S.P.R.A.W.L. Before the Lord

MEME - Blog - S.P.R.A.W.L. Before the Lord - Jan 14, 2019Suggested Reading: Genesis 24

As a teenage runaway, I convinced myself that survival made it necessary to place my needs above everyone else’s.

I demanded my way, dug in my heels until I proved myself right, and prided myself in being independent.

I gave to no one. I insisted I needed no one. I submitted to no one.

I trusted no one.

After repeatedly falling face-first in the mess caused by my foolishness and self-centered sinfulness, I met a King‒Jesus‒who proved Himself trustworthy.

Prayerfully reading through the Bible yearly helped me learn more about God’s character as I discovered how much my personal Lord and Savior loved me, how much He gave for me, how much He promises me.

I began to realize He was and is and always will be the only One worth following.

Falling in love with Jesus changed my perspective on servanthood.

But how could I learn to follow Christ when every fiber in my being still struggled with stubbornness at times?

How could I possibly hear His direction when a war waged between my self-serving heart and my desire to have a surrendered servant’s heart?

Though the concept of surrender filled me with fear, the Lord used a humble servant in Genesis 24 to help me learn to S.P.R.A.W.L. before my trustworthy Master, Jesus Christ.

S.P.R.A.W.L.

Stop.

Pray.

Release.

Acknowledge.

Watch.

Listen.

When Abraham sent his servant to seek out a wife for Isaac, the servant fretted over his ability to complete the task (Genesis 24:1-9). Abraham assured him that he Lord would be with him and equipped with all he needed for his travels (vv. 10-11). Scripture doesn’t tell us how much time passed when the servant arrived in Nahor, but we do know how he spent his time.

He stopped and prayed (vv. 12-14).

He released his worries into God’s able hands.

He acknowledged God’s love and reliability with a simple statement of assurance:

“By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love for my master.” (v. 14, emphasis mine)

Through his honest and confident prayer, the servant opened his heart to the peace of trusting God with the outcome (vv. 15-21).

He watched with expectancy as he waited for God’s answer (v. 33).

And even when others tried to distract him from his purpose and delay him, the servant listened‒obeyed his master‒followed the Lord and started on his journey home (vv. 34-61).

This nameless servant chose to S.P.R.A.W.L. before the Lord when given a seemingly impossible task and became a vital part of God’s plan in bringing Isaac and Rebekah together (vv. 62-67).

The Lord never leaves us empty-handed when He calls us to follow Him.

When the twists and turns in our journey test us and the delays and distractions discourage us, we can still follow our Master with surety and hope.

As we S.P.R.A.W.L. like a servant before the Lord Almighty, He can use us to make an eternal impact in someone else’s life.

 Lord Almighty, thanks for affirming Your unending love for us as You empower us to S.P.R.A.W.L. before You whenever we face challenges.

Give us wisdom to stop when we need guidance, pray with confidence, and release our worries into Your capable hands.

 Help us acknowledge You as our Holy God full of goodness and mercy, as we watch You place every piece of Your plan in place.

Help us listen to You‒to hear You and obey You as we follow You.

 In Jesus’s name, Amen.

—–

How did your life change when you chose to live with a servant’s heart instead of a self-serving heart?

 Is it harder for you to stop, pray, release, acknowledge, watch, or listen to God?

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The Same Old Story

MEME - Blog - Genesis 1 v 1 - Edited Jan 5, 2019

A strange sadness weighed on my heart as I stared at my Bible.

Why wasn’t I excited about reading God’s Word?

Alan and I had been reading the Bible in a year since 2005.

Each year, we’d been amazed at how the Lord revealed Himself in new ways and used His Word to stretch and strengthen us at the perfect time.

So, why was I struggling with focus?

Why didn’t I feel that twinge of expectation and excitement when I prepared to start the year’s reading plan?

When did I start losing sight of the immeasurable value of each God-breathed word in Scripture?

As I beat myself up over the unanswered questions, the Lord patiently massaged my weary heart and prepared me for an unexpected answer.

When I approach Bible reading as a task, I fail to acknowledge God intentionally provided and protected each word from the time of oracles through the years of transcription and translations so He could place His story at my fingertips.

