Entrusting in Uncertainty

“He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood”

Come Thou Fount by Robert Robinson

This hymn is one of my favorite hymns and was recently rearranged by a friend for our wedding. This particular phrase beautifully describes that Jesus rescued us from our greatest danger by placing His own blood between us and our deserved end.

But is the Gospel something that really can be applied to an unknown in our world right now? The answer is, yes. 

Sometimes in the midst of uncertainty, we need to look at the past to remind ourselves and reflect on what God has done and see that there was purpose in it. Do you remember the uncertainty and doubt you felt during a certain trial in your life or the questions you asked God? After the trial passed, were you thankful or confused, sad or encouraged, joyful or angry? Psalms is full of emotions like these and you may be feeling one or multiple. In Psalm 63, we see David in the wilderness reminding himself of God’s love through praise of what God has done and who He is.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:1-8, ESV

But God doesn’t just keep us from our most dangerous end, He cares for us and provides for us. Matthew 6 talks of God clothing the grass of the field and asks us, “will He not clothe you also?” He will provide and He is faithful. You may not believe it or even feel that God is near, but our feelings don’t mean that He isn’t. In this time of uncertainty, entrust God with your burdens for your work, finances, family, and well-being. While you have the extra time, pray, listen and learn. He will give you rest.  

 

An Island of Unbreakable Hearts

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
-C.S. Lewis

Have you been deeply wounded? So wounded that you refuse to be that vulnerable again? Are just done with putting your heart and life on the line? Let me tell you, that you are not alone. I have felt the very same.

As a Christian, I am one to compare physical trials to spiritual warfare, because honestly, we truly are in constant warfare. So, I look to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and possible isolation as an opportunity to reflect on our desperate spiritual need for community. Community is hard, messy and sacrificial. In some cases, our hearts can be literally broken because of being used by others and deep hurt. And when this happens, and it most likely will, our sinful hearts have the potential to harden without the truth of God’s Word. Once hardened, we rarely want people around us and we give up loving them because we receive nothing in return. 

However, there was someone who became vulnerable for me and you, who was rejected by all those He was closest to (including His own Father), died with a broken heart, suffered a miserable death on the cross…all for you…all for me. Jesus forgave us of our sin by loving us until He was killed for it. So, should we only love those who love us in return? Jesus certainly turned the tables on this concept by demonstrating His love for the world through His sacrifice on the cross. Through Jesus’ death, He gave us hope. Hope which draws us to ask Him forgiveness for ALL our sin. If He has done this for us, can we not humble ourselves to get off our island and forgive those who have hurt us?

What lies are keeping you from loving your neighbor or family member? What lies are keeping you from being vulnerable enough to get help for the hurt that you have? What lies are keeping you from forgiving like Christ forgave? 

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ephesians 4: 25-32, ESV

God did not intend for us to be alone, but we are facing times where we may have to take drastic measures in order to keep each other healthy and safe. During this time of being physically distant from one another, don’t spiritually distance yourself from others or put yourself on a spiritual island with an unbreakable heart. There is a solution to our heart’s need and it’s solution is Jesus, Himself.

Seize the Hope

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For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater to swear by, he swore by himself: 14 I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply you.[a] 15 And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. 17 Because God wanted to show his unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 6:13-20, CSB

SEIZE THE HOPE

Last spring, I was finishing up a degree with two classes which included a study in the book of Acts.  I was studying for academics purposes at the time, but decided that I would love to do a personal/devotional study as well. Once my husband and I finished our study, that’s exactly what I was able to do using the She Reads Truth study. I love that their studies are wholly scripture-based and reflective. (If you have never done one of their studies, you should check them out here!)

As I was reading in Acts 4, I was moved by the telling of the place where the church was assembling was physically shaking from the power of prayer. After this, the Spirit filled their hearts and they went on preaching the Gospel without fear. When the Spirit gave the congregation boldness to preach the gospel, I was encouraged and reminded that the Spirit gives us power to speak the truth boldly.

Aren’t you thankful that we don’t have to muster up that courage alone?

What is even more amazing is that the church in the book of Acts was already clinging to the promise that they could boldly approach the throne of grace. They had displayed this and their faith was made stronger by the Spirit who then enabled them to preach the hope of the Gospel. The hope through Jesus Christ.

In Acts 5, we see the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. For those who may not know, both died instantly because of a lie they told in order keep back land for themselves that they had promised to God and also to look spiritual among the church. Of course the church was fearful after an event like this! I can’t imagine witnessing that moment. What a sad and sobering story that reminds us that God is just and that we cannot live falsely without punishment.

But look up at the verse you read at the beginning! Hebrews reminds us that God has done something wonderful…He has promised a way. He swore against Himself that He would provide forgiveness and restoration to Himself…and He did just that through the blood of Jesus Christ who has paid the price for us! And guess what, unlike Ananias and Sapphira, God cannot lie! This gospel hope is what we should SEIZE and praise Him for!

I find such comfort in the thought that we can seize the hope of the gospel and sobered that I haven’t always invited others to do the same. Who do you know that needs this hope? Do they know that God loves them and has made a way for them to have a relationship with Himself? What will you share with those who are lost and hurting today? Don’t wait. Seize the opportunity. Ask God to have the Spirit give you boldness.

Seize the gospel hope of Christ! 

 

Our Wedding

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For the last month and a half, Matt and I have been thinking through our wedding day on December 9, 2019. We have been trying to savor every sweet moment and relive what was one of the most joyous and sobering days that we have experienced together so far. We had been praying about what we wanted our wedding to reflect, what it should stand for, and share that focus with our family and friends.

We desperately wished that we could have invited everyone that we loved and that we could have shared this day with those who couldn’t make it and those who have passed on from this earth as well. We did not do a live recording of our wedding to post on social media. So, for those who couldn’t be there, we wanted to share with you a little taste of what our ceremony was like.

Our wedding wasn’t an untraditional wedding or a traditional one even. For us, it meant that we truly wanted to give glory and honor to God and to take the focus off of the wedding as much as we could!  Although we did desire to have a beautiful wedding and for our guests to enjoy the day, our true joy came from the conversations we have been able to have about Christ since then.

With our families and friends by our side, we hoped the truth of the Gospel would be proclaimed throughout that day. We played “Just As I Am” as the mothers and grandmothers were escorted down the aisle with the desire to remind everyone that we can come to the Lord just as we are because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Then, Matt’s sisters read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Ephesians 4:32, and Romans 8:35-39 followed by the song “Faith to Be Strong” to remind us that we rely on His Word and Truth to give us strength. Then, Matt and I had our mentors give the challenge and marry us. The Gospel was so clear in their presentations as we soberly stood there realizing the weight of our decision in the presence of God to commit to each other until death parts us. Finally, after we shared the vows that Matt wrote, Matt and I shared in communion and prayer while hearing “Come Thou Fount” arranged by a sweet friend for our wedding. This song is one of our favorites as it reminds us to always “Tune our hearts” to sing the praises of God through the trials and joyful moments in our lives. To finish we sang, “In Christ Alone” with the congregation. This was one of our favorite moments of the day.

We could not be more grateful for what God provided or be able to thank all the people that He allowed to be a part of our wedding day. Whether it was through recommendations, Biblical counsel, music, food, gifts, time, or prayers, we were blessed beyond what we deserved. It has been over a month since Matt and I married and we still are looking back in awe of what God allowed us to do. Our heart’s overall description as we reflect on our wedding day is…

 

GRATITUDE.

 

Life in 4,320 Minutes

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I am not a potter, but this past year, I was able to experience what it was like to literally put my sweat and blood into a tiny little clay bowl when my fiancé and I went to a class together. I messed up at least 2 times and had to throw the used clay back in the bucket. This bucket didn’t hold clay to be tossed out, but to be used again for another time. The reason I had to put the clay back into the bucket was that I am an amateur. I am not a potter.

