The Value of Biblical Meditation

Colossians 3:2

A few days ago I sensed God highlighting Colossians 3:2. In context it reads, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Our life is in heaven with Christ. We were raised with Him—not just at some future date, but even now. Our hearts and minds belong up there—not down here.

In considering this verse, I had to acknowledge my tendency toward distraction regarding earthly things. I recognized the need for change—but my thoughts went blank when I considered how to fix my mind on things above. 

As often happens in these cases, I resorted to the old standbys. To words I say so often that they roll off the tongue without engaging my heart or mind. Do you see the problem? It’s hard to fix the mind on anything through mindless engagement!

In this, I rediscovered my own deficit of ideas, energy, and inspiration to see it through—so I gave it back to God in prayer: “Help me to fix my mind on things above. I want to do better, LORD. Teach me how.”

ANSWERED PRAYER

The next day I woke with the desire to find a sermon expounding on Colossians 3:2. Not an intellectual discourse, to cram into my brain, but rather for Spirit-empowering words that would inspire. I searched online and settled on a video-recorded sermon by Pastor Bill Johnson. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I see it was just what I needed.

The theme included endurance in prayer—but it went beyond that. He said we ought to live in response to the Father—not in reaction to the devil. (Consider Psalm 37, especially verses 7 and 8). Bill said we should always pray, yes—but not because we’re overwhelmed by the evil around us (thereby magnifying the devil’s works). Rather, what gives us endurance in prayer, he said, is a surpassing awareness of the overwhelmingly good nature of God. We esteem Him—His word, His works, and His ways—more highly than those of the enemy. So, in order to motivate prayer, we need to cultivate a sense of awe in who God is—but how?

Bill’s answer: Biblical meditation.

Here are just a few of my notes on the subject (some verbatim from Bill’s sermon): Biblical meditation requires shutting down all external distractions. It’s the ability to be lost in Him. It is not a means of intellectual comprehension—it’s a simple exposure to God’s truth. In Biblical meditation we murmur, mutter, speak to ourselves, repeat, and rephrase God’s truth in our own words. We meditate on the WORD of God, the WORKS of God, and the WAYS of God until His word becomes flesh in us again (just as the Word became flesh in the person of Christ). The ambition is that His way of thinking becomes so deeply rooted in us that it becomes our initial response. In this way, our mind will be anchored and shaped by the knowledge of God. This gives us the mind of Christ and aids in warfare (protection against the enemy), because we know the truth and the truth sets us free. (Watch it here.)

After listening to this sermon, thankful that God had answered my meager prayer, I sought to put these new insights into practice. But of course my mind did what it always does—it blanked out. “Meditate on God’s word. Okay. But where do I start? What truths do I most need?”

Unsure of how or where to start, I began reading, studying, and meditating on all the verses brought to mind by what Pastor Johnson had said. What follows are my written meditations, slightly revised to help the reader follow my train of thought (which wasn’t particularly linear).

PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13

Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

WORK OUT your salvation—in HELPS Word Studies (HWS), “work down to the end-point.” This isn’t a one-step, a two-step, or even a twelve-step program. It’s a lifelong dedication—persistence is key. And yet, I am assured that as I allow myself to be exposed to the truth, it WILL set me free. What goes IN must come OUT as God works in me, first to will and then to act in line with His good plans for my life.

Work out your SALVATION. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, this isn’t restricted to “future salvation, the sum of benefits and blessings which Christians, redeemed from all earthly ills, will enjoy after the visible return of Christ from heaven in the consummated and eternal kingdom of God,” but also “salvation as the present possession of all true Christians.” It involves present deliverance from bad habits and besetting sins—and even physical deliverance (from sickness, enemies, etc). In all these things I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 3:37).

Working out your salvation leads to OBEDIENCE. This word, obey, literally means “under hearing” (HWS). It is “acting under the authority of the one speaking…to hearken” to act upon what is heard. Our own will power isn’t enough to achieve this end result. “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Nothing, He says. And yet in John 15:10, our LORD bids us keep His commands—sounds a lot like obedience.

As helpless as we are on our own, how can we KEEP His commands? Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance provides this description: “to guard (from loss or injury, properly, by keeping the eye upon.” Keep the eye upon HIM—and upon His commands. Remain under hearing (His voice). Without Him we can do nothing. But we can watch what we’re watching…

A concept God highlighted for me recently in Ruth Chou Simmons’ book, “Beholding & Becoming,” was this: We become more like whatever it is we take the time to behold. The longer and deeper we gaze upon Him the more like Him we become. This is why it’s so important to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Hebrews and Romans 12:2

In the Berean Study Bible, Hebrews 12:2, reads, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The word translated as “fix” here meanslooking away from all else, to fix one’s gaze upon” (HWS). It means that we have eyes only for Him. This idea reminds me of a small child who, having experienced something scary to them, looks first to see their parent’s reaction before deciding how they ought to react. Many times when our human reaction is to fret, God sits in the heavens and laughs! Oh, to see the cares and worries of this life framed within God’s perspective!

Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do not CONFORM. The Greek here comes from two words meaning “identified with” and “having outward shape” – “properly, assuming a similar outward form (expression) by following the same pattern (model, mold)” (HWS). Culture wants to reshape mankind in its image, but in this world we are like HIM (Genesis 1:26, 1 John 4:17)!

Like Him?!? Even Paul admitted the struggle: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19)! The sinful nature, too, wants conformity to a fallen world, but we must be TRANSFORMED. In the Greek, this word comes from two others, meaning, “change after being with” and “changing form in keeping with inner reality” (HWS). Wow!

Our inner reality determines our outer reality—even if that “reality” is wrong! As Jesus says in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” And yet, as we spend time with Him, in His word, our inner landscape begins to change. We are changed by the ones—or the One—with whom we spend the most time. What goes in will come out (Luke 6:45). So we need to continuously meditate on the truths He’s provided to clean us up and set us free (John 15:3, John 8:32).

Only by changing that inner reality through time spent with Him can we hope to work OUT our salvation from a life of enslavement to sin, for this is how God works in us: through His word, His presence, and our constant leaning on Him in prayer. Persevere my friends, continuing to abide in His words (and in Him!) until God works them down to the end-point of completion!

Quotes from 2020

Just yesterday, God led me to peruse my blog—at which point I realized that today was my blog’s birthday!

So I set out to do as I’ve done in the past: I reread my posts and began selecting favorite quotes from the past year. But as I did this, I noticed a definite theme: Seeds. In almost every post I use the word. And along with the word comes the idea of new birth and continued growth—especially after a season resembling death.

