Our ONLY Response is Gratitude

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

I have been working on my upcoming Kids Discipleship lesson. We are starting in Genesis with the creation story, and every time I read it, the Spirit reveals something new to me.

Not only did God create the world from a vast void of nothingness, He created it specifically and perfectly for us. From the moisture in the air to the nutrients in the earth, He created it for you. From the plants in the forests creating oxygen, to the smallest creatures in the ocean processing carbon dioxide, He created it for me. The water we drink, the air we breathe, the stars we admire, and the depths we explore, He created it for each and every one of us to live in and enjoy.

We, of course, realize this intellectually; that God created all there is. However, how much of that creation do we actually give Him credit for? Do we give Him credit for our jobs? Do we give Him credit for our homes, our families, the air we breathe, our very lives? Do we give Him credit for our success, our talents, our skills? The fact is that nothing we have or do is because of us. We can’t take credit for anything in our lives. Everything that is…is because of Him. When you can really internalize that, you begin (with the help of the Spirit) to understand that the only response we have is gratitude.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33

If we know that God is going to provide for us what we need (emphasis on need), and we know that everything we have is from Him, and created specifically for us, then why do we spend so much of our time and energy allowing discontent to seep into our joy because enough is never enough?

From the very beginning God created a perfect environment for people to enjoy. There was plenty and God was present with them. But, when faced with the option of more, having enough quickly became not enough, and the result was catastrophic. Eve may not have died as soon as she ate the apple, but because of her disobedience, death came into the world. Adam may have taken the apple from Eve, but he took it just the same. All of the favor, provision, and blessings of God weren’t enough…they (we) want more.

The Apostle Paul shares his perspective, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

Have you noticed that most people don’t seem happy? They believe that happiness will be found after they’ve purchased the larger house, the newer car, found the perfect partner, obtained the promotion, reached a million followers, etc. Only to find out that once they have it, there is something more to strive for. Enough is never enough, and they never take time to be content with what they have. Always striving, always looking for fulfillment and satisfaction, never achieving that which they ultimately long for.

I’m not saying we should just stand still, and God will provide for all our needs, I’m saying that we should be grateful for what He has provided to each of us, and do all we can every day with what we have to give him praise and glory. Our lives should always point to Him.  We should do the best we can at our jobs whether as a cashier or a CEO, giving praise and thanksgiving every day.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Joy is found in gratitude. Gratitude that stems from knowing that God created us intentionally and provides for us the same way. He is neither slow nor stingy in His provision. When we order or lives correctly, giving all we have to His service, He will provide all we need. That doesn’t mean that we’ll be living high on the hog, it doesn’t mean we’ll have everything we want, it doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties and challenges. On the contrary, the life of a Christ follower is fraught with trials, but it does mean we are never alone, and that God will provide us what we need, when we need it. It means we can experience a bit of His Kingdom here on earth.

Lord, teach us the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. We can do all this through you who gives us strength. ~Amen~

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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The Power of Your Words

I am one of those people who almost never sleeps the night through. I toss and turn, (and somehow remain married after 21 years). I’ll wake up, roll over and try to go back to sleep. Often that proves to be more difficult than it should. My brain turns on and I’ll start thinking about work, kids, conversations I’ve had or meant to have. I’ll get anxious, frustrated, nervous and fearful. I’ve adopted a mantra that I pray when this happens, “Lord, things always look better in daylight.” Recently, during a difficult night, I made the most incredible discovery, my Bible app on my phone will read to me! Sometimes, you’ve just got to love (or at least appreciate) technology. Now when I go to bed instead of turning on my ocean or storm sounds, I’ll turn on my Bible. It’s hard to wake up anxious listening to the Word of God.

Monday night in one of my awake moments I heard a scripture that stayed with me. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (bold added) Colossians 4:5-6

Colossians is a beautiful letter and contains so much wisdom for living as a follower of Christ.

