*This semester in Bible Study, we are digging into heroes of the faith from Hebrews 11. This blog will be the first in a series sharing about the men and women we study each week. I pray these will be a blessing and encourage your own study of scripture to learn more of what the Lord would teach you individually in your walk of faith.
Abel. Most of us know him as the second son born to Adam and Eve or the brother Cain killed. But up until recently, I admit I didn’t know much else. His mention in Genesis 4 is short, so it seems that he wasn’t all that significant. Until…we find he is the first man worthy of being listed in Hebrews 11. And the question is, why is he there?
Hebrews 11:4 says:
“It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.”
Though he’s dead, he still speaks. Wow, I couldn’t wait to see what he said! How his words would impact my heart.
But y’all, when we got to Genesis 4 and read, guess what we found? He never spoke a word. At least not any recorded in scripture. All we have is the record of one event in his life:
“…When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.” Genesis 4:2-5
That’s it. One seemingly insignificant offering, probably among many, to the Lord. But then, I looked back at Hebrews 11:4, and I saw it. “…he still speaks to us by his example of faith.” It wasn’t about the words, y’all. It was about his faith in action..
Two things we can learn from Abel are this:
1.Actions, many times, speak louder than words.
“…Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—
the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.” Gen.4:3-4
Cain gave some, but Abel gave his best: the firstborn, along with what other translations tell us were the “fat portions.” Abel made a sacrifice. Cain made an offering. It was the heart behind the action that mattered, y’all. The humble action of faith Abel carried out “spoke“. And that is the challenge to us today. Do our actions leave a legacy that will still be “speaking” when we are gone?
2.Doing the right thing does not go unnoticed.
“…The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you…” Gen.4:4-7
The Lord never tells us that Abel did what is right, but we can infer that from this passage. And the question is, what did he do so right that Cain did so wrong? And y’all, I think we see it in Cain’s reaction the the Lord’s rebuke. He became angry. A humble heart would have apologized and asked the Lord’s forgiveness. But instead, pride took over, opening a door for Satan to gain a foothold, that ultimately led to the murder of his only brother.
Abel possessed a heart of humility, y’all. That heart led to the sacrifice that became the action of faith that still speaks today.
May we all have the courage to act out our faith, do the right thing, and leave a legacy that speaks long after we are gone.
Wow, life has been busy these past months, and I have not had a lot of time to write here in this space. But…I did want to include some articles from other sites and hopefully I will be back on track here soon…I pray these encourage your hearts in Jesus. Thank you for reading!
A Prayer for Us to Intentionally Encourage Others:
Recently, I have spent time with a number of women who are striving to truly experience the Lord’s presence and live through the Spirit’s power and strength in their daily lives. They’ve been diving into His Word like never before and seeking to move past surface-level Christianity. But it’s not easy, y’all. So I’ve been thinking about what that really looks like…and how we live that out.
This morning at church, we studied the story of the Miracle Catch in Luke Chapter 5:1-11. Jesus had been teaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and noticed two empty boats. He chose to step into Simon Peter’s and had him push it out into the water, where he sat and taught awhile. When He was done, He turned to Simon in verse 4 and said, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” After some back and forth, Simon decided to listen to Jesus, and he went. His nets were so full from the amount of fish he caught, that they began to tear, and he had to call for help! Simon was so overcome that he fell at Jesus’ feet and Jesus said, “From now on, you’ll be fishing for people!”
There is so much more we could talk about in this story, but for now, this one thing is what the Lord laid on my heart: Jesus didn’t allow Simon to stay by the shore…or even out a little ways, where the boat had been pushed. Jesus told him to go out where it was deeper.
This isn’t the only place where we see Jesus’ disciples in deep water. When Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8:23-27, He and His disciples were going “across the lake.” And when He walked on water in Matthew 14:22-36, the disciples were “far away from the land.”
So what was the reasoning for sending His disciples into deep water? And how does this relate to us as we grow our relationship with the Lord and begin to share Him with others?
Here are a few things to consider:
1.Deep water requires deep faith.
