Tag Archives: Hope

30 Days of Gratitude Day 20-Am I Enough for You?

“Heather, am I really enough for you?”

This was the question whispered into my heart by the Holy Spirit one recent early morning.

I have to admit, it startled me. Not the question. My answer.

You see, a few months ago I stepped down from a ministry leader position in my church after several years serving on a weekly basis. The ministry I led was fruitful, fit with my spiritual gifts and filled me with passion and purpose. But God revealed to me that it was time for a new season. As I began to pray and obey into this possibility, I began to see what God had in mind. My family needs more of me, as does my growing career. And then there’s the vision; the vision God has stirred in me since I was a little girl. The vision that will realize one of my most cherished prayers; my husband and I in ministry together. It’s time to get serious about building it. More on that later…

But as I sat with Jesus just a few mornings ago and struggled to answer His very direct question, I realized there’s more to the story. It isn’t just about family, career and ministry. It’s about me. Me and God. Nothing is more important to God than each of us in intimate relationship with Him. God wants more of me

I tearfully confessed to a couple of friends at church what the Holy Spirit had asked me and the struggle I had in answering the question. In that simple question, Jesus revealed to me that ministry had become my enough. My identity was getting mixed up in what I DO for Jesus, instead of who I am in Jesus. The fruit of ministry was becoming my personal yardstick, instead of who God says I am. I was beginning to believe God loves me for what I do for Him.

I actually said out loud to my friends, “If I’m not working for God, then what good am I? What value do I hold?”

I know better than that. Yet…

This was quite startling because I preach and teach on identity in Christ. My passion and conviction has always been about intimacy with God. Before I was a believer, I was very performance driven. As I pursued a relationship with Jesus, He really worked on me in those areas. I experienced a lot of victory. This revelation was like living in a house where you know every room only to discover a basement. My friends pointed out that Jesus is calling me to a place I haven’t yet been. A place of deeper healing and calling. A place of deeper intimacy and identity. 

It’s amazing how sly the enemy is. These performance traps aren’t obvious. They are subtly set and disguised as good things. Many times the enemy will use good things to distract us from the best thing; intimacy with our heavenly Father. If we’re not careful, what starts out as loving and serving God can become working FOR God. He doesn’t need us to work for Him. He invites us to work WITH Him. 

I’ve come to believe I’m in a time of rest and preparation. The preparation is in the rest. The preparation is in the letting go and going deeper, getting uncomfortable where all I have to hold onto is my Savior who leads me. He’s inviting me into a deeper place of more abundant fruit. But first I must let go of the things that bring me validation and approval. The things of man.

He must be my ENOUGH.

If He’s calling you out of something and it doesn’t make sense, trust Him. Let your heart surrender. Get uncomfortable, and trust Him.

I’m so grateful for the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that teaches us.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-5

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 18-PERSEVERANCE

gratitude-journalPerseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Read that again.

Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success…

How many times have you given up because success didn’t come quickly, or things got too hard?  Too many times, right? I know, me too.

And here you are again at the dawning of a new year, doubting it will be different than any other year, but yearning for it to be a year of resolutions kept.

Wait a minute!

Is it possible that you are setting the wrong goals? What if your goal was to not give upTO PERSEVERE. 

What if that became your commitment, that no matter how long it took, or hard it got, you would persevere. 

In fact, what if we embraced each difficulty, each setback, each obstacle as a way to attain the goal of perseverance? Talk about a shift in mindset!

Instead of giving up, we would give thanks for the defeat that aimed to derail our dreams and vision. We would celebrate the opportunity to exercise perseverance!

Maya Angelou wrote, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

I love this quote because it points us to the very truth in the Bible when James wrote,

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This New Testament book was written to encourage persecuted Christians to endure and live bold Christian lives; lives that pursue perseverance, reflect hope, and demonstrate transformation. We can’t do that without pushing through trials and hardships, failures and setbacks. Jesus said in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome the world!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Wow! It’s through perseverance that we are made complete in our faith and mature in our Christian walk. Not tossed about like a wave on the ocean, but fastened and secured to our Savior. We are made stronger in our weakness through the power of God in us, as long as we do not give up! 

He has given each one of us a purpose and made each of us with a vision. You may not what it is yet, but He is preparing and equipping you for His purpose right now. In order to live out that purpose, we must learn the discipline of perseverance. Chances are very good that God’s purpose for your life is going to be delivered through your greatest trials. If we give up every time it gets hard, we miss out on our destiny. 

We must pursue perseverance! 

Even in my writing, I must pursue perseverance. In November, I felt God leading me to focus on gratitude. I decided I would write every day for thirty days about what I’m grateful for. If you have been following my blog, you know that November turned into Advent and Christmas, and I’m still writing my thirty days of gratitude! But I will not give up, because success may be delayed, but my hope is not deferred! My hope is in Jesus, and through Him I can do all things!

Today I’m grateful for the opportunity to persevere!

What are you grateful for?

What vision is God calling you to for 2016? 

Will you make the commitment to persevere?

I’d love to hear from you!

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 17-God’s Promise

gratitude-journalIn this Season of Advent, I am grateful for the God who fulfills His promises.

A beautiful biblical example of faithfulness is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. Luke 1:5-25

Theirs is a story we can all relate to in some way, because all of us have been in the valley of life. All of us have at one time or another felt abandoned and forgotten. All of us have wondered if maybe we were being punished by God, that we had somehow disappointed Him. All of us have looked to our circumstances, instead of to God and felt the pangs of lack, and doubted the power of God to change our circumstances.

But there is hope, and that hope is real. Our hope is in the God who delivers on His promises.

I have pulled out five key points that I think will encourage you in your life today.

1.  They were faithful despite their circumstances.

Zechariah was a priest, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, were advanced in years, most likely in their late 60’s, and had no children. In the Jewish culture, barrenness was considered not having God’s blessing. Despite their circumstances, and how people must have whispered about their plight, they remained faithful to God.

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1 6-7

2.  Their lack was not a punishment from God.

The Scripture says they were righteous in the sight of God. Did that mean they were perfect and never sinned? No. They were human. But their heart was set on loving and obeying the Lord. As you read their story, you can sense their humility. A humble heart greatly blesses God. I like to think that being righteous in the sight of God meant they weren’t trying to be impress people, but were truly living their lives for an audience of One. 

God will send or allow problems into our life to help us grow spiritually. James 1:2-4 says,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

But we often will jump to the false conclusion that God is angry or disappointed with us, that He is punishing us, when trials come into our life. The enemy would love for us to wallow in that condemnation, as then we are more prone to try to hide from God. 

3.  They let their circumstances diminish their faith in God’s power.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah at the altar and foretold him that he and Elizabeth would bear a son that would be a prophet of the Lord, that he would make ready a people prepared for the Lord, Zachariah did not respond in faith. 

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18

Often we think of the people of the Bible as super-Christians, but they were ordinary people just like you and me. Ordinary people who God did extraordinary things through. They had doubts and uncertainties, struggles and failings. Zechariah looked at the impossibility of their situation, instead of at the God through whom ALL things are possible. 

Garbriel responded to his lack of faith by binding Zechariah’s mouth so that he couldn’t speak until after the baby was born. I think this was a consequence of Zechariah’s fear, but it’s also further proof to Zechariah of God’s ultimate and sovereign power. Even in our consequences, God shows us the power of His grace. 

4.  God removed their shame. 

After all the years of yearning for children, and maybe even giving up hope it would ever happen, Elizabeth became pregnant. The Lord was faithful in His perfect timing. He removed her shame and redeemed it by placing in her the fulfillment of His promise.

Is there something in you that you have been waiting to be birthed? Have you given up hope? God is always at work fulfilling His promises, but in His time and place. His plans are very personal and unique in each one of us, but they are also for His Kingdom and glory. His plans are much bigger than us. Don’t give up hope! Don’t quit before the breakthrough!

