Acceptance fuels Hope

Acceptance-1

The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. Isaiah 35:1-2 NIV

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. 12 Step Prayer

Your life and life experiences, right now, do you love them, hate them, resent them or rejoice over them? Feelings are such strange creatures, aren’t they?

Whatever my emotions might like to speak to my soul today, I know that God has me where I am because it is what I need to mold and shape me in the image of His Son.  Honestly, I don’t always like it, but I am beginning to learn to accept it with a little more grace.

As Christians, we don’t believe in happenstance or chance. Luck is not our friend, nor is it the way forward for us. For us, it’s important to accept that God is in control and will remain so for the entirely of our existence. It’s what makes Him God and it’s truth, so we need to consider it.  It also should bring us hope and a firm assurance, to realize that God is God and forever in control, for we know that He has our good in mind at all times.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Some people use Jeremiah’s words to assure themselves of good things ahead for themselves. But what kind of hope do they have for the future? Will God’s blessing over them bring them riches, and if so, what kind of riches? What are we looking for from God?

Wealth?

Health?

Power?

Prestige?

A safe haven?

A place to live free and happy in the light of God’s love?

Jeremiah was talking to a people about to go into captivity when he delivered his assurance promise. No one needed it more than the audience to whom he preached.  His message was one of restoration. The pain Israel was about to bear would not last forever. One day, God would restore what sin had stolen.

It’s important that as we enter into a time of trial and temptation, when our defenses are down and our souls are weak, that we have a promise to cling to…something to get us through the hard.

This morning, as I spend a considerable amount of time in prayer (because yeah, today I need extra of God and His consoling Spirit), I’ll remember God’s promise to me.

If we will trust Him with our tomorrows, He will get us through today.

If we will confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

If we will blossom where He plants us, He will make us into testimonies to His love.

Today, I’m using prayer to get me willing.

How do you become willing to obey God and bloom where you’re planted?  How important is hope to you, in the hard times?

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Leviathan

Leviathan_(One_Dream)

Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? Can you put a reed through his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak softly to you? Will he make a covenant with you? Will you take him as a servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you leash him for your maidens? Will your companions make a banquet of him? Will they apportion him among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons, or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle—Never do it again! Job 41:1-8 NKJV

There’s a new Jurassic World movie out in the theaters this week. Seeing all the advertisements for it while reading from the book of Job, I’m reminded how often God uses the things of this world to make a point with us about the world beyond. It’s a good thing, too, because we sometimes struggle to make sense of what we can see, smell, hear, and touch in this world, much less understanding anything like the magnificent artist powers at work in the universe beyond our reach.

We can no more corral God, than the people of Job’s time could wrestle with Leviathan.

God was making a point with Job when he used the example of the Leviathan: God is big, God is powerful, and God will not be tamed by men. Nor will He take orders from them, or answer to them. This is good news, because if we could tame God, He would cease to be God as we know God. Right?!

No one wants that!

In a movie about dinosaurs, mankind might find it hard to survive, but we are not in a movie. We are real, living, dependent and frail humans, in need of a real-life Savior who can hide us in the shadow of his wings. We need the Almighty, who has all dominion and power in this world and all worlds.

Job learned a lesson about who God is and how distinct He is from mankind through his suffering and conversations with the Lord. We can learn a lesson from Job’s example, too.

I love that last line from the New King James Version, in Job 41:8, “Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle—Never do it again!” God was making a point about his Supremacy when He wrote that line. I think Job got it. What do you think?

How big and strong is your God? Do you do what he asks, or keep asking Him to follow your lead?

 

 

 

3 things about being Christian

 

If you’ve spent any time here at all, you know I’m unabashedly Christian; have been since my youth.

Disclaimer: I am not perfect, nor even poised most days. Just so you know…

There are many reasons why I love being a person of faith in general, and a Christian, in particular. I thought I would blog about three of them today.

THREE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BEING CHRISTIAN

1- I love the fact that Jesus first loved me. This is one of the greatest blessings in my faith journey. The fact that Jesus loved me first, means I don’t have to do anything to make him love me. He already loved me, when first he met me. I don’t have to work at being more me to get love from Him, or fake being someone else He might want to love. He’s already thrilled and enthralled by me. I don’t know why or how that’s so, but I think it’s pretty cool. I don’t have to work for my Jesus’ love!

