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Rinse & Repeat

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matthew 24:42-44

If you are a parent, or even a supervisor of others at work, you can relate so well to Jesus already.  You work day in and day out to show those who look to you for guidance how to live, work and even play.  Through your love, your willingness to give up other things to serve them, your confidence, counseling and teaching you hope all that you share sinks in deeply.

And then you turn your back for a minute.  

I was listening to the Talk It Out podcast the other day.  It’s three friends who discuss the teachings of Joyce Meyer.  This particular episode found them doing their first Covid-19 distanced podcast.  One of the women shared how the day prior, when they were practicing how the podcast would actually work, she set up her two kids in the bedroom with snacks and a movie.  She then went to another room for privacy.  Everything was perfect.  The kids had what they needed and were properly admonished.  

Partway through the run-through her daughter interrupted the proceedings.  As the mom turned to see what caused the interruption all she saw was a massacre.  At least that’s what it appeared to be.  Her young daughter had somehow gotten a hold of red nail polish and had painted her entire feet and hands.  And the white bedspread.

When asking her slightly older son what happened he replied unabashedly, “I dunno, she needed me to open it so I did.”

Jesus spent three intense years teaching, showing, guiding and yet even His closest disciples struggled to model Him.  And we sit here about 2,000 years later, with our red nail polish spilled all over our guidebook.  Oops.  

The thing about the red nail polish on the sheets is it never completely comes out.  It leaves a pink stain, as the mom found out.  She sat night after night staring at it.  But thankfully, each time we fail to live up to the lessons of Jesus we can come with our stained hands and hearts and ask for forgiveness.  We are washed white as snow.

We need to get up off our knees and try it again.  We turn to Him and say, “show me, teach me.” Because He will come back into the room with us to see how well we have lived out His example.

Join me for my next series, “Jesus Mindset,” where we break down the different characteristics of Jesus and how we can live them out.  We will all get them wrong at different points but God always holds out his hand to lift us up and dust us off.

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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?

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Fresh Fire

That ye be not slothful, but followers 
of them who through faith and patience 
inherit the promises. 
Hebrews 6:12

I don’t typically pull Bible verses from the King James version.  But in one of my devotionals this version of Hebrews 6:12 was the focus of that day’s study.  It got me thinking about my own faith and where I stand with “slothfulness.”

When you hear that word “sloth” you probably think of the lazy animal, hanging out in a tree accomplishing next to nothing all day.  Yet slothfulness is not the same as being lazy – which is how the word is translated in the New International Version.  In fact, the word “slothful” in Greek is quite different.  And in the context of the verse in Hebrews it means to not allow our faith to become monotonous or without a blazing flame.  

Slothful: nōthrós – slow, sluggish; monotonous

Strong’s Greek

For many Christians we say we are religious because we attend church regularly.  We get up Sunday morning, find our usual spot to park at church, listen to a sermon, sing a few familiar songs, and look forward to the donut or muffin on the way out.  We might chat with a few friends then head to whatever else we have on our plate for the day.  We can check off our “faith” for that week. We might even go to a Bible study during the week to put another tick mark on our “faithful” list.

And for you overachieving, super involved Christians, it’s interesting to note that the author of my devotional is an accomplished author, missionary and evangelist.  He realized he was a good “worker” for God.  But somewhere along the line it became just that – work.

But what God wants of us is deep, passionate faith. And if you already have that – awesome!  I hope you will still enjoy what is to come in my Fresh Fire posts! 

He wants us to be in love with Him.  He wants us to be eager to speak with Him and to be sad if we don’t feel His presence.  He wants us to stand for Him in the face of those who would speak against Him.  He wants us to seek the opportunities to speak about His glorious promises.  He wants us to remove all spiritual neutrality and instead burn red-hot for His message of love, forgiveness, redemption and salvation!

My son-in-law once shared with me Charles Spurgeon’s compilation of prayers called, “Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare.”  I soon got my own copy and was amazed with the fervor level of his sermons.  There’s nothing slothful about Mr. Spurgeon!  I wanted to share this excerpt about praying with a blazing heart:

“I would that some of you prayed more vehemently! “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matt 11:12) An old Puritan said, “Prayer is a cannon set at the gate of heaven to burst open its gates.” You must take the city by storm if you would have it. You will not ride to heaven on a feather-bed, you must go on pilgrimage; there is no going to the land of glory while you are sound asleep, dreamy sluggards will have to wake up in hell. If God has made you to feel in your soul the need of salvation, cry like one who is awake and alive; be in earnest; cry aloud; spare not.

