Bethany's BlogWords of Encouragement

Suddenly

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.

Luke 2:9

This morning as I was paging through the Bible the word suddenly stood out to me. I did a little research and discovered that it occurs 87 times in the Bible!  It’s fun to think that I could be minding my own business and then, suddenly, an angel appears! Or, like the shepherds who were tending their sheep in the field, suddenly, an angel appeared and then many appeared, whoa! I’d be terribly frightened at first too. There’s no gradual process when angels appear, they just seem to pop up out of nowhere, you know, suddenly. As amazing and fascinating as it is, I am left to ponder the method.

I’ve had times in my life when it felt as if God was moving very slow. I might be praying for something for months or even years and nothing happens, and then suddenly life is different. Sometimes I didn’t see it coming. Then there are the times that I recognize the gradual process of change within my heart. 

When I think about that night with the angels and the shepherds I wonder if it was both suddenly and gradual for them too. Suddenly, angels were there proclaiming great news to them. They ran to see the newborn babe. I’m guessing they were never the same from that day on. There was a sudden change and also a lifelong gradual change. 

When I encountered Jesus for the first time, I felt a “suddenly” too. Suddenly, I knew I was loved. Suddenly, I knew He wanted to have relationship with me and suddenly I knew He was speaking directly to me. Suddenly, I knew that His glory was all around me and that the presence I felt was nothing short of miraculous. Since that day, I have gradually grown in many areas, and continue to do so. I have become aware of Who He is and all that He says I am. I have learned to recognize His voice, and follow Him. My desires, thoughts, and life have surrendered more and more to Him. Grace has covered me through the many mistakes and falls. 

Encounters with Jesus are mysterious in that once you’ve had one your life is never the same. Suddenly, your entire world is different. Your heart is different.  The thoughts and desires you may have had before your encounter are suddenly gone. Jesus has replaced them with love.

Isn’t this what He did throughout His ministry on earth? The sick and wounded would come to Him for help, he would touch them, heal them and suddenly their lives were different. They could walk, see, talk, and live again. He confronted evil, and suddenly there was peace. He befriended men and women and suddenly they spread the Word to others about the mystery of Christ. He surrendered His very own life, was taken to a tomb, and then on the third day He suddenly was alive!  Hearts and minds were suddenly changed as they spread out across the nations to tell of the miraculous happenings.

The men that walked with Him, suddenly became powerful carriers of His message, they were filled with His Spirit. They were so changed that they were willing to suffer and die for Him. 

Saul was intent on destroying all of the followers of Jesus, then suddenly, He heard Jesus speak and was changed. 

The woman at the well was buried in shame. She was stuck in a lifestyle that only brought condemnation and pain, then she met Jesus. He lovingly talked to her and saw inside her heart. Suddenly, she was changed and went out to tell others of the amazing man that knew all about her.

Suddenly, they all encountered the love of Jesus, and they couldn’t wait to share it.  The mystery of His love pursues us and inspires us to be like Him. 

Suddenly, I knew that He loved and favored me. I knew that He chose me. What is your “suddenly”? How has it changed your life?

The Wonders of God

Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.

1 Chronicles 16:9

Today I spent several hours at the beach. I sat in the sand and admired all the tiny shells at my feet. So beautiful! I began to quietly speak of all the wonders God puts smack in front of my face every day. Sometimes, I have taken many of them for granted, like these amazing little shells. They are always there on the beach, people walk over them every day, most don't even take notice of their beauty. I began to thank Him for the wonders of His creation. The immense ocean, sand, palm trees, rocks, and shells. My mind shifted to the wonders of living life, to the wonder of opportunity, hope, peace, joy, and love. God created us with the innate ability to tap into His Spirit and to experience His wonder. He then built within us the ability to live life that is full of His fruit even when the circumstances are not always good. This is a wonder worth His praise.

As I glanced around and noticed a few others on the beach, I thanked Him for the wonder of relationships. There was a couple laying on a blanket, a family playing in the sand, and a couple girls taking pictures. Again, God created us for relationship. Even those of us that may enjoy alone time, we still have been wired to have people in our lives. To be known, seen, loved and wanted. To me, I feel like this is a miraculous wonder. Sometimes we experience hardships in life that destroy our trust, or cause us to build walls all around ourselves, but somewhere deep inside we still long for relationship. When someone is able to see us through the eyes of Christ, then we experience the wonder of love.

And, love is a wonder.

Love would not exist without the miraculous wonder of Jesus and His birth. Think about it; the King of all left His home and became a humble servant. The whole story is a marvel, really. The angel Gabriel speaking to Mary, her complete willingness to submit to the will of God, and the conception of the Son of God by the Holy Spirit. Then, there's Joseph's side of the story, he wanted to quietly divorce Mary. She was pregnant and it wasn't by him! Instead, Gabriel came to him in a dream and spoke to Him of the wondrous miracle inside of Mary. He told Josheph to stay, and Joseph stayed.

Fast forward to the birth of Jesus and the shepherds. They encountered angels singing and speaking about the holy birth. They ran to Bethlehem to see the newborn babe. Think about it, if you and your group of friends saw a choir of angels proclaiming good news, what would you do? 

