Thursday, November 12, 2015

True Joy and Satisfaction

This week I had an aha moment. As I was preparing for my women's Bible Study, one of the questions struck me deeply. It asked what we seek to live by - the things that proceed from this world or every word that comes from the mouth of God. As I pondered this question, the light came on and I began to understand the struggles of my heart over the past few weeks. Since returning from a funeral several weeks ago, I have been quick to anger, easily irritated, and critical of my boys and my husband.

During my study of God's word this week, the Lord opened my eyes to see again that true joy and satisfaction can only be found in him. The things of this world will never satisfy. When I seek to find my satisfaction and my joy in the things of this world, like food, obedient children, everything in order with everything in its place and everyone doing what they should be doing when they should be doing it, I find that these things never satisfy. Not only do they not bring joy and satisfaction, but they put me in bondage and keep me from finding satisfaction in the only One who gives true joy. For I will only find true joy and satisfaction in Jesus!

In Hebrews 3 and 4, we are exhorted to not harden our hearts in unbelief as the Israelites did when they wandered in the wilderness. Unlike them, let us believe by faith, that we might enter into the eternal rest of Jesus. Let us trust in Jesus as our Savior and king and hold fast to our confidence firm to the end. "For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." The Israelites sought to find their rest, not in God, but in the things that God gave them - in water, in food, in peace from their enemies. And they never ultimately found rest, for they never realized that their rest was found in God and not in the things of this world. Now we are called to not harden our hearts as the Israelites did, but to look to Jesus for our rest.

Only Jesus satisfies, and only Jesus brings ultimate joy and rest for all of eternity. When we seek to find our rest and joy and satisfaction in the things of this world, we will always find that they will never truly satisfy. When I seek to find rest in a clean house, obedient children, and in keeping up with a packed schedule with everyone where they need to be at the right time, I will find that this does not satisfy or bring me true joy. My children are not perfect, and they will disobey, grumble, and fight among themselves. Traffic will happen. There will be moments when I have to choose between staying on schedule and stopping to wipe tears, comfort a heart that has been crushed, or listen to a story that matters a lot to the sweet boy who is telling it. Then, if I am seeking satisfaction in these things, I will become overwhelmed as I try to catch back up to my grueling schedule, or I will respond with irritability and anger as my day hopelessly continues to run 10 minutes behind throughout the course of the day with no way to catch up. I will respond with anger to interruptions that slow down my ability to catch up or quarreling boys that require my time to sort things out and help their little hearts. At this point, my search for satisfaction has put me in bondage to time and order. And even if everything does go perfectly one day, with children obeying and playing well together, a clean house that remains clean all day, and a perfectly kept schedule, I will ultimately find that this doesn't satisfy. It just leaves me wanting more. Instead may I look to Jesus for rest, for joy, and for satisfaction. For when I (when we) look to him, we will find that he gives us eternal rest. He gives us joy and satisfaction for all of eternity. When we trust in Him, we will never hunger or thirst. He will satisfy us fully. So may we find our joy and satisfaction in Jesus today!

"I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." John 6:35

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

Photo Credit: Misha Seger Photography

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Our Helper Who Fights For Us

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 118:5-8
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Psalm 118:13-14 
When we think of the attributes of God, most of our minds quickly turn to his peaceful, saving attributes. We think of him as our heavenly father, whose steadfast love never ceases and whose mercies never come to an end. He is our Savior who loves us and brings us peace with God. But in Exodus 15:3, we see that God is also a man of war.

Although we cannot see it, we are in the midst of a cosmic battle between God and the forces of darkness. The god of this world is blinding the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel that God is shining into their hearts. The devil is actively scheming against us with lies, accusations, and half-truths in an attempt to persuade us to doubt and disobey God. Satan is in direct opposition to God, and this battle is of eternal significance.

In this battle, our God is a man of war. He does not sit idly by as Satan wreaks havoc on this world. He battles for his people. And the same right hand that brings deliverance to his people brings judgment on his enemies. The Lord is sovereign, and as Pharoah learned in Exodus 15, if you fight against God, you lose. Our God strikes terror into the hearts of his enemies. He overthrows them and will completely and ultimately destroy them.

So when we are in distress, let us call on the Lord. For when we cry out to him, he will answer us. He is the God who saves, and he will be faithful to save us. Not only will he answer us, but he promises to set us free. This does mean not that our circumstances will suddenly change and we will no longer suffer from the temptations and trials of this life. But what it does mean is that our saving God will set us free from the bondage of sin. In this spiritual battle we are fighting, God promises that when we cry out to him for help, he will help us in the midst of our circumstances. He will be our refuge in the storm. As we look to him, he will free us from our anger, our bitterness, our fears and anxieties. He will free us from sin's power over us.

The Lord, the man of war, is on our side! Therefore we have nothing to fear. In this world we will have troubles. Jesus has already warned us of this. But we can take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world. We may suffer persecution or harm from others during this lifetime, but ultimately people can do nothing to us. Their harm is only temporary. God's salvation for us is for all of eternity. Just has God has saved us through the death of Jesus on the cross, he will surely bring us home. Oh what a day that will be! One day Jesus will make all things right for all of eternity and completely and ultimately destroy all who are in opposition to him.

Not only is our God, the man of war, on our side, but he is our helper. What hope that gives us. We are on the winning side, and we have the Lord helping and strengthening us daily to continue the fight. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, so the Lord has given us weapons to wield that have divine power to destroy strongholds. Satan hates us and delights in seeing the power of sin strangle us. But with Jesus on our side, we will look in triumph on him who hates us. Since Satan is fighting in direct opposition to God, when he fights us he is also fighting God. And when someone fights against God, the sovereign man of war, they will lose.

This is our hope. God helps us and gives us his divine power to destroy the strongholds of sin in our lives. When we cry out to God, he answers us and helps us and frees us from the bondage of sin. He frees us from the bondage of fear, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, and anxiety. God frees us from sin's power over us. So now we can look in triumph on him who hates us.

So often as Christians we think of God's saving grace as a moment in time when he saved us from our sins at the cross and brought us into his family. But we forget that we need his continued help and grace every moment of every day. Once we have been redeemed and justified by the blood of Jesus, we often try to continue to sanctify ourselves in our own strength. But as Psalm 118 says, "it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." When we trust in ourselves and try to fight against sin in our own strength, we are fighting a spiritual battle with the weapons of the flesh. When we battle this way, we will surely fall. We will find ourselves fighting a losing battle against an enemy who delights in seeing us broken under the bondage of sin.

But thanks be to God, he does not leave us here! In the midst of our brokenness and distress, when we cry out to the Lord, he always answers us. Even as we are pushed so hard that we are falling, he promises that he will help us. He will not leave us to be crushed under the bondage of our sin. He will give us his strength to fight. He will be our salvation! So no matter where we are today, let us call out to the Lord. No matter how defeated we feel in the battle against sin, let us cry out to the Lord in our distress, and he will answer us and set us free!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

He Knows and He Cares

This past month, the weight of grief has been heavy on my heart. As I have looked at the suffering around me and grieved deeply with dear friends, two verses have brought me much comfort in the midst of my tears and sorrow.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Isaiah 53:4a
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 
God is near to us when our hearts are broken. He saves us - saves our souls - when our souls are crushed under the weight of our grief and sorrow. And not only is God near to us in the midst of our brokenness, but he knows and understands our griefs and sorrows. Jesus himself bore them when he was pierced for our transgressions. We can feel like we are so very alone when we are grieving. Even when others are with us, we can feel as if they don't understand. But we are never alone. God is with us. Even when we don't feel that he is there, he is. And he understands. What a comfort it is to know that God understands our grief and our sorrow, and he understands it because he has borne this exact same sorrow and grief that we are bearing. He knows it perfectly.

In Isaiah 46:3-4, God says: "Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save." 

God created every intricate detail of each one of us with the specific strengths and weaknesses that we have, and he has put us in communities with other people around us who also have strengths and weaknesses. And God has promised us that he who created us just the way we are will be faithful to us all the way to the end. His steadfast love toward us will never cease. His mercies freely given to us will never come to an end. He has made us, and he will bear our burdens with us - the burdens of disabilities, depression, physical ailments, financial need, broken families, and the death of loved ones. We will never walk alone. He will carry us. And one day, he will ultimately save us for all of eternity. One day there will be no more tears and no more grief and suffering. One day we will see Jesus face to face and all things will be made right. Oh glorious day!

And until that day, let us never forget that God hears our cries for help. God hears our groaning and weeping and grief. He sees our suffering. And he knows. He understands. He cares. He will never leave us or forsake us. Great is his faithfulness to us!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Explaining Disabilties To Children

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to go into Zach's school and talk with the elementary school students about disabilities. As I talked with these young students, I thanked God for giving them the opportunity to begin learning at a young age about His good plan, even in disability. 

Here is what I shared:

I am here today to talk about people. All of us, as people, are created by God. And one of the things we know about God is that, as the creator of the universe, He is creative. He loves to create things that are beautiful and unique – things that when we look at them, we will be amazed at their beauty and respond by worshiping and praising the God who created them.

