3 Ways God Lightens Our Load

David Rawlings guest blogger Jesus Calling website

There’s nothing like the feeling of a fresh, clean home. The floors are swept, the bathtub is scrubbed, the furniture polished till it gleams. Perhaps the biggest chore of cleaning your home is getting rid of clutter. Whenever something comes in, something needs to come out. Otherwise, you’re left living in heaps of things you don’t need.

There are also things that clutter our lives, things we carry out of habit or familiarity—our baggage, if you will.

I wrote a novel called The Baggage Handler to help people deal with things The Baggage Handler, a novel by David Rawlings, guest blogger at the Jesus Calling websiteclutter their lives. For many, getting rid of their baggage is the same process as cleaning their house. They take a look at emotions or situations they no longer need but still hang onto without knowing why, or find they’ve accumulated far more than they realized.

Cleaning up your soul is far more important than cleaning up your house. It’s more than a tidy-up for the next few months. It’s about freeing yourself for the longer-term.

One of my favorite passages from the daily devotional, Jesus Calling, comes from March 5th:

“Make friends with the problems in your life. Though many things feel random and wrong, remember that I am sovereign over everything. I can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent that you trust Me. Every problem can teach you something, transforming you little by little into the masterpiece I created you to be. The very same problem can become a stumbling block over which you fall, if you react with distrust and defiance. The choice is up to you, and you will have to choose many times each day whether to trust Me or defy Me. The best way to befriend your problems is to thank Me for them.”

When I read this passage, I’m struck by three phrases God uses to show He can help us find a little more freedom in our souls.

“I am sovereign.” Even the heaviest baggage we carry is not too much for Him.  You may be holding a problem that feels insurmountable. While that problem may be overwhelming, the sovereign God of the universe walks beside us and helps us carry all of our burdens.

“Trust Me.” This is the biggest challenge for me, personally. As a fiction writer, I can create stories and characters, and breathe life into a new world with the stroke of a pen. In my desire to control each situation, I have to remember that there’s no better writer of stories than God, and He’s already picked out the perfect ending for both you and me.

“Thank Me.” It’s easy to thank God for blessings, but it’s much more difficult to find words of thanksgiving when we or a loved one are hurting. Even in our darkest moments, God sends us small blessings if we look for them. Find a couple of things to thank Him for today. You may be surprised by what you find.

May you have the courage to ask Him to help you clear the clutter in your soul and the strength to give your burdens over to Him.


David Rawlings guest blogger for the Jesus Calling websiteDavid Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father of three who loves humor and a clever turn of phrase. Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication. Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face. Visit David at www.davidrawlings.com.au.

Out with the Garbage and Flannel Pajamas

NLFCOUPLES

“My lover is mine and I am his.” Song of Songs 2:16

Were you surprised by the definition of romance your spouse offered last night? Romance can mean vastly different things to women and men, but for most of us the word describes that wonderful feeling of being noticed, wanted, and pursued— of being at the very center of our lover’s attention. Women are inclined to define romance as the things a husband does to make them feel loved, protected, and respected. Flowers (if they aren’t too cheap), compliments, nonsexual touching, and love notes are all steps in the right direction. So is helping with the chores. As author Kevin Leman once said, “The greatest of all aphrodisiacs is for a man to take out the garbage for his wife.”

Men, on the other hand, rely more on their senses. They appreciate a wife who makes herself as attractive to her husband as possible. A man wants to be respected—and even better, admired—by his wife. He likes to hear his wife express genuine interest in his opinions, hobbies, and work.

Obviously, these are generalizations, so take your spouse’s definition to heart. Knowing how he or she perceives romance can help you avoid many misunderstandings and disappointments. With a little care and forethought, you can keep the flame of romance burning brightly.

Just between us…

  • What’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever done for you?
  • How do you feel about our personal definitions of romance?
  • How can our differing views of romance strengthen our marriage?

Dear God, thank You for making us unique as a man and woman. Please help us understand and celebrate our carefully crafted differences. We want to become experts at pursuing and cherishing each other. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Keeping It Holy

NIGHT LIKE FOR PARENTS

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

The Lord doesn’t mince words when discussing the Sabbath. He included it among His most important instruction to His people, the Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8–10).

The Sabbath is to be a holy time, devoid of work and dedicated to worship, prayer, and praise. When we honor God as a family, we begin to sense the depth of the love, peace, and power that are available to us.

God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy. (They are the Ten Commandments, after all, not the ten suggestions!) But how, you ask, can you make Sunday—or whatever day you choose as your Sabbath rest—a holy day in the midst of life’s many distractions? You can start by unplugging the phone and computer, and turning off the television, washer, and dryer. Begin the day and each new activity with a prayer. Join fellow believers at church. Light a candle as a reminder of the One who is the light of the world. By respecting the Sabbath, you’ll discover a holy, healing calm that will revive you and your entire family.

Before you say good night…

How often do you truly honor God as a family on the Sabbath?

Besides what’s listed above, what else can you do to keep the Sabbath holy?

How might your family benefit from a weekly day of rest?

Father, we need the sweet calmness of a day focused completely on You. Our marriage needs it, and the kids need it, too. Show us Your desire and Your will in making this happen. The first step can be the most difficult! Guide us by Your strong hand. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

PASSING THE TEST

Passing the Test

Real love changes people.

After all, didn’t God’s love change you? Weren’t you blind? You couldn’t see beyond the grave. You couldn’t see your purpose in life until he showed you. And you couldn’t hear either. Oh, your ears functioned, but your heart didn’t understand. You’d never heard of such love and kindness, and you never would have heard of it, but God spoke in your language. And, most of all, he set you free. You are free! Free to run away. Free to harden your heart. Free to duck down side streets and hide behind trash cans. But you don’t. Or if you do, you come back. Why?

Because you’ve never been loved like this before.

God passes the test of 1 Corinthians 13:7. Does he want the best for you? “God himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Every action of heaven has one aim: that you know God. “He . . . made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him” (Acts 17:26-27 The Message).

And does God rejoice when you do what is right? Certainly. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Ps. 147:11 NIV). Does he weep when you do? Absolutely! He is the “God of all healing counseling! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times” (2 Cor. 1:3-4 The Message).

Do you want to know what love is? “This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be the way to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10).

God passes the test. He should, shouldn’t he? After all, he drafted it. May our goal be the same.
Excerpted from A Love Worth Giving
W Publishing, 2002

A PICTURE OF PATIENCE MAX LUCADO

Come with me to Paris, France, 1954. Elie Wiesel is a correspondent for a Jewish newspaper. A decade earlier he was a prisoner in a Jewish concentration camp. A decade later he would be known as the author of Night, the Pulitzer Prize winning account of the Holocaust. Eventually he’ll be awarded the congressional Medal of Achievement and the Nobel Peace Prize.

But tonight Elie Wiesel is a 26-old unknown newspaper correspondent. He is about to interview the French author Francois Mauriac, who is a devout Christian. Mauriac is France’s most recent Nobel laureate for literature and an expert on French political life.

Wiesel shows up at Mauriac’s apartment, nervous and chain-smoking — his emotions still frayed from the German horror, his comfort as a writer still raw. The older Mauriac tries to put him at ease. He invites Wiesel in, and the two sit in the small room. Before Wiesel can ask a question, however, Mauriac, a staunch Roman Catholic, begins to speak about his favorite subject: Jesus. Wiesel grows uneasy. The name of Jesus is a pressed thumb on his infected wounds.

Wiesel tries to reroute the conversation but can’t. It is as though everything in creation leads back to Jesus. Jerusalem? Jerusalem is where Jesus ministered. The Old Testament? Because of Jesus, the Old is now enriched by the New. Mauriac turns every topic toward the Messiah. The anger in Wiesel begins to heat. The Christian anti-Semitism he’d grown up with, the layers of grief from Sighet, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald — it all boils over. He puts away his pen, shuts his notebook, and stands up angrily.

“Sir,” he said to the still-seated Mauriac, “you speak of Christ. Christians love to speak of him. The passion of Christ, the agony of Christ, the death of Christ. In your religion, that is all you speak of. Well, I want you to know that tens years ago, not very far from here, I knew Jewish children every one of whom suffered a thousand times more, six million times more, than Christ on the cross. And we don’t speak about them. Can you understand that, sir? We don’t speak about them.” (David Aikman, Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century, Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998, p. 341-342.)

Mauriac is stunned. Wiesel turns and marches out the door. Mauriac sits in shock, his woolen blanket still around him. The young reporter is pressing the elevator button when Mauriac appears in the hall. He gently reaches for Wiesel’s arm. “Come back,” he implores. Wiesel agrees, and the two sit on the sofa. At this point Mauriac begins to weep. He looks at Wiesel but says nothing. Just tears.

Wiesel starts to apologize. Mauriac will have nothing of it. Instead he urges his young friend to talk. He wants to hear about it — the camps, the trains, the deaths. He asks Wiesel why he hasn’t put this to paper. Wiesel tells him the pain is too severe. He’s made a vow of silence. The older man tells him to break it and speak out.

The evening changed them both. The drama became the soil of a life-long friendship. They corresponded until Mauriac’s death in 1970. “I owe Francois Mauriac my career,” Wiesel has said . . .and it was to Mauriac that Wiesel sent the first manuscript of Night.

What if Mauriac had kept the door shut? Would anyone have blamed him? Cut by the sharp words of Wiesel, he could have become impatient with the angry young man and have been glad to be rid of him. But he didn’t and he wasn’t. He reacted decisively, quickly, and lovingly. He was “slow to boil.” And, because he was, a heart began to heal.

