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The Upside-Down Kingdom

Just imagine opening this morning’s newspaper and reading the title, “{Your best friend} plans the murder of {your name.} Go ahead. Say it out loud. Let it sink in… what it must have been like for Jesus to turn the page of history and see the title, “Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus.” One of His elite group would be the one to deliver Him into enemy’s hands. Judas, who walked and talked with Jesus, who joined Him in the synagogues each Sabbath, who ate meals with Him, didn’t truly love Him.

Judas was so angered when he finally got a whiff of Jesus’ plan. It didn’t involve an earthly kingdom at all. He wouldn’t have the opportunity to rule and reign, after all. And so he decided to get even (or so he thought) by signing Jesus’ death warrant.

And yet, Judas joined them for the Last Supper with the Savior. On the night Judas betrayed Jesus, he sat with the disciples and played the part of one of them. How sobering it must have been for Jesus to look around that table and see Peter, who would deny Him; Judas, who would betray Him; and the other disciples, who would flee from Him. Yet, we observe no animosity in Jesus’ words or actions. He is kind, calm, and gentle. He was prepared to give up His life on our behalf.

But as if that wasn’t enough, on this night, we find Him on His hands and knees, washing the feet of these same men. He loved them in such a way that their sin didn’t anger Him here. Even as they argued about who was the greatest among them, He patiently assured them that He was saving a place for them in His Kingdom. He even told them that they will receive these benefits because they had stayed with Him during His trials. Yet He knew that a few verses later, they would not be able to stay awake to pray with Him at the most crucial point of His life.

This is the God we serve. He bends down to us even when we are consumed with ourselves. He doesn’t seem to feel taken advantage of by anyone. (In fact, I think I am more angry about this than He is!)

This God we serve is King of an upside-down Kingdom. He doesn’t operate the way we do. He doesn’t demand our eye for His eye. He doesn’t feel the need to expound on all that He has given up for us. He doesn’t get huffy or give the silent treatment like I would do.  He just… loves.

Another oddity in this passage is this: just hours before He sweats drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is eating a meal, drinking wine, and giving thanks.

How is it that on the night he was betrayed, Jesus could still give thanks? Give thanks for His betrayer? Give thanks for the people He had come to save that had rejected Him? Yet in the midst of His inner turmoil, He thought to give thanks for their bread. Is it possible that this act of giving thanks is an anecdote for our grief?

When I’m in the middle of a tough situation, the last thing I usually think to do is thank God. For that flat tire? For that job loss? For this illness? Blessed are those that mourn; for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Yes, we mourn the consequences of sin, but we don’t grieve without hope. Jesus kept His eyes on the prize… our souls reconciled with the Father’s. When we focus on Jesus instead of on our suffering, we are able to give thanks.

What grudge do we need to lay aside today? Can we forgive that small offense in light of the HUGE debt of which Jesus has forgiven us? Maybe we need to get down on our hands and knees and serve that person who has hurt us. Maybe we can start by simply giving thanks.

And then we can set out to follow our Father’s footsteps.

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The Story of Redemption Volume II Releases TODAY!

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It’s here!!! The Story of Redemption Volume II is available now, and you can use the code REDEMPTION for 20% off the new devotional and all Bible study sets!

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible tells us the story of redemption. It reminds us of who we are, and teaches us of the God who has pursued us from the beginning of time. Despite all the times we have failed…He has remained Faithful. In the first pages of Genesis we see the promise of the Redeemer that would come and make everything right. His name is Jesus, and He changes everything.

We learn about Him throughout the entire Old Testament and then, in the New Testament, He bursts on to the scene. We are overwhelmed with Who He is! The Bible is the story of our redemption.

 

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The Story of Redemption is a devotional that walks through the entire Bible, chapter by chapter. It is for anyone who has ever wanted to read the entire Bible. For anyone who has started to read through the Bible and felt overwhelmed. It is for anyone who wants to understand the full story of Scripture, and see Jesus on every page.

This is a story unlike any other. This is the story of Jesus. This is the story of redemption.

Volume 1 covers Genesis through 2 Samuel, and Volume 2 covers 1 Kings through Psalms. Grab your copies now!

Shop here!

 

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Next Lamp & Light Studies Announced!

We love Bible Study and we love community…put the two together and you have one of our favorite things! Will you study with us? Tomorrow is your last chance to use the GRACE code to get 20% off all devotionals and sets! It’s the perfect time to commit to getting in the Word.

We are in the middle of a rich study on Hebrews, and are so excited to enter the Easter season with these parallels of the Old and New Testament in mind! After we wrap up Hebrews, we will be studying a FREE reading plan that will be mailed out to our newsletter subscribers (so don’t delay…subscribe here!). Each day preceding Easter, you will get a Scripture passage and devotional sent to your inbox. Following Easter, we will begin a study on Psalm 119, followed by our Freedom and Grace Study! This new edition of our Freedom and Grace study on Galatians is available now. It is gorgeous and packed with truth about the grace that has been poured out on us, and the freedom in Christ that we have been given.

Join an online community of ladies for accountability, prayer, encouragement, and extra insight into the Word! Head on over to our Facebook Lamp & Light page to get plugged in! We hope you’ll order your copy of the studies and join us! There is nothing like studying God’s Word with other women. Even for those of us who desire to be in the Word, sometimes life happens. Accountability is a check and balance that keeps us on track!

God’s Word never changes, but it changes us. It is true, trustworthy, and timeless. So if we were sitting over coffee, I would tell you to pour into His Word because that time will never be wasted. Now more than ever I believe that women who get into His Word can change the World!

It is the perfect time to refocus and commit to spending time in God’s Word. I promise that it is a commitment that you will never regret. Use the code GRACE to get 20% off all devotionals and sets, even our most popular Bible Study collection!

