Heart Stuff

  • Made New In Christ

    With flowers popping up, and more blue-sky days in the week, the optimism of a new season is all around. Especially coming out of dark winter, the light and new life of spring offers a welcome reprieve, full of promise and hope.

    I have been inspired by all this newness to do some spring cleaning. I opened up the windows to let in the breeze and aired out the all stale corners of the house that haven’t seen the bright light of day in a while. I even dusted the hard-to-reach places.

    Personally, there are parts of my heart that could use the same treatment. There are hidden corners in my soul that haven’t seen the bright light of day in a while. Parts of me that are still holding on to old ways instead of walking renewed in the light of Christ.

    I sometimes forget the power that we have through Jesus. His story did not end at the cross, yet often I live as though it did. The comfort of consistency quietly draws me back into old familiar ways, even when I know there is a better way. Whether it is a lack of self-control, being short-tempered, or even just a bit lazy, if I am not intentional about letting the Holy Spirit renew my mind, I miss out on the freedom and joy of living in the light.

    What if we all believed in and lived out the truth that the cross was not the end, it was the plot twist? When all seemed lost, Jesus overcame death, and the grave, and rose to life again. When we choose to follow Christ and clothe ourselves in His righteousness through baptism, the old ways fade away like snow in the early spring. We can throw open the shutters of our hearts and breathe deeply of new mercies, not just once, but every morning. We are released from the slavery of sin and are made new by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. In Christ, we are raised to new life–to walk in new ways, running toward new hope.

    There’s a great illustration of this in one of my favorite movies, the Coen Brothers’ comedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Three escaped convicts, Everett, Delmar, and Pete are on the run and have just narrowly escaped the sheriff and his hounds. They pause for a moment in their journey to build a fire, eat, and rest, when they hear some faint singing.

    The three men stand bewildered, as they watch a church congregation walking toward a nearby river to be baptized. Delmar sees a chance for redemption, and the draw is irresistible. He runs as fast as he can to the water, confesses his sin, and is baptized. When he comes up out of the water, he looks to his companions and calls out to them from the shore, “Well, that’s it, boys! I’ve been redeemed…It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting is my reward. The preacher says all my sins have been washed away! Neither God nor man’s got nothing on me now! Come on in boys, the water is fine.”

    As strange as it may sound, I can’t watch this scene without thinking of my own baptism and tearing up. While I didn’t “knock over a Piggly-Wiggly” like Delmar did to earn his jail sentence, I have had my share of mistakes. I’ve had sin in my life that I wanted to be washed away. I’ve longed for the ultimate spring cleaning of my heart to lead me to the freedom of a new life in Christ.

    Throughout the rest of the movie, Delmar sticks to his promise. He is a new creation. While the company he keeps continues to be a little rough around the edges, the film culminates with his friends’ ultimate repentance and an allusion to their salvation. And while O Brother, Where Art Thou is not a Christian film, Delmar’s response in this particular scene reminds me of Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT):

    “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

    We have an opportunity every day to throw off the old ways and run toward new life in Christ. With a childlike faith, we can lean into the love of Christ, take hold of the redemption offered to us, and live empowered by the Holy Spirit, being continually renewed and made to look more like Jesus every day. What spring cleaning needs to be done in your life? Come on in darling, the water is fine.

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  • He Knows My Name

    Have you ever wondered, “Where is God?” Does He ever seem to have disappeared or gone missing? I know I have! There are times when He feels far away and I have trouble feeling His love and presence.

    With Easter coming up, I have been thinking a lot about what those days following the crucifixion must have been like for the followers of Jesus. They had just spent several years with Jesus, he knew them so well and they knew him well. He was the one they left everything for, the one they believed save the world, the one who they would follow to the ends of the earth. Yet they had just witnessed the one they loved, die on a cross and be buried in a tomb and with him, their hope. This was their darkest hour. Can you even imagine how confused and sorrow-filled they all must have felt?

