The nighttime sky can be eerily dark, but there are stars that twinkle it with light. It is pitch black in your room, but there is still a dot of light from your mobile device. It is scary for your child to sleep at night, but not if there is a little nightlight. Oh, what we’ll do to bring light to things. Because until we do, they are dark–and unless we’re sleeping, we simply prefer light. The same can be said about our lives. What we’ll do to light up our life. But no matter how many “stars” we gather to shine onto our lives, there are still dark spaces between them: our thoughts nobody knows, our words we don’t let everyone hear, our actions when no one is looking. These spaces of darkness are inevitable, but we hope only temporal. What do we do? We need a source of light that is powerful, eclipsing, and endless. We need a never-melting candle. We need a flashlight with invincible batteries. We need a lamp that never needs a new lightbulb. We need something more powerful and more endless than our “dark” could ever be. We need God. The bible says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. “ (I John 1:5) If you have God in your life, though it feels dark around you, God IS light within you. When He moved in, He brought light with Him. And no body and no thing can snuff it out. Today, don’t be discouraged by your dark, be encouraged by His light.
“When the Roman officer who stood facing Him saw how He had died, he exclaimed, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God.'” Mark 15:39
In the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, the Roman soldiers were busy. In addition to maintaining order in a chaotic Jerusalem, they: mocked, whipped, beat, made thorn-crowns, gambled, pierced, and killed Jesus. But after all was said and done, one soldier did something seemingly “out of duty.” He stood, he saw, he professed. This begs one question: am I too busy with my duties to stand still and see Him? Consider these euphuisms: “Life in the fast lane,” “Time flies,” “Where did the time go?” When it comes to us believing and trusting Jesus, is it because we can’t see Him or because we’re too busy to look? One time, one soldier took time to stand still. It was long enough to change him to consider: “I didn’t just gamble for a criminal’s clothes, I gambled for God’s,” “I didn’t execute a guilty criminal, I executed an innocent Savior,” “I offered him sour wine, He offered His blood.” It’s eerie how Psalm 46:10 echoed this: “Be still and know that I am God.” Did this soldier realize the power in standing still? Yes, because the Bible tells us that after he did, he praised the Son of God on the cross. That’s powerful. And this Roman soldier’s moment (and his eternity) wouldn’t have been possible, had he not stood still.
“the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:8
My comings? Yes, your comings. Where you COME from. If you come from a painful past, GOD has watched over you. If you come from a confusing past, a rebellious past, a hurtful past, an angry past, a denied past—whatever past you come from….GOD has watched over you. His eyes have been upon you–and He has never blinked to miss any of it. Your goings? Yes, your goings. Where you ARE going and where you WILL go. If you go ill, if you go away, if you go rebellious, if you go crazy, if you go resentfully, if you go alone, if you go unspiritual, if you go sheepishly, if you go awkwardly, if you go unknowingly, if you go painfully–wherever you are going…GOD is watching over you. His eyes will always be upon you. Maybe your comings and goings aren’t good. You can still pray and say “Thank you God that you’re with me in them.” When you think nobody is looking and nobody is caring, know today, He is. And His eyes are upon you.
I got up early one Saturday morning and couldn’t believe the sunrise God gave us! Though I’m about half way through my life span, I haven’t seen forty-three years of sunrises. But I guarantee, God hasn’t missed one. The sun ALWAYS rises. Does it rise in blue skies? Not always. Sometimes the sun rises in clouds; in rain; in winter. But it always rises. And so will you. As someone who’s had to rise from bouts of depression and anxiety, I’ve clung to this promise of God’s, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.“ We sure do get knocked down, don’t we? But if we have Christ in our lives, we have Christ in our comebacks. And here’s what that means: we will always rise. Addiction, divorce, loss, abuse, lawsuits, debt, disease, broken hearts, mental affliction…all kinds of things knock us down. But Jesus Christ isn’t only a sunset-Savior, He is a sunrise-Savior. Just look in the tomb where He was buried! It’s empty because He Rose! If you are knocked down, take heart, you will rise. I hope this encourages someone today.
