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

The Addition of Peace

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

As I write this, we are only a few weeks away from Christmas.  Around this time, we frequently see the phrase, “Peace on Earth!”  But like so many popularized snippets in the Bible the meaning can be confused when interpreted from a worldly point of view.  “Peace” so often means a lack of something – strife, war, noise, chaos.  But in God’s universe, it is an addition of something.

The misconstrued meaning of God’s peace

Having grown up in San Diego I had the fortunate experience of learning to sail.  As a Girl Scout, I started out in small, one-man sabots.  Eventually, I became skilled at sailing catamarans and larger sloops.  I’ve even been a crew member on an old sailing ship which sailed the 31 miles from Long Beach Harbor across the ocean to Santa Catalina Island.  What an amazing trip!  On many of those sailboats you’ll find what’s called a set of lifelines.  They run from stem to stern along the edge of the boat.  Its purpose? To be used as a last chance handhold before plunging into the water.

That’s how I see God’s peace brought into our world and more specifically my life. Peace, as brought about by the coming of Jesus, is not the lack of something, it’s the addition of our new lifeline. God promises throughout the Old Testament that He will send His messenger to wipe way our tears and to bring us salvation. And when Jesus arrived, so many people misunderstood His purpose. It was not to become an earthly king and conquer all our physical adversaries. He came to teach us that His ways are higher and His love for us so great. You see God doesn’t always want to change our circumstances, but He always seeks to change us. When we study how Jesus handled strife and chaos and follow in His ways we live in peace.

Peace I leave with you; 
my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you as 
the world gives. Do not 
let your hearts be troubled 
and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

This bringing of His Peace – the incarnation of Jesus – was more clearly defined for me this year.  About 11 months ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  I love my mother-in-law as my own mom.  She has taught me so much about Jesus and His ways.  She has shown me grace when I didn’t deserve it.  She has provided a warm and loving place for me to land when life has been too much.  I had been praying fervently for a more positive diagnosis.  

So that day, I went for a long walk through our nearby, secluded canyons and yelled out loud at God.  Yes, I yelled at the Almighty.  I pleaded with Him to not take her from me yet.  My heart, mind and soul were the opposite of peace.  And like the boat lifeline, He suddenly placed Himself between me and going off the deep end.  His Holy Spirit stood square in front of me and reminded me that death is not the end.  He showed me that when the day comes for my beloved mother-in-law to leave this world it would be a joyous one for her.  You see, she would be reunited with her own mother.  He showed me a picture of the two of them playing their favorite card games, teasing each other, and laughing their heads off.  And it made me smile.  It filled me with joy.  

I had accepted God’s peace.  There’s the covenant agreement.  He sent His Peace On Earth in the form of His Son.  And I accepted it.  I frequently try giving it back, but less and less as I place my trust more firmly in Him.

This year of 2020 had been very difficult for many.  As a Christian I have grasped a hold of God’s lifeline so often to stay in His peace.  It’s important for us to remember that God wants us to live in today, not yesterday or tomorrow.  So, when we dream blissfully about how much better 2021 “just has to be,” we make the mistake of missing out on how good God can be for us right now.  We miss out on the opportunity to live in His peace.

There has never been a year in the history of the world, after Eden, where there was not disease, strife, war, death and pain.  And 2021 will be no different.  But God’s promised peace is our lifeline.  It will guard our hearts and minds.  No matter the dark seas on either side, we can rest in the knowledge of His love and our eternal salvation.

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

Historical Perspective

I’ve heard a lot of media types say this year is one of the most difficult “of all time.” As humans we tend to look at history from our own timeframe. When we do that it negates all the trials and tribulations so many before us have endured.
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As Christians we need to grasp hold of the many promises of which God clearly states in His Holy Word. When we do, we find that people have successfully endured extreme hardships for 1,000s of years because they placed their faith in Him.
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Join me and a few guests these next few weeks as we explore just some of those promises which help us, not only endure, but to find joy and peace no matter what the world hurls at us.
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Go to https://emboldened.net/ and follow to receive your daily email of promises made and kept by God.

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

Amazingly Interrupted

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 5:1-11


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Job 42:12-13

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

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

The Amazing Act of Choosing

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

 Matthew 6:24

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

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

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

Warren Wiersbe, The New Testament Bible Commentary

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Amazed By His Will

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

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

Mark 7:33-37


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

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

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

John 1:5

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

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

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

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

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

bible study, Christian, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

To Be Amazingly Singleminded

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Matthew 12:22-28

I love the part in these verses that states, “Jesus knew their thoughts.”  How amazing is it that right now, this very second, Jesus knows your thoughts?  He knows the thoughts of believers and non-believers.  What would He think about your thoughts right now?  Are they focused on the worries surrounding the election in the United States?  Are they worried about new virus-related shutdowns?  Are your thoughts of your precarious finances or your failing marriage?  Or, are they thoughts of how God has come through for you before and today is no different?  He has shown the way; he has opened doors before and this issue you face right now can be placed securely in His hands.  

The “people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’”  How often when God paves the way to solutions we might not have ever dreamt, that we even ask the question, “could this be Jesus?”  Or do we stand firm in single mindedness and state, “Thank you Lord.”? The Pharisees were so afraid of losing their power and control they wanted to be convinced that Jesus was healing with Satan’s power.  And although when our prayers are answered we might not think Satan had something to do with it, how often do we just shrug and think of it as a coincidence?

I’ve written before of the struggles I have with my parents.  They are non-believers.  My father has stated he is an atheist.  And to put it mildly they are miserable.  They lead small, scared lives.  I was led this year to pray vehemently for them.  When I pray for them, I imagine the wall they have securely built around themselves.  A nice, sturdy brick tower.  I’ve asked God to break that wall down, to soften their hearts.  I know I can’t do it.  It must be God’s actions.  And last week I had the chance to see their faces peeking through a few bricks that had been displaced.   I’ve offered to assist them during this difficult time of isolation.  I’ve brought them meals, puzzles, a Kindle.  I’ve offered to buy a meal service for them.  But each time I’ve been met with annoyance.  But last week I received a desperate text from my mother.  She explained they haven’t been eating right and are very lonely.  So, I made up some meals and delivered them.  They were so grateful.  That may sound normal.  But grateful isn’t normally in their vocabulary.  I lost track of how many times they thanked me.   As I drove away, I caught myself thinking like someone of this world – “well, finally they allowed me to help.  I could’ve been doing that all along.”  I forgot that this was not my doing.  A few blocks away I stopped my car and I prayed.  I prayed a grateful prayer to the Lord on High – the only way those bricks could’ve been removed.  I don’t know if my parents will reach through and try and shore up those bricks again.  But for that day, that moment, I thanked God for allowing me to do His works and be His hands.  It was truly amazing.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

James 4:6-8

We can’t continue to have one foot in for Jesus and one foot out.  Because that equation is actually both feet out.  In math, a positive times a negative is always negative.  The covenant with God is based on trust.  And when we vacillate between trusting Him and not, we allow Satan or worldly “solutions” to chip away at our peace. 

Patterns are pointers.  They can very much reveal where a person is headed.  Positive patterns tend to produce productive outcomes.  Negative patterns can’t help but produce negative impact.  Obedient patterns tend to produce closeness with God.  Disobedient patterns can’t help but produce chaos and destruction.

Lysa Terkeurst, Trustworthy

So, when take for granted the miracles that Jesus works in and around our lives, what we are saying is we don’t trust that it’s Him.  Think of King David.  He was promised the kingdom but not only was it many years before he was made king, he had a target on his back by King Saul.  Put yourself in his shoes.  Many of us may have just given up and thought either God was lying or we misunderstood.  And, at the moment David had a chance to kill King Saul, he sought God’s counsel and remembered His promises.  But what if on the day he were crowned he said, “Finally, I struggled and I fought and I accomplished this.”   David instead said,

Because of your promise, and according to your own heart you have brought about all this greatness to make your servant know it.  Therefore, you are great, O Lord God.  For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

2 Samuel 7:21-22

Take a moment and read the full text of 2 Samuel 7:18-29. You will read of a man amazed by the greatness of God.  A man amazed by the goodness of God.  A man amazed by how God is so trustworthy.  May we, this week in the midst of our fears and struggles and joys be so amazed.  May we stop the car, sit down, stop thinking and look up to the heavens and say “I trust you fully God and I know that it is YOU at work.  I thank you for prayers fulfilled.”

bible study, Christian, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

His Amazing Covenant


I’m currently doing two different Bible studies – one that focuses on 1 & 2 Kings and another that accounts Jesus’ last words in John.  What strikes me about both is that as God’s children, we always seem to fail.  We fail and we fail and we fail, yet He forgives and forgives and forgives.  How amazing is that?  

This week, I asked my BSGs (Bible Study Girls) a question: “Does God punish us?”  It led to a great discussion and a lot of contemplation.  The Old Testament is full of quite a lot of “punishment.”  We often see kings’ children die because of the “evil they did in the eyes of the Lord.” (1 Kings 15:34; 1 Kings 16:2, 7, 19, 26 and 31)  I mean, they just couldn’t seem to figure out this whole obedience to God thing.  Most notably, King Zimri (1 Kings 16: 15-20) was so tainted by greed and power that his reign only last seven days before he died in a fire as consequence of his own sin. All the droughts, wars, disease and more – were all signs of a nation enthralled by the flesh rather than God’s authority and power. 


These Old Testament stories often leave a bad taste in both the Christian and non-Christian’s mouth. At the surface, they paint God’s wrath in vivid colors and appall those who can’t grasp why God would let such terrible things happen to his chosen nation. The reality is, God is wrathful – and we mustn’t forget that. But He is also a loving God whose plan was always Jesus, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. With that truth, we can re-read the story of the seven plagues, the 40 years in the wilderness and the tragedies of King David and know that God works all things for our good and His Glory – because of Jesus. At the center of this undeserving covenant we gain through Jesus is a desire for obedience and faithfulness to God’s Word BECAUSE we know the amazing sacrifice that was made for us on the cross. Amidst this, there is grace – so much grace. For God still knows that all of His children have fallen short of His glory, and will continue to fall short until we are joined in heaven one day. His plan has always been of love and forgiveness.  And that’s pretty amazing.


So, my BSGs and I  came to the conclusion that yes, there are consequences for sin and we will most likely always be hanging on tight to a pendulum that is constantly swinging between faith and doubt, but amidst that, we must trust that His plan is better and good, and right. 

Besides, how often do we look in judgment at the disobedient child in the grocery store or in a restaurant and mutter to ourselves “Looks like that child needs some discipline.” Yet, we scoff and “find it hard to believe” in a God who disciplines His children – for their good and His Glory. We must find comfort in knowing we have a Father who loves us so much that he disciplines us. 

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Hebrews 12:11

I, for one am thankful to now be living under the loving discipline of a perfect Father. Knowing what it is like to live without an earthly one and living a majority of my life outside of God’s will, fulfilling the desires of my flesh – I am utterly grateful and amazed to have a God who cares for my heart and soul. I struggle to control situations, control those around me and those I love. When I realize that this control stems from a lack of trust in the love of my heavenly Father, I begin to loosen my grip and experience true freedom. God’s power to overwhelm me with His love is amazing. His forgiveness for me is amazing. His grace for me is amazing. 

Once I started truly studying the Word of God, and Jesus’ teachings, in the Bible I realized how loving, how amazing the character of God is.  He always has our best interest in mind.  He is always leading us to something better.  He never gives up on us, no matter how many times we give up on Him. Jesus’ lineage, as seen in Matthew 1, is made up of a bunch of people just like us. People who have failed God. People like King David who is the textbook example of a sinner, yet He is a sinner whose household was redeemed because of Jesus.

Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem.

1 Kings 15:4

So today, as we enter a tumultuous, unnerving time in the United States, I challenge you to join me in finding amazement in God each day. From now until the end of November, check back every day for encouragement and guidance through the scripture as we visit several examples of how Jesus left those around him amazed.

