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!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

Advertisements

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. 

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

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.

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

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!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

 

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.

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

What Kind Of Story Are You Telling?

story“Your lives are a letter written in our hearts, and everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.” 2 Corinthians 3:2 NLT

If our lives are a letter for others to read, what kind of story are we telling?

To answer that question, I really don’t want to get caught up in a list of do’s and don’t’s regarding our activities, and I’m not interested in wagging a finger at mistakes or failures. No, to answer that question, I want to take more of a 10,000 feet view rather than diving down into the minutia of our lives.

In the big picture….in the broad spectrum….what kind of story do we want our lives to tell? If our lives are a letter for others to read, what would we want to say?

Personally, I want to point others to Jesus. Plain and simple. That has been my desire since I was 21. I want others to know His forgiveness and love. I want others to experience His wisdom and peace. I want to show others how to navigate life. But, more than helping others, I want to know God’s love personally. I want to be passionate about Him. I want to hear Him speak just to me…to know I’m special to Him….to experience Him firsthand.

That’s the 10,000 feet view of it all. If we dive down into the details of my life, we would see that I often allow those details to rewrite my story. I sometimes get tangled up in activities, lists, and demands, and I forget that I’m telling a story. I forget that others are reading me.

That’s why reading Scripture and sitting with God each day is critical to our spiritual health! Scripture reminds us who we are called to be. It teaches, rebukes, and corrects. It encourages, motivates, and inspires.

Today, I’m going to be worth reading! I’ll share God with someone. I’ll pursue my relationship with my Father. I’ll bless and serve others with a smile. And, I’ll celebrate with joy in my heart because I’m forgiven, accepted, befriended, and loved!

That’s a beautiful story, my friends!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

The Perspective Shift That Changes Everything

The apostle, Paul, never ceases to amaze me. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11 details the trials and suffering Paul endured as he preached God’s messages in Asia. He and his friends were “overwhelmed” and “crushed” and thought they “were going to die.” Those are real emotions and experiences, not just some quaint story in a book. Paul’s focus, however, was the comfort God gave during those trials. He viewed his suffering as something to be expected in life, and he viewed God’s comfort as the beautiful gift….the supernatural strength…..to help him endure. Shifting perspective from despair to joy is nothing short of amazing.

Ok, friends. Let’s get real. Do we view life and difficulties in the same way as Paul? Do we count it as a joy to suffer in order to experience God’s comfort? Do we then count it as a joy to pass the same kind of comfort to others who are struggling? Our struggles, though very real, pale in comparison to Paul. Most of us aren’t in jail or being physically harmed for our beliefs. Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize our trials.

  • Conflicts in our relationships can bring emotional turmoil.
  • Financial stress can bring fear and anxiety.
  • Depression can bring isolation and unhappiness.
  • Parenting can bring exhaustion and frustration.
  • Medical issues can bring fear and irritation.

When we face a trial, our focus is often the trial, itself. We tend to pay attention to our pain and become discouraged. Paul was the same way, I’m sure. He wouldn’t have been human to respond any other way. But, Paul overcame his human emotions and put his eyes on God in the midst of frustration, fear, and unhappiness. He looked for the ways God was ministering to him, and he chose to be the man God wanted him to be, to soak up God’s comfort, and to pass that strength and motivation to others.

How can we do the same thing? How can we rise above the trials we face and look for God’s comfort?

  • We can praise God for the love and friendship of our spouse rather than complaining about their shortcomings.
  • We can pause to thank God for the paychecks that cover our bills and provide for entertainment for our families rather than complaining that we don’t have enough.
  • We can meditate on the goodness of God – His unending love, His forgiveness, His strength, His righteousness – rather than the perils of our problems.
  • We can look for the ways He refreshes us daily – through a bible verse, in an unexpected financial gain, in the words of a friend, in a burst of energy that allows us to get more done that we thought we could, in a quiet whisper that He loves you – instead of being blind to His activity.

So here’s my challenge for today: Don’t allow trials to be your focus or bring you down. Focus, instead, on the ways God is carrying you through the trials!

Some of you might have a hard time seeing God at work in your lives, however. If you don’t feel like He is carrying  through your trials, that could suggest you are separated from God. Feeling far from God, not hearing His voice….these are indications that you might have a relationship issue with your Father. The truth is sin causes separation in every form. Can I encourage you to pause right now and talk to God? Confess any sin and draw close to Him again.

Our trials will be difficult, but God’s comfort is enough to see us through. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

Will God Choose Me?

“But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God’s deep secrets.” 1 Corinthians 2:10 (NLT)

God CHOOSES to reveal things to us. Some things He keeps hidden; other things He reveals. Have you ever wondered why He chooses to reveal Himself to some people and not to others? For instance, haven’t you met people in life who you felt had a much more intimate relationship with God than others? Why is that? Does God CHOOSE to reveal more to some people than others?

I THINK SO!

He chooses to reveal His deep secrets to those who seek Him with their whole heart. He said so Himself in Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Oh, how I want to be one of those people. I want to know God’s heart and His wisdom. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says we can understand these things, as Christ followers, because we have the mind of Christ!

How do we get the mind of Christ? I’m so glad you asked! WE GET TO KNOW HIM! Through reading scripture. Through prayer. By being mindful of His activity throughout the day. By choosing His ways over our ways.

Friends, I want God to reveal Himself to us! Be diligent in studying God’s Word. Seek Him with your whole heart, and don’t allow anything or anyone to stand in the way of your time with God!

God has wisdom to give and secrets to share. Are you listening?

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

Learning The Hard Way

Last summer I scored an end-of-season deal on patio furniture, which was great since I needed to outfit our new home. With a click of the mouse the lovely chairs were shipped to me. In boxes…in lots of pieces inside boxes.

I guess I wasn’t thinking about the whole assembly thing. Some part of my brain must have protected me from the distressing thought of putting 10, count them 10, patio chairs together. It took 20 minutes just to properly unpack the first box and 15 minutes to make sense of my husband’s ratchet set. 25 minutes into assembling that chair I realized I had installed a key component backward and had to start over. 35 minutes later I demanded my husband take me out to eat. The first chair could wait.

Have you ever thought you were doing something really well only to discover you weren’t?

Paul talks about something similar in 1 Corinthians. The Christians in Corinth had been doing a bit of bickering about who was spiritually better than whom. In their effort to be super spiritual they had forgotten the very core of our faith: love.

In God’s view, we have little value if we aren’t demonstrating His kind of love — an unselfish love that seeks to build up and expects nothing in return.

Think about that for a second.

Paul said that if we could speak in the languages of Heaven or had the faith to move mountains (he was describing a devout believer here), but didn’t love others, we would be of no value whatsoever (1 Cor 13:3 NLT). Paul wasn’t talking about people, in general; he was talking specifically about Christians – committed, devout, serving Christians.

  • He’s talking to those of us who get so busy in the details of our volunteerism at church that we forget WHY we are serving in the first place.
  • He’s talking to those of us who say yes to opportunities to help others, only to find ourselves complaining about the work required to help them.
  • He’s talking to those of us who go to church every week but are short-tempered with daily acquaintances.
  • He’s talking to those of us who say we love God but then tear others down with our words.

YIKES! My toes are getting stomped on, y’all!

So what kind of love should we be training ourselves to show?

The kind that is patient and kind and not jealous. The kind that isn’t proud or rude or irritable. The kind that doesn’t give up and endures through every circumstance.

Reading 1 Corinthians 13 simply reminds me what God wants me to do. I will patiently and kindly love others….even those who wrong me because God does that for me. I will not allow pride to hold on to feelings of bitterness. I will not be rude in response to ill-will, and I will keep no record of wrongs. (Ok, let’s be honest. I might never forget the things others do to harm me, but I can choose not to hold it against them.) And, I will determine to remain hopeful in every relationship.

The truth is if we’re busy doing lots of good things, like serving in church or offering to help others, but we trample on people in the process, we are missing the point. God desires love, not activity. He is pleased with love, not busyness.

Let’s not live our whole lives thinking we’re doing something really well only to discover we’re not. Let’s start today learning to love God’s way. Trust me, it’s always the best way.

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

Don’t Fall For A Lie

My friend is walking through a heartbreaking time. Her child is making disappointing decisions which have been shocking, and my friend and her husband have been left reeling. They have taught their children to love and honor God, and now they are watching in great disappointment as one runs the other way. To know you have shown someone the best path and then watch as they choose a road that leads to destruction is painful. For parents, it’s heartbreaking.

When I read this verse, I couldn’t help but remember the pain my friend is feeling.

“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in His love and mercy called you to share the eternal life He gives through Christ. You are already following a different way” (Gal 1:6 NLT)

Paul was a parent in some sense of the word to the churches in Galatia. He had taught these early Christians about Jesus. He had spent time loving them, investing into them, encouraging them, correcting them, and guiding them. He was their spiritual father. I can only imagine his great disappointment when he learned that false teaching was running amuck in Galatia. I’m sure his disappointment turned to heartbreak when he learned the Galatian people were falling for the falsehoods.

In this world it’s far too easy to “follow a different way.” 

Paul experienced it in Galatia, and my friend is experiencing it right now. We all have, as a matter of fact. Often the choices before us seem good, and we dive headlong into trouble only to realize our mistakes when consequences bring pain. We are easily fooled, it seems.

The only way to stay on the right path is to know Scripture and stay connected to Jesus. He is the One who said, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT) We live in a culture that makes lies seem like truth. Without God’s Word and guidance, we’ll be tempted to believe those lies.

Thank God for these truths and hold them close to your heart:

  • God loves me.
  • God defines me.
  • God forgives me.
  • God’s grace is sufficient for me.
  • God never gives up on me.
  • God has a purpose for me.
  • God made me in His image.

Then, refuse to believe the lies that the enemy tells in order to twist God’s Word:

  • I refuse to believe the lie that God loves me only if I’m behaving well.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that my past or my actions define me.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that God holds grudges against me in order to punish me.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that I must earn God’s love.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that God will give up on me.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that I have no real purpose.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that I’m not beautiful just the way God made me.

Don’t fall for a lie when the Truth is so much better, friends. Arm yourself today!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684