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Dose of Hope: Conquerors

God's Word Says We are More Than Conquerors {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #scripture #faith
I’m not really going to do this one justice by saying anything that isn’t said in the verse below, so I’ll leave it at that. But it’s a powerful one, and this is one of those verses that I need to read slowly and with intention, usually a couple times – because it’s deep and it’s amazing and it says so much about what God has done for us through Christ. It’s a serious amen.

Romans 8:31-39 (NIV) More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Dose of Hope: Secure

God's Word tells us we don't have to worry about our own security, because we're secure in Him {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #faith #scripture

As Heshan and I are following Jesus this year – not just being “Jesus followers” but asking how we can actually follow Him – a couple things are becoming pretty obvious. First, we’re not so good at this thing. We move slowly and we ask questions and we doubt and freak out. And second, we can’t do this if we’re worried about our own security.

But you guys – Heshan and I can be big worriers. We don’t worry about the same things, but when our personalities combine, there are all sorts of situations that cause one of us stress. Like where Heshan is going to work (his job changes annually right now while he’s finishing up his PhD), how we’re going to pay the bills, how we’re going to budget our energy in a city that takes everything we have. We’ll worry about our dreams and our fears, and honestly there are entire months when I worry about how obnoxiously loud it is all night long when all I want to do is sleep.

Would it be crazy if I told you that I’m aggressively praying that God would shake up our lives right now? I’m asking Him to come in and take control and bring His best, even if it doesn’t look best to me or Heshan or anyone else around us. And I’m asking that because I don’t know what else to specifically ask for, but I do know we need a change, a renewing of our minds, and a re-setting of our focus like our lives depend on it.

Which brings us to this place where Jesus is challenging us to let go. To give up our thoughts and fears about our own security and recognize it’s always been in His hands. Which is just so like God it’s not even funny. I know this stuff in my head and I even love this stuff in my heart, but I’ve found it’s way harder for me to live this stuff out with my hands, even on the days when I’m ready to run away, move to Idaho, build a yurt, and live off the land.

As we’re walking through the names God has for us, He’s emboldening my heart and asking me to live with truths that I sometimes know but really need to know. I believe that God is calling each of us into deeper relationship with Him and into fuller life, and that it all starts with knowing who we are in Him. He calls us loved, chosen, blessed, gifted, known, forgiven, and He says we belong. And inherent in all that, plus spelled out like crazy throughout His love letter to us, is the promise that we are secure.

All of our worries and our fears can’t hold a candle to what God has in store and to His love for us. So I have no idea what that looks like for Heshan and me, but I know I can pray for His best and I can pray for the strength to let go of whatever I’m holding onto to make me feel secure. And this week I want to think about security together and talk with God about how our security is in Him.

Our Lord, we belong to you. We tell you what worries us, and you won’t let us fall.- Psalms‬ ‭55‬:‭22‬ (CEV)

The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” – Exodus‬ ‭33‬:‭14‬ (NLT)

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. – Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭13‬ (NLT)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – ‭Joshua‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬ (NLT)

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

#follow - kissing yes-itis and the ways of the world goodbye and following Jesus into fuller life {praylivecreate.com}

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Some Bible Verses About Hearing & Doing

a collection of #Bible verses about hearing & responding to #Scripture

It’s been a little while since we’ve done a connecting the dots post (see generosity and our thoughts). I have a lot of fun typing these up so I hope you guys enjoy them. As usual, I’m basing this one off of a message I heard at my church, this one by Jason VanDorsten.

Jesus’ brother James wrote a lot about not just hearing the word, but applying it to our lives.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. – James 1:22-25

Jesus himself addressed applying  the Word during the Sermon on the Mount.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

James again, getting straight to the point.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:17

The apostle John also wrote about how faith must be lived out and James gives us some tangible examples.

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – 1John 2:4-6

 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

And let’s end with the words of Jesus, the only person to ever walk this Earth and perfectly live a life of faith.

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28

What verses come to your mind when you think about real, living faith?

Stephanie from praylivecreate.com

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Dose of Hope: Known

God says He loves us and knows us by name {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #scripture #quotes

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

We already know that Jesus chose us, but I rarely think about the fact that God says He knows us. Yesterday morning I was reading Greg Laurie’s daily devotional, and the verse above stood out to me for that reason. Paul said that God knew him inside and out. He was completely known.

It kind of blows my mind when I think about it. The Bible says God knows us. But how often do we struggle even with knowing ourselves?

When we think about all of the ways God loves us, it can be easy to think He loves us most when we’re at our best. But He’s so emphatically clear that that’s just not the case. He knows us – He knew us before we were born – and He loved us and chose us as we are. The real us. The real version of you and the real version of me.

He knows when we’re scared but pretending to be brave. When we’re tired or anxious or just in need of a long nap and some serious TLC. He knows when we’re hiding dreams way down in our hearts. When we’re thrilled. When we’re feeling alone. When we’re struggling with doubts or depression or whatever burdens we may be carrying.

