Tag Archive | truth

For Those Who Love God

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

© Depositphotos/Abigail210986

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.

Now, if you asked them, they’d say there’s plenty I wouldn’t do for them. And they’d be correct.  This statement is only half the picture. The truth is there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children as long as it was good for them. In the moment, it may not seem good to them, but as their parent who has lived through many more experiences, I may have a better idea of where things are leading and what is good for them.

There are times I offer help and there are times I wait for them to ask. There are times I take care of a situation completely and there are times I won’t touch it. It’s theirs to see through to the finish and then we can reassess if needed. Sometimes I (try to) teach a lesson and others when I let them learn on their own. In some circumstances, I make the decisions and in others I give them the reins. In all of this, I’m right here. Watching. Waiting. Ready.

And I always pray for them to know the Lord. I pray that Jesus would be at the center of and in all that encompasses their lives. It matters what they believe and who they go to for guidance, direction and understanding. It matters that they know their true value and that they believe the truth of who He says they are.

I pray this for myself as well. In this life, I will never arrive at the place of perfection as an individual or as a parent. I seek His wisdom and guidance in raising my children because without Him I would fall short of His best for me and for them. And even with Him I make mistakes, miss the mark, don’t quite understand and sometimes, admittingly, refuse to listen. I know that I’m an imperfect parent.

It’s one reason I’m so grateful that God knows, sees and understands all things. He can make something good come from my shortcomings. He can work things out according to His good purpose even when I misunderstand. In every situation and in all of my character traits and flaws, I can seek His will rather than my own and allow Him to change me according to His purpose.

As His child, there are times when He helps without a word from me and there times when I need to let go of my pride and ask for help. There are situations in my life where I have no control and I can trust that He is in complete control. Then there are times when He says, “You need to do what you can do first.” It’s how I know where I end and He begins. God teaches me lesson after lesson as I read His Word and experience His wisdom through others who know Him well. I love when He breaks into my day to give me a glimpse of who He is right in the middle of some mundane task that appears to have no purpose. Or when I can’t imagine a more excruciating pain from rejection or a deeper love for another and He says, “I know. I’ve been there. It’s a reflection of my love for you.”

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. But we also know this is only half the picture. God has a great purpose in the good that He works.

Something to Consider…

As you’ve come to love God, how has your perspective of what is considered “good” changed?

When you struggle to trust God’s good purpose, what can you do to remember that He knows and sees what you can’t yet understand?

How does knowing His heart for you help trust Him more?

Be Available

“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” Mark 5:30

 

woman driving a car and looking at watch

©DepositPhotos/Syda_Productions

I have a long list of things I want to do. I have a long list of things others would like me to do. I have a long list of things I should do. And, of course, I long list of things I have to do.

It’s easy to get caught up in the lists. I am, after all a list maker. I like to write it all down and check it off so that I know I’ve really accomplished something each day.

When my children were young and at home, my list consisted more of “have to’s” than “want to’s.” Choices seemed easier just because there weren’t really that many. But as my girls have grown up and have become more independent, I have more time on my hands.

There was a season when time was what I wanted. I could sit and read, garden, take a nap, all the fun and relaxing things that didn’t seem to happen often enough with children. But as seasons have changed, I’ve realized that they may not need me in the same ways, they still need me … and so do others.

Our relationships matter not because requirements and expectations matter, but because it’s how we know we matter. What I do can make a difference in the life of someone else. This all sounds nice doesn’t it? But there are a few things we need to deal with and understand for us to really be willing to be available to others.

