Hang Onto Grace, Not Your Hurt

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me…. (John 14:21). 

I hang onto a lot of things. Probably some things I shouldn’t hang onto. Old t-shirts, stuff I bring home from conferences, shoes that were on their last leg a couple of years ago and whatever else I think has just a tiny bit of life left in it.
 
I’ve also held onto things like hurt, betrayal, and misunderstandings. I have, in the past, kept them in an account, storing up wrong thoughts and beliefs about those who, in my mind, have hurt me deeply. Keeping me from fulling the second greatest commandment given by the Lord Jesus, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
 
How can we fully love our neighbor if the bank account we’ve created for them in our mind is full of negative, erroneous thoughts about their personhood and character? We can’t. It’s impossible. Therefore, we cannot fulfill the second greatest commandment given to us by our Lord.
 
Did we ever pause and think that maybe what the people different from us need is not our vehement opinion of them founded in our own pride and self-righteousness, but instead love. Yes, love, founded in the grace and glory of the risen Savior. Love is what changes hearts. I have seen it happen first hand. Condemnation, shaming, finger-pointing, and blame shifting changes nothing, but love, founded in grace and forgiveness can turn even the coldest of hearts.
 
Today, I need to hold on a little tighter to my Lord’s greatest commandment to love the LORD my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Then, to act in mercy as I love my neighbor as myself. Maybe like that pair of jeans I’ve been hanging onto forever, I need to start believing that there’s still something good left in the people who’ve hurt me.
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People will rise up when you speak into the good that lays inside of them, but they will never rise up for you if you only speak into the parts of their character that has yet to be transformed by the love of God. Maybe God wants to use you as HIs agent to shine HIs love into their hearts, but you keep pointing out in them what needs changing. This is such an oppressive place to put someone in and is certainly not the way God treats us. Be encouraged today that His love for you is great, truly, He is a mighty, mighty God.
 
As an aside, please do not feel like I’m saying if someone is abusing you that you can’t call out abuse for what it is, please do. Just don’t allow the abuse to define, in your mind, who that person is. Believe something better for them. Believe they can become something different and rise above it. Draw wise boundaries for yourself. Be conscious to let your thoughts about that person stay right and honorable before the Lord. Let love and forgiveness guide you instead of resentment and disdain.
 
Lord, do not let our hearts be troubled with the worries of this world. We hang onto so much in our hearts that keeps us from loving people. Forgive me for how I have done this. Instead, lead and guide me. I want to be a woman directed by love who helps awaken your love in people. I want to be an agent of that for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

No Longer a Slave….It’s Time to Walk Forward in Faith

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…(John 6:36)

The enemy has been trying to keep me in bondage the last few days. His words seem so convincing and my fear buttons are being pressed with great intensity. Old patterns, deeply rooted are being pressed. I sense God wants to heal, but if I could be quite honest more of what I’m experiencing is not freedom but an exposing of an unsanctified place in my heart. A place that doesn’t trust God. A place where my faith is weak.
 
Yet, in Christ I am free, no longer a slave to sin, but a freedwoman. Yes, a freedwoman whose heart and mind has been captured by the overwhelming love of God. That is the freedom we must walk forward in if we’re going to make it in this life. The freedom that shouts into our souls, “Come and follow me! Out of darkness, out of shame and into life abundant!”
 
I believe what I am realizing about Jesus is that He is not safe. At least, He doesn’t feel safe. As I follow Him, more often than not He and I have these encounters with HIm where I feel like the rich young ruler in Mark 10 because Jesus keeps allowing these circumstances in my life that reveal idols still very present in my heart. I’m learning, sometimes slowly, that until I purge them, they will drown me in doubt, discouragement, fear, and anxiety.
 
We are only as strong as the armor we wear. Until we learn to put on the full armor of God, taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ, we will run from the grace of God and right back into the hands of the enemy.
 
God split the red sea and Israel had to walk FORWARD in faith. God spoke to Mary and Joseph about the Christ child being born to them and they had to walk FORWARD in faith. Gideon was told that He would defeat the Midianite army with only 300 men and he had to walk FORWARD in faith. Joshua was told to march around Jericho seven times. He had to walk FORWARD in faith.
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It’s time lay our comforts down to walk forward in faith. I know when the devil is active in my life because my heart and mind start to be overcome by worry. All of my comforts that I’ve clung to start pressing in on me. Until we learn to let our hearts be at rest in the presence of God as we walk forward in faith, leaving our idols behind, we will continue to walk away from the grace of God. Sit and listen to His voice, put on your armor today and walk FORWARD in faith, knowing that as the peace of God fills your heart, you can be confident that His love and grace will sustain you no matter what life brings your way.
 
Lord, I put on my armor today. You are a mighty God. Thank you for loving me and sustaining me by your overwhelming grace. You are a mighty God. You don’t always feel safe, but I know that I can trust you. Father, be glorified in my life. I lay it all down in your hands, in Jesus name, Amen.

When God’s People Disappoint You, Let it Go, and Let God Grow You Under the Surface

They sold him to the Ishmaelites for eight ounces of silver…Genesis 37:28

It’s hard being a Christian, especially when we’ve been hurt by other Christians. I know, in my own brokenness I’ve hurt others too. What do we do when we feel like we’ve been unfairly treated, misunderstood or forgotten by others who call themselves followers of Jesus? How do we even begin to wrap our minds around it?
 
We have to stop trying to figure it out and instead, we must pray for mercy. Until the mercy of God fills our hearts, the whisper of the enemy will always steal our heart away and attempt to build within us a root of bitterness towards God’s people. I feel that root trying to take place in my own heart, so I understand if you’ve been there too.
 
We must learn to forgive and release our disappointments to Almighty God. He sees them. He’s still in control and He’s still actively working on our behalf. It’s easy to focus on what we feel like God isn’t doing, instead of what He is cultivating in our hearts. You see, God is growing things in us to produce greater fruit in our lives. A lot of HIs work happens underneath the surface and the results are not something we experience right away. Until we learn to abide in His presence, as He tills up the soil of our hearts, we will always find problems above the surface that steal our hearts away.
 
Today, I want to live below the surface, in God’s garden. The place where He’s growing me, reshaping me and forming new love in me. Today, I’m choosing to flee from any bitterness trying to take root and instead, I’m going to let God shower my heart with grace. So He can expand the garden of His love I desperately need in my heart. Today, I’m choosing to release and forgive those who’ve hurt me. As I do this, God plants them as new seeds of grace in my heart. When I hang on to them and the ways they’ve hurt me, they only become roots of bitterness that steal the good work of fruitfulness God wants to produce in my life.
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Don’t grow discouraged when life seems unfair. Release your demands and place your trust in God. Life will get too long if you focus on only what you can see above the surface. Learn to live under the surface, so that God can grow a new heart of love and compassion in you, to the praise of His glorious grace.
 
Lord, you know my pain, but I also know that I can trust you. I don’t always understand why things happen the way they do. I cannot see the whole plan, but I know that it is good. Today, I release my hurts to you and ask you to sit with me under the surface, water and grow me there for your kingdom, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

It’s Time to Move Forward….Get Out of Egypt

Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on…. (Ex 14:15).

It’s time to move on. That’s right, no more staying stuck in your faith, there’s work for the kingdom to do. There are many kingdom workers who are waiting for God’s next step instead of living in this present season with great joy and anticipation for all that God can do.
 
As the Israelites stood before the Red Sea it seemed as though they were done for. The Egyptians were chasing them, they were trapped, but Moses reminds the people that God will fight for them. He tells them to MOVE FORWARD. For the nation of Israel, it would take great faith to move forward. It meant they would have to completely let go of what they knew- their life in Egypt, to trust God for a brand new life. This new life immediately came with a great step of faith that the nation of Israel had to take. Sometimes God calls us out of things and asks us to take great steps of faith before we can enter into the place of His promise.
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I only say that because in many ways I feel like I’m living it. I’m living in a place where I sense that God is challenging me to be still and let Him fight for me. The place where He’s asking me to persevere in faith. The place where He’s challenging me to take risky steps of faith away from what I’ve always known. Away from the places that I found false comfort. Away from the places where I wrongfully learned how to ease my worries.
 
God is challenging many of us to step of out Egpyt. The places we’ve always known to take risky, courageous steps for Him. Outside of Egypt, we can experience His hand at work, fighting for us. Inside of Egypt, we grow comfortable with what we’ve always known.
 
If you’re like me, you always feel like you should be doing something, but maybe God’s step of faith for you is to do nothing. That’s right, to do nothing, but to simply be still. To be quiet before Him and wait for Him to part the Red Sea so you don’t have to keep staying stuck in Egypt, the place of your own false comfort.
 
Lord, I trust you. I want to live in you promise with faith that can move mountains. I’m not good at waiting, yet you are growing me through it. Lord, I surrender, please, part the Red Sea. I will wait for you, in Jesus name, Amen.

God Speaks Through Humbling Circumstances….Start Listening

who reveals his thoughts to mankind…. (Amos 4:13).

It is a remarkable thought to contemplate that the God of the universe who created the earth, the seas, and the skies speaks to me. He not only speaks to us, but He came down to us, in humility to become a baby boy, so that He could show us the fullest extent of sacrificial love.
 
Did we ever pause and think that God speaks to us in the form of a baby boy more than in the form of a majestic, all-powerful king? Of course, God is always majestic and all-powerful, so here’s what I mean by that, we are often looking for God to speak, but He already is through humbling circumstances in our lives. God practiced such humility by coming down in the form of a baby. Could it be that His voice is shouting at us through our circumstances in life that feel insignificant? The ones where we are of very little importance? The ones where we are made to look small? We keep asking God to speak, but He’s banging on the door of our hearts through a neighbor walking through a crisis, a young mom facing divorce, a child crying out for help from an abusive home and a baby in need of one more late night feeding.
 
What about the abused wife crying out for help? What we do for her reveals much about our character and our willingness to hear from God. What we do for the lonely, divorced woman months after her husband walked away shows us where our priorities lie. The intentions of our hearts are revealed when our time is interrupted by someone of small significance. Yet, this is where the voice of God most often speaks, not when we are performing great acts for God amongst a great crowd of people as we sit upon our own personal thrones, but in the places where only God sees us in the shadows of His mercy. In the places of humility where we are challenged to become like a baby born in Bethlehem, humbling ourselves so that others might be lifted up.
 
If you want to hear God’s voice, start listening to the hurting, join them in their pain and seek together the goodness of God. If you want to hear God’s voice, stop speaking so much and start listening. As you walk in humility seeking not the throne but the manger we see that God loves people. After all, He became one to rescue and redeem. He left His throne so that we could receive His love. It’s time for us to leave our thrones too and seek the same humility that we find in a manger in Bethlehem.
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Lord, my heart needs you. I am desperate for you Lord. I long to hear from you. I am sure there are many times you’re trying to speak to me through humbling circumstances, but I’m too selfish to hear what you have to say because I neglect so often to care for the vulnerable. Lord, I want to have a heart that is committed to loving and serving others. I long to hear your voice more, so today I submit my desire to be someone special to your grace, change me, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

God: The Gift Giver….Even When You Don’t Get What You Want

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!…. (Luke 11:13).

My parents are great gift givers, especially my mom, it’s kind of her thing. She gets all excited and makes a really big deal whenever she’s giving a gift. Especially when I find a piece of clothing that she and I both like (this rarely happens!). On these rare occasions, she usually buys it for me right away with great excitement. She just loves to give gifts.
 
Our Heavenly Father is an even greater gift giver. His heart is always for us. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Especially when what we wanted becomes delayed or never comes to fruition. Yet, there is a better gift behind our wishes and wants if we’d be willing to look for it. Gifts like grace, love, mercy, hope, and joy. God is always trying to grow us, not with larger bank accounts, a bigger home, or an ever-expanding wardrobe, but with the fruits of the Spirit.
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You know your heart is growing in love when fear starts to die. You know your heart is growing in grace when things like control and anxiety start to take a back seat in your life. Peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control are some of the greatest gifts given by God, for truly, they are the gifts that are constantly and consistently reshaping our hearts to become more like Jesus.
 
Jesus, the righteous and risen King who tabernacles within His people. The one in whom our hearts delight! He is the one we are becoming like as we receive with joy the fruit of the Spirit. What a joy it is to know that the living Savior lives inside of His people through the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
Rejoice that God loves to give good gifts to His children and that means you! Don’t get discouraged that the gifts aren’t coming in your way or in your timing. Rejoice that God is growing your heart to become more like Him.
 
Lord, you are life, love, peace, and hope. You are the joy of my life. Truly, you see me. Thank you for loving me. I know you have great gifts for me. Thank you for making me more like you. Jesus, you are the greatest joy of my life. Let my heart be glad and sing of you today, even when I don’t always get what I want right away, in Jesus name, Amen.

Stop Waiting for God’s Big Call and Start Working For the Kingdom

He conscripted 70,000 men as carriers and 80,000 as stonecutters in the hills and 3,600 as foremen over them….(2 Ch 2:2).
 
Doubt and discouragement came knocking at the door of my heart and mind yesterday. Yet, grace reminded me to stand firm in the promises of God- “He keeps in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in Him.”
 
I keep hearing this message in my life to bloom where I’m planted. You see, doubt and discouragement want to take me into the future, trying to convince me that some of the deepest desires of my heart will never come to fruition. I am reminded that regardless of these things happening I am to bloom where I’m planted. I’m not sure where doubt and discouragement have tried to steal your joy, but be reminded that you too are to bloom where you’re planted. Despite the fact that you haven’t quite yet gotten what you’ve wanted.
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Haven’t gotten the child yet you’ve been so desperate for? Consider acting as a spiritual mother or father to other children within your congregation so you can bloom where you’re planted. I know it’s not the same, I get it, but don’t allow what you don’t have to keep you from experiencing the joy of Christ as you walk in submission to Him. Don’t have the job you want? Don’t worry, or wait for it to happen. Don’t think, “real ministry will happen in my life when I get such and such job or opportunity.” Instead, bloom where you’re planted. Giving praise to God in all seasons. He’s not looking for superheroes with supertitles. He’s looking for faithful men and women of little significance in the world’s eyes to live with boldness and courage for His namesake.
 
Haven’t seen the healing you’re waiting for, don’t despair of hope or allow the enemy to keep you from fruitfulness during this time, instead, bloom where you’re planted. The other day, I was reminded that even in this time, I am still a Kingdom worker. Those moments when I’m sitting on the plane, serving as a volunteer youth leader and talking with another basketball official are all opportunities for me to bloom where I’m planted, taking advantage of the opportunities before me and not waiting for the ones I want to be put into place.
 
Be encouraged that you have a great calling from God. A calling to go and change the world. Truly, it happens, not by the big moments we seek, but through the small steps of courage that we take, one day at a time.
 
Lord, I long to be a Kingdom worker for you. I know that this present season is not wasted, so today, I choose to bloom where I’m planted and give you glory through it. Jesus, use my life, today, in this present season, to be a Kingdom worker for you, in Jesus name, Amen.