Everyone’s heard the scripture “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. But what does it mean to have joy in Him? And how does that make me strong? I believe that you have joy in God when you trust and believe what He says, not in our circumstances. When we believe what He says is true, then we’re believing He’s forgiven us. We believe that He will provide all our needs. We believe in salvation. And that strengthens us. The word “strength” here means a place or means of safety, protection, refuge, or stronghold. When I originally thought about the word strength, I thought it was meaning like if I’m having a hard day then having the joy of God will help me through it. Like I’ll simply just get through it and survive. But what it’s actually describing here is that the joy of the Lord builds a fortress of protection around me. Having joy in the truth of who God is surrounds me with protection. I can stand firm in Him because I have His joy and security. It doesn’t mean there won’t still be a war trying to come up against my fortress. There will still be an attack trying to come at me, but I’ll be safe in His stronghold while the war is going on. Meaning circumstances will still be happening, but I’ll still have His peace and security in the midst of it.
What about when the opposite happens? When I don’t believe God’s promises and I have no joy. When that happens, I start having no hope. The war is still raging, the enemy is shooting his fiery arrows, and I start to let down my defenses (my strength). The arrows he’s shooting at me are lies. Lies about who God is and who I am in Him. The enemy is always after our identity. He knows that if I lose my joy in God and my strength fails, then I’ll start to believe my insecure thoughts, slip back into a self-hating depression, start drinking all the time, and probably begin to not see a point in existing.
But I DO have a hope and a joy. I DO believe in God’s saving grace. I DO have a testimony of how God has rescued me and changed my life. I DO have a God that loves me and has created a purpose for me. And that gives me strength. I am protected from every lie that tries to attach itself to me.
I know who God is and who I am in Him. I can rest safely in the fortress of His promises to me. And so can you.
Why does God give us beauty in the world? Beauty comes in all different forms. Like nature, relationships, joy, and laughter. He didn’t have to give us such a beautiful place to live. Full of color and life. He did it because we are His children. He desires to enjoy being with us and to have us enjoy the home He’s made for us.
Normally I’d just summarize a passage that I’m talking about but I feel like this one is better straight from the bible. This is a parable Jesus was telling a crowd…
He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’ “After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’ “‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ “The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’ “‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’ “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’ “‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ “‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’ “‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. (Luke 19:12-26 NLT)
What investment is God putting in me that I’m trying to hide? I often feel nudges to do things that I don’t. Out of fear. Writing things like this is an example of something I tried to hide for a long time. I’d be reading the bible, and verses or stories would stand out to me and I’d have such a strong desire to write out my thoughts about it, or tell someone about it, or study it deeper. But I wouldn’t. Out of fear and doubt. I’d think to myself things like, “what do I have to say that no one else already knows?” I would immediately talk myself out of it and hide it safely inside myself just like the man in the story did with the money.
Finally, I decided that I’ll just write it in a notebook for myself. No one even has to see it so if I’m not saying anything too great it won’t matter. So I did that for only a few months and surely enough I began to feel a nudge that God didn’t want me to keep it to myself. Writing out things like this was a blessing to myself. It felt like real time spent with God. Like I was getting to know Hin better. It also built up my confidence, like maybe I did actually have something to say after all. It may not be a brand new thought no one has had before, but it doesn’t make it any less important. The fact is that these thoughts are new to me and important in the current season I’m in. And if it’s like that to me, then chances are that there is someone else out there in the same place that needs to hear it. I think that’s what He means by saying, “and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given.”(verse 26) If I take the little that He gives me and use it, then I’m promised the blessing of more. My “more” would be helping others in these similar seasons and having even more truth in His word opened up to me.
Part of our journey here is trusting what God says no matter how we feel. To us, our thoughts and doubts make sense. We think that these small things won’t make a difference if we go for it or not, but in God’s kingdom everything is different. God says, “Do not despise these small beginnings”(Zechariah 4:10). He loves to take small, seemingly insignificant things and make them great. He does it because that brings Him glory. If we did it amazing right away on our own then we’d easily fall into the trap of pride. We’d think we are awesome instead of leaning on God and saying how awesome HE is. He doesn’t do this to feed his ego. He does it because this draws us closer to Him. He is our Creator and Sustainer. We NEED Him to live. And we NEED to see how much we need Him in every part of our life. When we are pushing Him away, life only get worse. He loves us. He wants a good life for us. All these things are put in motion just in order for Him and us to be in relationship with each other. He doesn’t put investments in us just so we can work and prove ourselves to Him. He does it because it makes us all a functioning family together. It is ALL for our good.
