“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 6:21
“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. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son …”
Romans 8:28, 29a
Do I really think that God plans good for Christians no matter what is happening to them? Perhaps you and I should ask ourselves that question periodically. Asking it out loud, no matter what I’m doing always stops me in my tracks. At least the tracks of my thinking.
I was well into my adult years when I realized that my brain was working on things constantly, without me even knowing it. When my children were young I’d go to bed exhausted – having six children running all over an acreage does that – but unable to sleep because my mind was seeing quilt designs and colors and fabrics.
I’ve since realized that my mind thinks all kinds of things, not just artistic designs. And it thinks without my permission. Easily it’s sinful thoughts living there, because I’m a sinner.
So I take care with what is in my mind; it’s one of my chief daily efforts. Memorizing Scripture and reciting it back to God, and singing hymns and praise songs when I’m busy around the house or chatting with friends are always the starting point for training my mind to think Truth.
Even so, that ole’ mind can still be pretty sloppy sometimes, when I’m not paying detailed attention to it. In Jerry Bridges’ book, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, various subjects having to do with trusting God’s sovereignty are discussed. Often he returns to Romans 8:28 and 29 as the best reason to trust and the best explanation for pain and trouble.
This is where I realized my sloppy thinking was circumventing the peace gained by trusting God. There is a ‘good’ that you and I can actually expect in our lives, even if our circumstances are horrible and continue to be horrible. I’m praising God for Bridges’ explanation because I had blindly begun to assume, without realizing it, He will work that good into my life which is copacetic to what my idea of good is.
Even though Scripture clearly shows it’s the grating pain of adversity, not comfort or ease or prosperity that is God’s instrument of choice for sanctifying His people. Even though since first century AD the Church – and the persecuted Church of today -- has gloriously impacted the world from the fires of suffering that God didn’t abateit wouldn’t apply to me. Even though somewhere Christians have always lived in want, without opportunity to better their families’ lives, and in physical sickness without remedy.
And even though the Church has suffered more in the 20th century than in all of history combined, I just slid into keeping myself unscathed.
God is God, so He doesn’t make mistakes, He knows what He is doing in usesing all things for the good of His people.
There is cosmic purpose in it all: That’s because of what ‘good’ really is. VGod predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. And that Son is good, actually the only good of all time, ever.
This is no glib feel-good statement. It is He Who knows what is necessary … and He works adversity and blessing to fashion Christlikeness in us hard resistant sinners.
Sinners with renegade minds of our own. Sinners with the propensity for refashioning reality in our own image. But think: our story is a God-given story because it’s a story of sanctification and is tailor-made for each of us. What a blessed and challenging life we who are loved-by-God are to have!
Therefore, in light of Romans 8:28 and 29, our prayers can be three-fold: One) that we would submit to Him in all things because His purpose is for our good; and Two) that we would watch over our minds’ thinking, for this readies us to meet Him in our sufferings and difficulties rather than fighting against Him; and Three) that we would cooperate by believing and trusting God’s Word. When we’re hemmed in, pressed down, and cornered in the hard things, remember God’s Word!
But more than remembering, go further: wrap this truth around your soul and use it to guard your susceptible mind because -- what heavenly joy this is! -- He is working all things for ‘good’ – His image in you.
by Patty Morwood
I describe it as a slow glowing simmer surrounded by dark darkness but given to sparkling moments of blinding glory.
This is the Christian life in the Kingdom of God; the “already but not yet” of living as a believer whose place of citizenship is not only here but there, in a Kingdom that’s beyond our imagining.
We know His kingdom will one day be in its glorious fullness when the end of time has passed, sin and disease and suffering are banished, His people gathered in, and all tears gone for all time. And Jesus face-to-face! But meanwhile, we are sojourners while in this place, on a path that is really hard.
