Fasting. The Lord has been saying that word to me over and over for a couple of months now. I haven’t known exactly what to do with it. Obviously I should fast, but from what? And for why? I struggled for awhile because I was concerned about my motivations behind agreeing to a fast. Is it because I just wanted to feel better? To lose a few pounds? Why was I really choosing to fast? What was I hoping to achieve with this fast? If the answer didn’t have some spiritual element to it, I was concerned I was just choosing to fast for selfish reasons. And yet… “FASTING” still rang loud and clear in my head and heart and I just knew it was the Lord.
Just last week, I had a friend invite me and some other people to do a 40-day fast together… from sugar.
If God had not already been saying “fast” to me, I would have said, “no thank you” to that invitation! Y’all. We just wrapped up the holidays which means I just wrapped up about 5 pounds on my person after all the lazing around, cookies, pies, and sweets. And soda… oh mercy. I need a soda once a day to survive the chaos that is my life.
That last sentence right there is why I knew that I needed THIS fast.
“I need a soda once a day to survive the chaos that is my life.”
I hit my limit and then I run to caffeine and carbonation to sustain me instead of Jesus. That hurts to admit, but it’s just plain true. Stop right here and ask yourself, “Where do you run when you hit your limit near the end of the day?” I’m not talking when your world falls apart, it’s easy to run to Jesus for the really big things, but what about the small things that we try to handle on our own? What do you need to help you handle it? What is your “soda”?
My eyes have been opened by one small sentence uttered in the corner of my mind as I read the introduction to the book guiding our fast. “I need a soda once a day to survive the chaos that is my life.” I can’t even handle a single day of my life without some sort of help. And to be truthful, soda may help for a moment, but it’s hurting me in so many other ways.
Sore and achy muscles.
Anxiety and irritation.
Trying to fill Jesus’ role in my life.
OUCH. That last one is painful, but I was confronted with that truth. I am turning to a sugary can of carbonation that is only hurting me in the long-run instead of the Living Water who only ever brings good into my life.
Why am I not just turning to Jesus? How did I get here?
Thinking about the fast coming up, I started to get very afraid of failure. “There’s no way I’ll be able to abstain from sugar for 40 days, I can hardly make it a day!” “Wow. How weak am I? I am afraid of putting down sugar for a few weeks.” “You’re just a fatty.” “You will fail at this.” “Other people know you’re fasting so they are all going to watch you fail because you cannot do this.”
Notice how the thoughts in my head went from me voicing my fears to the enemy making accusations?
When we allow fear-filled thoughts to swirl around in our minds, we open the door for the enemy to come and torture us. We start thinking his thoughts about us. We start believing lies about us and about God’s heart for us.
What happens when we take those fear-filled thoughts and questions and present them to the Lord instead of ruminating on them ourselves? He gives us hope for uncertainty.
I wrote in my journal all the reasons why I knew I was going to fail at this fast. All the reasons I was afraid to do this fast. I didn’t just confess these things to myself, I was confessing them to God. What happened next began a change in me… I gave him all my fears and uncertainties and in return, he handed me hope. My thoughts changed from questions and doubts to hopes and dreams.
What if this crippling anxiety eases up as I quit turning to sugar and turn to Jesus?
What if my body quits aching as I turn to Jesus over sugar?
What if my kids see a difference in me throughout the day?
What if my husband sees my attitude change?
What if our home is filled with more peace and joy… just because I let go of sugar and grabbed hold of Jesus?
What if I gain infinitely more than I lose in the next 40 days?
What if people see more of Jesus in me after this?
What if I hear His voice more clearly?
What if I crave his presence and am filled to overflowing?
What if I’m a new person on the other side of this?
Maybe you aren’t planning a fast. Maybe you’re thinking about one now! Go through this exercise written below and then allow the Lord to bring to your attention whatever your next step should be. Just take some time today to ask yourself, “What am I turning to instead of Jesus just to make it through the day?” If you’re like me, after answering that question and then thinking about giving it up… your mind may start swirling with fear. Maybe you don’t need to even answer that question for fear to start swirling. You may be walking through deep waters right now and are already filled with fear and uncertainty.
Whatever you’re going through, don’t allow the enemy to terrorize your thought-life by dwelling on uncertainty and fear. You don’t have to pretend those thoughts don’t exist. Burying our thoughts and emotions that are negative or uncomfortable doesn’t actually get rid of them. They’ll crop up in other ways. We can’t escape those things this side of heaven. You can’t just wish them away… you have to take them to the throne room. Those fears, questions, pains, sorrows… those all belong at the feet of Jesus, not stuffed in a forgotten corner of your mind or dark crevice of your heart. Share them with the Lord and allow him to give you hope in place of your uncertainty. Trade your sorrows for joy, your uncertainty for peace, and your fear for hope.
Here’s the take-away:
WRITTEN BY: Lyndsay Terry
Read more from Lyndsay @ www.lyndsayterry.com
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I am tired today.
I am tired of division.
Tired of injustice.
Tired of malice and bitterness.
Tired of fear.
I am tired of grief, all around me and spilling up out of me when I least expect it.
I am tired of uncertainty.
I am tired of corruption.
I am tired of deception.
I am tired of feeling like I don't even know the next right thing to do sometimes. Does anyone know what the 'right' or 'best' thing truly is, anyway?
I am just tired and overwhelmed and in desperate need of rest. True rest.
I'm lamenting all of these things while scrubbing mud off of a white tile floor and suddenly think again of the Israelites.
Delivered from bondage and slavery in the most astounding and miraculous and unimaginable of ways and then ushered right into the wilderness. Truly living from glory to glory. Daily manna that is gracious and supernatural in and of itself, yet the miracle of it lost day after day, week after week. A people chosen by God Almighty, spared and under His great and all-encompassing provision. A people keenly aware of the character of their God, of His mercy and faithfulness and of the sheer terror of His might and power. A people at the same time weary of hardship.
My mind wanders to several weeks ago, during a different kind of lamenting and pining for my own perception and idea of rest, when the Lord set His Word right in front of me: Hebrews 4, titled 'The Promised Rest'.
The promise to enter his rest remains, says the Word of the Lord. But we are exhorted to be diligent to enter into God's rest. John Piper writes,
"Be diligent! Pay close attention to what you’ve heard (Hebrews 2:1); don’t neglect your great salvation (Hebrews 2:3); consider Jesus (Hebrews 3:1); do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:8); take care against an unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12); exhort one another every day against the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:14); and fear the unbelief that will keep you from your promised rest (Hebrews 4:1)."
We are to be diligent, especially when we come up against hardship, to not fall into the same pattern of disobedience, to not harden our hearts "as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness." (Heb 3:8)
We are warned against unbelief.
And sister, this has been real heavy on my heart in recent months. When we are feeling hit from all sides, surrounded and stuck, with not a clue as to how to come through; when what lies before us seems formidable and overpowering and oppressive; and sometimes when we are simply weary, unbelief creeps in.
We are sometimes like the Israelites, standing at the edge of the Promised Land, trembling at the massive Nephilim and feeling like grasshoppers. (Numbers 13)
And we cry out, "How?"
And I say to you, sweet sister, this is okay.
This is even good.
As long as we remember.
Remember that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.
I exhort you to boldly approach the throne of grace, to throw yourselves at the feet of our great high priest who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Bring him all of your doubts and fears and yes, even your unbelief. Weep and mourn and repent. Lay out the circumstances that have your heart troubled before Him and ask Him, "How?"
We must keep our hearts soft in this way. In order for His truth to penetrate our hearts, they must not be hardened. If we want to receive His help and
rest in our time of need, then our hearts need to be permeable and open to receive.
So we lay it all at the feet of Jesus and we say, "This belongs to you, King Jesus. I know You are good. I know You are able. I believe. Help my unbelief"
"Here's my heart, Lord. Speak what is true."
Over and over again, friend, pray.
"Believe His promises and sing His praise." (Psalm 106)
Remember. Remember the relentless love of God. Remember how:
"He rescued them many times,
but they continued to rebel deliberately
and were beaten down by their iniquity."
"When he heard their cry,
he took note of their distress,
remembered his covenant with them,
and relented according to the abundance
of his faithful love." (Psalm 106:43-45)
Take care that you do not exchange His glory for lesser things, that you are not seized with craving in the wilderness. Take care that you do not forget God your Savior, who has done great things and wondrous works. Take care that you do not retain grumbling in your heart. (Psalm 106:13-14, 20-22, 25)
"Today if you hear his voice
do not harden your hearts."
Today, His rest awaits you, beloved.
It is promised.
Make every effort to enter in.
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
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I can’t be the only one feeling like this: overwhelmed, stressed, apprehensive, exhausted. I am not sure what the culprit is. Some blame it on 2020, but the truth is that I felt like this before now. Feeling like this causes us to ask: Is this what life is supposed to be like? I may not know much, but I do not believe that life is supposed to be like this for us, sisters.
The number of times that “rest” or some version of the word is mentioned in the Bible is surprising (no I didn’t count, I just noticed). A few of my favorite examples of rest are when Jesus and the twelve get on the boat and a storm comes up in Mark 4 and is so bad that these experienced fishermen are freaking out. Jesus is sleeping through all this! If you ask my husband, that is my kind of sleeping!
Another example, just a few chapters later in Mark 6:31, Jesus tells his disciples:
“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure to even eat.”
As a mother, wife, and teacher, I can relate to this. How many times are we so busy taking care of other people’s needs that we forget to take care of ourselves? Jesus recognized that this was happening and helped the disciples take a moment of rest.
So, Angie, what is the point? Jesus rested. His disciples rested. I am still stressed out!
If we take a moment to read in Psalm 4:8, there is a beautiful passage.
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Our rest, our peace, our sense of safety - all of these things are found in God. He didn’t send His son to earth so we could be a stressed out mess. He sent him so we could find a rest and peace that we didn’t and couldn’t otherwise have! This verse in Psalm reminds me that God ALONE gives us the environment where we can truly have rest. He has everything under control even when it seems like it is all falling apart.
I love the visual of a child sleeping in their father’s arms. Total trust. Total safety. Total rest. Be that child with God. Let him gather you up. Rest your head on His shoulder. Let His voice be the only one you hear as he tells you that he wants to grant you rest to your very soul. In order to do this, we might have to go away to a desolate place. We might have to stop the insanity of being so busy for a moment and hide in the closet or bathroom and just BE.
Our pastor reminded us this morning during the message that we are always in God’s presence because he is everywhere. We just need to take a moment and be aware of Him. I know that if we can make that a habit, our lives will take a turn toward rest in a restless world.
I wish you all a few moments of rest as we remember Jesus’ birth this week. As humble as it was, it was amazing. And the reason for it, beautiful ladies, is for us to have that wonderful father-daughter relationship with God himself. And part of that is the peace and rest He brings into our lives if only we will take the time. You are worth that time. You are worth that rest. You will be all the better for it. It was made for you. Accept that sweet gift of rest.
WRITTEN BY: Angie Reese
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I had no idea what was above me. I was focused on the stop sign to the right of me, or the people crossing the street, or changing the radio station in the car that day...I was not caught up in what was above me. But, suddenly - and I can't say why -- I looked up.
There I saw a brilliant display of nature. The sky was gorgeous. It was radiant, blue, red and purple hues strewn all over the sky. It seemed to convey the brilliance, the majesty and the beauty of God all at once. I would have missed it if I had kept my eyes on the million little things happening in front of me. I would have missed it if distraction had a greater hold on me than my desire to look up. I would have missed it if I wasn't aware that there is usually more than meets the eye.
Yet, I looked up. We are told in Scripture to -- look up.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:2)
Lately, I've been earthly focused. I see politics. I see news articles. I see what is not happening in my world. I see issues with people. I see problems.
Yet, essentially, God tells me -- Kelly, do not set all that -- look up!
I love how Isaiah 40:26 NIV says it... "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
When we look up we don't get discouraged by what's raging all around. When we see higher, we get a higher perspective. When we look at what God has created, we remember He is Creator. We remember He can create a new thing at any time and at any moment.
This is rest.
Are you looking up -- remembering God's faithfulness? Giving thanks for what He is doing in your life today? Meditating on His Word? Singing of His goodness? Or, are you stuck in the muck of a million little distractions that are demanding your attention?
God is higher and stronger than everything and anything you may face today. Look up!
About “Rest Now: 7 Ways To Say No, Set Boundaries and Seize Joy”
If you feel overwhelmed, you're not alone. Three out of five people admit to doing more than they can manage. Thinking God requires this, we say, "I must be everything to everyone." Then we struggle and feel selfish and guilty when we say no, grow weary, or snap at someone out of sheer exhaustion. Is this what God desires? Somewhere along the line of being a good Christian, wife, daughter, or friend we lose sight of who we are in Christ. We put our performance above God and who he says we are. But what if we chose a more soul-full way?
Rest Now offers permission to breathe. It exposes the lies that distract, tire, and bully us, so we don't strive for rest but love from it, like Jesus did. Learn how to
- create boundaries that allow you to overflow with love
- say no so you don't hate yourself later
- ditch passive-aggressive behaviors in favor of healthy conversations
- embrace permission-giving thoughts to create mental space for God
About Kelly Balarie
Kelly is a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She’s a get-on-the-gloves kind of girl. By seeking God’s unending encouragement, she uncovers His deep callings right under the surface of her worst failings. Get all of Kelly’s Purposeful Faith blog posts by email for a dose of inspiration and encouragement. Kelly is a blogger at www.purposefulfaith.com, Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com. Her work has been featured on Relevant and (in)courage.me, and as the cover story on Today’s Christian Woman.
As we get into the car exhausted from a long day with family and kids, I look at my husband and sigh. I remembered I still had a blog to write tonight…
As we drive home he asks about the topic, I laugh and say, “Rest.”
His response simply, a giggle and the hushed words, “That’s ironic.”
I laugh as I write this because, rest, to anyone looking at my life from the outside, would seem like a foreign word. In this crazy chaotic time of life there is no time for rest. As a matter of fact it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that previous to this last week, rest was NO WHERE on my radar!
This morning as I was pondering what I would be writing about I thought, ‘Rest, oh a nap would be so good right now.’ Now naps, naps are good and sometimes we even need to refresh our physical bodies and we can do that through naps but, a nap was not what I needed.
The rest that I needed was a rest from the expectations. I needed a rest from the to-dos of the day, week, month, year. I needed to let my guard down and just be. I needed to lay down what had to be done to do what needed to be done. Luckily, I know just how to do that. Or rather, I know just where to get it.
In Psalms 23:5-6 [MSG emphasis added] it says,
You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
That was it! All I had to do was come to the table. All I had to do was sit with my Father and I was at rest.
I went to the table. I took the time in the middle of my business and sat at His table… My table… the one God specially made for me and in that moment God revived me. I found rest in Him. I found my peace in Him. There was no more striving or accomplishing. Exhaustion was a thing of the past. Stress seemed as though it just melted away. I seemed as if I was wrapped in the Father’s arms.
All of my chaos didn’t disappear, but it took a backseat. I still had a list of to-dos. I still had obligations and commitments, but those mountains that I was facing just a moment ago, that were exhausting just thinking about, no longer looked unattainable or impossible.
I was refreshed. I was renewed. I was rested.
When we take the time to spend with the Lord we realign our thoughts with His and He is so good to remind us that nothing is impossible with Him. No matter how big or small, nothing is to much. He reminds us that He is ours and we are His and that Father God really wants to be with us every step of the way in every moment of our lives.
It is not a long list of steps to find your rest in the season that you are in. We don’t have to follow steps A-Z until we attain total rest. Instead, the Father made is so that we always have an open invitation to go to the Lord’s table and find rest, always. He never leaves us hanging. We don’t need a reservation for this meal. We simply show up.
Sometimes there are seasons of rest in our lives where we can spend those long periods of time in the day where you just soak in the Lord and sit and read His word or worship for hours on end everyday. (That is not the season that I am in. LOL) And for some of us our seasons of rest in the Lord are those quiet couple of moments you get to have with the Lord in the morning before the rest of your family is up or you have to get to work. Sometimes it’s in the quiet moments of the night. Maybe, just maybe it is in those special moments where you are around family and friends, and maybe sometimes it is when we are on a lonely drive.
Either way, regardless of your season of life the Father always welcomes us to come to Him and find our rest. I invite you into that moment with the Father right now. Right where you are at.
Whether you are at work or home, alone or in a crowed room, there is no place the Father won’t want to meet you. (Insert awkward shower or bathroom moments here. You know who you are (-; ) It only takes a moment. Let Him refresh and revive you and give you rest.
WRITTEN BY: ALEXANDRIA BROWN
For more from Alexandria, visit her website at www.alexandriabrown.org.
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Something God has been speaking to me about a lot over the past year is my purpose. It’s not as complicated as I thought it would be. It’s not as glamorous as I’ve hoped it would be. It’s not as mysterious as I assumed it would be. It’s not as boring as I’ve worried it would be.
My purpose is incredibly simple. It’s utterly beautiful. It’s completely fulfilling. And I’m convinced it is your purpose too…
To be eternally happy in Jesus.
That’s it! It’s not some big chore. It’s not some complicated process. It’s not self-glorifying and glamorous. It’s not inaccessible and frustrating. It’s simple and beautiful and fulfilling.
Psalm 16:11 says…
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The Lord has been speaking this over me for a little more than a year now and I have to tell you - it has challenged my doctrine and the belief system I’ve carried for a long time. I’d spent most of my life believing that happiness is fine and dandy, but it’s secondary to holiness. I’d come to view the pursuit of happiness as self-serving and a form of idolatry. My mentality was that my lack of happiness could be worn as a sort of spiritual badge. “Look at me. I’m not completely, incandescently happy and that means I’m not a self-indulgent idolater.” Really what that says is, “I love God so much that I’m not happy! I serve God so much that I’m not happy! I spend so much time with God that I’m not happy!”
What a TERRIBLE testimony to the character and heart of our Lord - the CREATOR of happiness! And where in the world does it say anything like that in the Bible?
Let me tell you something the Lord taught me…
Happiness in Jesus is the only path to true holiness.
If you come out of time spent with Jesus and you’re still grumpy, I wonder, did you really meet with Jesus? Oh I’m not saying you didn’t read the Word! I’m not saying you weren’t just praying. But were you WITH Jesus all that time or were you working through the actions of holiness without the heart of happiness?
When Jesus becomes our everything - our hopes, our dreams, our passion, our fulfillment, our source of love and acceptance, our source of empowerment and transformation, our confidence and assurance - why wouldn’t we be happy? And the happiness in being near the Lord, the Creator of the Universe who spoke the stars into existence and still thought the world needed YOU - gives us the desire to please him and allow him to transform us into a holy people!
John Piper shares an excellent illustration for this concept. I’ll do my best not to butcher it…
Imagine if your spouse showed up at your door this evening after work and rang the doorbell instead of walking straight in. When you answer the door, he is standing there in his best suit with a bouquet of your favorite flowers and asks you on a date with him tonight. He says he has the kids taken care of, all the details are planned, all you have to do is go get dressed. If you were to ask, “Why? What made you go to all this trouble?” And he were to answer, “Well it’s my duty as your husband to do the right things. It’s my job. So I’m fulfilling my obligation as your husband to do nice things for you,” would that just let the air out of the room? That would kill the romance for me. But what if he were to answer, “Because nothing makes me happier than to see you smile and to watch your heart overflow! I am happiest when I make your heart glad! There is nothing more fulfilling to me than to bring you pleasure, my dear.”
Would you think that was a selfish answer? Is that the wrong motivation? No way! It’s the same way with us and God. Are we obeying and growing in holiness because it’s our role as His child? Because it’s our duty as a Christian? Because we are supposed to?
Or are we obeying God and growing in holiness because nothing is more fulfilling and nothing makes our heart happier than to see the Father happy! To bring pleasure to God!
Okay, I’m not saying any of this to cause marriage problems for you so, remember your spouse is human - they are NOT JESUS - and you GET to be the love of Jesus to them. This story really isn’t about them. It’s about us. So let’s refocus on us and Jesus (because I know some of us ladies struggle here…)
Do you want to get to that place with Jesus? I know I do. Can I share with you a few things I’ve learned along the way while on this journey with the Lord over the past year?
If our purpose is to be eternally happy in Jesus - how do we fulfill that purpose when we just aren’t happy? In my uneducated opinion, when we are unhappy it’s because we have some areas of our lives out of alignment and it’s wearing our heart down which is going to cause a blowout eventually (did you catch my subtle tire analogy there? I just had some car work done and learned a couple things…)
Here are the three places to check for alignment issues:
When I am unhappy, the vast majority of time, it is because I am focused on crummy circumstances, painful relationships, frustrations at home or work, and am generally discontented with my life.
My husband has a practice with our children that I’ve come to adopt for myself. When one of our kids starts to flip their lid and lose control or get super negative, my husband sits them down and gently asks them to list 3-5 (depending on how emotional things are) things they are thankful to God for. Usually they don’t want to do it at first; they want to stay mad or sad. Isn’t that just like us though? We get to our pity party and don’t want the party to end, probably because it’s justifying our bad behavior (ouch!) and we don’t want to own up to our poor choices. Anyway - once the kids start listing things that they are grateful for, it never fails, by about 2 or 3 in the list, smiles start to creep over their faces and they can finish the list with giggles.
It may take more than 2 or 3 on your list because, let’s face it, being a grown up is a little more complicated than being a kid. But maybe that’s why Jesus told us we need to have childlike faith to enter the kingdom. We need to quit overanalyzing and nuancing every single issue in our lives. IT’S MAKING US MISERABLE, SIS! Let’s just keep it simple. We have so much to be thankful for and it’s time to refocus our eyes and hearts to our gratitude list and start reaching smiles and giggles by 2 or 3!
This one is hard. I know. But sometimes we just aren’t happy because we aren’t willing to let go of our stuff and say YES to God. This is a trust issue. When we struggle to hand things over to God it is because there is a part of our heart and mind that just doesn’t believe He can handle it, that He’ll do the right thing, that He is for us - not against us. We don’t trust Him.
Do you know how to overcome this? There are 2 steps to overcoming here… that’s it. Here they are:
If you aren’t happy, there’s a good chance you aren’t spending much time in His presence. You may be spending time reading the Bible - you can read the Bible and miss that this is the very voice of God speaking his love over you right in that moment. You may be praying - we can talk to God and forget to listen to His precious voice speaking truth over us and breaking off every lie we have chosen to believe. You may be going to church - we can attend church and miss God’s Spirit moving and speaking and ready to heal in the room.
Get in His presence with a heart to see Him, hear Him, and know Him. And if we do it looking for Him to DO something for us rather than just to BE with us - we may miss Him. I have found that when my heart is just to be near to God, not to have him fix all my problems, his very presence is enough. I don’t need answers. I don’t need problems gone. I don’t need finances restored. I don’t need relationships perfect. I just need His presence and that is ENOUGH for my heart. That is where I’m fulfilled. Not because he fixes my problems - which he does that sometimes - but because his presence fills my heart and that’s what I really am needing.
So sister, what is out of alignment in your heart today? What is keeping you from stepping into the fullness of joy only found in His presence? What needs to adjust so that you can live out your true purpose and be eternally happy in Jesus?
Lord Jesus, we know that You alone fill all our holes and gaps. You alone put healing salve on deep, deep wounds. You alone give hope everlasting. You alone give beauty for ashes and joy for mourning. I pray for my sisters today who aren’t happy. For sisters who are hurting and struggling. For my tired and weary sisters. For my brokenhearted sisters. For my sisters who are angry and the ones who are afraid. You are the lifter of heads so we call on You to fulfill your Word and lift their heads up to you and your glorious face right now, Jesus. Just looking into your face changes everything, Lord. We need YOU. Help us to know that. Bring us that revelation in our minds and our hearts. That YOU are the answer - not what you can do - but who YOU are. We want to be eternally happy in YOU Jesus. Show us where you are ready to bring an alignment in our hearts and we’ll submit that to you Jesus. Help us to trust you. We believe… would you help us with our unbelief? We know you are good, you are faithful, you are loving, you are redeemer, you are hope and salvation. Remind us of that truth now, Lord, as we draw close to you today.
written by: lyndsay terry
Read more from Lyndsay @ www.lyndsayterry.com
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It's really been sort of interesting and challenging to begin to think, pray and write through all of the topics we have explored this year at Pretty & Wise in light of all that 2020 has held.
Purpose seems like an especially gripping topic.
This year, we've seen a lot of the vehicles through which we believed we carried out our purpose changed or stripped away altogether. Our ministries, communities, mission fields- adapted to fit into quarantine restrictions or just put aside altogether.
And I don't know about you, but without the things that made up my insanely busy, "productive" and "purposeful" life, it got pretty quiet.
And it became hard to do even the most basic, 'neighbor-loving' things.
And it was in this eerily quiet, unknown and uncharted sort of place where I believe purpose was truly fleshed out.
One of my most favorite books of the Bible is Hosea. Oh, I would love to tell you all about the many times the Lord has wooed and pursued me through this book! It holds such beautiful, breathtaking grace, love and mercy.
Hosea 2 speaks to Israel's adultery and I want you to take a look at what the Lord says:
"For this reason I will fence her in with thornbushes.
I will block her path with a wall
to make her lose her way.
When she runs after her lovers,
she won't be able to catch them.
She will search for them
but not find them.
Then she will think,
'I might as well return to my husband,
for I was better off with him than I am now.'
She doesn't realize that it was I who gave her everything she has-
the grain, the new wine, the olive oil;
I even gave her silver and gold.
But she gave all my gifts to Baal." (Hosea 2:6-8 NLT)
Oh, sweet friend. I hope that you will read this book in its entirety, for the rest of this passage speaks even more to what we have experienced this year. An end to annual festivals, celebrations..
This is likened to being stripped naked.
Completely exposed before the Lord, with nothing to hide behind or throw ourselves into.
Just us and our Bridegroom. Face to face.
And wow, I've got goosebumps when I think of this level of intimacy. It is beautiful beyond words or comprehension.
But it is also uncomfortable.
I know so very well how difficult it is to be completely seen. And it's like, we know that Jesus sees us ALL, but when we become keenly aware; when we can't escape it.. whew, it's humbling. It's flesh-killing. It's sanctifying and refining.
Friend, I am sure this year has been all of this and more. And I say to you, sister:
This is very good.
The Lord's Love for Unfaithful Israel:
"But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyard to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble
into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
as she did long ago when she was young,
when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
"When that day comes," says the Lord,
"you will call me 'my husband'
instead of 'my master.'" (Hosea 2:14-16 NLT)
Through the discomfort and exposure to the elements, in the quiet and uncomfortably still, in the arid desert, have you heard Him calling?
Have you seen Him pursuing you?
This desert, this wilderness of a year. Oh, sister, this has served a purpose. Beyond what you can even begin to imagine.
This season has freed us from bondage. Caused us to repent and lay down our idols. We've thrown it all off, all that has weighed us down, so that we can begin to RUN.
Our purpose is to love the Lord God with all that we've got. Above all else. More than any other thing. Our purpose is to know that nothing else in this world will satisfy us and to drink deeply of Living Water.
Our purpose is to hunger and to thirst and to pant and long for God as a deer pants for water. (Psalm 42)
We were created in the image and likeness of the Lord God Himself. To walk with Him. To commune with Him. To love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
And then to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And so if we are to effectively walk out our purpose, purposefully, in the many ways that we love others; if we are to fruitfully be salt of the earth and light of the world, we have *first* got to love the Lord our God above all else.
This is critical.
This is vital.
And so, sweet friend, I pray that you have seen this process unfolding this year. And I pray that if the wilderness has felt unkind and almost like a near-death, wasting-away experience, that now your eyes will be opened to the restoration and new life and new wine to come.
IT. IS. COMING.
IT. IS. RETURNING.
Love is returning.
Hold firm to this truth, sister. Do not give in. God is good. He is faithful. He does not delay.
He is coming for you.
He is doing a new thing.
Do you perceive it?
Jesus, oh beautiful Jesus, we come before you. At your feet. Laid bare. And we thank you for this painful, almost unbearable pruning. We thank you for this great shaking. We pray, Lord, that we would seek Your face above all else. That you would show us how to love, by lavishing on us Your great love. You are good. You are beautiful. Your love IS lavish. It is extravagant. It doesn't make sense but you pour it out on us, Jesus. Open our eyes to see what you are up to! Help us to walk forward from here on out with great purpose, bearing fruit, ready for harvest. Awaken us, Lord! Awaken us to the full life you have for us on this side of eternity and at the same time, awaken us to what awaits for us in eternity with you. Give us an unquenchable desire for you and an urgency to establish your Kingdom. Thank you, Jesus. AMEN!
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As I sat down to write this article, I kept coming back to the same verse over and over. Jeremiah 29:11-13
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
We are talking about purpose this month, and that is something that I have always struggled with. What is my purpose? I see friends who are doing amazing things, leading groups, growing businesses, living what seems to be a profound and purpose filled life. And then I look around me. Piles of laundry, a floor that needs to be swept, dishes in the sink, dog hair on the carpet, kids that need a bath. What is the purpose in all this?
Well sisters, the purpose is for me to show Jesus to my children, husband, and friends, and co-workers.
My best friend reminded me that my purpose is to love, be kind, and keep doing what I am doing in raising my kids. She isn’t wrong. That verse in Jeremiah tells me that God has plans for me and that those plans are for good things. His plans are my purpose. He is the one that blessed me with this family. Why WOULDN’T that be my purpose?
He also tells me in that verse that I need to be calling upon him and seeking him with all my heart so I can find him. I don’t know about you, but when I set my focus on Jesus for the day I am amazed at all the things that seemed to be a big deal dissolve away and I am able to focus on my true purpose better.
I also believe that our purpose can change depending on the season of life we are in. Right now, as I said, mine is for my family. There are women out there who are not married, don’t have children, have raised their children, or who are still raising children. No matter what season of life you are in, God has a plan - a purpose - for you. I’m not going to lie, I am looking forward to the season of purpose that doesn’t involve diapers.
So let’s circle back to that comparison of purpose thing I had going on. When I see friends walking in their purpose I can’t compare my life or purpose to theirs. Looking at someone else’s life and comparing it to yours is never a good idea, but especially if you are trying to figure out your purpose. Seek God with all our heart. You will find him. He will reveal to you what your purpose is. Who better to show you purpose in your life than the one that made you?
I know this article has been a little all over the place. This topic is one that I struggle with, as I said. I want you to know that I am praying for you. Yes you. If you are reading this article, I am praying that you allow God to speak to you and help you either find your purpose in him or find contentment in the purpose he has given you. It has taken me a long time to get to that point and I still have times when I wonder. He knows the plans he has for you - and they are for good and a future and hope.
WRITTEN BY: Angie Reese
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You were made for a purpose.
I think most of us are familiar with this phrase. It then begs the question, what is my purpose? For many, it becomes a lifelong pursuit...or an endless trial and error of 'trying on' this job or that profession. We may even begin a series of volunteer positions looking for that perfect fit. We want to find that job or profession that gives us that hand in glove feeling...to find our sweet spot in life. And we think that as we are doing this we are pursuing our purpose in life.
Maybe it's just semantics, but I believe that we are apt to confuse our purpose with our calling. When we begin looking for our calling when we have not first truly understood our purpose, then we have put the cart before the horse.
I am a word girl. I love words and I believe it is really important that we understand the meanings of the words we use. In our current culture words have become blurred as old meanings have been dismissed and new meanings are assigned to words that we thought we knew the meaning of based on the definitions that have been around for hundreds of years, if not longer. But that is an article begging to be written for another time. I think when it comes to the words 'purpose' and 'calling' we have just generally not had a clear understanding and so we have fallen to using the words interchangeably as if they had the same meaning. Therefore, I think it important to look at their meanings from the dictionary.
2: the vocation or profession in which one customarily engages
4.a strong impulse or inclination: She did it in response to an inner calling.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
As I look over these two definitions I can see that there is clearly a difference between calling and purpose. Our calling helps us accomplish our purpose.
Calling Facilitates Purpose
In Romans 8:28 we are told that we are called according to His purpose.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
So we need to look to the author of life for our purpose. If we love God and want to understand why we were created and put here on this earth we need to understand His purpose in creating us before we pursue a specific calling for our lives.
In order to understand how something is to be used properly, we need to understand why it was created.
Let's look at a coffee cup. A coffee cup is made specifically to hold coffee. I am extremely grateful for the creator of the coffee cup as I smell that wondrous aroma and take the first sip of the day….ahhhh…but I digress. The coffee cup's purpose is to hold coffee...plain and simple. Can it do other things? Sure...but it doesn't fulfill the purpose for which it was designed if it's sitting on your desk holding pens.
You and I were created for a purpose. That purpose is to glorify God. We need only to look to the example of Jesus on this earth to see what it means to live out that purpose. In His own words, we hear this,
I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
So if our purpose is to glorify God, then how do we do that? That's where our calling comes into play. Calling is the means to accomplish our purpose. If we don't understand our purpose before we look for our calling, then we are in danger of allowing our calling to become our purpose.
When we do that we are placing our own calling on the throne of our lives. It becomes the driving force in our life. Our calling becomes our god. And life begins to lose its true purpose. We begin to seek success with our calling and crave the affirmation of that success from the world. We seek our own glory rather than God's glory. By putting our calling first we are putting ourselves on the throne. That's a dangerous place to be. And it brings us misery in the end.
Friends, it is really important that we get this right. Words are important. His Word is the primary way that God communicates with us. His son, Jesus Christ, is referred to as 'the Word' (John 1:1). It's is so important that we look to the Word to understand that we all have the same purpose...to glorify God. But each one of us is uniquely created according to our calling to fulfill that purpose.
