Rooted Above

Some pity the military lifestyle; while even fewer understands it. In the midst of yet another moving season, it is easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed with the rapid changes that seem to all hit you at once. As friends say goodbye, boxes are packed and final photos are taken, the inevitable becomes all the more real. With many proverbial plates in the air, taking on any new challenges, such as searching for a new home, church and school for your children, seem truly beyond reach. Quiet murmurs of others can become a near constant drone of worry, shock and horror. If such negativity is paid too much attention to, the military family themselves can begin to internalize these comments and actually start to pity the very place where God has called them.

 

This was the case for myself as my husband had just left for a year at another U.S. Embassy within the Middle East. I had our two young children to comfort as they cried for their daddy both day and night and begged him over video chats to come home. In the midst of this rollercoaster of emotions and desperately trying to plug into this new American community to share life with for the year, comments would be shared in passing that would take my fatigued self off guard at time.

 

As well intentioned as these comments were, the very last thing I needed to hear were further reminders that many could not relate to my current trial. “I can’t believe you have to go through this. I could never do it! I feel so sad for you. You are like a single parent!” Others would aim their comments on the fact that my husband was away and affirm their own views that men are not needed anyway. “See, we women don’t need men in our lives to take care of us! Look at you! You are doing just fine looking after the kids and your husband is on the other side of the world.” I would reject the notion that I didn’t need my husband and would take the opportunity to affirm my husband and his vital role. Yet, even still, I began to harbor resentment towards my husband for doing the job that we had both prayed about prior to him accepting the position within this specific U.S. Embassy.

 

Although we had the direction of God, there was not a let up on the daily difficulties and pressure all around us. It was truly such a needed blessing to be affirmed by both family and close friends through prayer and constant contact amidst it all. I had to continually take these daily challenges back to the Lord through prayer as days of this journey turned into weeks and then into the first two months completed. We knew that we were where we were supposed to be. I would then consequently ask the Lord why we were enduring so much difficulty along the way.

 

What continued to come back to my heart was the reality that as Christians, no matter how many or how few are standing at our sides to affirm our walk with the Lord is really irrelevant. What does in fact matter is in whom we place our trust and eternal hope. The call of every Christian, military or otherwise, is to do the will of God whether others are standing alongside us with pom-poms, billboards and broad smiles or we find ourselves standing alone before strangers as they prepare to take our very lives. As the Apostle Paul assures all followers of Jesus Christ within his letter of Romans, “if God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:31)”.

 

Ladies, the peace of God is not given strictly to those with luxurious lifestyles and personal shoppers—no, not by a long shot! The peace of God, according to the Bible, is available to all through Jesus Christ and it will blow logic clear out of the water! When the world tells you to worry, the Bible will encourage you to worship God for His goodness (1 Chronicles 16:34, 2 Chronicles 5:13, 2 Chronicles 7:3, Psalm 86:5 & Psalm 100:5). When the world tells you to feel depressed, the Bible encourages you to deepen your faith by holding fast to the promises of God (Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 31:24, Psalm 62:5 & Isaiah 25:9). When the world tells you to give up, the Bible encourages you to give it all to Jesus in prayer (Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 6:25, Hebrews 4:15-16 & 1 Peter 5:6-7). You see, no matter what the circumstances may be in front of you, God has encouragement for you to faithfully lead you through each step with His divine presence and supernatural peace (John 14:26-27). How do we go about acquiring such peace? We are told in Philippians 4:6-7 that we are to bring all of our concerns, issues and baggage to the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer. Jesus Christ is our direct access to God the Father; there is no other way to approach God but through the risen Messiah Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Therefore, regardless of the boxes of worry, anxiety, chaos or suffocating doubt that may be trying to envelop you at present reality; reject the stacking fears and cry out to the Lord Jesus Christ this very moment for His intervention, intercession and direction.

As a military spouse, it is a challenge to move from familiarity, uproot and embrace another set of calendar years in the next duty station; especially once we add children and a deployed spouse to the mix. But! There amidst these challenging times, there is hope from above! You see, regardless of how many times your address, phone numbers and even driving routes may change, there is One element in life that will never change; this unchanging reality is the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

“Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.”

Proverbs 30:8-9 (NASB)

 

When speaking of military families being “uprooted” by moves and new job assignments, may our hearts be reassured of biblical truths. As followers of Jesus Christ, our “roots” are not planted here within this world. Praise God for a lifestyle that teaches us to appreciate the moment, while never gripping too tightly to the things and people around us. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to “root” ourselves above…away from the dirt, depression and disease of this world. In other words, we are to “root” our hearts on the things above (Isaiah 26:9, Isaiah 33:6, Matthew 6:19-20 & Matthew 6:33-34 & John 6:26-40). May I encourage you this day to cry out to the Lord in a new way and ask for His guidance and eternal perspective for He cares for you. May we reach up our hearts and hands to the Lord and thank Him for not only hearing our cries, but for caring enough to intervene in His perfect time and sovereign way.

 

“I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love because You have seen my affliction. You have known the troubles of my life and have not handed me over to the enemy. You have set my feet in a spacious place.” Psalm 31:7-8 (HCSB)

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Victory Over Insurmountable Odds Through the Lord Jesus Christ

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)

 

We are pack people by nature…it is easy to endure hardship in a crowd with multiple people cheering us on and running beside us. But, it is when we feel alone and grow extremely fatigued that the weight of stress and pressure begins to feel unbearable. Yet, as believers of Jesus Christ, may we recall that there is always a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on to run the race set before us to bring glory to God and honor His name to all people. In times of genuine turmoil and tunnels of chaos, may we realize that regardless of the amount of change or pain that we may endure, the Lord is faithfully with us. And if we are prayerfully approaching each new season, may we take heart in the fact that the Lord will lead us in His ways for His glory and for our ultimate good.

 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NASB)

 

Remember, the journey of one life will never exactly mirror that of another. The Bible as well as church history is packed full of stories of great followers of God who had to endure great hardship and suffering for the furthering of the Lord’s will. Moses’ life of movement back and forth to Egypt with his family and obedience to the Lord looked very different than the life of Daniel as a prisoner of war within Babylon. Both were used mightily for the Lord, yet both stories played out very differently for a distinct purpose. The same can be said of Esther, a beautiful Jewish girl who was made queen and used by God to save the whole nation of Israel.

Thus, it is vital that we prayerfully have our noses in the Holy Bible to discern the will of God for our personal families; for if we try to create a life that mirrors that of another follower of Jesus Christ, we may be forever waiting. Why? Because the life that the Lord has called each of us to walk is absolutely unique for the plan and purpose that He has set out for each of our giftings and talents (Jeremiah 29:11-13). The Lord is faithful and has given each individual a unique set of skills to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NASB)

 

And maybe, just maybe, the reality of your present sufferings or silent questions may be used to catapult you into the path of a soul who deeply needs the encouragement that only the Lord can provide. And it would be the biggest honor given to any soul to speak of the very One who can mend any wound and heal any situation; this is the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 34:18). And as one who has trekked through many mountain tops and deep valleys with the Lord, may I encourage each one reading today to hold fast to the teachings of the Holy Bible–realizing that God sincerely cares for each life (John 3:16, 1 John 1:9 & 1 John 4:9-10).

Need further examples of enduring through insurmountable odds by the power of Jesus Christ? Just look at Peter on the waves (Matthew 14:29-33)! May we look up when we struggle to maintain the coarse for He is right there to grab hold of us with great strength and divine power to raise us up back atop the waves, where we have been called to walk by faith (Matthew 10:28). Take a deep breath in the reality that with the Lord Jesus Christ, there is deliverance from any heartache or difficult situation.

 

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
            And He who formed you, O Israel,
            “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
            I have called you by name; you are Mine!

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
            And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
            When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
            Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (NASB)

 

 

Prayer of a Soldier’s Wife:

LORD, You are good. You are trustworthy. By Your sovereign will and gracious love we will embrace another season of global separation as war wages on. Thank You for walking with my man as he is in harm’s way. Thank You that nothing passes into our lives that does not first meet approval to bring You ultimate glory. Please give me Your eyes.

