How Could They Hurt Me Like That?

Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him…(Mark 15:19).

Have you ever wondered how another human being could treat another person, made in the image of God so terribly? Maybe the person who was mistreated was you. Maybe it was your child or someone close to you, so it’s hard not to take it very personally. I get it. It hurts, and the thought of it makes you want to strike back. Trust me, I get all of that.
 
Yet, no amount of striking back on our behalf will ever resolve our situations. If wrong has been done to us the right solution is not to seek revenge, but to entrust ourselves to a Holy God who redeems and restores all things that sins attempt to wreck and destroy.
 
I know what you may be thinking though, “But, how could they? How is this fair and why is God allowing this?”
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Here’s what I had to do in my life. I had to stop asking why and start believing in faith that God would bring joy from my pain and the wrong done to me. He would turn my mourning into dancing and restore what the locusts had eaten. I kept claiming that truth for my life, believing in faith that if God has done it for others in the Scriptures, then He could do it for me.
 
I had to let those who hurt me go. I had to start praying for them, asking God to bless their life and grow them up in Him. I find whenever I neglect to pray this way for them, I’m quick to start getting angry at them once more for what they’ve done. Sometimes, in my stubbornness I pick them and the hurt they’ve caused me back up. This has never been good for my heart. I’ve learned I have to keep setting them back down as I give them back to God.
 
As Jesus hung on the cross, wrongfully accused, beaten, betrayed and bloodied from head to foot be sought no revenge but offered a simple prayer entrusting Himself to His Father’s redemption, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
 
Until we release the wrong done to us, we will wear it like a banner that weighs our hearts down into the grave of bitterness. Where we secretly seek revenge. The only safe place I can go with my pain is to the healer. He’s the only just judge who can make all things new and so today I’m choosing to do just that. I will continue to pray for those who’ve hurt me and seek the grace of God as I grow, change and heal.
 
Lord, I entrust every situation to you. You are a just and mighty God who can take my pain and turn it into something beautiful. You are doing that even now in my life. Thank you for being so faithful to me. Thank you for restoring those things sin tried to destroy. Help me as I follow you to be like Jesus and to keep letting go, so that I can take up more and more grace, in Jesus name, Amen.

Our Preparation Will Determine Our Outcome

Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come…(Mark 14:41).

You know, I’ve gotta be honest about something. I love naps. In fact, naps have taken precedence in my life, many times over certain things I needed to prioritize and accomplish. Yet, that nap came calling and so I would set my priorities aside to rest my head upon that pillow and sleep until my heart’s content.
 
The problem this sometimes created was now there wasn’t enough time to accomplish those priorities and obligations I needed to take care of in my life. Since napping was more important than x, y or z I was now frantically running about trying to get things done before the deadline. Don’t get me wrong, naps are awesome, but they can’t always be the priority. Especially when something big is around the corner.
 
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Imagine if you decided to take a nap instead of attending your own wedding. That wouldn’t go over too well and you’ll have a pretty big mess on your hands after the fact. What if you decided to take a little siesta instead of attending your child’s high school graduation? Again, another bad idea. But, what if you just simply decided to sleep in a little longer instead of investing time in your relationship with God through Bible reading and prayer? No big deal right? Nothing big is on the line, so postponing this time can certainly wait, can’t it?
 
Well, it can, but the question is, what are you willing to sacrifice for it? The disciples were napping right before the arrest of Jesus, and they were sacrificing far more than their eyes could see. Instead of building up their spiritual resolve and preparing themselves for the hard, difficult journey ahead, they were sleeping. In doing so, they weakened their spiritual muscles and all end up fleeing Jesus once He is arrested. I’m sure many of them wished they could have gone back to the garden and joined Jesus in prayer as He asked them to “keep watch.” Then, they would have been much more prepared for what was ahead. After all, Peter was one of those who were sleeping and shortly after Jesus’ arrest he denies even knowing Christ at all.
 
I don’t know about you, but I know that if I’m not in the word daily then I’m sure to fall into the temptations of the enemy to flee from my trust in God and run out of fear. As I have spent more and more time with God I’ve watched my spiritual muscles grow. Honestly, its the daily, continual pursuit of the Lord that has held me close to Him when all I’ve wanted to do is flee. Sure, I still struggle, but you see, Jesus is asking all of us to be ready. To prepare ourselves for a spiritual battle and ready ourselves for the unseen. Sometimes life throws us a curveball and our preparation beforehand will help determine where we will end up. It’s inevitable.
 
So friends, get ready and prepare yourself for battle. There’s something coming around the corner and God is trying to get you into His training room to prepare your hands, your heart and your mind for war. If you sit under His leadership, you’ll be ready, but if you fail to enter into His training room, you’ll fall easily into the hands of the enemy.
 
