I Have Decided

shutterstock_137550632It is hard to believe something that you have not seen for your own eyes, especially if you are like me, a visual person who prefers to know the outcome from the beginning. Being that as it may, life is not set up that way, for there is a small five letter word in the dictionary called faith. Faith is something we step out on when we have not seen for ourselves all of the evidence, we have not done all of the research, but we are willing to step out decidedly and take a leap of faith.

As I was doing a personal bible study, the question surfaced on why was a redemptive plan set in place when sin entered the world? Why was the redemptive plan necessary? As I pondered this question, my visual mind wandered to the slide show in my head of the events of the bible. A mighty God casting down a dragon from heaven, creating man in His image, the serpent conniving the woman, sin entering in, and the plan of redemption set into motion. Sounds like something fitting for a fantasy novel doesn’t it?

Which is what many have a hard time with. They don’t fully understand on an intellectual level why God would do that. Where did He come from anyway? What was there before God? Why would He bring man into the world if He knew they would sin and turn their back on Him?

The thing about deciding to live on faith, is that you decide that you will not have all of the answers. Although, once you start seeking out a relationship with God, searching His scriptures and communing with Him in prayer, you start to understand the nature and character of God, and He in turn gives you insight that you did not have before. But before He can show you His truth, you have to decide to step out in faith and that you will believe what He says.

I read once that man says show me and I will believe – while God says believe, and I will show you.

I made a decision long ago to believe and let God show me. He has not let me down yet.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”– 1 Corinthians 2:9

Please help us to see with eyes of faith today Lord, not with eyes of our finite minds. For your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts higher than our thoughts. You are able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever think to ask for ourselves. May we see clearer, may we dream bigger, may we leave the boxes of conformity behind and seek You as You are, not as what man has tried to make You to be. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Girl Power

shutterstock_16227564855,000,000 abortions have occurred in America since 1973…. 55,000,000 women whose lives have been affected. Where was the help they needed when they were faced with this impossible decision? Is it possible that it was hidden in the hearts of other women? Is it possible that if women loved and supported one another in a unity that was unbreakable regardless of the situation or circumstance her sister, friend, neighbor, enemy or stranger found herself in, that she might have found help? Is it possible that if we laid down our competitiveness and judgments and instead loved each other unconditionally and taught our daughters to do the same, we would have a society that was healthy and redeemed? Call me a dreamer but I would like to see this in my lifetime… I want to see women rise up and take their place… not against something but for love.

We are called to be unified as women who relentlessly love one another regardless of the situation or circumstance. It is time now, to band together. A new sisterhood- all over the world…. Racial and economic division- no more, competition- no more, comparison- no more, jealousy- no more, fighting for the attention of men- no more, tearing each other down- no more. We will be women who rise up, take our places, love our God, respect and honor our men while cherishing and depositing life into our children. We will be women who do not demand respect but give honor. We will be women who love with arms wide open, especially when it hurts because we are confident in the One who has done the same for us. We will give love because it’s been given to us and we give it to those who do not have it to give, without expectation of repayment. We will wear our crowns of royalty with an understanding of the price that has been paid for them. We look on others with kindness. We will be a band of sisters who say no to division, strife and poverty of spirit. We will raise our daughters up to love one another and our sons to cherish our daughters. We will stand guard at the entry of our homes and we will say NO to the influences that contradict what we stand for. We will refuse to be fed the lie that we have to “sell” the image of our bodies to be considered beautiful for beauty radiates from within us. The bride of Christ is awakening and the women of the bride are getting up from their slumber. The sleep is being washed from our eyes and we are seeing clearly- who we are and whose we are.  Women are being redeemed from all that has been stolen from us and we will NEVER be the same again! It is time for us to shed the lie that our enemy is each other and pick up the truth that our purpose is to band together as a strong, beautiful example of what love really looks like. I am believing for a generation of women to rise up and take their place in their realm of influence… we all have one, those within our reach… our circle. We will choose to start the fire of love within those around us and we will fan the flame by not giving up when it gets hard. When we truly love one another, we will cultivate and shape our current generation and generations to come for an influence of love that will be unstoppable. This is girl power.

Written by Kylee Washington

Abraham’s Promise

shutterstock_127992746As a little girl I remember in Sunday School singing the song Father Abraham had many sons…I am one of them and so are you… so lets just praise the Lord… during the song we would make motions and movements with our arms and legs up and down as we sang the words left arm, right arm, chin up… Reenactments of those days with my little wee friends began to replay in my mind this morning.

I opened my bible to Romans 4 and clearly see the words Trusting God as the heading of this entire chapter. Revelation and insight is given as the truth is soaking in. Read along some of the highlights of Romans 4 MSG. The story we are given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.

If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.

it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God…an act of God he had embraced with his whole life.

That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him.

This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.

When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

We are sons and daughters of the promise! Now, that is something to dance and sing about! After reading this passage and the song was so fresh on my heart; I began to reflect how all of us, as numerous as the stars in the sky, are a part of one big family. An Embrace Family.

We all have a unique & special part to play! As we trust God to show us and reveal His plans to us. He will align our steps with His as He intricately designs and fashions our lives together.

This is what is speaking loud and clear at this moment..

But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift. {Romans 4:4-5 MSG}

May I say a prayer over you.

God, I praise you and thank you for your sons and daughters. Bless them immensely. You have fashioned them together with so much purpose. May they be able to embrace the purpose you have given them. In the vastness of who you are will you reveal yourself to them as they trust you to do what only you can do! We are family and as we are joined together, linking arms together, connected and united for your Kingdom Purpose, you will bring Heaven on Earth to fulfill your desires. A sheer gift.

Written by Salina Duffy

 

Less of me…

shutterstock_145332532Today in my morning time, I picked up a book called Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore. In the first chapter, Beth Moore states that in her research on the captivity of God’s people there is one main underlying cause: idolatry. She goes on to explain how idolatry can show up in many forms in our lives: we make ourselves idols, another person, work, exercise, food…and so on and so forth. She says that at the root of every stronghold in our life, there is idolatry working there. As I sat back and thought about this, I was struck by how much I idolize SELF. What am I feeling, what do I want, what are MY desires, how can I be comfortable, I..I..I…

The scripture reference is Isaiah 43: 10-12
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.
Before Me no God was formed, nor will there be one after Me.
I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from Me there is no savior.
I have revealed and saved and proclaimed – I, and not some foreign God among you.
You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.”

As I read this it awakened in me the truth that I am not my savior. I am the one who manages to get myself into trouble by following my emotions rather than asking myself some important questions: Where will this lead me? Does this line up with God’s will? How will this affect my life in the next year or two or three?

As I go along with my day’s daily duties, I am led to contemplate how much I strangle God’s power in my life every day by relying on mySELF rather than relying on the power of God.

I love the way Beth Moore states it:

“Lightening flashes from His throne. The winds do His bidding. The clouds are His chariot. The earth trembles at the sound of His voice. When He stands to His feet, His enemies are scattered. He is transcendent over all things. Absolute. Uncontested. Omniscient. Omnipresent. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. He is God and there is no other.”

John 3:30 says “He must become greater; I must become less.”  As you allow God to increase in your life, you will truly see His power on display.  When you give of yourself, you get in return.  When you meet other needs, your needs are met in return.  When you make room in your heart for the one who created it, you are given more than you could ever ask for in return.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Beauty for Ashes

shutterstock_148849742Numb.  I stared into space trying to comprehend what had taken place just a few days before.  The excruciating pain that reverberated throughout my heart had subsided to leave an aching numbness.  Betrayal.  I felt betrayed by hope. Betrayed really…by myself.  How could I have even held on to a sliver of hope in an obviously hopeless situation?  And yet there I was, a processor by nature it took several hours for my mind to catch up with what my heart already knew.  And the tears flowed.  Huge tears that came from a reservoir deep within that had yet to be fully emptied.  Pain that had been trapped and stuffed down by loyalty wrongfully given, wrongfully placed.  In the aftermath of the waves of sorrow, a very dim light came forth.  Something that felt like freedom and smelled like new.  I rose, reaching deep within to find some semblance of the woman God had called me to be.  And I found her there.  Dusty from the ashes of the pain of heartbreak, yet a crown of beauty on her head.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

In the days that followed, God gently worked on my heart.  Reminding me that He was there.  Lovingly pursuing me, captivating me again.  I had always struggled with allowing Him to heal certain areas of my life because I was either blaming someone else for my pain or choosing not to deal with my pain at all – telling myself it wouldn’t matter anyway.  This time though, He opened the eyes of my heart to something different.

When Jesus died on the cross, He took our sins, our shame onto Himself and gave us His righteousness.  There was an exchange that took place.  When we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, and ask Him into our hearts, He takes the old and fills it with the new, His Holy Spirit – an exchange takes place.  In just the same way, when we feel betrayed, hurt, or wronged – if we will come to Him with all of those feelings, He will willingly take them and exchange them for His grace, His peace, His love.

As I drove home from a long day and the familiar pangs tried to come back again, I made a conscious decision to take them to the Lord.  “Abba I feel so betrayed, so hurt, so angry, even jealous…but I don’t want to feel this way.  I choose to give these feelings over to You.  Please give me Your peace.  Please heal my heart and fill me with Your joy.”

Although my heart is still tender, I know that I am on my way to full healing and restoration of what was broken inside.  I know that there is beauty for ashes and joy for pain stored up for all those who choose to include Him in every little detail, trusting Him to be Jehovah Rapha – the God That Heals.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Strrrrretttttcccchhheed…

shutterstock_74460358The Lord is stretching me.  He is guiding me with his eye and sweetly showing me the parts of my heart that aren’t pleasing to him. He’s pulling me far outside of my comfort zones.

Do you know why they’re called comfort zones? Because, they’re so comfy!  They feel good.

My favorite comfort zone is being the funny, friendly, upbeat girl.  That girl is fun. She’s not needy or emotional and no one expects her to go too deep or talk about heart issues.  She won’t burden you with lengthy prayer requests and she’ll never ask for help. Being the funny girl means that I get to keep things light.  What is gained is that I don’t have to show anyone the parts of me that I don’t like; just a big smile.  What is lost is meaningful relationships. I always seem to be just outside of those.

Jesus says, “Crissy, I made you and you are so funny.  But, I want to show you the deeper layers. There’s more to you.  There’s really great things under there.”

Ew.

One time, I was trying to convince my oldest, most cautious, child to touch a snake at the museum. He was really uncomfortable with that. But, after lots of persuasion, he finally did and he liked it. Now, he picks up all kinds of critters out in the back yard. I could live without that but you get my point.

I have anxiety about being poor. I also REALLY don’t like to be told what to do.  At.all. Another thing…. I’m outgoing and everything, but I truly like to be alone. As in, left alone. As in, “I can do it myself” kind of attitude.

Just typing all of this is uncomfortable for me. If I actually succeed in clicking on that little orange button that says, “publish” I’ll be seriously uncomfortable.

Today, I was reading a devotional.  The words struck so deeply in to the hard parts of my heart. I have not stopped thinking about them all day.

Jesus has made me so aware of the things that I worry about verses things that matter; the things that I’m comfortable with verses the things that he wants me to be comfortable with.

If I stay in my comfort zones, I can’t be obedient.
If I keep my walls up He can’t tear any down.

Here’s what the Lord says I should do to get out of my comfort zones. He says if I take these steps he can start tearing down walls.

“This is the kind of fasting that I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal.  Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer, ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression and stop your malicious talk!
Isaiah 58:5-9

Written by Crissy Terrell

Condition of Our Heart

hydrangeaBut you ARE a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. {1 Peter 2:9}

I went home to Mississippi for a visit and was captivated by the royal purple hydrangeas between my sister and her neighbors house. I had a few minutes alone and decided to go photograph the flowers that had caused me to pause and take in their beauty.

As I was crouched down next to them, exploring all of the angles, the neighbor walked up. She is a 90-something year old firecracker named “Ol’ Weezy.” She proudly told me that I would never guess the secret to how she was able to produce such beautiful hydrangeas. I remember laughing and just telling her that they were beautiful and that she didn’t have to tell me what it was. I left for home later that day and heard the Lord whisper to my heart that He knew the secret to what made the hydrangeas the color that they were. Intrigued, I wrote it down and anticipated being able to research further. It turns out that the acidic value of the soil is what gives the hydrangea color. If you want pink, you want to keep the aluminum out. If you want blue, you add it. Many things contribute to the color: the soil, environment, care, etc. You can add things to the soil to change the color as well as different neutralizers to add variation.

As I was researching, I felt the Lord was asking me about the soil of my heart. Is it acidic? Alkaline? Is it guarded? Is it pure and holy? What an overwhelming sense of strength came during this moment!

Life brings about change. Sometimes we expect it, sometimes it catches us off guard and we have a hard time understanding. In Hebrews 13:8, it says that Jesus Christ is the same- yesterday, today and forever. Our life can change, but He cannot. There is so much peace in that. I can add to my life good things and watch the blossoms burst with color or I can become bitter and ungrateful and notice the brown spots on the petals appear.

My prayer for you is that you will examine the soil of your heart and discover what needs to be added. Ask the Lord to show you how to guard your heart with His promises and plans for your life. 

Written by Rachel Kevil, Embrace Grace Southlake Leader