Friday, July 18, 2014

How Live a Thankful Life

I was lectured by my oldest kiddo the other day because he asked if I ever explained to my readers why I haven't been blogging.  He pointed out that I had a lot of readers who were probably wondering why they were not getting a daily email or feed from my blog.  There is nothing wrong with your feed!  The reality is that I have been in the middle of a struggle with headaches and migraines, which I have always dealt with; however, they have increased in duration, intensity, and frequency.  Needless to say, they have been sapping my strength and making it difficult for me to sleep well and get up early enough to write.  The good news is that I am getting treatment and trying new things and the headaches are slowly getting better.  I am going to try to write at the very least once a week if not more from this point and hopefully as I get better, I will get back on my regular schedule.

Even with all the headaches and migraines, God has been so faithful and so good and has even poured gifts on my family.  It is truly a wonderful life to have God who is always there and provides whatever we need!  He even provides what we don't realize we need!  We all have so much from God and have a lot for which to thank Him.  Over the last few years, the internet has exploded with bloggers listing why they are thankful to God due to Ann Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts."  It is incredible to see so many people lifting up praise to God for both big and small ways He is working in their lives.

This morning, as I was reading the verse of the day by Biblegateway.com, I was reminded of another way we can live a life of thankfulness.  Please use the link and ready Psalm 119:1-8.  When we share with others why we are thankful, we are lifting up other believers and even sharing God's goodness with those who do not know Him.  It is good for us to share what He is doing; however, there is more than just words that can lift up our thankfulness to Him.  Psalm 119:7 says, "As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!"  Our life should be driven by a thankful heart that shows it in how we live.  We obey God not out of fear, but out of a thankfulness for His unending love; His love that is so overwhelming that we have a hope of eternal life with Him.  Our obedience shows Him our thankfulness.  We obviously cannot repay Him for all He has given and all He has done; however, we can live a life that honors Him.

How does your life show how thankful you are for what God has done?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Narrow Gate

My family has made several moves and there have been some things we have learned along the way.  One of the big things we have learned is that the furniture we currently own will not necessarily fit in the new space.  Even if the new home is bigger than the old home, the layout is different and the furniture may not fit.  This doesn't mean we've bought new furniture every time we've moved - we cannot afford that!  But it does mean we've either had to get rid of some of the furniture or we've had to use it differently than planned.  It is frustrating to move - I even remember once we had a very long couch we couldn't use in an apartment because the stairway was too narrow to make a turn with the long couch.  It didn't matter how we tried to change the angle and direction of taking the couch up the stairs, it wasn't going to fit in that narrow stairwell.  What was even more frustrating was that there was plenty of room in the apartment for the couch - there just wasn't room for it in the stairwell.

Jesus told us that the way to Heaven was narrow and it wasn't going to be easy.  Please read what He said about our journey in Matthew 7:13-14.  In some ways, I guess finding this narrow path is similar to what we've experienced with moving.  There are things we need to throw away in order to find and fit on this narrow path.  We need to throw away things like pride - pride keeps us from even recognizing the need for forgiveness and a Savior.  Holding on to that pride keeps us from even finding the narrow path in the first place.  Other things we need to get out of our lives in order to fit on the path are things like unforgiveness, envy, greed, idolatry, and so on.  The encouraging thing about this path is that God gives us what we really need for the journey in place of the things that do not belong.

Don't you just love how God works in our lives?  He replaces everything that doesn't fit on the path with smaller, lighter, and more useful instruments.  We are fitted with things like patience, forgiveness, endurance, strength, and so on.  We find out with every challenge on the path that if we ask God for help, He will give exactly what we need!  His burden truly is light.

Do you need to lighten your load to continue on the path?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Children Not Slaves

The word, slave, is a strong word.  In fact, it is so strong that we don't even use it today when we refer to the global problem of human trafficking.  We use the term "human trafficking," but the reality is that people's freedom is stolen from them and they are forced to be slaves.  They are controlled both through emotional and physical threats.  This is such a deplorable thing to do to another human and for most people it is considered unacceptable.  But at the time the book of Romans was written, slavery was considered acceptable by many.  So, when the reference to slavery was used, the audience reading it would understand how the life of a slave was not their own.  Please use the link and read how it was used to make a point about who we are through Christ: Romans 8:12-17.

I love the difference that is made in these verses!  I want you to keep the picture in your head of what a slave truly is.  This is a person who is being forced to do something they do not want to do with little or nothing in return.  When we choose to follow our human nature, we are told that we become slaves to our sin.  There is no way out accept through Christ.  When we allow ourselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, we are not under his control as slaves.  We are brought into His family as His children.  What difference!  We are given great promises as His children.

What God wants from us isn't always easy, but we are given His power through the Holy Spirit to get it done.  We are not slaves to sin; we are children of our Creator.  The Holy Spirit doesn't make us obey as a fearful slave; instead we obey out of love.  We obey out of confidence that we are God's children!

Do you believe that in Christ you have freedom?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Control

Would you rather be in control or under control?  What if it turns out that you can be under the control of someone who wants what is best for you?  I know that I like to feel like I am in control; however, over the years I have learned that isn't what is best.  I have learned that not only is it okay to relinquish control, but I am more content when I give control over to God (this doesn't mean I do it perfectly!).  Please use the link and read what Romans 8:9-14 tells us about the Holy Spirit's control.

We are told in these verses that we no longer need to control everything because when we do that we really are not in control - our sinful nature is in control.  When we accept the Holy Spirit's control over our lives, we will find life and empowerment to do what God wants for us.  When we are living by our sinful nature, we may think we are in control, but we are really just doing what sin wants us to do.  When we are living by the Spirit, we know we are not in control but the Spirit is in control and that is when we can also realize the incredible power that is living in us!  It really is an amazing thing - trying to control our lives leads to powerlessness and death.  Allowing the Spirit to control our lives leads to life and we experience power that is beyond our ability to comprehend.

What controls you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

What the Law Could Not Do

As I was reading through Romans 8 this morning, I was struck by the amazing gifts of mercy and power we are promised in this chapter.  I guess it is the idea that not only do we receive mercy, but we are given the power to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Please use the link and read Romans 8:1-8.

In these verses we are told that if we are in Christ there is no condemnation because through Christ God did what the Law could not do - provide mercy.  But Jesus' sacrifice went beyond that, He declared an end to sin's control over us.  That is amazing!  We are told in these verses that not only does sin no longer control us, but we are now given the power of the Holy Spirit to do what is pleasing to God.  We are told that as long as we allow the Holy Spirit to control our hearts, we will do what pleases Him.  But we are warned that if we allow our sinful nature to take control, we will sin.

You can see in these verses that the gift of mercy through Jesus isn't just a band-aide; it is a life changing gift!  It is life changing because we are given the Holy Spirit to live out the life that God created us to live.  We were created with love and purpose and when we are in Christ, we are empowered to live out our purpose.  So, the Law tells us how we should live, but it couldn't break us away from our sin.  Christ broke sin's control over us and gave us the Holy Spirit.

What controls you?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What We Do Not Have

What do you hope for?  Some things we hope for are big...we hope for healing, we hope for resolution to a major problem.  Some things we hope for are small...we hope we have time to grab a cup of coffee on our way to work, we hope that our baby will sleep through the night (maybe that's not so small!).  Either way we don't sit on our couch in the living room hoping that we can have that couch - we already have it.  We don't hope for what we already have; we hope for the things we do not have.  Our greatest hope is what we are promised in Jesus - eternal life with our Creator.  Yesterday, I looked at Romans 8:31-39 and focused on how God's love for us is so great and we can know that nothing can destroy our eternal hope we have in Jesus.  Today, I want to back-track a little and look at more of Romans 8 and see how great our hope is in Jesus.  Please use the link and read Romans 8:18-25.

We all have days that remind us that there is a better life waiting for us; a life with our Savior.  All we have to do is watch the news to remember how much pain this world is in.  Hundreds of innocent girls are kidnapped so a terrorist group can use them as pawns in their deadly games.  An incomprehensible number of people have their lives stolen from them and are forced into slavery.  People do not value life and kill one another.  War.  Natural disasters.  Divorce.  I could go on and on.  This world is hurting and there are times when we get caught in its turbulence.  But we have a hope that goes beyond the suffering of this world.  You see, this life we are currently living is for a short time in comparison to all of eternity.  We can cling to the hope we have in Jesus that we will some day receive the inheritance we have been promised.

