Don’t ask me why I do these things. (My therapist would probably have an explanation). And when it comes to my history of overcomplicating things, parenting is no exception.
I remember, when my kids were little, being so anxious about getting everything just right. I wanted (and still want) them to walk with Christ more than anything, so I got busy overcomplicating….
I read a plethora of Christian parenting books… which left me feeling like a failure.
I started daily devotionals with my toddlers… which left me frustrated.
I tried to monitor everything they watched and did with perfect precision… and it left me fatigued.
My Bible told me that Jesus’ yoke was easy and His burden was light (Mt. 11:30), but that truth didn’t line up with my experience of feeling like a chronically frustrated, fatigued, failing Christian parent.
Maybe, under the surface, you’ve been feeling the same tension. Maybe you, too, are exhausted from constant striving and overcomplicating.
How do we raise children who grow to love and follow Christ organically, without all the fuss?
In Paul’s latter letters, we meet Timothy, a young faith-filled minister. While we don’t learn much about his personal life, we do get a glimpse of how Timothy came to a personal relationship with God. Paul writes, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5).
At some point (possibly on one of Paul’s earlier journeys to Lystra) Lois and Eunice had put their faith in Christ. But they didn’t just relegate Jesus to Sundays, or their quiet times— their faith was deep and genuine, so much so that the outer working of it infiltrated every area of their lives.
The power of a mom’s or grandmother’s influence cannot be overstated. Their example had such an impact on the young man that Timothy grew to know and follow Jesus himself. Their living faith lived on in him.
While there’s no way to guarantee salvation for our own children, we can be “salt and light” to them by living out a genuine (unfeigned) faith. The pressure is off, friends— we don’t have to be anxious, strive, and overcomplicate.
As moms, our job is to remain rooted in Christ, and let the fruit attract others. A life overflowing with the presence and goodness of God is simply irresistible.
How do we live out sincere faith? Here are a few examples of what that looks like in my life:
Today, ask God to reveal any anxiety you’re carrying about your children, and any ways you may be overcomplicating. Release your kids to the Lord, knowing He loves them and has good plans for them.
While devotionals and parenting books are good tools, we don’t have to stress and strive. Our kids don’t need our perfection, they need us to show them what living faith looks like.
Memory Verse: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
God explained, through Moses, “Do not intermarry… they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you” (Deut. 7:3-4).
And of course God was right. Years later, Solomon “loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1). His compromise started a Domino effect.
Israel was led astray to worship other gods in addition to Yahweh. Their spiritual devotion became so watered down they looked and lived no different than anyone else. The nation that once was a clear display of God’s might and splendor experienced drought, famine, and eventually exile.
This history explains Ezra’s extreme reaction to the report of intermarriage after returning home to Jerusalem. As a priest and student of the Torah, he immediately perceived the danger of their disobedience of God’s command.
Ezra grieved. Ezra prayed. And the Word says, “a large crowd… gathered around him” (Ezra 10:1). Together they wept over their unfaithfulness to their faithful God. But they didn’t stop at confession— they truly repented by taking action. The foreigners willing to lay aside their nation’s gods and embrace Yahweh as the one true God stayed, while everyone else was sent away.
As believers, we are chosen to live as salt in a tasteless world so that others will “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). To be salty requires that we be set apart, wholeheartedly devoted unto God’s ways— not everyone else’s.
Sadly, if we look around, we see a church that is not unlike that which Ezra saw. Like my son’s latte and the Israelites, many of us have conformed to our environment. We have intermarried with the ways of the world:
When we study God’s Word, like Ezra, we see that God takes obedience seriously; as Christ-followers, we should too. His glory should be our utmost priority in everything we say and do.
Intermarrying with the world’s ways waters down our witness.
In response, we should all stop right here and ask ourselves this question: In what ways have I become conformed to my worldly environment?
When the Holy Spirit reveals an area of disobedience, take time to grieve and confess. But, friend, don’t let it stop there— allow that grieving to move you to genuine repentance through action. Throw that addiction in the trash. Delete the app. Call a friend for accountability.
