I Wander as I Wander

I don't know what it is about that sweet disciple, Peter, that causes me to identify with Him so much.

Maybe it is the undying faith in his Savior. Or better yet, it's the stubborn pride that actually might be underlying fear that causes him to deny his Lord.

We are alike, Peter and I. "Prone to wander, God I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." I have a picture in my home that states the old famous thought, "Bind my wandering heart to thee".

The wandering for me does not really come so much in the external. It's this internal wandering away. Where I dwell or overthink a situation so much that my eyes are no longer on my Father. They are fixed on the situation and all the potential obstacles, challenges, and more that can come with it.

I will forever be battling my mind.

What about you?

We can be quite exemplary in our following of Christ on the external. The ever faithful servant, the kindhearted neighbor, and the dutiful reader of God's Word. And, yet, internally we stray. Our thought life and heart can be far from the God we worship. And when this might occur, we become discouraged, distrusting, and even dismayed over the challenges of this life.

Much like Peter who sees Christ, His friend and teacher.  Christ Jesus calls for him to boldly come near, to step out into the water. Peter so faithfully following Jesus shouts, yes! If it's you, Lord! Of course, I will come.

As soon as he steps out, though, he starts getting distracted. His steps of obedience were in the right direction. His willingness was to be applauded. Nonetheless, his mind and heart began to wander and so did his eyes. He faltered, he became afraid and then stumbled.

It's not so much that we will never be afraid. In fact, in this life with all of the challenges that storm through, we will know fear. Rather we must realize it is not enough for us to put on faithfulness wearing it like badge of honor. It's not enough to take the steps of obedience if our heart and mind doesn't follow. Because, inevitably, we will become distracted and take our eyes off of our Father-putting them on the world around us. And, that will be enough to cause us to stumble. Or, at the very least, wander away from communion with Him.

Are you fully engaged in the Savior? Or has your journey found itself making the hard steps of faithful obedience, and yet internally the rest of you wanders?

I get it. In fact, through this season of church planting and new leadership roles, there have been many times I have gotten my eyes off of Jesus Christ. My eyes and mind become fixated on the challenges that are ever before me, and it causes the fear to swell. In my feelings of being overwhelmed, my heart will turn away. But, God faithfully and gently says, come near. Eyes on me. Don't look anywhere but me. Walk in faith, but walk in boldness and courage.

My dear pastoral mentor and counselor has encouraged me more than once to remember that one of the beautiful qualities of God the Father is nurturer. In the midst of challenges, He longs to simply nurture and care for us - not measure us against a self induced standard. With this in mind, we should be drawn to Him not away from Him.

Here is my point. Many times we walk, but we walk in fear and uncertainty. We are willing to continue to move forward in faith or face the challenge He brings our way - but what is our posture? Is it a posture of confidence and wholehearted trust?

In our faithful following of Christ, we must also follow wholeheartedly. When there is pain and unknown, we must boldly embrace it and come. When the fear threatens to stop us in our tracks, we must call on the name of our God who is mighty to save and bring peace. When the anger of not enough starts to undo us and we long to turn back-we must take rest in the arms of a God who is so big and gracious - He can hold us in our anger.

It's not enough to follow Christ, and yet shield our heart from being fully engaged. It's won't be enough to boldly step out of the boat or into the storm if we are not continually wholeheartedly fixed on our Savior.

This is wholehearted obedience, soul and spirit. All of our mind fixed on Him. Not just pretentious steps of obedience, but everything all in.

When we are all in, we can jump out of the boat into the storm and waves, walk on the water fully surrendered no matter what occur around us.

We must reflect and ask ourselves, in what ways am I withholding my heart, soul, and mind from being fully engaged and fixed on God before me?

There's an old song that comes to mind, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this world will go strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." The storm ceases to distract, the pain becomes worth it, and a stillness of trust causes us to just...breath...and rest.

