Exploring the Bible : Leviticus

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If we’re honest, Leviticus is where most of us start losing interest or understanding. It may even feel outdated and unapproachable to our modern day practices. In addition, with the New Testament essentially making most of the practices in Leviticus no longer necessary because of grace, many might wonder what value it holds for today.

Yes, Leviticus is a book of religious practices and priestly commands but that doesn’t mean it has no value for your life today. There is an overarching theme of God’s righteousness and if we pay attention, we can learn about His character in these pages.

Leviticus was written by Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai and picks up where Exodus ended. It addresses the responsibilities of the Levites (priests), practices that helped people connect with God, and taught people how to live a holy life. You have to remember: Israel had just come out of the land of Egypt. For hundreds of years the culture that they lived in worshipped many gods and a sort of watered down version of true religion had become their norm. They were confused. God gave them in Leviticus a clear understanding of His will and desire for righteous living.

You will find in this book mostly a set of practices, feasts, and sacrifices as well as a framework for priesthood. But what I want you to focus on—instead of the law—is the holy character of God. See in it your propensity to sin and need for atonement. The atonement for your sin has changed (Jesus instead of ritual) but the need for it has not.

ACCESS THROUGH WORSHIP (CH. 1-16)

The first 16 chapters of Leviticus have to do mostly with practices of worship that gave the people access to God. You will find regulations and commands for various offerings and the establishment of the priests. In addition, God outlines prescriptions for uncleanness, such as childbirth and disease.

Again, it’s necessary to note that sin created a separation from God. A God who is pure and righteous; free from sin. In order to find atonement, these laws were given to the people. God wanted (and still wants) relationship with all of His people. Mankind created a gap in the garden when sin entered but God had a plan to restore. Jesus was and is that enduring atonement but before he came, God gave people these practices as a way to draw closer to Him. To purify them of their sin.

God is holy, but He has always had a plan and made a way for His children to access Him.

Since most of these chapters deal with the different kinds of sacrifice, I want to give a quick breakdown of their differences:

  1. Burnt Offering: to atone for sin in general and signify complete dedication to God.

  2. Grain Offering: thanksgiving to God; it accompanied all burnt offerings.

  3. Peace Offering: expressed peace with God and expressed gratitude for an unexpected blessing, a blessing tied to a vow, and without regard to a specific blessing.

  4. Sin Offering:  to atone for a sin committed unknowingly and when restitution was not possible.

  5. Trespass Offering: to atone for a sin committed unknowingly and when restitution was possible.

A HOLY WALK (CH. 17-27)

The rest of the book details mandates for holiness. Essentially, how God wanted His people to walk a righteous life. There are details in there about sacrifice and food, proper sexual behavior, crime, neighborliness, festivals, the tabernacle, and the sabbatical. It was a roadmap to right and wrong; good and evil.

It’s worth noting that again, these were all necessary because Christ had not yet made the ultimate sacrifice for sin. But when he came, most of these practices were no longer needed. To give you an idea of how he replaces Old Testament law, let’s take a brief look at the festivals outlined in this book and how Christ replaced the need for them.

  1. Passover —> Death of Christ (1 Cor. 5:7)

  2. Unleavened Bread —> Sinlessness of Christ (1 Cor. 5:8)

  3. Firstfruits —> Resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:23)

  4. Pentecost —> Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 2:4)

  5. Trumpets —> Israel’s Regathering by Christ (Matthew 24:31)

  6. Atonement —> Substitutionary Sacrifice by Christ (Romans 11:26)

  7. Tabernacles —> Reunion with Christ (Zechariah 14:16-19)

Leviticus served a valuable but temporary need to point people to righteous living and access to a holy God.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN

God is holy and righteous; none are like Him. And although our decision to sin created a gap, God provided a way to overcome that gap. In Leviticus He gave mankind a list of works to atone for sin. God loves His people and desires relationship and community with His children.

MEMORY VERSE

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”  Leviticus 19:2

Exploring the Bible : Exodus

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We left off in Genesis with the death of Joseph. The descendants of Israel entered Egypt and started growing numbers. This is where Exodus picks up. Written by Moses, as well, it’s a continuation of God’s story.

The books begins in Egypt; a strong power in the world at that time. Its boundaries were increasing and power growing. Moses was born in 1525 B.C., which gives you a rough timeframe for this book. We’ll get to know him well in this book and see his connection with Egypt, besides simply living there.

Exodus is largely an account of God’s people finding freedom from their oppressors, yes. But it’s also the beginning of the fulfillment of Go'd’s promises to the patriarchs we learned about in Genesis. Let’s get started!

MOSES’ EARLY YEARS (CH. 1-2)

After Joseph’s family moved to Egypt they grew in numbers. Years later, their numbers were so great that the Pharaoh chose to use them as slaves for the expansion of Egypt. God’s chosen people were marginalized and forced into labor. Eventually, to help with population control., the Pharaoh ordered that males born to a Hebrew (or Israelite) were to be killed at birth.

When Moses was born, his mother hid him and then set him in a basket. She placed the basket in the river and her daughter (Moses’ sister) watched it. The basket was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter and she raised Moses as her own son.

Moses was a Hebrew raised in Pharaoh’s house. He was accustomed to their culture and ways. He knew them better than any other Hebrew did, which would prove beneficial down the road. Indeed, Moses knew he was Hebrew and when he was an adult, he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave. As a result, Moses fled into the desert. He marries a woman and becomes a shepherd for his father-in-law.

THE CALL OF MOSES (CH. 3-4)

Moses spent 40 years wandering the wilderness with his flock. Then, one day, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. While he was tending to the flock he saw a bush the burned but was not consumed. It was God and He had a plan for Moses. A plan that would send him back to Egypt in order to set Israel free from their oppressors. Although Moses doubted his call, God confirmed Moses was the man for the job and so he went.

MOSES RETURNS TO EGYPT (CH. 4-12)

Moses knew the Pharaoh—he had grown up in the same house as him. It wasn’t a coincidence how Moses’ life played out. Knowing Pharaoh undoubtedly gave him access to the man no other Hebrew had. And indeed, he went to Pharaoh and told him to let the Hebrews go.

Not surprisingly, Pharaoh wasn’t okay with that. And so, plagues were sent to Egypt. With each, Pharaoh continued to refuse the release of the Hebrews until after the 10th plague. The 10 plagues were:

  • Water Turned to Blood

  • Frogs

  • Gnats

  • Flies

  • Egyptian Livestock Dies

  • Boils

  • Hail

  • Locusts

  • Darkness

  • Death of the Firstborn

Pharaoh continued to hold his ground until he felt the loss that the tenth plague brought. A plague that took the life of all the firstborn in the country. Hebrews were saved from such a loss if they brushed the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. This was called the Passover and it’s a holiday Hebrews still observe today.

Pharaoh lost his son in the plague and coming to the end of himself, he finally agreed to let all the Hebrews go. With Moses at the lead and his brother Aaron serving as prophet, all of Israel exited Egypt—exactly 430 years after entering.

THE EXODUS (CH. 12-19)

As they traveled out of Egypt and towards the Promise Land (where Jacob had left to be with Joseph), God provided a pillar of fire at night and clouds by day for their journey. When they reached the Red Sea, they faced a bit of a conundrum. Pharaoh had changed his mind and send an army to and retrieve they Hebrews. As they caught up, Moses and the people were stuck between the army and the sea. Then God did a miracle. He split the sea so that the Hebrews could cross on dry land and as the Egyptians followed them, the water enveloped them alone. Israel was free!

But that wasn’t enough for them. The people began to groan and grumble, already forgetting all that God had done for them. They wanted food and so God sent bread from Heaven in the morning and meat in the evening every day but the seventh day (so they could rest). They wanted water and He brought forth water from a rock. There was no need they had that God did not provide for.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS & OTHER LAWS (CH. 20-32)

Eventually the people made it to Mount Sinai and it’s here Moses received the 10 commandments.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.

  2. You shall not create and/or bow down to false idols.

  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

  4. Remember . the Sabbath.

  5. Honor your mother and father.

  6. Do not murder.

  7. Do not commit adultery.

  8. Do not steal.

  9. Do not bear false witness against others.

  10. Don’t covet what other’s have.

This was the law handed down to Moses on the mountain, along with many other laws. Laws about restitution, social justice, the ark of the covenant and tabernacle, and the Sabbath. These were passed down to guide mankind in how to live their life. It gave definition to sin. It was by the law people lived until Christ came and grace entered the scene.

While God was communicating these laws to Moses, at the bottom of the mountain, the people began to wander. They became restless and made a golden calf to worship—something God was writing in the law to avoid. As a result, many died because of their sin. They had turned away from the God who had delivered him.

GOD’S FAVOR (CH. 33-34)

Chapter 33 holds a beautiful account of Moses and God. In it, Moses is asking for insight into God’s plan for the people and God assures Moses that His presence will go with them. Then, Moses asks to see God’s glory. Moses is tucked away in a cleft in the rock until God has passed and then is able to see God from behind. Its incredible access to God because Moses has sought Him. Pursued Him.

When Moses returned to the people after his experience with God, his face shown brightly and the people knew he had been with God.

CONCLUDING EXODUS (CH. 35-40)

The rest of the book details the construction of the tabernacle, where the Lord’s glory rested. It was like a cloud over the tabernacle by day and fire by night. When His glory lifted, it meant the people were to pick up and move on. While it settled they stayed put.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN

God is faithful to His people. He provides. Even when we doubt, He is good. Aren’t we like the Israelites at times? God delivered them from oppression and it didn’t take long for them to complain. To forget God’s goodness. They questioned Him and His plan. Do you do that sometimes? I do. God has been good but quickly the difficult circumstances cause you to question Him. Learn from their mistakes—from your own—and remain faithful to him.

Moses and his right arm, Joshua (who we will get to know better later), preferred to be near God. They sought after Him. It was this love for God that motivated everything they did. As a result, they were shown favor. Seek after Him. Pursue His heart. The Bible is full of people who were shown favor because they simply loved God. They weren’t perfect but they made Him central.

MEMORY VERSE

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:2

Exploring the Bible : Genesis

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Genesis is where it all begins. It’s our origin story. In fact, the word “Genesis” means “in the beginning.” And packed into its 50 chapters is a whole lot of adventure, tension, and ups and downs. There are also some pretty neat people in there. People just like you and me in that they were ordinary people God used to do extraordinary things.

Moses, who we will get to know more about next week in Exodus, is believed to have authored the book sometime between the Exodus and his death. You can break the book into two parts:

  • Primitive History (chapters 1-11): includes Creation and three major events: the fall, the flood, and the dispersement of nations.

  • Patriarchal History (chapters 12-50): includes the history of the four men who fathered the nation of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph

We are going to follow these distinct events and people in our breakdown of Genesis. Let’s dive in and explore the Bible.

CREATION (CH. 1-2)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (1:1)

What we know about our Universe today wouldn’t exist without God, our Creator. He spoke all things into existence—everything that exists is the work of His hands. Let’s take a look at the Creation timeline:

  • Day 1: God created Day and Night

  • Day 2: God created Heaven

  • Day 3: God created Earth with dry land and seas, and all Vegetation

  • Day 4: God created the Sun, Moon, and Stars

  • Day 5: God created all Sea Creatures and Birds

  • Day 6: God created all Land Creatures and Man

  • Day 7: God rested

Man was created in the image of God, to rule over the earth. His name was Adam and after naming all the animals, he found no suitable mate for himself. Then God put him into a deep sleep and from his rib, created woman (Eve).

For a moment, I’d like to point out that in chapter 1 verse 26 God said: “Let us make man in our image.” This “us” referred to is the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If this is a new idea to you or you’ve always wondered what that really means, to put it plainly, God is one in three persons. So, God is one eternal being manifested in three persons. They all have a different role and work in perfect harmony.

SIN ENTERS THE PICTURE (CH. 3)

After God created Adam and Eve, they lived in the Garden of Eden in wonderful intimacy with God. They had access to everything they needed except for one tree. One tree was off limits—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The reason being, it held the knowledge of sin.

One day in the garden Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and struck up a conversation with Eve. He asked her, “Did God actually say…” Satan inserted doubt and led Eve to question God. When Eve saw that the tree produced beautiful fruit, she took an apple and bit out of it. Then, she passed it on to Adam and he took a bite. Instantly, Adam and Eve became fully aware of sin. Together, both sharing equal blame for the event.

When they became aware of their nakedness they fashioned garments out of leaves and when God came looking for them, they hid in their shame.

The cost of this mistake could fill pages we don’t have but essentially sin had entered the world and death became the reality for all. So did shame, pain, sickness, difficulty and much more. As a result of what they had done, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. In addition, Eve was told childbearing would become painful and Adam would toil away in hardship to provide for his needs and the needs of his family.

This sin has passed down to all of mankind, except Jesus. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Sin brought all the unlovely in the world and there were natural consequences for the actions of Adam and Eve. But God had a plan for their redemption, and ours, that we will explore more later in this series.

NOAH AND THE FLOOD (CH. 6-8)

Adam and Eve had children and the earth began to populate. Eventually, civilizations began and corruption brewed. In fact, the wickedness was so bad that God became sorry for creating mankind and decided to wipe them from the planet. However, one righteous man—just one—chose to worship God and He decided to spare this man and his family. This man was Noah.

God told Moses to build an ark that would provide refuge to the man’s family during a catastrophic flood. Noah worked tirelessly to build the ark. When it was done, God brought a pair of every animal to the ark and along with Noah’s family, they all boarded the ark.

Then the rain came, and lots of it. Although it only rained 40 days and nights, Noah and all on the ark were actually on it for a total of 378 days by the time the flood subsided. Once they stepped back onto Earth, God told them to be fruitful and multiply. It was also here that Noah built an altar to the Lord and God promised He would never again destroy mankind with a flood. He put a rainbow in the sky as a reminder to us all of His promise.

TOWER OF BABEL (CH. 11)

God told Noah’s family to multiply and multiply they did. Eventually, a civilization formed under a leader named Nimrod and they gathered to build a tower to the heavens. Collectively, their pride ushered in rebellion. By building a tower (called Tower of Babel), it was assumed they could do just about anything. But God saw their pride and to humble their hearts He confused them with language. People scattered across the earth in groups based on their language and that’s how people groups spread.

ABRAHAM (CH. 12-25)

Abram, or Abraham as he was latered name, is the Father of Israel. The great patriarch of God’s chosen people. But Abram wasn’t born into a godly home. No, Abram was born in the wicked nation of Babylon to a father who served false Gods.

But a time came when God revealed Himself to Abram and called the man to follow Him. And Abram followed. But what should you know about Abram? Let’s take a brief look at his life.

His Journey to Canaan

Abram left Ur in Babylon with his family (including his wife, Sarai) because God told him to go to a land He would show him, which would have been Canaan. However, for some reason, Abram stopped just short of Canaan and settled in a town called Haran.

After some time there, God appeared to him and told him two things: one, God would bless Abram and two, to take his family to Canaan. Along with his wife and servants, he took his nephew Lot and Lot’s family. But at some point a famine hit Canaan and they all traveled to Egypt. After a run-in with the pharaoh Abram took his family back up to Canaan and it was here Lot and Abram split up. Eventually, Lot was captured by foreign forces and Abram rescued him.

God’s Convenant and the Growth of Abram’s Family

In Genesis 15 God appeared to Abram and promised that his heirs would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. At this point Abram and Sarai were childless. After sometime, Sarai became a bit impatient and in an attempt to get the ball rolling, suggested Abram marry her servant Hagar and conceive a child with her. Abram did what she suggested and with Hagar, had a son named Ishmael.

As you can imagine, family drama ensued and Hagar ran away while pregnant. But in a beautiful picture of God’s attentiveness to all people (Genesis 16), He told Hagar to return and that He would take care of Ismael.

Then in Genesis 17 we get a glimpse into a well know passage regarding God’s plan and promise for Abram. Three things happened here: one, Abram was renamed Abraham which means “father of a multitude.” Second, a covenant was established regarding Abraham’s offspring. And third, Abraham was promised that in one year he would have a son with Sarai (renamed Sarah).

Indeed, one year later and at the age of one hundred, Abraham had a son named Isaac. For many years they lived in assumed harmony and Abraham enjoyed parenthood. But then in Genesis 22 God showed up with a call. A call for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. And without hesitation, Abraham responded. Early the next morning, Abraham took his son (who was thought to be 15-30 years old) on a journey to a mountain where he bound his son for sacrifice. Just before the act, God showed up and told Abraham he could stop.

The significance of this story is to highlight Abraham’s faithfulness. It was a test of his faith and he passed with flying colors. It’s a reminder to us to never hold something so close you would disobey God for it. To never have an idol. Abraham was blessed for his faithfulness and years later, died and passed on his legacy to Isaac.

ISAAC (CH. 21-35)

Isaac married a distant relative named Rebekah and they had a set of twin boys named Esau and Jacob. Not much is shared about his life outside of his early years with Abraham and later years with Jacob. But he was a man who faithfully served God and someone God also promised a legacy to. He continued the bloodline that would lead to the people of Israel.

JACOB (CH. 25-49)

Jacob was born grasping at the heel of his twin brother, Esau. In fact, his name means “heel grabber” or”deceiver.” It’s fairly indicative of his early years.

Essentially, Jacob was always after the birthright and blessing that belonged to is older brother Esau. He would manipulate to secure both. First, in chapter 25 he secured the birthright (a double portion inheritance and role of family priest) by leveraging Esau’s starvation. He promised to give Esau a bowl of soup for the birthright and Esau agreed. Then, in chapter 27 he stole the blessing (prosperity and the covenant line) by pretending to be Esau to his dying father. Honestly, Jacob wasn’t the most honest guy or even all that good of a person.

Esau wS infuriated and planned to kill Jacob after their father died so Rebekah sent Jacob off to live with her brother, Laban. Jacob fled, never seeing his mother again.

He found Laban and fell in love with his daughter, Rachel. Laban agreed to give her to Jacob after seven years of work. At the end of the seven years, however, Laban deceived Jacob and gave the other sister, Leah, over to Jacob. It’s thought Jacob was drunk. When Jacob realized the next morning what happened, he called Laban out. Laban agreed to give him Rachel in exchange for another seven years. The deceiver was deceived but it was this time away from home where God pulled out the old Jacob and began a new work in him. In fact, God renamed him “Israel” to indicate his new identity.

Eventually God told Jacob to return home and Jacob took his tribe back. Esau forgave him and Isaac was still alive. Over time, Jacob had twelve sons but only two with Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph became his favorite.

JOSEPH (CH. 30-50)

Joseph had dreams when he was growing up of his brothers bowing before him. When he told his brothers they became resentful and sold him into slavery in Egypt.

Joseph served his master Potiphar well and was given oversight of Potiphar’s house; his master fully trusted him. One day Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and when he refused her she claimed he tried to rape her and he was thrown into prison.

In prison, Joseph continued to be faithful to God and a trustworthy man. The warden eventually promoted Joseph to oversee all the prisoners and it was here, while in jail, he had the opportunity to interpret the dreams of one of pharaoh’s officials.

Pharaoh had a dream he couldn’t shake and no one could interpret. The official told pharaoh of Joseph and he was able to interpret the dream that warned of a coming famine. Pharaoh then appointed Joseph to second in command of all of Egypt. Amazing, right?!

When the famine hit Canaan, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt and requested help, but didn’t recognize Jospeh. But they all bowed down before him, making Joseph’s dream a reality. Eventually, Joseph forgave all his brothers and they all, including Jacob, moved to Egypt, thus reuniting the family.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN

From Creation: God has always had a plan for Creation and He intimately formed everything we know. He fashioned us in His likeness and desires relationship with us.

From the Fall: We need God—desperately. Sin has brought death and separation. However, as we will learn, God also has a plan for our redemption.

From the Flood: Sin destroys but God redeems.

From the Tower of Babel: God wants no idols before us nor pride in our hearts.

From Abraham: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. All He asks of us is to have a willing and surrendered heart that will step out when He says step out. That will leave the comfortable for the promises of God.

From Isaac: Live a life of faithfulness.

From Jacob: You’re never too far gone from God’s grace. He redeems, restores, and renames the broken and lost. Follow Him and He will make straight your paths.

From Joseph: Be faithful with the small things. Even after multiple disappointments remain committed to God and give your all.

MEMORY VERSE

“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,” for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”  Genesis 16:13

New Beginnings

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New year; new beginnings. That’s how I always approach January 1st. Whether the outgoing year has been good or hard, there’s always hope wrapped up in a new beginning. 

His mercies are new every morning—Lamentations 3. A new year is also a new day. To begin anew. To put your trust in the Father and lean into His grace. No matter what the day before—or year before—held, there is mercy today. It’s a gift He extends.

2018 is in the past and God is wanting to do something new in your life! Don’t look back unless to praise; set your eyes forward. 

But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT)

There are 3 things I like to do at the turn of a new year. To dream, plan, prioritize and set focus. It gives me something to aim for. And I would highly encourage you do the same!

  1. Reflect on 2018 with thanksgiving. Journal or make a list of all the things you have to be thankful for. Don’t miss giving praise to God for His faithfulness! You’ll be reminded of His provision and find little blessings, even if it was a hard year. Hope is stirred.

  2. Pick a theme word for the new year. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to give you a word for the year. A word that will shape your heart for the next twelve months. Perhaps an area to grow in or sin to work through. For me, this year is “surrender.” To surrender to Him in all areas. Surrender to my weaknesses so that His strength can be made perfect. Surrender. And I am full of faith that as I walk in surrender this year, He’ll work beautifully. I believe the same for you!

  3. Make a list of goals and prayers. I then sit down and write out prayers I have for the year and goals I’d like to aim towards. You’ll always miss if you don’t aim for something. So, write out prayer requests for the year and things you’d like to work towards in pursuing passion and purpose.

I hope this helps give you some inspiration and direction. And I pray 2019 is an incredible year for you!

Don’t forget, it’s not too late to join the #WonderedByTheWord online community committed to reading the Bible in a year. Click here for more info.

ICYMI: Top Ten Articles From 2018

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In case you missed it, here are the top ten articles of 2018!


 

Fear

 

Celebrating Advent - Week 4

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But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
— Philippians 3:20-21 (MSG)

This weekend is the culmination of weeks of celebrating, preparing, and remembering the birth of Christ. I pray with all my heart your heart has been pointed in the direction of Christ! Indulging in the gifts, parties, and food isn't bad but hopefully, it's not where your attention has been drawn to most. 

As we conclude this Advent series and Christmas season, now is the time to make the most of what you've learned. To really cherish the sweetness of this holiday by exalting Christ as Lord and Savior.

The first two weeks we remembered the coming of Christ to Earth more than two thousand years ago. Last week we began to look forward to the coming of Christ yet to take place. We were reminded that Christ is in Heaven even now preparing a place for you and me.

This week we continue down that same thought of the coming of Christ still to come. How? By remembering that in Christ we are citizens of Heaven! Christ is coming again to take us with him to Heaven. What's not to be excited about?!

You and I are expected to be expectant! Eagerly anticipating the arrival of Christ. Sometimes we get so caught up in earthly concerns that we neglect to have an eternal perspective and eagerly await the time Christ will return for us.

In Matthew 25:1-12 Jesus is reminding us through the parable of the ten virgins to be ready and expectant for his return. Are you? Can you say with enthusiasm that Christ is returning and you just can’t wait?!

If you hesitate at all--maybe because your heart isn't in the right place or you'd like to accomplish that one last thing on Earth--it's time to pull away and recalibrate. If you struggle at all to express excitement for his return, ask yourself why. Because you are called to be eagerly expecting his return! Your home isn't here...it's in Heaven.

Celebrate this weekend with the hope that Christ is coming back for you!

Celebrating Advent - Week 3

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And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
— John 14:3

If you are a Christian that has placed your sincere faith in Jesus and committed your life to following him, then you have a hope. A hope only those who have made the same decision have. It's a hope that one day Jesus will return and take us with him to a new place. A place far from sin, pain, sorrow, and disappointment. A place he is preparing even now.

Over the last two weeks, we've explored passages in the Bible that told of Christ's coming thousands of years ago. In the next two weeks, as we celebrate Advent, we will be looking at the coming of Christ yet to take place. His Second Coming.

I won't be deeply theological because the heart of this series is to illuminate a light on what Christmas truly is about and stir anticipation in your heart for what Christ has done, is doing, and has yet to do.

When Christ gave up his life for you and me and returned to Heaven, he began to prepare a place for us. Our home. Because you see, although we may find temporary comfort on Earth, this isn't our home. Our home is with God--free from all the unlovely and full of life more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Today, we look forward to that time when Christ returns and gathers his people to return with him. And we have this confidence that he will indeed return. His promises are not empty. He will fulfill what he has said he will do. To come and get you and me.

Take heart that Christ is coming again! This season we celebrate his first coming, but we also get to look forward to another coming. Will you join me in anticipation for this wondrous event?

Crosswalk Article // What is the True Meaning of Christmas

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Christmas truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year. For many, there are warm parties, cozy homes, fond traditions to celebrate, and gifts to be shared. It’s a joyous time of celebration. However, sometimes we get lost in the season and forget the reason we celebrate it, to begin with. Among the hustle and bustle, our focus is lost and priorities are misaligned.

Come learn more about the true meaning of Christmas is this article for Crosswalk.com.

Celebrating Advent -Week 2

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As we dive into week 2 and continue exploring the coming of Christ that was thousands of years ago, of course we must read the tale of his birth! I don't know about you but every time I read the account given in Luke 2, it takes me to what Christmas is really all about. I get all the warm feels and a sense of peace comes over me.

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

’Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’ When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”

— Luke 2:1-20 (NLT)

For thousands of years mankind waited for the coming of Christ; they longed for their King to arrive and free them from oppression. The Bible is full of Scripture pointing directly to the One who would save mankind from their sins. When Isaiah (Isaiah 9) described His coming, he described His coming as an infant. But this child would grow and establish a Kingdom of righteousness forevermore. When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the moment in history when prophecy was fulfilled. God came to be with us.

But it was so much more than a birth. It was hope. It was cause for celebration. Because when Jesus came, he also left us with the gift of salvation. His birth is significant because of His death. For thirty-three years Jesus lived a life free from sin so that He could be the perfect sacrificial lamb for the atonement of our sins. On Calvary, Christ paid the price and overcame death so that we could have victory over sin and condemnation. So, when that precious baby was born and placed in the manger, it wasn’t just another birth. It was the beginning of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. An act He didn’t have to take part in but He chose to out of love.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

— Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

We remember the birth of Christ on Christmas because it’s a celebration of when God entered this world. This very act of humility and his choice to die on the cross is cause for bowed knees and lifted hands. I know the busyness of the season can cause time to fly and before we know it, the holiday has passed and we have forgotten to celebrate why we are celebrating it in the first place. But don’t get sidetracked—get perspective. Choose reverence and give honor where honor is due.

Take time this holiday season to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by glorifying the One who gave it all. A child was born in humble circumstances and his sacrificial death reflected the same, however, both were significant for humanity. Without the death of Christ, salvation isn’t possible. So without His birth, neither is it possible. Jesus coming to Earth that night changed everything and it’s a moment we should celebrate with all our hearts.

Certainly, enjoy the parties and food and gifts this season, but don’t forget to point your heart, family, and those around you to Christmas' true meaning: Christ came with a plan for our redemption.

Celebrating Advent - Week 1

Christmas is this wonderful time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It's more than the twinkling lights, beautifully wrapped gifts, and cozy homes filled with parties. It's so much more than what we've made it over the years. At the heart of Christmas is the celebration of Christ's coming to Earth more than 2,000 years ago.

Advent is a time when this focus is placed back at the center of the season. The word, in fact, means "coming." It's the celebration of the coming of Christ centuries ago and the anticipation of the coming of Christ yet to be. It's valuable to prepare our hearts and keep Christ first at all times, but especially now when it can be overshadowed by festivities and gifts.

Advent takes place the 4 Sundays leading to Christmas with the first 2 Sundays focusing on his arrival already made and the last 2 Sundays focusing on his arrival to come. There are numerous ways to celebrate this holiday and you can read more here if you’re interested. All to say, I can't think of a better way to embrace Christmas and prepare our hearts to glorify Jesus before anything else than taking this Advent journey together. With that said, let's dive into week 1!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
— Isaiah 9:6-7

In this passage, Isaiah gives a prophecy of the Savior who would come and reign on this earth. We get such a beautiful and powerful glimpse into this coming and it was with eager expectation people looked forward to this moment. It was an event they longed for.

In this short passage, many things about the Messiah are described.

  1. A child would be born. The Messiah would be born to the people of Israel. A son made flesh. (Isaiah 7:14, a child would be born of a virgin and he would be named Immanuel, "God with us.").

  2. The government would rest on his shoulders. He would rule over Israel and the world for all time. His authority would be established above all.

  3. He would be to his people:

    1. A Wonderful Counselor - Intimately aware of the workings of God and every man's heart. He is the wisdom of God and speaks to mankind.

    2. A Mighty God - Not only would he be a man but he would be fully God, mighty to save.

    3. An Everlasting Father - He is the author of life and designer of the universe.

    4. The Prince of Peace - He established peace both on the earth and in our hearts.

  4. He would reign on the throne of David. Established from the line of David, once a king and a prophecy of his human lineage. 

  5. He would have the zeal of the Lord Almighty. The zeal of the Lord overcomes all things and all things depend on God.

There was a time when people heard this prophecy and held it dear to them, hoping and praying it would come soon. We get to experience this fulfillment on the other side and that's what Christmas is about--celebrating the coming that already took place. Celebrating the moment Christ entered the world to save humanity.

Are you ready to prepare your heart? Ready to celebrate Jesus!

This week, reflect on this passage and sit in Christ's love for you. He didn't have to come to Earth and wrap himself in flesh but out of incredible love, he chose to do so. He loves you and honestly would have done it all if just for you. Carry this with you this week and appreciate who he is and what he came to do.

A Special Thanksgiving Message

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We find ourselves in a special season that singularly focuses on the act of giving thanks. People hang banners across their mantles proclaiming “give thanks” and others share on Facebook something they are grateful for each day in November

But Thanksgiving is more than a day or a month. Thanksgiving is something we are called to do every day. In the good and the bad, in the ups and downs, our natural response must be gratitude.

Good thing we have some great examples in the Bible! Many men and women we consider pillars of the faith represented an attitude of thanksgiving so well. In fact, there are so many that it was hard to narrow down the list. But today we take a look at people who uniquely gave thanks with all their heart.

1.    Hannah

Hannah is one of my favorite people in the Bible and someone I’ve learned a lot from. There honestly isn’t a lot of information about her but her mark in the Bible is significant.

Hannah was one of two wives to a man named Elkanah; Hannah was barren but the other wife had many children. The other wife, Peninnah, would taunt her regularly and Hannah’s misery was indeed immense. One night, while in the temple, Hannah prayed fervently for a child, so much so that the priest Eli thought she was drunk.

Hannah prayed that if God would give her a child, she would give that child back to Him. Eli blessed her request and soon after she conceived a boy named Samuel, who would become the great prophet of Israel (and my favorite person in the Bible!).

What’s beautiful about this story is that she did indeed give her son back to the Lord--she gave Samuel to Eli. Hannah’s praise wasn’t just the reflection of an answer to prayer, but it proceeded giving up her son. With all her heart she praised God in the aftermath of turning over her biggest prayer request.

Does your praise and thanksgiving overflow from the good you’ve had to let go? When perhaps your sacrifice was difficult.

2.    David

David danced before the Lord in the streets as a response of praise to his holy God. He worshiped after the death of his son. David is a man known for praise. Even in the darkest seasons of his life--as we see in the psalms--he pointed back to the goodness of God.

No matter what season David found himself in, he always had the perspective of praise. We can learn a thing or two from that kind of attitude. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy but he knew thanksgiving was always necessary.

3.    Mary, Mother of Jesus

Finding out she was pregnant with the Savior of the world wasn’t the easiest news to swallow and the aftermath took some faith. But Mary, the young girl chosen to carry the baby Jesus, would exemplify great praise.

While visiting with Elizabeth, who was carrying John the Baptist at the same time Mary was pregnant with Jesus, the young girl had a moment of exclamation. It’s called the Magnificat and it’s found in Luke 1.

Mary’s heart was full of praise and it outpoured into the world. A young girl filled with immense thanks knew exactly where her praise was to be directed. Do you know where to direct your praise today? What are you carrying that at first might have seemed a bit fearful but you can now be thankful for?

4.    The Healed Leper

When Jesus entered a village (Luke 17) there were ten lepers that called out to him for healing. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest and as they did, all ten were healed.

Only one returned to Jesus to thank him. Only one! That man threw himself at the feet of Jesus and gave immense thanks. It’s both amazing to think and sad that only one man returned to give thanks for healing from a debilitating disease. When nine vanished into the crowd one gave thanks where thanks was due.

Don’t be like one of the nine that was blessed and moved on. Stop and give incredible thanks for all God has and is doing in your life!

5.    Jesus

He was God and didn’t have to give thanks for anything, but he often did. Jesus set a remarkable example for us in many ways but one was in thanksgiving. He was a man who gave praise to the Father in so many ways.

  • He gave thanks as he was surrounded by thousands of hungry people and multiplied the food.

  • He gave thanks to God for hearing his prayer for the raising of Lazarus--before Lazarus rose from the grave.

  • He knew the cross was before him and gave thanks to the Father as he broke bread and drank the cup with the disciples.

We have a perfect example of righteous living from Jesus and one thing he shows us is the position of praise and thanksgiving. What I find interesting is that all three of these instances were instances we might find tense. The pressure to feed thousands, raise a friend from the grave, and face death on a cross would be intense for any of us. Jesus’ response was never to panic or run to people, but to turn to the Father.

How can you find that position of praise in your life today? What might you do to cultivate a natural response of thanksgiving? Not just this month, but at all times.


This article was originally written for Crosswalk and can be found here.

NEW YouVersion Reading Plan

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Experiencing a miscarriage is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching losses a woman can go through. It’s often accompanied by anger, doubt, grief, loneliness, and shame, just to name a few. This plan will help bring healing to your weary soul and guidance to the thoughts of doubt, showing you how to find hope and God in your loss.

Read Brittany’s newest YouVersion reading plan by searching “Finding God in Your Miscarriage” on the Bible App or by clicking the the button below!

Sex & Grace // Grace Covers What Sex Exposes

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Grace: it’s everything we need and embodies what we could never give ourselves. And thank goodness because we all have our hiccups and failures.

Sex is a beautiful gift when enjoyed in the way it was designed but as we’ve learned, it’s so often misused. When that happens and you feel utterly forsaken, it’s not the end. You may feel ashamed for the choice you’ve made but friend, please know there’s hope for restoration.

Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
— Hebrews 4:16

When you need it most God extends a gift that is better than anything else in this world. His grace abounds just when you thought all hope was lost. I know from personal experience. After I had sex outside of God’s design, I felt so ashamed. I thought there was no hope in my rock bottom. I felt like God would never want to give me another chance.

But once I got outside of my emotions (which the enemy fought to keep me in) and I stepped into the truth of who God is and what He desires for me, I found grace abounding more than ever before.

Grace isn’t an excuse to sin but it is God’s gift to a truly repentant heart. If you’ve failed and feel sorrowful, repent and embrace His grace. God doesn’t desire for you to wallow in your sin—that’s the enemy’s desire. Your Father longs to draw you close and speak tenderly to your guilt-ridden heart. To show you the grace Jesus extends to those who would call upon His name.

There’s an important note however in Scripture: go and sin no more. (John 8:11)

Repent and receive His amazing grace! But then go and live fully in Him!

Sex & Grace // The Dirty Truth About Sex

I’m pulling back the curtain today on some topics often considered taboo in the Christin world. However, they are struggles plaguing our culture today, even in the church. Porn, masturbation, and sex outside of marriage play filthy roles in bedrooms around the world.

I would know—I was addicted to sex for many years. And not only did I cross the line in one area, but all three. I don’t say it with any sort of pride, either, because my heart mourns how lost and confused that younger Brittany was. But I say it to carry some weight with you—I know the struggle.

Sexual desire is God-given but when directed towards lust, isolation, separation, and ultimately, sin, it leaves its victims broken and empty. These manifestations are only a few of many but they are perhaps the most common, and something must be done. For the sake of our culture, marriages, children, and mostly, our relationships with God.

Let’s take a look at these three misdirected manifestations of sexual desire.

1. Sex outside of marriage.

In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.
— Mark 10:9-10

I had sex outside of marriage with my boyfriend while in ministry and the cost was incredibly high. And why? Because sexual immorality eats away at a flourishing life and destroys. It also drives wedges in relationships and shatters marriages, leaving a tornado of wreckage in its path.

Marriage was created to be enjoyed by a husband and wife—that’s it. When you choose to forgo this plan and have sex with anyone but your spouse, it’s outside the design. It’s outside of the covering. In this place, a piece of your heart is chipped. Your relationship takes a hit. And likely, more than one person is hurt.

God never meant for you to have sex with more than one person. He wanted you to spend a lifetime enjoying it with one other human—your spouse. A beautiful and intimate act that would only get better with time as you grow in your love, appreciation, and understanding of each other. Don’t give away the chance to experience this kind of beauty.

2. Pornography

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
— Matthew 5:29

Porn is one of the most destructive acts of perversion. It exploits, feeds addiction, creates unrealistic expectations, and damages relationships. Some think that porn only effects them, but it touches so many more. A spouse, children, and strangers that God still sees as His creation. It never just touches you.

If your’e married, your spouses heart will likely grieve and hurt as a result of your lust. You might distance yourself from them because you’re being fed by an image. Your expectations of how your spouse should look or act is too high based on the image of another. Love has a hard time flourishing when an outside force has only one goal—to drive a wedge in your marriage.

If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance your child may adopt this same habit. Most people I know who’ve struggled with porn had their first experience when they found some sort of form of it in their home, as a result of the parents addiction. I did. Bringing porn into your home opens a door for your child’s innocent eyes to encounter a temptation they are ill-equipped to fight. Please, as a child whose has been there, don’t give the enemy a foothold in your home and with your children.

Finally, remember that every man or woman you see in a pornographic image is still a child of God. God sees them and He loves them.

Porn destroys, no doubt. It will destroy your heart, mind, marriage, and sexual intimacy. But it destroys people and culture, as well. Here are just a few stats that are mnid blowing (because there are a TON).

  • Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined each month. (HuffPost)

  • Recorded child sexual exploitation (known as “child porn”) is one of the fastest-growing online businesses. (IWF)

  • 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often. (NCOSE)

  • A study of 14- to 19-year-olds found that females who consumed pornographic videos were at a significantly greater likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. (NCOSE)

  • A Swedish study of 18-year-old males found that frequent users of pornography were significantly more likely to have sold and bought sex than other boys of the same age. (NCOSE)

Individuals who never view sexually explicit material report higher relationship quality and lower rates of infidelity than those who do. Now doesn’t that sound more exciting than an image that will only leave you empty?

3. Masturbation

There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This one is a little less clear cut in that there is no specific Bible verse about whether it is right or wrong. So, how do we know if it’s a sin or not? Here are a few guidelines to help.

  • Is it honorable use of your body? Remember, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The passage above says it all.

  • Lust is a sin and it’s hard to build a case the masturbation doesn’t involve some sort of lust. Most people find that images accompany the act and even one image is considered outside God’s design. So, if pleasuring yourself involves an image, then yes, it’s a sin.

  • If masturbating is something you cannot stop, you’re likely addicted. You’ve become enslaved to it. If this is the case, then it’s a sin. Anything that is an addiction, whether it’s food, shopping, or social media, becomes harmful.

  • Another question to ask is, what is your motive? If it’s to escape, then your channeling your need for peace in the wrong direction. Instead of going to the Father, you’re turning to yourself. If it’s to find pleasure because your marriage is struggling, then it’s fueling the intimacy gap in your relationship. I’m honestly not sure I can find a reason for it that is beneficial…can you?

I’m hard pressed to find a situation where masturbation is good or even free from sexual immorality. Besides, and I know this will sound ultra-christiany, but why do something that causes even the slightest doubt in your mind?

If you struggle with any of these forms of bondage, find help. I struggled alone and in silence for many years because I was ashamed. Please don’t live in isolation; reach out to a friend, pastor or Christian counselor. And please know, there is grace on the other side of your failure. Come back next week to read about grace in the aftermath of sin. It will be brimming with hope!

** Here are some additional verses on the subject **

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
— Ephesians 5:3
You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.
— 1 Corinthians 10:23
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.
— 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

Finding God in Your Miscarriage

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These words are the most vulnerable I’ve ever penned; I’m going where I’ve never gone before. I share with you from a place of loss and heartache, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. And the reason I share this deeply personal experience with you is that I’ve watched God use words through me that were most powerful when shared from the battlefield. The most tender words of encouragement have always come from a place of my greatest struggles.

Today, I share about miscarriage; a loss experienced by so many. This past week—in the middle of Baby Loss Awareness Month—I lost my precious baby. A life I had the honor and joy to carry within me for nine wonderful weeks before he or she passed on to be with the Father. And while I know my baby is gone from that little raspberry sized fetus, he or she still sits in my womb, waiting to pass from my body. So what was once life is now death within me; I mourn with a depth of grief I’ve never known. I cling to the little one inside of me and dread the day (in the near future) he or she passes and I scoop the little body up for burial. I don’t want to let go of my baby. However, although always within my heart, I’ll have to let go and leave a piece of me with that little one. Forever a fraction of my heart no longer there until we meet in Heaven.

I really struggled to share this for so many reasons: I felt shame, I didn’t want people to feel bad for me, and I wondered what others would think for being so vulnerable about a loss. But writing has always been the best form of process for me and I know—I just know—God wants to use this to help other mama’s out there experiencing loss not feel so alone. Because you do feel so alone.

Honestly, I was so shocked to find out we had lost our second child. With Roman, I constantly feared miscarriage but he was always so healthy and the pregnancy complication free that with this pregnancy, I had no worries. My body had done it before and why not again? However, my body did fail me.

He or she was coming unexpectedly during one of the hardest seasons for my husband and me, and it was such a blessing of hope in discouraging times. Two days ago, I went into a hospital room for a dating ultrasound and sat in silence while the tech took measurements. She said nothing and then shut off the machine and told me I was good to go. This couldn’t be it, I thought! So, I asked how far along my baby was and she said I measured at 8 weeks and 6 days. Then, the next day, I received that dreaded phone call from my midwife that there was no heartbeat. I was in the car, on my way to work, and I let out a sob never uttered before. And now I grieve, knowing there is still waiting until this little one passes from my body. I know I’ll never quite be the same because I still love him or her; my baby is wanted and loved.

As I sat on the couch after hearing the news, I spent a lot of time grieving and talking to my belly. Sure, I knew he or she couldn’t hear me but I just had to speak words of endearment over my little love. I had to tell my baby all the things I would ever want to say to a child of mine.

Then, anger set in. Doubt in His goodness came crashing in like a tidal wave. How could this happen? As if this season wasn’t already the hardest season I’ve ever been through—when I thought it couldn’t get worse—I lost a child. Why?

I yelled, I questioned, I called into doubt His goodness. I struggled to see how this could be good. I began thinking about the announcement photo session we had planned; the list of baby items I’d already started compiling; the maternity bin I had pulled out; the preganancy journey I had just received in the mail and was eager to fill out; they were now empty memories of hope deferred. Scripture says hope deferred makes the heart  sick, and I feel grievously sick.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, you likely know how I feel and have asked the same questions. Had the same doubts. Questioned how to find God’s goodness in the darkness. Here’s what I can find in Scripture and what’s helped encourage me these last few days.

1. God is still good.

A dear friend of mine told me yesterday, as I shared my grief with her, that God doesn’t speak in negative terms. That all the hardship I’m going through, and the loss of this baby, isn’t His will or doing. It’s the consequence of sin and works of the enemy, but it’s not God pulling these strings of destruction. But He is there, in the good. He is watching, moving, and waiting with arms wide open, ready to comfort. Although in dark times we often want to pull away from Him, it’s in these trying times we must press in even harder. Pressing in is where we find Him and hear His voice. His goodness. Because God is good and does work all things for good, even if we can’t see it.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good
— Romans 8:26-28

Mama, believe me, I know it’s hard to see how good can come from your loss. Who knows why your baby passed on but God? Perhaps there was something wrong; some part of the body didn’t form correctly. Whatever the case may be, you still get to be the mom to that beautiful child. And there is good to be found somewhere—your child’s life brought joy to this world.

2. Jesus mourns with you—you are not alone.

The first verse I thought of as I mourned was John 11:35,

Jesus wept.

All my mind could recall in the grief is that he wept. That he weeps with me. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible but within its two words are some of the most compassionate you’ll read in Scripture. Jesus knew Lazarus was gone but he also knew his dear friend was about to be brought back to life. So why weep?

Perhaps it was the grief he saw those he loved experiencing. Many mourned the loss of Lazarus and Jesus knew the depths of those wells of grief many were experiencing. He felt the loss that those around him were feeling—he was feeling all the pain. He himself loved Lazarus and although life was ahead, the cost of death was still very real. Which brings the second thought as to why he may have been weeping—the cost of sin. Sin brings death and almost everyone Jesus loves had or would experience death.

In our grief, we are not alone. In our mourning, we share in it with another. Jesus wept for Lazarus but he also weeps along with us in our grief. He mourns with those who mourn because although he knows hope is ahead and death has been conquered, grief is still part of our journey on earth. That death is real, even if temporary. And that in that journey we go through depths of anguish and loss that rip at the soul. But he feels it too. Every ounce of pain is taken in and felt by him.

3. Ask the right question.

We want to ask, “Why God” in the hardship. We want to question Him and His goodness. But this is the wrong question—the one that leads us astray. Instead, the question to ask is:

God, what can I learn about you, about myself, and about life as a result of this season?

There is so much treasure to be found in our trials and tribulations. It’s the storms that forge a more authentic and mature version of ourselves, and where we find God most intimately. Instead of pulling away and doubting, press in and ask the hard question. Uncover the value that can only be found right here, right now. What can you learn about His character? What can you learn about yourself? And what nugget of wisdom regarding a flourishing life can be found in this loss? Don’t waste your anguish—use it to forge a closer relationship with God, a better you, and a more fruitful life.

4. There is hope in the darkness.

The only real comfort I have found in this grief is knowing that my baby is with Jesus. That he or she will never have to know loss, pain, cold, grief, disappointment, or sorrow. That all their soul will ever know is joy and the presence of God. And although I won’t be able to embrace this beautiful soul now, one day I will. Our meeting is only delayed; not robbed.

If you have experienced the loss of a child, dear friend, let me say I’m so sorry. I know how it feels to lose a part of yourself with that precious one. How grief penetrates within your soul to a depth never reached before. How you feel you might never be the same. How you’ve questioned and doubted.

Please know, although the darkness is overwhelming, there is light. There are goodness and hope to be found. There is a beautiful and loving God Who wants to scoop you up into His strong arms and hold you close.

New CBN Article // Sins You Say You Will Never Do - A Dangerous List

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What I found on the other end of my sin and healing was an untouchable mentality, and I feared I wasn’t the only one. If you are honest with yourself in this moment, you will realize you too have a list of sins you say you will never do.

To read more about shattering the untouchable myth, read this article I wrote for The Christian Broadcasting Network and then go grab your copy of Untouchable: Unraveling the Myth That You’re Too Faithful to Fall.

Sex & Grace // The Perversion of a Gift

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Sex. It's a beautiful gift but perhaps the most misunderstood and misused gift of all. Mankind has taken something that is beautiful and intimate and turned into an act of glorified perversion.

Unfortunately, I know a thing or two about the misuse of sex. In fact, I was addicted to it for many years. I wrote a book about what I learned on the heels of its messy entanglement but I merely breeched the subject. I didn't dive into the real struggles I faced for years to overcome its bondage and find freedom from the shame that accompanied it. I wasn’t even a believer for much of those years and even then I knew it was wrong. Deep down I knew sex what something sacred.

Sex was designed by God to be a gift a man and wife would share with each other within the bonds of marriage. That’s it. Two people enjoying one another for a lifetime. And yet it has been taken advantage of for centuries and misused in countless ways.

Pornography. Masturbation. Sex outside of marriage. With multiples partners. We see it everywhere, too. And every form is accepted now. I’m fact, our society parades around the freedom one can find in sex. How it’s a tool to express one’s identity. But we’ve missed the mark and made a mess of it.  My heart breaks at the way we’ve taken this gift and used it to satisfy our own desires in damaging ways. 

In this raw and transparent series, I’m going to dive into the ways mankind has perverted sex and share how it hurts you and others. And then we’ll dive into God’s original design for it, how to find redemption in the aftermath, and much more. 

Come back next week as we explore the dangers of porn, masturbation, and other manifestations of sex outside of God’s design. And boy, is it dangerous. For men and women. For the user and those around him or her. I would know; it was my bondage for many years. Until then, know that sex is good and beautiful and fun but when used as God designed it to be. 

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
— Genesis 2:24

NEW Propel Women Article // Embracing Instruction

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How does your spirit respond when a mentor or trusted advisor offers you constructive criticism? Does it rile you up and make you defensive? Or have you cultivated a teachable spirit? Instruction can be hard to hear, but it can also be a beautiful conduit for God to mold and prune you. In this new article with Propel Women, I offer three tips for embracing instruction so that God can grow the breadth of your influence.

Why Does Suffering Exist? // How to Respond to Suffering

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David lived a life most envied. He was successful in battle and considered a hero in Israel. He was the king and had abundant power and wealth. He had a large family, along with the favor of God on all he did.

However, David hit a rough patch (as we all do) and in Psalm 43, he is struggling to trust God in his suffering. It’s ok to wrestle with God in the midst of your pain; He wants you to be honest and real with Him. However, a time comes to get a hold of yourself and choose faith. That’s what David is doing here.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

David is examining his feelings and the confusion he is experiencing in this current season of suffering. Although David’s name is not mentioned it is commonly believed that it is indeed David penning these words, perhaps during the time his son Absalom rebelled against him to take the throne and David had to flee. Surely having been betrayed by his son, living in exile, and feeling as though God’s hand had left him caused great distress for David.

What David realizes in suffering is that it’s not healthy to live there or sulk in the sorrow. Instead, he chooses to get a hold of himself by reminding himself that God is good and worthy to be praised. Which leads to another way out of suffering: praise.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 challenges us to give thanks in ALL circumstances, even in the trials. it doesn’t mean when you feel like it or when everything is going how you’d prefer. It means to praise God for His goodness and faithfulness when it’s hard to muster praise and life seems hard.

How do you respond to suffering? Get a hold of yourself and start thanking God for being steadfast in grace and love. Tell yourself that you won’t wallow in the pity and sadness but rather pull yourself out of the pit to find hope.

God is good all the time, meaning that when things appear to go south for you or in this world, it’s not His desire but it is His ability to turn it around for good. Look for God’s goodness in the world’s darkness.