Does God Want Us to Be Weak?

MEME - Psalm 46 v 1 - EDITED May 20, 2018

(Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

Some questions make us feel uncomfortable. Some questions uncover deep wounds, fears, insecurities, and dashed hopes. Some can’t be answered on this side of eternity.

Browsing through the book of Psalms affirms God understands our need to wrestle with questions, process our emotions, and feel understood and confirmed.

Earlier this week, a reader sent me an encouraging note about a devotion I’d written for Our Daily Bread. After dealing with decades of pain, this reader struggled with the concept of God allowing Paul to live with a “thorn” (1 Corinthians 1:20-31).

“What is somewhat frustrating is that, unlike Paul and other great men and women of faith, I live a very common life and nothing extravagant has happened to me that God has had to purge potential conceit from my life.”

Sorrow filled me as I considered the weariness that led to this beloved reader thinking any life God created would be considered common‒ordinary, unexceptional, mediocre.

Anyone who has dealt with day after day of chronic pain knows perseverance is a gift from God, an extravagant display of faith and breath-by-breath trust in the Lord.

When we can’t take the simple things in life for granted, we may forget the true definition of weakness is lack of strength.

Anyone who has endured decades of pain may feel weary, but they are certainly not weak . . . even when we struggle to take each step.

This reader continued: “When I didn’t have pain and the accompanying anxiety I was a much more peaceful and contented a person than when I feel weak and impotent.”

Hallelujah! Another human . . . just like me.

Who wouldn’t feel more peaceful and content without pain and the anxious thoughts that tag-along with any type of affliction?

I wanted to shout, “Me, too!” But the reader’s next question tugged me into a wrestling match with truth.

“Do you think that God wants us to feel emasculated rather than strong?”

Oh, how a part of me wished I could give this reader a cheerful answer, holding my chin out and declaring with surety that the Lord wants us to feel strong, assured, peace-filled and worry-free all on our own.

That moment of insanity passed quickly.

Does God want us to feel weak and impotent (powerless, helpless, unable, and incapable)?

Does God want us to feel emasculated (ineffectual, feeble, unimpressive, and incompetent)?

I could give useless personal opinions or go straight for the infallible truth-source‒the Bible.

When I struggle with weakness and weariness, I think about the apostle Paul. He lived a “common life” fully aware that his strength came from Christ.

In my experience, there are no “great men and women of faith” who are not fully aware of their complete dependence on God.

Paul reminds us that “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (emphasis mine,1 Corinthians 1:28-29)

The apostle rejoiced in God’s grandness by accepting the reality of his own lowliness‒meekness, commonness, and humbleness that led to willing submissiveness.

He stated, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (emphasis mine, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

God’s power. God’s strength. God’s wisdom.

If the Lord wants us to be weak, why would He offer to be our strength?

Why would He affirm that His “grace is sufficient” for us; His power “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

God knows we’re weak (Psalm 103:13-14). He knows we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5).

God knows because He chose to experience the feebleness of our fleshly existence (Colossians 1:15-20), without giving up His divinity (Hebrews 4:14-15).

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

God knows we’re weak, so He invites us to abide in Him, rely on Him, and submit to Him. He wants to give us all we need to stand strong, rooted in His unchanging truth and love.

Like the brave reader who couldn’t see the great courage and strength the Lord gave him to reach out with such vulnerability, I’ve succumbed to the weariness and worry that accompanies just about any waiting season.

Today, my physical pain has been constant and overwhelming. I’ve been trying to write this article for days, but my body and mind are tired and beat down.

Praying and knowing I’m covered in prayer, I’m finally typing this sentence with eyes half-closed and heart wide-open.

In God’s enduring love and sufficient grace, He is our peace, our faithful power source.

“Do I think that God wants us to feel emasculated rather than strong?”

 I’ll let His Word answer this question:

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.” (Psalm 28:7)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

“Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they are ever praising You. Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:4-5)

When our “hearts are set on pilgrimage,” we remember this side of eternity is not our final destination. He doesn’t want us to be weak. Our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, and all-faithful God wants us to let Him be our strength.

Lord, please help us stop believing the lie that You will never give us more than we can handle, so we can start living in the confidence that You‒our Creator and Sustainer‒will always be our strength. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Have a Hope-Filled Mother’s Day

MEME - 1 Samuel 2 v 2 - May 12, 2018

Suggested Reading: 1 Samuel 1-2

On Mother’s Day, some of us will enjoy quality time with our mothers. Some won’t have that privilege. Others won’t even want to speak to their mothers.

People will be rejoicing over the wonderful relationships shared with their mothers, while others will grieve over broken bonds.

Moms will feel loved and appreciated.

Moms will feel neglected and rejected.

Some mothers will be elated and in love as they celebrate the children God has entrusted to them, whether biological, step, fostered, or adopted.

There will be mothers who willingly sacrifice for their children, while other moms leave their children to fend for themselves.

Happiness. Heartache. Gratitude. Grief.

Life doesn’t just stop because a national holiday pops up on the calendar.

This year, I’m still missing my mother after her yearlong battle with Leukemia in 2014.

I’m at peace as I grieve and celebrate the child I never got to hold, as my wonderful husband and I prepare to announce the name we should have chosen when we lost our first child to miscarriage in 1995.

I’m praising God for blessing me with my loving, compassionate, hard-working son, Xavier, who is now almost twenty-two.

And I’m grateful for the ways the Lord is now restoring a relationship with my stepson, who is loving and kind to me . . . though he prefers not to have his name mentioned in my writing.

Happy and sad. Laughter and tears. Sobs of wailing and songs of worship.

Crying out to God. Relying on God. Praying and believing God is with us.

Even though Mother’s Day won’t be a happy day for everyone, it can be a hope-filled day for those who place their trust in the Lord.

Elkana’s wife, Hannah, understood the desire to be a mother and the complexity of motherhood.

Her husband loved her, cared for her, and provided for her. But he couldn’t heal he infertility (1 Samuel 1:1-5). Hannah was ostracized and endured great sorrow as she longed for a child (vv. 6-8).

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10)

She didn’t mask her pain or approach the God’s throne of grace with a superficial thankfulness or praise. She acknowledged her suffering. She begged and bartered with the One who she knew could help her. She showed no concern over those who would witness her display of desperation (vv. 11-12).

“Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.” (1 Samuel 1:13)

She poured out her soul to God and refused to pretend everything was “fine” (vv. 13-16).

After Eli, the priest, encouraged her, Hannah moved forward in faith . . . “her face no longer downcast.” Her situation didn’t flip overnight, but her attitude certainly did an about-face (vv. 17-20).

In God’s perfect timing, Hanna was blessed with the baby she prayed for and loved, cared for and dedicated to the LORD. She cared for Samuel and never gave up on him (vv. 21-28).

If God’s people would have celebrated Mother’s Day back then, Hannah would have experienced joy and grief jumbled into a big lump of hope-filled heartache.

Motherhood includes a mesh of emotions and moments worth celebrating and mourning.

Hannah’s prayer reminds me how much more appropriate it feels to wish people a hope-filled Mother’s Day.

Though her scars of sorrow ran deep, Hannah sang: “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)

She prepared a gift for the son she would embrace and release, celebrate and grieve, visit and leave . . . year after year after year (1 Samuel 2:18-20).

With our eyes on the Lord and our hearts completely surrendered and secured by the surety of God’s proven faithfulness, we can move forward in faith when life can’t be explained by pat answers.

“The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up.” (1 Samuel 2:6).

Motherhood, a beautiful yet complicated and priceless gift, wraps us in an array of feelings we never realized we could experience.

Thankfully, the Lord remains unchanging, sovereign in power and unlimited in love and grace.

God was enough for Hannah. God is enough for us.

When Mother’s Day or any day doesn’t feel very happy, we can rejoice in Christ’s sacrificial love for us. We can rest in the peace of His constant and almighty presence.

We can thank the Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer, for empowering us to move forward in faith with hope-filled hearts today and every day.

Lord, thanks for loving us, for knowing our names, and for caring about our deepest needs. Please bless the women who are longing for children, mourning children, and trusting You with their wandering children. Please bless the women who are at peace with Your decision for them to be childless, for women who have adopted or fostered children, and for those of us who are doing the best we can to love the children You’ve entrusted to us. Please be our peace, our strength, and our joy, as we lean into Your endless grace and spread Your truth and love with hope-filled hearts today and every day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Please join me in sharing this post and praying for those who need to experience a Hope-Filled Mother’s Day.

To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise!

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Persevering When God Hits the Pause Button

MEME - Proverbs 4 vv 25-26 - May 2, 2018Blah-days sneak up on me once in a while. The hours pass normally, but time feels like it’s standing still. I feel God’s presence and know He’s working, but nothing else seems to be moving forward.

Today, the morning and afternoon crawled by without a hitch. I wasn’t sad or discouraged. So, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

Sure, I was tired and still battling chronic pain. But today was one of the better days I’ve had in a long time. Thank You, Lord.

Sure, my husband and I are waiting on the Lord to show us the next step in several areas of our lives. But, we’re at peace and on the same page. Hallelujah!

Today was a good day. Praise the Lord!

So, why the blah-feeling?

Why couldn’t I focus? Why couldn’t I get motivated? Why couldn’t I write?

When my husband called, I shared my dilemma with him. In his wisdom, accompanied with his adorable laugh, he said, “Why don’t you just rest?”

We chatted for a bit longer before hanging up. His simple, but profound question lingered in my mind.

Why didn’t I just rest?

I didn’t have a deadline today. I’m ahead of the deadlines I do have. So, why didn’t I relax and enjoy the downtime?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being still in God’s presence. Why did I feel like I had to do something to be productive?

My blah-day gave me an opportunity to ask God to adjust my perspective and replenish my strength.

Perseverance requires waiting, which is an active verb.

Waiting on the Lord and walking with Him demands our attention in the present and is one of the most productive things we can do.

Proverbs 4:25 says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”

We can waste valuable time and energy looking over our shoulders. But stressing over what might be catching up to us, might be ahead of us, or might be coming around the corner will only cause anxiety and extra worry-wrinkles.

My husband likes to say that stress is self-inflicted. I used to think he was crazy when he said that, but now I’m rethinking my approach to stressful situations.

Though sometimes we’ll want to believe we can’t help but worry, Scripture affirms God gives us power over our perspective.

We can “let” our eyes stray to the left or right, or “look straight ahead” and focus on God instead of watching the clock tick-tick-tocking away.

We can “fix” our gaze behind us and fuss over things we can’t change or rely on the Lord’s goodness to be reflected in the ways He’s ordained our steps.

When we’re gazing “directly” at the Lord, we can follow Him in Spirit-empowered obedience.

We can cleave to His unchanging truth, count on His constant and powerful presence, and avoid being ambushed by worry, paralyzed by fear, or distracted by selfish motivations.

Scripture says we should give “careful thought” to the paths for our feet and “be steadfast” in all our ways. (Proverbs 4:26)

“Giving careful thought to the paths” God has set before us can prevent us from jumping ahead of Him.

The Lord knows stillness is a vital part of energizing our faith for the long stretches that require endurance.

Persevering when God hits the pause button in our lives involves patience and stillness, which can cause us to exert lots of energy and show great restraint.

The next time a waiting season surprises us or drags on way longer than we feel necessary, we may tire and even honestly pour our frustrations out to the Lord.

Rather than trying to avoid blah-days, long waits, and pit-stops, we can ask God to help us recognize the value in His deliberate delays.

He’ll secure us in the still moments. After all, He’s already planned how to use these necessary times of preparation for His glory.

Lord, thanks for assuring us that You are in control of the whole journey You’ve planned for us. Thanks for guiding us and reminding us that Your love is enough to carry us through life’s rough roads and tough time-outs. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

How has God helped you deal with a waiting season that surprised you or dragged on way longer than you felt necessary?

 Why is it often hard to feel productive during times of stillness?

 What is the hardest part of persevering when God hits the pause button in your life?

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We Can Count on God . . . No Matter What!

MEME - Easter - Job 42 vv 2, 5 - March 31, 2018

Suggested Reading: Job 45:10-17

We don’t have to be overwhelmed with life-altering problems, suffering great loss, physically hurting, disabled by discouragement, or overwhelmed with worry to be tapping-our-foot-and-crossing-our-arms-impatient with God.

We can feel desperate for a breakthrough, even when we’re not quite sure what we’re hoping to break through.

How can our weary-of-waiting souls be refreshed when we can’t hear past our own exasperated grumbling, whining, or exaggerated sighing?

How can we glimpse hope when we can’t see past our hand-painted murals of if-onlys and what-ifs?

How can we experience the joy of gratitude and contentment when we’re scribbling comparisons and complaints in tattered wish-my-life-were-different notebooks?

Sometimes, all it takes is a slow drip of discontent to tempt our eyes to wander over our neighbor’s fence.

After my health took another dive, my slow drip of discontent burst into waves of disheartenment crashing against the weathering rock-wall of my resolve.

When will things get better? What else can go wrong now? Will I be able to take much more?

Even the minor inconveniences felt like huge blows.

Yet, with a loving outpour of mercy, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a man of great faith who endured immense personal devastation, who persevered through unfathomable suffering. Job.

When life’s circumstances socked him in the gut, punched him in the jaw, stomped on his head, and busted down the door to his grieving heart, Job spoke honestly to God.

Approaching the Lord with raw emotions and hard questions displayed Job’s depth of faith.

How did the Lord respond?

Scripture says He spoke to Job “out of the storm” (Job 38-41).

God didn’t explain Himself, reason, or promise to comfort to Job. He simply invited Job to reflect on the unquestionable majesty of His Creator and Sustainer of all.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)

“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” (v. 12-13)

“Do you send the lightening bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?” (v. 35)

“Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings to the south? Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?” (Job 39:26-27)

Did Job wrestle with the reality of God’s bigness . . . of his own smallness? I know I have.

Did he cry out in awestruck wonder when the Lord listed the evidence of His glory? I know I do.

Did a humble whisper of worship trickle over Job’s trembling lips as he spoke? “I am unworthy‒how can I reply to You?” (Job 40:4)

Instead of allowing Job to withdraw in defeat, the Lord said, “I will question you, and you shall answer me.” (v. 7)

He affirmed His majesty. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)

Everything . . . including all of His beloved children. And God cares for those He loves.

Job’s circumstances didn’t change. He didn’t wake up and realize his devastation was just a dream. His grief hadn’t faded or gotten easier overnight.

Though his weariness still lingered, hope glinted as he gazed upon the Lord and said:

“I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You.” (Job 42:2, 5)

The confirmation of God’s grandness and Job’s smallness both comforted and humbled him.

“Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust in ashes.” (Job 42:6)

If we’re not careful, we can misinterpret this beautiful interaction between the Father and His beloved servant. We can fail to recognize the Lord’s incredible mercy.

After Job submitted to God, the all-powerful, all-merciful, and all-loving God lifted him to a place of honor as a servant, an intercessory prayer warrior (v. 8).

He accepted Job’s prayers on behalf of this friends (v. 9).

The Lord restored Job. He “gave him twice as much as he had before” (v. 10) and “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (v. 12).

God wasn’t trying to replace what Job had lost.

Even after the Lord blessed him in abundance and empowered him to move forward, Job still had hard days . . . just like all of us.

Some days were harder than others. Some days were merely filled with little frustrations.

The only constant in his life, in this life, in our lives . . . is God.

Whether we’re feeling inconvenienced or crushed by the complications life tosses our way, the Lord doesn’t compare us or our circumstances with others or measure our hurts against the hurts of others.

When we’re feeling forgotten in the wait or beat up by life, when we’re tempted to slip into discontent, our loving Creator and patient Sustainer continues to love us, extends grace, and remains faithful.

Jesus loves us and remains with us through every trial.

He meets our deepest needs and increases our compassion for the hurting.

He strengthens and heals us‒according to His perfect plan and pace.

As Easter approaches, we can reflect on God’s grandeur and the priceless sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

We can rejoice and place our eternal hope in Christ, our Risen King, as we celebrate Resurrection Day.

We can count on God, no matter what, because He is and always will be unchanging, unlimited, and undeniably faithful.

Nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing can thwart the power of our Lord’s sovereign plan or throw a wrench in His flawless pacing.

Hallelujah!

Lord, thanks for giving us Your Word and being the foundation on which we stand, no matter how rough the road ahead feels or how long the wait seems. Please help us rest in the unshakeable peace of Your constant presence. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 Happy Resurrection Day!

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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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God’s Persevering Promises

MEME - Psalm 119 v 140

At the end of November, my physical and emotional endurance waned.

I praised God for some exciting ministry opportunities He’d brought my way. I thanked Him for helping me through some tough but necessary relational changes in 2017. He’d empowered me to support some friends through heartbreaking situations and provided in surprising ways as He helped our family process unexpected health setbacks. Though I continued trusting the Lord, my prayers began to sound repetitive.

Feeling like I needed a drastic change and spiritual refreshment, I asked God to wrap me in peace as I sat in His presence.

Day after day, He affirmed that I didn’t need a change. I needed continual reminders of His unchanging character and the consistency of His persevering promises.

My husband and I committed to connect with God daily by using the Our Daily Bread Ministries Bible in a Year Reading Schedule. I chose to read an unfamiliar translation, to help me prevent skimming through familiar chapters. Even though we’ve read through the Bible yearly since 2005, I had a hard time waiting for the start date.

If I wanted to thrive, instead of hoping to just survive in 2018, I needed more of God!

Over the last week, I’ve inhaled peace and highlighted verse after verse that affirmed the trustworthiness of God’s persevering promises.

The Holy Spirit tugged my heart toward repentance, as I realized I’d been worrying through the wait when I was weary from battling chronic pain.

How are You going to provide, Lord?

 What am I going to do now, Lord?

 How much longer? How much harder?

Before I realized it, I was wah-wah-whining.

At this point, I thanked the Lord for my husband. When one of us is weak, the other is strong. When he wants to jump in and fix things, I encourage him to rest in God’s presence. When I want to rush God along for fear of Him not coming through like He has every time in the past, my hubby reminds me to be still and trust.

Praying for an increase of faith during a rougher-than-normal week, I reflected on Abram’s responses to God at different times during his waiting journey.

When Abram first received God’s call, he didn’t even hesitate to follow Him into the unknown (Genesis 12:1-6). Abram accepted God’s promise (vv. 7-9), though he often struggled with fear (vv. 10-16). The Lord remained faithful (vv. 17-20) and reassured Abram of His persevering promises (Genesis 13:14-16; 15:4-6).

Unfortunately, Abram chose passive complacency instead of reminding his wife of God’s trustworthiness. Sarai refused to sit still on the sidelines. She hopped up and took the reins away from her husband and God, worrying her way through the wait.

When the Lord didn’t meet Sarai’s standards, or work according to her preferred timeline, she forced her own way and opened the door to generations of conflict (Genesis 16).

The Lord stayed true to His Word, affirming the now-99-year-old Abram wasn’t forgotten (Genesis 17:1-2). He transformed Abram and Sarai, beginning with their names (Genesis 17:5, 15), though it seemed He knew His servants still weren’t ready to receive the fulfillment of His promises.

They wanted instant gratification and quick relief. I’ve been there!

The Lord must have known they needed time to grow as His plan played out. He waited another year for Sarai, now Sarah, to give birth to Isaac (Genesis 17:21).

Though we can learn so much from how Abraham and Sarah responded to God, we can also find wisdom in Hagar’s prayer:

“You are a God of seeing . . . truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.” (Genesis 16:13)

Oh, how many time I’ve compared my timetable to God’s, as if I could see the future or control my circumstances.

I’ve begged for relief, to be whisked out of the wait, without even realizing I’d be missing out on the rewards God was carving out for me.

As we remember the Lord’s consistent character, we can rely on His persevering promises.

He will comfort our hurting hearts, strengthen our resolve, prepare us for the path He’s paved for us, and help us to stop worrying through the wait . . . if only we take time to listen to His words and remember He stays true to His Word.

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises.” (Psalm 119:148)

Lord, thanks for blessing us with the privilege of communing with You through the Bible in a Year reading schedule. Please help us trust Your plan and pace are perfect. Help us secure our hope in Your sovereign goodness, unfailing love, infallible Word, and persevering promises. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Are you more like Abram, Sarai, or a mixture of both when trusting God through the wait?

 How has God helped you wait without worrying or wah-wah-whining when you were weary, tempted to rush past the Lord, or determined to force God’s hand by demanding your own way?

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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 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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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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