Rejoicing Because God is God

MEME - Psalm 5 v 11bOn Thursday morning, I woke up praising God for blessing me with minimal instead of high-level pain. I thanked Him with grateful tears for over twenty-four headache-free hours. My body ached after a week of constant muscle spasms and nerve pain that caused debilitating headaches.

Though the painful days are an expected part of the recovery process after my recent nerve ablation in my neck and injection in my upper thoracic back, the journey often wears me out physically and emotionally.

By mid-afternoon, I praised the Lord for allowing me to enjoy a wonderful time of reading His Word and writing for His glory.

Then, I received bad news over the phone.

After sobbing prayers, God comforted me with His promise to be with me every step of the way, even if I wasn’t sure what my next step would be.

The Lord assured me He had already planned ahead for my needs and made a way for me to follow Him, if only I would be willing to place my confidence in His unchanging character and integrity.

I called my husband to let him know about what had happened and together we made a decision in the matter. As we trust the Lord to provide in ways we can’t even begin to figure out, we remain certain He’ll care for us. He always has and always will.

A few minutes after hanging up with my husband, I checked the mail and smiled when I saw a card from a friend.

Her timely, encouraging note felt like a hug from God.

I spent some extra time reading my Bible and shed a few more tears when the Holy Spirit drew me to this familiar verse:

“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.” (Psalm 5:11, NIV)

Soon after, I received another call. This time, the news was great.

After a roller-coaster-day of emotions, I praised the Lord with yet another sobbing prayer.

Those tears expressed an unexplainable joy.

My pain hadn’t gone away or improved, but it hadn’t gotten worse. My bad news hadn’t changed, but God had revealed His care once again.

Even as I type this blog post, my focus isn’t on the ever-changing good or bad circumstances in my life, the uncertainty of the future, or the complex emotions the inevitable changes evoke.

When we take refuge in God, we can rest in the knowledge of who He is and who He always will be.

When we place our hope in knowing God won’t change, we can feel secure even when the world around us feels totally out of control, which it totally is.

We can be glad because our good and loving God is constant, present, dependable, trustworthy, and faithful.

We can sing for joy because He is our Protector and Provider.

We can love His name, as revealed through Scripture, because His name affirms His unchanging character.

God is Jehovah, the Existing One, the Lord who wants to be known (Genesis 2:4).

He is Elohim, Creator (Genesis 1:1).

He is El Shaddai, The Almighty (Genesis 17:1).

He is Jehovah Jireh, Provider (Genesis 22:14).

He is Jehovah Rapha, Healer (Exodus 15:26).

He is Jehovah Shalom, “The Lord Our Peace” (Judges 6:24).

He is Jehovah Rohi, Johovah Raah, “The Lord Our Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).

He is El Roi, the God who sees (Genesis 16:13).

He is El Olam, The Eternal God, everlasting (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:31).

Because God is the Great I AM (Exodus 3:14), the Beginning and the End, we can call Him Adonai, our Lord and Master (Genesis 18:2).

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for Your infallible truth through which You reveal Your unchanging character. Please penetrate the deepest corners of our hearts and minds with Your loving, God-breathed words.

Help us seek You and rely on You to transform our hearts and minds, as You strengthen our resolve and deepen our faith. You are our peace, our refuge, our quiet strength, even when we feel our weakest. You guide our steps and make a way where there is no way, as far as we can see. 

You will never change. You will never grow weary. You will never abandon us. You will never forget us or ignore the cries of our hearts. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for loving us in ways we don’t even see.

Hallelujah!
In Jesus’s name, Amen 

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon

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For further study on the names of God, you can visit Bible.org or the Blue Letter Bible websites.

(At the time of this posting both of these websites were active and God-honoring. Though I am doubtful this would be the case, I would appreciate readers informing me if there is any questionable content on these sites in the future.)

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Finding God’s Fingerprints

MEME - Psalm 145 vv 1-2 - FREE Pexels Cross Photo Downloaded April 30, 2017

(Suggested Reading: Psalm 145)

As I continue to grieve the loss of a beautiful sister in Christ, I’m missing her Facebook posts. I’d always enjoyed the way she praised God in all circumstances and prayed for others, her hope firmly anchored in unshakeable faith, even as she battled cancer.

I’ve noticed a common thread as I read posts and comments shared by others who are grieving her loss and celebrating her inspiring life. Suzanne loved God and saw His fingerprints in every aspect of her life, much like David−the writer of Psalm 145.

David begins his love song by committing to a lifetime of praising the Lord:

“I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1-2, NIV)

David proclaims God’s greatness will be passed on to future generations, as His people share who He is and all He’s done (vv. 3-7).

