Tag Archive | light

Rooted and Established

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

© Deposit/sonerbakir

© Deposit/sonerbakir

In Christ, the Spirit of Christ lives in you. You are in Christ. Christ is in you.

Do you see how fighting God could make you frustrated? You’re one with the living God and you’re trying to work in opposition to Him.

It’s not that you don’t understand God, at least in part, it’s more that you do. You realize deep down what it’s going to take to follow Him fully. You realize what you’re going to have to give up, what will be sacrificed in your journey with Him. And less than money, position, influence or relationships, but more of your pride, excuses, vices, comforts and conveniences.

But here’s the deal: fullness of life comes from God, not these other things whether material or self-satisfying attitudes and motivations.

When we hold back even one part of our heart from the saturating living waters of the Holy Spirit, we lack fullness. Our relationship with God can seem stagnant, but it’s not. It’s always moving. We are always moving. He is the same. He is constant. We are always moving closer to Him or farther away. We can choose to let His fullness invade our hearts or we can close off more and more pieces to Him. Because when we find reasons and justifications to keep one area closed, we’ll find reasons and justifications to close Him out of others.

Even a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that has no mind, knows that it’s best to grow deep roots into the ground that’s saturated with water. And it’s best to be saturated with the Spirit.

Streams of water move. The Spirit within us moves.

Ground saturated with water from streams has a fresh supply of oxygen. The stream feeds fresh water in while pushing old water out the way our lungs pump oxygen into our blood and our hearts move it through every part of our body. And just like our bodies know how to dispose of toxins, this flow of water in the ground allows for drainage of anything that may hinder the growth of the tree.

The stream flushes the ground and the Spirit flushes our hearts.

A heart saturated with the Holy Spirit has a fresh supply of God’s fullness. The Spirit brings all of God’s goodness and glory into our hearts and we can tap into this fullness through the roots we grow. When the Spirit reveals those things in our hearts that are damaging or harmful to us, we need to let the Spirit remove them. We have to let go and stop fighting Him.

God’s resources are unlimited. He will never run out of what we need to live, move or have our being in Him. As He empowers us with His strength through the Spirit, we learn to trust Him more. Our roots grow deep. We choose Him sooner, we choose Him first. We look to Him to satisfy rather than other people, other things or our surrounding circumstances. As we come to understand how deep His love runs, we realize our roots will never outgrow Him. His love is long and wide. There is nowhere He won’t go to find you and no pit too deep for Him to pull you from. How high is His love? Higher than any cloud, any star. Higher than the most powerful telescope can see.

This is the love that loves you.

When you allow your heart to be saturated with Him, every dark and secluded corner filled with His light and love, there will be nothing that can bring you down. He will establish you in a firm foundation and strengthen you with His strength that stands for eternity.

Something to Consider…

Does the understanding of God’s great love for you escape you? Do you feel like you have too many questions and not enough answers? God wants to you to ask your questions with a willingness to listen. He wants you to know Him in the depths of your heart. He is strong and His love for you can handle any question you throw at Him.

Do you have a hard time letting Him into the deep recesses of your heart? Does the thought of what He will reveal worry you? He already knows what’s there and He knows how to bring healing through the living waters of His Spirit. As cool water refreshes our bodies, His Spirit refreshes our hearts and our souls.

Every success and accomplishment along with every difficult decision or situation will cause you to choose where your roots will grow. Find your satisfaction and fullness of life in Him.

Summer Days, Winter Nights

conceptI’m sitting here on this beautiful summer day thinking about Christmas. Why? Because that’s just how fast time seems to pass.

Life is busy. In Minnesota, summers are busier. We have three, maybe four months to enjoy the warm temps, warm water, and not have to layer up just to get the mail. We cram weekends “up north” into our schedules, do everything we can to get to “the lake.” In some ways normal life seems to stop and our outdoor summer life kicks in. Now, don’t get me wrong. We like our winters, too. Just not that many of us like them as much as summer.

