He is sufficient

He is sufficient

Are you desperate for relief from your heavy burdens? For me, the dark early hours of a Monday are akin to staring down the barrel of a gun – but instead of a steel shaft, I see the days of the week lined up and advancing toward me. I can’t tell you how many mornings I have begrudgingly left the warm cocoon of my bed, feeling utterly abandoned by the weekend and unarmed/unprepared to meet the week.

That is, until this morning. Something has shifted in my understanding of a small corner of the Gospel message for me, and I’m grateful because I can finally connect the dots between this Earthly life and God’s promise of abundant life made complete in Jesus.

His grace is sufficient for me. Do you believe this? We don’t have to pray that it would be or ask why he hasn’t made it so… it already is. Lord, give us your wisdom to understand in our hearts, deep inside, that when life is hard, when thousands of burdens rail at us from the business side of a new week, what it means to be satisfied and contented with you.

Not with you and coffee. Not with you and a quiet uninterrupted time to pray and think. Not even with you and a desired outcome to a situation. But satisfied with you alone.

Lord, I confess how UNsatisfied I have been with you. I have passed over this verse with a “yeah, but…” and page turn to seek something clearer, easier, more attuned to my “needs”; some other bible verse that gives the secret recipe to Peace and Rest so I can thrive in this hectic world. I have even had well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ tell me point blank that I was anxious and panicking because I failed to trust in you. That made me mad. I honestly thought I did trust you. Well, at least my desire to trust was pure, and it could not be anything else because at the time I had only the amount of faith measured out to me. (You give us exactly what we can handle.) But now, some years later you have suddenly opened up my eyes to understand.

Lord, show us that we are already equipped with all that is needed to walk confidently through the day, doing good and seeking your face constantly. It took a very confusing detour to arrive at this conclusion, and although I know the winding path will keep on going, we pause today to praise you in this discovery, and like the biblical fathers, build an altar on the side of the road here to mark the place where we finally understood your grace really is all we need.

Study with me – This is the Gospel

Study with me – This is the Gospel

Good morning friends,

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t do it all and don’t have it all together. Every day I punish myself with guilt for not being able to take my life by the throat and make it what I imagine it should be. And on top of that, it’s Monday – which intensifies the need to set the entire week off on a good foot.

But I can’t do it all on my own. I need grace from the outside in, but I also need to give grace from the inside out.

What am I talking about? I want to write original content for you, reader. I want to create beautiful things in Jesus’s name. I want to put everything I have into this work of my dreams. But ticking clocks, household chores, waking babies, and full-time work preoccupy my mind and energy. Limits.

The poor widow felt this too.  Luke 21: 

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

This is important: She gave out of her poverty, not because she was trying to compete with what others were able to give, but because her heart desired to honor God.

Does my heart really desire to honor God? Then what I can do, he will accept and cherish.


I’ll be going through This is the Gospel by She Reads Truth study for the next 14 days. Each day’s reading is available for free here. You can also download the app here for iOS and here for Android 

I hope you will join me and find rest in the Good News of GRACE. Love you, friends!

In the palm of His hand

In the palm of His hand

I recently met a woman whose exhaustion and loneliness was written on her face. She exuded defeat, though for the sake of her two children she tried to hold it together. A single mom of teenagers chain smoked vigorously throughout the day and smiled without really smiling. Something about her stopped me in my tracks.

Not being a naturally outgoing person, I might have walked past her on an ordinary evening. But in this moment I felt utterly compelled to walk up to her and… I don’t know what. I had never met her before, and I had no idea of what I would say. I just knew somehow that I was supposed to go over to her.

Luckily, I had an excellent ice breaker in my arms – my little daughter. She tends to attract attention wherever she goes. All manners of strangers reach out to touch her, from grisly biker dudes at the gas station, to the grandma standing in the grocery check-out line. For some reason a baby is a safe buffer; no one can feel intimidated or threatened when an adorable little one is around.

It was night time and getting dark. Many families and friends sat in groups talking near the campfire, but this woman sat on her own aloof and glassy-eyed. I could feel her sadness as we spoke. She told me that she wished she could hold the baby but, on account of being drunk, she would not. I thanked her for that and promised she could hold her in the morning. “Thank you for coming to talk to me,” she said.

