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The One Thing…….

Do you have that one thing that drives you crazy about yourself? That one quirk, that one idiosyncrasy, that one flaw? If I could change one thing about myself it would be my organization. I grew up with a twin who was super organized and would organize for me. As an adult, I struggled with keeping things organized and still do.

Our flaws and weakness can seem like we’re staring at a 90-foot wall getting in our way of God’s abundant plan for us. I’m so glad God never gives up on us and patiently waits for us as he guides us through our fears.

Four men in 2 Kings who were lepers, remind me of what God is able to do when we take one step of faith toward our fears.

These four men lived outside of the entrance of the city gate. People with skin diseases were forbidden by law to reside within the community. They were outcasts. These four men spent their days begging for food. At the time there was a great famine and war going on—times were tough for everyone.

One day the men said to each other, “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other. “We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway” 2 Kings 7:3-4.

The men recognized if they stayed where they were, there was a 100% chance they would starve and die. If they went out to the battlefield and surrendered to the army, they had a small chance of survival. Imagine this scene. These four lepers probably spent the greater part of their lives staring at the gate that separated them from the city begging for food—it’s the only life they have ever known. Now they are about to embark on an unknown path without fully knowing if they will live or die.

“So at twilight, they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there! For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching.  So they panicked and ran into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, as they fled for their lives.” (2 Kings 7:5-6-7).

I can’t imagine the courage it took the men to go past the gates that was forbidden to enter so they could have a fighting chance for their future. How amazing is our God? The odds were already against these four men, but God had worked everything out before they even got to the battle lines, they only needed to take one step of faith. God caused the army to hear an opposing army approaching, which caused them to flee!

“When the men with leprosy arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating and drinking wine; and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and hid it. Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right. This is a day of good news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! If we wait until morning, some calamity will certainly fall upon us. Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace” (2 Kings 7:8-9).

How surprised were these men when they found no one there and abundant riches waiting for them? They went from starving to trusting in God, to receive the most lavish gifts ever in their lives. How would you respond? Would you share your newly found riches with someone else or keep them to yourself?

The response of the lepers astounds me. They lived in squalor conditions most of their lives. Their immediate response was to share with the very people who considered them outcasts!

“So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened. “We went out to the Aramean camp,” they said, “and no one was there! The horses and donkeys were tethered and the tents were all in order, but there wasn’t a single person around!” Then the gatekeepers shouted the news to the people in the palace” (2 Kings 7:10-11).

How great is our God?

Leprosy was the one thing that kept these men from living in community with others, but God used it in the end, to bring them together. No one else had the courage to go towards the battle except these men.

We may not always understand God’s plans, but He knows what He is doing. We don’t always have to know why.Click To Tweet

I am encouraged by the courage of these four men. They were willing to abandon everything that was comfortable to them and go towards where God was asking them to go—towards the battle. When they did, God had already gone ahead of them and worked everything out. When they let go of the one thing that was holding them back, God filled them abundantly more than what they could ever ask for or imagine.

What is the one thing that holds you back?

Maybe it’s fear. shame. pride. doubt. worry. anxiety. You’re one thing may be the very thing keeping you from the abundant freedom God desires for you.

Where is God asking you to go?

I promise when we say yes to God, taking one step of faith towards where he is asking us to go, He will be there waiting to fill you abundantly more than whatever you could ask for or imagine. God is greater.

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Lost Faith

Have you ever lost something very valuable?  Something that no amount of money could replace because it was invaluable?  When I was younger I almost lost something that couldn’t be replaced–my faith.  I made choices I am not proud of and those choices lead me to places I didn’t want to be.  In those moments I turned away from God, He never left my side and His merciful love brought me back home.  In the end, I questioned what was so important for me to abandon my faith?

In the Bible, the disciples were some of the closest people to Jesus.  They walked, talked and followed Him,  heard him speak, saw him perform miracles and yet coward to worldly persecution almost losing their most valuable possession–their faith.

At the Last Supper Jesus warned the disciples that someone would betray Him, one who was eating among them (Mark 14:18).  After the Last Supper, He even warns Peter that he would deny Him (Mark 14:27) and tells the disciples, they will also scatter.

Jesus warned the disciples that their faith would be tested and they too would turn away from their faith.  

“This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”  Matthew 26:31

When Jesus says this, Peter proclaims all the other followers may fall, but I will not (Mark 14:29).  Jesus then tells Peter, before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times (Mark 14:30).  Peter and the others emphatically claimed, even if they had to die with Jesus, they would never disown Him (Mark 14:31).