I lived in southern California for 18 short months and it wasn’t like that there. Summer or school year, so much of it seemed the same. There seemed to be a natural flow from one time of the year to the next with no dramatic shifts. I love the seasons of Minnesota, but there was something quite peaceful about our So Cal life.

So as summer begins to draw to an end (August begins this weekend, school the end of the month) and our summer thinking turns to fall activities, winter will be here before we know it. The changing of the seasons works that way. Different times in our lives distinctly marked out by the weather.

And if we’re not careful, we let our lives be directed and guided by what’s going on around us rather than by Who is in us. We let our actions be determined by the season we are in, rather than by the One we belong to.

Christmas is one such time when the ways of the world can quickly overshadow what we say is truly important to us. We make decisions because of what’s expected rather than because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We act as if this holiday is all about us when others don’t respond to or hold the holiday in the same regard as we do whether they are friends, family or complete strangers.

We forget that it’s all about Christ. We act in a way that doesn’t accurately represent who He is to a lost world. We expect others to conform to our way of thinking when we ourselves, those who claim to know Christ, have not conformed to His way of thinking. We have higher expectations of those who don’t know Christ than we have for ourselves.

Jesus had something to say about this:

“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.'” Luke 11:46

And He says something about Himself:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We can’t expect a world to come to us to find Jesus if we are doing all the same things they are. We can’t expect a world to come to know Jesus if we make it hard for them see and know His gentle and humble heart.

So what’s the answer?

We keep Christ at the center of our hearts, lives and activities. We find our joy, peace and strength in Him. And we remember that He came as a gentle and humble baby, not for His own benefit, but for ours and for others.

Our hearts need to be open to His leading at all times, but it seems like we need to be more aware of what’s truly in our hearts when the spotlight shines on us more brightly…like at Christmas. What will your heart tell others about Jesus? What will others learn about Jesus because of your words and actions? Choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to prepare your heart for the coming Christ so that the world may know and believe.

Something to Consider…

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Being intentional in our relationship with Jesus is necessary at all times. It’s easy to think that just because we are involved in ministry, work for or go to school in a Christian environment, or we are in a season that is focused on Jesus, we will have a heart set on Him in all we do. The world creeps in and we can be easily distracted .

What steps will you take this Christmas to be intentional in your relationship with Jesus? He is gentle and His burden is light. Help others know Him this way.

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

Prayers for a Mother and Her Son

I saw the news this morning: 9 killed in church shooting.

Not in the middle east. Not in Africa. Not across the world in some remote village. But right here in the United States.

I heard report after report on the news and read posts of prayers going out to Charleston.

And yet, I felt distant from it all.

Aren’t I supposed to break down with compassion and empathy? As a Christian, aren’t I supposed to mourn with those who mourn? And here I was, feeling some what empty. What was wrong with me?

And then … the flood gates opened.

I started thinking of a mother seeing an image of her son on the television, recognizing him, knowing it was her son who did this thing. And my heart broke for her. My heart breaks for him, his future, who he was meant to be. My heart breaks for each person whose life was cut short because of the decision of this one man.

As Christians, we can’t be surprised when this type of thing happens. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean we don’t hurt and cry and mourn the loss of precious life. But we can’t be surprised. We’ve been told this will happen again and again.

Our battle isn’t with flesh and blood. We have an enemy who does not rest. We have an enemy who will use whatever means necessary to bring about his evil.

But we also serve a God who has already won the battle. His strength, compassion, love, mercy, grace and joy will carry those in that church. As they trust in His faithfulness and sovereignty, they can know that what we see in this world is not the end product. He has the final say in the outcome of this situation. He has the final say in the eternal lives of their loved ones.

In the final words of Jesus, He prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

May this man know, confess, repent and be forgiven. May God’s justice be served and grace and love be known.

And I pray that just as Paul, persecutor and murder, came to know the loving mercy of the Savior, so will this man. That the hope that does not disappoint will be realized. That our judgments which are sure to come will not overshadow the grace and forgiveness of our loving God.

