I am the Light

I am the Light

One thing that I have realized about Jesus over the years is that while He is humble and walks in the utmost humility, that does not shake the fact that He is fully confident in His identity: He knows who He is and whose He is. Whose He is matters because when we know that Jesus is God’s, we can fully trust what He says about who He is.

In John 8:12, Jesus tells us that He is the light of the world. Since Jesus is so sure in the truth surrounding His identity, I think it’s important that we take seriously His choice to use the word “light” here. When He says that He is a light, what does this say about His character in a way that we can truly relate to?

I think that there is a lot more that can go into this, but I think more than anything, I realize a sense of how absolutely safe Jesus is. I know that may seem like a bit of a jump, but don’t worry—I’m going to elaborate!

What do you look for in a friend? Obviously, there are a lot of things that I like to see in my friendships, but a big one for me is safety. I want to be free to be myself around them without fear. If something hard is going on or there’s something that I don’t love about my past, I want to know I can open up those parts of my heart to them without being judged. I want them to know my hopes and dreams and for those things to be celebrated and not pushed to the side.

When I think about Jesus being the light, I think about how light exposes everything in its path. So, if Jesus is the light of the world, when He is around us, things are going to be exposed. The good, the bad, the ugly. My past sins? Seen. My hopes and dreams? Seen. Literally every single aspect of my heart and my mind? Seen.

And at first thought, the idea of that vulnerability can be honestly really scary. The things of our hearts are special, so letting Jesus expose all of these things (since He is the light) can be a lot to take in. However, a few verses later in the same conversation, Jesus tells us that He judges no one. If you look at this passage from John 8 and then one a few chapters later in John 12, you will see that both times when Jesus talks about being the light, He also talks about trust and the idea of judgement. Jesus tells us that He is not here on earth to judge.

This is important: when Jesus tells us He is the light, He almost immediately follows this by saying that He does not judge. He knows that it can be scary to expose our hearts and our histories and literally every part of our hearts, but after He tells that we are seen, He lets us know that what is seen is not judged. We actually get to choose to trust Jesus and be in relationship with Him instead of simply being scared of HIs judgement.

So, when we realize that Jesus is trustworthy and that His seeing us is a good thing, we get to live in the safety of friendship with Jesus. So, what does this mean for us?

I think that it means that we get to live in the freedom of knowing that God is trustworthy. He sees our sin, and when we live in Jesus, He chooses to not judge us for it. He actually loves us, comforts us, and calls us out of the darkness and into the higher places. Every single part of our hearts is safe with Him, and we have the privilege to choose to trust Him.

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to just sit and be with Jesus. (Maybe play some peaceful background music like this.) Ask Him to come in and be the light. Ask Him to expose the good things He sees in you. Ask Him to expose the hard places. Acknowledge that He doesn’t judge. (If you feel judgement in shame in this moment, know that this is not of Jesus. That is not in His character. Hold fast to the truth of His character and not any negative things you’re feeling in the moment.) Ask Him where He wants to go from here. And even where it’s hard, allow Him in. The places and peace that will come in this process are worth it.


Author | Hannah Cole

Summer Intimacy.

Summer Intimacy.

Meditate on His word.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. "

John 15:4-5 NIV

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The summer is full of wonder, and mostly time. Long days, warm nights, twinkling stars, and golden sunsets call summer its natural home. During the season of beauty and awakening, an abundance of God's words freely flow like fireflies in the night, waiting for someone to notice and capture the magnificence. If you look, the Lord is painted within every character of summer, as her breeze dries the sweat on your brows. It's a beautiful time to be with God and to wait with Him for the promise of fall to come.

It can feel exciting to have this special type of freedom, but the solidarity of the few months can also provoke anxiety for the very same reason. Structure has the potential to be small, alone time makes itself more certain frequently, and purpose/calling/mission of your life can feel temporary or at a distance.

Of course, this can all depend on where you are or what God has called you to this season. For some, the summer can be full of adventure in a foreign place or it can be full of adventure right where you have been for a long time.

Either still and slow or from one adventure to the next, summer is a season of waiting and anticipation. And it requires full surrender.