    Recently when I was reading the book of John, the story of one woman in particular caught my attention. It was Mary Magdalene. Mary was one of the women that traveled with Jesus and financially supported him in his ministry. Jesus delivered her from a life of misery by driving seven demons out of her. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the gospels, showing the important role she had in the life and ministry of Jesus. Not only was she present to see all his ministry and miracles, but she was standing there at the cross (John 19:25) grief-stricken and heart-broken. As a final act of love, she purchased burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early the next morning, she went to the tomb with her spices only to discover that the tomb is empty! Jesus was missing. Can you imagine her horror and confusion?

    Now Mary [Magdalene] stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

    At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

    Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. – John 20:14-18

    Mary Magdalene was the first person to discover Jesus was no longer in the tomb. She was devastated and confused to see that the tomb was empty. She did not know what had happened, only that her Lord was missing. Even when Jesus appeared and spoke to her, she did not yet recognize him. Was she too caught up in her grief or maybe in the task of trying to find him? I wonder how many times I have not recognized Jesus when he was right next to me all along?

    Jesus simply speaks her name, and instantly she recognizes him and calls out to him. She turned to him, so excited to be with him. He was there all along. This tender moment when he simply says her name, shows how much she meant to him. Jesus had just gone through a torturous and horrible death, descended into hell itself and conquered death to come back to life. He was about to gather his followers to pass on the great commission and ascend into Heaven, yet he stopped and took the time to come alongside Mary. In the midst of her grief, he took the time to comfort her and let her know he was there. He chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to see him after His resurrection and share the most important message of all time. Jesus reassured her of her place in God’s family. All it took was her hearing him say her name, and she saw him for who he really was–her Lord and Messiah.

    Dear friend, Jesus knows you by name as well. Even in the times when it seems like He is nowhere to be found, He is with you and calls you by name. Turn your face toward Him and recognize He is right there with you. He longs to comfort you and remind you that you are loved and so very precious to Him!

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  • The Heart of Purpose

    We have been talking about purpose a lot here at Revive Ministries. It is a topic that is popping up everywhere because, as humans, we long for purpose and direction. It is how we are put together. No one wants to feel like they are just a proverbial hamster on the wheel of life. But it can feel really challenging to find your purpose, let alone live it out. Hopefully the last couple of “Revive Your Week” articles have given you a solid place to start to prayerfully discerning your purpose. (You can read the previous articles on purpose here: “Made For Purpose” and “Living On Purpose”

    Sometimes in seeking our purpose we often fail to thrive in our purpose because we have not taken care of our heart. We are all living in different seasons of life and each season has its own purposes, but many times our hearts still don’t feel content or fulfilled. We find ourselves longing for something more or something different, even when our purpose is clear. I believe this is the heart-piece of all this purpose-talk and the root of finding peace and joy in every season to which we are called.

    When we look back at the book of Genesis, we see that God made people on purpose and for a purpose. When he created Adam and Eve, He made them stewards over all of creation. He gave them specific tasks to care for the world around them and to make something of it, and He invited them to enjoy their calling. They had a sense of purpose and the benefit of God’s eternal perspective guiding them. They didn’t have to “play the game” or engineer their own success, because they had God right there before them, showing them the best way. They had peace and fulfillment, living purposefully in God’s daily presence.

    In Genesis chapter 3, we meet a new creature, the serpent. The serpent was described as more crafty than any of the wild animals. (Genesis 3:1) I’m kind of a word-nerd, and the word “crafty” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “clever at attaining one’s ends by indirect and often deceptive means”. The serpent’s agenda is not God’s agenda. He intends to corrupt peace and derail purpose. The serpent deceives Eve, telling her that if she eats from tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, her eyes will be opened, and she will be like God. He plants a seed of doubt in her mind by twisting the truth and making her question God’s goodness and sovereignty. The serpent convinces Eve that God is intentionally withholding something good from her. As she bought into that lie, an initial seed of doubt grew into an ugly weed of discontentment. Eve decided to take matters into her own hands, and in her fear of missing out, she relied upon on her own understanding and lost sight of what was true.

