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!

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

Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

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!

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

Come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

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!

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

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!

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

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!

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

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!

come back and visit at ListenLearn.Live Ministries

 

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