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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Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

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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Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

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!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

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What’s inside your Tupperware?

green tupperwareYes I just asked you what is inside your Tupperware. Spoiler alert, I am old enough to still own some of the old 1970’s green and gold classic Tupperware, photo shown left. Although I am not old enough to have bought it myself.

 

I still remember being asked by my mom, “Betsy, what is in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?”

The only way to find out…the only way, was to pull it out, open it and see.

Yup, you guessed it, if I was lucky it was a few days old left overs. No big deal, dump in the trash, no harm done. However, I’m thinking more about the container that’s been in there since, well who knows how long. Everyone in the family keeps hoping that someone else will deal with it so they won’t have to. Days have gone by, weeks, dare I say a month. There is now a serious science project growing, a 20th century bio-hazard to say the worst.

Everyone gets into the fridge, everyone sees that container, we push it aside to get what we’re looking for. We move it from the top shelf to the middle to the back, hoping it will miraculously not be there the next time we go searching. Then it happens… “Betsy, what’s in that Tupperware container in the back of the fridge?” Oh no, not me, why is it always me?

You walk to the fridge and slowly move some things around, praying miraculously that it won’t be there. Maybe Dad already took it out and dealt with it? Maybe the boys got tired of seeing it and just threw the whole thing in the trash…yea, they’d totally do something like that. Then, you see it, still there, carefully hidden in the back, starring at you. Nope it wasn’t dealt with, now it’s up to you.

How often have we had this conversation with ourselves? How about with God? We know it’s there, the green Tupperware container. It’s hidden in the way back of the fridge. We see it but we just continue to move it around from shelf to shelf. “We’ll deal with that tomorrow, I don’t have time to take care of that today, it’s just going to make a mess and I have things to do…places to go…people to see.” We come up with so many reasons not to deal with it, all the while we’re hoping that one day we’ll open the fridge and the green Tupperware will be gone. Not just gone but emptied, cleaned, put through the dishwasher and sitting on the counter just waiting for us to use it again…it could happen…right?

Here’s the funny thing about green Tupperware, you can’t see through it like a Ziploc bag or a clear plastic container. It’s not a glass jar or plate with Saran wrap. It’s full of toxic sludge that has been there for so long, longer than we’d care to admit, however no one would ever know. There are day’s it’s hidden so far in the back of the fridge, we forget it’s there. When our friends come over all they see is a clean fridge that has some Tupperware in it. Probably last night’s dinner or leftovers from the lunch you had a few days ago. They’d never know what’s really inside.

Green Tupperware can hide a multitude of sins…and no I’m not using that word flippantly. We can often hide it in the deep recesses of who we are, keeping the sludge from being seen by our friends, co-workers, family. The funny thing is, God can see it. He wants to help us deal with it. He wants to take that container of sludge, empty it into the trash, put the Tupperware (yup that’s us) through a holy dishwasher and make us clean. That is the only way He can fill us up with all that He has in store for us. If we’re full of sin, we can’t be full of Him.

My pastor often quotes Jeremiah 29:11, it has become one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord”, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God doesn’t want you to remain full of the old ‘stuff’ that you carry around inside. He is passionate about you and your life and your happiness. He doesn’t want to condemn, embarrass or humiliate you, He wants to clean you out and set you free.

Next time He asks you what’s in the Tupperware, ask Him to help you open it, you might be surprised by what happens.

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

 

Cats in the Garden

Disclaimer #1 – I love all God’s creatures. Disclaimer #2 – my being a dog person does not mean I don’t like cats. But before either being a dog or cat person, I am a gardener. I have roses, wildflowers, honeysuckle, geraniums (BIG ones), succulents (we do live in Tucson), and so much more. Every year my children tell me I have no more room for plants, and every year I find, or make, room for more. While all my plants are special and each has a story, my vegetable garden gets by far the most attention.

Every year in the winter I’m turning my compost bin into the garden to prepare the soil. I spend time getting the soil, space, and fencing repaired, updated, and ready. I fertilize depending on what I intend to plant and then I’m off to the races. However, each spring I have the same problem, neighborhood cats finding a way into my garden bed. It’s like they know just when to come to the yard and dig up all my hard work. I put up nets and confidently plant, only to come out the next day and see my hard work completely torn up. Holes dug, seeds displaced, new plants strewn aside, and little brown presents left in the wake of the chaos. So, I begin again, putting up more netting, filling each hole, and replanting, only to have it happen all over again. This year I GAVE UP! The cats won, I had no more ingenious ideas or energy to start over. I stood in front of my newly destroyed vegetation, shook my head and walked away. There would be no vegetable garden this year.

Instead, I focused on the rest of my yard, the other raised beds, flowers, herbs, and trees. I no longer looked, I no longer fertilized, I did not weed, or water. The garden lay a destroyed empty plot of dirt… or so I thought.

This week when I went out to enjoy my morning coffee and turn on the sprinklers, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Green shoots coming up out of the disheveled and displaced soil. Plants mixed up and misplaced were beginning to sprout and grow in my well cared for and fertilized soil. Gone were the neat rows and straight lines, but the beginnings of the harvest were evident.

My garden reminded me of the parable Jesus told of the Sower and the soils in Luke 8:4-15. The Sower is God, the seed is His word. Both, I was reminded recently, are perfect. The soil is us. The state of our hearts is represented by the different soils, the last being fertile and ready to receive the seed. Funny, it never said the soil is perfect, only that it was good. Good soil is all that is needed for the Holy Spirit to grow in you.

As a gardener I know that the better I can condition the garden space and keep it secure from animals, insects, too much sun, too much/little water, the better my harvest. What I sometimes forget is that I may be the one planting the seeds but its God who ultimately helps them grow. Good seed (God’s Word) can grow in imperfect situations if the soil is ready (good).

All too often I’m afraid we make excuses, we’re not good enough, we’re not worthy enough, we’re still broken, we’re not smart enough, successful enough, we have too much baggage, or we’re just not ready. We think that because we don’t have a perfectly secure garden with straight rows and strong fences that nothing will grow. We’re focusing on the wrong thing! All we really need is an open and willing heart, messy as the garden may be, the soil is still good.

Paul tells us if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved, Romans 10:9. Paul didn’t say we have to be perfect to be accepted, Jesus actually said He came to save the sick, “I came not to call the righteous but the sinner to repentance.” Matthew 9:13. Jesus died for us while we were still broken sinners, piles of unfertilized dirt. The Holy Spirit creates the conditions for the seeds to grow, we need to have faith and know that what God plants in us will bloom when we allow Him to work in our messy imperfect lives.

The cats came and dug up my garden, but the seeds were still there, the soil was messy but good. With water and sunshine, it will yield a crop a hundred-fold. Just like the work Jesus is doing in our lives if we let Him have His way. The seeds will germinate and grow, the seeds are His perfect will and words they cannot fail their purpose, if we are willing.

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!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

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”.

1 Million Followers

My 9- and 10-year-old love following people on Youtube. There is one young couple and another young family who spend their days playing hide-and-seek in the strangest of places. Both my children like to tell me how many followers they have, how many likes their latest video received, and how cool and popular they are. This is inevitably followed by how they want to be cool like that by having their own Youtube fame. But, when you ask them why these people are cool, famous, and popular the response is because, “they have like a million followers, mom!”. They’re cool because people follow them, not because of who they are.

It seems to me that we (myself included) are raising a generation of children and youth who are finding their value, their identity, and their validation in an arbitrary number representing the volume of reactions they get from a nameless, faceless, multitude. The more shocking the behavior the greater the reaction. To beat out their ‘competition’ for the prize of the largest number of followers, they need to perform more reckless, heartless, dangerous and damaging feats…and there seems to be no ceiling or depth limit. There seems to be no limit to how they will behave and expose themselves to get to the coveted 1 million followers.

In the book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul provides a list of historic heroes of the Bible. Those whose stories we’ve heard told from Able and Noah, to Samson and David, not to mention all the prophets who placed themselves at the mercy of their enemies to remain faithful and obedient to God. They didn’t care what those around them thought, nor did they seek their approval, they lived their lives for a higher purpose regardless of the outcome. Talk about a radical lifestyle!

“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated. – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:37-38

None of them chose their life to please themselves or others. Each chose their path because they found their identity in God alone.

“If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:13-15

They neither looked for nor wanted the approval from others, the approval of the crowd is fickle and fleeting. The moment you stop being more shocking than the next person they turn on you and from you. Look what happened to Jesus, He makes His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and by Friday some of the same crowds are calling for His death.

When our identity is wrapped up completely in Jesus, then the storms of change, chaos, uncertainty, and fear cannot sway us or cause us to lose our way. Our eyes are fixed on the eternity that He promises us, not in the temporary and finite world we now live.

There is one group of fans, however, I’d like to call your attention too. After Paul lists several Biblical heroes, and their many trails, and the favor found in their obedience to God, He begins Chapter 12 with an amazing encouragement.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

When you consider all those in the world and throughout history who have stood firm in their faith through persecution, humiliation, torture, and death, those numbers far exceed any you may, or may not, get to like, follow, or share your worldly identity today. That is the great cloud of witnesses that are cheering you on, not because of what you do but because of the faith you’ve found in Jesus.

When you chose to align yourself with Jesus, to stand with Him, not only do you have the God and creator of the universe guarding your back, but you also have a ‘posse’ walking with you that have seen and done it all. You’re never alone. You’ll never face something new. You are 100% guaranteed to win in the end. No matter the outcome in this world you are assured a place with Jesus forever.

There is a post on Facebook that I’ve kept, it was posted by Lecrae. I’ve used it before, but I think it’s very pertinent now.

“If I’m wrong about God, then I’ve wasted my life. If you’re wrong about God, then you wasted your eternity.” When you identify and find your value in Jesus, you will live a better life here on earth and your eternity will be greater than you could ever imagine. If you identify with this world, with the crowd, with the followers, with the fickle, broken, hurting, and sinful, not only will your life on earth be hard, but your eternity will also be harder than you could ever imagine.

Choosing Jesus, you’ll never stand alone. Choosing the crowd, you’ll never know who will be standing with you tomorrow.

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!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

God loves me the best…I win!

“I love you mom”, “I love you too son”, “I love you the best, I win!”

Then I say, “no, I win”, then he says, “no, I win.” And, so it goes until I claim, “I win cause God gave me you for my son.” “No, mom I win cause he gave me you for a mom.” This is a very regular conversation in our home, who loves who best, who is more blessed because God gifted us the other. However, on this night Marcus added something new. “Mom, I think God loves us the best…so doesn’t that mean He wins?” I smiled and gave my amazingly intuitive 10-year old a  big hug and said, “actually, Marcus, I think because God loves us best…we win.”

We win! Powerful words, it also happens to be the title of one of my favorite Mercy Me songs. Can you think of any time, circumstance, or action in your life where regardless of who you are, what you’ve done (or are doing), you are totally, unconditionally, and recklessly loved?

We read in in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

We all have heard or read this passage of scripture at some point, if however, this is the first time…take a minute to really read it again/anew. God shows (present and continuing tense) His love, that while we were still (present and continuing tense) sinners, Christ died for us. In our worst most secret, shameful, and sinfilled moments…in those very moments, Jesus Christ died for you. In fact, later in the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul states that there is nothing ever in time, past, present, or future that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:35-39)

So, if God loved us at our worst and tells us that NOTHING can separate us from that love, then why do we still walk through life living as if we don’t have it? We turn from God out of shame and fear, when He sacrificed His life to free us from shame and fear. We turn from God because we don’t feel we’ve done enough good to deserve it. When, in fact, there is nothing good enough in us to do enough good to deserve God’s love. We have to remember something very important, His love is never dependent upon us, or our deservedness, it is always dependent upon His goodness.

We win because He loved us best. Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13.

First we receive Jesus’ command, love one another as I have loved you, (unconditionally and recklessly). Then He give us the example of what this love looks like, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He did just that. And, because He did…we win.

Jesus’ love is so great that it is blind to what we see as flaws. We see our physical defects and try to hide or change them, He sees the beauty of His creation, each detail, an intentional artistic decision. We see our character defects, our habits and behaviors, and try to hide or gloss them over. He sees the potential of who He created us to be, a beautiful reflection of God, a light to shine on the world and point to Him.

What we see, or what others see as bad, broken, imperfect, and unworthy, God sees as beautiful, whole, perfectly created, and wholly loved. I know it’s difficult to comprehend that the creator of everything we can and can’t know loves us unconditionally, but that is the truth, without exception or amendment.

The next time you are having a conversation with a loved one, or with yourself about who loves who best remember, God is the source of all love. We couldn’t love without Him, and we can’t out love Him. All love flows from Him, through us and to the world. We are the recipients of the greatest gift of all time, God’s unconditional love, it’s there for each of us, will you accept it today?

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!

Like, share, comment, and add your email to receive blog posts, podcasts, and more!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries