Praise: God is Unchanging

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19

“Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

I loved what Brandi had to say last week about being poured out like a drink offering before the Lord. Her heart for surrender and submission to the Father’s will is remarkable to me, and I encourage us all to emulate her desire for practical, authentic fasting within our spiritual practice.

This week let’s marvel together in the wonder of God’s unchanging character. God’s “immutability,” to use a technical term, is the part of his nature that quite literally cannot change in any way. This means God does not mature to become a better version of himself, nor does he decline into a bad season or have an “off day.” He lives in a constant state of perfection. In God there are no variables, and none of his opinions are subject to change.

Think about how different this is from ourselves and our world. My feelings and opinions change every day! The world around us is constantly changing. The climate, political leaders, and even technology are in constant flux. Our families are in perpetual dynamic change as people are born, get married, move away, etc. Our jobs change or could change rapidly. Death brings enormous change. Change is all around us and generally (at least for me) can cause great anxiety and fear. In what areas of your life do you tend to resist change?

This is a way God is very different from us. He does not change, ever.  We do not trust the people around us or the future out of fear of change.  People’s ideas change, opinions change, feelings change. But we can trust God and what he says because he never changes. What he says and the way he feels will always stay the same.

Let me be clear as to how this incredible truth changes our lives today:

  • God is always excited to see you. He is thrilled every time you come to him, even when you come to him in shame or guilt.
  • God does not change his mind. There will never be a day God is uncertain that he chose you to be his child. Ever.
  • God does not reconsider or regret his choices. He will never regret sending his Son to die for our sins. He will never regret saving you or me from ourselves.
  • God always hates our sin. He hates it now just as much as he did when he drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. He hates that we are slaves to sin before we come to him. He will never be coaxed into thinking our sin in ok or persuaded into changing his Word to better fit our earthly desires.
  • There will always be a place at the table of grace in the Kingdom of God for you and for me. No matter how bad things get, how hopeless we feel, how disappointed or distracted we become, if we are in Christ our future is secure forever.
  • We, as his children, know exactly where we stand with God at all times. We know exactly what we need to do to reconcile our broken relationship with God, and we know the end result with God will always be reconciliation if we come to him in repentance. The way He acts towards us never changes.

Where are you doubting the promises of God in your life right now? Which of these promises, or maybe another, can you rest in today?

This week I read Heather’s incredible story of resilient faith. Something she clung to during one of the most challenging seasons of her life is the unchanging nature of God and his promises. He is always with her; there will never be a day she has to walk this new road alone. There will never be a day when God does not see her working selflessly to care for her daughter. She is loved with an everlasting love. These things will never change! What steadfast peace this knowledge brings to a believer in the midst of trial.

I invite you to worship the Lord with me this week as we think about his immutability and ponder how God is different from us. One of my favorite worship songs is “You Never Change” by Austin Stone Worship. Today I hope you put your trust in the only One who will never change. 

In Christ Alone,  Emma

Practice: Fasting

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:12-3)

Fasting is making room for God. It’s a pouring out of our natural self so we can be filled with His supernatural presence. We are instructed to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, our souls and our strength. So, we work really hard with all of our strength to get our hearts, minds and souls right with God. Are you familiar with this striving? How long can you fix your minds on God in prayer without mental distractions stealing your thoughts? Can your fix your eyes completely on Him through a whole praise song, or two? How many can you go without drifting? Can you enter his courts with praise and remain there 5 minutes before making one request? Focusing for 5 minutes takes intense focus, great strength. But a beautiful thing happens when we are exhausted of our own strength. The striving fades into yielding. Isn’t surrender what He’s after, after all?

When the body is denied, it cries out. Fasting reconciles the flesh with a heart, mind and soul crying out to God. Hunger pains remind us of our need, and press us deeper into a fully surrendered crying out. A crying out with undivided attention.

Last night the enemy whispered, Brandi, you’re doing too much again. You don’t have time to enter your blog by the deadline. Isn’t better to step aside and let someone else who has more time?