In Seeds in the Waiting, I say:

In this moment, certain promises are waiting in seed form in my life. How about you? What seeds is God working in you? Do they bring you excitement, joy—expectation? Or have you discounted the day of small beginnings—the mustard seed of faith? Are you stuck in the darkness of a tomb or an ark, unable to see beyond the endless floodwaters or the musty grave?

Implicit in the word “seed” is the idea of darkness, death, waiting—and often trials. The seed dies. The growth comes—but often not to the naked eye. It takes time.

In His Yoke: personal reflections on Christian growth, I explain:

As a former self-condemnation addict, I’ve been encouraged… to learn a little more about Hebrew thought and the clues it provides about how we might view [the abundance of Biblical] imperatives in light of our ongoing struggles.

According to Torah Life Ministry, “Hebrew [thinking] sees a thing not just as it appears in the moment…, but from its tiniest seed form all the way through to when it reaches full maturity. This is a critical distinction… seeing things from God’s eternal… vs. man’s temporal perspective.”

Imagine that. God looks at us and sees His finished work. Before the seed in our hearts has even split, He sees the bloom, the fruit.

What an encouragement!

Just as God plants seeds in our lives, we’re also called to plants seeds. In An Encouragement for Mothers, I wrote about this specifically in relation to a mother’s role in training her kids, which often feels like it’s two steps forward, three steps back:

[Whether] or not we feel successful in discipling our children—or in prayer—is not the point. The real point here is to distinguish between God’s role and ours.

We are called to obey—to prove faithful to His word—not to strive to bring results. As 1 Corinthians 3:7 says, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Our job is to keep planting and watering seeds (by word, prayer, and example) and to trust God to do what only He can do.

I don’t know about you, but I find this truth incredibly freeing. No longer need I worry if I’ve made the whole truth clear to my daughter every time I speak. But if I keep sharing devotions, songs of worship, and prayer, I’m bringing clarity incrementally as I open new doors for God to work. I share instruction, but just as importantly, I share myself—my imperfect love as well as failures and life lessons. In this, my daughter learns that being a Christian isn’t all about toeing the line. It isn’t born of rules—but rather finds its life in relationship with the living Christ.

Our job is to plant seeds and leave the growth to God. What a relief!

In The Gift of a Birthday, I relate seeds to a baby’s chance at life, saying this:

[Birth’s] precious gift is only the beginning of celebration, each day another present to be unwrapped in the discovery of who each little person will grow to be. We [parents] hold our breath in expectation of what God already knows, because He exists beyond time, from which He shapes His creation.

We don’t see, but He sees the gifts in each seed and the many fruits each life brings, and which the generations magnify. Remove one stone from the river’s bed and the flow in that place—and downstream—is forever changed. Sediments meant to be carried, sift out too soon. Others meant to be taken up, remain buried.

So there is life… and there is life snuffed out by another’s choice—the choice to end all further choices. God sees the stolen destinies—the limbs of family trees cut off—and mourns as the only One who grasps the full impact. There’s a hole in History only He can see. And in a mother’s heart—whether broken or hardened—another hole is formed.

The theme of seeds even appeared in a guest post by Author C.E. White, who says this:

God realized, even if I didn’t, that when a firm faith is what you’re after, digging into your own heart won’t get you there, but digging into Scripture will. And here’s the weird thing: the Scripture you’re digging into takes up a shovel of its own.

I didn’t need to dig into myself first. I needed to dig into Scripture first so it would dig into me.

And it turned up a rocky field—boulders of unbelief, roots of dissatisfaction, stumps of distraction, weeds of worry. Slowly but surely, biblical truths tore out the stubborn places in my soul. It was painful, but oh so worth it!

[And then at last,] Seeds planted finally began to find the conditions they needed to grow in my heart.

And the last post with a reference to seeds pertains to Jesus Himself. In Certain Uncertainties, I say:

[Through] it all—in this season especially—God has been faithful to remind me: Life is not an instruction manual to be written and arduously followed. It’s an adventure!

Adventure. Advent. The coming of something new—or of someONE. Jesus came into this world, a tiny seed of the man He would become in human history. He came to bring change—a new revelation of God. Every year we celebrate this holiday of joy, the coming of a Savior. But how does it affect us here and now?

The fact of His birth long ago means nothing to us now unless it collides with our present, breaking off pieces of self and leaving behind the fused imprint of who He is and how He desires us to live. And yet, His birth touches us here, today—and even year-round—whenever His presence births something new within.

Do you see it? The scattered “seeds” in these posts? The scattered implications of new birth? Even the fact that new life was literally born within me last year. My youngest daughter was that seed in the waiting that forced our surprise trip to the ER! As I said in my very first post in 2020, “When God hems you in, it’s meant to bring about fresh growth—new life. No one ever said it was pleasant navigating the birth canal. Not pleasant, but necessary for new life.”

I’ve long sensed—over the past year—that God was placing me in a parable bigger than myself. In my ER pain, I sensed the coming of trials. (And how widespread they were!) In my pregnancy, I sensed the advent of a new birth. (I believe this is still coming—and I pray it’s widespread, too.)

The point is this: All these struggles we’ve been facing—the pandemic, the political and social unrest (which constitute my other two unquoted blog posts)—are not for nothing if we know Christ as Lord. Rather, we might consider these trials as seeds in the waiting. Trials that bring the kind of death that ushers in a greater abundance of life. Like how a harsh pruning makes a tree look dead—but actually helps it thrive in the end.

That’s what we are in His hands.

An Easter Surprise

Most of my posts are well thought out. They’re written, revised, and tweaked to my satisfaction. They have to have a certain flow. A flow in the rhythm of the words. A flow of thoughts.

Today, I’m just writing. And—like the empty tomb, which came as a shock to the women who’d come to prepare Christ’s body—you might not get what you expect. But hopefully something better.

Easter surprise: two kinds, three things—but what?

The First Surprise

I did something somewhat impulsive a few days ago—which led me to do something impulsive just the other day: (1) I recorded a completely unscripted version of my testimony. It doesn’t go into all the little details like my blog posts would, but I just did it (because planning it out would take forever). And then I shared it on Facebook, expecting all of two people to watch it. Turns out it was my most popular post of all time—by a lot. Which got me thinking and let to impulsive act number two: (2) I created a YouTube Channel and posted the aforementioned video.

