Hearing the Truth Through the Whispers

What has ever happened in your life that was actually good?

There are days when I can think back over my life and see so clearly what Jesus has done at my best and worst moments to give me every good thing that I have.  A light shines on every moment to show me the blessings of His care, and the joy that even the trials have brought to me.  Those are the days when it is hard to keep a smile from becoming a laugh, just to think of how the King of all things delights in brightening my day.

Then there are times that the light seems to turn off like a switch.  The days when the above question seems painfully real as I grope in the darkness for the things that I know have been blessings to me, but that I just cannot seem to find.  Whispers creep into my head and argue with me at every point, telling me that all of the things that I know on the warm days, full of light, are just my imagination.  Was it ever really so nice?

Boy, the devil has a lot of gall.

Thank God that we are given strength in Jesus to be unshakable more than just some of the time!  Here are a few things you can do to keep your footing on the days when the light seems dim and the whispers seem overwhelming.

Don’t Panic!

The first thing we often feel at these moments is that all is lost.  It must be that something didn’t quite click when we first trusted Jesus, and that this is what life is going to be like from now on.  It was so happy, following Jesus.  If we don’t feel that way, it must be something we did, right?  Our actions do affect our relationship with Jesus.  If we are sinning, or have not surrendered something to Him, we will struggle.  However, that is not always the cause of our distress.  Read the Psalms.  The are full of distress, and the reminder that the Lord is faithful in the midst of our adversities, even if He seems completely absent through them.  Reading Psalms twenty-two through twenty-four is an especially good reminder.  The first verse is what Jesus spoke on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  If the Son of God can feel that way, then all is not lost for us when we struggle under the burden of a fallen world.  Those three psalms are actually believed to be all one before the chapter divisions came along.  I find reading them all at once deeply comforting.  Try not to dwell on feeling in the dark, but do remember that it’s okay to feel that way.  Overcoming that tendency to panic is usually half of the battle.

Know the Shepherd’s Voice

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
~John 10:1-5

The devil works overtime to deceive us.  In our moments of distress, he will do everything he can to convince us that it is God who is accusing us.  Our Father does discipline us, and so the devil finds ways to imitate the Shepherd’s voice while telling us a lie.  The best way to keep from being hoodwinked is to spend so much time with Jesus that we see the counterfeit instantly.  The devil will still whisper in countless and seemingly new ways, but if we are walking hand in hand with our beloved Christ, learning the depth and newness of all of His ways, it will be rare that we are taken in and led to greater distress.

Cite Your Sources

The best way to conquer distress is to take the offensive.  Don’t wait for the confusion to set in to decide to hide God’s Word in your heart.  Sometimes the distress is too much to take, and I can’t find any words of my own for how I am feeling and what I need in order to see the light again.  At those times, there is such a deep comfort in being able to quote Scripture.  I have a few of the Psalms committed to memory, and sometimes just the fact that I can speak them and have a solid piece of God’s Word available is enough to block out most of the pressure from the enemy.  Keep the references in your heart too.  Sometimes the exact words or the context can get lost, so don’t be afraid to pull out your Bible or your concordance, or do a quick web search when you can only remember a few snatches.  It’s a great reminder that the promises of God, and the concrete truth of His presence are defined by more than our own ability to hold onto Him.  It is such an encouragement to me that Paul, in 2 Timothy 1:12, wrote,

“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”

Sometimes, that is all I need to hear.  This is a very productive habit to start in the New Year.  If you are at a time when it seems like more should be happening, use the time you have to hide God’s Word in your heart so that you will be ready when things get more active.

Bring a Friend

Isolation is a great way to overcome someone.  When we are alone, it is so much easier to believe that all of the feelings in our own heads are what is really true.  I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t want to allow others to know my problems, since I know that they have their own lives to handle, so it isn’t uncommon for me to hold things inside for longer than I should.  When I do share something with one of my brothers or sisters, it is so deeply encouraging.  When I am distressed about the pressures of the enemy, or about a difficult thing the Lord wants me to do, just the honest “Yep, that sounds like what the devil would do,” or “Wow! He is calling you to something great!” is enough to remind me that I am trusting my life to the One with all of our best interests at heart.  It does often happen that I cannot reach anyone at the time of my distress, but Jesus is still there with me.  There have been numerous times that I have been so exhausted in my spirit that all I can do is ask the Lord to have someone else be praying for me at that time.  I can usually feel the burden eased almost instantly.

Remember too that distress will not always lift instantly.  It can be something that the Lord uses to remind us to be in prayer for someone, or as part of the process of really, truly understanding something about His character that we may have known on paper, but not experienced with Him before.  However, this does not mean that we have to be pulled back and forth by the whispers of doubt that come up, prompting “did God really say…?”

