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Saturday, December 31, 2016

On The Fast Track

There's a roller coaster ride at one of our favorite amusement parks, Hersheypark, that is advertised like this:

STORM RUNNER
This one-of-a-kind coaster will launch you from 0-72 mph in 2 seconds flat. 18 stories straight up, straight down. And that's just the beginning. You'll fly through a 135 foot cobra loop, barrel rolls, and a dramatic flying snake dive. The first hydraulic launch coaster to feature inversion.

https://youtu.be/KkaQcGdG7Oc

It's fast and it's furious. No slow climb up with an anticipated drop. No easing into it. It's sit down, buckle up, and away you go as the wind hits your face and the force pulls you back.

God can take us on similar "coasters" in our Christian walk with Him. He may take us into a season of our lives where we feel like we are suddenly thrust from 0 to 72mph in 2 seconds. We especially feel it if we are coming out of a season of winter where things have been quiet and at rest under His "snow".

But we don't have to be alarmed when this happens. He will never put us on a 'coaster' we have not been prepared for, and one that He won't personally accompany us on. He will be our buckle that straps us in, and the force that drives us forward. Grace and Power work brilliantly together in an accelerated season as He redeems the time!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Responsive, Not Strong

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭36:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/ezk.36.26.nlt

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭32:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/psa.32.8-9.nlt

He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭147:10-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/psa.147.10-11.nlt

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
‭‭Zechariah‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/zec.4.6.niv
*******

Is God looking for STRONG, QUALIFIED men and women? No. Our strength and qualifications are inconsequential when God does the IMPOSSIBLE through us. Consider the first disciples. Consider the early church and the Book of Acts. They had a Message and they had the Spirit of God. Rather than look to your qualifications, look at how God is making you a willing vessel and giving you a responsive heart to carry His Message to the world!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I don't do selfies very often. I'm usually the one driving my kids crazy saying "Smile!" But, this year, I wanted to send a special thanks to all those who join me each day as I read the Word and spend time with God. Yes, I literally sit on my sofa everyday to talk to Him and share with you on my Facebook Page. It really is SOFA CHATS! What a blessing!  May you remember all that God has done in 2016... taking the bad with the good because it is all part of the beautiful masterpiece He is creating us to be! May 2017 be full of wonder, full of faith and full of Jesus. Love you all! ❤😘💕


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Man-made?

How important it is for us to read the Bible for ourselves to find out what it REALLY says. Otherwise we may end up like the Pharisees who would "ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition" and "teach man-made ideas as commands from God." Man-made ideas make us religious. The commands of God bring us closer to our Heavenly Father. 
*************

One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles. ) 

So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” 

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 

'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ 

For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” 

Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” 

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart."

Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) 

And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭7:1-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mrk.7.1-23.nlt

Monday, December 12, 2016

Can You See?

I thought I knew what darkness was...

My family and I went on a little day trip a couple years ago where we were allowed to travel deep into a real Pennsylvania coal mine. It used to be fully functioning, but is now just used as a tourist attraction. We walked the dimly lit corridors with our guide as he explained what daily life for the miners used to be. It was completely fascinating, especially for me, because this was actually my grandfather's profession years ago.

There are several things that stood out to me on that tour. But, one of the biggest moments is when the guide announced that he would be shutting off all the lights for a moment. He explained that the workers did not have such a luxury and worked all day in complete darkness with just the light from their work hats to guide them.

"One, two, three!" the guide said loudly, as he suddenly shut down every light in the mine. 

PITCH BLACK

I thought I knew what darkness was until this moment. We literally could see NOTHING. Not the person next to us, not the walls, the floor or even our own hands. It actually made us a little nervous and we were quite happy when the guide turned the lights back on. Phew.

The Bible talks about darkness. Not a physical darkness, but a spiritual one. It explains that without Jesus, who is the LIGHT of the world, we are ALL in darkness. This means we literally 'see' and spiritually understand NOTHING. We are blind. We may feel our way around in the dark and think we understand, but in reality we 'see' as much as someone who is in a deep, dark coal mine with no light.

So the question for us today is this:
Can you see?


There's a simple way to find out. If you have Jesus, you can see.