I’ve got another video ready to post and more ideas on the way, so if you want to stay informed, consider subscribing.

My new YouTube Channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgRRckkagyeuFyPv-d0Fp-A

Bottom line: I feel like this might be one of those God things. When I decided to start a blog, I didn’t know I would have what it takes to keep going. (I didn’t think I had enough ideas!) But whenever we step out in faith and try something new, we almost always learn something. And sometimes that something we learn is how we’re good at something we never would’ve discovered if we’d never tried that new thing.

Like how I uncovered a passion for digital art because of the need (at times) to create unique images to accompany my blog posts. And that brings me to my next point.

The Second Surprise

I recently worked with my oldest daughter to create a couple of Easter-inspired works of art I’d like to share with you today.

The first is a digital collage of my daughter’s handprint, a few attribution-free photos from Pixabay, and two stamps from Hobby Lobby. I printed multiple copies to send out as Easter cards to various friends. Here’s a copy for you—and hopefully a good reminder of the One who could never forget you:

The second began as a watercolor art project. Tearing strips of masking tape and sticking them strategically to the page, I spelled out the message I’d planned, a modified version of John 3:16. I also used a watercolor resist pen to create a different “font” to distinguish between different parts of the message. The bottom of a large coffee tin defined the borders of the Earth, while my daughter’s hands (outlined) formed the continents. At my direction, she added little crayon touches here and there—and I added a few of my own. Then the watercolor.

My daughter painted the water blue, the Earth green and brown, and the vacuum of space with strokes of black. I may have helped to fill in the gaps around the borders. Then we let it dry, peeled the tape/resist, and scanned it. And I continued with digital modifications like adding color to some of the words, dropping shadows behind the Earth, and adding the crescent of gold on the bottom left. I also added my youngest daughter’s footprint (to scale with my eldest’s hand) to the “African” continent.

The final result was an 11 x 14 image, ready to be printed as a poster. “For God so (heart) the (Earth) that He gave Yeshua (whose name means) SALVATION.”

Final Thoughts

The YouTube Channel and the works of art are my two Easter surprises for you, my faithful readers. Admittedly, they might not be the something better. But let’s not forget that first Easter surprise discovered by the women at the tomb. They came to prepare His body for death… But He rose again to prepare His chosen for life everlasting. And that’s definitely something better!

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

Hallelujah!

How we respond to Jesus (and how He responds to us)

Note: This post is the part of a Good Friday message I participated in presenting at my church. My portion covered the first three last statements of Jesus prior to His death.

Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay

This evening, in following the first three last words of Jesus—with a few other scriptures besides—I’ll be giving special attention to varying ways in which different people responded to Jesus.

In the account of Jesus’s crucifixion, we see that…

  1. some people responded with mourning—as did the women following Jesus
  2. others with scoffing—as did the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law
  3. one responded with a confession of faith—specifically, the second criminal
  4. and one responded with obedience—that is, the apostle John

The first response to Jesus comes from Luke 23:27-31:

27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ 31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

The women responded to Jesus’s crucifixion with mourning and wailing.

Image by Karen Nadine from Pixabay

This sorrow and weeping is a significant response that we could easily imagine as pointing to the depth of their love for Jesus. Not the kind of love based on an idea or a concept, distant and impersonal as that can be, but a love born of their own experience—from some personal touch they’d received from Jesus.

How many of them had He healed? How many unforgivables had He forgiven? How many had met His eye and, in His gaze, witnessed true love pouring out for them from their Creator—in spite of their many sins?

They might not have had a great knowledge and understanding of the law and the prophets (as did the Pharisees), but they knew that they knew that they KNEW that Jesus was their Savior. And that was enough for them.

As John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they KNOW”—experientially know—“You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The second response to Jesus comes from Luke 23:32-38:

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

In this we see that one of the most prevalent (verbalized) responses to Jesus was mockery. And it came from every tier of society: from soldiers, religious leaders, passersby, and even one of the criminals.

From their words, it’s clear these people had either seen or heard of Jesus’s works. We know that many of the religious leaders witnessed His miracles firsthand, but these acts of kindness—the healings, the forgiveness, the love outpoured—didn’t touch the pharisees the same way they touched the women. Why? Because their hearts were too hard and they’d put too much trust in their own understanding—their interpretations of the Sabbath, for example.

And yet Jesus’s response was the same for all who gathered—and everyone who would gather even now—at the foot of the cross: “Father, forgive them…”

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

The third response to Jesus comes from Luke 23:39-43:

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

We don’t know what these men knew about Jesus before facing their own cross, but we can tell from their words what affect He had on them.

The two criminals responded very differently to Jesus.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Both criminals had heard enough to know the basics of who Jesus claimed to be… Yet one spoke harshly: “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” And the other? “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Can you hear the hardness of the one and the humility of the other? The selfish pride of the first and the confident faith of the last? The latter admitted his guilt and bowed his heart to Jesus’s authority. The former admitted nothing, and elevated his own selfish desires above all.

Romans 10:17 says: “So faith is from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The rhema word of Christ.

Faith isn’t something we produce in ourselves, yet we have this warning from the Holy Spirit about the way in which we HEAR:

“Today, if you HEAR his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7b-8a)

Consider the second criminal: How did he respond—and why? This criminal responded in faith because he heard—really heard—Jesus’s words from a place of utter wretchedness and destitution. He had nothing to offer but a heartfelt defense of Jesus and his own confession of faith.

“Father, forgive them,” Jesus had said. They both heard with their ears, but only one took hold of the truth with the obedience that comes from faith.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

And that leads us to the final response, which comes from John 19:26-27:

26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

How did John respond to Jesus—and why? Put simply, he HEARD Jesus’s words, IN FAITH, and gave attention to how he might carry them out according to Jesus’s perfect will. I don’t believe he heard quickly, casually, or carelessly—nor did he hear only to memorize the words, but in order to walk in obedience to what he’d heard.

I think it’s notable that Jesus didn’t say to John, “take care of my mother” or “take her into your home.” Instead, He said, “Here is your mother.” In other words, treat her just the way you would want your own mother to be treated. Don’t only care for her physical needs, but also for the deep hurt she bears at the knowledge of My suffering and the inevitable separation that’s coming.

And this last part is the heart right here: Be to her what I would’ve been to her if I could remain.

It’s a tall order, only possible through a faith willing to lean into God’s strength. Not easy—and yet John heard and obeyed.

