Here’s the Good News

nehemiah8“Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions”
Psalm 45:7

Last year, I glued googly eyes to all of the food in our refrigerator, swapped my kids’ clothes around into different dressers, and stuffed toilet paper into their shoes.10152562_10202409425731544_115203408_n

This year, I swapped out all of their regular shoes for doll shoes and acted like they shrunk over night.

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I drew terrified faces on the hard-boiled eggs I packed in their lunch box with the message “Don’t eat me!”

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And, I lined up their stuffed animals in the bathroom as if they were all waiting for the toilet.

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I hate pranks.  It’s just not my kind of humor.

But I knew my kids would get a kick out of my April Fool’s fun, especially my one girl.  Maybe my other kids would laugh at mom’s silliness, but this girl of mine would cackle.

So, I’ve been lightening up a little and celebrating April Fool’s Day as a mom.

It’s because I love my kids and I love this wacky, quirky, silly-joke-telling, comic-book-reading girl of mine.

Maybe she teaches me a little how to choose joy.

This world can batter us and beat us with depressing news and overwhelming sorrow.

But we have Good News.

God Himself came to earth in human flesh, received the punishment we deserve for our sin, died in our place and rose again, offering us eternal life with Him in heaven.

This Good News should root itself deep into our hearts and make our lives blossom with joy.

It’s an excitement that maybe the world just doesn’t get.  Maybe they don’t understand.

Maybe we miss it sometimes ourselves.  We talk about Easter or new life in Christ like it’s blah, blah, blah….words in a book, something that happened a long time ago, information for our head never impacting our heart and life.

Unfortunately, we become immune over time to the message’s impact.  We forget the joy.  We forget the wonder and excitement.

And when we imagine Jesus Himself healing people and teaching them, so often we picture Him as a melancholy Savior, all staid, straight-laced and serious.

Surely, though, he must have smiled a bit as Nicodemus puzzled out the meaning of “born again.”

When Jesus deftly sidestepped the theological traps laid by the Pharisees and Sadducees, I imagine He did it with an internal grin.

As He delivered the revolutionary Sermon on the Mount, Jesus could not have been a boring monotone preacher.  He held the crowd’s attention for two solid chapters worth of teaching in Matthew 5-7.  There must have been some joy there!

And I hardly think children would climb all over Jesus’ lap if He frowned and scowled and scolded.

Jesus is a joy-filled Savior teaching us to live with the joy of God’s presence.

Not that our life circumstances always make joy easy.  Sometimes we feel like our “cup runneth over” and sometimes we feel like our cup is all poured out.  What then?

Nehemiah faced a crowd of Israelites who felt too overcome by their sin, too full of repentant sorrow to feel joy. Yet he told them,

“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

We have our weak days, our weary days, our times of feeling out of control, confused, worried uncertain, scared, sad, and broken into a million pieces.

Yet, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

It’s not the fake, paste-on-a-smile joy or the pretend-like-the-world-is-perfect joy.

It’s living fully confident that God is sovereign.  We are in His hands and His hands can be trusted.

That’s what gives us strength to face each day, that quiet assurance of His love and His might.

So, we rejoice together when we consider the Good News of the Gospel.

We rejoice in God’s presence, in His accessibility to us at all times, in His compassion, in His faithfulness and unfailing love.

We rejoice in the journey of our faith, knowing that wherever He takes us, He is present there with us, even in darkness and long journeys through the valley.

Still we have joy.

“always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NLT)

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Weekend Walk, 01/14/2012

Hiding the Word:

It’s a scary world, isn’t it?  I read this morning of an Italian cruise ship that took on water and listed completely to the side, blocking the life boats.  They were rescuing passengers via helicopter and hoping to evacuate everyone.  As of now, dozens of people are still missing.

These travelers went on a vacation, a pleasure cruise, and ended up riding the Titanic.

Sometimes our life changes that rapidly.  We wake up fine.  By lunch, our world has twisted and contorted itself into knots of fear.

At other times it feels like we’re trapped on a sinking ship and even the life boats are under water.

This week, I’m meditating on verses that may not change circumstances, but help us to control our run-away thoughts and overwhelming terrors in any situation we face.  These verses build on the passage from last week, so I’ll list them all together here and bold the new section for this week.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  (Philippians 4:4-9)

We continually (and perhaps with great effort) choose to rejoice in the Lord.  We deny anxiety and take every situation to God in prayer, being sure to give Him thanks.

