When my anxious mind is reeling, I usually count on Psalms to give me peace in the chaos. I love how the psalmist perfectly captures the hopelessness found in our human experience and the remedy found in God’s love and support. This week we get our encouragement from Psalm 94:18-19.
Psalm 94:18-19. It says, I cried out, "I am slipping!" but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer."
I love this verse because we do slip. I have anxiety, and I tend to catastrophize situations in my mind. I can convince myself quite effortlessly that the problems in my life are too big, too overwhelming. But, when I am slipping, He is there to remind me that He is greater. I love how in this crazy, messed-up world, Jesus is my rock, my only constant. When doubts fill my mind, only He can set me at ease. How lost I was without Him. My mind reeled with doubt, anger, confusion, but Jesus calmed the storm inside. He brings me to His perfect peace.
When I first started as a Christian, I resonated with Peter. He is stubborn and stands up for what he thinks is right. Notice how I said what he thinks is right. Yea, Peter grew spiritually, and I am too. Now I admire Paul. His books give me so much encouragement. So this week, I started with a small verse from the extended one you see below. It is Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
The whole piece is too good not to share it in its entirety, so please read it below.
Colossians 4:2-6 , "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone."
So, this week let’s devote ourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. First, let’s pray for each other so that God will give us many opportunities to speak his good news. Pray that we, as the body of Christ, would live wisely among nonbelievers. Remember that we need to make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Next, we can pray God gives us pure hearts so our words will be gracious and lovely. Finally, we can pray for our brothers and sisters in chains, bondage, and war. Pray the Lord is working in the circumstances they are in and that they can get the message out to those who need to hear it.
Learning about other cultures and traditions is something that interests me immensely. I am New Mexican, and the customs there are vibrant and affluent. New Mexico is very saturated in old Catholic art and traditions. From the historic cathedrals to the shrines dedicated to the Lady of Guadalupe in the historic districts. Visiting is very much an experience whether you are catholic or not.
You can expect rich customs and traditions from many religions, except American Christianity. I know I must seem like I am always on the attack of American Christianity, but lately, I have been feeling flat in my worship. I crave something more. I read my bible, am enrolled in Bible Study Fellowship, attend church every Sunday, and listen to podcast sermons daily. I try to make Christ an integral part of my day. I still crave more.
I have been learning more about Christianity’s Hebrew roots and Jewish customs. It is essential to know and experience certain things to understand them fully. For example, my boys and I recite the Shema Prayer daily since hearing it in our nightly Abide meditations. My boys have taken to saying the morning and evening prayer and love to say the Hebrew words in the Shema. Doing this has also brought attention to the words in Deuteronomy 6:5-9. My kids have questioned what it means to wear them on your hands and forehead and write them on your doorposts. They have asked why we do not have this written on our doorposts. It has profoundly impacted us. Even though we pray, adding the Shema helps us re-frame our prayers to come to the Lord with reverence and worship rather than just supplications.
The Shema prayer is a Jewish prayer recited at morning and evening services. In the Abide meditation, the gentleman mentions that no doubt Jesus said this prayer every day, which moved me to make it part of our routine. I prayed about it because I did not want to offend my Lord. But, I felt this was something good and was led to move forward because, as you know, He offers discernment when we seek it. He affirmed me, and we are truly blessed. I cannot tell you how amazed I am that my kids have taken to this so well. My boys remind me to say it now, and I hear them throughout the day repeating it. My oldest son already has it memorized and leads us in our prayer.
What traditions and practices do you and your family do together to keep your heart on God?
This week, I remind myself to keep my thoughts fixed on Jesus and good things. I am repeating Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Isn’t it amazing to think that we can please the Lord just by having good thoughts? Our thoughts can determine the course of our day. But, we also have the power to bring life or death with our words, not only for ourselves but to everyone we meet. Our thoughts and words have so much power, so we have to direct them towards Jesus actively. I also really love saying, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. It makes me feel close to Him, like a term of endearment. I find my rest in Him. He is my rock.
Keep your thoughts fixed on Him this week, and see the fruit you will bear!
