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What Do You Give To The One Who Has It ALL?

Have you ever gone Christmas shopping and had a hard time finding a perfect gift for someone who has everything they could ever want?  They are someone special in your life so you want to find that unique gift, that something special, to let them know how much you care.  What do you give to the one who has it all?

The One whom I’m thinking of is God.  He is the Maker and Creator of all things, has all the riches He could ever need, has the largest house and kingdom anyone could ever imagine, and yet there is something He desires more than anything–YOU.

Why would the One who has it all want anything to do with our undeserving, sinful selves?

Because He loves YOU.

This Christmas as we focus on what the meaning of what Christmas is all about, the birth of Jesus, I’m taken back to one Bible verse that says it all.

John 1:14 “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.”

 

I am in awe that God could have chosen to live anywhere in the world, but He chose to become one of us and DWELL among us.  Not to sound funny, but if I were God I would have just stayed in heaven.  He doesn’t need us.  There is nothing we can offer Him that He doesn’t already have, yet He wants us.

There is something so amazing about the places God dwells.  God has made his dwelling place in the light (1 John 1:7), in heaven (Psalms 123:1), in his church (Psalm 9:11), on earth (John 1:14), but his permanent residence where He dwells is within our hearts!  (Ephesians 3:17-19).

I still can’t believe He chooses US to be His dwelling place! Something happens when we become God’s dwelling place.  He becomes our refuge and our umbrella of protection from the evil one.  He becomes our light, our hope, our joy, and freedom.

Psalm 91:9-10 “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place–the Most High, who is my refuge–no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”

Maybe you are going through a tough time right now.  Maybe this holiday season doesn’t seem very festive because you lost a loved one, your job or aren’t near family.  Maybe you received a new diagnosis you’re still processing.  Maybe you’ve been distant from God for a long time and don’t know how to get back to Him.

Whatever your circumstance God loves you and cares for you very much. If He didn't He would have never came to earth and dwelled among us. Click To Tweet

Every day God invites us into His presence.  Whether we enter into His presence or not, a door is opened for us to enter.  When we come to Him in prayer we step closer into His presence.  When we praise Him in our storms of life and thank Him despite our struggles we step further through the doorway.  When we open up God’s Word, we allow an opportunity for His Words to dwell richly in us, to plant seeds and grow within us (Colossians 3:16).

So what do you give the ONE who has it ALL?

Your HEART.

God could have anything He every wanted, Lived anywhere he desired, but He chose to live in our hearts. Click To Tweet

Have you given God your heart this Christmas?

What do you give to the One who has it all?

Did you enjoy this blog post? Please share with others! Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a FREE E-book and a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

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.  


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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!

I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!


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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

It’s Not About the TACO

Embracing God’s Purpose in Life’s Biggest Messes

Every week in our household our family has a tradition–TACO NIGHT!  If there is one meal we can count on every week, it’s tacos.  We always have the staples for making tacos in our house at any given time.  What I love about Taco Night, is our family sitting down eating the same meal together.

One particular Taco Night, we served the hard shells instead of flour tortillas.  We usually have all the toppings for our tacos on the table–sour cream, salsa, cheese.  One can put on their taco, whatever their heart’s desire.  Our son has a method to how his taco is made and the other sides arranged on his plate. Nothing on his plate can touch each other.

Have you ever watched a scene unfold in slow motion, knowing how it was going to turn out?  As our son lifted the taco to his mouth I could see and hear the taco shell crack and then fall apart spilling the contents onto his plate, which did I mention he doesn’t like other food touching each other?

As this scene unfolded I could see the melt-down process unravel.  He was upset and required a whole new plate and taco because doesn’t like to eat food that’s broken and messy.  If his food has one crack, one bite in it already, forget it he won’t eat it.  (Don’t judge we all have our quirks). There was no rationalizing with him, the food was perfectly fine, but in his mind, it had been ruined.

It’s Not About the TACO

The melt-down my son had nothing to do with the taco and everything to do with an inner struggle of wanting everything perfect and not dealing with the mess.  Our son focused on the broken, messy taco which kept him from enjoying the great meal before him.  The meal was going to taste the same whether it was messy or not.

That disappointment, that argument or disagreement you just had probably isn’t what you’re upset about at all.  The scenario of my son reminds me of the Israelites–an all too familiar pattern that has happened within all of us from the beginning of time.

The Israelites spent 430 years as slaves in Egypt under the rule of the ruthless and mean Pharaoh.  When God sent Moses to deliver them out of Egypt, they left with all of their cattle, their precious valuables and their families!  Which doesn’t happen!  Their exodus resonated God’s power all throughout the land of Egypt.

Little did they know they would be tested further by God by wandering in the desert.  It was hot and tiring traveling through the desert.  They were hungry and thirsty.  They whined and complained about their conditions which made God angry.

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic”  Number 11:4-5

I get it.  Maybe tent-camping for 40 years in the desert wasn’t their thing.  They just wanted some good food, a flushing toilet, or a full-hookup camper with a hot shower.  Even though their immediate comforts were uncomfortable, they were missing the point of God’s purpose.  How soon did they forget they were just freed from 430 years of slavery!

The Israelites never went without provision of food, shelter, water or clothing.  They had everything they ever needed.  God wanted The Israelites to depend on Him for their daily bread, NOT MAN.  Instead, they focused only on what was before them to satisfy their souls instead of what God was able to provide for them–The Promised Land.

Sometimes I think our focus can get off.  We get lost in our problems, stumble on our inadequacies, caught up in our roadblocks, and caught up in our own desires.  We become like the Israelites entering into patterns of grumbling and complaining, losing sight of God’s purpose of what He’s able to do in our lives.  And before you know it, life becomes unbalanced and we fall apart.

What if that’s the point?  To discover God’s purpose for us within the mess?

Our struggles, inadequacies, and roadblocks will always get in the way of God’s purpose and plan for us.  But what if we embraced God’s purpose among the mess?

'And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' Romans 8:28Click To Tweet

I guarantee there will always be another mess.  When we embrace God’s purpose, we can stop using our messes and struggles as an excuse to hold us back, but allow our mess to be God’s platform in what He’s able to do in us. Just like the whole taco fiasco with my son, we too miss out on life’s biggest blessings when we allow our struggles to hold us back.  God will use our struggles as a catalyst for his greater plan.  We don’t have to worry about how everything will work out, He’s got it all within His grip.

Let’s Taco About it:  

What’s your one thing getting in the way of God?

Do you sometimes fall apart?

How can you embrace God’s purpose when you’re life is a mess?

It’s not about the Taco.  It’s not about our next performance.  It’s not about doing things with our own strength.  It’s not about waiting until the mess is over but embracing God’s purpose for us even in the mess.

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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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Lamb of God

With the Easter holiday approaching, I wanted to take us back to the reason for the season of why we really celebrate Easter.  As I enter into stores my eyes are bombarded with empty plastic eggs, Easter baskets and bunnies.  Really the Easter bunny has nothing to do with why we celebrate Easter.  The world has made the most holy of holidays into propaganda.  The Easter and Christmas holidays have become a reason to spend money on gifts that have nothing to do with what is actually being celebrated.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus is called the Lamb of God?

In the Old Testament, those who sought forgiveness for their sins would choose a sheep or a goat to sacrifice on an altar.  A person would receive atonement for their sins from the blood of the animal being shed.

 “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.”  Exodus 12:5

Specific instructions would be given to choosing an animal without blemish or broken bones and how to prepare and celebrate the animal after being sacrificed.  The animal wasn’t just a sacrifice for sins, but something to be consumed by the community afterward, not to be wasted.

“It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.”  Exodus 12:46-47

Passover is a holy holiday that the Jewish community celebrates the Passover in which “the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.”  Exodus 12:27.  (To read more about the Passover read Exodus 12:21-28).  Every year the Jewish community celebrates Passover by sacrificing and consuming a Passover Lamb.

The last week that Jesus was alive on earth, the Jewish community was getting ready to celebrate the Passover.  Little did they know their lives would be changed forever.

The turn of events that happened before Jesus’ death was orchestrated by God Himself.  Jesus told Peter he would be the one to deny Him and that Judas would betray Him.  Once Jesus was in the hands of Pilate and the Roman soldiers He was…

flogged and a crown of thorns was placed on his head.  John 19:1

He was struck, spit on, the crown of thorns was twisted on his head and He was given 39 lashes.  Mark 15:19

The horizontal crossbar of the cross was tied around the arms of Jesus in which He was made to carry up the hill of Golgotha (which weighed 75-125 pounds, the whole cross weighed 300 pounds) John 19:17.

Jesus’ arms and feet were nailed to the cross.  Each wrought iron nail was 7-9 inches in length.  Mark 15:24

The Nails they used were 7-9 inches long

This is merely a glimpse of what Jesus endured and went through.  There were two other men hanging on the crosses with Jesus.  The Sabbath was approaching.   The Sanhedrin went before Pilate to ask him to not allow any bodies left hanging on the crosses during sundown on the Sabbath.  This particular day was the day before Passover their most holy of holidays.  They asked Pilate to have the ‘ legs broken and the bodies taken down’ (John 19:31).

Death was lingering too long, so Pilate ordered the legs of those hanging on the cross to be broken. The weight of a person’s body usually caused their death on the cross after their legs were broken, from asphyxiation–crushing their own lungs.

The Roman soldiers broke the legs of the other men first.  When they came to Jesus they discovered He had already died and did not break His legs.  “Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.” John 19: 34-35.

Why is this all so significant?

Isn’t it amazing that after all the beatings, the flogging, the crucifixion and piercing Jesus endured that not one bone was broken in his body?

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled. Not one of his bones will be broken” John 19:36'Click To Tweet

While Jesus was on earth He was without sin and defect, He was perfect. 

“but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” 1 Peter 1:19.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”  Isaiah 53:5.

Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities and received a punishment we deserved.  All of His suffering was not for nothing.  It was to fulfill the greater plan of God.

Jesus came so we could have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). Click To Tweet

Jesus is the Passover lamb. He is the Lamb of God.  In the Old Testament, when instructions were given for the Passover Lamb, it was to be prepared by roasting and cooking it by the fire. From the beginning of time, God was preparing us.  It wasn’t enough to just sacrifice the lamb but to also partake in it. The lamb wasn’t meant to just be observed, but also be consumed by the people (Exodus 12:46-47).  Jesus didn’t come to just be observed on the cross, but to be consumed in our everyday lives.

What does this mean for us in our everyday lives?

“God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21Click To Tweet

Jesus dying on the cross for our sins changed everything!  The sacrificial lamb no longer needed to be sacrificed for every sin.  That lamb can only atone one person for their sins.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, came to shed His blood making it possible to atone all for their sins.

Jesus died once to pay the price for all.

Jesus isn’t just a figure in our lives that we observe on the cross.   He desires to have an active role in our lives, a relationship with us–to give us life-giving sustenance. When we choose to partake in the beautiful message of Easter, in the good news of the gospel, we are loving God with all of our heart, all of our mind and all of our soul (Matthew 22:37).

We can nail our sins to the cross

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross”  Colossians 2:13-14

When Jesus died on the cross, it gave us a chance to nail our own sins on the cross.  Jesus’ act of taking our place, dying on the cross for our sins is something He did one time but is something that gives eternally forever more.  Jesus loves us so much, He took our place for us so we can be in heaven one day with Him.  You are loved!  I pray this Easter you will partake in the Lamb of God and celebrate the reason for the season.

'For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord' Romans 6:23Click To Tweet

His gift to all of us is eternal life.  Have you accepted God’s gift of eternal life this Easter?  When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, death has no power over us.  Have a Happy Easter!

Isn’t it amazing how Jesus became sin for us, took our place and suffered for us?

Why do you celebrate Easter?  What does Easter mean to you?

He is our Redeemer, our Savior, our Healer, our God is capable of anything.  God makes the most perfect and amazing plans.  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”  John 3:16-17

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

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Set Me Free

Are you getting ready for Easter?  I love this time of year, for what it represents and the rich gifts that God gives us even when we don’t deserve them.

Have you ever been a given a gift, so valuable money couldn’t buy?  Or have you ever been given a second chance at something that you should have never been given in the first place?

One man in the Bible reminds me of the valuable gift of freedom he received that should have never been given.  His name was Barabbas and he was a criminal convicted of committing murder in a rebellion (Mark 15:7).

It was during the time of Passover and every year the Roman governor would release a prisoner to the people of their choice (Matt. 27:15).  Jesus had been arrested and was in custody of Roman authorities.  Barabbas was a well-known prisoner among the people.  When Pilate asked, “Whom do you want me to release to you?  Barabbas or Jesus, the people knew exactly who each one was.

Pilate was convicted that he was persecuting an innocent man because Jesus wasn’t guilty of any crime under Roman law.  Jesus couldn’t be prosecuted under Jewish law during Passover because the Jews couldn’t crucify anyone during that time.  So Jesus was to be prosecuted under Roman Law.

When both men were in the judgment seat, Pilate’s wife tells her husband “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man (Jesus) for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”  (Matt. 27:19).

But the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed (Matt. 27:20).  When Pilate asked, which one do you want me to release?  The crowd shouted, Barabbas! Then Pilate asked, what should I do with Jesus?  The crowd shouted, “Crucify Him!”  Pilate then questions their decision and asks, why, what crime has he committed?  They shouted even louder, Crucify Him!  (Matt.21-23).

Pilate felt so guilty about the outcome he took water and washed his hands before the crowd and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matt 27:24).  “Then he released Barabbas to them” (Matt. 27:26).

Can you even imagine this scene?  A prisoner who committed murder being set free!  And Jesus a man who committed no crime under Roman law sent to be crucified!?!?!

I can’t imagine what Barabbas was thinking, I was just set free!  He merely received his freedom by default all because the crowd wanted to persecute Jesus.  I can’t help to think of the parallels in Barabbas’ story.  He was a man guilty of a crime and set free.  He was given a second chance at freedom something he didn’t even deserve!

Barabbas being set free and Jesus taking his place on the cross was a foreshadowing of our future story of what Jesus was going to accomplish for us.  Barabbas’ name actually means “Son of Abba” or father.  How coincidental the meaning of the criminal’s name who was released is the very thing that Jesus is to us, “Son of God,” our Father.

I wonder what Barabbas’s life was like after he was released.  I wonder if he was thankful for his second chance at freedom or if he just reverted back to his old criminal habits?  If I were Barabbas I would have been convicted of the new freedom granted to me.

Jesus someone who was innocent and didn't deserve to die took our place for us instead. Click To Tweet

I wonder if Barabbas was at Jesus’ crucifixion, standing at the cross thinking, this man saved my life and set me free (in more ways than we could ever imagine).  I wonder if Barabbas looked at Jesus on the cross and thought, he took my place, that could have been me.  

This whole scene sounds barbaric with the crowd yelling, “Crucify Him!”  In the end, we can point fingers about who was to blame for the death of Jesus.  In reality, it was all apart of God’s plan for us to be set free and forgiven. The only way for us to receive this amazing gift, was for God to sacrifice His only Son for us.

'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' John 3:16Click To Tweet

Barabbas’s story is a physical representation of what God does for us every day.  How he extends us His mercy and grace, even when we don’t deserve it.  We are all criminals (sinners)  just like Barabbas.

We are all given a second chance at freedom, just like Barabbas.  

Can you relate to Barabbas’s story?

How have you been set free by God’s love?

What will you do with your second chance at freedom?

Jesus didn’t have to take our place but He did because He loves us.  You have been set free.  What an amazing and wonderful gift!  Happy Easter!

Lord, Set me Free from my burdens and the things I cannot control.  Set me free from anything weighing me down not allowing me to live how you designed me to live, in freedom.  I love you and praise you, God.  I thank you, God, for sending Jesus to take my place even when I didn’t deserve it.  Thank you for giving second chances. Forgive me of my sins.  You have set me free, Lord.  Thank you, in Jesus name.  Amen

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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?

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

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. 

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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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It’s All About Love

Have you ever imagined what the world look like if love didn’t exist?  Life wouldn’t be worth living if love didn’t exist.  Love is why we exist and why God created us.

According to 1  Corinthians 13:1-3, If we have faith and not love we are nothing.  If  we give all that we have and not love, we gain nothing.  No matter what we say, what we believe, what we do, if we don’t have love, we are bankrupt.

In the English language, love is a very broadly used term.  We use it to describe food, people, relationships, clothes, etc.  There is not much distinction between what we really like versus what we really love.  For example, I love potato chips and I love my husband.  Even though I used love to describe both a thing and a person, the context of love is different.

So how do we differentiate the different types of love?  

The word love is used all throughout the Bible and has four different translations.  The definition of love is so much better understood when translated according to the type of love being described.  By learning the four different translations from the Greek language, we have a better understanding of what type of love the verses in the Bible are describing.

Agapē– means “love.”  It’s the highest form of love, charity; the selfless love God gives us and we give God. 

Philia– usually translated “brotherly love”, meaning friendship love. Where the city Philadelphia was named the “city of brotherly love”, now is the “city that loves you back.”

Storge– is also called “familial love”, it is the Greek word for natural affection, a love which a parent gives their offspring and vice versa.

Eros–  (erotic) Eros refers to “passionate love” or romantic love. 

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to love each other with Agapē  love, the way God loves us.  

10 Bible Verses That Describe God’s Agape Love For Us-  

1.  God doesn’t merely love, He is love. 1 John 4:8 “God is Love.”

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:8-10

2.  Without love we are nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:3 MSG

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

3.  Everything God does flows from his love.  1 Cor. 13:4-7,13 NIV  

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

4.  The epitome of God’s Agapē love, his sacrifice for us.  John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

5.  A Father’s love for His son.  John 3:35

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.”

6.  Agapē love makes us united and complete.  John 17:23

“I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

7.  How a son loves his father through submission and obedience.  John 14:31

“but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.“Come now; let us leave.”

8.  When we love others the way God loves us, others will know God’s love.  John 13:34-35

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

9.  We are apart of God’s family, we are his children.  1 John 3:1

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!

10.  When we give Agapē love for one another we are giving love the way God gives us.

“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  1 John 4:21

To follow Jesus is to love.  We are called to Love.  Let us love one another.

What Bible Verses remind you of God’s Agapē love for you?

How has God’s Agapē love affected you?

Our world could use some love right now.  As brothers and sisters in Christ, What can we do to show others God’s Agapē love?

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”  1 John 3:18

Go Deeper:  Family Bible Reading Challenge! Nothing grows our love stronger and deeper than when we fill our hearts and homes with God’s words, especially when we read scripture together!

Will you join me over the next 10 days?  Let’s do this together!

Want a way to show others God’s love?  Here are #FREE Valentine Printables for Valentine’s Day!  Click Here. 

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Join me next week as we dig deeper into the love of Jesus!  I would love to hear from you!  Leave Your Comments Below.  I pray your week is filled with God’s abundant love!  

Wikipedia was used to define the Love terminology definitions.


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Hope for Our World

As I watch the news of the devastating flood in Houston and the missile strike threats from North Korea over the past couple of weeks, I am reminded of the depth of devastation that exists in this world.  I am saddened how thousands of people are displaced from their homes because of Hurricane Harvey and how North Korea’s dictator victimises the people who reside there.

Both situations are devastating.  As a nation, we can rise up to help Houston but are left helpless in how we can help free the victims in North Korea.  In North Korea, there is no freedom of speech, freedom of religion or freedom to live as a human being.  I was shocked as I watched the video of a young girl who escaped North Korea and told her horrific story at a One World Conference.  She painstakingly describes the life North Koreans live under an evil dictator’s rule.  People are executed for merely speaking an opinion or reading an unauthorized book.  They live in below poverty conditions, work in Nazi-like labor camps, and live in fear every day of what their evil dictator will do.  It is unimaginable that this treatment of people is allowed to take place in our current world.  We can only hope and pray for the freedom and safety of these people, that dictator Kim’s evil ways will be stopped and for the direction of our world to be headed back towards God.

The condition of our world reminds me of how the Israelite’s must have felt when they lived in exile under the Babylonian empire. Their nation had been through exile before for 400 years under the Egyptians and again under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. At the time, their situation seemed pretty hopeless. Their present circumstances seemed unlikely that God was going to fulfill His promise of restoration.

We serve a God who is bigger than our circumstances, who is bigger than what we can see.

In Ezekiel, God made a promise, “I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:24)

At this time, the Israelites were living in captivity away from their country, under the rule of the very powerful king Nebuchadnezzar—who did not believe in their God. Then God intervened and showed the prophet, Ezekiel, a vision—a land full of dry bones.

God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37: 3). Ezekiel then responds and says, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know” (Ezekiel 37:3).

God then directs Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones telling them to hear the word of God “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life” (Ezekiel 37:5). As Ezekiel was prophesying, the bones started to come together, skin and flesh covered them, breath entered them, they came to life, stood up and made an army (Ezekiel 37:7-10).

Even though Israel’s situation seemed hopeless, God was showing Ezekiel what He can do in a hopeless situation, even under the rule of a powerful king. God showed Ezekiel how He was able to resurrect and make alive a valley of dead dry bones by merely breathing life into them. God’s fulfillment of His promise of restoration wasn’t dependent on Israel’s current circumstances, but His divine power [1].

Oh, how thankful I am our future is not dependent on what our leaders do or don’t do but the faithfulness of our God.

God goes onto to remind us, “O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them” (Ezekiel 37:12-13).

In the eyes of Israel, there was no hope for restoration for their nation. We serve an Almighty God. God’s power goes way beyond a valley of dry bones. He is able to revive, renew, and restore even the most hopeless of circumstances. If God can deliver the Israelite’s from exile, He can deliver us as well [2]. If God can breathe life into dry bones, renew, restore and rise up the nation of Israel out of the grave—He can do the same for our world.

In our present-day situation, God is showing us we need to be dependent upon Him more than ever. We need to stay constant in prayer, praying for our leaders, our government, for the direction and well-being of our world, and these social injustices are stopped.

There is HOPE for our World

 

Even when the condition of our world seems hopeless, we can always find HOPE in God’s truth, promise, and power of HIS renewal and restoration.

Just like Israel, we will be a nation that rises again at The Word of God.

“Breathe, O Breath of God.” [3]

“They came to life and stood on their feet—a vast army.” (Ezekiel 37:10)

At The Word of God, dry bones came alive.

Great armies arose out of death and destruction.

God’s great power is mighty and infinite. Nothing is bigger or can defeat it.

“You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:28)Click To Tweet

By His powerful hand, He created us. God will restore us and bring us to the promised land [4].

How can we make a worldly difference?

Through our prayers. We can pray for Houston and North Korea.

Why should we pray for North Korea? 

'But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,' Matthew 5:44Click To Tweet

We can stop evil in its tracks when we pray.  God hears our prayers.  We need to pray for those who cannot speak for themselves.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”  Proverbs 31:8 NLT

How can we pray for North Korea?

  • Pray for the safety, well-being, provision, and protection of North Korean under dictator Kim rule
  • Pray for their freedom, that they will no longer be victimised and set free from his reigning rule
  • Pray for dictator Kim that his evil ways will stop and no longer hurt people
  • Pray North Koreans will know God’s love, mercy, and grace and be able to live out their faith

Want to know more ways of how you can pray for North Korea? Click here.

How can we pray for Houston?

  • Pray for the safety and well-being for those affected by the flood
  • Pray flood victims will get the aid, food, and shelter they need
  • Pray for their healing and restoration for the rebuilding of their city and lives

Our prayers make a difference and will be heard. Keep praying for the well being of our world and stay present in God’s promises. We may not like present circumstances in our world, but we can pray for God’s divine power to intercede on the world’s behalf before it’s too late.

Labor Day is a day to celebrate our nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership.  Thank a military provider for his/her service to celebrate and honor our nation’s freedom–something some countries do not have.  Not all of us agree with our leaders all the time.  But we can be thankful that we live in a country where our leadership and military fight for our freedoms.  Thank you to everyone who has served to keep us safe and allow us to live a land where freedom exists.

Will you Pray for Houston and North Korea?

“We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22 Amen!

In Him,

Heather
1. Dyer, C. H. (1985). Ezekiel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1298). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
2. Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman Concise Bible Commentary (p. 327). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
3. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/laurendaigle/comealivedrybones.html
4. Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed., p. 335). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.


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Where Do I Fit In?

As many of you know this summer our family embarked on a journey of traveling and new beginnings.  We trekked across Alaska, Canada, and many National Parks in our RV, until we arrived in our new home in Colorado.  Every place we move arises a lot of unknowns.  Where will we live?  Where will the kids go to school?  Which school is best for them?  Where will I work?  Who will be our friends?  What church will we attend?  What activities will we be involved in?  And mostly, will I fit in?

With each new move, I question will we have nice neighbors?  Will others be accepting of us?  Will I fit into this new life?  Do I really have to make a new life all over again?  Moving every 3-4 years in the military is just enough time to establish roots, which makes leaving so much harder.  I would never trade the amazing adventures our family has had traveling to our next assignment but would do anything to keep the friends and relationships we had, move with us.

As I get my footing in our new house, our new area we live, I can’t really just knock on someone’s door and ask ‘Will you be my friend?’  These things take time.  Moving really makes me lean and depend on God more for His provision of everything.  This new life reminds me of the parable of the new cloth and old garment.

Matthew 9:16  NKJV “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment;  for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.”

Luke 5:36 NKJV “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one;  otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.”

In this parable, Jesus is questioned about His actions regarding fasting.  Jesus is trying to explain the dangers of patching an old garment with a new patch of cloth.  That would be ridiculous to patch a new cloth on an old garment because when a person washes the old garment, the new patch of cloth would shrink and make the tear worse.  Jesus was challenging those questioning Him to understand, we don’t just cover up the old with the new.  He was offering a whole new meaning and message–we become new when our freedom, identity, and truth, comes from God Himself, not from following a bunch of rules.  Jesus was the new message, a fulfillment of God’s law.

Jesus was offering a whole ‘new cloth,’ one that didn’t cover up the old with the new.  In this new life I’m living I can’t try to fit my old life into my new one.  It would tear and not match up.  I can’t travel around with my life in a box and expect everything to match up wherever I go.  I have to be gentle with myself and allow for God’s timing and plan to fall into place, not my own agenda.  I am so thankful for Jesus’ message, I don’t have to try to fit in and be something I’m not.

When my freedom, identity, and truth are in Christ, I will Fit in wherever I go. Click To Tweet

FREEDOM

Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

IDENTITY

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

TRUTH

John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
 
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Maybe you’re a single mom trying to fit in a married couple world.  Or maybe you’re a part-time working mom trying to fit in the stay-at-home mom world.  Maybe you struggle with temptations or sins and don’t know how to walk away and believe it’s better to keep them hidden to fit in.  Maybe you struggle with an eating disorder trying to fit into the world that says you have to be skinny to be accepted.  Maybe you struggle with addictions and don’t know how to fit in a world filled with pain.  Maybe you have stronghold reigning in your life that doesn’t allow you to fit in at all.
Where do you find your F.I.T?
Do you struggle with where you FIT in?

 

If I waited to find my acceptance and approval in the world, I may never Fit in.  Starting over can be difficult but when my F.I.T is found in Jesus, I will always FIT in wherever I go!  I don’t have to worry or fear the unknown when my F.I.T is in Jesus.  He fulfills my greater purpose, I don’t have to be something I’m not.

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

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