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Our Amazing Influence

Simon the Sorcerer

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.”They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, amazed by the great signs and miracles he saw.

Acts 8:9-13


It’s my guess that before many of us heard Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:39,  “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”, we all thought we were some level of great. 

It’s okay, you can admit it. I will too. Before knowing Jesus, our lives were centered around the greatness of self. Achieving selfish desires and seeking after things that would fulfill and establish a name for ourselves. I know before I knew Christ, I was on a slippery slope of idolization of self-value and worth – mainly in what others thought of me. I so desperately wanted to be like Simon. I wanted to be looked upon by those low and high with great respect, reverence and awe. I thought that if I could just attain a certain level of status with those I looked up to most, then certainly, I would be fulfilled. 

As described in the text, Simon had great fame amongst the people of Samaria. Those who knew him even thought he was god-like. He had all eyes on him, all the time. He knew how to command a room and keep their attention with amazing and impressive acts of sorcery and magic. Surely, this was the peak of Simon’s life. He had great influence over those who looked up to him. The people listened to him and were continuously amazed by him. 

Are you looking for glitz to influence or God?

But one day, Simon found the attention of the people was no longer in the palm of his hands. Someone else was stealing the show…

Philip had stolen the attention of his audience with the truth of the gospel. Now all of a sudden, the people were more interested in hearing about Jesus, rather than seeing Simon’s sorcery, and Simon was too. 

Miraculously, Simon was also among the many who were touched by Philip’s faithfulness to share the gospel everywhere he went. Simon became a follower of Philip and chose to no longer be a chief producer of propaganda for himself, but a disciple of Jesus, and one who laid down his “greatness” to serve the one and only Great God.  

Many of us look at Simon’s life before Christ and think, “Man, he had it all.” I mean, being a magician is no noble or holy position, but he had the love and respect of the people — two things every human being deeply long for more than anything else. The fact of the matter is, the influence Simon had on those people was superficial, surface level and would only last for a while until they found their next source of entertainment. His influence didn’t have deep roots in their hearts, it wasn’t truth-centered. 

The same goes with the superficial influence many of us THINK will make a lasting impact on others. We want the status, the attention and the glamour, but in reality all of that, will amount to nothing. 

True, deeply-rooted influence on others takes time. It takes a gospel-centered approach that puts the others’ hearts and souls first. It takes laboring in love, sacrificing time and resources and really listening to what the other person has to say. Simon may have captured the attention of the townspeople, but it didn’t take much for someone like Philip, who brought both truth and love, to steal their attention. 

Now, loving others and sharing the gospel is certainly no popularity contest. But, establishing effective and genuine and amazing influence is key to making strides for the Kingdom. 

So, what kind of influence have you been attempting to have on others? Do you seek glitz and glamour like Simon? Or, have you sought genuine, amazing relationships that are truth-based like Philip? 

Consider those around you who look up to you and think of how you can take one step towards influencing them towards Christ-centeredness today. 

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Amazing Presence

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

Luke 24:16-26


Depending on how Messianic scholars classify the prophesies in the Old Testament about the coming of Jesus, you will find between 200 and more than 400 statements about the Son of God becoming a man to teach us and be our ultimate sacrifice.  Given that information, which was taught throughout the Jewish faith, you have to wonder why anyone at the time of Jesus’ death didn’t understand what was going on.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise that He would also be resurrected.  Yet disciple after disciple, woman and man, we see either their disbelief or shocking amazement when Jesus stood with them after His death.

But we can’t be too hard on those people of old.  I mean we have 1,000s of years of Bible study, the hindsight of the entire New Testament, and more Bible scholars and preachers than we could ever count explaining the connections and the truths of this amazing story.  And yet so many of us, even Christians, have a hard time truly accepting that Jesus is with us, even today.  He stands in front of us with an open hand almost pleading with us to surrender and follow Him.  He stands next to us, holding our hand, as we take scary, daring steps of faith.  And He stands watch over us guiding and protecting us.  When we fully accept that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we can feel His constant, amazing presence.

