The Final Countdown

The moment that Jesus rose from the grave, the devil heard the first tick of a clock.

Before the cross, before the grave, before the ascension… the work had not yet been finished. When Jesus went to the cross for our sins and was raised to life for our justification, the Scriptures were fulfilled and satan lost. (I don’t like to capitalize his name because it’s like giving him the middle finger of grammar).

The enemy lost. Jesus’ death and resurrection set everything in motion for the second coming and we are currently living on borrowed time. The enemy knows it and is doing everything he can. The question is — are we?

Are we really doing everything we can to make sure people know how much God loves them? I think some days it’s hard enough to remind ourselves that He loves us. I think sometimes we can get so consumed by our internal war that we forget there is another one going on. We are on the front lines in the war for lost souls.

How often do we avoid tough conversations because we are too tired or too drained? How often do we let a comment slide without addressing it because we assume they didn’t mean it or, even worse, we think they just want attention and we don’t want to give it? Friends, the enemy is never too tired or too drained to reinforce someone’s insecurities. When someone says they are depressed, ugly, suicidal, alone — if we don’t give them attention, guess who does.

I know you are tired. We live in a fallen world and, even when we lean on Jesus, it can be emotionally exhausting to continually see the hatred and the violence. It’s easier to place ourselves in a Christian bubble. It’s easier to surround ourselves with like-minded believers and watch the world turn on itself with a sad shake of our heads. It’s easier to focus on ourselves and our right-standing with God. But in the rush to serve God, do we stop to serve others?

Scripture intentionally shows us the times that Jesus stopped. One of the greatest examples is in Matthew 20. As Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem, He tells His disciples that he “will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.” We know that He is on His way to live out the plan that was foreordained before the foundation of the world, so we are able to see the importance of Him stopping to help the blind men on the road. What could we possibly be doing in our lives that is more important than what Jesus was doing in that moment? How can we justify not stopping to help our brothers and sisters who are hurting or blinded?

Make no mistake that we are currently in a battle. We need to be fighting tooth and nail for our brothers and sisters. Not with violence, not with arguments, not with arrogance, but with Jesus. The only way we can fight a supernatural enemy is with a supernatural Savior. When the enemy tears someone apart and shows them the deepest, darkest places in their souls and tells them that no one could ever love them, we have to show them a Redeemer who does. In the midst of these battles, don’t forget that we are fighting from a place of victory — the war has already been won.

hum·ble·brag

A humble brag is a “self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud”. We have all likely been on both the giving and receiving end of a humble brag. Here are a few examples:

  • I have no makeup on, my hair’s a mess, and I’m trying to figure out why guys are still hitting on me. Seriously? I look awful.
  • Still not sure how it’s possible I got accepted to Yale! I demand answers.
  • Watching myself on TV and cringing. Is that really what my voice sounds like?

Humble brags mostly serve as an attempt to hide the fact that someone is bragging. For the most part, they end up being more annoying than actual bragging. As Twisted Sifter puts it, “Just tell us you are at an exclusive party. Don’t hide it behind a complaint about your dress not fitting.”

The question is, why do people feel the need to humble brag? Why are our Instagram and Facebook feeds so often filled with “I’ll probably delete this later because I look awful” photo captions? When did self-deprecation become more desirable?

Even the term “Humble Brag” implies that anything negative you say about yourself is “humble” while anything positive you say is “bragging”. When we want to say something positive about ourselves, we feel the need to add a disclaimer.

I think this belief, so ingrained in our culture, is why sometimes our immediate reaction to seeing God’s power at work is to deflect. My last post was on intercessory prayer and the importance of praying for others. If we pray for someone, and whatever we are praying for takes place, how often do we shrug if off or try to find a logical explanation instead of proclaiming the power of our prayers? I think sometimes we don’t want to “take credit” for a prayer because we mistakenly believe the power of prayer rests on us and we think that the humble thing to do is not draw attention to ourselves.

The very fact that Jesus calls himself humble goes against our definition of humility. Or, how about in Numbers, when Moses calls himself the most humble man on Earth? God says that when we are humble, we are free from pride or arrogance. That doesn’t mean that we think less of ourselves; it means we think more about Jesus. Humility is not about thinking less of yourself; it’s about literally becoming less of yourself and more of God. Biblical humility doesn’t deny that we can be used by God; rather it is a reminder that we have no power except through God.

It’s true that we aren’t supposed to claim the glory that belongs to God ourselves, but, in trying so hard to divert that attention, we are often denying God the credit as well. Don’t let your idea of humility deny Jesus His power. When something we are praying for happens, we should always point to the power of prayer. Prayer is not about the person praying; it’s about the One they are praying to.

