Don’t forget, because this is vital:
Live your life in a way where you can look back and say – for Jesus – I did everything I could.
Not because you had to, but because you wanted to…
Not because you were earning something, but because you were loving the one thing.
Do it, so that one day you see yourself:
Victorious, dressed in white (Rev. 3:5)
Acknowledged, not blotted out, before Father God and his angels. (Rev. 3:6)
Seated with Jesus, just as Jesus is seated with the Father (Rev. 3:21)
How do you practically live like this? What does this mean for you and me?
It means we hear beyond the sound and the thrills and the notifications of this world. It means we have ears to hear (Rev. 3:6) what God most desires. It means we focus on the limited running of time, the blip that is our life, to see the ongoing riches of the cross.
We stay eternally minded, and remember, we are earthly endangered.
He is “coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11) What we have is eternity.
The victorious become part of the temple of God (Rev. 3:12). Will that be you? Will that be me?
I don’t want to be so lost in this world, that I lose the greater vision of God that will endure forever. I don’t want to bow down to stress and anxiety only to stand up and realize that I missed greatness, glory and holy. I don’t want to get it all here, and miss it all there.
Do you know what I mean?
There is no hidden agenda or secret formula. The path is clear. Here’s what it looks like to be a type that can look back and say, “I did everything I could”:
1. Wake up! (Rev. 3:2)
2. “Strengthen what remains and is about to die” – leave no good deed unfinished. (Rev. 3:2)
3. Remember what you have received and heard; hold it fast. (Rev. 3:3)
4. Turn yourself back to face Christ. (Rev. 3:3)
5. Be ready. I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Rev. 3:3)
He is coming not to hurt us, but to love us.
Not to tear apart believers, but to keep them.
He encourages our heart (Jo. 16:33) with the force of heaven.
The Spirit pleads (Ro. 8:26) for our win and Jesus does as well (1 Jo. 2:1).
Don’t give up.
Don’t lose hope.
It is a race.
We are winning.
God is for us.
He is helping
We are not alone.
He will lift us when we fall low.
He will guide us when we don’t know where to go.
So, put a stake in the ground and declare, “Jesus, again, I hand it all to you. I am all in.”
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Occasionally, you know you met someone with a heart of gold – this is how I feel about Gwen Smith. Her all-in pursuit of Jesus, her authentic spirit and her ability to instantly connect, as both a teacher and a girlfriend, is a gift that is so unique to her. I have gotten a chance to deep dive into her new book, “I Want It All” and her words have helped me grab hold of the fullness of God’s extraordinary that he has uniquely carved out for me. Thanks Gwen.
I am delighted to welcome Gwen Smith to Purposeful Faith. I hope you will too.
The book of Esther shows us what our lives can look like when we trust in the sovereignty of God and expect Him to be powerful in the midst of desperate circumstances that could cause us to cower in fear. God positioned this young Hebrew girl to be queen of Persia so that she could rise up in His strength and courage when her people, the Jews, faced imminent death. She fasted and humbled herself before the Lord through prayer. And though it was risky to the point of death, she went to the king and courageously spoke up on behalf of the Jews. The result? God used Esther to save her people from genocide.
I want to be brave like that. I want to live with so much God courage that I don’t go soft when life gets hard. So I take note of what Esther did. She didn’t cave in to fear; instead, she fixed her focus on God and His power to save her and His people. She fasted and prayed and asked for Him to intervene.
Like Queen Esther, we can live with great expectations of God because He loves to do amazing things through average people— people with worries and warts and weaknesses, like you and me. If we want it all, we need to be women who stand firm when our emotions threaten to overwhelm us and courageously believe God for big things.
So… how CAN we stand firm in faith like Esther
did when our knees knock?
The first step to standing firm in faith is to know Him.
Generally speaking, I don’t trust someone I don’t know. Plain and simple. I’m guessing you don’t either.
God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about the importance of our knowing Him:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he under- stands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23–24 ESV)
The apostle Peter also wrote about the importance of knowing God. At the beginning of his first letter, he stated that the grace, peace, and power we need are connected to our knowledge of Christ:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pet. 1:2–3)
How can you know God? Read your Bible, study His character, and remember the ways He has delivered in the past. Such things are Faith 101. When you are overwhelmed by life, don’t shy away from God. Don’t isolate: investigate. Look to Him. Explore His goodness.
I learned recently about the familiar “trust God” verses in Proverbs 3. You know them. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (vv. 5–6 ESV).
The second part never made sense to me. I wondered, Why would my acknowledging God motivate Him to make my paths straight? In the New Testament, even the demons acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, so why would my acknowledging Him make my paths straight?
I looked up the root word and found a gold mine. The Hebrew word for “acknowledge” is yada’,1 the primitive root of which means “to know.” It means “to understand, to grasp or ascertain; especially to be familiar or acquainted with.” So, “in all of your ways acknowledge him” really means this: in all of your ways yada’ Him; in all of your ways know Him and seek to understand Him; be familiar with Him; be acquainted with Him, and He will make your paths straight.
The key to a straight path, the key to trusting God when doubt shoves me off balance is way less about my circumstances and way more about my God.
When we’re intimately familiar with God, when we don’t just know about Him but really know Him, the most crooked roads we travel are made straight. Not because life is easy. Sifting through emotions like anger, depression, hopelessness, insecurity, and so on is hard stuff! But because when we know God, we know all of this as well:
His STRENGTH that is accessible in our weakness
His COMFORT that meets us as we mourn
His MERCY that withholds the punishment our depravity readily deserves
His PEACE that defies our unrest
His JOY that kisses the cheeks of our sorrow
His COURAGE that makes our weary hearts brave and casts away fears
His REDEMPTION that reworks our brokenness into beauty
His LOVE that binds us to eternity and delights over us with singing
Even when the one-two punches come and feelings are frazzled, I can confidently trust God by faith. Not because I understand all the circumstances, or even like them, but because I know Him. And because I know Him, I can trust that He will provide all I need to process pains, heal from wounds, and move forward in strength, grace, and peace.
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Smith is quick to say that she is not saying more is better. More may include setbacks, more may include being misunderstood and discouraged, and more may include suffering. But more also means knowing God more deeply, even in the midst of pain. The deepest question behind this search for more from God is this: Do I trust Jesus? Smith helps readers explore this question in light of disappointment and unmet expectations in life.
Gwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three tall, competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at GwenSmith.net to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen’s new book, I Want It All, (David C. Cook) released on March 1, 2016. She speaks, leads worship, and eats potato chips at women’s events everywhere, and she is a cofounder of the conference and devotional ministry Girlfriends in God.
CHANCE TO WIN: Bloggers & readers, Gwen will be selecting one of you at random to win her books and music. Support Gwen today:
You may remember the stories about it, but do you feel it?
Do you live in a way where love compels you?
Paul says it is one thing “to know”, it is another to experience.
And I pray that you…(may) grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17-19)
Love surpasses knowledge. Imagine that.
Often I run after knowledge, as if it will bring me to where I need to go, but only love compels real progress.
Everything that is monumental in God’s Word boils down to love:
Jesus heals. Love.
Jesus dies. Love.
Jesus washes feet. Love.
Jesus teaches. Love.
Jesus guides. Love.
Eternity awaits. Love.
Jesus created experiences, so that people could experience. Do we?
Some days, I wake up with a task list, a group of verses I must get through, pages I must turn, knowledge to acquire, but, what I have noticed in doing this is, often, an internal pressure builds. It wars against peace, saying, “Kelly, increase”. Increase in being knowledgable. Increase in know-how. Increase in doing.
Yet, God is peace. He is the only thing that should increase- and his love found in the power of sitting, being and absorbing truth into the very molecules of my existence.
…That I “may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)
Word of caution: If you are trying, more than abiding, every time this is a red flag. You likely aren’t getting full of God – you’re probably getting full of yourself.
I see this in myself; when I end up trying to know, I end up failing to grow, but when I let God’s love flow, when I find a new glow.
It is in the seeing, feeling and being that God takes our hands, gently holds it and walks us up to internal healing.
Paul explains to the Ephesians the wealth they will receive from understanding rather than acquiring things of God.
Paul says to know God, rather than just knowing about him is to:
1. Be strengthened with his power (Eph. 3:16)
2. Dwell (or Exist) with Christ in faith (Eph. 3:17)
3. Move with the power to understand (Eph. 3:16)
4. Experience love (Eph. 3:18)
5. Bask in the depths of this love (Eph. 3:17)
6. Be full of life (Eph. 3:19)
Living like this means living no longer running on low, just trying to find new gas to feel good. It means walking into the immersive waters of grace and laying down, knowing that with God, he will protect, guard and keep your life stable in everything that is him.
God’s love is with you.
He is patient;
his leadings are kind.
Not so you can boast,
or find fame (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
He knows, this kind of love does not endure.
God is patient,
seeing past wrongs,
not envisioning anger
or keeping bad records (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
His love endures forever (1 Chron. 16:34).
God delights when you let truth takes root in your heart.
He rejoices over his love within.
For you rising up from it.
Persevering (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
So sink down to where love is risky and then just wade in the trust of #God.
Then you’ll start looking like him.
You know what matters most: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
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Skimming. I’ve read it before.
Half listening. I know what to expect.
Not discovering. I know the punchline.
Does the bible ever fall flat because you have flattened out
and read its pages so many times?
Does your mind have a hard time idling on God’s Word,
because the world speeds too fast around it?
I can’t seem to keep my heart in the place where the heart of God is – and that is the problem.
This problem, if not addressed, will, before long – stamp and deliver my heart to destinations I never intended to arrive at. Frustrationville or Aggravationmount or some place like that. It could just as easily bring me to Jealoustown or Pridebury. Either way, they are places that reek of self and shame and guilt. Their roads are rocky and tumultuous. Every time, they leave me with a stomach turning knots over itself.
I’d rather not.
So, how do you dive into God’s Word, like a fresh glass of lemonade on a hot day? How do you dive into it, knowing that you have had it one hundred and one times, but still, wanting and needing it? Craving and desiring it? Thirsting and salivating over it?
5 ways to make the Word of God come alive:
1. Let your senses sense what the sentiment was.
Imagine being the lead role in the story. See yourself there. Sense your sin and the idea that you or your family has done something terribly wrong. Feel the judgement of the Pharisees upon you. Wonder if God really can and will heal you. Let your heart beat.
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam”. Jo. 9:6
2. Take your part in the redemption story.
Hear the words of Jesus leave his mouth. Feel the mud in your hand. Experience vision. Look amazed at what surrounds you. Set your eyes on Jesus.
Then, see yourself run to the masses to share the glory of the only one who could heal in this way. Take a snapshot of the story with your senses. Know that while this was his story, it is also your story.
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” Jo. 9:25
3. Ask yourself, “What about this experience is calling me to think, do or say differently?”
When you take a moment to think of all God has done, you can’t help but think of all he wants to do. His will makes your will jump up and down just at the thought of serving him.
The (once blind) man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” Jo. 9: 30-31
4. Believe: He loves you, just as much as he loved them.
Just because you feel less than, doesn’t mean that God sees you that way. Believing that you are worthy of his gifts, love and encouragement, will allow your heart to receive them. Rather than keeping up defenses to his Word, you will lay them down and He will enter in.
The Once- Blind Man: “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.” Jo. 9:32
5. Avoid boxing God in (and you might just find your way out of your box).
When you believe in you heart, what Jesus did through Scriptures, you’ll find in your mind you can conceive the great things he wants to do through your life.
It sounds simple, but simple belief is so often what it comes down to.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. Jo. 14:12
When you approach God’s Word in this way, you realize you hold living water that is not bitter, old or common. Instead, you taste the fruit of what God has done and is about to do. It fills, it satiates and it refreshes. Like lemonade on a parched day – it’s a drink you can’t wait to indulge in, lap up and embrace word by word. It is peace and replenishment all in one.
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A few weeks ago, after a long morning at the hospital with my mom and sister, I came home to take a shower, wash my hair and get my second wind.
As I picked up the blow dryer I stared into the mirror. For one split second the reflection I saw was that of my mother. It was weird. I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again and then shook the event off as simple exhaustion. Turning back to the mirror I pulled up a strand of hair and proceeded to go off on a ridiculous tirade about frizz and gray and such. And that’s when it me.
Oh my gosh, I look like my mother and sound like my sister!
I. AM. THEM.
Was I caught up in some twisted episode of the Twilight Zone?
Click here to read more and to #RaRalinkup on Christy’s blog…
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I almost died once, actually not even once, three times to be specific. After nearly dying that often, it gets someone thinking…
After having a gas tank nearly explode on you, you inhale and start thinking, life is fragile.
After almost having a tree land directly on you, you look up and start thinking there’s a reason God hasn’t taken you yet.
After doing vehicular twirls on an interstate, you start thinking God has some things prepared by offering another hour on earth.
Not to be deathly morbid,
but aren’t we all just a hair away from dying?
We are either dead or alive. Can’t be both.
And with all this death talk, it gets me contemplating the difference:
Death is numbing yourself.
It’s blinding self.
Making things all about self.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ro. 6:23
But death never represents real life.
Present life is like:
Stripping ones self,
Or removing the sandpaper edges that rub people raw,
Or the fragmented wood planks that stick out of hardened eyes,
Or softening the 20-inch layers of callous that keep love buried.
We don’t nearly equate these kinds of things with life. Because sometimes life breaks us, shreds us and leaves us in torn strips.
Yet, to be stripped is to become equipped with new life.
As the scales fall, new and supple skin emerges. It is pure, soft, pliable and empowered with complete nourishment to hike the trail headed to the far sunset of God’s predestined calling.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10
It is called abundant life.
Not abundant health.
No abundant wealth.
Not abundant shoes.
Not abundant amusement.
Not abundant pleasure.
Not abundant power.
Not abundant smarts.
Not abundant gratification.
Abundant life, means you go through the fire of removing self
to find the Spirit
who remakes you in the wake of big waves,
and big callings.
It means you fall away from self to land softly in Christ’s open arms.
It means you retreat from your instant inclinations to find retreat in God’s quiet persuasions.
It means you find acceptance in Christ instead of annoyance at self in the face of big errors.
It means you walk untouchable as you proceed to heaven – as a bride, undefined, reserved, whole, sealed and renewed.
It means you know you have more than enough, even if, by the worlds standards you have hardly enough.
It’s life. It’s vision. It’s truth. It’s Hope. It’s discovery and recovery, learning and becoming, traveling and sitting all the same.
It’s more than you ever dreamed of, but all the same, exactly what you never imagined. It is pain, but it is always gain. It is joy, but earned through pain. Real pain. Loud pain. Crying pain. Nailed pain. Tortured pain. Ridiculed pain. Cross-ridden, Christ endured pain that signifies our safe return. A return that proves all will one day be okay, even if the worst does happen.
Because death is really life.
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This sneaky sin. . . let me just tell you something. It’s under the radar, it’s pulling the covers over your eyes and it’s having a field day in your life – and, likely, you don’t even realize it.
For many of you, you actually think it helps you. You actually think you are better off, smarter, more capable and resourceful for pulling this little trick out of your bag of hats.
Do you know what I am talking about yet? (Clue: it is man’s greatest downfall)
Here’s how it looks in my life:
It makes me a super-speed, crazed, mess cleaner.
It transforms me into a female Dyson; I develop routes and measures to ensure every crevice is “handled.”
It levies the weight of the world on my shoulder and tells me, “You can handle it.”
It shuns advice, instruction and wisdom.
It tells people you better get on my highway, turn left and then arrive on time, or else.
It pushes me towards ambition and drive, without concern for the little guys.
It places one hand over God’s mouth, so I can speak just a little big louder than him.
It passes along the unsaid message, “Stay back God, I’ve got this.”
When I consider why I do it, much of it boils down to this:
If I am not controlling the world, it seems the world is controlling me. If I don’t use my ammo, I become the target. If I am just standing there, I risk getting run over.
Add that to the fact that the world hands out a bunch of cliched garbage (like this), and you can see how one can start acting like a maniacal lunatic:
“If you don’t make a way, you’ll have no way.” “Fend for yourself.” “Eat or be eaten.” “Get ahead.” “Get a leg up.” “Work harder.” “Reach for the stars.” “Figure it out.” “Watch your back.” “Don’t give up.”
Self-sufficiency, otherwise known as pride, is gangrene to a body of Christ. It takes his blood, oxygen and flow and blocks it in a way where his mighty providence is dead. We flow by our own accord, our own merits and our own will. So, naturally, our limbs of love, of reliance and of hope, they die. They wither away. For, we have no need for them. We don’t use them. You see, we exchanged God’s sufficiency, for our self-sufficiency and then, we lose.
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. Jo. 15:6
Limbless, lifeless and loveless we stand, duped. We stand as tall temples of places where hope is not required, where need is useless and where one bows down only to self. The incense of stink rises and fills the air near those around us.
What we can produce by self,
is nothing in comparison to light scent of love
that is always ours to inhale.
It is not a mantra, a self-help phrase or a lift-me-up status that says, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” -A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh
It’s nothing like this. Because that kind of statement is a lie – it is poo from Pooh. The truth is, we are worse off than we think we are. We are weaker than we admit and we are a whole lot less wise than we walk around pretending to be.
Even more, we are wasteful without his purpose and lacking without his cause. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (Jo. 15:5).
But, here is the thing: with him, we can do everything.
I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
When we get to the end of self, we get to the start of life. It is an exchange.
We hand over our ways. He gives us his. In the empty, he fills. In the wanting, he restores. In the empty, he sits. In the cant’s, he can. The dreams, he makes. For the low, he lifts. The unseen, he sees. The marginal, he magnifies. The insecure, he holds. The offering, he transforms.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Mt. 16:24-25
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Until it breaks down at it’s core and the serial killer of joy, (aka your trial) comes back to haunt you again.
Ever noticed that what hit you yesterday,
still threatens to come after you today?
Same vein, different day, but all the same pain.
It threatens to hurt you like it did.
It threatens to arrive when you least expect.
It threatens you with the same feelings of yesterday.
It threatens you into fearing like you once did.
It threatens to pop right out of your bushes, saying “Now is the time to hit!”
Then you hear the smallest rustle of the bushes makes you think, “I am doomed.”
A resemblance to his tactics of yesterday make you cower, “I can’t.”
The scars of past cut deep, making you say, “Why me?”
Why does God allow our beaten evil to return?
Why doesn’t he annihilate them and say, “You can never touch my child again”?
Paul said, Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Cor. 12:7
7 Likely Reasons Why God is Allowing your Trial
1. To keep you humble.
Pride goes before the fall (Prov. 16:8). If Paul had fallen, Christianity would not have risen. If Christianity did not rise, it easily could have meant our demise.
2. To keep you in training.
Olympic runners aren’t built without sprinting through walls, forging through exhaustion and getting up again when they want to quit. It is in the pain that we find our greatest spiritual gains – to become more and more like Christ.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Ja. 1:2-3
3. To gift you with the grace of God.
It often takes the face of crisis to see the smile of God’s grace over you. It is here you learn to stop saying things like, “I oughta”, “Why can’t I?” and “I should have”. Instead a quiet and gentle prodding arises within; it is one that begins to know “with God, all is possible”, “no weapon forged against me shall prosper” and “I am a work in progress and I will get there”.
4. To make you start thinking spiritually, not carnally.
When you have nothing left, you start to see all that is left – and all that matters – God. Sometimes the stripping, is much more about clothing you with Spirit things than it is about hurting your earthly things and body.
Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude]. Eph. 4:22-23 (AMP)
5. To show you growth.
When you hit bad, you can start to see the forming of your good. Meaning, you see how less anxious you are, how less worried you feel and how much more you know God will take care of you. It becomes a cause for praise.
6. To change things in your unseen.
We forget that while we are living our song, God is conducting a blaring orchestra with moving instruments around us. All rise up to sing, “Glory to God on the highest and peace to his people on earth”! Our sound may play odd, but in the grand scheme of his leading, all things are working together just as he wants them to. Things are being accomplished. People are being reached. Lives are changing. We just don’t know what he knows.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Is. 55:8
7. To develop you into eternal gold, not rotting dollar bills.
When delivered, what emerges from the rot of a once selfish body? Praise. Glory. Honor. Things that are worthy, valuable and eternal.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet. 1:7
God uses what is coming to get you, not to ruin you, but to make you.
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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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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:
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.