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Pain: The Undesired Gift

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Many times when we go through difficult seasons we ask the question “Why?” Why is this happening? Why me? Why now? Why this? In almost every case we don’t get the leisure of knowing why God is allowing us to experience pain or suffering, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. When you are going through a difficult time almost always there is something to learn. There is a way to grow from that experience. Think about it, plants need the rain to grow. We have to go through trials to grow in our faith.

Recently I learned about a man named Dr. Paul Brand. Dr. Brand is the one who discovered that leprosy was not a case of rotting flesh, but actually a lack of nerve endings. Because lepers have a lack of nerve endings they are oftentimes unaware that they have injured themselves and thus become maimed. This caused him to come to the conclusion that pain is necessary in life. In fact, he believed that pain is a gift. Does that sound like an oxymoron to you? When I think about gifts, pain is not one of the words I would associate with it. Gifts, good gifts, are supposed to bring joy to the receiver. Many times they are things that a person has asked for and desires to have. Pain isn’t something I think of wanting or desiring to have.

But pain is a necessary part of life. Even James wrote in the Bible, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

I have gone through some difficult times in my life in the past couple of years. There were times when I couldn’t see the light at the end. I was in the middle of a storm not knowing how long it would last or why I was going through it, but in that time I discovered my need to lean on God. Friends and family can give support, but only God is the true comforter and healer to our spirit. He is the one in whom we find our strength.

Even when life is great, I still need Him more than anything.

I learned that God allowed me to go through some pretty difficult times, so that I would learn to lean on him. I had become too used to only going to God when I really needed Him, not when life was easy and going great. God brought me there, so I would realize my own barrenness and how much I need Him every single day. Even when life is great, I still need Him more than anything.

I have grown closer to God more in the middle of storms in my life than in any other times because it is then when He is all I have left to cling to. Every time He has brought me to a difficult time, it has been to bring me closer to Him and to help me become stronger in my faith. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Being tested isn't fun and it's uncomfortable and at times unbearable, but like fire purifying gold, we have to go through struggles and difficulties to become stronger in our faith. In the end it is all worth it, even though at the time it may not feel like it.

And through our experience with suffering we are able to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 says, "He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ." Perhaps God is allowing you to experience suffering/pain, so that you can help someone. Perhaps it is to make you stronger, so you can do something He has planned for you. Whatever the reason, God is there with us the entire time. He knows our pain and He is there to comfort us and give us strength to make it through whatever difficult situation we may face.

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Speak It!

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In this life we are all too familiar with broken promises. It is because of this that it can be hard to trust that when God makes a promise to us He will fulfill it. We think in human terms, and thus we can begin to lack faith in God to make good on His promises. I have been studying lately the story of Abraham, and more specifically the promise God gave him that he would become the father of many nations.

We can learn something from Abraham’s life when it comes to the promises of God. God spoke that Abraham was the father of many nations before it even happened. He spoke life into something that did not even exist yet. He changed his name from Abram, which means, “exalted father” to Abraham, which means “father of many.” God literally spoke Abraham’s future into existence. He didn’t call him by what he currently was, but by what he was going to be.

In Romans 4:17 Paul is writing about Abraham becoming the father of many nations and it says in the Amplified version, “As it is written, I have made you the father of many nations. [He was appointed our father] in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed.

I love the last part of that verse! God speaks things that are not existent into existence, and they are the things that he has promised us. Look at how Genesis accounts the creation of the world. God spoke the universe into existence. He called Abram Abraham and he became the father of many nations. He caused a valley of dry bones to rise up from the dead (Ezekiel 37:1-10).

What are things God has promised for your life? What are dreams you have for the future? Speak them out loud. Thank God right now, in advance, for all the things he is going to do in your life. Thank him as though you have already received them. You have to speak in faith about such things.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Our words are powerful, so we must use them to speak life. We must claim the promises of God.

Here are some promises in Scripture: our God will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6), he will supply our every need (Philippians 4:19), all things will work for the good of those who love and serve him (Romans 8:28), He has promised us eternal life (John 10:27-28).

Live now in the promises God has given to us!

until next time
until next time

How to Get More Out of Life

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Most of us are pretty well acquainted with this verse. We are taught that the enemy only wants bad for our lives and God only desires good for our lives. Not only does God desire good for us, but also He desires to give us an abundance and overflowing of blessings. Yet, we find ourselves in debt or with severe anxiety or depression or lacking motivation to live a full life.

When Jesus said he came that we may have life and have it abundantly that meant more joy, peace, financial blessings, blessings in our relationships, blessings in our educational and career goals, blessings in our health, emotionally and physically, and on and on. Now that sounds like getting more out of life. If you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering how do I get in on this?

I have learned in my short yet still long 22 years of life that the more I dedicate my life to and give it back to God, the more He blesses me and the more I am living life out of abundance. Here are a few steps you can take to start getting more out of your life.

Spend time getting to know God

This may seem rudimentary and perhaps unrelated, but the more we spend time with God and the more we learn about Him, the more we see that He truly desires to give good things to His children (that’s us)! It says in Luke 12:29-32, “Don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

God is not some brooding deity in the Heaven’s looking down at us and laughing at our misfortunes. He is compassionate and loving and tender and full of mercy and grace. He so desires to have a relationship with us. He wants to know our deepest longings, and He longs to fulfill them. One thing that stuck out to me in that verse is that it says that it “gives the Father GREAT HAPPINESS to give you the Kingdom.” He doesn't do it out of obligation or because we deserve it. He blesses us because we are His children and He is a good Father.

Be content with what you have

Hebrews 13:5-6 in the Amplified version says, “Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support.” We have all heard that money itself is not the root of evil, but it is the love of money that causes ruin. No matter how much money and material possessions we gain in this life, none of it will come with us when we die. So don't put all your hope and happiness in things that are only temporary.

When we are always looking at things others have that we don’t have or always wanting the latest and best version of something it causes huge discontentment. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, let’s focus on what we do have, like perhaps a car that runs, or roof over your head, food, loving parents, a job, the ability to see, hear or breathe, a phone that works, a computer, clothes, running water, etc… I encourage you to sit down and write out a list of what you have and are thankful for and I bet that you will have a pretty long list. Focus on what you have and be content with what God has given you.

Remember and trust that God has promised to provide our every need.

Live less for yourself and more for others

This also helps with step number two I just talked about. When we focus on others and their needs we stop thinking about ourselves as much because out attention shifts from inward thinking (me, me, me) to outward. When we use our own gifting and talents for others we feel a sense of purpose because what we are doing is making a difference in others’ lives. Did you know that every day the decisions you make no matter how small they may seem are impacting those around you? Jon Foreman, the lead singer from Switchfoot said,

"Every day you’re alive you change the world. Even a lack of involvement is a decision with lasting ramifications. No matter who you are, your actions and thoughts every moment of every day have powerful implications for not only your life but the lives of those around you.”

So live your life for others. Find ways you can help those around you. Find ways to encourage others. Find ways to bless someone’s life. When you do, you are doing those things unto Jesus and He says that He will bless those who serve the least of those among us. Just give Matthew 25 a read and you’ll understand more.

When we give our lives over to God there is no telling what crazy, amazing things He will do through us. Remember that God finds complete JOY in blessing and giving us all that we need! So put your trust in Him and He will give you a life filled with more joy, peace, love, and hope than you could ever imagine!

until next time
until next time

Will He Ever Be Enough?

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We all have those places where we like to go to think and clear our heads right? Well one of those places for me, well actually activities, is mowing the lawn because it’s loud enough that it tunes out the noise around me. I spend most of my time while I’m mowing the lawn to pray. I know it sounds weird, but it works for me. Maybe you should try it.

Anyways, it was one of those days I had to mow the lawn and I was praying about my singleness asking God to give me patience and to enjoy where He has me now, instead of always longing for that ‘someday’ when I’ll meet that ‘someone’. I don't always feel this way. I'll go through seasons where I enjoy this time in my life where I get to be single, but then there are also times when my heart really longs to have someone to share life with. This desire and longing isn't a bad thing. It is how God made us, but sometimes my focus can get lost a little too easily. That is usually when God steps in and has to refocus my attention.

As I was praying and mowing the lawn He told me something that I will never forget.

He said, “If I am not enough for you, if you cannot be content with Me alone, you will never be content with any man on this earth.”

That pierced right through my heart.

In my prayers I ask, “God bring me a man who loves you, and if you could please hurry that would be great.” Or, “God, I’ve already waited so long, when will it be my turn to fall in love.” I can easily justify these requests, since I am 22 and have never been in an actually dating relationship with someone. Just because it may be His plan for someone else to be dating or getting married right now, it doesn't mean it is His plan for me right now. We get easily side tracked looking at other people's lives, but we need keep our eyes on our own path and where God is taking us. My desire is to one day be married to a man of God and serve alongside him for the glory of God, but that is not what God has for me in this season of life.

In my head I trust God to bring someone in His perfect timing, but sometimes my heart doesn’t follow as easily.

What God spoke clearly and directly to, was my heart’s desire, my desire to be loved completely and unconditionally. That desire can only be satisfied through God. I am not saying that we are incapable of loving to great extents. We are just not capable of loving to the extent that God can and the extent that we truly need. God made us relational people, and from the beginning of time He saw that it was not good for man to be alone. He understands us more than we probably understand ourselves because He made us. He wired our brains. He is the one who created emotions and desires. And He is the only one who knows how to love us the way we need it.

If my heart is not satisfied enough in God—enough that, IF I had to spend the rest of my life single, I would be content because I already have all I need in God—then even if I got married tomorrow to the man God has for me I would never be satisfied.

I would never be satisfied because I would be placing unrealistic expectations on my husband. I would be expecting him to love me the way only God can. I would be looking to him to fill me and complete me, always to get let down because he is human and not God. I sure wouldn’t want my husband to be looking to me to love him the way God does, and so I cannot expect the same from him.

So the journey starts with allowing God to fill that hole in your heart. Allowing Him to come into your heart and do some remodeling on it. Allowing Him to restore you. Allowing Him to pursue you and show you what it means to love and be loved. Allowing Him to become more than enough. So that whether you are single or dating or married you will always be content because you know that you are complete because the God who made the universe loves you with everything he has.

I encourage you to read this quote over a few times, say it out loud about yourself, and meditate on the magnitude of God's love for YOU. Think about the reality of what it means for God to love you MORE in a single MOMENT than ALL the lovers could in a LIFETIME.

god can love you more

until next time

Keep on Keepin' On

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  I remember one summer when I went to camp my mom bought a disposable camera for me, and said that I could use it to take pictures of my time there. I remember after coming home we took it to the local grocery store to get the film from the camera developed. I remember how I was so excited to see how the pictures turned out. The anticipation made seeing the pictures finally printed out even better. When I finally got to hold my pictures and remember that fun week at camp, it was like Christmas! Even though I had to wait to see if the pictures turned out, it was worth it because I was able to keep them as a memory of my week at camp.

Why am I telling you this story? Well, if you’re reading this you are probably well aware of the social media culture we live in, and probably actually are part of it.

Sure it is definitely awesome that I can now communicate with friends in another state or country in a matter of seconds. Instead of sending actual hand written letters that could take days to get to someone, we can just get on our computer or phone and talk with them instantly.

And it’s nice that when I need to research a certain topic all I have to do is type it into Google and hundreds to thousands of sources pop up, instead of having to go to a library and actually look through actual books to find information.

It’s even great now, that we can take a picture on our phone an instantly upload it to social media, versus when you used to have to take your film in to get it developed and wait a few days to see your pictures.

While all these things are great, it has placed in us the idea that everything we see, read, or listen to needs to happen instantly. If we have to wait too long for something to load we give up and move on because it didn’t play instantly.

This mindset has carried over into our prayer life as well. We ask God for something because we believe that He is a good God who answers prayer, but when nothing happens we wonder if He is actually up there listening to us.

It says in Matthew 7:7, Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Something I noticed as I was reading this is that "keep" is repeated at the beginning of each sentence. When someone says to keep doing something it means that we have already done it, and need to push on and keep on doing that same thing. Keep means to remain, to doing something repeatedly, to continue, to stay, to carry on doing, and to persist.

So Jesus is reminding us that just because God doesn’t always immediately give us what we ask for, it doesn’t mean He didn’t hear us. God is more than capable to give us what we ask for as soon as we ask, and in times He does that, but there are also many times when we have to wait. We have to keep on asking, and have faith and persistence that God will answer in His perfect timing and way. And this develops in us this beautiful thing called patience because we are reminded that not everything needs to happen instantly.

Sometimes God knows that we are not ready for what we ask for, so we have to wait. Sometimes we are not asking for something with the right heart, and so God is waiting for us to change our heart.

His telling us to “keep on” is an encouragement for us to not give up when we pray for something because in the next verse Jesus gives us a promise.

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

So when we keep on giving our requests to God, if they are in line with His heart and will, He promises to give us what we ask for. Everyone excludes no one, so that means that this promise is available to anyone who asks, seeks, and knocks with their whole heart!

So let this be a reminder to keep on believing for that healing, to keep on believing for that friend or family member you’ve been praying for to turn their life around, to keep on believing that God will provide your financial needs, to keep on believing that God will show you His will for your life, but it just may not be right away and it may be little by little. We have to keep on asking Him and going to Him alone, and not lose heart because God will come through!

The problem with phrases like, “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” & “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep”: Part 1

 
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We have all heard the campaigns for women young and old telling them that they shouldn’t have to dress a certain way or wear a ton of make-up or lose weight to “feel good” about themselves. I am all for encouraging women to be comfortable in their own skin and embracing the beauty that God gave them. However, there is just something about this view that is missing the mark. Even though we are bombarded with these messages, women are still left feeling like they are never quite there. The whole, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” spiel sounds great, and deep down we want to believe it, yet it’s still not enough for us women to feel content with our image.

I won’t really get into how the fact that culture has set an imperfect standard skews women and men’s view of beauty, because that would take too long, but be aware this does play a role in it.

I believe we are afraid to go deep, to get to what’s really keeping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful

I believe it goes deeper than that though. In fact, I believe we are afraid to go deep, to get to what’s really keeping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful. In order to explain fully why I don’t like those phrases, we need to understand WHY we feel like we aren’t beautiful just the way we are and WHY we believe that beauty is more about looks than what’s inside. That’s the reason these phrases even exist because somewhere along the way (way back to when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit) we stopped believing we were beautiful.

So here it is: the fact simply is, we are trying to measure ourselves against the world’s standard. Did you hear that, THE WORLD’S STANDARD, not God’s.

If we say we are Christians, then our approval cannot be found in anyone or anything of this world because we have been told to be set apart. Yet, we have found ourselves, ladies, measuring our beauty against others.

So when it comes down to it our self-image and esteem issues are rooted in the fact that we choose to measure our beauty by the world’s standards and not to see who we are in God’s eyes.

Now that we have that figured out we need to change our way of thinking because we have become wired to think the way the world does, and evaluate ourselves the way the world does.

When we look to the world to see what is beautiful all it really ends up doing is putting us down because we feel like we will never be good enough. For example, we may see ourselves as average or even feel pretty good about our appearance, but we say, “I will never be as stunning as so-and-so.” Comparison is indeed the thief of joy.

But when we look to God and what he sees as beautiful, we are left speechless and amazed by his grace. When he looks at us he sees us without blemish, his wonderful and beautiful creations. He sees us in our worst state and says we are beautiful because we are His. When we are confronted with how God sees us something inside changes and causes a transformation in our hearts.

When we are confronted with how God sees us something inside changes and causes a transformation in our hearts.

When we put all our time and attention into the world we will begin to look like it—a fallen and broken place, but when we shift our focus to God, we will begin to reflect his image—our perfect, gracious, loving, tenderhearted, and beautiful Creator.

Now, I hope to have helped you understand why, despite the fact that people tell us that beauty is more than skin deep, we still feel unbeautiful (yes, I just made up a word), and how changing our perspective is the first step to really seeing ourselves as beautiful. In Part 2 I will share why I think the phrases “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” and “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep” are hurting us more than helping us.

Want to read Part 2? Click here > Part 2

Feel Inadequate? God Wants to Use You

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“O Lord, I can’t speak for you. I’m too young!”

Have you ever said this?  Have you ever found yourself unqualified and inadequate to do the work of God?  These are the very words of the prophet Jeremiah.

In the story of Jeremiah we find a young man who is still dependent on his parents, called by God to be a prophet to the nations.  When Jeremiah says, he is too young he truly is, in society’s view.  He is a young man, not yet living on his own and able to support himself.

But God tells him, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.  Don’t be afraid of the people for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken! Jeremiah 1:7

The Bible is full a people unqualified to do God’s work, yet he still chooses them. I’m sure there were plenty of men who could speak well that God could’ve chosen, but he decided to pick Jeremiah.

How many times does God give you a heart or desire to reach someone, but you don’t do it because you feel unqualified? I know I sure have felt this way. This passage really struck me because there have been so many times when I chose to not do something because I felt like there was someone else who could do it better than me, or perhaps because I thought it was impossible for a young college student like me to tackle something so huge.

God doesn’t need someone who is smarter, more outgoing, prettier, has a great personality or someone who can lead people to Christ through their popularity or radical testimony. He doesn’t need any of that because God is above all of that.

But God says, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young.’”  He will use us no matter our deficiencies, let's be real, we all have them.  God doesn’t look at who we currently are.  He sees what we can be when we let Him take over.

God doesn’t need someone who is smarter, more outgoing, prettier, has a great personality or someone who can lead people to Christ through their popularity or radical testimony. He doesn’t need any of that because God is above all of that. He simply needs us to say, “Yes, God I will follow after you and go and do whatever you have called me to do.” He simply needs our obedience.

Maybe you’re one who knows that God has placed a calling on your life and you feel super unqualified. Maybe you don’t even know what God has called you to do, but you still feel unqualified to even be a witness for Christ because you’ve messed up so much.

The truth is, yes you are probably unqualified in human terms, but God doesn’t care about that. He took a boy still living with his parents and who could not speak well, and used him to prophecy to the people of Jerusalem.

We need to stop focusing on our own weaknesses and shortcomings and focus on what God is calling us to do because God wants to use you, you just have to be willing and trust in Him. 

Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

 

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