I heard a sermon the other day by Joyce Meyer called, “What is Faith?”  In it she encourages those whose families are grown and left the nest, who have lost spouses, who feel as though no one loves them, to grasp on to the knowledge that Jesus is ever-present in our lives.  He is with us when we go to the grocery store.  He is with us when we sit and watch a sunset.  He is with us when we lie down, alone, in our beds.  

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 18:22-23

When we read the verses today in Luke 24, we might gloss over the fact that Jesus had already died.  What happened on that road to Emmaus could have just as easily been written today.  There was nothing special about the two men to which Jesus appeared.  They are you and me.  We can leave church or a Bible study waxing philosophical about the amazing presence of Jesus “way back when” and completely miss that He is walking right there with us!  

I once heard a woman in a Bible study say to the group, “How come God doesn’t talk to us like He did in the Bible?”  I found it fascinating that this person has somehow missed the prolific authors who have received urgings and messages from the Holy Spirit.  She somehow has ignored all the testimonials she has heard in church from people who have been miraculously saved.  She somehow missed my own telling, to that very group, of my Jesus vision.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 

John 4:48

Are you ignoring Jesus’ amazing, constant presence?  Has he walked along with you, sat at your dinner table and you didn’t acknowledge it was Him?  Are you looking for a burning bush outside your door to speak in a Charlton Heston-esque voice to make decisions for you?  I’m not saying that won’t happen but Jesus’ character is a lot more quiet and gentle.  He wants you to have the “ah ha moment” like the men in our story today.  He leads you, tiny step by step to clearing the mud from your eyes and ears.  And if you will only accept the burning bush as “proof” of His presence you will surely miss Him along the path.

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His Amazing Identity

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.  After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Luke 2:41-50


Who have you believed Jesus to be? 

The world has so many depictions of what Jesus “looks like.” White Jesus, Black Jesus, Buddha Jesus, Italian Jesus — it seems as though everyone has taken their idea of Jesus and made it reflect their own image. This practice is a dishonoring habit by churches everywhere who spend so much time painting Jesus to reflect their faces, instead of painting themselves to look more like Jesus.

No matter where you are at in your walk with Christ, I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had different perspectives of who Jesus is. For me, I’ve always thought of him as a Mediterranean- looking trim man with brown flowy locks. I can thank several movies and documentaries for that image. I’ve also thought of him as God’s Son who sits on a seat lower than God, answers to His requests and working as the hands and feet of God’s Kingdom — another misconception that again, devalues the full power and glory of Christ. Why? Because Jesus isn’t less than God or inferior. Jesus is God as a part of the Trinity. Three-in-One, Father, Spirit, Son. Jesus sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19) and was present at creation (Genesis 1:26). 

See, here in Luke 2, Jesus’ parents knew he was a seed planted in Mary by God, but they still couldn’t wrap their heads around what that really meant. When they lost Jesus in the crowds in Jerusalem, they searched tirelessly for Him everywhere but one place – the temple. If they truly understood who Jesus was, that would’ve been the first place they looked. But to them, all they could see was their young son who was just a little boy. Where could he possibly have gone? Once found, they were amazed at what they were seeing. That same little boy was teaching/preaching in the temple courts, communing with His Father. 

Duh, where else would He be? 

I challenge you to ask yourself this: What lies/misconceptions/myths are you believing about Jesus? And how are those misconceptions hindering you from being truly amazed by his power and presence in your life? Where are you looking for Jesus and missing Him, when in reality, you simply need to go to the Father to find Him? 

The best way to find out who Jesus REALLY is, is to read through His words and interactions with others in the gospels. Study His character and you will discover God’s character. Study His love and you will understand God’s love. Study His kindness, grace and compassion and you will see what an amazingly kind and compassionate God we serve. 

Knowing Jesus means knowing the Father – I encourage you to get to know Him today. 

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Amazing Authority

Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit

Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.

 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us,Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!”Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

Luke 4:31-37


I always like to imagine what it would have been like to be in Jesus’ presence on earth. To hear his voice and feel the power that flowed from His fingertips. 

Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, we see many instances where he is able to command an entire crowd, heal someone with simply a few words and cast out demons just with his presence. There is no doubt that being in the presence of Jesus meant feeling an indescribable authority. As described in Luke 4:32, it says that His word “possessed authority.” Those listening didn’t quite know why or how – but they knew that He had a level of authority that was bigger than themselves, bigger than even the Chief Priests they bowed down to. 