My friend Elizabeth lives in the hard and the glorious. Her husband Michael is a man slowly dying of stage 4 Sezary Syndrome, his cancers leeching his very life before her eyes. I watch her and listen; and I see a woman living a life of glory as she cries out for protection against fears that lurk and taint everything with darkness.
How did this woman learn to walk so strong and upright on this hard path?
She answers first with her background: “I was taught His Word by family, church, books and godly mentors. I bless His name for all the praying generations before me. I have a rich inheritance by His grace!”
And living today, every day? “I dare not go into a day without seeking His face, His words, His blessing, His will and His intervening in the lives of those I know and love. I am desperate for His Presence first thing in my day. This is my place.”
What do you mean by ‘place’? Circumstances? An actual ground on which to kneel and stand? Several answers follow.
She first says, “In this cancer journey, I see how He prepared a place for us in the fields and forests of Clinton County, Ohio. Daily we bless Him for giving us such a splendid acreage as our ‘Heaven’s Hill.’
“It soothes and restores our souls when we step out onto the front porch to watch the sun rise or sit on the back deck soaking in the beauty while the sun sets the woods aflame.
“We’re surrounded by trees, gardens and wildlife, both of us energized and healed by simply walking in the woods.”
In addition, the Lord prepared another place: the staff at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University. Just an hour away it is their source of medical direction and care. It’s not surprising the Lord has directly addressed their need for help: at the James is one of the world’s foremost specialists in Sezary Syndrome, a rare cutaneous lymphoma, and a collection of remarkable, attentive and kind medical specialists and non-medical personnel.
Years ago God gave them a place at home for learning the skills of caring for the dying. Mike’s Uncle Bud lived his last years with Elizabeth and Michael and died in their home under hospice care. Her father sacrificially cared for her mother for ten years while a rare brain disease slowly took her life away.
“I certainly had no idea that the Lord was preparing me to spend years loving Michael in a similar fashion.”
And there is this very human place of touch: “I notice in Scripture how often God speaks of holding us by His right hand or our being upheld by His everlasting arms or sheltered under His wings.
“We have both learned the healing power of touch. Just a few minutes of gentle skin on skin massage to his neck, arms or back brings relief to both of us. Sometimes I think the person giving the touch gets more results than the one receiving.”
I asked her how Christ has met her in this hard place since Michael’s diagnosis. I had reasoned that peace must be elusive always and fears multiplying daily. That she is exhausted by the creeping power cancer has over their lives.
She says sometimes she struggles with sleeping at night, and can wake with a sick fear.
“So I start my day by looking for Him. I get up, go to my place which is a comfortable old corduroy-covered chair. Nearby is my basket of books… my Bibles and an assortment of devotionals. Due to this retired season of life, I now have the luxury of time to sit quietly and be still before my Lord.
“I ask Him to steady my mind and show me what He has for me that day in His Word. After reading and praying, I ask Him to show me His will for that very day and to help me do His will. I surrender myself and my day to Him.
“And I walk out of the room a new woman full of His assurance and His peace and His strength.
“I really do have a new solid center. Though outwardly I may be wasting away, I am strong and renewed in my inner man by His Spirit.
“This is very much a one-day-at-a-time process. When I’m scared I call myself back to the reality of His Presence right now in this place.
“This journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Michael has freed me to be more child-like in my absolute dependence on His daily love and provision. I need Him. And He is here.
“It’s impossible to capture my satisfaction in His goodness. I’ve tried. So I’ll close with these words from John Flavel’s tiny book, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear: ‘When will we learn to trust Him in everything? Whoever lives by faith never dies by fear. The more you trust God, the less you will torment yourself.’”
Won’t you choose the hard but glorious way described here? You can be strong.
Begin by asking God to help you remember how He has prepared you for the challenging things you are living through and has equipped you to pour yourself out for the well-being of another, as you grow in dependence on Him.
Elizabeth looked back and realized all the places God had met, trained and shaped her: her background and heritage, a rural home and acreage to share with Michael, the James Center, living with Uncle Bud and witnessing her father with her mother those last years, God’s “touch” experienced through each other and even through their doctors, the prayers of His people.
And most vividly now, the blessing of meeting Him first thing in the day. This will train your inner eyes and inner ears to hear and see how God answers when you call out for His Presence.
You too can start your days with the “first thing” every morning … time in quiet, with an open Bible on your lap or on your smart phone.
And another ask, that He would form in you what delights Him: a surrendering heart.
What a beautiful sight, this slow glowing simmer, in this not-yet full Kingdom living!
Author’s note: Michael and Elizabeth have three adult children and seven active grandchildren. They themselves are active members of First Baptist Church, where Michael is treasurer and Elizabeth is deacon of missions.
He crafts beautiful furniture out of oak, walnut and cherry trees in his studio just a few feet from their home on top of their beloved ‘Heaven’s Hill.’ And his laughing place is sometimes still the golf course, where recently he made not one but two holes in one.
Beautiful Elizabeth makes meals to Michael’s tastes and sits by his side to just share life together. She participates in a long-standing Literary Club for Christian Women of Letters and Bible studies, and drives a ’97 Dodge Dakota truck answering to the name “Black Beauty,” so she can haul manure for her gardens and rescue discarded furniture for re-finishing and a fresh new life.
By Cornel Warren Originally featured in Fall 2016 of Live with Heart & Soul Magazine
All photos Copyright Pearl Communications 2016. All rights reserved.
As I descend the earthen steps into the wild woods of Old Man’s Cave a canopy of leaves and branches envelopes me and the sun is dimmed by a haze of green. Even in steamy July, the shade seems to block out the humidity and time’s hand slows. Such magnificence deserves a second glance. I bend down low to look closer at the mossy stones, covered in a delicate dusting of tiny green life. Those white speckles are actually tiny white flowers, blooming so small that it makes you wonder why they even bother. But someone sees. God sees. And He leaves little treasures like these all around us.
Every footprint I make leaves a footprint on my being: God has hidden precious treasures here for me.
We were by nature...
In an age where every part of our identity is being called into question, and where terms like “gender spectrum” leave us scratching our heads, the tranquility of nature grounds us. Here there are no questions of identity. Here it is all nature. Ephesians 2:3-5 comes to my mind.
We “were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” (NIV)
Our nature was once wild; wild like the branches and vines tangled above me. Our hearts were once hard; hard like the moss-covered stone, carved and cut by hundreds of years of wind and water. We were once children of wrath, just like the world.
I look at the leafy brush growing out of the rock. Is that how we once lived, trying to sap strength and nourishment out of cold, dead stone?
Our wisdom is folly to God, and when we take a step back to examine our lives, we see our folly as well. The forest is a good place to take a step back. It’s still. Our minds can think clear and hear, absorb the wisdom that He speaks to us. There are no flashing lights, no drone of talking television sets flooding our thoughts with what is supposedly important. Yes, something happens when we get into nature.
His rich mercy
When I spend time in the wilderness, I often wonder what it would have been like to find this place as a frontiers-woman. Here I would have stood, after an arduous journey and I would have to build a home. I would have to carve out a place for myself between the rock and the trees and the bramble.
When my eyes first saw the light, I didn’t realize where I’d landed. It was all new and strange and I had to learn to understand. And the more I learned, the more I understood that I had, indeed, found myself in the thick of the forest. The wild forest was inside of me. I was by nature a child of wrath. Wild.
But God... God, who is rich in mercy and greatly in love did not leave me to fend for myself. He changed Himself to make a place for me. He found that wild child filled with thorns and brambles and He loved me.
I walk on to the Cave. It is dark, cool and damp. As part of the sanctification process, we are taught to exterminate any evil that might have taken root in us. But then all we are is empty, cold and dark. The absence of our wrathful nature is not all there is. That is not the life of abundance. Paul continues in Ephesians 2:6-8 “and [He] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
His kindness and grace is beautiful. It is a blanket of green, peppered with miniature flowers. His love grows in us as we grow in Him. First we are hard as stone. But we see His love, and we can’t help but be transformed by it. His rich mercy doesn’t leave us in the wild. It doesn’t even leave us when the wrath is gone. It continues to press in, deeper and stronger until we burst into life like the sun bursts through the leafy canopy.
At His Word
A short drive back on the winding Route 664 and we turn once more into the wilderness where our cozy two-bedroom cabin stands almost blending in with the backdrop of trees and hazy green. We are less than an hour from Columbus, and my cell phone barely works.
I listen some more. God isn’t finished with me yet. The full life, the life of abundance, that’s His desire for us. He shows me how much life there is in the forest: tall, old oaks and maples, honeysuckle, ivy, moss and mosquitoes. There are song birds and woodpeckers and whitetail deer and yellow jackets. The nourishment God provides sustains them all, and us all.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:9-10 reveals a bit more love: we are not in our own hands, but in all-powerful Fatherly hands. Those hands bring forth life. They touch us and fill us and grow an abundant life within us. And then it starts to spill out.
I smile at my Father, and He smiles at me, and my daughter smiles as she dances around in the leaves. God’s abundance grows without bounds. He liberates us to experience it to the fullest! We are not responsible to save ourselves. We are responsible only to take God at His Word: we are His workmanship and our salvation is His precious, perfect gift to us. And He doesn’t stop there.
He fills the empty caverns of our lives with wonderful blessings: good works that He prepared for us to do, beautiful paths that He has for us to walk in.
When we visited Hocking Hills, I was eight months pregnant with a ten pound baby and I could feel life within me. The anticipation in the final month was exhilarating: Who was this little boy going to be? How much would I grow to love him, and he me?
God anticipates our love for Him the same way. He loves us first, draws us close and keeps us safe. But He also raises us. We are His workmanship. He waits eagerly for us to love Him back. He hides treasures all around us and celebrates our delight with us when we discover them. Tiny flowers blooming for almost no one to see, the grass of the field, the sparrow in flight.
Our lives in Him are full, and the more we experience of Him, the fuller we become of life. Nature helps us see, and the Word helps us hear.
Father, help me to find you more often. Quiet my heart so that it can be filled with you. Work on me some more, Lord, and fill the caverns of my heart with your abundance. Show me Your secret treasures, Lord, that I might rejoice with creation at the majesty of our Creator. Amen.
by Patty Morwood
One day I came across a psalm that instantly “talked.” Every line was rich with meaning for me. And oh, how I needed to be reminded of God’s economy of things.
Apparently I had long ago written in the margin of Psalm 73, “God’s sanctuary: the godly woman’s lens for life.” No other beckoning was needed. I put on my magnifiers and settled in with my pen and a cup of tea. This was going to be a slow meditation in search of a fresh, clean reset of perspective.
In the first verses I saw a common predicament that many Christian women live in: themselves saved by the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but living and working among unbelievers - being worn down and sawed off raw.
For the psalmist, the salve for his oppressed state-of-mind came when he walked into the sanctuary, presumably packed wall-to-wall with thirsty and needy worshipers just like himself.
It’s true for us, too, the company of righteous believers is where we can rest, finally distanced from gangs of the wicked. For five or six days of any given week the lives of the ungodly live large before our eyes; talk of evil, always punctuated with laughter and jokes, floats through the classroom, the office, and sometimes even the hallways of home.
Do you feel like this psalmist, whose feet nearly slip because he is surrounded by prosperous ungodly people and it eats away at him?
Do you smart because the wicked wear pride as an adornment, a badge of power?
Weep because your colleagues or husband or students actually believe God will not know their sin?
Feel trapped in cords of ugly when they mock God’s wisdom and even His existence?
If you are worn down spend time with Psalm 73. Its author is finally healed of his great burden when he walks into the sanctuary where he is surrounded by the redeemed, where words of life and the beauty of worship dance with joy to the highest heaven.
Finally he understands: God has really set the wicked in slippery places, though the psalmist felt that he himself was sliding down at an accelerating rate. The wicked – those who persistently deny God and disparage His universal rule – will one day, in a moment, meet destruction!
What is the healing truth in this contrasting description of two people-types, the redeemed and the degenerate? It is the shout of victory in verse 25, the literary climax of the song: a believer’s desire for none else but God, Himself. This is the clear lens that reshapes perspective and renews one’s ability to do more than cope.
Let me paraphrase that verse: there is none in heaven but God Almighty and none else upon earth that I desire!
You and I may feel our hearts cast down, our physical bodies barely surviving, but in reality God Himself holds our souls and God Himself strengthens our bones.
It is good for us to draw near to the Lord, GOD in the sanctuary of believers … and also privately in the Word, specifically in this case, by praying through Psalm 73. Experiencing the Lord’s Presence teaches us to breathe the good stuff: His love and power toward us and our Christian sisters the world over.
How can we help but declare His works into the pathways of the wicked? How can we resist the call to stand in the sanctuary with other downcast women? This is our life mission. This is our vocation … and this can be our sheer delight.
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
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.
“The most encouraging stories are hearing women, who have never studied the Word before, tell me they connected with God for the first time through my Bible studies.” Mindy Ferguson, author of Bible studies and devotionals for women, is a powerful communicator of God’s truth. “Everything I do is directed towards getting women into the Word.” Mindy’s passion is that women would truly abide in God’s Word and apply it to their lives. She says, “When women’s lives are changed, family’s lives are changed.” Mindy’s calling to rejuvenate women’s hearts through true experiences of God is altering the heartbeat of families everywhere.
Mindy met the Lord when she was 26 and fell in love with studying Scripture. She was an active student of the Bible involved in church, small groups, and her own personal time with the Lord. As Mindy began to experience the Lord more and more fully in her personal times with Him, she began to sense God whispering to her to share the wisdom she had been storing up in her heart. Still considering herself a new believer, this call brought up many anxieties and feelings of inadequacy. Yet, God’s timing is always perfect. Mindy had just concluded studying Moses and had moved into Joshua. The message of Joshua 1:9 began to follow her, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” To Mindy, this message was a clear directive to begin writing Bible studies despite her feelings of inadequacy.
As Mindy began writing the study on Joshua, she knew she must also live what she learned and wrote. In a step of bravery, she shared the few completed lessons with a woman at her home church: Cy-Fair in Houston, Texas. This woman called Mindy soon after and communicated how touched she was by Mindy’s Bible study; this humble beginning sparked what is now Fruitful Word Ministries.
Mindy began sharing her materials with her church’s women’s groups and eventually began speaking at other churches. Fruitful Word Ministries found its wings when other churches and individuals wanted to purchase the studies. Mindy finds that, while others are continually enriched by her writing and speaking, she is consistently fed and challenged as she writes. She says, “This is why I do what I do: God’s Word changed my life. I don’t just learn about the Bible, I connect with the God of the Bible.” God has been faithful to place the perfect book of the Bible in the path of her writing and study right when she needs it. “Peter taught me intimacy with Christ, Moses helped me see God’s glory in trial, and Abraham taught me faith when I needed to be brave,” Mindy shares.
Mindy’s story is truly one of perseverance and surrender. She reflects, “Following God is always an adventure and it always includes challenges.” Mindy has gracefully moved through disappointments with publishers and the ever-changing world of ministry. Her writing reflects her steadfast soul kept safe by Christ’s love. She says, “We really need to carve out space in quiet moments to get to know God in His Word. It’s not a legalistic practice, it’s a wellbeing practice.” Amidst life that can easily become loud and cluttered, it’s tempting to ignore the practice of quiet and introspection. Mindy longs for women to experience God’s love deeply and encourages them to change up what their personal times with Him contain. Practices of journaling, reading, taking a walk, or even clean silence help us hear the heartbeat of our Creator.
Mindy has several video lessons for her studies at fruitfulword.org and is excited about filming the Moses video lecture in the upcoming weeks! When Mindy is not writing, she can be found delighting in her family and making memories with them. Mindy and her husband reside in Houston, Texas and love coming up with creative ways to stay close and connected with a daughter in Austin, TX and a son headed to Colorado. Mindy invites women to follow her on Facebook, fruitfulword.org, and her YouTube channel.
Mindy’s studies, devotionals, and speaking events can be accessed at fruitfulword.org!
Everyone has a neighbor. Whether they live two miles away, right next door, or in the folding chair a few seats down at the kids’ baseball game. The people we rub shoulders with daily are the same people we are called to love with the love and message of Christ! Two women, Amy Lively and Sara Edwards, felt a strong pull from the Lord to make their neighborhoods their mission field. But, first, they had to answer a fundamental question: how can I love my neighbor without being weird?
Maybe that’s not the question you were expecting, but it’s the approach that Amy and Sara stepped into as they learned to love those around them wholly and well. With the unspoken rule of “good friends don’t make good neighbors” creating a distance between homes and hearts, these women studied what it means to build trust and relationships with neighbors.
Amy says, “We are told to share the Gospel with our neighbors but rarely directed how to.” Amy and Sara work under the premise that there is no cookie-cutter formula to love a person or to sharing the Gospel. Amy says, “No one is excused from sharing the Gospel, but our instructions are very different.” Each person we meet is in a unique place on his or her spiritual journey. It’s important to be intentional and take time to build real relationships filled with trust. Amy and Sara prayerfully considered what instructions the Lord had for them and their desire to share His love. They realized that they didn’t have to traverse the seas in order to be a missionaries and ambassadors for Christ when people in need of hope filled their day to day lives. The Lord laid on their hearts to simply invite these women into their homes for fellowship and it soon became a group study of God’s Word!
Amy says, ““Love people without pushing an agenda on them.” Amy and Sara have learned how to create real friendships and share life with the women they encounter daily. Beginning with simple conversations and get togethers, every woman can make a new friend and introduce her to the Lord. Amy and Sara have also studied how best to present the Good News to their new friends and desire to equip other women with the same skills to speak truth!
Amy created the Neighborhood Café--the neighborhood women’s Bible study--from following the Lord’s leading and it has now spread across the U.S. and gone international! Amy and Sara encourage every woman to ask the Lord for the specific community that the Lord has called them too. For Amy and Sara, it was their neighbors and they aim to help all women with the same call.
Amy currently lives in Colorado and Sara is in Georgia. It’s such a blessing to watch Neighborhood Cafés spring up in new places and strengthen communities and relationships! Amy has published a book titled How to Love Your Neighbor, Without Being Weird which provides truth and amazing tips on how to reach out to those nearest to you with the Gospel; even if you've never tried before! If you’d like to purchase her book or just get to know the Neighborhood Café better, visit howtoloveyourneighbor.com! Also see the website to access free Bible study guides if you would like to begin your own Neighborhood Café!
Obedience. This seemingly “churchy” word elicits a visceral and emotional reaction. We think of oppression, we feel a lack of autonomy, and we remember all the times that the kids just would not listen in the grocery store. But what about the phrase “Adventurous Obedience”? For Glynnis Whitwer, the Executive Communications Director for Proverbs 31 ministries, obedience means blessing, peace, and a new intimacy with our Creator; she found the reason and blessing in obedience to God’s call and has an amazing story to share because of it.
Glynnis’s story gives a whole new perspective on obedience to God’s voice. I asked Glynnis how she came to her position at Proverbs 31 ministries and her story blew me away. Glynnis’s heart and home resides in Glendale, Arizona where she was born and raised and still resides today. With her big family of seven complete with two adopted girls from Liberia, Glynnis’s life brims to the full. Her entire family attends New City Church in Phoenix where Glynnis and her husband are among the few above thirty. Glynnis thrives in the presence of young people and loves watching how the Lord uses her in that environment. Her story of an adventurous obedience begins in this context when it seemed life couldn’t be better. Glynnis’s husband announced he found a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina and wanted the family to move. Glynnis was heartbroken at the thought of being torn away from her home. Then, the miraculous occurred. As Glynnis describes it, “It was the first time that the Lord spoke to me directly. He said, ‘Tell your husband yes.’” This was the beginning to an unexpected adventure.
Things looked rather miserable in Charlotte until Glynnis heard Lysa Terkurst of Proverbs 31 speak on the radio. Glynnis was struck by Lysa’s words of wisdom and encouragement. The Lord spoke to Glynnis again in that moment, “Call Lysa and ask to volunteer for Proverbs 31.” Perhaps even more shocking than the leap of faith to move out to Charlotte was the prompt to call a woman Glynnis had never heard of and offer her time.
In college, Glynnis studied PR and journalism and dreamed of being a communications director one day. The Lord was guiding her steps even then, for He had prepared a place for her as the Executive Communications Director at Proverbs 31 ministries. When Glynnis called Proverbs 31 they said, “We’ve been praying for someone with a journalism degree!” Glynnis’s obedience to God’s clear guidance was resulting in more blessing than she could’ve imagined. Now, “She [Glynnis] is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 750,000 daily readers. She is the author and co-author of 9 books, including her latest Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day. She blogs at www.GlynnisWhitwer.com.” (excerpt from professional bio)
As Glynnis’s eyes read across every remark of truth from Scripture and the writers, the Lord began to do a work in her heart. For the first time, she began to set her identity in what the Lord names her and not what her life contains. One of her biggest hopes for the younger generation of women is, “Start building your inner self now.” She says that once a person identifies and builds his or her core values, the exterior of life will fall into place.
One of the stories that encourages Glynnis in her path, devotion to the Lord, and Proverbs 31 happened in India. A Proverbs 31 missions group went to India paired with another missionary organization already stationed. Two speakers from Proverbs 31 were approached by a villager who told them of a woman with breast cancer. The woman had just undergone a tough round of chemotherapy and needed prayer. The trio traveled for an hour late at night to pray for this woman they had never met. When they arrived, the woman with breast cancer asked them their names and said, “I read your devotions every day from Proverbs 31 and have prayed that God would let me go to America to meet you both. But, on my lowest day, He has brought you to me.” This stunning display of God’s detailed care for His children could bring anyone to tears. Proverbs 31 and Glynnis have countless stories such as these that highlight the power of the Lord through us when we obey His call.
Glynnis lives a life with emphasis on humility, honesty, kindness, and an active faith. She says, “I take every doubting thought captive and choose to trust.” That mantra has ushered much peace into Glynnis’s life and she hopes for all people to experience the peace that arises from the bravery of stepping into faith and trust.
It’s easy to be inspired by this woman’s adventurous obedience. Continue to follow her and be encouraged and blessed at proverbs31.org and glynniswhitwer.com.
It’s never too embarrassing to talk about and it’s never so bad that you’ll be cast aside.
While this is the truth about sexual sin and struggle, too many girls and women have received the opposite message and gone into hiding where shame has had its way with them. Phylicia Delta is a woman who takes a stance against hiding and waves a banner for the redemption of Jesus to enter into every woman’s sex struggles and questions. Phylicia handles this topic with tact and grace and ushers in Christ’s love and healing. While interviewing Phylicia, I quickly found out that her heart also reaches every other corner of the female experience.
Phylicia Delta spends her days putting “feet to our theology in the everyday moments of life.” (phyliciadelta.com) Phylicia lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, Josh, and daughter, Adeline. The family recently moved from Lynchburg, Virginia. Phylicia is passionate about letting Jesus’ Lordship truly penetrate our entire lives. Phylicia’s writing is aimed to enrich young Christian women (teens and twenty somethings) but is applicable and holds wisdom for every woman in any stage of life.
Phylicia grew up seeking wisdom about how best to conduct Godly relationships with men. “While my own dating relationships (both with my husband and the men before him) have been flawed and had their failures, I hope my writing is transparent about those difficulties and how they can be overcome to achieve a relationship that glorifies God and puts the world to shame.” (phyliciadelta.com) Her writing now exists to share her own journey and to unashamedly put forth Biblical truth. She writes about everything from the mundane to our secret struggles.
Phylicia finds herself passionate about all things women: modesty, feminism, sexual sin, lies about dating, and transparent “day in the life” stories from her own marriage. Her blogs To the Girl with the Boring Testimony, Marry the Man Who Stays, and I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity and It was the Best Thing I Ever Did give a great picture of her work and mission. Phylicia has a special ability to take into account the many different paths women are on in these areas and her writing reflects that sensitivity. Having come from a pressuring “purity culture” but still struggling sexually when single, she has a God-given compassion which the Spirit uses in her writing and ministry. She hopes to be a safe space for women to confide in and readily invites her readers into contact and conversation. She says wrestling with these topics and communicating them with a Biblical perspective often feels like walking a tight rope. As women we must hold each other to the standards of a holy life but continually pour out grace when there is failure and confusion.
Phylicia says, “I don’t ever want to write something on my blog that I don’t implement in my life.” She serves her readers by staying up to date about cultural trends and happenings and providing the Biblical perspective. Two years ago, she partnered with a fellow blogger and influence, Lisa Hensley, to begin a podcast called Uniquely Woman where the two discuss truth to help Christian women in the upstream swim against the culture. With each of these podcasts and with every post, Phylicia holds a philosophy of “closet before rooftop.” This is a phrase she learned from Beth Guckenberger of Back2Back ministries. It simply means that before we declare a truth or principle from the rooftops, we must take the thought to the Lord in prayer to receive confirmation and blessing. Phylicia’s messages are covered in this kind of prayer and consideration and have continually been a source of healing and redemption in women’s lives.
Phylicia’s favorite part of her blogging work is when she chances to meet readers in person. She says there’s a sweet connection immediately through their mutual love for God and journeys towards Him as women. She treasures those conversations as well as encouraging emails she receives from women who have been uplifted and encouraged by her blog. These stories motivate her and reassure her of the Lord’s work through her ministry.
A few of the most important influences in Phylicia’s life have been Psalm 37:4 and Milton Vincent’s The Gospel Primer. Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Phylicia says, “We always desire something we don’t have at every stage in life.” She remembers praying over this verse in her single years and finding that once one desire is fulfilled, another surfaces. Our contentment is based on our satisfaction in the Lord and she desires above anything else that her readers would let their faith be strengthened by Jesus’ relentless love pursuit. Vincent’s book, The Gospel Primer, is one that Phylicia says she would give to every reader if she had the ability. It continually centers her on what the Gospel truly means and frees her from what’s become unnecessarily important in her life.
As if we aren’t already incredibly blessed by this woman’s voice, we have more to look forward to! Phylicia is currently working on an eBook about redemptive sexuality and has dreams about publishing a print book. She also would love to have an annual convention to discuss the topic of Christian sexuality for women to find healing and direction.
I asked Phylicia for one take away message for Christian women. She said, “We are as safe from sin and compromise as we are close to Christ.” Her prayer is that her fellow sisters would make time to spend with Jesus because the more our faith grows, the better eyes we have to see His world, way, and goodness. She says, “Writing is my way of learning.” With Phylicia, we have a mentor who is learning right alongside of us and recognizes the value in transparency and companionship.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Phylicia Delta, visit her website, phyliciadelta.com!
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