The Worry Fight

Have you fought a few rounds with worry lately? More often than we would like, many of us find ourselves in the ring trying to knock worry out. We fret about things like beauty, money, success, health, family and …. even worry itself! Gradually, worry becomes a fact of life, part of the human condition, or something we expect to come with responsibility.

We stay in the ring, routinely fighting one worry after another, even though we know our efforts are futile. There’s no winning against worry, and we know this. It doesn’t solve anything, but tossing it around in the ring seems to make us feel productive somehow. Then, circumstances change and our current worry opponent becomes weaker. We’re ready to take off our gloves, but then a fresh worry shows up and relieves the old one. So, we stay in the ring, and we keep swinging.

One day a large, unfamiliar worry shows up in the opposite corner. This fight drags on longer than the rest. The punches surprise us. We can’t stay on our feet. Staggering and out of options, we fall against the ropes.

Where do we go from here? Have you been there? I have. I spent a lot of my life in the ring fighting worry, day in and day out. One opponent after another, I stayed on my feet. But, one day the worry was too big and too unknown. It wore me out. I spent some time hanging on those ropes, searching for a way to end the fight with worry.

I read what God had to say about worry. Did you know the Bible tells us ‘not to fear’ hundreds of times? Some sources say 365 times — interestingly, the same number of days in a year. Regardless of the exact number, it is clear God never intended us to fight with worry at all. How did he intend for us to cope?

Humbly Seek God’s Help

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

In Christianity, humility means to hold a modest opinion of one’s importance and abilities in relation to God. Humbly seeking God’s help requires us to overcome any barriers like pride, shame, or even ignorance which stand in the way of our relationship with him. Admitting we cannot find answers on our own opens the door for God to help. Our prayers start a relationship with him, thus serving him in one of the best possible ways.

As we grow in faith, we realize that no problem is too big or small for God. Everything that happens to us concerns him because he loves us, no matter what. We were not meant to handle our problems without his help. However, if we don’t ask him for help, he certainly lets us try (free will). God does not occasionally want our worries. He does not only want to hear about certain things. God wants every concern; he wants ALL our anxiety.

Trust God’s Care and Plans for You

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3: 5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

When worries weigh heavy on our hearts we try anything to remedy our situation – even more worrying. Urgent situations may cause us to forget to pray or to delay it. We might doubt God’s ability to help us. Or, we might wonder why God would even want to help us. Prayer can become our last resort. Trusting God with “all your heart” means trusting him FIRST, not last.

God wants us to rely on him. We cannot control or fully understand our circumstances, but God does. He has a plan for our lives, and he wants to help us find our way. Prayer provides the time we need to free our conscience and voice concerns. Do our problems magically vanish? No. But, prayer can relieve worry by rejuvenating us with God’s hope and new direction. Scripture brings us reassurance and helps evaluate decisions. We start noticing how love shows up for us in times of trouble, and we may discover how our experiences can help us love others. Trusting God, in good times and in bad, helps us discover paths away from worry. 

Share the Load

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

Many of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible use farming metaphors. Farming was a common activity people could relate to. A yoke is a harness worn by oxen to pull a load behind them and complete work. In this Scripture, Jesus asks us to share the yoke with him, so he can help pull our burdens in life. Our troubles may not be removed, but Christ’s strength makes our load lighter and more manageable.

Sharing the yoke allows us to focus on the work we can do and leave the rest up to God. Worry only distracts us from seeing the ways God is helping. Dwelling on the what if’s stall us from walking forward in faith-filled directions. Those directions might include things like asking others for prayers and support, exploring resources, taking care of our health, seeking professional help, or enjoying God in new ways. Focusing on God’s guidance and results, instead of worry, makes us more productive in our circumstances.  

Find Peace and Rest

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

As God in human flesh, Jesus knew what suffering lay ahead. Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, he was overcome with anguish and deep sorrow regarding the agony ahead (Matthew 26:36-39). Yet, because of his faith in God’s sovereignty and good, he left willingly with the Roman soldiers who came for him.

His pure heart had never felt guilt, anxiety, or fear until he chose to become sin for us. By accepting our sin while on the cross, he endured not only physical torture, but infinitely worse, a spiritual separation from God (Matthew 27:46). Because of his sacrifice, his believers will never experience this kind of separation from God; they receive the gift of eternal life.