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By: Christan Causey

Embracing the Hallmark Holiday

Let's just be okay with who we are, and where God has us. The good, the bad, and the imperfect. My dad died first (I was 24yrs old at the time) and I used to hate Father's Day. I felt bitter towards Hallmark and the church that forced us to celebrate it. My poor husband, even when he became a father, did not receive the celebration he deserved. I would soon rather forget it.

Then my mom died (I was 28 yrs old at the time). I was already a mother at the time, yet even in the celebration of my own motherhood on Mother's Day, came the painful reminders of my lack.

I am very sensitive and empathetic to those that do not have a mother to celebrate, or to those that have lost children, or to those that are barren on this Hallmark holiday. Mother's Day tends to cause even the most peaceful to fight a raging storm of pain.

Really, though, when you have experienced some sort of loss - all "special occasions" are like that. They bring bittersweet memories or remind you of the memories you lack and others have. If this is the case, are we to rage war against all special occasions and holidays? Pull them off our calendars, turn our heads, and let others celebrate the madness.

A little while ago in my life, I would have been tempted to shout a resounding, "yes"! As someone in full time ministry, I felt strongly the church should not recognize Mother's and Father's Day, because it isolated those who could not participate or celebrate for one reason or another. I have downplayed every special occasion (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baby dedications, special celebrations and ceremonies) to the point of not truly celebrating them, isolating myself from those who did or would desire to celebrate with me.

I did this as recent as this last month when we had Havyn's baby dedication and Paxton's birthday. But as God has begun to restore and heal, I realize that this is not the way it should be. Whether it is the celebration of life or it's a culture induced holiday - if I have something to celebrate, I should celebrate. It doesn't mean the painful memories flee. It doesn't mean that I won't cringe when I sit here currently getting a pedicure, and I see an adult mother and daughter sharing conversation and laughter. I do cringe. I breathe deeply for a moment, and remember my own sweet mother. Asking myself what it would have been like to celebrate her this year on Mother's Day.

But here's the thing, I refuse to run from this Hallmark holiday, because really in running from the holiday, I am only running from the pain that the holiday creates. And after a year of focused healing and renewal, I have learned it is best for me to embrace the pain. For in the embracing of the pain, joy and deep faith is found. Please understand, I don't want the pain and I would certainly run from the sadness - I have - yet I know better now. To accept the pain and to feel the loss that has occurred is the first step to healing and joy.

And the pain is something that will occur on these special occasions like Mother's Day. But I have made a choice to celebrate who I am, and celebrate what I have. And in celebrating what I have, I am mourning what I don't have. And...there is peace and joy there. In essence, refusing to acknowledge or celebrate holidays is no longer something I do. Because, I feel, in doing so I will miss the joy and blessings I receive when recognizing and celebrating through pain.

Living in this place of peace and joy despite the pain of my loss is the sweet result of grace. Precious grace. That in my weakness, by His grace, I am made strong. Strong even in the midst of difficult days of celebration. I am truly learning the heart of this passage in 1 Corinthians 6:10

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

So, I celebrate all Mothers today. For none of us would exist, if it were not for a mom. Whether they were good or bad moms, we must be thankful for the choice our moms made to give us life. They gave us the chance to choose faith, life, joy, and more.

I celebrate the ladies in my life who are like moms to me. Showing me your care, concern, support, and love on a regular basis. You know who you are.

I celebrate my grandma in heaven who was my closest friend as a child.

I celebrate my grandma who is still with me. She has been a gift in the loss of my parents. She has persevered in many life and health struggles. She is a champion of faith. And her trust in God is unwavering.

I celebrate my mother-in-law who is caring, loving, and supportive of me and my family. Who regularly shows love and care to her grandchildren. Being a wonderful MiMi to them.

I celebrate the imperfectness of my own motherhood to my three beautiful children. I thank God for His grace. Grace given each day to guide, love, and care for them. Grace given to accept who I am, and realize that I am imperfect - but I love my children and would give my life for them. And, that my friends, is something beautiful with which my God can work.

