His Kingdom Come website is currently running a series of advent devotionals. They are posting a new one each day until Christmas. This is the one that I wrote for today.. enjoy.
As we enter the season of advent, we can begin to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Christmas season. Of course, in our materialistic culture it is always a great challenge to keep our focus as we resist the temptation to run around madly after the “ things of this world.” We have a choice and this is the right time to decide how we are going to spend this precious time.
As those who follow the Lord, this can be a very rich opportunity.. a time to prepare ourselves for a greater experience of His presence as we begin to focus on the Son of God in a more intentional way. Christmas is a consumer…
If there is one word that continues to haunt me these days.. it is hope. I think for the first time that I can remember as a Believer.. I am struggling to have hope. The world seems like such a mess.. as I write this, fires are still burning in Northern California.. and that is our home. We smelled the smoke and looked at the pictures of homes burning, people dying and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is heart breaking to see the suffering that is all around us.. the mass slaughter in Las Vegas.. just a week earlier. What is happening Lord? Everything seems to be out of control and there is so much suffering.. In my personal life there have been challenges on a level I have never encountered.. emotional and physical trials..
So as I process all of this.. the word HOPE emerges. We cannot live without it, but it does not come from our circumstances or our surroundings. Our hope .. my hope.. can only be found in the Lord. He is with us and He is unchanging and we are living in a fallen world.. a dark world. All of these tragedies teach us that this world is not going to provide us with security or be our refuge .. it is an unstable place and we are not safe here. I believe that God is taking us deeper.. to a place where our faith truly rests on His goodness. Often that happens when everything else fails.. when all our dreams are broken..when we no longer believe that anything here can save or protect us. The world gets excited when people come together and accomplish good things.. and of course that is encouraging.. but not enough to sustain us through the long years of recovery.. through the grieving process. Once the headlines are gone.. and we go back to our “normal” lives.. there are people who cannot do that and we may forget about them because their pain is not public.. time to pray for them.. to remember them.. because it could have been us.
I am grateful for my life.. grateful that so far we have a roof over our heads .. grateful for the way I see people reaching out to help others.. but what I am the most grateful for is my relationship with the Lord.. for the knowledge that He loves me and is with me no matter what happens next.. He is my safe place and my refuge in the storm.. He is good and we can trust Him when nothing makes sense and when our next trial starts.. Our faithful loving God.. we are blessed.
Hebrews 6:18 in the Message says:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us..
Today is the second day of September and we are having a big heat wave here in the bay area. I know it has happened before, but it is rare for us to get temperatures over 100 all over the area. We are spoiled because of the temperate climate here.. very few extremes. It is easy to be comfortable in this area since our lifestyle allows us to see so much beauty and we rarely face disasters like they are facing right now in Texas. The flooding we have been watching all week is a reminder that things can change in an instant. No matter how much we try to be in control of our lives, we are not able to predict the future. It seems to me that the Lord continues to remind us of His sovereignty through natural disasters and personal tragedies.
More and more of my conversations seem to center around trials and tests that people are facing. Even here in our county.. things are changing. With so many people moving to the bay area over the last 10 years.. our highways are crowded and there is litter everywhere. Our quiet protected area is not so quiet or protected. People are struggling here with finances, health, and family problems. In order to live here.. there are not enough jobs and the housing situation is unbelievable.. who can afford to be here? I know we can’t.. but God has us here and He continues to confirm that. Our family is here and we support one another. My husband has lived here since he was born and I have been in this area for 50 years.. Yes we are getting older every day:) Many of our friends are gone, they have either moved away or passed away.. it is a bit lonely at times. Aging is challenging in a youth oriented culture and unfortunately the church is the same way. We have found ourselves feeling left behind and in some cases cast aside.