Lord, I want to be ready. I know, sometimes, even in these early mornings of spending time with you, I lack the discipline to stay focused. Help me God, to keep my mind and my heart stayed upon you. Lord, please, prepare me in your training room to become spiritually strong and ready for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

Don’t Leave Your Post

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back…(Mark 13:35).

Years ago, I was hanging out with some friends who were performing a pretty stellar prank. Now, I’m not normally one for pranking and often discourage others from doing so, but, being a young impressionable teen at the time, I went for it.
 
I was given a simple task. I was on watch duty. I was making sure the rest of the group performing the task was safe to complete it. If I saw a car coming I was supposed to alert the group so they could flee the scene and run for cover. I had a false alarm once, which you can imagine sent the group into a panic. Truth is, even though I wasn’t doing much, I had an extremely important job as I was keeping watch.
 
Jesus tells us to “keep watch” in Mark 13. He says we do not know when the day or the hour may come, but we need to be ready for His return. But, what does this mean? What does this look like to stand watch? If I may, I think to some degree it means that we must be willing to set up safety nets at the door of our own hearts. We must be willing to have the Spirit on call at all times watching the doorway of our hearts so that distractions, sins and stubborn rebellion do not enter in.
 
What was Jesus looking for? Was He looking for people of great prestige with names for themselves and extravagant resumes? No, He was looking for people who would be ready to stand guard. He was seeking those who would be willing to stand watch and be ready with a spiritual readiness that showed they were ready, at all costs, to do whatever it took to be partners in His Kingdom work.
 
Have you ever thought to yourself that you are a soldier enlisted in God’s army? What if you abandoned your post and fled the scene? What then would become of the rest of your battalion? Would they be kept safe? Would they know when danger is coming? Maybe the job God has given you to do feels insignificant at the moment, but it very well could be for the saving of many lives, you just can’t see it right now.
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What if protecting the doorway of your heart was for the protection of your home so evil doesn’t get in? What if guarding that doorway, in the long run, produced children with a greater trust in God? What if protecting your post meant that peoples lives would be saved? Is that fruit worth pursuing or should we instead be looking to have our extravagance put on display and abandon the doorway so we can set ourselves up on the stage instead? I don’t think so. Instead, let us be ready to stand firm and hold our post, for the potential saving of many lives.
 
Can I be really honest? Sometimes I live very spiritually unaware. I have noticed, there are times when I flee my post and enter into the room of negative thinking. As I do this, doubt, discouragement, and criticism start to sneak their way into my heart. As you can imagine, this leads my heart down a path of rebellion, untrust, and disbelief. So today I’m choosing to live more aware of my own heart. I’m choosing to live with a keen awareness that at any moment I can flee the scene and be led down a miserable path that doesn’t trust God. Today, I want to stand watch, because I know my heart can become so easily discouraged without The Holy Spirit’s wisdom over me.
 
Lord, I am ready to stand watch. Sometimes, I grow tired of holding my post, but I want to be ready. I want to be on guard for your return. Help me, Father, to play my part well so that I am not one to be found fallen asleep. Abba, grow my heart like yours and grant me spiritual strength, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

When You Feel Like You Have Nothing to Offer

They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”….(Mark 12:44).

Have you ever felt poor? I don’t mean, without money, I mean, you feel like you have nothing to offer, or nothing to show for yourself to be of any worth.
 
It wasn’t long ago that I felt this way, poor and not much to offer those around me. Much of my life prior to this time I had done a number of things that made me feel quite accomplished. But now I was in a place where all those things were stripped away and I had none of them to show for myself any longer. The only thing I had to offer was my heart and if I could be quite honest, from what God was showing me, it was in deep need of some major renovation.
 
Something happens in you when all you have to offer is your heart. It changes you. At least, it did me and if I could be quite honest, it was not a fun change for me. For so long my life was about what I did, now it was becoming about who I was as a child of God. When you’ve got 34 plus years of wrong thinking it is a painful stripping when God takes you through it. There were many days when I was done with the stripping. I was done feeling like I had nothing to offer, but you see, God kept me there because the work He was accomplishing in me hadn’t yet come to fruition. He’s loving enough to keep us somewhere hard until we grow into something new.
 
There were days where I felt so poor inside that it was almost crippling. I felt like since I had nothing to offer, I was wasting my time, not being productive for the Kingdom of God and in many ways I felt like a failure to God. I carried shame with me during that season, because I thought that the best me, was one who was accomplishing things for God. Little did I know that sometimes God needs us to take a back seat so He can accomplish unseen work in us instead.
 