Wholehearted devotion concentrates God’s “flavor” in our lives. Make the decision to “be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands…” (1 Kings 8:61). When others “taste” your life, they will desire what’s inside, and you can share with them your not-so-secret ingredient— Jesus
Memory Verse: “And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” 1 Kings 8:61
As I continued, my path took me beside the lake near our house, where well-established trees towered over the muddied waters. My eyes studied their branches, stretched high and wide, prompting a familiar scripture to come to mind:
“…Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear…” (Jer. 17:7-8, emphasis added)
In the chapters surrounding this simile, Jeremiah rebukes the nation of Israel. They were stuck in a cycle of sin and doomed for destruction, so the young prophet gets down to the literal root of the problem: confidence in themselves instead of trusting God.
Yahweh had called Israel out of slavery in Egypt, then led them into the desert to learn how to live a life of dependence on Him. After 40 years of wandering, they had (mostly) learned their lesson.
However, after they entered the Promised Land, old habits soon returned. God had chosen them to be “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” (Is. 61:3). Instead, they became like a “stunted shrub in the desert'' (Jer. 17:6 NLT), worthless and doomed to destruction.
Jehovah Jireh was, and is, more than enough for His people’s every need. But, in their pride, Israel traded His abundant provision opting to strive in their own ability.
God took the Israelites back out of their land and into exile to reiterate His original lesson. In the same way, he leads you and I into “desert seasons” to remind us to place and keep our total confidence rooted in Him.
That hot summer day by the lake, I had a choice to make: I could grin and bear the coming days in my own strength (which would surely lead to burnout) or I could place my confidence solely in Christ and trust Him to be enough for every moment.
Thankfully, I chose the latter. When I look back on that season, now, all I can see is grace and more grace. I can say, with the psalmist David, “…those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10).
Friend, He won’t fail you either. He is worthy of all our trust. Are you facing a situation that feels impossible? Are you fearful and frustrated when it comes to finances, parenting, or something else?
The feeling of “not enough” is a sure-fire sign that we’re putting confidence in our own ability instead of God’s. When we are rooted in Christ alone, we can rest in the knowledge that He is sufficient for every situation.
Right now, allow the Holy Spirit to reveal any area where you’ve been rooted in self-confidence, then confess the sin of pride; “He is faithful and just and will forgive” (1 Jn. 1:9, emphasis added).
Turn from your own strength, your own ideas, or even your own righteousness. Commit to live each day rooted in complete dependence on Christ.
He is the Well that never runs dry
Memory Verse: “’But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’” Jeremiah 17:7-8
If we look closely at Lot’s journey, we can see a progression:
He encamped near Sodom (Gen 13:10-13).
He lived in Sodom (Gen 14:12).
He became a leader of Sodom (Gen 19:1).
I would wager that Lot wished he could go back and reverse his choice to live near the infamously wicked city of Sodom. At the time Lot had reasoned his decision— anyone in their right mind would choose a lush, well-watered plain over one that is rocky and arid.
If I look closely at my own journey, I recognize a similar pattern. I reasoned that the good land of acceptance was better than the alternative loneliness. I encamped near places of sin, and it wasn’t long before I found myself living in compromise. Even then I reasoned, “At least I’m not as bad as so-and-so.” Eventually, with little self-awareness, I became a well-established member of the “city.”
Reasoning is a slippery slope that leads us to desolate places of compromise. Can you think of a situation, past or present, in your life, that left you spiritually impoverished and full of regrets?
We all face situations where we are tempted to reason a less-than-ideal decision. So how do we avoid the pitfall of settling?
Read the following verses from Psalm 1:1-3 where we see a familiar progression. Pay special attention, in the middle, to the psalmist’s prescribed escape plan:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers” (Ps 1:1-3, emphasis added).
Did you catch it? The antidote to reasoning is wisdom, found in the Word of God. When we commit ourselves to delight in, meditate on, and obey God’s instructions, we set ourselves up for a life of abundance.
Stop right now and take note of any areas of compromise in your life--
A friendship with someone of the opposite sex
A television show that is less-than-kosher
A group of co-workers you eat lunch with who spread rumors and gossip
Whether you’re encamped near, living in, or a leader in any place of sin, it’s never too late to turn from your ways and turn back to God’s again.
