Read His Words Before Ours!
I sat at her kitchen island, just as I’ve done dozens of times, while we chatted about everything from her husband eating her famous sugar cookies even though they were stale, to how we both need accountability to get stuff done.
We laughed, we cried, and we talked about the Lord.
Then, as always, she said something profound. Had it been a morsel of food, it would’ve made my jaw sore from the chewing I’ve done over it.
“Don’t we all try to play God at times?
When we make decisions on our own outside of Him, even minor ones, we are taking control into our own hands and trying to play God. It is a sin every time.”
How many times have I tried to play God?
How many times have I greatly impacted my life and my future because I forgot God is the sovereign One?
Lots; lots and lots of times.
I have thrown wisdom and God’s sovereignty to the wayside in pursuit of what my flesh and human heart felt best. I have placed my treasure in worldly values like human love, home decor, clothing, and my own vain pursuits. I’ve spent time in Scripture, studying the exact verses we just read, (up at the top, seriously, read His Words before mine!) and yet, I stubbornly refused to seek His wisdom or surrender to His sovereignty.
I am guilty of trying to play God.
About nine months ago, my world came crashing in.
Literally nothing in my life looks the same today.
Different family make-up.
and the list goes on….
As the walls caved in, I told the Lord:
“I’ve tried to do it without You. I’ve done things my way because I didn’t trust You, and I’m through. I’m done with that. From this moment on, You must have all control because I’ve made a mess by myself.”
Has this change come easily? Nope. In fact, I struggle every single day to surrender to Him.
I struggled to surrender when He told me to let go of a relationship I was clinging to with all of my might.
I struggled to surrender when He told me to give my Aldi gift card to a family while they were grocery shopping.
I struggled to surrender when I thought I felt I should pursue a job He told me not to pursue.
I struggled to surrender when He didn’t heal my sister on this side of Heaven.
Even still, I’m telling ya’ sister, my life is infinitely richer when I surrender control and pursue His wisdom over mine.
On Sunday, our pastor talked a bit about Jonah, the prophet who ran in the literal opposite direction of where God was calling Him. As I thought about Jonah and his infamous journey, which God still used (because He’s sovereign) to redeem an entire city,
I was reminded of my own “opposite-direction-journeys”.
Many times, God has given me clear direction in His word or by His Spirit, and I’ve literally turned the opposite way, running as fast as possible. Sometimes, I’ve tripped over my own feet so quickly, it wasn’t long before I humbly returned to give God back my surrendered heart.
However, there have been times where I took off running with a nice pace going before realizing I’d been running away and was now quickly drowning as a result of my prideful insistence on my own ways. Here, God has come to my rescue, pulling me from the waves just as Jesus did with Peter so many years ago.
I don’t want to be Jonah.
While I’m so thankful God can still redeem our disobedience when we try to “Play God”, it would be great if I never had to trip or drown to begin with.
Our lives are fleeting. We are just vapors in the wind of time.
How foolish of me to spend my life running from the One who loves me most!
How foolish of me to trust my life to my own futile hands!
Doesn’t it only make sense to trust the Almighty Father who sees and knows everything for He alone is the giver of Wisdom?!
I complained to my therapist recently about how busy I’d been.
I hadn’t accomplished anything I had wanted to because other things kept popping up.
“Are you praying about if God actually wants you to do the things that keep ‘popping up’?”, he asked.
“Um… no”, I said with an embarrassed giggle.
Because DUH! Why wouldn’t I ask Him?
Following God, surrendering our lives to His control and infinite wisdom is sometimes simpler than we make it out to be.
It’s praying about who to spend our time on.
It’s praying about where to emotionally or monetarily invest.
It’s praying about when to say no to a ministry and when to say yes.
Because living out His wisdom begins with the realization that He is sovereign, we are not, and His ways are better than my foolish, prideful attempts at control.
I get it! It’s easy to get caught up in trying to do what looks or feels right, that we leave God out. But “playing God” never ends well.
When we surrender to the loving Father,
we are giving space for His wisdom to press into us and overflow onto others.
Sisters, I feel like we’ve just finished eating a Thanksgiving meal in ten minutes… we’ve shoved so much into our mouths we are having a hard time chewing. So, pause, maybe re-read this Journey or the verses at the beginning (because you did that, right?!), and ask the Lord to illuminate His Wisdom just for you.
Take time tomorrow to dig deeper by doing the “Digging Deeper” that follows this Journey. (and if you aren’t waking up to that in your inbox, start now!)
Together, let’s choose God’s wisdom as we daily, moment-by-moment surrender to His sovereign, loving control.
This study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com. For more studies like this one, or to read the "Digging Deeper" study that accompanies this one, visit the website!
The following is a story of how I came to know the grace Jesus gives and was first featured on GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible Study for women. On the website, many women's "Faces of Grace" stories are featured. To read more of those stories, click here, and to read mine... just keep reading...
I remember the picture clearly. It was a little boy holding a telephone with the cord twirling up to the wall. The story that went along with that picture completely changed my life. That story said that if you ask Jesus into your heart, he will always be there. All you have to do is talk to him, just like you can talk to someone on the phone. As I read that story with my mama at our kitchen table, something inside my little five year old soul clicked. It all made sense. I made mistakes. I told lies, stuck my tongue out at my mom, called my cousin a butt head, and I needed Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my life to help me not make those mistakes any more! That day, with my mom’s hand in mine, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.
And that was the beginning of everything.
But, like everyone, I still made mistakes. I called my brother a poopy head and pantsed a girl at school. I would go to church on Sunday and sing out in my “holiest of holy” voices “I’m so glad, I’m a part, of the family of God! I’ve been washed in the fountain, Cleansed by His blood!” I would smile proudly as I raised my hand in Sunday School, “Jonah was swallowed by the giant fish because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh!”