People are the capstone of God’s creation. After God created everything else, He created people. And He created us in His very own image, so that we would display and communicate what He is like and how great He is. Every single person is created in the image of God. God also created every single person to be unique – different from every other person. God creates some people to be tall and some people to be short, some people to have straight hair and some to have curly hair, some people to have darker skin while others have lighter skin, some people to be really good at sports and other people to have a talent for music or art, some people to love math and understand it quickly while others struggle through their math but love to read. God creates us all differently, and our differences are all beautiful to Him. God never makes mistakes in what He creates. In Psalm 139:13-14a it says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Sometimes our differences don’t seem very big. But other times, we can see the differences in people right away. God creates some people with disabilities. A disability is something that causes a person to not have the ability to do something in the same way that most people can do it. Some disabilities are physical, like blindness or the inability to walk. Other disabilities are cognitive, which means that they affect the mind. Cognitive disabilities affect what a person understands and how fast they can think through information. People with cognitive disabilities have a harder time learning things, and it takes them longer to learn to do something than it might take you or me. Disabilities can also affect the senses and cause people to be very bothered by loud sounds, bright lights, things touching them, tastes or textures of foods, and strong smells. Sometimes people are born with disabilities, like a baby that is born without eyes. Other times, people become disabled later in their lives from accidents or illnesses, like a soldier who loses their leg in a war.

A phrase we often use to describe people with disabilities is “special needs”. When we say that a person has special needs, what we mean is that along with having the same needs that other people have, a person with a disability also has needs that are special and unique to them. They need extra help for them to do ordinary things in life. For example, a person who cannot walk might need a wheelchair or a walker. And they will need ramps to get into buildings with stairs and elevators to get from floor to floor in a building. A person with cognitive delays might need extra help from teachers in school to help them learn to read or learn new math skills. They might need therapy to help them to speak clearly or write neatly. When a person with special needs goes to therapy, a therapist who is specially trained in teaching specific things will work with them 1-on-1 to help them learn to the best of their abilities. A person with cognitive and physical delays might even need therapy to help them learn to walk, eat, and talk.

When we see a person with a disability, it is easy to just notice their differences – how they don’t walk like us or talk like us or even look like us. It is easy to see what they can’t do, or to notice the things that they do that are different. We can think that they are strange. Sometimes people with disabilities make noises that we can think sound strange or even funny. Sometimes people with special needs are loud when others know it is time to be quiet. Sometimes a person with a disability moves their body differently than you move yours. But it is important to remember that God has a special plan for their lives just like he does for ours. Just because they are different doesn’t mean that they are wrong or broken. It just means that they are different. God doesn’t make any mistakes. He created people with special needs fearfully and wonderfully just like He created each one of us.

Every single person that God has created is fearfully and wonderfully made. This includes people that are our friends and people whose differences annoy us or even scare us. Because God created everyone, and everyone is created in His image, He instructs us to love those around us and to be kind to them. When we are unkind or unloving to the people around us, we are being unkind and unloving to those who are created in the very image of God.

But sometimes it is hard to know how to be kind to people with disabilities. Sometimes we don’t know what to say or do. So what does it look like to befriend a person with a disability? One thing to remember is that people with disabilities are still people, just like us. A person with special needs wants to be loved, just like you want to be loved. People with disabilities want to be included and have friends, just like you do. People with disabilities want to be welcomed and appreciated just for who they are. Doesn’t that sound like something you want? So, when you notice someone with a disability, it is ok to look. We all notice when people are different from us. But as you are looking, remember a time when you were a new person somewhere, or when you were different from the people around you. How did you want to be treated? Did you want to be welcomed? Did you want to see a friendly face? People with disabilities want the same thing.

So, the next time you see someone with a disability, you can smile at them. You can go over and say hi. If you’re playing a game of basketball and someone in a wheelchair is watching, invite them to play. They may not be able to play the same way that you play, but you might be surprised at what they can do! If you are playing with friends at the park and you notice someone with special needs watching, invite them to join you. They might not be able to keep up, and they might not exactly understand how to play, but they will be so happy that you asked. And when you talk to people with cognitive special needs, be patient. Sometimes it may take someone with special needs longer to think about what they want to say, or it might be harder for them to get the actual words out. Sometimes you might have a hard time understanding what they are saying. Sometimes they might have a hard time making eye contact while they talk to you. But remember that they are a person, just like you, and remember to love them and respect them by listening just like you want to be respected and listened to when you are talking. Sometimes a person with a disability might not react the same way you would, and they might not be the same kind of friend that you would be. But they can still be a good friend.

As you are kind to people with special needs and get to know them, I think you will find that God has given people with disabilities special gifts too. There are lots of things that we can learn from people with disabilities. The people that I know with special needs are some of the most diligent, hard-working, and joyful people I have ever met. Because things are not easy for them, they have learned to not give up when things are hard.

