After You Blow It, Do You Hear the Voice of Conviction or Condemnation? Here Are Five Ways to Tell the Difference

Studying the Bible

All I wanted to do was study my Bible that morning.

I’d eaten breakfast early and washed the dishes before sitting down to have some study time before we headed to church. Brian likes to sleep in whenever possible but on this particular morning, he woke up a little earlier than expected. When I say earlier, what I really mean to say is that he woke up just as I’d started my study. I greeted him with, “Good morning!” and then quickly glanced back at my study, trying to dodge the question I knew was coming next: “What did you eat for breakfast, i.e., what can you make me for breakfast?”

Let’s see. When I was fixing breakfast say, oh, two hours ago, it was eggs and toast. If you choose not to get up when the cook is cooking, you can make your way to the pantry, pour a nutritious bowl of Wheaties, sprinkle a little All Bran on top for good measure, drizzle a bit of honey around the edges and add a splash of Vitamin D milk. Enjoy!

Okay, so I didn’t say that⏤but it’s exactly what I thought while making his breakfast. After finishing up in the kitchen, I returned to my table to continue the study. I turned the page, and there it was in all of its convicting glory. The story of Jesus and the miraculous catch, found in John 21. It begins:

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

I love that Jesus was an early riser too. Unfortunately, that's where the happy comparison ends. Click To Tweet

In John 21, we find Jesus appearing to His disciples for the third time after His resurrection. Peter was feeling like a failure, floundering to regain confidence in his calling, so he did what everyone should do when struggling in life. He went fishing. And the disciples joined him. Jesus called out to them from the shore but they didn’t recognize him. It wasn’t until He called out to them that John recognized His voice. Peter eagerly wrapped his outer garment around him and swam to shore. The disciples weren’t far behind in the boat.

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many, the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

 

Oh, to be more like Jesus. His servant’s heart threaded thirty-three years together for the Father’s glory. He came to serve, from beginning to end.

 

Even when conviction stings like it did that morning, I marvel at the Holy Spirit’s methods. There’s a vast difference between godly conviction and the enemy’s accusations, sometimes referred to as condemnation. When I re-played the Sunday morning fiasco in my mind the following day, I realized a battle was waging beneath it all. The battle between conviction and condemnation. It looked something like this:

 

The Voice of Condemnation:
  • You’re a lousy wife.
  • You’re lazy.
  • Why do you bother studying the bible if you can’t even act {or react} properly?
  • If you were more organized you could’ve prepared his breakfast ahead of time and put it in the fridge.
The Voice of Conviction:
  • Did you respond with a servant attitude?
  • {While reading John 21} See, Cathy, this is the way.
  • Remember what we read last week about not only thinking of your interests but also the interests of others?
  • Hmm, this could be a blog post. {Okay, maybe this was me, but I was hoping to help others avoid my foolish mistakes!}

 

So, I decided to jot down the subtle yet vast differences between the voices of conviction and condemnation. I put five of the many differences in an infographic to save or print for future reference if you wish. {The link to the downloaded version is below the graphic and is clearer than the image below.}

 

 

Have you experienced the battle between the two “C”‘s as I did that Sunday morning?


 

Why Everybody Needs God in the Dark + Enter to Win a Free Copy

God in the Dark Sarah Van Diest

Only a handful of years had passed since my divorce when I studied the book of James. My heart was raw, as were my tears. Wet ink melted onto more than one page in my Bible but one verse stood out:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2, 3 [emphasis mine]

 

James says when we face trials, not if. Trials are a given this side of heaven. I recognized how this truth not only beat true for my life, but also for others, for those we love.

 

It’s because of this that I wanted to serve on the launch team for God in the Dark, by Sarah Van Diest. I believe this book puts feet to 2 Corinthians 1:3,4:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 

 

Today’s giveaway offers you the opportunity to share God in the Dark with someone in your life in need of comfort.

Arrow

I met Sarah Van Diest at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference several years ago. Her quick smile coupled with an old poetic soul told me we would surely be friends. I am honored to welcome her to our creative community.

