The Strength in Weakness

Acknowledging weakness is the toughestButThat's when God is the strongest.

Often, as a control freak, we do a great job of highlighting our strengths. There are some things we do very well and we feel great about that. We can discuss our strengths in detail, we know just how to place ourselves in position to maximize our gifts and talents and we feel best when we are working in capacities that best align with our skill sets. Something we often shy away from addressing, is our weakness. Even in job interviews we have learned and mastered the answer to the question “what are some of your strengths and weaknesses?” turning both into answers highlighting things we do well. That’s all good. There’s nothing wrong with finding comfort in your gifts and talents. When you do something well and you know you do it well, there’s no question you should be using those to to your advantage and to the advantage of those around you.

But what happens when we get a little too high and mighty? As much as we like to avoid the conversation, there isn’t a person living who doesn’t have a weakness. There is no person living who is the best at everything and that’s exactly how God intended for us to be. We should all be living and serving in complimentary fashion alongside others, using our strengths were someone else may have a weakness and vice a versa.

Too many times we are taught that being a Christian is to strive for perfection. That is not the case at all. We are to strive to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We are incapable of perfection. God knows that and has extended us grace in the areas where we are lacking.

There is a place in the bible where Paul is speaking and he’s telling of a wonder vision God gave him. He says that the vision was so clear and he was so sure that it was from God, if he bragged about it, it would be warranted because it would be truth. However, he says that even having been exposed to such greatness, he was given what he calls a thorn. He had a supposed ailment that kept him humble. Whenever he started to feel himself, he was reminded that he’s not perfect, he has a weakness. The best part about his realization that his weakness would keep him from thinking of himself more highly than he should is what he said about how God regarded his weakness each time he asked God to take it away.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 8-9

Paul had a weakness that he felt like was hindering him so he asked God to take it away. Instead, God told him grace was all he needed. God basically said to him, I see your weakness and I haven’t counted you out. You’re still valuable to me, I see you trying so wherever you fall short, I will stand in that gap and be sure that the vision I gave you is still fulfilled. Here’s the best part, “My power works best in weakness.” God is able to get really creative when there’s literally nothing else in our own physical power left for us to do. That’s so amazing! So Paul encourages us not to be ashamed of our weaknesses. He even says to take pleasure in them. Because as soon as we recognize we are incapable of doing anymore than we have tried, we can show God we trust God to do the rest and God will also take pleasure in that and leave you and everyone around you wondering how you could have possibly pulled that off. And that’s where you tell them, it wasn’t me, that was all God.

Challenge:

Here’s something I started doing about 4 years ago. I would have ideas or goals that I knew for sure God was inspiring me toward but I kept running into roadblocks. There were skills, resources, connections etc that I just didn’t have. I would get so frustrated feeling so powerless to certain situations. But I’d say this prayer, “God, I know you see me trying and I just don’t think there’s anything else I can do. If I’m missing something, please reveal it to me. If not, please work this out in a way that I won’t possibly be able to take credit for. So when people ask me how I did it, I’ll remember to tell them it was you. In Jesus’ name, amen.” At a time when I had no idea how I was going to pay for graduate school, I applied to school and then prayed that prayer every night. A month before school was supposed to begin, I was offered a job AND a scholarship, neither of which I had applied for. I have no doubt in my mind it was that desperate prayer and my willingness to acknowledge my weakness and have faith that God would work things out that excited God to stand somewhere I had never been on my behalf. If you’re reading this and you feel powerless to any situation at all, I challenge you to pray that prayer or your own prayer with that same sentiment and watch what God can and will do!

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Your Authority. Your Joy.

Joy

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that it’s target audience is those of us who have a little trouble relinquishing control to God as we’ve decided to accept Christ into our lives. But in the opening manifesto on the first page of this blog it also says “This is a safe place to affirm your right to a certain level of control while emphasizing a responsibility to operate in prayerful obedience.” It is important that, as we remind ourselves we simply can’t control every single aspect of our lives, we also remind ourselves which things we actually can control.

There is often this misconception that after one yields personal power to God everything in their life should just begin to get more and more perfect as time progresses. That’s wildly false. One might even say that once you start to live your life with God at the forefront, life seems to make it a little bit harder to believe you’ve done the right thing. Just like anyone else, we’re all faced with daily challenges that can really make it difficult to enjoy life sometimes.

This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalms 118:24

Today’s devotional is just a simple reminder that, while we can’t always controls what enters our daily lives and how it challenges us, we do have a responsibility not to forget who we are and who each day belongs to. The above verse is a reminder that each day that we are living belongs to God. No matter how it starts or finishes, God has the power and authority to orchestrate how today’s happenings can turn out for our good. In that we can rejoice, or have joy. We are allowed to and responsible for remembering that and if we can’t find any joy in anything else all day, we can be glad that the day doesn’t belong to whatever it is we are currently facing. This day, yesterday, tomorrow and beyond were given to us by God and belong to God.

Well why should we find joy in that when everything is falling apart? The answer is simply because of who we know God to be. God has told us many times in the bible that we are loved, that God is always with us, that God is constantly working with our best interest at heart, and so many other promises that indicate any day that we are given is a day we can look for God’s love. Any day that belongs to God is a day in which God can be found.

Even if today looks like it’s the worst day you’ve had, even if you’ve had a series of days that seem to suck the joy from your spirit, our joy is ours to control. The scripture doesn’t say for us to find something to make us joyful it just says that we will rejoice, meaning our circumstances are not in charge of our joy. We have authority over our joy and can rejoice whenever we want to. We don’t find joy, we find reasons to create it! So, let’s desire to take joy in today simply because we can!

Task:

Each time you are faced with a negative thought or situation, try to counter that with noting one thing that you can be happy about. It may be as simply as, my work day ends at 4pm and I can finally get some rest but find different ways to inspire joy in your attitude today. Don’t let your surroundings have control of your attitude. That is your authority.

10 to the End Day 10: CELEBRATE!

Celebrate (1)

It’s January 1 and you’ve made it to a New Year! We’ve spent time reflecting on what was and planning for what will be. Now, in this moment, whatever moment you have while reading this, take a moment to celebrate. No, we’re not simply celebrating what God did for us in 2017. We’re not just celebrating the fact that we’ve made it to a new year. We’re celebrating everything that God has for us in the coming year. Things we can’t even see yet, we’re celebrating them because we trust that God will bring them to pass.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I don’t know how 2017 treated you but my prayer is that you’ve released that from your mind, body and soul so that you can fully embrace what’s to come.In 2018 let’s keep the above verse from Jeremiah as a reminder that no matter what happens in the coming year, regardless of how tough things could get, no matter how many unexpected things could possibly come our way, the goal is not for God to harm us but for God to use every single thing in our lives to give us hope and a prosperous future. We are celebrating God’s love for us that goes ahead of us in every situation to make sure that we are able to find some way for everything that comes our way to benefit us.

We have released what has passed.

We are living in and making the best of what is present.

We are celebrating everything that is to come.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

10 to the End Day 3: Proverbs and Priorities

Gratitude (2)

If there’s anything a Type A person is serious about, it’s our time. There never seems to be enough of it to accomplish all of our plans AND rest. There’s always a task that demands much of our time and attention and many of us struggle with balancing things of importance and prioritizing things that don’t bring us immediate results. So here’s a question, in 2017 what got the majority of your time and attention? Did you procrastinate? Did you neglect one area of your life to prioritize another? Was there anything you rushed toward in this last year that could have waited?

There is a proverb that says,

The plans of people who work hard succeed. You can be just as sure that those in a hurry will become poor.

Proverbs 21:5

There you have it, a scripture praising work ethic. But there is much more to explore here that can help us wrap up 2017 with honest evaluation. The scripture says those who work hard succeed, it doesn’t say that only people who work hard on things that are good will be successful. Some of us, myself included, worked very hard toward some things in this past year that did not end up serving us well. We spent much too much time working toward some activities, or relationships that were not in God’s plans for us simply because they seemed to make sense to us or because they were what we wanted. And that work was successful at something, but not at elevating us closer to our purpose in the body of Christ and in our relationship with God.

We must be careful next year where we spend our time and energy being mindful of the results it my yield us. Too much time at work will lead to success in your respective field but could also lead to unsuccessful personal relationships if you’re not careful. Spending big chunks of time with friends or a significant other may lead to success in those relationships but could you be neglecting time with family or on school or work? Spending too much time obsessing over something that is out of your control, or dedicating too much energy to negative feelings will make you successful at keeping yourself in a constant negative state of mind. And in all of these things, are we spending enough time growing our relationship with God?

Rushing toward the plans we’ve made for ourselves while overlooking the need to prioritize other areas of our lives, including our relationship with God can certainly leave us poor in the areas we neglect. So in the coming year, let’s make sure we are creating balance. Try setting alarms for prayer times, designating a day/time per week for strictly family activities (if your schedule allows such), using phone apps to make to do lists and hold yourself accountable to putting them in order of priority and holding yourself accountable to that. We are only one person so we sometimes can’t be perfect in our priorities, but recognizing that as a need, is important to being well-rounded and being focused on our calling.

Priorities Activity:

Write down the answers to these questions for consideration:

  1. How did you spend most of your time this year?
  2. What got most of your attention?
  3. What needs more of your attention?
  4. Where did you fit in relationship building time with God?
  5. What can you do to make better use of your time in the coming year?

If any of your interpersonal relationships suffered this past year as a result of time management, try asking the people in your life what they would like to see from you and reaching a compromise. This often lets people know they are important to you. 

 

10 to the End Day 5: Love Was the Motive

Gratitude (1)

On this day each year, we observe the coming of Christ as the ultimate display of God’s love for us. From the beginning of time, God knew we wouldn’t be able to fully achieve the relationship God desired with us. We are imperfect and incapable of being clean enough to stand in God’s presence. God knew that and could have just shrugged it off, after all, it’s our own fault. But instead, God loved us all, past, present, and future, and wanted to give us the opportunity to have a full live and whole relationship with God. So, he sent a piece of himself in the flesh to liberate us from all the things that could have kept us out of his presence and now we have the privilege to talk to God and spend time with God in full freedom.

As we prepare for the coming year, remember that our entire story as Christians begins with love; not condemnation, not judgement, not shame. It was God’s deepest desire to have us as close as possible in the now and the forever. Remember that when you make mistakes. Remember that when you’re overwhelmed and feel like you have no one to talk to. Remember that when you feel like you’ve failed God beyond repair. God already knew we’d feel this way and made provisions for us in the form of a baby that would eventually grow to be a living, breathing, and eventually a dying example of the lengths God would go to give us the best parts of him. Love was the motive the entire time.

God bless you all on this holiday. I pray that you are surrounded by love, peace and comfort. And if you are able to surround yourself with it, I pray that God is able to bring it forth from inside you.

Merry Christmas!

10 to the End: Day 2 Learn and Let Go.

For many of us who seek to be in control of every aspect of our lives, acknowledging our shortcomings either comes with immense guilt and shame, or we don’t acknowledge them at all. We’re either beating ourselves up for allowing ourselves space and opportunity to make such mistakes, or we’re refusing to address a shortcoming at all hoping we can just forget it and move on. Neither is a very healthy way to deal with disappointment or failure.

If you’ve had a year like mine, maybe you may have set some goals for yourself and fallen short of where you imagined you’d by at this point in the year. Whether this was a career expectation, a vision for your personal life, or just simply a goal to be a different kind of person by now. The first thing we should do is to acknowledge that. It is obedient for us to acknowledge our shortcomings. Even if there were other factors that lead to you being thrown off course, you can only take responsibility for your piece of that puzzle. If you could have been more diligent, if you shouldn’t have revisited a door that God already previously closed, if you just simply lost sight of the goal altogether, we can use that as our starting point.

Once we’ve identified the places in our lives where we could improve, before you decide to gather the broken pieces and attempt to move on, it’s important to take into consideration that these shortcomings will not be your demise. As long as you desire to be in God’s will, God is able and willing to use those very mistakes to continue elevating you to exactly the place you were intended to be in the first place. If you recall in a previous devotion Chasing After You, we discussed and rejoiced in the fact that God is not surprised by our ability to fall of course. In fact, God already anticipated that and already set a plan in motion to chase you down and redirect you.

Psalms 119: 71 says, “It was good for me to be humbled so that I could learn your justifications.”

