Finding Joy in Difficult Seasons

For many years, I allowed my emotions to control the way I walked through life and made decisions. If something felt right or good, I did it. If something didn’t feel right or good, I avoided it. Needless to say, I surrounded myself with people and situations that satisfied me and filled my feel-good tank. When storms came my way, I allowed my emotions to toss me to and fro and cause so much emotional chaos that I couldn’t even think straight. I would be crushed under the weight of these emotions and be so consumed by my circumstances that it would cause me to fall victim to depression constantly and make very poor, sinful decisions that I would later regret. Thankfully, once I became born-again and began to study the scriptures, the Holy Spirit taught me that damaging cycle is not how God wants His children to live. 

When trials are big and God is small in your mind, misery and instability rule. When trials are small and God is big, near, and sovereign, joy reigns in your heart. We must link our thinking and feelings to the Lord and remind our hearts of His truth. We should never allow our feelings to dictate how we respond in hard times or allow our emotions to hold us back from drawing near to God’s truth where true joy can be found.

While suffering in prison, Paul encourages the Philippians to find their joy in the Lord:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NASB).

Where does rejoicing come from? This ability, despite our suffering and trials, comes from the Lord who is the fountainhead of our joy. We can always rejoice because Christ never changes. You cannot always rejoice in your circumstances, but you can always rejoice in the Lord- He is constant. What are some ways we can rejoice in the Lord? We can rejoice in the Lord because of our salvation. We can rejoice that God is sovereign over all things in our life. We can rejoice that He is sanctifying us and transforming our life. We can rejoice because we can be satisfied with the riches and blessings that are available to us in Christ. 

We can find spiritual fortitude by focusing on Christ who brings us strength and joy no matter what we are facing. We can fix our eyes on Christ by tuning out the things of the world- lesser things- that keep us from thirsting for the things of God that bring a joy that the world cannot offer us. Troubles and anxieties are minimized when we lift our gaze upon the Lord and meditate on the scriptures where we learn the truths of who God is, which renews our mind and strengthens our faith in Him. The next time you find yourself in a different and trying season, ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus on Jesus. He is our helper in time of need, and He will fill your heart with unspeakable joy in Christ that will well up in you like a fountain!

Heavenly Father,

I do not want to be overtaken by my emotions when I am suffering or experiencing a difficult trial. Not that feelings are evil or sinful, as you have made us to experience them, but you do not want our emotions to dictate our responses and decisions. Circumstances change, but You never do. Thank You that You are constant and steadfast. We can rest in Your faithfulness, knowing that You have a plan in this storm, even if it is to use it to make me look more like You. You are near to us in the midst of our great suffering, even if we cannot always sense it. Help me to find joy in the Lord and to rejoice in You even when I cannot always rejoice in my circumstances. Help me to thirst for the things of God and turn from worldly thinking. Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me near to the Father by the shedding of Your precious blood upon the cross. I find my joy in You alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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The Beauty of Sanctification

I am a mama of three precious boys, and each one is special to me. My oldest son recently turned eight years old, and one of my favorite things to do leading up to my sons’ birthdays is to look through old photos of them and the memories we have shared. My heart swells when I see sweet memories pop up on Facebook on the day each one was born. As I was reflecting upon these last eight years, not only have I watched my boys grow up, but I can’t help but see how much the Lord has changed me and grown me in the midst of motherhood too.

According to the Bible this process of change and growth in the Lord is called sanctification. According to the website gotquestions.org:
“The word sanctification is related to the word saint; both words have to do with holiness. To “sanctify” something is to set it apart for special use; to “sanctify” a person is to make him holy.”

Knowing how many times I have failed as a mother (losing my patience and temper with my children countless times), I am thankful that just like our regeneration when the Lord makes us born-again, sanctification is a work of the Spirit in our heart and life. We partner with the Holy Spirit in the process of our sanctification, but God is the faithful One who does the deep work of transformation.

Paul’s final exhortation in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica reveals this beautiful truth to us as he proclaims:
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, NIV).

