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A Crisis of Identity

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Isaiah 43:1-9 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
It is marked in each Bible I possess… I hold these words, His promises, in my heart. I recite them to myself on hard days when I get tangled up in all of the labels and the expectations this insane world strap onto my heart and plant in my mind.
In complete transparency, over the last 5 months I have battled with an irrational desire to measure up, constantly comparing myself to others, and seeing myself as less than others around me.
It has been grueling. I have done this at church, at school, and even in my home. It has created anxiety issues and has robbed me of joy and peace. The enemy has had a field day in my heart and mind because I ALLOWED it!

I hate feeling as if I am constantly competing with others.

I. HATE. IT.

In truth when I feel this pressure, I usually pull in and hide. I quit…
This type of competition steals my confidence and wrecks my ability to create.

It’s weird, isn’t it?

We let all sorts of people (and who knows what labels) define us. We tell ourselves that our lives will be perfect if we can just jump through “this hoop” or be like someone or follow someone’s else advice because they seem to have it all together. We allow social media and Pinterest and the opinions of others to mold and manipulate our fragile hearts and minds.
We listen to the lies, and we hide other people’s criticism in our hearts and play them on repeat when we’re alone. We so desperately want to be known or remembered for something that we’ll sometimes settle for being known for anything.
And when we do that, we chip away at our true identity, which has ONLY ever been – and will ONLY ever be – in Him.

In Christ.

I am so grateful that Jesus looks at all the words, the labels, and names we call ourselves – the things that we think will make us known – (and praise Him…) He just shakes His head…

He says… “Nope. No ma’am… Here’s what really and truly matters, darlin’!

YOU. ARE. MINE. ❤️

I want you to remind yourself of that today.

You. Are. His.

I. Am. His.

No one else gets to define you. No one else gets to tell you who you are.
And because of that, you will never find true and lasting peace in a title, in a role, or in an identity.

You should absolutely do your best at whatever you undertake.

Colossians 3:23 is pretty clear about that. “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.”

But your work, or another person’s evaluation of it – has NO bearing on your value as a person.

Just in case you have forgotten, I want to remind you of something that will shatter your heart and make your life so much sweeter:
  • The Lord established and sealed your value before the foundation of time.
  • He created you with GREAT intention.
  • He loves you more than you could ever imagine,
  • And at the end of the day … HIS OPINION is the ONLY ONE that matters.
So remember:
  • You are a deeply loved child of God.
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • AND You are precious in His sight.

THAT, sweet one, is what defines you.. who defines you!

🎵Sing with me…

“JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW…
FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO…
“WEARY” ONES TO HIM BELONG.
” I AM WEAK”… BUT HE IS STRONG…
YES, JESUS LOVES ME…
YES, JESUS LOVES ME.
YES, JESUS LOVES ME…
FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”

Note to my 2020 self…

Jesus defines me. I don’t have to measure up or keep up with anyone else. I am uniquely wired and gifted for the task He has for me. That’s enough.
Jesus is enough… He’s my all.

December 24th – Luke 2:6-21

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Photo by Gareth Harper.

Welcome Lord Jesus…
Into the darkness of that dark stable, a child is born. Into the darkness of the world, a light shines.
From the knotty gnarled stump of Jesse, a shoot springs up.
The waiting is over. Hope is here. This is the olive branch in the beak of the Noah’s dove. This is our confirmation that all is not lost.
Today, we hear the good news!
Today, we kneel at the manger.
Today, we glorify and praise God for all we have seen and heard!
Welcome Lord Jesus!
I’m so grateful and thrilled you willingly shattered the darkness of the world to bring your light and life. The life you bring promises more than this world could ever imagine.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!

