“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:14
“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!
Tonight I stepped up to the intimidating apparatus in my kitchen called “the oven” to bake a box of Christmas-clearance, marked-down, gluten-free scones. They looked like scones, required the same ingredients as scones, baked like scones. But did not taste like scones! Suffice it to say, I was disappointed and my kids didn’t even give them a try. Ya know I used to be like a gluten-free scone. I looked like a Christian (wore a cross necklace). I had the same ingredients as a Christian (went to church, owned a couple bibles, attended a Christian college). But get close enough and you’d discover I was gluten-free: everything was there…but something was missing. Maybe this is you. Maybe this is someone close to you. So how did I resolve this, for myself? Well, next time, I will buy REAL scone mix. How did I resolve this in my life? One morning, when I was 23, I had an epiphany: I would no longer LOOK Christian; I would BE Christian. I didn’t want to be a head-fake anymore. I had come to the concluding conviction that I’d rather be a real screw-up than a perfect-fake. With no regrets, I’ve been working at being a real scone ever since! If you want the real scone to stand up (YOU!) ask the Master Chef to get involved in your life–and you will!