God will sanctify us because He wants to see us conformed to the image of Christ. When we are saved, we are given Christ’s righteousness and that will never change no matter what. Our position in Christ is forever fixed. Nothing can snatch us from His hand We will never be perfect this side of heaven, which is why we rest in the finished work of the cross of Christ, but we should be walking in holiness little by little each passing day. One way this occurs in our life is through studying the scriptures and other spiritual disciplines such as prayer, serving others, and consistent discipleship and evangelism. The Spirit of God guides us into all truth and convicts our heart of sin. The more study the Bible and exercise spiritual discipline, the more the Holy Spirit renews our mind. This renewal of the mind helps us to think on eternal matters and soon, worldly thinking and fleshly desires become less of a temptation for us the longer we walk with the Lord. Our behavior and attitude begin to change, and God gives us a desire to love, obey, and serve Him with fervor! This is transformation is something I am so grateful to have experienced these last eight years. I cannot wait to see what the next eight years (and beyond, Lord willing) has in store for me. May the God of peace continue to sanctify us through and through!

Father God,
I long for my life to reflect You so that others see how excellent and perfect Your ways are compared to the ways of this world that is fallen, corrupt, and void of Your perfect love and truth. I often fail and give into fleshly temptation, and I thank You that I have been justified and made righteous in Your sight because of Your Son, Christ Jesus! You still desire for me to mature and grow in my walk, despite my shortcomings. You are a God who transforms and purifies, so I ask that You would help me renew my mind with Your Word so that I can know the good, acceptable, and perfect will of Yours and see my life conformed to the image of Your Son. You are faithful to do this work of sanctification in my life, so thank You for strengthening me in my spiritual disciplines. May I have a testimony of a great transformation to give You all the glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Praising God in the Disappointments

I was involved in a movement some years ago that would constantly boast in having “aggressive expectations” and equating that way of thinking to “having faith.” Aside from the vast misunderstanding of what faith in God means (to trust in Him no matter what happens) one of the problems with that ideology is that many times our expectations in this life are left unfulfilled or unmet completely. People fail us. Plans fall through. They went with a different candidate for the job. We experience month after month of negative pregnancy tests. 

Since God’s plans and ways are so much greater than our own, often our expectations do not look anything like what God may have for our life. When our expectations that we have held onto so aggressively fall flat, it is very easy for us to slip into disappointment. Disappointment can then often lead to complaining and discontentment, something we are commanded by scripture to guard our hearts from. We very quickly forget the truth of God’s sovereignty over all things when we believe we know what is best for our life. 

When God allows for disappointment to happen in our life, we must remember that all things that come are way are meant to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in us and conform us into the image of Christ, whether we were expecting them to happen or not. When we are disappointed, we are given an appointment to praise God no matter what. 

The Psalmist David proclaims in Psalm 34:

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1, NKJV).

When our expectations are met, we should stop and praise God and bless His holy name; When our expectation are not met, we should still stop and praise God and bless His holy name. He is worthy of our praise and our thanksgiving. In His sovereign providence, we can trust that He works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). Nothing with God is coincidence or happenstance; He is sovereign and in control of every detail in our life, guiding our every step. His work in our lives is providential through and through, and He causes all things to work out for our good and for His glory. Next time your expectations are not met, remember it is an opportunity to make an appointment for praising God for His goodness. We can trust that His plans for our life are so much better!

Father God,

I am struggling with disappointment. Help me to guard my heart from discouragement, discontentment, and complaining. Teach me how to find ways to praise You when my expectations are not met. I know I need to trust in Your sovereignty and lean upon Your ways over my own. Your grace is sufficient for me, and I thank You for always guiding me into truth and convicting my heart when I fall into the sin grumbling and complaining, thinking that I know better than You. My lips long to praise Your great name. Thank You for Your love for me and for changing my heart to reflect Yours. I pray You would use these unmet expectations to transform me and strengthen my faith in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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A Lifestyle of Repentance and Faith

A few months ago, my eyes were opened to the stark reality that I was struggling with an area of my past…

… the pain of rejection.

This continues to be a battle for me, yet I realize that healing from the pain of rejection is a partnership and most definitely, a process. Thankfully, I am not alone in this fight.

One thing for sure is that the Lord fights for me and the Holy Spirit guides me into all truth, illuminating and highlighting lies that I was believing that are rooted in rejection.

Rejection had overwhelmed so much of me that I wasn’t being fully honest with people in my life. The lie I believed was that I would be rejected if my sin or wrong-doing was discovered. Therefore, I chose to either keep silent or tell a lie to keep my secret hidden so that I wouldn’t be a disappointment.

That lifestyle was keeping me from being fully transparent and honest with my husband and most importantly, with God. I believe this is why 1 John 1 reminds us of the importance of confessing our sin:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).

Hiding our sin causes us to hide from God, similar to Adam and Eve when the first sin entered the world. They felt ashamed, and shame made them feel rejected. Because of Jesus and the finished work of the cross, we are forever made righteous in our position as we stand before the Father and are forever forgiven, yet when we sin, it causes our fellowship with God to be hindered, and then we can very easily stray from Him. God’s love toward me never changes when I sin, yet I may still experience consequences and correction for my disobedience. Repentance, as a believer, is for our benefit to keep fellowship with our Father open and unhindered. Sin can often cause our hearts to grow callous, and we may not be as sensitive toward the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

The enemy wants you either in pride thinking you are better off doing life your own way or in isolation, bound in a pit of depression, unable to receive love or give out love, feeling like no one loves you or cares about you, especially God. But God’s love is unconditional and perfect, and nothing can stop His pursuit toward you. He wants us to be honest with Him so that we can see real transformation happen in our life, as He conforms us into the image of His Son.

Like I said above, positionally, in Christ, you stand before God forgiven and righteous, but experientially, sanctification is a process because our flesh is weak. Although as born-again believers, we continue to sin against God because we are constantly at war with our flesh in this life, the good news is that we have a great advocate, Jesus Christ, who is forever our righteousness. To be sure, our position in Him as declared righteous before God will never change, yet, we are still called to confess our sin, which purifies our conscious before the Lord. 1 John 1:9 says Jesus is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Let us come out of hiding and rejoice in the truth that Jesus is forever our righteousness despite our shortcomings and run to repent every time!

Father God,

Thank You for sending Your Son to stand in my place take upon Himself Your wrath that I deserved. I stand forgiven and justified before Your throne because of Christ’s work on the cross. Although I stand forgiven of my sin, that does not mean that I do not stumble into sin. My flesh wants to lead me away from Your ways and sometimes I give into that temptation and disobey. Instead of running away from You in shame, I choose repentance. Holy Spirit help me be quick to repent and run to the throne of grace. Father, thank You for Your mercies that are fresh and new every single morning. May I never take Your mercy for granted and may I always make a habit of walking in honesty before You and repent of my disobedience. You are such a faithful Father, waiting for me with arms wide open. Thank You for being a God of abundant second chances. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Am I too distracted to pray without ceasing?

With the invention of smart phones and these (often anti) social media apps, we now can be distracted and ignore the reality in front of our faces at any given moment of every single day. Many have lost the art of communication because there really is no need to actually talk (aloud) to people anymore. It’s all about these black letters on white background. We text instead of call. We use emojis instead of an emotional face-to-face conversation. We post “insta” updates like engagements or the birth of a new baby instead of waiting to share that news in person, especially to close friends and family members. I strongly dislike finding out important things through Facebook first, don’t you?

We can’t even sit in a twenty-minute car ride without grabbing for that block of distraction. My husband knows how guilty I am of this one! And recently, I discovered that existing behind my phone’s keyboard hasn’t just affected my relationships with other people, but with God. Are we so connected to our devices that we are neglecting to connect with the Lord? How much time am I spending on my phone? I must wonder if living a communicative existence of only black letters on white background is the huge reason my prayer life seems like it is on life support sometimes. You can’t text God. He wants to hear from His children. 

Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, He tore the veil that separated sinful man from the Holy and Righteous One; Jesus made a way for me to approach God as my Father. What a beautifully, life-changing truth! When the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray in Matthew chapter six, He told them to begin with “Our Father.” Prayer is personal because the Father longs to have a personal relationship with His children. He wants us to come to Him constantly with our concerns, burdens, joys, and requests. 

At the end of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul gives a simple reminder to the Thessalonians (and us) to anchor themselves in joy and thankfulness and never stop praying:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).

Just like all our relationships in life are affected by verbal communication, we are forming our relationship with the Lord with every conversation we have with Him, and we should constantly be lifting our gaze and voices to Him. This means that as we go about our day, we should remember to stay connected to the Vine (John 15), abiding in Him, knowing that we must remain dependent upon Him for all things and to be thankful and content for His new mercies that are available to us every single day. The distractions are endless throughout the day and it’s so easy for our eyes and minds to become focused on lesser, temporal things. This isn’t to say that we ignore all of our daily earthly responsibilities to sit in our “prayer closet,” but we seek God in the midst of responsibilities, remembering He is the One who gives us the grace to accomplish the tasks before us. 

His sovereign hand is always guiding us as His beautiful providence unfolds in our life, and we should be careful not to get caught up in our own plans and goals that we neglect coming to Him first. Constant communication with the Lord will build and strengthen our confidence and trust in the Lord, as we learn to lean upon Him in all things. Rejoicing always and remaining thankful for another day to get a chance to get to know Him through His Word and glorify His name in all that we say and do. Let us ask the Lord to help us throw off the distractions that would keep us from that glorious partnership with Him.

Father God,

There can be such a blessing that comes from technology and being able to connect with other people all over the world in a moment. But this blessing can also become a major distraction from something so much better, staying connected to You. Lord, I repent for neglecting keeping our communication a top priority and allowing an electronic device to become a hindrance to the spiritual discipline of prayer. You call us to never cease from praying, meaning that we should be continually looking to You every moment of the day. I lift my gaze to You, knowing that is where my help comes from. I lift up my voice to You, knowing that You incline Your ear to me as Your child. Thank You, Jesus, for making a way for me to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. May I never take that relationship for granted. Help me by Your grace and the power of the Spirit to remember to keep prayer a daily, moment by moment, lifeline to my Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

When Jesus Brings a Sword

A few months ago, a polarizing topic came on the scene here in America, which created a lot of strife and tension on social media (what else is new?). Since it was a topic that I am very passionate about, I decided to share my own personal thoughts regarding the monumental news. As a Christian, my worldview is filtered through a Biblical lens. This should be the case for all professing Christians, but sadly, that is not always true in our current society. Many are creating a Christianity (and Jesus) to their own liking that allows them to continue to embrace worldly ideologies and philosophies that make them feel better about themselves. But in the gospels, Christ assures us that if we try to hang onto our life, we will lose it. If we want to hold onto the world, we will inevitably lose our soul. 

My strong Biblical convictions were met with much animosity among some of my friends (some unbelievers and some professing Christians). Two close friends from my past in particular, immediately “unfriended” me on Facebook because they became extremely offended by my position on this controversial topic, although I have expressed my views on it before. This is expected as a Christian. We know that we will lose much as a Christ-follower. It’s something we typically prepare ourselves for early on in our walk. But I have been a Christian for fourteen years. 

For whatever reason, these two friends could not tolerate my convictions and wanted me out of sight and out of mind. The situation with one friend hurt worse considering it was friendship with deep history of more than twenty-five years; We had made countless memories together since grade-school and she was the maid of honor in my wedding. I reached out to her and she responded with her disgust with my Christian beliefs (compared to her own) and offenses but was radio silent to my plea to reconcile despite our opposing views, especially our differing views within Christianity and about the Bible. Her silence was loud and clear that she no longer wanted to walk in fellowship with me and was willing to throw twenty-five years of friendship away on a whim. If someone isn’t willing to be Facebook friends with you, do we think they really want you in their life at all? The answer was made pretty evident for me. 

Yet, I wasn’t expecting to have to face this type of division in my friendships this many years later as a believer; I was faced with the hard reality that Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 were unfolding in my life. Although Jesus is speaking of family particularly in verses 34-35, the sentiment remains the same- Jesus has come to bring a sword to our relationships that draws a line in the sand between those who love and follow Him and those who do not. 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”

(Matthew 10:34-35, ESV).

Later in this passage, Christ makes it clear that we must love Him more than anyone or anything, even our own life. We must lay it all down to follow Him at all costs, but He promises life abundantly to those who sacrifice all to pursue Him and His ways. 

It’s in times like these when I am broken and disappointed and hurt where I find myself throwing my hands up and say, “Just give me Jesus.” He is the One who brings us hope as an anchor to our souls, keeping us tethered to Him and His truth when our heart feels like it’s falling apart at the seams because of the pain of rejection.

He comes to our rescue and embraces us in our pain, even if the circumstances don’t change, even if the suffering doesn’t seem to end, and even when the relationship cannot be or refuses to be reconciled. He comes to our rescue and is there with us, directing our eyes heaven-ward, reminding us this place is not our home and that His ways are so much better. He may bring a sword to divide relationships in this life, but a relationship with Him is so much sweeter and more rewarding than anything we could ever experience here on earth. As we turn our back on the world, it will undoubtedly turn its back on us. Let us lift our eyes where our Help comes from and seek Jesus in the midst of our loss, knowing there will be great gain found in Him.

Father God, 

I know I am accepted in the Beloved. I know You are near to the broken-hearted. I know following Christ is a call to die. I know I will be hated for His namesake. And I know He has come to bring a sword and asks us to love Him more than anyone or anything else. But the pain of rejection still hurts so much. Can you bring healing to my heart and endow me with Your grace to endure the difficult times that come from following You? Thank You for Your overwhelming love and for coming to my rescue when I cry out to You. I know that even though I experience loneliness, I am never truly alone for You are always with me. No matter how much it cost, I choose to pursue You and Your ways above all. This world has nothing for me. I will follow You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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A Mouth Full of Mercy

As believers our speech should be as one who has been forgiven. We have received the gift of mercy from on high, which has triumphed over our dooming judgment. When we do not show mercy to others, and condemn them for their sin, we will not receive mercy.

We often give mercy to the measure that we understand we’ve received mercy. If we come up short at showing mercy, the way to increase our merciful responses towards others is to meditate on the mercy we have received from the Lord. We were once enemies of God and by grace through faith, we have been justified, forgiven, and redeemed. This should cause us to walk in humility and kindness with even the most difficult people in our life. 

One way that we can walk in mercy with one another is to guard our mouths from speaking evil against one another, especially if someone has wronged us or hurt us. We should never resort to gossip or share with someone else about another person. 

How do you know if what you are saying is judgmental?

Ask yourself: Would I say it to the person’s face? Would this hurt their feelings at all if they overheard me?

Titus 3:2-7 instructs us:

“…to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”

(Titus 3:2-7, NKJV).

If guarding your mouth is difficult for you when you are upset, and you tend to get offended easily, we must remember that we can ask God for grace to be able to not allow our flesh to rule us. The Holy Spirit will convict of us of our sin, but also strengthen us to be able to walk in obedience by showing humility and mercy to all. One of the fruit of the Spirit that we has been given is self-control, and if you are born again, you have been endowed with that ability by the power of the Spirit. We are either yielding to the Spirit or we are yielded to the flesh. We will be given as many opportunities as possible and tests on our faith journey to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. As disciples of Christ, we should see genuine growth with each passing day that we choose to walk in the Spirit and deny the flesh. Let us reflect upon the mercy that we have received and ask the Lord to help us speak words filled with mercy. 

Heavenly Father,

I do not deserve Your mercy, but You have been so extravagant with Your love for me. Help me to reflect upon the gift of Your forgiveness daily, so that I can extend the same love to others. When I am tempted to lose my temper or gossip, set a guard over my mouth, Lord. Help me cultivate and develop the fruit of self-control by the power of Your Spirit so that I can continue to walk peaceably, with all gentleness and humility as Your Word commands. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Casting Your Cares

I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for many years in high school and college. Stress and worry were just a part of my life, and I allowed them to move into my mind and become my permanent mental roommates. From money problems to relationship issues, if it became too much, you would find me curled up in a ball in the fetal position on the floor, hyperventilating until parts of my body went numb and crying until there were no more tears left.

After I graduated college, the Lord regenerated and redeemed me, and I began to walk close with the Him and study His Word like I never had before in my life. My mind was being renewed and over time, I began to trust the Lord more with issues that would have normally caused me to worry. I slowly learned to cast my cares upon Him like 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to do:

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”

(1 Peter 5:7, NIV).

