Sometimes, I Don’t Get It

S: Suddenly, a leper walked up to Jesus and threw himself down before him in worship and said, “Lord, you have the power to heal me . . . if you really want to.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper and said, “Of course I want to heal you—be healed!” And instantly, all signs of leprosy disappeared! Matthew 8:2-3 (TPT)

O: Jesus, I believe You still want to heal us today, and yet there is so much sickness. Many people of faith are dying from cancer and other illnesses. I know I can’t understand all Your ways, but I also can’t help but ask, “Why?”

A: Sometimes, it feels like You don’t want to heal us.

But because I know You – Your love and character – I know that’s not the case. I know Your full healing is not always visible on this side of heaven. I know that You are most concerned with the conditions of our heart. I know You see a much bigger picture than I do. But I still struggle with the suffering – and why You heal some (physically) and not others. I know faith has a part – but it’s Your sovereignty that dictates the outcome, and Your ways are much higher than my own.

And yet, You still stoop down to commune with me. To comfort me. To talk with me. To be with me – even when I don’t get it, when I don’t understand. Because You love me. You’ve always loved me. Just as You have always loved the world.

P: God, I know when I am finally with You in heaven, things will become clearer. But right now, they seem a little murky. I know You want us all made whole and I know Your ways are higher than mine. Because of this, I will continue to hope. Continue to Pray. And I will continue to believe.

I trust You, Jesus. You are my God, my Lord and my King. I love You.

Photo by Anemone123

Building Something Beautiful Takes Time

S: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. Matthew 7:13-14 (MSG)

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. Matthew 7: 24 (MSG)

O: I cannot pick and choose which parts of Your instructions I want to follow. I cannot live as I see fit, and then implement Your principles to help the areas in my life that are weak and falling apart. It’s an all or nothing deal. A life followed after You requires total dedication – no shortcuts – no quick fixes. I’m in this for the long haul.

A: Maybe that’s what people are afraid of – our whole lives are a long time to “keep our act together.”

But what I’m learning is that following You requires less acting than following the world. Only with You can I be myself – unedited – and still be accepted. And loved. Completely.

It’s this kind of love that draws me in. It’s this kind of acceptance that grants me freedom. It’s that kind of life I want!

So I can drop the act.

Instead of trying to keep it all together – chasing after the latest “remedy” to help put my life in order – I can just let it all go and take hold of You. All of You for all of me.

P: Jesus, thanks for being an incredible architect. While I can’t see what You are building, I’m doing my best to follow the blueprints You’ve drawn up for my life. I know in the end we will build something beautiful – a life that points to You, God. Help me to drop the act, and to simply live a life built on You.

By Free-Photos from Pixabay

Why Do I Worry?

S: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

O: When I worry about tomorrow, I miss out on the gift of today – of that moment! I’m distracted and I miss out on people, conversations, and the life happening around me.

A: You say, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.” Be in the moment – look for God in it – in ALL of it!

When I look at you – when I set my eyes on things above, the things that really matter – everything else really does pale in comparison. Some people might think I’m being foolish or oblivious because I’m not paying attention to what’s going on around me, but actually, I am. I’m just choosing to see LIFE in it – I’m looking for You.

I’d be lying to say I’m not a little freaked out about the Coronavirus. But worrying about it doesn’t change anything – it only gives me a stomach ache, restless night’s sleep, and a headache. And I’m the one choosing to think about those things! But when I look at You – when I redirect my energy to prayer – the worries begin to fade. You prove Yourself faithful. Every time. My worrying does nothing! But my praying, my meditation on You, changes everything. I have peace – even clarity and direction.

When these other things try to sneak in – things that cause me to question my security and my safety, my health and well-being – why do I worry? I need only look to You. To turn my worries over to You, and in exchange You give me peace. Peace in knowing You – in knowing Your character. Peace in knowing You love me – that You have good plans for me! Peace in knowing Your Truth.

P: Lord, I know You love me. I know You care about me and look after me. I know you are with me. Even at the end of all of this, I will be found in Your hand. That’s what matters most to me – You. You matter most of all. I love You, too, Daddy.

Photo by quinntheislander

Love Your Enemies…Ugh.

S: “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. Matthew 5:43-44 (MSG)

O: Loving my enemies is not easy. Heck, loving people is not easy – even the ones I like! But You are commanding me to love them all – friend and enemy alike. You always challenge me to keep growing – to keep accepting the invitation to be made more and more like You.

A: Initially, when I would pray for my enemies, I would thank You for putting them in my life to help me grow. How inward focused! But at least it’s a start. And You can work with that – You do work with that! Because You love me, You are always inviting me to grow up in You. (Even when I sometimes act like a spoiled brat – annoyed by others. Sorry about those times, God. Please forgive me when my pride gets in the way, and I too often forget that we are ALL your children – looking for evidence of Your love.)

Every time I turn to You, You give me eyes to see. Eyes to see my own shortcomings and need for You. Oh, how I would be a mess without You, Jesus!

I love Your instruction here in The Message, “respond with energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.” There are MANY things I can’t control, but I can control how I respond. I can CHOOSE to respond with energies of prayer. That frustration, that anger, that hurt – it’s all energy zapping my strength – why not turn it into prayer? I mean, You can do much more with all of it than I can.

And then, in true God-fashion, You use it for the good of all of us.

P: God, help me love like You love. I can’t do it on my own. Quiet my voice and still my tongue in those moments I’m mad at someone else; help me instead to turn my heart around through prayer. Help me to love them because they are only people, just like me. All of us trying to find our way to You, Jesus.

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Makeekheh

S: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 (ESV)

“What blessing comes to you when gentleness lives in you! For you will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 (TPT)

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. Matthew 5:5 (MSG)

O: Meek – (adj.) quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive. But the notes in my Bible, The Passion Translation (TPT), say, “Jesus is saying that when you claim nothing as yours, everything will be given to you. The Aramaic word, makeekheh, implies being both gentle and flexible.

A: Sometimes I picture the people of the Bible in a very different light than I see myself – often thinking, “Well, that was way back then, and it’s so different than what we have now.” But was it really?  Because when I strip all those things away – the differences in culture, the times, the language, the clothing and houses, the transportation, the entertainment… – the heart of the matter is still the same.

Discontentment.

That’s the issue of the heart You are addressing here. Discontentment that often stems from a root of desiring control. Control over my life – how I think things should go, not just for me, but for those around me, too. Being rigid and stiff.

But You, Jesus, You say peace comes to those who are both gentle and flexible. So how do I get there? I guess by letting go of those things I want to control – even if it’s little by little, I know You will wait for me – guiding me until I’m ready – always reassuring me that I can trust You.

It’s when I let go of my control (my desire for control), I find Your peace. And that kind of peace is priceless. That kind of peace allows me to be more present in the moment – to roll with the punches, and get back up again – knowing, trusting, believing that You are in control. And when You are in control – I don’t have to be.

P: Jesus, I love You. I’m so grateful for Your direction. I’m so thankful that You are in control. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for helping me understand Your ways and Your instruction. Please help me to apply Your ways to my life.

Photo by StockSnap

Bring Them To Jesus

S: So his fame spread throughout all of Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. Matthew 4:24 (ESV)

O: “…And they brought him all the sick…and he healed them.” I can’t really imagine the lengths people went to, to bring their sick loved ones to Jesus. They brought them to Jesus – in faith, in hope, and probably desperation…and he healed them.

A: I’ve tried to fix people. I can’t help it, really; I’m a “fixer.” If someone brings me their problems, I try to fix them, or make suggestions on how they can fix them. But I’m embarrassed to admit my first reaction is not to bring them to You, Jesus. Instead, I’ve often tried to take You to them. It seems that seldom works, because a lot of people don’t really want to be made well – blinded by bitterness, hurt, unforgiveness, shame, guilt…they sometimes can’t imagine being made whole – complete. So they sit there broken, and the idea of trying “my” Jesus doesn’t appeal to them.

When I try to take You to them, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel driven, instead of drawn. And there’s a big difference there – a difference You and I have been working through these last two years. When I try to take You to others, I carry a lot of the burden – afraid I’ll say the wrong thing, or get messed up with where something is in the Bible.

But what if I just brought them to You? What if my prayers changed? Instead of asking You to go to them and heal them, what if I asked instead that they would desire You? That they would want to know You? What if my prayers came from a place of faith, hope, and desperation for them to want You?

Would they want to go to You?

Maybe they don’t know because they’ve never seen You. Not in me, or in others who claim to be “Christians.” Our mouths spew out Christianese, but our actions speak the opposite. And all the while, we claim to be “taking Jesus to the lost,” but something about us still looks like the rest of the world.

It breaks my heart and I can’t imagine what it does to Yours.  

We keep driving ourselves to be more like You, Jesus – driving others to find You, too – instead of allowing surrendering to You – allowing You to do what You do best.

