Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being Heavenly Focused

During the time our Savior was earth bound He met people where they were. In fact, He still does. During His ministry Jesus didn't have a home to call His own. He didn't do a 9-5 job. He didn't open His door at 9:00 and make sure the closed sign was turned at 5:00. His ministry was a 24/7 ministry. Think about that for a minute. That's a lot to chew on. While Jesus was here on earth He was all God, but He was all man. Not just a little bit of man. Not 50% of a man. He was all man. He was tempted. He grew tired. His feet became dirty. I imagine there in the dessert He was a sweaty mess at times. He grew hungry and He grew of thirst.

As He walked this earth, He continued to meet people where they were. He went to the people. Yes, He met them on their turf. He went out of His way to meet people. Do we do that?Can you envision the feeding of the 5,000? Can you see Him with the Samaritan woman at the well? Jesus went out of His way to make Himself available. Even when He was tired, He knew from whom His strength came.

He wasn't always accepted. He was downright rejected, despised and hated. For all those that rejected Him, He still continued onward. He had a mission. He healed the sick. He touched the lepers. He reached out to those no one wanted. He made Himself available to all. He never met a stranger. As people came to Him, He already knew their story. Remember, He was all God too.

He came as a man so we could relate to Him. It is easy for us to say, "Well, of course He never sinned. He was God." But friends, He was all man. No, I can't wrap my little mind around all that, but what I can do, is know without a doubt that He can relate to me. He has been there. He knows what pain is.

He never showed partiality to anyone. During His ministry He never said only the rich could come. Only the good-looking could surround Him. People walk with an entourage today, wanting all the focus on them. Jesus wasn't glitz and glam. He wasn't putting on a show. He was the real deal. His focus? His Father. His Disciples and Apostles were like Him. Common. They were the normal and not so normal. Not sure a fisherman raked real high on the pay scale. But to Jesus, he was special. They were the accepted and unwanted.  A tax collector following Jesus? Most wanted nothing to do with them. But Jesus? He received everyone with love. Jesus could have came to earth totally different. The point is, He didn't. He road in on a donkey. Not a Royal Mount.
"Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Luke 9:57-58

He knew His Father would provide His every need. He wasn't concerned with stuff like we are today. He didn't have a house full of stuff to take His attention off of His purpose. To see His plan and bring it to fruition, He had to keep His eyes on the Father. Nothing could get in the way. The plan was laid out. His life was filled with purpose. He balanced life. He knew what was important and what to let go of. None of this stuff we gather on this earth is going to be needed for our heavenly home.

Don't you think we have gotten just a little off track? Are you stressed today? Jesus knew what that kind of day was like. I get stressed. I allow  the things of this world to get me off track. Yes, if I'm not careful I lose my focus. We try to shuffle life and somehow what's most important gets shuffled to the bottom. We wait on heaven, but tomorrow comes and the next day and the next. But there is going to come a time when we see Him coming. So, we need to ask ourselves, "Just where are we building our home?" We put heaven aside for a little comfort. We put ME in front of every situation. We let the malls direct us. Our eyes travel from one thing to the next. Where is it that our treasure is? Sometimes, too many times, my treasure is found in my stuff. I say I'm going to do this and that, but friends, having a good idea, is just that, unless we put it into action. My feet need to always be moving in the direction the Lord is leading. There is no coincidence who crosses our path. There are no chance meetings.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:3-5

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." John 14:2-4

"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." Philippians 3:20-21

Every step of our Savior tells of His story. Every step He took was calculated and direct. He was focused and secure in the Father. Friends, you and I can have the same security in our walk. We can be so focused on Jesus that not one opportunity passes us by. We can use every minute of our lives for Jesus.

We are not going to reach the world for Jesus if we never take a step of faith. We must make ourselves available and we must be ready to serve at the most inopportune times. Remember, it's those interruptions in our life that He creates opportunities for great heavenly gain.

It's not the stuff here on this earth that matters. It is the heart of man that matters. His soul. Jesus was grounded in His Father's work. He served where others didn't want to go. He gave until it hurt. He is our example. Just where are we planting our feet? Friends, this isn't our home. We are just passing through. But while we are here, let us make the most of each and every moment! Are you ready?

The Woman's Study Bible by Thomas Nelson

Thomas Nelson has this amazing Signature Series. Through this series I have been blessed to review many outstanding Bibles. The latest to arrive is The Woman's Study Bible. There are many great study Bibles out there. If your searching for a study directed at women this is your Bible!

