Speak Up and Speak Out for the Glory of God

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My husband and I met in Tanzania, Africa. He has lived in San Diego his whole life, and I since my sophomore year of high school. We have frequented the same locales and volunteered for the same groups, but never met before this trip.

It’s a story only God could have written. A story I treasure and love. A story that leaves me breathless and in awe of the God that I serve.

Yesterday, I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a long time. A work acquaintance that I don’t know very well. She asked how I was doing, and I gave her a short run-down of events to catch her up, including my marriage last year. She asked who the guy was, and I told her I met him on a service trip to Africa, even though he lives here in San Diego. Not knowing or remembering her religious affiliation, I then said, “It’s crazy how things work out like that” to which she replied, “No, it’s God.”

I was so embarrassed. Ashamed. Ashamed because I wasn’t the one to give the credit to God. Even though it’s my beautiful story. One I know full-well was orchestrated by the hands of my Redeemer. Had I been speaking to someone I knew shared my faith, I would have given the credit to God without a doubt. I would have started with, “God works in awesome ways”. But because I wasn’t sure of this woman’s beliefs, I gave the credit to no one. Serendipity. Chance. Coincidence. Things I do not believe in.

Why do we do this? Why are we so hesitant to share our faith, even just by saying something as simple as, “God did this awesome, amazing, wonderful thing in my life”? Why do we only talk about God with other believers? People who share our beliefs. Who know God. People who are already saved. Not that we shouldn’t share our faith-walk with other followers–we absolutely should. But Jesus came to heal the sick, not the well.

We shouldn’t change how we speak depending on who we talk to. Censoring God out of our conversation because we don’t want to offend someone. Or we don’t want to look crazy. Or a million other reasons we could think up. If God is truly the keeper of my heart and the ruler of my life, then it should show. In my speech, my actions, my work ethic. It should show in everything I say and do. If I truly believe in God’s power, majesty, goodness, patience, justice, and grace, then I should be bursting at the seams to share that with others. I should not be ashamed or afraid to speak my Father’s name in conversation. Rather, I should be proud. Honored.

It’s time to stop being safe. Being comfortable. God has called us to live revolutionary lives. To be completely sold out for Him. Part of that is giving Him the credit where it’s due. Replace “I had a really awesome day” with “God really blessed me today”. Or “The craziest thing happened today” with “God set up a really cool opportunity for me today”. “My spouse and I met…” with “God brought us together…” It’s so simple. So easy. But most of us don’t speak this way. We let the world–things we don’t believe in and have no allegiance to–steal the credit and glory away from our God.

This isn’t the same as beating people over the head with what we believe. Forcing it down their throats. It’s simply acknowledging who we serve, and how that impacts our lives. Acknowledging whose we are and how that changes everything.

Think of the number of people who could be reached if we put this into practice. Imagine how our own hearts would be changed. If we looked at every good thing that happens in our lives as a gift from God, rather than chance, and praise Him for it–show how grateful we are–a transformation will take place. Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, writes about eucharisteo. Joy that comes from thanksgiving. “Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy.” (Source) The deep, lasting joy that comes from a grateful heart. In knowing where the credit lies. In recognizing the little things as gifts from God and giving thanks.

Acknowledging God’s work in our lives is a very powerful thing. Powerful enough to change our hearts and the hearts of the people we come into contact with. If we have been given that kind of power, then why aren’t we using it? It’s time to put away the shame and fear. Stand firm in our immutable identities as children of the Most High God. Realize that nothing and no one can take that away. Begin to speak up and speak out for the glory of God, giving Him the credit He is owed. To invite people into His grand love story. To show people the face of God. Now that’s something I’d love to be a part of.

 

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Waiting for Tomorrow

 

Ever feel like you’re constantly waiting for tomorrow? I can’t wait til Friday. I can’t wait til the weekend. I can’t wait til today’s over and I can just crawl in bed. I can’t wait, I can’t wait. I’m guilty of this. Guilty, yes, because this isn’t a way to live. Its fault lies in stealing from us the joy of today. There’s nothing wrong with having something to look forward to–rest during the weekend, quality time with family, a much-needed vacation. But when we focus entirely on the upcoming, we lose sight of the here and now. Sometimes we decide a day or week is going to be bad before it even begins. This poisons our attitude and dictates how we behave and how we receive things. It hinders our hearts from receiving the good. We expect the day to be bad, therefore we make it so.

I think that in having this type of mindset–always waiting for tomorrow–we blind ourselves from the work God is doing in our lives daily. We miss opportunities He throws our way to reach others with His love. To experience His blessings, however big or small. To take note of His majesty surrounding us. To be fully aware of the magnificence of knowing Him and being a part of His plan and His story.

I think waiting for tomorrow is natural. We all do it. But I propose a different way. A way in which we live fully in the here and now, rejoicing in every blessing. Keeping our eyes wide open to the incredible work God is constantly doing. Keeping our ears tuned in to His voice, listening for His call.

That sounds to me like a better way to live. To live in expectation of God’s blessing. His goodness. His grace. His power. To live with eyes to see His mighty hand in all we do. To live for the today we’ve been given, instead of for the tomorrow that is never promised.

The Tongue Speaks as an Overflow of the Heart

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May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

 

My tongue escapes me more often than I care to admit. I hear the words as they roll off my lips, but I never gave them permission. They hang in the air thick and heavy. Dark. Ugly.

There’s always a dirty feeling afterward. Shame. Embarrassment.

The tongue speaks out of an overflow of the heart (Luke 6:45). So that means that darkness, that ugliness, is in my heart. And sometimes I’m surprised by the depth. That’s still inside me? I thought I had gotten rid of that. Where did that come from?

For the heart to overflow with good, it must be filled with good to begin with. If I constantly pour the world into my heart, worldly things will eventually spill from my mouth. If I meditate night and day on the genuine, pure, perfect character of Jesus Christ, hopefully pieces of His character will begin to stain my heart and color my speech. I want the words I speak to be bursting with the love of my Savior. When people hear me speak, I want them to hear Jesus. Know His love through me. But in a moment of frustration, I let it all go.

If I want to lessen the frequency of my slip-ups and mishaps, I must fill myself totally and completely with God. Know His Word. Know His character. Know His love. Only then will the ugliness in my heart start to disappear. The words that overflow from my heart will start to be a stronger reflection of God’s love. Filled with love, grace, hope, patience, peace, and joy.

I will always make mistakes. Be less Christlike than I want to be. Be imperfect. I have to accept God’s grace after every mishap, and vow to try harder in the future. To pause before I speak, and allow time for God to speak to me, leading and guiding my words. Allow Him to speak through me.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight”. Isn’t that all we long for? For God–the maker of the heavens and the earth, ruler of all, Majesty–to be pleased with us? And what a beautiful feeling to know we’ve done right. To have kept a negative thought silent; to have quieted a discouraging word; to have stifled an ugly comment. To have spoken love and life into a desperate, hurting world.

He will be pleased. Oh, He will be pleased.

Let Go and Let God

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“God’s desire to bless you is as great as He is…and impossible to fathom.”
(Prayers & Blessings, DaySpring DayBrightener)

God wants to bless you. Beyond your wildest imagination. He desires to fill you with joy and peace abounding. He wants to give you a life of abundance. Abundant love, abundant hope, abundant bliss. He wants to fill your cup to overflowing. But He can’t give you new gifts when your fists are clenched tightly, knuckles white, around things He has called you to let go of.

Maybe it’s a job, relationship, hobby, or habit. Maybe it’s where you live. You’re holding on for dear life, so afraid of letting go. Of starting over. Of losing things. But He’s calling to you, saying, “Child, please. What I have for you is so much better. So much greater. Filled with beauty and glory. You will overflow with joy. Trust me. Please, just trust me. Let go, child. Let go and receive the beauty I have for you.”

God has called me to let go of things. I ignored Him at first. It sounded too painful. Too treacherous. I couldn’t. But His words gnawed at my very soul. “Let go, beloved”. Eventually, I opened my hands are released what I had been so desperately clutching onto. It was painful. Excruciating at times. But, oh, what He had waiting for me on the other side. Glory. Beauty. Love like I’ve never been loved. I shouldn’t be shocked at God’s works, because I know they’ll be amazing. But every time I am more amazed than the last. He blesses so richly.

God brings us through seasons of pruning our character. He takes things away from us to build us up. They are painful seasons, but they have a purpose. A purpose only God can know.

Unclench those fists, beloved. It’s scary to let go–the kind of scary that makes you want to crawl in bed and pull the covers up over your eyes. But I promise you–God promises you, and His promises are worth a lot more than mine–that what’s waiting for you on the other side is more spectacular than you could possibly imagine.

God Has Not Abandoned You

Every now and then I reach the end of my rope with my headaches. Revolving my daily schedule around how bad I feel becomes exhausting and burdensome. The weight of never feeling well becomes heavy, and I just break down. Last night was one of these nights. As I was lying in bed, crying in pain, my heart cried out to God. “Please, God. Take this affliction from me. Heal me. Remove this sickness from me.” I woke up this morning with the headache still lingering behind my eyes. It’s a difficult way to start the day. Difficult to have a positive attitude. Difficult to be grateful and to see God’s grace.

As I drove to work this morning, searing pain behind my eyes, I saw sun rays sneaking through parting clouds, and I knew. God has not abandoned me.

I don’t know why I’m sick. Maybe, like Paul, this is the God-permitted thorn in my side. Something to keep me humble and remind me of my dependence on God. I don’t know His reasoning. And I probably won’t until the day I come face to face with my Maker.

Maybe you, like me, are suffering. Maybe there’s a constant thorn in your side. Your suffering may be far worse than mine. Terminal illness. Debilitating disease. Maybe your affliction is in your mind, not your body. Maybe you, too, need to be reminded of God’s grace. I don’t know why you’re suffering. Whether it’s spiritual warfare to try to get you to doubt God’s goodness. Whether it’s a God-permitted test of your faith. Whether it’s just nature. What I do know for sure is that God has not abandoned you. He never has and He never will.

God promised there would be trouble in this world. Maybe yours seems a heavier burden than others’. Maybe it seems unfair. Unending. But God has promised peace and joy in the midst of the storm. He has promised deliverance. If not here on earth, then in Heaven. He has promised to be with us every step of the way.

Healing doesn’t always look the way we want it to. Maybe what you seek (what I seek deeply) is physical healing. You long for it day and night. Lord, heal my body. But maybe God wants to heal your heart. To mend your trust. He wants you to learn what it is to depend on Him and Him alone. Maybe through your sickness, God wants to heal others. As you place your trust in Him, feeling strong and confident in the middle of your storm, those around you will wonder why and how. Their hearts may be changed by the strength of God in you.

We can’t (usually) control whether or not we suffer, but we can control how we respond. When we react by putting our trust completely in God, knowing above all else that He has a plan and knows exactly what He’s doing, allowing Him to fill us with His peace and strength, we are able to be a light to others. To show them that even in the midst of trials, we will not fear, because we know without a shadow of a doubt that our God is good.

I do feel a little disheartened. It’s difficult going through life this way. But I am encouraged knowing my God is with me. That He will never leave me. That if I don’t see the kind of healing I desire, it is for a purpose. Part of God’s grand, inexplicable, inconceivable, beautiful plan. Through the pain, I must place my trust in Him. Know that His thoughts are far greater than mine. Believe that His plan for my life is far better, far more glorious than anything I could fathom. I am encouraged knowing His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I am encouraged knowing my Father loves me. Loves me so much that He sent His only Son to die for me. Loves me so much that He thinks about me constantly. That kind of love doesn’t give up on people. That kind of love perseveres through trials. It brings hope and joy. It encourages trust and patience. That is the kind of love that, even at your lowest point, says, “I’m right here with you. I’m staying. I’m not going anywhere”.

I am encouraged knowing that while my flesh may fail, my God will not. I am encouraged knowing the God I serve. And in the end, it’s all worth it, isn’t it?

Blessed to Bless

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“I will bless you… and you will be a blessing.”

Genesis 12:2

 

That’s a promise. And a command. God will bless your life–with joy abounding. And He commands us to then take those blessings and bless others.

God doesn’t bless us to hoard those blessings for ourselves. The very purpose of the gifts He gives are that we use them to reach and touch others. That we bring joy, hope, and peace to those who may not have it. That we show them a little glimpse of Jesus’ love. That people will come to know Christ through us.

Because people always want to know why. “Why are you helping me? Why are you doing this for me?” Sad that we have to ask that. But in this day and age, selfless behavior is rare and kind acts are few and far between. When someone acts out of genuine love, it catches us by surprise. “Why are you doing this for me?”

And then, my friends, we can say, Because I’ve been blessed and I’d like to bless you. Because Jesus loves you. Because you are special to God. Because God loves us so that we may love others.

And that kind of thinking has a ripple effect. I am joyful, grateful, and ready to bless because of the abundant blessings I’ve been given. So I bless you. And you then bless another. Whole communities can be changed. I’ve watched it happen. And then the entire community reaches out and changes another community. It’s simple, but so very life-changing.

God gives you certain gifts for a reason. He sends certain people into your life for a reason, either to bless you or to be blessed by you. But most of the time, we are too wrapped up in our daily lives to notice them. Either to give or to receive. We have to be alert and expectant. Our eyes must be open to the work God is actively doing in our lives.

It’s a promise, beloved. And a command. God will bless you and you will be a blessing.

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“Sing to me about the end of the world”

(Flyleaf, Arise)

 

The end of the world is a scary thought for most people. Zombies. Bombs. Mushroom clouds. People running for their lives. Screaming in terror. It’s perpetuated by the media.They feed us images of dire circumstances. Everything is gray except the flames that seem to burn everywhere. People are reduced to monsters.

To me, the end of the world looks a lot more pleasant. Peaceful even. When this world comes to an end, I will be reunited with my Savior. Whom my heart longs daily for. He will meet me with open arms and say, “Welcome home, my child. I’ve been waiting for you.” Tears of joy will roll down my cheeks as my heart is finally fulfilled.

That is a day I am excited about. Not scared of.

There will be trials beforehand. Maybe bombs. Maybe mushroom clouds. Maybe people running for their lives. But there is a promise when it’s over. A promise to be fully redeemed and sanctified. A promise to come face to face with our Maker.

 

“And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5

 

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My Voice is Louder Than the Darkness

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“My voice is louder than the darkness”

(Urban Rescue, Always)

I’ve been in dark places. Dark places. Places where I’ve cried out to God. Places where the cries were so deep, they ached in my bones. Twisted my stomach. Where the cries turned into heaves of breath. Places where I didn’t know if I wanted to wake up.

Even in those places, dark as they were, there was a small glimmer of light. God’s voice was still there. Whispering, He said, “I love you. I haven’t left you and I never will.” His voice was louder than my darkness.

In this dark spot in your life, He’s asking you to take His hand. To trust Him. To walk through the darkness with Him. Because, you see, He didn’t promise a life without darkness.. In fact, He guaranteed we would face trials. What He did promise, however, was that He would be with us always. That in everything we face, He will be right there with us. Through the joy and laughter, through the pain and the heaving cries. Filling us with unimaginable peace and inexplicable joy. Filling us with a sense of His Holy presence.

Take his hand. Let Him walk with you. Let Him carry you. Place your trust in Him.

If Jesus could overcome the world, overcome death, surely He can get us through whatever tribulation we face. I know the tunnel looks long, and it’s difficult to see the light peeking through at the end, but I know it’s there. Because my King is a King who delivers.

 

“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.” John 16:33

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” Matthew 28:20

Shout out to the Ladies

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Looking in the mirror, she was disgusted at what she saw. Thighs too big. Breasts too full. Acne covering her face. “You’re beautiful,” she said aloud as tears rolled down her face. If she repeated those words every day, maybe she would begin to believe them. Something told her it wasn’t the truth, though. She was far from beautiful.

She continued getting ready for school, steeling herself for the day ahead. How could she face the world with confidence and a smile when all she wanted to do was hide? On the way out the door, she grabbed a notecard she had written on the night before.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7

 

“For you created my inmost being;

   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

   your works are wonderful,

   I know that full well. “ Psalm 139: 13-14

 

“How precious to me are your thoughts,God!

   How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,

   they would outnumber the grains of sandPsalm 139: 17-18

 

The truth was in her hand. The maker of the universe loved her. He called her beautiful. God had created her with a purpose in mind, and He cared more about the contents of her heart than the size of her jeans. He thought about her constantly–sweet, lovely thoughts.

The truth was in her hand, but what would it take for her to believe?

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Ladies, we’ve all been there. In the destructive pit of self-hatred and poor body image. In fact, I find myself there quite often. I have developed a bad habit of comparing myself to others and always seeing myself as “less than”. Not as pretty. Not as skinny. Don’t dress as cute.

I probably won’t ever look at myself and think, “Perfect”, but I can’t continue looking and thinking, “Disgusting”. The negative self-talk has to end. We shouldn’t give up on trying to look good and feel good. Exercise and a proper diet are important. But it’s time to stop agonizing in guilt after eating a cookie. Or three. It’s time to let go. It’s time to live. It’s time to reclaim the truth that’s been stolen from us.

We are daughters of the King Most High, and isn’t that enough?

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(John Mark McMillan, Death in His Grave)

Happy Easter! May you rejoice today in the truth that you’ve been set free from the bondage of sin. All your debts have been paid. Death cannot hold you. Jesus, Son of God, gave His life so that you may live and live abundantly!