The good news is that these experiences do not define us. Our identity is in the Lord and He continues to affirm our worth and value. Because of the challenges we face.. I am more confident that it is not what I do, or who I know or what people think that defines me. I am His and that is what matters. Our circumstances continually change.. tomorrow it could be snowing here and Texas may experience a heat wave that dries up the land quickly. Tomorrow could bring a scary diagnosis for us or someone we love.. or tomorrow someone may be healed right in front of us.. reminding us of who is in control.. every day.. every single hour. We are not alone or forgotten..we are never abandoned or cast off. He remembers us.. comforts us.. holds us as we lean into Him in these times.
Father.. I pray for everyone reading this that they may experience more of you as this day unfolds. I pray for your spirit to be poured out on us as we cling to you in these trying times. We long to draw closer to your heart.. teach us how to do that.. protect us and guide us each day as we trust you.
The last few weeks have been a great reminder of the way God works in our lives. We often wait for things hoping that what we long for will happen. I am a great believer in “longing’. After all it is our longing that draws us near to the Lord and it was His longing for us that led to creation and all that followed. So..as we long for things..we may start to hear things that bring discouragement. We may believe that God has said no.. when in truth He has not. We may find ourselves tested.. when nothing is happening or even worse when things are all happening in the wrong way.. do we trust God? In my life I have seen this testing happen over and over again.. as though the enemy works overtime to bring discouragement while the Lord is working behind the scenes on our behalf. We have to make some pretty important choices.
Will we trust in the goodness of God when everything around us says that is not true? Will we believe that He knows the desire of our hearts when everything is taking way too long? Can we walk in faith when we have no sight? I believe the answer to all of these questions needs to be yes. If we are followers then we follow in His steps no matter what our circumstances and we trust that Romans 8:28 is true every single day of our lives. The older I get the more I have the more memories I have of God’s sovereignty over every difficult circumstance and the easier it is to believe that He will continue to provide and deliver as I wait on Him and do not give up.. That in itself is a huge!
I am thinking of you as I write this.. wondering if you are struggling the same way I do when I cannot see ahead… the uncertainty causes anxiety and worry. I doubt if I will ever totally overcome in this area, but I have memories and that is helping. I remember learning how people often give up right before the blessing.. so I won’t give up. I remember how the Bible talks about perseverance and how there are so many examples of God coming through at the last minute and rescuing His people. I have many memories of that in my own life..He has been there for me over and over again. So I want this post to bring you hope..we cannot live without hope and we cannot live the abundant life without our God. Trust in Him.. wait on Him..remind yourself of every single time He has come for you and know that He will do that again and again.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
For the last few days I’ve been aware of this sense that I need to tell my story.. I used to do this when I had the opportunity to do it in women’s groups. Those seem to be gone, yet I still need to tell my story … I know that other people’s stories bring me such encouragement. So.. the last ten years have been extremely challenging.. I graduated from Seminary in 2006 and started my counseling practice that same year. My prayer was that the Lord would provide through my husband Steve. I knew the counseling was more a ministry than a business and I was hoping for a release from financial problems. That really never happened.
Steve has worked.. but all the jobs have been temporary and even those opportunities dried up. The country went into a recession and he got older. We have been in this unemployment prison for over 3 years and there is no release date posted.. God is keeping that to himself at the moment. It has been extremely difficult. We have been hopeful and then the hope was gone.. like a roller coaster ride of emotions. I am facing another birthday next month and wondering how we will make it through the rest of our lives. We have no house to lose or any savings to lose.. maybe that is better than watching everything disappear. It is lonely and I never expected these years to present this type of challenge. The uncertainty is huge and unfortunately it triggers lots of fears and insecurities.
But.. God is in this.. He is allowing it.. He knows all about it and it is not punishment or abandonment. I have been able to work for this entire time.. I learned that He is my source.. I can only do counseling because His spirit is in me and guides me. We are still married and even though we have arguments..they never last long. My own emotions have been hard to manage.. but my husband is very forgiving and loving. I have been blessed.. watching him continue to try for jobs week after week.. to remain hopeful month after month. His unconditional love for me when I have been angry and frustrated has been amazing. Our marriage is stronger.. our faith is stronger. We are relying totally on the goodness of God as this trial continues.
