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Christian living

You Need To End That Friendship

March 1, 2018

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Letter to a Would-Be Adulteress

You tell me that you’re nowhere near the path of adultery. You and he are just friends. You both love the Lord and desire to walk in obedience to his word. In fact, it was your shared commitment to Jesus that connected you.

As you served at the Christian conference, chatting over the course of long days and boxed lunches, your conversation was filled with Christ and a zeal for the faith. A group of you got connected on social media, so once the conference was over, moving your dialogue to the inbox was easy. And from there, text messaging made more sense. Now, months later, you’re in touch every couple weeks, with an occasional phone call.

“But nothing about our conversation is improper,” you added quickly. “We talk about our families and ministries. We might touch on something we read in our devotions that morning. He’ll even listen to thoughts about my upcoming blog posts. If anything, at the end of our calls, I’m encouraged and edified in what God has called me to do.”

“Does your husband listen to your thoughts about upcoming blog posts?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s got so much going on,” you said. “I don’t mind that he doesn’t have time.”

“What about spiritual growth?” I asked. “Do you and your husband share what you’re learning as well?”

“Again, it’s just a time issue,” you said. “His job is demanding.”

Friend, I know you’ve said that the mere thought of adultery is repulsive to you, and that you could never see yourself taking that path. But it is my hope and prayer that you see the truth: you are already on the path.

Continue reading over at Desiring God . . .

Christian living

Struck Down, But Not Destroyed

September 19, 2016

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In the movie Creed, boxer Adonis Creed takes a brutal punch in the fight of his life, and gets knocked to the ground. He hits the floor hard. The people in his corner are shouting, “Get up! Get up!” His opponent is on the ropes celebrating, thinking it’s over.

But while Creed is out, his mind is scrolling through all he’s been through up until that point, and all the people who love and motivate him. Like a jolt, he’s up before the count of ten — and is back in the fight.

Creed’s boxing life may seem to bear little resemblance to our lives as believers. Though we encounter battles, we don’t train intensely for them, with dedicated professionals to put us through our paces and shore up our weaknesses. We don’t know the time, date, and location of our next bout, such that we can show up prepared. Our battles are spiritual, seemingly upending the comparison.

But as the apostle Paul showed, boxing (like running) provides a vivid metaphor for the Christian life (1 Corinthians 9:26).

You Will Get Hit

We often don’t see it coming. It could be a health crisis, loss of a loved one, an employment shake-up, betrayal, or some form of persecution. Or maybe it’s something we’re aware of, something we thought was mild or temporary, but it “hits” when it morphs from hill to mountain.

The question is not whether we will find ourselves in a battle, but when. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Paul likewise says it’s part of our privilege as believers. “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). We remember vividly the times we have been hit. Many of us are still recovering.

Continue reading over at Desiring God . . .

Christian living

In An Age of Self-Branding…

March 2, 2016

Self-Branding

I posted last week about God starving my bestseller appetite and thought it interesting that some of the feedback—encouraging to be sure—thanked me for being transparent and honest. It made me wonder if this was unusual to share. I hadn’t written with that in mind. Wasn’t trying to be brave. I had simply prayed for the Lord to show me what to write, and that’s what rose inside.

I was reminded of times I’ve received similar feedback, like the post that mentioned my publishing contract hadn’t been renewed. Or the one that announced my season with Women of Faith had ended—much earlier than anticipated. And the posts over the past six or so years that touch on issues with my mouth, my attitude, my need for more faith and trust, and my desperate need daily for the grace and mercy of Christ.

But isn’t that part of our Christian walk . . . wrestling with flesh, battling disappointment? And acknowledging that we fall short but for Jesus—isn’t that the Gospel?

Continue Reading…

Christian living, grace

How God Starved My “Bestseller” Appetite

February 23, 2016

Humbled YouAs I was writing my debut novel, it loomed as the crown jewel—the Essence bestseller’s list. Many of the books published by Walk Worthy Press had achieved that status. And the status—Essence Bestselling Author—was emblazoned in mega-font on the authors’ subsequent covers. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I prayed for.

After Heavenly Places released, I began hearing how books actually made the Essence list. They had to be sold at certain reporting stores. So authors were known to schedule signings at those stores, in hopes of hitting the bestseller threshold. Plus, the founder of Walk Worthy had also started the Glory Girls Book Club, which became the largest African-American book club in the country. With Walk Worthy books featured regularly, they were guaranteed to sell well as thousands of club readers snapped them up.

When my novel released, though, Walk Worthy’s heyday was ending. Books were no longer being distributed by Warner, which itself had been a sales boost. And within a year, the entire operation folded.

Heavenly Places never made the Essence bestseller list.

Continue Reading…

Christian living, YouTube

How to Know Your Calling

May 12, 2015

How to Know Your CallingIt’s the cry of our hearts. We want to know our calling. What has God put us on earth to do?

First, as believers, we should all be assured that we have a calling. There is not a single one of us for whom God does not have a plan and a purpose. This verse should be emblazoned on our hearts and minds:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 

When we believe and are born again, we are re-created in Christ. As new creations, we have a new mission—to glorify God through good works. Those good works are already planned. Is that not awesome? We are not charged with coming up with our own good works. We simply walk in what God has pre-ordained.

The problem, though, is that we may not know what those good works are. We are not given a personalized manual when we come to faith, with a rundown of everything God planned for us to do as we run this race. And if we do have a sense of a particular calling from God, we may be frustrated because nothing is happening. We’ve prayed toward it. Maybe even put feet of faith toward it. But we are not seeing fruit. Now we’re confused . . . is this my calling? What does God want me to do?

But the issue may be our tendency to view calling in a highly individualized sense. That’s the nature of the times in which we live. We each pursue our own goals, our own education, our own careers, even our own ministries. We’re each carving out our own piece of the pie. So it makes sense to us to pursue our own callings—those unique works that God planned for us.

And yet, our calling is so much broader than that. As believers, we are all called to certain good works. And we need not wonder what they are, because God has graciously made them clear in His Word. For example, if we are women who are married and raising a family, we have a Titus 2:4-5 calling in common: “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

If we place our focus on the things we know we are called to do, we can have absolute certainty that the Lord will lead us with respect to the individual plans He has for us. They are His plans. He wants to establish them. We have to trust that in His time, He will give us clarity there too. We have to trust that we can hear from God. And we have to trust that once we gain clarity He will give us everything we need to move forward.

In this week’s video, I’m sharing a few things that we are all called to do. Just going through the list myself, I thought, “Wow, am I doing these things?” So thankful that the Lord gives us grace!

Do you feel you know at least some of the things God has uniquely called you to do?

Christian living, faith, YouTube

4 Essentials to Jumpstart Your Walk of Faith

April 20, 2015

4 Essentials (website)Walking by faith can seem so elusive. The Lord puts something on our heart to pray for, we get energized, put feet of faith toward it . . . and falter when we don’t see something soon enough. And often, what we do see is far from what we’re praying for. So our focus moves to that direction—away from hope and faith—and we grow discouraged.

But as elusive as it may be, walking by faith is the call of God for us as believers. And there’s such great encouragement in that, because whatever God calls us to do, He gives us the ability to do. And since we have the Spirit of the living God within us, we can actually walk by faith.

Let me say that again: We can actually walk by faith.

But we do need to put away a few things. Why do we wear discouragement like a cloak? Why do we receive fear and doubt as companions? They are not part of kingdom life. They are trespassers, and we let them in. But armed as we are with the power of God, we can kick them out.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord wants to use us as vessels for His glory, wherever we are planted. And His work in and through us requires a walk of faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

So, honestly? This faith-walk can’t be elusive. It has to be the heartbeat of our lives. Can we together focus on building up this all-important muscle of faith? God has given us everything we need.

In this week’s video—4 Essentials to Jumpstart Your Walk of Faith—I delve more into this. Yes, you guessed it—“reject fear and doubt” is among them. We’ve got one life to live on this earth. We know where we’re headed. The victory is already ours. While we’re here, why not walk with the power, assurance, wisdom, truth, grace, strength, and fearlessness that are ours in Christ Jesus? Let’s walk by faith!

Christian living, grace, killing sin, temptation

Fleeing & Pursuing

March 29, 2015

Fleeing & PursuingDavid was on the run. He’d been anointed the next king of Israel, but if the current king had anything to do with it, it would never happen. Saul was jealous of David, and told his servants to put him to death. And one day, Saul decided he would do it himself—and hurled a spear to pin David to the wall.

The Bible tells us, “David fled and escaped that same night” (1 Samuel 19:10).

Notice: David didn’t hesitate. When he saw that his life was at risk, he fled that night and stayed on the run for a good while, until he was safe.

There was another particular day when now King David was at risk—the day he walked on his rooftop and saw Bathsheba bathing. Temptation met him head-on, and with it, the risk of sin and the death that it brings (James 1:15). David did not flee that time. He entered into the temptation and sinned by committing adultery with the very married Bathsheba. She became pregnant, and David faced temptation and the prospect of sin once again. But once again, he didn’t flee. David had her husband Uriah killed in battle, heaping sin upon sin.

We can learn much from these instances in David’s life. Like David, we have a natural instinct to flee when our physical lives are at risk. But when temptation puts us at risk, the natural instinct is to move toward it. Why? Because temptation caters to our lusts, the things we desire strongly. For our flesh and the sin nature within, it’s only natural to move toward it. That’s why God commands us and gives us power to oppose what’s natural and to flee immorality, idolatry, youthful lusts, and the like.

But here’s the interesting thing, especially for those who remember our “In Hot Pursuit” study. Flee is the opposite of pursue. As I meditated on these two words, I was blown away by how they relate to and impact one another with respect to our Christian walk. This is what this week’s video is about. It’s important to understand because many of us are struggling with temptation and sin—and often it’s because we’ve gotten weighed down in our pursuit.

I guess I could have called this an In Hot Pursuit Reboot. :-) Let’s talk about where we are and how we’re doing.

Christian living, faith, fear, prayer

Be Anxious for Nothing

March 17, 2015

be anxious (2)It was number 4 on the list of things I’ve learned in raising my son, and it’s the one on which most people have commented—“be anxious for nothing.” It seems I’m not the only one who’s had to be reminded of this a time or two . . . or a hundred. But as I thought about it today, I began to rejoice over reasons why we don’t have to be anxious.  And I scribbled them on a piece of paper, and thought I’d share my scribbles in the hope that you would be encouraged as well.

So many reasons to be anxious for nothing . . .

Because there’s not a circumstance in which God chooses not to be God.

There’s not a situation in which He ceases to be sovereign.

There’s no trial or hardship that strips Him of power or authority.

He has never been surprised, awed, confounded, or conflicted by a single happening in a single life.

There has yet to be a second of a minute of an hour in a day in which He is not all-knowing, all-wise or Almighty.

His eye will never leave a single sparrow.

And His love will never leave a single one of us.

Be anxious?  I think I’d rather rejoice!

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7