Keeping the Long View

And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David…..(Ruth 4:17).

I read something yesterday that said quite simply, “keep the long view in mind.” I’m not very good at this. Mostly because I’m super concerned about what’s best for me. Selfishness is an issue in my heart that manifests itself in different ways. Mostly during those times when I feel like life is treating me unfairly.
Ruth didn’t respond this way and God blessed her life in great abundance. Even after her death, her faithfulness rippled on into the generations that would come after her. In God’s great grace He used the child that Ruth and Boaz would raise to be the father of Jesse, who would, in turn, become the father of King David. The Davidic line would be the line from which the Messiah, Jesus, would come. Truly, Ruth kept the long view in mind.
Some of us have difficult children, marriages, or heartbreaking realities. We must live as people who are faithful. Without faithfulness we, personally will not see the blessing of God in our life. We will not see His overcoming life join with ours to bring us victory. Could it be that God wants to bless our great, great, great grandchildren through our faithfulness, but our view has become so short that we cannot even fathom the thought of it? Or maybe we just don’t care, because quite frankly, we just want what we want. Our greatest concern is that our present lives would feel better, even if our obedience to walk through suffering means the blessing of someone else’s’ life. I just need to raise my hand really high on that one and say, “Yep, that’s my issue….. Lord change me.”
I have noticed something in my own heart, it is the sin of unbelief. It’s an attitude in my heart that says, “What good could come from this?” “Your life has now become pointless, congratulations.”
Sometimes the short view wants to steal the long view from my heart and mind. More often than I care to admit. When this happens, I must choose to rejoice, to praise God in all circumstances. After all, life is not about you. It has never been. Until we get over that reality we’ll always live believing that we deserve more.
Lord, I have everything I need in you. I have your peace, purpose, victory, and love that surrounds me. Thank you that your grace finds me. Thank you that you will bless the generations after me as I walk in faithfulness. Forgive me for being so concerned about what’s best for me. I am selfish, but I want to live as a woman who is not. Thank you for your grace for people like me, in Jesus name, Amen.

Redeemed: At the City Gate

Meanwhile, Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along….(Ruth 4:1).

Last night I asked my girls bible study, “What do you need God to redeem in your life? What are you walking through right now that’s painful and hard?” With their eyes locked in on me, I shared about my own painful seasons of life that I had walked through. I shared about the dark seasons I walked through as a teenager and how my life, at the time, felt purposeless and hopeless. Yet, God gave me hope.
I think that’s one of the best messages we can share with a young person- God offers hope.
The story of Ruth hits yet another climactic moment as Boaz sits down at the town gate. Ruth is about to be redeemed after a time of desolation and despair. The way in which Boaz will redeem her blesses her life in great abundance. He is fully prepared to be that man for her and redeem her life from the pit.
Maybe you’ve been there in the place of desolation. Sometimes our desolation intensifies or continues because we have hardened our hearts towards God. Other times our lack of faith keeps us from seeing the goodness of God, so we never practice faith and stay stuck in unbelief. In my own heart, I often get impatient with God, wanting Him to redeem my situation in my way and in my timing. For me, I have to daily offer up myself and my heart as a sacrifice before God. Until I live as a daily sacrifice, joy dies in my heart because of things like impatience, unbelief, and discontentment.
I want to live as a dead woman, but not a woman who has no life in her, but someone who is dead to the attitudes, and coping mechanisms that have long tried to destroy me.
The longer I grow in love, the deeper my heart becomes changed. Changed into something brand new. Changed into something with great peace and purpose. Changed into what my own life needs most in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Sometimes I think we’re looking for God to change our circumstances when really what He’s trying to do is change us in them. Therefore, we must believe in hope that God is working out all things for our good and His glory, in Jesus name.
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! I have so much growing to do still! I need your love and grace to surround me. Jesus, be my joy. Forgive me for my impatience and lack of faith. Grow me in joy as my heart lives surrendered to your love. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace. I need more of it in my life, Amen.

Seeing Jesus

But we do see Jesus….(Hebrews 2:9)

I have this issue at work. I can never find my keys. They’re always somewhere different. Someone needed them so they’re no longer sitting in the place I last put them or I just can’t remember where I put them. This sends me frantically searching to find them. Until I do, my heart cannot rest.
Sometimes I hit the panic button in my heart when life doesn’t go the way I had hoped. My eyes start searching for something to ease my anxiety so I’ll go scurrying about using my temporal fixes to ease my present worry. Maybe you’ve been there too, where all you can see is the bad in front of you, but not the peace of God in the midst of calamity.
see Jesus
I often think about Jesus, the joy, and delight that sits within His heart await those who would be willing to look for Him. When I was a child and afraid, whenever I found my daddy, I knew I was safe in His arms. When our hearts feel panicked, worried or afraid we need not look further than our Heavenly Father’s arms. There in His warm embrace, He comforts the hurting, bringing joy to a heart wrecked by worry.
Lord, you offer us peace. Today, I look at my Savior. I want to see Him, not my worry, pride or anxiety. I want to live in the fullness of His great love. He is a good, loving Savior. His love for me is all that I need. May I be reminded of that today, in Jesus name, Amen.

Just Hold On

“I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised… (Genesis 50:24).

Joseph stepped in to be the man God would use to help save and preserve Israel. God gave Joseph wisdom and insight and Joseph used this insight to save many lives. The people of Israel looked to Joseph and now Joseph is about to die. He reminds the people, “God will surely come to your aid.”
Can we all just have an honest moment with one another? It doesn’t always feel like God is coming to our aid. It’s easy to focus on how things aren’t ideal or what we wish we had but don’t. It’s also easy to look to something or someone to provide for us apart from God.   Feelings tell us nothing about God; only faith rooted in trust speaks to us of who He is.    
I’ve sat in those places of discontentment and worry. I have not trusted God to provide for me. I have allowed fear and worry to direct my steps instead of the sovereign will of God. I still feel like God is trying to get me alone, somewhere deep in my heart, to speak tenderly to me of His love for me.
There are things in my heart that feel locked up in prison cells, not because I’m fearful to go there, but because at times it feels like the enemy is still, “sifting me like wheat.” Maybe you’ve been there too when your heart and mind have a hard time understanding the present season you’re in or why God walked you through the season that He did.
Sometimes, I just want to go home and see Jesus. I long for a life free from pain, tears, anguish, and hurt. I think we all feel that way from time to time. There is a great purpose for us in this life, but praise God that something so great is coming we wouldn’t believe it.
There are days when my heart feels sad because of a deep longing to walk in the fullness of love. A love so free that nothing would oppress me any longer. A love so glorious that I would be able to give it fully and freely to others without a shred of selfishness. I want to give and receive that kind of love.
I don’t think its possible this side of Heaven to experience that kind of love. That’s why I long for that day when God will wipe every tear from my eye. When things like cancer, autism, anger, pride, fear, rejection, mental illness, and betrayal are no longer commonplace. The only thing that will surround us is the freedom to love others and be fully known and loved by God.
As Joseph left Israel, God did not. We must remember that no matter where life finds us, God is there. His love is there to hold us up, carry us and lead us towards victory. No person, circumstance or thing can do what only God can do for us. If my heart is satisfied in the love of God I can have the freedom to carry on with a heart that is full, knowing that a day is coming soon when God will make all things right. I can bank my life upon that.
Lord, you are so good. Why would I even question your goodness even for a moment? Forgive me Lord that I have a hard time accepting things in my life sometimes. Forgive me that my heart wrestles with contentment. I want to live fully and freely in you for your great name. Use me to be a world changer for Jesus I pray, Amen.

