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Devotionals

Brave?

on Friday, 01 July 2016. Posted in Devotionals

Courage of a Middle Class Mom of Millennials

Brave

I live in a small town. There is always enough food. My house is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Crime is low. I have to work to get out of my comfort zone. Yet, there is still fear. It creeps around in the dead of night and it whispers it threats. Some fears are real and some are imagined but all can cripple.

My 2016 word of the year is fearless. With fanfare I boldly stated this in January. Privately I daily choose to live this out. Sounds impressive huh? Truth be told it is not. As an average woman living in an average home it is easy to justify cowardice choices.  Have you ever heard these excuses?

I’m too old.

There isn’t enough time.

There isn’t enough money.

Somebody else can do that.

I’m too tired.

That makes my uncomfortable.

I don’t want to…

And the list goes on. In the coming weeks I’m sharing part of my journey. God has showed up big time. For now my big fears have subsided. Today I share my fear of insufficient finances. A life long struggle.

Fearless

Fear #1 – Money. Our middle child just completed her sophomore year at Hope College. It is an expensive school but it fits her perfectly. She is flourishing there. This past school year she worked 3 part time jobs to offset tuition cost. Each summer, she works hard at a local sandwich shop.

This year, she felt God call her to a Christian camp as a counselor. Awesome! What better way to strengthen your faith than to serve God and lead others to a closer relationship with Jesus. Um, but there is a practical problem here. The camp pays the counselors next to nothing.

Me: “How are you going to pay for school?”

Elizabeth: “Mom, you have always said, ‘If God calls you, He will provide’”

Don’t you hate it when they quote you back to you? Don’t you hate it when you know they are right but a little voice keeps nagging at you? What if I was wrong? What if God didn’t actually call her? What if she is setting herself up for big disappointment? What if and what if and what if?

She sat next to me one night with her laptop open. Pinned to the corner of her screen was this verse:

Matthew 6:34(NLT) “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

“Did you know that was the verse that got me through college? I had it written on a 3x5 card on my bulletin board.” I asked

She looked slightly surprised and smiled.

Yet, I couldn’t shake this uneasy feeling. How was she going to do it? I prayed for her finances every day. When I couldn’t sleep, I told Jesus I trusted Him and asked Him to provide. I could sleep but that uneasiness lurked in our house. I would try to discuss it, she felt attacked, and she sensed my lack of faith.

Last week, I drove her 5 hours away to camp. She wasn’t sure what she was stepping into. She bravely went anyway.

On Friday, we received a letter from her college with an amended financial aid report. Elizabeth was awarded a scholarship for showing promise in her future field. A scholarship she didn’t apply for. A scholarship she didn’t know existed. God provided for my girl who was following Him.

God used this circumstance to build her faith and reinforce mine. He is so good and His timing is perfect. I am stunned by the grace He has granted us.

Each of us face a battle that is threatened by fear. I want to give a shout out to brave friends out there! We each see the courage you possess. You have:

Watched your children join the military

Put your children on a plane for mission work

Faced disease and fought against it.

Faced job loss and financial uncertainty.

Loved a wayward child.

Cared for an aging parent.

Lost a parent.

Faced the death of a spouse or child.

Chosen life after the suicide of a loved one.

More importantly God sees you and He knows what you are going through!

I have two more fears to write about and I will in the coming weeks. Meanwhile hang in there my friend. Tell those fears to hush up. Shout to your Lord that you trust Him and He will be there for you. It doesn’t always turn out the way we wish but we must remember that He is always with us. So close that He is holding each of us! Feel His presence, face your fear and BELIEVE

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you.

    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Share your brave moment below. I want to hear all about it. Please share this with a friend that is facing fear. 

Crafting Your Coffee Klatch

on Wednesday, 04 May 2016. Posted in Devotionals

Or how I insulted a famous guy's wife.

coffee klatch

You need a group of friends you can rely on. Some call it a posse or squad but that doesn’t really work for me. I’m not a horse-riding, law-enforcing kind of woman. I prefer the term “coffee klatch.” “Klatch” is a German word meaning to gather for light conversation or gossip. Throughout history, women have gathered together to ex-change tidbits of their lives with one another. But often we have preferred to exchange tidbits of other peoples’ lives with one another. That’ a problem.

