Wednesday, May 9, 2018

We All Need Encouragement

Life is tough. In The Princess Bride, Wesley said, "Life is pain...Anyone who says differently is selling something." Movie quotes aside, I think we can all agree that life on earth isn't easy, and it's far from perfect. At the same time, God is good. Always. 

Life is hard. God is good. 

I think this is why we all need encouragement. 

Encouragement reminds us about God's goodness in specific ways.

Encouragement helps us focus not on the hardships, but on the grace that always exceeds the hardships.
Encouragement extends my vision beyond this moment to the eternal reality that is my hope. 
Encouragement strengthens me to trust God for the beautiful tapestry He is weaving with every thread - happy or painful.
Encouragement helps me hold on to joy in the journey.

Jesus knows our needs, and He is faithful to encourage us in so many ways.

I have a collection of encouraging things I've read or that people have sent to me. Sometimes I just  sit and read through them. It's like deep breathing for my soul. 

Yes, we all need encouragement. We are even commanded in the Bible to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’…." -Hebrews 13:13

So, today I want to share something encouraging with you. It's a poem you've probably never read (the English is old style). But the truth in it is timeless. I pray God will use it to encourage you today. 

God bless you my friends!

"God Meant It Unto Good" (Genesis 50:20)

"God meant it unto good"--O blest assurance,

Falling like sunshine all across life's way,
Touching with Heaven's gold earth's darkest storm clouds,
Bringing fresh peace and comfort day by day.

'Twas not by chance the hands of faithless brethren

Sold Joseph captive to a foreign land;
Nor was it chance which, after years of suffering, 
Brought him before the monarch's throne to stand.

One Eye all-seeing saw the need of thousands,

And planned to meet it through that one lone soul; 
And through the weary days of prison bondage 
Was working towards the great and glorious goal.

As yet the end was hidden from the captive, 

The iron entered even to his soul; 
His eye could scan the present path of sorrow, 
Not yet his gaze might rest upon the whole.

Faith failed not through those long, dark days of waiting, 

His trust in God was recompensed at last, 
The moment came when God led forth his servant 
To succor many, all his sufferings past.

"It was not you but God, that sent me hither," 

Witnessed triumphant faith in after days; 
"God meant it unto good," no "second causes" 
Mingled their discord with his song of praise.

"God means it unto good" for thee, beloved, 

The God of Joseph is the same today; 
His love permits afflictions strange and bitter, 
His hand is guiding through the unknown way.

Thy Lord, who sees the end from the beginning, 

Hath purposes for thee of love untold. 
Then place thy hand in His and follow fearless, 
Till thou the riches of His grace behold.

There, when thou standest in the Home of Glory, 

And all life's path lies open to thy gaze, 
Thine eyes shall see the hand which now thou trustiest, 
And magnify His love through endless days.

-Freda Hanbury Allen

How has God encouraged you lately? 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Believe The Best

You’ve probably heard it said, “Don’t assume the worst about people, but instead believe the best.” This is something that I hope people do for me. It can be a little harder to do it for others though.

I remember many times as a teenager that I would come home and complain about something a friend had said to me. Once I finished venting my frustration, my mom always tried to help me see the situation from my friend’s point of view. Maybe she’d had an awful day and without thinking took her bad attitude out on me. Or maybe she had no idea how her words would sound and she didn’t mean to offend or upset me. Perhaps I’d misunderstood what she said. It was also possible that I was the one who’d had a bad day, and I was just being overly sensitive to her comment.

Usually, my mom was right. Once I calmed down, I saw the situation more clearly. But even if I wasn’t sure if my friend deserved it, my mom always encouraged me to give her the benefit of the doubt, to believe the best about her.

Those who love us don’t purposefully set out to hurt our feelings. They want to bless us, not offend us. Yet we often do feel hurt or get upset by things that are said or done. In those moments, it’s vital for us to practice giving others the benefit of the doubt. That means that instead of assuming the person meant to hurt us, we assume that they didn’t. We believe the best about them – that they didn’t intend to wound us, and that of course they care about us. 

