Victorious Suffering

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” Job 19:25-27 (NIV)

There have been seasons of long struggles in my life when heartache piled on heartache and problems seemed insurmountable. In the span of two short years my beloved grandmother died, a freak accident took the life of a best friend, and I miscarried our baby boy at 20 weeks. We moved to a different state with three young daughters, discovering when we arrived that we had no place to live; we had leased a house that the owner sold without telling us. My husband lost his job, and I was battling depression. I often felt like there would never be an end to our suffering.

I get why Job’s despair was so deep, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we have all had seasons that help us relate to his pain.  His struggles continue and intensify in the passages we read this week in Job 10-19. The increasingly brutal accusations from his three friends compounds Job’s grief and physical pain.  He plunges into despair, feeling that only in death will he escape his torment. Yet, in all this, Job recognizes God’s Omniscience, His Justice, and His Redemption. I love Job’s honesty about his suffering, and I love Job’s indefatigable faith. Job knows there will be victory, even when he feels defeated. God’s Omniscience in these chapters encouraged me this week. Here are my insights:

A Limitation to Suffering – God’s Omniscience (Job 10-14):

Job had absolute faith in God’s perfect qualities, in His sovereignty, His goodness, and His Providence. Job knew God as his Creator, the One whose hands molded him like clay, who gave him life, showed him kindness, and watched over his spirit. Job was confident that in His Omniscience, God knew that he was not guilty, but he also knew that God was providentially allowing him to suffer. In Chapter 12, Job voices his confidence: “To God belongs wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man he imprisons cannot be released” (Job 12:13-14). He follows this by a strong declaration of his faith, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” (Job 13:15). Job’s intimate and personal relationship with God assured him that his suffering would have an end point, “…his days are determined, and the number of months is with You, and You have appointed his limits that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). It was in these truths about God that Job was able to “give free utterance” to his anguish. Job knew the truth David would put to song hundreds of years later, “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).

There is comfort in knowing that God is in absolute control of the length and breadth of my days. He alone knows the purpose and extent of my sufferings, and I can trust Him with my pain.

His Omniscience enables me to suffer victoriously, just as Job did. Joy will come in the morning!

An Advocate for Suffering – God’s Justice (Job 15-17):

Job certainly did not have an advocate in his three self-righteous friends! I actually shouted, “YES!” when I read that Job rebuked them in Chapter 16: “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you” (Job 16:2-4). Job is worn out! He is exhausted from suffering, and he is exhausted from the “miserable comforters” who won’t give him a moment of peace. He has sewn sackcloth over his skin, buried his head in dust; he is sleepless and wracked with tears. Yet even in this, he trusts his integrity to his heavenly Mediator.

I love the prophetic words that point to Christ in this passage: “Men open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me. God has turned me over to evil men and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. . . he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground” (Job 16:10-14). Jesus suffered! He knows what unjust suffering is. He alone suffered and died for the sins of all mankind, for my sins. Job looked forward to the coming of Christ when perfect atonement would be made for his sins. That atonement is my reality today. Because of Jesus, I can have the same confidence that Job had in the face of unjust accusations, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” (Job 16:19-21).

Because of God’s Justice, I can suffer victoriously. Jesus is my Advocate who is at the right hand of the Father interceding for me today.

A Renewal from Suffering – God’s Redemption (Job 18-19):

Once again, Job’s friends urge him to repent to bring an end to his suffering. Job is now feeling crushed by their words, by their reproach, and by God’s silence. He feels alienated and forgotten, ridiculed and detested. He even goes so far as to blame God: “. . . there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my path in darkness . . . He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree” (Job 19:7-13).

Then, despite his feelings, Job utters some of the most beautiful words in Scripture, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). This is the anchor for Job’s soul. When everything is stripped away, when suffering and despair and alienation is suffocating in its darkness, this is the anchor for my soul.

My Redeemer lives and that is the truth that will always enable me to suffer victoriously.

  1. What encouragement did you receive from Job this week?
  2. What challenged you?
  3. How can you begin to see victory in your own struggles and suffering?

I hope you are seeing the book of Job in a whole new light. I hope that you are rejoicing in the victory that we never suffer in vain. I hope you are challenged to be a better friend than Job had. And most of all, I pray that you are allowing God’s truth and His character to be the anchor for your soul!


“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s  business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.” John 15:15

I love cookies, especially chocolate chip cookies, especially warm chocolate chip cookies. I’ve been known to keep a refrigerated tub of cookie dough in my refrigerator so I can have warm chocolate chip cookies whenever the craving hits me. COVID, however, has made me hungry for more than just cookies! After months of isolation and forced reliance on social media, I am starving for human interaction, and I’m an off-the-scale introvert! Never have I valued the gift of friendship more than I do today. My craving, however, is for authentic Biblical friendship that never changes with the circumstances of life, a craving that can only be satisfied in Jesus. If you are like me and find yourself craving authenticity in this crazy world we live in, I encourage you to spend time soaking up the beautiful words of John 15 and the promises Jesus makes to us today.

As I’ve thought about friendship recently, I realized that the definition of a friend has changed a lot in my lifetime. When I was a child, my friends were all the kids in the neighborhood who gathered outside to play hopscotch, hide-and-seek, or tag. In grade school I learned the importance of having a “best friend,” someone to eat lunch with and climb on the monkey bars with at recess; someone to whisper secrets and link arms to skip in unison down the block. In middle school and high school, friendship was often cruel. Cliques defined friendship – popular kids, jocks, “brainiacs,” and more. To be a loner, an outsider, or different was unimaginable torture. Fast forward to adulthood when friendships formed within the college or work environment. With marriage your spouse hopefully became your best friend and you formed friendships with other couples. Then came social media! If you define friendship by Facebook, your friends now are the number people who follow your mundane movements throughout the day, and the more of those you have, the better your life must be.

