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Choose To Be Thankful

He knew this was his fate, and He did it anyway. He chose to enter Jerusalem knowing what awaited him.

When I was a kid I HATED wearing dresses….and having grown up Pentecostal, there was definitely dress wearing. I remember many times asking WHY I had to wear a dress… The answer was always the same- Jesus died on a cross for you. You can wear a dress for Him.

When times are tough, and we feel like the world is caving in… We need to ask ourselves: What would we have done? Would we drive to Richmond knowing the governor was going to kill us? Even if it did save humanity. Is anything we have EVER endured anywhere close to what He endured for us?

Probably not. It’s mind blowing, right? He loves us so much that He made a choice to be abused and killed so that we will have eternal life through Him.

Today, and every day, I am thankful for His sacrifice.

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Is He Enough

Is God enough?! In times like these, this question really hits hard. Is He my number one? If so, I will be fine, because He will never fail me. If I’m not sure he is, I could be feeling unnecessary anxiety regarding the world around me.

What does enough/number one even mean, exactly? I love God, and God loves me… But my kids though? And my husband? And my parents?!? They are my everything!

Nope. Number one means number one. Is God enough means if He was all that was left, would that be enough for us?

My answer? Absolutely.

I did not come to this answer in a day. However, it’s also not a mentality I worked hard to come to. My life experiences, and my upbringing I am sure, have led me to this way of thinking.

I was raised in a Pentecostal home, so God was everything. What He said was what it was and that was all. No questions asked.

When I was 10 years old, my mom was killed in a car crash. I remember asking my father why my mom died, and my Aunt did not (she was in the car with her). His answer was simple. He said that my mothers work on earth was done, and that she was going to work in the kingdom of heaven with God, now. I said OK.

I went to school the day after the funeral. The school sent me to the councilor…after two meeting she set me free. I missed my mom, of course, but who was I to argue with God? I had been told my entire life “tomorrow isn’t promise” and “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”. It’s like my parents had been preparing me for this my whole life. One day we are here, and the next we are not. It is that simple. There are steps to take to help ensure safety, but when it is our time, it is our time…

Between the ages of 10 and 18 my mother, both grandmothers, a grandfather, and two uncles died… It did get mentally exhausting around 17 years old, but I figured there was a reason for it all, and I just had to keep trucking along.

After that, the death stopped for a while.

THEN, at age….. 26 I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. A month later (around the time they were removing my thyroid) my aunt was diagnosed with lung cancer. She began treatment shortly after…. Fast forward four months- My dad was diagnosed with Leukemia. Here we go again I thought….

The first, and only, time I remember being angry at God in my entire life was 14 months later, when my Dad died. It only lasted about 4 minutes. I said “Why?” Why did you have to take him? (My dad and I were always very close.) Then, it hit me. Why not? It does not offend God to bring his children home. And it only makes me sad, because I will miss him. He is in an amazing place with no sickness…. It was selfish for me to want him here. If we believe in Jesus, the only sad part of death is for the humans left behind.

Over more time, and through more thinking, I began to wonder and realize that perhaps my father was taken, because he was a barrier between God and I. And I don’t mean barrier in a bad way. I mean that when I was growing up….like until 28 years of age when my dad died…I always looked to my dad for answers to all my questions. He was very well spoken when it came to the bible. He could give me a verse and reasoning for pretty much anything, so I never had to read on my own, or really go directly to God…other than prayer… My dad had all the answers… Until he wasn’t here anymore, and I had to figure out how to educate my children like he did me. And that is when I realized the “is He number one?” does, in fact mean, above mom, dad, kids, and spouse.

I am fairly certain all of the “tomorrow isn’t promised” and “good Lord willing” replies from my father are the reason I was able to deal so well with everything that has been thrown my way. I learned at an early age that I am not in control of this life I live. I must follow Jesus, and he will always lead me where I need to be.

So, is He enough? Absolutely!!

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What is Your Sinking Ship?

I got a new perspective on an old story, today. But before I go into all of that, let’s start with the story.

Matthew 14:24-31

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

We are reading Anxious for Nothing, by Max Lucado in my women’s group at church. Today, on the video, Mr. Lucado mentioned Peter had sure death or possible life to choose form in this story.  If Peter stayed on the boat, in the storm, he felt that death was imminent. So, when Jesus said to step out of the sinking boat, Peter chose the possibility of life by following Jesus’ instruction.

