“Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.” ~Pastor Chuck Swindell
This succinct description of the book of Ephesians is a beautiful introduction to what I am about to share. Certainly, we are living in a time of problems. Sadly, these problems are infringing upon our ability to live in a way that displays our faith in a positive light.
Voices and opinions have gotten too loud, so loud I have felt a bit silenced, confused, tossed by the waves of constantly changing information on a pandemic, justice being fused with political movements that I don’t agree with, politicians that are supposed to protect religious freedoms but deny God with their deeds. Not just a country divided but neighborhoods fractured by the assertion of opinions rather than humility, gentleness, patience. Social media is painted with memes that say I am listening one day and then filled with shouts of disapproval and belittling people that don’t agree the next. I would say our daily environment is nothing less than hostile.
I’d like to blame this on the news, blame it on the politicians, blame it on hooligans and vagabonds and those who deny God. The truth is that the Church, as in believers not a building, are contributing to the chaos just the same. When I say the Church it includes me…so here I sit with a finger pointing at myself asking what my role in all this is. Maybe you are doing the same.
Friends, our role hasn’t changed. Perhaps that will put your mind at ease. In a world ever changing and conflicted your heavenly calling doesn’t waver. Read the following words of Paul as he wrote from a jail cell.
As a prisoner in the Lord, then, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
If anyone had the right to feel discouraged it was Paul. He was following God whole heartedly and nothing seemed to pan out right, beatings, whippings, jailing, boat wrecks. However, when most people would be at the end of their rope, Paul puts pen to parchment and implores fellow believers to live according to their heavenly calling. Be humble, be gentle, have patience with one another, bear (carry, support, hold up) with one another in love and diligence. Why? To preserve unity and peace. We could all use a good dose of that!
As I look at the finger I have pointed toward myself I ask, what am I doing to preserve unity and peace? In turn, I ask you. Could we refrain from accusing and verbally abusing those that don’t agree with us? Could we keep scrolling when we really want to type out a snide rebuttal on social media. Friends, when I am triggered to comment in a negative way or prove my point on a social post, I snooze that person for 30 days. It removes the temptation to respond in an ungodly way and protects the integrity of my Christian walk. Could we offer words of kindness instead of our opinions? Even better could we build each other up in God’s word?
Paul doesn’t just compel us in Ephesians to behave a certain way so we can label ourselves good Christians, remember he is a proponent of humility. He tells us how it will benefit us when we abide in God’s ways and recall who we are in Christ. When we spend time pursuing our Christian walk though scripture and prayer and walking out what we learn, there are benefits. Paul shares in Ephesian 4:14-15:
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.”
I have a confession…I have been down, weighted with the noise of opinions and uncertainty. This always weighs heavily on me because I feel as a Bible teacher I shouldn’t get down, but God is revealing something to me. Paul was certainly not happy in jail as he wrote this letter. He wasn’t cheerful and ambivalent to what was going on in the world about him. He was one thing, content to be doing the work that God had called him to do despite his surroundings.
Paul was not controlled by his emotions and he had learned to put his opinions aside and replace them with the word of God. He spoke truth in love. Not Paul’s truth, not the politician’s truth, not the jailer’s truth, not the persecutors truth, GOD’S TRUTH IN LOVE. Paul wasn’t deceived or tossed by the waves of life, he didn’t rely on clever men, or fall for deceitful schemes, instead he grew up in Christ and helped others do the same.
Ya’ll got me preaching now. Go read your Bibles.
At the beginning of each year God gives me a word. I don't pick the word; He gives it to me. That's an important distinction to make because this is not a word I pick as a resolution. I don't select words that will help me become a better version of myself; He picks a word that tells me how I am going to draw nearer to Him. January 2017 that word was alignment.
I was excited for this word. God was going to help me align with Him. What an amazing privilege right? God was going to pull me close and we were going to conquer the world for the glory of His name...together.
The shininess of this word soon tarnished when I realized that alignment required work. In order to align me with Himself, God had to test me. He wanted to take me to a new level but couldn't do that until he realigned my heart. I didn't realize how much I was looking to others for guidance, relationship, validation, direction...I didn't realize the areas of my life that I was focusing on anything but Him. But like a gentle father he whispered the way forward towards alignment with Him, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21
As the year progressed "alignment" started to feel as if it's real spelling was "loss". One by one God stripped away people and things I was holding dear. He allowed blatant hurtful betrayals to show me that I was putting my hope and searching for acceptance in the wrong people. All this hurt left a girl wailing to her heavenly papa, "What the H E double hockey sticks is going on? I have been following, I have been obedient, I have been asking for your refinement when I mess up, my life is showing the fruit of following you...why are you letting me hurt like this?"
Before you go quoting band aide scripture like, "In this life you will have sorrow, or pick up your cross and follow me", let me tell you one thing I am not leaving in 2017. I am not leaving the habit of taking time to mourn and process loss. Before you start fretting that the Monday Night Bible teacher has lost her hope let me assure you that my faith stands unshaken in spite of my pain...might I even say it has grown deeper roots. Yes. Roots that delve deep into the soil of a loving God so that my arms can reach upward towards the light even when the winds are whaling.
Pushing through the hardened soil of broken places in my heart and curling around boulders broken thought processes hidden beneath the surface was a laborious process. Here is where the magic happened though. In the surrender to the process.
As I mourned the relationships God took away, I let them go. He replaced them with new relationships of people that speak life and scripture over me instead of doubt and criticism. As I questioned God's process of allowing pain He showed me how to count it all joy. As learned to live with unreconciled relationships God showed me His heart for those not reconciled to Him. As My ugly thought processes surfaced God showed me that a desperate need for His grace is not just for the unsaved, but for all of us. Everyday. Every moment.
It wasn't until New Year's Day 2018 that I felt a completion of the word God gave me in January 2017. It was then that "alignment" started feeling like it was spelled "freedom".
Freedom to stop relying on people and start loving them.
Freedom to walk away from people that were hurting me.
Freedom to let God define my truth and not others.
Freedom to be broken and whole, weak and strong, all at the same time.
Freedom to wrestle with my truth about myself and replace it with God's.
Freedom to mourn.
Freedom to heal.
Freedom to trust the process.
Freedom to welcome new people into my life.
Freedom to celebrate my wins.
Freedom to praise a loving God that desired for me to come into deeper alignment with Him.
Alignment has led to a new me, a New Year, and a new word. REVERENCE. On January 1, 2018 God gave me a new appreciation for alignment with Him and a deeper sense of awe and wonder of His majesty. With reverence comes the fear of the Lord. Not a horror movie kind of fear, but a change the way I live and think kind of fear. A change the way I lead and love kind of transformation. I'm ready Lord, let's do this!
This week my sweet little 8 year old daughter asked me if I would take her Black Friday shopping. EIGHT YEAR OLD. When I was eight the only shopping I did was back to school shopping once a year. Before I start sounding like one of those people who always talks about how times have changed since I was a kid...let's move on to my answer.
"Um, no. Absolutely not. And why do you want to go Black Friday shopping?" Perhaps this was not the kindest way to phrase my answer knowing that my daughter's love language is gifts, but I was in shock.
Her response? "Why not?"
Before this turned into a stalemate conversation I took a deep breath. I told her, "If you can tell me exactly what you want to buy on Black Friday and what chores you will do to earn the money, I will take you."
Her answer? Shrug, eyeroll, "Nevermind."
Checkmate. I win! Or did I?
Here's the thing. God has spent a lot of time on me taking away the value I put on things. I am happy to live in a 2 bedroom even though most of my friends have 4 -5 bedroom homes. I am happy to give away things I don't use anymore because I no longer live by the premise that I might use it one day. (If I might just use it one day, why not give it away to someone who could use it lots of days.) Really though, it's not about possessions but rather distractions. The more stuff I have to take care of the less time I have to focus on God.
Before you think I am condemning you for having a large house, or stuff to put in it, let me put your mind at rest. I have a friend with a large home. She loves cleaning it, in fact, God speaks to her through cleaning products. I won't try to do it justice with an example let's just suffice it to say that I now have a holy experience every time I look at bleach after hearing her cleaning revelations. She also has people over to her house to talk about God. She loves to entertain and teach. God has blessed her with "stuff" to minister to others. I appreciate this about her and Him.
My job as a parent is to instill a healthy relationship with "stuff" in my daughter. Shopping is one way I can do this. When we go shopping and she wants something I ask questions.
Why do you want it?
Where will you put it?
What will you get rid of that you don't use in order to have this?
How will we pay for it?
Do we need to sacrifice buying something else in order to buy this?
We have a rule at our house. If you buy something, you get rid of something. It helps keep us honest to buy things we need and not just things we want and it also clears the clutter. We also try to have a healthy view of working for things. If our children don't want to do extra chores for it, they don't want it that bad. The important thing is that we let the kids make that decision. We ask the questions and they decide if the sacrifice is worth the new thing.
Mark 4:19 says, "but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful."
As an adult I have to ask myself if a desire for new "stuff" will get in the way of my relationship with God. Will it put me in debt causing me undue stress that I eventually get angry at God for not solving when really it was my sin of coveting and acting on that by purchasing things I couldn't afford in the first place? Will it take away from spending time with God or is it something I can enjoy in His presence? Will it take away from my relationships with others when God has called me to be the love of Jesus to others?
I know these are some pretty deep questions to ask when it comes to shopping but shopping shouldn't be a compulsion. It shouldn't be a hobby. Maybe, just maybe, shopping should be about stewarding our resources well and we should labor over each purchase until we hear a resounding yes from heaven.
If I am being honest Black Friday shopping is too tempting for me. I start loving the stuff and the price and start thinking of who I can give that item to that I just got for 70% off, instead of thoughtfully thinking about the person I am giving a gift to and what they may actually like. Black Friday causes me to get up early for a deal because they may run out. I buy dumb things like pickle ornaments and another fuzzy blanket. The BOGO deals turn into one for you and one for me deals. I get greedy and lusty for stuff I don't need all in the name of a good deal. It leaves a girl crying out, "GOOD GOD, help me want you as much as I want stuff".
You see Black Friday brings out the truth in me, or perhaps it reveals the lies in this world. The need to fill up our lives with stuff in order to feel complete. The searching for earthy items that will perish to fill up an empty space that can only be filled by an eternal God. Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy and that always starts with an attack on the heart and a planting of false desire that separates us from God. It's been that way since Adam and Eve in the garden.
God has trusted me with my daughter, part of my job as a Jesus loving parent is to help her navigate a stuff loving world with a Jesus loving heart. So, NO, I will not be taking my 8 year old shopping on Black Friday.
I watched a sermon by Sarah Jakes last night and she talked about navigating in other people’s Kingdoms as God uses you to expand His. It was certainly a timely message for me as I step into a larger role of serving at my local church. In just a few short weeks I will be leading a couple hundred women in a weekly Bible study.
When you step into new territory it is tempting to look around and see how others are doing it. When you are staring at yourself in the mirror looking for what God obviously sees in you but can’t find, it’s easy to fall back on the old instead of usher in the new. But don’t.
When I am unsure the first thing I do is dive into my Bible. Full disclosure…sometimes the first thing I do is call some trusted friends freak out, let them calm me down, and then dive into my Bible. No matter how I start, the answers are always in the Book. As I step into this new role and am looking for answers, God has pointed me to young David for inspiration and to his experiences for wisdom.
Young David was ready to go. He was ready to take on a giant. But Saul replied, “You can’t go fight this Philistine. You’re just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young.” 1 Samuel 17:33 CSB
Have you ever been ready to step into your calling but then Satan sends people to tell you that you aren’t ready? It’s just like the enemy to cast a dark shadow on a joyous moment through people that should have your back. If only we could be like David when this happens.
Let me paraphrase 1 Samuel 17:32-39:
David: Dude, I got this giant. I can take him down. What are you afraid of? I’m not.
Saul: Umm, did you realize you are young and inexperienced and that guy has been doing this forever?
David: What you don’t know about me is that I have been fighting battles all my life. You just weren’t there to see it. And I have been victorious, so I am not afraid of experience and age. I know God has my back.
Saul: Go for it then, dog, (eye roll) but at least take my advice and do it like I would.
David: I’ve listened to how you would do it but this just doesn’t feel right. I’m used to doing it the God way. I’ll stick to that.
Ok that was a super loose translation but I wanted to break it down so you understand what is happening here. God had already prepared David. He knew he was ready, but the authority over him did not. David had to fight for his opportunity to show everyone that God would lead him to victory.
People couldn’t see it. They only saw the young man of small stature in front of them. God had been pouring into David. God saw a young man of character that He could work though.
Saul was persistent. He was going to allow David to give this thing a try but he wanted David to do it his way. Have you ever been called by God but then told you couldn’t go where He was calling you by the person in charge? It can be frustrating, right? Well, David wasn’t having it.
David knew God so intimately that he knew to respectfully push back. First, he tried it Saul’s way. He put on the armor that Saul would have used. Funny that Saul didn’t put it on himself and go fight the giant but rather put it on David. He wanted David to do the work he was called to do and he wanted David to do it his way.
But David was bold. He knew how he had been victorious over trials in the past and it wasn’t by walking in other people’s shoes. It was by walking in step with his God. So, he took off the armor, handed it back to Saul and essentially said, “With all due respect, I’m doing it God’s way.”
If you are following Jesus and seeking God’s will for your life…I mean seriously seeking, not just quick morning prayers each day but actually walking daily with eyes wide open for signs and diving into his word every time you have a question or trial and looking at every challenge as a way to become more like Christ. Then eventually God is going to use you in a big way.
When He uses you, it will not feel comfortable. You will not feel prepared. You will look around at all the people that seem to be better equipped than you and question yourself. People will look at you sideways and say things under their breath. Some will even tell you to your face that you are not ready. In these moments, you need to call to mind all the battles you have won with God by your side. You will need to speak aloud as you recount the times he has led you to victory and then you need to find the boldness of David. You need to follow God down an unpaved path and trust Him with your life as He uses you to expand His Kingdom.
And then you need to call me for a cup of coffee so we can chat and giggle about all He has done in our lives.
Yesterday my son had one of those really fun 3-year-old meltdowns. You know the kind. Screaming, flailing, snot dripping down his face. I responded with the obligatory mothering statement, “Use your words!”
It took him about 10 minutes of tantrum to finally find those words. When he did I melted.
“Mommy, I just want you to hold me.”
I knelt to the ground, pulled him into my lap (snot and all) and wrapped my arms around him. He let his little body go limp, trusting my arms to hold him up and allowing his body to melt into mine. This was a completely different kind of melt down, it was surrender instead of temper.
How often do we run through life exhausted and then muscle through instead of stopping and resting? We can get pretty ugly when we rely on our own strength when we are already weary. Patience and joy go out the window as we try to plow through to do lists and make it to every engagement on time.
Overscheduled and over tired the first thing to go out the window is our relationships. We cancel coffee dates with friends to prepare for a Pinterest worthy party. We plop iPads and iPhones in our children’s hands so we can finish work or a never ending to do list. We delay date night with our spouse just one more week.
And then we are empty. Weary. Depleted.
As my son sunk into my chest and his breathing slowed to match mine I realized he was looking to me for strength. He was resting in my strength when he was weary. How sweet of God to let me have just a little piece of His job that afternoon to remind me to do the same as my son.
It was a kind and gentle reminder from my Savior that when I get weary I need to return to the source of all strength and match myself to His breathing pattern. Life in, life out. Life in, life out.
Life in…rest, pray, read my Bible, ask God to guide my steps and encounters.
Life out…slow down, notice others, love well.
Life in…"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Life out… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, Galatians 5:22
Life in…"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes." Jeremiah 31:25
Life out…"I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. John 13:34
Can I be honest? For a part of my son’s meltdown I melted down myself. I marched him to his room and told him not to come out until he could be quiet. I raised my voice to try to quiet his. I furrowed my brow and made my frustration and disappointment known.
It wasn’t until I also surrendered that peace was found. I needed to be still and match my breathing to another just as much as my son did.
The house didn’t get clean as I sat there on the floor with my son, dinner didn’t get made, my to list had to wait, but I was filled to a point that brought me to a priority shift. Life in. Life out.
There I was walking in confidence, walking out my calling, using my gifts, feeling good…then it hit me. Insecurity. I finally had time to pause and step back to look at what I had worked on and insecurity taunted me with questions and comments like:
Was this just a waste of time? No one will be touched by this. Are you sure this is not your gifting or calling? Maybe this was just you, striving in the wrong direction…again.
Perhaps you have been there.
When I start wallowing in negative emotions I turn to my Bible. That day I turned to Nehemiah. God put a passion on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild Jerusalem and restore its people’s obedience to God. One guy, no resources, tasked to rebuild a whole city. Not to be a spoiler, but he did it. I encourage you to learn how by reading Nehemiah; it’s amazing how God empowered and resourced him. But I want to fast forward to the end of the story.
Nehemiah’s original goal was to restore the city to glorify God. Not only did he rebuild the physical city but he put the community in order. He made sure the people reread the law of God and instructed them on right living to glorify God. Then after all that work, after using his gifts of leadership and planning and organization, the people defiled the rebuilt city by dishonoring God.
In chapter 13 Nehemiah once again returns to the city and tries to lead the people back to God. Sadly, the book is anticlimactic and ends with Nehemiah listing for God the good works he did despite the outcome and asking God to, “Remember me, my God, with favor.”
After reading this I felt a bit angry with Nehemiah. I thought to myself, “so he just threw his hands in the air as if to say, ‘oh well, I tried’?” Why wasn’t he more invested in the outcome?
Then I remembered all the years he invested in doing what God had called him to do. He found the raw material to build walls, he recruited workers to rebuild, he retaught God’s law and reminded the people to worship, he organized the people and encouraged obedience to God. Do you know where he could have been all this time? In a plush palace sitting with the King. This is an invested man. Perhaps he just knew where to invest and when to let go.
God had assigned him with a task, not an outcome. He invested himself in the work God set before him and then he left the rest to God. Nehemiah reminds me to keep my eyes on two things, God, and the work he has given me. The outcome belongs to Him.
Through Nehemiah’s story, God reminds me that this is a race, not a sprint. He reminds me that following him takes endurance and patience and trust. He teaches me that I may work hard and never see the outcome I hope to see. Still, the work he sets before me is meaningful and part of a bigger picture.
This restores my confidence. This rebuilds my faith and allows me to slam the door shut on insecurity. Thank God for stories in the Bible that remind me and teach me what it looks like to walk out my faith in the day-to-day.
This week I was plain discouraged. I was trying to figure out how to fit in as a feminist when I am pro-life. How do I fit in as a feminist when I believe men and women were created equally in God’s image but with separate roles that require them to work together? How can I be a feminist and march alongside women spewing hateful statements that I don't agree with? So, I didn’t march, but then I felt guilty about not marching for the issues feminists took up that do matter to me…equal pay…equal opportunity…civil rights...non-objectification…protection. Then it hit me. Labels are divisive.
I am not a feminist nor a passive female. I am not pro-life or pro-choice. I am not pro-equality or pro-discrimination. I am pro-Jesus.
Okay that was cheesy but hang with me. When I define myself not by the world’s standards, but by God’s standards, when I define myself as a child of God rather than try to conform to the definitions of this world…then I am free.
I am free to follow my God and still stand next to those that don’t agree with me.
I am free to stand up for what the Bible says in a loving way.
I am free to love in truth and excellence.
I can stand, or march, next to my sister who is an extreme feminist and voice my view that God said to stand up for the oppressed. I can also sit down next to her and tell her that my God also created man and woman to help each other. I can remind her that Jesus came to give life abundant so that we could live abundantly, not so we could destroy it. I can share that while I support her on some of her platforms there are others that the Bible will Trump. Yes, the Bible even Trumps Trump, so I am not afraid of him though I don’t agree with his objectification of women or his reckless discriminatory comments. I also don’t agree with certain women cursing him on their platforms (Madonna a little class here).
I recall a wise man Paul once say, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Let’s renew our minds. Let’s not spend time trying to determine how we fit into the feminist dialog. Let’s spend time determining how to share the dialog of Jesus in a broken world. Let’s not define ourselves by a worldly label. Can You Be A Christian Feminist? I'm not sure nor do I care to waste anymore time figuring it out. Let’s just define ourselves by the name given to us by our Creator. Child of God. Let’s not fight for equality and human rights in the name of feminism but in the name of Jesus.
** Hi friends! This post is part of a blog hop for Advent. At the end of my post you'll find links to some wonderful blogger friends who want to help you prepare Him room. Take some time to read them all. They really changed my heart and they will change yours too. **
It may seem a little odd that on the cusp of Advent season I want to talk about Jonah, but God often takes us down windy roads to prepare our hearts. I have been stuck in the four short chapters of Jonah for over a month. Hidden in this story I have found the grace of God-the same grace that sent a son to die for the sins of the world.
Most of you know that Jonah was swallowed by a fish for disobeying God but lived to tell the tale. It's the great Moby Dick story of the Bible. What you will miss, if you don't read closely, is the story of man's selfish heart met by the grace of God's love-over and over again.
Jonah went on a three hour tour to get away from God (as if one could "get away" from God) and ended up in the belly of a fish. The reason? God asked him to go preach against the sins of a great nation, Nineveh. The very nation that had persecuted God's people. He was to preach a warning message to turn them from their evil ways. Jonah's reason for not wanting to do this was not because he was afraid of the people in Nineveh, it was not that it was a terrible place to visit as it was a rich land, his reason for not wanting to go was because he knew that if he warned them of their evil ways and they repented and turned to God that God would forgive them.
Jonah didn't want God to forgive the people of Nineveh. Jonah had decided their sins were too great to be forgiven. Aren't you glad that God is in charge of the forgiveness department and not Jonah or you or me? Left up to us, there would be a lot of nonredeemable people in the world.
Jonah does get out of that fish, praising God for His grace and he goes to that town and obediently preaches as God instructed. As the King called the nation to repentance Jonah hiked to a nearby mountain top hoping God would still destroy their city. I can picture him staring up at the sky waiting for fireballs to drop down on Nineveh. His waiting was in vain.
Jonah was flat out mad that God forgave the people of Nineveh and showed mercy. I love God's response in Jonah 4:10-11
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
In other words, I made these people. I created mankind and I alone will determine how to love them. And I choose grace. I choose to pursue them when they sin against me and reward them as they draw near to me. This is my relationship and the only law that dictates is love.
The theme of this first week of Advent is hope. As we anticipate the upcoming anniversary of our Savior's birthday, let us find hope in a God that loves with grace unbound. Let us extend that hope to others as we offer them grace and not judgement. Just as Jesus did.
Be sure to read all these blogs that are part of the Prepare Him Room blog hop.
Wrapped in Grace – by DeanaLynnRogers.com
Welcoming Jesus is less about perfect preparations and more about scooching over.
Prepare Him Room - By Going The Distance
Read about the love language of Advent season.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room – by Living For God
Pause, Reflect, Enjoy, Praise, Accept, Rejoice, Exclaim
Prepare Him Room – by Revelations of a Southern Girl
Revelations about celebrating the season with an illness.
This post is part of the Prepare Him Room Blog Hop as part of the Woven Vow Blogger Group on Facebook. Join us for blog talk and faith filled encouragement.
I love it when you are social with me!
Where was God? This is the most commonly asked question when something bad happens.
Where was God when I had a miscarriage?
Where was God when her husband left her?
Where was God when that young mother dies of cancer?
Where was God when that candidate won the election?
Where is God in all this crazy hatred in the world?
I am currently doing a study on the history of the early church. It is a study of how the church established itself after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Here is what I am learning as I really study the scriptures. When I look past the miracles and gifts of the Spirit, I see a darker story.
The church actually grew through persecution. When people had to flee their country of face certain death for being a Christian the gospel spread to new lands. When people stood firm in their faith at the cost of being beheading, or shouted to God to forgive the crowd as they were being stoned to death, a statement was made. My God is bigger than the evils of this world. Wasn't that the point of the cross. To proclaim once and for all that evil could not, would not, conquer good. As a result the gospels spread and many believed.
So where is God now? In a crazy world of genocide and racism and power hungry leaders. A world where a dollar is more important than a life and being right is more important than love? Where is God?
He is in each story of triumph that builds hope in the oppressed. He is in each hand that reaches out to help the poor and sick. He is in each word that says I will not lash out when I don't agree but I will lean in and listen and try to help. He is in generosity. He is in each act of love.
Loving in hostile times can be hard. Overcoming affliction with hope can be daunting. I like how Moses handled it in Psalm 90. As his nation was sinning against God he talked to God. He pleaded with God for help, he asked God to fill him up with joy and love, and then he ends the prayer asking for God to establish the work of his hands. He didn't know what to do so he asked God for direction.
Good idea Moses. Good idea.
Psalm 90:13-17 NIV (A prayer of Moses, man of God)
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us--
yes, establish the work of our hands.
I love when you come join me on social!
It's not too late to download my Thankful Printables absolutely free! CLICK HERE
Hey, you, my friend. Did you know that God did not create you to be a beat down Christian?
Look we all have troubles and trials that easily overwhelm. Yesterday, I talked to my boss after he received some bad news. After processing it, he said something profound. "The reality has not changed because I now know the news. So it's not bad news. It's the opposite. Now I am aware of a reality that already existed and I can respond to it."
Awareness of your troubles is an opportunity to respond. You can respond in fear or anger or worry or you can respond in seeking God for strength and courage and joy. You can choose to live joyfully triumphant. Either way. Your reality does not change.
The Prophet Habakkuk explains it like this:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk was living in a time when injustice surrounded him. Nothing made sense. Nothing seemed fair. But he chose joy. He chose to tap into the strength of his creator.
Did you know that you have the power to tap into the joy of God's spirit anytime you need it? You do not need to embrace your emptiness and reduce yourself to dry bones when you face troubles.
Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Don't get me wrong, we can do nothing without God but if we tap into his spirit we can do everything with him! We may have trouble mustering up joy on our own but we can find it in God! Seek Him, find joy. Isn't this good news? Isn't this reason to preach on our wholeness and not our brokenness?
Hebrews 13:5 “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
We must maintain hope which brings joy.
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”
We must be thankful which stems from appreciation not anxiousness.
Philemon 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Don't worry, thank Him for all the good He is, all the wholeness He extends, and then make your requests known. Be patient as you wait for the response and kill the time with being hopeful. Joyful. Triumphant.
I love it when you join me on Social Media!
I'm just a girl, standing before my God, knowing that He loves me and wanting others to know that love too.