on the promises of growth and green fields.

You can find this post at it’s original home, and other favorite place to hang out on cyberspace, The Rising! 

big thanks to Phil Frigon for letting me use his stunning photos! 


Every spring in the Flint Hills of Kansas, when wind is unusually slow and the promise of summer introduces itself once again with each evening growing longer, the farmers burn their fields.

To someone traveling from either coast, it is both brilliant and mystifying. The smoke-filled sky at times would warrant for shelter. The smell would send you packing. Either it would look unsafe or it would be chalked up to Midwestern madness.

In all seriousness, though, it is an annual event and it is crucial to the health of our land.

The burnings are preventative and protective. Like a pruning. It helps to keep destructive growths from invading the invaluable prairies and reproductive fields.

I remember, just a few weeks ago, I was on my evening commute observing the fires around me on each side. I whispered with a smile, “It’s all going to be green soon.”

The fields were charred black, smoke filled the air, and I saw the promise of growth.

When I look at my own life, I usually see regression before I optimistically claim victory.

Consequently, every spring I usually fight a hard spiritual fight due to lack of focus, my increased desire to sleep for as many hours as I possibly can, and because of laziness in my quiet times. I mistake pruning for destruction, bad days for a bad life, and spiritual dry spells are wrongly defined in my heart as a withdrawal from the Father.

Job didn’t do this. In Job chapter 1, Satan has asked if he can try to divert Job’s faithfulness. He believes that Job only loves the Lord and lives righteously because he has had a good life. Therefore, he has in mind to make Job curse God’s name. Step one of the process has begun. Job’s whole family has been killed and his property had been stripped away. The evil one wanted and expected Job to curse God’s name, but instead he blesses it. After he had lost what some would call his entire life, this is how Job responds:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

— JOB 1:20-22

He fell on the ground and worshiped.

Job could have chosen to tear his robe, fallen to the ground, and given up entirely. But he chose worship. He did not ignore his grief, numb his grief, or live in denial. He saw the reality of his surroundings and still chose a godly rhythm of grief and trust.

Because of the fields in Kansas and Job’s riveting example, we know that living a God-glorifying life is not stitched together by good intentions. I don’t find the presence of God by ignoring His Word, by staying closer to my phone than my prayers, by covering up hurts with busyness. Living life with bare-minimum risks means that we reap bare-minimum harvests.

“If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface, I must be ploughed and re-sown.

Hand over your whole self. Your whole broken self. Given-ness. Because this is far easier than pretending to be whole and not broken. . . .The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it’s going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface.”

— ANN VOSKAMP, THE BROKEN WAY

What you and I must do is be proactive. Ask God to test our hearts with fire for things that will hinder the growth of His kingdom. We open our Bibles when we don’t feel like it and ask Him to show up. Because when we ask for more of Him, He never says no. Instead of slapping clichés on our wounds, we tear our clothes and expose the wound, so that His wounds touch our own. We can look great darkness in the face, because we know the Light is always near. The call of the Christian is not to always be happy about our life – but to keep walking daily with our God, trusting in His promise of joy and the fullness of life, in the midst of it all.  If our faith is a faith that only believes in the fruit we can see, it isn’t faith at all. Because what looks like destruction can be a resurrection of our hearts, our lives, our land. What may look like nothing on the surface, is new life being rooted in the ground. A pruning that is making all things better than before.

I’m praying that God would give us that same rhythm of grief and trust. I am praying and I am taking action steps. So that when winter seems like it is never leaving, we can look at the horizon and say, “My help is coming. It’s all going to be green soon.” On days when we don’t see the victory, instead of running away in fear we can bless the name of God with quiet trust. When we look at near-destruction we say, “He is making all things new.” And when we feel the aches ravaging on our own heart we have the hope to say, “He is here, even now.”

Because the storms will come – Oh God, let us fall on the ground and worship. We don’t want to ignore You, deny You, or curse You. We are here. We are not submitting to mediocrity in our Christianity – we want more of Christ. We are waiting expectantly on Your Presence to do something remarkable with these ruins. We acknowledge that we are not the point, we never have been. Ours is the victory, not all the answers. When we see charred black seasons in our lives, help us remember you are preparing a life worth waiting for in the tension. Let our lives be a set of praise hands toward heaven – You give. You take. Keep our palms wide open in worship.

 

335010_259231997440916_267393_o

a letter to the wanderer. 

Hey there, wanderer.  
I call you a wanderer because that something that binds my heart with yours. We both know what it’s like to walk away from all that is holy and come back with empty arms and hearts. It’s something that breaks my heart over yours. I wish that you would look up from the mire where you are living, remember that your name is beloved, and come home.
When I think about you, my friend, I think about Peter. When I look at myself, I find him in my own heart, too.
Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. Leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter told the Lord that he would never deny Him. Jesus was under trial for blaspheming God — by people that were blaspheming in His earthly face. Jesus knew the truth in Peter’s heart and told him that before a rooster crowed two times, Peter would deny Jesus three specific times.

True to Jesus’ word, that is exactly what happened. Two separate groups of people asked Peter if he was associated with this Jesus on this night, and three times Peter said that he did not even know of the man these people were questioning him for. Peter denied the man he had seen transfigured in glory, seen feed the thousands, he heard the joyful shouts of blind men healed.
Instead of again denying Him, again let us praise the name of Jesus.

As recorded in Mark 14:72, “And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he [Peter] broke down and wept.”
After Peter denied Christ, He died and there was despair for three whole days. Three days of Peter grieving his sin and wondering if he could ever be redeemed. Three days of righteous weariness.

Let us break down and weep over the areas in our lives that don’t shout the name of Jesus.

When Jesus had risen, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then a small group of disciples, and soon follows: seven disciples including Peter. Jesus approaches them on the beach. The seven disciples were fishing, and similar to when Jesus first called them, He instructs them on where to drop their nets in order to catch more fish. When they followed His instruction, the net was so heavy they could not hold up the abundance on their own. One of the seven exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” (See John 21:7)

Days led under our own leadership become void. Walking with Him? Our nets and our hearts break from not being able to hold all this abundance.
When Peter realized it was the Lord, he grabbed his tunic and jumped in the sea swimming straight towards Jesus.

No matter where you have been lately, you don’t have to be afraid to jump all in to your Redeemer.

Today, I urge you, I urge all of us – jump off the boat and swim towards your Redeemer. We’ve got to be okay with looking ridiculous if we are to make our lives about this ridiculous love. 

He is waiting on the shore. He will sit with us over a handmade feast. His message to us is clear: Wanderer, if you love Me, if you truly love Me back? Show me. Feed my sheep and keep them close to Me. Point them to the love we have. Walk with me. We’ll start here, and I won’t be leaving you alone in the gory and glorious fight.
* * * 

I would just love it if you dropped by to read the rest of this post HERE @ The Rising!

saying yes to being eternally set free

[post originally published at my favorite home-away-from-home, The Rising.]

What does freedom in Christ mean? If I am free, then why is it not okay to do whatever I feel like doing? If freedom doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want, then what is it for?

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

the secret to finding holy rest

In 2 Chronicles, there are two battles that are told side by side that note two important components of the Christian life. We can’t afford to only see each of them individually, but to open the eyes of our hearts to both of them in order to more fully see the truth of who we are to be.

2 Chronicles 18 describes the king of Israel, Ahab at the time, fighting in the midst of everything with his army, disguised so that no one would recognize him from the others, considering the whole army of Syria had been ordered to only be after him. The army of Syria thought Jehoshaphat was king of Israel (instead of king of Judah) and fought against him. In the midst of the fight, Jehoshaphat cried out. It says in verse 31: “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; God drew them away from him.” They realized he was not indeed Ahab and soon scattered. When the story seemed to be looking up, Ahab was struck and immediately realized his fate, asking to be taken off the battlefield. The battle did not cease. He listened and watched the battle, “propped up in his chariot”, and “at sunset he died”. I It was a battle where the army was pulled together to fight hard and fearlessly. Afterward, King Jehoshaphat returned to Judah.

Later in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat is once again heading to a discouraging battle and calling out to God, humbling himself at the thought of battle: “In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you…. For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (verses 6,12). God answers Jehoshaphat in verse 17: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

There are two kinds of battle we face in our daily walks: the ones we fight until we are dog-tired and bloody, confused at the ending but surrendering it all to the Lord and the ones we watch and wait with belief for our deliverance.

There is one thing that is required of us in every single type of battle, regardless of what it’s for, whether we will be doing the fighting or God will completely take care of us without our interruptions:

We are always, always called to show up.

 We are commanded to stand firm, to hold our position, to remain unafraid regardless of what we can see.

We don’t have to worry about the outcomes, but we still go out to meet the battle. Whether we fight hard or watch for the Lord, in both situations we call upon the Lord to move.

We can’t stand firm in how we want to see the battle becoming, but we can stand firm in the promises of God. That He has got us. We don’t have to fight, love, walk, win, forgive, or surrender alone.

What does standing firm accomplish? As we see in 2 Chronicles 20:29-30, “…The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.”

When we stand firm we can be confident that people will take note. And whether we are the destination or a stepping stone on the way to this realization, people will know that something as amazing as a battle lived like that can only come from God. They will see that even when you didn’t know what to do, your eyes were on Him.

Your battles, beloved? I know that they are tantalizing. Confusing. They make you want to stay home and face your back to them. But the focus is not on the success of your battle, but a dependence on God that lead the nations to see His face. When you get on your face before the LORD, call for help, and stand firm in the promises of God? Overwhelming armies are exchanged for rest all around. Rest is not found in laziness, but reliance. Rest isn’t in numbing yourself away from your one life, but from embracing what God has for you in all that lays ahead. Your battles are complex. Show up to them anyway. Stand firm in the hope of your God being with you. Maybe your battle won’t recede, but your holy rest is coming.

[ visit my friends @ Walk In Love & find my Stand Firm sweatshirt here! ]

dear Church, it is our time to rise.

If you are weary from the all political talk, if you are afraid for the unborn and for the refugee, for safe places to land, the respect of women and the integrity of men, for the unity of the church, if you are gasping for steady breaths in a panicked world – you are in the right place. Our editor, Rachel Dawson, posed this question on Twitter last week and it affirmed everything I was feeling:

“Daily battling the desire to disconnect from the Internet entirely (it’s hard, heavy, etc) … but don’t want to be ignorant/unaware either. How do we live in this tension well?”

The internet can be a place of abundant kingdom work. But the evil one wants to distort anything that can be used for the glory of God, and I believe that he is using it as a tool of distraction and division today. If we are not careful, it consumes us. Because this is the truth: if there are a thousand voices shouting in our minds about the core of who we are and precisely how we should think, we just might miss the voice of God. As with anything in life, we should know who we are and what our mission is before we say hundreds of accidental yeses as we scroll through a list of both fruitful teachings and faulty doctrines.

If we are not careful, this confusion replaces the people sitting elbow-to-elbow with us. It eats up too much of our valuable time. For some, this means cutting out the internet entirely and reading a newspaper. For others, perhaps for most of us, this means reality checks. Self-control. Intentionality.

R E S E T

The evil one is here, and he wants to divide. Distract. In order for us to thrive in these times instead of retract, we have serious work to do. It starts simply and with us as individuals. We have to strip down every living day and teach the gospel to ourselves. If I am not in touch with the weight of my sin and the freedom from my oppression, then how am I able to make a difference? If I am not grounded in the truth of love, how will I ever be more than another clanging gate, joining the noise of millions?

R I S E

There is a war going on against everything holy. We have received the Good News of Jesus Christ. Man cannot touch or pluck away from God all that is His. We cannot splash an iota of darkness on it or throw more light on top of it. But evil can distort how the Gospel is perceived, touched, and spread. In order to protect the church, the ones saved and the ones to be saved, we have to fight. Let it be known, friend, that we don’t walk into this battle unarmed and unprepared. Whether it is on the internet, in our own homes, or in our cities, Christ has enabled us with everything we need to walk this out into completion.

