Archive | spiritual warfare

When Your Heart Feels Heavy

Last week I wrote about thanksgiving—not family tradition or the celebration itself, but the kind of thanksgiving that flows from our lips as praise to the One from whom all blessings flow. This precious truth from Psalm 8:2 has been on my heart ever since: 

A thankful heart can silence the lies of the enemy. 

But sometimes, embracing gratitude is a struggle. The state of our hearts can feel out of sync with the cheer of the season. We wonder why our self-ridden hearts get to be so heavy and forget that Jesus came to us as a bundled baby to free our hearts from every weight.

When my heart feels defeated and I’m tempted to fix myself or turn to someone or something to fix me, this beautiful truth from God’s Word draws me back to Him: We can do nothing apart from Christ.

I wrote this prayer during a season when the words from Isaiah 46 both convicted and comforted my heart. If you’re heart feels heavy today and gratitude feels more like a chore than a choice, I pray these words offer some hope today.

Click the image below to download your own copy of this Prayer for a Heavy Heart.

A Prayer for a Heavy Heart

Click image to download PDF of prayer

 // Isaiah 46 //

 1 Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
a burden for the weary.
They stoop and bow down together;
unable to rescue the burden,
they themselves go off into captivity.

God, you name the idols, you call them out. You point out the ones I carry, as well, the things I love and serve, idols that cannot rescue, cannot love, cannot protect me. I name them now as I bow before you. I admit that these idols have weighed me down to a weary crawl. These are from you to be used for you and by you, yet my sin convinces me they are mine to worship, hold high, hold close. But I am yours; I belong to you. I was bought at a price. Love paid the ultimate ransom for my freedom. Lord, I’ve tried to steal your glory. Forgive me, Jesus.

“Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Thank you, Jesus, for your love. Thank you for your ability and willingness to rescue my rebellious heart. You have carried me my whole life. Not a moment has passed without your hand guiding me. Your promise to continue carrying me brings a new peace to my heart. Your mercy is far beyond my understanding. You are my Maker, and you love what you’ve created. My heart is in your hands. These idols will never add value to the masterpiece you’ve made of me. You’re the adventure. You’re my prize. I choose to fix my eyes on you alone.

“With whom will you compare me or count me equal?
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?
Some pour out gold from their bags
and weigh out silver on the scales;
they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god,
and they bow down and worship it.
They lift it to their shoulders and carry it;
they set it up in its place, and there it stands.
From that spot it cannot move.
Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer;
it cannot save them from their troubles.

It seems ridiculous to think for a moment that these idols could ever unburden me, save me, protect me, rescue me. It’s like strapping burdensome weights on my back and wondering why it’s hard to move forward. These idols cannot save, they cannot answer, and they cannot move me. They bind me useless, ineffective, and stuck. I empty my hands. Fill me with your love.

“Remember this, keep it in mind,
take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say,
‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.

11 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.

There is none like You, God. You are faithful and true. I’ve exchanged truth for lies, and I’ve worshipped the created rather than you, my Creator. Yet you made possible this great exchange to reverse everything we corrupted and tarnished: my sin for your perfect love. It cost you everything. You have not only carried me, but you’ve carried out your beautiful redemption plan. It is finished, Jesus, and I live in the glow of the resurrection, the promise kept, the Way made known to all.

12 Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are now far from my righteousness.
13 I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away;
and my salvation will not be delayed.
I will grant salvation to Zion,
my splendor to Israel.

You initiated, Jesus. You drew near, even as my sin obstructed my view of you. You made this exchange possible for me while I was still stuck, immobile in my brokenness. In you I find rest and peace and freedom and salvation. In you I find purpose, joy, and acceptance. My idols have failed me, harmed me, drained me, and left me empty. But you, Jesus, have never failed; you are faithful. Thank you that I am kept secure in you. Thank you for carrying me in love.

Amen.

Artwork created by Julie Cassol

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A Thankful Heart Is a Protected Heart

Last week my little one and I met my husband for lunch. As we settled down at our table, I glanced up and noticed the gigantic Christmas ornaments flanking the entrance to the outdoor space. A week before Thanksgiving. I chuckled and commented how the push to skip Thanksgiving seems to grow year by year. We moved on to another conversation, but the nagging in my heart lingers today.

Christmas decorating isn’t the problem. We will pull out red, green, and glittery gold ornaments to decorate our home while the kids are out of school. Probably before Thanksgiving. The issue isn’t our decor; the issue lies in our hearts.

