Purposeful Faith

Category - Troubles

The Good in the Bad

Today, I am overjoyed to welcome Shanelle Wagner! Her words speak encouragement and life. Shanelle is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator at First Denton Church. Shanelle, we are thankful for you and everything you do! Keep trekking into your calling.

Post by: Shenelle Wager

Are you seeing a storm full of no’s, changed plans, erupting conflicts and sideways suggestions?

Maybe you are beginning to think, “This is not what I signed up for? Did I make a mistake, a wrong turn? What is going on? Am I cut out for this? I’ve done something wrong, I don’t have control.”

When you know what God wants for you, suddenly you feel peace where you are going. (3)

God brings us to situations that are more than we can handle alone, so we can depend on Him.

James tells us to consider it joy.

I used to roll my eyes in unbelief and run from this idea, I just couldn’t’ wrap my mind around how the bad should make me joyful…but He has been patient with me, gently pursuing me.

And this is what I’ve discovered: God is faithful to work in these types of downpours.

These bolts of doubt, waves of no’s, changed plans and conflicts test maturity. They indicate where you are. They are not used for the purpose of shaming, chastising or catching you. On the contrary, they are because he cares for you. Because He is about to take you to the next level.

He lets you see where you are weak, so you can see how to be strong – in Him.

Now, if you fall and revert back to your old ways, don’t panic. He has more work to do with you to strengthen you for the next level. One thing I have come to learn, though, is he loves cooperation and willingness (Example: bible study, confession, accountability, recovery group).

I believe, it is all worth it, for what you find is: the testing proves out – your progress.

Ever noticed this? When you see progress, it offers a confidence a boost.

God is preparing you. He does this for the ones He sees and loves. The ones He has specific plans and purposes for.

This is you. This is me.

Hanging on. Trials can certainly leave you empty and ravaged.

3 Ways to Keep the Faith in Storms

1. Fix your eyes on Him, know who He is and believe His truths. (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Remember you are not alone. He sees you and all you are experiencing, He knows. Let His peace comfort you.

2. Cast your cares on Him. To cast something you must first hold it, look at it, perhaps name it, then you can cast it at His feet (1 Peter 5:7). Know He is with you, sit with Him, and ask Him to help you name the struggle and what is going on inside of you. Tell Him why it bothers you and how it makes you feel, act, think.

The Good in the Bad

3.  Trust what he is doing with the no’s, changes, and interruptions (Prov 3:5). Thank Him for the good. Thank Him for the sun in the sky. Thank Him for the drive thru that offers you a hot drink on a rainy day. Just thank Him for it all. Thank Him for the work He is doing that you cannot see or understand ()1 Thess.5:18.

God can be trusted to complete the good work He begun in you. He is there in the storms.

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About Shanelle

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 4.04.49 AMShanelle is a wife to a super supportive husband, who happens to be her best friend and biggest cheerleader in life.  She is also a mom to two young boys. Shanelle entered vocational ministry when her oldest was a toddler and her youngest came along 17 months after that. She has been learning the ropes of ministry and motherhood simultaneously. Shanelle will tell you that both are the hardest jobs she could ever love. Shanelle can tell you many stories about Lord’s faithfulness all along this journey! Her days have truly not been her own…even though She confesses to  wrestling Him weekly for them.  She will tell you of His is graciousness and patience while she has learned to let go and let him…. work everything out for His purposes.

Shanelle has personally lived out Proverbs 16:9 and 2 Corinthians 12:9, He orders our steps and He is strong in our weakness. She has had to depended on Him to show her every step to take, and there have been times many, many times where anything that was accomplished was not of her own strength, but His. Shanelle continues in her role as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at First Baptist Church Denton, while enjoying the abundance of giggles, cuddles and love with her family.

Hating Your Ugly Scars A Little Less

Ugly Scars

I was in middle school, having the time of my life. One morning, I took off running after my friend at her beach house. Laughing, screaming, having fun, all was good until I fell and scraped my knee against the ground.

I screamed in pain.
She screamed that I should hush down.
I’m almost certain I screamed louder.

The gash ran deep, the pain was bad, but I felt like no one else really knew. It was my pain. It was my deal.