I celebrate my own precious mom, who is no longer here. A mom who in her own imperfectness, left a beautiful legacy and handprint on my life. Mom- I wish you were here to celebrate with. I wish I could squeeze you and say, "I love you". And I so wish you could see your two new beautiful grandchildren. And you could see how smart, handsome, and big your chunky monkey is getting. It hurts. But I celebrate you today!

Happy Mother's Day, friends. I pray you find joy and celebration, even in the midst of possible sadness.

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By: Christan Causey

The Lack on Mother's Day

We live in a culture that is, often times, in direct opposition to God's way and God's Word. It is a culture and world that is focused on all the wrong things. Finding happiness and contentment in fleeting earthly pleasures rather than things eternal. It's our nature really. This flesh. Paul said it best when he said we know better, yet we still want the wrong things, long for the wrong things, and do the wrong things.

And, here's thing, God wants us to enjoy life. He desires that we should receive His good gifts with grateful hearts, soaking in the pleasure that comes from them. His Word says that He desires to give good gifts to His children. He desires that we live full lives.

Yet, He also desires for us to live life in surrender to Him. He desires that we understand that an abundant joy-filled life does not come from having an easy, put together, all the right things kind of life.

Rather, it is a heart that says, I understand I am most blessed when I am broken before God. I am most blessed when I mourn and grieve over the sin that fills my heart, and - through grace- strive to live in a way that honors Him. I am most happy and content when I humble myself and my position - when I serve and give generously to others around me. Blessed am I when "my hope is found in nothing else, but Jesus Christ".

These Hallmark holidays like Mother's Day and others challenge this in so many ways. Is there anything that so perfectly speaks to this beast inside of us? The beast that says to be happy, to celebrate, to fit in - I must be like you and you must be like me. And may nothing ostracize us from the other.

Mother's Day, while having a good purpose, can create pain for many. As much as it is, for many, a reminder of the joy and graciousness of God in our lives - it is, for many, a reminder of loss, sorrow, and even shame. And, for many (like myself) it is a reminder of deep pain, yet great joy. A reminder of loss, yet God's miraculous redemption and restoration. Which is wonderful. But overall, for me, it is bittersweet. It's hard to feel these deep varying emotions.

I am simply saying we just need to be aware, be sensitive.

We need to give care and understanding.

With good intentions-our church's are the worst. We should know better. We expect the schools, the stores, and Hollywood to fall prey to this obsession of a cultural holiday that celebrates only what you have-and forces the mourning of what you do not. It saddens me that we could possibly cause pain in our church services, because we insist on celebrating and recognizing a holiday that has nothing to do with the core of the Gospel. Sure, Christ said to honor your parents. And we should-each day-respect, love, and honor our parents. But that really doesn't have much to do with our corporate worship. Recognizing the moms in our congregation is not really necessary to our worship to God on Sunday morning. It's just a thing we do. And if this thing that we just do out of tradition and sentimentality could potentially hurt or cause pain - I am not sure it is worth it. Please understand I say this - not out of judgement - just out of an awareness of my own experiences and the awareness of the raw emotional pain of many dear friends and family. If your church, as mine did, recognized Mother's Day...there is no need to be ashamed or to criticize. I am sure for most, as mine was, it was done with grace and sensitivity. At least I hope so. These are just some things to reflect on.

Are we feeding the cultural lie that we must have to not lack?

How many of us fight envy and bitterness, because we do not have what everyone is saying we should have on this special day? How many of us feel a little less than simply because we cannot celebrate with joy a day like Mother's Day?

How many of us have learned not to have any expectations on a day like today-lest we be disappointed and hurt again?

How many of us are tempted to stay home, to downplay any celebrations because what is missing is too noticeable and too big to face?

Peter Scazzero (author of "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality") suggests that we often create illusions and pretense that blind us to the limits of earthly pleasures. And, that's what it really comes down to doesn't it?

