Don’t Worry! God Knows We’re Weak!

MEME - Matthew 6 vv 33-34

Over the years, people have asked for prayer and apologized as they admitted struggling with worry, which usually stems from doubt and fear. Scripture affirms we have no reason to feel guilty or be ashamed in our weak moments.

We’re only in week two of the Our Daily Bread Bible in a Year reading schedule and we’ve watched quiet a few worry-warts processing their feelings and then persevering under God’s care.

Eve worried the Lord was holding back on her, while Adam feared taking responsibility for his actions (Genesis 3).

Abram worried God wouldn’t protect him if the Egyptians found his wife attractive (Genesis 12:10-20), and later, she doubted the Lord would keep His promises (Genesis 16:1-6).

The name changes didn’t stop them from wrestling with worry. Abraham claimed Sarah was his sister . . . again . . . when he had a run-in with Abimelech (Genesis 20:1-3). Their son, Isaac, followed their fearful footsteps and lied about his wife being his sister when he settled in Gerar (Genesis 26:9-11).

The line of worriers didn’t end there. Isaac’s son, Jacob, feared he wouldn’t have enough and deceived his father while stealing from his brother . . . with his mom’s help (Genesis 27).

We could claim these folks straddled the line between faith and fear-based worry because they hadn’t met Jesus face-to-face. But the disciples wrestled with a fair share of worrying, too.

They walked and talked with Him every day. Yet, Jesus still found it necessary to teach about the anxious, fearful worries that often stemmed from unbelief.

Why? Because our Lord and Savior knew we’d need assurance of His sovereign goodness and loving care.

Though Jesus warned about placing prosperity on the tippity-top of our priorities list (Matthew 6:19-26), His red-flag led to a comforting promise of His ongoing provision and protection.

When my husband lost his job a few years ago, these verses took on a whole new meaning. Sure, it’s easier to proclaim our trust when we’ve got a safety net in a savings account and a steady income. But when we can’t save ourselves, when we can’t fix a situation, God is still able to do above and beyond all we can imagine. Hallelujah!

While God provides for our needs and affirms His power as Creator and Sustainer of all, He also assures us that life isn’t centered around what we can consume or wear (v. 26).

He invites us to consider the futility of anxiety, the wastefulness of allowing worry to dominate our thoughts.

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:27, NLT)

In my experience, the answer is nope-not-a-chance-and-in-your-dreams.

Obsessive worry can actually steal our peace, smother our joy, and even cause health and relational problems.

When we experience hard times, when situations work out in ways that seem unfair and sad in this world, worry has a way of sneaking up on us.

It’s tempting to fret, especially when we or the people we love seem to be buried under the growing burden of financial strife, physical suffering, or emotional trials.

What about the homeless and those who suffer in other countries?

If we start listing all the things beyond our control, of course we’ll be whacked over the head with worry.

Focusing on our endless limitations and inability to fix everything, may lead us to a form of idolatry when we shove God into the margins of our lives and become obsessed with excessive worry, anxious thoughts, and fear.

This is much different from being concerned and planning to be a good steward of our finances and health, as a responsible adult.

Don’t worry! God knows we’re weak and has planned accordingly.

He knows we’ll worry, fear, doubt Him, and have anxious thoughts. But in our weakness, our loving Lord and Savior remains strong.

He invites us to seek Him first when we’re in need (v. 33), living in this moment as we walk by faith and hear His voice assuring us, guiding us, and eventually washing our worries away.

When we come to the Lord honestly, He can bring us peace, even when we don’t get relief.

Lord, thanks for the empowering us to trust You’ll carry us through every moment in our lives, as we remember You ordained our days before one of them came to be. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:33-34, NLT)

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To receive daily encouragement devotions from Our Daily Bread and join me in reading the Bible in a year, using ODB’s reading schedule, please click here.

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I Want to Know You More, Lord!

MEME - BLOG - 2 Timothy 3 v 16 - EDITED Jan 2018

The first time I read the Bible, I acted like a giddy schoolgirl. I couldn’t believe God’s story, His actual history, was available for me to read. The more I read, the more I realized the Bible was more than just another book. I can’t get enough of God’s Word and I can’t stop sharing His truth and love with others!

When I share that my husband and I have read through the Bible in a year since 2005, people have asked me several questions.

How can you finish that huge book in one year?

When following most Bible-in-a-Year schedules, the daily readings only take 15-30 minutes per day. We can break up the readings or savor the day’s planned chapters at one time, depending on our personal preference, our reading speed, and our available time. The important thing is remembering we’re not just reading. When we open up our Bibles, we get to spend time listening to God’s voice. Hallelujah!

Why are you so excited about reading a book that’s so boring and no longer relevant?

