How Can I Grow Closer to God?

2.9.2018

I’d love to tell you I have a long and impressive list of things I do every day to feel closer to God. But honestly, I just ask Him to renew me and shape me into the woman I need to be as I get into His Word. And I commit to following hard after Him, no matter what.

This helps me grow ever closer to God—pressing into Him so He makes the deepest impression on me.

In Luke 9:23b, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” His words seem surprising at first. The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus. Or so it seemed …

Family. Friends. Jobs. The comforts of home.

Yet, in our key verse today, we find Jesus telling them the cost is going to be even higher than they had originally anticipated. The disciples aren’t being asked to lay down some things. They are going to need to lay down everything. Their plans. Their agendas. Maybe even their own lives.

And while it may sound like a lot to ask, because of their willingness to continue following hard after Jesus they will get to experience a level of closeness with Him unlike anyone else.

Closeness when they take communion with Him before He is crucified. (Luke 22:12-20)
Closeness when He bends low to wash their feet. (John 13:1-17)
Closeness when He eats with them after His resurrection. (Luke 24:36-43)
Closeness when they are among the first to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)

So not only did they have the promise of eternity with Him in heaven, they also had the privilege of experiencing unparalleled intimacy with Him on earth.

Could they have received any sweeter gift?

This is what my heart hungers for when it comes to the Lord. I want connection. I want communion. I want closeness. Not only in a distant heavenly future but right here. Right now.

That’s why I’m so thankful Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in Luke 9:23 is for us, too. We are also invited close. Which means we are also called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

I realize “taking up our cross” may sound strange or vague at first, but for me it’s meant breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth. It’s meant moving beyond a plastic Christian checklist … Go to church. Read the Bible. Don’t cuss. Be nice. Pray. Give to the poor … and letting God mess with any and every area of my life.

It has meant things like offering Him my willingness to step away from TV for a season, fixing my eyes on Him first in the morning, instead of my phone and allowing Him to call me to a new level of discipline in my eating habits. Things I have said “yes” to because I long for an ever-closer walk with Him.

I don’t know exactly what following wholeheartedly after God will look like for you. But I do know that if we want to grow closer to God we’ll have to distance ourselves from whatever is distracting us. We’ll have to lay aside whatever we are prone to delight in more than Him.

Let’s ask God which distraction we need to distance ourselves from in order to grow closer to Him, and then let’s do the hard and holy work of denying ourselves. Because a deeper level of intimacy with Him will always be worth the cost.

Lord, show me what stands in the way of intimacy with You, and give me the strength to lay it down—for a season or maybe even forever. I long to be closer to You. No matter the cost. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverb 31 Ministries

8.3.2018

Checking the Landscape of Our Hearts

“On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” – Zechariah 14:4

I wish today’s blog could come with a boarding pass.

Instead of meeting here, we would travel together to one of my favorite places to study God’s Word — the Holy Land. There is something so powerful and humbling about standing in a place where you know Jesus Himself once stood.

As incredible as that would be, I’m thankful we don’t have to travel internationally in order to glean something personally from Scripture today. All we need to do is dig a bit deeper into the history of a pivotal location found in this chapter of Zechariah — the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives is a ridge that runs about two and a half miles from north to south on the eastern side of Jerusalem. Three of the peaks that make up this mountain range are Mount Scopus (the north peak), Mount of Olives (the center peak) and Mount of Corruption (the south peak). It is separated from the city of Jerusalem by the Kidron Valley, also known as the Valley of Decision. And it serves as an important location for a variety of biblical events.

In the New Testament, we discover that Jesus’ feet were found standing on this mount often. He rested, taught and prayed in this place. It is where He was on the night of His betrayal (John 18:1), and it is on this very mount that His disciples watched Him ascend into heaven. (Acts 1:9-12)

In our key verse, Zechariah 14:4, we learn that it is the place where His feet will one day land again: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” 

I don’t want us to miss what the prophet Zechariah says will happen when the Lord’s feet hit the Mount of Olives on that day. The land will be split in two. Divided. And before we think this is simply a geography lesson, God wants us to know there is so much more going on here.

The physical ramifications brought on by Israel’s divided hearts hold powerful spiritual implications for our hearts today.

On the day Jesus returns, He will destroy the Mount of Corruption. This is the part of the mountain range where King Solomon allowed his pagan wives to build altars to worship false gods. (1 Kings 11:7) This area defiled by Solomon as he clung to his wives instead of the Lord will fall. And water will come up from the temple and flow both directions, east and west (Zechariah 14:8), moving with such force that the Mount of Corruption will be rushed with the water into the Dead Sea.

Why? Because God will always tear down anything that is detestable to Him.

