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Under the Influence

 

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

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

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

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

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

What Really Influences Us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of fruit is growing in your life?

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

What Influences Your Life?

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A Love That Transcends All Borders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you apart of God’s one big family?

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

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

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

 

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


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The Clothes We Wear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They don’t give me more value.

They don’t prove anything.

They are just mere clothes I wear.

So how do I rid myself of these associations?

By putting on a new wardrobe.

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

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

Colossians 3:12 MSG

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

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

So maybe the clothes I wear do define me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of clothes do you wear?

What’s in your wardrobe?

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

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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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Would you like to know more about the Christmas story and what it means to you?  Message me below, “I want more information,”  or message me privately.  Merry Christmas!

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

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Prayer Changes Everything

“When a believing person prays great things happen.” James 5:16 NCV

Do you believe prayer changes everything?

I admit, there have been times in my prayer life when I’ve prayed but didn’t really believe God was able. I threw prayers up to heaven not truly thinking anything was ever going to change in my life. But then something happens when we pray when we believe God is able.

When we start praying like it matters.

When we focus on His purpose.

God has the power and strength to do anything at any time, anywhere, yet he patiently waits for us in our unbelief. He uses prayer to shape and mold our unbelieving hearts, to make room for what He desires for us.

Our prayers mean so much to God. They move His heart. Imagine our prayers have the ability to move the heavens.

In Matthew 18:19-20 says, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Have you ever had an experience when prayer changed everything?

Many times I’ve believed, God isn’t listening. I have prayed the same prayer for over 20 years and God still hasn’t answered it. Does that mean He doesn’t care or we should stop praying?

God hears our prayers. I believe God cares about what we care about because we are His children. Our persistent consistency gets God’s attention and shows our faithfulness. When we are constant in prayer, God sees what we’re passionate about. He sees what matters to us. A prayer a person has prayed for years is never wasted and will be used in greater ways than we could ever imagine.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him.” (James 5:13-14)Click To Tweet

We are only one prayer away from the sick being healed. One prayer away from someone else’s breakthrough. One prayer away from lives being changed. One prayer away from God doing the impossible.

Nothing changes when our prayers are silent and when they go unspoken.

Everything changes when we pray.

Sometimes the biggest change that happens when we pray isn’t our situation, it’s our hearts.Click To Tweet

Do you believe prayer changes everything?

Would you like to make a difference with your prayers?

Whatever is important to you.  Whatever concerns you.  Gather two to or more friends to come together and pray about what’s weighing heavy on your heart.  Meet together in numbers, pray consistently with a fervent passion that shows God I’m serious, please hear my prayers.  One of the greatest tragedies is when a prayer goes unspoken.  God will use us to carry out his greatest plans.  God uses our prayers to fill our hearts with what He desires for us.  Our prayers matter and make a difference.  Don’t give up, keep praying with a believing heart. God hears our prayers and is able to accomplish the impossible.

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Why Do We Need To Go To Church Anyway?

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

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

Some answers were:

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

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

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

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

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

What is the church to you?

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

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

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

It saddened me to hear the responses:

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

Other reasons people said why they didn’t go:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you given up going to church?

Are you missing from church?

How does church fill you up?

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

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Why We Should Pray For Our Neighbors

Have you ever had one of those neighbors who were just hard to love?  Some years ago, my husband and I had a very humbling experience with one of our neighbors.  We had just moved into our new home and there was a knock at the door.  Behind the door was a woman, who didn’t introduce herself, but instead handed me an envelope and said, ‘give this to the owner’ and then walked away.

Turns out the woman who handed me the envelope was our neighbor.  Inside the envelope was a bill for a few thousand dollars stating we owed her money for our ‘shared’ fence.  We had been the fourth owners of this property and were very confused to be informed we ‘owed’ our neighbor money.  We thought by ignoring the hand-delivered letter we would avoid our neighbor’s request.  We were wrong.

As it turned out, our neighbors were lawyers.  If we didn’t address this issue they would take us to court.  Even in our debacle, I heard God’s voice whisper to me, ‘love your neighbor.’  Technically we didn’t owe them money because of the statute of limitations.  We knew if we didn’t oblige, our time would be spent arguing in court about whether or not we owed them money.

In the end, we gave them money for the fence.  But something happened in the process.  It changed our hearts.  Our decision to love our neighbor instead of arguing with them showed them kindness and softened our hearts.

'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' Matthew 5:44Click To Tweet

Maybe you don’t have an extreme neighbor situation like we had, but maybe there’s that one neighbor that rubs you the wrong way.  Maybe your neighbors’ dog poops in your yard and doesn’t clean it up.  Maybe they leave the porch lights on that shine into your house all night or maybe they’re just noisy.  We may not always like our neighbors or what they do, but we can always pray for them.

