That temporary thing you’re desperately trying to hold onto? Jesus is better…

people in bokeh, street of London

I just met her last Sunday and I’m not sure I’ll see her again this side of heaven, but she’s changed my life forever.

Ever meet anyone like that?

Someone brave. Someone extremely humble, but confident in God’s plan for her life. Someone who’s on a mission and wants to make the most of her days. I’m not even sure she set out to inspire everyone around her. She just does.

Even while she’s dying.

She held a garage sale recently and affectionately named it her “Going-to-Heaven Garage Sale.”  As quiet tears rolled down the faces surrounding me, she smiled and continued on to explain the real purpose behind her visit to our Sunday school class that morning.

{Wait… Heaven. Oh, can you even begin to imagine it?}

A new ministry would get off the ground – one that she helped to inspire through her own suffering. A ministry that will provide knowledge, encouragement, practical support, and relationship for those on their own cancer journeys – from those who have already been there. Love will reign over all, and Jesus will be the foundation for their hope. And while there’s still time she’s making her rounds… because she doesn’t want to miss a single opportunity to speak life - both in her living, and in her dying.

She doesn’t want to leave a legacy that bears her name. She wants to leave behind more of Jesus while she can.

Hearing her talk took my breath away. I’ve spent seasons of my life trying to avoid suffering at all cost, yet I hung onto her carefully constructed sentences that told me that Jesus is more beautiful to her in this very place.

LoveGodGreatlyI couldn’t stand it, so I tracked down her number and called her this week. I just wanted to hear more of her voice. To soak in her wisdom. To stop wasting my days desperately holding onto the temporary when I could know more of the beauty of Christ in the hard here and now. To ask her how she got to this place of sweet surrender.

Run to God’s Word. Look for opportunities to see God at work. Pray, expecting to hear from heaven. Tell about God’s faithfulness. Commit to the process, knowing that He who started a good work in you will be faithful to complete it…

We crave happy. He craves holy.

We run after stuff. He wants us to run after Him.

Jesus, draw me close
Closer, Lord, to You.
Let the world around me fade away.

Jesus, draw me close;
Closer, Lord, to You.
For I desire to worship and obey.

Time is not on her side, but God is. And He is better. He just is, and she’s walking so closely with him that she can already taste it.

When did we start expecting so much from this world?

Rejoice!

Because Jesus is better. Now, and for all of eternity.

And while there’s still time she’s making her rounds, because she doesn’t want to miss a single opportunity to speak life…

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will

should commit themselves to their faithful Creator

and continue to do good.” ~ 1 Peter 4:19

Suffering is real. But child of God, it’s not the end.

Jesus, help me to leave behind more of You…

At His feet,

 

*LET’S TALK: What are you holding onto? 

Arming ourselves for godly living {out with the old, in with the new}…

people in bokeh, street of London

Some of the most defining “growing up” years of my life came in those early days of motherhood.

All of a sudden there was this dramatic shift in focus.

Before kids I worked, played, ate, and slept according to my own schedule. After kids, I quickly learned that much of parenting – especially in those early years – is about dying to self. Schedules and everyday conveniences would now take on a new look. This beautiful, noble calling would not be without its sacrifices; but oh the deep joy of pursuing something other than my personal gain.

It wasn’t about me. It was hard, and it was freeing.

There was a better me developing, but I would definitely have to fight hard against the selfish ways of my former life.

In many ways the Christian life is much like this. When Jesus transforms us, there is this dramatic shift:

Priorities and every day life take on a whole new look.

Surrender becomes a calling instead of a dreaded sentence.

The old must die to make room for the new…

LoveGodGreatly

Okay, so practically, how do we do it? How do we get good at dying to ourselves so that God is consistently glorified in our lives?

Peter says that we arm ourselves. 

Think of it as preparation for battle. Just as soldiers enter the battlefield with strategic training and discipline, we too must ready ourselves in the fight against sin and our former way of thinking so that we’ll be prepared for suffering as Christ’s return draws near.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” ~ 1 Peter 4:1-2


{If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

1 Peter 4 says that we arm ourselves…

1. By right thinking. Time in God’s Word reminds us of our human frailty and points us to our Savior, who willingly suffered in our place. When we’re consistently spending time in our Bibles, our minds are transformed by this amazing truth, resulting in an attitude that’s ready for battle (1 Peter 1:13).

2. By fleeing from sin. When we arm ourselves with the attitude of Christ, we are done with sin. For the believer, fleeing the daily temptation of sin doesn’t just stop with recognition and repentance – it’s actively fought by turning the opposite direction and running hard after righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22).

3. By living for God. And now it’s time to grow up in Christ by surrendering our lives to him. Paul Tripp encourages us with this: Your life doesn’t belong to you anymore, but you need to know that the One who now owns it is a willing giver of faithful, patient grace.” The great news is that with Jesus residing in us, God’s power can equip us with everything good to do his will (Hebrews 13:21).

Here’s the thing: we can’t hold onto our old selves while trying to live in the new.

In our flesh we’ll fight it. Ooooh, how we fight it. But because we were made to bring glory to the One who made us, discipline in godly living yields a joy and peace that can never be found while we’re stubbornly still on the throne.

Living for God…

It’s hard. It’s freeing. And it’s far better than anything this world has to offer.

Go ahead and step down, once and for all.

Let’s arm ourselves for godly living this week… because He’s worthy.

At His feet,

*Let’s talk: Do you struggle most with right thinking, sin-fleeing, or life-surrendering? Our team would be honored to pray for you this week…

{Week 4} Challenge: Read Colossians 3:1-17. On one side of a notecard, list all of the things this passage says to “put to death.” On the other side of your notecard, list all of the things this passage says to “clothe yourselves” with. When you are confronted with temptation this week, use your notecard to remind you of ways that you can live for God by replacing sin with righteousness.

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{Week 4} Reading Plan:

Week4

{Week 4} Memory Verse:

Peter MVWK4

Jesus, let it begin with me…

people in bokeh, street of London

Here was my experience while perusing through social media last week:

Negative post.

Complaining post.

Dividing post.

 Argumentative post.

I am not even kidding… one right after the other – from basic stuff like the weather, to edgy political rants that went on and on for days. It’s enough to suck the life right out of a girl (or at least drive her offline for a few days). But then something amazing happened.

Easter came. 

And then what flooded my newsfeed?

Life.

Victory.

Celebration.

Hope.

Jesus.

Sweet relief.

Attitudes catch on – in online conversations and across our dinner tables – and it got me thinking about the powerful impact our individual “voices” have on those around us.

Peter was noticing it – this wave of dissension among believers in the midst of suffering – so much so that it was time to put a stop to it…

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. ~ 1 Peter 3:8-9

LoveGodGreatly

They must have been suffering for a while. Evil was sucking the life right out of them. I’m sure they were weary from the fight. It had even gotten to the point where it was affecting their most intimate relationships. After all, we can only take so much of the pressure cooker before we explode, right?

You’ve tried to remain positive, but everyone around you is constantly bringing you down.

You’ve prayed for your unbelieving husband for years, and still nothing.

You’ve fought your way out of the vicious downward spiral, only to slip up again.

Your prodigal child has broken your heart once more.

You submit to God, only to be ridiculed for your beliefs.

You give and give and give some more, and you wonder when it’s going to be your turn. “When will anyone ever see me? Love me?”

I get it. I’ve been there.

One person complains, and it’s contagious. Misery really does love company. The truth is the solidarity may even make us feel better momentarily – to know that we aren’t the only ones out there suffering in the wilderness. But like I tell my kids when I break up a quarrel among them…

There’s already enough negativity in the world.

You were made for more than this.

Since Jesus has changed you, live like Jesus has changed you. 

Let blessing begin with you.

It’s never easy to break the cycle, but someone has to if this world is ever going to be different.

 Jesus broke the cycle.

The world was in a downward spiral of negativity and sin. Evil abounded. Quarrels divided. Nations disagreed on power, politics and on the validity of a man. Could he be the Messiah, or was he nothing more than a series of parables and empty promises?

And then the empty tomb.

Life. Victory. Celebration. Hope. Truth. JESUS. 

Sweet relief.

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. ~ 1 Peter 3:10-11

Has the resurrection changed you? I mean really changed you?

Then the law of kindness will be on your tongue (Prov. 31:26).

Your words will build up instead of tear down (Eph. 4:29).

You’ll speak true words saturated in love (Eph. 4:15).

You’ll serve an abundance of blessing instead of revenge (1 Pet. 3:9).

As much as it depends on you, you’ll live in peace with all men (Rom. 12:18).

Because there’s already enough pollution in the air around us. Because Jesus died for that. Because God gets glory when I live in a way that is countercultural to every last bandwagon that secular culture elevates above the name of my Savior.

We were made for more than this.

Since Jesus has changed us, let’s live like Jesus has really changed us.

Father, let the blessing begin with me…

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Where do you need to begin this week?

Feeling misunderstood? Look to the cross…

people in bokeh, street of London

I felt so misunderstood.

I had retraced my words. Evaluated my intentions and searched my heart. I had begged Jesus that if there was any wicked way in me, he would bring it to light and lead me to repentance.

Now even with the best of intentions, plenty of times I have been wrong to the core. But this one particular instance – even though it didn’t earn me a seat at the popular “lunch table” – I felt like I had rightly stood up for truth.

And I had paid the price.

I remember telling my husband that I wanted to stand up on a podium and validate my case to the world. I would make them understand that they had it all wrong, and my reputation would quickly be restored to its rightful place.

And he sweetly told me to close my mouth and to suffer well.

LoveGodGreatly

Look, I want to be bold for God. I really do. And there will be times when he calls me to stand on that “podium” and shout his name from the rooftops without holding back.

Oh God, help me not to miss it.

But sometimes being bold means not retaliating, even when we’re in the right. Sometimes it means submitting, even when life doesn’t seem all that fair. And as much as you and I don’t want to hear thissome days we’ll suffer unjustly, and the right thing to do will be to close our mouths and to humbly take it.

_______________________

I had fallen asleep with my Bible on my lap more nights in a row than I could count. Suffering has a funny way of making me run harder – cling more desperately – to such rich, live-giving Truth.

When I woke – my heart still heavily burdened – I looked down on the wrinkled pages and poured over those beautiful, humbling words again…

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

And hard tears fell onto the pages.

He could have fought back, proving his innocence.

He could have claimed all authority by making his power and presence known.

He could have called for twelve legions of angels to come to his rescue at any moment.

But instead he remained misunderstood, even to death, because he trusted that his Father would make things right in the end.

“The sufferings of Christ should quiet us under the most unjust and cruel sufferings we meet with in the world. He suffered voluntarily, not for himself, but for us, with the utmost readiness, with perfect patience, from all quarters, and all this though he was God-man. Shall not we sinners, who deserve the worst, submit to the light afflictions of this life, which work for us unspeakable advantages afterwards?” ~ Matthew Henry

Feeling misunderstood? Look to the cross, and represent well the One who died in your place. 

And if you must speak, boldly claim your victory…

Hallelujah, all I have is Christ.

Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.

And let that be enough.

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Where do you need to suffer well today by not fighting back? 

{Becoming living stones in a dying world} ~ Are you living buried, or ALIVE?

people in bokeh, street of London

My first three children are boys. Listen.

I’m no stranger to dirt. Or sticks arranged in a heap on my kitchen table. Or rocks mysteriously tucked away until they experience the freedom victory lap in my dryer. Heh. I even made the mistake once of throwing away a leaf that was on a boy’s dresser, unaware that it was that day’s precious find. Glory.

boys

In the early days, I saw this endless collection of nature as irrelevant, misplaced, and disposable. But not my boys. They could see what I couldn’t…

A beautiful masterpiece in spite of imperfection.

A creation worthy of being reclaimed instead of flippantly discarded.

A treasure kept, protected, and designed for great purpose.

My favorite was when they would dig holes for me to plant flowers in Springtime. Without fail, they’d come across a rock that had been buried down deep. But because they chose to see beyond the filthy mess? Instead of tossing the rock off to the side, they’d run to the nearest water spigot and wash it clean, exposing a beauty previously unknown.

_______________________________

Becoming living stones in a dying world…

As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him…

Christians in the Roman empire were being persecuted beyond belief, living in a society that was ignorant about the one true God.

But say-it-like-it-is Peter has a message for God’s people:

The world is dying. You were once scarred by sin, and even now rejected by men. But because of Jesus, you’re alive. Oh Christian, rise up and live like you’re ALIVE.

Were they tempted to wonder if all of the suffering was really worth it? Had they forgotten the curse of death from which they had already been rescued? Were they distracted just long enough to take their eyes off of their capable Rescuer? Or maybe they were so afraid that they buried their faith down deep in an act of self preservation…

Sometimes it’s really hard to live ALIVE.

I don’t know… maybe you can identify?

You’ve suffered for so long that you wonder if God is really there.

You’ve given into apathy, you’ve disregarded grace, and you’ve grown cold to your own sin.

You’ve pursued the things of this world instead of running hard after your Savior.

You’ve buried your faith down deep because you feel afraid, broken, unworthy, ashamed, forgotten, or  __________.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light…

Fiery Peter speaks Truth as the war rages on around them:

Remember the cross. Your foundation is secure. The world may be dying, but Jesus has made you alive. Become like living stones – no longer dead and buried – but alive and built up…

Do you feel buried by the weight of the world? Then let today be the day that you find yourself at the foot of the cross, looking up, washed clean, remembering Whose you are:

 A beautiful masterpiece in spite of imperfection.

A creation worthy of being reclaimed instead of flippantly discarded.

A treasure kept, protected, and designed for great purpose.

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…

Father, take us back to our firm Cornerstone and help us to live…

Alive.

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Are you living buried, or alive? What do you need to bring to the surface and surrender to Jesus today to let him wash clean so that you can live fully ALIVE? If you feel brave, comment and share that thing as a statement of surrender. If you feel brave but are unable to be specific, simply type, “I surrender, Jesus. Help me to live ALIVE.” so that our team can pray for you too. How I love the encouragement and acceptance that goes on in this place…

{Week 2} Video:

 {If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

{Week 2} Challenge: Find a small rock in nature, clean it, and carry it in your pocket every day this week. Let the presence of the rock be a reminder for you to embrace your role as a living stone in a dying world. Then go and live ALIVE.

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{Week 2} Reading Plan:

Week2

{Week 2} Memory Verse:

Peter MVWK2

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