On many famous accounts, God displayed his love in epic ways: parting a sea in half, sending a rainbow to a family, raising Jesus from a tomb. But what I love so much about God is He not only displays his love in epic ways, but through small moments: a deaf man, a paralyzed man, a girl in adultery, a virgin with child. Have you ever noticed the insignificance of these people? In the bible and in human history, they weren’t given names, national holidays or photo-cred. God didn’t pick celebrities to display his love and perform these miracles. He didn’t pick the ones with the most “likes” and “follows.” Out of 22 miracles Jesus performed, 20 came from insignificant backgrounds. In this world, we often have to be “somebody.” But in Christ, we already are. You don’t need to beef up, clean up or puff up. You just ARE, and God loves you right from there. I was never popular as a kid. I don’t know what it’s like to be “most likely to succeed,” class president, or prom queen. But I do know what it’s like to be recklessly, unconditionally, emphatically loved by God. You may feel small in your corner of the world, but to God? You’re his universe. You’re his first choice. You’re his favorite one of you. If you were the only small, insignificant one on Earth, you would have been worth dying for on the cross. You may feel small in your eyes, but you are the biggest focus of His. I hope this encourages someone today.
I loved what Pastor David said this weekend about lies and secrets (watch, here: http://cbglades.com/archive) Do you have a bad secret? A bad secret kept today can keep you up tonight. It preoccupies your conscience unnecessarily. A secret that needs to be revealed will make you feel icky on the inside. Something won’t feel right in your heart–or stomach. A secret has a way of telling us we can resolve it ourselves—when in reality—we need God, and someone or something else to help. A secret keeps us in the dark–a confession releases us from it. Secrets have a way of helping us “get away with it” in public, but in private, our soul knows it isn’t. The antidote to a secret is a confession. Will there be consequence? Perhaps. But the biggest relief in turning a secret into a confession is God destroying the prison the secret has kept you in. It’s being set free, walking without chains, and no longer being hostage to satan. If there’s a secret that needs to be confessed, there’s a freedom that awaits you. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) I hope this encourages someone today.
I troll the bible looking for mind-verses. One thing I’ve discovered is there’s no therapy-book like God’s book. It is the book of life because it’s a double-edge sword against thoughts of death. It is a book that buries itself like treasure in your belly when you read it, NEVER to return void. It is the book that, when stored in your heart and uttered aloud, will make the enemy flee. It is a very powerful mental-health resource, and it’s free and accessible to all of us. I was thrilled when I came across this one: Isaiah 61:3. God says He can give, “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” To me, this says WITH God, we can exchange heaviness for praise. How? Simple: by praising Him. It sounds intellectual and theological, but I’m neither one of those, so I know this is achievable. We “praise” all the time at sporting events, concerts, ceremonies, birthdays. I’ve learned that praising God is celebrating and complimenting Him, in the way we do at those things. And unlike those things, praising God isn’t bound by buildings or “occasions.” On my jogs, I praise God (celebrate and compliment Him) as I see his sun rise. It’s giving God props in a reverent way. If you are in a spirit of heaviness, try starting your day with praise. Exchange your heaviness for His praise. There’s nothing to lose…and like He said in Isaiah 61, a garment to gain!
Sometimes I read verses that spin like a chicken in a rotisserie oven. Then, after while, my mind beeps that it’s done, and God serves a plate of good insight! I don’t wanna keep the plate to myself–so let’s have it, together! The verse that had this effect on me, was Isaiah 44:5, “Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands.” This is what I gleaned…
1) Hold people in an open palm. They aren’t our people to begin with. They are God’s precious, priceless, irreplaceable kids. People are not our possessions, they are God’s gift. An open palm with people, makes it less painful when God needs us to let them go.
2) I like the idea of writing God’s name on my palm because God wrote my name in his book before I was born AND didn’t erase it after I had done many bad things. To pen his name on my palm is metaphoric and significant.
3) If I write God’s name on my palm, it’s approximately where He sacrificed his life when they drove a nail through each one. NOTHING I go through from others will EVER compare to what He did for me. His name on my palm keeps that perspective from fading.
4) When gifts are proverbially taken away, i.e., kids move, friends leave, jobs eliminated, identity lost, pets pass…if I clutch them, the loss is worse. If I keep an open-palm in the loss, I still have the name above all name’s to hold on to.
Total random thoughts from one verse. But gotta admit, a satisfying meal!