As believers, we never have to endure anything as horrific as Jesus did. But like Jesus, we must remind ourselves not to fear because we also trust God is in control and working things for good. Faith allows us to face concerns one day at a time and remain assured God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). 

Before he died, Jesus told his disciples he would send peace to dwell within his followers through the Holy Spirit. Our faith ignites the Holy Spirit to offer peace, so even in the most difficult circumstances we know we will be okay. The world cannot offer us that kind of lasting peace.

Fighting worry requires us to bring all our best moves, fancy footwork, and endurance. We’re good fighters, but eventually worry wears us out. Crawling to the ropes, we try hoisting ourselves up. Beaten, tired, and struggling, our minds run out of options.

But wait…someone is on the other side of the ropes. Offering a hand, he pulls us clear of the ring. Turn around. Look at worry now. He’s dancing around, throwing jabs in the air, and searching for an opponent. He can keep swinging. We are done. As our friend and rescuer says, “It is finished”.

When you run out of options, you run into Jesus. 

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” -Mark 6:50 (NLT) 

Press on in faith my friends.

Dear God,

Thank you for your gentle reminders not to worry. You show love and care for me daily through your blessings, people, and opportunities. Keep my eyes open to the ways you work on my behalf so I do not take any of it for granted. Continue teaching me humility so I bring more worries to you in prayer. When I get caught up trying to fix or control circumstances, help me remember to trust your plans and come to you first not last. Help me focus on what I can do instead of worrying about what I cannot. Lead me in finding the plans you have for me. As I feel and see the way faith lightens my load, I pray my peace will also grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Related Posts:

Learning to Pray

Psalm 23: A Shepherd’s Meanings and Motivations

Embracing God’s Plan

Trusting God Along the Eagle Trail

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Living Unashamed of Faith

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There’s a place on Interstate 80 in the middle of Iowa, in the middle of the USA, that takes my breath away. Driving this cross-country stretch easily lulls me into a road trip trance. But, shortly before the Newton, Iowa exit Mother Nature snaps her fingers, demanding I gaze in her direction. And, for a moment, at the top of a hill, I look around and see pure beauty. Fields of Iowa farmland rolling in every direction as far as the eye can see. My heart says, “Home”.

Living and traveling in other states, I often encounter people who openly share their distaste for Iowa. After learning where I’m from, they respond with, “Oh, I’m sorry” or “Gee, that’s too bad.” Upon deciding to move back to Iowa from the East Coast, our family often received the question, “Why would you want to go back there?”

I get it. I do. Iowa is not a top travel destination. The cities here are not major metropolises. There are no Rodeo Drives, no Ivy League schools, no giant amusement parks, and very few national monuments. There are miles and miles of – – – well, land. It gets brutally cold in the winter and horribly humid in the summer.

When people from other states say things like “I’m sorry you’re from there”, it is basically a light-hearted attempt to embarrass or shame me. But, you know what I find interesting? Their comments never make me question the way I think about Iowa. The shaming never causes me to avoid telling people where I’m from or what I like about my state. Yes, their comments bother me. I don’t like shame, but my beliefs and behavior remain unchanged.

Others shame me, but I live unashamed.

Is there something in your life you feel the same way about? A place, person, activity, or thing you call home? Even if someone shamed you about it, would you live unashamed? Are you at ease telling others about your “home” in spite of judgement and criticism that might come your way?

I wonder, what can we learn by applying this logic to faith?

Do we stand just as sure and steady of our belief in God despite the shame that comes our way? Or, do unfavorable comments and behavior make us question and hide our faith? Does expressing our beliefs make us worry about what people will think of us? Are you ever tempted to sweep faith under the rug, just a little bit?

Right now, I’m sheepishly raising my hand. I hope my hand is not the only one up in the air. I have a feeling I’m not alone – that there are others who tiptoe around expressing faith because they do not want to attract questions, attention, or criticism.

This is a tough truth. And, one many of us would like to change. After all, in the Bible, Jesus teaches us to believe it is crucial we live unashamed of our faith.

Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 New Living Translation (NLT)

How do we reach the point where we are as confident about faith as we are about the other things we call home? How do we disregard the shame that comes our way and live unashamed?

Let’s start by going back to the thing we call home. What causes us to feel unashamed about it? Relating back to Iowa, I came up with three reasons.

  • Knowledge

I have knowledge about Iowa. I have learned about its people, values, scenery, opportunities, education, government, support systems, you name it. This learning helps me feel more confident representing my state when I talk to others.