I’m grateful for the neighborhood friends, the school friends, and adult friends God has brought into my life. I’m grateful for the love and friendship of my husband and my adult children. I’m even grateful for social media enabling me to connect remotely with people who have touched my life in one way or another. However, I’ve come to realize that intimacy with Jesus is the only way my craving for authentic Biblical friendship will be satisfied. And I’ve also realized that the One who calls me his friend, the One who promises to be the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) longs for that intimacy with me.

His Covenant:

In John 15:9 Jesus promises, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” Authentic Biblical friendship is based on the love Jesus has for us, the same love the Father has for Jesus. God’s love is infinite, unconditional, and extravagant. I can do nothing to earn His love and I can never lose His love. His grace and mercy are the cornerstone of His love for me.

His Confirmation:

His love is irrefutable. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) His love for me is personal and it is sacrificial. While I was dead in my sins, Jesus laid down His life for me to pay the price for ALL my sin – past, present, and future. In this, Jesus demonstrates the depth of His love and confirms His promise of love for me.

His Command:

Jesus commands two things of us in this passage. First, we are to remain in His love. Remaining in His love means surrendering in obedience to Him. It means actively pursuing a relationship with Him as we yield our lives to the working of the Holy Spirit in us. Secondly, we are to love others as He has loved us. That means sacrificial, personal, extravagant, and steadfast love. We love with no expectations of what we will get in return; we love even when people are unlovely or do things to hurt us. We go the extra mile, we forgive, and we serve, putting others before ourselves.

His Consolations:

Jesus chose us and He called us. We did not choose Him, but He chose us for His purposes in His timing. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), and we are to bring Him glory and honor as we live our daily lives in surrendered obedience and trustful dependence.

Jesus calls us “friends!” I can think of no higher calling than this. No longer called His servant who only knows the limited immediacy of their responsibilities, Jesus makes known the will of God to me in the beautiful Gospel message. And though He calls me His friend, He is my Lord and my master, and I have the blessing of serving Him as I make Him known in the world around me. As His friend, Jesus is my constant companion, who walks beside me and talks to me. He is my Confidant who knows my struggles and concerns. He rejoices with me and weeps with me and intercedes for me in heaven. As I abide in Him, I enjoy the intimacy and love of authentic friendship. Only this will satisfy my craving. And it far surpasses the delight of a warm chocolate chip cookie!

My Commission:

As I seek to apply these truths to my life, I have asked myself several questions:

  1. What keeps me from believing and appropriating the unconditional, extravagant love God has for me?
  2. How am I denying the irrefutability of God’s love? What lies do I believe, consciously or unconsciously, about His love that keep me from being able to love myself and others?
  3. What surrendered obedience is God asking of me right now? Who is God asking me to love by going the extra mile or serving?
  4. What is God specifically calling you to do currently in your life to bring Him honor and glory? What steps will you take today to develop a deeper intimacy with the One who calls you His friend?

Jesus, what a blessing to be called Your friend! May I never take that for granted and may my life be lived in authentic and sacrificial service to others as I appropriate Your love for me. I love You, Lord! ©


In this passage from Mark 2:1-12 is a beautiful example of friendship imbedded in an experience of healing and forgiveness. Here we find friends who were committed to sharing life together no matter what the obstacles that might be in their way. I am so grateful today for my family who are friends and my friends who are family. God has given me the gift of friends who love me and support me when I cannot walk, who encourage me and even admonish me along the way. Friendship is work, sometimes even dirty work as we labor in the trenches together. But the joy of worshipping God with friends is worth every effort we might expend in loving them as Jesus loves us. I think that’s what these friends would tell us today.

“Some men came bringing to Him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowering the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5

I was tired tonight, physically and emotionally, but I couldn’t settle down to rest. The miraculous events of the day kept playing over and over in my mind and heart. I am not the same man who started the day, and I know my life has changed forever. This had been my day to care for my paralyzed friend, a day I always looked forward to with pleasure. For many years following the accident that left my friend immobilized, I had taken turns with three other men helping our injured friend and his family. We each came one day a week with our wives to provide relief and encouragement. We always brought a supply of staples as well as special treats such as dates or figs or even a bottle of wine. The women would spend the day cooking and cleaning and gossiping. My job was to help with the heavy lifting and personal care of my friend, and I would usually carry him outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun while I shared news of the town. It was times like this, my friend would say, as the sun spread warmth into his frozen limbs that he felt almost normal. The rest of the time, his home was his prison.

This morning my friend was waiting for me to arrive. The excitement in Capernaum preceded me. Jesus was home and was teaching in a house not too far away, and the crowds were already starting to gather. My friend’s wife met me at the door begging me to carry her husband to Jesus. Glancing over at my friend lying on his mat, tears streaming down his cheeks and gathering in his beard, the pleading in his eyes said more than words ever could. My friend believed Jesus could heal him if he could only get there. I had also heard the stories of miraculous healing brought about by Jesus, and I confess that my friend’s faith was contagious. But it was too far for me to carry him by myself. If we were going to do this, I would need the help of our other three friends. Leaving my wife there, I ran in search of the others.

It took little convincing to garner the help we needed, and within the hour the four of us made a sturdy platform we could carry, one man on each of the four corners. The women covered the platform with a soft mat of woven reeds covered in blankets and we settled our friend as comfortably as possible. Winding down the narrow streets was difficult and took time, but our friend’s optimism infused all our spirits. When we finally rounded the corner onto the street where Jesus was, we stopped suddenly in dismay. People packed the entire street. There was hardly room to move single file, let alone with an occupied mat like ours. But we hadn’t come this far to quit. Backtracking, we turned into the adjacent street behind and discovered a ladder leading up to the roof of the house where Jesus was speaking. We thought if we could get on top of the roof, we could perhaps just remove some roof tiles to lower our friend directly into the house.

I’m laughing now as I remember. Just getting the pallet up the ladder without dropping our friend was a massive effort. Fortunately, we had tied him and his mat to the support rods before setting out, and he encouraged us all the way. When we finally made it to the top of the roof, more obstacles to our plan greeted us. Instead of tile, as we hoped, thick plaster and branches comprised the roof. No one thought to bring a shovel, so the four of us began digging with our hands and broken pieces of plaster. We anticipated shouts and recriminations from below as the hole slowly widened and the dirt and debris drifted down into the room, but Jesus had everyone’s absolute focus. We, too, found ourselves stunned with awe at the power of his words, and this fueled our efforts to bring our friend to him.

The sun was beginning its descent as the hole was finally large enough to lower him down. Releasing the ropes that held him, we fashioned a loop around the pallet and began to slowly drop him to the floor right in front of Jesus. The pallet’s descent forced people to move, making room for it and for us when we jumped down after it reached the ground, careful to avoid landing on our friend. Whispers grew louder and the crowd surged around us barely able to imagine what Jesus would do to. No one anticipated what happened next. First looking each one of us directly in the eye with such love and compassion, he then turned to our friend and said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

We huddled around our friend, all of us weeping openly, as the priests and Pharisees from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem frantically conferred together. We couldn’t hear them, but Jesus appeared to know exactly what these men were thinking (“Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”), and he confronted them. With stern authority Jesus said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Get up and walk?’ But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

Without hesitating, Jesus turned again to our friend and commanded, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” And immediately, our friend stood up, strong and tall and robust. He picked up his mat, and with us following in his wake, he strode out of that room, fully forgiven and freed from paralysis. Our five voices joined together in praise as we made our way through the crowds and back to the home that was no longer his prison. His life was not the only one changed today, however. Four other men met Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Friend to sinners, and now walk in the freedom of forgiveness.

  1. What encourages you in this passage of Scripture?
  2. What friend is God asking you to love in the trenches?
  3. How can you help your friends experience the presence of Jesus?
  4. What is paralyzing you and holding you captive?©


“For though I were right, I could not answer; I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.” (Job 9:15)

As I continue to read through Job, I see him repeatedly display a life of steadfast faith amid his suffering. I find myself relating to him in many ways, even though my suffering pales in comparison. This week I recalled an incident that happened early in my Christian life that helped me identify deeply with Job. Our middle daughter suffers with a rare autoimmune disorder and has struggled with her health all her life. When she was still a toddler, recently diagnosed with severe asthma, we reached out to friends in our small group for prayer. We looked up to the couple who led the group and trusted the other couples studying with us. One night after Bible study and prayer, the leader came to us and told us that it was sin in our lives that was causing our daughter’s illness, that we needed to repent, and our daughter would be healed. Staggered, confused, and deeply hurt, we sought wisdom from our pastor who prayed with us and took us straight to Scripture.   

We were experiencing some of what Job did in these first few chapters.  In Job 6, he is in the depths of despair and cries out, “Oh, that my grief were actually weighed and laid in the balances together with my calamity! For then it would be heavier than the sands of the seas;” (Job 6:2-3 NASB). Instead of his friends comforting him, however, they respond by denouncing him and urging him to repent so God would restore his prosperity. They appear well-meaning, but they are kicking poor Job when he’s already down! Fortunately, Job has anchored his faith in truth, and this is an encouragement to me.

A Forsaking Friend Acknowledged

Job’s despair is so great that he sees no end in sight and no comfort for his pain. When he sought comfort from his friends, he found only condemnation. He realizes that they are afraid – if trouble could come to Job, a righteous man who feared God, how much more could come their way – but he does not excuse their unkindness. Job confronts them with truth: “He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14 ESV). Job’s only consolation was anchored in knowing that he had not denied his God.

A Focus on God’s Character Confessed

Job could have whined; he could have resorted to anger and bitterness. But that isn’t how he responded. Job’s complaint was just. He was in agony and felt rejected and alone. Yet, he did not become defensive or accusatory. Job chose to defend himself by confessing the sovereignty and power of His God. He knew God was his judge and he could not resist or oppose Him. He was anchored in knowing God.

A Fundamental Need for Mercy Expressed

Though Job knew God was not punishing him, he also knew that he needed God’s mercy. Job knew God as Righteous and Holy, and he knew that he was not. He did not appeal to man for relief, but instead humbly cried out to God for mercy. God’s mercy was an anchor for his soul.

I want my faith anchored in the truth of God’s Word, even when that truth is painful, or I may not understand it. I want to respond rightly to criticism, just or unjust, by focusing on who God is and remembering Whose I am. And I want to humbly acknowledge my need for mercy as I cry out to my Merciful and Mighty Sovereign God.

Here are my challenges from this week’s reading:

  1. What anchors my faith? Is it feelings or circumstances? Is it in what others think or say or is it in the truth of God’s Word?
  2. What kind of friend am I? Am I withholding kindness from someone, and what will I do about it? In what way might I be denying God’s Word in my daily actions and attitudes?
  3. How do I respond to accusations and recriminations? How can I acknowledge God’s attributes and submit to His authority even during times of hardship and pain?
  4. Where do I go for relief when I am hurt? How aware am I of my need for God’s mercy?

