Meet Ann | Confidence Without Compromise #1

Ann_CWC Feature_4 9 18

Ann, Maryland

Founder, Shreddedgrace.com

A blogger, vlogger, author, and stroke survivor. In this week’s feature, Ann talks about fulfilling God’s plan in our lives–when our plans are interrupted.

Continue reading “Meet Ann | Confidence Without Compromise #1”

Understanding Your Season | Video

Life has different seasons. Times of joy, times of loss. Times of preparation, times of blessings. But what happens when our current season is tough? What is the purpose of difficulties and trials?

The Bible has a lot to say about seasons. In today’s YouTube video, I talk about how we can use God’s Word to identify our current season–and understand the beautiful transformation that can take place in our lives today!

Click below to watch!

 

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Day 13: I enjoy spending time with you | Love Letters

Re·la·tion·ship: The condition or fact of being related; a connection, association, or involvement.

[Source]

Relationship requires investment.

When you want to build new relationships with people, you make time for them. Conversations over texts and calls. Time spent together. You ask questions, you share details about your life. Eventually, you’ve gotten to know them well and have developed a closeness with them.

The same thing goes when you want to deepen an existing relationship with people you already know. You make the time, you show up, you involve yourself in their lives. You connect. You associate yourself with them.

Our relationship with God takes on a similar process. When you decide to follow the Lord, you are able to build a relationship with Him that can grow and get even better over time. You involve yourself with Him. You connect with Him. You associate yourself with Him.

Like a friendship, you must invest in your relationship with God if you want to develop it. When you care about someone, you sacrifice for that individual. If you want God in your life, you sacrifice to make time for Him and to get to know Him.

Did you know that God rejoices in spending time with you? He absolutely loves it!

As a loving father cares for his child, God sees you as His child whom He loves deeply. He wants to have a real relationship with you.

The Bible talks of a God who takes delight in His people. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) states, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Psalm 147:11 (ESV) says, “But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Fear in this passage does not mean to be afraid; we’re not meant to simply be afraid of God. Rather, it means to have reverence for or to respect. In other words, God notices those who have reverence for Him–those who acknowledge Him for who He is–and He honors those people!

Genesis 1:27 mentions that God created humankind in His image. This means that we were created to have an association with Him. We are meant be in relationship with our Creator. We are made to bear His image, or represent Him well–to show who He is and the attributes of His love. The only way we can reflect this image is if we know what it looks like. And so, in order to know our true identity, we must know God, the One who knows who we’re made to be!

Our hearts yearn for something greater that cannot be found on this earth. And God yearns for you, too. James 4:8 says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. He is available, but He does not force. He is near, but He does not push Himself. He waits patiently. And when you come, He will come.

Do you ever feel neglected when a friend doesn’t show up for you? Or forgotten when someone doesn’t reach out to you? God gets it. He understands how you feel, and He has compassion towards you: “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him” (Psalms 103:13 NLT). He also notices when you don’t reach out to Him, too.

Revelation 3:20 mentions that God is calling out for you. When you answer, He will “eat with,” or fellowship with, you.

A relationship with God cannot be built through someone else. For example, just because your parents have a relationship with Him, doesn’t mean you have it, too. God is acquainted with them already, and He wants to get to know you. Consider this: if your friend is friends with someone else, it doesn’t make you friends with that same person (even if you know a little or a lot about them). You must take the initiative to get to know that person for yourself.

It’s never too late to build or rebuild a relationship with God. Study His Word–get to know what He says and who He is. How He sees you, what He wants you to know. Talk to Him, reach out to Him. Even if you can’t find words, you can sit in silence and ask for the comfort of His presence.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

Love Letter 13

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 12
Read Day 14

 

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Day 7: I provide a way out | Love Letters

Path:

  1. A route, course, or track along which something moves.
  2. A course of action, conduct, or procedure.

[Source]

In the midst of challenges, we sometimes feel alone. We might feel as though our prayers aren’t working. That God doesn’t hear us. And that He doesn’t love us.

These ideas are sneaky lies the devil tries to seep into your thoughts. Satan wants you to believe God isn’t listening and doesn’t love you, because he doesn’t want you to turn to God. And so, these difficult moments are the times we must hold onto the Lord even more.

