Free Resources for Advent!

Today begins Advent! A time of hope, peace, joy, and love! I want to help you connect with Christ and seek his presence during this season. So I thought I’d gather up some free resources to help you meditate on the reason for the season.  Grab any or all of the the freebies below. Just click on the button and tell me where to email it to you.

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At-a-glance Calendar of the Christian Year

What is Advent? Good question.

It is the first season of the Christian year. Don’t worry, if you didn’t even know that the church operates on a different calendar year than our secular calendar, I’ve got a little calendar to help you understand the various seasons of faith.

When we familiarize ourselves with the cyclical pattern of the Christian calendar and allow it to form the foundation for our Bible reading and the lens through which we evaluate all aspects of our daily life, we will experience many benefits. In my post, Five Benefits You Can Expect When You Follow the Christian Calendar, I outlined and described five of those benefits.

I’ve updated the calendar to reflect the 2016-2017 dates. Enjoy!

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Send Me the Calendar!

Scripture Coloring Page to Help Melt Away Stress

There are plenty of stress-triggers this time of year. Take a moment to breathe and meditate on Romans 15:13. Get your markers, crayons, or colored pencils out and let the little kid in you be in the moment with Jesus.

I WANT THAT COLORING PAGE!

Get into the Scriptures

Here is a daily reading plan to help you stay in the Word this Advent season. It features four different passages each day, one each from the: Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels or Acts, and one of the epistles or Revelation.

Read all or just one each day to stay connected to Christ, the reason for the season.

Send Me the Reading Plan!

Extra bonus: Free e-book

This isn’t an Advent resource, but since many of us start planning for the new year during Advent, I also wanted to share this free e-book with you. Michael Hyatt, one of my mentors, asked 30+ high-achieving leaders the following question:

“What is the most important thing you do at the beginning of each year to set yourself up for your best year ever?”

Want to know how Lysa TerKeurst, Dave Ramsey, John Maxwell, Andy Andrews, Jon Acuff, and others answered? Then grab the book while it is available. I believe it will no longer be available after mid-December, so get your copy before it is gone.

bye2016-free-ebook

I’ve already read mine and gained several practical ideas that will help me plan for 2017.  Just click here or the “Get it now” button above to request your free copy.

Hope these resource provide you with tons of inspiration this Advent season! I’d love to hear what you think of them. So leave a comment below and let me know. 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How God Provided the “How” When I Didn’t Know What To Do

Plus: FREE ebook for you!

Has it sunk in yet how close we are to beginning a new year? Do you ever get overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to get it all done? Or how to even know what to put on the to do list in the first place? 

I get it! But I’ve got some encouraging news for you!! God will provide the how!

As one who often doesn’t have a clue how to do what he asks me to do, I get a front row seat to watch God work. And he always comes through.

Sometimes he waits until the last possible second and way past the point of my comfort to reveal the answer, but he always reveals how to accomplish what he has called me to do.

(Now whether or not I USE what God provides is another matter altogether!)

How God Provides the HOW

Often, God uses other people to provide me with the how.

Michael Hyatt is someone God has used over and over in my life to show me how to move forward in answering God’s call on my life.

Around the time I was trying to figure out how to set up a blog and publish my first Bible study, God led me to Michael’s blog. There I found a godly mentor and guide to show me how to set up this ministry.

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(Michael Hyatt with me at SheSpeaks Conference)

If you don’t know who he is, Michael is the former CEO of the Christian publishing company Thomas Nelson. He now mentors people on how to intentionally live out what God is calling them to do with their lives.

Recently he asked 30 top achievers a question:

What is the most important thing you do at the beginning of each year to set yourself up for your best year ever?

Michael compiled their answers in a new ebook and is giving it away for free for a limited time.

bye2016-free-ebook

You’ll recognize many of the names in the book. They include multiple best-selling authors, speakers, and leaders of their respected fields.

People like:

  • Lysa TerKeurst
  • Dave Ramsey
  • Andy Stanley
  • John Maxwell
  • Andy Andrews
  • Jon Acuff
  • (and many others)

I’ve already grabbed my copy and wanted to share my link with you so you can get yours. I’m telling ya, God’s providing lots of “how” ideas through these people! It’s free for a limited time, so get your copy now!

