The Reason for Our Hope

1 Peter 3:15-16 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

What suffering have you experienced lately? It is guaranteed that we will experience suffering in this world. Sometimes it is directly related to our commitment to Christ and other times it’s just a trait of being human in an imperfect world. My youngest experienced a taste of “suffering” when he was dismissed from his travel baseball team. I know….first world problems….but to him, it was suffering. He was disappointed, mad, sad, and confused. And as his parents, we felt the same way. The stages of grief are very real – even in this situation. The 5 stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We definitely battled between denial and anger pretty fiercely. Probably still hanging out there to be honest. Those feelings are the easier ones because we are looking for someone else to blame for our circumstances. We also want to do whatever we can to reverse it. Bargaining is a tool that can make us think we can get back what we lost. These are normal steps that need to be experienced before seeing our new reality. Depression hasn’t set in yet but I know it will come as we look forward to acceptance. One of the signs of depression is hopelessness or the feeling that there is nothing to look forward to and nothing good will ever happen again. Have you ever felt this way? As his parents, I know we are here to remind him that he is loved and we support him 100%, all the time. As we look forward to acceptance there is opportunity for a new hope for the future. Please know that I am not minimizing these stages of grief. They are real and everyone experiences each step differently and in their own timing. It’s even possible to move back and forth between different stages before getting to that point of acceptance and hope. If you are going through these stages today due to the loss of a loved one, I am so sorry. Your pain is real. There is no timeline and no perfect path to acceptance. As Christians, I am thankful that we have hope from the very beginning.  It is a hope we choose to cling to because we believe that Jesus came to Earth to die on the cross  for our sins so we would have the hope of eternity with Him. This is the only true constant in our lives. He is the one thing that will never change, or die, or disappoint.

Thankfully, we were able to share with our son the hope we have in Jesus. This experience is setting the tone for how he will respond to future loss, which is inevitable. In my experience, it has never really been about baseball. Yes he’s playing the game (and he loves it) but he’s also learning so much about himself and others and how things work – or don’t work. His worth and value do not come from his performance in baseball or which team keeps him. He is a child of God, deeply loved, and worthy from the very beginning. We all are. If you are experiencing loss and suffering today, God provides hope while you walk through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. He is the reason for our HOPE.

Shelly

 

 

Praise of Israel

Today I received a text from my Mom with a great list of daily habits. I have found that my self discipline has waned over the past few months and I have not been intentional with my thoughts. I’ve forgotten the little things that kept me going when I was so busy and more aware of my time. There were multiple things on the list but the very first one was “3 things I’m grateful for”. Just 3. Go ahead…..3 things. Gratefulness is important because it changes our thinking and our perspective. If gratefulness had a face it would be relaxed, thoughtful, and humble. Are you feeling that way today?

Psalms 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel. KJV

Israel was God’s chosen nation in the Old Testament. They were chosen as God’s people to spread the news of Yahweh to the nations. In the new testament, God chose Jesus to spread the news and ultimately die on the cross for our sins. The disciples carried the news of Christ after his crucifixion so that ALL would know. 1 Timothy 2: 3-5 says, This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Today, those who believe in Jesus are the chosen people. We are the chosen people!

God inhabits the praises of his people and we are His people through Jesus Christ.  God does not inhabit fear, discouragement, hopelessness, darkness, or failure.  He is aware of these feelings but that is not where He wants us to remain. When we feel far from God it could be that we are not expressing our praise or thanksgiving to Him. David starts this Psalm with agony over feeling as if God has forgotten him and he complains of feeling alone. After a few verses he starts thanking God for all that God has done for him and his ancestors in the past. After praising God, David softens and this chapter goes from “doom and gloom” to hope for the future and God’s plan. Our past and the past of the Bible are our best reference for what God has done and can do in our lives.

