Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year Standing on the Promises of Jesus

Caleb, was about 8 years old when he had an unfortunate accident in his PE class. The PE teacher set up "buddy" relay races. Caleb took off like a shot gun, just like any competitive boy would to show his 8 year old lightning speed. On the opposite end of the court, the opponent bolted from his line. Both boys barreling down the court, heads up, arms thrusting ,and eyes closed giving every effort to beat the other in a battle for victory.... then WHAM!! A head on collision!!

The opponent gets up and stumbles back to see the damage while Caleb lies on the floor. Caleb attempts to move, but then quickly determines that standing would not be possible. He yells at the PE teacher standing at the other end of the court, "Dad!! I think my leg is broken!" (Yes, his dad was the PE teacher, so there was no need for a parent teacher conference.... that occurred later at home.)

As dad hurries over to see his boy lying on the floor, he says "Oh you will be okay, just get up and shake iiiittt ooofff." As the tone of his sentences trails off, it is apparent that once he looked down at the leg, it was not at a natural position. About 3 inches above the right knee the femur had snapped in two. The top part of the leg was lying naturally to the right, from the knee down...awkwardly to the left.

It was hard for both mom and dad to see their little 8 year old son in that condition. He was a trooper though. He never screamed or cried, but you could tell he was in a lot of pain. Having to watch him endure that and then go through surgery was incredibly hard as a parent. I can't even imagine what other parents go through when their children have more severe situations and cases.

I was reminded of this story as I was reading in John 4. I came across a familiar story about an official of king Herod whose son was close to death, and as any parent would be, very anxious to get him help. Like any parent with children, we will do anything to help our children and get them the help they need.
"And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death." John 4:46-47
There was some distance between Cana in Galilee and the official's son who was sick in Capernum. I can imagine the sense of urgency the official must have been under to find Jesus and travel back to Capernum. The man heard about Jesus and knew that if only he could get Jesus to go to his son, he would be healed just like the rest.

I'm sure there was some begging from the man for Jesus to go with him. He probably wouldn't accept the word "no", but Jesus does not go with the man to heal his son.
"Unless you people see signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." John 4:48
Stand on the Promises
Jesus rebukes, not the man's faith but the Galilian people basically saying that unless they see signs and wonders, they would not believe in him. That seems to apply today as well. People just don't believe or see the wonders of Jesus and so don't believe.

The man continues to beg and refuses to be denied. He is persistent.
"The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies. John 4:49
"Go," Jesus replied, "your son will live." The man took Jesus as his word and departed. John 4:50
The man's faith in the word of Jesus healed his son. Instead of continuing to pester Jesus to come with him, he chose to believe the spoken word of Jesus. He left to head back to Capernum.
"While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living." John 4:51
After the initial shock from hearing the news from his servants, he asked them what time his son got better.
"When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him." John 4:52
After hearing this, the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said "Your son will live." So he and his whole household believed. (John 4:53)

We can stand on the word and promises of Jesus! This story in John is a testimony to the faith of a royal official who, in any normal circumstance would likely be indifferent to Jesus, but he heard of Jesus and believed in Him. He trusted in Jesus spoken word and had faith that Jesus would fulfill his promise. When the man saw Jesus promise fulfilled, he and his whole family believed.
Stand on the Promises

This story reminded me that we need to spend time with Jesus through studying His word to know His promises. We all come across times in our lives that cause us to struggle, where we need help, endurance, and perseverance to get through. If we know the spoken word and promises of Jesus, we can stand stronger in our faith and be the light of Christ so that others believe. As believer's in Christ, we are son's and daughters of the King. Just like any parent, He will be there for us. He will protect us with His promises.

This New Year's I challenge all of us to spend time in the Bible. On Heart Java, there are a few options for us to read and meditate on the Word of God. Check out the Bible Reading Plans Page for options for beginning a reading plan.

If you need a more focused study, check out the 30 Days with Jesus Reading Plan. Another option is to strengthen our prayer lives by completing the 30 Day Prayer Challenge by Southern Melle. I will be starting this plan January 1 in order to grow in a more focused prayer life with Jesus.

The most important thing for us is to spend time daily in the Word. Not in a legalistic way, but as a way to spend time with God, learn how to live more like Christ and to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When we read the Word, meditate on it and spend time in prayer, we allow God into our hearts to mold and shape us into the people He wants us to be - standing strong on the promises of God!

Happy New Year!
"May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Joy is Your Life's Crown?

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Somewhere between awake and asleep, not even in the middle of a dream, and out of the blue a phrase pops up in my mind.
"If joy is your only hope in this life, then joy in this life is your crown."
joy is your crown

I thought for a moment it sounded very familiar. Like maybe I had seen it on a quote or read it somewhere. So, the first thing I do when I want to look up where an exact phrase came from, I Google it.... of course! If you put the phrase in quotations, the Google searches for that string of words in the exact order they are written. This is an excellent way for teachers to check for plagiarism, by the way. - that's a free tip for you today.

What does Google come back with.... nothing. So I have a feeling the Holy Spirit put this on my heart. When Google automatically removes the quotations to reveal other options, there was something.... the first search result was 1 Thessalonians 2:19,
"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" NIV
I thought about this verse for some time and wondered, 'what is the connection?' If you read the verse in other Bible versions, it begins to make a little more sense. The New Living Translation reads,
"After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!" NLT
So, I read these two translations, and then I look back at the question that popped in my head and thought, wow... we as a people...a generation.. are pursuing the wrong things in this life.

If you look at where this verse came from, you will read that in this letter Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he is longing to see them. He feels separated from them (in person not in thought) and longs to be reconnected to them, but Satan has blocked their way. (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20)

Where does this intense connection to them come from? He isn't related to them. They aren't his family. They were his ministry. He connected deeply with them on a spiritual level because they heard the gospel through him and how he lived and they accepted Jesus.
"when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believes." 1 Thessalonians 2:13
If I were in the city and I asked a random group of people "what brings you joy?', what do you think the response would be? I have a feeling it would be more financially related, job or health related, or possibly have something to do with obtaining possessions or a specific relationship with a person.

What is joy? Merrim-Webster has three simple definitions; a feeling of great pleasure or happiness, a source or cause of great happiness, something or someone that gives joy to someone, or success in doing, finding, or getting something. That is the simple, worldly definition for joy.

But, just as the common phrase says, "the joys of this life are fleeting." Yes, you may be happy because you have all you need in this world, but if you lost it tomorrow, would you still have your joy? If we focus all our efforts on obtaining a joy as defined by the world, that will be the only hope we have in this life. That will end up being your crown in this life. But, you can turn that phrase upside down and look at it a different way.

If we live as God purposed us, to pursue our joy in and through Him and him alone, we will achieve the hope and the joy he intended for us to have. The hope of our joy is in Christ and when we are overcome with that joy, we can't help but share it with others and live as examples in how Christ lived. That is a joy we can never lose. That joy is our hope and our crown in this life and the hereafter. When people see Jesus through us, and connect with God because of our example in how we lived, that is our crown. That is our glory and the joy we can boast about when we are in the presence of the Lord!

But, just a Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Satan blocked his way. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He and his agents will do all they can to steal your joy and keep you from being happy. But, if your joy is not of this world, he has no authority over it! If you live as if your joy is of this world, your unhappiness is seen by those who are seeking to know Christ. This could hinder their understanding of where real joy comes from. Yes, there will be trials and tribulations, but the glory of our hope is knowing that we will be in the presence of Jesus one day, we have no fear and can persevere over anything we endure in this world.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18
One day we will be liberated from our worldly bondage and brought into the freedom and glory as a child of God. (Romans 8:21) That is our hope and our joy!

We are about to approach a brand new year. A chance for new beginnings. Let's reflect on where we put our joy. Where does your joy come from? I believe that God laid this on my heart to help us all to see that putting our hope and joy in any part of this world is not His will. Our joy should only come from Jesus. As believers, we need to remember that and live it out. We need to live as examples of how Jesus wants us to live so that others can see Jesus through us.

We all have an opportunity to make resolutions for next year. I challenge all of us to get more involved with fellow believers who can help us live out our joy in Jesus, not in this world. We need to find people who we can also build up and reveal Jesus to so that they will come to know Him as well. That is our purpose, this is our joy and our crown. There, we can overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit into someone else.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him as that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
What new year resolutions will you make to reach the fullness of joy that is in Jesus? Share a comment with us by clicking "post a comment" below!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Proclaim the Truth or Hide the Truth

There was a small class of 8 students in a college class I was taking...many... summers ago. I don't remember how the conversation started, but I remember there was a young lady who was adamant that God did not exist. Another student started to say something, but this young lady had a very powerful personality and it was clear to both of us that it wasn't going to matter what we said. Unfortunately, we kept quiet. I could see it on the faces of that other student and the teacher that we all wanted to say something but we didn't. It was a moment I will never forget. A moment of missed opportunity. We were all too afraid to speak up about Jesus to a young women who obviously needed Him. I think that I remember that moment on occasion because I regret not speaking up; not sharing Jesus right then. Why didn't I? I was scared. I was afraid of what the other students would think about my belief in Jesus.  And, I was afraid that if cornered with a question, I wouldn't be able to explain why I was a believer.

While reading in the book of Luke last week, I ran across a section of scripture that I have been meditating on for some time and it caused me to remember that story.
"One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” 
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” 
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” Luke 20:1-8
Just before this story, Jesus had come to Jerusalem riding a colt. His disciples, or followers, came out to greet Him, praising God because they recognized Him as the King that comes in the name of the Lord. They knew the scriptures and how Jesus was fulfilling them. The Pharisees and chief priests were livid and wanted Jesus to rebuke His disciples for claiming that He was the King. Jesus said,
"I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40
And then He said,
"If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes." Luke 19:42
There are some people who just don't see who Jesus is; their hearts are not open to accepting that Jesus is the Savior much less God in the flesh. In this little story, I believe Jesus was revealing the reason why some people can't see Him and why it is so important for believers to speak up and acknowledge Jesus to others.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he entered the temple to teach. The teachers of the law, chief priests, and leaders all wanted to find a way to kill Him. After an attempt was made to try and trap Jesus, Jesus also asked them a question, which actually trapped them instead. It is obvious that these teachers of the law and priests were interested in finding fault in Jesus so that they could have Him persecuted.

Jesus knew their hearts and knew that since they wouldn't open their hearts to believe, they would never see the truth. So, because they refuse to be open to the possibility they could be wrong, the truth was now hidden to them. Jesus said, since they wouldn't answer, then He wouldn't reveal who gave Him authority.

Just like the young woman who refused to believe in God, she was so closed off that the mystery is completely hidden from her. If something was said that may have given her pause for one moment that there was a possibility she could be wrong and that there was a God, she might would have a conviction from the Holy Spirit. Instead, nothing was said so she refused to acknowledge there is a God. She had no conviction from the Holy Spirit so she continued to believe she was right.

The reason I thought about this young lady is because I wondered how many times Christians fail to acknowledge God in front of people that truly need to know His truth. We fail to show God to others because of fear from the people around us may get uncomfortable, or we may step on someone's toes, or say something that offends them. In my case, I was young and cared more about keeping peace rather than expressing my beliefs and stirring up conversation I might have had trouble explaining. Looking back, it is something I regret very much and have asked God's forgiveness for not speaking up.

Do we tend to back off from expressing our beliefs and our faith because we are afraid we can't explain our beliefs or because we don't want to offend anyone? So, like the Pharisees, is it easier to stay quiet and say 'we don't know' or nothing at all? How wrong is this line of thought!? Especially, if faith comes from hearing. It isn't our job to convince someone to have faith, but it is our job to proclaim the gospel with the message of truth so that the Holy Spirit can do His work in the heart.
"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." Romans 10:17
When Jesus said, "if you, even you, knew that this day would bring you peace - now it is hidden from your eyes", could this be a lesson for the believer not knowing the truth of His word and now mysteries are hidden from OUR eyes as well? My experience tells me that if I had spent time learning the Bible, when I was younger, then I might have been more confident in my interaction with her; more truth would have been revealed to me so that I could have shared it with her.

I believe this is why even we have trouble understanding the mysteries of God - which keeps others from understanding the mysteries of God. When we don't acknowledge God when we need to (or live as examples of Christ as we should), do we continue to hide a knowledge of truth, not only from others but also from ourselves? When we fail to seek the truth and live out our lives as godly examples, do we shroud the truth from others that need to know it and hear it?

If we truly believe that Jesus is our Savior and know that He is the only way, the truth, and the life to access God and Heaven, why then don't we pursue the knowledge we need in order to share the truth with those who don't know it? Why don't we live out the gospel and become examples for the rest of the world?

Until we, as believers, seek the kingdom and call out to God for knowledge and wisdom of His truth, I fear many will remain in the dark. I fear the truth will remain hidden for those that need believers to stand up and acknowledge God in a world whose hearts continue to become closed off to the truth of Jesus.

Believers, let's stand up for the gospel and boldly proclaim the good news! Let's be the light for those who live in darkness.
"Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But, whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33 
Lord, I pray for that young woman. I pray that she found the truth and knows Jesus as her Savior despite my disobedience. Father forgive us when we aren't obedient to sharing our faith in word or in deed. I pray you will fill us all with a desire to proclaim the goodness of your name and your promise to save those who believe in you. Give us a spirit of great BOLDNESS to live out our lives as believers in Christ and let us not be a stumbling block to those who are seeking the truth of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Gift for Everyone This Christmas

Today we celebrate the birth of a precious gift, Jesus Christ. Over 700 years before He was born, prophesy would announce His birth,
"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
 A Savior that is Jesus Christ our Lord was born, not as a King should, but as a servant to dwell among the people living out the perfect Law of God without fault; without sin.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke  2:8-14
 Though He dwelt on the earth for a little while, Jesus Christ was there in the beginning and through Him all things were made.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-4
 "For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:16-17
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14
He became a sacrifice for all, both Gentile and Jew. Innocent though He was, he was slain on a wooden cross, conquered death, and rose again and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
"He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by His wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24
Through Jesus, a gift of freedom is freely given to ALL people. If accepted, a promise of life beyond this world and forgiveness for all sins; past, present and future.


Now, He makes His dwelling among us through the Holy Spirit and lives in our hearts. Today, He continues to bring us the promise of redemption for anyone who believes in Him,
"If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Romans 10:9-11
Remember the reason for celebration; that through Jesus Christ, we have a promise of redemption. The gift of forgiveness of sins and the ability to freely come to the presence of a Holy God through the perfect lamb and sacrifice of Jesus. Praise God for our Savior and may you all have a Merry Christmas!!

merry christmas

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Monday, December 21, 2015

Warriors and The Armor-Bearer

Power of God

Every now and then there are stories in the Bible that cause me to pause and think about their application to life. Today I was reading a story in 1 Samuel about a man named Jonathan. I don’t know much about him except that he was the son of King Saul and eventually becomes a good friend to King David. Part of me believes that he must have been somewhat rebellious; that he wanted to do his own things and not be questioned about it. But the other part of me thinks that Jonathan must have been a very confident and brave warrior for God.

When I read the story I started thinking that Jonathan must have been one that believed if God put something on his heart that he needed to do, he was going to take care of it, and get it done. He didn’t need to tell his father, he didn’t need to tell his other brothers, he didn’t need the approval of others…. no one... except his armor-bearer.

I don’t know what time it was, my imagination makes me think it was in the middle of the day, but Jonathan leans over to his young armor-bearer and says,

“Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.” 1 Samuel 14:1

Jonathan, tells his armor-bearer that they are going to cross the pass where the enemy is on the other side. And he goes knowing he has only one of two swords in the whole Israeli army. The Philistines had previously taken away all of the blacksmiths to prevent the Israelites from having the ability to obtain any weapons. All they had were clubs and sickles. Saul and Jonathan were the only ones in the entire Israeli camp that had swords. (1 Samuel 13:16-22)

This story made me pause and think about all the warriors out there who believe you are on a mission for God. You believe God has specifically laid it on your heart to complete a task and just like Jonathan, you are completely confident and driven to get it done. So, without needing the approval of others, you take the initiative and begin your task….you have but one sword and an armor-bearer.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer,
“Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men.” 1 Samuel 14:6a

It is apparent here that Jonathan doesn’t care much for the Philistines as he speaks with disdain calling them the “uncircumcised men”. Which to me says, he wasn’t afraid of them. He is not worried about them even though he knows there are more of them on the other side of the pass then just him and his armor-bearer, but he is going anyway. He is on a mission.

I love his attitude about it. Verse 6 continues with Jonathan saying,
Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” 1 Samuel 14:6b 

He trusts God completely! If God is calling him to complete a task, he knows God will carry them through no matter how bad the odds may look; no matter the obstacles, no matter how high the cliff.