It makes me think of when I was in labor with my first child.  It was a labor that lasted 31 hours and the thought that I had throughout was the fact that millions of women had done this before me and when it was over I would have my precious baby.  That was the hope that got me through each painful minute of my labor.  Seventeen years later, those 31 hours seem like a small little blip compared to the life we've had with our son.  That doesn't diminish the pain I experienced in the moment, but it gives me a picture of what this life will be like to us once we are living out the promise we are given through Jesus.  We can hope in the fact that it really will be so much better!  Life with our Savior is beyond anything we can understand and that hope can help us when the pain of this world overwhelms us.

Where are you placing your hope?

Monday, May 12, 2014

More Than Conquerors

I don't know about you, but it is often difficult for me to think of things with the perspective of eternity.  I am bombarded all day with things that seem urgent or of great importance.  It can be hard to see past all those influences with the idea that what I am experiencing in the moment is really just that - it is for a moment.  With the perspective of eternity, I would remember what is more important.  I think there are decisions that I would have made differently if I would have had the perspective of eternity at the forefront of my mind.  To see what I mean, please use the link and read Romans 8:31-39.

These verses are very powerful!  They remind us that there is nothing that will ever separate us from God's love.  No matter what we face, no matter what the world calls us; we can have the assurance that we are who God says we are.  When we believe and follow Jesus, we are adopted into God's family as His children.  As a result, we are reminded that nothing can change who we are in Christ.  We are God loved children, so that can empower us to make decisions that will please God.

Here is what I mean:  if we remember that our position as God's children is more important than what we are facing here on earth, it will drastically change what we do.  If we remember that we dearly loved by God, He will not let whatever we face to destroy who we are in Him.  So, we do not need to be afraid of talking to our neighbors about the great hope we have in Christ because their response will not change who we are in Christ.  And when we focus on who we are in Christ and His great love for us, we will want others to have that as well.  We may face persecution or suffering, we may even face physical death; that will not change who we are in Christ.  We are told we are more than conquerors because God is the One who justifies us and the enemy cannot change that.  Do you see how that perspective changes how we can respond to the influences around us?

Do you believe that you are who God says you are?  Do you believe that God loves you dearly?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Love Your Enemies

This week, God has really been pointing out the importance of love to me.  He has been reminding me above all, love is the greatest.  After all, love is why Jesus came and sacrificed His life for us.  So, we are told that just as we are loved by God, we should love others.  I guess that it is challenging in all situations, but when we are talking about the people we choose to be with that it doesn't seem too crazy.  But then, when we start talking about the people who seem to grate on our nerves or hurt us it becomes something bigger than ourselves.  Please see what Jesus said about love in Matthew 4:43-48.

We are to love others, even our enemies.  That seems like an impossible task and it is when we are operating in our human selves.  So, if it is impossible for us to do that why would Jesus command it?  This is because we are to love through God, not through ourselves.  We have the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to give us this supernatural love that is completely unnatural to the human nature.  Think of the impact that could have!  If we show love for everyone, not just the people we like to be with it will make a mark in this world.

Who would you rather not love?  Ask God to change your heart to love that person and see them as God sees them.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Be Intentional

I was talking with a few people who had been challenged to think about if they are being asked by other people about their faith.  They were then challenged to consider the reasons why they were not having conversations about their faith.  Either they do not know people outside of church who do not know Christ, or they are not living their lives in a way that shows there is a difference.  That is challenging to think about, isn't it?  I currently work at a church, so I cannot rely on my workplace to help me get to know those who don't know Christ.  What that means is that I have to purposely and actively pursue relationships with people outside of church.  Think about it...if I don't intentionally pursue those relationships, I will not have the opportunities to share Christ with others.

How can we be intentional?  For me, I've done things that I enjoy to be intentional.  I like to read and I love music, so I've participated in a book club in the past and I have played in community bands.  God gave us our skills and talents so they can be used by Him - whether in your local church or through other ministry.  And the wonderful thing is that we are not doing it alone!  Please use the link and read what we are told in Romans 5:1-5.  We are reminded of the great hope we have in Christ, and we are also reminded that we have the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with God's love.

God's love in us is changing us and those who don't know Christ should be seeing a difference in us.  We should be drawing people to Christ because of the love residing in us.  The more we spend with God in prayer and in the Bible, the more His love will shine through.  This love isn't just for us; His love is for everyone!

Do you have opportunities to show God's love?  If not, how can you be intentional to be in a place where opportunities will happen?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Faith Expressed Through Love

After taking several weeks off, I am so happy to say that I am back!  When I decided to take a break, I had been suffering from daily migraines and finally decided that I needed to stop since I was moving so slow in the mornings.  The daily migraines are gone and seem to be under control.  This was the first major break I have taken in five years of writing this blog.  I can honestly say that it is only by God's power that I have written a blog for that long.  When I started this blog, it was with the intention to write for a short period of time.  God had very different plans for me!

I am going to ease back into things this week by sharing some verses that God has used to speak to me over this break.  Yesterday, I read Galatians 5:6 and as I looked it up in context this morning, I wanted to share Galatians 5:5-6 (NIV):  "For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."  We are saved by Christ through faith in Him.  He showed us the greatest act of love this world will ever know by sacrificing Himself when He had no fault.  So, it is no surprise then that we see that we are told in Galatians 5:6 that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.  God wants us to show our faith in Him by loving others.

I was challenged to consider who is in my life right now that is difficult to love.  Then I was reminded how the ability to love has been given to us through the Holy Spirit.  We can love even those who make it hard for us to love through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Is your faith being expressed through love?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Taking a Small Break

For a little over a month, I have been struggling with migraines and poor sleep.  While I finally found myself headache free last week after a three week bout with daily migraines, I then jumped into a new phase of not sleeping well.  Needless to say, this has created a little difficulty for me to have time to write in the morning because I've been slow to get up.  I am planning to take a little break this week and next week just to get better.  I would encourage you to continue reading in the Bible each day.  If you don't know what to read, go to Biblegateway.com and read the verse of the day; you can even subscribe to have them send the verse of the day to your email.  The more you spend time in the Bible, the more you will crave your time in the the Bible.  Here is the verse of the day for today:

"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."  1 Peter 2:2-3.  Keep craving our amazing God!  As we have been learning, when we seek God with all our heart, we will find Him.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Comfort From Grace

I know several people who are going through difficulties this week.  Some are mourning the anniversary of a great loss, others are just experiencing a loss, and others have found themselves hurting for a loved one.  It is hard to understand why we have to go through loss and difficulty; however, we are given the promise of comfort when we seek God.  Earlier this week, I learned that a word used in the Greek for comfort can also mean to call to one's side, to speak to, to encourage, and to exhort.  I keep coming back to the fact that comfort is a word that means so much - some seems unrelated.  But, perhaps the idea of experiencing God's comfort is because we answer His call.  It is through following Him that we are able to experience comfort when we are in pain.

This promise for comfort doesn't mean that God will take away the difficulty we are facing, but we are given what we need to face it.  When you think about it, when we listen to God we will hear exactly what we need to hear.  When we come to Him when He calls, He will strengthen and encourage us.  I think some of this is because He speaks words of grace to our hearts.  We are reminded of His great love for us and it helps us to face what lies ahead.  Love - God's love - it is our greatest comfort.

"I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace." 1 Peter 5:12 (NLT)

God's grace - we are told to stand firm in His grace.  By the way, the word in this verse translated as encourage is also the same word that means comfort.  We receive comfort when we stand firm in God's grace.

Are you standing firm in God's grace?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Seek Comfort

What does the word, comfort, mean to you?  We use that word in many different contexts.  We have "comfort food," which signifies food that that not only tastes good but also holds a sort of sentimental value in making us feel comfortable.  We look for comfortable seating and choose the chair that fits us best.  We have the choice of so many different models of cars that advertise their comfort.  But there are other forms of comfort we don't always want to admit that we seek.  Earlier this week I mentioned in my Community Group that I am uncomfortable with conflict and I would prefer to avoid it if possible.  Obviously, there are situations where that just isn't realistic and I have to forego my personal comfort to do what is right.  When we go to serve the people who are oppressed, hungry, homeless, and hurting we are stepping outside of our personal comfort.  But when we seek God and His direction, we are guaranteed that we will be called out of our personal comfort and into suffering but we are also told that we will receive a different type of comfort.  Please use the link and read 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.