Life does not always turn out the way we want it to.. there are many surprises and disappointments. God is the same no matter what happens. He is good and He is faithful. He does not leave us or forget us. Our only hope is in Him.. trials remind us that there is no where else to go. We cannot lose Him even if we lose everything else.
This morning God reminded me of this scripture from 2nd Chronicles… it is a favorite.
“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!”
This afternoon I came across this post from a year ago today on Facebook. I read it and thought.. that is amazing it is more true for me now than it was then and I actually understand why I wrote in a much deeper way. So.. I thought I would post it again and share it with you.. the scripture on the bottom is the same one God gave me this morning. The post is titled ” God waits for us”
Throughout the years that I have been writing on this blog.. the theme of waiting has emerged over and over again. Waiting is difficult and we struggle with it as we move through this life. This morning I sensed the Lord showing me that He waits for us more than we realize.
Since He has a plan for our lives that is better than anything we could dream up or imagine..He has to wait for us to be willing to follow Him. We have our own plans and dreams and it is difficult for us to surrender those to Him. After all.. our plans will bring us happiness and security. We imagine ourselves with the things that will fulfill us and take away the emptiness. God is after more than that.
He imagines us whole and filled with joy.. He sees us as complete and fulfilled in Him. We look everywhere else..afraid that He is not going to be there for us.. that He may fail us or forget us. He waits patiently as we try to make our dreams come true. He watches us and cares for us as we resist His plan. He allows us to suffer and struggle.. knowing that eventually we will turn to Him.
He sees us.. He knows us.. He is with us and He is for us. We are His. He is the good shepherd who tenderly cares for each of his sheep. He seeks us when we are lost and cares for us when we are wounded. He waits for us to follow Him to safety. He leads us to green pastures and still waters. His love for us is unfailing and everlasting. He pursues us..holding out His Hands and asking us to trust Him in all things.. will we trust Him with hearts? Will we follow Him when the path is not clear.. and all we can see is the next step? He is waiting..
“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you…” ( Isaiah 30:18 KJV)
This is a line from a story in the Jesus Storybook Bible.. a book that was read to the children every Sunday during our worship service. Yesterday at church, our pastor said that those stories from that book were the first sermon and his preaching was the second sermon. He quoted that line from the book ” He was making the sad things come untrue“.. I love that ! It makes me smile to think of everything sad becoming untrue as the kingdom of God moves ahead. What an amazing promise He has given us.
The same thing is happening here every single day.. sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t. The truth is the truth whether we are able to see it or not. God’s invisible kingdom is real.. more real than all the sad things that happen on this earth every single day. His kingdom is more real than every single problem we face.. even the ones that seem unbearable. His kingdom is more real than our feelings, our thoughts, or our ideas. What an amazing realization that is.. if only we could hang on to that picture. There is another story.. a larger story that surrounds us and God is the author. He has written it for us and He is with us in that story.. guiding us, protecting us, comforting us, and encouraging us. We are not alone in what seems to be our small sad story.
As I am writing this I feel like I want to grab on to that big story.. to live in it fully.. to have a larger role.. to enter the Kingdom of God in a deeper way.. following Him fully.. trusting Him totally.. even when I have no answers.. even when I am hurting.. lost and sad. I want to be a part of His great work in this world as He redeems everything that was lost. I believe He is asking us all to enter in.. to seek Him and His ways.. to believe that He is totally in control.. when all we see is an out of control world … As we live in these times.. we are in the world that He entered.. something has already happened.. but there is more.. we are between the already and the not yet.. living in that very unsettled place.. He is our rock and our safe place.. there is no other.
He told us to ” Seek Him and His kingdom and all else would be added on to us” He meant it then and He means it now..
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”
Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs.You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.“