I took this photo of my husband last weekend. It seemed profound somehow then.. How small he appears as he surveys all of the wild wisteria that has grown up unchecked in our new-ish yard. What can we even do about this? Where do we start?
We are dealing with an invasive species. It grows rapidly and is dangerous, as it can smother shrubs or even understory trees beneath the heavy weight of its vines. It grows around the trunks of a few large oaks inside the fenced-in area of our backyard and it almost seems to circle the trunk at the ground, vining up, like a predator prowling for prey.
It's interesting that wisteria is not likely to choke out a larger tree; mostly just those trees with a smaller diameter. However, it can grow up the trunk of a tree. It will creep out and around smaller side branches, strangling them as they grow. With its thick foliage, it can shade out a tree, weakening it, and all of those ever-thickening vines high up on that tree greatly increase its chance of coming down in a windstorm.
It is recommended that wisteria be cut off at the base.
This same weekend, my husband came to me with John 15. And there it was:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit." (John 15:1-2)
Do you ever feel like the sin in your life looks a lot like this overgrowth of wisteria? Like you are just staring down this giant and wondering how in the world you can ever overcome?
What in the world can we even do about this? Where do we start?
I mean, in the case of the wisteria, we can start. Slowly but surely plodding away at cutting back the vines. But realistically, how much can we do? We can't eradicate it. At best, we can manage it.
Oh, did I say that was in the case of the wisteria? Well, SAME, in the case of our sin.
Look at John 15 again. God is the gardener. THE gardener. He's not someone who has never seen this before and He's not someone who just had to google wisteria (ahem). He is the One we can call on when we are overwhelmed and He is the One who prunes us.
He cuts back every branch in us that doesn't bear fruit and He even prunes the ones that already bear fruit so that we will produce more fruit.
And I don't know about you, but I don't want my sin to grow wildly and unbridled to the point that it has crept up and begun choking out any growth or fruit that may be growing. And I don't want to be consumed or weighed down so that when a storm comes, I can't withstand. I don't want to fall. I don't want to be destroyed.
I think maybe I want to be more like those mighty oaks inside the fence. I want to be rooted. I want to have a thick diameter, if you will, that is strong and sturdy. I want the years of walking with the Lord to be easily read like the rings inside a tree trunk that are used to determine the age of a tree. I want this to be evidence of His goodness: here's where it all began, here is where there was a dry season and here, a rainy season. Here there was even damage sustained from a fire- but look at how through it all, there was still growth. Look at how, no matter what, she remained. And, ultimately, look at how, through it all, He sustained her and grew her and cleansed her.
I look at these oaks inside the fence and I look at the trees outside. The ones outside are surrounded, covered, darn near consumed. And even those are not too far gone for the Gardener. But when I look at the oaks inside the fence, I think I would much rather have just a bit of wisteria creeping around, right? It's far more manageable, after all.
There's this massive oak, though, right out front. And basically, these five oaks are in a row, with this mammoth oak leading the way. And I'm thinking now: no, I want to be like that one. No wisteria threatening to slither up. Just a firm, beautiful oak.
Isaiah 61:3b: "..that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified [Or 'that he may display his beauty']."
Oh yes. Let any sin in me, though it may at first be overwhelming and untamed, be cut away so that I may, in some supernatural and God-given way, display the Lord's beauty. May I be an oak of righteousness so that He may be glorified.
Jesus, may I remain in You all the days of my life. May I stand tall: rooted in You, Jesus, dressed in your righteousness and displaying the beauty of the Lord. May I yield to your pruning, O God, knowing that You will produce much fruit and, from this, be so glorified. Oh yes, Lord. May You be most glorified.
written by: Olivia Caldwell
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Getting stains out of my kid’s clothes is not a strong suit of mine. I forget to pre-treat. I use the wrong temperature water. I throw it into the dryer before checking if the stain came out. It is a disaster. With a couple of rough and tumble, outside loving girls, this is a regular occurance. I groan as I fold clothes and see the booty of new shorts forever stained with dirt or the front of a shirt spotted with food stains. Sometimes I will have to repeat the process a few times before I can finally get a stain to come out.
You probably know where I am going with this thought if you have an idea of what our theme is this month: Impurity and refinement.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:7 it says, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
Psalm 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
We walk around this earth and all its dirt every day. No matter how much we try, some of it splatters on us. We are exposed to music, television, movies, books, people, advertisements, and so much more that don’t align with a Godly perspective. We know the difference between right and wrong, but these things still influence us. If you go back to my visual of stained clothes, Christians walk around with Scotch Guard on, but the dirt still can get through.
The great part about this is that Jesus is so much better at cleaning those stains than I am. He knew the perfect combination of things to take even the toughest stain away - the love of our Father God, a life lived as a perfect example, willing sacrifice on the cross carrying the impurities of all generations, resurrection and ascension to heaven to intercede for us. Not only did he take out the initial stain, but he continually is there to wash us clean. Washing us over and over. Repeating the process from moment to moment if needed.
Here are some more laundry analogies:
Pre-treatment : daily time in the word
Heavy wash: prayer/repentance
Spin/rinse: Jesus' blood continually cleansing us
Line dry: meditation and reflection
It might seem a little silly, but we can all relate. As we walk through our daily lives, let’s be aware of those things we might come in contact with that can “stain” us. Take some time reflecting today on how amazing it is that Jesus loves us so much, that he values our purity so much, he washes us clean daily. That he gave His very life so that we could come into His presence and eventually live with Him forever in heaven. Our amazing Savior and our loving God value this purity that pierces our very souls.
What are some impurities that you can rid your life of today to bring you even closer to Him?
Written By: Angie Reese
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Life is hard. It’s a well known fact. Even the Dread Pirate Roberts says,
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.” (Princess Bride, William Goldman).
And you might rightly ask, “Why? I’m a God-fearing, bible reading, church going believer. God has saved me from my sin. His Son, Jesus died for me, so that I might be saved. His grace covers me. Where is the abundant life? Why is life still hard?”
My usual answer to that question is that we live in a fallen world that displays the result of sin. Ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, things have been going downhill. Everything has been affected by that choice made so long ago. And the enemy is still at work in this world seeking to destroy everyone in his path.
So, even though we have personally been saved through the work of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection, we still live in a fallen world. We still struggle against our own heart of flesh.
His work brings us into the state of grace, no longer condemned but pardoned. Justified as the righteousness of Christ Himself covers us.
This establishes a right relationship between us and God. But He doesn’t just leave us there...as we are when we come to Christ warts and all, He begins the work of sanctification in our lives.
In his Systematic Theology, A. H. Strong gives us such great illustration of this:
The steamship whose machinery is broken may be brought into port and made fast to the dock. She is safe, but not sound. Repairs may last a long time. Christ begins to make us both safe and sound. Justification gives the first...safety, sanctification gives the second...soundness.
So where does this leave us? Not without help, girlfriend! And I, for one, am so thankful that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us through the trials ...to conquer the remaining sinful nature of the flesh , even as we continue to struggle against it.
The goal is a pure heart as we are told in Matthew 5:8,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Purity is something we do not achieve through our own sweat and blood. It does not come about through sheer determination and work on our part. It’s a heart issue. But how does the heart become pure? How do God’s ways become the strongest desire of my heart?
Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel ~Proverbs 25:4.
It is God who does the refining. To refine is to purify. In Biblical times, the refiner would put the silver ore into a melting pot and then into a furnace with flames hot enough to burn off the ‘dross’...the impurities that keep the silver from being turned into a useful vessel. I found it interesting when I looked up the word ‘dross’...
The Oxford English dictionary as this:
God uses this ‘word picture’ of the refiner’s fire throughout scripture, as it correlates to our faith being refined through painful trials. And as He removes the dross, the worthless rubble from our lives that keep us from being useful vessels, He purifies our hearts and they become more and more a vessel of His love. Yes, it is a necessary process in the life of the Christ follower.
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. ~ Proverbs 17:3
See, I have refined you, though not as silver: I have tested you in the fire of affliction. ~ Isaiah 48:10
We are even told not to be surprised when we encounter the fire of affliction and trials.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.
~ 1 Peter 4:12
This refining process, though it can be painful, is a necessary part of our lives. Our character is refined, and we become a reflection of His grace and mercy.
One more word about this…because, to some, it may seem to be a cruel thing for our God to put us into the fire of affliction and leave us there.
Accept that He does not leave us there. Oh no, my friend. He sits with us there!
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. ~ Malachi 3:2-3a
Just as God spoke to Job from the midst of the storm, He sits with us in the refining fire of our trials on this earth. He did not leave Job and He will not leave us!
Not only is His presence assured, but His purpose is not to harm us. He, as the Word and the refiner’s fire, burns out the power of sin in our lives. He removes the desire, by removing those habits that keep us from walking in step with His word. Be patient...it’s a process, not a once and done deal.
Because we are assured of His very presence as He does His work in our hearts, our response to this process can be, as Peter and James say:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Peter 1: 6-7,(ESV).
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
~ James 1:2-4
I want to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Don’t you?
So what will it take?
Surrender...let the refining fire of God’s fierce love sweep over you and do it’s transforming work in your heart. And trust the One who has your heart in His hands. As the Psalmist says,
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls:
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me
…a prayer to the God of my life.
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, For I will yet praise Him,
My Savior and my God. ~Psalm 42:7, 8, 11.
I’ve come to understand that yes...life is hard. Through the many trials I have endured in this life, I have learned to place my trust in Him. And through it all I’ve come to the resounding conclusion that in spite of the difficulties of this life…
God is good!
WRITTEN BY: GAY IDLE
For more from Gay, head to her website: www.gayidle.com
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While I was thinking, praying and looking through scripture on how to begin this article, I began to catch myself comparing my writing and thoughts to others before myself. Comparison can be a dangerous rabbit trail that can be hard to get off of. It sometimes becomes our everyday thought process where we go through each part of our day comparing ourselves to others. Comparing two different people is like comparing apples to oranges because God created each human being in a unique way with certain personality traits, characteristics and behaviors.
One that always gets me is “Ugh why do I have to wake up so early?” “Can’t I sleep in like my husband?” That silly thought of that comparison goes through my mind every morning as my alarm goes off. It becomes hard to be content with our schedules, routines, lifestyles, and everything that goes on around us. Comparing houses, jobs, people, children, material things or even faith can be a tough thing to break free of.
Looking back on our lives, we have so much to be thankful for, even when we lack the things of the world. God has proved his faithfulness over and over by providing for our needs and He desires for us to be content with what we have been given. That is the big word that gets me everytime. Contentment. Today’s world tells us that you can never be content with the material things you may have and to always want the newest product.
As I am writing this, my thoughts turn to everything that I have been discontent with, especially in my adult life. I still find myself displeased with certain aspects of my life such as my job and house but always have to remind myself, what really matters? Does it matter that I please friends or that I am pleasing God with my thankfulness to what He has given me?
Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If we were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Every time I compare myself with others, I remind myself of that verse and ask myself, am I wanting to please God or others around me in this world? That is a difficult thing to grasp and to change.
Today, I am here to encourage you with something I feel God has put on my heart recently: The gifts that God gives are endurance, peace, perseverance, strength, salvation, love for others, faith and much more outweigh the material objects in this world. What God gives you far outweighs what the earth can give you and God’s gifts last an eternity. His gifts are like precious jewels that can never be repaid nor replaced and I am so thankful for what He has given my family and I. He is ENOUGH for you, for me, and for all of us. His love and grace and forgiveness is nothing that can be compared with. We are so blessed to be a part of his kingdom and we get to share those gifts with others!
Now as we move forward together in this, God calls us to be thankful for what He has provided us with, not what we lack. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we can have this attitude of acknowledgement and thankfulness that God has placed a gift within us that is far greater than any material or earthly object.
Daily, I remind myself to THANK God for His goodness, His faithfulness and provision in my life and others around me. He is more than enough for us and everything we have is from Him, so it makes sense for us to use it wisely and be appreciative of everything that we have. Honor comes to mind as I am writing. Honor the One who paid the price for OUR sins. Honor the One who gives us all that we need. Honor God by thanking Him and giving to others in generosity, because He is enough.
This is my prayer today:
Thank you for your faithfulness in our lives. Thank you for giving us all we need, and when we are in need, let us remember that You are enough and Your goodness will satisfy our needs. Let us remember that You are the great provider and no one else. Let us remember that You provide us with everything we have, and let us be thankful for that. We know that you are enough for us! We love you,
Written by: Savannah Moore
“Did God REALLY say…?” Remember when the serpent said that in the Garden? His whole hope was to convince Eve that her relationship with God was holding her back. He wanted to invoke and awaken desires in Eve… desires for something other than God. He wanted Eve to become dissatisfied with her life and believe her current existence wasn’t enough for her.
Dissatisfaction inspires doubt and opens the door for twisting of the truth. Look ahead to Eve’s response to the serpent…
“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
When we start getting dissatisfied with our lives, we start lying to ourselves. We look at the truth (You must not eat the fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden) and start adding to it our own truths which just continues to fuel our dissatisfaction.
“My husband should treat me better… so I’m justified in leaving him.”
“We live under the new covenant… so I am free to (insert a flesh-gratifying choice here).”
“I should be happy… so I can make this choice even if it hurts other people.”
“God’s rules are restrictive… therefore He is antiquated. I live under grace.”
When our chief desires are for anything other than God, we compare our current status to what we should have, we become dissatisfied with what we do have, and then we fall into sin trying to gain what we don’t have.
Girl, you were made for happiness… through the avenue of holiness which is only found when our chief desire is for God alone.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
We become convinced that some sinful behavior or attitude of comparison and dissatisfaction while give us what we really long for. We look to outside influences for wisdom and understanding before we look to Scripture. We listen to preachers or speakers or pastors or activists or friends or family and are tempted to accept what they say if it doesn’t challenge our current lifestyle instead of God’s Word.
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
Before this moment, God was the supreme desire in the hearts of men. For the first time, mankind looked for fulfillment OUTSIDE of a relationship with God. And it started with comparison.
When we become dissatisfied, we begin to look to our surroundings for fulfillment instead of God. The fruit was good for food, HOWEVER God wanted to provide their food. The fruit was beautiful HOWEVER God is a greater beauty. The fruit gives wisdom HOWEVER God IS wisdom and gives himself to us. The dissatisfaction opens the door for the enemy to slide his foot into the door jam and whisper through the crack, “Did God really say…?”
Today, intentionally check your spirit. Are you choosing to believe a lie? Are you looking for satisfaction and fulfillment outside of God? Ask yourself “Did God really say…?” And then tell yourself the truth!
Did God really say I am so valuable?
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Luke 12:24
Did God really say He has given me a destiny full of hope?
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. Jeremiah 29:11
Did God really say He would take all the bad in my life and make it work for the good?
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Did God really say I could come close to Him and He would help me when I’m in need?
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Did God really say I am righteous because of Jesus? I don’t have to do anything to make myself good - only have faith in Jesus and HIS goodness?
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
Did God really say He favors me?
Did God really say He honors me?
Did God really say He is giving me every good thing when I am righteous?
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11
He really is enough, sweet friend. All your satisfaction will be fulfilled in Him alone. All your hopes and dreams are found in Him alone. All your greatest needs and desires are fulfilled in Him alone.
Quit comparing your life to the one you want to have. Quit letting dissatisfaction creep in. Don't let the enemy of your life have any room to make you question God's goodness with any "Did He really say...?" questions.
He is enough.
Written by: Lyndsay Terry
Recently I found myself standing right next to this super beautiful woman during a time of worship. And as I stood there next to her, suddenly, I wasn't so sure about my outfit choice and I was instantly aware of my old, worn out sandals, my long neglected eyebrows and my long hair that just always seems to get real tangled and crazy looking. I mean, just immediately, I was consumed by these inward laments of my outward "lack".
I came to worship. I'm standing in the presence of the King, to worship His Holy Name- and there, with my dusty old sandals kicked to the side and my bare feet standing on Holy Ground- I'm looking around me and then looking at myself and I'm feeling small and like maybe God should just use someone a little more... MORE, ya know? And it's like... What am I looking at? My God or my lack? How can I possibly think this way when I'm standing before the One who created me?
This has been a constant battle for me, not just in light of comparison but in light of being enough. And I think to a certain extent, it's okay. I'm keenly aware of my weakness and my desperate need for my God to fill me with His strength and His power for what He has called me to. I pray that He is most glorified in the places where my weakness is clearly evident and His glory shines all the brighter.
But then.. there's this place where I get stuck when my eyes remain on my inadequacy. If there's not a shift and if my gaze does not stay fixed on the might of God and the purpose of God and the miracle of the mere presence of Christ in me, that's a problem.
And just now, my husband began speaking to me about Gideon and the tears just started welling up because I can't tell you how many times the Lord has brought Gideon to me.
"The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor." (Judges 6:12)
Lord, how? Me? I am inconsequential. My family is the weakest and I am the least.
"But I will be with you.." (Judges 6:16)
Isn't that enough? To stand before the angel of the LORD and to hear who the Lord says you are, the call He is giving you and the promised presence of the Lord with you? "Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?" (Judges 6:14)
But I'm hiding in the winepress and You're telling me to go and save Israel. Like, thatIsrael? Israel, Israel?
I can't tell you how many times I have uttered or thought the phrase, "I'm such a Gideon." And even there, the focus is on the inadequacy and not God. Because God called Gideon, He purposed Gideon, to do something impossibly big- AND HE DID. God said and he did. And I'm over here concerned with everything in between, like, well, I'm just like Gideon because I'm unsure like him and I'm constantly asking the Lord to confirm like he did.
OKAY, but what if I said, "I'm such a Gideon" as in: God came to me in my weakness and in my hiding and He gave me this call that is so much bigger than me. It's so, so crazy great and enormous and, uh, not to mention crazy, but the Lord Himself said that I am ____ and that He will be with me and He reassured me that HE HIMSELF CALLED ME.
I guess this place of inadequacy I have been stuck in is a little like my very own winepress. And I'm constantly hiding or looking to the left and to the right but God meets me right there. He is looking right at me and saying to me: I am with you. I have called you (insert name that is so outrageously not anything I in see myself and comparable even to 'mighty man of valor') and I have called you to this. You are not inconsequential; I created you with great, specific purpose.
And what if I also changed how I view the ways that Gideon asked the Lord to show him, to reassure him? Instead of, "Oh, that Gideon!" maybe I should think, "Oh, MY God!" Because in his wrestling to reconcile how he perceived himself and what the Lord was saying to him, Gideon asks for a sign- and God says, "I will stay till you return." (Judges 6:18) He was patient with Gideon and willing to work with him and work this stronghold out of him. And later in Judges 6:36-40, Gideon asks for another sign two nights in a row. And still the Lord reassured Him with miracles and His anger did not burn against him, even though he asked to test the Lord in this way.
AND THEN. THEN. In Judges 7:10, right before Gideon is to attack, the Lord says to him, "If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp." Look at what the Lord arranged for him, y'all:
"Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.”" (Judges 7:13-15)
Okay, be right back, crying. God didn't have to do that. He didn't have to do that.
But He did.
Why? Why was he so gracious with this man who struggled so deeply? Why was He so patient with a mere man who feels, even in the presence of the Lord, that he needs to test the Lord to be sure? Why would He even care?
"What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:4-9)
We should absolutely stand in awe of our God! Look at what He did in and through Gideon! He took this man who hid himself and who perceived himself as the lowest of the low in comparison to all the men and the clans around him. This man who needed confirmation when maybe we think he shouldn't have. God was patient with him and kind and gracious. And finally, Gideon rose up and proclaimed the victory God had promised him. The one who himself struggled to get up out of that winepress called out to those heading into battle with him: "Get up!"
Get up. The Lord SAID.
Who does the Lord say you are, sister? Who are you in Christ?
What is it that He has called you to? That thing that seems impossibly big? That thing that has you like, "Me, Lord? Surely not me? I'm not anywhere near enough for this."?
Don't look to your left or to your right; don't you dare even go on looking at yourself through those human eyes of yours.
No, no. Shift your gaze. Dare to see what the Lord sees. Dare to believe what He says.
Maybe even ask Him to show you, like Gideon.
And then get up, beloved.
Does not the Lord send you?
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
From early in life we start looking to parents, caregivers, and other important people in our lives to answer a question that burns deep within us. Am I worthy?
As a mother, I see this question being asked in my daughter’s beautiful blue eyes as she shows me a picture that she made at school. I hear this in the voices of my students as they tentatively ask how they did on an assignment or if I like their essay or poem. I hear it in my own voice as I ask my husband “How do I look?” in a new outfit I picked out. But looking to all of these places will only bring us temporary feedback. Don’t get me wrong, it is not incorrect to look for approval with people that are important to us. It is something that helps us grow and understand ourselves and others. NOT having this approval can really hurt us deeply. When we don’t get it we start to compare ourselves to others and a destructive cycle begins.
In his book, “Search and Rescue”, Michael Thompson is talking about the value of items. He says that antique items are “...reassigned a “real” value because of its story. It is in the story - who made it, who owned it, what it has been through, what it represents - that establishes its worth.”
For a moment, let's think about ourselves as antiques. Not in the sense that you are old (I wouldn’t DARE say that about you!) but in the sense that you are an item. Take a moment and picture yourself as one of those beautiful antique vases, chairs, knick-knacks, or framed mirrors. But instead of showing up on Antique Roadshow or some similar situation, you are presented to the Maker. God himself. Jesus at his side. God gently picks you up and looks at you from every angle.
“See here? There is a scratch.” He says.
Jesus replies, “That happened when she was little. It was the first time she felt unloved.”
He continues to turn and look. “Oh look, a crack.”
Jesus answers, “Yeah. That was a bad chapter in her life. She felt very lonely. That relationship really did some damage.”
This continues through your appraisal process. “What do you think? How much could this possibly be worth?”
Jesus’ answer is filled with love and confidence. “This one? This one is worth everything. I gave my life for this one. She might have scars and cracks, but she has a beautiful story of trusting me, persevering, and strength. The story is amazing because it mirrors my own. This one is priceless.”
Sweet, beautiful sisters, this is what Jesus says about YOU. YOUR worth. The answer to your question: Am I worthy? Is a YES that has been shouted from the mountain tops through time and space and across history. The moment that Jesus gave his life for you is the moment your value was established. You are priceless.
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,” Titus 3:5
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” 1 John 3:16
If ever you doubt your worth because of something that someone has said or done - stop asking. It is not an answer that we can find when we compare ourselves with others or ask an earthly person. If we do, we will be disappointed and feel that we need to be rescued and revived. But Jesus is there to play the hero of our story. To align with us and save us. Our real worth and value are written forever on the nail-scarred hands of our savior. Lean in, believe in what HE says about your true self. Allow His perfect love to write your value as He writes your story. You are worthy, loved, and valued - prized - because He says you are.
Written By: Angie Reese
I have had the very recent privilege of serving on a church planter assessment team. This was a team of 3 women and 9 men from various backgrounds of service in ministry, plus one. The ‘plus one’ being a licensed psychologist, also with a background in ministry.
When I first received the email asking if I would participate on this team, I wondered...why me? While it’s true that my husband and I have experience in doing both a new church plant and a replant, I wondered what I was going to bring to the table in working with this team. I think I was the oldest assessor on the team. You know...with age comes wisdom. So there’s that.
Still, I began to question if I was cut out for the task. Even though at that point in the conversation, I wasn’t exactly sure what the task would require of me.
I tend to analyze things. It’s an integral part of my personality. So, in spite of the fact that I can be self-confident and secure in knowing who I am, I can be a second-guesser at times. How about you?
I think we all at one time or another question ourselves:
Am I enough?
Am I equipped for the task ahead?
Can someone else do this better?
Is someone else already doing this better?
Why would I even think that I can do this?
I am not enough...or am I?
Have you ever found yourself asking any of these questions? I think if we are honest, we would all admit to questioning ourselves. We question our own abilities. We question the intentions of our own hearts. We question current callings in light of our past accomplishments.
It becomes a spiral of questioning that leads us down a cluttered path to unrest. Unrest. Because while the world tells us that we are enough, we recognize in our hearts of hearts that we are lacking in some way...we are not enough. Many times we see our own weaknesses. Or we see someone else ‘doing it better’. And so, in that place of unrest we find ourselves looking for help to shore ourselves up under the weight of those weaknesses so that we can be enough.
And honestly, just this longing to be enough can be exhausting. In seeking to be enough we tend to compare ourselves with others. If we want to feel good about ourselves we compare ourselves to someone who is not doing as well as we are. If we are feeling down on ourselves, it is often because we are looking at someone who is experiencing success in an area where we are feeling like a failure. Comparison in this way leads to exhaustion and it does indeed steal our joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
You may be asking, “if it’s true that I am not enough, then why does everyone, even my sisters in Christ, tell me that I am enough?”
Maybe it’s just me or it’s just semantics. But if we want to understand why we are not enough we need to understand first what it means to be enough. So let’s quickly explore the word: Enough
The Cambridge English Dictionary tell us this:
Enough: determiner, adverb, pronoun
as much as is necessary; in the amount or to the degree needed.
So if enough is as much as is necessary or to the degree needed, how does that apply to the statement that you are enough? It would seem to imply that no matter your circumstances or what you are facing, you have what it takes within yourself to do whatever that situation requires of you. Whatever is needed to the degree that it is needed...you have what it takes to be or do what is before you.
Okay, so at first glance this seems to be very encouraging. If I am enough, then I can do basically anything I am called on to do.
Except, I can’t. Not really. I’m not superwoman and the thought that I am enough now becomes a pressure filled reservoir of expectation with fear of failure thrown into the mix. No thank you!
Being enough implies that I don’t need you or anyone else to help me be all I need to be. In order to be enough, I am required to be all and do all...and I’m just too old and too tired for that!
So what do we do when we question ourselves or our own abilities in a given situation? How do we become enough?
For me, being asked to serve on this church planting assessor team as a team leader was one of those moments. Since it seemed to come out of the blue, I believed it was a God thing. For whatever reason, He wanted me on the team. So, in spite of my own self doubts, I said yes.
Let me tell you that after two rather intense 12 and a half hour days of leading a team of two other women as we conducted interviews, took notes, made observations, and recorded scores while meeting with three different couples(church plant candidates), my brain was fried. On the afternoon of the third day we were to let the candidates know our recommendations.
On the night before that last day as I settled back into bed I knew that I did not have the brain-bandwidth to go back over all of the information to be more prepared for the next day. I couldn’t even keep the names of the candidates in my head at that moment. How was I ever going to remember the details of their stories? If I couldn’t remember that, how could I encourage them or speak into their life?
At that moment, I was not enough. I knew that I was lacking and I could not do this on my own. And so I prayed and slept.
The next morning as I prepared myself for the day, drove to the meeting, and sat in the room for instruction for the last meeting with our couples I prayed, “Lord, you know I am not enough for the assignment ahead. I’m tired and my post-covid brain is tired and glitching. Give me the words that You want them to hear. They need to hear from you and not me. If I hear from you, I will speak up. But if I don’t...I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us this is the way forward to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
So I leaned into the Father, confident that even though I was not, He was...enough. His wisdom, His counsel, and His direction is enough. I wasn’t sure if He would lead me to say anything at that moment. But as each couple sat before us He gave me a vision and words to say that were specific to each person. Particularly to each woman. I was amazed at the words coming out of my mouth. His wisdom...not mine. I didn’t have to wonder if it was the right thing to say. He can be trusted.
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples on the last evening they spent together, “I am the vine and you are the branches. Unless you abide in me, you will bear no fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Do you get that? Nothing! If we want to be enough, we have to be connected to the One who is enough.
I lean into Him because He is enough. He enables me, gives me strength, to do all the things He calls me to do.
Are you a second-guesser? Do you question yourself in your role in the workplace? In your home? As a wife, or mother? Lean into Him. Follow hard after Christ. Get into the Word and let it get into you. Talk to your heavenly Father throughout your day. He is your source of strength and courage to step out in confidence. The confidence that through Him and only through Him you are enough.
Written By: Gay Idle
For more from Gay, head to her website: www.gayidle.com
Why is it sometimes that I struggle with feeling disconnected and out of touch? Why do I seem to distance myself from the people that love and care for me the most when things start getting too real? I don’t know about you, maybe this is not an issue for you and you do everything with a passionate heart at every point at every time. A heart that is open and real. A heart that chooses carefully and with intention every time. For me... I am finding that that is regularly my intention and not always the reality in my life.
Looking back, I find myself going through a familiar pattern throughout my life. There are times in my life when I have a desire, even a need and push to have all of these “things”. Not necessarily material things, but rather, the dream marriage, the dream relationships, the dream children, the dream job, volunteer work... you get the picture, the “Pinterest” life. There are even a few times in my life it seems like I have that. There are times that for a while I seem to have the bandwidth to accomplish all of the things, do all of the things, be all of the things...so I do. And then, I don’t. All of a sudden all of these things I thought that I had a handle on start to fall apart. Some slow while others come tumbling to ruble faster than I can even realize. Nothing goes as planned and I am left stressed out, beaten up and broken down.
About a year ago, a friend casually posted something on her social media, you know one of oh so many memes that makes its way viral. Maybe you saw it. It essentially gave us/me permission to not do and or be all of the things all the time, and be only who we are regardless of what social media and culture tell us we “should be and should do.” I still think back on that meme to this day as silly as it is. It reminds me to stop, take a breath and just be. It’s in that moment that I stop and set everything else aside that I remember where my strength, my passion come from and my priorities are realigned.
When I know what my yes’ are my no’s become automatic. I’m sure my pastor and mentors have been waiting for that to sink in for years. LOL I have been hearing some variation of that statement for what feels like forever now and rather than get it through my thick skull. I tend to always, in my excitement of the moment, respond with “absolutely” and quickly lunging forward into whatever has been presented in front of me, often times without a second thought. Then I am left in this same familiar place not long down the road. Instead of reaching out for help, I would allow myself to burnout. Instead of me doing anything with passion, commitment and followthrough, things I once thought I longed for are left half done with little, sometimes even no heart.
Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord himself and not merely for others.
This scripture has never been a source of condemnation when I read it. In fact, it is precisely the opposite. When I read that scripture (especially when I feel overwhelmed and burnt out) I feel as if the Father is inviting me into His lap and reminding me of where I am at. It is in that moment I am reminded of who He created me to be. When I know who I am it is easier for me to recognize my yes’. The things that He has asked me to prioritize in my life. When I know my yes’ my no’s become automatic...
I don’t want to be known for someone who does a whole lot of things and sometimes they work out. I want to be known for the things that I am passionate about. I want to be known for putting my heart and soul into whatever God is calling me to do and giving 110% every time. I want to be known for doing the things that I was created to be and do. Sometimes, for me at least, that is easier said than done.
That can not and does not happen if I allow myself to become so overwhelmed and over commited that I lose sight of my priorities and the things that God has placed in front of me. I have to choose to diligently, passionately and purposefully protect my passions and priorities in order to leave that lasting legacy. I don’t want to be busy for busy sake. I want to be passionately purposeful for what God has placed on my heart.
Most of us know the scripture let our ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and our ‘No’ be ‘No’. What if we lay aside the image culture has created of what we should be and what we should do, and get back to what really matters. Will you do that with me? Take some time this week and seek Holy Spirits guidance about whether or not we are doing all that we do with the passion He has gifted us with. Is there anything we need to change?
And sis, trust Him. He will always guide you, we just have to be looking, listening and expecting.
Love you! Alexandria
Written By: Alexandria Brown
For more from Alexandria, visit her website: www.alexandriabrown.org
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
Be strong and take heart, and have no fear of them: for it is the Lord your God who is going with you; he will not take away his help from you.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16
It's one of my favorite phrases in the Bible, but sometimes I have struggled to understand it. What does it really mean? How can I lay hold of something that feels far away at times? What does taking heart practically look like? And still, I have been desperate to take heart in times of trouble, pain, or confusion.
The Lord has been bringing my attention to this phrase again and again over the past week or so. I've had conversations with friends who are grasping for answers or searching for hope and while we are talking, I hear the voice of the Lord whisper to my own heart, "Take heart." I feel courage well up in me as Lucy did when Aslan whispered to her, "Courage, dear heart," in Voyage of the Dawn Treader (The Chronicles of Narnia). Their ship is heading into the dark, deep, misty clouds and the whole crew is filled with fear. That is when Lucy smells the fragrance of Aslan's breath and hears him whisper, "Courage, dear heart." She can't see him, but she knows his scent and his voice. She knows he is near.
In order to smell the sweetness of someone's breath, we have to be incredibly close. To hear a whisper, we have to almost feel the whisperer's lips brush against our own ear. As I write this, I keep thinking, "Am I that close to the Lord? In my own times of trouble and fear, am I close enough to be aware of the presence of the Lord? To hear his quiet whisper? To feel his breath on my skin? To smell the fragrance of God?"
Keep that in mind as we dive into "take heart" throughout the Bible.
What does it take to "take heart"? How do we quit waiting for courage to come upon us and instead reach out and take hold of courage? Take hold of heart?
In order to take heart, to not lose heart, we have to stay soft towards the Lord. We have to keep fighting. We have to be interested, enthusiastic, and concerned about the things of God and the Lord himself.
When we let heartache, pain, anger, frustration, discouragement, or even busyness surround us and begin to drown out the voice of God, dampen our zeal for him or even crush us under its weight, we can become apathetic. It’s easier to numb ourselves, isn't it? It is so much easier to quit hoping, then we won’t be so disappointed when it doesn’t work out. It's easier to become disinterested because then we can’t be discouraged. It's easier to lose our enthusiasm so we don’t look foolish when things fall apart. It's easier to lose our concern, to quit caring so much, to stop paying attention to what God is saying or calling us to so it doesn’t hurt when it’s so hard. Maybe we even quit caring for His bride, the Church, or the people of God so they can’t harm us.
But sweet friends, notice in these passages, along with “take heart” He says that trouble will come, but in HIM we have peace. It doesn't say in the world we have peace. It's not in things going our way, nor in everything working out the way we plan or hope. We can have peace when our marriage is falling apart, when we are experiencing financial ruin, when our health is failing, and when our children lose their way. We have peace when we find ourselves IN the Lord Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace. We don’t need our life’s circumstances to be peaceful in order to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. His peace will guard our hearts and minds. His peace will make us whole. His peace will protect us.
It also says to wait for the Lord. The waiting is the hardest part for me. It has been hard my whole life; waiting for my first kiss, waiting for my college acceptance letter, waiting for a proposal, waiting to get pregnant, waiting for opportunities to come knocking, waiting for God to move me to the next thing, waiting for stability, waiting for new friendships to be forged, waiting for healing, waiting, waiting, waiting. And I haven’t always waited with patience. I often remind my children that patience is “waiting without whining.” That is something I have to remind myself too. The Lord wants to develop patience in me through my long-suffering. He doesn't want me to just learn to suffer for extended periods of time, but He wants me to learn to wait for the Lord to do what he has promised to do - without complaining or whining because he isn’t moving at my preferred speed or in my preferred fashion.
Part of taking heart is waiting for the Lord - expecting him to come through - and when I have that sincere expectation and the real, true belief down in my bones that he will come through in his perfect timing, I can wait without whining.
The last thing I want to touch on is the phrase “all you who hope in the LORD” in Psalm 31. It can be so easy to lose hope - a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. I had a friend say something to me the other day that hit home for me, “I’m afraid to hope.” Have you ever felt afraid to hope for something? Afraid to hope that a problem would meet the solution. Afraid to hope that things would work out for the best? Afraid to hope that someone in your life would come to their senses?
Afraid to hope for a miracle?
Hoping for those things is scary - and rightly so. Those things will always fail us. People fail us. Problems may go away for a time, but new ones crop up. Things don’t always work out the way we want them to. Some people never come to their senses. Sometimes God says no to the miracle we are praying for. Does that mean we should shy away from hope?
It means we need to stop putting our hope in what God can do and start putting our hope solely in God. We don’t need answers. We don’t need solutions. We don’t need miracles. We need the presence of God. Oftentimes those answers, solutions, and miracles come along with His presence, but even if He doesn’t bring those with Him, His very nearness is enough, sweet friend. His very nearness is enough.
Being near to God, we can have peace when everything fails. We can have comfort when our life is so disturbed. We can rest in Him when we are surrounded by chaos. His presence is all we truly need.
HE is our light in the dark. HE is our comfort in pain. HE is our peace in the storm. HE is our friend when we are alone. HE is trustworthy when we are betrayed. HE is near when others are far. HE is everything when we have nothing. HE is our fill when we are so empty. HE is our life when we are close to death. HE is our hope when we are facing despair.
We put our hope in the Lord.
He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,
for our hope is in you alone.
Psalm 33: 20 - 22
He is enough.
So courage, dear heart. Don’t lose heart, sweet friend. Grab it with both arms around the waist and hang on for dear life. Don’t let hope slip away. Take heart! He has overcome what you are facing. And there is grace enough for you and what you are facing today. You can be filled with HOPE that his very presence is enough to see you through.
Remind yourself: When I am facing fear and trouble, pull in close enough to the Lord to hear his whisper, feel his lips brush against my ear, and smell the fragrance of his breath.
Take heart, dear heart.
I wrote a song years ago that has been ringing in my mind and heart for a few days now. I wrote this song when I was going through a bipolar episode and was struggling to hang on. I was struggling to trust God to see me through. I was struggling with a will to keep living. It was a terrible time in my life and I really don’t like to go back there in my mind, but I think the Lord is bringing me back there - not to revisit past pain and sin - but to offer hope and maybe even an anthem to those suffering right now… If his presence is enough for me, it is enough for you.
This valley that’s in front of me
Feels so dark and lonely
Open up my eyes to see
Just where you’re leading
And Even if you don’t
Even if your answer is no
In your grace I’ll boast
And I will ever trust you
When I’m looking for answer
And when I’m grasping in the dark
When the truth is all I’m after
Please speak to my heart
And Even if you don’t
Even if your answer is no
In your grace I’ll boast
And I will ever trust you
‘Cause in the darkest night you’re bursting forth with light
Your hand of rescue comes we will ever trust you
Your voice breaks through the cloud
Your love comes crashing down
Our hearts are bursting now we will ever trust you
I'm praying for you today, sweet sister, that whatever you're facing, you would be so buried in the Lord that you hear his whisper, feel his lips brush against your ears, and smell the fragrance of his breath surrounding you. That you could face your fear and trouble filled with hope in the Lord alone and peace that only comes when we are IN Christ Jesus. It would be such an honor to pray for you specifically. Feel free to email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message to us on our Instagram or FB page.
Written By: Lyndsay Terry
For more from Lyndsay, visit her website: www.lyndsayterry.com
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