Is there a relationship in your life that you idolize, adore, or glorify? Often, the important relationships in our lives can slip into a place of worship without us even realizing it. The problem is that our identities are shaped by who we worship. So, when we worship another person, we actually become that person’s image of us.
“I’m just not sure if I see God as good. I see Him as holy but not necessarily kind.”
Someone said this to me a few days ago, and it immediately brought me back to my teenage years when I had the exact same thought. I was trying to read through the Old Testament, and I remember being so confused by God’s responses to His people. In Exodus, He responded to the Israelites’ grumblings in the wilderness with grace time after time. Then suddenly in Numbers, He responded to the exact same grumblings with curses and serpents.
I found myself wondering: Did He just run out of patience? Does that mean His grace for me also has limits? Why did He keep blessing Abraham and Moses, even though they made so many terrible choices, but then didn’t show that same continued grace to His people when they were wandering in the desert? Does He have favorites?
I have been so encouraged by my time in 1 John. I love all of the books written by John—he has a beautiful, poetic way of describing the love of God—and a key emphasis of this particular book is how to turn “loving one another” into a way of life. I have had a lot of people ask me what my time studying/reading His Word looks like. So, let me start by saying I am not an expert nor do I have a degree in anything pertaining to Biblical Studies. I’m just a girl who loves Jesus and loves spending time in God’s Word.
I’m not unaware of the spiritual war I’m in.I have strapped on my belt of truth, my breastplate of righteousness, my boots of peace, my shield of faith, and the helmet of my salvation…I’m not about to leave my sword behind.
I was recently reading in Proverbs 31, which praises the virtuous woman—both a picture of the perfect wife and a symbol of the bride of Jesus—and the Lord revealed to me that I am called to be more than just a virtuous bride: I am also meant to be a warring one.
The Hebrew word used to describe the bride in these verses (chayil) is most often used in connection with military prowess and depicts a wife who is a force of might, power, ability, efficiency, and righteousness; full of substance and integrity—with the strength of an army. The same word is used over 200 times throughout the Old Testament and depicts valor, or great courage in battle. It is frequently used to describe men and soldiers; however, in Proverbs, it is used to describe the bride. The church.
I pray that every single person reading this has an encounter with the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. I pray that it manifests as the miracles, signs, and wonders they have been praying for so that there is an opportunity to believe in a new and deeper way. Because that kind of encounter is what gives us access to the faith and courage it takes to forsake everything else as we surrender to Jesus. That kind of encounter is what gives a hurting and broken world a taste of kindness from a faithful God. So Lord, may we taste and see that You are good! May we bear witness to the resurrected Christ. May we shout to those around us that Jesus is alive and so, so worthy of our surrendered life.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned that one of the reasons Christians can come across as condescending or hypocritical is because we don’t want to share the dark parts of our testimony. The struggles with alcohol, drugs, addiction, mental health, anxiety, depression… The parts where we don’t have it all together.
But we can’t glorify Jesus unless we are willing to talk about what He’s delivered us from. Instead of preaching, “You need to fix this in your life,” we have to start with, “I’ve been there.” We have to make it personal. We have to be real and transparent with each other if we want to earn the right to speak into each other’s lives.
Early in our marriage, this quickly became my husband’s least favorite phrase. In the middle of an argument, he would tell me that I was misunderstanding what he was trying to say and I would respond with, “So what you’re saying is I’m stupid?”
We live in a world that leaves scars. We fight an enemy that leaves scars.
Sometimes our scars hold us back from the things we want to do and the people we want to be. It’s like we aren’t sure we are really whole.
Wholeness isn’t something we can see, and maybe we’re a little like Thomas. He said, “I want to see with my own eyes and touch with my own hands.” Maybe we’re holding our scars up to Jesus, saying, “I don’t see the healing! I want to be who you need me to be and do what you’ve called me to do—but what about these?”
Jesus answered Thomas the same way He answers us. With His scars.
In Leviticus, one of the main themes was the idea of clean vs unclean. Leviticus 11-15 used to overwhelm me with all of the lists of clean and unclean animals, illnesses, and discharges. For the most part, in this context, being clean or unclean directly related to holiness, and it was often something that was determined by priests. To be unclean meant that you had no access to God. No one could approach God in an unclean state. God is and was holy, so anything that came into His presence also needed to be holy.
Reading through the Old Testament several years ago, I remember being so confused by what felt like a bipolar God. In Exodus, He responded to the Israelites grumblings in the wilderness with grace over and over again. Then suddenly in Numbers, He responded to the exact same grumblings with curses and serpents. Did He just run out of patience with them? Did He decide after the golden calf that they weren’t good enough for His grace anymore? Did His grace for me also have limits?
In scripture, I always wondered why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Exodus 4:21 says, “The LORD said to Moses, When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” Throughout Exodus, it is repeatedly pointed out that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or that God hardened his heart. I read through the verses several times, because I couldn’t understand why God would actively keep someone from believing in Him. I assumed that to have a hardened heart was to rebel against God, and that hardened hearts belonged to unbelievers. Until God showed me my own.
A few months after the arrival of our little girl, my husband casually mentioned something he had been thinking about during his morning time with the Lord. The quote itself was powerful, but the timing of the quote—as a new mom—made it heartbreaking.
“You’ll never understand how much God loves you until you understand how much God loved Jesus.”
A few months ago, God started speaking to me about great faith and where it comes from. The message I want to share focuses on three men in scripture: Abraham, Elijah and Thomas. My mother-in-law laughed at me when I said that I wanted to talk about Thomas as a man of great faith, but he’s in the lineup all the same.
First let’s look at Abraham, or Abram at the time. In Genesis 15:7, God essentially promises Abram land and Abram responds by asking, “But how will I know for sure?” We know that Abram was a man of faith. In the very verse before this one, God told Abram that he would have a son and Abram believed the Lord because of his great faith, and it was counted as righteousness.
I am so incredibly thankful—for my family, for my friends, for my job—but I am also hurting. In this season of grief, God put three things on my heart that I hope might be helpful to others who are also hurting