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intentional living, Video Devotion

Taming Our Thoughts

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Loving Others

What You Can’t Take Back — Guest Post by Tara Johnson

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Sometimes the very place God created to bring wholeness causes deep, long-lasting pain. As our guest today reminds us, what we say, whether casually or intentionally, can leave lasting damage. Scripture says you and I are the church, and the church is to be a place of love and healing, where all are invited in. Are our actions and those things we say consistent with this holy mission? Click To Tweet

What You Can’t Take Back

By Tara Johnson

I watched the teenage girl in the pew, her arms hugging her torso, cheeks flushed red as she stared at the floor.

The rest of the congregation was singing some worship song about the peace found in God’s presence but not her. She looked trapped, blue-eyed gaze darting from side to side.

My heart ached as I studied her. She’d told me of her crippling anxiety. Facing each morning with grit was a victory. Just when she’d begun to find a measure of security in the solace of church, a member with an acid tongue accused her of things that were not only unkind, but untrue.

The result were panic attacks every time she stepped foot in church.

Sometimes our Goliaths sit within our pews.

The teenager turned towards me, tears glossing her eyes.

“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this. It’s too hard.”

She darted from the sanctuary and never returned.

Words have power. Quicker than a snap of the fingers, they can build up a life, or crush it into rubble. Click To TweetScripture says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV) This is not just true of the words we speak, but of those we text, type and whisper to others. Everything we communicate yields two results: building others up or tearing them down.

The apostle James had much to say about our tongues. We can claim we love Jesus, love people, do all the good, humanitarian type things the world applauds, and rack up accolades for our holiness, but if we have no control over our mouths, we haven’t learned a thing. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)

Not only is it what we say, but the tone and attitude behind what we say. Negativity and light cannot coexist. Neither can resentment and encouragement. When we say one thing but feel another, we’re nothing more than hypocrites … play-acting our way through our Christian walk.

Scripture says, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3: 9,10, ESV)

In our family, we have a simple 3 Step Rule of Speaking.

  1. Is it true?

Let face it … lots of us think we’re right and everybody else is wrong. Maybe sometimes we are. Maybe we aren’t. Truth must always be backed up with Scripture. Otherwise it’s just opinion, and opinion is usually not worth fighting about. Click To Tweet

  1. Is it kind?

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, so if our words are flung carelessly and hurtfully, we are not being led by God to speak. It’s our sinful self lashing out. It’s that simple. Be kind or hold your tongue.

  1. Am I speaking from love?

Love should be the motivating factor for all things. If I’m needing to confront someone, I’d better be sure my motive is love and not buried resentment, anger, hostility or “I’ll-show-you” attitude. Love builds up. Love seeks the best for others. It isn’t angry. It’s patient. Any other motivation will lead to a mess. Click To Tweet

An old proverb describes the power of the tongue quite well.

There once lived a woman who gossiped about another lady in her village. Over time, she discovered she’d been wrong about the woman and felt terrible for the awful things she’d said. She visited the village’s wise man and asked how she could take back all the wrong she’d done. He told her to go home, kill her chickens, pluck their feathers, and put them into a bag. On the way back to see the wise man, she was to scatter all the feathers along the road.

The lady obeyed. When she returned to the wise man, he told her, “Go back and pick up all the feathers you have scattered.” The woman was astonished at such a command.

“But, sir, by now the wind has carried the feathers through out the village and beyond.”

“And so it is with your careless words. They are like the feathers scattered in the wind. You cannot retrieve them.”

Our words carry eternal consequences. Life or death. Blessings or curses. When we choose love, we choose wisely. Click To Tweet

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most when you read Tara’s post? Have you experienced pain similar to the girl she encountered? If so, how does your experience impact your actions today? What is one way you can show others they’re loved and welcomed?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Get to know Tara!

Tara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as well as numerous other accolades. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, adores comedy, and will happily play basketball with anyone who asks. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.

Connect with her on her Website, on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.

Check out her novel, Engraved on the Heart!

Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and Cover Image for Tara Johnson's Engraved on the Heartturns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

Buy it HERE!

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join our discussion in our Facebook group!

Our online community is a safe place where women can share their struggles, insights, and celebrations. This is a “closed” group where only members can see posts shared, and it’s also a place where confidentiality is practiced. We share prayer requests, hurts and insecurities, and ways God is meeting us in our struggles each day. And you’re invited to heal and grow and learn with us!

 
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Identity in Christ

Moving Past Self-Doubt — Video Devotion

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identity

Together we rise

By Jessica Brodie

Sometimes we encounter someone who believes in us so fervently their faith inspires us to soar.

My teenaged self was miserable, overwhelmed by all the changes in my body and plagued by fears I’d never be good enough. My friends called themselves “lucky” and “blessed,” but I could never relate. I dreaded each day as my low self-esteem convinced me I was cursed and disliked, a misfit who’d never find joy.

Then I found myself in Mrs. Sampson’s tenth grade classroom.

Mrs. Sampson was the sort of teacher who made everyone feel valued and worthy. We had an A in her class, and all we had to do was maintain it. We were smart and funny, or so she made us believe—responsible and intelligent enough to handle the work she gave and then some. She looked us in the eye like we mattered, like each one of us was genuinely interesting.

A unique psychology arose: We wanted to be as good as she believed us to be! We didn’t want to disappoint her. It became a magical time of learning and growth, intellectually and emotionally. Later, when I taught, I wanted to do that same thing for my students, and as a mom, I try to do that for my kids.

Mrs. Sampson’s inspiration reminds me of the greeting in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In first century Palestine, it was incredibly difficult to follow Jesus. Early Christians faced persecution and death and were used to being hated. I imagine they had days when they struggled with feelings of worth and ability, much like I did as a teenager, not sure they could go on. I’m certain they struggled to know they were blessed as snide jeers—and worse—followed them everywhere they went.

Early Christians faced persecution and death and were used to being hated. I imagine they had days when they struggled with feelings of worth and ability much like I did as a teenager, not sure they could go on. Click To Tweet

But Paul wanted these early believers to rise above. His letter started with a bang of cheerful reassurance, as he reminded these Christians of who they were in Jesus: holy, loved, and so very fortunate in spite of their hardships. He wrote, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:1-3, ESV).

Like my high school teacher, Paul didn’t hide his encouragement. He showed he believed in them and genuinely wanted the best for them. He reminded them of who they were at their core: people chosen by God! God’s “saints,” he called them—special, endowed with gifts of faith and eternal soul-blessings beyond measure.

Like my teacher, Paul didn’t hide his encouragement. He reminded the early Christians of who they were at their core: people chosen by God! Click To Tweet

I hope they found comfort and hope in Paul’s words, just like that bunch of teens in Mrs. Sampson’s classroom did all those years ago.

Some days are tough. We may wonder why God entrusts us, so inferior and sinful, with the mighty task of spreading His Gospel. But we are God’s holy, blessed people. And together, we rise to the task.

We may wonder why God entrusts us, so inferior and sinful, with the mighty task of spreading His Gospel. But we are God’s holy, blessed people. Click To Tweet

Have you ever wondered how God is able to use you? Has anything—fear, doubt, etc.—stood in your way?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Intentional growth

Maturity is More Than an Age

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Although I strive for maturity, often I find myself acting more like a spoiled child or touchy teenager than a mature adult.  As children, my sister and I often played ‘grown-up,’ each taking a turn at being the adult–the prized role in our drama.

I was certain I was growing up as I was getting older. However, many of us know those who grew older yet never grew up.  It’s easy for us to identify people who never matured because we often bear the burden for their immaturity: The co-worker who never takes responsibility for mistakes. The neighbors who know-it-all yet display no evidence of this. Or the family members who make every gathering all about them.

On the other hand, we empathize with college students who struggle in their desire to be independent and mature, yet secretly long to become a carefree child again.

In my own life I’ve had to deal with the consequences of immature behavior.  When I blame others or make excuses for my bad choices they see right through me, a sinking feeling develops in my stomach, and I know I’ve lost credibility. If I ask a child to tell someone I’m not at home so I can avoid a caller, I’ve taught a lesson that will take more than words to undo, and my immaturity haunts me. Even though I’m a Christian, it is still hard for me to be Christ-like.  I want to grow up into His image, but my actions reveal I haven’t arrived yet.

My heart breaks, as I’m sure yours does, at the thought that the way I live my life could be a stumbling block to someone’s salvation. So how do we break the cycle we’re in and take steps towards maturity? My journey of discovery began in Hebrews. The writer defines maturity as eating the solid food of Scripture, not just the baby milk or easy stuff (6:1-2). It’s nice to say that God is love, but do we choose to show that trait when someone isn’t so lovely? Similarly, it’s wonderful to know we’re secure in our salvation and have the opportunity to share that great gift with others, but what about sharing the gospel with someone who “doesn’t deserve it”?

These are hard questions, not the questions of a child.

The Hebrew letter challenged the Jews who were looking for an easier way—one with fewer restraints—to mature by continuing to ‘taste’ of the Holy Spirit.  The writer was making two points about growing up in Christ. cheriquote2-may13

First, Real maturity comes by taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth. Click To Tweet That means taking a hard look at our failures, accepting responsibility where we can, and asking God to help us move forward from there. It means being honest in even the little things such as instructing our children how to handle a phone call when we are there but unavailable. These are the little choices we must make everyday. But consistently making good choices is only part of the equation.

The second point in Hebrews is that maturity in Christ means cooperating with the Holy Spirit so we can soak in His rain and produce a good crop (6:7-8).  Hebrew farmers understood this principle. A field that produced good crops was one that had been tilled properly and was able to drink in the rain. On the other hand, a field that had become full of thorns and thistles had not been properly taken care of and, thus, required burning or purification of all the bad seed.

In using this analogy to describe the mature Christian life, Hebrews is painting a clear picture of contrast. A life constantly tilled by going beneath the surface to reveal changes needed in the depths of our hearts, is bringing the hidden into the light and will produce a surface that God can water. Going to church and reading our Bible is a good beginning, but it won't get us beneath the surface until we ask God to reveal what needs changing. Click To Tweet

A life that looks good on the surface but isn't undergoing the hard work of maturity mature under that surface, is going to produce thorns and thistles. Click To Tweet Such a land is not receptive terrain for God’s thirst-quenching Spirit. If we find our lives filled with thorns and thistles: prickly behavior, harsh words, and thorny thoughts, we must first begin anew by setting fire to our fields, recognizing our refusal to grow up or put away these childish things as the sin that it is.

I’m still learning what it means to be a mature person in Christ. But now, when I lose my temper or say things I shouldn’t, when I’m brought through a trial and find myself wanting, I invite the Holy Spirit to come purify my soul. He remakes me anew, turning the ashes of my sin into nourishment for my soul so I might have a prized role in His earthly drama … a vessel worthy of His Name. He promises the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you sit with God, asking Him to search your heart and reveal areas in need of purging? What areas are you withholding from Him? In what ways are you keeping Him at an emotional distance or perhaps ignoring His voice and prompting? Or, perhaps you’re in the “tilling phase.” Can you share how God is working in you to make you more like His Son?

Cover image for studyShare your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! We also encourage you to subscribe to our daily devotions on Crosswalk and iBelieve to receive encouraging, faith-inspiring devotions sent directly to your inbox each day. You can read them HERE and subscribe by clicking the yellow subscribe button. We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Becoming His Princess Bible study, which will help you grow in your faith, center your identity in Christ, and anchor your feet in grace. Grab your free ecopy, PDF file, HERE. Grab your free Kindle copy HERE. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase a print copy HERE. If you’d prefer to order this book through Amazon, you can do so HERE.