Purposeful Faith

Sometimes, Failing Precedes Blessings

failing precedes blessings
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There he was, Jesus, tugging the weight of the world on his shoulders, straight up the road to his demise. He trudged along, weighted. He proceeded by faith, bent over. Heart and body, likely splintered. By all accounts, Jesus, looked like he was failing and failing badly, very badly. His Messiah mission fell, His name apparently couldn’t save, His cause was causing people to laugh, mock and taunt him.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” Mt. 27:39-40

People anti-worshipped him by outpouring disgust.

“Fix it!” they screamed.
“If you are so great, why do you look so bad?” they yelled.
“If you trust your God, why has he let you down so badly?” they ensued.

Are you hearing the same?

Does it look like you’ve been left on the side carrying failure?

That you are destined to be hurt?

That God isn’t coming through for you?

Sometimes, I feel I am falling into the great abyss of obscurity and aloneness. I see the black storm. I see myself as homeless.

These storms make our future look dim.

We continue to drink, even though we wanted to quit.
We figure we will never shed that last 10 pounds.
We react in anger and try no different.
We gossip, then do it again and again.
We figure we will always be stuck in a dead-end job.
We have no hope for our marraige.
We decide our kids will always be ingrates.
We accept rejection at work and no longer try.
We feel like a sub-par Christian and accept that as truth.
We believe we will always be in debt.
And on and on it goes…but, no doubt about it – it will never end well – for us.

What if Jesus, by all accounts,
saw the circumstances and declared himself destined to be a loser?

He could have –
if he lived by the comments, claims and convictions of the world around him.
If he chose to believe doubts over faith.
If he didn’t believe in a good, good daddy.
If he didn’t know that a Saving God, always saves.

But, he didn’t.

Jesus believed victory was on the brink and didn’t let his mind sink.  

He kept walking…even though.
He kept ministering…even though.
He kept his mind on heavenly…even though.
He thought about forgiving us…even though.
Even though, he was hanging on a limb in gut-wrenching agony.

He thought of us.
He is still is.
He is thinking of you and where you stand.
He is thinking of that standing place as his victory-place.

Will you sink by how you think
or will you rise keeping your eyes on the prize?

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Ps. 16:8

Jesus’ situation looked bleak.
It looked heavy.
It looks so bad the ones he loved ran away in fear.

But here is how it turned out, here is what he was right on the brink of:
He was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures—and is still alive! (1 Cor. 15:4)

He is still alive and still saving us.
He is still alive and still pleading for us.
He is still alive and still making a way for us.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.
And so through 
him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 1:20)

His answer to your heart is – yes! Yes, he will do the amazing for you, according to his will, if only you believe.

And we all say, Amen.

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Believe

Believe!
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Post by: Jami Amerine

I believe.
I believe in Jesus Christ, only son of the Father.
I believe He died for me.
I believe He rose from the dead.
I believe He ascended into Heaven.
I believe He will come again.

I believe.

But sometimes, I forget that this belief means so much more because of who it is I believe.

Recently our oldest son, who is severely dyslexic, decided he wants to go to medical school.  He came to my husband and me and said, “I think I am supposed to be a doctor.”

Not for one moment did I doubt him.

I homeschooled John for the better part of his academic career this far.

I know.

I know first-hand that the road he just ventured onto will be hard. When I say hard, I mean “reads at a 5th grade level” hard, or so the test makers tell me. But I have seen the work of this man-baby, I have witnessed a determination in him like no other.

I believe.

It is one thing for John to believe he can do all things through Christ who is his strength. It is another thing for someone else to believe he can do it.  And on the evening after John’s announcement I made arrangements for him to test into the university near our home, my alma mater.  A tightness grew in my chest as I recounted the days of dreaded placement and diagnostic testing. For just a moment I entertained, “what if…”

I quickly shook off the thought.

I believe.

And somewhere on the still evening air, a warm sound swept over me.

I was bathed in peace.
I was slain by love.
I was certain the sound was audible.
The breath of my Lord comforted me and I heard Him say, I believed first.