How this convicts my heart.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in the camp of Solomon on that glorious day when Jesus returns. I don’t want to be like the children of Israel, found time and again clinging to things that do not honor Him.

I want to ask the Lord to convict me. To reveal the places where I’m holding fast to sin. To show me if there is anything in my life that dishonors Him. I know it’s not an easy or comfortable thing to do. But when we repent and press past the initial discomfort of conviction, we get to step into the glorious work of God’s restoration.

Ezekiel 47:8-9 tells us that when the Mount of Corruption is washed away into the Dead Sea, those waters will once again be teeming with life. How like Jesus! When we ask forgiveness for our sins, He washes us clean. He says that our sins will be cast into the sea to be remembered no more. He makes us new and offers eternal life to all who profess Him as Lord.

What an incredible gift it is to be His.

Let’s ask Him to help us check the landscape of our hearts. Let’s allow Him to reveal any divided affections. Any idols taking up space that belongs to Him.

The things in our life that don’t honor God will eventually be removed. We have a choice. Either we can release them, or He will remove them. May today be the day we choose release.

God, create in me a clean heart. Purify me, Lord. I know that anything in my life that dishonors You will not stand. And I don’t want to wait until the last day when those areas of compromise and sin fall and become my shame. I want to confess them now. I want to release each one into Your hands so they can be carried away into the Dead Sea. Thank You for being a God of both grace and truth. A God of conviction and restoration. I surrender anew to Your work in me today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If you enjoyed today’s post, I’d love to invite you to download our FREE First 5 app! Every day, we do in-depth Bible study together in the first moments of our morning. Find out more information and download it here.

7.16.2018

An early sneak peek of my next book…

As my family has walked through a long season of hardship, I have been devastated beyond what I thought I could survive at times.

But I’ve also been incredibly blessed and humbled as I have watched the work God has been doing in all of us.

Me.
Art.
And my children.

I desperately wanted to spare my kids from hard realities. But God has used it to develop their character in ways that leave me breathless. I wouldn’t have chosen this. None of us would. But God is breathing life into our dust and making something beautiful out of it.

There are still some things I’ll never understand.

But there are other things that I see and am grateful beyond words. The strength and courage my children have displayed. The wisdom they have gained. The bonds between them that strengthened.

I would have never picked this journey for any of us. But seeing a deeper faith in God emerge in them has certainly proven to me that truly ALL things can be used for good.

What the enemy thought would destroy us has only made us stronger. He thought he could silence us, but we came out praising God even louder.

And though the darkness lasted longer than I thought we could survive, the Light has come. We are truly peeking over the edge of a miracle.

If you’re walking through your own deep disappointment or devastation, I’d love to encourage you with an early sneak peek at my new book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered.This message was written in the hard moments of our family’s story and is filled with the rich truths the Lord has shown me along the way. Pre-order your copy today and receive the first 3 chapters so you can start reading right away.

You’ll also gain access to a private Facebook group I’m hosting with my friends where we’ll process through deep disappointments together. I look forward to meeting you there!

7.2.2018

An Agenda That Will Never Satisfy

“He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Mark 3:14-15 (NIV)

I should have been happy. I knew it. I could have listed so many things for which I was thankful.
So, what was this undercurrent of disappointment that ebbed and flowed just beneath the surface of my more honest moments? I got still, and I got sad.

I was doing a lot, pouring myself out for God, but not really spending time getting refilled by God.

Maybe you can relate?

We run at a breakneck pace to try and achieve what God wants us to slow down enough to receive.

He really does have it all worked out. The gaps filled. The needs met. The questions answered. The problems solved.

And the parts He’s purposed for us? They’re all perfectly portioned out in assignments meant for us today. No more. No less.

All He asks is that we personally receive from Him before we set out to work for Him. In doing so, we’re fueled by His power and encouraged by His presence. This is the daily sacred exchange where ministry duty turns into pure delight.

How it must break His heart when we work like we don’t believe He’s capable. We say we trust Him but then act like everything depends on us. We give all we have to the tasks at hand with only occasional leftovers of time to slightly acknowledge Him.

Imagine it’s like a little girl running while holding a cup, sloshing out all it contains. She thinks what will refill her is just ahead. So she presses on with sheer determination, clutching an empty cup.

She keeps running toward an agenda God never set, one that will never satisfy.

She sees Him and holds out her cup. But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him because she didn’t stop long enough for her cup to be filled. Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

The tragic truth is what will fill her … what will fill us … isn’t the accomplishment just ahead.
That shiny thing is actually a vacuum that sucks us dry — but never has the ability to refill.

I should know, because that’s where I was. There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty — where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell. I knew it would take slow moments to get me out of this empty place.

I needed to reconnect with the One who knows how to breathe life back into depleted and dead places. Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life like abiding, delighting and dwelling — all words used to describe us being with Him.