Charles Spurgeon, The Raven’s Cry

Whew!  I get exhausted each time I read that!  And yet, during the “Great Covid Pandemic” I watched friends’ faith fall by the wayside.  They were comfortable with sitting in their PJs watching a church video and nothing more.   I also watched others be lifted to higher heights.  Their Bible study life became daily and hour-long.  Their prayers became constant and vibrant!  Their work of sanctification grew by leaps and bounds!  I have written before that I believe a great sifting has occurred.  Those who choose to be “slothful” in their faith will continue to slide out of a relationship with Jesus.  But we don’t want to be lost into the world.

For five weeks, I’ll share 25 verses about strong, energetic, and passionate faith.  A few may feel familiar but my hope is that most will be something new.   Because that’s what this series is about – stripping away the “usual” and monotonous and injecting a bit of new fire.

God’s promises are so much more beautiful and glorious than anything the world can ever offer.  It’s up to us to grab hold of our faith with renewed vigor and fire.  It’s up to us to burn in passion for our Lord.  

Here’s the prayer from that day’s devotional about slothfulness.  I hope you pray it as a stepping off point for the study!

“Lord, help me understand how totally unacceptable it is for me to lose my passion, momentum and desire.  I ask you to forgive me for allowing any hint of slothfulness to operate in my life.  Today I repent and deliberately turn from slothfulness.  Holy Spirit,  I turn to you now and ask you to stir and reignite the fire in my heart.  Please help me regain the zeal, the thrust and the fire I once possessed.  Help me to keep that fire burning this time, never to lose it again.  I pray this is Jesus’ name!”

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Are You Prepared?

Lesson #12: God’s kingdom will be established and we need to be prepared.

“But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; 
it will be holy.  Jacob will possess 
his inheritance.” 
Obadiah 1:17

My current BSG Bible study focuses solely on Easter and the days leading up to Jesus’ death.  The other day we were asked to read Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, and Luke 22:19-20.  And if you do, you’ll find almost the same words written in each about Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in His final hours.  As Christians, we should be very familiar with what took place – the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine.   What I love about actually studying the Bible is you see all the ancient links back and forth and the promises for the future, supported by those fulfilled promises.  

While they were eating, Jesus took 
bread, and when he had given thanks, 
he broke it and gave it to his disciples, 
saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 
Then he took a cup, and when he had given 
thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 
“Drink from it, all of you. This is my 
blood of the covenant, which is poured 
out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  
I tell you, I will not drink from this 
fruit of the vine from now on until that 
day when I drink it new with you in my 
Father’s kingdom.”  
Matthew 26:26-29

“When I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  Jesus is drinking from the traditional third cup of the Passover meal – the one representing the blood of an animal sacrificed for sins to be “passed over.”  He establishes not only himself as the sacrifice for all eternity for our sins but then gives us the promise of reuniting with us.

“The kingdom of God has come near.  
Repent and believe the good news!” 
Mark 1:15

You’ll notice throughout the Bible that we humans are warned of how we should behave, what the punishment will be, and in the end those who believe will receive great reward.  In the prophesy of Obadiah, the people of Edom received their warning of destruction because of pride, gloating, treachery, thievery, and violence.  Yet, they did not listen.

“Just as you drank on my holy hill, 
so all nations will drink continually; 
they will drink and drink and be as 
if they had never been.” 
Obadiah 1:16

Obadiah warns the people that what they sought for so richly would be turned against them with voracity.  Imagine now our current world.  And imagine all the sins turned against us two-fold.  The killing of millions of unborn children alone must make God so angry.  I can only imagine that we would be struck barren and childless in an instant.  And therefore, unable to continue creating new generations.

Thank God gives us the warnings.  And in heeding them we can then receive the glorious inheritance.

“Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.” 

Alan Redpath

Yes, our kingdoms.  So many of us have built our own kingdoms on the hill – just like the people of Edom.  We look down on our fellow man with a smugness that “we have it all under control.” Our bank accounts are satisfactory, our marriages are holding together, our homes protect us.  And yet we are warned all this will be “stubble” (vs 18).  How many of us live with the anticipation of “Thy Kingdom Come?”

Because it will come.  You may be fortunate to be in a church where that is a focus of the teaching.  Where you are tasked to constantly be in a mode of preparation.  Where you are admonished to gather up as many people as possible for the kingdom.  I have yet to be in such a church.  And yet the entire Bible is a warning of the coming kingdom.  