You are called. What your calling looks like is very specific to the way you are created. You are uniquely you for a reason. Your giftings, your bent, your personality, your abilities, your occupation, your ministry in the local church...these make up your calling. Your calling will often include specific assignments. Your calling is the thing or things God has given you to carry out to fulfill your purpose (to glorify God).
If we keep our purpose of glorifying God as the primary driving force in our lives, then it becomes the gauge to measure our progress in life, which leads us to our calling.
In The Grand Weaver, Ravi Zacharias tells us that finding our calling,
...gives you the security of knowing that you are utilizing your gifts and your will to God's end first, not yours. When you align your will with God's will, his calling on you has found its home.
If we are looking for God’s calling on our life, then we must first seek His will. When our will becomes synonymous with His will we will find our calling. Our calling will then lead us to bring glory to His name. We are called according to His purpose...to bring glory to His name...name above all names.
Soli Deo gloria...glory to God alone!
WRITTEN BY: GAY IDLE
For more from Gay, head to her website: www.gayidle.com
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What am I even supposed to be doing? I hear that question asked all the time (sometimes more than I like in my own head). Sometimes, sometimes I am looking for my next big step. And honestly, sometimes it is because I walked into a room and I just flat out forgot what I was supposed to be doing. LOL Anyones else do that or just me?!? Sometimes it is when I think about how to raise my children or lead a ministry or help out at my kids' school.
But one thing always seems to be true, there always seems to be something very looming about that question to me. As if almost immediately after it is brought up there is this dark cloud overhead and things start to get heavy. The weight of everything seems to be a little harder to hold...
Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the wrong thing?...
I have recently been going through the book “Godmothers” by Lisa Brevere and as we were going through the study Holy Spirit revealed something so powerful to me.
In this quiet moment of study where I sat in my favorite chair soaking in my favorite worship music I began to imagine. I began to ask God to take me deeper. To use me however He saw fit. And I began to pour out my heart and tell Him, whatever it looked like, whatever it sounds like, whatever it felt like I wanted to be His. I wanted Him to use me the way only He knew I was specifically created for... And then the cloud...
What if I am not on the right track... What if I have missed too many doors... What if I don’t have the right kind of education, training or background... What if I wasn’t enough... (FYI-YOU ARE ENOUGH.)
Then in the midst of what was turning into a panic, I felt a calm out of no where and Holy Spirit whispered to me “Sis, I never asked you to do all that. I simply asked you to love Me and love others.”
I am reminded of the toilet paper meme that goes something like this:
Everyone wants to change the world, but no one whats to change the roll. BE THE CHANGE!
And as funny and simple as it is, it also brings great truth with it. So many of us are out there reaching for these massive things. We have grandiose dreams where we accomplish these amazing feats. We want to be the best in our profession. We want to have multiple locations and be the CEO’s and CFO’s, we want to be the next big book author or movie star or music artist. We want to be the one that everyone wants to be and have the things that everyone wants to have and do the things that everyone wants to do. We want to change to world.
Sometimes we just need to change our roll.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I believe in goal setting. I believe in having vision for the future and I absolutely believe that having BIG DREAMS is important in our lives and in the lives around us. I am not for one minute discounting that. Only... I again am reminded of the 2 most important commandments; Love God, and love others.
I wonder if sometimes I lose sight of that in my striving to be on the right path, the right steps, the right career. I don’t want the fear of not being enough or knowing enough or doing enough to paralyze me in my tracks anymore.
Sitting there in my chair that morning Holy Spirit reminded me to not get so distracted with my big picture that I forget to change my roll.
Because the truth is, what good is changing the world if you don’t have someone (God and others) to change it for.
I have this friend who whenever I go to her and I am overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, she simply says “What’s the next right thing?” And I love that because it gives me the freedom to not know all the right answers and the where and the when and the how everything is going to work out. It takes the pressure off and helps to realign and get me moving again even if it is just the next right thing.
So, if in this season you are like me and looking around at all of this crazy thing we call life. Maybe you have the dreams and the goals and the visions and plans God has given you for your life, but you are siting in your favorite chair going, Lord I have no idea how or when or where. I just want to encourage you, we do not have all the answers all the time! And that is ok. (Ssshhhh! Don’t tell my husband and my kids LOL) We were never meant to have them all. We were simply meant to love God and love others.
Do the next right thing and do it with love. We can never and will never go wrong with God’s love. He will guide you if you ask Him and let Him.
Father, I pray that You help Your daughter to imagine and dream with You today and throughout this week. Reveal to her Your plans for her. Plans to prosper her, plans to give her hope and a future. I thank You Father that when she seeks You she find You and You reveal Yourself to her. Help her to see herself the way You see her and remind her to change the roll and put her love on. In Jesus mighty mighty name, Amen.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; Jeremiah 1:5
WRITTEN BY: ALEXANDRIA BROWN
For more from Alexandria, visit her website at www.alexandriabrown.org.
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