To the enemy’s delight, I’d fallen for the lie that made me skim through Scripture as if I had nothing left to learn from the same old story, as if I didn’t desperately need to listen to my loving Savior’s unchanging voice, as if I didn’t need Him to transform my heart with His words every single day of this life He’s given me.

I prayed for forgiveness and asked God to ignite my passion for His Holy Word, to help me approach Scripture with a new and more grateful perspective, to strengthen me through the same old story that changed my life on December 14, 2001 . . . the day I surrendered my life to Jesus.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning, before life as we know it started, God existed in all His triune perfection and decided to create something out of absolutely nothing.

God created the heavens.

He designed and gave purpose to every galaxy, every planet, every star, every black hole, every atomic particle in the universe.

The Lord created the heavens, in all its marvelous and mysterious vastness.

He created the five basic elements of the universe. Fire. Wood. Water. Metal. Earth.

From the nothing that existed, God created the earth.

He created the inner core, the outer core, the earth’s mantle, and the solid crust that gives us firm places to stand.

He decided where the land would separate the water, where vegetation would flourish, where desert sands would stretch across miles, where mountain ranges and valleys would be carved by trickling streams and the winds that answer to His voice alone.

The Maker of time decided when this world would begin and when man would be created.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

The mind-blowing implications of that simple declaration confirm our Almighty Creator started His story by providing a place for us to be with Him.

Every God-breathed word preserved in the Bible assures us that we can depend on “the same old story” being the foundation of our faith and the proof of His unchanging and unconditional love.

God’s unchanging story gives us confidence in the foundational truths on which He builds our faith.

Why would we want God to change His perfection, to lead us along a different path so we won’t get bored?

Why would we want Him to change His story, to shake things up so we could have a foundation we couldn’t depend on?

Would we really want to follow Him if He was untrustworthy, if He kept changing the rules to fit our weaknesses?

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Why would He change anything? Why would we want Him to change anything?

As I prepare to read the same old story this year, I’m now excited about the prospect of deepening my faith as He strengthens my confidence in His unchanging Word.

I don’t want to miss one syllable.

I don’t want to skim through one story.

I don’t want to risk giving up an opportunity to hear His unchanging voice declaring His unconditional love for us.

My attitude toward reading God’s Word was a direct result of The Fall. Like Adam and Eve, I listened to the enemy tempting me to doubt the value and surety of God’s unchanging words of truth and love.

Did God really say this or that?

How will we know if we don’t sit at His feet every day and invite Him to share the beautiful story He’s preserved for us in Scripture?

Lord Almighty, thanks for blessing us with confidence in Your unchanging truth. Please ignite our passion for Your Word and help us understand Your truth as we sit at Your feet each day.

Please forgive us for the moments we forget to truly hear what You are saying through Your words preserved in Scripture.

We love You and praise You and thank You for the beautiful love letter You’ve placed in our hands‒the Bible. Please help us approach daily Scripture reading with grateful hearts surrendered in prayer and excitement at the opportunity to know You more.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

In what ways have you struggled with reading the Bible?

How does considering the magnitude of the statement in Genesis 1:1 make reading God’s story more exciting?

 How has the Lord used His unchanging Word to change your life?

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This year I’m using the Our Daily Bread reading schedule to read through the Bible in one year. If you would like to receive daily encouragement devotions and the daily reading schedule from Our Daily Bread, please visit www.odb.org/subscriptions

For encouragement and prayers, please connect with me on my Facebook Author Page, Xochitl E. Dixon at  https://www.facebook.com/Xochitl-E-Dixon-239776362714751/

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God’s Guaranteed Grace

MEME - Hebrews 4 v 16 - Dec 4, 2018My heart ached as I recalled a friend saying, “I know my pain isn’t as bad as yours, but would you please pray for me?”

I grieved when I remembered the various apologies and fear-filled prayer requests.

 I’m so sorry to bother you with this prayer request.

 I know others are worse off than I am, but do you think God will help me?

 Is it okay to ask God for help when so many others are hurting around me?

 Is my request too small, too personal, too self-centered to bring to God?

How many precious children of God fear or avoid asking for intercessory prayer because they feel their needs are not as important as someone else’s?

How many beloved brothers and sisters in Christ keep quiet, ashamed of wanting to ask for their needs to be met because their neighbors’ problems seem bigger, more severe?

God cares about every single detail of our lives.

Our compassionate Creator wants us to come to Him, whether we’re suffering from illness, trudging through seasons of grief, or battling discouragement, fear, insecurities, or doubt.

How often have I been afraid to be accused of whining before God’s throne of grace instead of being confident in God’s amazing grace?

What would it take for me to be assured of God’s limitless love, perfect faithfulness, and immeasurable mercy?

Would the Lord care if I’m weary when someone else is fighting for their lives?

Yes.

Would He care if I’m discouraged when someone’s family is falling apart?

Yes.

Would God care if I need courage to work towards a dream when someone’s struggling to make ends meet?

Yes.

The Lord doesn’t minimize or neglect any of His children.

He doesn’t compare us to one another, because He knows He created us as unique individuals.

He orchestrated every twist and turn, every mountain-top moment and every step through the dry and lush valleys.

MEME - Quote - God's Guaranteed Grace - Dec 4, 2018Our Wise Counselor, our Good Shepherd, our Mighty God is prepared to equip and encourage us through the paths He’s planned for us.

He uses His unchanging Word to arm us with courageous and persevering faith.

“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

God changes us as He challenges us when we walk with Him daily.

He purifies our hearts and minds and motives, aligning our thoughts and adjusting our longings until we mirror Him, by the power of His beautiful grace.

We can’t trick our Father, pretending we’re mature just because we’re good at looking polished and presentable.

He knows when we’re broken, when we can barely breathe.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

He knows about our sins, our selfish thoughts, our self-centered jealousy.

He knows about our wants, even when we’re afraid to admit them.

He knows about our struggles, even when we’re drowning in denial.

He knows about our joys and our pains, our hopes, our dreams, and our greatest fears.

Because Jesus is the great High Priest, who has ascended into heaven, we can hold unswervingly–without fear, without hesitation, without a single doubt–to the hope we profess (v. 14).

Our mighty Lord understands everything we’re going through, as He showers us with compassion and magnifies His loving perfection and limitless power in the midst of our weaknesses (v. 15).

With these truths anchoring our faith to His promises, we can trust Him, surrender to Him, walk with Him, and embrace the freedom of His forgiveness when we repent and turn away from our sins.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

When we need rescue, relief, or rest, God cares.

When we need encouragement, God cares.

When we need a miracle, God cares.

In our personal time of need, God cares enough to promise us that He’s approachable and abundant in grace.

God’s plentiful love for us gives us the confidence we need to come before Him with our needs, to pray for others and for ourselves as an act of worship and a brave display of our trust in our Savior.

—–

Thanks for assuring us that You are our Great Physician, our generous Provider, our gallant and good Shepherd, our Almighty King.

Thanks for never comparing our circumstances to the circumstances of others, Lord, for never minimizing our feelings, for never belittling us for struggling.

Thanks for reminding us that You care equally about every little detail of our day-to-day living and every overwhelming burden that weighs heavy on our minds.

Good Father, please give us courage to come to You for all things. Help us know You’re not randomly picking or choosing one concern over another.

Empower us to trust Your timing and Your plans are perfect in every way.

Please help us rely on Your ability to love without limits, to extend immeasurable grace without running low, and to be fully present and caring with each of us without neglecting any of us.

 Thank You, Lord Almighty, for the privilege of loving You as we learn to accept the unconditional life-changing love You have for each of us.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Have you ever been hesitant to bring your prayers to God when you compare your requests with the requests of others?

How does knowing God never compares us with others increase your gratitude for His loving care, your courage in prayer, and your depth of faith?

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Hope is Worth the Risk

MEME - Colossians 3 v 2 - Nov 23, 2018Hope can hurt.

I learned that lesson firsthand this week when I started physical therapy in hopes to strengthen my core and back muscles while waiting for another nerve ablation.

I realized just how weak my upper body is when my therapist, Marea, introduced the first steps toward my slow healing process.

 

But in that weakness, I also discovered a strength I had no idea still existed.

Surprisingly, my muscle memory was still intact . . . somewhere deep under my extra layers of not-muscle.

Marea called me strong.