The psalmist affirms the Lord’s goodness, graciousness, compassion, and loving patience (vv. 8-9). While pointing out God’s fingerprints in his life and in the lives of those around him, David gets caught up in praise and changes his focus.

Instead of merely telling others about the wonders of the Almighty, he immerses himself in worship.

The recording of his testimony becomes an intimate conversation with the King of Kings.

I often find God’s fingerprints more easily in situations when I’m writing about the things He’s done, the things He’s taught me, and the things He reveals about His character as I read His God-breathed words in Scripture.

By inviting Him into my writing process, I can get so caught up in what I’m sharing about the Lord that I become drawn into a time of intimate worship, praise, and prayer.

Like David, in Psalm 145, my focus switches from serving God by pointing readers to His Word to sitting at my Master’s feet and gazing into His face.

Whether we’re writing, singing, teaching, or chatting with a friend, something powerful happens when we join forces to help others find God’s fingerprints in the world around us:

They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 145:11-12, emphasis mine)

As we point to the Lord and proclaim His greatness, our own faith deepens and our testimonies become psalmist’s songs that we can’t keep to ourselves (v. 13).

We can burst out in joyful praise and say:

“The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” (v. 13b-14)

Like David, we can become so enthralled by God that we turn back to Him with grateful confidence in His provision (v. 15-16).

We can celebrate His loving righteousness toward His people (v. 17).

We can rejoice in His constant presence, His sovereign care, and His promise to listen to those who call on His name (v. 18-20).

The psalmists and my precious friend Suzanne recognized God’s fingerprints in their lives, in the lives of those around them, and in Scripture.

When we do this, the Lord can strengthen our resolve, comfort us, and empower us to tell everyone how wonderful He is and always will be, no matter how hard our current circumstances feel.

We, too, can sing:

“My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thank You, Lord, for the allowing us to experience Your loving grace, encounter You intimately as we prayerfully study Your Word, and exalt You as we share Your truth and love. Please fill us with wisdom and courage we need to speak or write words that will glorify Your name and testify about who You are and all You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using free photo from Pexels (April 30, 2017).

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Thanks for Listening, Lord! (A Prayer)

MEME - Psalm 116 v. 1 - Photo by Linda Newsome(SUGGESTED READING – Psalm 116)

Thanks for hearing our voices, Lord (v. 1).

You’ve proven Your faithfulness time and time again.

You’ve revealed Your great love for us, demonstrating patience and grace even when we’re impatient with You.

Thanks for caring about every sob that pours over our lips and every silent cry triggered by the pain we can’t put into words.

Thanks for delighting in every song of praise we sing to You and every whispered prayer of thanks we offer You.

You invite us to be honest with You as we process our emotions. You never minimize or ignore our feelings.

And You always, always respond in love, mercy, compassion, sovereign goodness, and wisdom.

How can we ever thank You enough, loving and dependable Father?

When we can’t see You working or understand Your purpose, when the wait or suffering feels unbearable, and when we can’t even begin to imagine any good coming out of our situation, You−Almighty and Sovereign God−will always make Your presence known and offer to carry us through.

And we can trust now and forever, Lord.

You will be available when we need to call on You all the days of our lives (v. 2).

You are gracious and righteous and full of compassion, Lord (v. 5).

You are our Protector and Rescuer, our Refuge and Good Shepherd (vv. 6-9).

Please give us the desire and diligence to seek You daily in the treasure of Your Holy Word, made accessible by Your Holy Spirt, who lives in us and empowers us to live for You.

Give us ears to hear You clearly and hearts to love You by obeying You, one day at a time.

We can do nothing without You, Lord. Nothing.

Thanks for listening, Lord. Thanks for reminding us You really do care.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Linda Newsome.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Why Should I Love God When He Calls Me a Sinner?

MEME - Luke 19 v 10 - Photo by Dee Reeves Bright

(Suggested Reading: Luke 19:1-10)

Seeped in sin. Sometimes oblivious. Sometimes . . . okay, most of the time, completely and intentionally rebellious.

I believed God existed, but I’d never had a personal encounter with the Person−God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit−the loving and faithful One, the mighty and merciful One, the one and only True Triune God.

I’d grown up confused by wrong-thinking that led to seeing God as a punisher, a cruel judge who delighted in pouring His wrath on people. I couldn’t imagine turning to God just to be judged, condemned, and shamed into changing my life.

How could I love God if He called me a . . . sinner?

I perched in that tree of confusion, looking at Jesus from a safe distance, never daring to get close and personal, until He whispered my name and invited me to spend time getting to know Him.

The more I study the Bible, the more I know about God’s story, the more I submit to God’s Holy Spirit, the more I spend time loving Jesus and being loved by Jesus, the more I discover the extent of God’s incredible love for me.

I enjoyed sharing a part of my journey through blog series: “Meeting Jesus Face-to-Face in the Gospel of John.”

Contrary to my past belief, Jesus didn’t expect me to come to Him cleaned up and sin-free. He accepted me, drew me closer to His heart, and wrapped me in compassion and mercy, while I was still chained by my brokenness, my fears, and my sins.

Overwhelmed by Jesus’s love for me, I fell in love with Him.

He didn’t shame my sins away or make me feel like a total loser, like I’d expected.

Jesus showered me with grace, drew me so close I could hear His heart beating, and loved me.

He loved me and held on with gentleness and compassion, until I had the strength to lean toward Him.

Eventually, I wanted nothing more than to love Him, to please Him, to praise Him, to live for Him because of His love for me.

The more I lived for Him, the more I understood Jesus’s declaration that loving Him leads to obeying Him (John 14:15-27).

Sobbing on a cold cement floor of my garage on December 14, 2001, I had my Zacchaeus Moment. But it’s during my ongoing face-to-face encounters with Jesus that He helps me love Him more, receive His love more, and turn toward Him and away from my sins more and more each day.

What’s a Zacchaeus Moment?

Scripture says Zacchaeus climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus when He entered Jericho (Luke 19:1-4).

Short in stature, the chief tax collector scrambled up that tree because the crowd kept him from seeing the Lord (vv. 3-4). His status, his money, his heritage couldn’t spare him from the badge of condemnation his community placed on his chest (v. 7).

Jesus could have passed the tree without glancing at Zacchaeus. The Lord could have rebuked him in front of the entire community, listing his sins, shaming, condemning, and demanding him to change.

Instead, Jesus called Zacchaeus by name and let the whole world know He wanted to spend time with the man He knew was a sinner (v. 5).

With a sense of urgency, his tone dripping with joy, gratitude, and even surprise, Zacchaeus “welcomed” Jesus into his home “gladly” (v. 6).

When his neighbors reminded him how unworthy he was (v. 7), Zacchaeus didn’t wait for the Lord to rebuke them. He repented and offered restitution before Jesus even said a word (v. 8).

And when the Lord called him a son of Abraham (v. 9), how did Zacchaeus feel? How could he hold back the emotion after being acknowledged as a rightful member of God’s family, because of who he belonged to, because of who loved him, not what he did or didn’t do?

Jesus made it clear that Zacchaeus belonged for one reason: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (v. 10), to save those lost in their sins . . . all of us.

Why should I love God when He calls me a sinner?

Because I am a sinner.

I am compared to God, who is holy, not anyone else.

I am a sinner in desperate need of rescuing, a sinner saved by God’s grace.

Being a good person will never save me, because I can never be good enough. Only Jesus is perfect, only Jesus is good enough, only Jesus can save.

And that’s why He came, why He died on the cross, why He rose, and why He whispers our names until we turn to Him and receive all that wondrous life-transforming love He offers us.

I lived the life of Zacchaeus, fending for myself, not caring who I hurt as long as I benefited, as long as I avoided pain.

But Jesus . . . oh, but Jesus . . . Jesus called me by name.

Jesus invited me to spend time with Him. He helped me accept His love and gently cracked my armor until I gladly welcomed Him into my home, my heart, my life.

Like Zacchaeus, I’ve had to repent and even offer restitution. But I’ve learned to enjoy the freedom of complete surrender to and total dependence on Christ, and shared a part of my story in “Accepting My Wings of Freedom.”

But, the Lord helps me remember what He revealed and affirmed during my Zacchaeus moment:

The Father sent His Son to save all sinners, which means all people. When we choose to receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, He blesses us with His Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christ followers.

He invites us to commune with Him through prayer and the study of His Word. He helps us to know Him and know His Word, the more we spend time with Him.

He helps us receive the fullness of His grace, as He empowers us to repent and turn away from our sins so we can live for Christ and share His life-transforming love with others . . . because we are all lost without Him.

Lord, thank You for loving us and wanting us to know You intimately. Thank You for reminding us that when we surrender our lives to You, we are sinners no longer enslaved by our sin because we are saved by Your grace and renewed by Your eternal and unconditional love. Please help us love You, live for You, and share You, every chance we get. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Dee Reeves Bright.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Why Should I Love God When I’m Rejected?

MEME - Romans 8 v 38-39Eight year old me didn’t like baseball, at all. Still, my dad insisted I participate. Although one day I’ll share the miracle story about the only time I ever caught a fly ball, I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. I still haven’t hit a ball and I’m well over a few double-digit birthdays.

I enjoyed dancing, singing, drawing, acting, reading, and writing. So being picked last for a baseball team didn’t surprise me. My teammates’ responses, however, shocked me and wounded my tender heart.

Don’t let her play. She stinks. She always strikes out. She can’t even catch. She’s a loser.

I wish I could say that was the last time I ever felt like a total reject, but it wasn’t. 

Growing up, I never found that place where I felt understood, accepted, or even liked. Although in high school I managed to put on an act of apathy laced with an attitude that could have been confused with confidence or even arrogance, insecurities and fears plagued me.

As I fought inner battles and nursed deep wounds, I pretended I didn’t care who liked me. I even behaved like a bully at times, proving that familiar saying: Hurting people, hurt people.

Not liking myself led me to a stream of bad choices that stained and scarred my body, mind, and spirit. I’d mastered that life until I met my husband.

We lived in sin for over a year before getting married then suffered the devastating loss of our first child during the second year of marriage. Viewing the Lord as a punisher, before I knew Him personally, I thought He was punishing me for all the bad things I’d done.

I thought I knew what God thought about people like me . . . sinners . . . rejects. I was wrong, wrong, so wrong.

But when grieving our first child overwhelmed me, I crawled through depression. A few friends tried to introduce me to Jesus. They encouraged me to pray, but my prayers back then were rooted in fear . . . and shame. Wallowing in heart-wrenching sorrow, I considered divorcing my husband. I felt utterly alone.

I’d never even seen a real Bible and I trembled at the thought of stepping into a church.

How could I turn to God after I’d lived my life rejecting God, certain that He’d rejected me and would continue rejecting me?

After a few long pain-filled years, with loved ones praying for my salvation, I finally surrendered my life to Christ. And yes, God restored my marriage, blessed us with a beautiful son. Alan, Xavier and I were baptized in August 2003. Hallelujah!

Still, I doubted God would fully accept me. Considering the sins I’d racked up in my past and the sins I still struggled with, I treaded carefully on the edge of faith.

But as I continued prayerfully reading Scripture, I discovered how God loved people who others rejected, people stained with sin, people who struggled with sin . . . people like me.

I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love with Jesus.

One of the stories that still triggers grateful tears is found in Matthew 8:1-4. Lepers weren’t greeted by others, welcomed into homes, or comforted with hugs. So, when a man with leprosy approached Jesus, it’s easy to imagine the crowd scattering in fear of the man’s contagious skin disease.

This man braved the scorn, desperate but confident that the Lord could help him. He knew Jesus was able, if only He would be willing.

Did his chest tighten, his lips quiver, his hands tremble?

He knelt before the Lord, probably having heard how Jesus could heal with one spoken word.

Then, the remarkable happened. The Lord spoke clearly, “I am willing,” and reached out to touch him.

Jesus touched the rejected one, the marginalized one, the forgotten one. Jesus touched the despised one, the feared one, the lonely one. Jesus touched the grieving one, the desperate one, the condemned one, the hopeless one.

He cleansed this man beyond the surface wounds others could see and sent him to be a living-testimony of God’s life-transforming love.

He wants to do the same thing for us, for me, for you.

Jesus is willing to reach out and touch us with His mighty and merciful love. We are wanted, accepted, and loved by our Savior. We’re always within His reach, because He’s always with us.

Not only does He think we’re worth dying for, He knows we’re worth living for.

The love of Christ changes us, healing wounds others can see and the deep scars we thought we were able to hide.

His love invades our personal space, seeping into every crevice of our armored hurts, coaxing us into a confident, courageous, and contagious faith.

Wherever we’ve been, wherever we are, Jesus reaches out to us and invites us to be cleansed by His limitless love.

He empowers us to shrug off the chains of our false identities as rejects, so that we can experience the rewards of righteous living empowered through the Holy Spirit.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)

Lord, thank You for assuring us that no one is out of Your reach or too far gone to be touched by Your heart-penetrating love. Please help us approach Your throne of grace boldly, kneeling before You with confidence as we receive Your Word as truth and live in the power of Your Holy Spirit. Help us love others out of the abundance of love You have for us. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Have you ever struggled with feeling like a reject?

How has God helped you feel accepted, loved, and valued as His child?

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Get ‘er Done? Or Get Closer to God?

MEME - John 3 v 21

(Suggested Reading: John 3:1-21)

Last year, I invited women to join me in reading through the Bible in a year, something I’ve enjoyed doing since 2005. But when health complications impacted my energy levels, I had to make some changes.

After much prayer, God showered me with peace. Accepting my slower-than-a-tortoise pace, I started savoring each God-breathed word in Scripture by highlighting key words and phrases.

I focused on words I hadn’t realized I’d skimmed over, due to my familiarity with the text. And when I read one of the verses I’d memorized years ago, the emphasis I discovered as I highlighted the words brought me to tears:

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.” (John 3:16, NIV, emphasis mine)

How had I gotten to the point where these words landed with a thud in the empty well of my heart?

How had I forgotten the sacrificial pain endured by the One who died for me, rose for me, lives for me, as He forever guarantees my eternity in the presence of His loving grace?

When did I start focusing on slurping up the words of Scripture, instead of spending time with the Person who reveals Himself to me and affirms His love for me through each God-breathed syllable?

I’m not the first person in history, and probably won’t be the last, who has confused knowing Bible verses with knowing God intimately and personally receiving Him as ultimate Lord and redeeming Savior.

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have prided himself in memorizing the Scriptures. But his late night venture demonstrated a longing for more.

Proudly familiar with the Scriptures, Nicodemus came to Jesus cloaked by darkness and carrying a bag full of assumptions.

“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2, emphasis mine)

Minimizing Jesus’s identity blocked Nicodemus from seeing that only God in the flesh could perform those miraculous signs that perked his interest.

The fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophecies pointed straight to Jesus as Messiah.

Still, Nicodemus clung to false-understanding.

It’s easier to believe what we think we know, what feels safer to say out loud, what doesn’t set us up for risking rejection, heartbreak, or the need to admit we need change.

But Jesus led this seeker to the familiar Scriptures that circled right back to the One who stood before Him.

Jesus didn’t stutter when He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up . . .” (v. 14, emphasis mine)

Nicodemus had the story of Moses tucked into his bag of Bible knowledge. He could probably recite the verses backwards, with a smug smirk on his face.

But could it be true “. . . that everyone who believes in [Jesus] may have eternal life” (v. 15)?

Could Jesus referring to what happened with Moses and the Israelites in the desert, mean that He confirmed God’s plan was put in place before the beginning of time?

Could God love the world so much that He acknowledged all people deserved death and earned wrath, but still chose to offer the priceless gift of forgiveness through repentance and freedom through Christ, resulting in eternal life?

Yes. Yes. And, by God’s endless grace, Yes.

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (v. 21)

God saves us, because there is no way we can save ourselves.

The Father never altered His original plan as He paved the way for the Spirit to connect the dots that led to Jesus as the awaited Messiah and Savior of the world.

Death never stopped being a requirement for life to be received through the Risen King, our living and loving God.

Even today, in a world where evil glorifies people shrouded by sin, death remains a required part of the deal.

Death of self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-reliance, and self-centeredness. Death of our sinful nature.

As we foolishly grieve over the death of these things that prevent us from experiencing an abundant life in Christ, God faithfully waits for us to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him.

Like Nicodemus, we can become so familiar with Scripture that we miss getting to know the only One to whom Scripture reveals as the Savior this world desperately needs−Jesus.

Skimming through the Bible or neglecting the daily reading of Scripture, we risk missing out on the big picture God paints through His whole story.

Some important words can fall through the cracks when we dash through assigned readings in a foolish rush to get ‘er done, instead of to get closer to God.

But if we approach Scripture as living and active, asking the Holy Spirit to shed the light of understanding on each and every God-breathed word of truth, our personal love-encounters with Christ will changes us forever.

Lord, thank You for knowing us and inviting us to know You more. Please help us approach prayer and Bible reading as an opportunity to meet You face-to-face and bask in Your constant presence with absolute wonder, grateful praise, and a complete willingness to submit to Your authority in courageous obedience. In Jesus’s name, amen

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How does your approach to Bible reading change when you focus more on getting to know God instead of getting ‘er done?

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Discovering a Miracle for Christmas

meme-john-2-v-11

(Suggested Reading: John 2:1-11)

After another week of suffering with chronic pain, the Christmas lights on our tree didn’t seem to twinkle as bright as I thought they should. I recounted the year I’d spent battling health issues, dealing with broken relationships, praying for hurting loved ones, and wondering how God would meet our financial needs when the numbers didn’t seem to add up.

I focused on the unpredictable waves of my circumstances and sank deeper into discontent, discouragement, and despair. My weary heart begged for deliverance, a breakthrough, or at least a break.

During a fuss-my-way-to-submission prayer, I asked God to forgive me for succumbing to pessimism. I needed a miracle to shift my attitude, so I went to the source of my hope−Jesus.

As I read the historical account of the Lord’s first miracle−turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana−its familiarity tempted me to skim through the God-breathed verses. I almost missed the five faith-building truths revealed in the details.

  1. Surrender paves the way for God to move in miraculous ways. (John 2:1)

Mary’s response resounded with assurance when Jesus denied her request. She could have demanded her way or fussed about His answer. Instead, she accepted His words and trusted Him to do what He thought best. Confidence blanketed her tone as she encouraged the servants to simply obey Jesus.

  1. God uses the ordinary to perform extraordinary and intimate miracles. (v. 6)

Jesus chose to use the six common water jars that were already being used at the banquet. He transformed plain water into high quality wine. He invited the servants to witness His power in the middle of their average work day. Through this miracle in the midst of the mundane, the Lord blessed the unspectacular servants who were willing to trust and believe.

  1. Obedience prepares us to recognize God’s wondrous works. (v. 7-8)

When the servants followed Jesus’s instructions, they claimed front row seats to witness His power in action. Their quick submission displayed a willingness to believe in Jesus. They obeyed and waited expectantly. They didn’t try to figure out what Jesus would do, or tell Him what they thought He should do. They simply followed His instructions and remained at the ready. And they weren’t disappointed.

  1. Miracles reveal Jesus’s personal touches that often go unnoticed. (v. 9-10)

The master of the banquet failed to recognize the miracle that happened right before his eyes. I don’t judge him, because I know how easy it is to minimize the wondrous works God accomplishes through prayer closets. I know how easy it is to ignore the extraordinary moments God shows up in the ordinary days that make up the transformed life of a Christ follower. Those intimate exchanges when the Lord intervenes in our lives don’t often make the front page news, but each one is a miracle of His power, His love, His mercy, and His grace.

  1. Miracles are evidence of our living God’s active role in our lives. (v. 11)

The disciples placed their faith in Jesus when He demonstrated His glory, His majesty, His splendor, His divine might in action. They didn’t demean the Lord by placing expectations on Him. Instead, they encountered His majesty face-to-face and responded by making life-transforming decisions to trust Him by following Him in bold faith.

Though the Messiah’s first miracle wasn’t a life-shattering or life-altering event, we tend to expect modern day miracles to be extravagant displays of His power.

A miracle is simply defined as an effect or event “considered as a work of God.”

Through our trials and through the moments when things are going so well that we’re tempted to be bored or ungrateful for God’s peace and provision, we can be sure the Lord intentionally orchestrates events according to His perfect plan. He knows how we’ll respond in our given circumstances and is ready to use those responses for His eternal glory.

Even when we refuse to acknowledge Him, the Creator of the world, Almighty King and Savior, Redeemer and Provider, our Deliverer and Good Shepherd invites us to accept His love and forgiveness.

The miracle of Jesus didn’t start or end in a manger. From the beginning of time, Jesus was and is and always will be Emmanuel−God with us.

No matter what our current circumstances may be, our Lord Jesus Christ remains constantly present and consistently involved in our lives−that is and always will be a miracle worth celebrating on Christmas and every day.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to celebrate You this Christmas. Please help us recognize Your fingerprints evidencing Your work in our lives. Give us confidence in Your abilities, as You empower us to trust Your motives. Please help us live with courageous obedience to Your Word, as we wait expectantly to see Your miraculous works in and through the ordinary days of our lives. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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How have you seen God miraculously working in and through your life over the last year?

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Photo taken by and used with permission from Begona Maier.

Meme created by X. E. Dixon

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Come, and See for Yourself!

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(Suggested Reading: John 1:35-51)

I’m guilty of saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Whatever it was, I wanted proof before I committed to buying into the promises that it offered.

When I first heard the gospel, I wish I could say I reacted in a different manner. I wish I could say I joyfully received Christ without question, without hesitation, without a doubt in my mind that Jesus was God in the flesh.

But, if I said that I’d be telling a big ol’ fib. When I first heard the gospel preached, I had questions. I wanted explanations.

God gave me something even better.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the Holy Spirit Himself blessed me with face-to-face encounters with Jesus as I read through the Gospel of John, and even more as I committed to reading through the Bible yearly.

The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the Scriptures, so He could prepare my heart to receive the King−Jesus.

At first, my response resembled Nathanael’s in John 1. Can Jesus possibly be who people are saying He is? I’m not buying it.

But, thankfully, the Lord blessed me with a few wonderful mentors who didn’t give up on me−the Doubting Seeker. They didn’t just tell me about how Christ made a difference in their lives, they encouraged me to open up the Bible and meet Him face-to-face.

Their responses mirrored Philip’s reaction to Nathanael’s uncertainty.

“‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (John 1:46, NIV)

Whatever Philip saw in Jesus caused him to leave everything behind to follow Him.

Forever changed, he invited others to be drawn into a personal meeting with the promised Messiah.

What could he have seen in Jesus that made him believe with such conviction?

The prophet Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would have “. . . no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2b)

According to Scripture, Jesus had nothing that should have made the first disciples want to follow him. But, oh, they did follow him.

The Spirit-infused confidence and excitement, the pure and passionate heart-deep faith of Jesus’s disciples recorded in the New Testament caused others to want to come and see the God-Man, then and now.

Is that the faith we truly want to portray to a world that desperately needs the hope we have in Christ?

If so, then what’s stopping us?

As we continue prayerfully studying the Bible, we can grow in our personal knowledge of God. But our journey doesn’t stop at knowing things about God. The Holy Spirit can help us submit to His authority, taking that knowledge to a life-transforming level.

God can do that in our lives, and He can do that in the lives of those we love.

Don’t take my word for it. Come, take time to venture into God’s Word, see for yourself, and invite others to join you for the ongoing adventure of a life surrendered to Christ.

Once we invite someone to know Jesus, our most important responsibility is to pray for them.

God knows it’s His job to save people, and hasn’t forgotten one name on our prayer lists.

He didn’t give up on us. And He won’t give up on those we’re praying for.

But, will we give up?

Will we stop praying for the salvation of our family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors?

Will we stop praying for the salvation of the clerks at the grocery store, the servers at our favorite restaurants, the community servants who risk their lives for us?

Or will we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, reflecting Christ through our words and actions, as we pray with fervor and confidently fulfill the Great Commission by inviting people to come and see Jesus for themselves?

The Lord has given us the privilege to proclaim truth with Spirit-empowered gentleness and confidence, to share His love within the context of authentic relationships with others.

He positions us to be His representatives in our little neck of the woods.

He wants to use our testimonies to glorify His name, but testifying can’t be the end of our commitment to Christ.

Everyone needs their own personal encounter with Jesus.

No matter how amazing our testimony is, God wants to work intimately in and through each and every person’s life in a unique way. We can play a vital part in this ongoing miracle as we live for Him, love for Him, and call others to come and see Him for themselves.

As God’s story penetrates our stories, the Holy Spirit makes our old lives history.

If you don’t believe it, or if you’ve forgotten the magnificence of this world-altering truth, come into the presence of the Lord. Come rest at His side and listen to His voice verse by verse. Come, and see for yourself.

Lord, thank you for welcoming us into Your personal space and softening our hearts so that we can receive You and believe You. Thanks for strengthening our faith so we can trust You. Please infuse us with the wisdom and courage we need to share You with others. Help us pray for others with persevering faith in Your life-transforming truth and love. In Jesus’s name, Amen

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Have you ever given up praying for someone, doubting that they would ever come to the Lord?

Has God ever used someone else’s testimony to ignite a desire in you to get to know Him more?

Please share, but exclude last names in order to respect the privacy of others. I’m looking forward to hearing your stories.

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Giving the Gift of God’s Word to Students in Chile: You Can Help!

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Have you been blessed by reading your Bible? Could you imagine not having access to a Bible?

As I celebrate my birthday in September, I’m thankful for the ways the Lord has changed my life through the power of His unchanging and infallible God-breathed words in Scripture.

I’m also thankful for the opportunities He’s giving me to share His truth and His love to the ends of the earth through the written word.

I’m especially excited about the privilege of serving as a contracted writer through the ministry of Our Daily Bread.

Wanting to thank God for His abundant blessings, I decided to give instead of receive gifts for my birthday this year.

So, how can one writer give in a way that impacts lives for years to come? By remembering God’s Word is the greatest gift we can give someone, and God’s children work best when they work together.

There are students in Chilé who need and want Bibles, but who cannot purchase them.

My writing and prayer partner Colleen Shine Phillips and her husband Steve have been serving as missionaries in Chilé for over 40 years through Christian World Mission.

They’ve helped establish Christian schools that the Lord is using to change the lives of students and their families.

This year, CWM would like help in distributing 100 Bibles each day for 100 days.

We need your help in praying for these students and in raising the funds to purchase Bibles that will be personally delivered to the students God has placed on the hearts of the CWM team.

Colleen will be sending me updates and photos of the kids as they receive our gifts. I’ll share them on my blog as we continue to pray for these students in South America.

A box of 28 Bibles costs $70.00, shipping and handling included.

CWM is praying they can distribute 360 boxes of Bibles to their students in Chilé.

That’s 10,080 Spanish New International Version Bibles placed into the hands of children, giving them the opportunity to seek to know God personally.

Hallelujah!

Would you consider praying with us and donating at least $2.50 to provide one Bible for a child?

Would you give $5.00 to bless two children, or $10.00 to place God’s Word in the hands of four children in Chilé?

There is no donation too small or too large.

Together, we can share the gift of God’s Holy Word with children in South America.

I will collect donations and mail them in one package to Colleen on September 15, 2016.

Please make checks or money orders payable to Christian World Mission, with “Bibles” noted in the memo section. You can send your donations with notes of encouragement and prayers to:

Xochitl E. Dixon

P.O. Box 1168

Suisun City, CA 94585

Include your name and address, so that you can receive a receipt for your tax deductible donation.

Thank you for your prayers and for blessing these students with Bibles they would not be able to afford without our help.

In His service,

Xochitl E. Dixon

Please take a moment to pray for Christian World Mission and visit their website to find out more about what God is doing in and through this ministry.

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Who is the Word?

MEME - John 1 v. 1

I sat in a metal folding chair close to the exit door, crossed arms and a frown shielding my breaking heart. My simple plan had proven successful for the first few weeks

  1. Avoid eye contact with strangers. That didn’t take much effort.
  1. Ignore the annoyingly kind people greeting me, as I entered the school auditorium that had been transformed into a church sanctuary. That took much more effort, especially when it came to one lady. Joy.

For some ridiculous reason, I wanted that pint-sized Jesus-Freak to corner me, to make me hug her, to break through my fake apathy and terrified defensiveness.

Joy. Her name made me want to know her, to believe her smile meant she really cared.

But the wall created by past hurts, and originally intended to protect my tender spots, wouldn’t allow me the luxury of risking the pain of rejection.

Barely dealing with the crumbling remnants of my marriage, I couldn’t afford exposing myself to more hurt.

Still, a few questions kept me coming back to the church, to that exasperatingly contagious Joy.

What if she wasn’t fake? What if she meant it when she said she was glad to see me? What if the Jesus she sang about really did the things her husband, the pastor, preached about?

Determined to find out, I exposed myself to the potential pain. I wanted to, no, I needed to get to know this lady whose name and smiling face represented the emotion I thought I’d never experience again. Joy.

That’s where my journey began. The simple commitment to try, to stop hiding from Joy and to open the Bible I’d stolen, so I could meet Jesus face-to-face, Jesus−the One she called Lord.

My first attempt to read the Gospel of John on my own revealed more questions than answers.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV)

I surrendered my life to Jesus, by faith empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the midst of my desperate attempt to find relief from my pain.

But it was when I first read John 1:1 that I truly began the lifelong adventure toward intimacy with Christ.

My deeper study over the years revealed who John referred to when he said “the Word.”

Jesus.

Replacing “the Word” with “Jesus,” helped me better understand what the apostle proclaimed in this power-packed verse.

In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

Jesus is fully Man, and fully God in the flesh−Emmanuel God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is unchanging and divinely eternal (Hebrews 13:8).

Because Jesus can’t be bound or manipulated by time constraints, we can follow Him with confidence when our circumstances feel out of control or purposeless.

Because the maker of time can’t be bound or manipulated by time constraints, He can be trusted during waiting seasons, during heart-wrenching pain, and during the days when we feel like giving up or questioning His all-knowing power and unchanging goodness.

But the apostle John doesn’t stop there. He clearly states that not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, Jesus was God, the Second Person in the Godhead.

We can’t know the Father apart from the Son. We can’t know the Son apart from the Holy Spirit. And we can’t know God if we think He is three separate Persons who are not equally divine, or if we reject the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit as united and divine.

Jesus wasn’t just a good man, simply a smart teacher, or only a wise prophet.

According to Scripture, God reveals Himself through His Holy Word, by the power of His Holy Spirit, as we look into the face of His Son, Jesus−the Word−the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15-20).

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge−that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Lord, thanks for knowing us, loving us, inviting us into relationship with You. Thanks for helping us trust You while accepting that we can’t possibly know or understand everything about You.

Please give us the passion and diligence we need to commune with You through prayer and the study of Your Word.

Help us recognize Your voice and live like we believe You as we accept the authority of Scripture and submit to the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms us through Your truth.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

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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 “Life in the Word,” asking God to meet us face to face and transform us from head to heart.

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SPECIAL THANKS TO JOY, for loving me and praying for me until I was ready to open my heart to the love of Jesus.

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A Deeper Look: Scripture affirms the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are each fully God, equally divine, equally eternal and equally powerful and working within and through the unity of the Godhead. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not separate, in opposition, or independent of one another. This demonstrates the amazing and mysterious complexity of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is foundational to the Christian faith and can’t possibly be taught in the content of one blog post or series. (To read more about the Doctrine of the Trinity click here – https://bible.org/article/trinity-triunity-god )

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Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon, using photo taken by and used with permission by Begona Maier.

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