Take the hand of Jesus, and run. Don’t look back, friend.
Make a plan to get in the Word of God, and make it the ultimate authority in your life. Don’t tolerate that old friend, Reason, anymore and you will find your life, in time, flourishing once again.
Memory Verse: “Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.” Psalm 119:1
After lunch, we’d beg our parents to take us to the community pool— that was where the real fun was to be had. The water was clear and current-less. We played games, performed jumping contests, and practiced our handstands. Oh, to be young again.
Here’s one thing I know to be true: life is more like an ocean and less like a pool— especially when it comes to our faith. This isn’t new news, though. It’s exactly what the author of Hebrews cautioned nearly 2,000 years ago.
If you spent this week scratching your head over this labyrinth of a letter, just know you’re not alone. Hebrews is a theologically complex letter, but when we zoom out to see the big picture, two things become clear:
As a mom and ministry leader, I can really relate to these tired and discouraged folks. The current of culture is strong. Every day, the world’s idea of “truth” becomes more muddled. I, too, have friends and family members drifting away.
It’s clear there is...
A drift that moves away from zeal, toward apathy.
A drift that moves away from truth, toward deception.
A drift that moves away from others, toward self.
With all this pull, how do we stand firm?
Unfortunately there’s no "pool” of faith where we can plop ourselves to play, but Hebrews gives us solid advice on how we can remain steadfast, even in the current.
Hebrews 10:22-25 gives us three ways:
These disciplines are simple, but don’t be fooled— they are tried and true. Deepening our dependence on Jesus, growing in our knowledge of Him through His Word, and gathering to encourage one another are all imperative to stand firm.
We’re all susceptible to drifting. We must acknowledge that reality to fight it. Today, if you find yourself far from “base,” it’s not too late to make your way back. It may take a thousand arduous steps, but every one will be worth it.
Let us fix our eyes on the shoreline, where we entered in— Jesus, the Way.
Let us anchor our hope in the promises of God, found in His Word.
And let us look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ and point one another home.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV
Jesus’ vegetation verbiage was passed down and perpetuated by the early church apostles. I love how Paul exhorts the church at Colossae. In his letter to them he says, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7, CSB)
When I read the words “rooted and built up... established,” my mind immediately goes to the forest behind my house. Unlike the succulents in my office that could easily be plucked from their soil, our Georgia pines can withstand the fiercest storms. They bend, but rarely break. Their roots go deep, and they draw nourishment from the soil. While my indoor plants need routine attention, I’ve never had to go out and water the towering trees in my yard.
Friend, this is what God desires of us.
When I think about the implications of Paul’s admonition to be “rooted and built up,” a couple truths become clear:
Are you rooted?
In the book of Isaiah, we read that we are “a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (Is 61:3). Our new life is buried in Christ, and the intention is that we turn from our self-confidence and fully rely on Him, because it is to His glory that we do so.
The goal is not just to trust Jesus for our righteousness, but in every area of our lives. He is not just good soil— He is all-sufficient soil, completely worthy of our confidence. We can push our roots down deep into Him; He is our firm foundation.
Today, identify one area or situation in your life you’ve been holding tight to control. Pray a prayer of heartfelt surrender, even if it’s “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24).
Are you built up?
I have a fiddle leaf fig tree that can’t stand on its own without support. All of us, early on in our faith journey, are understandably like that. The problem is some of us stay that way.
Do you constantly need stakes and string such as constant affirmation or “mountaintop” experiences to keep you from going down, or are you strong from being nourished by the Word of Truth? 1 Peter 2:2 tells us, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Make a plan to study your Bible regularly. The more you taste its goodness, the more your desire for it will grow.
Green thumb or not, we are all plant ladies because we have been sown, by faith, into Jesus. Now, just as we have received Jesus, let’s continue in Him— being rooted down and built up by putting our full trust in Him and growing in His Word.
Memory Verse: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 NIV
If I’m honest, I haven’t completely quit playing dress-up...
I put on a sheer covering of joy, in an attempt to hide the depression underneath.
I smear superficial admiration on my lips to hide my secret jealousy.
I don too-tight shoes I was never meant to fill to boast my capacity.
I try so hard to be the princess I feel like God wants me to be.
I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles in this area. Do you, too, feel like an imposter sometimes?
In Romans, this week, Paul takes us deep into some important spiritual truths. While it can be easy to get tied up in one small portion, it’s imperative that we zoom out to see the bigger picture here.
At the start of Romans, Paul lays out a strong case against all mankind: we are all guilty of sin, no matter how “good” we seem in our own eyes. Fortunately for us, he follows it up with some really good news: we are “justified freely by His grace... apart from the work of the law.” (3:24, 28)
Paul ushers us into the reality of the life lived in faith— peace with God, unlimited access, unshakable hope, and righteousness, to name a few.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6).
For we know...
But Paul, do we know? I mean, I say I know that... but do I live like I know it is true?
Our old self was crucified...
Dead. Buried. Gone. That’s the reality of what happened to our old self the moment we called on Jesus as our Lord. God’s Word says sinful me with the addiction, the hatred, the envy, the impurity, and the idolatry is simply no more.
“How can anyone who died to sin still live in it?” Paul asks. The obvious answer is we can’t. So then how come we still struggle with our flesh? Because we forget we’re no longer slaves to it.
We are not just sinners playing dress-up to look righteous. The Bible makes it clear: we have a completely brand new identity— Daughter of the King.
Ladies, it’s about time we stop pretending to be God’s princesses, and live out of the reality that we truly are. It’s time to grow up and put away our pretentious garb of dead religion, and clothe ourselves with Christ alone.
I can embrace suffering because I know it is transforming me into His likeness.
I can speak genuine words of kindness to others because I have received His love, first.
I can embrace the unique roles God has invited me to fill.
I can rest in the truth that Jesus was perfect for me.
Life lived in the Spirit leads to life and peace, not condemnation and striving. We don’t have to fix ourselves up to look the part— as Paul puts it in his letter to the Corinthians, “...the old has gone, the new is [already] here” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This week, every time that old flesh comes knocking, seeking its own way, remind it where it belongs— in the grave. Then allow the gentle whisper of God’s spirit to lead you in His ways.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
I imagine the Apostle Paul shared the same sentiment, as he wrote to the Corinthian church. Still (spiritually) young and immature, the believers struggled with comparison. To paint a mental picture for them, Paul likens the church to a body where Christ is the head and each believer a part: head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Kidney, heart, gallbladder... you get the point. All different. All significant.
Truth be told, I’m not all that different from my kids at times. Some days one scroll through Instagram can send me spiraling down the rabbit hole of comparison. The problem with comparing personalities, gifts, and passions to someone else’s is that it can only end one of two ways— leaving us feeling prideful, or filling us with shame. Neither are God’s best.
The marker of a mature believer is seeing diversity as an advantage, not a threat. Can you celebrate someone else’s gifts and strengths, while also standing on the truth that yours are also equally valuable?
If you struggle with this, you’re not alone. Chapter 12 provides some insight on how we can embrace this all-in mindset:
● The body needs you. (1 Cor. 12:15) Your gift matters. None is more important than another. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others...” (emphasis added). My grandmother is 83, and always says she doesn’t feel like she has much to offer. But that grandmother raised four adults, who raised nine grandchildren, several of whom started businesses and/or went into ministry. She also prayed me through one of the hardest seasons of my life. Whatever your role is, the body needs you to play it. Don’t fall for the lie that your bread-baking, word-typing, or on-your-knees-praying isn’t needed.
● You need the body. (1 Cor. 12:21) I hear you, friend: relationships are tough. Trying to do life together in unity with a bunch of other broken people can result in a lot of hurt and frustration. But we weren’t made to do life amputated and alone— we must be plugged into the body. If community is what hurt you, community is where you will find your healing.
● The goal is unity, not uniformity, for God’s glory and the common good. (1 Cor. 12:7) Think, for a minute, about how countercultural this is— embracing our uniqueness, instead of trying to be like everyone else or make everyone else like us. Using our strengths to serve others, not ourselves. Setting aside personal differences to come together for the advancement of the Gospel. That is good and God-glorifying. And that’s exactly the point.