Now, with Jonathan is this unnamed servant, a young armor-bearer. When I looked up what this person’s job was, I learned that they are generally servants who carried additional weapons for commanders. Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 16:21), and Joab (2 Samuel 18:15) also had armor-bearers. In these scriptures, the armor-bearers would carry armor for their masters and finish off the enemy after they were wounded.

When Jonathan told his servant what they were about to do, he said,
“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” 1 Samuel 14:7

It is the two of them against 20 Philistines. The enemy has them 10 to 1 and the servant says…. Let’s go.. We’ve got this! Now, I have to take this to mean the servant, though young, has a great deal of love and respect for his master. He is willing to put his life on the line for the warrior. He basically says, I have your back and I am with you all the way... heart and soul.

We have an unnamed servant on our side as well. When God assigns us a task, gives us opportunities to do His work, or places a mission on our hearts to further His kingdom, we have a helper on our side. We have the Holy Spirit. He is our armor-bearer. He has our backs when we need Him so that we can carry out the mission God places on our hearts to do.

Jonathan tells the armor-bearer,
“Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the Lord has given them into our hands.” 1 Samuel 14:8-10
So when we are called to a task by God, we may have to climb a cliff. It may not be the easiest road, but we can be confident that God's will... will prevail. Since the Philistines see Jonathan and tell him to come up to them and that they will "teach them a lesson", I believe Jonathan and the servant are boldly pursuing them in the middle of the day. They wanted to be seen! Jonathan knew he had the power of God on his side! (1 Samuel 14:12)

Jonathan told the armor-bearer,
“Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 1 Samuel 14:12

So, they climb the cliff and defeat the Philistines.

We are all commissioned by God to spread the good news of the gospel. Some of us are called to do specific work by God to complete a task, go on a mission, or pursue an opportunity to further His kingdom and make Him famous. We can walk around as if we are powerless, or we can walk around with BOLDNESS as if we have the power of God with us. Galatians 2:20 says,

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

If we have Jesus in our hearts, we have the power of God inside of us! As a warrior for God, we can confidently (and with boldness) complete the task that God has placed on our heart to do. The Holy Spirit, our armor-bearer, is there to have our backs. We have our sword, and if we listen close, our armor-bearer reminds us of when to use our weapon (the Word of God); when we need to fight back against the enemy. 

When we strike a blow to the enemy by completing the task we are assigned, our armor-bearer is there.... to finish the job. 

So GO! You WARRIOR for God! Go confidently and bravely with the armor-bearer by your side, and complete the task you have been assigned!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Too Much Confidence in Ourselves

'It is all about getting the biggest house, best car, the best clothes and accessories. We want to live in the best neighborhoods, make sure our kids go to the best schools and have the coolest friends and play on the best sports teams. (because they could get top scholarships to college you know...) We need to make sure our kids have more than we did.'
Does this sound familiar? Is this the collective ideology of our society where everyone's sole purpose in life is to have the very best of everything and never need or want for anything?

If I am honest with myself, a lot of that used to be me. And I can tell you now, boy was I wrong!

I was reading in Philippians this week and I came upon a scripture Paul wrote about not putting any confidence in the flesh. My thoughts began racing, as I read Chapter 3, about how it seems our society is teaching people to become more and more dependent on themselves rather than the One who provides.

I may be way off base by thinking this way, so feel free to comment, but do you think society is redefining what a "blessing" is based on our possessions and our position in society? 'I am so blessed because I have the nicest house on the block, an expensive car, and the coolest toys.' But are we really? What often comes with all the focus on materialism? Paul wrote,
 "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Philippians 3:7-8
Before his conversion, Paul was an official who had a top notch education, spoke multiple languages, and was highly esteemed, especially since he inherited the rights as a Roman citizen. I would imagine he could have the best of everything, and may very well had it all. But what he says here, in this verse, tells you how much he disregarded all of that as worthless. He loved Jesus more.

At this point, Paul's persecution of the Christians was now turned upon himself. He endured sufferings, beatings, and prison. But here, Paul says whatever he gained back then he now considered loss for the sake of Christ. He was saying that the "surpassing worth of knowing Christ" was worth losing everything he had!

After reading this, honestly, I felt a little guilty. We put so much energy and time into making sure we have a high paying job, a nice house, a nice car, and the best clothes. We make sure our kids get pretty much whatever they want and we make sure they are able to play on the best select teams and have the best experiences. We sure don't want them coming away without a trophy or a ring.

I was just as guilty of this as anyone else. It didn't matter if we had to skip church to go to baseball games. It didn't matter that we spent all our money on paying off debt, house, car, or clothes. We didn't have the money to tithe. We had to pay the debt from everything we wanted. We were putting more confidence in ourselves than God and we didn't consider anything we had a product of God's provision. We made the money, we had the jobs, we were taking care of ourselves just fine. We didn't need God. Yes, we were blessed....because of what we had done, not what God was doing. And all of that at the expense of putting God on the back burner and living in a high stress, high debt, and and often tense marriage. OH HOW WRONG THAT WAS!!!

Paul goes on to say,
"I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith." Philippians 3:9
Over the past several years, my husband and I have made an intentional effort to clean out our hearts of ourselves and make more room for Christ. I can say that the journey we have been on to make Jesus the center of our lives has RADICALLY changed our point of view on materialism and how much dependence we put on worldly possessions. Since we have progressively made changes, our debt is almost gone, we tithe every month and we have never been happier not to live in the biggest house or have the best cars. Our marriage is stronger now than it has ever been. Why, you ask? I truly believe that since we have put Christ first in our lives, we have seen more blessing and provision in the way of peace, joy, contentment, and confidence. We are happier now than we have ever been after 21 years of marriage living in a small two-bedroom apartment in a metal building. I absolutely love it!

When I read those verses Paul wrote, I reflected on my own journey following Jesus and I see that having faith and knowing Christ is worth much more than anything we could ever own. That is what I want to teach my kids. Nothing else in this world matters. All of it is garbage. Having a relationship with Jesus is the most important thing. Everything else should come second.

I shared Matthew 6:33 in a post earlier this week, I Believe I Can Fly, But Will I , but I want to remind you of it here with regard to worrying about having all we need....
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 25-33

If we all just learned to be content with what we have, putting God first, and trusting in His provision, our society would be completely different. However, we know that it will never happen as long as Christ is not in people's lives. In Philippians 4, Paul makes a statement that I want to learn to live by.
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:11-12
It has become a dog eat dog world where everyone is more concerned with having the best of everything so when compared to their neighbor, they feel better about themselves. It is more important now that everyone feels included, that no one is offended by being considered different, and everyone is entitled to have the same things as everyone else. A society where everyone gets a trophy and confidence is put in themselves. I want to live differently. I want to put all confidence in God not in myself and be content with His provision.

God, empty my heart of me and fill me to the measure with you! (Psalm 51:10)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Defeat Depression and the Holiday Blues

This is the time of year when I start feeling a little blah. I have been feeling rather sluggish the last few days. It is all I can do to drag myself out of bed and find the energy to make it to work and last through the day. I lack the motivation to be productive. What makes it worse is when I am fighting a cold or allergies. It is so hard to find the will to function, which is my problem today.

A lot of us have those days when we just don't feel like doing anything. Days like this, all I want to do is put on my pajama pants, curl up on the couch with my warm blanket, sleep or read a book.

For some, you may be feeling down or depressed for other reasons. When we are facing trials or circumstances in our lives that cause a lot of worry, anxiety or stress we can become seriously drained of all our energy. Those days are tough. You just don't feel like you can make it through the day, but you know you have to. If we aren't careful, we can allow depression to over take us and distract us from seeing the glory and joy of God. Depression, if not addressed, can cause serious issues within many aspects of life. For some reason, today, my heart is aching for those who may be suffering from depression. I think maybe it's because if depression feels anything like I do right now, while sick and achy, I can imagine how debilitating it must be.

If there is a reader out there that is struggling with depression or is just down and out do to some circumstances you are dealing with, I want you to know, you are not alone!

I believe that the sluggish feeling we experience and depression are attacks from the enemy. There are many people who struggle with depression on a regular basis, especially during the holiday season. For some, it may be due to the loss of a close family member or loss of a job. It could be due to insecurity or feelings of inadequacy. The rush of the holiday season with all the demands of entertaining, shopping, planning, etc. can bring people to a point of weariness as well.

Although there is a big difference between feeling sluggish and being depressed, the long term effects of being in those states of mind can lead to a deeper depression if we don't make an effort to fight it. In order to battle through, we need to be war ready, prayed up, armored up, and rooted in the Word so that we can fight back and defeat the enemy's attempt to steal our joy. Jesus is our defense against the enemy. He gives us the spirit of peace and joy. Jesus said,

life in abundance

"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
The enemy wants to steal your joy and your energy, kill all desire you have to do good works, and destroy your daily mission to live like Christ and serve God. That is the mission of the enemy and if he is able to attack you through your circumstances, your work, or the trials you face in order to keep you from feeling joy, that is exactly what he will do.

I want you to know that God is looking to lift you up and bring your joy back. Jesus came so that we will have joy in life and and have it abundantly. After all, He is the source of all peace and joy. All you have to do is lift your head, open your eyes, and look to the comforter; ask and receive.

The ONLY way to battle and defeat depression and the blues is to turn to God. There are a variety of medications doctors can prescribe, but do we want to mask the symptoms or find a cure?

(Update: After receiving a message from a reader, I want to add a note here - There is a difference between clinical depression and emotional depression based on circumstances. It is not my intention to deny the fact there are some Christians that truly struggle with clinical depression who need medication to control the symptoms. A physician diagnosis that condition based on a physical exam and so there may be a need to control other internal chemical imbalances that cause certain symptoms of depression. However, I do believe in either condition, the enemy will attack in our weakness and so it is imperative that we prepare spiritually as well.)

In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about being prepared for spiritual battle. Even now, as you are reading this post, there is a spiritual battle going on around you. You can't see it, but you can be sure the devil and his spirits are doing their level best to keep you down in the gutter of depression so that you will not feel like doing good works.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." Ephesians 6:10-18
In order to fight sluggishness, depression and lack of motivation, we need to make sure we are always war ready. We must be fitted with the armor of God at all times so that when the enemy attempts to attack, he fails. One way I battle these types of days is to pray every morning that God would reveal His glory and that I will find a blessing to motivate me to complete the day. I ask Him to fill me with the fullness of Christ and give me strength to keep going and to do the good works He has planned for me to do.
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58
We are called to stand firm and the only way to do that is to be fitted with armor that can withstand the blows of the enemy. We can find our peace and strength in God. Isaiah 41:10 says,

Isaiah 41

"So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
Fitted with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, we can withstand the blows from the enemy from knocking us down and keeping us down. The sword, the only offensive weapon described by Paul in Ephesians, is our tool that we can use to fight back. Verses put to memory and recited such as the ones below, can be used to defeat the enemy's attempts to keep you down.
"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
Or this one...
"Happy are the people to know the joyful shout! Lord, they walk in the light of your presence." Psalms 89:15
And then one of my favorites for days like this...
"I keep the Lord on my mind always, because He is at my right hand and I will not be shaken." Psalm 16:8
When you start to feel down and out, depressed and sluggish, shout out these scriptures, or any other favorite verse. The Word is your weapon against the attack of the enemy. Fight back!

Jesus Christ is our salvation and He is the source of our joy, not anything else of this world!
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." John 17:13

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Believe I Can Fly, But Will I?

There have been several times that I think of things I could invent, or create, then later regret that I never acted on it because eventually someone else comes up with the idea and becomes wildly successful.

For example, in my mind I invented the digital picture frame and live video web streaming for high school athletic events. Obviously, neither one of those are my inventions, but I did at least have the idea before they were invented!

Which brings me to a little story....
“Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?”  
“No, There are still five. Deciding to fly away and ACTUALLY flying away are two very different things.” 
“Listen carefully to me. Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is absolutely no power in intention. The seagull may intend to fly away, may decide to do so, may talk with the other seagulls about how wonderful it is to fly, but until the seagull flaps his wings and takes to the air, he is still on the dock. There’s no difference between that gull and all the others. Likewise, there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place." (The Noticer by Andy Andrews) 
We often have great intentions and wild dreams of making things happen for ourselves believing that we could better ourselves, but then we fail in execution.

action trumps intention

Several years ago, I realized I was not living the life I should. I wanted a better marriage, better relationships, and to be a better parent. I knew that in order to achieve that, I needed a stronger relationship with God. I wanted to start reading the Bible more. I intended on spending less time watching TV and more time with God. I decided that one day I was going to start praying more often and become a better person; I was going to learn to follow Jesus.

At the time, I had great intentions with an aim to improve myself and, in a way, become more successful in life by living the way Jesus would want me to live. But, like that seagull, those intentions didn't lift me off the dock. I was still right where God left me. I hadn't moved a muscle. It wasn't until I had faith enough to take action, that I began to see the glory of God's work in my life.

After reading the following verse, I reflected on the difference between intentions and actions and what that meant for me....
"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." James 4:17
I knew what it was going to take for me to have a stronger relationship with God, but I failed to act. There were too many other priorities that took precedence. We can't improve on our goals, relationships, or our lives until we take an action. We have to make a move; take a step....have faith. But faith does no good unless there is action to accompany it. James 2:17 says,
"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." 
I think sometimes we get caught up in believing that having good intentions is enough. We want to know and love God. We want to follow Jesus and believe in Him and his Holy Spirit. But, how can we do those things when we don't make any effort to seek it out? How can we come to know and love God more when we don't spend time with Him? He is the Word - How can we know Him if we don't meditate on what He says?

For some, you may have intentions in other areas such as:

to be a better husband....
to be a better wife....
to be a better parent....
to serve more....
to be a better friend....

All of these are great intentions, and we can have faith we will get better, but they all demand an action in order to reveal God's glory!

In the book of Joshua (chapter 3), the Israelites are waiting on God to reveal a way to cross the Jordan and get to the promise land on the other side. - They have good intentions. They want to follow God's will and reach His promised land. But, right in front of them is a very large, very deep, river.

God told Joshua that he would make a way and to tell the priests to carry the ark ahead of the Israelites, stand in the river, and wait. Now this time of year, at harvest time, the Jordan River is at flood stage. The waters are rushing and any attempt to cross would be futile. People could lose their lives.

At this point I have to wonder what the priests were thinking. They are holding a very precious item at the edge of a rushing river wondering, "Did you REALLY say to cross the river?" Are you SURE you want us to try and cross these raging rapids of white water? We won't be able to hold up the ark and swim at the same time!"

How many times God impresses on us to do something or gives us opportunities and we fail to act? He gives us ideas and we intend to follow through with them, but we lack the faith to commit an action. The priests didn't even get the instruction from God Himself, God told Joshua to instruct the priests with what they needed to do.

The Holy Spirit prompts us to action and we wonder, 'are you SURE that's what you want me to do?' - and then we fail to respond.

Fortunately, for the Israelites, the priests acted and took the steps they needed. They had faith to move beyond their fears of drowning and put their feet in a raging river.... that's when God parted the waters. That's when God revealed His glory.

In Ephesians, Paul describes some instructions for Christian Living.
"When you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus, you were taught, in regard to your formal way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:21-24
For me, having good intentions in getting closer to God was good, but I was in sin because I failed to act on His promptings. I failed to execute the instructions He was giving me.  The glory of God was not being revealed in all these areas in my life, because I was not being obedient. I was still holding on to my former ways of life. My attitude needed to change and I needed to live according to God's truth.

Everyone has good intentions to better themselves and provide nice things for their family. They work and work to achieve success. They have great intentions, but they are misguided in their actions. You know that slogan, "God helps those who help themselves"? I believe people have twisted that to mean that in order to receive the blessings of God, people have to work harder according to the world's definition of success. Instead of leaning on the will of God, people believe they have to provide for themselves, which to me is contrary to what God's word says in Matthew 6.

seek first

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
Seeking takes action. We have to not only have faith but seek it out. We can have good intentions in all these areas of our lives, but until we seek Him first, we won't see the glory of God revealed in those areas. We may have some success according to the world's standards, but there is a difference in that and what God wants to reveal to us.

It wasn't until I was obedient to God and His promptings to turn off the TV, put down the remote, and seek His kingdom that I began to feel like my relationship with God was getting stronger. I had to make an intentional effort to seek His will and be obedient before He would reveal more and more of His glory in the other areas of my life. What He was trying to show me is that in order to see improvements in the other areas of my life, I had to know how He wanted me to act. That only came from reading His Word.

