“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3, NIV)
When I first started going to church, I prayed for one thing and one thing only. God help these people teach my kids about You so they’ll be able to handle the fallout from our divorce.
I knew my decision to leave my husband would hurt our son, who already experienced a three month separation from his daddy, and my stepson, who I would have to leave behind again.
Still, I saw no hope in reconciliation and refused to consider the possibility that I played a part in our constant conflicts.
I planned my escape and desperately sought someone to equip the boys for the inevitable battle scars of a broken family.
My search for a way to help my kids have faith, in a God I didn’t know personally, led me to a life-transforming adventure that began by meeting Jesus face to face in the Gospel of John.
Jesus gently tugged my heart into submission, using His unconditional love and forgiveness to encourage me to stop running from my problems, from my past, from Him, and from myself.
He surrounded me with women of God who equipped me to grow spiritually, instead of making me depend on them to anchor my faith in their ability to believe.
One lady bought me a Bible and insisted it was only through knowing God’s story that I’d be able to know Him personally.
After I got over my initial concerns about her needing mental help or medication, I struggled with a strange desire to see if she was somehow . . . right.
Determined to find out, I started asking more questions, praying, and reading Scripture daily. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, on December 14, 2001, and asked the Holy Spirit to make me more like Jesus.
Warning: Growing pains are usually not pleasant or quick in passing.
But grow we did. My husband committed his life to Christ and, in August 2003, we were both baptized with our son, Xavier.
By God’s abounding grace, we’re still growing. We celebrated our 22nd anniversary on March 26, 2016, and have been together 25 years. That’s over half my life. Wait. I have to let that sink in for a bit.
Although some days are harder than others, especially with my current health issues, I’m looking forward to what God has in store for us as individuals, as a couple, as a family, but more importantly, as His beloved children and grateful servants.
To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise!
This is a lifetime commitment, a privilege and an adventure that requires courage, not complacency.
The apostle Paul said Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15, NIV).
To know God better, I can’t think of a better place to start than by meeting Jesus face-to–face through the Gospel of John.
I hope you’ll join me.
In His service,
Xochitl E. Dixon
If you don’t know Jesus, yet, or if you want to know Him and trust Him more, I encourage you to join me next week for “Who is the Word?”
A version of this article was originally posted on July 8, 2015. After a wild ride of trusting God through a difficult season in my healing journey, I’m ready to resume our journey through the Gospel of John. Together, we can ask God to meet us face to face and transform us from head to heart.
Today I found out another friend received a cancer diagnosis. As I grieved for her and her family, I approached God’s throne of grace with pleas for a miracle of His healing mercy. Then, I started to think about all the hurting people I know.
I thought about the people I’ve been praying for, the people who encourage others as they trust the Lord during their own battles.
A tender heart can feel overwhelmed when surrounded by an abundance of bad news and sorrow. What begins as empathy can slip into a codependent need to fix things. We can be tempted to question how God can be trusted when suffering continues to trickle into our lives and the lives of those we love.
When my spirit feels weary and worn, as I endure my own struggles and pray for others who are hurting, I head straight to the psalter.
As the psalmists pour out their anguish and their praise, God reminds me that He understands our need to process our emotions. He affirms who He is and what He’s done, assuring me that He is the same compassionate and capable God that He’s always been.
Today, as I prayed for my courageous friend and the others who are walking through storms with persevering faith, the Lord led me to the following verse:
“I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.” (Psalm 9:1)
The Bible is full of Wonder Lists, testimonies of God’s unchanging character and the personal and powerful ways He initiates encounters with His people.
When I can’t find the words to pray, I read the Bible and listen to praise and worship music. The God-breathed words in Scripture and the song lyrics of Christian music based on Scripture often become my prayers.
A personal Wonder List confirms God’s constant presence and divine intervention in my own life, and fills me with hope as the Lord empowers me to encourage others.
I’d appreciate your help in adding to my Wonder List in the comments section of this blog post.
Together, we can praise God for promising He will always work wonders that we can share with the world.
