A Baby is the Door

 

 

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
~Isaiah 7:14

 

I keep coming back to Tai’s post about the Highways to Zion.  Something about a real city, a physical image of the kingdom community, goes so far to help me understand what it is like to know and to come close to Jesus as a real person, a real God, a real King.  That is what I thought when I saw this Christmas card.  The baby King was born away from the people He loved, out in a little stable, or a lonely shepherd cave, but this manger cradle is tucked into a doorway.  It made me think of the city of Zion, and Jesus’ own words, that He is the door.  He didn’t just grow up to be the door.  He wasn’t even born to be the door.  He has always been “God with us,” the example we have of what our Father and His Father is really like.  And this is how He first comes to us; later, it will still be meek and riding on a donkey, washing feet, and with death for a coronation, but at the moment this new and glorious morn breaks over a weary world; a world that lies in sin and error pining, mourning in lonely exile; at that first moment, the reigning King comes as a person probably not even ten pounds, and not even able to lift His own head.

How can Jesus love us so much that He wanted to be so helpless in such a broken world?

I think of how often I can get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and everything I can try to do to make myself better; how I often worry about waking up at the right time, whether or not I know my Bible as well as I should, and always trying to know the right things to say at the right time.  We so often weigh our closeness to God with how much we can carry.  Then, we come to this little door: the way, the only way, to come to the Father.

It is such a sweet thing to hold a baby, to memorize the features of a sleeping face, or watch brand new fingers take hold of your own.  One precious blessing is that you cannot be overburdened with luggage and hold a baby at the same time.  As we come to this perfect door, we must put down everything else.  Sometimes, it is as though everything else just melts away in His presence.  Other times, it is a fight against our nature, and the belief that we now have to find a way to balance all of the cares of our lives and our Christian obligations, and still find a way to carry a baby too without hurting Him.

It is quite impossible, and it is meant to be.  The first and hardest habit to break is trying to protect ourselves.  Can you trust that the Lord will hold back the anxiety and the fear, and protect you from every enemy thought while you spend time with Him?  We shouldn’t have to be looking over one shoulder when we are in His presence; we aren’t meant to.  It is the place of absolute trust.  Trust He showed us by example when made Himself vulnerable to every mother’s worst fears, even before He was born.  He showed us how to become little children in trusting His safety to His Father, even during the time of such violent kings on earth.

Christmas does not need to come with any expectations.  The anticipation of beauty breaks our hearts when we have rested that success on ourselves.  Those expectations are meant to be trust given to Him; fears He will erase when we come face to face with His innocence: a purity that has outlasted the darkness of one thousand generations.  I pray that He will again be the light of your holiday this year.

Merry Christmas.

by Stephanie H.

If you are struggling to find the joy and peace of Christmas this year, please message us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.  We would love to talk and pray with you.

The Arrow of Thanksgiving

Your fingers hurt as you pull back the string, keeping your eye on the fletching.  Your arm wants to shake as it pulls against the tightness of the string.  You move your focus down the shaft, linger on the arrow head, then center on the yellow circle in the distance.  Breathe, and-

Thwi-!

Holidays can be difficult times for me.  I love the comfort and quiet they can bring, the moments of warm, soft reflection in the midst of all that goes on day to day. Sometimes, however, that peace can be far more elusive on the special days than it is in the midst of the deadlines and the daily grind.  If left unprotected, it is peace easily lost and disappointment readily gained.

How often does Thanksgiving cross the calendar this way?  Expectations run high, and when we come to the familiar “What are we thankful for?” it can be so much easier to think, Well, I would be thankful, if…

The Bible shows us holidays in a way that is different than we are used to thinking.  Instead of days off to do what we want in the hopes that we will feel better at work after, Biblical holidays were days of training.  When the Lord established the Sabbath day, the foundation of all holidays for His people, in Deuteronomy chapter five, this is what He said:

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
~Deuteronomy 5:15

When life gets busy, we have to make a conscious effort to keep from drifting off with our moods, stresses, and fears.  That effort can be something that seems to add to the burden of our to-do list rather than lightening it.  Because we are used to the hope of resting recharging our emotions on holidays, training sounds exhausting and intimidating, but God designed holidays to be training in joy.  Joy is not a spontaneous feeling like happiness.  Even at our lowest points of fear and sorrow, joy can be ours if we are used to exercising the right muscles.

This is where I come to thinking of thanksgiving as a weapon.  It can be so hard to be thankful.  It really isn’t something that comes to us naturally.  When we first feel the weapon in our hands, it is so alien that we hardly know how to handle it.  We know how it is supposed to work, but surely it is meant for other people to use.  People who are “talented” in the realm of thankfulness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, we can feel our fingers scream when we first pull back that tight string.  Our muscles tremble within us as we struggle to keep the bow steady and pulled back tight.  We miss the target, then again, then again.  It is a struggle to hit the bull’s-eye of joy, but we must learn to think like Leah.  Leah could have been tossed about mercilessly by her circumstances.  Her husband loved her sister more than he loved her.  God blessed her with three sons, but even still, she was lonely amidst her blessings.  Finally, she made a choice: “This time, I will praise the Lord.”  And her fourth son Judah became the forefather of our precious Jesus Christ.

This time—whatever the time may be—will you praise the Lord?  Think of the bow as His faithfulness.  It is solid and true, but sometimes hard to grasp at first.  We know its strength, but how could we ever be able to approach it?  If we try on our own, we will never be able to get the arrows on the string, but Holy Spirit helps us the draw the strength of the unfamiliar string.  Devote time to training.  Set aside pieces of the day, especially the holidays, to learn of His faithfulness, and to practice putting your trust in Him.  Remember that in the same chapter as the command to keep a Sabbath, Moses shared with the people:

The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
~Deuteronomy 5:3

The Lord’s faithfulness is something He gives to you.  It is not loaned to you by permission from someone else.  It is what God Himself has given directly to you.  Don’t be afraid to interact with His faithfulness in your own life, no matter the situation.

I think of the arrows as truth.  Circumstances and emotions can toss us back and forth; in the midst of that, there are solid truths to which we can still cling.  Maybe they don’t seem very significant at the time, often they won’t be enough to rocket us from the doldrums straight to cloud nine, but sometimes just a little piece of something that is really, honestly true is enough to give us a hint of joy.  Again, we know these truths better the more time we spend in the Word and in prayer.  If we devote time to memorizing the Word, it is like we get used to reaching for the quiver without even having to think of where to find it.

God is faithful.  Here are the truths.  Draw the string, aim for the center of His presence: joy lives there.  Hold steady.  Remember, thanksgiving is a choice.

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In everything.  It sounds an awful lot like training, doesn’t it?  We still have some time before Thanksgiving Day comes.  Take the time to learn the tools.  It is a hard thing for the enemy to stand against a truly thankful heart.

Deep breath.

This time I will praise the Lord.

And…

Release.

by Stephanie H.

Abandoning Your Ungodly Hobbies

“Not now, sweetie, I’m busy.”

“Go ask mom.”

“I can’t.  I’m going to the mall with Julia tomorrow.”

“I’d rather go to the movies.”

“What did you say?  I wasn’t listening.”

It hurts when those we love are too busy for us.  It doesn’t just hurt; it breaks our hearts.  It is also a pain Jesus understands more deeply than we can imagine, not just because He knows your pain—and He does, so deeply—but because this is how the ones He loves treat Him all of the time.  The number of things that we choose instead of Jesus is nearly endless.  It is something we all do far more often than we care to admit.

What are the things that get between us and our loving Savior?  Some of them just get a hold of our short attention spans; others we pursue feverishly because we’ve forgotten how to live without them.  In the same way that we have adjusted to television as background noise to every room and exploring absolutely anything through the screen of a phone, we have grown so used to sinful activities that we don’t even realize how unnatural they are to the heart of God.  In fact, our hearts are full of things that devastate His.

