Big Man In The Sky Say What??

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. Phil 3:1

Sometimes the bible irks me. Take, for instance, this verse. Scripture – God, Himself – wants us to be joyful no matter what happens in our lives. Big Man in the sky say what?? Be joyful when times are hard?! Rejoice when life makes no sense? Put a smile on my face when I’m hurting?

Well, the short answer is yes. But how? Learning to be thankful/grateful/joyful in any situation doesn’t happen naturally. As a matter of fact, it’s quite a challenge. Yet, it is a foundational teaching of our faith, and learning why God commands something often helps us understand Him better.

So why does God want us to rejoice even when our circumstances seem horrible? Because He wants us to remember WHO HE IS!!

  • He is able to work all things out for the GOOD of those who love Him.

  • He is all-powerful, and can do anything on our behalf.

  • He has a plan to draw all people to Himself, and He might be using our circumstances to teach, convict, or sharpen us or the people around us.

  • He is in control, and we can trust Him to care for us.

  • He will never leave us.

The next time we are tempted to wallow in misery, let’s choose to REMEMBER WHO GOD IS! Let’s rejoice that our God is able to do more than we can possibly ask or imagine, and let’s trust Him enough to respond with JOY rather than complaints!

Today, let’s focus on the One who can clear our path instead of the problems that make us stumble!

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Who Says Movies Are Mindless Entertainment?

I love a good, action-packed super-hero movie. A few weeks ago, our family saw the new Batman vs Superman movie, and even though I had critiques on a few fighting scenes that were less than believable, I liked the movie. And the popcorn. With the butter (put your wagging finger back in your pocket; I ate a salad for dinner to make up for it).

Remember the famous line from another super-hero movie, “With great power comes great responsibility”? The Spiderman series of movies is another family favorite for us, and I couldn’t help thinking of that quote when I read Romans chapter 8 recently:

“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:17 NLT (emphasis mine)

I think Peter Parker’s uncle must have read Romans. Turns out Christians must walk the line between great power and great responsibility, too. Catch this:

Following Jesus has many rewards: salvation, peace, purpose, protection, eternal life with God, provision, blessings, love, acceptance….the list goes on and on. That’s powerful. 

But following God comes with a price, as well: sacrifice and suffering. All over the world, Christians are still suffering with persecution and death much like the Christians of the bible did. You and I might never face such suffering, but our followship still requires sacrifice: serving others, giving up our rights, resisting temptation, resisting the pressure to become like the world around us….the list goes on and on. Christians must accept the responsibility of submitting our lives to God’s Lordship. 

Yet, scripture is clear time and again that no matter what our circumstance is, we can be assured that:

  • God is our friend
  • The Holy Spirit fights for us
  • God works all situations for the good of those who love Him and are about His business
  • Nothing we can do can take God’s love away
  • We have overwhelming spiritual victory because we identify with Jesus

Friends, our lifetime is simply an opportunity to get to know God before our eternity with Him begins. He has made a way for us to share in all of His treasures – on earth AND in Heaven. But He also expects us to follow Him no matter what it costs us. I heard a great pastor once say that if we weren’t suffering for Christ in some way, we might not be following Him as we should. That’s good food for thought today.

With great power comes great responsibility. With great rewards come great sacrifice. Maybe you needed that reminder. I’m praying that you live and lead well today. 

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Random Observations…..

Random observations today:

When your husband greets you in the morning with, “You and your yoga pants,” it might be time for a new look. 

Air Wick air fresheners make me happy. The Clean Linen fragrance tricks me into thinking my house is clean. 

My dogs think the couches in the basement are their personal beds. 

I don’t care how chilly it is outside. I’m wearing flip flops because Spring has sprung. 

My scale must have a malfunction. I’ve been working out and eating well, but the number on my scale hasn’t budged. Stupid scale.

My secret stash of Easter candy might not have been my brightest idea. 

Sneaking a nap in the sun on a cool April day can make you red as a lobster. 

I’m craving some beach seafood. 

Tanned love handles look better than pale love handles. 

