He's Better than We Think

He's Better than We Think

Forgiveness. What is it? I’m sure we can all define what forgiveness is not, but can we define what it actually is? We all have our own definitions of forgiveness, but the bigger question is are we believing what God says to be true about forgiveness? Forgiveness influences every part of our life and if we aren’t grounded in truth we will fall for anything every single time. So, what is the foundational truth about forgiveness?

Truth number one: forgiveness comes straight from the heart of God and is actually an overflow of His character.

You see, we have a God in Heaven who unconditionally loves us. And the word “unconditional” implies that forgiveness has happened along the way. There are no strings attached to the love of God because we could never earn it. He freely gives and all we have to do is freely receive. This unconditional love and forgiveness is the overflow of His character.

“Yahweh, Yahweh, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6 AMP

This is the first verse in the Bible where God reveals His name, Yahweh, which translates to mean, “The LORD.” And right after He reveals His name He also reveals characteristics of who He is for the first time, which include (but are not limited to), compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and truth (faithfulness), and forgiving. Our foundation for God’s character needs to be set on the truths mentioned in Exodus 34:6 because those are the first things He reveals about Himself. He could have said anything, literally anything, and He chose for the very first thing to be compassionate and for the last thing to be forgiving.

Our heavenly Father is filled with infinite amounts of unconditional love and forgiveness and these things are just innately who He is. When you know the character of God you are able to trust the character of God. Imagine trying to know the darkest secrets of a complete stranger without ever speaking a word to them. How ridiculous is that? There is an invitation to know and be known by God and all we have to do is trust that He is true to His character. And in this invitation there are promises filled with compassion, love, and forgiveness just because we know Him!

Truth number two: unconditional love and forgiveness are inseparable.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

We have access to the most powerful tools in all of creation, unconditional love and forgiveness, and both of those relate back to the character of our heavenly Father. Not only did God promise forgiveness and unconditional love back in Exodus 34:6, He delivers it in John 3:16-17. And not only does He deliver it, He destroys condemnation in the process. Unconditional love and condemnation cannot coexist—condemnation loses every time. If a knight were fighting an enemy with a sword, unconditional love would be the knight, forgiveness would be the sword, and condemnation would be the enemy. Forgiveness dismantles condemnation because you can’t condemn what’s been forgiven. The same well that holds unconditional love and forgiveness cannot also hold condemnation and it’s important to know that if you are facing condemnation there is always a way out through unconditional love and forgiveness.

Do our feelings always align with this truth? Absolutely not. But the promise is Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it. And how deeply and powerfully does the Father love us?! He sent His only Son—He sent Jesus to die for us so that He could be in relationship with us! HOW RADICAL?! HOW FORGIVING?! HOW FREEING?! We don’t have to do a single thing except receive the unconditional love, forgiveness, and salvation that has already been freely paid for and given.

Truth number three: God’s heart of unconditional love and forgiveness is directed towards us, His children.

“I, only I, am He who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25 AMP

Other translations say “It is I who sweep away your transgressions.” The idea behind this imagery is when you sweep something away you forget about it. Once you’ve trashed what you’ve swept up, you’re done with it. You don’t even remember what you threw in the trash to begin with. This very same idea applies to us and how God forgives us. He doesn’t remember our sin and that’s a promise, Isaiah 43:25 reveals that.

I also think it’s important to highlight the phrase, “for My own sake,” in this verse. Why? Because this shows that forgiveness is an overflow of His character and not out of pity or obligation. We already established that forgiveness is innately part of God’s character; so when He forgives us it’s because He actually wants to. His character is to forgive and it will always come from a place of compassion, grace, and unconditional love because that’s just who He is. His character will never change, which means His forgiveness towards His children will never change.

Truth number four: forgiveness applies to you, not just everyone else.

In John 8 there’s a story about a woman who was caught in adultery. The Pharisees, or the religious people, brought this woman to Jesus because adultery was illegal according to the Law of Moses and the punishment for it was being stoned to death. Real crazy I know, but the whole point of the Pharisees bringing this woman to Jesus was to test Him. Because if He disobeyed the Law He would also be arrested and have charges brought against Him. So Jesus looks at the people and basically says you can stone her if you have never committed a sin, which obviously isn’t true at all. We all have our own sin that we have to deal with and the Pharisees knew that. So what did they do?

They walked away one by one and left Jesus and the woman alone. Now here is my favorite part of this whole story.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No, not one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:10-11 ESV

I can only imagine being caught in the lowest of lows during this time and then being brought to the feet of Jesus, expecting to be stoned to death. But instead, Jesus looked this woman in the eyes and said, “I do not condemn you,” or, I forgive you. How life changing that statement must have been for her. In the middle of her shame and condemnation, Jesus invited her into the more He had for her. He was inviting her into freedom and unconditional love. He was inviting her into a life full of abundance instead of a life full of condemnation and shame. And how did she know it was for her? Because Jesus told her! Jesus protected and defended His Daughter, His Beloved, and then He called her into fullness and abundance by forgiving her.

The promises made in Exodus 34:6, John 3:16-17, Isaiah 43:25, and John 8 are as true for us today as they were 2,000 years ago. We are not condemned, we are forgiven. We are the Beloved of God. We are the Sons and Daughters of a good Father. We are unconditionally loved and always forgiven no matter what we do. Once our sins are swept away they’re gone forever. This is the foundation for forgiveness. A foundation that is built on unconditional love and compassion and is the overflow of the heart of a good Father. A foundation that has nothing to do with who we are but everything to do with whose we are.

So here is my hope and prayer: is that you would unconditionally love and forgive yourself the way your heavenly Father does. I pray you would choose self-forgiveness and self-love every day, but especially when it’s hard. I pray you would look in the mirror and see yourself as the Beloved of God because that’s how He sees you. He doesn’t see you for anything besides who He made you to be and the power of His unconditional love and forgiveness far surpasses anything you have done or could ever do.

Dare to believe He’s as good as He says He is—He’s waiting with arms wide open.

Author | Elizabeth Sprinkle

Keep Shining

Keep Shining

Love is a funny word because we use it so interchangeably—we use love to describe nearly everything from tacos to significant others to God. I think that our culture uses it so often, that the word has been watered down and even polluted. So, when Scripture commands us to love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31), what does that actually mean and look like?

I think that the word love is two part: noun and verb, or action.

I think that we have love, the noun, down pat. This love is a feeling or emotion. The problem is that often feelings change, therefore your emotions are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Please don’t hear me say emotions are bad—they’re good. However, when we use our emotions to gauge reality, we start running into problems.  

On the other hand, love, the action, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is a lot harder to do and sometimes lacking. It a choice that demands action. When we love, it’s easy to say it and (sometimes) feel it. The hard part is actually doing it, showing love to God and the world around us.

[I want to stop here and put in an author’s note: this post is not to shame or condemn you in anyway. That is not my heart, nor the Father’s. If you feel any sort of shame in your heart right now, or later, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit would speak truth over you about your identity as a child of the King. If you would like a resource for Scriptural identity, look up: Who I am in Christ Neil Anderson PDF. But if any way you feel convicted, be empowered to make a difference in the name of Jesus. Go love the world!]

 Now, back to love, the action. I feel super passionate about this, maybe because I’m an acts of service person, God, or just a little mix of both. I would argue both, because Scripture is filled with concrete examples of how to love. If we look at the life of Jesus, love, the action, is undeniable: washing the disciples’ feet (they had sandals and didn’t have pedicures then y’all—they were crusty), feeding thousands, miracles—lots of them, healing the sick and dead, and the biggest one—He was crucified for our sins, so we could be restored back to the Father. Jesus died so we could experience pure love from the Father heart of God.

The key is you have to love God and be loved by Him first, so that you can love others. God is love (1 John 4:8). So, if we have a skewed view of who God is, we will not be able to love others. When we love people, we share with them the heart of God, just like Jesus did for us. Love is not tolerance or passivity. Love invites people into a deeper understanding of who God is and calls them higher into their identities as children of the King. I said love one too many times, so if you need to read back through that paragraph, my b & fear not, because here’s some math to help:  

God = Love

Therefore, by some property of equality (math skills)

No God = No Love 

Receiving God’s love + Loving God = Ability to love others

 

As believers, we are designed to have a relational and experiential love with God and from there spread it to the world:

Then Jesus came close to them and said, “All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 TPT

It’s really easy to love people who look, act, and talk like us. Maybe not really easy, but easier than loving people who are the polar opposite of you. One of the quotes I keep on my computer home screen is: “How we walk with the broken, speaks louder than how we sit with the great.” When I think about Jesus, He knew good and well how to walk with the broken. The Pharisees even accused Him of being a sinner Himself by how much He hung around the “wrong crowd” (Luke 7:34). I say “wrong crowd” in quotes because it was the exact crowd He came to love and minister to. They were actually the right crowd.

Jesus is the mirror image of the Father (Colossians 1:15). He is about the Father’s business. All over the place, Scripture associates God with justice and one who loves and fights for the oppressed and hurting. Here are just a few:

 

“He loves righteousness and justice;

the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.”

Psalm 33:5 HCSB

 

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation

of Your throne [Lord];

faithful love and truth go before You.”

Psalm 89:14 HCSB

 

“I know that the Lord upholds

the just cause of the poor,

justice for the needy.”

Psalm 140:12 HCSB

For You [Lord] have been a stronghold for the poor,
a stronghold for the needy person in his distress,
a refuge from the rain, a shade from the heat.

Isaiah 25:4 HCSB

“He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:18 HCSB

My prompt to you is what does your crowd look like? Is the world reflected in your crowd? Or is it just people who look, act, and think like you? My challenge for you is to get out and love people in the world, and not just the people who reflect you. Who are the oppressed, poor, needy, fatherless, and widows in your sphere? Go love them! Put your words into action. If you can’t think of someone who is oppressed, it’s anyone who is starving to know Jesus, but filling the emptiness with drugs and alcohol. It’s that girl who sits by herself in Bolton every day waiting to be noticed. It’s people judged just because of the color of their skin, religion, or political views. It’s people rotting away in poverty because of intergenerational trauma and systemic injustice. Love these people. Walk with them. Know the depths of their stories and pain. Share the gospel. Pray for their hope and joy to be restored through an encounter with Jesus that sparks a relationship.

You are the light of the world—that is part of your identity. You were created to make an impact wherever you are. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. If you’re under a bushel, flip that container over, girl (or dude)! You were made to shine the light of God into the world. Don’t settle for anything less than what you were made for. It would be an injustice to humanity if you did not live out of the full identity Christ died for you to have.

I feel fiery behind this keyboard, what about you? I’ll leave you with these verses:

“True spirituality that is pure in the eyes of our Father God is to make a difference in the lives of the orphans, and widows in their troubles, and to refuse to be corrupted by the world’s values.” -James 1:27 TPT

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.” -Romans 12:2 TPT 

My prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit would fill you with a deep empathy for the injustice, pain, and suffering around you and give you wisdom on ways to act in Biblical love. Shine His light. Love the world.

Author | Brooke DeLoach

Partnering with Love

Partnering with Love

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.” -Isaiah 43:4-5

Fear is probably the most annoying and trickiest thing that creeps up in my life. I continuously slip into its grasp because it’s the easy choice. The whisper of fear is so tempting, and the scream of it is extremely demanding - so naturally we follow fear’s familiar voice instead of fighting to overcome it. But the truth is that fear only has one mission: to steal, kill, and destroy. You’ve probably heard this familiar phrase from John 10:10 which says the enemy only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I use it here because fear is directly from the enemy and therefore has the same mission.  When we partner with fear, we are actually partnering with the enemy and not God - God doesn’t give a spirit of fear he gives a spirit of peace and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). When we partner with fear, we stay stagnant, crippled, and only hurt ourselves. But, when we partner with God we get to walk in His love and trust that He will protect us in all ways and guide us into victory. There is a great deal of power that comes when we partner with God’s love; the screaming voice of circumstance becomes silenced when we partner with God’s love, fear doesn’t stand on any firm foundation when we partner with God’s love, and we get to rise up from any odds stacked against us and experience breakthrough when we partner with God’s love.

When Isaiah 43:4 says “since you were precious in my sight and because I love you” we can understand that God’s work for redemption is simply out of the fact that He loves us. God makes it clear that He is willing to overcome any obstacles, people and nations included, if it means that we might be saved and get to live a life walking in His love. When we do this we need to take notice of how he commands “do not be afraid.” This is one of the most widely used commands throughout the bible. God knows that fear is persistent, He reminds us time and time again not to give in because He knows it will keep coming. But He also knows that He is more powerful than any attempt that fear may take and He loves us enough to help us overcome anything that comes against us.

Here is an example for you, the infamous fear of man. This manifestation of fear is a strong one; I bet it’s pretty safe to assume many of you reading this wrestle with fear of man from time to time. Fear of man is the fear that rises up within me more than any other fear. One day when I was really struggling with this God gave me an image: I was standing on this line of sand staring at an enormous wall of water. It was terrifying. I asked God what He was trying to show me through this, He explained to me that I was standing in the Red Sea. I was about half way through it when I averted my attention to the wall of water to my right instead of the clear path before me. I became fearful that the wall would come crashing down over top of me at any moment. God reminded me to stop staring at the wall (aka the problem - aka every fear of man I was experiencing in that moment), and to start staring at the path He set before me, trusting that He had led me thus far, so He will take me the rest of the way through. It was all about perspective shift for me. So next time y’all are overwhelmed by fear, instead of letting it take over and whisper to you all of the reasons you should fear those around you and make yourself small, or all of the ways it would be a bad idea to trust people and let them in, or all the ways that you could fall short of expectations if you go after it, or whatever other lies fear wants to feed you, try turning your mind to God.

Ask God what He has to say about who He made you to be. We are all precious in His sight, and that is because He uniquely cultivated life within each one of us, He has deposited little treasures deep inside of us, and we all have something to offer to change this world. As we start to ask God what specifically these things are, we get to grow more confident in who we are and the strength inside of us grows stronger than the fear telling us these old lies. We get to boldly walk in the gifts God gave us, let go of the expectations around us, and claim that we are worthy of love and support - which makes it a whole lot easier to let others in. As we feel empowered in our own strengths we will put less pressure on what everyone else around is doing. Fear will start to flee because of the power rising up within us that tells us, “with God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). We will claim victory after victory simply because of who we were created to be and because the one who created us is fighting for us. Life itself will become less daunting and I can assure you it will be a whole lot more fun!  

At my church one Sunday Pastor Scott had us repeat this phrase, “Who I am is God's gift to me, what I do with who I am is my gift back to God.” I think that is the perfect way to encompass that God sees us as uniquely His, with personalized gifts given to change the world, and we all hold a powerful influence in specific areas. As we step into who He made us to be we get to honor God by receiving His love and walking out in confidence of what we have to offer, crushing fear beneath our feet with every step. So, I encourage you this next week to start owning who you are, ask God for His eyes to see how much He loves you, and step out in confidence that fear has no chance to stand when you walk hand in hand with God in the identity He bestowed upon you before you were even born.