Have you been in a state of fear lately? It’s so easy to focus on the negative. Have you ever taken note of how it makes you feel? Increased heart rate, jitteriness, sleeplessness, irritation, inability to focus, restlessness, doubt. Fear and too much stress change the chemicals in our body into a fight or flight response regardless of the reality of the situation.  This response is helpful when we are in clear danger for our lives and need to get away quickly, but I’m usually laying in bed thinking about the future when it hits me. Definitely not a life or death situation. I am not being chased by a lion although my body is responding as if I am. This is where satan thrives – when we are scared and in a state of panic. Dwelling on the negative will keep us in the negative. Our best defense is to remember all that God has done for us and begin thanking Him for each moment. If its hard to come up with personal moments the Bible is full of them! From healing the blind and the lame to rescuing the Israelites from slavery to sending Jesus to die for us. As we allow our hearts and minds to be thankful God is able to inhabit our hearts and bring “peace that surpasses all understanding”. Our thankfulness is a reminder of all that God has already brought us through.

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The struggle is real, but our God is bigger!!

I am thankful for this community of believers today. There is hope and peace for us.

 

 

 

Owner

2 Corinthians was written by Paul to God’s church in Corinth and to all the Christians throughout Greece. In this letter Paul was giving the Corinthian church the power to endure when they suffered for their faith. Corinth was a flourishing trade center and also one of the most immoral cities of its time. The Christian church would undoubtedly find difficulty in a place like this. I’m sure they faced criticism for their hope in Jesus and God’s plan for an abundant life.  Their attempts to share their faith often ended in suffering and discouragement. If not rooted in the truth and a daily communication with God it would be easy to be led astray and give up. Thankfully Paul listened to God’s plan and he continued to encourage the church to keep up their good work. To keep preaching the Good News of Christ even when it was difficult and didn’t seem to be making a difference.

Paul’s encouragement for the Corinthians is also for us today.  We are all looking at the circumstances of our world through different lenses, but as believers in Jesus our ultimate lens is God and the Bible.  As so much is happening in our world and there seems to be so much injustice and lies, what does Jesus ask of us? How are we supposed to share the truth of the Gospel while also grappling with so many questions and unknowns of our own? We are imperfect people following a perfect God. Thankfully, He knew we would struggle on our own so he sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes when we accept Jesus.

Luke 15:26 “But I will send you the Counselor – the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and tell you all about me.”

In this verse Jesus uses 2 names for the Holy Spirit. The first is counselor which means the helping, encouraging, and strengthening work of the Spirit. The second is the Spirit of truth which lends itself to the teaching, illuminating, and reminding work of the Spirit. In these ways the Holy Spirit attends to both our heart and our mind. This is “God with us” on Earth. Have you had “AHA” moments when reading the Word? That’s the Holy Spirit. Have you been prompted to say something or do something in the name of Jesus that would not be your typical action? That’s the Holy Spirit. Has a verse come to mind in a certain situation? That’s the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26 “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray but the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Have you ever been on your knees with a situation, but there are no words to express what you need? The Holy Spirit is praying on your behalf – the words you do not have. There may be no one else that knows the real turmoil or circumstances, but God knows. Humbly kneeling at His feet in prayer is all it takes. And then trust and wait for the answer. It may just be comfort or peace instead of resolution. But the peace will be undeniable.

2 Corinthians 1:17-22   It is God who gives us, along with you, the ability to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us.

The Holy Spirit guarantees that we belong to God and will receive his benefits. Ephesians 1:13,14 says, “And now you have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us everything he promised and that he has purchased us to he his own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God”.

I pray that you find great comfort in the knowledge that you belong to God as his son or daughter. He has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit to come alongside and help guide and direct all of your steps.  The Holy Spirit is a free gift from the “owner” of your soul. If you are feeling alone, or questioning where you belong – Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for YOU! To have a relationship with you. The Holy Spirit is just a glimpse of eternity.

 

Messiah

John 1:41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother, Simon, and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).

