You get them for a reason…use them!

Over the past 4 months I have been working my way through 2 seminary courses that I’d like to call Big words Theology I, and Big words Theology II.

In these classes I’ve studied words like Justification, Regeneration, Salvation, and Sanctification. It was so crazy in the beginning, that, no joke, I would be sitting with my text book, a Bible dictionary and a notebook, writing down all these words with their definition, spelling them out three times each, and using them in a sentence…Can you tell my life has also been about helping my children with virtual schooling?

It occurred to me during these classes that, too often in Christianity, we make simple things more difficult than they need to be. We use big church words, straight out of the Bible, but not words we use in everyday conversation. For people who did not grow up in the church, how do we share what Jesus did and who God is, in a way that relevant, and relational, and more easily understandable?

I shared with one of my classmates that to really understand scripture, you have to take what you think you know, deconstruct it down to the smallest, simplest elements to see where your beliefs come from, then let scripture and the Holy Spirit help you to build it back up again.

What you find is that some pieces you won’t use any more, some new pieces get added in, other pieces get a more prominent role, and ultimately some pieces get left out entirely. In the end you have a faith build on a solid foundation of scriptural knowledge you can talk about.

So that was a long-winded way of stating a simple concept. Studying Scripture can kind of be like building furniture from IKEA.

IKEA is an amazing, do it yourself, store. They have everything there. The displays are beautifully and professionally decorated, the furniture seems sturdy, and you can just picture how that new entertainment center, or kitchen hutch, or bunk beds are going to look in your home. So you walk up to the perfectly designed display, grab the tag next to your chosen item  then go out to the warehouse that’s twice the size of Costco, find your shelf, and load a very, very large box onto your cart.

You see the photo on the box that reinforces your belief that what you are purchasing is exactly what you’re looking for. You get in line, pay for your item, then you carefully load it in your car and head home.

Once you get home you open the box, and pieces start falling out, all kinds of pieces, some roll under the couch, others land on your toe, others you’re able to grab before they smash into something else. You carefully collect the pieces, clear a space, lay them out on the floor, and then begin the search for your instructions.

Slowly… laboriously… meticulously you read all the many pages of instructions in multiple languages, in case of translational differences, right before beginning the assembly process.

Ok, so, we jump right in and start trying to re-create the image we saw at the store with all the pieces and parts we have, of course forgetting those that rolled under the couch. Soon we discover we don’t have all the tools we need, so we improvise.

Finally, after what seems like hours (and really was hours) you step back to see what you’ve created and… it really doesn’t look exactly like you remember it, it doesn’t look like it did in the store, it doesn’t look like it does in your friend’s house. What happened?

So, you have some pieces left over, so what, even Lego gives you extra pieces. So, you used some of your own hardware because some was missing (or under the couch). You ask everyone to come and admire your work undaunted by their quizzical looks.

You decide to gently, move it into place, and just as you pick up one side, pieces begin to pull away. The screws you used to replace the ones you lost pull apart and the whole thing comes down with a large crash. But that’s ok… because you really weren’t sure if it would fit there anyway.

Our faith, or beliefs, our walk is so often something that we think is going to make our lives look better, and easily fit right in. Like a new dining room table with all our friends and family joyfully gathering round. When we move forward with our belief, but disregard the instructions, substitute parts, don’t use the right tools, and expect life changing results, when our dream or image of what the Christian life is supposed to look like – when the picture on the box doesn’t look like the picture your built – we say it doesn’t work, it’s not real, it’s not for me, my life is too complicated, too messy, I can’t have nice things… we turn and walk away.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

We can’t hope to have the life in Christ that we all long for if aren’t willing to believe with our hearts, follow the instructions, use the right tools, and leave our old parts behind. When we don’t do this our lives, our faith is like a house built on sand.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

It will not stand, it will come crashing down, and not because it isn’t real, or doesn’t work, or your life is to messy, or complicated but, because we didn’t follow the instructions of the person who designed and created our life. We were given instructions on how to build our lives, we were provided the tools needed to construct, and the parts required. We liked the picture, we liked the idea, we didn’t think it would be so much work.

Living like Christ is not easy; however, it’s not complicated either. Romans 10:9 states, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Simple enough right?

Once you make that decision, the rest is a matter of following the instructions, using the tools, and the parts provided. We have been given everything we need to live the life God designed for each of us to live. The Apostle Peter tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) And we read in 2 Timothy that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

God wants us to teach and equip us for the work he has for us to do. The box won’t be too big for the car, the pieces won’t roll under the couch, the right tools will be provided. All we need to do is follow the directions and pray. God will take care of the rest.

Friends, scripture is full of words that may not be as common to some as to others. However, we know that the intent of those words is to give us the understanding we need of God and his will for our lives, to have a relationship with Jesus who was the perfect example for us to follow, and be aware of how the Holy Spirit will work in and through us to accomplish Gods plans for our lives and this world.

Unlike IKEA everything is provided for us to build our lives with Christ as the cornerstone, it will be more beautiful, and complete, and fulfilling than you could possibly imagine…just follow the instructions.

Pease 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

Mission Monday – What’s your Motivation?

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:23-24

My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. This is my motivation, what is yours? What keeps you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, serving the Lord, expanding the Kingdom of God, sharing the good news?

It’s no small task committing your entire life to God, it takes daily recommitment of your life and time. Even Jesus acknowledged that we need to take time to spend with God, time set apart and intentionally reserved for him. I think of the times I’ve worked to schedule lunches with friends or time to watch TV shows or the proverbial, ‘me’, time…why don’t we have the same fervor to make time to spend with God?

Did you know, depending on the translation, in the book of Mark alone there are between 15-18 different times that Jesus went off by himself to spend time with God. Jesus set aside time to spend with God. If our goal in life is to glorify God and be transformed into the likeness of Christ, shouldn’t we follow his example?

Right now, millions of students around the world are doing their studies at home. They are learning math, science, literature, grammar, and history. They spend several hours each day on computers, at dining room tables, in spaces modified to serve as classrooms. We, as parents, tell them the importance of studying, spending time with their notes, text books, teachers and classmates. Why don’t we, with the same exuberance and expectation, impress upon them the importance of getting to know Jesus? Why isn’t spending time learning from The Rabbi, studying The Scriptures, and in fellowship with other believers just as important…or more so? Why is our faith and our relationship with God relegated to one or two days of the week? I saw a post on social media recently that stated, “with children learning from home, is now the time to put Christ back in our schools?” I would ask with all of us spending more time at home, is now the time for us to spend more time with God?

It seems like, with the increased amount of time we have from not going out as much, that the demands from the world for our time have increased. From our streaming movie services, television programming, and internet advertising, we are inundated with distractions vying for our attention with claims of instant gratification, overnight delivery, and at home convenience, no effort required.

What is our motivation to spend time with God, studying His word, praying for His people, and lifting up His Church? “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” My salvation is secure in Christ, I want everyone to enjoy the same salvation, the same joy, and peace, that Christ provides out of the abundance of His love for us!

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  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.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11

God’s love is abundant, Christ’s sacrifice is enough for all, the power of the Holy Spirit will transform the heart of every believer. What is your motivation to grow your relationship with God?

I would love to hear from you! Please let me know how I can pray for you, any questions or comments. and like.

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

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

There is Freedom in Forgiveness

The word forgiveness brings up all kinds of feelings and images for people. Some see forgiveness as being weak, allowing those who have hurt you to “get away with” the pain they have inflicted. Some see forgiveness as giving permission to wrongs, others see it as allowing evil to exist unchecked in the world. However you view forgiveness, I believe it is fair to say that the word carries with it strong emotion. Shakespeare could just have easily written the words, ‘to forgive, or not to forgive, that is the question.’

