mini devotional: stillness

“The man who had been dead came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen and his face covered with a cloth. Yeshua said to them, “Unwrap him, and let him go!””

‭‭Yochanan (Jhn)‬ ‭11:44‬ ‭CJB‬‬

Jesus did what the people could not – he brought Lazarus to life.

I watched The Heart of Man last night on Netflix. It’s a powerful movie which left me inspired and peaceful. Afterwards, I started thinking – What should I do now?

And I got my answer which was more about being than doing. It’s much easier to do than to just be. We are human beings not human doings. It’s so tempting to do instead of be. God calls us to come to Him with a contrite heart. Contrition is something you are not something you do. He calls us to be still and know that He is God. Stillness is a state of being – example: you can run all over the place doing errands and rushing about and still have a stillness of being..a stillness of mind.

Jesus calls out Lazarus and raises him to life. Then He calls the people surrounding him to take off the burial cloths and linen. Jesus did what the people could not do. He alone did the hard work. He called the people to do what they could.

So often we rush ahead in ministries as our minds run a hundred miles per hour as we chase down and implement one idea after the next. God is calling us to relationship…to be still and know Him. Our ultimate purpose is to love God and love people. How can we learn to love a God we are never spending time with?

Everything we do as Christians, should be based on our relationship with and response to God. He’ll call us to do our part. He’ll call us to do what we can. But first, be still and know.

just trust

I’m sitting on my bed after hours of dozing off, napping, and all-out sleep. there isn’t much on my to-do list except a few dishes and vacuuming. it’s a new year but more importantly it’s a new day. I want to get excited every day at midnight. I want to get excited about the opportunity to experience a new day. but I don’t think anyone really views it that way. we don’t really measure the value we receive in one day. as I’m scrolling through Instagram posts about new year, new beginnings, and fresh start, I saw a theme – trust. I can’t believe this is a lesson I’m still learning. it’s a little frustrating. but nevertheless, it inspired me to write this small note about Thomas.

Read the story here.

When I’m reading something, especially the Bible, I like to know the meaning of all the words. I especially like to know the meaning behind a name of I’m reading Bible verses. A name in the Bible described that person’s character. John says Thomas is also called “Didymus”. Both of his names are uncommon. I went here to look up what’s in a name. His name is associated with two or double or twice and means Twin. I like one of the last few sentences on that page: “Our word…may denote…being forked.” So putting all these together, I have a mental picture of a guy who had multiple views heading in different directions. I want to use the word double-minded but I’m not 100% sure that’s the exact word I’m looking for. The point is, I see a guy with clashing viewpoints or views that follow different paths. I see a literal fork in the road (which reminds me of Amelia Bedelia) and someone whose viewpoint was able to go down any path or road. Split. Indecisive.

This the guy who needed physical evidence after Jesus was resurrected. His statement showed his personality:

24 And Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came;

25 the other disciples, therefore, said to him, `We have seen the Lord;’ and he said to them, `If I may not see in his hands the mark of the nails, and may put my finger to the mark of the nails, and may put my hand to his side, I will not believe.’

He wasn’t there, so he’s having a hard time believing it. Maybe there were many streams of thought flowing though his mind. Maybe his views were overwhelmingly conflicting and so he decided not to believe until he could see for himself and test the theory.

But I love Jesus’ response to Him. Jesus invites Thomas into direct contact with suffering and asks Thomas to believe. Jesus responds to Thomas’ fears and doubts with an invitation to be closer and more intimate. He doesn’t push Thomas away. Sure, it takes a few days for Jesus to respond to Thomas’ request, but the point is that Jesus answers him and in a way in which the other disciples did not experience!

Seeing the word “trust” repeatedly as I scrolled through got me thinking: people often ask “If there’s a God, why is there so much suffering?” In other words, God, how can you be real and not intervene? I understand that question. I get it.

And, Reader, here’s how it connects with our friend Thomas.

God responds to our doubt with an invitation to know Him even more deeply. He invites us to get close to suffering and not to run away from it. He invites us to experience it face to face and not be apart from it. He invites us to see how closely connected He is to suffering and how much He truly understands it. He doesn’t push us away because we have questions or can’t see His plan or don’t understand everything He’s doing. He invites me and you not to ignore suffering but to be a part of it so that it can transform our minds and then transform our lives. Because you can never be unchanged when you experience suffering. You can never be unchanged when you reach out and touch and realize that it’s a real part of the human experience.

And change is exactly what Thomas experiences. After he realizes how intimately the Savior understands suffering, Thomas has a revelation. Thomas realizes and acknowledges that Jesus..is..God.

Observation

Thomas could only see his current situation: Jesus isn’t here and he’s left us emotionally empty while we’re struggling to handle our suffering.

Declaration

Thomas doubts and makes a declaration: I won’t believe until I see.

Invitation

Jesus enters the scene and extends an invitation.

Revelation

Thomas believes and has a revelation.


And I guess that’s just it. If we only look at the current circumstances, we’ll only see part of the picture. But if we acknowledge our doubts and wait for Jesus to reveal Himself, we won’t be able to resist the revelation. As you continue to respond to His invitation to be closer, He’ll reveal Himself as not only being aware of suffering and understanding it, but also being in control.

28 And Thomas answered and said to him, `My Lord and my God;’

mini devotional: freedom

for the past few days, my go-to song has been “Traveling Light“.

I noticed that when I move further from God/don’t do His will, I start to get burdened down by insecurities.


I remember when I was little, my mom would wait till I got home to spank me if I hadn’t behaved that day. I started cutting to the chase: I wanted to know what to expect when I got home. I started asking her if I had been good before we even made it home. I thought it was some recent poor habit I’d developed but I’m realizing I’ve always wanted to know what lies ahead. 


Verse & Prayer

this morning’s verse of the day is 2 Corinthians 3:17 –

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

that verse got me thinking about freedom. this morning I prayed for a sign and I got it. I wanted to be free from thoughts that often blind me and weigh me down. I just longed for freedom.

and I’ve been working on just talking openly to God about things. so that’s what I did when I prayed today. the point of prayer is to seek God’s Spirit – to look for it, to submit to it. and I found out today that when I prayed, I truly found God’s Spirit…I found freedom.


Morning Focus

on a morning call, God led me to focus on the story of the thief on the cross. I love how Jesus doesn’t force the 2nd thief to go through a bunch of rituals and traditions. all He gives him is assurance. assurance that not only will he be remembered, but that he’s received the most important thing that there is to receive in life – paradise. he immediately receives an assurance of salvation.

remember when I said earlier that when I don’t do God’s will, I start to get really insecure? Jesus’ words to this undeserving criminal can assure us that when we cry out to Him, He will save us. He gives us assurance. assurance is the opposite of insecurity.

remember when I said earlier that I love to know the future/what lies ahead?  Jesus’ words to this believer gave him an assurance of the future.

look at this verse from Romans 8:28:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

“we know“. I like that. not “we think“.

knowing something is assurance, not insecurity. no matter what you’re afraid of/what your situation is/what your hopes and dreams are – you know that God will cause everything to work together for the good. so even if your life doesn’t look exactly the way you want it to look right now – be patient. our futures are set when we entrust our lives to Jesus. we don’t have to worry about any aspect of our lives – money, food, clothing, education, careers, etc. even the things we consider bad or negative events will be worked out for good because God chooses to do that for people who love Him.

that verse can give us so much freedom if we accept it and live it today.

freedom from fear and anxiety – especially about the future.

freedom from insecurity.

freedom from burdens.

freedom from sin.


just stand

a few days ago, one of my exes called. there's so much that could be said about the past calling.

you know the usual – you're supposed to be asleep but you get that text that reads

hey, are you awake?

I guess old habits die hard. you know the usual – flirting, temptation, pictures. but this time it was unusual. this time it was different. this time it was one-sided. and I don't know what it was. maybe, like he described later, it was maturity. finally. or maybe I was just bored…

I'm just so tired of being that girl. always a bridesmaid, never a bride. only this time it's always a…I dunno…well I know what I want to say but it doesn't flow as nicely. it's just not nice to not make it to full-fledged wife status with all the frills it comes with. I don't want to settle for anything less than the dream – the vision- that I believe God has whispered to my heart. and something within me just stood up and firmly said no. and I'm not writing about this to brag. I'm typing this out because I've never felt this feeling before. I feel as confident as I felt before I was an awkward, pimply teenager. I feel confident. I feel strong.

I just said no. I feel like I just can't live the same way anymore. Like the Woman at the Well, I'm looking to experience something new. I'm tired of the same old water that continually leaves me thirsty. I really can't do this anymore. Within a few moments of texting and talking, I realized I had grown. I couldn't believe what I was saying. I couldn't believe what I was refusing. And it didn't mean I'd be perfect – no I definitely slip every day, but thank God for grace through Jesus. I don't have to do it all on my own. I don't have to constantly fear slipping up. I can live and walk confidently knowing that my sins are forgiven and that God will help me to live life loved and to live life new. I don't need to return to the past. It doesn't fill me up anymore. And the truth is, it never has.

"In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall." Psalm 18:29

I am stronger. I am goal-oriented. I am focused on the benefits ahead and not on momentary pleasure.

Dear Reader,
Could you please pray for me? Pray for deliverance. I'm praying for you too. Even if you're not there yet – have faith. You will be. This God I serve is so great. So powerful. His love is endless. There's nothing too embarrassing, dirty, or unworthy.

"Who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies;"

Psalm 103:4

Song: Clean

"There's nothing too dirty

That You can't make worthy

You wash me in mercy

I am clean

There's nothing too dirty

That You can't make worthy

You wash me in mercy

I am clean" – Natalie Grant, "Clean"

Thank God that we serve a God who's perfect; who loves us even though we don't deserve it. He fights our battles for us. We are never alone.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

Song: I Am Not Alone

Sometimes we don't think of our bad habits as addictions. Or worse, we think that our bad habit is not as bad as his or hers. But praise God for deliverance. Have there been bad things that have happened this week? Life is filled with mess-ups, slip-ups, and breakups, but today let's make our minds up – we won't live life with a victim mindset. We can make it. We can overcome.

Song: Overcomer

Today let's celebrate the progress we've made. Lets give credit where credit is due instead of focusing on our failures. Let's replace fear of failure with faith in the future: hope. A hope that can only be conceived through a continual trust in Jesus.

Song: 'Tis so Sweet

Let's say thank you to God as we recognize how far he's brought us from our past. And let's look forward to the future.

when you just doubt.

I wanted to entitle this one “just hope” but that didn’t feel right.

I’ve experienced a lot of terrible situations in life that have left me fearful. 

Anxiety.

Imagine walking to your favorite restaurant. You already know how to get there so you don’t need a map. You know you need to cross a few streets and maybe wait at a few stop lights, but instead of walking the direct path from point A to point B, you stop behind each building you see along the way and then peek from behind the building’s walls before moving forward down the familiar path to your favorite restaurant. That’s what anxiety feels like to me. I feel like I have to hide behind bushes and buildings and wait to see if there’s any traffic rushing towards me before I step out into the street. I feel like a dangerous accident might happen. 

Drunken driver. Malfunctioning airbag. Deer in headlights. Flock of geese. 

I mean, anything could happen. 

And that’s what anxiety feels like to me – like I need to have a peek around the corner before something terrible happens to me. 

Sometimes when I feel that way, I remember this post I read a while ago “Expecting the good that God wants to give you“. 

If you’re too lazy to read that short article, here is a powerful line that stood out to me:

“Fear is the opposite of faith and it takes faith to accept anything good in our lives.”

This verse is powerful too:

All the days of the oppressed are miserable, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast. 

– Proverbs 15:15 HCSB

satan wants us to focus on the terrible things in life that have happened, are happening, or could happen. When you’re stuck on focusing on anything/anyone but God, it is so very easy to become anxious and depressed. We don’t focus on His abilities. We focus on our inabilities. When you see no way out, of course you’ll feel trapped and saddened.

Exodus 20:2-3. Israelites have just been delivered from slavery. God doesn’t want them running their lives by the rules of the old land so he gives them rules on how to live life free. 

The first thing He says to them is 

““I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.”

Exodus 20:2-3 NLT 

If you look up the definition of “god” you’ll find it associated with words like worship and adoration and admiration. Whatever or whoever receives our worship, adoration, and admiration is our god. God wants us to make Him our priority. 

Rule #1.

Obtaining freedom from anxiety involves keeping God #1. Not our jobs (or lack thereof). Not homework. Not friends. Not boyfriends. Not girlfriends. Not spouses. Anything else you could name doesn’t count as God. 

But when we focus on God we learn things like true love (click this link & the ones below).

We learn that He is our refuge so we can run to Him at any time.

And not just any time in a fearful way but any time and confidently.

We learn that He’s forgiving

We learn that He’s patient.

We learn that He is merciful.

We learn that He can bring to fruition things that are seemingly impossible

We learn that He understands us.

Yup, understands us. 

And loves us exactly as we are

But too much to leave us there

When we trust Him with every aspect of our lives, He directs us. And He doesn’t just direct us in a far off, distant sort of way. He cares about every single detail of our lives. 

The God of Christianity isn’t at all a tyrant as some have presumed. He is the One who brings meaning to life. 

He brings good things to those who follow Him.

And our God is very good.

just wait. [pt.1]

I only have one verse for this one. Or at least I think I do. I often start off writing about one thing and then Holy Spirit guides me in a completely different direction. Truly, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (And…that was verse number two). 