May I urge you to do the same?

“God is being patient with you” (2 Pet. 3:9). And if God is being patient with you, can’t you pass on some patience to others? Of course you can. Because before love is anything else:

Love is patient.
Excerpted from A Love Worth Giving
W Publishing, 2002

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How Can Suffering Be a Gift?

How Can Suffering Be a Gift?

One morning during a recent quiet time, I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 13:4. The verse struck my heart in such a profound way. The scripture, according to the King James Version, reads: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up…”. The NKJV version reads like this: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up…”

Immediately, the Holy Spirit brought to my attention that long-suffering was front and center. This is not meant a mere coincidence but was intentionally written.

Often times when we think about love, suffering isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Usually, we’ll think about eros love, which is the lovey-dovey emotions of tenderness with our significant other. Or perhaps we’ll think about philia love, the love we share for our good friends, and we’ll envision making lasting memories with the people dearest to us.

Suffering isn’t always something we immediately or naturally relate to love.

The more we look at the Word of God, the more we can see in plain view that suffering is par for the course if we want the love of God to be in our hearts, to transform us, and to be present in our deepest relationships. And in those ways, suffering can be a gift.

The First Gift of Suffering: It Sanctifies Us

 

I needed to retrain my mind and the ideas I personally had concerning love so that I could understand suffering for Christ as a benefit and not a loss. When I was growing up, I was completely drawn to the idea of love. I had a bent in my heart towards being kind, patient, and forgiving towards others.

With that said, I didn’t yet understand the true meaning of charity. And because of my lack of understanding, when it came to suffering, I very often mistook my difficult circumstances as wrong or damaging. In actuality, because I served God who is complete and total love, I was actually being transformed into the image of Christ!

Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4). Because the very nature of God is love, we can know that as His children, we are fully loved by Him. He loves us, He gave His son, Jesus, to die for us so that we would be reconciled back to Him. & then He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit on this earth!

Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is the sanctification of the saints. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that our redemption, through Christ from cavalry, is able to be worked into our lives in a way that makes us completely new, inside and out.

As we endure suffering, the Holy Spirit works the character of Christ into our very being! This is what makes long-suffering worth it—when we surrender our situations and circumstances to the Lord, He then draws out of us what needs to be drawn out.

My friend, I want you to take a moment and consider the last time you endured suffering. What was the posture of your heart? How did you respond to the people and things in your circumstances?

Did you respond by faith instead of sight?

Was the fruit of the Holy Spirit prevalent in how you navigated the season?

Suffering is so important because when we’re going through trials and tribulations of different kinds, we are really able to see how Christ-like we actually are vs. how we claim to be.

Suffering to become transformed more into the image of Christ is something we can truly rejoice in. It is a gift because we have the hope that what the Lord is doing in our hearts is making us like Him.

This truth should overshadow whatever sufferings you’ve gone through, or are currently walking through right now. Christ who is on the inside of you is perfecting who you are in Him, and it is such a beautiful journey if we surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • <strong>The Second Gift of Suffering: It Allows Us to Comfort Others</strong>

    The Second Gift of Suffering: It Allows Us to Comfort Others

    God really created mankind in a way where we need one another. None of us were expected to travel the road of life alone.

    There is a special gift in being able to relate to the sufferings of other people. Our relatability to suffering comes by way of experience and it allows us to be able to show compassion to others in their time of weakness.

    It gives us the ability to have empathy and provide comfort.

    2 Corinthians 1:3-4 of the Amplified Bible really gives us insight into what this looks like, “Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

    One of the things about this excerpt of scripture that I found powerful is that Paul said, “we will be able to comfort encourage those who are in any kind of trouble

    Let that settle into your heart.

    Our Lord Jesus Christ who is in Heaven has such a deep and profound love for people. Not only does He intercede for us in Heaven, but He works through his disciples, those of us who believe in Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth, on behalf of others.

    There are so many different types of trials and tribulations that people face on a daily basis. It only makes sense that since we are called to be light in the darkness, we be able to meet people where they are.

    This is what Jesus did for us. & this is our call-to-action for what we are to do for others.

    It is a beautiful picture of healing and redemption that isn’t short-sighted or surface level. God covers all the bases, for every type of suffering

    <strong>How Jesus Embodied Long-Suffering</strong>

    How Jesus Embodied Long-Suffering

     

    If we stop to consider our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we’ll understand very quickly why love is so deeply associated with suffering– and not mere suffering, but enduring suffering for a long time. Isaiah 53:3 says this, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

    Jesus’ life was filled with pain. His mission of love was lived out alongside suffering. You cannot separate the love of Jesus from his long-suffering.

