I thought I was okay . . . until yesterday. The tears started falling and just wouldn’t stop. Apparently, even though I’m an introvert—and even though we’re all healthy—this lockdown is wearing on me more than I realized.
When God Makes All Things New
I sat away from the computer for Skype “church service” so I wouldn’t distract others with my steady tears. We were studying Revelation 21, which gives a glimpse into our future hope:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
(I learned from our devotional guide that “The sea in the ancient world was a place of chaos, unrest, and dangers. The sea has no place in the new heaven and earth.”)
The text continues,
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem [a picture of the perfected people of God] coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
In my weepy state, this next part captured my imagination most:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Bernie Elliott wrote this in the devotional guide,
Hospital beds, pharmacies, and caskets will be a thing of the past. It’s hard to imagine a life free of fear, a life without sorrow, an existence where death is no more. Yet this is what is prepared for God’s people.
I wonder, do you and I long for things to return to “normal,” or is our hope in when God makes all things new?
Exercise, Chasing the Sun, and Limestone Fissures
When we finished our service, we chased the sun to Clark Reservation. We hiked across the limestone fissures and remembered that God will heal all the broken parts in our hearts and world.
We plan on continuing to chase the sun and to exercise harder after watching more videos from Virgil Tanner. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to his YouTube channel. He consistently ministers to my heart in the deepest of ways. Here’s a little coaching from him:
“The most important thing you can do for your family is nurture a deep connection with Jesus. Find ways to withdraw, to engage Him with others, to obey the things He shows you . . .
“The second most important thing you can do is work out. Because the third most important thing you can do is to create a way to find a healthy emotional space and to live from there. The other people in your house are going to draw their emotional tenor from you. And if you skip paying attention to your heart in order to pay special attention to their academics, they will come at their academics anxious. That will raise their affective filter, and they will learn less than they would have if you had put their school in the back seat and put your emotional wellness ahead of it.
“Remember that the best thing you can do for your emotions is exercise. Exercise is often prescribed as curative to things like low-grade depression or low-grade anxiety disorders. Take care of your body so it can take care of your heart. Also take care of your body so you can love your neighbor well, by not needing a hospital bed. As you take care of your body and it takes care of your heart, your heart can take care of their hearts, and their hearts will help their minds learn multiplication.”
Here’s another short, excellent video I watched from Virgil yesterday that is really helping me. I highly recommend watching it. (Does Jesus’ favorite question surprise you? It did me.)
That’s the question Typology podcast host, Ian Morgan Cron, posed in an episode I listened to yesterday. I’ve heard a variation of that question before, and it’s such a powerful one! Ian mentioned that he has started a list of what he would do if he weren’t afraid, so I started my list yesterday.
I imagine that when Ian posed that question, he had in mind big feats, like:
Climb Mt. Everest,
Write that book, or,
Start that business.
If I Weren’t Afraid, I Would . . .
But when I face that question head on, ordinary tasks come to mind:
Pick up a paintbrush,
Create a Facebook event page,
Hang a picture frame on a wall,
Cut a piece of wood with a machine,
Figure out why the video isn’t working on my computer,
My lack of confidence isn’t a new revelation; marriage to Trevor has revealed just how dependent and helpless I’ve become. (He’s always trying on new hobbies for size; watching YouTube videos and then renovating our house . . . amazing!)
Thankfully, Trevor continues to encourage me, “You can do it.” And slooooowly I’ve started to respond, “I know.”
Goodbye Fear, Hello Freedom
In fact, the other day I was thinking, I’ve given birth. Twice! Oh, and yes, I’ve written a book. But, I’ve given birth . . . twice! In light of that feat, I sell myself far too short. And I’m finally fed up with playing the role of helpless damsel.
So while Trevor practiced his sermon last night (he’s preaching on Mark 14:1-11 this Sunday), I pulled the Knackwurst out of the fridge, fired up the grill, and went for it.
I wonder if you can relate. You don’t have to tell me your answer. But do yourself a favor and ask the question of yourself. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Are you selling yourself short? Are you walking in the freedom Christ purchased for you, or are you still living as a slave to fear?
