Seeing the God Who Sees Me

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The angel of the Lord found Hagar…” Genesis 16:7

You know the story of Abraham and Sarah – childless and old, God promised them a son, but in the waiting, they grew impatient and Abraham slept with Sarah’s maid Hagar, and she conceived. But their act of faithlessness caused tremendous grief for the Egyptian slave-girl. Twice Hagar wound up in the desert, weary, hungry and frightened. On her first excursion, Scripture tells us “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert” (Gen. 16:7). The Hebrew word for “found” means “to cause to encounter.” God purposefully put Himself in Hagar’s path to cause her to have an encounter with Him. He set Himself right where He knew she was going because His heart was tender to her.  Hagar gained precious insight into who God is.  Realizing that the God of her master was very much aware of her and her plight,  She named the Lord El Roi – “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).

After the birth of Ishmael (which- by the way – means The Lord has heard – Gen 16:11) Hagar and her son were forced to leave their home with Abraham and Sarah.  When their meager supplies of food and water ran out, Hagar recognized their inevitable deaths.  She put Ishmael under a tree and walked away, so as not to watch her weakened son die.  She and the boy were both crying, and God once again came to Hagar and assured her that He was aware of their plight.  Genesis 21:19 says, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”  Oh, do you see the beauty of this passage? El Roi – the God who saw Hagar, now opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see.  He showed her a well of life-giving water that would minister to their bodies and to their spirits.

You may find yourself in some difficult places and very hard circumstances, but I can assure you that you have never been out of your Heavenly Father’s sight.  There is no place you can go that God will not be.  Whether they are physical places, emotional pits, and spiritual dark caves – God has promised, “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) The truth is, it’s often in those hard places that we see the God who sees us. Had Hagar not been lost in the wilderness, running from the hard hand of her mistress, she would have never encountered the Lord and come to know Him.  I know this to be true in my life.  So often I have discovered aspects of God that I would have never known had I not been in difficult circumstances.  When I was unable to put food on our table, I discovered Jehovah-Jireth – the Lord who Provides (Gen. 22:8). When I was desperately ill I found Jehovah Rapha – The Lord our Healer (Ps. 103:3). When I was discouraged and fearful, Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace (Jud. 6:23-24) and Yahweh-Tsuri – The Lord my Strength (Ex. 15:2) came to encourage and strengthen me.  If you are in a difficult season, look for God to reveal Himself to you in a new and encouraging way.

Beloved, if He was faithful to a frightened, lost Egyptian slave girl, and He will surely be faithful to you.

The Life of the Party

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“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you . . . “ (Psalm 42:6)
I used to throw amazing “pity-parties.” Like celebrations of ancient royalty, I could stretch a good bad mood for days on end. Of course, these soirees were always a solo affair. No one ever seemed to want to come. But a good pity-party was best when it was just me and my dark thoughts. Well, I stand corrected. There was always one guest I could count on every time: Satan. He loved my parties almost as much as I did. He brought the snacks and fed me hopeless thoughts and dismal forecasts. He lowered the lights and played the music of loneliness: “See, nobody notices that you are down. Nobody cares about you. Nobody loves you.” He was the perfect companion and kept the “party mood” going.
But something happened – or Someone happened. God. I discovered an incredible thing: it is hard to keep a pity-party going when God is around. Misery flees when the love of God is present. Despair has no place where there is hope and peace and Joy. Lies cannot exist in the presence of the Truth. And Satan will not stick around when God is in the house.
I still have down days and I will always fight against depression, but I’ve discovered a new way to “party.” I invite God as my Guest of Honor. He feeds me with His goodness and love when I meditate on His Word. I listen to the Spirit now instead of Satan’s playlist. I take negative thoughts captive and replace them with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. God had brought light where there was once only darkness. He truly is the “Life of the party.”

