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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Safe But Uncomfortable

Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!

“Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—
so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭8:13-14, 16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gen.8.13-14,16-17.nlt

***
It must have felt like the longest year of their lives. Noah and his family had been safe (yet stuck) inside a massive boat with literally the smell of every kind of animal on the earth. Not exactly Carnival Cruise Line.

It's funny how we can be completely safe in God's palm, yet completely uncomfortable at the same time. Sometimes God puts us in situations which aren't what we would call paradise in the sun, but it's exactly where we need to be. We are wrapped up in His love and centered in His will, yet we find ourselves squirming and fidgeting as we wait for the season to pass.  

No one ever said following God would be a walk in the park all the time. Yes, we definitely have our moments of bliss as we enjoy God's goodness toward us in this world. But it doesn't mean that He won't lead you to some smelly places, too, to make you learn and grow. 

It makes me wonder what Noah learned on that boat. Maybe patience as he kept sending out the birds to check for dry land. Maybe thankfulness as he contemplated the depth of what was happening around him and how he somehow found favor with the Living God that saved him and his family. Or maybe he had a greater understanding of God's Holiness and Righteousness and how serious God is about sin and the evil that is in the world. Whatever Noah learned, there is one thing that we can be pretty sure of - he most likely came off that boat a changed man, for the better.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Watching Over Me

I usually try to be careful to grab every bag. But, this time I didn't. I grabbed two bags from the store counter, but left the third. When I got home, I showed off my new purchases to my husband and still didn't realize I was missing something. 

But, Someone else did.

The next morning, I ran to the grocery store at 7am. I never go that early, but it was the only time I could fit it into my schedule. As I got out of my car, I looked up and saw the cashier from the store I was at the day before.  

"Funny meeting you here,"  I said, wondering if she recognized me.

Her eyes lit up. "You left your bag yesterday!" she blurted out. "I tried to stop you in the parking lot, but it was too late. You had driven away. I can't believe I'm running into you now. I never come to the grocery store this early. Just go back to the store. I saved your bag under the counter."

Someone had my back. He always does. It was no coincidence that I happened to run into her. I never shop that early and neither does she. I can list multiple times that things like this have happened - things I know that were orchestrated, not by me, but by a Father who is keeping His eyes on me and caring for me. 

Like the time, years ago, when I left my purse on the top of my car. (Apparently, I have a tendency to leave things!) When I got home, I couldn't find it and didn't even remember leaving it on the top of my car.

But Someone else knew.

Being in a panic, I remember it was one of the first times I ever truly asked God to help me. I said a small prayer that went something like this: "God, help me find my purse that has so many things in it that are important to me." It wasn't but a minute later that the phone rang. It was a woman who was looking for the owner of a purse she found in a parking lot! I was stunned and speechless for a moment over the phone. I knew then that God had my back. So, my purse was found and it was not only returned to me, but nothing was missing from inside it. God had protected the money, the documents, the photos, and everything else. 

That day, I realized three things.

1) God is not only real, but hears me and responds to my prayers.
2) God cares not just about the big things like running the universe, but also the little things that are big to me.
3) I can ask God to help me because I know He cares about me. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."

He's watching over me. He's watching over us - Yesterday, Today, and Forever. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Talked Right Out Of Our Senses

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

"Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden
that we are not allowed to eat.
God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

"You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God,
knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:1-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gen.3.1-7.nlt

*****

That slimy deceiver. The first thing he ever brings to the table is confusion. Though we know the Truth, his questions make us question.

"Did God really say..." the devil asked Eve. At first, her response was quick and accurate. She was clear-minded about the Truth and even corrected the devil by clarifying exactly what God did say. But her clarity didn't remain. The devil's persistent and persuasive words talked her right out of her sound mind and right into his web of confusion and lies. Before she knew it, she was not only listening to him, she was out-and-out convinced!

How can this be? How can someone who knows the Truth, end up so confused?

Time and attention.

Eve obviously gave her attention and consideration toward the devil's convincing theories. Instead of keeping her senses and stopping the conversation as soon as it didn't line up with what she knew to be true, she listened, entertained, and absorbed the deception, and in the process, she let go of all Truth.