Although we may lack faith or struggle to believe that His plans for our world are good, we must remember the plan God had for the early nation of Israel. The first part of that redemption has already been fulfilled, now we must wait expectantly for the amazing work He has in store. 


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

His Amazing Ways


We read throughout the gospels of how amazed or astonished the people were who experienced Jesus’ miracles and teachings during His short physical tenure here among us. But just because He isn’t physically here doesn’t mean He fails to do amazing things every day in our lives.

Join me and my special guest, my daughter Madison Dooley, as we spend the month of November joining those people of old in our amazement of Jesus. From His youth to His death, from His healings to His admonishments, and His teachings to His loving moments with His disciples we will see how Jesus continues His amazing work to this very day.

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Message Received


I’ve long found it fascinating when I hear people say they’ve never heard from God.  In a previous church Bible Study, where the majority of the women were over 70, it actually saddened me to listen to woman after woman say she loved God but never really felt His presence or heard Him speak.  As I delve into a deeper relationship with our Lord, I keep hearing the same message from Him – you can walk up an aisle, stand when called, or raise your hand when asked if you want to receive Jesus, but until we seek out a personal relationship with Him our faith remains unfulfilled. 

I recently was reading about a centurion man named Cornelius in Acts 10.  He was not a Jew yet was devout to God.  His family was considered “God-fearing.”  He gave generously and prayed regularly.  But He did not know Jesus was His savior.  The Holy Spirit came to him one day.

“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.  Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.”

Acts 10: 4-5

He immediately obeyed.  What was to unfold was discipleship at its finest.  Trusting God’s word, obeying even though it seemed unreasonable.  In the end, thanks to the actions of many, Cornelius and his family became the first gentile Christians – paving the way to you and me.

If you have ever watched the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you will surely get the message of our interconnectedness.  We so often think we are small and insignificant, while strangely also thinking everyone needs to know our opinions.  But it is the actions we take – led by the Holy Spirit – that cause ripples of which only God truly knows the effects.  My current Bible Study Girls are studying Charles Stanley’s, “30 Life Principles.”  We’ve started to joke about if all Mr. Stanley wrote were the words, “obey God,” the book could’ve been much shorter!  In fact, five of the 30 principles specifically use the word “obey.”  Many of the others are really just variations of the idea.

To obey something is to first know what that something is or wants.  Which means listening.  Which means paying attention.  I’ve challenged many friends and Bible study participants to take my “Coincidence Challenge.”  For 30 days, every time you hear just the right song, see a sign that says the right thing at the right time, or a friend calls when you need to hear a friendly voice, don’t call it a coincidence.  Call it God. When you do, you’ll find he isn’t silent.  In fact, He is babbling away at you, desperately trying to get your attention.  

The Book of James calls us to that personal relationship of listening and obeying God.  His message is to those of us who already call ourselves Christians.  It would be unfair to hold anyone else to the standards of which he writes.  Many of these standards are difficult and challenging.  And we are unable to meet these standards without a faith in God.  God alone is our strength to keep us on the narrow path.  At times it seems James is shaking us out of our Christian sleepiness.  Calling us to wake up, pay attention and serve God with all our heart, mind and soul.  James is the proverbial “bad cop.”  But sometimes we need admonishment.  We need correction.  

I was having lunch with a good friend the other day and she said she needs friends who can call her on her “stuff.”  If we are surrounded by “yes men” we struggle to improve our lives.  It can lead us down destructive paths when the standards held by the majority of whom we associate with are “almost right” or just plain anti-Biblical.  But when we have people who love us, want the best for us, and call us on our “stuff” based on Jesus’ standards, we grow to be our better selves.  James is that friend.  More importantly, James reminds us that God is that same friend.

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

John 15: 14-15

This week we will be talking about James 1.  Trials, temptations, wisdom, listening, and action are on the plate.  So, buckle up.  We are about to strip down to some hard truths.  But remember too, that God is a merciful, loving and thankfully forgiving God.  That same friend who said she needs friends to call her on her “stuff” also said she’s worried that a study in James will be painfully convicting.  Let’s right now agree that if God shines a light on an area that needs work in our lives He does so out of love.  He wants more for us.  He knows what the future can bring us.  So, we need to lean in to the stripping away of our old selves so that we can live in His plans for us fully.  


