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Faith, fear, God's Will, Hardships and Trials, obedience, Uncategorized

Training for Our Heavenly Race

By Jessica Brodie

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

It was harder than I imagined. There I was on the side of the lake, face beet-red and lungs about to explode, not to mention sweat dripping off every inch of my frame. I’d convinced myself I could jog the length of the dam, only my body was far more accustomed to race-walking and circuit training than a nonstop pounding run.

“How do people do this?” I asked my sister breathlessly.

“You just have to train,” she replied. “Few people can just lace up and run a 5K out of nowhere. You have to build up, little by little.”

I followed her advice. Every day, I’d start by walking, then I’d run—first just a few minutes before shifting back to a fast walk, then increasing my run time. Soon I was doing far more running than walking. By the morning of the 5K, I’d trained enough. I completed the 3.10686 miles out of breath but victorious. I’d persevered! I’d run the race! And now I could celebrate.

In our earthly lives, we know perseverance—resolve, tenacity, determination—pays off, and not just when it comes to running. We persevere in studying hard for our final exams so we can achieve good grades. Through difficulties in our jobs so we can remain employed and advance our careers. Through troubles in our relationships, fighting for a healthy family.

And when it comes to our spiritual lives, perseverance is critical.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, #perseverance is critical. Click To Tweet

When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. But sometimes our faith is sorely tested. We face trials and temptations. We pray for health, only to receive a scary diagnosis. We hope for relief, only to experience the devastation of a hurricane. We love others well, and get rejected. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith.

Sometimes our #faith is sorely tested. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith. That’s when we need to hold fast and press on. #holdon #jesus Click To Tweet

But Scripture tells us to hold fast and press on. In the Book of Hebrews, the author reminds us that we are to model ourselves after Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of faith,” who ran the race with perseverance. “For the joy set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV).

Jesus encountered much difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes on God and did God’s will. He persevered because the future goodness outweighed the present suffering. He taught and healed, and He died for us so that we, too, may be saved for eternal life.

#Jesus encountered much #difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a #cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes… Click To Tweet

When we set our sights on God despite opposition, we will follow Jesus and be victorious in our trials. How do we do that? We train ourselves to pray, to focus on God’s Word the Bible, to follow Him, to put Him first, and to love others as we love ourselves.

When we set our sights on God despite #opposition, we will follow #Jesus and be #victorious in our trials. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the race gets hard. Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, when we keep our eyes on the prize (eternal life in heaven!), our perseverance will pay off.

Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our #faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, our #perseverance will pay off. #nevergiveup Click To Tweet

What is holding you down? What hardship seems too big to overcome? Little by little, lace up your sneakers by turning your heart toward God and make Him a priority. Build up your muscles and lungs by reading God’s Word. With Jesus, you will persevere and run the race.

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian author, journalist, editor, and writing coach with a faith blog, Shining the Light, at JessicaBrodie.com.

Relationships

How to Handle Disagreements in a Godly Manner — Guest Post, Kimi Miller

Picture of two women laughing and quote on conflict.Though most of us would likely wish to avoid this, we all experience conflict. When handled in a Christ-like manner, with equal parts love, truth, and grace, however, what initially feels like a fail can actually become a win. Our most difficult interactions and conversations can lead to growth, healing, and life-change. Click To Tweet

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Winning
By Kimi Miller

My anger was blazing, and I didn’t care who saw or heard. What mattered most was making sure the other person knew they were wrong and I was right. I’d rehearsed my response more than a dozen times–a few times in my head, and then alone out loud in my car just to be safe. No room for emotions; I intended to spew forth my words in a predetermined manuscript without a second thought. If I wanted to “win” the argument, I needed to be prepared.

That’s when I saw someone in the car next to me looking at me like I was crazy.

In that moment, I felt I might be.

As I sat there, trying to regain control, I felt more out of control than ever.

The move I was contemplating was straight out of Satan’s playbook:

Focus on self-defense.  Pick up the offense and tuck it under my arm and run straight at the other person–full force, and let them have it. All my anger, all my frustration, all my disappointment–don’t hold back! I was right, they were wrong, and all that matters is that they know it–that they feel it. Who cares how my words were communicated–in fact, the more I talked and the less I listened all the better. Winning was what matters.

But somehow, as I sat there in the intersection practicing yelling at the invisible offender in my car–with the guy next to me likely contemplating calling the cops-it didn’t feel like winning.