So keep sacrificing, keep going to that hard place in your heart. Keep offering up yourself to God, even if all you have is simply yourself. Go ahead, keep loving that difficult spouse or child. I know it feels thankless, but God sees your sacrifice.
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Keep pouring your time, energy and effort into your relationship with God. That was the only thing I could invest in during that season of my life as I sat in my apartment with no job of any real significance in the eyes of the world. I felt like that poor widow who went to her Lord not with anything to offer, but simply out of her poverty and her desperate need for grace. This is where He met me as I poured out nothing to Him but my heart and I found His love to be sufficient for me in a season where I had nothing to offer but myself.
 
I had to learn that my greatest investment was not in what I could show for others or accomplish but instead were the things God was working out in me. Please, do not grow weary if this is where you’re at, but keep praising God as you offer Him yourself. He is very pleased with that and simply wants to shower His love and grace upon you as He grows you in your deep understanding of His great love for you. Not based upon what you can do for Him, but simply because you are His child.
 
Lord, this truth was a hard and painful one for me to learn. I did not like it at all. I did not enjoy having everything I held dear stripped from me. I felt like a failure to you, but I soon learned that you were very pleased with me. You were proud of me, not because of what I did, but simply because I am your child. Thank you for showering me with unconditional love, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Cry For Mercy

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”…. (Mark 10:47).

In Mark chapter 10 there are a number of individuals who come before Jesus to make requests of Him or ask Him a question. One man, a rich young ruler, asks Jesus what He must do to inherit eternal life. Another two men ask Jesus if they may sit at His right and His left in the Kingdom. Then, another cries out for mercy.
 
Jesus honors the prayer of the man who cried out for mercy and restores his sight. You see, the others came before Jesus with a question that was really rooted in selfishness and a desire to simply get something from Jesus. The rich young ruler, in a way, wanted to justify himself before the Lord. He came into the question, already believing he was good to go. He had little to no humility and this showed by how he responds in the end. The other two men, in their foolishness, make a request of Jesus that was not a role for them to fill. Yet, they wanted it, because it would make them look really good.
 
Then, the blind man, named Bartimaeus, cries out for mercy. There’s a desperation in his voice as he understands his bankruptcy and declares his need for Jesus. I have not lived much of my life like this blind man. Quite frankly, I have been much more like the rich young ruler, seeking for ways to justify my actions. I remember once, years ago, going on a prayer walk and thinking to myself, “my sin isn’t all that bad.”
 
As you can see, at that time, humility was not a quality I possessed. Pride was my closest friend instead. Truly, I cannot separate my growth in Christ from a heart that is growing in humility. It wasn’t long after that the Lord shattered my pride. I mean broke it to pieces, leveled it and for that, I am thankful, because it helped me see myself in light of all my self-righteousness.
 
Then, I have been like the two disciples, making requests of Jesus, because I just wanted to look good to others. “Lord, grant me a big stage to share your message,” I would pray. I had to get to the bottom of this and what I found lying there was just a selfish desire to be seen as someone valuable. Part of me wanted it to be for God’s glory, but then other parts of me just wanted it to be about me. Now, I have reached a point in my life where I don’t care how big the crowd is, I just want to be faithful.
 
So, I come to you today with a question. How do you approach Jesus? Do you come to Him in self-righteous pride as the rich young ruler did? Do you approach Him with selfish desires, hoping Jesus will help you get ahead in life like the two disciples? Or do you simply come to Him understanding your desperate need for mercy like the blind man who understood his need and knew that only Jesus could fill it? I want to come to Him like that, in desperate need of His grace and mercy for me, a sinner, who has been made new in His love.
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Lord, I need your grace. I am desperate for you. Please show me where there might be any pride in me. Lord, please clean me out. I want to walk in humility. I want to be like Jesus. Please help me in that process, I ask, in Jesus name, Amen.

Safe Prayers to Save Face Before Others

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief… (Mark 9:24).

There are many prayers that Jesus is working in, but He cannot work in the prayers we hide from. He’ll wait for us to be humble enough to start to utter our need before He starts working on our behalf.
 
I have found, at least for me, the prayers I end up hiding are the prayers I’m too prideful to confess. They’re the prayers I’d rather not talk about, because in some way they could taint my image, making me look bad to other people. These are the self-righteous prayers I hide from as I attempt to protect my image over pursuing my own need for sanctification.
 
It is good for a heart like mine to be put on display. A heart like mine that struggles with wanting to receive the praise and adoration of people. A heart like mine that wants to always be looking good, coming across as competent and well put together. A heart like mine that fears not being successful and having it all together. Yes, it is good for me to be honest about all of this, because it sets me free from those unhealthy parts of me that want to keep me from uttering honest prayers before Jesus.
 
