Say No, God Has Something Better

Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name….(Ps 91:14).

My husband had to say no to something recently that was so discouraging for our family. It seemed as though God was moving, things were lining up perfectly and them, BAM, right at the last hour some unexpected news came that made it clear that this opportunity was not going to be the very best thing for our family.

By God’s grace, my husband chose to prioritize what was best for our family even though it meant giving up something he desperately wanted. Because friend, if we are willing to put our family first, it will never, ever go wrong for us. I knew that God would bless him for his willingness to do that. I prayed that God would move on his behalf with such favor that it would be unmistakable and that the blessing would be far greater than what my husband said no to.

It took a few months, but then it came- the blessing. It was radically quick, but that’s just how God moves. You see friend, when His hand is behind it, you don’t have to force any kind of moves for God. You just ride the wave of His grace as you receive the gift He’s been waiting to give you. It’s really that simple.

When the gift came, I just couldn’t believe it. To say that it was far greater than what my husband said no to would be an understatement. I’m just in awe of the goodness of God, but why should I be? God loves to bless those who are willing to say no to prioritize the things that honor Him most.

So friend, if you find yourself in a similar position I want to encourage you to wait on God and believe with great faith that in His time and as you wait, He will do it. Don’t give up or give in, simply prioritize His heart for your life and watch Him do such mighty things you wouldn’t believe it.

Lord, you are so good. Why would we ever doubt that? Grant us continued grace. Make us people who live for you and your kingdom, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Strong Tower Against Deception

Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him….(Mk 3:11).

Friend, we can either ward off evil spirits sent to oppress us, or open the door wide, inviting their destruction and deception into our lives.

Jesus had a way of making impure spirits bow down before Him. They had to- He was and is Lord. His power is much greater than theirs. That power is available for us too. But we must first be wiling to yield to the Spirit and not our idols. We must learn the value of taking captive every thought, making it obedient to Christ.

I get it, easier said then done. Much of what I deal with in life isn’t what’s actually happening, but what the deception we’ve invited in convinces us will take place if we don’t abide by it. Can we all just sit on that for a moment? I know you’ve had the thoughts that tell you, “If I don’t _______________, then this will happen.”

Friend, most of that thought process is wrapped in lies and deception. Yes, it’s true if you don’t brush your teeth you’ll probably get cavities or if you don’t work you’ll not be able to pay your bills. But you know the things you obsess about to the point that fear becomes your driver instead of clear thinking. It’s not really about being wise any longer. WIsdom left you when you bowed down to fear, but wisdom waits for us to return when we simply yield to the Spirit’s power.

As we do this a fortress of deliverance and protection rises up in us. I get it though, you still doubt whether or not you should fully submit to the Spirit. It seems easier to go back into deception, but friend, you will never, ever go wrong standing with God as your strong tower. You will always find a place to rest and that is what defeats the powers of darkness as we give into the Spirit’s power instead of bowing our knee to deception.

Lord, I need you. Be my strong tower against the forces of darkness, in Jesus name, Amen.

Oh, Shoot!

…not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense….(1 Tim 5:13)

I say shoot a lot. If I drop something, or forget something the first thing out of my mouth is usually, “Oh, shoot!” I’ve noticed that my sweet girl has started saying it now. She’ll drop something or get herself in some sort of picked and say, “Oh, shoot!” I find it cute, but it also makes me perk up and pay attention to the other things I’m doing. Because the truth is, if I don’t learn to grow up in the things I say and do my child won’t. She’ll latch onto my childish ways of communication or of how I talk about people. She’ll be quicker to be selfish if she sees it in me first.

She’s so smart and she picks up on so much. There are moments when something inside of me says, “There’s no need to pray over her tonight. You don’t have to sing Jesus loves me to her.” Sometimes I get flooded with these thoughts because I just want to be selfish, put her to bed and have time for me, but all of these things take but only a moment. Yet they are building something in her that will last a lifetime. Yes, something that will echo inside of her for all of her days.

Friend, it’s the little things we say and do now that can truly have the greatest impact on those we love. That’s why it’s so important that we start growing up in how we speak to one another. No more putting people down, talking about them behind their back, making assumptions about them that are only bathed in negativity. Believing the best in others is what gives them the opportunity to shine something bright in their life. Won’t you allow your words to be that to someone today? Our little people are watching and they need to see us speak life so that someday, they’ll speak it too.

Lord, let my words be pleasing in your sight. I want to be your light to my daughter and everyone around me. Forgive me when my words still lack maturity. Grow me up in you, in Jesus name, Amen.

Do You Make People Feel Unseen?

 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart….Proverbs 25:20

The other day I shared with someone about a struggle I was facing. For some reason, she didn’t acknowledge what I said. Instead, she smiled, said something positive and quickly moved on from what I had shared with her. That brief interaction made me feel unseen.

I know that wasn’t her intention, but trying to throw a positive smile on an opportunity to pray separates us from bringing the Kingdom of God into someone’s life. To be honest, I’ve done that though too. Maybe I’m in a hurry so I don’t have time to acknowledge someone else’s pain. Maybe I wasn’t really listening, but just engaging with them because I felt obligated to start a conversation. There are countless reasons I have dismissed an opportunity to be the love of God to someone in the depth of their pain.

Over the years, I have learned the immensely powerful value of simply saying, “Please, tell me more,” or “How can I pray.” Another valuable tool I have learned is the gift of simply repeating back what they said to me, “So you said you’re going through a hard time right now?” This simple tool nearly always opens up the floodgates of what’s really going on. It’s a tool I try to use when I’m being attentive enough to listen and wise enough to be the love of God when someone needs it most.

Positivity is great, but sometimes what a person needs first is a friend who’s willing to sit with them in their struggle. Friend, that’s how we pull them out, not with a smile, but with a heart that is willing to sit with theirs.

Lord, I want to be your love to the world. Help me to set aside my time and agenda to care for hurting people. I want to be Jesus to them. Help me grow into that, each day, in Jesus name, Amen.

There is Hope in The Ruins

the city will be rebuilt on her ruins…(Jeremiah 30:18)

God is never done with us. Yes, it is true, we make mistakes that put our lives in difficult places. Our sin leads us there and sometimes we get placed in a pile of rubble for a time. But if we’re willing to trust God and believe Him for good things, He will build something new on top of that old rubble. Something good and better than what was before.

Trust me, I get it, that’s super hard to believe because of what you’re going through right now. I understand how all of that can be a very hard and difficult pill to swallow, especially when all you can see right now are the ruins. But maybe those ruins are what you needed? Because the buildings you trusted in were keeping you from being able to see God and care for others.

I never like sitting in the ruins. In fact, I have truly hated those seasons, but God brought forth healing and restoration. He did something good in and through it. As long as I was willing to partner with Him in the process of restoration and accept a new way forward. i also had to deal with the sin that got me there and right any wrongs from the past, make amends where I needed to and deal honestly with the sin that got me there.

If we’re willing to sit in the rubble and not let the enemy pummel us with it again and again we can believe that good things will come as we partner with God in the process of restoration.

Lord, you are so good, kind, faithful and true. You love us. You call us friend. Make us like well-watered garden. Restore us to you, each day, we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Is Your Heart Divided?

give me an undivided heart….(Psalm 86:11)

Much of the woes and troubles we experience in life are due to having a heart that is divided. I deal with this often. Wondering if I should be investing myself in something else. Dealing with some sort of misunderstanding which turns into some sort of division in the relationships I have. Feeling as though my time should be spent doing more instead of resting in the faith and love that comes from Jesus.

The moments when I become the most divided is when I allow sin to tell me something about my situation or someone else that just isn’t true. Then I’ll run around with it in my head until it gets planted in my heart and once it’s there in my heart, unity is destroyed. Until I choose to start believing something different, only then can unity be restored.

This is why people leave churches, marriages and friendships fall apart, children become estranged from their parents and people change jobs so often. Most of the fall out of these things are due to a heart that becomes divided. Divided by some sort of lie instead of believing something good.

I have trained myself to stop those thoughts of division as soon as they enter. Especially in things like my marriage, church family, work, etc. I have to, if I don’t, I become an agent of division instead of a conduit of life, grace, and peace.

Do you feel a bit uncertain of something? Maybe angry towards someone or your situation? Ask God where division has manifested itself in your life. I’m doing that for my life today to make sure that my heart and mind stays unified with the truth and the things of God.

Lord, you love us. You hold us close. You journey with us. Thank you for being our hope. I pray against division in my life. Oh Lord, I want to be someone whose life brings unity to all, in Jesus name, Amen.

Does What You Cherish Build You Up or Tear You Down?

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18)…

I cherish many things. My daughter being one of them. The joy of the coming spring. A good chat with a friend. The opportunity to call a good basketball game. The joy of being able to serve teenagers and youth leaders. All of those things I cherish. Yet, there are other things that, if I’m not careful, I can cherish them too. These things are not from God. They are simply destructive methods of madness trying to demolish something sustainable in my life.

Friend, don’t you see. That’s what the enemy loves to do. He loves to take the things God is building in us. The sustainable parts being transformed by His grace and attempt to rob them. What used to be sustainable has been given over to sin. Sin always seeks to dismember and destroy good things God is growing in our lives.

Take heed of what you’re thinking about. The things you’re starting to cherish that might not be from God at all. Ask yourself if what I’m dwelling on we’ll either at to my life or steal from it. Then you’ll know if what you’re cherishing is there to build you up or tear you down.

Lord, I pray my life would be hidden in Christ. That I would be so captured by Him that His love would be what I might cherish over sin. Let it be so, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Grit and Faith

….your perseverance and faith….(2 Thess 1:4)

Yesterday my daughter decided to give the rock climbing wall a shot at the park. This is not a rock climbing wall made for two-year-olds. It’s made for bigger kids, but she was insistent on climbing that wall. She didn’t give up either. She kept persevering and working at it until she reached the top of that wall. With us hovering over her of course. She’s got a bit of that grit that I’ve seen in my life.

The truth is, perseverance is always something I’ve been pretty good at in my life. I’ve worked through many hardships and not given up when things went south. The problem is that although my resolve to not give up has been strong, my faith has proven throughout that process to be quite weak.

I think there’s a big difference between faith and grit. We can power through things in life with grit and determination or we can thrive in and through them with faith. Can I be really honest? That has normally not been me. Although, I definitely see my faith growing now that I’ve walked a few more hard roads I see that faith is still something in me that needs to catch up with the grit that lives inside of me.

Faith is something that’s produced through believing God for who He says He is in the midst of what we’re walking through. It’s the part of us that says, “Yes, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” It’s the area in our lives that we’ve always been afraid to give up and let go, but just have powered through. It’s the piece of our journey that requires us to rest and stop powering through. That’s my biggest issue right there. That’s why faith sometimes is so hard for me to practice because I’d much rather power through than rest.

So pray for me, as I will pray for you that rest and faith become my trust instead of grit and determination. After all true perseverance, life giving perseverance is produced from faithful trust. Not the other way around.

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. If there is any area of my life where I’m just trying to power through, please show me. I want my life to be characterized by rest instead, in Jesus name, Amen.

Who’s Voice is it?

I did not send them….(Jer 14:15)

The other day I received an email from a company informing me that they wanted to feature me in their magazine for my work at First-Century Youth Ministry. Of course, red flags shot up in my mind. After a quick google search my suspicions were confirmed- it was a scam.

Friend, some things sent to us, although they might look like the real thing, are not. Like the thoughts we entertain. We might think them to be from the very place and heart of God, or we may just simply want them to be, but they are not. Instead, they are sent from the pit of darkness, which desires to pull us straight into its hole of destruction.

If you’re much like me, you get hit often with thoughts that don’t come from God. Thoughts that honestly feed your sinful nature. The natural bent of your heart that is in need of God’s beautiful, and day redemption. For me, it’s a critical heart. That’s my go to in life that I have to battle daily. My first inclination, in my most circumstances is to see the bad and not the good. In my unhealthy spiritual state I’ll stack one more negative thing on top of the other. Instead of rejoicing in the small victories around me.

What ends up happening, if I don’t choose to walk a different path is that I deliver all sorts of messages to those around me who I have stacked up all my critical and negative thinking. I grant them a message that really just deflates and defeats them. I deliver them the scam I’ve been sent. But if I’m willing to be a messenger of hope and start seeing the good among the bad, my message changes into one of hope and encouragement. And that kind of message has been sent not from the destroyer, but from God.

Pay attention to your thoughts and where they’re coming from. Some look like thoughts that should be ok to think about, but they’re not. Don’t dance with them. They’re a scam, wishing to trap you in something that will never add to your life, but only take from it.

Lord, you are my hope and satisfaction in life. Thank you for your great love. I pray that I might recognize deception when it comes knocking. Forgive me when I follow its lure and get myself trapped, in Jesus name, Amen.

What Are You Carrying?

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak, they must be carried because they cannot walk….(Jer 10:5)

Sometimes when we’re going places my daughter insists on bringing all her friends. She gathers as many stuffed animals as possible and is fully convinced she needs to take the entire bunch with her. She gets upset when I tell her when can’t take all her friends, because I know that she can’t carry all of them. She drops most of them. They slow her down. Taking all her friends just isn’t what’s best for the both of us. Simply carrying a lighter load is really what is most profitable for her. Because not only does the process of her trying to carry all her friends affect her, but it does me too. I’m there with her, picking them up. It slows me down too.

I can’t help but think I’m much like my sweet girl. Carrying too many things with me, getting slowed down and trapped by them, because I insist on carrying too much. My idols slow me down and they don’t just affect me, but those around me too. I am fully convinced that carrying our idols keeps us from seeing those with us, because instead of looking at the people with us, our eyes and attention are looking at the idols we carry with us.

So I pray, that as I am doing today that you’ll take inventory of what you’re carrying and ask God to grant you the wisdom and courage to know what you’re carrying that’s slowing you and others down around you. Maybe it’s fear, anger, anxiety, pride, bitterness, vanity, doubt, greed, or un-forgiveness. I know what I carry that causes me to become weighed down instead of running fast and free, so maybe its time to put a few old “friends” down to run with God and be free to love those around us. That way they’ll experience the fullness of who He is in our lives instead of the weight of what we feel like we can’t live without.

Lord, I don’t want to carry old friends that are really just idols. Please forgive me when I do. I want to run fast and free for you, in Jesus name, Amen.