    That same seed of doubt pervades our culture today, stirring discontentment and the fear that we are missing out. The enemy still whispers in our ear, “If God really loved you, your life would be easier and your prayers would be answered the way you wanted. Look at your friend over there…if God really cares then why doesn’t your life look more like hers?”

    Discontentment is one of Satan’s greatest tools in derailing purpose and destroying peace. It is the same trick we see in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. He convinced Eve that she was missing out and not living up to her fullest potential. Likewise, he lures us into believing that in our current season of life, our purpose is not enough. While we can often recognize discontentment, we don’t always see that at the root of it is the false belief that God is intentionally withholding something good from us.

    This is such a subtle deception that can take hold in our hearts, without even being aware of it. That’s why it is so important to look honestly at our hearts and take any false thoughts captive. Are there areas in your life where you feel discontented? Do you believe God is holding back good from you? When you find yourself feeling like you are missing out on something good, or when it is tough to see how God is using you in your current season, tell God about it, ask Him for what you need. He wants to be in relationship with you, and provide for all your needs. He already knows what you need before you even ask it and He wants to give you good things (Matthew 6:8, 2 Corinthians 9:8). In the book of Matthew, Jesus says…

    Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

    Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT)

    We are human and perpetually get things wrong. Yet, we know how to give good things to our kids and loved ones when they ask for it. God in His infinite wisdom, love and perfection knows even better how to give us good things. And what’s more, he knows when to give them and in just the right ways.

    One of my favorite quotes is by Lysa Terkeurst: “God loves you too much to answer your prayer in any other way than the right way, and at any time other than the right time.” This perspective of trust in God and how much He loves us is freeing, and reminds us of the relationship that God wants with us.

    Jesus encourages us continually ask and seek good things from our Heavenly Father. We are invited to be in relationship with God so that we can stay grounded in the truth of God’s character, and experience His benevolence and kindness. As we spend time with God, our perspective is no longer limited to what we can see and understand because we have God right there with us, showing us the best way. His eternal perspective helps us to know what to ask for and how to best live out the good purposes He has in store for us.

    When we believe that God has intentionally given us good things and put us right where we are for a good purpose, we can begin to see the everyday things, in any season as joy-giving and purposeful.

    I worked in healthcare for 13 years before pursuing my dream of doing full time women’s ministry and working in media. During that time, my health care job was important to my patients, and to my family, and helped provide for our physical needs. I enjoyed the work I did and wasn’t unhappy, but neither was I completely satisfied. I always felt like there was more, someday, to be achieved. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, just that there was more. I wanted to feel a greater sense of purpose in my career and in my life so that I could better use the gifts that God had given me. I wrestled with God a lot about timelines and details about what that might look like and when it would be time to step out in faith and pursue the dreams that were on my heart. On more than one occasion, I tried to do things my way, in my own time, only to end up back where I started. I had to trust and wait patiently on the Lord. When the time finally came, God made it clear what He was calling me to and everything fell into place. I have seen God at work more in these past few years than ever before.

    My career change was a dramatic shift that left me wondering if the 13 years in health care was a waste. Looking back now, I can see that God was cultivating in me the character and skills that I would need to walk in my current calling. Just like He is preparing me for the next season after this one.

    God will use all of our experiences to work out His good and perfect purposes. About two years ago, my mom had major heart surgery. She spent several days in the hospital after surgery transitioning from intensive care to a cardiac surgical unit, and then home. It was no coincidence that the first five years of my health care career were spent in a cardiac unit at a hospital. God had equipped me during that time with skills that I could never have anticipated needing, so that I could care for my mom and support my family when they needed it most. My experience in healthcare strengthened my own constitution, preparing me for what to expect, so I could stay calm and process all that was happening.

    Now, a couple years later, my mom is the healthiest she’s ever been, and we are celebrating her new lease on life together. All that time I had spent feeling adrift and wondering what God had in store for me, had culminated beautifully in one purposeful moment that made it all worthwhile. Had God answered my prayer to be an R&B musician right out of college, I would have been ill-equipped and of little service to my family in that time when my mom’s heart failed and surgery was required. God simply knew better.

    And that is just the outcome I could see. There are thousands of ripples from thousands of interactions with patients that all impact God’s kingdom. Everything we do, in every season can have eternal purpose.

    I want to encourage you to spend some time with God this week talking about your season and your purpose. Let the love of our Heavenly Father bring healing and peace to the places where discontentment has taken root. You can trust that God is not withholding good from you, but He is active and working on your behalf. No matter what season you are in, you have a purpose and God will use this time to bring about good things and blessing in your life and the lives of others.

    “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”- 2 Corinthians 9:8

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  • Radiant and Unashamed

    When we talk about our identity in Christ and who we are in light of His love for us, I find that we, as women, often have two simultaneous and opposing thoughts.

    There’s the positive, upbeat identity we feel we should have or want to have, of being a daughter of the Most High God, loved, redeemed and free. And then in the same train of thought, many of us experience an unforgiving wave of shame that keeps us from believing any of that could possibly be true.

    A lot of times we confuse shame with guilt, but they are two very different things. Guilt tells us there is something wrong with our actions-but not something inherently wrong with who we are. Guilt spurs us on to repentance and change, but our identity is unaltered, left intact. We are still loved, and we know it, or we wouldn’t try to do better. Guilt can positively shape our character and is productive in the same way that pain is helpful in diagnosing injury or illness. It points us toward what can be fixed and made better.

    Shame, on the other hand, is never good and has the power to make us feel bad about who we are. It redefines our identity by what we do or don’t do. It makes us feel small, unworthy, unloved and insecure. It causes us to feel that any moment God’s grace for us will surely run out.

    Shame separates us from God, not because He moves away from us, but because we run and hide from Him. Take Adam and Eve for instance. When they first sinned in the Garden of Eden, they hid from God. Even though they knew God and saw Him face to face every day, they were ashamed and ran from Him. Shame clouded how they saw God and themselves. What is the very next thing that God did? He pursued them, he looked for them and called out to them. Sure He knew where they were, but the love communicated in God’s pursuit is astounding.

    In order to understand and truly experience the love of God, we have to look at how our “shame-filter” alters our perception about the very gospel of Jesus and nature of God.

    When we read the Gospel, or “good news about Jesus” in the Bible, we often hear it summarized it like this: “We are sinners. And our sin separates us from God. But God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross, be buried, and after three days, come back to life, all to take away our sin.”

    The “good news” here is that even though we are sinners, there is grace for us through Jesus. That is good news! But maybe this summarization of the gospel emphasizes our own filter of shame. Summing up the Gospel this way places our primary identity in what we do. We. Are. Sinners. But what if we are more than that?

    What if we zoomed out and looked at the Gospel through the whole story of God’s love woven throughout the Bible. We might summarize it more like this:

    “We are God’s beloved, created in His image, in whom Christ dwells and delights. We make mistakes and we still sin. But our sin does not define us, meaning it is not our primary identity. It is something that we do, and we continue to strive to leave sin behind. Because God loves us so much, and keeps on loving us, He has gone to great lengths to conquer sin and make a way for us to be with Him. He gave His own Son to die on the cross in our place, to take the weight of our sin away, to bury our shame with him and three days later, to come back to life so that we can be raised to new life with Him, unashamed and radiant, a new creation, never to be separated from His love.”

    Do you hear the difference? When we place our identity in our sinfulness, it slowly erodes the truth that we are first and foremost, God’s beloved daughters.