What about now? God hasn't just stopped speaking to us. He has given us so much to be in awe of-to look at with great wonder. Angels still present us with wondrous news. The Bible still is living and active and brings wondrous changes to our lives. God still encounters us with His voice. The Holy Spirit fills us. When we think of the magnitude of this; there is nothing but wonder!

In Hebrews the wonder of His voice is confirmed. "Christ is faithful as a Son over His [Father's] house. And we are His house if we hold fast our confidence and sense of triumph in our hope [in Christ]. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ' Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as [your fathers did] in rebellion.' Hebrews 3:6-7

The wonder of His voice comes through the living Word, or is deeply impressed upon our thoughts, or possibly a still small voice. However it is heard in your life; it is, no doubt a wonder.

As Christmas approches and we may be thinking about the birth of Jesus, His love, our relationships and the gifts He has blessed us with, remember to tap into the wonder. Sing praises to Him for the wonder of it all! For there is beauty all around you and peace in the presence of Christ Jesus.

Still Fabulous, Darling

fab-yuh-luhs

This word, fabulous, has been on my mind lately. As my daughter and I were playing at Disney Land, we took some time to just sit and watch all the people. So many of them were all decked out in Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Fuzzy jamies with Goofy or their favorite character. Mickey Mouse ears adorned heads of children and adults. It was all truly festive and fabulous! Each person really seemed to feel fabulous too. Adult men adorned in Disney characters, women twirling in skirts, and children laughing with delight. Disney Land brings out the fabulous in all of us, really. It was then that I had a thought that I believe was direct from the heart of God, "You, Darling are fabulous to Me, all the time!"

Smile.

But then, I questioned the all the time part. Does that mean I am fabulous to Him all of today? Or maybe this week? What about 20 years ago, does it apply to my entire life even when my actions and thoughts did not feel fabulous?  Again, His heart responded. "Whatever. You are still fabulous!" 

God has given me and you the gift of fabulous. Because of the blood of Jesus, fabulous is all that He sees, and it's beautiful.  Did you get that? "YOU, Darling, are fabulous!" As I think back on my life, my story, it is sometimes difficult to understand how through it all, God saw fabulous in me. But then, when I look at who He is and understand how He created me, my mind begins to shift and I allow myself to believe that He sees who I am, not what I've done. He sees all that He created me to be, which could be nothing less than fabulous.

We all have something in our story that was not our most shining moment. Some of us may respond with regret, shame, guilt, or negative thoughts about who we are. Or, we could say, "Whatever. I'm still fabulous!" And, with that positive thought, move on. If we have hurt someone, ask forgiveness. If we have hurt ourselves, then forgive yourself. If we have fallen back into old patterns, get help. Most of all, don't forget that God wants you to know that you are still fabulous! 

Whatever. Still fabulous!

The Bed Maker

 

Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we submitted and respected them [for training us]; shall we not much more willingly submit to the Father of spirits, and live [by learning from His discipline]? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for only a short time as seemed best to them; but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

Hebrews12:9-10

So, I am not a huge fan of house work, except laundry. I enjoy doing laundry, unusual I know. Since I have had this distaste for house work, I have not ever spent too much time concerning myself with making the bed. I spent years making it once a week, when I changed the sheets, and that was it.

But, then one morning as I was reading a book on discipline, the author encouraged every reader to ask God to reveal an area that He would like to see us work on, an area that could bring fruit into our lives. So, I prayed. When I finished the immediate thought in my head was "go make your bed, and keep making it everyday!" This seemed like a very silly thought for me to have, after years of non-making why would I be thinking such a horrid thought? So, I dismissed it for that day.

Then, the next morning came and I prayed the same pray with all sincereity, and hopes of being asked to do something great! But, the same thought returned when I finished praying "go make your bed, and keep making it everyday!" This time, I listened and I made the bed that day, and the next, and so on. I'm still making the bed, and it's been a lovely experience for me. I have to confess that I don't always get the bed made first thing in the morning, sometimes it's much later in the day, but most of the time it's in the morning. When this bed making practice began I didn't understand the purpose, and it felt like an inconvenience to me.  But, as time moved on, I began to relish in the feel of the sheets, the cozy blanket, the beauty of a made bed everyday. I would stand back and admire a job well done, and it felt good to me.

As time progressed and I continued to ask God why He asked me to do this bed-making business, I began to understand the significance of what He asked. Just as I carefully made the tosseled bed everyday and then stood back to admire my handiwork, God does this for me. He lovingly arranges the tosseled, messed up pieces into His magnificent handiwork. Even though I already knew this about Him before I started to make the bed, there was something about me going through the discipline of making it every day that really helped me understand His activity in my life. 

Just as I daily work to make beauty out of something unmade, He daily does the same for me. And, the best part? He admires His work!  Just as I began to like the job of bed making and apply principles to my life through this simple action, He too loves all that He does for me and you. He does a sacred work within His children. And, this may sound a little odd to you, but now when I make the bed it feels like a sacred time with God; it's special to me. I marvel at the work, not just because it looks better, but because He has changed my heart towards this daily discipline. I love that about God.

What does God want you to work on today? Ask Him and then listen for His thoughts. Don't worry; it will turn out for the best!

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