Guard the Fortress


There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and storms have broken out all at once. Not to mention sudden, crazy weather patterns of intense heat followed by September snow.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Jesus told us that all this would happen.

“Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:4-8

As the world becomes more desperate, I pray we will turn to Jesus. While the enemy attempts to destroy us and our belief in a good God who loves us, Jesus longs for us to run to him in our pain, fear, hopelessness. He will comfort and strengthen us and give us peace.

His word also gives instruction to help us in this time of crisis.

Recently, I read some encouraging instruction in the book of Nahum. In the second chapter, and the first two verses, this prophet warns the people to be alert when their enemy is advancing on them. While those words were meant for that time in a practical war sense, all of God’s word is relevant to us in some way even today. This is what I took from the passage that I believe can be helpful today.

  1. “Guard the fortress.” As believers in Jesus, our bodies are God’s “temple” where the Holy Spirit resides. I believe that God would have us guard our bodies and hearts against unhealthy living and the lies of the enemy. Fear is a spirit that is stirring up the world. Let’s guard ourselves against it, rather than letting it penetrate our bodies and minds.
  2. “Watch the road.” Our mind is what lets in thoughts and images like a road into our fortress. If we’re not careful about what we expose ourselves to, we may find that what we let in is infiltrating us in a destructive, poisonous way.
  3. “Brace yourself.” God’s word is the most powerful weapon we have. It is the “sword of the spirit” which is truth. The Bible is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Heb. 4:12) When we declare it, pray it, and speak it, we are bracing ourselves for battle.
  4. “Marshall all your strength.” Our only true strength comes from the Lord. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” In order to gain that strength, I must be in God’s presence. Worship, talking to him, and asking for his wisdom in every area will make me strong. It’s Jesus who strengthens us. (Phil. 4:13)

Battles aren’t without injuries or destruction, but the Lord will restore to us anything that is lost in battle. He makes us beautiful and splendid no matter what might be destroyed. Even in this era of the world going crazy, let us look to the Lord, God Almighty who is our only true refuge in times of trouble.

Praying for you as you consider where your help comes from. My help comes from the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-3)

Facing Our Pain


068

The pain in our world has escalated to crazy proportions. We need answers. Jesus is it. So today I’m re-posting a previous post because I know how not facing our pain can increase it in our future….

I’ll come straight to the point.

I’ve come to recognize other women like myself who have tried to protect themselves by denying the truth of trauma, abuse or sexual addiction in their lives or their spouses’ lives. But the protection we think we create actually prolongs our pain and hurts those we love as well. Yes, it is painful to deal with our experiences, both present and past, but the cost down the road is much greater if we don’t.

I wish I could shout it.

Look at the fruit of our denial in our children.  I understand the despair, but we can’t be afraid to look at the truth. When we struggle, lost in a hurting, hopeless world, our children also take on our pain. Even if we aren’t aware or think we will keep them from it.

I know. I’ve been there.

I put my kids through hell because I allowed myself to be blind to the abuse in which we were living. I am to blame for my choices that put us there and kept us trapped. Even years later, my heart aches for them. I failed miserably to give them a solid foundation of what healthy relationships look like. They went into their adulthood with tremendous pain and anger behind them and little training of how to navigate a future marriage.

I’ve watched them live my broken life in many ways.

I never intended for my kids to take that kind of past into their future. The pain inflicted upon them was far greater than I imagined. I didn’t realize how badly they were hurt because of the trauma of their parents’ lives.

But I was more afraid of facing my past pain…

…more afraid of being divorced than of an abusive marriage…

…more afraid of what people thought than what my children needed…

…more afraid of my shame than if my family functioned well…

We can’t even count the price for those choices, and the longer it goes on, the higher the cost, as if interest is added.

But there’s good news.

Surrender and repentance changes everything.

God waits for us to surrender to him so he can uncover our festering wounds, bind them with his loving touch, and lead us into a place of healing and wholeness.

We must be willing to open our eyes to the truth, repent of bad choices and turn around into a new way of thinking and living.

God promises us that when we come to him in broken repentance and surrender, he doesn’t condemn or shame us. His love for us, exhibited through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection, covers us, soothes our soul and protects us with true safety.

However, doing so requires a difficult choice for us.

We must let go of our pride, fear and self-reliance. We must step out in faith with even a tiny step, believing that God will meet us as he promises. We must allow ourselves to experience the pain of our past and present, grieve the losses and move into our future.

But the exchange for us and our families is worth it.

I think of it like this:

When one of my children was very young, they couldn’t grasp the concept of exchanging their pennies for a coin of equal value. Five pennies seemed much better to them than a nickel, two nickels trumped a dime and no way would they give up any combination of coins for a quarter!

Our perception of what we are giving up is skewed by our limited understanding.

And God gives us even more than an equal share! He offers us a massive sundae dripping with fudge and topped with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry if we will hand over our McDonald’s soft serve cone.

There’s really no comparison, is there?

Be brave. Take action. Step into your future and shed your past.

Make a way for generations after you to be healthier, happier, and living a hot fudge sundae life.

Waiting Well


Do you wait well?

Photo by Enric Cruz Lu00f3pez on Pexels.com

In line, in traffic, for good or bad news? What about for an answer, or promotion, or tax refund?

I confess, I can be impatient, irritated, or dismissive when I’m called on to wait for something. That may be part of why I’ve been entrusted with this season of waiting.

Since October, I’ve been waiting for God to heal me.

I have some mystery illness which my primary doctor has currently speculated might be seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. It has caused swelling all over my entire body (not just joints as is common), numbness in my hands and feet, rashes, dizziness, fatigue and constant pain – either aching, burning, or stabbing me randomly. Mostly at night. So I have a love/hate relationship with sleeping right now. Moving makes me blow up like a puffer fish. Resting causes me to not be able to move. And I’ve been waiting since December to see a rheumatologist. Apparently there aren’t many where I live, and even less that take my insurance.

Did you hear my snort of impatience right then?

Just to make it clear, I’m not complaining. I don’t really think doctors have answers. The few offered haven’t changed anything. (Diet, medicine, activity, etc.) My unique symptoms don’t really match any particular diagnosis. I believe God is my only answer. And I trust him completely. So I’m asking him to help me wait well while I wait for whatever good plan he has to be completed.

At some point, all of us might have to wait for many things – hasn’t this been a season of that? (Sorry to all you who are still waiting for your state or city to open up again!)

But do we know how to wait well?

Here are some of the things I do to wait well:

  • Every morning I choose to thank God for the day he made and rejoice and be glad in it.
  • I start each day with praising him, reading his word, and singing along with worship music.
  • I listen to prophetic words of encouragement.
  • I pray for others.
  • I proclaim what I know to be true about God.
  • I do whatever I am apply to accomplish and let go of the rest. Sometimes that means not washing my hair. (Yuck.)
  • I ask for help when I need it.
  • I let others know how to pray for me.
  • I keep writing books (even though it makes my hands and arms ache).

God is so faithful. He hasn’t allowed my healing to show itself yet (I believe I am healed and waiting for it to show up), but he has shown me so many things. I’m learning to be bolder in prayer. I’ve been alerted to some old resentments I didn’t realize I was harboring against someone who hurt my family. I’m learning to be slower to speak and better at listening. My compassion has increased.

And in the midst of it all, God has helped me write my next book. Yippee! As I write out the last pages, I’m sharing the beginning here with you. Where Blows the Wind is the sequel to When the Wind Blows and now part of a four book series that I never planned, but apparently God did.

So, I hope you enjoy this taste of Where Blows the Wind while you’re waiting for its release on June 15th in time for your summer reading pleasure.

