My name is Karina Allen. I am 35 and from New Orleans, LA but have lived in Baton Rouge since 1998. Much of my time here is spent at the gym, babysitting or at my local church, Healing Place. I am involved in a myriad of ministries and outreaches. I am on the worship team, a leader for High School girls, active in our women’s ministry, nursery registration team volunteer, a part of young adult ministry, and a teacher for our kids’ dance ministry. I also help with our inner city outreaches and to bring awareness to human trafficking through Trafficking Hope Inc. I taught preschool for about 10 years but I knew that that wasn’t the call of God on my life. I am a freelance writer and editor. I’m a contributor for Incourage as well as a few other sites. I am working on my certification to be a Life Coach. I long to speak, hope, truth, life, encouragement and purpose into the souls of women. My dream is for each woman to fully walk out their identity in Christ in the specific calling that He has for each of their lives.
“…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 NIV
Really, the whole of Isaiah 61 is incredible! It is all about the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord and what His anointing empowers us to have and to be. I don’t know about you, but most days I don’t feel empowered. I feel a bit defeated by life, others and even myself. But that is not God’s will for my life or for yours. His desire is for His Spirit to come alive in us, to overflow and impact those around us.
Recently, I was at my friend Elizabeth’s house working on some writing projects. She has this gorgeous black and white photo hanging of an oak tree from New Orleans’ City Park. And verse 3 of Isaiah 61 was beautifully written underneath it. My gaze repeatedly returned to that photo and that verse much of the night. It’s as though the Lord was trying to get my attention. I knew that this needed to be a verse that I committed to memory and needed to become embedded within my very marrow.
1.) God wants to trade the pain we acquire from this world with His good and perfect gifts. Before sin entered the world, mourning and despair were never even a concern. The world has been bombarded with evil and suffering. People cause harm and bad things happen. But God wants us to know that even in the midst of tragedy, we can experience His peace, comfort and even joy.
2.) Through the trading process, God’s dream is for us to become oaks of righteousness. Now, this may not seem like something we would want to be described as, but it should be. Oak trees are remarkable! They are strong, tough and extremely resilient. They have roots that reach down deep into the earth. When we exchange our hurt with the Lord’s goodness, this is the outcome. We dig deep into His Word and discover His promises for us. We stand firm on that foundation and the storms of life are unable to shake us. We allow Him to be the lifter of our heads and fill us with His hope. We become confident that He will work all things together for good to those of us that love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
3.) As we grow to be oaks of righteousness, we turn into a display of the Lord’s splendor. On display for all to see…that is an intimidating thought. Don’t let it be. People watch us. They watch how we live and what we say if we profess Christ. They watch how we respond in both good and bad seasons. That’s okay. As we are conformed to the image of Christ, others take notice and eventually desire to know why our lives are different. That is often how the Father draws hearts to Himself.
Beauty, joy and praise await you.
Deep roots are calling out to you.
His splendor is ready to be displayed through you.
For His Name and His Renown,
Hey, Everybody! I promised you this blog post after asking for testimonies late last week about freedom in Christ from areas of bondage. I was teaching on the subject in a television taping the next day and wanted fresh stories to build up the faith of people who feared they’d never be free. As I compiled the list of strongholds, I shook my head over the goodness of God and the immeasurable reach of His grace. People testified to freedom from heroin, meth, alcohol and pornography addictions and being released from strongholds of anger, rage, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred and insecurity. The list went on and on. The common denominator? Every person testifying believed beyond a doubt that Jesus alone had set them free. Some had been set free instantly. Others took longer journeys to freedom. Some were in support groups, others were not. Some went to counseling, others didn’t. The routes to freedom varied but the end result was the same: they’d all been set free by Jesus and those who described the process of their liberty almost without exception named the crucial role of Scripture. As I jotted down all the strongholds mentioned, I tweeted how everything under the sun had been mentioned.
THEN, I sat and stared at the list for a moment and thought, “Wait a minute. I don’t see any food-related strongholds!” I followed up with another tweet saying no one had mentioned it and asked if anybody had a testimony. Several stories of freedom came though but my feed was swamped by responses of people struggling with bondage to and unhealthy relationships with food, whether they manifested in overeating or under-eating.
I am no expert but I stick by a philosophy of serving based on the words of Peter to the lame man begging for alms in Acts 3:6. “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give you.” I don’t have impressive training and expertise with food-related strongholds – those voices are out there and please seek them out – but, in the meantime, anything I have is yours. I’ve studied freedom in Christ for 20 years, holding it close to my heart as part of my life-message because Jesus saved my sanity through rewiring my mind with Scripture. I am convinced to my bones, if He could rescue me and set me free, He can do it for anyone.