When Judas appeared in the Garden of Gethsemane with the Roman soldiers, he kissed Jesus on the cheek to signal to the soldiers which one was Jesus.  “The men seized Jesus and arrested him” (Mark 14:44-46).  After Jesus was arrested everyone including the disciples scattered like sheep.

It scares me to think even the people that walked, talked and followed Jesus deserted and fled Him at the time He needed them most.  Everyone left Jesus because they were afraid that they too would be arrested for being associated with Him.

Peter moments before said He would never flee or deny His Lord and Savior.  The disciples proclaimed they would die before ever disowning Jesus.  And yet they fled.

When worldly persecution infringes upon our faith how easy is it to flee in the other direction? Click To Tweet

It was even easy for the disciples who were students of Jesus.  For three years they listened to His teachings, His warnings, His messages.  And yet they fled in fear of getting arrested.

What happened to their faith?

In the three years with Jesus, the disciples witnessed Jesus walk on water, calm the storms, feed 5,000 people with 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish, raise the dead, heal the sick and lame, give the blind their sight, cast our demons and turn wine to water.  They witnessed with their own eyes the very things Jesus was capable of.  They proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah and Lord.  And yet most of them weren’t even present at the cross at their own Messiah’s death, in His greatest suffering.

The disciples fear of persecution caused them to react with their flesh and not their faith.  Who knows?  Maybe their fear saved them from also being crucified on the cross?

It didn’t take long for the disciples’ faith to be restored.  After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdelene and two men walking in the country (Mark 16:9,12).  Jesus told them to go tell the disciples.  When Jesus appeared to the disciples he rebuked them for their lack of faith and stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen (Mark 16:14).  Again they didn’t believe!

The disciples were able to see firsthand the scars of Jesus, proof that he had indeed been crucified, buried and resurrected.  The eyewitnesses weren’t enough to convince their unbelieving hearts that Jesus had risen!  They had to see with their own eyes!

Just 7 days after Jesus’ death the disciples would boldly profess their faith in Jesus again without any fear at the Pentecost [1].  According to the book of Acts, their faith never wavered again and they stood firm even in the face of persecution.

Our rebellion, our fear, our ignorance, our disbelief, our pride are the very things that will make us abandon our faith and choose the other way.  We may not be able to witness Jesus firsthand like the disciples did, but we can witness Jesus firsthand by staying in The Word and through prayer.

Can you relate to the disciples?  They allowed their fears to almost lose the most valuable thing in their lives–their faith.  I’m so glad after Jesus’ resurrection they never questioned their faith again.

Have you ever allowed something to come in between you and God?

Have you ever lost your faith?

I am ashamed to admit I walked away from God for a period of time in my life.  It was one of the worst decisions I made in my life.  I never knew how valuable my faith was until I lost it.  I once was lost, but now I’m found.  God’s profound abundant love, captivated me.  His neverending mercy and grace, consumed me.  His forgiveness and sacrifice embraced my heart to never walk away from my faith again.

Maybe you’re hurting, in a place you don’t want to be.  Maybe you feel like you’re so far from God and don’t know how to get back.  I promise you, God is there waiting for you.  He wants you.  All we have to say is “God help me.” He will be there, I promise.

Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 343). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Mary- A Heart Prepared

 

Are you getting ready for Christmas?  I don’t know about you, but every year I get caught off guard with all the preparation to get ready for Christmas!  It seems no matter how much I plan, there is always something to get ready for.

The busyness of Christmas can be distracting and overwhelming to our hearts because of all the extra stress the holidays add to our plates.   Then before we know it we are missing out on the very reason why we celebrate Christmas.

A prophet named Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David!  Is it not enough to try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa. 7:13-14).

I Love how God Uses the Unlikely to Carry out His Almighty Plan.

In the verse above, the Prophet Isaiah was preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus.

Luke 1:26-35….”God sent the angel…to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary….

Mary was just a young peasant girl who was about to be married.  Why would God choose her?  The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).  The Greek word for highly favored is charis which means grace.  God had found favor in Mary and bestowed a special honor on her.  God sent an angel to prepare Mary’s heart for God’s greater plan.

Gabriel, the angel prepares Mary’s heart, that she will be with child and his name will be Jesus.

Gabriel goes even further and tells Mary five things about her future son.