In the first chapter of John we learn about John the Baptist. He was the one sent to pave the way for Jesus, to prepare everyone for his coming. The Jewish leaders sent priests to John to ask who he was and what he was doing. He was a strange  man who didn’t fit in and was spreading some interesting news about the coming Messiah. The leaders were concerned because they were expecting a political leader as well as a spiritual leader in the Messiah and this man “paving the way” did not fit with their expectations. This was not the way the Messiah was supposed to save them! The beauty of Jesus coming to save the world was that he did not come for just one group of people. He came for ALL. Jesus did not start his ministry by meeting with the Jewish leaders and setting up a political agenda or meeting with those in high social standing. Instead, he was obedient to God and was baptized by John even though John was not worthy to “be his slave or untie the straps of his sandal”. They had been waiting for the Messiah and He was finally here. In John 1:41 Andrew couldn’t wait to tell his brother Simon that they found the Messiah.  Once they knew Him they started following him immediately. Can you imagine the excitement in his voice as he shared the good news with his brother? Everything was going to change for them and they were hopeful as they saw the prophecy being fulfilled.

There is a book we have read with our kids over the years and it is one of my absolute favorites! It is “The Jesus Storybook Bible” written by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Illustrated by Jago.  It is simple to read and I often pick it up on my own before bed or when I just want something sweet and simple. From this book I learned that the whole Bible is the story of Jesus, the Messiah. The front cover says “Every story whispers his name”. Each chapter of the Bible points to God’s plan to save through Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, it is about Jesus. Without Him, we would not have our salvation and our relationship with God. In the book Jesus is referred to as the “rescuer” which is a perfect way to describe our Messiah.

Do you know your “rescuer” and are you eager to tell others that you found him like Andrew did in John 1:41? It is the best news we can give in a time of uncertainty and unrest. Jesus came as the Messiah for ALL!

Shelly

 

Magnificent

Today’s name of Jesus is “Magnificent“.

Isaiah 28:29 “All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.”

The word magnificent describes something that is extraordinarily beautiful, breathtaking, or awe inspiring.  A sunset, rolling hills, snow covered mountains, breeching whales, waterfalls, and vast oceans. The things that are larger than life and stop me in my tracks. Magnificent is the only way to describe such beauty.

Even more magnificent is the creator of all these things. He remains magnificent and unchanging in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest. He is the source of all that is good and perfect. James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Even though our circumstances seem to be changing daily, Jesus never changes. He remains steadfast in his plan to save us through his Son Jesus which is the most magnificent plan of all.

Today I take great comfort in the unchanging truth that Jesus is magnificent. His plan to guide and direct our paths is extraordinarily beautiful, breathtaking, and awe inspiring.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the reminder today of your magnificence in the midst of our current times. We trust that your plan is wonderful and your wisdom is magnificent. Reveal to us your wisdom as we move through today and tomorrow. Replace our fear with hope, knowing that you are fully aware of all that is happening and none of it surprises you. When we see the world around us in all of its beauty help us to remember the magnificent creator. We are in awe and wonder and who you are. Thank you for loving us enough to save us.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

Eternal Life

1 John 5:20 And we know that the son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we are in God because we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life. 

Jesus is eternal life.

The word “eternal” means, “lasting or existing forever; without end or beginning” (Google dictionary). When I try to sit with the word “eternal” or “forever” I get lost. I have a hard time thinking of life beyond this one or what eternity will feel like.  While I cannot fully comprehend this idea, I stand on the promise in John 3:16 that says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”. I learned this verse in church choir and cannot say the verse without singing it out loud or in my head, depending on the company. Our physical bodies will die someday but our soul is meant to spend eternity with our creator.  We are recipients of eternal life with Jesus when we know him and accept him as savior. This is the good news! Currently this pandemic seems to be lasting for an eternity, but I know it is just a “blip” in God’s timeline. My eternal perspective has taken a hit over the last few months and this verse was a really good reminder for me. I have been consumed with work, kids, school, and all of us being home at the same time. One of the benefits of salvation through Christ is having a relationship with Him while we are here and into eternity. In the midst of trials and celebrations He is my constant and my happy ending. I am so thankful that I know this and can lean on it daily.

