Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, prayer, proverbs, religion, Transformation Prayer, Uncategorized, wisdom

Be Generous 

A generous person will prosper;
    whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

For a few years in a row a person in my family would give us all lottery tickets as part of our Christmas gifts.  It was a chance to win thousands of dollars but we usually came away with a few dollars between us all.  It was a fun activity during the middle of gift giving.  If you’ve ever scratched off a lottery ticket in the United States there’s a place on the back to put your name and address so if you were to hit it big, you’d mail the ticket in to receive your winnings.  The odd part about our Christmas tickets was this: the gift giver would always place their name and address on the back of the ticket.  What they were saying was, “Here’s a fun gift but if you win anything it’s mine.”

Generosity is not a natural behavior for many of us.  For some, we can be tightfisted and stingy.  For others, generosity seems like second nature.  It wasn’t until around the 18th century that our modern view of generosity became more commonplace.  Before that it was thought only people with “means” could act admirably and with virtue.  However, the concept of generosity in the Christian realm can be seen throughout scripture, with its culmination in the lesson of God sacrificing His only Son for our salvation.  The apostle Paul regarded generosity as proof of the genuine character of Christian love. 

I love one of the descriptions of generosity by the Generosity Research Center at Notre Dame University: “Generosity involves giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather giving those things that are good for others. Generosity always intends to enhance the true wellbeing of those to whom it gives.”

Looking back at our proverb today you’ll see the word “refresh.”  It aligns perfectly with this description.  Refreshing or enhancing the wellbeing of another reveals itself in many ways, depending upon that person’s or group’s needs.  When we truly provide for another person or recognize an opportunity to fill a need, we will be blessed by seeing the other shine.  Generosity need not be an economic exchange.  Even when money is involved it should primarily be an action of the heart.

Friend, generosity is something to be cultivated and practiced.  It starts with answering opportunities with an open heart.  It’s important to remember God didn’t go halfway.  Jesus suffered a painful death for everyone.  Giving us all an opportunity to live a blessed life when we believe and are obedient to Him.  He doesn’t need us for Him to be whole but I can only imagine how blessed He must feel when another person accepts His gift.  As Christians, modeling this generosity should be a daily priority.

Holy Father thank you for being so generous to have given your only Son to enhance our lives for all eternity. Place me in situations so that I can also express generosity to those around me.  Amen

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

Miracle Worker

23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelation 21:23

Father in Heaven, you are a God of miracles.  You bring light when I am in darkness through your healing powers and in ways I can never fully understand.  Help me to see even the tiniest miracles that you perform throughout my day so I can lift up my voice in glory to You. Amen

If you were asked if you believe in miracles, what would you say?  Your answer would probably depend upon how you define a miracle.  Some might call it a rare event.  What if instead, you changed your perspective and recognized that God works miracles in our lives every single day?

A standard definition of a miracle is  “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.”  And again, how would you define “extraordinary?”  As I’ve grown closer to God and understanding His ways, my view of the world has certainly changed.  When seen through the lens of creation being the work of God, we can find any number of impossible things made possible.

37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

I’ve been blessed with being pregnant and giving birth twice.  Each time I marvelled at what was occurring in my body.  A tiny human being built from microscopic pieces of the universe in a body that itself is the perfect factory for human creation.  The parts all fit perfectly, just about every single time for thousands of years, millions upon millions of instances.  You don’t need to know statistics to grasp how impossible that should be.

Many say “that’s just science.”  Of course it is!  Science is the study of God’s amazing work – where the impossible happens all the time.  But let’s set human biology aside.  I can state for a fact that miracles happen regularly because I have experienced them.  Oh, if you had only known me 30, 20 or even just 10 years ago. You wouldn’t have seen Christ in my life.  You would have seen a woman desperate for peace.  Longing for joy.  Fearful of not being loved or appreciated.  A couple of years ago, a friend who has known me for some time commented how she could now see the work of Jesus in me.  Truly a miracle.  I’ve seen the same work in a few friends.  Ones I thought would never change.  And the change that has occurred is one that only the hand of God could’ve accomplished.

When you think “miracle” do you only think of cancer being healed?  A death avoided?  A financial windfall?  If so, you need to rub the scales from your eyes.  Just the fact that the sun rose again today was God’s miracle of creation.   His glory is revealed in so many ways.  Some include our continuous acts of human creation.  While other times through the medicines He has placed here for us to “discover.”  His miracle work is revealed each time a sinner recognizes their sin and asks God to change her and He does.  And yes, whenever we are blessed financially when we need it most. 

Friend, God’s glorious miracles are at work right now in your life.  Like our future Eden, He doesn’t need any outside source to cause the light to shine because He makes impossible possible.

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

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Lessons from Cherith

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21

He’d been a drug addict and alcoholic for at least the 35 years I knew him.  In fact, this lost uncle was my husband’s main reason for why he never touched drugs in his college days.  My husband saw the path of destruction his uncle created throughout their family.  This uncle, my mother-in-law’s youngest sibling, took the road so many addicts follow.  They demand help, make others feel guilty for not rescuing them, promise to do better then start the cycle over and over again.

In my visits to my husband’s hometown, we’d have infrequent contact with his uncle.  But we would hear of his begging his own mother for money and complaining of how “lucky” and “privileged” everyone else in the family were because they weren’t always so down on their luck.  To be fair, this man bore the brunt of being the youngest child of an alcoholic philanderer.  As for my in-laws, they gave money, moral support, food, and more for much of his life.  But after a number of run-ins with the law and intolerable behavior toward my husband’s grandmother, the uncle found himself eventually with backs turned.  Enough was enough.

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22

Let’s face it, we are only human.  We get our feelings hurt.  We often seek to protect ourselves from harmful relationships.  We don’t want to be taken advantage of and have our kindness thrown back at us with vitriol.  Like many of Jesus’ expectations of us the concept of forgiveness is not so easy for us sinful humans.  We get to the end of our rope.  We have no more tears to shed.  

I remember when my loving, caring mother-in-law said to me one day a few years ago, “I’m done.  I’m tired of being blamed for his problems.  I’m tired of being taken for granted that we will always help.  I’m angry how he treats our mother.”  And really, could anyone fault her?  But the thing is, I knew deep down she didn’t mean any of it.  I knew if her brother came again with hat in hand she would help.  Because she knew that Jesus would do the same for her.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:28

We can be thankful we haven’t been assigned the task of God’s prophets to administer final judgements like Elijah had to (although one day two of us will be called to do just that). In the Old Testament, we see time after time the people turning their backs on God after so many warnings. And he sent his prophets to speak truth and judgement. His final truth-speaker was His Son, Jesus. But this prophet came to tell us when we seek forgiveness and to forgive we receive eternal forgiveness from God, even when we mess up over and over. You see, Jesus doesn’t just want the one who needs forgiveness healed, he wants us, the forgiver to be healed.  Because when we place our own lives under God’s microscope, we each have a heck of a lot that needs forgiving.  We each are blessed with the incredible gift of coming with our own hat in hand to the Lord and asking, “One more time, please Lord.  Forgive me.” And He does.  

I’ve been fortunate to witness the healing power of forgiveness in a few people’s lives.  My friend Andrea will forever be changed simply by forgiving a family member for past hurts and asking for forgiveness for how she has hurt others.  My own relationship with my parents has required me to forgive them.  And although the situation can still be painful, I now have the healing strength which forgiveness affords to help me pray for them each day.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I started this message about a man so broken from addiction.  A man who most would say was without hope, without the peace from God.  But God is a miracle worker as we all know.  So, after another stint in prison about a year ago, my husband’s uncle finally said, “Enough is enough.”  He turned to God for forgiveness and healing.  When he got the news that his oldest sister was now riddled with cancer he came immediately to be by her side.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the same opportunity to watch such a beautiful miracle unfold before my eyes.  To see God’s hands work like no other.  To experience the full promise of God’s grace and love descend upon a room.  We met in the lobby of the hospital, just the uncle and I.  His mind and eyes were clear. He looked so healthy!  His demeanor was clearly different.  I took him up to his sister’s room and we sat and chatted.  I felt like I should leave the room and give them some alone time when suddenly he took her by the hand and with tears streaming down his face he asked for forgiveness.  He asked to be forgiven for the destruction he caused, the pain, and for all the lost years that could’ve been different.

My mother-in-law thanked him immediately.  She said, “I needed to hear this.  It hurt so much when you blamed me for your troubles.”  And they wept.  For the next two weeks I witnessed this man stand guard outside her room, praying and participating in her last days.  I listened as he asked the rest of the family for forgiveness.  And saw them weep from the healing love of God.  I watched as he helped lift his sister’s lifeless body onto the gurney for her final road toward home.  He was in pain but was healed.  He was washed in sorrow but cleansed from forgiveness.  And he knew he was loved.

Who do you need to forgive right now?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?  

It’s time for healing.

PS: Happy Birthday to my amazing, handsome, loving, forgiving husband 🙂

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

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

A Jesus Moment

I rushed home from errands, pulled the car in the garage and quickly went to close the garage door behind me.  As I turned, I looked to make sure my car was in far enough (learning from past mistakes!).  And I saw it.  It seemed like for the first time.  I stared in wonder of how blessed I was.  It was a strange feeling standing there staring at my car.  I’ve owned this car since 2015.  And yet it was as though I had never really appreciated owning it.  I realized I was having a Jesus moment.  

“Slow down.”  

“See what I have given you.”  

“Appreciate that you are well blessed.”  

As I stood there listening to Him speak to me, I was opened to the fact that so many people in the world don’t have such ready access to transportation.  And yet here I was with two cars, a VW bus, two motorcycles and two Vespa scooters.  All, of which, I take for granted will start when I need them, get me where I need to go, and when I need gas I can stop any number of places and pay for it.   I just stood there in amazement.  And in thankfulness.  

An ordinary day made amazing with a whisper from Jesus.

Please join me and my special guest contributor, Madison Dooley, as we examine Living Amazed through Jesus November 1-29.  Sign up today to receive your Amazed posts!

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

Lord, I Cry Out For Mercy

She was rarely “late.”  With each passing day she began to worry more.  She and her boyfriend knew better but they were young, just 15 and 16.  They frequently met up for sex while his mother was at work.  And they didn’t use protection.  So, five days after she should’ve started her period, she found herself sitting on the toilet, with a small Tupperware bowl waiting to catch her urine.  She had never been to a clinic before and had called to see if they could do a pregnancy test.  As she sat there, she prayed.  She wasn’t a church-goer.  In fact, her parents never spoke of God.  Yet she regularly was moved to pray.  She didn’t know what it meant to trust God or receive justification through faith in Jesus.  She just knew she needed to pray.  She had prayed for a lot of things over the years.  For her mom to stop hitting her.  For her dad to speak to her.  For her brother to stop tormenting her.  She didn’t know if God was listening but she kept praying. 

As she sat there praying for mercy – because that’s what would have to happen – she swore she would change her ways.  She made empty promises, begging to not be pregnant. And just as she began to capture a sample, her period started.  God had not only granted her mercy but also mercy on her potential child.  For had she been pregnant she most assuredly would have aborted it.

That girl was me.  I didn’t deserve His mercy.  I was living in sin, regularly.  I created my own set of rules – a false sense of “righteousness.”  I deserved the punishment.  I deserved to have to face a difficult choice and live with it for the rest of my life.  But He showed mercy.  I’ve remembered that day for the past 39 years like it was yesterday.  But how many times have I failed to show others that same mercy?

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.”

James 2:12-13

I was recently listening to a podcast by Joyce Meyer.  She spoke about not being mediocre.  Mediocre is halfway between being a failure and being successful.  The work of not being mediocre is constantly seeking knowledge, constantly improving ourselves.  So, the other day I set about creating a Christian definitions list. We sit in church, listen to podcasts, read devotionals but how many times do we hear buzz words or theology that we just don’t grasp?  Here’s my starting list:

Righteousness: our outward appearance of God’s truth.  Our actions and our words.  It’s important to note that without the ingredient of God’s truth we create a “false, man-made righteousness.” (2Tim 3:16)

Sanctification: the process by which the Holy Spirit molds us into Jesus’ image (1Thes 4:1)

Justification: when we pronounce our faith in Jesus Christ and we are instantly saved. (Gal 2:16)

Grace: simply put, God’s favor and kindness towards us. And He shows us grace in different ways:

  1. Salvation Grace: is when our freedom was purchased through Jesus’ blood (Eph 2:8)
  2. Numerous Grace: God forgives me each time I sin (Rom 6:14)
  3. Forgiveness Grace: When God helps me to forgive others (James 4:6)
  4. New Grace: each day I have the opportunity to begin again (Heb 13:25)
  5. Freedom Grace: I am free to forget about other people’s opinions and just be me (1Cor 15:10)
  6. Future Grace: God has promised to be with me at all times (Heb 4:16)

Mercy: when we are not given the punishment we deserve. (PS 40:11-13)

When I wrote all this down I received clarity of the amazing work God, through His Holy Spirit,  does in each of us.  But most of all I thought about mercy.  I understood that God forgives us each time we fall into the traps of sin.  We all have been in the situation Paul lamented when he wrote the following:

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! 

Romans 7:21-24

Each and every day we find ourselves sinning – worried about money, hoarding our gifts, being judgmental and unkind to others, unforgiving of our loved ones or even strangers.  Gossiping, stealing, or even hating or causing injury to others.  There is only one being to have ever walked this earth that didn’t need God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy – Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon wrote in his prayer “Deliver Us From Evil about mercy.

“We come for mercy, great God.  It must always be our first request, for we have sinned against a just and holy law of which our consciences approve.  We are evil, but Your law is holy and just and good.  We have offended knowingly.”

