He Won’t Let You Go

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18

It hurts to see a friend lose everything. It’s even worse when most of the calamity is because they are running away from a loving God.

I’m watching a girlfriend go through, what she will say down the road, is the worst time of her life. Things have gotten so bad that she believes she has had bad luck. Even her friends say, “She ends up in the worst place at the worst time. Trouble follows her everywhere she goes.” It’s terrible to see the pain in her eyes every time she gets new bad news.

Like me, she grew up in legalism…the strict church, schools, and the culturally irrelevant rules. And like so many people with our background, she chucked it all and then went off the rails. She doesn’t even know who she is anymore. But God does.

Jesus spent His time between His death and resurrection setting the captives free. He led the willing from Abraham’s bosom into Heaven. Job knew that “My redeemer lives.” I bet that he was one of the first people to stand up and follow.

My friend believes shat she is losing everything. But I see it differently. Jesus loves her so much. He remembers the time that she accepted Him. He knows that she is a daughter of promise even though she has forgotten. Her name is written on the palms of His hands next to the nail scars.

If Jesus sees every sparrow that falls, then He certainly sees her. Jesus died so that, even in her wandering, she would never be lost. My friend thinks that she has a gypsy soul but as her sister in Christ, I know that her heart has a home in Heaven.

It kills me to pray for her return only to see her life get worse but I realize that even this is God’s mercy. Dear friend, He will not let you go. I may forget, but He will not.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for never letting me wander too far. I know you will pursue my friend because You care about her even more than I do. In Jesus Name, Amen

 

Journal

-In what ways have you wandered? Where are you now?

-How did God pull you back?

-Write out a prayer for someone that is wandering. If you can’t picture someone to write it for, then please write it for my friend’s return.

Endorsement

God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14

Have you ever been scammed? I just got a phone call from someone who tried to scam me yesterday. Let me tell you about it.

I’m a notorious for screening calls. There are few daily activities that I dread more than talking on the phone. I’m an introvert, even to people that I like. I would rather meet in person or communicate by email. So when I don’t recognize the number, chances are that I’m not going to answer it. Good thing I didn’t answer this particular call yesterday! The scamming company called my parents and even my in-laws trying to obtain my phone number.

Hopefully, we all notice those little clues when someone is lying and attempting to manipulate us.  Their offer are usually too good to be true. So in a world of some good people, but also some pretenders and liars, how are we supposed to know that people are who they say they are? Or even worse, how will skeptical people believe us when we come bearing amazing news? It is a horrible feeling to not be believed.

God told Moses to go back to his people, whom he hadn’t seen in forty years, after having left on bad terms. He was to tell them that they were about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt. Terrified, Moses asked God, “But how will they know that You sent me?” God responded, “Tell them that I AM has sent you.” Moses didn’t think that this was enough so God eventually equipped him to display signs and wonder. He also give him his brother, Aaron, to speak for him. All Moses needed as credentials was the Name. His people knew that name. It is the name that declares who God is. And think about this ~ some day God will write His name on our foreheads. So in a world that is often full of pretenders, God is our endorsement. I AM is all that we need.

Heavenly Father, There is no other name before Your name. Envelope me in all that You are, empower me to do Your work, and keep me safe. In Jesus Precious Name, Amen

Journal

Look up the instances when God’s name, I AM, is used. What do they have in common?

What does your name mean? Do you like it? Why or why not?

Why Choose Leah?

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. There choose life, that you and your offspring may live… Deuteronomy 30:19

Rachel was Joseph’s beautiful mother. She was so lovely that Jacob worked many years for the privilege of marrying her. But what about Leah?

I know many women from both Christian and Jewish families who are named Rachel or Rebekah. They were renowned for being lovely in both face and form. And of course, we cannot forget Sarah. She attracted the attention of kings. But what about Leah? She could not see well or was not easy to see, depending on the translation. For whatever reason, God wanted us to know about how these women looked because their appearance played a part in their destinies.

I can relate to some extent. Many of my closet friends were tall and blond and usually a couple years older. They attracted attention wherever they went. When we put on our childish plays, they would be Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. So who was I? Deep, dark, and adopted, I was always the wicked witch or the evil stepmother. Looking back, I ask myself, why did we never play Snow White…

Anyways, I can relate to Leah. But God chose her to establish the line that would bring us Jesus. Why Leah and not ravishing Rachel? I think we can come up with many reasons but I want to focus on a not so obvious one.

Rachel stole her father’s idols and hid them by sitting on top of them. She stole and then lied about it. I have no idea if she worshiped them or was angry with her father. Maybe she just saw them as heirlooms. Even though this was before the Ten Commandments, God’s people knew that idols were wrong. Leah did not steal the idols when they fled her father. So in a way, she chose God first. God looks at the heart so let’s choose today what God we will serve. From Leah, she of weak eyes, came the “Light that was the Life of all men.”

Heavenly Father, You chose me before I chose You. I revel in Your acceptance and love today. Sometimes I feel like the ugly duckling. But I know that when You look at me, You see a daughter of promise who glows with the righteousness of Your Son. Amen

Journal

What do people judge about you?

What do you judge about other people?

Look up adoption in the New Testament and write about how God sees you, according to Scripture.

Faithful To Each Generation

Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

Do you ever feel like the people that came before you; your parents, grandparents, spiritual giants experienced God in a way that’s impossible to you? It’s a lie that so many people of this era believe.

We know that our God is faithful. Or so we say. But when this comes to our own impossibility do we really trust God the way our forbearers trusted? The covenants and promises that God made to Abraham and Sarah were impossible. When Sarah laughed at the angels who prophesied her son’s conception, it was with bitter grief. Her body was dead to any advent of new life. Sons were a salvation of sorts to women. A son guaranteed a future without shame or poverty. So when this elderly woman gave birth to her baby boy, she named him “Laughter,” or “Isaac.” This time when Sarah laughed, it birthed the promised child.

We often forget that God kept personally visiting this family line. He even visited Hagar, the slave, in the desert. And she wasn’t a part of this particular promise. Isaac, Judah, David, and Solomon…They were a part of the covenant and God visited each. No matter how a sinful people interfered with the plans, God was faithful.

So what can’t you believe today? What is impossible for you? What makes you laugh bitter tears? The God of our spiritual fathers sees you. He hears your pain. God promised Abraham, thousands of years ago, that all nations of this earth would be blessed through him. That promise is for you. Father God was thinking of you as this patriarch tried to count the stars while smelling tired camels and lamb roasting on the communal fire. “For unto us a son is born.” Our salvation. Our guarantee. He’s here. And you can believe Him.

Heavenly Father, Forgive me for trying to syphon off my parents’ faith. Someday I will stand before you alone. Give me hope that You will make a way for my future. Amen

Journal

Read the accounts in Genesis when God spoke to Isaac and Judah.

What did God promise them? Where they always faithful?

 

Our Undiscovered Country

By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11:9-10

Everything that exists and everything that happens is supposed to bring glory to God. We know this. But there is another reason as well.

From earth to sky our purpose is to bring glory to God. Our lives are praise personified. But what about our relationship from sky to earth? Every light, every sparkle, every glimmer gives us hope for the future. While our lives point to the Author of life, all good things show us the beautiful setting that is our future.

God showed Himself to Abraham back when he was still Abram and then showed him his future. Abraham would become the father of a people more numerous than the stars and they would settle in the land of Canaan. But at the time, Abraham’s wife was infertile and other people lived in their promised land. It was a glimpse of hope and a challenge. Abraham’s new name and Sarah’s new name spoke reminders of God’s promises whenever someone called them. Hebrews 11:9-10 says, “By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God.”

Maybe like me, you are waiting on God to fulfill a promise. He keeps allowing us to see rays shining from the edges of the clouds so that we remember that He remembers. And while it is a small thing for God to perform these miracles, we are no small things to Him. We may be specks on our planet but our names are engraved upon His hands along with the nail scars. His track record is perfect, unlike ours.

Heavenly Father, You see what I cannot. You are truth and security so I will not falter in my heart. Keep me.  In Jesus Name Amen

 

Journal

Look up references to hope in the Bible and note similarities.

Why do we need hope?

What do you hope?

He Left His Father

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Family is both the best and the worst part of Christmas. The presence or absence of our loved ones bring so much joy and so much pain, all in the same breath.

I am so beyond blessed to have three sides of my family when most people only have two. My mom and my dad gave me the Wyrtzen and Hewitt families. On top of that, I have my birthmother’s family. Three times blessed! That’s more than most people could ever wish for. And even though I am close to middle-aged, I love the feeling of being drawn in to the warmth of a hug by my mom and my dad. I will always be their girl.