In Psalm 133:1, King David wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” The opposite of this is also true— “How evil and unpalatable it is when God’s people divide in disunity.”
And all the parents said, “Amen.”
When we each embrace our God-given roles and submit ourselves under the lead of the Holy Spirit, the body becomes a living, breathing, helping, glorifying picture of Jesus.
Memory Verse: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Psalm 133:1 NIV
Suddenly, in chapter 40, the tone changes drastically from chastisement to comfort. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins,” God tells Isaiah (vs. 2).
While these prophecies had not been fulfilled just yet, God was letting them know even their great wickedness could not deter His greater compassion— a Savior was coming for them.
After His declaration of hope, God tells the prophet, “Say unto the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Is 40:9 NKJV)
It’s such a short and simple declaration, it’s easy to miss all together. God is telling His people to shift their focus from themselves, back onto Him.
The Israelites were a mess, no doubt about it; you and I are too. But beholding our own messes never leads to anything good. As a veteran Christian, I’ve spent a lot of time mulling over my many flaws and trying to fix them, but all my beholding and all my effort never led to any permanent change.
Do you ever find yourself thinking What is wrong with me? Why can’t I get myself together? Are you frustrated that you keep walking the same messy circles?
I think that there’s a big lesson in this mini three-word directive: Behold your God. It’s time we stop looking at everything wrong with ourselves, and start looking at everything right with Jesus.
A funny thing happens when we turn our focus from our frailty to His perfections: without guilt, and without striving, we find ourselves changing...
We behold His compassion, and we find ourselves becoming more patient with others.
We behold His holiness, and we begin to desire to walk more like Him.
We behold His goodness, and we become more joy-filled and less negative.
How? Because as we spend time with Jesus and learn from Him, He is able to do what only He can do— change us from the inside out.
I love what the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Corinth— “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
“This comes from the Lord...” Unlike the earthly messes we behold and then fix, we are utterly helpless to change our own hearts. Only Jesus can do that, so let’s allow Him. Make it a point to spend time with Jesus this week. Talk with Him, and get to know Him through His Word. There’s always more to see.
Of all the people, projects, and problems vying for our attention, may we take time to behold the one who transforms us.
Memory verse: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV
Kiawah is what I’m reminded of when I read God’s description of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 11. Through Moses, God tells the people of Israel that the land they’re about to enter into isn’t anything like the land they just came out of (Egypt). Instead of laboring to produce everything themselves, He would provide for their every need. Their job was simply to trust God and put Him first.
It didn’t take long for the people to fail on their end of the bargain. Time and time again we see the Israelites trust in their ability, their “truths,” and their ways. The penalty for their self-reliance was a curse on their land. The reality of the Israelite’s “freedom” ended up being far from the abundant life God intended for them.
If God’s plan for the Promised Land seems eerily familiar, it’s because it was modeled after Eden. Eden was where Adam and Eve had an unbroken relationship with God, and He provided for them. Distrust led Adam and Eve to sin, and a curse was placed on all mankind. Now man would have to strive to produce what once was freely given... and that included righteousness. This is the curse we are all born into, whether we like it or not..
However, Eden has always been God’s intention. Jesus made a way for us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us...” (Gal. 3:13). However, Jesus didn’t just pay the price for our righteousness— He paid the price to restore us to the Promised Land of abundant life. In Him, our souls can prosper with joy, peace, and fulfillment.
From birth, our souls crave Eden. That’s why we revel in carefree days like I experienced at Kiawah. However, we live in the constant tension between the desires of our flesh and spirit, but the problem is we keep wandering back to Egypt...
Instead of trusting Him for our righteousness, we try to earn it with perfection.
Instead of trusting His wisdom, we rely on our own understanding.
Instead of trusting Him for provision, we wear ourselves out working.
Are you tired of striving? Do you long for the lightness and simplicity of the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10? Me too, friend.
The good news is we don’t have to wait until “one day” in heaven— abundant life is here and now. Culture tells us “nothing comes for free,” but the Kingdom of God is upside-down. Eden can’t be earned. We experience abundant life not by trying harder, but by turning from our self-reliance and simply trusting our all-sufficient God.
