Melissa Campbell

Melissa is a writer, speaker and co-founder for Revive Ministries, as well as, co-host of the Experience Revival Podcast. Melissa has a Master’s of Theology from the Austin Graduate School of Theology and spent 12 years church planting in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jason. She has almost 20 years of experience in leadership development, event planning, small group discipleship and establishing women’s ministries. She enjoys hiking and kayaking the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two teenage daughters. Melissa has a passion for helping others experience God’s kingdom and desires to equip God’s people for their calling.

  • How Do You Picture God?

    Have you ever stopped to think about how you picture God? Not what you know about Him, but how you picture Him. People are very visual and even if we have never seen God, our minds will still conjure up an image that we picture when we come to God in prayer.

    Sometimes when I come to God in prayer, I picture Him sitting on this magnificent throne. When I was 5th grade my family took a trip to Washington D.C. I can still vividly picture all the monuments and places I saw. They definitely left an impression on me. My favorite one by far was seeing the Lincoln Memorial. The vast proportion of the size of Lincoln sitting on what seemed like a big throne. It was so big in fact that I barely came up to the middle of his shoe. He sat there with his arms on the sides of the throne chair looking so majestic and dignified.

    Ever since then, when I think of God on His throne, that is what I picture. That He is so vast and so magnificent that I am grateful to be able to gaze upon Him. Even though this picture might make Him seem a little more distant like He is watching from above, there are times when I need this view of Him. When I am facing something so big in my life that I can’t see a way through it. I need the God who is big enough to handle it—who is on His throne in the Kingdom of God and who is in control.

    Other times when I come to God in prayer, I picture Him receiving me like a loving father. When I was a kid one of my favorite things was to curl up on my father’s lap when he was sitting in his recliner chair watching tv. I would climb into the big oversized chair and snuggle into his big strong arms. I felt safe and I felt loved. Now, when my heart is feeling tender and vulnerable and afraid, I come to my Heavenly Father, picturing Him as a loving Father opening His arms up wide and allowing me to snuggle into His embrace. There I find shelter from the storm, a peace in my soul that everything is going to be alright, and that I am loved by Him.

    What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

    A.W. Tozer

    What we think of when we think of God is one of the most important things about us. Our view of God and his relationship with us, especially how he deals with us when we stumble and fail, is critical to us growing in our faith. If we don’t have an accurate view of God or how He sees us, then it will keep us from coming to Him. The way we follow Jesus, how we read the Bible, how we live out our faith, how we see ourselves, all revolve around and are influenced by how we see God.

    Sometimes we struggle with coming to God in prayer because we are afraid of His reaction. The more we walk with Jesus, the more we try to actually do what He says, the more we are going to start running into our weaknesses, limitations, and sins. Unless we are equipped with grace, shame will rear its ugly head and we will give up.

    This is why what we think of when we think of God is so important. Do we picture Him looking upon us with disappointment? Do we see Him looking angry and ashamed of us because we just can’t get it right? Maybe we just see Him as aloof and uninterested, or even simply absent.

    Dear friend, making us second-guess God’s love is one of the devil’s oldest tricks. He will twist our thoughts and parade our failings before us until we shrink away in shame and self-doubt. He’ll tie us up in knots, until we are prisoners of self-loathing. He wants to make us forget who we are, and believe that we’ve wandered beyond God’s reach. It’s the biggest lie ever.

    We need to confront the lies of the enemy with the truth of who God is. This is why it is so important that we have an accurate view of God and of His character. The God we carry around in our minds needs to align with the God we see in the Bible. We read about Jesus interacting time and time again with compassion for the people He encountered, but it can sometimes be harder to see God this way. It is easier for us to have a screwed up picture of God, to see him more distant and stern and upset with us. What we need to remember is, if you can picture Jesus doing it, then you can picture God doing it, because Jesus is an exact representation of God (Colossians 1).

    When we approach God for help and go to Him in prayer, we need to know who we are encountering. Scripture tells us that He is a God of love, and more specifically—of grace. Remember the song? Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. We know this in our heads. But how far down into our hearts does this go? Do we truly believe this to be true about us?

    Here’s what we know to be true….God is love and it is the defining thing about him. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.”  1 John 4:16

    God is not just loving but He is the embodiment of love itself. He knows no other way. Born out of His great love, He chose to create us and give us life. Out of His love He also chooses to give us His grace, mercy and forgiveness.