When I need a breakthrough in a really tough area, I find no approach more power-packed and effective than combining prayer with Scripture. That’s what the book Praying God’s Word is all about. With my publisher’s permission, you’ll find 31 Scripture-prayers from various chapters of the book below. I am so grateful to my beloved coworkers, Kimberly McMahon (K-Mac) and Nancy Mattingly, for gathering a cross-section of them and typing them up meticulously for you here.
You’ll notice quickly that the prayers are not only about moderation and care of the physical body. There’s a good reason for that. Food-related strongholds aren’t just about appetites. They are often about real-live needs and wants that have gone unmet and unanswered. They can be about loneliness and emptiness. Those are the kinds of issues to talk to godly counselors about but I want to make sure you know this here and now: whether or not you are free from a stronghold has absolutely no bearing on how loved, accepted and chosen you are by God. This is about your liberty. Not about your worth. Your value is not wrapped up in this. In fact, accepting your inestimable value to God in advance of a whit of victory will be the single biggest leap toward freedom you will ever take. Beating yourself over the head with your Bible will never set you free. It will only bruise you. The Word of God bringing life and truth into the heart and mind of a follower of Jesus sets you free. These are the mindsets for demolishing strongholds based on the charge in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (“to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”): Choosing to believe and confess that God is well able, that you are well loved, that you can do anything He calls you to do through His power at work within you and that no sin or stronghold has the right to master you. That’s why the prayers below are a cross-section of professions rather than a compilation strictly about eating.
Use the prayers below anyway you want but say them aloud as often as you can. It will build up your faith which will build up your strength. After you get the general idea, go dive into your Bible where you will find no end to the verses that you can turn into prayers to profess the power and greatness of God, His love for you and His promises extended through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 8 alone you’ll find such a wealth of promises that simply reading the words out loud as professions of your faith will start snapping chains and quaking concrete floors where you feel imprisoned.
We love you. We share your battles. Now, let’s share some victories. Jesus, do what You do.
1. My Father, great are Your works! They are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are Your deeds, and Your righteousness endures forever. You have caused Your wonders to be remembered; You, Lord, are gracious and compassionate. (Psalm 111:2–4) The works of Your hands are faithful and just; all Your precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. (Psalm 111:7–8)
2. Father, so often I feel like the boy’s father who first exclaimed, “I do believe!” then in a flood of sincerity cried out, “Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Please help me to overcome my own unbelief, Lord, so I can start taking You at Your Word.
3. Father, I don’t want to be like the ancient Israelites who were not able to enter the Promised Land “rest” because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19) Help me to believe You and follow You to the place of Your promised land in my own life.
4. Father, Your Word says that if Your disciples believe, they will receive whatever they ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22) Lord, as you mature my faith, also teach me how to pray and what to ask of You in prayer. I have so much to learn. Keep teaching me, Father.
5. Christ Jesus, You said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) Lord, I cannot see Your visible hands, but if I’m willing to really look, I can see the visible evidences of Your invisible hands. Help me to stop doubting and believe!
6. Lord God, You don’t want me to be persuaded just by the wise and persuasive words of men. You want me to be persuaded by the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that my faith will not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4–5)
7. Lord God, You have said that Your righteous one will live by faith and if he shrinks back You will not be pleased with him. (Hebrews 10:38) Lord, I want to live a life that is pleasing to You. The life that pleases you is also a life that You so readily bless. (Hebrews 11:6) I don’t want to miss the great adventures You mapped out for me by shrinking back from a walk of faith.
8. Father, I desire to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
9. Father, according to Your Word, in his pride the wicked does not seek You; in all his thoughts there is no room for You. (Psalm 10:4) Please help me to always make room in my thoughts for You, God. Don’t allow me to continue on in pride that stops me from seeking You.
10. Father, You have promised that if Your people, who are called by Your name, will humble themselves and pray and seek Your face and turn from their wicked ways, then will You hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) Please help me to understand that corporate revival begins with personal, individual revival. Help me to humble myself and pray and seek Your face and turn from my own wicked ways. Thank You for hearing me from heaven and forgiving my sin and bringing healing to my heart.
11. Sovereign Lord, Your hand has made heaven and earth, and through You they came into being. Your Word says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2) Father, I can hardly imagine being someone You esteem, but I sincerely want to be! Make me that kind of person through the power of Your Holy Spirit, Lord.
12. Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long. (Psalm 25:4–5)
13. My all-powerful God, enable me to stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around my waist and with the breastplate of righteousness in place. (Ephesians 6:14) Help me to understand that without the girding of truth, I am defenseless against the devil. Truth is my main defense against the father of lies.
14. Lord, without You I would be foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. I would live in malice and envy, being hated and hating others. (Titus 3:3) I don’t want that kind of life, God! I want to live life in the power and fullness of Your Spirit.
15. Father God, You command me for my own good not to merely listen to the Word but to do what it says. If I only listen and do not obey, I will undoubtedly deceive myself. Help me to comprehend that the Word of God is my perfect law of liberty! (James 1:22, 25 kjv)
16. My Jesus, according to Your Word, whoever has Your commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves You. He who loves You will be loved by Your Father, and You too will love him and show Yourself to him. (John 14:21) O, God, please help me to live obediently and have the joy of seeing You revealed in all sorts of marvelous ways.
17. Lord, according to Your Word, what a man desires or craves deeply is unfailing love. (Proverbs 19:22) Every other use of the words unfailing love in Scripture is attributed to You alone. You are the only one capable of perpetually unfailing love. Help me to understand that my deep cravings for someone to love me with that kind of love were meant to be satisfied in You alone. Thank You, Lord.
18. I praise You, Lord, with all my soul, and I desire never to forget all Your benefits—You, Lord, are the one who forgives all my sins and heals my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion, who satisfies my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s. You, Lord, work righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:2–6)
19. Lord Jesus, You asked Your Father to give me a Counselor that would be with me forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But I know Him, for He lives with me and is in me. You have not left me as an orphan. You came to me. Even though the world does not see You any more, I can see You through the work of Your Holy Spirit. Because You live, I also live. Help me to realize that You, Jesus, are in Your Father, and I am in You, and You are in me. (John 14:15–20)
20. Father, Your Word says that a person who lacks self-control is like a city whose walls are broken down. (Proverbs 25:28) Sometimes I feel like there is so much rubble, I can’t rebuild the wall. (Nehemiah 4:10) Your Word claims that You are the Repairer of Broken Walls, and the Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:12) Please introduce Yourself to me by these wonderful names and rebuild the rubble in my life.
21. For I know that my old self was crucified with You, Christ, so that this body of sin might be done away with, that I should no longer be a slave to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:6–7)
22. “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I desire not to be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12) Lord God, help me to recognize and discern what is not beneficial for me. Help me to see that authentic liberty is being free to do certain things and free not to do others.
23. Lord God, I acknowledge that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free. Your desire is for me to stand firm, then, and not let myself be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1) Help me, Lord. Empower me.
24. In view of Your mercy, Lord, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You, God. This is my spiritual act of worship. I desire not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Then I will be able to test and approve what Your will is—Your good, pleasing, and perfect will. (Romans 12:1–2)
25. Lord, though I live in the world, I do not wage war as the world does. The weapons I fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. Your power can demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of You, God, and take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3–5) Enable me, Lord! Help me not just to read it and say it, but to believe it and do it!
26. Lord, I have too long given the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27) Please help me to stop offering him so many opportunities to bring defeat into my life. Your plan for me is victory.
27. God, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which You have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14) Help me to forget all past failures or even achievements and to focus on pressing forward with You now.
28. Lord Jesus, I can do everything through You because You give me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
29. Lord, I can find great encouragement in knowing that many believers, weak in their natural selves, have walked faithfully and victoriously with You. (Hebrews 11) Therefore, since I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, help me throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and help me run with perseverance the race marked out for me. Help me fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of Your throne, O God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
30. Lord God, Your divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of You who called me by Your own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
31. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. (Psalm 142:6) Lord, an important part of my victory will be admitting that without Your complete intervention, my oppressor is too strong for me. I am unable to be victorious without You. Come and rescue me with Your mighty hand.Leave a comment here. | Share with Others:
Recently Sabrina Moore*, my beloved coworker and our ministry director here at Living Proof, let me read something God stirred up in her heart and prompted her to write down. (*Of no relation except in Jesus and we’re really, really related there.) I was so blessed I had to text her and say, “Girl, that thing is a BLOG POST.” She prayed about it and gave me a thumbs-up to post it here. I have told you a number of times how much you would love the women who serve at Living Proof so it pleases me to no end when I get to scoot out of the way and let them minister straight to you and you, in turn, minister straight to them. They are staunch women of the Scriptures and they love Jesus outrageously. I am incredibly graced to serve side-by-side with them. For those of you who have done the Esther series, this is the friend I call GP and she me. It stands for God’s Property, based on a Kirk Franklin song we’ve sung together about a jillion times. (GP, are you with me? Oh, yeah, we having church, we ain’t going nowhere.) My GP is serious about Jesus. She and I have gone face-down on the floors of this ministry countless times in prayer, asking Jesus to do within and through our walls things only He can do. Things that draw bold attention to Him, demonstrate His Holy Spirit and testify of His love, grace and truth. I pray He’ll use Sabrina today to provoke something wonderful in you. All of us here at LPM love and highly esteem you.
You sister and servant,
OK, GP! I’ll leave the rest to you! Thank you for serving our community today!
Title: We live by what we believe – not what we see
We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
For so much of my life I’ve made decisions based on the available options. Learning the options, weighing the options, talking about the options, all of which derived a final decision based on the available options: Option A or Option B, and on some occasions there would be an Option C, D… We can live one moment to the next with endless options and, truth be told, we are conditioned to it. We like it. In fact, we like our options so much that we are sometimes disappointed when there are too few of them. Simple case in point, the “frig option”. We need something to eat. We are starving, well kind of, but for what? Then we take that notorious, well-paved trek. We start making our way to the refrigerator, open the door and stand, staring. Hmmm. Then, like a judge with gavel in hand, we let loose of the door with a final analysis there is nothing – not one thing – in there to eat. When, really, the whispering truth is, there is something, but we do not want that something. We don’t like the options, therefore, we conclude there is nothing.
The same could be true for the insanity that takes place during every typical “what to wear” drama. Oh, my soul! How many times has this one caused us to miss half the worship portion of the service on a Sunday morning? Just last week I walked into church a little late, so thankful my oldest had me a seat saved next to her. I scooted in, leaned over and said, “Good morning darling, is this the last song?” Have mercy and forgive me, God. The irony is that the time I risk missing really is my favorite part of Sunday morning church! Fortunately, I came in during the first song. Anyone know what I’m talking about? Be honest, how many times have you stood, staring at the clothes in your closet, “hmmm…”, and said, even out loud, “I have absolutely nothing to wear”? AKA: I don’t like any of these options.
Options can be okay. I am not aiming for a boring stringent-living mandate. More times than not, my family is a swirl of option-pitching: restaurant options, movie options, time frame options and countless others, all with a sincere kindness and effort to do whatever fits for everyone. Much of life is lived by options especially in American where we have an endless surplus. The culture once dictated that a person purchased items based on the options his or her budget would allow. Then the credit era seduced Americans into the scheme of “have it now” and nonstop options popped wide open. But the endless options came with lies like,
You can have anything you want. Have your choice. Have it all.
Not all choices are visible. There are times to ditch all our seen-options and cut new ground based on what is unseen. True, that new road building is not nearly as easy. It can be – and usually is – the very intense “give it all you’ve got and then some” kind of work. The kind that may even come with heart-hurts that send shocks of pain to every nerve-ending in your body. The truth is, it can be really lonely to go a new, uncharted way, but, if it’s of God, the reality of it is bigger and better than every concrete, sure-fired option we could ever choose.
I was right there, living my life by what was available, all that was logistical, logical, my attainable reality.
My options. My choices.
Until, on one normal morning, on a normal day, doing my normal routine and activities I felt the press of God and it came with a sense of doing something that had no logistical steps. It didn’t seem at all logical. The press of God was so undeniably real and powerful that I remember it today like it happened this morning.
My thoughts were a mix of perplexed and pondering. Perplexed in a way that almost seemed to communicate to my human rationale, “That isn’t true” not as an argument so much as a means to clarify, understand and assimilate. At the same time, the spiritual and practical side of my understanding began pondering how I could obey. There was no attainable reality to form an action plan. It was so vast it could be compared to snowing skiing in Galveston, Texas. So not a reality!
I had recently fallen seriously in love with Jesus, having spent so much of my life knowing Him as my Savior, believing He died for me and believing He loved me. And, yet I had just awakened to His living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12), with freshly opened eyes to who He really was, how He loves me and how His captivating presence compares to nothing else in this journey of life. I wanted to say “yes” to Him, even if I didn’t agree, understand or know what, when, or how.
So I did. I said yes – “Lord, if You want it, You do it”.
Sometimes God’s plans are so far beyond our everyday thinking we don’t even entertain His truth as our reality. Without exception, His plans are always our reality. He is so much bigger than the “Genie” we ask for, so much more compassionate than just waving a magic wand and dropping the great and wonderful plan into our lap. He gives us the free will and the choice to participate. Priscilla Shirer puts the reality in this perfect wording: “God doesn’t drop __________ in your hands, God puts it in your reach”.
When our second daughter was born, my husband and I intentionally decided to change our lifestyle and live on less income (like to the penny) so I could stay home with both girls. It was a challenge, but it was our chosen challenge and so worth it. When our youngest went to preschool at a church near our home, I began to volunteer at LPM. A couple of years later my life went from the “chosen challenge” to an intensely hard season that made it very obvious I needed to get a job. Well, LPM was growing and there were possible opportunities not too far off, but nothing presently available. I freshened up my resume and started the hunt.
Checked back with LPM. Made a few calls toward other jobs. Checked back with LPM. I went on a few interviews at other places of employment. Checked back with LPM. Received an offer from somewhere else. Checked back with LPM. Nothing available yet so I accepted the other offer. With tears I resigned from my volunteer work at LPM.
I just couldn’t understand it. I was sure I was suppose to work at LPM but I was more sure I was suppose to work. And work I did. I went to work for a great company back in the corporate world. I loved it. I love it on the hard days. I loved it on the busy days. I loved the challenges. I loved new learning. I loved getting a few quiet opportunities to point people to Jesus. I loved all of it. At the same time I never stopped loving the ministry of LPM. I stayed in touch with my LPM friends; they were my partners in prayer, in faith and of heart.
Though it was faint, my heart still held hope that I would understand the pull that laid deep inside of me and the desire to return, a desire I prayed hard to keep down. About a year later, the day came. I was offered the “name your price” corporate position. My heart was still so connected to the ministry of LPM, I stalled in giving any answer. And yes, I checked in with LPM but things were still “holding”. So I replied to the corporate offer with an unheard-of price. They accepted it! What?! Why? This definitely qualified as one of those huge life options that leave us with no other options than to a “get on your face” and seek God!
I was grateful for the offer, it looked like a good thing, but I flat had no peace. It made no sense. I wanted to be excited but I couldn’t get there. My heart was “fine” but not at peace and my joy was flat-lined. Even with my next steps going against every logical point on my checklist, I declined the promotion and not because I had a better option. I had nowhere to go. So, Sabrina, decline a better opportunity to stay at the same place in my current position? Yes, that is exactly what I did. So odd, right? The best way I can describe it is like someone giving me an all-paid dream beach vacation but I’d have to leave my family at home. Even if that were my only option, it would not be the one I’d want to choose. It felt to me like an Exodus 33 moment…
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you…”
God tells Moses, I will give you everything you need and flowing blessings but I am not going.
Blah! No thanks.
About a week later, LPM called me and offered me a position. It wasn’t the “price” I had given corporate. Actually it was less than my current price but it was the fullness of my God. The pay wasn’t the prize; LPM wasn’t the prize nor was any other achievement. Jesus is the prize! Nothing is sweeter to me than believing He took me out of LPM, He gave me a job I would love with good pay and then called me to release it and to follow Him. He set me in a place to make the intentional choice and a defining mark in my “yes” to Him. His options include the show stopping. There we encounter relationship with Him, participation with Him. This is the stuff we remember all the days of our lives. He makes the call, He gives the call, He defines each detail specially and individually for each of us. He creates the timing of bringing the call to life and He gives us the option: the option to believe Him beyond all visible options and, yes, even when there are no options. The option to say “Yes, Lord. You want it, You do it”.
I have been at LPM for 15 years and I dare say – it is rare for me to go any length of time without saying afresh and full of heart, “Yes, Lord, You want it. You do it.” I said it 5 days ago. I said it this morning!
The warning in this time is vitally important. We travel a new road and, in blind faith we encounter
the better than life,
the all in all,
that consumes every part of our heart, soul and mind, surrendering with a trumpet sounding “yes.” Track the journey with Him and His mind-blowing ways. We are all in and boom! He rocks our world. And when we catch our breath, we stop for a moment, reliving the wonders. Be very aware, it is not time to set up house and decorate it. It is the starting line, not the finish line. Don’t default to thinking all is good and the mountaintop was the ride of my life and now it’s time to settle and live off the “remember when”.
No ma’am. He isn’t done and neither are you. This may look like an option but it’s not His way. We walk by faith not by sight. Get up! Drag yourself, crawl, increase your B12, whatever it takes. Fight yourself for yourself, fight the good fight, but keep moving,
keep dealing with the hurt, the challenges, the hard days and the harder days,
believing for the better days,
choosing joy, waiting for the season of change and believing God.
