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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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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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It’s All About Love

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

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

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

So how do we differentiate the different types of love?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How has God’s Agapē love affected you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia was used to define the Love terminology definitions.


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The Scars of Life

 

Everyone has a scar.  Whether it be a scar from a childhood fall or an old battle wound, we all have them.  Some scars are more visible than others, whereas some scars are not.  Some scars are intentional to mark a rite of passage into manhood, to indicate which tribe a person is from, or worn as a badge of honor.  Some of the most painful scars of those that lie deep within a person’s soul that they don’t dare let out for fear of the pain it would cause.  Whatever the origin of the scar, there always lies a story.

After trekking 3,000+ miles from Alaska crossing Canada and the United States this past summer, my son had his good share of mosquito bites from all the campgrounds we visited.  Unfortunately, my son is the type of person who has allergic reactions to mosquito bites and as a result, there are welts and scars left behind.  Many times I had to remind him to stop picking at the bites because they would leave a scar.

He said, “I like my scars because they remind me of my stories.”  He was right.  We may not always like the stories behind the scars, but they make up who we are.

Do you have scars?  What story do your scars tell? 

I will never forget a woman I met on an airplane ride on the way to a friend’s wedding.  I sat next to her and her son–in which it was obvious they had both been in some type of accident that resulted in burns on their body.  At the time, I was a nurse in a trauma/burn center so I had an idea of what burn victims went through.  As the plane ride progressed I introduced myself to the woman that I was a nurse who worked with burn victims.  She immediately seemed relieved when I told her who I was.  I asked her, ‘do you mind telling me your story of what happened?’

Behind Every Scar Lies a Story.

Her story is unimaginable one that is a living nightmare.  Her family was driving home when a person under the influence of narcotics crossed the center line of the highway and hit the driver’s side to driver’s side head-on.  Her husband had been driving, she was in the passenger seat and their two sons were sitting in the back seat.  The vehicle burst into flames immediately upon impact.  Nearby witnesses rushed to the scene. Leslie and her son got themselves out of the vehicle.  No one could even go close to the vehicle because of the flames.  Leslie walked toward a Good Samaritan on the highway and asked, “please get my husband and my other son!”  The Good Samaritan saw Leslie wearing a cross necklace and said to her, “ma’am they are in a better place.”

In an instant, she lost her husband and her son.  Because of this man’s negligence, Leslie not only had to deal with multiple surgeries and heal from her burn wounds but also deal with the grief from the loss of her loved ones.  My heart broke for Leslie as she told me her story.  When we were about to exit the plane, I noticed Leslie had a little limp.  I asked her, “Do you want me to get a wheelchair for you?”  She said, “After all my hours of physical therapy, once I was able to get out of the wheelchair, I never had any intentions of getting back into it.  I don’t care how long it takes me to get somewhere, I will never return to that wheelchair again.”  Wow!  Her response amazed me.

Leslie’s story reminds me of the man who was paralyzed for 38 years.  Jesus approached the man and asked ‘Do you want to get well?’  At first, the paralyzed man doesn’t answer yes or no, he responded that he had no one to help him get into the healing pool.

“Then Jesus said to him, “Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked”  (John 5:5-8)

Why do you think Jesus told the paralyzed man to pick up his mat first and then walk?

The mat, in this man’s story, represents a place of dysfunction which allowed him to lay paralyzed for 38 years.  Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat, so he couldn’t revisit his place of dysfunction again.  Jesus desired for the man to be fully healed not stay in a place of sickness.  It was probably hard for this man to live his new life as a healed walking man.  The only life this man knew for 38 years, was one of begging and lying paralyzed on his mat.   But then Jesus came and changed everything not only for this man but for us as well.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;  The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes, we are healed”  Isaiah 53:5

Jesus desires for us to be healed wholeheartedly in Him–He was wounded for our transgressions.  Our scars tell our story.  When we hide behind our scars we omit God’s greater story.

How do you choose to present your scars?  In shame and disgrace?  Or to tell God’s story of restoration, healing, and grace?

Jesus came to heal the sick–he was bruised for our iniquities.

“When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Mark 2:17).  

There is healing found in the wounds of Jesus--by his stripes, we are healed. Click To Tweet

Our scars remind us of God’s story of what He is able to do in our lives.

Not every scar is visible.

Do you carry around deep scars that lie within afraid to reveal your story?

Leslie told me she was glad her scars were outwardly visible.  She said these scars were a reminder to others of the deep scars she had inside.  The scars she had outside were nothing compared to the pain of the scars she carried around inside.  I love how Leslie’s story progressed because she allowed for God’s love to progressively heal her.  It wasn’t a quick and easy process, it has been a long hard journey and continues to be hard some days.  If you can imagine she even came to the place of forgiveness to the man who took her family away from her.  Her willingness to forgive and trust in God’s plan allowed for her to stand on the path to wholehearted healing and never live in that place of brokenness again.

How do you carry your scars?  Do you allow for God’s greater story to be told?

Jesus has scars too.

The scars in life can be hard and painful.  Nobody knows our scars better than Jesus because he has scars too.  His scars tell the greatest story ever told–one of redemption, forgiveness, healing, love, restoration, and grace.  There is healing in the scars of Jesus.  He died for all of us–so we could be healed.  In verse 53 of Isaiah “by his stripes we are healed,” the Greek word healed is sózó which is translated saved, healed or rescue.  The origin of the word comes from safe or well.  Jesus came so we could be saved, healed and rescued from our iniquities and pain!

You are loved, my friend! I pray you seek Jesus for your wholehearted healing.  He has the power to heal, forgive and resurrect our circumstances into something greater!

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

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

The reference from the Greek word sózó came from the website http://www.biblehub.com/greek/4982.htm.

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