If this last year, during the great pandemic, has taught me anything is that our earthly time is limited and we are tasked with no more greater act than preparing our hearts and minds for the coming kingdom.  Situations in which I find myself that are not godly become glaring reminders of the coming of Jesus.

How about instead — “Are you prepared?”

Throughout this last year we kept hearing the teaching, “Faith over fear.”  And yet fear held most of us captive.  And fear of what? Death?  If that was the case, as Christians we should have been at the front of the line shouting “hallelujah, our time has come!”  The signs on our churches should have asked, “Are you ready?”

And what of that readiness and our own kingdoms?  

The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, “Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.” Then Jesus says, “Blessed are you…” (Matthew 5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work. Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers

God has issued His warnings.  Just like with the people of Edom, He has called us to prepare for the onslaught of His power and might.  He has promised us the inheritance of the kingdom.  Are you in constant training?  Are you ready to be called up in an instant?  Which side of the battle lines will you be on?  

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The Ripples of Pride

Lesson #10: Make Jesus the King of every aspect of your life, especially the parts you grasp tight control over.

“The pride of your heart has deceived 
you, you who live in the clefts of the 
rocks and make your home on the heights, 
you who say to yourself, “Who can bring 
me down to the ground?” 
Obadiah 1:3

My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) now know each others’ longstanding mini-kingdoms that we like to control.  When we are asked questions in various studies about our sins we laugh and say, “Oh, I can answer that for you!”  This is why I love these ladies.  We have opened our lives to each other in trust.  And, we expect to be held accountable for growth in our troublesome areas.  I, for one, had an epiphany a month ago about one of my mini kingdoms which brought me a bit of embarrassment along with conviction.

These last few months I’ve really struggled with how angry I become when I head out for all my errands.  My irritation and annoyance with people in general was heightened with the COVID related rules and fears.  I’d see a person alone in their car with a double breather mask on and wanted to roll down my window and scream at them.  The one-way rules for the grocery store aisles frustrated me when I found myself accidently going the wrong way and got dirty looks.  People were either too slow, too lazy, or too dumb – in my opinion.  I kept it all bottled up and would arrive home in turmoil.  And then one day, while doing my Bible study, it hit me.  My problem was pride.  

“When pride comes, then comes 
disgrace, but with humility comes 
wisdom.” 
Proverbs 11:2

Yep, I was being the queen of “Miss Know It All” land.  And I had to admit it to my group.  It wasn’t until that conviction hit me that God could then begin the re-building process.  I’m now praying each day I leave my house that the Holy Spirit will remind me to live as a loving, compassionate, forgiving person.

In this week’s small Bible book, we hear from the prophet Obadiah.  As prophets go, he’s not all that well known.  In fact, there’s quite a lot of disagreement about who he was and about what time period he prophesized.  But what we do know was he came to warn the people of Edom about their prideful ways.

Edom was a city from the line of Esau.  You might remember him as Jacob’s brother.  And ever since Jacob illicitly received Isaac’s family blessings there was enmity between the two brothers.  One of the great, longstanding feuds began that day.  

So, hundreds of years later we find ourselves in Edom, who conspired with Judah’s enemies to overthrow Jerusalem.  And God is not happy.

“Though you soar like the eagle and 
make your nest among the stars, from 
there I will bring you down, declares 
the LORD.” 
Obadiah 1:4

Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s people, some of whom actually had the cloud of God living among them, attempt to take control over every situation.  They conspired with enemies, took the opposite path, demanded earthly kings, worshipped other idols to bring favorable weather.  We have the benefit of looking through the entire Bible and shaking our head in disbelief.  “Why didn’t they just do what God directed them to do?” one of my Bible study questions asked.  I can only look at my own life and ask myself the same question.

“For everything in the world – the 
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, 
and the pride of life – comes not from 
the Father but from the world.” 
1 John 2:16

When we build up our own mini kingdoms, be it about finances, our care and keeping of our children, our jobs, our social life, our health, and so on we seek to place ourselves higher than God.  Our pride tells us that we know better.

And the Edomites thought they knew best.  They were going to destroy Judah through alliances with her enemies.  Meanwhile the Edomites, who built their city high up in the mountains as sturdy fortresses, were sure that no harm would come to them.

“But how Esau will be ransacked, 
his hidden treasures pillaged!” 
Obadiah 1:6

The thing about God though is that so often instead of an outright destruction of our mini kingdoms we get hit from the flank.  We demand or beg to be in charge and He sits back and says, “Ok, have at it.”  And we think we’ve won the battle.  And then the stress comes, the destroyed relationships, lost sleep, ulcers, and more.  And yet some of us hold on tighter because our pride won’t let us release our drawbridges and welcome God into our kingdom.

When we hold on to the sin of pride it creates ripple effects throughout our entire lives – and maybe even beyond.  We pass down family hatreds and attitudes toward others.  We teach our children to “never give an inch” in situations.   We divorce because we couldn’t see the other side and therefore create broken homes.

My friends, the people of Israel were promised, while still in the desert, a great year of Jubilee.  In that year, all debts would be forgiven, all slaves set free.  It was to be a year-long celebration of God’s love for His people.  And it never happened.  Before they could even get to the promised land, they decided they knew better.  Thousands of young men died because they wouldn’t trust the God who had taken care of them.  The God who created food out of nothing and gave water from a stone.

God wants you to experience His Jubilee – a freedom from the slavery that pride brings.  Jesus paid the price to release us.  It’s already done.  It ourselves that have re-shackled our hearts and minds.  I read this story the other day that I hope will bring you your own epiphany.

“There was a farmer that got word that one of his sheep had been stolen and lie dead in a ditch outside town.  He headed out to retrieve the carcass.  Once he arrived, he realized the sheep wasn’t dead.  It appeared as though its legs were still bound together although no rope remained.  The farmer called to the sheep to get up but the animal laid there as though unable.  He smacked the sheep on the backside to get up and yet it remained.  He realized the sheep still thought he was tied up.  So, the farmer pulled the animal’s legs apart to show him he was no longer bound.  And finally, the sheep hopped up and ran up the hill.”

Are you that sheep?  Jesus has already released you from all bondage.  But are you still acting, out of pride, as though you are still a prisoner inside your own mini kingdom?

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Be A Heart Changer & Soul Saver

Life Lesson #9: Christians are in the job of changing hearts and saving souls.

Perhaps this is the reason he was 
separated from you for a while, 
so that you might have him back 
forever, no longer as a slave but 
more than a slave, a beloved 
brother—especially to me but how 
much more to you, both in the 
flesh and in the Lord. 
Philemon 1:15-16

When I was in college, I was approached by two missionaries on campus.  I believed in God, to an extent, but didn’t know anything about Him or Jesus.   I asked the typical questions – “Why does God allow bad things to happen to people” and “Why did He give us free will instead of just making us all good people?” I’m sorry to say they couldn’t give me even a best guess.  I wonder if you were tasked with talking to a friend about Jesus would you be ready with passable answers to these questions?

I heard a talk by Joyce Meyer the other day where she took up the question of why evil things continuously happen in the world.  She’s seen some pretty bad situations in all of her world-wide missionary work.  She prayed this question one day.  The answer she got back was, “I’m waiting on my people to obey me and take care of each other.”

The righteous know the rights of 
the poor; the wicked have no such 
understanding. 
Proverb 29:7

I’m currently doing a study that takes me through the entire Bible.  It’s fascinating to see in Leviticus how sin offerings are adjusted for the poor.  Even thousands of years ago God was making sure the downtrodden were taken care of.  But notice you won’t find in the Bible that the Israelites or Christians are told to take up arms to eliminate poverty.  Verse after verse we are tasked to do one thing with the poor – to help them.

In Joppa there was a disciple named 
Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); 
she was always doing good and 
helping the poor. 
Acts 9:36

As social justice issues go, the poor are always on the lips of “social justice warriors.”  Their desire appears to be to eliminate poverty and all social injustice via legislation, protests or even through violence.  But as Christians we are shown a different approach.  Take the issue of slavery, as discussed in the letter from Paul to Philemon.  The subject is the slave Onesimus.  Notice in the introductory verse that Paul does not chastise or demand of Philemon the release of his slave.  Paul, instead, appeals to faith principles.  He reminds Philemon that as a faithful follower of Jesus our hearts and therefore, our minds are changed.

“To me, a follower of Jesus means a friend of man.  A Christian is a philanthropist by profession, and generous by force of grace; wide as the reign of sorrow is the stretch of his love, and where he cannot help he pities still.”  

Charles Spurgeon

By teaching slave owners about the power and love and salvation found in following Jesus, the disciples were slowly changing the hearts and then minds of people who, not only owned slaves, but behaved in any number of sinful ways.  The new Christian is tasked with living in a new loving and giving nature.

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

Had the disciples come into new cities preaching about abolishing slavery (let’s remember too that slavery in that time was mostly more like indentured servitude) they certainly would’ve been met with resistance.  Slaves were costly commodities – just as they were in the early years of the United States.  To preach that people had to give up much of their wealth in order to follow Jesus would not have been as successful as first telling of the Good News.

Last year, I watched as protests and violence broke out in cities across the United States by self-professed social justice warriors.  To be honest, at times I wasn’t even sure what some of it was about.  In Portland, Oregon, the young people rioting just seemed to hate everyone.  It was a perfect time for the church to rise up and do what we should do best – show love and help change hearts.  I hoped and prayed that in communities hit by violence that God’s people would come together and form prayer chains around the cities – enveloping it in God’s love.  Instead, I watched as pastors led more protests and took to microphones and megaphones yelling about injustice, pointing fingers at different races.

“It is easier to make laws than to make Christians, but the business of the church is to produce Christians and everything else is a by-product of that new creation.”

Vance Havner

The people of Jesus’ time expected a Messiah to come and bring justice.  They wanted punishment of those who had wronged them.  They wanted to see governments and whole groups of people destroyed.  But Jesus was not that kind of social justice warrior.  From town-to-town He cared about one thing – changing people’s hearts.  He did out-of-the-box things like sit with sinners, touch the leper, heal on the Sabbath, talk with the outcasts.  He brought the bread of life and the refreshing water of the Holy Spirit.  

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks 
this water will be thirsty again, but 
whoever drinks the water I give them 
will never thirst. Indeed, the water 
I give them will become in them a 
spring of water welling up to eternal 
life.” 
John 4:13-14

How amazing would it have been if, when our churches closed down in March 2020, they instead remained open.  Not just open but open 24 hours a day with a sign out on the street that said, “Need someone to talk to? We’re always open and ready to listen.”  I know this idea is radical.  And you’re probably thinking of all the reasons why your church can’t do this. But the work of Jesus and His apostles was radical.  So is the work of every Christian you probably admire.

“Behave at them.”

Ken Blanchard

As Christians we are not tasked to be worldly “social justice warriors.”  We are commissioned to be God’s soldiers.  When we are tempted to join a protest march and carry a sign we should first think how we can directly help those for whom we are marching. God’s plan for the world will only be accomplished through our active showing of love, grace, charity, and forgiveness of others — while espousing His truth. The spreading of the message of Jesus brings the changes we so long for – maybe just not as fast as we like.   He designed us this way.  

I do get outraged by many things going on in the world.  And then I remember to pray to God for peace in my heart so that I can listen for my marching orders.  When I feel overwhelmed by the problems we face, I remember that God works out-of-the-box in radical ways.  It’s up to me and it’s up to you to be in the heart changing business when God puts opportunities right in front of us.  We will always find ourselves on the right side of “He who is most important” when we obey God.

The Apostle Paul worked on one rich, slave owner at a time.  And over time, our Christian faith has led to a world-wide abolishment of sanctioned slavery.  What small step can you do today to help change one heart?

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Unburdened Your Heart

Lesson #7: Forgiveness of others brings us the blessings of Christ

It is as none other than Paul—an old 
man and now also a prisoner of Christ 
Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son 
Onesimus, who became my son while I was 
in chains. 
Philemon 1:9-10

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness.  It keeps popping up in various Bible studies and readings.  And when that happens, I realize God is trying to tell me something.  So, the other day while in my “She Shed” – where I do my Bible reading and mediation – I just sat and did an inventory of the people in my life and those no longer in it.  My question for each face that popped in my head was “Is there something I haven’t forgiven in this relationship?”

There are people whom I actively must work at forgiving.  There’s one person in my neighborhood that, each time I see him I need to remind myself I no longer harbor ill feelings toward him.  It’s fascinating however, to pay attention to my whole body and mind when he enters my sphere.  I remind myself I have forgiven him yet my body wants to remember the hurt feelings.  It’s a brief little battle that, thankfully Jesus and the Holy Spirit help me to win.   In fact, the last time I saw him I thought it was a different neighbor and I waved.  When I realized who it was, I did a mental flip – “Ugh, why did you wave to him of all people?  You’re just not supposed to think anything and move along!”  But waving gave the impression I was happy to see him.  I suddenly realized in my mini battle that it was again the Holy Spirit forcing me to step out of my comfort zone and not just be “neutral” but be kind.

That individual aside, I came to an even greater realization about my need to forgive.  These days I can’t think of a greater forgiveness need in me than to forgive my church.  Actually, just about all churches who have shuttered their doors during such desperate times.  