    Let me balance out the scripture scales here. Yes, we need grace! No, we should not continue to sin, just to experience more grace. We should not and cannot take sin lightly. Romans 6 says we are made new through Christ and should live like it. That is why it is so important to not allow the enemy to turn productive guilt into paralyzing shame.

    “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5

    We have loving Creator who knows us and longs to have relationship with us. He is not waiting for us to slip up so He can bring down the hammer of punishment. He lovingly pursues us, calling out to us by name. He already knows exactly where we are, and is waiting to gently lead us back to restored relationship with Him.

    When we look to God as the source of our identity and redemption, we are so filled with His love that there is no room for shame. We are no longer defined by our sin, but we are given a clean slate and a new beginning. We see ourselves as God sees us and our identity is unshakable.

    1 John 2:28 encourages, “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

    Dear sister, stay in relationship with Jesus so that you can continually be reminded of who you are in Him. Continue in Him, keep your face toward His, so that you can be confident! Step out into the light with me, feel the sunshine on your face. You are forgiven, loved and complete in Christ. Let’s live like the beloved daughters of God that we are, radiant and unashamed.

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  • Blessed Assurance

    “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story– those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” Psalm 107:2 

    Valentine’s Day is today, and while Netflix is teeming with rom-coms and happily-ever-afters, real life isn’t quite as formulaic as my favorite chick flick. There is no soft filter smoothing the fine lines on my face from where I smile, and no theme song playing in the background. I don’t have a trendy assistant/best friend that brings me my coffee while we banter about our latest shenanigans. And I don’t wear Gucci or Prada.

    My story is a little less shiny. There are seasons of joy and sorrow, faith and doubt. There are times of courage and times of fear. I’ve experienced love, romance and marriage, with flowers and all the feels and mushy stuff. There have also been hard days, when we honestly didn’t know how we were going to work things out.

    My husband and I know the joy and challenges of having two awesome kids.

    We know the pain of grief and the hope of heaven as we wait to meet loved ones again someday.

    There have been detours and windy roads, ambiguous places where it wasn’t clear what to do. Whole chapters of my life story are all about waiting, and then waiting some more. And every now and then there’s a lightning bolt of clarity and direction, launching me into a new and exciting adventure.

    But as I look back over my 39 years, I see another story as well. The story of Jesus, at work in my life, laughing when I’m goofy, crying with me when I weep, redeeming my pain for purpose and standing by me triumphantly in victory. His presence has been constant, even when I wasn’t looking for him.

    God has written my story into His bigger story of love. He has gone to the greatest lengths to make sure that we can be with Him, secure and loved. His love is true and perfect. God’s love drives out fear. It’s patient and kind, and keeps no record of the wrong we do. It endures all things. In fact, the theme of the entire Bible is the story of God’s unfailing love for us!

    This is the firm foundation upon which our identity is grounded. Who we are at our very core is “beloved by God”. On days like Valentine’s Day, it can be tempting to let the world’s expectations, or even our own, creep in and stir up comparison and disappointment. But regardless of our relationship status, how many friends reach out on Facebook to wish us a Happy Day, or how pampered we feel, we can know, without a doubt that we are loved by God.

    There’s a hymn I grew up singing in church and it is one of my very favorites. I think it perfectly captures the peace of being so beloved by our Lord.

    Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
    O what a foretaste of glory divine
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God
    Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

    Perfect submission, all is at rest
    I in my Savior am happy and blessed
    Watching and waiting, looking above
    Filled with His goodness, lost in His love

    This is my story, this is my song
    Praising my Savior all the day long
    This is my story, this is my song
    Praising my Savior all the day long

    Our life may not be perfect, but we can have the perfect love of Jesus. He never abandons us, he pursues us and protects us. We get to experience that perfect submission and rest that the song speaks of. We are filled with God’s goodness and can get lost in His love.