Yes.

The Alpha and the Omega, the God of Isreal, Maker of Heaven and Earth believes in my boy’s abilities to be fulfilled, the good work that this God created him for cannot be impossible.  It cannot be measured by human standards.  And in that moment, I am further struck with the reality – He believes in me too.

As much as I strive to love and serve this Mighty and Mysterious God, as many times as I have proclaimed my adoration, as often as I have shouted “YES LORD! I believe!”

He believed first.

He believed all those years ago on a hill, nailed to a cross.
He believed as He descended into the abyss.
He continued to believe as He walked that road to Emmaus.
And when He ascended back to the Father, He believed without a doubt.
He believed in me at the dawn of my conception.
He believed in me as I took my first steps.
He believed when I fell away from Him, when I rejected Him.
He believed in my daughter-ship, He believed I would return.

He still believes. He believes even when I am at my worst.

He believes.

He believes that the good work He began in me will be carried through to bring Him glory.

This is magnificent to me.  When I am in doubt, when I am afraid, when I can’t bring myself to believe, He who dwells in me… believes.

So great His belief he took His petition, His deep and unshakable beliefs, and died for me on the Cross.

Who am I that He who measures the depth of the sea

and counts the feathers on the songbird,

believes in me?

I believe I am the daughter of the God of All.

I believe my son, a newly accepted Pre-Med student at my alma mater, is the son of the God of all.

I believe I am a foster mom, when I was the most terrified woman on the planet.  Afraid I would get hurt, afraid of the brokenness, I believed in the calling from my God.

I believe I am an adoptive mom of two precious boys, I believe in all seven of my children.

I believe I am an author, when everyone said, “It’s too hard to get published.”

I believe I am a sinner, desperate for a goodness I am incapable of on my own.

I believe in an unseen God who first believed.

Who am I that He believes in me?  I am a believer in Him.  He is mighty to save. He is mighty to deliver.  He believes in the impossible for He was able to conquer death, death on the cross – for me.

And for you.

He believes in us, dear friend.  He believed so greatly in us – and His Father loved us so, that He took it to the grave.  Meet Him there. Crumpled at the foot of the cross cry out the hurt, the disappointment, and the fear. For even if the only words you can muster are… I believe.  Know He will honor and care for you. He will deliver you and conquer that which terrorizes you.  He will make all things new. He will make it all work together for good.

The great I am, your Father in Heaven… He who first believed.

Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)

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The Incredible Power of a Small Pause

pause
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I gripped my chin, thinking, I need to reach out and ask her if there was a problem with me. I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t seem to be progressing forward with the work I had turned in. I knew, it must be – what I had done wasn’t good enough. She thought my work was horrible, trash-worthy, and she just didn’t know how to tell me. She was avoiding me. The hair on my skin rose with the awkwardness I was about to approach.

I typed the email.

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (Prov. 10:19 MSG)

Rather than pressing play on my mouth
was God called me to press – pause?

I waited, staring at the cursor. So much time had passed and she had given me nothing. Still, God says it wise to wrangle wild words. I minimized the screen, considered the thought and went along with my day, wondering, often, if I should text.

What harm would it do? At least I would know. At least I could tie down my emotions, rather than having them fly everywhere.

pause

Often, our greatest goal when we charge is to change our feelings. I knew many of my words were about me feeling good, and not about producing a good and Godly outcome. They were about me knowing – now. They were about me feeling – happy. They were about me getting answers – so I knew I was worthy.

He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Prov. 17:26

A cool spirit. It sounds light. It sounds like a refreshing breeze. It sounds easy. Understanding arrived: She is busy. I can offer her space.

Press pause, Kelly.

A week passed, and an email arrived. It was from her. She saw my work and not only wanted to use it, but in a more prominent capacity. God knew all along.

You never know God’s good cause,
being worked through your pause.

You want his hand ruling over your outcome, not your hasty mouth.

What I know now is I could have ruined it all by racing in to rectify my feelings. I could have spoiled what God was growing up in the perfect timing. I could have missed a growth opportunity in patience. They can be the hardest kind.