My friend Amy, who struggles to move her body and has a special motorized wheel chair to get around, sets an example for me of what it looks like to be thankful in all circumstances. There are lots of things that she cannot do. But she is always cheerful, and she thanks God for all of the blessings and gifts He has given to her. Instead of taking life for granted, or complaining about the things she is unable to do, Amy is thankful for all of the little things in life that God gives her – all of the little things that you and I often forget to even notice.

My son Wesley, who has a cognitive disability that affects his mind, works harder than anyone I know. In addition to school, he works for hours every day on things that might come naturally to you or me. He doesn’t quit when something is too hard. He keeps trying, time after time after time, until he finally figures it out. And then, once he does learn how to do something, he rejoices. He is so proud of himself that he wants everyone to know what he can do so that we can all join in celebrating with him. Often, it is easy to just move on to the next thing once we have accomplished something, but Wesley reminds me daily that we ought to slow down and celebrate. Everything that we have comes from God, and everything that we learn to do is a gift from God. So let’s stop and celebrate and thank God for his gifts to us each day!

My son Wesley also sets an example of what it looks like to be a good friend. He is quick to forgive, not holding a grudge against people who have been unkind to him. He loves his friends with all of his heart, greeting them with big smiles and cheerful words. He welcomes his friends joyfully and affectionately. In this way, I want to become more like Wesley – a friend who makes others feel welcomed and loved when they are around me.

Because we are all created by God in His image, we are all precious to God. We are all people who reflect a bit of God in our lives just by being who God made us to be. And God loves us just the way we are. He never intended for us to all be the same, and He has a different and special plan for each one of our lives. Part of His plan for our lives includes being kind to those around us and loving them just as God loves us.

Now we have some time where I can answer questions. Does anyone have any questions about disabilities, what God thinks of disabilities, or how we can love people with disabilities?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Most of our lives are spent waiting.

Abraham waited twenty-five years from the time God promised him that the whole earth would be blessed through him until the time that his son Isaac was born.

The Israelites waited 400 years until God sent Moses to deliver them out of Egypt.

The Jews waited another 400 years for God to speak to them after Malachi, the last prophet, prophesied the coming of John the Baptist.

And now, we wait too. We wait for answers to prayers. We wait for God to act, to move, to show us that He is there, that He cares, and that He is mighty to save.

So in the midst of our waiting, how do we not lose heart?

We must believe that God is faithful. He will do all that He has promised. 

"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2 Peter 3:9

"...I am watching over my word to perform it." Jeremiah 1:12

God is at work. Every word that He has promised, He will watch over to make sure that it comes to pass. He knows the perfect timing for His promises to be fulfilled. We can feel like God is not listening to our requests, or that He doesn't care about our needs. We question his love for us and demand proof in the form of signs and wonders. But these demands only show the state of our own hearts, like a child demanding that their parent buy them a set of Legos at the store and insisting that a refusal of such a demand is proof their parents do not love them, all the while not knowing that their parents have been saving up to give them a big, extra-special Lego set for their birthday. Just as the child does not know the plans of his parents and the good gift they have for him, so we don't know the Lord's plans for us. What we do know is what He says in His word: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" Jeremiah 29:11

To not lose heart, we must believe that these words are true. We must not insist that God show his love for us by answering our prayers in specific ways but instead trust His loving hand. God's plans for us are for our good. And He is faithful. He will do all that He has promised.

We must remember what we are waiting for.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:10-11

"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4

Here on earth, we will face trials and suffering. Things will not go perfectly. Children will die; hard-working parents will lose their jobs; relationships will struggle; people will suffer with disabilities, depression, pain, sorrow, and grief; we will muddle through the thorns and thistles of this life, slogging along and feeling as if we will never reach the end of the race. At times it will seem as if God doesn't care. Doesn't he see that we are wasting away? If so, what is He going to do about it?

As we look to God, wondering if He sees our suffering, and if so, if he even cares, we must remember that this world is not our home. This lifetime is not the end. Jesus even said to his disciples, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

This is our hope! Jesus has overcome the world! He is coming again! And He is coming to get us! The things that we see, the here and now - these things are transient. They will come to an
end. Our hope is in what we don't see. Jesus. He is eternal. And He will one day restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us for all eternity. He will dwell with us, wiping away every tear from our eyes. One day, there will be no more disability, no more depression, no more grief, no more pain, no more suffering!

When we set our hope on that day, trusting God's promise that it is coming, this strengthens our hearts to wait for Jesus with a hope that will not disappoint.