Jesus said He is the Light of the World, as well as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Just as He was able to heal a man from physical blindness, He can also heal us from spiritual blindness. If we come to Him and ask for His forgiveness and surrender our hearts to Him, He will come in and make His home in our hearts and 'turn the lights on' inside of us! And that Light is Himself! God doesn't want anyone to walk in darkness. There is nothing that would make Him happier than to show Himself to you.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine...
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen! 
Isaiah 9:2,6-7 NLT







As It Is In Heaven

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:10 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.6.10.niv

There's no such thing as being too bold in prayer. Jesus told us directly that we can confidently come before God our Father and talk to Him. He encourages us not just to whine about our needs, but to boldly ask our Father to change things here on earth-- to make heaven's reality, earth's reality. Nothing is impossible in heaven. There is no need in heaven. There is no sickness in heaven...

Ask, seek, and knock today. Boldly pray for what would be impossible here, but not impossible for God!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Safe Space

I see it used as an advertisement for gym memberships: "Come to our judge-free zone," they say. They aren't addressing the consumer's drive to be healthy or fit. Instead, they are honing in on the thing that might keep them from coming at all: Judgment. The condescending looks of others. The feeling of being emotionally unsafe. They know that if they present themselves to the public as a 'safe space', they will have more people at least consider the option to join.

Jesus' invite to us is not with a finger pointed, but rather a hand extended. He presents Himself as a Safe Space for us:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NLT‬‬. http://bible.com/116/mat.11.28-30.nlt

Can you hear the gentle, non-judgmental tone in His Voice? He's speaking as one who understands the human condition and heart. He is speaking as one who has gotten down on our level and is saying,"Listen, if you come to me, I'm not going to judge you. I'm not going to beat you up and make you feel like a loser. Instead, I'm going to give you rest for your soul. I AM the Ultimate Safe Space that you've been looking for, except my Space is called the Secret Place."



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Our Message

What is your message to others? Is it filled with just 'goodwill' or 'happy, feel-good' thoughts? In the passage below, it tells us what the theme of our message should always be: "Come back to God!" And isn't that what the entire Bible so eloquently says? Through its prophets, through the teachings of Jesus, through the beautiful poetic words of the Psalms? The Message has always been the same: "Be reconciled to God.  Draw near to your Father, your Abba. Come in closer." If our message isn't thoroughly laced with it, we are missing the heart of God.

*********

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:18-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.18-21.nlt

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Narrow Gate, Endless Adventures

“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.”  John‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NLT‬ http://bible.com/116/jhn.10.9.nlt

Consider how narrow a gate is in relation to the pasture it leads to. Very narrow. But once the sheep are through that gate, they've got an entire field to graze and frolic in. 

Jesus says that He is a narrow gate that leads to open pastures. Some people think that being a believer means a boring, restricted life. But this is just not the case! On the contrary, life with God is like being given beautiful pastures to move freely in. A place we can be free. A place we can be ourselves. A place to rest. A place to get to know our Shepherd that loves us and laid his life down for us.  

Yes, the gate is narrow. By only One Name can we enter. But once we are through that gate, our adventures are endless! 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Worth Giving Into

How gentle our Father is as He talks us down from our self preservation. He's not the drill sergeant we might expect. No, Jesus is the Lover and Wooer of our souls. We can hear the Holy Spirit cheering us on to loosen our grip as we hold on to our lives with a closed fist.

"Open up. Let me in. Let yourself go -- your whole self. I'm offering you Life worth holding onto. My Plans are greater. You are trading up!"

There are no scare tactics. No guilt trips. No manipulation. He doesn't push Himself on us. He respects our boundaries as He gives every reason why He is worth surrendering to.

And He clarifies things saying, "Giving your life to Me is not doing what you decide will make Me pleased with you. See my Hand extended? Take it. Giving your life means opening your hand, grabbing onto Mine, and walking with Me wherever I go. Follow Me."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

REST

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)


REST. A four letter word we have trouble embracing in our culture. Heck, even our vacations seem to lack its presence. For some of us, we need a vacation after we get back from a vacation. 

Jesus gives us this amazing invite: Come to Me and I'll give you rest -- not just physical rest, but a rest that's so deep inside us that all restlessness is silenced. The pressure to perform is off. We can relax with Him knowing we are fully accepted, loved and entirely safe. To rest in Him is one of the greatest expressions of faith and trust in Him. 

And notice! Jesus GIVES rest. There's no earning our way to it. We can not conjure it up. It's His Gift to us and simply the result of being with Him. 


Friday, October 7, 2016

Poisoned By Our Own Weeds

Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/heb.12.15.nlt

Who is affected by our unforgiveness and bitterness? Is it just the person harboring the bitterness? No. When you choose to hold onto unforgiveness and bitterness, it is like you are nurturing a poisonous plant in your heart. That plant will eventually grow up and not only poison your very soul, it will affect all those around you as well.

Consider how much nurturing a plant requires. Bitterness and unforgiveness will literally suck the life right out of you. Is that really what you want to spend all of your energy on? The choice is ours. We can either nurture this poisonous weed in our hearts or allow God to pull it up by the roots. God wants us to be free and untangled by the things that will choke and poison us to death.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Established in Love

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:16-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/eph.3.16-19.nlt


God is getting us to the place where we are so confident in His Love that it no longer comes up in conversation with Him. The question ceases to arise whether He cares for us. We are no longer blown by the winds of doubt that make us wonder His true feelings for us. Like a tree, our roots are buried so deep and are established so securely, that even hurricane force winds of doubt could not uproot us - our Love with Him is established in His Holy Ground. 

May we go deeper, then, wrapping our roots around the soil of His surrounding Love.  How wide, how long, how high and how deep!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rich, Yet Poor

What makes a person rich? What makes them poor?

In the eyes of man, it's based on money and possessions. But God has a different perspective. Wealth has nothing to do with the money in your pocket or what you have saved up. True wealth is the wealth that lasts for eternity -- the treasure that is only found in having a relationship with Jesus.

Are you only considering your earthly wealth? Are you spiritually rich or spiritually bankrupt?

How does it profit a man to gain all that he wants in this life, but walk into eternity with nothing?

*****

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

"Then he said, ‘This is what Iʼll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And Iʼll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

"But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

"This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:13-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/luk.12.13-21.niv

Friday, September 30, 2016

Marriage

Marriage is like a three-legged race. You tie the knot and off you go. Though you're still very much an individual, you realize you can no longer just live for yourself. You laugh a lot, you fall a lot, you struggle and pull away, but ultimately you both agree that the journey is going to be a lot smoother if you learn to work together and find your rhythm.  

I'm thankful to be tied to the one I love. I wouldn't want to run this race with anyone else!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Taking Advantage

Billy ran his own yard service. One day, he received a phone call from a family friend. 

Fully aware that this was Billy's livelihood, he said, "I'd like you to come and do some landscaping in my yard this weekend."

Being that it was a family friend and brother in the Lord, he set aside some of his other work-related projects that he knew would bring in good money for him and his family, and accepted the job from the friend. Billy wanted to show him favor and make this job a priority. 

So, Saturday came and Billy went out to do the landscaping work. He worked hard in the hot noon day sun. He gave his friend the best service he could offer. 

When evening arrived and it was time for the friend to pay for the landscaping service, he came out of the house with his wallet in his hand. The friend was aware of the landscaper's rate and knew how much the job was worth.  But the man said in his heart, "I know this is a Christian brother. And though I have the money to give him for his labor, I will see what I can do to get him to bring his price down. After all, he is a brother in the Lord and isn't that what brothers should do for me?"

 So, the friend opened his wallet in front of the landscaper and sighed. 

"How much do I owe you, again?"  the friend said innocently. 

"Just as we agreed upon over the phone-- one hundred dollars." the landscaper said as he wiped his sweaty brow and sat down on the step fully exhausted. 

"Oh, dear. It seems I only have sixty dollars." the friend mumbled. Then he allowed an uncomfortable silence between the two of them, hoping that this would pressure Billy to cave-in on his price and only charge him sixty dollars. 

"My friend," Billy said, "we agreed to one hundred dollars. Why would you ask me to accommodate you and spend a whole day working hard for you and then not be prepared to pay what is right?"

When the friend realized that he was not going to successfully deceive and take advantage of his Christian brother, his face turned red. 

