The Warrior and Child

Why you need both on your journey with Jesus

The Warrior & Child

Before He was a lamb on the cross, He was a baby in a manger. Be honest — when you think of the manger scene, don’t you think about a cute, cuddly, cooing little baby Jesus? When you see a newborn baby, you don’t think, Wow, look at that mighty, powerful, warrior! No, most of the time you say, “Aww … she (or he) is perfect. They look just like … (insert the name of the parent you like the best).

In reality, you can look at Jesus and see both a warrior (lion) and a child (Son of God). He is both in tandem. In 1984, Christian musical artist Twila Paris released a powerful song titled, “The Warrior is a Child.”

Here are a few of the lyrics:

Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
I’m strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

The song is sung from the perspective of a believer, but it could easily be about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many theologians believe Mary was between 12-16 years old when Jesus was born. There is a good chance she still felt like a child compared to the adults who surrounded her. What a weight to carry at such a young age.

Considering your relationship with God, you will always be the child, no matter how much you try to project the warrior within. Jesus instructed us to become more like a child.

“He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2 NIV).

God is waiting for the child in the soul of each warrior to run to Him. We must each become a child who is willing to sprint back to Him regardless of what we’re wearing, where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we’ve spoken or who we’ve become.

To live as a warrior seems far cooler than to live as a child. It can be a natural response to years of bumps, bruises, fights and let-downs. It’s easy to cling to the warrior, viewing the child as weak and ineffective. But oddly enough in God’s upside-down kingdom, the child is what is required to conquer the nations.

The irony is the warrior and the child must co-exist. One without the other accomplishes little. They balance each other. Too much child and nothing is conquered, although great intentions exist. Too much warrior and aggression overcomes obedience. You conquer but you don’t think about the ramifications.

The child keeps the warrior focused on what’s right; the warrior keeps the child from shrinking away to inactivity.

It’s an important fact to know, because sometimes we have to drop our swords and allow God to minister to the child within.

Children behave in such wonder during the Christmas season. As we get older our identity can appear more warrior than child, but very few things are as precious as seeing a child open a present on Christmas morning. They express such purity, such expectation. They may tear off the wrapping paper like a warrior, but their countenance is one of a child.

There are times to be a warrior. There are times to take ground and conquer the enemy. Nothing illustrates this more than Jesus’ return in Revelation 19:11-16.

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords” (NIV).

He was clearly a warrior, but he was also clearly a child. John 5:19 says, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’” (NIV).

He was fully dependent on His father. Some would say that a child who is fully dependent on their father has not fully matured, but in the Kingdom of God this isn’t the case.

We were not created to mature to a place where we no longer need our Father God.

We are always dependent upon His grace, mercy, kindness and love.

This Christmas season as you journey toward Christ, begin by evaluating your dependence on Him. It’s okay to be a warrior, but you are required to be a child. He wants you to cast every care on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He wants you to pray to Him without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The best warriors know how to follow their leaders’ commands. The best children know how to honor their parents. Jesus was able to make the warrior and child at peace within the heart of the believer, both able to be summoned as the circumstances demanded.

Warrior and child. Lion and Lamb. Both were in the manger that beautiful night, and both are also in you.

When you think about the hardship Jesus endured, even at birth, you can’t help but appreciate the Father God that much more. He did not take the easy road because He understood it’s a road most of humanity would be unable to relate to. Instead, Jesus’ journey was fraught with stress from day one.

When you come to a season that should be joyful, should be fulfilling and should be celebratory, but you feel none of those emotions you can be tempted to feel like a failure. Refuse to succumb to your emotions and instead, be led by the Spirit as Jesus modeled.

Jesus may have had every right to feel ashamed of his financial or social status, but He didn’t have time for that. He was overcome by purpose. He had battles to win! While it’s tempting to dress yourself permanently in sheep’s clothing, sometimes you have to be a warrior. Sometimes you have to fight for the life you want — the life He has for you.

That night in a manger a baby was born, a perfect lamb and a perfect warrior. On your journey to Christ there will be times you rest in His presence and times you engage in spiritual warfare. Our prayer for you this Christmas is for you to be graced with the discernment of who you must be when it’s required of you.

If you missed the first or second blog in this special Christmas series, you can find it here – Nicely Wrapped – Is your heart an attractive gift to God? and here – The Joy Box

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Blessed and Favored by God

Reevaluating the purpose of your faith step

Blessed & Favored by God

We don’t give Joseph enough credit. Mary gets a great deal of the focus in the story of Jesus, and rightfully so. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” (Luke 1:42 NIV)! And an angel of the Lord said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28 ESV)!

Blessed and favored by God is not a bad place to be. What more could you want?

Then there’s Joseph. He got no such description, but don’t be deceived. He was not just along for the ride. Joseph was a man of great faith. He carried the burden to protect this prophetic moment. He was responsive to the dreams God gave him, and let’s not forget about his humanity. Joseph felt fear, doubt and insecurities — just as we do. Ever since Adam, men have forsaken the weight of responsibility, but not Joseph. Let’s look at the reality of his situation.

  • He did not impregnate Mary, but he was now committed to care for her as his wife, trusting in this immaculate conception. There had to be more than one moment when he thought he was losing his mind. Did an angel really visit him? Did he just have too much wine? Was the heat getting to him?
  • He had to take his pregnant wife on a long journey … on a donkey. Not the ideal prenatal care Mary needed. What if something happened to her on the journey? What if they were robbed? What if she fell off the donkey and something happened to the baby?
  • Unfamiliar city? Baby on the way? No problem, we’ll just stay at a local inn. Wait, what? Joseph, didn’t you book the hotel? He must have felt an unbelievable amount of stress. They had no place to go with Mary just hours from giving birth to the Son of God! THIS COULD NOT BE HAPPENING. Did Joseph feel like a failure? Did he feel like he was neglecting his responsibility? You can imagine the sense of urgency pulsing through his veins.

