Purposeful Faith

Category - guest post

Encouraging Words from The Blogosphere

14 Bloggers. 14 Heart-Inspiring Mini-Posts. 14 New Bloggers to Check Out.

Join me today as I welcome mini-guest posts on my blog. We can’t read everything online, so I hope to provide a quick rundown of some great words being written. Check them out!

1. Mary Geisen
Twitter: @MaryGeisen

My story of marriage shattered and with it my childlike dream of love. But like Job, I found hope. My summertime musings turned into truth the day I invited God to take my simple dreams and make them into His beautiful reality. The key to dreaming is accepting God as the keeper and developer of the dreams.

I opened my heart and looked for Jesus in my life. I asked Him “why” questions over and over, and found my answers in Him. In the process, my dreaming didn’t stop, and in the reworking our patient God taught me this…

We nurture dreams when we feed them with hope, purpose and trust.

What begins as a fleeting thought can easily blossom into hope for the future. What looks good on paper may turn into a career that lasts for thirty years. What is broken can be made whole again.

Dreams are the visions we imagine and release to God to mold, shape and grow. When we let go, God creates amazing beauty. He makes all things beautiful!

He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
and for the young ravens when they call. Psalm 147:8-9

Read more.

2. Bethany McIlrath
Twitter: @BethanyMcIlrath

Blame First, Forgiveness Next

When I tell my husband about an incident and the way it hurt my heart, he listens. Patient as usual. My phrases go something like this: “This happened. Then this happened. It was a mess. I felt____.”

Inevitably, he asks. “Why did that happen?”

I stammer. I don’t get it. I just know I’m hurting. Why do men have to solve everything anyway?

The conversation continues and he gently pushes.

He believes I need to recognize the “why” when something hard or hurtful happens. If a person is behind an issue, I need to assign them blame. Righteous blame…also known as responsibility.

It feels so backwards to me.

Read more…

3. Angela Craig
Twitter: @AngelaLCraig

Sometimes You Win, Most Of The Time You Learn

Whatever you do, the world says, DON’T FAIL. You need to be the best (at everything) or else.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with winning (unless you become an ego driven narcissist).

But, if you have ever failed to reach a goal, you will agree that there was a lot you received out of the learning. 

Winning is a one-time gift. Learning is a life-time gift.

I believe, that is why learning is God’s ultimate priority. He is focused on who we are becoming, not what we accomplish.

Here are five ways God uses learning to grow us as His people:

Relationship – the place we face our brokenness and understand the meaning of forgiveness

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

Read the Five Ways…

4. Irina Glazkova
Twitter: @glazkovairina

Gracious God

Many people in the church complimented me on my strength. Little did they know that behind the strong façade I was a wreck. I kept smiling. Sometimes I said that I was tired, but nothing more.

I failed three out of six courses. The Lord was gracious. I was able to get a note from counseling center which allowed me to drop off those courses. There was no fail on my transcript. I couldn’t continue the program. I dropped out.

At the time, it looked like a defeat. I left my dream of becoming an environmental specialist behind. I was not going back to finish the program. How could I when I wasn’t able to pass even the smallest lab reports. Our God is so wise. Sometimes, when the road was not meant for us, He will let us to walk until we are crushed and can’t continue down that way.

With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding Job 12:13 NASB

My dream was buried under the rubble of personal and emotional problems. I became more focused on the Lord. I became more involved with my church. My heart became settled. Read more.

5. Courtney Leigh
Twitter: @courtneylblog

Finding Rest from Insomnia

Sleep has always been a thorn in my side. I am a night owl who is required to rise early, and while I meet my responsibilities that require me to rise early, falling asleep is never easy. It doesn’t matter if I go to bed early, drink tea, take sleep aids, or try relaxation techniques. Those methods help to some degree, but they aren’t enough to lull me into a relaxing full night’s sleep.

I lie there tossing and turning, counting down the hours until I will have to get up. I begin to worry not only about what I may have forgotten, but also about whether I will get enough sleep. My mind races to figure out how to ensure that I have the energy I believe will be required to accomplish what I have planned for the next day.

Anxiety takes over because I pressure myself to perfectly manipulate circumstances that are beyond my control.

Then God reminds me that I am following Him, not the other way around. Read More.

6. Sarah Rexford
Twitter: @sarahjrexford

God, Everywhere.