I Need Peace

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I need peace. I need peace in my home and peace in my mind. I need peace in the midst of struggles and anxiety. I need a peace that doesn’t depend on knowing that everyone in my family is behaving and there’s enough money in the bank. I need a peace that doesn’t hang on having all the answers. I need a peace that:

  • “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). In today’s language that means I can have a peace that doesn’t make sense, a peace that defies the circumstances of my life.
  • looks up, that “sets your heart on things above” (Colossians 3:1). Peace comes when I keep my heart set on “the hope that is stored up for me in heaven” (Colossians 1:5).
  • trusts in the heart of my Father, knowing that He is aware of my needs (Matthew 6:3) and is not just able to meet them, but delights in doing so (Matthew 7:9-12).
  • doesn’t deny the real challenges of life but “lets the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). That is, I need to let the words of Christ answer my doubts and questions.
  • knows I’m not alone, that God is always with me. A peace that knows “the LORD your God . . . will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). 
  • calms the storm within me, even while the storm rages around me. I need to hear Jesus say to my heart and mind, “Peace. Be still.” (Mark 4:39).

How do I get this peace? Can I make it? Where can I buy it? Could I even afford it?

There’s only one place to find this peace – Jesus. And it is free for the taking. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). Jesus offers real peace for real life. Do you need peace today Beloved? Come to the source where peace overflows. Come to Jesus.

Steadfast Peace

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“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3)

I blew it last night.  I lost my debit card at a gas station last night and I didn’t even realize it until I got a Facebook private message asking me, “Did you lose your debit card at such-and-such gas station?”  I dug into my purse and, sure enough, no debit card.  I quickly messaged the person back: “Yes, I did!  Is it still there?”  The answer: “No, I have it, I didn’t want to leave it at the gas station.  We are eating supper now after church.”  I messaged back: “Thank you! Tell me where and I’ll come to you to get it” And I waited, keys in hand, for the response.  Nothing.  More waiting.  No response.  Thirty minutes went by and nothing.  I tried to call.  No answer.  I messaged again.  No response.  I checked my messenger every 3 minutes, no response. No response. No response. An hour later and I sent another message: “Please let me know how I can connect with you and get my debit card back.”  Crickets chirping. By this point my anxiety level was through the roof.  I checked my account on-line to see if the card was being used.  Thankfully not.  I agonized over whether to have the card cancelled.  But she said they had been at church, so there was a little hope.  We went to bed and my mind was a whirlwind of anxiety.  I lay down, eyes squeezed shut and tried to sleep.  I sensed a brief flash of light from the bedside table.  She messaged me back: “Sorry, my phone went dead.”  Relief flooded my mind and heart as I messaged her back and arranged to pick it up. I finally drifted off to sleep.

This morning Isaiah 26:3 floated through my mind.  I realized I had blown it.  I lost my peace.  I worried and fretted, imagining all sorts of scenarios of my card being used and my account being drained.  I was the antithesis of the person in this verse.  My mind was everywhere but on the Lord.  Surely the same God who had just taken us from the pit of joblessness, homelessness and despair and blessed us so richly, could be trusted to safeguard my debit card.  The truth is, I had not even thought to ask Him to.  My mind was nowhere near Him.  I had no peace in the situation.  And to make matters worse, I had just come from a Bible study where the lesson was on peace!

Our lives are constantly in flux – ups and downs with sudden curves and more than a few potholes.  But our hearts don’t have to be.  If we keep God as the center of our thoughts we can peacefully endure all the uncertainties and sudden changes that come at us.  What if I had immediately prayed, “Thank you for securing my lost debit card.  I know it is safe in Your hands, no matter whose human hands are holding it.  Help me to trust You to get it back to me.”  If only I had remembered that God is trustworthy in all things that surround me, that He cares about my life and the things that concern me, I would have saved myself so much anxiety and sleep.

Maybe your concern is something bigger than a lost debit card.  Maybe it is a lost relationship, or a hard diagnosis, or a financial pothole that keeps you up at night.  I’ve been in those too.  And God has been faithful. You and I are not people in despair with no hope.  We are the people of God and He cares about everything that touches our lives.  Everything.  And with that assurance we can – we must – take hold of our thoughts and redirect them to Him.  Only then can we weather these hard things with peace.  Beloved, has He ever let you down?  I didn’t think so – and He won’t now.  Peace is a byproduct of trust and trust comes when we consider the faithful record of God and His righteous, loving character.  The saying goes: “No God, no peace.  Know God, know peace.”  We need to know Him, trust Him, and stand steadfast in faith.  Beloved, you and I can have a perfect peace because we have a perfect God who cares for us perfectly.  Steadfast peace is a soft pillow on which to lay your head; trust God – and get some sleep tonight.

When All Is Lost

Hagar and Ishmael had been banished to the desert with just a skin of water and no direction. When the water ran out so did Hagar’s hope. She couldn’t bear to watch her son die, so she set him under a bush and walked away. As her tears fell, God sent an angel to comfort her and give her hope. And water. The Scripture says “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water” (Genesis 21:19). A well. In a desert. Just at the moment she needed it. Right where she stopped in her hopelessness.

There are volumes here we can learn from this account, and a good preacher could get a month’s worth of 3-point sermons out of this story. But here is my take-away: God brings hope into hopeless situations. He gives water in the desert, peace in the storm, direction in the wilderness, and light in the darkness. He is watching with tender care to meet you wherever your struggles take you. Whether you are in the desert or on a stormy sea – if your life is a train wreck or you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, God knows right where you are Beloved. He knows exactly what you need. He will meet you in the middle of your hopeless situation. Just when you think all is lost, God says you are found.

Advent Day 21 – What’s on Your Christmas List?

 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

What Do You Want for Christmas? Jewelry? Clothes? Something for your house? (Maybe a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle?J) 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 one who has lost their joy David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy is found in Immanuel – the God who is with us.  If you need hope this Christmas, 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,’” but poured out on you lavishly, without measure and overflowing.  In fact, this same verse fills your desire 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 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 is the greatest Gift of all and your heart’s deepest longing.  No, this gift isn’t jewelry, toys, or clothes wrapped in paper and ribbons sitting under your tree.  It is the peace, joy, hope, and love of God wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Advent Day 20 – The Gift of Peace

Note: I am pulling this devotional from the 2013  Advent series because I need this reminder in this season of my life.  I hope it blesses you too!

“Peace! Do not be afraid.”  Judges 6:23

At Christmas we celebrate our loved ones with gifts.  We consider the recipient and choose carefully something that will have special meaning or significance to them.  I enjoy giving gifts that I know someone would love, but that they wouldn’t get for themselves.  When God considered us, He chose to send us a gift that we couldn’t give ourselves – the gift of peace.

One of the biggest barriers to peace is fear.  We have all experienced fear of some kind.  I have a fear of heights. One of my friends has a fear of crowds, another a fear of tight spaces.  Some fears are good for us, like the fear of snakes.  Some are common to most of us as in the fear of the dark.  For some people fear takes on irrational proportions and becomes an unhealthy psychological problem.  We live in a world that breeds fear and causes us to look at others with a question, “Should I be afraid of you?”

There is also fear that invades our minds and hearts – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death.  With so much to be afraid of, is there any way to be at peace?  Yes, because we have a Prince of Peace and His word to us is “Do not be afraid.”

In fact a quick and non-exhaustive search of those words shows at least 76 times in Scripture that we are told “do not be afraid.”  God knows us so well.  He knows that we will become fearful at times, and He knows we need His peace.

How can we have peace when we are afraid?  Psalm 56:3 is the perfect answer: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid.”   The answer to fear is trust.  We can trust God and rest our fears because He is faithful.  His Word is filled with His promises – promises that will bring us peace if we will trust in the Promise-maker.  We have His promises that He will always be with us – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9); “the LORD your God . . . will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  We have the promise of His strength – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  We have the promise of His deliverance – “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose” (Jeremiah 15:13). We have the promise if His blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

And if all that were not enough, we have this promise from Jesus Himself: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

This Advent season hear the angels proclaiming the greatest news man can ever know:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14 (KJV)

Read Psalm 29

Advent Day 11 – The Heart of Peace

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“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Peace is a very popular topic today.  Politicians and world leaders meet in an attempt to bring peace to conflicting nations.  The radio plays songs about peace, and great orators give inspiring messages calling for peace.  Yet there is so little peace.  The world is full of war, pitting nation against nation.  Neighbors battle one another, and even brothers and sisters, parents and children are at odds.

Can there really be true peace in this world? There can, and the One who can bring peace is the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ.  He came to bring true peace; not the man-made peace the world seeks, but the peace we desperately need, peace with God.

While the world points to men and nations as the cause of strife in the world, the true peace-breaker is our sin.  Sin brings hostility within our family, our church, our community, and the world.  That is because at its truest essence sin causes us to be God’s enemy.  That is a harsh thought, but according to the Bible, it is the reality we inherited from Adam and Eve.  Sin in the hearts of human beings creates enmity between man and his Creator.  But Jesus Christ came to bring peace between God and man.  Listen to Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God’s love for us is so great that He paved the path to peace with the life of His Son, Jesus. Only when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, will we know true peace.  “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

This peace starts in one man’s heart, and as it multiplies in other hearts, true peace begins to take hold.  This world is looking for peace, longing for peace, even – strangely – fighting for peace, but we will not find peace at a conference or in songs or speeches. And we surely won’t find it on the battlefield.  Peace can only be found in a manger, wrapped in rough cloths and adored by ragged shepherds and all the angels of heaven.

Read Romans 5:6-11

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.

Advent 2015 – Day 19 – My Testimony – From Darkness to Joy

adventcandlesweek3“You turned my wailing to dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent” Psalm 30:11-12

Painters often use dark colors to emphasis lighter tones in a scene, allowing the contrast to draw our eye to the most important part of the painting.  A writer uses crisis and conflict to build tension in a story; when the resolution comes the reader experiences joy and relief.  At times our heavenly Father uses dark tones as He paints the portrait of our lives.  This is my story.  This is how God took me from wailing to dancing and from sackcloth to joy.

Like most of us, I’ve had “blue days” when my heart and mind were in a low place, but they usually came and went and I rode them out like waves at the beach.  But when a tsunami of anxiety and depression hit me and knocked me off my feet, there was no riding it out; this was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  The constant bombardment of hopelessness, anxiety, and despair never left me.  Almost daily, I battled thoughts of ending my life to stop the mental torment.  There was nothing I could do to help myself. There was no shaking it off and no bootstraps to pull myself up by—and even if there were, I didn’t have the strength to grab hold of them.

So how did I go from hopelessness to standing here with the sun shining on my face; to once again pursue my dreams and find joy in my life?  Only God.  “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).  I was indeed in a deep and horrible pit, but the Lord rescued me.  He spoke tenderly to my heart from His Word. He listened as I poured out all my emotions to Him. Often I simply sat quietly in His presence, His love and compassion enveloping me.  Slowly but surely, light began to dawn in the darkness and joy took root in my heart like a tiny seed stretching itself toward the sun.

Why am I letting you see this side of my life?  Because someone is struggling today just as I struggled then.  Someone is in a deep, dark pit of despair, on the verge of giving up.  I want you to know beloved, there is hope and joy for you—because God is for you.  He rescued me and He is able and willing to rescue you, because He loves you.    My prayer today is that you will receive God’s healing love and experience His joy this Christmas.  Please cry out to God – right now – and receive His love.  I am living proof that God can turn your darkness in to joy.