A Cry of Anguish

“I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.”- Psalm 142:1

I remember one of my first experiences in Israel back in 2010. We were all huddled in the cave of Adullam. The very place where David found himself a few thousand years earlier while fleeing for his life. There, alone in the cave with no one to come alongside him, David cried out to God and God brought a rough and tumble group of about 400 men to come to David’s side.
I remember John, our director, letting out a bellowing scream of agony there in the cave that day as he cried out the Hebrew word (za’ak) David would have used. He said this word is used when you’re in deep agony. It’s a word you use when you have nothing left and need God to show up and intervene.
As John cried out it felt as if the cave walls began to shake. You could see David, there in the cave, crying out in a similar manner. He was desperate and God heard his cry. I’ve been in that place where I need God to show up. Where my heart feels in deep agony and I wonder if God is hearing my cry.
Sometimes my heart still feels like it is tumbling in anguish. Although I am seeing the hand of God working in my life I also see another hand at work. I am having a hard time letting go of the injustice I see dispersed upon my life from the Father of lies. I’m sure David felt a similar way when He dealt with the deep anguish and injustice in his life of having his own son try to overthrow his kingdom. I’m sure Joseph, also, dealt with those feeling of anguish as he sat alone in a prison cell accused of a crime he didn’t commit, betrayed by his own brothers and sold into slavery.
One might say that God was unfair to both of these men. However, what God did was use the injustice inflicted upon them as preparation in their lives for the next step He had for them. No season, pain or circumstance in our lives is ever wasted. God is always preparing us for something new, something glorious, if we would be willing to trust in His redemption and timing.
So today friend, let’s go to the cave of Adullam together and cry out. There, in our desolation, the Lord meets us. He longs to meet our needs and fill our hearts with His love.
Lord, I trust you. I cry out to you. I need you. Forgive me for not believing in your greatness, but allowing my circumstances to steal my joy. Lord, grow my heart. I want to be more like you, in Jesus name, Amen.

The Song of Our Hearts

 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning…. (John 15:27).

It is easy, as Christians to forget to tell of the wonderful deeds of the Lord. It is commonplace for most of us to tell of what He’s not doing, instead of letting our hearts sing of the mighty works He has done.
The disciples had much to testify about, for they had walked with Jesus, following all throughout the Judean countryside into cities, towns, and villages. They witnessed many miracles as they walked with Jesus. Their testimonies would be long and lengthy because their hearts became full of their experiences with God.
Could it be that our hearts are not full of stories to tell about God, because we do not experience Him? Instead of seeing the goodness of God, we see His hands empty and our hearts are left wanting. I have found when my own life gets into these places, it’s because I have held onto a lie in my heart. A lie that says I must have something, become something or do something. I have made my pursuit of whatever it is more important than my pursuit of God.
I am learning that the greatest stories I can tell for God are not ones that my fingers type or my mouth says, but the testimony that sings from my heart. My words are of little value if my heart does not first- sing of God’s greatness. If the song that sings from my heart is one of discontentment, anger or bitterness I have shouted a message to the world that Christ is of little significance in my life. It is the song of our hearts, birthed out of our experiences with God that draw people to His love. How can we be a lamp on a stand or a city on a hill if we are not first captivated by His love? How we will ever move from saved peopled to fully devoted follower without becoming someone deeply immersed in His love?
When the master calls you to follow, do not delay, but simply, trust. As the heart grows for God, our song deepens and our light shines brighter for the world to see the love of God made manifest in His people.
Lord, I am a kingdom worker for you. Thank you for using my life. I want to be of good cheer to the world for Christ. I long for my light to shine and my heart to sing of your love. Jesus, be my joy. Be the song that my heart sings. I do not want to live in discontentment, worry or fear. I want to live in deep, abiding trust, found only in your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Snuggling My Nephew, The Father’s Heart, and The Greatest Gift

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”….. (John 14:21).

