Purposeful Faith

Tag - #grace

Standing firm in Faith Over Fear

Standing Firm

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. 

Post by: Gwen Smith

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.

Ah! Clarity!

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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Gwen Smith, author of I Want It All: Exchanging Your Average Life for Deeper Faith, Greater Power, and More Impact, (March 1, 2016, David C Cook) unapologetically urges her readers to want more. “You and I were born for greatness,” Smith writes. “Not for the world’s greatness, but for eternal greatness: to know God and showcase God.”

Standing firm

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.

Pre-order today: I Want It All: Exchanging Your Average Life for Deeper Faith, Greater Power, and More Impact; it is 40% OFF… plus, Amazon is offering a $5 coupon (found under Special Offers section)! This means, you get a book that retails at $16.99 for only $5.11.

More on I Want It All:

About Gwen:

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 6.47.00 PMGwen 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:

    1. Join her Thunderclap!
    2. Share this post.
    3. Tweet the below tweets or Facebook updates about “I Want It All”!

Tweet: I want to live with so much God courage that I don’t go soft when life gets hard. @GwenSmithMusic #iwantitall http://ctt.ec/ezUl_+

Tweet: We can live w/ great expectations of God bc He loves to do amazing things thru average people @GwenSmithMusic http://ctt.ec/Yg3cU+

Tweet: “The key to trusting God when doubt shoves me off balance is way less about my circumstances & way more about my God.” @GwenSmithMusic

Facebook: “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.” @GwenSmithMusic #iwantitall

Facebook: “The key to trusting God when doubt shoves me off balance is way less about my circumstances and way more about my God.” @GwenSmithMusic #iwantitall http://amzn.to/1Tk179P

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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.”

My Confessions & Our Return Back to God

my confessions

Lord, I don’t want to go through life thinking wrongs are normal.
I don’t want to go about striving, thinking that I am thriving.
I don’t want to do anything, thinking you won’t help me.
I don’t want to waste my life, thinking that you’re average.
I don’t want to take my hurts and brush them under the carpet.

When we let the piles of wrong build up inside,
they end up cover our eyes,
and blind us from the most majestic view – of you.

We follow a shadow of darkness and box God’s power to a limited distance.

No more God! I want to hear your voice.
No more going through motions! I want to see your face.
No more trying to do better! I want to hand everything over to you.

So here it goes:

Lord, I am sorry. I am sorry I pursue self over selfless. I am sorry that so often I make my needs King. I am sorry that I try to Lord over people. I am sorry that I don’t trust you in the gap of the unknown. I am sorry that I miss so many pre-set opportunities for faith, because I allow myself to sit in the agonies of fear. I am sorry that my pride makes me think I need to pry doors open. I am sorry that I listen to the voice of victimhood instead of your voice, the sound of eternal victory.

I am sorry that rather than living by your very Word, I have been living by rushed standards of this world. I am sorry that my mind is quick to dwell on nothingness rather than the vastness of you. I am sorry that I first see how you won’t be there for me, rather than how you will. I am sorry that I determine where I should be, rather than just being in you. I am sorry that I forget to thank you for all your little and unseen protections. I am sorry for how I have believed you won’t come through, when you promise you will.

Will you forgive me? For I want all of you. I don’t want to settle for a half-way God, a marginal interpretation of your love, I want the full deal. I want the whole kit and caboodle. I ask you to restore trust and to rebuild my life in ways that are exceedingly abundantly greater than I could even ask think or imagine.

God, I know when all I need is you,
I get everything I really need (Ps. 37:4).

This is truth; you are all I need.

You are all the answers to my greatest questions.
You are the sustainer to my very breathe.
You are the pipeline to my wildest dreams.
You are the beginning of life change that doesn’t cease.
You won’t ever fall from high.
Your throne won’t ever break.
Your power won’t ever cease.
Your mercy won’t fail to work.
Your grace can’t possibly give up.

You bring me high as I let you carry me.
You pursue my heart every waking hour.
You lead me to repentance so I can walk in complete assurance.
You give me power, even when I feel week.
You strengthen me in the face of opposition.

There is not a day you are not for me.
There is not a week you aren’t working on my behalf.
There is not a month you will turn the other way when I mess up.
And there is not a year that you will not delight over me with singing.

For you are love,
and your love is mine.

