What Is Love?

Love is patient.

“Love is patient…” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

It is no mistake patience is listed first. We could punctuate love here. Every other attribute of affection falls under a patient umbrella. When we are patient, we have self control in the troubles and endure through the hard times. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

When we come to the table with a calm spirit, we are not hasty with making decisions. The self control in patience holds back a racing mind from mixing in any fearful conclusions. Diligence doesn’t give up on tenderness because, well, it is patient. “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Patience bears all things and looks for understanding in the situation, in others, in God.

Patience is kind – anger has a tendency to lose its composure and restraint. “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Though it may appear passive, patience actually places a relentless trust in God. “His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). Everything He plans will come to pass, He will accomplish all of his purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Patience rejects resentment and rests in God’s promise.

Be careful to think that patience is somehow permissive with sin or injustice. We are called to “reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction“ (2 Timothy 4:2).

Patience keeps believing the best, keeps searching for Truth, keeps Hope close through the trials because it knows something beautiful is on the other side. The reflection of Jesus is unfailing love and constant patience with people, pain, sin, and God. Patience holds grace closely and gives it away generously.

Patience is not wanting anything outside the will of God. In faith we can be content when things go differently than we had wished. We choose to believe “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28). Patience is “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

It’s no mistake that patience is also a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). Patience is dying to selfishness. It is “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19). When we allow patience to have her perfect work in us, we can praise a compassionate Father who is a good teacher in the trade. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8).

Waiting is not wasted time, “you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:3). Patience has purpose. It is without worry. There’s no discouragement or sadness when the purpose of patience includes bringing our Father more glory in the wait than in the rush, the rash, or the reckless.

Patience has staying power. In the stillness our resolve strengthens through the refining work of a wait. “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).

Learning to love begins with patience. Patience is persistent for beginnings and restoration. Patience has no end.

When we fall short of long-suffering, when our weaknesses take center stage and our frustrations steal the show, we can freely come to the feet of Jesus and confess every coward act without fear of condemnation (Romans 8:1). We can climb to our feet with rejoicing that these failings have too been covered.

His forgiveness and mercy encourages our hands and feet to press on and grow in giving the same kind of grace that is His patient, persevering love.

When we are tempted to be impatient, this is our invitation to love.

Love is patient.

Strength to Give Grace

If we don’t guard our hearts and minds, we begin to think God is so good to us because we have done something right.

We might conclude that escaping tragedies like divorce, depression, or addiction is a sign of dignity. We may determine healthy kids and a wealthy household is based more on merit than on God’s mercy.

Truth, God is good, God is loving, God is right, waves of questions

Truly God is compassionate. Not a tear falls without Him knowing, collecting and reaching out with comfort.

Listen, we will never be able to figure out why God responds the way He does. We can’t know why this devastation was ‘allowed’ and ‘that’ life was spared.

Be careful with any desire to have the answers. We might rob today with skepticism. We may waste this moment searching for reasons that go deeper than what we can see. We could potentially strip an innocent heart of it’s worth while chasing down blame, when the purpose was simply timing all along.

The questions can stir up doubt that God even cares about our concerns. Confusion can shake the foundation of faith that God is even in control here.

Beneath the waves of questions is this Rock of Truth: God is always good, always right, and always loving. If you’re brave enough to stand up in the storm on this bedrock of Truth, you’ll find the strength inside to love, to forgive, to extend grace in a sea of what doesn’t make sense.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Your Good For His Glory

God made a decision about you.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18

2016 was quite the year. Challenging for many of us. It carried such glorious and gut wrenching moments. Some of the most sacred and then shocking of events. God gave so much and He took too. The enemy sent arrows that sunk deep, piercing peace, breaking love and bleeding out joy. There were words that barreled through our boundaries and stirred up the dust on bitterness.

Satan’s attacks were meant to disrupt and divide us; to push the pain, stir up shame and bully beautiful hearts into despair. The past may have opened up doors of depression while the future shook you with worry and fear. Some of the things you walked through were not pleasant. It was unprecedented. Dramatic. Revealing.

Isaiah 55:8, working for your good, His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughtsIt was a year that fell short, as most things that end with the number ‘6’ do. 2016 carried weapons that HURT but here’s what I want you to know, they did not prosper. They brought the warfare but they could not win; goodness and mercy were following you all those days buried in the confusion and turmoil. The devil had his moment but it’s over now. The purpose of last year has run its course. Your trouble is about to be put in its place.