  1. It’s going to take some time. Jesus was on His way to see and help one person when another person came to Him. There will be interruptions. Now, I’m most likely not going to be stopped as I walk down the street, but I might get a phone call or text message that requires some immediate attention in order to really meet the need of the person reaching out. If I’m going to be available I’m going to have to stop and push pause on my list so I can answer or reply in the most timely manner possible.
  2. It’s going to take some discipline. And if I am going to answer or reply, maybe even show up when I can, I’m going to need to be aware of the time. Jesus was available in meeting the need of the woman, but He didn’t stay too long. He didn’t change the plans He has already made to go somewhere else. There are times when urgent matters need to be worked through in a timely matter so that you can get on with the other things that are also important. Discipline may also call for us to not over-schedule ourselves. Every time you are in a hurry rushing from one thing to the next, you are less likely to stop for someone else in the process. We miss divine appointments when we see the list or the clock before the person.
  3. It’s going to take some energy. Jesus noticed that power went out from Him when the woman touched His cloak. People take energy. We have to be willing to exert some energy. People need us to be intentionally present, not just sitting back and passively participating in the relationship. Jesus was always going off alone for time with His Father. He was filled and refreshed so He had what He needed for others. How we care for our relationship with God will directly impact our ability to care for our relationships with others.
  4. It’s going to get personal. Jesus stopped and asked, “Who?” You can easily do something for someone as another check box on your list. But the “who” behind the check mark is really what it’s all about. There will be quick, brief encounters with people. Names might not even be exchanged. But I wonder, should they be? Should we thank someone by name, notice them by name, and take a moment to step into their story in a more personal way? Who we are matters. If it’s not personal, what is it?

Something to Consider…

I’ve often thought of my flexible schedule as a positive aspect of my ability to be available, but what I’ve done is let it disrupt my ability to be disciplined. Overall I end up being less effective. How can discipline and flexibility work together to create space to be available for others when needed?

There are times when I think of people and the first thought is, “They are so much work!” What I mean is they are draining. They suck the energy right out of me. The truth is that I’m not prepared to give people my best. And if I’m at my best, then I can give them something better as well. What activities or behaviors increase your energy and ability to be effective and which decrease it? What activities or habits do you need to change so you can be at your best in order to give others your best?

How often does the “who” matter in determining your willingness to stop and be available? Jesus came for the entire world, each individual “who.” How can you let His love be the goal regardless of the “who?”

Jesus: The Real Deal

704630_443730492347160_1248831165_oI just saw an article titled Santa Claus: The Great Imposter. And while I didn’t read it, the title brought me to Scripture within seconds. As my husband knows, one thought leads to another, and to another and so on. So here goes…

  1. Who is he a substitute for? Jesus
  1. Why would he be a substitute for Him? Because people believe they know the story of a real man who did kind and thoughtful things for children (people) and they want to be like him. We can put him on a pedestal as a great example. And while we can say that in a way Jesus did the same thing, He (Jesus) requires something of us that Santa Claus (St Nicholas) doesn’t: Submission. We can do things that are like Santa Claus such as give gifts and be jolly, but he doesn’t set a standard of how we are to live our lives otherwise. Fun is as far as Christmas needs to go.
  1. Very quickly, my mind was brought to Scripture.

“What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” 1 Corinthians 3:4-5

When we choose to imitate Santa Claus, whether we believe he was a real human being or an ideal picture of a generous grandfather figure, we imitate a man who was a mere human being or even less, a thought or idea. We may be imitating someone who was possibly a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, but still just a person like you and me. In truth, we should be worshiping, celebrating and imitating the true Lord and Savior. This means our service does not stop at a Christmas gift or meal for the sake of being nice and thoughtful, but continues through to the purpose and message of the Gospel.

God gave us the greatest gift ever given: His Son Jesus Christ who came to die for our sins and be raised to new life, so that we could be made right with God and enjoy eternal life with Him. At Christmas, we celebrate the beginning of God’s plan of reconciliation becoming a reality. We worship Him and Him alone. We submit our lives to Him out of reverence for who He is, not just the nice things He’s done.

God has been growing me through the season and celebration of Christmas. Every year I remove more of the Santa figures and ornaments I’ve had in our house. Some are fancy, some are sweet. Some have fond memories tied to them as gifts from various people in my life. It can be hard to remove things that seem harmless on the surface, maybe even good. But when I make someone else the center of a celebration that belongs to God, I set up a false idol – an imposter. Jesus Christ is the real deal and is worthy of my sole attention.

Who will you celebrate this Christmas? Where will your attention be focused? Will you settle for and spread the lies of an imposter or will you rejoice in and share the truth of the Savior? Christmas focused on Santa falls short of the glory of God shown through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

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

PCH Front Cover

A Wise Leader (Part 4)

This is the last in a 4-part series on leadership.

In Part 1, I addressed the difference between feedback and criticism, as well as the important role feedback has in effective leadership.

In Part 2, I acknowledged some things that I learned about myself through the process of asking for, receiving and accepting feedback and a few things I will be doing to help move myself forward in this area as a leader.

In Part 3, I recognized some truths about others that I learned through this process and have a game plan to help me be willing to hear what others have to say.

© Depositphotos.com/ ysbrand

© Depositphotos.com/
ysbrand

Now on to Part 4…

Love truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

According to this verse a good leader is one who is truthful, has integrity and is loving. The first two make sense, although I think our society too often lifts up those who are willing to bend the truth and break a few rules to get ahead. This verse contradicts that idea by throwing in love. And not just once, but twice. And not just here and there, but right from the start.

“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT)

Love is required for good leadership. Again, in society, we think of people as good leaders because they’ve accumulated wealth, status and a following of thousands, maybe millions. Obviously, they’ve got something worth having, hearing or imitating. But followers eventually get hurt or are left empty when a leader loves themselves and their own benefit more than those they lead.

When love for others drives the thoughts, decisions and actions of a leader, they will be someone worth following.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34 (NLT)

In light of God’s love for me, what does that mean for me as a leader? What does it mean for me as a follower?

What I learned about God is that ultimately He wants me to see myself through His eyes, not my own or those of others, because His love for me is true and trustworthy.

God knows who He intended me to be when He created me. Sin has left its mark and tainted the beautiful creation He has made. Sin has stained my view when I look at myself through my own eyes. I am not unsusceptible to its effects. In fact, we all, every one of us, suffer its effects whether we realize it or not. But, when we do recognize it and are willing to let God change us, He begins to work with us as if we are already who He created us to be. I am not good enough on my own, but in Christ I am not a lost cause. God has given me strengths that sin has distorted. I also have weaknesses that sin accentuates. On the other hand, when I see myself through His eyes, there is only beauty. I see no flaws in any way that really matters. I am willing and able to address issues and apologize freely. My heart is open, honest, loving and caring. There is joy, energy and passion for what He is doing in me, through me and in the world around me. And I thank God for the people He has put in my life who are helping me see myself through His eyes because they see what He sees. What a blessing to experience life in His kingdom now knowing it’s only going to get better.

As I think about what this means for me, I also have to consider what it means for my relationship with Him.

  1. God is for me.

Everything God does in teaching, loving, correcting, disciplining and encouraging me is meant to draw me closer to Him and make me more Christ-like in my attitude, actions, thoughts and ways. God wants the best for me. It doesn’t mean I’ll always have the best according to the worlds definition. Status, position and power aren’t how we know God is for us. His blessings don’t always show themselves in worldly qualities and easily quantitative results. Sometimes His blessings show up in the dirty work of persevering. Sometimes His blessings show up in the painful experiences that help us trust Him more. But when I know and trust that God is for me, I will know that He can bring good from every situation, conversation and experience I go through.

  1. God is with me.

I am not alone. Ever. I spend so much time working alone: processing information, deciding next steps and wondering if I should think about things the way I do that I get quite lonely. I feel separated from others so when I’m around them I tend to think they feel just as separated from me. It’s hard to break back in. But when I know God is with me, I can talk to Him just as if another person was sitting with me. I can listen for His guidance, direction, thoughts, and input. And God is with every other person who knows Him as well so He is in fact drawing us all closer to each other as well. In Christ, we are unified, not divided nor separated, but coming together for His purpose so we never need to feel like we are against or opposed to each other, or on different paths. He is the way, He is the path. We walk it differently, but we walk it together. When we can find our common ground, our differences can actually be used to our advantage.

  1. God isn’t done with me.

There is a constant work in progress going on inside me simply because I’m still here. God doesn’t stop or give up even when I choose a wrong path, make a mistake or even fall back into old patterns and ways of thinking … not when I turn back to Him. He won’t force me to change, but He will lead me to change. His love makes the change worth it. A relationship with Him makes the challenges, difficulties and hardships worth it. When I’m willing to hear, receive and accept His feedback, I’ll be better able to hear, process and understand the feedback of others. His love leads to love. I hope to lead and love well.

Something to Consider…

God is for you. He made you and knows you intimately. He has your best intentions at heart. Will you turn to Him and let Him speak His truth and love into your life?

If you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells in you. God is with you. If you haven’t already, say yes to Jesus and let God’s love lead you.

God isn’t done with you. Life is an ongoing process of learning ourselves and leading others into a deeper relationship with the One who loves you best. Continue to seek God’s guidance in your life and willingly walk alongside others who will help you be a leader for those who follow behind.

A Wise Leader (Part 3)

friends(View: A Wise Leader Part 1 and Part 2)

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

As I’ve gone through the process of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback, I’ve learned so much about myself, others and God. I know I need to be more comfortable with and accepting of who I am. I need to allow myself room to learn and grow understanding that the process is not always easy. As soon as I feel like I’ve done something that seems inadequate, I fold which is why feedback has been so difficult.

Because I see myself as inadequate, I expect others to as well. I read a blog by Seth Godin a while back where he talks about the idea of always bracing yourself for the worst. It’s a difficult, defeating and draining place to live. It also makes relationships hard to navigate because you never really feel like you can be at ease with others. Rather, you have to be in a posture of defense, ready to deflect or fight back.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NLT)

But this isn’t really fair to others. In Christ or not in Christ, all people need to be viewed from Christ’s point of view. People fit into two categories: Those who already know Jesus and those who Jesus wants to know Him. All people are made in the image of God. Jesus died for everyone so I need to view them as someone He loves, and be secure in His love myself as I love them, too.

So what does this say to me about others in regards to feedback?

What I learned about others is that they do truly want to be encouraging and helpful.

While I think this is true in general, I believe it goes to a higher level in the family of believers. When people are aware of their own sin, failings and shortcomings, they are more willing to forgive, overlook and come alongside someone who struggles. Because we know our hearts are set on Jesus, we trust each other’s hearts in a deeper way. Their hearts are for us just as God is for us. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but when heard with an understanding that this person has a desire to move you forward, lift you over a hurdle or straight-out break down a wall, it can be received with the grace, kindness and love it was intended.

So here are a few ways I hope to be intentional with others.

1. Be open.

People like to give feedback. People like to be heard. Sometimes, we just need to listen. Listening doesn’t mean we need to receive what they have to say, but when we really listen, we might just hear something we really need to know. We might also learn something about the person speaking because God actually wants us to enter into a conversation that will help them as well.

2. Be discerning.

As I said before, we don’t need receive everything that’s said to us. We also don’t need to ask everyone for their opinion. Discernment helps us know who to engage in the process of growing. It helps us hear and recognize truth from lies, understand who has well-intentioned motives, and determine if they really have a solid understanding of what they are talking about. There is so much information available today that people think they are an expert just because they read it on the internet.

  1. Be grace-filled.

I say really stupid stuff sometimes. This isn’t about me being inadequate. It’s just a fact that I’m flawed and make mistakes. I don’t have all the information, I don’t have a complete understanding of the situation and sometimes, I don’t speak from a humble servant’s heart even though I know I should. But God has never turned His back on me so when others say things that hurt, I need to be willing to offer grace, forgive and give them room to learn and grow as well. It’s easy to want to fight back and defend, even accuse, but that’s not the way of Jesus. Grace that doesn’t overflow hasn’t been fully accepted.

Something to Consider…

Do you tend to brace yourself for the worst? Do you dismiss people who don’t say what you want to hear? Do you have a hard time seeing others through God’s eyes, especially when what they have to say seems harsh and unfair?

We are a broken people. In Christ, we have the freedom to be broken. In Christ, we have the freedom to love broken people. As we are healed in Christ, we will love and listen to each other His way.

Follow Me

© Depositphotos.com/ rachwal

© Depositphotos.com/
rachwal

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

Prior to this, Matthew was following the Roman government and other tax collectors. He was hated and reviled by the Jewish people. And yet, Jesus, a Rabbi, called Matthew to follow Him. In other words, He called him to stop doing what he was doing and start doing something new. Matthew would have to give up what he was pursuing in his following and pursue what Jesus was doing. It didn’t take but a moment for him to decide to take Jesus up on His offer. He walked away from it all.

Following isn’t mindlessly going where everyone else is going. In this case, it’s an intentional decision to go somewhere and do something very specific. There is an intentional effort to learn and do what someone else already knows and is doing. We learn what we pay attention to. We learn what we see, hear and experience.

Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

There is a benefit to giving careful consideration to our actions, relationships and who we pay attention to and learn from.

Paul in writing to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Corinthians and others says, “Imitate me.” Do what I do, follow my example and put into practice what you hear me say and watch me do. Why? Because I follow Christ. He is my example.

Paul also tells Timothy that he is to be an example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

There are plenty of people who are in the spotlight and are considered role models and examples regardless of whether or not they want to be one. Some take it seriously, others just assume it’s not their issue.

As a follower of Christ, you are to follow the example of Jesus and those who knew Him. These examples are recorded in the Bible. We also follow the examples of those who have followed the followers of Jesus, and those who have followed the followers of the followers of the followers…

Something to Consider…

So who do you choose to follow and why? Whose example do you imitate? Have you given it much thought? Take an inventory of who influences and affects your decisions, words and actions. Do they help you follow Jesus or lead you away from Him?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are also an example to others. Do you know who is following you? Ask God to show you any thoughts, behaviors or words that don’t honor Him. Ask Him to grow your understanding of the importance of demonstrating the true character of Christ with others.

Choose today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. He is the role model worth imitating.

Homework…it’s not just for kids

IMG_2064Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

I came home one day from running errands to find my daughter sitting in the kitchen diligently working on her school work. I don’t remember the last time I had to ask her if she had homework or if it was complete. Even when she doesn’t enjoy the subject, she knows the homework is necessary. My older daughter was not quite so driven to do her homework, but has learned the importance of it and the reward of not waiting until the last-minute.

For those who know me, they would say I love homework. They would probably leave it there and assume it’s true as a whole, but they would be wrong. I really didn’t enjoy school work and still don’t enjoy doing research in general. I also don’t strive to learn so I can simply say I know and understand this thing or that. I haven’t always read the Bible and when I first started, I didn’t understand much of it. I admit, I often fell asleep.

But now I love reading God’s Word and “homework” that teaches me the ways of God so I can do the things of God. I have participated in many Bible studies over the past ten years and have even written and lead a few of them. I always encourage and provide ways to do homework, additional study so everyone can dig into God’s Word at any time. Homework gives us a way to be more intentional with our time and about our study.

How do you know if what you believe God is revealing to you is true? Do you know that the devil likes to reveal things to you as well? He’s very sly and smooth in his approach and he can take something completely outside of the ways of God, mix it with Scripture and make it look pleasing, make it feel good and right and make you think you deserve it. All the while he’s leading you away from God rather than closer to Him.

“Jesus answered,’It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”‘” Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Jesus knew God’s Word, not because He was God but because He learned it just like every other Jewish boy. When the devil came to tempt Him, He didn’t wonder what God would say or have Him do. He was able to respond immediately with the truth of God’s Word and defeat the devil even in midst of His physical, mental and emotional weakness. Because of the work He had already done, He was still spiritually strong.

We are so very fortunate to have the Bible, God’s Word, so we can know the truth of God ways. The truth is if you are going to be intentional about reading God’s Word, then you will be responsible for doing what it says because now you know the truth. It’s easy to claim ignorance or simply go by your feelings if you don’t pick up His Word. But once you do, there are no more excuses.

Jesus calls us to be like little children. Children are like sponges sopping up whatever they see and hear. They are constantly learning, sometimes intentionally, but often through what they experience.

What experience do you provide for yourself? As a child of God, as a maturing follower of Christ, do you take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him through His Word? Do you eagerly seek out His answers in the midst of the difficulties you face? Do you rejoice in the good and amazing things He has already done trusting that He is not finished yet?

Homework, when it comes to God’s work, is an intentional time of letting God’s Spirit work in us. We are sitting down and saying, “God, I know there are things in your Word that you specifically want me to know today, right now in this moment. Reveal them to me. As I seek you, you promise to be found. When I ask, you promise to answer. Lord, your Word is rich and I am poor. It is nourishment for this hungry soul. Feed me for I am needy in this world.”

Something to Consider…

Do you enjoy reading the Bible? Do you read the Bible regularly? What keeps you from it or makes it difficult for you? Ask God to help you understand and delight in His Word.

Are you uncertain you can trust what the Bible says? Does it seem to contradict what others say? All of God’s Word is true. God is knowable and completely trustworthy. Earnestly desire to know the truth about God and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.

That’s Not How It Works

grass and sunset“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.Ephesians 2:1a, 4-5, 8-9

I love the commercial with the older woman who “posts” her events to her wall … not her Facebook wall, but the actual wall in her home. She puts up notes and pictures and has friends over to see them. When her friend calls her out on something, she unfriends her while she’s sitting in her living room.

This same friend is befuddled and tells her very clearly, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

While many people do “get” how Facebook works, many people like to make up their own ideas about Jesus.

Here are a few ways people misunderstand how God works:

  1. It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

God is the Sovereign Creator, Ruler of all. He either is or He isn’t. He can’t be for some and not others which means what He says goes for all people. Your sincere acknowledgement of Him is key in your relationship with Him.

  1. You can pick and choose what you want to believe from the Bible.

The Bible is God’s inspired word, His testimony about Himself, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You can’t pick and choose what you want to believe. If you told a story about your own life and someone said part of it wasn’t true, they’d be wrong and be calling you a liar or you would actually be a liar. Is God trustworthy or is He a liar? He can’t be both.

  1. God sends people to hell.

Jesus came for all who need a Savior. God doesn’t send people to hell. We end up there based on our own choices and God actually makes it possible for you to be saved from the consequences of those choices. You have free will to choose not to go to hell. You don’t want to be a robot to God and God is clearly not a vending machine so the only thing left is a relationship which is found through faith in Jesus. We all sin and fall short. The only thing that keeps you from God is believing you don’t need Him.

What misconceptions have you heard from others and you think, “That’s not how it works.” Are you a good enough friend to tell them?

Maybe you’re the one with questions needing a help section on just what faith in Christ is all about. How does it work? Why does it matter?

The good news is that God is not only willing to communicate with you, He is very clear in His answers.

It often appears that we want a God with some wiggle room, but instead we have a God who is merciful in our failings. We want a God who dismisses our sin as simple choices of lifestyle or personalities. After all, He’s the one who created us this way. But instead, we have a God who asks us to participate in the life He’s given us according to His ways. He asks us to sacrifice our own ways for His. He creates us and then asks us to let Him transform us into a new creation through a second birth. We are born into sin. All of us. And every person has a transformation waiting for them if only they would come and let God work in their lives. And this work only comes through the grace offered in faith through Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

This is how it works.

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Give It Up and Gain

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

A number of years back, a woman came to one of the Bible study groups I was attending and said that rather than give something up for Lent, she would start something new. That was the reason she started coming to our study.

I go back and forth between “giving up” something old and “taking on” something new, but I don’t think we can effectively have one without the other. We give something up to make room for more of God in our lives. We turn to Him rather than that thing we gave up. In essence, we do something new.

And to start something new means we do give up an old habit or way of spending time, maybe an old way of thinking.

The problem comes when we focus more on the fact that we had to give something up than on the fact that we have a good and loving God who is better than anything we could ever lose or choose to walk away from.

I find many ways to misuse the things God has given me: food, anger, work, relationships, love, and even my sense of right and wrong. Each of these when used to glorify God are good. When I use them to glorify or satisfy myself, they no longer serve the purpose for which God created them.

When I sacrifice my right to eat whatever I want for whatever reason I want, I can acknowledge God’s purpose for food to provide nutrition and energy for my body. It is also serves a purpose in celebrating and remembering relationships. But when food is the focus and not the relationship, I’ve missed the most important thing.

When I sacrifice my right to be angry, I can acknowledge God’s grace and forgiveness that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me to be reconciled to the Father through faith in Him. Righteous anger belongs to God.

When I sacrifice my work as the end-all, be-all of the definition of success, I can acknowledge the opportunities my work provides to serve, testify to and provide means for spreading His Word in my world. Success comes from doing God’s work in obedience.

When I sacrifice my dysfunctional relationships, I can acknowledge the unique treasure we were each created to be. I can see others from His perspective and understand better the value and worth we each have in Christ. I can stop putting demands on others to satisfy my needs and seek to serve God through helping to meet the needs of others.

When I sacrifice my desire to withhold love or manipulate with love, I can acknowledge that God loves unconditionally. His love found in His Word trains, rebukes, corrects and equips so that I can continue to grow in and receive the fullness of His love and then share it with others.

When I sacrifice my understanding of right and wrong, I can acknowledge God as the only good and faithful Judge. I can allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of others so they can come to Jesus Christ seeking His truth for their lives. His truth is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Something to Consider:

How do you view what God asks you to give up for Him? Do you see and focus on the loss or the gain?

What one thing do you need from God today? What will you allow Him to remove from your life in order to make room for Him to satisfy this need?

 

The Great Undo – It’s Done!

DSC06777“The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him.” Romans 3:22 (MSG)

This was my Facebook post the other day:

“I almost had a major freak out. Thankfully, I remembered the “undo” button before said freak out started. All is well in my world again.”

I am a database administrator for my church. One of my responsibilities includes running reports for our kids program. It all starts with one table in an Access database I created over the course of a couple of months. I download data from our main database, throw it in a table in Access and let queries and reports do their thing.

Whenever I run reports, I delete the old information from the table and replace it with the newest version of data. This time, I accidentally deleted the table, not just the data.

For anyone who isn’t a database junkie, you might not have any idea what I’m talking about and if you do, you may have no idea just how significant this was. A slip of the mouse on the wrong “X” and I could’ve been in for some major work.

Then I remembered the “undo” button. Would it work? Sometimes certain functions are not able to be undone. Would I get my entire table back and have my database running smoothly with a simple click of a button?

This time the answer was a major “YES”! Thank you, God that this program was forgiving of my mistake.

There are days when I would like, no LOVE a big undo button for my life:

“Oops, I didn’t mean to say that.”
“I wish I hadn’t done that.”
“Can I write my life in pencil so it’s easier to erase the mistakes?”

But life happens and it’s messy. There are scribbles, doodles, distractions and big time mistakes all over the pages of my life. And while I can’t undo what I’ve said or done, I can recognize the mistakes and apologize. I can choose to learn from it and desire for it to be different, be intentional about it being different next time. And the next time, and the next time, and the next time…

What I’ve learned is that we actually do have an “undo” button, but it’s not one where we simply say, “oops”, click a button and get on with whatever we were doing.

Jesus Christ has provided a way to make things right. On the cross, it was finished; it was done…or undone depending on how you look at it.

We’ve made a mess of our lives, of our relationship with God and each other. But in Jesus, we have a way to make it right again. He is sitting at the crossroads asking, “Do you want it to be made right?” We have a choice, an option to do it different.

That is the question we have to ask ourselves. Do we want our relationship with God and others made right? It is not always an easy answer because even though He makes it possible, it does require us to move forward in this new way. We cannot do what we’ve always done and expect it to be right. We have to be willing to go and do the things He says will make it right.

And while others may not believe or accept our apologies even when we know Jesus, we can be certain that through Jesus our relationship with God is completely restored. We can know that He is the Father, Brother, or Friend who will never leave us and the Authority who will never harm us. He is always available and always willing to comfort. He will always speak truth to our hearts even when it’s hard to hear. He makes everything wrong right again.

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them – Jews and Gentiles) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)

Something to Consider…

Has your heart been hard toward God, toward Jesus? He wants good things for you. He has good things for you. These things require your participation. Ask Him to help you accept and receive the truth of His goodness. He will make things right.

While relationships between people require two hearts to be open to each other in order to be reconciled, what can you do to be open and make things right? Maybe you’ve done everything you can but still no results. Be patient and be ready with an open and willing heart. God’s timing is perfect.