Modified from an Image by Dorothée QUENNESSON from Pixabay

I’d like to finish with a look at God’s warning to the Hebrews in chapter 3, verses 15-19:

As you listen, keep your ears attuned for the following words: HEAR or heard, DISOBEYED, and UNBELIEF.

15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

So we see this close relationship between hearing, believing, and obeying… Faith begins when we hear His voice. Then, as we submit ourselves to His words, this faith born of God grows feet and leads us toward obedience. But how? How exactly?

I’m not going to tie this up into a neat little bow—as if I had all the answers. But God invites us into the mystery. To seek Him diligently. To follow. As Jesus says in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

And so it is with us… as we’re willing to hearken to His voice.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Certain Uncertainties

I have this tendency to want to plan everything out. So much so that I get stuck in the planning and delay the action. I try to think of everything I’ll need before I go to the store. I look up ratings and reviews of items to help me decide which products to get. I want to know that these items are in stock… (The madness of persistent pandemic shortages?) Because sometimes, even when they say they’re there, they’re not.

Shopping is only one example of how this neurosis has manifest itself in my life of late. It might be a recipe I’m considering. An art project I’ve pondered. I want to make these things my own, and yet I also want a guarantee. So I Google culinary substitutes in line with my innovation. I research types of glues to see which products work best. Which always seems to require another trip to the store in which I may or may not find what I’m looking for.

(Nevertheless, I always seem to walk away with several impulse items I hadn’t planned on buying. After all, it’s easier to take what I see right in front of me—to hedge my bets in case I don’t find anything better later.)

This pattern in my life has become clear. Whether I’m strategizing better methods of discipling my older daughter (more about mothering here)—or trying culinary combinations few have tasted before—I often seem to get stuck in the planning.

If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, you might understand me when I say that my innovative N and planner J too often go head to head.

I either waste a lot of time trying not to waste time and resources (planner J)… or I waste a lot of resources trying to satisfy my inspired intuition (innovative N).

As I think back, I see this tug of war isn’t all that different from the experience I described earlier plotting novels (see here). I had, at times, gotten stuck in the brainstorming, in this elusive idea that I could somehow figure it all out and save myself the time of exploratory writing—aimless writing to my way of thought.

But, as God told me then, he tells me now: Let go of your tight-fisted plans. Let go and trust… Trust Me to guide you by My Spirit—and not by your own understanding. I suppose I have Proverbs 3:5-6 hanging on my wall for a reason!

Because my reasoning keeps tricking me into thinking it’s all-wise!

Nevertheless, through it all—in this season especially—God has been faithful to remind me: Life is not an instruction manual to be written and arduously followed. It’s an adventure!

Adventure. Advent. The coming of something new—or of someONE. Jesus came into this world, a tiny seed of the man He would become in human history. He came to bring change—a new revelation of God. Every year we celebrate this holiday of joy, the coming of a Savior. But how does it affect us here and now?

The fact of His birth long ago means nothing to us now unless it collides with our present, breaking off pieces of self and leaving behind the fused imprint of who He is and how He desires us to live. And yet, His birth touches us here, today—and even year-round—whenever His presence births something new within.

His advent into our lives brings correction, love, peace, joy—hope. Though never through faulty human plans—and not without adventure! He doesn’t call us to take the wide easy road, nor the one that’s predictable. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8). Rather, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). (That’s obvious from the testimony He gave me: part 1 and part 2.)

So all this impulse to plan—to the very last detail—isn’t born of God. Certainly, some planning is good—a fruit of the intellect He gave us. But the agonizing? Not so much.

In all these restless wanderings, I hear a loud KNOCK, KNOCK. But it’s no joke. From the other side comes a voice: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). 

So you see, the invitation to advent—to adventure—is always there. Every time we listen to His voice in place of the world, the flesh, and the devil—and take a leap of faith to obey it. At times, it might seem a farther off whisper than the loud clanging that demands the security of our plans. But are our plans really secure?

Not. One. Bit. The appearance of certainty—I assure you—is only an illusion.

After all, you had plans. Then Covid.

I had plans. Then an ER visit with a strange twist: Guess what—you’re pregnant!

World leaders have plans—you bet they do!—but only God’s plans stand the test of time. 

“Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God (Isaiah 66:9). 

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do” (Isaiah 46:10-11).

So I say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Let the adventure begin!”

Where Are You Digging?

I’ve always been a do-it-yourself kind of gal. I had a subconscious belief that trying harder, doing my best, and digging deep was a recipe for curing all ills. It took many slow years to learn that my own efforts can’t fix everything, no matter what that “everything” is.

Somehow, despite having learned this, I started writing my latest book on the same track. I had realized a disconnect between my faith and my attitude, and I didn’t like it. I wanted to discover its roots and start acting like I believed the things I say I do.

I thought the book would be about me and my journey—my struggles. Probably, somewhere deep down, I thought it would include how cleverly I overcame them.

I expected to dig into myself and find something to fix myself, but it doesn’t work that way. Thankfully, God directed my words in spite of my expectations. The chapters started coming out with a whole lot of Scripture and very little “me.”

God realized, even if I didn’t, that when a firm faith is what you’re after, digging into your own heart won’t get you there, but digging into Scripture will. And here’s the weird thing: the Scripture you’re digging into takes up a shovel of its own.

I didn’t need to dig into myself first. I needed to dig into Scripture first so it would dig into me.

And it turned up a rocky field—boulders of unbelief, roots of dissatisfaction, stumps of distraction, weeds of worry. Slowly but surely, biblical truths tore out the stubborn places in my soul. It was painful, but oh so worth it!

Bible stories and passages I’d heard hundreds of times came alive with new meaning. Truths I’d been treating as platitudes became real to me. Seeds planted finally began to find the conditions they needed to grow in my heart.

It was a brutal plowing that removed many of my obstacles to faith and exposed much of the spiritual illness that was hidden beneath the surface… “not that I have already attained this or am already perfect,” as Paul would say, “but I press on” (Philippians 3:12). The field of my heart will always have more boulders and pebbles and sticks that need rooting out, but I’m not trying to dig them out on my own anymore.

I’m digging into the Word of God and allowing it to do its work, for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

About halfway through writing the book, the Lord prompted the thought that, though discussing spiritual illness is beneficial, discussing spiritual health is foundational. The first two-thirds of the book discusses various obstacles to faith and biblical study to combat them, and the rest is about practices to build spiritual health—to boost your spiritual immunity, so to speak, so those obstacles don’t overcome your faith when you’re walking in the valley.