Today’s focus verse is one I’ve stumbled across several times.

The smallest family will become a thousand people,
    and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation.

    At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” – Isaiah 60:22, (emphasis mine)

 I’ve thought about writing on it before but haven’t taken the time to do so. And maybe I guess it’s because I don’t like waiting or the topic itself so, deep within my subconscious, (in true Freudian style), I’ve purposely overlooked it. No matter the case, here it is – the blog about waiting. 

(Oh no…I just thought of several other verses…here we go again).

Now, in order for this Project to work, I have to be really honest with you. It’s a bit difficult because I’m balancing the fear of the unknown – I don’t know with whom exactly I’m being honest – with the fear of not being honest enough to the point that you, Reader, don’t know me and then this whole thing would fail. Well, let’s just get to it.

the past.

I’ve never been the best at waiting. I remember the days when my mom would come home sleepy from work and she’d fall asleep on the couch. Sometimes I’d ask  for snacks. It was as if I waited for those half-asleep couch moments, but I don’t remember being this skillful or forward thinking as a child. I remember the snack – Chewy brand granola bars. (Eating those several years later, I realize they aren’t really that great). One day she told me not to ask her for things when she was half-asleep! It was a reasonable request. But today I think that spoke more to my impatience and lack of self-control than I could have possibly wrapped my 9 year old mind around. 

I’ve never been really good at waiting. I was more of a “Why not?” kind of kid. In my own right I was a rebel in many things but not the kind you see in leather jackets in TV and not the kind that experimented in the way your mind probably wants to wander. But my inability to wait to think things through has repeatedly led my mouth to say things I only half mean which usually gets me in a whole lot of trouble.

Mm…no, I’m not being honest enough. I’ve been that “pushing past boundaries girl”. I usually don’t set out to test boundaries. I always set out to do what I want to do. That reminds me of Jessica Rabbit’s famous phrase “I’m not bad really…I’m just drawn that way.” (Seriously, that was such an an inappropriate movie for kids). And you know, I don’t want to pretend I’ve been the bad girl who broke the rules every chance she got. But as I’m looking through the Bible and especially the 10 commandments, I’m realizing I’ve fallen short and since all falling short/missing the mark is labeled sin, and all sin is displeasing to God, I’m on the same level as you no matter what you did and despite the differing consequences. 

Waiting

  • Breaking commandments #1 and 2, I’ve had other gods in God’s Presence. I’ve listened to my own reasoning, explained things away, been disobedient, trusted in myself, and especially trusted in my own timing. 
  • #3 takes a bit of thinking but I believe it applies. The third commandment is not to misuse God’s name. This is usually applied to saying it unnecessarily or not treating His Name with respect, but I believe it goes further than that. If you say you’re a follower of Jesus, then your words, actions, and even thoughts should reflect Him. When people look at you, they should see Jesus. They should be inspired by your call to a higher set of standards than anyone on earth could possibly provide. Every time I haven’t waited, I’ve misused the name “follower of Jesus” because I haven’t displayed who He is to other people. 
  • This one also takes some thinking. When I haven’t waited, it’s because I covet. I covet the great fashion sense someone else has. I covet her confidence. The list goes on and on. This opposes commandment #10. 

There are other ways my impatience/refusal to wait has directly affected God’s standards on: 

  • Purity
  • Self-control
  • Substitution/settling for something less than Jesus’ promise to give us “the more abundant life”.

But I read something today that has already begun to change my mindset. 

the future.

In part 2, we’ll talk about zitsfleisch, being still, conforming our will to God’s, the importance of “I, the Lord”, and more stuff on waiting. I promise I didn’t write this in parts just to make a point. I just know that there are people with less than remarkable attention spans because I am one of them.

the present.

I’m reading this book called “Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. 

One of the sections talks about this lie: “I should not have to live with unfulfilled longings”.

Here are a couple of the excerpts that really stood out to me: 

“Our society has bought into the philosophy that there is (or ought to be) a remedy (preferably quick and easy) for every unfulfilled longing. We are encouraged to identify our longings and do whatever is necessary to get those “needs” met.”

“Whether married or single we must recognize that it is not wrong to have unfulfilled longings – they do not make us any less spiritual. We must learn to accept those longings, surrender them to God, and look to him to meet the deepest needs of our hearts.”

Think about that. 

There are things this earth can’t satisfy. Every one of your longings won’t be met. But when the Lord is your Shepherd, you won’t be in want. You’ll have everything you need

Psalm 34:10 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis