Don’t Stop Too Soon


Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message….

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised”  ~ Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV.

Can I make a confession? Sometimes I quit too soon. I’ve quit when what I really needed to do was to press on and press through. Sometimes I’ve gotten tired of trying. Sometimes I’ve gotten tired of the struggle. And you know what? I’ve missed many blessings because I got tired of the battle. I don’t want to do that any longer. I’m taking my cues from Joshua.

The battle plan to take the Promised Land was as simple as it was strange. March around the city of Jericho with all the armed men. Do this in silence, once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day, walk around seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets. Have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go straight in.

Now, that was a strange plan. God’s infinite ways often don’t make sense in our finite minds. Sometimes you have to be willing to look ridiculous and be radical to live a remarkable life. The choices you make when you feel God’s nudge will become the hinges on which your destiny swings. Each individual decision you make, to obey or ignore God’s promptings and directives, is a thread that weaves the tapestry of your life.

Jericho was tightly shut up. Sometimes it can feel that our promises are tightly shut up. That doesn’t mean that we give up. That means that we suit up, step up, and keep moving forward.

God said, “See, I have delivered them into your hands.” Notice that verb tense. God did not say, “I will deliver them into your hands.” He said, “I have delivered them into your hands.” He had already done it, but they had to obey and put their foot down to receive it. I love how God speaks in past tense to our present problems.

But here’s the conundrum: What do you do when what God says doesn’t match up with what you see? When all you see is a big wall standing between your promise and your present situation?
There will be times when you are doing everything you know to do, and you still don’t see any movement. The Israelites walked around Jericho for six days, and as far as they could tell, nothing happened. I’m sure it unnerved the people behind the wall, but as far as the walkers could tell, not one brick fell.

This is where many give up—when they don’t see any progress. The son is still taking drugs. The daughter is still living with her boyfriend. The husband is still cold and aloof. The bank account is still hovering on in double digits.

“God, throw me a bone,” I cry. “Show me a little something! Let me see just a hint of progress! Can I see one brick fall?” And God says, “Keep walking … by faith.”

Just because you don’t see God working does not mean that He isn’t. Jesus said, “My Father is always at work” (John 5:17). The writer of Hebrews notes: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35).

Today, you might be on lap number seven and not even know it. Joshua told them to march around Jericho, but he didn’t tell them how many times they were going to have to do it. He just said to “march forward” and “remain silent.”

Supposed they had stopped on day six saying, “This is ridiculous. I’m not feelin’ it. Not one stone has fallen to the ground. I don’t see any progress. Those folks are probably in there laughing their heads off. I’m going home.”

They would have missed the blessing.

I wonder how many times I have missed the blessing because I stopped too soon. Perhaps you’ve wondered:

  • How much longer will I have to wait until God brings my prodigal home?
  • How much longer will I have to struggle with this unbelieving husband?
  • How much longer will I have to endure this dead-end job?
  • How much longer will I have to go without a job?
  • How many more laps will I have to walk around Jericho before the walls come tumbling down and I can take hold of my Promised Land?

I don’t know the answer to the question of how much longer, but I do know this, tomorrow could be the final lap. Don’t give up too soon.

Can I tell you something? Sometimes I get tired of writing books, posting devotions, and crafting blogs. But as I sit down to the keyboard, I realize that something I say might be just what someone needs to take that last lap around her walled up promise. So I write. And then someone has the courage and sustenance to take one more lap.

Keep going, my friend!  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

When You Feel Discouraged

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message..

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded ~ Hebrews 10:35 NIV.

Have you ever gone through a period of discouragement? Perhaps you’re in one right now. Believe me, I’ve been right there with you. I’ve hidden in the cave with Elijah, under the gourd plant with Jonah, and in the dessert with Moses.

Discouragement comes when there is a gap between what you expect and what you experience—when there is a gap between what you hoped would happen and what actually does happen.

Discouragement can destroy your passion and undermine your purpose. It can take root because of what others say or didn’t say—a mom who said too much or a dad who said too little. Unmet expectations can become the breeding ground for discouragement to multiply and take root.

We certainly see that in Moses’s life. When Moses was forty years old, he expected to be the deliverer for his people. But what he experienced was rejection and regret. Forty years later, when God called him to lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, Moses argued:

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exod. 4:10).

This statement that came out of Moses’s stuttering lips was simply not true. As Stephen reminded us: “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). Moses had defined himself by his failure and was held hostage by a constant state of discouragement. Oh friend, we need to be so careful to not do the same.