We've got to redeem the definition and perception of such a group, especially with a definition like that. But let’s talk about that for a moment. Women seem to have a natural propensity for gossip. Friend, we must be aware of it and avoid it at all costs. Scripture instructs to steer clear of it (see Ephesians 4:25-32). If you’re not sure you have permission to say something, don’t.

Years ago, I was at a public event. My friend and I saw a sports celebrity she had worked with in an advertising campaign. She then began to share the difficulties she experienced working with him. I then shared something I had observed at another event. We exchanged a few more comments, both of us made others around us aware that we were in the know. We didn’t actually know the man personally, but we had experienced him firsthand. Then it happened. We were interrupted by another woman. It turned out to be his wife. Talk about an awkward moment! Embarrassed, we continued on in silence, down what felt like a never ending staircase.

Friend, please learn from my mistake. We spoke about situations that were true but not ours to share and it was hurtful to others around us. Scripture is clear: gossip in any form is wrong.

Your coffee klatch should be a place to share your heart, not a place to share rumors and idle talk. Build relationships within your home church for support and strength. We are such relational beings. People that “get” us are precious. They are safe. Be that precious person for someone.

So, how do you build a safe, godly coffee klatch? Well, first let me clear something up: this is not about the coffee. I make this suggestion to women and their first response is “I don’t drink coffee.” That is not the point. Socializing with like-minded women is the focus. You decide your common interest. Your “coffee klatch” could be a book club, Bible Study, or a running group. But make sure you do more than the activity: purpose to support one another.

My coffee klatch is the Dragonfly Ministry. These are the women who believe in God’s call in this ministry. They offer their gifts and prayer support to see God move. It encourages me and humbles me. It relieves what can be a lonely burden of leadership. It is a gift to know I am not alone.

The women who support me don’t necessarily meet together. They are the individual women I trust with my inner thoughts. One of these women is my walking buddy, and she is my true safe place. With her I share ideas, vent frustrations, and rejoice over blessings. She is interested in my well-being and I am invested in hers. There is beauty in a trusted friendship. A place, where confidences are shared and kept, is treasured. This is the type of friendship community fosters. Do you long for this kind of friendship? Be this kind of friend. Excerpt from Legacy by Leslie Schonfeld

Do we really trust?

on Thursday, 05 March 2015. Posted in Devotionals

trust jesus

“Thank you for trusting me.” He said this as we sped around another corner. We had driven this road a great deal while on vacation. He imagined he was in a video game. Enjoying every turn, my husband was having the time of his life.

I hadn’t really a thought about it as I sat in the passenger seat. He was right, though, I did trust him. We have been together for over 25 years. He has proven himself trustworthy.

Later that week, my confidence was shaken. We decided to go up a mountain road - it was a chance of a lifetime. We, again, were driving along a road full of twists and turns, but I unexpectedly became intimidated by the extreme drop-off as we went along. I experienced vertigo, and completely lost depth perception as we climbed above the clouds. My trust melted into fear: I had to fight to keep myself from slipping into a panic attack.

Dave was driving. I still trusted him, but my fear became greater than my trust. Logically, I knew my feelings were irrational. Even so, I couldn’t get this anxiety in check. I asked Dave to slow down and he responded immediately. He instinctively knew I needed him to respect my request - yet another reason to trust him.

The same is true with our life with Jesus. We think we know where we are going. We have a plan for the next big event. Then, BAM: plans change. We experience loss or disappointment, and then find ourselves heading in an entirely different direction. The unknown outcome can disorient us, and even be quite frightening. We want answers; we want assurance of heading in the right direction, and promises of safety from flying off into an abyss.

I am reminded again of my simple prayer. “I trust you, Jesus.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) reminds us: 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Life can be out of our control, but our path is ALWAYS in His hands if we trust in Him. We don’t have to know why we are in our current situation, nor do we have to know where we are going to end up. The important thing is to simply seek Him and His direction. We need to let go of fear, and take hold of FAITH.

Give your future to Him today, and see where He leads.

Everyone Influences Someone

on Monday, 03 August 2015. Posted in Devotionals

Who are YOU Influencing?

Good or bad

Relationships are a part of life. People come in and out of our life. They leave a little of themselves with us and we impart a little of us in them. It is important for us to remember we influence everyone we meet. Is our impact positive or negative?

Trust me when I say not all the people encountered by me are benefitted. Like you, I am imperfect. However, we each must choose our intent with others. We belong to an overly critical society. Angry over offenses, our tendency is to correct instead of understand. Yes, there is time for correction but do I know the offender or do they know me? I hope I am always teachable. Criticism is rarely received without a respectful relationship.

Who do we influence? Actually everyone we come in contact. Think about one rude interaction in your past. How did that affect your day? You’ve never encountered that person again. Yet, just the thought of that incident can invoke negative emotions. Now think of the reverse. A joyful interaction brightens our day.

Our job is to build the Kingdom of God. He grows and nurtures the Holy Spirit fruits in us in order to impact our world. Philippians 2:14-15 reminds us to “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Who around you could use the refreshment of God’s fruits? Think of it this way. Have you ever bitten into a fresh peach and relished its juicy deliciousness? Isn’t it disappointing when the peach is tasteless? Which peach are you?

People without God are self-preservers. Without the hope of Christ, they rely on themselves for everything. It must be difficult to live this way. They are capable of caring; it is instinctual in all of us. They do not recognize God’s love as their motivator. I had a friend tell me that all people are motivated by selfishness. In his view, all acts of kindness stem from selfish gain. That seems like a fruitless way to live. They do not understand a life devoted to God.

The dynamics of our country has changed. We are angrier. The next generation trusts less. God is ignored more. We need to understand them. Hospitable reactions to their cynicism invites discourse. Not everyone is interested in spiritual discussions but this prepares us for the potential conversation. My kindness has been labeled as naivety, I’m kind anyway. I encourage you to camp out in Romans 12. Digest the beauty of the words. Incorporate them into your life. Remember Romans 12:21 “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Fearless in 2016

on Friday, 01 January 2016. Posted in Devotionals

Dragonfly Ministry word of the year.

Fearless

Fear can be good. Proverbs 9:10 (NLT) reminds us that “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.   Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” This reverence births common sense. It keeps us from harmful choices. Healthy fear prevents us from driving too fast and swimming with sharks. Well at least most of us 😉. Yet, I want the thrill found in steps of faith. I want to pursue the passion God sparks in me.

Inappropriate fear hinders us. It cripples our pursuit of His assignment. What do I fear?

Failure

Rejection

Unexpected expenses

Illness

Loss

Terrorism

Mistreatment

Disrespect

Violations of trust

Inadequacy

You too? How do we fight the unknowns? 2016 brings promise of blessings and threats of any of the above. We can’t see into the future so we must trust the one who holds it. As His beloved, we know he walks through all things with us. Therefore, I choose not to fear.  I will hold on tight to His hand and march into 2016 fearless. Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

 How about you? 

Hope and Future

on Thursday, 02 July 2015. Posted in Devotionals

hope and future

The word hope is used throughout our culture. We casually hope for all sorts of things, some benign: “I hope I have room for dessert after this great meal;” and some, life changing: “I hope I get the job!” Hope is the precursor for faith (Hebrews 11:1) Hope is the expectation for a certain result. This is why we mentor. We have a hope embedded in the next generation for the future of the church. Do you feel your passion rise for the next generation? My prayer is the Holy Spirit is inspiring you even now, as you read.
 
Jeremiah 29:11 is a frequently quoted verse at my church. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) It is used when new beginnings are examined. Sermons at New Years and graduation are peppered with this thought.
 
This verse took on a whole new meaning for me recently. My Pastor used it in a message. I think I thought something along these lines: “oh here we go again, same old verse used for a new endeavor.” The Holy Spirit got a chuckle out of that.
 
