Monthly Archives: November 2013

Pleasing the King

IMG_0043By Judy Villanueva

Luke 23:8-11
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been waiting to see Him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied Him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer…Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked Him…”

Why didn’t Jesus answer Herod? From all accounts, Herod was pleased to see Jesus and He probably could have won His freedom if He had spoken to Herod or at least placated him with a miracle or two. There was nothing to pin on Jesus, so all He had to do was kiss up a little, schmooze the king…make a friend in a high place and get out of jail free. Right? Why did Jesus stay silent and risk ticking off the king? Was it, as it so often is, about more than people pleasing or getting out of jail? Was Jesus looking through the king to a heart and beyond a request to a Face…His Father’s?

Herod wanted to be entertained. He had heard of Jesus and wanted to see for himself what this miracle worker could do! Instead, like a pet that won’t perform on command, Jesus refused to entertain the king and the king was not pleased! How dare Jesus not satisfy his appetite! Herod’s pride was surely wounded because, after all, he was the king and was accustomed to having his every wish accommodated. But Jesus wasn’t there to tickle or entertain. He had only one thing on His mind…the one thing always on His mind…to do the will of His Father. His silence was not only a response to a hardened heart, but most assuredly an act of obedience.

And me? How often do I summon Jesus to accommodate my wishes rather than to enjoy His company? How do I react when Jesus doesn’t meet my expectations…when He disappoints me or doesn’t act the way I want? I wish I could say that I always trust his heart and rely on His wisdom more than anything, but the truth is that, like Herod, I often become disgruntled and disappointed. No, I don’t curse Him or shout insults at Him, but I do ever so subtly call Him a false king every time I doubt His wisdom, faithfulness and good plans for my life.

“Forgive me, Jesus, for not honoring You as the wise King that you always are…for not Trusting You when I am afraid…for denying Your love and wisdom when I am disappointed or don’t understand outcomes. Help me to remain devoted to You no matter what and to trust more deeply in your faithful love. Amen.”

What about You?

Do you ever find yourself wanting things from Jesus more than wanting Jesus?

How do you respond when it feels like Jesus is not answering?

God is patient. Ask to know Him more and better…to want to want Him most of all!

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Water Walking

seaofgalileeBy Judy Villanueva


Matthew 14:25-29

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come.” He said.

As I imagine myself on the Sea of Galilee as this familiar story unfolds, the first thing I can identify with is the terror that these young men feel at seeing a figure coming toward them during the fourth watch of night. It had to be a ghost! What else could explain what they were seeing? Then, a Voice calls to them from the center of their fear…One they recognize…One that has been with them as a friend and teacher. “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t’ be afraid.” What would it be like to hear Jesus say these words in the midst of whatever has frightened or disturbed your soul? I find myself reading and re-reading the sentence, taking it in for myself…for today…for my life, here and now.

I don’t feel ready, but I continue to read and find myself captivated by Peter’s reply to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you tell me to come to you on the water.” What?  Peter didn’t just want to be with Jesus, he wanted to be with Him on the water! I love it! In short order, Jesus would have joined Peter and the disciples on the boat but Peter wants more! He wants  Jesus AND he’s willing to step into the impossible made possible to get there!   Can you even imagine what Peter was thinking and feeling? It boggles my mind and calls to my spirit with a grand invitation to want ALL that Jesus has for me… to any and all water-walking moments!

Seeing Jesus defy the laws of nature filled Peter with the gumption for an audacious ask! And, “Come” was all he needed to hear in order to get out of the boat and put his feet ON the water!! I know that Peter sinks…but before he sank, he walked on water! I want to be with Jesus, too. I want to let His water-walking life inspire moments where I, too, say “If it’s you, tell me to come” no matter how frightening or impossible the first steps might seem. I want to hear His voice of love and authority sweep me up and out of my fears and place my wobbly feet on the water beside His!

“All of you, Lord! All of you. Let me hear your voice of love calling to me from the midst of my worries with a command to take courage! If it’s Your voice declaring, “It is I. Do not be afraid” I will not be afraid! If it’s You, Lord, make a way on the waters and tell me to come! Amen.”


What about you

Where do you need to hear Jesus say, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” ?

What does this passage stir in you?

What is in your heart to ask of Jesus?

Do you need to hear Jesus say “Come” today?

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Rejoice Always!

DSC_0018.JPGBy Judy Villanueva

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (Thes.5:16-18)

At first glance, the exhortation to “rejoice always” seems unrealistic. How can I be glad and full of joy all the time? Giving thanks for happy times comes easily enough but, what about the tired, sad, or lost days? Is there a secret to giving thanks in all circumstances? I am convinced that it has everything to do with drawing in and drawing on the truth about God.

God is. He is good. Merciful. God is Loving. He is Kind. Faithful. God knows everything, all the time, perfectly. He is all powerful. Wise. God is Sovereign. Then add the word Infinitely to each of these attributes and watch what happens! His goodness is boundless! His mercy never ends! His love is everlasting! His power inexhaustible, His wisdom limitless, and His faithfulness over, above, in and through all…now and forever!

If I can keep drawing the reality of who God is into my consciousness, then “rejoicing always” becomes a real possibility. But, is it also a choice…a decision…a place of obedience? Does directing my heart and mind toward remembering God and laying the truth of Him over all circumstances tap the springs of life? “In Thy presence is fullness of joy” is the verse that comes to mind. And there it is! God is the Who that makes our hearts want to rejoice always, no matter what, no matter where! His supreme, complete and perfect presence becomes our residing joy, our hearts desire and our fullness of life.

“Father, once upon a time you told me that what my heart needs most is to love and be loved by You. When I’ve cried out for other “wants”, you’ve been kind…and steady in encouraging me to want You. Thank you for helping me to find my way and for breathing Your presence over me in a way that keeps announcing your love and becoming my joy! Amen.”


How about you?

What makes you rejoice?

Are you able to draw in and draw on the truth about God?

Do you need God to breathe His presence over you today? To be your place of peace and joy in the midst of your circumstances?

Make time for God today. A worship song, a walk, a friend, the Word, a prayer…a place for being loved.

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Trust in the Lord

IMG_1772By Judy Villanueva

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

Do you ever feel like God will be faithful to everyone but you? I had an interesting experience in prayer today. Just as I was feeling the Lord encourage me to trust Him with the things I’ve been praying about, I became aware of another voice…a voice that I recognize is often crouching in the corners waiting to shout doubt and unbelief over me. “No, it won’t happen for you. God won’t be faithful to you. Oh, He will be faithful to your friend and your friend’s friend, but He won’t come through for you and you will be left alone to figure it out.”

Doubt and unbelief are tenacious enemies of faith! They skulk about in the shadows determined to steal freedom and life from God’s children. As I sit here in the early hours of the morning, and look out at the gently colored sky, I could not be more convinced that God is trustworthy! As I read the Bible and peruse my own life story, God’s faithfulness is evident, sweet, and strong. I don’t think there is anything truer in the universe than that God deserves my whole-hearted trust. Nevertheless, the reality is that my faith wrestles with doubt and wars regularly with the part of me that wants to know what I cannot know, control what I cannot control. I stubbornly lean on my own understanding and then wonder why I have no peace.

This proverb refers to a faith that free falls into the arms of God! It invites an unshakable confidence in a God whose heart is pure and whose absolute power ensures His sovereignty here, now and forever. It asks us to let go of our doubts and trust beyond outcomes. It affirms that God will make straight our path and beckons the trust right out of our hearts! And, we can trust because He has control of this world and our lives within it…because God can’t not be faithful. It isn’t dependent on His mood…Faithful is who He is!

“Lord, I want to trust You with my whole heart. Please quiet the voices of doubt that interfere with my freedom to believe that You can do beyond all that I ask or think. Expand my knowledge of You and fill my heart for full and surrendered faith. Amen.”


What about you?

How do you do with trusting God? How would it feel to trust Him with your whole heart?

Does leaning on your own understanding get in your way of faith?

Take time to remember God…acknowledge His love and power to provide and direct your path.

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Comforting Space

DSC_0254.JPGBy Judy Villanueva

Isaiah 49:15-16
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
 Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

“That God is omniscient…He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn… God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters…all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good evil, heaven and hell.” (AW Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy)

I had a disappointment today…and it felt good to be reminded that God knows everything, all the time. What a consolation to reflect on the attributes of God! It is vital to refresh our minds with the truth about God so that our hearts can rest in who God is when life gets tricky. For me, it’s been a season of waiting…after living in one community for close to thirty years, my husband and I have relocated to a new city. There is the thrill of new adventures here and so many things that give us tremendous joy, but there is also a strenuous part that involves re-rooting and finding new places of belonging. I have enjoyed great favor in my life but this season has invited me, or imposed on me, a time of not feeling wanted or needed. Yuck. Oh, it’s not personal but it is humbling and frustrating and a little scary. After a good cry, I played worship songs and began cleaning the house, paying bills, filing and doing other normal things that distract and occupy me while my mind and heart reach for God’s comfort.

Where do you go for comfort when you’ve been hurt or disappointed? What helps you calm when you feel sad? Comfort. The Lord’s gift of touching us, His children, and bringing peace to our hearts…a transcendent peace that overrides our human capacity to trust, let go, and believe that because God is, we can relax and lean back into his complete hold of our life. But how do we receive this comfort and where do we go to find it? We are each unique and our road to peace will also be unique, but one thing is common for all of us. That is, finding comfort takes place under the wing of God, in His presence, with His heart, on His lap, in His arms of love…and taking time to be held is a necessary part of finding comfort. In other words, we must pause from all our doing and frenetic efforts to be…be fine, be successful, be all that…and make space for God’s comfort.