In my experience, this summer has been slow. So slow, I am almost wishing fall would come sooner. It's okay that I am honest about the way I feel toward this season, but I know I need the rest. It’s painful for someone that is used to running about 100 mph with a full schedule for most of her life. Last time I was in a period of stillness, it didn’t go so well for me. However, I knew before entering, the Lord was calling me to rest in a way I never had before. It's the beginning of July, and I am finally learning to love where I am.

The acceptance of this season, and seasons in my past, has given me peace only by wholeheartedly handing my need to control and understand everything to the Lord. It is truly incredible the amount of heart work and revelation I have gained through this simple and continual act of dying to myself.

To be honest, I spend most seasons with Him intimately through surrender to my flesh and obedience to His Spirit. I need to do this most in seasons that are still and slow, because my mind tends to wonder, anxiety increases, and then I begin fill my schedule with useless addictions. This tends to happen when am running ahead of Him.

For me, the surrender looks like choosing to be connected to Him every day despite my fears, doubts, and uncertainty about the future. I intentionally seek Him when I first wake up, and ask Him to create my day. I ask Him to be Lord over how I react to my day reflecting the essence of everything that is Him. Intentionally asking Him to be Lord doesn't happen everyday, if I am honest. Sometimes, I rant about what is on my mind or rush into reading scripture without asking Him to reveal Himself through the words. I want Him to be Lord, so I am more frequently trying to avoid projecting every emotion or religious tendencies on Him without asking His love to be present first. The first gaze upon His eyes affects everything.

After I know that my spirit is connecting with Him, I read His word or do something with Him that is on my heart or feels "right." Sometimes, I have gut intuitions that lead me to what we are supposed to do together and sometimes it's hard to be obedient. This is a part of being disciplined in my faith. What I find over and over again, each time I surrender to His leading, the time spent with Him is always amazing and exactly what I needed.

Most of the time, He gives me freedom to choose however I want to spend time with Him. Remember, He called us friends… not slaves.

This summer I am taking the mornings to create spiritual discipline, reading through the Old Testament and New Testament in a parallel form. I have more time in the mornings, so this gives me space to really dissect what I am reading and experience Him through accounts of the beginning of creation, Joseph, Moses and Jesus/His disciples at the same time. It has actually been really fun, and sometimes difficult too.

Throughout the day, I try to stay connected to Him all the time. I am always talking to Him in my mind, asking Him questions, inviting Him to lead me, and asking Him to awaken me to His kingdom everywhere I go. Talking to Him without ceasing has been a quite process throughout my life. Even now, sometimes I find myself complaining or questioning rather than letting Him speak to me or show me His faithfulness in my life and in life surrounding me.

I also stay connected with Him by having worship music playing or silence (allowing conversation with Him) whenever I am in the car or in the house. I find that it purifies my thoughts, or turns into a song of prayer. I'll often speak to Him about other people. My friends, family, issues I care about, and ministries are often on my mind. When hopelessness or concern about them enters, I immediately cast all of my cares on Him. Again, this has been a process and more often than not, it takes me a second to remember not to dwell on what is on my mind but talk to God about them. I find myself shifting atmospheres quite a bit, too. So, whenever I am driving around Athens, running on campus, or completing errands, I am always praying-- releasing hope, joy, love, and revival in those places.

During this season I am trying to stay connected to community and spiritual guides as best as I can. In other seasons, those two things can be automatic, but in seasons of transition or isolation, it takes effort to choose to be vulnerable and held accountable with the family God has given me in Athens. This summer, I have been intentionally surrounding myself among trustworthy friends and I meet with my spiritual mother at least once a week. Every time, I experience the Lord with them as I surrender to the treasures of the Lord I hold and the treasures they have for me, even when it is difficult to be vulnerable or trust.

In the evenings, I go on runs with God or sometimes walks, and I ask Him to be so present I can feel His touch. I often see Him in creation with little ways He knows I receive Him. I enjoy the sunsets or the night full of stars most, so those are often the times that are the most intimate for us.

I also love to do things with Him like sitting at Jit Joes in five points with an iced coffee and a mind full of revelation or contemplation and my laptop. In these moments, I like to write what I am feeling or pieces of revelation to give other people! Other times, I look through my old journals full of prophetic words and encounters with Him from seasons past. He reminds me of His faithfulness and beauty throughout my life.

Believe my words and experience. It is possible to be intimate in the Lord with everything you do… I even go hit softballs off the tee sometimes with Him!

In the process of allowing yourself to surrender to His intimacy in everything, do things together you love, be obedient to the things you don't love, and let Him speak more than you do.

Ask Him to reveal Himself in everything that you are seeing -- people, places, His creation, etc. Go to a coffee shop. Hike on nearby trails. Have a date with Him. Consume His word with your Spirit. Listen to worship music and praise Him in every environment. Pursue intimate relationship friends and intentionally ask them about their relationship with the Lord. Be vulnerable. Be challenged. Run or dance. Find Him in books, in movies, in sporting events. Speak with Him wherever you go. Invite Him into your dreams. Surround yourself in love, peace, and joy. Be healthy with Him. Cook with Him. Eat with Him. Live this season unselfishly surrendered to the journey He is unfolding, whether steady rain, vibrant sun, cool air, dry wind, or intense storm.

He is Immanuel- God with us. He isn't going anywhere, and it is always perfect timing to get to know him… no matter the season.

Author | Emily Helton

Our True Provider

Our True Provider

So many times there are things in our life that we think are too much for God.  We think that we have to fix them ourselves or figure out how to maneuver our way through life while dealing with these things.  That is just not true.  God wants nothing more than to be a part of every aspect of our lives both big and small.  When we think about God as our provider, we typically think about Him providing financially and I know just as well as you do, that He does that in abundance for every person who gives Him the opportunity.  But how else can we let God provide for us? 

As I began praying my way through this topic, I remembered the story in the gospels about the woman with the issue of blood.  This woman had been suffering for twelve years from constant bleeding.  The story tells us that she had spent every penny she had on seeing specialists and no one could find a cure.  She had one last resort.  She needed to find Jesus. Luke 8:44 it tells us “she touched the fringe of His robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.” Without even asking for anything or expressing her need, this woman was healed! I don’t know about you, but if I was her, I would have stopped right then and there and shouted or done a dance or something! She was healed!! But that’s not this woman’s story.  Jesus asked who touched Him and no one would own up to it, until she realized she could not hide.  When she fell in front of Him, she explained to Him how she had only touched His robe and that she was immediately healed and He responded “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Can you imagine? 

What if we approached our issues with this mindset? What if we were confident that just one touch from Jesus would be exactly what we need? What if we knew without any doubts that one encounter with Him would be the way to heal our hearts? We would probably live life a little differently.  So as you remember God as a provider, I think it is so important to remember that he provides more than just money. He provides safety and security. He provides adventure and freedom.  He provides healing that is complete and full. Many times it seems like our last resort, but maybe we should start to see Jesus as our initial instinct. Just to touch Him. 

There is a song that so beautifully paints the picture of this story.  My favorite lines are part of a verse and the chorus.  It is so simple and so sweet. It says:

Well I'm desperate 'cause it's never or it's now

If I could just touch the hem of His garment

I know I'd be made whole

If I could just press my way through this madness

His love would heal my soul

(One Touch: Nicole C Mullens)

I pray today, we can see Jesus as the only true provider of this beautiful life that we get to live.  That we see Him in a way that highlights His glory and wonder. Because of this we would long daily for Him to provide everything that we need both big and small.

Author | Morgan Attebery

The Source of Life

The Source of Life

Imagine our entire Wesley body, all 1000 + of us climbing up a mountain together. Now imagine that times five. Climbing up the mountain step by step, a crowd so thick forming not even the mountain top is visible anymore. Can you imagine the sweat dripping down our backs, the dirt on our feet, the grumbling of our bellies…the wonder in our hearts as we made our way up the ascension in search of Jesus?

I imagine this to be like the five thousand seeking the One who could perform signs on the sick and leave their eyes astonished at the miracles before them.

Who could this man be? How could it be? When death hovered so closely, when thirty years of illness lingered, just His word alone brought forth life that should have been impossible. 

Every step they took on that rocky hill marked by the anthem of their search “who is He?”

As they searched, He saw them. One by one arising to the ground He stood on, and He didn’t miss the emptiness their journey brought. 

His first thought when He saw them lingered around filling their stomachs: “Philip, where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” John 6:5

Now can you sit with me here and imagine Philip? Jesus knew He was asking a trick question, but here’s Philip staring at the horizon of the mountain watching person after person making their way up. I would’ve thrown my hands up and laughed like Sarah. The impossible things you say, Lord!!!

Here is Philip. “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” John 6:6

Have you ever been in a position where even the best solution you could dream up wouldn’t really even cover the need you see in front of you?

Same. 

Sometimes I will let myself dream of the best solutions…the ideal ones that make my heart giddy. I see colorful life building up, lights shining bright, every good thing coming forth and I drink it all in. Gosh, yes, this would be perfect.

And then I get a scary dose of reality and all the bright lights dim, all the color fades, and I just see the black and white. But…it won’t work. It’s not working. 

It’s in those moments that the emptiness deep in my heart, deep in my belly creeps back in again, and I realize just how much I’ll need God to come through to make any kind of ends meet to my dreams, to my reality, to my life. 

So, with empty bellies shouting loudly, what did Jesus do?

He gave them their fill. As much as they wanted. And nothing was lost. No one was missed. No stomach wished for more.

Yet, even on the mountain getting their fill, they had only guesses for their search of who He could be.

“He’s the prophet!” they declared. But, even their best guesses of the king he could be, didn’t compare to the King He was. They still didn’t understand. All they could think about was their history- the way God had provided for Israel in the Wilderness and the way He had provided for them on the mountain. But every moment they deemed Him provider was based solely on temporary sustenance.

Jesus is the King who permanently sustains our lives not the king who temporarily fixes our emptiness.

He is the source of our lives.

So just a few days after they took bread from His hands and ate their fill, they heard the words of life spill out over His tongue as He said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35)

This statement was radical. He was telling them who He was- the kind of King He is. The source of all life.

Whether you’re in a season of ascension, seeking out more of Him, wondering at who He is, wondering at the miracles He’s done before you…or if you’re in a season looking at what’s ahead and not even your dreamiest solutions could handle the multitude before you…I encourage you to dwell in His presence and remind yourself of the kind of King He is.

He’s the King who doesn’t let emptiness get the last word. He fills every gap and nothing is missed. He speaks and life springs forth.

He is and life flows.

Jesus, we are in awe of you. You are the King of Life. The One we so long for, the One our deepest cravings are satisfied with. Thank you for never leaving us thirsty or hungry. Fill us to overflowing, Lord. Fill our hearts, fill our minds, fill our emptiness. Where we doubt provision, may Your presence break open doors of impossibility. You are our everything. Thank you for who You are, King Jesus.

Author | Emily Goldin

Summer Survival Guide

Summer Survival Guide

Summer is a special time.  It’s my favorite season and it holds a special place in my heart.  There’s a freedom and playfulness that doesn’t seem to be there in other seasons.  The days are longer and I have more time for things I love.  

As much as I love summer, I notice that I sometimes put God on the back burner.  I don’t do it intentionally.  I just fill my days with other things, then realize that I haven’t been including God in my plans.  Honestly it makes sense that it’s harder for us to find God in the summer.  During the school year, we have a rhythm with God.  You have certain times a day you know you will spend with God, reading, or listening to worship music.  You have different activities in your schedule with a community of people also going after God.  Once summer comes, your rhythm with God is changed because your schedule changes.  You might have so much time you don’t know what to do with it, or you might be so busy that you think you have no time at all for God.  Either way it’s so important that you know you can thrive spiritually in a season that looks different than what you’re used to.  

My advice to you if you’re feeling disconnected with God in the summer:  think about what you normally do in the school year to connect to God and do those things.  It’s so simple.  You just have to intentionally put God into your new schedule and make a new rhythm with Him.  

Here are some things that I do to connect with God.  

Get in the word.  If you want to know God’s heart and learn what His voice sounds like, it’s important to know His word.  Get to know His character.  Pick a book of the bible and start reading.  

Listen to worship music.  Worship Him.  

Beni Johnson says this about worship in The Happy Intercessor- “The Greek word for worship is proskuneo; it means ‘to kiss.’  It is a feeling or attitude within us that keeps us close to God…. Worship comes from within us and goes with us throughout our day.  When we adore God, we are kissing Him.”  

Journal your prayers.  Write down your thoughts.  Let God speak through you.  Go back and read your journal from the past and take note where God has come through.  If He did it once, it’s a lot easier to believe He’ll do it again.

Read books.  I highly recommend Garden City and God Has a Name by John Mark Comer! 

Talk to God.  Out loud.  Randomly thank Him for things.  A relationship is built from spending time with someone and having constant dialogue. 

Surround yourself with community.  This one is so important for the summer.  We lose our built in community, so you have to intentionally create it for yourself.  Reach out to people.  They need community too.

Do something creative with God.  Get out of your box.  Take a risk and include God in the process.  Paint something, create something with your hands, design something.  Do it without the pressure of perfection.  Just let God create through you.

Those were some things I like to do to connect with God, but there are so many other ways.  

I also want to say that your life wasn’t meant to be compartmentalized into “God things” and “regular life things.”  Literally everything you do, God is involved in it.  So everything that you love about summer, beautiful landscapes, yummy food, driving with the windows down, God wants you to enjoy those things.  He delights in the fact that these things give you joy.  So practice bringing God into the simple things you delight in by simply thanking Him.  

Summer is a special time with God.  There’s less distractions.  All you have to do is look at Him, and He’s there, excited to spend time with you.  

Author | Sam Forbes

 The Most Precious Claim

The Most Precious Claim

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus released cultural whiplash with those two words.

The Jewish leaders started looking for stones to throw at Him. To them, what Jesus said was blasphemy against God. To those who trust in Him, it is His most precious claim.

The Pharisees knew exactly to what He was referring. In Exodus 3, God called Moses to go and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses asked God, “who should I say has sent me?” God replied,

“I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14).

I AM - by giving Himself this name, God was declaring Himself eternal, completely self-sufficient, and uncaused. There was none before Him and He is forever. When Jesus took the name upon Himself, He revealed Himself to be God and claimed His very nature.

This claim supports the start of the gospel of John, in which John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2).

The Greek word here for “Word” is logos. Greek philosophers referred to logos as the “the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning.” It was seen as the force behind all perfection and harmony in nature. They spent their lives trying to find/define/pin-down logos. Some believed it to be a set of rules, while others thought it may be the feeling of happiness itself. For the Jews, it was the law of the Old Testament. Regardless, they agreed that the ultimate goal in life was to align with this logos.

Enter Jesus - who broke the rules, shirked His own feelings, and gave His very life to be with you.

The logos - what we are to align ourselves to - is not a set of rules or a fleeting feeling, it is the person of Jesus. For, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:4). He is God - the perfection and harmony behind nature, the source of life, the unchanging, eternal force of existence itself - the “I AM.”

He entered into His own creation that we may align with Him. He came to take our scramblings for self-righteousness and give us Himself - the source of perfection.

And as we see with the Pharisees in this passage, He does not please the world or what is left of the world in us. He denies what we know to be true and flips our little worlds upside down.

Dallas Willard said it best in The Divine Conspiracy:

“He comes where we are, and he brings us the life we hunger for. An early report reads, "Life was in him, life that made sense of human existence" (John 1:4). To be the light of life, and to deliver God's life to women and men where they are and as they are, is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus. Suddenly they are flying right-side up, in a world that makes sense.

Call off the search. Stop chasing after rules, regulations, formulas, and feelings that come and go like vapors. Embrace Jesus as I AM. Enter into a living, breathing relationship with the true, eternal Word.

Jesus,

You are I AM. Thank you for entering into my mess and embracing me. Help me let go of trying and striving and scrambling. I want to cling to You. Amen.

Author | Claire Jordan

I Am Who I Am

I Am Who I Am

Do you ever get so caught up in just trying to figure everything out? Because for me it seems like that is a constant state of being… I get so caught up in trying to understand all of the details that I make everything so much harder than it needs to be, or I miss the beauty that is in the simplicity of sitting with God. I am in a book study right now and someone made a comment that hit me hard - they said “we always talk about having a peace that exceeds understanding, but in order to have that peace we must give up our belief that it is our right to understand.” You see, sometimes in God’s kindness He gives us details in order for us to understand, but sometimes He is asking us to trust Him and believe that He is who He says He is; and out of that comes this peace rather than our ability to understand.

I think, in a way, this is the tension that Moses is sitting in when He meets God at the burning bush. When God first calls out Moses’ name Moses is eager and ready to meet with God replying “Here I am.” But when God gives him the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses begins to let his mind get the best of him. He questions God, saying “who am I that I could do such a thing?” He begins to doubt himself. When God tells him that He will be with him, Moses then gets concerned and says “oh but if they start asking questions what do I say? How will I make it clear that you are the one doing it?” (this is me paraphrasing of course) And at that God replies “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites; ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14 Moses was sitting here questioning every detail, but it was always as simple as God declaring who He is. Once Moses took Him at His word and stopped trying to figure everything out on His own, God orchestrated it all together for Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.

This summer, while on a mission trip, I was sitting down having my time with God and I sat there so confused. I said “God, I came here in faith because you clearly told me to. I am having a great time and the people are amazing, but I still can’t figure out why you had me come here. Am I missing something? Do I need to look harder? Do I need to do more?” After a few minutes of silence and more confusion it became abundantly clear. God gently replied, “Tori, relax. Just slow down for a minute and take it all in. Look around you and see where I am. You are just going through your day going from thing to thing and you are doing a great job getting it done, but today look for me in the mundane tasks. Look for me in every activity, conversation, location, etc. I am here. I am doing so much more than you think, I am in the subtle things. All you have to do is breathe and look around to see that I am all that I am.”

You might be asking what all of this has to do with God and His declaration of “I am.” It actually has everything to do with that statement. We know the character of God to be a good, loving father. We know Him to be provider, healer, the one who sees us, the one who is near, almighty, all powerful, king of kings, etc. He is all of these things – and because He is all of these things we often overcomplicate who He is, when He simply IS. It sounds weird, but Yahweh just IS all of these things. Once we give up our right to try to understand this, we can begin to build this trust with God because we will simply get to know who He is at a personal level. When we try to psychoanalyze everything about who God is, we miss the chance to know Him in the ways that He wants us to see and trust Him.

In my time in Nashville, God wanted me to see him as near, ever present, and always moving in the stillness. At the burning bush, God wanted Moses to trust that He is a God of His word, that He will pave the way, and that He will always be with Moses.  Sometimes it’s okay to step back from all of the details… and trust me I LOVE the details… but sometimes it’s more important to see the bigger picture and just relax for a minute while God launches everything into action. Sometimes the details are too much for us to handle, so in God’s protection we aren’t given them right away. That is why Moses only saw God’s back through the fire and had to get on His face, the details of God’s glory are too much for us to handle.

It all comes back to trust. I know that trust can be really difficult with people, but I also know that it can be extremely easy with God. God doesn’t change. He was, and is, and is to come. He will always be who He is. So take heart in knowing that no matter what happens around you on earth, God is Yahweh, the ultimate I am. You can always trust Him because He isn’t going anywhere and His deepest desire is simply to know you and connect with you.

Author | Tori Kramer

To Be Exposed.

To Be Exposed.

Nakedness is not a bad thing. We come into the world unveiled before Him, humanity's exposure to the Earth in it's very first breaths took place in exposure, and all of God's creation thrives unashamed in His glory. The trees, the flowers, the rocks-- everything cries out for Him, unashamed, knowing that He is their creator. So, why is it that we cover ourselves so much?  

Spiritually speaking, we do this because we are afraid.

 Fear is rooted in the false mindset that God is not inherently good. In seasons where we let fear dictate our thinking, we let the fear drive us to believe that He isn't trustworthy and that He will never complete the things that we think He has been saying to us, what He says in scripture, or what He says through people. Sometimes, we are afraid of what He thinks about us.

In addition to the mental chaos, we aren't only afraid that God isn't who He said He was, we are also afraid of people. We are afraid of what they may think, we are afraid that they will hurt us, and we are afraid that we are not good enough for them. In that same place, some of us are even afraid of ourselves. We don't trust our own decision making, we are afraid of leadership, and we are afraid of voicing our own opinion.

I am in an exposing season of life right now where fear is very literally being ripped out of me. To be frank, I really don’t like it. Everything in me wants to run and hide somewhere in isolation, or I have inclinations to cover up and be short with people and the Lord. Stiff arming and self sufficiency is never the answer, I can attest to that over and over again. Being fully exposed before God and others is exactly what I need so that I can be full with Him and full with people. 

For me, letting go of fear looks like being vulnerable with people when I don’t feel like it. It means letting others who are wiser than myself look at me and call me into higher and deeper places. It means expressing exactly what I am feeling and what the Lord is speaking to me no matter the audience. It means being unapologetically myself in my relationship with the Lord during worship, during prayer meetings, and in meetings with people.

In recent months, I have found myself with waterfall tears covering my face just about everyday due to transitions that are taking place in my life and the lives of the people I care about most. On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, I have also found myself in the same predicament thanking the Lord for every single miracle, delivery, obstacle, and revelation that we have seen together this past year. Then, there have been times of compete joy and excitement for what He is doing in the moment and what is to come. I have trembled in tears, I have trembled in holy laughter, I have trembled in passionate anger, and I have trembled at the glory of His presence over and over again. I am coming to realize that my emotions are very very good and they expose me to what is happening deep within my spirit. However, they are in submission to me. I get to dictate what I believe is true in the midst of them. Yes, the days are unpredictable, but at least I am not numb anymore. Over and over again, I will say yes to fear being exposed within me and being unveiled before the Lord.

Love is worth the risk every single time.

Let Him be the anchor in times like these. No matter how I am feeling, all I want is Jesus and every single thing that He is, even if that means dying completely to myself. I choose to trust that He is who He said He is. I choose to believe that He is good. I choose to let Him guide my life with the Spirit inside of me. I choose to trust myself, what I say, the decisions I make, and the people that the Lord put in my life to help guide me. I am no victim.

When I let go of fear, I find myself in peace and completely rested in God. The truth is the anchor that stables me, and when I feel like my clothes are being ripped to shreds, I know He is standing right beside me and is whispering, “everything is going to be okay, it doesn’t matter what they think.” I just know that I can’t hide, because no one will be able to see me. People won’t be able to know me. Recently He told me this when I had several conversations with people that initially intimidate me. He said, "Let them look at you. You have things to offer them.” Wow. What a humbling moment to know that I have things to offer the people that I aspire to be like one day. I can also look at the people who have hurt me with the same eyes and know that I am a mess just like they are and probably even more so. 

While He is teaching me exposure, He is also sweetly guiding me into wearing that royal crown that He bought for me a very very long time ago. Slowly, He is replacing my nakedness with a dress, sparkling with jewels. I Never take it off. It’s my identity. Royalty is what I am called to walk in no matter where I am-- the gas station, jittery joes writing this very blog, or praying over people at Wesley. I have keys to Heaven, a crown of beauty, and a royal dress that was made by Him.

 He is inviting you to put it on as well. Ask Him what He is giving you instead of what is keeping you from the depth of who you are. Ask Him what needs to be exposed in your spirit. I promise, He is more than willing to take the grave clothes you put on every morning. You were created to be free and wear the finest of fragrances and fabrics. Let Him free you. Let Him clothe you. Let Him be the one to tell you who you are. 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. “ Isaiah 61: 1-3 NIV

Author | Emily Helton

A Life Proclaiming Redemption

A Life Proclaiming Redemption

“and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

the oil of joy instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor.”

-Isaiah 61:3

If there is one thing that I have become absolutely convinced of in my past 21 years, it is that Jesus is better than we think at any and every turn of our lives. He gives a hopeful alternative when the world simply hands us an awful card or when people around us make decisions that hurt us whether that be a bad breakup, your parents getting a divorce, a close family member dying, etc. With God, there is always more to look forward to, because he is never done with us. God persists. When the world teaches us to back down, Jesus teaches us to step forward into our Father’s arms who is eagerly waiting on us.

God is always looking for an opportunity to redeem, it is in his very nature to redeem. Redeeming something literally means to “compensate for the faults or bad aspects of something.” God does not just compensate for out faults but instead goes one step further and makes us beings blameless in his sight, covered by the blood of Jesus. There is never a situation that is outside of the reach of our God. God makes the impossible probable. He takes something as lifeless as ashes and turns them into beauty. He spoke life into dry bones. He split the sea so the Israelites could walk through it. The greatest masterpieces come out of the worst situations. When all light is lost, God can still speak it into existence.

There is purpose interwoven into your story; that in the worst moment you have faced God would come down to pick you up out of the mess and give you a crown of beauty. You were meant to be significant. You carry with you an inheritance that is backed by the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator of the cosmos. Your crown was meant to be on full display for all of creation to see. Jesus gave up his seat, so you could rise up with him. The depth of honor that Jesus showed in that moment should be reflected in us and how we honor those around us. We honor people, knowing that we are worth honoring as well.

