Welcome to 31 Days of Seeing Jesus In Your Daily Life
We tend to look for Jesus in the big things: choosing a school, career, or a mate. Or in the midst of tragedy: the loss of a loved one, illness, or failure. But what if we looked for Him in the little things: messy rooms, errands, appointments, and other mundane life activities? What if we start to see His truths, blessings, and principles come to life?
I believe we will see more of His care and presence in our lives. His Word will become more Vitally Relevant in our daily lives. And that following Him would become our passion rather than our mandate. I believe our faith will explode, we will develop a hunger for Him that is never satisfied, and we will fall helplessly in love with Him all over again.
I invite you to join me on this journey. I can’t wait to see what Jesus reveals over the next 31 days and how He changes my life and yours.
I’ll be adding a link to each day once it goes live.
Day 1: Students
Day 4: Getting Rid of The Ick
Day 5: Sun-soaked Radiance
Day 7: Oh To (Not) Be Young Again
Day 8: Reflections in The Puddle
Day 9: Excavations
Day 10: Two Little Girls
Day 11: The Storm
Day 14: Today Didn’t Go As Planned
Day 16: Me Too
Day 17: Share Your Story
Day 18: “I Wasn’t Feeling It”
Day 19: You Did Show Up Today
Day 21: The Simple Things
Day 22: OOOOOH Shiny!
Day 23: It’s Time To Escape!
Day 24: A Surreal Morning
Day 25: I Love You
I hope you will check out the other 31 dayers too! There are lots of somethings for everyone.
Here are the categories: Family Life; Fashion & Beauty; Food, Health & Wellness; Hobbies & Goals; House & Home; Inspiration and Faith; Instagram Series; Simplicity & Organizing; Too Awesome to Categorize
Yesterday I decided to clean my office while my boys got ready for school—evidence that miracles still happen. In the last few weeks, I’ve taken to working on the kitchen island because I needed a change of scenery—at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
But if I was being honest…
It was more than that. My office was a mess. Books and stacks of papers were all over the floor, along with a discarded sweatshirt. Post-it notes, 3×5 cards, pens, highlighters, trash, empty LaCroix water cans, wrappers, and coffee cups cluttered my desk. Quilts and other sweatshirts covered my chairs. To make matters worse, my office hadn’t been dusted or vacuumed in weeks because of the clutter. It was gross!
So, if I was being honest, I worked in the kitchen because it was too icky to be in my office.
However, this mess didn’t happen all at once. It crept in gradually. Drop this off on the desk while putting these other things away…I will get to it later. Put this stack of books here; I might need them for my next post or the Bible study…I can shelf them later. Let me set this on the floor before I drive a boy to his next event…I will put it away when I get back.
But I never did get back to any of it. Little by little, the mess grew from untidiness to nasty. I’m not even sure when it degraded into this special kind of ick. But it gotten to the point that I only went in there to grab something, look up a file, or add something else to the clutter; all the while I turned a blind eye to the mess and promised to get to it later.
And later never came.
As I was shredding a stack of papers, I couldn’t help but think about how this correlates with our lives.
If we’re being honest…
There are times when our lives have degraded to an icky place, and we turn a blind eye to it. We want to hit the re-do button because we’re not sure what happened to get us into this state. I’m not talking about those times when tragedy turns your life upside-down. I’m talking about The Ick. The “how did I get here?” moments.
And if we’re being honest…we know it’s because of unconfessed sin in our life.
The kind that creeps in. The kind that’s no big deal. The kind that causes a beautiful life to be untidy, and when left unchecked creates a disaster. It could be
If I’m being honest…
I’ve been guilty of all of these. They sneak in silently, a little at a time. A conversation, a slip of the tongue, a thoughtless remark; I don’t notice what a mess I’m creating until I feel–ick. I then turn a blind eye to my sin and tell myself I will deal with it later. But later doesn’t come…at least not until I realize I’ve become a person I don’t want to be around…
That’s when Psalm 32 becomes my prayer of refreshment, to clean out the ick:
“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those
whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Interlude Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!”
It was perfect football weather—for me anyways. It was a little warm for almost everyone else. My son’s game was about to start, and I was only half listening to what the coaches were saying as they led the team through warm-ups. Then something caught my attention. As I looked around trying to figure out what it was, I couldn’t help but notice this cheeky little band of third graders. They were coming off a big win, their first, and their strut said it all, “We’re awesome, and we know it!—Clap your hands!!”
Then one of the coaches piped up: “Yes, you had a great win! An awesome win! You played well. But if you aren’t consistent with the fundamentals of football—you will lose this game and all the others. So we must remember the fundamentals. Practice the fundamentals. And use the fundamentals.”
As he proceeded to walk the slightly humbled team through the fundamentals—again, God spoke to my heart: “How are you doing with the fundamentals?”
I write devotionals and am writing my first Bible study. I’m in The Word all the time—to write about it, to teach it, to obey His call on my life. BUT my consistency with being in His Word for the sheer joy of spending time with my Savior and deepening my relationship with Him needs some work. I confess I get caught up in the “To Do” that I repeatedly neglect the “MUST Do.” There are too many times I’m not giving Him my best during my Quiet Time—I’m distracted, unfocused, waiting to cross another thing off my list.
And I wonder why my victories are so inconsistent. I wonder why my insecurities are having a hay-day. I wonder why life’s battles have the upper hand. It’s because I’m neglecting the fundamentals of feasting on God’s Word, praying like my life depends on it, making sure my Armor is in place, and asking the Spirit to fill and empower me. The thing is, I know better! I know this is dangerous and unhealthy. I know this sets me up to lose. But I do it anyway. Sometimes it’s because I’m in a mood and don’t want to give it up, where other times, I’m selfish and lazy.
Like this band of third graders, when I come off a big Spiritual win, I tend to strut with my shoulders back, chest out, and chin held high. I too get cheeky and figure: I’ve got this. I don’t need no stinkin’ fundamentals. I’m awesome, and I know it!—Clap your hands!!
But what I don’t realize is that “victory” may have been a test of The Enemy to gauge my strengths and weaknesses. It’s about as meaningless as a pre-season game. Its purpose was to determine the best strategy to take me out. It wasn’t a battle at all. The real battle is about to begin.
Satan is trying to trip us up all the time. He works to infect our hearts and minds with doubt so we’ll question God’s existence, promises, power, and our salvation. Therefore, just like football players who must practice and practice and practice the fundamentals of the game—we must do the same. Spend time alone with God daily devouring His Word and engaging with Him in prayer. Give Him your best. Eliminate your distractions. Make sure your armor is in good repair and in place (Eph. 6:10-18). Then we will be strong in the Lord, mighty in His power, and able to stand firm against all of Satan’s schemes (vs. 10-11). But remember, it all starts with the fundamentals.
In Minnesota, Fall is the season to transition from boating, camping, and catching fireflies to snowmobiling, ice fishing, and catching snowflakes.
It’s one of my favorite seasons because it’s a total package: Football, quilts, and apple cider; campfires, colorful leaves, and cooler temperatures; layered outfits, scarves, and cute boots.
But it wasn’t until I met the apple tree that fall began to mean so much more.
This tree’s seasonal cycle gives a powerful illustration of life’s various stages of activity and the need for rest. However, in our task driven society, I have to force myself to employ these lessons all year long, through every season of life, and for each cycle of ministry and writing. It’s these practices that make the difference between finishing strong and burning out; between focusing on God’s purpose and calling on my life rather than the current task at hand; between seeking His glory and my own; between enduring to the end or quitting part way through. I promise not to get too technical, so stick with me. I’m confident you’ll glad you did.
In Spring the tree wakes up. As the sun warms her bark, water begins migrating back into her cells; creating a suction to draw up the nutrients that were stored in the roots last fall. Like our pre-breakfast coffee, these nutrients infuse the tree’s limbs with the energy needed to open the mixed buds (flowers and leaves) before photosynthesis takes over. After these physiological changes occur, the leaves unfurl, and the flower buds swell until there’s an explosion of color and fragrance! Then there’s a flurry of activity as bees flit from tree to tree pollinating the blossoms to ensure fall’s harvest. Then as the rest of the leaf buds open, the petals drop, signaling the arduous summer task of developing the seeds and fruit.
Summer is where the hard work happens. The tree is now in full leaf; it’s actively photosynthesizing while mining for moisture and other nutrients in the soil. There’s a lot of growth needing to happen: The seeds need to develop and mature, and the fruit needs to expand and sweeten. Much of this work is behind the scenes, in the cells of the plant. There’s little to nothing to show for its efforts as time marches on. To the trained eye, however, there’s tremendous progress; but to a layperson, it’s a waiting game to see anything significant.
But Summer is also the time when the tree is the most vulnerable. Storms can be merciless, threatening to strip off her leaves, crop, and branches. Inadequate fertilization and hydration cause stress, inviting insects and diseases to endanger the fruit quality if not the tree herself. Animals and lawn mowers can damage the trunk’s cambium layer, disrupting the flow of nutrients not only needed for the growth and development of the crop but also needed to sustain her vitality. It takes determination and fortitude to see the crop through to harvest as she fights off enemies seen and unseen. But she doesn’t give up. She trusts her Lord to give her the strength, to see His purpose fulfilled.
Finally, it’s time for harvest! The seeds are mature, and the fruit is ripe. All her hard work has paid off. Persevering through the storms and overcoming her enemies has rewarded her with a great bounty. And she begins to shut down and prepare for a season of rest once all the apples are gathered: Photosynthesis slows, she stores nutrients in her roots for the next Spring’s growth, and her leaves turn vibrant colors before becoming a blanket tucked in around her feet. Lastly, the water migrates out of her cells, and she sleeps.
Winter is a time for rest, but not idleness. Many physiological things are happening to rejuvenate her before her next season of exertion. One of the primary passivities is accumulating chilling hours. She needs to spend a minimum of 750 hours between 32-45 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure bud set for the next season. If she doesn’t get it, she won’t bloom. And without blossoms, there’s no fruit. No fruit means no harvest. So she must wait to be fully rejuvenated before she starts laboring again.
Beloved, we are just like the apple tree!
When we start something new, we’re excited! It doesn’t matter if it’s a new semester, job, or calling from God. The possibilities are endless. Our dreams are huge; our goals are lofty. Everywhere we look we see beauty exploding! It’s a fantastic time of rebirth. We’re full of purpose and drive. Our energy seems endless. The fact that our new calling is light years outside of our comfort zone only adds to the adventure. And with God on our side, we feel invincible.
But after some time, we’re discouraged and weary. We’re making progress, but it’s not going as quickly as anticipated. We’re so overwhelmed by the To Do list we neglect feasting on God’s Word and asking His Spirit to fill us. We do enough to get by, but not enough to sustain the increasing needs developing behind the scenes. That’s when Satan attacks. He mercilessly ushers in storms, trying to shake our faith and strip away our confidence. He stirs up our insecurities and questions our calling. He casts seeds of doubt and confusion, tempting us to quit. His distractions slow progress and disrupt plans. But when we join others in prayer he’s exterminated, the damage is repaired, and we can see snippets of growth and change again. And our resolve is fortified.
Finally, the fruit ripens, and the harvest begins! All our hard work has paid off. There’s so much joy in the bounty God has provided that the summer’s storms seem insignificant. As we look back, we can see how God has sustained and blessed us beyond what we could hope or imagine; how He has multiplied our efforts for His glory. Then we fall to our knees, awestruck; and our faith explodes. Once we’ve gathered the harvest, it’s time to wind down; to tie up all the loose ends and prepare for a season of refreshment and rejuvenation. It’s time to rest.
However, in our task-driven society rest has become a four-letter-word. So we tend to ignore our exhaustion and say, “What’s next?” We neglect our time of restoration. We reject our Sabbath and lose the opportunity to be rejuvenation with Scripture and prayer. Thus impairing our ability to set blooms for the next season of ministry, classes, and projects.
Beloved, if the apple tree didn’t rest, her years of production would be dramatically reduced. Likewise, your time of effectiveness for God will be abbreviated if you choose not to relax.
Just as Jesus rested (Mk 6:45-46) and encouraged His disciples to rest (Mk 6:30-31); He invites you to do the same: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
These verses are my battle cry during the times of intense labor:
Students are my passion. They draw me in and I can’t help but love them. Too many are hurting, lost, and broken. Too few have a viable relationship with their parents or other adults who can guide and encourage them to bring out their best, their value. These students are stepping into adulthood without a compass and a soul weary well beyond its years. The “basics of the Bible” are foreign to them yet they crave God’s love—even if they don’t know what that is yet. These high school and college students are the reason I write. They have my heart. It’s these students my heart cries out to reach with the Vibrant Relevance of God’s Word.
I wrote this poem 2 years ago, when God started stirring in my heart the call to write. As I prayed for my students this is what flowed out. I hope it give you a glimpse into my heart and passion for these students.
You come through the doors
with a smile on your face;
To hide the hurt and brokenness,
the pain and disgrace.
You move toward your friends
toward a place known and “safe”.
To people who really don’t know you—
but at least they know your name.
Your mask is firmly in place
and walls raised high;
You play games and laugh
while inside, you slowly die.
Afraid to open up;
terrified to be exposed!
Would anyone believe your story,
of anything, they were told?
You desperately crave love
but are not sure what it is.
Even at church,
you feel lost in a sea of kids.
You are not sure
if life is worth living anymore.
You may even be tempted
to escape out the back door.
You cut yourself–
a distraction from your pain;
Or maybe you cut in hopes
to feel SOMETHING again!
lost, broken, confused;
Your heart is
shredded, shattered, abused.
You believe being healed
is a fairytale, a dream–
You cannot even fathom the idea
that you can be redeemed.
Let the Spirit lead you
Let your heart be open wide!
Find safety under His wings,
in His shelter, you can abide.
Come to the Cross of our Savior
Lay your burdens at His feet
Let Him heal your brokenness;
Let Him set you free.
Oh how Jesus loves you
and will forever be by their side.
You can be made new again
when you accept His gift of Eternal Life.
Let His blood wash over you;
Making you pure and clean
It was for your healing and forgiveness
that He chose to bleed.
Oh, come to Jesus,
Let Him claim you as His own
Let Him heal you and bless you—
Claim this sacred Hope!
Oh, come to Jesus,
Let Him hold you close to His heart.
Let Him love you and restore you;
Let Him give you a fresh new start.
The old man’s face has so captivated your full attention you don’t notice the next picture on the screen. What he’s saying is obviously causing him physical pain. Reliving this forty-year-old memory isn’t necessary, is it? His pain is still as fresh and raw as when it first happened. His features are twisted, revealing the brokenness inside. You fear for his health because the pain’s profound physical effect is visibly tormenting and draining him. His aide, Joshua, reaches for him, to offer support–but is waved off. Instead, he offers the old man a cold water bottle, which he accepts. While he drinks, you look inside yourself to examine your fears. Yup, they’re still there. And they’re still very real. Those giants are still in the land. Those fortified walls are still in place. But God has already proven His power and given you some impossible victories. After you recount everything He has done for you and your people, you determine in your heart to believe Him and follow Him. And NOT to follow in the footsteps of your parents, causing more pain for your beloved leader and your God…
But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’ ” Duet 1:26-28
It was a beautiful morning. Crystal clear blue skies, warm temps, and sunlight drenching everything it could find. Glorious!
I was thankful for the optimistic weather because inside, I was a nervous wreck! It was the morning of my very first Christian Writers Conference, and I was the epitome of insecurity and self-doubt.
I arrived at the University of Northwestern early, got a sweet parking spot, and stepped right up to the registration table. I was still nervous, but I smiled brightly through my mask; afraid to reveal my fears. With all the business completed, I decided to go for a walk down memory lane—remembering friends, classes, teachers and other things from the time I was a student there. I was hoping that saturating myself with the familiar would calm my nerves. And it seemed to work…
…Until I went back inside.
The people had arrived.
My heart filled with panic as I took in the massive crowd. Not because of the crowd itself, but because of what I saw—a tidal wave of people vying for the Promised Land (PL) God has already given me. I felt hopeless. Unqualified. Out of place. Self-conscious. And I wanted to leave.
Then God spoke to my heart, “That’s not what I see.”
Ooof. Get wrecked! I was convicted. I had been selfish and prideful. I was behaving like this writing thing was my project, not God’s calling. I immediately told on myself (confessed my sin) and whispered, “You’re right. Please forgive me. What do you see?”
“These are my kids. Each is writing for a different genre. Each is reaching a different target audience. Each writes for the same purpose—to tell others about My Son and to spread the Gospel. They’re all answering My call, working to fulfill the dream I’ve buried deep inside their heart.”
“Help me see what you see.”
Then He opened my tear-filled eyes. The room was no longer filled with competition but with hundreds of men and women obediently following God’s call on their lives. There were teenagers and adults up to 80+ years old. Every shape, size, and color was there. There were various walks of life, interests, hobbies, and personal styles represented. It. Was. Beautiful! A taste of heaven.
On the way home that evening, I realized Satan tried to melt my heart in fear. He tried to keep me from scouting the land and making plans on how to conquer and occupy it. He tried to make me run in the opposite direction and long for something other than God’s best for me–just like he did with the Israelites.
Had I left:
Beloved, there are scary things in our land. No said it was going to be easy. There are giants and strong walls. I have shared some of mine; finding an agent, editor, and publisher.
And while I was at the conference, I discovered a few more:
Talk about intimidating! From a business standpoint, this makes sense. But it’s daunting, especially to the technologically impaired. My website is still not fully finished, and I have yet to figure out how to create personalized messages for those who follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my blog. But, one battle at a time, right?
Beloved, this is all going to take diligence, effort, and time. But it’s also going to take faith—even when things don’t go as planned; even when rejection letters come; and even when harsh, cruel words are hurled my direction.
Your PL is no different. Don’t quit! Don’t let Satan melt your heart with fear. Trust God. Cling to Him. Resolved to see it through. The process is just as important as the destination. It’s what shapes you and molds you. It’s what humbles you and makes you more reliant on your Savior.
Here are a few of the verses I turn to and claim in the midst of fear in pursuing my calling:
Yesterday I was down with a migraine. I hadn’t had one in quite some time, and to be honest I didn’t have time for one. My To-Do list was only getting longer, our boys still needed to be taxied around, dinner still needed to be made, and socks and underware needed to be washed. So I did what I always do—I took some meds, hoped for the best, and pushed through. And in the evening, I crashed—HARD. I was exhausted and worn. I felt beaten and battered. I felt empty, utterly defeated.
Then this morning I realized I forgot to take Andrew to football practice. It took more than I had to keep the tears of self-disappointment from running down my cheeks. I could hear Satan telling me, “You are a failure. You suck at being a mom. You blew it—AGAIN!” I listened to his poison for longer than necessary. But then I cried out to my Abba. And this was my prayer and His response to me.
I don’t usually share my poetry. It is so personal. But I promised to take you on my journey, invite you into my life, and allow you to see me warts and all. My hope is then you will be encouraged in your walk with Jesus because you will realize your thoughts, feelings, and emotions are not unique—they are shared. In this self-exposure, your relationship with Him will flourish and become Vitally Relevant to your day-to-day life.
O Lord, help me,
my strength is almost gone.
I feel weak and weary–
I won’t last until the dawn.
My shield is riddled with arrows;
The Devil’s shots are true.
It is now so heavy I cannot hold it up,
I fear the next one will get through.
Each arrow is a burden to bear,
another weight to carry.
One or two, no matter, but dozens upon dozens–
The situation is bleak and scary.
I once held my shield high,
my faith powerful and strong.
I would start each morning on my knees–
Before the birds would sing their song.
I would come to you in confession and praise
laying my burdens at your feet.
My house was dark and silent–
everyone else, still asleep.
I would thank you for your forgiveness–
sanctifying me once more.
I would ask your Spirit to fill me;
from Heaven’s sanctuary, His grace did pour.
But Lord that holy habit has been pushed aside
with seemingly little care.
Now I have been caught and held prisoner
in the Devil’s vicious snare.
I have become entangled by his lies,
poisoned by his destruction and death.
But Lord I know you can free me
With just a whisper of your breath!
Lord, Jesus, come!
Hear my desperate plea!
I am broken, bleeding, battered,
I am crying out on my knees!
“Come, Mighty Warrior, come.
Lay your shield on the ground.
I am your Rock, your Fortress, your Protection
In me, your safety will be found.
Let me be The Power who saves you
Let me be your Shield.
No arrow will be able to touch you–
until I determine you are healed.
Sharpen your sword, Mighty Warrior,
Drink in the Wellspring of Life.
I will renew your strength and empower you;
so you can go back out to fight the good fight.
I will make your feet secure
wherever they stand.
I will strengthen your arms for battle;
I will train your hand.
Victory is on the horizon, Mighty Warrior,
it is well within your grasp.
But draw your strength from earnest prayer, Child,
or it will be fleeting–it will not last.
Rest now, My Daughter,
My Dear and Precious One.
I am proud of you and I love you.
But the battle has only just begun.
The Devil sees the path
I have laid for you to take;
He will do all he can to distract you–
there are eternity and lives at stake.
But for now he can’t reach you;
I am your Shield, he cannot draw near.
I am your Rock and your Salvation
you have nothing to fear.
While you rest, I promise to mend your shield,
fortify it and make it strong.
I promise to fill your soul with courage
and your mouth–The Battle Song.
So now, come Mighty Warrior, come.
lay your shield on the ground.
I am your Rock, your Fortress, your Protection
In me, your safety will be found.”
Ever have one of those days? You know what I mean, those days you wake up…in a mood. The attitude you went to bed with steeped all night to produce a potent concoction. It’s not just a grumpy mood quickly fixed by a cup of coffee. No, this mood has the power to take your inner witch all the way to the other end of the alphabet, if you know what I’m saying.
This was me yesterday. And I wanted to be in this mood. I wanted to roll in it—to let it seep into my whole being. The again-ness and challenges of life had worn me down to utter weariness. I had earned my bad attitude and deserved to let it do its thing.
I was even avoiding my quiet time. I knew I needed to do it, that it’s what was best for me, that it could renew my mind and give me much needed peace. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t want my mood taken away. It was mine! I earned it! Mine! So I put it off for as long as I could.
I read my Twitter feed and tossed out a few tweets of my own. I scanned my Instagram feed and liked and commented on more posts than usual. I went to Facebook and did the same. Then I circled through them again…and again…until there was nothing new.
I looked for more to do. My laundry was running as was my dishwasher. My social media had been checked, rechecked, and checked again. And I’d already published my blog post…My excuses were gone.
I could almost see my Savior’s, “Are you about finished? I’m not going anywhere” expression as He sat patiently, waiting for me to take a seat.
I slumped in my chair and grumbled as I flopped my Bible and journal open. I grouched as I chose my colored pen for the day. I said my usual prayer with no sincerity, enthusiasm, or joy: Open my heart and mind to what you have to teach me today. Give me your wisdom and may it abide in me. Fill me to overflowing with your Spirit.
I was void of my usual anticipation and excitement as I began.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, NLT
It was like a drop of water splashed my parched tongue. I didn’t even realize I was thirsty. I was now unsatisfied and needed more.
“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:11-12, NLT
My thirst was now fully awakened. I became desperate to quench my longing.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22 NLT
I hit my knees! I poured out my frustrations, sins, annoyances, pride, anger, jealousies, selfishness…everything to my Abba. My tears flowed, purging everything hidden deep inside. Then I threw back my head and allowed His Word and Spirit to undo me, to fill me, to cleanse me. He quenched my thirst and my need.
And In the process, my mood vanished. I didn’t even notice its passing. Nor did I feel the need or desire to hang onto it. My focus changed. My heart recalibrated.
Finally, I felt refreshed. Joy filled. Thankful. And happy. My circumstances were the same. The again-ness was still present. But because the Spirit filled me, I was able to enjoy my kids when they came home, I didn’t feel stressed, and I had an excellent rest of my day.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
Journal exercise: This photo is of my 3×5 cards. These contain Scriptures I’ve written out over the years for memorization. These are the verses that have blessed me, encouraged me, confronted me, and drawn me closer to my Savior. I’ve recently started dating them and writing on the back why it was so poignant: the circumstance I was in, the timing, the uncertainty it clarified, etc. I encourage you to get some 3×5 cards and do the same. Keep them with you. Memorize these verses. Write them on your heart.
Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.” The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.”” Deuteronomy 1:22-25, NIV
I’m a planner-organizer by nature. Surprises in my day, plan, or schedule stress me out. I like knowing where I’m going and who’s going to be there. I love my to-do lists and knowing what I need to accomplish. And I want, no, I need to know what obstacles I could encounter to feel confident and prepared for what I am about to do. Because when I’m unprepared, I’m anxious and unproductive.
Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
The truth is, I like control. Because when I have control, I’m in my comfort zone and feel safe. And I like to be safe. However, when God calls us to our Promised Land–it’s rarely ever in our comfort zone. And we never have control.
So when He tells us to take possession of our PL, the desire to survey the land makes sense. The urge to see what it’s like, what route we should take, and how to conquer it is good solid practical wisdom.
Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
However, if we first survey the motives in our heart, we may discover the truth behind the request: Can I do this? Will I be successful? How big are my obstacles? Can I get past them? Is this going to be worth my effort? Am I sure this is what I want? (Notice the pronouns?)
First, there’s nothing wrong with making a plan. If there were, God would have shut it down as soon as Moses presented the request to Him; because “No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord” (Pr. 21:30, NLT). Instead, He gave His blessing and instructions on how to carry it out. (Num. 13:1-24) Beloved, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Pr. 16:9, NLT).
Please understand, making a plan is wise; it’s the map to help you navigate through your PL. For example: If your PL is teaching, you can’t walk up to most schools and say, “Hey, I’ve come to bless your socks off and teach your students!” No doubt you would bless their socks off, but most schools require a 4-year degree and a state-issued teaching license before they let you loose in a classroom full of kids. Likewise, I can’t go into a publisher’s office and say “Hey, I’ve got an excellent idea for a series of Bible studies that will blow the doors off this place!” No, I have to go through their process of first finding an agent who then sells my book to them.
No matter what our PL is, we need to survey the land to come up with a plan to know how to achieve the purpose God has given us. If you are called to be a nurse, you don’t want to take the same path as a doctor or an electrician. However, if your motivation to survey the land is centered on selfishness and doubt in God’s power, calling, and ability to fulfill His promises that is a whole other issue. Because then you’re not surveying the land to find a path through it, but to find excuses and reasons not to enter it in the first place.
When Moses went to God with this idea, he displayed wisdom because he wanted to determine if this plan was God’s Plan; whereas the people were demonstrating their doubt in God’s presence and power. It was a good idea, and in my mind, as well as all of the commentaries I consulted, it made perfect sense. It’s important to not only know where you’re going but also how to get there and what obstacles you are going to face on the way. Being prepared is important. The problem lies in the motivation behind the request.
As I stated last time, there are giants and fortified cities in my PL. On my own, I’m helpless. There’s nothing I can do on my own to conquer them. I confess that scares me (that control thing again). But I also know God brought me to this land, and as long as I continue to study His word and be faithfully obedient to Him, He will give me victory in those battles. I also know in the process, I’ll be blessed greatly by learning to lean on Him more and more until I surrender every last ounce of my desire for control to Him. And there, I will find true freedom.
Beloved, the lesson to learn here is when God gives us a directive, we are wise to follow. There are times we just need to follow it in true faith and trust. Where other times, we need to survey the land–but survey the motives of your heart first. Then ask God if surveying the land is in accordance with His Plan, and wait to see if He endorses the idea or just repeats the directive.
Journal exercise: Spend some real time surveying your heart and talking to God about your motives. If there are things you need to confess, do that now. If your motives are right, ask Him to help them not sour as fear creeps in. In either case, resubmit your life and purpose to Him.
As the old man continues his talk, he turns toward the screen with his arms open wide. His booming voice echoes off the canyon walls. The sound vibrations resonate in your chest as his words invade your heart. You can’t help but look over the horizon. And even though the view is different from the picture on the screen, you realize the words he has spoken are just as viable and relevant now as they were on the day they were first proclaimed. You peer at those around you knowing they felt it too…
“I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’” Deuteronomy 1:20-21 NLT
Bam! You’re there! The Promised Land (PL) is right in front of you! “Go up and take possession of it as the LORD…told you” (NIV). Here it is in front of you. It’s already been given as promised. It’s literally yours for the taking!
What’s going through your mind? What do you see? What are you anticipating? What are you excited about? Afraid of?
My PL is me as a published author of various Bible studies. A speaker at colleges and universities; at conferences, retreats, and churches. I’m sharing the message God has ignited in my heart. I’m teaching students and young adults about the Vibrant Relevance of God’s Word in our daily lives. It’s exciting! Beautiful! And TERRIFYING! Self-doubt and questions invade my mind like the locust invaded Egypt (Ex. 10:1-20). Who am I? Who wants to hear what I have to say? Who wants to read anything I write? What makes me think I can do this? I don’t have experience…and on…and on…and on…
Then God brings His east wind and says, “You can’t. BUT I CAN AND WILL. Do not be afraid! Do not be discouraged!”
Why does He say that? Because I still have to do the work—I still have giants to face. I need to write my Bible study, blog my devotionals, finish my website, write query letters, find an agent who believes in me and is willing to represent me, sell my work to a publisher, and speak. This is intimidating and scary. There has been and are going to be many obstacles. BUT God has promised to be with me every step of the way; not to fail me or abandon me (Josh. 1:5). And I confess, there are days I have to cling to this promise as I force myself to move forward through my anxieties.