Charles Spurgeon

I knew having sex outside of marriage was wrong.  I knew having unprotected sex outside of marriage was stupid.  And yet I did it time after time.  God gifted me with mercy over and over.  He also gifted me with mercy when He delivered the right man to me to become my husband.  I didn’t deserve him.  I was a mess.  After 31 years of marriage I still thank God my husband has stuck with me as I erase the ways I learned while outside of God’s justification. And I know now, it’s time for me to pick up my part of the bargain.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

I’m grateful that God flipped this admonition.  He has done it with so many of us.  He has shown us the mercy we didn’t deserve.  We need to pass that glorious gift along to others.  There are those in our lives that we hope to fail, that we wish ill will, that we hope will “get their just due.”  Aren’t we thankful that God doesn’t think the same about us?

For about two years I worked as a substitute in a high school office.  I job-shared for a woman who was completing her counseling certification.  There were two positions like mine.  When the other position was filled with a young woman I was encouraged by her enthusiasm.  She was full of ideas and brought a cheery face to the job.  And then she started being late every day.  At times she wouldn’t even show up.  When she did show up, I would find her on Facebook or on personal phone calls.  Her failings impacted my job.  I became bitter because, hey, I was just a substitute.  Why should I have to make up for her issues when she was an actual employee?  I found myself driving to work dreading what was to come.  I actually prayed she would get hit by a bus so I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore.  Yes, I did that.

The turmoil got so bad I considered quitting.  But I knew that would leave others, whom I considered friends, in a difficult situation.  Three months in, I sat at an intersection on the way to work.  It was a long red light.  The Holy Spirit descended on me in the car.  I had my Perspective Change Moment.  What I should have been doing all along was praying for God to intervene positively in her life.  I could have left her to do two people’s jobs and/or complain endlessly to the supervisor, but I needed to show mercy and love.  So, I prayed every day for the next week that God would resolve the problem.  For God to help her.  For God to take control.  The peace that came over me was amazing!

After that one week she resigned.  And a good friend of mine who had been a finalist for the job previously was hired.  God is good.  God is forgiving.  God, thankfully, is merciful.   I love this quote by Christopher Columbus about mercy:

I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely.  I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvelous presence.

To whom do you need to show mercy?  How has God been merciful to you?

30daysofpraise, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

Merciful Judge

We are living in a time that the word “justice” seems to hold so many different meanings – at times almost opposite meanings.  “Justice” to some means punishing people for something they didn’t participate in and happened about 200 years ago.  To others it means being able to take what you want because you feel victimized.  In some cities, “justice” means releasing hundreds of people who are in jail for murder, rape, burglary and the like.  Some people judge in the blink of an eye based on a short video.  Others judge simply because they already didn’t like a person.   And yet others still believe in the idea of investigating a crime, bringing it to a court and evaluating all the facts before passing judgement.   I have a degree in Journalism and English.  I learned that passing judgement in the media was a no-no.  Somehow that lesson has disappeared from journalism school

We can’t seem to escape “un-just judgement” these days.  What you wear, what you drive, where you live, what your skin color is, if you have a college degree or if you are old or young, we are judged by our neighbors, our enemies and even our fellow Christians.  I recently posted on Instagram a picture of a surgical mask.  I stated, “This mask does not symbolize your: kindness, faith, politics, intelligence, wokeness or love.  It’s just a mask.”  The mask, as promoted by governmental officials, has become yet another way to be judged.  Our “Cancel Culture” is swift in its judgement and mercy is nowhere to be found.

Thank the Lord that His judgement is merciful.  I mean He has been trying for thousands and thousands of years to get the majority of humanity on board with His simple rule – Obey God.  He has yet to pass His mighty judgement over us.  It does feel as though that time is getting closer and closer, however.   

So often we want to take justice into our own hands.  But it’s important to understand the difference between daily justice that God calls us to and eternal justice.  At times we think we must step in for God – with acts of anger, revenge or spite.  God does not call us to scream a people in the streets. For one, I find most people screaming don’t actually know what “justice” they need or who should be held to account.  Rest assured that if it’s justice God wants you to accomplish you will have His peace.  Screaming in people’s faces and looting won’t be part of His plan for you.  As Jesus’ people, we are called to step in for the weak and downtrodden.  But we need not be the weak and downtrodden – because through Christ we are blessed and strengthened.  A Christian who obeys God is destined to experience hardship and suffering, but His love and mercy sustains us for greater work.  He asks us to judge others as we are judged by Him – with mercy and forgiveness.

Whether or not a person believes and accepts God and His Son, Jesus, he will still ultimately be judged in the eternal world.  We must believe that Truth.  

“I said to myself, ‘God will bring into judgement both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.’”  

Ecclesiastes 3:17

Until then, God gives us opportunity after opportunity through His mercy to change course.  I, for one, am thankful for the chance to continue my path of imperfect progress without the justice served I deserve each day.

How has God showed you His mercy? Share in praise of God today in the comments below!