Monday Encouragement No. 18

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“Because I said so!”

How many of us heard this growing up? I know I did! It was often the last line of reasoning from my parents when I asked the “why” questions. There wasn’t any point in arguing back on my end because my parents’ authority in their decision trumped my objections. In some of those instances, a more detailed explanation of their point of view may have been helpful, but mostly, I was trying to be sneaky in getting out of something they had asked me to do. No surprise, they saw right through my excuses as they taught me about work ethic and responsibility. “Because I said so” was the final decision and I’d act accordingly.

Today, I want to ask us to examine if we apply this same acceptance and obedience when God speaks. If we submitted under our parents’ authority, how much more so should we trust and believe our good and perfect Heavenly Father’s words to us? Because He said so, the world and all the universe was created. Because He said so, you were brought into this world to be light and salt. Because He said so, you were worth every drop of blood poured out on the cross. Because He said so, you are His joy. Because He said so, He is preparing a place for you even now. Because He said so, you have life abundantly in Jesus this side of heaven. Because He said so, you are free to be the amazing person He has called you to be, with hope running through your veins and peace surpassing anything the world can understand.

Beloved, let us trust His authority in what He has said and walk accordingly. Exchange any doubt about His words to you for full assurance of faith. Keep pressing in until His “because I said so” becomes what you truly believe about Him and what He says about you!

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Monday Encouragement No. 17

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“..but whenever a person turns [in repentance and faith] to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

Throw away the “back to square one” mentality! Back to square one means “back to where one started, with no progress having been made”. Have you ever felt like you took a step forward, only to then feel like you’ve taken 3 steps back? This struggle is not our lot in life as children of the Most High God!

But what if it doesn’t feel like we are moving forward? I heard someone preach about how he always thought his steps should be forward, but instead he realized that the Lord takes us on paths that are more akin to a dance. Our heavenly Father doesn’t get frustrated with us when we clumsily try to get in alignment with Him as He leads. He isn’t giving up on this dance just because He has to teach us His ways and movements over and again. You have two left feet? No problem, He knows the steps He created for you specifically. It doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s dance!

In this dance, you get to move from “one degree of glory to even more glory” – back to square one with no progress made is an impossibility with the Spirit of the Lord bringing true freedom into more and more areas of our lives. If you feel that you’re in a season of 3 steps back, ask the Lord to reveal where the “even more glory” is in this season. It may not be an outward expression, but maybe you’re experiencing peace where there was no peace a year ago. Or maybe you have compassion toward a person you once never thought you’d be able to connect with.

Abba, Father, show us the even more glory you’re working in us today. Thank you for teaching us to dance with you. Thank you for the joy and delight in your eyes as you look upon us, the redeemed ones. Thank you for your Son, Jesus, who has made this life with You possible.

 

Monday Encouragement No. 16

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Reminding us today that shame doesn’t come from the Father! There is no need to hide from the One who loves us, and makes us NEW!

Shame would love to continue to be the warden of the prison of fear and isolation allowing no contact with the outside. Every moment controlled, so much so that the thought of tasting lasting freedom brings fright into the captives’ hearts.

“Trust no one, not even God,” shame shouts. People then spend their lives becoming exhausted from hiding their authentic selves, for fear exposure would render them unlovable and unacceptable.

“Always be looking over your shoulder. No one will love you after they find out what you’ve done,” shame counsels.

BUT this is the grace Jesus offers…bring it ALL…that which no other living soul knows and cannot fully share. Mistakes. Acts of wounding done to others. Lies told. Self-righteous and selfish thoughts and motives. Anger. Judgment. Shame. Guilt. Hurt. Pain.

“Bring it all to Me,” Jesus beckons us, at once dispelling the ‘clean yourself up before you come to Jesus’ myth. There has never been a burden too heavy for Jesus. Every single sin committed by us or done against us by another – every one of them was taken upon Jesus on the cross. Every form of evil, whether considered big or small, has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Nothing in heaven or on the earth could ever be as powerful as this truth that leaves shame voiceless. All self sufficiency for life and fullness obliterated in the light of the cross. Shattered by the reality of Emmanuel, God with us.