Eve remains one of our best examples of what happens when the devil wins the battle over our minds. She lingered too long with that nasty snake. She never should have even continued in the conversation when the devil contradicted God's words. She should have quickly dismissed him and all his stupid thinking.

Remember, the battle starts in the mind. If the devil can get in your head, he's already on his way to trapping you. Our best defense is to know the Truth and refuse to let it go or trade it for new thinking and philosophies. Know what God has said. Read His Word. Listen to His Spirit. Pray like your life depends on it (because it does). And REFUSE to entertain anything that doesn't line up with the Truth. Don't be the next victim of his deception.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Choice to Love

Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east,
and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:8-9, 15-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gen.2.8-9,15-17.nlt
***

Our free will has always been very important to God. Right from Creation, we don't see a controlling Father, but rather a God that establishes the right for people to make decisions and choices. God could have easily decided not to put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden. He could have controlled the situation in a way that Adam and Eve would never have had to encounter a choice to fear Him and obey His instructions. But Love does not control. Love respects boundaries and a person's free will. 

God doesn't necessarily remove temptation from our eyes. If He did, our worship would no longer be because of choice, but rather because God is controlling it. God is always looking for the heart that will decide for themselves whom they will worship, love, and follow.  


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Free Woman!

It's where it all begins for each of us - right there in our mother's womb. Biologically we all started life this way, yet we are all different types of people because of the mothers who birthed us. We are different nationalities, temperaments, have different inclinations...we are who we are because of the parents we have and the womb we came from. 

The Book of Galatians tells us that if we have the Holy Spirit in us, our 'mother' is a FREE WOMAN. We have been spiritually birthed by Grace because we are are receivers of the Promise made to Abraham who supernaturally had a child with Sarah by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is very different from the Slave Woman who Abraham also impregnated but through human effort. The Slave Woman, Hagar, represents the Law. Sarah represents the Promise - the New Covenant, a Life of Freedom given by God as a Gift through Jesus. 


My friend, if you believe in Jesus, your 'mother' is Sarah. And she is a FREE WOMAN. This means, you are a receiver of the Promise! Which also means YOU ARE FREE! No longer are you chained down to religious rules, regulations, and ceremonies to win God's approval! No! You are FREE in Christ to love Him without fear of condemnation. You are FREE because your 'mother' is FREE! Your spiritual DNA is completely made up of Absolute Freedom. 


So if you feel held back or stuck under a weight of the rules of religion, you have God's permission to let that all go. He did not set you free for you to continue to live as a slave. He set you free so that you really can be FREE!




“And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 
So, dear brothers and sisters, 
we are not children of the slave woman; 
we are children of the free woman.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:28-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/gal.4.28-31.nlt

Monday, May 8, 2017

Good Enough

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. 
For if keeping the law could make us right with God, 
then there was no need for Christ to die.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/gal.2.21.nlt
****

I used to think this way. Many do. We think good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell. It's sort of a Santa Clause mentality - if you're good, you'll get presents, if you're bad you'll get coal. 

What we forget is that Jesus came to save sinners. But, what if you don't see yourself as much of a sinner? What if you do your best to be a good person and think that all of it will eventually add up to a nice sum of good deeds that you can present at the pearly gates? If you think this way, you have been sorely misled. Like the scripture above tells us, if being good could get our names into the Book of Life, Jesus never would have had to die on the cross. It's actually ridiculous thinking to proclaim that you are a Christian but still believe that it's on you and your own goodness to win God's approval and a pass into heaven when you die.  

So we must put this kind of thinking into the grave once and for all. Whether you've been a Christian for 50 years or 50 days, we must remember this: Jesus has never been impressed by your own works done outside of His own Righteousness. In fact, they are like filthy rags to Him. What He is impressed with is a humble heart that knows there is no good thing that can be found in him and he is in need of a Savior. THAT is a life that God can then forgive, heal, and do GREAT things through!




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fertilizer & The Seed Life

Some of the sweetest, prettiest, and even savoriest things in life come from the most stinky of places. Fruit trees, flowers, and the gorgeous produce we grow in our gardens are all examples of this. We cover our tiny seeds in fertilizer and/or compost, knowing that though there may be a stink in the air in the beginning, the end result is going to be amazing and worth it all.

