The Bench of Comparison is Not Where You Belong

aaron-birch-230237Have you ever imagined what God might want to do with you? I have, but struggled believing He would want to. After all, it’s me. The girl that rebelled against God, sinned to hurt Him, put my fist up to Him in anger, and ran hard to create distance between us. Therefore, part of my past with God caused me to wonder if He would ever want to use me for His glory.

My insecurities often caused me to stumble my way to the bench at the sidelines, watching God do with others what I dreamed He might do with me.

Are you familiar with the bench?

We compare ourselves with others when we are not in the game. We ask ourselves:

Why does she have the courage to do what she does and I don’t?

Why does God bless her and not me?

Why are doors of opportunity opening for her and not me?

Why does she hear from God so clearly and I can barely hear Him?

The enemy harasses us by leading us to think God is partial to others. But, God’s word tells us that He does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11 CSB)

The following truth rings true for you and me today:

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (1Peter 2:9-10 MSG)

Read that last truth again and let it soak in for a moment.

God did not save us from darkness for us to keep silent on the bench! We are His instruments meant to be used to tell others about Him and what He has done in our lives.

God desires to do much with us. With you! Yes, He wants our obedience, and yes, it will take faith that may make us uncomfortable, but we can trust God will empower us to accomplish His work. He is aware of our insecurities and wants us to be secure in Him.

Trusting that God can do in us what we cannot in ourselves causes us to stand up and dust ourselves off.

As His daughters, He will perform His purposed plan in us when we are fully surrendered to Him.

He then whispers to His daughter’s heart:

  • With you, I will make My name known.
  • With you, I will show My glory.
  • With you, I will set captives free.
  • With you, I will speak truths over the lies.
  • With you, I will be exalted.
  • With you, I will demonstrate that nothing is impossible with Me.

Friend, God wants to do with you what you cannot do on your own. He has rigged it so you would be dependent on Him to accomplish the dreams He seeded in your heart.

Sure, we will fall short from time to time in our walk with Him. But He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. (1 John 1:9) He is faithful when we are not faithful. (2 Timothy 2:13)

When we stumble let’s not reach for the bench on the sidelines pretending we need a time out from the game or that we deserve to be there. Let’s instead stumble into His arms renewing our strength; so, we may soar on wings like eagles; running and not becoming weary, not growing faint as we walk, Isaiah 40:31.

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Trusting The Lord To Have His Way Is Hard

amelia-bartlett-Country Rd“Have Your way Lord,” were the words I ended my prayer with as I rocked in my white rocking chair under the shade of my front porch. I was struggling with a direction God was leading me to take. I too often wrestle with God’s ways, and it is easy for me to question Him when the path He has for me seems difficult. Saying those four words at the end of my conversation with Him takes trusting Him.

Inner peace reigns within my soul when I willingly yield to His ways though.

It’s a serenity only the Peace-Giver can give.

We struggle with holding onto such serenity because the distractions that set us off track cause us to become frustrated, tired, and lose focus.

Maybe you try to have a quiet time with the Lord and your kids wake up at unpredicted times of the morning or, their naps are cut short.

Maybe you are on track with having God’s perspective at top of mind, and then a family member, friend, or co-worker’s actions rattle you. Your flesh takes over with a worldly perspective.

Maybe you’re headed to the doctor with a loved one with great confidence in the Lord to provide good news. As you listen to the prognosis, they are told that their quality of life will be changed from now on, and there is no hope in sight that things will get any better.

Alone time with the Lord, having God’s perspective, and confidence in Him offers inner peace. But let’s be honest and admit it is not easy to hold onto such serenity.

It takes intentionality to activate and maintain the peace already within us.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27 NASB)

As we experience the downs of life we must get back up again. We must refocus on what is true. We must strive to seek peace.

We must because this world will always try to detour our focus away from God and onto the struggle.

Knowing this means that we must willfully practice the truth we know.

We know that prayer is the instrument that draws us near to God. Having conversations with Him connect us to His heart. We learn to trust Him, love Him, and know Him better. He uses our prayers to exchange chaos for peace.

Sunflowers

Prayer=Peace

The aches that anxiety, fear, and worry create within us take root when we doubt God’s goodness, lose trust in Him, or rely on our own strength. Our troubles and concerns may not go away when we pray, but God has assured us that we can have peace as we trust Him to have His way.