What I have learned through this is that my good intentions, when turned into actions, changed my life. I believe now I can get off the dock and fly to new heights in becoming a better wife, mother, servant, and friend because I continue to strive to be obedient in God's instruction, seek Him first, open my wings and jump.
"And we will soar on wings like eagles, we will run and not grown weary, we will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Run the Plays - Win the Game

Basketball is a big part of my life. Being a basketball coach's wife and mom of two players has made life very interesting. There are good days and bad days. I'll let you guess when those occur.

This is the time of year I spend much of my time in the gym. Sounds of squeaky shoes chirping their way around the court. An occasional whistle, warning of a player violation, delays the momentum of the game. The rhythm of the ball thuds from one end to another - a pause - then the swoosh of the ball making it's way through the net. I love this game. And the crowd roars as their favorite team scores the basket.

While sitting in the gym watching my favorite team run their offense, I saw a familiar play. Coach has used this one many times. I'm sure it's at the top of his playbook. -As many times as it has been drawn up for me and explained on a napkin, I pretty much can recognize when it is put into play.

The flex offense - a play run by all five players in an intricately woven pattern of designed motion. Each player moves in time as another passes the ball with an aimed precision. This offense, when executed well, can wear down a defense making it easier for the offensive team to make the goal. However, if one offensive player makes the slightest mistake, a turnover can result in favor of the opposing team; giving them an opportunity to score. That's when a whistle can blow - coach calls time out.

As I watched this I thought about how God wants to use us as His players to play this game of life. It's His team versus the enemy and each one of His players has a specific position and purpose. Each team has a set of offensive plays with opposing defensive strategies - and the enemy doesn't always play by the rules. Fortunately, God's playbook describes all plays for both teams. - it even has the results at the end of the game.

Not only is it important for the team (the church) to know the playbook, it is especially important that each individual player know their roles and responsibilities in their position. Deuteronomy 11:18 says,
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads."
 We need to know the playbook so that we can play our best game against the enemy. Do you know their strategies? Do you know how to defend yourself? Coach says, "offense wins games, but defense wins championships". I believe that can be true in life too. In order for us to be used by God to play the best game we can in the positions He chooses to put us in, we have to know our defense... the Word of God; our playbook.

Coach expects each player to know the fundamentals as well as the plays and the strategies the enemy uses. We want to be our best so the enemy can't throw us off our game. The enemy will occasionally block our shots and take the ball from us but what's important is that we pick ourselves up and hustle back. We have to get the ball back in play and make the shots God calls us to make. Remember, you will miss 100% of the shots you don't take. 

As coach says, "we have to get out of our comfort zones". Sometimes the trials and tribulations we face make us very uncomfortable, but they are preparation for a tougher game we may have to face later. One of my coach's favorite verses is,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
We want to be mature and strong in our faith as much as an athlete does in order to prepare for the game. We will face some tough games, games where we will miss shots and make mistakes. Our big coach may take us out of the game and sit us on the bench for a while until we get our head back in the game, but you can bet that he will do or say something to inspire our hearts to play harder.
"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
With Jesus on our side, we know that His love can fill us to the measure with the fullness of God and give us the strength we need to win! (Ephesians 3:19)
"to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." Ephesians 3:20
When we are confident in this truth, we can know that although we will miss the easy layup from time to time, the power of God within us can give us the strength we need to throw down that 360 degree dunk in the enemies face!

There are teams that play and win due to their sheer athleticism, but there are teams that win because of their heart. Many times the heart overcomes and beats the opposing team against all odds. But know this, in this game we call life, we are on God's team. He gives us all the strength we need and inspires our hearts to win.

We ARE the winning team - the VARSITY team!
"But he took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory." 2 Samuel 23:12

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Let Off Steam, Before Exploding

Before I start, a disclaimer..... this is not a blog that has all the answers. I am just an average girl that continues to deal with daily struggles of this world and of sin like everyone else. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do try to seek the truth of God that He reveals through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. So, if you read through this blog, you may not find the most theologically correct points of view, but you will read about someone who just continues to live constantly trying to improve and be more Christ-like. Someone who is simply seeking God's will the best way she knows how. I AM NOT PERFECT... no body is. I make mistakes. So, in light of that.... here we go...

pressure builds

I have a confession to make. Last night, I lost it on my dear husband and he did not deserve it. My gasket blew, but not because he did anything wrong. He simply asked for me to do him a favor. For some reason I just went off on the poor man. Even as I was reacting the way I did to him on the phone I could sense that this was not an appropriate response. Why do we do that? Later, after cooling off a bit, I was ready to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Because my husband is gracious and loving, he was quick to forgive and gave me grace.
God love'em!

After much reflection on my attitude with my husband last night, I started to think, what came over me? It brought to mind a pressure cooker. I hate cooking with those things... they scare me. Think about it. You are putting your self at risk when you heat up whatever concoction you have in a tin can to build the pressure up to a point when, if pressure isn't released, you could experience...let's just say a very large mess.

Breakfast at Tiffany's, one of my favorites, Audrey Hepburn calls a friend over for dinner. Throughout the scene she repeats over and over 'how divinely happy she is'. She tells him that many times. A few minutes later, the pressure cooker releases a little steam, and then BOOM! Dinner is EVERYWHERE!

Sometimes I'll go about my day, week, month putting on a smile. All is good and I seem happy. I'll go on acting like life is grand and nothing bothers me. Until, one day, all of that mess I kept bottled up inside builds up to a rapid boil. Then, before I know it, just one little degree more of heat, and BOOM! I explode. That is what happened with me last night. After I cleaned up my mess, I remembered... THAT was NOT a Christ-like response.

So, as a Christ follower, how do we keep pressure from building in our lives and exploding on the people we love?

James 1:19-20 says,
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."
 Paul told the Christians in Ephesus:
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Obviously, there are times when it is okay to be angry. Even Jesus displayed anger the day he turned over the tables in the temple. (Matthew 21:12) The difference between that type of anger and the anger I experienced was, His was righteous and for a good reason... my anger was not.

Part of the problem is, we need to blow off steam and let off some pressure from time to time. I believe it is important that we surround ourselves with other believers that we can trust to vent and blow off some of the steam we have building up inside of us. What is most important is that we have someone who walks closely with God who can speak truth to us and keep us from going astray and allowing us to make rash decisions based off that built up pressure.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2
If both you and your confidant are rooted in the Word, you can help each other in being able to deal with the times when you are feeling the most heat. I love the verse in 1 Timothy that says,
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"
Sometimes, when someone points out scripture that applies to your issues, it can help you refocus your heart and mind. Having a time with a friend to share your frustrations and problems and them sharing some Godly words of wisdom can help ease that pressure you are building up inside. You can release some steam before you explode on someone else.

iron sharpens iron

Remember Proverbs 27:17,
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
That is why it is very important for us to have friends who are also believers. They can help sharpen us in our faith and daily mission to be more Christ-like. That is part of the lesson I learned. The other part is... PRAY. God is there to listen! He wants you to bring ALL your cares to him.
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 

If you continue to go through your day, bottling up the stress, anxiety, anger, and/or worry, you need to remember to let it out. PRAY IT OUT! Talk to a friend that will speak truth into your life......because...

We don't want to explode! It can get VERY MESSY!
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Monday, December 7, 2015

Be The Light - The #Tag3Campaign


A little background story....

I like to pray out loud when I am alone in my car. It is my time for uninterrupted conversation between me and God. It must look very strange to people as they pass. I can just imagine them looking at this girl flapping her jaws away; talking to nobody - in a deep east Texas southern accent. I have decided... If I ever see anybody looking in, I will wave real big at them! I believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer!

While reading the book of Daniel, I stumbled upon a great scripture, and it really made me think about how I should pray. Daniel 9:20-23 tells of a time when Daniel was praying to God. It was how he was praying that struck me.
"While I was speaking and praying...." (Daniel 9:20) 
He was speaking, out loud, while he was praying. He was doing that in solitude while pleading for his people. In the middle of his prayer, the angel Gabriel, came to him and said,
"Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision" (Daniel 9:23)
That is the kind of relationship I want with God. He wants to be close to us so, for me, I like to think of him as a close friend that wants to talk to us like any other close friend. In order to have real relationships with people, we talk to them, right? Out loud... We don't usually expect them to read our minds.

Side note: (I don't say this to condemn anyone who would rather pray in silence. This is a personal thing between me and God, and I believe that is how he wants me to talk to him. You may be very comfortable with praying in silence and I still do on occasion. - although... I have been known to fall asleep in the middle of my prayer! - anyone else have this problem?!)

What struck me about this verse in Daniel is that Gabriel said, "As soon as you began to pray, a word went out." I LOVED THIS! It is such a great reminder to all of us that God is listening! He hears our prayers and He responds. For Daniel, He received the voice of Gabriel to hear and understand. For us, since Christ has given us "a helper" we have the ability to hear God's response through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

I believe if we REALLY could see all of the ways God responds to our prayers, we would pray so much more!

As I was praying out loud Saturday morning on my drive, the Holy Spirit inspired me to start an encouragement campaign through Heart Java. As I sat and reflected on this during my drive I could see how using social media could be a fantastic way to reach people that might need a little Light throughout their day.... especially on Mondays! I often have a hard time on Mondays, as I am sure many of you also do.

Another thing I thought about is, how much negative nonsense is out there that people see every morning on Facebook - and what a discouragement it often is!  (You know you are just as bad as I am and read Facebook as soon as you get up in the morning!) 

There is so much negative, that we should BE THE LIGHT for others and give people the encouragement they often look for. (I'm afraid people are getting so caught up in the number of "Likes" they get on their selfies, that they forget who gave them their identity in the first place. - Can I get an AMEN?)

When you woke up this morning and grabbed your cell phone to see what was on Facebook -or who "Liked" your latest post- how would you have felt if someone had sent you a scripture telling you, "YOU ARE HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, AND REDEEMED!" It probably would have made your day a little brighter, right? Or if someone tagged you and said, "YOU ARE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE!" I bet you would have had a big smile on your face.

That is what the #Tag3Campaign is all about. It is an opportunity for all of us to make a difference in someone's day. I like to think of it as a way to encourage someone we may not know well, but we may want to say, "Hey! You are loved and known by God!" What a way to make a difference in the life of someone else! What a way to be the church and share the love of Jesus and the gospel to those who may not know Him!

Not only that, but this may be a way for all of us to get into the Word more and share the Word with others!

So I challenge you, my friends, to join me in the #Tag3Campaign. Every Monday, there will be a "scriptpic" (scripture picture) with a verse that can be used to encourage 3 people you are friends with on social media. You can tag that picture or choose ANY other picture on the Heart Java Facebook page, Twitter page, or Instagram page. Or... feel free to choose another picture from any other site. The purpose of this campaign is just to be an encouragement to others. Hebrews 3:13 says,
"But encourage one another DAILY, as long as it is called TODAY so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (emphasis mine)
1 Thessalonians 5:11 also talks about encouragement,
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

And finally, a verse that speaks to my heart regarding the purpose of this entire campaign,
"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, mainly Christ." - Colossians 2:2
My Friends, may you all go forth and be the Light of Christ and an Encouragement to those who need the love and grace of Jesus! Be sure to type #Tag3Campaign if you share a picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! It will be a way for us to share encouraging quotes and scriptures so that we can have a bank of them to use. God Bless All of YOU!

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