Christian,

You have a belt of truth that holds everything together. Your words are not your own, you don’t sustain the whole world on your shoulders: God does. Walk in what you know confidently and seek His Spirit to give you wisdom where you do not.

You have a breastplate of righteousness that justifies you and cannot change your name from Chosen to Taken. You are covered in the blood of Christ. You belong.

You own a shield of faith that negates everything – not just some things, but all things – the evil one throws your direction.

You hold a helmet of salvation that secures you. It protects you from doubt.

You’ve got a sword from the Spirit that can slay. The Word of God is meant for our life, peace, but it is also created for our strength and protection.

Oh yeah, and those shoes for your feet? You have sandals that scatter peace everywhere you tread on the earth. You don’t have to walk afraid. You can run with readiness, eager to shed the light you’ve got.

(Adapted from Ephesians 6.)

I am saddened, grieved by the events in our nation. But may I say something bold, something that might shake a few heads? This makes me excited for the church. We have an opportunity here to rise up. It starts with living our one life with integrity, generously giving, always praising and reaching out. Stay faithful with the little things and God will use you in big ways. What sign will we hold above our heads in bold protest? Will we hold up condemnation for either side? Or will we consistently be the evil-slayers, water-givers, bread-breakers, and peace-makers everywhere? Maybe, just now, I finally understand what be the rising means?

R E C O N C I L E

Ephesians 1:13-16 says it likes this: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

If Jesus was so passionate about reconciliation that He gave His life and threw the world in a glorious upside-down motion for the sake of our unity in Him, shouldn’t I dedicate my life towards that same mission? We get to choose what we will be known for. You have to chance to redeem how the church will be seen today. Will they know more about what we are for (light, love, unity, forgiveness) or what we are against (politically, personally, in condemnation)? There will be people you disagree with at every turn. Instead of causing a division with our debates, let’s create conversations. Instead of choosing comfortable silence, speak up in the face of evil. We don’t all know all the answers. If one of us claims to understand everything going on underneath the sun, isn’t that clothing yourself with a kind of arrogance? The way forward to unity during division is through research and spurring each other on further into the love of Christ. If you are in Christ, we must love our brothers and sisters and strive for unity. Be kind, always and with no exceptions. Keep your mind open, while holding your convictions strong. (It’s possible.) Test everything according to God’s Word and at the end of the day change your mind or proclaim your belief more confidently. Will we be known for taking sides and abusing our neighbor? Or will we be known for bold love and mending fences? Will we use the armor of God that is drenched with hope and truth? Or will we stand by the empty promises of man that reap our own destruction?

You are making an impact. Wherever you are, however you are exercising your influence – you’ve got it. However small it may seem, you are called to steward what you have well. Rest secure because in the Spirit, you have a full suit of armor that will withhold you along the way.

“The church of the present – comprised of every Christian on planet Earth – has a rock-solid foundation but it doesn’t have walls. It’s not meant to. It is made up of porous skin. We will have to labor hard and break a sweat sometimes to keep from absorbing the brutality of a culture in love with itself.” — Beth Moore, Entrusted

So wherever you tread today, let it be all be about peace, grace, and justice. May we fight unapologetically for the sake of the Gospel, know that revival starts in our hearts, and that by arming ourselves to be the rising we might continue a holy revolution to the glory of our Father.

 

See this original post where it was born at my home away from home, The Rising.

the broken way: a playlist of hope & remembering

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp has been a powerful catalyst in my life since I first opened one of my first launch team e-mails in September 2016 and started scrolling through chapter one, to highlighting on my Mac late into the night so that I could finish the book before I met Ann herself, to present day: rereading my physical copy as it is already showing signs of use and love. This book has shown me that I don’t have to afraid of my brokenness, because through my weakest places God can reveal His power to the world in a way that He couldn’t if I would live my days as a put-together-always-smiling-actress. That maybe the hurt I despise could lead to intimate communion. That I can give freely and confidently, because I am loved deeply. You can find my full review on the book here: daring to live the broken & cruciform way.  Visit TheBrokenWay.com for the moving trailer, free printables, all the best reviews, and a direct link to getting a copy all your own.

