Cultivating Unity // Gentleness

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Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
— Colossians 4:5-6

Did you know that your greatest strength can also be a weakness? I've certainly discovered this to be true in my many years of ministry.

You see, I'm a type A, get-er-done, clear objective to accomplish kind of gal. And although this certainly can be a great strength to have, I have found its weakness in me to be that of a blunt nature. Sometimes in my singular focus to accomplish a task, I've come across as assertive in a way that has rubbed people the wrong way. I can have the most genuine heart and kindest of motives, but somehow my delivery has appeared inconsiderate at times.

This isn't easy for me to share and I'll be honest--I'm still growing in this area. But as someone working through what it looks like to be gentle, I can testify to its importance.

Gentleness goes a long way in any conversation, relationship, or situation. Proverbs says that it has the ability to turn away wrath; its power is great and truly incomprehensible.

When you interact with someone, Colossians says to do it in grace; that how we speak should bring out the best in a person. Particularly in a tense moment or one with an unbeliever. Being kind to someone when your instinct is to lash out or correct is gentleness in action. Therefore, when anger begins to brew in you and in the other person, it’s our responsibility to diffuse the tension. Choose to turn the table by responding in kindness and gentleness.

Perhaps you're like me in that sometimes your delivery, no matter how good intentioned your heart may be, can come across abrasive or inconsiderate. If so, it's time to start thinking about how you will respond before you do, in ANY and EVERY situation.

Whether it’s a relationship with another person or as part of the body of Christ, choose gentleness to guide you. Doing this will speak volumes to those around you and help foster unity in your relationships.

Make it a point daily to pray for gentleness. Pray that God will help you in the way you interact with and respond to others. Gentleness is not always easy but it is always necessary.

Cultivating Unity // Humility

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Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
— Philippians 4:3-4 (ESV)

Humility has the perspective to put others first. It has the assurance that serving others is far more valuable than worrying about one's own life. Philippians speaks so boldly to this that it should radically change your heart in the pursuit of humility.

It’s in humility we consider others better than ourselves. That’s hard if we are honest. It’s human nature, in our condition of sin, to think about ourselves first. It’s why personal expenses are covered before an offering goes to missions. Or why some look for anything to get them out of a service project to help the homeless. Or why climbing the corporate ladder is usually a bit messy and hurtful.

Putting others before yourself is hard and requires sacrifice. It means stepping back and allowing others to take the credit. It manifests in celebrating the success of others when they are recognized. It shows up in church on Sunday when you commit to volunteer.

It’s this very practice that cultivates unity. When you begin to put others first and to serve the people around you, you are fostering an environment of connectivity. Furthermore, practicing it will go far in any of your relationships. Go the extra mile to serve your spouse, friend, or coworker and you’ll see unity ignited.

Humility is hard but start serving others and direct all your focus onto God, and you’ll see the “me” inside you begin to grow faint in the distance. In addition, you’ll see unity begin to take shape.

Cultivating Unity // The Value of Unity

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I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
— Ephesians 4:1-3

The beginning of Ephesians 4 has struck me with its power to change relationships, offices, and churches around the world. Four words can do this, through the power of Christ. Four words, if embraced and lived out, can foster intimacy and ignite unity at all levels of your life.

Over the next five weeks, we will explore four attributes that can change the dynamics of not only the relationships you have in your home, family, and workplace but most importantly, within the Church.

This study will guide you down a path that sparks a unity revolution in your heart and overflows into your relationships, strengthening the bonds you have with your spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, and co-laborers in the local church.

Don’t overlook the power of these verses to penetrate your relationships and encourage unity to flourish. Humility, gentleness, patience, and love are the keys to unity and will aid you in all areas of your life if embraced!

Furthermore, these verses have the power to radically change your heart. I don’t know about you but there are a few of these I struggle to live out and diving deep into their meanings is reshaping my heart to be more like His. So not only is this a journey to unity, but it is a journey to be more like Christ.

Jump into this study with fierce determination to grow and watch God move mightily in your life! We'll take a look at humility so come back but until then, start praying this verse over your life and each day and ask God to help you walk out the attributes that cultivate unity.

NEW Crosswalk Article // 10 Ways the Holy Spirit Wants to Empower You

The Holy Spirit is a beautiful and powerful part of who God is. We need Him in our life as a conduit to become who God created us to be, and through His power we have aid in all situations. Without Him, we are powerless.

Use the link below to discover ten of the supernatural ways the Holy Spirit wants to empower you today.

He is Risen, A Special Easter Message

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The two women didn't expect to find the stone pulled away, two angels before them, and certainly not the resurrected Jesus on this very early morning. No; they expected to find the body of a man they loved very deeply lying in a tomb. But now Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, were amazed at what they saw before them. The tomb stone was rolled away by one heavenly angel while another was in the tomb.

The two women hurried into the tomb looking for Jesus, but all they found were the outer garments he had been buried in. This, a symbol that Jesus had left his earthly boundaries behind and was now risen [as he proclaimed he would]. The angel proceeds to speak some of the most powerful words ever uttered,

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”

Jesus, the man they knew as the Son of God now gone from his grave. A declaration not only to them and the Roman guards that stood by speechless, but to all that he was indeed God, resurrected from death. This...this was the very moment that changed everything for humanity! 

This weekend we celebrate what has become Easter, but more than any Easter basket or Sunday lunch with the family, we highlight this event. Easter weekend is all about him and what he did. Jesus didn't have to wrap himself in flesh and come to Earth, but he did. He didn't have to live in obscurity for 30 years, but he did. He didn't have to carry each of our sins and take our punishment of death at calvary, but he did. Jesus did--for you and for me! He temporarily gave up the beauty of heaven to carry the sins of men from Earth, into death, and free of it all victoriously back into Heaven. Now we get this incredible gift of grace, salvation, and eternal security with the Father if we put our faith in him. There is no greater gift or love you could ever receive than this.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, you don't have to worry about the fate of Christ and carry any mourning. You get to wake up with eager anticipation that Jesus is alive and reigns victoriously, on Earth, in Heaven, and in your life. That is the hope you have and I pray you'll carry it like a flag you wave proudly in the streets of victory.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is the beginning of the Holy Week and a day we remember when Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Let's read the account:

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
— Luke 16:35-38 (ESV)

As Jesus rode the animal and made his way through the crowd, people laid palm branches and cloaks on the road, a sign of royal treatment. They also joyfully proclaimed as he rode past them, "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9). Jesus was receiving the arrival of a king and certainly, people were proclaiming this to be true. 

Warren Wiersbe writes this about the entry,

Since it was Passover, there were probably about 2 million people in and around Jerusalem. This was the only time in His ministry that Jesus actually planned and promoted a public demonstration. Up to this time, He had cautioned people not to tell who He was, and He had deliberately avoided public scenes.

Why, if he had kept such a low profile in his ministry, was Jesus now going big? Well, because it was to fulfil prophecy,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
— Zechariah 9:9

Jesus was fulfilling one of many prophecies made about him, just in that week alone. It was a declaration of who he was and what he was about to do. Sadly, few recognized the significance of that entry and what was about to take place. In fact, although they praised him as king most would end up denying him just days later.

Jesus rode in to the sounds of their praises but in his heart, he already knew they all would abandon him later that week. The lonely cross was before him and although they would deny him, he was just days away from dying for them anyway.

As we remember Palm Sunday and enter the Holy Week leading up to Easter, take time over the next few days to read about Jesus' last week on Earth and reflect on what he went through, on our behalf, on his way to the cross.

No Condemnation

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I know the shadow of shame all too well. I know how it pulls you to hide in the darkness and whispers guilt. That it speaks lies over your value, worth, and trajectory in life. It's a favorite of the enemy's and he'll use it to keep you in a corner so that you won't live in the freedom God longs for you to live in. The freedom he bought with a sacrifice.

Shame...condemnation...guilt...these feelings can be heavy and debilitating. We feel them for major mistakes and small hiccups. As a parent, spouse, friend, employee--it's not something any of us escape.