If you are struggling, and would like prayer or a chance to work through something with us, please leave a comment or an e-mail.  Also, if you would like to share a Scripture verse that has been a faithful friend to you in the midst of your distresses, please let us know in the comments below.  We love being able to connect with you.

by Stephanie H.

A Baby is the Door

 

 

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
~Isaiah 7:14

 

I keep coming back to Tai’s post about the Highways to Zion.  Something about a real city, a physical image of the kingdom community, goes so far to help me understand what it is like to know and to come close to Jesus as a real person, a real God, a real King.  That is what I thought when I saw this Christmas card.  The baby King was born away from the people He loved, out in a little stable, or a lonely shepherd cave, but this manger cradle is tucked into a doorway.  It made me think of the city of Zion, and Jesus’ own words, that He is the door.  He didn’t just grow up to be the door.  He wasn’t even born to be the door.  He has always been “God with us,” the example we have of what our Father and His Father is really like.  And this is how He first comes to us; later, it will still be meek and riding on a donkey, washing feet, and with death for a coronation, but at the moment this new and glorious morn breaks over a weary world; a world that lies in sin and error pining, mourning in lonely exile; at that first moment, the reigning King comes as a person probably not even ten pounds, and not even able to lift His own head.

How can Jesus love us so much that He wanted to be so helpless in such a broken world?

I think of how often I can get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and everything I can try to do to make myself better; how I often worry about waking up at the right time, whether or not I know my Bible as well as I should, and always trying to know the right things to say at the right time.  We so often weigh our closeness to God with how much we can carry.  Then, we come to this little door: the way, the only way, to come to the Father.

It is such a sweet thing to hold a baby, to memorize the features of a sleeping face, or watch brand new fingers take hold of your own.  One precious blessing is that you cannot be overburdened with luggage and hold a baby at the same time.  As we come to this perfect door, we must put down everything else.  Sometimes, it is as though everything else just melts away in His presence.  Other times, it is a fight against our nature, and the belief that we now have to find a way to balance all of the cares of our lives and our Christian obligations, and still find a way to carry a baby too without hurting Him.

It is quite impossible, and it is meant to be.  The first and hardest habit to break is trying to protect ourselves.  Can you trust that the Lord will hold back the anxiety and the fear, and protect you from every enemy thought while you spend time with Him?  We shouldn’t have to be looking over one shoulder when we are in His presence; we aren’t meant to.  It is the place of absolute trust.  Trust He showed us by example when made Himself vulnerable to every mother’s worst fears, even before He was born.  He showed us how to become little children in trusting His safety to His Father, even during the time of such violent kings on earth.

Christmas does not need to come with any expectations.  The anticipation of beauty breaks our hearts when we have rested that success on ourselves.  Those expectations are meant to be trust given to Him; fears He will erase when we come face to face with His innocence: a purity that has outlasted the darkness of one thousand generations.  I pray that He will again be the light of your holiday this year.

Merry Christmas.

by Stephanie H.

If you are struggling to find the joy and peace of Christmas this year, please message us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.  We would love to talk and pray with you.

Waiting for the Letdown

 

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
    and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
    those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
    nor will he do ill.’
 Their goods shall be plundered,
    and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
    they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
    they shall not drink wine from them.”

Zephaniah 1:12-13

 

“God…I trust you. I know you don’t want to harm us…I just…don’t really see how this could possibly work out well in the end. But, I WILL hold onto you no matter what happens, even if it is a disaster, and things don’t go the way I’m hoping.”

So often my thoughts have gone something like this, as I try to have faith for something that seems….well….just crazy. Maybe I struggle to believe that God can actually DO something that big…or maybe I struggle to understand why or how He would do something like that…….for ME. I don’t deserve a blessing like that…so…why should He see it through? I mean, I can believe for the same thing for someone else. But me? I brace myself for the disappointment. The letdown. The failure of my faith.

Faith?

What faith? Is THAT faith??

It is so easy to fall into this attitude that Zephaniah so poignantly describes in chapter 1 of his book. It is so easy to know deep in our hearts that God won’t do evil toward us…but…not letting — or MAKING — ourselves believe that He can and WILL also do good! We must guard ourselves very carefully from this attitude, for, as Zephaniah points out, this attitude breeds complacency; NOT the bold faith that sets out to conquer in the name of the Lord! We must push aside every doubt that tries to crowd into our minds and hearts when we set forth to pray in faith, and we must BELIEVE the Lord for good! For us! Today! He will not fail us, and our hope is NOT in vain. Unless we press the victory, and break through the hoards of doubts that try to stand in our way, to keep us from receiving that which we pray for, we will fall short of what God desires for us! It is like the story of Joash in 2 Kings, when Elisha told him to take a bow and shoot arrows out his window. And Joash took it, and shot 3 arrows and then stopped. Then Elisha was angry with him, because, he said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” When we lose heart after praying only for a little while, we do not gain the victory we might have had if we pressed on! And unless we press forward in our trust in the Lord, we will be like those Zephaniah describes who never see the fruit of their labors. So too, if we do not believe the Lord for the answer to our prayers, and hold fast, waiting expectantly for His blessing, we will not get to see the fruit of the wrestling faith, and we will not have the reward of our faith. For, simply thinking, “God will not do evil….but neither will he do good,” is not enough.