God was not taken by surprise in all this, you know. He has a plan and you’re right in the middle of it. The hand of heaven is in control and hovering over the gates of hell. Everything you survived will ultimately swing in your favor. His purpose in allowing this hurt is for your good and ultimately for His glory.

God is so good, God does good and God can work together all things (even the not so good) for our good and His glory. I hope you live fully expecting great things in a year that ends with ‘7’, for He who promised is faithful. He’s working to complete His perfect plan and I think 2017 is a great place for our Father to finish some things in our life; healing in some hard places, redemption from the wreckage and restoration in our promised land.

Don’t assume that because it doesn’t feel good that it isn’t working for your good. His ways are not our ways. God is not haphazard in handling us. He is strategic and intentional. God is restoring and He’s rebuilding. Your past may have actually been a painful gift of maturity and growth.

There’s brand new opportunities, fresh grace, restoring mercy just waiting for your knock at the door. He’s going to complete it for His glory. The seeds sown and prayers prayed last year may just show up seven-fold this year.

Get into position. What you lost is on it’s way back around in ways you never imagined!

Stop Overthinking

Two of the greatest paralyzers to living a life of faith, to living life fully, is found in the “What if…” and “If only…” These two phrases grip our spiritual muscles and tighten a hold with possibilities we can see.

What if… If only…

Philippians 4:6-8, pray, fear, what if, if onlyThey stun our steps forward with anticipation of what might happen and consequently keep us from doing what God has called us to do.

In this moment of swirling thoughts, here is a gentle reminder to surrender those fears in prayer and invite peace in by filling up on ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

When the feeling of fear arises, do not entertain the ‘what if’s’ or engage with the possibilities of ‘if only’. Exchange it for an opportunity to pray.

We have a human tendency to rehash the situation, replay words and overthink outcomes in our mind, so when you have finished giving your fears to God, control the course of your mind by thinking on God’s Truths. Put your thoughts in their place.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Create Opportunities To Be Kind

Ephesians 4:32, be kind, tenderhearted, forgive othersDon’t wait for an opportunity to be kind, create one.

Humility is a beautiful teacher for a heart struggling with how to love. Courage can outshine every excuse holding kindness hostage.

Truth unlocks every reason why this treasure is worth sharing and meant to be free. Because of faith, we can be fearless with our generosity; God will provide.

When you find it difficult to stand with a face of kindness, may the Spirit of Christ be your strength in the bend to forgive and extend compassion.

Kindness is the only language we can all understand. May you be brave with what you’ve been given and take that step out in courage to create even more moments to be kind.

A New Year, A New You

2016 may have carried some unfortunate situations but you can’t blame people or you’ll stay stuck there. We don’t get to pause life. We must press on to find people who are running their own race, pursuing Christ, looking to be conformed and transformed in the image of Jesus, and striving to finish it!

It’s time to make what Jesus has done for you bigger than what anyone has done to you or said about you. It’s time to let go and move on. Lay into the promises of God written in his Word.

New YearWhatever you have done, leave it at the foot of the Cross, make amends with the people you need to make amends with and then move on. His mercies are new every morning. God’s grace is sufficient. There’s nothing that can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Love people. Share grace. Be the first to forgive. Drop the baggage and live for freedom.

Stop doubting and start believing. Start believing that your God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly and above anything you could ever ask, hope or think. Start believing that your eyes have not seen nor your ears have heard, nor has it entered into your heart the things that God has for you. If your God is for you then who can be against you?

Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. God is good, he does good, He works all things together for good. You are the head and not the tail. You are above only, and not beneath. You are a leader and not a follower. The blessings of God are leading and guiding, they are chasing you down. The goodness of God waits before you. Just look over your shoulder, a tender, loving kindness, goodness and mercy are following you. They are chasing you down wherever you are going. God is on your side. God is not mad at you. He’s mad about you. God is for you and He loves you. Happy New Year and a New You!

The Miracle of God With Us

magic of Christmas, miracle of Christmas, miracle of God with usHis name is Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. Eternity with God is here. 

We can get stuck believing forever with God begins once we are buried. But I want to challenge you to see God with us, Emmanuel, today. When life’s burdens have you buried, God is reachable right where you are. You don’t have to wait. The active presence of God is available when you ask. Life with God, eternity, is accessible now because of Jesus.

Eternity begins when you believe. The magic of Christmas is this miracle of God with us.