I think many of us can relate to these poor little seeds. No one escapes planet earth without living in a bit of fertilizer at times - the stinky trials of life that we'd much rather avoid than embrace. But, just like the seed, those trials can be the very thing that make us grow, mature, and even bear fruit!


But we must remember this thought, as well...a seed is only a seed for a short amount of time. The germination process lasts only days - a very short time period compared to its future self as a blooming, beautiful plant. And so it is with our lives. We are 'seeds' for but a moment. And one day, we, too, like the seed, will die and change. But our future self will be lasting and eternal. So though our cares on earth sometimes seem to be unbearable and last forever, we must remember to keep a heavenly perspective. The 'seed life', with all its stinky 'fertilizer', is all temporary. Our life beyond this is lasting, beautiful, and worth it all!



Therefore we do not lose heart. 
Though outwardly we are wasting away, 
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 
For our light and momentary troubles 
are achieving for us an eternal glory 
that far outweighs them all. 
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, 
but on what is unseen, 
since what is seen is temporary, 
but what is unseen is eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬
http://bible.com/111/2co.4.16-18.niv



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Friday, April 28, 2017

Tacks In Our Shoes

So many people are miserable. No really. It's like their walking around with a tack in their shoe. A simple 30 minute trip to my local grocery store is a harsh reminder to me of the fallen world I live in. Before I even get to my parking spot, I hear one woman screaming profanities at another woman from her car. As I'm reaching for the paper towels, I can hear a husband yelling at his wife two aisles down from me. In the cereal aisle, I pass off a mother riding in an electronic cart with her obviously irritated daughter walking behind her who rolls her eyes and mumbles, "she'll be the death of me" as she passes by.

So miserable. I can see it in their faces. Thing is, I can see myself in each of them. I totally get it. It is exactly how I felt before I got saved. But it is even how I continue to feel at times when I don't let God love me. Just to be absolutely clear, I am definitely a Christian. I have asked Jesus into my heart and I am filled with the Holy Spirit. But it is still a daily choice to open myself up to His Love, His Word, and His Spirit and let Him renew me. It is a daily walk of faith to let His Joy replace my ragged outlook and changing emotions.

There are mornings that I feel just as miserable as the folks I see at the store. But because I have Jesus, I have a choice. I can grab hold of all that he purchased for me on the cross - not just my salvation, but LIFE abundantly. Though I live in this world, I don't have to be of this world. His Presence gives me wings to fly above all of it, so that I'm not just surviving this life, I am thriving in it because of his Mighty Power. 

God eagerly wants to take the tacks out of our shoes. Question is, are we willing to let Him do it.




Monday, April 24, 2017

Garden Critic?


When you walk into someone's garden, what's the first thing you notice - the weeds or the growing plants? Do you have the eyes of a critic or an encourager? A critic will always spot the weeds first and foremost and dwell on the negative. An encourager will always delight first in the growth that is taking place.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Clutter-Free!

Sometimes you just have to clean house. I don't mean do the dishes or sweep. I mean CLEAN OUT the house. Clear out the things that are simply taking up space and not serving any purpose. That souvenir cup we've never used that occupies a space in my cabinet. Kid's clothes that are two sizes too small still stuffed in the drawers. A kitchen utensil I've had for ten years that I'm still not even sure what I'm supposed to do with. I keep it purely because a relative said it belonged to a grandmother of the family. Ugh!

Besides the cluttered feeling I get, what really bothers me about holding onto things like this is the fact that I have no room for anything new. I don't even entertain the idea because I say, "But we have no room for it." I confess that there are even new things tucked away in my attic that I'm not using simply because I have no where to put them in the house. So, I must assess and make room.

I imagine God understands this cluttered dilemma when dealing with human hearts. He has so many wonderful things to fill us with. But when He first comes to us with His gifts of Love, He finds a 'house' that is full and has no room for His love. They are full of what the Bible calls 'the love of the world'. And when you are cluttered with the love of the world, there is no room for your Father to make His Home there.

Here's what 1 John says (in three different versions):

Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important - has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out - but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. 1 John 2:15-17 MSG

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:15-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

‭‭I John‬ ‭2:15-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/1jn.2.15-17.nkjv

God does not condemn us for our cluttered hearts. He is a patient House Cleaner. But if you have said yes to a relationship with God, you can anticipate from Day One that God is going to get to work and start making space for His Love in your life. He's going to start picking things up from around your 'house' that are squeezing His Love out. He does this because He loves us and knows that all this cluttered junk we have in us is not going to give us Life and make us Fruitful.

And be prepared. There may be some big items in your 'home' that He may want to put out on the curb for pick up. One of the first things God cleaned out in my life was a boyfriend that was not going to be good for me in the long term. He was a nice guy, but he was not following Jesus. God knew if I continued on with this guy, there would slowly be less and less space in my 'house' for Him and it would squeeze out the love of the Father. And so I painfully agreed with God to let go of that item in my 'house'. It was the hardest thing for me to do. But in doing that, it opened up more space in me for Him to fill with His perfect will and I soon found the man of my dreams that loves the Lord! We will be married 16 years in May.

Remember, when God cleans us out, it's always with the intention of filling us with something new and something better. Don't let the devil and the world lie to you. God doesn't remove things to hurt us and make us feel punished. He removes them because He knows they are like parasites inside us that occupy and consume any kind of Kingdom purpose in our lives.

So, let God make room. Let Him begin to sort through the clutter of your 'home' and make more space for His Love. Let Him handle the big as well as the little items in your life. And remember, it's going to take time. Probably a lifetime. But the more willing you are to let go, the more decluttering He can do. And remember, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). He won't stop until we are clutter-free!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Moving Against What Moves Against Me

The Kingdom of God is an upside down Kingdom. It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland -- falling down in our world means falling upward there. Jesus spoke of this kind of opposite, upside down concept when He said things like, "Bless those who curse you" and "Love your enemies". The Kingdom of God is in contrary movement with the world. Therefore, as people of the Kingdom, our response to the things that are against us should also be contrary.

When there is great need and we don't see the provision, we don't sink into despair, but we do what Jesus did when He fed the 5,000. He moved in contrary motion to what His eyes were telling Him. He took what he did have and GAVE THANKS. Giving thanks was the opposite response. Giving thanks was the faith-filled response. And we know the result of that! He multiplied the bread and fish and fed them all -- with food left over!

When we don't see the victory in life, we don't move in agreement with that by giving up. We move in contrary motion by REJOICING in God's Faithfulness, knowing He will never let us down.

If we are having financial troubles and are struggling with debt, we don't close our fists in desperation and fear. Instead, we move in contrary motion to the debt by continuing (or beginning) to GIVE our tithes and offerings. Remember the widow that fed Elijah? She never stopped being generous, even down to her last meal. In doing this, she was moving against what moved against her, tapping into the economy of Heaven!

If we're experiencing anxiety, we don't find coping mechanisms. We move in contrary motion and make deliberate decisions to REST. We purposefully lay our head on His shoulder and TRUST-- choosing not to depend on our own wisdom and strength, but rather His. Rest may actually be one of the most powerful things we can ever do in Battle.

And when our hearts are heavy, we don't play the victim and reject His Comfort. We move opposite of our emotions and WELCOME JOY in our life. It's His Joy that strengthens us and lifts our heaviness, bringing Hope for a New Day. 

It's opposite thinking and contrary movement in an upside down Kingdom. And that is the Kingdom we are citizens of! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Third Strand

Learning how to braid takes time. As a kid, I remember holding my doll's hair in three different sections and twisting and turning them in the hopes that the end result would be a braid or at least something that resembled a braid. But even after someone showed me the proper way, it still took time and practice to make it work.

Though I wasn't very skilled or knowledgeable, there was one basic thing that I understood about a braid -- it absolutely took three strands to make it stay together. Removing one strand would completely disqualify it as a braid and it would eventually unravel. 

The Bible talks about a cord of three strands not being easily broken. It's a picture of a braid, and it's found in a text of Scripture specifically discussing relationship. It tells us that two are great together. But if it's going to hold together, you need a third strand to make it work and make it last. 
That third strand is God, Himself. Any relationship with God intertwined in it is always the best kind of relationship you can have. Those are the ones that are not easily broken.

