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Prayer

Becoming More Like Jesus–Praying for Our Enemies

Winter scene with white lettering that says, "God commands us to pray for our enemies, and He can be trusted, even in this. ~Kristi Woods"

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matt. 5:44 NIV (Taken from Wholly Loved’s 365 Daily Devotion, releasing soon!)

Think about someone who hurt you. How did you love or pray for them? Or, did you?

As a mother, I love and protect my children. When someone wounds them, my mama bear instinct roars. I want to peel back the fur and watch those razor-sharp claws swipe.

But emotional reactions like that don’t come from Jesus. They usually arise when we’re attempting to play God.

A few years ago, while driving home from a school event with one of my kids, I received an unexpected phone call from a classmate’s mother. She accused my daughter of bullying and made harsh statements about her. Unfortunately, my daughter sat in the passenger seat and well within earshot. My mama bear instinct stood ready to rip and roar, but I sucked in a breath and prayed silently, Help, God!

His truth guided me through that phone call. I recalled Jesus’ words about praying for those who persecute us, which includes mamas protecting their children. God’s guidance to be quick to listen and slow to anger (James 1:19) rushed to mind as well. I fought the urge to lash out, using patience, truth, and prayer to battle instead.

Afterward, I prayed for that mother and both children—myself, too. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. And God used those prayers to soften my heart.

God uses prayer to soften the heart. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

She and I didn’t realize that both our children were facing difficulties adjusting at school. As new transfers the year before, they were still attempting to find their footing. What seemed a situation of “enemies” ended quite differently.

Winter scene with red berries and the words, "God uses prayer to soften our hearts." - Kristi Woods

Loving those with whom we clash or praying for people who persecute us feels awkward and hard. But God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies.

God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Do you have an “enemy” or someone persecuting you or someone you care about? How can you love and pray for them today?

How can you love and pray for your enemy today? @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Hearing God

Surrendering to God’s Timing–Guest Blogger Meredith Kendall

Jennifer here. If God assigned me responsibilities based on my timeline, I’d either delay to the point of irrelevancy or would quickly blunder ahead before necessary foundational components fell into place. I’m learning, like today’s guest, to turn off my inner stopwatch, turn up my hearing, and practice surrendered obedience more consistently. When I–we–do those three things, regardless of how things play out, we can rest in the peace of knowing we’re centered in God’s perfect will.

When God’s Assignment Comes Sooner Than Expected 

By Guest Blogger Meredith Kendall

Have you ever told God, sure I’ll do that, but it needs to be after…? If so, you’re probably already laughing. In 2017, my husband and I were talking about our future and told God that we’d be willing to move, but not for five years. We explained our reasons, which we thought were great; aging parents, three married children and five grandkids. We also told Him that we wanted to stay close so we could return easily. We felt for sure God would honor our plan.

I got a, “Really you think that’s how it’s going to go? Pack your bags!” from God.

As crazy as it was, I was excited to start this new chapter. Yes, I wished the timing would have been later, but in September 2018, my husband and I moved over 800 miles away from the grandchildren to plant a church. We knew with certainty this was our next big assignment, and if we hadn't moved, we would've been disobedient. Click To Tweet

Prior, I’d filled the first two weeks with appointments. I just knew that God would bless my efforts to start a second site of our 15-year-old non-profit while my husband got the church started.

All the meetings came and went. I followed up, and even though people were excited, all of companies had a reason why they couldn’t or wouldn’t work with me. My excitement turned into depression. Lord what am I to do? The more I would push trying to Quote from Dwight Moodymake things work the worse my funk became. I cried and cried. I felt rejected… Alone. I felt God had let me down. I was on my way home from church and I heard the word, “prepare”.

Not knowing what that meant, I started to pray. I still felt empty though, like I was not doing enough. You see I’m a High D on the DISC personality profile. That means I’m one who prefers to lead, rather than follow. I’m a risk taker, problem solver, and a self-starter. “D” also stands for direct, decisive, and dominant.

Knowing this may help you understand why I started to get depressed and why hearing, “take this time to prepare”, didn’t bode well with me. I wanted to be doing. I came all this way to do. If I needed to prepare, why could I not stay where I was, where I knew everyone. Where I was comfortable. Where I could still “do”?

Sometimes God needs to take us away from the hustle and bustle of life to prepare us. Click To Tweet

As I wrote those two letters D.O. in my journal, God spoke to my spirit, “Because that is why.  You would not sit still. You would get active in everything, and I would not be able to speak without yelling. I needed to take you away to prepare you, but I needed all of you, not just what was left over.”

God wants all of us, not just what's left over. Click To Tweet

A peace came over me. A peace to be okay with “preparing” instead of trying to manipulate God to do what I wanted done in my timing. Have you ever felt God telling you to stop, be still, and wait for His next assignment? It’s hard, especially when it’s not in accordance to how you would work it out. Is God asking you to be still and prepare for you next assignment? What will be the hardest thing for you to do?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or join the conversation HERE on Facebook, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

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Get to Know Meredith!

Meredith Kendall's Author PhotoMeredith Kendall had the dream life, but God had other plans. He called her away from a successful career to be the Co-Founder of Advancing the Gospel. AtG serves those who are often forgotten; those Jesus would call “the least of these”. As a nationally recognized sales leader, Meredith learned how to build bridges and make connections with the heart of what people need. She uses that same ability to cut through the tough layer we use to protect ourselves and help people understand the root causes of their struggles and find freedom through Christ.

In January of 2011, Meredith was attacked by a gang member. She would quickly learn that it was a warning to stop offering freedom to those held in bondage of abuse, addiction and negative cycles. That attack made Meredith even more aware of the awesome calling on her life and how serious it is to be on the front lines for Jesus. After a few months of recovery Meredith was back in the jails knowing that her attacker, who was never caught, may one day walk into her class. Visit her online at www.meredithsagekendall.com.

Additional Resources:

Heart Issues

The Gift You’ve Been Overlooking

The aspen tree leaves popped like golden flames against the evergreen forest. As we weaved through the mountains, the sharp contrast between light and dark leaves enabled my husband, who is colorblind, to notice the fall colors. For the remainder of our mountain trip, he was keenly aware of the golden aspen trees everywhere. Upon returning home to the Midwest, he was awake to the golden fall trees everywhere. The golden fall colors aren’t new, but his awareness of them was.

God'sPresenceWEB

If we want a more joyful and happy life, what if we don’t have to add anything in? What if we simply need to notice something already there? What if God is busy making our lives beautiful, but we've been overlooking it? Click To Tweet

That might seem impossible when nothing in life feels right. There was a time when everything felt dark and lonely. According to social media, everyone appeared to have what I desired. My critical attitude further confirmed that no one, nor anything, was good enough. I strove for achievements to keep me happy and muscled my way through relationships to feel accepted. I thought adding things would create joy, but they fell short. The harder I hustled for happiness, the further joy eluded me.

A friend shared an idea that kickstarted a happiness revolution, “God is not the author of chaos.” She directed me to seek and fix my thoughts on true, lovely, and admirable things, saying, by doing so, I could receive the peace of God (Phil 4:6-9 NIV). It was a mindset shift to intentionally seek God’s goodness, and my world brightened as I witnessed color I’d overlooked for decades.

In fact, brain science calls this frequency illusion. When we become aware of something new, we suddenly see it everywhere. Our brain maintains a heightened focus on this new thing or idea. Then we switch to confirmation bias, which reassures us that each time we see our novel item, it must truly be everywhere. 

I learned I don't have to physically see God to know He is always in my space. Click To TweetKnowing His brand of light helps me find Him when it isn’t so obvious. Chaos subsided, not because God changed my circumstances, but because He helped me look for His truth, “I have nothing, and yet, possess everything” (2 Cor 6:10b NIV). 

Like the blazing aspen leaves, will I intentionally seek light? Or, will I draw in darkness by giving my energy to material things I think will fulfill me? What about you? Like Jacob, choose to awaken to the evidence of God’s presence we’ve been missing. When we overlook His everyday blessings, we deny ourselves the very gift we seek--joy. Click To Tweet

Kelli-joyquoteWEB

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Practical Spirit/Reflection Questions:

When has a change of focus allowed you to recognize God’s presence during a particularly difficult time?

How would your life change if you noticed God’s presence already around you?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!  

obedience

Fearless When Ill-Equipped

woman with sunset behind her and the text of Zech. 4:6

God wants those who belong to Him to be brave and fearless. He Himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by the courage of the Spirit. ~ Tertullian Click To Tweet

I felt squeezed. In every direction. Sleep deprived and with more on my to-do list than I could possibly accomplish, pressing deadlines, and an upcoming speaking engagement I hadn’t begun to prepare for, I felt ready to explode. Or hide.

My brain, held captive by my insecurities and fears, refused to function. When I most needed it to shine.

My fear—that I’d fail, and in failing that I’d let everyone down. The conference director who had already purchased my plane ticket. Her team who had already sent out their promotional material, listing me as one of the keynotes. Their attendees, who had spent good money on the conference and were expecting to hear a fresh word.

And more than that, I was afraid I’d look stupid. As I stared at a blank computer screen, my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, my nerves tightly coiled, I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything.

I had nothing. No words. No thoughts.

I suppose much of that came from mounting stress, and sheer exhaustion. In the middle of taking accelerated classes and with an already booked summer, God called my husband and I to something incredibly difficult. Something that took every ounce of strength we had and left me in tears daily. We knew this task was from God. But … what about all our other commitments?

I couldn’t simply walk away. But neither could I, it seemed, walk forward. My insecurities, my fear of failure, my mounting negative thinking, kept chipping away at my strength.

So what’d I do? I stepped away. To pray. To give this thing, this task I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for, to God. And as I sat in His presence, His peace overshadowed my anxiety, and His truth stilled my fears.

I knew He’d called me to this engagement, so I decided—yes. I made the choice to trust God to give me the ability to fill this role--as He desired. And I reminded myself that this wasn't about me. Click To Tweet

quote pulled from post with background image of pastel colorsNor was it up to me. It never is. In fact, it’s when I’m resting fully in His grace and leaning deepest into Him that I find my greatest strength.

This is a choice we all must make, whenever our fears and insecurities begin to turn our ears from God’s call, whatever that call may be.

Consider Francis Chan’s words, taken from Forgotten God:

“How much it grieves [God] to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made. Throughout Scripture due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! Empowering His children with the strength of the Holy Spirit is something the Father wants to do. It’s not something we have to talk Him into. He genuinely wants to see us walk in His strength.”

Walking in God’s strength. Listening, with a surrendered heart, for His guidance, then stepping forward in faith, trusting Him to come through.

Is there something God has called you, something that makes your stomach tighten and your knees wobble? Maybe to initiate conversation with a new neighbor or launch a women’s Bible study? Maybe share your faith with a friend or coworker? If so, how does remembering God will be strong on your behalf, that you don’t have to be, give you courage? What are some ways you can lean into Him and rest in His strength? How do our thoughts play into that?

We all struggle with negative thinking, and so often, we become our own limiting factor. We allow our insecurities and fears to hinder our obedience and to prevent us from living out the awesome and life-changing role God hand-crafted each of us to fill. God calls us to greatness. To live courageously. To be life-changers. Click To Tweet

Join us for one of our Bold and Brave conferences to learn how to live intentionally and courageously. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And contact us HERE to have our team or one of our speakers join you for your next women’s event.