Day 358: The Great Divide (December 24)

Today as we celebrate Christmas Eve, I am reminded of all this day represents.  Up until Jesus was born, we suffered from a great divide.  A place where only one day a year was a priest able to stand in the presence of the Lord, and he even risked his life to do so.  His name was drawn from a lot and once he stood in that sweet, sweet presence, he never could again.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and there was no guarantee that his name would ever be drawn at all.

Now that is a great divide.

Fast forward to the birth of Jesus.  This is when Christ began to walk the earth with us!  What a day to celebrate!!  I know that Holy Spirit wasn’t released for all of us until Christ ascended into heaven after having been crucified and raised from the dead, but Christ’s birth was the beginning of it all.  It was the time when He made Himself a man, so He could truly empathize with us.  There is no temptation we face that He has not experienced.  He came so that not only could we know Him, but so He could know us better too. He came to be a bridge for us, a bridge of understanding.  He is the only way to heaven.

What a mighty God we serve!

Today I ask you, are you taking advantage of the closing of the gap between us and God?  Are you letting His presence draw you close?  Do you trust Him enough to let yourself boldly go before His presence anytime you desire?  Do you realize the access that you now have?

For many years I did not really understand the access I could have.  Now that I see how much He delights in my drawing nearer to Him, and how He loves when I come boldly before Him, I can’t stop pressing in.  His presence draws me all day, every day.  The thing I long for the most is time spent with Him.

I hang on every word I hear Him speak.  I marvel at every work I see Him do.  I long for Him.  I yearn to be nearer.  To know Him better.  To be a more willing conduit of His presence.  To be free of the fear of man and embrace the boldness that someone who truly understands their value would have.

Today could be the day you allow God to break down the walls you have put up between Him and you.  He died to give you this access.  He died so the great divide would be closed.  He laid His life down as a bridge between you and the ever-lasting presence of God.

Won’t you take advantage of this gift?

And she gave birth to her firstborn son.  And she wrapped Him in swaddling-cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was not a place for them in the inn.    Luke 2:7

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 6:22-23

 

 

Day 357: Married to You (December 23)

No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.  But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.  Isaiah 62:4

Yesterday, while I was running and worshiping, I began to say to God, “I want to be married to You!”  I didn’t know where that was coming from and I said it before I knew what I was going to say.  Suddenly, after the words left my lips, I heard and saw, “You are the bride of Christ.”

Yes Lord, I want to be married to You.

Early this morning, the verse above began to run through my mind.

I can’t always say exactly what and why God is saying something, but I know that I know that I want to be His bride.  I believe we are all the bride of Christ, so this should not feel as awkward as it did initially.

Today, my devotional is more of a prayer:

God, help me to walk out this life on earth as Your bride.  Let me always look to You and Your guiding Hand.  Let my thoughts be in a beautiful exchange with Yours as we become more and more one.  Just like in my earthly marriage to Chris, let me become so very familiar with You that I can know more effortlessly where You will move next, or what You desire for me to do.  But always, just like in my earthly marriage, keep some mystery.  Keep it exciting Lord and let me always be intrigued by the new parts of You that I discover.  Oh, this unending discovery thrills me!  To know You and be known by You, YES!!! This is the thrill of a lifetime.  Come Lover, whisk me away on one adventure after another and never let my love for you smolder.  Keep me fresh and burning bright with the fire of my love for You and Your love for me.  Consume me.  Know me more.  Let me know You more.  Oh, how I long to explore more of Who You are!  The very thought of You makes my insides leap with excitement.  You are my Favorite.  I love You………

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.             Psalm 139:1-6

Day 356: Trees in Winter (December 22)

Today, while Chris and I were driving to lunch, I noticed a field of barren trees.  Their leaves had all fallen and you could see the beautiful bends and curves of every branch in their barren glory.  In a breath-taking moment I saw such beauty.  I immediately thought of the winter seasons of life, and I felt God move in my heart.

You see what people are really made of during the winter season.

The times when things are barren, and life is hard, but strength is exposed.  I love that.  I love that when I have walked through winter, I have discovered reserves of strength that I didn’t even know I had.  It’s also during those winter seasons that we discover what our relationships are made of.

It’s a stripping down of all pretension and an exposing of the internal.

I love that.

I love discovering the truth about people.  The truth about myself.  The truth about those I love.  I long for honesty and truth in all my relationships.

But have you ever seen someone walking through winter, while acting as if it is summer?

Why pretend to be what you are not?  If times are hard, then they are hard.  It is much easier to walk it out when you are honest.  Honesty about disappointment and discouragement are not signs of weakness, those are signs of strength.  Those are signs that you know who you are and are comfortable with yourself.

Yes, we should praise the Lord during those times, that’s not the “dishonesty” I’m talking about.  I am referring to the “I’m fine” people, or those who try to hide the winter season they are in.  That’s revealing, a not so great quality, pride.

Pride tells us to pretend.  Pride cautions us to not expose our weakness or strain.  Pride tells us to keep a brave face.

God has only ever asked for our honesty.  He has made room for our weakness, even to the point of making Himself strong within that place.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Day 355: Unrelenting (December 21)

As I ran on the treadmill, I began to stare out the window and I noticed something, one lone red leaf left on an otherwise sleeping bush.  All the other leaves have given up and fallen, but not this one.  This leaf has an unrelenting hold.  It made me think of a couple of different things.

Unrelenting….this word won’t leave me……here’s the definition.

Unrelenting: not yielding in strength, severity, or determination

God is unrelenting.  He holds firm while every other person lets go or gives up.  He alone is immovable.  He stands firm.  He is never changing.  Our God is an awesome God, but He is also unrelenting.  His love is unrelenting.

I have become more and more unrelenting.  I have a deep unrelenting drive within me.  God placed it there before I was born.  As a baby and child, the enemy did all he could to push that out of me, but all he really did was stoke a natural fire that God had placed within me.  What He placed within me, the enemy was unable to destroy.  God can turn all things to His good.  He turned all the attacks into a training ground for my heart.  As a result, I have learned to be relentlessly unrelenting.  I am unrelenting in my pursuit of God.  I am unrelenting in my love for family and friends.  I am unrelenting in my desire to have wisdom and understanding so I can love others better.  I am unrelenting in worship.

I believe that as any of us takes time to soak in the Father’s love, and to learn who He created us to be, we naturally become unrelenting.

The wishy-washy religious types are those who have not developed the root system in the secret place.  Christianity has very little to do with what others can see, it has more to do with what is inside of you.  The One Who Sees, is always searching the earth for hearts that are turned toward Him.  Those who seek Him when nobody else is looking.  The ones who serve when nobody else knows they are doing it. He is looking for those unrelenting followers who will lay down their lives and follow Him.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.  2 Chronicles 16:9a

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it, for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16: 24-26

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  Luke 9:23

Day 354: I Believe In You (December 20)

Do you ever really need someone to believe in you?  I do.

I think about this all the time.  It seems to be a deep, deep need within me to know that someone believes in me.  I can honestly see how much my life changed when I realized that I had married a man who truly and unquestioningly believed in me.  Until then, I had never known what that felt like.

God is constantly using my husband, and now, my kids to show me His unwavering heart for me.

He believes in me, and as a result, He has put that same belief within my family.

I noticed something though, if I never step out or try new things, then my kids never have a reason, or need to believe in me.  Does that make sense?  If I stay only in the predictable and routine, what is there to notice?  Because I long for my kids to be comfortable taking risks, and stretching themselves, I must first stretch myself and take my own risks.  I do it all right in front of my family.  They see it all, and I don’t hide any of it from them.  No success or failure is hidden from my husband and kids.  I don’t hide it because there is so much to learn from watching someone walk through both success and failure, and because they are a constant chorus of “You can do anything!  We believe in you!”

I have also led my kids to be a resounding, “You can do it!” for my husband.  I openly encourage him.  I do so because I love him, but also so they can remember that, even though he’s their dad, he is also a real person and needs encouraging just like they do.

A beautiful side effect of this practice has been that as a family unit, we are extremely loyal to one another.  Our bond is strong, and we are familiar with each of our strengths and weaknesses.

Today, I wanted to say, “I believe in you”.

I pray that as you read those words, they fell over your spirit like a warm balm from heaven.

I believe in you.  God believes in you too, and there’s nothing impossible for Him to do through you.

For nothing is impossible with God.  Luke 1:37

I can do all things through Him Who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in Me. John 14:1 

 

 

 

Day 353: Diamond In The Rough (December 19)

As you step into this day, I want to challenge you to seek out a diamond in the rough.

“What’s that?”, you say.  Well, look around your life, examine the people you interact with daily and ask God to highlight their potential.  Ask Him to show you their value and their strengths.  Instead of taking people at face value, look at their heart.

Has God placed a challenging person in your life?  You know what I mean, the kind of person who really rubs you the wrong way.  My challenge to you today is this, instead of thinking about how irritating that person is, ask God to show you their heart.  Ask Him to highlight their strengths.  Ask Him to show you the diamond inside them.  The diamond in the rough.

People who act miserably, do so for a reason.  But we all have gold inside.  We all have potential.  None of us is beyond the reach of God.  None of us is immune to His touch.  Maybe, just maybe, you are in that person’s life to call out the good inside of them.  You may only need to pray about it with God.  But there may also be opportunities for you to affirm that person.

One of the greatest things I’ve done for my husband and kids is to call out the things God has shown me about them.  Like saying, “You are created to ________”.  Or “I love the way God made you to do ________ so well.”

I would say those things even if the person wasn’t acting on it yet.  I would see what God showed me about them and then as encouragement and affirmation, I would say, “I see this really good thing inside of you.  Do you see it too?”

That’s not lying.  That’s calling the dry bones to life!

Will you allow God to use you to call life to dry bones today?

He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being, things that were not.  Romans 4:17b

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

Then He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”  Ezekiel 37:4-6

 

 

Day 352: I Love You Anyway (December 18)

For many years now, Chris and I will say to each other, “I love you anyway”.  To some of you this might seem unkind, but to me it is a sign of devotion.  Let me tell you how it was born.

For years, I was insecure about Chris’ love.  I was coming from a place of abandonment and woundedness and had trouble believing that anyone could be trusted to not leave me behind.  This led to an unfair burden placed on Chris.  But over time, and with healing from God, I realized what I was doing.

After this revelation, when Chris and I would have disagreements or if I thought he was being moody, instead of feeling insecure and wondering, “Is he going to leave me?”  I would simply say to him, “I love you anyway.”

It’s my way of saying, “We may not be getting along right now, but I still love you in the middle of it.”

Now he says it all the time too.  Anytime we disagree or argue that’s how we re-confirm our unconditional bond to one another.  “I love you anyway”.

Now, instead of looking for ways to push each other away because of the fear of rejection, we are confessing with our own mouths that we are committed, even when times are hard.

I feel very strongly that someone reading this really needed to hear this seemingly silly story.  God is unconditionally loving.  And even though we are human, we can still make strides toward learning more about how to give that same kind of love.

Can’t you just see the Father standing before you now saying, “No matter what you’ve done, I love you anyway.  No matter how you’ve sinned, I love you anyway.  Even when you reject Me, I love you anyway.  Unconditionally.”

Now that’s something.  Dwell in that place of receiving.  God will not ever reject you.  Ever.

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  Ephesians 3:16-18

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19