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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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You Have Arrived

Congratulations!  You have officially arrived in 2019!  The New Year always makes me reflect.  No one had to do anything to arrive into the New Year it just came.  No one had to work for it or even ask directions how to get there.  We just woke up and it was here.

Getting directions in this day and age has come a long way.  When I was a kid, there weren’t navigation systems in cars, GPS on phones or even SIRI to tell you how to get where you needed to go.  There wasn’t even the internet to google directions.  We had to rely on the verbal directions of the person giving them either from a friend or a gas station attendant.  We had physical maps we looked at and mapped out our routes.  We had to write directions down with a pen and paper and trust in our own navigation skills and that directions were correct.

Nowadays we don’t have to rely on such antiquated methods of obtaining directions.  We have Google maps and SIRI to take us there.  But sometimes Google maps and SIRI don’t always know exactly how to get where you need to go.  When I type in the address for directions sure they can tell me the fastest route, if there is traffic and other routes to go to avoid it.  If I miss a turn GPS can redirect my route.  They can also tell me how much longer it will take to get there and when I arrive.

Have you ever plugged in the address of your desired location and GPS says you have arrived, yet you are still lost?

You don’t see the location.  You can’t quite figure out where the entrance is.  You’re yelling at your phone, I haven’t arrived!  I’m still not here!  Please get me there!  Can anyone relate?

These scenarios make me realize I put way too much trust in my phone getting me to where I need to go without checking if the directions are correct myself.  The other day my GPS took me to the right location, but guess what.  There was no way to access into the entrance because I was behind the building with no way to get in.

These times show me when I place the trust in myself or technology that might not always be right, I will always be lost.  I will always be seeking how to get in.  I will always be turning around circling and searching.

This may sound cliché, but when we follow Jesus, He knows the way and will always get us to where we need to go.

'Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' John 14:6Click To Tweet

We can trust when we plug in the address to where we want to go, we can trust Jesus knows the directions of how to get there!  He can tell us the best route, how long it will take us to get there and if there are any obstacles in the way.  And He will most definitely tell us when we have arrived.

Sometimes the directions He gives might take us on detours, may be a little bumpy, but know He knows best to get us to where we need to go safely.

Another cliché Bible verse that shouldn’t be overlooked is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Trusting in God by allowing Him to lead the way, submitting to the way He desires to take you, makes the road a little bit straighter and more direct.  Sometimes we are the ones causing the obstacle and question God why am I not arriving to where I need to go?  Then God gently redirects us around the obstacles before us, rerouting us down an even better road even in our stubbornness and disobedience.

God blesses the broken roads.

Even when we mess up. God loves us, pursues us and gently redirects us and says, 'This way child. Follow Me, I know the Way.' Click To Tweet

We all have the same opportunity of starting over and being intentional in this new year.

I don’t know what your goals are this year, but a good goal to set is, follow God’s directions.  Let Him be the Navigator.  It’s not about our performance, how fast we get somewhere, it’s about our surrender.  God doesn’t care how perfect we are He cares about the condition of our hearts.

Maybe you haven’t arrived to where you want to be in life.  Or God hasn’t given you the directions yet.  Maybe we’re not plugging in the right address.  Maybe we are still trying to do it our own way.  Are you tired of driving around in circles, feeling like you will never arrive?  Maybe we should ask ourselves these hard questions and trust in the One who knows the way.  I promise when we do we will arrive at the exact time God desires.

What address are you plugging in?

Will you allow God to lead you down the best road ever?

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


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When Fear Surrounds Us

It’s almost a new year!  Many of us are excited to start a fresh new year.  Whatever the expectation the new year brings for you, it may bring many fears that can be overwhelming.

I recently had the opportunity to embark on a cruise with 29 of my family members and 5,000 other people cruising around the Caribbean sea.  This was my first Caribbean cruise.  I don’t know if cruising is your thing, but it made me uncomfortable knowing I was in the middle of the ocean with that many people. When I did the calculations, there are not enough boats for everyone if for some reason the ship sank.  Let’s just say it was unsettling for me.

Don’t know if you are one of those ‘What if’ people, I am typically not, however, I am married to one.  I usually don’t think about all the scenarios of ‘what if,’ but when you are surrounded by lots of people and water it makes your mind start going in that direction especially when you watch those movies where the ship sinks or people get eaten by sharks.

Ok, I promise I’ll stop.

But seriously have you ever been in that kind of life or death situation?  Like the scene in the Poseidon movie when Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfus, and the young gal are debating whether they should stay in the room with the flooding water or go towards the vents which they didn’t know where they led fearing they might get stuck?  Everywhere they looked their options went from bad to worse.  If they stayed they would have drowned if they went forward they still may die, but it was their only option for a possible way out.

Maybe we haven’t been in a scenario as drastic as the Poseidon movie where our lives depended on it.  But we all have been in situations when we open our eyes and all we see is the fear that surrounds us.  It doesn’t matter which way we look it’s there and we can’t escape it.  I don’t know about you, but when I live in the ‘what if’ and look for the ‘bad’ things to happen, fear gets the best of me.  When my focus is on the fear, fear is all I see.

We may not like our situations. We may not choose them. But know it could always be worse. Click To Tweet

Maybe you are in a situation like the scene on the ship, if you stay you’ll drown but if you go forward, there is fear of the unknown of not knowing how it will all turn out.

When we let go of our fears and release them to God, we allow Him to take care of them instead of trying to control the situation ourselves.  He is our way out.  Our fears will always squash our hopes, our joy, and growth because we are trusting in what we see and not in what God is able to do.

The verse in Isaiah, I’m reminded of what God was able to accomplish through the Israelites when they trusted in Him.  They saw the enemy armies attacking, coming at them full force and God said, “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still” (Exodus 14:14).  He then provided a way out for them when he parted The Red Sea when they trusted in Him.

I’m reminded what God did for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace when they stood up against Nebuchadnezzar.  They refused to take orders from the king and only would obey their one true king–God.  When they stood their ground, God protected them when they were thrown into the blazing furnace.  Not a hair on their body was singed nor did they smell like smoke.  God protected them in their obedience.

When we put our trust in God in what He is able to do and keep our eyes on Him we’ll be protected even when our fear surrounds us.

'I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).Click To Tweet

When Jesus lives in our hearts, we are not exempt from having fear or bad things from happening to us.  We are able to be protected from our troubling circumstances when we stand in His presence, focus on God’s power, trust in Him and obey.

Are you surrounded by fear?

Do you trust God with your fears?

Are you hoping to get rid of fear in the New Year?

This New Year, take a deep breath, close your eyes and focus on the One who is able to do the impossible.  Trust in Him.  Allow Him to lead you, He knows the way out.  You are loved, my friend!

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 the FREE E-Book “The Jericho Prayer,” and a weekly Monday Message.  Like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

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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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It’s Not About the TACO

Embracing God’s Purpose in Life’s Biggest Messes

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

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

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

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

It’s Not About the TACO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Taco About it:  

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

Do you sometimes fall apart?

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

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

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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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A Prayer for Vision

 

Have you ever been so afraid of something it kept you from engaging in life?  It kept you from travel plans, going out with friends or being involved in relationships.  I’ve been there, allowing my fears to linger and build to the point of isolation.  Fear can be so crippling, not allowing us to live life, keeping us from God’s abundant plans.

Faith and fear cannot reside in the same heart.  Fear alters our vision making it difficult to see God’s plan for us.  God never intended for us to live in fear, but to live in the abundance of everything He has to offer.  Today I pray our eyes are opened to see a clearer vision for our lives, the way God sees us.

In 2 Kings 6, there was an ongoing war with the Arameans and Israel.  The king of Aram became infuriated when he learned Elisha the prophet warned the king of Israel of the plan to set his army’s camp by the border of Israel.  Once King Aram’s officials told him where Elisha was, he made plans to capture him.  He sent horses, chariots, and a strong force to surround the city of Dothan ( 2 Kings 6:8-13).

The next morning Elisha’s servant saw the army of horses and chariots surrounding them.  The servant asked, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”  (2 Kings 6:15).

I love this next part.  Elisha’s response wasn’t to engage in his servant’s fears but to give him encouragement and invite him in to see what he saw.

Elisha tells his servant, 'Don't be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them' (2 Kings 6:16). Click To Tweet

Wow, I can’t imagine Elisha’s bold confidence.  His eyes saw the same thing his servant did, yet he did not waver.  His response could have only come from God Himself.  Even though Elisha saw the danger with his physical eyes, he stood firm in God’s divine power of what He is able to do.

Elisha then turned to God in prayer and said, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).

Elisha’s prayer amazes me.  He didn’t ask God to help save them from the attacking enemy armies, instead asked God to open the eyes of his servant so he could see what Elisha saw.

I would surely think the next thing Elisha would ask God for was protection against the attacking enemy army.  Instead, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike these people with blindness.”  God heard Elisha’s prayer and struck them with blindness, as Elisha asked (2 Kings 6:18).

The servant witnessed firsthand the power of Elisha’s prayer for vision.  His eyes were opened to see what God and Elisha saw.  Elisha’s prayer took the focus off of the enemy/fear and prayed a prayer for vision to see God’s divine power more clearly.  We may not always see God’s bigger plan, but He is always at work behind the scenes.

Our own physical vision can limit us to focus on the circumstances that surround us, but God’s vision can free us to focus on His abilities, putting our trust in Him.  We can follow Elisha’s pattern of prayer when we feel our fears caving in.

Elisha’s Vision of Prayer:

  1.  He recognized the enemy’s plan to instill fear.  Instead of being a victim of fear, He put his hope and trust in God’s abilities of what He was able to do.
  2. He turned to God in prayer.  Instead of worrying, He sought God and prayed.
  3. He stood firm in God’s promises, his faith did not waver.

Satan will always try to keep us from God’s plans by instilling fear in us.  Fear will always blind us to God’s presence.  We must recognize the tactics of the enemy, stand firm in God’s promises, seek God in prayer and trust in Him.  The closer we are to God, the more clearly we can see His vision for us and hear His voice.

Are you struggling to see past your circumstances?

Write your own prayer for vision.  Ask God to see what He sees.

Prayer-  Lord Jesus, open our eyes so we can see what you see.  We pray our vision will not blind us to your presence of voice, that we will see and hear what you want us to.  We pray we will stand firm in your promises and trust in your divine power.  You are greater.  We pray your desires will be greater than our desires.  You are our God who loves us more than anything.  We praise you and thank you for your eternal gifts.

I pray for God’s vision in your life to see more clearly what God sees.  You are loved!

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