Hope and a Future


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Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


Reflection: Can we consider, for a moment, what was going on when these words were spoken by Jeremiah, a prophet of God. When Jeremiah communicated the plans of the Lord, in v. 29:11, he did so to people who had been taken from their homeland and were being held captive in Babylonia. What’s interesting about this captivity is that Jeremiah had previously told them, in v. 29:5-10, to build houses and settle down. Jeremiah instructed the captives to plant gardens and eat what they grow, marry and have children and allow their children to marry so that they may continue to increase and not decrease. He told them to seek the peace and prosperity of the land in which they had been exiled, and Pray to God for the place they had been deported to, because when prosperity comes to this land they will prosper as well.

My goodness! What a hard pill to swallow. If this were me, I could see myself wailing why isn’t God coming to my rescue right now? Why do I have to become familiar with a place I’m being forced into? Jeremiah told them – don’t look at what you see, the Lord has declared He has other plans for you. Don’t look at your children and become discouraged, the Lord has plans. Don’t be discouraged about your job – be encouraged that something more is in your future. Don’t look at your marriage and wonder if you need to give up or keep trying, the Lord is working on something greater for your future. Don’t look at this new day – new year – and feel trepidation, the Lord has plans for your life! And His plans are never to harm you, but to give you hope and a future. Be intentional about what you focus on in the coming days. The Lord wants you to keep moving forward.

It’s when we focus on the struggle, the hurt, the disappointment, the broken places, that we become those things. In this brand-new year I challenge you to take your focus off of 2018. It may have been hard, you may have been stuck somewhere you didn’t want to be, and you may still be there, but don’t let it keep you from flourishing in 2019. God has a plan for each of us, and although we may not know what it is, we know, for certain, that God has already worked it out in our favor.


Prayer: All-Knowing and All-Powerful God…thank You! Thank You for Your word that still applies to my life today. Thank You for giving me hope and a future – even when I can’t see it. I pray that You will give me the patience to see past my current situation and the faith to know that You have everything under control. As we start this New Year I will continue to look to Your word for guidance and be unwavering in my trust of You. Through the good times, and the not so good, I will continue to trust in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Fight Like a Woman


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Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-18 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.


Reflection: I’m going to admit, when I first thought about writing this message, I titled it “Fight like a girl” …. but when I started to think about it, I pictured in my mind how girls fight; very chaotically. Can you picture a girl swinging her arms, even sometimes with her eyes closed? She may get a lot of licks in, but they wouldn’t be focused licks, they wouldn’t be intentional. And this fight we are in is filled with intention. This fight we are in is filled with purpose. I don’t know about you, but I am fighting for the lives of those I love, for the health of the church, cures for disease, for love to abound in every circumstance, for healing, for saved souls, for marriages to become loosed, and the prodigal children to return to what they know to be true.

We need to be fighting with calculated intent to disarm the enemy and we cannot continue to do that with accidental hope. We cannot continue to swing and hope to harm the enemy – or hope to restore life.

The message from Paul, in Ephesians 6:10-18, makes it clear for us. Girls (this is my interpretation) fight against flesh and blood…. women understand that this battle is against the rulers, the authorities and powers of this dark world – and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. Women understand that this fight requires us to intentionally put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace; and in addition, take up the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one – and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. If that isn’t already a lot; if you are not already tired from preparing for battle – once you have all these protections in place, then you need to pray in the Spirit.

Does this sound accidental to you?

In 2019, let’s be intentional with our prayers, with suiting up for whatever comes our way! Let’s be intentional in sharing God’s word. Let’s be intentional in our fight for fairness! Let’s be intentional in loving ourselves and others! We know things will happen, so let us proclaim now that we will lift our eyes to the hills instead of swinging uncontrollably at our perceived enemy. Give God space, in 2019, to help you to prepare for your battles. Give God permission to love your rough edges, He wants to, I promise. And then, give yourself permission to let go of bitterness, anger, rage, malice, slander, and unhealthy language towards ourselves and others. I cannot promise you that 2019 will be the year that you live your “best life”, but I can promise you that if you are purposeful in seeking God, He is there to be found.


Prayer: Father God, thank You for being my strength. Thank You for being my guiding star through 2018. I’m ready now, to prepare for battle. I’m ready to enter this new year equipped with Your armor – to bring this world back to You. When the fight becomes too much Lord, I promise to look to You instead of bowing out. Because I know You never meant for this to be a fight of one – I will be waiting in great expectation for those You will send into my life to bring and share blessings and lessons. This year I will no longer feel like I can only come to You when I’ve gotten myself together – I’m coming to You  now Lord, this last day of the year, broken, bruised, forgotten, tossed aside, grieving, uncertain and lost – to be found and loved by You. I’m opening myself up to be used, only by You! This year God use me to fulfill Your will on earth, which leads to the plan You have for my life. I’m ready – and I’m willing. Let’s Go, together!

All my best, Toby


Never too Late

Scripture: Luke 23:39-43 – One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


Reflection: If we have breath in our body it’s never too late. I’m certain when this unknown criminal found himself hanging next to the Savior of the world, he had no expectation of eternal life; his life was ending, and he knew he was being punished justly for his deeds. If you notice, the criminal didn’t provide a stirring prayer, he didn’t get down on his knees and profess all his sins, he surely had some; he simply looked to Jesus and said what was on his heart…” remember me when You come into Your kingdom”.