    The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)  

    If you have children or a niece or a nephew, how do you feel about them? You probably have a fierce love for them–the feeling that you would do anything for them. Now, If they came to you upset because they messed up or feeling repentant, how would you respond? If it were my kids, I would want to receive them well and be a safe place for them to come and tell me anything. I would want them to know that their mistakes don’t change the love I have for them. That they are now and forever will be my children and nothing can change that. Now imagine your best version of yourself and how you want to be or respond as a parent, aunt, grandparent, etc. God is this times 100 million.

    God does it the right way every time. He doesn’t look at you with scorn or disappointment. He isn’t shaking His head because you messed up again. When we see God this way, it is because it is how we see ourselves. We end up making God in our image, assuming He would feel as we do or act as we would. We end up transferring our shame on Him, because of how we feel about ourselves.

    What’s so amazing about God is that He isn’t us and He isn’t a broken human–His love is not dimmed by the Fall. He is love itself! He knows no other way.

    Ephesians 1:5-8 reminds us of the truth:

    “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” (NLT)

    Dear friend, I want to invite you to take a moment today and think of how you see God. Are there insecurities or broken places in your heart that are affecting how you perceive God’s love for you? Are you projecting how you feel about yourself onto God and how He feels about you?

    Take stock of some of the things that come to mind and then go over the Scriptures in this devotional again. Meditate on the truths of God’s character and how He loves you. Sit in that space with Him for a little while and ask Him to help you form a more accurate view of Him.

    I pray that as you begin to see the truth of who God is and how He sees you, that you will not fear coming to Him. Invite Him into your mess. Bring Him all your fears and your doubts. May the truth of His love settle deep in your heart. Your Heavenly Father delights in spending time with you. You are God’s beloved daughter, and you are so very precious and loved.

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  • The Day Jesus Wept

    Jesus wept.

    The shortest sentence in the Bible yet one of the most profound statements ever uttered.

    These two words can seem so insignificant–they are just two words in the midst of a bigger story. In fact, it’s so easy to even blow right past them as we are reading the story of Lazarus. They are just two simple words but they have been speaking volumes to my heart.

    In recent days, I find myself understanding the depth of those words more and more. They are resonating with my soul. My heart has been so heavy these past several weeks. The shooting in Uvalde has me weeping for all the mothers and fathers. I’m a mother and I can’t even begin to comprehend this horrific tragedy and so many like them. As I see the news and hear reports from missionary friends in the Ukraine, my heart breaks yet again for the people who are experiencing such great suffering and loss. Two weeks ago, I lost my Aunt who has been struggling with multiple sclerosis for many years. She was too young to die.

    It’s not supposed to be this way. Every time I face the death of a loved one, every time I hear of a tragedy on the news, every time a friend gets bad news from the doctor, these words ring in my ears. It’s not supposed to be this way.

    I can feel deep in my soul–this ache that is more than just heartache, it is a deep longing for what God had intended for this world. He never intended for us to have to live in a broken world full of such suffering and loss. As I struggle with all the emotions that come with the heartache of this world, my heart has found comfort in the story of Lazarus in John 11:1-44. Starting in verse 17 it says:

    On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

    “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

    Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

    “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

    After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

    When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

    When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

    Jesus wept.

    Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

    Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

    Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

    When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

    Reading this story recently, I was caught off guard by the two little words, “Jesus wept”. When I usually read this story, I get so caught up in what is about to happen and how Jesus is going to save the day, that I miss the middle part where Jesus stops to weep with Mary and Martha. Have you ever wondered why Jesus wept?

    Jesus knew he had the power to fix this. He knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet he still stood next to Lazarus’ loved ones, in front of the grave stone and wept. Why did he weep? Why didn’t he just turn to Mary and Martha and say, “now, now it’s going to be ok. No need to cry. I’ll fix everything.”?

    What I find so comforting about this story is that Jesus didn’t just rush past the grieving and move straight to the resurrection. No, instead he took the time to stand next to them and weep with them. He met them in their grief. He came alongside them, into the midst of their situation and wept with them.

    Lazarus was his friend too and he loved him dearly, but I believe that Jesus wept for more than just the death of his friend. Since he knew he was about to bring him back to life, there had to be more to his tears. I can only imagine that Jesus wept because it pained him to see those around him in such heartache. I believe Jesus wept over the brokenness in this world. He wept for the fall of creation, he wept for the pain his beloved were in, he wept over the heartbreak of death itself.

    It’s not supposed to be this way.