Although we strive each day not to make decisions that are not good for us and our journey with Christ, we must also acknowledge the lessons we are able to learn from our mistakes. It is true that some of the lessons we learn through our mistakes could have been avoided, but let’s not spend the time we could be using to gather lessons, on wishing that things were different. What is done is done and God is still who God always is; and that is a God who is capable of taking our wrongs and using them to elevate us and to glorify God.

Picking up the Pieces Exercise

Before moving on, let’s spend time reminding ourselves of what God is capable of doing with our mistakes with a short exercise.

  1. When you think of the words “failure” or “Shortcoming” what comes to mind for you this year? Write them down without censoring yourself.
  2. What were some of the repercussions of those failures or shortcomings? Write those down.
  3. Try to think of some of the lessons you can recover from these instances. What do you believe you should have learned from making these mistakes. Write those down on a seperate piece of paper. (Some of these lessons may not be evident to you at the moment and that is ok. God will reveal them in time).
  4. Isaiah 43:25 says “I, yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and never think of them again.” God doesn’t hold our failures over our heads which is our permission to release the guilt and shame from our lives as well. This could be a long process but as a symbol that we recognize we don’t have to live victimized by our mistakes,  find a way to destroy the paper listing your failures or shortcomings from this year. Try tearing the paper, burnin the paper etc. Anything that makes it impossible for you to revisit on paper.
  5. Display the paper listing the lessons you should have learned from your mistakes somewhere visible to you. You don’t need to make these public. Truly make an effort to remind yourself of the lessons and NOT the failures.
  6. Pray a prayer for forgiveness from God and for yourself. Invite forgiveness into your own heart so that you can continue living and working toward your goals without crippling regret.

10 to the End Day 1: Gratitude

Gratitude

As the year comes to a close, it is every Type A person’s instinct is to begin planning for what’s to come. Many of us have already began planning since the 4th quarter of 2017 began. We have big plans and small plans and back up plans and everything in between. Some of us had a great year, others of us are barely hanging on and are seemingly being dragged into the next season. But no matter what kind of year you’ve had, no matter what kinds of plans you have for the next, one thing we cannot forget to do is to reflect.

Reflection, for me, begins with gratitude and celebration. It is so easy, as people who desire control to put our blinders on and always be looking for what’s next. We often overlook what has already happened to rush toward what’s to come. But if we are seeking to be obedient, it’s imperative that we spend time during our preparation for what’s next to fully close this chapter being thankful for something.

This is especially important for those of us who have had a rough year. Maybe this year was supposed to turn out totally differently but it all just fell apart and you could barely hold it together.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, in obedience, we should spend time in our preparation for what’s next to thank God for something. ANYTHING. From your biggest wins, to the fact that you are still breathing and have a chance to recover after your greatest failure. We cannot fully prepare for what’s to come if we have not, first acknowledged God’s faithfulness to us in what has passed.

Philippians 4:12-13 is a great reminder to be grateful. It says,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”

Whatever it is you were able to accomplish this year, it was through the strength given to you. Whatever hardships you had to endure this year, you made it out because of the faithfulness of God. There is always something to be grateful for. So before you lift your pen to write your goals, before you place your fingers on your keyboard to plan out all of next year’s accomplishments, before you listen to your favorite moguls advice for how to make next year your year, take some time to tell God thank you. If you’re looking for further biblical inspiration for gratitude, check out this list from echurch that includes 20 bible verses on gratitude and thanksgiving.

Gratitude Activity:

  1. Make a list of everything you’ve been through this year that was important. Don’t worry about whether it was good or bad. Just write down anything that comes to mind that stood out to you this year.
  2. Go through the list and write at least 1 thing you can be grateful for in each of those instances.
  3. Pause and say a prayer of gratitude that includes each thing on the list. Make sure this is a prayer that doesn’t make any requests. This is strictly a thank you. Spend time meditating on what you’re thanking God for so that you can really inspire the feelings of gratitude to match your prayer.
  4. Post your gratitude list somewhere visible (to you. Doesn’t have to be made public) as a reminder to yourself to remain grateful. Add things periodically as you remember them.

 

 

Get Some Rest

get some rest

Hey you. Yes you. The one who is always available to help. The one who always assumes a leadership role. The one who is periodically on the verge of burning out but feels bad about taking time off. God wants you to sit down somewhere.