These were the thoughts zipping through my mind as I made school lunches and straightened the house this morning. You probably think I entertain much deeper ideas in my head, but today, you’d be wrong. I’m off to work out with a friend and then tackle my day.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll even buy some new yoga pants.:)

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Be Mean

be mean

 

….about the vision, that is. 

Wondering what I’m talking about today?

Vision. Tenacity. Determination. The ability to finish the race God called us to.

Whether you are a pastor, a leader, a parent, or an employer, you started with a vision.  We all did.

  • Pastors want to shepherd and disciple a group of people.
  • Parents want to raise God-loving, integrity-filled children.
  • CEO’s want to run purpose-filled, profitable organizations.
  • People want to accomplish their goals.

All of us have a vision of what we want to do and who we’d like to become, yet few of us stick to it over time. Even after short-term success, visions tend to blur, drift, and fade.

  • Pastors get sidetracked with people’s agendas and well-meaning ideas.
  • Parents get lost in demanding daily routines.
  • Organizations drown in red tape.
  • Our goals are forgotten as we address day-to-day minutia. 

Can you relate? I sure can. After 21 years in ministry, I can testify to countless times my vision for a particular ministry or group was threatened to drift away from what God originally tasked me to accomplish. Even as a parent I can feel the pull to get off course and pay more attention to a busy schedule than to the spiritual growth of my kids.

The bottom line is vision fades. We forget why we do what we do. We mean to do something specific, but we drift off course. 

That’s why I think we should be mean! We should mean to do what we do! All of us – in every role we have – should be mean about the vision God has given us. We should be intentional in our leadership! That kind of intentionality requires consistency, commitment, and yes, courage. Trust me, you need a lot of that last one. Being mean about your vision…sticking to it….saying no to some good things in order to say yes to the best things….not pleasing everyone all the time….making some tough calls….well, that’s rubber meets the road kind of stuff. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

But, here’s the payoff: life, passion, growth, success! When we resolutely stick to the vision God has given for our lives, our ministries, and our families, we flourish! And so do the people around us. Accomplishing what we set out to do brings satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentedness. That’s much better than drowning in daily minutia, don’t you agree?

My husband’s next book, Be Mean About The Vision, will help you protect and preserve what really matters. It launches April 19th, but you can pre-order it now. If you’ve ever drifted off-course or if you’d like to prevent it from happening, get this book today.

Don’t wander in random directions. Be mean about your vision. About the vision God has for your ministry and family. About the vision God has for your life. Be intentional. Be resolute.

Be mean about the vision!

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Charging Up

Have you ever tried to do something and failed? Tried again and failed? Me, too.

In small areas of life and in major commitments, I try and sometimes fail. I try to avoid cookies and fail all the time. The gooeyness of a warm cookie gets me every time. I try to guard my actions and responses to other people and fail often, too. But then these words are in the Bible:

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” Eph 1:19-20 NLT

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you and me. Seems too incredible to be believable, I know. Nevertheless, there it is in black and white. And, I haven’t found anything to be untrue in the bible, so I believe it. With the power of God, I can overcome any temptation, endure any battle, persevere through any circumstance, and say yes to any assignment He gives me. With His power I can control my tongue, become more loving and patient, and learn to put others first. With His power I can disciple my kids, serve my church, and influence others.

Because of Him, I can. So can you. His power is available to each of us.

Here’s the catch: we must seek Him with our whole heart. He must be our primary focus and our heart’s greatest desire. Only then, when His desires are becoming our desires, will we experience His power to accomplish those things.

Think of your life like your iPhone. It can do so many cool things as long as it’s charged. Once the battery is depleted, it’s useless. Unless we are charged up with God, we are useless, too.

“Charge up” today. Seek God with your whole heart and you just might discover the power you desperately need.

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Represent

 

My son’s 5th grade class went on a field trip recently, and his teacher sent a note home asking parents to prepare our kids to behave in appropriate ways while traveling. More specifically, she asked that the kids remember that they represented Paine Intermediate School, as well as Trussville, and their behavior should be respectful and kind. She was asking the kids to live up to the reputation of the city and school they belonged to. 

