Masterpieces

Fun fact:  I have four (adult) children.

They are all different. Like really different.  Before I had kids, I had no idea that each one would be so very different from the other.  I mean, they were all parented by the same two people, with similar experiences and values.  The same household rules and expectations.   But as they grew, it became apparent, in a short amount of time, that each was unique and special. 

With their differences, I realized that I needed to see each one for who they were, individually.  In order for me to encourage their strengths and support their weaknesses, I had to view each one individually, while still maintaining the family unit.  There’s some tricky balancing going on there!  Each one had the same family rules, but each one responded to those rules differently.  Therefore, each one needed a slightly different level of parental involvement. 

Just like my children, each one of us is special and different from the other. 

I love this about God’s creation!  No two of anything, are exactly the same!  There are billions of human beings on the earth today (7.753 billion to be exact).  And no two individuals have the same fingerprints, DNA sequence or face.  We see similar things in nature.  There are millions of trees, but no two leaves are identical.  Also consider snowflakes!  Their patterns are special.  They look very similar at first glance, but when you look closer, you will find that the differences are extravagant!  Each one is ornate and wildly individual.

That’s me! The Subway Cave, Sedona AZ!

The word special as an adjective, is defined this way; “better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.”  As a noun, it’s defined this way;” of high value, or beloved” and “designed for a particular occasion or purpose.”  I like both of those definitions, especially as they relate to people!

God sees each person that He created as special.  Not “participation ribbon” special but patterned wildly different and beautifully diverse from every other one!  In Ephesians 2:10 the Apostle Paul writes “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God’s masterpiece, His work of art, His best and most glorious creation!  If you’re like me, you are having a hard time swallowing that truth about yourself right now.  With so many billions of people on the earth, how could I possibly be God’s masterpiece?

It is important to remember that our human, finite minds, do not work the same way that our Creator’s does.   

Artists work tirelessly in hopes to create one piece of art in their life, that is far and exceedingly above the rest.  The one that is more beautiful and more special than all the others that they have ever created.  But God has created billions of people so far, and His word says that each one is His masterpiece! Each one is special in His sight.  I don’t fully understand it, but I am not about to argue with scripture either!    We just have to believe it!

It is God who created us in our mother’s womb.  He knows every detail about us!  In Psalm 139:13-16 David writes, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”  Wow.  It doesn’t get any more special than that, to be handcrafted by The Master.  Cell by cell, eyelash by eyelash. 

God Himself said that humanity was His best work when He declared it very good in Genesis 1:31 “Then God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!”  On all the other days of creation, when God had finished, He said that what He has created was good.  But on day 6, when He designed the human race, He referred to it as very good. That, sister, is you and me!

It is clear that we are special to God.  But we are also precious to Him.  I know what you’re thinking. Those two words mean the same thing.  We often use them interchangeably, but I assure you, they do not mean the same thing!

Special refers to things that are unique, individualized, different from the rest. Precious refers to being of high value or, in particular, beloved. 

The beauty of creation in Sedona!

God paid a high price for you and me to be redeemed.  He gave His one and only Son to be our Redeemer. Jesus came to take our place and pay for all the sins that you and I have ever or will yet commit. The most quoted and foundational verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  You and I needed a way to have a relationship with God and experience Heaven. When Jesus came to earth, He willingly gave His life for ours. Jesus paid a very high price for you and me, and this makes us precious. 

My children are special because of their individualism, but they are precious because of their worth.  Nothing on earth will ever be as precious to a mother as her children!  (That is, until she has grandchildren!)  Those that are mothers, sacrifice their bodies to have children.  Our bodies stretch and grow and change considerably when we bear children.  And except for the stretch marks, most of us wouldn’t trade a thing!  We lovingly gave up a part of ourselves to give life to them.  Each line and perceived flaw we now see on ourselves, is just a reminder of the precious life we held inside. A testament to the masterpiece we created.

So, when I say that God sees you as precious, it is the same emotion as held by mothers.  The word precious implies a person’s feelings in terms of sentimental and emotional value, not monetary value.   Sentimental and sacrificial value.

Psalm 139:17-18 goes on to say,” How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!”  The Psalmist is saying here that God has so many precious thoughts about us, that the amount of them is greater than the number of grains of sand.  This is astounding!  This means that you and I are on God’s mind continually.  And they are precious thoughts!  Sometimes we imagine that God must be continually displeased with us because we are often displeased with ourselves.  But scripture records that God thinks loving and precious thoughts about us constantly!

As a mom, I think about my children often.  Before I fall asleep, I pray for them.  And when they are far away or struggling, I pray for them.  They are never far from my heart and my mind.  I believe that in the same way that a mother loves and thinks about her children, God loves and thinks about us.  Only with greater intensity and frequency than we can even imagine!  Just as David is blown away by the vast and mighty love of God towards him, you and I would be wise to dwell on that same love for ourselves.  Let it soak down deep.

People and situations can make us question whether we are loved and cherished by others.  However, rest assured that you are loved and cherished by God. Know that He sees you as special, different than all the rest.  Not just a “number” or part of the mass of people.  But He sees YOU.  And when He does, He considers you precious.  He holds you close to His heart, and He thinks loving and precious thoughts toward you!

I don’t know about you, but I am going to rest easier tonight, believing firmly that I am special and precious to God. That I am His masterpiece!

If you are keeping a list in your notebook, believing that you are who God says you are, you can add precious and special to the list.  Maybe consider writing some scriptures next to each descriptor for reference!

Here’s what we have looked at so far: God says we are loved, accepted, a new creation, forgiven, chosen, precious ans special! Two more blog posts will finish out this series. I hope you are enjoying it, and that you will share the blog with a friend! I love comments, texts or emails! Let me know what you think so far! (You can email me at pursuingpurpose724.com).

Purposefully

Shelli

The Handsome Hubs!

Making new labels

School recess, playground games.  So many memories flood my mind when I hear those words. 

Dodgeball, softball, Red Rover, four square…..we spent all of recess in elementary school passing the time with those games.  And as fun as they were, there was also the anxiety of standing in a line with other kids.  Waiting and hoping to be picked for the team.  Was I cool enough?  Was I liked enough?  Would I be chosen?  I was never the team captain, I was always in the line, waiting to hear my name be called.  Maybe you can relate.

We all want to be included.  We all desire to be invited in.  Even my introvert friends want inclusion (even though they reserve the right to still say no!).  In our souls, as people designed for community, we have a longing to be included, or chosen.

Old Testament Jews understood this concept well.  They were God’s chosen people.  Deuteronomy 14:2 says “for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession”.  They spent all day, every day, knowing that they were special.  They knew the holy scriptures that declared that they were in fact, chosen by God.  They did not have to wonder or worry about being included.  They understood that as fact.  So, they had a difficult time accepting that, when Jesus came, He declared that even the Gentiles and the dreaded Samaritans were also chosen!  But we’re not here to talk about them, let’s talk about you and me!

If you have ever felt the sting of NOT being chosen or included, then I know you also understand the joy and happiness that comes when you ARE invited in.  I have good news for you today!

You have been chosen by God for the most significant team in human history!  The most amazing “team captain” of all, has set His sights on you!  He has called your name and included you among those He desires to have on His team! 

La Jolla California on a recent trip~~

Ephesians 1:3-4 puts it this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…”  John 15:16 says “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

Let those words sink in for a moment.  God chose YOU!  Say it out loud right now (ok, maybe just in your head if you’re not alone…)  Say “God chose me!”  Don’t say it with hesitation, with a question mark at the end.  Say it with gusto. With an exclamation point!

Maybe your relationship with God is spot on today!  You are in the word, in church, and in prayer regularly.  Maybe you have just started a relationship with Him, and you are still figuring out what that looks like.  And maybe your relationship with God is…complicated. Whatever the case may be, know this; you are loved by Him!  How do I know?  Well, because you are reading this now, and I believe God led you here today.  And because He led you here, He desires for you to know Him.  And because He drew you here and desires to know you, you are loved. 

What you do with that knowledge is up to you, but He is calling your name.  Asking you to be part of His team.

Imagine you are in that line of kids, waiting to be picked at recess.  The captain calls your name.  In that moment, you were chosen for the team.  But you still have the choice whether or not to step out of the line and join the captain.  We can stay where we are, but we are still chosen.  It’s not until we accept that invitation that we actually join the team.

You are who God says you are, and He says you are chosen. My sister, if you have placed your faith in Jesus and trust in His work on the cross and in His resurrection for your salvation from sin, then He has called you, and you are chosen!  Rest in that truth today.  Soak in it for a while.  (Think, long hot bubble bath soaking, the kind that wrinkles your skin!)

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Called out of darkness, into His marvelous light. Chosen!

Fresh wisteria blooms~

As we work to reframe and combat the negative words that we hear from others, or from the enemy, words matter.  You may hear “not wanted” or “rejected”.  But God says you are:

Loved

Forgiven

Accepted

Chosen

And a new creation!

If you are keeping a list in your pretty notebook, add Chosen and New Creation to the list!

Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here!”  What a wonderful truth! 

Since we have Christ in us, we are a totally new creation.  We are not recycled or repurposed, but remade! 

Our old selves (before we knew Jesus) were without Christ.  But Jesus is the light of the world.  Once His beautiful light enters us, all the ugliness is exposed.  And He gets to work right away making room for His presence to fill and complete us.  He starts to get rid of the ugly and change us.  And almost immediately, His glorious light shines through and we are made new from the inside out! 

Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Here, God didn’t say that He would add water to the streams He had already created, but that He would make streams appear in the wasteland. 

Because I am a new creation, I am not a slave to my old ways.  The old is gone, the new has come!

Ephesians 4:22-24 teaches us this truth: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

A new creation in Christ is not a second chance.  God is not limited to second chances, as though they could run out.  Rather, we are a NEW creation, a NEW beginning!  God is a God of new beginnings.  Even if you have wandered away.  Even if you use to follow Him, but something happened to change that.  You can restart with God.  Let Him create in you a new heart!  Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

My dear sweet friend, who is in every way possible, a new creation, said this to me.  “Remembering that I am a new creation helps me to step into what God is calling me to do.  I have to choose to no longer identify with the labels from my past that would certainly imprison me.  There’s freedom in Christ!”

The new me has fresh eyes.  Eyes to see beyond my circumstances, to see God’s purposes.  A new creation can be like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

Whether you are looking for inclusion or a fresh start, Jesus offers you both!

Father God, when I feel defeated and like I am never going to get things right, remind me that I am new in Christ.  I feel your tender mercies toward me every morning.  But sometimes, when the world doesn’t choose me, and I feel stuck in patterns of life that make me feel trapped, I forget that you have made me new.  Thank you for your word and the truths I read there.  I am chosen.  I am a new creation.  I choose to declare this in a fresh way today! Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

These two lovely, sweet sisters are amazing New Creations in Jesus! Donna and Amber!

Belonging

As a child, I remember disappointing my parents.  On many occasions.  I recall acting in ways and saying things that hurt and angered them. Especially as a teenager.  I know they wanted what’s best for me, but in my immaturity and youth, I thought I knew best.  I thought I had grown enough to not need their wise council anymore. 

Even though I am grown now, I can still recall times when our relationship was a bit broken.  I had said and or done things to create a gap in our relationship.  And I felt it.  Things were not “right” at home.  The usual joyfulness and peace that was normally there, was absent in times of strife.  There were times that I knew I was in the wrong, and I needed to apologize.  But many times, my stubborn pride kept me from making things right.  It kept me from owning my mistakes and accepting responsibility for my actions and asking for forgiveness.

Funny how certain patterns repeat themselves into adulthood, isn’t it?

I have repeated this pattern in my marriage, and in other relationships as well.  Especially in my relationship with God.

1 John 1:9 holds a powerful truth.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  This is an “if and then” statement. 

You’ll notice that confession brings forgiveness.  When I have unconfessed sin in my life, it creates a relationship barrier between myself and God.  Like when I was stubborn with my parents and didn’t own up to my actions.  But with confession, comes forgiveness!  And with forgiveness comes restored relationship! 

There is no relationship more important than the one I have with God through Jesus.  It is because of Jesus’s perfect sacrifice that I can have forgiveness and enjoy connection and peace with God!  Check out Ephesians 1:7. “In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” 

This means that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, and my acceptance of the free gift of salvation through Him, I have forgiveness of sin.  Now I can enjoy the riches of God’s grace!  The broken relationship is healed!  There is no longer a need to try to be “good enough” for God to accept me, He already does through His Son!  My relationship with God is restored and unbroken through confession of sin.

Psalm 103:12 tells us how God forgives and forgets our sin.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  Unlike humans, God has the ability to forgive and truly, and completely, forget the things we confess.  This means that once we confess our wrongdoings and sins to the Father, they are gone!  He remembers them no more!  You and I do not forget our mistakes, and often the enemy of our souls likes to remind us of them to hold us prisoner to the past.  But we do not need to stay there, trapped in guilt and shame, “beating ourselves up” for sin.  Confess it and be free.  Stop looking back, you are not going that way!

I am forgiven!  (And you are too!)

Gorgeous right?

Because we are forgiven, we are also accepted. 

Because the broken relationship has been restored, we are accepted by God.  Romans 15:7 makes this truth simple and clear.  “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” 

We all want to be accepted.  We work to attain an identity to fit in within certain circles.  Those circles might be work related or socially driven. They may be at church or in our communities.  Experiencing acceptance by others is a heart desire that we all possess.  It’s why we join clubs, or bowling leagues, or steer towards certain types of people groups.    The desire for acceptance by others comes from a deeper desire to be accepted wholly and completely by our creator.  He put that desire in our hearts, and it can only be truly realized in the peace we feel when we embrace that we are accepted by Him!  It is only when we seek our core acceptance from Him, that we can be fully satisfied. 

In all my years, I have desired acceptance from various people, or social groups too.  I think it’s safe to say that I always will in a lot of ways. 

But what I find so exciting is that even if I am never accepted socially in any group ever again, that I am accepted by God into His family!  What a joy to know that the desire I have deep within me to be accepted, has already been met in the wonderous love of God!  The truth is, I don’t really need to search for acceptance on earth any longer, since the kind of true and lasting acceptance can only be fulfilled by the One who loves me the most and created me for His good pleasure.  If He is pleased and accepts me, that’s all I need!

Here is something that I find hard to believe but know to be true; God knows me at my best, and He knows me at my worst.  Yet He loves and accepts me into His family, and into His kingdom.  It’s not about anything that I have done, it is all about everything that He has done on my behalf. 

If you’ve known the sting of rejection (and I ‘m sure you have), let your heart be comforted and make it a priority to remember that you are accepted by God!  Jesus makes that possible when we place our trust and faith in Him. 

This is week two of the series that we are in on the blog.  We will continue to spend the next few weeks exploring the names that God gives to us.  The various ways that He addresses us.  We started last time with LOVED.  This time we are adding FORGIVEN and ACCEPTED to the list.

I encourage you to grab that pretty notebook that we mentioned last time and add “forgiven” and “accepted” to the page you started.  (Didn’t start one?  It’s not too late!)  Keep that notebook handy as we continue to add to this list!

God wants you to know that you are loved.  He went to great lengths to ensure that you would know this truth.  Remember, the enemy wants us to focus only on our faults and shortcomings.  He works hard to steer us away from knowing the perfect love of God.  I believe that since you are here today, reading this, that God brought you here to remind you of His love for you, and for your need for Him.

You are LOVED!

And if you have accepted Jesus, and His finished work on the cross, you are FORGIVEN and ACCEPTED!

Come back next week to continue this series.  Have a friend that could use some encouragement and proof that she is loved by God?  You can easily share this blog with her.  Use the “share” option from your phone or tablet or email her a link!  See you again soon!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Wisteria and bumblebees~~

Baskets full

It has happened to all of us at one time or another.  We have found ourselves facing something that feels like an impossible situation.  We have all come to a place where the problem in front of us is much larger than what we have the ability to resolve, or take down.  A struggle that feels like there is no way out, or that the way out is far too difficult for us to navigate on our own.

Maybe you are saving to buy a home, but the time frame and the dollars are not lining up.  Maybe you desperately want to change jobs, but the opportunities and the offers don’t seem to make sense.  Maybe there is a rift in an important relationship that feels as though it will never be right again.  My guess is that these types of situations are possibly even keeping you awake at night.  You wonder and worry and even pray, but the truth is, you just can’t seem to see how it will work out.

The disciples had a similar situation.

The disciples were Jesus’ students, but they were also His helpers.  Jesus was going all around Judea, teaching, healing, and performing signs and wonders.  Often there were large crowds that followed Him out of town to hear and see Him.  The disciples would have had big tasks as they traveled. They had to set up camp each time their location changed.  They were managing the crowds that followed Jesus, trying to keep things moving.  They were attempting to tend to Jesus’ human needs, as well as meeting their own basic daily needs.  They were constantly on the move.  

The account in Matthew 14:13-21 finds them in just such a situation.  

This account in scripture is called the Feeding of the 5,000.  But by all accounts, that number is far lower than the size that the crowd truly was.  Scripture states that there were 5,000 men, not including the women and children that could have been present.  The crowd could have very easily been closer to 20,000.

I have been to professional sporting events with crowds numbering around that amount.  It is a massive amount of individual living, breathing, and potentially hungry people.  What they were facing was no small feat.

I never tire of Willo Lake (obviously)

Back to the story….

Jesus had just learned of the beheading of His cousin, John The Baptist.  In His sadness, He took a boat and tried to get away to a private place to grieve.  But the crowds heard that He was on the move, and followed Him where He went.  As always, Jesus had compassion on them and began to heal their sick, once He had docked the boat.  He does this for many hours, and now it is approaching evening, or dinner time.  They are all far from home, and far from food.  (And even farther from Chick Fil-A!). There were no local conveniences for them to fall back on.

The disciples see the problem for what it is: There’s a hungry crowd that could potentially become a hungry mob.  And they think they understand the solution.  They tell Jesus to “Send the crowds away so they can go buy themselves some food”.  That seems fair.  It seems reasonable and simple.

But Jesus had another plan. One designed to show His power and authority over all creation.  He told them “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.”

Uhhhhhh…..excuse me?  

At this moment, the disciples are trying to solve a God sized problem with man sized resources.  They tell Jesus “We have here only five loaves of bread (think dinner rolls) and two fish.”  They were facing what Dallas Jenkins (creator of The Chosen series) calls, “Impossible math”.

So Jesus instructs the crowd to have a seat in the grass.  Then He does what Jesus always does, He sets an example for all of humanity.  He prays and gives thanks for what He does not yet have, and for something that hasn’t happened yet.

And after that prayer, all 20,000 mouths ate, and were filled.  The problem was solved.  But the solution didn’t come in a way that made sense by human standards.  It didn’t come in a way that gave the disciples credit.  It didn’t come as a result of their efforts, nor did it come through their own resources.  This problem was bigger than they were.  Yet the solution came,  though they had no human way to navigate and fill the giant need they were facing.

Scripture says that after they all ate and were satisfied, that the disciples picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers!  Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that Jesus “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”.  Jesus not only met the need, but provided more than just what was needed.  He left them with more than what they started with.

Only God.

Mark Batterson said this in his book The Grave Robber, “If you put what you have in your hands into God’s hands, He can make a lot out of a little.” 

Willow Lake

 Imagine the disciples, with just a tiny amount of food, facing such a large, hungry crowd.  I can feel their fear, sense their intimidation.  Surely, this tiny bit wasn’t going beyond the first two people, let alone the other 19,998.  If I was one of the disciples, I would probably be recalling the miracle that Jesus performed at the wedding feast in Cana.  Jesus filled 6 stone jars, each holding about 30 gallons, with water before miraculously changing the water to wine (a chemical miracle of epic proportions).  I would personally feel more confident in the ability to feed these 5,000 people if I had the 12 baskets full at the beginning of this feeding, instead of at the end.  

But that’s not how Jesus works.  

Notice that the miracle didn’t occur until the disciples, in faith, began to distribute the food.  

Jesus thanked the Father for what was not yet visible and trusted Him to provide what was not yet completed.

And there’s the lesson for you and I.  

We are instructed to pray and ask the Father for what we need in Matthew 6:9-13, The Lord’s Prayer.  And then a few chapters later, Jesus gives us the example of trust in God’s provision for our needs.  Giving thanks ahead of the provision.

Are you facing something bigger than yourself?  Is there a mountain of insecurity and doubt in front of you?  Are you in a place that you cannot see your way out of?  

This is where Jesus can step in and do more than you can ask or imagine.  His power is at work within us.  Sometimes we forget that, but scripture says it’s true.  

On my own efforts, I wrestle and strain.  I am often unable to meet the need of the situation I face.  My solution is always a “bare minimum” response.  I just want to “get through it”.  

But the resolution comes when my own resources are exhausted, when my own way simply won’t work, and the credit can only go to Jesus.  

What steps can we take to invite Jesus into our impossible situation?

First we have to take what is in our hands, our struggles, hurts, shortcomings and needs, and place them in God’s hands.  Then, in full complete trust in His plan and purpose, we thank Him for what He is going to provide, that hasn’t appeared yet.  We thank Him for doing the things that haven’t been done yet.  For the solutions that He has and will reveal in His time.  And when we do that, we can know that He is able.  Able to meet our need and provide even more than just the bare minimum.  He can do a lot with a little.

Like the disciples, we will be left with more than what we started with.  Impossible problem solving math, amazing relationship resolution, and perfectly balanced provision.

Only God.

Lord, I find myself in what seems to be an impossible situation. I am reminded that You said that nothing was impossible with You. So I invite You into my impossible situation now. Please give me the courage to thank You for the solution that You have yet to provide, because I know You will. Only You can. Amen.

Purposefully

Shelli

Downtown Prescott

Reflections

Have you ever given thought to the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”? It’s somewhat of a daunting question really.  There are so many areas to consider within that one question.

Where will I be in 5 years with regard to my career?

My marriage?

My living situation?

My finances?

My relationships?

Not to mention that 5 years is such a VERY long time away.  I have a difficult time thinking much past the next 6 months, let alone 5 years.  My personality is not that of a detailed planner.  Details get lost on me; I am more of a Big Picture Girl.  So, the idea of trying to know where I want to be in the future or making a plan as to how to get there, stresses me out.

But I do believe that when it comes to my spiritual life, it’s more important to have a goal than a detailed plan.

Ultimately, my goal as a Christ follower is to become more like Jesus. 

So, what’s the problem?  Bob Goff said it best when he said this, “Our problem with following Jesus is, we’re trying to be a better version of us rather than a more accurate reflection of Him”.  I love the way Bob Goff gets real with it, brings it home, and leaves me thinking.

Our walking path at Willow Lake

His statement made me consider my goal.  I was drawn to ponder my motivations.  I believe that, as human beings, we are all naturally, and to some extent, people pleasers.  Some of us struggle with it more than others, but to some degree, we all struggle with this.  It’s human to want people to like us.  It’s natural.  I would go as far as to say that it’s not even wrong.

However, in my thinking and consideration, I’ve come to understand that the goal should not be JUST to be admired, or ONLY to be liked for myself.  I desire to be liked and admired so that (and here’s the challenging part) I can have opportunity to more openly share with those in my circle, my story, my faith, and my purpose…

My purpose is this: to know Jesus and to make Him known.

In my flesh, and left to my own devices, I put ME first.  I take care of ME.  I want people to like ME.  I want people to think I’M neato.  I desire the admiration of others to make ME feel good.  I enjoy attention and recognition.  Innately, I am trying to become a better version of myself.

Thankfully though, I can also choose NOT to live in the flesh.  I can reframe my thought life and get my purpose in check with His spirit.   I can push toward becoming “a little more like Jesus, a little less like me”.  (Zack Williams song)

Psalm 25:5 says this; “Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in You.”

It’s interesting to me here that the Psalmist says “all day long…”  The implication is clear. You and I, as well as the psalmist, must continually (all day long) put our hope in God.  I have limitations, I have faults, I have misguided motives.  But when we choose to put our hope in the Only One who can give Living Water, when we follow Him, it is then that we know we are headed in the right direction.  Because then we are doing what is counter to our natural human tendencies.  On my own, I am selfish and inward focused. 

But with Jesus leading the way, I can follow His example of caring for and serving others.  I can better see when there is a change that I need to make, because I am looking to Him and asking Him to lead me and to teach me.  I am more apt to go the right way and make better decisions in my life because I am following His lead, and not looking for others to esteem me.  I am looking to please God, The One who matters.

A beautiful day at Willow Lake

“Be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Galatians 5:1-2.  Scripture says that we are to imitate God, to reflect Jesus.  To live a life of love that honors Jesus sacrifice.  Not one that draws attention to self.  When I consider the brevity of this life, I realize that any attention I get ends when my life does. 

But if I choose to live my life, giving glory to God and sharing the redemption that Jesus brings, that’s what will last. 

I am far more interested in my life mattering AFTER I’ve gone to be with Him than I am promoting myself here and now. 

But if I’m honest, the struggle is real.  Following Jesus doesn’t stop me from being human.  It doesn’t mean that I no longer desire to be liked, or esteemed, or admired.  But my desire is that if I am liked or admired, that I can sketch that piece of my humanity into the frame of influence. Perhaps, because I am liked, I have a voice and influence to share the hope that Jesus brings. 

I never tire of this lake!

When I think about where I want to be in 5 years, my desire is still to be following Jesus with all I’ve got.  To be a little further down the road of faith but walking even more closely with Him.  To be asking for His direction earnestly all day long. To intentionally place Him in the center of all my decisions and motives.  Because I know that when I do that, everything else will fall into place.  Every 5-year goal, every motive, and every path I walk on will be right where He wants to me to be. 

Spiritually.  Emotionally.  Relationally.

I no longer need to “figure it out”, I need to simply and completely put my hope in Him.  My responsibility is to do the things that bring me closer to Him.  Spending time in His word, lots of it.  Spending time in prayer.  Spending time actively pursuing my relationship with Him through worship, teaching and service.  Not in activities that make me look good, but in secret, where only He sees.  Places where He gets the attention, not me.

John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less.”

More of Jesus, less of me!

Lord, your word cuts me to the heart.  It shows me the parts of my life that need to be more inline with your heart.  Please take my life and make it yours.  Lead me and teach me.  And give me the courage to walk where you lead.  Continue to show me how I can be a better reflection of Jesus, not just a better version of myself.  I know that when I follow you, I am always heading the right way.  Today, tomorrow, and in 5 years. 

Purposefully,

Shelli

Handsome Hubs and I~

Taken Forward

Let me just tell you, God showed up at Thrive last month!

What a wonderful night we all had together at Thrive! We enjoyed some delicious, (mostly) handmade, Just For You Desserts. Next, we were enveloped by some incredible worship! And throughout the night we were challenged and inspired, hearing from different women as they spoke about faith, connections, challenges and growing spiritually.

Natually, there was spiritual opposition from the enemy, and we saw it played out many times in many different ways. It came for weeks ahead of the event and intensified throughout the week of Thrive. Each attack was designed to distract, discourage and steal our joy. But God always wins! Everytime. And even more so when we rally together and DECIDE to trust His plans and purposes!

The women in leadership for Thrive are amazing. One was taken out of comission the night before. She had spent months helping us plan and prepare for Thrive, and when sickness took her out, she stood in the gap for us all night! She prayed over our schedule and speakers. She knew where we were with regard to the program all night, and she prayed for all of us, and all of YOU.

Others on the leadership team stepped up when that team member was taken out, and they stepped in to fill her place. When women of God know that they are called to something, like Thrive, nothing scares them away. I saw nervous women become bold women. I saw already brave women, embrace and become empowered by the Lord. And I saw many women impacted for The Kingdom!

I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for Thrive 2022 on November 4th. I see Him moving hearts and changing lives already! I know that He used every single aspect of Thrive to connect women in their relationship with Him.

Whether or not you attended Thrive this year, my chalenge to you is the same. Keep Moving Forward with your relationship with Jesus. No matter where you are in your faith walk, young, old, or a “woman in the middle”, we aren’t finished. We have growing to do. Dig into scripture. Connect with a life group or bible study. Get yourself to church. Take that next step, no matter how small, and get going.

Keep Moving Forward.

Hebrews 6:1a “let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” It’s time to go from walking spiritually to running toward Jesus

!

Thrive 2021, taking the stage!
“Keep Moving Forward”
Conversations Of Faith with Laurie Schraml
I love this beautiful image of this young woman worshipping~
Just our awesome worship team practicing!
I can almost feel the presence of the Lord in this photo!
The Thrive Team gathering to pray before the event began~
Having some laughs with my friend!
The Team excited as it was almost time to begin!
Thrive Team (minus one) (missed you Lissa)

Plan now to attend Thrive Worship (for women only) on April 29th, and Thrive 2022 on November 4th! ~

@Grace Chruch 2010 S Hwy 89, Chino Valley Arizona~

Purposefully,

Shelli

Maybe it’s just me…

I am about to ask a question, and I can almost feel the hands going up as I do. 

Who, beside me, struggles to have a healthy and consistent prayer life?

Bam.  There it is.

Honesty.

Imperfection.

Truth.

Recently I started to hear God speak to my heart about prayer. 

I pray often.  I talk to God in conversation throughout the day all the time.  I speak those S.O.S. prayers as needed, on a regular basis.  I pray before my meals, giving thanks.  My hubby and I pause to pray together for those in need in our circle.  I typically pray after I read the word, and before I start my day.

But what I don’t do consistently enough, is stop and commit secluded regular time to prayer.  I don’t journal my prayers very often.  I don’t sit for an extended amount of time on a daily basis with hands folded and eyes closed. 

But that’s what I am supposed to do to be a successful pray-er, right?

And what about the KIND of prayers I pray?  Are they the right kind?  Am I saying it right?  Do I balance my prayers out between asking Him to change things in my life and thanking Him for all He has already done?  Does God even listen? Does prayer even change things? Or am I wasting my time? 

I know a lot of us think those thoughts, even though we don’t voice them out loud.  Not to a friend, not in bible study groups, and not to our spiritual leaders.  But they are there, in our hearts and minds.  (I see those hands again!)

I think it’s possible that we complicate prayer to much.  So much so, that when we aren’t sure we are doing it right, we just don’t do it at all. I don’t have all the answers for you when it comes to prayer.  I already told you that I struggle with “doing prayer right”.  So today we are going to talk openly and honestly about prayer. This isn’t a post about “3 simple steps to a better prayer life”. Or a neat and tidy “A, B, Cs of prayer”. 

Instead, today is a “just do it” kind of post.  No right, wrong or otherwise.  Some simple suggestions to get you going. 

The Animas River, Durango Colorado

If you are like most of us, it’s easy to ask God to fix things.  Asking God is the easy part of prayer.  His Word reminds us that we need Him.  That He desires to draw near to us and to guide us.  God does want us to come to Him with our requests. 

Jeremiah 29:12 makes that clear.  “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Philippians 4:6 says this; “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.”

Ever since the fall of mankind (Genesis 3), we have been living in a broken world.  The world we are experiencing currently is not the world that God designed.  And because of that, we struggle.  We hurt.  We have relationship issues.  We have physical and mental health issues. There is tension and strife in all of humanity.  The list goes on.

But God says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  God instructs us to come to Him.  That means that He wants to hear from us.  He wants to help us.  He wants us to acknowledge our needs and struggles. 

But did you catch the rest of Philippians 4:6? “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.”

Ahhhh…..

There’s the missing piece. 

So often, we ask God for his help to right all the situations in our lives that are wrong.  And that’s good!  We need to do that.  But…how often do we remember to stop and thank Him for all the things He has already done?  In my own experience, the answer is not often enough.

Let’s remember that much of the life we are living currently, is because of the prayers we prayed in the past. 

When I begin to thank God for His works in my life, I begin to see all that I already have because of His love.  It’s possible that I could remain in a prayer of thankfulness for a very long time.  Most likely, even longer than I could pray about all that needs to change.

But the key is balance.

Balancing requests with gratitude.  When I thank God for all that He has already done, I am more aware of His goodness and provision.  And when I do that, I am more likely to approach my time of asking with respect and humbleness than with a demanding attitude. 

God has done so much for me.  He owes me nothing but has already given me all I need.  I owe Him everything but have very little to give back in comparison with all I have been given.  Praying prayers of thankfulness may be the best starting place to developing a meaningful prayer life.

Durango Colorado (my trip last week)

See, the thing about prayer is this; Just do it!  Don’t worry about if it is right or wrong, just start.  Talk to God.  Don’t complicate it by trying to be perfect at it.  The more you pray, the easier you will find the conversation becomes.  Prayer is not so much about the words we say, as the heart we bring.  Psalm 145:18 tells us “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth”.  He just wants to hear from us, for us to acknowledge our need for Him.  To desire His guidance and love.  To pause from all of our activity and “doing”, to spend some time with Him.

After all, isn’t that how we develop relationships?  By spending time together?  By open communication?  Through sharing and through listening?

As I have worked to develop my relationship with the Lord, I have grown.  He has shown me, over time, those areas of my life that need tweaking.  Recently, that area has been prayer.  And now that I ‘m aware of that, I can’t help but want to improve it.  Not so that God will love me more, but so that I can love Him more.

Maybe, like me, you have a prayer life, but you’re feeling like maybe it’s time to dive a little deeper with it.  Maybe how you have been praying is good, but your heart is telling you that there’s more.  Maybe, you’ve already been thinking those thoughts, and now you are reading this blog post about prayer.  It’s not a coincidence, it’s God.

Here is a super simple pattern for prayer to get you going.

Praise Him: For who He is and all He has done.  Creator, sustainer, all mighty, all knowing, all powerful, gracious and loving Father.

Thank Him: There is so much to thank Him for.  For love, and life.  For His provision.  For the ways that He has answered previous prayers.  For healthy relationships.  For happy times.  For His presence in our lives.  And on and on.

Tell Him what you need, where you are struggling:  Relationships.  Health issues. Financial strains.  Obedience to His word. 

Sister, I encourage you to pray.  It will change your heart.  It will bring you peace and purpose.  No matter how you do it, do it.  God hears you and He desires to draw you closer to Him through prayer.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

Take that step.

“Father, I need You.  I admit that I often neglect You.  That I sometimes ask of You more than I thank or praise You.  But I want to change that now.  Remind me to pray, draw me to Yourself through communication with You.  Give me the desire that I sometimes struggle with, to spend time with You in prayer.  Your love for me is greater than I can think or imagine.  Having dialog with You is a privilege.  Help me not to take that for granted.  Amen.” 

Purposefully,

Shelli

Molas Lake, Colordao (and the Handsome Hubs)

For the asking

This week has been one of “those” weeks.  You know the kind.

The kind where difficulties come rushing at you at an alarming rate.  You barely get past one, breathe deeply , and then the next one comes. It seems to just keep happening like that.  As your emotions respond to the trials, they grow more fragile by the moment.  In no time, you are at odds with loved ones, and your relationships are suffering.  You are struggling to keep it all together in your head.  Your state of well being is teetering on the brink.

I know you’ve been there.  We all have at some point.  The situations we face that bring us to this point vary greatly, but one thing is certain for all of us;  we need peace and strength.

Peace can feel impossible when we struggle. And strength? Strength can feel like something you used to have, but not today. Today you just feel weak. Weakened in your spirit by the hardships and weakened in your faith by the heaviness in your heart.

My backyard

Scripture is full of passages that show us God’s heart toward us in difficulty. The Lord made sure that His word had many teachings about this exact thing. I think that’s because He knows how fragile we can be as humans. I know that for me, it’s easy to doubt that God is good when the situations in my life don’t feel good. That’s why the truth of scripture is so important, God’s word does not change. It does not fluctuate with the circumstances. My emotions sure do, but His word is sure. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Deuteronomy 31:7-8 is a clear representation of the heart of God. He says this, “Be strong and courageous…the LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

When I read this scripture I see several things. The Lord goes before me. Wherever I am headed, He is already there. That means that whatever situation I find myself in, it is no surprise to God. He’s there before I am. He’s surveying the land, so to speak. He knows what’s coming, and He is making a plan to help me through.

I also see here that the Lord is with me.  He goes before me, but he is also with me.  Only God can do that; be in more than one place at a time.  He never leaves me.  Never.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t go through difficult things, but it does mean I don’t enter the darkness alone.  

He also says here not to be afraid or discouraged.  Oh boy, now things just got real.

When I face difficulty, I fight the urge to be afraid and discouraged.  Those two emotions seem to be the primary stopping blocks in my faith.  Fear of the outcome of my circumstance can paralyze me quickly.  I stop moving forward.  I get stuck.  As if somehow, by operating in fear, I can stop the difficulty from being…difficult.  My emotions lie to me and tell me that I need to control things somehow.  That it’s up to me to fix whatever it is.  

And lacking the ability to control or stop the struggle creates discouragement in my soul; the next battle.

If the enemy of our souls can keep us discouraged, he can keep our focus on ourselves and on our trials.  When that happens, we struggle to trust God because we only see our own hurt.  That’s our flesh being in charge.

Isn’t it good to realize that God’s word contains everything we need? The Lord knows that we possess human emotions and weaknesses. So He made sure that the pages of scripture, that we can hold in our hands and read and reread, contain all the assurances for this life and the life to come!

When I read scripture like Psalm 29:10 that says “The LORD rules over the floodwaters.  The LORD reigns as king forever.”, I realize that His power is immense!  If He can rule over the floodwaters (a completely uncontrollable force in human terms), then nothing is too hard for Him.  And since He can do that, then I know that He does in fact reign over all things!  So I try to believe Him when He says  that I shouldn’t be afraid or discouraged.  

But I really love the promise of Psalm 29:11, the very next verse.  “The LORD gives his people strength.  The LORD blesses them with peace.”  Strength and peace.  The two things that will carry me through any difficulty.  

When my own strength evades me, I have the strength of the Lord to rely on. When I can’t quite grasp the peace that I’m missing, He holds it. He desires to give it to me, and to bless me with His peace.

Also My backyard

What are you wrestling with today friend? I may not know what it is, but I bet you need peace and strength. Strength in the trial, and peace in the process. Strength to fight your fear, and peace to defeat your discouragement. He holds both of them in His loving hands, and they can be yours in faith. Just ask.

Lord Jesus, there are days. Days and weeks that feel longer than they really are because of all that is in them. Lord, in those times, remind me of your love for me. Show me that you are always with me, giving me strength and peace. Thank you for the truth of your word that reminds me that you are with me, and that you go before me. Help me to fully embrace the strength and peace you give today. In Jesus name, Amen.

Purposefully,

Shelli

Chasing grace

I’m sure that you have heard of the Amish practice of shunning people.  The concept is that if an individual within their close knit community breaks one or more of their most tightly held beliefs, they are shunned.  Members in good standing “isolate, ignore, or otherwise punish someone for breaking community rules.”  When someone is shunned, the community does not eat with, do business with, accept gifts or rides from the shunned individual. It is an isolation meant to force the deviant person to see the error of their ways and re commit to the Amish ways, and beliefs.

This practice sounds like the exact opposite of grace.

Grace is defined as receiving something you do not deserve.  Like God’s unconditional love and salvation.

The grace of God is a concept that most modern religions do not recognize.  In religion, one must do good works, pay penance to God, or work to achieve a higher version of one’s self through reincarnation.  A person must try hard to become enlightened or ascend somehow in their spirituality to receive the favor of God.  These ideas are not biblical.  If you and I could do it ourselves, then tell me what the cross was for?  Galatians 2:21 tells us that we cannot attain righteousness in our flesh “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, (always doing only right things) Christ died for nothing!”  But Jesus did not die for nothing, He came that we may have life in Him!

So the grace of God is an unearned gift!   

The undeserved grace of God is a tremendous thing!  Ephesians 2:8-9 in the NLT says it like this “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”  Do you see it?  None of us receive the love of God because of what we have done!  We receive it because of who HE is.

It seems a natural thing to try to win God’s love or approval.  But I want you to consider something that maybe you haven’t before.  If you have accepted the free gift of salvation that Jesus offered to us when He gave His life on the cross of Calvary, then sister, you already have God’s complete and unconditional love!  You can stop chasing grace…it is already yours!

The truth is, you and I could never be “good enough” to deserve God’s love.  We can never do “more good than bad”.  We can never ascend to a place of holiness on our own, that would cause God to say that we have earned our way in. Honestly, trying to earn it is what causes us to stray from His love in the first place.  “Earning grace” looks like rules.  It looks like legalism.  It surfaces as the false belief that if I just follow all the rules, never slip up, do all the right things, that God will see me as worthy.  But only if…

If we think that somehow, we need to earn His grace, then we don’t really understand the concept of grace.  Grace is love freely given, undeserved.

The moment we start trying to earn it, grace loses its power.  When we earn something like our paycheck or an award, it always comes as a result of our efforts.  A payment or reward for something worked for and earned.

However, when I understand that grace has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him, I can rest in the peace and assurance that I don’t need to earn it, just let it flow over me like cool water on a hot day.  Soothing my soul and providing comfort and assurance, love and peace, hope and joy.

The result of receiving the love and grace of God, is what spurs us on to demonstrate our love back to Him, by following what He says in His word.  The kindness I receive from God through grace causes me to want to love and follow Him even more.  God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, Romans 2:4 speaks to that.  Here’s what I am trying to say in a nutshell, we do not love and follow God so that He will love us, we love and follow God because He already does!

A favorite song of mine right now is Holy Water by We The Kingdom.  This song is one for the books!  I never get tired of hearing it.  There is a line in the song that goes like this;

“I don’t wanna abuse Your grace,

God, I need it every day,

It’s the only thing that ever really makes me wanna change”. 

It’s the kindness and grace of God that makes me want to change as a person.  It’s His grace that draws me into relationship with Him.  Grace leads me home.  The grace of God beckons me into His loving presence in a way that fear, and the Amish practice of shunning, never would.  Those things only serve to cause me to want to please people, to do the things needed for acceptance.  But they don’t really change the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7 tells us what God cares most about.  “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  He looks at our inner most desires (pleasing people or pleasing Him) and He sees our motives. 

I hope that you’ll let this sink in.  That you’ll stop chasing grace.  That, instead, you will turn and see that what you have been seeking, is already yours. 

Grace changes everything!

Purposefully,

Shelli

Losing power

Walking and talking with friends.  I love it!  There’s no better way to spend a couple of hours with a friend than getting fresh air, sunshine, and a good old heart to heart!

~walking buddy~

As my walking buddy and I ventured on a 5 mile “excer-talk” (I’m trademarking this phrase BTW!) this week, the topic of our discussion made its way to sin.  Sin is an uncomfortable and not very Politically Correct 2021 word, but it’s not something we should ignore, or sugar coat. 

Sin is something that we don’t like to admit.  We tend to gather with friends and talk about life, and family, fun things, and even the good things that God is doing in our lives.  And there is NOTHING wrong with that.  It’s all part of building relationships and connecting with others.  Something I feel very strongly about and encourage.

But, if we’re honest, we don’t often talk about sin in our lives.  We shy away from the truth of it to protect what we think should be our image as a believer in Jesus.  But sister, we ALL have sin in our lives.  We are humans, living in a broken world, waiting for Jesus to take us home.  And until He does, sin will be part of our existence.

So, what is sin?

Sin, by definition, is anything we think, say, or do that displeases God.  Well, alrightythen!  When you put it that way, I guess it’s easy to admit that we’re all guilty of sin. I know I am.  Every day.

I wish it weren’t true, I wish I was able to please God all the time, every day, and never hurt the Lord again with my sin.  Romans 3:23 tells us “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  Did you catch it?  Everyone. 

I have the most beautiful places to walk

Scripture is FULL of verses that lead us as to what to do about our sin.  The theme is always the same, no matter the verse.  Confession.  Confession is the answer to breaking the power of sin over us.

Imagine this for a moment if you will.  Imagine you have gone to bed for the night, you are cozy and comfortable in bed, the lights are out, and you are ready to really relax.  And then you hear it.  In the dark you hear something scratching across the floor in your room (ok, you also have to imagine that you have a wood floor if you have carpet but stick with me here).  You don’t know what “it” is really, but you can hear something scratching and crawling its way toward you.  In the dark, you can’t deal with or understand what “it” is.  Is it a bug, a snake, or a dragon (*wink*) coming at you?  There, in the dark, alone with your thoughts, the fear and power in your head just grows stronger.

You have two choices here.  You can lay there in the dark, hoping that you are wrong about whatever it is, hoping that it will crawl OUT of your room, and not into your bed.  You can continue to lay there, paralyzed by the thing that is holding you prisoner to your own fears, and letting it rule over you there in the dark.

Or…

You can do the brave thing, pull back the covers, find the lamp by your bed, and switch on the light!  Only then will you be able to really deal with whatever “it” is. 

Shining light onto whatever is holding you hostage has a way of breaking the power of darkness.

I really took that!

Think of it this way. 

I have sin.  You have sin.  Sin is not something we are proud of, so we hide it.  We don’t talk about it with anyone. 

We keep telling ourselves that “today is the day that I will get a handle on my sin.  I can do it.  I need to do it.  I will beat it, so that I don’t have to admit it or tell anyone else about it. I need to continue to hide it so that I don’t disappoint people by letting them know the truth about me.  I will be a better witness of faith when I fix it, and THEN I can share my faith.  I am different than other Christians because of my sin.  I don’t see them struggling with this sin; therefore, I need to handle this myself.  Then I will fit in with them.  I am only good enough once I have this is under control.”

LIES.  LIES.  LIES.

Straight from the enemy.

Let’s not forget what 1 Peter 5:8 says.  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”  The best way for the enemy to keep power over us as believers is to keep us in the dark.  And there we are afraid to admit our sin, even to God and especially to each other.  The enemy wants to keep us believing the lie that we need to live this way and be ashamed. He wants us to think that we need to fix our sin before God or people will love us. In this way, he can continue to hold power over our lives.

The truth of sin and forgiveness is all over God’s word.  Scripture is loaded with the solution to our struggles if we will just read and follow what it says.  I submit to you that in order to win the battle going on inside our minds and hearts about sin, that we must bring it into the light!  If we will bravely admit our struggles to one another, (a trusted friend or a spouse or a pastor, whomever you feel is most deserving of your trust) sin immediately begins to lose its power over you.  Immediately.

James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

And this one.  Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Confession is like shining a light on that thing crawling in your bedroom at night in the dark.  The light causes it to lose the power and stronghold of fear that the darkness creates.  Are you with me yet?

this lake is a favorite place to walk

Sin loses its power over us when we confess and let it into the light.

What is your struggle?  What is your sin? 

Is it overspending?  Overindulging?  Lying?  A sexual sin?  An addiction? A critical spirit? A bad temper?  A foul mouth? Constant fear? Continual worry?

Sin is anything we think, say, or do that displeases God.

Keeping it exclusively to yourself is only furthering the power it holds on your life.  I encourage you to talk to someone about it.  Not everyone, but someone.

I hope that you have a trusted someone in your life, with whom you can be honest about your struggle.  You will want to pray about this for a while before you choose that someone.  Naturally, you will want to share only with someone whom you feel will love unconditionally and who will keep you accountable.  Someone who has your best interest in mind.  Someone who will pray for you. Someone spiritually mature. 

And it’s scary.  It’s scary to admit your sin and your struggle to another.  Keeping it secret feels safer, but it isn’t always.  Only when the secret is out, does it lose its power

I encourage you to confess it first to God, and then pray, pray, pray about who you will trust with your struggle. 

I hope that you will choose to be free of the power of sin in your life!  Listen, we will not be able to completely stop sinning this side of heaven, but we do not have to live under the power of darkness.  Romans 8:1 reminds us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Christ did not save us to leave us the way we were.  He came to give us salvation through Him and a full life!  John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full!”

One of the many steps to living a full life is confession. First to God and then in honesty to another Christ follower. Sin most often loses its power when we bring it into the light of the love of the Lord.  There, He can begin the healing and strengthening process.  There, He can work with us on the freedom we have in Christ.  We do not have to be trapped and powerless.  We can be FREE!

Heavenly Father, I am sick of my sin.  I am sick of hiding it and letting it rule over me.  I was foolish to think that, on my own, I can stop.  That alone I can somehow win this battle.  Father, I confess I need your help. I also know that being honest about it with another will help break the chain.  Lord, show me who I may be able to trust with my struggle.  I know that in You and through confession, sin will lose the power it holds on me in the darkness.  Thank you that because of Jesus in my life, I do not have to live this way any longer.   Amen.

clouds are a favorite of mine to photograph