Shop HERE!!!

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Updated Freedom & Grace Study is Here!

The new edition of our Freedom and Grace study on Galatians is available now! This study is gorgeous and packed with truth, focusing on the grace that has been poured out on us, and the freedom in Christ that we have been given.

God’s Word never changes, but it changes us. It is true, trustworthy, and timeless.

So if we were sitting over coffee, I would tell you to pour into His Word because that time will never be wasted. Now more than ever, I believe that women who get into His Word can change the World!

It is the perfect time to refocus and commit to spending time in God’s Word. I promise that it is a commitment that you will never regret. Use the code GRACE to get 20% off all devotionals and sets… including our most popular Bible Study collection! Don’t miss out on this sale!

Shop devotionals here!

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More of Heaven

The strawberry heads fall one by one into the sink with a thump. I stare out the window in between slicing the red fruit to see the neighbor’s dog bounding across the grass on his way to who-knows-where. I feel strangely out of place… like maybe he has an advantage on me because he doesn’t mind not knowing where he is going. I spend so much of my day clamoring and grasping for plans, counting hours and minutes and hoping to make everything work. just. right.

 

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Just when it seems that I’m happy with where I’m going and where I’m at, someone makes a comment or a kind suggestion or simply asks a question and I’m undone. Or someone else is pregnant and when am I going to have a baby? Or I start working out and I’m satisfied with my body and then someone wants to tell me about their new diet and I feel guilty all over again. And just when I finally become content with the place I live and not building a house, then the friend buys a big darling house with a huge yard and a garbage disposal and a dishwasher and I’m back to wanting more than this. Is it possible that as long as the enemy can keep us bouncing from one fire to another, putting out the flames and squelching the passion, that he can keep us from the ultimate victory? I remember the words of Spurgeon, “The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet.” I clearly needed some more heaven.

I pick out the best largest and sturdiest strawberries and place them in a separate bowl. I wish that I could pick a carton up at the store that had all the same size and freshness of the season. Instead, I find myself buying three or four cartons just to satisfy my need. If I am going to fill them with cheesecake icing, they must be strong so I can hull out the center, and the bottom half must be just ripe enough or it will smash easily.

See, I want to be the big and sturdy berry. I carefully plan my life so that my appearance is firm and my house is fresh and I stand tall in a world that needs to find fulfillment. I want to be the one to give them the answer. But I’m so often beat up by my own sin and poor choices and distracted from the Bible study that helps me grow and I turn out to be a midget Christian with soft sides who can’t even hold my own weight. There might be some room for the sweetness of God to penetrate me, but I’m so full of other rottenness that the sour taste remains. The more control I desire, the less control I have. And when situations buoy out of my control or I find that I have no power to make someone perform {that someone could be me}, I buckle under the disappointment of losing control and I come face to face with the fact that I have made an idol. I craved control and power and influence and all it got me was humble pie.

I set the bowl of small and weak berries in the refrigerator. I can eat them for breakfast with my Cheerios in the morning, but they wouldn’t do for my project. They were useful and delicious, but not for what I intended them to be. It is embarrassing to admit that I’ve made a god out of something, anything. I claim that God is the only god I serve, but when I can’t live without something, it tells on me. I know that I’m useful in the Kingdom, but I also realize I’m not exactly who God intended for me to be. The enemy loves to remind me of this and make me feel defeated. He wants me to look at my problems and feel hopeless. He wants me to focus on my shortcomings and feel dumb. And my mind has no hard time going along with it. But when I can just look straight into the face of my Savior, He reminds me that every day is a fresh start to becoming who He and I both want me to be.

The cream cheese and powdered sugar and vanilla blend in the bowl until the mixture is creamy. I pipe it into each strawberry. Each berry requires a different amount, depending on size, strength, and how much I was able to hew out of the center. I was proud of the big sturdy berries. They displayed well and would surely be the first chosen. The smaller, weaker ones didn’t stand up by themselves and I knew they would be battered and falling apart as everyone dug for the ones around them. But I knew that those smaller berries would be the ones that I would scoop up at the end of the evening, turn my spoon upside down over my tongue, and savor. Because the smaller the berry, the more the cream cheese flavor would stand out.

And I am reminded that the weaker we are, the stronger God can be seen and tasted in my life. The ugly truth is that I can’t change people. I often can’t change situations. But not being in control doesn’t mean that I don’t have influence. And it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t require of me every little step of obedience even in my place of seeming insignificance. He checks my attitude and tries my motives and watches for where I put my time, attention, and effort. He rewards accordingly. And He reminds me that it’s not up to me to change the world.

It’s up to me to change me.

So I put Him back on the rightful throne and take myself off. I let HIM be the one to judge others and do justice, not me. I let HIM punish others and not me. I let HIM affect my mood and attitude and actions, not others. And I take the higher road of not being in control, but of being controlled by the One controls my destiny.

I thank Him that when I was living in sin {yesterday}, He lived in grace and I inherited His sinlessness.

After everyone else picks the big, strong kids for their kickball team, I’d like to think that God would scoop me up and savor me because I’ve leaned on Him when I wasn’t strong enough to stand on my own two feet. When I was yet without strength, He chose me and put me on His team. And Coach doesn’t kick me off the team even when I’m a poor player and I let Him down. And when I wander away from the game, He invites me back.

I pipe the last of the strawberries, settle them into the container, and gently sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top. I suddenly feel light again since casting my burden on Him. I think I could go bounding through the yard after the dog. After all, you never know what you might find when you are willing to let go and travel on an adventure with God. Knowing that He knows the destination allows me to take my hands off the wheel and sit back and enjoy the ride.KS-Instas-April25-167

 

Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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