Newsflash! God doesn’t give us a certain amount of faith and hope we use it for the correct issues. He gives us faith and grace for each moment, as we need it!

Despite these truths, at times it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around this. But this shows how little I know of God in comparison to how much there is to know of Him!

Honesty moment? It’s a tiny, little, teeny bit similar to how little I know about sports in relation to how much there is to know. (I mean let’s be real – I had to ask what sport the Blackhawks play. By the way, it’s hockey.)

I need to choose to understand that when God says He cares about me it includes the little things. Even things like college, jobs, internships, and friends (and learning how to make dinner without demolishing the kitchen!). He’s present in all those places, not just when I’m experiencing dramatic life change. Read more.

7. Julie Loos
Twitter: @juliealoos

How Do You Break Free from Anxiety and Overcome Settling in Life?

A year ago, God asked me to do something ridiculous. He asked me to share my story; to write. He asked me to be honest, to unmask and let others know I struggled. When I struggled with anxiety, I felt shame because Christians aren’t supposed to worry. We aren’t supposed to be hopeless and feel desperate, and we aren’t supposed to quit.

Panic keeps you paused and passive.

God didn’t want me to remain muted and overlooked. He wanted me to be courageous and confident.

Me, the girl who likes to blend into the background?

Honestly, I still feel awkward.

I’m still afraid.

When you’re used to hiding, it’s hard to have confidence. I’m vowing to unmask and not withdraw this time.

Five Ways to Overcome Settling…Read more.

8. Stefanie Lynn

A Healed Heart

I recollected what happened.

“God, how can this be? The doctors said the mastectomy was necessary. I’d never dreamed I’d lose that. But I hoped after reconstruction I’d look normal.” With tears streaming down my cheeks, I stared at the pale hospital wall.  “I’m only 34!”  Now it had failed. What I anticipated rectifying the effects of cancer on my body, on my appearance, on me, had failed. Now the only option left was for me to gain thirty pounds and have a procedure requiring six months recovery.

I knew I’d never opt for it. I had three daughters ages 11,7, and two. I’d already lost two years with my family, stolen by cancer, no way I’d voluntarily surrender more.

“God,” I cried, shaking and sobbing alone in my hospital room, “I know You’ll redeem this. I just can’t imagine how.” I stared ahead, trying to comprehend it all. “But You will find a way somehow, some way; You’ll use this for good.”

“You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Man may judge by appearance, but I judge by the heart,” Scripture burned in my brain. “Your heart is beautiful,” His voice whispered into a mind struggling to comprehend such a concept.

I sobbed all afternoon, praying, “God help me fully trust You.” Read More.

9. Shelby Spear
Twitter: @shelspear

Strength in Fragility: How To See Beyond Our Weaknesses

“God is pressing upon this season to see things from a new perspective. To recognize that although I may be fragile, who I am able to Trust in is not.”

God’s love never wanes, His strength never wavers, His comforting never ceases, and His guidance is resolute. Frailty becomes gift worthy when the weakness allows us the freedom to be our true self. This in turn allows the wonderful truths about our Lord and Savior to shine into our glass facade.

Our Lord invites us to embrace the insecurities within us and see them as stepping stones to greatness. He encourages us to believe his love is an oasis for our weakened spirit where we are able to sip his living water, revitalizing our soul and providing strength for the journey.” Read more.

10. Kim Fredrickson
Author, “Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend”
Twitter: @kimfredrickson

Practicing Self-Compassion

Having a terminal illness with no cure is rough to say the least. Despite such devastating news and the way my life has changed, I’ve been blessed by God’s support and the love and encouragement of family and friends. There are still blessings and things to be grateful for if you look for them.

Self-compassion (S-C) has helped me get through these tough times. When I was diagnosed with cancer, and then PF, I decided to be a good friend to myself. S-C helps me be kind and caring to myself in the ways I talk to myself, take care of myself, encourage myself, and accept the volumes of prayer and support my friends and family offer. I am committed to not turn on myself or abandon myself during these difficult times. God has not, and will not abandon me.

I know He has a purpose for PF in my life, and in the lives of others. I honestly wish I didn’t have to go through cancer or pulmonary fibrosis. I wish I would have a miraculous healing. I know God doesn’t waste any pain or hardships as I submit to Him and allow Him to use what has happened in my life for His purposes…

Read More.