December 23rd – Luke 2:1-5

 

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The Christmas Journey

Today people around us are preparing for Christmas travels. Maybe some have already reached their destinations. Some may be loading precious cargo and journeying today.
As I write this, my babies are traveling. One son is driving with his family to Tennessee, and one son is flying home from Colorado. Packing began yesterday… preparations long before that.
I recently read that the Christmas story is a destination story.
I don’t know that I had thought about that before, but it is.
Advent season is a journey.
The story of Christmas is about a journey, a two-fold journey.
Yes, it’s the story of Joseph and Mary making their way to Bethlehem, a hard journey filled with the discomfort of late pregnancy and anxiety about an unknown future. A journey they made out of civil obedience, anticipation growing with each passing mile.
More importantly, Christmas is the destination story of Jesus Christ, Immanuel…God With Us.
It’s the story of the willingness of the One who was God Almighty to leave the splendor of heaven, to take on human frailty with all of its limitations and endure the realities of living in a horribly broken world.
A journey He made out of love… a consuming…ridiculously magnificent perfect love.
This Advent season we have journeyed together through Old Testament passages. The road over the last month has been bumpy and hard for so many.
Although I pray our final destinations are the same, our journeys are not over with the dawning of Christmas day. We each continue on our own narrow rocky path, but what we have shared over the past days and weeks hopefully makes us stronger as we continue on toward our sweet destination.
Jesus made earth his final destination so that our final destination would be with him in the most wonderful place forever and ever.
Lord Jesus,
Thank you. Thank you for leaving what was your right, to guarantee for me a place that is NOT my right but a gift from your precious hands.
“Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care
And take us for Heaven to live with thee there.”
Amen

December 22nd – Matthew 1:18-25

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Yes.

When we read the Christmas story, humble Joseph is not a central character by many accounts.
But…
If we prayerfully sit with this passage of Scripture,
  • we see what a man of honor looks like.
  • We see what a godly man looks like.
  • We see what obedience looks like.
“BEING A RIGHTEOUS MAN AND UNWILLING TO EXPOSE HER TO PUBLIC DISGRACE, HE PLANNED TO DISMISS HER QUIETLY.” MATTHEW 1:19
Mary’s extramarital pregnancy was complicated…
Jewish civil law was very clear about the process of divorce during engagements.
The pregnancy tarnished both of their reputations regardless of how he handled it.
Then an angel of the LORD appears in a dream, and tells Joseph to take his righteousness a step further by following through with the engagement and marrying young Mary.
  • Knowing Mary’s pregnancy tainted her with sin…
  • Knowing it would taint his reputation as well…
  • Knowing their marriage would long be whispered about and their families would be impacted by the public humiliation…
“JOSEPH, SON OF DAVID, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TAKE MARY AS YOUR WIFE, FOR THE CHILD CONCEIVED IN HER IS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. SHE WILL BEAR A SON AND YOU WILL CALL HIS NAME JESUS FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” MATTHEW 1: 20-21
But Joseph, being the righteous man God chose for the task, was obedient.
  • He said yes…
  • He said yes to the public disgrace.
  • He said yes to the questioning stares and whispers.
  • He said to this holy task…
Embracing and raising Jesus… the Savior…
He didn’t allow fear to overrule him.
Instead, he let compassion and love motivate him and his decision.
By being willing to unite himself to Mary, he was opening himself to a wonderful role in the story.
Rather than being the one who left… the one who quit… the one who walked away to redeem public opinion…
  • He said yes to God.
  • He said yes to being the earthly father to the Savior of the world…
  • He said yes to teaching the Creator of the world how to use his human hands to fashion tools and simple furniture.
  • He said yes to holding the crying baby who would one day heal the broken hearted, the blind, and the deaf.
  • He said yes.
How can we say yes to him today?
How might we set aside our fears and follow Him?
How might we take our righteousness a step further and embrace the risk of following fast and hard after the Heavenly Father’s lead?
God,
You so marvelously invited Joseph into your story. Thank you for the example he sets for us. Where in my life, in my heart, am I resisting to follow you in obedience because I am worried about how people will see me? Is there some good I am doing that I could take it up to the next level of radical obedience?
Give me courage to say yes to you.
Amen

December 21 – Luke 1:26-38

 

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Photo by Chaz McGregor.

When Holy Shatters the Ordinary

“How can this be?”

Her soft words were spoken amidst a tsunami of emotions. Confusion, fear…

The ordinariness of her day was shattered by the arrival of an angel. He broke into her day, changing the character of not just that moment but her life…of every life. The lives of everyone who came and the ones that would come after were changed in that one moment.