You draw us in by Your love.

P: I’m sorry Jesus. I’m sorry for all the times I mess this thing up – this crazy, radical, beautiful thing You are doing. I’m sorry when I try to take control – thinking my way is best. I’m sorry I put so much thought into how I can help fix others, instead of simply taking them to You. Forgive me, Lord. Search my heart first. Pull out anything that prevents You from having Your way. Oh God, give me courage and strength to bring them to You. Give me the peace in knowing, if they are with You, You’ve got them – my job is to simply love them.

Photo by Vera Arsic

Holy Spirit Fire

S: “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” Matthew 3:11-12 (MSG)

O: The main character in this drama is not me. It’s You. It’s Your story – where You take the stage and You receive the glory. Holy Spirit fire! “A fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.”

A: No longer do I have to keep trying to clean up my act on my own. All I really need is to surrender more to the work You want to do in my heart, to allow Your fire to consume me – to burn off the things that prevent the world from seeing more of You in me.

P: Baptize me in Your Spirit, God! Change me from the inside out! Don’t let anything remain in me that prevents more of You from shining through.

Photo by Dương Nhân

Seek, Worship, Give

S: After Jesus’ birth a group of spiritual priests from the East came to Jerusalem and inquired of the people, “Where is the child who is born king of the Jewish people? We observed his star rising in the sky and we’ve come to bow before him in worship.” Matthew 2:1b-2 (TPT)

When they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, they were overcome. Falling to the ground at his feet they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure boxes full of gifts and presented him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (TPT)

O: The wise men were looking for a king; they prepared themselves for the journey and sought to find the “King of the Jewish people.”  When they found him, in his home (not a palace), with his mom (not a group of advisors/hired hands/nannies), they fell at his feet and worshiped him. This small child, with no other distinction than a star, caused these grown men to bow low and give their gifts of wealth; gifts they gave freely which God would use to fulfil His purpose.

A: Am I seeking You – for Who You are? Am I worshiping You – for Who You are? Am I freely giving all I am – all I have – for Who You are?  

Do I know You, God? Like really, really know You?

I want to. I want to know You in this way. I want to walk into a room and see You in it. I want to be overcome by Your majesty. And I want to give all that I have to You – for You to use as You see fit.

P: I love You, Lord. Help me to remember Who You are – not just in these quiet moments, but in ALL the moments. Help me to LOOK for You! And when I find You – overwhelm me with fresh revelation of Who You are – again and again and again. 

Photo by StockSnap

God’s Perfect Timing

S: There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to Babylonian exile, and yet another fourteen from the Babylonian exile to Christ. Matthew 1:17 (MSG)

O: I’m not great at math, but 14 generations x 3 seems like a very long time to wait for the fulfilment of Your promise. So many of those generations never saw what You did through Jesus – and yet so many of them still believed that You would make a way – even when it seemed impossible – even when they never saw it on this side of heaven.

A: Sometimes I get frustrated when I can’t see what You are doing – especially when I don’t see immediate results. I want an instant fix. A quick resolution.

But not You. You want what is best. Best for me, Your daughter, and best for the world. Somehow, You are able to see each of us individually – down to our smallest worry or concern – and all of us collectively – up to the largest cataclysmic episode – and You know exactly when to intervene – when to take the stage.

And Your timing is perfect.

Perfect – (adj.) having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

I want to remember that Your timing is perfect even when it doesn’t feel or look that way from where I’m standing. In fact, maybe it’s my “standing” that is causing my greatest dilemma. Perhaps it’s in those moments – those moments when I’m frustrated, broken and crying – that I ought to sit more and stand less, changing my posture to one of submission rather than opinion.

When I’ve positioned my heart towards Yours, I find my peace again. I find new perspective and renewed hope.

P: Lord, help me to see things through lenses of eternity. Help me to keep things in the right perspective. Help me to remember You are still in control – and You are never early and never late – for Your timing is perfect always. I love You, Jesus. It’s in Your name I pray. Amen.

By Monoar Rahman from Pexels

The Beautiful Unfolding

You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—

What God has arranged for those who love him.

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (MSG)

This right here. This is what the Beautiful Unfolding is all about. It’s about discovering Jesus again and again and again – with greater depth and intimacy each time you meet with Him. It’s this wonderful gift of His presence just waiting to be unwrapped one precious moment at a time. It’s an encounter of His glorious love and grace.

It’s about seeing – maybe for the first time really – all the beauty that is still yet to come.