You Can Win This Fight

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…(1 Cor 9:27).

What controls you? That’s the question I’m plagued with today.

Have you mastered the body or has your body mastered you? I know there are areas of my life that struggle against being mastered by those outside spiritual forces of darkness. Yet, I know that the hope of the gospel sets me free from all those voices of deception and darkness. I know that within me lives the resurrected Lord, the love of my life. The hope of eternal life.

The thing is, I must learn, as any fighter does, to put my body in submission to my master. Yes, I must trust the Lord Jesus, my true master to make me a master fighter. Someone who fights against the personal sin in my life. Someone who puts others first and smashes idols and places my thoughts that would love to steal me away into places of defeat and disengagement at the feet of the Lord Jesus in repentance.

Friends, this is the glorious news of the gospel is that we truly can defeat sin in our life. We can walk forward knowing that in Christ there are new morning mercies. We don’t have to leave as defeated people.

I think what I’m learning is that for many years I allowed the enemy to motivate me with shame, but friend, that doesn’t get us anywhere. Instead, we must learn to rest in the grace of God and in His new morning mercies. That’s what keeps us going. That’s what gets us to the finish line feeling victorious.

So whatever you feel mastered by, be willing to set it aside for the day and let the grace of God fill up your cup with His love, mercy and truth. You can do it. The Lord’s grace is with you.

Father, I am more than a conqueror through you who love me! That’s such great news! I can defeat sin in my life because of you. I can walk forward in grace! That’s such wonderful news. I pray that my life is a true reflection of that wonderful news, in Jesus name, Amen.

I Believe In You

Is it about oxen that God is concerned?…. (1 Co 9:9).

Church is hard, isn’t it? Sometimes its much easier to protect our programs than it is to care for people. But that’s not the message of Jesus and His Father. Truly, the Lord shows us time and time again through His actions that caring for people always trumps institutions. Now, this doesn’t mean that we throw out truth, by no means, in fact, loving someone actually means that we lovingly hold them accountable to what is true. Even if we fear that their presence among us might do something that could cause some sort of “problems” to one of our church programs.

I wonder how many people have felt put out by the church because their story became too difficult for the church to understand and know how to truly and genuinely love and care for? I imagine more than we’d care to know about.

But what if discipleship is more about meeting people where they are, than shaming them for who they’re not? One of the keys to unlocking potential in someone is believing great things for them about who they are becoming. Not impressing guilt and shame upon them for who they are not.

You see, I had to learn this lesson the hard way in my marriage. I was a shame producer in my marriage when it came to my relationship with my husband. Trying to fix him so I’d give him “wise council,” trying to get him to stop his behavior that might look bad to those watching from the outside. You see, I cared more about my image, than I did about my husband. I just did. I repented of that, praise God, but before I did, it broke down trust. It kept my husband from believing in himself. It caused all sorts of problems as it pushed my husband further away from me.

Something changed though when I set aside my image to offer honor and respect my husband. The day I started believing in him and calling out the man I saw in him was the day not just I changed, but my marriage and husband too.

I wonder then, how many people in the church who feel like giant failures just need someone to speak that same kind of life and belief in them. Maybe, just maybe, that person is you. Friend, just know, if someone has set you aside to protect some sort of image or program it’s not because you’re unworthy of the calling and gifting of God. It might just be that they’re afraid of something that they haven’t dealt with just yet and so having you close reminds them of the things they fear might unravel. Have grace for that and understand that yes, we are all a work in progress, including ourselves.

Remember that God sees you. He’s proud of you and He sees s shining star ready to go and tell the world about His love.

Father, thank you that you truly do love us and see your son in us. That is good news. Please heal those who have been hurt by the church. Help them see that in you, they can do all things, in Jesus name, Amen.

Do You Love Who Jesus is Making You Into?

But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him…. (Jer 18:4).

I really love who Jesus is reshaping me into. I hope you feel the same way about yourself and His remaking of your life. There’s parts of me I wasn’t even aware of that needed to go. Bits of pride and fear, distrust and control. I’ve learned, in all of it, the value of being made new.

Lets be honest as well though, in the midst of growing, it’s painful. It just is. It can be humiliating, devastating, and traumatizing. It really can, but there are new morning mercies for us each day. The potter’s wheel is the place where you and I become new creations. Don’t let the trauma tell you any different. Embrace the place God has put you. Dear friend, that’s where He’s working to make you new.

Looking back at that old person, prior to the potter’s wheel, I’m just astounded by all the blind spots I had in my life. Truth is, I feel like a totally different person now, because I know with full certainty that I am.

Sometimes different bombs need to go off in our lives because its the only way that we’ll see the changes that needed to be made. That’s what happened for me. There’s no shame in that. There’s an opportunity to be made new on the potter’s wheel.

The potter’s wheel can be a painful place, but it can be oh so very purposeful as God uses our pain to press old things out and put new things like love and mercy in. Won’t you join Him there?

Father, you are so kind and good. Your love and truly better than anything else in this life. May you be my satisfaction. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for loving me, in Jesus name, Amen.

Those Little Eyes Are Watching

Even their children remember their altars and Asherah poles…(Jer 17:2).

The other day, while in the kitchen, I said to my daughter, as I often do, “Ok, mommy’s going to wash her hands and then we’ll play.” Out of nowhere, my daughter starts rubbing her hands back and forth and smiling as if she was washing her own hands. I never taught her how to do that. She’s just watched me to do it so many times that now she understands how to do it herself.

If I’m being honest, that scares me a bit. Maybe, its a sense of caution that I feel. Knowing that she’s already picking up on the things that I do and will soon be emulating my every move puts a sense of holy fear in me to make sure that what she sees is a life that is more honoring to God and others than not.

Our children are little reflections in the mirror of us. Truly, they are our greatest opportunities to work on ourselves. I know there are good parts of me already at work in her. We pray so much that amen is a word she started saying right after I do when I’m finished praying. We also says Jesus’ name so much that she’s started saying it too and although it sounds more like “Gi GI” than Jesus, the Lord knows what she means and we’re going with it.

There are times though, when I think to myself, I hope she doesn’t pick up on that, but she will and that’ puts me on high alert for the things that I say and do. The way I talk about people, how I react to certain situations and how I treat others, is so important, because I want her listening ears to see Jesus in me.

Friends, this next generation coming up with us needs to see Him reflected in us so they might be His reflection to the world. We as parents, mentors, grandparents and friends have very difficult jobs in raising this next generation. There is more stacked up against them then there probably every has been and that’s why God called Israel to be set apart and live lives that were different. Friends, that’s our calling as well, and those little eyes, no matter what age are still watching. Let’s show them His reflection.

Lord God, you know how much I love that little girl. You also know how much I want her to see Jesus in me. Please show me where I’m investing my time and energy that would. not lead her to the cross, but away from it. I know I’ll never be the perfect mother and so I pray for grace for myself in all of that, in Jesus name, Amen.

Would Jeremiah’s Life Be Instagram Worthy?

I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel…(Je 15:21).

The prophet Jeremiah had a hard and difficult life. I’m fairly certain, had he been on social media, his profile wouldn’t have been very instagram worthy. But let’s be honest, if we’re showing the true realities of our lives, it probably wouldn’t be either.

Part of the sad reality of this life is that we must face suffering. There’s something about it that’s necessary this side of Heaven. Suffering reminds us that we were indeed made for another world. A place where there will be no more crying, sickness, death or pain. A place where the old order of things will pass away and new life will begin. Until that day though, we must learn, as Jeremiah did, to embrace hardship. Until we truly learn how to accept it and find joy, we’ll always try to reject it and grow bitter hearts full of resentment toward others and God.

Have you ever done that? Looked for someone, anyone, to blame for your pain? I have. This doesn’t really solve anything, does it? It just makes us angry. Maybe this journey of following God is really all about accepting the challenges of life as little pieces of God’s love to grow us to be more like Him. Maybe, somehow, there’s a silver lining of grace in all of it that we can live in if we learn to love those around us instead of finding the one we want to dump all of our pain and anger on.

They didn’t go to bat for you like you wanted them to. Things didn’t shake out how you expected. Your hopes were dashed. Your desires and dreams were crushed. Now the next step is not to find a person to direct your pain and anger towards, I’ve done that, but to learn how to release all of yourself to the mercies of God.