In a battle, the opposing side you’re up against doesn’t want you to win. Your enemy will try any tactics to get rid of you. It’s a huge bonus if your enemy catches you distracted, because that’s the best time to strike. Similarly, the devil–your enemy in this world–will try to get your eyes off God to distract you in order to attack you. Negative thoughts aren’t from the God of love and freedom–they’re from the devil who comes to steal, kill, and destroy you (John 10:10). Spoiler alert: God is more powerful than the enemy, so you have nothing to fear if you follow Him.

God doesn’t passively watch you struggle in life. He actively fights for you. You can’t know the future, and you can’t see things from miles away. However, your Heavenly Father can. Not only is God working on your behalf now–He’s clearing your path of future obstacles you can’t see.

God will not leave you hanging in the midst of the battle. He won’t suddenly desert you, leaving you to fend for yourself. He will provide the path–the course of action, or the route–that will lead to your victory.

Although you don’t see the way out now, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming. I urge you to keep your trust in God and find protection in Him. One way you can practice trust is by waiting on God–instead of rushing ahead and making final decisions without His instruction.

God’s instruction comes with peace. It may not be what you expect, but you’ll know it’s from God if you know Him. God keeps His word. He’s unchanging and acts based on His character, which you can learn for yourself by reading the Bible (His Word).

Take your hands off, and allow God the space to move in your life. He won’t force you–He’ll look for your willingness to let Him work. But whether God has told you to wait, leave, go ahead, or stop, your obedience will be worth it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Love Letter 7

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 6

Read Day 8

 

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Day 5: I have made a sacrifice for you | Love Letters

Sac·ri·fice: to make an offering of; to destroy, surrender, or suffer to be lost for the sake of obtaining something.

[Source]

True love means action.

It’s one thing for God to claim He is loving, but we can know His love is fact for ourselves, because He has demonstrated it to us. He has acted upon His love, and He continues to do so today.

But sin separates us from understanding God’s love.

It’s no secret that evil exists in the world today. By simply watching or reading the news, we become aware of tragedies, injustices, and horrific events every single day.

This is the state of mankind, which began when humans first rebelled against God. Romans 5:12 (ESV) states, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—.”

That is, after Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden, sin entered the world. Since then, man has continued to fall into a path of sin–evil acts that have resulted in death and destruction. Initially when we think of sin, we probably think of obvious evils such as murder, stealing, and other unjust crimes that clearly lead to death and destruction.

However, sin also includes acts that may seem justifiable at times such as lying, jealousy, etc. These “little” sins have big consequences. It’s like a domino effect–one thing leads to another. Deceiving someone can cause extreme brokenness–many relationships suffer greatly because of that. Jealousy can lead people to do some pretty messed up things. I mean, think about Cain and Abel (the sons of Adam and Eve) in Genesis 4. It was Cain’s jealousy of his brother, Abel, that led him to murder him. And just like that, sin continued from one generation to another and literally led to death.

Sin is unfortunately a part of our human nature. I know I have sinned before. We all have. Just as Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, we often choose to do these things.

But I want to emphasize that we have a choice.

God did not create evil. He created us to have the freedom to make choices–Adam and Eve had a choice. We were not made to be robots. But once sin entered the world and evil acts could now exist, God had a plan to redeem His creation and provide justice for the effects of sin.

Again, sin separates us from God. Plain and simple–God is good, evil is bad. You can’t mix the two. Sin and the harm it causes has no place with God, and when mankind fell into sin, it broke our relationship with Him. We now had an affinity for things apart from God. We now wanted to do things our way, not His. Once again, sin has caused destruction and harm in the world. This is not God’s plan for you.

That’s why He sent Jesus Christ, His Son. We are all guilty of sin. Although Jesus did not sin, He took the blame for us, because He loved us. The wages, or the payment, of sin is death, and so Jesus had to die on the cross (Romans 6:23).

Hanging on a cross (crucifixion) was a form of execution for criminals at the time. Although Jesus is God, He is God in the flesh (aka as a man)–that means, He could feel everything we could feel, emotionally and physically. And so, as He hung on that cross, He felt every sting of pain, having His body beaten, His hands pierced, and His lungs gasping for air as He suffocated while hanging. But also as God, Jesus could rise again from the dead three days later, which would have otherwise been impossible. Fully man and fully God, Jesus could do what no man could do. Defeat the very thing that sin caused–death.