Maybe it will help you wait well. 😉

Where Blows the Wind

The older man had no idea how Tyrina Louise Duval felt about family. How could he? And yet, here he was inviting her to join their gathering. His family of strangers. At least that was the way he put it. Although they all lived in the same building, the group had never met until Hurricane Harriet blew in less than a year ago. The connection between them was obvious. The longing in her heart nearly surpassed her hesitancy. But in the end, she thanked him kindly and turned to leave, flinging a yearning glance over her shoulder as she left.

Now she watched them from her third-floor balcony.

“Ralph Manning,” the man said when he introduced himself and offered to share their story. She imagined it was a remarkable one. No one would guess that the young couple with a baby and the man with the twenty-something girl—from the resemblance she assumed they were truly father and daughter—were not related to the elderly couple. He claimed they met there. Neighbors in this high-rise building of condos. Clearly, no matter how they met, they shared an uncommon love. Tyrina felt it when she walked by. Even from a distance.

Why hadn’t she stayed to listen?

She wanted to. Now she wished she had. To interact with a group that obviously cared so much for each other could only bring joy. Couldn’t it?

Observing them from the safety of her condominium evoked the old pain and longing while reaching an arm out to her with hope. A sad smile tugged at her mouth. Hope brought disappointment. She knew that feeling all too well.

Turning away from the scene below her, she brushed back a stray curl that had escaped from her braid. On humid days like this, her tawny hair tormented her with frizzy strands that barely remained contained in tight braids like the one she wore today. Otherwise, she let her springy locks hang loose down her back and shoulders. She finally learned about ten years ago that fighting her natural born curls was not worth the long hours and money wasted on product. Besides, she believed in being free. And she was trying to be. That included her hair.

Tyrina shook her head at her thoughts. How had her hair determined so much of her identity? For nearly a lifetime, it seemed it was her one claim to real beauty. As a youngster, when her light brown skin brought some snide comments from those lighter or darker than her, confusion took up residence in her heart. Even her grandmother hated that her ebony-skinned son had married a white girl. Tyrina didn’t understand. How could the color of someone’s skin make a difference as to who they were inside?

Confusion ruled her life for as long as she could remember, and not belonging dictated it from the beginning.

Tyrina shook off the reverie.

It was a beautiful afternoon. Exactly the reason she had gone out in the first place. Until she observed the group with Ralph and his friends celebrating something, she’d planned on spending a few hours outside in the warm, but not too hot weather. In late August, cooler days were infrequent in Southwest Florida, so residents took advantage whenever a breezy day lowered the temperature to a reasonable setting. A walk around the grounds or at Fort Myers Beach after church on Sundays gave her time to reflect on the pastor’s message. Every week it seemed that he spoke to her directly. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. She knew it was the way God let her receive the words.

But the past few weeks, no matter what he said, or what she read in her Bible, nothing landed right. Restlessness stirred in her and wouldn’t be quelled.

Reverse the Order


We’ve been conditioned to believe that DOING rather than BEING is the key to our lives. But the truth is that doing doesn’t make us who we are. Who we are makes a place for what we do.

It’s all about identity.

God created everything in the world to be. Each of us is created uniquely special. Our identity is being his child. His son or daughter.

And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Cor. 6:18

That is our identity. It isn’t in what we do, it’s in who we are.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works [what we do], so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork [his unique creation], created in Christ Jesus to do good works [as a result of who we are], which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Emphasis mine

Who we are leads to what we do. Not the other way around.

DOING equal WHO WE ARE

WHO WE ARE > WHAT WE DO (our purpose in God)

This should be good news for someone like it was for me. Even though I knew the truth, this reversal of the order allowed me to see that any striving to do more in my life is only that – striving to do more. But when I rest in who God made me to be and allow him to lead me, what I do comes as a result of who I am.

Do you feel the chains breaking? =)

*all photographs are belong to Laura Bennet

Are You in the Desert?


Recently while reading in Exodus chapter sixteen, I was struck by the name of the desert Moses led the Israelites through.

The Desert of Sin

But what struck me most was what happened there and how much it parallels our lives today. Five points stood out to me. Perhaps if we see ourselves in any of these situations, we’ll recognize that we’re wandering in the Desert of Sin and allow God to lead us out.

While the people of God were in the Desert of Sin they:

  • Grumbled against their leaders. We see that the whole community complained that Moses didn’t know what he was doing and surely must want them to suffer. Leaders aren’t perfect, but if they are humbly seeking God—we can tell by the fruit of their lives—let’s honor and pray for them rather than complain about them. There is a place for questions & discussion in humility, but not prideful arguments (vs.2)
  • Made dramatic declarations of doom and death. They proclaimed they would have been better off in their past (Egypt). Moses intended for them to starve and for everyone to die. How many times have we made declarations based on emotion that had no basis in truth? (vs.2-3)
  • Disobeyed. They decided to rely on their own plan to hoard manna, but that resulted in something putrid and inedible. Obedience provided for them. Leaning on themselves stunk. (vs.20)
  • Ignored God’s instructions. When they dismissed God and relied on themselves, they ended up disappointed. God did exactly what he said, but they didn’t trust him and tried to secure something more for themselves. We can never get more for ourselves than God’s best that he wants and plans to give us. (vs.27)
  • Forced God to keep them wandering. Forty years is a long time. Often we don’t realize that we keep ending up in the same place because we’ve grumbled, made false declarations, disobeyed and ignored God. God intends to lead us into good. The length of time that takes might depend on our response to him. (vs. 35)

Since the beginning of time, man has allowed the enemy to sow seeds of doubt in man’s mind about God. Does he really mean what he says? Can he truly be trusted? Did he actually say that?

Let us not be deceived by the enemy of our souls. God’s plans for us are for good. Even in the most difficult places he will provide whatever we need. We don’t want to be stuck wandering around in the Desert of Sin.

The Joy Set Before Him


“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:2-3

It was for us, you and me, that Jesus endured the cross and rose again to life. Because of his sacrifice, we can be in relationship with the living God now in these last days on earth and forever in heaven. Never underestimate the power of his love and grace for us. No matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or who we think we are or aren’t, God created us, has a plan for us, and redeemed us through Jesus.

All we have to do is say “Yes. I want that relationship. I’m sorry for going my own way. Thank you, Jesus.”

Four-Letter Words


My husband and I watched a Disney movie recently and noticed how often in this PG rated film four-letter words were spoken. I’m not surprised, just saddened by the way we’ve lowered our standards over the years and especially these past few months.

The Bible says,

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

Using swear words is unwholesome.

Let’s be real, the world doesn’t care. And all of us are human. I’m sure we’ve all gone through a season of “unwholesome” or let a few words fly from our mouths that don’t benefit anyone. I know I have.

But maybe we could replace our thinking of four-letter words. There are plenty that would be more uplifting and would build people up. Here’s a few I’m learning to embrace.

REST – In this crazy, faster than the speed of light teched-out world, we’ve forgotten how to rest and what rest is for. God created rest. He worked to create the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Rest gives us time to process everything in our lives. It creates space for us to dream. We are refreshed when we take time to rest. What if that time of rest was not only for recuperation but for preparation? Beginning each week from a place of rest instead of thinking we need to catch up makes the dreaded Monday, a fun day. Snatches of rest during a day makes us more productive. According to Alex Pang, PhD., something he calls “deliberate rest” is a practice of highly successful people. Maybe God knew what he was talking about when he told us to rest on the Sabbath day and let the land rest every seven years.

LOVE – As the old song says, it’s what the world needs now. Hatred, violence, and fear run rampant in the absence of love. The Bible tells us that God’s perfect love casts out fear, and as followers of Jesus, we’ll be known by our love for others. Being truthful, kind, compassionate, and considerate in how we talk about and to each other as well as how we treat people shows love and changes our world. God IS love. Let’s embrace Him and show love.

MEEK – I’ll bet that’s not one you expected. Meek has gotten a bad rap as meaning weak, pathetic, or a doormat. But it’s true meaning is humble or gentle. Jesus chose humility when he came to earth. He didn’t answer accusations or defend himself when he faced betrayal and a mock trial. His meekness was actually him choosing to control the power he had, lay down his rights for something far more important (relationship with us – let your mind and heart grasp that), and treating people with kindness and gentleness when he had every right to mock or destroy them. If we choose meekness, we will be humble and gentle in our dealings with people.

HOLY – Set apart. Hallowed. Special. Everything of God is holy. He also calls us holy, because he created us in his image, and he calls us to hold holiness as something sacred. That means we honor God. Set him apart as the only God. There is none like him. He is to be praised. And we are to set ourselves apart from anything that doesn’t bring him glory and honor. We also need to honor ourselves and others in the way we speak and act.

HOPE – If one thing the world needs is love, the other is hope. I write and post about Jesus being our hope. He is our only hope, a living hope. No person, situation, government, money, circumstance, etc. can truly offer us hope. When we place our hope in things, we may be temporarily relieved, but eventually disappointed. People fail, things fall apart, circumstances change. God is faithful no matter what. Only Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

WAIT – We might feel like this could be a swear word. We’re used to everything from food to text replies happening in seconds. If our computer takes more than a few seconds to load, we fuss. Stop lights in my town are three to five minutes long (NOT exaggerating!) and people don’t want to wait. I’ve seen more people speed through red lights here than any other place I’ve lived. But learning to wait is good for us. It keeps us from making rash decisions, or saying something in a moment of anger. Waiting means we can let God secure better things for us in his timing than we could ever get for ourselves. We gain more patience as we wait and that makes us more pleasant to be around.

Those are just a few of my new four-letter words. Are there others you’ve been exploring lately?

Let’s change the narrative, as we say these days, and start using some new four-letter words that build up and benefit others as well as ourselves.

His Gentle Whispers


Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

“The whisper wafted into her heart. Again? He’d been sending her on these little missions more frequently these days. Not that she really minded. Amanda felt humbled that he would choose her. She wasn’t anyone special.”

Amanda Grace Stiles, A Mighty Wind

God calls Amanda Grace Stiles to befriend a mysterious stranger who lies in a coma after sustaining life-threatening injuries. Who is this woman and is there hope for her? Can Amanda help her survive the past that’s put her in danger? Book three in the Winds of Redemption series is coming this summer. ⁠

In this, the third book in the Winds of Redemption series (When the Wind Blows is book one and Where Blows the Wind is book two, coming this spring), God speaks to a young women and leads her to intersect with another whose tragic life has led her to the lowest possible place. Through Amanda, the mysterious stranger will encounter healing through Jesus, who sustains life and leads us in purpose.

Here’s the thing….

We never know where the Spirit of God will lead us. He is like a mighty wind blowing us in and out of situations in life that will impact not only us, but those we come in contact with.

That is, if we will yield to his control.

Will we let Holy Spirit direct us into unknown places that may not make sense? Will we lean in and listen to catch the whispers of his heart for the lost and broken so that he can lead them to Jesus who saves? Are we willing to take risks that cost us something? Maybe our perception, reputation, or relationships?

Scary, huh?

But what if we learn to trust and follow that mysterious Spirit the way the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night? What if we surrender what we think we know and allow Him to lead us into the unknown? What if that is where breakthrough, healing, peace, and joy are found?

The move of Holy Spirit is where:

  • dry bones turn into an army (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
  • axe heads float (2 Kings 6)
  • armies of ten thousands are defeated by 300 men (Judges 6-8)
  • a donkey talks (Numbers 22:28)
  • a blind man sees (John 9:1-12)
  • a lame man walks (Acts 14:8-10)
  • a little girl is raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26)

Today, Holy Spirit is living in each of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. (John 14:15-17) He leads us into all truth. It is by his power that we enter into a spiritual realm to see miracles accomplished in the name of Jesus.

Today, people are being healed in soul and body, delivered from the bondage of pain and addiction, released from depression and anxiety. Revival is here.

The world is desperate for Jesus.

As we listen and give way to the gentle whispers of Holy Spirit, we will experience an outpouring of such abundant joy and blessing, not only for ourselves and our lives, but through seeing others touched as we obey and intersect with their lives.

While the world is in turmoil, we live in a supernatural world of the incredible, the impossible, the unbelievable, the magnificent come to life. It’s a wonderful place to live.

Will you join me?

Lost in His Love


While this unexplained illness or condition has taken over my body for the past five months, I’ve experienced a myriad of emotions. In the beginning, the majority of my time I lived in a sense of peace. The condition was inconvenient, a little scary and sometimes painful. With no explanations, negative blood tests, and absolute trust in my Savior who heals, I settled into the journey, believing that any morning I would wake up and be fine again.

Clearly, that hasn’t been the case.

My complete trust in Jesus and his healing hasn’t wavered. I’m not scared. I wait each day for his healing to manifest. He’s promised me, my husband, my family, and friends that I will see his healing come. The only unknown is when.

In the meantime, I’ve become nearly immobile. The pain is often so excruciating that it wrenches cries out of me—sometimes when I least expect it. My body is swollen all over making it difficult to move or sleep. I confess that most days I dread getting into bed as well as hating to get out of it.

I eat clean and healthy. I take supplements, herbs, oils, teas and have fasted a number of foods at different times to check for any allergies. A couple of homeopathic medicines give a little relief from pain that typical medications don’t touch.

It seems God has made it clear that this “thing” will not be healed by anything or anyone except him.

I believe he has a purpose in all of this. He’s working in me and my husband. I pray that I will be glorifying to my Lord God. When pain is at it’s worst, I pray for others who suffer far worse than I do for years or at the hands of those torturing them because of their love for Jesus.

Some days, I confess, I feel discouraged.

But the one thing that has sustained me and continues to be the only place of complete relief is being in the presence of Jesus.

I can imagine how people flocked to him when he walked the earth. Many came to him for healing. They obviously wanted freedom from their torturous life. But what some of them realized and experienced was the incredible joy and peace that came from being in his presence.

Even the bleeding woman just wanted to get close enough to touch his robe.

Being in the presence of God.

Getting lost completely in his love. That is where I find peace. Where the discouragement of my condition dissolves and time stops (time is irrelevant to God). Peace, that kind that we don’t understand, washes over me, rests on me, and thoroughly surrounds me.

That is also where healing starts.

Healing for our hearts, our bodies, our relationships, and our life starts in the presence of our loving God. Totally submerged in his love, we also find identity, purpose, direction, and release.

I don’t know how long I will be in this place.

I might wake up tomorrow and be able to move and live again without pain and fatigue. I also might find that the perfect timing of God hasn’t come yet. Maybe it won’t for weeks, months, or years. Healing may not come until I’m in heaven at my Savior’s side.

But I do know that each day, I’m finding peace, strength, growth of faith, and joy in the presence of Jesus here and now.

 There’s an album by Brandon Lake (Bethel Music) called House of Miracles that I’ve been playing on repeat. The live release session of the entire album can be played here on Youtube. Every song is inspired and an incredible leading into the presence of God. One of my favorites, Lost in Your Love, has these lyrics that stand out to me:

“Your power is found in the roughest waters, where I have no choice but to trust you, Father, where my every fear has to surrender….”

This season of illness is rough waters. There are no answers—doctors are stumped, typical diagnoses don’t fit, neither diet nor medication is resolving it. I have no choice but to trust my heavenly Father and surrender any fear or discouragement to him.

It is only when I’m lost in his love, sitting in his presence singing, listening, reading his word, that I’m in another place beyond today’s challenges.

No matter what we experience, whether physical, emotional, circumstantial, or relational, the presence of Jesus with his love washing over us is where we are transcended into another realm. It is where healing starts and will be completed. It’s where peace reigns. Peace we can’t explain. Peace that is beyond happiness due to circumstantial changes. Where fear must leave – in his perfect love that casts it away.

If we want to get well, he is there. Jesus is our healer. Jesus is our peace. He is our hope and joy.

Even in the midst of the roughest waters.

Where Are We Leading?


"And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." Ezra 9:2

Let’s face it, we are all a leader of someone.

Because each of us knows more or less than someone else, we will always be following and learning–or leading. Think about it. Ar you a parent? An older sibling? A friend helping a friend? Maybe you are the boss or supervisor at work, or the guy who’s been there a month and is showing a newer one the ropes.

We may not think of ourself as a leader, but we are. By default.

Someone will always be watching our life. Our decisions, words, and actions impact lives around us every day. Whether we like it or not, we are leading.

So, if that’s the case? Where are we leading?

There were some specific guidelines that God gave his people back in the day. The rules were intended to help and protect the people. Like speed limits or stop lights (ignored by many where I live) are meant to help the flow of traffic and keep drivers safe. But the problem was that the leaders in those days were leading the way into doing the very things that were hurting the people.

Hmm…sounds like our world today. Some things never change. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. So true.

We’ve witnessed leaders and officials living and promoting harmful practices. Sexual misconduct, abortion, lawless violence are only a few of the hurtful activities we’ve watched leaders participate in or promote. It might be easy to point our finger at them, and they should be called to account. But what about us? Where are we leading?

Whether it’s engaging in illegal practices or taking something from work, we are setting an example. Regardless if no one sees us, our behavior will eventually come out in how it affects our attitude and words. Even our tone of voice can impact those around us. Ever notice how when we’re feeling off, we can speak sharply to our spouse, children or co-worker and create a bad situation where none was there previously?

I love how the Bible shows us the answer to this dilemma.

In Ezra 10:1, it says that Ezra was praying, confessing, weeping, and laying on the ground before God because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The cool thing is that the people who saw this followed his lead. The men, women and children gathered around him and “wept bitterly too.” Ezra was a spiritual leader in his time, and people followed his example of repentance.

We are leaders.

Are we leading into unfaithfulness or repentance? And who are we leading there?

Let’s also remember to pray for those in authority. The people leading us need help and the wisdom of God. They need clear direction so they can lead into good, helpful, positive places that will not bring harm. They must consider their ways carefully because people are watching and following.

We all need to humbly consider who’s watching us. Are we leading into life? Or a path to destruction and death?

Where are we leading?

Where Do We Go from Here?


This is a long post today, but bear with me. I think the content is crucially important.

With all the turmoil in our world right now, we need wisdom to lead us through political division, racial talk, and false narratives from every side.

Believe it or not, our times are not unlike what Jesus and his disciples lived through.

Therefore, the teachings and parables of Jesus in the Bible stand out as the final word on how to navigate the season we’re in today.

This week I’ve been pouring over the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. I’ve been, once again, amazed at how relevant it is to our current times. I’d like to unpack a few things that have spoken to me.

As people who read and apply the Bible to our lives, we often take isolated scripture passages out of their context. While this isn’t always a bad idea and can actually be encouraging, we can also miss the greater message Jesus imparted when we do so. For example, I think we’ve heard these:

  • “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.” Jer. 29:11 (true, encouraging, but we miss that God said this after leading people into exile as a way to help them see their need for him and then obey him.)
  • “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Actually, this is misquoted and incomplete. This comes from 1 Cor. 10:13 and God is talking about temptation. He doesn’t tempt us, he won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and will always provide a way out of temptation.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 –true in every situation, but we hear it mostly applied to finances; however, in context it applies to forgiveness. Think about that one.

I think you can see what I mean.

Matthew 18 is a chapter from which many verses have been singled out and used outside of the context of the entire chapter. I discovered that this week.

And WOW!

Here’s what I believe I’ve missed before…

  • The theme is unity. (Don’t we need that right now?) In verse 1 the disciples are arguing about who’s the greatest. (Sound familiar?)
  • Jesus starts his discourse on unity by speaking of humility. Jesus says change and become like a little child. Humble ourselves. (vs.3-4)
  • There are things and people in the world that can lead us into disunity –our sin can cause others to stumble and fall too – so we need to do whatever it takes, even cutting things off, to protect ourselves and others. (vs.5-9)
  • If someone, even one person, wanders away from safety, we look for a way to help them. God doesn’t want any of us to be lost in sin, despair, brokenness, etc. (vs.121-14)
  • When someone says or does something that hurts us, it’s not only us, but the whole body of believers that suffers. When we confront them, we should do so, not to argue and persuade them that we’re right and they are wrong. Not to press our opinion or validate ourselves. We go in love to present to them in kind words what the problem is. The Bible says if he listens to us, we win him over. What that actually means in the original language is if he’s willing to hear what we have to say (let’s be willing to receive), we have gained him back into relationship with us. If he’s not, Jesus lays out an entire process, in which at least two or three others can see and agree that something is amiss. Following the process, is intended to help someone see how he is hurting his fellow believers. Unity folks. (vs.15-17)
  • If after following the steps of this process, someone refuses to have an open mind/heart to hear his friends (brothers), that is the point where it is for the safety of the entire group to treat him as not part of the group. That doesn’t mean we don’t forgive and continue to love. (vs.17)
  • Jesus goes on to tell us that when we seek him and agree with what he says we have the authority to fasten to him and declare the enemy/sin unlawful. We can release God’s love in the situation and break or dissolve the enemy’s hold on it. Where two or more agree (with God’s will – unity here), Jesus is in our midst and will do what we ask. We must be praying for the person and the situation.(vs.18-20)
  • Then he goes on to tell a parable about being willing to forgive they way he forgives us. We shouldn’t treat someone badly when they sin against us. We remember how much we have been forgiven. Forgiveness brings peace and opens a way for reconciliation. (vs.21-35)

This is my take away.

Jesus reminded us that we are to be:

  1. Humble.
  2. Willing to acknowledge and protect ourselves and others from sin.
  3. Open to doing whatever it takes to help someone who is struggling. (Without judgment.)
  4. Willing to lovingly confront when necessary to bring reconciliation for the benefit of all.
  5. Obedient in following the process Jesus gave us.
  6. Involving others who are close to the situation only when necessary. (Not in gossip.)
  7. Seek God’s will and join with others in prayer about it.
  8. Forgive.

I have to ask myself where I’ve ignored, avoided, denied or missed any of this. The first being am I humble?

Humility leads to unity.

Jesus, who had every right to assert his god-ship over us all, willingly laid it down to show his love for us. His was the ultimate act of humility.

Am I even close to doing that? What about when someone doesn’t share my opinion? When I have the “right” to justice? If I’m reasonably (or not) hurt by someone’s words or actions? If something is not what I hoped for or expected?

Unless we start there, none of the rest will matter because it won’t come from the correct posture of our heart.

If I point out someone’s sin, even with the motive of helping them…

If I proclaim to others about what someone did that was so wrong or hurtful…

If I try to “help” someone see the error of their ways or opinions…

If I confront another…

If I pray for someone…

None of those things done without humility with end up serving in love, and can actually lead to more harm and division.

The Bible says:

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love {humility}, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love {humility}, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love {humility}, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3

If we follow Jesus’s example of love, it begins with humility. God’s example of giving his only son to reach his children who have turned against him? Started with humility. Jesus allowing himself to be mocked, beaten, and hung naked on a cross for us? A tremendous act of humility.

Humility may not be popular, but it’s right. It’s not easy—in fact it goes against everything in us that wants to fight for ourselves* (that’s pride by the way).

No matter what situation we face in today’s world, humility is the first step to reconciliation and ultimately, unity.

Where can we apply that to our lives today? I’ll bet, like me, you can find more than one area.

May you experience the depth of Jesus’s humbling presence and love today.

*please know that if you are in an abusive situation, it is appropriate to flee and get help – Jesus loves you and wants his children to be safe and healthy in our relationships – that’s why he gives the process 😉 If you’d let me, I’d love to pray and help in any way I can