Your comforting space might be a walk or sitting quietly in the middle of a garden. It might be doing mundane chores while listening to worship songs, or watching children play. Your way of quieting might include reading the Word or praying with a friend…going on a long run or enjoying the silence and solitude of your own living room. The point is that “slowing” helps us settle down, find God’s wings and nestle in! And, there next to the Almighty, we experience His compassion for us…we are refreshed and reminded that He cannot forget us, nor would He ever! He knows us intimately as He knows everything, all the time! Held there, in the quiet and space, God’s love speaks to our sadness and disappointment, our fears and anxious thoughts. He shows us our names written on His hands and this enfolding of love brings a deep comfort that helps us to rest from our angst and trust in His love.

“Father, I am grateful that you know all things, all the time…and that you know me, too! Thank you that I can trust that You have not forgotten me. Help me to be patient as I wait for next things. Lead me to quiet and comforting spaces of peace and hope. Amen.”

What about you?

Have you had a recent hurt or disappointment? Is there a place of sadness or unrest in your life?

Do you need the Lord’s comfort?

Do you need reminding that God cannot forget you?

Slow down and make time for quiet. With God’s help, nestle in under His wing and let His love speak comfort to your heart.

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Ten Lepers Hoping

birdsandicicleBy Judy Villanueva

Luke 17:11-17
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us. When Jesus sees them…” he tells them to go show themselves to the priest, and “as they go, they are cleansed.

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Ten lepers yelling for the Lord’s pity caught my attention today! As I read this passage, I can almost hear the desperate cry of these lost and exiled souls. They have lost everything! Their condition, and very likely the law, required that they keep their distance from community, family and friends, not to mention the fact that they are literally falling apart. But, they have heard about Jesus and are waiting for Him. He is very likely their last hope, but hope nonetheless, alive and kicking!

I love this story of bold hope in a man who can heal!  Watch this hope lead the lepers to within ear-shot of Jesus and then, into an encounter where they are seen by the One they seek and cleansed of their infirmity. Their hopes fulfilled. Their desperate need miraculously met! Hope is beautiful, empowering and life creating! It seems essential to surviving rigorous trials, fueling stamina for seasons of waiting, and pushing past discouragement and fatigue in order to receive the heart’s desires. God has made the human heart with incredible capacity to hope but hoping has purpose beyond its needs and desires…it is meant to lead us back to Jesus.

The lepers’ hope in Christ led them to a divine encounter but sadly, only one returned to give thanks. Ten received healing but only one received Christ! Ten suffered a disease that literally deadened their limbs and for nine of them, it seemed to have also numbed their hearts. It is sobering. I love hope and hoping but I want my hopes to lead me back to Jesus! I am prone to seek and be satisfied with temporal comforts, but I want to be found prostrate and filled with praise! I want to want Jesus…

“Lord, You and You alone awaken my soul and satisfy my deepest longings. I hope for many, many things but pray You will aim my heart at Yours! Awaken the places that have become numb and help me to keep returning to give You thanks and praise. Amen.”

What about you?

What are you hoping for today?

Where do you need God’s love?

Do you relate to the nine or the one? Do you receive and move on, or return to give thanks?

How awake is your soul? Can you feel the Holy Spirit’s love and promptings?

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

DSC_0271.JPGBy Judy Villanueva

Psalm 13:14-17
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
 In your book were written
 all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
 How vast is the sum of them!

Do you ever feel like you are not enough? Or, wish that you were a little more like so-and-so? More talkative, less talkative, smarter, wiser, more type A, more type “chill”, more sensitive, less sensitive, more articulate, creative, productive…just plain more or just plain different? I had dinner this week with a new friend who is extraordinarily talented. I was literally in awe of her energy, creativity, and many accomplishments. In all sincerity I found myself sort of gawking at her in amazement and admiration. Later that evening, however, I noticed that something else had crept up on me…self-doubt, an interior voice with a question. Is who I am and how I am ok?” I felt flawed and somehow not what I should be…

I think this is where the enemy of God works his hardest! If God’s children will start to doubt who they are…even though each one of us is a divine inspiration, unique, and cherished…then, the rip-off can take root. Self-doubt enters the mind and rather than trusting God with who we are and agreeing that all His works are wonderful, we live life wishing we were someone else. We miss out on getting to be who God made us to be and experiencing His glory uniquely poured out through exactly our life! Self-doubt and self-rejection turn our eyes inward and not only skew our view of ourselves, but sadly hinder our freedom to enjoy the uniqueness of others as well.

What a contrast to what the Psalmist sings, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well” !!! Once I recognized this old familiar voice, I opened the Word to these verses. I read them over and over…and with each reading my heart lightened and soon they were my words, my song of praise. I was able to make peace with who I am not and rejoice in who I am, trusting that a wise God made me just the way I am…intricately woven in secret, always beheld by the Almighty even before I looked like me, all my days written in His book, and His thoughts of me… too many to count!

“Lord God, you are wonderful! That you think of me and see me all the time, that you love me and always know me every, every minute…astounds me and makes me cry the heartfelt kind of tears. I am so grateful for You! Because of You, I can say that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I love you! Amen.”

What about you?

How do you feel about yourself? Do you compare yourself with others?

Are you free to be you? Maybe imperfect, but uniquely and wonderfully you?

Do you need reminding today that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? That you are on God’s mind and in His heart?

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