Read Luke 19:35-40
“35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.””
There is a song right now that has captured my attention. It is called; “So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong United. It has me caught up in the majesty, amazing grandeur, power, and inexplicable grace of God. It reminds me of what Jesus said, “if they kept quiet, the stones would cry out.” He said this because he came to redeem all of creation. He came back because sin had broken what he had created and he wanted to fix it. Here is a line from the song:
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I
It also convicts me that I have so much more to praise him and thank him for. Sometimes I get caught up in what is right in front of me. And so, I get distracted by what I need to get done and don’t stop and marvel at the wonder of Jesus and the 100 billion ways he has shown his grace. I sometimes focus only my failures and therefore miss the opportunity to love those he has in front of me. This verse in the song always catches me:
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I
Today, choose to leave behind failure, and step into his freedom, he has covered it all. Because of this, set your heart to focus on him and look for those around you he gave his life to save and choose to love them.
…so will I…
Read Matthew 6:6
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
What do you think of when you hear that word? Secret. Isn’t it so intriguing? It feels mysterious, doesn’t it? For some of you, maybe it feels illusive. For others, it can sound scandalous and fun. Sometimes it feels dangerous. For those of us who are a bit jaded, it can feel gimmicky. How many infomercials or Facebook ads have we seen where the person selling us whatever product, exercise routine, or service has found “The Secret?”
No matter how you feel or what you think of when you hear the word, my prayer is that you find a whole new meaning to it today. There is a great secret in God’s Word to experiencing a very real, living, interactive, and intimate relationship with your Creator, Savior, and Friend. I’m talking about “The Secret Place.”
Jesus tells us in the Bible that there is this amazing place of connection and intimacy with God. A place where we can have instant access to Him, pray to him, listen to His voice, seek His face and ultimately experience Him. All of that happens in “The Secret Place.” We find this concept of “The Secret Place” in Matthew 6:6. Jesus says to pray to your Father who is in secret. The Father is in that place. Don’t forget to stop, close your door, and meet with Him there.
I love the simple, yet weighty promise attached to this verse. He is there. He is present in the secret place. That’s where he calls us to meet Him. When we prioritize the time, shut out distractions, and truly seek him, we find Him in “The Secret Place.” So, the challenge today would be to take some time, shut the door, and get alone with your Heavenly Father. He is there waiting for you.
…He is there…
Fear & Love
Read 1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
When you first read “Fear & Love” together, it doesn’t make sense. They don’t belong together. If you’re fearful of something, then you probably don’t love it so much, right? Well, fear can cause us to do a lot of things that love may not cause us to do. The fear of us not having a roof over our family’s head can cause us to work a little harder at work. The fear of missing out on our children’s extracurricular activities will cause us to drive like a maniac on HWY 95 just to make the 4th Quarter of Lil’ Jimmy’s pee wee football game. The fear of our kids throwing toys at other kids in the nursery will make us want to teach them not to do that. (Was that my kid last Sunday? Yes…. Sorry, Mandie Bloy our Kids Pastor)
We all have fears. Some are irrational and uncontrollable (like your kid throwing toys at others in the nursery), then some are completely rational and you should act on them. The point is that fear makes us act with a sense of urgency. However, when we begin to live a life of fear instead of love we have a problem. Jon Gordon’s book “The Carpenter” opened my eyes to this in a brand new way and I pray it would do the same for you today.
“Fill your life up with love not fear. When you live your life with love, it can’t help but grow. When you love the work you do, you will do great work. You were created with love, you are loved, and you were meant to share this love in all that you do. Do everything with love! Greatness is built with love.”
We have all lived our lives full of fear and probably still all do today in some capacity. When we were younger, we would have a deathly fear of mom and dad leaving us for one second and not ever coming back. When we got to the age of six, we began the fear of being away from mom and dad for too long at school. When we got into our teenage years, we began to fear that our parents would embarrass us in front of our friends. By the way, if you ever embarrassed your kid as a teenager I want to know about it! Then, we move into our adult years and the fears get a little heavier. The fear of starving, the fear of supporting a family, the fear of gaining too much weight, the fear of death. Fear drives us.
1 John 4:18 tells us that it’s not healthy for us to remain living a life full of fear. In fact, it even states “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.” God wants you to love life, not fear it. He wants you to do your job full of joy and love, because after all you will be happier that way! I bet your coworkers will even notice it as well. Fear brings stress, and love brings joy! Choose love.
I want to challenge you as you enter into this upcoming week, write down “Choose Love” on some sticky notes around your house. When the kids get crazy or life throws you a curveball, look at them and choose love. This is something my wife and I both have been encouraging one another to do and it has changed our entire outlook on life. When you live it full of joy and love, it is amazing what can happen!
Read 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
I LOVE football. It is hands down the best sport ever. As a true southern girl, I was raised on sweet tea, Jesus, and Clemson football. In the South, we even refer to the four seasons as winter, spring, summer and football. Football is life, y’all…that’s right, I said “y’all”. But seriously, football isn’t life, but it does offer some parallels. Both involve grit, determination, teamwork, adrenaline, discipline, sacrifice, the right attitude, etc. You get my point!
In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul sounds like an amazing football coach! I can actually see him, decked out in Clemson orange and purple no doubt, in a locker room making that over-the-top, inspirational halftime speech to his ‘players’ encouraging them to “finish” the game. I imagine him talking, well preaching, to a committed team of athletes who have made some mistakes, suffered some injuries, and who feel tired, sweaty and worn out; he is telling them they need to dig down deep and muster up the mental, emotional and physical strength to push through the next 30 minutes to win! That is really what he is saying to us if you think about it…push through…win!
My favorite part of the verse is where Paul says “We are…struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul suffered, really suffered – he played hurt many days. He was knocked down multiple times in his life almost to the point of death, but he always dug deep and won. How? He never quit; he always kept going. Paul pushed through all types of adversity and pain in order to be the man God asked him to be.
How many times have you felt confused, tired, beat up, beat down, and had nothing left to give? How many times have you wondered if you could play hurt and push through to victory? Just like football, life takes endurance, stamina and resiliency. We’ve all experienced situations that have “pressed” us to the point where we would just rather give up, throw in the towel and quit. But friends, in the face of disappointment, loss, heartache, sickness, or whatever the challenge you are facing…just DON’T quit! When uncertainty rises up and the temptation to forfeit is the strongest, that is when you must PUSH THROUGH.
Nothing good comes from quitting on your relationship with Jesus…nothing. Instead, surrender it all to Him and discipline your heart and mind to stay focused on Jesus no matter the circumstance. Talk to him. Tell him everything you need. Get to know His ways through Scripture. Rely on the strength of the Holy Spirit to live strong. Life isn’t easy; following Jesus isn’t easy either, but always worth it. So the next time life sneaks up the middle, tackles you, and knocks the breath out of your lungs—look up, get up, and get set to play another down because the game is not over and neither are you!
What you see is what you get
Read Proverbs 29:18
“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”
I believe this commonly used phrase can communicate many things. I believe that one of the critical things that it speaks to is our unwillingness to change. Our inability to open up our eyes to what could be, rather than only focusing on what is. It also carries a tone that it is someone else’s responsibility to accept your current self. It screams:
“Deal with it”
“It is what it is”
“That’s just the way it’s going to be”
It shows our limited view of what an unlimited God has in store for us. However, this phrase does have a lot of truth behind it when we remove it from its usual context. Instead, let us see it through the eyes of…Vision. If the vision for your life is limited only to what you see, then there is no room for faith. You see, faith is the confidence that what we hope for, and yet cannot see, will actually happen. So yes, what you see…is the limit of what you’ll get. Start seeing (and receiving) what He has planned for you, rather than getting only what you can see for yourself. I believe in order for any of us to see through the eyes of God, we must check some things first.
- Check Our Eyes
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves says Proverbs 29:18. Fixing our eyes on anything but God, is dangerous because it gets us going in the wrong direction! There is always a cost when we try to go around what God has planned for us. Those detours usually lead straight to destruction. You will not get from here to there, if you can’t see where there is. Get your eyes checked.
- Check Ourselves
Let’s be honest, our sinful nature makes it easy to do what is wrong and makes it difficult to do what is right. We become real close friends with the inner us and our vision becomes impaired. In order to have a clear vision for your life, you must first get over yourself. Don’t mistake a clear window filled with purpose, for a mirror filled with mimicking limitations…also known as…you! So check yourself, before you wreck yourself (sorry, I had to).
- Check Our Heart
If we are not careful, we can create a vision for ourselves that was birthed from our head and not our heart. We can put a lot of thought into creating an amazing vision filled with logic, success rates, and guardrails while placing our own god stamp of approval on it. Or we can allow God to take up residence in our heart, transform us from the inside out while sparking a vision within us so big that his involvement is the only requirement. He knows the plans that he has for us (and they are good), so check your heart.
During these 40 days, commit to a life that does not settle for what is, but rather is passionate about what could be! A life that is filled with the anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s plan for your life. I know, it’s a big deal! Do not let what people see, simply be what they get. Let them experience a YOU, they cannot yet see. Now that is living a life on purpose, filled with passion, and one that is known to stir up faith in others. A life that stands to the demands of this world, by kneeling to the commands of Our King!
…his involvement is the only requirement…
Keep it Simple
Read Galatians 5:22-23
Life can get tough, let’s just be real. For me, these last couple of months have been constant struggle after next. At times I felt distant from God, other times stretched emotionally. Rest seemed far and the tireless pursuit to somehow achieve it seemed impossible. I tried to regain perspective on minor issues but problems still seemed to creep up on me. Shocker, I know. Last week I was in a conversation with a friend who was having one of those days. She felt off with Jesus and I asked her how she would overcome it. Her response was classic, “I’m going back to the basics.”
Basics. Is it really that easy? Is dealing with silent seasons, tough seasons, dry seasons and struggle seasons really as easy as going back to the basics? The answer is yes.
As she continued explaining to me, her words sounded so simple yet so profound. “I prayed for the Father to show me each of the fruits of His Spirit.” I was quiet and utterly amazed at how beautiful her prayer was. Yes, the Holy Spirit produces these amazing fruits in our lives but what I missed was these fruits are the characteristics of Jesus. And when I am going through seasons of struggle, I can draw near to the Lord and pray for His peace to be shown in my life. When I am struggling with faith, I can pray for His faithfulness to be known. When I prayed for His Joy, I felt like a kid again enjoying things with our wonderful Heavenly Father. His presence felt closer and therefore my struggles seemed less and less significant. How’s that for a one-two punch! In tough seasons of life, we tend to over complicate things. However, Jesus made the Gospel simple, so today may we rejoice in going back to the basics.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10
…Going back to the basics…
It is well
Read Hebrews 10:23-25
A few months ago as I was watching a certain pastor’s kids (2yrs & 7yrs), it eventually became that time… BED TIME. With teeth brushed and pajamas on I attempted rocking the littlest to sleep, but was only met with cries for “DADDY!!” As the cries continue, his big sister comes to join us in the rocking chair and asks, “Do you know the worship song, It is Well? It’s his favorite.” I quickly pulled out my phone to find Bethel Music’s song because frankly anything at this point was an option. As his sister began singing this sweet hymn, his cries died down to whimpers as he sang along, “it is well, it is well with my soul.” Needless to say, it was well with my soul, and everyone slept well that night.
See, his older sister knew something about her brother. Because she knew his sufferings she was able to point him towards the love of Jesus. In this moment, I clearly saw how and why God does not call us to do this life alone. In fact, we are called to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) and in the purest sense, these children got it. No wonder it is only through childlike faith that we enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3)
As this moment challenged me, I pray it challenges you.
Who in your life spurs you on? Who helps usher you into the presence of Jesus where it is well with your soul? Hold on to those people. Learn from them, and then do the same. Get connected because we aren’t meant to do this life alone.
…SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON…
Turn Your Eyes
Read Hebrews 12:1-3
Lilias Trotter, a missionary to Algeria in the early 1900’s, wrestled with something that I know we can relate to nearly 100 years later. How do we focus on what’s important when so many things in this world fight for our attention? I used to think it was only my generation, riding the wave of technological advancement that could be distracted. Surely the sans-Netflix people had no issues with keeping focus. I mean, what was there to distract them? Candles? Quill pens? Definitely not iPhones or 4k flat screens. Nonetheless, we humans are prone to wonder no matter what shiny things surround us, no matter the time period.
Trotter wrote a profound prescription for this struggle that little did she know would echo through the halls of history in the Church. She writes, “Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” I’m sure this sounds a bit familiar. Trotter shared this thought with her songwriter friend Helen Lemmel who later turned it into the timeless hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus in 1920. If you were in church yesterday (97 years later), we took a moment to sing that beautiful truth together.
“Turning our eyes to Jesus” is not something we’re meant to do once a week when we’re in church. It’s something that we have the opportunity to do anytime, anywhere. Jesus’ death and resurrection made this possible. Today, I hope you take a moment to cast aside your distractions, your worries, and your cares. Look full in the wonderful face of Jesus and watch as “a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” When we worship, pray, fast, and spend time in his word, we are turning our eyes upon him. As we do this, we are being transformed into his image.
…look at him…
Your Will Be Done
Read Luke 22:39-44
Recently when I was reading this passage, I realized how calm, and dare I say ‘polite’ Jesus was in this prayer. Considering what I would look like staring death in the face after being betrayed by one of my closest friends; I can’t see my prayer starting with “Lord only if you’re willing. . . “. I imagine the text would read with a lot more “SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS” if you know what I mean. But here, we see Jesus calmly pleading with the Father–showing us an extreme vulnerability that we do not often see from this God-man.
I caught myself thinking, “He asked so kindly. He said all the right things. It would make sense for God to say yes.”
What was God’s answer?
Thankfully for you and I, it was no. We needed a no. We needed a Savior to be our propitiation.
When I looked at the way Jesus asked, my immediate response was for it to be logical for God to answer “yes”. I discovered that I had convinced myself that if I asked God for something rational, and if I asked kindly and politely, then the answer should be yes. But then I read the text again.
“Not my will, but yours, be done.”
This is the defining moment in Jesus’ prayer. You see, I realized that I had been praying for God’s will as a formality, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t asking for God’s will, but for what I wanted. So here was my conviction, and my challenge for you:
We need to stop asking God for what we want, and start asking God what we need.
When you’re praying, are you asking in the same way Jesus did? Are you declaring “not my will, but yours, be done”? If you ask something of God, and cannot be satisfied in it being “no”, then I would challenge you to ask yourself if you truly meant that prayer of “not my will, but yours, be done”.
When Jesus asked for God to remove his burden, we NEEDED God’s answer to be “no”. There may be things in your life currently that you are asking for, and the answer you need may be “no”. It may be “yes”. Nevertheless, continue to pray:
“Not my will, but yours, be done.”
In the waiting
Read Lamentations 3:24-26
In the late 1800’s, when railway was the most common form of long distance transportation, it wasn’t uncommon for passengers to arrive at their train station only to wait 2-3 days for their train to arrive.
Several years ago, I read the journal from 1884 of a girl that was taking a train from Manhattan to LA to see the west coast for the first time. Her first entry was filled with the anticipation of all that she would experience. Then, over the next 48 hours she grew increasingly impatient over waiting for a train that was down for maintenance a few miles back. 13 entries were written in the crowded waiting room as she moved from overflowing with excitement to almost giving up and going home.
Then she wrote, “well, the blasted train just pulled up. Let’s see if this was worth the wait.”
When she finally arrived, this is what she said…
“I’m sitting here on a hill overlooking the most beautiful coast I could have ever imagined. Magnificent mountains, sapphire waters, and white foam crashing into the rigid onyx black rocks along the coast. As I reflect on my travels to the beautiful city of LA, I have realized something important. Had I not waited for my train in that station for 2 days, I would have missed the grandeur of this moment. My impatience almost caused me to give up, but choosing to press ahead forged within me an eye for the detail of the beauty I now behold. That waiting room developed a residing hunger for the adventure that lied ahead in the most incredible experience of my life. So, I believe I shall become a resident of this great city. Farewell New York, I have found my new home.”
Have you ever grown weary waiting on God? Have you called out to Him only to feel as though you’re stuck in the waiting room? While you wait… may I challenge you to be patient and refuse to give up? Because we are all waiting on something… but could it be that God is most interested in what we become while we wait. May those moments forge within you an eye for the detail of the beauty that lies ahead. May you develop a hunger for the adventure of a lifetime and become acutely aware that even while you sit in the waiting room… God is there with you and will never leave you alone.
…I will wait for him…