I can’t help but think I later delighted in the size of the scar; it seemed to prove my pain. It seemed to be the one marker of something I could show to others and say, “Look what I went through.” So much of everything else was unseen, but having people know, it meant something. 

I look at that big chunk of ugly skin on my knee sometimes and remember things. I remember her, my friend; she is one of those girls who has a spirit, a joy and a life you can’t ever forget. All the same, I remember how our scars are ours and how they’re really just what we make of them. Victory markers or vile eaters of worth…

I’m making a choosing to see victory scars…

Lines that prove we actually got up and walked again.
A threshold of pain we know we can conquer.
The proof that we can and will endure.
The reminders of those deep injured cells that cry out for self-care.

Each scar is worthy of a memory, a glance and a pondering.

You can choose which way you look at them, you know?

Scars can either bring us to victimhood or victory. The choice is ours.

Victimhood: I have been cut so much there is no way all the King’s horses or all the King’s men, could ever put me back together again. Things are said and done; I will live in pain and pain will come again and again. Good things don’t happen for me, one who looks far less porcelain doll and far more like the shredded woman in a horror film. I don’t know if I can take the idea of being cut again.

Victory: The wounds that look like they may kill me, have the greatest potential to heal me. They are what walk my feet right up to the throne of Christ, so I can see his wounds. The wounds that healed, saved and freed us all.

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Is. 53:5

Victory isn’t found through the absence of pain, but through God’s deliverance through it.

He was pierced (for us), he was crushed (to work through our issues), he received punishment (to bring us peace) and he was wounded (so we could be healed).

What deliverance might your battle wounds bring?

What might your victory story look like?

His wounds know our wounds. His pain understands ours. His love quenches our fear. He can’t help but heal; it is who he is and what he does. Healing may not always come on the exterior, but make no mistake it will remodel the interior. And to know this is to know victory.

I hated every moment of being cut. I probably spoke to God things non-repeatable on a blog like this. But, still, with him, we moved and went. I might have wondered how we would make it through, but I got to see how he could bring me through. And one thing I know is you can’t remove a woman from her miracle; it is something that lasts, like scars, and for this I am eternally thankful.

Jesus turns scars into memorials of his faithfulness.

I am not surprised that after he died and rose, he came back to earth scars front and center (John 20:27), I think he knew they weren’t something to hate, but to love, to hold and to remember. For in each scar, there is a story of redemption if we let it work for us.

What evil wanted to hurt me, Christ used to heal me. He wants to do the same with you too…

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7 Reasons Why God Is Allowing Your Trial

Allowing Your Trial

Life is good.
Life is great.
Life is manageable.

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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Dodging The Arrows of Life

arrows of life

Here I am.
This is me, Lord.
I am waiting.
And just trying to dodge the arrows of life.

Will you run to my rescue and save the day?

I stand in a field of open vulnerability – arms wide open, head lifted, hoping. The darkness is thick and the opponents are many. I can cut the weight of circumstances with a knife and it seems they might cut me too. 

Am I going to get hurt?  Much like the good samaritan,
will I be left crying, on the side of the road?

They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Lu. 10:30

Why do you leave good people, with bad problems God?

My beating chest is unsure,
but you say – what comes to beat me, you’ve already beaten.

What terrorizes to take me down,
was already taken down when you were lifted up.

What appears to be breaking will not only be fully molded and made, but also fully established.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 
1 Pet. 5:10

So, though my heart feels arms wide open to pain, my soul relishes in the idea that I am rescued from it.

I wrap my arms around the here, the now and say, if I don’t have faith, I don’t have anything – except fear.

Faith makes God my primary weapon.

It hushes “I can’t” and loudens “I can.”

It restores what life tries to steal: Peace in you, through you and for you.

It takes hold and makes you go.

So, I tell myself: God will do it.

He won’t abandon me to fear.
He’ll make a way for hope.
He won’t let peace go.
He will shield me from the arsenal of arrows.
If they seem to hit me, he will seemingly restore me one day.

God is closer than the pain – if I really let him reign.