Ask God to show you how you may have been doing this in your own life…and ask Him to teach you REAL faith and trust in His goodness and faithfulness!

 

 

The Arrow of Thanksgiving

Your fingers hurt as you pull back the string, keeping your eye on the fletching.  Your arm wants to shake as it pulls against the tightness of the string.  You move your focus down the shaft, linger on the arrow head, then center on the yellow circle in the distance.  Breathe, and-

Thwi-!

Holidays can be difficult times for me.  I love the comfort and quiet they can bring, the moments of warm, soft reflection in the midst of all that goes on day to day. Sometimes, however, that peace can be far more elusive on the special days than it is in the midst of the deadlines and the daily grind.  If left unprotected, it is peace easily lost and disappointment readily gained.

How often does Thanksgiving cross the calendar this way?  Expectations run high, and when we come to the familiar “What are we thankful for?” it can be so much easier to think, Well, I would be thankful, if…

The Bible shows us holidays in a way that is different than we are used to thinking.  Instead of days off to do what we want in the hopes that we will feel better at work after, Biblical holidays were days of training.  When the Lord established the Sabbath day, the foundation of all holidays for His people, in Deuteronomy chapter five, this is what He said:

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
~Deuteronomy 5:15

When life gets busy, we have to make a conscious effort to keep from drifting off with our moods, stresses, and fears.  That effort can be something that seems to add to the burden of our to-do list rather than lightening it.  Because we are used to the hope of resting recharging our emotions on holidays, training sounds exhausting and intimidating, but God designed holidays to be training in joy.  Joy is not a spontaneous feeling like happiness.  Even at our lowest points of fear and sorrow, joy can be ours if we are used to exercising the right muscles.

This is where I come to thinking of thanksgiving as a weapon.  It can be so hard to be thankful.  It really isn’t something that comes to us naturally.  When we first feel the weapon in our hands, it is so alien that we hardly know how to handle it.  We know how it is supposed to work, but surely it is meant for other people to use.  People who are “talented” in the realm of thankfulness.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, we can feel our fingers scream when we first pull back that tight string.  Our muscles tremble within us as we struggle to keep the bow steady and pulled back tight.  We miss the target, then again, then again.  It is a struggle to hit the bull’s-eye of joy, but we must learn to think like Leah.  Leah could have been tossed about mercilessly by her circumstances.  Her husband loved her sister more than he loved her.  God blessed her with three sons, but even still, she was lonely amidst her blessings.  Finally, she made a choice: “This time, I will praise the Lord.”  And her fourth son Judah became the forefather of our precious Jesus Christ.

This time—whatever the time may be—will you praise the Lord?  Think of the bow as His faithfulness.  It is solid and true, but sometimes hard to grasp at first.  We know its strength, but how could we ever be able to approach it?  If we try on our own, we will never be able to get the arrows on the string, but Holy Spirit helps us the draw the strength of the unfamiliar string.  Devote time to training.  Set aside pieces of the day, especially the holidays, to learn of His faithfulness, and to practice putting your trust in Him.  Remember that in the same chapter as the command to keep a Sabbath, Moses shared with the people:

The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.
~Deuteronomy 5:3

The Lord’s faithfulness is something He gives to you.  It is not loaned to you by permission from someone else.  It is what God Himself has given directly to you.  Don’t be afraid to interact with His faithfulness in your own life, no matter the situation.

I think of the arrows as truth.  Circumstances and emotions can toss us back and forth; in the midst of that, there are solid truths to which we can still cling.  Maybe they don’t seem very significant at the time, often they won’t be enough to rocket us from the doldrums straight to cloud nine, but sometimes just a little piece of something that is really, honestly true is enough to give us a hint of joy.  Again, we know these truths better the more time we spend in the Word and in prayer.  If we devote time to memorizing the Word, it is like we get used to reaching for the quiver without even having to think of where to find it.

God is faithful.  Here are the truths.  Draw the string, aim for the center of His presence: joy lives there.  Hold steady.  Remember, thanksgiving is a choice.

Rejoice always;  pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

In everything.  It sounds an awful lot like training, doesn’t it?  We still have some time before Thanksgiving Day comes.  Take the time to learn the tools.  It is a hard thing for the enemy to stand against a truly thankful heart.