When fishing in shallow water, you can generally see the bottom, but in deep water, you can’t see very far below the surface, unless you have a powerful light source.
If Jesus allowed the disciples to stay close to the shore, they wouldn’t need His light to see what was around them or catch the “fish” he sent them for. The uncertainty that they felt wouldn’t exist, and the reliance and faith they had to put in Him, wouldn’t happen because they would be able to “see” without believing. The amount of fish that they caught in deep, dark water, could only happen because of a supernatural source drawing them in. And it is the same way today.
“For faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 12:1
“For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Cor.4:6-7
2.Deep water means facing deep things.
Jonah was a man running away from God, angry, defiant, and probably a little scared of what the Lord had asked him to do. He boarded a ship going in the opposite direction of where the Lord instructed, and a storm began. The sailors on his ship had no choice but to throw him overboard to calm the raging seas. But what a blessing. Because it wasn’t until he was sinking into the ocean depths that he truly cried out to God.
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me…But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you…” Jonah 2:1-3,6
Sometimes it takes drowning in our own sorrow and facing really hard things about ourselves to see and feel and realize the depths of the Lord’s love and provision for us.
When we go out into the deep, Jesus meets us where we are. And we have an obligation to meet others there too….even when you feel uncomfortable, ill-equipped, and maybe even a little hypocritical.
Jesus sent the disciples into the deep water so He could show up in an inconvenient, uncomfortable place. Out in the deep is where He met each of them individually. And that’s what love is. Showing up in inconvenient, uncomfortable places, where Jesus works in miraculous ways when we are willing.
3.Deep water causes deep fear.
In shallow water, safety is rarely an issue. You can touch the bottom if you need to and see any possible hazards. However, in the deep, you face the possibility of being swept away without a proper anchor to hold you fast.
In each of the three stories about Jesus’ disciples mentioned above, deep waters weren’t the only thing they had in common. In every one, Jesus had to tell his friends not to be afraid (Luke 5:10, Matt. 8:26, Matt.14:27).
Deep water is scary. The “what ifs” grow significantly the farther you are from solid ground. And Jesus knew that the disciples needed to grow their faith in a place where they couldn’t rely on their own sight or ability to stand on their own two feet. And we do too.
If we choose to go into the deep places with people, the hard, dark, scary places where we can’t see what may happen next and don’t know what to expect, we need an anchor to hold us fast. That anchor is Jesus. And He is right here with all of us who believe.
“Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:18-19
Y’all, going into deep waters is not always a fun thing. It is not always an easy thing. But if we are going to draw closer to Jesus and show people who He really is, we have to go into those places to grow our faith and see with our own eyes what our ears have heard about (Job 42:5).
He invites us to go deeper into our own walks and with those around us, so we can see His miracle-working power. His goodness. His faithfulness. And the reality that He is who He says He is. He never left the disciples. And He won’t leave you.
This year, shine His light as you go into places you may not be able to “see”. Seek Him and cry out to him in the depths. And do not fear! Go boldly with the assurance that He is with you, for you, and will save you and those you love from the depths because YOU ARE HIS.
Here in Alabama it is SNOWING today! Beautiful white flakes blowing and swirling and falling all over the place. Some big, some small, but all bringing joy to little and big hearts alike. And as I sit here in my bathrobe watching them fall outside my window, my heart and mind are turning with all the Lord is showing me through them. So I want to share a couple of things we can learn from these precious moments today:
1.God sends beautiful reminders of who He is in His perfect time.
You see, this is the first time it has snowed in my little hometown in four years. And it was four years before that. And four years before that…you get the picture. This is a rare treat that brings such excitement for all of us who get to experience it. As each winter rolls around, we Southerners pray and watch the weather reports for any miniscule chance of getting to see snow. We allow ourselves to hope and wait expectantly just in case….but many years, as the end of February rolls around, we realize our hopes for snow will not come to fruition…and with disappointment set them aside until next year.
And y’all, I feel like we do this in life too. We all have hopes and dreams that we pray for. We long for God to answer our prayers and show us reminders of who He is right away…only to be disappointed when that doesn’t happen. A year passes, then two, then three…and we wonder if He’s still there…if He even hears or sees us. We lose our excitement, anticipation, or expectant hope of what He is going to do…because it seems it’s been too long. But y’all, then that fourth year comes. And He “shows up.” He reminds us of His beauty and glory and majesty and faithfulness because we see with our eyes tangible evidence of His work and presence. We praise and “feel” close to Him again, thanking Him for this wonderful moment.
But y’all, guess what? That moment won’t last. The snow is falling, only to last a few hours…maybe a day at most…and then it will be gone. And there’s the difference between earthly circumstances and the Lord. Weather patterns change and snow comes and goes, but the Lord never does! Even when you can’t see Him or feel Him…He is still there:
“Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:2
“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” 2 Chronicles 16:9
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John 5:17
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Don’t give up in the hard years…don’t let doubt fill your time of drought. He is still there, working and moving and growing you behind the scenes, waiting for the perfect time to show you and remind you of His beauty sweet friends.
2. We must allow those precious reminders to “stick.”
So here’s the second lesson. After a number of years with no hope of snow in sight…no moment of that longing coming to fruition, it’s here. I told you that it is blowing and swirling and falling all over the place…and it is. But what I didn’t tell you before, is that it isn’t sticking. As I look out the window, the scenery on the ground has barely changed…I see grass and wet concrete and puddles of water everywhere. Thoroughly disappointing right? I know. So here’s what we need to remember:
In His perfect timing, the Lord answers our prayers and shows us what He can do. Some of us have longer periods of waiting than others, but when our prayer is answered…when we see and experience that moment of God working (whether it looks like what you thought or not)…we have a decision to make. Will it make any change in our lives? Will we remember? Because that moment won’t last forever.
The seasons of highs and lows, mountains and valleys, come and go, y’all. They just do. And if we don’t allow the Lord’s teaching and provision in those “feel good” moments…those highs and exciting times with Him to “stick”…it’s going to be even more difficult in the in-between. We must cling to Him, His truth, and soak up every little lesson so that later, we will remember and be able to tell others of His goodness until it comes again, just like we do in-between those “snow years” bringing out the old pictures, reminiscing about making “sleds” out of cardboard or boogie boards and sliding down hills (you Southerners know what I mean:)), etc..
His Word brings life and power and His actions are recorded there for us to remember what He has done in the past. It’s our responsibility to share it in the in-between when our eyes can’t see what our hearts know. For our children and grandchildren and friends and for ourselves…we must not forget. We must allow all that He teaches us to “stick”:
“When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock!He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” Deuteronomy 8:10-18
Enjoy every second of this beautiful snow day my sweet friends. Thank you the Lord for His gift, ask Him to speak to your heart and give you strength and peace and joy to sustain you until He is “seen” again, and pray for all of it to “stick.”
In Bible Study we recently studied about the “If Onlys” of life. How they can cause roots of anger and bitterness to grow if we aren’t careful. And it reminded me of a lesson the Lord taught me last year, as I read Psalm 107. I realized so clearly that, as followers of Jesus, we all have a choice of what we focus on…what we see most…in our pasts. You see, we are all sinners. We all make mistakes. Our parents did. Our children do. And every generation to come will as well. But one thing the Bible reminds us of, over and over (Deuteronomy is one place to look), is that we should share with our children and our children’s children, not only about the difficult things we have faced…but how the Lord brought us through them.
Psalm 107 mentions four groups of people, and while this is not exhaustive, it is a pretty good description of how many of us face the Lord and His word:
The Wanderers– “Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died.” (v.4-5)
The Enslaved– “Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. (v.10-11)
The Rebels– “Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door.” (v.17-18)
The Seekers– “Some went off in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. Their ships tossed…the sailors cringed in terror…They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits end.” (v.23, 26-27)
You may see yourself as one of these people, or maybe not, but the amazing thing about all of them is that whatever experiences they had, whatever trials they went through, they all reached a point where they realized they couldn’t make it on their own:
"Lord, help!" they cried in their trouble,
and He rescued/saved them from their distress."
