Pep Talk for Life

Pep Talk for Life

I was moved almost to tears by this verse in Psalms the other morning and have wanted to share it here ever since:

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

Pslam 37:3

It caught me completely off guard, in a beautiful, captivating way. I don’t know why, other than maybe it felt like a tender yet strong call to action from God Himself. Kind of a “Keep on keepin on” pep talk from Jesus. Almost feels like he was reminding my soul what to do, setting the eyes of my heart on my task at hand. If you needed a “keep on keeping on” nudge today, here it is. Keep on, friends. TRUST HIM. Do good. Dwell well. Stand firm in your faith. 💛

 

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The Hidden Poison In All of Us that Satan Used to Put Jesus on the Cross

The Hidden Poison In All of Us that Satan Used to Put Jesus on the Cross

It’s Easter week, and this year more than most, I am so overcome by the vast emotions of the days surrounding and including Jesus’ death and resurrection. Today, on the eve of Good Friday, I was reading pieces of this account in Mark and I was moved to tears as these scenes once again played out in my mind. You guys. Jesus is EVERYTHING to me. Nothing about Easter is cute, funny, or lighthearted to me. There is nothing I take more seriously in the entire world than the Gospel. So imagine my surprise when I found myself having my very own “come to Jesus” meeting once again, at my table, as I read the same story that changes my life every day. So true to His character, the Word came alive and began to act in my heart, revealing something so pivotal yet commonplace I was struck by how evident this truth has been right in front me.

In Mark 15, we are told that tradition was for Pilate to deliver one prisoner to the crowd. Usually a murderer or thief gets one more shot at life. Interesting that this was happening at the exact time new life was about to be offered to all that fall short. Because of every moment of Jesus’ obedience–every one of us murderers and thieves and liars get an undeserved shot at a new life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The crowd chooses an innocent man over an infamous their and Pilate is soon delivering over Jesus to be crucified.

An innocent man, chosen to be brutally murdered instead of the thief, the deserving one? Why? Pilate knew. God knew. We know. We do it every day.

“For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.” (Mark 15:10, ESV).

The NIV puts it this way: “knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.”

It was at this point in my time with the Lord that I wanted to weep.

Envy? Self-interest? 

This is the card the devil played? 

I know it was God’s plan the whole time for Jesus to be the ultimate sacrifice so we could have new life, restoration, redemption. But our envy was the role we volunteered to play in this? Is anyone else wrecked by this?

You see, I think it is a common misconception that jealousy is only something middle school girls have often struggle with. Oh no.

Our culture is driven by ENVY. Envy says we don’t trust God. Self-interest says God is holding out on us, so we are going to make it happen for ourselves. PRIDE says we should be God of our lives instead. Because we can make it better, do it better, know it better. Take matters into our own hands.

This poison is RAMPANT all around us. And we eat it like its candy Obviously we see it most vividly on social media because people are know wasting their days not so much watching TV but instead scrolling through different ways to be jealous. Different ways to indulge in self-glorification. The enemy is crafty but he is not creative. This is nothing new. This is what he exploited to get Jesus on the cross.

But he couldn’t keep the Son of God there.

Jesus died on the cross willingly so that when He defeated death three days later He could use the forgiveness extended to us to wreck us and rid us of envy. Jealousy. Greed. Immortality. Pride.

Our sin didn’t hold Him to the cross then and it doesn’t hold a candle to it today. Rather than our sin bringing death to Jesus on a cross, we get the opportunity to allow the cross to bring death to our sin. So we can be raised with Jesus to a NEW LIFE. Free of sin, free of doubt that God is holding out on us, because we know without a doubt He gave EVERYTHING for us. And now nothing else matters. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we get the choice to “let the cross do its deadly work in us” as A. W. Tozer describes it, and really let God be God in our lives.

Where do you see this hidden poison of greed, jealousy, and envy creep up in your life? Maybe it’s in school. Maybe it’s in your family. Your career. Maybe its in ministry. The Church. God, help us.

Wherever envy and self-interest is lurking in your life, I want to encourage you to bravely and honestly ask Jesus to allow the cross to do what He meant it to do in your life. Put to death what is earthly in us. Resurrect fierce love for Jesus alone and humility in its place. Shine your light, fresh from out of the tomb in every dark place.

Sunday is coming.

 

For the Friends

For the Friends

So many of those close to me have been going through storm after storm. Grief. Loss. Frustration. Opposition. Conflict. Weariness. Doubt. Guilt. Loneliness. Anxiety. The list goes on.

For me personally, there are two things that help me the most during those inevitable valleys. The Word and worship. Nothing sustains me like reading God’s Word, praying God’s Word, and singing God’s Word.

When our hearts don’t have the energy to lift up our own praise. When our souls are so heavy we can lift only our eyes to heaven. When our minds and bodies are so overwhelmed we can’t take one more step forward on this earthly ground.

But no matter what–no matter our circumstances or how we feel, we can always make incredible strides forward in Kingdom territory. When we pray even when we don’t feel like it. When we read even when we don’t feel like it. When we sing even when we don’t feel like it. These are all things that are giant leaps into the arms of our Father, towards the Rock that is so vastly higher than we.

So over the past few weeks, and I have interceded for all my friends in these hard seasons, I have been compiling a list of songs and Scriptures to send to them, some only for one person and some for everyone. I decided to share them here as well in hopes that one more weary traveler is encouraged to keep on this faith marathon. In hopes that one more believer would lift their eyes to Jesus, the only prize worth every ounce of this temporal pain. Below is a few Scriptures God has prompted me to pray over specific people at different times, and under that is the playlist. I hope you are encouraged. We have hope because Jesus is the anchor of our souls, no wave that is currently crashing over you is any match for the One that made it. Read these words. They are Truth. They are life. Pray them for yourself and people you know that are needing some light in their own places.

It’s a privilege to pray with you and for you. Feel free to leave what Scripture/song encouraged you today and how I can be specifically praying on your behalf.

Stand firm in the faith friends,

–R.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

In the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Romans 4:17

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Genesis 15:1

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. Daniel 10:12

And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Matthew 22:31-32

For the Lord comforts Zion;
    he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
    her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the voice of song. Isaiah 51:3

Was it not you who dried up the sea,
    the waters of the great deep,
who made the depths of the sea a way
    for the redeemed to pass over? Isaiah 51:10

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:8

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ Isaiah 58:9

And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly. Ps. 84:11

When Your Kids See Your Struggle

When Your Kids See Your Struggle

As parents, we often only want our kids to see our “best” side. The part of us that is calm, cool, and collected all the time. The part of us that is fun, with an ocean of patience, and speaks only life and encouragement to those around us. This is a good thing to want our kids to see in us. That means you love your children and want only the best for them!

But what happens when they see something other than your best? 

What happens when we lose our patience, or we are heartbroken and they witness our tears? 

Something that I’ve learned as a mom of toddlers is that I am going to be undone more often that I’d like to admit, and my kids are going to get a front row seat. Whether that is from losing my patience or mourning over the consequences of sin in the world.

And I can see that as failure or as a chance to continue doing the one thing God has entrusted me to do with those sweet little image bearers of God: keep pointing them to Jesus.

When my spirit is weaker than my flesh and I give into temptation, handing over control to my emotions or selfishness, I have the hard, holy, privilege of asking my kids for their forgiveness. I get to CHOOSE to say yes I am your mom, but I am not the goal: HE is the goal. He is the prize. I am your mom and I love you more than the stars in the sky, but I will mess up. Because I need Jesus just as much as you do. And even as much as I love you and want the best for you, God’s love for you is greater still.

When tragedies are on display right and left, and the rubble of death is almost too much to take, I have the prime opportunity to show them how I run to God, not away from Him with my questions. When we pray at the end of the day and our family or community is mourning the loss of a friend here on earth, I get to show them how I tell God in prayers that I know He is still good even when we don’t understand, and ask Him to show us He is near.