    I can imagine that was what was going through Jesus’ mind too as he stood there weeping. Weeping for the pain of the world, weeping for what had been lost.

    Heartache and pain was never God’s intention for the world or for us. Humanity sinned in the Garden of Eden and death stole in–decay, destruction, evil, malice and the like. The world is now broken, we are broken and our hearts break again and again each time we are reminded that the world isn’t as it should be.

    Maybe your heart is breaking too. Please know Jesus is right there beside you. He is strong enough to stand in the midst of your grief and weep with you too. Your heartache is his heartache. God longs for so much more for his children. When we grieve, He takes the time to comfort us but he doesn’t stop there. God has been at work since sin first came and broke the world, to restore everything to the way it was supposed to be.

    Even though Martha had hope of the resurrection someday, Jesus gives her even greater hope. He sits with her in her grief and isn’t content to leave her with the hope of someday, but gives her hope in the present by revealing that he is the resurrection and the life. Through our belief in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have hope right now that death does not win. It may think it has won but the story isn’t over.

    Jesus has already conquered death and defeated the evil powers of this world and will return someday to complete the restoration and resurrection he has started. Like me, maybe you have a deep longing for that day! We long to see God finish His glorious work of restoring this world to its original intention. To bring us to the day where He will wipe every tear from our face. A day where there will be no more need for tears because He has made all things new again.

    Revelation 21:2-4 paints a beautiful picture of the hope that God is bringing about:

    I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    Until then, we wait in hope knowing it’s not supposed to be this way—and it won’t always be this way. Just like when Jesus stood before Lazarus’ tomb, he knows that there will be a day when he is coming back to make things right again. And until that day comes, we can be comforted by a God who will stay by our side through the trials of this life and weep alongside us in our grief, reminding us that the day is coming when there will be no need for tears anymore.

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  • Called Into Community

    I used to love getting ready to go places. I’d put on a cute outfit, maybe some booties, jeans and a cardigan with a long necklace. That was my go-to outfit before the pandemic. Now, my new daily outfit consists primarily of sweat pants and a hoodie. I find it harder than I used to to want to get dressed in normal attire and go out into public. I used to actually go into stores or out to eat in restaurants, but I find myself feeling like that is just too much effort. I’d much rather stay in my car, grab take-out and do the drive-up store pick up (I mean, that way I can still wear my sweats and I don’t have to break a sweat!). Anyone else in this boat??

    Do you have some new pandemic habits that have stuck even after you may no longer “need” them?

    Coming out of the pandemic, it seems we are all learning how to re-engage in life and in community after two long years of isolation and a daily rhythm that was anything but normal. After having to be separated from others and careful about keeping our distance, it is understandable that we may be hesitant to jump back in. For some people, there is a real need to continue to be cautious in order to keep their loved ones who are vulnerable safe. But the truth for most of us is that we have simply lost the habits we once had, like getting together with family and friends, volunteering at our kids’ school or going to church in person.

    We are creatures of habit. They say it takes 21 days of doing something to create a new habit. Well, we’ve had 2 years to create a whole new set of habits we’ve all gotten used to!

    It’s pretty normal for most of us to keep doing the things that we are used to doing until something interrupts them and we are forced to do something new. The pandemic forced us to change the way we did things and how we lived our lives. Out of necessity we had to create new ways of doing the things that were once normal, requiring us to stay home more and see people less. Whether we liked it or not, it was the way it was.

    Now as we are coming out of the pandemic, we need to recognize that some of the new ways of living that were once a necessity, may now no longer be helping us but rather hindering us. Some of our “new normals” are keeping us from the life in community that God wants for us.

    At first, online church made it possible to worship together, even though we were apart. But at some point it became easier to just stay home. We didn’t have to get out of our pjs or go anywhere. Working from home became the new norm, which can be great, but we also don’t have the same opportunities to interact meaningfully with others. The drive-up pick up became a thing everywhere and we had even more reasons to never talk to anyone or ever get out of our car. Are you seeing a trend here? 🙂

    The pandemic made it easier to escape into our own holes and ignore the world around us. Our new pandemic habit has been to “do our own thing” and to be honest, it can be so much easier than dealing with others. Relationships can be hard and socializing even harder, especially if you are an introvert. And while there are people we look forward to seeing and spending time with, there are also relationships in our lives that require a little more of our energy and patience.