I was sitting in my room, praying hard, in anguish over the Scripture that had stood out to me.  I had been hurt by someone close, not just once or twice, but for years.  Now the Lord was confronting me in the the words that echoed in my head:

But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. ~Matthew 6:15

I had read these words so many times before, but this time they broke me.  In my pain, I was hurting the only One who could heal me, and I was putting of barriers of anger to keep Him away.  Still, that pain and bitterness had become so much a part of me, that I knew I couldn’t stop.

For days, it was all I could pray about.  I needed to be free.  I wanted to be with Jesus again.  Finally, He showed me what the true nature of my bitterness.  Anger frequently filled me thoughts, but not constantly.  The fact is, when I had nothing else to think about, I would go looking for bitterness without even realizing that was what I was doing.  My bitterness was a hobby.  It was a pastime that let me focus on myself.  It didn’t make me feel happy, but it made me feel justified.  It was enough to fill my mind to keep me from thinking about how hurt and vulnerable I was.

How many of these sorts of hobbies do we have?  Bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, hatred?  What about cruel humor, mocking, gossip, and backbiting?  Maybe self-harm, substance abuse, or sexual addiction.  It can even start small with a taste for violent films, novels, and video games.  Maybe we don’t notice because things can still make us smile or laugh, but when we hurt, we so often bury ourselves in hatred to keep from being hurt again.  The littlest thoughts and complaints become a part of our daily rhythm; something we can’t live without because it keeps us from thinking about being weak.

The saying goes that “hurt people hurt people.”  The truth is, hurt people hurt Jesus.  What we use to push others away who might hurt us ends up hurting Him more than it hurts the ones we fear.  Knowing that should make us feel awful, but feeling awful about it doesn’t mean we’ll ever be able to stop.  What we need to understand is that Jesus hurts more than any of us can imagine, because He is more innocent than any of us can ever know.  He hurts more than children who cannot understand what they did that they should be left alone, but in that depth of pain, He forgives.  In our pain, our thoughts and our actions break His heart, and He forgives.  He knows we cannot ever stop unless we fight to release these hobbies of brokenness to Him.  So He forgives, and He gives us His Spirit to restore to bruised and bleeding pieces of our weak and vulnerable hearts.

Whether they mean to or not, people will not stop hurting us, but we can still be vulnerable and be safe in His arms if we are willing.  He can hush our aching hearts as easily as He does the stormy seas.  He teaches us the beauty of the silence we fear so much, the silence we fill with hours of mindless rhythms and distractions that keep us from thinking.  Rest can become not falling apart, but falling into His arms.  We can leave all of our hobbies behind for a life, a real, full life.  A life of peace and joy eternal.

by Stephanie H.

Joy Overflowing

Where does joy come from?

Something that gets whole groups of Christians spinning in circles is the question of happiness.  I have friends who get weird looks and comments from strangers in public because they’re just “too happy.”  It often comes up in many churches that Christians should be the happiest people around because of Jesus.  At the same time other Christians are finally starting to admit that they struggle with depression and anxiety in spite of living with a pasted on smile because they’ve always been told they should be happy.  It often happens that both sides get angry with each other.  Outside of the church, some believe that happy Christians really are just a facade, trying to sell their “perfect” lifestyle, while others even think that happiness can never be as real as other emotions, because real life is never that kind.

But what about joy?  Joy and happiness are often synonymous, but Noah Webster also says that joy is excitement and pleasure that comes from a confidence in something, while happiness is more a pleasure by chance.  In short, joy is often seen as being more long-lasting than happiness.