He knows which of us need rest and which of us need adventure. He knows exactly where we are and who we are.

We’re known by God. Inside and out. He looks deep into the heart of who we are and knows us, and He calls us His own.

When I think about that, it makes me realize how important it is that we’re known. How awesome it is that God can say, “I formed you and I made you and you are completely mine.” We’re known with all our quirks, all our hang ups, all the things we’re afraid to admit to ourselves or show to others, and knowing that in light of the fact that Jesus calls us chosen, loved, forgiven, blessed, gifted, and belonging, gives us a better picture as to who God says we are.

(We’re known and still we were chosen. We’re known and still we belong. We’re known and God calls us gifted. We’re known and He says, “you’re blessed.” He knows everything about us, and we’re forgiven. We’re known through and through and we’re loved.)

God’s ways are way higher than mine, and I can’t comprehend them. But I know that His gospel is true, that Jesus laid down His life for me, and that I’m called to lay down my life and pick up the freedom He has for me. As we walk through the names that God has for us, I’m overwhelmed with how liberating they are. Because we’re known and loved for who we are, we can be truly loved by others. We don’t have to settle for less. And because we’re known and loved as we are, we can forgive others imperfections and love them as they are too. (I know this is complicated. I’m speaking in generalities here.)

We can get to know ourselves, even if the real us is different than the person other people want us to be. And we can lay down at night knowing we’re known and loved. We’re exactly who God picked out when He said, “You, yep, you. You’re mine.” And He’s perfecting us all the time.

And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.  – 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NKJV)

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

Here’s to living life to the full and being known…

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What Stay at Home Moms Taught Me About Changing the World

Stay at home moms were the ones who taught me that God doesn’t need our huge and our big to change the world. He just needs small things done with great love and a heart fully surrendered to His.via

When my husband went out of town for a weekend I took all kinds of opportunities to treat myself, and what that basically means is I spent an entire day at home on the couch in my pajamas with books and magazines and a pizza and movie combination on Saturday night, because there are some things you never outgrow and because for better or for worse, we’ve not yet been gifted with children.

As I was reading one of these magazines, I saw a phrase that kind of stopped me in my tracks, The author was talking about famous people who do “big things for Jesus.” And while I promise I didn’t mean to think it, I just couldn’t help but wonder…

Can we do big things for God?

When I was in my 20s I truly believed it was possible for me to do awesome things. In other words, I thought it was possible for my life to be cooler than others. And I did all sorts of things that on the surface looked pretty big. I worked with celebrities and hot “up-and-comers” and I made phone calls that determined who would be the next featured artist on MySpace (I told you this was a long time ago, right?). I saw websites and bloggers write about the things that I told them were cool, I earned a gold record that’s buried in the back of one of my closests today, and I helped launch a big music festival that’s still going all these years later. (Please stick with me, because I promise this isn’t all about me.)

And all the while I was striving for more.

When serious illness hit it brought my world to a halt, all of a sudden I was way less concerned with what I could build with my own two hands and way more concerned with my own inner poverty. I realized nothing was as cool as needing or having a relationship with God. In the years that followed He opened my eyes to new ways of seeing, doing, and being and do you know what rocked my world almost more than anything else?

Stay at home moms.

Stay at home moms were the ones who taught me that God doesn’t need our huge and our big to change the world. He just needs small things done with great love and a heart fully surrendered to His.

I was desperately spinning my wheels trying to build my own life up, while these women modeled what it was to lay down their lives and let God build something beautiful instead.

I am not yet a stay at home mom (though my heart’s still holding onto hope), but when I read this piece about doing big things for God my mind automatically went to the women I know. For a few months I was a moderator of an online group for Christian women with chronic illness, and everyday I spoke with women who pushed through pain and fatigue to serve their families. I spoke with women who battled mental illness while raising three kids. I watched my sister walk away from a career far more successful than mine to teach 2 years olds how to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” and I don’t think any of them is doing less for Jesus. I think Jesus is doing beautiful things through them.

I think we’re all just men and women sitting at the foot of the cross, playing our parts in a much, much bigger story.

One of the things I love about walking through the names that God has for us is that it reminds us that God sees things so much differently than we do. He’s not as concerned with the outward appearance. And whether our acts of obedience, faith, and love are seen by a whole lot of people or just a few, He calls us gifted and chosen and enough in Him.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:2 (NIV)

Kim from praylivecreate.comOriginal image by skysthelimit via morguefile. Modified for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.

linking up with Jack of All Trades at A Harvest of Blessing.

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Dose of Hope: Forgiven

One of the many names that God has for us is "forgiven."  He is not mad at you. {praylivecreate.com} #Bible #scripture #faith

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been using our Doses of Hope to talk about the names that God has for us – the things that He says are true about us – so we can let that truth sink in. And while God repeatedly calls us chosen, loved, blessed, and gifted (and that we belong), there’s a huge truth He says about us that can sometimes be hard to fathom: we’re forgiven.

I think most of us know that on an intellectual level. But as easy as it is to know that God says we’re forgiven, how difficult is it sometimes to truly forgive ourselves? I’m talking about loving ourselves as God loves us. Last year I shared that we can’t love our neighbor as ourselves until we learn to love ourselves.

And loving ourselves sometimes starts with forgiving ourselves… of all the things we don’t do perfectly, all the things we fall short at compared to others, all the things we mess up, our limitations and the dreams that haven’t come true yet, and all the things other people have to say about us, too. If God Himself washes us in forgiveness and looks at us with love, then why don’t we forgive ourselves? 

So this week let’s accept the forgiveness we have through Christ and let’s speak forgiveness to ourselves. Let’s not withhold from ourselves the very thing our Creator died for us to have. And let’s continue to let the love of Christ change us from the inside out.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the richesof God’s grace… – Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with youin my Father’s kingdom.” – Matthew 26:27-29 (NIV)

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”- Acts 10:43 (NIV)

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What Saying No Has to Do With Compassion

Of the many things that busyness steals from us, compassion is close to the top of the list. Who of us, when we’re stretched thin, has time to enter into another’s pain? Writing about compassion at praylivecreate.comupdate: image by Lizzy Gadd

Last weekend my husband was away on a business trip. And when he came back the first thing he wanted to do was lay on the bed together with our window AC unit blowing in cool air against the mugginess outside and talk about the things he’d seen and heard.

He told me about an article he read in the NY Times about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and how officials had narrowed the outbreak down to the very first victim, who they were calling Patient Zero: a 2 year old boy. The child brought it home, then the mother got it, then the sister, and the entire family. They all died. So did the doctors treating them. And the others who came into contact. The people at the funeral homes and the families of those people.

Ebola is tearing communities apart.

This is not news to anyone, but because I’m not great at staying up to date with what’s happening in the world, the specifics were news to me. Apparently the article went on to say that only two organizations are on the ground, truly making a difference: Samaritan’s Purse and Doctor’s Without Borders.

They needed gloves, Heshan told me. That’s it. Rubber gloves could have saved lives.

I remembered what it was like when I was denied medical treatment for an illness I went through, and I thought back to two weeks ago when Steph had strep throat and even in our sophisticated medical system had to go to the doctor three times to get the antibiotics she needed to get better. I remembered how much it sucks to be sick or watch the people we love be sick and not be able to do anything about it, and for a moment I felt their pain.

In that split second, I wanted to send the rubber gloves. Or at least the $10 it would take to buy some.

And it was also in that split second that I realized that in order for us to be generous we must feel another’s pain.

In His earthly ministry, Jesus felt other’s pain. A guest speaker at my church told us that the original word used in Mark 1 to describe the way Jesus felt about a man begging to be healed of leprosy is actually better translated to being punched in the gut. Jesus felt His pain. He saw the man suffering and it felt like having the wind knocked out of Him.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” – Mark 1:40-41 (NLT)

Of the many things that busyness steals from us, compassion is close to the top of the list. Who of us, when we’re stretched thin, has time to enter into another’s pain?

I usually want to run from the ugly stuff, because most days it feels like I have enough problems of my own. One of the reasons I don’t know much about world news is because it can feel a big joy-stealer in the small amount of free time I have.

But Jesus was moved by compassion, and He uses compassion to move us as His hands and feet. When we actually feel someone else’s pain we’re more likely to do something about it. 

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

One of the biggest revelations for me emotionally in this whole following Jesus into less experience is that every time I say no to something that’s not a real need (even when I feel guilty about it), I’m actually opening up the door for Jesus to show me what to say yes to, and compassion is a lot easier for me when I’m not feeling overwhelmed or stressed out myself.

I know it’s not a new thing and that people all over are talking about yes and no and how to do each well. I’ll be honest with you that as I’m taking things off my plate I’ve been asking God to help me care about others in the ways He wants me to, because I feel like generosity is something I have a lot of room to grow in. It kind of blows my mind that real compassion (not just the knowledge that I should care about something but the actual caring feeling to do something about it) is something I need a lot of personal space for, and I’m really glad He showed that to me. It’s one of many things that is confirming for me that God is calling me to a slower pace and to a life that’s less about getting things done and more about being available when He calls me to move.

What about you guys? How do you feel about busyness or compassion? Does it come easier to you even when your plate is full or are you more able to feel compassion when you have less on your plate? Let’s talk about it… 

Linking up with Unforced Rhythms and Jack of  all Trades at A Harvest of Blessing and Community Brew.

Kim from praylivecreate.com

Update: the image above was incorrectly attributed via unsplash. Original image by Lizzy Gadd. Modified for this blog post by Stephanie Oh.

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