He flips bad circumstances so they never look the same.
What seemed down, gives us new meaning as we look up.
What looked dark, becomes light.
What wanted to leave me for dead, leaves me with new life.

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Lu. 10: 34

As the good samaritan is rescued, so am I.

Do you see your rescue? Do you believe in it?

Like the good samaritan, left for dead, you are being brought back to life:

He was despised & forsaken. 
A man of sorrows & grief.
One from whom men hide their face – despised.
We did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried; 
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken…
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, 
He was crushed for our iniquities; 
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, 
And by His scourging we are healed.  
Is. 53:3-12

The more we hook up to this truth, the more we strengthen in the recharging power of amazing grace.

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Linking with #FiveMinuteFriday and #DancewithJesus.

 

Slammed With A Shot of Pain

A Shot of Pain

Mommy, I am going to play doctor. This came as no surprise to me as we had just returned from the doctor’s office, but what came next totally hit me.

“Sit.” Mikey said in a high pitched doctor voice, “Here little honey, here’s a sticker for you, sweet thing. Choose out which one you like. I hope you like it. Now, I am going to stick you with this shot.”

Mikey slams the shot straight down into my leg.

Ouch! He hit the nail on the head (or the shot on the target) with this one. This is exactly what that doctor did, and sometimes, how I feel my God treats me too.

He seems to woo me with words of “I am with you. I won’t leave you. I will help you. You are my daughter, my precious, the one I want to give good things to,” only to stick me a minute later with pain.

He speaks, “Kelly, my darling, I love you so much. I am here for you.” only to slam me with a trial.

Sometimes it just hurts.

Do you really love me God? If so, why do you have to hurt me like that?

Surely, I know this verse: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.” Job 1:21 

I know it, but do I have to like it?

The second part often plagues me as too hard to do…

“May the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21

How do you praise when you can’t lift your sore arms above your head?

When they are much more comfortable on your hips, where they can ponder his methods rather than his truth?

But, as our eyes stare off in the distance figuring out how we ended up where we are, we see the long road – the road to heaven – and the road of Calvary, that Jesus endured.

He never said it was going to be easy. But, he said – for it – one day, we would be exceedingly blessed.

When we focus our eyes on his truth over our shots of pain, we start to remember verses like:

These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (Jo. 16:33)

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; Romans 5:3

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 

But the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. 1 Peter 5:10

Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him. James 1:12 

What we see is that the pain, but what God sees the abundant produce he is growing.

Sure, we feel agony in the moment,
but when our little bud pushes through the tough ground,
we finally see what God was always working on –
 fruit – ample fruit.

Fruit that endures past this sliver of life called earth.

Fruit that makes it all worth it, that teaches us something far greater than the lessons learned on the easy road.

Do you see it starting to pop up?

Peace, a sight of eternity, patience, a knowledge God is working for us, a shift to perfection, establishment, strength and a settled heart.

As our fruit multiplies on earth, so it does in heaven as God sets his banqueting table that awaits us after we have run our race with perseverance.

Our trials are not for naught, they are for gain.

While it sometimes seems God delivers a shot of venom to knocks us off our feet, he is always in the process of shooting us with love, hope, a future and peace. That is his business and that is his game – always and forever.

Even more, his shots protect us from a world that wants to drag our heart away from spiritual health and reliance on God.

God has a plan. He always has and he always will.

Your pain and brokenness is just the beginning of God’s beautiful restructuring.

With God, our trials inject new hope. They reset our focus to eternity. They are the antibody to complacency.

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Rubbed Raw with Worry

raw with worry

When I saw it, I immediately knew something was wrong.

The A, B, Cs where there. I was anxious, burdened and out-of-control as I cast my eyes on what was asymmetrical, border-weird and color not-normal.

My days of laughs in the sun,
felt like they were being exchanged for tears at the mirror
as I looked at my back from every angle known by man.

The possibility of cancer, the pain of removal and the fear how long it had been there swung like a wrecking ball in my chest. Whatever was resurrected for Jesus, was all broken today.

Have you ever noticed that,
a heart that dwells on the looming possibilities of fear,
tumbles down the great possibilities of God?

I’ve noticed.

It’s a pack-up-your bags, furious move from residing under the shadow of God’s wing to living in a battle-soaked village of doom and gloom.

The more I looked at that mole, the more I knew I had to do something. So, I picked at it. Then, I started to rub. With no progress, I grabbed the great tool of exfoliating cream and dug into it.

This thing was coming off!
I rubbed some more…

Until all that remained was the bloodied marker of all that was threatening me
and an open sore filled with discouragement and embarrassment.

That’s how it is with worry, isn’t it?

The more we move the chair of our thoughts back and forth over that same spot,
the more we dig deep tracks of distrust into our heart.

We rub, and rub and rub – the same spot.

The more we dig deep these tracks of distrust,
the more we follow these ill-conceived tracks to illogical solutions.

We rub with exfoliating cream.

We ruin the floor of our faith with the imaginations of our future. We take action to things only God had the best action for.  What ruminates in our mind, dominates in our life.

Then we ask:

God, where are you? 
God, why did you let this happen? 
God, do you not care? 
God, are you going to let _____ happen?

It’s like we allow our all-powerful problems
convict our seemingly low-power god –
a god who is entirely lacking in the love department.

We get squinty-eyed at the one who loves us most. We do what we don’t want to do.

God, return my heart and my presence back to you. I am sorry.

Confession is the flashlight to clarity.

Worry doesn’t stop what destroys, it just steals joy.

Worry self-centers us. People, needs and ministry move to the outskirts.

Worry erases the idea that we are living for God’s glory, his plan and his will.
It makes invisible the prayer, “Thy Will be done.”

Worry is like a bouncy ball stuck in a box, it will keep you up all night and get you nowhere.

Worry places our eyes on our present problems, rather than our present God.

What do I really believe?

Do I believe God is an all-sufficient problem handler or
do I believe that he is absent, I am all alone, in the woods, by myself, fending against all my worst fears by the strength of my own might?

Is God the warrior or am I?

The truth is: God has us, he won’t let us go, he has a plan, he will bring us through all pain, he will provide for our every need, he will not forsake us, he will never let us go, he will not let our foot slip, he will pick us up if we fall, he will guide us through suffering as he has suffered, he will bring glory to our pain, he will lead others to know him through our trials.

But the real question is, do I believe this deep down -where it counts?

Hearts that believe God is good, give thanks for their good God.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil. 4:6

Thanks breathes in God and exhales bitterness.
Thanks makes us see all we have versus all we could lose.
Thanks brings into remembrance all of his past faithfulness.
Thanks puts into perspective our present perspective.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7

What can you find to be thankful for?

What praise can you immerse your one-track mind in
so that you don’t rub yourself raw
with feelings of God-has-left-me?

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Beauty in the Cracks of Life

Cracks of Life

Usually, I am prepared for the big breaks. I arm my heart with truth and prayer to beat the all-out smashes of life, but it’s those small cracks, those unexpected issues, that so often send my heart in an emotional tailspin.

Last week, I went on my 10-year anniversary trip. My expectations were higher than the empire state building and all signs were directed to fun.

I drew a line in the bright sandy beach that said “all my eggs are in this vacation basket, nothing can mess with this.”

Vacations are off-limits, aren’t they?

Then, my blog internally crashed.
Email after email couldn’t resolve it.
Four different people couldn’t find a solution.
My husband had various concerns of his own.
The kids were waiting for fun and I felt like there was work to be done.

I knew I had a choice, I could see the big issues in my sight, or I could fight fright to grab hold of God’s might. I chose to fight – to see the great God above me rather than the issues before me.

And, it worked, for, a bit..

…until God whapped me upside my head.

Yes, you heard me right, my friend.

As I entered the pool like the cool, calm and collected “faith in Jesus” girl that I was, I giant bird pounded my head with the speed of a world cup soccer kick.  Apparently this crazy bird thought my bun was nothing less than a tasty soft bun.

Whap! My head seemed to spin with the velocity of all that was coming at me.

And it was in this moment that my hands fell by my side, the tears broke through my face and my heart was cracked wide open. I asked,“Lord, why are you hitting me while I am down? Do you not care about me? What is it that you want to get through my thick skull!?”

Dang. We can fortress ourselves up like Jericho, but still, the cracks find their way, don’t they? They break us down and shatter our worldly and emotional well-being, leaving us saying, “God, how did I end up here? Why did you leave me?”

We amp up our lives with God in the big,
but his volume can seem low in the little. 

Why bother God with something we should be able to handle, right? 

God loses his “needed-status”; he becomes our opponent, rather than our encouragement.

And, this brings me to my patio…(this will all tie together, I promise you).

I first noticed this:

FullSizeRender (1)

Abundant dirt in the place where abundant flowers were supposed to reside. So much for nursery promises.

But, then God unveiled this:

IMG_7773

Flowers all throughout the little cracks of my patio.

Flowers, not contained or restrained, potted or predictable, but simply flowers sent on a mission from God.

These flowers helped me see beyond my toddler-like demands of expectation, to see God’s best working ground is in my foundation – in the grime, in the dirt, in the cracks.  

This is the soil where he grows beauty. It’s the soil where things bloom. It’s where the deep roots of faith are sowed.

How often do I take for granted God’s gentle cracks of beauty,
because I am too caught up in the pot that contains no flowers?

How often am I so dead set on my plans,
that I miss God’s desire to spread his seed beyond me?

In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world–just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. Col. 1:6

Fertile soil is a powerful breeding ground for the message of Jesus Christ, it says, “Your will be done, Lord, not mine.”

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Lu. 22:42

Cracks are God’s holy ground.

Our cracks, turn us back to say, “I need you Jesus.” They bring us into his presence. They call us in by name. They set us on our knees. They focus our thoughts on his Word. They humble our hearts into receptivity.

Great seeds of life-growth take root, not always as expected, but in a way where Christ is reflected, where love is invested and so we are redirected.

Ultimately, the cracks launch Christ’s arrows of love straight into the dry-soil of our deep-set emotional issues.

The question is – will we view the small flowers in the cracks as buds of his glory
or will we keep our eyes dead set on what we deserve?

Will we allow attacking birds and cracks in our perfect lives to become messenger’s
of God always-redeeming story – the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Beacons of the great work that God is doing in us.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. Is. 60:1

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#RaRalinkup Crew – I have decided to open up guest posting on my blog.

Here is how it will work for now:
guest posts will go live the second Wednesday of: January, March, May, July, September & November.

Please submit your posts by the last day of the previous month (Example: if sending for January, please send to me by Dec. 31) to be considered. Some months, I may choose to do a compilation of various bloggers posts. I may also post this compilation to Crosswalk.com as a “What’s Hot in the Blogosphere World.”

So get on my contact page and send your posts in! I can’t wait to see what you write and to highlight your work on Twitter, Facebook, to readers and to all our #RaRa friends.

I haven’t done this before, in part, because I don’t want anyone to feel bad if they are not chosen. I can’t choose everyone, but I am entrusting your feelings to God as we go through this process. Please, always know, you are deeply loved and so valued by me.

Submission details.

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How To Deal When Life Gets Tough

when life gets tough

When Life gets tough

Where can I go when I am tired? Worn? Weary?

Because sometimes in life:
A minute overwhelms.
A day get’s to be too much.
My schedule feels too full.
People get a little forceful.
Bad things happen.
Circumstances throw me off guard.

Just the other day, a troubled heart started to sink me with anxiety. I turned on the TV to find a moment of peace, a second of calm and to possibly hear from God.

Yet, within 2 minutes, my so-called “peace” was interrupted.

My son called out,
“Mommy, be with me. Just be with me. Sit next to me. I need you.”

A monster loomed.

And, although I first approached him with a stern face because my rest was interrupted, God set me face-to-face with something far greater – my son’s reaction.

You see, when the bad things loomed, my son, knew something very powerful:

He knew my presence was greater than the monster.
He knew that nothing could hurt him when I was near.
He new that safety was all about my closeness.

Am I this way with God?

Do I understand the power of calling on Him for covering, closeness and connection?

Do I realize that I can call on him at all times, for all things, in all ways, on all days
and fully know that he will be there?

Do I realize that just his presence is greater than my biggest problem?

When monsters come, do I come against them – with the power of God?