This morning Oswald Chambers said, “Are You Ready To Be Poured Out As an Offering? “If I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” ( Phil. 2:17) Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer—to pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others? Or do you say, “I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him. I want to choose the place of my own sacrifice. And I want to have certain people watching me and saying, ‘Well done.’ ”

How did Esther prepare “for such a time as this?” See Esther 4:15-16: “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’ ”

Do you really want all that God has for you? Are you willing to be poured out to be filled up?

Five steps of fasting:
1. Pick a fast that is right for you. If it’s your first time fasting, start small. Can you go without your favorite cup of coffee? Does a social media break frighten you? Give it a try. As a working mom, I’m a fan of the Daniel Fast. Here’s your link.

2. Prepare in advance.

3. Turn pain into praise. Receive hunger pains as a reminder to pray. For encouragement about the power of prayer, read Mary’s story, Storming Heaven for a Miracle.

4. Surrender your own strength. Accept your weakness.

5. Receive the fullness of God’s Power.

In His Unfailing Love,

brandi

Sacred Story kicked off a new series this spring called Praise & Practice where we will explore God’s attributes combined with spiritual disciplines. We invite you join us by subscribing to the blog so you can follow along weekly. Look for “subscribe via email” on the homepage.

Praise: God is All-Powerful

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life a godly life…” (Eph. 3:20).

Power. Something humans have craved since the beginning of time. Physical strength, control, influence, resolve, money–all of these things represent power. Power is also seen in creation–wind, rain, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. The Marvel movies are not just a big hit with kids. Adults love them too. Why? Because everyone loves a superhero. Power captivates us.

Not everyone recognizes, however, the creator of all power. God alone is the source of power. He is not simply a superpower or super hero. His infinite power is altogether different. If we imagine the strongest person in the world and multiply by a million, it would still not be able to describe God’s power. Charles Spurgeon said, “The mightiest of men cannot add so much as a shadow of increased power to the Omnipotent One. He sits on no buttressed throne and leans on no assisting arm. His court is not maintained by His courtiers, nor does it borrow its splendor from His creatures. He is Himself the great central source and Originator of all power.”

This is the reason we call on an “Almighty God.”  He is the supreme, preeminent power of the world. Jeremiah 33: 17-19 says, “‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you…O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed…'” God’s power created  all things and sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3).

When we place our faith in Jesus many things occur in our soul. We have power on in the inside of us that we didn’t before. The power of sin’s condemnation is broken and we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Understanding the power of the Holy Spirit within us should give us tremendous confidence in our daily lives. We have power to fight against the temptation of sin. We have power to obey and walk in righteousness. We have power to forgive others when wronged. In addition, 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Meditating on truths such as these, as Nancy reminded us last week, gives us strength and hope!

God’s omnipotence shows us nothing is impossible for Him. He has the power to do all things.

This past year the Lord allowed a circumstance that demonstrated God’s unspeakable power. Many years ago my dad was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive lung disease. The condition causes the lungs to become scarred and stiff, making it difficult to breathe and maintain enough oxygen into the bloodstream. When we first received the diagnosis we learned there was no treatment. We were told his lungs would continue to deteriorate and breathing would become increasingly challenging. A lung transplant was the only option for my dad to be able to breathe well again. It was a very sobering thought but we accepted the news and began praying.

Last May we got the call. A lung was available and dad was an excellent candidate. Just a few hours later my sisters, mom and uncle all sat in a waiting room while my dad received a life-saving gift.  A healthy lung was transplanted into my dad’s body enabling him to breathe again.

It was and is a miracle.

Last week my dad went for his monthly pulmonary check up. His oxygen saturation measured 100%. 100 PERCENT. He tells everyone he feels better than he has in 10 years. To say he’s a new man is an understatement. He can play golf again, exercise, garden and run around with his grandkids. He has a new life and we praise the Lord.