Hold up. I have three kids who have been on countless field trips to places nearby and far. Permission slips and parent releases have been sent home for signatures, but never – NEVER – has a note been sent home asking for students to remember the school and city they represent and to uphold a good reputation.

As I read the teacher’s note, I was inspired. Maybe even a little patriotic. Yes, I said patriotic. I liked the idea of holding our community in high regard and encouraging our kids to do the same.

If a school teacher can ask students to live up to a good reputation, how much more should we as Christians live a life worthy of our calling? Check out Paul’s challenge to Christians in the book of Ephesians:

“Therefore I, as a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” Eph 4:1 NLT

We are God’s representatives here on earth, and we belong to Him. We bear His name. My friends, we have a grand reputation to protect! And look at how Paul says we are to “live a life worthy of our calling”:

“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.” Eph 4:2-3

As people watch us, as we represent God, are we humble and gentle? Are we patient and understanding? Are we peaceful? Are we peacemakers?

Moment by moment, decision by decision, we either uphold or diminish God’s reputation. Don’t be intimidated by that….be motivated! 

God chose us to be Christ’s representatives, so let’s live lives worthy of that calling. It’s not about getting our tasks done today. It’s about representing Jesus while we are doing our tasks!

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Flawed People and An Unrelenting God

I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters in the New Testament with several friends, and we just finished Philemon and Colossians, and let me tell you they were dealing with some issues.

Here’s the skinny. Epaphras started the church in Colossae after becoming a Christian under Paul’s teaching, and Philemon hosted the church in his home. At some point, Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, stole something and ran away….straight to Rome where he met Paul. Under Paul’s teaching, Onesimus repented of his thievery and decided to return to Philemon. Umm, that was a bold and brave move! Onesimus could have been prosecuted, and he had no guarantee how Philemon would respond.

So, if you are keeping up, we’re talking about repentance, forgiveness, acceptance, and flawed people.

But, wait. There’s more.

The people of Colossae were so influenced by their culture that they were beginning to combine ideas from other philosophies and religions into their Christians beliefs, and Epaphras didn’t know what to do. Like any good student, he sought out his mentor, Paul, in Rome. After Epaphras spilled the beans on the issues facing his church, Paul wrote letter to help disciple them.

So, if you’re keeping up, we’re also talking about false teachings, ungodly living, ignoring God’s Lordship, and lack of integrity.

I don’t know about you, but it all sounds pretty familiar to me. After all, I myself am a flawed person who struggles to repent and forgive. I sometimes seek acceptance where I shouldn’t. I’m tempted to fall for lies, to choose ungodly behavior, to ignore God’s Lordship, and to lack integrity.

What about you?

Here’s the good part. The Colossians were flawed, but God loved them anyway. As a matter of fact, He loved them so much He gave them a pastor who was committed to their spiritual growth….even if it meant traveling far away to get help. God loved them so much He prompted Paul to write to them with words of encouragement and correction. God loved them so much He gave them the Holy Spirit to lead them in the right direction.

I don’t know about you, but that all sounds pretty familiar, too. I’m flawed, but God loves me anyway. He’s provided me with the Body of Christ – the church – to encourage my spiritual growth. He’s given me dear friends who inspire, motivate, and encourage me. He’s given me His Word to reveal Himself and His ways to me so I can understand Him better. And, He’s given me His Holy Spirit to guide me along the way. He loves me well.

What about you? I bet you could say the same. After all, our God is loving and gracious and unrelenting. He doesn’t give up on flawed people. Never has. Never will.

Maybe today you needed to hear that. If so, maybe God just showed you a little more love by sending this post to YOU.

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A little Easter reflection….

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. Long enough for some aspects of my faith to seem routine. Sundays can be pretty predictable as my family follows the same schedule each week. Wake up, get dressed, grab breakfast, listen to praise music as we drive, attend church, eat lunch, and then host a small group in our home.

Other areas follow a routine, as well. Reading my bible, investing into other people, prayer, and even certain behaviors are habits and seem to happen without thought. And, sometimes it’s tempting to go through the motions of the habit without experiencing the passion of the practice.

But this weekend is Easter, a time when Christians the world over will remember the passion God has for us and the bold sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Even now, as I meditate on what my sin cost my Savior, my throat constricts and tears fill my eyes. While I was a sinner with no desire to know God, He sent His son as a sacrifice for my sin. He loved me when I was unlovable! And, as I’ve walked with Him for 32 years, He has been my friend. He has defended me, been my Father, provided for me, corrected me, blessed me, taught me, and revealed Himself to me. He has been big and loud, and He has been soft and quiet. He has shown me His goodness and grace and allowed me to see Him at work in the lives of others.

None of that would have been possible without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Without His death. Without His resurrection. 

But His sacrifice wasn’t just for me. It was for my husband and kids. It was for my friends. It was for YOU. My heart is incredibly happy knowing God has made a way for all of us to live an abundant life here and a spectacular life in eternity.

If life has become routine for you, I pray that this Easter will ignite a new passion in your heart. God loves you. Meet Him at church this weekend, and celebrate the incredible gift He gave you 2000 years ago.

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The One-Two Punch You Should Know

gloveBecause of the never-ending access to other people through social media, Christians today have a real battle on their hands to avoid getting tripped up by the temptations to play the comparison game or to seek to approval of others. Or worse yet, we read about ideas that sound good, and we incorporate them into our lives and belief systems.

It happens all the time.

We constantly see images of scantily clad, super thin women, and we come to believe that defines beauty.

We listen to sarcasm and foul language enough until we, too, think it’s funny.

We read someone’s post about a new car, new phone, or new outfit, and suddenly we are discontent.

We read rants on blogs or Facebook, and we begin to believe ripping others with our words when we’ve been wronged is a good idea. 

Living the Christian life sure ain’t easy. We are constantly bombarded with ideas that challenge our standards and sometimes make us stumble.

But, there is a way to avoid those temptations. To not believe those lies. To stand strong in our faith. 

The secret….the key…to standing strong in our faith and to avoid falling for the lies is found here:

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Col 2:7

In this verse, we learn the secret is a one-two punch:

  1. Let your roots grow down into Him: Our “roots” are our understanding of Scripture and our personal, intimate relationship with God. They anchor us in our beliefs! By reading God’s word daily, our roots will grow deep and strong, and our knowledge and wisdom will expand, helping us know lies from truth.
  2. Let your lives be built on Him: Once strengthened, our roots provide us the nourishment we need to live our lives! Our knowledge and understanding of God’s word equips us to make wise, Godly choices and decisions. Our lives are built one decision at a time…..and each of those choices can be made through the filter of God’s Word!

Soooo, as we grow our roots down into Him and then build our lives on obedience to God, we grow closer and closer to our Father and farther and farther away from the enemy and falsehoods. And, friends, close to God is exactly where we want to be!

The next time life takes a swing at you, hit back with your own one-two punch!

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The One Thing I Refuse To Change

Moving to a new state to start a new ministry means tons of things in my life have changed. 

New home.

New routine.

New church.

New role.

New friends.

New hair stylist.

WAIT. 

That last one isn’t exactly true. Oh, I tried to find a new hair cutting and highlighting expert, but he only managed to effectively make me hate my hair….which, by the way, I had to live with for 7 weeks till it was time for another cut. So, I did what any self-respecting, forward-thinking, hair-loving person would do: I drove 3 hours back to Georgia for a hair cut.

Yes I did.

Not once. Not twice. Today makes my 3rd trip. I drive over, get pampered by one of the best in the business (Berni, Inc for my local Cumming, Ga friends), grab lunch with a few friends, and drive back to Bama before nightfall. Berni has cut my hair for 11 years. Why stop now? Seems perfectly logical to me since I can’t trust these tresses to just anyone, but my hubby sure wishes my hair cuts didn’t cost me a 6 hour round trip.

Men. They just don’t get it sometimes.

By the time you read this post, I’ll likely be sitting in a comfy chair, covered by a black cape, and looking like a freak with tons of little foils all over my head. Then I’ll look glorious while I do lunch with some of my besties.

Eventually I’ll have to find someone local to cut my hair, but for now I’m enjoying my little day-trips for beauty. Unless, of course, I can convince Berni to move to Birmingham.

And don’t think I won’t try!

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