On a day like Mother's Day, we forget the limits of earthly pleasures, and fall prey to the illusion that we are or our lives are less than if we only have reason to grieve rather than celebrate. That somehow we are less fortunate, less blessed, and just less.

If you have reason to celebrate, then by all means, celebrate the gifts you have. Embrace it fully. Let it soak in. But, please, remember that our true joy and contentment-our unwavering hope is found in Christ alone. And that has nothing to do with Mother's Day.

If on Mother's Day, you have reason to grieve - if it is bittersweet because of the loss that the day represents - than know that God sees you, He knows you, and is with you in your pain. He longs for you to know His hope and joy. He wraps arms of comfort around you. For in our deepest sense of loss and pain, true healing is found. And no matter what this day or any other day brings, we are more than blessed by the blood and grace that covers all lack.

God, remind us always - in your grace - that true contentment, hope, celebration, joy, and more is found in you alone.

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By: Christan Causey

Now What?

Beautiful Easter has come and gone. The Resurrection Sunday celebration is now a memory. There are a few lingering pieces of chocolate in the candy dish in my kitchen, but I’m sure they won’t be there much longer! And then what? Is that all? A special service or two, flowers galore, ham and sweet potatoes, beautifully colored eggs, and chocolate? Well, now what? Is Easter more than that? Does it have an effect for more than just one Sunday out of the year? I do hope it means more than all of that to you, and that you carry its hope with you in many areas of your life.

Jesus came to give you abundant life (John 10:10). “Abundant” means beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation, over and above, or more than is necessary. Here are three arenas where we can experience this more-than-enough life.

Mining for Treasure

How’s your time in the Word of God? Does it seem dry, dull, and boring, or do you frequently find new nuggets of wisdom and application? The first step is to go back and look at your expectations. What are you anticipating when you open your Bible? Do you ask God for fresh insight for where you are right now, or do you just kind of hope something jumps out at you?

Revelation 19:11-13 describes John’s vision of Jesus:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God (NLT).

Whoa! Jesus Himself is the Word of God! Hebrews 4:12 also tells us, “For the Word of God is alive and powerful” (NLT). If your Bible time seems a bit on the dead side, the problem isn’t with what you’re reading, my friend! Ask God to resurrect your love for His Word, and then expect new life to abound in your interaction with it.

Moving Mountains

What about your prayer life? Do you expect answers from God with a faith that can move mountains, or are your prayers just rote requests hoping that perhaps God might hear you? Perhaps it’s time to remember what God has said.

  • He hears youThen if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT).
  • He is able “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NLT), and “I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me” (Jeremiah 32:27)?  Jesus said, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23 NLT).

Are you struggling with trusting Him? Ask Jesus to resurrect your faith, and to make it more abundant than ever.  Ask like the father in Mark 9, who said, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NLT)

Joyful Jewels

Jesus wants you to have joy! “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11 NLT) Overflowing joy sounds like an abundance to me!

Is your joy lacking? I’m sure you’ve guessed it…you can ask Jesus to resurrect that, too! Psalm 51:12 says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (NLT). Growing in your relationship with God will produce joy as a natural by-product. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Galatians 5:22 NLT).

When joy is growing in your heart and life, you begin to see many blessings around you that you weren’t even aware of before! Those jewels of joy come in many shapes and sizes, and can often be quite surprising. Let His joy overtake you, and be amazed at what you discover!

Finding treasures in the Word of God, praying with bold faith, and discovering jewels of joy are only three of many areas that Jesus can breathe new life into. Ask Him for His resurrection power in every arena of your life...He came for you to live abundantly!

 Written by: Lauri Hawley

Written by: Lauri Hawley

Our Christian Paradox

Paradox. Something that seems contradictory but includes a latent truth.

“I can resist anything but temptation!” said Oscar Wilde. A literary paradox.

“Start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and then end with something so complex that no one will believe it.”  A philosophical paradox. 

“They must go to war to make peace.”  A historical paradox.

But surely the greatest of all paradoxes is the Cross!  The clearest picture of hate is also the greatest picture of love.  

Death for Life.  HIS death for MY life.        

Amazing love, how can it be … that YOU, my King, would die for me?      

Born and raised a Hindu Brahmin, the idea of incarnation did not particularly captivate me.  The Hindu deity Krishna is said to be an incarnation.  God becoming human to vanquish evil? Again, Hindu mythology is replete with story after story of the godhead – as man – triumphing over the enemy.  But God – THE One True God – incarnating as Man just so He could become the enemy?  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Jesus who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!

A God who willingly and obediently and humbly sacrificed Himself in the most horrific and gruesome way possible – all on my behalf.  MY behalf? Why? Because the enemy that had to be conquered was sin – mine and yours!  He could have effortlessly destroyed the enemy – He is God, after all.  But the enemy was me.  And so instead of destroying me, He delivered me.  He took my place – and yours.  His death for our lives. It doesn’t make sense!  But wait, there’s more.

It's Sunday.  Resurrection Sunday. The Day that Death Died – Hallelujah! For unlike all the other incarnations I knew growing up, this is not only a God who died for us, but this is also the only God who has defeated death! His death for my life.  But now His Life … for my death.  My death to self.  His Resurrection gives me – and you - new life so we too can declare with Paul (Galatians 2:20): “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Wait, what? How can it be? A spiritual paradox.  It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? But that doesn’t make it any less true. 

The King who was a servant. 

The Cross which satisfied the Wrath of God and the Love of God.

The death that brought life to us, and now our death for His life through us.

The surrender so we can live victorious.

Our Christian paradox.

Nailed to the Cross

Somber reflection, a solitude of sacredness is necessary - imperative in this Holy Week. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He became a man that would feel and suffer pain in the same way you and I suffer. Imagine the most horrific, soul breaking pain. This is the pain that held Him to a cross he chose to bear.

He died a gruesome death for my every moment - for your every moment. Each moment of this day that I have failed, that I have stumbled. And for those victorious moments where I joyfully overcome. He died that more and more of my moments would become victorious.

When we surrender our life to Christ, we are no longer slaves, we are children of God (Gal. 4:7). We are no longer bound to sin and destruction, we have freedom. We have been ransomed by a gracious and merciful Father.

The mercy of God is unrestrained. He delights in showing, giving, and pouring mercy over us.

Through the cross of Jesus Christ, God planned a way of escape - a path to freedom. My sin, my fears, my anxious thoughts do not have a stronghold on me.

Everything I choose to surrender and give will be nailed to the cross. It can be left there to be covered by His blood that flowed out.

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, Phil. 3:10.

Do I want to know Christ? Deeply and completely know the Savior who gave his life for me? And if I desire to know Christ will I be willing to become like him in his death, suffering and dying to my own will. Would I become like Him in His death and pray always in every situation, in every joy, and in every sorrow - “not my will, but yours be done”? Is this truly the desire of my soul?

We often offer ourselves in pieces - giving him this, but not offering that. We desire the grace and the mercy, but not the draw to repentance. We desire the joy, yet not the sorrow that will lead us to joy. We desire deliverance rather than redemption. We seek good gifts rather than unwavering contentment.

Yet, you see, God offers Himself to us wholly and completely. And He desires that we offer ourselves wholly and completely. Even if all that we have is broken and shattered pieces - if we offer ALL of them - through the power of the blood stained cross He takes them and makes them whole.

It’s one simple, yet incomprehensibly difficult statement - always, every moment - “not my will, but yours be done”. As I surrender each part of my will, as I place each broken piece on the cross - life and freedom begins to flow. He delights in our surrender.

Oh, what love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God, because that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

He lifts my bowed head, he takes my clenched hands and loosens them, he gently and tenderly takes the arms folded tightly and spreads them wide. He pulls me out of the valley of dark and places me in a field of light. This is Christ in me. He sets me free.

Try it…pull a piece of paper out, draw a cross, and begin to write…what do you need leave at the cross this Easter season?

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Glorious Suffering

Are you suffering? Is it causing you to doubt the love and faithfulness of God? Do you feel that your suffering is punishment for your guilt, and you’ve got to somehow make it right so you can escape? Don’t give in to that thinking (unless of course you’re paying the consequences of poor choices)!

I have heard it preached and proclaimed that those who are in the perfect will of God are immune from suffering, and the material blessing on their lives is proof of God’s favor. On the flip side, if someone is going through trials and hardships, they must not be living in the will of God, and need to repent and get right before they can again experience the favor of God! This message doesn’t align with what I see in Scripture.

For a great example of this, we can look at something Jesus prayed shortly before He was betrayed:

“’Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Mark 14:36 NLT).

Jesus knew He would soon have to endure horrible suffering, and He was not exactly thrilled about it! Although He prayed to be released from the trials to come, He was submitted to his Father’s will. That evening Jesus was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused, slapped and punched. The next day He was flogged, mocked, and nailed to the cross. He carried the sin of the world, and felt abandoned by his Father. Then, He died.

Are we willing to suffer in the will of God? Those of us who call ourselves Christians, or Christ followers, should not be so quick to try to wriggle our way out of suffering. Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than the master” (John 15:20 NLT). We cannot expect an easier road than our Master had to walk. There are times when living in the will of God is not a field of daisies and tulips! Living submitted to God brings times of sorrow and heartache. But in the midst of the hardship, we know that “joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). We know that there is a joy set before us to help us endure the suffering.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NLT).

Not only is there joy ahead of us on the other side of our heartache and pain, but suffering itself is actually advantageous! No, I’m not encouraging you to start beating yourself or to go seeking out trials and tribulations. Don’t worry, if you’re not in a rough season right now, your time will come! But when it does, I want you to have the right mindset.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT)!

Don’t shortchange yourself and miss out on the benefits to come! Endure suffering as Christ did, and reap the rewards of endurance, strong character, confident hope, and eternal glory. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and run your race well!

Never Again

There are many rhythms to life that over time just seem normal. From an early age we come to expect them to remain the same. The days and seasons go through their cycles, and so do we. We get up in the morning, spend our day in the usual way, and go to bed.

Day and night, repeat (hopefully you get at least one meal each day).

Sunday through Saturday, repeat (I hope you bathe at least once in there somewhere!).

January through December, repeat (if you’re really lucky, you may get a vacation at some point throughout the year).

Spring, summer, fall and winter, repeat.

We brush our teeth, and have to repeat. We clean our home and have to repeat. We pay the bills and repeat. In all of the repetition, we can become comfortable. We know what to expect; we know on a certain level what’s coming. The cycles are familiar and safe. We lose sight of the amazing, and it becomes ordinary.

There are moments that break the patterns: the death of someone we love, losing a job, serious injury or illness for ourselves or a close family member who needs our care, moving our home, losing close friends…

But even following these stress-filled crises, there comes a new normal. Days, weeks, months and years continue repeating as they did before. We find ourselves again becoming familiar with the cycles, even though things may never again be the way they were before.

The Jewish priests of old had a pattern that they followed daily. Hebrews 10:11 tells us, “Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins” (NLT). But God had a defining moment planned from the beginning of time to change that! When Jesus died on the cross, the need for daily sacrifices ended. He was the ultimate sacrifice, perfect and without blemish.

“But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12-14 NLT).

Aren’t you glad the cycle of daily animal sacrifices was broken? I cannot even imagine the sights and sounds we no longer have to experience in order to be right with God. Today, thank Him for His sacrifice that opens the way for you to boldly enter the throne room of heaven. You can be at peace with God in spite of all of your shortcomings, and live a new “normal” kind of life in the knowledge that you are beloved and accepted by Him.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:23-25 NLT).

