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

Save The Date

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 1 Corinthians 15:12-13

Among your friends and family there’s probably an atheist, fence-sitter, and a fog dweller.  While you might understand the first of these two, let me explain the “fog dweller.”  Someone who goes about their life not seeking answers to the big questions, not thinking about creation or death, not pondering if there is a heaven. Just getting by day to day.  And if you don’t have some of each of these in your life, you might want to take up Jesus’ admonition to “go and make disciples of all nations.”  Because when you do your own faith will be tested, honed and hewed.

Each of the letters in the Bible by the disciples gives us examples of believers struggling to define their faith and the true meaning of the gospel.  The planted churches all were in places hostile to the message of Jesus – whether by Jews or pagans.  So, developing believers that understood and stood firm in their faith was crucial. 

14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 1 Cor 15:14

Ouch!  That’s a pretty bold statement.  And Paul had the experience to back it up.  He himself saw the risen Jesus!  And while the members of the church in Corinth believed in Jesus’ resurrection, they were surrounded by a culture that almost celebrated death.  The Greeks of that time saw the body as a prison and welcomed death to escape from it.  They laughed at the idea of resurrection. And friends, there’s people around you that believe the same thing today.

While sitting bedside of my quickly waning mother-in-law who was on hospice, I had to ask myself, do I really, I mean really believe in, not only Jesus’ resurrection, but the resurrection of the entire body of the church?  Do I believe that Bev will be resurrected one day?  And therefore, I should only mourn this time “in between” and find joy in the “not yet.”

A friend of mine shared with me once how her son came to her with horrible news about an acquaintance of his.  Their newborn baby had unexpectantly died.  Her son, of course, was distraught for his friend.  And although the death of any loved one can bring so much pain, the death of a child seems doubly so.  My friend contemplated how hard it must be to experience so much pain without a belief in God.  Her son, a non-believer, was apoplectic.  “How could a god do such a thing?”  The great “why?”  He doesn’t believe the promised hope for the future and therefore doesn’t enjoy any of the comfort God can provide.

19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor 15:19-20

You see friends, if I don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead then what’s really the point of ever quoting in John 3:16?   True belief in a resurrection redemption is what brings true comfort.  And times of great pain, especially death, are the ultimate opportunities to show the world we live as saved and redeemed people trusting wholly in the stated promises by Jesus.

I realized while in my Cherith I was a fog dweller when it came to the resurrection.  I hadn’t thought a lot about it, mostly because I haven’t had many people around me pass away.  But as God has fed me the solid food of His Holy Word, I’m coming to understand the whole picture.  The beauty of living in the “between” of Jesus has come and is reigning and the “not yet” of the promised resurrection and the new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). And while Elijah didn’t have the comfort of knowing the risen Christ he surely contemplated his death during those two years in the ravine. Thank God we have more than just the Old Testament prophets to lean on! We have the truth, the proven, historical truth of a risen King!

I recently was listening to an episode of The White Horse Inn podcast — which for those of you interested in getting some solid Christian food I highly recommend it.  They’ve been discussing what “the good life” means to Christians.  They describe us as living in the “here and not yet.”  I love the analogy by one pastor as like the marriage steps.  We once were single, now we are engaged but not yet married.  We shouldn’t act like single people because we have a commitment to Christ.  But the marriage isn’t yet consummated and we need to stay in the preparation stage until the date arrives.  So, we work with our Holy Spirit wedding planner in inviting friends and family to this holy event.  The guest list is expansive but yes, limited to those willing to come. We live for our betrothed, His thoughts and ways becoming our ways. And we dream of the day we are sure will arrive.  When all those friends are gathered up and Jesus is waiting at the altar for us.

As the hours wound down to when I knew my last goodbyes to Bev were near, I found I could look at her with sadness and with joy in knowing not only was she going to a place far more glorious than here, but that one day we would be reunited at a party for all the ages.  A party that is to come.  A party that I want you all to be at – so will you RSVP today and yes, you can bring a friend or two.

Do you truly believe in the resurrection of the dead?

Are you living a life preparing for the New Eden, living a life of a bride in waiting – excitedly planning, preparing, inviting? 

Speaking of heaven — please enjoy this beautiful poem my daughter, Madison Dooley, wrote and spoke at her grandmother’s funeral.