I recall early on in my marriage thinking, “Gosh, I hope my husband is hearing this message on selfishness because he needs some work on that.” Little did I know, the heart that needed some major transforming was my own. It needed to be uncovered. It needed to be humbled. It needed to stop putting on a show for others. It needed to be placed in the light of transparency.
 
That’s why I write so much about my own struggles now, it keeps someone like me who struggles with wanting to look good to other people humble. It keeps me from placing my own self on a pedestal and hiding the prayers of honesty and humility that I need to be praying daily before Jesus. It keeps me from sinking into my own unhealthy patterns and it connects me to people in a deeper way than I have experienced ever before.
 
In Mark chapter 9 Jesus encounters a man whose son is sick. Jesus says to him, “Anything is possible for him who believes.” The man cries out, an honest, humble prayer that quite frankly feels a bit risky and exposing. He says, “I believe, help my unbelief!” I can’t help but think how many of us would be afraid to utter those words out loud before Jesus and others.
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I know for me there would be a fear that maybe others would be disappointed by my struggle with unbelief. Isn’t that why we’re quick to ask for prayer and act as though we’re believing God for great things, but actually underneath it all, we’re struggling with deep doubt and fear over the matter? Maybe what we need more of in our prayer circles are honest prayers that expose something about us that Jesus can heal. Yes, Jesus honors honest prayers, even the ones where we express doubt.
 
Don’t be afraid to go somewhere hard in your life today and don’t fear the beauty of transparency. Jesus can work if you’re willing to stop hiding and start letting Him in.
 
Lord, show me today where I am doubting you. Please forgive me for my doubt. Help me to see your grace and your goodness in my life. I so badly want to be like you that I’m so done with trying to look good to others, but please help me not to give in to that when it starts to rear its ugly head, in Jesus name, Amen.

“Lord, Please, I’ve Had Enough”

May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD… (Ruth 2:12).

The Lord sees your sacrifice. I know it doesn’t always feel like, but trust me, He sees all that you have given up and He is pleased and He wants to bless you.
 
There were many times over the past couple years of my life when I questioned if what I gave up was actually worth it. At the time, it seemed like my life was reaping very little blessing and the reward of my sacrifice was slow in it’s coming. If I could be quite honest though, I was experiencing many blessings I just had a hard time seeing them, because the big ones had not yet come to fruition.
 
I know what you’re thinking though. Does God really care? Is this some game that He’s trying to play with me to see how far I’ll really go in following Him? Is He just going to keep asking me to give up more and more and more? That’s what it felt like for me. I remember starting to fear what the Lord might ask of me. I remember thinking, “Lord, please, I’ve had enough. Please stop asking me to give up one more thing.”
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Little did I know, God was working out a greater gift as I learned the value of letting go. He was fashioning a new story and a more perfect gift. The letting go, albeit so very painful was immensely purposeful. You see, we need not fear what God might ask to give up. Truly, He is a loving Father who loves to shower His children with good things. It took me a while to get there, but I had to start surrendering the lies I was starting to entertain about God to actually start enjoying the season of letting go that He was walking me through. If I could be quite honest, I don’t think I ever got to a place where I loved the season I was in, but I learned to find contentment and peace in it.
 
Maybe you’ve been there too. In a season where you say of the Lord, “Please, Lord, I’ve had enough.” I think these are seasons God walks us through to teach us about the strength of His grace in us. Truly, I cannot walk through painful seasons on my own, but when I press into supernatural strength of the risen Lord, I can do all things. I can face cancer. I can grieve the loss of a loved one. I can persevere through great disappointment and loss. I can love a difficult child. I can look depression in the face and live an overcoming life. I can sacrifice one more dream, because of God’s sustaining grace.
 
See, that’s the thing. In those moments when I’ve had enough, I have an opportunity to receive more grace. Grace is meant to be a lifeline to our souls, sent to us from the throne room of God to transform and change us into new and different people. The strength of grace is what I need more than what I once had before. You see, as grace grows in me, so does my love for others and my ability to trust God.
 
So maybe the letting go is actually for your good. Maybe it’s God’s way of actually making you a stronger person. A person who learns to lean into grace instead of what they’ve always known. A person who learns how to praise in the midst of a season where it feels like you have to keep letting go.
 
You see, just as Boaz saw Ruth’s sacrifice, God sees the sacrifices you are making too and He wants to bless you, just like Boaz did to Ruth. His blessing will be in even greater abundance if you would just keep hanging onto His love and trusting in His grace.
 
Oh Lord, you are so good. I live keenly aware of how much I need you and your grace. Life is sometimes a difficult journey, but truly, your grace is enough. Your love is so powerful. Shower it upon me, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.