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Monday, December 25, 2017

Make It Home Safely

“Make it home safely,” we say to our friends and relatives as they leave our houses. Above all things, we wish for them a safe trip home. You want the best possible ending for them at the end of the day.

Eternally speaking, this is our ultimate prayer for them, as well. In this life, we wish our loved ones health and wealth and happiness here on earth. But those that have eyes to see beyond the temporary, wish them far, far more. They understand that life is a breath and one day all this world will be history. So they pray with long term perspective for the ones they love. They intercede and ask the Father not just to get them home safely at the end of each day while they live on earth, but also that they will make it safely to their eternal Home in Heaven. They pray that they will have a relationship with Jesus and be forgiven. They pray that they will know Him and not be lost forever in eternity. They ask the Father to get them Home safely. And this is the most important prayer we could ever say for anyone. We simply want the best possible ending for them at the end of the Day.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Glue In My Scissors, Hair In My Vacuum

There are two things in life that create resistance problems:

Glue. Anyone that’s done any amount of arts and crafts knows what it can do to a pair of scissors when it gets in them. Oh yeah, big time resistance. You get enough glue stuck in there, you won’t even be able to open them, not to mention use them.

Hair. Look at the bottom of your vacuum. Anytime I do, I’m guaranteed to find it tightly wrapped around the brush - which makes the vacuum work harder and even stop working.

Thankfully, there are ways to help both. Warm water over glued up scissors can go a long way. And funny enough, a pair of working scissors can then cut away the tangled hair in your vacuum. Clean one problem up and it will help with the other!

We are tools in God's Hands. But sometimes we get a little glued up. We may even resist the Creator. But God’s Presence does the trick every time. A little ‘warm water’ over our hearts can go a long way. And once we are ‘unstuck’, He can easily mobilize us to cut other people free from the hair that entangles them. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Nothing Wrong With Practical

When it comes to gift giving, my mother always says, “Please, please, do not give me anything I have to dust." That's her way of saying, "Don't waste your money on impractical gifts for me." If we're going to spend money on her, let it be something useful.

I have to agree with her. There's nothing like getting an expensive gift from someone that then just sits in your closet or drawer or cabinet because you know you'll never wear it, use it, eat it, etc. The point of gift giving is not to clutter people's closets with things they don't need. 

The Bible gives us a glimpse of what great gift giving looks like. 

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:7-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.2.7-12.nlt

Some scholars say that these gifts were symbolic in nature. I could see that. God is always doing symbolic things. But it was two-fold. These gifts were practical in nature, as well. I don't think the Magi gave them gold so they could just lug it around with them feeling rich. No, they used it to live on. They gave practical gifts

It's hard for some people in the Western culture to fully grasp this concept. We're always looking for the novelty gifts and wondering what we can give the person who doesn't need anything. I'm certainly not saying there's anything wrong with that. I'm just saying, it's OK to give ordinary gifts, too, because sometimes those are the gifts that are the most appreciated! I mean, if my vacuum broke and I couldn't afford to buy a new one, I'd be so much more grateful to get a new vacuum or a gift card toward the purchase of one, than get a fancy bracelet I'll never wear.

I say all this to say - there's nothing wrong with practical, even if it seems overly practical, like giving groceries or paying someone's electric bill. It's these kinds of gifts, actually, that will make some people lift their eyes to heaven and thank God for it, because they know it's Him that made provision for them. In these moments, you are not only giving a gift, but you are being part of answering a prayer.

So this season, let the Spirit of God guide you as you select your gifts. God loves to give gifts and He knows just what would tickle a person the most...and it may not be what you originally thought!


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Completely Touched

When we encounter Jesus, His work in us is always long term and penetrating. He never starts something without finishing it. So when He works on a human heart, it is with the intention of bringing about an end result. He doesn’t stop until the work is done. And His work is thorough. 

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.13.33.nlt

A relationship with God will affect every level of your life and touch every corner of your heart. Maybe it’s a gradual working through, but nonetheless, His Spirit is thorough, as deep cries to deep, shining its Light on both the visible surfaces of your life, as well as the hidden parts that no one sees - even you. 

And isn’t that what we would desire? Wouldn’t we want to be fully affected - just as we would want our bread to be completely touched and impacted by the yeast as we make it? Who would want to eat bread that is only partially affected by the yeast? Bread is only good when the yeast works through every part of the dough. And when it does, it is obvious to all that see it. And that bread is now able to feed many. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Blind Date

A first date can make ya nervous, but a blind date, even more. You’ve never spoken to the person face-to-face, maybe just a phone call or text about the date arrangements/logistics. The only thing you know about the person is what your friend has told you about them. You might not even know what they look like, and you might be a little nervous to find out. There is such mystery and curiosity surrounding the whole thing! Will they like you based on first impressions? Will you like them? And what in the world are you going to talk about? What if they find your topics of conversation to be boring? Or you find theirs to be? There are so many questions! And the only way to get them answered is to be brave and jump into it, hoping that you can just be yourself and they will feel comfortable to do the same. 

