We Act On What We Say We Believe or We Don’t

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I sat in a small group of women and confessed that I have been grieving the Holy Spirit. It was hard to acknowledge and admit, but God made me so very aware as we’ve been going through the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 4:30-31 explains how we can grieve the spirit through bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.

Bitterness and rage have been at the core of my relationship with my mother. I’ve battled it with counseling, persistent forgiveness, and occasional bouts of slander, and honestly, holidays are the worst as I prepare for the visit.

In the past, I’ve consumed enough alcohol that my soul will be completely disengaged for the few hours of dinner and conversation. But I’m becoming aware that as a woman of God, it comes down to how I handle myself in these situations. As we’ve been planning our trip, I’ve felt the distant bitterness and anger well up and God has been convicting me on my disobedience and lack of love.

Holidays can be difficult, but dear love let me encourage you that how we approach these tense, broken relationships absolutely speaks volumes of who we are as women of God. We either act on what we say we believe or we don’t, there is no in between.

Here’s how I prepped for and made it through the holidays:

Staying in the Word – one verse I’m constantly repeating is: You are the vine, I am the branch, apart from You I can do nothing (John 15). I can’t do this on my own successfully, but I can as long as I’m rooted in God my defender – so my mornings must start with Him.

Praying a lot – the morning I wrote this I was up at 3:45 praying because I couldn’t sleep and my heart was extremely anxious and heavy over this. God promises “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11).

And I’m remembering the lyrics of Reckless Love “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine” Those lyrics may be true for us, but they are also true for the ones that you and I are struggling to forgive and love. 

Our homes are Either a Place of Peace or Conflict

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When I taught high school English, we often discussed conflict in literature and how it’s either rooted in thoughts and feelings or caused by relationships. Whether literature or life, conflict competes with peace.

The Bible is filled with promises of peace, yet if you sit in a group of women you will find a common struggle is lack of peace or excess conflict and anxiety – conflict with our identity, past, marriages, faith, families, careers, or decisions. How is this lack of peace possible when it is a trademark of God’s promises?

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)

“In Me you may have peace” (John 16:33)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15)

“The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace” (Numbers 6:26)

“The Lord blesses His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11)

“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

“And He will be called…Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)

“Again Jesus said ‘peace be with you’” (John 20: 21)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him” (Romans 15:13)

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

I grew up in a home with constant conflict and I refuse to let my home be a replica of that. We either allow our homes to be a place of peace or conflict. The way I start my day, plan my day, the music I play, the way I speak or respond to my husband, children or anyone in my home either brings peace or conflict.

First Peter 3:10 says, we must seek peace and pursue it. To seek and pursue require intentional action. Dear love, we are completely in control of whether or not we have peace because God has already given us access to it. If you find you are lacking peace, remember it is a gift of God’s but you must intentionally pursue it. 

Lessons in Abiding

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“Foolish woman,” I whisper to myself. This phrase followed the realization that spiritual pride was lurking in my thoughts. I’ve learned just how prone we are to spiritual pride. It isn’t obvious but a subtle, dangerous string of thoughts that end in thinking, “I’m finally getting my life together.”

First of all, I’m not getting my life together; God is the one restoring it. Somewhere in February last year, God put it on my heart that I would be learning to Abide. The more time I spend not abiding in Him, the easier it is to believe that I’m the one getting my life together. The easier it is for the spiritual pride to creep in, choking out the truth that I am still as fallen and broken and prone to disastrous sin as I once was. One of my favorite verses is John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

It was in abiding that God revealed how necessary it was for me to be brave in my faith. I can stand up in front of almost two hundred teachers and administrators and deliver a professional development on engaging students in a classroom, but you ask me to share how God’s been working in my life in front of twelve people, and I’m terrified and resistant.

Last year God painfully humbled me in a variety of ways. He brought me to my knees in tears more times than I can count, but He taught me how to abide – how to remain in His presence when I don’t feel like it, when I’m hurting, when I’m tempted to be prideful, when I’m exhausted, when I’m insecure, when I’m confused, and when I’m being foolish. Last year He taught me that only by abiding can I be brave enough to do the things He’s called me to, whether I want to or not.

Take some time to reflect on what God taught you last year. Remembering that He is a God of purpose. Not one single event last year was an accident but used by God to grow you. 

Real Love Demands Something Of Us

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“Loving others is the process of losing” – Pastor James McDonald. That’s a bold statement – but it’s biblical. In our culture we’ve believed the lie that if loving others is going to require that we lose in some way, then we need to get out and move on.

One of the original words for love in Greek is Agape – it refers to a divine love (it comes from God). Agape is a brotherly love that is sacrificial, benevolent, kind, and compassionate. Luke 6 says, “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The original word used for love in these verses is Agape. It is actually saying that we are to sacrificially, kindly, and compassionately love our enemies, those who hurt us, mistreat us, and curse us.

God is challenging me this year to pursue Agape. To love all people – strangers, friends, my enemies, those who have hurt me, those who have and will continue to curse me and mistreat me. It will cost me something to love others: time, money, emotions, patience, and humility. It’s a replication of how Jesus loves.

1 Corinthians 13 says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have agape, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have agape, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have agape, it profits me nothing.”

This my dear sisters is exactly where so many of us go so wrong in Christianity. We think that because we read the Bible, have strong faith, and are using our God given gifts, that we’re doing alright, but when we lack Agape we have missed what Jesus was all about. If we lack compassion, kindness, and resist giving sacrificially at every moment of the day, then we have missed the purpose of the Gospel. 

