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Impossible Possibilities

day 13 impossible possibilities

Day 13: Impossible Possibilities

Scripture

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” Nehemiah 1:1

Devotional Material: Impossible Possibilities

Have you ever noticed it’s the most normal, seemingly unimportant happenings in your life that usher in the greatest impact? For me, it was my first course in graduate school that changed the trajectory of my life. Ironically the name of the course escapes me. It was “Research in…” I can’t remember the rest. The rest didn’t matter. The important part was that it landed me in the library days on end and opened a world I have loved ever since. It was there I learned how to locate, read, and interpret information in order to turn it around so that other people could gain an understanding. When all my peers were moaning about having to generate this semester-long thesis, I was having a ball.

This new love eventually landed me a new job with my major professor and paid for the remainder of my degree. Being up close and personal to the work and life of this scholarly woman awakened desires in me I didn’t know I possessed. I went on to get a Ph.D. in the same field of study. Within a decade, I was back in that same department teaching my own graduate classes. It was all because my taste for something I didn’t even know was so essential and life-giving for me was aroused.

That’s how we find God at work in the Bible.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

We can walk through the dramatic storyline of the Patriarchs all the way to Egypt where God shows Himself to be all-powerful, all-knowing, completely faithful, and able to deliver on His promises in miraculous ways. He caused these people to taste of His provision and see His deliverance in all sorts of unexplainable situations they never thought possible. But just a few weeks in the desert from experiencing impossible possibilities, like crossing a sea on dry land, we find these people unfaithful and ready to bolt with a different god and a new leader.

These people were pretty much a handful of disappointment and faithlessness for the next forty years between deliverance and the Promised Land, and you and I are often too much like them. But don’t let that be a discouragement. Our lack does not influence God’s sufficiency. His character remains unchanged.

One example

Take Nehemiah. He is a perfect example because the man didn’t have any more to hang onto than you or I. Hearsay about an old book with questionable relevance to the current society, and tall tales of a faithful God was all. Zero real evidence. No Messiah. Not a single miracle. Nothing to see but captivity, depravity, and hopelessness.

Nehemiah has a life-altering encounter like the class of which I can’t remember the name. News from his hometown hits the Big City. It’s not really new news. The situation has been unchanged for a long, long time. And what did it matter to a captive in the palace?

This seemingly impersonal newsflash left a mark on Nehemiah he could not shake. When that happens, it’s most often the Holy Spirit. And it’s by Design. Sometimes these insignificant, seemingly unimportant happenings are the very thing God uses to catapult us into tasting and seeing His goodness.

What About You?

Personal Impossible Possibilities Revealed

Is there anything that has left such an impression that seemed insignificant, too far-fetched for you to make a difference, out of your league, or uncomfortable– that you have left unpursued?

Maybe you have been thinking, “It’s probably just my imagination.” “That’s too crazy. I’m not qualified.” “That’s too big. It could never be done.” “My spouse is never going to go for it. I’m just making stuff up.”

Consider the possibility that it might be the Holy Spirit, using the mundane in your life to spur you on to pursue impossible possibilities.

 

 

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cheri strange speaker author she yearns

 

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Scattering the Ordinary

Day 12 Scattering the Ordinary

Day 12: Scattering the Ordinary

Scripture

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 8:4

Devotional Material: Scattering the Ordinary

Someone once interviewed Robert Seiple, who served as president of World Vision several years ago, asking if he ever became discouraged in the work against poverty, disease, and spreading the Gospel in hard places. His response traced a progression of what he believed was the worst situation he had ever encountered until he was faced with one even more horrific, from thousands of suffering from starvation to torture beyond what was imaginable. Yes. Even largescale hope-inducing ministry can be discouraging.

Some problems extend beyond the daunting radio tower. They are literally heartbreaking. Real people suffer. It’s crushing to bear the burden much less attempt to address the issues. America World and its efforts to place the lonely in families, caring for the vulnerable are no different.

What is the solution when it feels like you and only a handful of others are trying to share a life-saving remedy with the global community with limited technology, miles of red tape, and a handful of dollars to your name? How does God respond?

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Acts 8:4

In view of the spiritual darkness, we know is out there, this doesn’t appear at face value to be a genius plan for impacting the world with Hope and the Gospel. But this, indeed, was God’s plan. Things in Jerusalem were going well for a while and the Church enjoyed a period of growth. (Acts 6:7). That was until several of the priests believed. Stephen was stoned and immediately following his death, Christians fled the city.