But every now and then, I still become a victim of worry and anxiety and begin to experience sudden panic about my circumstances that out of my control, even though I know the Bible is clear that we should always trust the Lord at all times. So if we aren’t supposed to be anxious as believers, why do so many Christians still struggle with anxiety? Aside from chemical imbalances that can occur in one’s body, which are very real and very valid, I believe much of what causes anxiety begins in our minds. The more we dwell on a negative or fearful thought of a circumstance beyond our control, the more stress and worry begins to plague us. Somewhere along the lines in our overwhelm, we forget the One who holds our future. The One who is sovereign. The One who cares for His children so deeply, the Lord God Almighty. We learn more about Him in the Bible, where our faith and abiding trust in Him is strengthened.

The other night when I experienced the panic attack, there was a brief moment where I was given the opportunity to resist the negative thoughts and take them captive and begin to talk to God like I had learned to do so many times before, but this time, I chose to let my mind run in circles. I was so familiar with the experience of a panic attack that I could literally feel it try to overtake me right before it happened. If I would have set my mind upon scripture in that moment (such as Philippians 4:6-7 and even 1 Peter 5:7), I would have realized that God offered me a solution for my anxious thoughts. A simple conversation with the Lord would have helped me focus my thoughts and would have brought immediate peace to the whirlwind in my mind. The Word of God is so powerful and the more we study and meditate upon it, our foundation will be strong in Christ and we will continually know how to look to Him any time stress and anxiety tries to overtake us. Let us always be quick to ask the Lord for His sustaining grace and help in our time of need, looking to Him always because He cares for us. 

Father God, thank You that You want us to cast our cares upon You. Thank You that there is nowhere I can go that you are not there with me. Thank You for having a hold of my life, even as I feel like everything is crumbling around me. Lord, I confess that I have let stress take a hold of my life, rather than You. I have let stress control my mood, my attitude, my emotions, and my actions. Lord, I repent of this! Please Father, help me see what is stressful in my life and hand it over to You. Help me not let the stress win out. Help me actively think on Your goodness to me. Help me to renew my mind with Your unchanging Word. I am so hopeful for my eternity with you, Lord, where there will be no more stress and I will be overwhelmed by Your love, beauty, and never-ending peace! Help me look back on all the ways You have rescued me from my stressful moments and look in hope to the future where You will one day rid all stress, forever. In the meantime, I know and trust that You hold my future. Help me live boldly in the truth of Your goodness and power today. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Forsake Following Your Heart

Shortly after college graduation, I became a born-again believer in Jesus Christ; I repented of my sin and surrendered my life to Christ, committing to take up my cross and follow Him no matter the cost. Yet, I still wanted to pursue my original plan of becoming an actress in Los Angeles. As a Christian, I believed I was called to be a light in a dark place so that meant that I was supposed to use my talents for Christ in Hollywood. I was receiving mixed messages from trusted believers because they kept telling me to trust God with the plans to pursue my dreams. This just led to more confusion.

Trust God with my plan and my heart’s desires?

Again and again, the phrase “follow your heart” was echoing through my mind. This phrase seems to be very popular in American culture, even among Christian circles. You can find these three words boldly displayed on T-shirts, on Instagram graphics, and even heralded by some influential professing Christian leaders.

“Follow your heart…”- just a harmless motto, right?

It sounds really encouraging, doesn’t it?

Yes, very encouraging, almost Disney-like, but definitely not Biblical!

The Lord spoke these words about the heart through the prophet Jeremiah:

“The heart is deceitful above all things,

And desperately wicked;

Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)

As Christians, sometimes we fall into the trap of giving man’s words more weight than the Word of God. I wanted to encourage us to look to the direction found in scripture for those who are God’s children. A very familiar, but powerful passage found in Proverbs gives the believer wisdom:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct[a] your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).

If we are putting our trust in everything or anyone but the Lord, we will constantly be disappointed and led astray from God’s perfect will for our lives. We must trust in the Lord with all of our heart, which should never be filled with more of this world than God’s Word. I’m so thankful that during that time in my life while I was faced with a major decision, I kept my heart full of God’s Word, which helped me renew my mind so that I was filled with faith to trust God when He began changing my desires to follow and obey Him most of all. One month after I made the decision not move to Los Angeles, realizing that it was pride that was actually driving the desire to pursue an acting career, I was introduced to my now-husband and the rest is His Story.