So if we often find happiness to be unattainable, how can we possibly get joy?  Joy isn’t just for happy people, or for times when things seem to be going right.  Joy isn’t just something you can force across your face, straight into your heart because you want it there.  Joy is for the depressed, the mourning, the troubled, and the broken.  If you have a concordance (or access to the internet), try reading the verses that have to do with joy.  Many of them are promises.  Here are just a few.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
~Galatians 5:22, 23

Joy is a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and confidence in God.  If the Holy Spirit is in us, we will grow in joy, and in the rest of these.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
~Psalm 45:7

The closer we grow to the Lord, the more we will see things as He sees them.  The more wickedness will break our hearts, and the more we will delight in the beauty and virtue He has created.  Joy will become like a mark of royalty, showing everyone whose child you are!

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
~James 1:2-4

We could never force it, but the presence of the Holy Spirit gives us such confidence in the love and power of God, that we can view every hardship and setback as a joy the more we abide in Him.

Perhaps you haven’t known this joy, or perhaps it all seems to be in the past.  It’s easy to write about all of these things, but how do you actually get joy?  Maybe you’ve tried doing everything everyone has told you, but the darkness always calls louder.  Jesus knows.  This is what the Lord said of the Israelites in a similar situation:

For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns
That can hold no water.
~Jeremiah 2:13

He speaks harshly because it absolutely breaks His heart to see us hurting ourselves by leaving Him.  “Living water” refers to water that flows naturally, down from the mountains or out of the ground like a spring.  The Lord is that mountain spring to our hearts.  Everything we need to be filled is always flowing from His presence.  Every thirst we have is quenched, the needs of all of the desert animals are met, trees spring up, fruit comes forth; in the midst of exhaustion, we can cool off, and it’s hard to resist splashing that refreshing joy on every tired heart we meet!

A cistern is a kind of dry well that can be dug in dry climates.  No water comes into it naturally, but buckets can be used to fill it so you might have water for later.  In this case, the cistern has a leak in it.  We can be so desperate for a drop of happiness.  We take our buckets out and try to fill our dry well with friends, adventures, food, music, clothes, television, toys, relationships, and novels.  But the water all leaks away, and we’re left again with nothing.  Sometimes we go so far as to try to fill it with drugs, bullying, violence, sex, or self-harm.  It may seem impossible to come to the fountain of joy from there, but Jesus is always listening.  Maybe you did know His joy in the past, and you think He won’t come back for you again, but nothing could be further from the truth!  The fountain has not run dry, and His mercies are new every morning!

When King David finally repented after living for months in sin, this is what he wrote:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
~Psalm 51:10-12

The first joys of salvation can be restored.  You heart can be cleansed of every sin, and healed of every wound.  In spite of every single pain and abuse you have faced, your mourning can be turned to dancing!  It may not be something your heart knows how to want, but Jesus will come to you.  Just be willing to ask, trust Him when He tells you what to do, and flee to Him when you feel the darkness pressing in.  If you ask and believe, your confidence and joy in the Lord will be your strength!

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
~John 4:14

by Stephanie H.

Martha, Martha

I had a conversation with a friend a while back about spending time with Jesus, and one of the things she said got me to thinking.

“You’re more of a Mary, and I’m a Martha.”

We very much like to categorize ourselves in this day and age.  From ISFP, extrovert, type A, phlegmatic, wall flower, all of the way to “What ice cream are you?” or “Which Bible character are you?” we are encouraged to establish a solid identity, our own little niche of belonging in a chaotic world.  Those boxes often make us second guess any actions or decisions that would take us outside of our own identities.  When it comes to our relationships with the Lord, that cookie cutter identity can be crippling.

When my friend told me that I was a Mary, I had to laugh on the inside.  She is very outspoken, while I could sit for an hour looking at a piece of grass.  She manages to juggle a dozen different tasks at the same time as nurturing half a dozen different people through their fears, joys, and anxieties, all within the span of ten minutes.  I work best with one thing at a time, and can get so focused that I will sometimes not even hear what people are saying around me until my job is done.  From the outside, that might seem like the perfect recipe for sitting at Jesus feet, but being still and listening are not things that come naturally to me.