As much as I wanted the other person to experience every hurt they’d caused me, that choice no longer felt right. Each time I ran through my premeditated narrative, a warm, sick feeling arose in my gut. A physical reaction I’ve come to recognize as the Holy Spirit prompting me to stop and seek His wise counsel before I sin.

When I want to win by proving I’m right, I know something is out of alignment. Click To Tweet Because the truth is, I’m not right, and neither are you. When we seek our vengeance over God’s peace, no matter how convincing our argument might appear, if Christ isn’t in it, we lose.

This is why we must learn to retrain our thoughts. The world urges us to look out for self first. Contrarily,women holding hands and walking with paraphrased text of 1 Cor. 16:13-14 God’s Word challenges us to, “Do everything in love,” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NIV).

But how do you do that in the heat of an argument? How is it possible, as James writes, “to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry?” (James 1:5, NIV).

To invite love into our ugliest moments, we must make space for God. Click To Tweet

Step away from the conflict. Sometimes putting physical space between you and the offender is necessary to finding clarity and direction. Remember, it’s okay to be angry, but in our anger we must not sin. Sometimes distance prevents us from saying or doing things we cannot take back. Choose to step away from the argument by stepping into communion with God.

Once alone with Him, share your hurts and offenses with God. Express your thoughts to Him through prayer and/or journaling. Get it all out with God, putting everything on the table – casting your anxiety on Him because He cares for you, (1 Peter 5:7).

Next, trust God’s way over yours.

Set aside what you think is best and ask God for His best. What is He revealing to you about the condition of the hearts involved? Is there something the other person might be wrestling with that is influencing their behavior? What is it He wants to teach you through this struggle? Is there something missing in your own self-value or worth that’s driving a need to be right? To be heard? Why is “winning” so important?  And why does this hurt so much?

When you’ve surrendered your hardest hurts to God and experience His peace–when you no longer feel that warm sick feeling in your gut–ask the Lord to show you what to do next. Click To Tweet Do you need to forgive? Do you need to apologize? Are there still words to be spoken, or points to be understood? Take as much time as you need to work through these matters of the heart but resolve to move forward. Take your queue from His playbook: Respond in love.

I’m relieved to say I never had the opportunity to voice all the ugly things I’d wanted to throw at my offender. It wasn’t because I didn’t see them again, but because I’d talked it over with God and I no longer felt the need to say anything. I forgave them and release everything else to Jesus. God helped me choose peace over tension, joy over grief, and love over validation.

Following God felt like winning.

Let’s talk about this! What steps can you take today to seek God’s perspective and wisdom for a conflict you’ve experienced or are experiencing?

Inviting God into our arguments takes practice. What are some things you can do to help develop this discipline?

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to grab a copy of Drawing Near: 90-Day Devotional:

Cover image for Bible study devotionalEach day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

Buy it HERE.

We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Bible study, based on the life of Sara. You can find it HERE. You can watch the first week’s video HERE.

Get to know Kimi!

Kimi Miller lives in Papillion, Nebraska, with her husband and two teenage sons. She stays busy taking care of their home, their two high-strung cattle dogs, and working part-time as a secretary at the local police department. She is a United States Air Force veteran and former pastor of women’s ministry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication and a Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a concentration in theology. One of her many God-sized dreams is to organize a free city-wide women’s ministry event that spreads the love and hope only found in Jesus. Her laughter is contagious, as is her passion for the Word of God. You can read more about Kimi at her blog www.kimimiller.com.

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Hardships and Trials, Uncategorized

Trusting God When Rejected

All of us have been rejected at one time or another. The question is what do we do with that rejection–will it destroy us; will it weaken our faith or strengthen it? Let me share my story. With my out-going and strong personality, I was a big change for this country church who’d hired me as their first paid youth pastor.

As with marriage, most jobs and especially church positions have a “getting-to-know-you-stage” where everyone offers a lot of grace. My grace-period lingered well into the spring and early summer like the fragrance of the orange blossoms surrounding our close-knit community.

Soon I settled into a routine, and I began inviting kids from the neighborhood to join us at youth group. I also sought ways to meet the needs of a few families living within eyesight of the church. I thought this was “what all good youth pastors do,” but that wasn’t what they thought. Little did I know, my honeymoon was nearly over. Innocently, I had pulled the pins on a few grenades that would later explode, rupturing a hole in my tiny piece of paradise.

That first summer was difficult. The youth were very close to their previous volunteer youth director. She was a wonderful person but had a different style from mine. I reasoned, she was a lot more lenient than I could be because she knew them, and they knew her. That’s hard when others expect you to follow in someone else’s steps instead of creating your own. Then there was the boundary testing all children and youth apply to a new authority figure. I just need to give them time to develop a relationship with me, I determined, trying not to get too discouraged about the constant tug-of-war.