Her affirming words encouraged me to believe in the glimmer of hope that my strength could be renewed after over twenty years of debilitating pain and over compensation, which damaged other areas surrounding the original injury. After giving me a few exercises to work on at home, she reminded me that the healing process would be slow.

So, I decided to accept her help, expect the inevitable setbacks, and embrace the pace required to build up what had been destroyed.

Still, when my secret cravings for instant-gratification were denied, I struggled with discouragement.

I fought frustration when my progress didn’t go as quickly as I’d hoped. I expected slow . . . but not too slow.

I wrestled despair when it hurt to hope, when it ached my heart to endure another delay, when I began to doubt. What if physical therapy didn’t work? What if nothing worked?

For years, I’d tried to protect my back from further injury and lived a hindered-life. My hurting body affected my relationships. And as I began to draw nearer to Christ, I sorrowfully admitted my relationships were damaged by my wounded spirit, too.

I approached my physical healing the same way I often approach emotional or mental healing from hurtful words, from grief, from betrayal . . . the list goes on.

I wanted to stop hurting, to get over it, to feel stronger, to be healed . . . immediately.

Impatience nudged me toward discouragement, which threatened to drown me in despair.

Past pain drove my decision-making process.

Fear of pain, disappointment, and failure kept me from risking my hopes being dashed and tempted me to avoid the much-needed work that would strengthen me.

I needed God’s help and the support of others, as I accepted that healing would take time and hoping could hurt when facing setbacks.

The process wouldn’t be easy. The fix wouldn’t be quick . . . but the rewards are worthwhile now and in eternity.

If I was going to persevere, I needed to place my hope in something bigger than physical, emotional, or mental healing.

When the apostle Paul was in a Roman prison waiting for his trial before Caesar, he wrote to the “faithful brothers and sisters in Christ” in Colossae:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, emphasis mine)

Because we have the power of Christ in us, we no longer have to live a hindered-life limited by our weak spots.

True life, the only unhindered life, is “hidden with Christ in God” (v. 3). Our weakness withered away when the Lord washed away our sins by giving His life for us (vv. 5-6). When He rose again, He empowered us to thrive in freedom, no matter what our circumstances.

Jesus holds the answers we need, the peace we long for, the hope we desperately seek. When He appears again, we will be with Him in glory. Our hope is wrapped in assurance, in the promise that fuels the persevering faith we’ll need if we’re going to walk away from the life we lived before Jesus (vv. 7-8).

As we ask God to help us nurture healthy relationships with Him and others, He frees us from our old ways of thinking.

We can grow stronger as we’re immersed in our “knowledge” of the Creator of our “new self,” our no-longer-self-centered self, our no-longer-alone self, our no-longer-controlled-by pain-or-fear self (vv. 9-11).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,” we’re no longer controlled or limited by how we feel physically, emotionally, or mentally.

This doesn’t mean our feelings aren’t valid. The Lord never minimizes our feelings. He only affirms we don’t need to allow feelings to drive our actions or determine how we interact with others.

We can choose to be kind to others, forgive others, and love others (vv. 12-14), even when they don’t choose to be kind, forgive, or love us.

We can live at peace with others and at peace with ourselves, be thankful and content . . . no matter what our circumstances (v. 15).

We can nurture heart-deep joy as we encourage one another and intercede for others as we point each other to Jesus (v. 16).

“And whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed,” we can “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v. 17).

As we focus on things above, seeing beyond ourselves, we can recognize how small our biggest mountains are in comparison to the bigness of God.

We can begin to understand how we’re all connected, how every one of us makes a difference in the lives of others, how our trials can actually be used for good as God grows us spiritually and uses us for His glory.

We can sharpen our Kingdom Vision and learn to trust He’s working in and through all things for the good of all who love Him . . . not just us, but all people . . . even those we don’t know, agree with, or understand.

And as we surrender each moment of our slow-as-He-determines healing journey to our loving Father, we can risk hoping in Jesus‒who is and always will be our eternal hope.

Lord, thanks for reminding us that You are our only true hope, so we can never truly lose hope. Please fuel us with the peace of Your enduring love. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

How can placing our hope in Christ, who is unchanging and faithful and just, help us when our current situations feel hopeless?