Whatever your view of forgiveness, one thing remains true, God calls us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. He does not follow that statement with a litany of exceptions to this command. It is complete and absolute, without exception. We are called to forgive, just as God forgave us. Let’s be clear, I do not know what sins have been committed against you, so I cannot, and will not claim to fully understand the pain that you may have suffered, and continue to suffer because of them. I would never want to do anything to negate what has happened to you. My sole desire in sharing this is to help you understand the toll that unforgiveness takes on your life.

People who hold on to wrongs, injure only themselves not the person whom their grudge is against. Unforgiveness festers in your heart, it makes you bitter, angry, resentful, and at its worst can cause you to injure others. All the while, the individual(s) who sinned against you, continue on as they were. Forgiveness is not about them; it is about you and your relationship with God. By living with unforgiveness in your heart, you are creating separation between you and God.

Remember God forgave us for all the sins we committed and have yet to commit. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, in this world we can do to make amends for, or to earn that forgiveness.  If we could in our own power make ourselves righteousness, and restore our relationship with God the Cross would not have been necessary to reconcile us to the Father. He forgave us in the midst of our sin, our injuring others, and in our denial. When we didn’t even realize we needed forgiveness, He forgave us. His love for us, and His desire for us to be reconciled to Him was so great that He forgave it all…ALL. He made the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus, who paid the price for all our sin, so that we could return to God.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it Is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

All scripture speak aside, unforgiveness puts you in bondage…ties you to the person who wronged you, forever. Unforgiveness is bondage, it is handing your life over to another, your emotions, your heart, to the person who has hurt you. Living in unforgiveness is like handing the reigns of your life over to someone else and letting them drive you. The hate, anger and resentment that festers in your heart will overtake your life and you will be unable to move forward.

The word forgiveness (aphesis) mean loosing someone from what binds him. It stems from a verb meaning to send away. Forgiveness grants freedom to those who are in bondage. Those bonds tie you to the hurt that others have caused either intentionally or not. Forgiveness allows you to send away the pain that holds your heart and mind hostage. Imagine for a moment, what it would be like to not have those feelings shadowing you. To be free from those negative feelings associated with that person or action.

Forgiveness is not something we can do on our own. We are broken and resentful people, unable to do anything good outside of God. Sure, we may forget for a while, we may stuff it down and chalk it up to ‘no big deal’. However, there will come a time where something will happen to remind you of the pain that was caused, and it’s like living through it all over again. In fact, the longer you stuff it, the worse it will be when it comes out…and it will come out.

The only way to be rid of the root of bitterness is the loosing of forgiveness. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every for of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:2)

Yes, I do know what I’m saying. I know that pain and bitterness has become part of who you are and you’re not sure who you will be without it. You feel justified in your anger and desire for revenge, but if you hold on to that bitterness, your hands are not free to hold onto Christ. Forgiving those wrongs does not make them right, does not mean you approve, does not mean it was OK, it means you are loosing that which binds you, sending it away.  You can’t do it on your own, but you don’t have too.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably ore than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

My prayer for each person reading this, is that the Holy Spirit will reveal the unforgiveness in your heart, what which binds you and keeps your heart hostage. I pray that He will work in your life and enable you to let go and forgive those who have hurt you, just as Christ forgave you.

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

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come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

Choose Contentment over Resentment

I was watching a Skit Guys video this week with our church youth group. We all love the way they present the gospel in humorous yet very meaningful ways. In this particular episode, they were reviewing the 10 Commandments, which if you know the Skit Guys, is a wealth of wit combined with wisdom. The youth laughed (we all did actually) as they waded through the meaning and relevance of each of God’s commands. Then toward the end Tommy makes the comment, “be content”. So much of what God calls us to do falls into the bucket of be content, with what you have, who is in your life, and how we are called to live.

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy on this very subject, But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Paul is writing to Timothy about the sickness of this world, the sickness of self and putting ones self before everything else, before God, before others, sometimes we even put our own fleshly desires above what is really good for our own person. When we place our wants, not needs, above all else we become resentful and bitter toward God, others and the world in general. It is only by being content with what we have that we can find any kind of happiness in this world. After all, as Paul pointed out, we brought nothing into this world, and will take nothing out. All we have is from God.

I was going about my day this week when I got a text reminder about a house. It was a house that my husband and I considered buying several years ago, we decided at the time that it was too big of a commitment so we declined. I had forgotten that I had an alert set up if the house was ever up for sale again. Well, it was! And whoever bought it had done a wonderful job renovating it, and fixing, and updating all the things that we had decided were too big for us to handle. Within all of 5 minutes I was talking to a realtor friend of mine, texting my husband and picturing our family moving into this beautiful historic home. It consumed the rest of my day and part of the next.

My family has a wonderful home. We have the space we need, a backyard I have literally bled over. We have built our life there and have no need of anything more (although a 3rd bathroom would be nice in a family of 6). I don’t need a great room with picture windows, Mexican tile floors and a courtyard. I don’t need to become house poor just to host a lovely dinner in my own courtyard with friends who come to my home to visit me, not my house. I became so distracted by the idea of this beautiful, one of a kind, historic home belonging to me that I forgot what was important.  Wanting a new house isn’t a sin! Let me be clear! Obsessing and coveting what I don’t have and don’t need to the detriment of being grateful for what God has given me is.

In this passage Paul is explaining to Timothy that if we have what we need, we should be content, we should feel blessed. It’s when we want more than that, when we allow the temptation to become more, this desire becomes a trap that can ruin people, and lead to their destruction. Paul states that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By this he doesn’t mean cash in hand, although it’s part of it, it means our desire to have more. More than what we already have, more than what our friends and neighbors have, more than our enemies have. And having more, always, ALWAYS, leads us to want more. “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 

Resentment sinks in when we live our lives in constant comparison to those around us. When we see what we have as not being enough. The world tells us we need new cars, new homes, new jewelry, first class tickets and front row seats. There is a billboard that went up this spring in my home town that states, “you don’t need a divorce, you need a bigger house.” It was a joint advertisement for a husband and wife team. One is a realtor one is a divorce lawyer. The world we live in is consumer oriented. Whatever your particular temptation may be, you can bet that there is a billboard along the nearest highway designed to feed it.

Our discontentment with the blessings God has bestowed upon each of us is what causes our resentment, leads to arguments, anger, frustration and from that we have people who will gable, become workaholics, steal, cheat, lie and murder to fulfill that desire for more. When Paul stated that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, he was not exaggerating.

Dear friends, we each have been given riches beyond our wildest dreams. Our salvation is worth more than anything that this would could provide us. What we get here is temporary, yet we spend the majority of our lives energy trying to attain more. If we invested that time, those resources (meaning the gifts God has given us through the Holy Spirit) into the lives of others, into sharing the Kingdom of God with those around us, providing for the poor, weak, sick, widowed and orphans, we’d make life better for so many. Our riches, rewards are stored up in Heaven and we’ll have more people there to share them with.

Our lives here on this earth were not meant to be lived as if that were all we have. Our lives on this earth were meant to be lived in a way that brings Glory to God by sharing His love with as many people as we can. Our lives on this earth were meant to be lived with our eyes fixed on Jesus and the life we’ll live with Him forever. To do that we need to be content with what we have, where God placed us and use those blessings to bring ore people to knowledge of His love and salvation. When we are discontented with our lives, we grow resentful and that drives people away from us, ruins our witness and will eventually, as Paul states, drive us from the faith and pierce ourselves with many pangs. Our resentment will ruin our lives here and our chance for life in the Kingdom.

Chose contentment over resentment and be blessed with the knowledge that our riches are waiting for us with Jesus.

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

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