My advice to you, beloved one, is do not follow your heart- follow God instead. He knows what you need more than you do. Trust Him with your entire heart and let him mold it to look more like His. He will never lead You down the wrong path!

Father,

The culture around me is often very loudly proclaiming how important it is for me to pursue my dreams and destiny by listening to my heart and following it. But Your Word is very clear that my heart can often bring confusion and that the only One who can be trusted to follow is You. You have given me a new heart is Christ, yes, but my flesh is always at war with Your desires and longs to lead me away from Your will. I find Your will in Your Word, so I ask You to please help me have a hunger to hide it in my heart so that I will not sin against You. Your Word is what renews my mind so that I am able to walk in obedience and look more like Christ to the world so that they may know that Your ways and thoughts are higher and better than man’s. Help me to not lean upon my own understanding and trust You, not my heart’s desires. I long for my heart to be molded to look more like Jesus, but I cannot do that without Your help. Thank You, Lord, for leading me by Your Spirit and Your Word that is a light unto my path. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Forgiving Others in the Face of Evil

The weekend of Father’s Day is always difficult for me. My dad’s birthday is so close to Father’s Day (sometimes actually falling on Father’s Day) so it’s kind of a double whammy when your dad is no longer here. It’s even more difficult when the reason your dad is gone is because someone brutally took his life, so, for me, there are always a lot of heavy emotions attached to the third weekend in June. Regarding the man who took my dad’s life, many might shout “That man should burn in hell for what he did!” Yet, I have never stopped preaching, “We must forgive!” because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. It simply is not worth it, my friends, no matter how justified we may feel regarding the sins that have been done to us. Jesus shares this sobering truth in the book of Matthew about forgiving others no matter what:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, NIV).

Just like all of humanity, I have fallen short of the glory of God, and I need my sins to be forgiven and washed clean by the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. Oh, what love has been extended to me that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8)! If Christ died for me and has forgiven me, someone who has sinned against a Holy and righteous God, how could I possibly withhold forgiveness to another image bearer of God? 

Knowing what the Bible says about forgiveness, I immediately chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and the man who is now my husband. I didn’t want to harbor unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart that would undoubtedly grow like a cancer. It is not that I don’t love or miss my dad terribly; It is because dwelling on this wicked tragedy will never bring my dad back, but more than that, I know that I must obey God to forgive those who sin against me. I know that justice belongs only in the hands of the Lord. It took six years, but the man who murdered my father was eventually charged with a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions. The Lord brings vindication, most assuredly, but, most of all, I long for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with Jesus like I have found. I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this or the strength to forgive from solely within myself. No, my strength to pray for and forgive the man who murdered my dad comes only from God’s grace and the power and might of the Holy Spirit. 

Oh, believer, we need the love and presence of our heavenly Father from now until eternity! Oh, unbeliever, repent and turn from your sins, and rebellion and come to Christ to be lavished in His mercy and forgiveness! If you are harboring unforgiveness towards another, release it now, don’t wait! I urge you to repent and receive the forgiveness of the Father today and find strength in Jesus to learn to walk in total forgiveness, even in the midst of the darkest of evil and sin against you. Oh, what freedom and peace you will find!

Heavenly Father,

I come to you today first and foremost with a grateful heart that You would lavish Your mercy and love upon me, someone who has sinned against You, oh, Holy and righteous Creator God! Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, who stood in my place to die a death that I deserved so that I could be forgiven, justified, and restored back to You to now be called Your child. If I am holding onto unforgiveness against someone who has hurt me or gravely sinned against me, I repent and forgive that person immediately. I have no right to harbor unforgiveness against anyone, and as Your child, You call me to forgive others because I have been forgiven by You. I choose to obey You, no matter how difficult it may be for me. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to forgive and love others how You have forgiven and love me. Help me heal from the wounds that may have been caused by the hands of others. I pray for their heart that they would walk in repentance and walk in forgiveness and know and trust You like I do. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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