The hard truth? Sometimes I am so weak that I don’t feel like I could bear the weight of a page, my own or someone else’s. On other days, I am on the go either working at my computer or commuting several hours a day roundtrip. No matter where I find myself on that spectrum, I still always need to be reminding myself of the truth that Ann pens simply and poetically: “You’re guilty, but not condemned. You’re busted up, but believed in. You’re broken, but beloved.” That reminder could come in prayer, gift-blitzing, the ministry of presence, practically a thousand ways… but one way that I have found extremely healing for my soul is in music. Perhaps you need to remember the truth of who you are, too?

I am about to kick off The Broken Way study with over a dozen women in my community tomorrow night. I made a playlist brimmed full of melodies and lyrics that resound the message of The Broken Way for them, and for you. The lyrics hold stories of heartache and resurrection, redemption and true community from artists like Jason Gray, Kari Jobe, Lecrae, and Tenth Avenue North.

Take a scroll and listen while you kick off this brand new semester, do the dishes, drive to that presentation, or go pick up the kids from school. Exhale. Grab some hope and light. Bookmark it, tuck the words away in your heart, and save it for a rainy day. I’ll do the same.

 

your 365 step guide to a powerful new year

Glory, hallelujah for January 1! How does it feel to be settling into a new chapter?

We are reaching nine full days in 2017. I don’t know about you, but the first week of the new year I believe that almost anything is possible. I can write the book. I can shed the weight. I could fall in love. I can start brand new. 

I hope that I will serve you all better and love you well in 2017. There are literally thousands of internet homes you could be visiting instead, and I don’t take it lightly that for even a shred of time I hold a piece of your valuable time and your heart. I want to make this space inviting, beautiful, and challenging (in all the best ways) for you all year long. I might be more quiet some months more than others, because this year holds big changes for me as well as time dedicated to a few nameless-for-now-Kingdom-rooted goals. But, I promise, you never leave my mind and you are one of my favorite places to land, to reflect, to grow in Christ’s love and instruction.

This year, I didn’t hold back on my goals. Last year, I set some worthy ambitions but never broke them down into attainable, daily steps. The truth is this: you don’t get a renewed mind without being in the Presence of God, a new body without putting something different in your mouth, and you don’t get a cleaner house by googling “cleaning strategy”.  I looked into the face of the things I want in my own life that I have the power to control and said, “This. This is your year.” I threw my excuses in the garbage. I began. I’ve started a vision board. I’ve processed through the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2016. I’ve made a plan of how I want to steward my time. When I stumble on the way, I stop playing victim and continue chasing. But here is the thing: beginnings feel sexy. It is exciting to feel the burn after your first post-holiday workout. It is thrilling to see the first few pounds shed during your first week of clean eats. It doesn’t feel daunting to dig into a project, the study, the semester when you have a bright idea of how it will all turn out. We all know and have experienced that change doesn’t last all year long on adrenaline alone. I won’t succeed with my ambitions this year until they become actions in my daily routine. You don’t become an avid prayer warrior by talking about it, you don’t get the date without asking for it. You’re never truly loved until your heart is exposed. You don’t get vibrant, bigger faith by playing it safe.

Good intentions? Ideas? Pinterest boards? They are home base. They are wonderful tools to keep you going! We kickstart from those spaces, but we don’t succeed until we choose the same thing every day when we get up in the morning. Do you want to know how to get the year you really want? The one you start itching for the day after Christmas? Make a choice. Make another choice. And keep making those choices 365 times. 

This is my urge, my push, my call to you as we plunge wholeheartedly into the new year:

“…Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-7

FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD

You have a gift unlike any other. It won’t blossom by itself. Fan that baby into flame! Pray over it, exercise it, feed your heart with truth, weed through the lies, and repeat! Sure, this year won’t go like you plan. Life will throw you curveballs and you might wonder what is worth all the inconvenience. You’ll get discouraged. But you know what is bigger than our daily anguish and disappointments? God’s love and majesty, grace and joy. If we live like we believe in those things, He will readjust our hearts, shape our manmade goals into God dreams, and mold our year into something so beautiful only He could do it. 

