Giving Up Hoops for Relationship

God didn’t create us to jump through hoops:

  • Attend church? Check.
  • Get an education? Check.
  • Be part of a family? Check.
  • Get a job? Check.

God created you for relationship. Relationship with others and relationship with Him. Unlike many teachers, coaches, and friends, God is not into favorites based on what you do, even if you’re doing it for Him. He emphasizes relationships, not accomplishments.

God will respond to you whether you’re in a relationship with Him or not. To be honest, we’re always in a relationship with Him. He’s our Creator, and we can’t get away from that no matter how much we deny it.

Instead of checking things off our lists, we can engage with and respond to Him personally. And that means we remain and grow in our relationship with Him. We don’t respond for a specific result or response. We can’t show compassion because it makes us feel good or exercise humility because it looks good on us. Living out God’s characteristics aren’t about getting a desired result or response but remaining and growing in relationship with God. To focus on a response and result is a futile use of our time and efforts. Staying in a relationship with God should always be our motivation and foundation.

The purpose of humility is to acknowledge God for who he is, establishing and maintaining a proper relationship with him. The result of humility is acknowledging God for who he is, establishing and maintaining a proper relationship with him. Humility is about our relationship with God. Obedience is about our relationship with God. So, really, we can minimize our checklist to one thing: our relationship with God.

Put it first, and it keeps everything else in perspective.

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Mombarded by Doubt

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Am I doing a good job?
Am I doing this right?
Who is the expert? Who should I trust? Why are there so many varying opinions about this?
What if I mess up?
How will I ever get through this?
Have I scarred my child forever?

We all doubt ourselves as moms. To be honest, we all doubt ourselves. Period. At least in some area(s). We don’t have all the answers, and we never will. We get more confident—in some areas. In fact, we’ll often share more advice as our children move beyond the stage for which a younger mom needs advice, because hindsight is always 20/20. We become experts, but in reality, we never really were, and we never really are.

Doubts can be crippling, but they can also be a good thing. People who rarely or never doubt what they’re doing tend to jump into things blindly, and while they may never acknowledge the costs, rest assured, there are costs. They look at people who have doubts and think, “What’s wrong with those people? Why are they so insecure? Why can’t they just put on their big girl panties and deal with it?” The people who have doubts look back and either think, “I wish I could be as confident and carefree as her” or “I may not know what I’m doing, but at least I’m not as careless as she is!”

Perspective.

Whether or not you doubt yourself, you don’t need to spend much time doubting others. You really don’t know where they are or where they’ve been. You could try to follow the old advice of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but just so you know…it’s not really possible. You can’t walk in two pairs of shoes at once. And you can never truly leave yours behind. You can never fully assume someone else’s perspective. Even she doesn’t know everything about her life.

However, you can have empathy. You can support others by encouraging them, listening, asking questions, helping them search. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t. And if you’d try to answer every single question, you’d lose credibility with people. Think about how we women respond when we want to process, and the men in our lives just want to swoop in and fix the problem. Many times, it’s not about the problem at all. It’s about us. We don’t want to feel as if we need fixed. We want someone to care about us, not change us. When we don’t listen to each other, that’s what ends up happening.

We can use the same advice on ourselves. We can search, question, reach out, listen, and process without expecting everything to be tied up in a neat bow. We can find assurance even when there is confusion. We can do our best, and trust God to fill in the gaps. He does it anyway, whether we acknowledge Him for it or not.

What gaps of doubt do you need to ask and trust God to fill today?

The Value of Gems

masterpieceYou are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:5-9)

Ponder It.
What do you believe God thinks of you?
If you could change one thing about the way you see your value, what would it be?
How committed are you to becoming God’s masterpiece?

Receive It.
Gems are beautiful, shiny, and full of colors. They’re valuable, but their true value is not determined by a gemologist. You are like a gem, and no one but God can determine your value. God didn’t mess up His design of you. He’s God, and He’s incapable of messing up. He created you in His image. You have His imprint on you. You can distort the image He’s placed on you by the way you live, but you can’t eliminate the image of God within you. No matter what you do, you cannot veer so far from God that He cannot reach you. You can never completely eliminate the image with which He’s created you. You’re designed from the inside out. When you neglect or refuse to acknowledge the worth God has given you—whether you inflate or deflate yourself—you are trying to say you know more about how you’re made and who you are than God does. You’re wrestling God for authority. And you will lose that wrestling match every single time. God decides your worth, and He thinks you’re worth sending His only Son to die for you. Yes, God sees your shortcomings, but He sees them only in the context of your potential. He knows the possibilities with which He created you, and He will continually strive to guide and mold you to your completion. When you don’t acknowledge His will and your value, you miss out on a piece of His plan, which is exactly what He doesn’t want you to do. Let Him show you your value. Fully live as He intends.

Live It.
This is it: the wrap up of our 30-day devotional journey. But it’s not an ending. It’s a continuation. God is still working in your life. He desires your faith and trust. He wants you to know Him and follow Him well. Stay committed to Him. Trust His work in your life. You are becoming a magnificent masterpiece.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, The Message)

Trace and Restore

masterpieceTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

Ponder It.
How has God changed your life?
What is something you have left in the past?
What is something you are anticipating for your future?

Receive It.
Tracing is difficult. You must start with a pattern and follow it closely. The same is true with restoration. You’re trying to recreate something. You don’t want to betray the original. The same is true with us. We are God’s masterpieces, but in order to become more like Him, we have to know Him. It’s a process. We’re constantly uncovering, tracing, and restoring who we believe He is and, therefore, who He created us to be. We were created in His image, and He is constantly transforming us. But we have to focus, not because we’re responsible for the work. God does the work of transformation. But our job is essential to the process. We have to yield. We have to pay attention, listen to His instruction, watch for the fulfillment of His promises. He wants us to become, and that takes time, effort, humility, and willingness.

You don’t have to live up to the standard of who God will transform you into someday. Stop comparing yourself to who you can or should become. You’re not there yet. You’re not prepared for that step. If you focus too much into the future, you miss out on the step God wants you to take today. You miss out on the preparation He has planned for you, the preparation that will lead you where you need to be and give you what you need when you reach each of your tomorrows. Let God take care of assessing your life. He has the best vantage point. He is the original artist, so He’s the best possible option to restore you into the masterpiece He has planned.

Live It.
Write as many words that describe God as you can. You can include names or adjectives, anything that reveals who He is. Write for at least one minute. Knowing God better helps you trust Him more. Knowing Him better helps you know Him better. Knowing Him better challenges you to rely on Him as He transforms you into His masterpiece.

Puzzle Pieces

masterpieceNow this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (1 John 5:14)

Ponder It.
Are you more of a talker or a doer?
What questions do you most want to ask God?
When have you found an unmet need when and where you least expected it?

Receive It.
I was at a women’s event, talking with a friend in the foyer during a midday main session. No one was expected to arrive so late, so my friend and I were surprised when a woman walked through the door. Her name was Olga. She was looking for a cup of coffee. There was a coffee shop in the building, but it was closed for the day. Since we had coffee prepared for the event, sharing a cup of coffee was no problem. Other than looking for a coffee shop, Olga knew nothing about where she was. She began to ask questions about the purpose of the building and our event. As it turned out, she was new to the area and had some needs that available specific ministries could address. After talking for a while, I asked for her contact information, and she left.

Unless we know the need, we can’t meet it. We have to ask questions. Sometimes we don’t ask direct questions. Sometimes the person in need doesn’t even know the need. How can we? We can interact. Listen. There are often unexpressed, even unidentified, needs just under the surface.

A sip of coffee didn’t fix Olga’s longing for healthy community of support and accountability, but it was a start. We did what we could. She got a cup of coffee for free, plus a conversation. In that moment, her needs were met beyond expectations. That’s what happens when we ask questions of others and ourselves. We don’t have all the answers. It’s okay when all the pieces don’t fit as we think they should. We might be able to help another person with one piece of her puzzle and someone else helps with another piece. Likewise, many people in our lives help us with our needs—both identifying and meeting them.

Ask the questions. Trust God for the answers.

Live It.
Look for someone to help today. Don’t help them on your own terms and timing. Help them on theirs. Keep it simple. Even the smallest acts of service and kindness impact people’s lives in big ways.

Coloring People

masterpieceTherefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Ponder It.
Who has encouraged you recently?
Who have you encouraged lately?
How has God surprised you with unexpected encouragers and encouragement?

Receive It.
Some people are colorers. They color people no matter where they go. They encourage people, share a smile, teach a timely lesson, infuse encouragement, extend accountability with compassion, invest in others’ lives, and anything else they can do to put color into people’s lives. How can you color others’ lives?

Listen. It’s a simple, but sadly, not-so-common practice. People need to share. Invite them to do so.
Compliment. I’m not referring to someone’s new shoes or hairstyle. Find a characteristic or action you respect, and let her know you noticed.
Invite. Whether it’s an invitation to serve, have coffee, or step in front of you in line, extending an invitation helps someone see you’re paying attention.
Smile. A warm smile goes a long way. Look for someone with a downcast or preoccupied expression. Make eye contact and share a smile.
Share. Let someone sit in the empty chair at your table or pay for coffee for the woman behind you in line. Sharing your life with someone begins with making space.
Pause. Interact with the cashier or barista. Ask the receptionist a question. Wish the salesperson well. The words you share (or don’t) aren’t just about you. Consider how the person to whom you’re speaking will receive them.
Challenge. Sometimes the best encouragement is a challenge to live by God’s standards. Encouragement isn’t about making someone feel great; it’s about helping them walk a life of great faith. Rely on God’s courage and direction to say the right thing at the right time.

Live It.
See how many times you can repeat one or all of the above ideas. Be a people-colorer today. In fact, become a lifetime people-colorer.

The Mask of Color

masterpieceBut He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Ponder It.
What are some purposes of masks?
What masks are most obvious to you when others wear them?
What masks are you most likely to wear?

Receive It.
Masquerade, theatrical, pampering, scuba, surgical, tribal, Halloween, sleep…and the list goes on. Masks are most generally used to give the illusion of being something we’re not, for protection, or to hide. Taking off our masks make us feel uncomfortable, exposed. When we take off our protective masks, we’re sensitive. We feel exposed. Our skin, our hearts, are soft. But God will never leave you exposed without His protection. You may not feel protected and safe, but our feelings deceive us. The reality is God will never leave us.

God gives us guidance, comfort, peace, and discernment through the Holy Spirit, who fills us. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God doesn’t just watch us from heaven? He doesn’t even just stay by our side. He fills us! That means we don’t need our own strength. We don’t need our own courage, protection, or direction. What we need is open ears to hear and willing hearts to obey. God has given us all we need. When we mask ourselves, we may hide a piece of ourselves for safety, but we also hiding the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. When we mask ourselves, we might cover up a few flaws, but we also deflect what we want to receive. When we wear a mask in order to receive approval, love, or respect, those things hit the mask, not us. We don’t get the full blessings of receiving what we most want. The mask that was supposed to help us actually ends up protecting us from the very things we want or need.

Live It.
Write the following two verses on index cards or sticky notes and post them where you’ll see them throughout the day. Reread and claim them, especially when you’re tempted to wear a mask.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)