I’ve always reviewed this passage as- Peter lost faith and began to sink. Darned old Peter. He does this over and over. When will he learn!

This new perspective, though! It’s a game changer.

What would you say is your sinking boat? Are you ready to go down with said boat for sure death, or do you think stepping out onto unsteady water with Jesus may give you a chance at a “possible life” ending?

Stepping out of the boat (comfort zone) into untamed waters (pretty much anything else for me) can be scary. Our boat may be sinking, but at least we know where it is, and what it is doing. We know nothing about what is outside of the boat, EXCEPT that we know Jesus will be there to guide us, and keep our heads above the water.

What happens if we stumble, and our faith is shaky?

Jesus will be there to pull us out of that water. Just like he did for Peter.

So, today, I say let’s get out of that boat! Let’s put our faith and trust in our God who loves us and cares for us, and who will always be there to pull us out of those rough waters.

Ears Open, Mouths Closed

It can be hard to hear God over our own voices, sometimes. So, what is the remedy for this?

A good start would be to humble ourselves and listen to His instruction. Speak less, so we can listen and understand more.

Bibleref.com says: “C. S. Lewis quipped that “humble” people do not think less of themselves, rather they are people who think of themselves less.” “…the humble rely on God for direction, and they are not disappointed.

Going into this new week, remember that while we do not have all the answers, God does. Ask and listen. Share with those around you. He will teach us what we need to know to fulfill His purpose.

Ask Him

Yesterday, we spoke about faith. We spoke about what is truly is, and why it is important.

Today, Jesus tells us what we can do with it! We can move MOUNTAINS if we put our faith in Him!

Yes, in HIM… Step 1- Realize that we, alone, cannot move a mountain. We are much too weak and frail. We would most definitely be crushed and destroyed. But with Him, anything is possible. Once He enters the equation, the impossible becomes 100% possible.

This means He can move ALL mountains. Our fears and angst can be removed when we put our trust in the Lord and bring Him into the equation. Those hurdles in our lives that seem to be crushing and destroying us each and every day dwindle away when we allow Jesus to enter the scene.

Never doubt that Jesus loves you, and is there with you every step of the way. Trust in Him, and that He can do all things. Put down your “I’ve got this”, and pick up a “we’ve got this”. He is just waiting for you to ask.

Excellent and Praiseworthy

I was asked “what was one thing that stood out to you from the passage?” today at a book study at my church. The passage was Philippians 4:4-8:

Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

That last verse- “Finally, brothers, sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”  It made me think- How do our lives change if we simply do those instructions?

When I came home and sat down to read today’s verse, I felt like it sort of coincided with this mornings discussions. Galatians 5:22-23 says-

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Per Philippians, we are to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy. Well, does anyone besides me think that the fruit of the Spirit consists of things that are excellent or praiseworthy?!  The Lord is always excellent and praiseworthy!! If we keep our focus on Him, perhaps our thoughts begin to change to things that are excellent or praiseworthy?  I use the words “change to” because we were discussing anxiety. Chances are, things we worry about to the point of anxiety are not excellent or praiseworthy…right?

I tend to believe I do not have a lot of anxiety.  In reality, I believe I have quite a bit. However, I try to manage it, so that it does not manage me. I try to give angst where it is most worthy and I give the rest to God.  WHAT IF I give it all to God, and I focus on what is excellent and praiseworthy?!?! (HIM! He is what is excellent and Praiseworthy!)

For this Lenten season, let’s try to focus on what is excellent and praiseworthy. Let’s focus on the fruit of the Spirit. After all, He did die for us, so that we do not have to worry about the things that are not excellent or praiseworthy. He saved us, therefore, we should praise Him in all things.

Faith in an Evidence Based World

Wow! How has this one not caught my eye, before!?

Translation: Faith- the thing that fuels hopes and belief in things that are not seen.

It reminded me of one of my favorite bible stories….which, coincidently, was another story I went many years without really knowing. That is the story of Doubting Thomas.