What unbelievable faith!

What a short, unsuspecting, appeal.

Have you ever been drawn to Jesus when you were somewhere uncomfortable; when you were somewhere you didn’t expect to find Him? Stop in the middle of your situation and ask Him to remember you. When you find yourself at the end of your proverbial rope, stop and ask Him to remember you. This statement, however, requires faith. Do you have the faith of the criminal? His situation was such that he would not live to know if Jesus remembered him, but he still felt sure enough to make his final request…” remember me….”.


Prayer: Father God, thank you for remembering me. There were many times when I had come to the end of my rope, and You pulled me up. There were many times when I felt that surely what I was going through was going to break me but thank You for remembering me. Thank You for being a God who meets us where we are, broken, bruised and torn, but never forsaken. Never forgotten. In the worst places, at the worst times, thank You God for remembering me. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

Forgiveness

Scripture: Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV – Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


Reflection: Forgive and forget – I’m sure we have all heard that once or twice in our lifetime. There are some situations I still find myself reeling over, holding on to years later, and allowing the situation to bring up feelings of bitterness and anger. Just when you thought you were over the broken heart, you saw him again and every emotion you felt at that moment came back. Just when you thought you had forgiven someone for the abuse, you saw or heard something that made you feel as vulnerable and defenseless as you did all those years ago.

I have always felt like the act of forgiving someone was giving them permission to do the same thing again; forgiving them somehow diminished the hurt they caused.

Oh, but it doesn’t!

Forgiving others allows God the room to forgive us for our wrongs. Forgiving others sets us free from our own transgressions when we seek forgiveness from God. Forgiving others bring us closer to Him whose forgiveness we require. I don’t want to pretend that forgiving is easy, but it is necessary.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me. Forgive me for the things I have done that have caused me to drift away from You. Forgive me for being unwilling to accept the fact that I need forgiveness – that I do, indeed, cause others to hold on to bitterness. Also, give me a heart of forgiveness that I can forgive those who have caused me to hold on to old pains. Help me to not continue to hurt others because I am hurting. Let this be done so I can be set free to receive Your blessings. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

The Promises of God

Scripture: Habakkuk 3:17-18 – Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.


Reflection: I will be the first to say that it is a hard commission to praise God when nothing seems to be going your way. I’ve been there – my testimony has been full of days when the promises of God escape me but He proclaimed, in Isaiah 55:11, his promises will never return void. My reality may sometimes be that I have more bills than money, more work than time, or more fear than faith; but how do we overcome the anxiety attached to lack, and live with the conviction of Habakkuk? How can we be joyful, even when everything around us is in disarray?

Mark 11:22-24 – “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to remember all the times You have turned my situation around; help me to understand that even when things seem to be at their worst, You are at Your best. Let me hold fast to the promise that You will never to leave or forsake me. Give me peace in the trials I face, to handle them with patience, grace and dignity. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 

Are you Willing?

Scripture: Exodus 36:2 & 4-5 NIV – Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”   


Reflection: In the first verse above, we see that Moses summoned a few folks to come and help with the building of the sanctuary. He summoned Bezalel and Oholiab but he also requested the presence of those “…whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work”. This tells me that the Lord had given skill to some of us who weren’t willing to come forward and help with growing His kingdom. I would like to say that each time I was called to work, in the name of the Lord, I came. I would like to think that each time I needed to pick up my cross and follow Him I did. I would even like to think, at the least, that each time I needed to stop and say a prayer for someone I did, but unfortunately for me I wasn’t always willing.

But wait!

In Exodus 4-5 we see where the workers came forward and exclaimed to Moses that “the people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done”. So, imagine this, not everyone who was skilled to do the work came forward but the few that did answer the call were able to do more than was expected! How awesome is that! Can you imagine what the kingdom of God would look like without lack? This is exactly what would happen if we all answered the call to service. If we all were willing to love our neighbor as ourselves – Mark 12:31; if we all were willing to take care of the less fortunate – Matthew 25:40; if we all were willing to do good works – Ephesians 2:10; if we all were willing to proclaim the gospel to all the nations –  Mark 16:15. Oh, if we were only willing to be more like Christ and less like the world – Romans 12:2.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for allowing me the ability to serve You. Although I know there are times when I fail, when I don’t take up my cross and follow You, I thank You God for the opportunity. Thank You for giving me a new chance, each day, to do good works in Your name. Help me to be more like the skilled workers who were willing to come. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

For Such a Time as This

Scripture: Esther 4:14 NIV – For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?


Reflection: I used to have a hard time speaking up for myself. I would remain silent when I knew my voice needed to be heard. I would often remain silent because I knew someone else would say exactly what I was thinking – eventually. Someone with more nerve than I had would come to the defense of the offended; someone would speak up when people were mistreated, it didn’t have to be me; I had convinced myself of this!

When I became a wife, mom, and a manager, I didn’t have the luxury of staying quiet during times of unfairness. I had to say what was necessary, and be the voice of those who trusted me to speak up for them. We may not all be placed in royal positions, like Queen Esther, but we are all placed where we are, for a reason, “…. for such a time as this”. Leviticus 5:1 says “If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be held responsible for not making the choice to defend the truth.


Prayer: Father God, please help me to remember that I am here to serve a greater purpose. I am placed here, in this season of my life, to attend to Your kingdom and bring others closer to You, by being mindful of the power I have when I speak up in love and in fairness. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.