My mind runs a mile a minute, so it isn’t uncommon for my prayers to become chatter sessions, telling the Lord everything I have planned, and when I think things are taking too long to happen.  I have to laugh at myself when He reminds me to listen, and instead I go down a list and ask Him about all of the things I think He might have to say.  In short, I am very much a Martha.

Realistically, we all face the same struggle Martha did.  When Luke begins this story (Luke 10:38), he says that Martha was the one who welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home.  Martha had a brother named Lazarus as well as her sister Mary, but it seems that she was the one who took the initiative to invite Jesus into their home.  That is is where we all know to start, and it is certainly nothing to sneeze at!  Martha knew that there would be nothing more important in her life than having Jesus come into her house.  Hospitality was (and still is) vitally important in their culture, and she was ready to give all of the resources, strength, and time she had to make sure that the Teacher and His friends would remember the welcome she had given them.

Now, Martha was no Pharisee or Sadducee.  Her focus wasn’t on whether or not she would look impressive enough.  Her focus was on hospitality and doing good for others.  Along with Jesus and the twelve primary disciples, who knows how much of a crowd was following Jesus that day?  She wasn’t about to let any of them go hungry.  So where did she get distracted?

The story of Mary and Martha takes place in Luke chapter ten.  If we go back just one chapter, Luke nine gives us the account of Jesus feeding five thousand men, in addition to women and children.  Now He is back in Bethany, and here is Martha, stretching herself thin trying to feed one household when the Bread of Life is there sitting in the next room.

Martha does seem like a go-getter in this passage, but fears apply to all of us at one point or another.  She feels the pressure of wanting to do her job well.  She wants to bring comfort and rest to the lives of others.  She hates to think of anyone slipping through the cracks on her watch.  She gets so lonely in all of her cares and responsibilities, that she gets upset with the Lord for not easing her burden by having her sister help.

It’s not that Mary was more into feeling and Martha was more into doing.  All of Martha’s worries are addressed at the feet of Jesus.  It can be so easy for us to imagine that He has overlooked us with His help, and to say “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”  Not one person was overlooked when Jesus fed the people in the wilderness, even though the disciples had no money to feed them.  When we place the burden of success on our own shoulders, that is when our stress levels skyrocket, and things start falling apart, whether we’re juggling caring for a family and coordinating a dinner, or just trying to get through our paperwork.  Meanwhile, Jesus is patiently waiting, calling each of us by name.  It is hard to give up control to the Lord, “but only one thing is necessary.”  And when we seek first that one thing, all of our needs will be met, and we will find that Jesus provides more fruitfulness to His ministries than we could ever hope to do on our own.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:6,7

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30

 

Martha, Martha.  Won’t you taste and see that He is good?

by Stephanie H.

Fifty Thousand Pieces of Silver

 

Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.
And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
~Acts 19:18-20

 

 Can you imagine the scene?  Somewhere in the midst of Paul’s two year sojourn in Ephesus, the Holy Spirit so convicted the hearts of the people, Jews and Greeks, that they repented of many things, not least of which was their secret practice of witchcraft.  They were so eager to follow the Lord with all of their lives, that they burned the evil that had most consumed them.  The footnotes in my Bible identify the piece of silver as the Greek drachma: a day’s wage of a laborer.  I don’t know how many people were burning magic books, or how much each one had cost, but it would take an average person of that day one hundred and thirty-seven years to earn that much money (with only five days off in that time).

These people have been freed from the curse of their wickedness, and yet, so many times when I have read this passage in the past, it has caused me to… hesitate.  I know that they were devoting their lives to the Lord, and that burning the magic books was very important to their following the Lord, but it took me a long time before I truly understood, beyond the textbook answer, why it was so vital.  A part of me would read it and think as the disciples did in Matthew twenty-six: “Why this waste?”  Of course, I knew it would be wrong for them to sell the books to others, and lead others into sin in so doing, but isn’t their some way that money could have been redeemed?  One hundred and thirty-seven years wages!  It’s bothered me that I think of it, but I would still think of it.

