What’s My Focus?

 

The other day I had the most vivid dream.  I’m not much of a dreamer, but for some reason, this dream was so vivid and clear.  I could remember the details and emotions elicited by the dream like I was there experiencing it first hand.  From past posts I’ve shared, I like to run.  In this dream, I had trained and prepared for a race.

I remember being in a car driving to the race, trying to get there, but something was always getting in the way–traffic, crowds, roadblocks.  I remember feeling anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make the start of the race.  Then the race started and I wasn’t at the start line.  The crowds of runners passed by me.  Feelings of disappointment and failure rummaged through my heart as I watched the runners pass me. I had prepared and trained for a race I could only watch and not participate in.  Every which way I turned, every time I tried, something got in my way to prevent me from getting to the start line.

After I awoke from my dream, I felt like I failed (nice way to start the day).  I felt the devastation of not completing the race, thinking what does all this mean?  I spent time in prayer asking God the meaning of the dream and heard his gentle response.  He asked me a very simple question, “Are you going to continue to focus on your stumbling blocks or allow me to take care of them?”  “Focus on my purpose for you, I will take care of your stumbling blocks.”

God was right.  At the time of this dream, I was a hot mess.  I was in an ugly rut of taking matters into my own hands, trying to handle things my way, amplifying the stumbling blocks that laid before me.  God was trying to show me, my struggles, my inadequacies, my unbelief will always keep me away from His purpose for me.  Focusing on my struggles making them bigger than God will always take me out of the race, not allowing me to participate and worse yet not finish.

When we live in God's purpose for us, it doesn't matter what struggles or obstacles lie in front of us, if it is His will, He will move them. Click To Tweet

At the time of my dream, I was studying the book of Nehemiah.  If you haven’t read Nehemiah, it is such a wonderful reminder of what God can do when we discover and live in His purpose.  God chose Nehemiah to carry out what He had promised to Abraham.  The Jewish people spent many years in exile and now it was time for God to come through with His promise for restoration of Jerusalem, their holy city.

Nehemiah’s heart was broken when he received news his people (The Jews) were in great trouble and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down.  Once Nehemiah heard of the turmoil, his burning desire to help his people became the sole purpose of his existence.  Two qualities I admire most in Nehemiah were his wise, decisive leadership skills to lead people in the hard work of completing the wall and his prayerful heart.

Before taking on this task of rebuilding this massive wall, Nehemiah devoted four whole months in prayer, praying and fasting before taking action!  Once the four months was over, it only took 52 days to rebuild the wall!  What is so amazing about this task, about 60 years prior Jerusalem’s wall was destroyed and rebuilt which took 20 years to rebuild!

What was the difference?

In both occurrences of the wall, there were obstacles, inward and outward oppression getting in the way of God’s purpose of rebuilding the wall.

Neh. 2:10-  There were enemies getting in the way of rebuilding the wall

Neh.  4:10-11 There was doubt, discouragement, laziness, and fear

Neh. 5:1-5-  The Jews and their families were being exploited as slaves

Neh. 6:1-8- There was an evil conspiracy plotted against Nehemiah to lure him away from the wall

Neh. 6:10-14- Lying prophets tryied to tempt Nehemiah to sin

Nehemiah 6:9 'For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.' But now, O God, strengthen my hands.'Click To Tweet

Nehemiah was successfully able to complete the task of finishing the wall because He stayed in prayer and focused on God’s purpose, not the obstacles.

Our obstacles will always prevent us from finishing the race.  Satan will throw obstacles in our path to prevent us from living in God’s purpose for us, to keep us from His plan because He knows God’s ways are greater and better than anything we could ever imagine.

When our focus is on what God is able to do, God will move our obstacles out of the way.Click To Tweet

We have a choice– Focus on our problems or Focus on God’s purpose.

Nehemiah never lost sight of completing the wall WITH God not FOR God.  He stayed in prayer and asked for God’s wisdom never faltering from His purpose.  Our struggles, our unbelief, our doubts, our past, and insecurities will always keep us away from God’s purpose.  We can choose to amplify our struggles or allow it to be God’s platform for what he’s able to do.

What is your focus?

Do obstacles get in the way of God’s purpose for you?

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I Once Was Blind

The other week our family had the opportunity to get out of town and visit a nearby town called Cripple Creek.  The name in itself sounds kind of dreary, however, this was an old mining town that thrived in the late 1800’s early 1900’s.  Today it is a preserved gold mine used to tour tourists around its corridors.  I can’t believe our family squeezed into the 3 x 8 elevator shaft that lowered us down to the 1000 ft. mine.

It was dark and dingy and we couldn’t see anything without the lights on.  I couldn’t believe the dangerous conditions the miners worked in.  They spent hours working in these small mines using dynamite to blow holes in the rock or hammers to chisel it away.  Before machines were invented to haul away loose rock, donkeys were used to haul these carts full of rocks.  Can you imagine an 800-pound donkey lowered 1000 feet into these mines?  The donkeys actually lived down in the mines 24/7.  Eventually, the donkeys went blind from living in constant darkness.

When President Theodore Roosevelt found out about the donkeys living in darkness, he passed a law stating the donkeys had to be let out of the mines at least once a day.  Eventually, this became too much work and the donkeys were set free no longer having to live a life of darkness or blindness again.

Could you imagine living a life a darkness to then be set free–never to live in darkness again?

Have you ever felt like these donkeys?

I can’t help but see the parallel of the donkey’s lives who lived in the darkness to our own lives.  Oh, how I have been blind and lived in the darkness before.  Living in darkness is not living at all.  The longer we stay in the darkness we become blind just like these donkeys.

Just like Teddy Roosevelt interceded on behalf of the donkeys, Jesus intercedes for us.  

The donkey’s story of their lives and sight being restored reminds me of the man who was born blind in John 9.  It was believed in Old Testament times, if you were born blind, then you or your family must have sinned to deserve such a rotten life of blindness.  But Jesus, tells His disciples the man’s blindness wasn’t the result of his sin, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v.3).  Jesus then tells His disciples, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (v.4).

Jesus then used his own spit and some dirt on the ground to make mud to spread over the man’s eyes.  He then tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam to wash off the mud and came back seeing.  Neighbors and friends who had known this man his whole life were in shock and disbelief, after a lifetime of blindness, now their friend could see!

One of the mysteries from this scene strikes me when Jesus uses mud to heal the blind man.  Jesus is Jesus.  He doesn’t need mud to heal people.  His power didn’t lie within the mud but within the abilities of God.  Jesus didn’t use the mud to heal the man, he used it to open our unbelieving hearts.  

The biggest skeptics of all were the Pharisees, the Jewish high priests.  The man went before the Pharisees to explain how he miraculously gained his sight.  The Pharisees did not believe a man who had been born blind was healed, because only a person from God, their Messiah could perform such miracles.  The Pharisees called upon the man’s parents questioning them to answer their disbelief.  They confirmed, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind” (v. 20).  The Pharisees still weren’t convinced the man’s sight was an act from God Himself.  So they called upon him again and asked ‘how do you see?’

The man replied, 'One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see' (v.25)Click To Tweet

The Pharisees were spiritually blind to the fact God could perform such miraculous wonders.  This is the part of the story I love.  Jesus not only healed this man from blindness, he also came to find him.  Jesus found the blind man after he heard they cast him out and asked the healed man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (v. 35).  

He said, “Lord, I believe, and he worshipped him.  Jesus said, “For judgment, I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (v. 38-39).

The longer we live in this dark world, we become numb to the tragedies surrounding us.  We become blind to what people are going through and stop seeing the hurting people around us.  In an instant, Jesus removed a lifetime of blindness from the man who had no hope of ever seeing again.  No matter how dark our lives are, how much we sin, Jesus loves us and will always come to find us, if we let him.  Many of us who have sight are blind to the fact Jesus is standing right in front of us, reaching out his hand for us to take hold of to lead us into a life of light.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' John 8:12.Click To Tweet

Jesus is the light of the world.  Whoever follows him will never walk in darkness again………..

The old mining donkeys to this day are protected in the town of Cripple Creek, roaming around free.  Just as the donkeys are set free, so are we when we allow Jesus to have all of our hearts.

Has God set you free from a life of darkness and blindness?

Praise God, I once was blind but now I see!

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The Truth About Picky People

The other day my son was hungry and wanted a snack.  We had just been the store and bought bulk size snacks for kids’ lunches for times like these.  I started to give my son options for what snacks he could eat.  As I ran through the list of 4 or 5 options, he said “no” and had a reason for why he didn’t want every single one of them, but yet he was hungry.  As a parent, these moments sometimes are frustrating, because when I was a grew up there weren’t 4 to 5 options of snacks to eat.

As a kid….. You get what you get and didn’t throw a fit.  

When did kids receive the right to be so picky?

These snacks were perfectly fine last week, but for some reason this week these snacks didn’t meet his criteria.

Was I the one to blame for his picky palate by providing him with multiple options?

By allowing him to have all of these options was I setting him up for discontentment?

These moments make me question my actions as a parent.  Was I setting the foundation for him to be picky in other areas of his life as well?

This picky culture isn’t so far off from how the Sadducees used to live in the Bible.  The Sadducees were a Jewish party that represented the wealthy and sophisticated.  In Jesus’ time even though this group was small in number they had a strong political and religious influence in Jerusalem.  The Sadducees were the ultimate picky culture.  They picked and chose which truths they wanted to believe and not believe.

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  Matthew 3:7

In this passage, John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus.  John the Baptist was calling the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers,” because they wanted to hear and see the message of baptism he was teaching, but thought the message didn’t pertain to them.  John was preaching about repentance, a deliberate turning away from sins in order to be forgiven and receive the righteousness of God.  He was teaching everyone needed to repent and be baptized in order to be made new in God and that God always forgave those who repented.

John knew the Sadducees only believed in half-truths.  They only accepted five books of Moses and rejected all other oral traditions (Mark 12:18 footnote).  They didn’t believe in the resurrection or a personal Messiah but held onto to the promise of the Messianic Age a future era where there would be peace, harmony a life without strife or hardship (Acts 4:1, Matt. 3:7 footnote).  They wanted to believe in the promise of life with harmony but didn’t want to walk away from a life of sin.  John actually refused to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees because he knew they failed to repent (remove sin from their lives).  The Pharisees and Sadducees had one thing in common, they believed their salvation and deliverance was already given to them because of their birthright into the Jewish heritage.

When John asked them “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” he was asking them ‘who told you the Messiah is coming to bring repentance or judgment?’  Did they only want to hear the message when their lives were at stake?

How true is this for our lives as well.

“….I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ”  John 10:10 NIV

Jesus came so we could have life and have it to the full.  But somewhere along the way we can get caught up in picking and choose the parts of Jesus we want and don’t want just like the Sadducees. I for one have been guilty.

Have we become a picky society that picks and chooses what we believe?

Do we want the promise of heaven and the crown but not the suffering of the cross? Do we want the promise of the resurrection of our circumstances in our lives but not the sacrifice of Jesus?  Do we believe in the Bible, but only the red letter parts?  Do we want a Savior and God’s grace to be extended in our mistakes but not for him to be Lord over our lives?

Have we become like the Sadducees?

Do we believe in the sanctity of marriage except when times get difficult?  Do we believe in the power of prayer only if God answers our prayers our way in our timing?  Do we believe in preserving our children’s innocence except in times of worldly persecution?  Do we believe attending church is enough to maintain a relationship with God?  Or that God is only loving when things are going well in our lives?

Choosing half-truths for our lives somehow along the way has been substituted for God's truth in our lives. Click To Tweet

By allowing these half-truths in our lives, are we setting the foundation to pick and choose which parts of Jesus we want to accept and not accept?

Living on the slippery slope of choosing what parts of Jesus I want and don’t want is dangerous.  When I am being picky, I am missing out on the greatest blessings Jesus has to offer.  Jesus is meant to live in our lives wholeheartedly, not halfway.  What if there was only the death of Jesus without the resurrection, how meaningless would that be?  Sadly I think this is how many of us live today.  We believe Jesus is our Savior but not that he is able to resurrect our circumstances by being Lord in our lives.  In God all things are possible.

Jesus is the piece that makes us all whole, He completes us.Click To Tweet

He is the source, maker, provider for all our needs. The more we understand who Jesus is and His role in our lives, the more we can understand God’s love for us—the better we can understand our identity in Him and be filled with His fullness. In God, we lack nothing.  Jesus came so we can have life and have it to the full.  The fullness of everything God has to offer is ours already; we just have to open, receive, and allow room for it in our lives.

Can you relate to the Sadducees?  

What half-truths have you substituted for God’s truth in your life?

God’s love and grace are transformational.  We become victorious when His word is alive and active in our lives!

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Why Do We Need To Go To Church Anyway?

If we believe in God then why do we need to go to church?

Sunday at church the question was asked, “Why do we need to go to church?”  It is a very common response for others to say, I don’t need to go to church to experience Jesus or have a relationship with God. This is true so it can be difficult to answer. We were all asked freely what was our own personal reason for being there that day in church?

Some answers were:

1. To worship
2. To connect with others
3. Build relationships
4. Receive Sacraments
5. Edify Believers
6. To take scheduled time out for God

These are all great answers. However, one answer struck me, as someone raised their hand and said, “I come to church to fill me up.”  She said, “I think of church like a gas station to fill my tank up. Just like a car. Is a car a car just because it takes space up in a garage?” “What is the point of having a car sit in a garage if the gas tank is not filled up, you can’t go anywhere with an empty tank.”

How profound this statement was to me. Just as a Christian goes to church.

Does sitting in a church make a person a Christian or a believer?Click To Tweet

Of course not. A person can absolutely have a personal relationship with God without going to church. But how full is their tank and how far have they gone in their relationship with the Lord? Our personal relationship with God can be like the car that sits in the garage with an empty tank, collecting dust and forming rust. How far can we go if we are not filled up? Our tanks will never be filled just by sitting there. Church is a way to connect, re-energize, refocus, worship and build relationships.

What is the church to you?

Is it the building? The choir? The pastor? The church is the people. Not the building, not the things in it, but the people in it. The building is just a building and means nothing without the pastor, the choir, or the people.

Right before we came to Alaska, our church had the unfortunate experience of being victim to a horrible storm that caused a flood. The waters rose so fast and became so powerful they pushed opened the doors of the church. Water came gushing into the sanctuary filling the entire room. All the seats we sat in every Sunday became submerged in water. It was the most unbelievable sight. When the rain stopped the water then had a chance to recede and drain. When this flood happened it was an eye-opening experience because at first I was saddened the flood ruined the church where we worshipped the Lord. When the storm left, in came the people to help in any way to rebuild and restore what was damaged. This experience made me realize more than ever, a storm can take away the building but it can’t take away where we worship the Lord. Where we worship is the church.  The church is the people.

As the sermon went on that day the pastor stated statistics of why people don’t attend church.

It saddened me to hear the responses:

1. 30% say church is important but not relevant
2. 40% say church is ambivalent, I find God elsewhere
3. 30% say church is not important

Other reasons people said why they didn’t go:

1.  Hypocrisy
2.  Moral values of the church leaders
3.  The church’s irrelevance
4.  God is missing from the church

So it challenged me to think how do we answer the question, “Why do we need to go to church?” It makes me question, Are we the people who are in the church doing something wrong or are the people attending not fully, wholly giving themselves completely?

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”(1 Corinthians 12:12).

I think the blame game can be played here. But in reality, there is no perfect church or person for that matter. There will always be variables at play. I believe we do need the church and the church needs us. That is how the beautiful message of the gospel is spread. That is how the body of Christ functions and we become the hands and feet of Jesus. A body works much better when it has all of its parts.

“Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-20

People who go to Alcoholics Anonymous go to keep them accountable. Without accountability what kind of relationship can be built? Church keeps us accountable. It is important to keep coming together and be the church.

Hebrews 10:25 NIV-  “So let’s not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.”

Nothing happens when the car is sitting in the garage with an empty tank. God’s word isn’t meant to stay on the pages of our Bibles, but to be alive and living within us.  His words, His truth, fill us with all we need and more than we can imagine.  His words will sustain and maintain us in this life and for all eternity.  Keep filling up your tank and see how far you go.

Have you given up going to church?

Are you missing from church?

How does church fill you up?

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:27-31

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The Secret to Being Perfect

Summer is here. The sun is shining, kids are out of school, days are filled with relaxing, activities and hopefully vacations.  I love the things we learn from our seasons and vacations we go on.  There’s indigenous wildlife and landscapes we discover in the places we go.  One bird indigenous to Alaska I will never forget is the raven.

These birds live in parking lots and attack trash cans, devouring any food left on the ground. They live up to their name because they are ravenous scavengers that will eat anything. I’ve always wondered why these birds choose to stay during Alaskan winters. If I were a bird I would definitely use the wings God had gave me to fly to warmer temperatures. Even though ravens don’t migrate when the weather gets cold, I don’t think these Alaskan ravens could fly very far even if they had to. They are self-indulgent glutinous birds way too fat to fly anywhere. I have never seen ravens this big ever in my life. These birds may be sleek and shiny on the outside, but their selfish desires hold them captive in the tundra weather as a result.

These Ravens remind me of the Pharisees in the Bible.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26

The Pharisees had a tradition to engage in ceremonial washing of their body before eating, so nothing dirty would enter their bodies. However Jesus was pointing out, the Pharisees were missing the point. What was the point of physically cleaning the outside of their bodies if their hearts were filled with greed and self-indulgence? The Pharisees thought they were perfect because they followed the traditions of men. They were more concerned with keeping the tradition of ceremonial washings then keeping their hearts clean with the righteousness of God.

How true is this for our lives?

Am I like the Pharisee trying to maintain perfection on the outside but really full of un-righteousness on the inside?

I have been guilty of trying to maintain the facade that everything is perfect in my life on the outside by keeping a clean house, car, a perfectly manicured yard, obedient kids, a successful husband the list goes on. Maybe you can relate?

Have you tried to find value and worth through your circumstances like me? Have you tried to seek righteousness in your own works? Truth is I can have everything perfect and neatly organized on the outside but really am falling apart on the inside.

Where is the hope or freedom in my failures?

Is success in life really measured by my performance and how perfect I look from the outside?

There will be times my achievements fail. Times I don’t always get it right.  There will always be another room to clean in my house. There will always be a child’s behavior to correct. There may be times my husband and I don’t get along. There will always be that certain something that doesn’t go as planned.  Does that mean I only receive hope if my circumstances are going well in my life?

Perfectionism and keeping a bunch of rules will never make me righteous or bring me peace or freedomClick To Tweet

I am not perfect.  But I am made perfect in God. Through God’s eyes even when I fall short, He sees me as his perfect workmanship and makes up for my shortcomings (Romans 3:23).

He created and designed all of us with a purpose that is greater than our next performance.

The secret to being perfect isn’t in what we do ourselves with our own strength but in what God can do in us with His strength.Click To Tweet

God cares more about the condition of our hearts than how clean our houses are. His desire is for us to love him with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our minds” (Matthew 22:37).

Jesus tells the Pharisees, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” Matthew 23:26. He was trying to teach them you will always be held captive by selfish desires and trying to maintain perfectionism. We will always be set free in God’s truth and love for us.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

When I seek God for my righteousness and desires of my heart he shows me “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; our souls knows it very well (Psalm 139:14). Righteousness does not come from ourselves or in anything we do, but from God himself.

“…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—“ (Philippians 3:9).

Our hearts will always find peace in His presence and freedom in His truth.

The next time there are a pile of dishes in your sink, say to yourself, “Bless this mess, because I am made perfect in God!” Thankfully God cares more of how clean my heart is than my sink!

Have you ever met someone and thought wow they have it all together, to only find out they are shattered and broken on the inside?

You never know what someone is going through. Just because their life seems perfect on the inside doesn’t mean it’s true.  Thankfully we have all been saved by his grace.  His grace and purpose are always greater.

“He has saved us and called us to holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”  2 Timothy 1:9

Can you relate to the Pharisees?

Do you allow circumstances to enslave you and determine your happiness?

Have you been victim to performance and perfectionism?

How has God’s truth set you free?

Our circumstances will always change.  God’s truth is eternal and everlasting!  There is hope when we seek our truth and identity in God. You are perfectly perfect in who God says you are. He created you and never makes mistakes. You are perfect!

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The Message and The Miracle

Have you ever gone through a hard time in your life and questioned is God even there? Or does he even care?

Sometimes I’ve caught myself questioning God and his motives when I’m going through hard times. I question God ‘why is this happening to me? Don’t you even care?’ Then he so tenderly reminds me, yes he does care more than I’ll ever know.

In my struggle I realize I’m not the one waiting on God, he’s the one waiting on me. If I just opened my eyes to see what God is trying to show me, His creations are all around me. He has made the heavens, the earth and everything in it. He has already sent Jesus to die for us.

Do I really need him to show me another sign of what he is capable of doing?

My unbelief and doubt aren’t so far off from the Pharisees and the crowd Jesus fed.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, capture the life of Jesus, his ministry, his death, and resurrection. Each gospel captures Jesus’ messages and miracles he performed. Jesus didn’t perform a miracle without there being a deeper message at hand. When a person reads the gospels one will see the pattern of a message then a miracle, a message then a miracle. When we look deeper, we can see this message and miracle pattern in our lives as well.

In the gospel of John 6, Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 people from only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. The crowd was amazed at this miraculous sign that Jesus did. After performing this miracle, Jesus withdrew from the crowd knowing the crowd intended to make him their king. The crowd then went looking for Jesus in Capernaum.

When the crowd finds Jesus, he then says, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him and the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (John 6:26-27)

Jesus knew their hearts already. They weren’t looking for a Messiah, the one who could give them eternal life, they were looking for another miracle.

John 6:30 says, “So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?”

Can you even imagine asking Jesus, ‘what else can you do before we believe you?’ It didn’t matter the crowd had just witnessed Jesus miraculously feed a crowd of 5,000 people with just some loaves of bread and fish, the people wanted more.

The crowd didn’t need more proof of Jesus’ abilities, they needed more faith.Click To Tweet

The same scenario happened with the Pharisees after Jesus fed the four thousand people. Afterward the Pharisees questioned Jesus. They wanted to test him and asked him for a sign from heaven.

Jesus sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it” (Mark 8:12).

How many times have we been guilty of this as well?

There are signs all around us that God is with us and cares about our struggles, yet we search for God to prove his divine authority by performing miraculous signs.

In both scenarios, Jesus did not perform another miracle when they demanded it because they lacked faith. Their request for a miracle came from unbelief (Mark 8:11 footnote). God doesn’t need to prove his abilities he is able. There is evidence all around us of his divine abilities.

Do we really need more proof or more faith?Click To Tweet
What greater sign do we need from God that he can handle our trials and struggles that he hasn’t already done for us?Click To Tweet

Do we seek God like the Pharisees and crowd does, only searching for the next miracle? Are we missing the point as well?

Our relationship with God goes deeper than him supplying for all of our needs and making sure everything is good in our lives all the time. Our relationship with God is more than just a good feeling that is temporary. Our relationship with God is eternal and everlasting.

Behind every miracle lies a deeper message.Click To Tweet

What do you seek God for? To perform another miracle? Or to be your Messiah who has come to give you life?

Searching for a miracle from God without faith is like a person telling a horse to move without ears. Faith without action is dead. Seeking a miracle without receiving God’s deeper message is like sending Jesus to die for us without the resurrection. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the greatest message and miracle ever.

Jesus’ death would be pointless if there wasn’t a resurrection. Jesus was preparing the hearts of people to have faith in him was going to require believing in the unseen of what God could do.

Matthew 17:20, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

We only need faith the size of a mustard seed for God to move the mountains in our life.Click To Tweet

Do you believe our faith in God leads to life’s biggest miracles?

Do you see the pattern of a message then a miracle in your life?

It’s all about meeting Jesus right where we are. In Him, we have life to the full that is complete and everlasting (John 10:10). Have a blessed week!

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The Power of God’s Word

I will never forget the first time I opened my Bible to read for the first time.  I didn’t know where to start or what to read.  I felt overwhelmed and lost.  There were so many words and pages.  How did I even begin?  

Once I opened the Scriptures and started reading, a whole new world was open for me.  At times I put prayer and reading the Bible on the back burner.  I let life get the best of me.  I was distracted by everything the world offered me.  The truth is, I’ve been a Christian my whole life and didn’t truly see the value in opening up the Scriptures and reading them until brokenness entered my life.

Nothing makes a person examine their priorities more than when tragedy enters their life. Click To Tweet

Tragedy makes us listen and pay attention.  My brokenness exposed what was I really filling my life with?  What was the meaning and purpose of my life?

The words on the pages of my Bible took on a whole new meaning in my life once tragedy got my attention.  The Bible verses I read became living and breathing in my life.  Opening the Scriptures is where I really met Jesus.  I began to see all of God’s promises, His heart, and character. I realized His words aren’t meant to stay on the pages of the Bible but be made alive in us.  His words are what transform our hearts, minds, and lives.  

I was always so impressed by people who could memorize and recite scripture like it was second nature.  Somehow along the way, I became one of those people, because God’s words became engraved in my heart.  I became hungry and thirsty for more.

From the beginning of time God’s Word has existed and speaks life into our lives.Click To Tweet

God’s words became light.  

And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light day and the darkness he called night.  And there was evening and there was morning—the first day.”  Genesis 1:3-5

God’s words became life.  

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures, according to their kinds:  livestock, creatures that move along the ground and wild animals each according to its kind.”  Genesis 1:24

God’s word became flesh.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

God’s words heal the broken-hearted.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

God’s words transform hearts and lives.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from  your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26

God’s words feed and nourish our souls.  

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven;  if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever;  and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  John 6:51

God’s words are eternal.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  John 1:1-4

God is The Word and The Word is God (John1:1).  God’s word cannot be changed.  They are eternal and everlasting.  His words sustain us and give us life.  God’s word speaks truth and life into our lives and have existed from the beginning of time.  Wherever we are in life we can always meet Jesus right where we are by opening up the Scriptures. 

His Word is perfect.  His Word will guide us.  His Word provides for all of our needs.  

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

His Word completes us.  In God, we lack nothing!

How has reading the Bible changed your life?

Do you struggle with making time to read your Bible?

Do God’s Words speak life into your life?

Nothing opens our hearts more than an open Bible.  Staying in God’s word transforms hearts and lives.  Open your Bible and discover God’s truth and love for you!  Join the Bible reading plan and get started!    

It’s all about meeting Jesus right where we are.  In Him, we will have life to the full that is complete and everlasting (John 10:10).  Have a blessed week!

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Confessions From a Checkbox Christian

Have you ever believed something your whole life and wondered, do I believe what I believe because I believe it or because that is what I’ve been told my whole life?

That is the very question I asked myself when I went away to college and was away from my family for the very first time. I had been a Christian my entire life, but my faith was put to the test when I left home. This was the point in my life was I going to put into practice everything I learned or go along with what the world says I should do? As time went by I found out real fast going along with what the world said I should do got me into trouble. I became more distant from God and wondered why was my life such a mess?

I reflect back upon this time in my life when God was so patient and merciful with me. I can see now how naive I was. In my aimless wandering I became lackadaisical and blind to the realities right in front of me. I came to my senses and realized doing life on my own, without God wasn’t how God designed me.

I started getting back into what I had grown up doing, going to church, praying and periodically reading the Bible. I would have said I was a Christian, but somewhere along the way, my Christianity became more of a routine than it was a relationship with God. Something became lost along the way. I thought by asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior was all I needed to do to maintain a relationship with Him. How wrong I was. I thought by checking off my boxes of going to church, praying and reading my Bible would make me right with God.

Have you ever been caught in the trap of believing your righteousness came from following a bunch of rules?Click To Tweet

What I discovered along the way, was God cared more about the condition of my heart than me externally conforming to His laws. God reminded me, I was just like the Pharisees in the Bible.

The Pharisees were members of an ancient Jewish sect. They strictly observed the traditions and written laws thinking this made them self-righteous, above everyone else. They thought what made them right with God was living by legalism and keeping the written laws by men. In reality, the Pharisees were hypocrites. They honored God with their lips and not their hearts (Mark 7:6).

Wow, Is that how I was living my life, by only honoring God with my lips and not my heart?

The hard answer was, Yes. God desired all of my heart, not to just do what’s right and conform to his laws.  He cares about the condition of our hearts, and I realized I was just going through the motions with a distant heart.  Obeying God’s laws with a distant heart is like a puppet master controlling his puppet. God doesn’t want to control us like puppets, he wants all of our hearts and desires a relationship with us.

The Pharisees believed God’s grace only extended to those who kept his law (Mark 2:16). They didn’t understand why Jesus talked and ate with tax collectors who were considered sinners. Jesus was teaching them there was not a place where God’s grace can’t reach—we are to love sinners, but not the sin.

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).

The Pharisees were holding on to the traditions of the elders telling them not to associate with ‘unclean’ men who were sinners. Jesus was telling them, God’s commands in the Bible have more authority than traditions of men.  God’s commands (His love) accept and love everyone, not discriminate and condemn.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

When I was busy checking off the boxes, living by legalism, I realized there was always going to be another box to check, another rule to follow, or another good deed to accomplish, when was it ever enough to please God?

Living a legalistic life puts the trust in ourselves and not what Jesus did for us. When I was living by legalism, I was putting the hope of salvation upon myself taking God out of the equation. Following all of those rules wasn’t going to get me to heaven—putting my trust and faith in God was.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

In God’s love, we can be set free from checking the boxes.

There will always be another box to check.  The promise of salvation will never come from following a bunch of rules (Galatians 2:21). We are already worthy in God’s eyes don’t have to earn or prove our worth by performing more. If we weren’t worthy, God would have never sent Jesus in the first place.

We receive the righteousness of God through our faith in him.

I realized we become righteous through our faith in Christ, not by anything we do on our own (Philippians 3:9 NLT). Our good works and abiding in God’s commands is a result of His righteousness overflowing from within us—not something we do ourselves.

When I was living by legalism, I was missing out on the beautiful message of the gospel. God’s love transforms hearts and lives. His love is a free gift in which He offers to everyone. No amount of good works could ever repay Jesus for what he has done for us already.

So take the advice from a recovered box checker, you never have to check another box off again when God’s love is living in your heart. Accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior is the key to my salvation and allowing God to have all my heart is the key to transforming hearts and lives.

It’s all about meeting Jesus right where we are. In Him, we have life to the full that is complete and everlasting (John 10:10). Have a blessed week!

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3 Valuable Lessons Failure Can Teach Us

Failure.  We have all been there.  We never forget when we fail at something.  Even though it seems horrible at the time, it can be one of the best learning experiences we go through.  Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Dr. Seuss are among some of the most successful people in history who accredit their success to their previous failures.  

A failure I will never forget is the day I failed my nursing boards (this was 19 years ago).  I had studied so hard, the result was devastating.  Three valuable lessons I learned in my failure, I carry with me to this day.  

3 Valuable Lessons Failure Teaches Us
Failure:

1. Builds character– It makes us mentally tougher.  It Prepares us to be able to do hard things.  It teaches life is not easy and we have to keep trying.  Failing my boards made me try harder.  It taught me the value in working harder, pushing myself to reach my goal.  It taught me perseverance.  Perseverance teaches us how to get through tough times.  It helps prepare us for what lies ahead.  “God doesn’t care about our achievements while we’re here on this earth. He cares about our character.” by Rick Warren

2.  Never allow numbers on a piece of paper define who you are  Whether it’s a grade you receive in class, a class rank you receive or what’s in your bank account, you are more than numbers on a piece of paper.  Take that all away, you are still who you are.

Never allow present failure define future success.Click To Tweet

Failures shape our future, prepare us for what lies ahead and make us stronger.  (The enemy) wants us to believe that we are no good, not worthy and are not able to do it.  Just because one door has closed doesn’t mean another one won’t open up.  Sometimes our failures will lead us to better paths ahead.  Allow failure to Shape your future, not define it.  

3.  Never allow failure to stop you from moving forward or accomplishing your goals.  The best way to respond to failure, is to ask, ‘What can I learn from this?’  Apply it and Keep Going. How many times did the Apostle Paul get thrown into jail and was persecuted for what he believed?  A lot.  He could have looked at his many situations as failures.  That never stopped him to on Keep Going.  He didn’t look at his situation as failure, but as an opportunity to learn, become stronger and persevere.    

God always has something better ahead. A closed door now doesn't mean another one won't open in the future. Click To Tweet

Hard work, perseverance and commitment, pays off in the long run.  You never know where your failures might lead you.  Looking back, I realized how important the lessons I learned from failing.  I learned failure….  

  • Prepared me for my future.  
  • How God used it and turned it into something better.  

I went on to obtain my Masters Degree in Nurse Anesthesia.  After the failed nursing board attempt, I never failed another test again.

I have been a nurse for 19 years, not once has a patient asked me, What grade did you get in Anatomy Class?  Did you graduate Summa Cum Laude?  Or did you pass your nursing boards the first time?  What a patient will ask you, is how long have you been a nurse?  They care about my experience and will I take good care of them, not if I’m valedictorian.  
Patients grade me on how I treat them, which is the most important grade I could ever receive.  

You are Important, Worthy and Valuable.  No matter what another person says or what failure has occurred, You Matter.  You are God’s workmanship.  He created you with a Purpose, not to be defeated but to to be Victorious.  He designed you to Succeed.  Even if you fail Now, it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in the Future.  God will use your failures for future successes.  Take this from someone who has been on the other side of failure.  

Has Failure been apart of Your Life?

In What Ways has Failure Helped Shape Your Future?

Has God used your Failure and turned it into something Better? 

Don’t Give up, Don’t lose hope, Keep Going.  “For I know the Plans for you, plans to prosper you not to harm, but to give you Hope.”  Jerimiah 29:11 NIV

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A Prayer for Vision

 

Have you ever been so afraid of something it kept you from engaging in life?  It kept you from travel plans, going out with friends or being involved in relationships.  I’ve been there, allowing my fears to linger and build to the point of isolation.  Fear can be so crippling, not allowing us to live life, keeping us from God’s abundant plans.

Faith and fear cannot reside in the same heart.  Fear alters our vision making it difficult to see God’s plan for us.  God never intended for us to live in fear, but to live in the abundance of everything He has to offer.  Today I pray our eyes are opened to see a clearer vision for our lives, the way God sees us.

In 2 Kings 6, there was an ongoing war with the Arameans and Israel.  The king of Aram became infuriated when he learned Elisha the prophet warned the king of Israel of the plan to set his army’s camp by the border of Israel.  Once King Aram’s officials told him where Elisha was, he made plans to capture him.  He sent horses, chariots, and a strong force to surround the city of Dothan ( 2 Kings 6:8-13).

The next morning Elisha’s servant saw the army of horses and chariots surrounding them.  The servant asked, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”  (2 Kings 6:15).

I love this next part.  Elisha’s response wasn’t to engage in his servant’s fears but to give him encouragement and invite him in to see what he saw.

Elisha tells his servant, 'Don't be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them' (2 Kings 6:16). Click To Tweet

Wow, I can’t imagine Elisha’s bold confidence.  His eyes saw the same thing his servant did, yet he did not waver.  His response could have only come from God Himself.  Even though Elisha saw the danger with his physical eyes, he stood firm in God’s divine power of what He is able to do.

Elisha then turned to God in prayer and said, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

Elisha’s prayer amazes me.  He didn’t ask God to help save them from the attacking enemy armies, instead asked God to open the eyes of his servant so he could see what Elisha saw.

I would surely think the next thing Elisha would ask God for was protection against the attacking enemy army.  Instead, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike these people with blindness.”  God heard Elisha’s prayer and struck them with blindness, as Elisha asked (2 Kings 6:18).

The servant witnessed firsthand the power of Elisha’s prayer for vision.  His eyes were opened to see what God and Elisha saw.  Elisha’s prayer took the focus off of the enemy/fear and prayed a prayer for vision to see God’s divine power more clearly.  We may not always see God’s bigger plan, but He is always at work behind the scenes.

Our own physical vision can limit us to focus on the circumstances that surround us, but God’s vision can free us to focus on His abilities, putting our trust in Him.  We can follow Elisha’s pattern of prayer when we feel our fears caving in.

Elisha’s Vision of Prayer:

  1.  He recognized the enemy’s plan to instill fear.  Instead of being a victim of fear, He put his hope and trust in God’s abilities of what He was able to do.
  2. He turned to God in prayer.  Instead of worrying, He sought God and prayed.
  3. He stood firm in God’s promises, his faith did not waver.

Satan will always try to keep us from God’s plans by instilling fear in us.  Fear will always blind us to God’s presence.  We must recognize the tactics of the enemy, stand firm in God’s promises, seek God in prayer and trust in Him.  The closer we are to God, the more clearly we can see His vision for us and hear His voice.

Are you struggling to see past your circumstances?

Write your own prayer for vision.  Ask God to see what He sees.

Prayer-  Lord Jesus, open our eyes so we can see what you see.  We pray our vision will not blind us to your presence of voice, that we will see and hear what you want us to.  We pray we will stand firm in your promises and trust in your divine power.  You are greater.  We pray your desires will be greater than our desires.  You are our God who loves us more than anything.  We praise you and thank you for your eternal gifts.

I pray for God’s vision in your life to see more clearly what God sees.  You are loved!

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