That holy moment of angelic tidings…

 

That moment of ancient promise fulfilled…

 

Mary’s life would not be ordinary anymore.

“How can this be?” Though she had never been with a man, she would conceive and give birth to a baby in a way no other woman had or has since.

 

There would be ordinary moments, but those moments were pierced with the knowledge that her son Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God Most High.

 

This Jesus… He is the One whose name “is above every other name,” and one day, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under earth – and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

 

This Jesus came into the womb of a young girl taking on flesh and living among us, to save us before we even knew we needed saving.

 

He has come and will come again to save us, once for all, by His work on the cross. By His spirit, He is near, and one day He will return shattering all heartache and brokenness, making all things new.

 

He knows…

our brokenness, our sin, and our fickle hearts.

 

And yet He chose to come and live among us because He loves us.

 

Even in our sin and our filth, Jesus loved, pursued, and saved us for the joy set before Him.

 

It wasn’t just the angel who broke through the ordinary with a holy visit; it was God Himself shattering the common, infusing all of history with His very presence – His redemptive love…

 

If we know this and believe this then…

 

Every moment is pierced with Jesus, and

 

Nothing is ordinary anymore.

 

Most High God,

You have done this marvelous thing. You entered into history as a human and redeemed me as your own. You have shattered all that this world has to offer with the offering of you, of salvation. Tender my days with the knowledge that my moments are holy.

Help me to use my moments for your glory…

No, Father, nothing is ordinary anymore.

 

Amen

 

December 20th – Matthew 3:1-6

 

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Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash

A Peculiar Treasure

John the Baptist was a strange bird… a peculiar treasure indeed.

  • · Miracle baby to aging parents
  • · Lived and preached in the wilderness
  • · Wore camel-hair clothes
  • · Are locusts and honey

 

In my mind, he was probably a guy who didn’t honor personal space.

Opinionated? Yep.
Loud and brash? Uh-huh
Rubbed people the wrong way, confrontational???
Most definitely.

But he was called to be that way.

His message to the people was an urgent wake-up call. The Promised One…the long-awaited Messiah would be coming soon.
Judgment and redemption was on the way.
John the Baptist called out to the people of Israel, “Repent!”
John spoke of repentance as a radical turning from sin. Prophecy fulfilled. Isaiah 40:3-5 promised “A voice is calling, clearing the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”
He had the task of getting the people ready for Messiah’s arrival. John prepared the way for Jesus by preparing others to welcome Him. The years of waiting made the people nearly forget about God’s promise to send a Savior, someone who would redeem the people from their lives of sin, oppression, and misery.

JOHN WAS THERE TO REFRESH THEIR MEMORY.  THE STORY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST REFRESHES OUR MEMORY.

You might have forgotten, but God has not. A Savior is on the way…
What good is a Savior to someone who doesn’t know they are dying.
If I don’t know I’m dirty, I don’t crave cleansing.
If I don’t know I’m sick, then how will I know I need a doctor.
The people confessed their sins and were washed clean.

How are we preparing the way of the LORD today?

John’s cry in the wilderness should be our cry today.
Run to Jesus…
Let’s be honest about our sin-sick souls.
Let’s be real about our need for a Savior.
I can answer this call to repent. In this Advent season, I am issued an invitation to exhale and honestly, humbly agree with God that I am not faithful to Him much like the people of Israel in John’s day.
None of us are, in our own strength.
We do not follow His ways. We devote ourselves to our attempts at being in control of our own little kingdoms.
The Kingdom of Heaven put on flesh to come near to us. Jesus Messiah is the One who washes away the dirt and decay of our sin, and He alone makes us clean.
JESUS,
POINT OUT THE PLACES IN ME THAT ARE A MESS, THE PLACES THAT ARE MAKING IT HARD FOR ME TO ENCOUNTER YOU. I CONFESS MY SINS TO YOU. MAKE ME CLEAN. PREPARE MY HEART FOR TO WELCOME YOU.
AMEN

December 19th – Luke 1:5-25

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Photo by Mostafa Meraji.