This is God’s true love for you: He sacrificed His own Son so that you could be saved from this very penalty of sin: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

Now remember this: we have a choice. We can still choose to do things–good and bad. And so, evil still exists on earth–and there is a consequence for that. This is where God’s justice comes in. Sin, or evil, has to be punished. Hell is the punishment of sin, a place of eternal death, torment, and destruction, where we would be separated from God forever–again, because sin cannot exist where He is: “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV).

But death is not God’s will for you. This is why He has prepared a place for us in heaven. Heaven is a place with no sin, where any suffering we experience on earth will no longer exist–it’s eternal life: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

You do not get into heaven by simply doing good works. Jesus was the only One who gave His life to cover for you, and it’s through Him that you can secure your place in heaven. God clearly shows us how to do this in His Word: If you confess that you are a sinner and repent of your sins, believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior who died and rose again for you, God will forgive your sins (Romans 10:9).

By accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can have security that you belong to God–the God who loves you and made this sacrifice for you–and you will not perish but instead, you will have eternal life. Through this decision you make, you have no condemnation, you are no longer held guilty for your sins, and you now have power in Him to overcome sin in your life. I encourage you with my entire heart to make this decision today.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Love Letter 5

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.
Read Day 4

Read Day 6

 

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Day 4: I can give you Life | Love Letters

Life-giving: having the power of providing sustenance, spirit or life.

[Source]

One of the most fascinating things about the world is how one thing can give life to another:

  • A mother can give birth, giving life to her child.
  • A flower can leave pollen behind to reproduce, giving life to other flowers.
  • A cell can divide itself to multiply, giving life to other cells–which give life to life.

In all cases, the source is vital. One living source is necessary to provide life to other things.

This fact about nature also reflects a fact about the Lord. God manifests His love for us by remaining the Source in, of, and for our lives. 

If you need to be filled, He fills you: “and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 ESV).

If you are searching for answers, He provides answers: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5 NIV).

If you need peace, He gives peace: “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11 NIV).

In short, He’s the living Source who will sustain you in this life, and the next one.

The next one? Huh?

Death is real. But life after death is as well. God gives us plenty of heads up about it in His Word–because just as God doesn’t want to hide Himself from you, He doesn’t want to hide this from you, either. He loves you so much that He wants you to find life in Him. And He wants you to know that you need to receive life in Him for later.

God provides security after death. He offers a place for you in heaven, because He loves you. And it’s free for you to take today.

This is not a place that is hidden from you or can be taken from you. When you make a personal decision to trust in God and live for Him now, you have this place in heaven forever.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in the past. He provides renewal, a new life. And He freely offers Himself for you to receive Him.

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26 NIV).

Love Letter 4 bold

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 3

Read Day 5

 

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Day 2: You can give Me your burdens | Love Letters

Bur·den:

  1. Something that is carried.
  2. Something that is emotionally difficult to bear; a source of great worry or stress.
  3. A responsibility or duty.

[Source]

You were not made to carry everything. But it’s quite easy to think you’re supposed to.

We live in a DIY culture: Do it yourself. Make it happen. Figure it out. Find a way. Solve the problem. Don’t wait for anyone.

Now. There is some value we can take from these thoughts: Don’t just lean on anything. When the storms come, you discover what is made of substance and what is not. A house set on an unstable foundation is bound to crumble when a natural disaster strikes. A boat built with weak materials will sink when it’s tossed to and fro on the ocean.

We need to stand on something with substance–something that is stable enough to hold us up, to keep us afloat no matter what.

Leaning on yourself can’t do that.

Have you ever been in a situation where you stop and think, Wow. I can’t do this…? Have you tried pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline only to realize you fell asleep hours in? Have you promised a friend a favor only to realize days later, I can’t believe I forgot to do that!

We get tired, we get faint, we run out of energy. We fail, we break promises, we forget. It’s normal. But it shows how human we are.

You were not made to carry everything.

God provides access to Him because He knows this. We can go to Him freely. God takes joy in talking to you. He loves providing a way for you, opening doors, and seeing you fulfill your purpose. He sees you in your challenges, and He wants to help.

It’s not your duty to carry your burden on your own. Whatever you’re carrying today, give it to the Lord. What does that mean? Go to Him about it. Talk to Him about it like you would talk to a friend. Humans can only do so much.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Love Letter 2.png

14 days of learning God’s love. Learn about the Love Letters here.

