June 2013Walking Worthy: June 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

When God Seems Silent

Currently I am in a season where God seems to be speaking to me around every turn. Every day even when hard has been encouraging as I hear from the Lord frequently. Small encouragements, leading me in ministry, showing me His grace in my life.

As I look around me I know that is not the case for everyone. I know it is not always true in my life. In fact, there have been times in my life that were very dark.They were beyond painful. I often felt alone even in a room full of people.

Sometimes it seems like God is silent. I wrote  for Precept Ministry International  last summer and shared about the time in my life when God seemed silent. I encourage you to go here and read what I wrote. I pray that is brings encouragement to you today!
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Words of Grace

"Can I be brutally honest with you?" is a phrase I used to use quite frequently.  When my friends would come to me for advice I would ask them my question and then I would be brutally honest. I cannot tell you how many conversations I walked away from where I knew I had hurt that person's feelings. Unfortunately I walked away thinking, well I warned them, I asked if I could be honest, if they didn't want that they shouldn't have said I could be honest.

I strongly remember doing this with one of my college roommates. The shock and hurt on her face still hurts my heart. I do not remember the conversation, just the stunned and hurt look she wore. I knew in that moment I had messed up, but I was so wrapped up in the freedom of my words that I refused to even apologize. I was living by "if you love them speak the truth" instead of "speak the truth in love." I was living in a twisted version of Truth. Yes, I was living in a self righteous lie about my words. And the Lord would only let me live there for so long.

Over time, the Lord got in my face with His Word and started showing me what He thought about my words. As I looked at scripture I could not get away from what God has to say: that words are a fire and a restless evil. God revealed to me that my words could bless or my words could curse, but they could not do both. James 3:11 tells us: Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?" I realized that there was something wrong with my words. I couldn't call myself a believer and not consider the words I spoke to people. If I was in Jesus, then I should be a fountain with fresh water, and a fresh water fountain cannot send forth bitter water. My "truthful" words were actually bitter words. God was opening my eyes to a change needed in my life.

God used a mentor to continue to affirm this Truth. She was my assigned mentor for a summer. I had known her for many years. I was honestly surprised when I spent time with her. She was not the woman I remembered.  She had transformed from a loud and blunt person to someone who walked with grace. I asked her what was different, what had happened to the woman I once knew? As she told her story it reminded me so much of myself. She shared how God transformed her especially when it came to her words and shared Colossians 4:6 with me: Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. 

As I considered this verse I realized I had zero grace in my words. I knew that I did not have an ounce of grace in me naturally. But I was living in a lie of "Well this is how God made me!" God showed me that just because I do not come by words of grace naturally, He still calls me to walk in them. That was a hard realization, because I liked the freedom I had, and I did not want to acknowledge I was abusing my freedom. Slowly, God began to change my words. Over time, He taught me how to walk in His Truths regarding my words. Sometimes I still struggle, but God is reminding me of the importance of the way I speak. And that to walk worthy of Him is to talk in a manner worthy which always involves grace. 

We just cannot get away from God's grace. God has given us this amazing grace: His Son who died on our behalf so that while we were yet in sin, we might have eternal life. God allows His grace to show up in our lives in so many ways. I am so grateful for His grace in my life. I know without a doubt I do not deserve it. I know in turn I am called to walk in the grace He so freely bestowed on me. He calls us to walk in grace with ourselves and with others. He calls our speech to be seasoned with grace. May my words be worthy of Him.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Great Joy

“Ashlee, I am blessed by your joy. It is God’s grace in your life”. Those words spoken by my friend Amanda actually surprised me. The last few months have been fast and furious.  And I knew I was excited about what God was doing, but I didn’t realize I wore it with every fiber of my being.

It wasn't the first time I have heard tha trecently and I had to ask myself, what is the difference? What in my life has changed? As I have sought out that answer I realize that much has changed.

I have walked out of a hard time. Last year my husband and I were involved in a ministry for all of 9 months. And it was hard. It was a very hard way to start our marriage. We argued a lot. When we realized that God was making away for us in college ministry, we knew it was time to walk away from this other ministry. The other ministry wasn’t a bad ministry. In fact we knew it was something God called us to even in that short time. But it was a difficult time of ministry for us. It felt very dark many days. And I wore than darkness on me like a blanket.

Also, there is great joy in walking with Jesus. As crazy as the last few months have been, I see Jesus in it all and that has enabled me to have great joy. He has been speaking to me in so many ways.  I am seeing Him direct my path when it comes to leading the girls in our college ministry. And I am truly overjoyed.

There is also a confidence that God has enabled me to walk in. God has been teaching me this year, to worry what He thinks and not what others think (Just FYI- I have not arrived yet, this is a major struggle in my life). Over and over God has been reminding me to please God, not man (sometimes I repeat that phrase over and over again). Walking with Jesus has given me the confidence to be the woman He has made me to be. Part of my confidence comes because I am using my Spiritual Gifts again. Have you ever noticed the pure joy that God gives you when you use your spiritual gift? It is this crazy amount of joy I do not even know how to describe. As I am walking in Jesus and using the

God is moving and I am excited. He just keeps showing up. Even on discouraging days. It is the evidence of His grace and mercy on me. There is great peace & joy when God shows up.  

When God calls me to do something, I do not fear the outcome, I trust Him. An example is my Bible study. Hosting this study and teaching it is something I know that God has called me to. But husband, well he was kind of nervous for me. He didn’t say it, but I knew he was afraid no one would show up. But I wasn’t. I knew that if no one showed up I had still been obedient. I walked in a peace from God who said, do not be afraid, I am doing this, trust Me.

So yes, there is a great joy that God has given me. It reminds me of the Psalmist who says in Psalms 16:11 “In your presence is fullness of joy” Gosh, such great truth. We find joy in God. We find joy when we are in His presence.

I pray this encourages you today. I pray that you would seek God and His presence and that in Him you would find great joy.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Ambassadors of Grace

Welcome to part three of my series on grace. Today we are going to talk about being Ambassadors of Grace.
I often find myself in need of grace. I look at myself and realize that I fail. I fail at life pretty much every moment of every day. And in that I know that I need grace. I need God’s saving grace in my life to mold me and change me into the new creature He says that I am. I am unable to do it on my own. I need Him to do it.
However, I am not very quick to give grace. When it comes to others, I am quick to criticize and judge. I am quick to think negatively of others.
Gratefully the Lord has placed some special people in my life that have taught me about living as an ambassador of grace. First is my best friend Elizabeth. The Lord gave her to me as a lifelong friend at the age of 4 (she was three). Elizabeth embodies grace and mercy. She will forgive anyone no matter how many times they have hurt her. As her friend it has often made me defensive of her. 
Then there is my husband. He often views people with a lens of grace. He has the ability to give people a second chance when I am ready to write them off forever. And I have learned, that often he is right. I have learned to listen to his wisdom and perception of others.
The Lord has used these two people to teach me a very hard lesson (that I am still learning mind you). That lesson is how to walk as an ambassador of grace. I once heard someone describe it as being a grace dispenser. As someone who has received grace for the Father, I should in turn dispense grace to others (especially those who are my brothers and sister in Christ). You see, I don’t come by grace naturally. It is something the Lord has needed to grow in me.
So how do we become ambassadors of grace?
We seek God and walk in His Spirit. True grace can only be found in God. To walk in grace, I must be walking in God. I must be abiding in Him as I see taught in John 15.  Often those times I don’t want to even consider giving someone a second chance, I am living in my flesh. The flesh is what Paul calls the “old man” or the “old self”. To give grace to others, I need to be in the Spirit (as in the Holy Spirit). I can only do this when I am abiding in Jesus.
We realize that nice and grace are not the same. For some reason many of us have equated “being nice” with grace. I am sorry, but these are just not the same thing. Often being an ambassador of grace means doing the hard thing. Sometimes it involves speaking the truth in love. Walking in grace is not always warm and fuzzy and rarely involves roses and bunnies. Sometimes it hurts.
We move beyond ourselves. Phil 2:3 tells us that we should regard one another as more important than ourselves. As we seek to be ambassadors of grace we must consider others before ourselves.
We speak the Gospel. The Gospel itself is grace. We cannot be ambassadors of grace without speaking the Gospel to those around us. 
Being an ambassador of grace is not an option. If you are a believer, then showing grace to others is apart of your identity. It is something that was first given to us and that we should in turn extend to those around us. I encourage you to consider those around you and ask whether or not you are dispensing the grace that was first given to you. 
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

She is Going to the Chapel!

Today I am celebrating my sweet friend who gets married this weekend! She first came into my life about 4 years ago. My roommate Amy asked if I would mind if a friend of hers, could live with us for awhile. So, Denae moved into our duplex.  It didn't take us long to know we wanted her to stay.

Denae in the place that makes her heart beat: Africa
A few months went by and Amy got engaged, she got married and left us to start her new life. So it was just Denae and I. Denae and I lived together for two years. During that time she taught me so much. The greatest thing she taught me was how to be a servant. But she never talked to me about it, she lived it.  I cannot tell you how many times she served me. The way she served me always made me want to serve her right back. Denae also encouraged me in my walk with Jesus. As I watcher her grow in her love for Jesus and His Word, it encouraged me in mine. Denae also showed me tough love, she got in my face when I needed it. 

Denae with Greg and I on our wedding day!
Denae, your friendship has meant so much to me. I am beyond excited to watch you walk down the aisle this weekend and marry the man that God created for you. I am praying for you as your step into the new role that God has given you.
Scott & Denae. Photo Credit to AJ Photography
Please know that I am beyond blessed to call you my friend! God has used you in my life in so many ways and I know that He will continue to! Thank you for your obedience to Jesus. Thank you for seeking Him and walking in Him. Scott, you are beyond blessed to call Denae your wife, but I think you already know that! I pray that God will use you both to speak the Gospel to eachother and that in your marriage people would see Jesus and the Church. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for you!

* The last photo in this post was taken  by my friend Amanda of AJ Photography. You should check her website out!
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Walking In Grace: Me, Myself, and I

Last week, we defined grace. This week I want to talk about living out grace with myself.

That may seem odd to you, but the Lord has put several women in my path recently that struggle to show grace to themselves. And I will be honest, I struggle with it too. My name is Ashlee, and I am a perfectionist. This means I have very high standards, this means I am very hard on myself. Even today as an adult verbal discipline is the hardest for me to receive. It crushes my heart for someone to tell me they are disappointed in me. And then I beat myself up about it.

 As I look at the young women God has placed in my life, I see they struggle with the same thing. I do not think this is something women struggle with alone, but it is definitely something the women God has placed around me struggle with. So how do we learn to walk in grace with ourselves?

Walking in Grace with Myself is NOT:
A free ride to live however I want. I see this often with believers my age, they think that because of God's grace they get a free pass to live whatever life they want. I have some bad news for them, this is not what the Word of God tells us. God is very clear in His standard for our lives. His standard is holiness. Peter reminds us of this in 1 Peter 1:15-16 “But like the Hole One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY”” Walking in grace here looks like me walking in obedience to who God has called me to be, while realizing I can only be that because of what He has already done for me. There is a dependence that I need here on God. Only by abiding in Him, do I have the ability to be who He calls me to be.

Seeking the approval of man over God. Yep, I am one of those people pleasers. I was a suck up in high school. I was that girl who did extra credit when she had a 4.0 GPA. Sick, I know. I continue to struggle with pleasing others, but this year God is reminding me heavily of Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still striving to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”  When God first brought this verse to my attention it grabbed me. It shook me. It reminded me that I am to strive to please God, because I am His bondservant. It also contrasted the stark reality in my life that I often care too much of what others say of me and too little about who God has already said that I am in Him. To walk in grace with myself, means I seek the approval of God alone.

Self Abasement. My Bible Study girls and I are studying Colossians. And it is AWESOME. As we have studied, this word self-abasement (Col 2:18) stuck out to me. When I looked it up in the Greek, I was surprised. Self-abasement is a lowliness of mind, specifically in Colossians it refers to a false humility. When I understood what this meant, a light came on for me. I have several people in my life who belittle themselves. Now, God calls us to be humble, but this belittling is not a Christ-like humility.  It is a belittling that sees one's self as less than and loses sight of Jesus' death on the cross. For me to walk in grace with myself has nothing to do with a false sense of humility, but has everything to do with trusting Who God says I am in Him (See Col 2 & Eph 2 for more on this). It means I do not walk around beating myself up or punishing myself. It means I submit myself as a bondservant of the Lord, not myself.
Learning to walk in grace with myself, is something I continue to struggle with. But when I do I must change my perspective by remembering what I see in Scripture. This is the only way that our view of ourself changes. I must view myself on God's terms. For me it's important to remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, by God's grace I am what I am. Everytime we struggle, we must return to the Word and see the Truth again. To help us cling to this verse today. I made this for you!
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Summer Bucket List

If you know me, you know I love a good list. I have lived in the DFW area for almost 8 years. And there is so much of my city I have not seen. So much to experience. So, I started writing down the things I would like to do and see this summer. Things I want to accomplish. And therefore I give you, My Summer Bucket List:

Now let's review:

My first item is to visit the Fort Worth Food Truck Park. I have been hearing so many awesome thing about it. I have been telling my Lovie for months that I want to go. 

Next seems a little silly. But you see, contrary to my grandmother who can grow anything like Mother Nature, I have the black thumb of the family. I have tried my hand at tomatoes (which is truly my ultimate goal), I have tried the basic house plant. It never fails. They die by the work of my hands. Seriously it's gotten out of hand and I am determined to be successful. Any suggestions for this black thumb girl?

I have heard so many cool things about the Fort Worth Zoo. It was right down the street from me when I lived in Fort Worth. But I am somewhat of a tight wad, and well. I would never spend the money on myself to go. 

Nothing says summer to me more than fresh produce. I have been dying to check out the Dallas Farmer's Market. I figure since I cannot grow tomatoes the Farmer's Market is the next best thing. 

Former President's George W. Bush's Presidential Library is here in my area. It opened recently and I think it would be cool to check out. Now it totally doesn't hurt that my favorite dessert place Pokey O's is right around the corner from the Library. If you take a trip to Pokey's get two snicker doodle cookies with cake batter Blue Bell ice cream. Just trust me on that one.

Recently I realized I have a problem. I pin so many recipes to Pinterest and I have barely tried any of them. So this summer I want to try three new recipes. 

Ohh I love a good craft. Again I have SO MANY pinned and have not completed a single one of them. This has got to stop!!! 

Funny story about where JFK was killed. My husband drove around Ft. Worth one day trying to find the site, only to learn it was actually in Dallas. Ever since he first told me that story, I have wanted to see it. Again, just to experience my own city. 

Milk glass. What is that you might wonder? Well just head over to my Pinterest Board and check it out.  My goal for this is just to start a collection. That means I just need one piece. I love the hobnail patterns and the lattice work patterns. 

My last item is well, kind of sad. When I was in Seminary I bought myself a DSL camera. I paid a pretty penny for that camera and I still don't really know how to use it. Last month I spent hours reading blogs on how to use it and trying to understand aperture and shutter speed, etc. I'm hoping some of my college girls (who have professional experience) will give me some lessons this summer. I'm thinking it's going to take a few. 

Well, there it is! My Summer Bucket List. I will keep you posted on the adventures I hope to go on as I seek to complete each one.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Grace Defined

This is Part One of a Four Part Series on Grace. This week we will define Grace.

Grace is an awesome thing. Grace is a confusing thing. God’s grace often doesn’t make any sense to any of us.

Vine’s Dictionary tells us this about grace:
on the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds, graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill generally, especially with reference to the Divine favor or "grace," in this respect there is stress on its freeness and universality, its spontaneous character, as in the case of God's redemptive mercy, and the pleasure or joy He designs for the recipient; thus it is set in contrast with debt, with works, and with law.

on the part of the receiver, a sense of the favor bestowed, a feeling of gratitude, ("thanks"); in this respect it sometimes signifies "to be thankful,"

I have often heard of grace defined as unmerited favor. To truly define grace, we must turn to Scripture and let God tell us about His grace. Exodus 34:6 is an important place we see grace defined. Here, God is meeting with Moses and giving the Ten Commandments (the second time around after Moses shattered the first set). God comes before Moses and tells Moses about Himself:

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.

Did you notice what God said about Himself? He is compassionate & gracious. He is slow to anger. Did you notice Moses’ response? He made haste to bow low. God defines grace in Himself. It is His character. When we look at God’s Word we see grace in God’s character: Noah & the Ark, Saving Lot out of Sodom, giving Moses the 10 Commandments, choosing Israel as His chosen people, the giving of the Temple as a place of worshiping God & offering sacrifice, the giving of the land of Canaan, God as a warrior going before His people in battle, etc. Over and over again, we see God, who is grace.

In John 1:17, we see something else: For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. In John, we see grace was realized through Jesus.

Paul talks about grace through Jesus further in Romans 5. In this chapter, Paul defines grace. He tells us how grace came about and what it is. He says that while we were helpless, Christ died for us, He justified us by His blood, He reconciled us to God through His death, and He gave us life. Grace is what Christ did for me on the cross. Grace in Jesus is that while I was yet dead in my sin, Christ made me alive with Him. Grace in Jesus is that while I earned eternal death because of my sin, Christ gave me eternal life in Him.

How can we know what grace is? Grace, can only be defined in God and through Jesus. To know grace, we must know Him.

Grace defined…this is just the beginning. Join me next week as I talk about walking in grace.

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