30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, religion, Uncategorized

Beauty In The Battle

"Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to our holy name and glory in your praise."  Psalms 106:47

Holy God, the heavens are your battleground!  You fight against the cosmic forces over darkness.  Your power and majesty are at work all around me through the unseen world of the spirit.  And through my earthly worship I take up your sword each day to withstand any evil, in your Son’s name.  Amen

One of my favorite lines by Jesus in the Bible is, “Get behind me, Satan!” as He rebukes Peter for having the wrong mindset about Jesus’ work. His exact words are repeated in Matthew 16 and Mark 8.  Jesus also uses similar words in speaking directly to Satan in Matthew 4:10 with “Be gone, Satan!”  I jokingly use these phrases when donuts appear in front me.  Recently, however I heard teaching about spiritual warfare and I realized I had the completely wrong approach to it.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7

We so often talk about rebuking Satan or fighting our “Goliaths” when in reality we shouldn’t be speaking to the devil at all.  It’s dangerous work that I would venture to say most of us are not prepared to withstand.  Even the archangel Michael used God as his shield rather than his own words.  Instead, we should be relying on the incredible power of the Trinity to fight our spiritual battles.  

Along this same line I once told a friend we shouldn’t be asking, “What would Jesus do?” but rather what would Jesus want me to do? We are not fully man and fully God.  We are just man.  And we need to acknowledge that alone we only have the power given to us through the Spirit.  God, through His great love for us, will take care of the rest.  Isn’t that beautiful and amazing?

So what do we do?  We enact the famous lines from Ephesians 6 and put on our armor of God.  We stand firm in God’s truth.  We fit our feet with Jesus’ gospel of peace.  We arm ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of God’s Word.  In other words, we allow God to fight His glorious fight with the devil while we do the seemingly mundane acts of worship, studying our Bibles, praying for intercession, baptizing in His name, and spreading His Word of peace and salvation.

Friends, we need to start saying, “Get behind my Lord and Savior Jesus, Satan.”  He is the blinding shield, the kryptonite against evil.  He is the most powerful weapon we could ever imagine to ward off the arrows lobbed at us.  Each time we open our Bibles, go to church, show love to a stranger, speak the Gospel truth into a friend we place that shield firmly in place for God to enter into battle.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

The First 3,000

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41

My husband and I are back in the process of a church search.  For some of you, your church has been your lifelong home.  For others, you know all too well the difficult path of church searching.  We spent the last seven months trying out a church and realized it just wasn’t the right fit.  Great preaching and friendly people but there were a number of pieces missing that we didn’t see being resolved any time soon.  We left on friendly terms as we began our journey to the right home.

And this search led me to think about the first church.  That fateful day of Pentecost when 3,000 souls turned their hearts and lives over to Jesus when the Holy Spirit was delivered to Earth.  There could’ve been more.  Others stood in the temple that day and heard the sound of the violent wind.  They heard the Jews from every nation speaking to each other in their native tongues.  But they hardened their hearts.

Some however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  Acts 2:13

The 3,000, selected by God, were urged by Peter to recognize what had just occurred.  He quoted the prophet Joel in explaining how the Holy Spirit would be poured out just as it had happened.  He reminded the Jews of David’s words when he spoke of God’s promise to fill them with the joy of God’s presence.  When Peter had his brief history lesson the 3,000 asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

He answered with the message of the Gospel.  And he went on to plead with them to abandon their corrupt generation.  Imagine.  3,000 people all at once starting on their new beginning.  It must’ve been glorious!

But their baptism wasn’t the end of their stories.  What came next was an intense learning period.  They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.” (v2:42).  They ate together, worshipped together, studied together, prayed without ceasing, worked together to help those in need.  And they multiplied.

You don’t get the impression from reading about the first church in Acts that a bunch of individuals were saved then when to their own homes and began an intensive self-realization study.  Or went about their work day as though nothing spectacular just happened.  No, their common goal was to spread the news of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  Remember, they spoke in many different languages.  So, they were preparing to go back home to make even more believers.  Preparing to go do difficult work.  That first church was all about discipleship.  I wonder how many of our churches can truly say the same?  I haven’t been a member of one yet.  But it’s what I’m looking for now.

The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions and the nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we must become.

Henry Martyn

The act of baptism, confessing our faith in Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, is typically a public affair.  It’s the starting point of our new beginning.  But after that one time event we call on the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to fill us continually for one mission – to be in service to God.  Those first 3,000 believers would need the Holy Spirit to continue on their mission.  They would most likely encounter adversity, opposition, violence, and yes, success.  Beautiful success.  