How do you do with opportunities of patience?
When do your feelings call out to you to “fix” things?
Do you speak a heap of demands or from a heart of love?

I realize now. I can lay back. Why?  Because what I want to rush into, God is already in.

One God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4:6

He is in it and is carving spiritual and emotional strides.  He is ironing everything out. He is making all things work together for his good, my good and the good of the entire story that extends beyond my here and now. I can trust that. I can believe in that. I can hope in that.

pause
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving… (1 Tim. 4:4)

And, so, what small wait, what unheard response or what dead end – in those, I will remember God is there and because he is there, goodness is there. It is who he is, it is what he does and it is simply the only thing he can ever produce.

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25 Ways: To Let Jesus Reign & to Be Less Vain

http://purposefulfaith.com/be-less-vain/
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Be published/seen.
Get that job.
Posture yourself.
Promote yourself.
Produce fans.
Stand in big lights.
Know big people.
Do whatever you have to do to get ahead.
Associate only with those who can help you.
Climb up the ladder to get somewhere better, higher.

“Come, let us build for ourselves a city,
and a tower whose top will reach into heaven,
and let us make for ourselves a name…”  Gen. 11:4

Do whatever it takes to build a ladder to more fame, greater visibility, a meeting with that person. Don’t even worry about those you leave behind, or stop talking to. Don’t get consumed with the fact you’ve only got an eye on helping yourself. Don’t worry that you build up only those who benefit you. Don’t mind the fact that you are often jealous. Just build. Then, climb. Build. Then, climb.

Promote your name. Build.
Establish yourself your brand. Build.
Make great your story. Build.
Climb.

follow me!LIke me!Love Me too.1

I get questions about this kind of thing often, “How do I build platform? How do I stand out, Kelly?”

Half of me wants to write back, “The only one who is due a platform is Jesus. Get off it and build yourself a low seat (Lu. 14:10). I want to say that. I also want to say, “Stop being concerned about you and get yourself obsessed with him.” I want to say that too, but then, I realize, in some ways, I would need to carbon copy myself on this email – and put myself in handcuffs. I am guilty.

It is hard to escape the lure; it is endorsed so heavily, by the world, as the way to go.

So, I stack bricks and mortar trying to reach some higher plane, but what I need to do is bow down and let Jesus reign.

He can do all things.
He can build all things.
He can create all things.
He can manage all things.
He can expand all things.

My best doesn’t compare to his blessed.

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Phil 2:3-4 MSG)

To let Jesus reign and to be less vain, looks like this – to:

1. Pray for those you’re prone to judge.
2. Help those you’re inclined to fear.
3. Offer a hand to those who can’t handle life.
4. Worship with childlike expectation.
5. Wonder and wait for where God wants you to go.
6. Move towards the small and seemingly stupid thing he might be calling you to.
7. Let go of numbers and grab hold of hearts in need.
8. Surrender progress and claim a God who requires no performance.
9. Get alone so that Jesus can accompany you in all you do.
10. Encourage others in their calling.
11.  Acknowledge you’re prone to fall, but God is never prone to leave you.
12. Accept help. Accept forgiveness.
13. Receive love.
14. Fail a bit.
15. Let Jesus hold you.
16. Let rejection be bandaged by him who cares.
17. Discover the small learnings under your skin of inadequacy.
18. Give good gifts and offer them abundantly.
19. Let the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, lead. Then, give thanks.
20. Focus on God’s power to bless and not on man’s.
21. Stop and rest.
22. Love the small ones being neglected.
23. Get vulnerable with Jesus.
24. Let imperfections fly.
25. Check your heart.

Bonus: Give others the benefit of grace.

less vain

I love this list. I want to clasp it on my wrist like a medical emergency band – for without doing these things, I truly might die to my own selfishness. I am not trying to sound melodramatic.  I am serious. The stakes are way too high to mess around trying to climb higher when Jesus is always found lower.

What a waste. I want to be where Jesus is, don’t you?