The Lord has taught us many things through this situation. He has demonstrated his mercy, faithfulness, sovereignty and love. He has also demonstrated His power. We have seen firsthand the power of God’s healing and provision helping us understand He is the only One who could orchestrate and enable such a lifesaving event. While a new lung has extended his earthly life, my dad knows His eternal life is secure because He has received salvation in Jesus. So we rejoice in my dad’s healing and we also rest in knowing he has a future in heaven through the power of the cross.

Have you experienced God’s power of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ? Secondly,  is there something in your life right now that you believe is too difficult for the Lord? Rest in God’s omnipotence and His ability to do “immeasurably more than all you could ask or even imagine according to His power that is at work” (Eph. 3:20).

~Courtney

P.S. Sacred Story has a library FULL of encouraging stories that are sure to speak hope into your life regardless of what you are facing. This story highlights how the Lord is both powerful and personal.

(Sacred Story has just started a new series Praise & Practice where we will explore God’s attributes combined with spiritual disciplines. We invite you join us by subscribing to the blog so you can follow along weekly. Look for “subscribe via email” on the homepage).

 

Practice: Meditation

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked . . . But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:1-2

 Last week Laura wrote about God’s holiness and said, “God is far above what my mind can conceive.” She spoke of the practice of renewing our minds in order to understand fully God’s holy character. Peter gives insight into how we are to seek to know and practice God’s holiness when he instructs us to prepare our minds for action, not conforming to our old pattern of living, but to live holy lives because God, who called us into relationship with Him, is holy. (1 Peter 1:13-15) This week I would like to share with you about meditation, the discipline of preparing your minds for holy thinking and living.

“Meditation is holding the Word of God in the mind until it has affected every area of one’s life and character.”  (Andrew Murray) The world’s view of meditation involves emptying the mind and centering on one’s self, while the biblical view of meditation is filling our minds with God’s Word and centering our thoughts on His character. Meditation is also defined as going over a matter in one’s mind, rehearsing it whether inwardly or outwardly.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasured up all the things she had heard and seen and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) To treasure up is to guard or protect the memory of and to ponder is to confer or dispute. Mary in preparation for all that would take place after the birth of Jesus guarded the memory of what God had promised and continued to have a conversation in her mind over what it all meant as her unexpected story unfolded. And it was said of Mary that she was blessed because she believed God would accomplish what He had promised.

My story has taken an unexpected turn in recent days and I have struggled with disappointment, grieving what could have been. For months I was unable to keep my mind focused on the truths of God hidden deep within my heart and instead became bitter, stuck, and stale spiritually. Over time the Holy Spirit reminded me of the treasured words of a friend, “Nancy, keep standing on the shore and the tide will come in.” I then went back to what I knew would renew my mind; back to memorizing, meditating, praying and practicing His truth. I began focusing on the word the Lord had given me this year – trust. Immediately Proverbs 3:5 came to my mind, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

As I practice standing at the shore of God’s Word day after day, the tide of His truth rolls in, renewing my thinking and transforming my bitterness into forgiveness, my stuck into progress and my stale into sacrifices of praise. Instead of dwelling on my despairing thoughts I am choosing to trust in the character and truth of God, who is at work transforming me more and more into His image. You see the goal of meditation is transformation!

What conversation are you having in your heart and mind today? For practical help in the practice of meditation check out my book, “Taking the Word to Heart” on my site and available through Amazon.com. If you are in a place of pain and bitterness take a look at Emily’s story called Pushing Down Walls.

Standing on the shore,

Nancy Taylor

Our Holy God: Praise & Practice

“. . .day and night they never cease to say, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4:8

I find the account of the end of Uzzah’s life in II Samuel 6:1-7 perplexing (cross reference, I Chronicles 13). And if I am honest, it seems downright unfair on God’s part. As a refresher, the story goes like this: David knows God’s presence and promises in the Ark of the Covenant are sacred; in fact, no one is permitted to look into the Ark or they will die. When he becomes the King of Israel he vows to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. In recent years it was captured in war by the Philistines and illness broke out in every city where they housed it; so, the Philistines wised up and gave it back. Even though the Ark is in the hands of God’s people at Balaah Judah, David and his advisors make plans to transport it to Jerusalem to unite the nation.

