It’s (Not) Going to Get Better

I’m not a pessimist. In fact, I tend far too much toward optimism. However, I’ve learned that belligerent optimism isn’t helpful when equally stubborn hardship prevails.

The reality is that we should expect suffering as a result of sin. Believers should expect the added difficulties of persecution and living apart from the pattern of the world. Whether we’re facing chronic illnesses with no cure or the persistent battle of loving others well, the truth is life often hurts.

Short of heaven “better” is always going to be a relative term.

Putting our hope and faith in optimism, or changing circumstances, or the next self-help fad, will leave us frustrated and disillusioned over and over again.

Yet we do have hope.

The Gospel is good news for the lost, suffering, weary sinners of this world. That means it’s good news for you and for me.

In Hope When It Hurts, by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, the good news of Jesus Christ is precisely and pointedly applied as balm to our suffering. From the very first chapter, their thesis is clear:

What I need, and you need, is the truth about Jesus Christ, because our suffering only makes sense and we only retain any hope when we look at ourselves through a gospel lens.”

Never offering pat answers or platitudes, Hope When It Hurts proceeds to offer the framework of a gospel perspective on suffering. A reality check on pride’s role in our response to suffering stretches readers to shift their eyes to the only real hope we have -and the only real purpose we live for (hint: it’s not our comfort or convenience.)

Several chapters address the opportunities afforded to us by our suffering.

Unlike messages staking our hope in optimism for changing circumstances or everything working out for the better, Hope When It Hurts stakes everything on God. In short, easy-to-read, but in-depth chapters, the authors highlight practically why we:

  • Have hope
  • Don’t have to be shaken
  • Can persevere
  • Take heart in suffering
  • Are freed from agonizing over making sense of pain
  • Worship God in everything and anything

Straight-shooting, personal messages treat the ache from the inside out with words like these:

“…when you are in the darkness…and you begin to question God’s love for you, remember what it true: Jesus Christ was sent into the world because God loves you. There is not greater demonstration of his affection for you, and there is no clearer proof that he intends to make good of what you are enduring right now. The who was struck down on the cross is the One who could not be destroyed and, because He is for you, neither will you be. He is your light. Draw near to Him.”

It’s true. Paul, while enduring final imprisonment and reaching out to his loved ones as his earthly days dwindled, proclaimed hope when it hurts: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18.)

Even if it never gets better in this lifetime. Even if a gruesome, painful death is how we’re safely delivered into His heavenly kingdom, the Lord will rescue us and bring us to Him.

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Paul follows these words with praise- “To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

This book follows suit. Although atypical and unexpected for a book on suffering, this message carries the broken to worship and eases the hurting into praise.

As much a devotional as a book of reflections on suffering and Gospel hope, Hope When It Hurts renews and refreshes believers. Instead of saying “it’ll get better,” readers are reminded of what already is better: the true, joyous, incredible hope we have despite our often-unchanging, hopeless suffering.


<This review was provided in exchange for a free preview copy of Hope When It Hurts from the Good Book Company.>

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

 

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Millennial Identity at the Intersection of Faith

Born smack dab into the middle of the millennial generation, I caught the coattails of motivational campaigns to defy stereotypes just in time to ride the tide of embracing uniqueness. Today, myself and my peers boast about what used to be stereotypes in our social media bios. We outline the categories we fit into to make connecting more convenient.

Online and in person, we tend to believe identities are created not given and we mold ourselves into brands in an attempt to eke out a place in this world. Millennial believers like myself are often drawing and erasing lines and traditions trying to figure out how faith fits in with identity.

Focus on the Family and Stand Strong Ministries’ Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez recently wrote Abandoned Faith to help believing parents (and spiritual mentors) understand the faith trials, confusions, and interests of my generation.

Blending together sociological research, Biblical principles, and personal experience in ministry reaching millennials and their parents, Abandoned Faith is a sobering but enlightening read. The book opens with frank news: many millennials are leaving their childhood faith behind, or at least ditching traditional church models. My generation has its reasons- and some are based on grievous misunderstandings or hurts regarding true faith and godliness.

From my stance as a millennial who loves the local church and Jesus, Abandoned Faith effectively explains the trends, thought patterns, and driving factors of my generation. I admire the authors’ ability to portray millennials as capable individuals with potential and identity, not as statistics that need to be mourned over or maligned.