 

Help me to stay focused on the promises found within Your Holy Word as I hold our children while they cry in the night from missing Daddy. Please allow my patience to be infused by Your wisdom and grace as we try to adjust to yet another new town, new church and new school. Thank You that I can look back and see the undeniable evidence of Your unabashed love for us in each move. Thank You for this lifestyle of learning to yearn for and rely upon You, rather than routine.

 

With each new move, new opportunities to see You at work in the lives of others are all around. You allow for us to both pour into the lives of others for their encouragement and Your glory as well as receiving refreshment from new friends along the way. Thank You that the truths of Your Word are indeed transcendent. There will never be a place on this big world where You will not faithfully walk with us. You will always walk beside us and lead us to the best path for our lives.

 

Thank You for the joy that You infuse the soul with—it is not based on external metrics or anything personally conjured up. No, it is more stable and concrete than that. The joy of Your giving nestles down deep into the bones, the minds and the hearts of those who call upon Your name. And in times of great longing, and genuine distress, it is that same joy from You that blossoms into peace to weather any storm or devastation that this world can bring (John 16:33).

 

The joy of the LORD is our strength! With each new challenge, with each new obstacle, may I come before You and throw all of my worries, fears and unknowns at Your feet. You have welcomed me to do this and I thank You for a lifestyle that continually provides opportunities in which to declare Your supremacy over every circumstance—and for this—claim the victory that belongs to each believer in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). It’s in the victorious name of my risen Savior, Jesus Christ, that I pray, amen.

 

“For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this:” I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.” Isaiah 57:15 (HCSB)

 

After reading this, now, it is your turn. Write a prayer that declares your own hope in God’s perfect timing and sovereign will over your own personal story. God is bigger than our troubles (Isaiah 55:8-9). God is faithful to walk with us each step of our journeys (Isaiah 40:28). And He can use all circumstances for our good and His glory (Romans 8:37).

 

Take a moment to declare truth both to your heart as well as declaring back to the LORD how good He is.

 

As The Wind Blows

A while back, in the midst of cleaning the house and preparing meals, our toddler son brought in a beautiful bouquet of little yellow flowers from our backyard. He proudly walked up and held them out to me with a broad smile and his chest puffed out. He had picked these just for me and he was overflowing with anticipation for me to take his gift. I had been so busy and tired that day… as had pretty much been the case for every day previous that year as my husband was traveling much for business. But, something about the way he approached me caused me to pause. I knelt down and smiled warmly as my heart was reminded of a dream the Lord had given me years prior.

 

In this dream, I saw streetlights at night along a beautiful park. These stately lights then turned into burnt matchsticks that were bent over and smoldering. And from there, I could see dandelion seeds taking flight from the smoldering matchstick as the wind blew. At the time of the dream, I was preparing for the missions field and a foreign culture. Yet all the while, I had a strong sense that this dream would apply to a later time, but had no idea what it could mean. Then, after marrying my husband and moving to the Middle East with our precious ten-month-old son and our precious toddler daughter in toe, something struck a cord within my soul.

 

I was burnt out, feeling overwhelmed and utterly out of ideas of what to do with our littles in the day. I needed a break—so I thought. I needed to just get away and recharge—so I kept telling myself. Yet, as I would meet with a wise, older Christian woman about once a month, I was blessed to glean from her insights on life. And among them, she kept pointing out how much the Lord uses us mothers to forward the kingdom of God here on earth. And it is not simply on our “refreshed days”, but often times through our heartache and times of great need for intervention of His divine nature, that we are able to see and experience His presence all the more profoundly.

 

After another wonderful time with this precious older woman of the faith while still in the Middle East, I headed back to our home to my husband and our now sleeping children. I could not shake the feeling that I was missing out on something. That somehow I was focusing on the wrong things during our time abroad. And then, the dream of the dandelion seeds in the wind came back to mind as I thought of our children.