Father, may we be like Job with our faith firmly secured, anchored in Christ alone! Amen. ©


My blog today is an open invitation to join me in January reading through the book of Job. I can almost hear the groans as you are tempted to close your browser and read no further. After all, who wants to spend the next 25 days reading through a book of suffering and despair? I get it! In fact, I confess that I have often skimmed over the forty-two chapters of this book feeling like I was slogging through a black hole of despondency. But don’t close your browser yet! I think you’ll be as blessed as I was by persevering.

Job is introduced as a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil.  Following that commendation, however, God just hands him over to Satan to be tested. Wow! That’s not the reward I would expect someone like Job to receive. Not only does Job lose all his children and all his possessions, but God also allows Satan to afflict him with painful sores from head to toe. As if that isn’t enough, Job has three sanctimonious friends who claim they have all the answers and want to sit in judgment of him. Not the most uplifting and encouraging book, so why read on?

The Bible tells us that all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching and correction and transformation (2Timothy 3:16), so the book of Job is in the Bible for a reason. God has something He wants us to learn as we read, especially if we determine not to take any shortcuts.  Beginning with a prayer for God to reveal Himself to me as I read, I’ve plunged into the first few chapters. I am in awe, challenged and even encouraged! Yes, the suffering and despondency are there along with criticism, but this is a book of victory, not defeat. It is a book as relevant to 21st century women as it was to the patriarchs. Job has a lot to teach us, and I hope the following insights will bless you enough to accept my invitation and read along with me.

A Respected Reputation (Job 1:1-8):

Job’s character was grounded in his reverence for God. He knew God intimately and had walked with Him for many years. Job’s reverent fear of the holiness and righteousness of God caused him to turn away from the wickedness of his culture, to literally shun evil. He was respected by friends and strangers alike and displayed integrity and uprightness in all his dealings (Job 1:1). Job was a wealthy man who knew that God was the source of all blessing. Intercessory prayer for his family was his regular custom (Job 1:5).

A Reigning Recognition (Job 1:9-12; 2:1-7):

God is absolutely sovereign over all, good and evil. Satan had to present himself before the LORD and was subject to God’s permitted parameters. Satan is our adversary and accuser but has no authority to touch one of God’s own apart from His express allowance. Satan knew this. He could accuse Job (v.9), but God limited the scope of his testing. In addition, God’s holiness and righteousness would not permit Satan to remain in His presence (1:12; 2:7). How grateful I am for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for my sin that enables me to be in the presence of God continually for all eternity.

A Reverent Response (Job 1:20-22; 2:9-13):

Job also recognized God’s sovereignty. In the first wave of shock and grief after learning all his children were dead and all his possessions were gone, Job honestly acknowledged his loss and then fell to the ground in worship. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (1:21). Job’s perspective was fixed on His Eternal God. That didn’t remove or lesson his sorrow, but his faith remained steadfast. By focusing on God, the root of bitterness and self-pity was not able to find ground in the soil of his heart. Even after his physical affliction caused him to scrape himself with a broken piece of pottery as he sat in the ashes, he was able to withstand pressure from his wife and rebuke the lie that trouble does not impact the righteous. He trusted that God would use both good and trouble to accomplish His purposes.

Just as Job responded to his sufferings with reverent submission, his three friends initially acted with genuine concern and support. Weeping with him and simply sitting quietly beside Job as he grieved, they entered his suffering as faithful companions.

Two chapters in, and I’m hooked! Not only am I excited to see what happens with Job and his friends, I am challenged to apply these insights to my daily life. Below are some questions that might help you as you prayerfully ask God to help you apply His precepts to your own life. I encourage you to pick one or two and spend time journaling your response. Putting your thoughts in black and white can help cement God’s truth.


  1. What kind of reputation am I developing? Am I allowing a desire to “fit in” lead me to gossip, negative talk, or other unwholesome activities?
  2. What regular customs am I observing that reveal my reverence for God?
  3. What lies and accusations of the enemy am I allowing to distract me from God’s absolute sovereignty in my life? Do the world’s daily headlines cause fear and anxiety instead of driving me to seek God’s purpose and plan?
  4. What is my response to trouble and suffering and how will I let it motivate me to worship?
  5. What kind of companion am I to suffering friends?


Will you join me on this journey through the book of Job and experience the victory of a life of steadfast endurance through suffering? I have laid out a reading plan below to help you. Each Monday I will post a recap blog with challenges to encourage you. I would love to know how this wonderful book of Job is impacting your life and how I can pray for you. You can email me directly at

Reading Plan:

  1. January 6-9                     Job 1 – 9            (3 chapters a day)
  2. January 10-16                 Job 10-20           (2 chapters a day)
  3. January 17-23                 Job 21-31           (2 chapters a day)
  4. January 24-30               Job 32-42           (2 chapters a day)


When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So They called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. (Mark 10:46)

As Bartimaeus made his way outside the city gates long before sunrise, while the city still slept, he could tell that it would be warmer today than usual. He moved quickly through the winding streets with ease, wanting to secure his spot underneath his favorite palm tree. He may have been blind, but he knew these streets well. He had been born in Jericho, and the crossroad to the busy highway between Jericho and Jerusalem was as familiar to him as the hidden alley he called home. Jericho was an oasis for travelers, known for its numerous palm trees, but his tree was special. It was an old tree with large fronds providing protection from the relentless sunshine. It grew near the road used by everyone coming or leaving the “City of Palms,” and was also close Elisha’s Spring that bubbled with sweet, cool water. For a beggar, all these factors were important. And there were always many beggars crying out for notice. He had learned the hard way that people would pass him by without noticing him, even if they did throw a coin his way.