Standing in the Gap

Package Box

When is the last time you stood in the gap for someone you loved? Many of us do this daily, praying over our family members and our friends. We might miss a day here and there, or even a week when we are really busy, but we consistently remember to lift them up. Do we have the same faithfulness and persistence to lift up our fellow church members? Our leaders? Our communities? Cities? Nations?

Confession: Most days, if all of my prayers were answered, my daughter and husband would stay safe and my food would be blessed, but the world would remain unchanged.

The ministry of intercession, or “standing in the gap” is such an important one. In Exodus, scripture says that Moses’ intercession for the people of God caused the Lord to relent and “not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” In Acts, we saw that because of the church’s prayers, Peter’s chains fell from his hands and he was led out of prison by an angel of God. In John, Jesus took time to intercede for the church, something He continues to do today. This was Jesus’ prayer over us: “That they may be one even as you and I are one, Father just as you are in me and I am in You.”

His prayer was that we would be one: one body, of one Spirit, of one faith.

The act of praying for others helps us think beyond ourselves. Today, I encourage you to spend at least half an hour in faithful and fervent prayer. Rather than coming before God with an agenda, come before Him with an open heart and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer time.

 

 

How Much Did God Love Jesus?

A few months after having Lana, my husband casually mentioned a quote he had heard while listening to an online sermon. The quote itself was powerful, but the timing of the quote – as a new mom – made it heartbreaking.

“You’ll never understand how much God loves you until you understand how much God loved Jesus.”

You guys, I thought I knew love. I love my parents; I love my brothers; I love my husband. But the way that I love my daughter – the way I feel about that toothless grin and the tiny rolls on her thighs and the way she holds my finger in her wet, chubby fist when she sleeps – is the most overwhelming and terrifying feeling I have ever known. It’s the kind of love that is bone deep. I would do anything and everything in my power to keep her from ever feeling pain or sadness. When she cries, my soul cries. I love her completely and fiercely.

If I’m able to love my daughter that much, even with all of my imperfections, how much did God love Jesus? How much did the perfect Father love the perfect Son?

God was not powerless. He had the power to keep His son from ever feeling pain or sadness. Instead, His soul cried as He saw His son being stripped and beaten. As He saw nails pierce his hands. As He saw them spit in his face. He saw His son hang on a cross. And then, He left him.

On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The penalty for sin is death – both physical and spiritual. Separation of the spirit from the body (physical) and separation of the spirit from God (spiritual). Since Jesus was taking our punishment, He had to actually experience the agony of separation from His Father for the first time. God didn’t just leave him on the cross, he left him on the cross alone – so that we would never have to be alone.

How can we possibly think that God doesn’t love us? Or, even worse, that He doesn’t love us enough? He left His son on the cross so that nothing could separate us from Him.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
– Romans 8:38-39

 

 

 

 

Chronic Worry

Advice we receive about worry can be confusing. I think most people, if asked about worry directly, would tell you not to worry too much and to enjoy the moments. But then we constantly see in the news and on social media those stories that want to raise awareness about <something> because <something awful> happened to them. Those stories absolutely break my heart, but they also cause me to fall into worry.

“Ten Signs of Depression You Might Not Recognize Until It’s Too Late”

“Dry Drowning: Know the Signs”

“Mom Warns Other Parents After 18-Day-Old Baby Girl Dies”

When I came home from the hospital with a tiny, defenseless baby in my arms, I was completely overwhelmed trying to remember all of the “need to know” tips, warnings, and advice. I was so worried and everything I was reading on the news was affirming that I should be worried because there were a million tiny things that could go wrong.

That burden was heavy. As someone who has always been a chronic worrier, that burden was crushing. Luckily, as believers, we have someone to transfer that burden to.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I didn’t sleep for weeks after my daughter was born. Every time my eyes would close, I would wonder if she was still breathing. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had postpartum anxiety. The only thing that helped me finally start sleeping was to repeat Psalm 4:8 to myself every night, when I began to worry: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

For anyone who struggles with constant worrying, I encourage you to write down Bible verses about worry on index cards and repeat them out loud every time you begin to feel that anxiety creep in.

I was recently shown an awesome example of why it helps to speak the verses out loud. Try counting to ten in your head and somewhere in the middle, say your name out loud. When you do, what happens? Your counting stops.

When you speak the Word of God out loud, your thoughts will literally stop in their tracks. Your mind will stop to hear what your soul has to say. To worry is to say that you have more faith in the enemy to harm you than you have faith in the Lord to protect you. If anxiety starts to attack you, speak out about where your faith lies.

Below are a few good verses to start with. Take these verses and make them personal. “Thank you, Lord, that you have given me your peace. I will cast my cares upon you and put my trust in you. I will not be anxious, but will trust that your peace will guard my mind and my heart.”

  • John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • Colossians 3:15 – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
  • Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
  • Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
  • John 16:33 – I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
  • Romans 8:38-39 –  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Power of Testimony

We know that testimonies can be powerful. Scripture tells us to declare how much God has done for us. Most of us have been deeply moved by testimonies, but have you ever listened to someone’s testimony and felt critical or jealous?

A critical heart would think, “I could present this in a better way” or “My story is more powerful than this”, while a jealous heart might think, “My testimony isn’t that powerful; I might as well never share it because it won’t measure up.”

Working for a Christian ministry, I have heard my fair share of incredible testimonies: A Gift of Forgiveness in Rwanda, Military Couple Moves Past the Past, The Power of a Transformed Heart. There are so many stories and it’s such a blessing to work in a place where I can see daily how God is moving. But sometimes, it can be hard to view my own testimony as powerful. I have never had to forgive someone for murdering a family member. I have never been hardened by war. I have never been close to death. How can my story have value?

I don’t know if you have ever felt the same way. I don’t know if you have ever held your tongue or stayed quiet because you didn’t know if your story was good enough. But if you have, then know that the idea that your testimony isn’t powerful enough is a lie from the enemy. The most powerful part of any Christian testimony is the part we all share. We were dead and raised to life again through the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 John 5:11 says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

We were all dead in our sin until God stepped in. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we also received new life in Christ when we accepted Him as our savior. The entire meaning of a testimony is to give glory to the things God has done. In our flesh, we tend to think that the most powerful part of the testimony is when God healed us, or spoke to us, or protected us – and those are important mile markers in growing our faith – but the part that gives the most glory to God is the part where He sent his one and only Son to die for us.

Your salvation cost God everything. To deny the power of your testimony is to deny the power of His sacrifice, so never let the enemy convince you that your story isn’t worth telling.

His Victory

I was watching old home videos recently and came across one of my younger brother taking his first steps. In the video, I was about four years old. As soon as he took that first step, I yelled to my parents, “He’s doing it!” Then, as my parents began to praise him, I suddenly realized I was no longer the center of attention and proceeded to push my wobbling brother to the side so I could run across the room and do a cartwheel.

Watching that video is slightly mortifying, but I remember that feeling so well. I went from “Yay, my brother is walking!” to “Wait a minute… It’s not that big of a deal. I can do that, too, but nobody is praising me. In fact, I can do it even better. Where is my applause?”

We had a similar situation when my nephew was learning to ride his bike a few weeks ago. He tried several times, coming away with a few successes and a few scrapes. My niece wanted to try afterwards, and he handed over the bike with a few words of encouragement. Immediately, she took off, riding the bike perfectly. As their parents cheered, he went and sat on the ground with his head in his hands. “She did it! Wait… It’s not that big of a deal. I was on the bike first, but nobody is praising me. I was the first one to get on it. Where is my applause?”

How often do we do this as Christians? We are so excited when people first come to Christ. “My brother is home!” But what about when we become glory hogs? Have you ever listened to someone share their testimony and felt jealous or critical? “Wait… It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve been through a lot, too, but nobody is praising me. In fact, my testimony is even more powerful. I’ve been a Christian longer. Where is my applause?” I think the enemy loves to convince us that we are competing with each other. The truth is that we are getting credit for Christ’s glory. Jesus gave us His victory.

It reminds me of the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In scripture, the younger brother takes his inheritance and leaves home only to squander everything and face famine. He returns home, with the intention to become a servant in his father’s home, but his father greets him with open arms and throws a celebration in his honor. His brother is angry when he comes home and refuses to participate. I can almost imagine the thoughts running through his head. “My brother is home! But wait…It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve been here all along, but nobody is praising me. In fact, I’ve been even better! I have faithfully served and obeyed my father. Where is my applause?”

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father reminds the older son that they should celebrate the return of the younger son because he was lost and is now found. It was a victory for all of them. In the same way, my brother-in-law reminded my nephew that he gave his sister the courage to get on the bike. Her victory was his, too. I think that, especially as Christians, it’s important to remind ourselves of that. My brother’s victory is mine, too, because it brings glory to God.

The picture below was one I snapped of my nephew after he talked to his dad – cheering his sister on as she rode for her finish line.

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