The authors’ respectful explanations, practical advice, and gentle exhortations hold as dear the parents God gave my generation and my millennial self and peers. I recommend this book to those who want to love and minister to millennials- even those who haven’t abandoned the faith.

What I loved most about Abandoned Faith was the emphasis on relationship. As the authors point out, my generation was raised with a lot of activity, programming, and gold stars for showing up. Many of us have lacked relationships with people invested in us as individuals, willing to just chat instead of point us to a helpful course. Many in my generation lack strong families.

Whether we recognize what we lack or not, millennials do know that we lack. The church has a huge opportunity, as Abandoned Faith highlights, to be the body, be family, be parents to a generation largely craving something more than just another good place to be and with good stuff to do.

Abandoned Faith’s practical organization and demonstrative style makes for easy reading, though it is lengthy and packed with information. Some may find it a bit repetitive and dull at times because of its research bent, though. The authors also strive to be encouraging to those who have raised and love millenials who have abandoned the Christian faith or church, but the authors’ frank honesty in addressing the role of older generations in the process may be hard to hear for many.

For those looking to better understand “Suzie: Nerd. Loves God, not religion. Happy to talk if you’re tolerant” on Twitter, this book will help. Those who want to see the struggling college guy who hasn’t been to church since his high school baccalaureate service, this book will give a new perspective and helpful insight.

Behind the branding, categorizing, and stereotyping of my generation (self-imposed and ascribed) there are a lot of people who, just like everyone else, need Christ aloneAbandoned Faith can help readers get a Christ-alone perspective and gain practical insight into pointing millennials to the truth, to hope, and to an unshakable identity (in Christ!) That’s an answer to prayer for many in my identity-driven generation.

Do you know any millennials who wrestle with identity and faith in Christ?


This review is offered in exchange for a free copy of the book Abandoned Faith through Tyndale House Publishers.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Fear Fighting: By Knowing Who IS

So grateful for Kelly! I'm loving her book Fear Fighting. She's been a sweet friend to me, introducing and encouraging me in the blogging-for-the-Lord-world. Hope you enjoy her guest post- God With Us is a message I especially love at this time of year!
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Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here. 

My son and I drove over a bridge we’d driven over a hundred and one times. It happened to be dark. Very dark.

Son, let me ask you a question, “How do you know that water is still there?”

He said, “Well Mommy, I know it is there because it’s just how it is. Water goes there.”

I wonder if we approach God the same way? We know God is there, because he just IS.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  (Ex. 3:14)
God IS who he IS.

He IS with us.
He IS for us.
He IS fighting on our behalf.
He IS liberator.
He IS hope.

He IS light.
He IS creator.
He IS Savior.

The truth IS: God has you. God so has you. More than your mind can conceive.

That issue before you? God already walked ahead of it.
The idea you’ll fail? He knows your way.
The fear your children will get hurt? He is their hope.

The past that haunts you? By his stripes you are healed. (Is. 53:5)
The inadequacies that berate you? In your weakness, his power is perfected. (2 Cor. 12:9)

When trepidation surrounds, know this: God has you tighter than the clothes you wear. He has you more strongly than the house that surrounds you. He will not let fall what he has built. He will not crumble what He is behind.

He IS before all things, and in him all things hold together. Col. 1:17

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I learned to find rest for my fears, for my worries and for my anxiety as I wrote the book, Fear Fighting: Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears. Perhaps, today is the day you find rest in who he IS and what he IS leading you. You see, great are his promises for us.

And, great IS the King. A King who takes care of his children. He brings them within his house and places a banqueting table before them. He does not set their seat a distance of ten feet from the table and mock them. He doesn’t lay out succulent dishes before them and make the salivate. He doesn’t place them just out of arms reach from his glorious goodness. He sits them down at his table of spiritual blessings and says – eat!

Eat! My love for you is great! Enjoy! For what I want you to be full! Celebrate! You need not feel guilty in doing that! I want you to have all I have. I want you to know my life. I welcome you as a chosen one. Come and partake. Come and, not only sit with me, but be full with me and then stay with me – forever.

“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15)

Blessed is she who knows God IS good.
At peace is she who believes God’s love IS what casts out fear.

Full is one who sits where God IS.

Prayer: 

God, may I sit at your table all the days of my life. May I welcome in the bounty that is you. You are enough. Let me not walk away from you for a vision of lesser things. Let me not get distracted with the disorienting ways of the world. Let me not see the faults of others and therefore, miss the fantastic nature of you. Let me not get caught up with progress and miss the process of laying my head on you. Let me not hear the fans and the fanfare so I am unable to get fantastically fanatical about staying in your love. Let me not get so comfortable with sin unapparent, I fool myself into thinking I am religious. Let me not waste away days thinking I knew you, when I chose not to. Don't let me delude myself; it is easy to do. Amen.

Interested in fighting fear? Join the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge!

About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Marital Spats and God’s Plan (Giveaway)

**Giveaway details at the end of the post!**

The day our premarital counseling workbook began addressing arguments, my husband and I were relieved. We have always been really good at arguing. It’s one of our unexpected spiritual gifts (ha!) We even told the pastor counseling us.

He was surprised.

Apparently, most couples get married believing they’ll always just get along or are caught up in love to the point that arguing has yet to cross their minds.

Not us. The Lord uniquely blessed us with plenty of practice disagreeing early on.

I mean it. The Lord gifted us with arguments.

My husband and I learned from the Lord Himself to argue well and to resolve issues to His glory. We have been taught to fight- for each other. The Lord has allowed us to experience strife- teaching us to strive to discern the Lord’s will despite our own propensities for sin.

Arguing can be to God’s glory too.

When we learn to disagree in a godly way, we learn to work in unity with the Lord to live according to His will. 

That’s what The Blessings of Unity by Richard Case is about. I really enjoyed the book’s no-nonsense approach to the topic.

Married to Linda for more than 45 years, Case offers Biblical insight into one of God’s primary commands for husbands and wives: to cleave to one another. Case puts the command in context: not only is cleaving in marriage important, but it is also part of the unity of the body of Christ.

As Case says on page 35, “unity is brought about by our desire to pursue God.” We ought to seek this sort of unity in Christ’s body as the church and as couples.

The Blessings of Unity provides comprehensive Bible study examining several angles and forms of unity. I’ve never encountered a topical marriage book so structured around passages of Scripture.

Each chapter addresses challenges and strategies for unity in the context of living by God’s Word.

Being aligned with the Holy Spirit is another main theme throughout The Blessings of Unity. Case explains: “The same one Holy Spirit in me is also in my spouse…our decisions can always go to unity with the Spirit when we are willing to hear what the Spirit has to say” (pg 42.)

Insightful points like these are packed in tightly.

If there is a criticism of this book, it is also a warning: The book is dense to the point of disorganization. You will find extensive, helpful, Biblical truth throughout, but you will have to work to put it all together in a memorable format for yourself.

I imagine spouses would benefit from reading the book individually and discussing it informally, as it’s not clearly organized for shared study. Retreat or study leaders are also likely to find essential truth in The Blessings of Unity, but should expect to create their own more organized materials for teaching and discussion.

Certainly useful and supported by substantial Bible lessons, The Blessings of Unity is an important reference guide for those involved personally or professionally in the work of more faithfully pursuing God through marital relationships.

Find a copy here.


GIVEAWAY of THE BLESSINGS OF UNITY:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post
  2. Be sure to include your email address in the private form for commenting
  3. Comment by 11pm EST Monday, November 21st.
  4. I’ll randomly select a winner on Tuesday, November 22nd and notify you by email if you won! You will then receive a free copy in the mail. 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the
Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


BONUS GIVEAWAY: All For Jesus eBook

If you’d like a practical 6-page eBook on living an unshakable life, you can grab it here.


This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Confession: I’m Not a Fan of Devotions

Soul H2O Launch Team

My love-hate relationship with devotions started in college. It was my first time immersed in a Christianese culture. I didn’t know much about Jesus, and I didn’t care about the Gospel. I just wanted to be a good person and prove myself worthy to the God I didn’t understand.

In waltzed a dorm-mate one day, announcing she was about to do her “devos.” The word weirded me out.

Since those early days and eventually getting to know Jesus as my Savior, devotions still aren’t my thing.

For me, many devotionals are frustrating because they: 

  • Preach Christian psychology or self-help instead of the Scripture I need
  • Tackle huge topics that get me thinking, but offer no resolution or practical application
  • Are super wordy, in which case just give me a whole book
  • Build day by day, and I’m not that regimented
  • Are bulky, funky, hard covers that I’m too lazy to haul around with me for daily time
  • Tempt me to worship the devotional habit instead of worshipping God

My list says a lot about me and my shortcomings.

But it also speaks volumes about one of the rare devotionals I enjoy!

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I love this devotional book- it’s the exception to most of my “anti-devotional” issues.

Soul H2O, by Sherry Stahl, is a Biblical, digestible, concise companion for straight-up Bible studying and for ordinary life.

Each devotion is 1-2 short pages. The book is soft cover, and it fits in purses, backpacks, and my car’s glovebox. You don’t have to read it every day to keep up.

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Best of all, each devotion is simple. Instead of overwhelming me, Sherry’s words just refresh. They function like the title suggests: to quench thirst for good news from the Lord.

For example, devotional #4 refers to taking “every thought captive” to Christ.

Sherry then goes on to exhort: “Choose today which thoughts you’ll play on the record player of your mind.” The devotion centers on how our thoughts repeat. The thought is simple, Biblical, and gave me practical encouragement to walk with the Lord that day.

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Each of the devotions begins with a Bible verse. Short paragraphs with brief relatable anecdotes and simple life-applicable points about the verse follow. Sherry concludes with a brief prayer and references for additional verses if you’d like to study the Word yourself.

What I appreciate most about Soul H2O is its focus:

Instead of being about big life changes and heavy topics, Soul H2O offers basic life sustenance.

Such a simple blessing, but so important. That’s why this devotion has so blessed me. It’s a cool drink to refresh my Spirit and remind me of the simple vitality the Lord offers us day by day.

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All that to say, I’m grateful to have been part of Sherry’s launch team. It is a joy to recommend Soul H2O to you. Whether you love devotionals or can’t stand them, this one is for you. Soul H2O will refresh your spirit, make you smile, and bring you to praise.

To find a copy of Soul H2O, visit Sherry’s website here.

** I received this book free from the publisher, Word Alive Press, when I joined Sherry’s launch team. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

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.

Book Review: Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson

“Fear sets in, and you relationally freeze up, locked in shame.

What now?

You need to be rescued. How about a perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18)?”

–pg52

Many of us are familiar with social fears, along with fear of failure, rejection, and unworthiness. We often read about relationship challenges and there are tons of books focused on better communication or finding contentment with ourselves. But these issues and solutions highlight evidences of a deeper issue.

Shame.

As Heather Davis Nelson shares in her new book Unashamed, shame is “not a topic of conversation at a party, although it is an unwelcome guest in every gathering” (pg18.)

Shame has been around since the garden of Eden. A result of sin, shame isn’t something we can avoid altogether.

With that truth in mind, Nelson pointedly walks readers through several aspects of life in this world to expose how shame is at the heart of so many of human struggles.

Meanwhile, she offers a practical guide for recognizing, facing, and living Biblically with shame. As a Biblical counselor, it’s no surprise that Nelson’s thorough workup of shame is absolutely loaded with Scriptural references and examples.

Nelson explains the different types of shame people experience. Next, she offers guidance for responding to shame in a healthy way. Several chapters then focus on specific areas of shame, such as shame in marriage or in the church.

For me, Nelson’s chapter on performance-shame hit close to home. In it, she addresses one of my favorite excuses for….everything. Perfectionism. Nelson relates perfectionism to shame in such a way that my excuses can’t stand.

But, as in the whole of this book, she didn’t leave me reeling from the recognition of shame as is. Instead, she offered practical advice for changing my audience and, consequently, my need for perfection. Then, she went on to make this freeing point:

“So what are we waiting for? Permission? Approval? Recognition?

We already have it in Christ…” (pg96.)

Amen, Heather Davis Nelson!

Though helpful as a whole, each chapter could stand on its own for counseling or study purposes. Other conveniences of Nelson’s Unashamed are the very practical, down to earth tips for addressing shame and reducing the influence shame has on one’s life. The book can at times feel bulky and heavy. However, this topic is so relevant and Nelson’s writing is encouraging.

Through Unashamed, I think many will find themselves freer and more able to walk in confidence just as God made them.

If you would like to learn more about this book, click here.

To enter the drawing to win a free copy, just comment below on or before July 6th! I will randomly pick the winner on the evening of the 6th.

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

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.

His Word Works in Me- The Word Works Series

The final post in The Word Works Series! I’m so thankful!

Over the past two months, some amazing, gracious guest bloggers have written to encourage, exhort, and testify to the power of God’s Word at work in their lives.

God Himself testifies to the abilities of His Word.

For example, Scripture tells us that the Bible:

I can testify to the work of God through His Word, too.

So many stories to choose from…let me just tell you about 3 ways the Lord’s Word has worked in my heart and my life.

The Word Has Worked in Me:

  1. By Anchoring Me in the Truth

No matter how much time I pour into reading Scripture and participating in fellowship, I am forgetful. Charles Spurgeon explains that Christ told us to have communion in remembrance of Him because we need to be reminded to remember Him! Spurgeon encourages us to “tie a heavenly forget-me-not around our hearts for Jesus.”

Deuteronomy 11:18 echoes:

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

After really regretting that I did not remember to turn to God throughout several days, I was convicted to take this charge more literally.

I began writing a verse on a small slip of paper each morning. That little note from the Lord is tucked into my pocket for the day. It comes out every time my cell phone or my wallet does.

That way, the Word is bound to me the same way my clothes or my other daily possessions are.

The result?

I am anchored, bound, held, by the truth.

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When I pull my phone out to communicate with someone, I’m reminded to listen to the Lord first. If I reach in to spend, His Word has a say. I have His word to think on when I’m sitting, waiting. As I go about my day, His Word is accessible enough to constantly comfort, challenge, and correct me.

It’s a little bit harder to accidentally stray from the truth when the truth is literally on my person.

I value that anchor which fixes me in my place- before the Lord!

  1. By Drawing Me Nearer to the Lord

Why is it that when we’re angry or hurting or doubting, or even happy, we don’t just reach for the Bible? It seems like reaching for the Bible, for most us, is something we tend to do just because we know we should.

How ironic that we often feel we’re not hearing from God or like the truth is unclear! Humbly and sincerely turning our hearts to the Word results in us drawing near to our Lord. This brings us nearer to Him, where His words are audible more clearly. This is where He speaks directly.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

A godly life is a life connected and obedient to God! One of the greatest gifts He has given us- and one of the most powerful- is His divine revelation recorded in Scripture.

As an avid reader, the Bible is a very personal gift to me from God and one I easily enjoy.

Not so for everybody. If just reading through Scripture is tough for you, consider:

  • Praying through Scripture
  • Listening to it on audio CDs or the web
  • Participating in Bible Studies that walk directly through Bible passages
  • Studying with a partner so that you hear it spoken
  • Posting verses around your spaces
  • Memorizing verses
  1. By Making Faith Personal to Me

Fact: Scripture can seem impersonal. God can too. Part of sin is distance- between us and our God. Christ bridges that gap for us. But often we still feel the expansive gulf beneath our feet when we step out in faith along the narrow way.

The narrow path opens at my feet and promises safe passage. I see that it is my path, ordained by the Lord. He has gone before me, as His Word describes.

I try to remember as I open the Word that God didn’t just give it as a rule book or to speak to people long ago. He speaks through it today. To me.

When I get into the Word, believing it to be alive and active, His word grips me.

In His Word He has anticipated my questions, doubts, and needs. Just like He did with those He spoke to back then.

Have you visited His Word and listened? The time with Him is precious.

Get into His Word, get near to Him. As so many can testify- and God Himself says- there is no better, no more secure a place to be.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

He’s Got the Battle If We’ve Got the Praise- The Word Works Series

If there’s anyone I know who is comfortable being uncomfortable, it’s Christine. I mean that in the best way. She’s always bravely sharing about the gritty, not-so-fun parts of life on Precepts and Life Preservers. But she also always bluntly calls us to come with her, nearer to Christ, and to the comfort He provides while stretching and convicting us. Be blessed by her words today.

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Life likes to bring along impossible battles, doesn’t it?

They span a variety of things that threaten our very faith, and our very purpose. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

Infertility. Chronic illness. Job loss. Depression. Divorce. Natural disasters. Oppression around the world.

Maybe you were like me this week, needing to get through something and you felt ill-equipped. Like it loomed over you, solid and imposing and you gathered what little battle gear you have knowing the enemy rolled its eyes at how futile your little pile of armor was.

But sometimes we need to change our definition of armor, of doing battle. After all, we have a Mighty King who thrives on conquering the impossible.

The Father has me camped out in the book of Joshua lately, and the timing is no coincidence. Joshua faces the impossible. Like, major impossibility at every turn.

He’s supposed to fill the shoes of one of the most compelling leaders ever. He’s supposed to get an entire nation of people to a new land inhabited by a people so fierce that they stop the entire bulk of Israelites in their tracks and have them considering going back to captivity. He’s supposed to devise a way to scale massive sets of walls built one atop the other while facing an army of defenders.

