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Archive | Trials and difficulties

Cupcakes, Perfection, and Connection

This guest post by Christen Price includes excerpts from her new book “Invited: Live a Life of Connection, not Perfection.” Used with permission.  

I am in a cupcake war. A battle for perfection.

Standing in the kitchen, covered in confectioner’s sugar, I had been attacked by my strawberry cupcakes. I’d volunteered to bring cupcakes to a baby shower the next day, but my recipe had turned into one big blob of pink mess.  These cupcakes just would not do.

Insecure, I allowed the frustration of failure to mess with my head, causing me to spiral into doubt. All confidence vanished. I heard a soft whisper that I am like these cupcakes…not good enough.

Instead of letting good be good enough, I want to be, have, and give the best of myself to every aspect of my life. That’s why I thought I could make these cupcakes, and that’s why I’m ended up being overly critical of myself.

Do you ever allow the pressure of perfection to cause you to melt down, especially before a celebration?

Just like me, many women desperately chase perfection. Then when we don’t capture it, our emotions take over. The passion of pursuing perfection sometimes causes us to act in ways that make us later feel shame and unworthiness, like we will never quite measure up.

Is there a better way than “perfection?”

God calls us to celebrate, be in community, and believe that connection is far better than perfection. We can spend our whole lives trying to practice hospitality perfectly, but God simply wants us to accept His invitation and extend His love to the people we cherish most. God invites us to release our perfection-induced anxieties, receive others in love, and rejoice in the moment.

Invited by Christen Price

I won the cupcake war.

The next day, I woke up and called a local bakery to order two dozen strawberry cupcakes. Arriving at the baby shower with boxed cupcakes in hand, I arranged the cupcakes on a white tiered cake stand on the dining room buffet. They were delicious, beautiful, and store-bought, but it didn’t make my contribution to the party any less.

That night, instead of feeling not good enough because I couldn’t bake cupcakes as beautiful as these store-bought cupcakes, I was able to connect with friends and watch the mother-to-be open her presents without the pressure of perfection.

Let’s stop letting perfection make us feel not good enough, especially on insignificant matters like store-bought or homemade cupcakes. God is perfect so we don’t have to be. He invites us to live free from the stress of planning, preparing, and performing perfectly and to just be in Him.  Hospitality isn’t about perfection; it’s about connection.

Now, go eat a cupcake!

InvitedIn her new book, Invited: Live a Life of Connection, Not Perfection, Bible teacher Christen Price tackles a problem that plagues many women – the unrealistic striving for perfection. She shares personal stories of her own perfection battle and gives practical advice and helps for finding a beautiful balance that embraces both hospitality and community.

Christen Price is a writer for The M.O.M. Initiative and founder of Undivided Women, an online Bible study community. With the heart of a hostess, she writes devotionals, designs party printables, and creates inspirational art in her Studio that invites women to celebrate their people, place, and purpose. Christen is married to her best friend, Raleigh, and their crew of three little ones, two dogs, and four chickens call the countryside of lower Alabama home. Connect with her at christenprice.com.

 

 

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Delicious Comfort Zones and a Giveaway

Rhonda and Kaley Rhea are my guests today! Keep reading to find out more about chocolate and comfort zones, and to enter for a chance to win a copy of their new book, “Turtles in the Road.”

We both love a nice, cozy comfort zone. By “comfort zone,” about eighty percent of the time we probably mean “chocolate zone.” Did you hear about the recent study that determined that 10 out of 9 people love chocolate? It doesn’t even matter that the math doesn’t work. Know why? Chocolate.

Since people are finding more ways all the time that chocolate is good for your health, we’ve decided that we shall never at any time of our lives think of ourselves as “overweight.” We shall forever refer to it as “chocolate-enriched.”

That’s our comfort zone and we’re sticking to it.

Turtles in the RoadWe just recently somewhat stepped out of our non-chocolate-related comfort zone to write a romantic comedy about a gal who was forced outside her…well, on theme…outside her comfort zone. The book is titled, Turtles in the Road and, not to give anything away, but our deliciously funny character finds laughs, grace and all kinds of adventure in her most uncomfy places.

There are comfort zones, and then there are comfort zones. When God commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses, He gave Joshua instructions about the new land He was to possess. He said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Sometimes God calls us to step out of everything comfortable. We see it all through Scripture. God called Moses to step out before the mantle was passed to Joshua. God called Abraham to leave his home and everything familiar to him to take off to zones unknown. He called Samuel, He called Isaiah, He called so many more. Jesus called His disciples to step away from their nets, out of their comfortable lives, and to follow Him with abandon.

There aren’t a lot of things in this life we can promise will happen, but we can promise this. At some point you will be called to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t think you’re being reprimanded. And even more importantly, don’t think for a second that He is not with you in that less-than-comfy place. Be strong. Be courageous. Know He is with you.

It’s good to remember that stepping out of our comfort zone is also stepping into the comfort of His Holy Spirit. It’s amazing—even in discomfort, there’s comfort! Real comfort from The Comforter. It’s comfort not in a place, not in a possession, not in a food—it’s in a Person, the Person of our mighty God of all comfort.

As you step out in faith, you’ll find there’s growth in every new place the Lord leads you. You can rest assured He will never ask you to step out of one zone and into another without His presence, without His purpose or without His empowering.

It’s a God-enriched life. And as awesome as a chocolate-enriched life is, a God-enriched one is infinitely better.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of “Turtles in the Road,” share your most comfortable comfort zone in the comments! Winner will be drawn Thursday, May 11th at 8am! 

Rhonda Rhea, Kaley RheaMother/daughter writing duo, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea, are the authors of Turtles in the Road, an inspirational humorous romance that’s just releasing. They are both TV personalities for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Rhonda is also a nationally-known speaker, humor columnist and author of 11 other books, including Fix-Her-Upper, a soon-releasing nonfiction project coauthored with Beth Duewel. Rhonda is married to her pastor/husband, Richie Rhea, and they have five grown children and two grandbabies. Kaley works at Missouri Baptist University and she and Rhonda both live in the St. Louis area. You can find “Turtles in the Road” at Bold Vision Books and Amazon

 

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3 Reasons for Joy in Trials

Joy

Does God’s truth ever seem just crazy to you? Like the perfect God-Man, Jesus, dying for us sinners? Well, we find more of this counter-intuitive craziness in the first chapter of James. The brother of Jesus, who was also the leader of the church in Jerusalem, wrote this to Jewish believers scattered around the world by persecution:

“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4, NLT

Through the years, I’ve heard preachers, Bible teachers, and others say that Christians can experience joy in spite of trials and troubles. And while that is true, that’s not what James meant in this passage. Depending on the translation you’re using, at the beginning of verse 3 you may see “for,” “because of,” “when,” or “whenever.” But you won’t see “in spite of.”

As crazy as it sounds to us, James did indeed mean that believers should consider trials an opportunity to experience joy. He even tells us why.

  1. God’s Process – Trails build and grow our faith like weight training does for our muscles. Life’s difficulties, Christian persecution, and temptations all put our faith to test. God uses this process to burn away impurities, refining our faith. He builds and shapes our character to look more like Jesus.
  2. God’s Purpose – I love the way the NLT translation puts it. When our faith is fully developed, we will be “ready for anything!” God has a specific purpose for each of us Ephesians 2:10). He has a plan, a way He wants to use us for His Kingdom. But He must shape and prepare His tools (you and me) so we will be useful in His hands.
  3. God’s Presence – Throughout God’s Word, He promises to be with us always and through everything (Isaiah 43:1-2, Matthew 28:19-20). Trials provide an opportunity to experience God’s presence in ways we cannot in easy times. If we never have to rely on God, we would never experience His faithfulness. If we are never weak, we would never experience His strength. Through trials we move from merely intellectual knowledge of God to experiential knowledge. Shared times of trial fosters deep intimacy and dependence.

This truth seems crazy to us because we often move through life spiritually short-sighted. We are stuck in this physical world and fail to see the greater reality. God works on an eternal time-table with eternal purposes in mind. He’s working for the end game. Let’s join Him!

Which of these 3 P’s do you struggle with most to keep in mind? Why?

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When the Going Gets Tough Where Will You Go?

When the going gets toughYou know the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” Ever wonder just where all those tough people get going to?

Well, we know the saying doesn’t mean a place. It’s a proverbial observation of the human condition. When life becomes trying and difficult, “tough” people will find the strength within themselves to determinedly soldier on. To bravely rise to the challenge of their “tough” circumstances.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we meet the challenges of life head-on with grit and determination? Shouldn’t we refuse to run and hide or depend on the strength of someone else?

Let’s ask ourselves: When the going gets tough, where do we go? 

Or maybe rather: When the going gets tough, where should we go? 

Trials, difficulties, pain, struggle, and grief often fill our lives. Sometimes we don’t understand what God is doing. We can’t see Him working. Occasionally, we even doubt He cares.

Where will we go when the going gets tough? Will we leave God’s path for us to find an easier way?

One of my favorite passages of Scripture highlights this question. The day after Jesus miraculously fed more than 5,000 people with just two loaves of bread and five fish, the crowds sought Him out in Capernaum. Jesus used their desire for more physical provision to teach them about the far superior spiritual nourishment that only He can provide.

But the truth that Jesus is “the bread of life” was difficult to understand:

“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:47-51, NIV

The teaching was just too hard. God’s truth presented a path too difficult to walk. Give my life to Jesus. “Feed” on Him alone. So many of those who had followed Him turned away to walk another path (John 6:66).

But then there was Peter!

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69, NIV

I love Peter’s declaration of trust. He chose to cling to Jesus no matter how the circumstances might look. No matter how tough life might get. After all, Jesus was the only One who had all life’s answers.

So, what about us? We can also choose to go to Jesus when the going gets tough. No matter how things look. Even if we don’t understand what God is doing. Even if we can’t see a way out. He knows. He sees. He can.

So, where will you go when the going gets tough?

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Saying Goodbye to My Childhood Home

HomeI watched as the last of my parents’ belongings were loaded on the moving truck and began the long journey from Louisiana to Tennessee. Except for a stray roll of packing tape and a few water bottles all the rooms are empty. Well, not really empty. Each space holds memories. Every corner echoes with days gone by.

I know. I sound pretty melodramatic. But I’m feeling really sentimental, so maybe you can humor me for just a few minutes?

My parents lived in that home for almost 50 years. They raised two children. Hosted countless youth and church events. Endured dozens of slumber parties and probably hundreds of sleepovers. Our home was truly open to everyone. My mother was always the life of every party. I think my friends came to see her more than they did me. My dad was the most patient and giving man I’ve known.

Some memories stand out from the others. Like the 4th of July when a firecracker ignited a gas leak by the sidewalk and the fire department closed off our entire block. And when I backed over the mailbox and wedged it under the car. And when my heart was broken and my mom hurt with me.

All these and more are part of me. The house on Dianne Street was center stage. It was home base for our family and a training ground for faith. Our parents purposefully and consistently shared Jesus and the things of God with me and my younger brother, both verbally and by example. They lived a life of faith that made me want it too.

They have also loved well. We never had to doubt their love for each other or for us. And although circumstances are very different today, they still love each other well and their affection is still obvious.

Life is difficult for my folks right now. Leaving their home was a necessity, not a choice. That makes the empty house even more bittersweet. But we will do our best to love them well. We have had fine examples.

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Terror Attack Prayer Guide

Terror Attack Prayer Guide Yesterday – exactly one year after the deadly terror attack in Brussels – terror struck in London.  Although the details are still unfolding, British officials have officially called the attack in and around the Parliament building an act of terror.

Hours after the Brussels attack last year, I wanted to spend some intensive time in prayer, but wasn’t sure exactly how to pray. As I sat with my Bible and journal, God brought very specific prayers to mind. Afterward I shared those prayers here in a guide.

Although the situation in London is not active, many of these requests would still be appropriate. And although I pray we won’t need it again, this guide can be printed and put into your Bible for later use. (Link to PDF printable.)

Terror Attack Prayer Guide

“Lord, hear our prayers!”

Pray for Law enforcement:

  • Good, solid intelligence and information
  • Plenty of manpower and resources
  • Good coordination between agencies, including international
  • Physical stamina

Pray for Medical Personnel:

  • Physical and emotional strength
  • All the human resources, equipment and supplies needed
  • Wisdom to quickly assess individual situations
  • Steady hands and calming presence

Pray for the Injured:

  • Provide the help they need quickly
  • Surround them with believers who will pray and encourage them
  • Overwhelm them with Your peace and ease their fear

Pray for the Families:

  • Comfort for the families of those killed
  • Support for the families of those injured
  • Peace for the families of those waiting to hear
  • Good communication about the situation to all families

Pray for World Leaders:

  • Leaders around the world would rise up against this evil
  • Ability to set politics aside
  • Receive wise counsel from wise people
  • Leaders around the world would unite in a global effort against terrorism

Pray for Rescue workers and First Responders:

  • Protection from further violence as they work
  • Physical strength, emotional stamina
  • Good coordination and communication in the efforts
  • They would provide a strong, calming presence to those they encounter
  • Sustenance, like food and water, they need to keep going

Pray for the Terrorists:

  • Any left alive involved in this attack would be caught
  • Those on the fringe would give information to authorities
  • Any other related plots would be exposed
  • For God to convict them and bring them to repentance
  • For God to draw them to Jesus

Please feel free to add your prayers in the comments below.

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The Case of Mistaken Location

FamilyI’ve basically been living out of a suitcase for the last year. If I added up the days at home and the days away, the days away would probably win. A death in the family, the arrival of two grand babies, our son’s wedding, and severe health struggles for my parents have kept me on the road.

This last week was no different. I left home last Wednesday and drove to my parents’ home in Shreveport to meet my sister-in-law. We spent several days packing and preparing for my parents upcoming move from Louisiana to Tennessee.

Then Saturday afternoon I made the 4-hour drive from Shreveport to our second daughter’s new home in Denton, Texas. Sarah and her husband moved from a rental to their first home that morning and I went to help with the baby for a few days so she could unpack and settle in.

I had seen the new house once before they moved in, but still needed to use Google Maps to find it again. I drove into the neighborhood and spotted what looked like their home on the next corner. As I turned onto the street in front of the house, Google announced “You have arrived at your destination!” Great!

As I parked on the street in front of the house I took note of the cars in the driveway. I didn’t recognize either of them, but since friends and family had been helping them move earlier in the day, I surmised they belonged to them.

Since I didn’t want to cause more work for them, I got all my stuff out of the car and up to the front porch. Now, you need to understand that when I travel by car, I don’t travel lightly. I had a suitcase, a shoe bag, a snack bag, my rolling briefcase, and two king-sized pillows.

As I got the last of it on the porch, I knocked on the door and looked around. Although it looked just like the house I’d visited before, there were a few things that gave me pause – the potted plants, the door mat, and the multiple dogs that began barking at my knock.

Hmm. Could I possibly be at the wrong house? I texted Sarah. “Am I at the right house?”

I heard a woman’s voice inside talking to the dogs, just inside the door. “Who’s out there guys?” It was not my daughter’s voice.

I envisioned the home owner looking through the peep hole. What did she see? Unknown middle-aged woman with baggage.

What should I do? What would she do?

About that time Sarah texted back. “No.”

My fear was confirmed. I was at the wrong house.

Okay. Well, I decided that when the woman opened the door, I would explain my mistake with a laugh and apologize.

But the woman didn’t open the door. She must have thought I looked too dangerous. Or crazy.

Either way, it was time for me to go. I wanted to run and not look back. But I needed all my baggage. And it took two trips to get it all back to the car. I wondered if the woman watched out the peep hole the whole time.

Sarah’s house was exactly one block to the south. Same corner. Same layout. But the residents were much more friendly. They even helped me haul in my bags.

I love how God works. In the midst of a chaotic time in my life, he used a case of mistaken location to give me a laugh and to remind me not to take myself too seriously.

I just wanted to share a little bit of what my life has been like recently. God has me in a unique season. But He is growing me and I’m leaning on Him. What has YOUR life been like lately?

 

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6 Things You May Not Know about Apostle Paul

Apostle PaulI thought I knew him. I’ve followed his ministry. And over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading his writings. But recently, I realized I didn’t know as much about the Apostle Paul as I thought.

While studying Paul’s life for my latest Bible study, I discovered several “new” things about the apostle of grace. Of course they were there all along; I had simply overlooked them. Maybe some will be new to you too.

6 little-known facts about Paul

  1. Paul didn’t jump right into long-term ministry (Galatians 1:13-18) – In my mind, Paul met Jesus on a dusty road, spent three days fasting in Damascus, regained his eyesight, then jumped right into ministry to the Gentiles and never looked back. But a closer examination of Scripture tells a little different story. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote he “went immediately into Arabia (Galatians 1:17).” In fact, he didn’t return to Jerusalem for three years (Galatians 1:18). What did Paul do during all this time in Arabia? Many scholars feel this may have been a spiritual retreat for Paul, a time to reconcile everything he knew from the Old Testament Scriptures with his new reality in Christ. In Arabia, Paul could immerse himself in the reality of his Savior and focus on learning and growing in preparation for ministry.
  2. Paul’s nephew saved his life (Acts 23:12-35) – After Paul’s arrest by a Roman commander in Jerusalem, 40 Jewish men bound themselves in an oath to not eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. The Jewish leaders agreed to help them by petitioning the Roman commander to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The assassins planned to attack Paul during the transfer. But the son of Paul’s sister heard of the plot and reported it to Paul at the Roman barracks. When Paul told a centurion, the Roman commander ordered a detachment of almost 500 guards to move him to Caesarea under the cover of night.
  3. Saul’s name was not changed to Paul (Acts 13:6-9)– During the biblical account of Paul’s first missionary journey, Luke writes: “Then Saul, who was also called Paul…” (Acts 13:9). From this point forward, Luke only refers to the apostle as “Paul.” This shift does not reflect a name change, as has often been said, but rather a conscious decision on Paul’s part to use a name he already had. Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he would have been given three names at birth. The third – Paul’s Latin name – was a better fit for the predominately Roman environment. “Saul the Pharisee” chose to be known as “Paul, citizen of Rome.”
  4. God gave Paul more than he could handle (2 Corinthians 1:8-11) – Paul and his companions suffered such extreme pressure during a particular situation in Asia they “despaired even of life.” Scholars aren’t sure what event Paul referred to in these verses, but it was a situation so dire Paul believed he and his companions might die. He saw no way out of the life-threatening situation. And indeed, without God’s miraculous intervention, they would have perished. When all human hope was lost God delivered them by His grace through the prayers of the believers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
  5. Paul visited heaven before his death (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) – God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven during his early years as a believer, perhaps during his time of spiritual retreat in Arabia (Galatians 1:17). Paul didn’t know if he had been physically transported or was there in spirit. But he saw and heard “inexpressible things.” Pride would be the natural sinful response to an experience like this, but pride and conceit have no place in God’s servant. Therefore, God allowed something into Paul’s life to foster humility – a “thorn of the flesh.”
  6. Paul felt deserted by everyone but God (2 Timothy 4:9-18) – Throughout Paul’s ministry he suffered trials and persecution for the sake of Christ. He was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and betrayed. He often went without food, sleep, and shelter. During his Roman imprisonment, he also felt alone with no other person to support or defend him. Demas left him because he loved the world. Alexander did him “a great deal of harm.” Yet through it all, the Lord stood with him. Paul was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence.

I would love to sit down with Paul and hear all his stories, find out all those things not recorded in Scripture. Perhaps he would recount all the Gospel victories and tell me more about the suffering he endured for the name of Christ. Pain and struggle may have marked his life, but God’s lavish grace sustained him every moment.

Was one of these facts about Paul new to you? If so, which one? Do you know any other little-known facts about Paul?

This article first appeared on www.Crosswalk.com on July 15, 2016.

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Is Your Past Pointless or Purposeful?

purposefulWhen you look back on your life, do you feel it to be full of things and events that are pointless or purposeful? Is it all just random or is everything in some way relevant?

Our lives are collections of life experiences, education, relationships, griefs, trials, wins, losses, failures and successes. We may see some – or much of it – as a waste. Pointless. But nothing in our lives that we may see as a twist, turn, or detour was a surprise to God.

God doesn’t waste anything. What we may see as “bad,” God wants to use for our good. What we may see as a difficult random road to nowhere, God sees as a purposeful path. A purposeful path He has forged to lead us into the future He has for us.

When God saves us, He doesn’t merely save us from our sins and an eternity separated from Him. He also saves us into a purposeful life serving Him.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

He works in and through everything in our lives to shape us, equip us, and prepare us for His purposes. For instance, God uses all our trials and difficulties of life to refine and grow us spiritually. He works through them to make us the people He can use for His glory. (See 1 Peter 1:6-7.) He uses our background, education, experiences, and passions to shape us into the tool He needs for the works He has prepared for us.

No matter how random your past road may look to you, it’s God’s purposeful path to His future for you. If you aren’t sure what God wants for your life now, look back. Review see where He has taken you and what He’s allowed into your life.

Your past can bring clarity to your future. Do you see it?

 

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My Favorite Bible Story

My favorite Bible story Mark 5I love all of God’s Word. Even the hard parts. But I do like some parts more than others. And like many of you, I have a favorite Bible story. In fact, one particular miracle of Jesus captivates my attention. Every time I read it I get goose bumps. Literally. Although action and edge-of-your-seat suspense pack the story, what it teaches me about Jesus enthralls me.

The event occurs right on the heels of a full day of teaching and what the disciples considered a near-death experience during a furious squall on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). While the storm terrified them, it was Jesus’ demonstrated authority over nature that left the disciples shaking in their sandals.

Jesus versus Legion

Still reeling from that experience, Jesus and the twelve were greeted on the opposite shore by a character straight out of a horror flick. Possessed by demons, no one was strong enough to subdue or control him. People had tried, but he tore chains and broke apart the iron bonds.

Now he lived among the tombs in the hills, crying out day and night and cutting himself with stones. He was helpless and hopeless. Tortured and tragic. Then he encountered Jesus and everything changed.

The demons within the man immediately acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus. Based on the fact they called themselves “Legion,” there could have been 6,000 plus demons in residence, but they knew they were no match for the Son of God. (See Mark 5:1-20 for the full story.)

Jesus freed the man with a word. In an instant everything changed. This prisoner of evil had been released by the Holy One. This man who had been feared and shunned by his community could now return to his family. Everyone had given this man up for lost. Everyone but Jesus.

This story demonstrates not only the power and authority of Jesus but also His grace and compassion. Jesus doesn’t merely have the ability to work in our lives, He also desires to work in our lives because He cares for us.

What Jesus did in this man’s life, He can do in our lives. Our Savior is loving and kind, but He is not wimpy. He is able to accomplish what He desires to do in your life.

Is there a stronghold or problem in your life you’ve given up on? How can reflecting on Jesus’ compassion and power renew your hope?

 

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