This doesn’t mean that we excuse wrong behavior. And it doesn’t mean that certain words or actions won’t still hurt. We need to practice forgiveness every time we are wounded, whether it was consciously or unconsciously done. But when we believe the best, that the other person didn’t realize and unintentionally hurt us, then we can approach them gently and respectfully. Instead of accusing them, we can inquire about what happened, converse graciously, and work toward better communication. 

This perspective of believing the best has helped me overcome many miscommunications with people. This attitude also helps us not to become bitter and assume the worst of people. 

Proverbs 11:27 says, He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.

Think about the times you hurt someone else’s feelings without meaning to. Didn’t you wish they would have given you the benefit of the doubt? Didn’t you want them to believe the best about you, instead of assuming the worst?  

Let’s ask God to help us see other people as He sees them, to believe the best about them, and to grow in our relationships. I believe this practice will be life-giving for all of us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Guest Post - Sovereign Love

I have a special blessing for you today - a blog post from my mom! I always appreciate her wisdom, insight, and faith. I hope the truth she shares encourages you today. 

Sovereign Love

I have occasionally been accused of reckless driving. Like the time I missed my turn off, and I drove a large, U-Haul moving van backwards down the four-lane highway to gain a second chance at it. Of course, since it was 1:00 a.m. and the highway was deserted, I didn’t consider that reckless. But, I’m willing to concede that my children might think so.

There’s a popular worship song now that includes this line: “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God…”

Reckless: Marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences; irresponsible (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

God’s love certainly is overwhelming. It’s never-ending. But, reckless? Careless of consequences? Irresponsible?

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the sovereignty of God. His sovereignty means He is never careless of consequences. He planned out actions and foresaw consequences before He created the world!

Just consider, God made the butterfly to come from a caterpillar and then a cocoon, because He knew that one day He would tell Paul to write, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) What better example of this “new creation” than the butterfly!

When God created the sheep, He knew that some day David would write, “The Lord is my shepherd…” (Ps. 23:1), and one day Jesus would say, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…. ” (John 10:11a) God knew that a lamb would be considered the purest and most innocent of animals, and that He would choose it for the Passover sacrifice and as a symbol for Jesus’ death.

When God planned to give man free will, was He aware of the consequences of that gift? Did He know that Adam and Eve would sin? Was the plan for salvation already in place? (See Gen. 3:15.) Is He sovereign?

I realize I’m never going to totally understand God’s sovereignty. But I need to remember that it is part of His character—an essential part of Who He is, an attribute to study in Scripture and to ponder in my daily life.

Have you heard of the book “Your God Is Too Small” by J. B. Phillips? Let’s put the idea of “reckless” for God in the “too small” column. Let’s celebrate God’s overwhelming, never-ending, pursuing, sovereign love.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

At His Feet

One day I was reading the story about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet. Suddenly God opened my eyes to see something I hadn’t noticed before.

There are three times when Mary of Bethany is mentioned (once in Luke and twice in John). In each story, of three very different situations, she had the same posture before Jesus.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.-Luke 10:38-39

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” -John 11:32

“Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” -John 12:2-3

Jesus commended Mary as a woman who had chosen the best part. And she found it at Jesus' feet. 

Perhaps Mary's posture helped her have a humble, listening heart. Or perhaps her heart prompted her humble, seeking posture. Either way, I think her life is a beautiful picture for us.

Whatever our circumstances, may we draw near to Jesus, kneel down, and look up - to His eyes, His face, His love and grace. 

At Your Feet

At your feet I sit,
Listening to your voice,
Receiving your truth, words of life.
No better place to be,
So amazed that you’re here with me.

At your feet I fall
When pain and sorrows overwhelm,
When tears flow unchecked,
Pouring out my heart to you,
And knowing you weep too.

At your feet I kneel
In humble adoration, extravagant worship,
Expressing my love for you.
Gazing upon your face,
Wrapped in your sweet fragrance.

At your feet help me stay,
In every season,
Sweet or sorrowful, divine or mundane,
Remembering who I am and who you are -
Jesus, my ever-present, gracious Savior.

(by Joanna K. Harris) 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Basics

The last few months have been an interesting and difficult season. I've experienced good things, hardships, unexpected blessings, sorrow, needs, victories, painful lessons, grace....