In a similar way, continually seeking knowledge about what the Bible teaches brings self-assurance in faith.

  • Experience 

I have experience applying what I know about Iowa because I do life here daily. I’ve called three different Iowa cities home. It is where I grew up, attended college, raised a family, and made lifelong friends. Knowing Iowa, along with my own talents, helps me make decisions about how to best serve my community and my state. As I contribute over time, I become more vested in Iowa’s future.

Applying experience to faith works the same way. Through life’s ups and downs, we see how faith provides meaning and sustains us. As we identify and use our spiritual gifts, we receive a sense of purpose. The experience of contributing to something greater than ourselves strengthens our faith in something greater than us all.

  • Empathy

The negative comments I receive about Iowa teach me empathy for others who do not understand where I am coming from. Their knowledge and experience differs from my own. They may have their own place they call home. Acknowledging their opinions and pointing out positive attributes of each “home” works toward bringing us to common ground.

Likewise, offering understanding instead of challenging others about faith softens hearts. Maybe by encouraging more faith discussions, people would feel less judged and more loved. A goal of Christianity is to love others, so it makes sense that extending empathy only enhances faith.

It is easy to feel ashamed about faith in today’s culture. We get embarrassed because views of faith do not represent popular opinion in many settings. Unfortunately, declaring belief in a Savior is not mainstream stuff. But, it never has been.

The Bible overflows with examples of people who scorned and mocked Jesus, who refused to acknowledge the proof he continually presented. They shamed him repeatedly – through the crucifixion, resurrection, and beyond.

Others shamed Jesus, but he lived unashamed.

We understand why. Because, he had more knowledge, experience, and empathy regarding faith than we can ever hope for here on earth. He disregarded shame by remaining focused on what he knew to be true about his future…about his father…about his “home”.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (NLT)

He paid such a high price for us, sacrificing his life so we could live eternally with him in the next. How do we repay a debt like that? We cannot. But, we can work hard at doing what he asked of us. His main instructions are to love him and others, no matter the cost. No matter the cost. Part of that cost for us is also shame.

We too can live unashamed of faith by getting to know him, applying what we learn to our life, and showing empathy to those we meet.  Keeping our eyes on Jesus and a future with him, we learn to ignore shame and perfect our faith.

Others may shame us, but we live boldly unashamed.

One day, may we be so blessed to see him and have our hearts say, “Home”.

Holy Cross at Sunrise

Prayer for the Week Ahead

Dear God,

Thank you for offering me eternal life through your beloved Son. Thank you for his teachings, and for the example he set on how to cope with shame. Help me learn to live unashamed by seeking knowledge and experience in my faith. Point out situations where I can practice the skills of empathy. Guide me as I gain confidence in sharing what faith looks like with others. Lead me home to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Inspiring Resources

For ideas on how to strengthen and share your faith read the previous posts:

A Fit Faith

 Learning to Pray

Some Clowns Showed Me How to Be the Church.

Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

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Today I made a pie. A most delicious pie, laden with the freshest fruits of the season, piled high in a flaky crust, and jelled into place with a delectable glaze.

This is my favorite pie. I’ve eaten it every summer for a long time. My mom made it for dessert when I was a kid. It tasted so good after a long hard day of make-believe, bike riding, and kick-the-can.

Today’s fruit pie, however, differs somewhat from the ones in the past. Because, while I was making it a well-known piece of Scripture came to mind. Do you know the one about the “fruit of the Spirit”?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

I paused to look this Scripture up and then tried memorizing the nine character traits as I worked. Yea, definitely a good mental exercise considering my hands were busy slicing fruit and not available for counting.

I started wondering if I really understood the meaning behind the words. So, when my hands were clean, I did some research on the Scripture and the Biblical definitions of these traits.

It was Paul the Apostle who highlighted these nine traits or attributes of Christian life in his letter to the Galatians. The Galatians were people living in Early Christian communities in a region called Galatia.

Paul’s teachings sought to convince people to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than selfish desires. The Holy Spirit, he explained, produces these nine traits or fruit within us. When the Holy Spirit leads us, we become more Christ-like and our faith grows.

Becoming more like Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, means we do not seek just one or a few of these traits, but all of them. The nine attributes together, as a sum, are the “fruit of the Spirit”. The following Biblical definitions of each trait help us understand why they belong together and how they work in tandem.

Love: Agape is the Greek word used to describe God’s love in the Bible. This love is not the warm, fuzzy, romantic love we normally think of. It is loving as Christ loved – freely and unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. Loving this way means our attitudes convey goodwill, and we seek the best for others despite their actions.

Joy: Happiness hinges upon the good and bad things happening in our lives, but joy is different. Joy wells up from a reservoir deep within and offers us a settled feeling of well-being. It comes from knowing that we are cared for. Sadness still impacts us, but we feel an awareness of strength, protection, and stable love because of joy.

Peace: Knowing God controls the events of our day creates an equilibrium or inner stability known as peace. Worldly pressures and conflict still exist, but peace keeps us calm. Even in the midst of conditions that are normally upsetting and traumatic, we trust that God will work all circumstances together for our good.

Patience: Perseverance, steadfastness, long-suffering, and endurance are other Biblical text translations for patience. We demonstrate patience by maintaining a steady pace in the midst of life’s ups and downs. It allows us to find hope in difficult times, and endure poor treatment from others without retaliating.

Kindness: Kindness is looking for ways to serve and praise others without expecting anything back. Seeing things from the perspective of others develops compassion and helps us identify what we can do to serve their needs. Kindness is sympathetic, considerate, and diligently works to encourage others.

Goodness: Displaying Christ’s character in your life and helping others experience God in their life is goodness. We work towards goodness by identifying and using our gifts to love others. Sometimes, goodness requires frankness and honesty with ourselves and others.

Faithfulness: Faithfulness is a resolve to serve God and a commitment to praise others for the good work they have done. Others look to faithful people for examples of integrity. When we are faithful, we surmount feelings of doubt and help others find hope in belief as well.

Gentleness: A tranquil disposition that forgives, kindly corrects, and remains even-tempered is known as gentleness. When we display the trait of gentleness we let others make decisions on their terms; we respect their relationship with God. We also weigh our own decisions carefully and strive to stay humble in our accomplishments.

Self-control: Releasing the desire to be in charge and allowing guidance by the Holy Spirit is known as self-control. Showing self-control means we trust that God has a plan and his ways are better than our own. When we practice self-control we continually consult the Holy Spirit regarding our thoughts, actions, and reactions.

Nine character traits is a lot to work on, wouldn’t you agree? The good news is we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, the Bible says we cannot do it alone.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

This Scripture tells us the fruit of the Spirit grows within us when we have a relationship with Christ – knowing, loving, and imitating him. Joining our life to Christ ignites the Holy Spirit which leads to a fruitful life. A fruitful life, displaying the sum of these nine characteristics, in turn helps fulfill our two most important commandments – loving God and our neighbors.

This pie I made, it’s chock-full of fruit! Wouldn’t it be great if our lives, and all the lives around us were just as chock-full…overflowing with the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Hmmm…the recipe for a fruitful life – we know it’s not an easy one to follow. And, we know with certainty, it won’t turn out perfectly.

But, the Holy Spirit will help us. It’s worth a shot, right? Yea, it’s so worth it. Have a bite…

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Inspiring Resources:

Fruit Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 C sugar

2 Tbls cornstarch

1 C water

3 Tbls peach jello

4-5 C fresh fruit (I used nectarines, strawberries, and blueberries)

1 frozen pie crust (I use Wholly Wholesome wheat pie crust)

Directions:

Bake pie crust according to directions and cool.

Mix sugar and cornstarch well. Add water and mix well. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling thick and clear. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the jello. Set aside to cool.

Cut the fresh fruit, removing skin if using nectarines. Pile fruit into the baked pie shell. Pour the cooled jello glaze over the top of the fruit. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Share with family, friends, and neighbors!

Living like a Superhero

Have No Fear… Unless You Make Me Mad

The automatic doors hummed open, and our eyes smiled with connection – a young boy, of about 5 years, and myself. His mom, nearby, leaned on their cart, fishing for keys and handling life’s latest on her cell phone.

Waiting beside her, I know he saw me coming. He saw me with my cart full of groceries and my mind busy with thought. So, he thought of a plan he could initiate quick.

His expression turned stern as he methodically focused on my approach. My distracted gaze turned into curious wonder. He planted his feet wide and placed his little hands straight together, as if to say a prayer over his heart.

There was a pause. A wait, if you will, for my exact “exit” moment.  As the doors buzzed open, he flung his arms out wide with power, and a “whoosh” sound sailed from his lips. In his marvelous imagination, his superhero capabilities had opened those automated doors for me.