Deep breath.

This time I will praise the Lord.

And…

Release.

by Stephanie H.

Abandoning Your Ungodly Hobbies

“Not now, sweetie, I’m busy.”

“Go ask mom.”

“I can’t.  I’m going to the mall with Julia tomorrow.”

“I’d rather go to the movies.”

“What did you say?  I wasn’t listening.”

It hurts when those we love are too busy for us.  It doesn’t just hurt; it breaks our hearts.  It is also a pain Jesus understands more deeply than we can imagine, not just because He knows your pain—and He does, so deeply—but because this is how the ones He loves treat Him all of the time.  The number of things that we choose instead of Jesus is nearly endless.  It is something we all do far more often than we care to admit.

What are the things that get between us and our loving Savior?  Some of them just get a hold of our short attention spans; others we pursue feverishly because we’ve forgotten how to live without them.  In the same way that we have adjusted to television as background noise to every room and exploring absolutely anything through the screen of a phone, we have grown so used to sinful activities that we don’t even realize how unnatural they are to the heart of God.  In fact, our hearts are full of things that devastate His.

I was sitting in my room, praying hard, in anguish over the Scripture that had stood out to me.  I had been hurt by someone close, not just once or twice, but for years.  Now the Lord was confronting me in the the words that echoed in my head:

But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. ~Matthew 6:15

I had read these words so many times before, but this time they broke me.  In my pain, I was hurting the only One who could heal me, and I was putting of barriers of anger to keep Him away.  Still, that pain and bitterness had become so much a part of me, that I knew I couldn’t stop.

For days, it was all I could pray about.  I needed to be free.  I wanted to be with Jesus again.  Finally, He showed me what the true nature of my bitterness.  Anger frequently filled me thoughts, but not constantly.  The fact is, when I had nothing else to think about, I would go looking for bitterness without even realizing that was what I was doing.  My bitterness was a hobby.  It was a pastime that let me focus on myself.  It didn’t make me feel happy, but it made me feel justified.  It was enough to fill my mind to keep me from thinking about how hurt and vulnerable I was.

How many of these sorts of hobbies do we have?  Bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, hatred?  What about cruel humor, mocking, gossip, and backbiting?  Maybe self-harm, substance abuse, or sexual addiction.  It can even start small with a taste for violent films, novels, and video games.  Maybe we don’t notice because things can still make us smile or laugh, but when we hurt, we so often bury ourselves in hatred to keep from being hurt again.  The littlest thoughts and complaints become a part of our daily rhythm; something we can’t live without because it keeps us from thinking about being weak.

The saying goes that “hurt people hurt people.”  The truth is, hurt people hurt Jesus.  What we use to push others away who might hurt us ends up hurting Him more than it hurts the ones we fear.  Knowing that should make us feel awful, but feeling awful about it doesn’t mean we’ll ever be able to stop.  What we need to understand is that Jesus hurts more than any of us can imagine, because He is more innocent than any of us can ever know.  He hurts more than children who cannot understand what they did that they should be left alone, but in that depth of pain, He forgives.  In our pain, our thoughts and our actions break His heart, and He forgives.  He knows we cannot ever stop unless we fight to release these hobbies of brokenness to Him.  So He forgives, and He gives us His Spirit to restore to bruised and bleeding pieces of our weak and vulnerable hearts.

Whether they mean to or not, people will not stop hurting us, but we can still be vulnerable and be safe in His arms if we are willing.  He can hush our aching hearts as easily as He does the stormy seas.  He teaches us the beauty of the silence we fear so much, the silence we fill with hours of mindless rhythms and distractions that keep us from thinking.  Rest can become not falling apart, but falling into His arms.  We can leave all of our hobbies behind for a life, a real, full life.  A life of peace and joy eternal.

by Stephanie H.

Aesthetic the Idol

 

Emptiness abounds.  A click of a button can become a painful reminder of the parched souls and aching hearts that may be hiding behind the faces of our closest family, neighbors, and friends.  Sometimes, we see the pain; other times, we don’t find out until it is too late.

The church sees and often feels that same yearning for hope.  Christians know that their faith should hold the key to broken hearts feeling love again, to trials turning to gold.  They have a longing to see their brothers and sisters in Christ and those who are lost find a home where they can be loved, cared for, and feel the sunshine and warmth of peace again.  Those who know brokenness want to see the pain in others healed.  The Lord gave us hearts that long to see every tear wiped away.

And so the church set out to build homes: places for people to be reminded what it is like to feel, to see art and hear music that wakens a piece of their broken hearts, and to know that they are not alone.  We know that the Lord loves a sincere heart.  Giving Him our best to help others must surely be a blessing to Him, even if we’re not quite sure how to do it.