We see in these verses that we can seek comfort from God.  When we follow Him and call on Him our comfort comes from Him - even in the midst of our suffering.  But there is an interesting thing about the word translated as comfort in these verses.  The Greek word is parakaleĊ which has a few different meanings.  It can mean to call someone to you, and it can also mean to address or speak to someone.  But then it also means to encourage, exhort or comfort.  It can even mean to strengthen or to teach.  I find it very interesting that the word that means to call to one's side  or to speak to someone can also mean to comfort.  I know in some of my biggest struggles it is when I hear from God that I am encouraged and comforted in my situation.

"For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ." (2 Corinthians 1:5, NLT).  I love that promise!  There is so much wrapped around that word comfort because we can see just by the meaning of the word that comfort can come in many forms.  We can receive it through His encouragement, but we can also receive it through His strength.  We can receive His comfort through the lessons He walks us through.  No matter what, when we are following God and experience difficulty or even suffering, we also know that God will give us what we need to experience a different kind of comfort.

Do you seek your comfort from the materials things around you, or do you seek a better comfort that comes from God?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Our Trust Grows When We Seek God

Yesterday, I likened a baby's separation anxiety to how we feel when we don't immediately experience God where we are used to experiencing Him.  The thing that helps a baby go through that developmental stage is playing games like peek-a-boo or a simplified version of hide and seek.  The baby eventually learns that just because he/she cannot see you immediately doesn't mean you are missing.  The baby learns that there is more to presence than what is in their line of vision.  They learn to look in other places.  They also learn to trust their parents and they know that even when their parents leave they will come back.  Our "separation anxiety" with God is similar.  The only difference is that God never leaves even for a moment like parents do when they go out on a date.  I think when we spend time seeking God and finding Him in new experiences, the more our trust in Him grows.  We realize more and more that His love for us is great and He will never abandon us.  Please use the link and read what Paul wrote about what happens when we realize God's love for us in Ephesians 3:16-19.

Yesterday we saw in Philippians that we can take all things to God and not have to carry worry and anxiety.  I feel like these verses go right along with Philippians because as we grow and realize how great God's love is for us, we learn to trust Him more.  There is a wonderful thing that happens when we learn to trust Him; we experience peace!  Watchman Nee wrote in "Sit, Walk, Stand" that when we trust God we actually find ourselves in a rested position.  He likened it to driving a car.  We must sit in the car, but we do not move the car.  The car moves us.  When we trust God, it is a similar experience.  We learn that when we can quit controlling our environment and trust in the Holy Spirit to empower us and take us to where we need to be.

I guess the thing that I have learned overall this week is that no matter where we are in our walk with God we should always be seeking Him.  This can range from the person wondering if He even exists to the person who has known Him all their life.  We are constantly faced with new experiences that requires us to seek God in a different place.  He is always there - He just wants us to seek Him.  He promises that when we seek Him we will find Him.  The more we seek and find, the more we trust.  This is a huge part of our growth in Him.

Where are you in your walk with God?  Are you actively seeking Him?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Separation Anxiety

If you have ever been a parent, you were thrown into the wonderful world of child development.  Whether or not you realize it, you have become a full time specialist in parenting your children.  As part of my studies in college, I took some child development courses and I have to admit that when we were going over infancy I wasn't all that engaged.  I learned what I needed to learn; however, when I became a parent all that information began to resurface and I understood first hand how interesting babies really are.  Babies love having interaction with other babies, children, and adults.  In fact, they really do believe the world centers around them.  They are interested in their environment, but it is in relation to how their environment affects them.  Because of their stage of development this also means that if it is out of sight, it is out of mind.  If they don't see it, it doesn't exist in that moment.  This is what eventually develops into separation anxiety.  If they cannot see mom or dad, the baby immediately thinks they are gone.  Mom or dad could even be in the same room, but if the baby didn't look in their direction their immediate instinct is to believe they are gone.  Playing games like "peek-a-boo" helps develop understanding that something still is present even if it is out of our view.

I think we can be a like an infant in our spiritual development, too.  I think that when we are used to experiencing God in a certain way and finding Him in a certain place we experience separation anxiety.  We can assume that God abandoned us right when we needed Him.  However, God doesn't want us to stay infants in our walk with Him.  He wants us to grow and thrive and become the person He created us to be.  So we need to seek Him when we don't find Him where we usually experience Him.  He wants us to experience Him in new places and be aware of His presence everywhere.  When we remember that He is near and always cares, we can have peace - even on the days when we just don't seem to find Him.  Just because we didn't find Him doesn't mean He isn't there.

Philippians 4:5-7 (NIV) says, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  We can trust Him with everything; He is near even if we don't see or feel Him.  The Lord is near and we can give Him everything...everything. 

Do you trust the Lord is near?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wherever You Go

As I continue to spend a few weeks looking at seeking God, I want to spend this week exploring the truth that God is near.  Yesterday, I looked at the urgency to seek God while we can in this life because God is near.  Eternity is after this physical life on earth and reminds us that the eternal life is far more important than this physical life, so we need to seek the eternal and unseen God in this life.  We may not see Him, but we are given promises in the Bible that He is near.  Today, I want to look at how seeking after our amazing God and Creator also helps us to do the work God has given us.  Please use the link and read Joshua 1:1-9.

Looking at the history of the Israelites, we see that Joshua was one of the men who believed God.  He didn't just believe in God, he believed that God was in control and trusted that God would always be with them.  This faith resulted in Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land after Moses died.  In these verses, we see God's call on Joshua's life to lead the Israelites.  When I read these verses, it is such a wonderful reminder to me that when God asks us to do something, He is with us.  He doesn't give us something to do and expect us to do it on our own.  In fact, I think He gives us things that seem bigger than ourselves because He wants us to remember that we are not doing it on our own, but we are doing it with God.  God is doing His amazing work through us.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9, NIV.  These are the words God spoke to Joshua as He gave him the call to lead the Israelites.  We are going to face situations that seem scary or discouraging to us; however, when we can remember that God is with us no matter what is happening, we can be encouraged.  We can be encouraged that it is exactly in those moments when we will get to witness God's power at work.  We just need to continually seek God and follow Him.

Do you seek God and trust Him even when the work gets difficult?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, March 3, 2014

While He Is Near

There are certain prayers that I pray every morning before I write my blog posts.  I pray that it is all about God - that it is His words on the page, not mine.  I really don't want my thoughts out on this post because I will, without doubt, mess it up.  But I pray that God is speaking to the readers and the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts.  I pray that as I write, I am learning and growing in my faith and becoming more aware of what God wants me to do.  I pray for everyone who reads the post that they will hear what God wants them to hear.  I pray that everyone who finds their way on my blog would experience the life-changing forgiveness God has for those who turn to Him.  And since my topic over the next few weeks is about seeking God, I pray that we will all see how we can be seeking Him in areas of our lives that we haven't sought after Him before.  I want to live my life in a way that I realize that I need Him to be a part of every minute moment of my life, and I pray that will be your desire as well.  I want to be aware of my need for Him always.  One reason I read the Bible every morning is that it helps point out the fact that I need Him.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 55:6-12.

We are told to seek God while He is near.  Does that give you a sense that this is not something that we can practice the art of procrastination?  This isn't the time to say, "I can pray later."  In all that we do, we should seek Him now because He is near.  We also shouldn't wait because we will get caught up in all our "stuff" and eventually forget to come to Him.  We also shouldn't wait because life here on earth is just to short to depend on another day.  Eternity is forever, so why would we weigh this life as more important?  If we wait until this life is over, it will be too late and God will not be near us.  If we seek Him now, He will always be near - now and for eternity.

There are also some truths that God gives us about what He says.  We are told that it is never wasted.  Whatever God wants to happen with what He says will happen.  He is in control and always will be in control of this world.  So, when we are truly seeking God and spending time in the Bible, we can know that God will produce the fruit He wants to produce in our lives.  We just need to let go of our own control and trust that what God wants is what is best.

Two incredible truths to see in these verses:  if we are truly seeking God, we will find Him and God's Word will always produce His desired results.  If we know that God is in control, why wouldn't we seek after Him?

What are you seeking?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Seek to Please

Who is God to you?  Is He a distant creator who just lets the world run on its own without concern for His creation?  Is He a creator who cares but only has time for the really big issues?  Or is He a creator that can take care of the little things but the big major problems just need to be handled by us?  Those statements are what many people think of God, but I know He is so much bigger than that!  I know God is our creator and I know that He cares and loves us so much that we cannot even comprehend a fraction of His love.  I know that He is all knowing and all powerful and can work in the little and the big.  There is nothing too small to catch His attention and there is nothing too big for His mighty power.  Our God is awesome and powerful and honestly I do not think there is a language here on earth that can fully describe Him.  So, you would think that such an incredible creator who can do so much would want so much in return.  But the reality is, He just wants us to believe Him and seek after Him.  When we seek and believe our God, everything else falls into place and we will please Him.  Please use the link and read Hebrews 11:6.

It is right there - in order to please God we must have faith in Him.  We are told that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him.  Oh, what a reward it is!  Earlier this week in Jeremiah 11, we learned that when we seek God with all our hearts, we will find Him.  He is our reward.  If it is that simple, why does it seem so hard?  I know for me, it is easy to get so caught up in the external things that I can see and physically experience.  Life is concrete, it is easy to have more faith in what we see and understand to be real.  God is very real, but we cannot see Him.  We can know and believe He is real and we can even believe that nothing is impossible for God.  But what we see sometimes outweighs what we cannot see and our problems can seem bigger than God.  I think that is why it pleases God so much when we seek Him and believe Him.  We fix our thoughts on Him so we can remember that our Creator is so much bigger than this world and He cares about us.

Did you realize when you seek and believe God you are pleasing Him?  What area of your life do you need to seek and believe God even more?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Seek First

I have had a mental struggle over the last few days because something is lost.  It is something important and expensive and I have prayed a lot over it.  I even know that God can help us find it and return it to our home; however, when I go and pray it is something that I find myself immediately thinking about.  Even with that lost item at the top of my mind, there were other issues surrounding me clouding my mind as I went to pray this morning.  I usually start out praising God for who He is when I begin praying in the morning, but today I just jumped in with all my concerns.  Instead of feeling peace, I found my stress building.  That's not supposed to happen!  Can you relate to this scenario?  You go to give your worries to God and instead you feel like you're just rehashing everything all over again and feel the anxiety growing in your heart.  Even with the stress feeling building this morning, I felt God telling me to look up a verse that tells us to seek Him first and as I looked it up I realized what my issue was this morning.  Please use the link and read what Jesus had to say about worry and seeking God in Matthew 6:31-34.

Knowing how I approached my time with God this morning, can you see how the Holy Spirit is showing me what is really wrong?  God knows how important and expensive this item is and He also knows what is needed.  And know and believe that!  But when I approached Him this morning, I wasn't really seeking time with Him, I just rehashed my worries.  Please don't think I'm saying that we shouldn't go to Him with our worries and concerns!  I go to Him with my day to day concerns all the time.  That wasn't the issue for me this morning.  The issue was a heart issue.  I wasn't seeking Him first in all my stuff - I was seeking my stuff first.  Do you see the difference?

There will always be those moments throughout the day when we just need to call out to Him for help.  God wants us to do that - He wants to be the one we turn to at any moment.  The issue at stake this morning is that my problems were becoming the first thing on my mind rather God.  I want this item to be found and that became my consuming thought as I approached my time with Him.  I believe this is why I didn't feel the peace I often feel after praying.  When I make Him number one on my list everything else falls into place.  When He is out of that spot, the stress builds and everything becomes a jumbled mess in my mind.  So, as I go throughout this morning and begin to stress over the items on my mind I will pray to God, "Lord I trust you with my concerns!  Help me put my focus on You first."

Are you seeking after God first?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Seek and Find

Growing up, my parents installed an above-ground swimming pool in our backyard.  We were the only house on our street with a swimming pool, so all the kids living on our street would come over to play in our pool.  A game that we all liked to play was Marco Polo.  This was a game where a person (it) would have to close their eyes while everyone else would scatter in the pool.  When the person who was "it" would call out "Marco," everyone had to answer "Polo!"  The person who was "it" would then try to tag everyone in the pool based on sound rather than sight.  The funny thing with this game was that the person playing it could be face to face with someone and not even know it.  If you were particularly bold you would even follow or stand very close to the person who was "it." But that was a dangerous place to be because if "it" called out "Marco," you were certain to be found and tagged.  Being "it" could be frustrating in that game because you sometimes felt a little isolated even though you were in a pool full of people.

Sometimes we can feel that way with our walk with God.  There can be times where you feel like you've lost touch with Him and you feel isolated.  During those times, it is important to remember that God is always there and He always knows where you are.  It isn't God who is lost, it is us who has lost sight of where God is.  We can feel like we are calling out to Him with no results; however, that really isn't the case.  God is always listening and always caring.  Yesterday, I explored Jeremiah 29:11-14, where we read that when we seek God with all our heart we will find Him.  I want to look at what Jesus said about seeking God in Matthew 7:7-8 (please use the link).

In these verses, we see the promise that when we seek God we will find Him.  God knows who truly wants to find and know Him and He will reveal Himself.  If we already have a relationship with Him, maybe He wants us to find a new aspect of Himself.  Maybe we've wandered a bit with all our distractions and He wants us to seek Him out and get back on track on our walk with Him.  Either way, don't be discouraged!  If you feel like you've lost touch with Him - pray.  Seek Him out and pray that He will reveal Himself to you.  He promises that you will find Him.  When you find Him, you will be amazed to see that He has been close to you the whole time.

Have you lost touch with God?  Have you searched for Him?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, February 24, 2014

"I Will Be Found By You"

Have you ever been in a season of life that just seems dry?  Maybe you're tired out and drained by all the activity going on in your life.  Maybe it has been a painful time that has overwhelmed you and it is difficult to see anything beyond the hurt.  There are so many reasons why we can feel dry and deserted; however, when we follow God we can always have the assurance that we are never alone.  Even if we feel alone, we are not alone.  As my church has started a journey on prayer, my pastor preached a sermon about seeking God.  It struck me how just the topic of seeking God could probably be a sermon series in and of itself.  What a blessing it was this morning seeing what the verse of the day was on Biblegateway.com!  I realized that God was just preparing my heart on what He wanted me to spend some time.  So, with that said, I am happy to start a new journey on "Seeking God."  Please click on the link and read what God has to say about seeking Him in Jeremiah 29:11-14.

One thing I want to make sure I point out is that this is specifically a promise that God was giving to the Israeli exiles in ancient Babylon.  God promised to bring them back home and promised to prosper them.  There are many promises that are given to all believers in the Bible, but some promises were given to a specific person or group of people.  However, something that I have learned is that even though there are promises that are not specifically spoken over us in the Bible, we can certainly pray them over our lives.  The promise of finding God when we seek Him is something I believe we can pray over our lives.

Often when we find ourselves in a dry period, we also struggle seeing God working in our lives.  That doesn't mean He isn't working, it just means we struggle to see Him.  I have noticed that when I am experiencing something overwhelming or even something new, I can forget to look for Him.  But there are some things that God says in these verses that I find so encouraging!  He tells us that if we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him.  In fact, both the NIV and NLT word the beginning of Jeremiah 29:14 the same, "I will be found by you."  Isn't that encouraging!?  Don't you also find it interesting that God doesn't say that He will find us...we will find Him.  He always knows where we are, but He wants us to seek Him.  I hope you join me over the next few weeks as we explore how we can seek God in our lives.

Are you feeling dry or lost?  Are you ready to pray the promise of finding God into your life?

