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Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 12: Have Fear? Seek God.

As I sat down at my computer to craft this week’s blog post, I was torn about what to write about.

  • Do I talk about my recent gardening projects and use it as a metaphor for how God cultivates us to grow in Him?
  • Do I share about a moment that almost cost me my faith?
  • Do I pull back the curtain of my life and share about the events that led me to Christ?
  • Do I illustrate our inclination to manipulate and control our will and way using a funny story about my kids?

Those are certainly topics on my writing to-do list, I thought, but what struck me in that moment is the realization that we are always choosing which face to show each day.

Sometimes it is deeply personal. At others, we hold our heart close.

That’s, of course, with other people.

But are we that way with God? I would argue that we are. At least sometimes.

Yet, no matter what is going on in our lives, our attitudes and actions, whatever is on our hearts, should be readily offered on the alter of the Lord.

Through prayer, we can share our deepest hurts, our ugliest decisions, our self-serving motives, and our most unworthy human deficits.

Why? Because he truly cares for us.

I tell people often: God wants to hear from you.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10: 29-30 (ESV)

The pervasiveness of FEAR

One raw emotion that recurs throughout the Bible is Fear.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God promises us freedom from fear that arises in our daily lives.

The fear you experience — fear of losing a loved one, fear of losing income/job, fear of declining health, fear of unexpected news, fear of never meeting your potential — plagues even the faithful. And for some of you reading this, it surfaces almost daily. 

Whatever the fear, God promises to free us of it and what a great promise that is!

This freedom comes from trusting in God who protects and helps us.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV)

In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. Isaiah 54:14 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that perfect loves drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)

Indeed, as Christians, we are no longer slaves of fear, for Christ has given us not a spirit of timidity or to shrink back from the challenges life brings us, but a spirit to fight — a spirt of power, of love and of self-control, according to 2 Timothy 1:7.

An invitation to ‘not be afraid’

The expression “fear not,” which is also translated “do not fear” or “do not be afraid,” is an invitation to confidence and trust that God repeatedly offers His people. It is used at least 15 times in the Bible as an expression of comfort, in fact.

Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. Psalm 49:16 (ESV)

And now my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. Ruth 3: 11 (ESV)

It is clear from God’s Word, that he welcomes us to a life that is marked by transparency and raw emotion.

I referenced alters earlier.

Our spiritual ancestors used alters to offer the Lord sacrifices, but it also represents a proper worship of God.

When we offer this proper sacrifice to God — when we’re transformed in our actions and mind, and obedient to Christ — it is pleasing to Him. If our sacrifice is acceptable to God it is known to manifest blessings and covenant renewal in Exodus 20:24.

In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

When we doubt and feel the tremors that are brought on by an earthquake of fear, we can also call on the Lord and remember Him, who is readily available and brings us comfort and peace during our times of trouble.

Dear friend, surrender that which is plaguing you today. Take off the mask. Let down your guard. And let the Lord come to you with all his holiness and might.

What is plaguing you in this time of your life? How is it interfering with your proper worship of God?

Reference: Butler, Trent C. (1991) Holman Bible Dictionary, 481-482.

Bible Scriptures, Faith, Family, Uncategorized

Devotional 10: How to Raise Confident Kids

I am regularly asking parents about their child-rearing techniques.

It’s not that I think I’m bad at parenting, but I love gleaning parenting ideas from other moms, dads and other caregivers.

I understand that there is no one-sized-fits-all approach for raising kids.

But among the Christian parents I know, we all agree that the Bible holds the answers to our child-raising challenges.

Book Project on Raising Godly Kids

This is why I set out to write a book that encapsulated some of the best advice for raising godly girls in today’s world. I have a daughter and a son, but because my daughter is older, I thought I’d focus my research there.

I’ve interviewed several parents so far, and as you would expect, I’ve actually learned some tips that apply to both sexes.

There is a common thread among the parents I’ve interviewed, too.

And that is, we all tend to approach child-raising from the perspective of our own childhoods.

There may be some tweaks here and there.

For the most part, however, today’s parents tend to mirror their moderately “normal” childhoods. It is only in extreme situations and dysfunction do we see a major departure from our own parents’ child-raising styles.

For example:

If our parents spank, then we instituted corporal punishment (at least some version) as a form of discipline, too.

If our parents were diligent about teaching us the Bible or church attendance, then we also put an emphasis on the same as well.

If our parents tended to get angry and yell when they were upset, then, unfortunately, we will be more inclined to do the same with our own children.

You see the pattern.

No matter the good or the bad, it often gets passed down from generation to generation.

But, as a Jesus follower, it’s important we not base our parenting skills on experience alone.

That’s where the Bible is so critical to doing it the “right” way.

Notice that I didn’t say “perfect” way, because I don’t think there is necessarily a “perfect” way to raise a child.

But armed with scriptural references and a foundation based on pleasing God alone, I think we can get pretty close to perfection.

Planting Spiritual Seeds

The Bible references the planting of seeds, particularly the mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds) to suggest that something (in this case, faith) as small as an pen point can produce impressive outcomes.

When translating this metaphor to parenting, it holds a great deal of hope for us parents who trudge along, day in and day out, trying to raise our children the best way possible.

There was a 1950s movie called The Bad Seed about a little girl who was adopted.

Spoiler alert: The 8-year-old child killed another student and it was later revealed that her biological parent was a notorious serial killer. The storyline goes on to suggest that her murderous behavior was genetic and could not be reversed by “good parenting or a wholesome environment.”

I think Hollywood produced the movie to scare parents into subversively thinking that nothing can change a child.

Okaaaay. So maybe the intent wasn’t so sinister. Perhaps it was only meant to be a blockbuster of a psychological thriller.

Nonetheless, I want to let you know that according to my Bible, I beg to differ with the notion that a child (and an adult, for that matter) is incapable of change.

Generations were eternally re-directed because of Jesus Christ. Individuals whose ancestors believed in less inferior gods since the Old Testament, put away their ancestors’ beliefs and unrighteous behaviors when they put their trust in Jesus.

And so it is with you, dear parent.

It doesn’t matter what your past looked like.

What matters is the choice you make today — and every day, for that matter — in your decisions made regard to parenting.

Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed and that one’s faith as small as it can move mountains. That’s an incredible promise!

Faith & Parenting Go Hand-in-Hand

Where does your faith stand today?

If you believe godly parenting methods will produce “good fruit” down the road, no matter how small the effort, then it is your faith that brings that desire to fruition.

The Apostle Paul used another seed metaphor to describe how another person’s faith can grow.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

Indeed, it is ultimately God who will make the seeds we plant in our children right now, to grow.

As a parent, we have the opportunity to plant seeds. Every. Single. Day.

And according to the Bible, planting seeds in children can happen just about anywhere:

  • In the car,
  • at home,
  • while you’re making pancakes in the morning,
  • while you’re helping out with homework after school,
  • as you sit in the passenger seat as your teenager practices her driving skills,
  • on the way to Grandma’s house, and
  • before saying good night.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV

To put something on your heart in Old Testament times, is similar to our modern version of taking something “to heart,” which means to commit to it with loyalty.

In other words, as parents, we are called to be committed to God’s Holy Scriptures and to teach them to our children, and to never give up on this endeavor.

If you keep at it, wisdom and moral principles in your children will prevail.

Three Primary Way to Grow Confident Kids

The Deuteronomy passage is specific enough, but here are some other practical ways to raise children who are confident in God, based on the Bible:

1. Pray for your children. Prayer takes faith, repetition and routine. Don’t give up on praying for your children, no matter how old they get or how wayward their lives may end up as adults, the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16 NIV).

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NIV

2. Ask God for wisdom in raising your children. God raised the most perfect son who ever lived: Jesus! How much more equipped is He to help you raise your own child? Ask the Lord for guidance as you determine the best methods for instilling righteous values in your children, and He will give you everything you need.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-6 NIV

3. Seek advice from other godly parents.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. Proverbs 20:18 NIV

At times, it will feel like we are waging war with our own kids, under our own roof. But have no fear. Seek perspective from parents who’ve “been there, done that.” As I suggested earlier in this post, parents of children with older kids and even peers are a great source of advice. When you’ve gone through something already, you tend to have a better sense of how to avoid missteps and what you could’ve done better. And most parents are more than willing to help you avoid their mistakes if you simply ask.

4. Don’t withhold discipline from your children. Kids need routine and they need to be told what to do and what not to do. Discipline is necessary to raise confident children because it establishes boundaries. Contrary to what popular thinking says, boundaries are actually a good thing for children.

Keep in mind that it is important to discipline children out of love, not when you’re angry.

When it comes from a place of love, discipline also shows our children that we are concerned about their wellbeing and their character development. Without correction, children inevitably grow up with no clear sense of direction.

According to scholars, the Egyptian “Instructions of Ankhsheshonq,” a priest who was imprisoned and wrote a set of instructions to his young son, points out that “the children of fools wander in the streets, but the children of the wise are at their parents’ sides.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be known as having children who are devoted to me and my husband and stick to our sides rather than those who “wander” the streets.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

5. Encourage their identity in Christ. Most children grow up with not necessarily a sense of their own identity in Christ. They lean more-so on their parent’s faith, rather than develop one of their own. To an extent, that’s okay and to be expected. But if we expect our faith will eventually “rub off” on them, then we are misguided and deceived.

It takes work to pour faith and righteous living into your children. It’s not something that just “happens.”

We can plant the seeds, however, by sharing how their identity is (or should be) rooted in Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.     1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1: 3-4 NIV

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 NIV

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

Remind your children that they are different, and that being different is okay.

Tell them they are “chosen,” a royal priesthood, holy, God’s “special possession,” etc.

Show them that their identify is not rooted in this world, but rather is already established by the One who made the world and everything in it!

What’s your advice? How do you raise righteous children? Please share your tips and scriptures in the comments section below!

Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 8: Has Your Love Grown Cold?

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold... Matthew 24:12

This was the scripture that led the discussion at a recent midweek service. It was a topic that immediately struck a cord because I had been thinking about disobedience and sin — the things that can separate us from God.

The scriptures and questions that followed probed my heart, and I’m sure others in the room.

They were the kind of questions that I think were meant to make you stop and think about whether you were in right standing with the Lord.

The pastor comfortingly urged us to explore the questions, honestly and with intentionality.

You see, what keeps us in communion with God is our heart. We can be doing and saying all the “right” things, the religious things, but if our heart’s not really focused on the Lord and His will for our lives, then it’s all just facade.

A heart for God follows the pattern of 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Indeed, there is an urgency to get right with God. You’re alarmed by unrighteous behavior. And you’re concerned that a misalignment with God leads to disconnection with Him.

For this reason, I want to share my notes with you from that night, in hopes that you, too, will allow your heart to be pierced.

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. It’s time to reclaim your First Love.

Let’s explore…

  1. If the Bible did a quick body scan of your thoughts and heart, would it register as ‘devoted’?
  2. When was the last time you had a deep dive in God’s word, the Holy Bible?
  3. When we read the Bible does it ‘read’ you back? The Word of God should be a mirror. James 1 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror.” In other words, are you letting the Bible change you, or are you walking away having no sense of your condition before God? Just like a woman checks her appearance before walking out the door, so should the Bible govern your attitudes and behaviors at all times and help you “course correct” before you get off track.
  4. Are you reading the Bible simply for information — or transformation?
  5. Don’t violate the boundaries that God has set for your protection, or you will succumb to evil desires. You will eventually lose your identity in Christ and start to reflect the world.
  6. Love grows cold when there is an increase in obscenity, debauchery, perversion, laziness, selfishness, pride, and disobedience to God’s Word.
  7. When there is an increase of man there is an decrease of God. In other words, if you’re constantly putting your needs and desires before God’s expect a lesser degree of holy living and God’s blessings to follow.
  8. When your spirituality is compromised, one’s love for God grows cold.
  9. Even as a self-proclaimed Christian/disciple of Christ, you can be physically present in church even though your heart has departed from God a while ago. Is your heart still aligned with pursuing righteousness?
  10. Is Satan ‘doing’ you in? Sin can make you feel weighed down, “spiritually fat,” and out of shape. According to John 10:10, the enemy’s only intent is on stealing, killing and destroying you. However, the good news is that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is here to give you life in abundance!
  11. Are you obedient?
  12. Do you weigh your life on a righteous scale? Or do you weigh your life on a worldly scale?
  13. Are you spiritually able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit? Or are you falling behind? What’s holding you back?
  14. What are some habits of Godly living? Daily time with God, meditation on the scriptures, exhibiting fruits of the Spirit, sharing your faith, etc.
  15. Is your spiritual life a bestseller?
  16. Do you add light or darkness in your relationships? Is your inner spirit dead or alive?

I certainly hope you have found these questions and insights into God’s word heart-probing and that they help you reach higher spiritual ground!

Any questions or insight on staying close to God despite the increased wickedness in the world? Weigh in in the comments section below. Remember this: There is always hope in Jesus Christ! So please don’t despair. Blessing to you, my friend!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith

Devotional 7: Does God Promise Us a ‘Good Life’?

The short answer is ‘no.’

God does not promise us a “good” life. But we can certainly offer Him a life that is “good,” by becoming a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing” to Him, according to Romans 12:1.


There’s one important thing you learn in journalism school and that is balanced reporting.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about answered prayers.

I shared how God was refining my character during a time of waiting, and how, eventually, God made a way for that prayer to be answered.

What I didn’t touch on is this: Your prayers won’t always get answered. And if they are answered, it may not be in the form you had hoped.

There’s a common misconception in the Christian community that God “wants” to bless us.

But is that true and, more importantly, is that biblical?

First of all, it’s important to distinguish what that word “bless” means. To one person it means material gain and to another it pertains to spiritual benefits, such as peace, eternal life with God, healing from past sin, comfort in times of trouble, etc.

That latter description would be more accurate.

Does God have plans to prosper you?

An often quoted scripture to espouse God’s desire for blessing is Jeremiah 29:11-14.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.

Taken out of context, this is a great feel-good scripture.

In America, we often make the mistake of translating this passage to mean we’ll get that bigger house and fancier car, or that we’ll rarely face a deadly sickness, or that we’ll land that next big career move, etc.

Thanks to the rampant “prosperity gospel” preached today, we are always at risk of applying scriptures to the superficial.

But, be assured of this, when God speaks He has something much bigger, more eternal, in mind: our salvation.

The Jeremiah promise can certainly be applied to modern-day believers, but it’s important to read the passage (or chapters) in its entirety.

The prophetic message was to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who continuously wandered away from the truth and worshiped other gods.

The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to tell the Israelites how they were royally messing up in the eyes of the Lord, and to turn from their wrongdoing — immediately, or else.

Have you ever outright resisted God’s commands?

The people of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel, whom Jeremiah is addressing in this passage, were an obstinate people, resisting God’s standard.

Still, the Lord cared for them. And God continually sent prophets to warn them when they forsook God in favor of a lesser, often handmade, deity.

Jeremiah described it best in chapter 25 verse 3:

For 23 years — from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon King of Judah until this very day — the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” (emphasis mine)

Did you catch the last part there?



God says to “turn,” “do not follow,” “do not provoke,” and “…then I will not harm you.”

There is a condition attached to God’s protection that is made clear in this passage before we even get to the promise that so many of us like to quote in Jeremiah 29.

What’s the lesson here?

Simply that, in order to apply Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (God’s protection from harm, spiritual prosperity and so on) to your present-day life, it’s imperative to also adhere to Jeremiah 25, which dictates a number of offenses on the part of the Israelites which we are susceptible to doing as well.

Therefore, if you want to slap the Jeremiah 29:11-14 bumper sticker to your life, go right ahead.

But be aware of the conditions, according to Jeremiah 25:

  1. Don’t ignore God. If you hear His voice, listen, pay attention and do what He says. Where do you “hear” God’s voice? In his Word, of course. The Holy Bible. Simply read it and apply it your life. While you’re at it, be careful not to cherry pick scriptures, but seek to understand a passage in context.
  2. Turn from your evil ways and practices. (For an overview of specific sins that can separate you from God’s protection, read Galatians 5: 19-21; Mark 7:20-22; Revelation 21:8; 2 Chronicles 33:6)
  3. Do not follow, serve or worship other gods. Other ‘gods’ include another lesser deity but it could mean yourself, a spouse/significant other, children, a celebrity, material possessions, profession/accolades, a t.v. show, etc. — anything or anyone that takes precedence in your life more than serving God.
  4. Do not provoke God to anger. Do a search for what may ‘provoke’ God and refer back to the scriptures on sins mentioned earlier. You’ll find that many acts in the Bible incited God’s anger, including casting spells, speaking to the dead, lack of worship, and sexual sins.

As the book of Jeremiah suggests, a “right” relationship with God — obedience to Him — must always precede any kind of blessing.

To live a “blessed” life, you can never go wrong by patterning your life after his son Jesus, who was without sin.

And that, my dear sisters, takes effort, not perfection.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced a time when repentance led to a spiritual or material blessing? Please share in the comments section below!

Devotionals, Faith, Family

Devotional 5: The Summer We Unintentionally Lived Minimally

2016 was the year we sold our first “family” home.

It was the house my husband and I brought our two children to after leaving the hospital. It was where we struggled financially to make ends meet after I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. It was also where I studied the Bible with a number of women, had house church with fellow disciples and prayed over countless situations.

But it was time for a change, preferably one that was a little bigger than the 2-bedroom, 1 bath, 800-square-foot row house our family had outgrown.

Like most life situations, this change did not come easy and was a long time coming.

After living in that home for nearly 8 years, we put our house on the market in August of 2016.

Though we got an offer the first week, we actually didn’t sell the house until the following year in June.

Because of the timing of the sell, we had to move into a hotel for a week as we waited to close on a house that we put an offer on. We put an offer on a house, but it appeared the seller was having second thoughts.

This is the part of the story where God’s sovereignty really shines.

That week of “homelessness” (I use that term lightly) turned into two weeks.

During this time, I started praying fervently. I told God about my hesitation in buying that particular house because it needed a lot of work. I let Him know that I didn’t feel right about it. Our goal was to move to a safer, more family-friendly neighborhood, I said, not to find ourselves in a situation that would frustrate us and lead to mounting debt in trying to modernize this fixer upper.

Finally, I asked and petitioned God to make it clear. Make it clear he did.

A day after that prayer, we got a call from our realtor saying the seller was withdrawing the contract because they found a better buyer.

God answers prayers, y’all!!

Minimalist life

The story doesn’t end there, however.

We proceeded to move from that hotel to another hotel. From one Airbnb to another Airbnb, and finally to a friend’s house and rental by the end of summer. We moved 9 times the summer of 2016!

We lived out of two suitcases during that entire time. We were living the Minimalist life!

Ironically, my kids were unfazed by all the moving. Quite frankly, if it were not for having to move so often, it was actually quite liberating not having a mortgage or utility bills.

I learned some things about myself during that time that has proved invaluable.

  1. I need a lot less “stuff” than I have. (This isn’t the first time I’ve lived with next to nothing in my possession, so this wasn’t especially new.)
  2. God wants to renew your faith during times of  wilderness (and bewilderment). When you’re not sure what’s happening, it’s a great time to simply be still.

As we were waiting for someone to buy our home, and as we looked to buy a new one ourselves, so many scenarios were playing through my mind. Doubt. Fear. Even a little bitterness.

Bible Application

Thankfully, I did a deep Bible study leading up to the Summer of 2016 that reminded me of God’s sovereignty during that time.

I studied the early days of the Israelites and their pilgrimage to the Promised Land, I see a God who is gracious and just, devoted and faithful — despite our lack of faith and obedience.

He desires dependence, trust and faith in Him — not faith in our ability to please Him.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV

Despite the uncertainty, I recalled times past.

God has never failed me. And I’m sure if you look back on your life, He has never failed you either.

As for me, I only needed to trust in Him and his divine purpose for my life, my family’s life.

As I surrendered, gradually at first, I began to rest in God’s holiness and grew confident in the direction he was ushering us in. I knew he wouldn’t leave us without a place to land.

I also knew that it was no coincidence that the offer on the original house we offered to purchase fell through!

We eventually did find our ideal home at the price point we could afford.

Do I need to say it again? God answers prayers, y’all!!

If you’re struggling in your faith, just remember what God has already brought you through. Live and walk in righteousness and obedience to Him, and he will give you rest.

“Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 NIV

Is God testing you? In what areas of your life do you need more faith and/or obedience? Share in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 4: Waiting on the Lord

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

When you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers, do you doubt or have faith?

Three years ago, I sat on a friend’s living room sofa on the verge of tears.

I felt stuck. I wanted out.

More specifically, I was growing weary of living in a two-bedroom, one bath house in a rough part of the city.

I wanted something better for our young family. But “better” was taking too long to get here.

My dear friend listened as I lamented. She offered some encouragement.

While it didn’t make things better right away, the talk did help me gain some perspective. And it gave me a chance to off-load some things that were weighing on my heart.

The epiphany: My lack of faith

It was around that time that I realized I was failing to trust in the Lord.

It had been 7 years since we moved into that house, when we thought we’d only be there for two.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith.

I started wondering if God didn’t want our family to move.

Is there something in my character that God wants to prune?, I thought.

Perhaps there’s someone here that he wants me to reach on His behalf, my mind wandered.

Or could it be that we’re just not ‘ready’ for that kind of blessing and responsibility? I asked quietly.

Over the next several months, I prayed. Studied the scriptures. And asked the Lord to show me where I was falling short.

He did, in fact, reveal some things that was darkening my heart and chipping away at my faith.

Once corrected, I saw the darkness lift.

My faith was restored.

Suddenly, I started to dream again.

Taking steps to receive the blessing.

With the Lord’s help, our family took steps that put us in a position to buy a new home.

But of all the things we did in preparation for the next stage, the most critical step was the clarifying moment when I repented of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that:

“[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In reading the gospels, it was evident that people lacking faith displeased Jesus, and dare I say, even disgusted him?

See Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31 and Luke 12:28.

Therefore, dear friends, I pray that wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you currently face, that you have faith in the midst of the difficulty.

James 1:6 NIV puts it plainly:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I don’t share this story to claim that simply repenting can lead to material blessings. That would be misguided and unspiritual. I share this story to show that there is often a direct relation between our circumstance and our faith and obedience to God.

So, what happened in the end?

How does my story end, you ask?

Well, I’m sitting here in a new home that is more spacious and, for the most part, considerably safer. And I praise God for revealing my shortcoming and allowing a chance to change courses.

It only took about two years from the day I sat on my friend’s couch for God to deliver an outcome I had once thought was so far out of reach.

Lessons learned?

Wait “expectantly” for the Lord, as Psalm 5:3 suggests. Trust that He hears your prayers and wants to refine you, and not necessarily to withhold from you. Don’t doubt.

I wonder what God will do in your life two years from now? Where in your life do you need to replace doubt with faith?

Christian Life, Faith, Prayer

Devotional 3: Let’s Get Real

One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. Steven Furtick

Seven months ago, we moved into a new home.

My husband came home and said one of his supervisors suggested he host a get-together at our house as a kick-off and team building effort. He immediately quipped, saying “I don’t have a big house. I don’t have much furniture. Have you seen what I drive? It’s a beat-up, 10 year-old Toyota Forerunner. People would not be impressed with our home.”

It’s not that he was opposed to hosting something, but he knew from this supervisor’s request that she assumed we lived in well-off. To an extent, we do. But probably not in a way that was percolating in her mind’s eye.

The fact of the matter is, there’s a tendency in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area to live up to other people’s expectations and to use an old phrase, “Keep up with the Jones’.”

I’ll be honest, that desire sometimes hits me, too. And I fight it. I fight it hard!

I’ve grown to appreciate and seek God’s approval over others. So if someone doesn’t appreciate my house for what it is? It doesn’t matter because it’s beautiful to me. (At least, that’s what I tell myself, even when I only half believe it.)

But I’ll be honest, the suggestion from my husband’s colleague did bring up some insecurities. And I wondered where my confidence truly lies.

Are you an effective witness for Christ online?

Like I said, I struggle with trying to give the appearance that I’ve got it all together and that my house, and my life, is picture perfect. But that wouldn’t be true. And when you think about it, what’s so wrong being imperfect, authentic and honest?

We live during a time where people, even Christians, crave attention, acquiring it through more “likes,” “followers,” and accolades. 

When did disciples of Jesus become such attention-seekers and spotlight hoggers? (Is that a word?)

It’s a tricky thing when you’re a Christian, too. Because there’s a temptation to play up your Christiandom. An update might read: “Wow. I’m so humbled to serve the poor today. #servingtheneedy”

Do humble people really need to announce on social networks what they’ve accomplished for the Lord?

I tell you, no. In fact, the Bible offers instructions on how to behave in situations such as this. Check this out:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… Matt. 6

If Jesus doesn’t want one hand to know what the other hand is doing, how much more would he disapprove of behavior that publicly showcases what are supposed to be humble acts of service?

When is it okay to ‘brag’?

Do you think there’s a way to share about these things without it being borderline or outright boastful? Perhaps.

How about inviting others to join you? What about sharing of a time when you weren’t so focused on other people, and because of Christ, you are able to help others today?

How about including scriptures on why it’s important to serve the poor? How about sharing about those acts of kindness as a way to persuade more people to follow Jesus, not follow you?

Let’s see what the Bible says about this…

But let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,
declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24 NIV

And again…

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV

I recently wrote about the work that I’ve put into our little fixer-upper of a house. And when I reflect on that work,  it keeps me humble.

It reminds me of what it means to be frugal and wise with the money the Lord has blessed us with. And it reminds me that your house doesn’t necessarily be a masterpiece and impeccably designed in order for it to be a “home.” That what really matters is the presence of love inside those walls.

Similarly, as Christians, we don’t have to be perfect, or appear perfect, to be an effective witness for Christ.

In fact, authenticity and humility should rule our hearts — not the prospect for more likes, followers and high-fives from others, the onlookers and lurkers of the internet (as tempting as they may be).

What about you? How are you an effective witness for Christ on social media and in life in general?

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

Faith, Family, Inspiration, Prayer

Devotional 2: God’s Hidden Messages

Now that my daughter, who recently turned 9, is tall enough to reach the mirror over the bathroom sink, she often spends extra minutes after her shower standing in the steam doodling on a foggy mirror. She writes messages attempting to make contact with anyone who will notice her scribbles, which can only be seen from a certain angle — a slant to the left and a slant to the right, usually.

Her most recent message appeared to be meant for my husband. I love you Daddy, she wrote.

I don’t think she realized it yet, but he recently replied back to her: I love you very much. Daddy

God often communicates in much the same way to his devoted daughters, doesn’t He?

He sends hidden messages to his daughter throughout the day, weeks, months and years, letting his devoted daughter know that she is seen, heard, worthy and loved by Him.

These divine messages, however, require a certain spiritual outlook in order to be seen. Much like the tilting of the head to decipher a note on the foggy mirror, you must angle yourself, rooted in scripture, to discover God’s notes of encouragement and admonishment.

Indeed, the messages aren’t always obvious; hence, why I call them ‘hidden.’ They are embedded in the holes and corners of life, indiscernible by the hurried and worried disciple.

The messages are delicately inscribed throughout the mundane, everyday routines of life, too. Much like the words composed on a foggy bathroom mirror. They can only be seen by the keen, discerning eye.

Do you hear His call?

In a whisper he calls out to her. His daughter need only listen and watch. Listen and watch.

It is the message of hope when you get word that your best friend’s cancer has gone into remission.

I hear your prayers, says the Lord.

It is the message of unconditional love, when your child tackles you from behind and with tightly wrapped arms says, ‘I love you, Mommy.’

As do I, says the King.

It is the message of wholeness when he binds up your wounds and mends your broken heart.

My arms are not too short to save, He proclaims.

His voice is also hidden in a message of grace, when you fall short of His glory but vow to walk in obedience next time, and the time after that.

I see you, God says, and I will stoop down from my heavenly throne to make you great.

Dear sister, God’s messages are nested in all sorts of places in your life. You need only wait in holy expectation.

It is a daughter’s resolve to reach the Holy One, connecting with Him through the messages of a righteous life lived — indeed, her devotion — that compels the Good Father to take notice, and to respond.

Whether in the Bible or in the nooks and crannies of your life, how is God speaking to you?

Prayer

Dear Lord, you are a good, good Father. Help me to have eyes to see and ears to hear when you are speaking to me. Teach me, O God, how to discern your whispers even when the world calls out in its loud, distracting voice. Give me the strength and resolve to be obedient to your call. And grant me peace and contentment as I walk with you all the days of my life.

Christian Life, Faith, Inspiration

Devotional 1: Fixer Upper

Several months ago, we moved into a new home.

The new home is definitely an upgrade from the two-bedroom, one bath, 800-square foot abode that we owned and resided for 8 years prior.

The new neighborhood is much quieter and safer, too.

But if I’m being honest. The new house is a bit of a fixer-upper, too. And it is not the kind of fixer-upper you’re going to see transformed in a 20-minute segment like that on Joanna and Chip’s HGTV hit show, Fixer Upper.

It’s the kind of house that you know is a bit of a fixer upper when you buy it, but vow to turn it into something beautiful later on. Much later on. Not in, like, two weeks. We’re talking over the course of two years (at least). Because let’s face it, renovations cost money and, like the old saying goes: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

To commence our renovation journey (remember, we’re in it for the long haul), I did several inexpensive DIY projects myself.

I stripped off the dingy, dirty carpet on the stairs. I pried out thousands of tiny, blood-thirsty carpet nails over the course of 8 months.

I sanded the stairs lightly, and then patched a number of holes and gaps with a white putty substance that dries and is paintable in minutes. Lastly, I slathered the stairs with three coats of white paint.

The tile floor was grungy, but in good shape. So I spent a number of days pouring caustic cleaner on it and letting it sit. When it started to bubble and fizz, I knew the dirt was loosening, and I’d scrub the grout lines and wipe away the grime.

I tell ya, those fumes nearly killed me, but I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed until the grout lines started to reveal their original hue.

In the kitchen, I painted the ceiling and walls, as well as put a fresh coat of paint on the surface of the cabinets. Endured more cleaning. And I installed a faux backsplash. (Please try not to judge me for my sink full of dirty dishes.)

In my haste to see the transformation come quickly, I ripped up the laminate wood floors in the dining room, hoping to find original hardwood floors underneath.

To my dismay, what appeared were run-of-the-mill subfloors. I had already discarded the laminate floor slabs, and so we are currently making do with our subfloors.

We’ll eventually purchase new hardwood floors and we plan to invest in a new dining table, but because moving is costly we are trying to be wise with our expenditures, not moving too hastily to buy a new ‘this’ and a new ‘that.’

As I’m making improvements around my new house, I can’t help but wonder if God sees me the same way — that I’m a little bit of a fixer upper, too, that needs some tender-loving care.

In fact, I really don’t need to wonder. Because I’m pretty certain He does. Psalm 139: 13 says that God “created my inmost being” and that He “knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Yes, my sisters, he is restoring me and making me whole once more. That which sin made dirty and unrecognizable from its original conception, He is making clean again.

I was 19 years old when God called me into this life called discipleship.

And since then, through character-building life events, He has chipped away at the faulty exterior and built in me a new way of thinking and patterns of righteous behavior.

With His skilled hand in my life, the good Lord continues to make me over, transforming my proverbial interior and exterior construction into, one glorious day, a sight to behold.

And just like my own home renovation project, this fixer upper called Emily, is still a work in progress.

How is the Lord still working on you?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 NIV

Prayer

Lord almighty, you are a righteous God who sees me in all of my mess and, yet, extends your hand to me with loving grace. I praise you for first creating me, and then making me whole and clean again through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. May I always answer your call to be made new from the inside-out, all the days of my life. Amen.