Written by: Olivia Caldwell
Vulnerability is so powerful.
When we are vulnerable before the Lover of our Souls, even though He already knows and He is perfect and holy, there is this beautiful and miraculous exchange. We come limping under the weight of our burden, with all our lack and our wounds and holy and righteous as He is, He is compassionate towards us. He moves towards us. He lifts our burdens, He gives plenty where we had lack, strength where we are weak and healing where we are wounded.
Alexandria has already written so beautifully about this vulnerability before God (http://www.prettyandwise.com/blog/vulnerability) and I pray that you know this vulnerability well. I pray that you have come near when you were tempted to run away and I pray that you have encountered His grace like never before.
I also pray that you have known or will know this type of vulnerability in your relationships.
It is one thing to be vulnerable with the One who will never leave you or forsake you, who has loved you with an everlasting love and who has given His life for you. And even that can be difficult for us to wrap our heads around. Even then it can be a challenge to lay aside our hardened, put-together exterior to reveal an interior that feels so exposed out in the open after being so shielded and guarded for so long.
It is another thing altogether to trust imperfect people in this way.
This is going to sound weird, but I just have this picture in my mind of a cicada.
...Okay, if you're still here, bless you! Bear with me now.
Cicadas live underground for years and years, from 2-17 years. They attach to tree roots and suck tree sap; they live and feed off of the roots of trees. Then after a time of dormancy, this underground life, they emerge aboveground. They climb the trunk of their tree and they shed their skin.
I have witnessed a cicada emerging from its exoskeleton. It was amazing to me that the outside of these creatures was so hard. We would find their shells outside all over the place, brown and tough and well-preserved, clinging to various outdoors surfaces. But when the cicada emerged, I was surprised to see a bright green insect, its underbelly soft and exposed as it stretched its body out.
My kids and I watched this particular cicada for a ridiculously long time one night. We couldn't leave, though, because we felt this need to guard it. This creature had spent so long cocooned, safe and secure underground, wrapped tight in the earth, attached to the root, covered by a tough shell. And then to come out into the world and to literally hang wide open with all sorts of danger around.. it is really a sight to behold.
My sister, it is a sight to behold when we risk this same kind of exposure within the body of Christ. There are many, many of us who have essentially been underground. We have this same protective shell and to be vulnerable means to risk real harm or even death.
You have been sustained by the vine. Even now you may be clinging to the vine that has kept you all these years, nails digging into a strong and sturdy trunk. Will He fail you now?
What if I told you that it is He who actually has a hold on you? It is the Lord Himself who stands guard over you as you shed your protective shell and step towards this intimacy with His people.
He has created you for this intimacy and community with His body. We need one another! And He has such a beautiful purpose for us as we live life together in the way He designed. There are amazing things that He will do through the baring of our souls to one another, through confession and repentance and prayer with our brothers and sisters.
Indeed we open ourselves up to potential harm. Many of us may have even been wounded in the past by the very people we trusted to love us well. Beloved, this cannot stop you from trying again. Let the Lord dress your wounds and let Him lead you into this beautiful unity.
It is a wonder that the Lord will use us, imperfect as we are. It is a wonder that He will use others to do the work of His hands: to lift burdens, to speak life and Truth, to build up and to encourage. There is a very real healing that happens within a people who love the Lord and strive to love people as they have been loved.
It feels so much safer and easier to remain hidden and unseen, but the truth is that there is true safety within the fold. It feels safer and easier to bundle up within an exoskeleton of sorts, but there is a beauty and freedom unmatched that awaits you just outside of that exterior.
If you are reading this, it may just be time for you, dear one, to take a step toward vulnerability. Hold tight to Jesus. Pray for Him to show you the people He has for you. He will help you and He will keep you. He will make you brave. He will be your shield and your bulwark.
There are treasures and riches that await you. Step out and into freedom that you have not yet known. Stand in awe as you are seen and known and truly loved, in spite of all your reservations, fears and failures and flaws.
Take heart, beloved daughter of God. Take heart.
Written By: Olivia caldwell
There's this image that I just keep seeing in my mind.
I see a daughter.
Sometimes she is indifferent; calm, collected and unfazed on the surface. Other times she is perceptibly angry, her face hardened and resentful.
She is always pushing away.
She will not allow herself to be loved.
She does not believe she is worthy of love. The hardness of her exterior would lead you to believe that love is the last thing she desires; it may surprise even her to know that love is the thing she needs.
The sin and brokenness of the world have marked her and she carries her own sin and grief and anguish and regret. Shame overwhelms her and spills out of her, leaving a trail in her wake.
She leaves, withdrawing as often as possible, content to be alone and away from everyone and everything. She lives isolated, not caring about the distance or circumstance she finds herself in. Her thoughts can be too loud here, the memories in her mind too sharp and the wounds too raw, but this is her lot.
This is where she belongs. This is where she will stay.
It happens one day so quickly that she cannot breathe. This life that she has resigned herself to, this life that she has intentionally crafted, comes crashing down as it comes into collision with Love.
She doesn't know how it is happening or why it is happening, but her guard collapses and her hardness is like a dam ravaged by gushing waves as tears pour forth.
The shame that has lied to her and consumed her and imprisoned her is utterly destroyed as she hears the Truth:
“I love you.
I have always loved you.”
This daughter was blind, always running and pushing away. Now she sees and she cannot help but come forth.
This daughter believed that she could never be loved. Now she weeps with awe and wonder at the depth of love for her soul.
This daughter could not imagine she was worthy. Now she knows the One who is Worthy who paid the highest price for her life to be saved.
She is wrecked by amazing grace. She is humbled by Love that loves first. She cannot believe that she is worth so much to someone so Great.
She stood far off, but Mercy ran her way.
She cannot fathom being brought in, but here she sits, wearing a ring and a robe, at a table prepared for her.
This is what her Father longed for, what He desired to give her and what He rejoices now to lavish on her.
She is His beloved.
Daughter, I don't know where this finds you today, but if you are like this prodigal daughter, come forth, beloved one. You are greatly loved. If you have a prodigal of your own, rest in the strong love of your Father. Keep this picture in your mind and do not stop believing: He is pursuing always and even now.
If this has been you, let this pour over you all over again, beloved. What kindness that drew you in. How immediate was your transformation. Remember how utterly lost you were. Stand speechless all over again as you see the King running to you from far off as if it were just yesterday.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Written By : Olivia Caldwell
“She wanted Jesus above all else, even above serving Him.”
Late last night before bed, I opened up The Jesus Book. I was simply hungry to know more of Jesus. I think part of me wanted to know about Him, rightfully so, but another part of me seemed to not expect to be so directly confronted by one sentence.
For a book that aims to make Jesus known and for the reader to love Him more, I should not have been surprised that things in the way of loving Him would need to be torn down.
I love to serve. I really do. I love the parts of my life where I have been given the opportunity to serve. In its purest form, all service is compelled by Love and done as unto the Lord.
This story of Mary and Martha, though.
“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Jesus was right there in the room and Martha was serving Him.
Doesn't it seem right to serve the King when He enters your home? “Is there anything that you want, Lord? What do you need? I will do it!”
What kind of King only desires one thing? What kind of King prefers a sitting at his feet over being served?
Jesus says there is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary discovered it. And it would never be taken from her.
We were created to love and be loved. We were created to know and to be known.
Sometimes it's easier to do, to serve. Sometimes we are so convinced that we need to be doing something to show that we love Him. Sometimes we are convinced that we need to do something in order to be worth something. Sometimes we are deceived or fearful. I think sometimes we avoid sitting at His feet because we are afraid.
It is hard to sit. To be still. It is hard to cease doing. But if you really think about it, it should not be difficult to do so. If we believe that Jesus is the source of everything, our worth, our salvation, our time, that he is our treasure and our reward, and if we believe that He is everything, then it should be easy to stop and to rest in that.
If we are up and doing, it can feel more significant. We can feel more productive, like we have more worth.
We think that Jesus needs us to be up and doing, but He doesn't need us at all. He simply desires one thing, calls one thing worth being concerned about.
It's not too good to be true. It is counter intuitive, but it is true. It feels like not enough but Jesus says it is of the utmost importance.
Yes, we have been commissioned. Yes, we have a call. Yes, there are works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. But first. But first. We are to discover for ourselves that one thing worth being concerned about. Then, just like Mary, it will not be taken from us.
Lord Jesus, we stop here and now and simply rest at your feet. Lord, help us to love you. Help us to know you. Help us to adore you. Help us to want you above all else. Above all else, Lord, we long to desire you. Oh, let this be true, that one thing we desire, Lord, and only this we seek: that we may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4). Lord, all that we are is found in you. All of our worth, all that you call us and have created us to be is found in you. Teach us as we sit at your feet. Teach us to live a life from your feet. Teach us to live from your rest. Teach us to live as your daughters, as your created and beloved ones. Show us to truly walk in your freedom, purchased at the highest price. Let us not squander this gift, Lord. Let all of our days be lived in light of the cross. Thank you, Jesus. It is in your precious name that we pray, amen.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
It happened relatively quickly. At first, I was busy. Just so busy, you know? And then I was distracted. And this busy-ness and distracted-ness kind of just snowballed into an apathy that seemed almost uncontrollable. Like, I knew what I should do and what I previously had wanted to do- but then I would distract myself. On purpose.
It was dumb, really. It should have bothered me more that I didn't want to do the things I had done at first, but in the moment, it was like I couldn't care enough. Those things felt like work. Like it would cost me something. Like it would require my full attention, all of me, and I didn't feel like I had it to give.
And eventually, because of my negligence and hiding behind all of the things, there was something like a wall built. Like I built it myself and I was ashamed I had built it but I had- brick by brick, one small choice on top of another and another and another. So when I finally recognized how far things had gone, it seemed that I had blown it.
How do I come back from this?
What do I do with this wall?
A few weeks ago, I read this passage: “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13). And I prayed it, you know? Earnestly prayed: “Lord, don't let my love grow cold. Help me to endure to the end.”
It honestly is terrifying how quickly and how easily a love can grow cold.
Just like how spreading a bit of mortar here and laying a brick there, bit by bit, results in that wall, so are our 'small' choices. Like being busy and distracted are a foundation of sorts and then we're just slinging brick and mortar with every additional thing we are throwing ourselves into and every desire of our flesh we are gratifying.
We believe the lie that to be uncomfortable, to die to ourselves and to make a 'costly' choice is worse than attempting to rebuild a divide that Jesus paid the highest price to tear down once and for all. We should be rejoicing in the finished work of the cross- and whether we realize it or not, those times where something else has captured our time and attention more than Jesus pours out such a disdain and contempt, even, for Jesus and all He has done.
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
The really great thing is that anything that we build with our human hands is nothing compared to the King of kings, Who already took care of every sin and every bit of shame. He is moved with compassion if ever we get stuck in any variation of the love-grown-cold cycle.
It's right there: remember, repent and do the works you did at first. It is that simple.
What was that love like at first? Do you remember? The delight and the joy and the running toward the Lord. The zeal and the intention and the purposing of your heart, the positioning of yourself at His feet with a hunger and an eagerness.
Did you feel bound then? Was there any reluctance or begrudging or obligation? Did anything else seem more appealing or important?
Oh, God, forgive us! Oh, Lord, we repent! Teach us and equip us to beat our flesh into submission. Replace the lamps of our first love! Remind us of the works we did at first and show us how You would have us put those works into action now.
The Lord can set you free right now and anytime that you find your love growing cold and your lamp running out of oil. And as He warms our hearts and sets us ablaze, just full up of His love, we can then love others well, with His love. It is only then that we can do this rightly.
We are doing two specific heart checks today, love. How can I love the Lord my God with all of my heart and my soul and my strength, with a first love kind of love? And how can I then love my spouse?
If we can so easily abandon the love we had at first with the Perfect and Holy One, the One who is most worthy of all our love, how easy is it then to abandon the love we had at first with our spouse? How easy would it be to build that same wall? To slip into being busy and distracted? To slip into complacency? How scarily easy could it be to cease pursuing and lavishing?
Or worse, then. As the bricks go up, could we grow in indifference? In disdain? Our first love becoming utterly unrecognizable?
Far be it from us, Lord.
Once we have completed a heart inventory with the Lord, we must allow Him to also speak to us and to sift us regarding our marriages. This is the one that God has gifted us. This is the one we have become one with. Are we filled with gratitude? With wonder over the joy and comfort and security and intimacy and even sanctification that has come wrapped up in the gift that our spouse is?
Maybe today you just need that fire stoked. Maybe today you need that wall to be demolished in one fell swoop. Maybe today you need to allow the Lord to tend to your heart, to offer up to Him anything you may be carrying, to release it and to allow His healing to overwhelm you.
Maybe today you need a miracle, because you are barely hanging on. If you're going to let go, then lift those hands in surrender to the One who is mighty to save.
Wherever you are today, dear one, things are not too far gone. It is not too late and it is not too big for our God. Sit before Him right now and make note of the things that come pouring out of you. Write down the date and the time, even. Wait and watch.
First love is being restored.
Lord, I pray that over my sister reading this. Lord, specifically in her marriage, would you come and do a mighty work? Father, I ask that You would reveal to her any areas in her heart that You are wanting to come in and cleanse. I ask that You would purge anything that may have built up over time. I ask that You would heal her heart, transform her mind and open her eyes and ears to see and to hear the Truth that You are leading her into in a specific area. Lord, would you renew and restore? In the name of Jesus, would you grant a love for You and a love for her husband that is beyond compare? Speak to her what things she did at first that You would have her go and do now- and Lord, grant her the courage and humility to obey You. I thank You, Jesus. Thank You for this sweet sister. Bless her and her walk with You and her marriage, in Jesus' name, amen.
written by: Olivia Caldwell
Some of my most precious times of prayer have been in repentance.
“So repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins] and return [to God—seek His purpose for your life], so that your sins may be wiped away [blotted out, completely erased], so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord [restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day];” Acts 3:19 AMP
Perhaps you have not associated repentance with refreshment, but I testify today that I have found this to be the truth.
When we follow Jesus and we walk by the Spirit, we spend time in the Word and we spend time in the Lord's precious presence - and things happen there.
The Spirit opens up the Scripture to us, feeding us the Bread of Life. We see Jesus. We see the Father. Even a glimpse confronts us with the simple truth:
The Lord is holy. Holy, holy, holy. There is none like Him. And although Jesus has made us holy, we are yet growing in holiness, growing in conformity to the image of Jesus, and we are not Lord. Jesus is Lord.
This conviction and repentance following happens in many ways…
We may have something we have been struggling with for some time. I want to be clear that I do not speak to all of our struggles, but many “struggles” are, in fact, sin. We are struggling, wrestling, even, with dying to parts of ourselves. There are places in us and in our lives that the Lord wants to fill with even more of Him and we cling so tightly to things that simply will not last. They are not eternal. But He is.
The point is that more and more of us will die as we move deeper and deeper into Jesus so that what remains is Him. That may sound offensive - but Jesus is who we are after. Jesus is the image we are to be conformed to. Jesus is holy. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Heb.1:3)
We come face to face with our sin and cry out in desperation, finally, for help. For forgiveness. For refreshing. The Lord Jesus, who has been patiently waiting with outstretched hands to help us in our sin and our weakness, moves toward us. Can you believe that? He moves toward us, even at our lowest (which, if you think about it, is not truly our lowest, since He loved us while we were yet sinners).
And the refreshment comes. Healing comes, as we confess our sins. We can repent and we can renounce that sin and it's almost as if life begins anew, in a way. It's a relief to have the struggle come to an end once we have repented. It is finished.
Other times, we encounter the Lord's holiness in the Scripture. We see His character. We are struck with the fear of the Lord. We sit with Bibles open on our laps, in stunned silence and with tears welling up in our eyes. The beauty of Jesus overwhelms us. Parts of Him we have not seen or known before in this way move us to repentance. It is the natural response: we are set in awe before Him and we worship. Repentance is our worship. “Jesus, I have not lived according to this truth from your Word. Lord, I have not believed you as you are worthy to be believed. Father, I have not trusted you as you are worthy to be trusted. I have not worshiped you as you are worthy to be worshiped!”
It pours out of us. What beauty it is when our stiff-necked-ness and our hardness of heart and our flat-out ignorance melts into a tenderness from the work of the Spirit of God.
The heart of our worship is refreshed.
Other times, we are rebuked. Again, this will often happen as we spend time in the Word. We come across a hard Scripture, a command, and the Spirit stops us right in our tracks. If we are in healthy, godly community, this will come from a trusted brother or sister in Christ, who come to us with the truth in love. Either way, we are confronted with what the Word of God says and we are struck with a conviction over that sin and a desire to walk in the way of life that God, in His perfect wisdom, has laid out for us. Even if it stings and even if our flesh screams to react, we must yield to the Holy Spirit. We must let Him lead us in responding with humility and honor.
What refreshment lies on the other side of rebuke and repentance thereafter!
“My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
We are commanded not to despise this discipline and we rejoice in knowing that our Father in heaven loves us, his children, too much to leave us in our sin. It is less than what He paid for. He has more for us, better for us. Greater are His ways! We are refreshed as we turn from our way and walk in the Way.
Sometimes, we are moved to repentance as we witness the work of the Lord in another. There are stories of those in Scripture who respond to their circumstances in ways that are truly supernatural. Their humility and their reverence seem to shine a spotlight on our own pride. We meet people who live their lives in a way that pours out the aroma of Christ onto all they encounter. It causes us to examine our own lives: what do they have that I do not? What do they do that I do not do?
I'm not referring to a sinful comparison - it is a wonder over the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. It is a longing for the Lord to come and do it in us. It is a recognition that they have seen and known the Lord in places that we may never know about, but we get the sense that they have dug and dug and dug the deep wells that spill out of them. We sense that they, like Jacob, have wrestled much with the Lord. There is history. There are testimonies unending. They have seen the Lord.
We want to see Him, too. Whatever it takes, Lord, we want you. Whatever it costs, Lord, I am willing. I just want you. More of you!
My friend, repentance is one of the greatest things that we can experience as a follower of Christ. Repentance testifies to the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Repentance brings to remembrance the steadfast love of the Father. Repentance spurs us on in our walk with the Lord. Repentance ensures that we move deeper and deeper into the Lord Jesus. We become more and more hidden in Him. We must live in Him! He must become our dwelling place.
Repentance does just that: it transforms a heart into a home for the Lord.
Today, sweet sister in Christ, let that cool wind of the Lord refresh you as on a hot day. Let true repentance bring that refreshment your soul has been longing for.
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
I've been reading Numbers 14 over and over again and just mulling over this portion of Scripture this week. As I have been praying over and reading about and living out obedience for the last year and a half (I spoke on the Wonder of Obedience at our Wonder Conference last October, so y'all know I had to live it before I could speak it!), I have become increasingly convicted when it comes to obedience. Honestly, I pray I never stop becoming more and more convicted regarding obedience to the Lord. I certainly need and desire to grow in this area, to obey immediately and in full faith in whatever it is that the Lord asks me to do.
This passage covers so much about obedience.
The Israelites are on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. Twelve men are sent out, one chief from each tribe. For forty days they are scoping out the land of Canaan, of which the Lord said, “I am giving to the people of Israel.” (Numbers 13:2), and they return with their report of the land. All but two of these men bring the people a bad report of the land, saying that the land flowing with milk and honey is actually a land that “devours its inhabitants” and that they are but grasshoppers to the people in the land.
Numbers 14 begins with the people of Israel crying and weeping and longing to return to Egypt, to a life of slavery without the Lord's presence and protection. They say,“Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2b-4, emphasis added)
The other two men who surveyed the land, Caleb and Joshua, tear their clothes at this and look at what they say to the people: “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into the land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:7-9)
The land is a good land. The Lord will bring us into it. Do not rebel against the Lord. Do not fear the people of the land- they are bread to us! The Lord is with us!
And the people said to stone them with stones for these words.
The Lord says to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11)
I have to admit, that even though I recognize I have many Israelite tendencies, I have found myself about ready to chuck my Bible across the room as I read about these people. “Are you kidding me? The Lord literally said He is going to give you this land. You were just delivered from slavery in the most incredible, miraculous of ways, you've been led by the Lord in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. You've seen His hand and you've seen His provision and you have trembled at His glory and at His judgment and - and you're telling me that you don't believe Him when He says that He will give you this land and bring you into it?”
And then the Holy Spirit nudges me, “What about last week when I prompted you to pray with that woman?” Why did I hesitate?
“And that person you know you need to share the Gospel with?” Why do I fear?
“And the work that you know I want to do in your home, in your family, that you have been distracting yourself from?” Why do I doubt?
How long will I not believe in Him, in spite of all of the signs I have seen?
This part of the Israelites story grieves me so much. The Lord declares that none among the people of Israel listed in the census from twenty years old and upward will enter into the land, except for Caleb and Joshua. He says, “But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.” (Numbers 14:31-33, emphasis added)
“Who you said would become a prey.” It's interesting to think that if their parents had obeyed, the children would have avoided the suffering of the wilderness and entered into the land of the promise because of the faithfulness and loving kindness of the Lord.
They said that their children would become a prey and they feared for their children. And because they presumed that they knew best, that their ideas in the face of unbelief were better than the Lord's plans and promises, their disobedience caused the ones they had so much concern for to suffer. And yet, because of the goodness and steadfast love of the Lord, these children would know the land their parents had rejected.
When Moses told this to all the people, they mourned greatly. The Lord had told them to turn and to set out for the wilderness (Numbers 14:25) and instead they rose the next day, early in the morning, and went up to the heights of the country, now ready to enter into the land the Lord promised, saying, “Here we are.”
Doesn't that just tear your heart apart? I imagine regret and desperation gripping them, compelling them to try to take back their grumbling, their complaining, their unbelief in the sight of their Almighty God.
Moses rebuked them for their disobedience, since the Lord directed them to start for the wilderness, and he warned them not to go up into the land: “...You shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” (Numbers 14:43)
“But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp.” (Numbers 14:44) And they were thus defeated.
It is clear that our delayed obedience is disobedience and that disobedience is sin.
There is so much grace in Jesus, but there will come times when our obedience must be swift as we receive instruction for that moment. One moment. There is no room for delay or hesitation. We must have our minds made up that we will obey the Lord Jesus, right here, right now, even when it doesn't make sense. There is nothing more crushing than missing an opportunity to obey that is a gift to us from the Lord. We simply do not know what is on the other side of our obedience. What will disobedience cost us? What will it cost others?
I want to give the Lord my “Here I am.” before I am even asked. I do not want to offer Him my “Here I am.” with delayed obedience. He is worthy of my complete, pure, wholehearted obedience, not a mixture.
There are times we are unsure if we have heard Him right. There are moments when we worry that our obedience will be weird or distracting. Listen, I hear you, but what the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do is none of those things; it is the will of the Father. It could not distract if it is for His purpose. What seems weird to you is on purpose and specific for what He intends your obedience for. When you worry you have heard Him correctly? Sis, sometimes we need to stop arguing with ourselves about what we think we have made up and simply obey. Let the Lord grow your faith.
Always, always, we must remember just who our God is. We must be in the Word, poring over His will and His character and His promises. We must know precisely who He is and what He has done so that we will not give way to unbelief.
We must desire to be like Caleb, who “had a different spirit” (Numbers 14:24), insisting and persisting in the ability of the Lord to do anything and in His mighty hand. We must be prepared for some around us to react, not with stones, but in ways that could deter or distract us if we take our eyes off of Jesus. Remember that the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel when they intended to stone Caleb and Joshua? Walk in the fear of the Lord, trusting in His purpose to prevail and for Him to be glorified.
What keeps you from obedience to the Lord? What is keeping you stuck? Stop and pray right now. I'll pray for you here:
God I thank you for your Word. God I thank you that you are holy. I thank you for your steadfast love and I thank you for your goodness and for all of your promises that are yes and amen in Christ. Lord, I ask that you would teach us by your Spirit, that you would embolden us and that you would help our unbelief! Forgive us, Lord, for when we hesitate and for when we fear. Forgive us when we simply do not believe. Help us to cling to your word and to your word alone. Help us to be completely yielded to your Holy Spirit and to trust and obey. There truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus. Show us what a joy and a privilege and a gift it is from you, Father, that we get to follow you and to obey you. And Lord, I pray over any areas of regret in our lives when it comes to obedience. I pray that you will speak to our hearts concerning these things and that you will even redeem some of the situations that may come to mind now. Nothing is impossible for you, God. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
I know that I naturally struggle with consistency but just in case, I googled the definition of consistency…for science. Here’s what I found:
“The quality of always behaving or performing in a similar way, or of always happening in a similar way.“ (Cambridge Dictionary)
While I do generally struggle with consistency, I want to share with you a testimony: for the last 22 days, I have been able to be very consistent. Maybe the most consistent I have ever been. And more than consistent, I’ve been living free. I mean, this has just been an amazing start to the new year and I’m praying for a stretch that is much, much longer than 22 days!
(Before you get any ideas, consistency to me doesn’t mean like, living by a schedule or adhering to some set structure or always having everything just so or whatever pops into your brain when you think of what it would look like for someone to live consistently. I mean, I do have a planner, but I didn’t even use it last week, so, that’s where I stand there.)
Towards the end of last year, I got to a point where I knew I could not go on living the way I was living anymore. I knew the things I needed to lay down and I wanted to, but it was not enough for me to simply recognize them and to desire to leave them behind. And that was real clear, because it was almost like I could not stop. I was living Paul’s words: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
It was so bad. I was so desperate. I was crying out for the Lord to help me, to set me free!
On January 1, I started fasting. I didn’t really think about it or plan anything, I just did it because I knew that I needed real help, real transformation- and I needed to draw near to Jesus and to deny my flesh.
So, here’s what I think I really mean when I say that I’ve been killing it at consistency lately:
I have consistently been weak.
I have consistently been desperate.
I have consistently been longing for more than I have been settling for.
I have consistently been running to Jesus.
I have consistently been crying out for the Holy Spirit to teach me, to lead me, to transform me, to sanctify me, to set me free.
And He has consistently done just that.
Day by day, I am reaching for the Word more than I am scrolling on my phone. I am hearing His voice instead of hearing a bunch of distracting noise. He is leading my decisions, big and small, more and more and more.
I find myself wanting to slip back into my old ways every now and then, of course, but mostly I am just full. So full. This is what I have desired and prayed for, for so long.
There’s still a part of me that feels like maybe it’s not enough to say to you, hey, if you’re struggling, the answer is Jesus. Like I should leave you with some solid tips or advice or something more, but more than anything, I just want you to know that He is more than enough.
He really is.
If you find yourself consistently struggling, consistently not enough, consistently weak and weary and desperate- good. You’re excelling in consistency.
If you’re consistently coming to the end of yourself and if you’re consistently crying out to the Lord for help and for deliverance- good. You’re excelling in consistency.
If it’s been days and weeks and months and years, even, that you have consistently been desperate for something to give, to see the Lord move- that’s good, friend. Yes, it is. You’re excelling in consistency.
Come to your Savior who is consistently present and near and interceding on your behalf. Keep drawing near again and again and again. Keep asking and asking and asking. Keep believing that in the place of your consistent weakness, He is consistently your strength. Keep trusting that beyond the consistent circumstances of nothing changing, He is consistently working and moving in about a million ways you can’t yet see.
I feel that someone needs to hear today and take to heart that one day you will see. And you will not change one bit of your waiting and wailing and wondering because you will have seen and come to know so much of Jesus through your situation.
Lord Jesus, we praise You for who You are. We thank You that You are everything, all that we need. You are more than enough. I ask that You strengthen the woman reading this article today. Would You overwhelm her with Your presence right now with Your sweet Spirit? I ask that You speak to her and lead her, that You enable her to live by Your Spirit consistently, that You would show her what it looks like to die to herself in that area of struggle and fleshly living and replace that with real freedom that comes from Your Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
There is a beautiful series of events that unfolds after Jesus’ death, as the stone has been rolled away and his tomb is found empty. In John 20:1-10, Scripture says:
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.”