    As I’ve thought about my own life and where I fall in relation to the people I love and the ability I have in those relationships to suffer long, it has changed the way I view love altogether.

    Charity (the virtue of loving God and loving our neighbor) is so incredibly beautiful in that it reaches heights, lengths, and depths that far surpass any obstacles and hindrance in its way. Charity always hopes and it never fails.

    I think we all long for love that never fades away. I think we all, deep inside our souls, desire to be loved in a way that moves mountains and restores and heals us to places that are sweet and heavenly.

    Thinking about this and really allowing this Word to take root in our hearts should change the way we view suffering.

    Suffering is a difficult road to travel.

    It can seem lonely and like there is no purpose in it.

    But there is so much purpose. Not only is God doing sanctifying work in us, He is also preparing us to meet others at their same point of suffering.

    The Word says that for the Glory set before Him [Jesus], He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Let us be encouraged to know that the Glory of the Lord is on the other side of our sufferings and, through the grace of God, carry our respective crosses following after the example our Savior set for us.


    Britnee Bradshaw is a wife, mama, and author. She enjoys reading several books at once, making vegetarian meals from scratch, and strolling around Saturday morning farmer’s markets. You can find her blogs, teachings, and her newest eBook, War For Your Covering: A Wife’s Guide to Intercessory Prayer, at her website here (www.britbradshaw.com)

Finding Your Purpose

Finding Your Purpose - Jesus Calling blog post by Susie Davis

Do you wonder what you’re supposed to be doing with your life? Do you wonder if you’re in the right job or following the right career path? You’re not alone when you think about things like that. Many people wonder about the purpose of their life and their vocation.

But it can get a little disheartening if you start entangling your life purpose with the job where you work each day. Because while jobs come and go, your life purpose is set inside of God’s specific and beautiful design for your life.

It’s easy to mix your life purpose—or identity—with your vocation. For many people, myself included, the two get so intertwined that they seem like one big thing. But they’re not.

One is about your God-gifted value, and that has nothing to do with work. It has to do with your personality, your passion, and your preferences. The other is about your vocational expression of those things.

“Your identity as a child of God gives your life meaning and purpose. Relationships with other people improve as you relate to them with
love and forgiveness.”

Jesus Always, March 10

Understanding the difference between identity and vocation will give you a ton of understanding and help you breathe a little easier. So let’s separate them out.

Identity is who you are, and who you are defines your worth. You are made in the image of God. You are unique. There is no one like you. That uniqueness includes your gifting, your personality, your skill set. You were made by God and for God, and He crafted you with His design in mind (Colossians 1:16). You are also called to minister to others. That is who you are. That is your life purpose.

The vocation part is what you choose to do with your time, like your work, and there’s a lot of wiggle room inside that. During the course of their lives, I think most people do a lot of different things vocationally. For me, I can think of about ten jobs I’ve had between the ages of twenty and fifty. I’ve been a pre-school teacher, a drama instructor, a public speaker, an author, a radio co-host. I’ve created small businesses that brought in income to help with our family budget.

Vocationally, I’ve been all over the map. If I defined my worth or identity by my ability to stay the course doing one thing vocationally or by making big money, I’d feel like a colossal failure. Instead, I stay focused on my identity before God. I am made by Him and for Him, and in all the things I’ve chosen to do, I try to honor Him.

“The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading the more fully I can develop your gifts.”


Jesus Calling, July 20

In his book Prayers from the Heart, theologian Richard Foster talks about his life purpose in a way that resonates with me: “My whole life, in one sense, has been an experiment in how to be a portable sanctuary, learning to practice the presence of God.”

Everywhere you go, as you practice the presence of God in your life, you’re like a small sanctuary to the people closest by. So that means when you’re on the way to work and you interact with the barista in the morning, you’re standing there as a respite, giving life and comfort to the person you’re talking to. As you hold a baby or read to a toddler, you’re offering them sanctuary as you abide with God. Maybe in your high-pressure job, your calm demeanor is a comfort to people who don’t know or even care about God.

In each scenario, there you are, a portable sanctuary, a daily relief. It’s that simple.

A lot of times, I think we try to make this connection between our identity and our vocation too intense and difficult, like being a minister for God means you should pack up your life and move to a third-world country to be a missionary. You could be called to that, and it could be dreamy and exotic in a sacrificial kind of way. But more likely, your ministry for God is right where you are, in your home and at your work.


Susie Davis is guest blogger on Jesus Calling blogSusie Davis is an author, speaker, and co-founder of Austin Christian Fellowship. She is married to her high school sweetheart Will, and the mother of 3 young adult children (and also a mother-in-law to 3!). Her latest book is Dear Daughters: Love Letters to the Next Generation. To learn more about Susie and her podcast Dear Daughters, visit her website.

Photo credit: Emily Boone Photography