Blessings of truth and grace,

P.S. As we get closer to the start of 2017, the timing on this couldn’t be any better. The insights were pretty incredible. Click here to take a look for yourself!

P.P.S Share this with your friends so they don’t miss out on the free book! I’m sure they want their 2017 to be their best year ever, too. They’ll thank you for sharing!

How to avoid doing what I did Saturday night.

I was a time-bomb waiting to blow. So when the lady started bossing around me and everyone else in the concession stand, snipping at us over the most trivial little things…Kaboom! She snapped at me and I snapped back. I should have been able to have more patience. I know it would have been better to take her aside and talk calmly and with grace. Yet, my claws came out.

At that moment, I felt as Paul described in Romans 7:19:

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I know better. I want to act better. So, why didn’t I.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

And in his letter to the Galatians, Paul reminded believers to live by the Spirit so they wouldn’t gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16) He exhorted them to keep in step with the Spirit.

As the summer gave way to the new school year, I felt as if someone cranked up the treadmill to top speed.

via GIPHY

Since my Bible study class ended and and football season began, I’ve haven’t been regularly studying the Scriptures and nurturing my relationship with Christ. With both of my boys playing ball at two different schools and Matt on the Board of the Booster Club, my mind has been on decidedly earthly matters.

I’ve gotten out of step with the Spirit.

It’s easy to do. It is the pattern of the world around us.

But I’m not to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). And to avoid doing so I must renew my mind daily with God’s Word.

Scripture reveals to us God’s character and will. His will and mine are not naturally in sync.

So if I am to keep in step with the Spirit, I need to actively listen to Him and cooperate with Him.

There is a reason the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We can’t possibly fulfill the second, “Love your neighbor as yourself” unless we are are actively doing the first.

Actively listening and spending time with God doesn’t mean I need to sit down for hours and do an in-depth Bible study.

We can cultivate a deeper connection with Christ throughout our day using simple strategies.

I’ve made a checklist for you of five of my go-to methods (which I’ve reviewed and begun using again myself). Just click the button below to let me know you want it and I’ll email it to you instantly.

Yes! I want the checklist >>

Cultivate Connection Checklist Blog Image

How about you? How does being in or out of step with the Spirit impact your ability to love others as God loves you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why is it so hard to honestly answer the question, “Is everything OK?”

Plus a FREE GUIDE: 9 Strategies You Can Use to Defeat Depression

Recently one of my friends noticed I had not been posting regularly to my blog over the summer. So, she emailed me and asked a simple question: “Is everything OK?” She is one of my closest friends on earth, though we no longer get to see each other that often. So, I shouldn’t have had any qualms about telling her the truth. But I procrastinated for weeks before admitting my honest answer to that little question was, “No, actually, everything is not OK. I’m kind of a mess right now—more of a mess than usual.”

Matthew 14 on waves

The truth is I’ve been struggling with chronic pain since April. It has made getting a good night’s sleep impossible with out pharmaceutical assistance. Walking is painful. And the pain makes concentrating difficult. So, I’ve been very haphazard about writing posts.

In fact, I’ve become very haphazard about doing just about everything the past few months.

Not being able to move about and stick to my regular routine inevitably led to me doing quite a few marathons…on Netflix.

STILL WATCHING Netflix

And so it is no surprise that I slipped into a pretty deep depression.

Which makes it even harder to concentrate and take care of my normal responsibilities. So I feel guilty and like a big ol’ slug. See how the things can easily spin out of control?

What stops the vicious cycle?

There are a number of things we can do to interrupt the pattern of increasing depression. I’ve made you a simple guide to the nine things I’ve found helpful in my current and past bouts with this malady (see below). And while we do need to take practical steps such as these, I’ve found the Psalmist offers the most significant means of gaining hope and perspective in the midst of the despair.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Even in the darkest moments, when I fix my eyes on God and call out to him, I find hope. Much like Peter walking on the water, when my focus shifts away from Christ, I begin sinking in despair. But as soon as I call out to him, I feel his grip upon me.

It isn’t always easy or pretty, but it is as simple as looking up and crying out, “Lord, save me!” It doesn’t mean the waves and wind no longer roll and thunder. It simple means I’m safe in his hand and he will pull me back up when I sink.

I pray you don’t ever experience depression, but if you do (or if someone you care about does), perhaps the words of the Psalmist, Peter, or myself will encourage you to keep your gaze turned heavenward and let our Savior lift you up.

Grab this FREE Guide: 9 Things You Can Do to Defeat Depression!

FYI, I’ve got a link to a list of helpful Scripture passages in Number 9. Click the button below and I’ll email you the guide immediately!

Depression - FREE GUIDE

Send Me the FREE GUIDE!

How about you? What coping strategies or other insights have you found helpful (or unhelpful) with regarding to dealing with depression? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Secret to Nipping Anxiety in the Bud!

Plus a FREE Cheat Sheet with 5 Practical Strategies to Weed Out Worry!

For much of the past 18 months, I struggled with anxiety. It began as a fear of flying. We traveled more than usual in 2015 and I had to fly several times within the span of a few months. I made the mistake of focusing on my fear. As I gave it more and more attention, the anxiety became stronger and more problematic. Eventually, the fear was no longer tied to one specific issue. I began having panic attacks on a regular basis, my sleep was disrupted, and I was seeking comfort and distraction in food. Having battled depression in the past, I recognized I was spiraling down and needed to seek help. Now, successfully on the other side of the battle, I want to offer some encouragement. If you, like me and 40 million American adults, are affected by anxiety disorders, read on. And even if you don’t struggle with this issue yourself, I bet you know someone who does. Encourage them by sharing this with them.

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CC-0 Unsplash | Leonardo Wong

Nip It In the Bud

Worry is like a weed. If you don’t rip it out by its root, it will continue to return and grow. If not dealt with, anxiety can choke out the beneficial things God intends to grow and flourish in your life.

This is one instance when Barney Fife had it right.

We’ve got to nip anxiety in the bud. Don’t let it take root and develop. The earlier you recognize the problem and take action to deal with it, the better off you will be.

And if you can prevent the weed of worry from taking root in the first place; even better! One of the best ways to prevent or begin to eradicate anxiety is to eliminate the environment which contributes to its growth.

The weed of worry grows in the soil of insecurity. When we focus on the things that breed insecurity, we provide the perfect environment for anxiety to flourish.

If you want peace, you must plant yourself in secure soil. The apostle Paul wrapped up his letter to the church at Philippi with this very point.

The Philippians’ reasoned their Roman citizenship provided unprecedented safety. Paul reminded these believers their true security was derived from their citizenship in heaven, not Rome, and from their Savior’s power to bring everything under his control (Philippians 3:20–21).

Paul then gave them (and us) practical ways to cultivate this peace-filled environment.

It is easy to focus on earthly things and depend on them to keep us safe. Or convince ourselves if we just mull over the scary scenario one more time, we can gain control over our circumstances. However, if we place our confidence in anything other than Jesus, we sow in the shifting soil where worries thrive.

Instead, root your hope in the surety of Christ. And keep your focus, not on your fears, but on what you want more of in your life.

If you want to see how I put this into practice on our trip to Hawaii last summer, watch the video blog post I made about facing my fears. I hope it encourages you (and gives you a laugh or two). FYI, this trip took place at the height of my problems with the panic attacks.

Anchor yourself to the unwavering stability of Christ and then keep your gaze fixed on him and all that he represents.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” —Philippians 4:6-9 NIV

In this soil, peace flourishes no matter the circumstances because our Lord is always near and in control. The right source of assurance prevents disturbing thoughts from taking root in the first place. And prayer keeps our focus on the proper things rather than allowing our fearful fantasies to run amok.

FREE Cheat Sheet: 5 Strategies to Weed Out Worry

Now that we know how to prevent apprehensive ideas from growing like weeds, we can take steps to yank our existing worries out by their root. Paul’s advice in Philippians 3:19-4:19 correlates to five strategies I have found effective for eradicating these weeds. I’ve summarized these strategies in a FREE Cheat Sheet so you can put them to work in your life. Just click the button below to request your free copy.

Get the FREE Cheat Sheet!

Get the FREE Cheat Sheet!

Put it into Practice

Recognize the difference between soil that encourages worry weeds and soil that enables the growth of peace. Then, put into practice sound strategies for ripping your worries out by the root. This will allow you to say along with Paul:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

Trust God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Please note, I am not a therapist or psychologist. I share this, instead, as someone who has been down this weary path and emerged stronger and less fearful.

Question: What helps you keep your anxious thoughts in check so they don’t disrupt your life and relationships? Let’s help each other with this very common struggle! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why Summer 2016 is the Summer of Freedom!

Ah summer… sleeping in late, lazy days by the pool sipping a cool drink and reading a best-seller. No worries, responsibilities, or stress. [wait for it…] Yeah, right! Summer doesn’t usually pan out to be like that fantasy. If I am by the pool, I’m trying not to melt while watching the kids and reminding them for the millionth time to put on sunscreen. The tedious treadmill of the Monday through Friday school week is replaced by a chaotic stop-n-go madness that has the kids bored one week and exhausted the next. By the time the fireworks go off on July 4th, the “freedom” I was looking forward to celebrating during the summer has been replaced with a longing for school to start and temperatures to fall. I think this Summer, I’ll pursue a different type of freedom. One that will prove much more satisfying and less illusive than my typical summer daydreams. Want to join me on the adventure to real freedom?

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Last week I tested the waters to see if anyone was interested in studying Galatians this Summer. Well, quite a few of you have said you’d like to join in on my quest for true freedom. So, it’s time to claim your spot for whichever format/session works best for you.

You can choose from four options:

Georgetown Groups – Tuesdays Morning or Evening

If you live in town and are available on Tuesdays, join me in person. The morning session meets 10 – 11 am and the evening session is at 6:30 – 7:30 pm. These local classes will meet at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown, Texas. Tuesday groups will begin on June 21 and wrap up on August 2  June 28 and wrap up on August 9 (needed to change this to avoid conflict with VBS!).

Online Groups – Thursdays Morning or Evening

Need another option? Sign up for one of the Thursday sessions which will be live, interactive webinars. That means we can interact live and in a private group where we don’t have to worry about internet trolls disturbing us! You can choose to interact via typing in the chat box to ask your questions and share your comments or you can jump on camera and address the group! It’s like a Google Hangout or a group Skype call. Cool!

The morning webinars will happen at 11 am Central Time and the evening ones at 7 pm. Class will last about an hour. Thursday groups will begin on June 23 and wrap up on August 11 (we won’t meet on July 7).

Why, of course, there’s a workbook!

I’m in the process of preparing lessons and creating a workbook for you! There probably won’t be a lot of commentary in the workbook. I’m envisioning it as more of a guide to note-taking. If you’ve ever done a Precept Upon Precept study it will be along those lines.  But don’t worry, if the Precept marking and color coding drive you crazy, this will be very flexible to fit many different styles of study.

Use of the workbook is totally optional! Our primary text will be the Scripture. The workbook will just be a tool to help you get more out of your study of the Word.

Here is a sneak peak at the workbook cover…

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Worried about missing some sessions?

Don’t fret, I’ve got you covered. It is Summer and many of us have vacations planned, and with the kids home, schedules can be less predictable than ever.

But don’t let that stop you from getting in the Word with us.

I’ll  record each group’s sessions and post those recordings in the Making It Real Member Area. You’ll have a user name and password that will allow you to access the videos (along with your workbook and any other goodies I come up with) whenever it suits your schedule.

So what are you waiting for? Claim your spot now!

Seven sessions of Bible study, a workbook, video recordings of each session, and I’ll probably come up with one or two additional goodies by the time we’re done. All this for only $19! That is less than $3 per session! So spread the word and let’s explore our freedom this summer!

You can get all the details and register for the group using either of these buttons…

Button Get More Info-YellowButton Claim Your Spot-Green

 

What do you think of this cool idea for summer?

Study Galatians with me — in person or online — your choice!