Through all of it, there's been something my mom has kept reminding me over and over -

"God is sovereign, and He is good."

This is the simple declaration of truth that we stand on, and truth that carries us through every season.

It's basic. It's theology 101.

God is sovereign - He is in control of everything.

God is good - He always has our best in mind, and He doesn't make mistakes.

To some perhaps these concepts are difficult to understand or to explain. For others, it may be hard to believe these truths. But for most of us, I think the problem is more basic. Our challenge is to apply our belief of these truths to each day of our lives.

When I get lost for the third time in one day, do I remember God is still in control of my journey and even my mistakes?
When I pray and pray for a friend in need but don't see the answer, do I trust God is still good?
When I don't know what my life will look like one week from now, do I rest in knowing God is still in control?
When something unexpectedly nice happens, do I thank God because I know it's an expression of His goodness to me?
When I fight battles no one else sees, do I find comfort in knowing God is still in control?
When I pray for provision and it hasn't come yet, do I remember God is still good?

Whether life is great, awful, crazy or some mixture of all three, I believe these two basic truths are ones we can apply every day, in every situation.

These two truths will...
 - humble us
 - comfort us
 - strengthen us
 - protect us
 - refresh us

God is sovereign. God is good.

If you ever struggle with applying these truths to everyday life, here's a helpful quote I heard last week:

"Interpret everything that happens in your life in light of the cross."

The cross is God's definitive declaration of His love, His grace, His power, His goodness, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty (and much more).

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,  hich stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
–Colossians 2:13-15

Jesus didn’t simply die on the cross. His sacrificial death accomplished more than we will ever fathom on this earth. Because Jesus died on the cross,
 - God forgave us all our sins.
 - God resurrected us from dead to alive!
 - God cancelled the charges of sin against us.
 - Jesus took the condemnation we deserved, so we will never again be condemned.
 - Jesus disarmed the enemy and triumphed over him!


In light of these truths, just a short list from one portion of the Bible, I’m in awe of who God is. And I’m reminded that God is sovereign, and He is good – forever.

Whatever we go through each day, may Jesus help us remember and apply these basic yet powerful truths.

P.S. Great Resource –
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the basics of what we believe as Christians, my friend Dr. Adam McClendon recently co-authored a book called “Square One: Back to the Basics.” It’s available on Amazon now. I’ve known Adam since our Bible college days. He has a humble and passionate heart for God. He served as a pastor for many years and is now a professor at Liberty University.

Here's the link to the book on Amazon -

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Compassionate God

I've been thinking about God's compassion this week. He loves us, this we know. But included in that love is the very special quality of compassion.

Webster’s dictionary defines compassion like this:
“sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

For a simple definition, that’s quite profound and beautiful.

God is aware of our distress. He is sympathetic toward our pain. He has a desire to meet our needs and bring us through the trials.

God doesn’t always take away the pain or immediately stop the trial. But that’s only because He has a greater plan in mind for us than our temporary ease.

I think it was Joni Eareckson Tada who said that sometimes God allows what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves.

I’ve seen this to be true in so many people’s lives, including my own. God sometimes allows pain, suffering, heartache, and trials in our lives…so that He can accomplish good things in us, like developing deeper intimacy with Him, delivering us from fears, self-centeredness, pride, etc., and transforming us from who we are to who He destined us to be.  

It’s not always easy to keep sight of the bigger picture in the midst of our pain. I think that’s why the truth that God is compassionate toward me comforts me so much.

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
-Psalm 86:15

“Praise the LORD, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—...
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
...As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”
-Psalm 103:2, 4, 13

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:21-23

“Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”
-Isaiah 49:13

“I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.”
-Isaiah 63:7

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd....”
-Mark 6:34

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - thank you for your compassion, continually expressed to us in so many ways! We are needy, and we are grateful. You are faithful, and you are worthy. Amen. 

P.S. Thank you for praying for my friend Martha! She's been doing a little better and is stable enough to be transported now, praise God! I’m so thankful for God’s compassion that has been expressed to her through many people. It’s going to be a long recovery from the stroke however. Thank you so much for your continued prayers for her.