11. Kelly Russel
Twitter: @KellShayRuss

More than A Diagnosis

I googled Luke’s condition, marking the last time I’d experience peace for the next sixteen months. Hopes and dreams for my boy collapsed one by one with each account I read. When I wasn’t cluster feeding my infant, I was reading of botched surgeries and broken lives. I wasn’t sleeping and soon slipped into a dark place. Instead of enjoying my infant, our last, I found myself distancing myself from him. It hurt to love him. I’d lie him back in his crib as soon as I was done nursing him, simultaneously feeling guilty for not savoring those precious moments and knowing that lingering over him only caused more tears.

On one particularly bad night I reached out to a few of my Christian girlfriends. I was wracked with anxiety and depression and knew I could no longer do this on my own. I told them everything, Luke’s condition, my fears, our indecision, how utterly hopeless I felt. It was hard to press “Send” but also strangely freeing when I did. There is power in bringing the darkness into the light. And I was tapping into it.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46

Read More

12. Kelly R. Baker
Twitter: @kellysinging

From an Outfit of Foolishness to Duds of Discernment

I felt God near me, and the morsels of His Word were enjoyable. I had been trying to read my Bible on a regular basis. I applied the plan to read the chapter from Proverbs that corresponds with the calendar day of the month since it has 31 chapters. It helped me begin the habit of spending time regularly feeding my spirit.

Then one day I started seeing a disturbing pattern. I wasn’t quite sure, so I skimmed for confirmation. Yep. It was there.

I saw myself accurately described in the verses I read. It was staring at me from the black text printed on the thin white paper of my Bible:

I. am. a. fool.

It was one of those moments when you get to the bathroom after sitting at the restaurant table with your friends, and you look in the mirror and discover what everyone else had probably already seen. Read more.

13. Lorraine Reep
Twitter: @lreep

Am I invisible?

Recently I read that many of the craftsman and artisans who built the great European cathedrals didn’t live to see them completed. They never knew the satisfaction of seeing it all come together.

The craftsmen were more than skilled laborers performing a job in exchange for a livelihood. They viewed their work as service, even worship, to God. Many of them intentionally hid some of their best work within walls, fully intending it for HIM alone.

They weren’t afraid their work wouldn’t be seen; they knew the one who truly matters did see it. He sees. The Gospels remind me that he knows if a sparrow falls. The psalmist declares:

“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.” (Psalm 56:8, The Message)

The challenge is clear. How can I move from feeling invisible to doing everything with the intention of being invisible?

Read more.

14. Kathy Garrison
Twitter:  @klgarrison8

Finding My Worth

I needed to know that I was enough. To know that others liked me and would include me. Unfortunately, it left me looking for acceptance among people, which will always leave us wanting for more. We can never please everyone and most won’t love us unconditionally.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

I’ve always been sensitive to being left out or left behind. I’ve had my feelings hurt unnecessarily at times when I’ve made assumptions about not being included. It’s been a process of years to heal from those wounds and slowly learn about my Father’s love and my worth in his eyes.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10

Read more.

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A Change Of Mind

A Change Of Mind

Post by Karina

I’m a worrier.

It’s not something that I’m proud of, but it is very much like second nature. I have always been super independent and that has contributed to me being a worrier. I like things my own way. I like to be able to control everything that is within my power to control. If something is fixable, I fix it. I don’t wait around for someone to offer help, I just handle it. I worry about things past, present and future.

This apparently, goes against the whole being dependent on God lifestyle. He and I are working on that. It’s a slow and steady process. And it’s a process that starts in the mind. That is where all of our motives and actions stem from. My thoughts give way to worry and worry gives way to fear and fear gives way to worry. It is a vicious cycle. And I want out! So, this year, He and I are working on changing my mind.

When I think about how I think, a few questions come up about where the thoughts originate and what direction they are heading. A few verses even stick out to me in those areas.

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2

Where is my affection?

One definition of affection is a feeling of fondness or liking. Heaven and earth are complete opposites. The Bible is very clear that all that happens on earth is counter to what goes on in Heaven. Generally, the person or thing or situation we like is where we spend our energy.

Attention always follows affection. 

Do I like the here and now more that I like eternity? Which do I long for more? I’m sure you’d agree with me that we should long for Heaven more. We will spend more time there than we will here on earth. All that is seen is temporary and fleeting. I want my thoughts to fall in line with the life I will live forever, a life spent with my Creator and Father.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

Where am I expecting peace to come from?