Though it may appear clear to us throughout the Gospels that Jesus had been pretty explicit regarding what was to come and what He must do, so that the Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said He would rise again in three days and ensured that His tomb was guarded (Matt 26:62-66), we also see that later, as recorded in Luke 24:44-49, Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the Scriptures. So what did they make of all this? What could they do, but marvel and wonder at the empty tomb and folded grave clothes- and then go home??
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)
Mary, who had been delivered from seven demons and followed Jesus all the way to the cross and beyond, as she approached the tomb early that day with spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1), stood weeping. She lingered. Where else could she go? Jesus, the Messiah, had saved her life. Her life had become His, as she followed Him to the end. Her hope was Jesus and now it seemed that her hope was not just lying in a tomb but gone altogether.
Although she knew that the tomb was empty, she still stooped to look as she wept. She kept seeking. And can you hear the desperation in her voice as she encounters these angels and answers, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”?
Turning, she sees Jesus, not yet actually seeing Jesus, and again seeks after her Lord, stating that she will take him away if she can only find him. And one word stops her in her tracks.
As soon as she heard His voice, she knew. She recognized Him and immediately turned, exclaiming,“Rabboni!”
Her Lord, her deliverer and savior, stood before her upon her searching after Him, and sends her to tell the others, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
“My Father and your Father.”?
“My God and your God.”?
This changed everything.
I can imagine her breathless exhilaration as she ran to the disciples yet again, only this time to declare, “I have seen the Lord!”
Oh, may we linger like Mary. May we never stop seeking after our Lord Jesus. May we know His voice and stop in our tracks upon hearing Him speak. May we let His voice change the trajectory of our lives!
And may we not hesitate to run to announce that we have seen the Lord. We have been with Him. We know Him to be true.. the Truth.
May we be faithful with the commission that has been given to us- the good news that we have been entrusted with.
May His great love shine forth because we ourselves have been loved much. Because to us the cross no longer means death and because the tomb was empty. Because we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Pet 1:3)
May our lives be wholly given, so surrendered to and wrapped up in Jesus, that we cannot do a thing apart from our Lord and our King.
That can change everything.
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
Let's talk about worship...pure and unadulterated worship.
David learned how to worship before the Lord. You may be familiar with the story of David shedding his kingly robes and dancing before the Lord, but there is so much that David walks through just in 2 Samuel 6 before he strips down and leaps and dances with all the house of Israel.
How is it that the king became so "undignified" to the point of declaring, "I will make myself even more undignified than this,"?
He saw just who God is, just how holy He is. David learned how to rightly worship a holy, holy, holy God.
A few months before this, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD, "with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals." (2 Sam 6:5b) After many years, since the ark was lost in battle, the ark was now finally being returned to the tabernacle, to be set in the Most Holy Place. God's glory and presence was returning to its rightful place, in the center of Israel and in the center of the hearts of God's people!
David and the 30,000 Israelites are bringing the ark back and look at how they dance and worship! Look at their rejoicing! Isn't this incredible? Surely the Lord is pleased!
Well, no. See, God gave very specific instructions for transporting the ark. It was to be carried. And it was only to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath. And yet...
"And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark." (v. 3-4, emphasis added)
So, here we have this large production and this worship and so much joy and celebration- and gracious, doesn't it seem like their hearts are in the right place? But how holy our God is. How worthy He is of our reverence towards Him and His commandments.
And how quickly David and the Israelites will be reminded.
"And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God." (v 6 & 7)
Not only was the ark of God to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath, but there were also very specific instructions outlined in Numbers 4 of how every thing of the ark of God was to be covered: "but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die." (Numbers 4:15)
Perhaps one of the most profound statements I have heard that will stick with me forever is this: “Uzzah assumed that his hand was less polluted than the earth.” (R.C. Sproul)
David was angry and he was afraid of the LORD that day. "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?" (v. 9)
Can you imagine how that must have been for him? He wholeheartedly wanted for his people to be centered around the glory and the presence of the Lord and His desire seemed to be to honor the Lord above all else. How confused he must have been after this. How heart wrenching it must have been, to have had this horrifying realization wash over him that what he had been doing was not, in fact, honoring to the Lord.
"So David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David. But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household." (v. 10 & 11)
"David did this in fulfillment of God's word. Obed-Edom was a Levite of the family of Korah and Kohath (1 Chronicles 26:4).
When God's word was obeyed, and His holiness was respected, blessing followed." (Enduring Word Commentary)
When David heard how the Lord had blessed the household of Obed-edom, David went and brought the ark of God to the city of David. Verse 12 says, "with rejoicing."
"And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn." (v. 13-15)
How different this was.. we see that the ark of the Lord was being carried, "bore" by men, and then this elaborate sacrifice followed.
And David. David dancing before the Lord with all his might in his linen ephod. Note that 1 Chronicles 15:27 says this, "David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who bore the ark, the singers, and Chenaniah the music master with the singers. David also wore a linen ephod." (emphasis added)
David encountered God in all His holiness and his worship was transformed accordingly.
Isn't that beautiful? How convicting and inspiring.
Well, not everyone thought so.
"As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart." (v. 16)
David finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings and went to bless his household, but his wife, Michal, confronted him, saying, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (v. 20b)
This sarcastic vitriol could have been so deflating. And maybe it even could have even hindered a full and righteous worship of the Lord. But because of what David had experienced in those months and how he had seen with his very own eyes the holiness of God, he did not bend. He was not deterred. He was not swayed. He responded, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel--I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (v.21-22, emphasis added)
Hey, sister? There may be times when your obedience to and honoring of the Lord will not make sense to others. What He is doing and what He has done will compel you to offer to Him that which is pleasing and even that which is costly and that which will require levels of humility that could only come about from being in the presence of God. Once you have tasted and seen, you will not dare offer up anything less to the King.
There may come those who revile you and those who question you, confront you and accuse you, even.
May you stand firm in your convictions and in your devotion to a right worship of a worthy King.
May you be even more undignified - more and more and more, as you heap more and more and more glory and honor on the Lord of lords and King of kings.
Let it be so.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
I love reading about the early church. I love reading about their boldness and their love and their commitment to the spreading of the gospel and their commitment to one another.
I love verses like Acts 2:46-47: “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
And I love this account in Acts 4:32-35: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
I. Love. That. I love that the church was so in awe of Jesus, in awe of such great grace and in awe of the Spirit of God, who dwelled in them and unified them and led them and gave them pure hearts, generous hearts, and hearts overflowing with the love of God.
What could keep us from that kind of fullness of life?
At the end of Acts 4 there, we read of a man named Joseph, called Barnabas (son of encouragement) by the apostles, who sold a field he owned and laid the money from that sale at the feet of the apostles.
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.” Acts 5:1-5 (italics added)
Ugh. This is so heavy. I feel such a grief when I read Peter’s question to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit..?”
Sapphira arrives mere hours later, unaware of what transpired earlier, and is seemingly given the opportunity to answer honestly, possibly to humble herself and to repent. She stands alone to answer for her involvement-really, this is an examination of her heart.
“And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” Acts 5:8-11
“How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?”
This passage from the book of James comes to mind: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:14-17
There is such a clear distinction in this passage, just as in the story of Ananias and Sapphira following such a beautiful description of the church. Peter does not hesitate to call their choice demonic. Whatever their motive, whatever their intention, it’s clear that it was completely devoid of and in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit.
How did they get here?
Take a look at what is recorded twice in this passage in Acts:
“And great fear came upon all who heard of it.”
“And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”
We may not be able to tell how exactly they arrived here, how it is that their hearts were so turned from the Holy Spirit and filled by Satan, but from the reaction of the church, we can gather that a fear of the Lord was missing.
Where was their reverence? Their humility? Their recognition of just who God is and of His character? Of His power? Of the Spirit’s ability to discern at the very least whether or not they were lying and moreover, their hearts behind the lie?
What of His holiness? And what of their holiness? Their purity before the Lord?
Living by the Spirit is imperative. We cannot harden our hearts, resisting and quenching the Spirit, until we eventually are no longer sensitive to the moving, stirring and convicting of Holy Spirit. That is dangerous. That is where the enemy has free rein to wreak havoc; that is where disorder and every vile practice begins.
That is how we give dominion of our hearts to the one who is not King. That is how we forsake life abundant and mistakenly choose death instead.
For the church to be “of one heart and soul”, the full number of us, we will need to be in complete submission and surrender to the Lord and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our flesh has no room-and honestly, why would we want to give our flesh mastery over us?
What the early church had was not natural; it was supernatural. The unity and the favor and the great grace and the generosity and the salvations day after day were not produced by human effort. And that’s the point.
Friend, we have a choice to make each and every day. Every hour. Every moment. Will we surrender to the Holy Spirit? Will we choose life over death? Will we choose transformation over stagnation?
Will we allow the enemy a foothold? Will we allow ourselves to become vulnerable to the lies and deceit that grieves the Spirit and sows disorder and impurity?
Let the story of Ananias and Sapphira instill anew a healthy fear of the Lord and a wholehearted desire to be yielded completely to the Holy Spirit. Let the accounts of the early church inspire a wonder and a desire in you. And let the divide between life according to the flesh and life according to the Spirit be sharp, a line distinct and uncrossable.
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