Your Promised Land

cover0123-gate“See the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord the God of your fathers told you, do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” (Deuteronomy 1:21).

 When the Israelites first stood at the threshold of the Promised Land, they went out to explore the territory and were astonished at the good land that awaited them.  It was everything God has told them – rich and fertile, good for supporting livestock, with settled towns and homes waiting for the wandering people of Yahweh.  But – and sn’t there always a “but” – there were also giants inhabiting the towns.  Despite the assurances of Moses, Joshua and Caleb that the Lord would fight on their behalf, the Israelites balked at pressing on.  They let fear take away the blessings God had promised and caused the whole community to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

What I see so profoundly in this verse is that, even before they set foot in the land, it was already theirs.  God had already declared it for them, all they had to do was move ahead into what was theirs by divine decree.  Yes there were giants in their way, but if God had already declared it to be so, would He not also move every obstacle in their path?  Of course He would.  But they would not trust Him and so they let the Promised Land slip through their unbelieving fingers.

Some fifteen years ago, God promised to use me as His spokesman, to share His Word and His Truth.  There were some mighty big challenges before me, and I took more steps back than forward, but He has been faithful to bring me to what He declared over me.  This post and my blog (https://dbethandrews.wordpress.com) are part of that, and I hope there is even more ahead. I don’t know what God has set before you as your “Promised Land.”  I don’t know what giants are in your path.  But I know that if the Sovereign King of the universe has spoken a promise over you, you need to step into that promise and watch Him move the giants and make it happen.  What God declares is as good as done.  Beloved, it’s time to march on.

Blooms in the Desert

flower-in-desert

“O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

“Lord, I just feel so dry, like the cracked ground of a desert,” I wrote in my prayer journal.  It was the best description of my life. As David has written centuries earlier, my soul felt dry and my body was weary.  It had been like this for many months.  Oh I was in church regularly, I was active in ministry and I shared the Word in classes, in my writings and in conversations.  But in my heart I knew something was missing.  My spirit longed for Living Water.  In my parched state, I pleaded with God to send relief.

As He so often does, the Holy Spirit sent me on a “Biblical scavenger-hunt” to see what the Word has to say.  He took me to Exodus 14 the account of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt where Moses, through the power of the Lord, caused the sea to part and the people crossed over “on dry ground.”  He took me to Joshua 3 where again the Israelites crossed the Jordan (at flood stage, mind you) by way of a divinely dried up riverbed. They didn’t slug through mud and muck, but walked on firm, dry land.  Then He took me to Ezekiel 37, where the prophet spoke the Word of the Lord and dry bones came to life again, with tendons and flesh and the breath of Life.  Finally, He took me to Isaiah 53 and reminded me that Jesus was called “a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground,” (v. 2).

In all of these He reminded me that dry seasons can be the gateway to the Promised Land.  They can precede a time of awakening and renewal, and they can actually become a place of growth.  I learned through these examples that surviving dry seasons requires perseverance, listening to the Word of the God, and being humble and submissive before the Him.  These are lifelines during this times when our hearts and our spirits are like a cracked desert.

Beloved, if you are in Christ, God will use even the dry seasons of your life to fulfill His plan and purpose.  You need not be afraid, but press in and press on.  There is Living Water in His Word and in His Spirit.  He will send the refreshing you need.  Then “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:1). Even dry ground cannot stop the blossoms of joy!

The Bigger Picture

world-map“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

“I need a bigger map than this,” I complained. “I need to see my whole route.”  The image on my GPS only showed the next several hundred yards in front of me.  But that wasn’t enough for me.   I needed to see my present location in relation to where I wanted to end up.  I needed a bigger picture. 

Of all the lessons the Lord has taught me in the past 45 years, I think the most powerful teaching has been that of gaining a bigger picture.  We live in the moment, in the hours of our days, looking at our weekly schedules and our monthly calendars, planning big events a year or more ahead.  We plan for college educations and retirement and think we’re wise in our future forecasts.  But life isn’t just about our plans for the here and now.  Life – real life – is eternal, and the greatest lesson I’ve learned is to have an eternal perspective in all things.

I’m learning to evaluate every situation and circumstance and consider what kind of impact it will have in eternity.  Is this struggle I am in going to change my eternal destiny?  Will this difficult season continue on eternally?  Yes, this life hands us some very hard and painful things, but this life is also temporary, and eternity is—well—eternal, it’s forever and ever and ever.  Just prior to our key verse, Paul wrote: “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (v. 17).  Though they often do not feel “light and momentary,” in the reality of eternity, they are just one tick on the clock of forever. 