Recognizing Jesus’ amazing authority is pivotal for us. It’s pivotal when we read scripture, its critical when we pray, and it’s important to remember when we find ourselves with a tight grip around the so-called “handles” of our life we think we have. Jesus’ authority trumps all. The Lord’s Word trumps all. The authority that Jesus spoke with here in Luke 4 was noticeable to the crowds because it was the mighty power of God that was flowing through Him, touching the deepest parts of each individual’s hearts and souls. 

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home.

Matthew 9:6-7

When we read God’s Word, we mustn’t forget that it still – and always will – possesses the same level of authority that Jesus spoke with that day in Capernaum. When He says “love your enemy,” He commands that with authority. When He says “blessed are those who are persecuted,” He speaks that with authority. And when He says “you must lose your life before you gain it,” He means it. 

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 1:17-18

All Jesus needed to do was extend a hand and Peter dropped his nets and abandoned everything to follow Him. His presence commanded authority and His voice was one of love, grace and comfort. Authority doesn’t have to mean “dictatorship” – it can also mean trusting, strong, stable and yes, comforting. 

God wants to have amazing authority in your life because He wants to relieve you of the control, the worry, the anxiety and stress in which you toil. He wants to be the guiding light, the north star and compass that shows you which way is right. And when we give God total authority in our lives He does indeed show up in mighty ways. He takes control and leads us down paths we never thought we could venture down. His authority is the greatest thing that is available to everyone and anyone – all we have to do it trust him with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I am often relieved when I remember that it’s King Jesus on the throne and not myself, not someone else, not idols or things. King Jesus is in control, and I’ve never felt more content in that truth – no matter what may come my way. 

The very word “authority” has within it the word “author. ” An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.

R.C. Sproul
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Amazingly Interrupted

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:1-11


I think a lot of us feel like 2020 has been one giant interruption in our lives.  We had beautiful weddings planned, vacations to experience, new jobs on the horizon, a blossoming business, a full retirement schedule.  And then February descended upon us.  To put it mildly it’s been one giant cluster.  Recently, I saw an Instagram post by the Christian women’s group Proverbs 31 that addressed our need to rely on God during these tough times.  One of the commentors posted a very distraught list of what she has been dealing with, including the loss of a loved one.  She said she was having a hard time seeing God in the middle of everything.  And yet He is right there if we truly know His character.  He’s the one interrupting our plans.

In the verses today Simon, an experienced fisherman, had just pulled his boat in after a long, hard, unsuccessful day of fishing.  He sat and listened to Jesus as he preached to the masses on the shore.  Suddenly, Jesus asks for a ride out away from the shore to better speak to everyone.  I’m sure Simon had a mix of emotions.  Here he was, probably dead tired but still might have been honored to have the famous rabbi use his boat.  And then Jesus really interrupted his plans to get home, have dinner and finally get some sleep.  The experienced fisherman was quite sure that another few hours out on the lake would produce nothing – he should know he’d been a fisherman on that lake all his life.  Jesus wasn’t even from a fishing family!  But something about the rabbi made Simon comply.  And as the story finishes, we see Simon and the other fisherman completely interrupting everything about their lives and deciding to become disciples.

God frequently tries to interrupt our “bright ideas” and “best laid plans.”  The question for us is when we hear or feel His Holy Spirit urging us to take a new direction are we like Simon, willing to comply?    Or are we like the rich king, unwilling to give up what we have and know?  So many of us say we want God to speak to us but do we really?  

A couple years ago I was amazingly interrupted by Jesus.  I worked as an administrative substitute in our local school district.  I was very busy.  And I wore that busyness as a badge of honor.   I had jobs assigned five days a week.  And then Jesus interrupted me.  He urged me, through a vision, to take specific action each week and feed the homeless for a year.  This was not in my plans.  But it was something I had asked for.  I had been praying for growth in my trust in the Lord.  I kept asking for direction.  Feeding the homeless in our large downtown was never on my radar.  What also wasn’t in my plan was giving up working a few days a week to accomplish Jesus’ vision for me.  It was an amazing interruption. 

