Domino Effect 

Engourage is defined as “to put courage into someone” and the greek word is paraklesis which means to come alongside.  Encouragement makes it easier to love as Jesus loved (John 13: 34-35); encouragement gives us hope (Romans 15:4); and encouragement helps us through difficult times (Hebrews 12:5).

We are asked in the Bible, Gods ultimate words of encouragement, to encourage one another to remind one another that God loves us. (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  Without encouragement we feel unloved and Satan has a better chance of getting us to believe the lie that God doesn’t love us. (Hebrews 3:13).

One of my favorite people to learn about in the Bible was named Barnabas. He was a true encourager- his name means “Son of Encouragement” and boy did he live up to his name.

Read: Acts 4:32-37.  Here you’ll read how Barnabas had a giving heart. He sold his land without thinking to help someone else. He didn’t have the attitude of “mine mine mine” but he looked at his blessings and was willing to part with them to encourage others.

Read: Acts 9:26-27. Many Christians did not accept newly converted Saul, they doubted the change that had took hold of him (can you imagine, Christians doubting God’s ability to change lives?) Barnabas took hold of Saul and brought Paul and the church together. Be willing to think the best- be an encourager and not a doubter. Find the positives in your life, and help to show them in love to those around you.

Read: Acts 11: 19-23. More people believing, church hears and sends Barnabas- to encourage new believers in Christ! Not only did he encourage them in their new journey of faith, he rejoiced with them for trusting God to change their lives. Think of Barnabas going to Antioch to help new believers as the first real missions trip. Many “unclean Gentiles” became new, Antioch became the birthplace of the first multicultural church. What can you do to positively motivate others?

Read: Acts 11:24-26; Acts 13:1-3; 15:37-39. Barnabas gets Saul. Encouragement and relationship go hand in hand. Barnabas in a way trained Saul in motivation and encouragement to go into the mission field together. Saul followed Barnabas’ model. Together they influenced John Mark (2 Tim 4:11)- Barnabas’ effect on Saul transformed John Mark.

Lift each other up in prayer daily. Motivate each other to have a heart like Barnabas. And here’s I think the biggest challenge of all- be a Barnabas to yourself. Loving yourself is a heart issue. Take time to sit down with God and talk about it. Talk to your small group or accountability partner or whoever. Let’s get our hearts right with God, ourselves, and each other. Only then can the domino effect of having a heart like Barnabas truly begin.

 

Sunday Praise

Today will be short. I went to a place that for years gave me an overwhelming sense of fear. A place where I had felt hurt and abandoned. A place where usually all my “not good enough” vibes cripple me. If you’ve read my other posts, you’d know that I’m talking about the church I grew up in. I went there for my mom initially but found that I also went there in some way for myself. Earlier this week I finally gave the hurts and anxiety from that church over to God. And this time, I laid down more than my anxiety, I laid down my pride of how I was wrongfully treated. 

There were faces I knew and many more that were unfamiliar. I was still uncomfortable in that building for a church service, but I felt this insane level of peace. God was protecting me as soon as I parked.

No, I am not saying I was protected from the church, but that I was protected from allowing Satan to use my past at the church to hurt me. 

It’s not just about casting your anxieties on Jesus. You need to let go of all the pride that you hold with those anxieties.

I was prideful because I was right and the church was wrong- at least that’s what I let live in my heart for so long after being hurt by a few people over the years I attended there. For a while, that’s the part I held onto- the pride because it made the hurt less.

God, thank you. Thank you for finally helping me give up the pride I held onto from the hurt. Thank you for protecting me from Satans attacks walking into a building where I had some bad memories today.

God answers prayer people.✝️

True Friendship

I did Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) growing up and made a lot of amazing friends there.  I spent my summers doing weeks of crazy intensive training to go out and do backyard Bible clubs all summer long.  We usually did at least two different clubs each day and each club lasted a week.  Kind of like a VBS.  The most I ever did was four a day for a week.  The friends I made at the training camp, I thought would be my friends for the rest of my life.  They were just like me- on fire for God and willing to give up their summer to serve Him and tell kids about Jesus.  These people encouraged me to grow all year round, even though we came from all over the state.  This was before the days of Facebook, and even before MySpace for a while- we kept in touch through phone calls, letters sent in the snail mail, and AOL Instant Messenger.  I counted these people as kindred spirits. At this time, I didn’t ever think that I would fall away from God, let alone straight up walk away from Him.  I also never expected these people to not be in my life either.

When I ran away from God, I made more than a lot of poor choices.  I made a complete and total mess of my life. When any Christian friend of mine talked to me, they made me feel like I was being talked down to.  They reprimanded me for who I had become, and not in a way showing God’s love, but in a way that made me feel like I was more of a failure than I already thought I was. Only one of my CEF friends approached it in a way that didn’t make me feel attacked.  For the sake of this story, let’s just call her Emily.

Emily kept up on my life through social media.  She would message me or call me asking how I was.  Just reaching a hand out.  Emily did this for years telling me she was praying for me, and never pushed or made me feel unloved as a friend.  To everyone else I always thought for me, I felt like an outcast just because I wasn’t the goodie-two-shoes Dana anymore.  I felt like I’d imagine a leper to feel back in the days of Jesus.  No one came near people with leprosy, except for Jesus.

As Christians, it is part of our calling to be Jesus to other people.  Whether they are non-believers, strangers, or friends who have turned their back on God.  Emily was the one Christian friend who had a heart very much resembling the heart of Jesus.  She called me out several times.  When I kept blowing her off, or ignoring her friendly gestures, she kept praying.  Then one day, I told her I was trying to come back to Christ, she was so happy for me, thrilled even, but my attempts only lasted a few weeks.  She sent me a message on Facebook, that I just searched for and am copying for this post.

“Dana, I hate to be annoying, but where are you spiritually? A long time ago we promised to be accountability partners, and through your Facebook- I don’t see the huge changes you were hoping to make this year.  Dana, God loves you no matter what your flaws and short comings.  He sent His only Son to die for you Dana…He has an unconditional love for you.  I hope you are in a good place. I am praying for you- and even though we haven’t seen each other in a long time, I am still here for you.”

It took a bit for me to respond, and Emily had texted me and its been three phones since so that text is long gone, but she told me that she loved me and would be praying for me.  Emily said that she was there when I was ready, but that until I got my life together, she didn’t want me to meet her son.

This was the tough love I needed.  I needed a friend who for years, even though my life was a disaster and I was breaking her heart, she kept praying.  She kept loving me.  She kept showing me that she was there for me.  She called me out in a way to just say that even though she cared about me, I couldn’t be around her son as she was trying to raise him up in the Lord.  I cried for a few days because I had finally hit the rock bottom I needed to really turn around my life and come back to Jesus.

Emily has been a true friend.  She still reaches out to me to catch up, pray with me, and encourage me in Christ.  The only difference is, now I do the same to the best of my ability. I have come to learn what a blessing a true friend, no, a real sister in Christ can be.  Miles may separate us, and we may not be as close as we once were, but I still cherish Emily as my friend.  I am still grateful for the one friend who never gave up on me and truly, honestly showed me grace.  She showed me Jesus.

If you have someone in your life who has made a mess of things, be an Emily.  Be the one person physically here on this earth who shows them grace- let them see Christ in you.  I am so grateful that God is a God of second chances and that I am finally in a place where I am not lukewarm spiritually.

Read 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 3:2; John 13: 34-35; Micah 6:8.

Listen to: “Do They See Jesus in Me” by Joy Williams.

Oblivious to the Obvious

I was listening to a sermon the other day from a pastor at my friend’s church.  In it he talked about Peter walking on water.  I know I’ve heard a few times how we’re fine when we have our eyes fixed on Jesus like Peter, and we start to sink once we cave in to our doubts and anxiety and remove our gaze.  Get that, it’s a good point.  This pastor had an addition to it that I never really thought about, saying that all Jesus needed to do to steady Peter was simply just reach his hand out- Peter had gotten so far from the boat to Jesus and stumbled toward the finish line- Jesus was literally right there with His hand close enough to help Peter not sink.  This thought blew me away so much and I’ve thought about it all week, so today I read the passage in the Bible about Jesus and Peter walking on water.  None of what I had thought and dwelled on all week was speaking to me, but boy did I get punched in the gut with a truth I hadn’t even thought of.

Read Matthew 14: 22-33.

What stuck out to me was in verse 33.  It says: Then those in the boat worshipped Him and said, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’”

Come again?  These men in the boat were already known as “the disciples” or the chosen twelve that were the closest followers of Jesus.  Before the whole walking on water thing, they had seen several miracles already, or at least heard of them.  In Matthew 8 and 9 Jesus cleansed a man of his leprosy, healed a few people that were paralyzed, drove out demons from men, removed a fever from Peter’s mom, calmed a storm with just his words and healed a blind man.  From there Jesus told many parables all leading to faith in Him.  Right before he walked on water, he feed more than 5,000 people from the tiny lunch of one little boy with baskets of leftovers.  You’re telling me that these 12 men had seen all of this and were just figuring out that Jesus was the Son of God?!

I found this crazy.  How could the chosen followers of Christ be so dense as to not see that He was the Son of God that had been prophesized time and time again?  Then a gut wrenching feeling came over me.  Who am I to wonder what took them so long when I consider all it took for me to believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Furthermore, how many times do I make God tell me something before I listen?  My first thought after that was “oh great, something else I’m failing at.”  Immediately I laughed, hasn’t God been teaching me that I need to give HIM all my insecurities?  And yet, my first reaction was to go into my doubts and camp out for a minute.  Silly, silly me.

Believers, how many times does God need to tap you on the shoulder and tell you something before it really sinks in?  For me, it’s a lot more than I would like it to be, and that’s certainly something I need to work on.  Let’s pray and commit to start listening when God speaks to us.  Pray and meditate on His word and let Him truly guide you.  Don’t be the disciple who needs a million signs to pick up on who Jesus is anymore!

For any non-believers reading, how many times does God need to show you how amazing He is before you will believe in Him?  Like I said yesterday, you are worth the cross.  We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and we know that the price tag on our sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23).  Jesus lived a perfect life and died our place, rising again to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15: 3-4).  Because of Jesus covering our bill, we can live in Heaven if we only accept Him paying our check (Romans 10: 9-13).  I can give you loads more Scripture.  I can tell you about people going to Christian music festivals sick and going to their next doctor appointment to find out that they were healed.  I can tell you about prayers being answered and turned into praises.  I can tell you about lives I have seen changed- mine included.  What is it going to take for you to believe that you are worth the cross?  How many times does God need to tell you how much He loves you?

Playlist:
Nothing Is Wasted- Jason Gray
Promise of A Lifetime- Kutless
Come to Jesus- Planetshakers
Come as You Are- Pocket Full of Rocks
All I Need to Know- Thousand Foot Krutch
Love Restores- Shine Bright Baby
*The sermon I spoke about at the start of this was “When Anxiety Attacks” by Steven Furtick from Elevation Church.  It’s live on their website and on their App.*

You Are Worth The Cross

Years ago, I walked away from God.  I felt like He didn’t care about me anymore and that He didn’t protect me from what He should have.  After a few years of living a crazy Katy Perry song life, I knew that I needed to come back to God.  I prayed and begged God for forgiveness until I was able to forgive myself for the mess that I had become.  At this point, I had also just moved home to help mom take care of my stepdad on hospice care.  I figured the best place for me as I healed was my home church.  The church that I grew up in.  Because someone always had to be with dad, mom and I took turns attending church.  I was excited to go home, and to work with God on straightening out my life.  The very place I thought I would find encouragement and feel the love of Jesus was the place that ended up breaking my soul and giving me the most anxiety.

I’m not going to give out names or places, but let’s just say there was a congregation member who came up to me and said that there was no hope for me and that God could never forgive me and that I was stealing something away from my mom by me being there and her being at home.  This wrecked me.  It was a family friend who I once had truly respected growing up in that church so there was no way that I could tell my mom what happened.  So I got back in the habit of lying.  I hid it from her and encouraged her to go instead.  I made excuses saying that the church had grown so much and that she knew people there and I really didn’t anymore.  I believed the lie that Satan was hurling at me through that person telling me that God couldn’t forgive me.

For years I decided I didn’t need fellowship.  I didn’t need to spend time with other believers to be a Christian and believe in God.  Shortly after dad passed, mom forced me to go back.  I made excuses.  I faked being sick.  When I did go I had severe anxiety and panic attacks.  I did not feel safe in a house of God.  The one person Satan used to say “you’re not worth saving” to let me put a vast amount of my personal insecurities into blaming the church.  I would say that the church had failed me, that God had even failed me, for when I was trying to give Him my life back He let an elder tell me that I wasn’t worth the love of Christ.  These lies were so easy to believe because I was so spiritually weak.  Satan was attacking hard because he didn’t want to let me be a prodigal that returned- he wanted me to remain lost.

I finally came clean with my mom and told her what had happened.  She saw the scars on my hands from digging my nails into my palms from each Sunday I went to that church.  She realized that my shaking and crying at church was not God speaking to me, but my mental state of fear taking over my body.  She was sad and hurt by what had happened, but supported me in checking out other churches and finding a new “home” since the church that raised me was no longer a church of healing for me.

It’s been almost a year since I left that church and God has healed so many wounds.  I no longer believe that God failed me.  I no longer feel that that specific church failed me.  That church was my home for a reason, and for a season.  That church was where I first learned how to search after God, where I started walking in His path as a teen, where I met people who would lead me to an incredible journey in evangelism.  That church helped fuel me until I walked away from God.  Yes, there were hurts along the way but being a teen on fire for Christ in a secular world was not a hurt free zone.  There will always be a part of my heart that loves that church and what it meant to me when it was my place of fellowship and belonging.  When God called me back to Him, I was not failed by that church but by someone who wasn’t equipped with the grace to encourage me on the long journey ahead to coming home.

I’ve been the prodigal who ran away to have fun and find freedom and all I found was hurts and regrets.  I have returned home to the arms of Christ, just with a different physical address.

Have you walked away from God?  Do you ever feel like no matter what you do, you’ve walked too far away from Him?  Has anyone ever told you that you were not worth Christ dying for?  I know how thoughts like these can destroy you.  I know firsthand how difficult it can be to allow God to heal your wounds with the insecurities of not being worth it are flooding your head.  Let me tell you, YOU ARE WORTH THE CROSS.  No matter how far you’ve walked away, God still loves you.  No matter what wrong choices you have made, Jesus still died to rescue you from those transgressions.  We all need grace.

Read Luke 15- a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.

Today’s playlist:
Rescue – Desperation Band

Mercy Said No – Greg Long

Homeward Bound – Among the Thirsty

Flawless – Mercy Me

Mended – Matthew West

Need You Now – Plumb

On Fire – Sanctus Real

Mercy Changes Everything – Ryan Stevenson

Put On Armor

There are passages in the Bible that I think for all of us we can read over and over again that never speak to us for years.  One of those passages for me has been constantly in my head this week and I literally cannot shake it.  I’m sure you’ll be familiar with it as soon as you start to read it too, especially if you grew up in a church at all.

Ephesians 6:13-18- Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

How many times in my life have I heard about the armor of God?  Too many to count honestly. Was it something I had on a lame t-shirt as a kid, yes.  I always understood it to some extent, but it never really made a huge impact on me until I read it again this week.  Something was telling me to dissect this passage more than I ever have and to really dwell on it.

The belt of truth buckled around our waist.  But why there and why a belt?  I usually wear a belt as a means to hold up pants and to pull an outfit all together.  So in a spiritual sense, truth ties everything together.  Satan hates that we are following God, and he will fight us like crazy because he wants us back on his side.  Often times, Satan will fight us with lies and he has ways to make these lies sound like truth.  We need God’s truth holding us up so that we can stand firm against the lies of Satan.

As I’ve brought up, our hearts are the seat of our emotions and the innermost part of a person spiritually and scientifically.  Our hearts are tricky and prone to hold our insecurities and fears which is why God tells us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) more than we guard anything else.  Satan knows our insecurities- often times he’s the one who has put them there. The breastplate literally is just a strong, steady way to protect our hearts.  I think the breastplate is one of righteousness because once we come to Christ and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior, His righteousness is what fills and cleanses our hearts.  Jesus is right there in that breastplate protecting the part of us He holds most precious.

God want’s us to be ready to go when He calls us to tell others about Him.  We use our feet to move to action.  God wants us to move and be ready to serve Him and follow His calling on our lives.

Faith in God will continually protect us.  We already know that He has won the ultimate victory, so the battles we may face on this earth we need to trust Him to get us through. Trusting God when we are weak and when we are strong to protect us from the dangers of hurt and the arrows that Satan is throwing at us.

The helmet of salvation is on our heads because it protects us from the doubts that Satan will try to place in our minds about how great and mighty our God is.  It keeps out the thoughts that God cannot protect us when we feel at our lowest and our weakest so that we can trust him.  When we have our heads on straight, we can live more in our hearts for Christ.

Everything so far is defensive.  Most of the armor God wants us to equip ourselves with daily is there to protect us and to prepare us for the war so that we are safe. Aside from God Himself, we are only given one weapon- the sword of the Spirit.   This sword is God’s Word that He has given us. Again with our hearts, in the Bible God tells us to hide His word in our hearts.  Even our weapon is something we need to actively prepare ourselves with.  We need to spend time in the Word.  We need to commit as much of it to memory as we can so that we can be ready for battle.

We cannot put on one piece of armor and call it good enough.  There are reasons why God has given us so much to prepare with and protect ourselves with.  It would be almost a slap in the face to God f we were to say, “I only need this one part of the armor God’s given us, I can handle the rest on my own.”  Get out of your pride.  God gave us all of this armor and it’s kind of a package deal- you need to put it all on and leave the battle to Him or you will fail.  Let Him work through you and use you.

Like in my life verse that this blog is named after, everyday can be filled with moments that you were created for.  However you need to prepare yourself so that you are ready when God calls you.

 

Good Grief

My step-dad was the best human father I could have ever asked for. He loved me as his own daughter: held me when I cried, protected me from bad things in life, laughed with me in my happiest moments, told me that I was beautiful, encouraged me when I felt low and called me out when I was being a jerk.  More importantly, he truly loved Jesus and his love for Him was infectious. He lived a long, full life and always had great stories of “back when I was a kid” memories.  My step-dad was 60 years my senior and 26 years older than my mom.  I never really noticed how old he was until his age caught up with him and he got sick.

When he got sick, he was in a nursing home for a while.  Mom was working to remodel the house’s basement to move him home under hospice care.  I dropped out of school to help mom in this endeavor and to help her take care of him.  We brought him home and cared for him for two years until he passed on December 22, 2012. I was destroyed.  I knew it was coming, but no amount of preparation can really make someone not feel the pain of losing someone so loved and cherished.

As time has unfolded, I have more good days than bad of missing my father.  I know where he is, I know who he’s with.  (Listen to Pax217’s song “Counting Down the Days”)  Somedays though I wake up and check my phone and my Facebook memories bring up something about my dad and I immediately turn into the melted pot of butter on the stove intended for salt potatoes.  I crumble and fall apart emotionally.

Psalm 6: 6-7- I am weary from my groaning, with my tears I dampen my pillow and drench my bed every night.  My eyes are swollen from grief. …

I feel this way when I miss my dad most.  I let my grief overwhelm me and truly know the feeling of having eyes that are literally swollen from how much I have cried.  I’m sure many other people know this feeling too. Days like this, I really need to rely on God’s strength to get me through.  Over the past almost four years, this is one burden that I have gotten much better at giving to God.

Psalm 6:2- Be gracious to me, Lord, for I a weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking…

I have been blessed by God with some amazing Christian music that helps me get into my feelings so that I can move on with my day.  I’ve learned that unless I let myself cry it out and embrace my emotions that I will be pretty much paralyzed until I do.  If you are like me, my list of go to “grief” songs is below.

Let God wash away your tears and make you whole again.  When you are missing people who meant the world to you but are no longer living in this world, let God hug you and help you get through the day.  It’s not a wound that time can really heal, it’s more of a wound that God can heal and time can help you grow numb to.

Pax 217- Countin Down the Days

Matthew West- Save a Place for Me

Mercy Me – Homesick

Mercy Me – I Can Only Imagine

Casting Crowns – Just Be Held

Danny Gokey – Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

Jaci Velasquez – On My Knees

Kari Jobe- Steady My Heart