What is wisdom? The dictionary defines it as the quality of having experience, knowledge, and sound judgment, the quality of being wise. Many would think that having ample knowledge makes a person wise, but on the contrary, someone can indeed be very knowledgeable and still be very unwise. Wisdom knows how to apply knowledge correctly to one’s life.
In the world, at school, we learn that knowledge is wisdom. We digest humanism or man’s view of the world. In this view, we are the center of our universe. Each person is essentially their own god. The problem with this view is that there is no universal truth, no moral standard. What is good in one person’s eyes may not be in another and vice versa. When we remove God’s moral standard, we have no absolute moral standard to measure against, and this can cause an ethical dilemma.
We think we have to look in textbooks and listen to lectures to obtain wisdom, and though those will help us gain knowledge, only God can give proper understanding. God’s word tells us that God is the creator of all things, and living our life by His commandments and absolute principles is what a wise person would do.
The problem with us, as people, is that we are bound to our sinful flesh. We have natural tendencies to accept humanistic thought because our flesh craves it. One way to battle this is to remember that we are a consecrated souls as children of God, and we have the power to overcome these temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” God has given us all the tools to have true wisdom, to walk the path He has chosen for us. It is up to us to choose true wisdom or not.
"People do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4
Do you ever feel like God starts to nudge you when you haven’t put any focus on him? I can feel it when I start to slide on spending time with the Lord in my day-to-day life. I get busy with the kids, errands, and household things. Time goes by so fast, and before I know it, it’s time for bed! It can be so hard to find the time to squeeze God in. That in itself is a problem. I shouldn’t have to “squeeze God in,” so I have to be adamant about making time for him. It isn’t something I am great at, but these are a few of the things I do that help me make the time to focus on the Lord and recharge my soul.
Be Intentional. Like I mentioned, I can feel it when I need to soak in the word. I start stressing, getting irritable, and I know I need to get back into God’s word. It’s not something I do because I feel like I have to, although, for my sanity, I do. Set time aside every day to meet with him and dig into his word. Make sure you can do it uninterrupted. I know it’s hard when you have kids. For me, it either has to be early in the morning or after they go to sleep. I prefer mornings, but I don’t always get to do it then.
Commit. Once you have picked a time that works best for you, You have to commit to doing it every day. You have to commit to yourself and God that you will follow through and meet with him. I know that if I promise God I will, I’m more likely to do so than if I decide on my own. I am currently in Bible Study Fellowship. This year is my third year with them. I love BSF because it is so in-depth, and it is great to have a group talk about what you have learned and hold you accountable. Accountability is always helpful. If you can’t find a person or group, it may be a good idea to write out a prayer of commitment. A study I did with Good Morning Girls asked that we do that, and I loved the idea! Something about having it in writing to God makes it more official and could help you better commit.
Create small goals. Let’s face it. The bible can be overwhelming. I found that it’s easier to commit if I do small studies or set a small goal, such as finishing one book at a time. Celebrate your accomplishments. When you complete a study, reward yourself. I feel like I accomplished an incredible feat when I can finish a devotional in its entirety, and a reward is always nice.
Engage your mind. One thing I have found that helps me is keeping a journal. It helps me focus and not let my brain wander to the kitchen or the kids. Plus, I get to think about what God is speaking to me. Even if you do not like to journal, its always good to at least answer some engaging questions to get the most out of your time in the word. Most studies come with questions of some sort, but if you are studying alone at least think about what message is being taught and how you can apply it to your life.
Engage your kids. I have always loved talking to my kids about what I’ve read. Now my kids are old enough to read with me, and they always have the best questions. My daughter has always had fantastic feedback as well. She loves talking about verses, and I love hearing what God is speaking to her through the same verses, she often hears an entirely different message, and it’s terrific sharing that with her!
If you are having trouble finding time to dive in and soak up the word in a busy world, don’t give up, God is always ready to speak to you. Just take the time to listen! These are just a few ways I can plug in and recharge. What are some ways you find work for you? Comment below!