Monday Encouragement No. 15

Today’s encouragement comes from Psalm 107. We can see the beautiful exchange between hurting finite people and an immeasurably powerful God in this Psalm. In each scenario, there is a cry to the LORD for help.
We get a picture of broken humanity…
…those wandering in deserts, hungry, thirsty, their souls fainting within them
…ones without a home
…those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death
…prisoners in affliction
…rebellious ones
…those who are suffering due to sin, unable to eat
…men at sea who lacked courage because of a massive storm
God’s response was not apathy or lack of concern…He “delivered them from their distress.” And their response back to Him – “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” 
 
I can think of so many situations when I cried to the Lord in my troubles, whether because of my own sin or otherwise, and He hasn’t always changed my circumstances, but has been faithful to deliver me from the distress, trouble, fear, confusion and worry. I pray this encourages you today for your own walk and also for others. If you know people who are in similar seasons to those listed above, take a look at Psalm 107 and see what God did for those who cried out and join Him in praying that they might taste and see His goodness in the land of the living!

Monday Encouragement No. 14

In July, we went on vacation and visited a church in California. We listen to their worship music often, and it was a good window of time for us to go. While there, on a Saturday morning, they had a service specifically for people in need of emotional, spiritual and physical healing. During that service, many people were there to pray, but they also had several artists working on paintings as an act of worship.

I sat and watched one of the artists for what seemed like forever. I haven’t had much experience painting, so I wasn’t sure what was taking so long. As I sat there watching her carefully choose the perfect blend of color and the right stroke on the right part of the canvas, Psalm 139 came to mind. In those moments, God was reminding me of the great care that He took with creating each one of us. There was not one single detail that He overlooked when creating you and me. The precision of every part of our make-up was thought of before He laid the foundations of the world. Verses 17 and 18 came alive, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.”

His thoughts toward us outnumber the sand. It was especially poignant during that time as I was still pregnant and realized that He knit our child together exactly according to His delight and good pleasure. I didn’t know it at the time, but that truth would be vitally important to me after the loss of our daughter, who we named Hope. I want to remind you this morning that every part of who you were created to be was well-thought out by your Creator, who lavishes His love upon you as only a perfect Father can.

He knit YOU together in your mother’s womb exactly according to His delight and good pleasure too. What has He written for you to do today? This week? Who in your sphere of influence needs to know that they were created on purpose by a God who has never stopped loving them and wanting them to be a vital part of His family? I’m praying we receive His truth and encouragement that we may share it freely with others!

Monday Encouragement No. 13

A few weeks ago, I shared a little bit about God’s goodness in causing us to hope in the midst of every circumstance as we walk by faith and not by sight. I’ve been digging a little deeper into this word “hope”. The first time hope is used in the Bible is when Naomi lamented to her daughters in law that her hope had been all but extinguished due to losing her sons and husband. Most of you probably know the next details – Orpah returned home, but Ruth “clung” to Naomi, determined to be a part of her life permanently. The Hebrew word for hope in this instance is tiqvah, which literally means “a cord”, and figuratively means “expectancy, hope, thing that I long for”. This word tiqvah comes from the root word qavah, which means to “bind together”.

I could probably spend the next, oh I don’t know, lifetime or so just dissecting all that this word hope means. But I’ll spare us the beginning of a novel for now. We can see in the story of Ruth and Naomi that they were bound together by loss and tragedy but also in uncertain expectancy about their new normal in Bethlehem. I then began to think of several other ways and things we hope and expect and long for…and what those things are tied to, as if by a cord. I love that our hope in Jesus Christ and His Word is an anchor for us (Hebrews 6:13-20). Our ultimate hope isn’t tied to or bound together with something fragile and unreliable, but instead our permanent adoption into the family of God forever guarantees that hope in Him will not disappoint. This hope is based on His character and faithfulness, not on ours or anyone else’s. When my hope is misplaced or misappropriated, I find myself anchored to things that were never meant to play that role.

Now, when I think about hope or when I am discouraged, I can picture myself holding a cord. The important part isn’t picturing myself though, it is finding the courage to be honest about what I see on the other end. Do I see myself inextricably tied to the great I Am or am I looking to someone or something else to be my hope? If it’s not God, I simply need to ask forgiveness for letting something other than Him take His place as my steadfastness and accept His grace and mercy as He teaches me to hope in Him unwaveringly, so much so that others may notice enough to seek Him for themselves.

“Be strong and let your hearts take courage, all you who wait for and confidently expect the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

Monday Encouragement No. 12

Scripture always says it best! Praying this for us this week:

“I thank my God in every remembrance of you, always offering every prayer of mine with joy [and with specific requests] for all of you, [thanking God] for your participation and partnership [both your comforting fellowship and gracious contributions] in [advancing] the good news [regarding salvation] from the first day [you heard it] until now. I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. It is right for me to feel this way about you, because [you have me in your heart as] I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the good news [regarding salvation], all of you share in [His matchless] grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus [whose great love fills me]. And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]; filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God [so that His glory may be both revealed and recognized].” Philippians 1:3-11 (Amplified Version)

Monday Encouragement No. 11

In the most unexpected moments, God steps in and reminds me of His very great and precious promises. Not too long ago while washing the dishes, part of Romans 8:24-25 came to mind. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I have read and re-read that verse many times, but in that particular moment, the words brought peace in an area I had been asking about for months. We live in a dark and broken world, and there are heavy stories of wounding and trauma that we hear about on a somewhat consistent basis. Not to mention, whatever issues we are dealing with personally within our own spheres of influence.

If you’re anything like me, heavy topics and tough conversations can weigh on the heart which can lead to despair. So, I had been asking the Lord to show me hope. My heart’s cry was, “I can see the brokenness and hopelessness around me, and even in my own heart at times. But I read Your Word and You never change – please show me unwavering hope once again so that this heaviness will be removed.” I had been so focused on needing to visibly and tangibly see hope in action. I know that we do get to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps. 27) and I rejoice greatly in that – but – as I was washing dishes, the Lord brought the above passage from Romans to mind, and instantly the heaviness I had been feeling for months lifted off of me. It was such a simple, unassuming moment between a loving Father and dependent daughter. The hope we have is not rooted in anything we can see with our natural eye, but in the everlasting covenant God made with us when He sent Jesus to reconcile us back to Him. Our hope is rooted in Him. In context, the Holy Spirit is using Paul to explain that we are awaiting our full inheritance this side of heaven and we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” for the fullness of what He has promised to come true. Not only that, but in the waiting, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee to encourage, teach, comfort, counsel and empower us to shake off heaviness and walk in His strength.

The next verse goes on to say, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Be encouraged, dear friends – the Most High God, the Holy One of Israel, the great I Am – has made it impossible for you to be alone in the battles of life. Even now, He is praying on your behalf.

Monday Encouragement No. 10

Unchanging. Never failing. All consuming. Everlasting. Always with us. Unwavering. The Powerful One. Gentle. Humble. Wisdom manifested. Rest. Our Peace. Unshakeable joy. Relentless hope.

His banner over us is love. If nothing else, I pray we rest in this truth this week. In the quiet. In stillness. In chaos or confusion. When all is well and the sea is calm. When the lies seem louder than the truth. In victory or temporary discouragement. His banner over us is love.

“Monday” Encouragement No. 9

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:7-10

From this excerpt of Psalm 34, be encouraged today! The angel of the Lord encamps around you and delivers you. You are able to tangibly experience the goodness of the Lord. You are blessed by being under His protection. You lack nothing needed for today. Over the past few months, I have asked the Lord what it really means to “fear Him”. I know the right intellectual and contextual answers, but have been asking Him how that looks in my daily life – how am I experiencing the fear of the Lord in my walk with Him? I don’t have any earth shattering answers yet and as with most things with God, I’m sure I’ll be mining this subject for eternity, but He has been showing me bits and pieces of how the fear of the Lord is manifesting in my life. In this revealing bits and pieces, I can’t help but have a sense in my heart of His delight in His daughter taking the time to ask Him deep questions and then wait for His teaching and leading.

Are there any verses you have been chewing on lately that beg the question, “How does this look in my everyday life?” If the answer isn’t already present, I encourage you to dig a bit deeper this week and ask Him to show you. He will. He is always searching for those who will worship in Spirit and in truth, and I’m convinced one way to worship Him is in the tough questions from a sincere heart, because in the asking, we are acknowledging that He is the only One who is all-knowing, all-powerful and personal.