We rush through Thanksgiving to get to Christmas just so we can turn it into a holiday that celebrates us. There’s a good reason this is the one of the most painful seasons for many of us. We just might be making ourselves sick… with too much of ourselves. I scribble a question in the margin of my journal and silently ask God to answer.

How do we cultivate gratitude in a self-ridden culture?

Most mornings my daughter comes downstairs and shares a verse she’s read earlier in her room that either stood out to her or one she doesn’t quite understand. We talk about it over breakfast, then she draws a picture in her journal of what it means to her. Before she hops out of the car at school, we pray God’s Word back to Him. It’s a simple practice we’re trying to turn into a habit.

This morning she shares Psalm 8:2 with me. Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. (NKJV) Out of the mouth of babes. I silently acknowledge the irony.

My daughter’s NIRV translation puts it this way: You have made sure that children and infants praise you. Their praise is a wall that stops the talk of your enemies. She’s drawn a wall that reaches halfway up her page.

God reminds me right here on the couch next to my girl that thanksgiving is powerful. My own words of thanksgiving to Him are a sweet praise offering, and they act as a shield around my heart. I’m beginning to understand why self is such an attractive tool in the unseen spiritual realm. I can see why the enemy feels threatened by the simple habit of giving thanks.

Thanksgiving protects our hearts by silencing the enemy.

A thankful heart is a protected heart

When Jesus cleared the temple courts of those influenced by greed and hatred, the little children sang out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The religious leaders asked Jesus if He could hear what they were saying. (Insert indignant disdain here.)

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing babies you have perfected praise’?” (see Matthew 21:15-16 NKJV)

Jesus used this same proclamation of truth to silence His own enemies, the ones dedicated to destroying Him and stealing His glory for personal gain. One of the most beautiful mysteries of the kingdom of God is strength made perfect in weakness.

When praise erupts from our weakest, most vulnerable places, the enemy is silenced. Hearts full of thanks literally push back the darkness. When we thank God for who He is and what He’s done, a wall of protection shields us from the enemy’s harmful lies.

Truth destroys the lies meant to destroy us.

When we worship God in spirit and truth, we believe in our hearts and proclaim with our mouths the very essence of His character. We can offer up thanksgiving in the bleakest of circumstances, not because we are strong, but because He is the One from whom all blessings flow. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

May this Thanksgiving be a time to remember God’s faithfulness yesterday, to acknowledge His goodness today, and to trust Him to carry us through whatever tomorrow holds.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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Shrug off Shame for Good

When I was much younger in my faith and less sure of who I was in Christ, I listened to a man break down Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians, and when I say break down, I literally mean it was a broken attempt to handle the passage in biblical context. His words did not line up with truth, so I dismissed the lies as best I knew how. Shame, however, hung around to bully my soul.

Shame choked my identity and called my ability to serve in the body of Christ into question. I’d feel shame’s hot, prickly breath on the back of my neck anytime I spoke up with conviction. Our enemy’s favorite tactic is to convince us there is something innately wrong with the way God made us.

Shame keeps us from the truth.

I decided early on that using my voice brought pain, so I vowed to keep my mouth shut. For many, many years, I kept this vow until God said, “Enough.” It cost me a great deal more to stay silent than speak up. A recent trip to the dentist with my seven-year-old gave me a whole new perspective on what it really takes to shrug off shame for good.

By the time our youngest daughter came along, my older girl had started brushing her teeth all by herself. When one of her permanent teeth pushed its way up, there wasn’t much room in her tiny mouth. She struggled to reach it with her toothbrush. When I noticed the yellowish-brown color of that same tooth, I encouraged her do a better job brushing.

I felt responsible for the neglected tooth. No amount of brushing could restore the brightness of her tooth. On her last cleaning visit, the dentist used a big long doctor word to explain the discoloration. Apparently, this happened when the tooth was still in the tooth bed. A couple of factors might be responsible, including a high fever or antibiotics. Poor brushing did not cause the discoloration.

As soon as we stepped into the hallway, I told my girl how sorry I was, how wrong I was to blame her for the condition of her tooth. As she dropped her head, I recognized that classic look of shame. I lifted her chin up so her eyes met mine. “Momma made a mistake. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”

She cracked a grin and broke the silence with, “Of course, Mom! Everybody makes mistakes.” And just like that, we both let it go. It doesn’t always happen quite like that, but God spoke through this situation like a megaphone to my heart.

