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#1 Way You’re Doing It Wrong

How does a Christian grow in their faith?

We like to start by building ourselves up in the Lord when we work our praying and ministering muscles.

Another strategy is to stretch ourselves by extending our hands out to others with the love of God. We often lift our Bibles higher and higher, making them heavier and heavier as we scribble in the margins and stuff them with notes.

But the first step in the growth of Spiritual muscle takes place when the inner stuff breaks down.

The first position of the believer being strengthened is bent low on humbled knees.

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Growth in the Lord doesn’t begin by doing more or carrying weightier virtues and ministries.

Rather, spiritual growth originates in becoming less.

Becoming strong in the Lord requires the laying down of our bulky burdens at the cross to be free to train as our trainer leads.

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” never calls us to be more or greater. In fact, “be strong” can be misleading. The words translate more directly to “be strengthened” or “be empowered.” The rest of verse makes this clear.

We have to be strengthened by the the source of our strength.

To be strengthened by the Lord, kneel before Him. Heave off the weights you aren’t meant to carry. Let your Spiritual muscles be broken down by the Lord, examined, and made stronger as true muscle, earned by submission to the trainer.

Sweet relief for the weak (all of us!):

We are strong in the Lord when we grow in His mighty power, not when we’re mustering up our own.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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Facing the Big “What If”

I recently had the privilege of sharing a brief devotion with a bunch of teenage girls. Weeks in advance, when I asked the Lord what He might have me say, His answer was clear: “tell them they can pour it all out to me, they can always come to me.”

The Lord never gives you a lesson to share He isn’t also going to teach you through.

I kinda forgot that.

See, I talk to God all the time. But I don’t always talk to Him like He is who He says He is.

A few hours before I shared with the girls, He got my attention. Listening to those same girls, I began listening to the Lord about what I know goes on in their lives…and what I know will go on because they are humans living in the same fallen world I am.

They (and we) are going to face a lot of “what ifs” that plunder their prayers:

What if God never has me get married?

What if God never gives me or shows me my dream job?

What if God never makes me healthy again when I get sick?

What if God never heals the broken relationships I can’t fix myself?

What if I fail?

These are valid questions, and it’s alright to ask them. There is wisdom in preparing for many “what ifs.”

But the question of “what if” can also be a positive one.

What if God actually has plans for my life?

What if God is waiting to comfort me in my struggle?

What if God loves me more than the people in my life can and wants time with me too?

What if God is a confidant and an advisor?

What if God can lean in, listen, and embolden me like (or more than!) my best friends?

 What if we believe, when we speak to God, He is listening as lovingly, patiently, kindly, perfectly, gently, and honestly as He says is in His Word?

What if we believe

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages believers to put on the armor of God. Then He goes on to say “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Prayer is included right there in the battle plan. But notice it fits in, bound to, other pieces of armor like salvation, righteousness, and faith. Notice how God speaks elsewhere about praying with a right heart, not for our own selfish ambitions (James 4:3.)

In other passages, God tells us we must ask and believe (Matt 21:22.)

What I’ve been convicted of is this: our prayers are plundered when we don’t believe or don’t recognize exactly who it is we’re talking to.

The best place for “what if” in prayer is “what if God is really listening, really cares, and has a perfect plan?” Because He is, and it changes things when we believe Him.

At very least, praying while believing God is who He is changes our perspective from desperately attempting to persuade God to resting in the blessed assurance of Christ.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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God’s Reliability: Updating to 5.0

{This post originally appeared on My Faith Radio}

We know all too well the adrenaline rush of a beloved phone fizzling out or breaking. Updates to social media page layouts and software give us pause.

We get used to doing things a certain way and using particular tools. It’s normal to feel vulnerable, tired, lost, and frustrated when the things we have come to rely on change.

What a blessing the Lord we rely on does not change.

Just like we find to be the case with cell phones and media layouts, we know the more we rely on something, the harder it is to be apart from it.

This is tenfold with God. More than a schedule or a tool, the Lord is the ultimate helper. Relying on Him makes us more reliant on Him- and that’s a wonderful thing.

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There is nowhere like His presence. We can find no peace, no joy, nor comfort or certainty comparable to that provided by our Lord.

So it’s especially difficult and disorienting when we reach “spiritual highs”…and then wander away.

We’re prone to it. It’s in our nature. Paul laments in Romans 7:19 that “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Paul’s words are about more than getting convicted about the sins we clearly commit, like lying or gossiping.  Sin is also what we don’t do –like when we don’t rely on the Lord.

Jesus tells us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Remember when you last laid down your burdens and gratefully stepped into the freedom He gives? Do you remember the rest that you felt when you relied on the yoke of the Lord?

  • There’s no need to stumble around in the dark, even in spaces you feel you know and can navigate yourself. His Word is the light unto our paths. (Psalm 119:105)

 

  • Feeling vulnerable, as if you are without your usual sense of kindness and compassion? We’re never left exposed. He gladly clothes us with His presence. (Romans 13:14)
  • When you’re weary at work and nothing seems refreshing or worthwhile, remember that all things are for His glory. Work can be exhausting –but He renews us day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
  • Our constantly changing gadgets are no replacement for the equipping Jesus does. How simple and strong are the lasting tools given by the Lord, like the armor of God and the Word that pierces the soul. (Ephesians 6; Hebrews 4:12)

Unlike our phones and the other things we’re dependent on, God doesn’t expect us to catch up on His latest model. We can wander on back to His presence, knowing He is who He is and He’ll love and work on us as we are.

He is ever patient, always faithful, and wonderfully reliable.  

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

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Just For Me

As the speaker in the video wraps up her lesson, she prays. All of us in the room grow quiet, listening in. The screen grows dark and before anyone launches the discussion questions, a friend speaks up.

“Sorry you all had to sit through that,” she grins, “because that was just for me.

I know what she means.

One of the amazing abilities of our Lord is reaching out to us individually while reaching out to us all.

His sweet love and unique relationship with each of His children involves personal gifts and private moments. There are inside jokes and memories that hold us warmly, tucked into his care.

One of the kindest, more precious things the Lord has taught me is this: He doesn’t just care for me, He cares about me.


Sometimes the sunrise’s streak of gold peeking over the trees is just for me.

The weather isn’t what everyone wanted, but He did it for me. I asked last night.

Whoever donated those exact boots to the thrift store didn’t know it, but they were just for me, an unexpected gift from the Lord.

My husband’s shoulder, though not his own selection, isn’t too large or too small. It’s just right- made, I believe, just for me and my heavy head.

As I speak to God on a matter, asking a specific question, He rephrases it back to me with an answer through the song on the radio proclaiming truth I need in that moment. The lyrics are familiar, but that time, He played it just for me.

At the end of one Saturday, I am tired of struggling to surrender something to Him and I’ve grown weary from the humbling that’s been happening. The reason I press on is the commitment I’ve made to obey Him in this matter. Settling into bed, I open a book I’ve been struggling to enjoy, one I’ve grown weary of plodding through. I’m reading it only because I committed to making it all the way through.

The chapter rubs salve on my soul. Words just for me, custom shaped from an author’s keyboard to my aching heart by the Lord’s own hands.

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I open the good book, the only one I’m known to actually hug goodnight, and open to the page I left off on. This is His word, active and alive, and it quickly enfolds those feelings of fear in the triumphant embrace of the one who died just for me. Words spoken a couple thousand years ago, spoken right now to me by the same Savior.

In the words of the Isaiah 25:1, “Lord, you are my God.”

And because of Christ, I’m more than your creation. I’m your child. Do you know if you’re His child, too? As His child, do you see God’s good gifts- the just for you kind?

It’s a precious thing, that He cares so much for just me and just you.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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Overcome Failure Book Review

I’m one of those people who has regularly lived in fear of failure. Are you?

I’ve made too many decisions based on what I know I can do, not what I believe I should do. All too often, I shrink back from the ideas that excite me, even when I know the Lord is offering them. I refuse because I doubt I can succeed in fulfilling them.

My list of “almosts” but “might fail, better nots” is long.

What a blessing it has been in a recent season of growing in boldness to discover Ifeoma Samuel’s new book Overcome Failure.

Unique in style and informal, Overcome Failure has been to me like a series of pep-talks or letters from this lovely woman of God. Nearly every time I dive into the book I’m met with a God-timed phrase or passage from Scripture speaking directly to the fear of failure I’ve needed to face.

For example, on page 35, Ifeoma outlines one of the first reasons fear of failure triumphs over us: we hate to wait without a guarantee of the risk (or of anything!) being worthwhile.

“Only patient people can fully surrender. Are you one?” she says.

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My immediate answer is no. But isn’t she right?

We often surrender something to God only to find ourselves snatching it back when He takes longer than expected. If we don’t take it back, we often head right away from the foot of the cross to another thing we can pick up and cling to instead of simply being patient in waiting for what He desires to fill us with.

Picking up our lesser, safer options, we bypass God’s best for us because waiting to see if we might succeed is scary. But that’s where faith can swoop in and spare us.

As Ifeoma explains on page 7 and throughout the book:

Failure is not a monster to be afraid of. It only becomes a giant when we see it as such; however, when we embrace the hope God offers us, it becomes just another challenge that is brought down.

When God says He can work all things together for good, He even means our failures or potential failures. As He explains in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “His power is made perfect in weakness.”

God doesn’t need us to succeed for Him to succeed in His purposes for us and through us.

I hope that simple, essential lesson from Overcome Failure helps you grow in boldness, trust, and obedience in Christ the way it has me.

Thank you, Ifeoma, for the wise, personal, God-grounded talk on this touchy topic!

To learn more about Overcome Failure, click here.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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Holding and Held

Thinking of Christ as our anchor, we often picture storms raging. Tossed about in the chaos, we think of clinging to Him. Our hands burn, grasping, struggling, to hold on. But the wonderful truth: as we’re holding, we’re also held. Our anchor is bound inseparably to our soul.

Even when we let go, the anchor’s hold is still strong. We’re still in His grip when we lose our own.

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Likewise, as lean into the hard and heavy, forging our way along a difficult path, we’re often reaching out to see if God is there with us.

But He, in fact, goes before us, with us, and behind us.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” –Deuteronomy 31:8

“For the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” -Isaiah 52:12

If the Lord will never leave us, then indeed we are not alone. We are not forsaken by our anchor or abandoned by our guide along the unknown path. Our light will not go out nor will our protector fail to have the victory in the end.

It’s so easy…so easy. To look upon the goodness and the kindness of the Lord in wonder, and miss that the things He kindly does for us are not dependent on us.

This isn’t an excuse to live flippantly or to believe that the Lord will reward us for taking advantage of His grace. But it certainly is a comfort, and a shift in perspective we often need.

“Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

-2 Timothy 2:11-13

Amy Carmichael once described that when the going was rough, the trouble “was His burden not mine. It was He who was asking me to share it with Him, not I who was asking Him to share it with me.”

Sweet relief.

The nature of our God is compassionate. Loving. Hopeful. Gracious. Merciful. Kind. Stable. Steady.

In all that you and I grasp at and cling to, just trying to hold on, we can know that we will not be abandoned or put to shame. We can be certain that we will never be lost, even when we lose hold.

We are held by one who does not let go, even when we do.

Praise the Lord!

(This is a song I sing along to regularly. Laura Story’s lyrics remind of the truth, comfort me, and bring me to praise. I hope it will you, too!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAAsWj-thsY

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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Blame First, Forgive Next

This post is one piece of a great collaborative effort. Head over to Kelly Balarie's post for encouraging excerpts and links to tons of bloggers' fantastic testimonies on the Lord's work in their lives.

When I tell my husband about an incident and the way it hurt my heart, he listens. Patient as usual. My phrases go something like this: “This happened. Then this happened. It was a mess. I felt____.”

Inevitably, he asks.

“Why did that happen?

I stammer. I don’t get it. I just know I’m hurting. Why do men have to solve everything anyway?

The conversation continues and he gently pushes.

He believes I need to recognize the “why” when something hard or hurtful happens. If a person is behind an issue, I need to assign them blame. Righteous blame…also known as responsibility.

It feels so backwards to me.

Jesus taught us all about forgiveness. I belong to the God of grace. As I live among other people, I tend to see the good in them, and, if there must be bad, only accept that I’m the one at fault.

Isn’t humility accepting blame so others don’t have to?

Scripture doesn’t say so.

Forgive other people when they sin against you,” Matthew 6:14 affirms.

Those personal pronouns get me every time. Other people sin against me. I am to forgive them for it.

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When I neglect to see others’ sin for what it is, I miss the opportunity to forgive them.

The reverse is true. If I sin against someone, pretending it never happened or wasn’t my fault keeps forgiveness at bay. Taking the righteous blame for my sin, however, opens the way for forgiveness.

1 John 4:10 sums up the Gospel: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God didn’t send Jesus for all of us because I’m a sinner and you all are good enough people.

Likewise, Christ didn’t die for our sin without calling it out, leading us to repentance, and then washing it away.

How can we see our sins made white as snow if we don’t first identify them- bright, glaring, and scarlet as they are? Have you ever tried to forgive a sin without acknowledging the sin first?

2 Corinthians 5:10 continues on the topic: “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

When I neglect to assign others’ responsibility for their own actions, I falsely hold on to hurt and blame that aren’t mine. I tell Christ that the wrongs are my due and give a false account of what has gone on.

Who does a false account of sin serve?

Certainly not me. Definitely not the God of truth.

Absolutely not the people I divert blame from. Because one day, they will be held accountable.

Probably this serves Satan, though. He’s a fan of lies that keep us from God’s best.

So the question when I am witness to sin is this: will I participate in the opportunity to give or receive forgiveness and grace? Or will I withhold it by refusing responsibility?

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This perspective shift has freed me from so much guilt and shame. I’m thankful today for righteous blame. I’m thankful that when I’m hurt by someone, I know that hurt hasn’t just “happened,” but that someone is responsible for it. And that same someone can be forgiven.

Friends, if we’re going to walk in forgiveness like Christ, we need to recognize the sinner and the sin we’re forgiving.

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

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What God Has For You Today

It’s a new day. What if it’s a good one?

God has a few things for his followers today (and everyday.) They’ll make whatever your schedule holds better. You don’t have to take them or appreciate them, but you can if you’d like. His offer is free and wide open.

What’s His offer? Read the rest of this guest post at Uniquely Yours Ministries

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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Word of the Week: Peace

Ironically, “peace” is a confusing concept Biblically.

Without any word study at all we observe that Christ at once claims He did not come to bring peace (Matthew 10:34) and at the same time Christ claims He is our peace (Eph 2:14.)

The definition of peace clarifies, citing that peace is:

  • A sense of welfare
  • Being undisturbed
  • Wholeness

When Jesus works, donning a sword, He disturbs our wrong perspectives. He exposes the incomplete pieces of our lives as we try to piece it all together for ourselves.

Peace, on our terms, is all about effort. Striving to maintain welfare, fighting to be undisturbed, and clinging to pieces we want to fit together.

Peace, on our terms, is anything but peaceful.

That’s the kind of peace Jesus didn’t bring.

The kind He did?

When we turn to Jesus as our source of peace, He establishes us without the peace-depleting, stressful effort on our part.

Our welfare is secure as we find our refuge and strength in Him. In Christ, nothing can disturb the connection with God He guarantees. We are in progress, yet simultaneously complete because He is working in us and promises to bring us to completion ultimately.

With Jesus, there is no lack, disturbance, or threat we need fear. We can be at peace because of who He is and whose we are.

Christ’s peace is so much more peaceful than peace on our terms!

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.
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In Peace We Trust

{The twelfth and final installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

Each and every topic in this series has convicted me. They’ve all added up.


Here’s what I’m finding as I wrap it up...

Every “thing” I trust in besides God, I trust in with one goal in my heart. Obtaining peace.

I want the easy way because I want things to occur peacefully. I rely more on relationships than the Lord because I crave the feeling of peace that comes with connection. My plans, my busy habit, my obsession with knowing anything and everything- these all are submitted to in my heart because of what I hope to get out of them: peace.

You too?

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We want peace. We are desperate for peace.

As a people and as families, peace is the goal in everyday life. As churches, as a country, as a generation in this world, we do what we do to gain peace. It’s the banner we raise and aspire to.

We want to gain peace because we trust peace is the answer to all problems.

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This isn’t a new issue.

Jesus addressed it head-on: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34.)

People back then wanted peace to be the solution.

But the issue is even older. We read about it in Ezekiel 13:10:

“…They lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash.”

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The peace we seek is all too often just whitewash.

The kind of peace we seek offers no resolution, no redemption. It’s a cover up for the stuff we’re tired of looking at, the stuff we’re ashamed of.

Yet Scripture is clear.

There is real peace available to us, and it isn’t found in jobs, on Google, in knowing the outcome, or in avoiding the scary. We don’t gain real peace by doing more or planning things out perfectly. Peace isn’t something to be controlled or had.

Peace is someone we turn to.

As Ephesians 2:14 proclaims:

“He Himself is our peace.”

Oh, Lord. This is convicting. This changes things.

We’re tired. I hear it in the media, I hear it from everyone I know, I hear it from my own lips day after day.

We are tired of manufacturing our own forms of peace and seeking our own sources of peace.

Stacking our hopes and our sense of security upon these man-made sources of peace results in collapse. We end up hunched under them, holding them up by ourselves. Our versions of peace fail because they were never meant to hold our trust. They buckle under the weight, and so do we.

Pursuing peace instead of resting in the One who is our Peace is exhausting and disappointing.

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Friends- if we aren’t trusting the one who has bridged all of sin to make peace between us and God to give us true peace in this life, what are we doing?

Trust is balanced precariously on belief: belief the one we trust in is trustworthy.

The only one worthy of this trust, the only one actually able to trade the troubles of this world and our lives for lasting peace, is Christ Himself.

We simply need to come before Him. To hand it all over.

We need to trust Christ that He is who He says is: OUR PEACE.

In your life, trust Him to be who He alone is. Amen?

Thanks to all who participated in this series as readers, comment-encouragers, and guest writers. I have been blessed, and I know many others have too.

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post may also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.