I want to get low, and then:
– lift him high.
– make him seen.
– market his heart.
– proclaim his beauty worked out in me.
– shout it all from the rooftops.
– speak as he would speak into other’s lives.

There is nothing wrong with that.

But, I never want to climb so high, that I put myself above – Him.

If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” (James 4:6 MSG)

What will we choose –
to be enamored with ourselves and enemies of God
or to die to ourselves and to come alive to God?

“What he gives in love is far better than anything else we’ll find…”

less vain

God is offering us his highest blessings. Will we grab them? They aren’t found at the top of a ladder, but low, very low. As you bow down, you will find them, the small breadcrumbs of grace laid out just for you – so you can find your way right to his love.

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Palaces that Prepare Us

Prepare Us
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I am delighted to welcome Sheree DeCouto from Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, GA to Women’s Ministry Monday. Sheree’s words encourage my heart – even our best dreams, can still be difficult.

Thank you, Sheree.

Post by: Sheree DeCouto

Is it just me, or have you ever wondered what happened after Cinderella and Prince Charming rode off into the sunset? As a little girl I bought the “happily ever after” ending hook line and sinker; as a grown woman I’ve learned that palace life doesn’t always turn out to be what I expected.

Whether it be a relationship, job or ministry… our happily ever after scenarios often lets us down.

I’ll never forget the day I landed my first full-time job in women’s ministry. I thought I had arrived. For years I had dreamed of what it would be like to work for God. My head was full of all the wonderful things I was going to do for God now that He had brought me to my palace, so to speak. Finally, someone had recognized the call of God on my life and given me a chance to make my dreams of becoming a published author and sought-after speaker come true.

Needless to say, palace life has been harder than I expected.

Lately, I’ve been studying the ultimate dreamer Joseph, and I’ve wondered if he too might have grappled to reconcile his expectations with his reality. Obviously, he must have been disappointed when his brothers sold him as a slave. But, I wonder what he thought when he was purchased by Potiphar, who was Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, and put in charge of his entire household. It was a lofty position for sure. Could he have thought, Someone has finally recognized my potential; I’m finally at a place where my dreams could come true?

If you know Joseph’s story then you know Potiphar’s palace was only another step in his journey. It was a place where he gained valuable leadership experience learned the importance of integrity. When I consider his time at Photiphar’s palace as simply a step toward God’s ultimate calling on his life I am encouraged re-think my own palace experience.

All of us yearn for the happy ending but few of us experience joy during in the journey toward it. I’ve found hope by remembering these three truths:

1.     It’s not our final destination: All of life is preparing us for the ultimate happy ending when we meet Jesus face to face.

2.     Tests are part of it: Make no mistake. . . our dream job, dream marriage, and dream life will be full of  challenges to test us. (Thankfully they are all open book tests; the Bible gives us the answers we need!)

3.     Our reaction in the gap between expectation and reality determines our level of joy. We choose our response when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected. Joseph’s life story gives us an excellent example of how to move past our past and toward the ultimate call of God on our lives. In the end Joseph considered God’s will more valuable than his own desire for success.

What palace is God using to prepare you? Are you passing the tests, or has your chosen response kept you from enjoying the journey? If I’m honest, I have to admit that the gap between my expectation and my reality caught me off guard. I haven’t passed all of the tests. But today I’m determined to consider God’s will more valuable than my own desire for success. I choose joy in the midst of my circumstances and I thank God that He is still preparing me for the ultimate happy ending.

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About Sheree

Sheree(3)-0051Sheree serves on staff as the Women’s Ministry Director at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. She is a Bible teacher, speaker, spiritual coach for leaders, event coordinator, writer, and mentor–and that’s just what she does for her day job! She is also a wife, the mother of three sons, and a mother-in-law to her first daughter-in-love. Her passion is to bring the “real” factor to everything she does. Whether she’s speaking to a large audience, writing, or mentoring, her goal is to be transparent about the struggles she faces so that others feel free to do the same.