Together in the moment, our grins escaped us.

This small superhero brightened my ordinary day. My own kids, now in college, were also once young, versatile characters – routinely becoming ninjas, magicians, pirates, or superheroes at the drop of a hat. This little boy reminded me of them and of all the adventures we shared as they were growing up.

My tense, busy thoughts slipped away as memories of lighter moments took their place. Suddenly, the importance of my to-do list paled in comparison to enjoying the moments of my day. I hope, maybe, by playing along, I improved my young hero’s day as well.

Can you remember a recent encounter with a superhero? Most likely, your encounter was not with someone possessing door opening powers (sorry, maybe next time). More likely, it was witnessing someone taking a stand for something they believe in, providing a helping hand, or sharing knowledge they possess.

Have you ever thought about how you use your superhero power?

Some people have jobs which are heroic in nature like firefighters, the military, health care workers, shelter administrators, teachers, and pastors. Their superhero identities and powers are public knowledge – as with Ironman or Captain America.

But, the rest of us, like the majority of superheroes, have hidden identities and powers – more like Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. The fact that our powers are not readily apparent does not make them any less valuable. They lie beneath the surface and emerge in many roles such as: parent, friend, child, artist, volunteer, advocate, patient, customer, employer, or team member.

Our powers are actions we are gifted in like: truly listening, showing encouragement, offering guidance, providing resources, demonstrating strength, inspiring change, or recognizing the good in others. Those around us have a true need for these elements of our character, and they thrive because of our efforts.

We can be superheroes in whatever we do, wherever we are. 

My encounter at the grocery store reminded me that each of us is born with motivation to live like a superhero. Have you ever met a child who did not pretend to save the planet from something evil? I have not.

Human beings have an innate drive to save.

Somewhere along the way, for many of us though, that drive gets buried. It gets buried under the responsibilities and insecurities this world dumps on us. That’s life. But, you know, like any fantastic superhero story, we can rise out of the rubble and reclaim our strength.

How do we live like superheroes?

I like to learn by example. And, some of the greatest historical examples of people becoming superheroes are found in the Bible. Each of them offers lessons to help refine our character, but the ultimate example of a superhero found in the Bible – Christians believe that to be Jesus.

Throughout Jesus’ life, he modeled many heroic qualities, and he left us with a mission to live our lives more like his. After searching Scripture for instructions on how to live like Jesus, I zeroed in on three of his main heroic traits we can apply to our lives:

  • Courage

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 New International Version (NIV)

Whether we are doing a big thing or a small thing, being a superhero requires courage in action and in belief.

Courageous actions show we trust in outcomes beyond our control. We keep moving forward through uncertainty, knowing God works in every situation for our eventual good.

Courageous beliefs instinctively guide us to step out of our comfort zones, and serve others in ways we could never imagine. Amazing things can happen when we let go of worldly constraints and see where our hearts can take us.

Following Jesus means we bravely surrender our own plans, and dare to dream about his.

  • Self-sacrifice

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

This piece of Scripture tends to make people squirm. The word “deny” does not fit well into our culture of achievement, excess, and conformity.

It is much more comfortable to follow Jesus from afar. Jumping in the trenches with him brings inconvenience, judgement, and discomfort.

But, all superheroes readily give up their own interests and agendas for the common good, don’t they? Jesus never promised an easy path. In fact, he informed us that “in this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Following Jesus means we move selflessly, without hesitancy, to do God’s work and to show appreciation for God’s work being done.

  • Love

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Becoming a superhero or following Jesus like a disciple, means we wholeheartedly seek to live as he did by loving others.

Unlike other heroes, our mission instructions will never self-destruct. Jesus sends daily instructions by way of the Holy Spirit, which lives in all believers. If we pay attention, we will notice the Holy Spirit continually pointing out opportunities to love.

With practice, we get better at loving others and tuning out protests from our human nature. We adapt to hearing the Lord’s quiet praise instead of the world’s noisy recognition.

Following Jesus means we examine all of our actions and beliefs to see if they resonate with love. 

Superheroes work better together, when their powers are combined.  

Familiar superheroes almost always enlist a sidekick or join forces with other superheroes to take down a villain mastermind, right? In a similar way, Jesus formed a team of disciples to spread his teachings, instilled the Holy Spirit in his believers, and called them to spread a message of love.