    The problem with some of the new habits we may have acquired over the last couple of years is that they tend to only further isolate us and keep us from community. You see, community was created by God and for our good. We were always made for community–its God’s plan all along. It is through community that we best see Christ’s love displayed. As we do life together, we get to experience the abundant life Christ wants for us.

    Although we feel like staying home in our sweats because it is easier than being out in the world and in community, is it what we need? It is so much easier to let convenience and comfort become our biggest priorities. What we think we want, isn’t always what is best for us though. We need to be intentional about interrupting unhealthy rhythms and getting back to the abundant living God invites us into.

    Being in community helps us be our best selves because it requires us to give of ourselves, to think outside of our own mind and opinions, to serve others, to experience love and joy, forgiveness and kindness.

    Even God lives in community as the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). God’s plan for us has always been to live out our lives and faith in community.

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

    Hebrews 10:24–25

    I know sometimes when we hear this Scripture we can focus on the middle part and hear it in a guilt laden kind of way. Instead, as we look at the context, we see that this Scripture is reminding us what community is for–to spur one another on, to show Christ’s love, to serve one another as Christ would. The church is the body of Christ to the world.

    I believe the author of Hebrews is warning them that it can be easy to focus in our own stuff, especially in the world we live in today where it is super easy to keep to ourselves. But the author of Hebrews goes on to remind them just how important it is to stay in community because that is where the abundant life is. He wants them to remember that we need each other. When we are isolated and on our own too long, self-doubt and false narratives begin to fill our heads. It is when we come together in community that we are reminded of God’s truth and find encouragement to keep going when we want to give up.

    Being in God’s community helps us remember not only who God is, but who we are in Him. It is in the community of believers that we see a fuller, more comprehensive picture of God Himself. As the body of Christ, together we reflect God’s character of love and hope to a lost and lonely world.

    We’re our best selves when we’re experiencing life’s highs and lows with others. Being in community gives us the chance to be around people at different stages of their faith journey—and to bear their burdens alongside them (Galatians 6:2). That’s awesome because everyone has something to teach and to learn.

    Community helps form our character and gives us the opportunity to reflect Christ, offering and receiving love and forgiveness from one another. It smooths out our rough edges and refines our hearts in ways that self-reflection in solitude cannot.

    I know my endurance for socializing and being in community isn’t what it once was. Maybe you feel that way too. It may take some time to build and develop those social muscles all over again, but it begins with getting back out there. It’s going to take a willingness to break free from our “new normals” and step out of our comfort zones. It may even require you to ditch the sweat pants. 😉 But it will be SO worth it!

    So what are some baby steps each of us can take to get back into community?

    The best first step is to begin with prayer. Praying for a willing heart, saying  “Lord help me to want to be willing, even if I’m not right now”. Praying for God to open your eyes to the need for community, and give you a fresh appreciation for His people. Asking God to open your eyes to the fears that may be holding you back and help make your thoughts and actions obedient to Christ.

    As we get back out there, we have a chance to reprioritize the things that we are adding back into our lives, according to God’s Word and His Will. Some things may look different than they did before the pandemic, but that’s ok. Just keep leaning into God and His direction in your life, and He will lead you to where you are supposed to be–straight into His abundant life for you.

    This may look different for different situations (especially if there are special unique situations you are facing), but we all can find ways to connect to the outside world. It’s ok not to jump into it all at once. Just take the one small thing that you feel God is calling you to add back into your life. Maybe it is to call that friend and get together for coffee, or it is to try out that new church, or go back to church, or maybe it is inviting family over for dinner. It could even be as simple as bringing a neighbor some flowers.

    Take some time this week to pray about how God might bring you one step deeper into a life of community. There is abundant blessing waiting for you found only in a life lived together!

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  • Starting Your Day With Open Hands

    I recently took on a challenge by the pastor at my church that has changed the way I approach my day. He challenged us to start the day with open hands to the Lord. For many years now, I have started my day spending some time with my Lord in prayer and in His word, but I never realized how something as simple as physically opening my hands to the Lord can affect the posture of my heart.

    Our pastor invited us to start each day with physically opening our hands to the Lord, ready to receive all that the Lord has for us that day. He explained that when our hands are open, they are ready to receive, and our open hands make it possible to freely give as well.

    So, I decided I wanted to give it a try. Each morning, I started my prayer time by opening my hands and praying, “Lord, I come before you with open hands, ready to receive what you have for me today.” You may be thinking, in my heart I come with open hands already. I know it may sound strange, but actually opening my hands while I prayed changed my whole focus and countenance.