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (bold added) Colossians 3:8-10

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (bold added) Colossians 3:17

I wrote not long ago about absolutes and how God uses them frequently. He is Absolutely Absolute. In fact, He uses words like every, always, everyone, all, whenever, and whatever. He doesn’t use words like some, most, sometimes, occasionally, or when it’s easy or convenient. God is absolute in who He is – – unswervingly God. Being created in His image, we are called to be likewise.

What does it mean to make the most of every opportunity with outsiders and for our conversations to always be full of grace and seasoned with salt so we can answer everyone? I noticed the It doesn’t matter who you are talking directly too or whom else may or may not hear. Do all our conversations with, or around people (including your comments, posts, likes and reactions on social media or anywhere online) conforms to God’s requirement? Are all our words uplifting and encouraging, to build up the body, or tear it down, do they point to Christ or the world?

Remember what Paul said, whatever you do in word or deed do it in Jesus’ name. What about that last watercooler conversation, or the waiter that got your order wrong, or the lady who cut you off while you were driving your kids carpool? Would the person/people listening hear Jesus in them?

I’ve mentioned before that I heard a pastor on the radio mention that people are more likely to watch how a Christian lives or listen to what they say, than they are to read the Bible. What are they learning about Jesus from us, what kind of witness are we presenting?

In Ephesians 4:29 Paul states,  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

In each of the first three gospels Jesus is quoted as saying that it is not from the outside that a man can be defiled, speaking about the Levitical laws, it is from the inside. From the goodness of a man’s heart his mouth speaks, and from the evil in a man’s heart he does evil and thus defiles himself. Matt 12:36-37, Mark 7:20-23, Luke 6:45)Jesus own words testify to the importance of what comes out of our mouths.

Words have power. They have the power to hurt or to heal. They have the power to tear apart or restore. Hastily spoken words can have far reaching consequences to those around us, destroying relationships and our witness.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

We are called to be Jesus’ witnesses in the world. To give testimony to who He is, what He’s done, how He’s worked in our lives. If our words, intentional or not, don’t speak to this it would be better if we don’t speak at all. I love the line from the old, animated Disney movie Bambi, where Thumper is being a bit of a gossip and his mother catches him and makes him repeat the advice he’d recently received from his father. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

If what comes out of our mouths is our witness of Jesus to those around us, are we paying enough attention to what we say? Not just when we’re out and about, but when we’re home with family, spending time with friends, at work, at church. Is what we say truly a reflection of what Jesus would have us say? What do our words say about Jesus?

Yes, it’s hard! At time it seems darn near impossible. Two more great Words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (bold added) Philippians 4:8

And, the ultimate encouragement,  I can do ALL this through him who gives me strength.” (bold caps added) Philippians 4:13

What we fill our minds and hearts with will come out in our words. What we read, watch, listen too, spend our time on, will all affect our heart and mind and from that the mouth speaks. I listen to the Bible so that the last and first thing I hear are the words of my Savior, that is how I combat the other stuff I’m bombarded with all day long.  We can’t fight this battle on our own, and it is only when we invite the Holy Spirit in that we can hope to tame our tongues.

Before you speak, especially when you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or anxious, ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, then ask if what you’re about to say is true, is it helpful, and is it necessary…I’d also add, does it bear a good witness for Christ?

We all struggle in this area, in an emotional moment it’s difficult to hit pause. However, if we all learn to do this, to really make it a priority, how much calmer, kinder, and loving would our world be? It would be much more like Jesus intends and we truly would experience more of His eternal kingdom here on earth.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Thoughtless Forgiveness

“So, as God’s own chosen people, who are holy [set apart, sanctified for His purpose] and well-beloved [by God Himself], put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience [which has the power to endure whatever injustice or unpleasantness comes, with good temper]; bearing graciously with one another, and willingly forgiving each other if one has a cause for complaint against another; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so should you forgive. Beyond all these things put on and wrap yourselves in [unselfish] love, which is the perfect bond of unity [for everything is bound together in agreement when each one seeks the best for others]. Colossians 3:12-14 AMP

I have been trying to count out how many times in scripture we are told to forgive others as God has forgiven us, or to forgive others so God in turn will forgive us. Forgiveness isn’t a recommendation in scripture but a command. We can’t claim to be a Christian and hold unforgiveness in our hearts.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6

As far as I can tell or have read…Jesus didn’t hold grudges.