Trust is simple, but it isn’t easy. It’s like a muscle that we have to develop day by day. We strengthen that muscle by repeating the cycle of spending time with Him, listening, and obeying. Talk to God and take inventory of your life— identify any areas where you’re striving instead of surrendering.
The Israelites got it wrong. We will too sometimes. But through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to live life in the Promised Land simply by trusting in Him.
Memory verse: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10 NIV
In two short chapters we watch Job’s life fall apart— his family, his wealth, and his health. Job wrestled to reconcile God’s justice with his own personal suffering, because it’s clear he had done nothing wrong. We read in Job 1:8 that Job was “a man of perfect integrity, who [feared] God.” Job’s story challenges Western ideas that are basically “Christian karma”— that if we’re good, God will be good to us, and if we’re experiencing suffering it’s because of something wrong we did.
The mental anguish revealed in the subsequent dialogue is not grief over loss of Job’s possessions, rather grief over his perceived abandonment by God. The ironic thing is, in his wrestling, Job was closer to Yahweh than He had ever been before.
The hard truth is God allows suffering for His purposes. We see no better example of this than in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus— the Suffering Servant. Jesus told his disciples about the necessary suffering He would endure for our ultimate good yet, in their finite minds, they could not grasp the big picture. However, Jesus willingly took the cup of the Father’s wrath to satisfy the merited penalty for our sins. There on the cross, He experienced the unimaginable grief of actual abandonment, as His holy Father turned His back on Him.
Jesus was forsaken by God so you and I wouldn’t have to be. Even on our darkest days, we have this hope: nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39).
Friend, what suffering are you enduring right now? A heath diagnosis? A financial crisis? The death of a loved one or loss of a relationship? Like Job, are you sitting in the dust of despair?
In our finite minds, we cannot grasp the big picture of what God is doing. Regardless, we can choose to rest in the truth that He is unchanging and unfailing.
God is still good.
God is still present.
God is still working for your good and His glory in every situation.
Looking back I can see that God was with me, even in the ashes of my parents’ divorce. He has been with me through many more suffering since, and He will be with me in the sufferings to come. The same is true for you— He never leaves us nor forsakes us. And, unlike Job’s condemning friends, He comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3).
God does not despise our wrestling, but in the end He desires our trust. We won’t always understand God’s ways, but we can willingly submit like Jesus did— saying, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Memory verse: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV
When I think about it, the key to enjoying both my coffee and my life in peace aren’t all that different. Pleasant coffee and a pleasant mindset both require the same thing: good filters.
In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul is dishing out some practical advice to new believers—specifically, how to live in peace. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always... do not be anxious... present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) I’ve often separated this message from the one under it until recently I realized they are strongly connected.
Paul is actually continuing his thought in verse 8 when he presents this 7-layer filter to keep out peace-robbers. He says:
“Whatever is true
Whatever is honorable
Whatever is right
Whatever is pure
Whatever is lovely
Whatever is admirable
Whatever is excellent or praise-worthy...
Think on these things.”
Whatever is true…
I love that Paul begins with this filter.
The truth filter asks, “Do the thoughts I’m thinking line up with what God says?” This filter is most effective when I’m in the Word of God daily.
I don’t know about you, but this one eliminates 100% of my negative self-talk, and on the flip side, takes care of “vain imaginations”— the prideful idea that I am better than I actually am (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The filter of truth also eliminates unconfirmed hearsay that often leads to gossip. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself “Is this true?” when a friend comes to you with juicy gossip?
Just because a thought makes it through the truth filter doesn’t make it beneficial to dwell on it. It may be true that my child is acting up at school, a friend is going through a divorce, or a family member is treating me poorly— but that doesn’t make any of those honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praise-worthy.
This is where Paul’s previous words come back into play. My job is to take those situations to the feet of Jesus, and ask for wisdom to see them the way He sees them.
As Christ-followers, peace in every situation is one of the things Jesus intended to set us apart from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, more often than not, our response is worry and anxiety, just like everyone else.