God in the Dark by Sarah Van Diest

Guest post by Sarah Van Diest, author of God in the Dark: 31 Devotions to Let the Light Back In.

 

Sarah, what was the first experience that opened your eyes to the power of words? What gave you the idea to send letters to someone who is struggling?

 

These two questions go hand in hand for me. The first gave rise to the second. I fell in love with words and the pictures they created in school. In a class with a teacher who loved words, we learned how to journal and I realized words created a safe place for me. But it wasn’t until I was asked to write letters to people who were going on mission trips with our church when I learned the power those beloved words held to impact others.

We called them Barnabas Letters. For each person on the team, and for each day, those of us who were so inclined wrote a letter of encouragement, which the team packed in their bags for their journey. So each day of the trip, each person had a letter to read. I loved this idea. And then on my first mission trip, around the age of 14, I couldn’t wait for my very own Barnabas Letters to open and read. I loved how each letter was so different. The handwriting, or type, or crayon color, whatever they used to bring their idea of encouragement to the page was like a window into their world. I loved them so much! And I thought about their words all day long.

As I grew, I continued this way of encouraging people in my life, especially when I couldn’t be with them or there was nothing tangible I could do to mend their circumstances. It was out of this practice that the book, God in the Dark, was born.

How the book God in the Dark was birthed from Barnabas Letters @SarahVanDiest Click To Tweet

 

What’s one thing God taught you while writing this book?

 

I used Psalm 119 as the framework for this set of letters and in those verses I was reminded of the blessing the Psalms are. God was so kind to give them to us. They show humanity is such honest light, and we relate. We see a man who feels the pain, even anguish, of this life and who is trying with all his might to remain faithful. That sounds so familiar. And then we see the Father’s faithfulness to him – regardless of the psalmist’s “success” at remaining faithful himself.

I needed this reminder.

 

What has it been like to be on the other side of the publishing road?

 

I’ve been an editor and an agent, but I had never been an author. This was new for me. On the editor side, I was deeply connected with the content of the book, invested in the message and whether it was well conveyed. As an agent, I was committed to my authors. Supporting them was my number one goal and priority. Both of these endeavors were good and worthwhile.

What I had never experienced before in the professional realm was the direct impact of words I had written on the hearts of readers. The way the Lord has already used the work in God in the Dark has been something I have witnessed firsthand in the lives of many on my launch team. I have been in awe throughout the process of this launch. I had no idea.

I am forever grateful for the chance to have this reach into the hearts and lives of fellow sojourners.

{Thank you, Sarah!}

 

Is there some way Sarah and I can pray for you today? Or is there a particular part of the post that speaks to you?

We hope you’ll enter the giveaway for the hardback copy of God in the Dark. Simply leave a comment! The winner, chosen by Random Name Picker, will be notified this Friday, April 6th.

 

 

Sarah Van Diest

Sarah Van Diest is a writer and editor. She’s the mother of two boys, stepmother to three, and wife to David. Sarah wrote this book as letters to a dear friend whose life was turning upside down. She’s done this for years for numerous friend and will continue to, Lord willing. It’s her gift them. It’s hope written down.

 

 

 

 

God in the Dark is available through Tyndale Publishers, Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and other fine retailers. You can also find God in the Dark on the NEW resources page!

When A Puppy Breaks One Heart and Heals Another

Broken Heart

 

It didn’t turn out as expected. Not even close.

When Rupert, our twelve-year-old Lhasa Apso, attacked me in 2016 due to neurological issues it was a traumatic time on many levels, so we knew it would be a while before we decided to get another dog. But last November we put a deposit on the first male pick of a Shih Tzu litter two towns over. Like Rupert, Henry the Shih Tzu would also be a hypoallergenic dog, so I began envisioning many years with our new pup.

I imagined the grandkids being greeted by him well into their teens and summer days when we could take him swimming in the pool, or tuck him in his special spot in our tiny house (more on that in the near future!) I’d even looked forward to watching the Daytona 500 with him in my lap (now there’s something about me I bet you didn’t know!)  🙂

We had to wait a total of eleven weeks before we could bring him home. Meanwhile, Brian and I ventured off to pet stores in search of the perfect toys. Would he prefer those shaped like animals that crinkle at the slightest touch or the red rubbery ones that gave his jaw a workout? We purchased everything he needed and perhaps a few things he didn’t like a custom-made crate cover with his name on it. After all, his name carries the influence of one of the sweetest men I’ve ever known, my granddaddy, Henry Knighton.

