Favorites of 2016

I’m a words person.

My Christmas list, birthday requests, favorite surprises, etc., all have to do with words. The Lord’s Word is dear to me. I treasure phrases and conversations. God uses words to teach me, shape me, and grow me in Him.

So it’s no surprise when I think on 2016 that some of my favorite, most memorable gifts from the Lord have been comprised of words like these (in no particular order:)

Favorite Blog Posts

keyboard-567803_1280

Clarify Your Calling by Micah Maddox

What the World Needs Now From Christians by Lisa Whittle

When You Need to Make a U-Turn by Debbie Wilson

Why Stuck is a Good Place to Stand by Joy Williams

Hope for the Heavy Seasons by Lois Flowers

Jesus is Not Your Cheerleader by Melissa Kruger

Transitions: When He Shapes, Molds, and Orchestrates In the Middle of the Unknown by Christine Duncan

Waiting for Breakthrough by Lesley 

Books

book-1667828_1920

Peace for a Lifetime by Lisa Murray

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

Soul H2O by Sherry Stahl

Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman

A Foreign Devil in China by John Pollock

What on Earth is God Doing? by Renald Showers

Song Lyrics

music-1885680_1920

Oh My Soul by Casting Crowns

Thy Will by Hillary Scott

Just Around the Corner by Martina McBride

Be Still and Know by Hannah Kerr and Mark Hall

Dear Younger Me by MercyMe

Memory Versesbible-1149924_1920

I know whom I have believed and am fully convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. –2 Timothy 1:12

Be still and know that I am God. -Psalm 46:10

The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes His steps. –Proverbs 16:9

He must increase, I must decrease. –John 3:30

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him and He will do this. –Psalm 37:4-5

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen – Hebrews 11:1

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? –Hebrews 13:6

The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding –Job 28:28

What words has the Lord used in your life this year?

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.

 

 

 

 

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!
kelly

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

kelly-post

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.

Is Christmas Biblical?

“Celebrate annually the coming of Christ. Make it a time of beauty, family, and tradition. Put up lights and a tree. Watch many movies. Gorge yourself on treats. Be happy every day of the season. In so doing, you will glorify the Lord.”

– 1 Snickerdoodle 3 (AKA not in the Bible!)

The Bible never tells us to celebrate Christmas. In fact, Scripture warns us about traditions like celebrating holidays. “For the sake of your tradition (you have) made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:6). In another verse, the Bible references “hollow traditions.”

How many of those do we have?

Christmas is full of traditions that have very little to do with God. Few of us can connect Christmas trees to Christ. Fewer the concept of decorating gingerbread houses or dressing up in fancy outfits to attend parties blaring music about Rudolph and Santa.

Does that mean celebrating Christmas is unbiblical?

Probably not.

God offers plenty of examples of commanding, embracing, and rejoicing over celebrations.

Whether or not the celebration of Christmas is biblical has a lot to do with how and why we celebrate –and even more to do with what’s in our hearts.

jesus-didnt-have-one-of-these-should-we

Some of the main hallmarks of traditional Christmases are Biblical, but we must be careful.

  1. The Spirit of Giving

God loves a cheerful giver” –2 Corinthians 9:7

Gifts are one of the first things that most people think of when they think of Christmas. In Scripture, we find the ultimate example of giving. Christ, in coming to save us, gave Himself up for us. God, in sending Christ, gave His only son to save us.

All throughout Scripture we find examples of giving. God gives good gifts. Christ gives peace and joy. We are encouraged to give with the understanding that all that we are and all that we have is Christ’s. It’s a joy to give of His plenty and in His love!

The Risk: For many, Christmas gifts are about getting. For many others, gifts are stressful, accompanied by the frustration of selection and people-pleasing. Over-spending also undermines the “cheerful” part of what makes this part of Christmas at all Biblical.

  1. The Celebration of Christ’s Coming

“Celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness” –Psalm 145:7

Christmas, when it comes down to it, is a celebration of Christ’s coming! This whole time of festivity and adornment and gathering is in His name. It is to be a time of praising Him and beholding in wonder all that He has done, is doing, and will do.

Some of us praise Him with lights that shine like He does. Others by baking cookies as sweet as His kindness while enjoying the company of people He’s given them. Make the connection between these joyful traditions and the joy of our Savior.

The Risk: Christ often gets only an “honorable mention” around the massive celebration of His birth. Much of the celebrating- many decorations, traditions, songs, etc., have nothing to do with Him. That’s fine. Not everything we do needs to be deeply impactful. But we must be careful not to miss the point. That means prioritizing accordingly and not focusing on the world’s offerings above our awe of the Lord.

  1. The Gathering of Loved Ones

“Love one another with brotherly affection” Romans 12:10

The true Gospel of Scripture is as personal as it is corporate. We are all loved by Christ, and we are all precious to Christ. There is no division in the body of Christ, but the unity of love. Christmas is a time of gathering with loved ones to praise Him with those in the body and point those who are not to the One eager to welcome them with open arms and make them new.

The Risk: All too many a Christmas gathering is obligatory and exclusive. Many of us take the social aspect of Christmas for granted, settling for fun, comfortable, and casual. We neglect to realize the significance of sharing His love with those who are familiar and unfamiliar. We must not turn from God’s desire for us to make the most of every opportunity and to build one another up.


Of all times of the year to be living for Christ’s glory, Christmas offers a special opportunity to rejoice in and serve the Lord.

Celebrating Christmas Biblically means celebrating it as those sustained, filled, and loved by the One we celebrate. Watch out for the easy pitfalls that turn the celebration into less than it truly is.

Lord- let us mind our hearts while we celebrate yours! 

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.

 

24. BEHOLD: The Merry

Merry Christmas Eve! Have the festivities begun? Are you making merry? Do you know what “merry” is all about?

The dictionary tells us:

merry def

Scripture also uses the word.

we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead,

and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Luke 15:32

The Greek word for “merry” is “euphrainó.” Interestingly enough, in its definition, alongside have a cheery outlook and being glad, is the idea that merriment is the kind of gladness that comes because of a sense of victory. Within the definition of merriment is also the word feast.

“All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”

-Proverbs 15:15

Merriment is like having a feast before you. The cheery outlook of being merry is the perspective of seeing not just the glass full, but the whole table!

Is there not a sense of victory in that alone? Everything before you is full, abundant, enticing. The fullness of the table ahead offers certainty that you, too, will be full.

Anyone who has prepared a feast or attended one knows the delight and warmth of a full table. Especially one full of food and loved ones. That’s the sort of celebration thrown all throughout history when a victory is had.

At Christmas, we gather around our tables, our trees, and our trays of cookies. We gather with loved ones. We gather to revel in and celebrate the full victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Born a king. Born victorious. Sin and death never stood a chance –not even before the least of these, a newborn baby.

The Lord uses the weak and the little to triumph over the strength of the powers of evil. Through that victory, God uses this time of year to fill our hearts with the fullness of Christ and the assurance that we will filled in Him forever.

Behold, the victory of the Merry Christ.

Behold, the merriment born of the fullness of Christ with us.

Behold, the merry heart that looks on us as ones to share the feast and fullness with.

22. BEHOLD: The Settling

Settle down. These are words children hear as they leap around the house in anticipation of presents, cookies, parties, and celebrating. They are also words many of us adults need to hear.

Settle down. Take a rest. Be at peace. Don’t rush so much. More than that, though: be settled in your soul with the Lord.

We all have a debt to settle. We all have ways that we’re falling short and we need to settle up with those we disappoint, fail, or hurt. But we don’t like to feel like we’re settling for less than the best.

And good news, in Christ, we’re not.

Settling is a synonym for resolving or reconciling. To settle down is to resolve a flurry of chaos and be at peace. Settling in is the reconciling of one’s ideas with one’s reality. To settle for something is to resolve to accept it as is -that’s what Christ made possible for us before the Lord.

In Jesus coming as a baby, God settled things. He launched a major part of his plan:

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

-2 Corinthians 5:19

The little baby in the manger came to settle our unrighteousness with God eternally. Our debt is settled. The sinfulness keeping us from God is settled. And He came to settle our hearts. In the process, He’s settled in…

“that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith

Ephesians 3:17

We don’t have to live hurried or worried that things will be less than God’s best –the matter is settled. We can settle down and settle into peace with Him.

Behold, the status of the saved: settled with God.

Behold, the settling down of our restless hearts when we embrace His gift.

Behold, the one won’t settle for less than is perfect(ly in His will!)

21. BEHOLD: The Unifier

Treaties are signed, even temporarily, for Christmas. In families and between countries, the agreement to live in peace for even just a short time is often made for the holidays. People step out of their normal routines, paying more attention to the needy and giving more than any other time of the year.

At Christmas, people seem to feel more unified.

There’s a reason for that, even if it’s wrapped up and stuffed away inside of many, many layers of worldly tradition and philosophy: Christ unifies us.

He came as a baby. We’ve all been babies. He had a childhood, friends, and even a job. Christ was fully man, making Him just like us. He was even tempted as we are tempted, so that:

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

Hebrews 4:15

Though He did not sin, Christ died. Just like all of us, He had a time appointed for his life to end. We find unity in that life, and that death.

For those of us who know Him, we also find unity in the hope and promise we have that we will also live –and die- and then live forever with Him. In light of who Christ was and that gift He freely gives, we have every reason to join together in worship, gratitude, and praise.

Our model for unity is found in the trinity. All belong to each other because selfish ambition and pride is absent. In belonging to another, the will in the same, and the goal of each shared. Each one unified is unified for a reason:

“I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17:23

That godly gift of unity is found most when we enter the presence of the Lord, coming near to Him, because He is the unifier.

Behold, the only reason we can be unified despite out warring flesh.

Behold, the One who unifies us in praise.

Behold, the unity found in the Christ was fully man and fully God.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, and 
#Intentionally Pursuing

20. BEHOLD: The Song

Do you hear what I hear? Hark the herald angels sing! Unto us a child is born. In that little town of Bethlehem. On a cold winter’s night that was so deep, it came upon a midnight clear.

Oh, Holy night! All is calm, all is bright. On Mary’s lap He is sleeping. Down in a lowly manger, our humble Christ was born.

Born is the king of Israel. Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!

Oh come, all ye faithful. Come let us adore Him. Come, adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.

Repeat the sounding joy. Let loving hearts enthrone Him. Come and behold him!

“Praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'”

Luke 2:13-14

Behold, the one we sing about, His song resounding in our hearts as the joy of Christ rings clear.

Behold, the song whose words we’ve only just begun to learn.

Behold, the Conductor at the front, teaching us line by line to sing His praise in harmony.

19. BEHOLD: The Coming

Places to go, people to see. We’re on the run, dashing through the (snow? Please?) At the time of Christ’s coming, it seems we’re all going somewhere.

Do you know the feeling? As you grab your keys and try to balance your stuff in hand while you scramble out the door, the sense of going pushes you and stresses you out. It’s not until you’re almost there that you being to feel more like you are coming than going.

When you’re halfway there, you begin to feel drawn instead of propelled. You feel invited, not obligated. Once the “going” is done, the “coming” begins, and the journey takes on a forward-facing purpose.

It’s no surprise that Jesus says:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

-John 14:6

To go to God is to map out one’s own way. To go implies that He is removed, far, or shifting. But to come is to be led along. Coming means following a path and accepting an invitation. In coming, we arrive not as the lost, but as the found.