We should all celebrate the day of Pentecost, which comes on the 7th Sunday or 50 days after Easter Sunday (June 5, 2022). For the Old Testament Jews, it represented the giving of the Law to Moses.  But the new covenant, for all the world to partake, saw Jesus enter our lives.  And after Jesus’ foretold crucifixion He gave us the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  On that day 1000s of years ago, yet another promise was fulfilled by God.  His Spirit came to live in all of us, permanently.  And we were commissioned into His service.

As my faith and biblical knowledge has matured, my list of “must haves” for my new church has been honed.  I want a church that is biblically strong, always pointing me to Jesus, a joy-filled body of believers, and one whose primary goal is to create well-versed and confident disciples.  I hope you will pray for us in finding such a place.  

The modern church itself needs a new beginning.  As individuals, may we be spurred to greater expectations of our Christian communities.  And may we seek out ways to draw each other together in unity as our forefathers in Christ did on that day of Pentecost.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Celebrations

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  John 2:1-2

Today is my birthday!  I’m not embarrassed to say I have reached the ripe age of 57 because, to be honest, it’s with the grace of God I’ve made it this far.  I love birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Valentines’ Day, baby showers, you name it.  If it’s a celebration I’m in.   

Maybe it’s that my fellow celebrators have decided, like me, to take a few hours off from the trials and tribulations of the world.  For our annual celebrations, it’s also a way of thanking God we’ve made it through another year with His grace and provision.  

God certainly made us a people intended to celebrate.  In the Old Testament there are seven major festivals for the chosen people to celebrate.  That didn’t even include weddings and births. On top of that, the Sabbath, was in effect, a weekly celebration to take time and honor God.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

If you’ve never watched the show, The Chosen, you should definitely check it out.  There are so many great episodes but one of my favorites is the famous wedding in Cana.  To watch what Jesus would have been like at such a blessed time and see his disciples join the celebration really brought home the human side of Jesus.  

It’s unfortunate there are Christian sects who consider celebrations sinful.  They certainly haven’t read the same Bible I have which as we progressed through the events of the New Testament, we were given the opportunity celebrate our Lord’s birth, Easter, Pentecost, and baptism.  

Today I will rejoice that God took good care of me this last year.  I will celebrate in the knowledge that He is good and considers me one of His own. And I will thank Him that He is a God who loves to celebrate with His people the joys of life.

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Are You Ready?

 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28

One of my friends has found herself in an unexpected teaching opportunity.  She and her husband were active participants in a Bible study held at my house for about 5 years.  My observation was that he wasn’t progressing in his faith journey.  He seemed a bit stuck.  He was definitely a man of faith and attended church regularly.  But he kept listening to the world’s half truths about Jesus.

A year passed after that study group disbanded and my friend came to me asking about doing another study group.  She was particularly concerned about her husband.  They were no longer attending the same church and with the study group having disbanded her husband was without the counsel of other Christians.  We decided to start a new group but it would be just women this time around and it left her concerns about her husband unanswered. 

Over the course of last year my friend has made amazing strides in her faith progression.  Just last week I listened to her as she was able to answer a difficult Bible study question with a great analogy – making it all clear to the rest of us!  Like the glee I had while watching one of my Girl Scouts successfully learn to build a fire I jumped for joy at my friend’s insight!  I loved it!

And God has answered her prayers about her husband.  It wasn’t the answer she was expecting.  You see, the teacher he needed was her.  Her husband has watched her transformation with awe.  She is living out the Word.  And he started asking her questions about Jesus.  After church (their new one) they go for breakfast and sit and discuss the sermon.  He relies on her for further insight and instruction.  

 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

My friend’s teaching opportunity was close at home.  And at the start of Jesus’ ministry, He too started close to home.  The first recorded teaching by Jesus was to His cousin, John the Baptist.  Jesus asks John to baptize him but John recognizes Him as the Messiah and tries to convince Jesus it should be the other way around. 

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

Jesus knew His audience.  As a devoted man of God, John was well practiced in what it meant to achieve holy righteousness.  And so he accepted Jesus’ reasoning.

When you follow along Jesus’ teaching path, you’ll find it to be not only slow and patient but tailored for each person or group of people He encounters.  And that’s the joy in teaching.  No matter what we teach it’s important to know the delivery method.  At first, Jesus reached out to His cousin, then His cousin’s followers and their friends.  And the tipping point, after performing quiet acts of healing and word of them spread, was the Sermon on the Mount.

But even after He preached to large crowds, He would encounter individuals and specifically set aside time to teach them.  To tell them about the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins. 