Friend, that’s the only way forward. Let go of the anger you feel over the things that didn’t turn out how you wanted them too. Be willing to accept what you didn’t become and love the place God has put you in for today. There’s grace in that place for you and when you learn, just as Jeremiah, to accept the hard roads, you”ll find the grace of God will carry you, just as it did him.

Father, I accept what things have come my way. Thank you for them. Thank you for how you’re growing me to be more like Jesus through them. Truly, you are a good and faithful God. Thank you, Lord, for loving me and showing me more of your mercy, in Jesus name, Amen.

Is Your Life Refreshing?

they go to the cisterns but find no water….(Je 14:3).

A number of times, when traveling to another country I’ve been told, “Don’t drink the water.” There was this fear that if we did….it would be coming out the other end in not so pleasant ways. Our bodies just couldn’t process certain impurities in the water that the locals could. It was water that really wouldn’t do me much good to drink.

I wonder how many of us are a refreshing source of water to our loved ones and those near us? When they come near, what do they find? Water they can’t drink, because its full of impurities? Selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, slander, discord, jealousy, etc? Is it possible they find us empty and dry with no water left, like a parched land whose thirst never seems satisfied? I’ve been that person, sucking life from everyone I’ve met because I wasn’t finding my true source of satisfaction in the living water, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think we go through these dry seasons in life because we’ve neglected the basic skills of drinking and pouring out. Pouring out the lies, deception and wrong thinking and replacing all of those things with the living water of God’s word, through worship and praise.

I’ve never met a person who didn’t need something to drink and I’ve never met a person that wasn’t pouring something out of their lives. It goes without saying that it is very much true that what we put in is what will come out. If I fancy myself to only put in things that make me feel good, or that flood might heart and mind with all sorts of lies and deception then my Spirit will run dry and my life’s work will have nothing good to pour out.

That’s why so many of us go looking for some sort of satisfaction not in the Lord, but in the wind. The chasing after things that just don’t satisfy. Instead of looking to His image, we try to fashion our own. But our image will fade with each day and trying to keep up with all of that is beyond exhausting. If we learn the value of reflecting His image to the world, than we can find that this well, can be the place that lives inside of us for others to find refreshment, not through our image, but through His life in us.

Lord Jesus, you are where true life is found. May your heart be the place that I find my satisfaction. I pray that you are the well that never runs dry in my life. Let it be so now, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Stay in the Game

If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?…(Je 12:5).

Last night I officiated a girls basketball game for the Columbus area all-stars. These girls were good and quick. It had been about a month since I officiated a basketball game and I was definitely feeling it. Although I exercise throughout the week, sprinting up and down a basketball court is a different kind of exertion that I just can’t replicate here at home.

Part way through the game, I thought to myself, “I’ve got to make sure I stay in the game all summer long.” I didn’t want to have the next time I blow the whistle be October when the next season starts and have the same jolt like I did last night.

I’m not sure who needs to hear this today, but we need to condition ourselves well for the race the Lord has given us. Don’t give up, stay in the game. His grace is sufficient for you, just make sure you keep yourself in His conditioning room where you’re seeking growth, humility and grace for your life.

Whenever I officiate a game I make sure to set the date and put it on my calendar. I discipline myself to show up early so I’m ready. The game will start without me if I’m not ready. I’ve had that happen once before when I was lost trying to find the court. That was not a fun way to start the game.

Truth is, this game called life will always start without us whether we’re ready or not. That’s why it’s imperative we prepare ourselves well and get ourselves ready by setting those daily appointments with our Heavenly Father. Truly, we’ll wear out if we don’t. The prophet Jeremiah felt that. At the start of his ministry he had already become overwhelmed by it. The Lord reminded him that it wasn’t going to get easier. It was only going to get harder. Jeremiah had to change something about himself that day if he was going to make it. Some of us will too and God’s grace will meet us as we meet with Him and grow up in Him.

So friend, stay in the game. Prepare yourself well in His training room. If you don’t, the game of life will go on without you and you’ll keep wondering why you’re getting jolted so much along the way.

Lord, thank you that your grace is so very sufficient for my life. You are so good to me. You have never disappointed me. You are a gracious, faithful and loving Savior. Truly, life without you is not worth living. Thank you for loving me, now may my life to be reflection of your love unto the world, in Jesus name, Amen.