Peace is a tricky thing. We, as humans are so prone to think that people or circumstances will bring us peace. But, they don’t. They can’t. It’s a false peace because when they change undesirably, we are now in a state of unrest. Peace is a person and His name is Jesus. The peace He brings transcends understanding and circumstances. It is unchanging and unwavering. It remains constant no matter what is going on around us because it is grounded in the truth of God’s Word and the truth of the nature of Christ.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

Do I think as the world does or do I think like Christ?

From the moment we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are forever changed. We now have a new nature. The only problem is is that we are still wrapped in flesh, flesh that craves old habits and ways. Then, we are still living among broken and lost people in a broken and lost world. When we understand this, we understand that we have some work to do. We have a role to play. It is our job to renew our minds through delving into the well of God’s promises. The more we become acquainted with Him through His word, the more our thoughts align with His. The more our thoughts align with His, the more our actions catch up with our new way of thinking.

So this year, I’m changing my mind! Are you with me? What area of your thinking do you need renewed?

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BjBC4hzUKarina 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.”

20 Bible Verses to Help in Goal-Keeping

Goal-Keeping

Setting goals can be hard. Pick one too difficult and you have to contend with the fact you didn’t do it. Pick one too easy and you will be asking why you didn’t pick a real goal. Either way, you want to look back and know that you did great, gave it all and made a real and impactful life change.

How do you go about setting and keeping goals?
How do you pick things that God cares about?
And, what does God have to say about goals to begin with?

These are all questions that I ponder. I want to do what matters to him. I want to change the areas he wants changed. I want to know where I can love more and serve more and not pick some superfluous bag of new law that makes me more stressed and anxious and sinful than I was before.

If I am honest with you all, I don’t really know what new goal to pick. I figure the best way to get clarity is to get under the Lord’s authority and to see what he lays on my heart. I’ll seek his word, then seek his heart in prayer and he will be faithful to speak what he wants changed, not what man wants changed, my ambitions want changed or what vanity wants changed.

“Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light…” Ps. 37:4-6

20 Bible Verses To Think on When Setting Goals

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. ” Psalm 37:4

“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” Psalm 118:8

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:14

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

“All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.” Proverbs 13:16

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Ps. 127:1

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Pet. 3:18

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

 “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” Proverbs 29:18

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” John 6:27

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4

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Rapid-Fire Encouragement: What Bloggers Have to Say

What Bloggers Have to Say

Micah Maddox
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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

I love the picture presented here of a path. It’s not a room filled with light or the light as bright as the noonday. It’s just enough light for the path ahead. God’s Word is the source of light.

You may have your own dark cloud that looms directly overhead causing everything to seem dull and difficult to see. Darkness comes in many forms. For me it can be ignited by circumstances beyond my control, fear of the future and discouragement that quickly turns into depression. You may not have a cloud of fear and feelings like me, but your darkness may manifest itself in the form of shattered dreams, prayers yet to be answered or circumstances that make you wonder if God has completely forgotten about you.

As I think about my dark clouds and the light I know I need and desperately desire, God is drawing me near. When I allow His light to brighten my path, my thoughts are transformed and I remember the familiar essence of His light.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Read more blog posts from Micah…. 

 

Gene Kiepura
Follow on Twitter 

I had been a Christian for seventeen years at the time my fourteen-year-old son Jacob and five others were killed while on a missionary trip in Mexico.

Over the next eight years I demanded an explanation.  I wanted to trust God again. They say trust is earned, could God re-earn my trust? Is that a fair question to ask? It eventually occurred to me that there’d be no one better to trust than the One who died for me—no one had invested more.

I decided to return to the place I first met God, I opened my bible and let Him reason with me through His Word. I found that pride was standing in the way of my healing.  The only way out of this bitter downward spiral would be to admit that God was blameless and release the resentment held against Him. It was after humbly laying my broken heart at His feet that God revealed Himself in a way that healed my broken spirit.  I finally was able to form these words, “Lord, this isn’t the life I would have chosen, but I’ll receive it. Please teach me from it.”

I found God again. He had been waiting there at the core of all my pain. I discovered something else—pain and joy could coexist within me. I could experience the sting of Jake’s death yet at the very same time feel the joy of the Lord without having to pretend I was OK with what happened. You see, I’m not OK with it; I’m not going to be OK with it. I loved Jacob and losing him hurt. The truth is there’s no explanation for his death this side of heaven that will ever satisfy me.  Jacob is irreplaceable in my life—but so is Jesus Christ and I couldn’t afford to lose them both.

Read more blog posts from Gene...

Dana Hoebeke
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I used to pride myself on the lists I could make and accomplish.

If I didn’t finish the whole list, no one saw the list, even the things I’d done. I’d sulk and be surly to my family, which was an expression of how I felt worthless inside.

God’s Word says the following about me, oh and by the way…I can do nothing to earn it! I am the apple of His eye, I am a Saint, I am redeemed and forgiven (Hallelujah!), I am free from condemnation, I am established, anointed and sealed by God, and most of all I am complete in Christ!

What broke me free from worthlessness, list making, and achievement-based love was confession and then choosing to believe God.

I have made a reference of scriptures identifying who I am as a new creation in Christ. I try to read them every day to ingrain into my heart so I have a new go-to thought for when Satan tries to tempt me to think the old thoughts.

God is God and the list is not!

Read more blog posts from Dana

 

Anna Smit

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94: 19

How might the pain, hurt and fear I’ve experienced since a little child be worked into something good?

As a child, I started trusting the actions and words of brokenness above the actions and words of God in my life. Idolizing the love and acceptance of humans exacerbated the fear within me. And with anxiety multiplying within me, the inherent fear that I would never be good enough, I lent into my own prideful self-control to numb it away. I sought to deny the existence of the fear by striving to perform, to be the best possible student, lover, wife, mother and friend.

Fleeing from fear gave me a semblance of control, but also festered an anger and exhaustion within me because no matter how hard I tried, I could never live up to the perfection I strived after. And so the fear would rear its ugly head repeatedly and I’d turn to anger to stifle it, anger at myself boiling within me and compounding the exhaustion from my attempts at perfection.

If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. Luke 17: 33 (The Message)

I am choosing to trust that just as His Word promises He WILL go before me (Deuteronomy 31:8), preparing the path (Isaiah 43) and working ALL things together for my good (Romans 8: 28).

Read more blog posts from Anna

Mandy Ralph
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He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. Isaiah 11:3-4

Do we imagine Jesus sees through the same judgmental lens we do?

He doesn’t. He couldn’t.

Jesus looks past our outward self. Past our lazy or selfish actions. He doesn’t hear the harsh words we spoke in fear and anger. He doesn’t seek out the dirty windows of our situation, glorying in the smears of our circumstances.

Jesus’ eyes look upon us in love, His ears hear the cries of our heart because he isn’t fooled by outward appearances.

He’s not fooled by my surface niceness that overlies a judgmental heart. He’s not fooled by the outward actions that hide a broken heart.

Jesus sees and hears our inward selves. There is no hiding or pretence around him.

What a gift.

Read more blog posts from Mandy Ralph…

Bethany McIlrath
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Have you had to make a choice that you knew was right but that you thought you would regret? I have. Over and over again.

Recently, I turned down a job offer. For a position I’ve prayed for for years. With enough hours to bolster our bank account. Every bit of knowledge I have dictated that I ought to find a way to make t work, that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. The Lord told me no. When I said yes to Him and no to the offer, I thought I would regret it soon.

Romans 8:27-28 tells us that “He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (MSG)

God erases regret because regret is about my way –and when that slate is clean…

He makes beautiful works of art that are better than anything I could ever dream.

Today I’m glad I turned down that job. I’m so glad we didn’t get the cat then with all the housing turmoil we later unexpectedly experienced (and the dog we were able to get eventually instead!)

I’m glad that money has kept us at times from making decisions to do things more “typically” because we’ve had some amazing relationships out of it. I’m glad for some of my worst moments because without some of the mistakes and brokenness I’ve regretted, I would never have let people into my heart as far as I have.

Read more blog posts from Bethany McIlrath…

Lisa Murray, LMFT
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We must be pruned.

Each of us gets a bit overgrown at times. We settle into our habits, our routines. We relax into the momentary mundane. It happens. God knows that in order for us to continually be growing and maturing, He needs to prune away the dead, unfruitful leaves and limbs.

He needs to carefully trim the excess, the residue that weighs us down and prevents us from growing, from becoming, from thriving.

Pruning isn’t a punishment. Pruning is an act of love. God loves you. He celebrates you. He longs for you to experience the fullness of your identity. He delights in His handiwork. He declares you beautiful. Whole. Complete.

In John 15:2 (NIV) Scripture says, 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.