Consider the relationships in your life. Are there any being held together with two strands? Your marriage? Your relatives? Your business partner? God is presenting Himself as the Third Strand to us. He is the Strong Strand that can weave in and out and bring Strength, Order, and Beauty. 


He is the Strand that completes the Braid. 



“Two are better than one, 
because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 
But how can one keep warm alone? 
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬
                                         http://bible.com/111/ecc.4.9-12.niv


Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Woman, The Light, and The Darkness

There was a woman who loved the Light. But she also loved the darkness. It was a curious thing. 

She welcomed the Light each morning and centered her plans around it. She loved its warmth. She loved how it made her feel and how it made others feel. You could say she was a promoter of Light-- a fan, for sure.

But then night would come. As the sun began to set, she would lock her doors, shut her blinds, and change into dark clothes. She was deeply fascinated by the darkness and couldn't help making friends with it. All night, she would fellowship with darkness. She convinced herself that it was a safe relationship to entertain.

Her family didn't seem to mind the dichotomy. They would watch as she loved both sides with equal interest and resolved that as long as she was happy, they would let her be.

But she was not happy.

Not happy at all. In fact, deep inside she could feel a tearing and a wrestling in her soul. The doctor said she was bi-polar. She chalked it up to depression. "Nothing a few pills of medicine can't help," she would tell herself. But, it did not help. And her struggle deepened. 

Then her love for the darkness began to affect others around her and she began to see changes in her son. He used to be a such a happy boy. But a shadow seemed to follow him these days. He struggled to break free and be a healthy boy.

Then one day, a man from another country, who loved the Light, was in town.  The friends of the Light called the woman and said, "Come tonight. You can't miss it. He is excellent in his field." But she faced a dilemma.

"If I go at night, I will surely miss my fellowship with the dark," she said to herself.

She looked through the window as a car pulled up in front of her house. 
"Come with us!" the friends of the Light yelled. "It will be fun!"

She contemplated for a moment, for she knew she enjoyed the Light, but then lowered her blind as she turned to greet the darkness once again.

The following night, her friends of the Light came by again. "Come with us!" they yelled. "It will surely be fun."

But this time the woman did not even look through her window, for she had convinced herself that the night was dedicated to the darkness, not the Light.

Later that night, the woman fell into a deep sleep and had a dream, maybe a vision. (It was so real to her, it was hard to tell.) And in that dream/vision, she held a photo album in her hand. It was big and heavy -- filled from front to back with pictures from her whole life. As she stood there gazing at the cover, she looked up to see the Father of Light walking into the room.

"It's a big album." He said with a smile. "Shall we take a look together?"

So the woman and the Father sat down and opened the album, only to find that half the pages were loose and began to fall out. As she tried to quickly grab them and hold them in, the binding began to crackle and break.

"What's happening?" she cried out to the Father of Light, as she struggled to keep the entire album from falling to pieces in her hands.

"Your album can not stay completely together because half the pages are not secured to the binding, and the binding itself is weak. You have filled your album with both Light and darkness -- two things that can never mix, like oil and water."

"What must I do to fix my album, Father?"'she asked, as she continued to anxiously grab for the falling pages.

"Love only the Light, dear one. Only the Light. ONLY ME. The darkness pretends to be a friend, but only leaves your album insecure, shaky, and falling apart, as you can very well see. But if you fill your album ONLY with Me and My Light, I will make sure that your album will never unravel. But you must choose. You can not love both the Light and the darkness. And beware. If you choose darkness, it will soon become your cruel master until you will no longer even want the Light at all. So choose today, dear one, whom you will love. Choose the Light. CHOOSE ME!"

And with that, the woman awoke, jumped out of bed, opened her blinds...

                                                   and turned her face to the Light, once and for all.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Buying Marigold Seeds

I bought marigold seeds yesterday because I have a hope. A hope that Spring is on the way. Can I see it with my eyes right now? No. As I type this, I look out my window and see a snow-covered landscape. But I still bought the seeds...because of hope. Not a hope of, 'Boy, I hope Spring comes,' but a hope that KNOWS Spring will come. 

And that is the kind of Hope we have in God -- not one of wishful-thinking, but of one that we can be confident in. A Hope that knows, not wishes. A Hope that buys the Marigolds Seeds. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lessons in the Crisis

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!"