There is a side of eternity that is difficult to talk about but is very apparent in the Bible. If you are not choosing Jesus then the alternative is an eternity without Him. John 3:16 indicates that those who believe will not perish, but what about those who do not believe or haven’t decided yet? We are the answer to this question.  How will they know unless we share our faith and salvation stories.

Matthew 28:19  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Shelly

 

Justifier

Romans 3:23-26 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Today’s name of Jesus is Justifier.

What things in your life do you try justify? Things that came to mind right away were:

  • How I spend my time
  • Over eating
  • Procrastinating
  • Spending money
  • Watching church from the couch (when not in quarantine!)

As sinful people we find the need to justify ourselves when our actions don’t match up with our beliefs. Ultimately I realize that my attempts to justify my actions are really a defense against my sin. I want to justify laying around on the couch all day, over eating, and buying things on Amazon that I don’t need! Justify means to show or prove to be right or reasonable, or to declare or make righteous in the sight of God (Google Dictionary). Unfortunately I don’t have the power to truly justify myself or my sin. The consequences of my actions and the guilt from poor choices linger. The choices I make on the daily are written all over my life. This is the painful part of being human. We all make mistakes and they can ruin us if left without resolve or justification. This is why Jesus came and died for you and me. It is only by the Blood of Jesus that we are made clean or justified before God. It is a gift that we cannot do on our own. We cannot earn it or buy it. We only have to accept it! This is not a license to continue sinning and then seek repentance over and over. It is an invitation  to have a relationship with the one who already took our sins upon himself on the cross. Jesus chose to be our justifier (Google Dictionary definition: a person who declares or makes righteous in the sight of God) when we are unable to justify ourselves. There is no sin that is truly washed away except by the Blood of the Lamb – Jesus. For those who don’t know Jesus and are hearing this for the first time it may seem  too easy. That’s the beauty…..it is that easy. We will never be without sin. But because of our justifier we have the opportunity to repent, be cleansed, and mature in our faith. Jesus doesn’t want us to continue to sin but rather grow in our relationship with Him to the point that we see our sin and start to make different choices based on His plan for our lives.

Thank you Jesus for being our Justifier!

Shelly

 

 

Horn of My Salvation

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

2 Samual 22:2-3 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.

Today we are focusing on Jesus being the “horn of our salvation”. It has taken me awhile to connect with the word “horn”. I kept going back to the day my son brought the baritone home for 5th grade band.  That is my 21st century exposure to the horn. I am far removed from the meaning as used in the Bible. The horn in the Bible is one of power and strength which is exactly what I want it to be when talking about my salvation. The above verses are essentially the same found in Psalms and in 2 Samuel. David wrote these words of praise and thanksgiving after he defeated Saul.

A horn is part of an animal that protects them from harm and fights for them. It is a part of their body that is eternal….it never dies. It remains strong and competent even after the body has been separated from it. Have you ever seen a video of rams fighting? It’s not for the faint of heart and they typically fight to the death or until one of them retreats. They don’t kick or punch, they just ram their mighty horns together to the death. The winner is the strongest and most powerful of the herd and is able to carry on their lineage. Humans used these horns as trumpets to “sound the alarm” or as vessels to fill with oil. They also used them to fashion weapons and to adorn the 4 corners of the altar in the Old Testament. They were symbols of strength and power that no human could fabricate. Again, this is what I want when I’m talking about my salvation…the strongest and most powerful, the winner.

Jesus is the “horn of my salvation” – He is the strongest and most powerful. He fought for me to the death. There is no greater sacrifice than this.

I have tried to practice daily words of affirmation in the past. I would stand in front of the mirror in the morning and tell myself all the good things about me to set the tone for the day. It never worked…….because I was always floundering and changing my mind and having to continually remind myself that I was good enough. I have redirected my affirmations to remind myself of who God is in my life and the power that he has to do mighty things through me. These verses are great examples of these affirmations.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are my rock, my fortress and my deliverer from all that I will face today. In you I will take refuge. You are my shield of protection and the mighty horn of my salvation. You are my stronghold – not the things of this world that seem to weigh me down. Thank you Father for these promises. Please bring these promises to my mind throughout the day when I feel overwhelmed or defeated. Thank you for saving me.

