Published every Monday
Does anyone ever have a week that kicks you while you’re down? Does anyone ever have days that seem absolutely insurmountable? I have had a lot of that this week. Oh, how quickly my soul forgets God’s love, power and faithfulness.
““I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 121:1-2 ESV). I love this verse. Have you ever walked through a valley so low and so dark and asked yourself, “Where does my help come from?” “What could possibly help me out of this?” The valleys have a funny way of making us forget the peaks. The darkness has a funny way of making us forget the light.
When I was a child, my parents took me to Hannibal, Missouri to the Mark Twain caves. During the tour, the guide had us stop and said, “Throughout this tour, we have had modern lighting so you could see, but this is what the caves looked like naturally, during Mark Twain’s time when the Tom Sawyer books were written.” And the lights went down. The darkness was unlike any darkness I have ever been in. It felt tangible. It felt empty. There was nothing. It was hollow and grave and unsettling. When they turned the lights back on, it was as if I was seeing for the first time. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. I remember thinking how this must have been the type of darkness Genesis 1 describes, so empty, the nothingness that we cannot begin to fathom.
Psalm 121:1-2 goes on to say, as we often have to do, “My help comes from the Lord.” The reminder our soul needs. Then, it goes on to describe the Lord as “the Maker of heaven and earth.” A reminder in those dark valleys that God is all-powerful and MORE-powerful than anything we could ever face. I love this description of Him here not only because it reminds us that he is powerful and able to deliver us in His own perfect timing and ways, but the reference to creation written in the darkest of valleys, how beautiful! God spoke light into the darkness at the beginning of time and He can speak light into the darkness of your valley - that overwhelming, tangible darkness - and fill it with His glorious light.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” -Matthew 26:41
I’ve been pondering a lot lately about how so many living in sin today are considered the most loving and accepting groups in our society. I think one of the great deceptions so many are falling victim to is the world’s definition of love. When the world loves, it takes a person and tells them to love themselves exactly as they are. It tells them they don’t need to change a thing. It seems so good on the outside. It seems accepting, welcoming, warm and unconditional. Sin will hardly ever feel bad. It will hardly ever look as ugly and broken and dark as it is. The thing about lies is that they look like the truth. The enemy is so good at making sin look good, both morally and pleasurably. Don’t buy into it. In this day and age we must be discerning. We must consult our Bible for the truth, and we must not twist it to fit the sin. We must not make excuses. We must live holy lives.
Jesus loves us better than the world, dear friends. Do not be deceived. Jesus tells us to come as we are and He loves us unconditionally and He makes us whole. He makes us better. He makes us how He created us to be. He raises us up.
If we only knew the dream the Father had for the world. How it must break His heart to hear us as Christians say, “Living in the world” as a negative connotation when He meant for Eden to be eternal.
Pray for a discerning heart and don’t be deceived. God’s love is the only true love. His word is the only true word. And by those standards we measure everything else.
“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.”
My three year old daughter Lucy has been transfixed on this verse lately. She’s always reminding us that Jesus loves the WHOLE world, making certain to place an emphasis on *whole*. She’s beginning to understand that God is real and He LOVES us, and her childlike excitement around the Gospel is akin to what she feels when she looks at presents on her birthday and it’s been both renewing my spirit and convicting me.
John 3:16 is such a special passage. It’s the Gospel message in a single verse. It’s everywhere, on T-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, you name it. Sometimes I think that the more we read that verse, the less it hits us. The less we react to that Good News. Lucy reminded me this week that that verse should never be something I’m “used to”. The gift of God’s Grace, the freedom from sin, the victory over death is something we receive with God’s mercies - every morning. We don’t deserve it. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and John 3:16 tells us that while we were still sinners, God SO loved us, all of us - the whole world. What an amazing gift. It’s something we should be so astounded by, so amazed by, and so humbled by every day of our lives.
This week, I pray you have a childlike excitement over the Gospel. Read John 3:16 like it’s the first time you’re reading it. Lucy has been telling us the Good News daily because she’s so excited about it. When your excitement and passion for the Gospel is renewed, you can’t help but evangelize. You can’t help but spend time with the Lord, to whom we are so grateful.
For many years, I’ve been believing the lie that I was invaluable. What a commonly used theme in the lies the enemy tells us. The enemy doesn’t mind if you know your calling, he just cares about keeping you from it. He tries to keep chains on you long after Jesus breaks them. He tries to keep you in a place of fear, a place of thinking you aren’t ready, you aren’t enough, and you aren’t valuable.
I still struggle with believing these lies. I have to remind myself constantly that The Bible tells a different story. The same Hands that shaped the planets formed you, dear reader. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
Jesus placed an immeasurable value on our lives by dying in our place. And He explained our value so many times: “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). In Matthew 6:26 He says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (ESV).