This is true.  The world will see Christ in the church because of something we have that is different from the world.  Unfortunately, with so much brokenness still in the hearts of many believers, much of the church has gotten swept up in the appearance of fulfillment in order to reach out to others.  It is widely circulated today that the way to reach people and show them that the church is different is to have stylish places to meet, sell quality coffee, and create music and media content that shows real talent and skill.  Some follow this idea because they believe the world will need something familiar to draw them to church.  Others think that the world is so busy pushing their way of thinking that they can’t make anything of quality anymore, so that if people see Christians making good quality things, they will have to admit that God exists, because quality must be something eternal, something meaningful.

This adoration of quality is something that has distracted many Christians from following Jesus.  We begin to try chasing away the darkness by embracing comedy and humor of all kinds.  We want to show the world we understand “real” problems by making art and music that captures the spirit of anger, terror, and hopelessness.  We want to us these things to show them that there is still hope, but because we have been focusing on refining skills and talents as a way to do the most for God, we have lost the key to salvation in all of the busyness.  The beauty, the art, the music, all have a note of hollowness to them.  We like to keep busy because we can often feel an ache in our hearts that tells us if we pause too long to listen to that hollow sound, we will see that all of our churches, our youth centers, our coffee shops, our hopeful homes, have become pieces of a ghost town.

Friend…

Sister.

You do not have the strength to heal anyone.  We cannot even heal ourselves.  Our words, actions, and creations can bless others, but the only way that they can be healed, can find a home, can know love and joy and laughter again, is not to have shadows of Jesus in your actions, it is to have the actual, real, full person of Jesus with them.  That can be very hard to hear, because we try so hard, but living fully in our hearts and in our actions is exactly where Jesus wants to be.

The weeds and whispers of the world can be very distracting, so it is very easy for us to become separated from our Father in a culture that is basically a shiny, colorful department store to our child-like minds.  Christians know in their hearts that Jesus is somewhere, but it can often feel like God is the watch-winder, and our job is just to keep ticking along until the right time comes.

As creatures made in God’s image, we have an innate desire to create.  We also have a strong connection to what we create, and what things awaken that creative nature.  These tendencies are wired into us so that spending time with our Father will bring us closer to Him.  However, when we start thinking that our talents are their for us to use—even to use for God—we often end up creating and interacting things that draw our affections away from the heart of our Father.

Remember that it is Jesus’ goal to bring all people to Himself (John 12:32).  Things that we create in and of ourselves will reflect our beliefs, but if we submit ourselves to Christ, and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the things He builds through us will actually introduce others of our precious Savior Himself!  In essence, we view our talents as our tools to serve Him, but in our surrender to His will, His complete will, we become the brush, and He becomes the painter.  We become the strings, and He becomes the sweet hands that give us music.  He has complete freedom to love others through us, to come alongside them personally, and to wipe their tear-stained faces with His nail-scarred hands, holding them close until they are made utterly whole again.

Kneel before Him and give Him all of your heart.  Trust Him with everything like Mary did in pouring out what she had for Him.  Whatever others may say, they will see Him at His work on the pages of your life.  Will you sing a more hopeful song without Him?

 

by Stephanie H.

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors | Book Review

 

Stop right there. Just go pre-order the book (click on the picture above). THEN come back and read all the reasons why. No, seriously…it’s THAT good. And I do not dole out compliments on books often. But this is one you just NEED to get. You can thank me later.

When I signed up to be a part of the launch team for this book, I had a feeling that this was going to be a tool God wanted to use to speak to my heart in a very particular way…but I really had no idea HOW meaningful it would be to my heart.

But, as I cracked it open for the first time earlier this week, and began to read, I couldn’t help but just shake my head and look heavenward. How did you know, God? HOW do you DO this?? How do you have someone on the other side of the world write a book that is SO…so…for ME?

As I sat and read this book, it was as if a dear friend was sitting beside me, speaking words straight from the Lord to MY heart. I could hardly bring myself to finish the last few chapters because I just didn’t want it to ever end. Someone understood. Someone who really, truly knows the Lord, in the truest sense of the word. Someone who had real truth to share with my heart, birthed out of having walked through the fire with the Lord, and having come out on the other side seeing His faithfulness. And it was like the sweetest fellowship you could ever hope for from the most kindred of hearts.

I could scarcely put the book down, and chapter after chapter, the tears tumbled down my cheeks.

Katie’s story is so raw. So heart-wrenchingly beautiful. So full of the reality that this life God has called us to is just not easy — nor was it meant to be easy…but He is WITH US. And He uses all of the brokenness of this world, and our own brokenness and wrestlings to draw us near. So close to His heart.

As she shared how she has found herself actually longing for the times of darkness and difficulty because she has found such a special closeness with the Lord through the midst of them, several memories of my own life flashed through my mind…and I had to nod, “Amen, Amen!” For I, too, have found this to be true. In fact, some of the MOST heart-wrenching circumstances of my life have become the greatest blessings, as they caused me to cling to Jesus with a fierce tenacity. And I would not trade the lessons He taught my heart as I walked through the midst of them, for being able to go back and have things work out differently.

“The invitation to experience sorrow and doubt and all those long nights WITH Him — THAT is favor.”

What do you do when your prayers have gone unanswered (ar at least, not answered in the ways you were hoping for)? What do you do when there is death instead of healing, heartache instead of comfort, and so, so much brokenness in this world that continually surrounds us?

Katie shares some of the bitter trials she has walked through since she wrote “Kisses from Katie”. She shares her wrestlings with the Lord — and perhaps you will see yourself in some of her struggles to hope…to trust…to understand why there is such heartache and pain in this world — and her triumphs, coming forth as she casts herself before the Lord, washing His feet with her tears poured out before Him day after day (and night after night), when the brokenness of the world around her was just too much to bear. Every bit of truth she shares in this book is tested by a life truly lived in the midst of the brokenness of this world — these are no trite quips written by a person sitting in their armchair by the fire in their multi-million dollar private mansion. These are truths birthed from pain, and springing forth from a life that is laid down for the sake of bringing Hope and life to those who are destitute.

From the depths of Katie’s weakness, the Lord showed HIS strength….and this book is SUCH a beautiful memorial to His faithfulness and power in spite of our weakness and wrestlings — our brokenness and scars. As she says so well:

 “All those cracks and holes and ruptures, they would be the places in my life where His glory would shine through.”

The resounding theme of this book is this: Those who hope in the Lord will never be disappointed (from Isaiah 49:23, Psalm 25:3)! We can cast all of the pain, and all of our weakness and burdens and fears upon Him…and know that He WILL come through. We can trust Him. We can HOPE in Him!

“When I hunger always for Him, even the hard satisfies. Even the grief gives way to joy. Even the bitter is sweet. Even in the dark, I can see His face. Because when we are looking for Him, we will always see Him. I have tasted of His goodness, and now I hunger for it.”

If you would like to pre-order this book (DO IT), watch the book trailer, or get more info on it, go to: https://amazima.org/daringtohope/

(Also, there is a special gift for those who pre-order this month!!)

 

And last, an excellent passage of scripture which sums up the book SO well:

Isaiah 49:13-16a

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
    break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted.

 But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me;
    my Lord has forgotten me.’

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
    that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
    yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”

Why So EXTREME??

 

You may be a regular visitor here, or, this may be your first time. Perhaps you stumbled across our website by accident…and you’ve never even read the book that started everything (if not…I highly recommend grabbing a copy HERE, because it will explain a LOT), and maybe you’ve been just scrolling through our posts thinking, “Wow. Some of this stuff seems kind of extreme! Why would they do all this? I know lots of people who aren’t this extreme, and they are still Christians!”

Yes, it’s true. You can call yourself a Christian, and still live a mediocre life…if that’s what you want. You can just get by with doing good stuff, and helping people, and going to church on Sundays — not doing anything TOO extreme, or unusual. No one will think anything of it. And you won’t encounter much resistance from friends or family (everyone loves “nice” people, who don’t make them feel…“uncomfortable”), or the devil (he certainly is glad when you don’t do anything too extreme, and are content to live in mediocrity).

But what about when you stand before the throne of the Lord, and there are hundreds of men and women who have given up *everything* for the Lord — houses, families, countries, health, alone time, security, finances….??

What about when you stand next to those who have lived with reckless faith — plowing forward in service to the Lord, even when all looked bleak and crazy to all who looked on. Those who have been tortured, beaten, and hated for the sake of Christ. Hebrews 11 is an excellent chapter to read, to cause us to think soberly about the cost of following Christ. As are the biographies of many men and women of God (you can find our recommendations HERE).

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I go more into depth about these things in my book, “Unshakable”, especially the chapter called, “Why I Have Given up the World”, so I’m not going to get TOO detailed here…because I give quite a lot to chew on in my book, if you’re interested in digging more into the “whys”. But to sum it all up, I would have to say that the verse above from Hebrews is the BIG “why”.

It is because the “cloud of witnesses” (aka: the great men and women of faith) has gone before us, and their blood has paved the way for our salvation — can we take their blood sacrifices so lightly?? Can we honestly look at the lives they lived – in starvation, torture, imprisonment, and death – and say, “I’m a Christian too!” as we grumble about getting out of bed for church in the morning, or can’t be bothered to make the time to spend with Jesus each day just for one measly little hour?

It is because Jesus left everything for us, and has set us a high standard of purity and holiness.

And it is for the JOY that is set before us! The JOY of an unbreakable friendship with Jesus, when everything else in this world so easily (and frequently) crumbles away. The JOY of true FREEDOM from sin and the weight of death. The JOY of eternity with Jesus, where there will no longer be striving, or fear, or heartbreak, or death, or sin, or the devil!

AND…even more — we can rejoice as we lay down our earthly lives for Jesus, because we know that we are bringing our Bridegroom the JOY that HE endured the Cross for, on our behalf: the joy of having a bride who truly loves Him more than anything this world can offer.

 

Martha, Martha

I had a conversation with a friend a while back about spending time with Jesus, and one of the things she said got me to thinking.

“You’re more of a Mary, and I’m a Martha.”

We very much like to categorize ourselves in this day and age.  From ISFP, extrovert, type A, phlegmatic, wall flower, all of the way to “What ice cream are you?” or “Which Bible character are you?” we are encouraged to establish a solid identity, our own little niche of belonging in a chaotic world.  Those boxes often make us second guess any actions or decisions that would take us outside of our own identities.  When it comes to our relationships with the Lord, that cookie cutter identity can be crippling.

When my friend told me that I was a Mary, I had to laugh on the inside.  She is very outspoken, while I could sit for an hour looking at a piece of grass.  She manages to juggle a dozen different tasks at the same time as nurturing half a dozen different people through their fears, joys, and anxieties, all within the span of ten minutes.  I work best with one thing at a time, and can get so focused that I will sometimes not even hear what people are saying around me until my job is done.  From the outside, that might seem like the perfect recipe for sitting at Jesus feet, but being still and listening are not things that come naturally to me.

My mind runs a mile a minute, so it isn’t uncommon for my prayers to become chatter sessions, telling the Lord everything I have planned, and when I think things are taking too long to happen.  I have to laugh at myself when He reminds me to listen, and instead I go down a list and ask Him about all of the things I think He might have to say.  In short, I am very much a Martha.

Realistically, we all face the same struggle Martha did.  When Luke begins this story (Luke 10:38), he says that Martha was the one who welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home.  Martha had a brother named Lazarus as well as her sister Mary, but it seems that she was the one who took the initiative to invite Jesus into their home.  That is is where we all know to start, and it is certainly nothing to sneeze at!  Martha knew that there would be nothing more important in her life than having Jesus come into her house.  Hospitality was (and still is) vitally important in their culture, and she was ready to give all of the resources, strength, and time she had to make sure that the Teacher and His friends would remember the welcome she had given them.

Now, Martha was no Pharisee or Sadducee.  Her focus wasn’t on whether or not she would look impressive enough.  Her focus was on hospitality and doing good for others.  Along with Jesus and the twelve primary disciples, who knows how much of a crowd was following Jesus that day?  She wasn’t about to let any of them go hungry.  So where did she get distracted?

The story of Mary and Martha takes place in Luke chapter ten.  If we go back just one chapter, Luke nine gives us the account of Jesus feeding five thousand men, in addition to women and children.  Now He is back in Bethany, and here is Martha, stretching herself thin trying to feed one household when the Bread of Life is there sitting in the next room.

Martha does seem like a go-getter in this passage, but fears apply to all of us at one point or another.  She feels the pressure of wanting to do her job well.  She wants to bring comfort and rest to the lives of others.  She hates to think of anyone slipping through the cracks on her watch.  She gets so lonely in all of her cares and responsibilities, that she gets upset with the Lord for not easing her burden by having her sister help.

It’s not that Mary was more into feeling and Martha was more into doing.  All of Martha’s worries are addressed at the feet of Jesus.  It can be so easy for us to imagine that He has overlooked us with His help, and to say “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?”  Not one person was overlooked when Jesus fed the people in the wilderness, even though the disciples had no money to feed them.  When we place the burden of success on our own shoulders, that is when our stress levels skyrocket, and things start falling apart, whether we’re juggling caring for a family and coordinating a dinner, or just trying to get through our paperwork.  Meanwhile, Jesus is patiently waiting, calling each of us by name.  It is hard to give up control to the Lord, “but only one thing is necessary.”  And when we seek first that one thing, all of our needs will be met, and we will find that Jesus provides more fruitfulness to His ministries than we could ever hope to do on our own.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:6,7

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30

 

Martha, Martha.  Won’t you taste and see that He is good?

by Stephanie H.

Trendy Grace

 

Grace.

Yes. That word.

It is trendy, it’s hip, it’s just the right blend of a pinch of reformed and dash of hipster, and when you drop it into conversations, everyone thinks you’re totally relevant and totally accepting of all those things that more “prudish” Christians look at as sinful and ungodly.

Thank goodness you know “grace”.

Or…do you?

I was sitting out in one of my favorite prayer spots not long ago, reading through Titus, when the scripture below jumped out at me. I’ve read it MANY times, and actually know it by heart just from reading it so many times. But…this time was different. This time, it was like I actually understood it…and I realize that what I was reading was such a clear contrast to the way we so commonly perceive “GRACE”. Read it yourself:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” Titus 2:11-12

Um. What? Wait, wait, wait. Paul obviously missed the memo. Like…doesn’t he realize that grace means that God saved us so He overlooks our sinfulness now? Like…we’re covered by the blood of Jesus, dude. Grace.

Let’s take a step back here, and look at some important details. Why did Jesus come? “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Jesus came to save His people from their sins [read: He didn’t come to help us to feel better about ourselves, or to make us comfortable in our sinful passions, or to pat us on the head when we live selfishly]. In light of that, what IS the “Grace of God”?? The grace of God is that Jesus has rescued us from the power of sin and death (Romans 8:2), meaning that we no longer HAVE to sin! We have been set free from the shackles of sin so that we CAN walk in godliness, and say “NO” to sin. God has given us the power to overcome our sinful passions, and given us the freedom to live righteously!!

The first few verses of Romans 6 also reiterate these things in a very straight-forward way:  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. ….So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. ….For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Wait. “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”? But…but…grace means we don’t even have to worry about sin, right? 

Ok, back to the Titus 2 verses. Go ahead, read them again all the way up there. Ok, now lets unpack the verses:

“bringing salvation for all people”

This means that God desires to see people saved. There is a common misconception that if we speak to people plainly about God’s commands, and His plan of salvation, that we are being judgmental and not having grace. So, many people feel like they have to tiptoe around those who are living in sin, fearing to speak up on the Lord’s behalf, because they don’t want to be “judgmental”, and they hope that just by “loving on” these people, they somehow will turn to the Lord on their own. Maybe they will. Maybe some have. BUT, if we are unwilling to stand up for righteousness, and live set-apart lives, and boldly proclaim the gospel ourselves…..why should they become Christians? Because, in their eyes, how are we any different from themselves, or from any other “non-Christian”. We must be willing to boldly show those who don’t know Jesus the reason our lives are different, and to give an answer for the hope that is within us! God wants people to be saved, and what kind of friends are we if we let them go on living in their sins, which we KNOW are going to lead them to destruction and ultimately eternal death and separation from God?? [1 Corinthians 15:56a, “The sting of death is sin….”]

Jude 2:23a says, “Save others by snatching them out of the fire…” — not by waving and smiling at them as they careen over the edge of the cliff.

“training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. ….We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning…” 1 John 5:4a,18a

Renounce. That’s a kind of intense word. We might keep the definition fuzzy in our minds as we read over it because, as long as it stays fuzzy, we don’t REALLY have to worry about doing it. If you don’t want to act on this verse, don’t read any further…because I’m about to give you the definition…and it’s not fuzzy or a vague concept.

Still reading?

Well…I warned you:

re·nounce

rəˈnouns/

verb

  • formally declare one’s abandonment of
  • refuse to recognize or abide by any longer
  • declare that one will no longer engage in or support

Now you wished you had stopped reading when I warned you, don’t you? But, unfortunately (or fortunately) for you, now you have the responsibility that comes with knowledge. God’s grace trains us how to abandon, no longer engage in, and refuse to abide by ungodliness and worldly passions.

Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

Which brings us to:

and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age

Living according to God’s commands takes work. You don’t just stumble into a righteous life. You must fight for it daily — hourly! You must learn to recognize ungodliness and unrighteousness in your own heart and life, and come up with a plan to combat those desires and tendencies with godliness, and self-control. We will get to the place of a deeper understanding of God’s heart, and a greater discernment of those things that are commonly embraced by the world, but which are unhelpful for a Christian to engage in, or worse — those things which break God’s heart and cause Him much sorrow — when we SPEND TIME WITH JESUS each day. Just like any friendship, this is really the way we get to know God’s heart, and the way we are able to receive His power to live an overcoming life. And, even though it takes much work, it WILL bear fruit in your life, because we aren’t trying to do it on our own, and we aren’t going after the devil’s strongholds in our own strength……..and THIS, friends, is the grace of God. We CAN have victory, we CAN live new lives, we CAN receive new hearts, we CAN overcome our sinful tendencies — BECAUSE OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Because He has given us the very authority of Jesus, His Son, over the devil, and over the devil’s schemes, and all sinful temptations.

Let us take hold of this gift of grace TODAY, in the fullness of it’s power. Let us take hold of this amazing power and authority that God Himself has gifted us with as His children, and heirs with Jesus! Let us not treat so lightly this gift of grace. May we overcome by the blood of the Lamb TODAY!!!