Guarding Your Mouth

As Christ followers, our speech should reflect Him and His ways and be seasoned with grace, humility, and love. If we confess our faith in Christ, there should be evidence of our changed speech as well as our changed life and behavior. When people meet us, they should hear and see something different than the rest of the world who does not follow the Lord. 

I admit, I struggle with taming my tongue, especially if I am caught up in my emotions and/or sleep deprived or hungry. My flesh wants to rule, and one way that happens in my life is how I am wielding my words. 

If there was one verse from the Bible that I should have tattooed under my eyelids, it would be from Psalm 141:

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3, NKJV).

This has become a constant prayer for me, especially as I am seeing how my speech is influencing my children. Children are little sponges, and they pick up on everything we say and do. My oldest is becoming a master of sarcasm thanks to me. I see my sinful speech tendencies in my children, and I don’t want these habits to form into consistent behavior. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34), so our words are a reflection of what is going on in our heart. We should take pause when we see ungodly speech become consistent in our life, repent, and ask God to help us guard our mouth and choose our words wisely or know when to be silent. 

Even in disagreements, we should continue to speak with a heart of love for others and not use profanity or offensive remarks that would hurt or cause pain. We should also be careful to not grumble or complain or speak ungraciously about someone, but to use our tongue to proclaim our thankfulness unto the Lord as well as speak good and edifying things of others. Taming the tongue is something we must grow in each day as the Lord sanctifies us. The good news is that we are never left on our own to walk in that type of self-control regarding our words. It is not something we can do apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. The temptation to use our tongue for our own benefit and reputation is strong but let us be quick to ask the Lord for His help daily as we continue to grow in the likeness of Him, especially in our speech.

Dear Lord,

I repent for using my tongue to puff myself up above others, complain about my circumstances, or hurt others with painful words that cut deep to the heart. I need Your help to control my tongue in times of strife or disagreement with others. I want my words to glorify You and share Your truth and gospel. I pray that my actions would also reflect my speech. I long for my walk with You to match my profession of faith. Help me to guard my mouth and to choose my words wisely or know when it’s best not to say anything at all. When my flesh wants to rule, I trust that You provide a way out every time I am tempted to use my words in a foolish way. Thank You for continually working in me and through me, so that I may look more and more like Jesus in word and deed. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Resting in God’s Grace

I have always been a list maker and fueled by accomplishment. At some point, being successful and driven became the meaning behind every breath I took; I found purpose in my performance and productivity. I loved the high from “the hustle” and having my schedule full to the brim. I spent years upon year upon years crowding the margins of my existence with: Dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, running track, Student Council, Marching Band, Pep Band, Concert Band, Art Club, Peers Group, musicals & plays, auditions, performances, church choir practice, tutoring, youth ministry, college and career ministry, worship team rehearsals, Bible studies, prayer meetings, church leadership meetings, drama practices, event planning committees, speaking engagements…

… just to name a few.

This vicious cycle of constant hustle was all I knew for well over 20 years of my life. I still wrestle with the temptation to find my worth in my productivity and seeking my happiness when everything is “perfect.” That is an exhausting way to live and if you are not careful, this mentality will creep into your spiritual life and soon you will be trying to work to earn God’s favor and love. 

But as Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, we know that we cannot earn our salvation because it is a gift from God:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

And just as God is sovereign in salvation, He is also sovereign in our sanctification. He is the one who oversees us mature on our walk with Him. The same grace that saved us is the very same grace that keeps us and molds us into the image of Christ, day by day. From the moment of your conversion, you became God’s work-in-progress, and the greatest news of all is that He doesn’t grow weary, stressed, or exhausted with you. He will complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6).

Intersecting Faith and Life:

Your inconsistencies and failures are not going to change. Your disobedience, your lack in trust… none of that is going to change the work nor thwart God’s plan in your life. God starts it, God finishes it. We simply need to lean on His strength and grace and ask for wisdom to walk in obedience. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, and He will help you walk in God’s will. You don’t have to muster up your “faith muscles” to see that happen. You simply need to trust that God’s plan with your life will be accomplished, not because there is anything good in you, but because of His goodness and faithfulness! 

Do you struggle with trying to earn God’s love? When you fail and sin, do you hide from God or try to fix it yourself by “trying to do better?” Beloved, you do not have to run away from God. He sees it all and knows that you are going to undoubtedly mess up. That is why He sent His Son Jesus to earth to live the perfect life for you; to fulfill the law completely for you. His death on the cross paid for your punishment of the curse of the law that you will never be able to uphold. Come boldly to the throne of grace today and receive new mercies that Christ died for you to have. Lean on His strength and grace today and see the work that He started in you continue until His glorious return or when you meet Him face to face. Trust that He is working and yield to it. 

Further Reading:

Romans 5:20-21

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

2 Thessalonians 2:13

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Hungering and Thirsting for the Lord

Years ago, I was involved with a ministry where we would fast and pray for certain periods of time together. One particular time, we all spent a week fasting on just liquids leading up a big ministry event we were attending. By the time we got to the event, I was so hungry and tired that I knew I needed to sleep or eat if I was going to have any energy to make it through that weekend. We all chose to break the fast together after seven days with a large meal together that satisfied my deep hunger. Next up for me was a long nap before we made our way eight-hour drive back home. I don’t remember ever feeling that weak in my body and mind. If my body wasn’t longing for rest or a meal after not eating for a week or getting much sleep because of travel, we would think there was something seriously wrong going on with my health. It is healthy for your body to hunger and desire rest; This means your body is working properly. 

This type of desperation for physical sustenance is a reflection of what our spiritual hunger for the things of God should look like. When we can go days, weeks, or God-forbid, even months without reading the Bible or praying, and we don’t find ourselves desiring to seek the Lord and His righteousness, we need to pause and ask ourselves why. As a believer, this should concern us. 

Jesus gives us a promise in what is called “The Beatitudes” in the Sermon on the Mount regarding those who hunger for the things of God. When we pursue the Lord and His righteousness, we will never starve; God will fill us with His sustaining life:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6, NIV). 

If we find ourselves no longer hungry for spiritual things, our spiritual health may be in great danger. We need to find out why we have stopped being hungry for pursing God’s Word and Kingdom pursuits. Have you stopped attending church or fellowshipping with other believers regularly? Is your prayer routine on life support? If you are malnourished spiritually, it will begin to affect other areas of your life. We must abide in the Vine if we are going to bear fruit for Christ. Apart from Him, we cannot do anything (John 15:5). We must become desperate to remain connected to Christ and His Word; His Word are Spirit and life. Jesus says that those who are hungry for Kingdom pursuits are blessed and promises to fill us and sustain us. This type of hunger cannot be conjured up in our own strength. We cannot make ourselves hungry; We need God’s help and supernatural grace. We need to ask the Lord to stir our hearts to make us hungry and thirsty again for Him so that we can mature in the Lord and be filled up with His abundant life that can over-flow to reach others for His glory. 

Father God,

I must admit that I have a reached a point in my spiritual journey with You where I may have grown complacent. I find myself not longing to pray or read my Bible. I have not been very consistent with fellowshipping with other believers. Help me get rid of distractions in my life that may have kept me from Kingdom pursuits. Social media and other entertainment can very quickly become spiritual junk food that does not truly nourish my soul. Will you help me prioritize these things in my life so that You are primary? Help me to see the things or people in my life that may be keeping me from growing in my relationship with You, Lord. Strip away my comfort, my pleasure, and my pride and make me hungry for You and Your righteousness. Fill me up with Your abundant life. I want to pursue You, praise You, read Your Word consistently, stay committed to my local church, learn of Your ways, and learn more about You and I know I need Your help to stay on the narrow path. Thank You for leading me in Your righteousness and maturing me. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

What does it mean to “die daily?”

As a mom and wife, I am given countless opportunities to set aside my wants and sacrifice my love, time, and attention to the needs of my husband and children. Pouring yourself out like that on a daily basis can sometimes be physically exhausting; I find myself praying for supernatural strength often! Yet, at the end of the day, even though I am tempted to wonder where my “me time” is, my heart is always full. 

This is when I begin to see more clearly what the Apostle Paul meant when he said: “I die daily”.

The Biblical principle of dying to yourself has always been true, but I didn’t always live it or even understand it. Becoming a stay-at-home mom has challenged me in more ways than I can count in the area of putting others before myself, and I am always learning and finding that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive. 

As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to follow Him. That was Paul’s mission in life – to imitate Christ. And it is what he and the rest of the apostles literally gave their lives to preach to the world through their words and actions. We may not ever get the honor to literally die for Jesus Christ because of our faith in Him, but by God’s grace, we can imitate His selflessness every day.

The apostle Paul emphasizes his great desire to join Christ in His suffering and become like Christ in his daily dying of self:

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10, ESV).

To be able to imitate Christ and enjoy this kind of fellowship with Him, we must look to Jesus as our example. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He still leaned upon God the Father for everything He said and did while He walked this earth. Jesus would rise early to pray and seek God for His will for the day.

In addition to seeking God in prayer, Jesus obediently submitted Himself to the will of the Father, even unto death. Each day, we are faced with the temptation to satisfy our flesh and go outside the boundaries of God’s perfect will. We discover what that will is when we read the Bible and study it for ourselves to learn God’s ways. We are not perfect, but thankfully Jesus was, and because of His sacrifice on the cross, we have been given the precious gift of the Holy Spirit as born-again believers. 

The characteristics of Jesus’ death should be the characteristics of our lives: humility, sacrifice, and glory to God through disciple-making. Ultimately, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others (Mark 10:45). Jesus ministered to thousands upon thousands of people during His time here on earth. John 22 tells us that if all the things Jesus did were all written down, the entire world could not contain the books that would be written! Dying daily definitely isn’t easy, but it is worth it because Jesus promises us that whoever loses his life will find it and find it abundant (Matthew 10:39/ John 10:10)!

But remember, we cannot die daily in our own strength, friends. The Holy Spirit is who empowers us to choose God’s way through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). With each passing day, by God’s grace, we mature and cultivate a life worth dying for, a life found in Christ alone! Living like Christ’s dying is a continual process of humility and sacrifice. May God empower us to die daily and choose others above ourselves.

Heavenly Father,

My flesh wants nothing to do with denying it of anything. I don’t want to experience suffering. But it is in those moments of dying to self that I become more like Christ. Help me to embrace those trials and sufferings so that I may grow closer to You. I want my life to look like Christ’s dying by learning how to be humble and sacrificial. Instead of resisting those difficult times, help me to find great opportunities of sanctification to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus. Thank You for Your Spirit that empowers me to die daily. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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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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