We tighten the reins on our unruly thoughts and demand that they focus on what is true and right, pure, lovely, admirable . . . We don’t dwell on hypothetical horrors, the hidden monsters of what-ifs.

We think on what is true: God is faithful.  He is compassionate.  He is powerful.  He is love.

Then, yes then, “the God of peace will be with you.”

Weekend Rerun:

Nothing Too Difficult
Originally published 04/14/2011

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

 

Weekend Walk, 01/07/2012: One Last Decoration

Hiding the Word

It was a sweet and thoughtful gift.  I loved it the moment I unwrapped it and hung it on my wall for the Christmas season. When I packed away every light, garland, ornament and stocking with the Christmas decorations, I made an important decision.

I’m not taking this one down.

So, I have a little bit of Christmas in my kitchen all year long.  It’s an angel hanging sweetly over a sign that says, “Rejoice.”

Rejoicing shouldn’t just be a Christmas past-time, but it’s easy to forget the command to rejoice when the new year begins and regular life pounds away at your joy.

In fact, it’s just too simple in general to focus on the negatives.  Within days of the new year, we had handled a broken dishwasher and I experienced my painting fiasco (you can read all about that here).  We had bills.  We had a full calendar.  We had annoyances.  We had hurts.

And I began to think, “Is this the new year, Lord?  Will 2012 just be miserable all the time?”

But He stopped me.

He reminded me that we’ve also had a great re-start for the girls back to school, answered prayers, unexpected gifts, dates with friends and family to look forward to, thoughtful notes of encouragement, bursts of warm weather, and more.

We had reason to rejoice.

Thus, my verse for this week is actually the beginning to a passage in Philippians 4 that I love:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).

Weekend Rerun

Bad Dreams
Originally Published 03/02/2011

” The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.”
Psalm 42:8

The other night I was startled awake at 3 a.m. by a child’s nose touching my nose and two eyes staring intently into my sleeping face.  Then, in the loudest whisper possible, my daughter announced, “Mom, I had a bad dream!”

We can write nightmares off as a “kid thing,” but in the darkness, when we don’t have the busyness of the day to distract us, our fears can overpower us and our thoughts run wild.

In the daytime, I’m fairly good at “taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV).  I know the Scriptures and God’s promises to provide for me, to care for me, to help me, to be with me.

But at night, my defenses are down.  So, it’s easy to lie awake pursuing “what if’s,” prepare speeches, imagine conversations, and make plans.

That’s why it’s not surprising to me that when Nicodemus came to Jesus to ask questions about his faith, “he came to Jesus at night” (John 3:2, NIV).  I know Nicodemus wanted to hide his interest in Jesus from the other Pharisees, but I also wonder if something else was at work.

Could it be that Nicodemus tossed and turned at night, wondering who this Jesus was?  Could it be that he couldn’t stop the questions and just wanted some answers?

I’ve been meditating this week on Mark 6:45-52.  In that passage, Jesus had sent the disciples away on a boat while he went off by Himself to pray.  It says: “Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land.  Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.”

This is the second of two occasions where Jesus calmed the wind and waves for the disciples.  This time, the event is miraculous even before the storm is calmed—-because Jesus “saw them.” He saw them in the middle of the night, from the other side of the shore, even with the wind and waves at their worst.

He saw them in the darkness.

Not only did he see where they were on the sea, but he saw the horrible storm they were facing and he saw their every effort to overcome it.  “He saw them straining at rowing for the wind was against them.”

When things are dark for us—either literally at night when we’re tossing in bed unable to sleep or just in times when we can’t sense the Lord’s presence or light in our circumstances—He sees us.  He knows everything we are facing and all of our efforts to overcome.  He knows what thoughts steal our sleep.

For the disciples in that storm, Jesus’s presence alone brought them peace.  He walked to them on the water and comforted them, saying: “Do not be afraid.’  Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased” (verses 50 and 51).  It didn’t take magical formulas or even speaking to the storm.  Jesus was present with them, and the tempest ended.

It is the same with us.  No matter our storm or the darkness we face, we can have peace in His presence.  As the Psalmist wrote, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, NIV).

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King