The opening for each Book of the Bible is detailed with the title, author, date, background, themes and outline. The maps are bright and helpful. The concordance is one of the best I have seen. That is always a helpful tool to have in Bible study. It also includes an added index for all the special features.

There are quotes from women:
"The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian. The fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman." Elizabeth Elliot 

"Women should do less. Less of what we want, more of what God wants." Cindy Lewis Dake

"Living by faith is not easy, but it is essential. It is the only weapon for adversity that cannot fail." Dorothy Kelley Patterson

Charts that give insight to everything you could imagine. These charts of are one of my favorite tools in this Bible. Another feature is the Portraits of the women of the Bible. This is a feature that I have spent much time in. We have topical notes that give us great insight into living daily with godly principles.  We too have the Annotations tool that helps us identify people and places. There are Articles written by women for women that lead us to a Spirit filled life.

You could literally sit down and get lost in this Bible. All the added tools do not take away from the study of the Word, but help to increase your study. It aids to understanding and uncovering treasures that help us to be the women God has created us to be. I will surely use this Bible on a daily basis. The inside of this Bible is so pretty and elegant.

You can get this Bible in KJV, NKJV and NIV. How great is that? The NIV is newly published and available now.  I received the hardback version for review, but this study Bible comes in many leather choices and paperback. You will not go wrong with this Bible. There is so much this Bible offers to women. You can go to the Thomas Nelson website or click on any link I have provided and check it out further, even watching a video preview of this Bible.

This Woman's Study Bible was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review.

HCSB Study Bible published by Holman

If you are searching for the perfect study Bible the HCSB Study Bible is the best of the best! I received this hardback version for review  and it is magnificent in every way. This is a beautiful Bible inside and out. This is the first color Bible I have ever owned. It adds so much to the reading of the Word. It's inviting and astounding. I have loved just sitting and turning page after page in amazement.

With each new  Book of the Bible there is an extensive outline. The maps are surreal and lively. The Word is printed clearly and precise. It is easy to understand. I have read through the NIV, the Message, NKJV, NLT and many more. This is the ultimate Bible when it comes to understanding and study. This Bible is in depth. It covers everything imaginable and brings you to being encouraged to study the Word daily. Seriously, you open this Bible and you can't get enough.

I love the color photos. There is even a Greek study! Throughout the Bible you uncover the meaning of the Greek words that bring so much clarity to the Word. I can tell you that if I were purchasing a Bible for study this would be my top pick!

Here are some of the features of this Bible:
290 word studies
Four-color presentation pages
141 photographs
Two-column text setting
62 time lines
Two-piece gift box (non-hardcover)
59 maps
One-year Bible reading plan
24 articles
Center column references
16 illustrations/reconstructions
Topical subheads
15 charts
Black letter text

"For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

In studying the Word of God this is the best I have seen. This is one you are going to have to check out, friends! This is one of those great Bibles you purchase and pass down to generations to come. If your searching for a great study Bible, this is it!!

The HCSB Study Bible was a gift from B&H Publishing for sharing my review.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Is Your Someday?

What is your someday? Oh, we all have them, don't we? When is the last time you pondered your someday?

Someday I will go to Paris.

Someday I will go visit my aunt.

Someday I will write that book.

Someday I will call my sister.

Someday I will purchase my mom a gift.

Someday I will seek out my daughter.

Someday I will tell my dad I'm sorry.

Someday I will go to church.

Someday I will find out what all this faith stuff is.

Someday I will..fill in the blank. What is your someday that is waiting? You know what happens to those somedays? They never come. Sure, we ponder them, but it ends there. We think we have more time. We see it as not important for today, but what happens when our someday gets lost in yesterday?

We all have somedays.

Someday I will ask her to marry me.

Someday I will go for that promotion.

Someday I will spend more time with my mom.

Someday I will take more time with my children.

You know what happens? Time passes and our children grow up. Mom passes away. That promotion goes to someone else who isn't waiting for a someday. By the time we get around to asking for her hand in marriage she grew tired of waiting and found a fella who wasn't afraid to move now.

Someday I will move on.

Someday I will change.

Someday I will start fresh.

Someday I will be a better wife.

Someday I will stop looking back.

The people in our lives are more important than the stuff in our lives we continue to accumulate. Success isn't climbing the later as the world teaches us. Success is being true to who you are and living your life to the fullest. We don't have to live an incomplete life. With Jesus, He completes us. He has given us dreams and has instilled us with gifts. He has our entire life planned out. Did you know that? He only wants the best for you. Friends, stop dragging your feet and making excuses. Being humble and meek isn't being weak. It's showing the strength and sweet grace of God.

