Obedience

Follow directions the first time given.

That was one of my “Classroom Rules” when I was a teacher. And I find myself saying it A LOT as a parent, too. I always emphasize the last part when I say it. Don’t just do what I say eventually.  Do it “THE FIRST TIME YOU’RE TOLD!”

Well, I was recently convicted just as soon as the words came out of my mouth. I know how frustrating it is as a parent to give directions to a child and then watch them ignore me. And ignore me. And ignore me again.  It dawned on me that God gives us directions all the time through His Holy Spirit. How often do I do it right away? How often do I ignore it? How frustrating it must be for Him.

Obedience is something that I’ve struggled with quite a bit in my spiritual journey. I learned as a young child that life was easier if I did what my parents told me to do right away. So why, then, do I feel God telling me to send a gift card to someone or deliver a gift to a neighbor who just lost a loved one, but delay and eventually talk myself out of it? Why is it so hard for me to let go of control when I know that God is asking me to trust Him and surrender?

Do you think of the word, “obey,” in a negative connotation? If you grew up in a really strict home or even a strict/religious church, that word may make you shudder. For me, with all of my pride issues, I think I felt threatened by it for a lot of years. Our culture really pressures us to “take control of your life,” and “listen to your heart.”  Obey yourself?  Obey your feelings?  Hmm…  I tried that for a long, long time. And guess what friends, it got me absolutely nowhere.  I was constantly struggling to regain control and determine what was best for my life on my own power.

What does that look like for you? For some of us, it can be when we are sad/discouraged/hurt, etc. and we hear “that voice” telling us to ____ and we’ll feel better. It’s ok to ____ because we deserve it.  I’ll start my diet/workout/Bible reading/devotional time/tithing, etc. on Monday/next year/when I get ____.  

And let me throw this out there too: Obedience isn’t always doing something that God is nudging you to do.  It can also be to stop doing something that does not glorify Him. Is there something you’re doing/reading/watching/saying/listening to that you’ve had a second thought about? Did you ignore that thought or excuse it away? God won’t shame us—that’s from Satan. But God will use His Holy Spirit to convict us.  And if our viewpoint of God is messed up, we’ll confuse that convicted feeling with shame. We’ll assume God just doesn’t want us to be happy. But God wants us to obey because He’s our Father and ultimately knows what’s best for us and those around us.

Please, if you feel that way, let me share what I’ve learned!  Check this out:


Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”  John 14:23


I’m thankful for a message I heard from my pastor about this verse in my first Freedom group.  It changed everything for me! Let me see if I can reiterate it for you.

It’s easy to misconstrue that message to think that you have to be perfect in order for God to love us.  (If you love me, then you better prove it by doing what I say!) But! That is SO wrong!  Look at it from a different angle: Think about someone that you love more than anyone or anything. How much do you love that person? If that person asked you for help, would you not go out of your way to help him or her? Would you desire deep down in your heart to please that person and make him or her happy? THAT is what Jesus is saying here.   If you love me, then it’s so easy to obey and you long to do what I say. If you love me, then my Father will love you too. We will always be with you.

So, as I try to get better at discerning the voice of God and weeding out the shouting of the world, I pray that God will give me wisdom to know when he’s giving me directions, and faith to act in complete obedience to Him.  It’s still a struggle, but, recently I learned that confessing these things with friends who also love the Lord will help!

I shared with my small group ladies that I felt God telling me to take something to a neighbor who lost her mother.  But then I listened to “that other voice” and talked myself out of it. I was frustrated with myself, especially after telling my daughter to follow directions the first time given! So that night at group, one of the ladies brought homemade cookies and was wrapping up the leftovers to take back home. And then Olivia (one of our Truth and Transformation writers) felt compelled to say, “You should take those to your neighbor!”  So I did! And how delightful it was to finally obey, even if I did need some help from friends to figure out how to do it. I’m so grateful that Olivia followed directions the first time given—to recommend the cookies as a gift to my neighbor.


Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16


 

Loving Father, thank you for not reprimanding me for not following directions the first time given. Thank you so much for your mercy and grace and forgiveness. And thank you for sweet friends who heed your directions and help me to get back on track. I love you, Lord, and it is my deepest desire to obey you. I trust that your directions and guidance are best and that your plans for me are great.  I trust that your directions meant to keep me in alignment with my assignment and guide my ways. Thank you for your Holy Spirit inside of me. Please help me to follow directions the first time given. In Jesus’ mighty name, AMEN!

~Jamie

 

 

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Thankful for All Things

This week as the hustle and bustle of the holidays begins to kick into high gear, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what it means, for me anyways, to be thankful.  My five year old is in an expressive stage of learning.  He loves to ask what certain words mean; it’s both refreshing and challenging.  Reflecting upon this, I thought I would try to get ahead of his question “what does thankful mean?” by preparing an answer in my mind.  So, I think my five year old answer is going to be that being thankful is appreciating or being glad for something.  Of course, for a five year old this will probably progress towards a toy or material example due to its tangibility for him.

This led me to ponder on the tangible things that I personally am thankful for.  Let me start with the easy button: Family, friends, a home, a job, etc.  But there are some other tangible things that I am thankful for that are not quite as intuitive, but none the less real, in my life and, perhaps yours too.

A good example would be suffering (while not necessarily material, I believe this to still be very tangible for many of us- we know how it feels, we know the loss, etc.)  Suffering comes for every person at some point in time, and it is not selective.  Personally though, I’m thankful for the suffering because it is an opportunity for me to see Jesus not only walk with me, but in me as well.  So many times my anxiety has brought me to my knees, which is where I was met by the tender love of Jesus.  I’ve heard it said this way, and I tend to agree…suffering is the shortest path to intimacy with God.

Time and time again Jesus met me in my suffering and gently cultivated a relationship of trust and it is out of trust that gratitude flows.  That is something I feel honored to share with others.  I feel honored anytime I can help or pray for someone who may be struggling with anxiety or any other related issues.  I have learned that my suffering did have a purpose.  Suffering, while painful, is not just for our benefit, but for the benefit of the body of Christ.


I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  Job 42:5 


I am so very thankful for the work that I have seen Jesus do in my life and in others’ lives through sufferings because of the love that has flown from that.  Love shown to me and love that I have been able to show others.

Struggles have presented so many opportunities for growth in me.  When I think back about how many times I’ve prayed for peace or courage or take your pick…God didn’t do the easy thing and give me exactly what I wanted.  Instead, God gave me the opportunities to develop those traits.  Through struggles endurance is created, through endurance warriors are created! (See Romans 5:4 for more on this idea.)  Who would be a good warrior for God if they had never been tested?  

By turning worry into worship, God has turned my battles into blessings and my fear into faith.  God has been so good to me!  And I have so much to be thankful for, including those intangible things that I tend to take for granted all too often, like salvation, forgiveness, freedom, healing, surrender, strength, sound mind, and oh so much more!  His ways are so perfect, His love so gentle.  How can we not be thankful for all He has done for us?  So as the holiday’s kick off, let us take this time to reflect with friends and family of all we have to be thankful for as result of God’s perfect love for us…even if it is something as odd as suffering!

Much Love,

Olivia

Father God, we come before you just to worship you, to praise you, and to thank you. That’s it.  In this moment we offer instead of ask…we offer our grateful hearts.  Thank you for all our blessings and for your perfect love.  Amen!

Checks in the Mail

When my husband and I were just starting out, I was a brand new teacher and he was finishing up his degree. We realized quickly that being adults was hard and paying bills was not fun! I even remember getting so upset because he always wanted cookies and I considered that a “luxury item” that we couldn’t afford. {Although—he did learn to bake which turned out to be beneficial down the road. Ha!} It’s funny now, but it was a serious matter when every dollar made a difference in whether or not a bill got paid!

One afternoon, another  teacher and I were talking after the kids went home. I was venting a about our financial situation. Then she said something to me that would change our lives forever.

She said, “have you thought about tithing?” 

My response was pretty typical, I presume. I was thinking, “Did you not just hear me tell you that we can hardly pay our bills?!” I think I said something out loud about not knowing where that money would come from. So then she told me about Malachi 3:10.


“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”


Hmmmmm.

But then she followed up with a personal story about someone else telling her the same thing the year before. After she starting tithing, the first month looked grim. Her power bill was due and she didn’t have the money to pay it.  She thought maybe she shouldn’t have given so much to church. But she remembered Malachi. And guess what! She got a check in the mail from an apartment complex she had lived in years previously. It was a deposit they owed her and it was just enough to pay her power bill!

Her testimony was very convincing, so we decided to try it. We certainly were not tithing the full 10% right away, but I prayed about an amount and just went for it. We did not have an instant check in the mail. But, we stayed faithful. We finally got our first check in the mail within that first year. And then, it wasn’t long before we got another. And another. They varied from birthday money to tax refunds—even an over payment check from the IRS right in time to make ends meet. But they were always right on time.

Each time either of us got a promotion at work, we upped our contribution to the church. We still had debt and lots of other money issues (I was eventually convicted about this…read about that here)  but I had seen enough evidence to know that the Lord Almighty really did pour out blessings if we gave him the first part of our earnings! And, the checks in the mail continued.  We laugh now and have a little inside joke about “checks in the mail.” We have so many fun stories to tell about God’s blessings and faithfulness.

But the most recent one was the most profound. When my husband lost his job a couple of months ago, they told him he’d get one more full paycheck. So when the paycheck came, and was $692 short, we were devastated. It was so disappointing. However, after everything we’d been through in the last couple of years, we knew we could trust that God would take care of us…even if it meant beans and hot dogs and lots of humility. But I still found myself trusting one day and doubting the next.

On Wednesday, October 18th, I was doing my homework for my Freedom small group. It was “surrender” week. One of the questions asked if there was anything I still needed to surrender. {eesh.} I eventually admitted to God and myself that I was still struggling to surrender our finances. I prayed and asked for forgiveness for continuing to stress about the budget sheet and worrying about the future. We also received his unemployment payment that same day. It was only $238 and I had debated about tithing on that “small” amount. I mean… it’s only $24…will that even matter? But, again…the Holy Spirit convicted me of my need to surrender. So I tithed that day.

The following week, we got a check in the mail.

The first thing that blew our minds was the amount of the check. (Can you guess it?)  $692. Yep; the same amount we were short on his last paycheck. Instant tears of joy. Apparently it was an insurance refund from when we sold his truck several months before.  We had no idea we even signed up for that insurance. But there’s more. My eyes then shifted to the date on the check. It was generated on Wednesday, October 18th.  The day I had a difficult decision to make—trust God or trust money. The day I surrendered (again) our finances and chose to trust that God’s ways are higher. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

So I challenge each of you. Go ahead, test him!  Just see what He can do.

Dear God, thank you so much for your faithfulness. You are a good, good Father. I do trust you, Lord. I know your thoughts and ways are more perfect for me than anything I could possible conjure up on my own! Thank you for gently reminding me to surrender to you. I pray that everyone reading this today will test you in this. May they find the true joy and contentment in giving to you first—not just the leftovers. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

~Jamie

For You

I’ve struggled lately to reconcile the difficulties we face in life.  It seems like these days every direction we turn, disaster, sickness and tension is afoot.  What are we supposed to do when our world seems to come crashing down around us?  How do we change the situation or make it better?  How do we find the courage to keep moving forward?  How do we justify the magnitudes of hurt and loss?

Maybe we don’t.  Maybe we are meant to feel the hurt and the pain.  Maybe we are to take the time to grieve and to cry, and just…feel.  Maybe that is where God wants to meet us sometimes, inside of our hurts, and not just our joys.  Since we are made in the image of God, then surely He hurts, He cries, and He grieves too.

Our search for relief often leads us down a path of just wanting the pain to stop; some even resort to other substances to avoid pains that they don’t want to face. Perhaps, if we took a different turn on that path we would see that we are supposed to hurt, but we are not supposed to do it alone.  It’s in our pain and our fears where God meets us with the greatest gentleness we could ever receive.  He is our loving creator after all!

The bible says that God’s ways are greater than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9) With this in mind, I wonder what would happen if we challenge ourselves to look at our trials—past, present, and future—as being for the glory of God? Would we live life differently?  Would we embrace the pain instead of finding ways to just make it stop?  Would we remember that in all things God is working for us? For me? FOR YOU?

Acceptance of pain and weaknesses or acceptance of living in a fallen world is a tough pill to swallow!  But there’s freedom in surrendering our pains to God, and it often comes through acceptance of our limitations.  When we hit the point that we no longer have the strength to stand by our accord, but through Him living inside of us, it allows us peace despite the storms that rage around us.

And we should never be ashamed of our brokenness.  Shame isn’t from God after all.  Shame is what keeps us from telling our testimony and helping others…which is exactly what the enemy wants!  Remember, you can’t have a testimony without a test!  We release ourselves from the shame of brokenness when we accept that it is for the glory of God that we are broken.