Because he is always ready to sit next to me.
He is always ready to hold me in my struggles.
He is always ready to run to my rescue.
His presence always confirms my safety.

How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. Ps. 65:4

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. Ps. 145:18

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Mt. 11:28

God stands ready to impart so much to me as I incline into him: nearness, a knowledge that he is near, rest, blessings, satisfaction, goodness, holiness.

What does it really look like to incline?

I think of “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John. John also deeply loved Jesus.

There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Jo. 13:23

Did you catch that? John was reclining or laying right on Jesus’ chest. What an act of love, humility and surrender. John leaned in…He drew near and drew strength.

When we lean, when we fall, and when we rest our faces on the power of Jesus, we love and we are loved.

Falling in means we know we won’t fall down.

No matter what we are secure in Christ.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Ja. 4:18

God leans into us. Let’s lean in. Let’s lean in when life gets tough, circumstances happen and people hurt. Let’s lean in hard, fast and with an extravagant pursuit of his love.

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God, Why Did You Lead Me Here?

God Led Me Here?

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I remember a time where I prayed and prayed for direction, only to feel certain that I was being led down a specific road.

I sought direction. I sought God through his word, but when I went down that road, things started going wrong.

While I had prayed God would provide; there was no money.
While I prayed God would make things succeed; there was no success.
While I prayed God would bring me through; it seemed God was stopping me.

With everything going wrong, I was tempted to wonder what was wrong with God. I was tempted to wonder why he had abandoned me to my fears.

Faced with doubts, I nearly embraced them.

What kind of God brings you to a scary, desolate land?

He brought me after I  honestly asked, prayed and knocked.
He brought me after I honestly called out.
He brought me after I honestly sought Him.

Why would God guide me into pain? Into suffering?

But, much like me, there was another, who was led into temptation.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Mt. 4:1)

Can you imagine that the Spirit led Jesus into temptation?

That the Spirit led Jesus into a place where he didn’t eat for 40 days, a place where he was “with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13) and a place where he had to stand up against the ultimate accuser seemingly alone?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. (Heb. 4:15)

His identity was questioned.
His authority was scrutinized.
His power was negated.
His trust in the Father was tested.
Yet, he did not sin.

He combatted every lie, with truth. He combatted every temptation with the active Word of God. He fought every blaspheme with courage.

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth …” (John 16:13)

Jesus spoke all truth. Guided by the Spirit, he was a truth breather, a temptation extinguisher and a loved child of his most high King.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)

He knew his place.

Truth led him to the wilderness – and truth would bring him through.

We are under the authority of our Father, the Spirit and the Son. We are loved. Adored. Led.

But, our power always comes from remembering who is in charge, not who tries to be.
Our power comes from the one who is the definition of good not the tempter of bad.
Our power is found in knowing who is for us, not listening to who is against us.

Jesus’ final words to the devil were, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ (Mt. 4:10).

No matter what comes against, despite how “in God’s will” we feel, we are to know our role is to worship God – always. To lift him high- forever. And to trust him – in all things. To serve him – above all.

Because we can trust – if we truly have sought the will of God through the Word of God – that the we have been led to this precise place, for a precise purpose – in order that we may be shaped into Christ’s image with precision.

In this, fears, doubts and sin fall by the wayside.

As we combat temptation, we grow in faith.
As we fight the devil, we submit to God.
As we face our fears, we become fearless.
As stand alone, we seek God and we see him.
As we speak truth, we see the truth.

When we are courageous in the face of fear, bold in the face of fire, we do come out the other side – and we come out more faithful.  

The Spirit led us there for a reason.

Did you know that Jesus grew during this time of suffering too?

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Heb. 5:8)

Make no doubt about it, the Spirit always has a purpose when he leads.

While we can’t always say what it is, or even question why it is, we can know that likely we are being built up through the trials to endure the big purposes the Lord has prepared for us in advance (example: Jesus on the cross).

We are being built up, so we won’t be torn down. We are being built up, to be strong. We are being built up, to endure the fires of life.

The question is – will we trust God or will we allow ourselves to fall into temptation?

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How to Heal a Deep Hurt

How to heal a deep hurt

Have you ever felt like you went too far? That you were too vulnerable with someone? That you were standing right at the brink of feeling out of control? Wondering if you would be pushed over and taken advantage of?

We have all been in these situations.

Often, we share and open up, only to feel sorry we did, only to feel put down or only to feel a recipient of unwanted advice.

I understand.  It can feel easy to want to hide, to cover our heads, to shut down, to close off, to get defensive and to self protect. I do these things all the time because sharing is risky. Being open is threatening. People’s responses are uncertain.  It’s sometimes easier to stay on steady ground.

Standing completely open to another’s reactions, views and perceptions threatens to redefine who we are – or simply hurt us at our very core.  It makes us feel like others hold control.

And, none of us like being acted upon – to feel unsure where things are going. It can feel too much to handle. Overwhelming.  It’s much easier to avoid these situations by maintaining control.

This way, we can avoid doubt, self-reflection and feelings of inadequacy. We can avoid wondering if we will be accepted, judged or criticized.  We can avoid worrying about others worrying about us.  We can avoid worrying about being punished for our beliefs.

At the bottom of it all, we fear others, we fear ourselves and we fear we won’t be loved.  We fear we are not good enough and others will know.

And, sometimes these fears feel justified.  We remember what happened the last time we were in a position like this, we remember the result and we remember our feelings. It was hard. Painful. Damaging. So, when we come against it again, we stand afraid – ready to fight – or take flight.  Either way, we know we aren’t going to be treated the same way as last time.

What are we to do? How are we to be honest, transparent and vulnerable with others when we constantly feel in fear? How can we move towards relationship without feeling like we need to move away?

God has been stirring up these questions in my heart lately.  I know he wants me to see beyond fear, but often I wonder how.   I am coming to the realization that I will never feel completely fearless with others; I will never feel completely safe based on who I am. It is impossible. We are all fallen.

And, I will never be completely good enough by my own merit, so if that is my goal – it is unattainable.

Only One makes us good enough, only One can be our refuge in a time of trouble, only One can be our rock when our ground is sinking and only One can be our hope when life is hopeless.

I know these things. I do. But, talk is cheap and the heart is what counts.

I don’t want to be a talking testimony; I want to be a walking testimony.

God sees my desire. He is opening my eyes. Gently, He is revealing truth – to change my perspective and to make me effective.

He captured my eye with just a couple words in His Word that made all the difference in my world.

The Lord said to me, “You are sealed.”

(He) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor. 1:22)

On face value, this may not appear the answer to all fear.  But, these words have a powerful ripple effect that extends to the deepest levels of our hearts.

Why?  Because being sealed means that we are enveloped in love. Like a letter wrapped in a sealed envelope, we are entirely covered above and below – wrapped by the ownership and power of the Holy Spirit.  It covers us.  Nothing can penetrate the seal or the mark of the Spirit.

Because we are in Him, our ultimate security is secure. We are sealed. Shut. Marked. Owned. Sent. Made right. 

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit… (Eph. 1:13)

The King’s seal is on our hearts.

If he took the time to seal us, won’t he protect us? Guard us? Ensure we are ok? Help us forgive? Encourage us to speak his truth with love?

Afterall, we are his letter and words to all nations.

In this, we don’t have to live scared. If God stands with us, who in the world can ever stand against us (Ro. 8:31).  At our deepest levels we are secure.

People can say or do what they are going to do, but it doesn’t matter, because the seal of the Spirit keeps us safe. Nothing can change that seal.  The Spirit forever marks us.

And, when we have been marked, we have been marked as belonging to the Lord.  We are united. One. He will help us. He will not abandon us. He knows us. He approves of us because of Him.  We are protected.

But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Cor. 6:17)

How could God destroy his very self?

Even if, in the moment, we are threatened – or at worst – taken advantage of, God always has the advantage. He always has a plan.  He knows a way. He has a vision.

Do we trust Him?

We need not fear being hunted, threatened or hurt because – in the end – God will always be victorious.  In fact, he already is. He has already won the battle. It is finished. Because of this, the battles of present day can lose their sting, because Jesus endured the ultimate sting.

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (Jo. 19:30)

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