    What’s more, when we embrace our belovedness to God, we begin to see the belovedness of others. It changes how we interact with the world around us and gives us a heavenly perspective. We feel more loved by others because God is first and foremost filling us with His perfect love. We can in turn, show love to others who need it, and live a life with our minds free from comparison and insecurity.

    Let this be your story and song too! Rest in knowledge that the God who created the universe and all things in it, thought the world needed one of you too. You have value and worth, and are deeply, and profoundly loved.

    Happy Valentine’s Day friend!

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  • You Are God’s Beloved

    There are a lot of days when I look back and think with disappointment, “Well I was definitely not my best self today.” You know those days, when you lose your keys in the freezer and go to work late with your shirt on inside out, only to find out you forgot about a meeting. By the time you get home you’re short-tempered and muttering under your breath at anyone who dares to even raise an eyebrow to you. And then there’s your friend over there, with her perfect everything, living her super-duper life where nothing goes wrong and everything goes right, and how on earth does she get perfect brows and winged eyeliner every single day?!

    Truth be told, I don’t like myself on those days. I hate feeling less-than and insecure, lost in comparison to those who seem like they have it all together. It leaves my mind spinning, and suddenly everything is about me. I over analyze people’s moods, second guess the conversation in the break room, and ultimately doubt my own value. But that mindset is not of God.

    I recently started following a podcast called Things Above with James Bryan Smith. It’s a podcast dedicated to training the mind to focus on “things above” based on the Bible verse Colossians 3:2. My sweet friend, I recently heard an episode called “God’s Beloved” that I could not wait to tell you about. I was practically weak with excitement. The message is this:

    You are God’s beloved on your worst day, in your worst moment.

    If you’re like me, you’ll read that sentence twice, feeling sure you’ll find a typo, but it’s correct, even if it feels a little hard to believe.

    In our culture of comparison and striving for recognition and validation, it is a surreal thought that we can be loved just as we are. It is downright mind blowing that we could be loved when we are at less than our best. But in Christ, beloved is exactly what we are. Not based on our accomplishments or merit or charm, but because God created us, knows us fully, and delights in us (still).

    So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”

    Colossians 3:12

    We are chosen of God, holy because of Christ, and so very beloved. Let that sink in. Go ahead and marinate in it for a sec.

    In order to believe that we are God’s beloved we are going to need a power greater than ourselves, and that is the Holy Spirit.

    James Bryan Smith reminds us that in 1 Corinthians 12:3 “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. In the same way, we need the Holy Spirit to work in our lives to help us believe that we are beloved.

    When we embrace our belovedness to God, we begin to see the belovedness of others. It changes how we interact with the world around us and gives us a heavenly perspective. It changes how we handle an off day at work, an insecure feeling or how we talk to our loved ones when we are tired and stressed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” because we are beloved. We can live a life with our minds free from comparison and striving to stand out in the world.

    We are already seen and valued by the One who matters most. You are God’s beloved!

    P.S. I hope that you’ll take a the time to listen to this episode of the Things Above podcast. The episode is around 10 minutes and full of encouragement and great nuggets of wisdom. I hope you will be as blessed by it as I have been.

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  • A Steadfast Heart

    Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

    Psalm 112:6-7

    When things are going really well and life seems calm, do you sometimes find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you allow worry to cast a shadow over your present blessings? I am currently coming out of of a long season of difficulty and waiting. Even though I am generally an optimistic person, some of the recent knocks of life have led me to be cautious, keeping me from joy in the present.

    A few years ago, my husband and I both found ourselves out of jobs in the same weekend. When I heard the news, I had no idea what we were going to do. It felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. In the back of my mind, I believed that God would work on our behalf to bring purpose and blessing in our situation. What I couldn’t anticipate is how long it would take.

    I was fortunate to find work fairly quickly, doing something that I love. My new income provided just enough to squeak by each month.

    Despite my husband’s efforts to find a teaching job, not a single door had opened for him. We continued to limp along and I convinced myself that I just had to rally a little longer, keep burning the candle at both ends, to make it all work. When you have been waiting a long time for a rescue, you begin to feel like you have to make it happen. It is easy to grow weary and start doubting God’s faithfulness and provision. I was foolishly deceived into thinking that our survival depended on me, because it was the only thing I felt I could control.

    Finally, our season of waiting was coming to a end, and by God’s provision, my husband started substitute teaching at the local Christian school where our children attend. It filled the financial gaps and provided just what we needed, right when we needed it. By the end of that year he was offered his dream job, a full-time teaching position at that school.

    After what felt like forever, we had two incomes again, stability in our schedules and in our finances. Despite all this, I never relaxed. I hadn’t switched out of survival mode. I still stressed out over the finances and felt stuck in anxiety. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I didn’t truly believe the storm was over and that I could stop and take a deep breath.

    I had been so busy worrying that bad news was just around the corner, that as a result, I was missing out on the joy of answered prayers. That’s why Psalm 112:6-7 touches a tender place in my heart. (Verse 7 especially)

    “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

    While this is a struggle I am still growing through, it is a comfort to read these words and be reminded that I don’t need to fear bad news. I don’t need to take matters into my own hands, I need to loosen my grip and trust my Heavenly Father. When I slow down and zoom out to the big picture, I can clearly see God’s constant and steadfast presence in every detail.

    Circumstances are ever changing. But God remains strong and steady. He will never change. His goodness and love endures forever. God has already planned ahead for my needs. So today I choose to rejoice and be glad in the day the Lord has made.

    I will live in the moment and appreciate what the Lord has done for me, in any circumstance, good or bad. As I trust in Jesus, he makes my heart more like Him-steadfast and secure, and unshakeable.

    In whatever season you find yourself, I pray that you will step back and pause and look for Jesus. He is there, ready to provide for your every need and hold you steady. Trust in Him and have no fear.

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  • God Knows Just What You Need

    Show me your worries and I’ll show you your idols.

    Matt Gioia

    I’ll admit the first time I saw this quote I didn’t like it. Not because I disagree, but because it hit a little too close to home. I felt physically uncomfortable because I am a worrier. I tend to perseverate on things that God has taken care of not once or twice, but countless times, without fail. Things like financial stress, the kids getting sick, balancing work and mom-guilt, worrying about parents’ long-term health, car problems, and the list goes on and on.

    These are not small things, and one could feel justified in feeling some worry or stress over them. But I am talking about a heart issue. A trust crisis. We all need reassurance that everything will be okay when times are tough. The problem occurs when I crave reassurance more than I crave a deeper faith, and I seek solutions before I seek my Savior. Sure, my initial intention is to give my worries to God, to allow Him to provide in His perfect timing, but when my patience runs out, I cling more to my worry than to the One whose grace is sufficient for all my needs.

    When I’m feeling like this, I’m reminded of Gollum from The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings–weak and cranky, clutching protectively to “my precious”. Only instead of a golden ring, it’s my worries that have become my idols.

    The only thing that snaps me out of that state is a major perspective shift. If I look at things through my human eyes, my solutions will be short-sighted and a band-aid at best. God’s perspective is limitless. He can see the beginning, middle, and end of my story all at once. He knows exactly what to do and when. 

    In Luke 12:27-34, Jesus reminds the disciples of the bigger picture and resets their perspective.

    “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

    “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'” 

    Jesus calls the disciples (and us) out! He lovingly says to not worry about the things of this world. Even the birds have all their needs met without striving or panic. Jesus draws the disciples’ attention to the real issue: their hearts.

    When our hearts are set on worrying about material things, our focus is inward, our treasure becomes our security in those things. Jesus invites us to a better way. He calls us to set our hearts on heavenly things by seeking His Kingdom. Then, everything else will fall into place.

