Back from the Dead

I bet you never knew I was dead. Cold to the touch. My heart stopped beating. They wrapped me in grave clothes and prepared for life without me. But then I came back. It was a miracle. There were witnesses and still some people don’t believe in the one who warmed my blood and breathed my soul back into this body. What say you?

I imagine that’s how Lazarus told and retold his story. Strangely, my faith story is similar. Jesus is still in the business of restoring lives.

In John chapter 11 we learn Jesus brought a friend, dead and rotting for four days, back to life in front of many Jews. But before He did it, Jesus made them wait.

cross-1480482_1920.jpg“But when Jesus heard (Lazarus was sick) He said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

Isn’t that fascinating.

Mary and Martha were freaking out that their brother was going to die and Jesus was calm knowing that He had the power to even change a death sentence. He could’ve healed Lazarus in an instant, Mary and Martha would’ve had their brother back. But they would’ve missed seeing the power and glory of God. Instead, Jesus strengthened faith of generations through their story proving the impossible is possible for those who believe in Him.

It seems backwards, that the verse says Jesus loved them so He did nothing about their pain right away. But in His perfect timing, when the people couldn’t solve the problem on their own, He breathed life back into a hopeless situation. Sounding familiar? It does for me.

I wasn’t physically dead, but emotionally done.

I’ve given up and gone through the motions when it all seemed too much. I wondered where God was and why He wasn’t fixing things right then. But looking back, the pain I endured had purpose. He allowed me to go through the darkness so I could search for His light. So I would trade the world for His abundant life.

He allowed me to go through the darkness so I could search for His light. So I would trade the world for His abundant life.

Every Christian is Lazarus. God raised us from spiritually dead. When we surrendered and believed in Jesus and that the Holy Spirit lives and breathes within us, we came back to life– a new life.

God can raise us from negative to positive, despair to joy, hopeless to faithful, broken to empowered, victim to conqueror, and sinner to beloved child of God.

So as we end this month of reflecting on ABIDING in God, remember that we’re not the answer to our struggles–Jesus is. Our hope is not in our striving, but trusting our God is loving, sovereign, and with us.

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And Find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

How to Live out God’s Character

Goals, pressure, perfection, progress—it’s easy to get sucked into believing we’re the cause of success and growth. But real change happens as God gives us grace to be like Christ according to our willingness to walk with a second place mentality. Transformation happens when we accept His will over self-will, and consider the needs of others above ours. Our culture has it backwards, truth is, Humility—not striving— is the root to bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”(1 Peter 5:5 ESV)

Living like Jesus isn’t impossible. We don’t have to struggle to be more like Jesus any more than a branch has to struggle to bear fruit. Instead, we focus on walking in humility, and the Spirit of God will automatically produce the fruit. Humility keeps us resting in God like a branch rests in the vine. We can learn to walk in this virtue in a practical manner daily; through every choice we surrender to God.

When I was a teenager and a new believer in Christ, the Lord led me to apply this in the most simplistic ways. Whenever my friends and I went out for a drive we’d fight to see who’d ride shotgun. To practice humility, I began to volunteer to sit in the backseat, which was considered the less prominent position within the pack. Through this practice I soon discovered that God’s favor to the humble protects them like a shield (Psalm 5:12).

On one occasion three of us were sitting in the back of the bed of my cousin’s truck. After making a stop, my friend jumped into the back of the truck where I had been sitting. My initial impulse was to insist that he move. But instead, I submitted to the Lord’s prompting to humble myself. A few minutes later a vehicle t-boned the exact spot where I was previously sitting. The friend who took my seat was injured in the accident. In fact, I was the only one who walked away without a scratch. Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but God taught me to trust His voice because He protects those who walk in humility.

So why don’t we choose humility over pride?

Perhaps because some equate it to weakness. On the contrary, we’ll have a strength we never before possessed to seek justice and to stand with the helpless when we follow God. He will help our thoughts shift to prioritize others, and will give us opportunities to practice putting the needs of others ahead of ours.

We’ll have a strength we never before possessed to seek justice and to stand with the helpless when we follow God.

Humbling ourselves is a good defense to combat the enemy of self-will. Pride in the heart hinders the grace of God like a dam backing the flow of water. The humble in heart have a constant source of living water providing growth in any conditions.

Our choice to be humble matters. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.”

Sometimes the people we share life with and pray for are not thirsting to know God because we are not manifesting the life of Jesus in our lives. But the more we allow Christ to live through us and our actions, we’ll bear the fruit of His presence, and they will begin to sense and desire the peace, joy, and love He offers. They’ll ask questions about our faith which is a sign that God is drawing them to Himself.

Let’s ask God to make us wise soul-winners by bearing fruit that comes from walking humbly with Him. “Teach us O Lord, to walk in submission to Your Word and to clothe ourselves in the garment of a servant toward others.”      

What practical way can you walk in humility?

 

matt romano headshot - croppedMatthew J. Romano (today’s guest blogger) is an ordained deacon of Christ Church New Jersey. He has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years. His passion is sharing Christ with the lost and teaching believers to walk passionately with the Lord. He currently serves the body of Christ as a deacon, altar ministry to pray for the needs of God’s people, life group leader, guest teacher and speaker of the Word of God, and as a certified teacher in the School of Prayer. He is the author of “The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation” and “The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation.” Connect with Matt more online. 

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And Find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

AndreaWeb47

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

Why We Avoid Jesus

I didn’t think I needed Jesus. So it took me 26 years to truly believe in Him. Every day since a battle has warred in my mind. Will I entrust my past, present and future to Jesus? Or try to make it on my own? We’ve all avoided God, perhaps because of one major faith question. If I surrender my life to Christ, what will He do with it? Is He for my good or against my desires?

I had a plan for my life. Finish school. Get married. Have babies. Have fun. I made most of what I wanted happen until I couldn’t. Our first baby almost died in childbirth–he’s a straight up miracle–but it left me traumatized and depressed. I climbed partially out of that pit only to slide back in from multiple miscarriages.

My plan was NOT working out. My ideas about life were shattered. I didn’t know how to deal with emotional pain. So I tried to patch up the holes myself. Shopping? Wine? Work? Ovulation kits? But nothing brought back joy. Nothing healed my hurts. Only numbed and distracted.

…nothing brought back joy. Nothing healed my hurts. Only numbed and distracted.

I read stories in the Bible about people coming to Jesus. Those who were exhausted, hurt, sick, mourning. I read how He took them in, validated their humanity and spoke tenderly into their pain. He healed the whole person, inside and out. I needed that. Maybe you do, too. (see Matthew 8-9)

I believe those are the questions we must ask ourselves. Do we need Jesus? Do we need forgiveness for our wrongs? Validation of our hurts? And wise counsel for today? Is life with Jesus better than life alone in this world?

The Bible passage below answers that question.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20 ESV)

Some of my dreams and treasures on earth have been stolen, trampled on, or thwarted. Perhaps yours too. When nothing else could fill my void, bring me back to life, listen to my needs at midnight, understand my hurt, Jesus became my best friend. I needed Him and He showed up and became a lasting treasure to me. One that will never leave or disappoint me.

So the answer to my biggest faith question? Life has proven to be better than I ever imagined as I journey with Jesus.

Things, dreams, people, careers, houses, nor earthly desires, are guaranteed or imperishable.  Jesus is the only treasure that doesn’t wear out. He holds our comfort, healing, forgiveness, rest, joy, peace, love, and eternity secure for us as we do life leaning in close to Him through prayer and trusting His leadership.

Jesus is the only treasure that doesn’t wear out.

His devotion will not fade. His friendship will not get boring. His forgiveness will not run out. A life with Jesus is not about giving up, it’s about getting a new love and purpose. Becoming part of something bigger than yourself. Becoming a new you that you can’t even dream up.

Unfortunately there are also stories in the Bible of people turning away from Jesus out of fear–worried about their schedule, their money, their status. They didn’t think they needed Jesus. So they walked away unhappy. (see Matthew 19:16-22)

Take a moment and inventory what keeps you from coming near to Jesus. Can it offer you the same security, love, grace, acceptance, and joy that knowing Christ can? How would it change your life to let go of what’s keeping you weighted down? I pray you and I have the courage to let go of the temporary things of this world we think are important and grab ahold of God’s powerful love and friendship.

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And Find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him.Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

How to Change for Good

What is it that you really want this New Year? Social media will be lit up with all sorts of changes to be a new you. How you can have a rockin’ body or 4 steps to a more successful you. Looking back, there’s only one decision that transformed my life. And it’s the one we tend to avoid. Get to know Jesus.

Look. I know it sounds more logical that if we alter our bodies or eating habits we will feel better about life. But I’ve tried all sorts of diets and none can repair the things that really matter…my marriage, my family, my sinful heart. Only Jesus.

I’ve tried all sorts of diets and none can repair the things that really matter…my marriage, my family, my sinful heart. Only Jesus.

Of course, take care of yourself. Make healthy choices and enjoy the life He gave you. But let’s be honest, a beautiful body doesn’t mean as much if the soul is still unhealthy. So if you’re like me, wrestling with wanting to live bigger and better, wanting to see extraordinary things happen in your ordinary life, there’s only one way. You have to tap into God’s supernatural power, and it’s easier than you think.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV emphasis mine).

If you’ve been laboring for a better version of you, stop. Come to Jesus and take a break.

That’s what I’m going to do this New Year. I’m trusting Him to transform me from the inside out as I spend time with Him in prayer, learning by reading bits of my Bible each day, and following where He leads my days and life. It’s not an overnight fix, it’s a new way to live that gives energy instead of taking.

It’s not an overnight fix, it’s a new way to live that gives energy instead of taking.

Jesus doesn’t require anything but you. You don’t have to be awesome. You don’t have to try to be anything, because you are already His. You are loved and valued by the Savior of the world and that is enough. He has a purpose for you if you put down your striving and dare to follow.

So yes, I will probably do some yoga this year and eat more veggies, but that’s not what will change me. Be bold with me this New Year as this group of believers decides to take Jesus at His word. That when we come to Him we will find rest for our burdens and that He truly wants us to learn His ways because His ways fight for real transformation.

So the question is, do you want more from Jesus? He’s ready when you are.

 

 

**Join the afruitfulwoman.com community this year and receive free devotionals and messages from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.  And watch Andrea’s Jesus and Jammies devotional videos and find your voice in the conversation on FaceBook.

AndreaWeb47

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

Find Andrea also at WhollyLoved Ministries and her devotionals on crosswalk.com

 

 

 

Jesus Works in the Waiting

It’s impossible. At least it feels that way. That thing that you can’t budge or change sits like a 10 ton boulder in your way. We tend to try to move it anyway, pushing with all our strength, not moving an inch. When we’re tired, Jesus gently gives us another option.

Wait patiently.

Let’s be honest, that’s hard and it’s also not what we like to do. We like to DO, GO, Get ‘er done! in the Midwest. So waiting often seems lazy instead of the right choice.

Here’s what we find in Scripture. God’s people are faced with some real enemies, they are scared, and probably feeling a bit lost, but Habakkuk prays…

“I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently... Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength...” (Habakkuk 3: 16-19 NIV) emphasis mine.

 

I have friends who are up against some hard things right now. Friends who are in the waiting period of lots of things.  I also am trying to navigate the future by faith. What if we declared the same as Habakkuk over our insecurities, health problems, lost dreams, immovable problems? Today let’s do that together, praying truth over our uncertainties…

Jesus, Even when I’m scared. I will wait patiently because I know You are working behind the scene. Though I don’t see any evidence of what I want happening, I will trust that You are doing something about the situation when it’s out of my control. In the meantime, I am going to keep my joy and be thankful that my God is working it out for me — You, Lord are my only strength. I’ve got faith You can move this mountain and Your plan for me is good.

Though I don’t see any evidence of what I want happening, I will trust that You are doing something about the situation when it’s out of my control.

Trust that waiting may be what God is asking of you. That He may want to make something beautiful in the time you spend trusting in His power instead of your own.

 

**Get more free encouraging messages and devotionals from Andrea when you sign up for her Email Friends list.

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Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She believes Jesus transforms lives when His people boldly seek Him. Her writing reflects her love for Jesus and heart for fellow believers.

 

 

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

A Christmas interview with Alexandra Kuykendall

Let’s face it, our actual Christmas doesn’t always mimic a Hallmark movie. Expectations, finances, hope, joy, sorrow, and where Jesus meets us in it all. Alexandra Kuykendall shared some practical and soulful insights during a video interview centered on her book, “Loving my Actual Christmas”.

I hope this Christmas interview blesses you as it did me as we prepare our hearts for the season…knowing that no matter our circumstances, Jesus is with us and is our source of all we need at Christmas and all year long.

 

*Visit Alex online for more Christmas insights

 

Happiness — see joy

Recent quotes from a well known speaker have raised red flags on my truthometer — particularly one that read “If you’re not happy, that’s on you.” It was like a carrot baiting readers to start striving for happiness. Truth is, happiness is a cheap, man-made, temporary version of what we really want. I looked up happiness in the index of my Bible and there was NOT A SINGLE ENTRY, instead it read, “happiness — see joy.”

I laughed. My truthometer was right.

Sirens were going off in my spirit for a reason. I’ve lived through some really unhappy seasons that led to growth and strength. They led me to a stronger faith in Jesus.

Social media is a plague that is spreading the idol of happiness. Truth is, we can spend our whole lives chasing, changing, and reaching for happiness and it will flit in and out leaving us frustrated and unfulfilled.

Believing that happiness is all on us, urges happiness forward into first priority in our lives and grants ourselves reign over it. Both of which are false. Not once did Jesus seek His own happiness. His joy was in doing the work His Father sent Him to do. And most times that was messy and hard. And we are His followers.

Not once did Jesus seek His own happiness. His joy was in doing the work His Father sent Him to do. And most times that was messy and hard. And we are His followers.

“If you’re not happy, it’s on you” may be a clever and catchy post, but living by that motto we lose sight of other things that are more important than our instant gratification of happiness.

The idol of happiness says, leave the marriage find another, you’ll be happier with that other one. Quit the job, there’s not enough money, you’ll be happier if you have more money. Motherhood is too exhausting, have a glass of wine, you’ll be happier if you go out more. Quit the friendship because it’s too hard, you’ll be happier without her. Move, keep moving, because a bigger house will make you happy. Until it doesn’t anymore.

Being happy is a blessing until it becomes our goal. There’s always something better, and then something better than that. Happier is out there somewhere. And it makes us feel less than because we can’t grasp it every moment of every day.

But joy, JOY is found by anyone, anywhere, anytime in Christ. It is God’s desire for His people for us to be filled to the brim with joy because that comes from God, not from man, and therefore doesn’t depend on our circumstances, our choices, or our striving. It’s a gift we experience as we do life with Jesus.

JOY is found by anyone, anywhere, anytime in Christ. It’s a gift we experience as we do life with Jesus.

As I looked joy up in my Bible’s index, here’s what I found…

Joy comes from the Spirit of God, it is not “on us.”

We find joy in worshiping God, in recognizing God is God and we are not.

There’s joy that we are saved, that we can give all our junk to Christ and be forgiven.

Joy in suffering because we are not alone in it because our God is with us.

Joy in servanthood! Serving people gives us joy!  

Joy is found always, in all circumstances. When we live with Christ.

Let’s not limit ourselves to finding our own happiness.  Let’s take the overflowing gift of JOY God’s Spirit offers instead. And let’s not be afraid of hard seasons. We need Jesus to flood our days with His joy even when it’s hard, because sometimes the hard leads to something good.

So we have a choice to make as followers of Jesus these days. We can listen to the loudest megaphone telling us what we want to hear, like that we can make our own happiness, or we can seek truth by reading our Bibles for ourselves. One leads to folly, the other safeguards our life.

 

 

*If you are in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship please seek help. That is not a matter of a lack of happiness, that is abuse and abuse is NEVER condoned by God.

Fragile yet Unbreakable

Distressed. Confused. Wronged. Beat down. These are the affects we feel from this messed up world. Yet when we are the  most fragile, in the deepest of despair, God’s people are unbreakable. YOU are unbreakable.

Read this chunk of truth and let it set in…

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, ESV).

The other day I got a package in the mail. A fragile item surrounded by three layers of bubble wrap and tucked in a taped up box. Because of the protection and guarding of the layers built up around it, it survived a cross country journey of bumpy terrain.

You and I, and the people we love, we are all fragile jars of clay rolling about as life swerves and jostles. But we are wrapped up in Christ. Maybe we are a little dizzy, but not broken. Perhaps a bit shaken, but not shattered. Not just for our comfort, but it is for His glory that His people survive the hard. Your life points others to Christ so they too can be wrapped up in his love.

You and I, and the people we love, we are all fragile jars of clay rolling about as life swerves and jostles. But we are wrapped up in Christ.

If we believe in Jesus, every hurt we encounter in this life can have purpose as we persevere leaning into Him. The Scripture above says our survival in incredible hardship is a testimony to God’s power working in us. That although alone we would be crushed, with Jesus we unbreakable.

I don’t know your story, but I’m sure you’ve had some curveballs along the way. You’ve experienced loss, you’ve been betrayed, you’ve been rejected, maybe forgotten about. You’ve wondered about the future, will it all turn out or come crashing down.

Yet as everything around us tells us to give up, give in, and lay down in defeat, Jesus steps up in our souls and helps us get up. Because with Jesus hope is alive and overcomes.

Yet as everything around us tells us to give up, give in, and lay down in defeat, Jesus steps up in our souls and helps us get up.

I pray you and I feel the comfort of Christ’s power and love wrapping us up today as life tries it’s best to make us crack. And I pray that when we get through our hard time with Jesus, that we look around for others and remind them they may feel fragile, but they are unbreakable in Christ.

 

water-3211175_1920Let’s be real:

What people or situations are or have tried to break you? How can you let Jesus into those hard spaces? Write a prayer asking Jesus to be your strength in your breaking points. Write and post in your house: With Jesus I am UNBREAKABLE!

 

Salvation Removes our Shame

Think of your very worst day. The one you hope no one saw. Or your biggest mistake. The one you still haven’t forgiven yourself for. What if I told you that Jesus was there that day. Would that make you squirm? Would you believe me if I told you that is the best news ever?

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” John 4:29 ESV

In John chapter 4, Jesus was sitting by a well one day tired and thirsty. And up walked a woman. She was the kind of woman that others would avoid because she had slept around. Yet Jesus spoke to her and asked her for a drink. Instead of serving Jesus, she wondered why a Jewish man, someone who clearly out ranked a Samaritan woman, would even speak to her. She almost missed Jesus because she was insecure.

She almost missed Jesus because she was insecure.

Sometimes we feel like that, right? We think, why would Jesus love me? Why would He ever hear or answer my prayers? Why would He be on my side if He really knew what I have done and all the ways I’ve messed up.

Truth is He does know. But His response is the opposite of what we deserve.

Jesus knows every time we spoke out of anger, all the failures in motherhood or marriage, and every gossip or lie we ever told. He could say it’s time to reap your consequences! Instead, like He did for the woman at the well, He offers himself instead of condemnation and shame.

hand-1576418_1920

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water”” John 4:10.

Because Jesus led a sinless life and died a sinners death on the cross, we get to take our worst moments and trade them for God’s grace and forgiveness. If you’ve trusted your life to Jesus and asked for forgiveness, He’s not thinking about your past anymore and He doesn’t want you to dwell there either.

It’s hard sometimes to let go of the past, but we have to in order to truly accept grace from God. What do you need to let go of today? What mistake do you need to forgive yourself for? Jesus wants your eyes forward looking out for opportunities to grant others the mercy you have received.

The Most Dangerous Fear

I made my kid throw a boot at a spider because I was afraid to go near it. I hate ferris wheels for fear I will fall out. And tornado sirens make me stop in my tracks. All of us are afraid of something. But I’m guessing if I asked you your biggest fear, you wouldn’t automatically respond, “People!” even though it’s the most dangerous fear there is…..

Read more over at WhollyLoved today. We’re talking living past our fear and into a bold life with Christ! Who doesn’t want that?? Be bold and brave today ladies!