By: Taylor Abigail
What’s the triumph of this past year for you? Even if it seems to be the smallest thing, let its significance wash over you. What’s the pain of this past year for you? Even if it seems to be the smallest thing, let its significance wash over you. Come Christmas and New Year’s, even amidst the celebration and joyful gatherings, it’s easy to feel like we are tumbling to a swift halt as the year closes. Memories we wish wouldn’t have happened, friends we long to see again, and the reminder of broken families can send our minds into a tailspin.
It’s so important to reflect on our past. I recently heard a quote, “Our past doesn’t dictate our future but makes our present profound.” This was spoken by a young man with stage 4 esophageal cancer. The message of his talk and context of the quote was the power of perseverance and finding the joy in the journey. His doctors don’t know why he is still alive, but he is; walking and speaking and sharing God’s strength.
What about your past has made your present profound? In what ways do you believe that your past will dictate your future?
Jeremiah 29:11 “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Proverbs 23:18 “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”
Our pasts influence who we are and where we are headed, but they are not our sole identity. The names Christ gives us completely cancel any name or fate our pasts have given us. Free, beloved, pursued, righteous, blameless, and adopted are just a few in the lengthy list of our new names.
Maybe this Christmas season, the time when we celebrate the Messiah, is the perfect time to renounce what’s happened and to step into the hope we have because of Jesus. He died to rescue you, to be close to your heart, and to give you freedom to be your best self.
Your present is profound, your future full of hope, and your name given by the Christ Himself. Let’s celebrate this renewal together.
By: Taylor Abigail
I recently read Moving Mountains by John Eldredge. He confronts the elephant in the room about prayer: “Some prayers work and some don’t.” As I went through the book, I found myself examining my own prayer life: the disappointments, the joys, the struggles and the victories. I went to Scripture with the question, “What’s the key to successful prayer?”
Of course, the Lord doesn’t always answer prayers in the way or in the timing we would like. But even in those times I want to know that I’m praying the best I can and able to listen to His guidance clearly. I found that it matters much less how I pray than who I am praying to and what I believe about Him. These 5 beliefs once absent from my prayers have begun to revitalized my spiritual life and I’m confident they’ll do the same for you!
Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves in prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
Other translations use the word “vigilant” in place of “watchful.” When we pray, it’s important to be vigilant for how the Lord is moving within our requests! Is He altering our hearts towards the matter? Is He shaping circumstances? Every advance He makes indicates a need for new wisdom in how we pray through the situation. He is always renewing, and so our prayers always need renewal as we strive to stay in step with His work. The truth that our Creator hears and listens to our every cry continually astounds me. My heart overflows with thanks that I am not alone. Our prayers are even sweeter to His ears and our souls when we scatter thanks and praise throughout!
2. Belief that God is for us.
Romans 8:31b, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
This staggering truth straddles both the spiritual realm and the earthly realm. Since we are covered by Jesus’ blood, we are seen as righteous and holy by the Father. We are loved just as Jesus is loved! Our eternal, spiritual destination and standing is set and God has every intention on having us experience that blessing even now! Yet, when the Lord calls us to something, something else almost always seems to block the way. But Romans 8 declares that nothing can be against us! If you are confident in the Lord’s leading, the opposition and obstacles will melt as you walk into His plan in faith.
3. Belief that He is good.
James 1:13b, 16-17, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
I know, it seems elementary. But the devil will do anything to prevent us from believing in the goodness of God. When we believe that God isn’t good (or that He isn’t being good to us) our prayers may cease or become unheartfelt. When we pray, amidst whatever circumstance, we must believe that He is good always and only gives perfect gifts to His children.
4. Belief that He hears us.
Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
The Lord promises to answer us; He promises to hear us. If I feel myself become frantic or desperate as I pray, it is often because I have forgotten the truth that He is listening and at work. I don’t need to labor and frantically hope that He bends His ear to me. I always have His attention and knowing that helps me give Him all of mine and to rest as I pray.
5. Belief that He talks back.
Matthew 7:7 is evidence enough of this. But flip through the Old Testament and you will witness conversations between God and His people happening daily. Maybe little noticed is that that theme is carried over into the New Testament. He sends His prophets to specific people and places, comforts mothers, and sends His angels with messages. Constantly praying without a hope of hearing back is enough to discourage anyone in their prayer life. That is because we aren’t meant to pray that way! The Lord is talkative and intimate with us if we will let Him speak. Have faith to have open ears and you will experience His voice!
What do you think of when fall begins? As a striking season of change, it’s easy to have vivid memories and hopes attached; looking forward to the kids being out of the house for school, sweater weather, or maybe that trip to the mountains you’ve been planning to be right in the heart of the colors. But maybe you feel a little left out in what you think of when fall comes. The end of a relationship, the increase of stress, or the death of a loved one may be your first thoughts as the leaves turn. Whatever the change may be, there is beauty hidden within it.
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Change in life is mysterious, exhilarating, and terrifying all at once. It can seem that just when we get a grip on our current situation, something gets turned upside down all over again. Even with positive changes, there is always a healthy grieving of the past, but, also a brave acceptance of the new. The Lord has promised to walk with us through every season and every change, whether it be a trial or not.
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
As the fall approaches and new things are beginning and old things ending, let us walk through changes with grace, humility, and bravery.
1. Communicate to God how you feel and think about the change.
If you sense your circumstances becoming unfamiliar or daunting, call out for help! If you feel stretched in character, ask for His guidance! Our relationship with God is sweetened when we unfold entirely before Him. He looks on us with kind eyes and is eager to provide rest and courage.
2. Surrender to and receive the new season.
We can only see the treasures along the path if we are committed to walking it. Since God has called us here, there’s no need to fear!
3. Appropriately grieve or celebrate the end of the previous season.
It was a gift. It shaped who you are. Bid it the farewell it's due. It will help you embrace what’s next with joy and hope.
4. Gain discernment in how best to live within this new time.
Pray and wait. God knows every step and the Spirit can help you be in tune.
5. Be encouraged!
The Lord is dedicated to growing us up. This new season will act as a reward or a time of growth.
By: Taylor Abigail
To the woman who’s ever felt disappointed,
I see you. I’ve been you.
It’s an unhappy connection we have, you and I--one that confirms we aren’t meant to feel this way. We can sit, we can mourn, we can look into each other’s eyes, and whisper “This is just life.” Or, we can listen quietly and intently as to hear Jesus’ gentle voice say, “Let me rescue you, please.”
The first calamity in our lives teaches us something: don’t hope too strongly for good. Our reaction to the first deep pain is the fast shrinking of our soul. The agreement that “to be disappointed is to live” is harshly branded onto our hearts and often goes unnoticed. We continue to live after the tragedy but no longer out of wonder or freedom. We exist out of a new place: disappointment.
Children aren’t born programmed to expect disappointment. They are born with a joyful surety that the world is theirs for the taking. But the enemy’s goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. The first thing he often steals is our playful, childlike, and adventurous spirits. Sadly, recovering this heart is the last thing to be addressed from the pulpit. Instead, Christian culture continues themes of solemnity and caution and we get caught up in issues of skirt length. We find that we are just surviving and trying to get by because we’ve learned that it hurts when our hopes and expectations aren’t met.
There is a journey out of disappointment and into healing that we can choose to embark on. Perhaps regaining our childlike spirit is the place where we need the Gospel the most. We need to believe again, like a child believes, that there is goodness and blessing for us here on earth; we need to believe that our lives can be abundant because God is abundant.
What’s the biggest disappointment in your life? Be honest. The man you married? The way one of your kids turned out? Not being selected for that special honor in college? The fear and sadness that the time is past for dreams to come true are strong. But can I give you hope? Rather, will you let Jesus tell you what He thinks about your disappointment and frantic efforts to never let it happen again?
John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me, you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Isaiah 61:7, “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”
Please silence the voice that says we will only see God’s redemptive power like that in Heaven.
Psalm 27:13 “I remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Our good hearts are wired to long for the extravagant, the redemptive, and the extraordinary. These things are what Heaven will be, and these things are even possible on earth. This is not the prosperity Gospel. Abundance in the Lord still looks different than an abundance that the world offers. It’s different in that we can live an abundant life in any place because our souls are fulfilled and satisfied; not because our material wealth exceeds expectation. Because we truly believe He satisfies, out of a brimming and hopeful soul we can come to the Father with confidence that He will work within our mundane realities. Because we’ve felt in our hearts the fullness and peace that comes from true belief in His goodness, intimacy, and care for us, our dreams are free to run wild and grow because we are confident in His love for us.
Luke 12:22-32, “Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…’”
What did we hear from this? God is abundant. “God is pleased to give you His Kingdom.” What does this mean? He clothes the fields extravagantly and says He will clothe you brighter still. We don’t have to live like we’re “settling” and have that be a disguise for contentment. We can ask the Lord for our wildest dreams and fully expect their fruition. In Christian culture, we don’t talk about dreams; we talk about God’s will. We don’t talk about self-expression; we talk about becoming conformed to Christ’s image. We don’t talk about praying boldly; we talk about self-forgetfulness. Paying attention to God’s will, conforming to Christ’s image, and self-forgetfulness are all blessed and biblical. But let us examine our hearts and see if we are avoiding our dreams and desires because we are afraid of disappointment. If our Lord is saying He plans to be lavish with us, what holds us back from leaning into that and expressing exactly what we want and then listening to what God says about it? Believing God when He asks us to pray about all things and that when we ask we shall receive changes everything. Believing He is lavish and abundant with our specific requests and desires is invaluable to our experience of His presence and our soul’s contentment. In my experience, my expectations of Him have been too small, not too selfish. It delights Him when we are excited for life because we trust that our daddy loves us and is abundant with us.
Let’s let God introduce Himself to us as wild, scandalous, and larger than any obstacle. Is it hard to look this God in the eye because we’ve been disappointed and brokenhearted one too many times? Does He seem too good to be true and even “counter Christian cultural”? What does it require of you to believe that no situation is beyond His repair, that He really meant it when He said He is our shield, and that we really can trust Him? Bravery to believe. That’s all.
We need the bravery to banish the idea of a weak, silent, convoluted God. Many of us would never say that this is the view of God we have, but functionally, it’s easy to live like we are avoiding Him. The beautiful truth is that God is good and intimate with every single area of our lives and He is always communicating with us. He longs for us. He cries out for our hearts. He promises individuals hope for the future and goes so far as to declare every single trial [insert yours here] as redeemable and able to bring forth joy. We want to hear this God. We want to feel Him snuggle up next to us in bed when it’s a lonely night. We want to see His smile when we close our eyes in the sunshine. Let’s believe these things happen.
To the woman who has ever felt disappointed, let’s live abundantly because we believe He is abundant. Let’s take on a new name: to the woman who lives loved, I know you’re in there.
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