Jesus frequently compared our value to sparrows. In doing some research, I found that in the first century, during Jesus’ time, sparrows were used for food and they were the cheapest bird money could buy, costing just a farthing for two. The Bible tells us they were cheaper to buy in bulk, costing just two farthings for five sparrows (Luke 12:6). The farthing was probably the most comparable to a penny in today’s terms. It was a small copper coin that was basically worthless. And Jesus tells us in Matthew how our Father feeds the birds and knows what they need. He cares for them - those “worthless” sparrows. And dear reader, we are worth so much more than that. God counts the hairs on our heads. He is always near. He is always providing, listening, interceding on our behalf, and taking care of us. The world does not decide your value. The enemy does not decide your value. You do not decide your value. God Almighty decides your value, and you are worth so much more. His eye is on the sparrow, so we know He watches us.
It’s a world of oversharing. Sometimes I think we aim to please or impress our brothers and sisters in Christ subconsciously because that’s the culture we are immersed in. We share EVERYTHING on social media. I have heard people use terms like “Facebook official” or “Did it happen if you didn’t post about it?” I’m not sure a generation has craved as much attention as we do now. Jesus encouraged the opposite - He encouraged us to go to a secret place.
Matthew 6:6 says, ““But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (ESV). Not only did Jesus want to discourage us for doing things for the sake of being seen and applauded by our fellow man, but there are a multitude of benefits for having a secret place.
I encourage you to find your secret place! If you don’t already have this, I encourage you to find time to spend alone with the Lord. I know it’s hard. When I worked a 50+ hour a week job and took care of my daughter when I got off, I would go to a park on my lunch break and use that for my secret place. I’d spread out a blanket under a tree and read or write and pray, sometimes in my car if it rained. Whenever I didn’t make the time for this, my spirit began to feel run down, tired, and malnourished and I always would think of that phrase, “You cannot pour from an empty cup” and I always felt the Lord’s immediate response in my heart, “Katie, spend time with me. Just spend time with me.” And I would immediately think of that old hymn, “Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up Lord”. So dear friends, find your secret place. Ask the Lord to fill your cup. Be genuine before Him. Block out the distractions. Don’t worry about the elaborate prayers and words and pray from your heart. The Lord wants you - genuinely and authentically you, to come before His throne boldly, to spend time with Him.
God is meant to be experienced. God is on the move. He is an active part of our lives. Sometimes though, we stop experiencing Him. We quit carving out time to spend in His presence. We quit carving out time to read our Bibles. We disconnect from the source. We check out. I think that is where the disconnect happens in spiritually sleeping, dry and hungry people, of which I have been the worst. I think that’s when doubt creeps in like weeds, choking our vines and keeping us from the Living Water we so desperately need to survive.
It’s been a very burdensome year for all of us, and I believe in those times it’s the easiest for the doubt to creep in. It’s the easiest for us to disconnect. Dear brothers and sisters, many of our deepest, life-changing experiences with the Lord have happened in the darkest valleys. May I also remind you that God does reward great faith, but He doesn’t punish the doubter. Many times in my life I’ve found myself in the position of the Apostle Thomas. It’s so easy in the flesh to take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on the world, where cynicism and despair can fill our hearts. Jesus was gentle with Thomas. He allowed him to experience Him deeper to dispel his doubt. “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29 NIV).
Psalm 34:8, my favorite verse in the book of Psalms, says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (NIV). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says on this passage, “34:1-10 If we hope to spend eternity in praising God, it is fit that we should spend much of our time here in this work. He never said to any one, Seek ye me in vain. David's prayers helped to silence his fears; many besides him have looked unto the Lord by faith and prayer, and it has wonderfully revived and comforted them. When we look to the world, we are perplexed, and at a loss. But on looking to Christ depends our whole salvation, and all things needful thereunto do so also. This poor man, whom no man looked upon with any respect, or looked after with any concern, was yet welcome to the throne of grace; the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The holy angels minister to the saints, and stand for them against the powers of darkness. All the glory be to the Lord of the angels. By taste and sight we both make discoveries, and have enjoyment; Taste and see God's goodness; take notice of it, and take the comfort of it. He makes all truly blessed that trust in Him.”
God’s goodness is not only something we experience in the peak moments of our lives. It’s something that God allows us to taste and see in the valleys. It’s something we can take comfort in. It’s something we can count on. It’s something we never have to doubt.
There’s an absolutely beautiful older song called “He Looked Beyond My Fault”. It sings:
“He looked beyond my faults and saw all my needs.
I shall forever lift my eyes to Calvary
to view the cross where Jesus died for me.
And how marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul...”
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul writes this. Paul, who persecuted and murdered Christians. Paul, who then experienced the fullness of the grace of God. Paul, who was not defined by his sin, but by his redemption because of the love of God.
Sin breaks the heart of God, and I wonder if sometimes part of the heartache is that we are choosing our chains over the victory over them. We are allowing them to be road blocks in our lives instead of redemption stories and songs of praise and victory. We are believing the lies of the enemy over the grace and love and forgiveness we read about daily.
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to let go of the lies that tell you that you are used up, no good, too far gone. God places His treasures in jars of clay,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Accept God’s forgiveness today. Don’t allow your past to be a road block to you. It’s not a road block to the Lord. His plan for your life is still good. Your purpose in the Kingdom is still there. You are a redemption story, not a lost cause.
I was just telling my husband the other day that it’s so difficult to find the truth these days. There are a lot of contradicting ideas in the news and social media. Now more than ever we need to pray for the kind of discernment only the Holy Spirit can place in our hearts. We were never meant to form opinions or follow teachers based on what the majority of men say. We need to listen to what the Holy Spirit is guiding our hearts toward and we need to be discerning with all things, using the Bible as the gold standard by which all things are measured.
Paul says this on this subject: “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). Friends, in this day and age where many Godly values and truths are mocked and looked down upon, stay strong. Do not allow yourself to be conformed to the world. If you make the world your home, it’ll be the only home you’ll ever know. You won’t be popular, you won’t be well liked by men for living according to the will of the Holy Spirit and preserving the kingdom values that are important to God, and Jesus said this plainly, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19).
James tells us that conforming to this world makes us an enemy of God: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). John writes: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-16).
Dear friends, in a world full of “likes”, a world that celebrates popularity in the form of social media influencers and the amount of friends one has, dare to be different. Don’t be influenced by anyone other than the Holy Spirit. Don’t believe anything you read over the Bible. Don’t allow yourself to conform to the world and please will your heart not to desire the praise and acceptance of men over the praise and acceptance of the one true God. And rejoice, even if you’re the only one standing in the truth because you are never alone and because of what Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12).
My husband and I recently adopted two kittens as a surprise for my daughter. She has been asking for a pet for months now, specifically black or black and white kittens. We waited for a few months because we wanted to make sure we had the time off to help them acclimate to their new environment, wanted to make sure financially we could go out and purchase for them all the supplies they need (carriers, litter box, dishes, etc.) and we wanted to make sure that Lucy, our daughter, showed responsibility with taking care of a pet by using this neat virtual app I found where to simulates the experience of having to feed, play with, and care for an animal. All of these things aligned simultaneously this past weekend so we filled out the adoption form and waited on a call from the shelter. When we did get a call they had just received a litter of black kittens and wanted to know if we wanted two of those! We said yes immediately. Waiting was not easy for Lucy but the timing was perfect and our promise was 100% fulfilled, instead of half-fulfilled if we had tried to rush things.
How many times in our Christian walk have we tried to rush things? How many times have we trusted in our own timing more than the Lord’s and our hearts settled for half of a promise. I have good news for you today - God is not a “something is better than nothing” God. God is a Father who keeps His word and only asks us to trust in His wisdom, timing and provision. Please don’t mistake His perfect timing and His promise to fulfill His promises as unnecessary delay.
Joshua 21:45 says, “Not one of all the Lord’s food promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we have been grafted in to Abraham’s family and inheritors of the promise. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29).
Joshua 23:14 says, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”
Jeremiah 1:12 says, “The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
Lamentations 2:17 says, “The Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago…”
Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
These verses all tell us the same thing - God does not break a promise. If you’re waiting to see a promise or prophecy over your life fulfilled, don’t settle in your heart for less-than. Don’t take matters into your own hands. God is a Father of His word. He is not delaying. He is not deferring your hope. Everything is going according to plan.
Our words are powerful. Words today seem to be used to shout one’s opinion over all the rest. This world is so preoccupied with expressing yourself. As nice as that sounds, that’s not why we are here. We are here to express Christ in us to a broken world. Words are a powerful tool we have been given. Words can speak life, hope, and joy to a world that is full of death, decay, and despair. I’ve been studying Proverbs today and there are so many wonderful verses that discuss this very thing.
Proverbs 11:9 - “Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.”
Proverbs 15:1 - “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.”
Proverbs 15:4 - “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Proverbs 16:24 - “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Proverbs 18:4 - “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”
Proverbs 18:20 - “Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”
James 3:9-12 says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
I challenge you this week to only allow praise, life-giving and sweet-as-honey words flow from your mouth. It’s going to take self-control (this is a fruit of the Spirit for a reason!), it’s going to take stopping yourself. It’s going to take studying the Word. To reflect Jesus we need to know Him well. How would He react? What would He say? What DID He say? The best life-giving words are directly from the Bible.
The Bible also says as you do this, your own soul will receive the life-giving encouragement you are giving to others. “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.” (Proverbs 11:17).
What are ways you can speak life to your family, friends, coworkers, or church family this week? What are ways you can correct areas in your life where previously you spoke with spite, hate or anger to bring the life-giving words of the Lord to those situations?