Though His ways are not our ways and our ways are not His ways, God knows what He is doing, and He knows why He is doing it, Isaiah 55:8-9.

I admit that I don’t always understand His ways. It even frustrates me and grieves me at times. But when it is all said and done, I can trust that God is still good. I can trust that He knows best. I can have faith in a faithful God.

I know that when I pray with all my heart, trust Him for His promises, and praise Him for who He is, the peace He has already given me becomes prominent. So, with little hesitation I pray, “Have Your way Lord.”

Friend, be intentional and let that be your testimony as well.

Partially Used

Photo by Léa Dubedout on Unsplash
My sisters and two nieces recently visited me from out of State. It was like good medicine to my soul in so many ways. We woke up early sipping coffee, sharing insights from our past, and what God has done in the present. We stayed up late reflecting on pictures from new memories made during the day’s adventures. Laughter and joy spread throughout the house as we got silly from fatigue.

The day to pack for departure came too soon. As I searched behind them for anything forgotten I noticed a partially used bottle of shampoo left in the shower. I mentioned it a few times in hopes they would not forget it. However, when they left it was still there. As I examined the red bottle it became familiar to me. It dawned on me that it had been in my shower for several months untouched.

I had purchased another shampoo that I felt would better suit my needs rather than finishing the bottle I had. Over time I became blind to the fact it was still sitting there, partially used.

Sometimes we become blind to the fact God is right beside us, partially used.

We use Him in the moment of need, and become complacent that He is there.

We become distracted with something or someone else causing our hearts to drift from God.

We receive His peace, provision, or protection forfeiting glory due Him because our self-sufficiency kicks in.

God promises to never leave us nor forsake us and yet that is the very thing we do to Him. God may be on our lips but far from our mind, Jeremiah 12:2b.

Friend, the Lord desires us to understand and know Him; To know that He is the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, and He delights in these things, Jeremiah 9:24b.

He designed it so that when we continually abide or remain in Him He will bless us. Consider the following:

Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-8 CSB)

Perhaps you struggle to remain in a consistent relationship with God. I believe most of us are guilty of that from time to time.

Maybe you have the best intentions to do better at acknowledging, praising, and fellowshipping with Him on a regular basis. You may even be successful for a week or two and then your attention is onto something or someone else. When you do you miss out on the abundant life God desires to grant you, John 10:10.

Be encouraged in knowing God is a patient God, 2 Peter 3:9! I am so thankful He is! Aren’t you?

Let’s not become defeated by our lack of commitment, but instead, strive for victory by having our hearts and minds fixed on Him. Acknowledge Him in all our ways by inviting God in the details of life. The more we practice inviting Him in the more consistent we become in our fellowship with Him. Pray for God to help you Know Him more. I dare you to pray that every morning you wake up! I do and He is faithful to open my eyes to see and know Him better.

He used a shampoo bottle to get my attention. What is He using to get your attention? Don’t ignore it! Examine it and ask God to open your eyes to what you are missing.

 

 

 

 

4 Steps to Love God With Your M.I.N.D.

Reading book

Sometimes I wonder if I am doing all I can to love God. That may sound like a strange statement, but it’s honest. As I fight the battle between the flesh and spirit I find myself growing weary of giving God my all.

Recently, I read a familiar passage of scripture that washed over my spirit convicting me to take a closer look. The scripture comes from Matthew 22:37… “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

While reading it the Lord said, “Jodi, are you loving Me with all of your mind?

Whoa! I knew I was loving Him with all my heart and soul, but I could not say yes to His question. So, I replied with a question:

“Lord, how am I supposed to love you with all of my mind when my thoughts are battling between right and wrong, lies and truth…?”

Do you love God with all your mind, or would you be asking God the same question I did?

God is aware of the difficulty we experience loving Him as He desires us to. Knowing this He has provided us with a powerful weapon that can overthrow the enemy of our mind. His word!

The question is whether or not we will use it. But to use it we must believe God’s word, surrender to it, and live it out.

Are we going to give in and let the flesh win because we are tired of fighting the enemy or will we unleash the power of the Word and claim ground that is the Lord’s?