Freedom from shame comes through forgiveness.

Freedom from shame is found through forgiveness.

The shame I allowed to silence me all those years ago originated from something false, something contrary to the Word of God. Just as my daughter’s shame about her tooth came from a misconception from someone she looked up to—her own mother.

Sometimes the people we look up to most—teachers, leaders, even parents—get it wrong. But no one is outside the reach of grace. When I told my girl that I was sorry, the truth exposed her shame, and forgiveness set her heart free.

Shame has no place in our lives as believers. Freedom isn’t found in walking out our callings or calling out our shame, though both are necessary and crucial as we defend our faith. We experience the freedom Jesus purchased for us when we forgive the very ones who heaped on shame intentionally or unintentionally.

When I first noticed my daughter’s tooth, I felt ashamed for the limits that caring for a newborn had put on me. I felt shame that I did not help my oldest do a better job brushing her teeth. In his memoir All is Grace, Brennan Manning says that shame that isn’t transformed is transferred.

Shame passes on shame.

As I apply this to my own story and my own wounds, I now understand that the shame I felt years ago could have been a result of my shamers’ own shame. And I have everything I need to shrug shame off at the feet of Jesus.

When we bring our shame to the foot of the cross, we discover the only place true forgiveness is possible.  Forgiveness breaks the shackles of shame, and apologies are never prerequisites. Jesus longs to transform our shame into radiant beauty. He’s the only One who is both willing and able.

If you’ve felt the weight of shame, you’re not alone. We’ve all been shamed, and we’ve all shamed someone else, intentionally or unintentionally. We’ve been wronged, and we all get it wrong from time to time. But as we take our wounds to Jesus, may we remember that we’ve been scandalously forgiven, so we really can forgive and shrug off shame for good.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

Jesus shamed shame on the cross so that our hearts could live in glorious freedom.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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Hiding Isn’t the Solution for Pride

Seven of us crowd around an empty table in the very back of the restaurant. Some sip tea, others coffee. We are writers and speakers, songwriters and teachers; we are women who love words. But something stronger wraps around our conversation, binds us tighter than any shared dream: the word of God.

This tiny group of artists who gather monthly is a balm of some sort that soothes my soul in ways I don’t even realize. Someone asks a question: What are you struggling most with right now in your writing? Soon a discussion unfolds, and every woman around the table agrees that her worst fear is her own pride.

Later, I drive home understanding the battle within me a little bit better, thankful for those with me on this journey. I know what’s in my heart—at least I think I do. My capabilities and biases, my motives and weaknesses. Sometimes, I forget God knows all this, too.

He reveals what’s inside in order to set me free.

He holds my hand and teaches me that I do not need a microphone to live a life of influence, but then He thrusts one in my hand anyway. For the next several seasons, I will feel pulled back and forth between two forces: step up and use my voice or run away and hide.

Our group eventually stops meeting as life takes us to new places, yet that artist comradery is strong enough to keep me moving when I feel like giving up and my identity feels pulled in a thousand directions.

My friend Julie started this blog a few months ago, and it moves me every time I visit. Her simple yet profound way of naming beauty causes me to exhale deeply and drink in God’s goodness.

Julie recently wrote about the difference between graffiti and street art. Her words remind me who I am in Christ and simultaneously tap into something lodged in my heart, a fear that runs deeper than I care to admit.

I still fear my own pride.

Will stepping up and using our voices somehow result in a great fall? Will we succeed in making His name known rather than our own? I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust my own selfishness, my own desperate desire for approval. I don’t trust me.

Why does God trust any of us with gifts for the benefit of others?

I’d rather run and hide, but today, Jesus gently invites me to take a step closer, to peer through the lens of His love to see how far He’s brought me. Julie’s words echo His words as one artist touches another in a sacred way.

“If street art is giving then graffiti is taking.  One is a sacrifice, hours of back-breaking work, that benefits the viewers and the other is a sacrifice merely for self glory, self promotion, and the thrill of an adrenaline rush. Both artists leave a lasting mark.  Both artists have a gift to share.  Yet one shares with no strings attached and the other makes the art all about him/herself.” (Julie Cassol, Speaking Beauty blog)

Maybe your art isn’t writing or speaking, but you’ve wrestled with the fear of pride, too. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that hiding your gift is the safest way to dodge the potential mine field ahead.

Hiding is just another form of pride.

The world needs your art and your voice in the worst way. Our enemy knows that God’s gifts make this place better, more beautiful, and ultimately, reflect His glory. If Satan can’t lead us into the trap of our own pride, he’ll convince us to hide in a flimsy effort to self-protect. Both extremes render us ineffective. 

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors… Hosea 10:12-13

We sow righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Righteousness is a gift of God, not something we produce on our own. We seek, He showers. I know I’ve sat at that table “eating the fruit of lies” for far too long. Fear deceives us into believing we can keep our pride in check by ducking out of the spotlight, by keeping our heads low, our gifts hidden.

We can’t trust ourselves, but we can trust Jesus.

I’ve tried on my own to rid my heart of pride, but I’ve failed. Terrified of my own tendencies, scared to death that every time I share my art I’ll become a taker or glory thief, I’ve tried to prevent the fall that follows pride. I’ve tried to rescue myself rather than seeking Jesus, the only able Rescuer.

Before Christ, our only pursuit was self, but now His love has become our aim. When His righteousness rains down on us, we become givers of life, beauty, grace, and forgiveness. We bear His name and bear the fruit of His unfailing love.

God made us artists in His image—every one of us—to reflect His glory and make His name known. So your contribution is crucial to the kingdom. Whether your art is conversation or connection or custodial work, you have something sacred to share with the world.

Hiding isn't the solution for pride.

We can be artists who show up without a single string attached and share our art fearlessly when we make Christ’s love our only aim.  Above all, may we remember that it’s not about trusting ourselves but about trusting Jesus and remaining in His love. 

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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The War of Awe

A theme of conflict pulses through the book of Daniel. War, opposition, power struggle. Kingdom against kingdom. I notice the spiritual battle that surrounds me, and with God’s help, I begin to recognize the war within me.

My heart is the battle ground where flesh opposes Spirit. All I want to do is look away, look away because it’s too personal, too much. Spiritual growth is spiritual warfare, and the is struggle intense.

In his book, Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do, Paul David Tripp says that sin has made us not only lawbreakers, but awe breakers as well.

“Sin captures and redirects the motivational system of our hearts. Sin changes how our hearts operate… We exchange awe of Creator for awe of created… most fundamentally awe of self.”

War of Awe

Daniel 10 is a lead-in to the final vision of what’s to come for the people of God and for the end of time. 

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. Daniel 10:1

It takes several reads to recognize Daniel’s name assigned to him by his captors, Belteshazzar. I think it’s intended to remind us that he is not free. Daniel is still in exile, in bondage; he has yet to be delivered.

God uses exile as a means to restoration.

God has given us hearts to know Him; He restores our hearts in this ongoing struggle between awe of self and awe of God. Tripp says, “Spiritual growth is about recapturing your awe.”

Reading through the book of Daniel this summer, I’ve seen the physical conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. The turmoil in Daniel’s visions mirrors the nightly news feed and reminds me of the ongoing unseen battle.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17

In Christ, the flesh no longer controls us; the Spirit leads us instead. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Daily. We die to self daily. Though our eternal rescue is complete, we look to Jesus to daily rescue us from ourselves.

What God begins, He finishes.

My flesh longs to worship self; the Spirit knows my heart needs to worship God alone. It’s a power struggle called sanctification. It’s an all-out war between the kingdom of me and the Kingdom of God, and I want this war to end.

Jesus Christ has personally carried me from victim to victor. He has made a way—the only way—for this enemy of God to become a child of God. And in the very end, He will win this war of awe.

God recaptures our awe through an ongoing, grace-filled, intimate relationship with us. He created us to live utterly and completely enthralled by Him, and the Spirit gives us everything we need to intimately know Him.

A friend asked me recently to pray that God would light a fire in her to live for Him alone. I told her it would be my absolute honor to pray with her. This prayer reveals humility and an understanding that all we have to do is ask God to do what we cannot do for ourselves.

None of us can spark our own fires.

I can’t. You can’t. The Spirit is our fire, our sanctifier. The realization that sin has hijacked our awe can overwhelm, especially if you’re like me, and you’re just waiting for Jesus to give up on you, because you would’ve given up on you ages ago. This beautiful prayer invites us to turn to God instead and ask Him to do what we cannot do for ourselves.

Spark a fire in me. Keep the fire going. Kindle the flame when it starts to fade.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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