You are salvation,
and salvation is here,
it waits for me – literally every hour, every milli-second even, of every day.

I want to turn into it,
I want to miss it no longer,
for in many ways following Jesus,
is about returning back,
again and again.
It is a life dedicated to a grand return.

A return like hurt child runs to her daddy;
So I will run to your arms,
and you will lift me up,
swirl me,
hold me,
squeeze me
and then I will know,
there is nothing that can ever remove me from your love (Ro. 8:38).

I will know that you and me, we are once again united and such a bond like this – it can never be broken.

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Are you Missing The Point of God’s Word?

Missing The Point

God loves you. Christ loves you.

You may read about it, but do you really know it?

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,
walk proud,
find honor,
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.
Protecting.
Trusting.
Hoping.
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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How To Get Past What Drives You Nuts

drives you nuts

Focus for a minute.

Focus on what looks disgusting, deplorable and delinquent of any merit.

What is it in your life?

Perhaps it is a car, you hate.
A child you’ve grown angry at.
Another’s bad habits that annoy.
A person who deeply hurt you.
Shoes that you’re tired of wearing.
A wait that should be long over.
A health that has left you in ruins.
Feelings that always seem to lead you astray.
A spouse who continually leaves you hurt.

When you stop to see the dirt for what it is, you start to see the life could emerge from under it.

It is there, you just can’t see it. There is more; you’re eyes just focus on the filth. Yet, under it is the wealth of the new thing that God wants you to see.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Jo. 13:5

Jesus got on his knees, emerged into the filth, moved along from man-to-man, hands commingling in the water of disgust and offered the ultimate act of love to those least deserving.

Jesus washed the feet of rejection, Judas.
Jesus washed the feet of denial, Peter.
Jesus washed the feet of abandoners.
(as they fled from the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion), the disciples (Mt. 26:56).
Jesus washed the feet of you and me when the blood of Christ spilled over our grime.

Sacrificing, he allowed the nails in.
Enduring, he listened to the jabs.
Giving up, he trusted his Father’s will.
Humbling himself, he gave up his own very life.
Loving, he forgave even in his own worst hour of pain.

Jesus never allowed rejection and abandonment to
block his water of lavish love
that makes hearts sparkle out of the darkness of impossible.

Whose feet do you need to wash?

Perhaps what you see as crud, has been allowed by God above,
because you are just the one to bring God’s love.

Love to yourself. Love to your conditions. Love towards God who has allowed it. Love to that person who feels like a pet peeve. Love to children. Love to aging parents. Love to your heart that fails. Love to that person you can’t forgive.

Love, displaying itself in the most humble form.

Wash the feet.
Forget the offense – and know God is on defense.
Let go of the pride – and see the other side.
Remember Christ cleansed of you – so you can wash with a heart of ministry too.
Watch and see what will come – knowing it is God’s will being done.
Trust by faith in uncertainty – so you can get down on bended knee.
Watch the mountain move – knowing you have nothing to prove.

Let go and let Christ do the work, and he will. He will wash through your hands, love through your eyes, lead through your will, speak through your mouth, guide through your feet, listen to your prayers and hand back cleanliness, in those moments when you yourself fail.

He will empower you so that you can move into the stink, the stench and the repugnant to do what you never expect: hold it close with the heart to repair what is broken. 

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mt. 19:26

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Does Facebook Make You Angry?

Facebook Make You Angry

I looked at this girl, who I thought was my friend. In person, she was fun, inquisitive and giving. Yet, on Facebook, she was straight up opinionated, degrading and arrogant.

Facebook made me want to hate her. It made my sweet-as-pie, good-as-gold, mother friend morph into an under-the-radar malevolent dictator. Suddenly, she was a ruse sent by evil forces, a propagandizer working for unseen purposes and a tyrant sent to take over online rule.

What do you do when the person you like
becomes the person you hate – on Facebook?

When everything wants to make you defriend a good friend?

I wasn’t sure what to do.

She was telling people the best food that they should be eating. 
She was writing political disclaimers and guidelines.
She was shaming people left and right.
She was boasting about her wise decisions.
She was highlighting stupid things others do.
She was acting holier than thou.
She was pushing agendas, annoyance and aggression onto others.

Who does she think she is?!

