How Does God Use All Things For Good?

all things work together for good

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

This verse has been on my mind quite a bit lately. A few weeks ago I experienced something not so pleasant, and rather than focusing on the circumstance I asked the Lord to bring to my mind a verse to help me deal. All things work together for good to those who love God immediately showed up in my head.

First, let me just say that I loooove when God answers a pray so quickly and in such an obvious way. Don’t you? But honestly, this wasn’t quite the type of scripture I thought I needed.

I began to repeat the verse to myself but I didn’t quite get it. I wanted a verse that would silence the source of my unpleasant feelings. I wanted a verse that would empower me to stand up to the injustice I believed I was facing. I wanted a verse that would rebuke the enemy and his attack. This verse didn’t seem to fit the bill.

Later in the week as my family and I continued to deal with crummy situation after crummy situation, all of which seemed to stem from the original unpleasantness, Romans 8:28 kept coming to my mind. I didn’t get it.

“Really, God? All this bad stuff is for our good.”

All things work together for good to those who love God.

“Lord, I believe Your word but I don’t understand.”

All things.

I need more, Father! Let me see what I’m not seeing!”

All.

And it was then, when He directed my attention to that one little word, that I finally understood what I had been missing.  

All.

Every single detail, whether seemingly significant or not; every circumstance I face, whether pleasant or painful; all things  the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly — they work together for my good. God uses them all to mold me into who I am becoming. He uses them all to build my character, to shape my beliefs, and to strengthen my dependency on Him.

And this is a good thing. I want Him building, shaping and strengthening me to be the woman He has called me to be. I want to be a woman who is called according to His purposes — whatever those purposes may be! And if it takes pain, discomfort and unpleasant things to get me there, I’ll take them.

Dear friends, I don’t know what kind of things you are facing today. But please be assured that if you love God, He is using all things for your good too. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Trust Him. Expect good things from Him. Embrace what life brings your way and let God build, shape, and strengthen you into who He has called you to be.

Only by grace,

Kelli

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Is God’s Grace Really Enough?

God's Grace Really Enough

His grace is enough.

I’m sure you have heard this a thousand, maybe even a million. God’s grace — His favor, His long-kindness, His good will — toward us is simply enough. That believing in His grace shown through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ will carry you through this life and into eternity far from the demand to live perfectly and sin free. His grace is enough. It paid the debt you owe for your wrong choice, decisions, actions. His grace says “it is finished!” And it is. But…

But I keep adding to this good news.

There isn’t really a “but” there, but I keep trying to insert one into every scripture, sermon, and devotional that speaks of God’s grace. And it is evident in the way I live, in how I think, in the words I pray, in the ridiculous demands I place on myself and the people around me. The but I keep inserting is really just me adding to the gospel. It’s just me changing the most amazing news there is and making it nothing more than strife and struggle. I believe the gospel. But…

But I still want to be sin free.

I believe that Jesus died for my sins – past, present, and future — but I still want to be sin free. I strive and struggle with my flesh. Arguing with it, fighting with it, demanding that it bow to my will — my will to be free of my sin. How arrogant of me. How prideful. How fooled am I. My flesh won’t obey God, why would it obey me!?! Jesus came because I can not be sin free. He came to take my place on that cross. And He came to share His reward for actually being sinless with me. That’s grace. And it should be enough. But…

But I still want a perfect life.

I want a life that is without struggle. I desire a life that is without pain. I lust for a life that is comfortable and pleasant and perfect. All of which I could have — I should have! — I’d deserve to have!! — if I could just get my sinful self under control. Again, how arrogant and prideful of me to believe that I am capable of attaining perfection. I can’t be perfect and that is why Jesus came. Not to live a life free of suffering and hurt, not to live a life of comfort and pleasure, but to reveal that God want us in all our imperfect mess. His grace is enough. But…

But my life’s evidence says that grace is not enough.

Because I will not fully rely on God’s grace… Because I will not fully embrace my weakness… Because will not accept the fact that I am a sinner at the core… Because I will not admit that I can not be perfect I live stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. I live in fear of not living up to the standard that I have placed on my own shoulder. I struggle with the guilt and shame associated with every sin and imperfection that I am still striving to correct.

I live denying the power of Christ.

I turn my pack on His strength.

I say Your grace is not enough…

…and I will try to do more to be sufficient on my own.

I live without rest. Without joy. Without peace.

I live weary and done.

If only…

If only I could truly believe every word that God has breathed. If only I could learn to abide in Him, to trust that His grace is enough, and rely on His perfect strength in the midst weakness. If only I could stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (Exodus 14:13). If only…

God in Heaven, I confess my doubt in who You are, my doubt in Your Son, and my doubt in Your grace. I confess my arrogance, pride, and confidence in myself. Here I am, weak and sinful and far from perfect. Break me of thinking that I can be sin free and perfect on my own. Please show me how to rest in your power. Help me to take hold of the peace and joy that comes from knowing Your Son. Please take my life, Lord, and use it to showcase Your perfect strength. Use me to put Your sufficient grace on display for all to see. In Your name I pray, amen.


Friends,

I struggle to move beyond an intellectual knowledge of what Jesus has done for me. I might be able recite and explain the gospel, but applying it — living it out, and truly allowing to it penetrate every part of who I am — that’s where I get stuck. And that’s what the words here in this post are all about. Are you stuck too? Please feel free to share your struggles here. Lets not pretend that faith in Christ is perfectly easy — faith may be simple, but not easy. Lets confess our doubts and take them to Jesus. Lets allow His strength to be perfect in our weakness.

Only by grace,

Kelli

 

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The Simplest – and Best! – Reason for Bible Study

Bible Study

I love Hello Mornings, an online ministry dedicated to encouraging women to spend time with God, plan their day, and make healthy choice first thing in the morning. This encouragement is wonderful and has really changed my life but (and this is a big but), if I start to hold Hello Mornings’ advice up to the same level of God’s word I can find myself discouraged, feeling guilty and wallowing in self-induced shame. Which, I am sure, neither God nor the Hello Morning staff wants.

So why can I end up feeling so low? Because when I focus on a my checklist (even a short God-Plan-Move checklist) instead of my Savior, I begin to base my worth on whether or not I am able put a check next to each item. I turn my simple desire to want to know God more, live my day for Him, and be physically fit to do so into a works-based religion. And true Christianity, my friends, is not works based.

Christianity is fully rooted in grace – the undeserved, never ever earned favor of God. My righteousness, my right standing, before my Heavenly Father is not based on anything I have or haven’t done. Ever! God doesn’t look at me and shake His head when I don’t get up early enough to read my Bible uninterrupted for 15 minutes in the morning. He doesn’t consider my beautifully penned day planner (or may ability to stay on schedule) a thermometer for how “good” I am. And He doesn’t take into consideration how much food I ate or how many miles I ran before He calls me His child.

Instead, He look at me through His Son Jesus Christ. The God-Man who walked the earth, obey the Father perfectly (both outwardly and inwardly) on my behalf, and now sits at the right hand of God, praying for me continually. Why? Because I’m not perfect. I can’t be perfect. I’m a horrible, messy sinner who always will be and am in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus loves me. He saved me. And He shares His reward for being perfectly obedient with me. Even though I don’t deserve it. It’s love! It’s grace!

My righteousness (aka my good standing) before God is not dependent on anything I can do for Him. It’s completely dependent on what Jesus has already done for me. With this knowledge I can have peace. I don’t need to worry about trying harder to be good. I don’t need to work my tail off trying to please my Father. I can rest. Jesus has me.

So, yes, I will God-Plan-Move with Hello Mornings and you should to… if you want… but not out of obligation. Instead, let’s God-Plan-Move with a focus on Jesus, a desire to simply be with Him and to know Him more.


WeSee_Cover-300But We See Jesus is the next Hello Mornings study. It starts Monday, June 20th and covers the first half of the book of Hebrews. I had the privilege of working with a few other authors to bring you the commentary in the study. The focus is on the superiority and work of Christ which enables us to stop striving and rest freely in Him. Perfect, right!?!

Click here to learn more about the study. Also, be sure to look into joining an accountability group to help you stay on task as you move through the study. If you have any questions about Hello Mornings, But We See Jesus, or Bible study in general drop me a line.

Only by grace,

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Go All Out or Don’t Bother :: Is That Right?

Copy of ...nor will I offer burnt offering to the LORD my God with that which cost me nothing.

Once upon a time, long, LONG ago I was a gym rat. It was ridiculous. I spent most of my free time there and when I wasn’t there I was planning my workout for my next visit. Warm-up. Cardio. Abs. Free weights. Stretch. I probably knew a whole lot less about exercise than I thought I did, but I still went all out. All. Out. My philosophy was that if I wasn’t going to workout hard, I might as well not even workout at all.

Then life changed.

I got married and had my first kid. And, well… Getting to the gym wasn’t as easy as it was when I was single, when the only person I had to consider was myself. I no longer had two consecutive hours to myself, let alone 20 minutes to take care of my body. So what did I do?

I quit.

I just gave up.

If I couldn’t go all out, what was the point? If I couldn’t run on the treadmill til I was dripping sweat or crunch til my abs burned or squat until I could no longer walk then I was wasting my time… or so I thought. A 15 minute walk around the neighborhood with a stroller was not my idea of a workout… so why bother?

I’d just wait a few more weeks until the baby started sleeping through the night… or find time in the morning before she woke up… or would run to the gym on my lunch break… or ask the sitter to keep her a bit longer at the end of the day or… Or… Or… The ors never quite happened and thus I gave up the gym life all together.

And guess what? Surprise! My level of physical fitness dropped dramatically.

I often find myself standing before a similar hurdle when it comes to drawing near to the Lord. If I can’t go all out during my quiet time, why bother? If I can’t spend an hour on my knees weeping in prayer, then prayer seems worthless. If I can’t read chapters of my Bible without being interrupted by the kids or the dog, then it’s pointless to even take it off the shelf. If I can’t fill pages in my journal of lovely praises, well, then I won’t praise. If I can’t get myself out of bed at least an hour before the sunrises to spend quiet time with the Lord, then I won’t get up at all.

Ridiculous, yes?

For some reason my gym philosophy — go harder or don’t bother — has made it’s way into my beliefs about who I am as a daughter of the King. The funny thing is, I know this philosophy is wrong.

When it comes to exercise, a little bit is better than nothing. A 20 minute walk around the block is far more beneficial than 20 minutes in front of the TV. And the same goes for spending time with Jesus. Twenty small prayers lifted up throughout the day are better than 20 thoughts of guilt because I didn’t get up early enough for quiet time.

We recently adopted a puppy and because he needs walked (or I find holes in my backyard) I am forced to exercise. No, it’s not sweat-dripping, muscles-burning exercise. But it is exercise and it didn’t take long after I started walking him that I noticed a small change in the way my clothes fit. Not only that, I began to have more energy and getting out of bed in the morning, though not may favorite thing to do, was getting somewhat less taxing. The short “worthless” walk around the block was beginning to make a positive difference on my overall health.

The same is also true about my time with my Lord and Savior. Whether it’s two minutes or two hours, no time in the Word or in prayer or in praise is wasted. Yet so much time can be wasted when I choose to believe that short moments are worthless.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways,

Gracious in all His works,

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,

To all who call upon Him in truth.

He will fulfill the desires of those who fear Him;

He also will hear their cry and save them.

The LORD preserves all who love Him,

But all the wicked He will destroy.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD,

And all flesh shall bless His holy name

Forever and ever.

Psalm 145:17-21 (emphasis mine)

The Lord promises to be near to all who call upon Him. There is no asterisk in the passage that says I must create the perfect setting or reserve a set amount of time in order to get Him to draw near. The promise is simply that He is near.

He also promises to fulfill the desires of those who fear Him. And guess what? If you are like me and desire quiet, uninterrupted, near perfect times with Him, I truly believe that in the right season He will provide this for you. In the meantime, however, He will persevere you, reassuring you that He is there. He is near.

Despite the piles of laundry, despite the rowdy children in the next room, despite the dog whining at the front door…

He is there.

So draw near.

What are you — what am I! — wait for?

Only by grace,

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P.S. When I was done writing this post, I walked into the kitchen to wash the dishes and pray. Within moments one of my rowdies came in and gave me hug. “What’s up?” I asked. “Oh, I just heard you praying and thought I’d pop in and pray with you,” he said. My heart melted! Yet, another reason we don’t always need that “perfect” quiet time.

F15-faith-2P.S.S. If you have 15 minutes a day and want to learn more about drawing near to God, consider reading my friend Katie’s study, Everyday Faith (affiliate link). You won’t regret it.

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Expecting In the One Who Promises Good Things

“If you then, being evil, know-2

“Oh, thank you Mommy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Those are the words of my two-year old the moment he sees that I have something he wants. He doesn’t ask for it or stomp his feet and demand it. He just says thank you and waits (not always so patiently) for me to give it to him.

He’s expectant.

Why? Because on some level — whatever level that is for a two-year old — he knows that I will provide for him. He knows, or at least expects that I will give him good things — like the warm, sweet cinnamon toast that I just made for myself and have only taken one bite out of.

Lately, his statements of thanks and expectancy have me quietly thinking about my relationship with my heavenly Parent, the One who has promised me good things.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:11‬

Our Father promises to give good things, but do I ask often enough for the things I want or need? Do I gleefully praise and thank Him for His promises before I receive them? Or do I go on about this life here on earth just getting by, believing in His gift of salvation at some point in future, but not taking hold of His promise here and now?‬

God’s hands have not been shortened and His ears have not grown heavy (Isaiah 59:1). He is capable. He is listening. He is not lazy. He has not forgotten about me. I can trust that He will do as He say He will, including answering me when I ask, being found when I seek Him, and opening the door to me when I knock (Matthew 7:7-8).

And when Jesus does not respond they way I hope or in the way I think He should? I must simply remember and hold fast to the promise that He gives good gifts. That He will provide more abundantly than I can imagine. That He sees my past, present, and future more clearly than I. That He has all the circumstances happening around me under control and that He is working all things together for my (and your!) good.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

So what am I waiting for..?

Thank You Daddy. Thank You, thank You, thank You! Thank You for every good gift You have and will give me. Not gifts that I deserve or will earn, but gifts that You give out the abundance of Your goodness and grace, gifts that You give for Your glory. Amen.

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Hold on Jesus, I Need to Get My iPhone: A Look at Luke 17:20-37

For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you

Read Luke 17:20-37


“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;

In other words, when the kingdom comes it’s arrival will not be visible to the eye.

nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

I absolutely love the original Greek word for kingdom. When I first learned it’s definition, it blew my mind. The original word is basileia and it means royal power, kingship, dominion, rule. Did you notice that each of the words of the definition do not describe a place? Pretty interesting, right? Instead, the kingdom of God in this passage refers to the authority that Christians submit to — and this submission happens in the heart, making this a heart issue, not a locality issue. In order to come into the kingdom, one must lay down his or her will and submit to the Father’s, which is why Jesus said “the kingdom of God is within you.” And the reason this blows my mind? Because we can enter the kingdom of God right now!!! Right here on earth! There is no waiting for admittance through the Pearly Gates, we can be citizens of the His kingdom right now! Pretty amazing stuff, right?

Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.

Life is going to get the point, and for most of us we are already to that point, where we will desperately desire for the return of Jesus Christ. However, we will need to be patient. We don’t always get what we want, right? Not to worry though, God knows what He is doing and He will return in His own perfect timing.

And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.

Beware, false messiahs will come. In fact, we have already seen a few, haven’t we? Ok, there have actually been quite a lot. David Koresh immediately comes to my mind when I think of people claiming to be Jesus. But did you know there are four different people (at least according to Wikipedia) walking around out there right now claiming to be Jesus? Don’t believe me, just google it.

For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.

There will be no doubt when the real Jesus actually returns. The sky will light up and His glory will be seen in every corner of the earth. So if you are wondering if that guy (or gal) down the street claiming to be Jesus is legit, ask yourself How’s the weather today? Any unexplained lightning phenomenons going on?

But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Jesus is referring to the cross here. His disciples did not yet understand that He would come twice. First to preach the gospel and set the captives free. Then again to shine light into all dark places (1 Corinthians 4:5) and to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).

And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Just before the flood, life was moving along as usual. They had no warning. Well… They had the prophet Noah, but they chose not to listen. Other than that, nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

Once again, business as usual for the citizens of Sodom. Lot tried to warn a few, but no one would listen.

Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

When Jesus returns, we will have no warning. Unless, you’ve been reading your Bible, of course, and have choosen to believe it. But even then, we will not know the exact time or the hour (Matthew 24:36). Life will be moving right along as usual — people will be getting married, having babies, going to work, attending softball games, dinner parties, and movies. And all of a sudden Jesus will be here!

In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.

And really, who would want to!?! I mean, come on, it’s Jesus we are talking about here! I can’t imagine doing anything but running out to see Him. I promise I won’t be like, “Just a minute Jesus, I need to go grab my iPhone.”

And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

No regrets here, people! No mourning the loss of our earthly things. No mourning how your life will change because Jesus is here to set up a brand new and beautiful heaven and earth. If there is even one possession that you think you’ll miss, even one aspect of your lifestyle that you can’t imagine going without, you need to be praying this verse over and over and over again. I myself pray it often.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:23-24‬

I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.

Why? Because even though life will be business as usual, some will be ready and some will not. Those that are ready and excited for the Lord’s return will be caught up to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). And those who are not ready? Those clinging to life here on earth? Well, they will be left for judgement. The judgement that will be due to them (due to all of us really) because they did not accept — they would not believe — that Jesus already took the judgment and the punishment for their sins.

So what do we do with all this information about the kingdom of God and the second coming of Christ? We prepare. We get our hearts ready by simply accepting and believing that the gospel is truth. That we are sinners deserving death and in need of a Savior. That Jesus is that Saviour — He is the only Savior! That He died for our sins and resurrected, conquering sin and death so that we could spend eternity knowing and being known by Him.

But what else? Is there more to be done to prepare for His second coming? Yes! Before I go I on I want to be clear: we do not earn salvation, it a gift freely given and a gift only accepted through faith. That said, there is more to be done. We have been commanded by Jesus Himself to go out and give the good news to those still suffering in darkness.

Freely you have received, freely give. ~Matthew 10:8b

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. ~Mark 16:15

Imagine yourself sitting at a picnic table in the park. You have just eaten your lunching and, because we tend to make extra large portions here in America, you have leftovers sitting in front of you. Now imagine a small child, dirty and alone coming near you. She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t look you directly in the eye, but she notices that you have something that she needs. You see the hunger in her eyes. Maybe you hear her stomach growl. You know what she needs. You have what she needs. What do you do? Do you pack up the abundance of your lunch and go about your day – business as usual? Or do you offer her what she needs?

We have neighbors and family members and co-workers hungry. You, Christian, have what they need. You have Jesus and there is plenty of Him to go around. Are you going to share? Are you going to tell them about the One who will satisfy their spiritual thirst and hunger completely? Or will you pack Him up in your lunch box and walk away?

One will be taken and the other left.

Don’t let it happen because you wouldn’t share the gospel. Don’t let it because you were too busy to let your daily schedule be interrupted. Don’t let it be because you were too tired, or too shy, or too worried about what others might think of you.

Just go! And preach! Let the Holy Spirit lead! And go!

And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.””

Ok, honestly, when I first read this I was like what? And I’m still a little like what? But I did read one commentary that explained this verse as a well known proverb of the day. The meaning, that all things happen in their proper time. Yeah. I know. I don’t get that meaning from the verse either, but we’ll just go with it for now.

In the meantime, be praying friends. Be praying that the Lord prepare your heart for His return. Be praying that He opens doors for authentic ministry and sharing of the gospel. Pray for your unsaved friends and loved ones. Pray with thanksgiving that God the Father has everything under control and all things will happen according to His timeline. Be praying, friends. Be seeking Him. Be listen to the Holy Spirit and, by His grace, be obedient to His command to go and preach the gospel.


Friends,

Please remember that I am human and flawed and my thoughts on this passage and others may not always be right. Please hold what I write up against the Word of God and listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you directly.

Only by grace,

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We Are Not Able: A Look at Numbers 13:25-33

and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today…” ~Exodus 14_13,

Read Numbers 13:25-33.


“And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.

The twelve spies had obeyed and gone out to the promised land as they were told (Numbers 13:2, 17).

Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

Again they obeyed. They brought back a report as Moses had instructed them (Numbers 13:19) and they returned with fruit, like he commanded (Numbers 13:20).

Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.

They saw the land that God had promised them and it was exactly as He had said — flowing with milk and honey. Truly. However…

Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”

…there are too many obstacles. {We} can not take possession of what the Lord has promised.

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

Caleb knew they were able because they had God on their side. God. It didn’t matter what was on the other side because they had God and they didn’t (Exodus 14:9). God who is mighty, who is just, who keeps His word, who is never changing and never deterred.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”

“We…”

“We are not able…”

Their focus was misplaced. They were right, they could not, but they forgot their history. They forgot all the times that they essentially had to do nothing, only sit back and watch, as God intervened for them.

And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.””

They trusted in their own reasoning over God’s faithfulness. God had not let them down yet, however, there they were expecting Him to do just that — let them down, betray them, go back on His word. And so they retreated. They dug their heels in and refused to go any further. They wept and mourned the defeat they were predicting. They grumbled and complained and wished they were dead (Exodus 14:2). They rebelled and feared and wanted to flee (Exodus 14:4). They didn’t understand see or understand what God was doing.

God was using those 40 days of spying to test their faith. Did they take God at His word or not? Was He truly going to give them the promised land or not? Did they believe that God could defy human logic? Did they believe He could and would move the obvious obstacles in the path to His promise? Did they believe that He would act on their behalf, or did they believe that they need to handle situation on their own?

You see, we (or is it just me?) are not much different than these ancient Israelites. We doubt God’s promises. So He tests our faith. We fail to take the next small step of faith. So He tests our faith. We refuse to believe that He is able. So He tests our faith.

He does this, not to bring guilt and shame for our inability to believe better, but make us realize that we, like the Israelites, have misplaced trust.

God is constantly moving, working, accomplishing on your behalf. He tests and we are stretched. He moves and we benefit. We may be deterred, but He never is. So..

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today… The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” ~Exodus 14:13, 14

Where are you on the path to His promises? Where is your focus? Where is your faith? Who are you truly trusting? Is it time to refocus and pray I believe, but help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)?

God is there for you. I promise. But don’t take my word for it, take His.

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” ~‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭7:9‬


Friends,

Please remember that I am human and flawed and my thoughts on this passage and others may not always be right. Please hold what I write up against the Word of God and listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you directly.

Only by grace,

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My Story

Tour of Testimonies 2016

My Story

“If I told you my story, you would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go.

And if I told you my story, you would hear Love that never gave up.

And If I told you my story, you would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine.

If I should speak, then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin.

Of when justice was served and where mercy wins.

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in. Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.

This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.”

~~ “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave ~~

My name is Michelle Nehrig-Shultheis and this is my story. I pray that you read these words and read of Him.

I came to Christ in August 2004. On December 29, 2004, my beautiful daughter was conceived. She was conceived out of wedlock, and, to many in the church, she was born in sin. But she was just what God used to reach me. In many ways, I was not prepared to be a single mother. In many other, more amazing ways, ways I knew nothing of at the time, God knew exactly what He was doing.

From the instant her father and I came together, I had a very strong suspicion that I was pregnant. I wouldn’t take an OTC pregnancy test until March of 2005 to have my suspicions confirmed. It was during that period of time that we buried my great-grandmother. I was not close to her growing up, as she lived in Minnesota, and we were in Indiana. But I firmly believe that it was because of her prayers that I’m here to write this story out for you today. I was her eldest great-grandchild, so I read at her funeral in Minnesota.

On September 29, 2005, my beautiful daughter, Emma Grace, made her debut into the world. I joke about it now, but I’m pretty sure I was serious at the time. I tell people she was evicted. She had overstayed her welcome by 9 days and it was TIME! She was the one who made me a momma. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her, my life became more than just about me. Then, the moment I met her — my socks were knocked off! I had no idea that a ‘little’ 8 lb, 3 oz person could completely take my word by storm. I knew life was going to be tough. When I had told her dad that I was pregnant, he said that he would support me whatever ‘choice’ I made. As though there was a choice OTHER than to bear this child and raise her the best way I knew how. Shortly after; however, I would learn that he still hadn’t grown up and would not be there for her or I.

I was so fortunate during these difficult times; I had my mom and my grandparents to lean on. I know my grandparents were upset because Emma’s dad was not doing anything to support this child he helped bring into the world. We were on food stamps, Medicaid, and TANF. All government programs that I would have NEVER thought I would ever need.

All through my teens and 20’s and into my 30’s, I sought the love that daddies are supposed to give. My biological father was never around, and I never had a good, strong male role model to be there for me. Alas, I was always ‘looking for love in all the wrong places.’ I gave a piece of myself to any male who showed me a little bit of attention. I thought that if I gave them what they wanted, they would, in turn, give me what I wanted. Much to my heartbreak and disappointment, I was wrong.

When I came to Jesus, I thought this would be the answer to my proverbial prayers. I thought life would begin to be EASY. Boy was I mistaken. But every challenge, every hair-pin turn, every obstacle that came my way, God gave me just enough grace for that day and for that moment and for that situation.

When my daughter was about 6 months old, I had her dedicated in our church. Her Godfather was the minister of music at our church. I was convinced that God had chosen him for me. And he adored my daughter. So, still being confused about what it was like to hear from God, I pursued him. And then I got pregnant a second time. This time, it was a boy.

I thought that we would end up together. Looking at the situation now, I’m grateful that God knew what He was doing at the time. Despite the fact that I thought my world was ending.

If I believed I had no idea what life would be like with one child, I was completely baffled by what life would entail with two little ones. The Lord saw fit to meet all of my needs then, despite being a single mother to two small children-both still in diapers!

My daughter is the one who gave me the title ‘Mom.’ She taught me how to be selfless; how to give until I thought there was nothing left, only to find out there were reserves the Lord gave me.

If my daughter taught me how to be responsible, then my son taught me how to cut loose and have fun. My sweet Elijah does not know a stranger, and to this day, no matter how frustrated or upset with him I am, he knows he can make me laugh. He knows that he can bring me to the brink of insanity with his loudness, and then with his magnetic personality and winning smile, he pulls me right back in.

Looking back, I see how He was stretching my faith. He was pursuing my heart and wooing me. He was showing me how He would be there for me always. He was showing me how He would always meet my needs. Even if it didn’t look like I thought it would. He knew best.

As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” This is certainly true in child-rearing. I was working full-time, dreaming of the day I could NOT be working full-time. The kids were in a wonderful daycare, and we were all happy as clams. With some daily struggles, of course.

There’s another saying. “Don’t birth an Ishmael.” Well, from the time I knew I was expecting my first child, I wanted to be a homeowner. My mother was a single mom, raising me and my brother. I know she did the best she could with what she had. But we moved…a lot. My dream was to provide a solid foundation for my children, within the four walls of a house.

I remember seeing a home on a busy street in my town. It was cheap. Once I took a look inside, I knew why. It was two stories, and when you made it to the second floor, you felt like you were being propelled toward the street! The house was slanted! But I, in my infinite wisdom, just knew that God had this house for me! Well, at every turn, there was a road block. I was trying to birth an Ishmael and do things my way. Little did I know what God had in store for me!

In 2011, over Christmas break, we went to Culver’s for lunch (as a side note, I hope you have a Culver’s where you live, they are delicious burgers, and it’s a wonderful atmosphere!). I was scanning the local listings, and as soon as I saw pictures, I KNEW it was the home for us! I contacted my agent, and in March 2012, we moved in and began a new adventure.

You know the other saying, right? “All good things must come to an end.” Well, in the summer of 2015, the Lord brought a wonderful man into the lives of me and my children. We went wayyyyy back. We knew each other when I was in high school. We had tried to ‘date’ back in 2008, but again, the Lord knew best, and it wasn’t our time.

We got engaged in August, and were married in October. I sold my home, as it just didn’t fit our needs. I always said that God put me in that home and He would have to put me out! He certainly did! Little did we know that we would be better off not in MY home or HIS home, but with something of OURS. So, we are currently in the process of finding OUR future home.

Through every hair-pin twist and turn, overcoming each obstacle, sometimes hanging on for dear life, He has been with me. He has proven faithful through my answered prayers AND my unanswered ones. It is when I’ve looked BACK that I discovered what He was doing. Which is for the best, because I would have shrunk back in fear. We aren’t always ready for what He has in store for us, but that’s the beautiful thing. He readies us.

My life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” This is something I’m still learning.


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Michelle is a daughter of the King of Kings. She loves Jesus, her husband, and their family, which includes her two biological children, Emma and Elijah, and her step-daughter, Madisyn.
Michelle is grateful for the grace that is heaped upon her daily by her heavenly Daddy. She is still learning how to accept it for the gift that it is. You can find her thoughts, life-lessons, and sometimes comical adventures with her animals at: beauty in between.
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Aware and Unaware

 

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I can’t recall when I first knew there was a God and that He had a Son. I really can’t recall a point in which I didn’t know. He just was. As long as I’ve known life, I have known He was there, but despite that awareness, I was very much unaware of my own personal need for Him.
In my twelve-year-old, freckled faced awkwardness another awareness came. It wasn’t an awareness of His existence, but an awareness of a struggle. It was strong and I can still feel the battle that was going on within the young me when I reflect on those days. Looking back, I now understand that it was a battle for my very soul. It ached. It was gripping. And every time hymns were sung, the war pain came and I found myself gripping the pew tightly and then I wept. Every time.

He became mine and I became His in the summer of 1986.

I was now aware of both Him and my great need for Him. I was aware of sin. I was aware of guilt. I was aware of the shame of missing the mark.

Somehow I walked through my teen and early married years very aware of those things, while very unaware of what grace really meant. I was even more unaware of the depth of His love for me. God was vey far away, very disappointed in me, and sometimes thoroughly disgusted in my repeated lack of enoughness, my deceived heart thought. I would read devotions from time to time because that’s what I was “supposed” to do, I was faithful in church attendance, again, because I was “supposed” to and I wanted to “change God’s mind” about me. I needed to prove I was His.

Tour of Testimonies 2016That all began to change as I surrounded myself with other believers that I admired. First my husband and I began to regularly attend a Sunday School class, and by regularly I mean more than once or twice every few months. As we plugged in to the class and the teaching, I began to grow.

It wasn’t long until a few of our class members started a prayer group that met in each other’s homes once a week and I began to join them.  Each week they started by sharing a few short verses and then prayed together as a group.  Week after week the verses came more alive to me and those words, accompanied by seeing prayers answered, began to penetrate my heart.

One evening as a I sat alone in my living room, I pulled out my Bible because I “wanted” to for the first time. It was not out of obligation. The Spirit through prayer, fellowship, and teaching had planted a desire within and it had burst forth from the soil of my heart. I will never forget where He led me that night. We walked the path of 1 John and for the first time in my life, the words were so real and I comprehended and was aware that God is love.

He loved me. And I was aware of it. He wasn’t disappointed in me, wasn’t waiting for my next mistake. He was willing to give me a chance to grow.

When we feel loved, we have love to give.

The same process eventually took place in my husband and here we are many years later, still on this adventure with God. No longer does my husband lay in bed at night tolerating my because-I’m-supposed-to-out-loud-devotion reading, he now stands in a pulpit every week sharing Jesus with whomever will hear and I am right there by his side.

God has been good to us and the story is still being written. Although we may not be aware of the words on the pages to come, we are very aware of the Author of them and His deep love for us.


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About Amy:

I’m just me. Figuring out what a life of seeking Him looks like one day at a time. I’m a pastor’s wife, and mom to 2 teen girls and a pooch in dire need of a bath, and I work full time. I’m a big sister to three siblings which tends to make me think I’m everyone’s mother from time to time. I love to scrapbook, and watch the Hallmark Channel, but my favorite place to be is on my porch with my Bible and a cup of coffee. I write (a little) on my blog, Beyond Sunday Mornings. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

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Tour of Testimonies 2016

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God brought me to the end of ME!

Tour of Testimonies 2016

My name is Audrey Williams. I am a 56 year old pastor’s wife of 36 years, a mother of 4 grown children and we have 12 grand children ranging from ages 16 to 9 weeks. We live in South East Texas where my husband has been the pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church for going on 14 years.  I started a little business making picture frames and signs just because I enjoy doing it!

I was born to parents who were both unbelievers and grew up in South Carolina where we attended a Methodist church. After I was around 11 or 12 we were invited to a Baptist church for a revival meeting and joined there soon after.  As I went through my early teen years there, I heard a lot about sin, getting saved, the second coming, dying without Christ… All of which I never remembered hearing at the Methodist church. And because I was eager to please and I loved God as much as I could at the time, not really having much of an understanding what that really meant, I made frequent trips to the alter out of fear.

Each time I would get to the alter, those who met me to counsel and pray with me would always run me through what they called a Romans Road and asked me if I believed and agreed with God’s word. Since I knew they expected a “yes” from me, they then told me to repeat a prayer after them. So I did.

I did believe and agree with God’s word but only intellectually. It was never a work in my heart. I never had any real peace or assurance that God did anything after those experiences.

This went on for years, sometimes several times a year.  I tried to rest in what I thought was a work of God in me when I was 19 and secretly battled with doubts that I just quit telling anyone about.

The Baptist churches I attended from my early teen years until I married were independent Baptist churches who practiced strict legalism. Women couldn’t wear pants and so on. We were taught that living a life full of do’s and don’ts was the way to please God. And this belief spilled over into the way they taught a person is saved. They taught that it is by grace through faith alone but when it came down to “leading someone to the Lord” there was something we had to “do”. You “ask Jesus into your heart”, you say the “sinners prayer”. Well, you don’t put God in your box and expect Him to work your way. He saves us His way and in His time or not at all.

After we married in 1979, my husband Michael. who was called to preach as a 14 year old young man began to realize that he was lost.  After we were married for two years, he was gloriously saved at our church one night after he heard a message God had just for him! I was happy for him, but still knew that I was still unsettled. I began to see a real change in him. Not that he lived different but he KNEW God in a personal intimate way that he never did before. He preached different too. The more I heard and the more I saw God in him, the more I opened up to him.

For about 6 years I sought God like I had never sought Him before, but even then it was on and off.  I had to learn what it was to be lost. I found that it is more than a word or a conclusion.  I was still “doing” the things I thought God wanted from me. I thought I needed to pray the right prayer, repent hard enough and long enough. I thought I needed to cry long enough as if that would force God to save me.

It was all a work I felt I had to perform. After all, the scripture says that we are to repent. I never could figure out what I was to repent of and I couldn’t stop committing sin long enough to confess what I had already done!

I wanted peace with God so bad but I didn’t want to experience being lost.

Every command turned into a work I had to do. REPENT! BELIEVE!  Both were commands but both were also God’s work in me. That confused me. How am I supposed to do something that God gives me as a gift?

I had a lot to learn!

Godly sorrow works repentance. While it is a work of God in me, it is something I am commanded to do. Godly sorrow is a sorrow that God works in us that is toward Him. It feels the shame our sin has caused the Lord. And it causes a sorrow that doesn’t result in an inward look but a Godward look. It does not make excuses but takes full guilt. It isn’t a “sorry I got caught” worldly sorrow. I offended God not just by my acts of sins but because I was an unbeliever, because I was His enemy and I was a daughter of Adam and born in sin. It was my very nature!

As God worked these things in me, I became more and more lost! There was no hope for me apart from God. If He didn’t rescue me, I would live in eternal damnation without His mercy! All this time Godly sorrow was working repentance in me over my unbelief, my lack of love for Him and every prayer I prayed thinking that was what He wanted and would save me because of it.

Salvation was not in my right prayers, my right confessions, my enough crying or feeling sorrowful, or in my sincerity.  Although, all those things are necessary in salvation.

God brought me to the end of ME! He brought me to the end of my tries and my attempts to get Him to save me. I didn’t know that was what I was doing.  When we try to add ANYTHING to what He has done in us and for us, He backs away from His working in us and doesn’t save.  He will not share His glory with anyone.

The day I was saved, I was reading a book by Horatius Bonar, titled God’s Way of Peace. As I read about what and who I was apart from Christ I began to feel the guilt and condemnation of my sin. I read about how I was an unbelieving hater of a Holy God, and how I did not love Him.

I had always believed in God and I had always loved Him, or so I thought. But that day I realized that I didn’t believe in His promises or in His faithful character. I had doubted His love, His goodness and His mercy for me. And it tore my heart out. I began to pour out my heart to Him agreeing with Him and siding with God against myself. I told God that I was sorry for not believing Him and for being His enemy.

I kept thinking that this was what He wanted to hear and what He was working in me. And it was, BUT I was depending on MY WORDS and FEELINGS to merit Him saving me. There I was again, trusting in my efforts and attempts to get God to save me!

Frustrated with myself and the whole situation, I gave up! I told God that I quit! I quit trying to believe!  In my heart and mind I backed away from it and thought to myself, “that’s it! That’s what God wants! He wants me to give up on me and trust Him.” But I found myself trusting in me for doing what I knew was scriptural.

I broke because I knew I was STILL TRYING to please God with my filthy rags AGAIN. Finally, I just said, God if anything is going to be done for me, you’re going to have to do it. And before the words were out of my mouth, there was a restful peace like I had never known! Before there was a horrible storm, then there was peace.

I didn’t try to rest.

I didn’t try to say the right thing.

I didn’t try to feel or think the right way.

God just brought me to the end of myself where all I had was HIM. And HE was ALL I NEEDED!

I didn’t need any magic words or feelings. I just submitted to the righteousness of Christ. And that submission was a work of God in me!

I thank God for not leaving me in my sin and for bringing me to Him so sweetly! Thank you for reading my testimony of God’s work bringing me to Himself. I pray it is a blessing to the reader and aids someone in finding Him!


12108760_10207205824397259_2024428631353559018_nAudrey is pastor’s wife, mother of 4, and grandmother to 12. She lives in Texas and owns a small business, designing and created hand made signs and picture frames.

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