The Question of Silence

This particular passage of Scripture provided interesting discussion last week.
You see, my heart is tender to Zechariah. He doesn’t outright reject the angel’s message, after all. He doesn’t laugh the way Sarah does when she overhears that she will bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:12). He just asks how he can be sure the angel is telling the truth.
It’s a fair question. Bear in mind, there  had been 400 years of silence…
The promise made by the angel would fulfill the deepest desire of Zechariah’s heart… To him, the message was too good to be true. The hope of joy was too painful to let in.
What Zechariah knew of God’s character, even as a priest, was not enough to convince him.
I am guilty…
Are we not tempted to question whether God’s promises line up more with HIS character or OUR circumstances?
If God’s promise depends on His faithfulness alone, then Zechariah and Elizabeth are on the brink of a wild kind of hope and joy that will shatter their imaginations.
What is the difference between believing that God’s promise depends on us or on Him? My fragile fickle faith or His goodness, His faithfulness, His proven character?
The temptation of crippling fear or the thrill of hope in the face of uncertainty?
The punishment for Zechariah’s unbelief/his questioning was muteness, and yet, God still showed His power in him as well as in Elizabeth.
And maybe…just maybe… what we consider a punishment God used as a gift… Maybe the season of quiet was a time to dwell of the goodness of God… to ponder His character…
Our doubt cannot stop God from being good to us, and it definitely WILL NOT thwart His perfect plans.

That is the kind of God my God is…

Even John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was the Messiah, (Luke 7:19) and Jesus honored his question. He reminded John that in order to determine truth he needed to look at the fulfilled prophecies which pointed to God’s character, rather than focusing on his current circumstances.
Bless precious Elizabeth… In contrast to Zechariah, she responded to this beautifully impossible news with a heart bursting with gratitude…
Whether we respond as Elizabeth or as Zechariah, our God keeps His promises. Even when we are too overwhelmed by our circumstances to believe… He keeps His promises.
Know Him… Know His unwavering character…
This Advent, God offers JOY to us…Hope has come…
Salvation is here!
In our silence and waiting, God is birthing joy…eternally…in us.
Bring Him your questions. Carve out time and space to ponder His goodness and His character.
Lord,
Thank you! In the midst of my doubts and fragile faith, You are mighty. Speak… I am listening. Help me to quiet my buzzing thoughts and the chaos of my days. What do you want me to hear today? Tender my heart to You…
Amen

December 18th – Micah 5:1-5

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Our Source of Peace

The book of Micah was probably written around 703 B.C. which was just before the Assyrian invasion of Judah. The reigning leader was King Zedekiah who was the last of the kings in David’s line to sit on the throne in Jerusalem.
In this passage, Micah tells the people that the next Davidic king would be the Messiah who would establish a kingdom that would never end.
Sadly, Jerusalem’s wealth and power-obsessed rulers could not believe that their mighty city and their way of life would be destroyed by an enemy nation. Neither their king, nor their military could save them.

 

But Bethlehem…

This tiny town, which is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, would be the birthplace of the only ruler who could truly save the people. Their deliverer, the Messiah, would be born there and eventually reign as the eternal King.

 

Chapter 5 provides one of the clearest Old Testament prophecies of Jesus Christ’s coming. Micah 5:5 describes Him as our ” source of peace.” Because of His first coming, we have the opportunity to experience peace with God with no more fear of judgement and no more conflict or guilt.
Christ’s peace gives us assurance even though wars will continue. His reign of peace is not just for His future kingdom, it is peace for the here-and-now in the lives of those who follow Him.
Before He was arrested and crucified, in His last teaching moments with the disciples, Jesus promised them peace, not as the world offers it, but as only He can give.
Their spirits could rest and enjoy sweet fellowship with God, which would then create ripple effects in their relationships with the world around them (John 14:27).
We live in the present reality of the Kingdom of God pushing back the kingdom of darkness. The peace of Jesus acts in direct opposition to the anxiety and worry of this world. As believers, we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus, our Prince of Peace, is making all things right.
We can participate with Him in bringing peace to a broken and sin-sick world as we anticipate a future kingdom of peace.

Lord Jesus,

One day… one day

Your reign will restore peace to our broken world. But in my “here and now,” I need you to fill me with Your peace, and help me to bring peace in my daily walk among my circle of influence.

