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Take It Too Far: Abundant Life, Boundless Love, Unending Grace
by Jess Connolly
Learn More | Meet Jess Connolly
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
“You will keep . . . in perfect peace . . . those whose minds are steadfast, . . . because they trust in you.”
I say it slowly over and over again as I fall asleep because I am worried. I am scared. My husband has had an issue with his throat for months—and it’s gotten increasingly worse. He’s been to the doctor a handful of times, but he has an appointment with a specialist tomorrow to have a scope done. I feel sure they’re going to find something awful. In this moment I’m wondering:
Do I believe that God will keep me in perfect peace if I keep my thoughts on Him?
Do I believe that God will keep me in perfect peace if this doctor’s appointment goes badly tomorrow?
Do I believe that perfect peace is available to me if the one I love the most is taken from me?
And that’s when I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Take the promise of peace too far.” I realize that my mind is not actually on God at all; it’s centered on fear. So I start praying and thanking Him for His presence. I begin acknowledging how good and faithful He’s always been to me, even when the world has seemed harsh. I even take it so far as to remember and recount: I wouldn’t love this husband so much if it weren’t for God’s grace, and I certainly wouldn’t be married to him if the power of my Father’s reconciliation weren’t active and at work in my life.
And then, without reciting anything, I drift off to sleep. Because my mind is stayed on God and I’ve remembered that He is trustworthy. The next day the doctor’s appointment goes surprisingly well—but I know it’s not because I’ve willed it to be so. And peace has had its work in my heart once again, so I’m ready for the next disruption. And this is for you as well, this continual work of peace that holds us and prepares us for the next moment, the next day, the next opportunity to worship with faith.
How can you choose peace today? Take a moment to think about what you know to be true about your situation versus what the world is telling you right now.
Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?
—Psalm 127:2 MSG
Can we take rest too far?
What if we become slothful?
What if we stop working?
What if we neglect all God has given us to do?
Maybe the question isn’t, Can we take rest too far? Maybe the question is, Are we actually resting? I’d love to propose that true rest will restore and revive us to a place where we are eager and itching to use what we’ve got for God’s glory and the good of others. True rest and restoration won’t slow us down but will help us swing so far into His presence and pleasure that we’re filled up to swing out into productivity once again.
But I’m learning I often confuse hiding and rest. Hiding puts on headphones and tries to forget the world; rest leaves me restored and hopeful. Hiding says I need to be away from others so I can be safe, while rest reminds me that only the gospel brings me safety. Hiding leaves me scared to get up, and rest knows I was made to move.
Hiding says, “Just give me a break!” and rest says, “Come away with me; come learn unforced rhythms of grace.” Can you take rest too far? I vote no. But are you actually resting? Only you can know that. God is never disappointed in your rest, but rather, I believe He wants to meet you there. It’s the desire of His heart to put you back together, to restore your soul, to comfort and repair what has been worn out, and to send you out in His grace once again.
Take Rest Too Far
This one is so fun! Rest today! Just do it. Ten minutes or two hours or half the day. Rest and ask God to help you to do it for His glory.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
—1 Thessalonians 5:11
The Greek word for “encourage” here is parakaleo, and it essentially means “to call to, exhort, summon, entreat, comfort and even console.” But the word is a root of parakletos, which has legal overtones, and really broken down it means to advocate personally for someone. It’s a word of exhortation that would stand up for the soul of someone in God’s court.
Encouragement isn’t just speaking kind words or saying nice things; it’s testifying on each other’s behalf, both among ourselves as Christians and to the spiritual forces that come against us. When we encourage, when we speak life, and when we admonish those we’re close to, we’re standing between them and the literal enemy of their souls and testifying to God’s capacity and love for them.
Why do people deserve our encouragement? Because our Father loves them, sent His Son for them, and values their lives even at the cost of His own. And because no matter what has happened between us in the human world, we share an eternal enemy in Satan—the accuser and liar who has an individualized attack plan for every person we love.
We get to take encouragement too far because it’s how we’re uniquely wired to fight for one another against darkness and discouragement. But we shouldn’t be scared to take it too far because we lose nothing in the process. With every word of encouragement spoken, we only validate and agree further with the truth that God has written over our lives: we’re encouragers, we’re warriors, and we’re testifiers of truth.
Let’s take it too far and encourage others often and with fervor.
Before your head hits the pillow tonight, encourage someone else. Tell them you’re proud of them; tell them you see God moving in and through them; tell them He’s going to give them what it takes to win!
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
The most adventurous thing I ever did was go cave diving in Mexico. Friend, I was terrified. My husband loves adventure. When it’s just the two of us (he doesn’t love putting our kids in danger), he loves to take off and do something that makes his heart beat faster. I’ve never felt like I’m in a truly dangerous situation, because he loves me and wants good for me, but my body, mind, and soul perceive adventure as danger.
And so, this one time, we found ourselves cave diving. We had life jackets, a tour guide, lamps for when the caves got too dark, and breathing gear—everything we needed to execute this small amount of adventure in a safe way—but I still could not get my heartbeat to a reasonable rate for the entire time. Everyone else was immersing their heads deep beneath the surface of the water, using their gear to see all they could. I, in contrast, kept my hands gripped tightly around my life jacket, with my head above water, where I could access oxygen without anyone’s help.
If it were up to me, left to what I know and what I’m comfortable with, I’d probably live out the rest of my days in a pretty standard and rhythmic pattern. I’d wear mostly the same clothes and keep the same routines, I don’t know that I’d ever get on another plane, and I definitely wouldn’t go cave diving.
But something has happened to me that keeps me pushing outside the limits of what feels comfortable, and that’s the truth that I get to see more of God when I go outside the boundaries of my life. When I follow His voice, His call to places outside my comfort zone, I get to see the light of His love in new and fresh ways; I get to see adventure.
Because I said yes to something that felt incredibly uncomfortable, for just a few moments I got to experience what God was doing and growing and tending to underwater in Mexico. I got to see rocks that He’d created and beauty He’d crafted; essentially, I got to see more of Him.
We have a choice every single day: to stay where we are, with what we’re used to, or to follow God’s voice to adventure. Let’s take it too far today and see what else He’s got to show us.
Only you know what’s comfortable for you and what’s adventurous. Maybe the most adventurous thing you could do today is to go to God and ask Him where He wants to take you today and follow where He leads.
Break forth with dancing! Make music and sing God’s praises with the rhythm of drums!
—Psalm 149:3 TPT
I had a hard time getting into college because I didn’t do so well in high school. But there was one school that seemed to be interested and open to me attending—a small, private Christian college. I thought nothing could be better than combining my extreme love for Jesus with my problem of no other colleges wanting me, so I set my sights on this school and jumped in with both feet. I did the whole weekend tour thing, where they let you come and stay in the dorm and see what college life is like. I loved it! Suddenly I could picture myself there!
Because it was a Christian college, there were some rules, but they weren’t intimidating to me. No drinking. Cool. I’d already done that in high school and gotten it out of my system. You had to be in your dorm by 9 p.m. Sounds like someone is forcing me to be an introvert; I’m down! But then we got to the hardest rule of all . . . no dancing.
No dancing? I mean, I understand we can’t bust a move in the cafeteria with the boys. But what about in my room alone? With my headphones on? What about when I pass a test or want to celebrate a win with my friend? Can I dance then? No. I’d have to sign a covenant to promise not to dance. And so, even though I needed this college way more than they needed me, I had to say no. I left the tour weekend and never looked back.
I think there will be dancing in heaven. I know dancing is mentioned multiple times in Scripture, and I don’t believe it’s allegorical. After all, the Bible does say there’s “a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). I think that means not only us but God too. I believe that we get to move our bodies to music to agree with all sorts of things. We agree that we’ve been set free when we dance. We agree that there’s hope when we dance. We agree that hard times aren’t here forever when we dance.
I got into another college, thank God, and ended up hosting worship and dance nights in my dorm room. We’d read Scripture, worship a little, then turn up the tunes and turn down the lights and dance until we could barely stand up. And I’m kind of still doing that. I heard the Christian college changed their rules and you can dance now. Praise God.
Dance today—and not metaphorically. Maybe alone. Maybe grab a friend or one of your kids. Dance and see what happens.
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