NOT OF FEAR

I know the main way that people try to run out the back door on their new year resolutions on January 15th, April 2nd, July 4th is through fear. I’m not good enough, I don’t have time, why does it even matter? You have to believe that you’ll have the strength to not stay the person you were the year before. That means you’ll experience joy and discomfort, both of which can be terrifying. Don’t dwell in what didn’t get done in 2016. Push. Let go of the weight of your own expectations and let God use you. Run. You are worth it. You belong here. 

OF POWER

If we are in Christ, we have the power of the living God who rose Jesus Christ from the bloody grave by his mighty grace inside of us.

The real question is, church, what can’t we do if we are battling on the side of the Father? Running after God dreams? Fighting the good fight of faith? Becoming a better temple for His Spirit to dwell? Seeking to glorify Him in all things?

OF LOVE

In our frailties and bitterness, the paradox of the human heart, God gives us the growth of lovingkindness. He gives us the love and we hand it right back to Him as a sacrifice when we reveal that kind of true love to the people under our roofs, in our circles, at our tables, across the street, and around the world. Because we have His power, we are able to minister His love with wider implications and a much deeper impact. What if love got a bigger name than chaos did in 2016? 

OF SELF-CONTROL

What do you need to say no to in order to say yes to the ministry God is awakening inside of you? A quiet, suffocating addiction? A relationship?  A responsibility that zaps life out of you? Brothers and sisters, He has given us the power to say no to things that don’t love us back, anything that keeps us from healthily furthering the gospel, and the love to make the tension of the decision worth it.

We’ve been commissioned to do shocking, tough, holy things. We weren’t given a spirit of laziness, of doubt, of unbelief. Power is yours. Love is yours. Self-control is yours.

What would you do if you were automatically promised a yes? Success? Being loved back? If you had never been burnt out? Start there and stay faithful.

In Jesus’ name, what will you accomplish?

 

 

five choices to turn this Christmas week upside down

See this post at it’s original home The Rising.

This week a lot of hurt is highlighted and identities are shaken. We say, “My love won’t be enough, I need to buy them a little something more. The house doesn’t look good enough, I need to get busy. This year wasn’t productive enough, I need to squeeze in tighter jeans and wake up earlier before January 1.” Or, “How do I look into the face of the people I’ve disappointed with love and how do I look in the mirror and not see failure? Loss took my sleep and my heart this year, how do I sing Joy To The World here when it is hardest to even breathe?”

This week has the potential to add to your weariness or it can make you clap in celebration. You can come to the stable humble or you can stay cold. You can beat yourself up or you can dare in hope. You are invited to make His love your home, but you can choose to remain in lies.

I ask you this – how do you want to remember this December? When you look back at this in the years to come, what do you want to see more than anything else?

As I think over that question for myself, these are the choices that I am carefully crafting and praying over these holy days.

choosing the better thing

When Jesus came to the house of Martha and Mary in the village he was visiting, Martha was whining that Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching and not helping her clean. Scripture says in Luke 10:40 that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” My heart understands Martha’s. I so often choose to clean up my act before I allow myself to sit with the Lord, but Jesus said this to Martha in her hustle and impatience:

“You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

— Luke 10:41-42

Our culture belittles soul-rest, let alone sitting at the feet of Jesus to simply listen. To admit our need and to come to sit at His feet. So what better way to make a stand for the kingdom of God then to choose time with Him over things that can be taken from us in an instant? It sounds crazy to our busy world that is distracted with productivity and independent, but our strength that comes from Christ alone is unmistakable and our time in the presence of God can never be stolen.

choosing forgiveness & gratefulness

God has awakened much in me lately, but I know for certain that He has moved me towards less anger, more forgiveness, and true gratefulness. It’s not easy, and the process is only beginning, but one step toward freedom is not a small thing. If in these next few days, we would acknowledge our hurt against others instead of lashing out in anger, what would happen? When it’s easier to choose judgment and bitterness, let’s choose pain and compassion. Let’s ask for the grace and the other-worldly strength. Let’s choose being hurt over being angry. It doesn’t sound normal, but God coming as a baby was not normal. It is upside down from everything we had expected. That is why it means everything to us.

