Not Alone

This week I’m feeling encouraged to share some hope with you.  We live in a really big world where it can be easy to feel forgotten or overlooked.  We feel hurt by family members, ignored by our bosses, abandoned by our partners and irrelevant to our friends.  We sometimes feel that even God has left us alone.  I hope that these words from scripture remind you of the truth:

Psalm 37:23
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.   He delights in every detail of their lives.”

1 Peter 1:7a
“These troubles test your faith and prove that it is pure. And such faith is worth more than gold.”

Romans 8:31
“So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can stand against us. And God is with us.”

These verses each touch on a very special message: God delights in every part of your life, finds you unbelievably valuable and is with you.  I’ve spent enough time working (and living) with people to know that we all have moments where we don’t feel like these statements could possibly be true. Honestly sometimes we don’t deserve God’s delight or presence, we’re humans who sin and have failures. But God knows that, and still loves us.  We’re still allowed to meet with God and be loved by God because of grace and forgiveness.

On those days that you struggle, remember that you’re enough. You may not be perfect, and you may need to grow some (we all have room for growth), but don’t ever let anyone tell you you aren’t important or special. God hasn’t forgotten you, and will never leave you alone.  He’s also put people in your life to encourage and support you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help (I’m an email, call or message away!).

This week, instead of focusing on what goes wrong, take time to turn to that which inspires and encourages you.  Read the Bible, your favorite devotional, or listen to some Christian music or a sermon that’s online when you’re feeling particularly challenged or discouraged.  You’ll not only feel better, God may give you the wisdom for how to work through your situation in that time of worship or reading.

Don’t give up, God’s got a plan for your life and plans to go with you every step of the journey.


The Revelations of Christmas: God in Christmas

I hope that you had a blessed Christmas with family and friends and that you were able to experience even just a little of the First Christmas many years later whether in your own personal quiet time or in church services. As we wind down this year and this Christmas season, today I want to talk about what Christmas really is: it’s a reflection on who God is.

God is big and bold:
It’s kind of hard for the shepherds to miss the big announcement regarding Jesus’ birth. With the stars and the angels and the heavenly chorus you would have to be an excellent sleeper to miss that. The wise men who also knew what they were looking for were able to track the star that God put in the sky to announce the birth as well.

God is in the little things:
God chose to send Jesus to earth as a baby, not as the ruler/master/king as some expected. God also chose to send an Angel to Mary so that she would know exactly what was going on and reassured Joseph in a dream that Mary (and the baby she now carried) was the right choice for him. These are pretty clear indications that God isn’t just about the big showy revelations, but is present in the little things, and attends to the little details.

God makes everything work out as it should:
A big part of the Christmas story is the journey to Bethlehem. The census journey that Augustus, the emperor, forced everyone on was a huge inconvenience for everyone, including Mary and Joseph. But it happened and fulfilled what was predicted many years before Jesus was born: that the savior would be born in Bethlehem.  Without the census that’s not where Jesus would have been born.

God has a plan for the future:
The book of Matthew shares the genealogy of Jesus. It’s a bit tedious to read through, and all it is is just a list of names. But what it says is that there were some pretty important people that we read about through the Bible who had a direct connection to Jesus. While anyone could have been in Mary and Joseph’s ancestral line, God planned that each of these special people brought the Bible a step closer to Jesus.

As we finish out this Christmas season, I would encourage you to spend a little more time reflecting on someone who wasn’t really the focus of the story, yet can be seen in every step of the journey: God. If God could line all of this up to lead to the birth of a baby, what miracles could He do in your life?

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10

Finding Confidence in God

One of the biggest challenges to our lives and successes has to do with the fact that we’re sometimes insecure people, or lacking in confidence. Yes, each of us has little things that set us off or raise red flags and make us question, even if there is no need to question, even though we’re confident, strong people in every other area of our lives. Many of us have insecurities around whether we’re important or not, whether it’s at work, in a relationship or to our children. Whether we’re young or old, we sometimes feel that we’re not important, it’s unfortunately part of being human.

Ezekiel 37:14 says: “I will put My spirit in you, that you may live.”
Psalm 89:17 says: “You are their amazing strength. Their power comes from you.”
Jeremiah 31:25 says: “I will give rest and strength to those who are weak and tired.”