1.  He will be great.  Luke 1:32

2.  He will be called the Son of the Most High. Luke 1:32

3.  He will be given the throne of His father David.  Luke 1:32

4.  He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.  Luke 1:33

5.  His kingdom will never end.  Luke 1:33

“How will this be,”  Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34).  This is what I love about Mary.  She doesn’t question the fact that the Messiah is coming, but rather that she would be used as a vessel for his arrival, a young virgin peasant girl.  She didn’t doubt or question God’s plan but how will this even be possible since she is a virgin?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”  (Luke 1:35).  

I don’t know about you, but I want a heart like Mary’s.  A heart that is ready to trust and receive God’s promises. Mary’s heart welcomed the angel’s message, by submitting her heart almost immediately after hearing his message!  She didn’t let her doubts or fears get in the way of God’s plan.  She allowed for God’s greater plan to happen through her by submitting her heart to God.  How wise was Mary’s heart to recognize this message could have only come from God Himself.

Mary heard the message of God’s promise, and her heart of faith was reassured by the words, “For nothing is impossible with God”  (Luke 1:37).  She even uttered the words, “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  No wonder God found favor with Mary.  God already knew Mary’s heart before He chose her.  God knew Mary would be obedient and willing to accept God’s message.

I want a heart like Mary’s.

Can you imagine if Mary didn’t allow for God’s greater plan to happen and allowed her doubts and fears to get in the way instead?

Have you ever allowed your doubts and fears get in the way of God’s greater plan?

I have many times.

May we all have a heart like Mary's, a heart that faithfully responds to His promises. Click To Tweet

This Christmas before we allow busyness and distractions to take us away from the true meaning of Christmas, let’s stop and allow God to prepare our hearts for His greater plan.  There is a fullness of joy when we stay present in the presence of Jesus.  We can rest assured—that His peace will fill our hearts and joy will fill our souls when we allow for God’s greater plan to happen through us.

A heart prepared is a heart ready to receive God's promises of peace, hope, and joy.Click To Tweet

Have you allowed God to Prepare your heart to receive His Promises this Christmas?

If God sent an angel to you with a message, “Do not be afraid.”  Would you go where God was asking you to go?

Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you God for your greater plan.  Thank you God for Jesus and preparing a place in heaven for us.  We pray we will have a heart like Mary’s, one that is obedient, faithful and trusting of your plan even when we don’t understand.  Prepare our hearts Lord for your greater promises.  We pray we will not get in the way of your plan but allow your greater plan to happen through us.  We pray for your will and ways to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Help us not be afraid like Mary and allow for your greater promises to fill our hearts.  Help us stay present in your presence this Christmas and focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!  Would you like to know more about the Christmas story!  Join me next Monday as we learn more about what the Christmas story means to you.  

Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 205). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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3 Strategies Satan Uses Against Us

When you look at this picture what do you see?  The game of chess is an interesting game where one tries to capture the king to become the victor.  I love how the game of chess provides an opportunity for the underdog to win.  It’s not over until it’s over.  Even if all the major playing pieces are taken, it’s possible to still win.  In this game, the pawn can become a queen.  The pawn is merely an underdog until it makes its way to the other side and changes the trajectory of the game.

The game of chess requires perseverance and patience.  How many of us give up before the end of the game? Is it because we are weary and tired?  Or have we lost the confidence to believe that we can win?  In life, Satan can play us like pawns in his game of evil.  He throws temptations in our path trying to lure us away, he whispers lies in our ears to make us doubt and seduces us to believe life is better in the green grass.  He waits until we are at our weakest, most desperate moments to make his move.  He is evil and uses sneaky strategies to make us move where he wants us.  We don’t have to fall victim to Satan’s evil schemes.

3 Strategies Satan Uses Against

  1.  Unforgiveness-  Satan’s role in our lives will always be to tempt us.  When there is unforgiveness in our lives, Satan will always use this against us to tantalize us to the point of destruction.   Unforgiveness opens a door for the enemy to cause division and chaos in our lives.  Satan seduces us into believing holding onto unforgiveness is a better solution than forgiving others.  Forgiveness provides an open door for unity, harmony and peace in our world.  Forgiving others allows an opportunity for the underdog to win.

2 Corinthians 2:10-11 NIV

“Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

2.  Making Fear greater than God.  Satan will do anything he can to elevate our fears, trying to make them greater than God.  One of his primary purposes is to instill fear in our lives and take our focus off of God.  The other day we were at the park and my daughter said, “I’m thirsty.”  I said, “There is a water fountain over there, go get a drink of water.”  My daughter said, “I want a drink of water, but there is a wasp over there.”  I went over to inspect the situation to find the wasp had already left.  I told my daughter the wasp was gone, but she would not go near the water fountain because she was still afraid she would get stung.  How many times has the enemy done this in our lives?  He instills fear in us so we can’t go where God is trying to lead us.  Even though the wasp wasn’t there anymore she still wouldn’t go near where it was.  Allowing fear to dictate and control our responses and actions will always keep us from God’s greater plans.  When Fear > God, we will always live defeated life that is stuck.  When God > Fear, we will always live a life that is filled with God’s abundance and victory.

1 Peter 5:8 NIV

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

 

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Anchored in Hope

I will never forget the time we had to take our daughter to the hospital when she fell off a stool.  It was dinnertime and she was wiggling around on a not so stable wooden stool.  I had asked her to please stop wiggling around because she was going to fall and get hurt.  She was 5 years old at the time and was working on her listening skills.  I turned around to plate my dinner then heard a loud crash and immediate screaming.  I turned to see streams of blood running from my daughter’s finger.  She had smashed her pinkie finger under the wooden stool onto the tile floor.  I immediately picked her up and applied pressure to her finger with a paper towel.

We knew she needed more than stitches.  As I drove her to the hospital, fear filled her mind with what was going to happen when she arrived in the emergency room.  She was deathly afraid of needles and hospitals.  Our son had died a year earlier and her perception of hospitals was, when a person gets sick they might not come home.  I kept reassuring her that the doctors would fix her finger and she definitely was coming home with me.

After the doctors examined her, they confirmed she needed surgery.  In life, there are some things that can only be explained as God orchestrated moments.  Because the next part of the story I never imagined happening, not in a million lifetimes.  Since Brooklyn’s finger was an open wound she needed IV antibiotics.  She needed to stay overnight and receive her surgery in the morning.  We were in the same hospital our son died.  As the attendant was wheeling my daughter down the hall, everything looked so familiar.  I asked, “Are we going to the intensive care unit?”  He said, “Since the new hospital was built, the old intensive care unit is now used for surgery overflow patients.”

If you can even imagine, we were taken to the very unit our son had died only a year and a half prior.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I started questioning God, “Why did you bring me here?”  Our Father in heaven knows exactly what we need to achieve wholehearted healing.  He knew what I needed even when I didn’t.  He knew I needed to face my fears head on even if it hurt.

When we let go of what we hold so tightly onto, God will fill it with something so much greater and better.

Brooklyn had a successful surgery, everything went well.  After we were discharged, I asked Brooklyn, “Will you walk into Bowen’s room with me?”  I knew if God brought me all the way here, I mine as well visit the last place I held our son alive in our arms.  When I walked into the room I received an overwhelming gift of peace that went beyond understanding.  I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit with me, telling me ‘You don’t have anything to fear or worry about, I have your son and am taking care of him.’  I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders that I have never felt before.  When I walked towards where God was asking me to go, I received the greatest reward of hope and peace.

I received another gift that day.  The hospital where our son died was a place of horror for me.  That day, God replaced my horrific memory with a new one.  The same emergency room door we walked out of with empty arms, is the same door we walked out of holding onto our daughter’s hand.  God was a replacing our painful memory with a healing one–one that offered an endless amount of hope.

Have you ever felt hopeless in your situation?

Our daughter is ten years old now and remembers the day she fell off the stool.  Her finger is a daily reminder of how God restores and renews us.  Whenever she sits on a stool we still mention don’t wiggle around!  It’s amazing the pearls of wisdom that come out of the mouth of babes.  She recently sat on a stool that was anchored to the ground.  She discovered she could wiggle around all she wanted and the stool would never fall.  She said, “I need this stool to keep me safe.”  She recognized there is safety when things are anchored to a strong foundation.

Hebrews 6:18 NLT

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.”

God keeps His word and promises.

Hebrews 6:19 NIV

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,”

 

Like an anchor holding a ship safely from drifting off,  our hope in Jesus ensures our safety.  A ship’s anchor goes down to the bottom of the ocean to ground it.  Our anchor is secured in the true heavenly sanctuary that anchors to God Himself.

When storms come our way we can be kept safe when our hope is anchored in God. Click To Tweet

 

Are you anchored in Hope?

 

What gives you hope in your storms?

 

God is faithful, He will never leave you.

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