James 1:2-4 (NIV) tells us to, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Read more blog posts from Lisa…

Niki Hardy
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“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and strength…”

I continued to repeat my mish mash verse. In the chemo chair, waiting for lab results, watching my kids giggle, receiving a meal from a friend, fighting nausea, popping pills.

“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and strength” Ps 62:1-2

Little by little the fears started to loosen their grip and trusting the Lord seemed easier. I found that when we allow God into our pain, He loves to sit with us, hold us, rub our backs and remind us who we are.

At my weakest, when the emotional and physical pain dragged me into the slimy pit, clambering onto God’ rock was impossible unless I clung to God’s promises.

Repeating God’s promises defeats the enemy, sparks hope in our bellies and throws fuel on the fire of faith. With that flicker of hope fanning the flames of faith we are able to trust God with anything. And I mean ANYTHING.

Because when you’re diagnosed with rectal cancer the bottom falls out of your world and then, I’m afraid to say that, the world falls out of your bottom. Laughter and God’s promises really are the best medicine.

Read more blog posts from Niki…

Crystal  Hall
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Have you ever faced an identity crisis?

The problem is that when we lose our job, when relationships end, when our home goes under foreclosure, when the money we take home dwindles and when our past haunts our future – we begin to question ourselves.

We feel like damaged goods, valueless.
We feel insecure and vulnerable.

However, when we base our worth on who God says we are, everything around us can shake, yet we’re able to stand firm. With an identity in Christ, we’re able to tear down strongholds and strip away labels.

It’s not who you are but whose you are.
It’s not what you did but what He did.

Who were are derives from who God says we are, not society.
The Bible says we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm, 139:14)
The Bible says we are, “chosen, holy and blameless before God.” (Ephesians 1:4)
The Bible says we are, “an incredible work of art.” (Ephesians 2:10)

When we grab hold of truth, we no longer face an identity crisis. Instead, we’ll see an identity breakthrough.

Read more blog posts from Crystal…

Patricia Holbrook
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When Jesus found the disciples failing in their nightlong fishing trip, He could have told them to take up their nets and follow Him to a new, bountiful area of the sea.

They moved their nets, only seven feet across the width of the boat, and cast it on the other side. And as their weary hands obeyed the Master, the bounty came forth.

Do you feel discouraged today, my friend?

Is it the same boat, the same spot, the same fishing technique, over and over again for months, perhaps years?

Remember: If you are in the center of God’s will, walking in obedience with Him, you are where God wants you to be. The circumstances you are in may be uncomfortable, and you may be ready to move on to a better fishing spot. However, unless the Master calls you to move from where you are… Remain…

He is working a fruit eternal in your life. He is molding you as you cast your net over and over again. He is strengthening you as you choose to trust Him, even though you are tired and weary.

And when you feel too tired to go on, remember this: It is the Master Himself, who, after your toilsome, disheartening failures, keeps calling out to you:

“Try again!”

Read more blog posts from Patricia…

Julie Lefebure
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Last year, I stopped the madness.

I took time to rest.

And let me tell you, it was the most beautiful Christmas season I can remember in a long time.

God provides for His own. It is pointless to get up early, work hard, and go to bed late anxiously laboring for food to eat; for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping. Psalm 127:2 Voice

I gave up my belief that taking time to rest was being lazy. I thought I’d see if what others said was true… that I would still be able to get everything done in time–and probably more–if I took time to rest.

I can’t sit here and say it was easy, because it wasn’t. I battled my entrenched habits and pretenses. But, the desire for God to have His way in me was greater than the desire to strive for the perfect holiday, and end up being sick again.

The Eternal, the Everlasting God, The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary. His wisdom is beyond understanding. God strengthens the weary and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care. Young people will get tired; strapping young men will stumble and fall. But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired,never faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 Voice

We may think we don’t have time to rest, but truly, we can’t afford not to.

Read more blog posts from Julie…

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Speed Blogging: A Quick Injection of Encouragement

7 Bloggers. 7 Heart-Inspiring Mini-Posts. 7 New Bloggers to Check Out.

Join me today as I welcome mini-guest posts on my blog. We can’t read everything online, so I hope to provide a quick rundown of some great words being written. Check them out!

Rosie Jensing
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Stepping into an environment that is bigger than what we know and are familiar with, forces us to expand our knowledge and stretch our thoughts.

