A Polished Arrow (Streams in the Desert)

We are in quite a busy season with an upcoming move which has come with its challenges and ups and downs. I read this devotional (below) this morning, sent by a sweet and supportive friend, and it was truly God’s words to my ears, I couldn’t help but share it with you!

I am so encouraged to know this morning that whatever the battle, whatever the season, whatever the joy or hardship at hand that something down the road depends on our present stretch of pavement. God is doing a good work in me even as I type this. His affectionate hand guides as he works and polishes in my present journey. He is doing the same in yours, my dear friend, move toward him! We have an all-knowing and powerful God who chooses to catch us and embrace us each time we stumble and turn back to the truth, which for us sinners is a daily occurrence! We are not labeled by our mess ups or missteps but rather labeled as children of God, sons, and daughters of the King. We are called free, we are his, and he is polishing us. I hope you are encouraged today by the truth shared below.

He made me into a polished arrow.(Isaiah 49:2)


Pebble Beach, on the California coast, has become quite famous for the beautiful pebbles found there. The raging white surf continually roars, thundering and pounding against the rocks on the shore. These stones are trapped in the arms of the merciless waves. They are tossed, rolled, rubbed together, and ground against the sharp edges of the cliffs. Both day and night, this process of grinding continues relentlessly. And what is the result?

Tourists from around the world flock there to collect the beautiful round stones. They display them in cabinets and use them to decorate their homes. Yet a little farther up the coast, just around the point of the cliff, is a quiet cove. Protected from the face of the ocean, sheltered from the storms, and always in the sun, the sands are covered with an abundance of pebbles never sought by the travelers.

So why have these stones been left untouched through all the years? Simply because they have escaped all the turmoil and the grinding of the waves. The quietness and peace have left them as they have always been—rough, unpolished, and devoid of beauty—for polish is the result of difficulties.

Since God knows what niche we are to fill, let us trust Him to shape us to it. And since He knows what work we are to do, let us trust Him to grind us so we will be properly prepared.

O blows that strike! O hurts that pierce
This fainting heart of mine!
What are you but the Master’s tools
Forming a work Divine?

(Copied from Streams in the Desert)

Is your heart guilty?

is your heart guilty pic

When it comes to being used by God, there is always a balance of pride and humility talked about: we need the confidence of Christ in us, but we also need His humility. I read tonight that there are two convictions that we need: 1) we have a divine calling, and 2) we have done nothing to earn that calling. We need to accept both truths in order to have the confidence and humility required to be powerful in Christ and miraculously used by God.

This makes sense to me. If we don’t let Christ clean our conscience, wipe it until it’s fresh and new and spotless, then we might as well expect to self-destruct. We can get nowhere if we are carrying guilt. In fact, we will have a tendency to repeat the same old patterns that we despise ourselves for because somewhere deep inside of us we are still convinced that the old us is the real us. We think that our old selves can’t be shaken because that guilty conscience drowns out the truth that frees us. Until we give our guilt over to Christ to dispose of for good, the joy of every victory in Christ is stolen from us; it’s hijacked quickly by an overwhelming self-disdain.

Do you know this pattern? Have you seen it in your own life? The truth is that a guilty conscience does not guard us against falling back into old patterns, it taunts us back to them.

Let’s hand this burden to Christ once and for all so that we can walk in confidence of our divine calling knowing it’s because of Him and Him only we walk.

Doing the hard with Christ.

Oh friends in Christ, it has been a long time since I was able to sit down and share with you what the Lord has been teaching me and doing in my life. I assure you that doesn’t mean that his teachings have been absent or his presence weak in my life. Quite the opposite! Our life has been as full and hectic this summer at his has been rich and sweet with lessons of faith and endurance to trust in the God who scripts every turn and bump in this messy-beautiful life he’s blessed us with!

At times, it’s felt like too much to bear, and I’ve wondered where he hand was in it all. Then my attention was brought to 1 Kings 19: 3-4 where Elijah, a man of great, strong faith and accomplishment coming off a high at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18) laid down under a broom tree (which is nothing more than a bush really) and prayed for death. His enemies, the attacks, the hardship, it had become too much for him and his faith was rocked. Not rocked a little, but rocked to the core, to the point of depression. He had given up! He couldn’t see the way out, or the scenario where God might actually be working behind the scenes.