David rallies his elite troops which is no small number – 30,000 men – to move the Ark 10 miles down the road. The sacred possession is loaded onto a new oxcart built for the occasion. While in transport one of the oxen stumbles and Uzzah who is beside the cart puts out his hand to steady the Ark. He promptly dies. The Scripture states, “. . .And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah and He struck Him down because he put out his hand to the ark. . .” (I Chronicles 13:10)

What? This seems harsh; after all, Uzzah attempts to steady the Ark so it doesn’t incur damage. Why pick on this guy and end his life? Upon closer study, I gain valuable insight. The Israelites are not carrying the Ark of the Covenant the way God commanded in Deuteronomy 10:8 and Numbers 7:9. It is built with holders for poles and is designed to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites and not by cart. Perhaps David along with the leaders forgot God’s parameters because they didn’t look at His Law; maybe over familiarity with the Ark diminished awe of the One who spoke the world into being.

God’s presence hovering in the Ark mandated reverence because He is holy. Holy is one of those words in our Christian dictionary which can be throw around and yet the understanding may be clear as mud. Theologian RC Sproul explains that holy came from an ancient word meaning to separate. He continues, “to be holy is to be ‘other’, different in a special way.” Sproul also points out the unique way Scripture describes God: “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.

God is far above what my mind can conceive. My reaction of “that’s not fair!” about Uzzah’s death goes to show my fallen mind doesn’t grasp a holy God. At the same time, I am thankful the Holy Spirit can renew my mind about who God is and how to seek the One who is other, separate, holy – Who’s glory fills the whole earth.

This spring myself along with the team of sisters who contribute to the blog at Sacred Story aim to explore the attributes of God’s character and the ways He designed us to know Him. Each month we pray you are filled with new awe of the God we worship and new insight into the practices which facilitate our experience of Him. Praise and Practice. Join us on the journey from January until the end of May.

Who can you reach out to and invite to join our weekly journey through Praise and Practice? Here is a suggested invite which you can use via email or social media:

“How we think about God and how we go about seeking Him makes all the difference in living our stories. I am excited to join a spring of Praise and Practice at Sacred Story. The weekly messages will focus on the attributes of God and the ways Christ followers know Him better. I receive the posts via email and you can do so by entering your email address at “subscribe via email” on the home page, https://sacredstoryministries.org/  or visit the blog weekly to discover new insight.

How can you avoid allowing over familiarity with the things of God to cloud your response to the One who lives and reigns?

Praising and practicing with you sister~

Laura

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Your sweetest aroma arrived on earth

Leaving fragrant trails wherever You went

Reminding us of how much we are worth

Giving Yourself as an offering, Heaven sent

We walk through this life as those who are known

By Immanuel, the One who is near

Make us a fragrance of You to those who feel alone

As we share about the Savior we hold so dear

To listen to my Christmas message about Zecharias and Elizabeth, click here. I pray you find great joy as you celebrate The Greatest Story Ever Told!  ~ Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Gift of Vulnerability

“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard the greeting from Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is the granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:29-45

All I can think when I read this passage is, “Wow, God’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion towards us and our stories is unbelievable.” I see his love for Elizabeth and Mary pouring out over their stories, with a particular waterfall of tenderness and beauty over their greeting. The richness of the stories of these two women cannot be underestimated.

Elizabeth had been infertile, and now suddenly her decades long prayer has been answered with a child who will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even while he is still in her womb. What a miraculous act of God’s compassion on Elizabeth and Zechariah’s marriage and purpose! After a lifetime of yearning for a child, these two receive the gift of parenting the one who will prepare the way for the Savior of the world. WOW!