“Here you go little one, look at it from this angle,” He breathed into my heart.
There it was, a new twist on this very old promise. The words jumped out at me. I knew the Lord was telling me, “These young people are YOUR HOPE and YOUR FUTURE. Through them I will build my Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.”
 
Oh, how this delights me! The idea that God would allow me to influence others for the continuation of His Kingdom is breathtaking. Don’t you think? A call to this mission is beautiful!
 
As we read further in Jeremiah, we see God comes back to the heart. The Lord calls us to give our whole heart. Unguarded, we hand it over to Him. That is a rather vulnerable position to be in. However, let me assure you there is no safer place for your heart than in the hands of the Lord. He is our security, our stronghold! (Psalm 18:2) If we seek after Jesus with our whole self, this will fulfill the promise of our hope and future.
 
This all rests on our trust in Jesus. Trust that He will lead us to the right people, and trust that He will provide the wisdom we need to move forward in our relationships with them. The best prayer I have learned to whisper is simply, “I trust you Jesus.” I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know how it will happen, but I know He is in the middle of it. He will direct my path, if I let Him.
 
These young people are treasures crafted by God Almighty. We forget that sometimes. Especially when they don’t live up to our expectations. Stereotypically, it is harder for this generation to keep commitments, to trust, and to launch into adulthood. They can be self-centered. Where do we look for our inspiration? We look at the beauty grafted into their DNA. We are privileged to reflect back to them the promise we see within them. Do you see how wonderful that is?
 
God has made each of these wonderful young people with gifts. They are risk takers that want to change the world. They have the drive, and we have the power of encouragement and experience. It truly is a lovely partnership. The more we examine the dynamics, the more we see we need each other. They need us to lift them toward their future, and we need them to fulfill our hope and future. Oh, Jesus is so good at interweaving our lives with one another.
 
Lord, I ask that you inspire us to build your church. Help us to see others as your hope and your future church. Give us eyes to see and the courage to risk and invest in these individuals. In Jesus' Name Amen.
 
Do you want to continue this conversation? Leave a comment and let’s talk!
 

It's All Good

on Monday, 01 June 2015. Posted in Devotionals

Righting the Wrong Path

path 1

 

 

 
“It’s all good” is an expression used to lighten it up when life gets awkward. We’ve all said it, at one time or another. Your friend makes a mistake, they quickly blurt “I’m sorry,” and we know to give this quick response. It is a reboot of sorts.
 
Current Christian culture stresses God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. We are individually created to fulfill God’s will in His Kingdom. This can inspire us to pursue our passions. It can also freeze us in our tracks, and shine a light on our insecurities, raising question such as: What if I make a mistake? Or, What if I miss God’s plan?
 
When I was in college, I intended to go into genetic research. It was cutting-edge science; new discoveries were made daily. They were mapping the human genome and it fascinated me. Then I started my research. I worked for a Professor whose work explored pleiotropic inheritance, which is where one gene influences multiple traits in an individual. Here’s the problem: I was always alone in the lab. This extroverted girl needed people! Through a series of circumstances I added the major Biology Education because I didn’t know what else to do. When I made that decision, I had no idea the impact it would have on the rest of my life. I thought it was a temporary solution until I figured out what I wanted to do. It turned into my life’s passion. Where would I be if I had not taken that first step?
 
DO NOT LET FEAR KEEP YOU FROM MOVING FORWARD.
 
We need to remember the following:
  1. God designed us. Our passions are birthed in His creation. If we seek after Him, He will nurture our passion.
Psalm 139:16 (NLT) You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
  1. The Holy Spirit directs us.
Romans 8:9 (NLT) But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.
  1. God gives wisdom. We are directed to ask for it. Wisdom is sound judgement. Trust you are moving in the right direction until your judgement, through the Spirit's instruction, tells you otherwise.
Colossians 1:9 (NLT) So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.
  1. God works it all for His good. God is the author of the phrase, “it’s all good.” Romans 8:28 assures us of that. If we act according to His purpose, He will make it good.
Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
 
Our job is to first nurture our relationship with Jesus and then take a step forward in our calling. If you are not sure, take a step anyway. This is a step of faith. God promises to turn even our mistakes for good if we seek after Him. True, you might end up on a wrong path, but God will direct you back to the right one if you ask Him to. Have faith, move forward, and remember it is all good!
 
What do you think? Leave your comments and we can continue the conversation.

Legacy

on Tuesday, 01 September 2015. Posted in Devotionals

legacy and impact

One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes is from Midsummer Night’s Dream. “And though she be but little she be fierce.” As I am only 5’1”, I relate to this quote. Not that I am an aggressive fighter; more like determined and intense in the pursuit of God’s call. I know that I belong to God “You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Do not give up.” (1 John 4:4 NLT) You too are fierce!

At 52, this is the beginning of my legacy. Lives that are encouraged. Lives that are influenced to pursue something bigger than themselves. This is my purpose as middle age woman. An honor that I treasure.

Legacy is something handed down from one generation to the next. Legally it refers to money or property but we extend a greater gift. A spiritual legacy does not just impact the here and now. It imparts your fingerprint on the eternal. Jesus gave us immortality, we influence its impact the way we spend our finite time on earth.

Those are powerful words; impact and influence. Impact implies a force. When our lives intertwine with others it is a force to be reckoned with! Our presence in their life isn’t ignored. It may be quiet and gentle but it is steady. As a conduit of the Holy Spirit, we impact others. He shapes and changes them through this impact.

Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. (Google definition) What a beautiful way to describe mentoring. God uses us to bring out His design in another person. We are one of the tools used to expose their true beauty.

A young man I know is a sculptor. He produces art from wood and stone. He examines the natural grain and sees an image. Through Holy Spirit inspiration, time, and skill he produces a finished piece. Alec possesses a true gift.

Like Alec, we work similarly. Through God, we impact and influence to reveal God’s image in another’s life. Our tools range from encouragement to accountability. We inspire, occasionally correct and always love. We recognize God is the artist and we assist in His work. We pray and we pray and we pray.

As I write this my daughter, Elizabeth, is attending an audition for a movie. Is it unlikely that she will be cast? Statistically yes but there is always a possibility. Her dream is to act. She won’t get parts if she doesn’t show up.

At the same time her younger sister is at a swim clinic. The instructors are Olympic swimmers. Will this make her a better swimmer? Yes. Will she now break records and get college scholarships? No one knows the answer to that but she is in pursuit of a dream.

I’d like to think that their inspiration comes from their Dad and me. As parents, our children get first dibs on the legacy we are leaving behind. They are the epicenter of our impact within God’s Kingdom. Later today, I see some of the ripple effect of that seismic wave as I attend a wedding shower for Jessica. The two of us meet on a regular basis. Today, I share the joy of this life event with her.

Would you like to know more about building a legacy? This year’s retreat will be February 20th. Save the date and look for registration information in October. In addition the book, Legacy, is soon to go to my editor. I can’t wait to share that with you as well.

legacy

If you’d like to discuss this more, leave a comment and we can keep the conversation going.

Legacy - 5th Annual Dragonfly Retreat

on Friday, 16 October 2015. Posted in Devotionals

Live a life of impact

legacy

Learn to live a life of impact that influences beyond your lifetime.

Refresh your faith as we fortify our confidence that is anchored in Christ.

Connect with other women.

Learn to care for others in a deeper fashion. Be empowered to positively influence others.  

 Saturday February 20, 2016

Christ the King Church

Early bird registration starts Nov.1 and runs through January 17.

Love Fiercly

on Friday, 02 December 2016. Posted in Devotionals

Love fiercly

My Dad loved Christmas. With Santa’s hat perched on his head, he absorbed the celebration around him.  Each year he shared a different story that featured the love of God. He usually cried which made all of us cry, he was a tenderhearted soul. Without him it will be very different. Death forces life adjustments. We don’t like it but we can’t control it. Most painful for me is I simply miss him. It is not that something went unsaid, it is that nothing more will be said.

 My Dad loved fiercely. Fierce may seem as an odd choice but it means heartfelt or powerful intensity. This is his legacy to me and I am sharing it with you. Unconditional love is priceless.  To do this we must build ourselves up “in (our) most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep (ourselves) in God’s love” Jude 21.

Dad’s life was impactful. I want that kind of legacy. Quietly living life in a way that tells others they count. 

To love fiercely means to:

  1. Love all even when they don’t deserve it.
  2. Compel respect of others. It doesn’t demand it or require it, it drives it.
  3. Deliver what is needed not necessarily what is wanted.
  4. Accept everyone as they are.
  5. Give grace even when it is not deserved.
  6. Protect others.
  7. Lovingly correct when needed.
  8. Fight for what is right

Our heavenly Father loves us fiercely. He has given us the most precious gift; Jesus His Son. This Christmas as we look at the babe in the manger may we receive and learn to give His fierce love “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Feel that intensity and love fiercely.

The Lord fights fiercely for us.

He loves us unconditionally.

So be fierce for Him.

Sunrise and the Son risen!

on Thursday, 02 April 2015. Posted in Devotionals

April devo

Raise your hand if you are a morning person. No? Me neither. Music whispers from my alarm and I hit the snooze button before I’m fully awake. Instead of greeting the morning with sunshine and roses, I tuck my head under the covers and pray for more sleep. This is the natural me. Can you relate?

Recently my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Maui. The time change was crazy. While we were there, we became morning people. Up between 5 and 6 each morning we eagerly greeted the dawn. Coffee in hand we witnessed the light as it climbed above the trees, painting its colors across the sky. It was beautiful and breathtaking! It was so nice to have the time to appreciate the glory of the new morning.

We take it for granted that the sun will rise each morning. Our clocks are set to the earth’s rotation around the source of our heat and light. Do we ever question or worry about its return? We can get this way with Jesus. We move through our day with Him as an afterthought, instead of the inspiration for all we do.

This Easter morning, we will greet the promise of our risen Savior with renewed awe. Yes, we celebrate with a joyful service of pageantry. New life is ours through His sacrifice: He conquered death so that we may live! On Monday the glory from the day before ebbs from our memory.

Maybe we have the sunrise each morning to refresh the risen Christ in our hearts in the same way. The light breaks through the darkness, just the way the Holy Spirit shines within each of us. It is a beautiful reminder to actively engage in His presence. Peter captured this in Acts 2:33 (NLT) when he declared, “Now he (Jesus) is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.”

As the new morning breaks each day is when I need to talk to Jesus the most. Prayer opens my whole being to Him, and re-turns me into the person He created me to be. I still need a cup a coffee and about 30 minutes to truly wake up, but I do it with an improved attitude. Our sun is a symbol of THE SON - let it remind us each day of the beauty of creation and the One who created it all. Live each new day as a testimony of the new you birthed through your relationship with Jesus.

The Gift

on Wednesday, 02 December 2015. Posted in Devotionals

OPEN IT TODAY!

Gift

Empowered by the Pentecost experience, Peter delivered this impactful speech. Acts 2:38 (NIV) Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Thousands came to Christ. His passion persuaded them to accept Jesus and all were empowered by the Spirit dwelling in Peter.

Repent and receive. We often concentrate on the difficultly of repentance. Focused on changing ourselves, we miss the fulfilled promise delivered to us by Jesus death and resurrection. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when we turn our lives over to Jesus.

A gift! A present. FREE. No payment needed. Can you imagine if we had rules and requirements receiving gifts? Imagine Christmas morning. The presents entice us from under the tree. We have counted the days, early in the morning we run to them. The anticipation is over. It’s here! We gather with our families but we don’t feel adequate enough for the love shared there. We don’t touch the presents. We are not good enough. Maybe someday, but not today. Each gift remains under the tree untouched as we work to be worthy.

Sounds a little silly doesn’t it? At my house, as soon as everyone is in the room, the paper flies! Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love to give and get gifts. There is joy in unconditional giving and receiving. Yet, for many of us we have a living gift residing in us that we push aside. Wrapped in a tidy package, we tuck it away in the faith corner of our soul. We point it out when others ask about it but we don’t utilize it.