Forgiveness is not something God does, it’s who He is. He doesn’t have to think about it, or decide to do it, it’s part of His character. God’s forgiveness is an expression of His lovingkindness. It doesn’t diminish His righteousness or hold back His justice.

Our God is a forgiving God. We are called to be equally forgiving I can already hear the heavy sighs as each of us consider those areas we hold on too. Deep hurts we can’t imagine letting go of areas we feel very entitled to cling too. Even though we know that the only person suffering from our unforgiveness is us. You heard me right, we willingly keep ourselves from receiving God’s forgiveness so that we can continue to hurt ourselves. Sounds silly when we say it like that, but it’s true.

Unforgiveness’ main victim is us. Please know that I am not trying to diminish any hurt that you may have experienced or make light of the pain you feel as a result. It is my deepest desire that you experience a freedom that can only be found through forgiveness. In Isaiah we hear a recounting by God of Israel’s transgressions, and in the midst of God’s expectations, He makes the most marvelous statement, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (bold added)  Isaiah 43:25

Matthew Henry comments on this verse, “as if the great God would teach us that forgiving injuries is the best way to make ourselves easy and to keep ourselves from being wearied with them.” Forgiveness is freedom! It allows us to move forward from our pain toward healing and restoration. Freedom from the bitterness and anguish that can taint every area of our lives.

As we continue to follow Jesus and allow ourselves to be transformed into His likeness by the Holy Spirit, forgiveness becomes part of who we are, not something we do. Yahweh Hesed is the closest name we have to Forgiving God. More specifically Hesed is translated as lovingkindness. Forgiveness, like mercy, compassion, and love, are characteristics of who God is, not what He does. He doesn’t need to think about forgiving, it’s in His nature. The Lord’s forgiveness is an expression of his character, and the more we reflect His character the more our forgiveness will manifest.

For many of us forgiveness is one of those words that can feel like a sucker punch, “how does that person who hurt me so deeply deserve my forgiveness”. I hear you! But let’s acknowledge, at the same time, the truth that none of us deserve forgiveness. None of us can earn forgiveness,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.  Your forgiveness is not about the person who hurt you, it’s about reflecting God’s character in a way that allows you to move forward and be more like him.

Unforgiveness stunts our growth, it keeps us from forming healthy relationships, it holds us captive and keeps us from healing and restoration. It doesn’t have this effect on those who hurt us, it affects us. Not only are you keeping yourself from the blessing of God’s forgiveness, but you are also continuing to give control of your life over to those who have harmed you, giving them permission to continue to have power over your emotions, and actions.

Forgiveness is hard. A lifetime of bitterness, regret, and condemnation is harder. Scripture is clear, if we want the very best that God has for us, we have to be ready and willing to give the best to others. When asked what is the greatest commandment Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

We must first love God, to love Him is to know Him. Then we must love others as ourselves. Jesus defined neighbors as everyone else; those we like and those we don’t, those like us and those who are not. We can’t say we love those who we won’t forgive.

Forgiveness needs to become a characteristic of who we are, second nature. We should be inviting God into our everyday lives, to change us to be more like him so that we can let go of our hurts and forgive like He does. God will not tell us to do something we are incapable of doing, but He will ask us to do that which we can only do with Him.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Conditionless Promises

This summer has been littered with challenges. I have no doubt that many of you are nodding your head in agreement. Outside of dealing with pandemics, economic stressors, and global political unrest, families still struggle with the day-to-day challenges of life. Our family is no different, as we navigate through health problems (the big C), graduations, unexpected deaths, career moves, etc., I keep going back to my favorite scripture.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29

I find comfort in this passage, in God’s promises, in knowing that nothing that is happening in our lives right now, in our communities, in our country, and in the world is a surprise to Him. He knew (knows) about all of it. Not only does He know, but He has also sovereignly worked through every situation for the best interest of every person who knows and loves Him. For each of our best interest. I’m not saying that He has worked out everything the way we think it should, or might want with all our heart, He has worked it out for our good, which He knows better than we do.

I have been confronted by this promise many times, when what I wanted was not in God’s plan, but somehow, He worked it out for my good. It didn’t feel good at the time, but when I look back it is so easy to see God’s hand in all of it. Often it looks nothing like anything we’d choose, but always turns out better than we could imagine.

In the book of Deuteronomy God, through Moses, prepares His people to go into the land He promised. Over and over God assures them that there is nothing that can stand in their way, He has delivered their enemies into their hands. He has already done it.  In the midst of this book, I found a similar passage to the one I cherish in Romans.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9

God is God and He is faithful, He keeps His promises…always. Sometimes I feel that because we so often don’t keep our word, or others don’t keep their word, that we expect God to be as fickle as we are. Someone hurts us or makes us angry and that is all the excuse we need to break our promises. Thankfully God is not that way. His promises are not dependent on us…THANK YOU LORD!

I think about how often I put conditions on my promises with my children, “yes I will do this, or we can do that, if you behave”. God doesn’t put conditions on His promises to us, but He does tell us that there will be consequences when we chose to live outside of His will. All throughout the Old Testament, you can see that when God’s people aren’t where they are supposed to be, bad things happen.

In Romans God promises to work all things for good for those who love Him, who He called and created to be conformed to the image of Jesus. If we love Him, we’ll live as Jesus did, following His commands (love God, love others), and trust that no matter what, He will work ALL things out for our good.

This is a BIG promise, and one that takes faith to follow. It goes hand in hand with James’ statement that we should, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God doesn’t put conditions on His promises, they are absolute. We need to trust that He is who He says He is, and that He’ll do what He says He’ll do. I heard a preacher on the radio today say, “God doesn’t want to be first on a list of ten, He wants to be first on a list of one.” We need to put all our faith, all our energy, all our heart, mind, and soul into God with complete assurance that He will work all things for our good. No matter how big or how small the problem, challenge, obstacle, frustration, or pain may be, we need to, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Receiving and Giving, and Giving and Receiving

How is it possible for God to keep loving us? We fall short, break every rule, willfully disobey Him at every turn and yet His love for us never changes. Remember the saying “love makes the world go round”. If you think about it, really think about it, there is nothing more true. Not the mushy romantic or brotherly feel-good kind of love, but God’s unconditional, completely consuming love. A love so great that God created the world just for us, so His love literally makes the world go round. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

I feel like we are running around trying to love others as best we can, unfortunately when we’re just trying to do it all on our own, we’re kind of terrible at it. We’re following the examples and experiences of our own lives which may or may not be healthy. We demonstrate love how we feel and accept love, for some of us it may be that we don’t feel lovely or loveable, we don’t love ourselves, or we believe we only deserve a certain kind of love…the conditional kind that stays at arm’s length. If we are unable to get to a place where we can realize and accept God’s love, and love ourselves as He does, we will never be able to love others as God intends. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

For all those who grew up not feeling loved. Those who grew up feeling less than, too little, not enough, unworthy, unlovely, or unwanted, we all need a Holy Spirit intervention. As Christians we know we are all called to love others as Christ loved us, we can’t do that until we can accept that He loved us first. Not because we deserve it, or have earned it, but because we are His. It’s a humbling and comforting thought when it finally sinks in. God loves me. Not because of anything I did, but despite of everything I’ve done. He loves me. More than that, it’s the same for everyone. Regardless of what others may say or think…we’re all int he same place, “This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.Romans 3:22-24. So, we don’t even have to measure up to anyone else’s expectations because we’re all equally sinful and in need of God’s healing, restorative love.

God’s love is so immense that we can’t comprehend it’s depths “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

So… if we can’t earn it, don’t deserve it and can’t fathom its vastness…how then can we possibly share it with others? Simple answer, we can’t. Not on our own anyway. We are only able to love out of the love that God pours into us. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”. Ephesians 3:20 We are imperfect images of the original, without His help, without His first loving us, without our cups overflowing from Him onto to others we would not be capable of truly loving anyone…including ourselves.

Each of us spend much of our lives seeking to fill an emptiness within us. We want to be accepted by someone, anyone, for who we are. We are afraid that will never happen, who could love the real us? So, we craft images of ourselves, either a superhero persona or mild-mannered alter ego, anything to be what others will love and accept. However, it doesn’t work, because we know that isn’t really us, they are loving (liking and validating) something else, something other than who we are. So, we keep longing, we keep finding ways to feel loved, lovely, and valued. Nothing works, nothing will ever work. There is nothing in this world that can fill the need within us besides God.

Why is it so hard for us to accept this love, freely given, and without condition? A love that sees us for who we really are and fully embraces us as a beloved child regardless of our behavior? It seems so unlikely, too fantastical, that kind of love doesn’t even happen in the movies. If it doesn’t really exist, why do we crave it? How would we be aware of it, if indeed, it never existed? At some level we’re aware of that love, sitting there waiting for us to claim it. The only thing standing in our way is us, and the power we give to the voices we hear telling us we are not worthy.

There is nothing God loves more than His creation, there is nothing He wouldn’t do to bring us closer to Him to experience that love, not even sacrificing Himself to close the gap that separates us. Dear ones, give yourself permission to be loved. Let Christ’s love begin to permeate your heart, flow into your life and impact those around you. I promise you will not be disappointed; your spirit will be renewed, and hope will fill your heart. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:5-8

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Faith Sized Expectations

“Because you have so little faith truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
The disciples had been trying to help. We don’t know how long they prayed, if they fasted, or what healing they claimed in Jesus name. Whatever they did – – it didn’t work. The disciples must have demonstrated some Spirit filled ability at some point,for this father to come to them believing they could heal him. Why then didn’t it work? Why couldn’t they expel this demon? Was their faith lacking?

Did the disciples expect to see this boy healed? Did they believe when Jesus told them, “as you go proclaim this message, ‘ the kingdom of heaven has come near’ heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8 If Jesus indeed gave them the authority to perform miracles, why in this instance could they not? The disciples asked why, and Jesus replied. “because you have so little faith.”


How often have our expectations of God fallen short of His? When we ask for His help, for the Holy Spirit’s intervention are we asking with the expectation of a mustard seed or a watermelon? Our expectations of what God can and will do mirror the size of our faith. Do we have faith to move mountains or faith to help us find a road around them? Do we expect a demon to be cast out or a boy to calm down? Where God wants to dazzle, amaze, blow our minds, and glorify Himself, we’re hoping for a release, or relief from our immediate discomfort.

Perhaps the disciple’s expectation of what should happen or might happen didn’t align with God’s plan for the moment. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 What were they convinced was going to happen? Were their hopes and convictions in line with God’s?

I’ve seen in my own life that often my expectations of what God wants to do is in direct correlation with the strength of my faith. Little faith equals little expectation. The disciples wanted a boy healed, God wanted lives to be changes, a family to be restored, a community rejoicing and glorifying God together. The disciples could not heal the boy, perhaps because their faith and expectations of what God was doing were too small.

James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:5-7

If we believe God can do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine, then we must ask with full confidence, and expect that He is already moving. Our expectations need to be bigger, but before that can happen our faith needs to be bigger. God loves surprising us; He loves exceeding our expectations. Jesus tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

What do you expect God to do in your current circumstance? Do you believe that He can do greater things than you can even comprehend? You should believe it because He can, and He does!

NOTE: His faithfulness is not dependent on your worthiness – don’t let your feelings of unworthiness diminish your expectation of His greatness. Don’t believe that your faith is what causes God’s actions. God’s faithfulness demonstrated across eternity is what gives us the conviction to know He will act, and the confidence to walk in expectation of His grace and mercy.

If having faith like a mustard seed can move mountains…what could watermelon sized faith accomplish? Live in great expectation of God’s greatness and His love for you!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Don’t Waste an Experience

I was reminded recently of the impact each of us has on the lives of those around us. Over the past several weeks I’ve lost multiple family members and friends, all of them unexpected and tragic. Looking back on how they each impacted my life, I am who I am partly because of them. Each has left their mark on my life, for better or worse, they are part of me and my memories of them are cherished.

While I spent time wading through photographs, I remembered some things I had forgotten. My Uncle Mark, who passed last month, taught me how to ride a bike. More than that he taught me not to be afraid. He told me that I would probably fall, I might bleed, but would I let that stop me from learning to ride? In fact I did fall, and I did bleed, but I rode my bike and I loved it! Bumps and bruises will happen in life, will we let that fear keep us from living?

One of my girl friends from when I was in high school passed a few days later. She and I were close, then we weren’t, then we were, then we lost touch. Amy and I grew close during our earliest young adult years, and she taught me to see the good in every moment, especially in the small, boring, insignificant moments, because each is a blessing. In the process of reconnecting with a group of our mutual friends, someone shared a moment where I had impacted their life. Then another friend shared, and another. Before long we were each sharing memories of how we had, without realizing it, indelibly left our mark on the others. I guess, I never thought back then that something I did or said would be remembered 30 years later.

Driving home after services that day, I was struck how each of us impacts the lives of those around us. Whether we want to or not, what we say and do, or don’t say or do will leave an impression. I heard it said that non-believers are more likely to watch how professing Christians live their lives, than to read the Bible. In other words, the things we say and do, may be the only experience of Jesus some people will ever have, what do our lives say about us, what do they say about Jesus?

Are we uplifting, encouraging, edifying one another or tearing down? Do our lives point to Jesus or do they only bring attention to ourselves? Are we helping others to become the people God created them to be, or beating them into a mold that best suits our needs and expectations.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

I was so grateful for the very humbling reminder that God gives each of us, every day the opportunity to positively affect those around us. A smile or friendly gesture, taking the time to speak with someone who feels alone or excluded, reaching out just because, sharing a meal, giving a hug, being a friend, all simple acts with long term impact. It takes no more time to lift someone up than it does to tear them down. It takes no more time to be respectful and polite, than to be rude and demeaning.

Jesus went to those in the world who needed Him most. The sick, broken, downtrodden, and the sinners. He came to the mourners, the possessed, the lost and the outcasts. Jesus didn’t come to  those who thought they were good enough, He provided enough for all to come to Him. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6-8

One day after I have gone to Glory, I hope that I have lived my life in a way that has had a positive impact on those around me. I pray that I lived my life in a way that pointed to Jesus and drew people closer to Him. I want to encourage people to be brave, enjoy every moment, and to love those that God has called us to love.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Consistent watering required

“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.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I was reminded lately that for something to grow, we must water it. Seems simple enough for us gardeners, water is life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on vacation and left very (very very) detailed watering instructions, only to come home and find my plants browning and wilting. While watering is important, deep watering is essential. Yes, I’m saying that all watering is not equal. I can think of no better example of this than how many of us approach scripture, and the truths that it permeates into our lives.

The above scripture in one that I wish we could all have tattooed on our hearts. I truly believe that if we could grab a hold of this one truth, we would look at and approach our lives so differently.

I was recently speaking with a woman about some of the challenges she is facing in life. As we sat talking, and she shared with me her difficulties, I’m thinking to myself that if she only knew how much God loved her. She doesn’t know how she’s going to support her family, find a better place to live, get clean, make better decisions. As she cried desperately about all that is happening, I asked her if she had any other support system, family, friends, or a church family? She told me through her tears that she used to go to church and knows she should go back but can’t do it until she gets her life cleaned up. Once her life is more in order then she can go back to church. My heart broke…

“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.”

Why isn’t this a bumper sticker? Why isn’t this a T-shirt? Why isn’t this blasted across billboards on every highway across the country? There isn’t ANYTHING that anyone of us can do to clean ourselves up to be presentable to God. Not one of us is ever, even at our very best, worthy to approach Him on our own.

Perhaps if we all accepted and shared that we’re in the same boat, regardless of how it may appear on the outside. We are all just as broken, sinful, and unworthy as the next person. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

We can’t do anything to be worthy of God’s love or Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to God, we come dirty, we come shamed, we come broken, we come guilty, and no matter He will come running to embrace us, every time, without exception, and without condition.

One of my favorite parables, because of what it tells us about God’s love, is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We are all either the prodigal son or the oldest son, and in each case unworthy of God’s love, but in both cases, we are embraced, loved, provided for and precious, regardless of our own sinful condition. Whether we’re going through the motions doing what we think we’re supposed to do, without love in our heart, or we selfishly threw away all that we were given to pursue our own worldly desires, Christ died for us!

I could go on and on sharing examples from Scripture of God’s unconditional and perfect love. A love that is equally given to each of us regardless of our current, past or future condition. No one is any better or worse than you, and as such no more or less worthy of it.

I hugged this woman who was sharing with me. I shared this passage of scripture with her. Even though she smiled and said, “I know”, I prayed as she walked out the door that God would pierce her heart and allow that scripture to take root and grow. I ask for God to give me more opportunities to share this truth, to live it out myself, to see those around me with God’s eyes as loved and cherished.

We all have sinned and fallen short, but God has good news…it is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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No word from God will ever fail!

my ways are not your way

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?

Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Isaiah 41:10“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.

Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.

Jeremiah 32:27“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.

The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?

The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.

Let God surprise and bless you in 2021 as we walk in the path He created for us!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

Apostles Eternity War

apostles-eternity-war.png

“Mom, I want to be spider man”, “mom can I be wonder woman?”, “mom, mom, can a girl be baby Groot?” This is what I hear on an almost weekly basis these days. My children are obsessed with super heroes. They love the idea of heroes; those who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the greater good, despite the personal pain and sacrifice they must inevitably endure. Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8-9 years old he was obsessed with Indiana Jones and dressed up as him for three years running. I still have the cloth whip he carried that plays the Indiana Jones Theme Song. Da da dum dum da da dum! Yea I play with it sometimes too…truth be told it’s in my office and my whole team gets a kick out of it.

He loved that Indiana Jones had a seemingly super power where his whip was concerned however, his real super power was actually that he was smart and cared about keeping people safe. I remember when we watched the last Indiana Jones movie together, Nik kept telling me, “Mom it will be ok the hero always wins.” Then there was the scene where Indiana got a bit of a beating and Nik covered his eyes and began to worry if Indiana would still be victorious…of course he was, and Nik looked at me beaming…”see I told you the hero always wins.” Such faith he had in his hero.

It’s funny how we crave the idea that there are those in the world who are willing to serve a greater purpose than themselves, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives for it. We believe that honor, and nobility are something to be admired and looked up to. It’s almost like we were born with the innate desire to seek out that which is greater than ourselves.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Perhaps it not that surprising after-all. Being made in God’s image we have the ability through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to share in God’s divine nature. We are created to be like Him who is noble, loving, forgiving and full of mercy. It is natural then that we look for these ‘invisible qualities’ here on earth.

The question is, why do we feel the need to create imaginary and fantastical versions of heroes to worship, as opposed to worshiping the one who embodies everything we seek?

In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Does this list of characteristics sound familiar; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? Is Paul describing Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, or Spiderman? The list of characters could go on and on, none of them exemplify all of these characteristics, all of them represent some. The one difference seems to be that each of our heroes is mortally flawed. Whether its pride or vanity or kryptonite or a relationship or greed, we imbue each of our heroes with characteristics that make them more like us. It’s easier to believe that a hero could exist if they weren’t perfect. So, we worship the flawed over the flawless. Is it because we want to make our heroes more like us, bringing us to a more equal footing? Or is it simply because we can truly comprehend flawlessness?

God is flawless, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. He is perfect, He is love, He cannot make a mistake and will not cause harm. We can trust Him completely and be confident that He is who He says He is; always has been and always will be.

While heroes remind us of our innate desire to experience the divine in humanity, there is only one true source for that divinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one hero who embodied all that is divine. His flawlessness, purity, nobility is what we truly seek, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Why would we seek something less, why would we worship that which is flawed and broken when we have what is perfect.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.