Friday, February 14, 2014

No Greater Love

As I finish up my study on how God renews and restores our lives, I wanted to take a look at what Jesus said His expectation was for us.  In John 15:12-14 (NLT) Jesus said, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command."  We are to love each other in the same way Jesus loved us.  I don't know about you, but that seems like a very tall order to me!  But when we remember that the Holy Spirit resides in us and empowers us to do the very things that God wants, we do not have to feel like we are being asked to do the impossible.  With God, all things are possible and that includes Him giving us the ability to love each other the way Christ loves us.

We are not all going to die in a literal sense for each other; however, we will have other things we die to in order to love one another.  When we love each other, we are laying down our pride and personal preferences.  We may be laying down our comfort.  We may be laying down our time.  There are so many things that we have to lay down in order to love each other, but this is what Jesus asked of us.  Jesus reminds us that this is what His friends do.

Are you doing what Jesus told all of us to do?  Are you living a life that reflects how Jesus' love has changed you?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sharing Love

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, which has a lot of couples scrambling to buy flowers, jewelry, and get dinner reservations.  One thing I really appreciate about my husband is that he is often doing things to show me how much he loves me, so the need to do something on Valentine's Day isn't as important to me.  It has me thinking today about God's faithful love - He loves us each and every minute of the day.  There is no special day set aside where we experience His love once a year, He loves us all the time.  The greatest expression of His love for us happened on one day; however, its effect is eternal.  When Jesus died on the cross, He did it for all people throughout all of time.  Isn't that amazing?  We are told in John 3:16 (NLT), "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."  That promise goes out to everyone who believes in Jesus.

When we believe who Jesus is and what He has done for us, we have the promise and hope of eternal life.  Eternal life with our Creator; eternal life with our Savior.  That is amazing love that truly is something our human minds cannot fully comprehend.  But, it is a faithful love that will always keep its promise.  This is the very reason we are transformed and made into a new creation.  All this week I have explored the idea that we are changed because of love; therefore, we should be showing God's love to the world.  The very love that changed us lives in us and it should be seen in all that we do.  God didn't give this love out for us to keep to ourselves - He did this so that no one would have to perish.

How are you sharing God's love?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lumens and Watts

When I think about it, I am amazed at how much light changes a room.  Have you ever been somewhere that was so dark you couldn't even see your hand waving in front of your face?  When in such a dark place, just a tiny light makes all the difference.  Prior to electricity, people used candles and oil lamps to light a room.  We look at candles as inadequate lighting only good for ambiance because we have become accustomed to bright light.  The other day I was at a home store and was amazed at how there was an entire aisle just for light bulbs - not light fixtures, light bulbs.  As I was waiting for my husband I was looking at the different descriptions for each LED and fluorescent light bulb.  They were measured in both watts and lumens to describe how much light they would give and how soft the light would be.  A few days after that, my son was watching a video about light and the video explained how light pollution completely changes our view of the night sky.  I'm sure all of you have experienced how amazing the sky is when you are in a place with very little light pollution.  For me, there was a time when I was camping on a Texas beach at the Golf of Mexico and saw the Milky Way and was amazed.  Another time was when I was in a remote village in Zambia and was amazed at the white sky!

Jesus said that we are the light of the world; specifically we have His light in us.  Please use the link and read Matthew 5:13-16.  When we are at church, it is kind of like having a lot of watts and lumens in one room, or a sky white with the Milky Way.  Our light isn't nearly as significant to us because we have become accustomed to seeing the beauty of so much light in one place.  However, imagine how that must (or should) look to someone coming to church for the first time.  Do we seem different enough that our light is noticeable?  What about when we are not at church and we are in the world?  Why would Jesus refer to us as the light of the world.  Do you think it was so we could shine our lights with each other, or do you think it was so our light could shine in the darkness?  Don't get me wrong; collectively our lights should shine great amounts of light and show people there is a wonderful hope in Jesus.  However, when we shine our lights while we are at work, school, in the store, or wherever we may be there is also a big impact.

When we are told that we are created as new creatures when we come to Christ, this announces God's glory.  This reveals the incredible work that He wants to do in all of us.  We are told to go into all the world and tell people about this great hope we have in Jesus; but we do not have to participate in the practices of the world.  It is when we are different that our light shines.  We don't have to be afraid of the dark because the light of the world is living in us.  God wants us to share His light with everyone.

Are you shining your light in the world?

This post is linked with Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, February 10, 2014

What's the Point?

Throughout the month of January, I focused on different ways that God renews our hearts and restores us to Him.  This week, I want to finish this focus by looking some possible reasons why God doesn't just bring us to Him but changes us completely.  Something I have learned in my walk with God is that He always has a purpose.  We may not recognize the purpose and things can happen that seem to make absolutely no sense, but God has an overall purpose and He will make all things work toward His purpose.  The thing that has me thinking this morning is love.  There are many places in the New Testament where we see God's desire is that all people would turn to Him, but we also see that He wants us to be a part of that.  But in order for us to be a part of that, we need to have love for other people.  Please use the link and read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

God loves all of us - He created us and loves us dearly.  He wants to see all of us to come into His kingdom, which is why Jesus died in our place.  So, when you think of how great His love is for us (so great that we cannot even comprehend how great His love is), what does it mean to you as His follower?  He renews us and restores us so that we will be like Him; this includes His love.  I will be the first to admit that without Him working in my heart it is impossible for me to love others.  But, when I begin to look at the people around me as someone God loves with the same passion He loves me, my attitude changes.  The Holy Spirit shows me where He wants to take over my self-centered nature and love others - even the person that seems to constantly rub me the wrong way.  This helps change what motivates me.  When we love others, people will be drawn in to God's kingdom.  We are called to bring others into God's kingdom, what better way than to reflect the love that God has for them?

Are you allowing God's love to change your heart?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It Begins With Our Thoughts

What is important to you?  What are your priorities?  Have you experienced a change in your passions and priorities as a result of following Jesus?  Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says, "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." 

We are to let God transform us into a new person by changing the way we think.  Isn't that interesting?  Something I have grown to learn is that it all starts with our mind - we have to let God renew our mind because that is where everything we do starts.  What we say, how we respond, the choices we make all reflect what is going on in our mind.  These verses remind us that when we choose to follow Christ and put our faith in Him, we give ourselves fully and completely over to God.  Everything belongs to Him - our bodies and our minds.  This renewal is a prerequisite for what God's plan is for our lives.  We are told that once we surrender our thoughts over to Him, we will learn to know God's will for us.

Have you let God change your thinking?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ambassadors

This week is going to be a very busy week for me and I already know that writing my usual posts in the morning will be difficult.  While I may not have time to write out my thoughts, I still want to share with you what I am reading each day.  Spend some time reading and thinking about what God is telling you through the verse and I know you will be blessed.  The verse that I am looking at this morning is 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.  These are verses I looked at a few weeks ago; however, they are on my mind again.  Please take the time to meditate on what it means to be God's ambassadors.  Think about how we become His ambassadors because He makes us a new creation.  It just amazes me to think about the fact that He has made us to represent Him here on earth so we can bring people into His kingdom!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Quality Seed

I remember when I learned that sometimes it is worth paying a little extra for good, quality seed.  My husband and I had moved into our home and we had some spots in our lawn that needed reseeding.  We went to the store and picked up some inexpensive seed and some top soil and filled the spots.  We faithfully watered the seed and the only thing that came up were some sporadic weeds.  That was when a friend explained that was the typical result with cheap seed.  The grass seed usually rots while the weeds grow.  I guess when you have to keep buying more seed, you really are not saving any money and you may as well buy the expensive seed.  God plants a seed in our hearts that will never rot; please use the link and read 1 Peter 1:22-25.

These verses remind us that not only has God changed us when we gave our lives over to Him, but He made us new.  We were born again as His children - created to reveal His glory to the world.  We are told in these verses that He planted a new, imperishable seed in us through His Word.  We are reminded that the only thing that will last in this world is His Word.  That is what gives us this new, eternal life.  The thing I love about this new life that we are told about in these verses is that Peter used the Greek word, aphthartos to describe our new life.  It is a word that means to be imperishable, unable to decay, immortal: of the risen dead (see footnote 1.)  I love that!  That is the same word that is used to tell us of the resurrection of Jesus in other verses!  This new seed is given to us because Jesus conquered death and is alive.

Remember this amazing power that is living in you giving you new life - a life without decay.  This is the power of the resurrection of Jesus living in us, changing us and shaping us to be the person God made us to be.  That is the quality seed God has planted in our hearts.

Praise God for this amazing work He is doing in you!

1.  BlueLetterBible: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G862&t=NIV

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Best Foundation

Something I know very little about is construction; I can barely hammer a nail into wood let alone actually build something of worth.  One thing I do know is the importance of having a good foundation.  If we choose to just put up walls and a roof without considering how solid the ground is, then we are pretty much setting up for an eventual collapse.  But if we choose solid ground and place down a dependable foundation before building the walls then we are giving the building a better chance of lasting a long time.  Jesus told a parable of one man who built his house on rock and one who built his house on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).  He likened our spiritual lives to this parable.  If we listen to Jesus' words and don't do what He says, it is as if we built a house on sand.  If we listen to His words and do what He says, it is as if we are building our house on rock.

I love that analogy because I remember as a child understanding this.  I remember learning that when we base our life on the wisdom found in the Bible and choose to follow Christ, we have given our lives the best foundation.  The other thing that is found in the parable is the fact that both homes faced a storm.  The one on sand collapsed and the one on rock stayed standing.  This is an important point - having a solid foundation based on Jesus doesn't exempt us from the storms in life.  There will be storms; there will be difficulties.  But when our lives are built on Jesus, we will not be destroyed.  In fact when we choose to follow Jesus, that is when God comes in and begins to restore our lives and builds us back up on the solid foundation.  Please see what Peter said on this in 1 Peter 5:6-11.

I hope you read this in both the NIV and NLT because they each bring out different points.  Notice a few things - the enemy wants to devour us, but God cares for us.  When we can remember there is a world full of believers who have suffered the same things we have, we are strengthened and encouraged to resist the devil.  We are told that God will strengthen and restore us and He will place us on a firm foundation.  That is a wonderful hope we have!  Jesus really is our best foundation.

Have you place all your trust in the best foundation?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New Planting

My husband and I once had a neighbor that loved his lawn.  Every day he was out doing some kind of work on his lawn and it was an incredible looking lawn!  One day we noticed his backyard grass had turned yellow and seemed that it was burnt from the fertilizer.  I have to admit, while I enjoy working in my garden, I know very little about keeping a lawn looking nice.  All I know is if that had happened to my lawn, it would have probably grown over with weeds.  But our neighbor knew what he was doing and replanted and within a few weeks he had a lush, green lawn in his backyard.  Don't ask me what he did...when I've tried to fill a few holes in our lawn and put fresh soil in and plant seed, it has never produced the results he got on his lawn.  Today, as I consider how God heals and rebuilds our lives after facing what should have destroyed us, there are some verses I came across in the book of Psalms I want you to look at.  Please use the link and read Psalm 126:4-6.

As I read these verses, I realize how I have lived the truth found in them!  I know what it is like to be hurting from something terrible.  I know what it is like to move forward with God and wondering how I will ever see anything good come from what I've faced.  But then, I also know what it is like to see the incredible harvest that God produced and the joy that fills my heart when I think of the healing only He could provide.  I also see how my faith has been strengthened by seeing how God provides exactly what I need in the moment that I need it.  It is not easy going through our hurts and giving our problems over to God.  It really does seem like we are bending over with tears planting one seed after another in a field that seems to have no end.  But trust me, when we do what God tells us to do the results are amazing.

You may be wondering how you can know what you are supposed to do in order to reap an amazing harvest and I want to remind you that if you are a follower of Jesus you have the Holy Spirit living in you.  The Holy Spirit provides His instruction that is perfect and is always what is best.  He speaks to us through the Bible and through prayer.  He speaks to us through other people.  Surround yourself with other believers and God will use them to speak His truth in your life.  When all is said and done, you will understand what God wants for your life.  In Isaiah, we are reminded that it is God who shows us the right way to do what we are to do.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 28:24-29 and see how God shows us what we are to be planting in our hearts.  He will always work with us and give us our next instruction.

Do you trust God's instruction on what you should be planting in your heart?  Do you believe that He can and will turn your tears into a harvest of joy?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cut Down

Lately, I have not been writing as consistently as I usually do.  Last week, I was battling a cold and I was finding it difficult to get moving at my usual pace in the morning and just didn't have the time to write out my thoughts on the verses I read.  I was inspired by some verses last week, and I hope the encouragement I received from those verses last week will come out today and tomorrow and I go through them again.  I was spending time last week looking at how God rebuilds our lives when we face destruction.  I want to continue on in that theme by looking at some verses that have been so encouraging to me for several years.  Please use the link and read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

At our previous home we had a few rose of Sharon bushes.  If you are familiar with the rose of Sharon, you know that they are a hardy bush.  They are not just hardy, but if you do not keep up with them they quickly become overgrown.  It was the end of summer when we had moved into our home and with getting everything ready on the inside of our home, we didn't really get a lot done on the outside.  Needless to say, by the next summer the rose of Sharon bushes were easily eight foot tall.  They had gotten so over-grown and I decided I just needed to cut them down completely to let them regrow.  As the branches began to grow, I found I was able to manage the growth and kept them from getting over-grown again.  One poor bush never fully recovered, but the rest ended up looking like the beautiful bushes they were created to be.  As I read through the verses in 2 Corinthians 4, I thought about those bushes.

There are things that just seem to knock the life out of us.  But, when we put our trust and hope in Jesus, we find how He instead protects us and helps us to grow.  2 Corinthians 4:10 (NLT) says, "Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies."  The things that can bring destruction are also the very things that God can use to make us grow.  When we remember the death that Jesus conquered, we have hope in the eternal life we have in Him.  So while death may always be trying to do its work in us, we find that we are rooted in eternal life through Jesus.  God will always work His purpose into our lives when we turn our lives over to Him.  Just like those rose of Sharon bushes I cut down, God will allow the life of Jesus to take over in our hearts and we will grow into the person God created us to be.

Do you believe that God wants you to regrow so that Jesus shines in you?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Devastation

Devastation.  What picture comes to mind when you see that word?  I see pictures from the news of areas that have been completely destroyed by a tidal wave, hurricane, earthquake, or tornado.  When I hear the word, devastation, it gives me a feeling of lost hope.  Destruction is so wide-spread that it seems impossible to clean up and rebuild.  What about a devastation that goes beyond the physical?  I'm talking about an event or events that seem to wreck havoc on your life.  Divorce, abuse, lost job, lost home, betrayal...anything that causes you to feel utterly hopeless.  This week, I am focusing on the fact that God really can make all things new and help us rebuild our lives.  In this world, your situation may have no hope at all; however, in Jesus there is always hope.  You see, He goes beyond "fixing" things, He takes the devastation and turns it into something that reveals His glory.  That is exciting!  Please use the link and read Isaiah 61:1-4.

Let me stop for a moment and let you know that I do not talk about the hope we have in Christ lightly.  I know what it is like to go through something that causes destruction in our spirit.  I know what it is like to be in a situation that feels hopeless and that the pain will never end.  But I also know what happens when we allow Jesus to do His work in those situations.  Rebuilding doesn't mean undoing what we've been through; but when we have Christ's power working in our devastation, rebuilding means turning something horrible into something beautiful.  My life is proof of God's amazing power to heal and rebuild.  He really can take any devastation and turn it into something He can use.

When we read in these verses that He will give beauty for ashes and joy for mourning - I can tell you from experience that this is true!  But there is one thing we have to remember - we have to believe God and put our hope in Him.  We have to turn the job over to Him and let Him draw up the building plans.  We have to let go of our perceived control and let Him take over.  When we can trust Him, we will see hope in hopelessness.  In Christ, there is always hope!

Can you turn your devastation over to Jesus?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rebuild

One day on my way to work I noticed that a house in my neighborhood had burned down overnight.  I felt so horrible for the owners because it appeared to be a complete devastation.  I cannot even imagine how horrible it had to be to go through such devastation.  But, over several months the house was rebuilt and looked even better than it did prior to the fire.  While the owners of the home probably lost almost everything they had in the home, it was so good to see that they were able to rebuild and refurnish the home.  It didn't happen overnight; in fact, I remember at one point wondering if the builders would ever finish the home.  I remember wondering about the celebration the owner must have had the first day they moved back in to the home.  The verses I am looking at is a promise God gave to the Israelites that when they turned back to Him they would rebuild the ancient ruins.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 61:1-4.

All last week, I focused on the fact that God renews strength to the weary who put their trust in Him.  This morning as I was thinking about the idea that we can rebuild our broken lives when we put our trust in Him, it occurred to me that this also happens because of the strength God gives us.  Rebuilding takes strength, and rebuilding our lives takes tremendous emotional strength.  I love these verses because even though they were originally written as prophecy of the rebuilding of Israel after years of captivity, Jesus also referred to these verses when He was questioned if He was truly the Messiah.  Jesus showed us that these verses were more than just a literal rebuilding of Israel; these verses were also talking about a spiritual rebuilding.  He was showing us that He was the true hope of which these verses spoke.

Rebuild.  That sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it?  So many of us have faced devastation of some sort in our lives.  Broken promises, broken homes, broken hearts.  But Jesus gives a hope of rebuilding.  He gives us hope of so much better:  healing, forgiveness, renewal.  All this week I want to look at how God turns devastation into His splendor.

What needs to be rebuilt in your life?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It Is All About Him

My daughter and I downloaded an app that provides a seven minute workout and the first time we used it I was amazed at how weak I've become!  This time last year, my husband and I had been in a routine working out at the gym every morning and on Saturdays we'd been going to a class that combined yoga and Pilates.  As our kiddos have been getting busier schedules, it was getting harder and harder to get to the gym at 5:00 am because we were staying up later.  I didn't like doing side planks; however, I could do them when the yoga/Pilates class called for them.  Needless to say, it was very discouraging when I found that I could no longer do a plank.  Over time, I had built up a lot more strength than I realized and now that I lost it, I know that I have a long way to go.  Ugh!  Strength doesn't come over night; I had built it up by having a regular routine of working out.  The other thing is that we can spend a lot of time working out and building up strength, but we can lose it easily once we stop working out regularly.

All this week, I have been looking at strength and how God renews strength to the weary when they trust in Him.  But this strength goes beyond just the physical; this is a strength that carries us emotionally.  This is a strength that allows us to serve God fully and completely.  Today, I am looking at some verses that remind us why it is so important that we operate with God's strength rather than our own.  Please use the link and read 1 Peter 4:10-11.

We are told to serve with the gifts that God has given us.  But notice what verse 11 says; we are told to serve with the strength and energy God provides.  One thing that I've noticed is that I as I have improved my prayer-life and as I have spent more time reading the Bible, the more I have learned to let go of myself and serve using God's strength.  I think this is because the more I spend time with God, the more I have learned to trust Him.  Just like we need a routine to stay physically fit, we also need to spend time serving, praying, and reading the Bible.  I would just caution that it shouldn't be a "routine," it should be what sustains us.  We should recognize that we need this time with God.

The more I serve Him, the more I learn that it isn't about me; it is all about Him.  We are reminded in 1 Peter 4:11 why it is so important we do things with God's strength rather than our own.  Aside from the fact that our strength will never be enough, 1 Peter 4:11 (NLT) says, "Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ."  It isn't about us - it is all about bringing glory to God!  When we use His strength, we can point others to Him.  When we can be humble and recognize that we do not have enough strength to serve Him, we can then bring Him glory by serving with His strength.

Are you bringing glory to God by using His strength?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Strength and Song

When I am feeling drained or stressed, it is amazing how a good song can lift my spirit.  In fact, as a past music therapist I can tell you there is research showing how people have various responses to different styles of music and the most effective music to use in a music therapy session is music that the person likes.  To me, that just makes sense because I know how playing a favorite song will cheer me up and even energize me.  It becomes even more powerful when I am listening to or singing a song that I like that points me to God.  In fact singing the song elicits an even stronger reaction for me than just listening.  I'm sure you can relate.  In the music therapy world it is the difference between being a passive or an active participator with the music.  So, knowing this, imagine how excited I get when the Bible refers to music - it is speaking my language!  So, I am excited about the verses I am looking at today because they talk about music.  This week, I am focusing on how God renews our strength and how God is the source of our strength.  As I was reading this morning, I read some verses in Isaiah that I haven't read in a long time and I want to share them with you.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 12:1-3.

For the last two days, I looked at how God gives strength to the weary; specifically to those who put their hope in Him.  I want to point out the need for trust.  In order for our hope to be in Him, we need to trust and believe Him.  So, the result of our trust and hope is strength.  These verses in Isaiah 12 point us to the importance of placing our trust in Him.  When we do that we find salvation, strength, and we are filled with praise.  In fact, I believe that as we grow to trust Him more and more, the more a song of praise is in our hearts.  As that praise is in our hearts, we find our weariness fading and we experience God's strength and joy.

I mentioned earlier about being a passive or active participator in music, and our faith is the same way.  Some may view absolute trust as stepping aside and passively watching God do His thing; however, I would completely disagree.  Faith is a very active life.  It is a far more passive response in our faith to depend on ourselves and fill our life with stress.  However, it is a very active choice to trust in God and follow His direction.  Any time I have been stretched in my faith and had to completely depend on God in a new area of my life, I felt like I was actively participating in His plan.  When I quit struggling with wanting to do things myself and let God take over, I found myself filled with peace and joy and most definitely a song of praise.  This is because I got to see God work incredible things in a difficult situation.

Those who actively participate with the music therapy session will see more benefit than those who passively participate.  Don't you think our faith is the same.  When we choose to actively trust God, that is when we also get to experience His strength in a whole new way.

Are you actively participating in God's plan?  Do you trust Him?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Strength To The Weary

What does the word, weary, mean to you?  Looking it up at dictionary.com, the definition includes words such as tired or fatigued or even mentally exhausted from work.  I'm sure all of you can relate to that feeling - we've all been there at some point.  Weariness can come from anything - even things we love doing.  Perhaps you are weary because you feel your creativity sapped from you and you feel uninspired.  Perhaps you feel weary in your parenting or marriage.  Maybe you feel weary at work.  Maybe you are weary in the ministry you are involved in.  Weariness can come from both good and bad events in our lives.  But something I've been learning is that weariness sets in when we choose to trust ourselves over God.  The minute I am relying on my abilities and strength to do something; I find myself getting weary.  This week, my focus is on the fact that it is God who renews our strength and He even promises strength to the weary.  I want to look at the same verses I looked at yesterday; please use the link and read Isaiah 40:28-31.

Yesterday, I learned that the word used for strength in these verses can mean strength of humans, angels, or God.  But it also refers to the wealth or produce that comes from the soil.  Knowing that God refers to our hearts as soil and that He plants good seed in our hearts, that really brings out a whole new dimension in these verses.  This is a good reminder that it isn't us who causes the fruit that we are to produce in our lives; it is God.  The minute we try to produce the fruit on our own we become weary.  As long as we continue to trust in God's provision and strength we find our strength continually renewed.  I believe the best way to keep in line with trusting and believing God is to stay in the Bible and continually pray.  Our trust and faith in Him allows His strength to reproduce itself in our lives.  Are you feeling weary?  Can you turn that over and trust in God's provision?

Are you trusting in God or yourself?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Renewed Strength

While my family was serving on a team in Zambia, I became ill.  I was sick with a cold by my second day in the country and within a few days it had sapped all my strength and energy.  By the time we were in our last few days of the trip, I found myself having difficulty getting out of bed because I felt so horrible.  But here is the amazing thing - I was still able to do all the work that was set before me.  I would roll myself out of bed and get ready to go knowing that there was no way I could make it through the day without God giving me the strength and stamina I would need to teach.  Sure enough, I would complete my work for the day and enjoy my time with the students I was working with.  Don't get me wrong I was still sick (I even ended up on antibiotics when all was said and done), but somehow God allowed me to have the energy I needed right when I needed it.  It was so amazing to experience this God-given ability to make it through the day despite my illness!