Christ came. With his whole focus on being here with us, the Messiah came as the prophecies foretold. Christ is known for coming by the Holy Spirit and coming through a woman. He is known for coming as a lowly baby and for coming specifically to Bethlehem. When coming as a king, He came riding a donkey colt.

Every disciple He called he came to find. Each town He stopped in He came to, not stumbling by accident on the way or going as a matter of course. Christ was always coming alongside, coming to, and coming for.

The Shepherds and the wise men in their praise were comers. Mary and Joseph were blessed by the coming of their son. They came to Bethlehem to deliver the King.

We are blessed by that same coming, and we can emulate the beauty of it by, ourselves, coming.

Come to the manger. Come to the celebration. Come to the cross.

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

Revelation 22:17

Don’t wait to be pushed and to hurry last minute. Don’t just go, with your mind focusing on what you’ve left instead of what you approach. Come, and behold Him!

Behold, the one has come for us.

Behold, the one who is coming for us.

Behold, the one to whom we never “go” as lost, but always “come” to, found.

15. BEHOLD: The Calm

Crazy days. Crazy illnesses, crazy injuries. Crazy times with students. Crazy plans to keep up with. Crazy lots to get done. Crazy excitement ahead. Everything is crazy these days. Has anyone else hit that point yet? Regardless of the careful planning ahead, Christmas always seem to come with craziness.

It must have during the first Christmas, too. Our peaceful nativity scenes don’t reflect it, but…

I can’t imagine that Mary wasn’t going a little nuts while entering labor AND searching for a place to stay or being hunkered down in a barn. A city so full that there was no room at the inn doesn’t sound peaceful or quiet. The King plotting to kill Jesus from the time he heard of His birth certainly sounds a little mad.

Praise the Lord that He is the calm!

That little baby we celebrate knew the perfect peace of God better than any of us have ever been able to fathom. His life reflected that though His circumstances rarely did.

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.”

Psalm 107

In all of the storms and throngs of angry people and lists of material things piling high, the Lord is and was constant, calm, and able to hold it all together. All that He holds together is His, after all.

Even angry, flipping tables, Jesus could still calmly and ultra-wisely answer His accusers. When they seized Him to kill Him, He calmly healed a soldier’s ear and spoke calm over His disciples.

That sort of calms knows no bounds except for the will of God. His calm is the sort of calm we need every Christmas, and every day.

Behold, the one to whom we can go when we need calm.

Behold, the calm who keeps that which would overwhelm at bay.

Behold, the reason for the calm at all: God’s Will is so good that the trouble is worth the calm that always comes anyway.

This Post is being Shared on: #WomenWithIntention and #TellHiStory

13. BEHOLD: The Author and Editor

Oh, the stories that come with Christmas! Tales of wild festivities, hilarious memories, and sentimental moments. At Christmas we also face stories we’d rather not; disappointing and painful memories are often whispering in the background.

One story we also hear tells of Christ’s coming to earth to save us. This is the greatest story, and it’s true. Even better –the author is still at work.

“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”

Acts 3:15

Not just the author of your life story, or mine, our God is the one who created life. He is the one who overcomes it’s limits that we may live with Him forever. With just a word He gives this life, and with another, He takes it away. He came up with life, and He brought into being, and He sustains life as we know it.

With just a word, He also changes life as we don’t know it, too.

We all like to think that we plot out our paths. We try to select the themes for our Christmases, our homes, and our lives. “It’s my story” we say, and we only get to write it once. What we overlook is this fact: as the author, He gets to edit.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

The greatest story, and the whole story, are written by the Hand of God.

Praise Him that for all the plot twists we wish weren’t there and all the corrections we try to make, His edits keep the story complete and perfect.

Behold, the Author whose edits to our contributions only make it better.

Behold, the Story with no plot holes, no errors, and no constraints.

Behold, the One who assures us that the story isn’t over and it won’t be.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup