life beyond the well…


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Book Review: The God-First Life

Every now and then, I read a book and it’s just like “Wow”.  That’s the feeling I had after completing Stovall Weems’ latest book “The God-First Life.”

I have been all too guilty of putting things, desires, and aspirations in a higher place than God, hoping that because God loves me, He will bless those things, desires, and aspirations.  In his book, Weems breaks down that logic with biblical truths, focusing on this verse:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

The book addresses important concepts that are sometimes overlooked as well, such as the value of having a strong community around you, understanding your place in God’s family, and how to gain freedom from your past so that you can move forward.

I loved that this book was not overly complicated or heavily weighted with theological ideas.  Not to say that those are bad, but sometimes what I need most is a simple reminder of what is most important.  As I transition into a new season, and become even more busy with church-planting activities, my job, and my dissertation, I can see myself referring back to the simple truths that Weems presents in this book.

I would recommend this for those who are looking to deepen their relationship with Christ in a simple, non-complicated way.  Though I received this book for free, I have already purchased two additional copies to gift to others because I believe that the message is important and timely.

Until next time…

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!

 

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for a review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine.


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One Step Closer: Higher Definition Church

I’ve been waiting all year to write this post, and I’m so excited to finally do so!

Last July, under the direction of God, Preacherman and I packed our belongings and moved to Jacksonville, Florida to fully the pursue the calling that He has given us: planting a church.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve been working and wrestling, praying and believing, and slowly making progress towards that goal.  While we are still a ways out from our launch date in 2015, we have our website set up!

This morning, Preacherman shared these thoughts on his blog, which explain the essence of Higher Definition Church:

If there is anything on earth that I want to be remembered for, it is that I did my best to show people the truth of who God is and the truth of who they are in Him. With that mind, within the next year, I’ll be leading a team in the launch of Higher Definition Church, here in Jacksonville, Florida! I’ve been told that sharing your vision is a way to make you accountable for it, so here I sit, typing away at the computer in my home, sharing with you that God has sold me on a vision to live a life based on a higher definition…God’s design for our lives.

God allowed me to try and live a life in which I prided myself in my accomplishments, economic status, relationships, organizational affiliations, and many other things. He allowed me to do so in a way that showed me that everything in life that we think makes us who we are is insufficient and unnecessary. He showed me that when all those things failed to provide me with enough validation or foundation in life, that He was still there, and He was more than enough!

So, God’s plan for my life is to share that message…to share that embracing how God defines us is the most fulfilling choice a person can make. But I can’t stop there; the mission is to teach the truth, develop people’s understanding and application of it, and release them to do the same. In other words, “be fruitful and multiply”. That is exactly what I intend to do, with God as my strength and my witness. Higher Definition Church will be used to bring life to the First Coast and beyond.

Please check out www.hdjax.com to learn more about the vision and how you can help!  We appreciate your prayers and support!

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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I Wish Someone Had Sold Me on Jesus

I grew up in church.  We faithfully attended Sunday School and church, and it wasn’t until I went away to school that my church attendance waned.

I served in church- from a young age. Youth choir, Junior Missionary, Youth Usher Board were among the few areas where I was involved.  I enjoyed it, which is good; but I also didn’t have a choice.  I served because I saw other people serving, and because I was taught that I should serve.

But in all that, which WAS good, I was never completely sold on Jesus.  I had the basic knowledge, meaning I could tell you about John 3:16, and I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that He rose on the 3rd day, but no one really pushed me to understand what that meant.

I was never sold on the gospel- the good news of Jesus Christ. I was never sold on the power of the cross and His resurrection. I was never taught to really understand that I serve a risen Savior.  I was never taught to understand how because of Christ, I didn’t have to live in fear, or shame; that I was redeemed, that I was WORTHY of His love. I was never taught to understand the magnitude of God’s love for me.  And as a result of all of these things that I didn’t understand and that I wasn’t taught, I had a distorted view of church and the gospel.

When I coupled that with the fact that I saw people in church week in (day in) and week out (day out) whose lives never seemed to be changed, I was even more confused. Because, in my mind, if there is a God who loves us, and has this power to change us from the inside out, why is EVERYONE the same?

I wish someone had sold me on Jesus.

I wish someone had sold me on Jesus because then I may have begun to understand that both salvation and sanctification are a process.  I wish someone had sold me on Jesus because then I would understand that serving doesn’t get me salvation; that I can’t work myself to death for a Kingdom that I have not professed to believe in.  If I had been sold on Jesus, I would have been more equipped to demonstrate the love of Him to others. I would have been able to handle the discrepancies that I saw in people–between who they were and where they desired to be–without leaving the church because “people are hypocrites”. I would have understood the need to be gracious and forgiving to others, because Christ has done the same for me.

Here’s my plea: sell people on Jesus.  Tell your testimony- how your life has been changed because of the work that He has done in you and through you.  Church is awesome, and we absolutely need community and accountability to help us grow into who we are called to be…but most of all, we need Jesus.

 


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Weekly Word 2014 Week 11: Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Preacherman and I have been enjoying a wonderful Spring Break week with our little one.  And as usual, the time that we spend with her is going by entirely too fast.  It seems like there are never enough moments being shared, not quite enough memories being made, not enough pictures to hold us over until the next visit.  We view each of these times that we share with our little one as an opportunity to continue to pour into her, pray over her, and continue the process of molding and shaping her- just in person.  She is such a blessing to our lives.

Our time with her has inspired this verse for this week:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” -Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NLT)

While raising a child is a huge responsibility, I’m grateful for the Lord’s wisdom and love to guide us on this journey.

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!


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Recap: Pastors and Leaders Conference 2014

This past weekend, Preacherman and I had opportunity to attend the 2014 International Pastors and Leadership Conference hosted by Bishop T.D. Jakes in Orlando, Florida.  We loved every minute of it.

Being busy without direction is dangerous because it can lead you to waste time, energy, and resources.  One of the biggest gains from this conference was being able to understand the HOW and the WHY of what we should be doing in regards to our ministry.  Not only that, we left with a clear idea of what we can do right now in our church planting process.  Every night, Preacherman and I found ourselves making to-do lists, reaching out to people, and processing all that we were learning.

A huge highlight for us was being able to connect with people–meeting others on the same journey as us, meeting people who have been in ministry for years, and seeing friends and family.  Our pastor, Andy Thompson presented at the conference on Marriage and Ministry, and did a phenomenal job! His session was engaging and entertaining, but grounded in wisdom and biblical truth.  It is such a blessing to be under the leadership of him and his wife, and we are so appreciative of their love and support of us in this journey.

There really are no words to describe how full we felt after leaving this conference.  Since being back, we’ve been hard at work applying the things that we’ve learned, building relationships, and finally hitting a stride in the church planting process.  Though we are at the beginning of this journey, it’s exciting to see things begin to take off and move in the right direction.

To God be the glory for the things He has done.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Weekly Word 2014 Week 10: Isaiah 32:17

I wish that I could say that every time someone has done me wrong, I have responded appropriately.  I haven’t.  And even now, years into being saved and growing in Christ, there are times where I WISH I could just respond to people “any kind of way”.  Preacherman is excellent about not being driven by his emotions, and he takes great care to make sure that he not only responds appropriately to situations and circumstances, but that his response is one that not only glorifies God, but also one that displays righteousness (being in right standing with God).

What I have learned is that I’m not accountable for how other people treat me, but I am accountable for how I treat them; which is why my response to situations is paramount. As I was praying about a situation that really challenged me this week, I kept hearing in my spirit something that I heard a fellow ministers’ wife say before: “the reward for righteousness is peace”.  That thought leads me to this week’s memory verse:

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace [internal and external], and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever.” -Isaiah 32:17 (Amplified)

When I reflect on this verse, I realize that I’d rather have the peace that comes with handling situations in a Godly way, than to have to worry about the effects and negative consequences for responding out of my flesh.  Furthermore, doing so can allow others to build confidence and trust in me, which is needed if we want to reach people for God.  If people can’t trust in me, how can they trust that what I say about God and who He is is real?

Things to ponder.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Weekly Word 2014 Week 9: Psalm 90:12

As I mentioned last week, things are busy.  We are busy with our jobs.  Busy with ministry.  Busy with marriage.  Busy with life and all that it entails.  There are so many things that can easily consume my time if I’m not careful.  Preacherman and I have been making a dedicated effort to be a better steward of our time- which is the most precious commodity that we have.  If wasted, we never get it back.  Each day, we desire to get closer to fulfilling the purpose God has for our lives.  With that thought, we have this scripture for the week:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

While I hope to be a good steward of all of the resources that God has given me, it is a sincere prayer that I master my time and that I use it in a way that gives God the glory.

Be encouraged!  Peace and Blessings!


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Weekly Word 2014 Week 8: James 1:12

Our life is busy and filled with work. Good work, but still work. And sometimes in that work, you face challenging situations that can test your faith and can make it difficult to act on what you believe as opposed to how you feel in the moment.  Preacherman and I both faced situations like that, over the past week…which has led me to this memory verse:

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”- James 1:12 (NIV)

Choosing to persevere in a way that God would desire in a trial is not always the easiest.  However, pleasing God is what is most important, and there’s a reward for my obedience and perseverance.  And I have learned that in those difficult situations, God can use us to be conduits of grace, love, and mercy–in the same way that He so freely gives all three of those to us.

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!

 


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A Higher Definition

In all seriousness, Preacherman is one of the smartest, most gifted people that I’ve ever met. Sometimes we have conversations and I find myself in awe of how his mind works- his ability to make connections and to explain complex things in such a simple way that it’s almost impossible to not understand it.  He does this incredibly well all the time, but it is amazing to watch him do this with the word of God as a preacher and teacher.

In preparation for our next season, Preacherman will preach messages to me- actual messages that he would preach to a church full of people. They are awesome.  And I’m not just saying this as a proud wife.  I’m saying this as a believer who leaves the message having experienced God in a new way, and having learned something that I can apply to my life, making me a better person.

A couple of weeks ago, Preacherman preached this message entitled “A Higher Definition”. It was such a powerful message, based out of 1 John 3:1-3 and 1 Peter 2:9-12.  Here are some of my key takeaways from this message:

  • The world and its systems do not own me.  I belong to God.
  • I am not to be defined by what others say I am: I am CHOSEN, I am HOLY, I am ROYAL, I am a PRIESTHOOD!
  • We are set up to be victorious.
  • Real victory is achieved with real opposition, not just going with the flow of the world.
  • I cannot allow myself to be defined by anything other than Christ.  That’s too low of a definition.
  • Because I am a child of God, I have promise, power, and purpose.
  • If I fail to live a life like Christ, I am allowing others to die in darkness.

This was SUCH a good word, and I hope those snippets above bless you as the message blessed me.  Interested in hearing the message? Let me know and I’ll figure out a way to get it to you!

Be encouraged! Peace and blessings!


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Weekly Word 2014 Week 7: 1 John 3:1

We are still struggling to get back into a regular routine (especially with posting these scriptures), but we had a great week of celebrating our love for each other, and the love that God continues to bestow upon us.  As a result, we have chosen to hold on to that this week by memorizing the following verse:

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” -1 John 3:1 (NIV)

I am so grateful for God’s love that He provides so lavishly, and that He calls us His children.  The blessings that come as a result of His love and being a part of His family are so amazing.  I pray that each of you see and feel the love of God at work in your life this week.

Be encouraged! Peace and Blessings!

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