 

Because of Your adversaries, You have established a stronghold from the mouths of children and nursing infants to silence the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2 (HCSB)

 

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was that burnt out instrument and complaining rather than seeking the Lord’s guidance and continual renewal. I was that smoldering match. But, what encouraged my heart—and what was affirmed through prayer in that moment—was the reality that raising Christ loving and Christ following children is vital in combatting the enemies of God. Stay with me here….It is in such seasons of prolonged fatigue and sleepless nights that God was able to show Himself all the more glorious in my own story. It was when I was willing to cry out with my need for Him and claim the truths of His Living Word, contained within the Holy Bible, that I would find a renewed sense of focus, meaning and willful hope. Perhaps you too can relate. It is when I have been willing to say, “this one is so far beyond me, Lord…I just cannot go another step. Please take the lead. I just want to honor You”

It is there, in that very moment that the Lord intervenes in truly miraculous ways that astound the mind and baffle the senses.

 

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2 (NLT)

 

All these memories came rushing back to me as I hugged my son and thanked him for his flowers before he ran back outside to play with our daughter who was already on the rope swing. And as I walked into my husband and I’s master bathroom to place my new bouquet next to the very same type of flower bouquet my daughter had given me just the day previous, my eyes saw something that affirmed it all. Where the delicate little flowers had rested the day previous, now white little puffballs were bloomed in their place.

 

It was such a profound and meaningful encouragement to my heart from the Lord. Although I was indeed exhausted and trying to take care of two extremely active children, the fact remained—these children are my seeds.

 

As mothers, and women in general, we have the awesome privilege to not only physically, but also spiritually invest into the lives of our children. And whether it’s a “good day” or “bad day”, they watch us to see how we choose to respond to the circumstances the Lord allows into our day.

 

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:33 (NLT)

 

Ladies, I encourage you this every moment, to ask the Lord above to breathe afresh upon you. He can take any situation and breathe life, hope and direction into it (Ezekiel 37). Acknowledge your need for His guidance, favor and continual mercy amidst the chaos (Psalm 71:20). Ask the Lord to breathe anew upon your soul to refresh you in this time of need—right where you are—so that you may glorify Him even in your fatigue and responsibility (Psalm 138:7). Ladies, please take this to heart, the care and guardianship of the next generation is of highest importance to the Lord (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 113:9, Psalm 127:3, Mark 10:14).

 

Thus, may we not only be in prayer for this next generation daily, but may we pray for the Lord to equip us to minister, mold and model lives that are sold out to the cause of Jesus Christ. May we be willing to follow the Lord in obedience and speak of His eternal glories to the little ones of this upcoming generation.

 

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.” Psalm 18:29 (NLT)

Through the power of His holy name, we have been given not only the victory over hell, but over all forms of confusion, fatigue, inferiority, comparing and all other forms of evil that the devil would love to use to discourage us as mamas, and women in general. Take back what is yours, as a daughter of the Most High; take back the victory that was handed to you personally as Jesus Christ victoriously defeated evil and it’s many forms as He bore our sins upon the cross and gave us His healing (Isaiah 53:3).

 

“For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. God, be exalted above the heavens, and let Your glory be over the whole earth.” Psalm 108:4-5 (HCSB)

 

Walk in it. Own it. Ask the Lord to blow upon the current situations in your own life and take His message of hope, restoration, peace and healing to all people groups who are in critical need of encouragement (Ezekiel 19:10).

 

May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” Psalm 115:14 (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the 5,000-As Told By Those Present

Jesus feeds the 5,000

(based on Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17 & John 6:1-15)

 

“Calev! Over here! You came just in time.” The excitement within the voice of the young man could not be contained as he slapped his friend on the shoulder of his tunic.

 

“I came as quickly as I could.” Calev answered, still a bit winded from running to the sea’s edge to meet up with the others. “My master said that I had finished my tasks at the dock for the day and could leave to follow Baruch at once.”

 

Baruch, whom had also just sat down, quickly accepted the basket of bread and fish for those seated around them from Jesus’ disciple, Philip. As the disciple of Jesus walked to yet another group of one hundred people gathered within the grass near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the young men began to talk of the recent news.

 

“Did you hear what happened to the man called John the Baptist?” Calev asked quietly. “The whole city is buzzing with questions of what Jesus will do. That was His cousin, you know.”

 

“If you ask me,” Seth began with a mouth full of bread and a piece hanging from his beard, “there is something very unique about this Jesus.”