Psalm 107:6,13,19,28 NLT
So did he listen to them? I believe He did because after their cries:
“He led them straight to safety…” (v7)
“He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom…” (v14)
“He snapped their chains.” (v14)
“He sent out His word and healed them….” (v20)
“He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.” (v29)
And once the Lord came to their rescue, the Psalmist gave this directive, though we don’t know if they followed through:
"Let them praise the Lord for His great love and
for the wonderful things He has done for them."
Psalm 107:8,15,21,31 NLT
I understand that many of you might be thinking that the last thing you want to do is praise the Lord. That even though He may have helped your in a hard circumstance, you still have people you love who have been hurt, looked down upon, mistreated, or just plain overlooked. But y’all, the Lord hasn’t done those things. He has seen every wound, heard every cry, and felt every hurt that you feel. And because many of you may question why a good God would allow hard things if He really loves you, I have to share the ending:
"Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord."
Psalm 107:43 NLT
Because without trials to be brought through….we wouldn’t recognize the faithful love we’ve been brought to, y’all.
Not long ago, I passed some sticks on the ground while I was walking. They caught my attention because they made an “X”. But as I looked back when I passed, I realized that from my new point of view, I saw a cross.
We all have a choice when we look back, yall. We can choose to see the wrongs and hold ourselves back from healing and joy and peace that only the Lord brings. Or we can grow in wisdom as we focus on what we learned…what we don’t want to repeat…on the healing, chain-breaking, door-opening, power of the Lord…and the faithful love that brought us through.
Over the past few months, my heart and mind have pondered the words to adequately share what I have been feeling every time I see another post that tells me “you are enough.” While the message is shared with kind intentions, meant to be an encouragement and build self-confidence, it can be deceiving.
Enough means “as much as required; occurring in such quantity to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.” And I can tell you right now, without hesitation, that my name could never define “enough.” There is only One whose can.
My oldest is about to enter high school, and it has become especially urgent to me, that she realizes who she needs more than anyone else in this world. And it’s not me. Or her daddy. Or herself. It’s Jesus. Only Jesus.
The greatest gift I can give all of my babies, is to point them to Him. Not only when we are praising Him for answered prayers or thanking Him for our food, but when the days are hard. When they are afraid. When they feel defeated. In every situation that I might be tempted to try and be their savior or make them think they can save themselves.
The truth is that I’m not enough…they’re not enough…and none of us are…because we were never meant to be.
“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 (italics mine)
When our children’s feelings are hurt, when self-esteem is low, when doubt clouds their minds, or when they feel like they just don’t have what it takes to meet a challenge ahead, what I wish we would say instead is this:
“Jesus is enough for you in this moment.
You are able to rise to this challenge because He created you . He thoughtfully knit your inmost being together with intricate detail to prepare you for this very moment. (Psalm 139:13)
You do not have to be afraid because He has already conquered death and is your helper, holding your hand as you walk through hard things. (Isaiah 41:13)
You are weak, but can survive this moment, because He is strong. (Philippians 4:13)
I am your mama, and as much as I want to save you from all the hurt that this life can bring, you must remember this…it’s not my job:
I gave birth to you, but He created you.
I would die for you, but He already did.
I love you with my whole heart, but He loves you beyond comprehension…with the evidence in His scars.
Jesus is enough for you. Every second of every day, always.”
Call on His name. Listen for His voice. Seek His face.
He loves you so very much more than you could ever imagine and is the only One who can fill the empty places in your heart. He provided manna for the Israelites…enough for each day…and He is able to do the same for you. Meet him each morning, gather sustenance from His Word, and know that your words and gifts and offerings are enough, because of Him.
The story of Jonah is one that has spoken to me so many times over the years. As a child, I heard how the Lord saved Jonah from the belly of a whale after 3 days, proving the Lord could perform miracles and save sinners in the most unlikely ways. As an adult, I’ve felt empathy for the people of Ninevah and been filled with thankfulness at their willingness to repent with humble hearts. I’ve marveled over how God changed His mind about destroying them when they turned their hearts to Him. There is a beautiful picture of how God arranges all things for our good and His glory throughout the book. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been frustrated with Jonah in his stubbornness and anger over Ninevah’s repentance, wondering how he could be so selfish after being saved by the Lord’s mercy himself. But even with all that, the Lord shared yet another lesson with me from this short book of the Bible, and I feel it is time to share it with you.
In the past weeks and months, I have seen so many struggling to help those they love. And I’ve seen the toll it takes on them. So during that time, I landed in the story of Jonah and began to read. But this time, instead of seeing the story through Jonah’s eyes, I gained new insights as the Holy Spirit unraveled this story from the sailors’ point of view. And man, did these revelations hit hard.
You see, the Lord told Jonah to go to Ninevah, a wicked town full of evil people, to tell them about God’s judgment if they didn’t repent and change their ways. He was given a direct order. A clear instruction from the Lord. And yet, He “got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord”(1:3). He “found a ship leaving for Tarshish, bought a ticket, and went on board, hoping to escape the Lord” (1:3 paraphrased). Three distinct choices, with three distinct opportunities to change his plan, turn around, and obey the Lord. But he didn’t.
And from that moment on, the sailors on board that ship became a part of his story of disobedience. Their lives became chaotic and their hearts became fearful, worried, and anxious…all because of the actions of another. And that’s where this story begins.
I think we’ve all been there at some point right? There’s been that someone in our lives who we’ve worried about, been striving to save in our own strength, someone we see making choices that we know are not God’s best for them, and so we “fix” and “problem solve” until we have nothing left to give. If you know what I mean, then this is for you. And if you don’t know right now, I would be willing to bet that one day you will. So I pray that you will take these small lessons to heart, praying and pondering over them, asking the Lord to reveal Himself and grow you closer to Him because of them.
The Storm Begins…and Jonah Sleeps (Jonah 1:3-8)
Y’all, when Jonah chose to rebel against the Lord and His will, God was not having it. You can’t run from him. You can’t hide from him. No matter how hard you try (Heb.4:13-15, Ps.139:7-12). He loves you too much to let you go, and He will do what it takes to bring you back to Him, even if it’s hard. Jonah found that out. And so did the poor sailors who were with him. Because as that ship started off, the Lord “hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.” This wasn’t a mild thunderstorm, y’all. It was a full out, pray for your life kind of ride. The sailors threw cargo overboard, shouting to their gods to save them. But it did no good. As they put their hope in earthly ideas, the storm raged on. And all the while, Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the ship.
I don’t know for sure, but it appears that Jonah was oblivious to the havoc his actions were wreaking for those around him. Have you been in a situation like that? Where someone you love seems to be blind and deaf to the pain, the hurt, the toll that their actions have taken on you? Whether directly or indirectly? These sailors would understand.
Jonah stayed sound asleep until the captain went down to get him up and asked him, “How can you sleep at a time like this!?” He ordered him to get up and pray. We don’t know if he did or not, but the crew cast lots and realized that the storm definitely came upon them because of Jonah. They demanded to know who he was and why this storm was raging….
Why Did You Do It? (Jonah 1:9-10)
Jonah told them that he was a Hebrew who worshipped the Lord and was running from Him. At this, they groaned, “Oh, why did you do it?
Why did you do it? Ever asked that? Of a loved one who may be caught in a pattern of selfish behavior, addiction, greed, etc. So many reasons…or maybe you’ve asked the Lord himself. But why seems to be a question we just want answered when we are in the midst of hard, painful things. And most of the time, it seems that question goes unanswered. As it did for the sailors that day…
What Should We Do To You? (Jonah 1:11)
So when they didn’t get their answer to why, they looked to the person standing right in front of them and asked, “What should we do to you to stop this storm (italics mine)?” And the fixing, problem solving, brain storming began. They might not know why this was happening, but they knew who caused it. So their focus went to him.