O be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

2- As a Christians, I love that love comes to me with no strings attached. I get all of the goodies, all of the time, and I don’t have to do anything to make it happen, other than believe. I never contribute to the strength of my salvation or faith. Not my gig; that is God work. But don’t get me wrong, I do plenty to make sure I’m growing as a disciple. I just never worry about whether I’m loved by Jesus as I do those things. Never! Not on my good days, and not on my bad. For a kid who grew up the way I did, that’s huge.

Sing to God! Sing praises to His name. Exalt the One who rides on the clouds—His name is the Lord—and rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, and a defender of the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God settles the lonely in families… Psalm 68:4-6

3- I love that as a Christian, my central focus is love. Loving God. Loving Jesus. Loving the Holy Spirit that lives in me. Loving my family. Loving my friends, and loving those that are yet to become friends. Some days, exemplifying love to/for others seems counter to my nature. That’s when I pray and meditate on all the love that’s come to me over the years I’ve been walking with Jesus, and I begin to melt into gratitude once more. He loves me every day, regardless of how I behave. How can I not want to learn from Him and do the same?!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear… We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18 & 19

Are you a person of faith? Do you love experiencing the love that comes back to you from your Savior?

VBS

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

Vacation Bible School (VBS), is happening at our church in a couple weeks, so I thought it might be fun to recall my experiences with VBS as a child, today, to remind me and share with you the importance of getting involved in this type or program at your local church.

Whether you call your summer children’s program VBS or refer to it by some other name, know this, it is important for the spiritual development of children to offer a program like this in your church or your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to happen at church, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to share the love of Jesus with a child. It just needs to happen. Below, is my story of how I came to know Jesus. I hope you know him, too.

MY VBS. MY CHALLENGE.

Although I attended church with my gramma as a young child, it wasn’t until my mom hosted a neighborhood VBS that I really heard the Lord speaking life into my heart. I think I was eleven or twelve at the time. I wish I had possessed the forethought to write it down when it happened, but at that age and with little experience in religion, how could I know how significant this event would be for the rest of my life? I remember vividly a Child Evangelism Fellowship worker, named Dorothy, telling us the gospel story and using the Wordless Book as her only resource. Well, that and a heart full of love for Jesus—which was more than enough to grab my attention and encourage me to pray a little prayer that Jesus would love me forever, as she prompted the group.

My first challenge to the pact I’d made with God that day on our front porch, had to do with lying. My mom had baked a chocolate cake and frosted it, then set it on the kitchen table to wait for dinner (or maybe it was for some special occasion I don’t remember), as the battle began.

“Don’t touch that cake.” She’d warned us.

Ahhhh, sounding that kind of warning is like setting off a beacon light in the mind of a kid. From that moment on, all I wanted to do was eat that cake. I mean ALL I wanted to do!

I was single-minded in my pursuit of a way to eat some of that cake and get away with it.

I could hear the enemy whispering, as I tried to resist. “Go ahead. She won’t find out. She won’t know it was you. Do it now! Do it quickly. Grab and run. Don’t tell. Sneak away. Eat it in isolation. You shall not surely die!”

That devil, he is a wild one, and so shrewd. He knew the longer he kept it up, the less I would be able to resist what my nature so clearly said was already mine.

Entitlement.

Pride.

Self-centeredness.

Ego.

Sin!

The devil won that skirmish, which meant Jesus lost, but I was a loser too. Mom found out. I finally confessed under the pressure of guilt. It all came rushing out accompanied by hot tears of fear and regret. She understood. She’d lied before, too. She had a problem with food, too.

She found sugar hard to resist, too.

I think my mom felt worse for me than I did. She knew the path I was now on. Never again would there not be a battle raging somewhere within me. Jesus wouldn’t let go, and satan wouldn’t stop. Still, I’m grateful.

Grateful to God for loving me.

Grateful to Jesus for saving me.

Grateful to my mom for forgiving me.

Grateful to the Holy Spirit for continuing to work on me.

Grateful to Dorothy for being willing to share what she had with others.

Grateful for VBS!!!

VBS made a difference in this woman’s life as a child. Certainly, it makes a difference today. I am, because He is, within me. Sooo blessed!

Thank you, all you wonderful, amazing, selfless, sacrificing VBS workers, you! I am saved because you gave of yourself. My husband is saved. My children are saved. My daughter-in-law is saved. My grandsons are saved. Many of my friends are saved. My church family is saved. My boss is saved. All because one woman gave, and Jesus gave all. How amazing is that?!

I’ll shout it from the rooftops.  Thank you, Jesus!

What is your experience with VBS? Did you go? Do you work it? Are you saved for eternity?

If you don’t know Jesus, but you’d like to, contact me. I’m available to talk at churchoose@gmail.com

 

 

Pondering suffering

…God teaches men through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes. Job 36:15 TEV

No matter what you’re going through today… no matter the hoops you’re being asked to jump through…

The pitfalls.

The hurdles.

The raggedy edge of emotional cliffs.

God is still working. He’s still loving you, more than you can imagine. He’s still ruler and still in charge.

Believe it!

Trust Him!

He’s good, and even though I would prefer to learn through gentle nudging and tender mercies, I know that being tender with me when what I need is a stern presence, yeah, it’s not so helpful.

job

Sometimes I have to learn my lessons, as we say, “the hard way.” And although I hate to admit it, those hard lessons are the ones that have stuck with me over time. The Scriptures are right when they teach us that God uses suffering for good.

I have learned through suffering and distress!

I have also used what I’ve gleaned in the tough times to course correct for the future, for my good. But not for my good alone. Others have benefitted from those course corrections, too. They’ve been helped by the things I’ve learned, too.

God has used distress to open my eyes!

Today, it may be that God is using distress in your life, to open your eyes and shake things up in your life, or to point you to a conclusion you never would have seen had it not been for the pressure bearing down. Know this: It’s for your good that the pressure is being applied. It’s getting you where you need to go, and it’s fortifying you for the future. Every weight lifter, distance runner, or athlete of any kind will tell you it’s when the pressure is on that they’ve been stretched, strengthened, and able to build muscle.

What I’ve found most helpful in the suffering times is praise.

Praise turns things around.

Praise changes my perspective.

Praise gets my mind and heart in the position to receive from God.

Praise enlarges my territory and helps me see that for now suffering may be painful, but tomorrow I’ll be glad of it.

Today I’ve made a decision to be grateful through the hard. To be thankful for God with me, Immanuel. To be used by God to gift another with perspective. To realize that everything God does, he does for my good. He loves me, more than I love myself. I might not allow me to be touched by suffering or grief, had I my druther. God will allow it, because of how it changes me. How it molds me. How it shapes me. How it helps me be closer to Him and more holy.

Is it worth the trade-off in my life: suffering for glory? It is. Is it for you? You have to decide. Truth is, you won’t be able to keep suffering from you for all your life, so why not learn from it and be made like Jesus?

What are you thankful for today? How has gratitude and thankfulness brought you closer to God and made the tough times seem worthwhile?

 

 

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What is your chief means of relaxation?

Is it golf?
Is it cooking?
Maybe it’s ironing.

Some people love the whoosh, whoosh of a hot iron moving across wrinkled fabric. It gives them a sense of wholeness and harmony knowing that at the end of their project they will have revitalized a piece of clothing that was near and dear to its otherwise crumpled owner’s heart.

Maybe you pray to sooth yourself or relax.
You might eat?
Some folks drink coffee, though that seems counter-intuitive to relaxation, unless it’s decaf.

Have you ever tried meditation?

Meditation is a way of quieting our minds, and ushering us into a better understanding of God’s mind: His decisions. His meaning in our experiences. His purpose in our trials.

The Bible has much to say about reflecting on God’s Word. Below, are just a few verses that speak about this practice of quieting our minds and practicing the much-needed art of sitting still and being consciously mindful of God. They are nutritious food for thought for those who have learned this art of patient reflection. For those who are still learning, they are a good place to start.

As you celebrate some quiet time with God today, read and consider these verses. Then, get quiet and think long on what God is saying to your heart in this rapidly changing, always noisy, hard-to-shut-down, busy world.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 ESV

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 ESV

…brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 ESV

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Proverbs 4:20-22 ESV

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV

What does meditation buy for you, in the way of peace, serenity, and a better understanding of God?  How often do you meditate and pray?

Jealousy-800x533

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44

How do people get drawn to the Lord? Have you ever wondered?

Is it a work of wonder only God can accomplish, or…
Is it something we partner with him to achieve?

The Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it seems to me we would be a part of the equation. Have you ever wondered?

Ezekiel 36:24-25 says that God will gather his people and bring them into their own land. Verse 25 says, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”

It’s evident from Scripture that redemption is the work of God.

He saves.
He cleanses.
He births.
He renews.
He redeems.

But we do have a part to play? I believe we do.

We testify.
We obey.
We mimic.
We surrender.
We teach, instruct, rebuke, and testify by example.

When we are serving rightly, I think others notice. When we are lax in our service, others notice. What that means for me is that we need to be on task as often as possible.

As often as possible!

We also need to remember that saving isn’t our gig.

Rejoicing in our own salvation—that’s where we shine—and that’s where we make walking with Jesus a living testimony for others to see and want for themselves.

As I think about how people come into the kingdom of God and my part in it—yours, too–I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote about jealousy.

“So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” Romans 11:11

It appear that more than one fellow has been drawn into the kingdom through jealousy. I suspect that number is many, many more than one.

Let’s make them jealous of our joy today. Let’s brag on Jesus all day long!

Was jealousy any part of your decision to follow Christ? When have you observed the faith, blessings, or intimacy with Jesus that another believer had and wanted it for yourself?

 

Contentment

Contentment: a state of happiness and satisfaction.

Resignation: the acceptance of something one believes undesirable but inevitable.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a minimalist. I jumped on the have-less band wagon in earnest a couple of years ago, but in my heart, I think I was always a “do more with less” kinda gal.

I like the beauty of bare bones living.

I’m content with such as I have regarding material things. What I’m not content with is a faith that is resigned to operating on less than it needs to thrive.

Joy comes in finding a connection with Jesus that makes the soul to soar and the spirit to sing!

What I’ve realized while pursuing a simpler life is that contentment and resignation are not the same. Contentment spawns a freedom and joy within me that is not afraid to attempt new adventures with God or occasionally shake things up. Resignation, on the other hand, is a spiteful thing. It surrenders to the lie that “this” is my lot in life, and it believes things will never change for me…never improve.

Resignation is angry, ugly, and forever playing the blame game. It’s devoid of hope for the future, and creates a false religion for itself that holds grudges against God. It refuses to live palms-up and grateful for the rich, real, and ridiculously reckless love it might otherwise enjoy with Jesus.

What has struck me lately is that every morning when I wake, I have the opportunity to be content where God has planted me, engaged and looking for new and better ways to live large where I am, while reaching out to others with a redemption message that can literally change their lives. My other options is to live scared and resigned to where I am, what I have, and nothing more.

Which lifestyle do you think I chose today? Which one will you choose?

 

 

 

Take Back the Narrative

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One of the things we are told by the world and its agents of opposition is that there isn’t much difference between what God is doing among us and what the world is able to do without Him. All their polls prove it.

They suggest that believers are living like pagans more every day. It’s true that in America, church attendance and belief in a God of miracles is lower than it’s been since I was born, and no matter what the church does to try to bolster faith in God’s goodness the numbers continue on their downward trajectory. What can we do to change that dynamic?

God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

It’s easy to lose hope in our God as the world describes Him for us, so maybe its time we take back the narrative, but how. How do we do that?

We do that by praising God in the marketplace.

We do it by being good neighbors.

We do it by raising children that understand the give and take of faith–it’s not all about us.

We do it by being generous wherever we can.

We do it by believing ourselves, and telling others that our hope is built on Christ.

We do it by reading our Bibles, praying, and meditating on God’s Word.

We need to speak up and stop being afraid to tell it like it is regarding our Jesus. He’s Savior, Redeemer, and Lord–a miracle that makes miracles! Today, shout it loud and long, but in winsome ways. Jesus is Lord! Glory Hallelujah!!!

What are you doing to be winsome and believing in your interactions with others?  Do you believe in a God of miracles?  

Summer Time Prayers

…you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 1 Peter 1:8

picnic gatheringWeddings, engagements, graduations, reunions, picnics, block parties, and back yard BBQing is either going on this weekend or being planned.

It’s summer, and a great time to cover our family and friends with prayer!

Today, will you take a few minutes to invite God into your summer plans, asking him to help you make those times you spend with your loves this summer extra special?

Will you ask him to protect and provide for you all?

Will you invite his holy agents of care to watch over your kiddos as they head to the park, the creek, the pool, and all those 4-wheeling and camp-erecting excursions in the woods?

Thanking God for the chance to finally get outside and do those fun things we’ve been thinking about all L.O.N.G. winter long is a good thing, but let’s also ask him to guide our steps and have our backs as we do.

God enjoys seeing you laugh as much as He enjoys joining you in your plans. Make sure He’s there is every celebration you host this summer. You never know who is watching or what they’re thinking as you bow your head and thank the Lord for cold chicken or a sub eaten on a park bench or under the shade of a big oak tree.

Make sure you make room for Jesus in your summer plans.  Make sure you make room for summer blessings!

Do you always pray before meals?  What is your favorite summer time treat or excursion?