So I’m thinking about Jesus leaving the warmth of His Father’s side over two thousand years ago. Perfect love. Perfect protection. Perfect peace. I wonder what the pain must have been like when Jesus chose, before the foundations of the world, to willingly come and die for us. He knew His Father better than anyone. Then one day, that perfect Father would turn His face away as His Son cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” He chose this, the worst of all heartbreaks, so that we would never be forsaken. Yes, He knew the end of the story, as do we. But that did not take away the pain of the thorns, the whip, the jeers, the nails, and the total, utter separation from all that was good. So if your Christmas is less than perfect, just know and understand that it was only meant to give us a “for-taste of glory divine.”

This is what God the Father gave us. Read this as if you’ve never heard it before. God gave us His son at Christmas to be rejected for us. So let’s give the praise and worship to the Father who gave the gift. Let ourselves weep over what the Son left behind for us.

Heavenly Father, I am blown over by what You gave up for us. You handed us Your Son knowing that we would mishandle Him. You knew that we would malign and murder Him. The love for us that would drive You to do that leaves me breathless. I love You. In Jesus Precious Name, Amen

 

 

The Unwrapping Of A Love Letter

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  John 1:1 and 2

Do you remember what it was like to wait for a specific Christmas present?  The suspense only lasted for, at most, a couple of months.  But what about the gift you might have to wait several hundred years for?  And once you begin to unwrap it, you realize that you can only do so in increments?

The Treasure that she, Israel, had been waiting for expectantly for over a millennia was born in the middle of the night.  He was unwrapped by His birth but then wrapped again, constricted straight as an arrow, in swaddling clothes.  Symbolically, this was an interesting picture because He would never turn to the right or to the left but would keep Himself from evil.  He was the Rock of Ages, the stone that the builders rejected; yet Satan tempted Him by telling Him to turn a stone into bread.  He was the Bread of Life, the giver of the blood that cleanses, but instead of being received, He was spat upon.  Coming with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, wise men would visit the Gift, yet when He was brutally killed, all that was left of value were His garments.

This Gift took thirty-three years to unwrap, but with a single word, the Word made flesh can create, destroy, and will call up His people to His side.  He was born in the dark, helping us understand that not all secrets are to be shared in the light.  As the sun rises slowly in the sky, so it took thirty years for the Son of God to be recognized as the Lamb of God.  We have to be clothed in His righteousness, cleansed by His blood, in order to stand before HIs Father and not be instantly destroyed.  How ironic that He is the Light of the world but most of His creation will choose the dark.

So, this Christmas, will we unwrap the perfect Gift that God the Father gave to us, or will we reject the One Who gave up everything to make us coheirs by His side?

Heavenly Father, thank You for this gift.  I am overwhelmed by the fact that You would give me Your Son to die for me.  You let Him be slaughtered as a lamb so that His blood could cover me.  This is what Christmas is about.  Help me to

never forget it. In Jesus most precious name, Amen

Journal

What do you want for Christmas?  How does the anticipation feel?

Write a thank you note, a love letter, or even a Christmas carol, to describe how you feel about the Gift.

What I Believe

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

Each believer in Jesus has specific areas in which it is more difficult to believe. Our own story distorts what is true. One of the tools that I use in building up my faith is to personalize the Apostle’s Creed. We speak it corporately when we engage in fellowship and that is a powerful experience but what about the doubt that plagues us during the week when we are alone? Here is an example on how to personalize it.

I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, God the Son, was born to a virgin, so that He could reach me.

I believe He loves me and is interested in every part of my life.

Nothing is too small or mundane to bring before Him.

He knows it all anyway.

I believe He is good, even if He does not answer my prayers in what I would consider a timely manner.

I believe He is good even if He doesn’t answer my prayers in the way I want.

I believe God forgives me.

He sent His Son to bleed on a cross

So how can I not believe in that kind of love?

I believe He forgives my enemy.

Yes, even that one.

The one who should be in prison for life.

I believe He is the only righteous judge.

Therefore, I cannot condemn others, no matter how heinous the crime or black the heart.

I believe that Jesus came back to life on the third day and left behind His Spirit to empower you and to empower me in every good work that God preordained before the foundations of the earth were ever created.

Someday, our holy God will redeem and resurrect the bodies of believers who have fallen asleep. My friends and my family who I’ve said goodbye to I will see again. Instead of “goodbye” it should be “I will see you later!”

And Jesus will come back in all glory righting all of the wrongs.

Finally, we will be with Him, in His very presence, forever! Forever loved! Forever light! Forever His!