Please notice the subtlety missed the first fifty times I read this account. Who is called out to do this groundbreaking work, in new, possibly uncharted, territory? Peter or John? A prophet? Someone with an amazing platform? Levites? A powerfully gifted speaker? No. In fact, it was all the regular folks except the most qualified. Dads with ordinary trades. Moms like me, with daughters who were shy, and sons who smelled bad by the afternoon. God placed the crux of His Master Plan for extending Hope onto those who probably never anticipated the responsibility or felt they could make any impact.

Still Scattering

God is still in the business of using regular people for His Master Plan. You and I should stop looking to those seemingly more important than ourselves, with a better portfolio, who have a greater social media following and a stellar job. I’m certain Peter was more charismatic before a crowd than most. But Peter wasn’t picked for this. Just plain and ordinary Jesus lovers.

Are you a plain and ordinary Jesus lover? That makes you the Master Plan. Ask God to direct you in He wants you to be involved in that fits perfectly in His will.

Do you know any plain and ordinary Jesus lovers who need to be encouraged to scatter and make an impact? This is still His style. Let’s be thankful and begin to prayerfully seek these people out, expectantly, believing and encouraging them in the knowledge that God intends to use them.

 

 

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cheri strange speaker author she yearns

 

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Perspective

Day 11 Perspective

Day 11: Perspective

Scripture

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, or in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 

Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Devotional Material: Perspective

Ann Jonas created a children’s book called Round Trip that has become one of my favorites. The storyline is quite boring, telling of a basic trip from the country into the city and back home again. That’s not what makes it fabulous. It’s her perspective. Once the reader has taken the journey into the city and explored the sights displayed on the pages, the book comes to an end, with something like, “It’s time to turn around.” The reader flips the book upside down and begins to read it from back to front, looking at the same pictures they just completed, upside down and backward. This time, the story shows an entirely different perspective using the same illustrations to travel back home. It’s like a visual palindrome.

Most I encounter have a similar reaction the first time they read it. “I never saw THAT coming!”

Sometimes hope awakens in similar unanticipated yet delightful ways.

Paul was literally gathering money to help the believers in Jerusalem as he traveled from place to place. The poverty experienced by those in the Church there at that time was deep and recurrent. He had no issue or hesitation asking other believers to help them, whether rich and poor. I don’t even want to ask someone to buy a one-dollar candy bar for the school PTA, but Paul understood what I often miss. God was the mover of hearts, not any human. And the act of giving was more than passing along a monetary amount. Contributing of self and possession was a catalyst for hope.

Just listen to the impact giving made on the Macedonian believers (vs. 2-5). It wasn’t simply a financial gift or sacrifice. They gave themselves—their time and energy—to God and then to the cause. As Paul moved on to another area, this time the Corinthian church, he asked the same of this more able and gifted group of believers.

We don’t know if the Corinthians were willing to offer themselves like the Macedonians or if they were moved by the Spirit to do so. Who knows the impact of Paul’s words on the believers who received them? But this leader was spot on to invite their participation and allow the Holy Spirit to move as He chose.

Who are we?

Who are we not to exhibit the courage to invite people into this Hope Awakening experience Paul so aptly describes? Why would we keep silent when people so desperately need it and the personal benefits to the giver are so blaring? The Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible, not Paul, not you, and not me.

It’s uncomfortable. Awkward. And hits people in areas they care deeply about. I’m sure this has not changed in two thousand years. Some of us simply don’t like to ask people to buy candy bars. Others of us don’t like to be asked. I admit, as one who tends to stare at the unsold box of chocolate in the corner, these are personal preferences based on comfort and ease. What is undeniable is that the Word of God illuminates a profound relationship between hope and giving that can only be known through experience.

Could we change our perspective? Are our preferences worth missing the overflow these Macedonians realized? The needs are great. Opportunities abound. The Holy Spirit is still Awakening Hope through this unanticipated yet delightful avenue.

Our Response

How might we allow God to move us to be more generous in freely giving of ourselves and what we have toward the opportunities He makes known to us?

How might we exhibit greater courage to invite others to come alongside to help those in need?

 

 

Leave a prayer or response below so that we can participate together as we walk this journey alongside each other.

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cheri strange speaker author she yearns

 

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The Joy Bringer

the Joy Bringer

Day 10: The Joy Bringer

Scripture

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. 6But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 2 Corinthians 7:5-7

And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 2 Corinthians 7:13

Devotional Material: The Joy Bringer

It is a joy to invite others to come alongside us to participate in what we are passionate about. Sometimes they are invited to pray like you and I are doing. Other times we have posted to social media, sold t-shirts, and things of that nature. Currently, I have a very committed friend in terms of support. She is part of our community. So, it is with deep sorrow that I tell you about the accident she was in this morning. My friend survived, but one of the casualties was her spouse. To make matters worse, the incident occurred far from home. As soon as word got out, two sets of their friends from the church immediately began to close the distance to get to her. I can only imagine the comfort they brought after enduring such an agonizing situation.

