Friday, July 8, 2016

Surrendering our Country and our Lives

I have debated on whether to comment on the recent events. I've seen some really well-written comments, some hate-filled comments, and some ignorant comments. I hope mine will fall into the first category.
Our country has lived a long time without the feeling of danger or violence around every corner. That is changing pretty dramatically as of late. The truth is, however, there are people who live with violence every day. Both here, and around the world.
Our country is broken. Not because of race issues, but because of sin issues. Race issues are a symptom, not a cause. When people don't acknowledge a sovereign and loving Creator of all people, they don't recognize the value of each and every person. As our country continues to shove God aside and kick Him out of our lives, honoring and respecting people will continue its downward spiral.
There is violence, there is racism, there is hate, there is evil, because we live in a fallen world. Many of us stay fairly isolated from this and we've gotten very complacent. Myself included.
Not all cops are racist or cruel, just like not all young black men are violent criminals. There is a small segment in every population group that propagates evil and negative impressions. There are also people who simply make bad decisions in one moment of time that causes many negative consequences.
The answer is never retaliation, revenge, or condemning a whole group of people. Ever.
The answer in each one of us is to look squarely at the truth of living in a fallen world. A world that has never and will never be perfect. A country, though while I still believe is one of the greatest in the world and in history, was never and will never be perfect. Because the world and our country are filled with and run by imperfect, sinful people. Some more than others, true, but we all fall short of perfection.
No amount of name-calling, hate-spewing, or violence will solve a single problem in this country, or in our individual lives, for that matter.
The answer in each of us, once we've looked realistically on this fallen world, is to then turn to the One who is perfect. Who did live a perfect life. Who loves perfectly. To humbly fall on our knees before Him, repent of our own sin and any contribution to discord, accept His grace, and seek His power to be more like Him.
Faith cannot be something we glance at or play at, but it must be real, lived out every day for His glory. Only then will we see the path to joining together in true love, despite those who will never choose that path and will always breed evil and hate.
As long as we're living on this fallen earth, there will be people who choose sin. Let us just be sure that we instead choose God's grace, mercy, and love.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

God Brings us to Safety

But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Acts 27:43-44

I've been reading through Acts the last several months, slowly, taking only a chapter or section at a time. It's been truly amazing! What God reveals of Himself in the faithful telling of the early Jesus followers. The miracles He performed. The power He gave. The love, justice, and callings. It's been such a blessing!

I may go back and look over my notes (I've been reading with some friends and we share our thoughts and lessons God's teaching us) and share some from previous chapters, but as I sat down today to write, the last couple of verses from chapter 27 came forward.

In chapter 27, Paul is being transported to Italy as a prisoner. He's spent somewhere between 2-3 years in prison already, and now he's making a treacherous trip via ship. We can only imagine the discomforts of traveling on a cargo ship with almost 300 people 2000 years ago. For weeks. In a storm for days.

I'm sure the passengers and crew were weary. Tired. Scared. And ready to give up.

We don't have to experience those exact conditions to feel the same way. There are a variety of life circumstances that bring us to the end of our rope. During these times, it's hard to remember that God is still sovereign and He is still with us.

Like Paul did.

During the whole retelling of this journey by Luke (which seems to be a firsthand account, since much of it is written using "we") it never seems that Paul loses his cool. He doesn't seem frightened at all. Actually, he seems full of confidence. There is only one place this kind of confidence comes from - from a most intimate relationship with the Lord.

By truly living in a way in which every single detail of your life is surrendered to the Lord, as I believe Paul did.

We can too. Because living surrendered means we trust that God will bring us safely to shore. That He'll sustain us through the storm. That our life is really His, not ours.

Paul had this calmness even though he faced possible death once he reached his destination. This is because he knew He belonged to God and owed God his very life. God provided temporary safety for the boat passengers and crew after the ship ran aground, and He will do the same for us.

But the most important safety God brings us to is eternal safety. If we can keep our eyes fixed on that, we will experience the same peace Paul did despite any storm that comes our way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Battling the Flesh

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. 
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matthew 26:41

At times, it seems like these words written over 2000 years ago were written just for me. Why is it that I so desire to live in God's will and be obedient to Him  I let my flesh rule so often? The answer is found right here: the flesh is weak.

I know I'm not the only one struggling with a weak flesh, evidenced by the conversation I had with a good friend this morning. She shared her own struggles of the flesh.

While it seems like this verse was written just for me, the truth is we all struggle against a weak flesh. What the exact item that trips us up doesn't really matter. 

I've been on a journey to living surrendered for a while now, and I've experienced times of victory and times of defeat. Sometimes those fluctuations are a result of changing circumstances, but more often than not it's when I'm not faithful in my time with the Lord.

There's a reason Jesus told His disciples to engage in the battle of the flesh with prayer. It is the strongest weapon we have against giving into our desires. Prayer engages the Holy Spirit and wells His power within us. Prayer refocuses us on the eternal instead of the temporal. And prayer reminds us to praise God for the things He has given us already instead of the things we want.

Battling the flesh is a day by day, sometimes moment by moment fight. We will never win it on our own, but already have victory in our Savior. To live in that victory we have to be willing to fight. To ignore the flesh. To redirect it. To beat it into submission.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 9:27 - But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

We've been convinced that depriving ourselves of something is bad. That hard work is bad. That discipline is a negative thing. But biblically, these are all to our benefit.

Yet, even though I know this, my flesh tells me the opposite. For for this decision, this day, I will double down in prayer and seek God for His strength to build up self-control in me to I can resist the flesh. It won't be easy. There may even be tears. But, when I have victory, oh how sweet it will be! Won't you join me?

Friday, January 29, 2016

God is Good, But He Isn’t Very Nice

In “The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, Lucy asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe.  Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”  If you are unfamiliar with this book, Aslan is an allegorical picture of Jesus.  Mr. Beaver’s words used to confuse me.  How can someone be good, but not safe?  I came to understand that the God who created the universe with just His words was not to be trifled with.  Sort of like your dad when he said, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”  Only much, much more serious.

But now I’ve come to learn a different, deeper meaning to this.  Somewhere I read that the Lord isn’t interested in making us happy.  Instead He is interested in making us like Jesus.  (I apologize to whoever said this because I cannot remember where I read it.)  And sometimes that is a very painful process that does not feel very safe at all.

Like a lot of people, I believed that Jesus had the power to save me.  I also believed…sort of…that He had the power to change me.  At least I said I did.  But my actions showed that I believed that I had to remake myself into someone who manifested all of the Fruit of the Spirit all of the time.  That is really hard.  There is a reason it is the fruit of the SPIRIT and not the fruit of the WILL.  That is because it is impossible to will yourself into being that.

However, that did not stop me from trying.  And, as I look around, it doesn’t stop a lot of other people from trying too.  I truly believed that I had to earn God’s approval.  Salvation was a gift, but not approval.  And so, I held on with every ounce in my being.  And it worked for quite awhile.  Sort of.  Well, not really.  But I managed to cover up my foibles from the outside world.  But I knew that I was totally failing the Lord.  And I was sure that He was watching me and just shaking His head in disgust.
I was deeply unhappy and started realizing that when I tried to do things in my own righteousness, I was getting the glory.  I wanted God to get the glory, so I told Him I was going to let Him have total control.  I expected that, even if everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, I would now begin to deal with the problems that came my way effortlessly.  And, deep down, where I don’t even admit it to myself, I thought there wouldn’t’ be any problems anyway. 

Boy was I wrong!  I expected the Lord to either calm all of my storms or calm me.  Instead the storms hit harder than ever and I fell apart.  I didn’t even like being around me.  I was one big raw nerve and so, so reactive.  I think I went a little bit crazy.  Maybe more than a little bit.  I was an absolute and total mess.  And partly because of my mess, life got harder.  I started having panic attacks.  It was horrible.

I had looked at my grand experiment of letting God take control of my emotions as taking a step off of a cliff, expecting that either there would be something under my feet or I would be given wings.  But instead, it was like God shoved me right off that cliff and let me fall and lie at the bottom, broken into pieces. 

That’s not what I signed up for.  It’s not what anyone tells you happens when you start trusting God.  Everyone tells you how God shows up and gets you through.  But that is not what happened to me.  God really pushed me off that cliff.
Why would He do that?  Why would He cause me, his daughter who was just trying to trust Him, to crash quite publickly.  What kind of witness is that!  There were a lot of non-Christians watching this play out.  I’m sure this didn’t cause them to move any closer to the Lord.  “If that’s what being a Christian is, I don’t want any part of it,” was what I was sure they were thinking.

See?  God is not safe.  And pushing me off that cliff was certainly not very nice.  But God knew that the only way to change me into the woman He had always intended me to be was to cause me to fall apart to the point that I couldn’t fix myself.  Only He could bring it about.

And so, in His goodness, He began picking up my broken pieces and putting me back together.  Sometimes I would think I was all better, only to find that He would have to break something new.  It was not fun.  There was pain.  There were buckets of tears. 
But now I’m not the woman I was a few years ago.  I’m so glad not to be her any more.  I know that I cannot hold myself together.  Ever.  And I don’t need to any more.  I am amazed at my current ability to manage the stress that comes my way.  Things that used to overwhelm me no longer do.  Things will happen and I will wait to see when the anger is going to erupt, but it rarely does.  Because I am the recipient of much grace, I am much more willing to give out grace to others.  And I am much happier.  Truly happy and full of joy, not the weak substitute that I used to manufacture on my own.

I can’t give you a step-by-step plan to go from crazy to sane.  There is no step-by-step plan.  I just went to Jesus and asked Him to help me love Him more, for Him to be more real to me, and for my life to be centered around Him.  I asked him to reignite my sense of awe in who He is. I read the Bible.  I prayed. 

Looking back, He was not very nice to me.  He hurt me and caused so much anguish in my life.  But He was at work to turn me into a woman after His own heart, who knows that her only hope for sanity is in Him.  When things do bother me, I know that the way out is through Him.  My Bible has become my refuge.  So, I am thankful for the process, no matter how hard it was to live through.

If things are hard for you right now.  If you feel like God has pushed you off a cliff to break apart, He probably has.  And the new you that He is fashioning is so much better than anything you could have done in your own power.  It is worth the pain.  Aslan is indeed on the move, and He is not safe.

By Elisa Gray

Monday, January 25, 2016

God is Completely Good - Prayer & Response


I praise You for who You are! You are good, holy, perfect, sovereign, love, gracious, patient, faithful, marvelous, wonderful, priceless, awesome, and amazing. I can't even begin to comprehend Your

Complete Goodness.

There is nothing evil, selfish, prideful, or harmful in You. Not even a drop. My fleshly, sinful heart and mind can scarce imagine it. No wonder everyone falls at a mere glimpse of You.

My heart wonders; let it stray no more. Do not turn from me. Make me faithful. Mold me to be more like you. I do not ask for forgiveness in this moment because I know your mercy and grace has flowed over all my sin already. It is washed away completely by Your blood. Thank You, Lord!

Thank you!!

Response: You're welcome, My daughter. My love for you is infinite. Draw close to Me and I will draw close to you. Soak in my love. Bask in My love. Receive my glory. I love you, My precious child. I love you.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Word of the Year - 2016

Have you ever done a word of the year? Do you have one for this year?

This is the second or third year I've had a word I've used to keep me focused where God is leading me to focus.

This year my word is...


It's a big word with big meaning. The purpose behind it is to keep me focused on the commitments I've made so I can follow through with them and not get distracted away from them. It also means to be careful what commitments I make. To commit to only the things God is leading me to. Then do them with full commitment.

So far, I've been able to stay focused and committed to my 2016 projects. (And a few from 2015 I didn't stay committed to.)

Alas, it is only January! So, my prayer is that I stay committed to seeking the Lord daily in what He desires me to do. What His will is, instead of just what's on my agenda. Hopefully, I'll be able to share in February, March and even all the way through December that, by God's grace, I've stayed committed.

This is an especially big undertaking because of what I feel God's called me to do this year;

* Write a 12 book mini-ebook series on being #transformed.
* Keep consistent on my blogs.
* Video blog to communicate even more effectively.
* Go to Africa on my first international mission trip.
* Finish a few book projects started last year.
* Be effective in my time usage.
* Keep homeschooling and loving my babies
* Be consistent and available for my hubby and support him as he begins to build our new house.

Whew! I'm so glad I know it's God that strengthens me, and not me! I'd be worn out already.

Instead, thought, because He's keeping me grounded and energized through spending time with Him in prayer, I know I can do all He's called me to do this year.

Your list may look completely different. It most likely does. But whatever your list looks like, whatever your word is, commit it to the Lord, and He'll give you everything you need to do everything He's called you to do.

I'd love to know what your word is for 2016! And to hear what God's doing in your life. Comment below or email me at And, as always, I invite you to join my mailing list at my website to keep updated on all the things God is doing.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Friday, January 22, 2016

Be Still - A response from God

My daughter,

Be still.

Be held by Me. Do not settle for less. Do not turn to the things of this world, even the benign things, for comfort and restoration. You are Mine and I cherish you and love you with an everlasting love. I have called you for something greater. Do not settle for good.

Do not fear or draw back from the work or the difficult. Do not rely on yourself or your own strength. You are right that you cannot do it all - in yourself. But nothing is impossible for Me and in Me you can do every single thing I call you to do. It may not look like you expect it to, but it will always look the way I intended it to.

Be still, draw near to Me, and I will fill you.