In my last read-through of Acts, it struck me in a different way, and it does even more now that I am reading this chapter for the sake of this post.  The first thing that I came to realize is that these people were not just burning fifty thousand paychecks they had received that morning.  This bonfire was built on one hundred and thirty-seven years of bondage.  It was fifty thousand days of trudging through muck under a heavy burden that only gets heavier the further you go all washed clean and healed by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Suddenly, this is all such a precious scene.  None of us alive today is old enough to have sinned for fifty thousand days.  But even if we had, Jesus would still be able and eager to cleanse us and give us His joy and a sparkling white robe the moment we will surrender our chains to Him.  None of us has small sins, but look at how vast the forgiveness of our Lord is when we come to Him and repent of all of the times in our lives that we have devoted to evil.  What and sweet and humble God we serve!

The other aspect of this scene that stands out to me now begins earlier in the chapter.

“And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,
so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.
But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches’
And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.
And the evil spirit answered and said to them, ‘I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’
And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.”
~Acts 19:11-17

 

This is the rest of the story.  Whenever we think that we can purify and redeem ourselves by “repurposing” our sins and the things that pull us away from Jesus, it is like this new believers trying to get rid of their sin by selling their books of witchcraft, or leaving them on a shelf and “promising” not to look at them again.  Left to ourselves, we cannot cleanse a single day of our lives, no matter how Christian we try to look, or how hard we honestly try.  Like the Jewish exorcists, we will try to do good, but will only end up being beaten down by the evil we face, and those who are enslaved to evil will also be worse off when we try to help them!  From the time of Adam and Eve’s first sin, the devil’s play was to say, “you can be God, and you can do it yourself.” “Don’t burn the magic books; just leave them on the shelf.” “Giving up that hobby? What a waste!  You could use that to glorify the Lord once you get famous and people start noticing you!”

That is why it is so vital that we always be as willing to give up what we love in this world as Jesus is to give up Himself for us.  Fifty thousand days devoted to serving the devil, all just a shadow in the past when we kneel before Jesus today.  And we can’t claim a single day of credit for it, thank God!  As with Paul, after He pays our one hundred and thirty-seven year debt, Jesus will give us His Holy Spirit, so that we will be able to help others who are still slaving to pay the debt themselves.  Do not hesitate to surrender your chains to Jesus.

by Stephanie H.

Welcome to Our Newest Contributor!

 

 

 

I want to publicly welcome our newest contributor, Stephanie H.! I approached her to ask about writing for the blog, because I have watched from afar, seeing God doing beautiful things in her heart and life. And, what’s more, she has a wonderful way with words, and a fondness for delving into the depths of God’s Word. I know you will be blessed by her posts.

 

Stephanie is, in her own words, “a bookworm, tea drinker, nature enthusiast, and barefoot whenever able.  She had a lot of plans for her life, but Jesus turned them all upside-down, and now she follows wherever the Shepherd’s voice calls.  She is also overly-analytical, and color codes her Bible study notes.”

Keep an eye out for her posts!

signatureMED

Saving Lives Before They’re Gone

savinglivesblogheader

It happened again this week – a childhood friend had enough of life, and ended his. It wasn’t the first time it has happened with those I have known. But it doesn’t get less painful, or less heartbreaking…and distance of friendship over time doesn’t change a thing. It’s like suddenly the world grinds to a halt, and there’s a definitive end. Where there is life, there is hope… but when life ends, you can’t go back and say the things you wish you could have said, and there are no more second chances.

Nearly every time I have seen this happen, it has come out of a great hopelessness. A hopelessness birthed by a longing for fulfillment, but searching for it in all the wrong places. We all desire acceptance, fulfillment, and the feeling of having made a difference in the word. But oh-so many people seek after these things by chasing darkness. The devil makes many promises to broken, needy hearts, but never delivers. He may entice, but there cannot be any true hope or peace or fulfillment apart from Christ. Jesus is the only one who can break us out of the bondages to sin and darkness, and give us a hope and a future…but so many people do not know that. Now, all of us know someone like this – and, more likely, many “someones”. But, they continue in their dark and empty pursuits day after day. Why? We think it is more caring to just let them live how they want, and not “judge them” or make them feel uncomfortable by sharing Jesus with them.

But how can they know, unless someone tells them? How can they see that breaking God’s laws always leads to emptiness and pain, unless someone cares enough to tell them that what they are doing is, in fact, sin…and that they end of it will be darkness and destruction…and then, takes them by the arm, and shows them that there is, in fact, a better way.

How can they escape the quicksand unless someone tells them what it is that is engulfing them, and then throws them a lifeline?

Do we care enough to speak up?
Will we reach out with their lifeline before it is too late?

Suicide is an epidemic. We can’t tell what is going on in each person’s heart and mind, but from what I have observed, it seems that a greater number of people struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts than those who don’t. You just don’t know who is planning the end of their own life next, or when. We had a woman come to a concert outreach my family did recently, who was planning to kill herself the very next day! But instead, that night she found freedom and hope as she received a new heart from Jesus!

There is nothing that compares to seeing the chains of darkness and despair fall off, and the light of hope in Christ fill a person’s eyes. Prayerfully consider what you can do to reach out with the hope that only Jesus can bring to those you know who are walking down dark and dangerous roads, instead of just closing your eyes to their heart needs, and dismissing their pursuits that will end in emptiness, pain, and
dark despair.

Silence is not caring.
Truly caring is speaking up, and, like Jesus, wishing that none should perish.

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20 ESV)

When?

pexels-photo

 

This is a journal entry of mine…and I hope it is a blessing to you!

It can be so easy for us to go through our lives, just trying to be people’s friends. Giving them a big smile and some cheery small-talk, and hoping it will change their lives…somehow. Hoping that maybe they will see Jesus in that look. That smile. (And, by God’s grace, sometimes they do! And that is always a blessing.)

We give smiles and hugs out freely…and that is good — needed, even! But what about the one thing that will actually change their lives and give them lasting joy and hope for the future? We give them food and medical aid and clothing…..When will we also give them Jesus? We are so careful – so cautious, because, well, we don’t want to offend them! We don’t want them to be turned away! And so, we are silent. Day after day goes by…but the reality is, in desiring to not turn them away, are we selfishly taking from them the chance to be right with God, and to be free of their heavy burdens?

It is worth pondering. What is the real reason we are silent? Why do we withhold Living Water from their souls? Is it because of fear? Are we afraid of rejection – our OWN rejection? Are we afraid of their anger, or losing their friendship or respect?

Jesus Himself had to deal with all these things while on earth – and has to deal with them continually to this very day. Can we not sacrifice our own pride or respect in the eyes of others for His sake…and theirs?

It is a good thing to be a friend. It is good to give a ready smile, or a needed hug – even physical help and aid. But when…when will we give them Living Water? When will we introduce them to the Healer of their souls? He is the only one who can heal their hearts, and make them new and full of joy! We all have a limited time here on earth – and we cannot tell when a life may be cut short. I have already had several friends whose lives have ended too soon.

So what are you waiting for?

When will you tell them?

Pray and ask God to show you any selfish or fearful reasons that you have been silent…and ask Him to give you courage to speak, and to give your friends soft hearts to understand.

Don’t let your heart be plagued with the distress that comes when you miss a chance that never comes again.

And ponder this: when was the last time that you shared Jesus with someone? ”Tomorrow” may never come – so ask God to show you what you can do today!

signatureMED
From participating in the Tuesday@Ten challenge.

Single? 3 Ways to Have the BEST Valentines Day EVER!

love-heart-hand-romanticEDITSMALL

Valentine’s Day.  That blissful time of year when all of your “non-single” friends get chocolate, and flowers, and romantic candlelight dates.  That dreaded time of year when you hide out under your covers, eat lots of chocolate (that you bought yourself), and avoid everything pink, red, or even remotely romantic.  That, or you’re one of those people who actively torture yourself by scrolling through Facebook, looking at all the sweet things that people did with their “significant other”, and you cry yourself to sleep listening to gushy love songs.  [Some people do it to themselves…just saying. 😉 ]

It’s a wonderful holiday that seems to have been instituted just to remind you of your definite singleness…again.  Not dissimilar to pouring lemon juice on a paper cut [Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — Just take my word for it.]…or having text messages sent to you continually about the HUGE sale that your favorite store is having…right when you’re completely, totally broke.

So, what’s a single gal to do??

Well, you CAN hole yourself up in your room all day, and have a great big pity party…by yourself. But, I mean…again??  Really??  OR…what if you tried something different this year?

Here are 3 ideas to help you have a Valentines Day worth remembering this year!

pexels-photo-12073

1.  Pray for your single girl-friends.

Start now – don’t wait!  Begin praying for each of your single girl-friends…and ask God to direct your prayers for them.  Pray that God would encourage their hearts, and surround them in His love this year.  Even ask Him to give you specific scriptures that relate to how you can pray to them, or that would be an encouragement to them.  Praying for others is one of the very best ways to get your eyes off of yourself, and get out of your own pity-party.  Making a list may help you to remember to pray for them, and to not forget anyone.

love-writing-gift-letter

 

2. Ask God to show you how to be a blessing to them.

As you’re praying for your friends, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them.  Ask Him for ideas of things you can do that would encourage their hearts, and show God’s love to them.  Ask God to make you His hands and feet to show them His love this year.
And then…do it. Whatever God shows you — put it into action!  It may take some real time and effort…and even money, but God will bless you for all you give.  Write out the scriptures God gives you into sweet cards.  Share whatever word of encouragement God puts on your heart for them.  Buy them some flowers…or chocolate…or both!  What do you wish someone would do for you?  Now go and do that for them!  If you really want to go all-out, you can even plan a special evening to invite them over, decorate, and make them a special meal!  Or what about a special girls’ spa night, and devotion time, where you can pray together (spending time with Jesus together is always the sweetest thing)!  The possibilities are endless when you ask God for great ideas — He knows what will most bless each of your friends! And it might be something different for each one.

love-romantic-bath-candlelight

 

3. Spend time with Jesus.

This is last, but definitely most important of all, for truly having the best Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to spend time with Jesus, and just enjoy His presence.  Remember: He truly cares about you more than anyone else…and even after you have a loving relationship, and a blessed marriage, no guy can fill that spot in your heart that was meant for only Jesus to fill.  You’re not just spending time with Jesus because you don’t have a boyfriend!  You’re spending time with Jesus because HE is your Love, and your Life!!

Spend time thanking Jesus for all the ways He has shown His love for you this year — even write some of them down to be a reminder of His goodness for you when you’re discouraged.  Don’t rush — how would you like it if you were out for a special time with someone and all they did was look at their watch the whole time??  Take your time to really enjoy God’s presence, and be a real friend for Him.

And why don’t you take some time to actually write God a love-letter this year?  Tell Him all the things you love about Him, and that you can’t imagine your life without Him.  Even pray about what you can give Him as a gift this year — it can be something as simple as giving Him your worries about the future, and committing to trust Him more, and not fear about the future.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?? Do you have any other ideas for having a blessed Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever tried reaching out to those who are lonely on Valentine’s Day?  If someone was going to do something kind for you on Valentine’s Day, what do you think you would bless you the most?  Now…how can you take that and use it to bless others?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, and even feature some of your ideas here!

signatureMED