  • Yay! Finally! Jesus is born! No robe for him. No silk sheets. Nope, he gets swaddling clothes and stuck in a feeding trough. Not exactly the ideal environment for the Savior of the World. Joseph may have patted himself on the back for making it happen against all odds, but feelings of failure also had to prod at his psyche.
  • Finally, Joseph could breathe. It wasn’t the ideal pregnancy, but hey. He kept Mary safe and healthy, and now Jesus was here. What’s that? Jesus is being hunted by Herod the Great? Joseph probably had one of those, “Are you serious, God?!” moments. We’ve all had them. And back on the road they go.

If this wasn’t such a serious, history-shaping story, it could have also been a comedy. One let down after another with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but Joseph didn’t falter. He accepted the weight of responsibility, but more importantly, he embraced what it looks like to live by faith.

When we think about taking a faith step, we’re not always focused on the step.

We view the step as unavoidable to accomplish what we really want. We don’t like the faith step. We don’t even like the journey. We simply want the treasure at the end of the rainbow, so we take the step. Generally, we take the step with no intention of acknowledging the importance of the step until AFTER we have finished the journey.

  • But what if there is no treasure at the end of the rainbow?
  • What if the journey we thought would yield such great fruit and reward ended in mediocrity?
  • What if we deem the result of the faith step a failure?
  • What if there is no hotel, only a manger?

If this is the case, you may need to re-evaluate the purpose of the faith step.

The Faith Step Isn’t a Guarantee 

There are no guarantees your faith step will end as you hope. We look at Abraham and Isaac and use the story of Abraham’s faith step as a doctrinal stance to believe in God’s unwavering protection, but how then do we justify Paul’s imprisonment, Stephen’s martyrdom or Christ’s crucifixion? Their faith steps didn’t lead them to 6-figurebook deals, a Christian speaking circuit or an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a major leadership conference. They had a goal in mind, but they understood their goals may not be God’s goals. They had to be ok with wherever the faith step would take them.

  1. They focused on the glory found in being chosen to take any step at all to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Faith Step is Enough on Its Own

Looking back on life, we can appreciate the journey. We can relish the wins and the losses, the grief and the joy. Our life plays out like our favorite movie, full of ups, downs, plot twists and nail-biting thrills. However, we can’t script our life as we would a movie. Why? Because as a follower of Jesus, we are not the authors of our story. We are actors in an ever-changing script, fully reliant on the author and director to guide us through every scene. We don’t need to know if our life will be a box-office hit. We just need to focus on the scene we are in, no matter how mundane or seemingly inconsequential.

2. Sometimes the faith step is really a faithful step. It’s being present where you are and trusting the final product to the creator and director of the script.

The Faith Step is Yours to Own

You can’t blame your inaction on others. At the end of their lives people often say they regret the things they didn’t do, more than the things they didn’t do well. They don’t clamor for more work time; they regret not spending more time with their family. They anguish over not taking the risk. They are disappointed they let others intimidate them into apathy. They feel remorse for not standing up for the poor, broken and mistreated. They wish they’d done more with the years they were given. All of these regrets stem from faith step avoidance.

3. The faith step is yours to take, nobody else’s. Own it, take it and if it doesn’t turn out as you would have hoped, at least you were obedient.

Do the thing God’s asked of you, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. Do it with no guarantees, other than the satisfaction of obedience, and trust the results to God.

Let your faith step be your first step to the person He has called you to be.

Joseph couldn’t be Mary. He was not tasked to carry Jesus. He could only do what He could do. And while his faith step probably never turned out as he predicted, you can’t argue with the result of his faithfulness.

Your story may not look like you had hoped, but your story is not over. Just take it one step at a time. 

If you can look back at this holiday season and with certainty declare that your faith has increased and you are experiencing the blessings of obedience, you too will be highly favored.

If you missed the first, second or third blog in this special Christmas series, you can find it here – Nicely Wrapped – Is your heart an attractive gift to God?here – The Joy Box  and here – The Warrior & Child

Be inspired and equipped with these free resources!


  Experience Hope Daily Devotional
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Enter the new year with great expectations and faith!

3 life-changing resolutions to make today

It’s a new year, and with the new year comes new resolutions, or perhaps old ones which need to be repeated. Some people create resolutions every year, and some have quit trying. Are you ever curious to know the most popular resolutions? Here you go:

  • Lose weight.
  • Volunteer to help others.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Get a better education.
  • Get a better job.
  • Save money.
  • Get fit.
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Manage stress.
  • Manage debt.
  • Take a trip.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle

Wouldn’t you love it if you didn’t have to make a resolution? What if you just woke up on January 1, looked in the mirror and BAM! You’re thin! You have money! You hear a knock on the door, and it’s your boss offering you a promotion and an all-inclusive, two-week vacation.

Life would be so much easier if the “New Year, New You” philosophy held weight. Some people start with the best intentions, but with unrealistic ambitions. They shoot for the moon. “I’m going to work out, every day, for 10 hours a day.” Such extreme commitments are an invitation to defeat.

However, for many of us, a new year does not yield dramatic changes. The debt you had yesterday, you still have today. The relationship challenges you experienced yesterday are still with you today. The extra pounds you put on from countless Christmas parties remain today.

Many of us delay until January 1 to make life altering changes. Why? Because it’s not pressing.

If you were caught in a burning building on October 12, would you wait until January 1 to try to get out?

So, what makes the new year so enticing, so alluring, so hopeful? What is it about the new year that restores hope and instills feelings of unlimited possibility? We enter the new year with great expectations and great faith. Why? Because we have assigned value to a day. We have attached our hope, expectations and anticipation to a day.

It is estimated that only 8% achieve their new year’s resolution. People quit their resolutions when they become frustrated and disillusioned because while it’s a new year, they’ve attached hope to a day and not a savior. It’s easy to declare a new season, but …

You must also be willing to step into the responsibility that season demands.

Despite our New Year’s resolution track record, a day really can make a difference. It’s not because WE assigned value to the day, but because God showed up that day and gave it value.

Think back and remember the day Jesus showed up in your life, saved you, redeemed you and gave you purpose. You may know the exact date and time that Jesus stepped into your day and changed all the days after.

