When Darkness Reigned {Good Friday}

finished

Earlier today, a friend shared the following video, Sunday’s coming…

This video was very moving to me. The day when darkness reigned, both literally and figuratively. As a kid I used to think we’d gotten it wrong. The day when evil triumphed shouldn’t be called Good Friday.

But the truth is, evil didn’t take the life of Jesus, that could never have happened. He gave Himself up willingly for you and me. Evil never had the upper hand. Not even for a second. God was always on the throne.

The promise of Sunday was always there. 

And sometimes when I read, I wonder about the disciples.  They walked with him daily. He taught them, held their hands in prayer, patted their backs through tough times, and washed their feet. And he told them everything. He’d prepared them for what was to come. He wasn’t shy about His purpose.

Yet they still got lost in the pain and despair. They scattered and denied him.

But then came Sunday.  Death was defeated. Sin was defeated. Jesus rose triumphantly, just like he’d said.

And I think about the needless worry and despair that his followers went through. They already knew the outcome, if only they’d found the strength to trust in it. To have faith and see the bigger picture. Paul tells us to set our minds on things above and not on earthly things.

Every time I turn on the news, I’m reminded that we live in dark days. As I struggle with depression, there are days where the darkness threatens to swallow me up. I see the pain, the evil, and the darkness in this world, and sometimes it seems like too much.

But then I am reminded.

It’s no surprise to Him. And it shouldn’t surprise us either.

In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

I love this little snippet. So much promise in just a few short words. In this small verse, we can learn 2 very important things:

Trials are to be expected in this world. We live in a fallen world and we will have problems. At the same time, we know that it is no surprise to Him. He holds us in His hands through it all. God knows the trials that will come to us and He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

He has overcome the world. Just reading, saying, or typing that phrase makes me want to SHOUT! Yes, unthinkable tragedy, hardships, darkness and pain may surround you in this life. In this world there is so much evil. But Jesus has overcome it. The final triumph is His, and ours as heirs with Him.

My pastor spoke about hope a few Sundays ago. We use the word a lot when we’re talking about things that are uncertain. We say things like “I hope my team wins the game.” But the hope Jesus promises us is not uncertain. It is an assurance.

Just like Paul, who spoke of joy and peace in his darkest days, we can have that assurance. We can set our minds on things above and know that we’ll have the final victory. We can know that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18). We can know that when we reach Heaven there will be no more tears and no more suffering. We can know that He will work everything to our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. We can know these things.

If you are going through a time of pain or darkness, just remember…Sunday is coming!!! We know how this story ends and the final victory belongs to Jesus.

Cling to that promise.

Quiet Time Part 2: Get the Most of Your Quiet Time

Quiet Time: 5 Ways to Make the Most of it | Serving Joyfully

Yesterday, I talked about some of the reasons daily Bible reading should be non-negotiable. Today, I want to talk about some practical tips for making that happen.

1. Make it a Priority. You will likely never have an “extra” 30 minutes to spare in your day. It just isn’t going to happen. If you let it, other things will always fill that space. The key is to be intentional with our time.

“In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.“ – Sir John Lubbock

If you have a favorite TV show, more than likely you make time to watch it. Or maybe for you it’s books, or twitter, or facebook. More than likely there are things that you enjoy which you make time to do. We must make time to read God’s word and spend time with Him. If you recognize the importance and make it a priority, you will find a way to make time.

2. Set a regular time. Build it into your routine. A lot of people prefer early mornings before the rest of the family is up. Maybe that’s the only way you could possibly be able to concentrate. If so, set your clock a little earlier each morning–make it a priority. Maybe that won’t work for you.

Maybe you’re in a season of life where you just can’t imagine getting 1 minute less of sleep than you already do (I’ve been there, sister!). If that’s you, work it out another way. Let your kiddos watch an educational t.v. show. I’m not a huge fan of TV, but this is just that important. Make some busy bags or quiet time boxes for them to work on while you have your quiet time. Or, maybe at night after the little ones are in bed would work better for you. Whatever the time, make sure you are spending time daily in His word. Make it a habit.

3. Quiet your mind. As moms, we are multi-taskers. We have approximately 1,657,984 things going through our minds at any given moment. It can be hard to turn that off, and spend quality time with the Lord for our quiet time. Ways that I have found to drown out the distractions:

  • Pray for God to help you. He wants you to spend this time with Him. I sometimes start out my quiet time with an honest confession, “Lord, you know that I have a lot on my mind right now. But I want to spend this time with you. Please help me to quiet my mind and heart and focus on what you would have me to learn about you in this time.”
  • Sing praise and worship songs. Nothing helps me focus on God and God alone like singing praises and worshiping Him
  • Praise & Thanksgiving. In Psalm 100:4, we are told to enter His gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise. If you can’t focus right away, begin with a prayer of praise and thanks–simply thanking God for who He is and His many blessings. Oftentimes, this helps me to settle the rest of my mind and focus more clearly on Him and what I will be reading in my quiet time.

