Category Archives: Encouragement

Bitterness Is Killing Us

Bitterness is a lie, a trick, a trap.

It’s a warm comfy blanket that’s infected with smallpox.

It promises relief, respect and redress. But it never delivers.

It doesn’t rebuild anything out of the ashes, it just destroys what’s left.

It doesn’t redeem the pain, it recreates it, forcing us to relive it.

It locks in our hurts and freezes our worst moment in time forever. It plays our pain on repeat in our heart and mind.

It re-inflicts the hurt and reinfects the wounds.

We’ve gotta fight bitterness like we would an escaped prisoner climbing through our child’s bedroom window. It’s plans for us are equally nefarious.

Bitterness is a reverse mirage. We often don’t see what’s actually there.

Hebrews 12:15 warns us:

“Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

We need to watch out for it because, bitterness starts so small. Often with a disappointment, an injustice, a hurt.

We often bury that pain. We pretend it isn’t there and hope it goes away. Which has a similar effect to pouring Miracle-Gro on a weed.

Unforgiveness and resentment come next.

And that environment is like a hothouse, providing the perfect breeding ground for bitterness.

We actually want healing, we want things to be right again, but the bitterness takes over, often without us even knowing it’s there.

We start being ruled by fears. And now, we’ve dug in, we won’t give an inch. Usually because we’re scared.

Our love has to be greater than our fear.

Bitterness, more than anything, is fear. The kind of fear which leads to disobedience.

It’s lack of trust, lack of faith.

It’s believing that we can’t obey God because He won’t get it right.

We feel like we have to take care of ourselves. But, if we’re being honest, how’s that working out for us?

God says forgive. Every time.

He’s got great things in store for us and love like we’ve never imagined if we just trust and obey.

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Quick Quote | Tullian Tchividjian: On One Way Love

“Love must be one-way to be worth anything.”
– Pastor Tullian Tchividjian

quick quote tullian tchividjian

I realize that statement may shock the system.

In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, where, too often, we keep meticulous score and only mete out love as we feel it’s deserved, that’s almost hard for the brain to process on first read.

So, go ahead, read it again.

Love must be one-way to be worth anything.

It certainly turns conventional wisdom and pop psychology on their heads, but it’s the truth.

Remember, Jesus said it’s easy to love the people who are nice to us, the people who treat us well. “What credit is that?” is actually how He put it.

Relationships are healthiest when each person is practicing a radical, unconditional love that goes beyond reciprocation or obligation.

Think of the way most of parents love their newborn babies. That radical, unconditional, overwhelming love despite the fact that they can’t do anything for us. We stay up late, wake up in the middle of the night, get up early, feed, clothe, hold, bathe, play with, provide for, clean up after and totally rearrange our lives for them. THAT is the one-way love we must capture and live out in our relationships.

Here’s another great thought on this from @pastortullian:


More from Tullian’s book One Way Love, as published in an earlier post entitled 3 Minute Marriage Counselor: Got Grace? (by Matthew Reid):

We are the recipients of abounding, incomprehensible and undeserved grace, yet we tend to treat others more like the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) than the man who told that story.

“The world tells us to stand up for ourselves, to stick to our guns. But the Gospel frees us to lay down our arms.” (via Pastor Tullian Tchividjian)

Pastor Tullian makes the case for cultivating more grace in our relationships in his new book, One Way Love. While God’s way often seems more difficult, in the end it not only brings Him glory, it’s what’s best for us, too!

A few quotes jumped out at me from this book…

“The fire to love unconditionally comes only from being soaked in the fuel of being unconditionally loved.” ~Pastor Tullian

When we live for our happiness, as opposed to God’s glory and the good of those around us, we miss out on a whole lot of awesome. Putting ourselves first may be natural, but even putting aside obedience and choosing the narrow path, it just doesn’t work.

“Every marriage is the union of two selfish people, fighting for their way, desperate to win. That’s why an apology so often feels like we are betraying ourselves. We would rather see a marriage fall apart than cede any ground…” ~Pastor Tullian

We’re so stubborn. We’ll act in a way that’s counter productive to our own best interests just to “win.” That victory, however, is no such thing. We don’t get what we really wanted in the first place, we hurt the people we love and we miss an opportunity to give God glory.

That’s lose, lose, lose.

It’s pride.

We need to remember that the people who hurt us are not the real enemy. (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8)

“Husbands and wives are often so hard on one another, merciless with their demands and expectations, their criticisms and silences.” ~Pastor Tullian

We’re in a battle. A battle for our marriage, our family, our kids. We’re fighting for our futures, a war for the souls of family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers who are far from God and are watching us.

We can point those around us, including our own children, toward God and show them a better way. We don’t have to do what everybody else does, we can be more.

As my pastor, Sean Sears, often says, we won’t have extraordinary lives if we keep making ordinary choices.