Quickly, I realized what I thought were simple tests were actually war games of military precision aimed at my elimination. I began receiving calls from parents questioning my rules and what they saw as favoritism. They wondered why I was correcting ‘their child’ when ‘those children,’ referring to the street kids I brought in, who needed so much more discipline.

Around this time, the unhappy teens formed an alternative group, exclusive and closely guarded, meeting the same time as the church youth program. How can this happen at a church? I wondered as my isolation grew.

Mayberry, it turned out, was a great place for those who belonged, but I was an outsider with outsider ideas. For months the battles continued as I struggled to do what God sent me there to do—serve the youth and children of this community. Then, just when I thought the situation couldn’t get worse, Sunday mornings ushered in a new slight. This growing group of warrior teens refused to walk on the same sidewalk as I did or sit on the same side of the sanctuary.

Within sixteen months, my dream job had turned into a nightmare. Every day I went into my office at the church, sat at my desk, and cried. The rejection was intense, the abandonment real. Where was God? Why was He allowing this to happen to me?

Perhaps you’ve asked those same questions. As I sought answers in my Bible, it became clear that almost everyone in Scripture experienced rejection and asked God why. Jesus promised that “If you are of the world, the world will love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world will hate you” (John 15:19 ESV).

Years after this church mess, I was still struggling with pain from what I’d endured and I shared my story with an elder in my church. When I asked the rhetorical question of why God would allow this to happen to me, my wise counselor asked, “Why not you?”

I was stunned. He went on to point out that Jesus—God in the flesh—was “troubled in His spirit” as he foretold of Judas (John 13:21). Think about it. He had just washed the guy’s feet a few verses earlier, symbolizing the laying down of His life for him. Then Peter, who professed his love and commitment to Jesus more ardently than any other, rejected even an association with Him in a matter of hours. Sudden, total, heartbreaking rejection. So what made me think I would be spared? I had to admit, that was a fair question.

Then my wise counselor took me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 in which Paul says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” Why? Because our Lord knows what rejection feels like. Jesus willingly put Himself in a place where His Father in Heaven “turned His face away” as He took our sin and hung on the cross. Why? Because he wanted to redeem us from eternal rejection.

Rejection is still difficult to handle, but now I know that while I’m suffering, I have Jesus who understands walking through it with me. He feels my pain, and he cradles my broken spirit. And I trust I will not be crushed, I may be struck down, but I will not be destroyed, and the same power that rose Christ from the dead is alive in me. I will be lifted up, and I am forever redeemed from eternal rejection because of God’s deep love and acceptance of me.

If you are feeling rejected, write out 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 and add your name into the verse like this: I _____ am hard pressed on every side, but ______ is not crushed; ______ is perplexed, but ______ is not in despair; ______ is persecuted, but _______ is not abandoned; _______ is struck down, but ______ is not destroyed.”

I challenge you the next time you ask the ‘Why’ question, dare to ask ‘Why not’ in return and allow God to heal your heart as He shows you how He will use your suffering for His glory.

Identity in Christ, Video Devotion

You Matter: Believing What God Says About You — Video Devotion

Worthless. Insignificant. Unimportant. Useless.

Has someone spoken those words over you? Have you spoken them over yourself? I know I have. Either way, they’re ugly words that can leave us feeling powerless-lies Satan is desperate for us to believe because they cripple our progress toward God.

But, with Scripture as our weapon, we have far more power than we realize.

Our Heavenly Father has never created anything worthless. We barely have to crack open the Bible to find proof that everything God made is intentional, unique and filled with purpose. Psalms 139:13 says: “For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” In fact, the Bible is teeming with statements about our value and worth in Christ. (I think God knew we were going to need constant reminders.)

While Scripture confirms that we aren’t worthless, the world determines our value by different standards. Let’s face it, we tend to judge ourselves by those same earthly standards! So, if we don’t stay close to God’s Word, where the truth is laid out for us, we can easily be burdened and wounded by earthly opinions, insults and lies.

I hold tight–no, I cling–to what God says about me in the Bible not only because it’s the truth, but because it’s there I find the power and strength to reject what the world says about me. Scripture is my ammunition against the lie that I don’t matter.

I relentlessly read these truths, speak them over myself, and write them down until they take root deep within me so I can wear them daily as my armor.

Isaiah 49 tells us that God has engraved us on the palms of His hands. Engraving is permanent, and it’s not easy or quick. In fact, it’s a task that is only completed if it’s worth it. I’m worth it, my friend, and so are you.

So, the next time you start to get sucked down by what the world says about you, open your Bible and immerse yourself in what God says about you, as you learn to live Wholly Loved.

Relationships

The Ultimate Key to Conflict Resolution

quote image from post

The Ultimate Conflict Resolution

Guest post by Amanda Temoshek

I’m not an expert at resolving conflict, but I often find myself in the middle of it. One night, I couldn’t sleep. My daughter was struggling with a friend, and I found my sweet girl sitting on the stairs, crying before bed. It wasn’t my fight, but I was still angry and hurt. After tucking her in, I stayed up, ruminating on what she’d told me. Should I talk to the other girl’s mom? Had I told my daughter to handle the situation correctly? I wanted to fix everything, but I couldn’t. Hours later, I finally prayed. Peace filled the space once occupied by worry, and I fell asleep. 

So what’s the key to handling bad situations well?

Seven years ago, my marriage was on the brink of failure. And this wouldn’t be my first failed marriage. My relationships – marital and otherwise – seemed so often to hit a wall of strife that I had a tough time getting through. I’ve walked away from good relationships because I didn’t know how to deal with small disputes and I’ve stayed in unhealthy situations because I was scared to confront the problem. 

The problems in my marriage were more than I could handle, but I didn’t know where to turn. I grew up in a Christian home, went to church, and participated in Bible studies. I believed in God and Jesus. I prayed before meals and when times were tough. I sporadically read the Bible. But still, I struggled. The fruit of the Spirit seemed out of reach. It was impossible to have joy when my second marriage was on the rocks. How could I have peace when I had two young children, an extremely high-pressure job, and a marriage that seemed beyond repair?

It wasn’t until I attended an Al-Anon meeting and heard “The Twelve Steps” that I finally got it. Following God was the only way to restore my sanity and relationships. I needed to turn my will and life over to him. I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day. If I was going to deal with my husband in a way that was loving, patient, and respectful, I needed Jesus. There was no way I could do it on my own, and no amount of self-help books would help me in the middle of a heated discussion. Only Jesus could preserve our marriage.

I didn’t just need Jesus for Heaven. I needed Him every single day.

The Bible became my best resource.

I committed to reading the Bible each day for a year. That daily time with Jesus was changing me. Even though I was walking through the most challenging experience I’d ever faced, I was growing. God was slowly transforming me. In a disagreement with my husband, I stayed calm. I had more patience when my kids were driving me crazy. I felt peace. Jesus was my source of conflict-resolution as He renewed my heart. 

I learned that the opposite of conflict is peace. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I can and should turn to Jesus in the middle of battles, but real maturity comes as I invest daily in a relationship with Him. He’s transforming my heart as I read truth and reflect on His love and wisdom. 

Christians 2,000 years ago faced the same choice we do of whether to lead our own lives or submit to the will of God.

The apostle Paul, an early church leader, advised believers to surrender every aspect of our lives to God saying, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16 ESV)

As I studied, I learned about how people in the Bible dealt with conflict. Paul, who had poured himself into ministering to the early church, was often rejected and mistreated, but still, he taught the church with compassion, truth, and grace. I learned about Abigail in the book of 1 Samuel, whose husband was mean and selfish, but she chose her words wisely and stayed calm under pressure. In the Gospels, I read about how Jesus submitted to His Father, was honest and bold when confronted, and forgave and loved those who persecuted Him. Conflict is inevitable, but with God’s wisdom we can endure well.

This situation my daughter is facing is out of my control, just like many of the issues I faced in early marriage, but I know God is in control. I’ve seen Him heal damaged relationships, change hearts from angry to compassionate, and work hard situations for His glory and our good. If we ask, He will give us wisdom on how to communicate with someone who has hurt us. As we spend time with Him, we’ll become more like the Prince of Peace during the battles of life.

How’s God asking you to trust Him with your relationships? Pray this week and rest knowing He’s fighting your hardest battles. Join the conversation on Facebook or find more encouragement through our 30 day Emotional Health FREE devotional on YouVersion Bible App. And make sure to grab our FREE Bible study as well. You can find it HERE.

Get to Know Amanda

Amanda's headshotAmanda Temoshek is a mom, wife, and consultant. She grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until 2012 during a crisis in her personal life, that she discovered the life-transforming power of committing to daily time with Jesus. She encourages others to never settle for anything less than investing every day in their walk with Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him. She blogs about what God is teaching her at BecomingMary.com as she learns to sit at the feet of Jesus.