As uncomfortable as it is to step beyond the place of familiarity, true growth can only take place when we reach the end of our abilities and enter into the beginning of God’s.  For me, this is the place where I rely on Him to show up in order to be successful.  It is the place where my heart flutters in uncertainty of what lies ahead.  It is the place where the shoe is a little big for me, but I chose to wear it anyway and trust that God will help me grow into it.

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9  Read More.

Susan B. Mead
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Where do I look, Lord?
How do I do this, Lord?
Who do I to turn to for help, Lord?

I need you, Lord, to guide me through this puzzle called life.

Holding my hand
So I can take the next step

Feeding and filling me with Your Word
So I can share it with others

Loving me – missing pieces and all
So I can love others in spite of their “missing pieces”

They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. Luke 24:4-8 (The Message)

And

The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?” Acts 5:24 (The Message)

Even Jesus’ disciples, the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled…  Read more…

Alyssa Howard
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A funny thing happened when I finally let go of my reputation – God intervened. First of all, I learned that God cares about how others perceive those who are His. He will always defend His children because He understands our pain. Jesus knows all too well what it’s like to have a reputation destroy you. He was perfect and without sin, yet He was laughed at and mocked to the point of death.

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. – Isaiah 53:3 (NLT)

Secondly, God taught me what it means to seek Him first in all things… including my reputation. When we hold on to things and choose to use our own strength to defend ourselves, we aren’t allowing God and His strength to take over. God wanted to renew my reputation, but I refused to trust Him with it.

Finally, God taught me… More.

Doris Swift
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I felt like what I did made me who I was, “that pregnant girl.” Then I met Jesus, and the truth set me free.

What we did in the past doesn’t make us who we are; it’s what Jesus did for us that confirms our identity.Jesus had already taken my shame to the cross, it just took me a while to find that out. When Jesus overcame our shame, years of disgrace were replaced by grace.

I shared this story while speaking at a women’s event. After stepping from the stage, countless women couldn’t wait to say “me too.” This is why we need to tell our stories; because we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

When we share how God brings beauty from ashes, our past story becomes part of our grace story.

So goodbye shame, Jesus took you away, and I will gladly step into the light and tell others about it.

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Anna Seeley
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We need to stop fighting and be still.

I was so focused on trying to run away from my fear that I just made myself busier and busier.  I was afraid to be still because I knew it would overwhelm me. So I tried to fight my own battle by doing everything but sit still and silent in the presence of God.  But it wasn’t my battle to fight.

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. Ex. 14:14

We must claim our freedom daily.

Joshua was nervous to carry out all the big things God told him he was to do.  God constantly reminded him that he had no reason to fear! There is no shame in going to God daily, moment by moment for reminders and encouragement.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deut. 31:6

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh. 1:9

We are called to freedom for a purpose. God has something already set in motion for you to do!  Don’t let your past, fears, or mistakes hold you back in chains!  Use your freedom to serve Him and others.

Read More. 

Linda Perkins
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When I opened my Bible the other day and ran across this verse: “And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.”

Say whaaat??

Clearly, Paul, the writer of Philippians must have been mistaken. How can anyone think of suffering as a gift? Surely, suffering is not God’s will for us, right? Wrong. Maybe suffering is our own fault, and it will go away as soon as we turn back to God. Nope. Oh, OK, then perhaps God only allows us to suffer temporarily, so He can then show His healing power. Well, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

The Bible says that suffering, not just the release from it, is a gift from God.

How in the world could this be true? I dug deeper. What I found was a God who cares deeply about our suffering (Exodus 3:7) and hears our cries for help. And while sometimes He does rescue us, He more often delivers us in our suffering and speaks to us in our affliction (Job 36:15).

His purpose for allowing suffering is not to harm us, but to draw us closer to Him.

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7 Encouraging Words from The Blogosphere

Encouraging Words

7 Bloggers. 7 Heart-Inspiring Mini-Posts. 7 New Bloggers to Check Out.

Join me today as I welcome mini-guest posts on my blog. We can’t read everything online, so I hope to provide a quick rundown of some great words being written. Check them out!

1. Valerie Murray

My mommy! My daddy! Does your child ever possessively announce that you are “his/her” mommy/daddy? Isn’t it because of who you are to them and how you love and take care of them?

When I remember that I am loved by God and my family because of who I am to them, I tend to worry less about my reflection and focus more on my character.

God thinks you’re beautiful because he created you!