Friends, may it not be so among us. Let us be intentional to think about what we are thinking about.
If abundant life is like a good cup of coffee, then anxious thoughts are the grounds that should have no place in it. May our thoughts be fixed on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praise-worthy today.
Growing up in church, Jesus was often compared to these fairytale heroes— making me the princess. I didn’t hate it. After all, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were strong, independent, and intelligent. Sure, they needed physical or emotional rescuing at some point, but they ultimately played some part in defeating the enemy.
Now that I have a deeper understanding of the Gospel, I realize that’s not at all how God’s love story works. I love Paul’s rich letter to the church at Rome, in which he thoroughly and beautifully unpacks the doctrine of salvation to new believers.
In Romans, He says, “…rarely will someone die for a just person— though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:6-8)
In these verses, Paul makes it clear that when we were saved:
These aren’t the most uplifting facts I’ve ever heard about myself. There’s a prideful part of me that likes to think my good works played a part in the story, or that He chose me because of what I could bring to the table.
But Jesus didn’t rescue me because of any of those things. He rescued me simply because of His love for Me. That’s humbling.
There is only one hero in God’s love story, and it’s not us— it’s Jesus.
Knowing this truth gives us freedom. If God’s love and grace for us is completely unmerited, then it’s not on us to sustain it. This doesn’t give us a free ticket to do whatever we please— As Christ-followers, He invites us into His Great Story.
I’m often prone to get a big head about this, too. I constantly have to remind myself I’m not the hero.
Here are some signs I’m making too much of myself:
I compare myself and my ministry to others.
I feel chained by my Christian “to-do list.”
I allow fear to keep me from what I know God is asking me to do.
Friend, have you made yourself the hero in God’s story? It’s time to give Jesus back His rightful place. Have you doubted Jesus’ affections for you? Remember there’s nothing you did to earn His love, and there’s nothing you can do to lose it.
God’s story is greater than any story Disney (or Lifetime) could ever produce, or that our minds could ever fully conceive. Give thanks to the One True Hero for all He’s done. Go, and grow His Kingdom.
I can’t remember exactly when I discovered her tribute, tucked away in the center of my Bible, but from that day forward I knew I wanted to be just like her. I made my to-do list and set out to be the best Christian wife and mom I could be. But all my efforts seemed to produce was a life that was far from “abundant” (John 10:10). It was completely exhausting.
Being like Ms. P was a noble goal, but the truth is that I had missed the point completely.
In the same way, the day I visited Angel Oak, I had overlooked a key fact. Underneath the soil I stood on were miles upon miles of root systems. The existence of those unseen roots made everything that was seen so exquisite and awe-inspiring.
In the same way, if we read to the end of Proverbs 31, we find the not-so-secret secret to her admirable qualities: “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”
Underneath the strong, successful, secure, smart, and sympathetic woman everyone could see was something greater— a root system which fueled her every word and deed: fear of the Lord. This “fear” the author writes about is not the feeling of terror. When the Bible talks about “fear of the Lord,” it’s referring to an awe-filled reverence in response to who God is.
Ms. P rooted her life in Him. The Amplified version elaborates, “reverently worshipping, obeying, serving, and trusting Him...” As a result, her good works were not manufactured at the cost of her own exhaustion— they were simply the natural product of God’s work within.
Good works are meant to be the fruit of our relationship with God, not the root of it.
Friend, God wants to bless you, and make you a blessing to others. He wants the world to stand in awe “for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3). God never intended for us to strive. He longs for us to rest in Him. This doesn’t mean we quit trying. It means we put our effort into the right thing: shifting from the shaky soil of self-reliance to fully trusting in Him.
Are you thriving in Christ, or striving in exhaustion? Are you positioning yourself to experience God, or are you focused on production?
There is freedom when we remain in Him. We don’t have to have to have all the answers. We don’t have to will ourselves to be better. We don’t have to put on a happy-Christian-mom “mask” and pretend like we have it all together. When we couldn’t do anything for ourselves, Jesus came with a rescue plan. He is the Author and He will be the Perfecter of our faith.