If a man of faith like Elijah can get to that point, it can ease our feelings of weakness when we too have a moment of wanting to give up. Keeping the faith might be too hard, choosing to trust God is working a perfect plan if what feels quite the opposite is perfect is exhausting really. Friends, it’s so hard to do! We can remember that God sees so much of the picture that we’re only getting a minor glimpse of, but it doesn’t often usher our emotions to a place of peace like we wish it would. Sometimes we don’t feel reassured by the truth that God is at work, because even though we know in our minds that he is, and believe that he is, we just may not feel that he actually is.

God doesn’t leave Elijah at the broom tree, sleeping in a state of depression unable to carry on. He comes to his aide with provision for his strength and endurance. He talks to Elijah, asking him why he has gotten to this point, and the carry on in Elijah’s journey, even if his stumble into his depression altered God’s plan slightly, it did not shift him off course. God is bigger than that! He’s bigger than that for Elijah and he’s bigger than that for us!

I have been lucky to have hung on tight to Christ as I’ve stumbled into and over hardship over the course of this summer and remember that while we are frustrated over Option A, B and C in our lives, Jesus is looking at the whole alphabet. He knows the answer the puzzle we can’t seem to solve! I can’t help but imagine us just like this daughter of mine looking at rubix cube, no idea that it is actually a complex puzzle with a solution. Like her, we’re apt to just throw the whole thing at the wall in confusion.

I’m so thankful that while we are tossing things at the wall, he can slow us down and choose to remind us of his goodness, his bigger picture. When we declare the truth of his provision over us in times where we are disheartened, he eventually helps our emotions come around to feel his goodness; to feel the truth of who our savior is and the ways he cares for us and stays with us.

He is with you today friend, no matter what the hard looks like in your life. He’s right by your side, whether you choose to acknowledge him or not, whether you are reaching out to him or not, and whether you feel him there or not. If you are reading this and you just aren’t sure if that’s true. Well, then I dare you to ask him.

Journey on my sweet friends, and keep searching for that fresh lens of truth. He is faithful to provide it!

 

 

Stay for Freedom

stay for freedomI recently dove into Acts 16 to study how Paul and Silas choosing to stay imprisoned after the earthquake was an example for us of how to choose the route that leads to God’s glory instead of our own freedom, our own way.  It’s a phenomenal example of seeking God’s will above our own. In case we haven’t learned why his ways are so much better ours, I kept digging.

We know that God’s glory meant more to Paul and Silas than their own freedom because they choose to stay bound for the sake of salvation for the Jailer. If we stay in Acts a little longer, we’ll find out what came from their bold (and seemingly backward) decision to stay. I’ll tell you one thing, I think it’d be sprinting out the door as fast as I could hoping the jailer wouldn’t wake or follow. Perhaps after this digging in Acts, my feet will slow to God’s pace and see opportunities that may have otherwise been at my back as I was running. I hope the same is true for you, my friend.

The result of them choosing God’s will over their own freedom was:

1. The salvation of one.
The jailer was saved. They told him to be saved he must believe, and he did!

2. The salvation of many.
His family was saved. He and his household came to know Jesus because Paul and Silas were slow to run for freedom and quick to listen to God’s leading.

3.  Their wounds were washed and they were cared for.
The jailer took them and washed their wounds (vs. 33). Right away, in the middle of the night, they were cared for tenderly and lovingly by a fellow believer. When we choose God’s will he will ensure that we are provided for and cared for through his people.

4. They were fed.
They were fed a meal of celebration by the jailer, now a fellow believer and friend because they stayed. They had the opportunity to spend time with the jailer, and they were nourished.

5. There was JOY.
They were probably smiling ear to ear because God was faithful to their decision to stay. Salvation, friendship, food, and celebration was the result of their faith in the Lord’s path to freedom vice their own.

6. Freedom!
At the end of it all, they were still released. Instead of through a dead sprint out of that jail, it was through release by a friend. The were still free, but it happened God’s way, instead of their own. This is the result of choosing God’s will, freedom his way which far surpasses our own.

So, will we choose to stay right where we are until God leads us into freedom? Perhaps he has so much planned for us in that jail cell if we would just slow to see his way far surpasses the plans we make while we are running away. Be encouraged, sweet friends, freedom is still the end result and when we find it his way it comes with so much celebration, care, nourishment, and joy.

Glory or Freedom?

In Acts 16:27-30 Paul and Silas choose to stay after their shackles fell off in prison. Yes, you heard right. They chose to STAY instead of freedom. The pick Gods glory, and the salvation of a prison guard over their own freedom. (Freedom their way, not God’s.)