Writing that second section was like the awakening of spring in my heart—life began appearing in places that seemed dead.

Dwelling on thankfulness and hope and satisfaction was a balm to a battered soul. And at the end came a surprise—God pressed for my delight. As I say in the book, “I wasn’t expecting it. I expected devotion and perseverance and a wealth of other respectable virtues, but delight didn’t even cross my mind.”

But delight made me stop. It made me breathe. It made me engage and learn to find joy in the minute-by-minute existence binding us to this mortal coil. It reminded me that the commonness can reveal beauty if we allow it, if we live in the moment, and if we stop trying to force our own agenda into every second of every day. And it also reminded me that God is anything but common.

The digging into Scripture brought me through a painful uprooting of wrong thinking, but it’s end was a delight I never expected!

My question for you is this: where are you digging for hope, fulfillment, answers, peace, rest, delight, and all the fruits of the Spirit? If you’re digging into your own soul, shift gears, and begin to dig into the Word of God, which “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Don’t just skim it. Let it wash over you. Swim in it. Ask yourself what its truth should look like in your life.

I know what it’s doing in mine. To quote my chapter on “Belief:”

When tempted to seek fulfillment elsewhere, I now seem to hear the still, small voice of God ask, “Do you believe Me when I say that only I will satisfy?”

When I am anxious over something, I hear Him say, “Do you believe Me when I say I will work all your circumstances for good?”

When I feel inadequate, His assurance prompts, “Do you believe Me when I say My strength is made perfect in your weakness?”

And fortified with the Word, more and more frequently, I am able to answer, “Yes,” and rest in Him.

That’s what the writing of this book did for me. My prayer is that the reading of it will do the same for others.

Author Bio

C.E. White is an author, artist, and entrepreneur living in the mountains of North Georgia. Her works are fueled by a lifetime love of both reading and Jesus, and she longs to inspire others with words of hope and imagination. When she’s not penning her next book, you can find her creating collage art, renovating her house, conquering mounds of paperwork, or RVing with her husband and two cats.

Author Website: www.cewhitebooks.com
Artist Website: https://www.cewhiteart.com/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/cewhitebooks
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cewhitebooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/cewhitebooks
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/C-E-White/e/B077V7FVPT/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Backcover Blurb

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

The world is full of things that undermine our faith. Too often, we push and scramble through life, allowing our feelings to control our decisions, attempting to accomplish things in our own strength, and trusting in worldly wisdom rather than God. This leaves us frazzled, overwhelmed, and grumbling through every difficulty like the Israelites did in the desert.

But we don’t have to live that way! The peace God promises is real and available to every believer.

This book tackles many of the obstacles we let come between us and God—things like fear, failure, insufficiency, and expectations. The biblical examples and truths explored will bolster your faith, calm your spirit, renew your strength, and shift your focus from the earthly to the eternal, freeing you to embrace God’s rest in all circumstances.

Get the book here, and be sure to check out this other post by C.E. White.

The Gift of a Birthday

Today, on the anniversary of my grand entrance into the world, I pause to ponder the gift it is—the gift of a birthday. Not just being conceived in the mind of God, but carried full term and delivered, healthy and whole, into my mother’s waiting arms. Now, as a mother of two, I know the gift is shared: They received life, but what I received was something more. Something—someone—I’d be willing to die for.

Yet birth’s precious gift is only the beginning of celebration, each day another present to be unwrapped in the discovery of who each little person will grow to be. We hold our breath in expectation of what God already knows, because He exists beyond time, from which He shapes His creation.

We don’t see, but He sees the gifts in each seed and the many fruits each life brings, and which the generations magnify. Remove one stone from the river’s bed and the flow in that place—and downstream—is forever changed. Sediments meant to be carried, sift out too soon. Others meant to be taken up, remain buried.

So there is life… and there is life snuffed out by another’s choice—the choice to end all further choices. God sees the stolen destinies—the limbs of family trees cut off—and mourns as the only One who grasps the full impact. There’s a hole in History only He can see. And in a mother’s heart—whether broken or hardened—another hole is formed.

What then is a life—and when does it begin? From the moment God breathed His breath in the first man and determined to fulfill His plans. Outside of time, He saw it all, every soul that would be. “They received My life,” He would say, “but what I received was something more. Something—someone—I was willing to die for.”

A Birthday Wish

This year for my birthday, I want to give the gift of a birthday to someone else and healing to the mothers with wounded hearts. Please consider joining me in donating to PROLIFE Across America (PLAA) or some other pro-life charity.

PLAA, in addition to billboard, radio, and newspaper ads designed to create an “Atmosphere of Life” in a “culture of death,” also offers free confidential help both online and over the phone. Charity Navigator’s assessment of this charity includes these heart-rending testimonies of some of the women they’ve helped:

“I am nine weeks pregnant and my boyfriend says if I don’t have an abortion then he’ll never have anything to do with me or the baby. My dad and stepmom are pressuring me to have an abortion too. I just feel it would not be right, and I know I need some kind of counseling or support to withstand all this pressure.”

“I desperately need someone to talk to. I had an abortion in November and I’m falling apart. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t stop myself from still pretending I’m pregnant.”

God’s heart aches for these mothers and the gifts they stand to lose—or have already lost. He aches for the pressures they face if they refuse that fatal choice. I know many pro-choice advocates return to the issue of rape. I don’t feel comfortable speaking for those women, but they can speak for themselves:

The testimony of a woman who conceived in rape:

“Aborting him wouldn’t undo the rape, wouldn’t make me less homeless or feed me. Killing him because I didn’t like his father didn’t make sense. Suddenly, I had strength1.”

“[How] hard it has been to hear that people are pro-life, “except.” I have 3 kids, and my son’s life isn’t somehow worth less than the other 2 because of how he was conceived. He is just as loved. He’s not an exception; he’s exceptional. He’s my son2.”

Sara Gerardo, Pro-Life Advocate and Author – 1: choices4life.org post and 2: a public facebook post.
THE TESTIMONY OF A Child CONCEIVED by RAPE:

Abortion advocates will say that it’s barbaric to force a rape victim to carry “a rapist’s child.” First of all, I am not the child of a rapist – I am the child of a rape victim. My mother and I object to me being characterized otherwise. Secondly, it is simply barbaric to punish an innocent child for someone else’s crime. Justice dictates that in a civilized society, we punish rapists, not babies.