Read Day 1

Read Day 3

 

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Feeling Stuck?

Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)


Imagine this:

Complete darkness.

You can’t stand, because the place you’re in is too narrow. You can only crawl. You can’t see up ahead, and there’s not enough space for you to turn around if you wanted to. The only direction to move is forward, even though you have no idea where you’re going.

One Way_Blog Featured Image
Photo: Brendan Church

Not ideal? Yeah, I know.

When I was in elementary school, I went to a science museum with my brothers, and we experienced the Touch Tunnel. Eighty feet of pitch-black darkness, and the only way to move through was to crawl. The purpose of the tunnel was to show the significance of sight in our experience of the world.

All we had now was ourselves and our ability to feel our way through a strange abyss.

I may or may not have been afraid of the dark, but one consolation was the employee’s voice that came through the speakers any time we stalled in the tunnel: “Stay to the left, the left, the left…”

(Try not to think of Beyoncé’s lyrics. Okay, now you’re thinking about them. Anyways…)

That was the key to escape: Keep left. There were alternate routes that could lead us off course, but because we listened to the voice, we were out in no time and free to enjoy the rest of our day at the museum.

Looking back, I knew I would escape (of course), but the feeling of being stuck in a cramped place was uncomfortable.

We like our freedom. We like to know we can move around whenever and wherever we want. We like to know we can show up when we want and leave as we please. We like the lights on to see, and we like to turn the lights off when we’re done.

When something comes in and restricts us or takes away what we always had, it’s not only shocking, it can be devastating.

Maybe your top university rejected your application or you didn’t get the job at the only company you could see yourself working. Perhaps you lost a relationship that was dear to you or experienced the death of a loved one. Your finances didn’t improve the way they needed to or an important event you were waiting on got canceled. You didn’t get the score to pass that exam or you weren’t qualified enough for that program.

Disappointments can come in many forms: rejection, betrayal, failure…you name it. Each case leaves the same feeling: You had a wonderful grasp on your future, and now it’s gone. The future fell far out of your hands before you could even reach out and rescue it.

You did your best. You’ve exhausted all your efforts. Now you don’t know where to go.

So, what do we when we’re stuck?

Continue reading “Feeling Stuck?”

The Reason You Are Unfulfilled

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. 

(Revelation 2:4-5a ESV)


I’ll tell you a juicy secret.

I’m guilty of something. And I realize that every believer is guilty of this, too, at some point in their faith.

In the midst of all the losses and gains in our lives, we forget our first love. standing alone_edit

A fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ can easily stop at the moment of salvation. By that, I mean we invite Christ into our hearts, acknowledging our need for Him for eternal life. This saves us and secures us for heaven. But we need to know that salvation doesn’t stop there. It continues now in our relationship with Him. Just as you desperately needed God to save you from sin, you still desperately need him to be everything–above any earthly desire you currently have.

Are you finding it difficult to really give something to God? You can pray and pray over and over, submitting it to the Lord. And you should. We’re taught to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), to come boldly before the throne (Hebrews 4:16), to test every spirit–any thing or person that comes our way–to see if it is really from God (1 John 4:1).

But if you’re struggling with unfulfilled desires and deep longings that seem to remain unmet time and time again, you may be missing a crucial thing.

Continue reading “The Reason You Are Unfulfilled”

Worship Wednesdays #17 | Intentional

The profile // about the artist

Travis Greene

Travis Greene - Intentional - 2015
Intentional (2015)
  • American gospel musician and pastor
  • From Delaware (leads Forward City Church in Columbia, South Carolina)

The pull // why i like it

There’s no way you can listen to this song and not receive something from it. The lyrics confirm God’s goodness over and over. Add strong instrumentals, and the song instantly becomes a powerful anthem. I’ll admit I’ve had this one on repeat for quite a few days now.

The message // what it means

God is intentional with his work. He is faithful in who He is, never changing, never failing. How can we not put our trust in Him? God uses all things for a purpose and an amazing purpose. So, whatever happens, good or bad, we can trust that He has everything under perfect control.

I know that He’s intentional 
Yes, He is 
He’s been doing it for a long time 
And I’ll be giving my trust now 
I’ll be giving my praise now 
He’s intentional
And He’s never failing

The call // best to listen when

You need a strong reminder of God’s character. If you’re going through a difficult time or just want to praise the Lord, tune in and worship Him in freedom and joy.