Do you regularly hear from God? Tell us of a time you were asked to obey and it seemed unreasonable yet you took action.   If not take the “Coincidence Challenge!”

30daysofpraise, christian encouragement

A Flawless Shield


Day 7

It’s always interesting to me to hear Christians talk about God as though He has faults and failures and limitations — like us humans. They believe their situation will never change, or if it does they won’t like it even more, so they say things such as, “well, that’ll never work or that’ll never happen.” We give up, thinking that since we can’t fix it then apparently God can’t either. Or if it’s a personal change that’s needed we want to fix it in our own way because we don’t trust in the outcome God has for us.

But God is flawless. His work in us is perfect. His timing and methods rarely match up with what we would’ve done. I’m mean, let’s be honest, what we do fails quite frequently. I’ve been having conversations with friends lately about “knowing God.” I was challenged in a study to answer two questions: Do I believe God CAN help me and do I believe God WILL help me. It’s so easy for us to quickly answer those questions with a firm “yes.” But a discerning Christian will look deeper and say to themselves, “If I believe that, then why do I keep putting my actions at the center of solutions and not God?”

I’ve been reading a lot about the concept of “knowing God” and its various levels. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary on John 14 describes it perfectly:

“We do not have to wait until we enter heaven to get to know the Father. We can know Him today and receive from Him the spiritual resources we need to keep going when the days are difficult.

What does it mean to “know the Father”? The word know is used 141 times in John’s gospel, but it does not always carry the same meaning. In fact, there are four different “levels” of knowing according to John. The lowest level is simply knowing a fact. The next level is to understand the truth behind that fact. However, you can know the fact and know the truth behind it and still be lost in your sins. The third level introduces relationship; “to know” means “to believe in a person and become related to him or her.” This is the way “know” is used in John 17:3. In fact, in Scripture, “to know” is used of the most intimate relationship between man and wife (Gen. 4:1).

The fourth use of “know” means “to have a deeper relationship with a person, a deeper communion.” It was this level Paul was referring to when he wrote, “That I may know him” (Phil. 3:10). Jesus will describe this deeper relationship in John 14:19-23, so we will save any further comment until we deal with that section.

When Jesus said that knowing Him and seeing Him was the same as knowing and seeing the Father, He was claiming to be God. From now on, they would understand more and more about the Father, even though Jesus was leaving them.

I appreciate Philip’s desire to know the Father. He had come a long way since that day Jesus found him and called him (John 1:43-45). The burning desire of every believer ought to be to know God better. We read and study the Word of God so that we might better know the God of the Word.

The Greek construction of the question in John 14:10 indicates that the Lord expected a yes answer from Philip: he did believe that Jesus was in the Father and the Father in Him. That being the case, Philip should have realized that the words of Jesus, as well as His works, came from the Father and revealed the Father. Believers today have not seen the Lord Jesus in the flesh (1 Peter 1:8), but we do see Him and His works in the Word. The emphasis throughout John’s gospel is that you cannot separate Christ’s words and works, for both come from the Father and reveal the Father.

The “believe” in John 14:10 is singular, for Jesus was addressing Philip, but in John 14:11, it is plural and He addresses all of the disciples. The tense of both is “go on believing.” Let your faith grow!

Four hundred years before Christ was born, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “To find out the Father and Maker of all this universe is a hard task, and when we have found Him, to speak of Him to all men is impossible.” But Plato was wrong! We can know the Father and Maker of the universe, for Jesus Christ revealed Him to us. Why should our hearts be troubled when the Creator and Governor of the universe is our own Father?

The very Lord of heaven and earth is our Father (Luke 10:21). There is no need for us to have troubled hearts, for He is in control.”

Where are you at in “knowing God.” Because the place you find yourself determines the true answers to the questions: Do you know God CAN and WILL help you. Thank God that He is flawless and works in us without fail. He is my shield at all times.

What’s your praise for God today and where do you find yourself in “knowing God?”