 In what situation have you been afraid to hope or hope again?

 Who has God used to encourage you to hope again?

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Announcing the Winners of the God Hears Her Book Giveaway

God Hears Her with Swag pic for giveawayI thank the Lord for each and every one of the amazing members of my blog family. Yes, that means you!

Thanks for subscribing to my blog, for showering me with God’s love wrapped in kind words of encouragement, and for joining me as we dig deeper into His Word and draw closer to His heart. Thanks for being radiant lights for Christ in my life and for allowing me to encourage you by sharing what the Lord teaches me in my day-to-day walk with Him.

Today was a great day, as I rejoiced in another unexpected and exciting ministry opportunity. God is working on the details. I can hardly wait to share more as He reveals His perfect will in His perfect timing during this day-by-day adventure.

Today was also a rough day, as I struggled with pain management and the frustration of caring for our 15-year-old senior dog battling arthritis and losing her “housetrained” status.

Isn’t the Lord so wonderful, as He gently reminds us that each day is filled with reasons to worship Him, surrender to Him, and rely on Him?

He gives us countless opportunities to trust Him and welcomes us to cry out to Him in prayer and praise Him with reckless abandon.

What a blessing it is to know that God is keenly aware of our weaknesses. He understands when we get frustrated.

God . . . gets . . . us.

Our patient Lord isn’t surprised or disappointed when we fall short or fall flat on our faces.

Our loving Father simply remains constant and true to His Word, fully prepared to wrap us in mercy as He loves us unconditionally.

Our Almighty Maker and Sustainer refreshes our spirits and strengthens us with compassion that exceeds all expectations.

Our Good Shepherd extends grace freely and consistently, waiting for us to realize we can count on Him time and time again.

Our faithful Redeemer and Restorer gave me so many reasons to shout praises of joy today. So, why did I focus on shaming myself every time I got upset because I was stumbling again, struggling again, and failing again?

As I grumbled my way through another fumble, after losing my cool when my faithful old dog made life a bit more inconvenient, I prayed.

That’s when I realized the time had slipped away from me. I was late in choosing the winners of the books I was scheduled to give away on my blog.

Just as I started with the self-inflicted forehead-slapping guilt trips, our gracious and generous Father overwhelmed me with His all-encompassing grace and a healthy serving of gratitude.

I thanked Him, in awe of how His love flowed through your beautiful souls as I read your comments.

God’s grace was more than sufficient . . . again. His power was made perfect in my weaknesses . . . again. And His perfect peace, His eternal hope, and His endless joy prevailed . . . again and again and again.

Hallelujah!

I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us as we continue nurturing our relationships with Him and others.

The responses to this post blessed my heart beyond measure. So, I decided to give away an extra copy of God Hears Her with that sweet swag.

I am pleased to announce our three winners and am already looking forward to planning another book giveaway.

Today’s winners are Judy Picton, Jana Engelmann, and Patricia Kohn.

Congratulations!

Please email your complete mailing addresses to Xochi@xedixon.com at your earliest convenience.

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement.

I hope you’ll return to join me in praising our Almighty Lord and Savior, as we seek Him in His Holy Word and rest in the peace of His constant presence.

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement. It is my pleasure and privilege to serve You as we grow in love for Him and others.

—–

Lord, we’re so grateful for Your everlasting love. Thanks for affirming that You hear our heart cries, even before we can manage to whimper or utter an incoherent word.

Thanks for assuring us that You’re already ahead of the game, already prepared for the unexpected twists and turns that will often punch us in the gut and bring us to our knees.

Thanks for confirming You are delighting us, rejoicing with us, and working in and through us, sweet Savior.

Make our praise genuine and infectious as You make Your name glorious!

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“Keep me safe, my God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.'” (Psalm 16:1-2, NIV)

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God Hears Her - Discovery House - 2017 - Book CoverYou can purchase more copies of God Hears Her on the Discovery House Publishers website. This beautiful Our Daily Bread 365-Day Devotional includes devotions written by my fellow ODBM sisters in Christ. I’m grateful that eleven of my devotions are included in this book, which is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer and a lovely just-because gift. Thanks for supporting Our Daily Bread Ministries.

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