"Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me." Isaiah 30:15 (MSG)
God spoke a word over me this year that was unconventional to my understanding and logic. He told me that I would be stronger but not in the way that I understand strength. My increase in strength would not be from doing more on my own but instead would be from letting go and surrendering more to God. I must become less and less, and God must become greater and greater, (John 3:30, emphasis mine).
Oftentimes I think of strength in a physical sense; the definition of strength is the quality or state of being physically strong. However, I know from Ephesians 6:12 that the battles and struggles I fight are not against flesh and blood (physical) but against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (spiritual). Therefore it is more important for me to be spiritually strong than physically strong. So then that raises the question: how do we become spiritually strong?
To be spiritually strong is to be weak in my flesh. 2 Corinthians 12:9 makes it very plain and applicable for me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” For God’s power and strength to be made perfect I must be weak. This weakness does not mean that I am frail; this weakness takes the shape and form of surrender, submission, and dependency. Isaiah 30:15 tells me that my strength comes from settling down in complete dependence on God. When I am completely submitted and surrendered to God I am dependent on Him to fight my battles and provide me with a heavenly strength that does not come from this world. This heavenly strength comes from our Creator and Savior, without His strength we are not properly positioned to fight the spiritual battles that come our way.
This word that God spoke over me went against my natural inclination to control everything and to be completely independent. With this revelation, I have taken small steps of obedience to release my control and be more dependent on God. My partnership and agreement with God’s word and will has led me into a life with greater spiritual strength and capacity.
Written By: Caitlin S. Lambert
“You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” Psalm 36:9 NLT
Picture this: You’re in the middle of the ocean in the worst possible storm you could imagine. You can’t see very far in front of you, with no place of security and no destination in sight. You panic, wondering when you will reach safety, how you will reach safety, where you are going, and why the storm is so bad. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by what looks like many arms, and you can no longer see the ocean & storm anymore. His hand turns your face to look in His direction and pulls you into His arms.
Do you hear the invitation to come close and refocus your attention on the One who commands the winds and the waves? Do you hear the invitation to come close to the One who has already crafted the healing, life, and dreams you desperately desire to know more about?
It is in this Holy and still place of intimacy and trust that the Father molds you with His perfect love; healing distorted thoughts and replacing exposed pain and brokenness with Holy Truth. What a beautiful love this is. The Father knows everything that you need, and yet He cares so deeply about the condition of your heart. More than reaching the destination, whatever that may be for you, God wants you to be rooted in His love; it is His love that will keep you strong (Eph. 3:17-19). His first and greatest commandment is for you to love Him (Matt. 22:37).
He is the light by which you will see. Let that give you hope, sister. In Him, you will see. Hear this invitation to be deeply rooted, to rest in green pastures, and planted by peaceful streams despite the storm. This invitation to live in surrender and under His lordship is an opportunity to experience divine guidance and peace in the middle of the storm. May you draw in close enough to hear the heartbeat and breath that the Father has given you, by grace.
Father, the Sovereign One over it all, I need Your help. Thank You because You are faithful to help me, by grace, to focus less on the storm and the destination and more on Your heart. May Your Word and presence be the light by which I see. Thank You because Your light brings guidance, protection, and comfort and reveals the places in me that need re-alignment with Your Truth. May You give me the grace to learn how to delight in You so that Your desires may be mine. Help me, Father, to fall into Your loving arms to grow deeper in Your unfailing love. May You grace me with experiencing You in a new way. I love you, Father. Amen.
Written by: Olivia Mbualungu
“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 NKJV
Over one year ago, I received a Spirit-led word from Ashley Stovall that I was moving from “coal to a diamond”, and I see that coming to pass now. Unexpectedly, coal and diamonds have a lot in common, yet with some differences that really set them apart. Both coal and diamonds have the element carbon in their structural makeup, both are found underground, and both require pressure to be formed. However, not only are diamonds formed at deeper levels underground, it also requires extremely higher temperature and pressure to be created. You will not find a surface level diamond that has not experienced fiery temperatures or being hard pressed on every side. Beyond that, diamonds are a much more pure compound, which is why it sparkles and shines with brilliance and beauty. Similarly, as God takes us deeper, with more pressure and heat in our lives, He purifies us and we shine the light of Christ more than ever before.
My word for 2021 is “pure”, with Matthew 5:8 as my focal scripture. Pure by definition means “something that is not mixed with anything else”. There is a separation that takes place when something is purified, a removal of anything that is unlike the desired substance. Walking through the process of purification with Jesus requires the examination of your life on a deeper level, exposing, confessing and repenting from anything that is unlike Him, and allowing Jesus to extract and replace the impurities with His Truth. This is indicative of the Refiner’s fire, and I have found that the deeper you go, the purer you’ll grow.
The Refiner’s fire requires faith and daily obedience to the Lord. The process of purification is painful, but the Lord is with you every step of the way. Jesus, who lived a perfectly sinless life, experienced this like nothing else when He took all the sins of the world (yes, yours and mine too) upon Him as he was crushed and crucified on the cross. The suffering Jesus experienced through immense torture that led to death trumps any painful thing we could ever walk through. Jesus knows what it means to suffer; He sees you and truly understands your pain.
I am so thankful that we serve a God who loves me and you so much and desires for us to be healed and whole sons and daughters of God. In reference to Matthew 5:8, when we allow God to purify and heal our hearts of sin, trauma and lies, we become blessed to see and know him with greater clarity as we reflect Him more. We can be assured that when we put to death our impurities that we will then be resurrected with Christ, experiencing abundant, everlasting life.
What parts of your heart are you not allowing God to purify, heal and restore?