I encourage you to make a list of your somedays and pray over them. Ask the Lord for His guidance. His will is for you to live a gracious, extraordinary life filled and running over with joy! Get started. You will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the things the Lord has for you today.

You know what I think? I think those somedays are kind of selfish. In those somedays we dream about we often say that we are just too busy right now. When things slow down then I will, but things never tend to slow down. In many ways we just continue to get busy. What are we busy with? The things we want to be busy with. We let those somedays go because we have taken today for granted. We might as well add tomorrow on there too, because we just assume we have tomorrow.

Someday I will begin eating right.

Someday I will start that diet.

Someday I will begin exercising.

Someday I will try for that marathon.

Think about how many somedays we have passed up. What has slipped away from us because we waited for someday, a day that never came? We spend our days grieving the past and wishing for peace. We put off what could be accomplished today for tomorrow. When tomorrow comes we are too busy and it gets pushed back even further. Why do we allow ourselves to take those around us for granted?

Don't wait for someday to tell your daddy your sorry.

Don't wait for someday to ask your momma for forgiveness.

Don't wait for someday to ask for a second chance at love.

Don't wait for someday to live.

What is it that your waiting for? Make today that perfect time. Enjoy this moment right now and live as if the next may not come. The longer we wait the harder it is. It's like going to the lake and finding that the water is ice cold. We either step in toe by toe or we just dive on in. Friends, it's time to dive! It's time to live before this life passes us up. We don't want to one day be sitting back thinking of all the somedays we passed up. That's a life of regret. Get out of that rocker and take the steps to grab hold of life today and actually live it!

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to rear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible NKJV By Thomas Nelson

Wow! First I must give a huge thank you to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to review such a spectacular Bible. I was over the top excited with the UPS man brought this package to my door. I opened it and boy, I've had a hard time closing it. In fact, I have left it open on my bed. Each time I walk past it I steal another few minutes diving into the Word.

Charles Stanley is filled with wisdom. The Spirit is moving through this man of God to bring the Word to the world. I have certainly learned from the wisdom of this wonderful man. If your searching for a new Bible this would be a great choice. I have also been blessed to review the Life Lessons Bible from Max Lucado, also printed by Thomas Nelson. Friends, these are two magnificent Bibles. Bibles that have broadened my vision of the Word of God and has brought clarity on many subjects.

When you open the Life Principles Bible you get exactly what you would expect from Charles Stanley. Superb and poignant! This Bible comes from the Signature Series. I have the hardback version, which I love. Now, when you open the Life Principles Bible you find the index for the thirty life principles. You may be thinking that thirty isn't many, but oh goodness, it is filled with inspiration. Each Life Principle contains a main verse, a section that is: "What The Bible Says About", "Answers To Life's Questions", "Life Examples", and "Life Lessons".

For Life Principles 1 , "Our intimacy with god-His highest priority for our lives-determines the impact of our lives." Then the main scripture is shared which is Genesis 1:26. In the section of, "What The Bible Says About", we find eight different texts to follow: The Holy Spirit and the Trinity, The Cover-Up, Enjoying God's Presence, God as Our Lover, The Best Friend You Will Ever Have, Knowing All of God, God's Forever Love, and Spiritual Growth, each containing scripture verses to seek out God's wisdom on these subjects.

Then we find, "Answers To Life's Questions", with subjects such as: "What Does the Bible say to lonely people?, What does it mean to sit before the Lord?, How can I develop and maintain an attitude of active listening before God?, How can I find renewal and restoration?, How does my relationship with the Lord affect what and how I hear from Him?, What happens when we praise God?, What does God's love look like?, When is the appropriate time to praise the Lord?, How does God define sin?, How can I get to really know God?, what are the characteristics of a godly man?, How can I know if my worship pleases God?, and How can God use an imperfect person like me?".  Each with scripture verses pointing us to  finding answers to these questions.

One of my favorites from, "Answers To Life's Questions is this": "Do you ever feel tempted to give up? Perhaps right now you feel overlooked, forgotten, mistreated, and you want to quit. Satan's goal is to get you to do just that-throw in the towel and call it quits. Discouragement is one of his most effective weapons. But remember this: while disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a a choice. You do not have to yield to the devil's debilitating whispers of doubt and fear or be trapped in self-pity."

Life Examples are next. They begin with Phinehas, Deborah, Hosea, Nathan, David, and go all the way through to James. In the case of David we go to 2 Sam. 12:1-14 where Charles Stanley brings us to see, "A Case Study in Repentance". These are just marvelous and so descriptive.

The Life Lessons follow and here is where you will find scripture verses from Genesis to Revelation. These are nuggets of gold that help us understand scripture. This added section brings us to dive deeper into the Word. I am telling you all, this is a wondrous Bible!

These are placed all throughout the Bible and when you find each one it gives you direction to the next so you have a continual study. I enjoy having the encouragement to study God's Word. Charles Stanley makes it easy to understand. Through these life principles he brings it all together for us. Kind of like connecting the pieces together to make study easy and intriguing. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. This is just fascinating to read.

Each book of the Bible opens with Charles Stanley giving us an understanding of the entire book. As Genesis opens he tells us, "As you read Genesis, watch for the life principles that play an important role in this book." Throughout the Bible, Charles Stanley points out important parts of the Bible, parts that we may find hard to understand, or parts that we need more clarity on, with little arrows and highlighted words. At the bottom of each page you find the life principles for those pop-out scriptures.

I really enjoyed the "Answers To Life's Questions", and the "Life Examples". He gives us a sharper look into the people of the Bible. There are so many facets to this Bible, you might think it would be hard to follow, but not at all. It's easy and most of all, it is inviting. As I sat down to study I found myself diving in for hours. What an awesome thing, to lose track of time as you find yourself in the Word of God.

There is another Charles Stanley Life Principles Bible, it is called, "Life Principles Daily Bible". This Bible adds the element of having daily devotionals.

This Bible will truly help to guide you through the Bible in an exciting way that invites you to stay in the Word.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Life Principle 15 Brokenness Is God's Requirement For Maximum Usefulness. "What is God stripping away from your life? What do you trust in more than the Lord? God will break your dependence upon anything other than Himself no matter how long it takes or how difficult the process may be. He is committed to bringing you to a place of wholeness and spiritual maturity-conforming you to the likeness of His Son. (Rom. 8:29)

This Bible was a gift from Thomas Nelson for my review.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lord, Help Me To Uncover True Worship Inside The Church

As Christians we keep things in, don't we? We hide our emotions as we raise our hands in praise. As we sing hymns of old, our hearts are burdened with hurts that isn't all well with our soul. We learn to put on a plastic smile as we shake hands during meet and greet. We attend church each Sunday hoping for more and settling for less.

We walk through the church doors broken in search of healing. We are lonely and looking for something to fill the emptiness we feel. We see the altar and only want to leave it all there. The anger and bitterness. The brokenness and chains that bind us to our sins we keep hidden. All we want is to find what the Lord promises. Hope, faith and love.

I found all of those almost twenty-one years ago as I entered the church I would soon call home. I found the family and friends that would encourage me straight to Jesus and a life with Him. This church grew me. I entered broken and bruised. Lost and searching. I am the woman I am today in part because of the loving people I called family who taught me and lead me to know the Jesus that would change my life for forevermore.

I haven't been to my home church in ten months. Ten long months I have been absent from the pew I have sat in for the last seven years. For the first thirteen years our family sat two rows from the front. I had to leave the church to find me. My body was present in the pew, but somewhere along the way my heart was missing. It wasn't active anymore. Ever find yourself just going through the motions? We have been MIA and it seems those years being present we must have been invisible.

You may be wondering why we left a church so dear to us. I can tell you that it was a clear leading of the Lord. During my prayer time I would be sharing with the Lord the wounds of my heart and the emptiness it was feeling. I heard the Lord say, "Move, my child". This is one of those life lessons of patience and obedience. I waited for months until I knew I heard the Lord clearly. At first I didn't know what He meant. Was I too move churches? Move in church? Was He talking direction or motion? A few months back I received my answer.

It was hard to move. How do you find a new church? Do you even want a new church? I can tell you after the hurt my family has endured I wasn't so eager to find a new church. Trusting a new church is difficult. It broke my heart not to return, but the Lord opened a door for visiting other churches. This has been a journey that has brought great insight. Every church has different ways of doing things. I found myself comparing every church to our home church. That isn't what I was to do. I was to focus and seek Jesus. That is exactly what I have been doing.

The Lord has been doing a wonder in my heart. See, I became too comfortable in my pew. I was allowing hurts to build up and each Sunday it was draining just to get ready for church. Once there, my heart was so hardened, I could no longer worship. My anger had gotten in the way. I became dependent on my church. I was depending on the church to feed me, to meet my spiritual needs. They weren't being met and I wasn't being fed.