To See What She Sees

For Grandma Bev

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees

To see you face-to-face, shining with glory.
To grab your hand and feel it wrapped around mine. 

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To be clothed in robes of white. To be completely whole, totally fulfilled. To be without sorrow, want, or pain.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To feel roads of gold under my feet and see angels above.
To look ahead and see you seated on the throne, pointing at the open seat next to you, for me. 

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the mountaintops glistening with glory. To hear the angels and the saints singing Your praise, oh what a melodious sound it must be.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the faces of those who have gone before me, shining with glory.
To see the colors in all their vibrancy, the flowers in all their brilliance.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the brokenhearted, the disabled, the outcasted – healed and totally restored. To feel anew again.
To dance freely to the songs of heaven.
To know the true meaning of Paradise.
To look upon life on Earth and finally see the masterpiece you are sewing.
To feel your presence wrapped around me like a tight hug.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the river of life flowing from your throne, glowing like a crystal.
To see the tree of life towering over me, boasting its healing fruits.

To have no need for the sun, or even a lamp, because darkness is no more, there is no night.

Oh Lord my God, to see what she sees.

To see the mysteries of heaven unfolded before my eyes.
To look down and see cosmos swirling beneath my feet, looking small compared to You. To experience the love of the Father for all that it was, it is, and is to come.

To be without sin.
To be exactly who You created me to be.

Oh, to see what she sees.

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

From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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

The Bible

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44

As I’ve progressed in the study of the Bible, I’ve learned that the entire Bible teaches us about one subject – Jesus.  From beginning to end Jesus appears.  He is part of the creation team, the angel of the Lord speaking to Hagar, the prophecy of Isaiah, and so much more.  So, when Jesus, after His resurrection, reminds the disciples that His death fulfilled all that the Old Testament taught us we should be spurred to investigate further.

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47

You can buy a Bible that only includes the New Testament.  But that would be like getting dropped into the middle of a battle not knowing why it started and which side you should be on!  And while there are so many great lessons and the message of salvation in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the full weight of those gifts lies in the cornerstones set in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and more.

It’s believed the first book of the Bible written was Job, around 2000 BC. After that the 10 Commandments and then the Book of the Law were placed in the Ark of the Covenant around 1000 BC.  The New Testament books were written about 50 AD.   Emperor Constantine commissioned the Codex Vaticanus, considered the original entire Bible, in 312 AD.  And in 1381, John Wycliffe defied church authority and began translating the Bible into English and distributing handwritten books to laypeople.  With the advent of the printing press in 1455, the Bible began its journey to being one of the most popular books ever printed.

I’m so thankful God took His Word and through man put it in this book we call the Bible.  With it we can learn about His character, His promises and fulfillment of them, His expectations, His plans for us.  My Bible sat for years gathering dust, not respecting its long history and those who died to make it accessible to all.  It seemed unwieldy and confusing.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, teachers and the fellowship of Christians I’ve come to see the beautiful story, the amazing truth of Jesus, Son of God.  The Bible is a living document, one which grows with us as we dig deeper into our faith.

Today on this great day of Thanksgiving in the United States I want to spur you to open your Bible.  To read the history of our broken world.  To read the entire, true story of a God who loves us.  Of a God who never leaves us.  Of a God who promises to deliver us from our sins.  Of a God who sent His son to be sacrificed so that we will be brought home, cleaned and forgiven.

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

Step 2: Humble Servant

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15

Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians seem to have been in an interesting battle.  The concept of how we are saved has led to many sermons, books, and even paper nailed to church doors.  The prevailing answer in the modern church age is, of course, that we are saved by grace.  The grace of Jesus Christ dying for our sins.  

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  Romans 10:9

That passage from Romans couldn’t be clearer and yet the concept of being saved by works and/or financial contributions to the church ran throughout Christendom for a long time.  Unfortunately, much of our Christian thinking seems to have swung so far in the opposite direction that we have forgotten the other lessons in the Bible.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? James 2:14

As my BSGs work our way through a study of Revelation I keep hearing a few of the same messages.  1) We must repent of our sins and accept Christ today and 2) Our deeds will be counted in eternity.  That balance of accepting God’s grace and also working to please Him echoes so many other Christian balancing acts.

