Words Matter

Words… they are everywhere.  There are thousands upon thousands of words spoken on any given day at any given hour.  Most of them through actual talking or speech, but nowadays it’s also through text messages, social media, and cell phones.  Then there is the timeless classic of the written word in books, online posts, and emails.  of all these methods of talking and exchanging words, my favorite each and every time are the words, wait for it….. from a friend or confidant in a moment of unexpected clarity.  It’s that moment when, as your listening to that person’s words, (i.e. encouragement, constructive criticism, advice, scripture, etc.) you realize it’s the Holy Spirit!  It’s God speaking to you, reminding you of His presence and His acute awareness of YOU.  WHO you are.  WHAT your needs are.  WHY you matter.  In fact, many times the person speaking has no idea how powerful their words are in that moment.  Their words evoke a response and it’s immediate.

I recently had this happen to me when at dinner with a friend.  She had no knowledge of my unanswered prayers.  She had no idea of unspoken longings in my heart-or unspoken prayers said between God and I only.  Equipped with a listening ear and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit- she spoke TRUTH to me and I knew the instant I heard her words it was God.  He was showing up in a physical way with words.  So completely ordinary right?  Or is it?  He wanted me to hear Him with an open heart and a willingness to listen. My girlfriend was the vessel to say what He needed me to hear at the appointed moment I needed to hear it.  I must go forward now with the truth that’s been revealed to me, armed with the confidence of God’s faithfulness and message.

Has this ever happened to you?  Have you ever had a moment when you knew what your ears were hearing, your heart was feeling?  The divinity of God’s love overcomes any doubt or attempt to logically rebuke the truth as you heard it and you are convicted beyond all reasonable doubt to step forward!  The experience for me, when it happened, was humbling and emotional.  I was, and still am, truly aghast that The Almighty of the Heavens and Earth would have any interest in any conversation I might have and wants ME to hear a message.  He reminds me He is THE most powerful being alive and He knows my heart even when I don’t speak it out loud. I find a deep conviction to repent of whatever should be and I ask to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus…..that’s all it really takes isn’t it?  Words, the bible says, are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bone.  Indeed.

I hope my words have an impact on your heart today and I encourage you to always be open to the conversations around you.  God may be yearning for a heart to heart with you in the least surprising of methods-words.

Love and Prayers to all of you. xo

Jera

 

 

The Cleaning Bug

I have to admit that I’ve been bit by the Cleaning Bug. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m actually cleaning anything. Rather it’s a fascination with these amazing people who like to blog and run Facebook groups about cleaning. You can really learn some interesting information.

Like, once you get the waxy residue left from window cleaners off of your windows and glass, you can simply and quickly clean them with club soda and never have streaks again. Wow!

But the best are the videos of other people cleaning things with pressure washers and the like. It’s amazing really and can completely suck away 5 minutes of your life watching the repetitive motion of the sprayer going back and forth as beautifully cleaned surfaces are revealed. It’s addicting in a therapeutic way. LOL!

There is no physical way to effectively and thoroughly clean driveways and sidewalks without a pressure cleaner. Man power just can’t do it. This got me to thinking about how God has cleaned our hearts from all the stains of sin. He did it through the Christ Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection. Once and for all.

But how silly would it be for me to say that I need to get my scrub brush out and clean my driveway after I just had it pressure washed? It would be ridiculous. You’d think I was crazy if I started telling you how incredibly filthy the driveway was and then acted like I could do something to make it better.

How many times do we do this to ourselves. Jesus has already cleansed our hearts and even now calls us clean. It’s our faith that believes He did it.

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
John 15:3 ESV

I know this analogy isn’t perfect because eventually my driveway will need that pressure washer again. But my heart won’t. Thanks be to our loving father who made sure that Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all.

“Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’….  And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Hebrews 10: 9-10 NIV

I want to learn to catch myself before I start to call filthy what He has made clean. I am becoming today what I will be tomorrow. So right now, I’m going to practice acting like who I really am in Christ. Clean! Free from the guilt and stain of sin.

I am already clean!

Love,

You Are Radiant

Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34:5  ESV

 

Radiant. What a word. David, the author of the Psalms, did not use the word beautiful, joyful, or even happy. He used radiant. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, radiant is defined as:

radiant

adjective | ra·di·ant  | \ˈrā-dē-ənt\

1a: radiating rays or reflecting beams of light
1b: vividly bright and shining : glowing
2: marked by or expressive of love, confidence, or happiness

radiant smile

3a : emitted or transmitted by radiation
3b : emitting or relating to radiant heat

 

My favorite definition of radiant is “vividly bright and shining : glowing.” It gives a glowing visual of the way we all will be in heaven, and on top of that, Christ promises to make us like that now! He will enable us to radiate to the world around us, and through that, people will see that we have hope in Jesus Christ. For we, as Christ followers, are not looking to this world, our families, or even to our careers, but to Christ!

