Here are a few things that I have discovered about love…
(1) We all have an innate need to love and to be loved. This deep desire is rooted in the truth that we are made in the image of God and God is love.
(2) Love is valuable so there are lots of counterfeits out there to distract us from what true love is.
(3) Love is an experience. You can be told about what love is like but without ever experiencing it you can’t really understand.
(4) Love requires action, for God so loved the world that he gave…
(5) Love changes everything
(6) You are part of the greatest love story the world has ever seen and it wasn’t by chance. Loving you was a long term decision that God made long before time even began.
If you want to dig a little deeper here are a few scriptures on love.
1 Corinthians 13
2 Timothy 1:9
1 Peter 4:8
My daughter really enjoys basketball, her favorite team is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls hosted a 3v3 tournament in their parking lot at the end of summer to kick off the upcoming season. My daughter of course wanted to play. It was a really cool opportunity but we were all commenting on how cool it would be if one day she got to actually play inside the arena on the court. Well, my friends, TODAY is that DAY!!!!
3 Life Lessons That stand out about this opportunity…
(1) Hard work pays off
My daughter doesn’t look like the typical basketball player, she’s short and small, but what she lacks in physical abilities she makes up in her work ethic. She loves basketball and knows that if she wants to keep playing she will have to put in the work, and she does. She works really hard. She works hard at practice when her coaches are watching but she also works really hard when no one is watching. She shows up to every practice at least 30 mins early to get in a little extra work in the winter and all summer long it’s the pound of a basketball on our driveway. She works on ball handling and shooting constantly it seems. But her hard work is paying off. So whatever it is that you want to do or get better at, put in the work. Put in the work when others are watching, but especially put in the work when it seems like no one is watching, and represent God well while you are putting in the work.
Colossians 3:17, 3:23
2 Chronicles 15:7
(2) God knows our dreams
God knows the desires of our hearts, in fact, he gave them to us. It’s good for us to have goals and dreams that we are reaching for and God wants to see us accomplish the things that we set out to do. Sometimes the dreams we have happen quickly and sometimes they may seem like there is no way for them to happen and they are likely never to be accomplished, but no matter what, don’t give up on the things that God put in your heart. Keep going and keep believing that God has good things ahead for you and will make a way for those things to come to pass.
(3) Enjoy it
No matter what eventually God will transition you to something else or change your opportunities so enjoy them while you have them. We go from glory to glory so we always have better days ahead but I think it is good for us to enjoy what we have today and not take any of it for granted. We don’t know what tomorrow holds.
Ecclesiastes 2:24, 5:18
Have you ever thought about the fact that your thoughts have creative power? It says in Proverbs 23:7 “for as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV). This means that the things that we are thinking are creating action in our lives and molding us into who we are. That’s because our thoughts are the first step in activating our faith.
I’m not sure we often think about it but the Bible tells us that we have all been given a measure of faith but what we do with that faith is completely up to us. The hope is that we take all of the faith that we have been given and give it directly back to God but I don’t think that’s often the case and our thoughts are what is determining where we are distributing our faith. If you spend time thinking about the things that you are scared of you are likely distributing some of your faith toward your fears!
Because our thoughts are so significant there is a spiritual war raging for our thought and minds (Ephesians 6:12) and the devil’s warfare only consists of lies. We have to be vigilant because he will disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) making us believe that the lies he is telling us are true. He will use elaborate strategies and deceit that can sometimes last for generations and even provide evidence if he needs to so that we will take hold of the lie he is telling us.
As Christ’s followers, we don’t have to live stuck in a world of the devil’s lies though. We can take every thought captive and hold it obedient the Christ (2 Cor 10:4-5). We can keep our thoughts in line with God’s thoughts and reject every single lie that the devil throws at us. We can create a life that is full of peace, hope, freedom, and value.