Getting to know God for the first time can kinda feel the same way. You may have only had distant and limited communication up to this point. A quick, “Help me God on this math test.” Or “Can you just hold back the rain until our outdoor wedding is finished?” They were mostly ‘help me out of crisis’ conversations, but never ones that involved dialogue and getting to know one another. 

But oh the day you decide to get to know Him more! It’s a day that He’s been waiting for your whole life! The difference in this ‘blind date’ is He already knows you and is smitten by you before the ‘date’ even gets started! He’s not worried about you making a good first impression because His Opinion of you is already formed. He thinks you’re awesome! There’s nothing you can say that’s going to scare Him away from your ‘date’, so you can be completely relieved and relaxed to be yourself and just talk to Him about anything. There’s nothing off limits in your conversation. He’s not embarrassed or scared to talk about the tough topics you might want to discuss. He’s ready to answer questions and yes, ready to even share His own secrets with you! He’s patient and will move the relationship at your pace, but just know that He’s ALL IN on this one and ready to take the relationship as deep as you’re willing to go.  

So, go and enjoy Him! Once you meet Him, you’ll never want the ‘date’ to end. And you’ll find it’s just the beginning of a beautiful relationship, with many more ‘dates’ to come!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Requesting More Help

Sometimes the work load is greater than the current work force can handle. Businesses can experience such dilemmas, especially around the holidays. Stores can’t stock the shelves fast enough and the lines for the cashier checkout can get extremely long. It’s one of those good problems for businesses. But it can get extra grueling for the regular employees. They may begin to look around and say, “The work is plentiful, but the workers are few!” They want very much for the business to go well, but they realize they can’t do it all alone. It’s too much on just a few people. 

So what’s the first thing they can do? Complain? Yep, well, I’m sure they do. But what’s the first productive thing they can do? Maybe push their fellow employees to work harder, do more? Yeah, let’s see how far they get with that. Ha! No, the first thing they can do is ask the boss to send in more help! The employees don’t have the authority to do so, but they can call on the one that does. And the employer that wants to see his business thrive, will heed the call to hire more help so the current workers find some relief and his business will continue on successfully and with excellence.

Jesus saw this same type of dilemma.

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭9:35-38‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.9.35-38.nlt

Jesus saw that there was a whole lot more work than there were workers to handle it. And what was His instruction on the matter? Call on the boss for more help! The first step was not to pressure the current workers to work harder, but rather talk to the One who has authority to change and move upon hearts and send them in to help!

The dilemma still exists today - and the solution is still the same. Don’t waste your time and energy complaining or trying to change things on your own when you look around and find yourself among the “few”. Instead, ask your Boss to send in help! If Jesus says this is the first step in gathering a large harvest, we’d be wise to give it a try.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Shrivel or Flourish

Religion depletes a person, 
but a life spent abiding in the Vine 
will always flourish. 

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 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. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, 
you are my true disciples. 
This brings great glory to my Father.

‭‭John‬ ‭15:1-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.15.1-8.nlt

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Squeaks & Pains

The squeaky wheel gets the oil, they say. How true. I pay attention to things that are irritating me a lot more than the things that aren't. Like pains in my body. I can't say I think about my toes all day long. But if I stub one of them into a piece of furniture, you better believe all my attention is on that toe!

In the same way, I think God will let us hear the 'squeaky wheels' and feel the 'stubbed toes' and pain of people around us. Maybe we are blindsided by someone's cruel words. Maybe we are hearing someone complain a lot about their life and it becomes irritating how they bring a dark cloud with them wherever they go. Or maybe we are even being persecuted for our beliefs. These squeaks and pains are not pleasant, but they do have a way of getting our attention! Because of it, we are suddenly more aware of those people -- much more than when they weren't 'squeaking' so loudly in our ears.

So many people need our prayers. And I'm learning that we don't always pray for those that need it most, simply because we are not aware of the depth of their need. We just don't see it. But God sees it. And He knows how desperately they need Him and need our prayers and love.

Could it be, then, that when we experience persecution, or hate from our enemies, or grief from others, that in part, God is simply trying to get our attention and make us aware of their need for Him? If we aren't aware, we may not think to pray for them, and we may not think to reach out and tell them about Jesus. 

So, the next time someone squeaks loudly in your ears or you are brushed by their pain, consider that maybe this is just an alert signal that God needs you to love on them.



"But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father is heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:44-48NLT



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

JOY! To The World!

I’ve never heard an angry birth announcement made. And I’m glad for it. Can you imagine someone using an angry voice when announcing the birth of their child? 

It’s a Boy! And we’re furious!”