And, really, who do I think I am? Look at how I am judging her. Look at how I am hating her. Look at how I am being just as bad as she is. Look at how I am ready to write her off in a split-second.

My anger turns towards Facebook.

4 Ways Facebook Makes you The Person You Don’t Want to Be

1. It makes you judge.

“You show off! Political Idiot! Get off your soapbox! You call yourself moral?!”

When we find the wrong in another, far more often than not, it has much to say about the wrong in us.
Seeing all the wrongs in the world, helps us avoid ours.
Finding yourself above another, has never been the way of Jesus.

2. It makes you compare.

I can never be as good looking as her.
He got that job, while I have this one. I stink.
Their kid dresses almost as good as mine. I win.
They have a vacation home. What do I need to do to make that happen.

When all you see is another’s beautiful selfie, it makes your self feel like crud. Never once has stacking yourself against another added an inch of height to anyone. They only thing added is discouragement.

3. It makes you talk like that person.

That person (Choose an answer):

a. Cussed
b. Posted a selfie
c. Liked that TV show
d. Raved and ranted like an ignorant fool
e. Got opinionated
f. Wants to vote for ______.
g. Is self-absorbed.

When you look for the bad in another, you find it. When you see bad, you start thinking bad. When you start thinking bad, you start speaking bad, and before you know it, your just like them.

4. It makes you jealous beyond compare.

That person is downright successful. I must be too.
That person is sick. Finally something not-so-god happens in their seemingly perfect life.
That person is thin. In a few years they will gain weight like me. Either way, wrinkles are bound to get ’em.

Jealousy steals happy, ties him up and holds him for ransom.

“Get yourself to where that person is or you will never get happy back!”

We won’t get tied up by jealousy if
we choose to wrap ourselves
in thanks for what we already have.

Am I telling you that Facebook is evil, horrible and not Christian?
Of course not. It is not outside forces that pre-set holy, it is our internal force of the heart.

Nobody is forcing me on Facebook.  No one is forcing you either. This is not the point.

The point is that if you can’t make your way onto this platform without continually landing on an altar of frustration, you should find yourself another place to be.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Phil. 4:8

What does Facebook viewing make your mind view?

What you look at is what you think of, what you think of – is what you become. 

For me, I am making a decision to “bounce” on Facebook. Meaning: I’ll allow myself to see updates, but I won’t land on their personal page to dissect every nook and cranny of wrong. I’ll try to give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than doubting they were good. I’ll remember what I love about them, rather than letting an online update become their DNA. I’ll try to see them through God’s eyes, rather than seeing them through a machine where all show best-self.

It’s a process. It’s a journey.

Will I always do it well? Doubtful.

Will they? Doubtful.

And maybe that is the point.

We are all learning, but the only one I can change is me. The only way to change is to do something different. The only way to find God, is to seek him. So, I will try my best and see how it goes.

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Whose Reflection Do You See?

reflection

Post by: Christy Mobley

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.

Freaky!

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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Guard your Heart Like America’s Best Soldier

guard your heart

Lately, I have been pondering maybe the most important question of Christian faith:
How do you successfully guard your heart? 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Prov. 4:23

Above all else = the most important thing.
Everything you do = every single small and solitary thing
Flows from it = it is the blood supply to our spiritual existence

The heart is the command center to your life.

An unguarded heart is a compromised life.

Using this line of reasoning, we can figure: If we are straying from God, we’ve been displaying our heart open for attack.

So how do we truly guard it?

Guard it in a way where bad thoughts bounce off?
Guard it in a way where lockdown is secure?
Guard it in a way where attackers don’t even give it a passing glance?

This is what my heart has been sitting on lately. Wondering. Strategizing. And sure didn’t want a quick-fix answer of “try better”, “work harder” or “just do it”; these are the type of answers that always keep me failing.

So, while I considered not failing, I watched the snow falling on morning news – until one image nearly sent me falling right out of my chair. It was the answer to my wonderings.

21 steps forward.
21 steps back.
Guarding.
Protecting.
The presence of who was.
No sleep.
No rest.
Back.
Forth.
Diligence.
Perseverance.
Dedication.

The sentinel. He moved with purpose as the high winds of cold hit his face. He moved with discipline as snow ravaged around him. He moved with confidence next to the most important cause in his life. He moved to guard the presence of one unknown by so many; just as our Savior was and is today.

He moves, then another one moves, and then another, on 24 hour shifts, but, make no mistake, someone is always moving at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. It is never left unmanned, untouched and unprotected.

During storms – armed.
When everything seems shut down – manned.
When things are quiet – protected.
When the place gets hectic – watched.
When the face gets frostbitten – defended.

Do we guard our hearts in such a way?

Do we see it of such value that we keep 24-hour vigilance
on what takes aim around it? 

Guns blazing, gloves moistened, to aide in grip,
are we protecting with discipline, dedication and decisiveness?

Back and forth, do we run over our mind to see
if there is any way unpleasing to the Lord?

21 steps forward, 21 steps back,
do we give pause for prayer to ensure we are effective?

The Sentinel does not do an about face when reaching the end of 21 steps, he turns and looks at the tomb.

Do we? Do we turn to look at the tomb consistently and continually throughout our day? The tomb of Jesus that is empty? The one that reminds us of who we are fighting for? The one that tells us to keep on 21-stepping?

When stop to look at Jesus’ tomb,  we see the tomb of emptiness found in anything
and everything else put above him.  

Lives that pace on his goodness, dance with his freedom.
Feet that walk back and forth on righteousness, find life.
Soldiers who see guarding their hearts as paramount, mount up on wings like eagles.
They find hope, flight and new might,
for enemies flee at the sight of real duty.

Guard your heart like nothing else matters.

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The Sneaky and Subtle Sin That May Be Ruling You

Sneaky and Subtle Sin

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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When God is Punishing You

God is Punishing

You kind of figure, because of you,
because of all your bad actions,
he’s going to open the heavens,
rain down lightening like pocket knives
​and  land one straight on your head.

Maybe it is already happening. All is plummeting and God is: hitting you with health issues, cutting into finances, shredding a marriage, stabbing emotional well-being, hurting your kids, slicing out pain at work and dicing up trials for your course du jour.

And, it has to be you, right? All you have done, you deserve it. All you keep doing, it makes sense. All of your past, you get it. You are a degenerate in so many ways.

You may not hear his words from his mouth, but you certainly hear them in your head:

 “Get your bad self to your room. Don’t return until you act better.”
“Get yourself together.”
“What is wrong with you?”
“You can’t do anything right.”

Exasperated, you wait to hear from him, expecting a whole lotta words on how you are a royal mess-up and a giant loser. You expect to hear a list of practial law and rules and insights and plans that you need to stick to.

Instead, a whole different picture rises – a picture that puts God’s truth first.

It is painted.  Not in muted shades of pained grey, but with the spectrum of new life. It beckons you to step in and to feel the warmth, to participate in growth and to enjoy the ride, so you listen and hear things like: 

1. You see all you do wrong, I see so much that you do right.

2. You’re my first love. I don’t want to hurt you, I want to prosper, grow and see my glory shine through you.

3. You see your mistakes, I see how your mistakes are the starting of new.

4. You get discouraged and defeated by relational hiccups, but I see the pauses as space for me to work.

5. You’re the child I created, I love you exactly the way you are – strengths with weaknesses, weaknesses with strengths.

6. You don’t have to have it all figured out in the today, because I have it all figured out in the tomorrow.

7. Your repentance is the start of my next best thing. You turn away and then you see me.

8. Other people acting badly, is the best chance to show holy.

9.  When you turn towards me, in turn you see my kindness.

10. When you say you’re sorry (and mean it), I say, “I forgive you” (and mean it).

Staring at the image, your mind dwells on the new story:

“God’s face looks a whole lot different than mine. His love is ten times more infusive than mine. His ways are galaxies more compassionate than mine. His grace is tanks more abundant than mine.

While I look at the immediate, he sees the long-term. While I get defeated in battle, he cheers the victory over the course of the war. While I get angry, he knows that anger does not produce righteousness (Ja. 1:20)”

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Ps. 145:8

The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Nu. 14:8

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Ps. 86:5

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. Ps. 25:8

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. Ps. 130:4

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 Jo. 4:8

God calls you in.
Deeper.

God calls you out.
To head towards grace.

God dares you to hear him.
To listen to his true sounds.

For to know him,
is to know love.

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Regular Contributor, Katie Reid, is delighted to have a memoir piece published in Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond by Matilda Butler. The book launches today on Amazon for only 99 cents! Don’t miss it.