By the time Bartimaeus reached his tree and settled himself conspicuously near the road, he could hear the city come to life. The vibrations on the road told him that merchants and travelers were already preparing for what he hoped would be a bustling day for them and a prosperous day for him. Perhaps, he would have enough at the end of the day to enjoy a handful of dates with his meager meal. It was going to be a good day; he just knew it. Placing his cloak, the only thing he owned in this world, in front of him to catch the coins that wealthy travelers might toss at him, he tipped his face to the rising sun and waited. Others like him, some blind, some crippled or lame, but all of them poor, soon began to gather along the roadway. They were friendly now, calling out greetings to one another, but he knew that wouldn’t last. He kept his walking stick close and ready to protect himself and whatever paltry mites he could garner.

Begging was humiliating, but he had no other means of survival. He couldn’t see to work in the fields, or he would have worked gladly. He wasn’t lazy. And he was grateful, not only for the coins, but also for the bits and pieces of knowledge he gleaned from conversations all around him. Bartimaeus had finely tuned ears. He could gauge the wealth and status of people by their language and dialects, often from a distance. This was helpful for a beggar. He was also well informed about the secrets of business and politics in his city. People assumed that if you were blind and poor, you must also be stupid, and they spoke freely of things that should have gone unsaid.

For the last several years he had been hearing much about an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth. This Jesus created quite a stir no matter where he went, and he had been in Jericho for several days now. Bartimaeus wanted to hear him teach, but the crowds were so thick around Jesus that he hadn’t been able to get close. He knew the priests and rulers in Jerusalem were frightened of him. Bartimaeus heard over and over of the miracles Jesus performed, demons cast out, thousands fed from just a few fish and loaves of bread. Lepers were healed, they said, and a blind man received his sight at Bethsaida. Some vowed that even the wind and the waves obeyed his commands. He taught with such power and authority and called Yahweh his Father. Recently Bartimaeus heard several Pharisees indignant with Jesus who allowed himself to be anointed by a sinful woman and then announced to everyone that her faith had saved her, and her sins were forgiven. Only God could forgive sins. The more Bartimaeus heard, the more convinced he was that this Jesus had to be who he claimed to be, the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah. His longing for Messiah was suddenly so intense that he couldn’t catch his breath.

He was so deep in thought that at first, he didn’t hear the stirrings in the crowd as it drew close to him. Then he heard the very name he was pondering echo through the people, “Jesus.” Jesus was coming! Bartimaeus didn’t hesitate. Loudly he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Tears were pouring from his sightless eyes, and he didn’t feel the rods that struck him or hear the commands to be silent. The noise from the throng was so great, he knew Jesus couldn’t possibly hear him, so he shouted louder and louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Without warning the silence of midnight fell around him. He was conscious only of his need for Jesus, of his need for mercy, when a man called to him, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Tossing aside his cloak, and the few coins nestled in it, Bartimaeus jumped to his feet and felt his way to Jesus. With a voice of infinite compassion, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” No one had ever asked him that question. No one had ever cared for him or spoken so tenderly to him. Whispering now, Bartimaeus spoke, “Lord, I want to see,” and he felt the gentle touch of Jesus on his eyes and heard him say, “Go, your faith has healed you.” In that instant he opened his eyes to the face of God, left his cloak and palm tree behind and followed Jesus.

The road led to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane and Golgotha and finally to an empty tomb, but Bartimaeus never looked back. He received more than just his physical healing that day outside of Jericho. He had cried out a beggar and was noticed by the King. The eyes of his heart were opened, the truth of Scripture revealed, and mercy and grace poured over him. No longer a blind beggar; now he was a bondslave to the Son of God, his ragged cloak exchanged for a robe of righteousness and the riches of eternity. It had been a good day, after all.

As you begin this new year, perhaps you are sitting at the crossroads like Bartimaeus was that day so long ago. What is your heart’s cry? Perhaps you feel unnoticed and in need of a kind word. Jesus notices you and He loves you. He will not pass you by. He knows exactly what we need, yet He asks each of us, “What do you want me to do for you?” How will you answer Him?

Jesus, help me fine tune my spiritual ears to hear You. Remove the scales of worldly pleasures and cares from my heart so that I can see You. Thank You that You never pass me by, and Your mercies are new every morning. May I leave everything behind to follow You this year, wherever You lead me, with abandoned trust and overwhelming gratitude poured out in worship. ©


Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

2021 is a year now written in history. 2022 is a blank page, a clean slate. I love a clean sheet of paper, a new page in my planner or my journal. A new page is full of possibilities. I think that must be why we celebrate New Year’s Day. It signifies “out with the old, and in with the new.” It’s a day of forgetting the past and looking forward to the future. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, however. I found that I would be full of good intentions, but they never seemed to last. In fact, I would often cast them aside before the month of January ended. Sound familiar?