If you’ve ever been in this place, you know what this feels like. Maybe the person you love doesn’t have an answer. So the lists of possible solutions and phone calls and fretting and worrying and trial and error begin. So many attempts to “fix” the person and the problem at hand. And all in our own strength…so it gets us nowhere….nowhere but exhausted and more frustrated and more hurt. But the sailors did get an answer from Jonah when they asked…
They Get Their Answer…And Row Even Harder (Jonah 1:12-13)
Jonah told them, “Throw me into the sea, and it will become calm again…” Y’all, Jonah told them to let him go. To release him. To let him suffer the consequences of his actions. But they wouldn’t. They weren’t ready to let him go. To turn him over to what appeared to be a dark fate, where they had no control, and no chance at saving him. So what did they do?
“Instead, the sailors rowed even harder…” They kept striving to save him, and themselves, in their own strength y’all. But guess what? “…the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.” They couldn’t make it, y’all. I can’t imagine how defeated they felt in that moment, but then again, maybe I can…and maybe you can too.
Have you been rowing and rowing, trying to keep someone you love afloat? If so my sweet friends, you may be exhausted, frustrated, and maybe even a little resentful. And it may be time to do what the sailors had to do…
They Surrender (Jonah 1:14-15)
“…they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “Oh Lord…don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea…(italics mine)”
Wow, what a picture. These pagan sailors, men who worshipped false gods, were so desperate that they cried out to Jonah’s God, not cursing Him, but acknowledging that He had good reasons for this circumstance! Y’all, when this story started, could you even imagine the work that the Lord was going to do through this terrible storm? He not only saved Jonah, but He saved the lives of the sailors who were in Jonah’s path!
Instead of being pushed away, those who were caught in this storm were brought closer to the Lord because of it! And that is the lesson for us too, ya’ll. This storm was not only about Jonah, not only brought about for His good, but for the good of those around him!
If you are struggling to love someone, save someone, striving to keep them afloat in your own strength…surrender. Just surrender, y’all. The Lord may not only be trying to save the one you love…but you as well. He may be trying to reach your heart, to break down walls, to truly call you to trust Him without reservation! To believe that He alone is God!
Awe, Prayer, and Praise (Jonah 1:15-16)
Y’alll, when they threw Jonah into the sea…”the storm stopped at once!” At once. The sailors were awestruck and offered Him sacrifice and vowed to serve Him. Because the storm didn’t just stop for Jonah. It stopped for them too.
They were still on the boat, But their minds and hearts and spirits were focused on the Lord…not fear. When they released Jonah, they released all of their strivings, believing that the Lord knew best. That He held the power, and that He was worthy of praise. Their focus shifted…and their boat sailed on…
A Great Rescue In the Depths (Jonah 1:17)
Now y’all, I can’t imagine literally throwing someone I love over into the ocean in the middle of nowhere. And we most likely will not be called to do that. But it may be something similar. It may mean closing a door, taking a break, setting a boundary. I don’t know what the Lord may show you to do. And from the surface, all may seem lost…but you never know how the Lord is working in the “depths below.”
As Jonah sank beneath the surface, the sailors must have felt helpless and hopeless, looking over that rail at the dark water below. Never in their wildest dreams could they imagine that “the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah…for three days and three nights.” But He did.
Because y’all, God saves people in the most extraordinary ways. He parted the Red Sea to save the Israelites. He saved Daniel from a lion’s den. He saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a fiery furnace. And He saved Jonah by arranging for Him to sit in the belly of a whale.
It wasn’t by accident y’all, It wasn’t.
God saved Jonah. And He can save the ones you love too.
Throw them “overboard.” And let Him work.
The Mystery of God’s Saving Grace
We know Jonah was saved and that He returned to the Lord because we have the prayer he prayed in Jonah chapter 2. But I have to wonder, did the sailors ever know? Did they ever see Jonah again in Ninevah or another city and realize that the God they turned to had saved the man they released to Him? (I hope I can ask them in Heaven one day.)
But whether they did…or whether they didn’t…Jonah was saved because they surrendered. They let go and turned him over to the only One who could truly save him…and them. And we can too, y’all,
I don’t know if it’s a family member, friend, co-worker, or maybe even some acquaintance or public figure on your heart. But let me encourage you to stop striving. Stop trying to save them in your own strength.
Turn them over to the One who is always working, arranging, guiding, leading, and working for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purposes. Pray without ceasing, seek Godly guidance and wisdom and discernment and direction from the Lord. You may still be a tool He uses. But stop rowing in your own strength sweet friends.
Put the oars down and rest in the peace that comes when the storm ceases. Look ahead and move forward and trust God to take care of the one you love, even if you can’t see from the surface what He’s doing. He’s got this. He’s got you. And He is faithful.
Hey y’all, I have had something on my heart over the past few weeks, really months, and wanted to share in hopes that it will be an encouragement to you, as it has been to me:
Last March, on my birthday, I started a plan to read a Psalm a day. I’ve missed a few here and there, but am on track to finish by my birthday this year. The Psalms are such a beautiful gift because they give us a window into the raw, honest emotions that David and others experienced in their relationship with the Lord. And truth be told, we can all identify and find hope there.
There isn’t one that doesn’t speak to me in some way, but as I worked through Psalm 120 some weeks ago, I found myself stuck and truly, at a loss, on verse 6 that says:
“I am tired of living among people who hate peace. I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war!”
People who hate peace? Who in the world would hate peace? I tried to understand and think of someone I knew who wouldn’t want everyone to get along. But it just left me at a loss. I mean, in every beauty pageant in the world, someone has said they wished for “world peace.” Wouldn’t everyone agree on that?
But y’all, as I turned on the news and scrolled through social media, I remembered that there are those people out there…and that wasn’t just a problem in David’s day. Those people thrive on turning heads, riling people up, and causing division. Their hearts are not turned toward the Lord, but the world…and all the things in it. And my guess is, they don’t know, truly know, that peace is attainable, because they don’t know the One who can share it.
Now, with that said, I feel like there are also those who know the Lord, but are struggling with where He is in all of this mess. When they see the turmoil, the chaos, the constant strife boiling over on our tv screens, they might be thinking that the Lord has left us because He’s allowing all of these bad, hard things to happen. That if He were real, He would answer the prayers of all the Believers praying to Him for healing and peace in our land, and their frustrations boil over at times. But there’s something we have to remember, y’all.
Jesus never promised peace in this world…He promised peace in our hearts through Him.
“I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 NLT
“Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father…I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:28, 33 NLT
The peace He offers is personal and two-fold, y’all. For our mind and our heart. It’s something that is unattainable in any other way than coming to Him…not through other people, finances, substances, or our own abilities…but through His Word and presence.
He never said that trials would be taken away. That sorrows would cease. But He reminded us Who has overcome…and it’s not anyone here on this earth. Only Jesus.
So for those of us who have chosen Him, that’s good news! That we can have peace…a beautiful, intimate, soul-resting peace as we draw closer to Him. But that reminder is not the end of the story, y’all. As recipients of this peace, we have an obligation…a duty as Christ followers…to share that peace with others and show them Who it comes from.
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 NLT
“Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14 NLT
“For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 NLT
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NLT
Not necessarily fun to hear, right? So what do we do with that? How do we become peacemakers in a world full of people that hate peace?
We remain “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19).
We stand by our convictions based on God’s Word, but we “speak truth in love “as we try to grow more and more like Jesus (Ephesians 4:15).
We keep growing our roots into the Lord (Ephesians 3:17) in order to be “strong and immovable” (1 Cor.15:58) and keep from growing weary (Galatians 6:9) in our pursuit of of peace.