Some options are okay, sure. And, then again, there are times where option-living is anything but okay.
Make the choice, cross the finish line. There are no better options.
With love to all of you in the name of Jesus,
I had an interesting moment with Jesus a few days ago and I can’t quit thinking about it. It followed these three related entries I’d posted right in a row on Twitter:
(1) “I don’t care if it sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, if they say, ‘But we need your answer right now,’ it probably needs to be NO.” (2) “One of the opportunities I most regret taking was a snap decision over the offerer’s insistence on an answer NOW. No time for prayer? Uh, NO.” (3) “Gah. If I can save you the pain in the neck that decision has continued to be to me for a solid 10 years, please let me.”
I meant every word. Still do. Good grief, it’s been a pain. A lot of people hopped on board in response to those tweets and my misery found some good company and, in turn, a few good laughs. Man, I love when that happens.
A few hours later while I was on a walk in the woods, a deep and specific conviction of the Holy Spirit welled up in me unexpectedly. It was a conviction of gratitude: the leading of the Holy Spirit for me to, right then and there and henceforth, give no small thanks to God over the very situation that had been such a pain. If I had to wrap English language around a conviction of the Holy Spirit, it would go something like this:
“You really ought to thank Me for that.”
Sometimes the conviction of the Holy Spirit comes so unexpectedly in an area that we are taken aback. I know. I know. You’re wanting to quote me 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I get it. And I know it by heart. But we can read those words, quote those words and believe those words to be absolute truth, absolutely appropriate and even restorative and yet have a treacherously hard time applying them to situations that have nearly perforated our stomach lining. Circumstances get infinitely harder to be grateful within than the one I’m talking about in this article. Still, call me superficial but I can’t say I’ve thrown my back out with cartwheels for a thorn in the flesh that got stuck in my skull from diving headlong into an instant yes. It’s been a gift that just keeps on giving.
But that’s just it. I think God wanted me to stand there in those piney woods and consider what a gift that situation had been to me. Of course, for the sake of humility. Nothing’s wasted if it works humility because nothing will get us into deeper trouble or set us up for a steeper fall than pride. We have no greater obstacle to our divine callings than our egos. But that pain in the neck also offered me a second gift. It taught me a lesson I’m pretty sure I won’t soon forget. It seeded a hyper-phobia of snap decisions made under human pressures. These days I can’t shake the word “no” out of the word “now” to save my life.
Pain is the superglue that makes a lesson stick. That’s nothing new. The most basic one-word synonym for “disciple” is “learner.” Maybe you need to know today what I’ve needed to know so many days: learning, for a follower of Christ, is still a mark of discipleship even if you learned some lessons the hard way.
Or the excruciating way.
Or the embarrassing way.
Or the exasperating way.
Or the explosive, expensive or excessively long way.
If it attached you to the Teacher, if it marked you with Him and caused you at all to imitate Him, that’s the beating heart of discipleship.
Here’s the thing. The lesson wasn’t to try hard to dodge controversy. That’s not character. That’s cowardice. Those early followers of Jesus were nothing if not controversial and not just to the world but also to the religious establishment. The lesson was the idiocy of doing anything like that without taking the time to seek the will of God. It sure seemed like something that would be His will. And the folks needed an answer right then. And goodness knows everybody around me was all excited about it.
“Therefore do not be foolish,” Ephesians 5:17 says, “but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Because that’s the game changer. If we know – I do mean KNOW – we are doing the will of God, if the step we are taking is – to the best of our prayerful understanding – in obedience to Christ, the fallout falls into His very capable lap. We walk in the shadow of the Almighty wherever Jesus leads us. We may still get hit. We may still be hated. For Christ’s sake, we could lose our earthly lives. Jesus did the will of His Father from first breath to last and was hit, hated and crucified. But He was resolute. He knew nothing He could lose would compare to what He’d gain. What we’d all gain. Nothing could stop Him. No demon. No disciple. No dread of death.
There is a key word in this segment of Matthew 16 that stands out to me on the page every time I read it:
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Of course, there’s always somebody close by who will try to talk you out of doing God’s will and with good reasoning and excellent rationale.
22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
The “learner” part of the disciple Peter might have suffered a few developmental delays but the lesson took. Here’s one way we know. From Acts 4…
17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us (rulers, elders, scribes) warn them (Peter and John) to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
We’re not Jesus. Ours is finite understanding. We can’t always discern the exact will of God in every detail of a drastic decision. We’re not Peter, who, in his own words was an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty and heard “the voice” of “the Majestic Glory.” (2 Peter 1:16-17) But we are Christ’s followers now, called to pore over the Scriptures, to seek the beautiful face of God and the saving will of God. And, then, to the best of our understanding and with the fullness of our God-given ability, to DO the will of God.
Gravity holds the soles of our feet to a spinning blue globe. Because all authority has been given to Christ, we can exercise the audacity to “go therefore into all nations.” With the wide waistline of this globe, why would Jesus send us to the same places with the same gifts to do the same things the same way? Part of His perfection is His pure practicality. He calls this one there, that one here, this one to do that, that one to do this. Mind you, audacity out from under authority is lunacy. But Jesus sent the promised Holy Spirit for the purpose of leading us from the inside out. He makes His will known if we’ll seek Him with all our hearts.
I’m going to be straight with you here after thirty years of ministry and a heap of observation. If you make your secret goal to sidestep controversy and to keep everybody liking you and nobody misunderstanding you, you’re going to lock yourself into such a jail cell of stale air that you will suffocate every last breath out of your calling. Your soul was made for more than three square inches of breathing space. If you’re trying to avoid a label, good luck with that. Social media has sentenced us to label hell. And, since there’s not much changing that, this is the one label we Jesus-followers can try to avoid: disobedient.
Whatever your calling is, it takes guts. Jesus didn’t call us to follow Him to the chaise lounge. We’ve got a globe to cover. Not a couch.
If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re here on this planet to do one thing: the will of God in the spread of the gospel. So am I. We must take the time to seek how. Then, with some hint of clarity, we must do it. Come what may. Whatever others say.
And there we’ll find protection in the secret place of the Most High. There we’ll have confidence even should it get brutal or controversial. There we’ll have comfort when it hurts. There we’ll have fellowship, entering into Christ’s own experience until we make it safely into His arms. There we’ll have the pleasure of God. And nothing is like it. A lifetime of man’s approval can’t compare with a single moment of God’s.
So, you see, that was the missing factor in that ten-year pain in the neck. That was the frustration. I forfeited the confidence and comfort and companionship that would have come with knowing I’d followed Jesus – the best I knew how – where He wanted me to go. Those things would have carried me. Given me peace. Been worth any criticism. Every inconvenience. Or the thousandth explanation. I know that because they’ve carried me other times. They’re carrying me now into entirely new territories that would have terrified me before.
And they’ll carry you because they’re bound up in the heart of Jesus and He, Himself, carries us. Let’s be terrified of this: of missing Jesus. Of missing His will. Of putting the soles of our feet on a safe tidy path undisturbed by His valiant footprints.
Anyway, I’ve got a new outlook on that old pain in the neck. Maybe it’s not so bad after all. Maybe God used it to save me from a dozen other missteps. In fact, maybe – God help me – just maybe, for the very first time, I’m the least tad thankful for it.
Be brave out there.
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Greetings Siestas and a hug to each of you! What a joy and honor it is to share here. Outside my dear family, there is no other group that I have enjoyed doing life with as much as with friends from this dear community. My name is Lora Lovin Osburn, and I live in Tennessee. I have been married to my husband Gary for 26 years and we have two lovely daughters. Our oldest, Audra Elizabeth, was married last year, and Victoria, our youngest, is studying pre-law. I enjoy the beauty of GOD’s creation, architecture, art, lamp lights, gardening, earrings, poetry and walking with my family and Lilly Belle (our 12 year old Maltese). Some of my best days are Sundays at my church with my family seated nearby, serving on the prayer team, and worshiping and applying the word with them.
We have had a year full of major life events including our youngest going to college, my invalid father moving in with us, our oldest getting married. There were numerous hospital trips, then selling our home, and moving to a new town. Many times the circumstances within the major events made me think that a hidden camera must be following me around! Life just seemed crazy at times. Though I would not have chosen the events of the last year to be knitted so closely together, I can say that my faith is stronger, my family is closer, my friends are dearer, and my sweet Jesus seems even nearer. The abundance GOD allowed me to experience through this year is why every phrase in this verse just lept off the page and into my heart:
“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest,
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.” Psalm 65:11 NLT
“You crown the year”
I see GOD giving a crown at the beginning of the year. I cannot imagine any reality TV show that would start the season by announcing the winner or giving the prize at the beginning. Although it would seem to make for a lackluster, anti-climatic season to know in advance who wins; I feel like GOD has done that with us. Why would HE, who holds the highest rank and title, give a reward of victory, before the season begins? Because HE loves us and is for us! This is going to be a glorious year! I believe that every day of the year is encircled with a diadem from HIM.
“With a bountiful harvest”
Growing up working in our family garden, I thought that my dad had planted to feed an army, and not just for our family, because of the abundance; but Dad was able to give generously of the harvest, and I see our heavenly Father doing the same. When I see HIS overflowing cart of good gifts for us, I can’t help but think that this verse applies to us not only as individuals but also to the church. HIS Word also confirms that the harvest is great in the world. In spite of what we are going through ourselves, there is kingdom work to do! Let’s be active in picking up a basket and harvesting the fields where GOD has placed us so that many souls will be added to HIS kingdom. May we witness an outpouring of HIS SPIRIT on all people and may many lives be impacted by and for the Kingdom of GOD.
“Even the hard pathways”
If I had the choice of “two roads diverged”, I would certainly choose the one that resembles a flowery Monet painting, not a hard pathway. Who would choose a hard pathway? But, that aptly describes my last year. The example JESUS gives when faced with difficulty encourages me. JESUS submitted HIS will to GOD at the cross and wore a crown of thorns. GOD did get the glory with JESUS, and I pray HE does from our GOD-ordained steps.
“Overflow with abundance”
When the children were little we’d take walks to the park, and our youngest would stop and pick up rocks along the way. She wasn’t mining gems; but she was finding delight in the daily, ordinary pathway. Sometimes I just want my path to be easy like the walk to the park; but GOD has crowned the year with so much of HIM, so much of HIS glory, that even the hard, the difficult, the part that I think I’d rather not have, overflows with abundance. Even though we may be walking in a busy season, through a complex or challenging situation, or facing intense personal concerns, truth states that hard pathways overflow with abundance. I love that this is present tense! Hallelujah!!! I need that on my pathway today! How amazing is our GOD!!! There is such a sense of celebration here because HE can be seen, felt, experienced, and praised even during difficult days! Glory to HIS Name!
Let us offer thanksgiving, sing, dance and praise:
GOD pours out abundance on our hard pathways!
Believing that many souls will be harvested and saved,
And at the outpouring of GOD’s Spirit, may we be amazed!
I’m living in and looking for HIS overflowing abundance,
So thankful for this year and GOD’s crowning circumference.
Well, good morning to you all! I hope that many of you seeing this recap video were tuned into the Simulcast somewhere this weekend. By the authority of Jesus, we get to live bold and audacious lives through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, even while simultaneously experiencing all manner of peril. I pray you are already walking in a brand new sacred romance with Jesus.
He. Is. EVERYTHING!!
Romans 8:15 (NET Bible)
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:18 (NET Bible)
18 For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us.
The Living Proof Live Simulcast weekend is one of the biggest weekends at LPM all year long. It stands out on the calendar horizon like a flashing beacon on a light house. This weekend is it, and we are looking forward to bringing Living Proof Live to Wichita, Kansas!
We would like to help you go if you are in the local Wichita area.
Here’s how we like to offer our scholarship tickets: If you are thinking you would like to attend this weekend but can’t quite swing the cost, Beth would be thrilled to make a way for you to come, and to bring a friend with you! Is there someone you’ve been wanting to introduce to Jesus? Or maybe that friend is new to the Word, or just less-discipled in the Scriptures. If this sounds like you, just give Kimberly Meyer a call at our office and she will set you up. Toll-free 1-888-700-1999 (NOT 800).
We sure love Jesus and His Word, and want you to fall more in love with Him, too! He is our great hope and joy!
We sure hope to see you this weekend! To purchase tickets, or for detailed information about this weekend in Wichita, visit Lifeway.com here.
If you are new to Simulcast talk, we want you to know that there is a live location where Beth will teach in person, and there are host locations where her teaching will be brought in via internet feed, (i.e. simulcast.) Whether you are in Beth’s eyesight in Wichita, or on the other side of that screen, there is not one moment where you are off her mind, nor that of the Lifeway team! We trust that if God has the mind to bring together the size group that will gather, that He has something to say. And we want to hear it!
Each Living Proof Live event is different. Beth diligently seeks God to know what message He would have her share with that group. This year we have the joy of sharing the theme of the event ahead of time: Audacious. Audacious is not only the theme for this years’ Simulcast, it is also Beth’s newest book. The book is available exclusively to Simulcast participants prior to its official November 1st release.
You can register for the LPL Simulcast in a variety of ways, and then also have the opportunity to pre-order a copy of Audacious. Click here for LifeWay’s complete Simulcast information. And remember, if you cannot join us live (or at a host location) on September 12th, once you register for the simulcast, you will have digital pass access for one month.
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