The thing about shame is that when we experience it, we often do the very thing we shouldn't do--hide. We want to pull away from God because we are ashamed of what we've done. Ashamed of who we are.

Have you ever done that? Pulled away from Him out of guilt. Waited to come back to His feet when you've cleaned yourself up. Don't feel alone--it's common. In fact, Adam and Eve did the same thing in the garden.

After they had eaten the fruit and were aware of sin, God came walking through the garden to commune with them. They heard Him coming and hid because of their shame. When He asked where the two were, they said they were hiding because they were naked.

That's what we do, isn't it? We feel our shame and hide from the Father. But just as He called out Adam and Eve, He is calling you and me out from our hiding. God doesn't want you to distance yourself from Him in your shame; in fact, He wants the exact opposite. The Father wants you to run to Him for care, grace, and intimacy.

In the story of the prodigal son, the father was watching--looking for his son to return. The moment he saw his beloved son on the horizon, he ran to him. Even more, he gave him his robe and threw a party!

The Father doesn't sit there with His hand on His forehead, so frustrated that He doesn't want to be around you. That might be what we want to do, but not Him. Instead, He wants to draw you close, work through what happened, and get to a better place. If you're a parent, you understand this because it's what you would want for your child.

I want to leave you with this verse as a reminder that shame shouldn't last and that there is freedom from the bondage of guilt.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus
— Romans 8:1 (NLT)

If you're feeling shame or guilt, run to the Father. He is a safe place and provides mercy to those who seek forgiveness. And remember, there is no condemnation for those who follow Christ. When the enemy begins to whisper that lie in your ear, speak ROmans 8:1 over yourself and seek the Father's presence.

Trust Fall Bible Study Now Available

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Life often presents unforeseen bends in the road that can throw us off course if we're not careful. It's important in the trials and seasons of difficulty that we hold to the journey God has placed us on. Learning to trust God's process will renew and strengthen you to face the journey ahead.

This Bible study will help you make the journey to trusting God and His process with grace and confidence.

You can purchase this Bible Study for $10.00 on Amazon.

All the Feels // Betrayed

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Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you…It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
— Deuteronomy 31:6,8

The feeling of betrayal may be one of the hardest to overcome. It's because betrayal is inflicted by someone trusted and cared about. When it happens, you are left hurt, lost, and vulnerable.

Whether you fall on the scale of being overlooked by your boss for a promotion or hurt by a dear family member, the journey to healing is always hard. It requires forgiveness and moving forward despite the pain.

If you are reeling from betrayal it’s time to take the first step forward. It’s time for grace to abound.

God is with you and in Deuteronomy, He is calling His people out of fear or dread of others. When you’ve been betrayed, God wants you to focus on Him instead of the hurt caused by the other person. 

God is with you in all situations—especially in your hurt—and craves to show you the Fatherly care that scoops up His child and comforts tenderly. Who soothes the pain inflicted by another.

Your first step is putting your focus on God and then pursuing forgiveness, at least from your end. It's only then that you can find peace and move forward from that hurt.

This concludes the “All the Feels” series and I hope it has been a powerful one for you to be part of. Know that emotions are very real but they are also temporary. Find the courage to overcome your fears and hurt and the victory over them that only Jesus can bring! 

All the Feels // Anxiety

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We’re all looking for a cure for our ailment, are we not. Looking for that “thing” that will bring instant relief to our anxiety or get us out of the season. Cures are hard to come by but we do find one for anxiety in Luke 12.

And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.’

‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’
— Luke 12:22-34
 

In this passage, Jesus is sharing with his disciples on the topic of anxiety. He references the birds and the grass—God takes care of them. And if God takes care of them, how much more will He take care of you!

Worry and anxiety don’t add any value and only rob today of its value. In fact, Jesus says he knows what you need. Indeed, pray for what you need but don’t let the worry of what might happen drive you to a place of denial. Instead, fix your eyes on the Father and He will take care of all of these things.

So, what’s the cure exactly?

1. Remember that God already has your needs in mind. (v. 30) He knows what you really need in this life to thrive in the calling placed on your life. He knows your struggles and tension, even before you do. Nothing in your life will ever surprise Him, so trust Him to work all things out for good. Trust that He will take care of all your needs.

2. Set your focus on Him. (v. 31) Fix your eyes firmly on Him. Not on your needs or the fear, but on Him. Looking only to Him in your hour of trouble. With this kind of focus, fears disappear on the horizon.

3. Store up your treasures in Heaven. (v. 33) Live with a Kingdom purpose. This means living out your purpose with conviction, serving others, having pure motives, and doing all things with the mission of building the Kingdom of God. May all that you do have eternal value.

At the core of this cure is keeping Christ at the center!

NEW YouVersion Plan // God Is On Your Side

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Do you sometimes feel alone or bullied, struggling to believe God has your back when things get tough? In this 7-day YouVersion reading plan, come explore the Bible and be encouraged that God is your Defender!

You can read it online by using the link below or find it on the YouVersion app by searching "God Is On Your Side."

All the Feels // Lost

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I wasn't sure where I should go or what I should do next. On the heels of my moral failure, I was no longer in ministry and wasn't quite sure what else I could do. It was all I had known, but more so, it’s what I was incredibly passionate about doing.

I was lost.

Have you ever felt this way? Wondered where to go or what to do next. Asked God to give you direction because you were unsure of your purpose or passion. Feeling lost can resemble hopelessness or playing a waiting game and you may feel lethargic, unfulfilled, or lonely in the middle of it.

I have two thoughts for you if you find yourself in this place. Two nuggets that have been helpful to me when I felt lost:

1.  Know that you have a purpose and that God has a plan for you.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
— Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)

Regardless of how you might feel (although I don't discount the emotion because I know the feeling is very real), the TRUTH is that God has a plan for your life. He has a path for you to walk confidently and with purpose.

If you are feeling lonely, remind yourself that God sees you and knows how you fit into His big, beautiful plan.

2.  If you don't know what to do now, start with the basics.

He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’
— Acts 1:7-8 (ESV)

I really like--and I mean REALLY LIKE-- to plan and know what's coming next. So feeling lost for me is incredibly challenging.

Before Jesus ascends to Heaven, in his final words, he shares the above message that has transformed my waiting season. That has given me purpose when I have felt lost. 

Instead of trying to have all the answers, you are called to a basic purpose: 

Operate out of the Holy Spirit and make disciples.

That's it. Lean into God and do His work. Tell people about Jesus.

If you are feeling lost and wondering what to do right now, start telling people about Jesus. Make disciples. Be the hands and feet of God on this earth.

If you can do these things, I truly believe God will begin to reveal to you how to live out that calling in very specific ways. Your purpose will come into focus as you make God's basic mandate your mission.

Feeling lost doesn't have to be permanent. It's a very real thing to go through and process but don't get so locked into the emotion that you fail to see how God wants to use you. Trust that He has a plan for your life and make His name as famous as you can!

NEW Crosswalk Article // 10 Old Testament Promises God is Speaking Over Your Life

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I absolutely love the Old Testament and could spend hours poring over its words. It’s full of powerful stories, vivid prophecies, and beautiful promises that captivate the mind and heart. It’s the promises that can really carry you through a difficult season or unsure situation--words of hope in your storm, doubt, and anxiousness.

You can depend on what God says about Himself and what He will do. His promises are never empty but always true!

Come explore 10 Old Testament promises in my latest article for Crosswalk.

The Greatest Love

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Dirty. Filthy. Covered with the dust from the streets, the feet of the disciples were left black and sore with cuts as they entered the room for the last supper. It was a servant’s job to wash the feet of those entering the house, but no servant was to be found. Reclining next to each other as they ate at the dinner table, Jesus laid aside his outer garments, took up a towel, and carried the basin of water over to Simon Peter. One by one Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself to wash the grime and dirt off of the feet of each man. 

Can you imagine sitting there at the dinner table as God washed the mud off of your feet? The task, however disagreeable, had to be done and only Jesus took the initiative to see it accomplished. It was out of love that he performed the service of a slave. 

Later on in the evening, Jesus continued his ministry and proclaimed, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love another,” (John. 13.34). 

How did Jesus love? He had just given an example of his love at dinner by washing the disciple’s feet. If you have any doubt that it was an example of love, go back to verse 15, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” 

Jesus is calling all people to have this same kind of love.

A love that initiates when others sit back. 
A love that humbles you to face what may seem unlovely and serve position underneath you. 
A love that acts in the knowledge of another’s impure motives or betrayal. 
A love that cleanses. 

Among a group of men who quarreled over greatness, Jesus set the example of service instead of strife. 

Loving a person isn’t always easy. If any person has a reason to withhold love, it is Jesus. He see’s the unlovely in a person and nothing is hidden from his sight, yet he loves unconditionally. This love served others by putting a person before himself. Men and women, that is the love that God is calling us to show. It won’t always be easy, but it is always worth it. And when you do, God is glorified. 

Verse 35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

In a self-serve world, service stands out. Love for other people is a witness to the ungodly. In this season of “love,” set the example to others. With those around you, whether friends or strangers, show love by taking the initiative to humble yourself and cleanse people. Put others before yourself and let God shine!

All the Feels // Sadness

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As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’ As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God’

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
— Psalm 42

Have you ever been in one of those seasons that feels incredibly heavy and sad? Where your soul longs for relief of almost any kind? These seasons are our hardest and can cause deep reflection on both who we are and who God is.

David is in one of these seasons in Psalm 42. In all honesty, he's depressed. He's been exiled and is on the run, in hiding, and mourning what has been left behind. Can you imagine being driven from your home, away from your family, with people looking to harm you? It was a very hard season for David and we get a glimpse into that as he shares with great vulnerability.

David opens the psalm with perhaps some of the most quoted words from the entire book. He's recounting his days of being in the house of God and worshipping, and reflecting on where he is now. He misses being in God's presence and craves it with such intensity that he relates it to a deer panting for water.

What I want us to really focus on today are the words that follow. I pray verses 1-2 over you; that you would crave the presence of God! And not just in the difficult times, but in the good. I pray that kind of thirst would be evident in your life in every season!

In what follows, David begins to do something very important and it's a lesson I hope we all take in. David gets a hold of himself.

It's easy when going through a hard time to get caught up in the emotions and sit in the unlovely. I've definitely been there! The trouble with sitting in the unlovely is that your view becomes narrow and hope begins to diminish. It focuses on what's going wrong and not in what God can do.

That's why David gets a hold of himself here. He knew that sitting in the sadness wouldn't do him any good, and furthermore, that hope in God is a much better place to sit in.

No doubt you're going to need this tucked away in your head for some hard time down the road. Perhaps your season isn't hard now but it will be. And if it is hard now, take this in.

When you're downcast and sad, perhaps depressed, get a hold of yourself. David begins to talk to himself, asking his soul why he's downcast. Why are you downcast when God will act! That's cause for hope!

When you're in your hard seasons, it's okay to be sad or to struggle with what's going on. But there comes a point--and it can happen even while you're sad--that you begin to remind yourself of who God is. Remember when He's shown up for you before and encourage yourself with the hope that God will show up for you again.

Hope is powerful. Hope can keep you going. Hope can get you through the season. Hope is faith--faith that God is who He says He is and will be the good Father who takes good care of His children. A good parent--and indeed our God is--doesn't forsake His children. He might seem silent but He's always there.

Again, in closing, David tells himself to hope. If you're wanting to get a perspective shift in your difficult season, take notice of David's response in this psalm. Getting a hold of yourself is purposefully placing your perspective in hope. Hope in God.

Guest Contribution at Sazan.me // Being Enough in a Not Enough World

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I am excited to share with you a heartfelt post I wrote for Sazan Hendrix over at sazan.me! In it, I speak the part of you that compares yourself to others when you peruse social media accounts. I want to help diminish the whisper you hear about your self-worth when you put yourself down in comparison to others.