I recently found a box of old nametags that took me down memory lane, as each one bore a “title” I once held. Zig Zag Staffer, Gayfer Girl, Diamond Doll, and more. But as I looked through that box, I realized that one title I hope to be given more than any other, is Peacemaker, so that one day, I will be called a “child of God.” This moment in time, more than any other so far, is our chance to earn it.
Praying for all of us to show this world where the gift of peace can be found…and be willing to share it.
Y’all, I have been studying Mary this past week, digging in and trying to understand more about who she was, why the Lord chose her to be our Savior’s mama, and honestly, how I can be more like her. It seems like I would know more by now, but as many times as I have read the Christmas story, the Lord never fails to show me new things, teach me new lessons, and work on my heart in new ways. This year has been one for the ages. One that has challenged my faith and stretched me in new ways. One that has really caused me to strip back the excess of my Christian life and say, “When it comes to my faith, when it comes to me and Jesus, when it comes to me and my family living for Him, what is really important?”
And y’all, I truly believe that the Lord is calling His people to more. Not more of “church”…but more of Him. More knowledge of Him. More time with Him. More listening to Him. More sharing our lives with Him. More resting in Him. And ultimately, more of knowing His heart…and believing Him.
Mary was just a girl. A girl who was living an ordinary life…as far as anyone could tell. But one night, her life changed, when an angel of the Lord told her that she would be carrying a baby…not just any baby…but the Messiah of the world. And I couldn’t help but wonder, why her? What set her apart from all the others?
After the angel left Mary, she hurried to see her relative Elizabeth. It’s a beautiful scene when Elizabeth recognizes that Mary will be the mother of the Messiah, and her baby (John the Baptist) jumps in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. But what comes next is the key to so many questions for me. In Luke 2:45, Elizabeth says, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”
Oh y’all, it’s so simple, and yet so profound, all at the same time. Mary was chosen because she believed the Lord would do what He said.
I feel like so often, I tell myself I believe. I tell the Lord I believe. I tell others I believe. And I do. But I am ashamed to admit that so many times, I am believing in a hopeful sort of way, like a certain father we learn about in Mark 9. He is the father of a demon-possessed boy who brings his son to Jesus for healing, and this is what happens:
…”Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘if I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24 NLT
Y’all, all too often, I think that’s what my prayer really is…”I believe, help my unbelief.” But that wasn’t Mary’s…and what God saw in her heart set her apart.
But still you think…there had to be others who believed that way? Others who would have believed an angel who appeared to them, right? But y’all, I think it was so much more than that. So much more than those nine months. More than that night in Bethlehem. More than she could have ever imagined.
The Lord had to pick a heart who believed He would do what He said…for life. On every sleepless night, as she cradled that baby boy. To the training and exhausting days of toddlerhood. During the childhood days of mischevious play and games. To the stressful years of life with a teenager. As she watched her grown son gain independence as a young adult teaching others…and then as she stood at the foot of the cross her precious Son died on.
Mary’s story was not just on that night in Bethlehem, and I think I too often forget that, y’all. She lived the everyday as a wife and mama of multiple children. She cooked and cleaned on days that were long and exhausting. But on top of that, she held in her heart the moments she “treasured” and “pondered” about Jesus that must have brought her restless nights. We know from her song that she knew scripture and stories of God’s faithfulness passed down through generations…that she most likely knew the prophecies…and therefore knew that Jesus was a part of that story.
Early on, when Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple, a man named Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Now if that wouldn’t burden a mama, I don’t know what else would. But Mary. I have to think that she believed God had a plan. A good plan…in spite of bad circumstances. In spite of scary things. And in spite of what she could see in those last days. It would be hard to think that Mary never feared or tossed and turned at times. But I don’t believe she ever doubted that God would do what He said. And so she was the one.
Y’all, Jesus loved his mama…some of His last words were entrusting her to John’s care. And trying to imagine that scene, my heart is torn apart. It was our Prince of Peace hanging on that cross, but it was also just a boy and His mama. While she knew He was the Savior, He was also her baby…that same baby we celebrate this Christmas. And she believed He would do what He said. May we all have a heart like Mary’s….this Christmas season and every day after.