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 stay in your lane

I’m usually not a jealous person. At least I wouldn’t add that to my list of trait characteristics. But recently I had a repeat situation that reminded me of some things I need to take care of. Every Christian will face it at some point – the temptation to look outside of your lane. 

There will always be someone who is prettier/smarter/more skilled than you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of opinion (e.g “prettier). Sometimes it’s a matter of fact (e.g. “more skilled”). 

If you spend your entire life looking in the other lane, you’ll never appreciate all that God has in store for you. I think that’s why this verse is written the way it is:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6 

Giving thanks involves remembering. 

A memory is a powerful tool.

Remembering what God has done for you or others in your life or in the Bible can help shift your thought processes, making them less negative and more positive. 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2 

Focusing on God is uplifting.

What does this have to do with jealousy and envy? someone is asking.

First this to clear up things, a few things I learned from Merriam Webster: 

“Though ‘jealous’ and ‘envious’ may both mean “covetous,” only ‘jealous’ may be used to mean “possessively suspicious.”” 

Jealousy comes with the threat of losing something while envy is wanting what someone else has. 

The biblical books of James and Ecclesiastes give us insight: 

James 4:2-3

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 

To stay in your lane, take your focus off the temporal. Don’t look to the left or right, only look to Jesus. He is the One Who tells us who we are. When you know who you are and how valuable you are to God, you won’t need to compare yourselves to others. When you compare, you will always fall short. 

There are various times in a Christian’s life where he or she has to ask God to help with his or her vision:

  • When you’re proud – God help me to see myself for who I truly am so that I can please you. (1 Peter). 
  • When you’re feeling lonely – God open my eyes to see that you are all around me. (1 Kings).
  • When you’re feeling threatened that someone might take what you have or you want what someone else has  – God help me to see that you have plans for me – plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Here are a few power verses to lift your thoughts:

The Key to Anti-Jealousy: Stand firm in knowing who you are because God, who made you, said so. Stand firm knowing that God has good plans for your future.

  • Psalm 143:8-9 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.
  • 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
  • Galatians 5:14-15 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
  • Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Key to Anti-Envy: Keep your eyes in your lane. Recognize that God’s grace and love are able to take care of you as well as everyone else in the world. His supply of love, grace and resources  is unlimited. 

  • Proverbs 14:30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
  • Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…
  • James 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
  • Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.