Discouragement causes many a believer to pull up a lawn chair in cul-de-sac Christianity and refuse to venture out to the adventurous faith. They mumble the words “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” over their hopes and dreams. They fill the gap between what they hope for and what they experience with the false belief that dreams aren’t worth the effort.

What we tend to see as a permanent condition, God sees as a temporary situation. What you see as one of your greatest setbacks might be one of God’s incredible setups for marvelous miracles to occur. If you are meeting resistance in your hopes and dreams, then you’re most likely on the right track. The devil wouldn’t mess with you if you weren’t a menace to his plans and a valuable asset to God.

What the devil really wants to do is to steal your confidence, and the best time to rob you blind is during a season of disappointment. Guard your heart. Don’t be caught unaware and allow him to hold you back, trip you up or slow you down. The circumstances are, well, just circumstantial—collateral damage in the real battle to take away your confidence in Christ.

So don’t let the devil win. You are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus!

Let go of debilitating discouragement and take hold of your next assignment!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

You Are Beloved and Chosen

 

Thank you Holley Gerth for today’s message.

I step into a Junior High lunch room that smells like old fries and sticky plastic trays. I scan the scene—the popular kids at one table, bookworms at another, the theater crowd and the athletes and the rebels. Who will look up and invite me over?

Tell me who I am.

My friends and I have crushes and dates and boyfriends. We fix our hair a hundred different ways. Crowd into dressing rooms to try a thousand different outfits. Loop silver and gold through our ears. The doorbell rings and he is holding roses.

Tell me who I am.

I am typing into a small screen and pressing “publish.” Sending my heart in black and white into the internet. There will be comments and likes, criticisms and compliments. I watch the cursor blink.

Tell me who I am.

Isn’t this the whisper of our hearts as women? The friends, the men, the crowd. They will tell us if we are okay. If we are worthy. If we are enough. Isn’t that their job?

But then I bump into this verse, “But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people” (John 2:24). All people. The popular kids and the bookworms, the theater crowd and the athletes and the rebels. This verse has been there all along and it’s been a head-scratcher for me. He didn’t entrust Himself to them?

Then suddenly it occurs to me this might the answer: Jesus is the only human to walk this spinning planet and not say Tell me who I am. He didn’t look to others to definite His identity, to determine His worth. “Instead He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). “Judge” has a reputation of being a harsh word but I don’t think that’s the meaning here. I think it’s saying that God alone knows the truest-truth and that’s why His opinion is the only one that really matters.

Of course, we are going to care what others think. We’re going to desire acceptance and want to fit in. This is the way we’re created to connect. The only folks who don’t are sociopaths. So, no guilt about this, no shame or hardening our hearts. Instead we can simply say, “But God gets the final word.”

Tell me who I am.

And God says we are beloved and chosen, cherished and gifted, wanted and a divinely-shaped wonder.

When someone says, “You’ll never amount to anything,” He says, “You can do all things because I strengthen you” (Philippians 4:13).

When someone tells us, “You don’t look the right way,” He whispers, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

When someone implies, “You aren’t wanted,” He declares, “I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1b).

God is the One who gives us our identities. He is the One who sets us free from condemnation and comparison, hustling to be liked and trying to be perfect. He is the One right there with us every time we feel tempted to listen to the lies. May His love always be louder than any other voice.

Tell us who we are.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

When a Dream Dies

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message.

I sat on my porch with my Bible in my lap and a hot mug of steamy coffee in my hand. Early morning is my favorite time of day. Just me, Jesus, and a smattering of birds.

I closed my Bible and looked out across the backyard. My eyes landed on a rounded mound of fur nestled in the grass under the willow tree.

I got up and moved in for a closer look. My heart sank as I discovered what appeared to be a curled-up baby fawn lying lifeless in the grass. Probably the same fawn my neighbor had seen nursing from its mom the day before. My heart broke. I understand the circle of life, but still. A baby fawn lay dead in my yard. Most likely the target of the coyote I’d seen roaming around.

I couldn’t get close enough to see the wound. Sometimes that is the way of things.

I did get close enough to see the sunlight passing through the velum-like ears, the intricate spots on its back, and the Bambi-like eyelashes resting on a perfectly shaped snout. I would have to wait until Steve got home to take care of the situation. I didn’t have the nerve.

All morning long my mind returned to the lifeless form lying in the sun. Hours passed. At noon I looked out of the window and the still fawn remained unmoved. Untouched. Undisturbed. I couldn’t stand it. I had to know what had happened to it. So I mustered up my courage and made my way to the fawn. Three feet away. Stop. No signs of an attack. I inched closer.
Finally, I knelt down by the beautifully crafted creature, admiring God’s handiwork. But I couldn’t see what had killed it.

“What happened to you, little deer?” I whispered.

Suddenly, the fawn’s head popped up! Startled eyes stared at mine…wide-eyed. Me like a deer caught in the headlights. The fawn simply caught. I fell back on my haunches! And time stood still for a moment as we stared at each other in disbelief!

Finally, the fawn sprang to its feet, wobbled a bit, and scampered off like a drunken sailor. I sat in the grass and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. So the fawn wasn’t dead after all. It had simply found a bit of grass and fallen asleep…until almost noon.

After my heart stopped pounding in my chest, God spoke to my heart, Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.

I pondered those words for the rest of the day. I called a friend who was struggling in her marriage—in a very bad way. The sort of way that leaves you wondering if it will survive. I told her the story.

Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.

Sometimes a marriage is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Sometimes a friendship is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Sometimes a dream is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

I think of how God told the prophet Ezekiel to speak to the valley of dry bones. “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 (NIV)

I imagine Ezekiel felt pretty silly talking to those dry bones. And honestly sometimes I feel pretty silly obeying God and speaking life into the dry bones of some of my situations.

So here’s my word for you and me today.

For my friend struggling in her marriage…

For my friend who cries for her adult son who walked away from God…

For my friend who longs to cuddle up with a good husband rather than a good book…

Don’t assume the dream is dead. Sometimes it just needs to be woken up. Don’t give up too soon.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Worry Wastes Life

Thank you  Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…..

Not all fear is bad. It is good to be afraid of sticking your hand in a fire, crossing a busy street with your eyes closed, or jumping off a cliff. That is good healthy fear.

Bad fear is fear of present circumstances and future events that may or may never happen. Being too afraid to step out and do what God has called you to do. Being so worried about the consequences that you throw trusting God out the window. That’s an unhealthy fear.

The Holy Spirit will warn you with a healthy sense of fear to protect you, but He will never stir up worry to stymie your faith. I’ve often heard it said that worry is a down payment on a problem you may never have. And it’s true! Rehearsing your troubles before they even happen causes you to experience them many times, whereas you were not meant to experience them but once—when or if they actually occur.

Most of the biggest challenges you will ever face will be the result of things you never even thought to worry about or even crossed your mind. They will blindside you on a Thursday afternoon at 2:00, when you never saw it coming. You will not even have known that you should have worried about the possibility! (Now, don’t let that get you worried.)

We waste valuable time and forfeit the thriving faith when we allow “what ifs” to hold us captive.

  • What if I’m embarrassed?
  • What if I’m rejected?
    What if I fall flat on my face?
  • What if I fail?

What if one or all of these things do happen when I step forward in obedience? I’ll live. God will be right there with me.

Here’s the bigger question: What if I don’t step forward in obedience? What if I ignore God’s prompting? I might miss out on one of His greatest blessings of my life.

Do you believe God loves you? I’m thinking you just answered yes. Then why do you worry that He doesn’t have your best interest in mind? He will not allow or initiate any circumstance in your life that is not filtered through His sovereign love for you. You will make it! Life might not unfold as you imagined, but when you place your hand in His and trust in His love, you will survive and most likely thrive.

Paul had an incredible attitude about the “what ifs” in his life. He had the mind-set of bring it on. The Pharisees couldn’t stand him, but they found his attitude made it impossible to stop him. They threw him in prison and he said, “That’s OK. Give me some parchment and ink. I’ll write some letters to the churches. I’ll write to them about how to have joy in all circumstances.”

They chained him to a prison guard and he said, “That’s OK. I’ll tell him about Jesus. As a matter-of-fact, I’ll bring his whole family to Christ!”

They threatened to kill him and he said, “That’s OK. I’ll get to go to heaven and be with Jesus. What could be better?”

Paul faced his fears and booted them out the door with the love of God. What do you do to a guy like that?

He wasn’t worried or concerned about his future. Paul was at peace with whatever happened on his faith journey because He trusted in the character and love of God. And with a faith like that, the natural consequence is to live bold. And that’s what we can do today

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!