"You are right, brother," the friend said, now feeling embarrassed.  And he ran into the house and grab the extra forty dollars. 

"Here you are," the friend said, handing him the agreed upon price. "Your labor is worth your wages."


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Space To Talk

I love to talk. It actually helps me think. My husband knows this fact all too well. I would say probably three quarters of the time that I spend in conversation with him is mean jabbering and him listening. Thankfully, it has worked out pretty well because he enjoys listening and he's really good at it. The problem with it though is he probably knows much more about me after 15 years of marriage than I do about him.

And, don't get me wrong. I totally care about what he thinks. I'm just usually quicker to start a conversation, so I get first dibs on the subject. But I must confess, too, that I'm also not quick to start a conversation with the sentence "So, what's on your mind?"

Looking to hear my husband's heart actually takes discipline for me. I have to force myself to set aside my thoughts for a moment and give him a chance to speak. Funny enough, when I do give him a chance, I find out that he has plenty to say and plenty on his mind. How often I must miss the things he'd share with me if I would just give him the space to do so.

If this is my tendency with my husband, I'm imagining that it's probably not much different between God and I. I love to pray. I do. I love to talk to Him and process things with Him. He's a great listener!  But oh the things I must miss because I simply do not give Him the space to share His heart. I'm often too busy telling Him all the things that I'm thinking that I don't often consider that He might have a few things on His mind, too. 

What's probably more the case though is that I don't consider the fact that He actually wants to share His heart with me. I often live with the mentality of 'who am I that He would want to share personal things about Himself and even His secrets?' But I underestimate how much He loves me and how much He desires relationship with me -- not just a one way relationship of me talking to Him, but a two way conversation where He has the space to share and unveil the mysteries of His heart.

But it takes discipline. Just as I have to purposely tune in to my husband and listen for his thoughts, I have to set aside time and give God my ear and attention. And when I do, I'm always so tickled that He would consider me a friend and tell me the things that are on His heart and mind. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Someone In Charge

Our country right now makes me think of when I was a kid and a group of us wanted to play a game, but we were missing a very important person – – someone to coordinate the game and oversee as the authority. The result was a whole lot of frustration in the group and a game that was never played.

As our country refuses more and more to let God in, the more we are going to experience this same kind of frustration. That's just the way it is.

If only we would let the Helper in. If only we would see how He wants to help and get our 'game' going!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Good Intentions. Bad Advice.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Matthew 16:21-23 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.16.21-23.niv

Sometimes the ones closest to us are our greatest stumbling blocks - the ones that mean well, but are seeing only from a human perspective. They stop us in mid-stride as we pursue the things of God and follow Jesus. With a heart full of good intentions, they say "Stop! For your own good, I must intervene and keep you from where you are going."

Peter confronted Jesus this way. And though Jesus loved Peter with all his heart, he was not afraid to put him in his place and show him that he is not seeing things from God's perspective. Jesus didn't give into fear, doubt and self preservation. Instead, he remained steadfast in the Father's Will. Thankfully!

We must also be alert for this kind of discouragement from the people that care about us and want the best for us. We can consider their words and pull out any Godly wisdom from what they offer, but we must not let them deter us from following in the footsteps of Jesus and accomplishing the Father's Will for our lives.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mechanical or Natural?

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

Mark 10:13-16 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mrk.10.13-16.nlt


Funny how kids understand the idea of relationship faster than the idea of religion.  Makes sense, really. When we were born into the world, it was the first thing we learned. Everything revolved around relationship. We understood what love is as our mothers held us. Our understanding of security began to develop as our fathers picked us up and held us close. We didn't have a religion with our parents, we had a relationship. Whether good or bad, it was still a relationship. 

How odd then that we would approach our Heavenly Father in a religious way rather than a relational way. But could it be that we do this because we have been taught to do so?  If Jesus hadn't been there to correct his disciples when they scolded the parents who were bringing their children to him, those parents and children would have walked away understanding that Jesus should not be bothered with relationship or children. 

Truth is, it's relationship that God desires the most. He longs to draws us close. In fact, that is the very reason Jesus came. He came to bridge the gap so that we can be close to God the Father. If he wanted us to be religious, he would have buddied up with the Pharisees and taught what they taught. Instead, we see him rebuking the Pharisees and embracing the sinners right out there in the streets and in their homes. He also tells us that we can only receive the Kingdom of God if we receive it like a child-- relationally, not religiously. 