 

Seth’s wife, Eliana, agreed as she tucked her hair back under her head covering before continuing, “This Jesus of Nazareth has amazed and astonished those from every social and economic circle. He truly seems like a god in nature.”

 

The large crowd continued to grab bread out of the baskets from the middle of their arranged groups as they reclined on the ground. In this time, the sun began to set behind the mountains.

 

Baruch looked at Jesus in the distance, who was healing the sick along the shore. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I would not have seen it with my own eyes.”

 

“What do you mean, Baruch?” His brother Calev seemed puzzled.

 

“When aunt Miriam told us about the wedding she had attended a few summers back—you remember—the one that she had us work her shift in order for her to attend the event—well, she spoke of the wine running out! Aunt Miriam then told us that a woman, she said that the woman was the mother of this Jesus, went to those running the party and had them do as Jesus then instructed. What Aunt Miriam said next sounded so crazy, I just blew it off as one of her embellished stories. But, seeing this Jesus of Nazareth healing people on the shore, right now before my eyes, makes me think that perhaps Jesus really did do what Aunt Miriam said took place at that wedding. Maybe He really did turn water into wine—and it taste so good that others wondered why the good wine had been saved until that point in the wedding festivities—you know—seeing as most can’t tell the difference by that point of drinking anyway.”

 

“Yeah,” Calev recalled, “I too remember Aunt Miriam speaking adamantly about the water being changed into wine. No way! Guys, look at that!” All of the young men looked down to the water’s edge where Calev was frantically pointing. “That man, do you recognize him?!” The friends’ countenance each turned to shock as they saw the man not only standing, but jumping around. “That is old man Gamliel, the one who has sat crippled outside our city gates for the past decade after his accident! Look! He is no longer being carried by his friends! See, there are his closest friends Aharon, Gidon, Meshulam and mighty Hillel! After being touched by Jesus, he and his friends are jumping for joy and shouting in laughter!” The young men were amazed and laughed in sheer wonderment of the day’s events that continued to unfold before them.

 

“This is truly amazing.” Seth took a deep breath as he tried to make his brain accept all of the healings taking place by Jesus right before his eyes. Seth was a very logical man and nothing that they had experienced since following Jesus earlier in the day had been logical. As he ran his fingers through his dark curls, Seth noted the food that remained in the basket before them. “Guys, I am completely stuffed. I cannot finish the food in the basket. How about you?” All agreed that they could not take another single bite. Soon another of Jesus’ disciples, Luke, came around to collect any left over pieces of bread or remaining fish. When all was said and accounted for, twelve baskets were full to the brim, after the masses had grown completely satisfied.

 

Yigal, whom had been silently eating until this point finally spoke. “To think, each one of us have been fed by the tiny amount of food that was blessed by Jesus after He looked up to heaven to pray. Why, there must be about five thousand men; not to mention all the women and children bustling around as well.”

 

Eliana’s married older sister, Talia, agreed. “Yes, at least five thousand men alone to be sure! This is remarkable!”

 

“Yeah,” Seth added. “How incredible that the very meaning of our town, Bethsaida, means ‘house of fish’—and like you said, Yigal, bread and fish were miraculously provided for this entire mass of people! To be honest, I will never be the same after this encounter with Jesus of Nazareth!”

 

“Wait a minute, guys.” Yigal noted to his older friends. “Jesus is having His disciples get into the boat along the shore. They are leaving! Should we follow them again?!” Yigal himself was just fifteen years old.

 

“Look, Jesus is speaking! Quiet down everyone. I want to hear!” Baruch shouted as he pushed his palms to the ground. He was the noted leader of their group of friends. All stood up to hear what Jesus had to say. Jesus dismissed the masses for the evening and withdrew to the mountainside by Himself to pray. The day had seemed like something out of a dream for the group of young friends. Food for a population greater than a town from only five tiny loaves and two small fish, healings of men, women and children at the hands of Jesus and now, realizations that previous accounts of this Jesus of Nazareth were indeed verified and trustworthy. It was obvious that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, was not merely the son of a carpenter. No, this Jesus was connected to God Himself. And after today, many were added to the number of those who trusted their lives and hearts to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth; the true Messiah.

 

Then What?

