I’ve been searchin’

And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

You don’t expect to read about Baby Jesus in July, do you? Well I did recently (thanks to an online devotional) and it had me wondering about something.

Just how many mangers did those shepherds look in before they found Jesus?

Maybe the angels gave them more instructions than what we read in Luke 2, but it all sounds a little vague. There’s no mention of an inn, no indication of which manger to look in.

I’m pretty sure there was more than one manger in Bethlehem, is what I’m saying.

Still, they were so excited by the news that they “hurried to the village.” And their search was rewarded with a glance at the newborn Messiah.

Maybe you’ve been searching, too. Maybe you’ve turned down some wrong alleys, or looked in someone else’s manger in your quest for the Christ. Maybe you don’t know exactly where you’ll find Him, only that something inside of you compels you to keep going.

Let me encourage you today. If a bunch of shepherds can find a baby in a feeding trough in the middle of a city, you too can find Jesus. He wants to be found. He isn’t playing hide-and-seek. Though the journey may be long and winding, He will continue to draw you unto Himself so that you can meet the Messiah.

No GPS or Google Maps required.

It’s done

“A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, ‘It’s done . . . complete.’ Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.” John 19:30

I have a couple of friends who have been waiting on adoptive placements and, recently, they have gotten the good news: you have been chosen!

It seems that those are the first words that each of my friends who have gone through the adoption process have waited on. Those are the words that start them on the journey towards parenthood, towards adding new members to their family. They are the words that march towards the fulfillment of a dream.

But the next set of words they long to hear are even more important: It’s finalized.

Heartbreaking as it may be, no placement is forever until a judge utters those words. As friends we pray for them to receive the first call, and then we change our prayers that the second declaration will be made.

They’re the same words Jesus used as He gave His life up for us. It is finished. It is done. There are so many, many things that the Son of God could have said for His dying utterance. But He chose that simple statement, so that we could know without a doubt that He had finally done it. He had finalized His sacrifice.

Praise the Lord that wasn’t the end, as we know! But it was what He had come for. It was our atonement, taking our sins upon Himself, that drove Him every day He was on this earth.

With His last words, our adoption into God’s family is finalized. It’s the judge’s decree that we are His, and He is ours. We have found our forever family.

We have nothing more to do. It’s done. It’s finished. He has overcome, and we can share in His victory! Every obstacle we have faced or ever will face is nothing compared to His love and power.

I am thanking God today for “forever families,” whether they be in the natural or in the supernatural. I am thanking God for the peace that comes with knowing that He did enough. I am thanking God that it’s done!

A bad place for a bird nest

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” Matthew 7:24-27

A couple of months ago, the newspaper I have delivered on Sundays placed a “paper box” underneath my mailbox. I was happy, because this meant that the carrier could no longer blame my lack of a Sunday paper on roving dogs.

About two weeks ago, I noticed that a little bird mama was happy about that paper box, too. She had built a nest and laid some eggs, safely tucked away in the rear of the box. It was perfect, or so she thought: waterproof, windproof, and hidden away from predators.

Except, it seems, the predator known as the newspaper deliver person.

The first week after I noticed the nest, the driver (who had not) had shoved the Sunday paper full force into the box. The week after that, I began to receive sticky notes on my regular mail from our rural delivery person, advising me to move the nest. There were eggs inside, so I was hesitant. But my husband surmised that the bird (possibly traumatized by being trapped in her nest by a giant newspaper) had already abandoned ship.

She thought it was the perfect place to roost, and it was – until trouble came. Then, it became a death trap.

The foolish man who built his house on the sand in Jesus’ parable thought his was the perfect spot too. Beachfront property! He probably enjoyed lying in bed at night, listening to the waves crash and smelling the salty breeze.

It was the perfect place to roost – until trouble came. Then, it became a death trap.

We humans think we build our lives on the perfect foundations, too. Money, prestige, manicured lawns, and Pinterest-worthy decor all look good – until trouble comes. Then, all those things we hold dear become death traps, crushing us underneath.

Jesus urged his followers to build their lives on the one thing that will never be shaken, will never be moved, will never cease to exist – His word. When trouble comes, it will not cause us even more heartache. It will be the sure thing we can count on.