Haha! That would just be ridiculous! A child coming into the world is a beautiful thing. Even if it’s under rough circumstances, a new baby boy or girl is a gift to those receiving him/her. And the parents usually rejoice over the occasion and joyfully celebrate with their family and friends.

Looks like God felt the same way when His Son was born. I can imagine Him pulling out all the stops in Heaven for such a celebration. I can picture His angels rejoicing loudly in Heaven and the Father passing out cigars. (Ha!) Then, in their excitement, I can see the Father saying, “This is an amazing occasion! Angels, go to earth and make my official baby announcement!”

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby 
wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—
the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in highest heaven, 
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.2.8-20.nlt

And that’s how God introduced His Son to world. Not with gloom and doom, but rather with joy and celebration because finally the LIGHT had come into the world! 

If this is how God chose to introduce His Son and announce such Good News, we should take note and follow suit. We, too, should introduce Jesus to others with JOY, like the shepherds went and did - not with a tone of judgment or doom. God has done an amazing thing! And only celebration is in order! Just as our traditional Christmas song declares:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing!

Monday, November 27, 2017

It Took Two To Tango

The Garden. The fruit. The trespass! Was it just Eve to blame? Was it just Adam? Hardly. Together they brought the whole thing down. They were in agreement to disobey God and consequently, sin came into the world and relationship between man and God was severed.

The baby. The manger. The Savior! Was it just Mary to credit? Was it just Joseph? Hardly. Together they co-labored with God. They were in agreement to obey God and consequently they watched as God stepped in and saved the world!

Your marriage. Your life. Your calling! Have you accidentally been placed together? Does God not have a plan for your marriage? Hardly. God loves to work through marriages! And there is power in agreement! What a powerful force marriage creates against the powers of darkness - for now there are not just two hands pushing forward, but four! Imagine. If God can work through Mary and Joseph in such a tremendous way, what can He do through Holy Spirit-filled married Believers who are in agreement!

Consider what God wants to do in and through you and your spouse - together.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

God’s Emoji 😂😍😘

One day, while browsing through a gift shop, I came across emoji plush toys. I wasn’t surprised to see the variety they had because emojis are a hot item right now. Emojis can be seen everywhere and used all the time on social media and text messaging. I, personally, use them constantly to convey the meaning of my message. I’ve learned that just putting a little smiley face at the end of my sentence can go a long way. I never want anyone to read a message of mine and hear it with a mean or angry tone. And it’s funny how many people can default to that. I can type, “What in the world are you doing?” and in my mind I’m saying it in a playful tone. But they may read it and have the impression that I’m disgusted with them. Go ahead and read that sentence twice - once with a playful tone, and once with a disgusted one. See what I mean? But pop an emoji in there like 😆 and the message is clearer. 

Well, that day at the gift shop, as I’m staring at the emojis, God says to me, “What do you think my emoji is toward you?” In other words, what emoji would He choose when He looks at me? Is there an angry emoji attached to His words? 😡 Or maybe a 😤 emoji? Or maybe a big 👎🏻? 

As I’m contemplating, I look up to see a 😂 displayed high in the air and positioned in such a way that it actually looked like it was looking down at me. There it was. THIS is God’s emoji, I thought. What a contrast of what I thought it might be. I knew immediately, though, that God wasn’t saying He laughs at me and mocks me. No. God made it clear in my heart that this is His Delight over me! He’s so thrilled with me that He can’t stop smiling and laughing. He’s SO PLEASED! And this is the way He wants me to see Him from now on. Not as an angry or disappointed Father. Not as a scary and unapproachable Person. But rather a Dad who is smiling, approachable, and pleased with me!

And be encouraged friend, this is not exclusive to me. He feels this way about all His kids! So smile big and let your heart rest easy - because God is smiling (yes, even laughing!) down on you! 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Deposits

It’s a great feeling the first time you open a bank account and make that first deposit. Though it seems like just a seed, it’s exciting to know that it’s the first of many deposits and the start of making your money active and even growing under the interest the bank will give you.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, knows all about deposits - not a financial one, but a spiritual one. Most of us know the story because it’s where our Christmas story begins. Yep. Our Christmas story begins with a deposit being made. The angel announced the ‘opening of her account’,
 so to speak, and that God was ready to make a HUGE deposit into her. What a moment! I’m so glad her response was yes because so much good came out of that one Deposit!

It’s a story that I’m so glad we reflect on at least once a year during the holidays because it reminds us that 1) God is the initiator in our lives. He comes to us. Indeed, even the word “Emmanuel” means ‘God with us’. And 2) Although God is ready to give, He looks for our nod to see if we will receive it.


The beautiful thing about Mary’s story is that it’s meant to be an example for all Believers, showing us that God is a God that makes Deposits. If you’re a Believer, God has made a 
Deposit in you. He has filled your ‘womb’ with His very Life, with Himself. His very Presence, the Holy Spirit, is a Deposit guaranteeing that we are His. 2 Corinthians says, “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” http://bible.com/111/2co.1.21-22.niv. If God didn’t make a Deposit in us, we actually would not even be spiritually alive.

And then once our ‘accounts’ are open, He continues to make Deposits. He pours revelation into us through His Word so we may learn more of who He is and who we are in relation to Him. Wisdom, Understanding, and Vision are all from Him, giving us eyes to see things clearly and without confusion. He deposits dreams into our hearts - His dreams for our life. In fact, everything we need is found in God’s Deposits. 

The question today is: Is your account open and are you ready to receive?


In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a 
descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said,
 “Greetings, favored woman! 
The Lord is with you! ” 

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 
And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 
For the word of God will never fail. ” 

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:26-38‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.1.26-38.nlt


Friday, November 24, 2017

Relying On A Third Party

It can be a humbling and an even stressful experience when you’re relying on a third party. People who throw parties and hire outside companies to take care of the catering or the entertainment understand how nail-biting it can be. You can do all the prep work: the invitations, the cleaning, the decorating, and all the arrangements down to the very detail, but if the caterer and the entertainment don’t show up, there won’t be much of a party to have. You do your part and then pray that they do theirs!

But vice-versa, they are relying on you, as well. The caterers may have stayed up all night cooking and baking. The entertainment might have spent hours upon hours practicing to get it all audience-ready. They might have been working hard to get their part done and praying that you have done the same.


In situations like this, each party only has to do one thing: their own part. They are dependent on each other, but there’s an understanding that they don’t control each other. But if there is a mutual desire to see a successful party, neither of them will ever have to worry. They can be confident in each other to come through.

You can prepare your horses for battle, 
but only the Lord can give you the victory.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭21:31‬ ‭ERV‬‬
http://bible.com/406/pro.21.31.erv


It’s a similar experience when you labor with God. We are like the hosts of the party. We do our part and ‘prep the horses’, so to speak. We do all we know to do and are able to do, knowing that we are completely reliant on Him to bring the party! We set the scene, but He brings the ‘food and the fun’!

It’s a beautiful partnership, really. God always intended us to work with Him. He will never ask us to ‘host a party’ and then ask us to make the whole thing happen by ourselves. He’s designed it so He actually handles the harder part. It’s easy to ‘prep the horses’, but not so easy to ‘win the battle’.

I think He’s made it this way because:

1) He doesn’t want us to ever think we’re all on our own with things. He will never assign things to us without including Himself in the execution and success of it. It’s never all on us to ‘throw the party’.

2) He never wants the success to ever go to our heads and make us proud and self-reliant.

3) He wants to fellowship with us! Great fun can be had in throwing a party with someone. And you can really get to know someone when you work with them. He wants us to ‘do life’ with Him, not without Him. 

So ‘prep your horses’. Prepare like a host would. Do your part. And know that you can fully rely on your Third Party to come through. After all, a party is only a Party when He shows up!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remembering

Those who are wise will take all this to heart; 
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

You know, the times I find myself the most grateful is when I stop to remember. It’s when I slow down long enough to let reflection take center stage in my mind, glance over my shoulder, and look back to see just how far God has taken me. It simply stuns me every time and brings tears to my eyes when I recognize just how kind the Lord has been to me. Only He knows the depth of my heart and how lost I was - despite my efforts to always appear fine. He knew I was not fine and has handled my heart with great care my whole life.

How important it is for all of us to remember what God has done for us. If we don’t remember, we won’t be thankful. If we don’t recall it, we won’t give Him thanks. We must recall our history so we never lose sight of how faithful God has been to us. I’d say this is true on a personal level as well as a national level. People who forget what God has done will lose sight of who He has been to them.

So stop today and let yourself remember. Travel back in time inside your mind and let the Spirit of God help you recall all the big as well as the little things He has done for you. You might be surprised how much you have forgotten. And once you do remember, turn those memories into prayers of thanks. And never let yourself forget how Good He is and how His faithful love endures forever.


***

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south. 

Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died. “ Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress. He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. 

Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. They rebelled against the words of God, scorning the counsel of the Most High. That is why he broke them with hard labor; they fell, and no one was there to help them. “ Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom; he snapped their chains. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. For he broke down their prison gates of bronze; he cut apart their bars of iron. 

Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door. “ Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and sing joyfully about his glorious acts. 

Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, his impressive works on the deepest seas. He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. “ Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation. 

He changes rivers into deserts, and springs of water into dry, thirsty land. He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water. He brings the hungry to settle there and to build their cities. They sow their fields, plant their vineyards, and harvest their bumper crops. How he blesses them! They raise large families there, and their herds of livestock increase. 