God will continually and patiently weed out Religion in our relationship with Him. Ask yourself: Is my conversation with Him as natural as my conversations with my husband/wife or close friends? Does my language get more mechanical or pious when I talk to Him?  We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves in our relationship with Him, but all He really wants is for us to be ourselves.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Shout The Whispers

What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! (Matthew 10:27 NLT)

Some hear the whispers, but are afraid to shout it. 

Some shout but haven't drawn close enough to even hear the whispers. They shout what they want. 

But others are both lovers and messengers. They hold the whispers like Treasures and joyfully release the Good News!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mangia! Mangia!


“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  
John 15:4-5 NLT  http://bible.com/116/jhn.15.4-5.nlt


"You eat first." That's essentially what Jesus is telling us. 

Before you can go serving or feeding anyone else, we must first take in the nutrients that we need from Him. For us Marthas out there, it may feel selfish. But it is not. In fact, it's prideful and simply foolish to think that we can go and do anything apart from Him. 

So sit. Eat. Drink. Take Him in. You're not only doing yourself a favor, you're setting yourself up to bear much fruit!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pushed Into Silence

There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.” John 7:12-13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.7.12-13.nlt


Some things never change. Fear still tries to push us into a corner and silence us -- keeping us from talking favorably about Jesus. We might think it. It might be on the tip of our tongues. But, fear makes us second guess. It makes us question and talks us right into 'playing it safe' and not saying anything at all.  

But how can we be silent when we've just hit the Jackpot? How can we be touched by True Love, be forgiven of so much, and be embraced by our Heavenly Daddy, but not tell a soul?

Don't let Fear rule over you like a bully. God has set you free and there is absolutely nothing shameful about that. Fear will say, "Hush! Don't speak." But Love will say, "Go! Go tell them I love them, too!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Can I Have A Volunteer?

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” 

I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8 NLT


Sometimes finding volunteers is difficult. You're asking people to give and not necessarily guaranteeing them anything in return. 

In this passage, God Almighty is asking the question, "Who wants to volunteer?" There's no mention of perks or personal advancement for the one that raises his hand. The question is simply asked. But! It's asked immediately after Isaiah has a personal encounter with the Holy God. Isaiah's willingness to volunteer was his response to encountering the Living God. 

If you find yourself struggling to give yourself to God, consider this passage. Remember that our giving is a response in our relationship with Him, not a religious duty. Come back to the foot of the cross. Be reminded. Encounter Him. Volunteering comes easy when we have encountered the Reality of who He is!

Perspective

One man walked outside his house and saw the overcast sky.  

"Another miserable day," he said to himself as he immediately closed the door, went back to bed, and gave up on the day altogether.

Another man walked out his front door that same day and smiled at the overcast sky. 

"What a perfect day!" he said to himself. "God gave me a whole day of shade!" 

And he went out and planted his garden.



Season of Grace

“I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.” John 12:46-48 NLT

How do you perceive God? Is He an angry God that is eager to pour out wrath on us? Do you find yourself fearful that God will lash out because of our sin? Or do you see Him as Jesus explains in the passage above: "as a light to shine in this dark world" and One who came to "save the world and not to judge it"?  

Will there be judgment? Yes, of course. But, it says that it will happen on the day of Judgment. For now, we are in a season of beautiful Grace because of Jesus: the Grace to come to know the amazing Love of our Father and be made whole. Remember what He said in Luke 4? "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come." Luke 4:18-19 NLT

If we think God is judging the world right now, what will our message to the world sound like? It will probably be filled with condemnation and fear. And how will anyone want to come to Jesus if they are being told that God is so furious with them? It's His KINDNESS that leads us to repentance. Wasn't it His Kindness that lead YOU to repentance?

We must understand the Season we are living in and the window of opportunity that God has opened to all people to come to know Him. Tell people that God loves them. Tell them He wants to restore their lives. Don't worry, if there is sin to be dealt with in their lives. The Holy Spirit is an expert at bringing things into the Light. His job is to convict of sin, OUR job is to simply tell the GOOD NEWS: 

Jesus loves you. 
He does not hate you. 
He died for you. 
He will forgive you. 
He has come to give you Life and Life to the fullest!  

Hasn't God been amazingly gracious to you? In the same way, God wants to be amazingly gracious to those around you. Tell them! ❤️

Monday, September 5, 2016

Gambling My Life Away

“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind."

Matthew 4:18-22 NLT  http://bible.com/116/mat.4.18-22.nlt


I've noticed something about myself. The older I get, the less risks I'm willing to take. In any given scenario, if there is a safe option, you can guarantee to find me there. I think before I act. No, actually, I OVER-think before I act. I consider everything that could possibly go wrong, and if I conclude that there is one iota of risk involved, I will shrink back.

Jesus didn't seem to have a problem with risk taking though, and in fact, encouraged others to take risks as well. He made bold statements like, "Follow Me". Two small words that really meant "Risk it all. Leave all of it and come with me." 

Whoa! Really Jesus? If I was one of those fisherman, I'm not sure how quick I'd drop my net. I might say, "Let me weigh my options. Let me consider what I'm gambling away here. Does He even realize what He's saying?"

So why would Jesus even present such a risky option? Because He knew that it really was no risk at all. He knew that He was offering the fisherman far more of a life than what they were living. He knew they actually had nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain.  

Consider the 2 year old that is holding 3 pennies. His grandfather has a $100 bill that he'd like to give him but the child's hands are full. The only way the grandfather can give him the greater amount is to ask his grandson to put down his pennies. The child may see it as a huge risk, but the grandfather knows it's the wisest move the child will ever make.

Jesus always has our best in mind. In fact, He's more concerned about our best than even we are. But He asks us to 'risk it all'. Following Him and fully putting all our trust in Him, though, is like putting all our chips on one number and knowing we are guaranteed winners!




Sunday, September 4, 2016

How Do You Hear It?

It's interesting how much the tone of our words is as important as the words themselves when trying to communicate. If my daughter is having a hard time sleeping, I can say, "close your eyes and go to sleep". But depending on my tone, it can come across harshly or gently. She will either hear it as a rebuke or a gentle encouragement. 

When we read the Bible, we may insert tone into the words without even realizing it. If you perceive God as a harsh Father, you might constantly insert a tone of condemnation into every Bible passage or message.

It's important that we seek to hear what the Spirit of God is saying (and how He is saying it) and in a sense, let Him read the Bible TO us.  He desires to show us who He REALLY is. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

You Smell

"But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? 

You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us." (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NLT)


Perfumes have a way of making a statement without a person even needing to say a word. Have you ever been in a store and someone wearing a strong perfume walks by?  You might even stop what you're doing just to look up and see who is carrying such an aroma.  

God loves through us like that. As we help others. As we live with integrity and character. As we live our lives to please Him. As we tell the Good News. All these things create an aroma of Him to others. They may look up. They may notice. They may wonder and say "what peculiar people ". They can 'smell' His aroma. His Presence in us gives off a fragrance of Life for those that are hungry for it, but also a fragrance of death for those that push His Goodness away. Never underestimate the fragrance of His Presence in your life.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sick

Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum? ” 

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

There are two types of sick people. There are those who are obviously sick. They know it and everyone around them knows it because of their outward symptoms.  And there are those that do not know they're sick until it is revealed to them -- stories like people who feel well but go to the doctor for a basic check up and the doctor discovers a medical condition that was not obvious to the eye.  

In the same way, there are some that know they are sinners. It is obvious based on their actions (murderers, robbers, etc...). And there are some that don't really see themselves as a 'sinner'. Instead, they would see themselves as a pretty good person. These folks need to be told they are 'sick'. They, too, are sinners, they just don't see it.

The Bible tells us that we are ALL sinners. No one is righteous. No, not one.  We ALL are in need of mercy. We ALL are in need of a Savior, a Doctor. 

Which type of 'sick' person are you?  He comes to forgive, but first we must see how desperately we are in need of forgiveness.  Even a 'good' person needs Jesus.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Your Story

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the demon-delivered man begged to go along, but he wouldn’t let him. Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. TELL THEM YOUR STORY—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” The man went back and began to preach in the Ten Towns area about what Jesus had done for him. He was the talk of the town. (Mark 5:18-20 MSG)
***
There's nothing like a good story. But even more so, there's nothing like a good story that actually happened in real life. I love watching great movies that are based on real people's lives. It makes the story that much more amazing and exciting to me.

Jesus told the demon-delivered man to go tell his story and tell people about His encounter with Jesus. He did just that and many not only listened, they told others about it, too.

So, what's your story?  If anyone has encountered Jesus, they have a story. And I don't mean just your salvation story. I mean the ongoing story of your life as you live in relationship with Jesus -- the daily encounters and your stories big and small of the goodness of God in your life. Jesus tells us to Go! Go tell about Him. Go tell YOUR story. You might be surprised how many will listen.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Perpetual Rest

Jesus lived in perpetual REST with the Father. In the midst of the storm, in the midst of crisis, and in the midst of his ministry to the people, He never stepped outside the Father's Rest. We never see Him serving or living anxiously.

Jesus was being an example for us. We, too, can live in communion with the Father and live our lives in perpetual Rest, no matter what happens in life. Our Rest is not dictated by our outward circumstances. Our Rest is rooted deeply in the Father's Love. 
********
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. 

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” 

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Mark 4:35-41 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mrk.4.35-41.nlt

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I Will Believe You

Today I will believe you. 

I will believe you when you tell me you love me.  I won't try to talk you out of it or give you reasons why you can't, shouldn't, or won't. 

I will believe you when you remind me that I am no longer condemned. You took my place. And if you had to do it all over again you would. 

I will believe you when you say you'll provide for me.  Do the birds sing songs of worry? No, they delight in their Creator all day long and find what they need when they need it. How sweet it is to trust in you!

I will believe you when you touch my face and lift my head.  Why so sad, oh my soul? Put your Hope in God! You won't let your hand leave my face until I'm fully convinced. 

I will believe you when the storms come. They are so scary, Father! Yet, I'm not alone.  And every place in this Journey teaches me one more thing about you. I want to live my life getting to know you and watching you prove yourself time and time again.  I am safe in your Hands and have a vantage point like never before!

I will believe you when you say it's time to rest. I will lay me down and not bring my cares with me into sleep. You sing your songs of Deliverence over me. 

And I will believe you when you say that I will see you One Day. This world is quickly fading and a new Day is about to dawn! So I will live my life with my eyes on heaven and my hands doing the Father's business.

I will believe you because...

because you really are Real. Because you have never lied to me and you never will. I will believe you because in the end I will realize it truly was all worth it and I will have NO REGRETS. 






Monday, January 11, 2016

Giver, Not Taker

“For this is how God loved the world
 He GAVE 
his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.3.16-17.nlt

***
How exhausting it would be. Can you imagine if every time you went to visit your friend or a relative you felt required to give something? Maybe food. Maybe money. Maybe a service. Visiting would mean some kind of work on your part. Visiting could even end up stressful. Maybe you don't have to imagine. Maybe it's a reality for you. 

Some have this mentality with God. We think He is always looking to get something from us. So when we come to Him, we should bring something. We might do the best we can to give Him our most eloquent prayers. Maybe drop extra money in the offering at church or give a little more to charity. No matter how it manifests itself, in our hearts we perceive God as a taker and one whose approval needs to be earned. 

My friend, God is not a taker. A taker is one who grabs for things for selfish reasons. If God was a taker, He never would have even dreamed of sending His Son.

God is a GIVER. He's not looking to suck the life out of us. He's looking to GIVE life to us -in fact, life abundantly!  He wants us to come to Him simply because He loves us. And when we do come, He not only welcomes us with open arms, He welcomes us with gifts in His hands. He showers us with Peace. He fills our hearts with Joy. He changes us deep inside and gives us Understanding. He heals our broken hearts. 

My grandfather became a great example of this. Toward the end of his life, whenever I would visit him, he would at some point in our conversation interrupt with "Listen, I have something for you..." and would start pulling things from around his house and offer them to me as gifts. Sometimes it was jewelry. Sometimes a house decoration. And sometimes a previous family heirloom. 

And this is how our Father relates to us. This is how our Father loves. Not to take, but to GIVE.