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

"Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭14:22-36‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.14.22-36.nlt

***
Jesus insisted. Yep. That's what it says. Insisted. Insisted that they get into that boat and cross that lake. Was Jesus not aware of the danger the disciples would suddenly face? Or maybe He knew but didn't care? Neither. He knew and He cared, but when Jesus sent His disciples anywhere, it was always for a purpose. There was always something He wanted to show them. There was always something new He wanted to teach them. And in this case, He wanted to reveal two things: 1) Their own hearts and level of faith and 2) Who He was, the Son of God. It took a major crisis for them to see the sobering reality of their serious lack of faith in Him. But it was also through this trial that they came out fully convinced of who Jesus was--which strengthened their faith!

Jesus hand picks what 'boats' He puts His followers in. No situation is ever for nothing. He is the great Teacher, and good teachers are always looking for opportunities to show their students something new. If the 'boat' you're in is facing a crisis, be sure to look for two things: 1) Jesus in the midst of it, walking toward you on the waves --revealing Who He is to you and 2) The lesson(s) He wants to teach you.

And remember, just as Jesus was able to get the disciples' boat to the other side, He is able to get yours to the other side, too.







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sell All

Jesus was cutting to the heart of the matter with this young rich man. When the man asked Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life, he was probably fishing for an answer that the man could easily add to his religious check off list. "I've done this, I've done that...is there anything else, Jesus? I don't want to miss anything on the list."

So Jesus told the young man what he already knew about keeping commandments but then went a step further and addressed the man's personal finances. This hit the man at his very core because now things just got personal! The young man was fine with going through the motions and checking off his religious duties--but his riches? Really Jesus? The man was not prepared for this answer. This was not so cut and dry like the other things on his check off list. This would actually affect the man's lifestyle and probably remove other things like his security and social status. It was too much for the man and he walked away very sad.

Jesus still cuts to the heart of the matter for us, today. The New Covenant is not about religious check off lists, but rather hearts that are so in love with Jesus that they would allow things to get personal and be willing to give it all for the sake of Love. Like the man who found the pearl of great price in the field. He went out, sold everything just to buy that field to gain that priceless pearl.

What is your relationship with God? Are you in a check off list mentality with God, or are you so in love with Him that you hold loosely to the things of this world that you might gain Him? 

Sell your possessions rich man. You are only trading up! 

***

Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 

"Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” 

"Which ones?” the man asked. 

And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 

"I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” 

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 

The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” 

Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” 

Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then."

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:16-30‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.19.16-30.nlt

***

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. 

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!"

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:44-46‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.13.44-46.nlt




Monday, March 6, 2017

Needy And Ya Know It


God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, 
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/mat.5.3.nlt

Realizing our deep need for God is the first step in the right direction. It's the first step in salvation (recognizing and confessing we are sinners and need a Savior), but doesn't end there. Everyday of our lives should be filled with the awareness that we need God more than even the air we breathe. John 15 tells us that we are like a branch connected to Jesus, the Vine. Another image would be a baby attached to his mother by an umbilical cord. All life comes from there. And all Life comes from Jesus.

Never stop recognizing your need for God. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those that know how much they really need God. It's in that humble attitude that we can fully grab hold of the Kingdom of God!

Friday, March 3, 2017

No Pressure

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

***
The Pharisees, the religious people of Jesus' day, put a lot of pressure on themselves and others. So many rules to follow. So many i's to dot and t's to cross. How exhausting! They were stuck in a religious mindset.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." He never pressures His children because He's not looking to make us more religious. What He is after is our hearts.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Requesting New Wine

I love Mary's boldness with Jesus. She saw a need and she knew that Jesus could help. Jesus' first miracle was actually a response to Mary's intercession. 

Do you see the need for New Wine in your circumstances like Mary did? If so, don't be afraid to boldly ask Jesus to step in and fill the need. You might be surprised at His Answer!

*****

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” 

"Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. 

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” 

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 

After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

‭‭John‬ ‭2:1-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.2.1-12.nlt

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Your Ship Of Opportunity

No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”

‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭27:21-26‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/act.27.21-26.nlt

***

What a ship to be on. Full of unbelievers. Full of fools. They didn't heed Paul's advice not to sail, and sure enough they all found themselves in trouble. They could have all gone down. But someone was on board who trusted God. Someone who was praying. Someone who had yielded their life to God -- Paul. And in that moment of crisis, God not only answered Paul's prayer to protect him, God went a step further in His goodness and generosity and decided to spare everyone on board. EVERYONE.

All believers have a 'ship' they are sailing in, and the ships are rarely filled with just believers. God places each of us in close proximity to those that do not know Him. And because we live in a fallen world, our ships often hit troubled waters. But it's in those moments that we get the opportunity, like Paul did, to show those on board the love, encouragement, and Grace of God. 

What 'ship' are you on today? Who are you in close proximity with that God would want to bless through you? What Godly wisdom can you offer the 'crew'? What encouragement can you offer to those on board? WHAT LIVES CAN BE SAVED on the ship because you are living in relationship with God?

God puts us all on ships. Do you see the opportunities at hand?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Find His Pace, Feel His Rhythm, Let Him Lead


Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25 NIV

or another version:

Since we are living by the Spirit,
let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives.
Galations 5:25 NLT

Thankfully, we do not walk this Christian life alone. If you have asked Jesus into your life/heart and asked Him to forgive you personally for your sins, He now lives in you. The Spirit of God, (yes, God, Himself) is now with you all the time. None of us are orphans. None of us have been abandoned -- and we never will.

But the Bible tells us that we are not only to walk with Him, we are to stay IN STEP with Him. This makes me think of my husband and I.

My husband walks faster than me. His stride is bigger. His legs are stronger. We both love to walk but it can get tricky when we try taking a walk together. I spend the whole time trying to keep up, as he's trying hard not to lose me in the dust. We are constantly aware of each other's pace. Inevitably, my husband will reach out his hand and grab mine. We both know that there is no way we are going to keep in step with each other unless we are connected --unless we consciously hold onto each other and find a rhythmic pace.

See, though the Spirit of God lives in us, we have to make a conscious choice to let Him be a part of our everyday lives. The Bible is saying: Now that you are alive in Christ, let Christ lead the way. Find His Pace. Feel His rhythm. Let Him lead. Walk with Him. Just like my husband and I must join hands in order to stay in step, so we must consciously connect with and yield to God's Spirit. And how satisfying it is when we find that flow with God - when we no longer just let Him walk next to us, but we truly connect and stay in step with His Spirit!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

DISCERNMENT 
is like looking at two identical berries 
(one is poisonous, the other not)
and being able to choose and eat the good one. 
May God give us the eyes to see the Good from Evil, 
the Healthy from the Toxic.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Confusion

Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater. 

Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there.

‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭19:29-32‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/act.19.29-32.nlt
***

The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Confusion is the web he spins. Deception is the song he sings. He is the father of riots and is Master Hater. He is the one at war with God, and therefore, us. He is invisible, but his work is not.

We do not have to be among those that get swept up in the confusion, though. God gives his followers a clear mind and discernment. He gives us eyes that cut through the fog of confusion. He keeps us 'sober' as we fill our minds with His Truth (His Word) and abide in Him. 

If you are in any kind of confusion today, be comforted to know that there is a way out! Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. God's Voice/Word brings Clarity, Truth, and Freedom. Remember, greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Fishing Alone

It's frustrating. Fishing all night and catching NOTHING? And it's not like these disciples didn't know what they were doing. They knew the art of fishing well. But that night, skill was not enough. What they needed was Jesus. They needed Jesus to speak. And as soon as Jesus spoke, there was an abundance! Those men saw the difference that day between striving in their own strength and flowing in God's.

Some of us labor hard, but we don't labor with God. We think if we just work a little harder, we'll prosper. But the Kingdom of God is not about striving in our own strength apart from God. No, no, no. If we do, we find ourselves like these men who fished all night with nothing to show for it.

But don't worry. Jesus is more than happy to show us 'where the fish are'. He WANTS us to prosper -- just not without HIM! If you feel like you are spinning your wheels or simply STUCK, consider if you are 'fishing' with Jesus or without Him.

***
Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

"We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

"No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

"Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

‭‭John‬ ‭21:1-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/jhn.21.1-11.nlt