When they decrease in number and become impoverished through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, the Lord pours contempt on their princes, causing them to wander in trackless wastelands. But he rescues the poor from trouble and increases their families like flocks of sheep. The godly will see these things and be glad, while the wicked are struck silent. Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Psalms 107:1-43 NLT

http://bible.com/116/psa.107.1-43.nlt

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cups

My husband and I aren’t big collectors of things. But one thing we always seem to gravitate toward when we’re in gifts shops or department stores is coffee mugs. Coffee mugs to use at home. Coffee mugs to take on the go. Big ones. Small ones. Different styles and colors. We love them all. I keep telling him we have to build a bigger kitchen just to fit all the mugs we’d like to own!

But we don’t buy mugs just to say we have a lot of mugs and to display them. We get them with the intention of using them. As beautiful as they all are, they are only useful to us when they are filled - preferably with coffee or hot tea, please! A filled cup is my happy place.  

And just as my filled coffee mug is useful to me, so is a filled ‘cup’ in the Lord’s Hands. His ‘cup’ being a human heart. How beautiful are all His cups. They, too, come in a variety of sizes and colors and shapes and styles. Some are like chalices. Some are like long bottles. Some are like mason jars. And some like to-go mugs. They are all precious, beautiful, and unique. They each are made to carry out a specific purpose. 

And they each are useful 
when filled. 
But not filled with just anything! 
When they are filled with Wine, with Living Water, with His Spirit, with Him!

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

What this means in terms of our ‘cups’ is: we can only give out what He puts in. We are empty cups that can not fill ourselves, and the life-giving Drink can only come from One Source: Him. See, it’s actually impossible to really love anyone with a godly love without God first putting that love in our hearts. It’s only after we receive from Him that we can be poured out and give to others.

What I have noticed in this world is a lot of frustrated cups. Many people want to change the world and see the Kingdom of God advance. But I’m wondering if they are missing this basic spiritual principle. They are busy pouring out, but not taking time to get filled up. Their frustration worsens as time goes on - as they continue in their own strength and striving - because you can’t give what you don’t have. 


Remember, a filled cup is always more useful than an empty one.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

The One Who Returns Things

Dads can be such softies, especially when it comes to their little girls. I know this because I live with one. My two daughters had my husband wrapped tightly around their little fingers when they were younger. Just one, “Please, Daddy!” from their little lips was all it took to persuade him. He would do anything for our girls. But He was, and still is, especially tender-hearted toward them if they ever lost something or had it stolen from them. His immediate response is to find a way to replace it, reassuring them that Daddy would try his best to help. 

Every time I watch this in action, I see one thing: the Father’s Love - for He is the One who returns things. Things stolen. Things lost. Even things we, ourselves, have thrown away. 

We see it in the Bible. Mary and Martha had their brother returned to them when death stole him away (John 11). Joseph’s father, Jacob, thought he had lost his favored son forever, only to see Joseph again in his old age (Genesis 46). And that foolish Lost Son was given back his life, even though he chose to throw it all away for the pleasures of this world (Luke 15). 

It seems God can’t help Himself. His Love compels Him. It’s in His very nature to be our Rescuer. Even though He may be angry for a moment, His compassion for His children always wins. Grace steps in and takes over. 

But deep inside, we know God doesn’t have to do any of it. We know it doesn’t seem right that God would take the hit for us. I mean, it’s not like it’s His fault. Consider Adam and Eve. It wasn’t God’s fault that they ate the forbidden fruit in the garden. And yet, even before they sinned, He had a plan of redemption in place so that man could be given back what was lost. God took it upon Himself to absorb the cost. And what a cost it was! It literally cost Him His life! 

So, no, He didn’t have to, but He wanted to. And amazingly enough, He would do it all again if He had to. He would do whatever it takes because that is the kind of God He is. He is ridiculously merciful and gracious - even to the point that stuns us. He’s the God that reimburses us for our losses, taking it upon Himself to give us back the things stolen, lost, and thrown away. He does this because He’s not just our God, He’s our Daddy. And that’s what Daddy's do.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Positioned On Purpose For Purpose

Take a look around.  

Where has God placed you? What has He given you? Has He opened doors for you in your career? Or has He given you a platform of influence? Or has He prospered you financially? Or has He blessed you in a way that gives you an advantage? 

If He has, then you have the same decision to make as Esther did. Esther was strategically positioned by God to carry out a calling far greater than just living the privileged life of a queen. But she had to come to terms with that. She had to recognize that she was placed in her royal position “for such a time as this.” She had to decide if she would live her life just for herself, or wield her position to save a nation and yes, change history.

Take a moment today and ask God what advantages and platforms He has given you that He wants to use for eternal purposes. When we lose our life for His sake, we find it.


***
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther‬ ‭4:13-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/est.4.13-17.nlt

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
Matthew‬ ‭10:38-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.10.38-39.nlt



Friday, November 3, 2017

A Remedy Called Thanks

Every night, my husband asks each of us in the family one question. It’s a question that makes us stop and think.

"What are you thankful for?" 