As I was snuggling with my three-year-old nephew this morning a thought flashed across my mind. “It matters not what is wrapped up in our hands, but what we hold in our heart.” In those precious moments holding my nephew, I was giving him nothing but the love that I have for him stored up in my heart. Sure, I can gift him with a brand new toy, but the greatest gift I can give him is sacrificial love that comes from what God has stored up in my heart through the Holy Spirit.
me and gabe
I think what Jesus means when he says, “I will show myself to them,” is that He will show us His heart. The only way to know His heart is to sit with Him and allow His love to overwhelm us. We should never be looking for a handout from Jesus, but instead, quiet our hurried minds and hearts to find Him and HIs love for us in the stillness of rest.
I remember being held by my father and my mother. As they held me, my heart grew. Something happens when we hold another person. The love we have for them grows in their heart a deeper capacity to love and be loved. I believe what we need in our lives is not greater excess, but deeper love in our hearts. When my heart grows, my love for God increases and my ability to love others extends beyond myself and into their heart. As we give love to one another we show them the Father, because sacrificial, unconditional love does not come easy. It’s an aspect of the Father’s character that we can give to the hurting. It’s a part of us that we show can show to the world. It is the greatest extent of love we can give someone; a listening ear, a silent presence and a heart that is full of the love of God.
Lord, thank you that you love me. Today I want to sit in your embrace to be found by you and loved deeply by you. Grow our hearts for one another as we sit with each other in places of deep, abiding rest. Lord, we love you, show us more of yourself, in Jesus name, Amen.

Two Reasons Why You’ve Been Betrayed

“Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!…. (John 13:38).

Jesus walked a painful road towards His death and resurrection. I wonder if some of His greatest pain came from being betrayed by those who He was closest to. Two men, Judas and Peter completely betray Jesus after walking with Him for three years.
Some of us have felt betrayed by others in life. People we thought we could trust. People we thought had our backs. If we could be honest, we’ve probably been that person to someone too.
What makes us and others so capable of betrayal? In the cases of Judas and Peter, it was fear and power. Judas, a zealot (a religious sect in Judaism that wanted to overthrow Rome) wished to see Jesus rise up as a warrior like Messiah and fight against the Roman government.
Some scholars believe that Judas betrayed Jesus with the hopes that it would motivate Jesus to fight back and start an uprising. The kind of uprising the Zealots were looking for to overthrow the political prowess of the Roman government. I’m not sure if this was actually the case, but if there is validity to this argument, Judas was driven to betray Jesus because of his lust for power. He used Jesus as a tool for His own selfish motivations.
If we could be quite honest, we’ve done this too, using people to get what we want. Sadly, our hearts long for power more than they do for love. Our selfish motivations, led by fear, and the hopes of getting what we want, end up hurting others along the way. The only way to be a different kind of person is to be led by a different kind of heart. What Judas really needed was the love of God directing His heart. Without God’s love directing us, we’re sure to be led by our own vanity and our longing to be a powerful person.
Peter, on the other hand, was led by fear. His fear caused Him to completely turn His back on Jesus. Fear made him do the unthinkable and our fear does the same for us. Fear is really rooted in control. People who cannot give God control will leave in fear. I’ve been that kind of person, directed by fear and held captive to it. Peter feared losing his life. Truth is, whenever we follow Jesus into difficult circumstances we can trust that we are safe in the hands of Christ. Even if we lose our lives, there is great gain in the next life.
Until we live in humility, with new hearts, surrendered to the love of God we will keep betraying the people God puts in our path. We’ll use them, sometimes unknowingly, as a tool to get what we want, increase our power or soothe our own worried, anxious hearts.
Lord, forgive us. We hurt people so often. We live in fear. We love power. We need your grace. Help us to live in humility, considering the needs of others better than our own. Lord, let our greatest desire not be for our own gain, but for the betterment of your kingdom. Let it increase in our hearts as we live with lives surrendered to you, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Humble Heart, A Painful Season, and God’s Redemption