I did not deserve the death penalty for the crime of my biological father. My own birthmother had tried to kill me at two illegal abortions, and was pro-choice when we met 30 years ago. She said that if abortion had been legal in Michigan at the time, she would have aborted me. I literally owe my birth to pro-life legislators who protected me. I wasn’t lucky, I was protected. Legality matters. Today, my birthmother and I are both thankful we were both protected by law from the horror of abortion, just as you have the opportunity today to protect mothers and their children.

Rebecca KiesslingTestimony to the Ohio House Health Committee

And there are many more testimonies out there (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) for anyone willing to look.

Click the link to donate to PROLIFE Across America or consider donating to another pro-life charity. And don’t forget to pray for the mothers and babies whose lives are—or could be—forever changed by this choice.

An Encouragement for Mothers

(Too busy? Jump to the Takeaways!)

Over the weeks since becoming a mother of two (now 2 months old and almost 5), my heart has been both warmed and challenged. In this post, I would love to describe each beautiful mother-daughter exchange and every sweet observation… but that’s really not the point.

Over the weeks since my youngest was born, I’ve found myself battling distraction and frustration, at times wondering if my purpose was truly being fulfilled.

After all, there is no grandeur in endless diapers and bottles, along with massive spit up… no glory in pinching the bridge of one’s nose while struggling to stay calm amidst whining or wailing meltdowns. (Which are hard no matter how sweet the other moments.)

Some days, meaningful accomplishments seem all but impossible to achieve after finishing—or not quite finishing—the routine upkeep. Gotta keep them fed. Gotta keep them clean. Gotta take care of the physical—not to mention the spiritual needs.

Sure, I read my eldest devotions and lead her in prayer. I ask her forgiveness for my failings (when I’ve been impatient—yet again), and I ask for God’s help to improve. Under my leading, she follows that model, too. Yet when we both struggle over and over with the same sins, it can be disheartening.

As Christians, we all want to shape our children’s character for the better. How frustrating, then, when it seems to make our character worse instead!

The Manifold Problems, Summed Up

Every mother knows the challenges and struggles of raising kids. Not all problems are the same for each family—but some are.

As Christians, we all want to shape our children’s character for the better. How frustrating, then, when it seems to make our character worse instead!

Especially when the constant interruptions waylay quiet time with God, eroding character and faith, while exhaustion further tips the scales so that what was once easy now seems impossibly hard. We all want to do right by our kids—be examples of Christ to them—but when the grumpy days come, they steamroll those desires.

And so, we might begin to wonder…

  1. Does my constant failure to be Christlike render my mothering fruitless? (Is God unhappy with these meager exhausted attempts?)
  2. Is there value in being relegated to such endless mundane tasks? (Or should I add more impactful goals to my to-do list?)
  3. As slow as my child’s progress seems, am I really making any difference in his or her faith walk?

All these questions have surfaced in my life of late—sometimes evident only in vague emotions. Putting them to words has helped to clear a good bit of the fog. Yet even before my attempts to record these thoughts, a few truths from God began to burn holes through the haze.

Here’s what I believe God has been speaking to my heart regarding these concerns…

The Problem of Motherly Imperfection 

First of all, if this is one of your concerns, remember you’re not alone—you’re in good company. In his letter to the Romans (7:15), Paul shows similar struggles by admitting, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (emphasis mine).

The truth is we all sin, falling short of God’s glory and the ideal of walking in Christlike love (Romans 3:23). The only difference, then, consists in the different ways in which we sin, in perhaps the intensity of our offenses (as apparent to those we love), and in the state of our heart: Are we sorry?

Perpetually hard hearts that refuse to admit their wrongs, casting all blame on those around them, are probably incapable of setting a good example for their kids. So, Lord, search our hearts and shorten such times of hardness. Give us Your perspective and make us humble to hear Your voice and heed Your call to repent, whenever it comes.

Conversely, soft hearts that deeply regret their sins are in a position of positive influence. God doesn’t say that we, as believers in Christ, won’t ever sin. But He does promise to provide an escape in the face of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). In addition, we have a case through Christ by which we can boldly approach the throne of grace to seek God’s help in our sinful struggles (Hebrews 4:16). And when we succumb?—He offers this fail-proof procedure for disentangling from our transgressions:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Confessing our sins to God? That may be the easy part. (At least that’s what I think.) The hard part—the part that helps us redeem all the times we’ve been bad examples as mothers—is mustering strength to admit our wrong and ask our child’s forgiveness. 

It may be hard, but… admitting when we’re wrong is so important because…

  1. It shows our kids we’re just as much in need of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and saving grace as anyone else.
  2. It teaches them, by example, how to go to God to confess their sins.
  3. It keeps us from presenting bad behavior as good thus preventing hypocrisy. (Because we aren’t condemning them while excusing ourselves for the same poor behavior. Rather, we condemn all sin as sin while offering God’s grace to cover our many offenses.)

And don’t forget the key ingredient in every struggle: prayer! Jesus said without Him we could do nothing (John 15:5). So it stands to reason that any sin habits we face should be taken to Him in prayer. When our children witness our struggles—particularly those that hurt them, like an irritated tone when we’re impatient—why not also let them witness our prayers for God’s help—which also bolster our authority to lead them in praying for their sins?

The Problem of Perpetual Unspiritual Chores

When mundane chores choke out our capacity for awe while also stifling our passion for life, it’s difficult to maintain a buoyant attitude. We all want to do something of value, but our flesh would groan and gripe that changing diapers isn’t it. 

It’s almost as if we believe our life is on hold until we return to a spiritually high-profile purpose. Or perhaps we miss the intimate fellowship with Christ—like Mary and Martha in reverse. We’d love to still the chaos, to sit at Jesus’s feet and just receive, but even when we have the time—when our outward environments are still—our brains are too frenetic to focus on Scripture. I could blame the kids, but quarantine had this effect too.

For a long time I wasn’t able to concentrate, let alone string enough thoughts together to craft a coherent post. During those hollow-headed times, I always felt restless for something more. Restless for the kind of quiet times I once enjoyed with God. Restless for any kind of creative expression or inspiration toward “the new and novel.” Restless for any escape from the same—the mundane. The arrival of my sweet baby girl brought a fresh injection of “the new”—along with a quadrupling of chores to keep her happy and healthy.

I don’t know about you, but those early days with a child—before they can grasp our words—often seem like the most unspiritual of times. There’s no instructing them. No nurturing their faith. Not even a demonstration of our Christlike love for them to remember. They’re blessed, of course—and so are we as we behold the precious beauty of God’s creativity—but in those days, their physical needs take precedence over the spiritual. So too our own physical and spiritual needs seem to take second place to the endless upkeep.

