Love, Justice and Mercy

But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness…(Mt 23:23).

As I was having a conversation with my husband the other day we were both processing through something that made us both feel that if we made a certain decision it would feel as though we would be admitting to failure and therefore, we both questioned how this would make us look to other people. Isn’t that silly? To prioritize your image and status before mankind? What if in the end, that decision will help you prioritize the greater things in life like justice, love and mercy?

Pride can be a very hard pill to swallow, but what matters most in life is not what other people think, but whether or not we have chosen to walk in love, mercy, justice and faithfulness before God and others. Sometimes that means we skip the promotion, walk the harder road and trust the one who sees it all before we go looking for what other people might think.

The religious leaders of Jesus day thought they were very “right” in how they followed God and so they tried to force everyone else to follow God like they thought God should be followed. Truth be told, I believe those Pharisees were following God more out of fear than faith. They feared another Babylonian captivity. One similar to that which their ancestors faced where they were thrust out of Jerusalem and forced to live in a foreign land for 70 years, so they “placed a fence around Torah” and choked people with the words of God instead of loving them with justice and mercy.

Maybe friend, that’s what we’ve done too. Choked people with our fears, because we care too much what people think or we’re afraid something bad might happen, instead of letting them go by offering love, justice and mercy. There are moments when something in me gets pressed and I know the Lord wants me to simply let something go and so I do, but then, I enter into that with expectations that maybe, since I let something go, it will turn out like I hope. Most of the time it doesn’t and once again, my buttons are pressed and I have to release my choke hold and set things free with love, justice and mercy. After all, in light of eternity the things I fear and try to control are so silly. They really do just ruin my ability to love people. I don’t want to ruin relationships over such small things like money.

Money loves to choke me with fear so that I turn and choke other people with it too. I’ve learned over the years that controlling money, makes me controlling too. So maybe my “right” way of thinking about money is actually wrong. Because my pride is attached to it in an unhealthy way. I think, friend, we need to all be honest about the things we feel so very right about. We need to ask ourselves what lies behind our rightness. Is it pride, fear, or control or things like love, justice and mercy? That’s tough, isn’t it? But that’s where I want to live today. Won’t you join me?

Lord, I’m here to worship you. I want to hear from you. You are so good. I surrender my whole self to you today. I want to be a living sacrifice, in Jesus name, Amen.

Care For The Little Flock In Front of You

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing…(1 Co 13:2).

Life as a wife and mother has really forced me to become less selfish. The struggle is remaining that way throughout each day to prioritize what’s best for my loved ones. Life used to. be all about me. I was always on the go, running from one thing to the next, doing what was best for me and prioritizing my time in a way that made sense for my lifestyle.

Now I have a little one and a husband which changed all of that. There are moments, especially as a mother when I just want a little time for myself. Yet, the Lord, in His grace, always gives me the ability to finish the things I need to do. God has been gracious to me in that. Now, I don’t do as much as I used to and that’s OK. I think it’s in the slowing down of life where we find God as we learn to serve those right in front of us.

I’m currently dealing with some decisions in my life that are requiring me, once more, to prioritize the needs of those around me above my own. Friend, sometimes that’s hard. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have loved doing that or that when I did it everything fell into place just perfectly. I think what I’m learning, especially in marriage, is that sometimes we have to be willing to go with our spouses into places and trust them and the Lord, even if that means, at least for a season, we have to walk a difficult road. It might just be the road that both of you needed to walk to break something in you. Don’t fear that road. God will take care of you in it. That is what I know with certainty. He has never left me when I have chosen to place the needs of someone else above my own.

So wherever you find yourself today, choose to place yourself behind those whom you love. Cheer them on. Watch them grow and make yourself a servant instead of the most important person who needs to be prioritized. That never works. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

Being the joy of Christ, in many ways, for others is learning to let them go. No longer controlling them, but setting them free to be who they are and trusting them with what’s best for you and your family. That’s what I’m learning. Won’t you join me?

Father, I trust you. You’ve always taken care of me. You’ve never left me. Forgive me when I make life about me. Help me to see what’s best and to walk in that with joy, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Recognize The Roar

Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a loud noise…(Je 46:17).

Years ago, at a corn maze, as we were running through, a man with a mask jumped out from behind a few stalks of corn with a chainsaw. The chainsaw was loud, but I knew he couldn’t hurt me. Some friends in my company screamed and ran in fear, but I just stood there, looked at the gentleman and went on my own way.

Friend, the enemy is simply a loud noise in your life. He can’t hurt you. Keep resting in the Father’s love. It’s when we follow the noise, that’s when we get ourselves in trouble. Yes, it is true, we will face troubles in this life. We will encounter painful hardships, unfair circumstances and heartbreaking realities, just don’t follow the roar of the enemy. Follow the roar of the lion of Judah where your victory awaits.