Even the darkness couldn’t hide that slight quiver in her voice. What she didn’t know is that the infant whom she so desired to hold and cuddle, was currently wearing a onesie with the prophetic words of Isaiah scripted across the front: “God has you in the palm of His hand.” That she prohibited herself from reaching out due to her current state of inebriation was not lost on me.

This word of Isaiah’s is part of a passage where God comforts his people, reminding them of His promise to save them and give them an inheritance that will never spoil.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,

   the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast

   and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,

   I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

   your walls are ever before me…

“Though you were ruined and made desolate

   and your land laid waste,

now you will be too small for your people,

   and those who devoured you will be far away.

Isaiah 49:14-16, 19 NIV

Now days later she rests heavy on my heart because this is only one example of a person who feels her desperate need for redemption but either cannot or will not reach out and receive it because she believes she must first redeem herself to be accepted. Friends, this is not so!

Jesus promises an abundant life (John 10:10). And that promise of abundance is not delayed. Jesus is not just assuring us of some vague, future eternal life in Heaven with God. He’s talking about a present-tense, immediate abundance of life, today! Something we can take hold of that right here and now, just as we are: ruins and all.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 NLT

Jesus didn’t wait until all the people repented and acknowledged him. Even his own disciples ran away and denied him in his hour of need. No, he stayed on that cross to finish the work, of taking our deserved punishment so that anyone could reach out and grab that bundle of joy.

This is the Good News: That through declaring Jesus as Lord and believing in Him, we may be welcomed into the family of God, to love and be loved without fear.

“But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am…”

1 Corinthians 15:10 MSG

For prayer, journaling, or meditation:

  • Prayerfully re-read Isaiah 49:14-16, 19
  • How would you respond to a friend who believes he/she has to earn their way into God’s good favor?
  • Can you think of a time when you have purposely held back from approaching God? How did you end up going back to Him? (If you haven’t yet, what is causing you to stay away?)

Seeking a church family

Seeking a church family

I’ve been struggling with this concept in my personal life lately. My husband and I recently moved to a new town with new churches and an entire new community. We have not yet settled on a place to attend. We are church-homeless.

Not that we expect the church we decide to call home to be perfect. We aren’t that naive. Instead, we search for the particular features that make us feel at home. Style of preaching. Good music. Professional sound team. Enough people our age.

But when I read Jen’s heartfelt exhortation to us this morning, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m searching for things that make me feel outwardly comfortable and proud to attend a certain place. I never thought about choosing the right kind of people.

They love each other, they love the staff, they love the city, and they love God.

That’s who I should be searching for. After all, the church is only a group of people. People aren’t attractive fliers, preachers, music, or donuts. And I want to make my church home a place where those people love Jesus more than anything else.

We are still on our search. (Please pray for us!)

I, like all of you, am going to an imperfect church this morning. I have failed it in innumerable ways, and I’ve felt the sting of disappointment there too. Church is hard.

But every single Sunday, every one, I find Jesus there. I am renewed in tiny or even enormous ways. But largely, when I look around the room, I see the faces of people that are so good, so courageous, so committed and loving, I cannot imagine doing life without them. They are, quite simply, the best people I know. The struggles and addictions and losses they have overcome would flatten you – it’s just a little middle school cafeteria but it is full of bravery. And they love well. They love each other, they love the staff, they love the city, and they love God.

That’s enough.

Folks, my prayer for you this morning is that you find your simple church where Jesus is lifted high and people are loved, and plant there with all your might. Your church will be so imperfect. SO. The staff and leaders will not magically make life fulfilling. People will let you down (and you them). Stuff will go sideways and have to be righted. There will be hard conversations and honest confessions and apologies and lots of forgiveness, but the presence of these things doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. It means you are building a church with human people and you love them too much to let it all slip through your fingers without fighting for unity.

May you find grace for your church today. May you find your people and put up a parking lot. And I hope that today, or maybe someday, you’ll look around the room like I do and marvel at what beautiful, wonderful people you are surrounded with, grateful that you get to love God and love each other and love people together, imperfectly.

-Jen Hatmaker, originally posted on Facebook

The only New Year’s Resolution you’ll ever need

The only New Year’s Resolution you’ll ever need

Once again it’s that crucial day when everyone decides whether to make or break their resolutions: January 2.

According to researcher John Norcross in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the population makes resolutions each New Year and by February, they have given up. (From Psychology Today)

Can you relate? I sure can. Each year I try to promise to do more, thinking that somehow that will make up for what I didn’t do last year. When it comes to giving up as soon as it gets hard, I’ll admit to being the first offender.

So I find myself wondering at this time of year – What does it actually take to accomplish your goals? I mean, really.

Well obviously, it involves changing our behavior. We can’t do the same thing over and over expecting different results. That’s the definition of “insane”.

But how exactly do we change? I’m searching for a better answer than “work hard”, “keep focused” & “stay inspired”. These nice sentiments don’t have the staying power to drive me when I’m stubborn, tired, or lazy. Cliche sayings will not move me to action. Reminders on my phone will get ignored. (An electric shock might do it, but then I’d just be in a bad mood.)

Here’s the truth: I can’t be interrupted.

“I can’t just stop my train of thought/netflix marathon/enjoyment of (insert guilty pleasure here)…Later” Later, we say. And isn’t that just what happens in every broken plan? Ignored advice? Sin?

Sin has the same beginnings as a broken resolution. The attitude that says, “No, I’m deciding for myself what’s best for me right now” is the same voice in us that decides against God’s plan to bring goodness to our lives. As a result, we find ourselves in a natural rut. Continually making deeper inroads going the wrong direction.

Trying to keep new years resolutions is like Salvation.
It’s not possible without Jesus.

Imagine you’re slipping down a rope hanging off a precipice. Someone holds out a hand from the top to pull you up. You can: (a) Accept the help (b) Swat away his hand and try to climb up yourself (c) Do nothing or give up and let go.

The Bible says that the price for sin is death. That means that if you die having sinned, you will only receive the just reward for what you have done.

In the old testament, the Jews had to sacrifice innocent animals for Israel’s sins. They had to do this every year because this type of sacrifice was not permanent. The animals were innocent, but still part of creation and not able to take away sins. It was only because of God’s mercy that he allowed humans to offer him something for their sins.

However, when Jesus came down, he was “begotten, not made”, Fully God and fully man, not a part of creation, but with the power to bring to life the dead and take away sins.

When He died, He was wholly innocent, a perfect sacrifice which does not need to be repeated every year. That one death was good to pay for every single person who ever was, if they chose to receive it.

That’s why we say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Because no amount of effort will ever do what his work on the cross has done. No amount of new years resolution-effort will ever yield perfect results.

The only way to succeed in making good changes in our lives is to first realize that we cannot do it by ourselves. We are powerless without Jesus. Our efforts alone are nothing but dirty rags. But what if our efforts are coupled with trust in His good plan for our lives? The possibilities are insurmountable.

So starting this year and moving forward, my resolution is to do everything I do for the glory of God because there’s no end to what is possible with Him.

How will you glorify God this year?

puredisciple.org

What I gained by losing my luggage

Yesterday I spent more than 10 hours traveling with three connecting flights and almost no sleep, only to find that there was no bag for me when I arrived at my home destination. Maybe this has happened to you before, maybe not, but perhaps you can still sympathize with that feeling of “….oh no….” as a laundry list of lost items floods through your mind. (Particularly my iPhone 5 chargers, both of them, which as we know are not cheap!)
I needed answers and I wanted them NOW. I waited at the airline check-in desk for 20 minutes before I had to track someone  down and request help myself. Now, I work in customer service. I know what it feels like on the other side of that desk. I remembered to check my attitude and frustration and treat the woman like a human. I do not think it is conceited to say that God has definitely graced me with a very keen sense understanding and patience. It’s certainly not my doing! Even this morning when I realized I’ve lost all my laptop and underwear and makeup, I don’t despair. I am rightly upset about it but I don’t feel terrible. Thanks be  to God that something worse didn’t happen like ME getting lost or dying in a plane crash. (An unavoidable thought every time I fly)
Still, as a natural product of our American culture in 2013 I mourn the loss of material things and use this experience to grow closer to Jesus whom I can never lose, because  he will never let me become lost. No airport or love of possessions or any amount of frustration can separate me from his love or his grasp on me. And that’s what I gained by losing my bag.

Thought to ponder

1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

How are you being a good steward of God’s grace today? Remember, your bank account of Grace is constantly overflowing! Give it away generously so that Jesus has more and more opportunities to top it off 🙂

Have a blessed Thursday!