Lord, You are able to work wonders beyond anything we can imagine. When our pain feels overwhelming, please help us remember the testimonies of Your past faithfulness in our lives and in the lives of others. When we feel helpless as we watch others suffer, bring to mind the countless times You displayed Your limitless power, endless mercy, and sovereign goodness. Please encourage us to trust You will continue working wonders today, tomorrow, and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen
It’s easy to say, “Praise the Lord!”
We can toss these words out in response to something good happening, without even considering the meaning of the phrase. With these three syllables strung together, we can express relief, gratitude, and joy. Yet, we can totally miss the magnitude of the meaning this phrase holds.
The psalter bursts with shouts of praise unto the Almighty God.
As a psalmist, King David exalts the Lord with an unparalleled quickness, consistency, and sincerity.
Eavesdropping on his prayer time reveals a depth of faith built solely on his intimate connection with the one and only eternal Rock−Creator, Sustainer, and King of Kings.
After being delivered from his enemies, David begins his song with a proclamation of total devotion.
“I love you, O LORD, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1, NIV)
The king declares his adoration and affirms God is his strength, not just the distant provider of power. The Lord is the fortified foundation on which David stands. The king holds his head up with confidence in God’s promise of deliverance, safety, and protection.
This king, who others look to for guidance and protection, declares his dependence on God with exuberance:
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (v. 2)
Never spared from adversity, David experienced desperation, depression, discouragement, and doubt.
Still, his confidence in God paints his perspective with expectation. He pours his heart out to his Creator then testifies to anyone within earshot.
“You, O LORD, keep my light burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” (v. 28)
Though David accepts dark times as inevitable, the Lord Himself becomes his beacon of hope during those times of suffering and affliction. Assurance of God’s faithfulness in character and the unchanging power of His Word evoke David’s praise and obedience.
“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” (v. 30)
The psalmist chooses to trust in the living God who intercedes intimately in the lives of those who place their trust in Him, while maintaining His transcendence.
He cries out, “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!” (v. 46)
We can skim by this verse and miss savoring the power of the king’s proclamation.
David experiences a personal closeness with the Lord, the living God and Savior who was and is and always will be above all and near all.
This closeness is available to every person who calls God.
When we’re hurting, our Heavenly Father feels our pain. When we’re anxious, He invites us to place our burdens in His capable hands. When we’re desperate or blinded by fear, insecurity, depression, or doubt, the one and only Living God intercedes with matchless power and lovingkindness.
Let us honor, admire, commend, and worship, yes, let us praise the Lord.
He lives. He saves. He is God.
Let us place our tender hearts into the hands of the One who is and always will be worthy to be trusted, exalted, and obeyed.
Like David, let us be quick, consistent, and sincere when we sing with grateful hearts:
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Almighty God, than You for empowering us to recognize Your voice, which always aligns with the living and active words You’ve given us through Scripture. Please help us cleave to Your promises with hearts that remember You are eternal and unchanging.
May gratitude and joy burst forth in contagious praise, whenever we think about all You are and all You do.
Please never let us forget the reasons David praised You, or the reasons You are worthy of all our praise in the midst of all our circumstances. You are and always will be our living God, our fortress, our refuge, our Savior. Hallelujah!
In Jesus’ name, Amen
Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.
Wait. Hold on. Not yet. Be patient.
These are not phrases most of us welcome with joy.
Waiting can be anything but joyful.
So how could King David praise God while stuck in the wait?
He shares a few secrets of his unshakable faith in Psalm 5.
His prayer begins with a desperate plea:
“Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.” (v. 1)
David doesn’t fear being honest with God. He approaches prayer with boldness, sure of the Lord’s great love for him.
I’ve fussed and whined my prayers countless times. I’ve begged God to hear me, pleaded for flashing neon lights to acknowledge He heard my cries. I’ve related to David’s desperation many, many times.
But, just when we think David has plopped into a pity-party, he writes:
“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (v. 3)
Those words burst with surety, a confident faith in God’s intimate connection with His people.
David knows God is hearing his voice. He fully expects the Lord to work as he waits with complete trust.
How can a man who has endured so much suffering cleave to God with such assurance?
