Tag Archives: Redemption

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 17-God’s Promise

gratitude-journalIn this Season of Advent, I am grateful for the God who fulfills His promises.

A beautiful biblical example of faithfulness is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25

Theirs is a story we can all relate to in some way, because all of us have been in the valley of life. All of us have at one time or another felt abandoned and forgotten. All of us have wondered if maybe we were being punished by God, that we had somehow disappointed Him. All of us have looked to our circumstances, instead of to God and felt the pangs of lack, and doubted the power of God to change our circumstances.

But there is hope, and that hope is real. Our hope is in the God who delivers on His promises.

I have pulled out five key points that I think will encourage you in your life today.

1.  They were faithful despite their circumstances.

Zechariah was a priest, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, were advanced in years, most likely in their late 60’s, and had no children. In the Jewish culture, barrenness was considered not having God’s blessing. Despite their circumstances, and how people must have whispered about their plight, they remained faithful to God.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1 6-7

2.  Their lack was not a punishment from God.

The Scripture says they were righteous in the sight of God. Did that mean they were perfect and never sinned? No. They were human. But their heart was set on loving and obeying the Lord. As you read their story, you can sense their humility. A humble heart greatly blesses God. I like to think that being righteous in the sight of God meant they weren’t trying to be impress people, but were truly living their lives for an audience of One. 

God will send or allow problems into our life to help us grow spiritually. James 1:2-4 says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

But we often will jump to the false conclusion that God is angry or disappointed with us, that He is punishing us, when trials come into our life. The enemy would love for us to wallow in that condemnation, as then we are more prone to try to hide from God. 

3.  They let their circumstances diminish their faith in God’s power.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah at the altar and foretold him that he and Elizabeth would bear a son that would be a prophet of the Lord, that he would make ready a people prepared for the Lord, Zachariah did not respond in faith. 

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

Often we think of the people of the Bible as super-Christians, but they were ordinary people just like you and me. Ordinary people who God did extraordinary things through. They had doubts and uncertainties, struggles and failings. Zechariah looked at the impossibility of their situation, instead of at the God through whom ALL things are possible. 

Garbriel responded to his lack of faith by binding Zechariah’s mouth so that he couldn’t speak until after the baby was born. I think this was a consequence of Zechariah’s fear, but it’s also further proof to Zechariah of God’s ultimate and sovereign power. Even in our consequences, God shows us the power of His grace. 

4.  God removed their shame. 

After all the years of yearning for children, and maybe even giving up hope it would ever happen, Elizabeth became pregnant. The Lord was faithful in His perfect timing. He removed her shame and redeemed it by placing in her the fulfillment of His promise.

Is there something in you that you have been waiting to be birthed? Have you given up hope? God is always at work fulfilling His promises, but in His time and place. His plans are very personal and unique in each one of us, but they are also for His Kingdom and glory. His plans are much bigger than us. Don’t give up hope! Don’t quit before the breakthrough!

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:24-25

5.  God fulfilled His promise.

This little child born to Zechariah and Elizabeth did go on to become John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah, preparing the people through confession, repentance and baptism for the coming of Christ. Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied the future of his young son. The fulfillment of God’s promise to save the world through his Son, Jesus.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:76-79

And He will fulfill his promises to you. The promise of salvation, peace, joy, victory, purpose and so much more, through a personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. He has not forgotten all He has promised. He is for you. Let us cling to that Truth so that we may have hope in the midst of our circumstances.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 16-Waiting

gratitude-journalIt was a cold, clear night and the young sheepherders were standing watch as they did every night. The routine of their work settled into the passing of the hours as their eyes beheld the stretch of pasture before them. It  was a night like any other night. A day like any other day. A day like yours or mine.

A day at the office.

A day of diapers and barely-avoided disasters. 

A day juggling three jobs with no help.

A day filled with the mundane and ordinary. 

A day waiting.

Waiting for something to happen.

Waiting for something to change.

Waiting.

Suddenly!

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:9

“But the angel said to them. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.” Luke 2:10

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you,” Luke 2:11

To you and to me.

He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying.” Luke 2:13

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is well pleased.” Luke 2:14

Our God is a God of suddenly! He is a God who suddenly shows up in the anguish of love, the bitterness of shattered dreams, the tears of the past and in the moments of the mundane. He is a God whom we can suddenly encounter in the silence of prayer and the call of His Word. Or in the kindness of a friend. His presence suddenly changes our fear to joy and our despair to hope.

He is our Savior who rescued us from the bondage and death of sin. The Christ-child born of humility who, by our faith in him, reconciles us to God so that we may live at peace with Him.

God is pleased with you. In you He sees his Son.

After the angel told the sheepherders, they ran off to see for themselves. There was much excitement about this greatest birth in human history. This arrival that had been waited for. This arrival that happened in an ordinary place, on an ordinary night.