Amen

 

Heir of all Things

How are you doing?
How are you REALLY doing?

My Dad had a good friend that used to greet him with both of the above questions. He was looking for the “sit down” answer. We use to joke that it was too intrusive but looking back it was actually an important question. Really, how are you doing? What’s your answer today? Is anyone asking? The past 3 weeks have been challenging. I have had a few sleepless nights and with that increased irritability and crabbiness. While being a devout introvert I see more than ever the benefits of going to work and  being part of a community outside of my home. At the same time, I have loved the extraordinary time with my kids. Watching movies that we never would have had time for, baking cookies, sitting together watching church from the couch, and seeing them take on school in a way they never planned.  It has been fun to connect as a family but I still find myself looking for reassurance or answers in the media. Not only is our health at stake, but our economy is suffering its own viral infection.  Even after a few weeks in quarantine I find myself in a state of limbo. Will things ever go back to normal? When and how?  Where is the reassurance?

Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many was to our ancestors through the prophets. But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he made the universe and everything in it. The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven.”

Today’s name of Jesus is “Heir of all Things”. Jesus is the son of God and God is the creator of all. As God’s son, Jesus is the heir to all that is God’s. When we put our trust in Jesus we become part of the family of God and our inheritance becomes eternal life. This is a gift from God that we certainly do not deserve but it is one thing that does not change and cannot be taken away. And while waiting for that eternal life with Him we have the joy of relationship with Him through Jesus. We have the gift of prayer and the Holy Spirit that intervenes on our behalf when we don’t have the words to express ourselves. None of these things change with social distancing or our current pandemic. If anything, it is growing our faith and revealing more about who He is and why we desperately need a savior.

While our table will be smaller than usual this Easter Sunday and loved ones are far away we are still celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It never changes! This is our good news in the midst of uncertainty and distancing. We do not have to be in a church pew wearing our Easter best to celebrate Jesus. He sees us just as we are at all times.

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn it but to save it.”  

Psalm 16:5Lord you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.”

Happy Easter everyone!

 

 

God of gods

Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

There has been a word, other than COVID-19, that has been circulating in peoples vocabulary lately. The word is “unprecedented”. It means “Novel or unexampled” (Merriam Webster). Our current situation is quite “Novel and unexampled”. People in the medical field are doing all they can to research and develop treatments for COVID-19 in order to save thousands while our government orchestrates a “stay at home” protocol for all people to help “flatten the curve”.  All in an effort to weaken our current pandemic. We are in the midst of a pandemic (if you didn’t already know that). For the past month I have stepped out of social media and relied on trusted sources for all my information like the CDC. I am also an introvert and the thought of being at home all day, everyday, with permission was like a dream come true for me! But last night I realized that I have let this pandemic be a god (lower case g) in my life. I had dreams last night of graphs, statistics, new cases, and treatments and it was so overwhelming. I woke up in a panic and was convicted. I am guilty of giving our current situation all my time and energy and in turn it has gotten me! Please do not misunderstand me, it is important to be informed and know what is happening in the world. This “stay at home” protocol is important and will save lives, but I found myself missing God (capital G) in the midst of all of it.

Our current study of the names of Jesus is so timely! God is so good in giving us what we need when we need it most.  We need a cure for COVID-19 but more importantly, we need Jesus. He is God of gods and Lord of lords. He is mighty and awesome! With our current lockdown, I was able to read through Deuteronomy. The story of Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised land was “unprecedented”. There was no example for him to follow but he knew the leader was God and God knew him. Our times may have different circumstances but we have the option to let God lead us through this wilderness.  I look forward to spending more time with God in the days to come as I have abandoned him for an earthy pandemic. I move forward trusting that the God of gods and the Lord of lords has this in his mighty and awesome hands!

We are here to share the truth and the light of Jesus in an “unprecedented” time. He will give us strength and courage.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In Him,

Shelly