The past few weeks of teaching the pilot students of my soon to launch online course about setting healthy boundaries has reminded me how much I love teaching and interacting with other people as we study God’s Word. And I don’t know about you, but I always do a better job of consistently staying in the Scriptures when I’m part of a Bible study group. For a while now, God has put it on my heart to study Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is a relatively short book (only 6 chapters) which makes it a good choice for a summer study. So, I’m putting this idea out there to see if any of you are interested. I don’t have all the details set yet; I’m just testing the waters for interest at this point. Your feedback will help me fill in the details. So here’s the scoop…

Summer Bible Study Galatians

Summer is often associated with freedom: freedom from routines, to go on vacations, to sit by the pool and relax. So what a perfect time to study a book of the Bible that reminds us of the freedom we have in Christ. I don’t know about you, but I have some strongholds that I wrestle with. I think Paul’s wise words will help me find some freedom from those this summer.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1, NIV

How this will work…

I’m thinking we will need six or seven sessions to study the entire book of Galatians. I’d like to start the week of June 21 28* and wrap up the study the first week of August 9*.  Don’t worry if you have vacations planned and will have to miss one or two sessions. I’ll try to record the sessions (very rough – no fancy editing and the lighting might not be great), and have those for you to download if you miss a session.

*I changed the dates to avoid conflict with my home congregation’s VBS since we will be meeting at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown.

I’m planning to keep this very simple. Our primary text will be our Bible! I will create a PDF workbook that will provide you some structure for taking notes as you study, but it won’t be a polished, published workbook. I’ll email that to the registered participants and you can print it out and put it in a binder or folder.

The cost will be $19. That’s less than a grande latte or Iced Caramel Macchiato per session. Pretty sweet! Invite your friends!

Traditional Live Local Group or Live Online Group

So, here’s the different options as far as when and how we could meet:

In Person in Georgetown

Many of my readers live close enough to Georgetown, Texas (my hometown) to be able to join me in person.  So, for those of you who prefer getting together in person,  I’m tossing out a couple different options.  We could have a Tuesday 10 – 11 am group or we could have a Tuesday 6:30 – 7:30 pm group.  The location will Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown.

Online Live Interactive Class

For my out-of-towners or those who prefer an online experience, I’ve invested in the technology that will allow us to have interactive, live class via the internet. I know it might sound scary if you aren’t used to doing webinars or video chats. But if I can figure out how to do this, anyone can! With my software, you will have the option of being on camera along with me or participating without being visible to the rest of the participants. Basically it will be like a Google Hangout or a Periscope/Blab except I will have the ability to limit attendance to only those registered. No weird internet trolls posting inappropriate comments!

The only technology you will need is a computer and an internet connection. If you want to appear on screen you’ll also need a webcam and microphone (most newer computers have those built in). You may also be able to use your smartphone or tablet (ipad). I need to double check that, but I’m pretty sure that is the case. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you step-by-step through how to navigate the tech!

I’m thinking the online class will meet on Thursdays at either 11 am or 7 pm.

Isn’t it cool we live in a time when geography doesn’t limit our ability to gather together in fellowship and study of the Scriptures! Awesome!

So, which group would you be interested in?

Summer Bible Study Galatians Iced Tea

If enough of you are interested, we’ll move forward with one or more of those options. I’ll figure out the details and send you a link to officially enroll. For now, just let me know if you would be interested in getting more info and possibly attending one of the groups.  You’ll do this by clicking the button below that corresponds with the group in which you’d most like to participate. Then I’ll email you with more information really soon so we can get started in June!

CLICK ONE OF THE BUTTONS BELOW TO LET ME KNOW YOU’RE INTERESTED!

Tuesdays In Person In Georgetown

Exact location to be determined. Morning class at 10 am, evening class at 6:30 pm. I’ll set up my iphone and microphone and post a recording within about 24 hours of each class in case you miss that week’s session.

I’m interested in the Tuesday Morning class

I’m interested in the Tuesday Evening Class

Thursdays Online Live and Interactive

I’ll send registered participants a link to join the online class each Thursday. Morning class will go live at 11:00 am, evening class at 7:00 pm. If all goes well with the tech, I’ll send out recordings of the class within about 24 hours or so after we end the broadcast.

I’m interested in the Thursday Morning online class!


I’m Interested in the Thursday Evening Online Class

I can’t wait to see which button you clicked! Feel free to share this with your friends using the buttons above and below the post! The more the merrier.

Why We Can Count on God to Be Faithful

Waiting is hard but knowing who we wait for makes it easier to wait expectantly.

My prayers lately have been increasingly filled with intercession on behalf of many who are enduring illness, grief, uncertainty, and trials of many kinds. And as I look around at our world and the rampant chaos and suffering, I, like the prophet Habakkuk, cry out to God: “How can a holy and just God allow this suffering? How can you let the wicked prevail and let good people suffer?” This morning, God answered me by taking me on a tour through Habakkuk, Colossians, and Second Peter. In the words of Scripture, God answered my question. “Wait for it…”

Wait for It

God reminded me, as he reminded Habakkuk, that just because I can’t understand why God works the way he does, doesn’t mean I can’t trust God.

And just because God doesn’t work according to my time table, doesn’t mean he isn’t working.

Over and over through the history of God’s interaction with his Creation, he proved his ways and timing are good and just; that in all things he is working to restore and redeem. In all things, and using the most unlikely and even unseemly people and circumstances, God always fulfills his promises and reveals himself to be holy and just.

So when we struggle and face unfair suffering, we can call out to him and he will reassure us of his faithfulness, goodness, and justness.

When we can’t count on anyone or anything else, we can count on God to be faithful.

We Want Either; God is Both

Ironically, when we are the ones sinning and suffering we plead for mercy. But when others sin against us, in our humanness, we cry out for vengeance and swift justice. Depending on our circumstances we want God to be either merciful or just, but God is always both merciful and just.

God repeatedly warns his people not to confuse his patience with permission to sin. He shows mercy and long-suffering because he desires to see all redeemed (2 Peter 3:9). But he is just and thus all wrongdoing must be accounted for.

In fact, we know that he has poured out his wrath on sin. He poured it out on the cross.

Every sin, every injustice, every act of rebellion was met with God’s holy and just wrath poured out on Christ who bore all of humanity’s sin.

Our sin and the sin of those who sin against us were all covered by Christ’s blood.

Are You Offended by God?

Habakkuk was offended when God declared he would use a brutal, pagan people to bring his own covenant people to repentance (see Habakkuk 1-2).

Likewise, we can find it offensive to realize that the same blood that covers our sins is the blood that covers those who sin against us.

But let’s not be like the unmerciful servant who refused to forgive a small debt despite having his own massive debt forgiven (See Matthew 18:21-35).

Let us take to heart Paul’s words to remember what God has done for us:

Since you’ve been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed—and he is your life—you, too, will be revealed with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4

We have even more reason than Habakkuk did to trust in God. We have the Holy Spirit, the deposit that guarantees the fulfillment of God’s promise to make all things new in Christ.

And because we are filled with his Spirit, in our suffering, he will supply us with his strength to persevere. He will fill us with his Spirit so that we can join Habakkuk in declaring:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.—Habakkuk 3:17-19

Wait for It

We don’t have to know when and how God will fulfill his promise of making all things new. We know he will.

Peter, encouraged believers facing unimaginable hardship and persecution to persevere in their faith. He called them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as they waited for God to fulfill his promise to make a new heaven and a new earth free from sin, pain, injustice, and sorrow. Those ancient words are also for us.

So, I will lean into my good God and entrust to his grace and mercy those who are hurting and suffering. I will confess that I have mistaken his patience with permission and allow his discipline to restore me to his path. I will bring my confusion, sorrow, and frustration to the cross and trust God to redeem it all in his way and in his timing.

Will you join me in waiting expectantly for God?

Something to Help You Wait Expectantly

If you’re in a difficult time of waiting to see God act, I highly recommend my friend Wayne Stiles’ book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing. Want a sample of the rich Scriptural wisdom you will find in the pages of his book? Download the summary sheet I made listing my favorite “takeaways” or principles presented in Wayne’s book. Just click the picture or button below to get your free copy of this summary sheet.

Waiting On God Principles

Yes! Send me the summary!

Your turn.... What helps you trust in God’s faithfulness when you face difficult circumstances or people? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What Happens When We Bring Our Brokenness to God

Grab your copy of the FREE Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthening Your Relationship with Christ!

When my youngest son, Justin, was about 5, we bought him an Indiana Jones action figure set. He loved it and played with it all the time. But, one day I noticed he hadn’t played with it in a while. In fact, he had tried to hide it.

When I asked him about it, he hemmed and hawed and made some lame excuse for not playing with it anymore.

I knew something had happened to it.

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I knelt down and looked in his sweet, chubby little face and said,

Justin, I love you, no matter what. And if something has happened to your toy, if you’ll bring it to me, I’ll help you fix it.”

He looked up at me with such relief and he ran and retrieved his little action figure out from under his bed.

He brought me Indiana Jones —like this:

Indiana Jones Story

Somehow Indy’s head had come off.

Justin knew what was wrong. He just couldn’t fix the problem himself.

But as soon as he was honest with me about his problem and brought it to me, I fixed it for him. And he was able to take his restored action figure and get back to using it for its intended purpose.

From Broken to Whole

That is exactly how it worked for me when I first came to Christ. I knew something was broken in me. I just wasn’t able to fix it no matter how hard I tried.

But God could and he wanted to. He wants to for everyone.

I didnt have to do anything except bring God my brokenness and trust that what he had already done on the cross was sufficient to redeem me and make me whole.

In that moment of initially getting real with God and accepting his grace, he gave me a new identity. I was now his child.

My new identity brought with it a new kind of security. Because I am his child he will never leave me or forsake me. Wow!

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, John describes this transformation  in verse 12:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God “— John 1:12 (NIV)

New Identity, New Security

Our identity as believers is that of God’s child, and our security is found in that relationship.

But it took time for that new identity and security to sink in, and for me to consistently live out of that new reality.

I had to grow in my understanding of him and his love for me. And as I grew in my relationship with God, I began to understand the implications of that relationship for all of the other relationships in my life.

Getting real with God, becoming his child, is just the beginning of the journey.

We have entered the gate and are secure in his sheepfold. (See John 10:1-18) But once we are in the gate, we are to follow our Good Shepherd, growing and maturing as we go.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus described these two aspects of a relationship with him:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Did you catch that, he calls us to not only come to him but to learn from him.

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, walking authentically with him and learning from him, we experience more and more the life he came to give us.

This new life as his disciple is a process, not something that we will master instantaneously.

If we are not nurturing our relationship with Jesus, we can quickly forget where our identity and security truly come from.

When we pull away from Jesus, we limit our ability to tap into our source for abundant living.

Our pulling away or ignoring him doesnt change the reality that we are God’s child, but it limits our experience of the abundant life he gives us.

Listen, we live in a corrupt, broken world, and it can take a toll on us.

  • It beats us over the head with messages that we are not good enough,
  • batters us with a never ending stream of trials and temptations, and
  • fills our calendars with so much busyness that it shoves us off track from spending time on the truly important things.

It isn’t enough to just go through the religious motions.

We must consistently bring that real self—the one that has been beaten, battered, and shoved off track—back into the presence of God and let him remind us of who we really are—his beloved child.

If we don’t go to God, we will end up going to the world and other people for our identity and security.

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  • bring your true self to him regularly, and
  • find the peace, purpose, and passion for life that Christ intends for you to have, then…

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Your turn...  What does it feel like when you bring your messy, broken self to God and let him put you back together and make you whole? What helps you do that? What makes it difficult? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How do we ALWAYS Love and Not End Up a Gullible, Complicit Doormat?

FREE "How to Love Like God" Cheat Sheet

I recently spoke at an event about how we can love God and one another at all times, even the hard times, if we love with God’s agape love. And that brought up the question: If love “always protects, always trusts, always, hopes, and always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7), then how can we love like that and not end up a doormat? That is a great question! So, let’s take a look at how we love like God and why his kind of love never fails! (1 Corinthians 1:13:8)

Love Always

By the Power of His Spirit

Apart from God we can do nothing. In our humanness, we will never be able to love like him. It is only when the Holy Spirit lives within us and we cooperate with him that we can love the way the apostle Paul describes godly love in 1 Corinthians 13. So, if you want to love more like God, lean into him, worship him, be aware of your need for his Spirit to empower you to love others as he loves.

1 Corinthians 13_4-8NIV

In this post we will focus on the final two verses of that description. However, if you’d like to dig deeper into the other aspects, I’ve made you a Cheat Sheet that breaks down each element and prompts you with some questions to ask yourself when you are faced with loving difficult people or in challenging circumstances. Click the button below and I’ll email the Cheat Sheet to you instantly!

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Keeping the context in mind, let’s look at that group of “always” characteristics of God’s love.

Always Protects

This phrase can be translated several different ways, each capturing a little of the original meaning.  Listen to some various translations and see what I mean:

“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes” —The Amplified Bible

“Love bears all things.”—NRSV and ESV

The literal translation is  “Love all things covers quietly ” (The Interlinear Bible).

Now at first glance that may sound like love covers up wrongdoing, but since Paul already clarified in the previous verse love “rejoices in the truth,” we know he isn’t saying love always covers up sin.  Rather, love protects the dignity of the wrongdoer while addressing the wrongs they have committed.

I heard a pastor tell of how a four-year old in his congregation described how you know someone loves you. He said, “Your name is safe in their mouth.” When you speak of someone who has wronged, disappointed, or irritated you, is their name safe in your mouth? If so, you are exercising agape love. If you catch yourself gossiping or sniping about them, stop! Confess to God your actions and your struggle to love them and pray for them. Ask God to help you love them as he loves them.

You can, and should, speak the truth in love to someone who is engaging in behavior that is self-destructive or harms others. To stay quiet or cover-up wrongdoing makes you complicit in the sin. Just be sure you allow the Holy Spirit to direct your words and actions so there is an appropriate balance of grace and truth and your motivation is really love for the person.

Always Trusts

Love always trusts, a word that can also be translated “has faith” or “believes.”  So you will see this phrase translated variously as:

“Love believes all things”—NRSV

“believes all things [looking for the best in each one]”—The Amplified Bible

never loses faith” —New Living Translation

Obviously Paul is not saying that agape believes anything or is gullible because we’ve already seen how important truth is in the exercise of agape.

I think it is more like, love believes that in God all things are possible.  There is no situation or person beyond the ability of God to bring about change, healing and wholeness.  We can trust in all situations that our sovereign God is able to accomplish His will and purposes.

When we’ve been harmed, God commands us to forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean we have to believe every promise made by an unreliable person. We, like God, can and should set appropriate limits as to what behavior we will accept and what we won’t. We need to have healthy boundaries that protect us from the choices and behavior of an unsafe person.

Forgiveness only requires our willingness to forgive the other person. Rebuilding trust in the relationship between us requires both parties to engage honestly and with love for each other. In other words, forgiveness takes one, restoration of a healthy relationship takes two!

When we speak of agape always trusting, we are saying we always trust in God’s ability  to work in the situation and people involved.

Always Hopes

In biblical language, hope is never about pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, it is a confident expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises and the truth of his Word.

So when we love like God loves, we live and relate with others expectantly. We anchor our hope, not in the circumstances, but in God’s ability to bring to pass that which is best for us and which accomplishes his purposes.

Always Perseveres

Are you noticing how interconnected these “always” characteristics are? Because love is anchored in who God is and a confidence in his Word, we are able to trust him to be at work in the people and circumstances that cause us such pain and frustration. We can keep on keeping on when human common sense tells us there is no point – just give up.

When our hope is in God’s ability, not human ability, we find strength and motivation to keep cooperating with him and letting his Holy Spirit direct us through the hard times.

Love Never Fails

So, beloved child of God, lean in to him and let him strengthen and equip you to persevere. Worship him, talk to him and listen when he speaks, study his Word, engage with other believers and let them encourage you and hold you accountable.

Loving as God loves is all about relationship, first and foremost with God, and from the overflow of that love we will be able to love others—even the most challenging and in the the most difficult circumstances.

Don’t forget your Cheat Sheet!

Learn more about this godly love. Grab the FREEBIE I made for you that covers all the characteristics of agape love discussed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Click that button below and let me know where you want me to email it to you. Then check your inbox for some tips and insights that will help you love the hard-to-love people and bear up under the challenging circumstances you face.

Love Like God

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How about you? What do you find most challenging about loving like God loves? What helps you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.