    James Bryan Smith said it beautifully, “The kingdom of God is never in trouble, the kingdom of God never runs out of resources and the kingdom of God is never lacking in power. Therefore, those who live with God in this available kingdom are never in trouble, never lack provision, and never lack power. In the kingdom of God, I discover that I am safe, significant, and strong.”

    As God’s beloved daughters, we have access to all the resources of the Kingdom of God, and His Kingdom is unshakable. And God is pleased to give us His Kingdom.

    When we find ourselves consumed by worry and stress, God helps us zoom out to look at things from an eternal, Kingdom perspective. He helps us prioritize according to His perfect will and grants us peace that passes understanding. He reminds us of our worth in Him, countering the lie that we are beneath His notice. 

    Because the truth is, dear friend, that you are precious to Him. He knows the number of hairs on your head and treasures you. He knows what you need, even before you need it and delights in caring for you. He won’t waste a moment of your present difficulty and will redeem your pain for purpose. As we seek God and step into Kingdom life, we are transformed to be more and more like Christ. And while our circumstances may not immediately change, our hearts and perspective will.

    If worry has become an idol for you, I want to invite you to bring it to Jesus. Let him speak peace to your soul and help you realign your heart with His. He will continue to work on your behalf and provide for your every need. It’s ok if your life doesn’t look like a picture of perfect peace. Sometimes trusting Him is done through tears and clenched fists. But God’s grace and compassion for us never run out. He walked this earth and experienced all the same things we do. He will not abandon you in your time of need. He will sustain you and gently turn your face toward his loving gaze.

    Lean into Him, set your heart on His Kingdom, and rest your worries in God’s capable hands.

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  • Peace Beyond Understanding

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

    Philippians 4:7

    Sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations that just don’t make sense. When life takes a turn we weren’t expecting like a sudden job loss, a broken relationship, or a loved one who falls ill. During times like this it can feel like our world is out of control and the chaos of emotions threaten to overtake us. How do we find the peace we crave in the midst of these situations?

    I have looked to this verse in Philippians many times when my life has been turned upside down. This verse brings me comfort because it speaks directly into these circumstances. It says that God gives us a kind of peace that transcends all understanding. It’s the kind that doesn’t have to make sense. As we allow God into our situation, He guards and protects our hearts and minds with His peace.

    Is there a tender part of your heart that you need God to guard? Do you need God to bring His peace to calm your anxious mind? He will show himself faithful in protecting your inmost heart and mind. Take the mixed up and messed up of life and lift it up to God in prayer. Whatever you are facing, He is there to carry you through it.

    Almighty God, when we are facing a situation that is beyond our understanding, we need your loving peace to guard our hearts and minds. We lift up to you our circumstances and and know that we may not always have the understanding we crave, but you promise to carry us through it because of your great love for us. In Jesus name, Amen.

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  • Rejoicing in Trouble

    But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.”

    Psalm 5:11

    Often in the Bible we see a juxtaposition between joy and trouble. They seem to come together. Sometimes we think joy is a response to all being right in our world. Joy doesn’t come only in the absence of trouble, but is made all the more meaningful and more pronounced by the presence of trouble.

    In times of trouble, those who put their trust in Jesus have reason to rejoice—not because the battle is over, but because they are sheltered in the midst of the battle. God doesn’t always eliminate the trouble, but he does give us protection and will defend us in the middle of it. How amazing is that?!

    When we choose to turn our heart toward the source of our salvation instead of focusing on our situation, we can find joy even in times of trouble. Trouble and turmoil can serve to push us into the arms of Jesus where real joy lives.

    Jesus, we know that in you we find our help and protection. Even in our sorrow, trouble or turmoil, you bring us joy with your presence. This joy doesn’t come from the lack of these things, but the miracle is that the joy you bring comes in spite of these things. Our salvation is secure in you and that brings us such joy!  In your name, Amen.

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