In the midst of hardship, take note of where that roar is coming from. Is it fear? Chaotic thinking? Hatred? Burning, unrighteous anger towards God and others? That’s not the lion of Judah dear friends. Don’t follow that loud noise. If you do, you’ll throw the good things of your life away like peace and joy.

The lion of Judah roars with hope, peace, grace, humility, understanding and a sense of calm in the midst of every storm. Follow His roar and you’ll find joy in life when life just doesn’t make sense. Know that the enemies roar has no power until you fall in agreement with it and start acting in fear from it. It truly is powerless until we, my friends, give it power.

The lion of Judah roars in His own power. When we side with Him, we join in His company and are filled with good things that last unto eternity. That’s the kind of power I want for my life today, don’t you?

Lord, you are so good and kind. You’re faithful and true. You are the lion of Judah. The hope of the world. I want to follow the sound of your voice, not the enemy. Yes Lord, thank you. You are good, in Jesus name, Amen.

Soften Your Heart Before This Happens

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold… (Mt 24:12).

Friend, please, soften your heart before it hardens you towards other people. I feel that in my life so much. An expectation that wasn’t met. A disappointing interaction, etc. All of those set me off in believing that maybe that person just doesn’t care about me. Whenever I get to that place, my heart starts to grow cold towards them. Sometimes in small ways, but other times in bigger ways.

I think it’s because their actions speak to me that they just don’t care or their lack of presence or concern somehow says to me that they don’t like me or who I am. This makes my heart start to grow cold towards them. I am asking the Lord for a heart that is soft and tender towards all people. After all, we are all facing our own battles. Maybe love has grown cold in them too and the way they come across to you is coming from a hardened place in their own life that honestly has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Lysa Terkhurst says, “If it’s hysterical, than it’s historical.” Hysterical reactions are simply memories or triggers of something from the past. Sometimes it’s attached to us, but other times it’s not. It’s more about something in your loved ones life that happened far before you entered the picture. Although, there are moments it does have a thing or two to do with us and the only way to break that is to have open, honest and transparent communication with each other.

I understand that what you went through was painful. I get that. I also understand that maybe the person who hurt you might not be choosing to change anytime soon. That’s a reality we all must face, so how to we accept that without growing cold?

We wash it all away in the light of forgiveness.

Friend, sometimes people have been so hardened by life that they can’t even see how their actions are hurting you. Choose to forgive and understand that their choices have very little to do with you. Human selfishness becomes so powerful in hardened people. I think, when it gets to that point, it becomes all about protection and self-preservation. They’re protecting something in themselves and just aren’t ready to let anyone in, so that’s why they don’t want to talk about it, so don’t push that. Choose to let it go, forgive and offer the love of God like a free flowing river one more time, each day, so that you’re heart doesn’t grow cold as well.

Father, keep my heart soft and tender like a child. I don’t want to grow cold towards anyone. Make your love in me like a free-flowing river for all, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Crumbling Under The Weight of Correction

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean…. (Mt 23:26).

The Pharisees often get a bad rap, but I believe that Jesus deeply loved the Pharisees and called them to a higher standard of living out Torah because of that deep love.

I can recall years ago being so sensitive to any form of criticism that I nearly crumbled under the weight of any word spoken, even constructively towards me. I thought it meant I was somehow a failure, maybe this person didn’t like me, or I just didn’t have my act together like I should.

I lacked the humility, at the time to listen and see these words of correction as love sent from Heaven to me. I wonder if thats why the Pharisees struggled so much with Jesus’ words of correction too.

Friend, pay attention to your heart and mind when people tell you things about you that still need to grow and change. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all fit into the category of a Pharisee. Believing we know better. Carrying ourselves a bit too highly with self-righteousness and forgetting that love matters most.

Jesus always came with words to heal. When He corrects you, thank Him for it.

I’m asking for His loving correction now in my life. I always need it. My heart is often blind without it.

Just remember that sometimes, Jesus’ love comes to you wrapped in correction. That’s a very good thing, listen to it. Don’t hide from it. Embrace it as one of the best gifts you could ever receive because it can make you more like Him.

Where most of the Pharisees unfortunately failed was in their response to Christ’s rebuke. They got angry. Many couldn’t see past themselves and their rightness. I do that sometimes too and I’m trying to not always be right, but instead of see past myself and into the eyes of Christ who loves me deeply with correction.

Father, thank you for your loving correction. Thank you for how your love poured out on Calvary. Thank you for that love. Continue to correct me, in Jesus name, Amen.

Why Do So Many People Leave The Faith?