I pray that the enemy of our souls will not be able to use this opportunity to disprove the love and compassion of our Lord and Savior. That as we walk in this world as His ambassadors, as we face tragedy and loss, chaos and confusion, we will love one another and pray for our enemies.

I pray each mother’s heart would be healed and made whole. I pray this man would be set free from the darkness he’s walked in and come to see and know the Light of Christ. Jesus will have the final say in this man’s life, not us. And I pray that those in Charleston who suffered such great loss would know and be comforted by the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding.

In Jesus name. Amen.

Why Go to Church?

IMG_1781“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Luke 4:16a

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.” Mark 10:1

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with Christians about why we go to church. Or better yet, why people don’t want to go to church. Conversations that honestly surprise me. I don’t expect people who don’t know Jesus to want to go to church. But when they decide to seek Jesus, when they decide they want to at least get some information about knowing Jesus, people often decide to go to church. So if those who don’t know Jesus go to church to find Him, why don’t those who know Him go there to experience His presence as well? Why don’t those who know Him go there to help others find Him?

Going to church is not a salvation issue. Let me repeat, not going to church will not send you to hell if you know Jesus and have faith in His saving grace.

You are not a bad person for not going to church. However, you are a sinner. And I’m a sinner. And in Christ we are washed cleaned clothed in His righteousness and are adopted into the family of God as His child.

So if you are a Christian and you battle with why you should go to church, let me offer this one perspective and hopefully you will find it to be an encouragement to begin or continue going to church.

We have an opportunity to know God and experience His presence. Jesus promises that when two or more gather together, there He is as well. (Matthew 18) So when we come together at church, as the church, we join in unity with others to love and worship God and experience His presence. Yes, we can meet other places but understand that the gathering of God’s people is His church so you may already be doing the very thing you think you don’t want to do. And when we gather and God is present, there is joy and blessing found in His presence. Do you need a little joy in your life? Go to church with the expectation of experiencing God’s presence and joy.

We also have the opportunity to love others who love Jesus. Just like you go to visit your family at their homes for various reasons at various times because you love them, we can gather together and spend time with our spiritual family. Each person who knows Jesus is your brother or sister in Christ. Do brothers and sisters sometimes hurt each other? Of course they do. People who go to church are no different. Sometimes there are pains and hurts, but in Christ, the goal is restoration and reconciliation. The hope is that those difficulties can be overcome because God is our perfect Father who works out our relationships. He helps us understand what it means to love our families the way He loves us. Do you need some hope for your family and relationships? Go to church with an expectation of help to love and hope that it will be better.

And we have the opportunity to love those who are wanting to know Jesus and looking for a family of their own. You can be the one to introduce them to Jesus. Do you need to be at church to do this? No. Hopefully, you are introducing people to Jesus all the time because you display Him through your words and actions. They know the truth about Him because of who He is in you. Do you let Him show? Do you want others to know Him? Do you want to be encouraged by the hearts of those seeking Jesus so that you can remember why it matters? Go to church with a heart set on Christ so you can see others through His eyes.

There is one issue of salvation: Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?

Then there are issues of the heart. Is church an issue of your heart? Ask Jesus to be the ultimate authority on whether or not you go.

“Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Matthew 4:25

We have the opportunity to gather together to hear the teachings of Jesus from someone anointed with the Holy Spirit to preach and teach His Word. People came from all over traveling great distances on foot so they could be in the presence of Jesus. You can give whatever reasons you want not to go, but Jesus went, so I go, too. He is the one whose example I want to follow.

It’s Saturday. Now what?

SCAN0104“It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial. But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands. Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices that they had prepared. When they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, they went in. But they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, and they did not know what to think. Suddenly two men in shining white clothes stood beside them. The women were afraid and bowed to the ground. But the men said, ‘Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn’t here! He has been raised from death.'” Luke 23:54-24:6a (CEV)

What happened on Saturday?

None of the Gospels address the activities of the disciples on Saturday except to say it was the Sabbath and they rested. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Messiah, the Christ, Son of God is dead. And we have no idea what they did except that they rested.

How? Why? Because God commanded it? Really?

He was supposed to redeem His people, conquer the enemy and set up a new kingdom. Peace is supposed to reign and justice prevail. Everything they had put their hope in was gone. And not just gone, but dead and gone. In the ground … dead, buried and gone. Behind a rock and sealed gone. What happened?

The unexpected happened.

We’ve all been there at some point at some time. Everything is moving forward, life is good, and your best laid plans are coming to fruition.

And then?

The unexpected.

Everything just … stops.

We do get a glimpse of what those who didn’t follow Jesus were doing.

“The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, ‘Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.’ Pilate replied, ‘Take guards and secure it the best you can.’ So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.”  Matthew 27:62-66 (NLT)

Those who wanted Jesus dead also wanted to make sure He stayed dead. The disciples rested and the religious leaders continued to plot.

We must each decide what to do when Saturday comes because you can’t get to Sunday without Saturday. You can’t have victory without a battle. You can’t overcome without being under; without being down-and-out. Your response on Saturday will depend on what you believe, who you follow and in what or who you put your hope.

Something to Consider…

It’s Friday: This is the day of preparation. Everything had been going well up to this point. How could things go so wrong? Are you doing what you need to today so you  can be ready for tomorrow? Are you prepared for the One who was, is and is to come? Friday’s happen. Turning points come. And as hard as it is to believe, Friday’s end and it may not be how you expect. Will you be ready? Jesus is available now to help you prepare for tomorrow.

It’s Saturday: The unexpected has come. You wake up and it’s still true. You can’t believe it. What now? What’s next? In this time of uncertainty, confusion, and pain – rest. Worship and praise your Father in heaven. He knows what has been and what will be. Trust Him now.

It’s Sunday: The sun has risen and so has our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A new day has come and Jesus has redeemed. He makes all things new bringing life and hope to our seemingly dead dreams. His light makes a shadow out of all that was before. Expect Sunday to come! Jesus is risen!

Created for a Purpose

Family“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will,” Ephesians 1:11

When my husband and I rededicated our lives to Christ, it was the first time I really believed God had a purpose just for me. I had always felt I was here for a reason, but didn’t really know what it was, what I should do about it, or that I could actually know that purpose with certainty.

One night, as I was lying in bed ready to fall asleep, I let my mind go to this place of purpose. This was often the time I spent asking God various questions over the years: at night, in the dark, quite and feeling alone with Him. My mind immediately went to the thought of a dangerous mission trip. “Don’t go there! Don’t give God permission to send you there!” (As if God needs my permission to decide what His purpose is for me…) Rather than think of all the things that could be my purpose, I finally settled on simply asking Him the question and allowed myself to fall asleep.

As I began to wake up, while I was still in that foggy place of coming to, I sensed God sharing His vision for me.

“Love your husband and support him in his work. He works hard to provide for your family.

“Love, care for and teach your children. You do not know what they may grow to do, what I have planned for them.

“Manage your home. Do not let it be a burden to your husband. He has enough to deal with. This is your responsibility. Remove that weight from his shoulders.”

Three simple tasks. Was that really all there was to my purpose? Did I just make that up? Was I taking the easy way out of a mission trip? What purpose would this serve?

Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is my first call. This is my second.

When I lose sight of this purpose, my world begins to fall apart. I am not weak; I am just not living in my sweet spot. I am not living in alignment with God’s will for my life.

My life. Not yours or someone else’s, but mine. And yours will be different or may be similar.

I love my husband’s heart for his work. Craig has an honest desire to work hard and help his company be successful. He also has a desire to see the client’s best interest served and that they would prosper as well. I know God has a purpose for him where he is so I need to honor God by honoring my husband.

I admit, many women I have known over the years would not have agreed with this purpose and would not have encouraged me. But God did not put a yoke of oppression or burden on me. He said to me, “You are able and capable of doing this. It is not too much for you nor too little. I will help.”

And then there are my children. I have often wanted to say, “Do what you want! I give up. It’s your choice.” But as the thought crosses my mind I realize I cannot give them that permission. I cannot relinquish my authority or influence in their lives. I cannot nor should I squelch the Spirit in their lives; while at the same time, I need to teach them the difference between the Spirit and the flesh.

They now, at their young ages, have a stronger, firmer foundation of faith than anything I had at that same age. My husband is moving toward God in all areas of his life. Did these three simple tasks change the entire trajectory of my family? Did simply loving my family the way God called me to show them His love for them?

My purpose serves His purpose not only in my life, but in the lives of others around me. I am grateful to God for how He has worked in me and through me to make a difference in the lives of my husband and my children for Him. It was a bigger, greater purpose than I could imagine.

Something to Consider…

As my children grow to adulthood, my authority and influence in their lives will change. I’ve made it clear I will use whatever authority and influence I have, but do understand it will be different. I know that as my life changes, God will have new opportunities for me to serve a purpose for Him.

Do you know your purpose? Have you asked God what He has planned for you? Are you willing to move forward should He give you His vision for your life?

Have you been living in His purpose for you? Are you at a crossroads in your life with a decision to make about how you proceed? Is there a dream in your heart that is beyond your imagination?

No matter how big or small your purpose may seem, God will be served. He will bring good things from it not only for you, but for those around you as well.

Fellowship Matters

friends“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

If I’m going to abide in Christ this year…and always, knowing that I don’t usually keep my resolutions, it would be good to understand what causes me to let go of my plan.

The plan itself is not my issue. I am GREAT at planning. I make lists, flow charts, spreadsheets and know every detail of everything I want to do. What I often miss is the list of those things that could interrupt my plan and when they do, how I will move forward. We know this as “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” In other words, I don’t plan for the worst, the struggle of keeping my commitment.

This is a new step for me this year. I want to understand what keeps me from abiding, staying close to Jesus and have a plan ready when people, situations and conditions of my heart try to pull me from Him.

One thing I’ve learned is that we are all at different places with our faith. There are many things that I once thought were okay and now see completely different. I’m also sure there are things I do or consent to today that in five years I will no longer consider good for me in relation to my faith. Just as I am on a journey, so is everyone else. Even those who don’t claim to have faith in Jesus or God believe something.

I don’t think others ever intentionally try to pull me away from Jesus as much as I don’t think they understand the full benefit of staying close to Him. It’s hard to encourage me in what they don’t consider valuable or meaningful.

Too often, we can make excuses for our own behavior by excusing the behavior of others. If I have a hard time controlling how much I eat, I may encourage someone else to go ahead and have the second piece. If I talk bad about my husband, I may encourage someone else that it’s good to vent or “get it off their chest”. After all, they are just being honest. If I don’t see how what I do is harmful, I may not see it as harmful for someone else.

And others, who don’t know Jesus, won’t understand why it’s important to stay close to Him and most likely, will not be able to encourage me in my desire to abide.

While I don’t want to cut off relationships with those who don’t know Jesus, He came for us all, I need to be careful to whom I listen.

I will be resolved to seek counsel, wisdom and encouragement from others who are actively seeking God and following Christ.

Something to Consider…

We are to live in this world but not be of it. Our relationships matter regardless of where others stand with Jesus.

How can you ensure you are spending time with others who know Jesus? How can you continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus even when you are with others who are not?

Regardless of how committed you are to Jesus, how many questions you have about faith, and how many doubts and concerns you have for what it truly means to believe, it will be hard to move forward and find answers alone.

  1. Find a local church to attend and show up. Volunteer and get involved. Even if you’re not sure about this whole God thing, you will meet new people and expand your understanding of the Christian faith.
  2. Identify two or three people who know Jesus with whom you can ask questions and discuss your faith. Don’t ask your friend the atheist or agnostic. They don’t have the answers you’re looking for.
  3. Seek to know Jesus, not just know about Him or assume things about Him. No one likes it when people make assumptions about them. Really get to know who He is and why He came for you.