Are we like the mama bird, or the beachfront homebuilder, or are we rock solid? Take time today to take stock of your foundation – before trouble comes.

The power that drives us

Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.” Acts 2:41

I saw it out of the corner of my eye – a white, expensive sports car, sitting dead on the side of the road. I don’t know what caused it’s sojourn on the shoulder, but a thought crossed my mind.

Without power, it’s just a hunk of metal.

This weekend marks Pentecost, the “birthday” not just of my (Pentecostal) church, but of ALL churches. The spark that ignited the flame of the Gospel was the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.

Peter preached such a miraculous sermon that 3,000 people came to faith in Christ in one day. Was it his great oratorical ability that sealed the deal? I think not. No, it was the power put behind his words by the Holy Spirit that did the work that day.

The church was scattered after facing intense persecution. Did they back down? No. They continued to spread the Good News of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit – the very spirit of the Living God – inside them, spurring them on and giving them courage in the face of adversity.

Paul wrote most of the New Testament from behind prison walls. Was it a great “writer’s retreat,” like some cabin in the woods, that inspired him? No. It was the Holy Spirit, speaking through his pen, to encourage believers both then and now.

Without a source of power, that expensive sports car was just a hunk of metal, on the side of the road, going nowhere. It’s still a car, but it isn’t fulfilling it’s purpose.

Without the Holy Spirit operating in our lives, we’re still Christians – but we aren’t really fulfilling His purpose in our lives to spread the Gospel, bring hope to the hopeless, bring healing to the hurting. We’re just hunks of flesh, on the side of the road.

Jesus came to give us life. The Holy Spirit came to give us power to live that life. Let’s pray for His power to stir in our hearts, to get us off the side of the road and into the calling He has for us.

Purple hair and Jesus

If you’ve never met me in real life, let me clue you in on a feature that you’d notice immediately.

I have purple hair.

Well, not all of it. Just streaks. And sometimes, if I’ve been lazy about keeping it up, it’s more of a pinky, magenta color. But it’s an an attention-getter, nonetheless!

The thing about having brightly colored streaks in your hair (especially at MY age) is that people comment on it. A lot. Perfect strangers will stop me in the store, or in restaurants, or in other random places, and ask exactly how I got my hair to be this shade.

Especially if they have dark hair like mine.

And I’m glad to point the way to a beauty supply store, and tell them the name of the product I use (YES, I do it at home, because NO, I can’t afford to have it done in a salon) and just the method that works for me.

“I’ve always wanted hair like that!” I’ve had more than one person exclaim.

If only I could point them to Jesus as easily.

If only there was something about me that would make perfect strangers come up to me and ask how to get what I have. If only there was something in the way I approached life that would make people exclaim, “I’ve always wanted to live like that!”

I don’t mean a “This Blood’s For You” shirt, or a big cross necklace. I mean, something oozing out of my pores that lets the lady behind me in line at Walmart know that I have something she’s been searching for. I mean that the Fruit of the Spirit are so evident in my life that people stop me on the street to find out how they can have a piece of that action.

The Word of God says we’re to be known by our love, so I know that’s a part. I also know that the way I handle everyday situations can tell people more about my character than any bumper sticker ever will.

And so my quest continues, not for the perfect shad of purple dye, but for the perfect reflection of my Savior and what He means to me. I pray that flame never fades, that I never let it get into a state of pinky-magenta disrepair.

Dear Jesus, shine through me like my purple streaks shine through my hair!

Right where YOU are

“The man replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.” Acts 8:31

Did you know that God can, and will, meet you right where you are?

Right where YOU are.

He knows where you are today, my friend. Not just geographically, but mentally. Spiritually. Emotionally. And even financially. You might feel alone, unworthy, unloved, and unseen, but He knows.

And that’s all we need to know.

The Ethiopian man needed someone to explain the scriptures to him so he could receive salvation. God knew exactly where he was, and told Philip to go to an exact spot at an exact time to get that man what he needed.

Where are you today? What are you in need of? I don’t know, but God does. Ask Him to send provisions – whether it’s encouragement, guidance, finances, or understanding. He’ll do it. It might not happen on our timetable, but it will happen on His.

Right what YOU need.

Right when YOU need it.

Right where YOU are.