5 Ways to Bear Amazing Fruit in and through you

Bear Amazing Fruit
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I bit into a nectarine. It was straight from the rural farms of deliciousness. As I bit down, sweetness with undertones of sour exploded. Frankly, it tasted like heaven.  I stared, turned it over and over again in my hands and asked, “How could this be? What produces something like this?”

It both looked and tasted like a sunset in my mouth.

Fruit is fruit, but rare is it that it tastes good. Rarely, does it make you want a second and third helping. Rarely, does it leave you holding it, staring it and wondering how something could actually – do that!

Bear Amazing Fruit

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit…” Jo. 15:16

If I am supposed to be bearing fruit, does it taste like this?

Like love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23)?

Or am I producing a watered down and unripened variety? 

People should taste heaven when they encounter me.
They should stand back to consider the power of God – in me – because God stands out – through me.

What I fear, though, is I try to be like everyone else. I fit a mold of Christianity. I hinder God from making me unique. I fear being too great, vocal or in love with Christ. I fear being too much. Do you?

Then, I end up as the ordinary garden variety of grocery chain fruit; I taste average.

Bor-ing… Blah…. Been there done that… It tastes a little lukewarm. Jesus regurgitates those types (Rev. 3:16). I don’t want to be that, I want to be so jaw-dropping, so succulent people  have to step back to consider who could produce this. Imagine that?! Where all people want – is more. More Jesus. More love. More Spirit.

Where they walk on up and say, “Give me some of that!”

I want to hand out “…fruit that will last…” Jo. 15:16
I want to hand out fruit that unites people at a table of love.
I want to hand out fruit with seeds to bear more fruit.

I want people to ask how something like this could happen.

bear amazing fruit

That is what I did. I searched online to see how good fruit is produced. I found practical tips to growing good fruit. But, what grew under each of these practical tips, were God-tips. Tips that would instruct me on how to be flavorful and full of God’s life-changing juice.

Tips to Growing Good Fruit*:

1. Place them in direct sun.
Get in the light of God’s word. Let it grow you.

2. Make sure they have shelter from high winds.
Dwell in safe places: Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Ps. 91:1

3. Add compost or manure to the soil.
Pray that your heart is open to change and you’ll have the courage to endure as he does.

4. Give them support, netting or canes.
Lean up against God: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28

5. Cut off the top of the plants.
Let God shape you, even when it hurts: “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Jo. 15:2

bear amazing fruit

Simply said: Let God water you straight into delicious. Then, the world will take a bite and fight to know how God makes something that good. They will hear, and peace will reign. Your fruit will produce fruit.

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Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2010/may/18/growing-tomatoes-tips


Take Courage

Take Courage
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Post by: Karina Allen

We live in a beautiful world. But, we live in a scary world that appears to be becoming increasingly so. To be honest, it has been a bit difficult to navigate but I must. We must. We cannot rely on our emotions or even our perceptions of what is going on around us. We cannot allow that to dictate our lives/behavior. We are only to rely on the God who never changes and whose Word is a sure foundation.

The world we live in and actually my very city is in a state of pain and anger and frustration. I don’t have any answers or advice to offer but I do know that I am not to fear. I am to rise up and stand strong in the midst of confusion. I am to be a light in the midst of darkness.

How we do this is simple, not easy, but simple. We look to God. It sounds cliche but really, it’s not. Jesus is the solution to EVERY problem.

He is our anchor.

He is our hope.

He is our truth.

The key to not living in fear is to remember the truth of who the Lord is in spite of circumstances that surround us.

Trust the nature of God.

John 4:8 says that God is love. Ephesians 2:4 says that God is merciful. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that God is gracious. And Psalm 136:1  says that God is good. The nature of God never wavers or falters. He cannot be anything other than Himself. I love that! He doesn’t change according to circumstances or moods. He is not a man that He should lie. He is who He is and that’s all there is to it. He is peace in the middle of our storms. He is our rock when all around us is shaking.

Trust the faithfulness of God.