Whether your a bible reader or not, almost all of us have heard of Job. He was a righteous dude. I mostly study the book of Job to focus on this human’s worst suffering (unmatched only by Jesus). Job was IN hell, ON Earth. But as I was reading, something new jumped out regarding Job’s “friends.” I put that in quotes because after you study their role in his life, you’re left wondering if they really were friends. In a good portion of the book of Job, his friends are there to offer pithy opinions and wisdom. What I particularly gleaned was the position of Job’s friends. They picked the proverbial posture of looking down on Job, in pity. But author Eugene Peterson offers an alternative posture for friends who are suffering, he said: “We need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them.” Fireworks went off in my brain. That is genius! What if, instead of looking down in pity on godly-good people who are suffering, we look UP…
1) We look UP to the sky to pray for them.
2) We look UP to them to show RESPECT that God has deemed them worthy of such suffering.
3) And we look UP to them because when Jesus was suffering on the cross, his good friends stood near and looked up to Him.
As you think of anyone you know who is suffering or struggling right now, I hope this encourages you to shift your gaze. Who knows, maybe God will use your upward gaze TO them, to HELP them get back up on their feet again!
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” I should be the last person to write about a soft answer. I’ve always had a big mouth, not just in words, but in volume. Growing up, it was more common for me to hear “Heather, turn the volume down” than “Heather, eat your vegetables.” I guess that’s why I made a decent cheerleader, but a terrible bookkeeper. In the bible, God challenges us to use a softer voice, because He used one Himself. Especially in conversations with really messed up people. He was good like that. When you master the ability to speak the truth in love, there’s no need to shout, spray or slay. To illustrate the appeal of a soft voice, let’s compare soft things with its counterparts: a Sealy Posturepedic bed with a fuzzy blanket or a hard cot with a cold sheet? Lavender Softsoap or a bar of Dial? Soft-upholstered LazyBoy recliner or a hard bench? Soft things are appealing to us just like a soft voice is appealing to others. If you (like me) have the tendency to shout, yell, scream, roar, clamor or bark, we need to add a PAUSE button to our brains. Before we RESPOND in our usual loud way, press pause in our heads. In that pause, adjust pitch and volume. THEN press play and speak forth!
One of the battles that can ensue on the battlefield of our minds are dark thoughts that enter and look for a place to stay. I don’t want to expound on what these thoughts are for us, lest I give them power. But they’re dark; and they have no right to our minds. I found a powerful counterattack in the bible for this: Romans 8:6, “but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” If you have Jesus in your heart, you have his LIFE and PEACE in your mind. His life and peace outweigh, outlive, outlast, overrule AND overcome the dark thoughts trying to stay there. Don’t be a wimp with dark thoughts. Don’t just roll over and settle for them. They don’t own you, and can’t take you. Jesus and you are bigger and more powerful than your thoughts. If you suffer from any degree of this, take your thoughts captive and SHRINK them to what they really are: cowardly attempts to attack turf that Jesus has already won. If you are struggling with thoughts having too much control over your mind, email me, I’d love to pray for you, as I pray for myself. I hope this encourages someone today.
How many of you have heard: “I won’t go to hell…I’m a good person?” I’ve heard this, too. But when I reflect on my life, and read the bible, I quickly learn: even good people are bad. In the days surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus, the bible teaches us about the good people who were there:
• disciples – good enough to be chosen as part of Jesus’ ministry, and His closest friends
• religious leaders – good in their authority, Bible-knowledge, and religious deeds
• Pilate – good enough to be the Roman governor and to know Jesus was innocent
Yet they did bad things:
• disciples denied Jesus (Peter); betrayed him (Judas); and abandoned him
• religious leaders didn’t give Jesus “innocent until proven guilty,” used false witnesses, altered the justice they were there to protect
• Pilate sold out as an upright governor, and denied the truth, though admitting it
This proves that good people can be bad, and raises a question: then what do we do to become good? Personally, I can’t answer that, because as soon as I’m good, I manage to go and do bad (Romans 7:15)! But biblically, I can answer this! The Bible says, “ALL have sinned; ALL have fallen short” (Romans 3:23) It also says, “If we say we have no sin (i.e., are good), we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.” (1 John 1:8) And the bible teaches us a simple way:
• Admit you’ve screwed up (Romans 3:23)
• Acknowledge Jesus is Lord to save you (Romans 6:23)
• Accept that Jesus’ died for your badness (Romans 5:8)
• Ask for Jesus to be your goodness (Romans 10:8-10)
If you pray through these 4 “A’s,” the Bible says there’s a party in heaven, because you’re no longer knocked down by your bad-ness; you stand tall in Jesus’ goodness! And if you think there’s a party in heaven right now over you, wait till you spend eternity there! I hope there’s a dance floor!