Blessings In Obedience–A Guest Post from Denise Lilly

By Denise Lilly

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To be a parent is to persevere regardless of feelings.

Emotions run high in parenthood – joy, excitement, frustration, anger, exasperation, fear – but being a parent is about action. I don’t feel like sitting at the table for a half hour trying to convince him to eat what’s good for him. I don’t feel like addressing a temper tantrum. I don’t feel like chasing a poopy butt boy. I don’t feel like rising at 3 a.m. when he cries.

But of course, I do all these things because being Bronson’s mom is not about what I feel like doing.

And I expect him to obey regardless of feeling, too. I know he doesn’t feel like getting dressed when I say or holding my hand in a parking lot or leaving his food on his plate (instead of throwing it on the floor), but I’m not too concerned about his feelings on these matters. I want him to learn to do them in obedience.

Lately I’ve been recalling a theory I studied in social psychology. As quoted from Social Psychology by  David Myers:

“Experiments confirm that positive behavior toward someone fosters liking for that person…It is a lesson worth remembering: If you wish to love someone more, act as if you do.”

And later…

“If we want to change ourselves in some important way, it’s best not to wait for insight or inspiration. Sometimes we need to act…”

As a mom, I naturally do this with my son. I act as if I love him regardless of the situation, and I, of course, really do love him immensely.

But this is not always as easy or natural with other people.

Jesus says I should bless those who curse me. I should love my enemies. And I sense he’s not too concerned about my feelings on these matters.

But nothing seems more unnatural, more impossible to me. I wait for insight and inspiration, and while in waiting, I dwell on what was said or done. I weave a web of ruminations, and I find myself trapped in bitterness.

In some situations I’ve prayed for more than a handful of years for forgiveness – that I would be overwhelmed by forgiveness for the people who have hurt me.

This has not happened.

I’m still trapped in bitterness. I’ve woven more threads of anger and pain over the years. As time goes on, I find there’s more people who hurt me, and I’ve been exasperated by God’s inaction.

But I think he’s been more exasperated by mine.

He doesn’t tell me to feel forgiveness. He tells me to act in forgiveness. To bless, to love, and as I’ve learned in psychology, this will actually change the way I feel.

It’s not that my feelings are arbitrary or even unjustified. People have been cruel. Things happened that should have never happened, but I can’t control other people or change the past.

I can move forward, stepping in obedience into forgiveness, letting my actions untangle my feelings. I can be a blessing. I can be loving. And I can let these actions change me in a very important way.

Denise Lilly spends her days in the daily grind of motherhood in Maine with her two sons. She is a writer, photographer and blogger. Read more of her writing in her book, Cling, or on her blog at


I am thrilled to have Denise guest posting on the blog today.  I was blessed by her words and I know you will be too.  She was sweet enough to offer a free copy of her book, Cling, to one lucky reader.  Be sure to enter!


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When We Wait (Isaiah 40:27-31)

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They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Isaiah 40:31 is both a favorite verse and one that’s easy for me to ignore.  On one hand, how could you not love reading this verse?  Mount up with wings like eagles?  Run and not be weary?  I want a piece of that.  On the other hand, it’s one of the most quoted Bible verses out there.  We see it plastered on coffee cups, posters, notecards, and bookmarks.  It shows up in our Facebook feeds and on Pinterest pins.  And because we see it so often, sometimes we stop seeing it.

Until the day God means it for you.

I made a connection this week I had never seen before.  A basic precept of Bible reading 101 is to consider the original audience for the text.  Understanding the audience of the text often helps us understand the meaning of the text.  What it means for us today has to be consistent with what it mean to them then.  Yet for some reason, I had never considered the original audience for this verse.

Isaiah 40 was written to a nation in exile.  God revealed to Isaiah that Babylon would carry the nation of Judah into exile (Isaiah 39:5-7).  Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Isaiah looked forward to a generation who had not yet been born and wrote a message of hope:  Don’t despair. God has not forgotten you.  He is sovereign, and there remains a destiny for the people of God.

We remember that day when the towers fell and the world seemed to rock on its axis.  Our emotions swung from shock to anger to grief and our prayers tasted like the salt of our tears: Lord, where are you?  Why is this happening?  Where is justice?

The exiles had the same questions:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”? (Isaiah 40:27)

Does it have a familiar ring?  To me, it sounds like the echo of my own pain.  In times of hurt I am tempted to question God’s heart. Isaiah reminds us when we are tempted to question where God is, it is time for us to remember who God is.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28).

God is Creator.  He is the everlasting God.  He does not grow weary.  And yet there are times when his ways are beyond our comprehension.  In those moments when we cry out for a move of God, when we are desperate for understanding, what does God ask us to do?


It’s not a passive word.  Sometimes translated as “hope,” the Hebrew word means  “to wait attentively” or “to hope with expectation” (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament).  It’s the watchman on the walls waiting for the dawn; the expectant mother waiting for the moment of birth.

In the depths of our sorrow and pain, God asks us to wait for him to prove himself faithful.

  • We wait for God to hear us (Psalm 40:1)
  • We wait  for God to move (Psalm 27:14)
  • We wait for justice (Psalm 37:34; Proverbs 20:22)
  • We wait on our promised inheritance (Psalm 37:9).
  • We wait on Him (Psalm 130:5-6)

We wait, because the Lord’s coming is as certain as the dawn.  We refuse to take shortcuts or cast about for our own solutions, preferring the deliverance that comes from his hand. We wait because we know who he has declared himself to be.

In our waiting he gives us strength.  He who does not become weary lifts us up on wings like eagles, keeps the runner from becoming weary and the walker from becoming faint.  He gives us himself. And in doing so, he ensures that we don’t just endure the waiting–we exult in a victory that is sure to come.

I will wait upon the Lord.  For my hope is found in him.

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Resources for Ministry Wives

Just a little announcement for ya:

I’ve added a resource page for ministry wives and women in ministry to the blog.

ministry wives

On this page you will find:

  • Links to some of my favorite books on ministry, church conflict, leadership, church growth and revitalization, etc.
  • Resources for rest, renewal, and help for pastor’s wives and women in ministry.
  • Links to online communities for ministry wives.
  • A list of some of my favorite PW blogs and bloggers.

I’m planning to keep this updated as I discover new resources.  If you have suggestions, feel free to contact me.

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When Lions Roar: Isaiah 36-37

Lions are not my favorite thing to see at the zoo.  Why?  They’re boring.  Nine times out of ten you only find the lions doing their favorite thing:  snoring.

At least the gorillas scratch themselves now and then.

One zoo visit things went a little differently.  As we walked around the zoo, we could hear the lion roaring.  The male lion was perched on a rock, loudly declaring himself the king of all he surveyed.  I stopped to watch, getting a good look at his full mane and sharp teeth.

Then I glanced at the children.  The oldest had her hands over her ears.  My son had both hands over his mouth, and the youngest was peeking through her fingers.  Pretty much like this:

I laughed.  There wasn’t anything to fear.  Despite his swagger, the lion was in the zoo.  There were stout walls, deep moats, and iron bars keeping him from escaping.  He might think himself the king of beasts, but the lion was dependent on his keeper’s generosity for food.

His only power was in his roar.

Hezekiah came face to face with a roaring lion when the Assyrian army came to call.  Hezekiah had reversed the policies of his father by destroying the idols of Judah and refusing to pay Assyria tribute.  Assyria viewed this as rebellion, and Sennacherib marched on Judah.  The Assyrian army captured the fortified cities of Judah and surrounded Jerusalem.  Sennacherib sent his spokesperson, the Rabshekah, with a message for Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:1-32).

Rabshekah’s speech was a masterful bit of psychological warfare.  He declared that Judah was defenseless and helpless.  Egypt would not help them and the Judean army was not strong enough to turn back a single Assyrian chariot.  He accused Hezekiah of betraying his people and said that the people would surely die unless they surrendered.  His speech didn’t only challenge Hezekiah. It also challenged God.

Through his messenger, Sennacherib declared that Yahweh had given him permission to conquer Judah.  He insisted that the Lord was powerless to save his people.  None of the other gods of the nations had delivered their people from the Assyrian onslaught.  What made Judah think their God would have any more power?

Sennacharib and his emissary didn’t know who they were challenging.

Faced with the enemy’s roar, Hezekiah did the only thing he could do.  The king took the letter from the messengers and went into the temple, spreading the letter out before the Lord.  God answered through the prophet Isaiah, declaring that he himself would save the city for his name’s sake (Isaiah 37:1-38).

Despite all Assyria’s boasting, Sennacherib never fired a shot against Jerusalem.  An angel of the Lord struck the Assyrian army, and 185,000 men died overnight.  The Assyrian army withdrew, and Sennacherib eventually met his end.  He who had dared to challenge the Most High was killed in the temple of his god by two of his own sons.

In the end, it was Sennacherib’s god who was unable to save him.  Sennacherib thought he had the power, but the real authority lay with the Lord.  Sennacherib’s only power was in his roar.

Isn’t that how the enemy always works?  Satan’s power is in his roar.  Like that lion in the zoo, he roars like he owns it all.  That’s what he wants us to think.  He wants us to fear.  Satan wants us to believe that he’s really the one in control.

Satan wants us to fear because fear makes us do foolish things.  It was fear that drove Hezekiah’s father to pay tribute to Assyria in the first place.  Fear makes us shrink back and convinces us that we have to protect ourselves.  Fear drives us to punish other people to keep them from hurting us.  Fear makes us try to control our worlds so that no one gets close enough to hurt us.  Fear drives us to dance with the devil because deep down we don’t really believe that God can keep us safe.

When lions roar in our life, we should follow Hezekiah’s example.  I love that image of Hezekiah on his knees in the temple, spreading Sennacherib’s threatening letter out before the Lord.  I feel like that sometimes:  Lord, have you seen this?  What are you going to do about this one?  Like Hezekiah, we pour it out before the Lord and wait for our deliverance.  For when God delivers us, it proves what he has already said about himself.  He is our defender, our fortress, our strong tower.  He is Mighty God, the Creator of  heaven and earth.  He is our Redeemer and Friend, and he is with us.

Let the lions roar.  God’s love always triumphs.

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How to Increase Spiritual Hunger

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There’s a certain honesty that only comes in the early morning darkness. During the day it’s easier to find excuses for my spiritual struggles.  I’m busy.  I’m tired.  Things and people pull at my attention.  It’s easy to convince myself that the problem is out there.  If I can just find the right set of circumstances and set up the right routines then everything will fall into place.

But lying awake at 3:00 AM I have to face the truth.  The problem isn’t out there.  The problem is in me.

Sometimes I don’t pursue God because I don’t want him enough. Like the seed fallen among thorns, my desires for other things chokes out my desire for God.  I want to be liked, so I stay silent instead of speaking out.  Or say yes instead of saying no because I fear letting someone else down.  I’m tired of denying myself, so I justify a designer purchase and then worry about how to make the budget fit to cover it.  My emotions are churning, so I let food calm the storm instead of turning to God.  I don’t want to face my own sin, so I distract myself with a novel or movie.  If I ignore it, maybe it will go away.

I don’t seek God because I’m not hungry enough.

When I realize the depth of my spiritual apathy  in the 3:00 AM darkness, my first thought is usually to fix myself.  I just need to try harder.  Set the alarm earlier.  Post a new memory verse on the fridge.  Find a new accountability partner.  My mind races to find a new plan because this time it’s going to be different.

That’s the voice of guilt, and I’m learning to silence it.  Conviction points us to God; guilt separates us from him.  And yes, turning to anything other than God to meet my deepest needs is sin.  Food, stuff, friends, religious ritual, even my children—looking to  these things to define who I am and feed my soul hunger turns them into idols.  And like Dagon’s statue falling on its face before the ark, no idol can stand in the presence of the Lord (1 Sam. 5:1-5).  The Lord God Almighty is the only one who can feed my soul.

There are times where we need to stand on what God says rather than what we feel.  God says if we hunger and thirst after righteousness we will be satisfied.  And he says if we ask we will receive.  So what do I do when my problem is that I don’t hunger for God enough, when my desire for other things has choked out my desire for him?  I ask.  I ask God to increase my hunger.  I ask God to renew my desire for him.  It’s a prayer God has been faithful to answer.

What I’ve learned to do in those gray early morning hours of doubt is to run to God instead of from him.  The insidious danger of guilt is that it keeps us from seeking the very medicine that can heal our souls.  Spiritual apathy is sin.  The good news is Jesus died for sin and  when I confess my sin God is faithful to forgive me.  I confess the idolatry of my heart and ask God to renew my spirit.  And he does.

Ephesians says that even our faith is the gift of God (2:8).  Faith is not something we muster up on our own.  We can learn to walk in it and strengthen it over time, but ultimately God is both source and object of our faith.  Similarly, God puts hunger for him in our hearts.  When we lack hunger, the solution is not to try harder.  The solution is to ask God to increase our hunger for him.

Asking God to increase my hunger increases my awareness of and desire for him.  When I ask God to increase my hunger, I feel in my spirit the urgency to seek him.  God opens my eyes to those windows of opportunity when I can steal away for a few moments to spend in the Word.  He meets me in worship in surprising places—rocking a sleeping baby, or as I finish my walk and see the sun rising over the trees.  God increases my sensitivity so I am aware of his presence with me in the quiet moments of my day.  I begin to hear his voice even in the chaos.  The miracle of it all is that the more I experience him, the more I desire him.  Tasting God’s goodness makes us hunger for more.

If you find your hunger for God choked out by the weeds of this world, don’t start pulling weeds.  Plant seed.  Ask God to increase your hunger and listen to his promptings.  It’s a prayer he is faithful to answer.

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A Prayer for Our Nation

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Father God,

As we remember our nation’s birth, we lift our country up to you.

We celebrate our freedoms and remember that true freedom is found only in you.

We are thankful for our heritage and remember we are citizens of a greater kingdom that both is and is yet to come.

And today, we pray for our  nation.

We pray for our national, state, and local elected leaders.  We pray for wisdom and discernment.  We pray you will give them hearts that seek after peace.  We pray you would lift up men and women who love you and serve knowing that they are ultimately accountable to you.

We pray for prophets like Nathan and Samuel who are not afraid to speak truth to power.  Raise up voices like Daniel and Joseph who are able to recognize the times and know how to navigate them. May our leaders have ears to hear the messengers you send.

We pray you will give our judges wisdom.  We pray they would desire wisdom above wealth and knowledge of you above power, like Solomon in his finest hour.  Lord, give them discernment and insight into the hearts of those who stand before them.  May justice trump ideology and let them recognize true justice is found in you.

We pray for the men and women in our armed forces.  Lord, we long for peace even as we live in a world at war.  We pray for protection for our soldiers.  We pray for healing for those who bear the mental and physical price of our freedom.  We long for the day when swords are beaten into plowshares and our sons and daughters no longer prepare themselves for war.

As believers we pray for our own hearts.  For you have said “if my people humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.”

If my people.  Your people.  Not the politicians.  Not Hollywood.  Not the media.  Not business.  But your people.  Those who belong to you, who have claimed your name.

Us.  Me.

God, I confess that we have failed you.  That too often we have retreated to the safety of our church walls, forgetting that you called us to a lost and broken world.  We trade the passion of mission for the pettiness of our disputes and act as if worship is more about our desires than your delight. We exchange your banquet for seats at an earthly table.  We look at those who are not like us and treat them as enemies and others rather than neighbors and friends.  Lord, forgive us for failing to live as your people.

Father, I pray that you will restore our hearts.  Renew our hunger for you.  Rekindle in us the passion to see the nations worship.  Restore our love for our neighbor.  Show us what how it looks when we live like the gospel is really true.

Pour out your Spirit on us again, O Lord.  Heal our land. Restore our hearts.

Send revival, Lord.

And let it begin with me.

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How to Stay Grounded for Life

I had the privilege of meeting Katy Kauffman this spring at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, and I am absolutely thrilled to have her guest posting on my blog today.  She has a sweet spirit and great love for the Lord.  I know you’ll be blessed by what she has to share with us today.  Enjoy!

IMG_0005_croppedIt was magnificent to behold. I vividly remember walking with my parents through the park and coming upon a gigantic tree that had fallen. It wasn’t enormous just because I was five years old. Its mighty trunk was at least three feet in diameter, and its root system, still interwoven in mounds of dirt, was about twice my dad’s height. Yet this giant of a tree had fallen, and it serves as a reminder.

Winds come. Storms rage. Roots grow weary. Are your roots strong? This poor tree had been magnificent in appearance, but apparently its roots weren’t strong enough to keep it grounded. How easy is it for some harsh wind of adversity to knock us over? Or for us to lose our footing in life because IMG_0006of fears and doubts? The winds and storms of life will whirl around us, but it is possible to stay grounded in the peace of God and not lose our hope or even our joy.

So how do we stay grounded? What do we, as God’s children and “trees of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3 NKJV), need to stay grounded for life and withstand the brunt of storms and trials? Like trees, we need four things.

  1. Sunshine – Absorb the warmth of God’s love.

A tree needs sunlight to grow, both above and below ground. God is the sunshine that warms our souls and gives us reason to stand strong when the wind blows and the rain beats down on us. Remember how much God loves you. Let the awareness of His presence with you and the fierceness of His love warm your soul and keep you in awe. God cherishes His children and allows only what they can handle in Him. So draw close to Him. Tell Him what’s going on, and listen for His counsel. You will often find it in His Word.

  1. Water – Drink in the refreshment of God’s Word.

Just as water is essential for a tree to survive, God’s Word is essential to the believer. Spend time in Scripture, and drink in the refreshment and nourishment it provides. Its promises and truths will refresh your spirit when fears and doubts threaten to steal your peace. Write your favorite verses on index cards, and put them where you will see them often. Continually take in God’s Word, and let it strengthen your anchor in God and His peace.

  1. Oxygen – Depend on God’s power to act on your behalf.

As roots need oxygen to produce energy, we need God’s power to sustain our strength. No trial or storm is a surprise to Him, and He has the power to enable us to face it victoriously. Wait on God to act on your behalf, and watch Him renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31). Stay grounded for life by depending on Him and His power, even if you don’t know how a difficult situation will turn out. He knows how to rescue and restore, how to heal and set things right when we look to Him.

  1. Good Soil – Unearth doubts and fears.

A tree needs good ground for its root system to grow and anchor it in the soil. Hard ground or too many obstructions can result in a shallow root system. Search your heart and mind for any doubts or fears that lie beneath the surface, and allow God to transform your heart into good ground. Refuse fearful or anxious thoughts from the enemy. Let your faith in God be a shield against Satan’s darts. Cooperate with God’s work in your life to remove what is harmful, and have faith in Him who controls all things and loves you perfectly.

Christ is the Key

Stay rooted in Christ. “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord,Lone Maple Tree so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7 NKJV). In Jesus we have peace (John 16:33), His peace full of hope, strength, stability, and comfort. He who wins the victory over sin, Satan, and the world is the maker and sustainer of our peace.

So don’t let the winds of adversity and fear topple you over. Stay rooted in Christ. Find peace in Him. Let His love warm your heart, His Word refresh your soul, His power sustain your resolve, and His work transform your life. Our roots in Christ will keep us standing strong.



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Katy Kauffman is the author of 2 Timothy: Winning the Victory, a Bible study on how to win the spiritual battles of life and ministry. She is a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, and graduated from Luther Rice Seminary with a BA in Religion. Her heart’s desire is for women to know and love God, understand the richness of His Word, and fulfill His plan for their lives. She makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter.

© Copyright 2014 by Katy Kauffman

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Love Makes Light

Catskill Fireflies by s58y via flikr

I’m posting today at 5 Minutes for Faith:

We walked back up from the river in the deepening dusk.  As we rounded the bend we saw them—fireflies twinkling among the thistles and Queen-Anne’s lace bordering the path.

My daughter froze.  “Mom,” she said in a reverent whisper, “Are those fireflies?  I’ve never seen them before.”

We held out our hands to catch the light and watched the fireflies dance in defiance of the dark.

God has called us to be light.  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15).

Read the rest at 5 Minutes for Faith

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Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Grace

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We were wrapping up seminary orientation when the professor turned back to the board.

“Here’s the one thing you need to know to get you through this program,” he said.

He scrawled giant letters across the board:  C = M.Div

His point was that it didn’t take a perfect GPA. Most churches don’t want to see your transcript–they just want to know you have a seminary degree. It wasn’t worth jeopardizing your family or your health to graduate cum laude.

I’ve never been that kind of a girl.

The first day of high-school biology our teacher planted his feet in front of the class and declared “No one gets an A in my class.”

I thought, “Watch me.”  And I did.

When it comes to academics, I don’t settle for less than my best.  My inner Hermione revolts at the idea of C=degree.  I’ve always been willing to do a little more work, read a few more books, or write a few more pages on the paper to come out on top.  I love learning and school comes naturally to me–that’s a big part of it.  But part of it is also that my achievement-oriented self can’t stand not putting my all into my work.

That’s good for academics.  Not so good for salvation.

Here’s what we do so often:  saved by grace, we try to live by works.  We gladly receive salvation, then try to live as if we have to earn God’s continued favor—and we can’t.  Nor do we have to.  Once we were strangers and aliens, enemies of God.  But by his grace “once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13.)  In his death Jesus became our peace.  He tore down the dividing wall between us and God, bringing reconciliation.  Because of Jesus, we now have bold and confident access to come before the Father’s throne.

Jesus did everything.  Jesus’ death unlocked the doors of heaven so that we can have a relationship with God.  But sometimes we act as if Jesus’ death wasn’t fully sufficient. In our insecurity, we try to add our pitiful acts of atonement to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice:

Jesus plus our clean house.

Jesus plus not missing church for a month.

Jesus plus having a quiet time seven days in a row.

Jesus plus our perfect children.

Jesus plus our volunteer work.

Jesus plus—because we cannot fathom that God loved us enough to become everything for us.  We can’t wrap our minds around grace, so we staple the post-it notes of our efforts to the cross and hope that someday we will have done enough to receive the reward Christ has already given.

This is what we must understand:  intimacy with God is not something we achieve but something we learn to walk in.  God is not up there somewhere waiting for us to climb up to him; He came down to us so that he could walk beside us and show us the way.  Salvation is available by grace through Christ.  Christ’s blood paid the price for us to fellowship with God.  The invitation is there—God has already taken the initiative.  We simply respond.

C may equal M.Div.  Jesus plus nothing equals grace.  Receive it freely today.

Q:  Do you ever struggle with feeling that you have to earn God’s grace?  How does that work itself out in your life?

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When Loving God’s People Hurts

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This church thing can be like the little girl with the curl on her forehead.

When it’s good it’s very, very good, but when it’s bad it’s horrid.

When we get church right it’s a little taste of heaven on earth.  When we get it wrong it goes deep because we know we were meant for more.

What do we do when loving God’s people hurts?  Sometimes it will.  But that doesn’t mean we should quit.  How do we respond when we are wounded by God’s people?

I’m guest posting today over at the (in)courage beach house about what to do when loving God’s people hurts.  Come on over to read the post and join in the conversation.

And don’t forget to enter to win a set of Bangle Bracelets from Eternal Threads!!!

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