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I get all fired up when I hear “preachers” saying God wants me to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. “You deserve more, better,” they say. “Just set your mind to something and go for it. God is for you. He will give you what you desire if you love and obey Him enough. Have faith, and life will go well for you.”

Problem is, these are half-truths—shadows of Scripture. Sound bites that are close enough to sound right and are highly motivational, but in actuality, hold devastating implications. When life doesn’t go our way we wonder what we did wrong or what we didn’t do enough of to get God to act on our behalf. And when life is peachy-keen, our need for God dissipates. We turn Christianity into a formula to be figured out and followed.

Fact is, we are not promised smooth sailing. We are not guaranteed to bypass the difficult storms of life just because we are Christians. And the presence of a squall does not mean God is upset with us. I’ve found the opposite to be true in my life. The trials I’ve faced have proved God to be lovingly present, tenderly purposeful, and powerfully able to use all things for my good. I’ve learned that being a Christian doesn’t give me some force-field bubble that protects me from harm. But having the hope of Christ within me—knowing and holding onto all He has done for me and all that He will do—brings a deep-down peace that no positive-thinking prosperity message can provide.

I’ll say it again: walking with God is not a formula to be found out and followed. Abundant life with Jesus is a journey of continually drawing near to His presence while holding fast to the gospel—our anchor of truth. All who are in Christ possess the treasure of hope. It’s a noun, not a verb. But don’t always experience the hope-filled abundant life because we either don’t truly know the gospel or we forget.

We often want to measure growth with external charts and checkboxes, but I believe true spiritual growth cannot be evaluated simply by our deeds. Actions can be modified. Attitudes can be mimicked. But holding fast to hope cannot be faked.

If our view of God is big, the reality of our hope will be big, too.

God, I confess the places where I have not trusted in Your promises. Help me to see that You are steadfast and sure. Open my eyes to see You more and more each day.

hope in god


This is an excerpt from my Everyday Hope Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  study, an easy to use, four-week Bible study. Designed for women who are pressed for time, yet crave depth from their Bible study, Everyday Hope Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  offers a relevant and lasting approach for reading and understanding Scripture. In as few as 15 minutes a day, discover how to hold fast to His promises amidst feelings of hopelessness.

My heart has been incredibly heavy this week over the state of our nation. I have friends and family on all sides of every issue and I can’t stand to be on social media right now. So much of the back and forth—the hate, the pride, the lashing out—is disappointing, at best. I’ve been fairly quiet online as I process where to go from here.

Lord, what is my part? What actions can I take? How am I supposed to pray?

This I do know: I am a Christian and an ambassador for Christ, not primarily of a political party or certain candidate. I am the brand of Christ. When people look at me, they are to see and feel something that is supernatural and special. Not because of who I am, but because (whether they can identify it or not) they see Christ in me. Everything I say or don’t say, do or don’t do is a reflection of Christ and I long to reflect Him well.

Everyday Love Images.009

I wish I was better at this. There are so many days and moments that I fail to reflect the glory of God to the people around me. And yet God is to be glorified through all His people—the church. I long for His good and gracious character to be made known. I want souls to see their utter need for Christ. And none of this can happen if Christians don’t look like Christ.

Lately it seems our reflection of Him has been covered in mud.

Everyday Love Images.010

So—starting with me—I’m praying for a revival of a renewed repentance and deep humility among the church. I’m asking God to show me if there is any wicked way within me and lead me toward repentance. Today, I choose to focus primarily on my own actions and attitudes and —by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit—I will follow the example of Christ down the road of counting others more significant than myself.

LORD JESUS,

I sin — Grant that I may
never cease grieving because of it,
never be content with myself,
never think I can reach a point of perfection.
Kill my envy, command my tongue,
trample down self.
Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure,
peaceable,
to live for thee and not for self,
to copy thy words, acts, spirit,
to be transformed into thy likeness,
to be consecrated wholly to thee,
to live entirely to thy glory.

. . .

O God, the Eternal All, help me to know that
all things are shadows, but thou art substance,
all things are quicksands, but thou art mountain,
all things are shifting, but thou art anchor,
all things are ignorance, but thou art wisdom.

—Valley of Vision, Purification

thou-art-wisdom

Amen.

I recently finished The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Matt is one of my favorite preachers to listen to because I appreciate his commitment to the Word of God, and his tenacity in preaching it.

It is staggering to me the amount of people who claim the name of Christ don’t truly understand the Gospel. It is often seen as the good news of our conversion—which it is—but many do not understand the fullness of that good news, and how the same gospel carries us through every day of our Christian life.

Chandler hits on so many points on which I wanted to stand up and shout in agreement. I loved this book for more reasons than I have time for in this post, but I especially enjoyed reading this book because my heart resonates with the truths explained within it.

The Explicit Gospel {Book Review}

Here are a few reminders I enjoyed from The Explicit Gospel. (Please note, that this is not an outline of the book, but me summarizing a few of my highlights through the book.)

The gospel is not all about me!

The context of the gospel message is not our benefit or our salvation; the context of the gospel is the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

God was not lonely when He created mankind. He didn’t need us to be complete or to have purpose. Yes, God loves us. Yes, He has purpose in our existence. But it is not all about you and me. The gospel is all about God.

What He has done. What He is doing. What He is going to do.

When God looks at me, He is well pleased because of the gospel.

The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

I don’t have to play the game of the Christian do’s and don’ts. I don’t have to go on mission trips and serve in the nursery. I don’t have to be the perfect mom.

I don’t have to hide when I screw up.

This is HUGE, friends. Christ has already done everything that needs to be done. I have been given the righteousness of Christ! My relationship with God has already been made right.

There is no work I can do to make Him love me more.

There is no sin I can commit that will make Him love me less.

The gospel leads to grace-driven effort, not behavior modification.

Grace-driven effort wants to get to the bottom of behavior, not just manage behavior. If you’re simply managing behavior but not removing the roots of that behavior, then the weeds simply sprout up in another place.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

What ends up happening to so many of us is that we spend so much time trying to put sin to death that we don’t spend enough time striving to know God deeply, trying to gaze upon the wonder of Jesus Christ and have that transform our affections to the point where our love and hope are steadfastly on Christ. The goal is this: that Christ would become more beautiful and desirable than the allure of sin.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

Yes. Just yes.

Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life but to outright destroy it. Out of love for Jesus, he wants sin starved to death, and he will hunt and pursue the death of every sin in his heart until he has achieved success. This is a very different pursuit than simply wanting to be good. It is the result of having transferred one’s affections to Jesus. When God’s love takes hold of us, it powerfully pushes out our own love for other gods and frees our love to flow back to him in true worship. And when we love God, we obey him.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

Many of these quotes come from the last chapter of The Explicit Gospel. It is a chapter I wish all Christians would read. I want to photo copy it and have it handy in my purse to hand out to people.

Seriously.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. Regardless of where you are in your faith. Get it. Read it. Highlight it. Then pass it along for someone else to read.

I received a free copy of The Explicit Gospel from Crossway in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. I loved the book so much that I bought it for my Kindle app…the next-best thing to making copies for my purse.

You can check out more of my book reviews here.

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Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

I long to abide—to stay in deep fellowship with my God.

The thought of  holding on for a lifetime is wearying, but there is great, sustaining grace!

I teeter between devotion that fuels me forward for a while, followed by despair that my efforts didn’t take me further.

Do my best.

The trap of comparison strangles. If I spend too much time thinking I should be this or that—or her—I become paralyzed with all I am not.

I don’t need to be a full-time missionary, have gone to seminary, or homeschool my kids to be approved.

I am only to do my best. Right here. Right now.

God doesn’t expect me to be something I am not called to be. He only wants me to do my best—not someone else’s best—right where He has placed me.

Present myself to God.

What great and glorious grace I have been given! Thousands upon thousands of mercies He has extended me.

Oh, how I want to give all of me to thank Him!

And so, dear brothers and sisters,  I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1 NLT)

Every day—every moment—is an offering to Him.

Rightly handle the Word.

His Word is living. His Word is active. My bread and water for each day—an abundant source of life.

Read it. Study it. Know it.

Meditate on it.

These are the prerequisites to handling it rightly.

The longing for approval.

I long for approval—to hear those words: “Well done.”

So, I will do my best right where He has called me. I will live each moment as an offering of thanks.  I will strive to know and understand His Word which will guide the way forward.

I will be approved.

I have been given grace upon grace.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

Jesus became poor for me. He sacrificed all so that this poor, desperate, lifeless soul might have life abundant.

My soul is truly rich.

As I seek to follow Jesus in this example to become poor for the sake of others—deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him—I often hesitate.

Become poor?

Take up my cross and die?

Am I really willing to become “poor” so that others may be rich? Do I really intend to die, so that others may live?

Again, the answer is no—without grace.

He has given me much grace and it is this grace alone that enables me to give sacrificially. Give my time, my money, myself; all so others may become rich through Christ.

One Way to Become Poor

Will you pray about where God is leading you and your family to give—to become just a little “poorer”—to bring the riches of Christ to others?

One way our family is becoming poorer is through bringing a verse a month to the Vidunda people, through OneVerse. It takes only $26 to sponsor a verse and bring the Word of God to the nations.

Will you join me in helping to end Bible poverty through sending the riches of God’s Word to those who do not have it?

Will you prayerfully consider the reality of the millions out there who do not have not even one verse of scripture in their native tongue, and cry out with me “I’m not OK with that!

If you are a blogger, and interested in becoming OneVerse Blogger, to help end Bible poverty, head on over to the OneVerse/Seed Company blog, where I am linking up today!

Abide. Remain. Do not depart. This is what we have been charged with. The Christian life is all about holding on and staying connected to the source of all we need.

I long to be tied to the dock—for a lifetime. Not just today, tomorrow, or next week, but to the end.

Honestly? The thought of holding tightly for a lifetime is wearying.

What it takes to cling to Christ

Grace.

Hard work.

Grace.

Hard work.

Grace.

Grace.

Grace.

I cannot hold on—I will not hold on—without His hands surrounding mine.

When my little ones are learning to swing, I cover their little hands and grip the chain. When they let go they don’t fall because my hands are surrounding theirs. I am holding on for them.

So it is with grace.

Grace is His big, strong hands covering mine. Gently yet firmly grasping the rope with my hands safely sandwiched between.

My soul clings to you;

Your right hand upholds me.

(Psalm 63:8 ESV)

“…when his love is all that surrounds you and all that contains you and all that you contain, then life is a whole new ball game. What was down is now up, what was death is not life, what was less is now more, and what was weakness is now strength; there is no more death for you. It is all nothing but life. No one can kill you when you are already dead.” —Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, Micheal and Hayley DiMarco

Wow. I’m not sure about you, but when I read this, I am intrigued. What do Michael and Hayley DiMarco mean by this?

Hayley and Michael make some strong claims in this book. That if we die to self, we actually obtain real life. If we become weak, we become strong. Really, they are not the ones making these claims—these truths are all over scripture.

There is so much about the Christian life that is up-side-down. In Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, the DiMarco’s have done a fabulous job helping us understand the up-side-downness of the gospel—and how it give us joy and hope for growth in our day-to-day walk with God.

Die Young, DiMarco, Book Review, crossway

One of my favorite things about this book are the “Here Lies” sections. Peppered throughout the book are stories—confessions, really—of Micheal and Hayley’s journey of dying to self. They share some deep, honest past and current struggles. I appreciate that. Their stories give me courage to live out my own sin-stained story, and to strive for more of this dying-life.

In Die Young, you will receive practical, applicable truths for our journey of sanctification and the fight against our flesh—the left-over old self in us that craves to do what is against God.

Here is a peek at all this book holds:

Death is the new life.
“There is a death that comes that isn’t meant to destroy you but to destroy that in you which was never meant to replace the hand of God in your life.”

Down is the new up.
“…it takes a strong redirecting of our minds to put us back on thinking more like sinners saved by grace than royalty destined for only the best of things.”

Less is the new more.
“…the less we treasure, cherish, and worship here in earth, the more our hearts yearn for the things of heaven, that is, God and his will.”

Weak is the new strong.
“As you come to accept the things you can’t do, you learn to rely on the One who can.”

Slavery is the new freedom.
“The self that we all have can either be an empty vessel ready to accept the life of Christ into it, a temple to his holy Spirit, or it can be occupied with more human things—self-will, self-effort, self-dependance, self-esteem, self-importance. All of these focus on the little god inside of us rather than the true God above us.”

Confession is the new innocence.
“When you die young you are honest about sin because you care less about your own life and standing than you do about God and his standing.”

Red is the new white.
“To belabor your sinfulness is to ignore the blood that cleanses you from all unrighteousness. When we die young we die to our right to hold onto the memory of our sins…”

Dying Young is available for purchase now, and will be released on January 31.

I was given a pre-released copy of Die Young in exchange for my review. All opinions stated are my own.

Read more of my Crossway book reviews.

Kenneth: Ok, so here is what you do. Pray and ask God to come into your heart. Say, Dear God, please come into my heart.

Anna: God, come into…

Kenneth: No! Say Dear God…

Anna: Dear God…

Kenneth: Will you come into my heart?

Anna: Will you come into my heart?

Kenneth: So I can be a Christian.

Anna: So I can be a Christian.

Kenneth: So I won’t go to hell.

Anna: So I won’t go to hell.

Kenneth: OK, now I’m going to go tell mom.

{little boy footsteps}

Kenneth: Um, Anna just prayed out loud, that she wanted God in her heart.

Mommy: Oh, yeah?! Why did you want her to pray?

Kenneth: So she won’t be in hell.

Mommy: That’s good that you don’t want your sister to be in hell. What’s the worse part of hell?

Kenneth: Jesus isn’t there.

Mommy: That’s right! You know, Kenneth, what you did is what Christians are supposed to do. We are to tell others about Jesus, and about their need for Jesus—because of their sin—and about how they can be with Jesus forever.

{little girl footsteps}

Mommy: What happened, Anna?

Anna: I prayed to ask God in my heart.

Mommy: Oh, yeah? Why?

Anna: Because I want to become a Christian

Mommy: Why do you want to be a Christian?

Because I love you.

…………………

This made me smile.

So, obviously there is still much Anna to grasp about the gospel (and Kenneth about evangelism).  There are many more conversations to be had. However, I just love that my six-year old is sharing the gospel my three-year old! (And just so you know, we really don’t talk about hell being the primary reason to become a Christian. I think Kenneth has heard it at church a few times, and his little mind is fixated on it.)

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Linking up with Inspired to Action, The MOB Society, and Scripture and a Snapshot:

This has been a difficult season of life. I’ve had some defeating days lately. I struggle with getting my heart to believe what my mind knows.

Specifically, I struggle with my role as momma. I know that I am a good mother. Not perfect, but I am not neglecting them. I love them, feed them and care for them physically. I point them to Jesus and their need for Him. I pray for them. Their basic needs are met, they are loved and the gospel is readily available for them.

Yet most days I don’t feel like a good mother.

Moments come and I lose my temper. Days pass where I have wanted to be anywhere but in the trenches of discipline, diapers and dirty floors.

There have been some moments where this feeling is completely overwhelming.

“I can’t do this.”

“I am a horrible mother.”

“I want to just run away.”

Emotions seem to overtake my soul. Anger. Despair. Hopelessness. Fear.

In this season of battling my feelings with truth, Psalm 143 has been both a comfort and a source of strength. If you, like me, have been battling with negative emotions and overwhelming discouragement, will you take a moment to read this Psalm? If a truth resonates with your soul, will you stop and cry out to the living God who knows every part of your soul?

1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
2 In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

7 Answer me quickly, O Lord!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

9 Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge!
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

Psalm 143 ESV

I’ve been memorizing these words, journaling through them and listening to them over and over again on my phone as I drive around town. I am excited to share more soon about what I am learning from how David dealt with his despair.

Do you struggle with overwhelming negative emotions? Do you struggle with the disconnect of what you know and what you feel? What have you found to be helpful as you battle these dark days?

Every where we turned, both on the journey to Mapou Village as well as on our trip back to Port au Prince, we saw evidences of the work and ministry of World Vision. Mile after mile there were schools, wells, homes and other aid provided by World Vision.

world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

Our family has loved being a part of the work of World Vision, through our family world vision nights and in our gift-giving. We’ve given aid like chickens, ducks, building supplies, a share of a well, seeds and agricultural training. It is exciting to have a specific need to fill, and I love the way it helps my children understand how to “be Jesus” to the world.

The village of Mapou, where we stayed for eight days, is extremely primitive. Before World Vision came to the village the villagers lived in homes like this.

world vision in haiti

And this.

world vision in haiti

And this.

world vision in haiti

Four years ago World Vision came to the village and built each family a house.world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

The villagers of Mapou now use their old homes as kitchens.

world vision in haiti

It is thrilling to get to see the work of World Vision while I was in Haiti.

It could not be missed.

Here are a few ways you can get involved in the ministry work of World Vision in Haiti:

Are you a part of the ministry of World Vision? What life-changing gifts have you been able to give?