Find rest in that truth, today, friend, and “let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on him.” (Colossians 2:7)
Then, and only then, would they be saved from God’s wrath about to be poured out on the Egyptians. And this event wasn’t just meant to be a one-time ordeal, God told them to observe “Passover” indefinitely, in the first month of each year.
So what is the deal with all of the blood in the Bible?
If you remember back to when Adam and Eve first sinned, the scriptures tell us they became filled with shame. In an attempt to hide that sin and shame, they covered themselves with leaves. But God provided another, more complete covering— animal skins. This was the very first sacrifice, but it wouldn’t be the last. Sin had a price tag, and that price tag was death (Romans 6:23).
Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.”
The sacrifice of specific animals (depending on the offense) became the only way for peace with God, or atonement (reparation for sin).
Fast-forward back to Exodus and this first Passover actually paints a beautiful picture of salvation. The blood on the doorposts set apart the Israelite people. While the Egyptians suffered the consequences of their sin and hardened hearts, those who trusted in the blood of the unblemished lamb were saved from destruction.
Hundreds of years later, on the night Jesus was crucified, He celebrated Passover with His disciples. Little did they know they were sitting with the Spotless Lamb who was about to pay the price for their sins and save them from destruction once and for all.
Animal sacrifice was our insufficient attempt to cover our sin and shame, but God, once again, provided the complete covering we needed. The shedding of His perfect blood didn’t just cover the sins of one man— it covered the sins of every man who would put their trust in Him.
The price for our rebellion and disobedience was death. Jesus’ blood paid that debt.
Friends, we can rest in this assurance:
Weak stomach or not, that’s reason to celebrate. Let’s slow down, acknowledge, and give thanks for all He has done, today.
I don’t know about you, but I get a little sad every time I read the opening of Genesis. As a middle child, I’ve never been a fan of conflict. Knowing the impending doom of Adam and Eve’s decision makes me want to fast-forward to the end of the script, when Jesus swoops in to make all things right again.
However, I believe it’s important that we pause here because we can all learn an important lesson. In chapter three we meet the enemy of our souls, Satan. If there’s one thing I know to be true about him it’s that thousands of years later he’s still using the same tactics. When we know our enemy, we can know how to fight him.
Let’s jump in at verse one.
One day [the serpent] asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it..." (Genesis 3:1-6 NLT)
Let’s rewind and walk through what just happened. The first time Satan questions Eve, she responds by repeating God’s words back to Him.
But Satan counters back a second time, and plants a seed of distrust. Is God really looking out for your best interest, or is He holding out? He appeals to Eve’s thoughts, desires, and feelings. This time we see a vast difference in Eve’s response— she becomes convinced.
Oh, how often I’ve seen this play out in my own life. Here’s just one example:
“Did God really say you have to go to church every Sunday?”
“Not exactly. He did say not to neglect meeting together.” (Heb. 10:25)
“You read your Bible every day and listen to online sermons. Times have changed since that verse was written. God doesn’t understand how busy you are.”
Satan’s calling card has always been deception. He knows better than to feed us blatant lies, so He takes the truth and taints it. Then he serves it up with a side of distrust. Naively, we fall for his off-color bait.
Friend, is there an off-white lie you’ve accepted as truth? To our own eyes, everything looks “right white” (good).
In the same way I had to hold up my “white” samples next to Ultra Pure White to see that they weren’t true, so we must hold up every thought that enters our minds to the purity of God’s Character and Word. When we fix our minds on Who God is and what He says, we will become quicker to recognize anything contrary.
Devotionals by Author
All Abby McDonald Angi Morrison Anne Say Audra Powers Breanna Faith Spearman Brenna Kurz Brittany Marlow Caroline Hultgren Courtney Filippin Dana Schaefer Danielle Biddy Debbie Burns Heather Kenny Jannetta Cox Jessica Parker Jess Ridgeway Joan Lavori Katelyn Wilson Katie Gibson Kelly Orlowski Kerri Barfield Keryn Stokes Kristen Williamson Laura Pendley Lindsay McNeely Lonette Baity Martha Rudolph Nancy Ehlinger Renee Robinson Saretta Wells Tara McGill Taylor Watkins Tierney Nashleanas Wendy Gerdes