Feedings and diapers are, of course, very necessary parts of being a mother. After a while, though, it’s easy to feel these all-consuming tasks drain every ounce of our spirituality. And yet, as Paul suggests in Colossians 3:17, nothing is unspiritual if done for Christ: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

We mustn’t forget, either, how Jesus set an example, washing His disciples feet to show that we should serve one another, even with mundane tasks—maybe especially (John 13:12-17). It’s a good reminder that we, like the disciples who tried to shoo the children away from Jesus, fail to align with Heaven’s heart whenever we downplay their significance (and ours as mothers). Besides all this, we can find hope from our Lord’s promise in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do for the least, we do for Him.

So, while serving children may be the least glorified of jobs, it involves service to those who are great in God’s eyes. As such, I believe Jesus’s words for mothers today would be something like this: “Let the little children come—runny noses, incessant questions, and all. And mothers, don’t minimize your eternal impact.”

The Problem of Poor Progress 

How many times do we fight the same battles and teach the same lessons—only to turn around and have to teach them again? We want to see progress equivalent to the intensity of our efforts, yet the transformation doesn’t seem to come. 

We all want to see our children grow and succeed—to become productive members of society, especially of God’s kingdom. Yet, it can be hard to continue fighting for positive change when the fruits of our labors look so small.

Last week, God spoke to this weariness of heart through several avenues. 

Tiny Inklings 

One reminder came while watching an episode of Superbook last week with my older daughter: The Sermon on the Mount. In this episode, Chris Quantum sets out to obey Jesus’s teachings, expecting an easy time of it. Instead, all his efforts end in disaster!

Near the story’s end, Chris confesses his frustrations to his pastor: “I understand about following Jesus, but all those teachings and stuff—just from that one sermon—who knows how long it could take to actually live all that—to get it all right.”

In response, the pastor flips through the Bible and points to a verse, which Chris reads aloud: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10).

What a great encouragement to remember that even such small inklings of progress are pleasing to God!

Seeds for Thought 

God also brought to mind Galatians 6:9 (and confirmed it again as it cropped up in one of my daughter’s devotions): “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And it goes on, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (and to our own family, as well).

The analogy of reaping a harvest relates to sowing seeds. After seeds are planted, it takes time for them to grow. And even once they’ve sprouted, they require water, nourishment, and nurturing. They need constant exposure to the light, continuous connection to the root, and frequent watering.

They need…

…to see God in action (through us): that is, to observe the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) in addition to seeing His light as evident in our actions—our lives (Matthew 5:14-16). 

…to relate to Him: that is, to maintain connection to the Root of Jesse, the True Vine, the Source of all nourishment—an abiding relationship with Christ. 

…to hear the truth: that is, receive the washing of water by the word, for continual cleansing (Ephesians 5:26, see also John 15:3) in conjunction with a Divine Relationship in which they lean on Him (Psalm 139:23-24).

Knowing all these seeds take time to grow, we need to live by faith rather than sight, leaning on God’s promise to see it through (Philippians 1:6) and refusing to lose heart. 

The Burden of Results

Finally, it takes faith to work toward accomplishments for long seasons without obvious results. As verbalized above, we are called to continue—to neither grow weary nor lose heart. But there’s another side to this challenge. 

Sometimes, it’s tempting to agonize over the approach we might take in discipling our children. When one path doesn’t seem to work, we struggle to find a better one. This alone is enough to make us weary. No matter what we attempt, it’s never that hoped-for ideal. We want exciting inspirational tactics for engaging our kids—but what do we do when the presence of mind to plan such activities has long since vanished? When all our best efforts only seem to fall through?

We…pray. This is one of those duh suggestions. We know to pray, of course. But if we have been praying and still feel we’re lacking results, we often grow weary in prayer.

Personally, on the topic of discipling my kids, I’ve found it helpful to pray for teachable moments. Not the lessons I plan ahead, but the ones that crop up instead. They don’t come along every day, but God has been faithful to provide scattered moments. 

However, whether or not we feel successful in discipling our children—or in prayer—is not the point. The real point here is to distinguish between God’s role and ours. 

We are called to obey—to prove faithful to His word—not to strive to bring results. As 1 Corinthians 3:7 says, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Our job is to keep planting and watering seeds (by word, prayer, and example) and to trust God to do what only He can do.

I don’t know about you, but I find this truth incredibly freeing. No longer need I worry if I’ve made the whole truth clear to my daughter every time I speak. But if I keep sharing devotions, songs of worship, and prayer, I’m bringing clarity incrementally as I open new doors for God to work. I share instruction, but just as importantly, I share myself—my imperfect love as well as failures and life lessons. In this, my daughter learns that being a Christian isn’t all about toeing the line. It isn’t born of rules—but rather finds its life in relationship with the living Christ.

I share instruction, but just as importantly, I share myself—my imperfect love as well as failures and life lessons. In this, my daughter learns that being a Christian isn’t all about toeing the line. It isn’t born of rules—but rather finds its life in relationship with the living Christ.

Takeaways

Does my constant failure to be Christlike render my mothering fruitless? (Is God unhappy with these meager exhausted attempts?)

When you sin, don’t be hard on yourself—but make sure you’re not stuck being hard-hearted. Confess your sins to God, and apologize to your child, if relevant. Repent and pray for God’s help to do better—even in the presence of your child. That way, you set a good example they can follow when they inevitably sin. And don’t worry, as long as you keep confessing, repenting, and leaning into God for help, you can be sure you’re not displeasing Him.

Is there value in being relegated to such endless mundane tasks? (Or should I add more impactful goals to my to-do list?)

Looking to Christ as our perfect example, it’s clear He valued servanthood and also elevated children above society’s dominant view. Whereas the disciples saw children as distractions, Jesus viewed them as among the most qualified to enter His kingdom. Since Jesus lived among men as one who served the least (Matthew 25:40), even with mundane tasks like washing people’s feet (Luke 22:27), why should we downplay our motherly ministry, no matter how humble it seems? So, while we shouldn’t refuse additional goals if Christ is leading in that direction, we can also rest assured that our acts of maternal nurturing are near and dear to the heart of God.

As slow as my child’s progress seems, am I really making any difference in his or her faith walk?