Here is a list of books I have read, reread and given away. These books have had a distinct impact in helping me get better during mentally-tough times. Frankly, I don’t buy them “new.” I use Amazon.com, and buy “used.” One, it’s cheaper; and two, I’ve been encouraged by the previous owners’ notes. I hope these help you too:
“Choosing Forgiveness,” Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“Praying God’s Word,” Beth Moore
“Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud
“Thinking for a Change,” John Maxwell
“Unashamed,” Christine Caine
“Exquisite Agony,” Gene Edwards
“Search for Significance,” Robert McGee
“Battlefield of the Mind,” Joyce Meyer
“Practicing the Presence of God,” Brother Lawrence
“Angry Conversations with God,” Susan Isaacs
“Oh the Places You Will Go,” Dr. Seuss
“The Shack,” Wm. Paul Young
“Jesus Calling,” Sarah Young
“Everybody’s Normal Til You Get to Know Them,” John Ortberg
Before another weekend rolls around, I’d like to offer a delineation: resting is not the same as quitting. Resting is temporary, quitting is permanent. Resting is biblical, quitting (if not God’s will) is not. Resting keeps you from rusting. Quitting is rusting. Resting helps you not quit! But quitting doesn’t help you not rest. Resting is not regretful, quitting is regretful. I think we can get deceived that resting will mean “I am quitting,” or “I am weak.” But this is a lie the devil is trying to sell from the corner-store in hell. GOD rested on the seventh day. JESUS got away in the mornings and rested in the Father. I get a lot of things wrong. But one thing I can stand behind is I find time to rest. Years ago, I was found in a bloody, psychotic, suicidal mess in a parking lot, and consequently locked up for it. That day, I told God I will do whatever HE needs to have that NEVER happen again. A LARGE part of my refusal to return to “crazy,” is my emphatic conviction to rest. You CAN tell people no. You CAN build margin into your life. There is NO WAY God wants us to run so hard we go crazy. What good would His team be if rendered useless to the bench? God needs us! But we need to rest so He can use us! As the weekend approaches, I hope you enjoy it…and find time to rest in it.
Before God got involved in creation, it was three things: formless, empty, dark. Before God got involved in my life, it was formless, empty, and dark. But in creation, and with us…
…what was formless, God formed: Earth, “God said, ‘Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth…Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.’” (Genesis 1:6-9) You, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) You weren’t bought at Wal-Mart. You weren’t made in a lab. You weren’t a bid on EBay. The hands of the Almighty God, in your mom’s belly, formed you together. And NO life is created accidentally, and EVERY life is created intentionally.
…what was empty, God filled: Earth, “I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—” (Genesis 1) You, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) People have emptied you because every time they assaulted you, manipulated you, used you, cheated on you, rejected you, hurt you…they emptied you. People empty; God fills. God is the author, the finisher and the filler of life. If he can fill a planet with life, He can fill lives with life. If you’ve confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you are not empty despite what people have done to you. You are solid, and filled to overflowing with the glory of God!
…what was darkness, God lit: Earth, “God said,’“Let there be light,’ and there was light…he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1) You, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) On the third day, God said let there be light, and it was lit! And on the day you accepted Jesus into your heart, you were lit! You no longer need to run in the dark. You light up every room, house, church, office, prison, hospital, rehab, store, and ‘hood you walk into. The light of Jesus in you, OUTlives, OUTlasts, OUTpowers the dark around you. And I would rather walk in God’s light than run in my dark!
So in closing, just like the Earth around you that you see, and the life-transformed that you are, the case is made that what was formless is formed; empty, filled; and dark, lit. I hope this encourages someone today!
Resolutions. I don’t make them anymore, because I don’t keep them! But the New Year is a good reset button, and keeping in step with that, I am praying for restitution. By definition, restitution is, “the act of giving back something that has been lost or stolen.’ No sooner did I look up that definition than I recalled a bible verse where GOD declares the same. In Joel 2:25, God says, “I will give you back what you lost.” That’s restitution! Instead of resolving to gain something on my own in the New Year, I am praying for God to restitute something I lost last year. As I reflect on last year, there was some connectivity and bonding lost with some family members. As I head into 2017, I am praying for God to restore that. If God said this in the bible 4000 years ago, and I believe in the bible and I believe in God, then if it is His will, I believe God can bring restitution. So that’s what I’m praying for! What did you lose in 2016? A comeback? A battle? Joy? Health? Dependability? Commitment? Church? A relationship? Perhaps there are things we lost in 2016; but with God, restitution can be found in 2017. Furthermore, the bible says in James 4, “You don’t have ’cause you don’t ask.” So in 2017, I’m asking for restitution!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This is one of my favorite verses for a new year. Actually, it’s a verse, a life-goal, a mental-health axiom, and a prayer, all in one enchilada! Lemme break it down…
*For I KNOW*
God knows. God knows already what 2017 has for you and me. The bible teaches that he’s recorded our days before our very first day. So if God KNOWS what 2017 holds, I release myself from being a predictor of it. I don’t need a horoscope, an appointment, a dream-weaver, or a fortuneteller. I have everything I need in God KNOWING and I don’t have to pay him. Rather, HE paid his life for me. He made me, He knows me, I trust Him.
*They ARE Plans For GOOD*
Does this mean that in 2017 bad things can happen? Yep. And if I were a betting man, I’d say bad things probably will. But with God, and this promise, bad can happen but GOOD can come from it. How? By sticking with God. When we stick with God, God can bring good from bad. How can He do that? He’s God, and He is love and that is what love does. God already wrote my story. Until my story ends, it doesn’t mean I won’t have bad chapters, it just means bad chapters will eventually end in good results. God is good, and if we are with God, we are held in His goodness.
I hope this encourage you as you head into your new year – God has good plans in store!