  • Expressing God’s Truth while showing God’s Love
  • His Word is both bitter and sweet
  • To live in this world but not of it
  • Accepting chastisement as a method of God’s love for us

I wonder how many of us each Sunday (or whatever day you attend church) receive constant training on how to walk those balance beams?

This week’s Jesus Mindset focuses on being a humble servant.  The character trait requires of us to first be somewhat practiced at being a loving friend.  For when we take action in the name of God without a loving spirit it becomes almost impossible to be humble.  I’m sure each of us can think of a person in our lives who took on responsibilities simply to gain some sort of recognition.  A church body that forgets Jesus’ primary character trait – loving friend – becomes like the church of Ephesus.  They were “doing” a lot and building larger, more grand buildings but doing it without love.

“The church used to be known for its good deeds,” said one wit, “but today it’s better known for its bad mortgages.”

The evolution from love of neighbor to deeds without love creates a hulking body that God eventually is clearly unhappy with.  And so, we find ourselves searching for the balance.  This week I will highlight three people.  Two sisters and a quiet, humble man.  Each has their own way of “feeding” God’s lambs.  Each have different personalities.  They each find a way to reach that balance of knowing they are saved by grace and yet God asks more of us.  

I love this quote from the book, “The Hiding Place,” which tells the story of love and servanthood in the face of extreme adversity.  This moment takes place as a member of the family is about to die.  They remind her of all the amazing things she did in life because “accomplishment” meant so much to her.  But in her final moments Jesus spoke to her heart and reminded her of God’s truths.

“How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” she asked.  And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands.  I thank you that You have done all on the Cross and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

Tante Jans, The Hiding Place

With empty, well-worn hands.  Hands worn with the work for Jesus.  For when we die we won’t take the certificates of recognition, the medals, the bonuses with us.  But each person we have fed, in His name, will be etched in our hands and hearts.

Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

Jesus has plenty of work for us to do.  The majority of that work could be called “grunt work.” It requires us to get uncomfortable and place our trust solely in the Lord’s hands.  You probably won’t receive any money for it or a headline in the local paper.  What we will receive is a smile from Jesus.

My friend Betsy told me the other day how, while out shopping, she saw a homeless man in an adjoining parking lot.  He was in a wheelchair.  As she got into her car Jesus placed the thought in her head, “Go give him one of your ‘blessings bags.’”  Her church provides these bags to hand out to anyone in need.  She had never just walked up to someone and given them a bag. 

But that day she pulled out of her parking spot and drove over to the man.  He was struggling trying to get his wheelchair closed up so he could lie down on the same spot.  As she approached the man, she could tell he was drunk.  But she kept moving forward.  She inquired, “Do you need some help?”  And he said he did.  She helped him get situated and then offered a blessings bag, which he readily accepted.  As she left she acknowledged to herself that she wouldn’t have taken that action previously – some other force pressed her forward.

You see, Betsy has been a loving Christian for 60 some years.  She has always served her church and family well.  Recently she has been working on the “obeying God” part of her faith progression.  Listening for His voice and taking action to be His humble servant.  God has told her it’s time to move forward.


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

Listen Up!

Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 
John 5:25

Today’s Fresh Fire is our last in this series.  It’s been a great adventure finding and studying verses that have helped me bolster my faith.  I hope these verses have helped your faith journey as well!

The idea of hearing the voice of God makes me think of my dog, Tucker.  When he was just a puppy, I made a commitment to train him much differently than our previous dog.  When my other dog was a puppy, I also had two small children to train.  And the dog was the last to get my attention!  So, with Tucker I’ve made it a point to make him into a good walking dog.  At this point in his training, he walks with a e-collar rather than a leash.

There were a few training goals which my husband poo-poo’d at the time.  One, that Tucker be trained to only chase rabbits when I allowed it.  And two, to only cross the street when he received our approval.  When my friends walk with me and Tucker they know that at each street corner we must stop, look both ways and proceed.  Tucker, even while walking slightly ahead of me, will sit at each corner and wait for me.  A training feat accomplished!

But what does this have to do with the voice of God?  You see, my real goal with Tucker was to help him not get hit by a car if say, he were to be in the front yard with me while off leash.  So, when we approached a corner and a car was passing by, even if it was going parallel to us, I made him wait.  I associated not only the changing texture of the surface he was on but also the sound of cars with his need to wait.