And as I grew up, learning more about Jesus and his love for us, I began asking the question that I still find myself asking some days… “Just how long is forever?” Because my preteen brain just couldn’t imagine dying and being in Heaven forever. And then there was that whole dying thing… HOW am I going to die? WHEN am I going to die? My young mind would try and bargain with the Lord, “Just let me get married and be a mommy first, PLEASE?” One night I found myself sitting on the steps going down to our basement crying tears of despair and fear, my little shoulders shook as I tried to imagine just how long forever could possibly be.
And then I heard this song…
“Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
I repeated those words again and again and mulled over the meaning in my brain. And then one day, for the first time, I could sing that song and genuinely mean that death has lost its sting. That sting of fear that came as quickly as the word “death” could slip from my mouth, was no longer there. And with that came surrender.
“At the cross you, beckon me
You draw me gently, to my knees
I’m lost for words so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.”
Without that tinge of despair and that joy-stealing thought of death, I was free to fall more and more in love with Jesus. I began seeing Him as my healer, as a friend, as a savior, and my comfort. I began high school with a goal to show this Jesus, that I know and love, to every single student and teacher.
Then came my senior year and with that, hundreds of broken promises. Things I promised I would never do came and went. I literally felt like any control I had over my life was slipping through my fingers as I desperately tried to grab onto any little piece that I could. One night, it became too much. I sat in my car in full makeup and costume from a dance performance I had just finished, and I was done. “Why, God? Why me? Why am I so alone? Why am I so lost? Why am I hurting so incredibly much?” I started my car thinking, “Surely God can’t use me alive, so maybe someone will come to know Him through my funeral.” And then, my phone rang. “Kendra, where are you? Come over and watch a movie with me!” My friend, my only Christian friend at my school, was clearly listening to the Holy Spirit that night.
I still messed up a lot after that. I was still a battered and broken teenager. I would search for the Lord’s voice and try to listen, but the static and chaos around me seemed to mute out anything God was saying to me.
In the months following, after sharing with my parents my deepest and darkest secrets and struggles, I began healing. Healing came in the form of many church services, counseling, an incredible roommate who wouldn’t ask questions when I needed to cry, but also held me accountable, sharing my story with others, and a four month mission trip to Kenya, Africa…
“Kendra, I can tell you’re still living in the past. You’re still claiming your mistakes as your own and refusing to live in the Grace that God has brought to you. When the Lord heals, He heals 100%. Every time. And tonight, I want you to declare that healing and that grace. I want you to own it!” My team leader offered me her hand as she helped me step onto the couch in the sitting room. “Close your eyes and repeat after me.” I closed my eyes. “I am redeemed!” “I am redeemed.” “That’s not loud enough, Kendra.” I took a big breath, “I am redeemed!” “I am made new!” “I am made new! I am forgiven! I am a new creation! I am beautiful! I am not defined by my past! I am a whole person! I am healed!” As I opened my eyes, I knew that I really was a new creation, and my heart really was completely healed.
That was just four years ago. So much life has happened since! I have precious twin girls who spent some time in the NICU, and a precocious toddler who keeps me on my toes.
I’m glad that we don’t have the option to go back in time and change things, because I would avoid a lot of the pain and hurt that I put myself through and I can see now how God has used that for His glory. I cannot live in regret or daily dwell in the past, so I move forward, celebrating every day that the Lord chooses to use my life to impact others. He is continuing to make something beautiful out of my extremely messy life. The absolute best way I know to show Him how grateful I am for His redeeming love is to allow Him to use me in whatever capacity He possibly can. Some days that looks like serving another mama, other days it looks like silently praying for someone as I sit on my couch and watch my daughters play, and still other days it looks like purposefully pursuing a friendship with another woman.
My life is a life with a purpose, because HE has a purpose for me. I will live that out every single day that I am alive, and I will declare that God is a God of third and fourth and twelfth chances! He is a God who loves us because that is His nature, and he is a God who has forgiven and redeemed me.
Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Kings 4:8-17
Twelve years ago, I met a woman we’ll call “Marcy”.
Marcy’s children and I went to the same school and attended the same church. I knew Marcy’s children better than I knew Marcy, but over the years, we served together in different ministries at church and grew closer.
Marcy and her family live in a beautiful home, her husband has a solid job, and from the outside looking in, it appears that Marcy has everything she needs and even wants. That’s all pretty surface-y, but I’m guessing we can all imagine someone with Marcy’s lifestyle.
However, I know something else about Marcy….
I know she and her husband live out selfless generosity.
All without saying anything to anyone.
The only way I could possibly know this is if I were a benefactor of their open-handed generosity… which I am.
Marcy has opened her home over and over as a welcome place for discipleship, worship, blessing, celebrating, and feeding others. Including me.
I’ve watched Marcy open her arms to people of all walks of life… sometimes she doesn’t remember their names, but she never forgets a face! That Marcy would literally give the shoes off of her feet to someone… and she has.
My mom once told Marcy the shoes she was wearing were adorable and that I would love them. Finding out we wore the same size, she literally took her shoes off of her feet, handed them to my mom, and told her to give them to me.
Marcy’s husband has used his profession to assist my parents on the mission field at no cost to them. Together they bought my entire cart full of Christmas gifts when we ran into one another at Target, where they were purchasing food to serve to parents with sick kiddos. This couple has poured themselves out to love others in countless ways as they have discipled, mentored, and given away what they had for others. Marcy told me once that nothing they own is actually theirs, it all belongs to God.
The reason we’re even calling her “Marcy”, is because many of the times she has given to me, she has sworn me to secrecy. She and her husband live out Matthew 6:1-4 with extravagance! While I could go on about this couple and their generosity, they would humbly remind me that living with open hands and hearts is simply the means by which they are called to further the Kingdom.
Marcy reminds me of a woman in the Bible whose name also isn’t mentioned… perhaps because her heart was so similar to Marcy’s. She wasn’t concerned about being remembered only about living generously.