We get so excited about a new year, but the definition of a year is just a period of 365 days.

What if you looked at every day with the faith, hope and expectation that Jesus was going to show up? 

As you read the following story from Acts 9, you’ll come across a man who knows the transformation that can happen in a single day. His name is Saul and his conversion experience on the Road to Damascus is epic in every single way.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found anyone there who followed Jesus’ teachings, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.

For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying” (Acts 9:1-11 NIV).

What should you do when you truly need transformation? Have you ever been so desperate for a new you that you’ll give up anything to be changed by His presence? Maybe the old resolutions just won’t do. Try these instead.

RESOLUTION #1: PRAY

For Saul, this was a new year! It was a life change that happened in a moment. Jesus didn’t wait until a new calendar year to address Saul. The call God had on his life was too important.

What was Saul’s response to this frightening, life-altering encounter? Prayer. Saul gave us a tip, a hint, a guide to what we are supposed to do when things aren’t going our way. We are supposed to pray.

S.D. Gordon states, “Prayer wonderfully clears the vision; steadies the nerves; defines duty; stiffens the purpose; sweetens and strengthens the spirit.”

Prayer has to be your compass through everything that happens in 2023.

Saul may have been physically blind, but in his moment of discomfort, he saw with great spiritual clarity for the first time.

RESOLUTION #2: PROCESS YOUR PAST.

You cannot stay in 2022. There are plenty of people who are more than willing to remind you of your mistakes. Once you step into God’s best, envious condemnation may not be far behind. Just because those around you are focused on the past doesn’t mean you need to stare into it with them.

When Jesus sent Ananias to Saul, Ananias’ focused, at first, on what Saul had done, not what Jesus was calling him to do.

In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:12-16 NIV).

Ananias made the mistake of condemning Saul’s past, but Jesus’ beautiful response said all that was needed.

  • Saul is chosen.
  • I’m going to use him.
  • He has a purpose.
  • It will be hard for him.

Listen, there is a 100% chance that you have made mistakes, some of them quite serious. And maybe you have a litany of decisions you wish you could take back. Sometimes you have to be reminded that you are chosen; God will use you and He has a purpose for you. It may not be easy, but He will never leave you or forsake you.

If you had a bad year in 2022, it’s time to leave it behind. Living in 2022 will do nothing for you. His mercies are new for you THIS DAY.

Lamentations 3:19-25 says, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I will remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (NIV).

RESOLUTION #3: EMPTY YOURSELF TO GET FILLED UP

Let’s return to Saul and Ananias’ story in Acts 9. “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength” (Acts 9:17 NIV).

When you are burned out, everything feels hopeless. Perhaps you want to start the year with fasting. It’s a way to hear from the Lord, restore unity and receive clarity for what may come. One of the best ways to go into 2023, full of hope and vigor, is to begin by starving your flesh and feeding your spirit.

What you starve dies; what you feed thrives.

Saul did not eat or drink for three days – he fasted and waited for the Lord to show up. Once his prayers were answered, he ate and regained his strength.

Begin this year by pursuing Him. Try something different. Fast.

What is a fast? 

  • It is Not:
    • A diet. This is a challenge, because inevitably during a fast you’ll realize you are getting healthier and losing weight. If you aren’t careful, the fast just becomes a diet, and you never truly experience the supernatural breakthrough.
    • A hunger strike or a way to manipulate God into action. God gives good gifts because He wants to give good gifts, not because we deserve them.
    • A show. This is not a demonstration of your immense spiritual depth. It’s the exact opposite. It’s a very visceral reliance on His grace and mercy to sustain us and to be everything we need.
  • It Is:
    • A ritual of abstaining from food and/or drink for a predetermined period, practiced in the Bible primarily as a means of mourning.
    • Often coupled with prayer.
    • An opportunity to humble yourself, mourn, repent and seek divine deliverance.
    • A reliance on God more than food. Jesus modeled this when He went into the desert after being baptized.
    • A disturbance.

Fasting creates a disturbance in the physical so God can do something in the supernatural.

Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Be persistent with your disturbance until you get face to face with the Lord Himself.”

We talk about the difference a day makes, but no single day was more impactful for all of humanity than the day Jesus offered himself up to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 HCSB).

What if your resolution was no longer a new year resolution, but a new day resolution? God doesn’t need a year to bring about restoration — only a day. The year is for living out the transformation that He’s already given you. Go, and be new (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

 

Your challenge to experience a life of purpose

New Year's Resolution

More than a New Year’s Resolution

Evan Carlson, CEO & President, Family Life Radio

It’s a new year, and I’m filled with great joy and excitement at the opportunity to infuse your life— and the lives of countless others — with the hope of Christ in this coming year through the work our Father has given Family Life Radio this year.

How?

Imagine the transformation that can come from spending consistent time in God’s Word … allowing His transforming power to work in your life each day and to focus on the ONE THING God has for your life.

This is more than a simple New Year’s resolution. It’s a challenge to stop living in discouragement, fear and anxiety and to start experiencing the power of a life of purpose as you spend more time daily in God’s Word.  

  • Maybe you have a God-given goal to pray more.
  • Or you’re called to live a healthier life.
  • Perhaps it’s time you write that book or courageously share your story about God’s love for you.

Whatever goal God has put on your heart, it’s important to start small. Do ONE THING each day, and over time you’ll see lasting change.

This is your opportunity to experience the fullness of God’s unique plan for you.

Through time spent in the Bible, through daily doses of Scripture and biblical truths, I believe you will be motivated to press on, just as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14:

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

May God’s promises of 2023 and all the blessings you’ve not yet seen — propel you forward toward your best year yet!

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If you feel led to give a gift today to help others draw strength, gain wisdom and experience peace through Family Life Radio click here.

 

The Joy Box

The gift of experience with the true Joy of Christmas

The Joy Box

Some people live in tropical climates and have never made a snowball, felt the chill of snow stuffed down the back of a jacket by a mischievous friend or experienced the beautiful brilliance of a season’s first snow as it covers the trees and ground in glistening white. Some have never gone sledding, rode in a sleigh, caught a snowflake on their tongue or made a snow angel.