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
Psalm 139:23,24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Written By: Valerie Hutzell
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 NIV
In Fall 2017, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. It was a decision much bigger than deciding what college I was going to attend or what job I was going to choose after college. I decided to follow Christ. I was on fire and eager to learn more about who Christ was and how I could build an indestructible relationship with Him. I started the new members course at my church, got baptized, and joined a disciple group. It was an exhilarating feeling. Then, about three months into my journey, I was asked two not so simple questions: “How are you following Christ? and Are you willing to lose everything, if necessary, to follow Him?” I immediately answered, “Well, I have joined three bible study groups, I attend church every Sunday, and I read my bible almost every day.” My friend from my bible study said “Azure’ that is good and all, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 16: 24 NIV … If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
During that season of my life, I had no idea what that meant or entailed. A trillion questions ran through my head and I bombarded five friends with text messages asking them endless questions. After reading their responses, I immediately went into prayer and reflection. I was led to Luke 14:25-33. As I was reading the passage, the word “disciple” constantly popped up. Remember, in the beginning I said I was involved in a disciple group, right? Well, let’s just say that I only had a vague understanding of what that term meant. Disciple means learner or someone who is a student. I then took the definition of disciple and replaced it throughout that text with the term learner.
In the text, Jesus clearly outlines what it takes to follow him. Luke 14: 26 says “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” First, Jesus boldly says that nothing can come between you and God; not even good things like family or friends. Self-preservation cannot become idols to a true disciple. He asks for the ultimate commitment, and we give it to Him because we love Him. When we know and understand the unfailing love of Jesus, only then can we be committed to Him with great devotion.
As disciples we must do the following:
Whether we realize it or not, we make decisions every day based primarily on one core, foundational decision: who we have decided to follow. I pray you decide with your whole heart to follow Jesus. Like for me, it will be the best decision you’ll make.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your covering and your understanding of how to follow you. You know how difficult, uncomfortable, and frightening it is for me to change my life and rid myself to things unlike you to fully follow you. Lord, I ask that you continue to do a work in my heart and renew my mind. So that I will become a better disciple of you. It is in your most holy name. Amen!
Written by: Azurè Minor
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
I have learned that forgiveness is truly the most essential part of the journey to become whole in Christ because not choosing it can be a true barrier to receiving freedom, healing, and wholeness.
For several years, even after learning about the importance of forgiveness, I struggled with forgiving both my mother and father. With my father, it’s always a topic I avoided. I made myself believe I had nothing to forgive him for because he wasn’t in my life. But I was naive to think his absence had no impact on me. It is easy not to care about someone who is never around, and if that person is never around, it’s easy to dismiss any thoughts and emotions pertaining to them.
Although I would have loved to avoid the father topic altogether, my Heavenly Father desires for me to be completely free, not partially free. He wants us to walk in complete and total freedom. God wants us to be whole and that will require hitting on areas that we want to avoid; areas that are uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or unwanted.
Choosing to forgive the person who hurt you can be the most important decision of your life outside of salvation. It is a part of our christian DNA. Forgiveness puts our healing into motion.
God is calling us to a life surrendered on His operating table which requires us to be opened up. Exposed wounds are painful, but required for healing to take place. My past trauma, brokenness, and scarred emotions were used to uncover deeper areas of brokenness and gave birth to the start of my healing journey.
Whether or not you truly have it in your heart to forgive, I urge you to simply say the words out loud. Ask the Lord to help align your heart with your words. Declaring forgiveness in the name of Jesus aloud removes the enemy's foothold, and it gets you one step closer to your healing.
God forgave us; yet when we were sinners, Christ died for us. We were reconciled to him through the death of his Son. If we are trying to be like Christ as women of God, forgiveness cannot be an option. I promise when you choose to forgive, it will be worth it.
3 Crucial Steps to Forgiveness
Repentance and forgiveness are what breaks up the hard impermeable layer of soil within our hearts. It allows weeds to be removed, truth to be planted, God’s nourishment to be received, and our healing to take place. Although Jesus has already died for our sins, it does not give us the freedom to do whatever we want and ask for forgiveness later. No. We are to live a life according to the word of God. We must remain and abide faithfully. We cannot straddle both lines. We are either for God or against Him. Friends, let’s be a people where we die to our flesh and we live by our spirit. Let’s decide to turn away from our human desires and keep in step with the fruits of the spirit such as joy, peace, kindness, and self-control.
I have sat and stewed in anger and bitterness regarding many of my childhood experiences; unfortunately, giving the enemy an entry way into my life. When you decide to hold onto the pain of any trauma instead of forgiving and working through the trauma, it causes strongholds to form, like anger, resentment and bitterness. Strongholds are spiritual points of operation that allow Satan to exert power over you. When we decide to forgive, and choose to forgive quickly, the enemy’s grip on us loosens. We are then able to see more clearly instead of through a lens distorted by manipulation. Forgiveness releases strongholds. Let’s make the conscious decision of our will to partner with Jesus and trust Him to vindicate us as His word promises. Let’s choose to be free!
A few years ago, I was able to see a glimpse of how God the Father saw someone who had hurt me badly. God opened my eyes to see past my pain and to see that His child (my mother) was also suffering. For the first time, my heart broke and I had compassion for her. I was able to reposition my heart and my perspective from her daughter to His daughter, and it brought a new level of forgiveness and healing. A core principle of forgiveness that I love is that oftentimes forgiving is not about changing the other person. It is about the change that happens in us. We must learn to disengage our pride long enough to recognize that God’s way is the only way to true freedom. Distorted perspective and pride are barriers to forgiveness. I pray you allow forgiveness to reposition your heart, even if it doesn’t reposition or change the other person.
Ashley K. Stovall