With Your faithful love, You will lead that people You have redeemed; You will guide them to Your holy dwelling with Your strength.”
As I write this, I am currently 40 weeks pregnant. In this last month or so, I have gone through many different emotions. Some days, I am so excited to hold our sweet boy soon. Then there are also some days that I have been worried about all the details involved in pregnancy, labor, and the days thereafter. If I let myself fixate on any particular worry about the future, it can consume my thoughts and rob me of joy.
As I have been sitting before the Lord in my quiet time with Him, I’ve attempted to surrender these various worries. He has given me peace in such gracious ways as I pray and read His Word, but as I have been going about my day, the worries worm their way back into my mind. I have been getting defeated because the peace and Scriptures that He has been lavishing on me in the morning would “go out the window” throughout the day and I would quickly choose to focus on the potential bad things that could happen, instead of His truth.
I remember a few weeks ago feeling like every morning I would begin my prayer time with a new worry that I was frantic about and needed to bring before Him. I was disappointed in myself because I thought that even though He has been faithful to listen to and guide me each day, I kept failing to consistently apply it. I knew what His word says about worry, yet sometimes it felt like worrying was an easier option and I chose to not heed what it said. It reminds me of how Paul describes himself in Romans 7:17, “’For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.’” The enemy would whisper to me that God was frustrated with me for my failures and worries, so much so that I shouldn’t talk to Him about them. But in His still small voice, God reminded me that those were all lies.
Although it is very important for us, as believers, to strive to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16), God is a gracious, faithful, and forgiving God. Prayer is about relationship with Him and that means bringing all our needs, desires, failures, praises, and thanks to Him, knowing He will always love us. During this time, God has continued to show me of His amazing faithfulness. No matter how many times I get consumed by the “what if’s” and fail to apply the truths of His word to my life, He will never leave and is always there to listen when I talk to Him. He reminds us of this in Exodus 15:13, “With Your faithful love, You will lead the people You have redeemed; You will guide them to Your holy dwelling with Your strength.” Once again, this is another reminder that His faithfulness and love towards us is not based on what we do or what we bring to Him, but is solely based on His strength and redemption through His Son Jesus Christ.
"For the word of God is alive and active."
It's 10:30pm, the night before this WOE is due, and I am stumped. So, like any good writer, I began searching for a topic to discuss. I clicked on Pinterest and began scrolling through, and waited for revelation to strike. And strike this revelation did. "Sarah, why are you looking for Me on Pinterest?" Insert emoji girl slapping her forehead here, because that is exactly how I felt. Not in a condemning way, but in an understanding way that I was looking for Jesus to speak to me in the wrong place. Now, I am fully aware that God can speak to us through whatever means He chooses, but the best way He speaks to us is through His word.
God tells us in Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (NIV). Did you catch that? God says that He will answer us and tell us the things that we do not know. But, our job is to call to Him. Jeremiah 29:13 echos this truth, "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" (NIV).
So what does it look like to seek God with all our hearts? In his book, Teach Me to Pray, Andrew Murray shares this thought: "But He still sees it as important that each one choose a location where he can daily meet with Him. That inner room, that solitary place, is Jesus's schoolroom. That spot could be anywhere. It may even change from day-to-day if we have to move for the sake of family or schedules, but there must be a secret place and a quiet time in which the student places himself in the Master's presence to be prepared by him to worship the Father." It is imperative that we find a time and a place to meet with Jesus daily. We need to sit still before Him as we dive into His word allowing Him to speak to our hearts and revive our souls. It is in these moments, in Jesus's schoolroom, that He reveals the plans that He has for us. It is the place that He answers the questions of our hearts and tells us the great and unsearchable things we do not know. As we spend time searching the pages of the Bible, longing to get to know the heart of our Father, our sweet Savior reveals Himself to us. But we must first come and seek for Him in the proper place...His word.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you”
When my daughter, Allyson, was three years old, she was the flower girl in her aunt’s wedding and I was the matron of honor. On the day of the wedding, I was standing in position and my precious daughter slowly walked down the aisle, smiling and carrying the basket of rose petals. She looked so adorable! I was very proud of her! When she got to the front of the chapel, she realized she hadn’t sprinkled any flowers. She looked at me, threw out her right arm and exclaimed, “Mommy, I forgot!!” Yep, sometimes we forget things!
Scripture refers to situations where people forgot. In the front of my Bible, I’ve created a list of verses that I’ve entitled: “Saddest Statements.” Below are two of them:
Hosea 8:14 …Israel has forgotten his Maker….
Judges 8:34…(after Gideon died) they…did not remember the Lord their God who rescued
them from the hands of all their enemies….
In both of these passages, the people, the very people God created to love and worship Him, forgot all about Him. In Hosea, the Israelites were unfaithful, cursing, lying, murdering, stealing and committing adultery. They broke His covenant, rebelled against His law and were unfaithful to their God (Hosea 4:2 & 8:10; 9:1). They forgot their Maker - the very One who gave them life and wanted to heal their waywardness and love them freely (Hosea 14:4, NIV). A sad statement!