And I can almost swear he now looks both ways, looking and listening for cars.  He has learned to listen to something outside his little doggie mind before he can proceed safely.

Isn’t that what God wants from us?  To be so well trained to listen for Him that we don’t proceed until we hear what He wants of us?

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Ezekiel 3:1

Throughout this series through verse after verse we have heard that to stay close to God we must pray, read His Word and listen through silent mediation.  And the Bible shows us so many ways which God will speak to us – dreams, visions (like with Ezekiel), burning bushes, through others, signs, and the written word.  If we aren’t listening to all His ways then how can we ever expect to cross the street safely?  To move forward in our lives along His preferred path?

When Jesus made the statement in our verse today, He is telling us to listen up!  To pay close attention!  He tells us that a time is coming where when we hear His voice again it’s resurrection time.  For those who hear His Word and turn to Him for the first time, that resurrection might mean tomorrow.  Their dead souls come to live in new life.  For others it will be when the believers are raised from the dead and enter into God’s glorious eternity.  While still others will be resurrected and judged harshly.

But if we aren’t listening for Him, what will we miss out on?  We miss the opportunity to be made righteous.  We miss the opportunities to enjoy peace and grace and forgiveness right now.

This thing I know, that when I have neither heard nor read, I have yet felt the voice of God within me, and the Spirit has, himself, revealed some dark mystery, opened some secret, guided me into some truth, given me some direction, led me in some path, or in some other way has immediately spoken to me himself; and I believe it is so with every man at conversion;

Charles Spurgeon, The Majestic Voice

I was at my first women’s Bible retreat and we were challenged to go find a quiet place to talk with God.  I found myself at a rustic, outdoor chapel of sorts.  As I sat in prayer, I laid my heavy heart out for God.  My constant prayer at the time was to help me find peace and a lightness of spirit.  I felt so heavy with burdens.  As I finished my prayer a flock of tiny birds flew directly in front of me from one side of the chapel to another.  As they raced each other along their path they chirped loudly at each other – a flock of children laughing and squealing in some unseen game.  The landed in a tree just above me and kept up their heavenly laughter.  And I laughed along with them.

I realized immediately it was God snapping His fingers at me to say, “Wake up! There is joy to be had all around you! You see, even my tiny birds, who have only themselves, this tree and this moment are filled with laughter.  You have so much more that I have given you!”

The voice of God is everywhere.  It’s in us.  He fills our dreams.  He thunders with each storm and crashing wave.  He gently rocks us to sleep with the croaking frogs.  He loves us with the cooing of a baby.  He runs laughing with us while getting that kite up in the air.  To truly hear Him, to listen to what He has to say today, we just need a bit of practice and some well-planned training.  The next time you find yourself needing to cross a proverbial street in your life take a moment to listen. He will guide you safely across.

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

Fan The Flame

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

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

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

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

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

Joyce Meyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closer Than A Brother

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is 
my helper; I will not be afraid. What 
can mere mortals do to me?” 
Hebrews 13:6

There’s been a number of times in my life when I felt all alone.  In high school the neighbor girl who I had been friends with since I was in fourth grade rejected me.  The kids I hung out with at school always treated me as an outsider, never inviting me over to game nights and other fun group activities.  I wasn’t a nerd, athlete, druggie, ASB, drama, or whatever type person we think of when we remember our high school years.  I was friendly with people in all groups but never a part of a group.

I could’ve really used Jesus.

I was listening to a great podcast recently called, “Talk It Out.”  It’s an offshoot of the Joyce Meyer Ministry where three women of various stages of life take Mrs. Meyer’s teachings and work on applying it to their everyday lives.  On that day they were talking about different times they’d felt alone.  And I realized that probably every single one of us have felt that way at some point or multiple points in our lives.  Some of you might feel that way right now.

One of the ladies spoke of when, in high school, she kept Jesus close to her at all times.  Her only true friend.  She would even talk to Him in the car as though He were a constant companion in her passenger seat.

One who has unreliable friends soon 
comes to ruin, but there is a friend 
who sticks closer than a brother. 
Proverbs 18:24

I can’t tell you with 100% accuracy that this proverb speaks of God.  But I can tell you that God is 100% that friend who is “closer than a brother.”  And when we feel alone and as though our faith journey is stuck, we need only turn to Jesus and say, “Hello.”  If you are in a season that you feel alone, left out, far from any quality friendships – including God– it’s time to call to Him with all your heart.

It reminds me of when Mary, having seen the empty tomb, stands outside crying.  She must’ve felt very alone at the time.  When Jesus appears to her, she thinks He is the gardener and demands to know where he moved the body.  And Jesus simply says to her, “Mary.”  She turns to Him and suddenly recognizes Him and grabs hold of Him, crying out “Rabboni!”  My favorite part of this is the fact the text is written like this in the NIV and King James version – “Mary.” No exclamation.  He doesn’t yell out to her.  It feels so quiet and gentle and personal.  “Mary.”  

Now imagine yourself standing there thinking God has let you down.  He’s allowed the worst thing that could ever happen to actually happen.  And you cry out.  He responds.  Standing right in front of you with a gentle, loving word.

Instead of saying with proud lip, “Well, if He leaves me I must do without Him, if I cannot have His comfortable presence I must fight on as best may be,” the soul says, “No, it is my very life, I must have my God.”

Charles Spurgeon

And with that renewed friendship we can add to our request of God, “Help me to find reliable friendships here on earth.”  He may convict of you of your own sins or thinking.  Rest assured when you sit with Him over coffee, while on your commute, or at a quiet lunch at the park, He will be the most honest friend you could ever desire.

The righteous choose their friends 
carefully, but the way of the wicked 
leads them astray. 
Proverbs 12:26

For me, I needed Jesus for a friend in high school as a companion – I was an oddball, a square peg and all the holes were round.  And later, I needed Jesus as that friend who would speak truth into me to show me why I didn’t have close friends, why I’d been rejected so often.  He showed me that my need to control the people around me was not a desirable attribute in a friend.  I was quick to anger and judgement.  And selfish ways pushed people away.

Sometimes when I think about what our lives are like today, I like to imagine what it would’ve been like living as a pioneer woman.  Living a lonely life with just my husband and two kids out on the prairie.  No texting, no Instagram.  Barely any mail even.  Where would I find friendship?  In my days of harvesting and cooking and cleaning I would need to seek out the only person my Bible told me would be with me always – Jesus.

That was true then and it’s still true today.  Friends we had 10 years ago may not even be part of our lives.  Friends we meet today may fade away.  So, it’s imperative we hold close to our hearts our one constant, our friend, our counselor, our Rock – our Lord.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Christian women, Faith, Jesus Follower, Transformation Prayer, Uncategorized

15 Transforming Prayers

I confess that I am free because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The shedding of His blood paid the ransom for me. The hold Satan used to have on me is broken, and I am liberated and set free! Now God’s divine power operates mightily in me, and I have authority over the enemy who used to control me!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

Sparkling Gems from the Greek

Prayer excerpts from Pray It Till You Make It series


A prayer to be deeply knowledgeable about God’s Word

Holy God, I confess that I have spent much of my Christian life hearing your Word and yet not absorbing and living out our Word.  I’ve sat in your Holy presence at church and listened, then walked out of the doors and turned my thoughts solely on selfish and worldly pursuits.  So I often, when I hear a conviction through your Word, I think of someone else who needs to hear the message – all the while it is me that needs to accept the correction.  I allow my endless “to do lists” to take time away from learning more about you, from soaking my soul with your loving spirit.  I allow my “study” of your Word to just be catchy verses that scroll by on social media. LORD, with your teaching and guidance I will proclaim that I am deeply knowledgeable about your character through your Word.  I will be your faithful student.  I lift this up in Jesus’ name, Amen.


A prayer to live a joy-filled life.

Gracious God your gifts and blessing to me cannot be counted.  And yet so often I turn to the negative parts in my life and place my constant thoughts in them.  When I rise I forget to be thankful that I have yet another day in which to serve you and be blessed by you.  And as I go about my day when you place joyful moments at my fingertips I take them for granted.   When I lay my head down to sleep I can easily recall all that went wrong in the day rather than what went right.  But your joy is there for the taking.  I want to live basked in your greatness, your beauty and your joy.  I can and will, with your help, find joy in every circumstance.  You are working for my good at all times and I just need to remember that promise.  Thank you for giving us your Son who implanted the Holy Spirit in us – a spirit of joy and of goodness.  I pray this in your Son’s Holy name, Jesus.  Amen


A prayer to be a patient person

Faithful Father, I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget that my needs and desires are not the same as everyone else’s. When I’m running late, I want to yell at the drivers in front of me for not moving quickly enough.  The slow grocery store bagger receives my glare when she doesn’t work at the same speed which I expect.  Or when a friend doesn’t respond to my text as prompt as I need, I get frustrated.  I’ve come to realize, LORD, through your holy Word that my impatience is an outgrowth of my lack of humility.  Your admonishment to love one another needs to be on my lips when I feel that frustration and anger well up inside me.  LORD, I know there is nothing more important to you than having your children express compassion and love for each other.  Rest your loving hand on my shoulder as a reminder for when I forget this.  Quell my impatient heart and mind and replace it with grace.  In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.


A prayer that I would share the Gospel with others

Merciful God, your Word has healing power for the sick and your Word gives hope to the downtrodden.  Your promise of eternity is a promise for all who believe.  But I allow my worries and my fears about worldly judgement guide my discipleship.  I keep your holy and powerful gifts to myself, not sharing them with those who need them.  LORD, our one true purpose here on earth is to serve you and by doing so we are asked, even required, to speak of you to all who will hear.  Help me to succumb to your strength and guidance rather than that of the world.  I know you will put the right words in my mouth at the right time.  I just need to be willing to speak them.  Each day place someone who needs to hear from you in front of me.  With the strength of the Holy Spirit urging me on I will be faithful in spreading your gospel of Good News.  In Jesus name, Amen


I rest my worries in constant prayer

LORD, I confess that I can cite Philippians 4:6 quite easily but it is the actual doing that I struggle with.  In fact, when I get very distressed, I forget about you and turn inward to try and solve my problems.  Or I call friends and family to lay all my worries upon.  Too often it seems you are my last gasp when all else fails.  Thank you for giving us your Son to remind us that you are the only source we need to turn to in times of trouble.  With His guiding words I will place you front and center of my difficult situations.  Through constant prayer and communion with You I will find everlasting peace.  I lift this up in Jesus’ name.  Amen


A prayer to speak only when needed

LORD, I would like to make this brief but I seem to have an issue with words.  They flow freely from my mouth without filters.  At times I gasp at myself for the words that exit me.  James is so right when he shows me that my mouth is like the rudder for my ship.  And I want to be on the right course with you, God.  Sometimes I need the entire trinity to help me grab hold of my rudder.  But I know with practice, your grace and the urging of the Holy Spirit I can and will be the quiet captain of my ship.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


A prayer to keep my body strong and dedicate it to serve God

Heavenly Father, I regularly make the commitment to keep my spiritual life active and strong.  However, when I make choices about exercise or my diet, I rarely see that as part of my devotional life.  My spirit, my soul and my body all belong to you.   You ask us to be your warriors in the name of Christ.  And warriors are strong spiritually, mentally and physically.  Starting today, LORD, I recommit my entire body to you.  When I am weak and want to forgo exercise or eat food I know just isn’t good for me I ask that your Holy Spirit remind me that I need to be strong to accomplish all that you have planned for me.  I lift this up in your Son’s Holy Name, Amen.


A prayer to live without regret

Holy God, it’s been many years since I accepted your gift of salvation, which along with that gift came forgiveness.  And yet, so often I am unable to forgive myself.  My heart still twinges when I think of the times I lived in sin.  And once saved, I look back at the years I realize I wasn’t fully committed to obeying your Word.  I’ve wasted enough time, however, not accepting your grace.  I am learning how much you love me, LORD.  And with that, I’m working to accept that I am a new person because of your son Jesus.  The old me can’t take up any more precious time when you are filling up my heart with overwhelming love.  I admit I sometimes need stern admonishment from you to keep me on track.  But at other times please send me a gentle kiss or unexpected hug to remind to live in today, not the regrets of the past.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.


A prayer to act when directed by God

Dear God, I used to think that my faith was solely a personal, spiritual pursuit.  But I keep hearing the word “obey.”  I admit that obeying isn’t a comfortable word for me.  It implies me giving up something for someone else.  In your covenant world however, “obey” just means holding up my end of the bargain.  You are always faithful, LORD, and I need to be faithful as well.  James said it best when he admonished us to be “doers of the Word, not just hearers.”  Sometimes I allow the world to drown out your Holy Spirit who speaks your will to me.  Or I worry that I’m not worthy or ready to do your work. But I’m tuning in to you and listening, watching, and anticipating for your direction.  Give me opportunities to be your hands, your feet and your heart.  I will obey.  In your Son’s name I pray this.  Amen


A prayer to always speak kindly of others

Merciful God, so often when I think of sinful behavior, I rarely attribute my own tendency to gossip and tear down others.  And yet throughout Jesus’ time here on earth he reminds us to love one another.  Help me to remember to love not just with deeds but with my words.  You speak so kindly of me, LORD, and I have many, many flaws.  Not only do I need your help in not speaking unkindly, but also in being your servant to exalt your people.  I know that a kind word is all that is needed to cure so many of our world’s ills.  Guide me in controlling my lips so that they drip with kindness rather than bitterness.  In Jesus’ name I lift this up to you.  Amen


A prayer to be a blessing to those around me and my community

Holy Spirit I get so wrapped up in my everyday problems and to-do lists I forget to pause and look at the world around me.  I rush out in my car and don’t stop to say “hi” to my elderly neighbor.  I see the trash someone has left behind at the nearby lunch table and I assume someone else will pick it up.  I watch the mother with two kids struggling to get her groceries in the car and I think, “thank goodness that isn’t me.”  Oh, how I know you keep whispering to me to stop and do your work.  But I prioritize my list and sometimes you aren’t on it.  LORD, I say I want to be a blessing to others and yet I let so many opportunities pass me by.  Today, I will be that blessing.  Today I will recognize the need to slow down, reach out, and do your work.  I will be your mustard seed and help build your Kingdom into all it’s glory.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


A prayer to not be judgmental of others

Holy God, we live in a world that judges us on a photo that gets scrolled by in an instant, our decision at the ballot box, the type of car we drive, or even the color of our skin.  I am guilty of making snap judgements about the people I encounter throughout my day.  But in your world, LORD, we are all equally loved.  I have discovered the uniqueness of your message through Jesus – that you are the father, king, counselor, protector of ALL people.  You are at work in all of our lives, believer and non-believer.  Through the life lessons of Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit I will be the type of person who loves first, rather than judges first.  I want to be loved and accepted for who I am uniquely made to be and I will see others in that same light.  I pray this in your Son’s name, Amen


A prayer to avoid using coarse language

Holy Father, it has become so easy for me to use your name in un-holy ways.  There was once a time that when angered or frustrated I would just say some silly old saying.  But as I drew closer to the ways of the world my language followed.  I want to be closer to you instead, LORD.  I want to speak like your son, Jesus.  I know that anger, impatience, laziness, and bitterness are all roots of my use of foul language.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to cut out those roots so that out of my mouth comes praise, prayer, forgiveness and grace.  I will use my mouth, with your guidance, for these rather than obscenity and coarseness.  Amen


A prayer to constantly praise and thank God

Mighty God, I admit that when things go wrong in my life I am quick to ask for help.  But when my life is running along smoothly or even when a prayer is answered I’m equally quick to forget to thank you.  Each and every morning when I rise, I commit to thanking you for what you will send my way that day – even the “not-so-good.”  Because even in those times I know I have the opportunity to grow in my faith.  And throughout my day I will remember to thank you even for the little gifts you send my way.  LORD, at the end of my day I’m frequently so tired.  But you are never tired of hearing my praise for you.  I will, before my eyes close, remember the ways you revealed yourself to me that day.  Whether you acted as my counselor, comforter, King, creator, or protector, I will praise you.  In your son’s name I pray, Amen.


A prayer to love myself

Heavenly Father, so many of my perceived short falls come from my poor sense of self-worth.  I look in the mirror sometimes and to be honest I don’t always see what you see – a beautifully, wonderfully made daughter of God.  And I confess that my lack of love for your creation can spill over to my inability to openly love others without judgment.  But I don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit any longer.  My heart, body, mind and soul were created by and belong to you, LORD.  With the reminders found in your Holy Word to love my neighbor as myself I will look into that mirror with newfound love and admiration for your creation.  Thank you for my life, thank you for making me uniquely me.  I lift this up in Jesus’ name, Amen


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

Amazing Presence

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

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

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

“What things?” he asked.

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

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

Luke 24:16-26


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

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

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

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

John 18:22-23

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

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

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

John 4:48

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