Read "Being Enough in a Not Enough World" using the link below.

All the Feels // Defeated

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Have you, like me, struggled to find God in the midst of your adversity? Wondered if God had your back when a coworker talked about you behind your back, without any repercussions. Or if He saw when an unfair situation made you out to be the bad guy. Or maybe asked “where are You” when you have felt alone in your troubles.

Even though we read in the Bible that God is our Defender and Protector, we may wonder if He is really there. Questioned if He’ll come to our rescue. Because sometimes it seems the bad guy gets away while we hurt. Or see no justice immediately. How do we know God has our back when the going gets tough?

Psalm 108:13 is a basic but powerful reminder that with God there is victory over our enemies.

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

Know that Jesus has the victory and that nothing in this world can overcome you when you are in him and the victory is his! God is with you in different situations and in different ways, even if you may not feel it or see it. Let's look at a few examples.

For When You Feel Alone

Sometimes we can go through trials and wonder if God has abandoned us for better things to do or other people to care for. I’ve felt that many times and in my loneliness cried out to God for some glimpse of Him. I want you to know that we’ve all felt that--you are not alone.

Even the great figure Mother Teresa felt distance from God. She once wrote:

[But] as for me--The silence and the emptiness is so great--that I look and do not see,--Listen and do not hear.

What I hope to leave you with today is a promise that will carry you in your loneliness and trial. You might feel as though God has left you in your low point, but know that He hasn’t done so at all. Look at what He tells us in Isaiah 43:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze...Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

Let those words soak in for a moment. Take in the precious words of the Father and know that even when you go through your greatest struggles, God is with you. He cares for you.

Perhaps there will be times He seems far off but we must take heart there is a reason we emotionally feel distant. There is purpose in everything God does. No experience, emotion, or trial goes wasted. He is working good on your behalf. When you do feel this way, however, carry with you the promise that God is with you and He is working, even if you can’t see Him.

For When You Wonder If He Has Your Back

Nehemiah was a godly man who set out to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. His work was noble and his heart pure. Yet, people came against him in opposition. People taunting him and setting out to thwart his work. They ridiculed and insulted him even though he was doing good.

Sometimes you might feel bullied; perhaps your name is being dragged through the mud. I’ve experienced this and know how it feels. To have a good heart and do the right thing, only to unknowingly push a button in someone who then goes and does harm to your character. I also know what it’s like to not feel comfortable to share with someone what happened because the person is respected and looked up to at work. So in silence you feel hurt and betrayed, wondering how people will see you. But you did nothing wrong and you want to believe that God will take up your cause. That He will defend your character. Yet the person gets away with it. You’re left wondering how someone could get away with doing wrong while you get hurt int he process.

Will God show up? Will God defend my name?

Nehemiah’s response to the unjust treatment towards him wasn’t to go back to Artaxerxes and complain about Sanballet, the man who was taunting him. Or to confront with threats or defense. Nehemiah’s response was to pray and continue working on the wall.

When you are being bullied or treated unfairly, your instinct might be to get back at the person by smearing their name or to defend yourself by pointing blame, or many other options that seem fair.

The best thing you can do is pray and keep doing the good work God has called you to. Not to get sidetracked by discouragement from others; that’s exactly what the enemy wants. You keep doing the good and right thing and let God worry about the other person’s treatment of you. Maybe you’ll see Him publicly come to your defense but maybe you won’t. Either way, trust God to work all things out for good!

I want to leave you with three verses you can carry with you to remind you that God is with you and will take up your cause:

God is just and fair.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
— Deuteronomy 32:4

God is a shield and safe.

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
— Psalm 18:1-3

God fights for you.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
— Exodus 14:14

All the Feels // Fear

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Have you ever wondered how you were going to get through a particularly hard season or situation? Especially when fear begins to set in and play all sorts of mind games. Me too. In fact, if I’m completely transparent with you, I’ve been know to catastrophize. Which means I’ve had a tendency of believing the worst may happen in a particularly hard situation.

We all struggle at times or have struggled with fear. Isaiah 41:10 speaks to this emotional state of mind.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10

When you might feel fear or be dismayed, remind yourself of what God speaks in this verse--He will strengthen you, help you, and uphold you. The God who controls all things will be there to protect and aid you in your fear.

In addition, Psalm 55:22 encourages you to cast your burden on Him.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
— Psalm 55:22

You’re encouraged to do this because He can handle it; God can handle anything you give Him. Your worries, fear, shame, doubt--none of it’s too much for Him to bear.

Furthermore, when you do cast it all on Him, He will sustain you. This means in your fear, God wants you to know that you can lean on Him. That He will take care of you in the darkest of seasons.

Will you let Him sustain you? Or will you carry it all alone?

Fear is a theme we find quite common in the Bible. I suppose this might be because our human nature is often prone to fear when things are uncertain and our view is not in the right place. Unless trained otherwise, this can be our default.

All of our sins are rooted in fear. For example, a fear of not being good enough can manifest in the need for recognition, thus igniting pride and advancement in our heart. Or the fear of not being accepted can create a desire to please people. Whatever your struggle, there is a connection to a deep seeded fear. And with that fear, with that struggle, is an obstacle in your life.

Fear is a hindrance to the enjoyment of life. When you allow fear and anxiety to take shape, you’re allowing something to hinder the fullness of your life. It paralyzes you, immobilizes you, causes you to question moving forward.

If you’re living in fear today or might be prone to go there, prepare yourself to face your past and the fears you pushed back into the corners of your soul so that you can be an overcomer by the power of Christ! You don’t have to live there, nor is it what God has for you, so commit to a new way of life today.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 1 Timothy 1:7

NEW Crosswalk Article // 25 Influential Christians You Should Follow on Social Media

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Today, most people have some sort of social media account--it’s how we stay in touch with old friends and family afar. But it’s not just Facebook; it’s Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, to name a few. Social media is a constant in our lives and we often spend hours perusing other’s online persona. If this is the case, shouldn’t we make it a point to have positive influences coming our way from other Christians? You bet!

Here are 20 people from various walks of life that are great Christians to follow on social media. People who can speak life, truth, encouragement, and everyday advice into your day. If you don't yet follow, I would encourage you to do so!

All the Feels // Insecurity

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Insecurity was an ugly, unwelcome companion in my life for many years. In fact, there is one particular phrase that still echoes in my mind like a broken record under the right circumstances. It’s the phrase, “I’m not good enough.” Maybe a similar phrase plays frequently in your mind as well, and it’s so familiar that it feels like an old comrade keeping you company.

  • "I'm not good enough."
  • What will they think of me if I do this?"
  • "Look at their life; mine isn't as good as theirs."
  • "I don't have any value after what I've done."

When we put stock in these phrases and give them validity, we allow pieces of our potential to be chipped away. The truth is, God never wants you to feel inadequate or not good enough. He wants you to be aware of your weakness that you might lean into His strength, but never for a second does He want you to diminish your value.

I get goosebumps when I read The Message translation of 1 Peter 2:9-10.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

It describes that we are CHOSEN by God, not for ourselves, but to be an example of His power to take you, “from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” You are SOMETHING. You are ACCEPTED. When you or the enemy begin to whisper attacks about your value, rebuke such words and remind yourself of what 1 Peter 2 says.

You need to know right now that you are valued. You need to know that God cares more about you than you could ever comprehend. You must understand that His love is deeper, wider, and higher than you could imagine. Collapse into His love for you. Embrace His care. Trust that how He has designed you is wonderful and powerful. You have a purpose and calling very specific to how He wants to use you; that’s a lot of thought and planning set aside specifically for you and you alone.

When you think your gifts are not as important. Rebuke it. When you feel your experience is lacking. Lean into His. When you feel your value is nothing compared to another, trust what His word says about you.

Don’t allow insecurity to diminish your potential or steal away your calling. It will if you don’t keep careful guard over your heart and mind. My prayer is that you will walk forth with the power of Scripture to know you’re valued and have a purpose that insecurity has no part in.