"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." Psalms 119:105
In my last post, I talked about how important it is to face sin head-on and repent from it. It is not always easy, but choosing this journey with Jesus was always promised to be complicated. Finding a great pastor who teaches biblical truths with a little bit of humor and a lot of conviction can be a challenging task. I am constantly traveling to new places so finding a home church is almost impossible, and I am sure with Covid restrictions, many of you have not been able to attend your regular church services.
I want to share my favorite pastors that I listen to daily. These men have lead me in my walk with Jesus for years.
Pastor Todd Cook of Sagebrush Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Sagebrush is my home church and has been irreplaceable in all my travels. Sagebrush is the church my husband and I were baptized at, raised our children in, and most of our family is still in attendance. Pastor Todd is a wonderful pastor. He is the best at making you laugh until you want to pee and then driving home the message with a straight conviction that leaves you in tears. He is so passionate about Jesus and the incredible things he can do in your life. If you are not a native Burqueño, you can catch Pastor Todd’s message at Sagebrush Church online, or on Sagebrush Church on Apple Podcasts.
Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I have always loved to listen to pastors from Calvary Chapel. Pastor Skip is the head of Albuquerque’s church. He is a fantastic teacher. Skip brings the Bible to life with his vast knowledge of historical facts, his personal experiences in Israel, and a deep understanding of biblical truths. You can listen to Calvary Church online or Connect with Skip Heitzig on Apple Podcasts.
Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.
Pastor Greg is another one of my favorite pastors. I have never visited one of his services in person, but I listen to his daily podcast. His podcast is one that I listen to every morning, whether at the gym or home. I love to start my morning with some fresh biblical perspective. Pastor Greg is known for his Harvest Revivals. He was part of the Jesus Revolution of the 1960s, and he is aiming for a new revolution and massive revival. It is interesting to hear him preach with such excitement and enthusiasm. Here is the link to Harvest online or Greg Laurie on Apple Podcasts.
It is essential to find pastors whose teachings line up with biblical truths and are not afraid to preach them. I have listened to these three pastors for years, and they have always preached the good news in a straightforward but to-the-point way that will be informative, funny, and, best of all, humbly convicting. If you can’t attend church for Resurrection Sunday, I recommend tuning in to one or all of the above to feed your soul on this special day!
Have you heard of these churches? What are some of your favorite pastors?
You do not have to be a conspiracy theorist or a paranoid lunatic to see that the world is in the midst of transformation, be it spiritual or political. Fundamentally our world is changing. Politics around the globe are in shambles. Climate and natural disasters have been increasingly evolving and steadily rising. Religious persecution is happening worldwide, and those of us with religious freedoms recognize the beginnings of oppression. Now, I know there have always been “signs of the end times,” and I am not trying to sound like one of those soapbox preachers on the street corner, but I can’t help but think that in these strange times, I am so glad to have Jesus by my side!
Jesus is the only reason that I haven’t lost my sanity. Now, I have to admit I get angry at how we Americans approach Christianity. I can see that we are often missing one of the main points. We often overlook the weight of sin and the hefty price Jesus paid for us to be free from our bondage. We do not fully recognize the significance of what it means to be a Christian. We can go to church once a week and put in our time, and continue living our lives the way we want.
So what does it mean to be a Christian? Well, the word Christian means little Christ. When you ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life and invite The Holy Spirit to dwell within you, you become a child of God. Your body is now the temple that houses The Holy Spirit. He is there to guide you in the transformation that is about to take place. With the Holy Spirit now leading your life, changes should commence. Our inward faith should be an outward expression. James 2:14 says, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”
The Holy Spirit will search your heart and life and start pointing out the parts that do not align with His character. We should also be reading the Bible to learn how to live out God’s principles. It is essential to know what the Bible says about sin and repent from the evils in our life. Jesus loves us so much that he died a gruesome, humiliating death to cover our sins and give us eternal life with Him.
A lie has been peddled to many Christians that Jesus is not concerned with our sin, that He wants us to be happy. It mortifies me that people believe this because it completely discounts everything my Lord and Savior did on that cross. Let me assure you, Jesus is far more concerned with your character than your happiness.