I have to be honest. There are some nights that thankfulness is the last thing on my mind. I'm stressed. I'm exhausted. I'm irritated. But it never fails...recalling all the Good becomes as refreshing to me as cool water on a burn. Gratefulness has a way of clearing my head and giving me perspective. And surprisingly, it turns out to be the very remedy I needed. 

There is a phrase that has been swirling around my mind lately: We only have what God gives us. If we complain or covet, we are, in essence, saying to God, "You're not doing a good job taking care of me." If we lack, we should ask God, but all the while remain thankful and content with what the Lord has already given us. We keep the attitude that He is Good and gives us what we need. And if we don't have it yet, we either don't need it or we should wait patiently for Him to give it. 

You have probably heard the illustration of the pessimist and the optimist. The pessimist looks at a glass and complains it's half empty. The optimist is thrilled that it's half full. It's the same idea when it comes to our gratitude toward God. We can look at what He has given us and shake our fists that our glass is only half full. OR we can rejoice when we think of all that He has given us and overflow with thankfulness that God would be so kind to give us a glass that has so much in it! And just a side note... God does not hold Himself back from us when we seek Him. When it comes to spiritual blessings, our cup OVERFLOWS. So if we have nothing in this life, but have Jesus, we are still richer than royalty and have great reason to give thanks! 

So, if you are having a lousy day, or week...or decade!, here's a phrase that may help… 
A better day is just a THANKS away.

It's hard to be miserable while you’re counting all your blessings. The mud of negativity is washed away by our gratitude. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simon’s Science

Simon loved Science. He fell in love with it at a young age. He read all kinds of books about it. He went out and did his own exploring in nature. He bought his own Science equipment like telescopes and microscopes. He even did his own homemade experiments. He was more than a lover of it, he was a huge fan.

His friends encouraged him and said that what he really ought to do is get involved in the Science community. So he took a Science class at a local facility. At first, he loved it because he saw that there were more science lovers out there just like him. He loved being able to share his love and knowledge of Science with them and learn new things from them, as well.

But over time, he started to enjoy the class less and less. The teacher was harsh and questioned his commitment to Science if he ever missed a class. His classmates would sometimes gossip about him and judge him. They had no reason to, other than their jealousy of his passion and knowledge of Science. Simon grew discouraged with each passing day until finally he stopped going to class altogether after his classmates burned him during a chemical experiment. They said it was an accident but it only confirmed his feelings of rejection. 

The class experience left Simon so wounded that he didn’t even want to think about Science anymore. Just looking at his telescope brought back memories of pain and rejection. It was hard now for him to separate his love for Science with the trauma of Science class. So he decided to put Science out of his mind...forever.

But passion is a funny thing. We can try to quench it, but it never really dies in the human heart. We may try to silence it, but it never stops singing it’s song inside us. It simply waits for us to awaken to it again. 

And awaken it did inside Simon’s Science-loving heart. A meteor shower was said to take place. And his home, located on the side of a hill, was in the perfect place for Simon to view it. He knew this would be a phenomenal opportunity for him. But he also knew it would mean pulling out his old Science equipment. Just the thought of opening that closet door made his stomach ill. How could he face all those ‘skeletons’ in there? It was much easier for him to hide it all away, than deal with the painful memories. But when he heard another news report of this can-not-miss opportunity, Simon realized he just had to find the courage. 

So he somehow mustered up enough strength to crack open the door. And when he did, out rolled a old grey compass. Now, it wasn’t just any compass. It was his first compass. In fact, it was a compass that his grandfather gave him when he was very young. It was the compass that sparked his very first love for Science. 

Simon burst into tears at the sight of it. All his first love memories came rushing back to him as he picked it up and held it gingerly in his hand. His tears hit the face of the compass like rainfall, washing away the dirt and dust that had accumulated on it for the years it was put away into hiding. 

“How could I have left you for so long?” Simon said to the compass. “How could I reject my First Love? Well, never again. Never again will I let this world get between me and the Science I love.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Pen

The Master made a beautiful pen and kept it safe, deep inside His pocket. He used it to write personal letters to the ones He loves. Though the pen was tucked away, she could still hear the voices from the outside world. It was hard for her to block them out and they would often influence her thinking. Because she wrestled with these voices, she became restless in the Master’s Hand whenever He picked her up to write. She would resist His leading and push against Him to write something different than what the Master desired to pen through her.  

The Master was aware of her resistance and spoke kindly to the pen. “Do you know who you are, my dear?”

She thought it was a trick question. “A pen, of course.”

“Yes, but do you know what kind of pen?”

“I suppose, one that writes.” she answered.

“Well, yes.” He chuckled. “But do you know what you’re made of?”

She paused and looked up at Him. “I have no idea.”

“My dear,” He said, lifting her gently, “you were crafted out of the wood from the tall Tree that is in the center of my Kingdom. And do you know what kind of ink I have filled you with?”

Again, she could not answer, realizing she really didn’t know who she was.

So, He continued. “Your ink, my love, is a mixture of the Blood and Water from my River that runs throughout my Kingdom and gives Life to everything. They work together to cleanse, renew, and refresh everything they touch. My dear, you are no ordinary pen. You are the King’s Pen. You are mine. When I lift you to pen my thoughts, I am lifting the one I made and filled with my very Life. You were not created to pen the world’s thoughts. So pay no mind to the voices you hear from outside my Pocket. You are reserved for my Purposes - holy purposes. So don’t be afraid to rest in My Hand. There is no need to resist or be restless. For when I speak through you, you are doing exactly what I’ve crafted you to do.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wrapped Like Golumpki

My grandmother would always make what we affectionately called piggies. Some call them pigs in a blanket. Traditionally, they’re  known as Golumpki, pronounced GOOWUMPKI. It is basically meat, rice, and spices wrapped tightly into a cabbage leaf and cooked in a tomato-type sauce. A Polish classic! And it was always found on our dinner table at every holiday meal when the family got together. It just wouldn’t be a holiday without Grammy’s pot of Golumpki.

The end product was always so delicious. But what I equally remember about them is the skill my grandmother had in making them. Boy, she had it down to a science. I can still picture her sitting at her small, round kitchen table with a tall stack of cabbage leaves on one side of her and an oversized bowl of meat & rice mixture on the other side. No measuring cups were needed as her strong, wide, Polish hands would then scoop out the perfect amount of meat and rice and place it at one end of the cabbage leaf. She then began to roll the cabbage carefully and precisely around the meat & rice mixture. She made it look so easy (though we all know that anything that looks easy probably took a whole lot of time, patience, and practice for it to get to that point) as she wrapped it over as tight as can be and tucked in the sides as snug as she used to tuck me into bed. The mixture was so tightly wrapped inside the leaf that when she cooked them in the pot of tomato sauce, they never broke apart.  In fact, it actually took a little effort sometimes to cut them open to eat them. Every piggy was wrapped tight and secure. One thing is certain, my Grammy was Golumpki Queen.

Grammy passed years ago, but her piggies live on in my memory. And today God is using them to illustrate just how secure we are in Him. (Yes, God will use even Golumpki as a picture to teach us!) In a world that is shaking and uncertain, we are wrapped in God’s arms, love, and protection like meat and rice mixture wrapped tightly in a cabbage leaf. We are rolled up, tucked in, and hidden inside Him. We are so secure, that even if we are placed inside a ‘pot of testing’ and ‘boiled in tomato sauce’, we will still come out whole. His ‘cabbage leaves’ will not fail us. He will never unravel on us and leave us boiling in the pot unprotected. 

Who can harm the ones He loves? Who can destroy the ones He protects? No one! There is no enemy that is stronger than Him. There is no trial that can separate us from Him. We are His beloved. We are His treasure. We are His precious ones wrapped tighter than Golumpki.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I AM Enough

I grew up in a religion that made me aware of sin. I knew from a young age that none of us get it right. They even labeled sin, ranking them from bad to worse. The guilt was heavy. The shame was clear.

But the solution they offered felt just as heavy. In order to get free of such sin and guilt, we were told to follow religious traditions like special ceremonies and praying repetitious prayers, in hope that we might fall into favor with God. Good service to others was also greatly encouraged. It was a whole lot of religious effort and left me feeling either self righteous when I had my p’s and q’s straight, or terribly guilty and shameful when I didn’t. I was told, though, that if I ever felt shameful, all I’d need to do is just keep trying more and be a better person. Just say your repetitious prayers five more times and make sure you get to church at least on Christmas and Easter so God can get you into His head count on major religious holidays. 

Oh boy, oh boy. Even just recalling this makes my heart feel heavy. I remember it well because this religious teaching/attitude transferred into how I was raised, and how I viewed life, and how I viewed myself, and how I related to God. It’s amazing how spiritual teachings permeate your life far more than just a Sunday morning religious service. You can’t compartmentalize what you believe about God from how you view and live your life.

So here’s the thing. The religion I had been taught had it 50% right. Yes, we are all sinners. Correct. The Bible makes it clear that all have sinned and have fallen short of the Glory of God. Because of sin, we have been spiritually separated from God. But what they failed to drive home to the people was the Good News! They talked a lot about the bad news (we are sinners) but never ‘brought the whole thing home.’ They failed to give us the Bible’s solution to this devastated place we were all drowning in. 

That Jesus died for us all and BY FAITH, NOT WORKS, we can be saved. That if we confess our sins to God Himself, and trust in Jesus’ sacrifice ALONE for our eternal life, we can be saved from this life of death! We can then relate to God in a personal way, as our Loving Father. We can be reconciled to Him and yes, even be friends with God! 

Now, yes, they did talk about Jesus. But I don’t think they ever took His sacrifice that seriously. If they did, we’d never been told that we still need to make such great effort to find favor with God. It was never just Jesus alone that we needed. It was Jesus plus the ceremonies, the repetitious prayers, and the good works. 

No matter what religion a person grows up in or believes in, all religion does the same thing. It is man’s efforts to get close to God.

But, oh, there is Good News for us all! God, in His outrageous Love for us, has made the first step and has come toward us! See, God couldn’t help Himself. He had to send Jesus simply because He didn’t want to spend eternity without His kids! He’d rather die saving us, then live without us. (Sounds like a Daddy’s heart to me, huh?)

So if you are reading this right now, and realize that you have been trying to get close to God, with no avail, it’s time you find out that all the work has already been done on the Cross for you. 

Jesus says, “Come. Come and confess your shortcomings to Me and I will not only forgive you, I will cleanse you on the inside of your guilt and shame. Because of Me, you will be made right with God. And there’s nothing further that you will need to do to be right with God. I AM Enough. Believe in me. Believe in my sacrifice for your sins. Let me into your heart and into your life. I promise you, you won’t regret it. And when you do, that is when your true LIFE begins!”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Step One: Listen

Many times in the Gospels, we see Jesus giving His disciples instruction on where to find or receive God’s Provision:

Feeding the five thousand...Jesus gave instruction to have the people sit down. He took the bread and fish and fed the people. Then He gave instruction to collect the leftovers. (John 6)

Fishing...Jesus gave the weary disciples, who had fished all night and caught nothing, instruction on where to catch all the fish. He told them to throw the net over the right-hand side of the boat. (John 21)

Eating the Passover Meal...Jesus gave instruction on where to find the room that had everything they needed. (Luke 22)

Paying Taxes...Jesus gave Peter instruction to go fish and pull a coin out of the mouth of the first fish he caught. (Matthew 17)


****

Our Provision from God starts by listening - listening to what He has to say about our circumstances. We must consider that God actually has instructions to give us about the Provision He has for us. I think sometimes we can have a tendency to ask God to help us, but then we ‘leave the room’, so to speak, and not wait to hear what His ideas are to meet those needs. We pray and then walk away to go figure it out for ourselves. That’s like me going to the doctor and telling him I have a sick stomach, but then leaving his office before I hear what steps I can take that will help me.

God doesn’t just want us to pray and tell Him our needs. He wants us to linger awhile and listen to His thoughts on the matter. And honestly, it would greatly behoove us to do so. If God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55), we better stick around to listen to Him because there is literally no way we’re going to figure it out for ourselves!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Your Field Of Impossibles

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. 
Turning to Philip, he asked, 
“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” 
He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. 
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, 
we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:5-7‬ ‭NLT

Testing. It’s what is commonly used in schools after learning new information. The teachers want to see if you really are understanding the lesson at hand. Jesus, the Great Teacher, did the same. He often had little pop quizzes for His disciples to see (and to show them, as well) where they were truly at in the learning process on Kingdom Life and Kingdom Thinking. 

I love the conversation Jesus had with Philip as recorded in John 6. Jesus asks Philip a question but absolutely knows the answer already. He seems to ‘play dumb’ just to see what Philip would say. And Philip’s response is probably not much different than what ours might be. He looks at the situation through a human perspective and answers based on logic and man’s own resources. He assesses that even with all their efforts, it can’t be done. Jesus was asking him a question that didn’t appear to have an answer. To Philip, he was staring at a field of impossibles.  

Well, the conversation continues as another disciple chimes in and says, “There’s a kid over here with a brown bag lunch...but yeah, that’s not going to help.” Oh, but that’s not how Jesus saw it. To Him, He saw the Father’s Provision through the offering of a young child. Jesus saw the solution - and it wasn’t going to be logical.

Now, consider the situations in your own life. Are there circumstances or problems that don’t seem to have a logical solution? Things that, when you look at them from a human perspective, can’t be resolved by human effort? I’m thinking all of us probably have at least one. We all at some point, like Philip, look out on our own field of impossibles. 

In these areas, Jesus would love to flip your thinking. He’d love to offer you a solution that you haven’t considered. He’d love to show you that His way of tackling a situation is not like yours. His way doesn’t make sense and doesn’t depend on you making it happen. He’d love to show you what it looks like to depend on your Abba, your Daddy, your God. He’d love to show you how much He can be trusted. He’d love to show you that HE is enough. He’d love to show you that He is able.

And boy, is He able!

Let’s look at the rest of the story...


Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” 

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:8-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Bam! Jesus comes through! But He did it HIS way - because that was the only way it was going to work! And let’s take note. He didn’t just satisfy the immediate need. He went above and beyond and made enough for left overs!

So as you look at your own impossibles, don’t give up just because there’s no logical solution. Instead, consider that this could be God wanting to show off a little. 😉