The arrival of Hope. 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

I pray you will store up the treasure of Jesus in your heart. I pray you will reflect and pray and listen. I pray you will wait on the God of Suddenly. We are people who have IN us the hope of Christ as our reality, and we wait. We praise Him in gratitude for what He has done for us, and we wait in hope for what He WILL do for us. 

In the waiting, we are being remade. We are learning to trust.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

We dwell in hope, we wait in hope, we are people of Hope. 

Today I’m grateful for waiting.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 15-Hope

gratitude-journalI’m grateful for hope. 

This is the beginning of the Advent season and since I didn’t finish writing 30 things I’m grateful for in the month of November, I’m going to continue my journey of intentional gratitude into the Advent season. 

The meaning of the word “advent” is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.  In Christian terms, it means the coming or second coming of Christ. We begin to celebrate the Advent season the fourth Sunday before Christmas. During this time four candles are centered in a wreath, and one is lit each Sunday.

The first candle is Hope.

Advent is waiting in expectancy for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have hope because he has already come through his birth, and we wait for his return with expectant hearts.

This morning in my reading of Isaiah 11:1-10, verses 1 and 2 caught my breath.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Jesse was the father of Kind David, who Jesus descended from. Isaiah has been prophesying that Israel would be judged, but that a remnant would survive it. By using the imagery of a chopped tree to describe Jesse, the author relates the judgment coming upon Israel to that coming upon Assyria.

The shoot that came out of the stump of Jesse is the promised Messiah, Jesus. 

That’s the context, but theres’ something in it for you and me.

Notice how these verses are FULL OF PROMISES! See where I highlighted the word WILL and the words that follow.

Notice the gifts that will be given by the Spirit of God upon the delivery of the promises; wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. 

Notice the final promise and exhortation in the final line; “He WILL delight in the fear of the Lord.” He will delight in obeying the Lord.

Have you ever felt like your life was cut off at the stump?

I have too.

But there is a greater reality, and that is our hope in Jesus. That no matter where we’ve been there’s hope in Jesus. It may be the smallest shoot in a smoldering stump, but it is mighty and green and bent on bearing fruit. Nothing will prevent hope from bearing fruit in your life. Nothing will prevent Jesus from overcoming the world in your life. When we hold to Jesus, we realize that we are grafted permanently into hope. 

Jesus IS hope.

And when we hold to hope, we experience gifts given by the Spirit of Truth; wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. And when we delight in obeying the Lord, we are empowered in our faith and we experience His gifts more powerfully, and our hope is magnified. 

This prophecy is about Jesus, but Jesus lives in us, so in my mind, this is about us too. Jesus in me and you. His hope, his gifts, his obedience to His Father. All of it in us, too.

I pray that you will use this Advent season to seek a close encounter with Jesus. That you will set aside time to be with Him, time to listen to Him and time to respond to Him.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13

May this Advent be unforgettable.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Thirteen

emerson1

Our Pastor has inspired me to use this season to improve my attitude of gratitude. I have committed to writing about thirty things I’m grateful for. Even the hard stuff. Gratitude is not about our circumstances. It is a choice. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my body.

Now that may sound really brazen. I’m on the thin side, so some may think that is easy for me to say. Some may even think it sounds boastful. But I assure you it’s not. You see, I struggled for almost twenty years with an eating disorder called Bulimia.

Webster Dictionary defines Bulimia as

“an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.”

Let’s look at the word distortion. The definition is

“a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.” 

I’ve always been relatively thin. It runs in my family. But because of childhood trauma my identity was defined by the emotional needs of others. That’s cause for a lot of dysfunction. In my case, I believed that if I was perfect enough, I could control the behavior of others. I believed that if people valued me as perfect, then I would finally experience the love I so desperately sought. 

I could never be thin enough.

At nineteen, I entered a fitness model contest. I was in amazing shape. I worked hard, denied my cravings and built the body I had dreamed of. But when I looked in the mirror I saw the same body I had always seen. One that was imperfect and disappointing. One that didn’t measure up. 

A year later I moved to New Jersey to pursue a modeling career in New York. I lost another ten pounds and got down to 111 pounds at 5’8″. I was so emaciated that my face just sunk in. When I returned home, my own family didn’t recognize me when they picked me up from the airport. Everybody commented that I looked like I had been sick. I deflected their comments, but inside I was pleased. I thought I had finally arrived. But when I looked in the mirror, I still didn’t measure up. 

That’s distortion.  That’s the lie we buy into. That we have to be perfect. That we are damaged goods. And as a therapist once told me, we spend the rest of our lives trying to disprove the lie that we are bad. 

I found something even more interesting about the meaning of the word distortion on the Wikipedia site.

“a distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of something, such as an object, image, sound or waveform.”

That is profoundly true! What is our original shape?

The image of God!

We are made in the image of God! That is our original shape! But because of sin and brokenness and hurt and darkness, our original shape is altered and distorted. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, man’s natural instinct has been to pursue his identity apart from God. That’s why we are broken! But there is GOOD NEWS! There is redemption in Jesus Christ!

As believers, we must understand our identity in Christ!