Women of Godly Love and Fervent Prayer

put on love which is the perfect bond of unity

There’s very few things that can bring me to my knees in complete brokenness, but injustice towards children is definitely one. Our culture has devalued the life of children in a variety of ways and this week brought news of that injustice growing. I found myself full of rage and had to pray about how I’m even supposed to respond to this in a way that’s both loving but doesn’t accept what is so clearly unbiblical.

Our nation is full of division and it leaves so many filled with hate. But God has been teaching me that we can’t expect non-Christians to live according to the same set of morals we have simply because Jesus hasn’t begun to rule in their hearts yet. And we’re not going to win them to Jesus by shoving our beliefs angrily in their face.

It’s okay to be angry, but it needs to be a righteous anger that doesn’t include sin (Ephesians 4:26). How is that possible? It’s not if we’re not first rooted in God and His Word. We’re called to hate the sin not the sinner because we’re also sinners deceived and living in sin at times. Just because we disagree with another’s views doesn’t justify hate. We’re instead required to love the ones we disagree with in words and actions. This doesn’t mean we join the culture, but it means we stand against what’s unbiblical in a loving way (Matthew 5:43-48). The prophets in the Old Testament were a good example of this – their cultures were eroding and when God’s anger burned against the nations the prophets wept for the people who were so misled and living according to the culture (Jeremiah 4-6).

It is absolutely our role first to pray for the people who are against God’s design – pray that God radically changes their hearts because only He can. But we have to remember that we are to be obedient to God first, bold in our faith, yet loving and forgiving to those that oppose what we stand for (Acts 5:28-29).

Being women of godly love and fervent prayer in a time of great division is more powerful than anything else we have to offer.

God Delivers Us From Every Affliction

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

Afflictions: every Christian will experience some sort of pain or suffering in their lives it is a part of this broken world.

Psalm 34: 19 says

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

It doesn’t say “there may be” but “Many are the afflictions”. It is promised that as believers we are going to be afflicted or suffer some sort of pain in this world.

Here’s the promise: as a believer we will have many afflictions because satan is coming after our hearts and our families. Here’s the better half of the promise: Our ever-loving father will deliver us out of every single one of those afflictions – maybe not the way we want or expect Him to.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Dear sister, whatever affliction you are in now, your will be delivered from it. I don’t know about you, but satan can get me to a place where I want to distance myself from God when I’m struggling and when I feel that way, it is even more important that I draw near to Him. Sometimes that means I’m praying that He will draw me near to Him.

Dear love, if you are in the midst of affliction, suffering, trial remember our Loving God’s promise that He will deliver us out of it. This is not your end, you will not be beat or overcome if you place your hope in His promise. And He is a God of keeping His promises.

Don’t Just Preach, Love

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We’ve all heard the cliché Christian comments: “The Lord will never give you more than you can handle” “Jesus loves you” “God is in control” and while not one of those comments is wrong – there is a time when people just need love.

Not once do we read that when someone in need came to Jesus did He say, “I’ll pray for you” or “Don’t worry God’s got this” but He met their needs.

We’re in a culture today where it’s normal to say “we’ll pray for you”, but not normal to take in the homeless man or woman in our neighborhood. It’s normal to give a spiritual pep-talk but not normal to invite people we are unfamiliar with to our homes for dinner.

The truth is that people don’t care how much we preach, they care how much we love. So much of Christianity’s bad reputation is simply in our lack of love for people. These same people who God created in His image and the same people who Jesus gave his life on the cross for.

Luke 6:35
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

Let’s choose today to be a generation of women who love louder than our preaching.

You’re Faith Has Made You Well

_Daughter,_ he said to her, _your faith has made you well. Go in peace._

While reading through the life of Jesus in the New Testament, I’ve realized that so many of His miracles were preceded by two things:

1. The people came to Him to be healed or someone came on their behalf.

2. They humbled themselves and admitted their unworthiness or fell at His feet.

Then, Jesus followed up those two things with either the question “do you believe,” or the declaration “your faith has made you well.”

I started realizing that if we’re really praying for something or wanting a drastic change in our lives, we need to examine all three of these things:

1) Am I coming to Him or am I just hoping He’ll know what I need?

2) Have I humbled myself? Admitted my unworthiness to Him or humbly fallen to my knees before Him knowing only He has the power. Or, am I taking matters into my own hands?

3) Do I really believe He can change it or do I just hope He can?

Dear sister, the power of our God is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. If you are praying for a change, for a friend, for a spouse, for a situation, or for some healing in an area of your life, I challenge you to examine your heart in those three areas.

“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” Luke 8:48

The Power in Brokenness

Brokenness

Each life has cracks, parts of who we were seem to seep out.

This brokenness, leads to shattering, and shattering can lead to emptiness – but it doesn’t have to.

A friend once told me that brokenness is a necessary part of life so that God can tear down the old, decaying, faulty ways of the world and rebuild us on the foundation of Christ.

Brokenness is a beautiful blessing and while it absolutely hurts in the moments, the person you will come out on the other end will be stronger and much more beautiful than you can ever imagine. One that reflects the humility and love of Christ. This same friend challenged me to pray for brokenness, I did and while I can say God sure did rip apart my life at the time, I am who I am as a result.

The reality, dear sister, is that God needs to break down everything in you that isn’t rooted in His truth. If you haven’t experienced a season of brokenness, boldly pray that God would break apart anything in you that isn’t rooted in Him.

If you are in a place of brokenness, don’t be afraid of what you’re losing, be looking for what God is giving you.

 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17

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