Instead, I set New Year’s Prize Goals. In addition to blank pages, I love prizes. Prizes are something to look forward to, little things that brighten my day or encourage me in my endeavors. Sometimes the thought of a prize, like one piece of chocolate at the end of a hard day, is enough to keep me motivated. Several years ago, one of my spiritual mentors introduced me to the concept of quietly sitting before the Lord during the time between Christmas and New Year’s to take stock of the year behind me and prayerfully look forward to the upcoming year. This is not always an easy process, seldom accomplished in one sitting, but over the years I’ve come to look forward to this special time of planning with the Lord. And I find that setting prize goals with God always results in forward momentum. It is my prize time, and Philippians 3:12-14 is an important passage for me as I establish my prize goals. Here’s how I do it:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect”

As I begin, I recognize that God is in the process of refining me, conforming me to the image of His Son, and this his process will continue until He takes me home.  And so, I press on, I persevere, and I keep going. To press on carries with it the metaphor of pursuing, as in a race,  and to speed on earnestly. Jesus took hold of me, and He has a purpose in my life. I want to intently pursue Jesus and to follow Him with all my heart. Troubles and heartaches are never a reason to quit; joys and happiness are never a reason to grow complacent. As I begin a new year, I need to do so with my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith.

But one thing I do”

Then, with my Bible and my journal open, I spend time simply sitting still and quieting my mind and heart before the Lord. I choose a verse or short passage of Scripture to read and meditate on. Being still and quiet is never easy for me and my Type A personality, but that’s where my journal comes in. As thoughts and details pop into my head of all the things I need to accomplish, I jot them down and then immediately go back to reading or meditating on God’s word. Writing them down insures I won’t forget them and enables me to focus. I want to remain still and quiet and know that He is God. This is His time, and by quieting my soul I allow Him to prepare my heart for His ministry in my life.

Forgetting what is behind”

Then I take stock. This is not a time for self-recriminations. It is a time for honest conversation with the Lord. Is there sin in my life I need to confess and repent of? Are there failures that I need to acknowledge? Were there dead-end roads I went down? Again, I use my journal to list these things, and I prayerfully lay them at the Father’s feet, gratefully acknowledging that Jesus paid by price to cleanse me from my sin. I remind myself of the truth of Psalm 103:11-12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  Anger, bitterness, blame, doubt, fear, anxiety, selfishness, and disappointment are just a few of the things that need to be left behind.

“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2)

As I take stock, there is also a time for remembering. Remembering God’s faithfulness in my life in specific ways is setting a memorial in my heart that encourages me when I encounter hardship and difficulty along the way. Perhaps it is the birth of a child, perhaps it is the grief of a lost loved one; perhaps it is His provision in unexpected ways – the smile from a stranger, the card from a friend. For me, even the sun warm on my face is cause for praise. In all things, God is faithful. It is who He is. Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, God is faithful. Jotting down highlights of His faithfulness over the past year puts my focus in perspective.

Through this process of silent reflection, prayer, the Word, and journaling, God will often emphasize the prize goals that I need to focus on and the muscles I need to develop as I press on. Each year I specifically ask God to help me set prize goals spiritually, physically, and personally. For example, in 2022 I believe God is asking me to live in faith believing in the truth of Ephesians 3:20, that He can do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine according to His power at work within me for His glory. Ephesians 3:20 is my verse for 2022, the spiritual prize I will strain towards throughout the year. I also know I need to increase my physical exercise, and I want to expand my writing efforts. These yearly prize goals are broken down into measurable and achievable goals for each month, and then further broken down into weekly goals. And I establish small prize rewards each month for achieving my goals, because I love prizes. All this becomes part of my planning journal that I continually refer to as I press on through the year.

The ultimate prize for a believer is the joy of heaven and eternity with the Lord.  This is “the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Let us, therefore, press on together in 2022 toward that prize, “forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.”

What will God write down in His-story at the end of 2022 for you? What prize goals is God asking you to set? Perhaps it will be reading the Bible through in a year; perhaps it will be reaching out to someone a little farther ahead of you in the journey and asking them to mentor you; perhaps it will be applying a specific truth from God’s Word to your life or setting aside even five minutes a day to sit quietly in His presence. It may be exercise or eating changes; it may be decluttering and organizing. Maybe you are wanting to save for something specific or take a course that will help you professionally; maybe you want to start a garden or learn a new language. Whatever prize goals God is calling you to set this coming year, I encourage you to ask someone to join you on your journey. Having a prayer and accountability partner makes all the difference when we get tired and pressing on seems impossible. I know for certain that prize goals set with the Lord are goals achievable by His power and in His strength.

I would love to journey with you as well. Please consider letting me know how I can pray with you and for you as we press on together.

Happy New Year. To God be all glory and praise forever and ever.

Amen ©


“The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.” Acts 4:1-3

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished, and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

He was tired, not so much physically though it was approaching evening and the changing of the guard. He was weary of the bickering and the snide, politically heavy innuendos that echoed through the temple. The priests and the members of the Sanhedrin, both Sadducees and Pharisees, were livid this afternoon, and he was uncharacteristically impatient with their antics. As a Levite and now captain of the temple guard, his responsibility was to remain alert to everything that took place in the temple, supervising the guards assigned to the various gates and acting as overseer for all the religious and government business conducted in the temple. He loved his job. He had worked hard to get to this position. He loved the prestige, and he loved being in the temple and rubbing shoulders with the powerful. On the best day, it was a weighty responsibility. Today, however, he felt less like a guard and more like a captive, and he was tired of it all.

He was irritable, therefore, as he watched the two men, Peter and John, enter the temple for prayers a little before three in the afternoon. He was acquainted with these men. He had been on duty when Peter addressed the large crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost. The crowd of people, many from other lands and regions, was loud and excited as they heard Peter speak. It seemed that everyone could understand him, though there were many languages spoken in the crowd. He also clearly heard Peter’s words and had, in fact, been pondering them over and over since that day. “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” He didn’t know what that meant, but he was annoyed that the words would not leave him alone. He was, therefore, more than a little wary when he saw Peter and John today.