God formed man from the dust and personally breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

He created you in his image. True beauty comes in the pursuit to reflect the image of Christ in our lives.

And clothe yourself with the new nature, which was created according to God’s image in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:24

Read More…

2. Lisa Murray
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I was simply stunned from my less-than-gracious tumble, humbled by the gaze of concerned onlookers, and grateful that my husband saw me and picked me up, lovingly lifting me to my feet again.

Isn’t this what God does for us?
Isn’t He the one who sees us in our distress and lovingly picks us up?
Isn’t He that present with us in our lives?

I am reminded of David in Psalm 145:14 (NIV), when he says, The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

How great is the love of God that doesn’t leave us in such a pitiful state lying on the ground.  He holds up all who fall – ALL.  That means ME!  That means YOU!

What moves me more than anything is to realize that in order for Him to pick us up, He had to be there, right there, watching all along.  He saw.  He sees.  He knows. Read More…

3. Samantha Citty
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This kind of guilt was not from God.

Here was the problem: I was looking for answers at all the wrong places.  I was turning to blogs and social media instead of the One who comforts us in our time of need.  The opinions and words of other people became more important than the Word of God.  I didn’t realize that “the fear of man is a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is protected (Proverbs 29:25).

So I read the entire Bible cover to cover and noticed one of several themes about God.  He doesn’t leave or forsake us (1 Chronicles 20:20, Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5).  He’s not looking down from heaven judging whether or not we’re “good Christians”.  Because without Christ, we aren’t good.  Only He is good.

Not everyone will agree with our choices.  For a while, I took these opinions more seriously than what God thought of His own children.  Since He gives good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11), I can trust He has good intentions for me and my family.  His blessings are beyond the guilt and shame we put ourselves through.  Read More…

4. Lori Schumaker
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That day, as I experienced the betrayal, I felt my thoughts pulling me into the downward cycle of self-blame, unworthiness, and bitterness.

I wanted to hide away, hardening my heart to relationship. I craved a sense of safety, and the enemy beckoned for me to hide my goodness from the world. He beckoned me to hide my light.

In that moment it was tempting. Hiding the good in me away forever in order to protect it from all future attacks, seemed my safest act.

But I’d walked that road before and recognized the lie. In Matthew 5:17 we read, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Truth declares hiding as contrary to His desires for us. If I choose to live contrary to the way in which God has called me, I will only feel a greater sense of unworthiness and bitterness in my soul.
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5. Sarah Travis
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I see others around me succeeding at running. I feel left out when I can’t track my Couch-to-5k journey along with friends or take part in Tough Mudder!

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV

We all have to keep moving forward with our eyes focused on the Lord and not what others around us are doing. You see friends, if I run it sets me back rather than moving me forward. I can experience pain that can prevent me from even power-walking. When we strive to be like others, and become bitter because we are not able to be like them, we are keeping ourselves from what we have been created to do.

Ephesians 2:10 says I was “…created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us {me} to do.”  The Lord prepared my assignments before I was even born! I don’t want to miss what He has created me to do because I am too busy looking at the assignments my friends have been given.
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6. Jenny Shinsky
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I ran under the goal post and past the scoreboard before a friend caught up with me. “You ran the wrong way,” she said. “You just scored for the other team.”

I wore blinders that day. Once the ball was in my possession, I became focused on one thing –  to get a touchdown and win the respect of my classmates.

All those the father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive away. John 6:37

God created us with a need to be loved and accepted. When we expect others to fulfill that need, we set ourselves up to be emotionally hurt. God never meant it to be that way. No one can completely fill our need to be loved and accepted.

Only God can do that. He wants to fill that need.
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7. Carolyn Newell
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She stood there humiliated and ashamed as her accusers publicly condemned her before Jesus. After catching her in the act of adultery, the men were eager to cast stones at her, but the stones were already being hurled. Stones in the form of words. Adulterer. Tramp. Worthless. Had she heard these words before? Perhaps they had been the labels her conscience had given her.

Jesus stooped down and began writing with His finger on the ground. Nobody knows the words that Jesus wrote that day. What if He replaced the insults of her accusers with the words of a loving Savior? Words like blessed, chosen, and holy. He replaced the labels of the men with labels of blameless, loved, and predestined. He could have identified her as an adopted daughter, accepted in the beloved. Redeemed and forgiven heir. Sealed with the Holy Spirit.

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11b (NKJV)
Read More…

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