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

Talk about an amazing start for the greatest story in history! The Beginning and the End, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Maker of time itself . . . God . . . created every single thing in the heavens and on the earth.

As if that’s not enough, the God-breathed words of Scripture records God’s story and ends in the most thrilling cliff-hanger . . . Jesus will come again. Hallelujah!

While we wait, we’re invited to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and be known, loved, and forever changed by Him.

If you’ve read the Bible once, why bother reading it again?

Every year, I learn something new, love the Lord more, and accept the fullness of His love for me more. Whether God has changed my heart, my perspective, or my situation, His infallible truth remains the same. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, He reveals His immutable character and His unchanging plan and promises through His Word and equips me for what He has prepared for me each day. I need to connect with my Maker, my Sustainer, my loving and good Father every single moment of every single day.

What do you do when you don’t understand what you’re reading?

Faith isn’t about me being able to completely comprehend my eternal and sovereign God. We can ask Him to help us understand and trust Him. In His goodness, He provides resources to study Scripture, with the help of His Holy Spirit.

Why don’t you read smaller chunks so you can study deeper?

I do! I read through the Bible in a year for familiarity, to learn how His whole story connects from the Old to the New Testaments and into my life. For deeper study, I use resources, like concordances, commentaries, and word studies. Most importantly, I begin with prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to change me and make me more like Jesus.

How do you keep your reading from feeling like something you’re just checking off a list?

When we’re reading the Bible, we’re spending time with God. While we read Scripture, we’re experiencing God’s presence and hearing His heart beating with every syllable. We can commune with the Lord, talking to Him through prayer and listening to Him by reading the words He inspired and preserved in the Bible. What a wonderful gift!

How do you keep from giving up, especially if you fall behind?

When we’re focused on nurturing our relationship with God, we don’t have to worry about our performance. Perfection is not possible or expected. If we miss a few days, there’s no reason to feel pressured to catch up or to succumb to discouragement and give up. We can just brush off those guilty feelings and enjoy God’s abundant and all-sufficient grace.

Our time with God is as personal as our relationship with Him. As we spend quiet moments with Him, we can come as we are and ask Him to increase our desire to spend time with Him every day.

Why should we bother reading Scripture with a reading schedule?

While schedules are not necessary, they can help us develop consistency and accountability. Whether we choose to read the Bible in a year, use another schedule, or commit to a certain number of minutes per day, our main goal is to enter God’s presence daily and say, “I want to know you more, Lord!”

Lord, thanks for the privilege of hearing Your voice, placing our prayers in Your hands, and growing closer to You and others as we bask in Your endless love and saturate our hearts with Your truth every single day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Have you read through the Bible?

What have you enjoyed about daily Bible reading? about reading the Bible in a year?

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced and joys you’ve experienced while following a Bible reading schedule?

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To join Alan and me in reading the Bible in a year with the Our Daily Bread schedule, please click here.

If you’re going to choose another daily Bible reading schedule, please let me know. I’d love for us to pray for one another, as we seek the Lord through His Word and love Him with all we’ve got!

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Another Christmas of Faith-building Mishmash and Miracles

MEME - Merry Christmas to share with photo credit - Dec 2016As my husband, Alan, and our son, Xavier, helped me hang ornaments on the Christmas tree this year, I reminisced about the precious moments attached to each decoration.

The homemade ornaments brought back sweet memories from Xavier’s childhood. When he was only two years old, he brought home his very first December craft from school. Every year, he created a new ornament that I hung with joy. And every year I carefully packed away each priceless treasure so we could place them on the tree the following Christmas.

We have souvenir ornaments to commemorate our travels. Each one triggers conversations about our trips.

We remember. We laugh. We thank God for the countless blessings symbolized by those souvenirs.

Friends have given us ornaments. Some of those friends we still embrace like family, some we miss but haven’t seen in years, some are no longer a part of our lives, and some have gone to be with Jesus. Hanging those gifts fills my heart with both joy and sorrow, as I thank God for bringing those people into our lives . . . even if only for a season.

Tears streak down my cheeks as I admire the ornaments my mom sent Xavier, every year since she bought him his very first ornament in 1996. Now that she’s gone, we buy him a yearly ornament that we hope he’ll enjoy hanging on a tree in his own home one day.

But my favorite ornaments are the ones I bought after I received Christ as my Lord and Savior, after I learned the true reason Christmas was worth celebrating.

A beautiful shiny heart proclaims the Lord’s name and reminds me of His perfect love. A delicate slice of Olive wood with three crosses carved in its center celebrates Christ’s victory on Calvary. A jeweled cross that we used on a display at my mom’s Celebration of Life service hangs on a satin ribbon, comforting me with the hope of eternal life.