If God wants us to love Him with our mind, and He does, then no wonder the battle is so intense. The enemy is threatened when our minds are fixed on Christ because we live in peace. (Isaiah 26:3)

The enemy, Satan, is a deceiver, liar, thief, and seeks to distract our thoughts in hopes to lead us down a path of destruction (1 Peter 5:8).

I am willing to stay in the fight using the weapon, the word, God has provided. Are you?

To strengthen my resolve to stay in the battle I created a four-step process using an acronym with the word MIND. (By the way this is God’s answer to my question to Him.)

To help us recall M.I.N.D. click HERE for a printable.

While the process sounds simple, the application of it will prove its need of preparation, awareness, perseverance, and unyielding commitment.

Meditate

Intentionally ponder about God’s truths, and His promises. Recall times He answered your prayers, provided, protected, and proved His awareness of you. The more you meditate on His word and track history the more you will have your mind fixed on Him.

*Create 3×5 cards with scriptures that encourage you, remind you to love God, and inspire you to worship Him. Place them in your car, on your desk, and on your mirror.

Identify

What causes your thoughts to drift away from God? Identify the pitfalls, triggers, so you can be on guard the next time they encroach. Knowing is half the battle.  Take comfort in the knowledge that His word heals and delivers us from destructions (Psalm 107:20).

Navigate

God’s word is a lamp guiding our path, so use it as you navigate a new thought pattern (Psalm 119: 105).  Begin by renewing your mind (Romans 12:2).  Think on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely (Philippians 4:8).

Declare

Make a commitment declaring that you cannot do this without Him, but with Him you will be victorious (John 15:5).  Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it (Philippians 4:13).  Declare that you will strive daily to love Him with all your mind (Psalm 37:5).

By the time you have gone through “M.I.N.D.”, you will find your thoughts have been redirected, and you now have the upper hand. Let’s not give up on fighting the flesh so that the spirit may win. God is our strength!

The next time your thoughts are unhealthy, destructive, untrue, or deceptive pause and remember “MIND” (Meditate-Identify-Navigate-Declare). Practice until it becomes second nature.

I pray that when God asks us if we are loving Him with all our mind we will all say, “YES,” and with all our heart and soul, too.

White Puff Balls And The Gospel

Young Woman blowing dandelion

I was honored to write this for Contagious Joy Ministries.

Wildflowers and weeds occupied the large lot next to the home where I grew up. I loved wandering around the turf searching for treasures. I especially liked to find dandelions. Their yellow petals transform into a white puff ball called a seed head. Finding my treasure, I would bend down, carefully breaking the stem without causing the ball to fall apart. While holding my breath, I held it close to my chest making a wish. Then, I would bring it up to my mouth and blow it as hard as I could. The white puff ball exploded in every direction as if carrying the message of my wish to a magical place.

As I recalled this childhood memory, I recognized that as believers in Christ Jesus, we are much like the white puff ball of the dandelion. To continue reading click here.

This was first published at http://www.ContagiousJoy4Him.com

 

Secret Walls That Limit Our Faith

Woman praying alone

Does your faith have secret walls?  Hidden limitations you’ve built around your life? For years, I refused to go on a mission trip overseas. I reasoned that God could send someone else, and that it was best for my children if I didn’t go. To be honest, I wanted to go but I was trapped by my fears.  My fears formed a fortified wall around my faith allowing me to go only so far with God. When I considered what was on the other side of the wall, I imagined horrible outcomes: Sickness, not being allowed back in country, orphaning my children, or not being with them if they needed me. The enemy had me right where he wanted me. Faithless. Ashamed. Controlled. Ineffective.

I imagine you have your own reasoning for your faith walls.

Maybe God has prompted you to witness to someone, but you felt inadequate, and decided to wait for another day.

Maybe God wants you to begin a new ministry, but you are insecure about your ability and decide to bury the dream.

Maybe someone you know suffers from a chronic illness, and because you haven’t seen improvement you doubt healing and your prayers have tapered off.

Maybe you have faith that God loves, forgives, or has plans for everyone else, but cannot believe those truths for yourself.

It is those feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and a lack of self-worth that limit our faith.