I would encourage you to think on these things at some point today. Do you have a nudging that you’re trying to hide safely in yourself? Take the chance and let it out. Let God show you how awesome He can be in your life.
“And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.'” Mark 5:34
This verse just made me smile. Imagining Jesus looking at this broken woman and calling her daughter. With such sweetness.
This woman had some kind of bleeding for 12 years. From what I know, she would’ve been completely ostracized from the community due to her bleeding. 12 years…… To think of that as myself, 12 years ago I would’ve been 21. To imagine having been alone and rejected like that with absolutely no one being able to be close to me and called “unclean” since I was 21….. I can imagine her desperation. I’d imagine that she probably disguised herself to be there, probably covered her face so no one would recognize her. Just tried to sneak in. Like we’ve all done at some point. Sneaking into the back of a church service, trying to blend in because we really don’t want to be noticed but we’re desperate to be in Jesus’ presence. Covered in shame and not wanting anyone to ask into us and see.
Then Jesus stops everything and points her out to everyone. Not in a way to humiliate her, but in a way that He wants it publicly known that HE accepts her. In a crowd of people that rejected her, HE accepts her and calls her Daughter. Doesn’t even just say “woman” or just say “you are healed”. He takes ownership of her. He calls her His very own family. And still, not just as a brother. As a father to a daughter. Exactly what she needed. She needed a loving father to tell her she was clean and accepted and loved. He renamed her from “unclean, outcast” to “daughter”.
Just like the scripture I’m memorizing this week says, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.”(Psalm 72:20-21). This is that scripture in action. It is such a beautiful story.
It’s a lesson about faith as well. This woman could’ve easily had a defeated mindset and said to herself that she can’t go to see Jesus. She could’ve thought that her problem was too big for Him. That she can’t even be touched so how could He heal her. And she would’ve missed the miracle and stayed suffering and alone for the rest of her life. But she didn’t. She took all her pain and desperation and said to herself, “I am already alone and suffering, what else do I have to lose, I might as well try.” It sounds like she had a mentality to try everything she could to get better. She tried doctors numerous times and spent all she had. Jesus was her last hope. And it took A LOT of faith to push through that crowd and believe that touching His robe would do something. She could’ve been one of those people (like me) who patiently just wait on the side thinking you’ll go up if they call you or not wanting to push other people out the way because you want to let go them go first. And then you miss the opportunity. No, she was desperate and starving for help and healing. And she got it. Her faith healed her. She refused to accept a life of suffering and believed for more.
How much in our life do we just accept that this is how it is and stop believing for more or better? He has more available to us. Philippians 4:19 of Amplified Bible says, “And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Two things in there. First of all, “fill to the full”. Makes me think of eating or drinking something that you really want. Like if you go to Sonic and get an Ocean Water, would it be ok if they just filled it up 3/4 of the way? Or when they bring you your fries and the fries aren’t coming out the top, no one is happy with that. You feel short changed, like I paid for a FULL thing of drink or fries. There’s more that can be added. Are we actually taking to the full all that Jesus says is available to us? Or are we just accepting what is brought out to us? Are we just accepting that “well, I may not be completely healed of depression but at least I’m not suicidal anymore. So that’s good enough”. Or “well, my back isn’t completely healed but at least I can get up and work now”. That’s just settling and accepting the bare minimum. which brings me to the second point, that God say He supplies my needs according to HIS riches. So like if me and a millionaire were both given a check for $100 our reactions would be completely different. I would personally be so grateful and to the rich person he would be like this is just pocket change. Our perception of the $100 would be completely different. Or better yet, let’s say I then asked the guy if I could have his $100 as well for one of my needs, he’d be thinking I could take it but really there’s more that I could be asking for if I wanted to. To him, he could give me thousands or even millions, more than I’m really even understanding is possible. And that’s what God is saying. If you have faith and see past your doubt and people calling you “unclean” and “unacceptable”, if you can see past your own perspective and see the possibility of the blessings according to HIS riches, then He can bless you more than you can even imagine. He didn’t just heal her. He healed her and then also publicly made her acceptable again. He went above and beyond. She just needed to have faith to believe God’s promises.
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.” Ephesians 4:3-6
I’ve been getting really convicted recently about my attitude with people. It’s not an outward attitude. I’m pretty sure everyone that knows me considers me to be a nice, thoughtful person, but I feel like God’s been highlighting something about me and I really don’t love what I’m seeing.