With attentive eyes from his position near the gate called Beautiful, he was not surprised to see the crippled beggar ask them for money; the beggar asked everyone for money every day. But he was astounded at what happened next. Peter and John stopped directly in front of the beggar and ordered, “Look at us! Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Everyone in the gathering crowd was shocked into silence as Peter extended his hand to the beggar and the man jumped to his feet, and solidly walked with them into the temple, praising God as he went. The silence was broken then as the Sanhedrin began to stir in anger, an anger that only escalated when Peter explained that the man was made strong through faith in the name of Jesus. By the time Peter commanded, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” the priests and members of the Sanhedrin were frothing in fury.

He saw them striding toward his post, their robes swirling violently in their haste, and there was no doubt what the high priest would command him to do. Sighing in resignation, he met them with his keys to the jail in hand. He had no choice but to seize Peter and John, even though they had committed no crime that warranted their arrest. It was too late in the day for the rulers to meet, so they would spend the night in captivity. For reasons he could not explain, he released the guards from duty that night and chose to remain with the prisoners himself. He needed to somehow understand what made these men so different. He knew they had been ordinary fishermen, but now they spoke with such knowledge and authority that their words pierced his heart and would grant him no rest, no matter how tired he was.

He spent that night captivated in the cold, dark prison sitting on the stone floor and listening to the Scriptures come alive. His exhaustion fell away as he heard the sweet message of forgiveness and put his faith in the name of Jesus, just as the crippled beggar had done. He felt the chains of contempt, pride, apathy, and self-advancement wash away with the tears that streamed down his weathered face, cleansing his soul. Morning dawned and with it the promised refreshment of the Lord’s presence. His step was light as he unlocked the prison gate and gently escorted Peter and John to their meeting with the Sanhedrin. Then he slipped behind a pillar so he would not miss one word these courageous men had to share with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, and the other men who held the power over their lives.

It was no commonplace fisherman who boldly proclaimed the message of salvation that morning, and this exalted captain of the guards fell humbly to his knees in worship. He didn’t care who saw him like that. These men may have been unschooled and ordinary, but Peter and John spoke without fear or compromise the message that resonated like fire in the depths of this guard’s soul. It was obvious to him and to everyone present in the temple that day that these men had been with Jesus, and his voice now joined with the throng of men who believed the message, crying for the release of Peter and John. He left his prestigious post that day and joined the healed cripple as a follower of Jesus. The captain, now captive to the love of Christ. No longer guarding a temple of stone, he was a now a guardian of the Gospel message. No longer proudly rubbing shoulders with the prestigious, he was now a lowly servant of the King of kings. And just like Peter and John, he could not help but boldly speak to everyone about what he had seen and heard.

As I contemplate the beginning of a new year, these words from the Book of Acts have pierced my heart and prompted contemplative questions:

  1. What holds my heart captive?
  2. How boldly will I stand for Jesus Christ in my daily life this coming year?
  3. What courageous stand is God asking me to take for the sake of the Gospel?
  4. How obvious is it to strangers, and to family and close friends, that I have been with Jesus?

Father, strengthen my feeble heart and mind to stand firm for You this coming year. Forgive me for the self-promotion, pride, and apathy that can imprison me. Refresh my soul and grant me faithful obedience to serve You with a heart of love and gratitude. Like Peter and John, I am an unschooled, ordinary woman held captive by the love of Christ. And just like them, I yield myself to You to do the extraordinary in and through me for Your glory.

Amen. ©


“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” Luke 2:17-18

“And his father and mother were amazed at the things being said about him.” Luke 2:33 (NASB95)

The morning star was bright in the sky as darkness slowly gave way to the soft colors of dawn. She was always amazed at the beauty of each new day, God’s gift to His people. This was her favorite time of the day, when only the birds broke the silence of slumber and every thought was full of endless possibilities. She loved the solitude of being the first woman at the well, the luxuriant stretching of her muscles as she filled her jugs with sweet water. These moments were precious to her and she guarded them jealously. This was the only time that was all her own, when she could let her mind run free before the demands of a large household asserted its frenzied claim on her.

Today, however, she woke not to the gentle coos of roosting doves but to excited voices in the street outside. Dressing hurriedly, she opened the door to discover a crowd forming in the narrow lane below her house. She noticed a group of shepherds in the center of the gathering accompanied by several sheep making their presence heard among the racket. Quickly she slipped out the door and joined the increasing throng of neighbors jostling around her. She couldn’t tell at first if the raised voices of the shepherds were angry, frightened, or simply animated, but as she drew closer, she heard snatches of their tale: “Angels, bright light . . . baby. . . manger in the cave. . . Christ the Lord. . . praising God . . .”

More people arrived and the shepherds repeated what they had been told by the angels and what they had seen with their own eyes.  She wove her way through the crowd until she was right in front of the shepherds and could clearly hear what they were saying, as they continually interrupted each other with details so amazing she found it hard to believe. But the look joy on their faces as tears streamed from their eyes, and the reverence of their voices soon removed any doubt from her mind. She recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), and the words of the prophet Micah, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

The crowd was murmuring now, astonishment and amazement filling each face. Could it be? The Messiah? Here? Now? Her heart raced as she began to grasp the truth of the shepherd’s words, and she was overcome with the same joy that infused their countenance. The Messiah had come! He was here! The prophecies fulfilled in her day! The Light of the World broke through the darkness, and she stood amazed as the truth of God’s wondrous gift spread love and peace through her entire body. The wonder of it all bubbled out of her in abandoned worship as she, too, began to spread the message. Immanuel, Christ the Lord, was born today in the City of Bethlehem! Never was there such a morning as this!

Christmas came, and all who heard of the Christ child’s arrival were amazed. Later Mary and Joseph were amazed when they presented Him to the LORD and heard Simeon pronounce praise upon Him. With each encounter throughout His 33 years on this earth, people were amazed at His authority, His power, His miracles, His teachings, and His words. His birth to a virgin in a cave in Bethlehem, announced to shepherds by a great company of angels, was amazing. The star in the heavens pointing the way to the Christ child was amazing. His death as the pure, spotless Lamb of God, to atone for the sins of all mankind was amazing. His resurrection from the dead on the third day was amazing. His appearance after the resurrection and before His ascension was amazing.

His love is amazing. His grace is amazing. And today people are still amazed when they encounter Jesus Christ. For some, it is the amazement of belief. For others, their amazement turns to scoffing. But the truth of Christmas remains. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord,” He is Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He has come to seek and save the lost. He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and He will return soon to take His children to be with Him forever.

So, I bow in amazement this Christmas, worshipping Christ the King, and like the shepherds, I am anxious to tell others what I have seen and heard. It is Christmas because Messiah has come. And it is Amazing!

Will you take time to be amazed at the glorious gift of Christ this Christmas, and will your amazement drive you to worship and to share?©


“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. . . I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…” Ezekiel 34:11, 14-16

He was an old man now. Too old to be in the fields with the sheep, but as night closed in and the sounds of shepherd’s flutes drifted on the evening breeze, his memories took him back to that night so long ago. It was his first night as a shepherd, and it was the night he gazed into the face of God:

He was too excited to sleep. He had been waiting for this day forever, and six years is a very long time for a little boy. His earliest memories were of the earthy lanolin aroma that wafted through their home, the soft warmth of a shorn fleece covering him at night as his father told stories of the flock’s escapades, the gentle music of a shepherd’s flute and the soft bleating of the lambs serenading him off to sleep. Tonight, those same sounds only increased his anticipation as he waited restlessly for dawn. Then he would be allowed for the first time to accompany his father to the fields. He was finally going to learn how to be a shepherd! He wanted to be just like his father and his grandfather. He wanted to be just like Abraham and Moses and David. He wanted to be a shepherd more than anything in the whole world. Soon, he would be gazing at sheep, he thought as he drifted off to sleep, very soon.

Long before first light, he was up and waiting. He had a sling shot in his bag along with some bread and cheese and a pouch of water. His new staff and the rod, fashioned with a sharp slate point at the end of the bulbous tip, leaned next to the door. He couldn’t wait to chase off a big, mean wolf with that rod. He knew he’d be brave; he knew today was going to be amazing. Bethlehem was bustling and noisy that day with all the travelers coming to be registered. His father told him how blessed they were to be going up to the peaceful pastureland instead of having to deal with all that chaos.

His day passed in a blur of white as grunting, snorting, baaing animals jostled each other for sweet tufts of grass. He was exhausted from running after strays that tried to wander away, and he quickly learned how to use his staff to guide the sheep where they needed to be. As the afternoon wore on, after they drank their fill from the quiet stream nearby, the flock settled down to quiet grazing. His father took his hand then and led him to a tiny lamb resting in the shade. He explained that this lamb was part of a special flock raised to be sold for sacrifices at the temple. They were a very important flock that had to be guarded carefully because each one needed to be unblemished. He was bursting with pride when his father entrusted the lamb into his care.

Throughout the afternoon and evening as the sheep were led back to their pens, he diligently watched over his lamb. While helping as each animal was counted and inspected before they were penned up for the night, his gaze never strayed from his charge. Wounds were tended, and the unblemished animals were segregated. But his lamb remained snuggled with him as he bedded down with the evening star bright above him.

Much later he was startled awake by a piercing white light and the terrified cries of the shepherds keeping watch. Shielding his eyes, he heard an angel’s voice proclaiming, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Startled, he remembered running to his father and gazing at the heavens as this angel was joined by multitudes of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” With that, the glorious light and the angels were gone as suddenly as they arrived, but in the sky was the brightest, most beautiful star he had ever seen. The shepherds instantly agreed that they must go to see this thing that the Lord had announced to them. There was no discussion, and they moved swiftly.

He was no longer tired. He scooped up his lamb and ran ahead of the others, bursting into the cave where the sacrificial lambs were born. There, just as the angel said, was a baby lying in the manger. He gazed with awe and wonderment and then crept between Mary and Joseph. Silently in reverent adoration, he bent over the manger and placed his little perfect lamb at the baby’s feet. The Savior of the world gazed right at him then, as if He knew him, and smiled.

He had known, all those years ago, that his first day as a shepherd would be amazing. But he’d had no idea that the glory of God would shine around him that day, that he would be among the first to hear God’s birth announcement, and that he would be the very first one to know Jesus personally. That day a little shepherd boy met the Great Shepherd, and he had faithfully followed him since that first night. Over the years, he shepherded the flocks in the hills above Bethlehem, but praising God and telling others what he had heard and seen had been the purpose of his life. Tonight, as the first star lit up the sky, he knew that he would soon gaze into his Savior’s face again, this time never to be parted. Soon, he thought as he drifted off to sleep, very soon.

Next week we will celebrate the birth of the pure, spotless Lamb of God. As we put the finishing touches on our Christmas preparations, I am challenged by the Shepherds Story to take time to gaze into the countenance of my Savior.

  1. Where is my focus centered? What do I gaze at intently?
  2.  How has He smiled on me in favor this year?
  3. What gift will I bring and lay at His feet?
  4. What purpose has He given my life?
  5. How will I to share with others the amazing truth of Jesus Christ?©