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

There are countless verses about the Lord’s faithfulness but this is one of my favorites! I live in Baton Rouge and as you’ve probably seen on every media outlet, the atmosphere here has been tense and angry and hostile at times. I need to remember this. Our enemy is not flesh and blood but Satan. It is God who works within His children and gives us strength and causes us to stand strong in the face of any opposition. He never leaves us to fight battles alone. He encamps us on all sides.

Trust the sovereignty of God.

“I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will.” Isaiah 46:10

This one of those verses that blows my mind! God knows the end from the beginning. He’s knows everything that would ever happen before even the foundations of the world. I don’t know about you, but that can be trusted. Nothing in our lives or in the world around us comes as a surprise to Him. He is faithful to make a way when there is no way. Often times, our pain and struggles and hardships catch us off guard and we wander around dazed and confused. The Father isn’t. He knows every detail inside and out, upside down and right side up. He never causes tragedy, but He does sometimes allow it. I’m not sure we’ll ever know why but I am willing to live in that mystery knowing that He will bring about the outcome that brings Him the most glory and is for our good.

He is our anchor.

He is our hope.

He is our truth.

He is our very present help in our time of need. Let’s praise Him! And let’s stand up boldly and take courage…not in our our own strength, but in the strength of the one who placed it inside of us.

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Karina AllenKarina
is a devoted follower of Jesus from New Orleans, Louisiana, but has made her home in Baton Rouge for the past 15 years. She spends much of her time leading worship at church, writing, reading, dancing and mentoring the next generation. She has a huge heart for serving and missions. She is an advocate for the local church especially the one that she attends, Healing Place Church. She also enjoys working out, traveling, photography and going to concerts/conferences.

Karina believes that every woman has a God-sized dream on the inside of them and it is up to an encouraging community to help nurture that dream. Her goal in writing is to see women get a revelation of God’s Word and discover how to apply it to their lives in order to walk in freedom and live the life that God intended. But the most important thing to her is to live out the call of Isaiah 26:8…For His Name and His Renown are the desire of our souls! You can connect with her at “For His Name and His Renown.”


Defeating Distraction with just 2 Words

Defeating Distraction
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I came home from a prayer meeting all full of Jesus and with new plans to let his love flow.

Sitting down at the computer, I knew three things:

1. God was using me to roll-out his glory.
2. I am encouraging others with words that only God could ordain. He is bringing unity.
3. Jesus’ pulse was beating in my heart.

I pressed into my work with fervor. But, as time passed, my mind strayed. It wondered what people were up to? It pondered, what am I missing online? It called me to Facebook, then to my emails. God’s work will be waiting when I return…I figured.

I scrolled.

But, as I did, three things captured me:

1. The face of someone from the past. They brought me straight back into a bad memory.

2. Images from the Dallas catastrophe. It tried to rip the idea of unity apart in my heart.

3. An email from my husband, reminding me we have no idea where we are going to live or what our plans are.

What God established,
distraction was determined to demolish.

Like a perfectly organized shelf, my heart was arranged just right. It was oriented towards God, only to all be knocked down, at a moment’s notice, by my own carelessness in keeping my heart set straight.

This kind of thing happens subtly. This toppling of God. It happens somewhere between morning devotion and child carpool. It shows up in a day somewhere between worship and workers with paint cans who never show up. It arrives through the voice of a boss who sounds like he hates you.

How do we stay devoted to God
when distractions get stuck to us? 

“Only God knows,” I thought. And he did.

What God put on my heart was two words: Purpose and Protection.

1. Purpose: If we don’t purposely pursue his plans, our plans will fail.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Ps. 127:1

This means, no matter how blaring the noise, no matter how worthy its notability, we don’t welcome it in for coffee. Sure, this alert, notification or ding can arrive at the doorstep of our heart, saying, “Hey look at me. Look at me! I need your attention.”

But, we can act differently by saying, “I see you, but right now, I am on a mission from – and with – God. I need to focus on his face; he has plans for me that I cannot be deterred from.”

