Happy New Year!

Wishing you a year filled with Christ’s presence, redeeming love, and resurrection life! May the power of the cross be evident in you and reveal God’s love to a broken world. Happy New Year from our family to yours!

The Word of God became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

What’s your favorite part of the Christmas story, dear one?

Is it Mary’s response to a visiting angel? Or perhaps the terrified shepherds tending their flock who found themselves engulfed in glory? I love the image of Magi from the east bowing to present costly gifts to a toddler King. If you let them, the details surrounding Jesus’ birth inspire awe and wonder.

Today I’d like to spend some time treasuring one of those details tucked in our opening Scripture, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Have you considered the significance of that phrase, beloved?

Perhaps you were not aware that the birth of God’s Son—the Word—came on the heels of four hundred years of silence from God.

That may seem of little consequence to you. Maybe you’ve lived your whole life expecting God’s silence because that’s all you’ve known. But scripture overwhelmingly declares that God speaks to His created. He talked with Adam and Eve in the garden after He gave them life, and our first glimpse of Him after they sinned reveals a striking picture of God’s heart.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9

Do you see it, dear one? Even after they sinned, God came seeking them. He desires fellowship with us and wants us close. He calls to us, inviting a reply. When we hear and respond, His words provide life and quiet the soul. They become ‘”a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” Psalm 119:105.

So why would a God of fellowship who distinguishes Himself by speaking to His people remain silent for four hundred years?

It shouldn’t have surprised them. He told them it was coming.

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. Amos 8:11-12

God declared in advance that He would send a famine like no other—a famine of hearing His words. Why would He withhold that treasured gift from His people?

Well, usually our loving Father gives His children what they need. But sometimes, when they insist upon it, He gives them what they want.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81:10-12

The people of God took for granted the gift they had been given. God spoke, but they refused to listen. He desired to fill their mouths, but they decided they didn’t need Him.

. . . they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen . . . Zechariah 7:11-12

So God stopped speaking. For four hundred long, silent years. And the people eventually realized what they had given up by chasing after their own desires. They longed to hear from God again, staggering from sea to sea, wandering in search of the word of the Lord, but they could not find it (Amos 8:12). They became desperate for it, to no avail. Until . . . once again, God proved His faithfulness.

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman . . . Galatians 4:4

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). The Word of the Lord returned, this time clothed in human flesh, an expression of God they could see and hear and touch. God’s voice entered the realm of earth again, carried on the cries of His infant Son.

Jesus grew, and God continued to speak through Him. He revealed God’s character and heart, teaching truth to all who would listen. The Word called us back into fellowship with His Father, extending the invitation, “Follow me.”

Then He poured out His life on a cross so we could maintain that fellowship with God forever. And He left us the gift of His Spirit so we can continue to hear and discern God’s truth.

The Word still speaks, dear one. Will you hear and believe?

Daring to Hope

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 NIV 1984

I love Christmas. It’s always been my very favorite time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. If we’re talking about weather, summer wins. No question. Warm breezes, cookouts, and sunshine beat the gray winter doldrums any day.

But Christmas to me was never about the weather. It was about the feeling.

Do you know the one I’m talking about? My mother called it sugarplums. Every year the onset of Christmas carols, decorated trees, holiday smells, and overflowing trays of Christmas cookies brought inevitable excitement.

Anticipation built with each opened door on the advent calendar. Finally on the night of December 24th, I would lose the ability to sleep altogether.

Fun times.

I wish I could tell you that my childhood excitement over Christmas was rooted in something spiritual. It wasn’t. Although I marveled at the wonders surrounding Jesus’ Bethlehem story, it would be years before I understood its profound significance and opened the gift God gave me in His Son.

No, my childhood Christmas sugarplums came from the presents.

You see, for the 12 long months from one December 25th to the next, my brothers and I would hear one thing from my parents in response to asking for things we wanted. “Maybe. Put it on your Christmas list.”

So we did.

Then we’d wait. And we’d hope. And as the big day drew near, we’d wonder what treasures might actually appear beneath the Christmas tree.

Do you remember what it feels like to hope, beloved?

At some point, even if only for a few brief moments of childhood abandon, all of us have allowed the glimmer of possibility to stir our hearts.

And that stirring kindled anticipation. Perhaps that hope even inspired a step of faith.

You bought that lottery ticket.

You went after that promotion.

You opened your heart to love.

Then you waited and watched. And hoped. And you didn’t get the outcome you desired.

Unfortunately, in a world with very few guarantees, we often end up disappointed. And many of us have discovered first-hand that Proverbs 13:12 proves true.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

And so stories of a child Savior born in a stable with the power to redeem your life seem a bit farfetched. You can appreciate the sentimental wonder of the story, but you dare not open your heart to really believe Him for His promises.

Or maybe Jesus Himself seems to have disappointed you.

Yet Romans 5:5 makes a bold claim.

And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Beloved, biblical hope does not disappoint. But we must pay careful attention to what scripture links that hope to: love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

You see, we can seek Jesus for His power. We can associate ourselves with His name to try to garner His blessing. But if we pass love by, hope in His name holds no guarantee.

The baby born in Bethlehem wasn’t the means to access God’s gifts. He is the gift.

But we can’t just stand next to Him in church on Sunday. We don’t step into His power by singing songs about Him. We’ll never find healing by owning a Bible we never open.

Love alone releases the blessings of heaven into this broken, troubled world. Love remains the only catalyst to release them in you.

And so the manger offers an incredible hope. Transforming love. Love that must first be encountered, trusted, and received. Love that can then pour out. And change the circumstances of earth.

That’s better than any shiny present under the tree.

Whatever your association with Jesus has been, beloved, will you take a chance on love? Will you open the door to your heart and invite Jesus to reveal Himself? His Spirit wants to write His Word upon your heart and transform you from the inside.

Make sure you open the gift, dear one. It costs you nothing but time and gains everything.

And it’s guaranteed not to disappoint.

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today

Recently God showed me a glimpse into His wounded heart. While in prayer for the church, a picture of His bloodied Son nailed to the cross filled my mind. Then I saw the curtain torn that had separated man from God’s presence.

And I began to weep, because I realized how few actually enter in.

Beloved, Jesus endured incredible suffering for one singular purpose: to allow us the privilege of drawing near to the Father. Yet when He invites those of us who bear His Name to meet with Him in secret, we recoil. We act as though it’s a great hardship—a sacrifice—to give Him the time.

I felt the pain in His heart, dear one.

Our heavenly Father has only ever wanted us close. Yet time after time, we choose distance. We call it relationship, but it isn’t one. We hardly know Him. And yet this primary desire burns within God’s heart. He longs to be known.

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

Today I’d like to share an excerpt from a recent article by Francis Chan. May it stir your heart to enter the only place you’ll find true heavenly power.

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating?

Going Up the Mountain

A mentor of mine lives in India. Last year, he called me on the phone crying, distraught over the state of the church in America. “It seems like the people in America would be content to take a selfie with Moses. Don’t they know they can go up the mountain themselves? Why don’t they want to go up the mountain?”

When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence…

Has relying on books and sermons about Jesus actually kept people from interacting with him directly? Click To Tweet

Professional Gatherers

We often spend a lot of time and effort gathering believers together. We’ve become experts at gathering Christians around great bands, speakers, and events. Where we have failed is in teaching believers how to be alone with God. When is the last time you heard someone rave about their time alone with Jesus in his word? Gathering believers who don’t spend time alone with God can be a dangerous thing.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together:

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray, and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has called you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.

The word community is thrown around quite a bit in Christian circles today. But our gatherings can be toxic if we do not spend time alone with God. I’ve been in many groups where people share their insights. The problem is not only that our insights are not as profound as we think they are, but that we’re so eager to share thoughts originating in our own minds, when we have a God who says,

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)

I want to know the thoughts of God. I want to gather with people who have been reading God’s words, people who have prayed and interacted with him. I want to fellowship with those who fellowship with God. I couldn’t care less if you have a doctorate in theology or sixty years of life experience. I would rather talk with a fifteen-year-old who has been in the presence of God.

To read this article in its entirety visit DesiringGod.org.

Have You Declined God’s Invitation?

The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:21

Recently God opened my eyes to a beautiful truth tucked into Exodus 19. A single purpose has always marked God’s heart in His dealings with man. He expresses it in verse 4.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

We tend to think that God delivered the Israelites from Egypt so that He could deposit them in the Promised Land. But the land of milk and honey wasn’t His primary objective. Relationship was.

“I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”

God rescued the Israelites out of their slavery—out from under the law of the land that oppressed them—to bring them to Himself. I think sometimes we overlook that part.

Beloved, God prioritizes bringing His people near. His people, however, don’t share His priorities. We often skip the relationship and focus on seeking the earthly blessings He can provide. We don’t want Him. We want His gifts.

Unfortunately, that’s the same choice the Israelites made. And do you know what happened to them, dear one?

They died in the desert outside of their land of promise. They never made it to their earthly blessing because they rejected the means to get there. Oh, that you and I would learn from their mistakes!

God further revealed His intentions for Israel in Exodus 19:9.

“Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

Did you catch it, dear one? God wanted the people to hear Him speak. Until that point, He had only spoken to Moses, and Moses communicated God’s desires to the people. But now He called them all to Mount Sinai because He wanted them to hear Him too.

So God gave Moses instructions to prepare the people for their encounter.

The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” Exodus 19:10-11

An unholy people were about to encounter a holy God. So God gave them instructions to follow that would enable them to survive the encounter.

He told them to purify themselves for three days. During their time of cleansing, He set some boundaries in place for their protection.

“And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.” (Verse 12)

You see, sin can’t live in the presence of pure righteousness. The people couldn’t draw near to God’s holy mountain while they remained impure.

But once they were cleansed, God offered an invitation.

 “When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” (Verse 13)

The Message Bible states it this way.

“A long blast from the horn will signal that it’s safe to climb the mountain.”

Let’s see what happened when the trumpet sounded.

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Exodus 19:16-20

Notice the purpose clearly stated in verse 17. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. This was the moment God had prepared them for, to bring His people to Himself. Now note the language indicating their posture in the rest of the verse. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain.

Picture the moment, will you? Thunder and lightening burst forth from thick clouds. Knees tremble in fear. A trumpet sounds, its volume increasing as the people stand firmly planted at the foot of the mountain. Nobody moves. No one ascends. Until finally Moses cries out to God and meets Him on top of the mountain.

Exodus 20:18-21 reveals what happened in those moments.

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Do you see it, dear one? God brought them out of Egypt to bring them to Himself. But the people didn’t want to come close. They preferred boundaries and limits over relationship. They didn’t want to hear God speak. Instead they chose an intermediary to tell them what God wanted. They didn’t want to hear it for themselves.

I wonder, dear one. How many today continue to make that same choice? Christ tore the veil so that each one of us could boldly enter the presence of God. He longs to speak to each of us through His Word and whisper life into our hearts by His Spirit.

But we’d rather let a pastor talk to Him and tell us what He says.

If we choose to stand far off, dear one, we’ll suffer the same fate the Israelites did. We’ll die in the desert without ever entering His promises. And we’ll blame God, but it won’t be His fault. It will be the result of our refusal to draw near.

You see, we can’t just call on His Name and expect to enter His promises. Every promise comes through Him. We must step into His arms and let Him draw us to Himself.

Only then can He carry you to your land of promise.

Enter His Courts with Praise!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4 ESV

Most of us long to experience God’s presence and power. We just don’t usually choose the path required to get there.

What is that path?