If you have decided to accept Jesus into your life, God dwells within you! How amazing is that? So please, find pastors that preach the truth about sin, read your bibles, and know that Jesus loves you where you are, but he loves you too much to leave you there!
As you can imagine, life on the road can be lonely. Yes, it’s cool to see and live in new places, and it is great meeting some new people along the way, but sometimes it can feel like there is no real deep connection with anyone. We aren’t always at a place long, and though sometimes we get to have our travel buddies close by, sometimes it can feel like you are so far from the people who know you best.
I have been super lucky for most of the time I have been on the road. I have had travel buddies. I don’t know what I would do without these people. I am incredibly grateful for them and the friendships I have cultivated. Still, a person can get homesick, whether for the home we left behind or the people.
I am also very blessed to have this time on the road to cultivate a relationship with my Lord and Savior. Our relationship has deepened beyond what I ever imagined it could. I sometimes take Him for granted. Just the other day, I was complaining to Him about how I was missing people. Missing friendships like I used to have. Friends that were family, that knew me, that just “got me.” I used that same phrase, “got me.” Life is always changing, and I am in a different season than when I had friends around all the time. I suppose marriage, motherhood, and age all play a part in that. Covid quarantine has also played a role in furthering alienation. That is something I am sure we are all going through.
This morning, Jesus reminded me that I do still have a friend who is with me always, who listens to me complain, who loves me all the time, and who “gets me.” How dumb I feel for complaining to my very best friend about not having that when He provides me with that every day.
Sometimes we need gentle reminders so we can thank our Lord for His grace. He is so amazing. He also reminded me that I have lovely friends that I can serve in love while social distancing. I was complaining about having a cup half empty and not realizing that Jesus filled it so full it is overflowing.
I hope this can encourage someone today. I know many have been in quarantine for quite some time. Remember, you are not alone in this life. People are all around you. You need to reach out and serve in love. Also, never forget that Jesus is there as well, with open arms full of grace!
We all know the phrase, I’m sure. It was a famous phrase in Christian society for quite some time. I remember rolling my eyes as a teen when my mom, who sported about five bands with WWJD printed on them, would say, “Shi, what would Jesus do?”. As a new Christian in my late twenties, I often heard this phrase from my husband, queue eye roll. But, I implore you to revisit this phrase in a time when political polarization is rising, and conservative values seem to be more blatantly under attack.
We should strive to be like Jesus. Who better than Jesus as someone should we aim to personify? Jesus approached the world in a kind, compassionate, and loving way. He loved all people and only despised the bondage of sin that held them. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, I was thinking this morning about how I am supposed to respond when someone’s demons are bothered by my light. There are two characteristics of boldness that Jesus had that we would all do well to practice, especially at times like these.
Jesus knew when to be outspokenly bold.
Let’s take a look at John 2:13-16.
It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area, he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Jesus was bold and outspoken about things that were happening that were wrong. He was not going to stand by and let the money changers defile his Father’s house. Jesus was not afraid of upsetting people, even during Passover Celebration. What they were doing was wicked, and he called them out for it. We need to be bold like Jesus. As Christians, we should not let fear keep us from speaking out about things that are an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. It is up to us to speak the truth in this world, lovingly, of course, but boldly.
Jesus knew when to be silently bold.
Now let’s look at Luke 23:8-12.
Herod was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer. Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. Then Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Finally, they put a royal robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. (Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.)
I always used to think that not saying something would make me weak, but one of the most important lessons I learned from Jesus is how to know when to speak and when to be silent. Silence does not mean you are weak; it can be very bold. It means knowing when your words are going to fall on deaf ears. Jesus knew what kind of man Herod was. He knew Herod’s heart, and he knew he would waste his words and his time. Sometimes we have to take the ridicule and mockery. Jesus did, and he said nothing. I can picture Jesus in my mind, standing there silent. So very strong and bold.
We do not know every man’s heart as Jesus does. We cannot attempt to have this kind of wisdom and strength on our own, but we do not have to. We have the Holy Spirit, and we need His discernment. We need to surrender our fear, and we need to offer Him control of our emotions. He will let us know when to be loud and bold and when to be silent and fierce. We are not alone, we are many, and God is on our side.