It was for the glory of God that Jesus was broken.  He who knew no sin, took on the sin of the world, so that God could be glorified.  Maybe from glory to glory has another deeper meaning of from struggle to struggle or from disaster to disaster…God is right there in the middle of it all, meeting us in our confusion and hurt.

And if you are sitting there thinking you are too broken to be used by God or to bring glory to God, think again!

Time and time again we see in the Bible where God used the most broken people to bring glory to Him in a broken world. Can you relate to their labels?

Noah was a drunk.

Abraham was too old.

Isaac was a daydreamer.

Jacob was a liar.

Joseph was abused.

Moses murdered and stuttered.

Gideon was afraid.

Sampson was a womanizer.

Rahab was a prostitute.

David had an affair and was a murderer.

Elijah was depressed and wanted to die.

Isaiah preached naked.

Jonah ran from God.

Naomi was a widow.

Peter denied Christ.

Martha worried about everything. (I can so relate!!!)

Samaritan woman was divorced.

Paul was legalistic.

Thomas doubted.

Despite their faults, God was for each and every one of His people of the Bible and He is FOR YOU too! So no matter the storms that rage around us or in us, God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). There is a purpose and a plan FOR YOU!

Father, help us to be still in the midst of struggles and to wait upon and seek you.  Give us a humble spirit that accepts our limitations as humans, as this cements our dependence upon you.  Help us remember also, that it is for your glory that we struggle, and that there is purpose for our pains.  Help us to help others who are going through similar situations as what we have been through, so that your love and strength might be shared. In Jesus name we pray.  Amen!

 

Love,

 

Olivia

A Balanced Equation

Knowledge with Love on a Foundation of Truth equals Wisdom. 

Do you know anyone who thrives on being the smartest person in the room? Is it you? Or are you wondering what that’s all about?  I’ve been through plenty of stages in my life where I felt compelled to know as much as possible about, well, as much as possible.  I’d be lying if I said I’d never been accused of acting like a “know-it-all.”  Why do we do this? Doesn’t our culture honor people who are smart and knowledgeable about things? They get the accolades and promotions and awards. But it’s all meaningless, really.  I’ve been challenged recently by some of the things I’ve been reading in the Bible about knowledge.

Interestingly enough, God starts to warn us about knowledge from the very beginning of time. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9 and 16-17) There were two trees there in the garden—one was a tree of knowledge and the other was a tree of life. How interesting that knowledge is standing opposite of life from the very beginning of time.

But knowledge is not necessarily bad.  God’s warning was that we need to be careful about the kind of knowledge we desire. What I’ve learned in the last several months is that God does want us to have knowledge, but we need to balance it out with His love and make sure it’s founded in His truth. Desiring to know everything in order to prove a point is certainly not the knowledge God wants us to have.


…We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.  1 Cor 8: 1-3


There is worldly knowledge and then there is Godly knowledge. The Bible warns us about the kind of knowledge that can keep us away from Jesus. Like the legalistic Jews in the New Testament, we can puff ourselves up and try our best to impress people with how much we know. But it’s all meaningless without love or truth. When we can balance our worldly knowledge with God’s love and truth, we become wise.

This is such an important concept to understand right now in our culture. It seems like our country is being torn apart by knowledge—everyone feels entitled to denounce another person just because he or she disagrees with what is deemed “right.” I don’t even like watching the news. Who even knows what the facts are anymore? And there are certainly many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the subject at hand. But where is the balance in all of these arguments? The debates tend to lack wisdom and it’s certainly rare to find any love between different opinion-groups.

It makes me think of the story of Jesus and the adulteress. This is the perfect equation of knowledge, love, truth, and wisdom.  The adulteress could be anyone—she could be you! Or she could be that one wretched person that just popped in your head when you read the word, “wretched.” 

Jesus has knowledge of this woman’s lifestyle. In fact, everyone else apparently does as well. Jesus disagrees with her way of life and certainly doesn’t condone her choices. However, he loves her anyway.

Can you imagine if we were more loving towards others despite their poor choices? Jesus doesn’t just love her and then tell her to go on about her same old ways. He also forgives her. He gives her a second chance. He defends her, even. What amazing, unconditional love!

But then…he balances out that knowledge and love with truth. God’s truth must be our foundation! Jesus reminds each of the woman’s accusers that they, too, are sinners. Don’t we all need that gentle reminder sometimes? Like, maybe right before our fingers start firing away at someone who left a comment that we offended us?  

Jesus taught us this balanced equation of knowledge, love, truth, and wisdom. He loves and forgives, but he also points us in the right direction. He tells the adulteress to “go and sin no more.”  The truth is that, even though we’re forgiven, we can’t keep going on our path of destruction and arrive in the place where we are truly living life to the full. 

We desperately need the love of Jesus to help us balance out our knowledge. We need His truth so that we can have wisdom. Oh, how I want to be thought of as “wise” instead of a “know-it-all.”

Father in heaven, thank you so much for reminding me that wisdom is more valuable than knowledge. Thank you for the way you love me and show me your truth. I choose today to surrender my desire to be right and allow you to move in my heart—balancing my knowledge with your love and truth. Help me to show the love of Jesus to everyone, even when we disagree. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

~Jamie

How to be Brave When Fear Threatens to Overtake You

Have you ever been in a situation where you have to be brave even though you are completely terrified? Where you have to be strong even though you feel about as tough as a wet paper bag? Where you absolutely need to have courage, but you are pretty sure your spirit animal is Courage the Cowardly Dog? PLEASE say yes so I don’t feel like I am the only one!

This conundrum is part of the human condition and living in a sinful world, so let’s talk about it. I want to share some ways you can be brave regardless of your feelings or your circumstances.

#1. Honey, you need Jesus. Plain and simple. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and without filling ourselves with the Truth found in the Word of God, weakness, fear and chaos will reign in our lives, especially during times of crisis. The Lord is the source of our strength. Isaiah 40:29 says that “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” When you feel the weight of life crushing you, ask the God of angel armies to renew your strength. This is a prayer He loves to answer.

#2. Do not lose hope in God. Psalm 25:3 says that “no one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame.” No matter how hopeless you may feel, don’t let yourself lose hope that God is for you (Romans 8:31).

#3. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, pray with you, and challenge you to take your faith to the next level. You and I were not designed to navigate the ups and downs of this life on our own.

Around a year ago, Jesus gave me a beautiful gift. He brought me into a group of women with supernatural faith and anointing, and these women have been my rock through a particularly difficult year. Truthfully, when I look back over my time walking with Him, I can see how He has done this many times – brought me into the community I needed at that exact moment I needed them. When I consider the struggles I have faced and am currently facing, I truly do not know if I would have survived and if my faith would have survived without these support systems God provided.

Maybe you know this full well by experience and are nodding your head in agreement as you read this. Maybe the Lord has been nudging you to reach out to other believers, but you have been putting it off.  I want to encourage you to become part of a family of faith, whatever that looks like for you. My prayer for you is that you would allow Him to lead you into relationships with people who will help you be brave when you feel scared.

#4. Remember that this life is your assignment. God put you on this earth to accomplish the purpose for which he created you. You have a job to do. Steven Furtick says that “opposition doesn’t prevent the presence of God. It provides an opportunity to prove the presence of God in your life.” God does not let hardships go to waste. Any difficulty you are facing will be used by God to fulfil your purpose during your life on this earth. The best news is that once your days on this earth come to an end, you will spend eternity with Jesus, because heaven is your home.

Bravery doesn’t always roar like a lion or make the headlines. It’s not perfection or total lack of fear. Sometimes bravery is just not giving up. It’s showing up every day and staying the course. You were created to be brave.

Listen to this song!

Father God, we come to you in our brokenness declaring that we need Your Spirit to make us strong. Thank you that in our weakness, we are strong because of you. Thank you that we can always trust and put our hope in You. I ask that You surround us with people who can be our support system during the storms of life. Equip us and make us strong to fulfil the purpose for which we were created. We love you, Jesus.

~Lacey

 

 

 paint image by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com

Seasoned by the Seasons

If you asked me how I’m seasoned, I would have to say a little sweet and a little salty with a splash of vinegar!  Why, you ask?  Well, life.  Our experiences, our joys, our struggles, and our seasons in life…they all season us!

Some of the life seasons we go through are obvious and we are sure there’s a purpose in them.  For example, our seasons of struggle.  Perhaps the struggle is an illness.  We kind of know what we have to do, right?  We need to go to the doctor, we need to take medicines, we need to have tests done, and so on.  What about a car accident?  We know we have to do the whole insurance kabuki dance and shop for a new car.  Some life seasons have very obvious “to-dos” and we can often feel the purpose of and the strength God gives us through them.  (Of course, sometimes we don’t, but we have to make a choice…do we trust and have faith that God is right there with us?)

Then there’s the life seasons of prosperity.  When things seem to be going well, when it’s easy to rejoice and be grateful.  It’s when sugar keeps getting added to your cheerios.  Personally, this season is difficult for me.  I tend to keep looking over my shoulder for the next thing that is going to throw me into an anxiety tailspin.  Many people, though, know the to-do for this season…be still and enjoy!  Soak in the glory of God.  Fill your spiritual well for the day you must drink, or in my case, guzzle from it.

Then there’s that most dreaded season, at least for some…the season of waiting! (Picture a climatic DUN-DUN-DUUNN from the organ here.)  What purpose could it possibly serve? Well…it marinates us.  In the season of waiting, all of our other life seasons are soaking in—marinating, so that when God’s perfect timing comes, we can step into the fire prepared for what may come.

Okay so waiting, aka marinating, does have a purpose…but why then is it so difficult?  Is it, perhaps, because we tend to be impatient in a world of non-stop go, go, go?  We must always be ready or moving on to the next thing, often leaving other things unfinished.  Is it because we long to hear God’s voice so much we forget to turn off the noise of our anxious and restless minds, and just be still?  Is it that the lack of clear direction and uncertainty of things yet to come drives us to doubt God’s control?  I could go on and on here, but the point is, waiting is tough! 


“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14


I sometimes feel like the seasons of struggle are easier than the seasons of waiting.  At least in struggles, I know who the enemy is (i.e. illness, marital issues, traffic, etc.).  In seasons of struggle I seem to pray far more fervently and seek God as though my life depended on it.  In times of waiting, not so much.  I begin to doubt my purpose or if the next step is ever going to happen.  Temptations to lean on my own understanding and strength in my own abilities seem to take over.  I tend to want to force a path forward, often making unwise decisions.  I find being still in the waiting to be very difficult.  Can anyone relate?

But you know, there are some things we can do while we wait for God to open the next door or lead us to the next season of life:

*Be expectant!  The eternal God who delivered our ancestors through some serious waiting seasons will surely deliver us as well.  He is the God of miracles, and He can do anything!  But, as my momma says, “you have to believe to receive.”  If you believe your God is capable of little things, and you paint Him into a box, then you just might receive little things.  However if you believe He is capable of great and wonderful things, you just might receive great and wonderful things.


                “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13


*Be a worship and praise warrior!  Regardless of your season, we always have the choice to worship God just for who He is.  Make time to praise and worship Him, get in His word, turn on inspirational music, volunteer to serve others.  Remember to thank Him for all that He has, is and will do in you…even in a season of waiting!  Being intentional about worship gives us direction and focus while waiting.


“Come close to God and He will come close to you.”  James 4:8


 *Be open to change! Okay, so admittedly this one if very difficult for me.  But, we must be open to change and to the unknown.  When God closes a door, it ain’t going to open back up no matter how much WD-40 we try to put on it.  And when He opens a door, we better just walk on through, because we aren’t going to be able to remove His door stopper. 


“When He opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when He closes doors, no one will be  able to open them.”  Isaiah 22:22b


Father, we thank you for all of our many blessings, especially your precious son Jesus who died so that we may know you.  Please lift us in all seasons of life so that all glory testifies to your goodness.  Help us to keep our eyes focused on you, especially when waiting feels so difficult.  Help us to be patient for the next door you would have us walk through, and help us go confidently and without fear.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen!

 Love,

Olivia

seasons image created by Freepik

Thy Will Be Done

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


Last week, for the second time in 2 years, my husband cried out in desperation to his Heavenly Father to align him with His will. And for the 2nd time, his Father answered, but not how we would have chosen with our limited perspective.

The first time, he was in a tough environment at work and knew the company wasn’t bringing in the money they needed to pay overhead employees like himself.  He saw the revenue dwindling for over a year and sought another job quite intensively. He applied for everything he could and even had a few interviews.  Each time, they either hired from within or they ended up not filling it because they didn’t win the contract. He was desperate.

In January of 2016, we started our bi-annual 21 Days of Prayer at church.  On day 6, as my husband prayed, he asked God to “shut any door that is not in alignment with your plan for my life.” That morning, around 10am, he got laid off. The lies of the enemy immediately flooded in. “You’re not good enough. You can’t even take care of your family. You must not work hard enough. You are incapable.”

But God! Suddenly He remembered his exact prayer from that morning and we knew God was up to something awesome! And sure enough—his severance payment was enough to pay off our credit card debt and he found a new job within two weeks! However, this new job was something totally different than anything he’d ever done before—sales.  We knew it was from God, though, because they offered to pay him his exact salary that he had been earning at his previous job, after 10 years of experience in his degree field…PLUS commission!

We never really understood how this introvert getting a sales job had anything to do with God’s will. But we just had to trust Him…even in the storm. After about 10 months there, his little company got bought out and the environment started to decline. They went from focusing on relationships to focusing on revenue and my husband knew he couldn’t survive in that kind of environment. So he began to look for something else in his old–and comfortable–career field. Well, wouldn’t you know…the same thing happened.  He applied for dozens of positions and even interviewed, but never got a call back.

And then, once again, in sheer desperation, he left work on his lunch break and parked under a tree at a nearby park and prayed these words, “Father, you know my heart. If you want me to stay here, then I will find contentment here. But if this is not your will, please show me.” He felt a peace and knew that God was with him…no matter what.

The next day…he got the call. As of that day, he was no longer employed. Yep—again. Thankfully, we’d been through this before, so we were able to recover from the shock a little quicker than the previous time. See—several months ago, God gave us a vision for a business for my husband in which he’d be able to use his spiritual gifts to help others. But we both worked full time and didn’t have the time to devote to starting up a new business.  We were overwhelmed by the peace and clarity during the next several days.  And we even had the revelation that his sales job only furthered his skills and abilities to run the business we’d been dreaming of.


And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:7


The peace that comes from surrendering our plans and inviting God’s will into our lives is impossible to understand. It is way beyond human comprehension to just give up control–surrender everything you ever thought about your future–and truly mean it when you say, “Thy will be done.”

Retelling this story challenges me to think about my own life and my control issues. Oh, how I love to plan and be prepared for every possibility of the future. What does God have in store for me if I just give up on my own personal agenda? What is success anyway? Shall we keep on striving for a future that is drawn out by the forces of culture or truly release our lives to the will of our Father and live out His will for our lives? Which path do you think is more fulfilling?

Oh, Father God, thank you for loving us and giving us vision. May we all wash the culture’s ideals out of our eyes so that we may see what you have for us. Help us, oh Lord, to surrender our will and trust your plan for our lives. We want to live according to our divine design—you made us each for a specific purpose and we know that true joy comes when we live out the life you planned for us. We love you and trust that your plans are greater than ours. Amen.

What’s in a Cross?

Do you happen to remember that famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet spoken by Juliet about names?  “What’s in a name?…A rose by any other name is still a rose.”  Of course she was using this logic to justify her love for a young man from an enemy family.

I have lots of crosses in my house.  In fact, I have an entire wall that is nothing but crosses.  I walk by them so much I don’t even notice them anymore. (Is that bad?!?!)  The awareness of this fact lead me to wonder, what is in the name of the cross?  What does the cross represent to believers?  Like a rose, wouldn’t a cross in a different shape still be the same thing?  If Jesus had been crucified on an X instead of a t, wouldn’t the core of the mechanism still be the same thing?  So let us examine what’s really in the cross…

 

  • Forgiveness!  Seems so simple but so difficult at the same time.  We are forgiven for every single sin we have ever or will ever commit because of what Jesus did for us.  He took on our guilt and our punishment, even though He was the most innocent person to ever walk the earth.  When we truly believe this, He becomes our Savior.  As our Savior, we are covered by His blood that washes us clean of sin and makes us without blame in the eyes of our Father.  I heard it this way recently…God looks at us and sees His son!
  • Power and Strength Over the Enemy! (Whoop-whoop!…sorry, couldn’t help myself)  Jesus said “All power and authority has been given to me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18)   When Jesus died on the cross He suffered our punishment for sin, and He defeated sin and death.  He broke the chains that bind us to sin and allows us to now be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
  • Relationship with our Heavenly Father!  (Woo-hoo!…okay, that one’s just really exciting!)  Prior to Jesus’ death the only way sinners could come to the Father was through a priestly mediator.  When Jesus died the veil that separated us from God was torn.  Now we can approach the Father anytime we need to through Jesus’ sacrifice. (Matthew 27:50-51)
  • Family! (Yayyy…okay, I’ll stop now)  As believers we belong to the body of Christ.  Jesus is the head of the church.  He is our Spiritual Leader.  His spirit directs and guides us.  We are the individual parts that make up the church.  We are the body.  We have been adopted into His Kingdom and into His family.  That means that as fellow believers we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  People you have never met are now your family.  People with different backgrounds and different skin colors are now your family.  People with different political opinions and different socio-economical status are now your family.  Just like blood related family, we don’t get to choose who is in the Body of Christ.  So like me or not, get on in here and get a hug!!! (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

 

I certainly do not mean for this list to be all inclusive (we’d be here all day!).  There are so many other things that I believe the cross represents, like death to our old selves, and life to a new creation in Christ, etc.  I think it would be impossible to create an all-inclusive list of what the cross represents because it is unique to each of us.  The cross represents different things to all of us because we have all had unique journeys to it after all.

But remember, a cross by a different shape or name is still a cross.  It’s not that the cross itself allowed for us to have things like forgiveness and family, but rather the power and love of Christ.  After all, many people have died crucified on the cross.  Only the love of God’s perfect son could do infinitely more.  And because He rose again, He lives still in us all.  So, the cross isn’t just something on the wall, it isn’t just art, it isn’t just a list of things we gain through Jesus.  The cross is in us, it’s alive and breathing, and it’s in action each and every day…when we love others as He loves us!

Father, thank you for your precious son and for all the things that we gain through His death on the cross for us.  Thank you for our forgiveness and for our family and for all those things that we could never “earn” for ourselves.  Because of your precious son we do not have to do anything for your love and grace and mercy.  Please help us and guide us to bask in that and to be at peace with who we are in you Lord.  Help us to see ourselves as you see us and help us to love others as you love. Amen!

Love,

Olivia

Please feel free to comment below…I’m curious, what does the cross represent for you? Even if you never saw a cross, what do you carry in your heart to know it is real?  How do you share the cross with others?

Come As You Are

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

I have met so many people who have the perception that you have to clean up your life BEFORE you can come to Jesus. Most I have talked to about this topic have felt this way at some point in their lives. We have heard “come as you are,” but what does the Bible say about this?

John 8 tells of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus was in the temple courts teaching when the religious folks brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Jesus challenged the crowd of religious elite by saying “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Jesus bent down and began writing in the sand. No one knows what He was writing, but some scholars pose that He could have been writing the sins of each person standing in the gathering. One by one, the crowd began to fade away. No one is without sin. Not the Pharisees in the Bible. Not the pastor on the TV or at your local church. Not the Godly man or woman in your life that you admire so much. Check out Jesus’s response after the crowd faded away: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 10-11).

Jesus, knowing the extent of the woman’s sins, did not send her away. He told her that he did not condemn her; he accepted her. Then, AFTER she had an encounter with Jesus, He told her to leave her life of sin.

 Here is the truth: you don’t get warm before coming to the fire. You don’t get well before you see a doctor. You don’t master a subject before going to school. After, and only after, you encounter Jesus, He changes your heart. His goodness, not your own striving, leads you repentance. Not only do you not have to get your life right before coming to Jesus, but ultimately you cannot get your life right in your own will. You need the power and grace of God before real change is ever realized.

Does your life feel broken? Are you scared, discouraged, anxious or lonely? Are you in a cycle of destructive relationships? Are you caught up in addiction? Do you make destructive decisions that you later regret? Come to Jesus. Jesus is for you. Come to the church. The church is for you. Do not waste another day in your own striving to “do better,” but instead come to God and encounter true power for change in your life.

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

 Read the beautiful verse from the hymn “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy” by Joseph Hart below.

Come ye weary, heavy laden,

Bruised and mangled by the fall;

If you tarry till you’re better,

You will never come at all.

Not the righteous, Not the righteous, Not the righteous;

Sinners Jesus came to call.

 Jesus, thank you for paying for our sins so we do not have to pay for them ourselves. Thank you that we can, and must, come to you as we are. You take the broken pieces of our lives and make them into something beautiful. I pray specifically for those who continue to struggle with the lie that they have to get it together before they come to you. I ask you to speak directly into the hearts of all who are far from you, that they may see and know you and experience freedom. In Jesus name, Amen.