 

He said, “Do this for me.”  And I did.  The lessons I learned during that year were ones that no sermon or Bible study could ever teach me.  My patterns of worry, distrust, control, over-planning, pride, feeling alone, all were tested.  It was never about feeding the homeless.  It was about God finding a way to snap me out of destructive patterns – interrupting me and re-setting me.

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters.

Job 42:12-13

I’ve told many people about this experience.  And, at the same time I tell them they should pray for something equally amazing to interrupt their lives.  So many of them either look scared or even voice their fear of such an occurrence.  That’s why I ask, “Do you really want to hear from God?”  Because I can almost guarantee that what He says to you will be unexpected and will challenge you to interrupt your life.  But like Job whose life was severely interrupted, the amazing blessings you receive will be immeasurable.  God has interrupted my life a few more times since my vision. And each time has brought me closer to Him. I urge you today to pray for interruption.  To pray to do God’s work.  To pray that He asks to guide your boat out into the open water.

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An Amazingly Balanced Life

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5: 6-11


Looking back over mine and Madison’s posts this week I kept hearing one word whispered to me – balance. Not just balance in our own lives but balance in the universal sense.  Balance as in how God works throughout our lives.  I tend to cringe a little when people throw around the phrase, “Not of This World,” because taken out of the context of truly understanding our relationship with God it may sound dismissive of our everyday problems.  God didn’t just put us here to wait for the bus to pick us up for the hereafter.  He wants us to live out our lives in His name as we go about this thing called “life on planet earth.”  And He wants us to do it knowing He is waiting for us.   It’s His amazing love for us that calls us to live a balanced life, in His name.  Balanced with conviction and grace, humbleness and exaltation, watchful and trusting, broken and healed, and persecuted and restored.

The verses today in 1 Peter show this amazing balance.  We are to be humble so God may exalt us.  We are to be watchful and yet trusting that God will care for us.  We will suffer and God will restore us.  And we are to do all this right here during our time in this place.   Each day we are admonished by God to find this balance of living our everyday lives – parenting, cooking, cleaning, working, being citizens and neighbors – all the while with Him in mind.  We seek the healing hands of doctors yet pray in Jesus’ name for healing and wisdom for the healers.  We are to work hard and take care of ourselves and our families while keeping our eyes on Him – not placing idols up in front of Him.

And then there’s conviction.  So often the concept of conviction is misunderstood as condemnation.  For many we grasp for the joy and the good without the acknowledgement of the things making us out of balance.  There’s the “good” and the “not as good.”  That leads us to tricking ourselves into thinking there’s “victim-less” actions and sins.  There are no “victim-less” sins in God’s world.  That’s because He loves each and every one of us.  He has a purpose for each of us.  So, if we give in to drinking, drugs, sexual immorality, etc it means we aren’t doing the true work He has for us.  And by ignoring the very words of Jesus we can ignore that each of us are sinful people.

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.

John 15:22

When we walk around with blinders on it’s easy to see the world from a very limited perspective.  It may even feel comfortable.  But here’s where balance comes in.  Without the conviction of sin there is no need for His amazing grace and forgiveness.  Satan doesn’t want us to be convicted and receive God’s grace.  He wants us to feel condemned and guilty.  Conviction calls us to change direction.  Conviction is needed for growth.  And if we hear what God wants of us and ignore it, we allow satan to work in our lives.  We know the sin.  We then choose to embrace it or work it out with God.  That choice decides our balance.  

How many of us leave our communing with God and finding that balance until a more convenient time?  We are so tired at the end of the day we struggle to finish a Bible study, to journal, to do a devotional, to even pray.  My BSGs were tasked to discuss a time they felt pulled away from God.  For me it was during my kids’ sports years.  Weekend games and tournaments meant not attending church.  And I certainly didn’t bring along any God-focused reading material.  And yet, I have to say that’s a time in my life I needed God the most.  I was really out of balance.

When we seek that balance God desires for us in all things we find we don’t need to binge eat, be constantly fearful, obsessive, overly emotional.  We live in the center, squarely in His love.  We keep our work and play on His track.  We balance our fears and concerns about this world with the knowledge of what He has in store for us after our brief time here on earth.