Almost lost in the branches, a simple nail hangs with a yellow slip of paper attached on a fading strand of curling ribbon. Inside, a poem by an anonymous writer declares Christ as Savior and the nail as evidence of His intimate love for each of His beloved children. The last two lines of the poem read:

“ . . . I know it was His love for us that held Him to that tree. But when I see this simple nail, I know He died for me.”

This Christmas, our family is rejoicing over all the wonderful ways God has worked in and through our lives. We’re also placing our heart-wrenching prayers at His feet.

We’ve endured great losses and faced difficult obstacles, but our Lord continues to fill us with peace and hope. Though we’re grieving much, we can’t stop counting the ways God has blessed us, ways that have nothing to do with material blessings.

We’re struggling with complications in my healing journey, as well as with finances and family strife. But we’ve also witnessed the Lord restoring relationships, giving us wonderful opportunities to serve Him, and giving our family all we need to continue trusting Him in this moment . . . one step . . . and sometimes one breath at a time.

Like the ornaments on our tree, this year and this Christmas is filled with faith-building mishmash and miracles that represent God’s proven faithfulness, sovereign goodness, limitless love, and endless grace.

As we approach the holiday that shines a light on Christ and consider the ornaments on our Christmas tree, I realized we’ve been celebrating Jesus all year and every year.

The circumstances we’re in currently won’t decide the measure of our love for the Lord, or the measure of His boundless love for us.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for affirming You are with us always and worth celebrating every day of every year . . . not just on Christmas. Help us acknowledge the wonderful ways You’re working in and through our lives every single day. Please help us accept the tears and the cheers in life as priceless opportunities to experience Your constant presence, rely on Your limitless power, and surrender to Your immeasurable and trustworthy grace. Please, Lord, help us look beyond ourselves and our current circumstances, so we can love You and others with joy. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

What faith-building mishmash and miracles has God entrusted to you this year and this Christmas?

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Living in the Hope of Christ-Centered Faith: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Hebrews 11 v 1

As I prepare to celebrate the end of 2017, I have mixed feelings. Though our family endured a few harsh treks through the valleys of adversity this year, we also witnessed God working in our lives and in the lives of other in wonderous and unexpected ways.

Part of me couldn’t wait to ring in the new year and leave 2017 behind me. But another part of me needed to reflect on those difficult times, to acknowledge God’s loving grace in the midst of suffering. I wanted to rejoice in the Lord’s faithfulness through the good and the bad, the energy-sapping and the easy-peasy.

After a few hard hits tossed us into the waves of uncertainty right before Thanksgiving, my husband and I cried out to God. We had no idea how we were going to swim through the raging waters that surrounded us this time . . . but we knew our loving Father remained in control.

The Lord had navigated us through storms before. He’d lifted our eyes to the horizon and helped us see His consistent Light piercing through the dark clouds that seemed to be closing in on us.

I thanked Him in advance for raining down the joy, peace, and heart-deep hope we’d need to trust Him through the day-to-day trust walk. He’d done it before. He’ll do it again. Wouldn’t He?

With my pinch of doubt rooted in the rocky and dry foundation of self-centered faith, I asked the Lord for forgiveness.

The dictionary defines hope as “a feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” According to the flesh, hope is also “a person or thing in which expectations are centered.” The verb means “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence” (Dictionary.com).

With that self-centered definition of hope, it’s no wonder that inkling of doubt began to stain the foundation of my faith.

The writer of Hebrews offers the eternal perspective on Christ-centered faith, which is interdependent with hope.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, emphasis mine)

Uncertainty and reasonable confidence are as fickle as our everchanging feelings, which are centered on self and usually reliant on our current circumstances. Biblical hope, however, grounds us in the immutability of our sovereign God and His infallible Word.

That’s what I needed . . . the biblical faith of the believers in the Hall of Fame who abided in the Lord’s enduring hope.

“They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

These faithful ones weren’t obsessed with worldly riches, security, or comfort. They didn’t enjoy suffering, but they realized God didn’t waste one moment of their experiences.

As they praised and trusted Him, He used them to encourage and inspire others.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised” (v. 39).

By faith, Abraham refused to hold back from God in fear. By faith, Jacob didn’t cling to unforgiveness or dwell on the years he missed out on with Joseph. And with bold assurance, Joseph trusted God’s sovereignty, embraced His purpose wherever God placed him, and proclaimed God’s faithfulness as he faced his mortality.

Rather than being hindered by his past adversities, Moses stood firm on God’s promises and “looked ahead to his reward” (v. 26). Moses persevered because he saw [God] who was invisible” (v. 27).

Their hope surpassed their temporal needs because their faith relied on the Maker and Sustainer of all.

“God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (v. 40).

In our fleshly weakness, we may still struggle with moments of doubt, fear, insecurity, and even hopelessness. Still, we will be able to walk with confidence when our hope flows from the surety of the immutability of God and the interdependent fellowship of believers.

We don’t have to try to fear the unknown, succumb to weariness in the wait, or keep our balance on the weak legs of our everchanging desires, expectation, experiences, or feelings. We can face anything when we’re living in the hope of Christ-centered faith. Hallelujah!

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Living with Surefire Faith: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 33 v 22 - Photo by Lidia Hu

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 33)

Staring out the window of our hotel room, I scowled. We were supposed to be celebrating my husband’s birthday while in Kauai. Instead, I remained bedridden for the first few days of our vacation. My frustration quickly nudged me into a funky mood that triggered a full-blown pity-party.

The more I complained about my unfair circumstances, the more discontent I became. My grumpy attitude began to rub off on Alan, who had been doing all he could to nurse me back to health and improve my usually positive perspective.

While my sweet caregiver braved the rainstorm to pick up dinner from one of my favorite restaurants, I crossed the room and stared out the window.

Who was I to be complaining when my loving spouse was driving through the storm to make my evening a little brighter? Who was I to think I deserved better than the incredible blessing of celebrating my husband’s birthday in Kauai? When had I allowed discontent to demolish my hope?

By the time Alan returned, the Lord had given me a much-needed attitude adjustment. I apologized and thanked my husband for the delicious meal. We watched a movie that night and were able to enjoy short outings for the rest of the week.

Whether our lives are going well or we’re right smack in the middle of difficult trials, griping can blind us to the wonderful glimpses of hope God places right before our eyes.

We can miss the opportunity to experience peace in the presence of the only One who can offer a foundation of everlasting hope.

No matter what kind of day we’ve had, even when our circumstances feel bleak, we can find reasons to celebrate God, to rejoice in the surefire hope He’s placed at the tips of our fingers, to enter His presence with a joyful song of praise (Psalm 33:1-3).

Why? Because “the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” (v. 4)

Every infallible, life-transforming word of Scripture affirms God was and is and always will be “faithful in all He does.”

The sound of God’s voice holds eternal power to make and maintain everything in the world, yet He makes time to hear us and care for every detail of our lives (vv. 6-7).

When we gripe about our circumstances, we’re telling God that He isn’t enough for us.

But God is enough.

As the psalmist proclaims the evidence of God’s divine power and supreme greatness, we can confidently place our hope in the Lord and submit to His authority. He’s proven to be worthy of worship and reverence (v. 8).

The Maker of all secures it all (v. 9). His plans for each of His beloved children are ordained before we took a breath.

Still, we doubt Him when things don’t go our way?

We can stand firm on God’s purposes and promises, because we can count on His unchanging character (v. 11).

He who formed our hearts, knows our hearts and all we think, say, and do (vv. 13-15). The greatest leaders of the world combined are no match for our God (vv. 16-17).

So, why do we push Him away or feel betrayed when things get rough?

We can’t run away or hide from Him. We can’t make Him stop loving us, caring about us, or pursuing us.

We may feel far from God, forgotten by God, or even failed by God when the days are long and hard. But we can be sure that “the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love” (v. 18).

Fear, meaning to revere, honor, acknowledge His majesty, know and trust His sovereign goodness and limitless might.

Hallelujah!

God’s trustworthiness ensures our hope in His reliability, so we can live with surefire faith and join the psalmist in singing:

“We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (v. 20).

Even when we feel rushed or anxious to lunge forward, we can be certain God works at the perfect pace for our personal journeys.

He longs for us to sing: “In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name” (v. 21).

We can rely on El Shaddai‒Lord God Almighty.

We can cry out to El Elyon‒The Most High God.

We can lift our hands to Adonai‒our Lord and Master.

We can rest in the arms of Jehovah Shalom‒the Lord is Peace.

We can follow Jehovah Raah‒the Lord our Shepherd.

We can trust the heart of Jehovah Jireh‒our Provider.

And we can wait expectantly for Jehovah Rapha‒The Lord that Heals‒whether our healing comes on this side of eternity or when we’re welcomed into the arms of our Savior.

When we’re self-focused or dedicated to self-help, it’s too easy to start losing our joy, shattering our peace, and dimming our once radiant light of hope. Even the blessings seem a little duller when we’re devoted to seeking self-satisfaction.

But when we cry out to the Lord, asking Him to empower us to live in surefire faith and grateful joy, we place every ounce of our hope in the infinite and immutable power and promises of His name.

“May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in You.” (v. 22)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Photo taken by and used with permission by Lidia Hu.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Weeping Worship: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 40 v 5 EDITED

Suggested Reading: Psalm 40

Sometimes trials feel like aggressive adversaries. Problems can seem like uppercuts to the chin and right hooks below the belt. Troubles come in the form of extra-long waiting periods, rejections, losses, unexpected life changes, relentless pain, or well-earned weariness.