Finally, the day came to pick up Henry, the Shih Tzu that had stolen our heart before he was even born. Holding him for the first time was something I’d dreamed of for weeks. During our brief visits, we could only watch him play⏤no touching was allowed. He squirmed all the way home to my delight. And like any proud parent, we took his picture and announced his arrival on Facebook.

Beginning the night we brought him home, I began waking up at 2:00 am with sharp headaches. Of course, I was convinced I had a brain tumor. So when I caught a glance of the bright red splotches all over my arms and legs two days later, I started searching the Internet for a correlation between hives and brain tumors.

 

My allergist performed an asthma test that morning and in the end, confirmed something that left a gaping hole in my heart. I was allergic to my hypo-allergenic dog.

 

Henry had to be returned to the breeder and so he was—on Valentine’s Day. I was caught off guard by the tsunami of emotions that overwhelmed me for days following his departure. Could I have done anything differently? Did I miss something that should’ve alerted me not to buy a puppy? Why would God allow us to go through all those weeks anticipating his arrival only to give us three days with him?

 

Having experienced a miscarriage, I recall asking similar questions at the time. Certainly one does not compare to the other but when there are unfulfilled longings, the emotions are raw and the pain is tender, regardless of the why.

 

Three days later, with tears still flowing, I decided to post on Facebook again. Everyone had been so nice to wish us well. And honestly, I didn’t want to have to explain the situation to numerous people in the days and weeks ahead. I had no expectations from the post but within minutes, encouragement began pouring in. {Thank you!} And then I noticed it—a Facebook message waiting for me from a friend whom I’d not seen in years.

 

Shannon shared how her friend had been praying for a puppy for a year.

 

 

You see, it had been one year since Renee’s twelve-year-old grandson died unexpectantly. Some of her fondest memories with him included perusing the Internet for a puppy shortly before he passed away. She felt a puppy would bring healing to her broken heart. Within a few hours, Renee and her husband drove Henry to his new home. {Yep, she kept his name, which means so much to me.} Renee even texted, sharing how sorry she was for my situation but also adding, “You just can’t know how I have prayed for this puppy!”

 

You’re right, Renee. I couldn’t have known⏤but God did⏤and only He could have orchestrated this ending.

 

It’s obviously not the one we’d hoped for or planned. But I’m learning to rest in the knowledge that God is in control of everything, including his smallest of creatures.

 

Has God ever used something unexpected (and perhaps a little furry) to heal a hurt in your life?

 

 

How Keeping a List of Victories Can Help Gain Freedom Over Fear

Invasion of Fear

The invasion began three decades ago.

Everyone else was at work despite the snow-covered roads. I felt pressure to be there so I bundled up my oldest and headed down the road. I drove for miles without any issues until I rounded a shady curve on an exit ramp to I-85. We slid to the side of the road. As I was getting out of my car to meet a gentleman who had stopped to help, a woman driving too fast for conditions skated around the curve and plowed into my car. In turn, my car hit me and I landed in a nearby gully and the car, along with my eight-month-old son, sailed down the ramp. The policeman said if he’d not been in a car seat he would’ve been thrown from the vehicle. {Thank You, Lord}

Fear laid low like a crouching tiger for two years. Then one night while driving in a rainstorm an eighteen-wheeler crept into my lane causing me to swerve. In an instant, fear lept into action. Over the years, the severity increased. Driving or riding on highways, it didn’t matter. I started avoiding all highways, then busy roads, then bridges and tunnels.

 

Fear is never satisfied⏤it always desires more, invading the abundant life God desires for us.

 

I’ve missed out-of-town birthdays, trips to my husband’s hometown in DC, and early on, even a few family beach outings. Truth is, I’ve missed out on much more⏤but even I can’t bear to admit how much.

At one point, I considered stepping away from teaching adult Bible studies, something I’d done for over twenty years. Guilt pursued me whispering how can you call yourself a Bible teacher when you struggle with all these fears? Recognizing this voice was not from God but still feeling the weight of the accusation, I sought counsel from a wise scholar of the Word. He helped to infiltrate my weary soul with a soaking of grace⏤something I’m quick to offer to others but sometimes slow to offer to myself.

I began keeping a journal of God’s faithfulness. When a difficult trip came up, I wrote it down. Sometimes the sentence was as simple as Lord, help me drive to the grocery store in the storm. Every time God chose to miraculously clear the skies or the roads, I gained confidence. And on those days when the skies refused to clear or a kiss from the back bumper left me rattled, I found comfort in knowing God was there, allowing it for my ultimate good.

Almost two years ago, in an effort to move closer to our grandchildren and to the mountains, we considered leaving our beloved century-old home and the city we’d lived in for twenty-five years. Leaving everyone and everything I knew to move an hour away (which was approximately 55 minutes outside my comfort zone) was overwhelming at times. But during the process, we found a home perched on a hill with a spectacular view of the mountains. The only downside was the drive to civilization. Instead of taking five minutes to reach the closest Starbucks (is there a better point of reference?), it would require twenty. Yep, a 40-minute round trip for a grandi-licious cup of coffee.

Fear tempted me to re-think the move. I had enough trouble driving around the corner on rainy days. How could I even think of driving twenty minutes to anywhere? But I had allowed fear to invade too much of my life already. I refused to let it determine we where we lived.

 

With the words, Enough is enough! the heavy strike of my foot hit the dirt, claiming my right to freedom.

 

We moved to that house on four acres with a mountain view a little over a year ago. It is an act of faith to drive forty minutes on a two-lane road dotted with roadside crosses but it feels like a kick in the enemy’s shin every single time I do it.

 

Journal of Victories

 

Another shin-kick was dealt at Disney last November. While there, Brian insisted I make a list of everything that tested my anxiety on the trip⏤but did anyway, even if done so poorly. (Let’s just say I WILL ride something on the next trip!) When I returned home, I made the list. Words flowed effortlessly, as did the tears. Mini-victories measured 8-1/2″ x 11″ that day. And as the victories increase, so will the pages. Each one reminding me of God’s desire to live abundantly and that He is here, with me, in the struggle as well as the victories.

 

Journaling our mini-victories over fear reminds us of God's faithfulness, giving us the courage to take another step toward freedom. Click To Tweet

 

Friends, I wish I could end this post in true David and Goliath style. But my fears aren’t totally slain, or honestly, even close. I can, however, say that with every small declaration against fear, freedom gains ground.

And I suppose this is where victory over fear begins for us all.

I covet your prayers on this journey. Maybe I’m not alone. Is there some way I can pray for you? 

 

Why Be Yourself When You Can Be So Much More? + Starbucks Valentine’s Day Giveaway!

Becoming a Swan

Be yourself, but always your better self. Karl G. Maeser

I received the call on a blazing hot afternoon⏤family was coming for an overnight stay. While I was thrilled with the idea of seeing them, I began stressing over details that multiplied quicker than the bunny next door.

At one point, I was convinced that my innate Southern hospitality would override the anxiety. I mean, surely I could put on a smile like the one I do when walking into church after arguing with Brian all the way there. *wink*

 

Or, I could be myself⏤a woman who deeply desires to love others without surrendering to anxiety.

 

The inner struggle continued up to a mere hour before their arrival.

Brian wasn’t home and I was scurrying from room to room trying to convince myself I could cover all evidence of the ever-encroaching anxiety. But God wasn’t having it. I slowly made my way to the couch, plopped down, and stayed quiet until this prayer emerged from my weary soul:

 

Father, help me to be who I cannot be without You.
Father, help me to be who I cannot be without You. Click To Tweet

God knew my heart. He knew I wanted to love and enjoy my guests. He knew I wanted them to feel welcomed. But He also knew my limitations, struggles, and above all, my sinful nature that often desires comfort at any cost. Even at the cost of loving others well.