Here’s the truth: There’s no such thing as immediate payoff in mothering. At least not where our children’s hearts are concerned. After all, rather than one instantaneous transplant, we’re looking at years and years of planting seeds and watering new growth. The bad news is that character comes slowly. But the good news is better: We don’t have to bear up under the pressure to bring those results—God does, and He will. Through tiny acts of faithfulness, as we guide our children along the way, God grows them into the people He created for tomorrow’s “today.”

The bad news is that character comes slowly. But the good news is better: We don’t have to bear up under the pressure to bring those results—God does, and He will.

So remember, the value of a ministry isn’t measured in ease or immediate success. It isn’t marked by grandeur or showiness… by perfection or lacking messiness. It doesn’t matter how seemingly ordinary it appears, if it’s done for and with Christ, then it brings Him glory and carries His promise to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

Election Year

What a year this has been and what an election! I know many people have their hearts set on a specific candidate (or candidates)—and I’m no exception. And yet to set our hopes on any man is akin to trusting in chariots and horses because… No matter who wins this election, Jesus is still Lord.

Many people have set their hearts on a specific candidate, and yet… no matter who wins this election, Jesus is still Lord.

What if Abraham had set his heart on keeping Ishmael as his son of promise? What if Joseph had prayed to be delivered from captivity before God’s works were finished? We know their hopes would’ve been dashed (and probably were for a time). Just as Jesus prayed in the garden that His cup of suffering might pass, “Yet not My will,” He added, “but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

What if God had let Abraham sacrifice Isaac? Why did He ask it to begin with?

Because nothing and no one should take God’s place in our heart.

What if God had let Abraham sacrifice Isaac? Why did He ask it to begin with? Because nothing and no one should take God’s place in our heart.

After all, who was greater? The son of promise? Or the One who gave him life? And who is greater now? The one who will lead our country into prosperity (whoever you believe that is)—or the One who allowed him to win the presidency? The latter of course is the answer and, indeed, even if the “wrong” candidate wins, God can work the bad for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28)—just as He did for Joseph (Genesis 50:20).

So let’s not be like those who trust in chariots and horses, but rather those who trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).

Not one nation under Trump… Or Biden… But one nation… under God.

And, because cake is still delicious no matter who wins the election, check out my Maple Velvet Cake recipe!

2020 Vision

Binoculars and telescopes enhance our vision for distance. Microscopes and probes focus our sight on miniature worlds. X-rays, sonograms, and the like reveal internal structures. But only God sees the heart.

Today, as I drank from this mug…

Col3-mug

…I read this devotion by Meredith Houston Carr from Proverbs 31.

It speaks of forgiveness—complete 100% forgiveness, as opposed to taking up offenses, holding onto grievances, and allowing our hearts to become hard toward certain individuals (or certain sections of humanity).

Given our human condition, it’s easy to summon outrage for the things people say and do—to view others with our telescopic, microscopic, and X-ray vision, but how often do we examine ourselves? In Jesus’s day, when a certain mob found a woman guilty of sin, they surrounded her, gathered stones, and focused all their hatred in her direction, becoming blind to their own transgressions.

Hyper-focusing on other people’s sins—whatever they are—will always initiate undesirable side-effects. Whenever magnifying the “ugly” in others, we maximize the “ugly” in ourselves and yet become more and more blind to it.

The various sources of media—social or otherwise—have lately been crammed with vehement opinions, judgments, and hatred. In this, the various factions attempt to shame one another for not automatically viewing reality in the same monochromatic shades. But for every voice lifted in outrage, even those silently struggling against frustration, I see a mirror image of what it is that they—that we, that I might want to—protest.

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To the mob around the woman, ready to cast stones, Jesus said this: “Let any [one who] is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). Among those men and women, Jesus alone qualified to cast a stone—and yet He refused. Why? Because this perfect man—Son of God, fully divine—didn’t come to condemn mankind but to save and redeem it (John 3:17)—and to save and redeem her (John 8:10-11: “…neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin”).

This same Man questioned people’s focus and their judgment of others (Matthew 7:3): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” We can’t change—or even see!—our neighbor’s hearts. Nor can we change their minds if all we ever do is rage at their point of view. Few people listen to those whose perspectives dismiss their own out of hand and slap them with hurtful labels. But showing compassion? Love? That’s the path Jesus modeled for all who would follow after Him.

Please hear what I’m saying. If these words hit anyone, they have to hit me first. These thoughts aren’t directed toward one faction and not another. Wherever there is anger, frustration, venting, soured attitudes (even if no words have been said), there is moral decay.

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We all are afflicted by a disease more deadly than COVID, and I don’t claim to be immune:

Sin.

As Romans 3:22-23 says, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, [male and female, democrat/republican, black/brown/white, gay/straight, rich/poor, including all the myriad ways we might try to lump and stereotype humanity…] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all begin in the same fallen condition, but!—“all are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

God’s redemption is free.

It isn’t, however, automatically deposited into our spiritual accounts. This redemption is only received through faith in Jesus’s sacrificial death and resurrection—through an acknowledgement that we personally (regardless of the “worse” state of those we may perceive all around us) we are guilty of sin; that we are powerless to self-rescue; and that we each, individually and desperately need Jesus’s beautiful act of redeeming love.

So, as I find within myself the temptation to hyper-focus on all the wrongs in the world, I consider how my attitudes reveal my own ongoing struggles with my sinful condition. (Consider the chain reaction triggered by our sinful reactions to others’ sins in the visual poem here.)

In the current political and social climate, I ponder my own weaknesses and failings (and invite others—as God leads—to do the same). I can’t control what my “neighbor” does…or manipulate the trends of this society and the world we inhabit, but I can ask God to expose my heart, to keep it soft, and to realign my perspectives with His (Psalm 139:23-24).

Freedom comes in knowing the Truth and the One who died to break the chains of sickness and disease, of spiritual blindness and enslavement to the Enemy of all. One nation under God is the only way we will ever find liberty and justice for every man, woman, and child across this land in which we live.

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So, on this strange fourth of July on which many can’t or don’t wish to celebrate, I pray…

Lord, help Your people to model Jesus’s character rather than the ways of the world. Help us to show love in the face of hatred, patience in place of frustration, compassion and not hardness of heart. Lord, give me Your perspectives and help me to love others—my family, my neighbor, my “enemy,” and even myself when I fail. Shine Your light throughout this world, piercing the darkest hearts with the Truth of Your overwhelming love for each unique individual. Bring peace and unity to Your church, to this nation, and to all mankind. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Lord, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with Your church and with me.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14

Praying a happy and blessed Fourth for all who read this.