“I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”…..(Luke 22:34)
Peter’s downfall was not his passion, but his pride. To an outsider, Peter’s passion may have looked like a heart devoted to God, but what happens next reveals the deep humbling that needed to happen in Peter’s heart. The humbling was not God’s anger against Him, but God’s love. It was used of God to prepare Peter to become the man he needed to be a leader in the early church.
Sometimes Jesus takes us through humbling seasons in life. I’ve walked through my own humbling season recently. There’s a message the enemy wants to speak to us there that can throw us off track from the victory God has for us during those times in life. The enemy says, “Get mad! Get bitter! God doesn’t love you! God is mean! Seek revenge! Find someone to blame, and bury your heart away!” Sadly, many of us do. I was tempted to, on many, many occasions. However, I knew that if I allowed the enemy to have his way in my heart I would never experience the fullness of redemption God wanted to produce in me.
I continue to see the fruits of holding fast to Jesus during a dark, difficult and painful season. Results come a lot slower than we would like. Jesus is a healer, but He doesn’t just snap a finger and make all our pain go away. Victory comes as we persevere. It comes when we let go of all those things the enemy wants to use to destroy our faith. Victory is not about using God as a tool to build a better, more successful, less painful life. Victory is found in knowing God. That’s it. The only way to know Him is to walk a similar road that He did. The road of self-sacrificial love and humility. The road of dying to self, for the purpose of being resurrected into a new life.
Something died in me many months ago as I walked away from doing full-time youth ministry for a season. Maybe you’ve been there too where a dream, expectation, or desire died in you as you gave it back to God. Maybe someone physically died in your life or it feels like they have because they’ve cut you off and cut you out and you wonder how in the world this could ever come as a good thing. Yet, there is something so deep about persevering through suffering that if we hold fast, we will see the miracles of God.
I am starting to see the fruits of God’s resurrection in my life. I first saw it in my marriage. Now I’m seeing the power of His redemption over the love in my heart for young people that I handed back to Him many months ago. You see, sometimes God has to reshape something, not because He wants to take it away from us and play some mean game. He wants to do something so beautiful with it we wouldn’t believe it. That’s just the kind of God that He is.
Lord, I believe. You are a mighty God. YOu take our pain and make all things new. You love me. You are the one who is bringing restoration and redemption in my life. I am in awe of your love for me! You are a good and mighty God. Thank you that you are bringing beautiful fruit from something the enemy tried to use to destroy my life, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Widow’s Offering

“this poor widow has put in more than all the others…(Lk 21:3).

Sometimes I think pretty highly of myself. Probably too highly of myself. I have an issue in my heart and it stems from a place of my own desire for glory. It’s a place in my heart that thinks I’m deserving. It’s a place that believes, after all, I should be chosen.
Jesus doesn’t care much for self-righteousness. In fact, Jesus does not point out the large gifts given by those whose hearts were self-righteous, but instead, He draws attention to a heart seen only by Him. A heart that put in very little, but gave all she had. I want to be that kind of woman.
For someone who has had a great amount of success in ministry, it became easy for me to find satisfaction in what I could build because I had something tangible to show for it. Now, when I look in the mirror I see a woman whose heart has been caught up by God. A woman who does not have much to show for what she can do for God, but instead has an offering to give back to God out of her own poverty. I am learning that the best kind of person I can be for God is the one who learns to listen well, sit quietly and live peaceably. This is when I am my very best me.
We get our priorities out of balance when we make our lives about what we can pursue, the boxes we can check and the rungs we can climb on the ladder. In many ways, I feel like God took my hands and feet and flung them off the ladder I was climbing because He had to take my heart somewhere deeper. He had to go with me to the place of my own poverty.
I am learning that what I have to offer is not something great, as I sometimes wrongly believe, but really it’s just an offering of what He has already given me. I am only giving back to Him what He has given to me. This is His love.
I have noticed that some people respond to me differently now because I have “published a book.” Truth is, whatever I write comes out of my own poverty as a blessing back to God. I am no one special or important. You and I, no matter what title we carry, the degree we hold, publication or whatever else we look towards to give us false significance in the world are all beggars at the door of God’s mercy.
When the Lord looks down on His people He esteems the widow, stay at home mom and elementary teacher the same as the CEO of a large company, pastor, professor or movie star. He doesn’t look at what we do, He looks into our hearts and cares about who we are.
Today I want to give out of my own poverty as a daughter of the King loved by God. Not because I have made myself worthy of His love, but simply because He has grace for women like me who don’t always get it right.
Jesus, you love me. I want to offer up a sacrifice of praise in my heart for you. Jesus, I want to be made into your image. I want to bear your image to the world. I want the very best parts of me to be what you have put in me through your love. Jesus, love others through me, I pray today, Amen.