Where there is worry, bring reassurance of Your provision.

Where there is strife, bring to my mind Your precious humility.

Where there is bickering, bring to my heart Your love.

Be my peace…

Amen

December 17th – Daniel 6

 

 

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Prayer in the Face of Lions

Daniel 6 is not a soft and fuzzy children’s bedtime story. It truly is the gruesome stuff of nightmares. In this chapter we have an evil plot to trap Daniel, who is singularly devoted to God, and throw him into a pit full of hungry lions. Daniel’s enemies want him dead. BUT… in the end we see a dramatic plot twist because Daniel’s enemies, their wives, and children are thrown into the pit and mauled by the lions.

 

Yikes! The story reminds us of the risks of obedience to God in a world with an alternate agenda.

This is a story of jealousy. Daniel had found favor with the King and had been given authority over many others. This Hebrew man and His God were a thorn to local leaders and other high officials. They tried to find ways to dishonor him but they could find no fault in his character. Daniel’s faith was strong and reflected the character of his God. The men believed this would be Daniel’s downfall, and they set a trap knowing Daniel would remain faithful to his God.

 

Sometimes our faithfulness brings us promotion in the world, just as Daniel found favor with the King.

 

At other times, our faithfulness makes us public enemy number one.

“EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS WILL BE PERSECUTED. ” 1 TIMOTHY 3:12

 

God does not abandon us in our battles. He invites us into prayer. Prayer pierces our humanity with His holiness. Just think about that…

 

Prayer is where we ask courageously, wait patiently, and surrender faithfully to God’s goodness and wisdom.

And that’s just what Daniel did. He prayed.

He prayed knowing who his God was…

He prayed even as the King signed the ordinance forbidding prayer to any other “god” but himself for 30 days.

 

Daniel did not change his habit of prayer… for anyone…for anything.

I am convicted by this. How faithful am I in my daily devotion to God?

Not Daniel-faithful apparently…

But for Daniel, it was business as usual. He turned his face toward home, Jerusalem, got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God. He did break his habit, reasoning that God would understand.

We do this, don’t we? When the circumstance is uncomfortable and “our” best interests are at heart? Surely God wouldn’t want me to be inconvenienced?

 

So Daniel was put in the pit…

BUT Daniel’s God deliverer delivered His faithful servant and He made his glory known to an unbelieving King and nation.

God’s power prevailed and He shut the mouths of the lions and the enemy.

 

The God who rescued Daniel is the same God who rescued us. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the Lion of Judah who becomes the Lamb of God. (Revelation 5:5-6)

Jesus took our pain and our suffering upon Himself.

He was pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-5)

AND THEN HE ROSE FROM THE PIT VICTORIOUS!

When we suffer in the name of Jesus, we do not suffer alone!

We will never face a lion’s den without the Lion of Judah by our side.

 

Mighty God,

Your kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world. You flip the usual power systems upside down because you change the parameters. Living in your kingdom puts me at odds with the world, but even when I feel under attack, YOU are with me. You never abandon me. Thank you!

Amen

December 16th – Isaiah 11:6-9

 

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This devotion today  is Grace Claus. 

What a scene! Wolves wander alongside lambs. Leopards nap next to baby goats. A parade of calves and bears is led by a bright-eyed toddler, who stops to invite a snake to join the fun.

The scene has a fantastical, circus-like quality to it, so playful as to be silly. You can practically hear the honky-tonk in the background. Is it a joke? It’s so farfetched that it might as well be.

When in this dog-eat-dog world would a wolf ever restrain itself enough not to tear into a plump young lamb? When would a mother dare to let her child wrestle with a bear cub? When would a venomous snake lick a baby’s hand the way a puppy might?

In this world, probably never. Even the most optimistic among us wouldn’t expect a lamb to survive in a pasture with a wolf. But in the world to come, the world that’s just over the edge of the horizon, this improbable parade will be the way of things. In the world where the Lord reigns, all of this improbability becomes not just probable but actual. Isaiah’s scene is no fable. This is what we have to look forward to!

Father,

How eager I am for a world in which predator and prey play together. May your kingdom come, filling the earth with the knowledge of you. Amen.

 

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