In the Christian life, we are clay and God is our potter and He is not an amateur.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64: 8

In the past 72 hours, God has been doing some deep work in my heart. 4,320 minutes of heart-wrenching pain and joy. In those hours, I’ve gone to marriage counseling with my best friend and have been shown some of my deepest struggles and in turn had to ask forgiveness from the one I love the most here on earth and pray that God would change me to be more like Jesus. I’ve sat in a beautiful room listening to two friends joyfully give of their talents while giving testimony to the goodness of God through their pain and sorrow. I’ve received the message that two close friends have become new parents to a beautiful baby girl. I’ve talked with a mom whose child is going through physical difficulties. I’ve been to a work luncheon where I heard testimonies of women who have been set free from the bondage of life on the streets where I live. Today, I received the message that a sweet friend and mentor has gone home to be with her Savior.

This life is momentary and can change in a moment’s notice…in 4,320 minutes.

Yet, none of this is about me or even the people mentioned. It is about who it is that has His mighty hand in the making of this very small window of life, death, joy and pain. It is about God and we can praise Him in the midst of the pain in life because He has made a way for it all to end.

Do you realize that it was good that God forbade Adam and Eve from going back into the Garden of Eden once they fell? You see, once Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, sin entered the world. If God had allowed them to eat from the Tree of Life they would still be here…stuck in their everlasting pit of sin.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’ therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Genesis 3:22-24

Despite the initial thoughts that come into our mind when we think of banishment, God was kind and merciful to send them out so that one day…they could die.

Not only did God provide a way out of eternity in our filthiness and broken relationship with Him, but He provided a way for us to have eternal life with Him free from sin and sadness with a new body and a restored relationship with Him.

Life can change in a minute, but that change can be an everlasting one.

“ For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Beautiful Grief

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Today, was one of those days.

One of those days where you have so much on your mind and so much going on that you almost forget there are others around you. Whether its the class you have to get to, the text you have to answer, the dinner you have to prepare, or the meetings you have to go to this week…it can all be overwhelming. So overwhelming that we become self-focused and protective of our “time kingdoms.”

But then, you see the hurt in someone’s eyes and you stop for a second to actually ask how they are doing. You need to be somewhere, but somehow it can wait. They tell you their burden and suddenly you are pulled into the grief mire with them because you’ve been there. You’ve been in their place. You understand their pain and you are reminded of your loss. But in this loss, God places a special perspective lens over it. This perspective is called eternity.

Grief is ugly, harsh, cruel, and not what God intended for us to bear. But what man made into a curse, God has made into a gift. He has made grief beautiful.

How has He done this?

He has done so by giving us, Jesus. God sacrificed His Son for us. He went through the deepest grief of losing His Son so that we could have a relationship with Himself. He did this through the painful suffering of the cross. The place where grief, guilt, and despair died at the cost of Jesus’ life. Whether we believe it or not, God understands what we are going through. He places our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He knows loss, He knows pain, and He has made a way for this earthly grief to fade away. The old hymn, I Stand Amazed in the Presence displays Christ’s grief well:

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: Not My will, but Thine.
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

Oh, what precious drops of blood! Does this not make you stand amazed and in awe of what God has done for you; what He has finished?

So, let us as the body of Christ remind each other of the truths of the Gospel, of those that need the Gospel, encourage one another to spread the Gospel, and may we rejoice together in the story of the Gospel. This is not our final home. Grief is not forever and Christ is the beautiful end.

“For God’s children, eternity promises that sin will die, suffering will end, our trials will be no more, and we will live with God in perfect peace forever and ever and ever. You just can’t make proper sense of life without viewing it from the perspective of eternity.” 

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, Paul David Tripp

 

And if Not: The Story of Saul the Caterpillar

 

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Dear Friends and Family,

Introducing… And If Not: The Story of Saul the Caterpillar…a new children’s story that God has enabled me to publish this year. God is so good!