Our Shepherd, Our Shield

“Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20

My husband and daughter are among the hordes of people playing online games like Clash of Clans. While we were driving in to work, my husband (who was in the passenger’s seat) received a notification from his “clan.”

Seems he’d been attacked a couple of times, and had been awarded a shield of protection. But that shield’s time was up. He was again vulnerable.

(Or something like that. I don’t speak “online multiplayer game.”)

I remarked that it must be nice to be given a shield to thwart attacks, and then I remembered aloud, “Well, the Lord is our shield. He doesn’t keep us from attacks, but He protects us.”

The 13-year-old in the backseat piped up. “I thought the Bible said He is our Shepherd.”

“It also says He is our Shield,” said the mom now thinking her Bible literacy lessons to be seriously lacking.

To prove my point, once safely away from the steering wheel, I Googled it. Of course.

He is indeed our Shepherd. He leads us, guides us, and provides for us. But He’s also our Shield. Troubles come, and there’s no getting around that. We live in a fallen world. God won’t keep us from hard times, but He will be there to protect and sustain us.

Which do you need the Lord to be today, your Shepherd, or your Shield? He’s both, and so much more. He’s whatever you need most, whenever you put your trust in Him!

Only love

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Love.

Love.

L-O-V-E

Seems like everywhere I turn in scripture these days, it’s jumping out at me.

Speak the truth in love.

Love covers a multitude of faults.

Do everything out of love.

As my Pastor is fond of saying, love is the “operating system” of God’s Kingdom.

There is so, so, so much turmoil in the world today. I could have written that sentence five, ten, or twenty five years ago. It would have been just as true. The thing we as Christians in this age of instant news and social media need to remember is just this:

LOVE.

Not whether you follow all our rules exactly right. Not whether you look just like we do, or talk just like we do, or never stumble and make mistakes.

Love.

We aren’t called to show judgement to one another. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. We’re called to show love. That’s our job.

As Paul said, it’s how we express our faith.

It’s how others will see Jesus working in our lives.

Love.

Love.

Love.

Unknown love

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

As I rounded the corner, I couldn’t see the speaker, but I could hear the words.

“You don’t know me, but I love you!”

It was a distant relative speaking to a small child after a funeral, but it could just as well have been Jesus speaking to us before we accepted His lordship in our lives.

It’s a mind-boggling thing, to think that Jesus knew and loved us before we knew Him; that He died for us before we, or our parents, were even conceived. It’s one thing to believe in love at first sight. It’s another matter entirely to believe that someone could love us sight-unseen.

When you’re having a bad day, feeling alone and unloved, let this truth marinate in you. Let your soul soak up a love so great, it sacrificed itself with no promise of anything in return. Let your heart rejoice in a love so strong, it travels across the centuries to wrap us up in its embrace.

He knows us, yet He loves us. In fact, He loved us before He even knew us. There is no greater love than that anywhere, at any time, and there never will be!

What do you hear?

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” Romans 10:17

“Trials produce faith.”

“Think of this situation as a chance to grow your faith.”

“God lets us go through hard times so our faith will be strengthened.”

These are all phrases you’ve probably heard at one time or another, in one form or another. It makes it seem so simple to have, grow, and use our faith, doesn’t it?

I found myself wondering, after a lifetime in church, how do you really get from Point A (no faith) to Point B (strong faith)? After all, people on both sides of the line, Christian and carnal, go through rough spots. The Bible tells us that it “rains on the just and the unjust.” Why do those same trials not produce a harvest of faith in those who don’t believe on Him?

Because faith has a starting point, and that is hearing the Gospel. And I don’t mean just the initial “good news” that Jesus saves, but the everlasting, eternal message of hope He brings.

How do we as Christians grow our faith through hard times? By returning, again and again, to the Word. That Word made flesh is what saved us, and the inspired Word of God is what keeps us. Faith doesn’t develop just because we face bad situations. It develops when we seek out our Savior in the midst of those situations. It’s digging into His word, prayer, and praise – those “unglamorous” spiritual disciplines – that actually bring about the faith we need to be victorious in this life.

It’s not just hardships that build faith – it’s what we do, what we pray, what we listen to in those times that matters. So when you’re facing a struggle, what do you hear?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 923 other followers