The Prison of Doubt

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doubt?

The kind of season where everything around you feels dark. The light you could once see so brightly, now seems to have faded.

You wonder if God is really there. Does He see you? Doesn’t He know what you’re going through?

The path you were on seemed so clear and firm. But now the path has disappeared and it feels like you’re sinking.

Sinking into disappointment.

Sinking into discouragement.

Sinking into despair.

And then your weary mind is flooded with questions…

Are you sure this is where you called me, Jesus?

Did I not hear you right?

This isn’t where I thought I’d be right now.

Have you abandoned me?

Do you even hear me?

John the Baptist was asking some similar questions when he found himself in prison.

Ummm….prison?

You mean the one who was called to prepare the way for Jesus?

In prison?

Yes. That’s where he was.

He sent two of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him point blank:

Are you the one who was to come? 

This is where he is doubting whether or not Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Should we expect someone else?

As if the first question wasn’t clear enough, this one surely grabbed his attention!

John’s entire ministry pointed others to the coming Messiah. His assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. If he got this wrong, then everything he did would be in vain. He would have been guilty of leading so many others astray.

He couldn’t live with that. He knew his days were limited. (When prophets rebuke kings, it usually didn’t go very well.)

So he had to know the answer to his final question.

Did he get it wrong? Was Jesus really who He said He was?

Dear friends, we often find ourselves in similar situations. We may not find ourselves in a physical prison awaiting execution. But we find ourselves in a different type of prison…

We might feel trapped in a marriage that  started off on the right path, but now is falling apart.

We may have taken that dream job but now it feels like an absolute nightmare.

We poured so much into our kids but now they are wandering off, making poor choices.

Or maybe someone you trusted has betrayed you and you feel stuck in a prison of bitterness.

Whatever it is you’re doubting, you are most certainly not alone. We all have seasons of doubt. We all have those moments when we are afraid to even admit we doubt God’s presence in our lives.

After reading back through the passage where John the Baptist is doubting who Jesus is, he gets his answer.

Jesus sends those disciples back to John with exactly what he needs to hear. Don’t miss what Jesus says!

“Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

John would certainly recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those powerful words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him through the painful circumstances he was experiencing.

Notice that Jesus did not speak words of condemnation towards John. He didn’t express disappointment that John was doubting him. He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration that John would dare question his authority as the Messiah!

Right after John’s disciples go on their way, here is what Jesus says about John:

“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11)

Jesus makes this statement in the midst of John’s doubt!!  

I don’t know about you, but I find this nugget of truth fascinating. It brings me such relief and peace. It removes the heavy burden of guilt I sometimes feel when I’m in a season of doubt myself.

As the forerunner to paving the way for Jesus, John did a lot of great things. He called a nation to repentance, and prepared the world for Christ’s arrival.

But the quality I think we can all embrace is how he persevered in the face of public misunderstanding and malicious persecution.

Have you ever been misunderstood by anyone? (A family member, friend or co-worker?)

Have you ever been wrongly accused for standing up for your beliefs?

Have you ever felt like someone has bound you up in an emotional or mental prison?

I don’t know where you are today, but I want to encourage you to claim the promises of Jesus that will bring you peace.

The very words of Jesus are what ultimately comforted John. Even in prison. Awaiting a death sentence.

Wherever you feel trapped, locked up, bound up or hopeless…only His promises can bring you peace.

Don’t feel shame in your doubts, but bring them to the feet of Jesus, the only one who can unlock your prison of doubt.

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Hope in a Hopeless World?

Hate. Racism. Senseless deaths. Cold-blooded murder. Unthinkable tragedy.

In the midst of a nation spiraling down quickly, our hearts are certainly weighed down with grief that fills the air.

Waves of fear engulf us, leaving us drowning with no seashore in sight.

Raging with a fierce, righteous anger, we demand justice. We rally together against the evil, making our voices known. Boldly we discuss the best solutions for fixing this wicked world.

But when all is silent and nobody is around, there’s a question I believe we all are asking.

Where is my hope?

Is it in the police force?

The political candidates running for president?

The guns hidden under the bed?

The promises of the government?

Where is your hope?

Who or what are you clinging to when everything familiar and what used to be stable comes crashing down?

If it’s anything in this world, you will come up empty. Even a hefty savings account isn’t going to hold you together when evil chokes the life out of anything promising.

As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised at the spiraling down of this world.

Jesus tells us very plainly in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome this world.”

I love the way Jesus tells us like it is. He doesn’t sugar coat the situation.

Doesn’t say you might have trouble. Doesn’t say if you just read your Bible and pray enough you’ll avoid trouble.

He says we WILL have trouble.

Sometimes I get stuck on the first part of this truth and camp out there for a while. I allow my troubles to define me and dictate how my life will be lived. I turn off the news in disbelief and let myself be overcome with fear and despair.

But the next part of this truth should awaken hope in the depth of my soul! He says to take heart because HE has overcome this world. 

The apostle Paul makes it plain for us in more detail about the kind of trouble we will see play out in this world. See if any of this sounds familiar:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Yep. This passage covers just about everything we see playing out in our nation today.

So I ask you again…Where is your hope?

Even as Christians, we might say our hope is in Jesus–but we silently doubt.

Our lips may say our trust is in Him, but out of fear we attempt to control our future. We cling to our jobs, money and possessions a little too tightly.

But look at the truth of Romans 8:38 and let it sink in:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (NLT)

Death is all around us in a nation that doesn’t value life. But God’s love is stronger.

The enemy is on the prowl, deceiving many people. But God’s love is stronger. 

Fear grips us as we wonder what will happen to our children. But God’s love is stronger.

Worries of how to survive the aftermath of tragedy weigh us down. But God’s love is stronger.

On a more personal level, I’ll peel back the layers of my own heart.

Will another maniac show up in my town, randomly killing people I know? 

Will my loved ones fall prey to the enemy’s lies and turn away from God?

Will my 12-year-old daughter be safe in a world I can’t always protect her from?

How will we survive the next tragedy that strikes closer to home? 

While I might ponder these questions simply because I’m human, I choose not to linger there.

I will choose to cling to the truth of who Jesus is. I will choose to anchor my hope in the unfailing love of God. Yes, His love is stronger. He is sovereign. Even when I don’t fully understand all that will play out in this world, I will trust Him.

I live in a hopeless world. But my hope is in the unshakable love and power of my Heavenly Father.

Where is your hope?

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Watering Your Soul

Hurrying out the door in a rush, I glanced over at my plants. A week ago the bright green leaves flourished. But now those same leaves wilted away, some with a hint of brown.

I’ll water them when I get back home. 

Several days later, I realized I’d forgotten yet again. Looking at what were once thriving plants, I bent over to pick up a couple crisp brown leaves beside the plant on the floor. Oh no!

My plants were situated just right. They had a front row seat in front of the dining room windows, allowing plenty of beaming sunshine.

Water wasn’t a problem either. My kitchen faucet was just a few yards away, always ready to spout out enough water. An ample supply of water for thirsty plants!

So the problem wasn’t the placement or water supply. The problem was me.

I’m horrible when it comes to watering plants! Instead of disciplining myself to water them on a regular basis, I’ll usually wait until they’re wilting before I give them attention.

What a powerful picture of how we sometimes approach our time with God.

I’m in a hurry now. I’ll read my Bible when I get home later. I’ll spend some uninterrupted time in prayer when I’m not so rushed.

But then after a while, we notice how parched our soul is.

We feel empty inside.

Instead of thriving,  we are barely in survival mode.

We might be alive, but we’re far from active.

I am so guilty of letting the fibers of my soul wilt away until I feel I’m dying inside. I desperately crave refreshment. My entire being cries out for the living water of Jesus to fill my emptiness.

If I watered my plants on a regular basis, they would never wilt. If they soaked up life-giving water consistently, then they would never turn brown. And I must humbly surrender myself in the same way to Jesus.

I need a dose of His living water each and every day. I will thrive so much more when I’m in His word every day. My soul will feel satisfied when I run to Him moment by moment, and not just in my melt-down-crisis-how-did-I-get-here moments!

Just as regular fresh water is essential to our plants, so is continuous communication with the creator of our souls essential to our faith.

What about you? Are you in a season of wilting away? Are the edges of your heart drying up? In survival mode? You are not alone, dear friend. I’ve been there. Sometimes I’ve lingered in this place way too long.

Take time to rest in His presence. Take time to open His word. Take time to let His unlimited source of living water fill you up to overflowing. His supply will never end. His love for you will never dry up.

 

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

How to Win the Fight

Your spouse offends you with unwholesome words. You’re innocent (as far as you know). Your flesh enraged, you lash back. And before you know it, a full-fledged argument is underway. This is the time to fight! Right?

Your tween-aged daughter gives you that hateful look again, and before you even have a chance to think, sassy words come spewing out of her mouth. No time for this kind of behavior! Your flesh ignited with anger, you raise your voice a bit higher (a.k.a. YELLING), telling her she’d better go to her room…or else. This is the time to fight! Right?

As much as my flesh wants to say, YES! It’s time to FIGHT, deep down in my soul, I know it’s not.

Actually, it IS time to fight. But not with your spouse. Not with your child.

Huh?

According to Ephesians 6:12, we need to redirect our focus towards the real enemy.

 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Our biggest struggles are usually with our family members. Our flesh and blood. Who’s in agreement with me?

But God emphasizes that our struggle shouldn’t be with them. Will we have struggles with them? Yes. Will we have conflict with them? Yes. Will we get frustrated and feel like there’s nothing else we can do? Yes.

But ultimately our struggle is actually a battle between our soul and the enemy. The enemy against all Christ followers. Satan.

We are called to battle on our knees in prayer instead of getting pulled in to mindless yelling matches. This is not easy. I have learned the hard way that being flesh-driven instead of spirit-led causes me much grief and disappointment.

This powerful verse in Ephesians is a reminder to me that God can fight my battles a lot better than I can. When I take my concerns, hurts and offended heart directly to Him, then He takes over and gives me victory. Sometimes I  only have a split second to decide how I’ll respond. The times I’ve chosen to walk away and find a quiet place to pray turn out so much better, bringing me peace only He can give. But the times I take things in my own hands and fight in my flesh? Not a pretty picture at all.

The enemy is out to destroy our marriages. Our families. Our close relationships. He won’t back down.

But God is for us. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in this world!

I pray that wherever you have conflict today with that family member or close friend, you’ll be ready to FIGHT!

Not in the flesh. But on your knees.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

What’s Your Training Plan?

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”

Monday-short run. Tuesday-strength training. Wednesday-cross training. Thursday-short run. Friday-strength training. Saturday-long run. Sunday-rest!

Are you following a training plan? Whether you’re a beginning runner or a seasoned veteran with a wall of medals, you’ve got to have a plan. You need to know what your strategy is from day-to-day in preparation for upcoming races.

Training plans are usually developed by experts. They develop plans so runners will have the endurance to successfully complete whatever their distance goal may be. Many faithfully follow Jeff Galloway’s trademark plan, designed for those who desire a mix of running and walking. Running expert Hal Higdon is known for his myriad of training plans for every running level.

Runner’s World magazine lays out multiple plans to choose from. Beginner 5K plans. Intermediate 10K plans. Advanced half-marathon plans. Beginner marathon plans. Whatever your goal is, there’s a strategic plan mapped out specifically for you.

Once you embrace a specific training plan, you know without a doubt that it’s equipping you to be a better runner. And most importantly, it enables you to cross the finish line.

Imagine a half marathon on the horizon without a training plan in place.  Would you just go with the flow from week to week depending on how you felt? Would you show up at the start line unprepared?

Just as runners follow a training plan, in the same way we follow a training plan to live our lives for Christ. In this case, there’s not a multitude of plans to choose from. It’s called the Bible. Whether you’re a new Christian learning to walk or a seasoned follower teaching others, we all live by this training manual. God’s breathed, inspired and flawless word—not the opinion of men or current culture.

This is what drives us.

This is what aligns us with our creator.

This is what keeps us on the righteous path.

Without it, we’re like a clueless runner without a training plan.

The Bible—our training manual for life—was developed by an expert. God himself used many people—led by the Holy Spirit—to write his story for us. From the creation to the fall. From the cross to redemption. He shows us who he is and how we are to live for him.

A runner’s training plan dictates daily steps to accomplish. But when it comes to God’s word, we have to dig a little deeper to hear him. We have to be still long enough to know what our next step is. We must be patient, studying and soaking up what God wants to show us.

The word of God will challenge us, yet comfort us at the same time.

The word of God will show us our sin up close, yet it equips us with strength.

Whatever each day brings, God desires to teach, direct and guide us on the path he’s prepared for us.

When we embrace God’s word, it equips us to be better followers of Christ. Whatever situations we face, his word gives us direction and insight. The strength we gain from the word of God enables us to thrive, and not just survive.

A finish line awaits us at the end of our earthly days. I don’t know about you, but I want to arrive and hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

 

READY? How would your life change if you engaged in God’s word with the same devotion you give your training plan for running? Identify an area of your life where you need direction. Pray and ask God to speak to you through his word and show you your next step.

GET SET. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

GO!  Heavenly father, thank you for giving us your word! Please help me embrace it for every situation in my life. Help me to understand your word when it seems confusing. May your word guide and direct me for all my days no matter what others around me are saying. Amen.

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If you enjoyed this post, check out my BOOK.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

At the Crack of Dawn

Psalm 5:3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Darkness hovers. Most people still slumber in deep sleep. Our alarm clock blares. Eyes widening, we quickly bound out of bed. Careful not to wake anyone else in the house, we throw on our clothes. We’re ready to do what we planned all along. It’s the crack of dawn. Time to run.

Why is it that we runners choose to run so darn early? For heaven’s sake, it’s still dark outside! Our non-runner family members and friends question our motives to exchange another hour of sleep to run. Why not run later in the day when it’s not so, umm, dark?

Most runners claim that it’s beneficial to run in the early morning hours before other things start to interfere. Once the demands of the work day are underway or kids are bounding out of bed, it can be much harder to squeeze in a run. Feeling wiped out after a demanding day, the thought of running later in the day can seem daunting.

Running in the early morning gets your metabolism geared up for the rest of the day. Energy you didn’t have at first rushes through your blood vessels and you’re suddenly ready to face the day ahead with a more positive attitude. You’re also more likely to be aware of the food you put into your mouth after putting in hard work.

Runners claim it’s worth getting up early to see a sunrise first thing in the morning. The beauty and sheer joy of watching the sun come up is invigorating. Breathing in the cool air of the morning. Breathing out gratitude for such an awesome part of creation. With a refreshed perspective, you’re more able to tackle the day ahead.

While running early in the morning is good, seeking God in our first waking moments is even better. David writes in Psalms that his requests are brought to the Lord, in the morning. Early in the morning before we fall into our break-neck pace of life, we are urged to put our focus on God. Before we get distracted with work and interruptions from our kids. Before we start tackling our to-do list. Before we pick up our phone to check social media.

Seeking God first puts everything in perspective. Fixing our eyes on him before anything or anyone else grabs our attention sets the pace for the rest of the day. Humbling acknowledging him first allows the holy spirit to flow more freely through every part of your soul. Asking for his guidance makes us more cautious about what we choose to put into our mind throughout the day.

Even Jesus got up early in the morning to spend time with his heavenly father. He was fully man and fully God, yet he modeled for us what we should embrace first upon waking. His example should challenge us to follow in his footsteps. Footsteps that ran to God early in the morning.

