Ugly, Shameful Truth Revealed

Ministry Mom

MandyWritten by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.(Romans 15:7)

Acceptance.

There is no easy way to say this, so I am just going to come right out and say it: as Christ-followers, we need to do a much better job at accepting others.

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with a sweet friend who shared with me some hurts that she had hidden in a dark place of her heart for year and years and years. She had only shared these hurts with one other person and that person tore her up about it. What’s worse, this ‘friend’ then walked away from their friendship, neither accepting nor supporting her with her inner battle.

My friend was struggling. The enemy was whispering lies to her soul and she was desperately trying to silence them. She was reaching out in hopes of support and encouragement — but instead of either of those things, she walked away with compounded wounds.

Let me tell you something, friends. Every single one of us has struggles. Yes, that means you have struggles too. If someone is courageous enough to share their struggle with you— embrace them with love and grace. Notice I didn’t say to embrace their struggle —no, I plead with you to embrace your friend. Love her. Offer grace where shame and guilt are stealing away her joy. You don’t know when you’re going to need the same kind of love and grace.

We need to start acknowledging the absolute gift of being the hands and feet of Jesus for someone who is struggling. That doesn’t mean we need to BE Jesus. We simply need to call on the Holy Spirit and ask Him to guide our words and actions in the moments ahead. He already has a plan to bring healing to your friend— it is up to us to make ourselves available to be a part of His plan. And, if you can’t be part of His plan, you need to know that instead, you will be hindering it.

The enemy would love for us to keep our struggles hidden and in the dark. That is why it is so crucial that we are being sensitive to others if they choose to trust us with their vulnerability. When struggles are brought into the light they lose their power over us because we can see how little they are in comparison to God’s mercy and grace.

Do you have someone in your life that you need to be better at accepting? I urge you not to wait another day. Know that it is an absolute privilege to serve and honour God in this way, and then endeavour do so with everything you’ve got.

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1)

{Ministry Mom} Worth More Than Diamonds

MandyWritten by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

….worth far more than diamonds. (Proverbs 31:10 MSG)

The definition of worth is: “the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.

Our culture is insistent that we find our ‘worth’ in various ways. Where do you find your worth?

Do you find worth in your education? Perhaps you have a degree or two from a prominent university, framed and boldly centered on your office wall. Do you find your worth in your job? Maybe you’ve climbed the ladder and have worked REALLY hard to earn the position you possess today. Do you find your worth in a growing platform? Maybe you have double the number of fans on Facebook or Twitter as your competitors. Do you find your worth in your family? I’ll bet you are pretty proud of the hard-working husband and beautiful children you call your own. What about a car? A boat? Your hair? Your home? Your passion? Your talent? Your ministry? (Ouch)

Now, what if the very thing in which you found your worth was stripped away. Would you still be worthy?

What if you have none of these things? Does that make you worthless?

1 Peter 1: 3-7 says this: God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear. You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do. On that day you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while. Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns. (CEV)

Worth has nothing to do with anything you can possess or obtain in the physical sense. Nothing you can buy, earn or create on this earth will increase or decrease your worth. The value you feel in any of the things I mentioned above, or anything else other than God Himself will soon fade away.

It is only when you put your hope and faith in God, without reservation, without holding back, that your worth is far greater than diamonds, my friend.

Don’t settle for anything less.

{Faith} Avoiding the Definition of Christianity.

Written by: Rev. Nathan Hill

There is a saying that I heard once, and it goes like this. “Good Christian girls don’t drink, smoke, or chew—and they don’t go with boys that do!” You may have heard this or some variation of it throughout your years in the church—only the lucky or the very new may have been spared from this mindset.

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What is implicit in this statement is that Christians are defined by the practices that they avoid, and Christian young women ought to date only those young men who are defined by the same avoidances as they are. Being defined by a negative, however, is not really a definition at all. Suppose you were asked by someone to describe to them the color red. Would you tell them that it is not black, or gray, or blue, or yellow? Would you tell them that pink is not red, although it is too close to the line for comfort? Or, would you tell them that red is the color of the sun when it sets, the color of a rose in a wedding bouquet, and the color of a ripened cherry hanging from a summer tree. I suspect the latter would provide a much better explanation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian in the early 1900s, said that “being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” I have to agree that often times our messages and conversations within Christian circles are more about character reformation than about actively pursuing God’s purposes for our lives and churches. Even when I think of some of my recent teaching series—one on the parables of Jesus comes to mind—there is much more time spent on behaviour modification than there is on discerning God’s plans. We often teach and talk about the perils of our heart, attitude, sin, self-centeredness…and the list goes on…but fail to define our Christian experience in terms of what we are doing, not what we are avoiding.

Paul defines the kingdom of God in a positive sense in his letter to the Romans, saying “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” (as the discussion of his day was whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols) “but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17). We are defined by righteousness (which is imputed at salvation, not something we strive to earn and cling to), peace, and joy. Jesus also defines the nature of the kingdom of God at his first preaching gig, saying “the Spirit of the Lord…has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…proclaim freedom for the prisoners…recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed… (Luke 4:18). Moreover, James defines our faith as “looking after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Notwithstanding the call to personal holiness that resounds throughout the New Testament, would people define you as someone who caries peace and joy? Do you care for widows and orphans in their distress—those who are the most avoided in our society? Are you walking in a path towards freedom that compels others to walk behind you? Have you defined your faith by what you do instead of what you do not do?

Take a personal assessment and begin to define yourself by who you are in Christ, not by what you no longer are associated with. You will find that the Scriptures provide great insight into what our faith is about, from a positive sense. Dig in and explore!

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{Girl Edition} Decisions.

Written by: Megan Kincheloe

Every decision you make matters. These were words I heard spoken to a young man by his mother during a conversation about life. They are words I wish were spoken to me in my youth. Every single day you are faced with decision after decision and have to make choice after choice. You have to choose what to wear, how to respond, who you spend time with, what to eat, whether to exercise, and how you want to spend your time. These are just a few instances that demand a selection. And how you choose to respond…counts.

These selections are not always about making a decision that is right or wrong and a bad choice does not define who you are. Your choice does, though, showcase your current heart position. It also determines whether you face each day being filled with peace from doing the right thing, or you face each day consumed with shame. I promise you ladies, SHAME. IS. DEBILITATING. Shame will steal your joy in 2 seconds flat.

Please hear me sweet gals, we are all going to mess up. Making the right decision is not something we are going to get right every time. This is why choosing what you are going to let guide you is so important. Or more importantly, Who you let guide you…

*Are you making a choice that lines up with the truth you know from Scripture? If you aren’t sure, take the time to look and ask God for wisdom and discernment. James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

*Does the choice you are making represent Jesus well? 1 John 2:6, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” Whew…that can seem overwhelming, huh? Ladies, God does not expect perfection. Jesus is the only one who wears those shoes. We can, however; strive to live holy lives. When choosing what to wear, what to eat, and how to care for your body, remember that our bodies are a temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Honoring God with your words is also important. Take time to respond in conversation instead of reacting. Be honest. Choose words that will lift others up and not tear them down. Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

*Determine your motive. Your motive is the reason that you do something. Are your intentions pure? Give yourself time to prayerfully consider each decision you are faced with if time allows. And remember, you cannot control what others think of you, however; you can control the character you put out there for the world to see.

Lastly, you are going to mess up. We all do. Be willing to extend yourself grace as often as you need. Making a decision to follow Christ does not mean you are going to be perfect. We are still sinners. The difference when you follow Jesus with your whole heart is that you become a sinner who is saved by grace. Repent and receive that grace precious souls. And remember, His mercies are new every morning.

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About Megan:
Megan loves Jesus and is passionate about sharing His love with others. She loves to write and encourage other women to be bold in their faith. God has recently given her a burning desire to minister to teens to ensure they know their value in who He has created them to be.
She has been a Christian for as long as she can remember but strayed away from living a lifestyle that represented Him well. She is forever grateful for His grace and mercy and endless pursuit of her heart, and hopes that her writing will encourage others to press forward in His grace. Megan has been married to Chris for 10 years and has 2 awesome children, Graycie and Colt.

{Ministry Mom} When the Journey is Long and Wearisome.

Written by: Mandy Hill

My husband and I have been chatting often about our summer vacation. There are six of us now and while we do own a larger vehicle, our minds become unsettled and anxious about the long and wearisome journey of travel that lies before us.

We have travelled the roads to our hometown many times before. Parts of this twenty-four hour road trip are absolutely beautiful, some parts are even really exciting as we are able to show certain landmarks to our kids for the first time, while others parts just feel long and mundane.

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A few years ago we decided that rather than travel to our hometowns in two days, we would stretch it out over three days instead. At the time we only had three children, ages three, two and three months. Our three year old was motion sick multiple times along the way, our two year old never ever stopped talking and it wasn’t long before the two of us adults were whining and griping about our travel misfortunes. Our three month old was the best behaved of us all! The journey felt like it took an eternity and we have been nervous to embark on such a torturous trek ever since.

As I was thinking about these things recently The Lord spoke to my heart. There are oftentimes that God sets us on a journey in life. There may be parts of the journey that are incredibly captivating and beautiful. Other parts of the journey may stick out because of an exciting first or while experiencing something fresh and new. Still other times we may feel weary and worn down because the journey has felt like it’s lasted too long, you feel far from where you were in the beginning, and further yet from your destination.

God spoke to my spirit and gently reminded me of the importance of ‘the journey’. No matter how long, we must travel the entire journey to reach the other side. If we stall the journey or stop in the middle we are only delaying our reaching our destination. I also felt God show me the importance in embracing each moment of the journey; to take each new step with eyes-wide-open in order to see everything He would have me to see. There may be parts of the journey that become wearisome and mundane; however, my experiences have taught me that God has never stopped working. He is always faithful, always growing and shaping me even when it doesn’t feel like it. (Sometimes even in ways I’m not a fan of.)

Is there a journey that you are on, friend, or one that lies ahead of you that causes you to feel anxious and weary? Rather than worry about the unknowns can I encourage you to instead embrace every moment with eyes-wide-open. In every thing, with every step; strive to see God. Find the joy in every twist and see His faithfulness in every turn. I can’t promise your journey will be easy, I can’t even promise your journey will end the way you hope; but I do promise you WILL reach the other side because God will be with you.

Father God, thank You for always being with us wherever we are. No matter what roads or journeys we face, we can rest in the assurance that You will most certainly be present for every moment. Please open our eyes to see what You would have us see along the way. In Your name, Jesus, Amen.

{Ministry Mom} Living Messages.

Written by: Mandy Hill

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. You realize, don’t you, that their personal angels are constantly in touch with my Father in heaven?(Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭10‬)

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This week we have been enjoying ‘March Break’ here at the Hill house. With school out, this mama has had much less time to herself to spend on writing, household chores and the such- however I have had lots of amazing opportunities to have an extra few hours each day with my littles, enjoying their inquisition, curiosity and adventures.

I am learning lots of incredible things about my precious ones. Their talents are being uncovered daily. I love to watch as they create their mini-masterpieces with nothing more than sidewalk chalk and warmed asphalt. I’m amazed as I watch my oldest son gently soothe his crying baby brother with a song he’s learned at church; or as my daughter sits at our dining room table working out addition and subtraction problems from a workbook one year ahead of her grade ‘for fun’ and not getting one single incorrect answer; or as my toddler counts clear to twenty or sings ‘Jesus loves me’ word-for-word with beautiful tone; or even as my sweet little baby boy masters the skill of holding a teething ring in his tiny palm for the very first time.

Each one of my children have multiple strengths and talents. I want to be sure that I’m not just observing these strengths and talents, but that I am embracing them and being present as they grow into them. I want my children to know how much I adore them and that I truly am their biggest fan. I want them to know that they matter and they were created for an important purpose by the very same God that created the earth, the skies and the sea!

Are you noticing your children and affirming their strengths? What if your affirmations today turned into their confidences tomorrow- would you affirm them more often? Tell your kids how incredible they are, friends. These beautiful souls are [living messages that we are sending to a time we can not see.]

Father God, thank You for blessing us with these beautiful lives. We are incredibly blessed by our kids curiosity and sense of adventure and we so desire to journey with them to their adult years by cheering them on every step of the way. On the days when opportunities to discipline our children are more plentiful than opportunities to affirm them, please show us how to do so without stripping away their confidence. Please give us glimpses each day of the incredible people you have created our children to be. Thank You again for these amazing blessings; amen.

{Parenting} I’m Hungry!

By: Sarah Oates-Walker

Several times a week, I will have this conversation with my daughter:

“Mommy, I’m really hungry today!”

“How about some fruit?”

“NO, I’m REALLY hungry today!”

“Ok, Crackers and cheese, eggs and toast, tuna sandwich……..?”

“NO, I would like a cookie”

“I don’t have a cookie for you. You can have anything else that I have already offered you.”

“I don’t want any of those!”

“I guess you are not really hungry then, are you?”

She will tell me she is hungry, starving even, but she will only accept a cookie or some other equally non-nutritious snack food.

How often do we do this with God?

“God, I really want to see You move in my church – as long as it is in a way that I feel comfortable with.”

“God, I really want to live my life for You, what do You want me to do? ……….But, I don’t really want to do this or that.”

“God, You are my Lord, and I give all that I am to You! But not THAT…”

How often do we cry out for God’s help and direction, only to ignore His answer, His presence or His voice because it is not what we wanted to hear, or doesn’t look the way that we wanted it to?

It makes me wonder how many amazing opportunities I have missed out on because I was afraid and unwilling to open my mind to the possibility of something new! It’s funny that we can cling to the Bible and all of its stories of God’s power, and of the heroes of the faith. They are incredible, inspiring – and all very different! God rarely seems to do things the same way twice. However, when it comes to God moving in my own life, I am not quite so comfortable with the parting of the seas, with fighting giants, or even with something as simple as asking to pray for a stranger.

Having the same conversation with my kids daily about how hungry they are but yet fighting them to eat nutritious food is frustrating. I know they will enjoy all the things I offer them, but because they are not in the mood for food that is good for them, they are not willing to accept it.

God must feel frustrated towards us sometimes! We cry out for Him to intervene in our lives, but when it comes down to our willingness to accept the way He wants to move, how often we say “no.” That is not what I want right now, or that is not what I am comfortable with in this moment, or that is not my preferred way to see those prayers answered. I wonder how many times God has said to me, “I guess you are not really hungry for me then, are you?”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I need to remind myself that God has plans for my life! When I am feeling afraid or reluctant to move forward to where I think he is calling me to go, it is so important for me to remember that He knows best! He knows the outcomes of each decision I make, and he desires to see me safe and prosperous. His word is filled with promises to give me wisdom, strength and to know that he always goes before and behind me.

{Faith} Self-pity.

By: Mandy Hill

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

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Have you ever met someone that is just truly never satisfied?! They throw ‘pity parties’ for themselves because this or that did not go the way they wanted it to….They wallow in self-pity when they don’t own the newest trend; act jealously if someone else has something that they’d like to have; and or withdraws when something really good happens to someone else?

Maybe this person is you?

Two important biblical truths come to mind when I meet or know a person like I’ve described above:

1) “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

If you are always on the receiving end of things….you are not doing what The Lord asks of you. You do not have to have everything to be able to help someone else; you don’t even have to have a lot. Helping someone else could be as simple as sending an encouraging word, making a meal and bringing it to their home during a difficult time, or, just lending a listening ear when someone needs a friend.

2) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I get it friends, sometimes you just want to wallow. May I make a suggestion….? Don’t. It’s not healthy. No matter HOW bad your circumstances are, there are still SO many reasons to give thanks. The Lord is good to us, sisters. It’s time to praise Him in all things for His goodness to us.

Self pity is the act of dwelling on the misfortune of your own circumstances, rather than depending on God to meet your needs and desires His way.

If you occupy yourself with self-pity; such will be your reward.

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Dear Heavenly Father! Sorry for all the times we’ve wasted on our own pity parties. We know that acting in such a way distracts us from the fullness of life that You have so generously given to us. Forgive us, Jesus. We desire to give thanks in all things; in all circumstances. Please bless my sisters; in Jesus name, amen.

{Marriage} Let God be the author of your romance.

By: Mandy Hill

Romans 12:2b, “…let God transform you into a new person.”

Through many circumstances; bible studies, small groups, wise friendships, devotions, etc., this past year has been a year of Mandy’s changing heart. God has truly been teaching me a new way to love….

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I recently lead our youth girls in a book study called “When God writes your love story.” It’s a wonderful book encouraging us to give God the pen to our romance….we trust God with lots of things…..Finances, health, careers, family, etc….but we often forget that God is the incredible author of romance as well. Why not trust him with our love life in addition to all those other things?

Throughout this year of many lessons on how to love my very best friend and husband Nathan, I have learned that real and true love boils down to this golden lesson:

“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, {I) should humbly be moved to treat {Nathan} as more important than {myself}. {That I} should be concerned not only about {my} own interests, but about the interests of {Nathan} as well.” Philippians 2:3-4 (emphasis added).

I will admit I struggle with this! In fact I’ll also admit I’m TERRIBLE at it. It is an incredibly difficult battle with human nature (and our tendency to choose selfishness over selflessness) to put someone else’s needs before your own. It takes a great deal of vulnerability and compromise and most certainly the grace of our Lord! But it is absolutely what we are being asked to do.

Our culture certainly does not support or endorse this way of loving. Instead, it implies that love is a feeling that is fleeting. You fall in, you fall out; and that’s ok. It’s not something that needs work- it should just ‘happen’. True God-ordained love is actually quite contrary to our culture’s belief on love:

First of all, love is not a feeling. It is a choice. Attraction is certainly a part of falling in love, chemistry between two people is absolutely the icing on the cake. But those things fade if we don’t have a foundation laid firmly to support and strengthen them. We must “choose” to love; an unconditional kind of love. A love that says ‘although sometimes you may hurt me, sometimes you may fail me, sometimes life might be a lot less than perfect, but I still choose to love you anyway.’

Isn’t that how Christ loves us? We sin against him every single day- yet his mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; His compassions do not fail.
And doesn’t he ask us to love one another as he loves us? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Second of all, people fall in and fall out because there is a complete disregard to that golden lesson I mentioned above. You know…Philippians 2:3-4?! Remember that one? Putting your spouse before yourself?! It’s hard to do; I get that. But, if you want to make it work it’s absolutely necessary. Living life for yourself is no longer gratifying; it’s a hindrance.

And lastly love absolutely takes work; it certainly does not just happen! While dating we tend to go out of our way to love on that special guy/girl! We then expect marriage to take care of itself; we have already won the prize, what’s left to work for?

EVERYTHING!

Think about it, how different would it be for our marriages if we treated our married life like our dating life? I think we’d be quite surprised by the outcome! Dating shouldn’t cease where marriage begins…it’s something that should continue on for our lifetime…don’t you think?

I am so thankful that God is showing me how to love. I am a work in progress that is for sure, but my heart absolutely wants to honour God and I am enjoying learning how to do that.

Thank You, God, for bringing my wonderful husband Nathan into my life! Thank You that I have found a true friendship in him, someone to trust and love and live life with. Help me to be so very mindful to put his interests, wants and needs above my own. I pray, Jesus, that You will help me to love him with a love that is unconditional; the very way in which You love us. Please go before us and cancel all the enemies plans of de-railing this love that You have created and blessed. Please continue to bless and grow our marriage in a way that glorifies and honours You. In Your name, Jesus, Amen!!

{Faith} If You Want It…Go and Get It!

By: Nathan Hill

Lyrics from a song that I just heard recently say this: “…if you want it then go and get it…”. This is a song called “I Love Your Presence” that one of the music team members from Emergency Ministries shared with me a few weeks ago.

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The Gospel of Mark records the story of a man named Jairus and an unnamed woman that was ill (commonly referred to as the woman with the issue of blood). Jairus was a well-respected man in the community and was a natural leader or trendsetter because of his position. The ill woman was an outcast because of her issue with blood; to bleed continually was to be unclean and this woman had been bleeding for 12 years. Enough said about that.

Jesus was a threat to Jairus’ authority because Jesus seemed to be presenting a spiritual message that overturned much of the Jewish legalism of the day. Therefore, when Jesus visited town, Jairus would not pay much attention. Consequently, neither did the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.

Something different happened one day; Jairus’ daughter was sick and dying and he had exhausted all the avenues that he knew of to make her well. And then Jesus came to town…there were rumors about the miracles that Jesus had done and Jairus thought that perhaps Jesus could help his daughter. In desperation he ran out to meet Jesus and plead with him to come heal his daughter. This was quite a statement because on Jesus’ other visits Jairus had likely seen him as a threat and not as an ally.

Jairus’ boldness in approaching Jesus inspired something else; the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years snuck up and touched Jesus’ clothes. Immediately she was healed from her issue of blood! Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched me?”. It was not enough that this woman had been healed by Jesus…what was most important is that she knew Jesus and had a relationship with him.

And all of this was possible simply because one man saw something he wanted and went after it.

The touch of Jesus is present and waiting for everyone. There is no one too ill, too bad, too stubborn, too prideful or too poor and depressed that Jesus cannot reach them. The challenge is this: if you want it, go and get it. It’s that simple.

Many people underestimate their influence on those around them. Many people think that if they choose to ignore God or refuse to open their lives to God it is only them that miss out. Imagine if Jairus had remained stubborn despite his daughter’s illness. Imagine if he had not acknowledged Jesus. Not only would his daughter have died and been buried…but the unnamed woman with the issue of blood would never have been inspired to reach out and touch Jesus to receive her healing and ultimately her relationship with Jesus.

If you want it, just go and get it. If you want to impact your friends and your school for Christ…go and get him in your life. The way you live for Christ will give permission and inspiration for those around you to live that way too!