How to Pray for Your Neighbor

Pray your neighbor will know the love of Jesus.  The best way for our neighbors to know the love of Jesus is to introduce ourselves, invite them over, get to know them.  Learn their names, their stories and how you can pray for them.  As you’re driving or walking in the neighborhood pray for neighbors to know the love of Jesus and for opportunities to show them His love.  Col. 3:12, Micah 6:8

Pray for unity in the community.  Pray there will be no division in your neighborhood amongst neighbors.  Pray God’s peace and love will bind you.  Pray there will be love and acceptance even in differences.  There is unity in community.  Do something to bring your neighborhood together–host a community garage sale, organize a neighborhood clean-up, host a neighborhood chili-cookoff, do a neighborhood BBQ in a nearby park.  Practice being a good neighbor, it will bring your neighborhood closer together.  Ecc. 4:9, Rom. 16:17, Rom. 15:7, Col. 1:10

Ask God to help show your neighbor the love of Christ.  God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves in Mark 12:31. Pray Mark 12:30-31, together as a family to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Do something kind for your neighbor–bake banana bread or a meal for them, invite them over for coffee and doughnuts, offer to watch their pet, invite them to church.  No one would ever know the love of Christ if we don’t show them.

Praying for our neighbors softens and changes the attitude of our hearts to be focused on how God wants us to treat others.  Even if we don’t like our neighbors, we can pray for them.  We are meant to live in community with one another.  Being neighborly prepares our hearts to live in the best community ever for when we go to heaven.

God calls us to love those who are hard to love. If we can't love our neighbors how can we be apart of God's family? Click To Tweet

Being a good neighbor fulfills God’s greater plan, strengthens communities and destroys the enemy’s plans for division among us.  We are stronger together.

'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31Click To Tweet

This summer, reach out to one neighbor, practice the art of neighboring by doing one action step and pray for them.

Do you know who your neighbors are?

How can you pray for your neighbor?

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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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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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The Victor’s Crown

Four years ago I had the unbelievable opportunity to participate in the 2013 Boston Marathon. It was unimaginable I was there. I looked around at the sea of runners thinking, how did I even get here? I didn’t feel worthy to be there, nor did I feel qualified even though I met the requirements to enter. This race was for elite runners and I wasn’t even close to that category.

However, none of that mattered once the gun went off. Everyone started running full speed ahead to achieve the same goal—crossing the finish line. This is where we were put to the test.

Were all the early morning training runs and nutritional diet going to pay off to get us to the end?

Marathoners are a different breed. Who in their right mind gets up at 4 a.m. and runs 20 miles? I didn’t consider myself a marathoner, just someone who needed to put the pain to the pavement. I was searching for a place to heal and God led me to running. Running is where I spent time with God.  In my training, God taught me so much. He showed me my hands and feet weren’t really mine anyway, they were His. He showed me I wasn’t really running for myself, but for Him.

When I was weak, His strength carried my feet further than I could ever carry myself. Running was a way to use the feet He had given me for His greater purpose. Running was a representation of what my son was doing in heaven. Even though he never had the chance to walk on this earth, he is now running in heaven.

At the beginning of the race, many runners ask each other, “What is your goal?” That means what time do you want to complete the race in? Most runners say they run the race to have fun and others say they just want to finish. Every runner receives a medal for finishing the race. At the finish line, it’s usually a time to celebrate the ending to the grueling endeavor someone just spent months training for. But this time it was different. In 2013 was the year of the Boston bombings. This day will forever be engrained in my mind. Moments before the bombs went off, strangers congratulated me for finishing because they saw the medal around my neck. After the blasts, congratulation turned into ‘I’m sorry.’

The instant the bombs went off the medal around my neck lost its meaning. It no longer mattered that I completed the race. What mattered were the lives that were injured and lost. Their lives were more important than winning the medal.

What happened that day was the result of pure evil. Satan may be able to change the meaning of worldly medals, but there is one thing he can never take away or change—“the crown of life.”

Revelations 6:2
“I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.”

In the Bible, there are many uses for crowns. Gold crowns are worn by kings and queens to symbolize their royal status (2 Samuel 12:30). Crowns are worn by high priests to represent their holy status (Exodus 29:6, 39:30). Another type of crown is a wreath of flowers (made of laurel, pine or olive branches), which were worn at banquets to honor someone in celebration. These crowns were also used at the Isthmian games and won as athletic prizes in Corinth.

All of these crowns mentioned above—their meaning can be changed in an instant. The word used to describe the crown mentioned in Revelations 6:2, is ‘stephanos’ which means ‘the victor’s crown.’

There is no amount of evil Satan can achieve to change the meaning of the victor’s crown.

Ironically the crown of thorns worn by Jesus the day he was persecuted, is considered the most victorious crown we can wear as Christians. What the Romans used to mock and persecute Jesus, God used for His ultimate victory.

The victor’s crown is a symbol of victory.

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” Revelations 2:10

There is no crown greater than the victor’s crown.

Revelations 3:11-12
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.”

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt defeated?

I sure have many times.  Chances are, in our defeat, we are listening to the lies Satan is whispering in our ears.  In the race we run, we don’t have to be extraordinary or wait until we achieved something great.  In our worthlessness, God gives us his worth through Jesus Christ. Satan can never take away our crowns when we wear the crown of life.   We can rejoice because the promise of God’s truth reigns victoriously over our feelings of our defeat.

Satan is the defeated one, not us.

Never let the enemy take away your crown.  We are victorious in what Jesus Christ has already gone ahead and done for us!  Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

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FREE Printable with 7 Bible Verses Reminding us of God’s Victory!  Click Link to Download Victorious Bible Verses-3

a portion of this post is a modified version from chapter 22 of “Waiting for Heaven:  Finding beauty in the pain and the struggle”  by Heather Gillis.  

This post was first published on www.akchristianwomensministry.com.


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