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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.