Easter is coming soon, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But without his death, there could be no resurrection! This Easter, don’t be lulled into complacency by the familiar. Be amazed again at His infinite love and compassion, and spend time thanking Him for the once-for-all sacrifice He made for you. The cycle has been broken, praise God!

The Pain of Unforgiveness

Forgiveness is an amazing gift that we have because of the death of Jesus Christ, and we are commanded to forgive others just as He has forgiven us. Usually, that is an easy thing to do. Most of the infractions that we deal with are not life altering. But what happens when we have that life-altering moment, and we are unwilling to let go? Have you ever thought about what happens when we are not willing to forgive?

At the age of eight, I was a victim of molestation; I held tightly to the pain, hurt and shame of this incident until the day came at thirty-six years old when I told Jesus, “I just can’t live this way any longer. What do I do?”

The anger and bitterness I felt affected every aspect of my life; what I thought of myself, what I believed others thought of me, my early years of marriage and my role as a mom. Little did I know that my unwillingness to forgive and let go was the cause of my continued years of torment. Although I had committed my life to Christ at twenty, I had never truly accepted His offer of forgiveness.

God does not insist that we forgive for the sake of the perpetrator, but for the sake of peace in our own lives. Once we make that choice, He gives us supernatural ability to forgive. There cannot be true forgiveness without first receiving grace. We cannot give forgiveness until we have been forgiven. But once we have made the conscious choice to forgive, we are free of the hold that unforgiveness has on us.

Unforgiveness will keep us in a stagnant place; we will not grow in our faith. Where unforgiveness exists there is no room for the Holy Spirit to dwell. But, when the Holy Spirit has been given room to move, amazing things can happen. If we allow Him to, He will make us whole. He will heal the wounds. He will take away the pain caused by another and over time – if you allow Him to – He will fill your heart with love for the person that wronged you! You may never forget, but over time there will be less pain. One day there will only be a scar where once there was an open wound. Forgiveness allows us to let go.

Why do some “get it” and some don’t? I believe we need to embrace “surrender” and choose to believe and trust. Not until we are willing to consciously do these things in spite of how we feel, will we get it and find peace.

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18

I love these words from Beth Moore:

“I believe Christ still grieves when He sees hearts in unnecessary turmoil. You can have the peace of Christ, believer, no matter what your circumstances; but you must believe, bend the knee, and learn how to receive. … bending the knee is ultimately a matter of pure obedience. You may never feel like giving your circumstance, hurt or loss to Him; but you can choose to submit to His authority out of belief and obedience rather than emotion. Obedience is the mark of authentic surrender to God’s authority in any matter.” Breaking Free, Beth Moore

It’s a choice, based on truth – not emotion.

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

 Written by: Paulette Toews

Written by: Paulette Toews

Grin and Bear it Kind of Love

A "grinning and bearing it kind of love". You know what I mean, right? The kind where you with fists clenched and gritted teeth, recite over and over - "I think I can, I think I can" as you will yourself to love those that have offended you. Ever ask yourself, "how do I find love for this person"? Have you ever known a person that was a thorn in the flesh, grated on your nerves, or someone who hurt you deeply?

When I was regularly seeing my counselor, I had some specific occasions where I had experienced what I felt was a major offense by someone in my life. I would be all worked up, but excited about my counseling appointment. She was the one person that I could "righteously" vent to about any one person in my world. The first few times it occurred, I was just sure she was going to help me feel better. I could vent, and she could be shocked with all that they had done. I knew she would be the one to assuage my feelings of hurt and offense, because she would tell me how right I was to feel the way I did and how best to confront them. Well, those first few times were met with a slap in the face. She did nothing that I expected. She put it back on me. Every. Single. Time.

I learned about expectations, needs, and longings and asked who is filling them. She asked hard questions, she pointed me to His Word. Slowly but surely after many, many times of complaining about offense from others, I began to see things differently.

