The Crowd

Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah…(Mt 27:17). 

Ever pay attention to the wrong crowd?  Pilate did and so have I.

Pilate had the authority within him to release Jesus.  After all, Jesus was an innocent man, but instead of releasing him as he should have, he went to the people.  The people whose hearts had been given over to evil.

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I start listening to the voices of the enemy in my life and my heart begins to become trapped by thoughts like, “These people don’t love me.” or “I’ll never recover from this” or “This person wants to see me fall.”

There are a number of other lies the enemy tries to throw at me, the list is quite long and sometimes, if I’m operating out of fear or insecurity, as Pilate was, I’ll ask the crowd of my deceptive thoughts what the answer should be.  This always leads me towards captivity, unbelief and further compounds my personal fears.

Yet, when I lay still in the hands of the Father, not giving way to the crowd, but resting firm and sure in His grace I can be at peace.  I can live in peace that surpasses all understanding.  I can rejoice because the Father of grace and goodness sees me, loves me, and wants to release me from all my fears.

You see, there’s one thing Pilate didn’t understand in the moment.  He was not innocent of Jesus’ blood.  He was just as guilty as the crowd because he himself became part of the crowd when he bowed to their wishes and wants.  You and I can quickly become a slave to the crowd of impure and tempting thoughts in our lives as well.  Therefore, we must claim our victory in Christ and the authority that we have over the devil so that we might live as overcomers.  Because, dear friend, that is what you are in Christ.

Father, today I want to walk forward in victory over my thoughts.  I want to believe good things.  I want to believe the best in people.  Forgive me when I don’t.  I want to live differently, in Jesus name, Amen.  

 

When I Feel Wronged…All I Want To Do is Defend Myself….

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up…(James 4:10).

Humility, sometimes, is a hard pill for me to swallow.  Especially when all I want to do is defend myself because I feel so misunderstood and judged.

Yet, I am reminded that it is God who defends me.  This doesn’t always look how I might expect it though.  People will still say hurtful things, I will still be judged and misunderstood.  What God simply asks of me is to be still and let His Spirit in me speak for itself.  You see, when my jaw goes flapping and words come streaming out of my mouth to defend myself, it doesn’t look good to other people.  It looks prideful.  But, when I keep my head low in humility and let the Father’s love guard me against flapping my jaw, then I am defended by His love.

You see, God’s defense of me is not Him setting those people straight and clearing my name so that they finally see and understand who I am.  They may never understand.  It is so true that our insecurities, fears and personal pride play into so much of how we view others.  You have to stop trying to convince that person who said those things about you that you’re not that person.  Stop trying to turn the sails within their heart and let God do it.

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Trust me, when God speaks for you and defends you it will be magnificent.  Let your light shine, not so that others can see that you’ve got this thing together, but so that the humility of Christ might be displayed in you for the sake of the gospel and the glory of Christ in you.  That’s the point, dear friend, not to show yourself to be great to others but to show Him in you, through your willingness to be humble and not defend yourself.  When you do this, He rises up in you and His light is what draws people to love Him and not you, in Jesus name.

Lord, you are so good.  Help me, as I grow, to bring you glory.  You are my shield and defender.  You go before me and make the way smooth.  Help me to walk the road you have given me with tenderness and humility.  Let my love for you be what defends me when life feels unfair, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.  

You Have Something of Great Worth

Go to Joseph and do what he tells you…(Genesis 41:55). 

Friend, you have something inside of you through the risen Christ that is of greater worth than gold.  Sometimes I forget that.  Especially when it comes to sharing that treasure with others.  There’s this voice that tries to keep my mouth silent.  It makes me feel small and my faith insignificant.  It keeps me from sharing about the light that lives inside of me.

In the life of Joseph God blessed his life in great abundance and because Joseph had what the people needed, the people flocked to him.  Yes, they flocked to him.  You and I have something that the people need as well.  Truly, it is the love of God wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.  It is the eternal message of the gospel, the good news that Jesus saves.  This is the message we hold within our hearts as Christians that others need more than food or sleep.  Truly, they will never be fed, nor will they ever be at rest without it.

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I need to remind myself more of that.  I need to keep telling myself that the message inside of me matters and it needs to be shared.  When I look for opportunities to share it, God will open doors.  He will grant me the blessing of speaking His name to others who are in need of His daily bread.  Sometimes that message falls on ripe soil.  At other times the soil isn’t quite ready yet.  Whether I see the harvest of it or not, I have a part to play as I bring the greatest message ever told to a world that desperately needs to hear that Jesus saves.

Lord, grant me opportunities to share my faith with others.  Help me to speak with courage for you.  Jesus, use my life to tell others of your love, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.  

Embrace Your Suffering and Find Your Freedom

Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command,…(Ge 41:42–43). 

All of us want to be blessed like Joseph, don’t we?  We’re waiting for God to call us up, bless our lives and bring great abundance upon us.  Yet, we must remember, that even while Joseph was living in great abundance, he was reliving very painful moments and had to deal with them or they would certainly deal with him.

Yes, Joseph was blessed, yes he was the second command in Egypt.  From the outside looking in, we could say that Joseph had a perfect life.  Yet, God called Joseph to suffer, even in His blessing, so that Joseph could continue to grow in Godly character and wisdom.  You might be thinking to yourself, but God, how are you good in this?  My life was going so well and now you’ve brought this painful thing back up?  Why are you doing that?  Why can’t I just live in the blessing?  Why are you open wounds and sores from the past?

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Maybe that’s just been me who has asked that question of God.  I’m not sure, but one thing I know for certain is that God cares more about our growth and healing than He does about us living on the mountaintop.  You see, Joseph’s brothers, the ones who betrayed him came back into his life.  Can you imagine the rush of emotions Joseph felt?  Can you even begin to fathom the immense amount of pain he must have felt as each brother walked into the room, reminding him over and over again of the deep betrayal, rejection and hurt he felt over their treatment of him?

Couldn’t God have just let Joseph move forward in life without bringing the past back up?  Couldn’t He have allowed Joseph to bury the past and live only in the blessing of the moment?  Of course, but you see, there’s was something new that God wanted to do through something old in Joseph’s life.  Yes, there was something redemptive that God wanted to work out in the life of Joseph by bringing back all the wounds of his past.

Maybe God has you in a similar season and you find yourself angry, frustrated and discouraged.  Dear friend, look now to your savior who wishes to heal you, restore you and redeem those things from your past.  Trust me when I say this, He is doing a new thing and for that, we can rejoice, trust Him and give Him praise.  God blessed Joseph and redeemed his past because Joseph was willing to go there with God and not become angry and bitter about it.  Dear friend, God wants to do the same for you, won’t you trust Him today?

Lord, redeem and restore all things in my life.  Thank you for the trials and struggles.  Thank you for bringing up similar circumstances in my life to grow my character and to heal me of things I never quite healed from.  Thank you for the journey.  I want to pass the test this time around because of your grace, in Jesus name, Amen.  

 

If The Lord Is With Me, Why Does Everything Go Wrong?

Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined….(Gen 39:20). 

The Lord was with Joseph, but wait, didn’t Joseph get sold into slavery?  Wasn’t he wrongfully accused of doing something then spent years in prison because of it?  How can we then say that the Lord was with Joseph?  How was God good to Joseph in all of this unfair treatment?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for God to protect Joseph from all this unfair treatment if He really was with Joseph and blessing his life?

I mean, that’s the story I tell my own self when life seems to be going wrong.  I think to myself, “This must somehow be my fault.  I must have somehow made God angry with me and now He’s punishing me,” or one of my favorite lines that I like to use with God, “What’s up with that Lord?  Why all this hardship?  Why all this unfair treatment?”  Then, I’ll start playing the words of those who have hurt me on repeat.  I’ll replay the scenarios over and over in my head.  I’ll think about all the ways that they were wrong and how I’m right, trying to justify myself, therefore, somehow trying to make myself feel better about the situation.  If I’ve been wrongfully accused I’ll sometimes feel a need to try and fix it.  To try and fix the mess that I feel someone else has made of my life.

Yet, I am reminded that Joseph stayed in that prison cell until God called Him out.  From what we can tell he did not grow bitter or become angry with God.  He simply entrusted himself to God in the midst of deeply unfair treatment.  He didn’t try to convince others of his integrity.  He simply let God raise him up and show the true colors of his character.

I know what you’re thinking though if you don’t clear your good name how can you move forward from this?  If others don’t see that you didn’t, x, y or z how can anything good come from this?