Sometimes it shows itself in judgement. Like the other day I was in my car in New Orleans and saw a guy under the bridge drinking a beer and throwing the can into the canal. I said out loud, “Oh that’s real nice,” sarcastically. Immediately it hit me like what is wrong with me? What the guy was doing wasn’t great behavior, but what business do I have to judge? I have no clue what’s gone on in his life that’s brought him to this place of drinking alone under a bridge. If I call myself a Christian and say I believe that God created us all, then why am I thinking so disrespectfully about another person? I should be praying for him if I see him in an obvious lost place. Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” Real love does not judge.
Sometimes it shows itself in anger and bitterness. I have people in my past who have abused me, like many of us do, and I have someone who is currently hurting people I care about. Anger from being hurt is so hard to let go of. You try to just let it go and say you’re fine but it always finds its way to creep back up. Have I ever really tried to just pray for those people when feelings of anger come up? Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” I am so quick to complain about them instead and wish they’d just change or that things in my past were different, but that is accomplishing nothing. Prayer is what actually does work. These people are obviously going through their own inner demons otherwise they wouldn’t be doing the things they’re doing. It doesn’t make their behavior acceptable, but us just returning the bad behavior is keeping the cycle continuing. God’s word says, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”(Romans 12:21)
Lastly, sometimes it shows itself through just straight up not paying enough attention to what’s going on with other people. I was at an Easter outreach last week. Outreach, like my whole purpose being there was for those lost people. Towards the end, a woman walked up to me and asked if she could get an Easter basket for her nephew. We were already done giving them out, was supposed to be anyway, so she got told no by the guy who was in charge. A minute later I walked down to a different area and ran into the same woman. She saw other people right behind her get baskets and asked why they could but she couldn’t. From the minute I first saw her, right up Til this moment, the expression on her face never changed. She looked so angry, stared directly into my eyes, but behind it you could see she was about to break. Her face was like stone, but it showed in her eyes. I had no idea how to react, I was so intimidated by her anger that I just gave some random response to get myself out of the situation and she walked away. I thought about her the whole way home and a lot since. I keep seeing her face and wondering what has happened in her life. What was going on that she was about to break under? But I couldn’t see past my own feelings in the moment and be there for her like I could have. I could’ve been so much more helpful to her. Instead, I just became another person trying to pass her off to someone else.
All in all, I feel like it’s an attitude of not seeing us all as one in God, like the scripture in the beginning of this post says. An attitude that’s missing the point of our purpose and just thinking of myself. God desires ALL His children to be united. Judgement, anger, and avoidance all cause division. I’ve been given the gift and privilege of being able to learn God’s truths, and it’s something I’m not meant to keep to myself. It’s not meant for me to just be like “oh good, I’m saved” and leave others to find it themselves. I speak about believing Jesus for the impossible but then speak with no faith of me or others ever changing. Why do we tend to lose that faith when it comes to our own personal circumstances? Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” The world tells us that praying does nothing and that faith is stupid. That people are bad and it’s pointless to try. But we are not meant to follow the ways of this world, we are meant to follow Jesus.
Father, help us to lose the hopeless, faithless mentality of this world. Help us to see things as you see them. Make us more like Jesus every day. To see that there are more options than the ways of this world. Amen.
“This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I read this verse this morning and I feel like it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I’m feeling so discouraged this morning. Some old wounds from past abusive relationships are carrying into my current relationships. It’s like until I can heal these old wounds, I continue to play out the same dynamic in each of my relationships today. I feel controlled by fear. I always feel controlled by fear. It’s the invisible cage that I keep myself locked in. But God’s word says that I don’t have to be locked in there. He says for me NOT to be afraid. He says that there’s an option. I don’t have to stay locked up, I don’t have to be afraid. “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I think we get it twisted sometimes. That we think that if God is with us wherever we go then everything should work out perfect and that we should feel peaceful at all times. That’s not what He’s saying. I think He’s saying it in a supportive way. Like He is behind us & beside us. Imagine when you’re going through something difficult and a friend comes to support you or a parent. It’s not that they make all the problems disappear, but they are there to support you in whatever way you need.
He is there to walk us through each and every situation that we find ourselves in. We are never alone, even when we feel completely alone. I feel completely alone in my hurts but the reality is that I’m not. He will allow me to feel and process what’s going on inside and sometimes that’s extremely painful and scary, but He will NEVER let me fall beyond what I can handle.
Today I still don’t feel great. I still feel anger about things and discouraged and alone, but I know He is here with me. That He WILL see me through. That He sees ALL of us through.
There’s a story in Luke about people saying that Jesus must be casting out demons by the power of satan, not from God. They said, “no wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from satan, the prince of demons.”(Luke 11:15) Like as if He could only have that ability by satan, as if satan is stronger than God. So Jesus says, “You say I am empowered by satan. But if satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive?…But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the kingdom of God has arrived among you. For when a strong man like satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe – until someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.” (Luke 11:18-22) I mean BAM, Jesus just busts all up in their comments and is like, “you think satan is so strong? Well I straight up knocked him down and took all his stuff.” Like it’s nothing.