David gives us a glimpse of his secret when he sings, “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.” (v. 7)
He acknowledges his need for and the greatness of God’s mercy. He moves closer to God, entering His presence to worship with total devotion and awe.
He focuses on who God is, on what He’s done and what He’s capable of.
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” (v. 11)
The joy of taking refuge in the Lord hinges on His ability, not our inabilities.
God is our protector, our source of joy.
Knowing and loving the Lord intimately begins with resting in His constant and powerful presence.
He fuels our faith as we immerse ourselves in His unchanging truth, refusing to be distracted by our ever-changing feelings, wants, or circumstances.
Like David, we can count on God to wrap us in His lovingkindness.
“For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (v. 12)
We’re protected, provided for, and pruned for His greater purpose.
God, the Maker of the Universe, hears our voices.
God, the Giver of all good things, cares about us.
God−the Savior and Redeemer of the World, the One who was, is, and always will be−invites us to lay all of our requests before Him, to place all of our concerns, big and small, into His loving and capable hands.
We can trust the Lord with great expectation.
God will hold us close during the wait and answer us, in His perfect timing and according to His perfect will.
Lord, thank You for blessing us with the sweet assurance of Your loving attention. Thanks for being available when we call on You. Please deepen our faith, giving us the courage to wait in confident hope and reminding us that You are always listening because You are always with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Meme created by X.E. Dixon, using photo taken and used with permission by author Karen Barnett (www.karenbarnettbooks.com).
Over the last four years of my healing journey, I’ve been blessed to meet others who understand how being limited physically can lead to a devastating sense of discouragement, loneliness, grief, and frustration.
Not being able to participate in family outings or even commit to events can cause emotional and relational strain.
Focusing on what we used to be able to do or how things were before can send us spiraling into depression. We can beat ourselves up with guilt or lash out at others.
Daily battles with chronic pain or an extended healing journey can make us feel useless, feel like a burden, or feel forgotten.
It often seems easier to pretend we don’t care, to minimize our emotions in an effort to pretend we’re stronger, or to pretend we’re “fine.”
I’ve experienced all of the above at some point in my personal battle with chronic pain.
But, I’ve also learned the secret to finding peace and joy in the midst of physical and emotional chaos is giving in to God’s inexhaustible power.
Like the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8, I’ve pleaded with the Lord to take away the thorn in my flesh.
Though Paul doesn’t identify his thorn, mine comes in the form of constant, debilitating pain.
I’ve succumbed to melt-downs and begged God to heal me and make me strong again.
Though I’ve tolerated inconsiderate comments from those who insist I’d be healed completely if only I had enough faith, the apostle’s testimony breathes encouragement into my weary heart.
The Lord didn’t criticize Paul’s admission of weakness, silence his supplication, or relieve him of the thorn in his side.
When the apostle declared his desperation, the Lord reassured him with these words:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God’s grace is a manifestation of His regenerating favor.
His freely-given lovingkindness is plentiful, more than enough to sustain us.
Our admission of weakness is a prerequisite to our acceptance of our total dependence on His power, which is magnified when we realize how absolutely helpless we are without Him.
While this complex connection can rouse fear in the bravest of warriors, the Holy Spirit fuels our strength when we surrender to our irrefutable need for God.
When our reserves are empty, Christ’s power infuses us with resilient faith.
We may not be able to explain how, but we can be certain He will bring us through.
King David also shows us how to trust the Almighty in the direst circumstances. He declares trust in God with confident faith:
“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Oh my Strength, I sing praises to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.” (Psalm 59:16-17)
God doesn’t just give us strength. He is our strength.
The Lord doesn’t just provide a sanctuary during our time of need, His constant and powerful presence is our sure stronghold.
Whether we’re stricken by physical or emotional turmoil, we can lean into our weaknesses with complete confidence in our loving Father’s ability and willingness to carry us through.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)
Lord, thank You for being our Strength, our Sustainer, our Stronghold, and our Savior. Please help us accept our great need for You as a gift that prepares us to succumb to Your inexhaustible power. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo taken by and meme created by X. E. Dixon.