"But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches." 1 Corinthians 7:17 NJKV
A walk in contentment learns how to stroll with its Savior Jesus. There is not a panicked rush to make things happen or to give up on God. Rather there is a quiet resolve that Christ can be trusted and there is no need to go anywhere else for assurance. Contentment wards off fear and replaces it with faith. It patiently waits out any unwanted influences.
Moreover, contentment is not a call to abandon godly ambition. On the contrary, you are steadfast to persevere in your career or your current leadership role until the Lord transitions you in His timing. You walk by faith—focused. This protects you from running around in aimless activity. You can be satisfied where God has called you and still anticipate where He wants to take you. Contentment rests in doing the next right thing.
"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." Romans 12:3
Your contented walk moves forward by faith not backward, second guessing God. You ask, why hasn't the Lord blessed me like some of the people I know? Wisdom avoids comparing children, homes, and wardrobes to a friend's. Their lifestyle may be temporary because it is artificially inflated by debt. Or, it may be legitimately the Lord's favor, but a contented walk doesn’t covet another's stuff or seek to impress others with its possessions.
Yes, contentment comes with a growing relationship with Christ. As you continue on your contented walk with Jesus, you experience the joy and power of His presence. He is all you need—to be what you need to be. He slows you down to steady your relationships. He speeds you up to seize the moment for His purposes. Be content with the capacity God has given you to serve Him. Your contented soul receives grace to make you whole.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may I walk in contentment and move forward by faith.
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37 (NIV)
Beginning in my twenties, I wrestled each day with chronic pain and fatigue. The first few years of it, doctors had no idea why.
Then came the diagnosis: fibromyalgia.
I was told this condition was poorly understood, not very treatable, and also not reversible. In fact, they called it "degenerative," meaning it would worsen as I aged. In short, doctors said I had no chance to conquer this pain.
The pain worsened for a couple years and I couldn't image what my life would be like five, ten or fifty years down the road. I prayed for deliverance.
Looking back I'm astonished that despite my pain, I continued to work a full time job and take courses for a master's degree. I really don't know how I did that—except through Christ—because it was such a struggle daily. To concentrate on my work or schoolwork took an inordinate amount of effort because I had to focus over top of the ever-present pain in the foreground. Not to mention, a lack of quality sleep.
Fibromyalgia was the thorn in my side, quite literally. And I leaned into God for strength. Often through tears.
A long-distance friend wrote me this week to tell me she was experiencing a near debilitating condition: fibromyalgia. She gave me permission to share a portion of what she wrote:
"Life has thrown me some pretty horrible punches and I have always gotten right back up. Except now. And to be honest with you, Rach, this is NOT a LIFE! And I can't BELIEVE that GOD would do this to me ... why isn't He healing me? All He has to do is say the word! I BEG Him to do that daily. While He keeps His mouth shut [on the healing] He did give me Psalm 88 the other night, and I cried a river. I was jumping for joy in my heart, but at the same time. Do you know what I mean?"
I did know what she meant. So I told her my story. I told her that I walked this painful path too. I gave her my best tips for physically managing this condition. I told her how I tried to do all the right things according to my doctors. How I prayed, and prayed, and prayed for healing—sometimes out of faith and sometimes out of desperation.
I told her how, seven years after my pain began, I was walking by a lake one day praying yet again for deliverance from this. And while I had often sensed God heard my prayers, this time I sensed He also answered. I sensed deliverance.
Year-eight saw me pain free from fibromyalgia—the incurable, degenerative condition doctors don't totally understand. My condition stopped degenerating that evening by the lake and instead began improving.
So in honesty and with compassion I told my friend:
"Will God heal you soon? I don't know."
"His ways are higher than our ideas of how things should go. But I can tell you this: It is possible. He hears your prayers and He is not indifferent to your plight. God loves you. Above all, don't equate your suffering with how God feels about you."
Because despite all this stuff we're struggling with, victory is ours through Christ who loves us.
I don't know what your story is today—what you are struggling with or against. But I know this: God knows your situation and He is not indifferent toward it or you. He loves you mightily! And His right arm is not too short to save you.
So lean into Him because you need His strength until His deliverance comes.
Lean in, pray and persevere despite the pain you are in. And keep hope alive in your heart. For this is how we struggle with something hard while holding the title "More than Conquerors in Christ." In Him overwhelming victory is ours.
Dear Lord, thank You for rescuing me from all my troubles–either here and now, or in eternity. Strengthen me until your deliverance is seen. I believe victory is overwhelmingly mine through You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Lose the long list of resolutions and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. In My One Word, Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen help you find lasting change by spending an entire year focusing on just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you. PrebuyMy One Word by Rachel Olsen
Reflect and Respond:
Study and take heart today in the truth from Romans 8:18: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (NIV)
Romans 8:22-25, "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (NIV)
"Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy." Romans 13:13 NKJV
A walk of purity is just the beginning to becoming more like Jesus. There is a consecration to Christ that takes place in the process toward holiness. Indeed, purity is not an end in itself, but a path to holiness. A pure heart wants more of God and has more of God. Yes, the closer we get to Christ the more we abhor sin and embrace righteousness. Purity positions us for the things of God. Being like Him is the ultimate goal.
Are you on the path of purity or do you flirt with foolishness? Do you long for integrity to lead you into intimacy with Jesus? Purity without intimacy is just sterile self-discipline devoid of the Spirit's power. But purity packaged with prayer invites the Lord's favor. You matter because your guileless life points to God. You are a trophy of trust in Christ that shines forth with brilliant belief.
"Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God." 1 Thessalonians 4:1, NKJV
When you walk in purity, you partner with purity. Thus, you avoid impure thinking and compromising situations. Like a noticeable spot on a freshly laundered shirt, your conscience guides you away from gray area stains. Your pure thinking makes friends with fidelity, but enemies with unfaithfulness. The sorrow from the slightest sin sends chills to your clean heart. So, stay pure to enjoy the fruit of peace.
Furthermore, purity follows the procession of Christ's train of clean living. Society and unseemly forces will soil your soul. But, invite your Savior to scrub it clean. Your walk of purity is without pretense--open about its struggles and challenges. So, stay honest about your weaknesses and the Lord will walk with you like a righteous bodyguard. A pure walk is not perfect, but it is prayerful. Cling to Christ and His word, and He will cleanse your heart from impurities!
"How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word." Psalm 119:9
Prayer: Heavenly Father, my heart's desire is to walk in purity with You and for You.
Family Christian Management Team Partners with Christian Businessmen to Acquire National Retailer
New Ownership Commits 100% of Profits to Faith-Based Charities.
Family Christian, the nation's largest Christian retail chain with 280 stores in 36 states, announced today that its management team has partnered with a group of Atlanta-based Christian businessmen to acquire the company from its private equity owners. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Under the new ownership, Family Christian's pledge is to contribute 100% of its profits to Christian causes and, specifically, ministries serving widows and orphans both in the U.S. and abroad. Family Christian has always been committed to providing resources for the Christian community, but the new ownership structure will allow the organization to not only equip Christians in their daily walk, but to increase the organization's impact by providing substantial financial support to faith-based causes.
"The management team and our investors are buying Family Christian because of our shared belief that the Company is uniquely positioned to be both a best-in-class Christian retailer and a significant source of financial support to help those in need,” said Cliff Bartow, President and CEO of Family Christian."While we have long been committed to giving to Christian causes, we felt called to multiply our impact. We have been on a journey for several years to find potential like-minded Christian owners who share our passion and calling, and believe it's the providence and sovereignty of God that we met and now partner with our new co-owners.”
The investment group is comprised of three Atlanta-based Christian businessmen, each of whom give substantially of their time, talent and treasure to Christian ministries, including several focused on orphan, foster care and adoption causes. Richard L. Jackson is the founder and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, the nation's third largest healthcare staffing company, and is deeply committed to bringing hope and opportunity into the lives of undeserved children. Jackson serves in a number of ways including as the Chairman of FaithBridge Foster Care. Larry Powell is the president of Powell Family Enterprises, LLC, a private equity investment company and is actively involved in a number of ministries, including serving as Chairman of the Board of Generous Giving. Michael Kendrick has used his success in investment banking as a catalyst for founding, developing, and funding organizations dedicated to Christian service, including Blueprint for Life and Ministry Ventures, a non-profit organization dedicated to launching new ministries.
"Each of these men have been blessed with professional success and share a mutual calling to give back to help those in need. This alignment of business acumen and Christian calling led them to the collective decision to join with us to acquire Family Christian and move it from an organization that contributes 10% of its profits, to one that contributes 100% of its profits to faith-based charities and ministries,” said Bartow."It is the hope of all involved that this transition can be a model of Christian business and ministry excellence that can be replicated by other organizations that wish to use their business resources to maximize Kingdom impact.”
Family Christian reported that while its ownership structure and financial purpose has changed, there will be no impact on its core operations, stores or staff. The company has ambitious plans to grow its revenue and increase financial support for faith-based ministries around the world. This includes maintaining store update efforts and looking at new product assortments and resources to better meet the lifestyle needs of customers. Family Christian will continue to carry a wide assortment of Christian products ranging from Bibles, gifts and home décor to books, children's and family resources.
"We are excited about what this ownership change means for our customers, staff and vendor partners who join us in the ongoing Christian pursuit of putting faith into action,” said Bartow."In many ways, we are returning to our roots as a Christian family-owned business focused on making a significant impact in helping those in need. Since our founding in 1932, we have established a relationship of trust and safety with our customers, while enjoying a reputation for providing great service and quality products. We intend to continue to uphold the high level of retail excellence, while applying the full operational and financial resources of the Company for the benefit of widows, orphans and foster children and Christian charities – all for God's glory.”
William Blair & Company, LLC acted as exclusive financial advisor to the investors.
In a world of facades, Lysa TerKeurst’s transparency is a breath of fresh air. That’s why people are gravitating to her newest book, Unglued. There’s something empowering about accepting you can’t keep it all together, but realizing that God loves you too much to let you keep losing it. Our recent interview with Lysa had us feeling like we were catching up with an old friend…
Family Christian: Hey Lysa, could you start by telling us a little about your upbringing?
Lysa TerKeurst: I was raised by a dad who was an atheist and a mom who went to church when she could. I had a chaotic upbringing in that my parents got divorced. When my mom got remarried, they started having more children. One of my sisters, (my half-sister, but still very much my sister) tragically died at a very young age because of some medication that a doctor gave her that was in too high a dose for her small body. So a lot of heartbreak, chaos and a lot of sadness in my upbringing, but at the same time I still very much remember my mom, even in the midst of so much brokenness being such a cheerleader for me. I always thought that I would grow up to be either a country music singer or the President of the United States. But as I got older I realized that I couldn’t sing and I didn’t like politics (laughs), so that proved to be a little problematic. But even so, my mom was such a cheerleader. She would always say, “Honey I think you sing great!” and “I still think you’d be a fantastic president,” so she’s just the ultimate encourager. I finally did find my niche in writing and then eventually in speaking. She’s continued to be such a wonderful encouragement to me. And so that’s a nutshell of how I got to be where I was. The country music singing and the road to the presidency didn’t really pan out like I thought it would when I was a small child (laughs), but I love what I do today.
FC: So who is your favorite country artist?
Lysa: Well when I was a little girl I was an absolutely huge Loretta Lynn fan. Of course she’s not really on the radio that much anymore so now I guess I’d say Taylor Swift, although I’m not sure people would qualify her as country music, but maybe. I like her music and maybe it’s because I have five teenagers and they like her music. So then in terms of Christian music I love good old fashioned praise and worship songs. Hands down that is my ultimate favorite. I’m so fortunate, I go to Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC and our worship team is amazing. That’s probably my favorite.
FC: Lysa would you mind giving us a glimpse into how you were introduced to Jesus?
Lysa: Yeah, well, like I said, growing up going to church was very hit or miss. We didn’t go on a consistent basis. One of my memories about going was when I was little (I was probably about 8 or so) and the pastor was one of the preachers that would bang his fist on the pulpit. Very animated. I just remember sitting there as a small child and thinking, he needs to try to relate to the younger generation a little better. And I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, but I told my mom that I’d really like to go have a meeting with the pastor and she thought that I wanted to get baptized, but that’s not at all what I intended to speak with him about. When we got into his office I started telling him all of the mini-ways that I thought he could be a better communicator. And my mother was absolutely horrified, we didn’t really go back to that church after that. So we took a break from that for awhile – so when I say it was hit or miss, it was probably more misses than hits. Even when I was there I was always thinking of how people could do church a little bit more effectively and probably listening from the wrong vantage point. So I knew about Jesus but I can’t say that I understand what it meant to have a personal relationship until I was in my early 20s and it was after my baby sister died. I was very angry and running away from God and I wound up getting into a relationship where I got pregnant before I was married and made the really, really sad choice to have an abortion. There was something about the depth of brokenness that happened in my heart after the abortion that I cried out to God in complete desperation. Really what I was doing was begging God to let me die – to put me out of my pain. But God was so sweet and sent a person into my life that constantly put Scriptures in front of me. At first she really got on my nerves, but eventually the Scriptures started connecting deep in my heart. One night after reading one of her notes and pondering the truth of the verse that she put in front of me, I didn’t know how to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior so I just kneeled down right beside my couch in my little apartment and I just said yes to God. And my life has pretty much been a string of many days and years that followed of me continuing to say ‘yes’ to Him everyday.
FC: That’s powerful. Thank you for sharing. Let’s switch gears a little and talk about your family’s story of adoption. Those who are familiar with you have probably already heard it, but could you tell us a little bit about how you and your husband decided to start down that path of adoption? And then how did that turn into impacting not just your family, but your faith community too?
Lysa: Well, I did not have any plans to adopt because we already had three little girls. My husband and I felt very complete and I kinda always thought that adoption was for people who A. Either wanted lots of kids and had a real international perspective of family and maybe a missionary family or B. Families who couldn’t have children. And we weren’t either of those! We were an everyday family living in America with three little girls just trying to get through each day. My kids were small at the time (they were 9, 8 and 4). Life was very busy, very full. We didn’t feel like I was a good enough mom to have more children – I felt like I was barely hanging on, but the Lord directed us to go to a concert one night because one of my daughters was in Brownies (a division of Girl Scouts) [and they were] studying Liberia, so we thought it would be a good cultural experience for her. In the middle of the concert the Lord clearly said to my heart “Two of those boys are yours.” And after the concert two of the boys walked up to me, wrapped their arms around me and called me ‘Mom.’
FC: And you had never met them?
Lysa: No. I had never met them before. So it was a crazy thing. I never thought my husband would agree that we should adopt two teenage boys from Africa. It sounded scary and unreasonable, I didn’t think we could afford it, I didn’t think it was safe for my girls, I mean there were a lot of obstacles and lots of fears. And really, they were healthy fears. I mean, when you have three little girls, it doesn’t sound reasonable to adopt two teenage boys from the other side of the world. But God confirmed over and over and over to me and my husband that this was part of His unique plan for us. So while it might not make sense for most situations, God just assured us by paving the way, opening every single door, helping us to meet every single obstacle. He really calmed our fears by sending people into our lives who would speak truth to us. It was really pretty amazing how God just said, ‘maybe this isn’t an assignment that sounds reasonable or rational for anybody else, but it is my assignment for you.’ And so we agreed to adopt and then our friends all thought we were crazy. But we decided to have a concert to invite all of our friends just to get to know our boys a little bit better and to see them sing as part of the last stop that their choir was going to do. At that concert all of our friends who thought we were so crazy, the Lord moved in their hearts and they eventually all came forward and decided to adopt the rest of the boys in the choir, and then we ran out of choir boys! So then mission trips were formed and they went over to Liberia and more and more kids were brought back. As of now, we’ve had over 45 kids from those orphanages adopted into the families of our community.
FC: That is unbelievable. Is it primarily people within your church or outside of your church too?
Lysa: Yeah, it’s outside of our church. And really, it’s even outside of our community now too. There have been many children that family members in other cities or states have adopted, so it’s expanded out probably more than we’ll ever know. I mean, those 45 kids are just the ones that we know about, but I’d imagine that there have been many, many others that have been adopted, because we were on the Oprah show and the Today Show. We could look at the rate of adoption from Liberia into America, it grew dramatically. And we didn’t know all of those people, but we definitely saw a spike in interest after our story went so public.
FC: We don’t know if you knew that here at Family Christian our calling is James 1:27, to look specifically after the orphan and the widow, so we have this huge campaign both inside and outside of our building to bring awareness and action. We are all about foster care and adoption. So to hear stories like yours is fantastic, near and dear to our heart.
Lysa: Yes, I spent some time looking at your website, so I could understand fully what you’re doing. It’s called The James Fund, right?
FC: Yes, The James Fund is our non-profit organization, and what they primarily do is help to seed other organizations and defray some of the cost of adoptions, but also to help build housing and make lives better domestically and abroad. We’re also part of the Nehemiah Project whose number one goal is to eradicate the foster care system within the United States. It’s bound and determined to find homes within the faith community for all of the kids within our foster care system. We believe that this is the church’s responsibility, and we want her to rise up and take initiative in this arena.
Lysa: That’s amazing, I love that.
FC: It’s a tall task, but we’re excited to see what God does with it. Ok, let’s talk about your new book Unglued. There are a few topics covered in your book and we were hoping you could comment on a couple of them. First ‘the working mother’s balancing act.’ You mentioned that “Women need to lean on other women to support them so they can let down their guard and become transparent.” How do you see that in your own life?
Lysa: I definitely think motherhood – no matter if you’re a working mom or stay at home mom – is really tough sometimes. It can really leave us each day with a sense of wondering if we’re doing it right. You know, it’s a long term investment. You don’t see big returns in the short term. Raising a child can easily pull you into being hyper-focused on the tough everyday moments of life. The toddler that doesn’t want to be potty trained and the infant that won’t stop crying and the middle schooler who is just getting into these hormonal fluxes – happy one minute and so upset the next that you can’t even figure out what happened, then teenagers who are really trying to push the limits – I don’t want to be a child, and yet I need a parent, but I’m not yet an adult. It’s all these things, I mean; it can be really hard on a woman’s heart especially when the everyday is filled with moments that don’t feel so wonderful. We love our kids, we treasure our kids, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the chaotic emotions around trying to understand how to raise a child. So in Unglued, I really go right into a big issue that mom’s face, women face, even a lot of men face, and that is: how do we react in that moment of conflict? There’s going to be lots of conflicts that we face every single day, but what do we do in that split second when we’re just about to react to that thing that’s happening? The relationship conflict, or the situational conflict, or the stresses of everyday life that pull at our emotions. And so in Unglued, I really help people see that it is possible to exercise self-control in that split second before we react to the circumstances of our life.
For the purpose of people better understanding themselves, I list out four different reaction types; there are two kinds of ‘Exploders’ and two kinds of ‘Stuffers.’ The Exploders need to add into that split second moment a pause and a dose of perspective. And in Unglued I show them how to do this. And then the Stuffers need to let go of pretending and let go of approving and I show them how to do those in the split second right before they react. It’s really amazing to see what kind of feedback we’ve been getting from people – not just moms. Certainly we’ve been hearing from moms because at the heart of who we are, we want to raise our kids right and be good examples, but sometimes the chaos of everyday emotion or circumstances make us question if we’re being good examples for our kids. We have been getting letters of marriages being saved, moms feeling like they’re becoming better moms, friendships being saved because people are having kind but honest conversations for the first time in their friendships, even work relationships are being repaired as people are learning how to better handle their reactions in the workplace. So it’s really cutting across all of the circumstances and situations that people face and equipping them to have better reactions. If you equip people to have better reactions, you’ll equip them to have better relationships.
FC: You’ve said that the purpose of Unglued is not to get people to a place where they are perfect at keeping their emotions in check; the goal is “imperfect progress.”What would you say to the woman who looks at your life or people on a talk show who appear to have it all together and think “they have a perfect life, but mine is a complete disaster”? How do you address this person who sees their imperfections, or their messy house and compares it with this pedestal of perfection?
Lysa: Well yeah, I’m one of those people because I look at other people all of the time and I think man, they’re so much better at life than me. So I am the woman who has the pile of laundry and the dirty kitchen (laughs) and the five kids who are sweet but sometimes disrespectful. It’s easy for me to compare myself to other people and really start feeling down because I compare their perfect outsides to my very imperfect insides. But here’s what the Lord’s really been teaching me: We aren’t supposed to strive for perfection everyday. If we were perfect, we’d have no need for Jesus. And it’s through our imperfections that we really feel the pull toward our need for a Savior. So the imperfections serve a wonderful purpose if we’ll let them. Now, do we always need to be striving to be better? Absolutely. But I encourage people in Unglued, to seek to make imperfect progress. Seek to get a little better each day. Wrap each step in grace and be okay that imperfect progress is at least moving forward, it doesn’t have to be perfect…
FC: Thank you Lysa so much for talking with us today and for your insight. Keep up the good work, and we’ll keep helping to get the message out.
Hearing From God In Your Daily Life
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"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)
Just because something great happens doesn't mean it is from God. I know this is true because I know how to manipulate and make great things happen.
Honestly, I hate that word—manipulate. It rubs something rough and grainy into the softer places of my heart.
But there it is. And I know it. Because sometimes I do it. I manipulate.
I know how to sell an idea I think is really great.
I know how to go the extra mile.
I know how to strategize to make my plan seem like a great strategy.
And not that any of this is intrinsically bad. Some of these things are great qualities God can certainly use in good ways.
But what if I use these skills and talents outside God's will? To push past God's timing, God's direction, God's plan to teach me stuff in the process?
Sometimes I think He lets us push past His better plan to experience the consequences of our headstrong attitude. Boy do I know all about that. I've jumped headfirst into something I thought I wanted so much, only to find extreme stress, fear, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of regret.
It's great to know how to sell an idea. But it's not great to do it outside God's will.
It's great to go the extra mile. But it's not great to do it out of a desire to secure what I want—rather than out of a desire to serve another.
It's great to strategize and have a plan. But it's not great if that plan stretches me so I seek my desires more than God's desires.
I am learning. Learning to not always push so hard. Run so fast. And desire so much more.
Recently I had the opportunity to be considered for something huge. Really huge.
And I knew how to secure it.
I knew the words I could use to sell my idea. I knew I could go the extra mile with my pitch and look impressive. I knew a strategy that could be implemented and the plan to propose.
But what I didn't know is if this was God's plan or my desire.
If I knew for sure it was God's plan, all my efforts wouldn't be manipulation—they'd be smart. But I didn't know.
Therefore, all my pushing and plotting were manipulation. So, I stopped. I backed off. I stepped aside.
And then I doubted. It was hard to watch the opportunity possibly slip away. But I reminded myself that this was a place where my trust in God has to step in. This was one of those times when a deeper faith could be found.
I can rest in the assurance that if something is to be, it isn't up to me. It's up to God. It's not that I just sit back and don't pursue things. I do. But I give what I can give without manipulation. And then I wait for God to give what only He can give. So, if He makes it happen without all my chaotic self-effort, then I will know it is His best.
And if it doesn't happen, I will thank Him for saving me from myself.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful for Your everlasting love and vision for my life. Help me to embrace the fact that Your plans are so much greater than mine. Humble my heart in the moments when I try to maintain control so that I can fully serve You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Sometimes it's easier to follow our gut response, rather than wait on God's direction. In her book Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst shares great wisdom on embracing God's ways, not ours. Click here to purchase a copy.
Reflect and Respond:
Do you ever catch yourself manipulating past God's plans to secure your own desire?
God wants you to give up your own agenda and trust in His plans for your life! Set aside some time every day to reflect on Bible verses dedicated to this particular issue. Having this daily reminder of God's sovereignty will help you to recognize when your own desires are taking precedence over His will.
Psalm 9:10, "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." (NIV)
Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love." Ephesians 4:1-2 NASB
The Christian life is a step-by-step walk of faith on the path of humility. The goal is not to get ahead of God with fleshly footsteps or to lag behind in fearful procrastination. It is a balance where behavior is molded by beliefs and doing flows from being. A walk with Jesus leads to a talk with Jesus--prayer. It is beautiful to know the Lord longs to linger in lock step with the ones He loves.
We walk in humility because this is the cadence of Christ. Our heavenly Father is not interested in us sprinting through life void of the Spirit's power. On the contrary, He smiles when He sees His servants wait on Him to accompany them to the next opportunity. In the process, a walk of humility takes the time to recognize surrounding relationships: the needs, wants and dreams of others.
"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Daniel 4:37 NASB
Are your steps pleasing to the Lord? Are you walking with or away from Jesus? Each of your steps are important because they build on a sequence of wisdom or foolishness. Each step of obedience reveals another footprint in God's will. You may not understand where the final step will find you, but you can be confident of the next step. Thus, in humble submission take the necessary next step in raising your teenager and entrust their ultimate outcome to the Lord. Humility walks with the One who has already won.
Pride is dismissed by the patient tolerance of your humility. Because you love others, you trust others. Pride walks alone, but an accountable community accompanies humility. Any autonomy you may experience is required by humility to automatically and voluntarily submit to wise counsel. Thus, you walk in the light of God's love that exposes and disposes the dark deeds of pride. As you walk in humility a pace, powered by grace, sustains you!
"Does he not see my ways and count my every step?" Job 31:4
Prayer: Heavenly Father, humble my heart to walk in obedience with You.
"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30 (NIV)
In the late '70s I sat
with my folks in a hospital room in the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The doctors who had just completed tests on my eyes were explaining what it meant to have retinitis pigmentosa. They described how I would slowly lose my remaining sight and eventually be totally blind. My mind raced and my heart welled with confusing emotions. I was silent in that hospital room that day.
A few days later at my next visit, I only wish I had been silent.
We went back to the sa
me room with some of the same doctors. This time it was to help me get on a rehabilitative program. One doctor described how large, thick glasses might help with the little vision I still had. Another discussed walking with a cane. Another doctor told me how important it was for me to have an over-sized
magnifying glass and advised me to use a flashlight to find my locker at school.
They stepped out of the room, and with full adolescent belligerence I ranted to my parents. "I will not wear any of that junk or use that embarrassing stuff! No way! I will not look weird!"
Just as I finished my outburst, the door opened and my new rehab counselor "rolled" in. Being legally blind, I couldn't see him well enough to detect what my mom described to me later.
He was blind in one eye, his face was disfigured, he was missing an arm, and his legs evidently weren't functional. What I could detect, even without sight, was that his voice was only audible by using an apparatus that made it sound synthesized.
Unfortunately he arrived just in time to hear my tirade about looking weird.
I was mortified by how self-centered I acted. I was humiliated by my own smallness and pride. I know he was a professional who most likely understood my immature response, but he also was a man who had lost his former physique and abilities, and who probably felt "weird" when he looked in the mirror. I was so ashamed.
I was only a few days into learning to live with blindness when I received my first lesson: when I am most self-aware, I am most miserable. Even today, as a 48-year-old woman, I still feel tinges of self-pity, self-awareness and self-absorption.
"I don't feel that's fair to me."
"Do I look okay in these jeans?"
"I don't think she likes me."
"I look weird when I can't make eye contact. I don't want people to notice."
"I need, I want, I wish."
When a big "I" is the center of our thoughts and feelings, we truly are miserable!
Perhaps that's because "I" is also in the center of pride and sin. Ouch!
Jesus said in John 12:24 that "... unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." Alone is a miserable place to be.
"But," Christ continued, "if it dies, it bears much fruit." (ESV) The principle is this: when it is all about us, we are like that seed that is unwilling to die. Consequently, we find ourselves alone in the prison of our own self-awareness. But, when we are willing to turn our big "I" into a little "I," we are then ready to experience real life, satisfying life.
God is teaching me that true self-esteem comes from being reduced—less of me, more of Him. As I am willing to relinquish my sense of self—self-pity, self-awareness and self-absorption—I am finding simplicity in an identity that comes from His life in me, rather than an identity based upon me, myself and I.
Today, let's choose to be more full of God than we are of ourselves.
Dear Lord, I want to decrease so You will increase in me. May I be like a seed, willing to die, so I can truly live and give life to others. May my letter "I" not be in pride or sin, but may it be found in Christ. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Ways to shrink your letter "I":
1. Focus on someone else's needs. Yours will feel less obvious.
2. Grant someone else the attention you are trying to get for yourself.
3. Begin your day with this question, "How may I serve You today, Lord?"
Matthew 22:37-39: "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NIV)
Psalm 27:8: "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." (NIV)
Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)
“The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.” Ruth 3:10
Affective affirmation engages the heart and soothes the soul. There is an emotional tipping point that takes place when someone brings acceptance, approval and comfort to a conversation. It builds trust in relationships and moves friendships toward vulnerability. Men long for approval from their wives and women desire attention from their husbands. Affirmation from those who know us the most—means the most. Their support provides security for us.