How long, O LORD?

What next, all-knowing God?

Can I get a little help here . . . will you, please send assistance to my family, my friends . . . soon, Lord?

We want to believe, to wait on God expectantly, bravely, and joyfully. But sometimes the wait of suffering presses into our hearts until we fall onto our knees in weeping worship. It’s easy to consider this a moment of weakness. But these tears are soul-deep prayers through which our spoken or unspoken needs drop into the gentle, open palm of our sovereign Savior.

Like the psalmist David, we can cry out to the Lord without worrying about the volume of our groans. Our hope remains secure in the hands of our dependable, personal, and merciful Master (Psalm 40:1) who has given us a history of His faithfulness.

God has lifted us out of the “slimy pit, out of the mud and mire,” setting our “feet on a rock” and giving us “a firm place to stand” more times than we can count (v. 2).

When sorrows smothered our joy and we couldn’t see hope piercing through the dark clouds of affliction, the Lord put a “new song” in our mouths (v. 3). He plucked the refreshing lyrics from His infallible Word‒the Bible‒the unchanging truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.

The chorus affirmed the power God the Son’s sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection, and promise of eternal life in heaven to all who come to the God the Father through repentance and forgiveness of sin to devoted obedience to Christ as Lord . . . life empowered by God the Spirit.

This new song evoked great praise (vv. 3-4).

So, when the fog on the horizon dims our hope, we can look back and rejoice over the many wonders God has done, the mundane moments of grace-filled love and the miracles we still can’t explain away (v. 5).

Yes, we can rely on the Lord’s all-knowing goodness no matter how heavy our burdens, how hard our paths, how long our wait, because He assures us that every step is ordained and ordered according to His perfect will and flawless timing (v. 5).

The King of Kings helps us obey Him, trust Him, surrender to Him with heart-deep devotion. He helps us proclaim His majesty, as we hold strong to our Redeemer’s immutable truth and irrevocable love (vv. 6-10).

We can wail or sob softly, while approaching the Lord with confidence in His compassionate and capable hands.

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me” (Psalm 40:11).

Though troubles will come, God’s matchless grace prevails. Though our sinful nature will sometimes tempt us to dip our toes into the mud and mire that the enemy uses to distract us from living in the wake of our inheritance, God remains reliable and invites repentance that leads to restoration (v. 12). We need not fear hardships or people who try to hurt us, intentionally or accidently (vv. 14-15).

We can weep as we worship, exalting the name of the Lord Almighty (v. 16). He knows we’re “poor and needy,” desperate for His deliverance, and anxious for Him to come without delay (v. 17).

There’s no need to hold back tears for fear of looking faithless.

As we accept our weaknesses, we can believe our weeping reaches God’s ears as confident and courageous war cries of unshakeable faith.

Faithful Father, thanks for reminding us that weeping can be a strong show of faith in Your soul-stirring and enduring love‒the solid foundation of our eternal hope. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Psalm 40:5)

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When There’s No End in Sight: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 86 v 7 - Photo by Jeanne Doyon

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 86)

With a heavy heart, I endured another bout with weariness. Though discouragement crept up on me, God continued to help me trust Him with my troubles. Over the last few months, He’s blessed through interactions with some amazing people who minister to others even though they are enduring great suffering.

Their passion for serving God and others as they praise Him in all circumstances deepens my faith and my desire to serve the Lord with every breath He gives me.

God has given me numerous opportunities to focus on Him as He allows me the privilege of praying for hurting friends. I’ve been participating in an online group of believers who are interceding in prayer, as an infant and his family wait in a hospital for a miracle of God’s healing mercy.

Witnessing the bold faith of this forum inspires me to praise God as I press onward.

This week, the Lord refreshed my spirit with a call from a friend who shared how He’s using this series to help her through her seemingly endless season of trials.

Praying with her lifted my eyes toward God’s undeniable trustworthiness and majesty.

How could I have fallen into the ditch of doubt so easily after all the times I’ve seen God come through, sometimes in miraculous ways and other times in ordinary-yet-divinely-extraordinary ways?

While thinking about the pain and heartaches that others are experiencing is difficult, praying for them is one of the most empowering and faith-building gifts and privileges we could ever receive.

When the weight of emotional or physical suffering feels like oversized boulders on our backs, it may seem impossible to shake off discouragement, doubt, and despair.

We may begin to feel as if pressing on is useless, as if fighting is futile, as if persevering is an endless cycle of disappointment. That moment is when we have the opportunity to be the strongest we’ve ever been.