Living in Moments of Time

for to you I have committed my cause…(Jeremiah 11:20)

Waiting upon God isn’t really something I’ve been the best at in life. Mostly because I just wanted what I wanted in the time that I wanted it so I’d push my way forward to get my way. As you can imagine this never turned out well for me.

I would always watch my grandmother though. She always seemed so patient, so at peace and content in her walk with God. She never hurried nor tried to rush ahead. She simply took each day as a gift from God and learned to live in moments of time instead of simply just occupying space.

Truly, it is a beautiful thing when we learn how to live not just by occupying space with our physical bodies, but by living in moments of time with our whole selves.

My grandmother taught me, through the way she lived her life, that running ahead of God was not even an option, but waiting on Him and HIs promises always brought joy, peace and blessing.

I think when we learn to truly commit our way unto the Lord our lives become less busy. We’re not so easily distracted because we no longer have to indulge in things that steal not just our time but our hearts away from being fully present with people. One thing my husband and I have learned to do in the evenings after our daughter has gone to bed is to ask the simple question of, “Do you need anything from me?” Which simply is us asking if either one of us needs time with the other before we go to sleep. We try to be intentional about putting the other person first if they need time and attention.

Sometimes when my husband does need my time or attention I get annoyed and honestly, that just comes from a place of selfishness, because if I’m truly committing my way to the Lord, than time is not something I fill, but its something I sit in with God and others. It’s a place in time with no stop watch of when I can leave, because if I leave too soon I just might miss being a blessing to someone.

So friend, wherever life takes you today, would you choose to commit your way to the Lord first so that you might be a blessing as you live in His peace and become His spacious place for others to land their head?

Lord God, I commit all of my ways to you. Truly, I want to do that. I know there have been many times in my life when I have ran ahead of you. Forgive me for doing that. I long to walk in your freedom instead. I surrender my whole life to you now, in Jesus name, Amen.

The Trap of Self-Promotion

Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this….(Matt 9:30)

Jesus was not a man of self-promotion. In fact, at every chance He could have been self-promoting, He asked people to be silent. He never tried to make a name for Himself. He simply sought to serve mankind.

Our culture, and if we’re being honest, the majority of us, myself included are obsessed with self-promotion. We think it’s the only way forward. The only true way to advance and make something of ourselves, but truth be told, it’s much more of a trap to get stuck in then a treasure to find.

Jesus reminds us that a life of faithfulness, lived quietly in service to others is the way forward. God will promote those who chose to live their lives as a blessing. Instead of those who try to force their way forward to become the blessing. I think there’s a huge difference, because you’re not the blessing. The Lord and His work in your life is the blessing. You can become that for others as you live like a blessing to them.

I think many of us think, but I have something great, I need to get this out there. Instead, what if we said, “I want to give something great,” and share what God has blessed us with? That’s the mentality shift I’m trying to make in my life. Not be something great, or feel the need to “share my greatness,” but give what God has blessed me with as a gift to those who would be blessed by and receive it.

After all, God’s word tells us, “It is far more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Lord, today I want to live my life as a gift to mankind. I want to be your aroma. Make me like you today, for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

Accepting Your Reality…No Matter How Painful

Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them…(1 Corinthians 7:20)

Accepting certain realities is hard isn’t it? I remember, years ago, accepting the challenges I was facing in life through my marriage and career. Truth be told, I didn’t want to accept any of it, so I would try and convince myself that things were better than what they actually were. Doing that doesn’t actually help. It just creates a false world for ourselves that we think helps us cope, but it actually keeps us stuck.

Until we deal honestly with our deep disappointments and feel the weight of all of it we’ll just keep spinning in our pain. I think there are many of us who live with boiling pain beneath the surface that we just refuse to accept. Eventually that boiling pot spills out and messes with our life. It causes us to hurt people and protect our false reality.

Sometimes God calls us to difficult and hard situations. Accept it first for what it is and choose to become better with God through it. I know that’s super easy for me to say. Truth be told, I don’t know what you’re walking through right now. I just know that God cares.

So friend, wherever life finds you today, remember that you’re acceptance of it is the first step in your healing from it.

Lord, I trust you with my life and the painful things I’ve walked through. If there’s anything I’ve shoved under the surface please show me. I want to deal with all of that so that I might bring your glory in this life. Please help my friends who are dealing with deep painful realities. Please bring them comfort and help, in Jesus name, Amen.