Heavenly Father, I believe You are preserving and keeping my faith. I long for the eternal inheritance that you have for me that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Protect my heart and my mind from failing for fear.  In Jesus Precious Name, Amen

Journal:

Read the Apostle’s Creed again and then try personalizing for yourself.

Is there a part of it that is more difficult for you to believe? Why or why not?

 

Their Sin Is Ever Before Me

For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.  Esther 7:4a

Love covers, as the Bible says, but it does not cover up.

We usually hear about people either repenting or not repenting.  But what about the gray zone?  What about the times when someone admits they did do something wrong but then refuses to let the person wronged be upset about it?  Or the offender admits that they made a mistake but then refuses to admit that what they did was really a sin against God?  They fail to see their sin as God sees it, so we hear them minimize it.

Because each of us has our own story, we will have a more difficult time forgiving certain offenses over others.  For those things (and for each one of is it’s something different), it’s going to take more power than what we have inside. The sin committed against us calls out the flesh inside of us.  If painful enough, it will even call out the seed of hatred.  It will beckon to steal, destroy, and kill.

We see these kinds of words used to describe what Haman wanted to do to the Jews in the kingdom of Persia.  We also see these same words attributed to Satan’s intents against the children of God.  So, while we may not be dealing with a Haman, we are dealing with the author of death and destruction.   We have to wake up and realize that he desires to bring annihilation to every part of our lives.

There was an edict written in stone when Eve ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden. A spiritual curse went into effect and man could not reverse it.  However, God provided a secret codicil that allowed one sacrifice to change the end result.  The first edict brought death.  The second brought life eternal.  And while we still have sin, death, and pain, we also have a new destiny.  Our bodies will die and decay but they will be redeemed to meet our souls already in the care of our Creator.

In the meantime, what is terrifying is that we don’t always realize that the edict of death has crept into our hearts.  The hidden seeds of hatred and revenge threaten to destroy our legacy.  We can cover, but not cover up.  Each one of us must deal with the agony of being sinned against and face the challenge to forgive as we experience the consequences of someone’s actions against us.

Heavenly Father, Give each of us the eyes of mercy and grace.  There is no possible way that we can forgive on our own.  We don’t even know how to handle the repercussions of being sinned against. How we need your grace and spiritual power to forgive.  In Jesus Name Amen

Journal:

What is the hardest thing for you, personally, to forgive?  Why?

Besides forgiveness, how does God want you to handle the consequences of being sinned against?

Give examples from Scripture that outline the holy ways people responded when wronged by others.

The Trade-in

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. Romans 3:27

If you are anything like me, you can often catch yourself striving for God’s approval. But trying to gain worthiness is the way of Hell.

I am hard on myself, so much so that my friends and family worry about me from time to time. While I’m not nearly as hard on others, I hold myself to a ridiculously high standard. That is one of the reasons I believe that God has allowed an autoimmune illness to come into my life. It has been creeping in slowly, beginning with migraines at age two. I’ve never known what it’s like to not be exhausted and in pain. To compensate, I’ve pushed myself above and beyond to become an over-achiever. I do not have the time of day for laziness and whining. So, some of this is good. Very good, even.

But, do you smell the sulfur of legalism here? I do. I’ve lived it. Illness has forced me to be so dependent on God that I am daily aware that my heart can’t beat even once without Him. While my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, I have joy and know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. There has been very little room for me to get off the right path, but there have been times when somehow I’ve managed to veer off anyway. Through it all, I have come to know that my Heavenly Father boxes me in out of love. I have nothing good to give Him. I have less than nothing because all I have is flesh.

I was grieving in prayer the other day that I didn’t have lovely things (like gold, frankincense, and myrrh) to give the Savior, the One who gave me everything. Then I heard the softest, sweetest reply in my spirit, “Just keep giving me what you have. Trade in and I will give you something better.” The point is that if we give Jesus the soul junk that we harbor, that makes room for His heart to connect with ours. The fact that we care at all means that we belong to Jesus Christ, the ONLY originator and definition of goodness.

Heavenly Father, I look up out of the mire to Your glory. I praise You and am so thankful that You clean me up to be shiny and new. You live in me, making me precious. Being unworthy makes my spiritual adoption all the more lovely.  In Jesus Name, Amen

Journal:

Do you have parts of your life that look holy but are just legalistic?

How do you discern the fine line between disciplined holiness and fleshy legalism?

Write out a prayer thanking God for His adoption, through Jesus, our big brother.