew the desires of my heart. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxieties on the Lord, for He cares for you.”
The Lord listened. He was patient when a seizure would interrupt my prayers. He was always listening, always there, and He brought joy to my heavy heart. Spending time in His presence was the dearest part of my day.
I still pray this way to this day. The Lord invites us into an intimate relationship with Him. He invites us in as His children. We don’t need to pray loud adorned prayers. When Jesus prayed, He always addressed God as, “Abba” – Father and when He taught us to pray, He instructed us to do the same. What a precious, amazing gift to be given, that deep intimacy with God.
When I was eight years old, I had another routine EEG scan. I was declared seizure free and I was able to get off of all medication. With the possible prognosis always being that these seizures could turn into full epilepsy with frequent grand mal seizures as I got older, this was a miracle that I am forever grateful for. When we walked out of the doctor’s office and toward the car, I remember my mom saying, “You know, Kate, Jesus healed you.” Her voice broke when she said this and I recalled all of the times I’d walked past her room over the last three years on my way to the kitchen for a drink of water late at night and see her in her bedroom with the door ajar, on her knees weeping before the Lord as well, contending for my healing. “Yes Mom, I know!” I said. And I looked up to the sky and I remember saying to the Lord, “Thank you!” in a voice just barely above a whisper.
While those few years in my life were difficult, the Lord worked them together for my good. He wins every victory! Even if I’d never been healed on earth, He still took an earthly ailment that’s part of the death, disease and destruction that sin wrought and used it for my good. I learned so much about prayer, about spending time in His presence, and I sought Him out and found Him, just like He promised. If you’re feeling alone today, whether it be due to separation because of the quarantine or other personal circumstances, please let me assure you that you are not alone. You have a friend in Jesus. The song rings so true:
“What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”