God is not the creator of those limits. We are.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) However, we choose to thwart that power and discipline when we allow our flesh to override God’s desires for us. Our hope and belief can waver when things seem impossible. The enemy plants the lie and waters it with doubt: Will God really make good on His promises to me?

Consider the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. This is an historic account of real men and women who struggled with their faith, but chose to knock down their walls of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and fear. When they did, God showed up in huge ways and made good on His promises!

I remember the day God broke down the fortified wall that had kept me from traveling on mission. God was prompting my heart to travel to South Asia with my husband, leaving my boys behind. As I was praying and asking God to help me take this step of faith, He simply stilled me with His love and spoke into my soul:

Jodi, you will never receive the abundance of life I have designed specifically for you if you continue to live in fear. I have plans to use you for My Kingdom. You may have given birth to your children but I created them and I love them more than you could ever dream! You can trust Me with them. Do you trust Me? Yes Lord, I trust You! I trust You for what I cannot see on the other side of my wall.

I went and I was effective! I was no longer faithless or controlled by the enemy’s lies.  But, I must be honest and tell you I prayed A LOT. However, the more I prayed, the more He strengthened my faith in His faithfulness. Peace ruled instead of fear. There was freedom on the other side of my faith wall. The enemy no longer had me where he wanted me. Instead, God had me right where He wanted me – trusting in Him.

Do you fear what’s on the other side of your wall? You don’t have to! There’s really nothing to fear when you trust God for the outcome. He will cause all things to work together for good if we let Him.

Secret walls limit our faith. Ask God to help you push down your wall so your faith can be without borders. It’s the life you were purposed to live … LIVE IT!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I See You, But Do You See ME?

i-see-you-but-can-you-see-meHave you ever had life circumstances hit you hard? I have. A while back I was blindsided by some circumstances causing me to become emotionally unstable, stressed, and weary. My thoughts were confusing and irrational. The more I tried to think clearly, the more deeply I fell into despair. I prayed, journaled, spoke with others, cried, and exercised hoping for a reprieve. I believed Isaiah 26:3 to be true so I pressed in and rolled the words over and over in my mind, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” But instead, my thoughts were inconsistent. I felt like my world was falling apart.

Can you relate?

Have you ever been desperate for God to speak, “Peace, be still,” so that your circumstances would miraculously change for the better?

During one of those trying days, God used a simple penny and a song to speak peace into my soul. He may not have spoken audibly but I heard Him loud and clear.

I made a trip to the store and prayed before I got out of my car, “Lord, speak. Help me.” I had hoped to make it in and out of the store without anyone seeing or speaking to me. As I pushed my cart along the side of my car a penny on the ground caught my attention. (Side note: The inscription on pennies, “In God We Trust,” reminds me to trust God. I always keep them as a reminder.) As I looked at the penny it was as if God said, “I see you, but do you see ME? I did not want to be honest with God but I was and told Him “No.” I was blinded by my circumstances, emotions, and confusion. I asked Him to open my eyes and mind to be able to see Him. After loading my purchase in the car, I got in and the radio was playing, “Just Be Held,” by Casting Crowns. Here are a few of the lyrics that spoke to me:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

If your eyes are on the storm

You’ll wonder if I love you still

But if your eyes are on the cross

You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted

In time, you’ll understand

I’m painting beauty with the ashes

Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes

In the storm is where you’ll find Me

And where you are, I’ll hold your heart

I’ll hold your heart

Come to Me, find your rest

In the arms of the God who won’t let go

This experience opened my eyes to see Him. To see that He was with me. To see He was in control. To see He was working my brokenness into something useful. To see He is holy and still on the throne. I began sobbing because I felt God’s love and His presence.

I was doing what had brought peace to me in the past: praying, journaling, seeking counsel and exercising. I was trying to trust God with words but not with heart.

When we completely trust in God with ALL our heart, He exchanges our unrest for peace. As I fully abandoned to God my self-reliance, expectations, control, and grip on my circumstances He graced me with peace; A peace that immediately calmed my storm. Though my circumstances did not change, I changed. And because I changed, I can now walk in Isaiah 26:3.

Because I trust in You God, You will keep my mind in perfect peace. (my paraphrase)

Do you see God? He sees you.

Ask God to speak, and then listen and look for Him in the simple things. He is there!