To the learned He spoke with confident knowledge of Moses and Isaiah.  To the poor and lame, He taught through love and compassion.  To the average man and woman, He used parables containing everyday elements like farming and relationships.  And to the disciples He opened their eyes to the mysteries of the Kingdom.  Each time He sought the “ah ha” moment for which every teacher longs.  The moment when the light comes on inside.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I once was leading a small Bible study and the topic of “evangelizing” came up.  It usually makes people squirm.  One participant said she just didn’t feel ready to talk to people about God.  And yet she’s been a Christian for about 50 years. What if we erase the word “evangelize” and replace it with sharing or teaching?  What if instead of picturing ourselves standing before the Pharisees or Sanhedrin we picture ourselves sitting with our children or a friend?  And sharing how Jesus has brought us peace and joy in times of trouble.  That should at a minimum be expected of us.

My friend I mentioned at the beginning has come a long way.  About a year ago, her adult son started asking her questions about God and Jesus and she felt unprepared. She had prayed for many years that her son would turn to Jesus.  And now he was asking her questions.  So, what did she do?  She sought instruction, she prayed, and she was bold.  And at her next opportunity to teach a family member, her husband, she was ready.

“Our lives should reflect the love and goodness of Jesus but we should pray that the Lord would give us opportunities to share the gospel with people who come into our lives.”  

Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast

Jesus didn’t want to keep His life offering amongst a small group of people.  So yes, He lived a good and faithful life but He didn’t stop there.  He reached out to people.  He shared through teaching the most important lessons we will ever learn.  He prepared for this task.  And when His time came, He was ready.

The question is, are you ready?  

Your role as teacher may be needed right now.  For your children, your spouse, your neighbor, a struggling believer or searching non-believer.

Have you worked on the other steps so you can teach, like Peter says, with gentleness and respect?  Have you put yourself in positions to be a humble servant and therefore interacting with non-believers in positive ways?  Are you studying His Word so when confronted with half-truths or outright lies about God you can stand firm like a warrior?  God has already tested you in all these areas.  He’s tested me.  What is your report card?  In what areas do you need to ask for God’s help today so you can be ready?


Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Fan The Flame

For this reason I remind you to 
fan into flame the gift of God, 
which is in you through the laying 
on of my hands. 
2 Timothy 1:6 

I remember the day I got baptized.  I was 34 years old and at the same time my one year old and 5 year old received the Holy water.  I remember standing on that stage full of the spirit of God.  My heart was full.  I was ready to jump in with both feet.

As a person trained in marketing and public relations, I decided a good place for me to volunteer at my new church was on the growth committee.  The church membership had shrunk over the years and they were looking to reach out into the community.  After four months of detailed work, we finally had the plan.  And by “plan” I mean the plan and bylaws of how the committee would work.  I was so dispirited.  

My friend invited our family to come worship at her church which was the same denomination but was very large and vibrant.  We loved it!  My spirits soared again as I watched my kids get involved in various church groups and my husband volunteered as an usher.  And then I flatlined.  Attending church became something we tried to fit into our schedule.  My faith life outside church was non-existent.  

We gotta get our faith stirred up again!  If I was just running on excitement, I would’ve run out of gas a long time ago.  Once the excitement of God is over, real men and women of God kick into faithfulness.

Joyce Meyer

We get tired of the “doing” in our everyday lives – making the bed, doing the dishes, going to work, brushing our teeth.  But we still do it or else we become destitute.  Some of us have become destitute in our faith because the excitement is gone. We all probably remember when we accepted Jesus as our savior or were baptized.  It was exciting!  And now, the day-to-day life has settled in.  We need to keep “doing” our faith because we are assigned the work of God. 

When I was thinking of this concept, I thought of my favorite college basketball team (Go Aztecs!). In March 2020 they were a powerhouse team, set to go to the NCAA tournament.  My husband and I had gone to a lot of the home games.  The SDSU Aztec games are well known for the influence of their fans.  We can really rock the Mesa and spur our boys on!  And in March 2021 we couldn’t go to any games.  It felt weird watching on tv without the excitement of being able to high five strangers when one of the players hit an amazing three-pointer.  It just wasn’t the same.  So, our faithfulness of watching games waned.  I’m sorry to say we didn’t even watch their NCAA tournament game.  We had better things to do.

But the difference between being a fan of a team and follower of Jesus is the Aztecs, once a game was over and we all went home, didn’t know my name.  They didn’t care to know me at all.  Sure, they appreciated the support but they didn’t ride home with me.  Except for the mailing list our name is on to ask us for money, our favorite team, that brings us so much fun and excitement, goes about their own lives not thinking of me once.

But after we commit ourselves to the Lord and experience that wave of excitement, He stays with us.  He is with us when we don’t think about Him during our busy day.  He is with us when we forget about Him completely.  He is waiting for us to go to work for Him.  He is waiting for us to turn to Him.  

Guard the good deposit that was 
entrusted to you—guard it with 
the help of the Holy Spirit who 
lives in us. 
2 Timothy 1:14

Last year I found myself a Christian without a church.  And at first, I thought that meant my faith would become destitute again.  I turned to God and said, “What now?”  And He answered, “It’s time to truly grow.”