I love how alive and real the Bible is. Couldn’t you picture a scene like that in a movie and all the people around listening being like “ooooh burnnnn” like Jesus just totally shut those guys down. Anyway.
By saying all of satan’s “belongings” I believe that’s meaning all of his demons and all of his tricks. Everything the devil tries to throw out at us, as big & scary as they seem to us, is nothing to Jesus. They immediately fall under His authority. And ours. This picture gets painted of Jesus as so quiet & peaceful & letting people beat Him without saying a word. As if He is a doormat. But there is NOTHING weak & quiet in a statement like the one He just made in that story. He’s so confident & secure in His authority. He was peaceful but not in the way that we think peaceful. Like in a way that I fall into doing by trying to smooth over arguments so there’s no conflict with me & other people. He was not afraid of conflict. He actually says, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household.’ If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”(Matthew 10:34-37). Basically saying that if we are not willing to speak God’s truth & stand by what He says, trying to just be in good standing with people, then we are against Him. God is first priority, then family. But that’s a whole thing I could get into another time.
Jesus had an inner peace. He had security & peace in who God was & who He was in God. Knowing those two things gave Him the unstoppable ability to stand up against anything that tried to overpower Him. Even the pressures of what people close to Him thought about Him. He knew the truth & that they were wrong & had no problem saying it. I’m so grateful that we have such a strong & bold Savior. I’m so grateful that He is our example of how we can be. It gives me hope that I can overcome any internal obstacle that tries to keep me down & quiet.
“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down… he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5
It’s taken me a long time to finally grasp some kind of real understanding in my heart about Jesus dying on the cross. I guess because you always hear it so much in your life it’s like it loses it’s meaning. I had head knowledge about what He did, but I couldn’t make a heart connection. At the beginning of this year I was going through a really rough personal time. I felt completely broke and just desperate for God in a way that I hadn’t ever been before. Like desperate to the point of feeling like I couldn’t take my next breath without knowing He was right there. In that time of seeking Him out, it FINALLY broke through from my head to my heart. He showed me that all of these ways I felt, the shame, the depression, the anxiety, He took THOSE things to the cross for me. Isaiah says that Jesus carried all my sorrows and weaknesses. I always thought that when it was said He died for my sins then it’s just about the bad actions that I’ve done. That He died so I could be forgiven and have salvation – period. And He did do that but He didn’t just stop at that. It’s not just something that we get to enjoy once we die, He took these things on Himself so that we can be free and healed and whole NOW. Today and into eternity. Sin is anything that separates us from God. And when I choose to not believe His word and hold onto my shame instead of trusting Him, it becomes sin for me. It becomes rebellion. It’s me choosing to hold onto it and tell God that He is wrong, that I can’t be free, and that He can’t handle what I have, that only I can handle it. You don’t feel at the time like that’s what you’re doing but it actually is. Jesus took ALL of my shame. Everything in the past and everything shameful that I will EVER do. He took it so that nothing could separate me from God. He broke the divide. He took the blame for me so that I could be set free. The door to the prison that we keep ourselves locked in is open, all we need to do is to receive that pardon and walk out.
What is the wall? The wall can be something that is different for everybody. It’s whatever holds you back in life. For me, sometimes that wall is pride, sometimes it’s fear, and sometimes it’s just being unaware and going through life on autopilot. Maybe yours is a hurt you can’t let go of or a lie that you’re believing about yourself. We all come from different backgounds and stories. Yours may be similar to mine or completely different. Whatever the wall is, we all have one thing in common. God the Father. He is the ONE thing that unites us all in or differences and he is our one hope. Whether you acknowledge that fact or not, the solution to tearing down that wall and living a more fulfilling life is in the truth of His word. Walls are built up and made stronger over the years and are not taken down so easily, but with each truth that we learn, one brick gets taken down and a little bit more light from the other side is able to shine through. In this blog I’ll be taking you with me as I journey through God’s word to find out how it relates to me (to us) today. A journey of taking down this wall that’s been built up around me and into the light of real, authentic life.
Side note, I am not a writer and definitely do not use correct punctuation or anything. This is being written out just however I think it. So don’t hold it against me when it’s looking crazy 🙂 thank you.
I pray that this can be as helpful to any of you the way that it is helpful to me. That through this God speaks to you about your own story and enables you to take down your own bricks.
So…Welcome to my blog!