    Each morning as I came to the Lord with open hands, it became a time of prayerful expectation, knowing that God had good things in store for the day. I wanted to be open to receive all that God wanted to give me, such as his love, his joy, his peace and his goodness.

    But sometimes when our hands are full, there is no room to receive. Our burdens can be too heavy to hold. So, I started using this time with my hands open to not only receive, but to give God the burdens I was carrying. I began offering up all my fears, worries, and any bitterness and pride that might have crept in. As I released each of these things to God, it became easier to receive all He wanted for me in return.

    As the weeks went on, my heart became more and more open, as I continued to open my hands to the Lord. My prayers became “I bring you all I have to offer–all that I am and all that I have.” Through this prayer, I realized that part of what God wants to give me each day is an opportunity to be a part of His great work in this world.

    When we start our day with open hands we are expectantly looking toward what God might do throughout our day. We enter the day knowing He has something for us and we are ready to keep our eyes open to the possibility, and to where He is at work around us so we can join Him.

    Coming to God each day with open hands and an expectant heart allows us to see where he is leading us and the divine invitations He gives us each day, so we can be a part of the miraculous work He is about.

    So, will you join me in this challenge? Will you start your day tomorrow lifting open hands to the Lord? You can just start there, simply opening your hands to the Lord–it only takes a moment. But as you do it each day, you will find that your heart leans into the Lord a little more. Increasingly, you’ll find yourself open to receiving all the Lord has for you, and you’ll be ready to give Him all that you have in return. My prayer is that you will experience God in a fresh and new way and grow deeper in your relationship with Him.

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  • How To Press On When The Going Gets Tough

    Happy New Year! It is common this time of year to look forward to what a new year may bring and resolutely set out to do and be better. We set out with a vision of who we might become and set goals on how to get there. But so often, by February 1st (if we are lucky), we have already given up because it was too difficult, we got discouraged, something threw us off our game or we just ran out of sheer willpower to keep going.

    Last week, I challenged all of us to consider how we might grow in the Lord in the coming year. Whether it is to start each day looking at your Bible app instead of social media first thing in the morning or getting more involved with your church community or saying “yes” to something you know God is calling you to do, or whatever your next step toward a deeper relationship with God might be, each step we take toward this goal is a worthy one to pursue.

    But just like with other goals, when it comes to growing in our faith and setting out to seek the Lord more in the new year, we must be prepared to face some difficulties and obstacles that will try to discourage us and make us give up on our goals. Even with our best planned efforts, we can get disheartened when the change we want doesn’t happen as fast or in the way we had hoped for.

    This year, I want us all to make it past February 1st and be able to look back at the end of this coming year, seeing how God worked mightily in each of our lives! In order to see growth in our lives and not grow discouraged when challenges or difficulties arise, we must know how to press on.

    In Hebrews 12:1-3, we find a verse that speaks directly to this situation:

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

    The author of the book of Hebrews is encouraging us with these verses in chapter 12 to not give up–the reward of our efforts will be worth it! Growing in our faith and in the Lord is a worthy goal and one that we must continually seek in life as we “run the race with perseverance”.

    In the times when it gets difficult and I start to get discouraged, I try to remember that I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses–people who have gone before me in faith and in whom I can find encouragement. Knowing others have conquered something that I want to conquer helps me stay the course. Their victory over the finish line or through a season of difficulty, helps me remember that there is victory waiting for me too. By our own strength and willpower we can accomplish good things, but when we are being encouraged by a faith community, we can do so much more. Our faith is built upon the faith of those who have gone before us and we are encouraged by those who are alongside us now.

    In addition to the encouragement we receive from those around us, we must also be intentional about reaching our goal to grow deeper in faith. We need a steadfastness that says, “no matter what, I’m committed to making this happen.” Verse one says that we are to throw off everything (not some or just a little, but ev-er-y-thing!) that is hindering our faith and growth in the Lord, especially the sin that can entangle us like a vine and pull us away from God. Part of the “no matter what…” is to be willing to let God take away the things that are not helping us but hindering us in reaching our faith growth.

    Once we have removed what’s hindering our progress, it can feel like smooth sailing until you hit the first obstacle. Things will be going well, and then you or someone in your family gets the flu or you go on vacation and your rhythm gets disrupted and next thing you know you get thrown off the path toward your goal. Has that ever happened to you? I know it has for me! It’s in the face of these challenges that we must rely on God’s strength and the encouragement of others to persevere when the going gets tough. We have to make an intentional decision: Are we going to stay the course or give up? Will we lean into God and allow Him to cultivate perseverance in us?

    You are able to persevere only when you have our eyes on the prize–staying focused on who you want to become and where God is taking you. We must all fix our eyes on Jesus! Not only is He our example but He is our guide. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can bring the growth we long for in our lives. God not only created us but is the author of life! He probably knows something about how to live that life well. He has gone before us and endured more than we can possibly imagine, but was still the ultimate example of how to complete the race in victory! As we allow Him, by His grace, He will transform us into people of deep and rich faith–people who walk more and more into who He is calling us to be!

    So, while there may be times that you start to grow weary, do not give up. Stay the course and keep running that race to the finish line! You can do it–you got this! And more importantly, God’s got you!

    If you have a faith goal this year, please email us and let us know. We would love to be praying for you!

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  • Looking Back to Look Ahead

    I love the New Year! There is something about a fresh start, a new beginning and a time to reflect back on the past year and look ahead to what the new year may bring. Every year, my husband, my two daughters and I have a tradition where we go to a coffee shop on New Year’s Day and spend some time reflecting and looking ahead.

    Our lives are busy, as most peoples are, and we want to be intentional to make sure we don’t miss it. We have found that setting aside some time for reflection allows us to pause and take a moment to see where we have been and where we are going. Through this time we look at all that has happened in the last year (good and bad) and how God has worked in our lives in each of those moments.

    If you’re like me, you can get to the end of the year and wonder, “what did we do this year? I can’t even seem to remember what I did yesterday!” It’s pretty normal to get to the end of the year and feel like not much happened. I know that is exactly how my kids felt about 2020. To them it seemed as if the whole year was a bust and we did nothing. But upon some reflection and looking back, we realized that we had still managed to make tons of great memories through walks in nature, some camping trips, game and movie nights and so many other blessings (like getting a new house!). What helps me remember, is to look back through my pictures and go month by month in my calendar to jog my memory.

    Whenever we take the time to recount the past year, my family ends up having fun remembering the places we went, the milestones and accomplishments that happened, the holidays we celebrated and the new friends we made in the year. Even in years when there have been times of grief and stress and difficulty, remembering the ways God faithfully brought us through it and the rich blessings in between brings us peace and hope moving into the new year.

    Reflection can be vulnerable and difficult work but it is so worth it. Often we are afraid to stop long enough to reflect, because we don’t want to be faced with all the things we wish we would’ve, should’ve, could’ve. Maybe you are ashamed that you didn’t do any of the things you set out to do last January 1st. Or maybe this past year just didn’t turn out like you had hoped it would. Please don’t let these things keep you from this intentional and important work. Only by looking back to see where you have come from can you then take all that you experienced and learned and begin to look ahead.

    Allow this to be a time that you invite your compassionate and merciful Heavenly Father into the process. He longs for you to have a full and abundant life. The only way we can truly have this type of life is through following Him. He is our source of life and the only way toward the abundant life He has for us.

    As we wrap up 2021, I would encourage you to take some time either by yourself or with friends or family members to look back at this past year. Here are some questions that my family goes through each year, that you are welcome to use as well:

    • What were a few of our favorite moments of last year?
    • What can we celebrate about last year? (a new job, a new house, achieving a goal, etc)
    • What were the hard or difficult things this last year has brought?
    • How did we see God at work in our lives last year?
    • What ways were we able to be a part of the work God was doing in the world this past year?
    • What should we do less of or get rid of? What should we do more of or start doing?

    After taking stock of the past year, then take some time to look ahead to what is to come. If the past year has been a difficult one for you, a new and fresh start can be so welcoming! If you realized that last year wasn’t all you wanted it to be, you get to put the old behind and start anew. God’s mercies are new every morning! God is all about making things new, and we are always invited to join Him.

    ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.'” 

    Isaiah 43:18-19

    The new year is a fresh start to re-commit all aspects of your life to the Lord. Allow Him to guide your steps in the coming year. Just as it is important to reflect back, it is equally important to look ahead. Take a moment to just imagine what this new year can bring. Here are some questions that to ponder about the coming year and pray about with God:

    • What might God be wanting to do in your life in the coming year?
    • How could you join God in what He is doing?
    • What ways can you grow in your relationship with God, with your family, and with your church community?
    • What are 3 things you really want to happen in the coming year?

    It is my prayer for you that you will intentionally look to God in this coming year, knowing that He is always at work and He is always working on your behalf. God invites you to be still and rest in Him so that you can see Him at work in the blessings around you. You are His precious child and He longs for you to live the amazing and abundant life He has for you!

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  • Guiding Us Toward the Path of Peace

    I love reading the Christmas story with my kids each year. We curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace, all cozy in our fuzzy blankets and jammies, each night before bed and read about when our Lord came to earth as a baby (out of his great love for us) to bring us hope and joy and peace.

    And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

    Luke 1:76-79

    These words were spoken by Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, when he saw his miracle child. Zechariah was a priest, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, had just given birth to their son, named John. Zechariah and Elizabeth had been childless for many years and were well past child-bearing age when this miracle happened to them.

    John was the one prophesied to come before Jesus and sent to prepare a way for Him, announcing His coming. Up to this point, the whole world had been waiting in the darkness for the light of hope to come. This story of John ushers us into the very beginning of the Christmas story–a story of when the light of the world came to “guide our feet into the path of peace”, to bring us hope in salvation and forgiveness of sin. John’s role was to point to Jesus and go ahead of him, giving the people hope that the one whom they have been waiting for, for so many years, is finally here!

    Jesus is “the rising sun”, shining light into the darkness in order to guide us into his peace. As we allow the light of Jesus to illuminate the dark places in our life, the peace of Christ comes to us and replaces all fear and doubt with rest and assurance.

    Father God, we ask that you help us see the areas of our lives where we need your light to shine forth in darkness. Bring your everlasting peace to our hearts and souls, replacing all fear and doubt, and helping us point others to you, the Prince of Peace. We long for true peace that comes only through your son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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  • Grateful for God’s Enduring Love

    As we get closer to the end of the year, I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to feel a little worn out from all the ups and downs that this year has brought. In my moments of stress or fatigue, it can be easy to forget the many ways God has lovingly brought me through each thing I have faced this year. But the great thing about the end of the year is that we typically end the year with a season of gratitude followed by a season of giving!

    There is no better way to close out a long, hard year than with a opportunity to remember all that we do have and the ways God has brought us through this year. This season is a time that we have set aside to appreciate our family and friends and all that we have. It’s a time to pause and remember that God is good. Even through the hardships we are currently facing, God is still good. He is with you and upholds you with His love.

    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever…Give thanks to the God of Heaven. His love endures forever.”

    Psalm 136:1, 26

    We give thanks because His love for us endures always. He is God yesterday, today and forever. He has made us in His image and we are His children. His faithfulness to us never ends. His love for us started at the beginning of time, it broke into the world the night that Jesus was born, and He demonstrated His love for us when His son Jesus went to the cross.

    Not only did He love us then, He loves us now, and He will love us tomorrow. His love endures forever. His love lasts, it remains firm, it is unyielding. In a world where love seems to come and go with no real certainty, knowing this kind of secure love from God brings us so much peace and joy. Romans 8:38-39 says in Christ, there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s love.

    As we reflect on this past year, we can see the many ways God has shown us His love through the people in our lives, His blessings and provision, through answered prayers, and even unanswered ones. We can look back and see His loving touch in so many details of our lives.

    Thank you God for loving us with an unending love. It is hard to grasp “forever”, but we are thankful for your love that is both ancient and new every morning. As we reflect on the ways you show your love to us each and every day, we give you thanks. In Christ, Amen.

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  • Confident Hope

    At the beginning of last Fall, my family found ourselves needing to find a new place to live. The house we had been renting at a low price for the last 9 years was being put up for sale and we had to move. The housing situation in our area was a bit precarious, with high rent prices and even higher sale prices, so we weren’t sure what we were going to do. With housing prices that seemed out of reach and not very many houses on the market to begin with, our situation didn’t seem to have a good solution. We were faced with a situation that we certainly did not know how to solve–all we could do was pray and hope in the Lord to bring us the right place to live in the right time.

    Sometimes we are afraid to hope…to let go and trust that everything is firmly in God’s grasp. Hope can be difficult when we live in a broken world that is filled with disappointments. But hope, true hope, is found in trusting in the Lord. Though hope in the things in this world may have brought disappointment, we never have to fear putting our hope in the Lord.

    In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

    Psalm 25:1-5

    Psalm 25, in the words of King David, says that those who hope in God will not be put to shame. Usually when we hear the word “shame” we think of humiliation or embarrassment, but “shame” in this verse refers to being let down or disappointed, meaning that if you hope on the Lord, He will not let you down. Some translations use the word “wait” or “trust.” In other words, no one who waits, hopes or puts their trust in the Lord will be let down. He is SO trustworthy–we never have to fear placing our hope on our Lord!

    “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

    Romans 5:5

    Now that doesn’t mean that as a Christian you will never be disappointed. Instead, it means that as you wait actively on the Lord and hope in Him, not in what He will do for you, but confidence in who He is, then you will not be disappointed. Sometimes we make the mistake of focusing on the thing we want or need most, instead of focusing firmly on the Lord. We can actively participate in hope through our prayers lifted up to God, asking Him to teach us His ways and to guide our hearts toward His will.

    The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary describes hope as “the eye of faith which looks forth clear and fixedly into the future.”

    While we didn’t know where we would land or how it would be possible to make getting a house a reality, God knew. We trusted in the fact that God already knew our future and had it all under control. We may not have been able to see it yet, but He could. He knew how our situation would all work out and He was actively bringing it all together for our good. We had faith that God would take care of us and we didn’t need to fear (although, I must admit it was still stressful at times for this “must-plan-everything” gal!).

    So, we actively stepped forward in faith and took the steps that we knew to do, and God led and guided us to just the right house. In His loving kindness, God provided all we needed to make buying the house a reality. Things came together in ways that still blow my mind when I think about it! It had God’s fingerprints all over it!

    Sometimes we must wait a long time for what we hope for to happen. It can be difficult to always see where and how God is working in our lives and in our situations. Even in these times, we can have confidence in who God is and that He is indeed working on our behalf to bring about good in this world and in our lives. Biblical hope is an active waiting with confident anticipation.

    In Psalm 23, King David is appealing on behalf of all of us in his prayer, that we might not be ashamed of our hopeful expectation, by the delay, or the denial of what we ask–that as we wait on the Lord in worship, trust in His love, seek and experience His presence, and look ahead to salvation in Jesus, we will not be put to shame.

    Maybe you have been waiting in hope for a long time for that job, a spouse, a child or a realization of a dream. If you are weary in waiting or lacking in confident hope today, I pray that you will hear these words prayed thousands of years ago by King David, that were prayed for you as well, and be encouraged. Even if you are unsure on how God is working, you can be confident that He is a God who loves you more than you can even imagine and has wonderful and amazing plans in store for you! Hold on to hope in God and His promises–it doesn’t disappoint!

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  • You Are Redeemed

    The last few weeks we’ve been taking a look at different aspects of our identity in Christ. As we turn our focus to Easter this weekend, we are reminded that the most important part of our identity is that we are REDEEMED!

    Redemption is not a concept we hear about much in our daily lives. Every year, around Easter, we focus again on what Christ has done for us, but to be honest, my brain kind of just glosses over the term. What does it mean to be redeemed? What was I redeemed from?

    For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

    1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV

    This Scripture so beautifully captures not only what we were redeemed from but shows the weight of the cost. In the New Testament, redemption is used to refer both to deliverance from sin and to freedom from captivity. When Adam and Eve chose disobedience and brought sin into the world, humanity was now held captive by sin and death. This way of life only brought grief, evil, destruction and separation from God. Sin owned us–we were helpless against its power. This life of sin kept us from living the life we were intended to have–a life of joy and peace and flourishing.

    But God in His deep abiding love for us, began making a way for us to be brought back to full relationship with Him–restored to who He created us to be. He rescued us from darkness and a life of imprisonment to sin, and set us free so sin no longer had control over us. Jesus redeemed our life by restoring ownership to God.

    It is only through Jesus giving up His perfect life in exchange for ours, that we are redeemed. We were not redeemed by things that don’t last, but a once and for all act of mercy and grace. Our redemption cannot be undone–it is eternal.

    Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

    Romans 5:1-2 NLT

    This redemption and new life that God has given us comes from the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Praise be to God! Not only are we redeemed but we are also chosen by God to be His sons and daughters. He has set us free in order that we may live in the world that He intended. As His redeemed, beloved daughters, we can boldly run into His arms without guilt, shame or hindrance. We are now His and we now belong to the Kingdom of God.

    As we enter this weekend of remembrance, please take some time to thank Jesus for rescuing us and redeeming us. Rejoice in knowing that Jesus has paid the price for our freedom and we can walk confidently and joyfully in God’s love and grace this Easter!

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