God’s command to take possession of our PL is a challenge of faith. The Israelites were neither large in stature, numbers, or power—but their enemies were! And they had to fight them in battle before they could occupy the land. We also have giants to face. For me, it’s difficult to break into the publishing world as a new writer. I have to face agents and editors and publishers—oh, my! Am I afraid? Yes! But I choose to trust God. What about your land? Who are your giants? Professors/teachers? Admission staff? Entrance exams? Finances? Bosses? Board members? HR representatives?
However, the most terrifying giants we will face are the ones inside of us. These are the ones that will keep you from entering the land. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Complacency. Laziness. Faintheartedness. Selfishness. Pride. But as God promised to drive out Israel’s enemies, He will “drive out” ours when we’re faithfully obedient to Him.
Another challenge is, we’re lazy and easily discouraged. We want things to be comfortable and easy—but they’re not. Truth is, no one ever said possessing our PL was going to be easy (Jn. 16:33). But lucky for us, Paul unlocked the secret to hardening our resolve: focus on what God has given us to do, not on what we do or don’t have. Paul learned how to be content and thrive in any situation, including prison, because Christ’s strength coursed through him (Phil. 4:10-13).
Beloved, occupying our PL is going to take hard work. There’s going to be tears. You’re going to sweat and maybe lose a little blood. But it’s worth it! If Jesus can take a poor child’s lunch, bless it, and use it to feed over 10,000 people (Lk. 9:10-17); he can use my writing and whatever purpose He’s given you, multiply it, and use it for His glory. Like that small boy, we just have to hand it over to Him—to bless and use. It’s His anyway, we’re just stewards of what He’s give us. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love [Him] and are called according to His purpose for them” (Ro 8:28, NLT).
Just so you know, it’s okay to be afraid. But it’s not okay to give into your fears. God has proven Himself to be faithful and promises to be with us on our journey to and in our PL (Exodus 23: 20-33) “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion” (vs. 20-21, NLT). Beloved, our success in fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives hinges on our faithful obedience to Him. Period. But we still have to go through the process of conquering and occupying land. Why? So our faith can explode in growth. So we will KNOW our God is a God of His word, that He can be trusted to protect and guide us through the most challenging of circumstances, and that He has indeed given us a good land.
So I echo Paul’s question: “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Ro. 8:31, NLT).
Journal exercise: Look up Exodus 23:20-33. List the “If You” statements and the “I will” statements. Compare them. What is our responsibility? What does God promise? What did you discover? How does this apply to you and your PL? What is God speaking to your heart?
Yesterday at my son’s game, one of his coaches yelled to one of the linebackers:
“Make him forget his love of the game!”
I know this boy. He’s one of my son’s besties. Although he’s an excellent athlete; off the field he’s a tender-hearted kid with a great sense of humor. So Coach’s challenge made me laugh out loud. However, the intention, the competitiveness, and the aggression of the challenge were awesome; and this boy’s response was exactly what Coach was looking for.
That challenge also penetrated my heart and mind.
No, I’ve never played football. Nor have I tackled a linebacker.
But I have gone toe-to-toe with Satan. And I’d bet, you have too. He’s menacing and intimidating. Tall and terrifying. Sometimes he’s harsh and aggressive in his attacks. Other times he’s more subtle; but no less intimidating, no less terrifying. He plays on my insecurities and fills my heart with fear. He whispers lies in my ears and stirs up anger and condemnation. He tries to make me question my calling and forget my love for writing, ministry, talking about Jesus, my savior, and myself. And sometimes he wins—but only for a little while.
Because that’s when I hit my knees and the Spirit reminds me Jesus didn’t give us a Spirt of timidity and fear, but of POWER, LOVE, and SELF-DISCIPLINE. (2 Tim 1:7). And when I get up—I make Satan forget his love of the game.
Beloved, when we submit to God, He empowers us to resist the devil and make him flee (Ja. 4:7). And there’s no better way to do that than by mimicking Jesus (Lk. 4:1-13). When we have a quiver full of God’s Word we can shoot firey arrows of Scripture at Him. And with each shot, the power of the Spirit courses through us making him run faster (Ehp. 1:19).
If your quiver is a little scanty, here are some arrows to fill it up (all are from the NIV):
Beloved, this is my prayer for you when Satan tries to make you forget the love of the game:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13