We all want to feel special—we want to be the most important person to the one we love the most. This position of significance positions a relationship for success. The effect of affective affirmation is a healthy environment at home and at work. Negative brow beating and intimidation may get a short-term result at the expense of long-term commitment. We need affirmation like a tender plant needs nurturing. Affirmation grows relationships.
“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves. How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.” Song of Songs 1:15-16
Do you intentionally affirm another’s value to you? Do you treat them how you want to be treated and do you grace them with words of significant meaning? The Lord has you in a seat of influence during good and bad times. Therefore, use your role of supervisor, peer, parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend to free others with your approval. Speak into their lives by admitting your struggles and airing your concerns. Affirm them.
Most of all seek effective affirmation from your heavenly Father. When you stumble and fall—He picks you up. When you sin—He forgives. When you forget—He remembers. When you lose hope—He gives hope. When you are weak—He is strong. When you are unsure—He is sure. When you are afraid—He is your peace. Your Father in heaven cares about you. When He sees you, He sees His son Jesus—you are 100% affirmed in Him!
“I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly.” Psalm 85:8
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your affirmation in Your son Jesus.
"For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 15:4 (NASB)
We were out of options. The day the Sherriff's car pulled into our driveway, I knew what was coming. After a series of unfortunate events, things had gone from bad to worse to hopeless.
Her friendly, official, sheriff smile did nothing to relieve the emotional discomfort of this dreadful moment. The neighbors peeked through their blinds to see what was happening.
As she handed me the papers, I took them with tears in my eyes.
Looking at the baby in my arms and toddler peeking out from behind me, this kind woman genuinely said, "I'm sorry."
"Thank you," I whispered, as I slowly closed the door.
I sat down on our stairs and read through the official documents. Elaborate lawyer terms, forceful sounding laws I didn't understand, and words bolded in dark ink conveyed the dreadful news; "You must vacate the premises within thirty days."
It was unwanted and unavoidable. It felt shameful and embarrassing. And the foreclosure of our home was an aching process of letting go.
The carefully painted mustard-yellow walls: I would miss them so much. How would I survive without the daily afternoon play dates with my neighbor and her children? And what about all those hot dog dinners my husband and I ate to save pennies to buy this sweet home?
So much was about to be taken from us. Just like that.
I didn't understand why God would allow us to walk this humbling road. We had trusted Him, why hadn't He provided?
Any hope I had left in God faded fast. It wasn't something I could muster back up on my own. No, I needed others to fill the gap for me.
In scripture Paul wrote, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4 NASB)
I learned during this devastating season, when our hearts become grounds of broken dreams, we may need to turn to the hope others have found.
The Bible holds deep historical roots of hope waiting for us to uncover.
We can find hope because ...
Abraham and Sarah found hope by believing while it seemed impossible for them to get pregnant, it was possible for God. (Genesis 15, 17-18)
We can find hope because ...
Ruth and Naomi found hope by moving their lives forward after losing their family. (Ruth 3)
We can find hope because ...
Mary and Martha found hope when they saw Jesus could do anything, including raising their brother from the dead. (John 11)
As I closed the door to our home for the last time, I accepted this place of brokenness. But I also made a choice to find hope no matter what.
I found hope through the eyes of wonder my daughters had as they explored our new rental house. I found hope when my mom helped me unpack our boxes and organize toys. I found hope when my husband's heart drew closer to mine through this difficult experience.
Hope is at the core of who we are as followers of Jesus. As we allow hope to flow into us, it will flow through us even in the most difficult circumstances.
If you feel hopeless in this season of your life, will you look back at those who had hope in Scripture to give you courage to have hope for your future? Hope, it heals our broken dreams.
Dear Lord, thank You for the hope You give us to heal the broken places in our lives. May we have the strength to find hope in all the places that feel hopeless today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
If you are feeling hopeless, reach out to someone and ask her to share a time where God has given hope.
What is an area in your life you are seeking hope from God? Leave a comment today and let's share our hope struggles.
1 Peter 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (NIV)
Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (NIV 1984)
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