The publishing of this book started this past January, but God has had this project be in process for the last 7 years. I never thought I would do anything with this little story, but God had different plans. I decided to publish this book after the passing of a sweet friend and although this story has a bitter taste to it, I pray that it will be a blessing to many families and point to the true and wonderful message of Jesus. If you would like the story of how this book came to be then please read below.

The Story:

“And if Not: The Story of Saul the Caterpillar” initially was a quick response to anxious children in thirst of a new adventure story. Whatever the story was about, it had to have a life lesson. Later, it was written as a poem with the title, “The Fuzzy Little Caterpillar.” There were no names given to the characters nor was it set in any particular place. Over the years, it was realized that this was more than a simple poem. Soon the story details, characters and names started to develop. One very important detail was the meaning of each name in the story. In Hebrew, the name, Saul, means, “asked for, prayed for,” Zimri, means, “my praise” or “my music,” and Ebenezer, means, “stone of help.”

It wasn’t until a missionary from China visited a little island in the Pacific that Saul’s story really came to life. One evening, the missionary gave her testimony and shared her struggles being content with the trials that she and her family had gone through. Two weeks later, she received the terrible news that she was diagnosed with cancer. That was when it was decided that this special story about trials would take place in China. The citrus grove, the cinnamon tree, and even the moths and butterflies are from the China region. Still, Saul’s story wasn’t complete and was put on the shelf for two years.

In December of 2017, a tragic accident happened. A special family lost a son, brother, husband and father; while others lost a close friend, and co-laborer of the Gospel. This was the moment God used to move the author’s heart to finish and publish Saul’s story and see what God could do with its message. This book is dedicated to the son of the friend whom God chose to bring home. May this story be used to glorify God and bring you to the full knowledge and joy of knowing Jesus as your personal Savior.

The book is available now on the Westbow Press website in softcover and in E-Book here.

Soon it will also be available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon websites. I have yet to receive any physical copies, but if you would like to reserve a copy of the book then please email me at beyondtheroadlesstraveled@gmail.com with the subject: “Book Reserve”. I would love to hear your feedback as well so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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1,000 Years

“Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.

-All I Have is Christ, Bob Kauflin

Continue reading “1,000 Years”

“And If Not…”

Woman with luggage in mountains.

Each one of us can understand the feeling of change. The resistance, the pain, the excitement, the joy. Some fear it and shy away from it. Some embrace it for the sake of adventure. For the rest of us, change is like starting a new series of books. You start reading the first book trying to understand the setting and details of the characters, but at the same time your mind keeps bringing up this thought, “Either I’m going to love this story or this is going to be a big waste of time.” No matter how many recommendations from others you’ve received or reviews you’ve read, you won’t fully know if you love the story until you’ve read the words, “The End.”

That’s what’s nice about books. They have an end. They have a physical end that you can pick up and have a complete understanding about. It’s really not that complicated. Life, however, is different. Each year, week, day and moment is messy, complicated and completely unpredictable. You can’t even look ahead to the end like some do with a book (I personally think that takes the fun out of it!). Maybe you’re like me and wish that your life was simple and uncomplicated with little change. Just enough for adventure, but not enough to be painful.

Well, unfortunately, this isn’t what life brings.

What is that one thing that makes a lump form in your throat the minute someone asks the right/wrong question? Is it that horrible disease, financial debt, relational issue/status, sin struggle, life-changing decision or even that overwhelming theological question that you just can’t muster up the courage to ask? How can you possibly describe what you are going through or can you avoid the question altogether?

The moment that Adam and Eve fell, man was separated from God by a deep barrier of darkness filled with spiritual and physical thorns, suffocating mires and depressing loneliness. No good deed or standing could ever be our advocate. We needed a perfect and holy sacrifice. Jesus was that sacrifice and our propitiation for our sin. At the very moment we confess our sin, ask forgiveness and accept Jesus as our personal Savior, change happens. And that change is gloriously painful. The most painful thing we will ever experience now is our time here on earth. Our spiritual bodies are now secured alone in Christ, but our physical ones still need to die in order to be with the Lord. So, what does that mean? It means we still have to live with ourselves and now our spiritual and physical bodies don’t agree. Sanctification doesn’t look all that great to us because it also means pain. However, sanctification is a sweet smelling savor to our Father; making us holy, making us essentially more like His Son, Jesus. At the end of it all, we eternally get to be with our Lord and Savior. The One who created us loved us died for us and was raised is now interceding for us at the throne of God where we will one day be with Him forever. That’s the good news. The end of change is a perfect relationship with God. He is a good and gracious God.

So, what if your circumstances change for the better (in your opinion)? Would that change you? Let’s not try to put a, “Well, what if God is trying to do such and such” kind of statement on this. What if you thought you were doing what God wanted you to do and then your plans changed? Are you out of God’s will now?

Do we really think that we have the control to change the perfect will of God? Do we really have to understand every little detail of our lives? Why do we think we have to control everything or ask God to fit into our god-like box that we can understand. His ways are perfect and always for our good. A friend once asked me, “Sarah, if you had the choice, would you rather struggle and have God or would you rather never struggle and not have God?”

Whatever the circumstance, whatever the hurt, whatever the trial, joy or pain, God has a purpose. If He wills it, He will do it, and if not, He is still good.

Cried Out in Anguish That I Might Sing

Has God ever used a phrase in scripture, in a book or even a song to pierce your soul and make something so vividly clear about Himself to you? He definitely has for me. Each Wednesday, some of our teens and sponsors come early to practice music before we sing them in our youth group. Practicing went smoothly. However, once the service began and we started the song, “How Deep,” I suddenly remembered that there was one phrase in the song that would catch me off guard. As we sung the phrase, “cried out in anguish that I might sing” I lost all control of my emotions and couldn’t finish the song. All I could do was listen as the teens sang the words that kept piercing my heart. Since music is a big part of my life, this presses on a deep place in my heart. The Spirit was reminding me of Christ’s love through His sacrifice.

Good Friday starts the Easter Celebrations. Most people may have the day off and will probably use it to spend with family or run errands. Those aren’t bad things, but do take a moment today and read through the accounts of Christ and His crucifixion. Why? Because we need to remember what He sacrificed for us. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus to die a cruel death, to be separated from Him and to take on the full wrath of God that was meant for us. All so that we could be restored as God’s children and to be clothed with Christ’s robe of righteousness. What a beautiful and humbling thing. How deep is God’s love for us? This deep.

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying,

 “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27: 46 ESV

Do you realize that if we are truly God’s children through Jesus Christ, we will never say these words? He cried out these words from the deepest anguish and no one will ever have to endure them as He did. He was completely alone, separated from His Father for us. No one will suffer like Jesus. However, those who do not accept the gift of salvation through Christ alone will indeed suffer separation from God in Hell. But this is not God’s plan!  (“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”-2 Peter 3:9). To receive this gift, you must accept it and have faith in the finished work of Christ alone. Will you accept this free gift of salvation?

And Jesus did not stay dead.

For death was not the end…for what happened next was nothing short of a miracle. On the third day, He defeated and conquered death; He rose from the grave. He crushed the serpent’s head and He paid the price for our sin. He did that for me and for you! After a small time on earth after His resurrection, He ascended into Heaven. Today He is very much alive and interceding for His children (Hebrews 12:2)! He has also never left us, for He left the Spirit to live in us and dwell with us. God has freed us through Christ so that we may live and praise Him! Let us rejoice and give praise to God our Father and Creator, our Redeemer and King in what He has done and what He is doing in us!

How Deep

You were broken that I might be healed.

You were cast off that I might draw near.

You were thirsty that I might come drink.

Cried out in anguish that I might sing.

 

How deep is Your love!

How high and how wide is Your mercy!

How deep is Your grace!

Our hearts overflow with praise

To You!

You knew darkness that I might know light.

Wept great tears that mine might be dried.

Stripped of glory that I might be clothed.

Crushed by Your Father to call me Your own.

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