I could only imagine the dancing, laughter, and shouts of joy heard throughout heaven the day I surrendered my life to Christ. But I also thought I heard one of the angels say, “Finally!” I let my stubborn self linger in my old life way too long before I asked for forgiveness and turned the reigns of my life over to the only One who knew how to lead me on the right path and soothe all my hurts.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines repentance as “the deeply seated and thorough turning from self to God” (Brand, 2015). Furthermore, it is an experience in which we recognize God as the most critical factor in our existence. This came for me when I hit rock bottom in what some might call the worst year of my life, and rightly so. But I can now see the good God brought out of it and am grateful for the wake-up call it ignited inside my soul. It was the worst and best year of my life.

The act of repentance and forgiveness of sins wipes the slate clean to begin afresh. The first time we accept Christ and allow God to take control of our lives, the weight is lifted, and indescribable freedom ensues. Luke tells us there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than the ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance or are best understood as those who think they don’t need to repent (Luke 15:7, ESV). Repentance is not just for unbelievers or a one-time coming to Jesus moment. For believers, it is a daily conformity to the will of God where we must constantly engage in self-examination and allow the Holy Spirit to point out where we need to change to make more room for Him in our hearts.

I believed in God and Jesus; I was baptized when I was nine but didn’t know how to put Christ first in my life or that a relationship was possible. It is not about religion and checking off boxes; it is about an intimate relationship that is only possible by the grace that comes through the blood of Christ Jesus. Through this relationship, I experienced complete healing from all my past hurts and had hope for the first time. When I tried to control my life, it was a complete shamble. But God…

Justification is an act that happens in a moment, but sanctification is the ongoing process and work of God’s free grace. Our goal as saved sinners is to become like Jesus in every way (Romans 8:2, ESV). If we are on this earth, we are still sinners needing repentance. The sanctification process continues until we die; then, we will be made entirely in the image of Christ. The sanctification process begins the moment we receive Christ. If the Holy Spirit is within us, we have the assurance that Christ’s atoning work will continue to intercede for us.

We are forgiven forever by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, and He intervenes for us to the Father on our behalf. But this does not mean we can or should continue in sin. As Paul writes, this is not an excuse to continue sinning. We were buried to death in baptism just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father so that we too will walk in newness of life, set free from the enslavement of sin (Romans 6:1-4, ESV). It may seem like hard work to give up the things of comfort and our old habits, but our suffering, in this way, produces endurance, which builds character, and character strengthens our confident hope for salvation (Romans 5:4, ESV).

I was a mess when I came to Christ. I didn’t need to wait until I cleaned myself up; there was not enough soap in this world to do that. But once I surrendered everything to God, the Holy Spirit helped me by changing my heart and shaping my character.

This verse has become my daily prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10, ESV emphasis added). I also pray for God to reveal any areas in my life that I need to change so I can walk in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:25, ESV) and align myself with His will. Working on my relationship with God improves all my other relationships and is the best decision I have ever made.

Do you have an intimate relationship with your heavenly Father? What are you waiting for? To conform our lives to Christ and put away our old selves can seem challenging, and we put it off because we aren’t ready for the change that will occur. I know because I put it off, and at one time, I wouldn’t even take the abusive relationship to God in prayer because I wasn’t ready for Him to change it. I was gripping it with white knuckles. That is until I realized God wanted a better life for me. One I couldn’t see for myself. We tend to stay where it is familiar, even if the situation is terrible but take it from me, I am grateful I took that one step of faith towards God. As soon as I did, He scooped me up in His arms like the long-lost sheep and probably said, “Finally! Come home, my daughter; you are safe now.”

If your life is anything like my old life – knowing what I know now – I would run to Him! It is your choice, but know this…God loves you fiercely and wants the very best for you. In my book, Jesus Christ is the very best.


I woke yesterday morning at 3 AM to a loud pop followed by no electricity. As I lay in the dark, I thought of everything I couldn’t do when I got up – like making my usual oatmeal in the microwave and mixing my protein drink in the magic bullet. I began to wonder what I was going to eat for breakfast.

We sometimes take for granted things like electricity that make our lives easier every day until it’s not there. My strawberry jam sandwich didn’t quite satisfy like my normal oatmeal. Dressing in the dark can become guesswork in whether you put your shirt on backward until you get in the light.

When we unplug from God’s Word, we don’t realize how far we stray from His presence and light until we awaken in the dark. We can substitute the life-giving manna – the bread of life (John 6:48, ESV) – for our own concoctions that don’t satisfy or sustain us. We don’t always realize our dependency on God until we don’t feel His presence and feel like we are in the dark.