As we lean into longsuffering, fully accepting the reality of our utter helplessness, we are ready to trust our mountain-moving deliverer with confidence proven by His past faithfulness.

We don’t have to fear falling to our knees and begging God for help. Like the psalmist David, we can embrace our weaknesses like warriors.

In Psalm 86, David’s words echo with desperation, as well as determined confidence in God’s character, faithfulness, compassion, power, and love.

“Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1)

By admitting his dependence on God, David displayed steadfast courage and faith. His persistence in prayer, as he called to God “all day long” (v. 3), proved his belief in God’s compassion as well as His nearness.

David’s tenacious trust of the Lord’s goodness and love (vv. 5-7) confirmed his willingness to rely on the extent of His limitless reach (vv. 8-10).

With a spirit of surrender, David devoted his life to following the Lord with an “undivided heart” (v. 11). His commitment never faltered, even when he struggled with obedience. He placed every detail of his existence in his Lord’s capable hands, even when he doubted.

No matter what obstacles met David on the road ahead, he remained motivated by gratitude and love toward the One who loved him beyond compare, the One who renewed his thinking and changed his life (vv. 11-13).

Though David’s problems didn’t go away (v. 14), he continued to hope in God’s consistent track record and immutability (vv. 15-17).

When the walls seem to be closing in on us and we’re trembling with uncertainty, God remains steady and sure.

When we feel as if persevering has zapped the last ounce of our strength, God offers to carry us.

Our faithful Father created us, cares for us, remains with us, and promises to sustain us. He is the same yesterday and undoubtedly today and forever, so we can count on Him to be true to His Word.

When we’re tired of marching down the treacherous roads of the unknown and the uncontrollable, the signs of God’s goodness can be found in our rearview mirrors and in the God-breathed words of Scripture He’s placed within our reach.

When there’s no end in sight to our rough roads, God will help us take one stride at a time . . . starting with the first step of crying out in confidence: “Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1)

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for hearing our prayers and reminding us that we can count on You, no matter what we’re facing or how we’re feeling. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Photo taken by and used with permission from writer Jeanne Doyon.

Meme created by and quote written by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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When We Can’t Hold On: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 18 v 2

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 18:1-18)

October cleared the charts as a tough month seasoned with plenty of opportunities to lean on and praise the Lord. It’s been three years since I lost my mom to cancer. I entered the sixth year of my healing journey and am still experiencing severe muscle spasm flare-ups that lead to debilitating headaches. Physically and emotionally spent by the end of the first week of October, I considered cancelling the vacation we’d planned.

By God’s grace, I was able to travel. I spent the first few days of our vacation recovering in our hotel room and could only endure short outings each day.

Still, I thanked God that we were able to enjoy our time together as we continue to adjust to our “new normal.” But adjusting is a process.

After returning home from our trip, I spent a few days drowning in discouragement.

The Lord blessed me with some amazing people who offered encouragement and prayer, some were readers I haven’t even met in person. But during a few of my darkest valley moments, their attempts to lift my spirits fell on deaf ears:

“You can do this.”

“Stay encouraged.”

“Keep hanging on to Jesus.”

“Hold on to your faith.”

Though people meant well, those phrases reminded me how weak I felt.

My depleting strength made it impossible to believe I’d be capable of doing anything, staying encouraged, hanging on to Jesus, or holding on to my smaller-than-a-mustard-seed faith.

Some days, all I could do was simply rest in God’s presence.

On the good days, I’d read my Bible between unplanned naps or bouts with chronic pain. I’d let worship music pour over me and let my sighs . . . and sometimes my tears . . . be the prayers I placed at God’s feet.

I couldn’t depend on my own strength. I didn’t have all the answers I needed. Self-help failed me every time. As always, the Lord comforted me and strengthened me as He carried me through the prickly patches of adversity.

When I couldn’t cling to hope, when I couldn’t imagine pressing on or persevering, God never failed me, never disappointed me, and never let me go.

God held me close and embraced me with His endless supply of grace.

Like the psalmist David, I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t just give me strength. God is my strength (Psalm 18:1).

“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.” (Psalm 18:2)

We can call on the One who is worthy of all our praise, no matter what we’re up against (vv. 3-6). When everything around us feels like it’s falling apart, when it seems as if we’re losing our grip, we can trust God to rise up in majesty and fight for us (vv.7-15).

God reaches down to take hold of us, to pull us out of the depths of discouragement, despair, depression (v. 16). When we feel outnumbered, outmuscled, or out of chances, the Lord turns our eyes toward His promises and rescues us . . . often first from ourselves (v. 17).

Many of our fiercest foes and our toughest critics face us in the mirror each day. But whether we’re battling the lies we tell ourselves or our circumstances are jabbing us until we fall to our knees, the Lord will support us (v. 18).