Impenetrable.

Impossible.

I love when the Almighty directs us to His Word and places us right where we might witness His provision span thousands of years. The same Jericho-provision given Joshua lays waiting for us right now.

We stare up at our own personal Jericho and wonder the best way to assess it, approach it, scale it, win it, own it.

What gear do I need? What kind of armor is going to make a difference? What’s my big plan, Stan?

We worry, we get ready to pass out, we become frantic, we’ll take advice from anyone, we despair, we become stubborn.

Meanwhile, He waits to complete the provision He’s already said is ours, if we’ll just follow His instruction so that we might witness His glory in all its fullness.

He waits for us to heed His instruction. And He waits for us to let Him do battle while we step into our only role.

To praise Him.

Yep. We get to praise.

Our weapon is lifting our voices and hearts.

Our armor is the victory declaration of His Provision.

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Your Promised Land that looms large? He has said it’s always been ours. We just have to step into it.

“Be strong and of good courage… do not cower. Do not heed your fears. Take the land I have given you to possess.”

Joshua 1:6, 7

And how do we take the land?

We lift victory-praise. We surround, we encircle our Jericho with shouts of His mighty faithfulness and glory. We shout with everything in us that He’s got this. We march and shout and sing and trumpet His goodness until He reaches a mighty hand beneath our battle ground and with one shake reduces it to rubble.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king, and its army. March around the city once, with all the armed men flanking the priests. Do this for six days. Have the seven priests carry trumpets of ram’s horns in front of the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day, march seven times around the city, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have the all the people give a long shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
Joshua 6:2-5

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And do not for a moment think your praise will end your battle, beloved. Your praise itself does not bring your Jericho down.

Your praise is the proof that your God is about to bring your Jericho down!

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded all the people, ‘Shout!!! For the Lord has given you the city!”

-Joshua 6:16

He will reduce your Jericho, your battle, to rubble… to stepping stones that will take weary feet into the Promised Land.

How do we know we have this same promise?

The same hand that brought down Jericho is the same hand that shook Golgotha and rent the veil with His Son’s last breath. It’s the same hand that wrenched keys of death from our enemy and freed every captive. It’s the same hand that beckoned Christ from the tomb.

This is who faces our battles. That verse in 2 Chronicles 20:15 that says the battle is the Lord’s? It’s our truth for today, more so than ever.

Psalm 22:3 says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.

Look at Acts 16 and see how praise created an opening for God to break shackles, open jail cells, even saved the jailer.

Psalm 149:5-9 says,

“Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them— this is the glory of all his faithful people. Praise the LORD.”

So weary friend, unsure about the looming impossible…

He excels at impossible.

And He’s got the battle if we’ve got the praise.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: Ordained

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16 NIV

Before you write a note, decorate, put the recipe together, or otherwise complete an activity, your mind is at work shaping. Fashioning. Forming. Determining your next steps and how to fit things together.

Even if briefly, thought always comes first. Even thoughtless words or hastily finished projects require a small bit of forethought. That’s the way creating works, regardless of what we are creating.

When God made us, we also started as a thought. Before we were made physically, He knew us. But God is never hasty, hurried, or careless. Our Lord is purposeful.

God has shaped each of our lives carefully. The word “ordained” in the Psalm 139:16 is also translated “formed” and “fashioned.” To have our days ordained is to have them planned out for us with intention. Shaped for a purpose.

Take in that verse, with the word expanded, again:

“All the days you formed for a purpose for me were written in your book before one came to be.”

We know that the Lord is beyond time. We know that He has plans for us. We even know that He knows what lies ahead.

All of that is comforting; but, add this: those plans and that future are intentional.

Our days are not just foreseen by God,

but fashioned by His foresight.

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The Lord works all things together for the good of those who love them- and this process began before any of these “things” for “those” people came to be. He is never surprised, and never unprepared. Though our lives all look so different, and, as Kristine points out in her earlier post, those differences are a part of the uniqueness of His well-thought out and perfectly executed plan.

When life sneaks up on you or catches you off guard and you wonder how He can make it all work out- remember, He already has a way. He is the Way. And that- even that- is purposeful and purposed by the Lord.

Let’s count these lovingly, precisely hand-crafted days as blessings.

This post is being shared on:
#WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.