As people recovering recovery from eating disorders, I think we must pursue 3 key disciplines. 

  1.  Forgiveness of self and others. People with eating disorders keep standards that no one can meet.  It’s a way to stay in a perpetual state of disappointment that allows one to punish themselves and others. A person with an eating disorder will be served well by focusing on forgiveness, which leads to acceptance
  2. Communication. I was unable to communicate my feelings as a child because of fear and shame. For me Bulimia started as an experiment, and quickly led to an obsession. It became a way to not only purge my food, but symbolically to purge my painful feelings. Please talk with someone you trust. Reach out.
  3. Renewing our mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When we focus on the Truth instead of our feelings, we are renewed. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of the world, we are renewed. We must learn who we really are. Who God made us to be. Who God says we are. Most importantly, we must learn who God himself is. That is a process. 

Eating disorders are mental disorders and they are complicated. If you have one, I pray you will get professional help. I’m not a trained professional, and only share my personal experience and beliefs. I have 7 years of recovery from my disorder without one single relapse. All Glory to God! I have been delivered and set free and I believe that is possible for every one of us. 

I’m praying that you will have the strength to look into the eyes of Jesus and see the absolute love and adoration He has for you. You are enough. He has a plan for your life. It is a good plan, because He is a good God.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Twelve

emerson1

I’m grateful for the seasons.

Just a few weeks ago the color of Fall was muted and drab. It seemed too much for the dry leaves to change color. Then the rains came and watered the thirsty land and brought brilliant color to life. The intensity of Fall almost hurts to behold. It’s so beautiful, so passionate and alive. Festivals ring out across the land as the bounties of harvest are celebrated.

But soon, the burning yellow and ambers will give way to the stark beauty of Winter. The trees will strip bare and drop their leaves in gray piles at their feet. The sky will become dark and bruised and icicles will hang from our roofs. The instinct to rest will subdue our days.

Right at the point of desperation, Spring will burst onto the scene. Snows will melt and lakes will glisten. Emerald green will stretch across the hills. Once again, colors will burst as wildflowers dance and sing. Lungs will fill with the fresh wind of renewal and restoration. A time to plant begins.

Sun-drenched days will stretch into humid nights. Greens will fade to pale yellow. Creatures will look for a place in the shade. Shorelines will  bulge with laughter and play. The lands will crack and wither in the dry heat. Summer will provide a harvest of its own, and we will be grateful for its fruit.

These are the seasons of our lives. We will find peace and rest when we yield to God as He puts these cycles into motion. We must trust that this too shall pass as the next season is just around the bend.  What we have been given in this season will carry us through the next. What we have learned will prepare us for the next part of our journey. We shall not lack, for everything has been considered and given in its time. 

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Three

emerson1This is Day Three of my Thirty Days of Gratitude. Are you doing it, too? Are you working on your attitude of gratitude?

It’s not too late to get started. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my story. And I wouldn’t change any part of it if it meant I wasn’t here right now where I am in my relationship with Jesus.

That’s a stunning statement. 

The halls of my past echo with pain, loss, laughter, adventure, death and destruction.  Broken dreams and battered hopes litter the floor like garbage strewn across an open highway. And woven through it all is love and tenderness and friendships.

The elements of my story probably sound a lot like yours. After all, this is the stuff of the human condition. We break and then we break each other. We do better when we know better, but until that time we bump along, bruised and bandaged. 

Perfect performance may be the banner you waved, too, to cover all that up. I carried mine pretty high and pretty proud. I was so good at pointing to that banner that no one knew it wasn’t a part of me. Performing for love as I like to call it. 

Can you relate?

When I became a believer I had to unlearn a lot of stuff. I had to unwind all the tapes in my head that said I had to be perfect to be loved. That all the bad things were my fault. That I’m responsible. That I’m damaged goods.

I had to even unlearn some mental disorderliness. 

I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to do that on my own. My power, which is so weak, wasn’t needed for this project. The same power that rose the broken body of Jesus from that wooden cross is the same power God used to rewrite my story. And as He rewrote my story, He gave me the courage to talk about all the broken bits. And the broken bits gave others courage too. My story grew out of the ashes of regret into one of hope and victory. And as I shared that hope and victory, others rose in hope and victory too. Together we became brave as we ripped off our masks to reveal the radiance of Christ shining through our broken bits.

No more mask wearing! We don’t have to wear them anymore…

Honest. Open. Authentic. Transforming. That’s who we are. Oh, and adored by God just as we are.

They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11

Yes, our story can do that. Our story can save lives. But it’s not really our story, is it? It’s God’s story written in and through us that does the saving. The power of God is displayed through the stories of His people. 

Shouldn’t we be telling more stories? 

Even if your story is still in the making. Even if it isn’t tied up with a pretty little bow yet, please tell it. Encourage someone today. The struggle is real, but we are all in it together. The more we hear that we are not alone, the less alone we feel. That is what community is all about. People walking it out together.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

What are you grateful for today?