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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 Selfless Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How has God’s selfless love impacted your life?

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

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Mountains and Valleys

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

Psalm 23:4 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:3-5

What season are you in?

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

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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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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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Why Do We Need To Go To Church Anyway?

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

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

Some answers were:

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

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

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

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

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

What is the church to you?

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

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

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

It saddened me to hear the responses:

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

Other reasons people said why they didn’t go:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you given up going to church?

Are you missing from church?

How does church fill you up?

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

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The Secret to Being Perfect

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

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

These Ravens remind me of the Pharisees in the Bible.

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

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

How true is this for our lives?

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

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

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

Where is the hope or freedom in my failures?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you relate to the Pharisees?

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

Have you been victim to performance and perfectionism?

How has God’s truth set you free?

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

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The Message and The Miracle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind every miracle lies a deeper message.Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Confessions From a Checkbox Christian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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