We need to embrace God’s gift. As we unwrap the Holy Spirit, His presence covers us with comfort and peace. The Spirit’s indwelling is the source of our strength. When we yield our control to Him; His fruits grow.   Make room for them. His fruits (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) then become gifts we give to others. As we give the Spirit grows.

Yes, repentance is a necessary part of the Spirit indwelling but it is a process that takes time. The more we utilize the gift the more we reflect God. Paul reminds us of this in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV) “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Spirit through the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Help us to open this gift daily. Grow the fruits in us so we may give to others what we have received from you. Help us to be mindful of this in all we do. In Jesus name, AMEN.

They will all be one,

on Wednesday, 02 March 2016. Posted in Devotionals

Excerpt from Legacy by Leslie Schonfeld

unity

A House Unified for Glory

We, as a collective people, are God’s very temple. The book of Revelation describes a wonderful scene: “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them’” (Revelation 21:3, NLT). Though John is describing an event to happen in the future, it’s encouraging to know God is looking forward to the time when we can be together forever. What a privilege we are given! God is Holy and He chose to set us apart so He can dwell in us (I Corinthians 6). We need to face this with reverence. It humbles me and reminds me of my inadequacies. BUT Jesus is our gateway.

Think about it. Jesus came to the earth—He gave up heaven to live on earth like us. He was fully God and fully human. As a baby, He entered the world, humble, tiny, and vulnerable. He grew. He ministered. He died a brutal death, took on my sin and your sin, and rose again. All for you and I to have eternal life. Are you in awe? I’m having a mini church service as I type! Thank you Jesus! Words escape me. You, Lord, are beautiful!

God’s glory dwells in you. Make room for it to shine on others daily. Community is designed to nurture and encourage this in each other. It’s truly beautiful!

 I recently returned from a trip to North Carolina, where we visited a church rocked by racial hate crimes. The church had been partially destroyed by arson. At dinner, I realized the significance of our time there, and the power of community in that church. The pastors received our love as well as service and gifts; prayer and physical presence brought encouragement. Such simple acts will reverberate throughout their community as they are renewed to do what God called them to do. It was the easiest mission trip I’ve ever participated in, yet, it was full of impact.

Sometimes, my friend, it is the little acts.

Jesus declared and even prayed for us to live as one, a unified whole.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21, NLT). Community produces unity. It’s even part of the word itself! Unity drives growth and effectiveness of God’s Kingdom. Your union with God and each other draws others to us. It is a beautiful thing to see the Body of Christ work together. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1 NLT)!

Unity is the goal. We need to stop our criticism of one another and nurture the common ground. If the church is fighting with itself, how are we going to attract others to Jesus? God’s love brings unity, not quarreling. How we live together as the church declares a message to the world. It should be one of Jesus and His love. 

When You have the blahs.

on Sunday, 02 November 2014. Posted in Devotionals

Four steps to help embrace the beauty of the mundane.

tea

 

 

tea dishes

 

tea work

“I don’t want to go.” This thought whined through my mind as I drove to work yesterday.

No, I’m not going to think that way. I am embracing today. This is a new day, I am trusting God with it.”

Then I realized I left my purse at home.  

“Ugh, I want to go back to bed.”

“ NO, I’m not going to let it get me down!”

Then someone honked at me, and it started to rain. Another political ad came on the radio…sigh.

Do you have days like this? Nothing is really wrong, but everything feels off. A dreary day; an I’d-rather-be-curled-up-under-a-comfy-blanket-instead-of-facing-the-day’s-agenda kind of day? How do we battle the blahs? How do we combat the “I don’t want to do this anymore” emotions?

  1. Call out the guard! No matter what we are facing, God promises to provide His peace. Philippians 4:7 tells us our minds are guarded by God’s peace. Philippians 4:7 (NLT) “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
  2. Stay in peace! Pray about everything. When we pray, we exchange our worry and discouragement with trust and courage. We are reminded in those troublesome times that God’s got this. In good times or bad, and especially in our daily routine, God is in control. It may not feel extraordinary, but our omnipotent God walks with us through everything. Matthew 28:20 (NLT) “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  3. Remember! We need reminders of God’s promises. When the mundane erodes our demeanor, we need to return to the truth we know. Often we want dramatic, exciting, miraculous days. In reality, your day-to-day obedience impacts eternity, as well. These small actions of faithfulness glorify God. Luke 16:10 (NLT) “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”
  4. Worship! Our obedience in those small things are acts of worship. I have to remind myself of this. The non-exciting, every day activities are also worship. It is the attitude that matters, as well as the action itself. This is what it means to be a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

This is a daily battle for me.  I do not like routine. I prefer to fill my life with people and action and innovation. However, I have found that days without all those bells and whistles produce as much fruit, and sometimes more, than the crazy, exciting days. Be encouraged, my friend. God sees your steady work. He knows the hours you have put in. May His peace envelope you with a great assurance as you fight through the mundane!

Whither on the Vine

on Saturday, 31 January 2015. Posted in Devotionals

broken branch

Photo credit: Esra Su , Franfort Germany

Once there were two farmers. One tended his vines in the traditional way, and the other leaned toward a more natural plan. In late winter, the first farmer pruned his vines. He cut them back to just two shoots. It seemed severe, but pruning now meant beautiful grapes at harvest. The second farmer visited his vines as well. He was delighted to see the growth from the previous year. Instead of pruning and tending his branches, he decided to let them go wild. He imagined beautiful fruit at harvest, as well.

When spring arrived, both farmers saw buds on their vines. The second farmer’s buds were more abundant than the first. Excitement swelled in him as he anticipated the harvest. He expected a huge return on his little effort. The first farmer was patient. He wasn’t sure what the other farmer would produce, but he knew how to coax his branches to produce beautiful fruit.

During the summer, the first farmer tended his vine and its branches. The fruit developing was succulent. Although his potential harvest appeared to be less than the other farmer's, his was yielding a quality product. The second farmer noticed his grapes were not developing well. As he examined them, a few even fell off the branches. By the end of the summer, his fruit had withered on the vine.

Why did this happen? If grape vines aren’t tended, they will wither away. Picture, if you will, the grape vine in a vineyard. The vine allowed to grow wild will increase in size, but it won't produce much fruit. The long vines cannot support the weight of the branches, and the grapes will not develop. They “wither on the vine.” This idiom is used throughout literature and means “to be ignored or neglected, and thereby be wasted.” The fruit is destroyed slowly, because it does not have help or support. This how the millennium generation feels.

Our younger generation needs the guidance and support we can give. They need to know they matter. They need to know someone recognizes their presence. Without this recognition, they will drift away. They will stop attending church. They will leave our community, and maybe no one will notice. We must not let them wither and fall away.

Jesus tells us He is the vine, and we are the branches. (John 15) There is no illness in His vine, for Jesus is the perfect Source for growth. He is not weak: He can support as many branches as want to be part of His vine. Any time there is withering fruit, the problem is with us, His branches. The branches need to support each other. When we don’t have the support we need, we can start to wander - even grow wild - and lose our way. Our fruit never fully develops. If the young and tender branch isn't supported with love and care, it can be easily broken off.

The first farmer of the parable prunes the branches. John 15 reminds us this is necessary. It must, however, be done only by the gardener. Jesus teaches us that our gardener is God, the Father. We are not to try to prune one another! We can guide, but our guidance needs to draw others back to God. Cutting remarks that scar the listener should never be used. It is important that any and all help we have to give be offered with love and grace.

Further on in John 15, Jesus exhorts us to give our all for others. Look at verses 12-13. “12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus didn’t suggest we love, He commanded it. However, He does not tell us to do anything He hasn’t done himself. We are to love grandly, as we are empowered by His great sacrificial love.

Father: I lift up to You those who are reading this. May each one hear and understand You and Your encouragement to be the person You created them to be. Oh, Jesus, thank you that You equip us for this great calling: to love Your people. I pray that we reach out to support one another, that we love Your people unabashedly. In Jesus' Name, AMEN.

 

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