We do not have to look very far to find superheroes ready to team up. They are out there – making sales calls, coaching baseball teams, sitting in hospital rooms, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pretending to open automated doors.

Just like any combined force of characters, we feel more powerful together, and the good we do multiplies.

An army of mere mortals we will be, confidently placed on the front lines and backed by the ultimate power, the mighty hero, our awesome God. Surely, our grins escape us. And then…

The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero. Isaiah 42:13 (NLT)

Prayer for the Week

Dear God,

Thank you for placing others in my path who remind me of my mission to love as courageously and selflessly as Jesus did.

Help me find the courage to act when faced with the unknown. Guide me to bravely believe in the coming good.

Save a spot for me next to you in the trenches. Give me the strength to make sacrifices and readily accept hard assignments.

Teach me to quickly recognize opportunities to model your love and to praise others for the work they have done.

Encourage me to humbly join forces with the companions you send my way. Guard our backs as we work hard to bring glory to your name.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Inspiring Resources:   

  • This: Idleman, Kyle. Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print. Available on Amazon right here.
  • And this:
My two superheroes in their younger years.
My two superheroes in their younger years.

A Candid Photo of Jesus

Snapshot Moments

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15 New International Version (NIV)

Photos. I’ve been immersed in photos this past week – sorting, deleting, and rearranging a multitude of shots on the computer. This work, eventually, will display a condensed year of  family life in a printed photo album.

In the midst of my choices, something occurred to me. Pictures taken when the subject is not posing, and he/she is unaware are my favorite. There is something special about these candid shots. What I sense behind the images, the character and uniqueness of the individual, draws me in.

For example, you may look at a photo of my daughter and simply see her reading a book. Looking at the same photo, I would sense her deep determination for learning. You may look at an image of my son and simply see him switching court positions with a tennis partner. I, however, would notice that upon crossing paths, their hands briefly tap together, documenting my son’s loyalty to his friend.

Candid photos like this catch loved ones unintentionally offering their goodness to the world. We deeply appreciate the sense of humor behind their smirk, the kindness accompanying their embrace, and the dedication backing their talent. I think these characteristics, observed in relaxed moments, are the same qualities God lingers over and adores. Aren’t we blessed to get a glimpse of THAT?!

So, imagine someone handing you a candid snapshot of Jesus. Jesus, God in human form, is someone we can picture in our mind. If you studied this candid photo of Jesus, what would you see? Can you see beyond the image, as you do when you look at photos of your loved ones? Do you smile at the truths you know about his character? Truths such as:

God loves you unconditionally.

You do not earn God’s love. It is given to you freely, no strings attached. He loves you right where you are, and as you are. Your bad behavior, faults, sins, and failures do not cause him to give up on you. He offers you forgiveness, acceptance, and infinite love.

God does not expect you to be perfect.

You do not have to be a perfect spouse, parent, employee, volunteer, or friend to delight God. He is delighted when you feel happy, and when you are not stressed wearing your many hats. Learning through mistakes only brings you closer to his plans for you. Finding balance and practicing restraint is his hope for you.

God has a purpose in mind for you.

The moment you were created God laid out his plan for your life. He strategically places events and people in your life to direct you. Difficulties may surprise you, but he never wavers in his care and protection. His perfect timing tests patience, but also builds faith.

God wants a relationship with you.

God longs to partner with you on this journey, but he respectfully yields to your gift of free will. Because your uniqueness is irreplaceable, he wishes to lead you to some surprising places. Bravely stepping out of the “comfort zone” prescribed by this world, and into the “God zone” always renders radical change. Always.

A candid photo depicts characteristics beyond the picture because of time spent nurturing the relationship. As in a relationship with a loved one, the more familiar we become with Jesus, the more we will understand his character. Truths, unseen to us before, begin to take hold of our hearts when we look at his image. Catch a glimpse of THAT, and you won’t want to let it go.

Prayer for this Week:

Dear Lord, Thank you for the blessing of candid moments, and for sharing with me what you see beyond the images of my loved ones. Lead me in strengthening my relationship with you, so that I can clearly and confidently see your truths as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen    

Scriptures to Apply:

About Unconditional Love – Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)

About Imperfection – 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (NIV)

About Purpose – Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

About Relationship – John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

About His Character – Psalm 86:15, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (NIV)

Questions to Help Make Sense of Life:  When looking at candid photos of my loved ones, what characteristics do I sense that strangers would not? When I think of an image of Jesus, how well do I feel I know him?