We should always meet God in our brokenness. Brokenness is never a concept I have been all too comfortable with for many reasons. The main one is that I thought I had to get it all right before God would even look at me, because I never learned what unconditional love truly means until much later in life than normal. God’s love outweighs the cost of our sin. In fact, our ashes may be the biggest indicator to the goodness of God’s heart. In our failures, God meets us and shows us the everlasting depths of his heart. His love is the deepest thing known to mankind. No storybook romance could ever compare to love of God for his people in that he did not care what it would cost him to get us back, he only cared what it would get him: the possibility of relationship with his people.

Satan’s worst for us will never be able to overcome the goodness God has for us. God’s rebuild on our lives is going to look better than the original design. What Satan meant to shatter the walls will only serve as windows to the goodness of God. God is doing a supernatural exchange in this verse in giving his people joy instead of mourning. He is the only one that can take away the mourning we can get so easily entangled in. His joy speaks of a higher promise, and eternity that was echoed as Jesus rose on the third day. His promise gives us something to look toward, because this earth is not our ending.

There is trust that can happen, because you can rest in the truth that the God you serve is not some distant King that wants to keep his hands off the process. he is the best Father you could ask for that will step down from the highest place, so he can let you have his throne. I am convinced that the Father heart of God is the best way we can experience the presence of God on this side of heaven. He invites you to step into family, he chose you to be a part of his forever story.

You are a living invitation for others to see the goodness of God on FULL DISPLAY. Your story does not scream “MESS,” but it actually proclaims of the Redeemer that lives inside of you now. Live your life boldly, always showing off the Spirit that roars on the inside. Your testimony is someone else’s prophecy.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

What Would Jesus Do?

What Would Jesus Do?

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” – Isaiah 61:1-2

These verses were first spoken as a promise of who Jesus would be and what he would do as the Messiah, the anointed one. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promised to us that he would send someone who would come to take care of the poor, the brokenhearted, those held captive, the mourning, the world as a whole. And the craziest, coolest thing about that is that God isn’t limited by time. God sent Jesus physically into the world thousands of years ago, yes, but because he was fully God while he was also fully man, these blessings that have been placed upon him transcend time. These promises aren’t limited to just the people who were on earth while Jesus was alive – God didn’t just guarantee 33 years of healing and justice, then deny everyone else who existed after that point. He promises these things over everyone who has ever and will ever exist. Jesus exemplified these verses in everything that he did – through every miracle, every teaching, every step that he took, he brought comfort, freedom and wholeness.

This anointing isn’t only placed upon Jesus either. Romans 8:16-17 tell us that “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

This means that we are coheirs with Christ – we share the inheritance of God along with him. So, these things that God has promised, that he has anointed over Christ, he also gives to us. We have been given this same anointing that is spoken over Jesus in Isaiah. We have the promise of being able to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim the good news, and set free those held in bondage. I think so often, we get it set in our head that the things Jesus did while he was on earth are things that we aren’t capable of doing – and to a point, that’s right. In our own power, we pretty much cannot do anything Jesus did. But that’s just it – we have the Spirit of God within us, just as the disciples did when the Spirit of God fell upon them in Acts. Therefore, we have the capability to do more than we give ourselves credit for. Paul even goes on to say in chapter 12 of Romans that,

“...we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” (v. 5-6).

Through this anointing that God has placed on our lives, we get the opportunity to use our gifts and talents to make an impact on the world. A week ago, I was asked to write a mission statement for my life. I had to describe why I existed, my purpose in life, who I was with God, and it honestly was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a long time. But, as I finally typed out what I believed my mission in life to be, I feel like it largely encompassed the essence of what these verses in Isaiah are saying. I talked about being called to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and that I have an anointing to help walk with them into freedom – and I didn’t even know I would be writing this blog post at the time. I think that sometimes we get caught up in Jesus’ ministry being in the past that we at times forget that we aren’t just trying to fit into cultural Christianity. We are still called to radically change the expectations and the experiences of the world. It doesn’t matter if that looks like full-time ministry, being a stay-at-home parent, or working a 9-5 corporate job for the rest of your life, one part of our calling is always the same: to follow the example Christ set by reaching the lost and the hurting with the healing, saving, and freeing grace of God. So, take an example from that little bracelet we all wore at some point in our lives, and ask yourself:

What Would Jesus Do?

Author | Emma Whitmer

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