If you don’t know the story- when Jesus first visited the disciples after His resurrection, Thomas was not present. When Thomas returned, the others were super excited to tell him that they had seen Jesus and that He was alive. Thomas did not believe them. He said he would only believe Jesus was alive if he saw Him with his own eyes and was able to put his fingers inside of Jesus’ wounds! (Seriously?!)

The next time Jesus visited, Thomas was present. Thomas was overjoyed! Jesus let Thomas touch His (healed) wounds, but He told Thomas to stop doubting and believe.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those have not seen and yet they have believed.” John 20:29

This bible given definition of faith is perfect for Thomas!

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Did Thomas have faith when the Disciples told him that Jesus was a live? No, he did not. Thomas had no substance for what he had hoped for or basis for evidence of things he had not seen. Thomas wanted tangible evidence, which is the exact opposite of faith.

Maybe this was given to us to study in the bible, because, unlike Thomas, we have to rely on our faith. Of course, Jesus could just come and show Himself to us, but then, where would our faith be? How would we share Jesus with others? We couldn’t. We cannot do His work without faith.  Our faith in Jesus is what we share.

In all things that we do we must have faith; even when it seems like He isn’t listening.  Perhaps He isn’t answering, because it isn’t in our best interest. Or, it may seem like He’s not answering, but it simply isn’t the right time, yet. We must always have faith that He is doing what is best for us when the time is right for Him.

This can be VERY hard to remember and do. That’s why I like Thomas so much. “Don’t be a doubting Thomas.” He is watching. He is listening. He is working, and He is coming back. We just have to keep our faith in Him, and continue His work until he gets here.

Keeping Our Eyes on What is Good

Today’s verse strays a bit from the past few days of seemingly simple “how to” verses. However, it is an amazing verse with priceless instruction.

Reading the surrounding verses will help give us insight into this one.

Psalms 37:35-38 says-

“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked.”

In a world full of decay, it can be hard to know who to look to for spiritual reference. There are liars everywhere, and the truth is often suppressed and called unkind. Today’s verse serves as a reminder for us to keep our eyes on what is good.

It can be hard to understand why evil seems to reap reward on this earth. The wicked seem to gain goodness for their evil ways, but in reality, the wicked have no future. In the end, it is the blameless that will have the peace all on this earth are seeking

Consider the blameless, and how they are living to golorify God. Observe the upright, for the wick tend to hide, a future await those who seek peace-God is our peace. As we learned yesterday, He will take our burdens and give us rest. We need only to keep our eyes fixed on Him and to seek His peace.

The Ease of What Could Be

I feel like the theme of this first part of February is simplicity.

Yet with every chance we get, we do our best to complicate things.

As humans, why do we do this? He is literally telling us that all we have to do is come to Him, lay down our burdens, and He will take them from us! In all of His glory, He has already won the fight… We just have to give up our need for control, and hand our burdens over to the one who is already victorious!

It can be so very hard to trust in someone other than ourselves when humans have let us down so many times. We must remember that He is not human. His love for us is stronger and more safe than any other love that there is. It is unconditional. His love does not waver when our faithfulness wavers. He is always ready, and waiting, with open arms; waiting for us to come to Him for rest.

This world can be exhausting. Remember, the one safe place we will always have is with Him.

Yes, It’s Really That Simple

Then why do we struggle with it so?

It’s like a throw back to the end of yesterdays post- Sounds easy, right?! So, lets get to it!

……

Wait, what? We need more explanation and help?

Our hearts tend to follow whatever we fix our eyes on. If we fix our eyes on what is easy, we may find that we veer from God’s path from time to time, because easiest isn’t always best. If we make a decision to turn from evil and do good, we may hit some rough spots, BUT we will also find favor with God.  And maybe, just maybe, when we are doing good from day to day, we have also successfully sought and found peace!  The chaos evil brings often steals our peace, so it is safe to say that turning from evil and doing good would bring a certain amount of peace.

What this verse talks to me about most is the reality that we must live intentionally. We cannot sit around and wait for glory to fall into our laps. If we sit and wait, what usually falls into our laps? Hate and Misery. Why? Because hate and misery are easy; happiness is a choice. We must wake up every day and make the choice to turn from evil, do good, and seek peace. As with anything, practice will make this easier and easier. One day we will wake up, and our minds will automatically turn to what is good without any effort at all!

Until then, make the effort.  It will be worth it in the end!