In Judges, because of the rebellion of the Israelites, the Lord allowed the Midianites to impoverish them for over 7 years. When the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help, He raised up a mighty warrior named Gideon and a small army of 300 Israelites to defeat the powerful Midianites. AFTER this tremendous victory, AFTER the relief from the hardships they endured and AFTER the death of Gideon, their mighty leader, the Israelites “did not remember the Lord their God who rescued them….” They did not remember the Lord, the One who heard their cry and rescued them. Another sad statement!
Even though the Israelites forgot their Maker, their Maker NEVER forgot them; He will not reject His people or forsake His inheritance (Psalm 94:14, NIV). This same Maker will never forget us! He will keep his promises even when and if we forget. The Lord asked, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15, NIV).
These comforting words of the Lord remind us that He will never forget or forsake us. In fact, He is El Roi, He is the God who sees (Genesis 16:13). He sees you where you are right now, whatever you are facing. He knows you. He loves you. You are not forgotten. He will not forget you.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice.”
My son, Logan, and I spent several days in Rome, Italy last July. As you walk through the city streets, you are surrounded by ancient architectural beauty. From the ornate detail of the Trevi Fountain, to the wonder of the ceiling of the Pantheon, to the towering history of the Coliseum, it is almost too much to take in. But the beauty of Rome is not my favorite thing about the city and I would have missed it if a friend had not told me about this beforehand.
Under the ancient city of Rome runs a freshwater spring. All over the city there are spigots constantly flowing with this spring water. They are not labeled, and most are just plain pipes that stand about three feet out of the ground. My point is, if I had not been looking for them I would have passed them by and walked into a gift shop to buy a bottle of water, missing the best, most refreshing water in the world (my judgment may be a little skewed because it is very hot in Rome in July so I was often very thirsty).
The Apostle Paul spent time in Rome as a prisoner of Nero, a sadistic emperor who hated Christians and brutally tortured and murdered them for sport. It was during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment he wrote a letter to the church in Philippi, which is now our New Testament book of Philippians. The overarching theme of this letter is to encourage the Philippians to live in true joy. In fact, the word joy or rejoice occurs 16 times in this short letter!
In this same short letter, Paul made reference to the Lord (Jesus Christ and the Father) 91 times because He is the source of true joy. RC Sproul defines Christian joy as, “A good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world.”
Paul knew that true joy is found in Christ, so despite his circumstances (living under the constant threat of death by Nero) he was able to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4 ESV) Joy comes when we, “Set our minds on the things above, not on the things of the earth”(Col. 3:2).
This does not mean we are happy about terrible things, like a global pandemic, or a category 4 hurricane hitting Texas and Louisiana, or a family crisis, or the loss of income. It means we look at the things that are happening to us and around us and we trust that the Lord will use it for His glory and our good. It is about shifting the focus from the circumstances of this world and looking at how God is working in and through them to conform us into the image of Christ. This brings true joy.
Every believer has access to this joy. It is like a freshwater spring running under our lives. The refreshing Roman spring available to me was not obvious; I had to be on the lookout for it. It is the same with joy, it is not always obvious in our circumstances. We we must “set our minds on the things above” so that with Paul, we can “rejoice in the Lord always.”
“…Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b
When my children were young, we played a game that I called, “The World’s Biggest Hug.” The game went like this: I would get on my knees on one side of a room in our home, while my toddler children would line up on the opposite side of the room. I would open my arms wide and tell the first child in line that I was ready for him. Then he would run as fast as his toddler legs could carry him and fling himself into my waiting open arms. Big hugs, tight squeezes and giggles would follow. I would send that child off to get back in line while the next child ran into my open arms. We would do this over and over again, until either the kids or I were too tired to continue.
Recently, I was reminded of this game we played years ago as I was reading in the book of Romans. Romans 10:20-21 reads, “Later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying, ‘I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.’ But regarding Israel, God said, ‘All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.’”
Author Nancy Guthrie writes of these verses: “We might expect a completely different posture from our heavenly Father. We might expect that his arms would be crossed in anger and frustration, or at his sides, waiting for us to make the first move. We might expect that he would want to keep us at a distance. But no. His arms are open, welcoming us to come near to be loved and cared for. ‘All day long’ he opens his arms to us. ‘All day long’ is a very long time.” (Nancy Guthrie, “The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids”, p. 208)
God waits for us with open arms. He waits for us to come to Him for salvation. He waits for us to come to Him for forgiveness. He waits for us to come to Him with our problems and concerns and questions and need for love. And He waits for us with His arms open wide.
Jesus took this word picture even further when he told the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. In Jesus’ story, when the runaway son decided to return home to his father, the father saw him a long distance away. The father was filled with love and compassion. The father started running. He ran until he reached his son and then that father threw his arms around his boy, embracing him in a big fatherly bear hug, and he kissed him. His son was home! Nothing could have been better for that Dad! And nothing could have been better for that returning child.
Jesus wanted the people listening to his story to know that is how God the Father waits for us. He waits with arms open wide, waiting to give us the world’s biggest hug.
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.