What is one thing that is at the root of many conflicts? If we were to dig deep, which is always necessary when feeling offense or facing conflict, we would find that one consistent issue is that the person on the other end of the offense failed to meet our expectations. We often have unrealistic, unspoken, and unfair expectations for those around us. And, many times, we can have appropriate expectations of a person and they still fail them simply because...they are human. Either way failed expectations hurt. Always.

If we are following Christ, most of us long to know Christ more. We desire to walk with Him. We long to live in the Spirit, to set our minds on the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5)

Here is what I have learned. When I take my mind off my Savior, I begin to gratify the desires of the flesh. My own needs and longings separate from the Father seek to be met and filled. If I don't look to my Father to meet those longings, I will look to the flesh-to those around me-to the things of this world. And when I find that they cannot meet them, I will become disheartened, angry, frustrated, offended, and more. The object or person that failed to meet what I desired or needed becomes the target for my offense.

This can be a spouse, children, friends, family, co-workers, those whom we serve in ministry or rather than people, it can be money, organizations, etc. This happens when we walk according to the flesh rather than the Spirit. When we set our minds on what we think we need or want versus what God says is all we need, we become distracted and discontent.

We look for people or objects to fulfill desires only our Heavenly Father can fill. Unfortunately, because Our Father was meant to meet our deepest longings, people and objects will fail miserably. We are regularly implored by His Word to set our mind and heart on things above, to set our mind on the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, and to live in the Spirit. We are exhorted to not think how to gratify the desires of the flesh. When our minds become set on the flesh the result is death rather than the life and peace that is offered through a mind and heart set on the Spirit. (Read Romans 8)

No wonder we are angry people. It's no wonder that our relationships are broken and frayed. We have desires to please our Father, yet we yell, demand, and resent. We claim justified offense, and we speak ill words of our families and neighbors.

God forgive us because we have so much desired that they please us and fulfill us in a such a way, that when they don't meet those expectations, it causes deep offense. It becomes such an offense that we struggle to love and show mercy and forgiveness.

Yet, loving kindness and compassion and mercy comes more effortlessly when we put people and objects in their rightful place which is under submission to the Father.

When we surrender these desires and longings to the Father, and we look to Him to meet those-we stop placing unrealistic and unfair expectations on those around us. We realize that they can never meet what we are truly desiring or truly needing. Forgiveness and mercy comes when we realize that their place in our life is under the authority of the Father. God is greater or more able to satisfy us than any living thing or material possession. When He fills every part of our desires and longings, people no longer are objects of need-they are precious gifts from our Father to love as He loves us.

We can say, "Yes, you failed my expectations but because I know you could never meet my deepest needs - I am not looking to you to fulfill those. My Father meets those, and it leaves me satisfied to where I can show mercy and love. You see, you and I are no different. Imperfect and broken, but made whole by a Savior who loves us. If not for the grace of God, I would or have done the same things you have done to hurt me".

This is Christ in us. It's not just a "choosing to think positive thoughts" about someone. We are talking about a deep genuine Christ-like love for each person. When we find contentment in Christ and we regularly invite Him to fill every part of us - we decrease and He increases. It changes the way we see people. God created each of us beautifully and wonderfully and His image - therefore I can love the person God has created even when it hurts. This comes when we move in the Spirit, and are being guided by the Spirit rather than our flesh.

For me, it's a daily and sometimes moment by moment surrender. Father, help me walk in your Spirit - in life and peace. Help me look to you to fulfill those desires and longings that no one else can. When others fail me in their imperfect nature, help me in my own imperfect nature to show love and kindness. Help me to "By the Spirit who dwells within me, guard the good deposit entrusted to me". (2 Tim 1:14). Help me to flee my "less than desires" and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. (2 Tim 2:18)

We need to stop the "grinning and bearing" kind of love where we show others love and compassion through forced and obligated wills. Our love can come from a genuine heart of compassion and sacrificial grace because it comes from Christ within. With the help of Christ, let us then truly love one another.

 Written by: Christan Causey

Written by: Christan Causey