God Loves You

God loves you. Do you know that? Do you believe it? The Bible says it from Genesis to Revelation. The cross shouts from before the foundation of the world: “I love you!”
“But,” you say, “How can God loves me when my life is such a mess?” I don’t know your personal struggles today, but I want to assure you, they don’t change what is true. They can’t stop God from loving you.
I want to challenge you today to take God at His word by taking His Word for yourself. Paul speaks a beautiful confession of divine love in Romans 8:35 – I want you to make it your own. Here’s what I want you to do: Read this passage and add in your own struggle:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword . . . or bankruptcy or losing your job or divorce or homelessness or . . . what is that thing, you think is coming between God’s love and you? An abortion? An affair? An addiction? No, my friend – neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future [nor your past] nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [and everything is created], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now if you eliminate every hardship, every sin, everything in your past, present, and future, even death – what have you got left? Nothing. Beloved, there is nothing – not one thing that comes between you and God’s love. Believe it. Receive it. Rest in it. Nothing is truer than God’s love for you.

The Secret to Bible Study

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“They are not just idle words for you – they are your life.” Deuteronomy 32:47

I’ve had so many people ask me “How do you know the Bible so well?” and “What is the ‘secret’ to life-changing Bible study?” I’ve been a Bible student for 35 years and a Bible teacher for 25. I’ve been in countless “How to study the Bible classes” and attended seminary to gain a better handle on the Scriptures. I’ve learned the hermeneutical, exegetical, in-depth, precept-upon-precept methods. I dig into word terminologies and contexts, run down cross-references, and study commentaries.

But I found the most important secret to Bible study is this:
T – Turn off all distractions
I – Immerse yourself in the text
M – Meditate on the words
E – Every single day

All in the Family

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In John 17 Jesus made a request of His Father: “My prayer is . . . that all of them would be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so the world will believe you have sent me” (vv. 20-21).  It made me think of the sweet season of ministry my family had with college students in Tallahassee. Through our church, we “adopted” a young man away from home as our “watch-care son,” who became our son. He had a key to our house so he could do laundry while we were at work. He was at our table several days a week. I sewed patches onto his National Guard uniforms. I took homemade chili to him when he was sick. We hosted birthday parties, bonfires, and Thanksgiving dinners and He and His Dad spent Christmas with us one year. It was not unusual for him to crash on my couch. I talked him through break-ups and prayed him through the loss of his grandmother. I made many airport runs. He called us Mom and Dad and my son called him brother. When he got married, we were in his family pictures. It was a sweet relationship that continued long after he graduated from FSU. He didn’t just hang out with our family, he was family.

And he brought other friends into our family. Many, many students had their feet under our table and we often sat together around the Word. It was not unusual to be in Wal-Mart and hear a thick Chinese accent call out “Mom Beth! Mom Beth!” We still stay in contact with many of those students who call us their “second family.”

I think that is a small picture of the relationship Jesus prayed for. That we would not just hang out with the Father, Son, and Spirit, but that we would be part of the Triune family, with our feet under God’s table, crashing on His couch, crying on His shoulder, and bringing our friends home with us.  I can’t wait for that family reunion! Beloved, will you be in the family portrait?

What Could Be Better Than Jesus?

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“Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything, and followed Him” (Luke 5:27-28).

Tax collectors were a hated group in Jerusalem. They were usually Jewish men who made a fortune off the backs of their neighbors. The Roman government set a certain amount that the tax collector was expected to secure, anything above that went into their own pockets. And it was well known that these Jews-turned-Roman-moneybags had very deep pockets. No doubt Levi (also called Matthew) was the same. He was living the good life at the expense of his fellow Jews.
So, what would make a wealthy man set aside all he has to follow a religious teacher? We can understand fishermen leaving a life of hard labor and little income, but what was it about Jesus that compelled Levi to give up his profitable tax booth and all it afforded him? Was it popularity? No, Jesus was only popular with the outcasts of Jerusalem. Was it power? No again, Jesus was a political and religious outsider with no discernable power (at least that men could see). He gave no promise of earthly wealth and had no position to offer. Surely then it was Jesus’ charisma. Hardly. Isaiah tells us the Messiah had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him.” Why, then, would Levi abandon a lucrative position and walk away from everything at a two-word invitation? I think he realized that everything this world had given him was meaningless and empty – and Jesus is everything that truly matters.
Beloved, what has the world given you that is better than Jesus?

Are You the Kind of People God Uses?


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I live in the south where heritage is a big deal. I recall often hearing my grandmother and aunts talking about someone new to the community and asking “Who are their people?” They wanted to know if the new comers came from a family with a good reputation (and money of course). In the first century, during Jesus’ day, one’s family lineage was everything. Only men from the line of Levi could serve in the temple, and the royal heritage was reserved only for those descended from Judah, and from David to be specific. That is why the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew (1:1-17) is so surprising. Jesus’ family heritage was anything but stellar. Matthew records at least three liars, two adulterers, a thief, a cheat, a murder, a womanizer, an idolater, a woman who was from a despised race, a prostitute, a man who impregnated his daughter-in-law and a host of foolish people. God chose this family of dysfunctional human beings to be the earthly lineage of His Son.
Aren’t you glad to know that God isn’t looking for perfect people? He’s looking for people with a messed-up past to bring the power and beauty of His Son into the world. He’s looking for people like you and me with scars that tell others our stories of redemption. He’s looking for the most unlikely people to show off His majesty and glory. Beloved, if you have a past – or even a present – that is filled with mistakes and regrets, you are just the person God is looking for. If He could turn all my ashes into beauty, imagine what He can do through you.

I am a Christian – and I am Depressed

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“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.” 2 Samuel 22:29.

I don’t want you to think I am some super-Christian through the words I write.  I am just as prone to the struggles and hardships of life as anyone.  I love Jesus with all my heart – but I struggle often with depression. And this week has been very hard. The truth is, I always write to encourage myself as much as to encourage you.  Someone reading this is in the dark place of depression. I don’t know your name, but I am writing to you today.

You are doing your best to be a good, faithful Christian.  But you’re questioning your faith because of the darkness.  And the enemy is using that to his advantage.  I hear the accusations too: “If you were really a Christian you wouldn’t be depressed.  God is so disappointed in you.” I hear the reminders that Christians are supposed to be full of joy, joy, joy!  But you’re not.  I am writing this so that you, my weary and hurting friend, will know that there is no shame in depression – even for Christians.  The Bible shows that we are in very good company in this cave – Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, and Paul all expressed similar emotions and seasons.  Many of the great men and women throughout Christian history struggled with depression.

I am also writing this to let you know that God loves you – even in the pit or desert or cave of depression.  He is not angry or disappointed with you.  He has not written you off.  He has drawn near to you like a caring parent does when their child is hurting.  He speaks gentle whispers of love and encouragement, and He tenderly wipes away the tears on your face. Let Him love you – it is His greatest delight.  Let Him minister grace to you.

Beloved, there is hope for you and for me in the face of depression.  God is too good to leave His dear child in pain. He will turn the darkness into light.  We have His Word on it.

Where can I find Peace?

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“You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 32:7

For as long as I can recall, even from childhood, I have been searching for a protector.  It seemed that the ones who were in a position to protect me ended up being the ones who hurt me, or just left me vulnerable and alone.  I wanted to know someone heard my fears and would “take up my cause.”  Through my adult years, I’ve more or less learned how to fend for myself.  But still, there is this ache to know that I can let my guard down for just a little while because someone is watching out for me.

So this morning, when I read this verse, it touched that vulnerable place deep in my heart.  I do have a protector.  It is my Heavenly Father.  When my weary heart cries out: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 36:7), I know that He will be my hiding place and I can “take refuge in the shadow of [His] wings” (Psalm 57:1). Nothing can touch me there, no foe can reach me, and no disaster can overtake me because [He] will protect me from trouble.

That is the sweetest word I have heard in a long time.  I am tired, my mind, body and spirit are weary.  My Father knows that and bids me come to that protected hiding place and to “lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). I do not have to climb high mountains or walk through burning deserts to reach my safe place.  I only have to cry out to Him and He will “come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22:19). Then I am to take refuge and restto lie down and sleep in peace, knowing that He is on guard, ever vigilant, with His wing tucked securely around me.

There is no greater refuge than this.  There is no greater peace than this.

Are you weary?  Do you also need a protector?  Have all the “safe places” of the world failed you?  Friend, seek the only place of true safety and peace.  Come and find rest in the shadow of His wing.  Let Him “quiet you with His love” (Zephaniah 3:17). Fall asleep amid the sound of Him “rejoicing over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

And if He Does Not . . .

I prayed every day for three weeks. We thought he was going to make it. He endured three surgeries and overcame so many obstacles to recovery. But last Friday – three weeks to the day after his motorcycle accident, my brother passed away. So many of you were part of the roller coaster ride and my family and I are so very grateful for your prayers. You were as shocked as we were when we got the sad report. My brilliant, funny, talented, annoying brother with the dry wit and crooked teeth is gone. There will be no more Mark Twain quotes. No more rants about the crooked government. No more picking on his sister. No second book for his new series – Bracken and Platt are forever silenced.

I prayed so hard and believed God for a miracle. After all, He is Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals. He could heal my brother. He could mend all his broken bones. He could restore his neurological function. He could save his life. He could shield me and my family and his children and friends from this grief and pain. But He didn’t. God took Jim home and our hearts are broken.

But He is still God and He is still good. And I still trust Him with my heart and my soul and my life and the lives of those I love.  Like the three Jewish young men in Babylon who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, I know that “the God I serve is able” . . .“but even if He does not . . .”[1] I will never stop believing. I will never stop trusting. I will never stop loving. I will never stop worshiping. My brother is gone, but the next time I see him – and my mom – it will be forever.
No one is promised tomorrow. Hug your loved ones today Beloved.


[1]. Daniel 3:16-18.

Forgiving Myself

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“Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven” (Luke 7:47).

She is the town tramp with a well-earned, shameful reputation.  Women whisper about her when she walks past and pull their children close lest her degenerate nature somehow infect them.  Men look at her with disdain – on the outside at least – and lust for her on the inside.  No self-respecting religious authority would publicly be seen near her.  Yet here she is kneeling at the feet of Jesus, weeping tears onto His dusty feet, tenderly drying them with her hair and anointing them with expensive perfume – no doubt funded by her illicit acts.  She is a sinful woman.  And Jesus loves her.  He who alone has the authority to judge her, instead forgives her.  The sin she carried into the house is left in a heap at those perfumed feet and she walks out forgiven.  I cannot image that she spent the rest of her life wrapped in a shawl of shame grieving her past.  So why do we?

Through many years of serving in women’s ministry, the most oft-repeated statement I hear is: “I just can’t forgive myself.”  What if I told you forgiveness is not up to you?  Sweet friend, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, your past – regardless of how ugly it is – is covered by the all-sufficient, all-powerful, perfectly-cleansing blood of Jesus.  Hear what the Lord says: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).  If God doesn’t remember your sins, why do you need to?  They are gone. Done. Washed away.  If you continue to carry the weight of your sins around, you are saying that Jesus is not a sufficient Savior and that God is a liar.  He has declared you forgiven through the blood of Jesus – why would He say it if it were not so?  Why would you continue to hold onto something that is no longer there?

Here’s the bottom line Beloved.  God has already forgiven you through Jesus’ sacrifice.  There is nothing left for you to forgive.  Leave your shame at the foot of the cross and claim the new life you have been given.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1.

Be Silent!

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One key point to Bible study is the principle of repetition. When God repeats something it is because He wants us to pay careful attention to it. One word has been repeated in my daily Bible Study this week, and not just repeated but almost raised up off of the page – like 3D print. I’ll share the two verses with you and see if you can spot it.

“The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him” (Habakkuk 2:30)

“Be silent before the Sovereign Lord” (Zephaniah 1:7).

I’m sure you guessed that the word is “silent” and in Hebrew, it is an interjection. For those of us who’ve been out of school for a while, an interjection is an abrupt remark made to snap the listener to attention. Thus, these verses would be delivered sharply and with an exclamation. “Be silent!” Why? Because you are before the Sovereign Lord who is in His holy temple. Because – if we really knew Him, we would be on our faces in silent awe and adoration. This is the One who rules and reigns in holiness and righteousness and complete authority.

What impressed my heart so clearly is the contrast of this command against the shouts of protest and words of anger that are so prevalent in the United States right now. Many Christians are asking, “What are we to do? How do we respond?” I believe we are to turn our eyes away from the scenes of violence and hatred and turn them to God. I believe we are to come before Him in silence, recognizing that “the Sovereign Lord is in His holy temple.” In other words, He is still on His throne. He is still reigning over all the earth. He is still in complete control. He is still God.

Wicked men have been causing chaos and destruction since the beginning of time. But none of it has unseated the Lord God. He always wins in the end. Always. Read it again. A.L.W.A.Y.S. Friends, evil has not won the day, because the day is not over. God will never let His people down. Never. Read it again. N.E.V.E.R. Besides, I read the end of the book. Evil loses. God wins. Beloved, don’t be anxious but turn your eyes to Almighty God. And be silent.