Through Isaiah 40:31, Jehovah-Jireh (“The Lord Will Provide”) gives us a promise when we hope in Him: “For those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will run and not grow faint.” He promises to take care of us when we hope in Him! We are constantly surrounded by all the promises he gives us and all we have to do is to accept them!

So as you run your race throughout the day, remember to hope in the Lord and that He will make your face RADIANT!

Love,

Isabella

In the Boat

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And suddenly a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being covered by the waves; but Jesus was sleeping. 25 And the disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us, we are going to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was [at once] a great and wonderful calm [a perfect peacefulness]. Matthew 8:23-26

It was Sunday morning, my first service back to church since my hysterectomy 2 weeks prior. Issues from a long battle with endometriosis led me to that end, but I’ll share more about that another time. {wink}

After service, as a family, we discuss what was spoken about in our classes and in our worship services. It’s always a fun time to look through the kid’s crafts and read over their papers from the week and share with them what we learned in “big church” and how God spoke to our hearts and into our lives. Each of them had talked about the account from the above text in Matthew 8. When Jesus was knocked out during a storm with His disciples. (This blog post’s picture is the crafts that they made.)

We talked about how sometimes it can be so scary when it is storming here and how they can violently wake us up while we are lying still, cozy and comfy in our beds!! And how there no waves or water we have to deal with, but how even in the midst, that it didn’t faze our Lord, because after-all He created it. He is in charge and all-powerful. We continued sharing about what a blessing it is to never have to be scared of anything and even if there are scary things going on around us- we don’t have to be afraid- because in the boat of life, Jesus is always in it with us.

Well, I didn’t think much of it after that, and was thankful for the truth but not clinging onto it for any particular reason.

The next day, I was having some small complications from the surgery but nothing serious so I called the doctor on call to ask her about it (because of course this happened on a holiday). I had stood a little more that Sunday with it being New Year’s and all. So I thought maybe that was what was causing some of the issues. The doctor told me to stay off my feet and rest and as the evening came I decided to finish setting up my prayer closet and after I got finished I prayed and spent some time with the Lord and boy, it was so sweet.  But as I got up I felt something and to my surprise things had worsened… I told my husband and decided to call the doctor again. Within about 15 minutes I headed up stairs to only find that it had intensified to the point where it was alarming. The doctor gave me a solution to see if we could deal with it, but in the next hour we were headed to the ER.

On the way, we contacted our family, friends and church family asking them to start praying. Immediately what came to mind was that Jesus was right there with me- HE was in the boat with me. I couldn’t do a thing but cling to that fact. What was happening to me could have severe consequences, but I didn’t have to fear because I wasn’t alone. So through tears, I just kept repeating to myself, Jesus, You’re in the boat. Jesus, You control the winds and the waves of what is happening. Jesus, You can make it stop at any time. Jesus, because You’re with me I don’t have to be afraid.

There are times in life when we can choose to panic and fear or trust that Jesus is in the boat and experience the peace that only He can bring. Will it be terrifying? It could be. Was I concerned? YES!!!! But did I have peace? Whew, like you wouldn’t believe. Because I was clinging to the fact that He was in the boat and it changed my focus. After all, I’m His daughter, He’s my Abba-Father and because of that even in a situation like this, I couldn’t be in better hands.

Do I always do that? Respond with this confident faith? No, but I’m learning to trust this truth.

I’m not sure what you may be facing in life today or in this season of your life, but can I encourage you that Jesus is in the boat with you? He doesn’t want you to be worried, afraid, fretful, fearful, but completely at peace, full of faith, resting totally in Him no matter what may be going on around you because at any point He can stop it with just a word. He doesn’t always choose to though because He knows the good that is going to work in and through it, and praise the Lord that He’s able to work all things together for our good, hallelujah?!

Praise the Lord, this surgery complication happens sometimes and for many different reasons. And recovery has been much smoother since then, but boy was it a nerve wrecking. Maybe it was just so I could write pen these words and encourage you that He’s in the boat with us. That He’s never left you or me alone and that His love, His hope, His peace is undeniably ours.

Lord, for those reading this today, may this truth sink deep into their hearts, as I ask for You to help it sink into my own. May we be people of faith that trust whole-heartedly that no matter what– You are in the boat right beside us– no matter what we’re facing. And even if it seems like You’re asleep, unaware of what we are facing. I pray that you will help us to confess for doubting Your presence and Your Word and trust that You are with us in ways we won’t be able to fully comprehend until we are with You and we are like You in eternity. Help us, Lord, to fully know that just like you did with your disciples, you can do with us and in a moment bring peace that passes all understanding even amidst the crazy, scary, or unexplainable to us. I pray all of this in the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Because of Christ and His Love,

Humble and Confident?

There is an inherent tension between what appear to be, at first glance, two very diametrically opposed components of a healthy sense of self and human identity: humility and confidence. If humility has the connotation of less—think of yourself less, talk about yourself less—and confidence has the connotation of more—stand up for yourself more, speak out more, and on—then how can you reconcile the two? Is it even possible to have both humility and confidence at the same time without devolving into a fragmented, schizophrenic contradiction of terms? And if it’s possible, then practically speaking, what does that look like? The beauty of the gospel is that, in Christ, the seemingly impossible becomes possible. We just need to become who we already are in Christ: yes, both humble and confident. Here’s how.

In Christ

So, first of all, why all this emphasis on being “In Christ”? The Bible references the Christian’s position in this way many times:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:26-28

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. – Colossians 2:9-10

We are placed in Christ by God’s gracious work in our lives when we put our faith in Christ, and that position never changes, though the sense of closeness, fellowship, comfort, and even power can vary depending upon our choice to “abide” in Christ, or not (John 15:5). Hence, the koanlike call to become who we already are in Christ.

It’s only when we are in Christ, and see ourselves as being in Christ, that the impossible becomes possible. We can be both wildly and supremely confident because of that position—Access to God! (Hebrews 4:16) Joint-heirs to the kingdom! (Romans 8:17) The power to do great things! (John 14:12-14)—while at the very same time recognizing that we did nothing in our own power to deserve or merit this standing in the least.

You know the timeless trope of the beggar/pauper who becomes an adopted prince? The story of rags to riches, a young misfit lifted from abject poverty and desolation, to find himself commanding a kingdom, second in authority only to the great king? It’s a timeless trope* that’s been told and retold a million ways, because it’s a story about us. And on some level, we all know this; that’s why it works so well, and why the story resonates so deeply within us. (*This trope is nearly irresistible to authors as well as readers. No matter how creative my attempts at outlining might be, once I actually began putting words down in my Young Adult Dystopian Trilogy Meritropolis, this plot line seemed to write itself).

The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. – Timothy J. Keller

In short, we can be both humble and confident at the same time—really, truly humble and really, truly confident at the same time, not just paying lip service to one while being the other—because of Christ. We know who we are with him, giving us confidence, and we know we are without him, giving us humility.

Humility

Okay, so being humble and confident at the very same time sounds pretty good. We’d love to put that on our resume, but how do we know we really have both, and aren’t just fooling ourselves? (Sidenote: and, if we say we have humility, much less put it on a resume, then does that immediately disqualify us, kind of like the guy who got a trophy for his humility, but then got it taken away after he accepted it?) Well, first of all, defining terms is important.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. – C.S. Lewis

What God says is valuable and important is valuable and important. Period. Yes, even when it’s you. This is worth repeating, so remember this: if God says you are valuable and important, then you are. Don’t ever forget this, because it’s easy to let your feelings at a given moment, or what someone else says about you, or even your own self-talk deceive you into ignoring God’s assessment of your worth, which, really, is the only one that matters.

So, humility is not diminishing who we are in Christ, or trying to redefine the beautiful, wonderful things God has said about us as his children. We are loved, accepted, complete, worthwhile, and more. But humility does most certainly contain an element of being focused outward on others rather than inward on self. Paradoxically, sometimes the best form of self-care is others-care. (The key word is sometimes, not always. Self-care is certainly a good and Biblical thing too; that’s not the point being made here).

Confidence

So, humility sounds very respectable and Christian-like. But confidence? Even though most of us are attracted to people with confidence, and we may or may not realize the need for more confidence in our own lives, to actively strive for more confidence has a somewhat un-Christian feel to it, not to mention that vaguely icky feeling of self-importance.

And then there’s the whole question of: if you have to try to have more confidence, then are you actually more confident, or just pretending? Kind of like the corollary to the age-old high school maxim: if you have to try to be cool, you are decidedly uncool (anyone with soon to be adolescents will discover that this is as true in parenting as in high school).

So what gives?

The answer, again, is the phrase In Christ. If ever there was a clear thread running through Scripture, it’s the idea that having confidence in oneself or in man is a recipe for disaster, but confidence in God, specifically as revealed to us in Christ, is our greatest treasure!

If we have all we need in Christ, then can acting in a less-than-confident manner reflect poorly on that standing? In a word, yes. To live and enjoy a life of power in Christ is to be confident. Faith in Christ, not in ourselves, saves, and confidence in Christ, not in ourselves, energizes!

Practical Application

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, the practical application is simple. Become who you already are in Christ. This is not clever wordplay or Zen mimicry. We have all we need in Christ, so act like it. Just like the person who tries hard to be cool, and shows themselves to be anything but, we don’t need to try to be humble and confident, we simply need to allow ourselves to be all who we already are in Christ.

He’s done the work, he does the work, and he will continue to do the work. The answer is the same as when we first came to him: turn to him, trust in him fully, and he won’t let you down.

And that is how you can be both humble and confident at the very same time.

 

About the Author: 
Joel Ohman is a Certified Financial Planner™, serial entrepreneur, and author. He is founder of MedicareInsurance.com, CarInsuranceComparison.com, and a number of digital media startups. He is a trustee with The Idlewild Foundation and he and his wife Angela have three young children and a Bull Mastiff named Caesar. You can connect with him at JoelOhman.com.