Although they have never experienced snow, it doesn’t keep them from believing they know what snow is like. When people experience snow for the very first time, they want to do everything they’ve seen in the movies: make snow angels, have a snowball fight, build a snowman and ride a sled. They don’t know about frozen fingers and toes, runny noses and the pain of a subzero windchill. They certainly don’t know about the backbreaking work of shoveling snow or the tension of driving in it.

Snow is beautiful when it first falls, but it changes from white to brown very quickly. As it is plowed out of the way, it picks up dirt and debris in the process.

As a Christian, do you ever feel like you’ve tried to convince someone of something you never truly experienced? This happens a lot for people who have grown up in church, but never allowed God to lead them to grow their faith. When Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come, what if His disciples smiled and nodded, pretending to know what He was talking about?

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17 NIV).

The world can’t see Him? It can’t know Him? They won’t accept Him? Then how could you introduce Him to the world? You can’t, unless you first know Him.

Trying to explain a relationship with Holy Spirit is a lot like trying to explain snow to someone who has never seen or touched it. We understand cold; we understand white, but unless you experience the snowfall, you will never truly grasp the encounter.

We can explain truth. We can explain peace; we can explain help, but unless we truly experience these in relationship with Holy Spirit, they’ll be nothing more empty words on a page with no power behind them to prepare people for a transformed life.

  • The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
  • He confirms the Scriptures (John 14:26).
  • He brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • He instructs with wisdom, understanding, counsel and knowledge (Isaiah 11:2).
  • Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

Don’t just say these things,

live these things.

Have daily encounters with the Holy Spirit so you can speak of Him with intimacy, not confusion. When you do, you’ll be able to not just communicate life change but impart life change through what Christ has done in you. What will people experience when they encounter a fully devoted follower of Jesus? Joy. Sounds like a Christmas movie or better yet, the Christmas Story.

Can you imagine the overwhelming stress Mary and Joseph must have felt when they were told they were going to parent the Messiah? Something had to happen in them to also experience overwhelming joy. Such joy can only happen when you have confidence in God.

One of the first things you’ll experience as you unwrap the gift of experience is Joy. Joy came to the world in the form of a baby named Jesus. He grew up to be a miracle-working Savior who died, rose and is coming soon. He is ready for your tangled mess. The Heavenly Father wants healthy children and healthy churches. How are we supposed to be joy to the world when we have none ourselves?

Amazingly, “Joy to the World” was not written to be a Christmas song, but to celebrate the second coming of Christ.  Isaac Watts, a Methodist Minister, wrote the song as a lyrical adaptation of Psalm 98. The song was first published in The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament in 1719 (that’s a catchy title). The music was composed by Lowell Mason in 1839. It is believed that Mason may have “borrowed” notes from Handel’s, The Messiah to compose “Joy to the World.”

 

If you missed the first blog in this special Christmas series,
you can find it here – Nicely Wrapped – Is your heart an attractive gift to God?

 

Joy Box

Joy may not mean to intentionally spread joy, but when you are in God’s presence, you will spread it nonetheless.

Joy is infectious.

As we grow older something happens to our joy box. You may not have known that you have a joy box. But deep inside each one of us is a place that experiences, produces and stores up this often-elusory emotion. Joy is, at times, offered openly from our joy box. Sometimes it needs to be wrestled free. And then there are times that it is locked so tight we wonder if joy is even in there.

There is a catch when it comes to a full, joy box. It is only filled when it is attached to joyful things. Ah – but what is a joyful thing?

As we live, we quickly discover that joy is imitated more frequently than any other thing. It is common for something that is unquestionably destructive to put on a pretty mask and sell itself as joy. It is not a rare thing to see the most debased and dysfunctional of actions laundered through joyful disguises, fooling a lot of humanity. Joy is tricky that way. We desire the real thing, but we settle for the fraudulent. We can wrap our joy box with elegant paper and opulent ribbons and proclaim that the joy inside is just as beautiful, however, lifting the lid reveals a pseudo joy, disguised yet again.

As children our joy is untethered. It is not reliant on a paycheck, a large house or a luxury car. Our joy box is pure, right and undefiled. As we get older, we attach our joy to temporary things and find our joy does not last. We connect our joy to people and circumstances and objects, and the obsessions slowly empty our joy box, leaving only a pretty wrapper.

As a child we did not know about properly tethered joy boxes. We were born with a joy box that is free and beautiful and produces large amounts of joy. The more we tether our joy box to temporarily joyful things, the less joy our joy box produces.

God intended for your joy box to be full.

Upon creation God consistently declared that all created things were good (Genesis 1:31). Somewhere along the line, humanity began to harness its joy to successes, but success is a false joy. With success comes jealousy, after all, none of us are successful permanently. We affix ourselves to people, but people do not last forever. With their passing comes an emptier joy box.

We try to secure our joy to finances, but finances are fleeting and the control of finances a misguided illusion. We never know what evil things may come to steal them away leaving us, yet again, with empty joy boxes. Millionaires who lost their fortune during the stock market crash of 1929 were seen leaping from buildings to their death. They opened their joy box and realized it was desolate. With an empty joy box comes the evaporation of hope.

The Apostle Paul gives us some direction on how to maintain a full joy box. He says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ESV). Paul seemed to have mastered this concept. He also offered, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12 NIV).

Paul discovered that his joy box could only be filled by his relationship with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. The God of hope desires to fill our joy boxes to the brim.

When we allow our joy box to be untethered from temporary things, we find that our joy box remains curiously full.

And with a full joy box comes great hope.

Hunger cannot empty a joy box. Neither can shelter or a dwindling bank account. There is a joy that God desires us to relive every single day – a hope that can only be found in Christ Jesus. It’s an eternal hope and it stuffs our joy box with so much joy that we even find ourselves rejoicing in trials – counting them all as joy (James 1:2).

As Jesus walked the earth he said, “These things I have spoken so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 NASB).

As you journey toward Jesus this Christmas season, may you experience joy unspeakable and full of glory.

If you missed the first blog in this special Christmas series, you can find it here – Nicely Wrapped – Is your heart an attractive gift to God?

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Nicely Wrapped

Is your heart an attractive gift to God?

Nicely Wrapped

People spend a lot of time wrapping gifts. We want them to look perfect. We meticulously measure the amount of wrapping paper needed, cut slowly and painstakingly tape each package so that it is just right. We want the outside to look amazing, no matter what is inside the package. 

Nothing about Jesus looked like royalty, at least not judging by the way He was wrapped. From the surface, He looked like the product of a dysfunctional relationship who poorly planned their pregnancy and delivery. After all, who gives birth in a manger?

“Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:4-7 NIV).

Have you ever given your friend the nicest gift, but sloppily wrapped it with mismatched paper and duct tape and observed their reaction?

Christmas

In theory, we know the size, shape and elegant wrapping of a gift do not determine the worth of what’s found within. A priceless diamond does not lose its value just because it is placed in a brown paper bag, but we spend a lot of time and money on the outside anyway. 

Nothing says “wasted time” like a big pile of shredded wrapping paper on the floor after a rigorous Christmas morning. All that precious time spent making the gift look beautiful amounted to nothing more than filler for the recycling bin to most recipients.

We can approach our lives in a similar way, fashioning a beautiful, flawless, glistening exterior for all to see while paying little attention to what’s inside. We present ourselves as a pleasing package, but pleasing to who? 

When the prophet, Samuel visited Jesse the Bethlehemite in search for Israel’s first king, he found himself looking at how the gift was wrapped. He saw Eliab, who appeared tall, strong and confident. What a beautifully wrapped gift, Samuel may have thought, yet in an instant, God dispelled such a silly idea that the outside would have any bearing whatsoever on what was found inside.

God’s focus is on the heart.

But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).

This Scripture will invoke emotion in you. You will feel either affirmed, judgmental or insecure. 

  1. You will feel affirmed if you know you have more potential inside of you than others have noticed. You will feel like David, just waiting to be discovered. While attractive on the outside, you spend even more time on your inside, on the content of your character.
  2. You can feel judgmental if you compare yourself to Samuel. “How could God’s prophet pick so poorly? What a terrible leader.” We judge Samuel for looking at the outside, but we do it all the time. When we play the comparison game, we feel either superior or inferior. For instance, we tend to put on a few extra pounds over the holiday season. If you compare yourself to someone thinner than you, it may cause you to feel inferior. If you compare yourself to someone heavier than you, it may cause you to feel superior.
  3. You may feel insecure if you don’t love who you are, or you regret things you’ve done. You may not want people to look past your external appearance because you are not confident that they’ll like what they see on the inside. You may even spend extra time or money on expensive clothes and cultivate a perfect appearance to mask the inadequacies you feel within. 

We tend to focus on the external. We use what we see to confirm biases and evaluate our own self-worth. From Samuel’s perspective, God’s anointed should look, walk and talk a certain way. 

Christmas

From our perspective, people should behave in a certain way, worship a certain way and pray a certain way. We give little latitude to their upbringing or where they are on their spiritual journey. We look; we judge and we then seek out information to confirm our opinions.

Examine the contents.

Life can be hectic, especially during the holidays, so take some time, get in His presence and ask the Holy Spirit to examine the contents of your spiritual package. Have you spent more time on what others see than you have on what God sees? Is your heart attractive to Him? Are you living a life worthy of His presence?

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself during this holiday season to evaluate the contents of your life, the present you give to Jesus.

  • If I saw someone imitate my life, would I assume they had a relationship with Jesus?
  • Am I hiding my weaknesses by focusing on my external appearance instead of asking Jesus to search my heart and make the unclean things clean?
  • Do I believe Jesus really loves me despite what I’ve done? 

Only you and Jesus know what’s underneath the wrapping paper.

Jesus had some strong words for the religious leaders of His day who focused excessively on the outside appearance.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV).

Nicely wrapped, beautiful, but disappointing, full of dead people’s bones. 

Let your prayer this year, as you journey toward Jesus, be to search for the authentic. Look for what’s inside, not outside. Even if you were born in a stable, you can change the world.

Read the next blog in this special Christmas series, A Journey to Christmasan invitation to experience your own Christmas story.

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6 Actions to Move You

From grateful moments to a lifestyle of thanksgiving

Evan Carlson, President & CEO

What does it look like when you choose to make thanksgiving a lifestyle? 

We all have things to be thankful for. I’m thankful when my kids actually listened to me the very first time I asked them to do something. I am thankful to have health, and that I have a car that takes me where I need to go. 

Let’s get real. I’m thankful I remembered to put my ChapStick in my pocket because I’m addicted to it. I don’t understand why, but I need my ChapStick on me at all times.

But how do you deal with situations in life? 

  • When everything isn’t great?
  • When the car runs out of gas?
  • When you get the wrong diagnosis? 
  • When you have issues in your relationships?

How do we go from being grateful in moments to choosing thanksgiving as a lifestyle? That’s a really hard thing to do for most of us. We live in a culture that really fights against that. We have everything at our disposal. Why should we be grateful all the time, while living in a society where it’s easy for us  not to be thankful? 

Paul penned the words, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT). 

It’s easy to think Paul wrote this from a hot tub at the Hilton of Israel, but he sat in prison, shackled to a wall, not doing very well at all. You might think Paul would be the very last person who would be saying we need to be thankful in all circumstances because of his own situation.

  1. Identify the issue.

The first issue we must overcome before we can talk about the solution in our journey to move from grateful moments to a lifetime of thankfulness is to identify the issue. And if we’re honest, it comes down to selfishness. And I’m pointing a whole lot of fingers back at myself when I say that. 

 

We often focus on what we don’t have rather than being thankful for what God has provided.

I’m content until I hop on Amazon and see something really cool thatI want. I’m content until I drive my car into the auto dealership, and that new model looks pretty sweet.  I look at the house and think, We could get new flooring. 

     2. Become nearsighted.

We take things that God blesses us with for granted. Instead of being thankful, we can become even more selfish.

We have to stop being farsighted and become nearsighted. We look out to compare our lives to other people and to other search circumstances or situations. Someone is always going to have more than us. 

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” 

  • The power goes out for a minute, and you realize you’ve been taking electricity for granted. 
  • How about the garbage? Do you start planning how you’ll handle the pile up when trash day lands on a holiday? 
  • We have someone close to us who has gone through health issues, and we’ve lost them. Did we take that relationship for granted? 

     3. Choose to be thankful.

The battle we continue to struggle with is pride, determining who’s at the center of our lives.  As humans, we want to put ourselves on the throne, at the very center of our lives. 

It makes me think of the story of a little boy and a stranger gives him an orange. So, what do you think the little boy is going to say to the man who just gave him a gift? We’d think he’d say, “Thank you,” but instead, he holds the orange up to the man and says, “Peel it.” Instead of being thankful for what he was given, he gives a command that basically says, “This is nice, but I need you to do more for me.” 

     4. Choose contentment. 

We can become so focused on what we want, we lose sight of what God wants for us. He wants His very best for us. And so often we struggle with the ability to allow Him to provide that blessing in our lives and to be content with that. 

The book of Exodus is the story of Moses and the Israelites exiting Egypt, arriving at the Promised Land, and then they wander around. They can’t go into the land God promised because they disobeyed Him. 

God uses the word stiff or stiff-necked to describe the Israelites. It’s not a very flattering word. If we’re honest, it’s a word that often applies to us as well. And if you’re willing, ask: 

  • How might I be stiff-necked? 
  • How am I trying to continually put myself at the center? 
  • What makes me think I have all the answers? 

The Israelites knew where they wanted to go. They wanted to continue to drive the agenda. And it’s the same thing for us today. 

We need to push back pride and ask God to help us overcome selfishness. 

     5. Receive God’s blessings in humility. 

He has so many blessings He wants to provide for us daily, and we often miss them. We’re so busy just living, doing and thinking about the things that make us happy. 

So how do we overcome this? Where do we start?

We must have a posture of humility.

Go to God in prayer and ask Him for an attitude of thankfulness. We have to start there because we can’t try it in our own strength. God, please help me each day to be as thankful as I possibly can.

When the Israelites got out of Egypt, and they started to hit some rough road, the first thing they wanted to do was to go back to Egypt, instead of trying to forge ahead with the blessings that were promised for them in the future. 

How often do we hit hard times and want to go back, even if we know in our minds going back is actually worse. Whatever back is, we say, “Going forward is hard work, and I’m not sure I want to do that.” But God has tremendous blessing for you on the other side, if you stay faithful to following through.

When you see the word thanksgiving, what comes to your mind? 

If I were to survey the average American, I believe they would say “food, family and football.” We’re getting together with family, celebrating around some food and cheering on our team.

As you’re doing all that this year, please be mindful that each one of those things is a blessing. 

  • Food is a blessing. We should be thankful for that. How easy is it for us to take food for granted? 
  • Family — we can and should be thankful for our family  as we continue to spend time with them and build relationships on that day. 
  • Football – yes, that sounds funny, but it is true. Think about  the blessing of having a TV. It happens to be under a roof with electricity, which is yet another blessing. 

How can we, as believers, continue to keep God at the center of everything? How do we make sure we remember, every single day, that the food, family, football, health and all the  we have is a part of the blessings God provided? 

While we may not eat steak and lobster every week, live in a mansion or wear name brand clothes with every single outfit that we wear, God provides it all and it’s a blessing. 

      6. Keep God at the center.

We must be intentional about continuing to come back to the root of it all and be grateful to God. The most important blessing in a believer’s life is your salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s your faith. It’s the blessing to live each day knowing you have all of eternity with Him. 

Imagine yourself in a courtroom. The judge is presiding over his own daughter’s trial, and she has fully admitted her guilt. She said, “I am guilty. I am the one that did it.”

And her father says, “You owe a hundred dollars,” but then the judge comes out from behind the podium, takes off his robe and goes down to his daughter. He put his arm around her and says, “I’m going to pay your debt.” And he pulls one hundred dollars out of his wallet and pays the debt on her behalf.

Never take His gift of salvation for granted.

That’s what the Heavenly Father did for us through His Son, Jesus. So, in the blessings that He provided for us, we have the tangible things to be thankful for, but we can’t take His gift of salvation for granted. And I am pointing my finger right back at myself as someone who grew up in a church, it’s easy to just take it for granted.

We’ve all been given a chance to enter His house because of Jesus. The gift of eternal life with Him is greater than all the other blessings combined.

I hope you will take this opportunity right now to pray and ask God to help you have a lifestyle of thanksgiving, not just moments of thankfulness. 

Check out Christina’s story – No Longer a Slave to Her Dream.  

Fear vs. Faith

Why it matters which one you allow through the gates of your soul

A familiar verse to many is faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). So how do you hear or receive the Word of God into your hearts so that faith is present? Most of the time it’s through your senses or the gates of your soul:

  • Eyes (reading or watching faith at work).
  • Ears (listening or hearing the Word of God spoken or activated = testimonies).
  • Mouth (praying scripture or saying God’s truth aloud).

You probably know that faith is a spiritual force, but do you realize that fear is also a spiritual force? Fear is everything opposite of faith.

We want to focus on good, God, Jesus, faith and hope; but the reality is, we live in a fallen world that compels us to look at the bad, the works of Satan, fear and despair. Why? Because since Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan over God, the world turned upside down.

John 10:10 says, the devil came to kill, steal and destroy. That’s his passion, his mission (fear). In that same verse Jesus says, “I have come to give you life, abundantly (faith).”

Fear is Satan’s destructive power; faith is God’s creative power.

What you say

 

Your creative power or destructive power is produced by what you say. “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5 NIV). “Death or life is in the power of your tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

Back to John 10:10 – Jesus came to give you life – and not just any life, but His life. Your life is in what you say. God’s Word is life.

Speaking God’s Word, putting it in front of your eyes and ears and speaking it out of your mouth, brings abundant life. 

That’s the life Jesus wants for you to experience in the physical realm by faith.

You are created in God’s image. You were made to be like Him, to imitate Him. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents” (MSG).

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19 NLT).  Jesus imitates God.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

King Solomon, the wises king to ever rule the earth, shared God’s instruction to you, His child –

  • “My child, pay attention to what I say.
  • Listen carefully to my words.
  • Don’t lose sight of them.
  • Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
  • for they bring life to those who find them,
  • and healing to their whole body” (Proverbs 4:20-22 NLT).

Just as faith comes by hearing the Word of God through your eyes, ears and mouth, how does fear come?

Fear comes by hearing the words of the world.

(Watch What in the Word – Dealing with Fear with Kank and Sally.)

All you have to do is turn on the television and watch it for a few minutes to experience fear.

  • We live in a fallen world and the stories the world tells are generally negative.
  • The news is 90% about the bad things happening in our world today.
  • Then there are the fearful commercials offering medications for all kinds of terrible diseases. If you allow the images on screen to enter your thoughts, the next thing you know, you’re wondering if you have it, if you’ll get it and how you can prevent it.
  • And the entertainment industry is full of fearful stories with images that will keep you up at night.

Fear utilizes your eyes, ears and mouth – or your soul gates.

 Fear or faith grows in your heart as a direct result of what you allow to enter into your heart.

 

 

As you think about that fear, it begins to grow. The next thing you know, you’re talking about it all the time. Fear grows as you speak about those things as if they were already happening.

A 38-year-old man died suddenly, and people were shocked. How could a healthy, vibrant, positive and powerful person become ill and die in a matter of weeks? During his memorial service, some of those closest to him revealed the young man often jokingly said, “I’m not going make it past 40” and he didn’t. To most people, the young man seemed like he had it all together, but inside he could have been dealing with immense fear.

The next verse of wisdom from King Solomon says to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT).

When fear knocks on your heart’s gate, and you entertain his opportunity, you begin to invite fear into your life like a welcomed guest. Fear eventually becomes the guest you wish would leave. (Check out video interview – No Need to Fear with Josh Baldwin.)

Satan is fear; it’s what moves him. 

Satan cannot do anything to you without from fear, just as God requires faith to act on your behalf. “In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you” (Isaiah 54:14-15 NIV).

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the [b]evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). So then, we could say fear is the material or stuff that makes up things unwelcome or undesired. 

Think about the night Jesus walked on the water toward His disciples out at sea in a boat (see Matthew 14:22-33). The disciples saw someone or something walking toward them on the water and it instilled terror in their soul. They thought it was a ghost. Jesus told them it was Him, and Peter challenged Him saying, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28 ESV).

Peter walked on water toward Jesus, but then as he looked at what he was doing – a word of the world that says no one can walk on water – the undesirable thing began to happen.

Fear becomes doubt and unbelief when given permission to pass through your soul gates.

Fear began to overtake faith in Peter’s mind. “But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted” (Matthew 14:30 ESV).

(Read How to Overcome Anxiety and Fear.)

Fear is the opposite side of faith.

Hebrews 11:1-6 is a word picture of faith in action (NIV).

  1. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
  2. This is what the ancients were commended for.
  3. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
  4. By faith, Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith, he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith, Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
  5. By faith, Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
  6. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

THINK AND PRAY

What changes do you believe you need to make in your life to better guard your heart? What things are you allowing into your soul gates that bring fear? What things do you need to open the door to more often that brings faith to the forefront?

What to Do When It’s Hard to Pray

3 heart checks before praying for yourself

It was just before midnight. Jan sat alone at the side of her sister’s bed in the hospital. She read Psalm 23 to her; God’s sweet presence and peace was evident, and then she took her last breath. She was now in eternity.

Jan’s sister was such a godly, praying woman. Their mother had imparted and modeled a life of prayer for both of them.

So, let’s look at the prayer factors.

  1. The value of prayer 

We understand the significance and the value of prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray daily in Matthew 6. Prayer is simply connecting with God! We connect with God for ourselves and for others.

Connecting with God transforms everything – giving you a heavenly perspective and heavenly empowerment.

As oxygen is for the body, prayer is for the soul!

      2. The impact of prayer

Heaven to earth – Jesus teaches us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NIV).

Prayer releases the will and the purposes of God into every natural and supernatural realm. Bringing turn arounds, transformations, breakthroughs and the power of God onto the scene.

 

 

“Prayer is the umbilical cord from heaven to earth” (T.D. Jakes).

       3. The power of prayer

According to Matthew 17:20, when the power of prayer is at work: the mountain moves, the door opens, the darkness dispels, the provisions are released, the obstacle shifts, the heart turns and the direction is revealed!

Terry Tekle states, “Prayer is the breath of God inhaled, and the power of God exhaled.”

With these foundational truths established in Jan’s life, she wondered why it was so hard to pray weeks after her sister’s funeral. She had prayed for others, but she wasn’t able to pray for herself. She felt numb to God’s presence.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Jan found her faith did not produce what she believed for and prayed — for her sister to be healed from cancer. At only 43 years old when she died, her sister left children, grandchildren and a vital ministry. And in spite of God’s presence and peace that was with her sister in death, Jan knew her hope was deferred.

Have you ever felt like your hope was set aside or your faith was put on hold? It’s a season in which your heart can truly be sick.

 

 

Why is it so hard and so difficult to pray for yourself in times like these?

Heart Check

Proverbs 4:23 is so true and is a much-needed reminder to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (AMP).

You are instructed to take care of your heart, pay attention to it and to watch carefully what goes in and out of it. You are to set a guard over your heart because it affects all that you are.

Pay very close attention to what enters your heart from others that may arise from circumstances. Watch for hurt, lies, pain, rejection, anger or any unforgiveness.

When it is hard to pray for yourself, it’s an indication you should do a heart check towards God.

 

When you experience what seems like unanswered prayer, or you’re discouraged by delayed answers, or you are just a little disappointed with God, it deeply affects your heart. These things can cause us to question God’s trustworthiness.

3 heart checks to consider when you find it hard to pray for yourself: 

  1. Be authentic with God. 

Tell God you are hurt by His actions or inactions. Let Him know you don’t understand and that you’re confused or angry at Him. He is not intimated by any of your feelings. God said in Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

It’s okay to not like God’s ways. It’s perfectly fine to tell God, “I don’t like your ways, but I choose to trust your ways, anyway!”

God is a safe place to open your heart fully to Him, even if it is ugly.

 

When you do, it allows all the toxicity to empty from your heart, emotions and mind, making room for healing and truth.

     2. Revisit God’s faithfulness and sovereignty. 

God is a covenant god – He is faithful even when we are not. His love is unconditional and eternal! His Word is true, but allow Him to be sovereign (unlimited, unrestricted and boundless) in every circumstance you face.

     3. Rehearse God’s faithfulness. 

Recall where in past seasons, God has been faithful to you.

Review the Scriptures.

  • His Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).
  • God watches over his word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).

 

 

His Word will fortify and strengthen your faith.

Make your heart strong.

After you have evaluated the condition of your heart, it is time to make your heart strong.

  • Ask God to make your heart whole and to heal the wounded places. Jeremiah 17:14 says, “Heal me Lord, and I will be healed” (NIV).

Often, we can clear our hearts but fail to ask God for, and then receive from Him, healing in those places.

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to pray for you. Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (ESV).

As you lean in and pray as the Holy Spirit leads you, He helps you to pray exactly what you need to pray. You might know what you truly need but the Holy Spirit knows exactly what you need and brings it to you from Father God.

  • Offer the sacrifice of praise!

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15 NIV).

Even if it is a sacrifice for you to praise, praise Him anyway!

Praise and thanksgiving shift your mind, emotions and atmosphere to a heavenly perspective.

 

Jesus prayed for himself in Matthew 26:38-44. He prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If it is possible, deliver me from this, but not my will but your will be done!”

How hard was it for Jesus to pray for himself? It was possibly the most difficult prayer He ever prayed, and He prayed for many people, many times.

Do you think He struggled with not understanding God’s ways? It’s possible He did because of His humanity.

It is hard to pray for yourself when you experience loss, discouragement, pain, disappointment, rejection or just feel overwhelmed.

So, remember Hebrews 4:14 -16 ” So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (NLT).

Jesus identifies with you and gives you His empowering grace. Take care of your heart, so you too can wholeheartedly pray “not my will but your will be done.”

No Longer a Slave to Her Dream

Just as Christina’s dreams seemed to be coming true, she felt a tug in her heart

At the peak of her career, Christina quit! She felt enslaved by her lifelong dream. It no longer fulfilled her. Instead, it weighed heavily on her heart.

From a young age, Christina always wanted to be in front of the camera. Born in Romania, her family moved to the United States, but Christina remembered her parents always sent video tapes of her back to their families in Romania.

At fifteen, she received an opportunity to go to a modeling convention. “I remember asking my mom to go, and my dad was a little bit more against it,” Christina recalled. “My mom saw how much I wanted it.” 

Christina grew up in a conservative home. As she started her modeling career, she found herself experiencing moral dilemmas. “You had to undress in front of people,” Christina explained. Even before she received Christ, she struggled with what was expected of her in the industry.

“I thought something was wrong with me because everyone else seemed to be okay with it.”

Christina silently wondered if she was the only one  who felt that way. 

Christina’s mother, Cornelia, knew a lot of things could happen behind closed doors. She spoke with daughter about her concerns, encouraged her to be careful and not give herself to inappropriate things. Cornelia said, “I let it go, and I let God take care of it.”

At the time Christina says she didn’t know what the uneasiness was that she was feeling. But now she understands it was conviction. “It was a heart issue,” Christina said. 

She thought, I want to get married, and I’m all about being loyal and faithful, and I’m seriously missing that. Christina said: “I have that inviting expression – that inviting expression scares me!”

While living in Los Angeles, California, Christina went through a very hard time in her life. She found she’d become a slave to her dream. Little by little, she looked at her life and realized the Bible and the reality she lived each day, weren’t matching up. 

During a cover shoot for a really big magazine in Arizona, Christina recognized she was no longer fulfilled. She completely surrendered her life to that ten-hour shoot. She felt yanked back and forth between what she wanted and what was required. She technically had a say in what she did or didn’t do, but really felt like she didn’t have a say. “If I really didn’t want to  do something, I would say it, but at the same time, it was so high paced.” She said she just felt like she had to go through it and get it done. 

“I had decided to quit modeling.” 

At what might have seemed like to most, the peak of her career, Christina was done. It can be easy to leave when work is slow, but Christina decided to take the opportunity and leave the industry just as she was about to come out in a big magazine, and she had jobs lined up. 

Cornelia said the changes in her daughter are so drastic. “She was a great model for the world, but she was not for Christ.” Cornelia always referred to Isaiah 54:13: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV).

So very proud of her daughter, Cornelia said, “I look at her and see the person she became –what an angelic model she is compared to what she was before [Christ].”

Get the definition of beauty from God.

Christina shared her story because she wants any girl listening to know – “If you feel insecure, if you feel like you’re not pretty, or you’re comparing yourself to these images that you’re seeing, I want you to know outer beauty doesn’t mean anything. A lot of these girls you’re looking at have major issues. When you focus on the Word of God, and you get the definition of beauty from Him, it’s amazing how content you really are.” 

Christina says she is thankful when she doesn’t receive attention because it was the wrong kind of attention in the first place. And if she does receive attention, then she knows that it’s the right kind of attention. She desires for others to see her heart and recognize that God lives inside of her. She smiled, “That’s the kind of attention I want.”

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