choosing to come humbly to the stable

It’s the truth of our identity that we can’t live forever unless we are born again. The sweet thing, the overwhelming thing, about Jesus’ birth is that now it is made possible. When we come to the stinky stable in all our own grime and accept the wild truth of who this God-child is, we are adopted as beloved children. It all sounded crazy and impossible to a bunch of Jews who just knew that Mary must have committed a crime, but we know the truth that it was only the beginning of Christ baffling man’s expectations as He created the gospel story. Kristen Strong said it this way: “Wrapped in the swaddled bundle of a wee babe is a startling truth: sometimes God allows change in our lives so we can have his presence like never before.”

choosing to give generously

We have been given the best gift, and the only Gift that matters and eternally lasts. How much more should that encourage us to wrap joyfully, to deliver packages and joy? We have the chance to give generously year-round. What better way to open conversations about God’s grace and faithfulness than when we are giving gifts than during the curiosity of the world when it is Christmas? The chances are, you are going to give something in the days ahead: will you give Good News or stress? Will you give from necessity or out of love? It’s no trivial thing, shedding beauty wherever we tread. Will you be a little crazy with me? Do a touch of the unthinkable? Let’s not grumble in our to-dos… let’s make it simple (we have nothing to prove!), keep our thoughts grateful when plans get destroyed and homes get messy, and lavish love wrapped in bows and hugs with generous hearts! We have been given a Savior! How much more should the church be moved to give happily as a symbol of true love and forgiveness?

choosing to make the truth of God-with-us into a God-with-us party!

I know it sounds impossible. You are burnt out, and it is impossible to get it all done. You don’t have time to sit and pray, because the guest bed needs changing and the gifts need wrapping and your heart is bleeding. Do you want to know the gospel’s all-encompassing truth? The baby was born so that the veil could be torn. He is God-with-us. You can take Him with you. Take Him to the store, see the world under redemption’s light. Give Him a seat around your Christmas tree, and watch the glow on your family’s faces like never before. God-with-us sometimes means prayer rooms and silent corners, but God-with-us gives us the freedom to tap into His presence in the driving and eating and dancing. While half of the world feeds on greed, give Him your heart and your home. Ask Him to come and flourish in His birthday party. Ask Him to be in the unspoken disappointments and needs, the comfortable silences, and the loud noise of family.

Rejoice, oh church! We have a stable to celebrate in and a cross to confess beneath. Rejoice, because we have both places to crawl. You see, everything broken and restless and insecure in us comes alive and whole in a baby in Bethlehem. Everything that aches and is helpless – finds healing and hope. On that not-so-silent-night, all our lives shifted and had a chance. I am captivated by a God who carefully thought through how to come to this earth so that He could sympathize with us, save us, be with us.

Merry Christmas, friends. See you next year. 

Is America Blessed?

Is America blessed? In this post I do not plan on bashing the state of our country and I will clarify by saying that I do not take for granted the unexplainable gift of being born and raised in the country that I was. But when I look beyond the surface of materialism, I am anxious not only for the status of our country, but for the status of the church within our country.

I see comfortable Christians with high gates up around their hearts and around their homes. Is our community filled with more products than people? Are our routines built more around making money and staying busy rather than investing in relationships? Are we building our whole lives out of clumsy and temporary things? Or are the temporary places showing people our eternal hope?

Look at who Jesus says is blessed in the kingdom of God from “the Sermon on the Plain”: the poor, the hated, the sad, and the hungry. I am asking God to strip away my preconceived cultural context as I read this Scripture. Most things in the kingdom of God are upside down from our perspective. So in this moment I am asking God to allow us to see His upside down way as supreme and holy, as worth following.