I thank God for helping me seek a balanced life.  For I know that every time I fail in this world I can look to Him for His grace.

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Amazing Grace

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Acts 9:20-22


Apart from the amazing miracles of the Messiah, these verses tell one of the most amazing stories in the Bible. 

Saul of Tarsus was a wretched man. He was the LAST and I mean THE LAST person in Israel who would’ve been saved. The disciples and all Christians feared Saul for he was responsible for murdering and slaughtering anyone who professed belief in Christ. He was infamous amongst the Christians – comparable to terrorists in ISIS today. Saul was the head honcho terrorist to the Christians. 

And then he was saved. 

Whenever I read about the conversion of Saul, I always like to immerse myself in what it truly would’ve looked and felt like to see a man who I so deeply feared, now confessing Jesus as the Messiah. To say I would be amazed would be an understatement. I wouldn’t believe my eyes, in fact, I could see myself rubbing them to make sure I was not dreaming – maybe even pinch myself. To the Christians AND the Jews living in Damascus, they couldn’t believe their eyes either. How could this man go from murderer to disciple in a matter of days? 

The answer? His amazing grace. 

You see, it had to be Saul (Paul). There was no one else so broken, so poisoned by bitterness and revenge who would’ve fallen to their knees any harder than Paul did. God chose the most feared man in Israel as His ambassador to show His people that EVEN Saul, the Christian Killer, could be saved by His amazing grace. Now the housewife, the common man, the prostitute, the tax collector could look upon themselves and consider what the Lord did with Paul and see that EVEN they could be saved by His grace. Again, it had to be Saul. 

Saul the Persecutor

We may not all be murderers or terrorists, but I know many of us look upon ourselves with the same attitude as Paul did. “I was the last person people would’ve thought would be saved.” Maybe you were an outsider in your family, a rebel amongst your friends, or even an enemy of God’s for a time being. The fact is He is still saving Pauls each and every day. He saves people like you and me for the great testimony we have to tell to those who do not believe. He uses the wretched to display his amazing grace. He uses the broken to shine His redeeming light through. That’s pretty amazing. 

Saul the Saved

Because of the sins Paul committed, he carried his salvation with great responsibility. He lived his life after Christ with a great thorn in his side – a thorn I believe (though many have their theories) symbolizes the guilt he feels for all those he was responsible for murdering. Because of this thorn, Paul lived his life like it was not his own. He lived his life for Christ because he knew that it was Christ alone that gave him a second chance at love, joy, peace – eternal life. The fact of the matter is, Jesus did the same for us. Our salvation, while maybe not as dramatic as Paul’s, is the same as Paul’s. We were wretched sinners, in need of a Savior and Jesus gave us that second chance. For that, I pray we all realize that our lives are not our own, but the one who reached down and pulled us out of the sinking sand that was engulfing us. 

Go in that amazing truth today and pray that you find ways to continually lay your life at His feet, just as Paul did. 

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Amazing Truths

And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

Mark 11:17-18


Recently, during a road trip my husband and I were listening to the Robertson’s Unashamed podcast.  The topic was the concept of being “cancelled” by society.  In 2014, GQ magazine contacted the Duck Dynasty patriarch, Phil Robertson, to delve into this bearded phenomenon.  During the interview he was asked for the definition of sin.  He went on to quote 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Cor 6: 9-10

And he got cancelled.  Literally.  The producers put the show on hiatus – for quoting the Bible.  Now, of course, we all can imagine the uproar.  The media quoted Mr. Robertson as though it were his own words, calling him a homophobe and all sorts of names.  Very few, in fact only a newspaper out of London, made it clear he was quoting from the Bible.  As we like to say now, it was a lot of fake news.  The truth was so easily accessed and so readily ignored.  Here was a man who had few, if any secrets – and absolutely none about his faith journey.  He was on an internationally televised show praying and preaching.  And yet amazingly enough the media seemed shocked he believed in, taught, and quoted the Bible.

Jesus, in Mark 11, walks into the temple in Jerusalem and begins driving out the street vendors.  When questioned by the chief priests He makes it clear what God expects from the people and the use of His temple.  The priests were so frightened by the truths being spoken to the people that they wanted Jesus “cancelled.”  But do you notice the last part of the sentence? “…because the whole crowd was amazed at His teaching.”  The people wanted to know the true Word of God and they listened with rapt attention.  It frightened those in charge of their probable loss of power over the people.

What Phil Robertson is comfortable with is teaching the true Word of God to the people.  Human sin is at the beginning through the end of the Bible. And much as we might like to, we aren’t to pick and choose from which sins God has spoken.  The truth of sin is written in every single book of the Bible.  When our pastors and faith leaders ignore these truths, it handicaps us in our full understanding of God’s character and His expectations of us.

My husband and I were talking about this after listening to the Unashamed podcast.  If we never hear that we are all sinners, we are left with the impression that maybe only some people sin or there’s various levels of sinfulness.  It isn’t just “those people” who are sexually immoral, who lie, who cheat, who create false idols.  It’s all of us to one extent or another.  That’s the truth.  I’ve never met someone in all the various Bible study and small groups that hasn’t admitted to some kind of sin.  But that’s only the first step to God’s amazing truths.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he chastised them for their lax ways related to sin, especially sexual sin. It was being justified through false teachings. And it was tearing them apart. If we don’t learn about sin how can we then learn true grace and forgiveness?  I want to be on the “right side” of God – not making up my own understandings.  When our faith leaders avoid uncomfortable conversations like abortion, homosexuality, infidelity, etc how then are we lay people to fully understand how to treat people with grace, love, kindness and forgiveness?  All are welcome to church but what does it mean to welcome someone who is sinning right now?  What does it mean to have been sexually immoral or have had an abortion and now I want to live a Christian life?

I sin constantly.  When I make a commitment to God to not use His name in vain and then turn around and cuss and use coarse language I’m sinning.  I have a very difficult time honoring my parents and not trashing them to my inner circle (heck, even my outer, outer circle).  I encouraged a friend to have an abortion. I lived with my husband before we were married.  I’m prideful.  I covet.  I place idols above God.  None of these make me any better or worse than those who commit the sins we tend to think as the “biggies.”  And yet we dance around the truth of sin and its effects on our lives and the world.

God is the Alpha and Omega.  He is always complete.  He is always teaching us and bringing us full circle.  We need to live in that completeness.  The completeness that His amazing truths, as revealed in the Bible, tell us includes opening our eyes to sin AND our hearts to grace.  Grace without the “what and why” is almost meaningless.  It’s like a teenager tossing a snide “sooooorrrryy.”  We want that teenager to understand what was wrong about their action and why.  The apology, when spoken from the heart, means so much more.  If we run around tossing out blind acceptance, thinking it is love and grace, we miss out on the opportunity to really dig into God’s amazing plan for us.  

I want to be held to account by God.  I want to be amazed by the truths written in His Book.   And if knowing and speaking those truths to fellow Christians or people asking me what God says about a topic then so be it.  Because I am learning the complete truth.  I am learning each day how to have open eyes tied to an open heart.  His amazing truths about my sin are made complete with His amazing truths about His love.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

The Amazing Act of Choosing

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

 Matthew 6:24

This week has seen many opportunities to make a choice.  To choose the amazing peace given to us by Jesus or chaos.  To choose to take our amazingly ordinary selves and be transformed by God into something extraordinary.  To choose between demanding our will or God’s amazing will be done.  To be double-minded or single-minded in our quest for closeness with the Holy Spirit.  

When Jesus stepped up to preach on the mountainside to the believers, He laid out a series of directives intended to help us understand and attain true righteousness.  As Bible scholar Warren Wiersbe says about the Sermon on the Mount:

The religious leaders (at the time) had an artificial, external righteousness based on law.  But the righteousness that Jesus described is true and vital righteousness that begins internally, in the heart.

Warren Wiersbe, The New Testament Bible Commentary

He goes on to state the lessons Jesus preached in Matthew 5 through 6 were not for the unsaved world at large but rather for individual believers.  Which brings me to the concept of choosing.  Throughout our faith journey we are continually called to choose — God or an idol of our own making — as we reach for that true righteousness.  The testing of our choices may seem to take place every single minute of the day at times.  Other times in our life we seem to be easily cruising along with Jesus and then a serious trial interrupts our lives and we are faced with choosing our faith over our fears.

I have a very good friend who is not a Christian.  The day after the election we went to lunch and she said something amazing to me.  My friend: “During election night I started praying.  I knew you were praying too.  And I know that God will probably listen to your prayers over mine and I took comfort in knowing you were praying.”  I was slightly stunned.  I’ve been much more open about my faith this year when talking with her.  Showing her how I rely on Jesus’ amazing peace to keep me together during hard times.  But I was shocked that she was praying.  I told her God listens to all our prayers.  We then went on to another topic.  Later, while at home, I felt called to send her a text message.  This is the conversation:


Me: “You said something today that I don’t think I paid enough attention to. You said you thought my prayers would hold more weight with God. God is for all of us whether we believe in Him or not. He wants to be our “go to” for peace and grace and trust — no matter where we are along our faith journey. The only difference is that as a follower of Jesus I am held to different expectations. I know His Word. I know what He expects of me. I know He wants me to be obedient and turn all my worries over to Him and not trust in anything else. So, He expects me to act accordingly— and I fail many times over. But because I know I have failed I also know to ask for His grace and forgiveness. He won’t answer my prayers any more than yours if they don’t come from a desire to do His will. It’s frequently at times of great worry and distress that people turn to God. However, He considers those “friends” and “faithful” who rely on Him at all times and thank Him for His for blessings. I hope this doesn’t sound all Jesus Freaky but I think it’s important to understand how much love He has for every single person — Christians and not yet Christians 😂

My “non-yet Christian” Friend: “Thanks!  I hope all our prayers help! “ 


I’d call that pretty amazing.  Friends, as followers of Jesus, we are expected to choose Him over our idols of fear, worry, earthly kings, money, relationships, our political stances, and anything else from which we think we artificially gain righteousness.  We are expected put our eyes and our hearts and our minds squarely on the Lord and slough off the world from our backs.  Because God has mightier plans for us.  He has solutions we can’t even imagine.  He is fighting our fight for us in the spiritual realm.  And he expects us to choose Him and act here on earth as His faithful friends. 

Madison and I will see you again on Monday! Have a blessed weekend friends!

bible study, Christian, christian encouragement, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Amazed By His Will

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Mark 7:33-37


I love this story. Not just because it’s a bit humorous in nature, I mean c’mon, Jesus didn’t HAVE to spit and touch the man’s tongue to heal him or shout to the heavens to cure his deafness. He could have healed the man with no words and no actions, with just one look. But Jesus’ actions show that He truly knew the hearts of the people. He had seen over and over again just how feeble the people were in their faith. He knew they needed clear evidence that He was who He said He was. 

Even more amazing than Jesus concealing his immediate power to tend to the hearts of the people is the immediate authority he has over disease. The verses claim that at the sound of His voice, deafness falls and lameness disappears. In the face of Jesus, darkness cowers in fear.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

Just as this verse reminds us of Jesus’ power over the dominion of darkness, let it also be a reminder that what He speaks will be done. Even more amazing, everything on earth and in heaven bows to His authority, because he is the one who created it all (Gen. 1:1). 

Jesus told the man’s ears to open and they opened. Jesus told Peter that there would come a day when he would deny him three times – and that day came. What the Lord spoke in prophesies in the Old Testament came to pass through His Son on the cross. 

We see over and over again that God is a faithful God, who fulfills his promises to His people. Are you trusting in that truth today?  Be amazed today that God will keep all of the below promises to you, for He is a man of His Word.

  • Amidst your worry, anxiety and fear, I will give you rest…. (Matt. 11:28)
  • Through my Son’s wounds on the cross, your brokenness has been redeemed (1 Peter 2:24)
  • I promise that your trials will produce joy (James 1:2)
  • I give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29) 
  • I give wisdom to all those who ask of it. I will provide you everything you need for the situations you are in. (James 1:5)
  • I promise, that if you resist the devil HE WILL FLEE. (James 4:7) 

Rest in these truths today. I encourage you to find more on your own. Take time to remember all of the things that have come to pass, the promises that have been fulfilled and ask God today for the strength and faith to believe that what He says, will be done, today, tomorrow and the next.