4. Use an app. I’ll be honest that I am way behind on the whole technology thing. So when a rep for Thomas Nelson invited me to try out their new Devotionals Daily app, I was somewhat skeptical. However, it is a very convenient way to add devotionals to your day. The app itself is free and offers some nice features such as a prayer journal and 5 day samples of many great devotionals. The paid devotionals include  bestsellers like Jesus Calling, Live Loved, Jesus Today, Grace for the Moment Morning, and Grace for the Moment Evening. The devotionals also include the fully written out scripture.

I think it’s important for us to make Bible time a priority. This devotional app is such a nice way to help you make the most of those extra minutes throughout the day–nursing an infant, waiting at a doctor’s appointment, exercising, etc. This app helps you make the most of those moments. It is very convenient to use.

5. Reflect & Apply. James 1:23-25 reminds us of the importance of being changed by God’s word. In the midst of making time for reading the Bible, we must also be sure that we are actually reflecting on what we read for clarity and understanding, and that we are applying it to our lives.

What are your Quiet Time tips?

 

Quiet Time Part 1: Why Bible Reading Should Be Non-Negotiable

Bible Reading Why

As moms, we wear a lot of hats and have a lot of responsibilities. And sometimes when we’re overwhelmed, our daily Bible reading is the first thing we cut out. It doesn’t feel as urgent as some of the other things, so it is tempting to let it fall by the wayside. It is absolutely imperative that we don’t do this, and today I’m going to share some of reasons that we need  time in our Bible. We can’t afford to cut it out in the midst of busyness.

If you are too busy to read the Bible every day, you are busier than Almighty God ever intended any human being should be. -D.L. Moody

1. Give God His due place. Psalm 29:2 calls us to “give unto the Lord the glory due to his name…” He deserves a life of worship, and a small start of that is to spend time in His word, learning more about Him.

2. It takes us from surviving to thriving. When I began my Thriving Thursdays link up, I started it with a question for readers about what helps you thrive instead of just surviving. The overwhelming response was time with the Lord. It really is the “magic” ingredient to more fulfillment and joy in our lives.

3. Gain focus in the midst of distractions. Everything about this world threatens to distract us from the Lord and our Heavenly purpose. Time in God’s word gives us the spiritual focus we need to put that aside, put it behind us, and focus on Him and Him alone. I think of Peter walking on water. He needed to be focused on his Lord and Savior, and our daily Bible reading helps us do that.

Reading God’s word can give us peace in the midst of chaos. Life can be chaotic. With all those hats we’re wearing and little kids running around, sometimes life is just pure chaos. Spending time in prayer and reading the Word gives us peace in the midst of it.

4. We need God’s word to convict, and challenge us. If we are living outside His will, even in “small” ways, His word can help reveal those things to us. It is a constant refining process.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12

5. The Bible is true and for our benefit. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We need God’s word in order to be able to carry out His will for our lives. We can’t do it without Him and His instruction.

6. Reading His word helps us hear His voice. Jesus says his sheep will hear his voice. But sometimes we don’t make time to listen. Reading our Bibles and spending daily time with the Lord helps us to be open and in tune to hearing His voice, because we are used to what it will sound like and know what to listen for. He is ready to give us the guidance we need when we seek him.

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when  you search for Me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:12-13

7. A closer walk with God. The Christian life is built upon a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, unlike other relationships where we may stress about how to have a better relationship, there is no secret to getting closer to God. He makes it plain and clear. James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” 

8. To defend against Satan’s attacks. We need to put on the full armor of God, and a big part of that is His word. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he responded with the Word. Just as we teach our children to hide God’s word in their hearts, if we hide it in ours, it will come back to us when we need it and help us through life’s trials and temptations.

9. Because it is ALL important. The entirety of Scripture is God-inspired and important. However, some parts of it may not make great sermons. We can’t just rely on what we are getting from others, even preachers and great teachers. We need to go to the source.

10. Because what we’re filled with is what comes out. If you are filled with God’s word in your heart because  you are daily making time to spend with him in reading and prayer, then when trials and stressful situations arise, you’ll be ready. His words will come back to challenge, convict, and comfort you as needed. When you are reading God’s word and filled with His spirit, then it is things of the spirit that will flow through you and out of you.

If you’re not convinced, here is a great article about the importance of staying in the Word.

What would you add to the list?

