Thursday, March 4, 2021

Not Of This World

I wouldn't miss heaven for the world

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world 1 John 2:15

There are many things in this world that I "love": my family and friends, of course; puppies, kittens and, well actually, any baby animal; strawberries; the color red; the smell of freshly mowed grass, and horses, to name a few. 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world
But that's not the kind of love that is referenced as "worldly love" in the Bible. Perhaps it would be better if we replaced that over-used word with some that are more descriptive: appreciate, admire, delight in, hold dear are a few that might work better.

The kind of love that 1 John 2:15 refers to is worship, idolatry, and glorification of worldly things. It is putting objects or pastimes above God. Take this short quiz to see if you are putting worldly things above God.

  1. Do you skip Sunday church to play golf/go hunting/take a walk in the woods and justify it with the thought "I can worship God anywhere"?
  2. Do you shy away from expressing your faith because you are afraid of how your friends/family/strangers will react?
  3. Are you a workaholic, thinking that if you can just get the next promotion or next big raise, you'll be happy?
  4. You meet two people. They are both charming, funny, attractive, and have the same interests and hobbies as you. The only difference between the two is that one can help elevate your social status and the other can help bring you closer to God. Which do you prefer as a friend?
  5. Do you find it hard to find time to pray or read the Bible because you are busy with life?
Citizens of heaven
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to take a step back and really look at what's important to you. If you want a stronger relationship with Jesus, you need to spend more time worshiping, adoring, and talking with Him.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Forgiven By Faith Alone?

By faith alone our sins are forgiven.

 By faith alone our sins are forgiven. Well, that certainly sounds like something you'd hear in church. But what the heck does it mean?

Faith Alone?

A long time ago, sacrifices of animals were used to atone for sins. The need for animal sacrifices ended when Jesus died for our sins. He became the sacrificial lamb for eternity. We no longer had to find and slaughter a spotless animal or do good works when seeking God's forgiveness.

Anyone who believes that Jesus died for our sins can be forgiven. Anyone - Jew or Gentile, liar or murderer, rich or poor. We are all sinners and Jesus created a way for each of us to easily reach out for forgiveness. 


But is it really that easy? Do we just have to believe in Jesus to be forgiven? Is it really "by faith alone"? Well... not exactly.

Three Steps To Redemption

As a kid, I took "by faith alone" quite literally. I thought it meant that any time I sinned, *poof!* it was magically and immediately forgiven and forgotten. No need to confess my errors. God knew what I'd done and instantly forgave me.

I had a friend in college who would routinely knowingly sin. He would lie, cheat and steal without blinking an eye. When confronted with his behavior, he shrugged and nonchalantly explained that he was a Christian and so all he had to do was confess his sins and all would be forgiven.

We were both wrong.

Faith

The first step to redemption is believing that Jesus died to save us. But there are two more really important steps that are often just implied (no wonder some people get confused by the phrase "by faith alone").

Confession

We need to consciously confess our sins to God. It's not always easy to admit when we do something wrong, but it's an important part of the redemption process. Confessing our mistakes - and acknowledging that they truly are wrong - helps us to really understand the difference between right and wrong. 

The na├»ve child in me didn't feel the sting of reproach when I sinned because I never had to think about what I'd don't wrong. Once I started confessing my sins, they became more real to me.

 Repentance

After confessing that we erred, God is looking for us to be sorry for committing the sin. He wants us to say "I'm sorry and I won't do it again." 

That's where my friend fell short. He knew he sinned. He knew he had to confess. He might have even felt a bit sorry for the sin, but not enough to do all he could to prevent committing the same sin again. 

 

True forgiveness requires to things - confessing the sin and renouncing the sin.

 So, for true redemption of our sins, we need to take those two extra but oh-so-important steps - confession and repentance.

*****

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

God Is

 

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

In my Bible study this week, we are learning about gratitude and the difference between praising God (for who He is) and thanking God (for what He does). It inspired me to make some graphics based on who God is. I hope you enjoy them and they inspire you to think about who God is and what that means to you.

As always, you are free to use my graphics on your social media to share the Good News.

God is Faithful

Deuteronomy 7:9

Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful god who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands. Deuteronomy 7:9

God is Wise


Romans 11:33

Oh how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! Romans 11:33

God is Unchanging


I am the Lord and I do not change.
That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.
Malachi 3:6

God is Perfect


Matthew 5:48

But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:48

God is the Beginning


Colossians 1:17
He existed before anything else and He holds all creation together.
Colossians 1:17

God is Good

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8

God is Devine


By His divine power God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.
2 Peter 1:3a

God is Merciful


1 Corinthians 6:14

And God will raise us from the dead by His power, just as He raised our Lord from the dead.
1 Corinthians 6:14

God is Glorious

Hebrews 1:3

The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God.
Hebrews 1:10




Thursday, January 21, 2021

Put Me In Someone's Path


Today, may God put me in someone's path and give me the words to touch their heart.