If you have someone in your life that God has entrusted to you–maybe it’s a child, a friend, a student–you too have the immense privilege to be a flashing light, using every moment, every weakness, and hurt and every opportunity to keep pointing those around you to Jesus. This is your ONE GOAL. By offering these moments as road lights for others, we get the chance to say with our lives that we are desperate for Jesus. 

When Your Kids See Your StruggleEven after all these years.

We still need Him too. 

Paul writes something astoundingly beautiful regarding this in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” THIS IS OUR GOALMay our lives never look like anything but Jesus, even when we do fail or grieve or struggle.

Yes, follow us as we follow Him. When we fail, watch how we run to Him. When we hurt, watch how we run to Him. When we celebrate, watch how He is the first we run to in praise. Our eyes are fixed on no other. Watch us. Then join us.

How do you point to Jesus with your life? Who may be watching you be anything but your best? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comment section, share with us how you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus throughout your day! 

Face to Face

Face to Face

It is no secret that people are looking down more than ever. It is interesting that while looking down at say, their phones, they have access to every piece of the world via the internet. But while looking down at a virtual world, we forfeit the privilege of seeing the world in person. Face to sky. Face to sun. Face to mountain. Face to ocean. Face to crowd. Face to face. 

Quick poll/personal inventory: How many times did you intentionally look up today? How many of you have felt lonelier/discouraged/less connected to others the more you are trying to connect on social media?

It’s ok… take a few minutes to do some personal reflection. I’ll wait. This could be big for us–it’s totally worth the lack of comfort.

About a year ago, I realized that the more time I spent online (specifically on social media venues), had a direct correlation with how tired and groggy I felt throughout the day. It wasn’t like I was just wasting time online (lets be real–I have toddlers at home so I couldn’t do that even if I wanted to!) although I absolutely have been sucked into the blackhole of Instagram on more than a few occasions! However, the reality is my work is largely based online and social media is a huge piece of that. But I was realizing that investing so much energy in that online space left me with significantly less energy to ACTIVELY engage in the actual world around me the way God had created me to. 

Now before I go on I want to say how incredibly thankful I am for the progress of technology and advancement. You guys- God is the most creative being EVER. He is the source of creativity and inspiration, and uses absolutely everything for His good. I have seen this abundantly with sharing the Gospel online. Bible studies, testimonies, news on other believers around the world and how to PRAY for them and ways to serve and give–that was absolutely not a mistake or an accident or coincidence. God intentionally put that burden in the hearts of men and women He created, to do that very thing so the name of Jesus could literally be more accessible to the ends of the earth.

That being said, I can no longer neglect the tension we are currently experiencing where online or even text-based acquaintances/friendships are often replacing intentional community Jesus was so passionate about. I recently found myself reading the short letters from John in 1, 2, and 3 John. As a writer, I often am captivated by words. I write them to my kids on their birthdays, I write them to Jesus in my prayer journal, and I write things that God lays on my heart to share online. As a millennial follower of Jesus, these words I am about to share with you from John challenged me so deeply and stirred my spirit in such a way that I can’t say that I’ll ever be the same. And friends, while growth is painful and awkward, there is not one moment that is not worth it. So I am praying you find yourself drawn in by His loving kindness and nudged to a new, life changing perspective as well.

At the end of 2 John in verse 12, as a closing to his letter, John writes these words:  

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Likewise, at the end of 3 John in verses 13-15 we read a similar sentiment:

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink.  I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.”

You can almost hear the urgency in his voice. His longing to be with his people, in their presence. Face to face. It’s like he knows that there is just too much that he might miss out on by not doing life in person. Together.

FACE TO FACE. 

When I read those words, I was immediately inspired by the authentic friendship John had with these people in the early church. He knew the times were turbulent. He knew the struggles his friends (and himself) were facing were immense and their grief so deep and real that they could hardly catch their breath before the next blow. The urgency we hear in his voice comes from in importance of what he had to tell them. Their days were numbered. Their conversations were sacred. Their friendship holy.

John knew that what he had to tell them was way to important to tell them any other way than face to face. Here’s another quick poll for personal  reflection: How many of our conversations are deeper than the shallowness of our flesh? How many conversations do we see as sacred? How many of our moments face to face with others are are accounted for as worth the time? How many of our conversations are making an eternal difference?

John not only wanted to visit these people face to face so he could tell them something sacred, but because he knew the unspeakable JOY that comes with authentic friendship. John knew that our joy would never, could never be complete without community. I have found this to be so true in my own life. I have found the longer I go without intentionally meeting face to face with other believers, the easier it is for me to make excuses to stay under my rock of comfort + selfishness (especially with my time). And the longer I go without community, whether that is coffee with a friend, a bible study group, or worship with my church family, the more negative I become without even knowing it.

I’ve seen that I become comfortable in my selfish worldview that I established within the walls of my home or heart, because I never invited anyone else in. When we sacrifice real community for anything other than God intended it, we are selling ourselves short on the JOY God has for us. Every time it has been hard to get out of the house, out of my comfort zone, etc. it has been 100% WORTH it in more ways than I can count. Trust me. Our joy will NEVER be complete without community.

These are the things we can no longer ignore. We are so good at being busy we are simultaneously LAZY at the same time.  And then we wonder why we feel like something is missing? Like the joy in our daily life has just up and left? No, it hasn’t left. We just haven’t SHOWED UP. We are missing the ABUNDANCE of life we were made to enjoy (John 10:10) because we won’t go where the FACES are.

One more thing before we go. John says “GREET THE FRIENDS BY NAME.” Why would he say that? MAYBE BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT. And I am asguilty as anyone here. I am the WORST at remembering names. But there is no excuse for not treating an image bearer of God as such. If you take one thing from this (long) post let it be this challenge:

Let someone know you are there, that you see them. And by see them, I mean you see their face with your actual face. Not just a text. Tell someone you know they are there. They are worth looking up for because Jesus said they were worth dying for. 

Leave a comment if you are up for the challenge, and share your experience with us! I am praying for you guys today and look forward to hearing from you! I can’t wait to hear how God moves through those willing to let Him use them. And don’t forget. Look UP. That’s where the faces are.

Look UP

 

 

The Unchanging God We Need

The Unchanging God We Need

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am happy. I am tired. (Amen?!) I am all of these things now, but I have not always been these things, and I will not always be all of these things. Sometimes, I work out and decide to eat more salads. Then, sometimes I get home from said gym and eat cookie dough. I am never the same it seems, and apparently I really like change. But there is a very real part of my being that desires consistency, something constant. After following Jesus for several years, I know now that this is because I was made by a God that never changes.

This is a huge concept for me to grasp, and maybe it is for you too. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter how awesome we have been or how much we have messed up, God remains constant in His character. One of my most favorite things to meditate on is that God loves me just as much on my very best day as He does on my very worst day.

In Exodus 3:14, God describes Himself as “I AM.” This Scripture has always intrigued me and until recently, I don’t know that I was able to really grasp the weight that this specific verse carries. In a sermon,  C. Kingsley, M.A. describes it this way:

“Everybody and everything else in the world becomes: but God is. We are all becoming something from our birth to our death — changing continually and becoming something different from what we were a minute before; first of all we were created and made, and so became men; and since that we have been every moment changing, becoming older, becoming wiser, or alas! foolisher; becoming stronger or weaker; becoming better or worse. Even our bodies are changing and becoming different day by day. But God never changes or becomes anything different from what He is now. What He is, that He was, and ever will be.”*

God is the only one that can claim to be “I AM” because He is the only one that will ever just BE. He is Alpha and Omega, the Begging and the End (Revelation 22:13). He is THE way, truth and the life (John 14:6). Apart from Him there is no other (Isaiah 45:6).

God alone is existential, eternal, and unchangeable. It is a powerful thing to realize that this God, this all knowing, all being, never changing God is not swayed by the things of man or enemies of Christ. And not only that He has this steadfast nature, but that He cares for us. Despite all the things He made, He chooses to love us the most. And chose to allow us alone, sinful and flawed as we are, to bear His image (Genesis 1:27). This is a privilege, friend. I encourage you to boldly walk in the truth that the Great I AM will never change in His love for you today.

Unchanging God

How does knowing that God could not love you any more or any less than He does right this second make you feel? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!

* http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/kingsley/god_the_great_i_am.htm

When God Calls Us and We Aren’t Ready

When God Calls Us and We Aren’t Ready

Living in the adrenaline rush of the Holy Spirit seems to be a trend in my life lately. Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely wonderful and something I have prayed for years about. I have always wanted to live a life that was so dependent on the Spirit that it seemed He never stopped moving in my life. This was a bold prayer, and I knew it every time I prayed it. I prayed for this because I wanted my faith to abound from experiencing Him so personally there would never be a doubt in my mind that God is real, God is here, and God is good. Well friends, for over the last year He has very clearly made it known to me that He in fact heard my prayers. He has pushed me out of my comfort zone, in ways that felt more like I was being pushed off a cliff. He has challenged what I believe at my core to shake away anything that might hinder me from experiencing and understanding the fullness of the Gospel, stripping away any pride or legalism hiding in my heart. He has asked things of me and my family that make the story of Peter being called out to walk on water extremely relatable. Things that make you ask at the end of the day more often than not, “What on earth just happened, is happening, or could happen?

Daily life has become an adventure, and I love it. However, it has also revealed significant weaknesses in me that make all of these things and all of this personal and spiritual growth very hard. I am finding that my tendency to feel overwhelmed is a major factor that distracts me from keeping my eyes on what Jesus is asking me to do, and I begin to sink in the water I have been called out upon. When I think of all the things God is doing in my life and asking of me my first thought is, “YES! Let’s do this!” My second thought immediately following is, “Wait, what? Does He know who He is talking to? He talks to a lot of people 24/7, maybe he just thought he was talking to someone who is more qualified. Someone who doesn’t have two tiny humans to teach how to be people. Someone who is much more intelligent. Someone who is older and has the wisdom that comes with years of life and experiences.” This sounds silly as I write this, but this is the process my mind goes through almost every time He begins to move in my heart or in my life. 

In the midst of a crazy day just a few weeks ago, God revealed something wonderful and amazing, yet potentially challenging (again) for our family. You see, our family is in vocational ministry and this often leads to big changes in our lives frequently. These challenges can be personal such as struggles to balance family life with work or the things we feel we are being called to do. It could also be spiritual, such as conviction to be more intentional about our own private relationships with Christ, or something else entirely that has more to do with how God is growing and moving our church. I was reading my Bible and came across Romans 9:17. “For this very purpose I have RAISED YOU UP that  I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (emphasis mine)

In that one single moment, it was as if God reached down and chiseled again on my heart, molding it to look a little more like His (this usually happens daily, and is mostly painful, in all honesty). I was reminded that my very weaknesses are exactly why God has asked this of me. We are exactly where God has placed us, and he longs to show up and do big things because honestly, people are going to know it just had to be God because of the vessels he chooses to use as instruments (2 Timothy 2:21).

Calling

I love the instance in the book of Acts when God tells one of His followers that Paul was one of His chosen instruments (Acts 9:15), even though literally a day or two before he was the one murdering believers, simply because they claimed to know Jesus. This is the God we serve. This is His plan for us. To use us despite our sinful flesh and unfaithful hearts, so that HIS NAME might be proclaimed in all the earth. That people may know Him. Let’s be those broken vessels for His glory.