Like dressing in the dark, we can’t see how backward our ways are to God’s until we return to His light and let Him lead us and our hearts. In Isaiah 55:8, the Lord declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” For this reason, we need to abide in Him (John 15:4, ESV) and lean not on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5, ESV). This is a good reason to be still, listen to His voice, and ask for discernment and direction from the Holy Spirit.

At the break of dawn, as I ran through my neighborhood, I realized the power issue was isolated to just a few houses, and others around me had power. When we go out on our own without consulting God, we can feel isolated and alone, but the truth is that God is always with us. We must plug back into His wonder-working power and acknowledge that we need Him every moment.

I had the opportunity to thank the repair crew working to fix the issues – how many times do we remember to thank God for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have, which can lead to self-pity or complaining? We will probably not receive more until we are grateful for what we have now—just food for thought.

Jesus’ Letters

“I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5, ESV, emphasis added).

That can’t be a good thing.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Christ to remove the light within me because I did not hear and heed His warnings to repent.

The book of Revelation holds many mysteries and sometimes seems scary to read, but the book begins with the apostle John, who has been exiled to the Island of Patmos, recording letters from Christ to the seven churches.

Each letter has an “I know” statement from Christ, diagnosing the church’s condition, continues with a warning to hear and heed what the Spirit is saying, and then supplies a solution that graciously comes with a promise and blessings for those who persevere.

Christ invites everyone to examine themselves, considering these messages. We should make sure the light we think we have isn’t darkness (Luke 11:35). An excellent way to do that is to ask God to reveal anything in our hearts that is not of Him so we can declutter and make more room for the Spirit.

The repetitive message to each church is to listen to what the Spirit says – in other words, heed the warnings. Ephesus is warned to return to their first love; Smyrna and Philadelphia are only given praises and encouragement to be faithful to death while promised that faith in Jesus assures access to the eternal kingdom, even in the face of persecution; Pergamum and Thyatira are warned about false teachings and immoral deeds; Sardis is told to wake up and complete her works of obedience; and finally, Laodicea is told to turn from self-deception and repent of their lukewarmness.

Each end with a different promise, a blessing for those who conquer. I won’t list them all here, but I encourage you to reread these passages as if they are written to you personally. These letters may have been recorded to address issues in the churches of their time, but they are a single unified message to the church in all times and places. The state of the churches in John’s time is similar to today (Brand, 2015).  

God still calls Christians to faithfulness and integrity. Those who heed the message will reap God’s promised rewards, and those who fail will be judged. I pray that our lampstand is not removed – I thank God for His mercy and patience. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit’s correction and guidance. In God alone, we can persevere and reap the promised rewards.


Brand, C., ed., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2015).


Does a puddle still elicit childhood memories of splashing in your rain boots? Small, seemingly insignificant items can trigger these and many other memories throughout our day. But how do we store all those memories and still take on all the new information we receive daily?

Our brains are like sophisticated filing systems, constantly storing, retrieving, and discarding information. We receive a tidal wave of new information daily – and a lot of insufficient data is included.  So, how do we process it? Where do we store it or get rid of it?

We must counteract it with good by intentionally replacing it with God’s Word.

In the Old Testament, we read that God provided manna from heaven each night with the dew to feed the Israelites in the wilderness. Manna is described as a white or pale-yellow gum resin that resembled a tiny coriander seed and tasted like honey wafers (Numbers 11:7; Ex. 16:31, NLT). It is labeled as bread from heaven (Ps. 105:40, ESV) and was ground and baked into cakes (Ex. 16:13-36).

Manna foreshadowed Christ, the authentic Bread from Heaven (Brand, 2015). Jesus assured the Jews that He, not the wilderness food, was the true Bread of Life from heaven that brings eternal life to those who eat it (John 6:30-58). Jesus Christ nourishes people spiritually and is the only satisfaction for our souls. The Word was with God (interpersonal relationship between Christ and God). The Word was God (Jesus is the same God who created the universe) (John 1:1). The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus speaks words of eternal life. The Holy Spirit works powerfully in and through the words that Jesus says (John 6:53). The Triune – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in one.

Like fabricated memories, our lies can become real if not discarded. They need to be replaced with God’s truth daily to give us spiritual food. It can become toxic and overwhelming if we don’t substitute lies for truth regularly. That is why it is so important to intentionally carve out time to spend in God’s Word, to seek Him above all else, and allow the Holy Spirit to awaken your spiritual life.

After proclaiming Himself as the Bread of Life, Jesus promises never to reject those who come to Him and trust Him for salvation (John 6:35-37). This is manna – food for our souls – a hope to cling to that replaces the magnitude of insufficient data we consume daily.


Brand, Chad., ed. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, B & H Publishing, 2015.

He Isn’t Here!

Would you prefer to receive flowers when you can enjoy them or spread them out across your casket after you’re gone? I would wager that most of us want to give and receive them now while we can see the person’s reaction and smile. At least, that is my preference. I have often said, if you cannot give me flowers while I am here – don’t bother after I am gone.

When Mary, sister to Martha and Lazarus, poured expensive oil over Jesus’ feet from an alabaster jar, she received havoc from the disciples for wasting it (Mark 14:3, ESV). Jesus scolds them for getting on to her and tells them she has anointed Him in preparation for burial. I’ve read this passage many times, but what stood out most recently is the word Jesus uses when he responds – BEFORE my burial (v 8).

I see the alabaster jar and its expensive nard, symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood that was broken and spilled for us; what a precious gift that was and still is something to be cherished. We should be as generous as Mary and give our very best to Christ and others as Christ commands us while they are still alive to receive it.

We also see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before He goes to the cross (John 13:14, ESV). This act served as a humble example for them to follow. Being humble does not mean you think less of yourself, but you think of yourself less. In Luke 6:31, Jesus tells the disciples that if they want someone to do something for them, they take the initiative and do it first for others. Otherwise known as the Golden Rule.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity in a leadership class to do an exercise where I asked my family and friends to give me a one-word description of myself. Then you ask why they chose that word. I highly recommend this – not so you can solicit (hopefully) kind remarks, but to hear them before you are gone. Please do it for someone else as well. So many times, we don’t take the time to tell someone how we feel before it is too late.

Your challenge this week during Holy Week is to look for ways to show Christ’s love for you to someone before they are gone. What small acts of kindness in love can you do for someone?

I will leave you with this Good News: “He isn’t here! He is RISEN…” (Matt. 28:5, ESV emphasis mine). Celebrate that this week by showing kindness and love to others as a gift to Jesus because whatever we do for others, we are doing for Christ (Matt. 25:40, ESV).

God’s Apprentice

When my son was in the third grade, we went to someone’s house to have our car worked on. As we were waiting, their son, who was about the same age, was riding a horse in the yard. It seemed gentle enough. When the boy asked if Bradley would like to ride and offered to lead him around, he agreed. The first round went okay, but when he came around the second time, the boy led the horse over top of the family dog. The horse stepped on the dog, and in turn, it bit the horse, causing it to throw him, landing him on the ground with a solid thud that knocked his breath out and gave everyone a scare. He was sure that with all the adults standing around, someone would catch him, but that was not the case.

As I was reminded of this story recently, it made me think of the reins on our lives and whom we allow to lead us. Is it us, someone else, or the idols that control us, or are we allowing God to hold the reins on our lives and lead us on the path He has designed?

God always prepares the way before us, one step at a time. Some take one small step in their spiritual journey and take three giant leaps backward to where they began. Most of us try to get ahead of God. Sometimes, God gives us a glimpse of our trip, and we are eager to get going, but God knows exactly when we are ready. It takes time to prepare us. I could not have begun my journey working with abused women until I walked down that road and was rescued from that life. I have grand visions for my ministry, but I must finish school to do them correctly and effectively. Perhaps, there are other people involved that God is still working on.

Each of us has a unique gift and role in helping others. Think of it as an assembly line. If one part is missing, the finished product won’t work smoothly. Each person has been trained for their position. They all contribute to the finished product. The final product isn’t complete if one person gets out of line.

We can’t run on a road that isn’t built yet.

We are God’s apprentices, and He equips, shapes, and trains us for the purpose He created us. He sometimes must put blinders on us, so we’ll keep our eyes on Him and not be distracted by the world’s noise. When we think we are in the dark about our next move, we are protected by the shadow of the Almighty’s wing. The path forward has not been prepared. Hope sparks a light for our journey – but we must not rush ahead. We must let Him lead, prepare the way, and look not to the left or right but straight into the eyes of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Let us lay aside all the weights and sin which clings to us and run with patience the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1, ESV).

What do we bring to the table? Humble obedience and adoration for our Maker. We must listen well and allow God to speak into our hearts as we learn from Him like an apprentice and empty ourselves. The more we surrender – the more we gain. God is so good to us that even when we go out on our own and fall on our faces, unlike Bradley’s experience with the horse, we can trust He will catch us.

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, ESV Emphasis added).

Jesus Loves You Fiercely

When our thoughts are cloudy, our feelings and emotions have us tied in knots; we can cling to what God tells us because His Word remains faithful and steadfast, never changing and never-ending (Lamentations 3:22; Ps. 136:3, ESV). Recently, I had to remind myself of this and prayed to God to let me hear His truth – that He will always love me no matter what. I knew my emotions were telling me a different story, and even though our feelings are real, the things we tell ourselves when we are down are not to be taken to heart and allowed to fester inside us.

I can trust what God says when everything seems cloudy around me. He knows exactly what I need because He knows me and my heart.

During these times of despair or sadness, we can cling to His promises, truth, and love. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8, ESV). So, cinch on the belt of truth (Eph, 6:14) and guard against allowing your feelings to rule you and take over what we know to be true in God’s Word. “[Jesus] will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment” (Is. 11:5, emphasis mine).

Take it from me, when we are tired, emotionally down, or distressed, it is not a time to make rash decisions or take a quiz, for that matter. Turn to God instead and ask Him to help you see clearly and not lose sight of His love during this season.

Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20, ESV, emphasis mine).

God told Moses, “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14, ESV). He instructed him to tell Israel that “I AM has sent you.” Then in John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (emphasis mine)

With these verses in mind, I want to propose something for you to cling to that helps me put things into perspective: You are because I AM.

I encourage you to meditate on these verses and let them bring hope as you trust in the only One who sees and knows everything about you and still loves you fiercely.

Debt Free

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to experience? I remember my dad telling a story about my grandpa being away from home – probably visiting a church since he was a preacher too. Times were hard, and their family had to charge for more groceries at the local store than they liked. When he got home, my grandma asked him to go to the store. Knowing they owed a lot already, he dreaded going. But when he got there, with his head down, and asked for more credit, saying he knew he owed so much already, the grocer informed him that the debt had been paid while he was away. Grandma had found a way to pay it off. His dread turned into joy.

Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the good Samaritan who had compassion for a man who was robbed and beaten on the side of the road. He bound up his wounds and took him to an inn where he cared for him. When he had to leave, he gave the innkeeper enough money to care for him and said he would check when he came back to see if he owed any more (Luke 10:34-35, ESV). He did not do this expecting to be paid back; he did it out of love and compassion.

Jesus came to free us from sin’s bondage because we could not free ourselves. He canceled our debt by nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14, ESV). God’s justice demanded an answer for sin, but His love supplied the answer in His Son so that our dread could turn into joy.

The Old Testament covenants had conditions attached. They were foreshadowing the coming of Christ, but Jesus was a new and better covenant because He is a covenant of grace instead of works. God made an irrevocable promise for salvation (Rom. 11:29), fulfilled in Christ. Jesus elevates Himself and the message of the kingdom to be greater than, and the fulfillment of, the three most important institutions in Israel – priest, prophet, and king, when He shows how Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a great fish as a foreshadowing of Himself spending three days in the earth (Matt. 12: 38-42; Luke 11:29-32, ESV).

Jonah was grateful for his salvation but wanted to keep the prophetic message private from the people of Nineveh. He knew God’s character and that if they repented, God would change His mind about destroying them. He finally shared the message with the people by shouting to the crowds when he entered the city – “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4, ESV, emphasis mine). The people understood what that meant. He used the same verb as when God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.19:21-25, ESV).

The story of Jonah shows us how determined God is to get His message to the nations and the need for repentance from sin. It also shows us God’s character and assures us that He “will relent when people repent” (Jonah 3:9, ESV Study Bible notes).

In reading the OT, sometimes it is difficult to understand all the laws, restrictions, and sacrifices God put in place. But it took a lot of sacrifices and rules to do what Jesus Christ did on the cross—nothing we can do ourselves covers that many sins. Our sin was so great that it required Someone much greater to appease the wrath of God. The burdens are lifted, and the laws of Moses are no longer needed because of Jesus Christ!

The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18, ESV). Jesus Christ defeated death. He has risen (Matt. 28:6, ESV)! The love inside us because of Jesus can overflow into the lives of others. We are free because of Christ. He erased our debt. Let us not keep that message to ourselves like Jonah, unwilling to share it with anyone we believe doesn’t deserve to hear it. If you have the hope of Christ in your heart, you were still sinners when God showed His love for you (Rom. 5:8, ESV).

When Jesus was persecuted for dining with the tax collectors and sinners, He told them that those who are well don’t need a doctor; sick people do (Matt. 9:12-13). I want everyone to experience this freedom so they, too, can feel the joy it brings. But that does not mean everything goes and our sins are acceptable before God. We are still called to repentance and obedience as we live for God as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17-21, ESV).

Birds Sing in the Dark

You may (or may not) have noticed that I didn’t post last week. I think God is teaching me how to wait on Him and trust His perfect timing. Have you experienced a season of waiting? Like me, you may find it difficult. When we receive a glimpse from God, we are ready to forge ahead, but most of the time, we are to wait on God. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers notably said that with every vision comes darkness. We are not given the complete view and results – only one small glimpse. When we are in the dark, we must wait for God to speak and show us the right time to move.

Any pressure to perform or move forward is of myself, not God. His yoke is easy, and His burden light (Matt. 11:30, ESV). Chambers also said that when our spirit is dejected, or in my words, disappointed and depressed, it is always of our own doing because we have tried to get ahead of God. Ouch! That stings, but only because it holds so much truth. There is freedom (not bondage) where the Spirit of the Lord is (2 Cor. 3:17, ESV).

We find Jesus speaking to His disciples, teaching them to ask, seek, and knock in Matthew 7:7-11 and Luke 11:5-8. Luke even says those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and those who knock it will be opened. But before we jump on board, let’s dive deeper to see how to apply this correctly. The ESV Study Bible notes that ASK or PRAY: means coming to God humbly and aware of our needs; SEEK: hitches our prayers with responsible actions in pursuing God’s will, not our own; and KNOCK: is our perseverance. Don’t give up just because God hasn’t answered yet. Our persistence comes with the confidence that the Father will provide whatever His gracious and sovereign will is because He knows what is best for us.

But I want to add one more….TRUST. That’s a big one. After we ask, seek God’s will, and knock repeatedly, we must trust God with the outcome and not worry or be disappointed. But waiting in the dark, depending on God’s timing and answer, will be better than we can imagine when it does come.

Waiting is hard, especially when we are in the dark about what God is doing or not doing. But God…is a loving Father who gives GOOD gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11, ESV).

Even birds sing in the dark.

We can still praise God in our hearts – even in the dark and the seasons of waiting. I think God’s love language must be quality time – He loves spending time with His kids. Maybe the seasons of waiting are to draw us closer to Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to comfort us under the shelter of the Most High (Ps. 91:1). Under His wing’s shadow, there is no darkness that His light cannot penetrate.

Do you hear His call? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28, emphasis mine).

Keep Fighting

Keep fighting…but know you are not alone in the fight. Do you keep things that are bothering you to yourself? I find myself doing that sometimes. Even though I know, I have friends and family who will pray for me and with me.

We all go through low times or a season of feeling off; thankfully, they are few and far between. Sometimes we must go through the valley to get to the next, and sometimes higher, mountaintop. There are also times when the enemy will try to keep us down. He does not want us to share our concerns with others because it makes his job easier.

On the run recently, on a morning, the wind was particularly gusty; at one point, in a straight stretch, it felt as if someone had their hand on my forehead holding me back, almost like I was running in place, not making any progress. It can feel the same way when the enemy is interfering – I had another group leader tell me recently that she felt like someone had both hands on her shoulders, weighing her down. Have you ever felt like that?

In these times, we must share our burdens and pray, using the spiritual weapons God gives us. (Putting on the whole armor of God and always praying in the spirit (Eph. 6:11-18, ESV). The enemy must flee by the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name. Jesus is already a victor over death, the grave, and the devil. We can rely on His strength when we are weak.

When I finally blurted out what was troubling me to a trusted friend, the load was lighter because I was no longer carrying it alone. Saying it aloud makes it lose its power and no longer fester inside us. We are not supposed to go it alone. A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Eccl. 4:12, ESV).

This reminded me of the homeplace where I grew up –a bank in our front yard was covered in deep purple irises. When I got older and moved next door, I wanted to dig up a few for my yard, so I tried to divide the many years’ worth of entangled roots to separate them. Even though iris roots are not deeply rooted and are sometimes ‘exposed,’ they intertwine to create a dense mat. Let’s say I didn’t get as many as I had planned. On the other hand, sunflowers can go ten feet deep and branch out. Both grow best in full sun.

We, too, grow best in the full light of the Son. When we feel exposed, it is a time to join forces with others, encourage and help carry one another’s burdens (Heb. 10: 23-25; I Thes. 5:11; James 5:16, ESV). We can stand firm on the promises of God. Jesus promises to always be with us (Matt. 28:20, ESV). May we be deeply rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17, ESV) as we fight the good fight together (I Tim. 6:12, ESV).

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving (Ps. 28:7, emphasis mine).