God gives us life, gives us the strength to become the best version of ourselves, and the encouragement to get through the times of doubt. This week, know that you do matter. Who you are, what you can do, your dreams, your goals, your hopes, your dreams, who and what you call home, these things all matter. To you, to me, and most importantly to God. He’s your biggest cheerleader and greatest coach, the voice of reason and little flame that spurs you on to do better.

If you’re struggling with confidence or feelings of insecurities, turn to God and ask Him to show you the confidence and strength that He revealed to so many leaders in the Bible who didn’t start out as amazing leaders. And don’t forget to tell someone this week that they matter to you, you may think they know, but they may not. Your vote of confidence in them and acknowledgement of their ability could be the encouragement they’ve been needing.

Ask, Seek, Knock: Success Steps

In thinking about one of our topics for the month, success, today I want to talk about a passage you’re probably familiar with, Matthew 7:7-8: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” This passage about asking, seeking and knocking establishes a great guideline for us to consider throughout our days and what goes on in our lives.

“‘No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has shown us these things through the Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:9-10
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15

First, asking is important because it means we’re willing to admit that we don’t know everything and are willing to learn. However we’re not always great at asking questions. Too often we ask the wrong questions, questions that don’t give us the answers we need because they’re not the right questions. We can get too busy asking things like “why me” and “how could you” instead of asking questions that will help us get the necessary answers and find solutions and help for our questions. Second, James 1 makes a point of letting us know it’s good to ask questions. God doesn’t criticize us for asking questions, only for thinking we know more than He does.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35
“Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.” Psalm 119:24
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Asking questions is important because they give us directions to learn and move in. If we don’t ask questions we’ll never be able to figure out what we don’t know and what God wants us to do with our lives. Once we’ve asked the questions we hopefully receive some wisdom and knowledge to use. We start our search with the knowledge that God will not be separated from us by the challenges we face and will give us the strength and peace to learn what we must.

“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live” Proverbs 4:4
“It is very sad that people leave the world just as they came. So what does a person gain from ‘trying to catch the wind’? They only get days that are filled with sadness and sorrow. In the end, they are troubled, sick, and angry.” Ecclesiastes 5:16-17

In the very action of knocking we’re going from learning to doing. You can’t knock without taking action. There’s not much good to asking the right questions and getting advice unless you do something with it. Throughout the Bible God encourages us to be wise and live lives that reflect the wisdom we’re given or find. Don’t waste your life, your lessons and your abilities, choose to make something of it all if not for you but because your lessons and your willingness to knock may be the difference between life and death for someone.

What questions will you ask, learning will you do and actions will you take this week?

The Lord Gives Me Strength

This weekend in my devotional I reflected on God’s strength, and wanted to share a few more thoughts here today based on Psalm 3:4-5:

“I will pray to the Lord
and He will answer me from His holy mountain. Selah
I can lie down and go to sleep, and I will wake up again,
because the Lord gives me strength.”

Sometimes this life just makes us tired. There are all the pressures that we face on a daily basis including those we’ve added to our pile for no reason. Many of our problems are valid problems and we should take our responsibilities seriously. But sometimes what we need to do is just stop and bask in the strength that only God has. Sometimes we need a reality check on exactly how big the world is and how small our problems are. Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is God and will take care of everything that’s under His care, which is everything.

When was the last time you just stopped for a while and reflected on God and who He is to you? When was the last time you stopped and let Him reassure you that He’s got it all under control? Maybe it’s time today that you stopped and took a break despite the long to-do list you’ve got. Maybe it’s time to delegate things that you weren’t willing to delegate in the past. Or maybe all the fear and frustration and crazy feelings are just God reminding you that you haven’t really been paying attention and have been missing out on His clues along the way.

I encourage you to take a little more time today to find that Holy Mountain spot for you and God, whether it’s a bench, your bed, a chair, the bathroom, the back deck, a hiking spot, your office, the church or wherever it is that you and God have your best and most attentive quiet time. Work on getting back into the habit of relying on and resting in God’s strength all the time rather than just when the world seems to be falling apart.

Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?