2. Protection: If we don’t guard against discouragement, we will swim in it.

What good are we to spread love, if we walk in defeat? We must consider what sends our heart astray and then, like we are holding a leash to a dog that is biting us, break the leash and send that yapping dog astray.

We need to let go of the leash that has actually kept us captive.

What is it? Facebook? Comparing? Jealousy? Performance numbers? Words from a friend that really is not even a friend?

Cut the leash. 

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be beholden to the world, pinned down by it. I want to be a running and raging fire, releasing the love of Christ.

To do this, I must protect the sanctity and the sacred connection to my King. You must too.

For as we target our focus,
what will come in focus,
is the very focus of all our affections,
the King of Glory,
the Hope of Nations,
the drink of living water,
the way through all our existing questions.

There he is enthroned,
empowering his people,
pleading on our behalf,
equipping us with what we need.

And we will feel it,
we become certain,
eager even,
heart pulsing, we want to move.

And we do,
we rise into his purpose.
Unrestrained.
Uncontained.
Unbelievably effective for his cause.

We find ourselves.

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Are you Fooling Yourself Faithless?

Fooling Yourself
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Bang! The thunder sounded like a shot in the night, except it was morning. Either way, the shrieks that ensued caught us all off guard. “Quick, get under the blankie! Let’s hide,” Madison shouted at her toddler brother.

They tumbled down like miniature-wrestlers, grabbing the comforter and maneuvering it over their heads.

They felt safe. But, what I could see from the height of my vantage point went beyond two sets of covered heads – to the 3 feet of remaining limbs laying uncovered. These soft legs, arms and hearts were still vulnerable – vulnerable to thunder, destruction and all the fierce consequences of lightening.

Fooling Yourself

All I could think was, “Those cute little fools aren’t safe. They’re hardly covered.”

In the same way, I act like a fool.

Do you?

Do you take cover with defensiveness, escape and busyness to escape the danger of reality?

Are you afraid to deal with mounting problems and the excruciating weight of your own emotions?

Do you figure Jesus won’t be able to handle the likes of you?fooling yourself

It’s embarrassing, ugly even, to admit, but I cover. I grab a leaf and pretend it will hide the ugliness of my nakedness. Yet, what didn’t work for Eve, still doesn’t work for me. 

These thoughts…
“If I can’t see my problems, my problems can’t see me…”
“If I pretend it isn’t there, maybe it will go away…”
“If I can fight back with strength, I won’t be so weak…”
…these thoughts, leave me vulnerable, exposed and aimless – running like a rabid dog in hunt of life. 

Even worse, my tricks go bust, because no one is tricked. My family sees my limbs flailing about. My God sees everything. And, my insides see a hole too deep to climb out from.

The tension mounts, my heart asks:
How can I deal with my feelings without fleeing?

An answer settles: What pain we give God an opportunity to see, he’ll free.

Because God is a God of clear vision…
From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all…(Ps. 33:13-14)

…who cares.
who considers everything they do…. (Ps. 33:13-14)

And He sees deliverance and delivers deliverance to those who desperately hope in him.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine. ( Ps. 33:18-19)

His tender mercy wants to approach us (Lu. 1:78). It doesn’t look like a hand raised. It doesn’t squint with eyes furrowed. It doesn’t pontificate with a red face. No. It is a cupped hand that holds you tenderly, as if you were a shell about to break into his glory.

Unfailing love wants to heal you. He wants to heal me too.

Will we let Deliverer deliver us from fear to faith?

We don’t need to hide from tender mercy. For it is, after all, what we most crave, isn’t it?

So today, gather your courage, put it in a line, get it ready to launch, and pray with me: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Ps. 139:23), make them plain to my eyes, Lord. Help me be able to handle them. Show me the way to go. Teach me. I am open.”

Then prepare your heart to be flooded by He who is – LOVE. He will lead your way through the muck and yuck. Through thick and thin. Through tears and healing.

fooling yourself

He won’t let you down, as you look up.

It may not always feel easy or safe, but, every time, his ways are (Mt. 11:3o).