 Author | Tori Kramer

Our Promised Guide

Our Promised Guide

“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:14-16 NIV

Our God is not a silent, passive god. He is not okay with standing by and seeing us make mistakes. He is not okay watching us ruin parts of our life that could be prevented. He is not okay with seeing us hurt ourselves and others. He does not function in a way that allows those things. But He also isn’t aggressive. And He’s not pressuring. But He is the ultimate guide. 

When I think about the Lord as a “guide” my mind is (I hate to admit it) quickly brought back to cliche vacation bible school and church camp slogans about God being our guide on our journey. It would inevitably be paired with some kind of treasure map and compass. So silly I know but genuinely so true. 

Our life is made up of choices, obstacles, and so many times where we have to decide what is going to be the best for us, for the people around us, or for our life in general. Here’s the good thing, we don’t have to do it alone. God is willing to guide us in the right direction if we ask. He won’t force us to ask for help but He will offer it. He offers guidance in the most gentle, loving, and graceful way. He reminds us that He bring light to our darkness in order for us to make wise decisions. He reminds us to consider His thoughts before making choices. And He does this with so much compassion and tenderness. 

My prayer for us today is that we ask for guidance in every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s what job to take, what major to pursue, whether or not to continue a friendship, or any other choice we may have to make. I pray we consider the perspective and guidance that comes from the Lord. He’s already promised it to us, it’s our choice to receive it.

Author | Morgan Attebery

The Beauty of His Promise

The Beauty of His Promise

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. -Isaiah 42:9 ESV

How absolutely unbelievably kind of God is it to give His people a promise of hope for the new thing He would do in sending Jesus to earth? This actually floors me because God really did not have to do this, but He knew His people would need a word from Him to hold onto in the waiting. He knows us in our humanness. He knows our hearts are fickle and our minds even more so. Therefore, He gives us His guarantee that our season doesn’t last forever, that new things are coming that are better than we could ever imagine.

This is just the kindness of His heart. There’s nothing else here. No agenda, no expectation, just undeserved kindness to His people whom He loves. As God says this, He emphasizes His own trustworthiness. He reminds His people that everything He has ever spoken in the former has come to pass, and so they can be confident of what He declares in the now. When what He is declaring is the promise of a savior, we can’t even fathom the beauty of that promise. The promise of a new covenant, of healing, and of freedom.

God opening our eyes to the things He is promising to do awakens us to more hope and faith. It gives us something to cling to. 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us all the promises of God find their yes in Him. The person of Jesus is the reason we can believe with expectancy in what God has promised. He has always been faithful and never failed us, and that holds true for the things He promises us today.

Author | Kalli Drake

Chosen by a Kind God

Chosen by a Kind God

“Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” –Isaiah 42: 1-4

 We are a chosen people, and the best part about it is that we are chosen by the kindest God we could ever ask for. We don’t just serve God, we get the opportunity to connect to our heavenly Father. We have a Father in heaven that has been given every reason to not choose us but continues to choose us time and time again. The way that God is talking about Jesus in the verses above is the same way God talks about each of us. We are called a royal priesthood. We are called to the standard Jesus has set for us, but there is room for error. 

The kindest thing God could do for us is to choose us. You do not get to take away your significance to the kingdom of God, because you never decided it in the first place. When Jesus died and was resurrected, we were given access to everything he has access to. Apart from Jesus, we are nothing, but because of Jesus, we have access to everything. You have an inheritance. You are chosen. You are a new creation. This resurrection means you have a responsibility to the people of God to be everything Jesus died for you to be.  

God’s kindness in claiming us gets to take the pressure off us. God does not expect us to have everything right. We are humans, we generally get things wrong. That’s okay. God is not expecting perfection, God simply wants our hearts. God would not be sovereign if one of our mistakes could take away from his kingdom. God is so much bigger than any failure we could ever face or bring upon ourselves. We are not powerful enough to detract from God’s plan.

God’s kindness in claiming us means that we are called to higher standard as Jesus was called. We are not supposed to look as the world looks. I hate to break it to you, but that’s going to be hard sometimes. We should hold God’s opinion above those of the people around us. God will always have our best intentions, even when that involves making the harder decision. Hard does not mean bad. The kindest thing God could tell us is no at times otherwise we would spiral into our mess of our own mistakes.

God’s kindness in claiming us means that we are chosen. No one else’s opinion, label, perception, etc. of us has a hold on us any longer. God has given us a new identity. You do not have to fight to be worthy, you already are. God chose you in your mess, so you do not have to strive. You get to stand in the middle of your mess with a deep understanding that all you have to do is call on your heavenly Father to come to your rescue. God’s chooses you even when you can’t choose yourself. 

God’s kindness in claiming us means that we can be messy and still come before the throne of God boldly (Hebrews 4:16). Your authority comes from the cross, not your ability. You have permission to not have it all together, that does not get to take away from your ability to speak life into other places. You have victory in places others are desperate to see victory come. Give yourself the space to be speak into those places. It’s okay to take a breath. All of the authority given to you comes from God. You don’t get to take away that authority, but you can make the decision to not walk in it. That is a disservice to the kingdom, yourself, and others. 

Now, you can make the bold declaration that you were made to happen to life. You are not a victim of your circumstance. You are empowered to live above your circumstances. You are not a victim. You have been given every authority that Jesus had, make the choice to walk in it. Give yourself the grace to be imperfect and chase the standard Jesus set for us. God’s kindness needs to prompt a response from us. Freely you have received, freely you shall give (Matthew 10:8).

Author | Cristina Rosiles

Trust in the Midst of Weariness

Trust in the Midst of Weariness

“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

God is powerful. The understatement of the century, right? We know God is powerful – I could write out a list of every single demonstration of that power I can think of and it still wouldn’t cover just how far His power reaches. His power is great and it’s beautiful. It covers so many bases, and because we see it demonstrated so often, we have full confidence that we can trust in it. We can trust God because he is powerful. But it actually extends beyond that. God’s power isn’t limited to just Himself – He doesn’t demonstrate His might just to show off. He isn’t selfish, solely focusing on Himself and what He can do. God is faithful to those who are walking with Him. He honors the sacrifices we make to follow and serve him, and He often uses his power to do just that. That’s the thing about God. He’s powerful, but he’s also good and kind-hearted. He renews our strength, he goes above and beyond to take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves. Yes, we can trust him because he’s powerful, but we can’t also trust that he will use that power to restore our weary souls.

Matthew 11:28-29 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

God’s desire is to grant us rest when we are weary, broken, tired, to the end of the rope. Being a Christian doesn’t automatically mean that things will be easy all the time. Hard times still come, we still face exhaustion and anxiety. But just because we face hard times doesn’t mean that God has turned his back on us. In those times, he wants us to lay our burdens at his feet, to come to him and release all the stress and the hurt onto him so that he can grant us rest. He describes himself as gentle and humble in heart – does that not make you want to trust him? Often, we focus on how big and mighty God is that we forget to look for his gentleness, which is actually one of my favorite parts of who God is. He is so big, so powerful, so intense, yet at the same time he comes down to us and meets us where we are. He wants us to lay down everything at his feet, lean back into his arms, and breathe in the knowledge that he is good and loves more deeply than we could ever imagine. And in those times, in that rest, our strength is restored. His power comes through his gentleness and love just as clearly as his might.

Author | Emma Whitmer

He Orchestrates Everything for Good

He Orchestrates Everything for Good

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens; who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26

Isaiah 40 is one of the most fearsome yet beautiful pictures of God. It’s a great place to hang out when I need to be both humbled and lifted up.

It’s also a great place to remember that God deserves our trust.

The verses leading up to Is. 40:26 set up a fragile picture of humanity (prefacing the almighty picture of God).

(Is. 40:15) “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”

(Is. 40:22) “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

I don’t believe these metaphors of dust and bugs are measures of our insignificance. Rather, they are a limited language’s attempt to show the significance of God in comparison to His beloved creation. It’s a reminder that me, my people, and my worries are more than taken care of.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the cost of distrust.

Do not fret - it only causes harm.” (Psalm 37:8b)

What is lack of trust doing to my prayer life? My relationships? My mental health?

I waste a lot of time simply not trusting God. I use a lot of energy rehearsing ways to keep my grasp, get a grip, and salvage some sort of control over my circumstances. What if I channeled all of this fretful energy into expanding my idea of God and His power? What if my worries began to look like mere dust?

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Too often my frets start to feel like a carousel. Before one worry is out of sight, another takes its place. And it’s not too long before that same worry is back around again. It’s a captivating sight, capable of occupying my mind for hours on end. But it leads absolutely nowhere. It literally goes in circles.

Shut it down. Flip the switch and look up. The stars are shining brighter, the ever-expanding universe is spinning faster, and the One who spoke it into existence has never let His hand off the wheel. Look back at the carousel and decide - Will I continue to fuel these paint-chipped, playful worries with what-ifs and fretful wondering? Or will I take in the starry host above that He created, knows by name, and sustains by His power?

Every ounce of mind power you put toward your view of God and trust in Him is accomplishing far more than you can imagine. Stop being consumed by the carousel.

Lord, you are all-knowing and all-powerful. You have always been in control. You orchestrate everything for the good of those who love you. Forgive me for clinging to control. Lift my head to see the reality of your power and love. Amen.

Author | Claire Jordan

Trusting His Greatness

Trusting His Greatness

If you want to experience chaos in your life, go a whole week without making a single decision. The only way this might be good is when you and your friends are trying to decide where to eat. If I could exempt myself from that process every time because God told me to, I for sure would. But obviously this wouldn’t work long term, right? You’d spend all day doing nothing because your day is made up of a thousand of small decisions. From the clothes that you wear to the classes you take, you make choices every single day. Decide not to do any of these and your life would turn into complete chaos. Eventually you have to make a decision.

The problem is that we often think we have to make these decisions all on our own. We seek to control our lives instead of living in surrender. Control forces us into an orphan mindset, believing that we don’t have all that we need and that we are in this alone. Surrender takes us into sonship, believing that God has more than enough for us and that we are never alone. The main difference here is relationship. Control doesn’t foster relationship with God, it hinders it. If we want to truly surrender, we don’t live passively, we actually invite God into our lives and make decisions with him, trusting that he will make our lives work out for his good.

Isaiah 45:18-19 says “For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and the earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos.” I cannot think of anything more chaotic than a world where everyone lives passively. Passivity leads us out of relationships. A relationship with God doesn’t mean you get to sit around and do nothing. It means you get to engage in a mutual relationship, one where you trust God and he trust you back. He made you to be his son or daughter, not his puppet. That means he wants to do life with you, not tell you what to do all the time. Trust is impossible without relationship. You can believe that someone is good, but you probably wouldn’t trust them with your money or your dog if you don’t know them, right? It’s the same with God. If we forget his character or don’t know him, we’re going to have a really hard time trusting him.

Every time the Israelites stopped trusting God, it was because they forgot who he was and all that he had done for them. They switched from surrender to control, from children to orphans. Not only did they forget who God was, they thought God forgot about them. Because they started believing that God no longer cared about them, they stopped following his ways. And every single time it ended in chaos. But in God’s kindness, he restored them every single time they turned back. Once relationship was restored, so was trust.

See, trust and relationship go hand in hand. If you want to learn how to stop controlling everything and partner with God instead, you have to believe that God can be trusted AND that God trusts you! Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all those whose thoughts are fixed on you.” Notice this doesn’t say “all those who do exactly what you say” or “those who never make mistakes.” No, it says “those who keep their thoughts on you.” Surrender is all about submitting to the way God thinks, letting your mind be transformed by his Holy Spirit. You can be in tune with God and still make mistakes. It’s not about how well you perform, but where your heart is rooted. If your heart is rooted in perfection, you’re going to live out of control. But if your heart is rooted in Christ, knowing that he is capable of redeeming any mess you make, then you can live out of surrender.

You have the Holy Spirit inside you. That means the living God lives in you. God can’t deny himself or forget himself, therefore, it’s impossible for him to forget about you. God isn’t insecure in his choice to love and trust you. The Holy Spirit is more than enough to help you live in alignment with God’s heart. When you choose to live in surrender instead of control, God is more than capable of making your life work out for his good. He is good, so he will be good to you.

Author | Emily Baker

Finding Peace in Jesus

Finding Peace in Jesus

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Paul says, in order to not be anxious, fill our lives with prayer and thanksgiving. Paul wrote this passage from a prison cell. Despite his circumstances, he was still at peace because he rejoiced in the Lord and his eyes were focused on Jesus. He trusts that God has a plan for His life and prison is part of that. Contentment, in the way Paul describes it, is the inner sense of peace knowing you are right with God and that He is in control of everything that happens to us.

Peace comes from Gratitude

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11)

Peace and gratitude belong together like peanut butter and jelly. If you don’t have gratitude for what God has provided or where He has you in life, you will never be satisfied and will always be restless. We will never be at peace if we have the “grass is always greener” mentality where other people’s circumstances and belongings seem more desirable than your own. A lot of the time, we believe the answer to our discontentment is getting something we don’t yet have. This is the “New is better” solution - a new job, car, new friends, new clothes, etc. This is a struggle with social media in our lives. As pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation says, “one reason we struggle with insecurity is we are comparing our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” This is literally Instagram in a nutshell. We can find peace when we focus on things God has blessed us with in our life rather than what we don’t have that we see in other people’s lives.

I’ve never worn glasses but I hear the lens you see through impacts how well you see the world. If we look through a lens of gratitude, our whole perspective on life can change. It changes how we view life situations - from an “I have to go to work” mentality to changing the narrative and saying “I get to” go to work or even better saying  “God has blessed me with the opportunity to use my gifts and abilities each day.” You can go from saying “I have to go to class” to God has given me the opportunity to learn and grow today and I get to do that in class! Everything in life has been given to us. When we change our lens on a situation, our outlook of the situation can change as well.

How much are you praying into the things that worry you? Are you thanking God for what He has given or have you forgotten? What are some areas of your life that you tend to overlook and taken for granted?

Peace comes from Fixing our Eyes on Jesus

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31)

Worry and fear will sink you. In Peter’s case, quite literally. When Peter had faith, he walked on water! The moment he started looking around at his circumstances, the waves all around him and the loud winds and thunder screaming at him, he took his eyes off Jesus and fear crept back in. As Peter cried for help, Jesus was right there to extend a hand. 

When we look at others and see their lives, comparison jumps in. We, just as Peter did, take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on life’s circumstances. We wonder if we are falling behind, doing things right, or debate if we even chose the right career path or major. Then, fear of missing out, fear of failure, and fear of the future start to consume your life. Post grad life is intriguing because everyone is at different places in life, some of my friends are married, some are in grad school, some already are well positioned in a career and doing what they love, some switching careers, and some, like myself, are living at home. The point is, there is no blueprint for life except the life of Jesus.

Hebrews 12 says “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” All we need to do is look up at Jesus! When you are fixed on Jesus, all your worries and fears are beneath you instead of feeling like you are drowning in them. The opposite of fear is faith! Faith is saying I have confidence that God is bigger than whatever circumstance or situation in my life. (John 16:33)

We have the ability to determine where we look and to whom we look. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, He fixes our heart.

Peace comes from Trusting in God

Some people want to control everything. The outcome of their lives, circumstances, and even other people’s lives. We plan out our lives and constantly worry about whether things will go how we want them to. We even try and control things out of our control. However, things don’t always turn out how we plan. In fact, most of the time they don’t. How many of you are planning life after college? And worrying that things won’t go the way you plan?

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)

Here Jesus reassures us that we will be taken care of. There is so much peace in knowing that God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).

We find peace and rest in God knowing that He is our provider, healer, leader, and father. We don’t need anything else but Him. He is enough. This means taking to heart what He says rather than the opinions and words of other people.

John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

How much time are you spending with God? How much are you trusting Him? With your job? Your grades? Major? Your future?  Your friends and family? Finances? Your boyfriend/girlfriend?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

 Author | Kyle Pickett

My Protector, My Deliverer

My Protector, My Deliverer

I’ve loved diving into the Lord’s Prayer in a deeper way. There are some very powerful things that we can learn from the things that Jesus said were important to ask God for. I want to expand upon Matthew 6:13 where it says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

The cool thing is that in Jesus saying that we should ask to be protected and delivered, it means that God desires to protect and deliver us. We not only see that He wants to do those things for us, but that He is actually called our protector and deliverer. We see this in Psalm 18:2 when it says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

The word ‘stronghold’ means, “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” God is described as this, as a protector against attack. I find so much encouragement in this truth because I can rest on the fact that God is my unshakeable stronghold protecting me against the schemes of the enemy. Suddenly overcoming those things are possible because God already built the stronghold against it, we just have to actually let Him be our protector and deliverer.

Because God is described as these things, it makes sense that Jesus would say we should pray for God to be those things in our life. He’s not some distant man in the sky who tells us to deal with our struggles on our own merit. He is a God who is in the thick of the battle with us, fighting on our behalf. 

The fun thing about this part of the Lord’s Prayer is that it only opens doors for more intimacy with God. You get to have a relationship with God that is vulnerable. What do you need to be protected or delivered from? Honesty in your conversations with God actually invites Him to breathe life into the dead places of our hearts. He wants to do that for us, and He wants to do that because He is deeply good.


Author | Kennedy Browning

God is Provider

God is Provider

When people ask me what my favorite flower is I usually say wildflowers! This may sound cliché or basic but I feel like wildflowers have a way of just being whatever they need to be for whatever season they’re in. They are beautiful in the spring. Full of bright colors and textures. And they are beautiful in the fall with warm colors and greenery. They never worry about whether they should bloom or not. They just do! 

I think that is so important to remember when thinking about how God provides for us. We can’t worry about what is coming next. What is not yet happening. Or how it’s going to happen. We just have to trust Him. Because he will provide. 

Wildflowers don’t worry if and when it’s going to rain. They don’t worry about whether there’s enough sun. Or if their soil has enough nutrients to sustain them. They just grow and blossom and turn into something beautiful every single day. 

Matthew 6:30 says “if God cares so wonderfully for the wildflowers of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow. How much more will he care for you?”

And that is what God does for us. He provides for us daily. He provides us with breath when we wake up. He provides us with food and clothing and shelter. He provides us with community and with love. He does all of that because He cares about us. 

So I think it is important to remember, as a college student or as a newly employed graduate or even as someone who doesn’t know what they’re life should look like, that God doesn’t base His provision on our timing. He simply provides. He provides what we need, when we need it. And I don’t know about you, but He hasn’t failed me yet. 

When I started interning I had NO IDEA how I was going to support myself each month. I knew I had rent, insurance, phone, water, electricity and so many other payments that had to be made each month, I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. But after almost an entire year of interning at Wesley, I can say none of those bills ever missed a payment. I never went hungry. I never missed anything important. And I know that it’s because God is my provider. He provides for me everyday. Whether it’s through a paycheck that deposits randomly from a side job I did a couple weeks ago. Or a Venmo from a friend. Or my parents helping me pay rent. Whatever it looks like, it’s a blessing.

So today I challenge you to do something with me. Trust God to provide for you in a way you’ve never asked Him to before. Be bold! Do something wild! Trust Him with something big. He will come through, He always does.

Author | Morgan Attebery

Prayer + Forgiveness

Prayer + Forgiveness

The concept of forgiveness is tricky. In theory it sounds great--living debt free to God and others, and holding no grudges sounds like a life of freedom. But at the same time, when given more thought, the idea of giving and receiving forgiveness is intimidating, difficult, and sometimes painful. These negative associations have made me realize that forgiveness apart from God is impossible.

I think there are two aspects to forgiveness. The first aspect is God’s forgiveness towards us. The second aspect, enabled by the first, is our forgiveness towards others, and both are essential to our prayer lives. Part of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 speaks directly into this concept. Verse 12 says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

A big purpose for the Lord’s Prayer is to teach us how to pray, and to serve as a launching point for our prayer lives. First I want to look closer at the beginning of verse 12--”And forgive us our debts.” Asking God for forgiveness is essential to a healthy prayer life. However, when we ask God for forgiveness it’s important that we remember that He’s already given it to us. We aren’t begging Him to forgive us--His forgiveness isn’t something we have to earn.

Though God’s forgiveness isn’t something we have to strive for, and is something we’re freely given, it’s still important to ask Him for it when we pray for a few reasons. The first being that asking for forgiveness helps us to remain in humility. For me, it’s vital to remember that just because I am forgiven, doesn’t mean that I can disregard that I did something that required forgiveness in the first place. Asking for forgiveness also helps us to remain humble, because it reminds us of God’s goodness that He would readily forgive us to begin with.

Another reason I think it’s important to ask God to forgive us when we pray is so that we honor the thing that He so graciously gives us. He doesn’t have to forgive us, but He does so unconditionally because He loves us unconditionally. It’s who He is. So it’s important to ask Him for it in order to honor who He is.

Understanding the depth of God’s forgiveness also helps to enrich our prayer lives, because it frees us from the need to strive to make up for what we’ve done. We have to receive His full forgiveness so when we come to Him in prayer we don’t constantly feel the need to earn His love back, but come into His presence knowing we are forgiven, loved, and free to be where we are with Him.

The second part, our forgiveness towards others, then comes into play. The second half of verse 12 says, “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” But here’s the thing, can’t forgive others until we receive the full weight of God’s forgiveness. So once we’ve done that, we can move on to forgiving others.

It’s important to know that forgiveness isn’t for the other person, it’s for us. It doesn’t mean that what happened is okay, and it doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation of the relationship. However, it’s letting go of our offense and releasing the other person from what we think they owe us, despite the fact that what happened maybe wasn’t okay. Forgiving others is absolutely essential to our prayer lives, because unforgiveness hardens our hearts. When our hearts are hardened, prayer becomes incredibly difficult, because doors are opened in our souls for footholds of darkness and bitterness to sneak in.

Overall, forgiveness is a very messy and difficult process to navigate, but it’s a process that God wants to walk through with us. Only He can heal and change our hearts, and He will. He cares deeply about our forgiveness, because it’s attached to our freedom. So it’s essential to have forgiveness in our prayer lives so we can walk in the fullness of freedom He has waiting for us.

My prayer is that we would know the full weight of God’s forgiveness for us. That we would be able to come into His presence with the knowledge and thankfulness of His forgiveness. That through His forgiveness, we would be able to forgive those in our own lives with softened hearts and love towards them, and that all of these things would draw us deeper into freedom with God.

He has so much to reveal to us in prayer, He’s just waiting for us to meet Him in that place.

Author | Stephanie Stewart

Vulnerability in Prayer

Vulnerability in Prayer

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Matthew 6:7-8 ESV

Knowing that we are friends of God is a revelation that should transform our prayer lives. Instead of striving for the right words to pray for the right length of time in the right manner, we should know that we have access to what the Father is saying, and we get to know His secrets. Because this is how Jesus defined our standing with God, it reveals that there should be a great degree of vulnerability in our prayers. Friends tell each other secrets; they have real conversation about what they are feeling and experiencing. God has promised to share Himself with us, and because He is trustworthy, we should accept His invitation.