But let me back up a bit.  Today, we jump into the little book of Philemon.  Paul, currently imprisoned in Rome, writes to a wealthy Christian friend in Colosse concerning the slave Onesimus.  Onesimus took off from Philemon’s household having stolen from him.  Onesimus found himself in the company of Paul and was converted.  And now Paul humbly asks Philemon to forgive his slave and allow him to return.

I remember as a child my mom talking about converted prisoners.  She scoffed at the idea that murderers and thieves could “find Jesus” and change their lives.  She thought it was all just a ploy to get out of jail earlier or to garner forgiveness without truly repenting.  And she may be right in some cases.  Who is to know the heart of a sinner but God?   

I wonder if Philemon thought the same?  To Onesimus’ benefit he had the great apostle Paul standing up for him.   How often have we held out forgiving someone because they didn’t meet our list of requirements for forgiveness?  The person in my neighborhood that I must remind myself to forgive frequently?  He hasn’t ever asked me for forgiveness.  He’s never acted in a way that showed he even knows he needs my forgiveness.

My church, who locked their doors and turned me away from praying at the outdoor steps of the sanctuary, doesn’t see any need for me to forgive them.  The elders and pastor who either ignored my pleas for help or worse, said hurtful things, have not asked for forgiveness.  So why should I forgive them?  Why should Philemon forgive a man to whom he gave so much and then stole from him?

I once was in a discussion about forgiveness during a Bible study.  The leader, who also was an elder in the church, said to the group, “You can’t forgive someone unless they have paid a price or asked for forgiveness.” (There’s that Biblical truth issue popping up!) Now, I’m working on my path from being a “baby Christian” to a mature one but even I know that’s just not sound Jesus teaching.

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?” Jesus answered, 
“I tell you, not seven times, but 
seventy-seven times."
Matthew 18:21-22

The thing I like about this conversation in Matthew is he deals with a real world situation.  So many of us keep doing things that need forgiveness from others.  And Jesus says to keep on forgiving – each and every time.

I was reading about forgiveness and came across this list of spiritual characteristics of someone who forgives:

  1. Concern for his place with God
  2. Concern for people
  3. Concern for fellowship
  4. Concern for knowledge
  5. Concern for glory
  6. Concern for blessing

My response to the Bible study leader was that if her “rules” about forgiveness were true then how can we forgive people who have already died but negatively impacted our lives?  Or how can we forgive people that either don’t have anything to do with us anymore or have no idea they did something wrong?  Under her idea so many of us would live with a horrible burden of pain and hurt and anger.  And Jesus doesn’t want that for us.  He wants to shower us with that glory and those blessings listed in the “forgiver characteristics.”

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 11:25

Against anyone – for any reason.  But the most important part of the forgiveness lesson?  “So that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”  I want to be forgiven because I know I have a lot for which I need to be forgiven.  Therefore, I need to search my heart and truly forgive our churches.

I’ve learned a lot this last year about compassion and our human tendency to live in fear.  And although our pastors preach to have faith rather than fear, we fall back into the flesh so easily.  I do it, you do it and our church leaders (who are just humans too) do it.  It doesn’t make me feel good to see our churches closed but I also don’t want to have the burden of unforgiveness on my heart and soul.  I realized I can be sad and still forgive.

I like that in this letter to Philemon, Paul doesn’t demand that the slave Onesimus be taken back into the household.  Paul wields a lot of authority.  He could’ve just said, “Take him back and don’t be mean to him.”  But God wants our hearts.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit work on our transformation.  That’s why each time I see what was previously my “nemesis” in the neighborhood I know the Holy Spirit is working in me.  My hand was purposely lifted up to wave at him – not the mistaken neighbor.  To help my heart be free of any last morsels of unforgiveness.

Friends, I have seen the miracle healing of forgiveness in others.  I have felt it in myself.  It’s there for the taking for you.  Let’s be like the father of the prodigal son – from a long way off he saw his son returning.  He didn’t know why his son was coming back.  It could’ve been to ask for more money.  Instead of looking out the window and thinking every bad thought, he ran to him. (Luke 15:20) He tucked his tunic between his legs and ran to hug him in front of the townspeople.  He might’ve needed to forgive him a few more times in the course of their lives, we don’t know.  But the joy he had with that one action has given us the lesson for the ages.

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Mighty Growth

A few weeks ago, I told my husband the following: “I can’t wait to get back to the way things were before the pandemic.”  And then I stopped.  I realized that wasn’t really true.  My good friend and I were having lunch this week and I shared this moment with her.  I went on to explain that yes, there’s a lot I’m hoping will “get back to normal” in the coming weeks but God uses every single moment in our lives for His purpose – good and bad.  He uses non-believers and believers.  I heard a pastor the other day explain that we shouldn’t be asking “why” to God when faced with difficulty but rather, “what can I learn about God or what does God want me to learn about myself?”

My BSGs (Bible Study Girls) were asked recently to draw a sanctification growth chart.  Sanctification meaning our faith journey toward being more like Jesus.  I drew some small spikes, a few flat lines, and then two large spikes.  From the day I clearly recall my daughter (about 2 years old at the time) spurring me to answer her questions about God and angels to today I can thankfully say my growth chart has well, grown.  The two large spikes include a large test Jesus put me through when He asked me, through a vision, to drop much of what I thought was important in life and instead feed the homeless for a year.  The second spike?  It started in February 2020 – the start of the COVID pandemic.  

My church shuttered their doors.  My old Bible study group went on-line.  And then all other communication with my church ceased.  Yes, they offered a weekly video but that is not fellowship.  A cold, impersonal video just isn’t “church.”  It’s not a communion of the saints.  

My new BSGs, however, stayed in constant contact.  Some of us came together in person with walks and distanced lunches.  And together we made a commitment to not let each other go and to help each member delve deeper into His Word.  We have been open about our sins and our dreams.  Our hopes and our failures.

But more than just this group, I have fallen often on my knees in prayer.  Sometimes crying out in fear and sometimes in sadness.  Other times in thankful hallelujah.  Had I been left to attending Sunday church for one hour a week I’m not sure I would’ve made the same progress.  But I can tell you this, of all the things I’m most grateful for over the past year is what I now understand to be the most important – God’s never ending love for me.  

His Word has been revealed to me in so many amazing ways.  I’ve discovered the majesty of the Lord and His faithful promises.  I’ve learned about the perils of disobedience and the joys of freedom that obedience brings.   Through His Word I’ve learned how to hold the line of faith and to recognize when the devil is trying to loosen my grip.


While reading Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on the book of Jude I came across this powerful yet simple message to Christians everywhere:

Every Church = Bible Institute

Every Christian = Bible student

Every Pulpit = Teach the positive words of Biblical truth AND denounce error

Are you a student of the Bible?  We are well-versed in so many other unnecessary aspects of life: the details of every episode of Downton Abbey (or pick your favorite show), the stats of our favorite baseball (golf, basketball, etc) player, the ins and outs of Joanna Gaines’ life.  You get the picture.  But can we say the same about every single book in the Bible?

My same friend I mentioned earlier asked me what I thought about the books that weren’t included in the Bible.  I told her, “To be honest, if I could just become extremely knowledgeable about the ones in it, I think I’d be doing pretty good.”


And that’s I why I chose for my next series, Tiny But Mighty: 15 life lessons from the Bible’s smallest books.  If you have never read these five books you could tackle them in about an hour (or less).  But I’ll be honest, my first read through these left me thinking, “There’s a lot more than 15 lessons here.”  

During the next 5 weeks we will discover more about how to confront a difficult situation, why love is obedience, how to really make social change, the effects of disloyalty, our role as God’s soldier and much more.

So, jump on board, join me in this sanctification journey!  We may be just one Christian on this path to glory but God is sure to use us and the more we know about His will, the more He can do with us.  We may be tiny but we sure can be mighty.

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

Hanging By A Thread

Can a mother forget the baby 
at her breast and have no compassion 
on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will 
not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on 
the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16

I just was having a bad day.  Nothing really seemed to fall into place.  My husband got some bad news from work which makes me worry about him and our financial situation.  And then we decided to go get my car washed.  My husband was vacuuming the back of my hatchback.  I decided to walk around the back in order to reach the passenger front window.  Unbeknownst to me he had pushed the button to close the hatch as he walked away.  I walked square into the corner of the door with the top of my head.  My husband was completely unaware as he was now on the opposite side of the car.  I bent over holding my head trying to 1) not cry like a baby and 2) stay conscious. 

I cried out to him like a mewling lamb.  My first reaction was to blame him and then I apologized, saying it was just an accident.  But that was the last straw for me that day.  I  wanted to sit down and sob.  It has taken so much out of me to stay in tune with God during the trials and tribulations of the Covid pandemic that I just wanted to give up.  No more joyful grasping for God.  No more peace resting in His Word.  I just was done.  