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:24-25

5.  God fulfilled His promise.

This little child born to Zechariah and Elizabeth did go on to become John the Baptist, the forerunner to the Messiah, preparing the people through confession, repentance and baptism for the coming of Christ. Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied the future of his young son. The fulfillment of God’s promise to save the world through his Son, Jesus.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:76-79

And He will fulfill his promises to you. The promise of salvation, peace, joy, victory, purpose and so much more, through a personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. He has not forgotten all He has promised. He is for you. Let us cling to that Truth so that we may have hope in the midst of our circumstances.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 16-Waiting

gratitude-journalIt was a cold, clear night and the young sheepherders were standing watch as they did every night. The routine of their work settled into the passing of the hours as their eyes beheld the stretch of pasture before them. It  was a night like any other night. A day like any other day. A day like yours or mine.

A day at the office.

A day of diapers and barely-avoided disasters. 

A day juggling three jobs with no help.

A day filled with the mundane and ordinary. 

A day waiting.

Waiting for something to happen.

Waiting for something to change.

Waiting.

Suddenly!

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:9

“But the angel said to them. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.” Luke 2:10

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you,” Luke 2:11

To you and to me.

He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying.” Luke 2:13

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is well pleased.” Luke 2:14

Our God is a God of suddenly! He is a God who suddenly shows up in the anguish of love, the bitterness of shattered dreams, the tears of the past and in the moments of the mundane. He is a God whom we can suddenly encounter in the silence of prayer and the call of His Word. Or in the kindness of a friend. His presence suddenly changes our fear to joy and our despair to hope.

He is our Savior who rescued us from the bondage and death of sin. The Christ-child born of humility who, by our faith in him, reconciles us to God so that we may live at peace with Him.

God is pleased with you. In you He sees his Son.

After the angel told the sheepherders, they ran off to see for themselves. There was much excitement about this greatest birth in human history. This arrival that had been waited for. This arrival that happened in an ordinary place, on an ordinary night.

The arrival of Hope. 

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

I pray you will store up the treasure of Jesus in your heart. I pray you will reflect and pray and listen. I pray you will wait on the God of Suddenly. We are people who have IN us the hope of Christ as our reality, and we wait. We praise Him in gratitude for what He has done for us, and we wait in hope for what He WILL do for us. 

In the waiting, we are being remade. We are learning to trust.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

We dwell in hope, we wait in hope, we are people of Hope. 

Today I’m grateful for waiting.

What are you grateful for today?

30 Days of Gratitude-Day 15-Hope

gratitude-journalI’m grateful for hope. 

This is the beginning of the Advent season and since I didn’t finish writing 30 things I’m grateful for in the month of November, I’m going to continue my journey of intentional gratitude into the Advent season. 

The meaning of the word “advent” is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.  In Christian terms, it means the coming or second coming of Christ. We begin to celebrate the Advent season the fourth Sunday before Christmas. During this time four candles are centered in a wreath, and one is lit each Sunday.

The first candle is Hope.

Advent is waiting in expectancy for the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have hope because he has already come through his birth, and we wait for his return with expectant hearts.

This morning in my reading of Isaiah 11:1-10, verses 1 and 2 caught my breath.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Jesse was the father of Kind David, who Jesus descended from. Isaiah has been prophesying that Israel would be judged, but that a remnant would survive it. By using the imagery of a chopped tree to describe Jesse, the author relates the judgment coming upon Israel to that coming upon Assyria.

The shoot that came out of the stump of Jesse is the promised Messiah, Jesus. 

That’s the context, but theres’ something in it for you and me.

Notice how these verses are FULL OF PROMISES! See where I highlighted the word WILL and the words that follow.

Notice the gifts that will be given by the Spirit of God upon the delivery of the promises; wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. 

Notice the final promise and exhortation in the final line; “He WILL delight in the fear of the Lord.” He will delight in obeying the Lord.

Have you ever felt like your life was cut off at the stump?

I have too.

But there is a greater reality, and that is our hope in Jesus. That no matter where we’ve been there’s hope in Jesus. It may be the smallest shoot in a smoldering stump, but it is mighty and green and bent on bearing fruit. Nothing will prevent hope from bearing fruit in your life. Nothing will prevent Jesus from overcoming the world in your life. When we hold to Jesus, we realize that we are grafted permanently into hope. 

Jesus IS hope.

And when we hold to hope, we experience gifts given by the Spirit of Truth; wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. And when we delight in obeying the Lord, we are empowered in our faith and we experience His gifts more powerfully, and our hope is magnified. 

This prophecy is about Jesus, but Jesus lives in us, so in my mind, this is about us too. Jesus in me and you. His hope, his gifts, his obedience to His Father. All of it in us, too.

I pray that you will use this Advent season to seek a close encounter with Jesus. That you will set aside time to be with Him, time to listen to Him and time to respond to Him.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13

May this Advent be unforgettable.

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

30 Days of Gratitude-Day Thirteen

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Our Pastor has inspired me to use this season to improve my attitude of gratitude. I have committed to writing about thirty things I’m grateful for. Even the hard stuff. Gratitude is not about our circumstances. It is a choice. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today I’m grateful for my body.

Now that may sound really brazen. I’m on the thin side, so some may think that is easy for me to say. Some may even think it sounds boastful. But I assure you it’s not. You see, I struggled for almost twenty years with an eating disorder called Bulimia.

Webster Dictionary defines Bulimia as

“an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.”

Let’s look at the word distortion. The definition is

“a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.” 

I’ve always been relatively thin. It runs in my family. But because of childhood trauma my identity was defined by the emotional needs of others. That’s cause for a lot of dysfunction. In my case, I believed that if I was perfect enough, I could control the behavior of others. I believed that if people valued me as perfect, then I would finally experience the love I so desperately sought. 

I could never be thin enough.

At nineteen, I entered a fitness model contest. I was in amazing shape. I worked hard, denied my cravings and built the body I had dreamed of. But when I looked in the mirror I saw the same body I had always seen. One that was imperfect and disappointing. One that didn’t measure up. 

A year later I moved to New Jersey to pursue a modeling career in New York. I lost another ten pounds and got down to 111 pounds at 5’8″. I was so emaciated that my face just sunk in. When I returned home, my own family didn’t recognize me when they picked me up from the airport. Everybody commented that I looked like I had been sick. I deflected their comments, but inside I was pleased. I thought I had finally arrived. But when I looked in the mirror, I still didn’t measure up. 

That’s distortion.  That’s the lie we buy into. That we have to be perfect. That we are damaged goods. And as a therapist once told me, we spend the rest of our lives trying to disprove the lie that we are bad. 

I found something even more interesting about the meaning of the word distortion on the Wikipedia site.

“a distortion is the alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of something, such as an object, image, sound or waveform.”

That is profoundly true! What is our original shape?

The image of God!

We are made in the image of God! That is our original shape! But because of sin and brokenness and hurt and darkness, our original shape is altered and distorted. Since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden, man’s natural instinct has been to pursue his identity apart from God. That’s why we are broken! But there is GOOD NEWS! There is redemption in Jesus Christ!

As believers, we must understand our identity in Christ!

As people recovering recovery from eating disorders, I think we must pursue 3 key disciplines. 

  1.  Forgiveness of self and others. People with eating disorders keep standards that no one can meet.  It’s a way to stay in a perpetual state of disappointment that allows one to punish themselves and others. A person with an eating disorder will be served well by focusing on forgiveness, which leads to acceptance
  2. Communication. I was unable to communicate my feelings as a child because of fear and shame. For me Bulimia started as an experiment, and quickly led to an obsession. It became a way to not only purge my food, but symbolically to purge my painful feelings. Please talk with someone you trust. Reach out.
  3. Renewing our mind. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When we focus on the Truth instead of our feelings, we are renewed. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of the world, we are renewed. We must learn who we really are. Who God made us to be. Who God says we are. Most importantly, we must learn who God himself is. That is a process. 

Eating disorders are mental disorders and they are complicated. If you have one, I pray you will get professional help. I’m not a trained professional, and only share my personal experience and beliefs. I have 7 years of recovery from my disorder without one single relapse. All Glory to God! I have been delivered and set free and I believe that is possible for every one of us. 

I’m praying that you will have the strength to look into the eyes of Jesus and see the absolute love and adoration He has for you. You are enough. He has a plan for your life. It is a good plan, because He is a good God.

What are you grateful for today?