I’m also learning to let the words I say pass through this eternal filter.  Several years ago, God gave me a verse to motivate me towards my calling: “If you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesman,” (Jeremiah 15:19).  I’m making an intentional effort to speak and write “worthy words” that have an eternal purpose.   I ask myself, “Will the words I’m about to say have an eternal impact?”

This eternal perspective affects my desires too.  When I start to feel the pinch of envy, I remember that Jesus is preparing an eternal place for me that my brother’s beautiful, custom-built home can never match.  I will wear a robe of righteousness forever that no fashion designer could ever create.  I will have a perfect body that doesn’t require hours in a gym.  Even the events of this world don’t seem so overwhelming when viewed in the light of eternity.

Thinking back to my GPS, when we have a “bigger picture” of life that culminates in eternity, we understand the journey we are on and the route before us.  We can traverse twisting roads, sharp turns, long stretches and detours with the assurance that none of these will stop us from reaching our final destination – heaven and the presence of God forever.  Beloved, I encourage you to widen the view before you and trust the One who is leading you.  This life with all its heartache and struggle is part of the journey to your perfect eternal destiny.  Let’s travel on together with our hearts set on forever.

What Will You do With Your New Year?

2017-year-calendar-template“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

What will you do with the new year you’ve been given?  What goals and aspirations so you have for the next 12 months?  Start a new job?  Go to college?  Graduate? Buy a house or a car? Get married? Take on an exciting challenge?  I’ve got a couple of my own in that list.  It’s good to have goals, I think we wander through life without them.  It’s important to look ahead and consider possibilities and options and to sketch out some plans for the future.  That doesn’t mean we’re not walking by faith, God gives us wisdom and vision to guide us through our lives.

But don’t let the “big picture” crowd out the details.  As you approach this new year, don’t forget that you’ve been given 365 individual days which are broken into 8,760 hours. Consider that about 2,920 will be given to sleep, and about the same number at work. That leaves another 2,920 hours of “disposable time,” which you can use any way you choose.  That is generally spread out over several work days and days off.    Certainly there are chores and other responsibilities to be done, yet we still have a good portion of that time left over. 

This is where Moses’ prayer in our key verse comes in.  We can use our time to sit numbly in front of a screen, or to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.  We can fill our minds with trivial accounts of the rich and famous.  We can fritter away those hours with mindless distractions or create things that won’t last.  Or we can spend our time wisely.  We can draw closer to our Heavenly Father through prayer and studying His Word.  We can grow in the fellowship of other believers.  We can give our time to Kingdom work.  We can invest well in others; serving, mentoring, teaching, caring, loving.  We can use our words to bless and encourage and build up. We can share what the world so desperately needs: love, hope, and peace. 

It’s really up to you.  God has granted you a fresh, new year and the possibilities are endless. How will you invest the treasure of time you’ve been given?  With frivolity or with wisdom? With mindlessness or with purpose? Beloved, how will you number your days this year?

Faithful Friends

friends“Some men came, bringing a paralytic, carried by four of them” (Mark 2:3).

I just couldn’t pray.  I couldn’t pray because the pain ran deep and wild like muddy water rushing through a broken dam.  I couldn’t pray because I was an intercessor; I’d never prayed for myself.  I couldn’t pray because I couldn’t find the words to say.  My mind was numb, my heart was shattered.  I was a broken woman, paralyzed by the crushing burden I was bearing.  And I had to keep it all to myself.  I was the one others looked up to, the one with wise answers and a verse for every situation.  If they saw me now, I would lose their friendship and respect.  I became very good at wearing the mask and hiding my feelings.  I fooled everyone.

Well, not quite everyone.  Two friends looked past my disguise and saw the raw, open wounds of my heart.  They could not be duped into believing I was okay.  And because they loved me – the real me – they prayed the prayers I could not.  They prayed over me on the phone.  They prayed over me at my office.  They prayed over me at the altar and after Bible study (which I was still teaching).  They prayed over me at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and wherever we were.  They carried me to the Father when I couldn’t carry myself.

In Mark’s Gospel, a group of friends are bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing.  Four of them bore his weight as they held the corners of his mat.  They climbed onto the top of the house and tore away the roof to get their friend to the only one who could help him.  Interestingly, Mark says “When Jesus saw their faith. . .” he forgave the man and healed him.  Their faith.  No the paralytic’s faith.  The faith of his friends.  I wonder if, like me in my time of distress, the man had any faith himself at all.

Someone you know needs your prayers.  Someone needs you to pick them up and carry them to Jesus.  They have no strength of their own.  They are paralyzed by life’s struggles and unable to come to Jesus by themselves.  The Lord honored the faith of the man’s friends, just as He heard and honored the prayers of my friends.  Healing came for the paralyzed man and for me; borne on the wings of others’ faithful intercession.  Beloved, let’s look beneath the surface of our friendships.  Let’s seek out the ones who bear the heavy burdens, and let’s bring them to Jesus.  When my faith was almost gone, the faith of my friends carried me.  Who needs your prayers – and your faith – today?

A Gift Worth Keeping

gift-box“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

I remember a Christmas when my brothers and I were younger and how one gift almost got thrown away.  My Mom was notorious for her “creative” gift giving skills.  We went on scavenger hunts for our presents a few times with notes scattered around the house and yard sending us hither and yon.  A simple watch was wrapped up in a box with a cinderblock to fool the recipient.  It was all fun stuff and we loved it.  One year my oldest brother opened a gift that contained a single bar of soap.  He looked at it, shrugged his shoulders and tossed it into the pile of wrapping paper in the middle of the room.  My other brother opened a box that also held a bar of soap.  But he, being the more curious of the two, decided to dig a little deeper, reasoning that Mom had something up her sleeve.  He peeled back the wrapper on the bar and found a $100 bill wrapped around the soap.  My older brother took one look at it and made a dive into the pile of wrapping paper to retrieve his.  Mom had struck again.

God has presented us with a gift far more valuable than a $100 bill.  He has given us the gift of salvation and eternal life.  But for so many, the gift seems valueless and it is tossed away as we search for something “better.”   The world today offers so much that glitters and sparkles and promises to fill our every desire, but it always leaves us empty and wanting more.  That is because at the very core of every human being is a longing for God – for our Creator – and it can never be satisfied with anything less.  The more we chase after other things, the less satisfied we become. 

God knows that longing within us because He put it there.  He placed His own image in every human and that image yearns to be joined with God in His fullness.  But the first humans choose sin to fill that deep desire and humanity has followed suit ever since.  The desire remains, but our sense of what will fill that desire has been crudely twisted away from God.  And the hunt is on.

Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, to show us what we truly desire is Him.  And He came to be the bridge between sinful men and women and a perfect, holy God.  The gift of salvation is available to anyone who will accept it.  My friend, don’t toss away the most valuable present you’ve ever been offered.  Jesus Christ holds out His nail-scarred hand to you and bids you to receive this indescribable gift and be truly satisfied.

Where is all this “Peace on Earth?”

Photo from fanpop.com

Photo from fanpop.com

 

The news shows and magazines are all doing their year-end reviews, looking over the storylines and headlines of the past 12 months.  While there are a few bright spots, there is mostly tragedy, war, poverty, abuse, addiction, hate, hunger, greed, protests, sorrow and hopelessness.  It’s as if the world has forgotten the greeting of the angel: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).  Where is this “peace on earth?”  Where is this “goodwill?” 

I believe the answer to these questions, in fact to answer to all our questions about the state of the world can be answered in the first words of this verse:  “Glory to God in the highest.”  When we fail to give God the glory He deserves, we are plunged into darkness and our own human depravity takes over.  But if we glorify God, we can see and receive the Light of Life and our hearts are made right.  We do not declare His glory to feed His ego, we do so to redirect and refocus our own minds and hearts on the reason for our existence – to love God and receive His love.  There will never be real peace on earth until there is peace between God and man.  That is why we just celebrated Christmas, because God made peace possible when He sent His Son to earth. 
My friends, always pray for peace on earth, but remember that the true hope of peace is not through a political process or humanitarian effort or positive thinking.  It is only found in  a relationship with God through Jesus Christ – one person at a time, one life at a time, one heart at a time.

Christmas in the Eyes of Heaven

mary-baby-jesus-angles“Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12).

I’ve always wondered about heaven’s reaction when Jesus was born on earth.  What was the Father thinking?  Did He look over at Jesus’ empty throne?  Were the angels rejoicing?  Or were they silent with wonder?  The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically, but we do have a small clue.

Our key verse is short, but it offers a powerful image.  The word Peter used for “look” means “to bend over to look intently.”  Can you picture it with me – tens of thousands of angels bending over the edge of heaven to gaze upon the Son of God in human flesh? The One who, with the Father and the Spirit, created the first human being had now become one of them.  The omnipotent was now a helpless infant, subject to cold and hunger and pain.  The One who provided all men with all things now needed a young woman to provide for Him.  He who called the light forth now squinted His eyes at the brightness of Joseph’s lantern.   He had spoken the animals into being; now they were His only companions at His birth. 

No doubt they marveled at the sight before them, but they were in awe for the purpose of it all.  The Sovereign Lord God Almighty sent His One and Only Son to pay the penalty for humanity’s sin.  They had always known that God is complete love, they had experienced that love for themselves.  But grace. Grace was something foreign to them.  These creatures had rejected and abandoned their Creator; they deserved destruction.  But God offered forgiveness and was willing to accept these rebellious humans.  To the angels it was extraordinary – they recognized the greatness of God’s offer.  Peter said they “eagerly desired” this know grace.  It is a gift only human beings can receive.

This Christmas Day, as you unwrap presents and embrace loved ones, consider with fresh eyes the gift of God’s grace.  It is, in fact, the true heart of Christmas.

What Do You Want for Christmas?

165043-849x565-christmas-giftsWhat Do You Want for Christmas? Jewelry? Clothes? A good book? Something for your house?  Or you just might prefer the one-size-fits-all cash gift.  Sometimes our wishes are pretty big – my son wanted a LEGO® Star Wars Death Star (retail 499.99) – needless to say, he did not get it.  Some of us are satisfied with a bit less.  When I was a little girl, I just wanted paper and pencils – guess I’ve always been a writer at heart.

Or maybe your Christmas list is less tangible – something that can’t be wrapped up and put under the tree.  If you wrote it out it might say “peace” or “joy” or “hope” or “love.” Maybe your list includes “acceptance” or “freedom” or “rest.”  You and I know that we can’t buy those at the mall or order them online.  There’s only one place for these Christmas wishes.

To the one who asks for peace, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  Peace in our hearts only comes through Jesus Christ.  For the joyless David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy is found in the presence of God.  If you long for hope hear God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In the Lord’s hands we have hope – for this life and for all eternity.  Do you wish for love? “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Not just a little, not even a “bushel and a peck” (anybody remember that?), but poured out on you lavishly, without measure and overflowing.  In fact this same verse fills your request for acceptance – God calls Himself your Father and He accepts you as His child.  If freedom tops your list you can find release – the Psalmist says “O Lord, truly I am your servant . . . You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16).  The blood of Jesus breaks the chains of this world.  Maybe you, like me just want a little rest this Christmas.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Just sink back into His arms and let Him carry your burdens and you.

Whatever you long for this Christmas, you can find it in Jesus.  There is nothing on your list that He cannot provide. He who is the greatest Gift of all is ready to give you the gift you most desire.

This Baby

baby-jesus-in-mangerThey say that having a baby will change your life completely, and every parent knows that is true.  You give your whole self away to your child and you never get yourself back.  Your time is no longer your own – your days are filled with feedings and soccer games, and waiting up for them to come home.  Your money is not yours anymore – who ever imagined someone so tiny would need so much stuff?  And then they go to college!  Your priorities are different, your goals are reshaped, and your entire identity is redefined.  And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is a baby who will change your life in far greater ways.  This baby will give your life direction and purpose.  This baby will bring you peace in the midst of a storm.  He will comfort you when you are weary and broken.  He will lift you up when you fall.  This baby will bring you immeasurable joy.  He can wash away the stain of guilt and shame and make you new.  This baby brings hope where all hope is faded.  He brings light into the darkest night.  This baby brings healing of body and mind and heart. This baby will change the way you think and the way you live.  He will transform your heart and cause you to love in ways you never expected.  And if all that wasn’t enough, this baby will change your life forever and ever.

This baby left the glory of heaven to save the entire human race.  He brought peace between God and man.  He broke the chains of sin.  He erased the curse of death.  This baby took on your sin and mine; He bore the punishment that you and I rightly deserved.  He surrendered His body to the cross and the grave.  He did it all so that you and I could have life – full and abundant and eternal.  He gave Himself away so that you could get your self back.  This baby – the Lord Jesus Christ – changes everything.