But 1 Corinthians 13 points toward the hope that’s there for us: “Love believes, hopes, endures, never ends…”

“For the marriage grounded in one-way love, there is always hope, always a way forward.” ~Pastor Tullian

Read the more quotes from Pastor Tullian’s new book One Way Love.

[Originally published November 3, 2013 growingingracetoday.wordpress.com]

More: Tullian Tchividjian

Thank God Everything’s Falling Apart

Sometimes we go through seasons where everything seems to fall apart around us. In these times, we shouldn’t feel abandoned by God, we should feel more loved than ever.

Seriously.

I know that sounds weird, but here’s the thing, God will often let things in our lives fall apart when they are standing in the way of Him. This isn’t done out of spite, or to hurt us, but out of love, to heal us, to grow us and for reasons that don’t always make sense to us now.

Like a parent who removes the training wheels from their child’s bike, above their cries and objections. That father or mother knows, what the child doesn’t–that the very thing that once held them up, now holds them back.

It’s a matter of trust more than anything.

Do we believe that God knows best. That He is rooting for us? That He’s in control? That He is actively working in our lives for His glory and the good of others, as well as our own? That He loves us and wants to do things in and through us that we probably wouldn’t even dream of?

See, He knows what we are capable of, He has big plans for us. But to get there, we’ve gotta trust.

Obey.

Surrender.

We’ve gotta let Him take control and take away anything that’s in the way of where He wants to take us.

God often adds through subtraction.

The things we’re holding on to aren’t real anyway. They may provide the mirage of security and control, or the illusion of happiness and success, but we know better.

And they’re often things we are relying on other than Him. False hopes. Security blankets. Training wheels.

Monuments to the trust we have in us.

Testaments to the lack of trust we have in God.

Idols, really.

If God is removing things from our lives, we are better off without them.

When our lives seem to be falling apart, often what we’re seeing are just the first, messy steps of the rebuild God has begun in our lives. The glorious ruins.

It’s evidence that God is at work in our lives. Stripping away the things keeping us from Him, and all He has planned for us. A chance to tear down our kingdom and begin making a difference in His.

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Luke 6:46-49 NLT

Only when He is first, can our lives be put back together. Beautifully. And truly built to last.

The tough part is in the middle. After the hurt, but before the healing.

That is when you must hold on tighter than you ever knew you could. Seek God first. Follow Jesus with everything you’ve got.

Trade in the life that may look good from the outside, for one that actually is.

This means some hardcore demolition, for a season. As any home remodeler (or HGTV watcher) knows, ripping out the junk creates a real mess.

When you walk into the kitchen and see the project half way through, you know there’s no turning back. You’re all in.
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The enemy wants us to believe that the picture above is where our story ends–that God has abandoned us there.

But our current circumstances aren’t where it ends. It gets real ugly before it gets beautiful. There’s a lot of dust and dirt and a giant disaster before anything awesome happens.

If God is helping you with that, don’t hate Him, THANK Him.
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Keep your eye on the prize, focus on where God’s taking you.

Always rest in the truth of His Word:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28 NLT


More: Hillsong Worship

Love Believes | Five Years Later

On November 30, 2009, I received some devastating news. The kind of thing that knocks you off your feet and causes a lot of strong people to completely crumble.

There have been many difficult days, some torturous. Some where I honestly didn’t know if I’d make it through.

I’ve felt immense pain and heartache every single day.

I’ve watched those I love dearly hurt deeply, and felt worries and challenges I never imagined.

Yet God has sustained, provided and seen us through it all, one day at a time.

But don’t mistake strong faith and confidence in God for easy. It’s not. It’s also not supposed to be.

Tom Petty was right, the waiting is the hardest part. At least for me. I’m naturally impatient, maybe we all are to some extent.

We want answers and easy fixes RIGHT NOW. And it’s easy to be discouraged when we don’t get them.

But God grows us through trials and difficult circumstances.

And it only seems like nothing’s happening.

God is always at work on the other side of the mountain.

I don’t regret, for even a minute, making the decision to not give up in the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances. And I have found joy in perseverance, even on the worst days. (Romans 5:3-4).

Again, I’m not pretending it’s easy. If you want to give up, good. That means you’re normal.

What I’m saying is, just don’t.

Nobody’s walking around with massive stockpiles of faith, reserves they can just dip into on demand. That’s not how God works.

He says to renew our minds daily.

Even Jesus had to make time to be alone with God at the beginning and end of every day.

God really does give us the manna our soul needs today.

I’m convinced that the greatest place to be in life is totally dependent on God.

He’s got this.

And so do we, if we trust and obey and if, as Galatians 6:9 says, we do not quit.

Isaiah 40:31 promises strength for those who wait on God. And Psalm 40:1 reminds us that even the king had to wait.

I love what David Mathis says about waiting:

“When you feel the first resistance, let it be a reminder to go Godward. Recalibrate the focus of your faith. Move the weight of your trust off self, where it keeps gravitating back, and consciously reorient on God. Whether it’s simply spare moments or seemingly endless days, waiting is no waste in God’s economy. It is in the delays and the pauses, and in becoming aware of our lack of patience, that he works to save us from self-reliance and revitalize our faith and hope in him.”

I trust in God’s perfect timing and His ability, and desire, to do the impossible and to truly heal.

Don’t you dare tell me that my God can’t. He specializes in fixing what’s broken, breathing life into that which was dead and doing the impossible.

So, yeah, I believe God can. And I believe God will.

And although there isn’t a pretty little bow on this story yet, I can look you in the eye and tell you that I believe more today than ever. (Hebrews 11:1) The fact that I can say that is a testament to God’s grace and love. Nothing else…

For all those who’ve prayed, believed, encouraged or lent support throughout this time–emotionally, logistically, provisionally and/or spiritually–all I can say is, thanks. Especially you late night pep talkers. I am grateful beyond words.

Keep praying. Keep believing…

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Un-stuck In The Middle

Saw a great tweet today from @ChristineCaine:

Throughout the Bible, God says things to us like ‘fear not‘ and ‘don’t be afraid‘.

In fact, He says them a lot.

He tells us to be anxious for nothing and to trust in Him. He promises to never leave us and to never forsake us.

And the pages of God’s Word are packed with the stories of normal, broken people who, despite their fears, frailties and failures in their past, trusted Him enough to obey Him, and did crazy awesome things for God.

Fear and faith cannot exist together.

Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact.
– via gotquestions.org

If you’ve got a level hanging around the house, pull it out of the toolbox and play with it for a minute. Try to get that bubble in the middle.

See, that level almost perfectly illustrates the struggle between fear and faith in our lives.

Think of the left side as FEAR and the right side as FAITH. When the bubble is on the left, it’s as far away from faith as possible–there’s nothing but fear.

When it’s on the right side, faith is in control and there’s no fear to be found.

The problem is, most of us live in the middle. We’re living a delicate, exhausting balancing act where any little bump can send us one way or the other.

The thing is, God hates the middle. And so do we, if we’re honest.

We’re just close enough to great faith to taste it and feel its power–to know it’s really there–but never take that leap of faith and experience the life God intended for us. A life not ruled by our fears.

Yet it’s the very fear we want to overcome that keeps us from the faith we need to do so.

That’s why they call it a leap of faith.

We’ve gotta get as far away from the fear that keeps us from faith, as possible.

The beauty is, the more we move toward faith, the further we get from those fears. And the stronger our faith grows, the smaller our fears become.

As a boy, David fought a bear and a lion, which gave him the faith to believe that God would help him take on Goliath.

In 1 Samuel 17:37, David says, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear WILL DELIVER ME from the hand of this Philistine.”

David chose to feed his faith and starve his fear, but imagine if he had done the opposite.

What if after the first run-in with a lion or bear he had never gone back to that field?

Or what if David had chosen to run away from that first ferocious animal and spent the rest of his life telling anyone who would listen about the night he barely got away from that lion? Cool story, but so much less than God had planned for him.

His destiny and, as it turns out, all of human history would’ve been completely different.

Instead, his faith was rewarded with victory, diminishing his fear and building his faith even further. Those successes gave him the confidence to be courageous and do even greater things. And eventually be king!

And yet, doubt and fear never completely go away. Even for a man like David. But he knew the key to keeping fear at bay. Look what he wrote in Psalm 56:3, “when I am afraid, I will trust in You!”

That’s a good plan for us too.

Let’s be brave. Let’s trust in God, stop living in the middle and take that leap of faith.

More: Christine Caine
Bethel Music

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Z-Verse | Acts 9 | Suddenly | Nov 17, 2014

Our verse of the day is in Acts 9. Just go ahead and read the whole chapter real quick, the story’s just awesome.

Saul has been killing Christians, and he’s on his way to Damascus, papers in hand, to round up believers and bring them back to Jerusalem to torture and kill them.

He, literally, sees the light on his way there.

Verse 18 says, “IMMEDIATELY something like scales fell from eyes.”

Verse 20 says, “AT ONCE, he began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Two things jump out at me here.

1.) Things can seem completely hopeless and God can change everything in an instant.

Don’t give up hope.

How many times do we read that word suddenly in the Bible?

2.) We are never too far gone for God to do something in and through us.

I mean Saul was murdering Christians! Families, women and children! God still used him to write two thirds of the New Testament!

I love verse 21, it says that all who heard, “were astonished!”

I bet there are some people in our past that would be astonished if they saw us right now (hopefully in a good way!)

There are also probably some people in our lives, that if God got ahold of them, we’d be astonished.

Let’s let that affect how we treat the people in our lives who are living far from God right now. The people who seem, to many, to be beyond hope. (People like Saul before God changed everything in an instant and he became the Apostle Paul.)

Let’s remember how much God loves them and let’s try to love them the same way!

More: The Z

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