He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come…..(Mt 22:3).

I have loved ones that I’m praying will return to the Lord. I know you probably do as well. Those who came close to God or seemed like they were with Him but have now retreated from His presence and are forging their own way forward without Him, or so it seems.

What happens within a person that causes them to treacherously retreat from the King of Kings? I think it has something to do with our own personal brokenness. Something inside of us that never mended. Something that needs fixed. Yet, we won’t allow God in to that place so instead of embracing Him, we retreat.

After all, it often feels better to numb and hide our pain than to face it, walk through it and grow.

If I’m being honest, I think I retreated a lot as a young Christian. I was, by all accounts, someone who lacked true maturity because I kept hiding behind this guise of “I’ve gotta look like I’ve got this thing together.” Friend, you can’t go to the wedding banquet of the King without humility. If you don’t have a humble heart, you’ll think you’re one of the honored guests and you’ll forget that the party is for Him.

Maybe that’s why so many of us retreat. Maybe its because we think the party is for us or at least, it should be. Maybe that’s why so many of our relationships break down, especially our relationship with God.

I think, for the first time in my life, over the past few years, I’m actually truly getting closer to God. I stopped believing the party was supposed to be for me. I think that’s been so good for my heart.

So friend, if you have a loved one who keeps straying, it’s because there’s some personal brokenness in them that needs a touch of the Father’s love. Maybe they don’t need constant nagging from you to get back into church, but a listening ear to first hear their pain. It’s much easier to invite someone to church and let the church do the ministering than it is for ourselves to do it, but church won’t mean much to a person whose suffocating from years of pain. Maybe, at least for a time, you’re supposed to be the church to them as you sit and listen to their heart, their hurts and their pain. That could be the open door that gets them back to God because you have been so kind to usher them into the loving presence of Jesus which lives inside of you.

Lord, you are so good. Thank you for your kindness and grace. Thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. Your faithfulness stretches out and lifts us up. May we share that love with the world, in Jesus name, Amen.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you….(Psalm 56:3)

I have these unrealistic fears that pop up in my life fairly often. It’s a narrative the enemy starts to spin, even to the point of convincing me not to pray certain prayers because if I pray these prayers it might prompt the bad thing to happen that I’m praying against.

Isn’t that just silly?

As a mother, my fear buttons are being pressed continually. This is when I have to really slow my mind and heart down and submit myself to the Lordship of Christ as I press in and really listen to His voice. Because friend, you can’t find freedom in Christ when you keep fearing what you cannot see.

You also can’t and won’t be able to be fully present with others when you’re allowing the narrative of fear to play all throughout your heart and mind. At least, that’s what I’ve found to be true for me. It is amazing how much time I have spent, not with my daughter, but captured by some web of fear that keeps me from being with her heart. It’s not all the time, but it’s too much time if I’m taking even a few moments away from her because I’m fearing something that I cannot see.

So friend, choose a new narrative. Sing a song from your Father’s heart to those around you. Don’t make decisions out of fear. Make them out of a heart that is resting in the Father’s love. That’s what I want for my life today.

Lord, you are so good. Thank you for the love of a Father who sees us, loves us and knows us. I don’t have to be afraid. I can live and walk in your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

Find Yourself A Travis

Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah…(1 Ki 19:20).

Growing up I just loved playing sports. It was something I shared with my dad that kept us busy doing things together. Playing softball, shooting hoops, working out at the YMCA, etc. Those will always be cherished memories I’ll share with my father.

As I got into high school I decided that I wanted to play a fall sport. My two options were volleyball and golf. I’d never played golf before and for whatever reason had zero interest in playing volleyball. Maybe it was the short shorts that gave me such an aversion, I’m not sure. Therefore, I decided to take up golf. This was not a sport my dad was familiar with, though he tried to learn as much as he could about it to help me better my game, in order for my game to rise to the next level, I had to find a mentor.

His name was Travis, he worked at the golf simulator at the ARC center at Millikin University. I’d spend hours each week during the winter with Travis, re-working my swing with him, until one day, it finally clicked. My swing was different. I could hit a ball long and straight. My swing no longer resembled a golf swing mixed in with a softball swing. It was all thanks to Travis and his mentorship in my life. Travis had something that I didn’t at the time. He had knowledge of the game I needed. He had the time and love for the sport and a desire to invest that time and love into me.

Now, thanks to Travis’s investment I can teach others how to properly swing a club as well. As Travis and I worked through that awkward, hard and challenging swing change, something good came from it. Something that was lasting.

I’d like to suggest that, in our faith journey, I think we all need a Travis. Someone a few years ahead of us in this journey of walking with God who has the love, time and energy to pour into us. To help us walk through the challenging, hard, awkward and painful seasons of life so that we might grow together.

Looking back on my life I can see countless and current mentors who have challenged me and help me grow with God. I’ve grown in ways I’m not certain I would have, had it not been for their investment.

So friend, go and find yourself a Travis, not a golf coach, but a spirtual one. Someone who loves Jesus, someone whose walk with God you’d like to emulate. A person you respect and a person who inspires you to walk closer with God. Ask them to walk with you along your journey with God. Be willing to share your life with them as they share their life with you.

Father, thank you for the many mentors I’ve had in my life. People who have loved me at my most broken moments and who have continued to point me to Jesus. Thank you for their willingness to walk alongside of me. Lord, I pray we would all find a Travis, and grow together in this journey of life, in Jesus name, Amen.

This Hardship Is Your Ticket To Freedom

They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.”…(Lk 22:70).

Friend, we’re going to make it. We really are. I know there’s this voice of despair and discouragement that tries to tell you otherwise. I understand that. I’ve been there. I’ve heard it. That voice is a liar. Sent from Hell to destroy the work of sanctification in your life.

You see, that voice tries to tell you that hardship, difficulties, painful, growing moments are all bad. This voice says things like,

“This is all your fault!”

“You’ll always live in this pain!”

“Things will never get better.”

“Life has no purpose now.”

“You’re stuck.”

“There’s a better life somewhere else for you.”

Friend, God says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

You see, there’s something in the trials that’s transforming you. Your life hasn’t stopped dear friend, in fact, this is your greatest opportunity for growth and it’s right at your fingertips. Embrace it and believe it as God’s gift to you.

I know that’s hard to do. I don’t always feel like embracing my struggles. Quite frankly, I just want life to go smoothly. I want perfect harmony in relationships and zero struggles in other sectors of my life. But you see, God will go, lovingly, to each sector and use life circumstances to transform us into His image. Which means, that sometimes, we have to walk through pain to press out something that’s blocking our growth in Christ.

If there’s one thing I’m becoming aware of it’s how weak my mind can be when things in life don’t go how I’d hoped. You see, there’s a song God wants to sing in our hearts and minds, but the devil would love to stomp that song out. There are so many Christians telling themselves the wrong narrative and it’s drowning out the song the angels want to sing, so today, I’m leaning into truth because, my friend, it’s the only way I’ll make it through this life until my dying breathe with joy. I refuse to believe that life is just long and will be one more hardship after the next. Instead, I want to believe that God is good and the journey is worth the pain because of the blessing that is for me today and the one that’s coming at the end.

Father, I trust you. I want to sing a new song in my heart. Let it be your song. I give you all my fears and ask you to be my courage and strength, in Jesus name, Amen.

Pushing People Away To Protect Our Image

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said…..Lk 22:57).

Have you ever had someone pretend like they didn’t know you or choose to make you feel as though they had forgotten you, pushed you out and dropped you?

It hurts, doesn’t it? Do you remember the scene from the movie Wonder when Jack is talking with some other kids who start making fun of Augie and Jack jumps right in to make fun of Augie too. Since it’s halloween, Augie is wearing a costume and you can’t tell it’s him. He hears every word Jack says and he’s heartbroken.

I get that. The pain of people saying hurtful things about you either indirectly or directly to you can be devastating, but I’ve found what hurts worse is having them act like they have your back, but in actuality, they really don’t.

Friend, there’s fear attached to something in their life that makes them do that. That’s why they’re not willing to support you when the heat is on. They’re afraid that something about you might ruin something they love too much in their life.

That’s why Peter denied Jesus three times- he was afraid. But, if we’re all being honest, we’ve been just like Peter. We’ve been afraid to talk to others about Jesus. We’ve neglected to care for hurting people and even worse, we may have totally ignored them or dismissed because we fear our attachment to them might somehow ruin our reputation.

Oh Lord, forgive us.

When Jesus stepped onto the scene He actually gravitated towards the people others with “religious status” were too afraid to have close to them. Jesus welcomed in people of very low social status. People with messy backgrounds and struggles. People who needed and wanted to be washed clean and have someone notice them.

Maybe, dear friend, God is asking you to simply love the individual you fear the most? I’m not talking someone who is abusive, please, you don’t have to lovingly support their behavior towards you or others, but you do need to love them as a person from a distance.

For those individuals who are safe enough to be close to us and still have something about them we fear might somehow taint our image, maybe it’s time to hold them close and love them unconditionally. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what will start to soften them, grow them and change not just them, but us as well.

Lord, we love you. Forgive us when we don’t love others like Jesus would love them. Forgive us when we protect our image over caring for people. Use us to love the least of these, we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.