I can only say (due to the wonder of it all) that at one point during their visit, Brian looked over and asked what I’d done with his wife. You see, my hubby is also well acquainted with the struggle between my desire to be the woman God created me to be and the anxiety. Too often, he’s seen the latter win the battles. He could barely recognize a win.

I’ve prayed the same prayer more than once since that summer afternoon, not because those eleven words help me to be a better me, but because the sincere desire releases God’s power to help me be more like Him.

I wish I could say that all my desires are this pure, but they’re not. I am what God calls a WIP — Work In Progress. Maybe this is why we like hanging out together. 🙂

If so, this is my prayer for us:

 

A Prayer for 2018

 

Is there a particular role in your life that longs for God’s leading?

 

Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d share a little yummy-licious giveaway today! I wish I could give one to every gracious person who takes time to read what the Lord lays on my heart to share but since I can’t *sigh*, I’ll randomly draw a name from the comment section this Friday. I hope you’ll take a moment to leave a comment because if your name is drawn, you’ll win this nifty Starbucks reusable cup (=discounted coffee) and a 5.00 cup o’ coffee gift card.

Starbucks Giveaway

 

 

 

Swan Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

We Love Our Church So Why Are We Leaving?

Church is not a Building

“This is our time on the history line of God. This is it. What will we do with the one deep exhale of God on this earth? For we are but a vapor and we have to make it count. We’re on. Direct us, Lord, and get us on our feet.” –Beth Moore

 

Our time with Summit seems too important, too intertwined with our lives, to settle for a simple goodbye.

Summit Church Upstate in Greenville SC has been our church home for almost seven years. From the get-go, Jason and Kyle welcomed us warmly, loved us deeply, and challenged us through biblical teaching. We developed friendships that will not be deterred by a change in address because the Church isn’t defined by brick and mortar. We are the Church and wherever we go, we take with us their love and influence.

Stop to consider the reasons why you love your church. Write them down. It's good for the soul. Click To Tweet

 

 

Let’s see if some of your reasons resonate with mine.

 

An Inclusive Mindset

 

During our services, we prayed for churches across the world but we also prayed for those across the street. In fact, the teaching team at Summit never shied away from building up other churches in our area because they recognized⏤and reminded us⏤that we’re on the same team. We’re not competition. This is a foreign concept in some churches today, many of which are dying.

 

Teaching Team

 

When we first began visiting Summit, we sat under Jason Malone and Kyle Estepp’s teaching. Jason’s well-timed zingers made us laugh one minute and be contemplative the next while Kyle’s tender delivery of the Word melted the hardest of hearts. A few years ago we helped a new Summit campus get started. We discovered more lasting friendships and another engaging and solid pastor, Nathan Forrest. We miss them so much!

 

Behind-the-Scenes

 

I was delighted and honored to serve on the staff communications team for almost two years. What I saw behind-the-scenes was exactly what we all saw on Sunday mornings and every day in between. Not perfection, nor the desire to be, but rather, authentic Christ-followers with a robust faith who desire to share the gospel with every man, woman, and child.

 

People Family

 

There’s not enough space to share the many reasons why I love our church family. Deep relationships deepened and new friendships were forged. We enjoyed serving alongside them in the music and hospitality ministries. And in a very real way, we still will, wherever we land.

 

I hope it’s obvious as to how much we love Summit Upstate. So why are we leaving?

 

Well, we moved almost an hour away from our home campus and while there is another campus closer to us, it’s still thirty minutes away. In the big scheme of things I suppose that’s not terribly far but after months of prayer, we sense the need and desire to serve our little community at the foot of Glassy Mountain. If there’s a need, we’ll be close enough to deliver a meal before it gets cold and who knows? We might actually bump into someone we go to church with at the only grocery store within 20 minutes or the best restaurant around, The Hungry Drover (and I don’t say that just because they carry my books!) *wink*

 

Leaving a church is never easy, especially one you love, but we have Summit’s blessings (which came as no surprise) and we look forward to seeing where God will lead us.

“We’re on. Direct us, Lord, and get us on our feet.” –Beth Moore

 

What’s one thing you most love about your church? It matters!

 

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