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” – Luke 2:8-14

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV

Warrior On In The Wait

Waiting takes the most vulnerable parts of us and puts them to the test. In this place between the death of a dream and anticipating the arrival of a new one, is a battleground of learning how to trust God.

waiting, advent, season of waiting, ChristmasAdvent is all about waiting. We anticipate the arrival in these days leading up to the birth of our Savior. Advent is the question and Christmas is the answer. Jesus is the response to our pleading howls in the night.

Our tears tell the truth, it’s hard to celebrate in the wait. When we feel rejected or forgotten by God, this kind of brokenness can keep us in bondage to emotions of longing and loneliness. Yet, it’s in the long days that God leans in. “I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3

When we quiet our thoughts and emotions that compete with God’s attention, we find in the stillness this profound grace of His presence. These painful places of waiting can offer a glimpse of the face of God if we let them. When we don’t feel very merry, Jesus offers us mercy. He holds the power to fill what’s empty, mend what’s broken, and find what’s lost.

“It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” 1 Peter 1:3

Can you relate to a season of waiting? The yearning is very real here. Strangely, the strongest thing we can do when we feel stuck is to surrender. It takes more strength to let go than to hold on. The death of one thing brings life of another.

While we wait with eyes of faith, Hope sustains a burdened and weary heart. In the weak places is where Jesus releases His power. It’s okay to grieve in the wait without giving up on God’s promise. Peace can come from just knowing the Author and Creator has a plan.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

When it feels like Heaven has pressed pause and Earth has gone silent, face your fear of being alone and embrace this quiet place. The still, small voice of God speaks louder to a heart in the silent nights.

It’s easy to blur our focus of God with busy schedules this time of year. We might drown our days with distractions in hopes that the noise will suppress the sadness of the season. Time won’t heal the wound; only Jesus can.

You get to decide what your focus will be. If you shift your focus from the object of your wait to the One who forms your faith, you find this rich place of communion and healing. His companionship is meant to do a work in you before God goes to work through you. When you seek more of God with your thoughts, your words, your walk through His word, the scene changes.the gift of grace, grace

You might be waiting on a miracle or maybe you’re just waiting on an answer, if you believe God is for you then this time won’t go to waste. When you trust God with the desires of your heart, you can surrender your ways to His will. Here’s a few ideas on how to wait well in this season of Advent:

  • When you’re tempted to sulk in the pain, pray for someone else who might be suffering. Out of the overflow of God’s grace for you, you can give this same grace to others.
  • Encourage your mind by recalling the ways God has been faithful in your life. 
  • Start in the Word and thank God for the promises He has already made to you. Then thank Him for the fulfillment of those on their way.
  • Ask God for a renewal of your thoughts, the root of joy which is this Hope and lasting change in the deepest parts of your heart. 
  • Surround your soul with community.

“So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.” 1 Peter 1:13-14

What situation in your life are you giving more attention to than your devotion to God? Your soul will be most satisfied when you are where God wants you to be. I pray that what is right and good and worth believing will outshine these days of darkness and brokenness that’s within and around us.

His love is stronger than the death of your dreams – even IF things don’t turn out better than expected. Do you believe that? Do your actions and words believe that? Keep this moment here close because the sun will shine soon and you’ll need this reminder of what God has done a year from now.

What are you waiting for?

Faith Moves You Forward

The holidays can bring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The pressure reveals the best and worst of our emotions. Depression. Anxiety. Loneliness. Worry.

My therapist once told me that depression is living in the past without God and anxiety is living in the future without God. If worries have you wrapped up during the holidays, one way to shrink these woes is with worship. Raising up praise releases the pain.

faith moves, When you lift up your hands in surrender, you let go of all you’ve been holding onto; your finances, your relationships, your job.

We don’t worship because all is good. We worship because Jesus is good. His character is good. We can worship because His Word is good! He says, “He works all things out for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

You can give your realities a glance, but our Heavenly Father is worth your stare.

If you want freedom this Christmas season, take control of how you feel and surrender it to your faith, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Isaiah 54:17

Walk by what you know, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Faith is what will move you forward.

“Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. O LORD, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees. You have done many good things for me, LORD, just as you promised.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:49-50, 64-65‬

Surrender in the season

peace, the presence of peace, fruit of surrenderDuring Christmastime we find ourselves tempted to abandon Christlikeness in favor of lists and lines. The season that centers around a silent, holy night, the star and a Savior being born quickly becomes the season in which we overspend, overeat, overindulge, and overcommit. We can get caught up in all the activity that the only gift we have to share with those we love the most is a very chaotic version of ourselves.

Your choice to slow down and soak up His presence can change things this year.