They stayed. He was saved.

What do you pick? God’s glory, or your freedom?

If we expect to be about God’s business, we must be praying and worshipping, just and Paul and Silas were when the earthquake comes and decisions need to be made. What is your earthquake today? And, what choice will you make?

5 Ways to Start Your Day Better

A good friend recently introduced me to the 5 statements of faith. I have found them to be so powerful in the hardest of struggles that I just couldn’t wait to share them with you. Are you in a tough season? Is there an obstacle you just can’t seem to get around? A decision you can’t seem to make? A relationship you can’t fix? An addiction you can’t break? Whatever you hang up may be (we all have them) try starting each day with a bold declaration of what you believe. Starting your day with this frame of mine has the power to change every aspect of your day. Every exchange, every decision, every struggle, every thought.

Read through these statements. Do it slowly and carefully.

Do you believe each one?

If you don’t, will you join me on the journey to dig in and ask God to help you believe each of these life-changing truths?

You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. . . .” | Isaiah 43:10

1) God is who He says He is
I Am Who I Am.  (Exodus 3:14) Read more about who God says he is here.

2) God can do what He says He can do 
He is the Lord strong and mighty (Psalm 24:8). Power belongs to Him (Psalm 62:11).

3) I am who God says I am
A child of God. (John 1:12) A friend of Christ (John 15:15) Wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

4) I can do all things through Christ
I can do all things through Christ, the strength-giver. (Phil 4:13)

5) God’s Word is alive and active in me
For the word of God is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) 

We can’t change.

Have you ever been frustrated that you can’t change? You might want to with everything in you but altering our habits, and shifting our lifestyle or attitude can be quite challenging. Well, I’ve been down a long road friends, and I’m not to the end of us, but I believe I’ve discovered the answer. WE CAN’T CHANGE. Let go, and give up, because you just can’t. But when you meet Jesus, you learn he is the change agent. HE can change us. Where we fail, he succeeds. When we grow weary, he does not.

A change agent is a person which causes something/someone to change, become different, transformed by focusing on such matters as effectiveness, improvement, and development. A change agent takes action on a condition to produce a transformative reaction.

There are 5 aspects of a change agent that are each true of Jesus. I dove into each of them here for you, to show you that HE is the transformative power — we are not. And friends, there’s so much freedom in that knowledge.

  1. He has a clear vision and a plan.
    His word tells us he has a plan and he is purposeful with our lives.
    Jeremiah 29:11-14 He has a clear plan to lead us into peace as he changes us; a plan of purpose and good for us.
    Job 42:2 No plan of God’s can be thwarted.
    Ephesians 1:11 It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we heard of Christ he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, which is part of the overall purpose is working out in everything and everyone.
  2. He is patient and persistent.
    I know that my God is patient; he’s been patient with me and I’m sure that he has been patient with you. I know that God is love (John 4:16) and I know that love is patient (1 Cor 13:4). I also know that he is very patient with his people (Exodus 34:6). He is patient with us not because we deserve it but because it is who he is; in his very being, he has loving patience toward us. He is persistent in his patience toward us, he waits for the right time so that we might find salvation. (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15)
  3. He asks tough questions.
    He brings us to some tough questions we must answer as we seek him. (I.e. Do you really believe that I am who I say that I am?) He will challenge and wrestle us until we begin to change under his loving discipline and training. He uses tough lessons to bring about the most beautiful freedom in our lives. He rebukes, he disciplines, and he uses hardships for a purpose to bring about good for us. He produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. His questions and lessons serve a purpose to help us to learn, it’s not because he needs to know the answers. In Gen 3:9 God asks Adam, “Where are you?” even though he knew just where he was. He asked so that Adam would be faced with his sin, and be lead to repentance.Read more about Jesus’ questions in Mark 2:19; 3:4; 4:14; 5:30. He knew the answers in each of these cases, he always does. But, he knew we needed to answer them in order to learn and grow. I believe he asks us questions even now. They might sound like:

    1. I know you believe in me, but do you believe me? Do you believe what I say?
    2. Do you trust me? Do you trust me, no matter what may come?
    3. Do you believe that I am for you and that I am good?
    4. Do you believe that I really, really love you? That I think you are perfect?

His questions provoke self-examination. Listen to what he may be asking you today. Did one of the questions above stand out to you? Maybe that’s the one. Listen.

  1. He leads us by example.
    Jesus washed his disciple’s feet to set an example for us in John 13:1-17. He showed us what servant leadership looks like in Matt 20:28. There are examples of love, patience, temptation, submission to God’s will, trust in God, and so much more that he laid out in his word for us so we would have a place to come and educate ourselves about how we should move forward in the hardest of situations. He gave us a handbook in his Holy Word. For that, I will be so eternally grateful. We are really never left without answers, and he provides stories and examples to color in all the details.
  2. A relationship with him is one built on trust.
    He calls us to trust and then he makes it easier on us by giving us examples of what it looks like to trust. In order to change us, to transform us, he needs us to boldly step into a relationship of full trust with him. Meditate on these verses of trust.Josh 1:9 | Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.2 Sam 7:28 | Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.Psalms 20:7 | Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

    Proverbs 3:5 | Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

    Proverbs 28:26 | He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

    Daniel 6:23 | The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

    Romans 15:3 | May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Revelations 21:5 | He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Are you Crying at the Tomb?

Something happened this past week to me that left me feeling really hurt. We all have our feelings hurt now and again, and this was nothing different or earth shattering, but my feelings were hurt just the same: I was really sad and discouraged.
As I studied John 20 this morning, working through the aftermath of the crucifixion, I read about Mary’s visit to the empty tomb. Oh, friends, His teachings are fresh every time we open his word, and this morning I was so encouraged by the lessons that He laid out as I read about Mary, this woman who loved Jesus, just as I do.

Let me share this with you:

  • While the other disciples went back to their homes after Jesus’ death and burial, Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she even bent over to look at the tomb. (John 20:11)
  • At one point she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, only she didn’t know it was Him. She thought He was a gardener! Until Jesus said to her “Mary.” And, she knew it was her Savior. (John 20:14-16)
  • Jesus told her to go to His brothers and tell them of His resurrection. And, she did. She went to tell them of the good news saying, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:17-18)

I realized after reading Mary’s story that I was doing the same thing. I was standing at the tomb and crying, staying in the place that I was hurt and grieved and weeping. Not only that, but I was leaning over to peer at the tomb.

Do you ever catch yourself rubbing in your hurts, putting salt in your own wounds? I’ll own to this in hopes that it encourages you and say I do it all the time. One of my favorite Christian speakers, Beth Moore, calls it a “spirit of offense” oh boy am I good at it! (Which, to be clear, is not a good thing!) (Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that grieving isn’t right, when we suffer a loss grieving is right and important. Here, I’m more talking about wallowing or staying longer than is necessary in a place of hurt.)

When Jesus showed up in front of Mary, she didn’t even recognize Him. Perhaps she was too busy crying — wailing and weeping — to see that her Savior was standing before her. How often are we distracted from seeing when and how Jesus shows up in our hurts? I pray that we can all be like Mary and at least hear Him, and recognize Him, once He calls out to us. When he finally opens his mouth and draws our attention to Him (because we’re otherwise blind), let’s hear Him and go to Him, just as Mary did.Instead of mourning at the tomb, Jesus asks Mary to “Go and tell;” to share the good news, to spread the news, and to share that she had seen the Lord.

So, I’m going to try to walk away from my “tomb” today, put my tissues away, and go find someone to tell I have seen the Lord – because, friends, I have.

Will you listen to His voice, and join me?

Springs Without Water

In 2 Peter 2:17 Peter talks about “springs without water.” He is talking about people or things that promise satisfaction and contentment but in reality, they have nothing sustaining or satisfying to offer. They only offer an empty lie.

As we celebrated his death and resurrection last week during Easter, we were told again and again about the great sacrifice that Christ made for us. I kept being drawn to the detail that we needed to be saved. He didn’t die without reason, but rather for a purpose — there was a great need for his sacrifice, we needed to be saved because we were lost and dying! We were lost. He came to find us, and save us.

We were — or maybe still are — chasing springs without water; looking for satisfaction in empty places.

We crave:
Fame
Followers
Money
Peace
Relaxation
Recognition
Clarity about why we’re on this earth
Purpose
A more appealing reality
An easier life
A better marriage
A more satisfying job
A better wardrobe
Someone to love us
Someone to love
Someone to give us purpose
Something to satisfy

These things, they have no water, no lasting satisfaction, no promise of contentment. Yes, they may make us feel better for a little while. But after that time passes, we are empty and chasing again.

We are in need of a Savior. Nothing and no one can touch the fulfillment and thirst quenching power of Christ in our lives. I promise you that.

What waterless springs are you chasing today?

Perhaps you need only look up — to the one true satisfying Savior.

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