Since then my prayer life has grown deeper. I am making my way through studying the Bible. I have been reading great studies on the Word and life of Christ. Each day I am seeking Him as I never have before. See, I was seeking for the church to fill me up each week. When that wasn't happening I was giving up. My attitude on church was not a good one and as we visited other churches I found the truth. No church is perfect. How could it be when the church is filled with imperfect people? We are an imperfect people trying to find our way to Jesus.

I think, like a lot of others, I was expecting too much from my church. When they no longer were meeting those expectations I grew hesitant and weary. The truth..I allowed all the junk to enter in to my mind and heart and I wasn't allowing the Lord to be my filter. I am to go to church to worship. Simple as that. I am to worship and if I am led I am to serve in my church. In that service I am still to keep my eyes upon the mission and purpose of Christ. But I no longer had room in my heart for worship after I had heard all the gossip and backbiting. Church is over and what is happening? Really, what takes place after church on the ride home? For our family the ride home was as if we had never even attended church. Tears would easily come. It didn't feel like home any longer. Changes were happening that didn't settle within my heart.

Do you think God allows things to bring us closer to Him? Friends, I know He does. I believe it is the Lord Jesus who has placed me in this new journey. I have grown in ways that was not possible where I was. He needed me away from the junk so that I could regain my focus and see what was really important. Him and nothing else. If He is my total focus, He will take care of the rest. I can't expect from others what they cannot give and friends, no one gives love like Jesus. I turned to my Bible like never before. I found grace and forgiveness. I found a new way of life that I hadn't yet reached while sitting in my pew. I had to get out of my box, my comfort zone and step out in faith.

Visiting other churches has been a challenge. I know it has been the calling of the Lord. It has truly been eye opening to see how others worship together. How people interact with members and visitors. How they lead in music and how they pray asking for the leading of the Lord. I can honestly tell you some churches have been so warm and refreshing, while others have been rude and lacking in making one feel invited to share in worship. I think most of all, I am learning about myself. I am more in tune with the uttering of the Holy Spirit. I feel driven to read my Bible. I find myself saturating myself in the word only to raise my hand in praise as I have an 'aha' moment. Don't you love uncovering all He has for you?

The Lord isn't calling me back to my home church yet. So, I continue to go where He leads. Like never before I am in prayer of His will for my life. I am realizing more and more that if Jesus isn't the focus than I need to walk away. I am in constant check of my motives. I am learning to speak up when the Holy Spirit is nudging. Most of all, I'm not afraid to simply be me. The girl He created me to be. I want to use my gifts and talents for the Lord. I want my life to be used by Him. I want to live without excuse and without regret.

Am I hurt by my church? Yes, that is a deep seated hurt that the Lord is healing. By His grace I realize more and more that we are just people trying to figure it all out. Sometimes we get it right and others we fail. But where we fail, the Lord is there to bring beauty to the ashes. He is there cheering us on along the way. We are all on a different path and our journeys are different. Our callings are unique. We grow in different ways and the timing is all Jesus. We are a work in progress. I think that is one of the things we forget. We expect perfection out of imperfect people.

We have to be willing to forgive. We must be willing to extend the same grace we are offered daily. We are not always going to agree and lets be real, we aren't always going to like one another, but we aren't called to like one another. We are called to love. Love without exception. Boundless love. You know, it's the only kind of love, true Jesus love.

Church is Satan's favorite place to be. I really believe that. As we sit in our pews he is there to trip us up with all kinds of things. We forget we are a church filled with sinners. There isn't one person in the entire church who is doing the walk better than another. We are so quick to judge and correct others as we drive home with our hidden sins. See, we are simply to love people where they are at. Sinners in need of grace.

We get puffed up with our jobs and positions. Oh, if we would just allow the Lord to humble us. What we need is revival. What we need is just pure worship. Just imagine what would happen if we got out of His way and just allowed Him our lives to touch a world not in need of seeing us, but of seeing Him.

I just want to be the girl God created me to be. I need encouragement just like the next girl. People want to feel needed and we want to be accepted. Why can't we just serve Jesus with everything we have and put all the egos to rest. It's not about who does more or less. Who is involved and who isn't serving. It's not about lifting up a certain few and ignoring those who minister in secret. It's about serving our Savior and allowing Jesus to live through us to bring His message to a world in need of His love.

Jesus, bring us to look more like You. Humble our prideful hearts and give us opportunities to serve you. Place in our path people in need and place in our hearts a willingness to move outside the box and reach a world who isn't so different from us. Might we remember we too were once lost. Help us to share in Your mercies. Give us hearts that look past denomination, color, creed, money, and may we value each and every person with a Christ-like love.

I'm still figuring it all out. I'm just a girl who loves Jesus and wants to serve Him. Where are you today? Have you been hurt by your church? Friends, don't give up on church. Don't give up on Jesus. Open your hearts to Him and give Him your deepest wounds. Only He can bring true healing and forgiveness.

When it all comes down to it we should be living each day with the attitude of grace and with actions that whisper mercy and words that spring forth inspiration. At the end of the day, it isn't about how others lived their day. It's about how you lived. How I lived. It's about our walk with Jesus. At the end of the day we should be able to ask Jesus, "So, Jesus, how did I do today? How did I do with all You gave me?" It's not the cheers of others we desire or need. It's the voice of our Savior saying, "Well done, My daughter. You used up everything I gave you and you took every opportunity to bring glory to Me. I am delighted in you, My child."

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, May 10, 2013

Victim of Grace (When God's Goodness Prevails) by Robin Jones Gunn

When your in a book store and your eyes are traveling up and down the shelves, what is it that catches your attention? A name? A book cover? Maybe the subject? Robin Jones Gunn is one of those eye catching authors. I see her name and I grab up the book. I may even just drop everything and sit in the aisle of the book store and read for a bit. Yes, I have been known to do so with great enjoyment. Victim of Grace is one of those books!

Robin's latest book is more than an eye catcher. It's a heart changer. The cover is inviting. The title inquisitive. I can honestly tell you I loved this book from beginning, middle and end. As I read I often had to stop and ponder the words before my eyes. This is Robin's story. A story of grace and how the Lord has moved in her life through circumstance to show her His mercies new daily.

At first I wondered about the title, "Victim of Grace". Does anyone really want to be known as a victim? I mean we see that word and think weak. But what is the definition of victim? Victim: (noun) from the Latin, victima, a live sacrifice. Hm..that kind of changes things doesn't it? Aren't we living sacrifices for Christ? What about the definition of grace? Grace: (noun) a manifestation of unmerited favor. I love when a writer doesn't just share the word, but gives us the deep meaning of what the word is to them. Robin does this with such gentleness, her words flow. She shares with us how to surrender to the Savior when all seems impossible. Through that surrender she finds peace and a grace that sets her free.

One of the verses Robin shares is from 2 Corinthians 10:5. She shares deep and raw about the struggles of her personal life. When the onslaught of these thoughts targeted her she used this verse to bring her thoughts back to Jesus. "Today I am casting down my imagination and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

One of my favorite sharings of Robin is this: "The reality of "what is," not the fantasy of "what could be," is the place where God's will is accomplished in our lives. Learn to make peace with the mysteries of surrender, submission and endurance."

Robin too shares of her journey of writing. This is powerful for me. Her words give me great encouragement to continue onward believing and trusting that Lord is working behind the scenes and in my heart. In the most intimate moments of my struggles He isn't leaving me, but strengthening me for the journey He has just for me.

The scripture verses that Robin shares are poignant to the story she is sharing. This is one of those books that makes you realize your not alone. Each page brings inspiration through the eyes of a woman after God's own heart.

Robin not only shares stories from her life, but from women of the Bible. One of my favorites is chapter 6 entitled, A Banner Word. The scripture heading is, "Godly people..do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them." Psalm 112:2 Robin shares her journey through a diagnosis of cancer. I simply lost myself throughout this chapter.

I can tell you reading this book feels like I've enjoyed a weekend with Robin, sharing coffee, and speaking heart to heart. Friends, this is one of those rare gems that is a must read. We have all lived those times we thought would take us under and by the grace of God here we are today. Those times will surly come again, but God's goodness will always prevail. This beautiful book will set a course for you to stand in strength and grace for those uncharted lands of our journey that will always lead you straight to Jesus.

This book was a gift from Zondervan through the Booksneeze program for my review.

Robin Jones Gunn Over the past 25 years Robin has written 82 books with almost 4.5 million copies sold worldwide. To her great delight, Robin’s books are doing exactly what she always hoped to do – they are traveling around the world and telling people about God’s love. She is doing the same. Over the past ten years Robin has been invited to speak at events around the US and Canada as well as in South America, Africa, Europe and Australia. Robin and her husband have two grown children and have been married for 35 years. They live in Hawaii where she continues to write and speak. www.robingunn.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Life Of Faith Has All The Makings For Ministry

We often think of a ministry belonging to pastors or missionaries. If we walk in faith and are believers, friends, we have a ministry. Our ministry is our family, our friends, our local community, our place of employment,  and those we meet daily. Yes, our ministry reaches all those who walk in our path. Ministry is reaching out to others in love. As we minister to those around us we share the love of Christ through our actions and we share the gospel through our words. Through ministry we accomplish the calling Christ has given each of us. Through our ministry we use the gifts He has bestowed upon us to bring praise and glory to His holy name. Knowing our calling, using our gifts, we can reach the world together.

Are you a momma who stays home with your children? There is your ministry. Do you also work outside the home from 9-5? Those you encounter at work are part of your ministry. Are you a school teacher? A farmer? A grandparent? Our ministry begins right at home with our family and from there it grows to everyone we meet along the journey. God has a way of placing people in our path with purpose. Don't you know He is always planning ahead to give room for blessings to flow. All He needs is a vessel. That vessel is you and me.

Remember, ministry isn't about numbers. It's who the Lord has placed in our path at the moment. Ministry is about sharing the love of Jesus. It's about reaching out and sharing the gospel. Ministry is serving others with the passion of Christ. Ministry is meeting people where the are and pointing them to Jesus. Ministry leaves behind a legacy of love. We may not even know the depths of our ministry until we reach heaven.

I think of the life of Paul. He ministered to thousands and he is still ministering to thousands as we read God's Word and understand the life of Paul. He held himself to a high calling of God. He didn't measure himself to any other. He measured himself to the Word of God. He left behind his old life for the new life he found in Christ.

In studying 2 Corinthians today I came across chapter 6. Paul has written to the church at Corinth. He opens up and shares with them just how their walk should look. People should be able to see that they are different. They are set apart from the world in which they live. People know they are different by their actions. Their lives tell of the precious grace of God. He shares the example of character traits we are have. By their walk it should be clear that they belong to Jesus and that Jesus is their everything.

"We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. but in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

That pretty much covers it all, don't you think?  In my study this morning I read over these verses many times. It almost looks overwhelming, but not impossible. Isn't it about attitude? A heart condition? Yes, change must begin in the heart. Once the heart is accepting of Christ the body soon follows. In my daily walk with Christ I stumble greatly, but I am reminded of David. Oh, how he stumbled. He too knew the will of God and he knew when he was outside God's will. David had a heart after God. He knew the tender mercies of God and was faithful. We happen to have a God of second changes. More than seconds, but thirds and fourths. Praise Jesus, all we must do is call upon His name and He answers. He is good to show us where we stumble. He wants us to realize the cause of our stumble so we can be on guard. Jesus wants to see us soar!

As faithful servants we are to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Praise Jesus we have a God who doesn't lower His standards. He meets us right where we are and the metamorphosis begins. The closer we are to Christ the more we clearly see His will. We are to live in such a way that the world sees Jesus through us. We are live in such a way that we point others to Christ and Christ alone.

Let us get back to that attitude of ours. We may say, "Gosh, I'm only human". Yes, we are human, but our Savior came to this world in human form and never sinned. He knew no sin. He was perfect in every way. Christ can be perfected through us when we allow the Holy Spirit to live and move in us.

That attitude we have? We can surrender our thoughts to Jesus. Yes, every time a thought comes to mind that shouldn't be there all we must do is surrender that thought to Christ. Remember in Matthew 16:22-23 when Jesus is predicting His death and Peter speaks against the Word Jesus is speaking, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" (vs.22) What was Peter thinking? He wasn't! Read what Jesus says next, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (vs. 23) Satan loves to get into our thoughts. He gets into our thoughts and then the words fly. Ever utter a comment and before those words are out your regretting it already? Satan loves it when he can take our thoughts captive and speak through us as if we have no control over our own tongue.

"We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5

"Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life." Proverbs 4:23

Aren't you glad we have a God who is in total control? All we have to do is turn to Him in trust. As we focus on Him our actions will obey Him. Our words will give Him praise. Oh, how we fight temptation. We battle sin. Friends, there is good news. Victory has already been won! Jesus will give you strength to overcome the temptations you battle daily. He will give you courage to face your sins head on. He will wash you in grace as you surrender each and every thought over to Him in obedience.

Don't ever allow Satan to tell you that you can't do it. Satan once had Paul under his thumb. But when Jesus got a hold of Paul, Satan had no more power over him. Paul allowed Christ to use his life as witness to the world that God is good, that God is merciful and that with the strength of Jesus Christ everything is possible.

It is time we live our life of faith being specific in our prayers. We know the areas in which we struggle. When wrong thoughts interrupt our walk give them to Jesus right then and there. Change your focus. Don't give Satan in inch, for if you do he will soon take a mile.