I had been relying on outside entities to stir up my excitement for God.  To fan my flames for Jesus.  When all along He was sitting there next to me waiting to build a bonfire together.

A few studies ago my BSGs were tasked to draw their faith journey as a graph.  I’m happy to report we have all had steady growth.  It was amazing to see how, in the time where we were all without “church,” our charts showed an upward movement.  When we were stripped down to our lives being so simple because of the Covid pandemic God invited us to His campfire.  And we all accepted the invitation.  

For many of us our churches have re-opened.  And the celebration of the beauty of the resurrection is in our rearview mirror.  We need to ask ourselves are we expecting an outside source to fan our flames for God or will we turn and join Him at the campfire?

christian encouragement

Gather As Many As Possible

In a world that seems so divided do you know the one experience we will all have?  We will all die.  Sounds uplifting doesn’t it?  And although God doesn’t want us to dwell on our impending death, He does want us to know the truth of our life – that one day it will end.  We won’t know the day, the time or even the how, but it will assuredly happen.  It will happen to the ones we love and the ones we hate. The ones we’ve forgiven and the ones we just can’t seem to.  It’ll happen to the rich, the poor, the Christian and the non-Christian.  And yet, so many of us live our life as though this is not inevitable.

The statement, “Fear the Lord” is frequently misunderstood.  The Bible constantly clarifies this with meaning to obey and believe the Word of God.  Like a parent setting down the rules of the house and expecting compliance, a child fears the correction or lack of freedoms disobeying their parents may bring. The child also knows that obeying and respecting his parents brings a more peaceful and joy-filled household. Knowing that our hour of death will come we should have this same reverence for what God expects of us during our brief time on His earth.  We share a common destiny here on earth but not in eternity.

I had an interesting interaction on social media recently.  A Los Angeles ministry, Saturate OC, posted an amazing picture featuring thousands of people attending their new outdoor beach ministry.  Hundreds were baptized.  And yet, I knew in the comments what was to come.  “People are dying from Covid! This is irresponsible!” and “Shame on these people! What about Covid!” But one person kept answering: “Focus on the eternal.”  No argument, just that statement.  Focus on the eternal.

You may be reading this thinking how irresponsible that is.  Let’s put this in perspective.  I have lived 54 of my 55 years in California.  It’s a pretty tough place to be a full-blooded Christian.  Talk about living “not of this world!”  Unlike the Missouri environment my youngest daughter lives in which sees it as normal to pray in restaurants, California and many Californian’s don’t see God as a necessary and integral part of life.  In fact, there’s a lot of disdain for people who “need God.” So, when I saw this picture, I saw hope.  I saw God’s work.  I saw love.  I saw people being saved – for the preparation of their unknown hour of their death.  

Right now, on our California freeways a plea is posted about DUIs.  It states that almost 3,500 Californians died in DUI related traffic accidents last year.  That’s almost the same number of people who have died from the Covid virus in California.  When you look at who is dying from Covid you’ll see that about 75% of those are aged 70 and up.  Looking at who dies more frequently from DUI related deaths the population most effected are 21-34 year olds.  The picture I saw on that beach was exactly that demographic.  So, my question to the grandmother who posted her comment that these people were being so irresponsible was this – you say you have “your ticket to heaven already” but you would deny it to these young people?  These young people who have more of a chance of dying on their way home from the beach from a drunk driver than from the virus?  We would deny them the opportunity to be baptized.  Deny them the Word of God and the community of Christians that will support them through viruses, lost jobs, deaths of loved ones, broken hearts, and more?  You could argue these people might go to see their grandmothers and infect them and kill them.  Isn’t that where the true choices must come in to play?  

Saturate OC founders Parker and Jessi Green heard God call them to bring the collective body of believers together to share the gospel at the beach.  They were told, “There’s a 50,000 person harvest in Huntington Beach during Summer 2020.  Pray for workers.”  Who are we, especially as Christians, to question and distrust the work of God?  Think of the amazing work we, as a Christian body, could have been doing these last few months had we had the same faith.  The same “faith over fear?”  The same desire to share the gospel with hundreds of people – ALL of whom will face death at some point.

Yes, God asks us to be discerning.  But He also asks us to trust Him.  I will never be disdainful and pass judgement on God’s work of bringing people to their knees in prayer and worship.  I will always say “hallelujah” when He works in places that have refused Him.  I will trust that this work is good and He will take care of the outcomes.  One other person commented, “But many Christians who trusted God have died.”  We all will die.  Thank God they died loving God and having accepted Christ as their savior.  One day I hope to meet them all in Heaven.