#1 Way You’re Doing It Wrong

How does a Christian grow in their faith?

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

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

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

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

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

Rather, spiritual growth originates in becoming less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facing the Big “What If”

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

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

I kinda forgot that.

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

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

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

What if God never has me get married?

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

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

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

What if I fail?

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

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

What if God actually has plans for my life?

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

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

What if God is a confidant and an advisor?

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

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

What if we believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WordoftheWeek: Strengthen

“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

Joshua is one of my favorite books of the Bible. The third chapter in particular grips me every time. So thankful Christine shared about the Lord using Joshua to encourage her to worship Him during battles of all kinds.

Genuinely praising God amidst the crazy and chaotic takes strength.

That’s the word this week, pulled from Joshua 1: Be Strong.

4 Facts:

  1. “Be Strong” is a Verb

I’m referring to the word strengthen because in this verse, in context, “be strong” means “grow strong” or, simply “strengthen.” It’s an action word.

Strength is not something we just possess. To be strong is to exert power.  It’s to use what you have been given with might.

  1. Strengthening is Multi-Faceted

Sometimes being strong means grasping something tightly. That might involve seizing hold of it…or it may mean clinging with force to what is already in your grip.

When you exert strength, it takes effort and sustenance. You must firm up your muscles- even your Spiritual muscles.

  1. Strength Derives from Something Given

“Adopt” and “apply” are some of the first words listed in the definition of strengthen. The potential of the power and might have been given. The Lord’s promises have been made and His call has been issued.

To be strong is to apply what has been given. Flex the faith-muscle God has been growing.

  1. Being Strong Means Relying on the Lord

Another aspect of “be strong” is “be encouraged,” or, “fasten.” What is it that the Israelites were called to be strong in? What is it we’re to fasten ourselves to, take hold of, and grip with all our strength?

God’s promises. Be strong in taking hold of God’s promises.

Securely and resolutely take hold of the one who is growing you.

That’s what it is to be strong: to flex our God-given muscles in the battles we face.

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We take hold and flex in praise, in faithful following, and, as the verses that follow state, in obedience.

Will you stretch and flex from the soul with me today?

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

What You’ll Find In a Stronghold

“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble,

And He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

Nahum 1:7

A refuge, by itself, is a place that offers sanctuary and safety. It is a figurative expression in Scripture describing God as our security. He offers us a place that we can retreat to for peace, quiet, and renewal.

Further, He is our stronghold.

A form of a refuge, a stronghold is a fortress. When we retreat to our stronghold, we go to this one true God:

He Is Battle-Ready

In David’s war days, He and His enemies had strongholds. These fortresses were the places they would all run to when the battle became thick. There, weapons and rations were stashed. Strongholds are battle-ready. When enemies attack, regardless of how ruthlessly, a stronghold is a safe place to go and continue the battle.

Our stronghold, our God, is just as battle-ready. And He is the victory.

He Has the Provisions for a Seige

Holding out in a fortress during battle does not work out so well if the stronghold is empty. We need provisions as we wait out the siege. Sustenance, nourishment, company…hope.

The Lord provides all that we need- even when we’re preserving through a ruthless attack. Even when we’re waiting out hardship.

He Is Our Defense

More than a place, a stronghold was a strategy: a defense. Strong and made with solid material like rock, fortresses are designed to keep trouble out. The strongholds we read about in the Bible, especially those that guarded David, were no exception.

Our stronghold is big enough and strong enough to be a living shield. Though at times oppressed and attacked, those who take refuge in the stronghold their God will be delivered.

He is our strong-hold: the strong one holding us in times of trouble and battle.

“He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.”

Psalm 144:2

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

What in Your Life is Ruthless?

The headache that comes back again and again. A chronic illness that knocks you off your feet without regard for where you’re headed or how much pain you’re already in.

The thought in your head that you are not good enough, no matter how hard you’ve tried. A lie, on repeat, that you can’t ever measure up or be worthy of love. Guilt that won’t subside.

The boss that never respects your time or how much has already been put on your plate on a tight deadline. A person who continues to abuse, even when ties have been cut.

What in your life is ruthless?

Some of these are mine. Some belong to my loved ones. Some are yours. There are others, too.

We all face the ruthless, that which is “without pity or compassion; cruel; merciless.”

Whose synonyms are “unrelenting, adamant, cruel.”

Isaiah 25:4 describes how it feels:

“the breath of the ruthless
is like a storm driving against a wall
and like the heat of the desert.”

Isn’t that the truth? That which is ruthlessly disrespectful, uncompassionate, and cruel in our lives feels like a tremendous force against us that we can’t flee from. It bears down on us like heat that cannot be escaped, draining us of our energy and our strength.

In Isaiah’s praise to the Lord, He describes how the Lord is our refuge. He goes on to say, in reference to the ruthless:

“You silence the uproar of foreigners;
as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is stilled
.”

With just a moment of time and a compassionate thought in mind, our Lord makes cloud cover turn down the heat. He silences the storm thrashing us against the wall. He stills the ruthless.

After describing how the ruthless flourish, only to pass away and be found no more, the Lord reiterates in Psalm 37:39-40:

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.”

What a refuge we have in Him! Never needing to hide or to fight a losing battle alone until we are left as empty heaps of nothingness. Endure, endure. Stay fast in the Lord because the wicked will not ultimately win.

The Lord is stronger, safer, and more steadfastly unchanging than any ruthless thing we face in this world.

Such sweet relief we find in the shadow of those unmovable, unshakable wings.

Remember the Gospel. The ruthlessness of sin, even now as it persists. Christ wins.

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