Mary, a seemingly insignificant teenage girl, has just been told she will miraculously give birth to the highly anticipated (to say the least) Savior of the world. This put her in a vulnerable place in her town, and I am sure she had many questions, fears, and thrills. She goes to Elizabeth for a safe place to be vulnerable enough to ask, “What the heck is going on?” and “Is this going to turn out ok?” and “How exactly is this going to happen?” She knew Elizabeth, whose husband and lineage was a priestly one, had the resources to explain the prophecies and Scriptures to her.

Which leads us to the greeting of these two expectantly pregnant women: miraculous, sudden, full of joy, and well, emotional.

 Mary and Elizabeth are sharing that joyous moment where you are so excited to see one another you can barely stand it. Every time I get together with my cousin I get to enjoy this “you get it” moment, where your soul can just relax in the understanding and love you have for one another.

I see God’s mercy in the way Elizabeth greets Mary with not only the fullness of grace, but excitement and blessing. She speaks life-giving blessing and belief into Mary at a critical point in her life, when many questions are swirling around her. What relief this must have been to Mary!

I see God’s tenderness these two women form the first theological discussion group about the incarnation! Not the scholars and scribes who had bee studying and pontificating about this moment for centuries, but these two women on whom God’s tenderness and favors rests, get to be the first ones to contemplate all that this reality means. It is to them that God gives all the juicy details, the main roles.

I see God’s compassion in the intentionality of the collision of Elizabeth and Mary’s stories in the midst of a season of loneliness for both. Elizabeth has just spent five months in seclusion (Luke 1:24), and all the women her age were well past their pregnancy years, leaving her physically and emotionally lonely. Though it was custom to become pregnant as a teenager in those days, the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy quickly isolated her. How do you explain at fifteen to your friends that an angel of the Lord told you that you would be the one to carry the fulfillment to a century old national prophesy? I see God’s compassion flowing as a river over these hidden, lonely places in their heart.

Where are you seeing God’s tenderness in your story during this season?

What is the place inside of you that you want to share but just can’t get out?

I admire the vulnerability of Mary and Elizabeth in this story and their willingness to receive God’s favor. This Christmas let’s live in the beauty of vulnerability in light of God’s tenderness, mercy, and compassion water falling over us.

~Emma

Christmas Pregame

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:41 NIV

I love the story of leading up to the birth of Jesus when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying John the Baptist. Both of these women were carrying miracles babies. They had a special pregame season leading up to birth announcements that would change the world forever. Mary went to visit Elizabeth. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Elizabeth began to prophesy and Mary responded in praise. It was a celebration like never before.

Like Mary and Elizabeth, how can we take a pause and celebrate the hope, new life and purpose that Christmas unleashes in us all? How will we make time to ponder the miracle of God’s greatest gift before the travel, hosting, wrapping takes over? What can we do to prepare for the season ahead?

Here’s my favorite Christmas Pregame strategy:

1. Prepare your heart. Each December I read a daily devotional, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. The subtitle is on point. It truly unwraps the full love story of Christmas. Find it here. Send some to your friends and family.  I’m grateful for the friend who first sent it to me.

2. Pray for family and friends you will visit over the holidays. This will prepare your heart to be a blessing to them, and it’s a great way to overcome tough relationships.

3. Spend time alone with God. We are celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, and yet, how much time are we spending with Him? Make time for a walk with God. Or, find a closet and some earphones and soak in a beautiful song of praise. Here are a couple of favorites. Hallelujah and Noel

4. Ask God. Who needs an extra hug this season or a special reminder of how much they are loved? These gifts will be the ones you most remember giving.

5. Bring games. If you want a Christmas full of joy, begin with laughter. Games bring people together, bring out the child in each of us, form new alliances and neutralize conflict. I’m not talking about Risk or Scrabble. Or, other seemingly innocent games like Uno that can divide a family over extra rules. I’ve seen it happen:)  Thanks to a dear friend, my favorite new game is Hollywood Game Night. If you want to watch the most proper person in the room get scrappy, try this one. Make sure someone is recording. You will enjoy it through Easter.

Christmas is meant to ignite great joy within us.

What is your Christmas Pregame?