What do you think of when you hear Cartier? Bentley? Personal staff? Private yachts? Multi-million dollar estates? What about, organic living and sustainable stewardship? Filling the pages of your passport? Dating the “hot” guy? Being the center of the social universe? Getting the job? And still, what do you think of in regards to the pursuit of positive thinking? Being a good person? How about the words, nipping, cutting, numbing or altogether altering yourself? If you answered “happiness”, “contentment” or “the life” to any of these, may you be encouraged by the Word of God this very day.

 

Although there is a myriad of ways to “better” ourselves or “make it” in the eyes of the world, if we are looking for fulfillment to embrace us behind any one of these—we will be sadly mistaken—each and every time. Why would this be?

 

Our society trains us to chase “big dreams” as are defined by the world. But, what does one do when such dreams are conquered? When the Cartier is now a few fashion seasons old? Or the evening is finally over and it’s time to go home? Or the passport book has indeed been filled? Or the medication begins to wear off? Then what? We have been trained to want things and passionately pursue them; yet continually come up frustrated when the sensation of pleasure fades away at the end of each conquest. At that time, many return for another hit—whatever that may mean for the individual. And if the same level of ecstasy cannot be reached as before, often times ways of supplementing the pleasure are then implemented within future pursuits. This vicious cycle of yearning for more is nothing new. In fact, King Solomon in all his splendor wrote many wise sayings regarding the human condition within the Holy Bible.

 

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (HCSB)

 

When we realize that our pursuits apart from God were never meant to bring us contentment or lasting happiness, we need to return to the Lord with apologetic hearts. It is when we are willing to acknowledge our love for the things of this world over the things of the Lord, and sincerely repent of this idol worship within our own lives and hearts, that God is then able to redirect our gaze and do something truly new and exciting within our spirits. Listen to these encouraging words offered to those who place their hope in Jesus Christ.

 

“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (HCSB)

 

How faithful is the Lord to take us back each and every time—in order to fill us with the very things we most desire—love that won’t go away, peace that will last beyond the storm, and comfort that will be our companion through all things. Praise God for His mercy and grace within each of our stories!

 

You see, whether you “live big” as defined by the world (as was the case for King Solomon (1 Kings 10:14-22) or Queen Esther (Esther 1-2) or “modestly” as was the case for John the Baptist (Matthew 3:3-4) or the women with only a tiny offering to bring to the temple (Mark 12:41-44)—God can use each of our stories for His glory—right where we are! You see, it is up to each of us to separate our eyes from the world’s idea of “success” and come to grips with the reality that contentment is found in Jesus Christ alone.

 

The Bible teaches that each and every life is valued to God (John 3:16-18). Thus, whether the world would define one as rich or poor, popular or an outcast, the eternal status of each soul is the same. We all are in need of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work (Romans 3:23-26). Regardless of where we are on this spinning rock today, may we fall to our knees and ask the Lord to use our lives to bring Him glory. May we use the gifts, talents and resources allotted to each of us to share of God’s hope, God’s redemption and God’s unabashed love story for each heart from each culture around the world! Ladies, the time is now—and it is time for the Bride of Jesus Christ, the Church, to unite under His banner of grace, forgiveness and new life (Ephesians 2:8, 1 John 1:9 & Romans 6:4). May we breath deep and embrace a fresh dose of peace that does not come from the world, but from our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:27). May we thank Him anew for placing us in this time in history and ask to be used to speak of His mercy (Isaiah 6:1-8).

 

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8 (HCSB)

GO

While seated inside the bustling restaurant within the Middle East, Kaw-Thar quickly adjusted her black hijab around her face to hide a stray hair that had come loose before nervously asking her next and most poignant question, “All this is interesting, but who do you say Jesus Christ is?”

 

Knowing the risk of answering such a question, the young Christian silently prayed for wisdom as her Muslim friend slid her cell phone across the table closer to her. Was this a set up? It was illegal to speak of Jesus Christ in a Muslim country. The young woman was aware that she could be deported, jailed, or even worse. Yet, the young foreigner could not deny in her heart of hearts that this was why she had traveled to this foreign land. It was for such a moment as this that the young woman had been willing to leave all of the comforts of her homeland and gone to great lengths to genuinely invest in those of other cultures. This was her moment indeed; this was her moment to speak of her Savior.

 

As the young foreigner felt a peace to share everything the Lord was placing on her heart, she began to speak. “Who do I say Jesus Christ is? Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He is the one and only Son of God. He is the Second person of the Triune Godhead. He is my Lord and my Savior.”

 

Kaw-Thar listened intently as the young foreigner took a sip of her steaming tea. Kaw-Thar squinted her eyes slightly as if trying to read the response of the young foreigner seated across from her. This young Muslima had been astounded to learn previously in this evening’s shared meal, that the young foreigner had not only had dreams and visions—just as she herself had experienced—but had a personal relationship with the God of all things! Kaw-Thar was desperate for answers. Her life was in shambles. Her husband had left her for another woman, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and refusing treatment—saying that if Allah willed for her to die, she would accept it. Yet, Kaw-Thar could not accept it! She and her son, Abdul Aziz, were living with her mother in the midst of this diagnosis and recent divorce. It just couldn’t be the end for her mother—she was Kaw-Thar’s only support system.

 

Kaw-Thar shared with the young foreigner that she had previously checked into other religions such as Buddism in desperation to connect with a higher power on behalf of her mother. With eyebrows raised, Kaw-Thar lowered her voice and leaned forward as she shared, “I have even attended an Easter service while traveling in Europe and spoke with the Pastor after the sermon.” Yet, despite her searching, despite her questions, Kaw-Thar kept getting stuck on the same question within her own heart. “How can there be three persons to one God?”

 

The young foreigner continued to pray silently and the Lord brought to mind an example used by a missionary within the book I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh. And with another affirmation upon her listening heart to speak in the midst of a dangerous environment, with a sparkle in her eye, the young foreigner began to share. “You are right, my friend. There is only one God. There are three parts to God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Think of God like the sun for a minute. There are three parts that make up the sun: heat, light and radiation. Each part is distinctly unique, yet undeniably part of the same whole.”

 

If this interaction tugs at your heart, know that there are multiple ways to get involved with sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Arab world as a whole. A quick sit down with a local Christian Pastor or a simple Internet search will bring a whole list of opportunities before you with organizations to partner with in order to GO (Matthew 28:19).

 

The above dialogue is just one account of real life interactions between Christian and Muslim friends in 2016 across the globe. Jesus Christ is showing up in the dreams of those seeking to know the One and True God (Jeremiah 29:13). Islam teaches that only their prophet Muhammad or the devil can appear in the dreams of Muslims. Yet, all the while, Jesus is showing up—defying their teachings and bringing multitudes into the Kingdom through belief on Jesus Christ (Romans 10:13). Amen! Even the refugee crisis is being used for the glory of God as multiple Christian ministries are meeting these displaced peoples on the shores of foreign lands and ministering to their basic humanitarian needs. The number of precious lives converting from Islam as they embrace a God of love—the God of the Holy Bible—Jesus Christ (1 John 4:8-10)—is truly amazing!

 

May I encourage you this very day to consider having a similar conversation with someone of another faith. Christian Apologetics—or the defense of the Christian faith—is a powerful tool in providing a loving witness to those who are earnestly seeking to know God. The author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi, has a powerful series of Christian apologetics in light of Islam on YouTube, which is filmed at Biola University in southern California. It is very insightful and taught me much about the core beliefs of Islam. As Christians, it is our deepest honor and most sincere joy to speak of the transformative work of Jesus Christ within our own lives.

 

May we, as women of our own generation, be ready and willing to speak at length with those of other faiths who are seeking to know more about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (1 Peter 3:15)—because, you never know—it may be due to your willingness to GO in Jesus’ name that others will experience eternity and right standing before the One and only Holy God of all things (Isaiah 6:1-8). Are you ready to GO?

*This article is featured on Wonderfully Made’s Official Blog Site. Click the title below in teal to visit the article.

Ready to Go

 

Tit for Tat–Pay Me Back

The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (HCSB)

 

Have you even been blown away by the generosity of another? Maybe you are in college and instant soup is on the menu multiple times a week. Perhaps you are working multiple jobs, but still not getting ahead financially. Maybe you are financially contributing to some family obligations and do not have much to speak of at the end of the month. What would be your natural response in these situations (and others like them) if someone was to gift you with an unexpected and undeserved need—be it financial or otherwise? You would be stoked, right?! When we are blessed by something that we do not deserve—nor could possibly attain on our own, a sense of sheer gratitude grips us.

 

Yet, the reverse is also true. When we have many things, but we remain stingy and tight fisted with our resources (e.g. our time, encouragements, finances, and other talents), we harm our ministry to others as believers in Jesus Christ and damage relationships both with God and man in the process. What do I mean?

 

Jesus tells a story in the Bible to illustrate this very thing with the account of the unmerciful slave (Matthew 18:21-35). A master was owed a crazy about of money from one of his slaves. The Bible states that this slave was indebted to his master for 10,000 talents; which was more than a servant could possibly be able to pay back in a lifetime (Matthew 18:24). The slave was brought before his master to decide his outcome. The master decided to sell the slave, the slave’s wife and the slave’s children to make up for the debt. At this, the slave fell to his feet and pleaded for mercy. The Bible states that the master had compassion on his slave and forgave him of all debts.

 

Not soon after, the slave found a fellow slave who owed him money and demanded that he be paid! The slave actually begins to choke this guy as he shouts for his money to be paid (Matthew 18:28). Enraged, the slave has his co-laborer thrown into jail until he can pay him back the much smaller amount than the one he himself had just been forgiven of by their mutual master. As word got back to the master of what had happened, he called for the slave who had owed him the unthinkable amount of money. The master reminded the slave that his own debts had been forgiven. Thus, it was now the slave’s obligation to forgive the debts of others as well. For the slave’s greedy and unmerciful spirit, the master had him thrown into jail and punished until he could pay back the amount he himself owed (Matthew 18:34).

 

14For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” Matthew 6:14-15 (HCSB)

 

Ladies, mercy is a really big deal in the kingdom of God. Much like this man, we too have been forgiven of a much bigger debt than we could ever repay. There are no such thing as credit cards in the kingdom of God! We either have the funds to pay the bill or we don’t. God knew that the price was too high for any of us to foot the spiritual bill. That was the point of Jesus Christ coming to earth—as God in the flesh. He was able to be tempted in every way, yet never sin (Hebrews 4:15). He was able to perform miracles and speak of the glory of God (John 21:25). He was able to invite skeptics and heretics alike to put their hope in Himself and find salvation from eternal death (Matthew 11:28, John 8:12 & John 14:6). And He was able to die a criminal’s death, as an innocent man, for you, for me and for the rest of humanity—in order that each of our spiritual debts could be paid—once and for all (1 Peter 2:24).

 

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (HCSB)

 

The filth that we allow into our lives and the dirt that resides in our minds are enough to condemn us to death (Romans 6:23). But, praise God for Jesus Christ, who stepped in to pay our account balances in full! As He died upon the cross between two thieves, with His dying breath before giving up His spirit, He stated “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus Christ paid the price for all of the selfish, nasty and otherwise unspeakable things that all of humanity has done, is doing and will do to separate us from God. As we confess the shameful things we have thought, said and done to the LORD and earnestly ask for His forgiveness, we are then able to grasp hold of the free gift—the forgiveness of our unthinkable debt to God (Hebrews 1:3).

 

13And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (HCSB)

 

Ladies, this lesson is hitting me right between my eyeballs today to convict me of how much I have been given. It is now my sincere privilege to pass on the blessing—in the name of Jesus Christ. For if we are always looking for a bargain, an angle or other way to promote our causes—we will find that others will grow disgusted by our onesideness. Rather, when we invest in others, forgive those who have caused us harm in any way, we are furthering the kingdom of God in a very practical way. I challenge each one reading to find someone to show mercy and forgiveness of debt to today. Remember, it’s not because they deserve it, but rather as a follower of Jesus Christ, you too have been forgiven of all your debts. How amazing it is to be debt free! Share the mercy that you have been given.

 

“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 (HCSB)

 

*This article has been featured on Wonderfully Made’s Official Blog Site

Tit for Tat – Pay Me Back