It’s well worth rising early to encounter Jesus. Sitting still in his presence washes peace and joy over us like nothing else can. The power he infuses upon us is invigorating. We can then breathe in his grace. And this prepares us to breathe out praise to him throughout the rest of the day. Before we start our day, we’re refreshed with an eternal perspective. He prepares us to not just tackle the day ahead, but to thrive in it!

READY? How are you doing with spending time with God before your day gets going? Are there any changes you need to make in your schedule? How does spending quality time with God affect the rest of your day?

GET SET. Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

GO! Lord Jesus, thank you for the truth of your word. Help me to realize the importance of acknowledging you first in the morning. Forgive me for the times I’ve put other things ahead of you. Help me carve out the time to be still in your presence. Praise you for the promise that when we seek you first, you will provide all that we need. Amen.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Messy Meditations

Psalm 19:14  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you. Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I can polish my words if I want to. I can say the right things. Even build others up with exactly what they need to hear. These are my spoken words–audible for those around me to hear.

Sometimes I get this right and can walk away from a conversation feeling pretty good. I’ll even thank God for giving me the perfect words to say to someone who was in need of encouragement. I’ll praise him for helping me speak kind words to my husband. I’ll breathe a sigh of relief that I spoke gently to my daughter instead of losing my patience.

But it’s the next part of that verse that really trips me up! The meditation of my heart…

What exactly is that? When I did some digging, I learned the Hebrew word for meditation, hagah, means to ponder, imagine or think. Simply put, it is our thoughts.

This is where it gets really ugly sometimes.

Sometimes our thoughts consist of the following:

*Negative self-talk

I’m a horrible mother for yelling at my child.

I can’t do anything right.

Why bother?

I’ll never change. 

*The things we rehearse in our mind when others hurt us

If she offends me again, I’ll have a better comeback.

Why didn’t I tell him what I really thought?

She’s nothing but a @#$*!  

*Lies about God

He can’t possibly forgive me for this.

He doesn’t really care.

He’s out to get me.

 

The things we ponder, imagine or think are not audible to others around us. While they may hear our words loud and clear, they don’t have any idea what is going on in our mind.

But God does. 

This is the place where I struggle!! Even if nobody around me has a clue as to what I’m thinking, my heavenly father knows it all.   Every. Single. Thought.

Even if I say the right words to my daughter, God knows what I’m pondering as I walk away, fists clenched.

Even if I remain silent after my husband offends me, God knows what I’m mulling over in my mind.

Even if I smile at the woman in Target who irritated me, God knows the hateful thoughts I’m thinking about her.

Even if I don’t honk my horn at the driver who cut me off, God hears the ugly mumbling coming out underneath my breath. (And if nobody’s in the back seat, those mumblings are usually louder!)

Yes. This is where I learn humility. This is what drives me to my knees in prayer. This is where God does his most transforming work IN me. This is what reminds me moment-by-moment why I need a savior.

So how do you keep your thoughts pleasing to God? How in the world do you possibly keep the junk out?

Although I’m a work in progress, I’ve found comfort in the rest of that verse: Oh Lord, my strength and redeemer.

I certainly can’t count on my own strength to pull me out of the pit of ugly thoughts. It’s his strength that does this.

I’m also challenged by the scripture found in 2 Corinthians 10:5:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

So instead of dwelling on the hurtful things I’m tempted to say to someone, I can tackle that ugly thing and acknowledge it before God, turning it into a prayer instead.

Instead of replaying damaging scenarios in my mind, I ask God to redirect my thoughts.

Rather than get pulled in to negative self-talk, I praise him instead for who he says I am in Christ Jesus.

Praise God for the comfort and power found in this scripture! For when my thoughts do NOT please him, I can humbly confess them and trust that HE will help me in that moment.

What about you, dear friend? Do you too struggle with negative thoughts? Do you feel defeated by a pattern of negative thinking? You don’t have to linger there. You can have victory in the power and strength he longs to give his children.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book, Embracing The Race:40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul