Under the Influence

 

Influence (Noun)-  the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others:

We are all under the influence of something.  Cops use this phrase all the time, he was driving under the influence.  Now there are breathalyzers and blood tests to measure someone’s blood alcohol level.  When a person comes into the ER they tell us “I only had 2 drinks,” but the results of their blood tests, tells the real story.

In 2016 over 10,000 people in Colorado were arrested for DUI’s.  Being under the influence of alcohol clouds judgement and allows not good choices to impact the future.  Being under the influence, influences them in ways they would normally not be influenced.

'Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit.' Ephesians 5:18Click To Tweet

I don’t know if you’ve come across this verse before.  But I always found it odd how the Holy Spirit is compared to wine.  Looking closer I see why.  Being intoxicated on wine ruins our judgement controlling our minds.  Paul is trying to express to the Ephesians be filled with the Holy Spirit instead which leads to self-control.  Sounds boring right?  In reality we receive so much more in our self-control.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit isn’t just a one time filling but a regular pattern of life.

What Really Influences Us?

FRIENDS.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been influenced by my friends when I was growing up.  Somewhere along the way I valued what my friends thought more than what God thought.  I fell to peer pressure over and over again, reaping the consequences every time.  We are who we hang out with.  If we hang out with others who curse chances are we’ll start cursing.  If we hang out with others who (fill in the blank)  ______________________ chances are we will start doing what they are doing.  We are influenced by those in our inner circle.

“Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”  1 Corinthians 15:33

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs  13:20

THE WORLD.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2
There have been so many times I’ve been intoxicated on worldly treasures.  I made them more than God.  I pursued worldly treasures instead of what God desired for me.
How often are we lured away by everything the world has to offer?  We form little g, gods we bow down to allowing them to rule us.  We chase dangling carrots, empty promises of being rich, false images that fall apart don’t last–all for what?  This year I want to ask myself, what influences me?  Following the world or Jesus?
POSITIVITY.  “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:1.  I admit I have gotten into bad patterns of negativity at times.  I’ve allowed negativity to encroach my thoughts and spill out into my actions.  How much more are you impacted when someone responds in love?  When a person could have chosen to get angry and yell, but instead chose to speak love.
JESUS.  His influence changed the hearts and lives of the world while he was on this earth and still impacts us even after he’s gone.  The legacy of love, kindness, compassion, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, joy and patience is insurmountable.
I’d like to say church influences us.  But really many of us, me included, for years have shown up to church sat there, listened to the message, let’s be real here, zoned out and thought of the hundred other things I’ve needed to do.  I’ve sat there taking up space, but my heart wasn’t focused, wasn’t present.  After leaving church, life just went on as if I never went.  The message didn’t seep through.  The message didn’t influence me.  Why?  To be under the influence one has to receive.  One has to partake.  One has to be engaged.  We can’t just expect to be under the influence of something by merely taking up space or by osmosis.  Just like a car can’t run without it’s gas tank being filled with gas over and over, our spiritual lives can’t be influenced without being drunk on the Holy Spirit.  Sounds weird right?

Being influenced requires a regular pattern of life.  A regular filling.  A regular receiving.

We may get mad at God and ask why has nothing changed in my life?  The answer may be what influences us?  Who do we hang out with?  What do we spend most of our time doing?  What music do we listen to?  What words come our of our mouths?  What are we really putting into our hearts, minds, mouths and minds?
A tree doesn’t grow without water, sunlight or the proper soil just as we won’t grow without the proper influence.  There may not be a blood tests that measures what is the level of our spiritual influence.  But there is an indicator in our lives that lets us know what influences us–what fruit is growing in our lives?  An apple tree is recognized by its apples just as a lemon tree is recognized by its lemons.  The fruit of kindness, gentleness, joy, peace and self-control is evident when it is growing in our lives. (Galatians 5:22-23)?

What kind of fruit is growing in your life?

If you would like to know what is preventing growth in your life, revisit the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13.  Read what sets a person up for success and eternal growth.  There is no one else who influences us more than Jesus.  His influence has transformed our hearts and lives forever that makes an eternal difference.

What Influences Your Life?

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A Love That Transcends All Borders

There are some things in this life that are hard to describe unless they are witnessed firsthand.  I have been a nurse for almost 19 years and have witnessed some of life’s most amazing and devastating moments.  I would like to share with you one of those moments today that has been ingrained forever in my heart.  

This particular day, I had already finished a couple of cases in the operating room.  People who know me, know I wear a cross necklace.  As I entered the room of the next patient, he saw the cross I was wearing around my neck.  Before I had the chance to introduce myself, he held out his hands for me to hold.  He took my hands then said, “Do you believe Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?”  I said, “Yes.”  It was obvious this patient did not speak much English.  He smiled and said in his broken English, “Then you are my sister.” 

Here was a man (probably of Russian descent) whom I’ve never met before, embracing and proclaiming me to be his sister in Christ before he even knew my name.  

As I was still holding this man’s hand, I responded back to him, “Then you are my brother.”  

What’s so amazing about this moment, it didn’t matter this man could barely speak English. It didn’t matter he didn’t know my name—he didn’t need to.  He only needed to know that I loved and accepted Jesus as my Savior.  We didn’t need to speak the same language to understand God’s love for us.  God’s love is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NIVClick To Tweet

This man showed me it doesn’t matter if we are Catholic, Greek or Jewish.  When we accept the love of Jesus, we become the same lineage, united by the blood of Christ which makes us brothers and sisters.  In God’s love, there are no orphans left behind.  It doesn’t matter if we came from a broken home, a perfect home or don’t have a home.  The love of Jesus provides a home for everyone– his love is our home.  We are all apart of God’s one big family when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, adopted by the blood of Christ.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  Ephesians 1:5 NLT

Once we are adopted into God’s family, we become new citizens not of this world but of heaven.  

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;”  Philippians 3:20

God’s love is what transforms our hearts and our lives.  

“who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”  Philippians 3:21

My patient recognized I was a part of his family that day because I was wearing my cross.  What if I wasn’t wearing my cross?  How would others recognize we are apart of the same family?

Watching the news, there is so much division and hard to tell who is apart of God’s family because of our differences.  Even in our differences, God’s love is what unites us.  

His grace is what saves us.  When Christ lives in us, his loving kindness overflows from within us, allowing others to see the love of Jesus.  When we give the lovingkindness of God, others will know how much God loves them and in Christ, we are all apart of God’s holy family.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” Phil 4:1

There is no greater love than the love of Jesus.  God could have lived anywhere in the world but he chose to live in our hearts! (author unknown).  You are loved my sister (or brother)!

Are you apart of God’s one big family?

How can we show others we are apart of God’s family?

Nothing unites us and draws us closer to God than when we read scripture together!  It’s not too late!  Join the Bible reading plan. 

Want to tell others how much God loves them? Click Here For Free Valentine Printable Cards with Bible Verses!

 

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Want to know more about being apart of God’s big family?  Are you my brother or sister in Christ?  Please introduce yourself, I would love to hear from you!    Please Leave Your Comments Below.  Have a Blessed Week!


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A Selfless Love

Today we are going to hear a story of great selfless love. Have you ever witnessed an act of selfless love that touched your heart beyond measure?  Last week we talked about how we are all apart of God’s one big family when we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  God’s family started with the greatest selfless love of all— the sacrifice of his one and only son, Jesus.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Ephesians 2:13

Selfless love all starts with a sacrifice.  It never expects anything in return.  When this type of love is given, a person always receives more than they give.

One of the most selfless acts of love has to be when a mother gives her child up for adoption.  I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to surrender over motherly rights to another mother.  How selfless of a birth mother to put her own child’s needs above her own.  It reminds me of what God does for us everyday.  By giving up her motherly rights she gives another woman a chance to be a mother who may not be able to become a mother on her own.  She gives her child a chance for a better life than she could give herself.

I have worked in the operating room as a nurse anesthetist for over 13 years and in that time, I have witnessed hundreds of babies born.  I will never forget the selfless love of the mother who gave her baby up for adoption.

An Act of Selfless Love
We had gone back to the operating room to prepare for a cesarean section.  Usually the husband or close family members comes back to the operating room to witness the birth of their new born baby.  This time there wasn’t a husband or family member, but the adoptive mother who was present.  When the baby was born, I felt overwhelmed with emotion for both the birth and adoptive mother.  I was in a quandary because the birth mother was my patient whom I was taking care of.  I usually tell the mother congratulations after her baby is born.   This time however, I was trying to console the birth mother who was crying and congratulate the adoptive mother who was rejoicing at the same time.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”  Matthew 18:5

I was overjoyed for the new adoptive mother but at the same time saddened for the loss the birth mother must have felt.  It makes me wonder if this is how God feels about us?  He loved us so much that He sacrificed his own son for us in order to be apart of His family.  He paid the price for us through the blood of Jesus.  In Christ we are all united by the same spiritual DNA, the blood of Jesus.  There are no orphans in God’s selfless love“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”  (John 14:18).  

“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  (Galatians 3:26)

God’s selfless love makes our adoption complete into His big family.  How beautiful it is when you see an adoption story?  One where you know a child is now going to have a life where they are loved by family regardless of them being adopted or not.  We are all God’s children, he loves us all the same whether we are adopted or not. 

“He predestined us[a] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”  (Ephesians 1:5-6)

In God’s family we become new citizens of heaven of God’s household.  In His selfless love we are made complete.  

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

Have you ever witnessed an act of selfless love that stirred your heart?

How has God’s selfless love impacted your life?

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Nothing is greater or bigger than the love of Jesus. You are loved! 

I would love to hear from you!  Please Leave Your Comments Below.  Have a Blessed Week!


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The Intimacy of Grace

In your own words, what does grace mean to you?

Many of us use the term grace loosely, by putting an introductory word before it, like that’s my saving grace, we sing the song amazing grace, we even say grace around our dinner tables before eating.  Grace is such a beautiful entity by itself and doesn’t really need another presiding word next to it.

What is grace and why do we even need it?

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, our world is a pretty corrupt and evil place.  We need grace like we need oxygen to breathe.

Grace is one of those definitions we can read from a book, but isn’t really understood until we’ve received it.

Grace by definition means the ‘unmerited favor of God towards man.’

Grace is something God freely gives us.  There’s an antinomy of grace which exists where we are all given the free gift of grace, something we could never earn or deserve.  Yet how could we be freely given something without ever earning or deserving it?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–”  Ephesians 2:8

The answer is simply, because He loves us.  

How many of us have gotten close enough to grace to see what the grace of God really entails? Click To TweetThere are so many pictures of grace in which Jesus shows us He loves us despite our shortcomings, our failures and mistakes.

We see His grace in the story of The Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32, when a father takes back his son after he left and spent all of his inheritance.  He celebrates his return with the fattest cow in the herd to show his son how much he missed and loved him.  He didn’t chastise him.  He didn’t give him a lecture, ‘I told you so.’  He embraced him with his undying love sending the message, ‘you are loved and I missed you.’

We see His grace with Peter in John 21:15-25, when Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”  He asks him the same question three times in a row, the same amount of times Peter denied Jesus after he was captured by Roman soldiers.  Asking Peter to profess his love for him the same amount of times Peter denied him, invited him into God’s sanctuary of grace allowing him to receive redemption.

We see His grace with the stoning of the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11.  When a woman is brought before Jesus in front of a crowd of people to make judgement upon her for her actions, Jesus responds in a way no one had ever heard or seen before.  Jesus then says to the people, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”  Then one by one everyone dropped their stones and walked away.  When no one was left except Jesus and the woman, Jesus asked, “Where are your accusers?  Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”

These pictures of grace show me, God doesn’t condemn us but loves us despite our wrongdoing.  Grace doesn’t mean he likes our sin or even agrees with it, but means He never turns his back on us or leaves us.

The definition of Intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean something physical.  By definition intimacy means ‘close familiarity or friendship, closeness.’

There is an intimacy or closeness of grace that we would never receive if we weren’t near Him. In each of the above scenarios, each person received God’s grace when they were in His presence.  When God’s love was poured out to them instead of condemnation.

There isn’t a clause that says, grace covers everyone except the evil and wicked, God’s grace is for everyone who willingly accepts it.  God’s grace is one of those things we keep close by but rarely get close to because we’re afraid there’s something required of us.  There must be something God wants from us in order to give this to us.

God wants US.  He wants our HEARTS.  He desires Us.

Imagine if you were the woman whose life was spared from being stoned.  Imagine if you were given that much love and grace, how would you respond?  I think God’s grace was the deal breaker that changed her life to not want to sin anymore.  When God’s grace is staring at us directly in the face, it’s hard to deny the source of where it came from.

We receive the Intimacy of Grace when:

God pours joy into our pain

God’s love chases us down in the most unlikely places

It doesn’t matter how far lost or gone we are, He will find and embrace unconditionally

God covers our shame and there’s no where else to hide except in his light

Even in our poor choices we receive forgiveness and redemption

We receive his eternal gift of salvation

The most intimate, closest moments I’ve had with God were when I’ve been the most broken.  When I’ve been down on my knees before him alone in prayer and he whispers to me, ‘my child I AM here.’

He loves us so much he sent his son to die for us so we could be with Him in heaven.  The same way the cross brought pain to Jesus is the same cross that brings us freedom.  The same grave that brought death to Jesus, is the same grave that brings victory to us.

The closer we get to God’s grace the clearer we see, there’s nothing we could do to make God not love us more or leave us.  The closer we are the clearer we see his undying, unconditional, eternal love desires us more than anything.  Have you received God’s wonderful gift of grace?  You are loved my friend!

How close have you been to God’s grace?

Do you believe God’s grace is for you?

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#ShareFourSomethings

Loved- God’s Grace Said-Song by Elevation “Come to the Altar” Learned- You don’t have to be good to be perfect Read- Everybody Always by Bob Goff


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Mountains and Valleys

Many of us have read or heard of the very popular Bible passage Psalm 23, where David talks about God being his Shepherd, how he leads him beside still waters and restores his soul.  One part of this verse stirs something deep within my heart in verse 4.

Psalm 23:4 ESV

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]  I will fear no evil, for you are with me;  your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Have you ever had a season in your life you didn’t want to be in, where you asked God, “Why am I here?”  “What am I doing in this place?”  With fists clenched, heels digging in the ground, telling God, “I don’t want to be here!”  Sounds like the valley of the shadow of death is one of those places.  Other versions of this verse also read valley of darkness or death.

What do you think David saw when he walked through the valley of darkness?

The valley David refers to in this verse is a valley in the desert of Judah.  Anyone who walks through this valley is putting themselves at risk of encountering anything lurking in the darkness, wildlife, bandits, even a random flash flood.

What strikes me, David is walking through the valley where there is a shadow of death.  Where there was a lot of unknowns surrounding him.  Anything could attack or happen to him at any moment.  Yet, he didn’t run away from the darkness, he didn’t take a different route, he walks right through it.

Do you think David knew he was going to walk through a valley of death?

I think many of us would have turned around if we knew what lied ahead.  We always wonder why God doesn’t share details with us.  If we really knew, we wouldn’t go where God was asking us to go.  David then says in response to walking in the valley, “I will fear no evil, you’re rod and staff comfort me.”  David knew even if he was in the valley he was safe and protected because God was with him every step of the way.

In Everybody Always, Bob Goff talks about fighter pilots who train in the valleys in between the mountains.  When asked why do they train at lower elevations where winds can get them, their response was, ‘so we can get better.’

God isn't always going to lead us to the safest route forward but to the one where we will grow the most. God knows without risk we wouldn't grow #quote @BobGoff #EverybodyAlwaysClick To Tweet

David knew walking through the valley would be hard.  But he also knew in the valley is where he learned to depend on and trust in God the most.  Walking through the valley will be dark and seem like God is far away.  When we trust in what God is able to do and not in what we see, He walks us safely to the other side every time.

It is so easy to praise God when we’re standing on the mountain but not always so easy when we’re deep in the valleys.

Imagine what would happen if we took the same approach as David?  If we faced our fears, our darkness and walked through them, depending on God for our guidance and comfort when we’re afraid?

In the valley is where we grow the most and receive the sweetest most unexpected victories when we trust God to walk us to the other side of our darkness.

Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

God goes and prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.  God doesn’t promise we won’t have to walk through our valleys in the absence of our enemies, but in their presence.  As our enemies surround us God our Shepherd, the master of provision provides for us everything we need in the midst of our battles.

The enemies in our lives are powerless over us when we praise him in our darkness–when we push through holding onto God’s hand, when we trust and don’t know how everything will turn out.  God’s generosity of mercy and grace then overflows in us, all the days of our lives and we will dwell in his house forever (Psalm 23:6).  In God’s house lies a sanctuary of peace and love like none other that sets us free from the fears of any darkness.

The next time fear gets the best of you, allow God to be your Shepherd leading you through your dark valleys.  Pray Psalm 23 over your situation.  Close your eyes and follow the voice of the Shepherd.  Trust in Him, take His hand, He knows the way.

A voice cries:[a]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

What season are you in?

How do you allow God to lead you through your valley?

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The Clothes We Wear

I’m always so amazed when I’m in my closet looking for an outfit when I pass by something I’ve worn before at an event in my life, I’m taken back to that day.

When my eyes set on my wedding gown that’s preserved in a box in my closet, I’m taken back to my wedding day.

When I browse by an ugly sweater I wore to a Christmas party I’m taken back to that day.

When I peruse past a certain dress, I’m taken back to the day of the funeral, the ball, the function I attended.

Why is it every shirt, pair of shoes or dress I wear just by looking at the outfit I’ve worn before, my mind takes me back to that memory of the day of the clothes I’ve worn.

Yet when I put on those clothes I am branded with the memory or feeling associated with those clothes.

My memory is my memory regardless of the clothes I wore, yet I identify myself with them.

The clothes I wore don’t define me.Click To Tweet

The clothes I wear don’t make me who I am.

The clothes I wear don’t make me more important.

They don’t give me more value.

They don’t prove anything.

They are just mere clothes I wear.

So how do I rid myself of these associations?

By putting on a new wardrobe.

Colossians 3:10 MSG, “10 Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.”

Paul is telling the Colossians they don’t have to focus on past labels or the old fashions of life. He was teaching them when their focus was on their Creator, on what He had done for them, they were putting on a new wardrobe, a new self one that was free from their past.

Colossians 3:12 MSG

12 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

We have been chosen to live out a life of love and not bound to the mistakes of our past or ugly cycles of defeat. When we clothe ourselves with the loving kindness compassion of Christ we are putting on a new wardrobe, a new self.

So maybe the clothes I wear do define me?

The worldly clothes I wear don’t define me, but the clothing of Christ does.

I love the way Paul teaches because he uses analogies we all can relate to of physical, worldly things and translates them into the spiritual. He even tells the Colossians in (Col. 3:8 MSG), “Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.”

We don’t have to revert back to old ways, we don’t have to keep putting on that old wardrobe that keeps us cuddled up to our sins. We can take them off and throw them away for good never returning back to them because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Do you have the one stand out garment in your closet, the go-to garment you put it on and everyone recognizes its unique and different?

Paul gives further instructions and tells us about stand out garments.

“13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it”. (Colossians 3:13-14 MSG).

No matter what wear love. That is our go to, must have garment.Click To Tweet

When we put on love we are able to be kind, compassionate, humble, and forgive. We are able to leave behind the past allow ourselves to walk into the future filled with hope and freedom.

When we put on love we will be filled with God’s strength and discipline. We don’t have to try with our own strength when we put on love we are free from our sinful tendencies.

When we put away our bad tempers, irritability, meanness, profanity, and dirty talk, and put on love, others in the world will notice and recognize the love and compassion of Christ. And “When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too – the real you, the glorious you” (Colossians 3:4 MSG).

What kind of clothes do you wear?

What’s in your wardrobe?

A Prayer- Lord Jesus, help us get rid of anything keeping us in the past, keeping us from you. Help us get rid of our old worldly wardrobes and clothe ourselves with your kindness, humility, strength, discipline and above all else your love, God. I pray we will choose to wear love every day. May it be apart of our everyday lives, our everyday speech and actions. May love be our choice and response above all things, Lord. Help us put on a new wardrobe, one that you have created, never to put on our old wardrobe again. We thank you and praise you Jesus for who you are and what you are able to do. We love you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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I would love to start a conversation with you! Leave your comments below!  


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Mary- A Heart Prepared

 

Are you getting ready for Christmas?  I don’t know about you, but every year I get caught off guard with all the preparation to get ready for Christmas!  It seems no matter how much I plan, there is always something to get ready for.

The busyness of Christmas can be distracting and overwhelming to our hearts because of all the extra stress the holidays add to our plates.   Then before we know it we are missing out on the very reason why we celebrate Christmas.

A prophet named Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David!  Is it not enough to try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa. 7:13-14).

I Love how God Uses the Unlikely to Carry out His Almighty Plan.

In the verse above, the Prophet Isaiah was preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus.

Luke 1:26-35….”God sent the angel…to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary….

Mary was just a young peasant girl who was about to be married.  Why would God choose her?  The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).  The Greek word for highly favored is charis which means grace.  God had found favor in Mary and bestowed a special honor on her.  God sent an angel to prepare Mary’s heart for God’s greater plan.

Gabriel, the angel prepares Mary’s heart, that she will be with child and his name will be Jesus.

Gabriel goes even further and tells Mary five things about her future son.

1.  He will be great.  Luke 1:32

2.  He will be called the Son of the Most High. Luke 1:32

3.  He will be given the throne of His father David.  Luke 1:32

4.  He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.  Luke 1:33

5.  His kingdom will never end.  Luke 1:33

“How will this be,”  Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34).  This is what I love about Mary.  She doesn’t question the fact that the Messiah is coming, but rather that she would be used as a vessel for his arrival, a young virgin peasant girl.  She didn’t doubt or question God’s plan but how will this even be possible since she is a virgin?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”  (Luke 1:35).  

I don’t know about you, but I want a heart like Mary’s.  A heart that is ready to trust and receive God’s promises. Mary’s heart welcomed the angel’s message, by submitting her heart almost immediately after hearing his message!  She didn’t let her doubts or fears get in the way of God’s plan.  She allowed for God’s greater plan to happen through her by submitting her heart to God.  How wise was Mary’s heart to recognize this message could have only come from God Himself.

Mary heard the message of God’s promise, and her heart of faith was reassured by the words, “For nothing is impossible with God”  (Luke 1:37).  She even uttered the words, “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  No wonder God found favor with Mary.  God already knew Mary’s heart before He chose her.

I want a heart like Mary’s.

Can you imagine if Mary didn’t allow for God’s greater plan to happen and allowed her doubts and fears to get in the way instead?

Have you ever allowed your doubts and fears get in the way of God’s greater plan?

I have many times.

May we all have a heart like Mary's, a heart that faithfully responds to His promises. Click To Tweet

This Christmas before we allow busyness and distractions to take us away from the true meaning of Christmas, let’s stop and allow God to prepare our hearts for His greater plan.  There is a fullness of joy when we stay present in the presence of Jesus.  We can rest assured—that His peace will fill our hearts and joy will fill our souls when we allow for God’s greater plan to happen through us.

A heart prepared is a heart ready to receive God's promises of peace, hope, and joy.Click To Tweet

Have you allowed God to Prepare your heart to receive His Promises this Christmas?

If God sent an angel to you with a message, “Do not be afraid.”  Would you go where God was asking you to go?

Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you God for your greater plan.  Thank you God for Jesus and preparing a place in heaven for us.  We pray we will have a heart like Mary’s, one that is obedient, faithful and trusting of your plan even when we don’t understand.  Prepare our hearts Lord for your greater promises.  We pray we will not get in the way of your plan but allow your greater plan to happen through us.  We pray for your will and ways to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Help us not be afraid like Mary and allow for your greater promises to fill our hearts.  Help us stay present in your presence this Christmas and focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!  Would you like to know more about the Christmas story!  Join me next Monday as we learn more about what the Christmas story means to you.  

Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 205). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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A Letter From Jesus: A note to my inner Enneagram

 

This year has been a really hard year for me in regard to discovering things about myself I never knew.  It’s been a year God has been using to grow me in ways I never knew I needed.  I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, reading and just spending time with God.  I’ve read books like “Kill the Spider,” “Soul Detox,” “Nehemiah,” and “The Road Back to You.”   Based on the titles of these books you can guess what kind of person I am, which ironically I didn’t know about myself until just recently–I’m a perfectionist.  Anyone who knows me would say, ‘there’s no way you’re a perfectionist’ based on what they see outwardly, but inwardly quite frankly, I beat myself up every day.

In Kill The Spider, I learned I need to kill the spider creating cobwebs in my life.  If I never target the very thing creating the mess, the mess will just keep reoccurring over and over.

In Soul Detox, I learned I need to get rid of the things contaminating my life, whether it be relationships, things in my environment, or what I’m goes into my ears and eyes, holding onto things that are toxic will only make for more toxicity.

In The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, I learned I am a one with a two-wing, which in enneagram language means I am a reformer at heart, I want to change the world and I have helper qualities.  For anyone who has taken a personality test and doesn’t like to be pegged to a number, this is more than labeling you into a certain category.  This book has helped me see myself the way God sees me, to not allow my flaws and inadequacies define me or make me stumble, but embrace them to be used the way God intended for them.

My flaws make me closer to God and more dependent upon Him. If I didn't have inadequacies, I wouldn't need God. Click To Tweet

I can be overly critical or judgmental of myself at times.  I constantly go over in my head how I could have done things better, how something could be improved, what I wish I would have said.  It can get tiring hearing these voices in my head over and over pointing out mistakes I’ve made, telling me whatever I did wasn’t good enough.

Sometimes I just need a break from myself and replace these nagging voices with what God says about me.   I have to be careful not to allow the inner critic in me or my constant comparison to unrealistic standards pull me down to the point I can’t hear God’s voice.  So I turn to the One who knows me best.

A Letter From Jesus:

Dear Child,  You are loved.  I want to remind you, you are good enough.  You are more than your failures, you are more than your past mistakes.  You aren’t the labels you have put on yourself.  You are definitely not the lies the enemy has told you.  You are who I say you are.  I have created you just the way you are for a reason.  Your flaws don’t define you, I do.  I will use your flaws for my greater plan.  Stay close to me.  Depend on me for all your needs.

Find refuge and peace in my presence, don’t go ahead of me.  I have the greatest plans for you.  Trust in my goodness and in what I’m able to do.  Don’t focus on your obstacles, your mistakes or flaws, stay focused on me and my purpose for you.  I will guide you if you let me.  I accept and love you for who you are.  Don’t allow your flaws to hold you back or keep you from participating in the plans I have for you. Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t seek your value and worth in the comparison of others, find your value and worth in Me.  Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you make mistakes.

Surround yourself with my truth in who I say you are.  I created you.  Seek your identity in me, guard yourself against the lies of the world surround yourself with my truth.  You may not be where you want to be, sweet child, this is a journey, not a race, enjoy it.  You are one of my best creations.  I find joy in you.  I will be your strength.  You are loved whether you succeed or fail.  It’s okay if things aren’t perfect.  I will use you to display my perfection. You are loved and you are good enough.  I will never leave you.  I am here for you, hold onto my promises, we will do this together.

Love, Jesus

A couple pieces of advice I give myself to help battle through the process of perfectionism are,

  1.  Give yourself permission to laugh at yourself.  I tend to be serious at times and just need to have a good ole chuckle when I do make mistakes or don’t say things perfectly.
  2. When the volume of your inner critic starts getting loud, smile and say I appreciate your help but I am learning how to accept and embrace my imperfections.  Say, “I am who God says I am, He loves me just the way I am, it’s okay if it’s not perfect.”
  3. Find a hobby you enjoy doing just because you like doing it.  I have picked up card-making (I’m not that good at it), but it’s one of those hobbies I enjoy and give myself the liberty to mess up and be okay with it, because the cards I give to people give purpose to the reformer in me, helping others when life hurts.
  4. Surround yourself with God’s word of who He says you are.  Read Scripture about who God says you are (Psalm 139:14 and 2 Timothy 1:7).  Listen to Lauren Daigle’s song, “You say,” or Hillsong’s song, “I am Who You Say I am.”  

If you know anyone who struggles with perfectionism or who they are in Christ here are other helpful articles I’ve written that have helped me in the process.

Failures Don’t Define Us

You Are Not Qualified

God is refining us.  One of the best lessons I am learning on this journey is to embrace God’s purpose for me despite my flaws and obstacles.  If you are a One on the Enneagram and can relate to this message please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.  Authors of The Road Back to you write, “May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, behind every facade of your life is something eternally beautiful.  May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride and expectation which God sees you in every moment” (Cron and Stable).

Join me in the journey of embracing who you are in Christ by taking the Free Enneagram test and reading “The Road Back to You.”  It’s not about labels but living in the healthiest version of yourself and allowing God to use all of you including your flaws.

Can you relate to this article?  Please share.  Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a FREE mini E-book “The Jericho Prayer,” and a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

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Parts of Mark Batterson’s Whisper How to Hear the Voice of God 5-day Reading Plan from the You Version Bible reading plan were used for this post.
Cron, I. M. (2016). The road back to you: An Enneagram journey to self-discovery. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press

Praying Like it Counts

Have you ever prayed so hard for a prayer you desired God to answer?

Not just any ordinary prayer haphazardly thrown up to heaven, in hopes God will answer. But praying like you believe God is able to move the mountains. Praying as your life depended upon it.

Maybe you’re praying, for your marriage to be restored, for someone to be healed from a sickness, or for a struggle or temptation to be removed from your life.

Whatever circumstance you’re praying for, do you believe God is able?

One person in the Bible who reminds me what happens when we pray like it counts is Nehemiah. Two main events happen in the book of Nehemiah, the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and the return of the Jewish exiles, none of which would have happened without prayer.

When Nehemiah heard about the suffering of his people and the destruction of Jerusalem’s walls, his heart was broken.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel”. Nehemiah 1:4-6

This was not the first time the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed. They had been rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra in 516 BC which took almost 20 years.

When Nehemiah heard the news the city wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed and his people were in exile, he prayed for an entire 4 months, before making any decisions. After the 4 months of prayer were over the wall was rebuilt in just 52 days.

What was the difference?

  1. Nehemiah didn’t let the knowledge of the previous wall under Ezra’s care deter him from rebuilding the wall.
  2. Nehemiah never lost sight of God’s purpose of doing this WITH God not FOR God. He stayed in prayer to receive God’s mission until the job was done.
  3. Nehemiah’s strong leadership skills- He knew his team. He dealt with noblemen, priests, tradesman, servants, etc. Although they didn’t have the enneagram personality test to determine what everyone’s skill sets were, Nehemiah had wise decisive skills that allowed him to use his team to the best of their abilities. When the complaints and doubts poured in, he put a stop to them before they could undermine the work.
  4. Nehemiah never allowed the obstacles of the wall to be bigger than God. Even though Nehemiah faced a lot of inward and outward opposition during the wall rebuilding, staying in prayer allowed him to discern when someone or something was trying to throw his mission off course.
  5. Nehemiah’s story is a testimony of what God is able to do when we pray like it counts. His fervent prayer was enough to move God’s heart, to help him stay focused on God’s purpose in completing the wall. When we embrace God’s purpose for us, staying focused on his purpose and not our obstacles, God will move our obstacles.

Click To Tweetit, and it will be yours’  Mark 11:24.'” quote=”Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received[a]it, and it will be yours’  Mark 11:24.'”]

 

What obstacles are you facing?

Do you believe God is able?

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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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