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul

Bless the Lord | Serving Joyfully

I love that song, “10,000 Reasons”. It’s one of those songs that makes me lose myself and focus on Him instead. The first verse starts with these lines:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing your song again…

I could go on and on about the whole song, but I just want to focus on this part. A new day means different things to different people. Maybe it means another chance to right a wrong, or another chance to be the best mom/wife/daughter/friend that you can be. Or a chance to get a promotion at work.

But as Christians, a new day should mean one big thing to us. It is another day to praise our creator, our Lord, our Savior. It’s another day for us to give praise and worship to the God of the universe who calls us His own. In the NIV version of the quoted verse above (Psalm 103:1), instead of “Bless the Lord,” it reads “Praise the Lord.”

Praise Him! He is worthy of all glory and honor and praise.

Psalm 103 is a great place to start. Don’t just read the words, meditate on them. Let them sink in. Use that chapter (though many others could be used as well!), to list just some of the reasons we have to praise Him. Really think about what you are reading and what you are saying. I have heard a lot of people say that worshiping God isn’t about emotion. But when I think of all He has done for me and who He is, I would have to be dead to not get excited about it. If anything in my life is worth getting excited about, He is.

Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Every morning we wake up is another opportunity to give the Lord His due through praising Him, worshiping Him, and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1).

Praise and worship . It’s not a segment of a church service. It’s a lifestyle. It is a recognition of who He is.

And if you don’t know where to start, here is a nice guide: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4). Just start thanking God for His blessings. Start praising God for who He is. It is amazing the effect it will have on you and your day and your attitude when you take your eyes off this world and your circumstances for a while and focus instead on God’s holy character, and how indescribable He is.

Bless Him. Praise Him. With everything in you. Everyday is a new opportunity.

Lord, When I sing these words, it is my prayer: “Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh my soul. Worship His holy name. Sing like never before, oh my soul. Lord, I worship your holy name.”  Help me to follow in your will and walk in obedience in every aspect of my life–in the day to day things. I want each day to be a new day that I will commit to you. That I will give you praise and worship through my words, songs, actions, and activities. Lord, I want my life to be a living sacrifice to you. And I want to see each new day as a new opportunity to do that. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What if I’m unworthy of God?

unworthy

There is this neat little feature on my blog that shows me a general list of search terms that lead people to my site. Sometimes it can be beneficial for me to see what things are bringing people to my site, and sometimes it can be a little silly (like How to Ruin a Perfect Marriage). But sometimes, it’s a little heartbreaking. Today, the question that led someone to my blog was this:

What if I’m unworthy of God?

I have no idea who typed those desperate words into a search engine.

Maybe it was a man who’s been dependent on alcohol for far too long.  Or a woman whose drug addiction holds her in a vice-like grip. Maybe it’s the teenage girl who is carrying an unwanted baby in her belly, or a young woman who carries the weight of guilt and pain from an abortion. Maybe it was the mother or father whose addiction has led them to forsake everything, even the care of their own children.

Maybe it was the man who has cheated on his wife. Or the man who’s wife left him, and he wonders if he will ever be worthy of anyone. Maybe it was a man or woman addicted to pornography. Maybe it was a homosexual who has heard too many Christians tell them their fate.

Maybe it was the woman suffering from depression who battles a self-loathing.  Or maybe it was someone with a disability or chronic illness who just feels like he or she just doesn’t have anything to offer. Maybe it was a teenager who has already made such a mess of his life that he wonders if he could ever find redemption. Maybe it was a murderer.

Maybe it was a mom who fights those feelings of inadequacy every single day, and she knows she’s not the mom she should be. Maybe she’s unworthy of God?

Maybe it was the man or woman who has been called into ministry of some sort and they don’t understand it because they aren’t the best or brightest and how could God possibly use them?

Or maybe it was just your average, beautifully-dressed church goer who was suffering from a moment of fleeting doubt.

Can I tell you a secret? It doesn’t matter which of these people posed the question. The answer is the same.

There is no “what if” about it. You are unworthy of God. I am unworthy of God. Billy Graham is unworthy of God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Not one of us is worthy of God. But the good news is, we don’t have to be. “God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Christ died for us, while we were sinners. God has an unconditional love for you today, regardless of your failures and shortcomings and mistakes. He loves you so much that Christ died for you. That may not be new information for you, but let it sink into your spirit.

Christ died for you. And He makes all things new.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for holiness. It just means that we are free of the burden to be “good enough”. We can’t be. But it’s okay, because we don’t have to be.

Lord, thank you so much that your mercies are new every morning. And that your grace covers all my sins. And that my salvation and acceptance into your kingdom is not dependent upon my worthiness. Because I could never be enough. But YOU, Lord are enough. Thank you. Amen.

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