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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

 

 

The Nature of Knowing

Do you know your husband’s face? Your mother’s hands? Your grandfather’s voice?

This adorable video shows how children memorize their mother’s features:

What about your loved ones’ preferences? Do you know what they are allergic too, what they colors they like, the phrases they say often? If you think about it, do you know what’s important to your best friends?

Chances are, you do.

When you love someone, you want to know them inside and out.

when-we-love-someone-we-want-to-know-them-inside-and-out

 

We can get to know God so well as we know our loved ones. We can see and hear from God through His Word.

If ever you’ve needed a reason, though you know you love God, to get into His Word, remember what His Word is to us:

His face full of features to memorize. His hand to hold. His voice to recognize and cherish. A sharing of His preferences, dislikes, and values.  The chance to learn about what He loves and what matters to Him.

Do you want to know Him better?

In Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray explains: “man seeks the knowledge first, and often, alas, never gets beyond it” (pg 62.) He goes on further, describing in essence that we like to know about God, but we often miss out on getting to know God Himself.

His Word is for both: knowing about Him, and knowing Him.

My friend Michele describes how memorizing Scripture is about memorizing the mind of God. Yes, in His Word God reveals Himself to us. When we memorize His Word, we memorize much of God Himself. Just the way we do anyone we love.

Just think! How much closer are we to the Lord when we ask Him how He feels about things and what’s going on with His plans?

What a precious gift our God is so relatable and relational.

Find a plan, or just dive in a little each day.

Carry His Word with you.

Tuck verses into your pockets.

Delve into time with Him- letting Him speak through His Word- with your loved ones.

Read a book in the Bible you haven’t before.

Choose a study version with notes.

Pause and memorize a verse that strikes you.

Write it someplace you’ll see it again and again.

Turn to His Word before making decisions.

When questions arise, consult the Lord’s Word in prayer. Ask what God says.

Spend time getting to know Him.

This is the God we get to spend forever with. Our reward in heaven is first and foremost just that: being together with God!

Why wait to begin?

We have a God who, knowing us completely, also loves to be known by us.

Amazing!

Interested in guest posting on First And Second? Click HERE…new series on Sin Lies, looking for your thoughts!

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.

Equally Yoked Friendship

Ever participated in a three-legged race? Your leg is bound to a partner’s. Then, you’re supposed to run, together, to a destination.

I remember the terror of participating in this sort of for-bystanders’-amusement-only activity. The image in my mind is fresh: I was looking up at someone I didn’t know, who appeared larger than life, as they exclaimed “hang on!” Then I tasted dirt. My partner’s frustration at my lack of coordination and pace was all the more bitter to swallow.

I’ve been the friend unequally-yoked, dragged along by someone headed somewhere emphatically I wasn’t interested in or equipped to go to.

But I’ve also been the friend marching ahead, feeling as if I’m hauling dead weight…

Read the rest over at Becky’s My Ink Dance Blog.

I’m honored to be sharing words on her beautiful site!

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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.

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.

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.

In Acceptance We Trust

{The fourth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

 Acceptance plays an important role in our self-worth and our reception of love. Without acceptance, it’s difficult to maintain a job, excel at anything, etc….Having other’s approval is valuable for living at peace with others and even reaching people for Christ.

Acceptance, like Google or medicine, is absolutely something God created and works through. When acceptance is viewed and lived well, it’s a gift.

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When acceptance by others is seen an end and not a means or as worthy of our reliance and dedication, we have a problem. Because this is where we trust in acceptance by others rather than trusting in God. Scripture often phrases this issue as trying to please people or win their approval.

Galatians 1:10 challenges us to ask:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. “

To live as a servant of God is not to live as one seeking to please man. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t also say: make no friends. Make people unhappy. By this, you will please God. (Wow would I be a role model somedays if this were His command!)

The Lord is all about good relationships and serving others.

The issue lies in the stock we put into others’ acceptance.

Trusting in acceptance means that we rely on others’ approval to validate what we do or who we are.

At the heart of acceptance is validation or justification. At the heart of trusting in acceptance- seeking to be justified and approved of.

Putting our trust in acceptance can look like this:

  1. If I am accepted by this person, I will feel loved.
  2. In feeling loved, I will be more worthwhile.
  3. My worthwhileness will enable me to do more good in the world.
  4. By doing good in the world, I’ll be more worthwhile.
  5. By being more worthwhile, I’ll be more lovable.
  6. By being more lovable, I’ll be more easily accepted by people.

Acceptance by others is justification for justification’s sake. It’s a cycle, a circle, and it’s self-contained.

There are two issues here.

Trusting in acceptance by others leaves us perpetually trying to earn more acceptance.

Trusting in others’ acceptance is precarious and risky; when we are rejected, as we will be, that’s just that. And it feels hopeless.

Really, that’s all one issue.

Because trusting in acceptance ultimately means trusting in our works. That’s how human acceptance functions. It’s based on what we do, what we strive for, and which other mere human beings care.

Trusting in acceptance by the Lord is so much more fulfilling and hopeful. Plus- it matters and lasts for eternity.

To be approved by God, all you need to do is be saved by Jesus Christ. Your works don’t matter. Your character doesn’t count. What He has done for you and who He is all that matters.

And the saved need to remember that daily. Because we are being rejected daily. We are failing daily. We are sinning, offending, hurting others, and seeking approval in all the wrong ways…daily.

I pray that we know this truth and live it because this is such a regular avenue of joy in the Christian life. Meanwhile, putting too much stock into being accepted by others is a regular source of discouragement. Take inventory.

How much of your life is based on seeking the approval of man? How much of your life is based on knowing you have been accepted by God and living a life pleasing to Him- worthy of your calling? (Ephesians 4:1)

For this series, I’ll be writing each Monday on something (or someone) I tend to trust in besides God. 

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

Writers and non-writers are welcome to submit guest posts. Contact me here by June 12th telling me what you trust in besides God and how He helps you trust Him more.

Starting June 20th guest posting will begin!

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

WordoftheWeek: In

Seriously? A word study on a preposition? Yes and more yes!

Here’s why: “in” occurs twice in this verse:

“But you, dear friends,

by building yourselves up in your most holy faith

and praying in the Holy Spirit”

Jude 1:20

But each “in” is different.

(1) The first is a definite article of speech. AKA, this “in” is just highlighting the subject: the building of holy faith.

(2) The secondin” is indeed a preposition, and it pointedly explains our position in prayer.

To be “praying in the Holy Spirit” is to be

(a) in the condition of

(b) in realm of

(c) inside of, alongside of, within

When we pray in the Holy Spirit, we pray in the position of one whose condition is defined by that same Spirit. We pray from alongside the Spirit the Lord sent to help us. As we interact with God by praying in the Holy Spirit, we connect in the terms of His realm, His kingdom, and His will. That’s what Ifeoma was talking about in her post earlier this week.

Praying in the Holy Spirit isn’t so much a long distance call as it is sitting beside our Lord and simply conversing.

This “in” preposition is the same used to describe:

  • People being baptized in water = immersed in
  • A winnowing fork in the hand of God = held by
  • Sickness in people = filled with
  • Where God resides in the heavens = dwelling in
  • Speaking in parables = formed in
  • Having the Word sown in the heart = located in

Just take the verse and fill in with these italicized examples. For instance:

“Praying immersed in the Holy Spirit.”

in prayer word

In” is a basic word, but it speaks volumes about prayer and our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

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Praying that we would be so willing to let the Holy Spirit change our heart condition, set us in place, and come alongside us as we interact with God!

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

Valentine’s and Trash?

On our first Valentine’s Day together, my now-husband gave me a box of trash. I’m not kidding. He walked around our college campus and picked up recycled items, newspaper clippings, old discarded pen caps, those cardboard slips you put around coffee cups, etc. He crammed it all in a box he found by a trash can.

Romantic, right?

He wasn’t commenting on what he thought of me, but on what I thought of Valentine’s Day. I thought the holiday was rubbish. In my opinion, Valentine’s Day was just an excuse for people to spend money and manufacture sentimental feelings or moments.

The box of trash proved me wrong. (Or was it the guy I later married?)

When I opened that box there was no ounce of manufactured anything in my laughter or the fun we had rummaging through it and making jokes. I didn’t have to worry about him spending a dime on me since money was tight.

All that silly box cost him was effort.

Inside, he had also tucked a note. Or rather, a digital treasure hunt guide. It went something like “Google such and such. Write down the third word in the fourth result that pops up.” The words spelled out the sweet and simple message. “I love you- in HIM.”

The other message that stuck?

He knows my worth in Christ, and that makes me worth so much to Him. In spite of all the muck and yuck of sin and love and challenges and money and holidays and expectations, he thinks I’m worth the effort. Even when I don’t want to be.

Let me tell you, that’s a gift that we’re not all so willing to give.

“Dear friends, let us love one another,

for love comes from God.”

1 John 4:7

What love comes from God? A love that says “you’re worth the effort” in the big and the small. In the cross and the sitting down to explain –again- that parable, because they weren’t really listening.

I’m not saying that’s all that love is, but effort proves value. And I’d like to encourage you today to make the effort to love others, even if all you have to give seems like garbage.

Give the time, give the laugh, and give the message clearly: you’re worthwhile to Christ, so you’re worthwhile to me.

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

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

3. BEHOLD: The Restorer

“Now may the God of peace,

who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus,

that great Shepherd of the sheep,

equip you with everything good for doing his will,

and may he work in us what is pleasing to him,

through Jesus Christ,

to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

Of the many things that Christmastime is, one of the least noticed is that it is a time of restoration. It’s during this season that families and friends restore relationships that have fallen apart or been set aside, dormant.

Those who have walked into darkness and despair can more easily find at Christmas the restoration of light –even just a flicker. We call it the season of hope and joy for a reason.

This is also the biggest season of giving to right wrongs in the world. During December, people try to restore a sense of humanity to a culture that thrives on putting self above life itself.

This restoration comes because Christ has come. More than just revived from dormancy or here to right the wrongs, God restored Christ from the grave. The blood of His covenant brought Him back from the dead.

In the cold of the winter and the lonely, sorrowful moments of the season (and reflecting back on the tragedies of the year) we find that in God sending his son, He made a way to bring us back from the dead too. That little baby was more than a new life or a new form of God as man…He was life and He was the newness that we all get to enter into.

Now, like the beautiful decorations and traditions we strip down just to clean up, dress up, and delight in anew, the Lord restores us too.

Behold, the one who came to restore us, bringing us back from the dead.

Behold, the one who restores us to a place of praise.

Behold, the one who was restored by God for our sakes’.

This post is being shared on: #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.