“And he lifted his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.’”
— Luke 6:20-26

This time in our world calls for people who are living hungry for righteousness, those who weep with those around the world who are weeping, for those who stand up and out for the sake of the gospel. I see people who are satisfied and comfortable and superficially rich. Until we begin being blessed – embracing our DNA given by the Holy Spirit – and until we remember that this earth is temporal, our world will not be the changed for the better. It’s a paradox of kinds: the more we focus on the kingdom of God regardless of our cultural circumstances, the more our worlds improve as a fringe benefit of knowing Christ. Unless we become hungry, we won’t be filled. Unless we weep, we won’t experience laughter. Unless we make ourselves poor to the world and rich to Christ, we will have gained nothing.

In summary:

Examine yourself.
Change starts with you. If we want to see revival, we have to first show people what revival is. Ask yourself: am I hungry for more of God and less of this world? Am I compassionate? Am I standing out in the midst of darkness? Do I consider all less rubbish compared to loving and knowing God?

Focus on the eternal.
This world? I don’t have to point out how overwhelming it is and how it changes every day we wake up and scroll through the news. Although we must remain awake to our surroundings, we will not touch this world when we are always succumbed to the distractions it holds. When you are working hard down here, point people upward. When you are running your race, remind people of what the finish line is worth to you. When you seem like you are catching all the woes of this earth, remind your soul of who your Jesus calls blessed. When you seem crazy fighting hard against mediocrity and injustice, remind those around you of the God who is worth it all.

Blessed are the ones who are hungry and mourning and betrayed, for they trust the One who is unseen.

You can find this original post at my home-away-from-home, The Rising!

daring to live the broken & cruciform way

Let love break into you and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and give and hurt because this is the only way to live.

Today is the release date of The Broken Way! Maybe you’ve seen my feeds fill up with hashtagTheBrokenWay over the past few weeks and maybe you’ve heard the hype and you’re thinking, “What is the big deal with Ann Voskamp?” Maybe you don’t feel like you have time to sit down long enough to finish a book. OR, maybe you love living life over at Ann’s blog and you’ve been waiting patiently for this day! No matter what camp you rest in above, I am here to tell you that this book is worth your time, it is worth your energy, it lives up to the hype. 

To be honest, I open most Christian women’s books these days and don’t last more than a few chapters before I am bored. It is not that the messages aren’t true or good – it is just that I cannot relate beyond the surface. Thankfully, though, I am beginning to see this change. I believe that Ann Voskamp is one of the frontrunners in this category running bravely into deeper, modern, theologically-sound literature. Ann has a voice unlike any other, but she tells stories where we can all whisper quietly in relief with the book laying open on our laps saying, “Wow, I thought it was just me.” 

In The Broken Way, Ann asks questions like: “Why are we afraid of broken things?” How do you give when you feel like you have nothing left? How do you find abundance in the present instead of waiting for life to gift you more mightily in a far-off someday? Am I enough? Is all this heartache and suffering doing anything but accomplishing pain? What is love, the ministry of presence, and real community worth? How do you become real, how do you let yourself be loved? How do you become like Esther and break a thousand gates? How do you walk around joyful in Jesus and give generously when your heart is aching?  She answers all these questions and more with humility, a breathtaking vulnerability, as an encouraging and empowering friend. In the best of ways, you can’t read over these words without looking in the mirror at your own junk and asking God to make it all new.

The Broken Way isn’t so much a book of self-help to cure all ills, as much as it at every turn points you to the only One who can truly satisfy and give you enough abundance to reach out like the arms of Christ to love those all around you.

Would you take a moment and hear from Ann herself?

What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that’s behind every single aspect of our lives — and one that The Broken Way rises up to explore in the most unexpected ways.

This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers. For those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts. This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.

You could be one of them, one who believes freedom can be found not only beyond the fear and pain, but actually within it.

You could discover and trust this broken way — the way to not be afraid of broken things.

I could write longer, but there is only one thing to do, friends. Two things, really:

  1. Go to TheBrokenWay.com and get your hands on your own copy. I don’t write this as an ad, but prayerfully as an aid to your one, valuable life. 
  2. Open your heart – it will lead to shaking fists and brokenness, but it will also lead to real love and overflowing abundance. It is worth every ache, every step, every scar. Take the dare with me?