To me, honoring our relationship with God begs that there be vulnerability on our end. It can be easy to think that because the Father already knows everything about us (even as the scripture states), we don’t actually have to share anything with any vulnerability with Him. What this assumption ignores is God’s desire to connect with us in a real way. When we approach Him honestly, without a checklist, without a formula, we open ourselves up to experiencing real, personal relationship with Him. Friendship with people would be so boring if we said the same things all the time because we thought it was what we were supposed to do. How much more important is this for relationship with God, who we can’t actually get face to face time with yet?

Vulnerable prayer means telling Him how we’re feeling, even if that’s angry or sad or hurt. Even if those feelings are directed toward Him. Once we release all those things to Him, our minds and our emotions are out of the way, and there’s room for real connection. Holding those things back is actually pointless, because God knows where we are. When we are honest about that, it invites Him in to do what He does best, meeting us where we are.

As the scripture says, the Gentiles thought they would be heard because of the many words they prayed. We know that we will be heard because of our faith. For our prayer lives, faith looks like trusting God with what’s going on with us, even if that means tearing down some walls and letting some emotion pour out. This is how we build real relationship with Him.

The pressure is never on us to pray the right words or come to Him with a certain level of sophistication or eloquence. He wants to hear from us, and He wants to be invited in.

Author | Kalli Drake

The Prayer Trail

The Prayer Trail

Looking back at some of my earlier blogs, I stumbled upon this one written from two years ago on my birthday. It is funny how some of my desires and thoughts never change, but are instead enhanced by more revelation and experience. The title caught my eye, as I have been thinking the best way to explain the growth I have experienced in my own prayer life. As I read, He painted a picture for me. Thank you Jesus for your kindness and ease. My desire is to paint a similar picture that He revealed to me about journeying with Him so intimately in prayer.  

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The Prayer Trail -- written in its fullness from a girl who just began embarking on her journey of understanding deep intimacy with God.  

Sometimes, we need to walk. Walking is refreshing to the soul. It encourages us to slow down and appreciate the creation around us we would never see if we simply ran all of the time. Running is good too, but only in intervals. If we ran all of the time, our breath would slow, our bodies would begin to ache, and our lungs would gasp for air. We could not survive running all of the time. In fact, with the way our bodies are built, we would eventually collapse despite our passion for running. Our passion would fail us, simply because we have little source of energy. 

But sometimes walking is harder. It takes longer. It allows you more time to think, more time to trip, more time to fall, but also more time to see what you would never be able to see before. Not to mention, walking is less stressful on your body. 

 Today I went on a long walk. It was like a little birthday gift from Heaven. To be honest, I haven't been on one in a long time, and the Lord reminded me that those walks are where I find my peace, where I find my clarity, and where I experience His intimacy the most. For the Lord says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 

He reminded me today to rejoice and walk. He will show me where to step, even when I feel like the ivy is thick. He will protect me from it. He will show me when I am being distracted by the less glorious things about the path. Sometimes, He may even show me the less glorious places before I walk into them because my focus is so delighted in Him. If I get caught in the thicket, do not worry because He will pull me out and heal my wounds if I allow Him close and believe that He wants to heal. I am not be discouraged by the creatures. I am to be attentive to the path revealed. I will remember that He is with me wherever I go. 

As I walk, I will ask Him to reveal the flowers, the beams of sunlight that peak through the trees, and the streams of life beckoning for a sip from my thirsty lips. I will believe in what He is showing me. I will rejoice in the rough patches He has brought me through. I will remember what is behind me, but I will always look forward in joy to what is ahead. I will be encouraged, and I will encourage others who you I may run into on the beaten path. I will use caution in who I choose to walk with for the rest of the way and I will always let God be the one who sends and highlights people to me. I will not be afraid to tell people to walk more. Too many are not walking. Too many are running, or are not even awake at all.  

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Running is amazing, but not sustainable if you have little source of energy. When I think of prayer in comparison to running, I think of the prayers where I am continually crying out for change. I think of the prayers that feel like birthing pains and are deep deep wails within my soul. I think of intense intercession for family, friends, ministry, and specific desires of the heart. I think of these times of intercession as prayers for Wesley as well. Lead prayer, 36 hour prayer, 7:30 prayer, prayer in discipleships, prayer on the way to places, and never ending prayer for the body of Wesley are all times when I feel like I am running at different paces. 

As His children, we must learn how to walk before we can run. Walking is where we learn to rest. It is where we see His beauty. It is where we experience His joy for us. When we walk, we can see His movement around you more clearly. Walking gives us time to experience His presence in a way that is specific to ministering to our heart. Walking can be a little more difficult sometimes. When we walk with Him, we have the ability to get a little more messy. Time is a little longer, so there is more ability to see the dirt, to notice the distractions, and to contemplate with Him. However in this place, there is room to be completely undone and exposed before Him. There is more ability for us to gaze upon His eyes that are looking upon us face to face. In this place, there is also more temptation to leave such an intimate place, because it is very vulnerable. We may ask ourselves, "Will He show up?" or we may be feel overwhelmed by our responsibilities and relationships with other people.

The truth is the only thing we need to do is walk with Him. Every prayer, every desire, and every action flows from the secret place. I think it is the Lord's desire to enlighten the secret place for us. He wants to show us that walking is the best thing that He could have created for us. He wants us to discover the keys he has placed throughout walking process that will unlock Heaven all around us and deepen the knowing of His voice within our spirits. This is the place where we truly get to know Him. 

 Don’t be afraid if you don't know how to walk, He will teach you. He will guide your steps. 

In this moment, begin to ask Him what He wants to do on your walks with Him. Is He asking you to use more of your mind to engage with Him-- to envision pictures in your mind about His desires? Is He asking you to unlock your creative spirit and write, draw, or create music with Him? Is He asking you to immerse yourself very literally  in His nature and spend time paying close attention to the world He created? Walking with Him, talking to Him, being open and honest, and allowing Him to come so close to you is the best thing you could ever do in your life. The reality is, if every believer gardens this place well, then the entire world will be bursting with life and color. It is in this place that you are reminded that you are victorious and are seated in heavenly places. He covers you in His fragrance. He covers you in His love. Let Him show you how victorious and real He is in this place so that seeds of full authority and confidence begin to bloom when you are running for really  complex situations, the burdens He has placed on your heart, and the ministries He has given you. 

Tuck this treasure deep within you heart--His breath in the stillness will give you life to keep going. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

Author | Emily Helton

As it is in Heaven

As it is in Heaven

If you know much about me, you know that my favorite genre of books to read is Fantasy. I think at least part of the reason I love Fantasy (and sci-fi) so much is because the most common trope has to do with saving the world from evil and making it a better place in the process. Whenever I read books in general, it’s to escape the humdrum day-to-day of the broken world we live in. (Ironically, the books I read most often have just as, if not more, broken landscapes as does ours—In the Wheel of Time, my favorite book series, a utopian world was destroyed by wizard men who went insane in a war against the Devil.) 

In these books, a common theme is that magic—or technology, if it’s science fiction—is capable of saving or improving a broken world. One of my goals in life is just to make the world a better place—and I’ve always wanted a super power to help do that. I think it would be so cool to make things grow like the plant girl sidekick from Sky High, and maybe stop global deforestation; or figure out new ways to cure sick people like Nynaeve in The Wheel of Time; or to make pots and pans clean themselves like Mrs. Weasley does in Harry Potter. It would honestly be amazing and beautiful if we all had the ability to make the world better like these fictional characters do; but unlike these fictional worlds, our own broken world won’t be fixed by the snap of the finger or wave of a wand (or the ingenuity of an average teenager who ends up being insanely unique and powerful).

God’s will for this earth was never for it to be broken. He intended our world to be creative and beautiful, full of majesty and wonder. He intended for us to be perfectly connected to Him, free from the fear of death and sickness, and free to pursue Him without restraint. Our forebears (looking at y’all, Adam and Eve) messed that up though, and we continue to mess it up. While God’s intention was earth to be an extension of Heaven, it has turned into a place separated from His realm. For a lot of us, we are just waiting for the day we get to leave the humdrum day-to-day of this fallen world. Maybe we read fiction where we have the power to fix things on our own power because we’re so disenchanted by the state of the world, and we’re just waiting for God to call us away into the bliss of Heaven.

In the Wesley kitchen we have a sign that says, “In Heaven, dishes will do themselves.” Maybe that’s how it’ll be in Heaven. Maybe we’ll all have super powers and will be able to change things with a snap of our fingers, or maybe we’ll just exist in eternal bliss and joy. Maybe God’s will for our eternity is to live out our passions and callings, or maybe it’s entirely different than anyone has stipulated before. Regardless, it’s going to be way better than any of us can imagine. It will be Utopia but sustainable and eternal. There won’t be insane wizard dudes, super villains, or Smaugs to wreck the world; there will be no threat to that goodness, no threat to that peace, and no threat to our connection with the Lord.

A lot of us are waiting to enter into that after we die. But here’s a secret: the goodness of Heaven isn’t confined to Heaven. In fact, Jesus teaches us to ask for Heaven to invade earth, and He shows us how integral it is to His plan for our lives and our world.

When Jesus demonstrated to us how we should pray in the Lord’s Prayer, the second thing He says is “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matt 6:10). No matter which way you look at that verse, you can come away with the understanding that we are to ask God to make earth like Heaven. God wants to invade our broken world with the details of Heaven. He wants to partner with us in making the world more whole.

Maybe I won’t wake up one day with Spider-Man powers, or the ability to turn rocks into gold, or an uncanny ability to do complex math in my head. Personal gain or power isn’t the point, though; Kingdom gain is. And as we live in the tension between brokenness and wholeness, we have the God-blessed opportunity to colonize this earth with His Glory.

If there’s something that doesn’t reflect God’s character or His Kingdom, we can ask Him to rectify it. Just because we ask doesn’t mean that God will answer immediately—maybe He is using a situation or circumstance to further His Kingdom and love in ways we won’t see immediately. But we would be remiss not to ask for His intervention in things that look to go against His intentions for our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask the Lord to intervene, because if it’s a promise He has made He will fulfill it. Even if God doesn’t answer right away, it’s not a “no”—it’s a “not yet.”

In reading Matthew 6:10 we can realize a few different things. We have been taught to ask for full healing. We have been entreated to ask for wholeness in relationships, souls, and spirits. We have been told to seek Holy reconciliation and redemption—freedom from spirits of darkness and the chains of sin. We have been commanded to hold the name of God in esteem, to bring that name to the world so that the world would see and know and love God the way He intended us to see and know and love Him. God is sitting at the edge of His throne, waiting to move—not because He can’t, but because He wants to move with us, not in spite of us. It’s not just our duty to make disciples of all nations or to love one another or to be a good person—it’s also our duty, and honor, to ask God to make our world more Heaven-like, little-by-little and day-by-day, prayer-by-prayer and step-by-step.

No, we may never get a letter from Hogwarts or a knock on the door from Gandalf, but we have something better: the power of the Living God living inside us, the Spirit working for our good, and the opportunity to partner with the Creator God to make His Kingdom evident on our broken world. That’s exciting—no, exhilarating. Let’s all decide to pursue that calling by continually asking Jesus for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Author | Alex Hinton

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Hallowed Be Thy Name

The Lord’s prayer begins by saying “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by thy name.” From the very beginning, we are identified as children of God, children of a father who will never fail us nor abandon us; a father who loves us more immensely than any father on earth ever could. But more than just a father, God is one whose name should be revered, sanctified, and honored. His name is more powerful, more holy and more sacred than any name we could ever give on earth: He is Elohim, referring to his power and might; Yahweh, the Lord, the I AM. He is Abba, and intimate Father; El Elyon, the Most High, the exalted one; El Roi, the God who sees. The list can go on and on with every example of God’s name mentioned between Genesis and Revelation. The common theme in each of these names, though, is that God is set apart. He is holy, powerful, exalted. He sees us. This is the God we are praying to, the God we are worshipping, the God we are following.

This is why the Lord’s prayer begins with the phrase “hallowed by thy name.” God’s name is holy in and of itself. It is far more powerful, far higher than we could ever reach on our own, yet he invites us into that power and majesty. We, as God’s children, are given full access to God’s character. We are his beloveds. He blesses and encourages us as we walk in obedience. This God, who is declared throughout the Bible as Lord, powerful, exalted, all-seeing, He steps down from his throne of heaven to meet us where we are, to find us when we’re lost, to wrap us up in his comforting embrace and guide us when we get lost. His name deserves every praise we can give him because HE deserves infinitely more than we could ever offer up in sacrifice. He is author and creator, redeemer, savior, and yet he is intimate and tender-hearted towards his children in a way we could never fathom.

“There is none holy like the LORD; for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”

- 1 Samuel 2:2

Next time you pray, remember the name of God. Offer up praise and glorify him when you enter into his presence. Remember that there is none as holy as God, there is no one like him. He stepped down from the throne of heaven to choose you, to find you. He is worthy of all our praise and worship.

Author | Emma Whitmer

The Significance of the Secret Place with God

The Significance of the Secret Place with God

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” -Matthew 6:5

I love the secret place! There is just something so special about getting to spend time with God in a way that no one else gets to experience. The secret place can be anything you want it to be… it can be a physical location you go to spend time with God that no one knows about, or it can be a special place you imagine yourself in with you and God. Every secret place is unique, just as you are uniquely created by the Father - so don’t be afraid to get creative with the places you and God go. These are the moments that you get to treasure and that no one can ever take away from you.

This year my favorite song of all time is actually called “The Secret Place” by Phil Wickham. There were mornings I would listen to it on repeat and I couldn’t understand why I was doing that… Then I had a meeting where a few of us were praying and I realized why; turns out, I am in a season where the secret place is the only place where God is handing me each key to unlock every door in front of me that I have been blankly staring at for so long. I could spend hours unpacking this for you, but instead I just want to go through this song stanza by stanza so that hopefully one day you can unlock your own mysteries in the secret place and enter your season of breakthrough.

“Where will you run my soul

Where will you go when wells run dry

When the wind starts to blow

How are you gonna keep this flame alive”

***

“You are my only hope

You are the rock on which I stand

And You will not let me go

I know that I'm safe inside Your hands”

Verse 1 and 2: God is your ultimate source. Every single time you feel like you are about to die of thirst in a desert season, or you are in the midst of a hurricane tearing through your life, the best possible way to keep yourself going is to turn to God. We often use imagery of a flame of fire to depict the Holy Spirit, and passion, and revival, and hunger, and whatever else you want to use to explain something that is so great and vast. In this first verse, Wickham poses the question, “when you are going through hard times how do you keep this hunger, this passion, this feeling of warmth from the closeness of Holy Spirit going strong?” You could go out and focus on the problem, you could talk about how bad it is for days… trust me, I know… I’ve been there too many times to count, because that’s the easy thing to do. Or, you could go up to the altar and receive prayer and then not think about it anymore. Because you are thinking that you did what you had to do and everyone saw how much courage it took you to get up there, so of course you don’t have to do it again or dive in on your own time, right? When you do this you will be like the hypocrites, you may receive satisfaction in the moment and that’s great, but what happens when you go home at night and nothing has changed, your circumstances are still the same and now you feel misunderstood and forgotten (please don’t take this as me saying getting prayer from the altar is bad, because it is SO GOOD! I literally go any chance I can)! Where you will run into problems with this is if it’s your only source. Relying 100%  on others to do the work is not beneficial to your soul or spirit. You should still work through things with others, but you have to pair it with constant prayer and communication between you and God, and that often comes from time in the secret place. As you turn to God, you get to experience hope in Him and not hope in healing or hope in other tangible things. Hope in Him is SO much sweeter, and as you learn to do this you will begin to feel safer and safer in the midst of His presence alone.