So, let’s no longer pull the comforter over our eyes, for the Spirit is comforter (Jo. 14:26) and his vision will see us through.

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What Pours Out from within You?

Outpours
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Marcia Kuyper is joining us today for Women’s Ministry Monday and, boy, am I delighted about it. Her words struck a chord with my heart. They are both encouraging and thought-provoking. I am confident they will bless you as much as they did me. Enjoy!

Post by: Marcia Kuyper

I could see he was annoyed with me.

My husband Tom set our vitamins out on the counter, and I, knowing a better system, “politely” questioned his arrangement.

The tension was subtle, but I was keenly aware of his frustration with me. It makes me mad when he gets annoyed with me.  I was thinking, “What right does he have to be irritated with me, after the way he hurt me?”

I say out loud, “You are so bugged with me.”

My conflict avoiding husband gave it to me straight.  He courageously began to tell me about the way I affect him.  I knew he was talking about more than the arrangement of vitamins.  He was talking about our life together.

I didn’t want it to be about me.

I looked down at my Bible, which was open to Luke, and I paused, asking Jesus to help me have ears to hear.  “Lord, help me listen, truly listen. Help me listen for what’s being said beneath the words. Let me listen the way you listen… love the way you love… lay down my life the way you laid down your life.”

I looked at the words before me in Luke 7:36-50…

“And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”

And I hear it loud and clear…

“Marcia, I have something to say to you.”  I pause…ask again for His help in my listening,  and then I reply,

“Say it Teacher.”

I’ve read this so many times.  I get the meaning of these words, but this time, His message hits home in a more personal way.

To love the way Jesus loves,
I must receive all the love and forgiveness He offers.

I must let the blood of the Lamb cleanse me from ALL unrighteousness,
which includes my SELF-righteousness.  

I’m  listening, so He gently shows me that I am the pharisee in this story.

I realized I was saying : “I would never do that.”

I didn’t say it out loud, but in my heart, I was saying, “I would never do that.”

It’s pride. I hold on to a small sense of superiority, and that is what comes out when pressed.

Tom was courageously being more direct and bold, because he loves me and values our relationship.  I was tempted to react in a self-protective way, turning the fault back on him, but this time, by God’s grace, I was able to have ears to hear what He wanted to teach me.  I am learning that, until I own my part, until I own my sin – my inability to come under him, my resistance to letting him lead me, to learn from him, to listen without pushing my words  – we will only get so far.

Is there something God wants to say to you?

With Jesus as our teacher and guide, like the woman in Luke 7:36-50, we have the opportunity to let Jesus love us fully by giving Him access into every corner of our lives.  Even the things we don’t speak out loud.  It is here, in this place of admission and confession, where we experience His loving forgiveness and respond with extravagant gratefulness, just like this exposed woman did.

She, the woman, poured out her most costly possession (perfume), He poured out His blood for our redemption.  As I wrestled with Jesus over my unforgiveness, He helped me identify and spill out my pride, which released in me an outpouring of love and forgiveness for Tom.  What might your spontaneous outpouring of gratitude look like?

May you receive His love and forgiveness today in a way that overflows in love, forgiveness and gratitude.

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About Marcia Kuyper

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 10.14.39 AMMarcia Kuyper is the Women’s Ministries director at Open Door Fellowship Church in Phoenix Arizona. She leads Bible studies and Retreats, counsels couples and women in marriage and family and has a deep passion for God’s Word and His people

Marcia teaches with her husband at the A Time for Us Marriage retreats and Marriage preparation classes for engaged couples. She also shepherds and teaches a class for young marrieds and singles called C’est La Vie.

Marcia is a wife to Tom, mom of four, and grandma to seven, soon to be eight…

She spends a lot of time… planning vacations.  🙂  She loves reading… (Favorite authors: Oswald Chambers, Henri Nouwen, Elizabeth Goudge… too many to list.) the beach, snow skiing…

Raised in a Jewish family, Marcia came to know Jesus as Savior in high school.  She is so deeply grateful that Jesus pursues her and never stops loving her.

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