A few ways that I have found that really help me to keep my thoughts in line with God’s thoughts are:
- Take basic care of myself: get up get dressed, eat healthy foods, exercise, get sufficient rest
- Surrender myself to God every day, sometimes multiple times a day
- Read my Bible or listen to it and then meditate on God’s word
- Spend time with God, ask him questions when I don’t understand or know what to do
- Listen to worship music
- Surround myself with the correct influencers
- When it gets hard, remember that it’s a battle, and just don’t give up!
Happy New Year!
I always think the start of a new year feels fresh and full of anticipation. It often feels like just about anything can happen and I often feel empowered to make the most of it. One of the things I enjoy doing to start the new year is reading Genesis. Genesis is a historical book but it is also the start of something new and exciting. A few of my takeaways from reading the first chapter of Genesis this year are….
(1) God is a creator and we were made in his image so even if you don’t feel like it you are a creator too.
(2) Creating takes time: Even God took 6 days for creation, he didn’t have to. It’s okay if what you are creating takes more time than you expected.
(3) Creating (and life in general) requires time off. Making time for regular rest and refreshment is important.
(4) Everything that God made produced “seeds after their own kind”. You can’t produce fruit for something that isn’t already inside you. Take time to develop yourself so that you will be able to produce the desired fruit.
What are your takeaways from Genesis 1?
What are you hoping to create this year?
How will you develop yourself to bring your creations to life?
I think most Christians are pretty familiar with the Christmas story. Maybe even a little too familiar if we’re being honest, but no matter how familiar I feel with the story I’m always amazed at how everything changed the moment Jesus was born. I’m even more amazed to think that it was one of the most significant events in history, yet most of the world was sleeping while it happened with no clue how they now had a new hope and new future available through his birth. I mean think about it, no matter how broken or wicked our world may be today or may become in the future we will never know what it was like to not have the hope and ability for peace that was brought into the world the moment that Jesus was born. We will never know what it feels like to live in a world without a savior.
No matter how weary we may feel from the pressures of our lives it’s nothing compared to what the people felt in a world without a savior to bring them hope. They were stuck in their sin with no way to escape because without Jesus a righteous life was completely unattainable. But because Jesus was willing to come to earth we have hope. Christmas is a reminder that Jesus was willing to leave the beauty and comfort of heaven and come into our broken world for no other reason than to be with us. To experience all of the aspects of life, from the beginning to the end, with us and to bring us peace and joy that couldn’t be found anywhere else or in any other way. It really was a holy night that finally allowed the weary world to rejoice!
I hope that you can reflect on and experience the peace, joy, freedom, and hope that Jesus brings this Christmas season and throughout the year!
I was reading the first few chapters of Luke and realized that there is a lot of detail about the birth of Jesus not only in Luke but also in other chapters of the Bible. There is even more detail about his 3 years of ministry on earth. It’s half of the Bible and the whole basis of the New Testament. What I don’t think we often think about are the in-between years. In Luke years 12-30 of the life of Jesus is summed up in only 2 scriptures.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51-52
It’s interesting to think that the biggest chunk of Jesus’ life wasn’t in the spotlight. It wasn’t recorded by anyone other than his close relatives and God. Since it’s not recorded in the Bible I don’t know what those years were filled with but since I’m a mom of 2 kids I can probably imagine at least some of it. I think there was a lot of growing and learning that happened and there was a lot of love that was shared. I think there was probably some rivalry and jealousy that occurred in their house and there was disappointment and pain. I think a lot of what happened in those years was similar to what happens in many homes.
At first thought, you might think that those years weren’t recorded in the Bible because they were insignificant and didn’t matter all that much but I don’t think that’s true at all. I don’t think Mary would have treasured those years in her heart if it were that way. I think instead those years weren’t recorded because they were sacred. They were the years in Jesus’ life when he learned to become fully man, he learned how to have compassion for every aspect of our human experience. I think that what happened in those unrecorded 18 years were some of the most important parts of Jesus’ life. I think those years were the reason that God chose Mary and Joseph to be his parents.
I think it’s good to realize that if some of the most significant parts of the life of Jesus happened in the in-between years it’s probably going to be the same for each of us. The growing and learning that happens in the safe spaces God created for us mold us into who we are becoming. We aren’t going to get to the big miraculous ending without the in-between growing. So if you find yourself doing things that seem to go unnoticed and may seem to be insignificant to the people around you I hope you remain faithful to what God has called you to. I hope you prayerfully consider the things you put your hand to and that you stay close to God and keep going. These may be your most sacred years too.
There are a lot of things that life throws at you that you just never expected to go the way it does. For example, when my family moved, my kids had to go to a new school and the new school was nothing like what I was expecting. I was pretty disappointed because I was sure that one of the benefits of moving to the new neighborhood was going to be better schools for my kids. Then a couple of years after we moved the pandemic hit. Being alive during a global pandemic is also something that I never expected would be part of my story and it added additional complications to our school situation. I had my own ideas of how I thought things would go in my life and in the last few years, almost every single one of them has been thrown for a loop. I imagine you probably have some examples of how things in your life might not be going as you expected as well.
So the question is, how will I adapt and keep going in the face of the unexpected?
I’m reminded that both Peter and Judas were expecting a king that would exude earthly power and would take an earthy throne and right all the wrongs that were happening to God’s people. But God’s plan of how that would happen was much different from what Peter and Judas were excepting. They both eventually realized that what they expected was not going to happen the way that they planned but they both handled the discovery very differently.
Judas was so set in his heart on how he expected or wanted things to go that when he realized it wasn’t going to happen he became bitter and sold Jesus out to the highest bidder. Peter, on the other hand, was disappointed that what he had planned wasn’t going to happen the way he wanted it to but he didn’t let his disappointment take root. He decided to set his heart on the truth of who he had discovered Jesus to be and because of that, he was willing to go along with the unexpected and see how God’s plan would play out. Because of his willingness to adapt to changes and his ability to trust God even in the midst of the unexpected, Peter went on to become the foundation of the church that we know today.
One thing that keeps me grounded in the unexpected situations of life is that even though I never knew these things would be part of my story God always did. He isn’t at all surprised by any of the events over the last few years or anything else that has played out in my life or yours. Just like Peter, we can rest in the thought that the things that God promised us weeks, months, or even years ago still apply no matter how different our lives may look from the expectations we have. In the face of the unexpected, we have the choice to become bitter and give up or to keep going by putting our focus on who God has revealed himself to be to us and trusting that his plans are perfect for our lives.
What will you choose?
Numbers 13 starts with God telling Moses to send one man from each of the ancestral tribes to explore the land of Canaan that God was giving them to be their new home. Moses of course obeyed and the 12 men went. At the end of the chapter, we learn that the land was more wonderful than they could have ever imagined. It was flowing with milk and honey. They even brought back bountiful fruit to show their friends and families but no matter how good the land was their minds were focused on the fact that the people that already dwelled in the land are strong and the cities were fortified and the Amalekites were living there. Verse 33 ends by saying “…to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed that same to them,”
I imagine that those were the facts, they probably were small in stature compared to the people living in Canaan. It probably was an impossible situation for them to undertake on their own. And of course, we know the outcome, they never enter the land that God promised them. This is one reason I enjoy history, and especially history in the Bible, it gives us an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. We get to see how the story played out and how history unfolded for the people that have gone before us and then we get the opportunity to apply it to our own lives. So, what those men didn’t know or couldn’t see while they were exploring the land of Canaan was…
(1) God had already given the land to them. It was a promise and God is always faithful to his word. We don’t have to fight, strive, or scheme for God’s promises for our lives. We just have to do our part to live them out.
(2) God had a plan. In Joshua Chapter 2 we learn that when the Israelites finally do enter the land, under Joshua’s leadership, God had prepared unexpected allies.
(3) Miracles were going to happen to help them get there.
One of the reasons they couldn’t see any of these things was because of how they saw themselves and how they saw themselves was how they thought others (probably including God) saw them too. They saw themselves as insignificant grasshoppers, not the valued and protected sons and daughters of the most high God. Their vision of themselves got in the way of what God was going to do.
So if you happen to be up against a giant in your life or an impossible situation, I want to encourage you to take a look at how you see yourself because just like the Israelites, how you see yourself may impact your ability to see the promises of God unfold in your life.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t feel like I am doing anything that significant with my life. That can be hard for me because I want to make an impact on the world around me, I want my life to matter. I think some of you might be able to relate to that feeling. I think these feelings are something that we all deal with from time to time because we were all created on purpose for a purpose and it’s our hearts desire to live that out. The problem is that sometimes our sense of significance can become distorted based on the expectations of the world or the people around us.
With today being Ash Wednesday and the start of the lent season Christians all over the world are all thinking about the life of Jesus. Today though I’ve been thinking about Mary. We can all agree that Mary carries a great amount of significance but outside of giving birth to Jesus, the Bible does not really give us much information about her life. We know that Mary was personally chosen by God. She didn’t just happen to be the mother of Jesus, she was hand selected by God to bring his only son to life on earth. The lack of details about all of the ways that Mary had an impact on the world around her to me means that the things that made Mary significant to God are not necessiarly the same things that would make her significant to people.
I think Mary stood out to God because of who she was in her day to day life. Her significance was in how she was faithful in the things that no one else saw or maybe cared about. God knew who she was and he was sure he could trust her to be a good mom and to raise his only son. Mom’s have a big impact on their kids and God knew he could trust Mary with Jesus’ whole life on earth from the very beginning to the very end.
This is really encouraging to me because if God was paying attention to Mary and hand selected her, even if no one else saw her significance, then he’s paying attention to me too. He’s watching how I live day in and day out. Even if I don’t ever feel significant God sees and values that I am being faithful to the things that he has called me to do. This brings so much value to the things I do every day and encourages me to live my day to day life in a way that honors him. It helps me to see that even the seemingly insignificant things matter.
I hope that you are encouraged by this too. I hope that this week and in the weeks to come that you remember that God sees you and he values the way that you show your faithfulness toward him, especially in the day to day things that may seem to go unnoticed.
I don’t know about you but often things don’t really go the way I planned for them to go. Sometimes it’s important to fight for things in your life to turn around but sometimes we have to just let things play out. It’s important to be able to determine which is which so we can stay in the middle of God’s plans for our lives.
I want to encourage you that even if things are not going the way you planned, and it’s one of those times you need to just let things play out you’re not alone. One of the devils greatest tricks is to make us feel isolated and alone but that’s never the case. Someone else has always been or is going through something similar to what you are experiencing right now.
Don’t let a change of plans take you off course. Instead use it as an opportunity to evaluate the direction that you really need to be going. I’ve found that when I feel like things are not going at all the way I had planned it’s often because of 1 of 2 things.
(1) It’s just a seed planting season not a growth season. When things aren’t going the way I expected it’s sometimes because the situation isn’t ready for the change I want to see happen. When this is the case instead of allowing a sense of defeat to take over I adjust my perspective to see that the change of growth I so long for will eventually happen but maybe at a different time. For now I have to focus on planting the right seeds in the right places so that things will be able to grow when the time is right.
(2) The short term plans that I had for myself would actually take me off course from my long term goals. It’s not always easy to know exactly how to pave a direct path into the future you want for yourself. We just don’t have the perspective that God has to get us to the right places at the right times. When I realize that my plans might not be the best way into my future it’s a lot easier to just let things play out and focus on figuring the next best step instead of fighting for something that will never get me to where I want to go.
In Jeremiah 29 the prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the surviving exiles in Babylon. I think it’s safe to say that being and exile was not at all what these people had planned for their lives! The letter was to tell them what God was saying for them. In verse 11 it says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
That is so encouraging to me and I hope it’s encouraging to you too. No matter what things look like for each of us today, even when things don’t look at all the way we had planned, we can always rest in the assurance that God has good plans for our future and we can trust him to get us to the exact right places at the exact right time.