I’ve struggled to focus throughout the day, unable to write this section due to the tragedy. Two things are brought to mind as I try to put my thoughts together. The first follows Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians (which were already selected for today’s reading). He was a real person with genuine hurts, real fears, and untold sufferings. When his friend, Titus, showed up, that entrance brought light to an otherwise dim situation. He became a joy bringer.

Secondly, we cannot forget how necessary we are to one another. This is especially recognizable in areas when there are problems galore and fears that can run amuck inside our heads. Just your presence can make a difference. You can be a joy bringer, too. Bringing encouragement to another person in their struggle will help them better hold tightly to their hope.

What we usually do

So often our tendency is to pull back and turn inward. We shouldn’t do it! If the Apostle Paul could admit they were afraid and oppressed, so much so they could not get any rest—you and I can go ahead and meet for that lunch.  We can go to the gathering we have been trying to get out of attending, or we could inconvenience ourselves and travel great distances because someone within your sphere of influence is overwhelmed or hurting–all to usher in the hope that they need.

Dwindling hope is at stake. Thankfully, Titus yielded to the Holy Spirit, so that Paul could give us one of the greatest phrases in the New Testament: “But God.”

What we could do

Would you ask God for the boldness to make you a joy bringer like Titus, that your very presence would serve to be an encouragement, a comfort, or a source of refreshment to whoever God sends you?

Maybe you need this kind of person to show up where you live. Ask God to give you the encouragement and refreshment that you need. Maybe he will use a joy bringer in your life. Maybe He will use another means. This we know: God is faithful to do it.

Please pray especially for our fellow supporter today, that my sweet friend would be comforted and encouraged all the more as each new day passes.

 

 

Leave a prayer or response below so that we can participate together as we walk this journey alongside each other.

To return to the beginning of the plan, click here.

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cheri strange speaker author she yearns

 

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Hope Shelved

Day 9: Hope Shelved

Scripture

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. Haggai 1:2-4; 7-8

 

Devotional Material: Hope Shelved

The doors of opportunity had slammed shut. It was obvious. For years I worked toward becoming a published author in the Christian market. Not because I wanted to move that direction, but I pursued it because I believed God was leading me down the path. After about nine years, of writing and submitting, a publishing house was interested. As I pushed through the process of receiving that long-awaited contract, the editor, who had been so interested, literally died. Can you believe I never heard from that publishing house again?

All those years and that was that. I stuck my manuscript and my calling in a notebook. Since I’m not really fond of rejection, I had no intention of pursuing more avenues. I shelved it. Done.

Hope Shelved

How about we adopt some kids? Women’s minister at a church sounds cool. Maybe try a marathon or two. Host a bar-b-que for the neighborhood. Anything but risk exposing myself to intimidating nay-sayers and a world of rejection. So that’s exactly what this girl did.

It was at the end of the kitchen bar on a December morning after the dust was nice and heavy on that notebook when I encountered this message from Haggai.

 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.

Revisiting the Shelves

A church plant was not the message to me at that moment. In fact, it had nothing to do with an actual structure. I had taken the work He envisioned for me to do and put it neatly away. The plan didn’t work out, so I quit. Instead, I pursued other assorted projects. His agenda was out of sight. On that December morning, the words from this passage penetrated my heart and mind like a bucket of ice tossed into the shower. I knew what I needed to do.

It was time to revisit the shelves and recommit to that which He called me to pursue before—even if I could not yet see how it was going to turn out. This was a hope-extending experience for me in my kitchen just as it was for the people in the days of Haggai.

What About You?

Is there anything the Lord has placed on your heart in the past that, for whatever reason, you have shelved? Maybe God does want you to build something or help in that capacity. Maybe He is speaking to you about another issue of obedience. Let me encourage you to move forward if God is the one stirring you.

Although it’s our natural preference, we cannot expect to be shaded from discomfort or disappointment in the stepping out. In fact, the Bible assures us of the opposite (2 Timothy 4:5; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:3). The point here with Haggai is not that it all works out so that we can tie a bow on top, but that God takes pleasure in our obedience and is honored in our service to Him.

 

 

Leave a prayer or response below so that we can participate together as we walk this journey alongside each other.

To return to the beginning of the plan, click here.

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cheri strange speaker author she yearns

 

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