Merry Christmas,

brandi

Foodie Favorite: Re-creations from Mexican Rice

We ordered take-out fajitas the other night and had plenty of Spanish rice leftover. Eating reheated rice by itself just wasn’t jazzing my palate the other night as I was wondering what to make for dinner. After taking a quick scan of inventory, I found some promising ingredients: frozen marinated chicken breasts (Worcestershire Sauce, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice? Can’t remember exactly – it has been cast aside in my freezer for some time.), bag of raw baby carrots, leftover par-boiled snap green beans from a few nights before, raw onion, minced garlic, soy sauce, and some pickled ginger….see where this is going? I made a quick call to my Taiwanese-born friend Pey, my stir-fry expert. I inquired if she had ever considered using leftover Mexican take-out rice in this way. Apparently, this idea had not occurred to her in Chicago suburbia; good Mexican restaurant options are rather limited in deep dish pizza country. After a quick chop of the onions, the carrots into coins, the beans into halves, and the thawed chicken into bite-sizes, I reached for peanut oil (olive or canola is fine) and stir-fried my fears away. For anyone new to stir-frying, the general rule is to add the ingredients that take the longest to cook first, then add in the others, ending on the rice and soy sauce once everything else is cooked through. During the holidays, have fun with this versatile cooking concept and see what you can recreate with your leftover rice!

~Lauren

Standing Firm & Speaking Up

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  Ephesians 6:19-20

Brandi kicked off our theme at Sacred Story this fall, Standing Firm in Your Story, in September. I pray over these weeks your eyes opened to the amazing gift God gives us in the spiritual armor through the truths in Ephesians 6:10-20. When we exercise faith activated by prayer the armor enables us to fight the good fight as we battle living in a world of sin, brokenness, and evil.

To summarize verses 10 -18 I came up with this handy acrostic below for ARMOR.

Admit the Lord’s strength is all you need

Recognize there’s an unseen evil realm bent on leading you astray

Make a point to know and put on the specific pieces of armor

Own the armor through faith as you take a proactive stance

Resolve to pray in the Spirit for yourself and the saints

Paul continues his train of thought by asking the Ephesians to pray specific requests on his behalf in verses 19-20. If I were in the apostle Paul’s shoes, the top of my list might be prayer for protection from people trying to harm or kill me. After all, he’s been stoned, beaten, put in prison, and wrongly accused multiple times.

What does Paul ask prayer for? To speak. To use his voice. And for what purpose? To declare the Gospel without fear of what might happen to him or how others will respond. WOW. Paul is saying that the armor along with the prayers of the saints empower him to be effective in what he says about the Lord’s message of love and forgiveness through the cross.

I believe speaking about the truth of the Gospel message included the opportunities where Paul tells his story of coming to faith in the living Savior. Beyond coming to faith, we also learn in the book of Acts “chapters” of the apostle Paul’s story where he experiences the reality of Jesus’ power which validates the Gospel. No doubt God used these chapters of Paul’s life to reveal Himself.

Standing firm in our stories means remaining dependent on the Holy Spirit’s control and guidance in our lives, resisting the evil ones attempts to distract, disrupt, and derail us. It also means standing firm as we speak up about the way of salvation in the Gospel; and share Who gets the credit for the hope and peace we experience in the chapters of our stories. We stand firm by sharing and not allowing the fear of what others will think or what the outcome will be to silence us or keep us from moving toward others in love.

What does it look like to stand firm in your story right now?

How does taking up the armor give you confidence?

How can you use your voice to overcome the evil one’s attempts to muffle the truth of the Gospel and the ways Jesus’ presence and Word make a difference in your story?

Who can you share your hope in Christ with over the holidays?

Standing firm results in being an ambassador who rightly represents the King who commissions believers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18). Sisters, may we get dressed up in our armor and use our voices to bring truth and light so the darkness in this world is diminished.

During this time of thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for your courage to share how the Greatest Story Ever Told makes a difference in your life. I give thanks with you to the Author who gives us peace and purpose.

~Laura