Dear blog reader, Today I want to share four gifts from my desk to you. I haven’t posted here for a couple months now—not ‘cause I’ve had my feet up—but ‘cause I’ve had my bum in my chair and my fingers on my keys focusing on several projects for Revive Our Hearts. I want to share them with you now, in the hopes that something here will bless you today.
Gift 1: Living with the Difficult People in Your Life
From July 31 to September 11, I had the privilege of leading a seven-week Facebook Live study for our newly released Bible study, “Abigail: Living with the Difficult People In Your Life.” I taught two nights—once on God’s providence and the other night on the sticky Imprecatory Psalms. The other evenings I interviewed guests. I found Vaneetha Risner’s story on forgiveness especially powerful. Enjoy! (And thanks to my hubby for taking care of Iren while I recorded these live segments!)
Gift 2: Ten Truths to Set Leaders Free
I then contributed a chapter to this new ebook, which you can download for free. My chapter addresses the lie, “My ministry is insignificant compared to leaders with larger platforms.” Plus, read other lies and truths for leaders from nine other writers.
Gift 3: I Choose Truth
Three coworkers and I wrote this 30-day “I Choose Truth” email devotional. Here are the six weighty truths I covered:
“There is no one I cannot love.”
“There is no one I cannot forgive.”
“It’s not about me; It’s all about Him.”
“I can keep God’s commands.”
“The cross of Christ is sufficient to conquer my sinful flesh.”
Finally, today I’m over at TrueWoman.com writing about My Favorite True Woman Conference Yet. Trevor and I just got back late Monday. Usually, I’m holed up transcribing messages or writing blog posts, but this year, I co-hosted the livestream. Because I knew I’d need stories to share on the stream, I was “forced” to interact with women and not simply type on my computer. What a gift!
I wrote this post to share some of these women’s stories with you. Thank you for praying for them as many of them have just returned to difficult life situations.
I hope these four gifts from my desk to you encourage your heart today. I’m grateful for you!
Four months ago our little family moved into my in-laws’ house, and our home renovation began.
As home renovations go, this one has taken longer and cost more than we expected. Our contractor told us he has seen couples divorce over home renovations. I get it. The stress is high. The decisions are unending.
It’s not just the home renovation. We feel like we’ve been in a pressure cooker for months now.
When Life Doesn’t Give You a Break
Sometimes life just doesn’t give you a break. It’s the need to finally bite the bullet and buy a new car, even as you’re dishing out money right and left for your home renovation.
It’s the trip to the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning . . . and a subsequent hospital admission. (Iren was wheezing and struggling to breathe.)
It’s urging people in our lives to turn from sin and pursue Christ. It’s that ridiculous relational squabble. And on and on and on.
My husband and I are weary. I’ve had a meltdown or two. It usually goes like this, [Sob . . . sniffle . . . “I have no friends!”] Trevor assures me I do, but I have yet to figure out how to find time to hang out with any of them in the midst of all the other demands and responsibilities.
But in the midst of all the pressure, I continue to catch glimpses of just how much God caresfor me. For example, here’s how I saw it yesterday.
I was taking Iren on a walk when I looked up and saw an acquaintance. I fell into step with her and told her I need to prepare three messages for a mother-daughter retreat next week. One message is for moms, and I’ve never been a mom of a daughter. So I asked this pastors’ wife of four children what she would say to these women.
Her thoughts sparked several ideas, so I pulled out my phone and took notes as we walked. It was a reminder that God sees my overflowing to-do list, that blank Google document, the impending deadline . . . and He cares.
Would You Pray for Us?
I share all this with you to ask you to pray for us. Pray:
God would send us help as we move back home. Our house is far from move-in ready, but we are ready to be home, even if it means dust and disorganization for a season.
You don’t want to be jealous, but you are. You feel overlooked and underappreciated.
Someone else made the cut for the track team.
Your coworker got that promotion at Chipotle.
Your best friend just became class president.
You know these are good things, but still you feel overlooked and underappreciated. I can relate.
A Front-Row Seat
I felt overlooked and underappreciated recently. I was given a behind-the-scenes job that gave me a front-row seat to others being being called up on stage to share their wisdom with others. Inside, instead of celebrating their opportunity, I felt like someone was cruelly twisting a knife in my stomach.
“I can do a great job, too,” I muttered to myself. “I have just as much to offer.”
A couple days later, while sitting on a pew on a Sunday morning, I heard the pastor briefly allude to James 3:13–18. Verses 14 and 15 nailed me to the wall:
If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts . . . this is . . . demonic.
My Jealousy Is . . . Demonic?
Waaaaaaiiiiiiiiitttttttt . . . demonic?!
Yep. Turns out you don’t have to dabble in the occult to serve the devil’s interests; you simply have to be filled with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. YIKES!
In James 3:13–18, James exposes true—and counterfeit—“wisdom.” There’s:
The “real-deal-wisdom” that comes from God and shows itself in humility, and,
This counterfeit “wisdom” that comes from Satan and shows itself in bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
If we are truly wise—if we really do have lots to offer others—we will prove it through our “meekness,” our humility (v. 13). But if, instead, we are filled with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, we prove that we are not nearly as wise as we think we are (vv. 14–15).
We want to walk the path of wisdom, right? We don’t want to dabble with the deeds of darkness, do we? So what can we do the next time we’re feeling overlooked and underappreciated?
The Next Time We Feel Overlooked
He—the Creator and King—willingly made Himself nothing and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7). He—“very God of very God”—was despised and rejected by humanity (Isa. 53:3). He was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). This, by the way, doesn’t mean He had to be perfected morally; it means His suffering made Him the perfect Savior for broken humanity.
As we remember Jesus, let’s cry out to Him for help to embrace His way of meekness.
As we remember Jesus, let’s cry out to Him for help to embrace His way of meekness. Repent with me of our bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. These are demonic; they bear no resemblance to our older Brother, Jesus. Instead, let’s embrace “the wisdom from above,” that’s “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). When we do, we will sow “a harvest of righteousness” (v. 18)
How about you? Is your life marked by humility . . . or selfish ambition? Are you pursuing the way of wisdom . . . or the way of the demonic?
A Prayer for the Jealous in Heart
Jesus, You are my merciful, faithful High Priest. You sympathize with me in my weakness, because You too lived as a human being—but perfectly, as I have not. I want to pursue the way of wisdom, but I cannot do it on my own. Help me. As I surrender to Your Holy Spirit in me, transform me into Your beautiful, spittin’ image. I request this for Your glory, my joy, and the good of all those around me. Amen.
At some point this school year you may bump into a girl who outshines you: on the basketball court, in science class, on the piano . . . or maybe with how well she is liked by others and how beautiful she is.
If and when you start noticing that you’re:
comparing yourself with her
criticizing her (if only in your thoughts)
being ungrateful for the gifts God has given you
minimizing the gifts God has given her
feeling hatred toward her . . .
. . . you can be glad.
Why? Because this girl’s success is shining the spotlight on the sin of envy in your life. That is a good thing because all sin is a disease that will kill you if left unchecked. Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!
How can you fight back against envy? The key lies in 1 Peter 2:1–3:
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
First, when envy pops up, you and I need to “put it away.” Wage war against it. Confess it as sin to God. Turn away from it and have nothing more to do with it.
Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!
Second, instead of miserably focusing on others’ successes, you and I need to take the “medicine” of the pure spiritual milk of God’s goodness toward us.
Jonathan Edwards does just that in this paragraph (read slowly so you don’t miss these rich thoughts that he wrote way back in the 1700s):
Christ came into the world to deliver us from the fruits of Satan’s envy towards us. The devil being miserable himself, envied mankind that happiness which they had, and could not bear to see our first parents in their happy state in Eden, and therefore exerted himself to the utmost to ruin them, and accomplished it. The gospel teaches how Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and deliver us from that misery into which his envy had brought us.
When Jesus came into the world, He humbled Himself beyond what we can imagine and gave everything for us. And He did it joyfully. I love how Ed Welch points to Luke 12:32 (“Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”) and says, “Fathers can give begrudgingly and kings can give simply because they made an oath, but God gives out of his pleasure and delight.”
Jonathan Edwards says it like this,
The doctrines of the gospel teach us how far Jesus Christ was from grudging us anything which he could do for or give to us. He did not grudge us a life spent in labor and suffering; he did not grudge us his own precious blood; he hath not grudged us a sitting with him on his throne in heaven, and being partakers with him of that heavenly kingdom and glory which the Father hath given him.
I have feelings for a guy friend. Feelings that I’ve asked God to take away from me several times, but for whatever reason, He has not. Why did God give me feelings I didn’t ask for? And what does He want me to do?
Short answer: I don’t think He did give you feelings for this guy.
I’m not sure where we got this notion that it’s God’s fault if we feel something we don’t want to feel. James 1:13–15 says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Yes, God gave us the capacity to feel, because He made us in His image, and He feels deeply. But I don’t believe He feeds specific feelings into our hearts, like we’d feed a gum ball machine with quarters.
Our feelings ultimately stem from what we’re thinking and believing. Rather than asking God to take away your feelings, examine them the way you’d carefully examine your reflection in the mirror before leaving for school:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2, emphasis added).
God doesn’t give us our feelings; but we are wise to give our feelings to God. We see the psalmist doing this over and over in the book of Psalms. He pours out his feelings to God, and then he holds his feelings up to the truth of who God is and compares the two.
So the next time you want to blame God for your feelings, first ask yourself:
When did I start to feel this way? What led me to feel this way?
What am I thinking and believing that is contributing to this feeling?
How do my feelings line up with God’s truth? What does God’s Word have to say about what I’m feeling?
Then bring your feelings to God, taking them to His Word and placing them before Him in prayer.
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear from you. Do you believe that God is responsible for your feelings? Why or why not?
If I could pick only one verse and frame it in my new home as a constant reminder, I would choose Proverbs 19:11, hands down:
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Yeah . . . I’m not so hot at living like this.
Oh, I’ve learned how to keep my cool on the outside. That’s easy for me. I’m a stuffer. But on the inside . . . I’m steaming hot and bothered more times than I’d dare admit!
These days, wedding planning has served to show me just how easily offended I am.
Is there a life circumstance that is squeezing the true colors out of your heart?
For example, if someone told me they couldn’t host an out-of-town wedding party guest overnight, it was far easier for me to assume they were selfish and inhospitable rather than remembering that I didn’t have the full picture of their current schedule and assuming they had a good reason for saying no.
Or if someone said they’d charge me more for a wedding service than they’d originally said they would, I assumed they were greedy and using me rather than assuming that they forgot the original price they’d told me.
You might not be planning a wedding right now, but is there a life circumstance that is squeezing the true colors out of your heart?
Do you feel angry? Insulted? Provoked? Offended? Downright mad?
Are you shocked that someone could be so selfish and thoughtless toward you?
Instead of overlooking an offense (Prov. 19:11), are you doing the exact opposite? Slowly circling it, taking it in from every angle?
I wonder how often we’re needlessly offended by perceived offenses—things that aren’t even real offenses!
What if—rather than shining a spotlight on others’ offenses—I sought to uncover my own?
What if, instead, you and I were to give the same attention to our actual offenses toward a holy God?
How many times a day do I live in a way that displeases Him? How many times a day do I ignore Him? Disregard Him? Rebel against the laws He has given for my good?
What if—rather than shining a spotlight on others’ offenses—I sought to uncover my own?
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (Prov. 28:13).
My God has forgiven me my actual offenses by punishing His perfect Son, Jesus, in my place. As a result, He has removed my transgressions from me, as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12)!
How, then, can I refuse to let go of perceived offenses that others commit against me?
If you find yourself battling offenses like me, here are a few steps you can take:
Give it to God, again and again, in prayer.
Remind yourself that you don’t have all the facts. You can’t see the other person’s heart. You’re not the Judge; God is.
Assume the best of others instead of assuming the worst.
Get to the root. Why are you so angry and offended?
Examine your own life. Are you guilty of the very same “sin” you’re accusing your offender of?
I’d love to hear from you. Are you often offended? If so, what do you do? How do you respond—internally and externally?