Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Strength in My Weakness

I don't have a green thumb. It's not necessarily that everything I plant dies, but more that I lack the motivation to take care of my plants once they've been planted. Nonetheless, like most women, I like flowers and I want my yard to look like something out of Southern Living (currently, my grass hasn't been mowed in over 2 weeks and there are dead flowers on my porch...) so sometimes I get the urge to plant things. 

2 Corinthians 12:9

A couple of years ago, I planted four gardenias across the back of the house with the hope that my yard would be filled with their heavenly aroma all summer long. Well three out of four survived and I considered it a victory! Of the gardenias that survived, there is one that is significantly smaller than the others and it was planted a little too far over so it sort of gets in the way. I've considered just pulling it up because, honestly, it looks silly. But, this summer, God used that little bush to speak truth straight to my heart.

One day I discovered that my little runt had four beautiful blooms on it while the others had none. As I stood there admiring them, I was reminded that God isn't threatened by our weaknesses. In fact, His word says that it is through our weaknesses that His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9). What I saw as a flimsy twig growing in the ground, begging me to mow it over, God saw as a strong plant, full of potential and worthy of all the beauty it was created to possess. I believe that's exactly how He sees each of us. When He places a calling on our lives, He equips us with everything we need. He fills in the gaps of our inadequacies with His perfect strength and creates something beautiful. If I had pulled that gardenia out of the ground, I would have robbed it of its purpose, never allowing its beauty to be revealed and I may have never learned this lesson. A lesson I so desperately need as I navigate God's plan for my life. 

2 Corinthians 12:9
The truth is sometimes I feel a lot like that gardenia, too small, too inadequate, too weak to make a difference. But, if I allow those thoughts to rule in my mind, I miss living out the purpose for which I was created and blessing others with my gifts. We can't let our weaknesses cripple us. Instead, we must turn to the one who's power is activated by our willingness not by our qualifications. God has a purpose and a plan for the smallest, the weakest and the most unlikely of us all. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, "God WILL make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful." 

But he said to me, “My grace i s sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 2 Corinthians 12:9 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Easter Devotional: Lay Down Your Cloak

Matthew 16:24

Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11, Matthew 16:24
Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God for the Son of David!
    Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Praise God in highest heaven!”
Matthew 21:8-9

We've all heard the old tale. Guy and girl are out on a date, walking down the street when they come up on a puddle. The gentleman takes his jacket off and lays it over the puddle so the lady can walk across without getting her feet wet. This seems silly, but when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, His people greeted him with the same gesture. Matthew 8 says "most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him." While I'm sure the streets of Jerusalem were dirty, I don't think Jesus's followers were concerned about him getting a little dirt on his feet. I believe that by laying down their garments, they were displaying their willingness to bring glory to their savior regardless of what it cost them.
 Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24 that if we want to be His disciples, we must turn from our selfish ways and take up our crosses. Sometimes this means giving up our free time to minister to someone who's hurting. It may mean ditching habits that don't honor God's word or donating money to a worthy cause instead of buying something we don't need, but really want. It could mean risking your reputation to share your story and bring someone to salvation. Whatever it may be, Jesus doesn't call His disciples to stand clean and comfortable while He does all of the work. He calls us to join him in the trenches where souls are saved and Jesus is glorified. 

 Dear Lord, today I ask for your forgiveness for the times I have stood on the sidelines and left you to work alone. I pray that you would help me to fulfill your command to lay down my selfish desires so that I may bring glory to your name.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Easter Devotional: You Are Not Alone In Your Suffering

Easter Devotional
Scriptures: Isaiah 53:3-6, Hebrews 2:18

"He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down."
Isaiah 53:3-4 (NLT)

Have you ever been through a tough time and felt completely alone? Have you bought in to the lie that your situation is evidence that God doesn't love you? I think we can all agree that we've felt this way at some point in our lives. 
 I want you to take some time today to think about Jesus' life here on earth. I don't mean the people He healed, the miracles He performed or his perfect example of love. Instead, I want you to reflect on the pain he endured because that pain serves a beautiful purpose

 For the short time Jesus was here, he was despised, rejected, betrayed, beaten and sentenced to a brutal death, none of which He deserved. The purpose of His suffering is realized in Hebrews 2:18: "since He himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested." Jesus, the king of kings and lord of lords, took human form and endured human anguish so that He can better relate to us, so He can better guide us and minister to our hearts in times of hardship.

Whatever you may be going through today, know that you have a God in heaven who loves you so much He was willing to trade his place on the throne for a life of agony to become your wonderful counselor.

Dear Lord, thank you for your willingness to live a life you didn't deserve so that you could be my comforter and counselor in times of need. I thank you that I do not have to feel alone in my suffering because you go before me. Lord, I pray that you would help me to remember that the trials of this life do not separate me from you, but, instead, draw me closer.
In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Best Approach to an Unbelieving Spouse

While God's word tells us that we should avoid relationships with nonbelievers, sometimes we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of an unequally yoked partnership. Maybe you were nonbelievers when you got married and then one of you gave your life to Christ later down the road. Or maybe you married a nonbeliever hoping they would eventually change. Whatever your situation, it happens and when it does, the Bible tells us that there is still potential for good. 1 Corinthians 7:14 says the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Now this does not mean that if you are a Christian your husband or wife is automatically saved. What it does mean is that your influence on your spouse's life may be strong enough to win them over. 

How to deal with an unbelieving husband

While the potential exists, it doesn't always happen easily and rarely on our time making being married to a nonbeliever incredibly frustrating. So what do we do? How do we minister to our spouses without becoming discouraged and driving them away?

Let your light shine 

Like a pile of dirty laundry when we are expecting company, we tend to close Jesus up in our hearts in the presence of nonbelievers. We do this because we're scared they may think we are strange, that we're judging them or we're worried we may come across as too pushy. But I believe that hearts are changed through the example of others. Your spouse may not have accepted Jesus because he/she has never seen what it truly means to have a relationship with Him. As someone your spouse is around every day, you are in the perfect position to be an example of that relationship for them. Be open about who Jesus is in your life. Be honest about your sins so they see that Jesus accepts us as we are. Speak of Him as a friend and allow your spouse to see the joy and peace Jesus brings you. Love them the way Jesus loves you.

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. 
Matthew 5:15-16

Be willing to be different. Be willing to be strange. Be confidant in your faith because Jesus says that we are the light of the world. Our light may be the only one our spouse ever sees. Let it shine!

Recognize that the fight is not yours 

When it comes to our unbelieving loved ones, we have tendency to place a tremendous amount of responsibility on ourselves for their salvation. This can leave us feeling weighed down and defeated and can place unnecessary distance in our relationships.  
I love what 1 Corinthians 3:6 teaches us- I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. Allowing ourselves to believe this lifts the weight right off of our shoulders and places it in God's very capable hands. The truth is that all we can do is plant the seeds. The outcome is between your spouse and God. 

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  
Ezekiel 36:26.

 Prayer and Patience 

Ultimately, I think that prayer is the most powerful tool we have when dealing with an unsaved spouse. It is through prayer that God can begin working in your spouse's heart while encouraging you in the pursuit. When you feel defeated, pray. When you want to nag your spouse, pray. When you start to see the fruit of your effort, pray! Ask God to not only change your spouse's heart, but to lead you in ministering to your spouse in a way that is pleasing to Him.  

The Bible says that anything we ask according to His will will given to us. What it doesn't say is that it will be given to us immediately. It is in our waiting time that we often experience a spiritual growth spurt. God uses our wait to draw us closer to Him and enhance our faith. Remember that Abraham was 100 years old when Issac was born. God is faithful to fulfill His promises, we just have to be patient with Him.

 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
 Lamentations 3:25-26

If you are struggling in a relationship with a nonbeliever, I want to encourage you that we serve a God who is capable of moving even the most stubborn and resistant mountains. Continue to shine your light and when it seems impossible, remember that you are simply God's seed sower. He will take care of everything else. 



Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Love Language That Will Change Your Marriage

Have you heard of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman? If you haven't, you should look it up, but I'll bring you up to speed for now. The book talks about the five different ways in which each of us prefers to receive love: quality time, physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation and acts of service. We all have a different love language. Understanding your spouse's love language allows you to love him/her in the way they are most receptive. 

love languages

To determine your love language, you can take the quiz here
(This would be a great Valentine's Day activity!)

Knowing your spouses' love language is a great key to loving them well. However, I believe that it is equally, if not more, important to understand that most of us tend to show love in our own love language. We do this with good intentions. If we would love it, our spouse definitely would too, right? Wrong. We don't realize that what fills our love tank may not even register as an act of love to our spouse. This has happened plenty of times in my marriage and I'm sure it has happened in yours. 

Imagine it's your birthday and you've had your eyes on a pair of beautiful diamond earrings you saw at the mall. You subtly drop hints, but you never actually come out and ask for them (your love language is gifts). That day, your husband wakes up at the crack of dawn and sneaks out of bed. He cleans the house and then heads outside to wash your car (his love language is acts of service). You wake up and, while you're surprised, you can't help but feel disappointed about your "present" and your disappointment spills over into the rest of your day. Your husband wonders where he went wrong. Poor guy. He thought he was doing something so wonderful for his wife on her birthday, but it's almost as if she didn't even notice.

love languages

 Sound familiar? These situations happen more often then we realize, not just on special occasions. We go about our days feeling unloved and it's typically our own fault. We focus on the things our spouse isn't doing instead of the things they are doing. We have love language tunnel vision. All we can see in front of us are those diamond earrings that we didn't get so we miss the great love that's happening all around us.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love "does not insist on its own way." 
 This Valentine's Day, I challenge you to graciously receive your spouse's love. Whether it is delivered in a box with a pretty bow or comes in the form of a selfless act of service, know that it came from the heart. Make it a point to notice the little things your loved ones do for you. You may be surprised to find you are far more loved than you think you are.

Happy Valentine's Day!