In the Bible, God tells us that He is the one who gives strength to the tired and weary.  He is the One who gives us exactly what we need to do the tasks He places before us.  Please use the link and read Isaiah 40:28-31.  Even though I personally experienced the physical endurance I needed from God, I don't believe that these verses are only talking about a physical strength.  I believe that this refers to any type of strength we need.  The Hebrew word translated as "strength" in these verses is koach and it refers to strength of humans, angels, or God.  It also refers to the produce that comes from the soil.  Isn't that interesting?  There are other Hebrew words that could be translated as strength, yet the word that is used for strength in these verses is a word that also refers to the wealth or produce of the soil.  There are some references Jesus uses in the New Testament that show us our heart is like soil that God wants to work in.  When we give our hearts over to Him to do His work, that is when He will produce what He knows we need to do His work.

We are also told that this strength comes for those who have placed their hope in God.  When we can recognize that there is no way we can depend on ourselves and we place our hope and dependence on God, we experience God's ability to produce amazing things in us.  He produces the energy, strength and abilities to do what He called us to do.  Experiencing His ability that goes beyond our own is absolutely amazing and it is something He wants all of us to experience.

Where is your strength coming from?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Re-purposed

When my husband and I were in our first two years of our marriage, my aunt and uncle gave us some of their old furniture.  The furniture was in great shape and some of it is still in use by us (so many years later).  Some of the pieces they gave us was a couch and two chairs that they had in their family room.  The frame was still in good shape; however, the upholstery was outdated.  My father-in-law reupholsters furniture, so we picked out some new material to put on the furniture.  The material was cream colored and I pictured it to be put to use in our living room, where we would entertain company or host our small groups.  Once it was done, I saw how perfect it would be for that use!  It was no longer suitable for the family room (or TV room) where people would be eating popcorn and snacks while watching a movie and the cream colored upholstery would become stained.  This furniture now had a new purpose.  The furniture had been bought in the 1960's, so with the new upholstery on it and put to use in the 1990's, many people thought we had bought some new modern furniture.  Overall, it was the same furniture - it was just renewed and re-purposed.  God does that with us as well.  When we come to accept Christ as our Savior and choose to follow Him, we are given new life and a new purpose.  Please use the link and read 2 Corinthians 5:16-18.

We are told that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation.  That is incredible!  Physically, we are still in our bodies; however, in our spirits we are new.  These verses in particular focus on our thinking and how we view others.  We no longer should be regarding people from a human perspective, we should be viewing them as people who God deeply loves.  We should be viewing people as those who God so desperately wants to see a part of His family.  We are a new creation!  We no longer need to look at the world and judge their actions; after all, if the world doesn't know Christ, how could they possibly be empowered to live a life that honors Him?  We shouldn't be surprised and upset when the world falters in its sin.  Instead, we should view the world as part of our mission and understand how much it is hurting.  We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:18 that God gave us the ministry of bringing people to Him - not a ministry of judgement.

This new life is supposed to change our thinking and view of the world so that we will bring more people into God's kingdom.  He wants us to share the joy we have in His grace with the world.  That truly is a new way of thinking with the new life we have been given.  We are no longer focused on ourselves and comparing ourselves with everyone else.  We compare ourselves to the perfect standard Christ demonstrated for us and reach out and love others.

How are you living out your new purpose - your new life?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Infinitely More

Sometimes, I feel like I have to tell my kiddos "no" a lot.  It is not because I like to say the word, it is because they either ask for something that isn't good for them or they ask for something we cannot afford or do.  I actually hate telling them "no"; I wish I could always say "yes" to them.  But that's not what would be best for them.  Sometimes we tell them "no" because we actually have something better planned.  It could be something they wouldn't even think to ask for because they didn't think it was a possibility.  Or it could be something they never thought of.  Those moments are so fun!  It really is awesome to see their reaction when we tell them we are going to do something as a family they did not expect.  God does that with us, too.  There are things I have received from Him I never even thought to ask for, such as going to Zambia to serve at a music academy with our entire family.  Deep down I always thought it would be neat to go on a mission trip as a family, but I never asked.  And then to go on a mission trip seemingly tailor-made for our family was overwhelming!

As I continue on with my "Renew and Restore" theme for the next few weeks, I wanted to remind myself how God's work in us is truly amazing.  He does a work in our lives that is beyond anything we ever expected.  I love the way the NLT words Epehesians 3:20-21, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen."  Isn't that a wonderful reminder of the work He does in us?  His mighty power working in us is able to accomplish infinitely more than we may ask or even imagine.  Whenever I read that verse my mind goes crazy!  It is hard to think that He is doing a greater work in me than what my imagination can draw.  Whatever we think we need, God knows what we need and gives that to us.  What He knows extends far beyond what we think.

Just like we as parents want to provide so much more and better things than what our children think they need or want; God provides exactly what we need beyond our thinking.  He see a greater purpose - a bigger picture.  This is because the work He is accomplishing takes His hand - only He can do what He does in our hearts.  We just need to be willing to let go of our human desires and surrender to His perfect work.

Do you believe that God wants to accomplish more in you than you can even think to ask for?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Unprecedented

I live in Western New York in an area where the meteorologists are going crazy with news of our impending storm.  According to the weather reports, the area where I live will see wind chills of -30 degrees Fahrenheit (that would be -34 Celsius) and two to three feet of snow by Wednesday.  We'll see how much is hype and how much is really going to be that way, but everyone is preparing to be shut in by stocking up on some food.  Because of wind gusts, they are also predicting power outages as well.  Either way, a common word I have heard is "unprecedented."  Some meteorologists have gone as far to say that a weather event that is so dramatic for a lot of our country is unprecedented.  That got me thinking about that word.  Unprecedented.  That means something we've never seen or experienced before.  As I was praying before jumping in to  the Bible this morning, that word came to mind.  Unprecedented...that is most certainly the only word that can explain the work God does in us once we choose to believe and follow Him.  He does a work in our hearts that has never been seen in us before.

Over the next few weeks, I am looking how God wants to renew and restore our hearts.  The renewal happens when we choose to follow Him, restoration happens when we see ourselves slipping away and we ask Him to bring our hearts back to where we were when we first believed.  Both events are unprecedented because we cannot personally make our hearts new.  We can change our mind and learn to react in new ways; however, true heart change can only come from the one who created us.  Ephesians 4:20-24 (NLT), "Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." 

Something I find interesting in these verses is that there still seems to be a choice on our part.  If we truly want to experience renewal, we have to choose to allow the Holy Spirit to do His amazing work in our hearts.  He can renew our thoughts and attitudes, but we have to give them over to Him.  Our new nature that we are given is created so we can be like God.  What do you think of that?  When He renews our hearts, He is making us to be holy and righteous.  It makes me wonder how often we walk around with our old self, forgetting that He has given us something new to put on.  Maybe that is why so many of us don't feel this amazing renewal - we haven't put on our new nature.  We have to want to put it on!

Have you put on your new self God has given you?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Restore

School has been canceled today for cold weather and two out of three kiddos are still asleep.  This means I have a bonus day to spend with my family!  But this also means a bonus day to get the things done that I really don't want to do (but I really need to do).  Either today or tomorrow I will be taking down the Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations and restore my living room to its usual state.  I really like having the tree up with all its lights; however, I have to admit that there is a wonderful feeling to having my home back to normal.  With the new year on us, I took a look yesterday at the idea of God renewing things in our lives that need a fresh perspective.  Today, I want to consider another word: restore.  What do you think of when you hear the word restore?  Restoration?

Growing up, my mom would take some time each Saturday morning watching "This Old House" on PBS.  They would spend an entire season fixing up an old house and often the owners were trying to restore the house to its original condition.  It is cool to see an old Victorian home restored to the state it was originally created to be.  This makes me think of our own spiritual lives - our walk with God.  Yesterday, I looked a little at Psalm 51:10 where the author prayed that God would renew a stable spirit in himself that is established in God.  Today I want to skip a few verses and look at Psalm 51:12 (NLT):  "Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you."  What a wonderful prayer!  The author prayed for God to restore the joy of his salvation.  Once again, this gives me a picture of God taking our hearts and bringing them back to the original condition when we first learned of our salvation through Jesus.  Isn't that a beautiful thought?

For the next few weeks, I want to spend time looking at what the Bible tells us of God's ability to renew and restore our lives.  We can see what we can pray over into our lives.

What do you want to see God renew and restore in your heart?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.