Psalm 100:4 reveals it plainly. We enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. If we want close proximity to God, we need gratitude. Sincere thanksgiving and praise for His provision must regularly erupt from our hearts and echo from our lips.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Our lives are supposed to overflow with thanksgiving. Not once a year, but every day. Beloved, gratitude marks a life rooted in Christ. Built in Him. Strengthened in Him. Lived in Him.

What we choose to offer Him, however, usually resembles grumbling. Not gratitude.

Let’s face it. We aren’t naturally grateful people.

We have to teach our children to say, “Thank you.” They come out of the womb believing they have a right to everything. You’ll hear one word rising above a scuffle of angry toddlers. “Mine.”

If it isn’t theirs, they think it ought to be.

Yes, dear one. Appreciation must be taught. And some of us still struggle to learn it.

We’re self-centered, after all. And that inclination fixes our eyes firmly on blessings we desire instead of praising God for the ones He’s already provided.

Then we end up feeling like Job.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11

We give voice to our discontent. We think on it continuously. Our hearts become hard.

Beloved, grumbling and complaining emerge from a bitter soul. And bitterness occurs when we believe God should do things differently.

Yet we love to indulge our bitterness. We believe we have a right to it, after all. But Hebrews 12:15 reveals a great danger in clinging to it.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Bitterness defiles many. I’d hate to think that my own bitterness would defile my family. My husband. My children.

But that verse reveals another frightening effect. Bitterness keeps us from God’s grace. We fall short of it. And grace, dear one, is what we’re desperate for.

You see, grace merges the favor of God with life’s circumstances.

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Beloved, we find power in Christ’s presence. Help for our needs. In His throne room, we find grace.

But we must approach His throne with the right heart.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

A grateful heart opens the gate to the courts of the God of grace. It draws us into the presence of the Giver because it sees what He provides. And it’s grateful.

What do you need to thank God for, beloved? Do you bless Him continually for His provision? Or do you more often focus on your lack?

Bitterness robs you of grace, dear one. Don’t let the enemy steal one more blessing God longs to give. Let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Let’s invite Him to fill our hearts with gratitude for all that He is and all that He gives.

When we choose gratitude, beloved, we choose grace.

Fear of the Dark

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”  even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.. Psalm 139:11-12 ESV

Monsters lurk in the dark.

They like the shadows. Deception. Speculation and fear.

Only recently, some of those monsters decided to emerge from the shadows. Their evil in Paris exposed what they seek.

Hatred. Murder. Terror.

They aim to breed fear.

They reflect the heart of the god they serve, “that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world(Revelation 12:9).

Did you know that’s one of his names, dear one? Deceiver of the whole world.

Yes, beloved. Satan deceives. Everyone. Always.

He’s probably deceiving you. If you’re afraid, it’s working.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Look at what Jesus said about the deceiver and his children in John 8:44.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Satan lies to get what he wants. And his most deceived followers act just like him. He’s a murderer, and they murder. He deceives, and they deceive. They have set their will on carrying out their father’s desires, convinced the one who speaks to them is an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

If only the children of God lived as dedicated to His cause.

But we haven’t set our wills to carry out our Father’s desires. Instead we’ve allowed the deceiver to convince us to stay focused on our own. Instead of uniting in strength against our enemy, we fight one another. And instead of standing on the truth our Father’s Word proclaims, we have allowed the deceiver to fill our hearts with unbelief.

He has convinced us we can do nothing but hide and wait out the darkness. So we sit in our homes and point fingers of blame to justify our sorry state.

Perhaps it’s time for the people of God to open His Word and receive what it says.

Only one thing will prevail against the evil that threatens this earth, dear one. Jesus revealed the answer in Matthew 16:18.

 “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The deceiver doesn’t want you to know the power you wield, beloved. He’s tricked you into thinking you’re a powerless victim. But God’s Word says you’re anything but powerless.

You are the answer to the darkness.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3

Your Father never deceives, dear one. What He says always proves true.

And His Word tells us that evil will increase. Thick darkness will spread its cloak over the earth to smother all people. But our Father also delivers a glorious promise. The people of God needn’t fear the darkness.

Light has come, beloved. The glory of the Lord has risen. Did you notice where people will see it rising?

Upon you.

You hold the light capable of dispelling the darkness. Jesus gave it to you the moment you put your faith in Him. Now He asks you to believe and fervently join His agenda.

You must become who He is.

Darkness advances as the sons of the evil one more fully reveal their father. Light can only advance as the children of light take on the character of our Father.

Darkness advances as the sons of the evil one more fully reveal their father. We must reveal ours. Click To Tweet

Our Father does not fear the enemy. Our Father rests in truth. Our Father loves.

So must we.

A deceived world is desperate for truth. We must give it to them. Love is the way.

Light is, indeed, greater than the darkness. The One who lives in us is greater than the one who deceives the world.

Let’s show the world who Jesus really is.

Throwing Stones

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 ESV

For some reason, people love to throw stones. And, apparently, red coffee cups.

We picture ourselves like David, standing against a godless giant who blasphemes the name of the Lord. We imagine God Himself at our backs, ensuring that our carefully aimed pebbles will hit their mark.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But I fear our reality looks a bit different. We actually more closely resemble the religious leaders in Jesus’ day who gathered to accuse an adulterous woman.

They intended to kill her with stones.12227620_930565177031185_744069628521721119_n

Instead, Jesus saved her.

I wonder, dear one, if some of the stones we throw in Jesus’ name are stones He wouldn’t throw.

Are the fights we’re engaged in really His fights? Or are we, perhaps, casting judgment when Jesus would extend grace?

 “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

Maybe Jesus’ words offer a great suggestion for us as well. Before we hurl those stones we should consider our motives and the condition of our own hearts.

We live in a world ruled by an accuser. He loves discord, judgment, hatred. And he loves to convince people who bear Jesus’ name to act just like him.

Beloved, when people look at us they’re supposed to see Jesus.

What if the reason the world is so ready to remove God from everything is that they don’t like what they see in us? Are we showing the world who Jesus really is? Do we love like He loves? Are we living as true witnesses of His character?

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19

Perhaps the world might be drawn to Jesus if they saw Him as He really is instead of who we’ve projected Him to be.

It’s time we surrendered our hearts to the One who died to redeem them. You and I have the power to bring Christ back into the world by revealing Him with love. We can offer kindness to strangers. We can give of ourselves in Jesus’ Name.

We can stop throwing stones and learn what it means to become one.



Derailed and Redirected

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

We had plans.

After a 12:30 appointment with his surgeon, Steve and I were going to take the afternoon to explore San Francisco. We had one day before his knee surgery to get in a little sight seeing. It seemed silly to waste this trip across the country without getting in a little fun.

We parked outside the doctor’s office all smiles. Warm sun embraced us through blue skies. The Golden Gate Bridge loomed large in the distance just beyond a sign that read “scenic route.” It seemed a fitting direction to head once we finished with the surgeon.

Only our quick visit with the doctor turned into 4 ½ hours. We never made it to the Golden Gate.

Do you ever have days when frustration tries to rob your joy? Things just don’t happen the way you thought they would—or should—and the temptation to let irritation run free knocks hard at the door of your heart.

Thankfully our prayer cover equipped us to remain smiling. And then we discovered why God had allowed this doctor to thwart our plans.

Something about our conversation caused him to revisit the MRI. And he saw something he hadn’t seen. A tear had revealed itself in my husband’s meniscus on the inner part of his knee that hadn’t been scheduled for surgery.

So he called us over to show us the pictures and change his diagnosis. He wanted to add another surgery to address the damage on the other side that wouldn’t be reached with the original procedure.

The next morning my husband and I arrived at the surgical center at 6:30 am. Instead of the original 1½-hour surgery we’d planned, Steve was under anesthesia for four hours while they operated on the two parts of his knee.

When the doctor came to get me, he assured me the patient had done great. The surgeries had been successful. Both of them. He smiled confidently, happy with his decision and optimistic that catching that tear would leave my husband pain free once healed.

I’d say those few extra hours in the office were worth missing the scenic route.

What obstacle threatens to frustrate your plans, dear one? Perhaps the Lord has something beautiful to bring out of it. Something you’ve missed or haven’t thought of. Something meant to prosper you, even if momentarily it appears to harm you.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I’m thankful that God established ours. We had asked Him to reveal any hidden things, and He was faithful to do it.

Now I just need a little extra grace to help this teacher become a nurse.

Time to go. My patient needs me.

Blessed in the Beloved

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 ESV

“There is no one on this planet more blessed than you.”

Beth Moore spoke those words last year during a taping of “Wednesdays in the Word” for Life Today TV. At the time, I joked with a friend who attended with me. “I’ve been telling you this for months. Will you believe it now that you’ve heard it from Beth Moore?”

Somehow it seems impossible to believe, doesn’t it? Most days we don’t feel extravagantly blessed.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. I presented Beth’s statement to the ladies in my Sunday school class shortly afterward and asked if they believed it. You should’ve seen the eyes darting from my gaze, heads shaking in disagreement around the room.

I think we believe in a God of blessing. We just have trouble believing those blessings belong to us.

We easily assure others that God loves them desperately and has great things in store. But that same truth doesn’t seem to apply when we look in the mirror. We carefully guard our list of reasons that prove what our thoughts convey: most of God’s blessings aren’t meant for me.

The Apostle Paul begs to differ with you, dear one. So does the God who inspired his words.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

Whether or not you feel blessed at this particular moment, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God’s Word says that you are. According to Ephesians 1:3, you have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing available to you in Christ.

Think about that truth for a minute. The God who speaks things into being has spoken blessings over your life. Already. You’re not going to be blessed someday, dear one. You are already blessed.

I have to ask, beloved. Are you living out those blessings?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us live in a present reality that falls short of who we’ve become in Christ. We don’t walk as though we’re already blessed. We live still seeking the blessing.

Paul offers the key to unlocking God’s blessings over us in verse 6:

. . . his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Just so we’re clear, Jesus is the Beloved. And what has He blessed us with? Grace. Glorious grace.

That word grace in the original Greek means, “the state of kindness and favor toward someone, often with a focus on benefit given to the object; by extension: gift, benefit . . . blessing.” (Strong’s Concordance, Greek #5485, p.1653)

You, dear one, are blessed with the favor of God—favor that gives benefit. Favor you can’t earn. Favor you already have.

Do you believe God favors you, dear one? Do you know what His favor offers you? Perhaps you should read 2 Corinthians 9:8.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Grace provides whatever we need at whatever time to succeed. And we’re swimming in it.

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16

I’ll be honest with you. I have always struggled a bit with the concept of grace. This logical mind has difficulty grasping the idea that God’s love and favor doesn’t have to be earned. In fact, it can’t be. But that thought doesn’t sit quite right under the umbrella of reason.

And yet, that’s what scripture claims. For God so loves, that He gave (John 3:16). Freely. He poured out grace that provides all sufficiency in all things at all times. And if you are His, nobody has more blessing and favor from God than you.

Whether you believe it yet or not, Christ has lavished the riches of His grace upon you “in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). That means He didn’t make a mistake speaking it over you. He thought it through. He had insight into who you are, and He chose to favor you anyway.

So how do we learn to live in that favor? How do those blessings spoken over us in the heavenly places become our new reality on this earth?

The answer actually isn’t complicated, although we do our best to make it so. You and I need to return to where we began in Christ at the moment of our salvation.

We believe.

You see, one thing ushers us into the flow of grace poured out on us. Faith.

Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Dear one, you are loved and lavished in grace. One thing alone can stop the realization of God’s favor in your life. Unbelief.

 Will you see yourself as you really are and believe God for your blessing?