“In the fading light when night is breaking

I know You will always be waiting

You'll always be there

I'm running to the secret place

Where You are, where You are

I'll sing to You of all the ways

You stole my heart, stole my heart

Better is a moment that I spend with You

Than a million other days away

I'm running, I'm running, I'm running to the secret place”

***

“Hands are lifted high, hearts awake to life

We are satisfied here with You, here with You

Chains will hit the floor, broken lives restored

We couldn't ask for more here with You, here with You”

Chorus and bridge:  The sweetest part of the secret place is that God is always waiting with His arms open ready to catch us as we come in. “Better is a moment that I spend with You than a million other days away.” This line is powerful y’all. One moment in the secret place has the potential to sustain you more than a million other earthly experiences. Knowing this, we get to run without hesitation toward Him and sing out from the depths of our heart because we know He is near and listening. As we enter this place with Him, we can do whatever we need; whether that looks like sitting completely still and not saying a word, or going on a drive and screaming at the top of your lungs the cries of your heart, or just dancing all around an empty room with just you and God. It's in these moments that our hearts get to come alive. It’s in these moments that we feel the most intimate with our loving Father. These moments that all our brokenness can be shed and we are no longer bound by circumstances. These moments we get to step into complete freedom and reap the eternal rewards of joy, peace, hope, etc. And these are the rewards that sustain you.

So this week, I challenge you to talk with God and figure out what your secret place looks like. Just you and Him, no one else. Then go there, consistently. I promise you that as you keep sowing into this that you will look back and see the ways that God is transforming you from the inside out, at every level, spirit, soul, and body. Keep getting prayer from others, and keep discussing things with your small group leaders and/or disciplers - community is an essential piece. But don’t fall into the trap of making that your only source, let your foundation be your secret, you and God. Let no one change it or try to take it away from you. You are doing amazing, God sees you in the dark, and He is so much closer than you think - just ask Him to show you.

Author | Tori Kramer


False Humility

False Humility

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” –Philippians 2:5-8 

False humility does not serve the kingdom. On the surface, it may look like it does as it centers on serving others and putting their needs ahead of themselves. However, it is predicated on the belief that your needs do not matter, and in that way, all it does is basically call God a liar when he says we’re worth it. All false humility does is say that you aren’t worth it, so it isn’t God’s heart. False humility says that God may love everyone around you, but he actually doesn’t love you. Satan would love for you to believe that, because it would distract you from your identity. False humility pushes aside feelings of unworthiness by deflecting compliments, affirmations, etc., because deep down, false humility is rooted in what we have to say about ourselves. If we actually took the time to listen to what God is saying, we would realize God cares so deeply about each and every part of his creation.

 We actually need to repent from our inclination towards false humility. Repentance is not a big scary word. We are all guilty, therefore repentance is the greatest gift God could give to humanity. It moves us toward him, by laying down wrong behavior. We know pride and boasting is a sin, because Paul specifically outlined that in the New Testament. In the ancient Hebrew world, there was a much different view of humanity. There were powerful acts by humans in the forms of sorcery and witchcraft. The emperor who was a human being was thought of as a god. They did not have to worry about false humility like we do, because they had a general inclination towards pride. In the Christian society today, there is an inclination toward false humility that deprecates one’s self by deflecting instead of receiving. It is not godly to deflect. Jesus didn’t deflect when someone noticed him but instead reflected the Father’s heart. We need to take a step back and receive what God has for us and what he says about us if we are ever going to walk into what real humility looks like. 

We are the pinnacle of creation. We are not God, but we are God’s prized possession. Saying that is not arrogance, but it is simply fulfilling the calling on humanity. In the Bible, it says, “All of creation is eagerly anticipating the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).” You must be significant, then. God has a purpose and calling on your life, he wants you to take up as much space as needed. Everyone and everything in creation is waiting for you to occupy the space that you were always meant to have, that was actually carved out for you. That belief is not arrogance, it is identity.

 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”- 1 Timothy 1:15

 Now, that we have that out of the way, let me talk about what humility is all about. I believe that in order to understand why false humility is such a big deal, we have to understand why real humility is important. The church answer is: humility is important because Jesus said it was important. We see throughout Scripture that when God’s people humble themselves in an area, they are exalted. The exaltation shouldn’t be our motivation, but that is the system we are working under. Humility has to start with a deep understanding of our own worth with God, and out of that, our perspective begins to align with God’s perspective on how important his people are to him. If God can find the goodness in us, how much more will we then be able to see the goodness in other people? 

Humility in its most pure form all points back to God. False humility and pride are the same problem manifested in two ways. False humility points to those around us, and pride points to us. Both are misdirecting our attention from whose opinion really matters. If we actually settled in our understanding of who God says we are, we will not need affirmation from others or ourselves. Humility is entire dependence on God. False humility seeks to fill that need with anything else, and it is incredibly dangerous in our generation.

We are not God, and thank you Jesus for that. We would make terrible gods, but by the grace of God, we are given access to a source that supplies us with everything we need. We are nothing apart from Jesus, but we are everything we are because of Jesus. Out of the assurance Jesus has given up, then we can give up our highest place of honor at the table to invite others into our space.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

The Other Half of Humility

The Other Half of Humility

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Been there, Paul.

There is a glorious moment in the Christian life when we realize this - Man, I am the worst.

It is one of the most devastating, yet essential milestones we get to experience. We see our hearts for what they are, our thoughts for what they are, our motives for what they are - and there’s no unseeing it.

It can bring us to the pit of despair. But this is only half of humility.

So, what does Paul do with this realization? What lifts him from the pit?

The next verses read, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:16-17

He does not continue to dwell on his past, but points to the mercy and glory of Christ in loving him out of it.

Earlier, in verses 13-14 Paul says, “Mercy kissed me, even though I used to be a blasphemer, a persecutor of believers, and a scorner of what turned out to be true. I was ignorant and didn’t know what I was doing. I was flooded with such incredible grace, like a river overflowing its banks, until I was full of faith and love for Jesus, the Anointed One!”

Paul persecuted, mocked, and killed Christians. It wasn’t a well-turned phrase or hearty sermon that turned his life around, it was the love of Christ that came “like a river overflowing its banks.” It was seeing that grace reached him when he was running from it. It was realizing, as Tim Keller says, “The only eyes in the universe who can see you to the bottom love you to the skies.”

That’s the other half of humility.

Yes, you are at the bottom. You are in the pit. But Christ, compelled by compassion, loves you and lifts you from it.

That is why Paul’s realization in verse 15 is so glorious. We must see the desolation of our soul to experience the ultimate weight of love and glory of Christ.

This humility - whole humility - is what makes David (an adulterer, a murderer, AND God’s beloved servant) sing with gratitude,

Praise the Lord, my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:2-5

Don’t cut the gift of humility in half. God’s mercy comes like a geyser to lift you from the pit of your own despair - because of His love and desire for you.

Author | Claire Jordan