Come to me, all you who 
are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

And God whispered to me, “I’m still here. And I still love you.  And I know you are having a hard time.  Come and talk to me.”  

I still find it so hard to pray when I’m truly struggling.  But God is so compassionate to us.  He knows when we are holding on by a thread.  He will take even the tiniest snippets of prayer from us to help us hold on.  Like the mother in the Isaiah verse today, He longs to hold us in His arms if we would just run to him – or even crawl.  

The process of sanctification this year made me realize quickly that I was shrinking away from not only God but my husband at that painful moment.  I didn’t want to burden my husband any more than he already was. But after a little while, I shared with him how I was feeling.  I know it’s hard for men to see their beloved wives in pain and not be able to fix our ills.  But he gave me what I needed — a listening and compassionate ear, and a hug.  

That’s what God wants to do for us too.  Although we shouldn’t turn our prayer time into a litany of complaints, we should bring him our pain.  

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, 
holy and dearly loved, clothe 
yourselves with compassion, 
kindness, humility, gentleness 
and patience.
Colossians 3:12

I like this visual of clothing ourselves.  The fruits of the spirit are God’s way of giving us that spiritual hug and listening ear.  He is compassionate, kind, gentle and patient with us.  And Jesus was certainly humble.  When we encase our minds and hearts in these gifts and then turn those fruit outward toward God’s people, we get them back tenfold. 

My husband is a godly man.  Because of this, God used him to give me the compassion and gentleness I needed that day.  And I was able to pull myself back on track. 

I could have easily given in to my despair.  I mean my head was killing me and felt like I had a concussion.  Nothing I could do would fix any problem around me.  But I have learned to grab hold of the promises of God for my rescue. 

Be on your guard; stand firm 
in the faith; be courageous; 
be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13

My head still hurts a few days later but I can almost (almost) laugh about it now.  I’m glad I don’t have to keep apologizing to anyone for losing it – since I pulled back my anger almost immediately.  My husband felt bad enough as it was.  And my compassion toward him helped me to stay in line with God’s Word.

I thank God for His promise to never forget me, always hold me tightly and guide me with the fruits of His spirit. 


Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!

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The Spirit of Christmas

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
    will come to him and be put to shame.
Isaiah 45:22-24
On coming to the house, they saw 
the child with his mother Mary, 
and they bowed down and worshiped him. 
Matthew 2:11

Glory to God the King!  I praise you, God, and bow down to you in thankfulness for your covenant with us!  Your promise to deliver us, through your son Jesus, is the great gift for all mankind. 

It has really hit home to me this year about the idols so many of us rely on for strength and deliverance.  We cling to our routines.  We put our trust in government officials.  We place our joy in dining out, going to the movies, gathering with friends.  Our peace rests in financial security.  And God comes and reminds us that no idol can bring us any of these.  He is God and there is no other.

In a God-like way it’s perfect that we can see a light at the end of this pandemic as vaccines begin rolling out and we celebrate the birth of His son.  God is the savior of Babylon – for those who believe.   And yet so many, even Christians, fail to truly grab a hold of this truth.  

I was talking with my BSGs the other day about the “spirit of Christmas” and how many rely on an outside source to descend upon them for this feeling.  My own parents sit alone in their home without any sign of Christmas to be seen.  I asked my mother the other day why that was.  And her response was, “We just don’t have any Christmas spirit this year.” Now granted, they aren’t Christians either.  They are just two of millions across the globe who have chosen not to bow down and accept God as the Almighty.  One of the BSGs describes her brother’s family in much the same way.  They wait to be lifted by the outside world.  They wait to feel joy in the material.  They wait to find peace in routine.

It made me realize how, once I accepted Jesus as our deliverer, I no longer need idols to feel “saved.”  I no longer need idols to experience the joy of Christmas.  My “spirit of Christmas” comes from above and within and I’ve been holding on tightly to that gift. 

We are such comfort-seeking souls!  I think of a soldier at war during Christmas.  Laying in a foxhole or cave in a foreign land.  There’s no twinkly lights or Christmas tree laden with gifts.  There’s no Christmas ham and glazed carrots.  There’s just cold, and the distant sounds of gunfire.  And yet, the Christmas spirit still is there – in the small pocket Bible or the verses kept close to his heart.

This Christmas is not unusual in that there is strife in the world.  This Christmas is not unusual that many are in dire financial need.  This Christmas is the same as it was on that day that Christ was born – He has come to be our deliverer.  That’s all the Christmas spirit I need.