As a matter of fact, when Jesus appointed the disciples, there were two parts to their calling, as we see in our key verse, Mark 3:14-15: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”

Yes, they were to go to preach and drive out demons, but the first part of their calling was simply to “be with him.”

True fulfillment comes when we remember to be with Him before going out to serve Him.

He wants our hearts in alignment with Him before our hands set about doing today’s assignment for Him.

So, He extends what we need and each day He invites us to receive in prayer, worship and truth from His Word. And He lovingly replenishes our cup while whispering: “This isn’t a race to test the fastest pace. I just want you to persevere on the path I have marked out especially for you. Fix your eyes, not on a worldly prize, but on staying in love with Me.”

That’s an agenda that’s always completely satisfying.

Dear Lord, I’m choosing to stop in the midst of everything to just be with You. Let me never forget what a gift it is to spend this sacred time in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


If this post resonated with you today and you have a desire to rise above the rush of endless demands in your life, I’d love for you to check out my book, The Best Yes. Together, we’ll learn how to press pause and really seek what the Lord wants us to receive from Him! Get your copy here.

Devotionals

Today’s Reading

Morning

“Watchman, what of the night?”
Isaiah 21:11

What enemies are abroad? Errors are a numerous horde, and new ones appear every hour: against what heresy am I to be on my guard? Sins creep from their lurking places when the darkness reigns; I must myself mount the watch-tower, and watch unto prayer. Our heavenly Protector foresees all the attacks which are about to be made upon us, and when as yet the evil designed us is but in the desire of Satan, he prays for us that our faith fail not, when we are sifted as wheat. Continue O gracious Watchman, to forewarn us of our foes, and for Zion’s sake hold not thy peace.

“Watchman, what of the night?” What weather is coming for the Church? Are the clouds lowering, or is it all clear and fair overhead? We must care for the Church of God with anxious love; and now that Popery and infidelity are both threatening, let us observe the signs of the times and prepare for conflict.

“Watchman, what of the night?” What stars are visible? What precious promises suit our present case? You sound the alarm, give us the consolation also. Christ, the polestar, is ever fixed in his place, and all the stars are secure in the right hand of their Lord.

But watchman, when comes the morning? The Bridegroom tarries. Are there no signs of his coming forth as the Sun of Righteousness? Has not the morning star arisen as the pledge of day? When will the day dawn, and the shadows flee away? O Jesus, if thou come not in person to thy waiting Church this day, yet come in Spirit to my sighing heart, and make it sing for joy.

“Now all the earth is bright and glad

With the fresh morn;

But all my heart is cold, and dark and sad:

Sun of the soul, let me behold thy dawn!

Come, Jesus, Lord,

O quickly come, according to thy word.”

Evening

“Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.”
Psalm 72:19

This is a large petition. To intercede for a whole city needs a stretch of faith, and there are times when a prayer for one man is enough to stagger us. But how far-reaching was the psalmist’s dying intercession! How comprehensive! How sublime! “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” It doth not exempt a single country however crushed by the foot of superstition; it doth not exclude a single nation however barbarous. For the cannibal as well as for the civilized, for all climes and races this prayer is uttered: the whole circle of the earth it encompasses, and omits no son of Adam. We must be up and doing for our Master, or we cannot honestly offer such a prayer. The petition is not asked with a sincere heart unless we endeavour, as God shall help us, to extend the kingdom of our Master. Are there not some who neglect both to plead and to labour? Reader, is it your prayer? Turn your eyes to Calvary. Behold the Lord of Life nailed to a cross, with the thorn-crown about his brow, with bleeding head, and hands, and feet. What! can you look upon this miracle of miracles, the death of the Son of God, without feeling within your bosom a marvellous adoration that language never can express? And when you feel the blood applied to your conscience, and know that he has blotted out your sins, you are not a man unless you start from your knees and cry, “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” Can you bow before the Crucified in loving homage, and not wish to see your Monarch master of the world? Out on you if you can pretend to love your Prince, and desire not to see him the universal ruler. Your piety is worthless unless it leads you to wish that the same mercy which has been extended to you may bless the whole world. Lord, it is harvest-time, put in thy sickle and reap.

Bible Gateway

Daily Promises 

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Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:12)

Reflection

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit allows the believer the privilege of greater works to honour the omnipotent and loving God. How sweet and wonderful is the life of the believer who trusts in the risen Saviour. Simply having the faith of a mustard seed allows us to do wonderful things for the glory and honour of Christ. Not only will we have the power to do the wonders of Christ found in the New Testament, but we also will be able to do other incredible miracles. As believers, we will see God’s goodness and greatness in the work He does through us. May all glory and honour go unto Him forever and ever.