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The Baby That Changed the World

As we approach this Christmas holiday we may have certain expectations of how everything will turn out—baking cookies, playing Christmas music, sending out cards, wrapping gifts, hanging lights, decorating a tree, etc.  These things set the stage and prepare us for the celebration of Christmas.

Imagine if we didn’t decorate for Christmas, send out cards or bake cookies, would anyone recognize it’s time for Christmas?

Two thousand years ago many were anticipating something great to happen, the arrival of the “Messiah the Prince”  of the “Anointed One, the ruler” (Daniel 9:24-27).  People were expectantly waiting for a new Messiah around 30 AD when Jesus was born, based on the prophecy of Daniel.  Jerusalem had a lot of preparation to do before the arrival of their new king.

Little was known how their new king was going to arrive or what he would look like.  Was he to arrive in a chariot of gold, or on a cloud from heaven?  Was he to be surrounded by royalty and clothed with robes and riches?  A worldly expectation would be for a king to be surrounded by all these things.

The Israelites only had the prophecy of Daniel to prepare their hearts for God’s timing and that their Messiah would be a descendant of David (Matt. 1:6, Luke 3:31).  They were not given a description of what their new king looked like only His titles of what He was to fulfill when He came.

“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 NIV

The Israelites weren’t looking for some lowly figure to be their new king, but someone of great importance such as a great military leader or a mighty politician (MacAruthur p. 130).  They were not expecting a baby to fulfill God’s promises.

The Israelites didn’t know their new king would not meet any of their expectations. Because they put their own worldly expectations on who their new Messiah would be, they didn’t even recognize their Messiah when he arrived.

Luke 2:11-12 NKJV
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.”  

Their new king didn’t make a grand entrance announcing his arrival by riding on a horse, being surrounded by royalty, wearing a crown or holding a scepter in his hand.  Instead, He was born of two peasants Mary and Joseph.  His birth was announced by an angel to shepherds and born in a stable amongst barn animals.

God fulfilled His promises of a king, but the only Israelites who recognized and “understood that Jesus was the Messiah at His birth were Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna,” people of no significance (MacArthur p. 130).

Can you imagine waiting for your king to arrive and not even recognizing him?  

God’s plan wasn’t to have Jesus raised up on a pedestal and be brought into this world among royalty (even though he was a king), but be born among the humble and to dwell among us (John 1:14).

God has the most amazing plans ever. He used a baby to change the world. Click To Tweet

God was fulfilling a greater plan for His greater purpose.  Imagine all of the Israelites who missed out on the birth of their Messiah because they were expecting something different. They inserted their own expectations and definitions of a king, not allowing for God’s greater plan to unfold.

Have you ever inserted your own expectations and definitions into God’s plans?

Have you ever been in the presence of Jesus and didn’t recognize Him?

If God can use a baby to become our Savior and change the world he can use you for his almighty plans.Click To Tweet

We can rejoice because our “Savior has been born!” (Luke 2:11).  He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace!  Praying your Christmas will be filled with all of God’s greatness and glory of our king, Amen!

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“12 Extraordinary Women,” by John MacArthur.  Thomas Nelson 2002. page 130.

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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?

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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.

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 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.  

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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Christian Dyslexia

Sometimes as Christians I think we get it a little backward.  We start out on a journey to get to know God and then somewhere along the way we get off track.  I’ve been so far off track in my journey at times, when I looked around wondered how did I even get here?

One way to describe my detoured journey as a Christian is to take a peek into the mind of a dyslexic.  I’ve shared in the past of our daughter’s journey with dyslexia.  In her tutoring sessions, I’ve learned a lot of how dyslexic mind works.

A dyslexic’s mind flips around and substitutes letters in words.  They have an inability to interpret text, discern phonemes and distinct sounds represented by certain letters.  Teaching a dyslexic how to read can be a difficult task.  English in itself doesn’t make sense, for example, words like laugh, cough and tough.  The average American is taught these words make an ‘f’ sound.  When sounded out they are pronounced coff, laff, and tuff.  We are taught, just ‘memorize’ these words make these sounds, just accept it.  A dyslexic looks at these words and says this is a bunch tomfoolery, show me where the ‘f’ is, this is a nonsense word.

As Christians, we do the same in our own spiritual lives.  We are taught something our whole lives and just accept it as true and never question if what was taught was actually true.  Over time we’ve substituted and exchanged what we’ve been taught with our own formed beliefs without ever opening up the Bible to see for ourselves.

Sometimes We Get it Backwards

Our Salvation-  Somehow along the way we’ve complicated salvation and made it something it’s not.  We’ve made salvation about us, in how much good we do, not that Jesus died for us.  There would have been no point in sending Jesus if salvation were up to us.  Salvation isn’t, works + grace= salvation.  It’s salvation + grace= works.  No amount of good works could get us to heaven it would never be enough, God’s grace is what saved us which was paid for by the blood of Jesus.   Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Judgment-  Dyslexics also have the inability to determine the difference between words such as live and live–same word different pronunciation.  Without putting these words into a sentence, the context of their meaning is lost.  The same way dyslexics interpret text, we do the same, as Christians.  We interpret one piece of the Bible, without putting it into the entire context of God’s purpose.  We judge those who sin pointing our finger to tell them ‘the wages of sin is death,’ when we are sinners ourself, leaving out ‘but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).  There is only one judge and that is God.

'So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.' Romans 8:1Click To Tweet

Love-  Ironically love in the English language is an exception word, meaning when a word has a silent ‘e’ the ‘e’ makes the vowel long like in the word cōve.  Love is pronounced ‘luv’ making the vowel short, not following the silent ‘e’ rule.  Love is not an exception, it’s our existence.  Love may not follow all the rules but it’s our purpose.  God is the creator of love.  Love is God.  “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love”  (1 John 4:8).   Love has become distorted, less about relationships more about stuff.  Our world has distorted what love is veering far from God’s design, seeking to fulfill love in places where love will never be found.  A life without love isn’t living life at all.  If love was about being fulfilled with everything in this world, there would have been no point in sending Jesus.

'We love because he first loved us.' 1 John 4:19Click To Tweet

English is a language that has exceptions and doesn’t follow the rules.  When teaching my daughter to read I have to explain to her words ending with ‘k’ and ‘ck’ make a ‘k’ sound except for the word stomach–another exception word.  But that’s just it, there’s always going to be an ever-evolving world that asks us to make an exception. That asks us to compromise our beliefs.  That asks us to take the JES out of JESUS and just leave the US part, making it about US.

We may have good intentions of doing something FOR God and along the way lose sight we were supposed to be doing it WITH God. This life was never meant to be lived just for US but with JESUS. Click To Tweet

So how do we break out of the dyslexia pattern?

By being equipped with God’s truth.  By staying in His Word in prayer. The more we educate ourselves and spend time with God’s words the better able we can decipher what’s backward and what’s not.  Even the godliest people don’t get it right.  We can be encouraged, we might not always get it right, but God makes up for our shortcomings.  He will set our paths straight when we trust in Him.

Can you relate?

Have you ever had a case of Christian Dyslexia?

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The Truth About Picky People

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

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

When did kids receive the right to be so picky?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How true is this for our lives as well.

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

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

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

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

Have we become like the Sadducees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you relate to the Sadducees?  

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

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

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The Power of God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s words became light.  

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

God’s words became life.  

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

God’s word became flesh.

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

God’s words heal the broken-hearted.

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

God’s words transform hearts and lives.

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

God’s words feed and nourish our souls.  

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

God’s words are eternal.

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

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

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

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

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

How has reading the Bible changed your life?

Do you struggle with making time to read your Bible?

Do God’s Words speak life into your life?

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

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

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Confessions From a Checkbox Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The One Thing…….

Do you have that one thing that drives you crazy about yourself? That one quirk, that one idiosyncrasy, that one flaw? If I could change one thing about myself it would be my organization. I grew up with a twin who was super organized and would organize for me. As an adult, I struggled with keeping things organized and still do.

Our flaws and weakness can seem like we’re staring at a 90-foot wall getting in our way of God’s abundant plan for us. I’m so glad God never gives up on us and patiently waits for us as he guides us through our fears.

Four men in 2 Kings who were lepers, remind me of what God is able to do when we take one step of faith toward our fears.

These four men lived outside of the entrance of the city gate. People with skin diseases were forbidden by law to reside within the community. They were outcasts. These four men spent their days begging for food. At the time there was a great famine and war going on—times were tough for everyone.

One day the men said to each other, “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other. “We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway” 2 Kings 7:3-4.

The men recognized if they stayed where they were, there was a 100% chance they would starve and die. If they went out to the battlefield and surrendered to the army, they had a small chance of survival. Imagine this scene. These four lepers probably spent the greater part of their lives staring at the gate that separated them from the city begging for food—it’s the only life they have ever known. Now they are about to embark on an unknown path without fully knowing if they will live or die.

“So at twilight, they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there! For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching.  So they panicked and ran into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, as they fled for their lives.” (2 Kings 7:5-6-7).

I can’t imagine the courage it took the men to go past the gates that was forbidden to enter so they could have a fighting chance for their future. How amazing is our God? The odds were already against these four men, but God had worked everything out before they even got to the battle lines, they only needed to take one step of faith. God caused the army to hear an opposing army approaching, which caused them to flee!

“When the men with leprosy arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating and drinking wine; and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and hid it. Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right. This is a day of good news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! If we wait until morning, some calamity will certainly fall upon us. Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace” (2 Kings 7:8-9).

How surprised were these men when they found no one there and abundant riches waiting for them? They went from starving to trusting in God, to receive the most lavish gifts ever in their lives. How would you respond? Would you share your newly found riches with someone else or keep them to yourself?

The response of the lepers astounds me. They lived in squalor conditions most of their lives. Their immediate response was to share with the very people who considered them outcasts!

“So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened. “We went out to the Aramean camp,” they said, “and no one was there! The horses and donkeys were tethered and the tents were all in order, but there wasn’t a single person around!” Then the gatekeepers shouted the news to the people in the palace” (2 Kings 7:10-11).

How great is our God?

Leprosy was the one thing that kept these men from living in community with others, but God used it in the end, to bring them together. No one else had the courage to go towards the battle except these men.

We may not always understand God’s plans, but He knows what He is doing. We don’t always have to know why.Click To Tweet

I am encouraged by the courage of these four men. They were willing to abandon everything that was comfortable to them and go towards where God was asking them to go—towards the battle. When they did, God had already gone ahead of them and worked everything out. When they let go of the one thing that was holding them back, God filled them abundantly more than what they could ever ask for or imagine.

What is the one thing that holds you back?

Maybe it’s fear. shame. pride. doubt. worry. anxiety. You’re one thing may be the very thing keeping you from the abundant freedom God desires for you.

Where is God asking you to go?

I promise when we say yes to God, taking one step of faith towards where he is asking us to go, He will be there waiting to fill you abundantly more than whatever you could ask for or imagine. God is greater.

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The Last Prayers of Jesus

How encouraging is it when you know someone is praying for you?  Today I hope this post encourages you to know that in Jesus’ last hours on earth He spent His time not teaching another message, but in prayer for US!

How Jesus spent His time on earth is so telling of His character and His heart for us.  Even when Jesus knew He only had hours left to live, He spent His last precious moments in prayer in the presence of God our Father and the disciples.

The last three prayers Jesus spoke on this earth teach us so much about what God desired for us.

John 17:  The Overcomer Prayer:

One of the holiest of prayers in the entire Bible is a prayer Jesus prays in John 17, which was prayed sometime after The Last Supper.  Throughout this whole prayer, Jesus is praying for our security, our joy, our unity and our future.  He prays on our behalf so we know what He’s done for us, given to us and all that he will do for us when we get to heaven.

In the first part of John 17, Jesus first turns to His Father and prays for Himself.  Jesus knew after He left we would still experience trouble in this world but prayed that we would know we are overcomers in Christ and share in His victory.

In John 17:6-19, Jesus then prays for His disciples.  Here Jesus is praying for our protection against the enemy, that we would know the fullness of joy and we would be molded according to His holiness.  In John 17:13-26, Jesus prays for our unity, for us to carry out His mission of spreading God’s love and our future.  The prayer in John 17 shows us how much Jesus cares for us and how He desires the best for us.  He knew we were going to have struggles and prayed for us on our behalf before He left this earth.

A Prayer in the Garden– Mark 14:35-36:

I don’t know if you have ever sat and read the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before, but it is filled with lots of sorrow and suffering.  Jesus knew the time was coming before he was going to be arrested.  He went to the Garden of Gethsemane, a quiet place to pray and sit with God.  He took His disciples Peter, John, and James with Him to keep watch while He prayed.

Jesus was very troubled and distressed and told His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death”  (Mark 14:34).  Jesus knew it was only hours before he was going to be arrested and persecuted.  His soul was heavy with the burden of what God was asking Him to do on behalf of everyone else–to bear the penalty for all our sins.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  Mark 14:35-36

Jesus knew His Father was capable of all things.  He turned to Him in His sorrow asking Him to please take this cup from me.  A cup’s symbolism is of deep sorrow and suffering.  Jesus felt as though God was leaving Him behind and turning away from Him when He who had no sin was made to be the sin offering for us.

A Prayer From the Cross–Luke 23:34:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)

This prayer that Jesus prays on the cross is one of the most powerful prayers I believe Jesus prays.  Even in death, Jesus cared about our salvation.  He takes His last dying moments to pray for us on the cross and still had the power to make people right with God. It amazes me even as Jesus was ridiculed, persecuted, beaten and crucified He still prayed for those who crucified Him. He even forgave one of the criminals on the cross whom He was sentenced with.  These last moments show how much Jesus cares about our hearts and what they are filled with.  He knew unforgiveness would be the death of us and spent every last moment showing us He is the way to our salvation and the path to our freedom.

The last prayers of Jesus are so telling of how much He loves us.  He spent every last moment praying for us up until His last moments of death.  The prayers Jesus prayed didn’t die that day on the cross.  His prayers continue on from heaven.

We can learn so much from the last prayers of Jesus.  He didn’t allow persecution, being arrested or suffering to keep Him from praying.  He prayed all throughout His suffering and turned to God for His every need, leaving His mark in our lives.

There may be so much suffering and evil in this world, but we can be encouraged that God is praying for us and loves us very much.

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How have the prayers of Jesus marked your life?

How can our prayers leave a mark in others or in this world?

If Jesus was standing before you and asked, “How can I pray for you?”  What would you say?

Praying this Easter Holiday is filled with the prayers of Jesus, his abundant joy, and love in your life!  Happy Easter!

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Words from the Cross

 

How powerful are the last dying words from a person; especially when those words are from Jesus? Do you know that even in Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross he prayed for us? His last words are so telling of his undying love for us. These are the last words Jesus spoke before he died on the cross.

The 7 Last Words Jesus Spoke on the Cross:

1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). It amazes me even as Jesus was ridiculed, persecuted, beaten and crucified he still prayed for those who were killing him. He even forgave one of the men on the cross who was sentenced with him. Even in Jesus death he prayed for us and still had the power to make people right with God and cared about their salvation.

2. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). These are the words Jesus said to one of the criminals sentenced with him after the criminal said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Can you even imagine hanging on the cross suffering and Jesus says these words to you, promising you will be in paradise today and you will be with Jesus? This signifies that this paradise is something that Jesus brings not the world.

3. “Dear Woman, here is your son” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27 NIV). Jesus was saying this to his mother Mary, even in Jesus’ last hours of life he honored his mother by asking John, his disciple to take care of her. Could you even imagine being in Mary’s shoes watching her child suffer, hanging on the cross, knowing he was going to die? Jesus wanted to make sure his mother would be taken care of and entrusted his beloved disciple John to do this.

4. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). This is the fourth saying Jesus says in both Aramaic and Hebrew, from the cross. Prior to this, Jesus had fallen silent for 3 hours after the darkness came. This is the first thing he said after the darkness left. In the 3 hours of darkness is where Jesus felt the wrath and separation from God for the first time. This statement shows his vulnerability as a human and reveals his feeling of abandonment from God. I think this saying shows how heavy bearing the sins of all of mankind was and therefore cries out to God for help. This shows us we should cry out to God also when we too bear much suffering.

5. “I am thirsty” (John 19:28 NIV). This is so interesting how Jesus asks for water considering he taught his disciples and followers many times that he was the living water, that whoever drinks of the water will never thirst again and have eternal life (John 4:14). It is striking how the one who is the water of life is dying in thirst. I think this shows Jesus craving for his physical comfort to be refreshed with a drink of water. Jesus not only desired for his physical thirst to be satisfied but his spiritual thirst as well. In scorn, the soldiers dipped a sponge filled with vinegar on the end of a hyssop plant to give Jesus a bitter taste in his mouth. You and I today can ‘give Jesus a drink’ by sharing what we have with those in need by feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty (Matthew 25:34-40). Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 383). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

6. “It is finished” (John 19:30 NIV). This statement marks one of the last things Jesus says before he dies. It signifies he completed what he came to this earth to do, to die for our sins. He says the Greek word ‘tetelestai’ which means ‘paid in full.’ Jesus didn’t say ‘I am finished,’ he said ‘It is finished,’ meaning his redemptive work was complete. “It is finished,” is a declaration of Victory! Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He suffered the penalty we deserved. Even up to the moment of his death, Jesus remained the one who gave his life for us (John 10:11, 14,17-18). Blum, E. A. (1985). John. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 340). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 NIV). This is the seventh and last statement Jesus says before he bowed his head and took his last breath. Jesus died for us. He offered his body and soul, not for himself, but for us. Jesus did not die as a martyr, but as a Victor, because he completed what he came to do. All of the suffering Jesus went through, his death was not for nothing. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” is actually a bedtime prayer used by Jewish children. It tells us how our Lord died: confidently, willingly and victoriously (John 10:17-18). It is a prayer of commitment to God before taking his last breath. Those who know Jesus as their Saviour may also die with the same confidence and assurance, that Jesus did (2 Cor. 5:1–8; Phil. 1:20–23). Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 276). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Wow! I can’t even believe all that Jesus was teaching us even in his suffering on the cross and very last hours of his life. It shows me how important prayer is in our lives. Praying is what Jesus was doing up until the last breath he took. He not only was showing us his love by enduring suffering and death in which we deserved, but praying on our behalf asking for our forgiveness. He comforted the criminal who was suffering telling him about God’s promise of paradise. He honored his mother. He cried out to God for help. He showed his desire to have his thirst quenched both physically and spiritually. Jesus remained faithful even in his suffering. He showed us that God is always with us, he never leaves or forsakes us.

This Easter, we can partake and participate in the victory of Jesus as his gift to us.

What do Jesus’ last words mean to you?

We don’t have to be perfect to accept this gift, have it all together or be someone great. God’s gift of eternal life he offers to everyone, no matter who we are, who we were or who we will be. Opening and receiving God’s gift of eternal life, is the best gift anyone could ever receive this Easter.

I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below. Have a blessed and Happy Easter!

In Him,

Heather

 

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I pray the God of hope will fill you with Peace as you Trust in Him!  Have a Blessed week!  I would love to hear from you!  Leave Comments Below.  Happy Easter!


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