Build your gift, sister.

Recently, I’ve been a bit awe-struck by my sisters in Christ who possess the gift of “discernment.”  They can tell rather quickly whether a person is true and genuine… or not. They know when a situation is promising or dangerous; they just have a sense about things, an innate ability to judge well.  And, I’m envious!  In a season of faith where I have been seeking wisdom from my heavenly father, this idea of having discernment and wisdom seemed magical to me.  I want it.

Me? Well, I wouldn’t say I discern incredibly well. It’s not that I make bad choices right and left, but I do trust easily and jump quickly. (Heck, I even met my sweet husband because I pride myself on being spontaneous! Long story, but it involves buying a plane ticket and boarding 2 ½ hours later.)

I’ve spent the past two or three weeks poring over scriptures that tell us about wisdom and discernment, and God’s ability and willingness to grant us those things when we petition him with the right heart and motives. I’ve encouraged and “back-patted” my amazing sisters in Christ that display this gift – what on earth would I do without them? Meanwhile, I’ve wallowed that I may never get there.

And then last night happened.

As I dove further into a study about believing God (Beth Moore’s Believing God, circa 2004.) I found myself turning pages of notes I had taken with Beth’s encouragement to take God at his word and choose to believe that He CAN do what He says He can do. Choosing to believe God is big – capable of wonders and miracles and that he still to this day chooses to pull them off for us.

Now, you might be thinking the conclusion I came to was that God could provide me with discernment, and that’s probably true, but that’s not what God was speaking to me. What He was reminding me of was a Spiritual Gifts test that I had taken earlier that week which revealed my spiritual gifts – faith, encouragement, and teaching.) (Based on this Spiritual Gifts test.)

Well, as clear as a bell I heard this:

BUILD YOUR GIFTS, TAYLOR.

Build YOUR gifts, Taylor. And I knew that while I was sitting there poring over scripture, trying to crack the code to wisdom and discernment from the Lord, there are so many people out there struggling to believe that God is capable of healing their mess, providing their miracle, doing the impossible. And, that’s never something that has come extremely hard to me. When I take the time to sit down and really wrestle with what I believe and come before God with it all, I am able to find a certain peace that rests in this truth. He is God. And, he can. And he is good to me, so if it’s good for me, he will. And, even if it doesn’t feel good to me, he’ll work it out to be good for me. I trust that. I believe it, down to my bones.

When it comes to arguing or debating the faith, I often don’t know how to rationalize that I believe God for a miracle, that I believe he’s good no matter what. He can do that thing that you think he can’t do. And, he can do it without even batting an eyelash. He’s God – of course he can! And, if it’s right for you and good for you, he will! And, if he doesn’t – well, sister, he knows better!

Sometimes we can’t explain our faith, we just have it. We just choose to be still, and then we know.

How much time do you spend dwelling on the gifts that you want, the things you wish you could do better? Could that time wallowing (like me) be a missed opportunity to build on the gifts that you do have?

While I study and highlight and wear down the pages of my dictionary and commentaries over spiritual discernment – could I have missed an opportunity to sit down right here on thefreshlens, and tell you about my faith, tell you about my God that is capable of anything and everything — all of it? Perhaps.

So I’m here, doing just that. And, I’m going to tell you something you shouldn’t forget.


Everything is possible for him who believes. | Mark 9:23

Everything is possible.

 

Mark 9:14-24

 

God is Not Shocked

I have been reading a lot lately about John the Baptist, lately, from his incredible birth story which parallels that of Christ, to his calling in life to prepare the way of the Lord. He made so many sacrifices and I’ve wondered about the questions he might have asked along the way.

I wonder, near the end of John’s life while he was imprisoned if he ever questioned any of it — the calling, the sacrifices. Did he ever doubt the one he had given his life for might not actually be the Messiah? It’s hard to imagine a mighty man like John the Baptist doubting, but after all, he was only human. And, aren’t all our hearts prone to wonder, doubt, and worry at times no matter how strong and steadfast we try to be?

If we are honest with ourselves, there is probably a time in our life that God hasn’t lived up to our expectations. Maybe he didn’t come through for us when we thought he would, and should. Did you feel guilty for thinking thoughts like, “Are you God or not? Because I thought you were, and if you really are, they why aren’t you acting like it? Why aren’t you healing this person, fixing this problem, etc.”

I read something this morning that was simple, and profoundly true. God isn’t shocked by these thoughts. He already knows them. “He reads our hearts. He knows our confusion, disappointment, and devastation” when things don’t turn out the way we think they need to.

Friends, God is not shocked by the questions in our hearts. So, don’t hesitate to share them with him. You just might be robbing yourselves of the answers.

Summer Reflections

Someone told me yesterday that today, we are too busy to make time for reflection. We don’t pause, we don’t stop, we just go-go-go-go-go to our own determent. I’ve definitely seen that to be true in our life this summer; it’s been a crazy one with home buying and selling, moving, our favorite friends, grandparent visits, a little too much of the flu, a whole lot of painting, and even more unpacking, lazy days with our closest friends, another amazing Beth Moore study under the belt (Entrusted) with some wonderful ladies, a few weddings photographed by the side of some talented women I’ve really enjoyed getting to know, and not enough writing (oh, how I’ve missed you #threfreshlens)!
 
Our family didn’t get to the Zoo enough (unless it’s once a week, it’s never enough!) the lake enough, and we didn’t go on nearly enough walks. Things have been so busy! But, today, I’m keeping my eyes forward on all that’s to come and all that we will do – unknown and unknown – for I know He works it all for our good and I can’t wait to see what that good looks like for my family. 
 
This fall we’re going to be taking a lot more walks in our new neighborhood, and having a lot more family down time (especially with our new to town sister in town!) Rest and reflection are what I’m hoping for in the upcoming season. And, when I do look back I’m going to remember this summer as being sweet — overflowing with hot, lazy, days. And right now, I’m thankful that this summer is not quite done!
Will you make time to stop on reflect on this season? What are you hoping to do in the next one?

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)