I pray something similar to this at least once a week. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could ask to be put in this position. It started years ago when a neighbor, who sent her kids to a Christian school but I'm pretty sure had never stepped foot into a church, complained to me that the school scared her kids by talking about heaven and hell and being saved. 

It was a perfect opening to share the Gospel with her. But I didn't. I didn't have the words and I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I've regretted that missed opportunity ever since. 

Even so, I didn't start asking for another opportunity right away. Like I said, I was afraid. I imagine I felt the way Moses did when God told him to go to the Pharaoh and ask to let the Israelites go. Who am I that anyone would listen to me? I can't speak eloquently and I didn't know what to say.

It would have been pretty cool if God had given me a staff that turned into snake, but He didn't. Well, to be fair, I didn't ask, but I'm not so sure He would have anyway. Instead, He's steadily provided me with knowledge and confidence through the years. 

I started praying for those opportunities several years ago. I haven't witnessed any dramatic transformations, but I do think I have planted plenty of seeds. I also feel that I've changed some minds about what a Christian is really like. You know those people who think that Christians are all pious and judgmental? Yeah, I've met plenty of them and I believe that I've shown them that Christians are just regular people, like them.

I also think that I've shown Christians and the unsaved alike the love of Jesus. Everyone needs a little love now and then and I'm always happy to brighten someone's day.

So, I ask God to put me in someone's path, knowing that He'll give me the words and the courage to say what they need to hear. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Psalm 40:2

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Most of us have been there: in a hole so deep we aren't sure how to get out. It may be because of a deep depression or an addiction that we just can't break. Maybe it's caused by financial problems or a sin we haven't confessed. Whatever the reason, it can have the power to crush us. But there's hope! Jesus can pick you up and set you on the rock far above your troubles. Just ask. He's waiting for you. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Don't Give Up - Galatians

 

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

A while ago, I read this verse as part of a devotion from 52 Devotions for Dog Moms. I thought it was going to be about perseverance, but it was actually about patience. At the time, I created a graphic based on patience, which you can see here.

Today, though, I want to talk about not giving up. We've been through a rough year and we are all weary. On top of the pandemic, we've had other sorrows, challenges, and roadblocks in our lives: people close to us who are no longer with us, job loss, fights with spouses, our own health issues, and on and on. There is only so much a soul can take before we start feeling discouraged.

This is probably especially true for my fellow church communicators. When the pandemic caused churches to close, it was more important than ever to create communication channels with our congregations. New responsibilities involving skills we didn't possess were thrown at us and we somehow managed to learn those skills while doing our regular job. The hours we spent on our jobs doubled. We fielded complaints from every direction - family members complained that we were always working, bosses complained that we weren't working fast enough, church members complained that the technology was too much for them.

Some of us threw up our hands in resignation and said it was too much and walked away. I pray that they continue to use their talents in service to God, whatever that might look like. Others, like myself, said that something had to give. For me, it was how we produced the online service. And still others, bless their hearts, are still treading water, barely keeping afloat.

To all of us who are weary of our challenges, I say, keep at it. Don't give up. The blessings we - and the Kingdom - will receive in due time will be worth the struggle.


 


Thursday, January 7, 2021

New Beginnings

I am the Alpha and the Omega

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Revelation 21:6

New Beginnings

The start of a new year is a natural time to reassess, readjust, and renew. We attempt to shed the bad habits of last year and look forward to a new beginning. We make New Year's resolutions, join the gym (again!), throw out all of the junk food at home, and read the endless library of self-help books. 

I actually started this transformation when the pandemic forced us to stay at home back in March. With so much time on my hands, I vowed to start projects I'd been putting off. I have been studying Spanish and having fun learning to draw and paint with watercolors.

Always Faithful

I've also taken the time to study the Bible and read books from some outstanding Christian authors.

One message that keeps coming back to me is the faithfulness of our God. Jesus says He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. His love for us is never ending. He loved us at the beginning and He will love us for eternity.

But what does that mean to us personally? It means that we can trust that Jesus will follow through on His promises. He has promised that those who believe in Him will have eternal life and you can trust that this is true.

As He says in the second half of Revelation 21:6, for those who are thirsty for the truth, He is the answer. Only through Jesus can we attain eternal life.



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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Heal Our Land

Heal Our Land

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I have no doubt that many of you, like I, sat in front of the TV this afternoon in absolute horror as an angry mob stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC. People from both sides of the aisle, those with polar opposite political views, are stunned and condemning the action in unison.

I am not here to debate political views. You have your beliefs and I have mine and it is doubtful that either of us can convince the other to change. One thing that we can do together is pray for this country.

Father, hear my prayer. I love my country and feel overwhelming grief over today's events. This past year has taken a toll on us all. We are weary from the pandemic and racial unrest. A normal election year can wear on anyone's nerves but this election and subsequent claims of voter fraud have pushed us all to the limits of patience. 

We are exhausted from not being heard. We feel marginalized as our concerns are casually dismissed by leaders.

Still, this is no excuse for rioting and violence. It is no excuse for attempting to disrupt a central, and generally routine, process in our democracy.

Please, Father, heal our land. Perhaps we have become to comfortable as the greatest nation in history. Maybe we take our bounty for granted. Help us to see that all that we have is all from You. Help us to understand that we are not deserving of such riches and easy lives and it is only by your grace that we enjoy our many blessings.

Help us to remember what it means to be a Christian and to love others as you love everyone. Unconditionally and simply without judgment. We need to learn how to accept others' views, even if we don't agree with them. We need to treat each other with kindness and humility.

Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings. We have done nothing to deserve all that we have and we need to practice more gratitude.

Please guide our leaders as they face such enormous challenges in the coming days and months. Give them wisdom, patience, and understanding.

 

Friday, January 1, 2021

God: The Resolution-Keeper

My New Year's Resolutions: Let God take the lead


Do Resolutions Work?

Have you ever successfully kept a New Year's resolution? If you have, I want to hear about it and give you a medal! 

Don't get me wrong, I think resolutions are a good thing. They prompt us to take stock of what's happened and what we want to happen. It's helpful to do a "post mortem" (a term from my project management days) of the past year by thinking about all of the great things that happened and how you can do better with the not-so-good things next time.

But, even with all of that reflecting, we're kidding ourselves if we think we will really lose those last 10 pounds or walk five miles each and every day. I mean, kudos to those who actually achieve those goals, but it's not realistic for most of us. In fact, less than 8% of us are successful.

So, what's a better plan? 

Well, God is the perfect resolution-keeper... as long as the resolution is something that He thinks you need. So don't waste your time thinking of what you'll do better next year. Instead turn to God and ask Him to lead you through your self-improvement.

Even that resolution takes commitment, though. How many times have you resolved to pray every day only to miss a day or two after only a couple of weeks? Don't feel bad - you're not alone. Typically, most people keep their resolutions only until January 12th.

How Can I Talk With God? 

If you're not used to routinely praying to God, read about the PRAY method. I've found that this structure of prayer is very helpful and I still use it after years of being a "prayer warrior". It keeps my prayers from becoming merely a list of wants and wishes and elevates it to more of a conversation.

I find myself talking with God a lot, all through the day. When I was working, I would routinely go over my schedule as I drove to work each day. As a human resources director, I often had some difficult situation to resolve and I always asked God for help with those. Sometimes I would even ask Him to give me the words to say so I could be sure to handle it with understanding and grace.

Now that I'm retired, I still reach out to Him throughout the day. Most of the time it's to show thanks for something that's happened. Sometimes, though, I still face difficult situations and I try to always ask for help with those.

Making It A Habit

However you engage with God is just fine. Just do it! And do it routinely.

Behaviorists say that it takes twenty-one days to establish a habit. Here are some tips that may make it easier to stick with it.
  1. Find a time during the day that works for you to have uninterrupted time with God. Maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night when the kids are in bed. Or during your lunch break at work. 
  2. Set a reminder on your phone so you don't forget!
  3. Pair it with another daily activity, such as walking the dog or cleaning the kitchen after supper. It's OK to multitask as long as the other activity is one of those mindless ones so you can really concentrate on your conversation with God.
  4. Give yourself a reward for each day that you pray. No, I don't mean an ice cream cone or new clothes. Something simple like putting a star on your calendar. My electronic calendar actually has a feature that let's you reward yourself in that way - it's a good visual reminder of your progress.
  5. Don't give up when you miss a day. You probably will because of a squished schedule or just forgetting. It's not the end of the world. Just jump back on that horse and keep on riding!

You Can Do This!

You've got this and, with God's guidance, you'll soon be on your way to self-improvement.

James Clear quote


"Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are.

-The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.

-The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.

-The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.

This year, focus on the identity you want to build." James Clear


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