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Devotions

What Are You Becoming?

Many of us have become wonderful spouses, parents, college graduates and more. We hold high expectations of life, people and ourselves. Are we making a double-digit hourly pay, plus bonus? Have we put together the most extravagant wedding our friends, family and Instagram have witnessed? Are our children excelling beyond their age compared to others in that private Facebook group?

Here’s my question; what are you becoming? I don’t mean through your accomplishments or popularity or even failures. I mean the real you, the inside you. The you that only God and yourself can see. Have you looked there lately? What might you find?

It’s hard to answer what we don’t know, or more truthfully, what we don’t want to know. You see, it’s easier to appear clean on the outside while remaining filthy on the inside.

Here’s how Jesus explained it to the Pharisees and religious leaders of his time on earth:

You are foolish to ignore the greed and self-indulgence that lives like germs within you. 26 You are blind and deaf to your evil. Shouldn’t the one who cleans the outside also be concerned with cleaning the inside? You need to have more than clean dishes; you need clean hearts!” Matthew 23:25b-26 TPT

Here’s how I interpret that:

“Nicole, you are being fooled by ignoring the bitterness and selfishness of your sin that thrives by infecting your heart, mind, tongue and everything/everyone you come in contact with. Don’t keep ignoring what’s breaking you. You’re so focused on showcasing whats false when you should be focused on unveiling what’s true. What you’re longing for isn’t found in what the world admires of you; it’s found in what I desire from you- your heart!” –God

This is the raw truth. I am impatient. With my husband, my son, the driver going the speed limit in front of me. I overreact. Explode. Shut down. I am harsh or what my generation likes to call “salty”. I say things I don’t want to mean but bitterly do. I feel less than. I compare to body icons and carry that insecurity into my heart and marriage. I allow holding grudges to wedge important relationships.

But no more.

Instead of living in condemnation of “what have I become”, I choose to live in the grace of “this is who I am becoming”.

I’m becoming a wife like a crown to my husbands head. A mother I never knew. A daughter and sister of peace. A friend of truth and trust. A neighbor who loves. A child of God who’s been called to be loved unconditionally.

I pray that as you look in the mirror of God’s heart, you will see who you are becoming in Him, not who you’ve been in yourself.

“May grace and perfect peace cascade over you as you live in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” -2 Peter 1:2 TPT

So I ask again, what are you becoming?

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Devotions

Where Was God?

In a world so evil, how can God be so good?

I love that about Him. Even in our pain and suffering, He is still good. Never changing. Always faithful.

Life doesn’t always seem good, though.

Medical bills pile on the breakfast bar from giving birth to your son and when he 8 weeks old in the NICU at Children’s Hospital. Your husband’s best friend dies from life long sufferings of cancer and other unbearable health issues just 3 months before your best friend of 12 years dies in a car accident at age 22 from falling asleep at the wheel. All of this in less than a year, by the way. How can God be good and where was He in all of this?

As life lives on (or dies off), I see God more. Wondering myself where God was in my life before I knew Him. I asked, “Where were You when I was growing up? When I was being humiliated and bullied at school for so many years. Or when I was so broken and lost in drugs and alcohol (beginning at 14 years old). What were you doing in my life before I knew you?”

My thoughts before He answered were, “Nothing, we had nothing in common”, “Was He even there?”

Quietly, He lovingly answered, “Pursuing you.”

I quickly deflected by saying, “Besides that.”

My reply came from thinking He only loves me now because of what I do and what I stopped doing. To think we are saved and accepted by God from our own ability is farthest from reality, yet too easy to believe. To overcome those thoughts is to remind ourselves with the Word of God: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (thank God because some days I completely blow it).

The question I would ask you if you are wondering the same things as me; are you pursuing Him?

Pursuing Jesus isn’t the American dream. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You lose friends and family. You don’t supernaturally become rich and famous. People think you’re crazy because 3 days before deciding to change your life you were sleeping with someone and partying. It’s pretty ugly at times, actually. But it’s so worth it.

Though you may not look different outwardly, the inside you is being renovated and renewed.

Picture a hoarders house destroyed with filth and rats (because I can’t imagine a hoarders house without rats scurrying around), rebuilt into the destination home of your dreams, for FREE. That’s what the blood of Jesus does to your life. It completely covers the past, present and future you, making you whiter than snow and a friend of God.

You were so deep in darkness and you couldn’t remember what it felt like to smile in life without your papers or bottle. Then someone steps into that house filled with pain and insecurity that’s been stored in every corner for years. They admire you and tell you how beautiful and loved you are. Looking past the moldy sandwich on the coffee table and mountains of dirty laundry scattered throughout the living room (again, my image of a hoarders house). They see the real you and love what they see!

Jesus sees every sinful, dirty and dark thing we’ve ever thought or done and looks past it all, loving us the same. But freedom, healing and peace don’t come free. You have to put in the time and effort with God. I started chasing after God through church groups, reading my bible and prayer. That’s when I started becoming who I am today. New. Free. Redeemed.

The beauty in all of the bad is, I still am. I still am pursuing God. And He’s still pursuing me. Begin pursuing Him and you will find where He’s been; pursuing you. And He won’t stop.

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Devotions

Naked and Afraid

Have you watched that show? Naked and Afraid. Two strangers, male and female, are placed in the wilderness with nothing but their bare skin and one object of their choice for survival. What would you bring? A knife would be my choice. Although, I wouldn’t last more than 24 hours in the wilderness because spiders, bugs and dirt overwhelm me with irrational fear of death. I would describe my fear as arachnophobia wrapped in a web of anxiety, getting ready to be eaten alive by one of those spiders from Eight Legged Freaks.

8legs

Anyways, back to being naked and afraid. Did you know, in the beginning, humans were naked and felt no shame? It’s true! You could walk in the day time with your moon out. Genesis accounts Adam and Eve in chapter 2, verse 25; “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

When was the last time you did that? And I’m not referring to a childhood dare to go streaking or skinny dipping in the neighbors pool. When was the last time your soul felt no shame? Where you could sit down with God and be raw and real. No fig leaves sewn of church reputation and followers on Instagram. The naked you, before the Father, just as you are.

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. 4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3: 1-7.

Recognize the system here. First, Satan watches and waits to speak doubt where God’s people are, even in good places. Second, Eve reacts by stating what is true while the serpent promises exactly opposite of what God says is true. Third, Eve, who was with her husband, desired what she saw as good more than desiring God. Fourth, the realization of who they were revealed in one moment of disobedience. Sound familiar?

We as humans haven’t found new ways of disobeying God, nor has satan found new ways of distracting us from God. We seem to be in a good place when all of a sudden we’re second guessing if God’s Word is true, so we try something else we think is good, pleasing and desirable. All to end up looking in the mirror of hearts as we read the Word again to see what’s true; God was right, we were wrong. So what do we do? We hide.

Genesis 3:8 “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Trying to hide from God is like trying to hide behind a glass wall.

We hide behind volunteering in church events. We hide behind our mid-weekly bible studies. We hide behind our inspirational retweets about Jesus.

Just maybe if we can prove who we’re not, no one will know who we actually are. The problem with this logic is God already sees the mess we’re in and He isn’t afraid to get His hands dirty cleaning us off. He loves us anyways. When we disobey God, He doesn’t leave us, He comes to us. He walks with us, talks with us and confronts us, not to shame us, but to heal us.

“Where are you, Nicole?”, he asks.

“I heard you coming and was afraid of what you’d see so I hide in my shame.”, I confessed.

And he said, “Who told you that you were unworthy? Have you listened to the accuser that I overcame when I sacrificed my Son, Jesus?”

Then I blamed, “The world I’m in and people I’m around told me something different from you, but promised something good, and I believed it.”

Then God said to Nicole, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know how much I love you?”

You see, after God confronted, corrected and punished the sin of humanity by cursing the ground through Adam and causing child-bearing pain through Eve, He still gave them what they needed to live, unashamed.

Genesis 3:21 “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

And He does the same for us today. Jesus went to the cross for our sin, our shame, our sickness and diseases. Don’t hide any longer in your shame. He carried it all so we could walk with him, “naked” and unashamed.

(I could try to make something spiritual of that clip from, Eight Legged Freaks with verses like, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…” Hebrews 12:1 or, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19 but I’m not going to. I’ll leave it as is so you can laugh at how my brain interprets the Holy Spirit’s ideas.)

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Devotions

Doubting the Truth

May this encourage those who are hoping on the promises of God for something but aren’t sure if God is really going to prove Himself true.

“Jesus Appears to Thomas
24One of the twelve wasn’t present when Jesus appeared to them—it was Thomas, whose nickname was “the Twin.” 25So the disciples informed him, “We have seen the Lord with our own eyes!”

Still unconvinced, Thomas replied, “There’s no way I’m going to believe this unless I personally see the wounds of the nails in his hands, touch them with my finger, and put my hand into the wound of his side where he was pierced!”

26Then eight days later, Thomas and all the others were in the house together. And even though all the doors were locked, Jesus suddenly stood before them! “Peace to you,” he said.

27Then, looking into Thomas’ eyes, he said, “Put your finger here in the wounds of my hands. Here—put your hand into my wounded side and see for yourself. Thomas, don’t give in to your doubts any longer, just believe!”

28Then the words spilled out of his heart—“You are my Lord, and you are my God!”

29Jesus responded, “Thomas, now that you’ve seen me, you believe. But there are those who have never seen me with their eyes but have believed in me with their hearts, and they will be blessed even more!”

30Jesus went on to do many more miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not even included in this book. 31But all that is recorded here is so that you will fully believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you will experience eternal life by the power of his name!”

John 20:24-30 TPT

Sometimes, we may under estimate the reality of human nature in not only the disciples, but ourselves. Imagine all of your closest friends, the people you left your family and what you knew as life to follow Jesus with, were claiming Jesus visited them after you watched Him be arrested, beaten and put to death! I don’t know about you, but if it were me, I’d be like Thomas. Thomas replied, “There’s no way I’m going to believe this unless I personally see the wounds of the nails in his hands, touch them with my finger, and put my hand into the wound of his side where he was pierced!”

Now look closely at scripture. Jesus did eventually visit Thomas like the rest, but note* it was over a week later! 8 days to be exact. Everyone who knew at the time were probably still reliving every word and deed Jesus said and did while He visited them without you. Think about all the rational and irrational thoughts you’d have. “Jesus is dead! I witnessed it with my own eyes!” “Peter is not denying it and I really trust his word.” “Why wouldn’t Jesus wait to visit until I was with everyone, too?” “There’s no way after the beatings and piercings Jesus took that He could live.” “How could the seal be broken and stone be rolled away without the help of many men?”

26Then eight days later, Thomas and all the others were in the house together. And even though all the doors were locked, Jesus suddenly stood before them! “Peace to you,” he said. 27Then, looking into Thomas’ eyes, he said, “Put your finger here in the wounds of my hands. Here—put your hand into my wounded side and see for yourself. Thomas, don’t give in to your doubts any longer, just believe!”

How true and loving is the character of Jesus? Though He may delay in visiting you with proof of who He is, He doesn’t leave you out of the loop. Your friends and church family may seem to have this awesome relationship with Jesus and you’re thinking to yourself, “Is God even real? I’m not seeing Jesus and encountering Him the way everyone else is.” “Oh, you fasted and had a vision of Heaven? Cool. I skipped breakfast to make it on time to this class. Does that count?”

Don’t miss verse 28.

28Then the words spilled out of his heart—“You are my Lord, and you are my God!”

What spilled out of Thomas’s heart revealed the truth of his faith. Jesus, moved by compassion and grace, allowed evidence for Thomas’s request in order to help him believe.

God does that for us, too. “God, if I can’t marry this person then I don’t know if You really love me.” “Lord, if You just help me make a little more money I promise I’ll start giving more.” “Until I see my family saved I’m not sure I can keep living for You. It’s getting too hard and they aren’t accepting of my new lifestyle.” In all of Jesus’ goodness and mercy, He may grant your requests and demands- because He really does love you that much!

As for others, He may not.

29Jesus responded, “Thomas, now that you’ve seen me, you believe. But there are those who have never seen me with their eyes but have believed in me with their hearts, and they will be blessed even more!”

If thats you, embrace the trust God is entrusting to you. He tells us that those who believe in Him, yet don’t see Him, will be even more blessed! What are you hoping for in the promises of God but haven’t yet seen? Whatever it is, I can assure you it’s not more real than the presence of God in the waiting- the 8 days. Endure the unknown. Embrace the wait. Jesus promises to come back and make this all right again. Stay blessed.

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Devotions

Nothing New Under the Sun

Oh, the joy of Christmas morning! The smell of pine and cinnamon waking you at dusk. Darkness exposed by shimmering lights that filled a tree you helped grow, branch by branch. Siblings gathered harmoniously to decorate the tree with strings of popcorn, crafts from elementary school and a big, white angel atop its throne. A trail of crumbs from sugar cookies you helped bake Christmas Eve, sprinkled from the kitchen to the living room and a glass of milk drank by Santa. A magical message written on the crinkled napkin he wiped his mouth with promising, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas! Until next year. – Santa Claus.” Regardless if there weren’t many pretty bows or shiny wrapped boxes under a real tree you and your family picked out to be chopped down, you still enjoyed the Spirit of Christmas.

`Tis the season of warmth in a winter wonderland! Heat from hot cocoa melting the hearts of children like Reddi Wip overflowing as a snowy mountain down the rim, while their parents add a shot of espresso to their own mug. Families gathering with their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters who are on leave after being over-seas for months. Parents celebrating their child’s first Christmas with video recordings of an oversupply of gifts and laughter. A supernatural generosity of feeding and clothing the poor and needy. These all make up for a wonderful Christmas season.

If only every season of life were this beautiful.

This year, not everyone’s son or daughter and brother or sister will be home on leave for the holidays. They will be serving with other young adults who are dying for our safety and freedom. Some families will be mourning their inability to conceive or carry a child while hundreds and thousands of unborn babies are murdered– legally! Homeless human beings are dying in woods and under viaducts from hypothermia or drug and alcohol abuse. Most families are a few pay checks away from being homeless. If we really understood that, maybe then we would invest into people’s lives more than once a year.

There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Solomon is trying to tell us life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured. When your life may feel empty, remember to have His joy. Our joy will run out. His joy is our strength– strength in all circumstances. “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11

 Though your natural circumstances may be factual, we are to partner with the truth of God’s Word and stand firm on His promises. Your test results may have come back positive with a deadly disease or maybe you lost your job of 10+ years and don’t know what the next step is to save your mortgage and lease. Lately, your marriage may seem rocky and now your spouse wants a divorce. Bad news can too easily dampen our attitudes if we’re not thinking on purpose the thoughts of God.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus is promising peace in our trouble with confidence that we will overcome because He has overcome! There is no other option but to overcome when we step out in faith and let God be God.

 Bad news can too easily dampen our attitudes if we’re not thinking on purpose the thoughts of God.

 My challenge as a young wife and new mother is to enjoy life as it is, even if that means changing diapers and getting vomited on. Too many hours have wasted away in a day worrying about whether or not my husband will love me if the laundry is still sitting on top of the dryer or put away. My family loves me for me, not if the floors are mopped or the kitchen sink is empty.

Thoughts of how I could have done things differently, or what my life would be like now if I had done things differently, consume my mind and emotions when I let them. “Maybe I should have joined the military like my sisters.” or, “Maybe I shouldn’t have married so young and went away to college first.” In the mean time, my husband is loving me as Christ loves the Church and my son is growing into a 1-year-old. The enemy is raging to distract me, trying to redirect my mind to his lies rather than God’s truth.

Dwelling on the “what ifs” will, not can, hinder your relationship with your spouse, with your family and ultimately with God. If you would have done things differently, of course your life would be different, but that doesn’t mean it would be better. Imagine the advancement you would bring to the Kingdom of God when you choose to worship God with all of your mind through thought, prayer and meditating on the Word. Your days would be filled with His glory instead of your worry.

These are the thoughts we need to choose to dwell on:

  • 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things. Philippians 4:8

While remembering God’s thoughts towards us:

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me! Psalm 139: 17-18

As we enter into December from surviving Thanksgiving, stuffing our faces with deep-fried turkey (oh yeah) and pecan pie, may we remember that it’s O.K. to gain a few pounds! Enjoy every bite! We aren’t to focus on the negative– even if we gained a few. 🙂