What I have learned is that as we submit ourselves to the one who judges justly, keep our heads low in humility and press hard into grace the truth of who we are is revealed by how willing we are to trust God in the midst of the trial.  Our character, integrity, and humility are all tested in these moments.  The question is not so much what will we do, but who will we become through them.  I don’t know about you, but I want to become someone different and so instead of putting hurtful words and circumstances on repeat I want to entrust myself to Him who judges justly, have deep love in my heart towards others, even those who have hurt me, and when He’s ready, He’ll raise me up.

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Lord, I trust you.  That’s so easy for me to say, but sometimes so hard for me to do.  Please forgive me when I stumble and fall in this.  Forgive me when I don’t love and lead like Jesus. Help me now to love and lead like Him even when it hurts.  Even when it feels unfair.  Grow and change me through this, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.  

 

From Grace to Grace

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given….(John 1:16).

If you’re a Christian, do you remember when you gave your life to Jesus?  Everything felt so right.  The joy, peace, and goodness that filled your life were palpable.  You knew something was different about you and your Spirit rejoiced over it.

But then life started to set in again.  The setbacks, disappointments, and trials.  They all started pressing in on your once again and you began to wonder why God wasn’t as good to you as He was on the day of your salvation.

My daughter, who is currently only seven weeks old, cannot live on her own.  She needs me to live, feed her and change her.  She literally has almost no independence and for her to go out on her own right now without my constant protection, holding her close and keeping her safe would end in true tragedy.

Beloved of God, don’t you see, the trials, setbacks, and disappointments are not to destroy you, but to grow you.  There will come a day when I have to loosen the grip of protection on my daughters’ life.  Not because I’m leaving her, I’ll still be there, always ready to keep her safe at any moment and when I need to step in, I will.  But, she’s going to have to take some steps on her own.  Some of them will be painful.  Some of them will seem unfair, but she’ll always have me to fall back on and remind her of the goodness of God.

If I am willing to do that for my daughter, isn’t it true that God desires to do the same for His children?  The pressing, persecution, and pain are to grow us up in maturity.  We have a choice to make in those moments, will I continue to lean into the Father who loves me and be filled with more grace or will I run from grace and into the arms everything I used before Christ to soothe my present pain and worry?  For me, the only lasting satisfaction I have found is Jesus and His grace.

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I hate the way I feel when I run from His grace and into places of anger as resentment and bitterness start to take root.  Only through Jesus, dear friend, can we find the freedom our lives need to walk forward out of grace and into grace once more with a heart that believes God for good and glorious things.  No matter where life takes us.

Father, thank you for your grace.  I want to live and walk in it today.  Thank you for growing me up in you into maturity.  May I always be ready to place myself before you as a living sacrifice.  Jesus, I want to be faithful to you.  I don’t want to run to anger, fear or pride.  I want to run towards you, Amen.  

 

God Has a Chosen One and I’m Not It….

 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”… (Jn 1:34). 

God has a chosen one and you’re not it.  I get it, you understand that.  But, if I could be quite honest, sometimes, the world starts to revolve around me and although logically, I understand that Jesus is God’s chosen one, I start to live like I’m it instead.

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Things happen in life where I am hurt by the words of others or their judgments of me and I am sent into this place of self-pity where I tell myself a story that goes a little something like this.

“These people just don’t appreciate or see my gifts.”

“I should be given a chance, it’s their loss if they don’t see and use my potential.”

I’ll play similar phrases like these on repeat.  This only causes me to become more and more isolated from the people I’ve convinced myself don’t see my value or appreciate me.  This simply makes life, ministry, and service all about me.  My needs, my wants, my gifts, how I’ve been slighted and misunderstood..me, me, me….gross.

I wish I could say that I’ve arrived in this, but I just haven’t.  I’m still fighting with Jesus for my freedom from this dark place my mind likes to spin into.  You see, people, circumstances and not getting what we want is not the problem.  The enemy who loves to twist, lie and deceive is the problem.  I get that, and I understand that, but I often forget to realize that when the battle rages, I don’t fight him.  I fight my circumstances, the people around me and, ultimately, the Lord.

There is one chosen one, Jesus.  Today, I’m going to fight with Him for right belief, because He is the only one who can set my mind free from the prisons I put myself in.  Truly, we wear the victors crown when we learn how to start fighting the right enemy through the power and love of the true chosen one- Jesus.

Father, today I want to stand on truth.  You are God’s chosen one, not me.  Forgive me for making life about myself.  Forgive me for fighting the wrong enemy.  Set my heart free according