This nameless woman is known as the “Shunammite Woman”.
Like our friend, Gaius, she isn’t well known, but from Scripture, we do know she was wealthy, married, and perhaps most importantly:
she used hospitality to love others well.
The benefactor of her gifts was a prophet named Elisha.
Elisha and this woman somehow met when he visited her town. She insisted on feeding him. (Which I can only laugh at because I literally try to force-feed my brother every time he visits. “Are you hungry? No? Are you sure? Here, I made spaghetti last night, let me just reheat some for you. I also have salad and brownies and coffee and the lesser-known sparkling water, Bubly!”)
The Shunammite Woman must’ve been a pretty decent cook, because after their first encounter, Elisha stopped by her house to eat every single time he visited. I can’t imagine the conversations that occurred, but there is no doubt that Elisha shared about the One True God, Yahweh, with this woman and her husband. Before long, the Shunammite Woman referred to Elisha as a ‘holy man of God’ and had a room built just for him on the roof of their house. They fully furnished the room and welcomed Elisha and his servant readily.
Many of us have guest rooms and happily welcome visitors throughout the year, but to actually construct an entire room specifically for a guest-turned friend is radical.
Elisha wasn’t family.
This wasn’t a neat Airbnb designed for income off of Elisha.
This was love and hospitality and generosity.
After becoming aware of the work the One True God was doing through Elisha, they used what they had – a rooftop – to support God’s Kingdom work in their community,
expecting nothing in return.
I’ve been writing this Journey study while sitting in my church’s building watching the hustle and bustle of daily church activities occur. Just a moment ago, friends of mine who are empty-nesters, came over to chat and I asked why they were here on a Thursday morning. “Oh, we have four camp counselors staying at our house and we told them we’d come see them at camp today!”
Open handed generosity.
This same couple has opened up their home again and again for Kingdom work.
After becoming aware of the work the One True God is doing, this couple used what they had – a home with empty rooms – to support God’s work in our community.
Sisters, it doesn’t take much for us to demonstrate incredible hospitality like Marcy, the Shunammite woman, or my empty-nester friends.
Each are using what they have – their homes, their love for people, and their love for the Father – to further the work God is doing.
We don’t need a secure job with a steady income, just an open heart.
Maybe all we have is a pull-out couch, bottomless coffee, or cold water on a hot day.
God takes our willingness,
our open hands,
and open hearts,
and He builds His Kingdom!
This study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, visit the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Our miniature matatu (think African style of a city bus…kind of) bumped up and down and our bodies bounced with it without the constraint of seat belts. Red dust flew up behind us while some billowed through the windows, filling our nostrils with the ever-present African-dust smell. The chatter of my seven teammates filled the matatu, but I wasn’t hearing them. My senses were in the slums of Kenya, seeing, hearing, smelling, breathing my surroundings, but my heart and my head were somewhere else.
I saw children playing in the streets made of dust, I saw women walking to and fro, and I heard men shouting to one another, but in my mind, the red dust of this town was replaced by red dirt of Southern Utah. Children’s laughter was replaced with the memory of the foster children’s laughter from the camp I’d worked at earlier that year.
Never in my life had I experienced the pull and the weightiness of the world… and I broke.
As we drove through Kenyan slums, I could literally feel my heart being torn in two, slowly ripping right down the middle. When we arrived at the preschool ministry site for the day, everything came pouring out with deep sorrow. I turned to my leader, Allison, and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m here, I know I’m here and I’m supposed to be, but I’m so broken for the people in Utah who need Jesus, and I’m aching for the foster children in Kansas City who need redemption. What is wrong with me?”
“Kendra,” she told me gently, “have you ever prayed that God would break your heart for what breaks His?” I slowly nodded my head and squinted my eyes.
“He’s doing that right now.”
If I was weeping before (which I was), I was weeping harder now.
I didn’t know God’s heart hurt so much for us, and I only had a glimpse.
If we know anything, it’s that our world is shattered and broken.
Spreading the healing hope of the gospel and praying for nations to know the Lord is our urgent mission until Jesus returns. Paul presses the Church to pray for God’s creation in each of his epistles by asking them to pray for other churches, for people in leadership, and for those who are still lost without hope… but, why?
Why do we pour out our hearts in prayer for the hurting, hungry, desperate, lost, broken people who make up God’s creation?
Because, God… “wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Father’s heart is for His Creation.
He longs for us to know His love and be rescued from our sin.
Let us learn from Ezekiel 22:30, where God says He is looking for someone to stand in the gap for their nation, but found no one. We are called to stand in the gap for the nations with the hope of the gospel! Let us, who have the authority to approach the Father’s throne because of Jesus in us, pray for the nations!
Can I be real for a minute? (Ok, ok, I’m always real.)
Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed with how many people I need to pray for, and how many things I need to pray for, and all the brokenness and lostness and heaviness
that I just don’t pray at all.
I know I need to pray for the nations, for my daughters, for my friends and family, for the people in leadership positions in the Church and in my country, but I don’t always know where to start or what to pray.
I’ve found the best place to begin is rooted in Scripture, following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Read His Word, and be ready to pray whenever and however the Spirit is pressing in.
Pray for the nations’ leaders to be filled with wisdom and be surrounded by wise and godly advisors. Pray for their hearts and ears to listen to wise counsel. (Proverbs 11:14)
Pray for leaders who don’t know Christ to have divine encounters with believers who would point them to salvation. Pray for leaders who are Christians to have steady discipleship pouring into them and that they would have strength to fight the arrows shot at them from the enemy. (Proverbs 2:1-8 and Ephesians 6:12-18)
Pray for unity in the Church in each nation. As each nation writes their own laws and citizens live in ways they feel just, the Church has different struggles in each country. How the Church is being pulled in the United States is entirely different than the struggles for the Church in New Zealand or India. Pray for unity within the Church in each country, and that followers of Christ would base their standards on biblical truth and not what society dictates. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Sisters, sometimes I feel small.
Sometimes I feel like my prayers and voice won’t matter.
Will the Lord really hear my pleading for the underground church in North Korea?
My prayers are pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as are yours.
Ask the Lord to break your heart for what breaks His.
Ask Him to burden your heart for the lost.
You might be surprised who you feel burdened for, but don’t be surprised when He answers your prayer. When He does, take action and pray for the lost, the hurting, the persecuted, the Christians and the non-Christians, then take steps to bring hope to them!
This Bible study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it first appeared. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
Oh God, please, please, please just give me a baby sister. Please.
This was the pleading of a five-year-old little girl, who continued praying this for 2 years.
This was my prayer.
As much as my five-year-old brain could understand, I knew my mom couldn’t physically have more children, but I also knew God was a God of miracles, which meant I could still have a little sister. So I prayed with everything in me.
Oh the joy when my prayers were answered one evening two years later! My parents gathered my grandparents, brother, and I into our tiny living room, telling us we would be adopting a baby in a few months. They didn’t know whether that baby was a boy or a girl… but I knew. This baby was my answered prayer. This baby was my sister.
As hot tears streamed down my tanned cheeks, I knew, at just eight-years-old, that the Lord hears. He does the impossible, far beyond what we can imagine or dream.
I knew God loved me.
This began my deep passion for adoption, and a softened heart towards women surprised with pregnancy.
Unexpected pregnancies have been a rhythm in my family, including my precious Gamma and her beloved Harald. My Papa passed away right after they celebrated 59 years of marriage, but their marriage began unconventionally. When Gamma was 15 and smitten with a handsome, blonde, German boy, they found out they would become parents much sooner than planned. At 16, they made vows they took seriously and carried out all 59 years of their marriage. However, being pregnant in the 50s at only 15, forever marked my Gamma. So, when other family members found themselves in similar circumstances, her heart ached for the pain they endured from scoffers and judgers; which marked me.
I learned at a very young age the Bible is clear: sex outside of marriage is wrong. Pregnancy is not.
It is not a sin to be pregnant.
Life is never a sin.
Life, because of God’s great redemption, can be the result of sin, but it is not sin.
So, sisters, how do we go about loving the fellow mamas around us who are expecting a life they weren’t planning to receive? How do we approach the mamas who were planning their pregnancy, but became pregnant outside of marriage?
Well… we love them,
just like the Father loves them.
Jesus was the result of an unplanned pregnancy occurring outside of marriage. Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit as a young teenage girl. (Matthew 1:18) Motivated by redemption, the Father brought forth LIFE. The Spirit impressed on the hearts of wise-men to search for the King and shower Him with gifts.
We love our fellow sisters, women, image-bearers, by welcoming their miracles with gifts and showering those mamas with love.
The Woman at the Well was a woman living in repeated sexual sin. She’d been married five times, and while we don’t know the reason for each of those marriages, we do know she was with a man who wasn’t her husband at the time she met Jesus. While she didn’t physically bear the evidence of her sin, Jesus saw her and He knew it all. Even still, He loved, accepted, and conversed with her as He offered redemption.
Through her powerful story, many came to know Him.
We love our fellow hurting women by accepting them, conversing with them, and showing them grace and Jesus through our actions. God has not abandoned her or her child. If He will not cast her off, neither can we. He offers redemption and hope to her just as He has for us.
Sisters, Jesus is for life.
He is for all life, which includes the life of the mama with the unplanned pregnancy.
He isn’t just longing for her physical life, but her spiritual life. Despite painful circumstances, shame, and brokenness, He will use all of it to draw her to Him.
How incredible to be a part of that redemption!
I am so thankful my sister’s birth mama chose life.
The Lord used her unplanned pregnancy to answer to my prayers and show me His Love.
God is the creator of life, and all life has a purpose.
Let us, the Church, join together to celebrate life, celebrate redemption, and celebrate motherhood.
Let’s join together to love the mamas who desperately need to experience Jesus’ loving redemption.
Ready for some practical tools to love these mamas?
Below is a list of ministries both international and local to Kansas City (GT headquarters) that do exactly that!
All of these ministries focus on loving women with Jesus’ love while helping prepare them for their future as a birth mama, for a baby being adopted, or a single mama raising her child.
If you are an expecting single mama or already a single mama, these are some awesome resources for you.
Know you are Loved.
You are Valued.
You are Treasured.
You are not the sum of your mistakes,
and we would love to pray for you and love on you – so please reach out to us!
Embrace Grace – A support group for women with an unplanned pregnancy where mamas are showered with love by throwing baby showers for expecting moms. There are groups all around the country and you can find a group near you! There are also support groups for those same mamas after their babes are born.
Rachel’s House – This amazing organization has four locations across the Kansas City metro and is focused on educating parents on all options for their unexpected pregnancies as well as supporting families through pregnancy and adoption or parenting.
The Single Mom KC – A group for soon-to-be single moms and current single moms of all ages, stages, and circumstances. They have a free boutique for moms to “shop” at as well as hosting monthly workshops to help equip mamas and give them a night out (Free childcare! Woohoo!)
Bahamas Godparent Center – This community ministry offers biblical guidance, pregnancy testing, counseling, ultrasound imagery, and, most importantly, HOPE!
The Life of a Single Mom – This ministry works to educate church and community leaders as well as the general public with the challenges faced by single moms. They believe no single mom should walk alone.
Heartbeat International – An international ministry that helps 1,500,000 clients every year by offering resources, helping with adoptions, and overall, aiming to help women recognize life and choose life.
Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Peter 3:8-13
“Be patient, be patient,
Don’t be in such a hurry!
When you get,
You only start to worry.
God is patient, too!
And think of all the times that others
Had to wait on you!”
My mama is a singer; as such, my entire life has been like one big musical. The little song above was just another little ditty my mom used to sing when impatience filled the scripts of our lives. This song can be found in scenes when we were stuck in Las Vegas traffic in 100-degree weather, or when I was anxiously waiting for my cousins’ arrival to play.
Now, in an entirely new act, I sing this song to my daughters.
But sometimes, even as I sing, I don’t feel so patient.
Sometimes I sing with gritted teeth, or after biting my cheeks to keep from saying something I shouldn’t. Sometimes, I begrudgingly sing it to my daughters with a cheery smile plastered on my face, my forced enthusiasm convincing my heart to actually be patient.
Patience, I’ve learned, isn’t just “waiting for the pot roast to be done” or “for your nails to dry” (although both have definitely grown my patience massively).
It also means long-suffering.
Excruciating “waiting for your adult child to come to Jesus”, or even
“persevering and fervently praying in the midst of turmoil and grief”.
Patience looks much like waiting on the Lord and His timing.
Maybe He’s called you to do something….
become a missionary,
start a ministry,
find a new job,
and then He told you to wait.
Long-suffering, nail-biting, gut-wrenching patience.
Because our God is gracious, never asking us to do what He would not, we find His loving patience everywhere.
The Old Testament speaks often of God being slow to anger like in Exodus 34:6-7 when God reminded Moses of His patience towards stubborn Israel and her disobedience.
Before saying, “Enough!” and nearly wiping out all of humanity with a flood, God literally waited over 4,000 years for hearts to repent!
In Numbers 14:18, Moses recounted again how Israel was saved from utter destruction, even though she clearly deserved it, because of the Lord’s long-suffering patience.
When Israel, freed from slavery in Egypt by the mighty hand of the Lord, grumbled and complained, “But, Yaweh! We’re hungry and starving and it would’ve been better for us to just be slaves!”
God lavishly poured out heaps of patience and love by giving them fresh, flakey bread (manna) and quail (what a delicacy!) every single day! Through the waiting, He taught them dependency on Him, teaching them to trust His daily provision.
They grumbled and complained and His response was gracious patience and provision!
When David, the young boy appointed King of the Israelites was finally made King, he had an affair and then murdered that woman’s husband!
The Lord’s response?
God had every just right to kill David, or at least remove him from the throne, for his grievous sin, but because God is lovingly patient, He sent a prophet to come alongside David, reveal his sin to him and allow David to repent!
God’s patience brought loving discipline to King David, one God called “a man after God’s own heart.”
From the moment sin entered this world through Eve and Adam, God’s great plan for redeeming mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christwas already set in place. For its fullness to be completed, the Lord w a i t e d with long-suffering patience.
The patience displayed by our Savior as He allowed Himself to be tortured beyond recognition then hung on a cross to die a long and excruciating death where He slowly suffocated hour by hour.
His shredded back scraped the rough wood of the cross each time He raised Himself up to catch a breath. His head throbbed from the thorns piercing into His skull.
He spent hours dying by the worst form of death in human history, intentionally allowing Himself to fully feel the agony, not hurrying His death sentence as He, the Author of life and death itself, could easily have done. He gave His life for you and me.
Patience even in death.
I took a nap with my daughters this afternoon, praying as I fell asleep for Lord to speak to me about a situation in my life. Instead, I heard Him talking to me about His patience in a way I’d never considered.
God’s love for me is individualized.
It is a passionate love uniquely for me, just as His love for you is uniquely crafted to meet you. His love cannot be measured, it looks different for every person.
The love I have for my three daughters is special and intimate for each of them. Similarly, God’s love for us is just as individualized and special.
God delights in you and in me and He loves having a personal relationship with us where He loves us each in our own, special way. How great His love for us that He would patiently wait millennia for us to choose to know Him intimately! His heart is for all to choose Him! (2 Peter 3:9)
Love is patient.
Because God is patient.
Patient Love weaves together 4,000 years of events, inspiring 40 different authors to write words that all point to One Redeeming Savior.
Patient Love teaches disciples, followers, curious onlookers, and malicious people about the Father and His redemption while delivering people from sin and disease and performing miraculous wonders along the way.
Patient Love endures grotesque abuse, taking a guilty punishment of death, though innocent, in order to rescue beloved children who rightly deserve wrath.
Patient Love rises from the dead, forever defeating Sin and Death by His victorious life!
Patient Love walks with me in the most dire of circumstances when I’m being pushed, stretched, and pruned, even when it all feels out of my control.
Love is patient.
And God is love.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
My mama turned to me and asked me if it would all be worth it,
if my story touched just one soul?
I grew up praying for missionaries in my extended family and my church. These missionaries spread around the globe from South America to Africa to Russia, and we prayed for them daily.
I wonder now as an adult….
would they still choose to leave their country,
leave their family and material possessions,
and face trials and persecution if it meant that just one soul was reconciled with God?
I believe all of them would answer “Yes”.
I imagine their “yes” is sometimes said through gritted teeth,
eyes heavy with exhaustion,
and determination tightening their body from head to foot,
regardless of how they might emotionally feel
And sometimes their yes flowed from a heart that danced victoriously.
Their “yes” didn’t come without heartbreak, heartache, or sorrow.
Neither did it come without blessings, laughter, and joy.
But their yes was worth it when
someone said their own “yes” to Jesus.
Following the example of believers like Paul, Silas, the other twelve apostles, and the many men and women who gave up their lives for the sake of the gospel, three men said yes to Jesus, giving up everything to follow wherever He led. Adoniram Judson and Samuel J Mills were two of the first missionaries sent out from the United States, while Hudson Taylor, a contemporary, was one of the most influential missionaries to China.
Adoniram Judson and Samuel J Mills were among the very first class at the very first evangelical seminary in the United States, Andover Theological Seminary in 1810. Together, they helped create the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Adoniram, and his young, new wife, Ann, headed to Burma. Shortly before they left, Ann wrote this to a friend:
“I feel willing and expect, if nothing in providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes… I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in His providence, shall see fit to place me. My determinations are not hasty, or formed without viewing the dangers, trials, and hardships attendant on a missionary life. (…) Now my mind is settled and composed, and is willing to leave the event with God."
While the Judsons were in Burma, Samuel Mills was forming several missionary and benevolent organizations in the United States while also carrying the gospel to Mississippi and New York City. In 1818, Samuel spent time in West Africa, locating a site for the repatriation of freed African-American slaves.
On his return, Samuel died on the ship.
His life seems short by our standards, but it was rich, and the fire in his spirit for spreading the Gospel ignited the flames of countless hearts. The Lord does not count our success by years or tasks completed, but only by our willing obedience to His heart of love!
Like Paul in the Bible and countless other Christ-followers through the ages, Adoniram also spent time in prison, but persecution and suffering did not deter him from obediently pressing into the Lord’s calling on his life. He opened a girls’ school, translated the Bible and other Christian books into Burmese, and faithfully kept following Jesus in His everyday life. Ann passionately worked beside him, using her love for Jesus and writing to encourage American women to pray fervently. She specifically asked women to pray for the rescue of child brides, the end of female infanticide, and other struggles for Burmese women. The Lord used Ann’s gift of writing in one final act before He called her home: helping to release her husband from his 21 months prison sentence by writing about the horrid condition of the prison in which he was contained.
Ann & Adoniram were normal, everyday people who chose, again and again and again, to love Jesus more than the comforts of life for the sake of even just one.
After Ann’s death, Adoniram also buried his second wife and three of their precious, tiny children before marrying his third wife. Like Ann, his second wife, Sarah, willingly held open her hands and life to the Lord. She used her skills as a linguist to continue spreading the Gospel to the Burmese by translating books, hymns, and tracts as well as the New Testament. Sarah fervently worked alongside her missionary-husband, while enduring the pain of losing her children. Her heart was not withheld from sorrow, she knew suffering well, but she knew Jesus was worth it, even for the sake of just one.
Adoniram’s met his third wife, Emily, when he enlisted her writing abilities to write about the life of Sarah. Unbeknownst to him, Emily had read many stories about Ann. As a result, she too felt the call to live missionally in Burma. After they married, she joined him in what would be Adoniram’s final job before entering Heaven: completing an enlarged edition of the Burmese dictionary to ease translation of the Bible.
Just three years after Adoniram’s death, another well-known Christ-follower made his way to a foreign land with one goal: spreading the Gospel.
As a baby, Hudson’s mother, on urgings from the Holy Spirit, had prayed he would be used in China.
Her prayer was answered when he encountered the Holy Spirit one evening, and spent the next several years studying medicine, learning Mandarin, and growing his relationship with the Lord in preparation to move to China in 1853.
After marrying Maria Dryer, the daughter of Chinese missionaries, Hudson Taylor became incredibly ill and returned to England in 1961.
His return did not dampen his fervor, no!
He spent his time translating the Bible into Chinese,
studying to become a midwife,
and recruiting more missionaries!
Samuel J Mills
Seven individuals who chose the “just one” over their own comfort.
Seven individuals who counted the cost of following Jesus, and said yes.
Seven individuals who changed the world for countless souls.
Will you say yes for the sake of just one?!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
I did everything I was supposed to do.
I followed Him.
I witnessed miracles.
I performed miracles.
I preached about Him.
I cast out demons.
My hands grip the rough trunk of the olive tree, my mouth tastes of the natural fibers of the rope as I climb. The taste of bile still lingers in my mouth, and my stomach turns as I feel the hot acid rising into my throat again. My head pounds and sweat drips down my back. I’m not sure if the pounding headache is from weeping or rage.
“Follow Me”, He said, and I did.
I left everything for Him!
For what? For riddles and jokes?
I left my life to follow a man who scoffed at my lack of faith?
Who demanded worship and said He was God?
I gave up everything for Him?
My grunt, as I climb another branch, turns into a deep growl and then into a shout.
I hate You! You demanded I leave everything behind – my family, my friends, even the extra clothes I owned to further Your name – all for what?
I walked hundreds – no – thousands of miles, my feet bloodied, blistered and filthy, for You to have Your feet washed by a prostitute? While I sat and watched, my feet throbbing with each beat of my pounding heart. And then, Your feet were washed again? By another woman? You told me to give up everything, and yet You allowed two women to waste their expensive perfume just to wash your feet. The other disciples watched in awe, just the sight of their faces, gawking over the exhibition, made me sick.
I look down below, the ground is further away, but not far enough. I can’t climb too high, or the branches will be too thin. My breathing is getting faster by the moment and my thoughts escape with a shout every so often. I pause to catch my breath, wipe my sweaty palms on my thighs, and look out over the land. The scenes of the days before flash before my eyes in fragments.
I tried. I really tried. I tried to make sense of the nonsense sermons He kept preaching.
I tried to answer His question correctly and ask questions to make me seem important and intellectual.
I thought if I acted the part well enough, I could eventually become everything He wanted me to be.
I wasn’t an idiot, like Peter, speaking before I thought, or trying to walk on water when it was impossible.
I left everything for Him.
And then I left Him.
And now, I have nothing.
That nothingness is exactly why I continue to climb.
I take the rope from my mouth for a moment and spit out loose hairs, willing moisture for my mouth, but I’m parched, physically and spiritually.
No matter how hard I tried to follow His rules and obey His commands, there was always something missing. Surely, I wasn’t the only one faking it. There’s no way every other disciple felt the joy and light Jesus spoke of. Balderdash. A bunch of blind sheep following a smooth-talker, and I allowed myself to get caught in it.
How did He perform those miracles?
The crazed man who was set free from all those demons?
The blind made to see? The lame made to walk?
The woman healed just by touching the hem of His clothes?
We were all there for Lazarus.
…Maybe he wasn’t actually dead.
But Jesus certainly is.
I reach for the next limb, but my hand misses because the tree is moving so violently. I can’t tell if the tree shaking, or if my vision is construed. I can feel my body shaking, almost convulsing, uncontrollably. My head swirls as dizziness overtakes me and my vision grows dark.
I hate Him. I hate who He made me to be.
But I cannot deny His innocence.
I know He loves me.
Just a few days ago, He knelt and washed my feet.
My feet hit the warm water in the bowl just as He began dipping His hands in. He first took my right foot in His hands, taking care to have a gentler touch as He scrubbed close to my blisters. He rubbed one hand on the top of my foot, while the other held the bottom.
He then reached for my left foot, washing with the same care.
He looked up at me, and our eyes met.
His held His familiar knowing, like He always knew exactly what I was thinking.
But this time I saw pain, sorrow, and even love.
How can one’s eyes hold so much?
I looked around at the other men in and considered their friendship and our camaraderie. There had been many moments of confusion and frustration over our here-year journey, but there had been laughter, jokes, and even pranks as well. Inside jokes were our favorite; just a certain gesture or word would spark heaves of laughter.
Friendship grew across tables, on land, in boats, and in strangers’ homes.
But I had already lost it all. There was no undoing what I’d already done.
30 pieces of silver.
The price of a slave.
That’s what I had deemed Him worth.
I finally reach the perfect spot. I sit tall, gazing at the landscape before me.
I work to find even a moment of peace, but there is no peace to be had.
The pain in His eyes when I kissed His cheek. I shouldn’t have looked at His face, but I couldn’t help it.
I imagined his cries as each spike was driven into His skin, ripping out chunks of His flesh.
I’d seen my share of Roman crucifixions. It took little imagination to see Christ’s blood splatter on the ground, pouring from His open wounds.
Inside my head, I could not drown out the mob taunting and jeering, their anger so heavy it was palpable.
I shook my head to rid myself of the scenes that would not leave me.
I had done everything I was supposed to do.
One more image insistently took form before me:
Thirty pieces of silver.
I tried to give it back! I threw it at the priests begging them to take it, begging to hand over my iniquity. But they refused!
I have nothing.
My hands have finished tying the knots and I carefully slip the loop over my neck. I tighten it until I can scarcely breathe. I take one final, labored breath through the constraints of the rope, and let my body fall.
Sisters, Judas thought he was doing everything right. He literally followed Jesus everywhere. He performed miracles and spread Jesus’ Name. Yet, Scripture says Judas did not have a saving faith. He was so caught in the “doing”, he completely missed Jesus’ entire mission: Save.
Judas died by hanging himself after attempting to return the money he’d earned for betraying Jesus. We can only imagine the grief Jesus felt knowing a man Jesus considered one of His best friends, had betrayed Him.
But that wasn’t Judas’ only mistake.
No, his next mistake was believing he wasn’t worth saving. He believed the lie that he was too far gone for even God to save. Jesus didn’t just die for you and me,
He died for Judas, too.
Judas couldn’t believe it. He never believed the truth that God saw him as worth dying for. Oh, beloved sisters, no one is too far gone.
This Bible Study first appeared on Gracefully Truthful and is property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, check out GracefullyTruthful.com!
Read His Words Before Ours!
1 John 4:7-19
This last Christmas, I spent a lot of time talking about the meaning of the holiday with my three girls. They learned all about John the Baptist (actually, they call him John the Bathroom, please don’t ask me why because I really have no idea!) and his miraculous birth. They learned about the angel, Gabriel, telling Mary about her impending pregnancy. They sang Happy Birthday to Jesus over and over again, and I really think they grasped the holiness of that precious day as much three toddlers under three can.
But for me, Christmas continues to become more intimate and cherished as my relationship with Jesus deepens. Throughout the entire season, I kept reflecting on the fact that God gave His one and only Son, first as a baby into this human world, and then to death.
I’ve heard my dad preach quite a few messages, but the one forever imprinted on my heart is titled, “It’s Christmas, but Easter’s coming”. He taught about the importance of celebrating Jesus’ birth, but the reason His birth is so incredible is because just 33 years later, God gave that same baby over to death. Then showed His infinite power by bringing Him back to life three days later.
Sisters, if you ever question your value…
If you ever doubt how loved you are by God…
Stop and remember this:
God, the Creator of the world, became what He created (human), for you.
Though He was flawless, wholly perfect, and innocent of all wrong, He took the punishment of sin, which is death, upon Himself because He loves you.
God stopped at nothing, not even death, to bring us salvation.
Nothing would separate us from His love.
Nothing would stop Him from extending the opportunity for eternal life to all of us.
If you don’t know me, I’m a sing-songy person.
I have a song for every moment.
You want a song about brushing teeth?
I’ve got a few to offer.
How about a song about driving in the car or studying for a test?
I’ve got songs for those, too.
Songs about God giving His Son for you and I?
But as I prayed over, studied for, and thought about this Journey Study for the last eight weeks, only one song kept coming to mind: “How Great Thou Art”.
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
Pause. Right there.
When we stop to think about the fact that God stopped at nothing for us, I think the magnitude of that thought should cause our breaths to catch a bit.
Maybe your heart beats a little faster?
Maybe not yet?
Then, stop and think of this:
Are you a mama or an auntie?
Is there a precious little one in your life?
Imagine taking your sweet little one into your arms. Set them on your lap and wrap your arms around them. Feel their soft, squishy cheeks against yours; feel their sticky little fingers in your hand. Sense the weight of them leaning against you; breath in the smell of their hair. Focus on the depth of love you have for this wee one and the great life you know they are capable of leading. Think of the incredible moments you’ve had with them, the moments making your heart swell with pride or tender delight. The moments that marked the preciousness of your relationship together.
Now, imagine that child on their deathbed. Imagine them lying in a hospital bed, barely breathing, their skin pale and their face expressionless. Don’t stay here long, but stop and realize the pain you’re feeling. Notice how you’re sick to your stomach and your heart literally hurts. Maybe your breathing grows heavier or your eyes begin to sting.
Maybe you don’t have to imagine this pain at all, because you’ve lived it.
Imagine you could stop this child from experiencing any pain, sickness, or rejection if you wanted to, but you choose not to.
Hold onto the weight of that feeling and linger there.
Now we’ve glimpsed, ever so slightly, the heart of Father God.
We’ve caught a taste of the pain He felt watching Jesus suffer on earth. When Jesus had a stomach bug or a horrible cold, when He was teased by fellow playmates as a child, and rejected by His own hometown, His own people (Luke 4:16-30) as an adult. Father God watched and ached as Jesus was betrayed by one of His best friends (Luke 22:47-53), beaten so severely He didn’t even look human, denied by another best friend as He walked through the valley of death (Mark 14:66-72), and then nailed to a cross to slowly suffocate and die.
The pain He experienced as a Father is incomprehensible.
But God still gave His one and only Son.
God knew the pain He would experience as Father.
He knew the pain His Son would experience as the agony of sin pressed upon Him.
But that didn’t hold Him back.
Nothing, neither the pain in His own Father heart nor the pain Jesus, as God the Son, would experience, was going to stop the triune godhead from demonstrating His great love for the world or executing His master plan of redemption.
That’s how important you are.
That’s how loved you are.
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died, to take away my sins
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Easter is coming!
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. Visit GracefullyTruthful.com for most studies like this one!
Read His Words Before Ours!
When we moved into our house, autumn was upon us, and many of the plants had started to fade away. The entire year following, I was delighted and surprised by multiple green sprouts appearing in my little bed at the front of our house. Fortunately, my Gamma had come to visit for several months and was able to teach me about the daisies, hostas, and roses blooming before my eyes. The roses thrilled me the most, and while they weren’t the large yellow roses my Papa and Gamma had always had in their garden, they were still a beautiful, bright pink. My Gamma gently warned me that when I cut flowers, I needed to cut them at an angle right above the growth bud, so the stem would continue to grow and produce more flowers. I hadn’t been as cautious about that before, resulting in an awkwardly shaped rose bush on the side of my house.
I was reminded of this pruning process, but the necessity of pruning when I read this post on Instagram:
“You will go through seasons of pruning,
when God removes you from good things –
friendships, privilege, ministry platforms, money, sustenance, hope, even your reputation. Pruning is always very painful and very difficult,
although you may have a clear conscience and know that it comes from God,
and that there are promises of a better and more fruitful future.
It usually results in being very much alone.
Most people will shy away from you when you experience pain.
David in scripture was blessed to have one friend who stood solidly with him through God’s pruning and he eventually walked into a season of abundance.”
My roses needed to be pruned – correctly – in order to continue growing and produce more roses than they otherwise would.
Another word for pruning: sanctification.
And ooftah does sanctification hurt sometimes.
But is it worth it?
Oh yes, dear Sisters, it totally is.
Because sanctification means that I look more like Jesus and am being used for my intended purpose of bringing glory to Him.
Sanctification means I’m growing.
Paul talks about both the pain that comes with sanctification, as well as its inestimable value. He actually rejoices because of his suffering (and let me tell you, sanctification happens most during suffering).
Paul understands that through this growing, pruning, and maturing process He is being prepared to take new ground for the Kingdom!
Paul speaks of proclaiming Jesus’ name and building strong disciples so we may all be fully mature in Christ.
This kind of maturity isn’t about physical age, rather it’s characterized by the natural growth that comes from intentional willingness to be consistently discipled by the Holy Spirit. By regularly dwelling with the Lord through Scripture intake, prayer, and living authentically in biblical community, the Spirit strengthens our “inner being” to love Christ and be shaped to mirror Him more and more.
Speaking of this maturing, Paul says, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
Saying yes to Jesus is only the beginning.
Surrendering your heart and receiving “Christ Jesus as Lord” will save you for eternity, but if you stop here, you’ve chosen to live far below your birthright in Jesus.
Paul urges, “continue to live in Him..”
Become rooted, built up, and established in the faith.
Don’t Stop Now!
Say yes to Jesus, and keep saying yes as He prunes your heart and life!
The “steadying” growth Jesus cultivates in a heart committed to Him,
makes you keenly aware of truth verses a lie.
And, Sister, the world is full of deception and ‘empty deceit’. (Colossians 2:8)
Paul ached for the Church.
He ached for believers to not be stuck drinking milk, but eating solid food.
He ached for believers to grow deep and become rooted that they would be able to distinguish between truth and heresy.
Heresy ran rampant in the Colossian church, and it does in our culture today, too.
The only way we will know the difference between what is solid and a deceptive mirage is by renewing our mind through Scripture. We must be….
Mature in Christ.
As you encounter suffering, hold fast to the faith because Jesus is worth it.
Give yourself fully to spiritual disciplines, watch the Spirit grow you deeply.
Stand firm for truth, and lead others well as you love with grace.
The second half of this beautiful post continues:
“I bless you with the pruning of the Lord.
As painful as they are, they are for the best.
They come from a wise Father.
I bless you with pruning that brings redemption.
I bless you with deep, solid, life-giving friendships when you are going through a season of God’s pruning you.
I bless you with friendships that are designed, crafted, nurtured, and given to you by your Father, even at the same time that He is taking away other friendships that you have deemed important and necessary to your life.
Although you may be severely pruned, I bless you with at least one friend who maintains covenant relationship with you in your darkest hour and is able to encourage you, strengthen you, and focus your attention on God’s promises.”
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. Visit GracefullyTruthful.com for more studies like this one!
From Bible studies to blogs, articles to musings of the heart, Kendra's writings are unbarred and raw - exactly how she speaks.