As we draw nearer to Him daily in prayer and seek to know Him intimately through Scripture, God confirms His love for us remains unconditional, unmatched, and unending (v. 19).

We may not be able to see the light at the end of our current tunnel of adversities. We may not be able to feel the ease of relief today. But we can trust God hears us, cares for us, and will always be there for us.

Almighty Lord of Lords, thanks for reminding us that we can cry out to You in prayer and stop trying to flex our muscles to prove we’re strong enough to hold on. Please help us trust You will never let us go. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from my foes who were too strong for me.” (Psalm 18:16-17)

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Photo taken by and used with permission from my husband, Dr. W.A. Dixon, Sr.

 Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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From Hopeless to Hopeful: The Voice of Hope Series

MEME - Psalm 77 v 11

(Suggested Reading – Psalm 77)

During a flare-up a few weeks ago, I suffered severe muscle spasms and nerve pain that triggered a debilitating headache. As the hours ticked by with no relief and the pain increased, hopelessness closed in on me.

Help me, Lord! Have mercy on me! I can’t take it anymore!

I couldn’t think of the Bible verses that had lifted my heart so many times before. I couldn’t remember the attributes of God that had anchored my faith in the One who promises to never change, never leave me, and never let me down.

Curled up in a wah-baby-melt-down, I could barely whimper prayers for mercy so I thanked God for the prayer warriors who, though struggling with their own trials, stood in the gap to pray for me when I had nothing left to give.

Eventually, God relaxed my muscles and wrapped me in a deep sleep. But for the next few weeks I had limited energy. The Lord refreshed my spirit, as I rested in His presence, listened to worship music, and savored His Word in small bites.

Today, I’m still struggling with fatigue and trusting the Lord with my daily battle with chronic pain. I’m reflecting on the overwhelming sense of despair that had smothered me, that feels as if it’s closing in on me during the harder days.

How did I get in the deep, dark pit of hopelessness when I know God is and always will be faithful and trustworthy?

These feelings can tempt me to slink into shame for being faithless, but the Lord reminds me that the valley moments He’s brought me through are behind me. The faith He has authored and is perfecting in my life is still intact. He promises to remain true to His character and true to His Word whenever I face trials.

Was it a hard road? Of course.

Did I feel like giving up? More than once.

Did I truly believe I couldn’t take one more second of suffering? Absolutely!

But even though I felt helpless, I was still praying . . . though some of those prayers were silent tears slipping down my cheeks.

And even though I felt hopeless . . . somehow . . . I still knew my hope was secured in these truths:

God is listening. God is with me. God is the same trustworthy and loving God He’s been and always will be.

So why didn’t I feel like I knew those facts when I was focused on my circumstances and feeling overwhelmed by my suffering?

Because faith has nothing to do with feelings.

Faith doesn’t depend on the way I’m feeling when I’m suffering, the measure of my strength or weakness, or my ability to remember the right verses when I can’t even think straight.

When we’re drowning in despair, the Lord patiently allows us to process without leaving our side, without changing His character, without losing control of the situation.

As I continue to recover from the flare-up, I’m thanking God for being constant and true, loving and faithful and abounding in grace . . . especially when I can’t feel Him, when I can’t see His hand, or recall His words, or even attempt to say I believe.

We’ll all have times when we feel as if our faith is faltering.

Like the writer of Psalm 77, most of us have “cried out to God for help” (v. 1).

“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted” (v. 2).

As the psalmist struggled through weariness, doubt, discouragement, and hopelessness, he rested in the unchangeable, secure foundation of faith‒God . . . simply God.

When he questioned the Lord (vv. 7-9), he opened his heart and reached toward God’s consistency (v. 10).

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds” (vv. 11-12).

The psalmist turns to praising what he knows to be true, the surety of who God is and what He’s done (vv. 13-15). 

He affirms God’s majesty as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe (vv. 16-19). He remembers that the strong people of faith never relied on their own strength (v. 20).

The psalter is filled with examples of God’s people coming before Him with raw emotions, struggling with suffering, doubting and dipping into despair.

As we read through these verses, we can see where the writer switches from being self-focused to being focused on God and how He’s worked in and through the lives of others who’ve come before him. But we can’t tell how long this process takes.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up or be ashamed of our times of weakness. We don’t have to hide our hurts or shy away from our moments of hopelessness.

During those inevitable difficult times, instead of sinking into isolation, we can reach out to others and ask for prayer. We can pray for others, remembering all God has done and reminding ourselves that the truths we’re proclaiming apply to us, too.

And we can experience the Lord’s power intimately, to feel His grace carrying us through because we cannot possibly imagine taking one more step on our own.

Every breath is a testimony of God’s sustaining grace. Every tear is a prayer caught in His loving hand. Every sob is a song of proclamation that affirms God hears, God cares, God is with us.

Every time a prayer warrior intercedes on our behalf, every time we pray on behalf of others, God proves He remains the same yesterday and today and forever.

When hopelessness overwhelms us, we can inhale a sense of peace.

We can trust God to anchor us to the unfailing hope of knowing Him and knowing He will stay true to His Word and His character no matter how we feel or how long these valley moments may seem.

Lord, thanks for affirming that we’re never too far for You to cradle us in Your everlasting hope. Please give us all we need to trust You one step at a time. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Relying on God, Not Self: Living Brave Series

MEME - Relying on God Not Self - Blog

(Suggested Reading – Judges 7:1-25)

In 2014 my mom was diagnosed with Leukemia, which required a bone marrow transplant. I was recovering from my first of two shoulder surgeries and working with doctors to manage the constant high-level pain caused by my upper thoracic back injury.

Still, I immediately agreed when my mom asked me to serve as her caregiver. It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that reality hit.

How was I going to care for her when I was right in the middle of my own healing journey?

My husband comforted and encouraged me, as I sobbed and prayed. What were You thinking, Lord?

A few months after my second shoulder surgery, an injection in my back, and a new medicinal plan that would hopefully help me manage my pain while I cared for my mom, I flew to Seattle.

I suffered constant pain every day. And every single day, the Lord showed up and carried me through.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any harder, I tore muscles in my hip and pelvis.

The injuries in my shoulders and upper back flared up as I hobbled on crutches for weeks, cooking, cleaning our small living space, and monitoring my mom’s meds (and mine).

I learned how to depend on God the most on those days when I had no strength of my own.

My faith deepened as I watched my mom trusting God through her healing journey, too. She would read daily devotions from Jesus Calling, pray for others, and rely on the Lord daily.

During our time in Seattle, my mom and I were like our own little army against the world.

We took every step by faith, depending on God completely, surrendering to Him totally, and trusting Him implicitly.

To this day, I’m in awe at how the Lord brought us through the ordeal, how He blessed us with joy, peace, and strength we couldn’t have mustered up on our own.

I think back on those difficult months often, with my mom now at peace with Jesus and me heading into the sixth year of my healing journey.

I consider how Gideon must have felt when the Lord asked him to face an army with a whittled down troop of soldiers.

God had already guaranteed Gideon the victory and proved He would be with him through the battle. He remained patient when Gideon struggled with fear and doubt. He reminded Gideon that his own strength was irrelevant.

With pared down troops, Gideon would have no choice but to put his trust in God’s power, not his own abilities or the strength of his support system (Judges 7:1-6).

“The LORD said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped [the water] I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.’” (v. 7, emphasis mine)

God didn’t snatch the soldiers away.

Gideon had to choose to embrace his weakness, to let go of his safety net, before he could experience the power of God.

 In compassion, the Lord still offered Gideon comforting reassurance (v. 10-11).

God knew his servant would experience moments when doubt or fear muscled out every ounce of courage he had managed to muster up.

So, He allowed Gideon to hear testimonies of what others saw in him as the Lord worked in and through his life (vv. 13-14). Though Gideon couldn’t see past his own weaknesses, those around him witnessed God’s power surging through his obedience.

The “mighty warrior” God had called forth rose up to the challenge before him, using the simple tools he had been given (vv. 15-16). There was no doubt the Lord alone defeated the enemy Gideon had once feared (vv. 17-22).

Gideon’s courageous faith, made stronger through his moments of doubt and discouragement, emboldened those who witnessed the small army’s victory against the Midianites (vv. 23-25).

We’ll all face obstacles, enemies, or battles that seem impossible to overcome and make us feel inadequate.

When we feel too weak, too unprepared, too afraid to walk the path the Lord has paved for us, we can guarantee victory by lifting our arms in complete surrender to God.

We’re strongest when we let go of the false sense of security wrapped in self-reliance and embrace our weaknesses, admit our absolute need for God, and rely on Him for everything.

Like Gideon, we may have a few set-backs that will require God’s patient and loving pep-talks.

Because Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, there’s no way our skirmishes with fear and doubt can determine the measure of our faith.

The Lord knows when we’re weary, insecure, and in desperate need of His affirming love.

His sufficient grace is more than enough to help us when we’re tempted to give God our own brand of fleece-tests (Judges 6:36-40) to determine His proven faithfulness.

As we rely on God, not self, we can embrace our weakness and experience the peace of His constant presence as we walk in the power of His Spirit.

Lord, thanks for being patient when we waver and for being our strength when we’re weak. Please help us show that we accept the power You’ve placed in us by relying on You in all circumstances. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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