Church culture often reminds us that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” It is quite common for us to experience an abundance of work being done by a handful of people. Being overwhelmed for the work of the Kingdom is to be expected. If you have grown up in a Church setting, or if you’re just a common Type A person, we often grow accustomed to the feeling of being overwhelmed by tasks. So much so, that we sometimes don’t feel validated in the work that we’re doing unless we’re stressed out and on the brink of nervous breakdown.

Some would have us believe that feeling of having too much on your plate is a feeling we should strive toward. That if there’s work to do and it must get done, YOU must be the one to do it and you must do it without complaint even to the point that it can be frowned upon to request a moment of solitude. While it is true that there will always be work to do and that there will always seem to be a shortage of people doing it, the idea that we should always be eager to take on more than we may be able to bear can be dangerous to our mental and physical health and, quite frankly, is not what is pleasing to God.

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31

The above verse is taken from a text in which Jesus and the disciples had been traveling and working hard to win souls for Christ. Jesus saw the work they were all doing and noticed that they were overwhelmed so he tells them to go take some quiet time to rest. As simple as that is, this is what is pleasing to God. We all have so much work to do and the work will always need to be done by someone. While it is certainly God’s will that we do the work and that we excited about it, we are only human and humans get tired. We should never be ashamed to admit that we may have overextended ourselves and need a moment to recharge.

My prayer for all of us is that we commit to the following things:

  1. Be mindful of our minds and bodies when they tell us we need a break.
  2. Say no and be intentional about it. You don’t always have to be responsible for every single task available. If you feel like you will not be able to handle too many tasks, you can decline a few responsibilities to save your sanity.
  3. Hold your brothers and sisters accountable. When you see that someone you love has a lot on their plate, offer to help when you can so that they can take time to themselves and help them to feel good about doing so.
  4. Get some rest. Whether it be taking a vacation to enjoy your friends or family, or taking quiet time alone, we all need time to replenish ourselves after we have give time and service to others.

Just as Jesus was divine he was also human. If he had to take time to rest, so should you.

 

Be Intentional

As a type A person, we often take issue with doing things that do not yield immediate or clear cut results. We like for our actions to be meaningful and intentional. Take joy in the fact that we have this in common with God.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to God’s purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Everything that God does is intentional and meaningful. Everything that God doesn’t do is intentional and meaningful. Everything that happens to us that is not of God, but that God allowed and has overseen, God has the power, ability and desire for the outcome of it to work in our favor. Nothing just happens by coincidence outside of God’s watch. God is intentional in the care of God’s children.

A personal challenge for today is to work toward being intentional in what we offer to God. Every gift, every talent, every ability you have was intentionally given to you by God. God gave them specifically to you and you have a unique way of presenting these gifts simply because you are the only you. Let’s be intentional about the way we use our gifts to honor God. Think through ways to use your gifts and talents and think about the outcome of how your efforts toward walking in God’s will and purpose for your life can be received. Let our behavior toward God and in representation of God in our lives not be coincidental, but let’s be intentional about how we behave in accordance with his will.

God is intentionally making sure that everything you encounter will eventually work in your favor for his glory. Are you making sure that everything you put out into the universe is working in God’s favor for his glory?

A Shiny New Year

to-god-be-the-glory

It’s a brand new year! You made it!

In this new year, let’s all be mindful of the role we play in God’s master plan.

 

In the same way, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

In our constant struggle for balance between feeling stable and successful and submitting our will to God’s, it can be easy to get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget why we’re doing it. Let’s be real, appearances are important to us. A lot of the satisfaction we get from feeling “in control” is appearing to others that we have a handle on things and that we’re doing well. It is not wrong to feel like others should see you doing well. The above verse is proof of such. However, be mindful of why the gaze of others is important to you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I seeking the approval of others before God’s?
  2. Am I too excited about the way I appear to others?
  3. Is my reputation pointing others to God’s presence in my life?

In this new year, every goal you set, every milestone you reach, every win you publicize, should be a testament to God’s faithfulness in your life. None of us achieve anything of our own strength, courage, guidance etc. By committing ourselves to God, we draw those things from God’s power.

Be sure that all of your actions are rooted in a love for others that mirrors God’s love for you. it is that love that will direct them toward your love for God and the availability of God’s love for anyone open to it. Put forth the work but the glory is not our own. It is God’s.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!