In the closing of the first letter Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he shares these words. "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love." 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

As we begin thinking of our walk as a ministry it changes things doesn't it? We aren't here to live a life of solitude. We are called by God and given a God size purpose. He has equipped us with everything we need and He's even given us a guide, the Holy Spirit, to lead the way. Don't fear your journey. Walk in faith and God will bless your ministry.

"Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8

Monday, May 6, 2013

Life Is More Than Just A Passing Grade

Back in high school my priorities were not getting good grades. I simply did enough just to pass. Oh, I could have done more. I began as an A student. The work was easy, but I just wasn't into work, so I simply did enough to get by. I'm gonna open up from that raw spot now. I didn't finish school. I was bored with it. So, I quit. After quiting I got my GED rather quickly. I aced my GED and received a scholarship to go to UMSL. You would think the logical reaction would be, sign me up! But no, I did the total opposite. I thought, "Who in their right mind wants to go to college for four years?" Hello, most would have jumped for joy and readied for a career, but not this girl. Nope, I wasn't concerned with school. Again, I was the girl who did just enough to get by. I'm not quite sure where that logic came from. But this is what my young adult life reflected. (Praise Jesus, we are a work in progress!)

I grabbed that GED and headed straight for Cosmetology school! Graduated and began beautifying people with my talents. I loved my job and it was one I was great at, but it didn't satisfy me. Nothing seemed to satisfy me, that is until I became a momma. After that, I no longer did just enough to get by. I gave it my all.

Now, you may be wondering just why would I share that bit of info with you all. Well, it is a great example for how we can at times live our Christian life. How many of us do enough just to get by? We start out excited and on fire. Nothing can keep us down. We are ready for anything. That's how I began high school. I know without a doubt I could have finished with honors, but that wasn't my priority. You can only guess what my priorities were.

I remember being a child in first grade and I was so excited when I brought home a paper with an A on top of it. Oh, I just knew my parents would be proud of me and they were. Oh, my heart soared to hear my daddy say, "Great job, Rob!"

As Christians if we are not constantly being fed we are going to grow bored. We have to be courageous and bold for Jesus. We surround ourselves with people who will cheer us on along the journey. We must find ourselves challenged by the Word. We are going to search for something that fills us and if we are not careful we are going to leave behind everything we know for something that isn't in God's plan for us. I am not so sure we are to ever truly be satisfied here. I mean, after all, this isn't our home. We are to long for more, but while here, shouldn't we be giving our all? Too often, we just do enough to get by. This life holds such beauty for us. Every moment we breathe is a possibility for God to move greatness through us. Every time our feet move on His behalf is an opportunity for our gifts to shine Jesus. We were created for His purpose. That is nothing short of glory and grace. We are His vessels. His very hands and feet. For us to use them for anything less than His glory is waste.

Just as works without faith is dead, faith without works is dead. Pastors become stagnant. Those sitting in the pews do it Sunday after Sunday because they think that it what they are suppose to do. But what happens when your not being fed? What happens when that excitement that was once there is gone? Do you remain just because or do you take a stand and reach for more?

If we are not always reaching for more we are going to miss out on opportunities for growth. This world is our classroom. We have a choice to remain seated and learn or we get grab a hall pass and skip out on what is most important. There are people who are just waiting to hear about Jesus through one who is humble and serving. We aren't to outshine one another. We are to simply to allow Jesus to shine through us.

If I could go back in time knowing what I now know, I would have finished school. Not only finished, but gave it my all. How awesome to receive a scholarship as a second chance! (Which reminds me, we have a God of second chances!) I wish I would have taken it. The Lord yet opened another door for me. A door I chose not to go through. Do you ever look back and wonder what life would have been if only? Now, wallowing in those if only's doesn't do us much good. But looking back so we don't make those mistakes again is life lessons that bring great wisdom.

We are called to do more than just enough to get by. If we are listening to the Holy Spirit, He is going to move us to do great and mighty things. They are going to be things beyond our wildest dreams. We envision our life here on earth, but God envisions more for us. He has called us to greatness and He has given us the greatest example of all, Jesus Christ. What if Jesus would just did enough to get by? Would we be heaven bound or would earth remain our home?

Friends, we are gifted. God has placed gifts within us to use for His glory. Are you tired of the same old routine day after day? It doesn't have to be that way. What if we all just simply changed our attitude? What if we walked with purpose? What if we allowed God's passions to lead us? Just what if we truly lived love? Everything around us would change.

I have been studying the life of Paul. Paul didn't start out so great in the grand scheme of things. He persecuted Christians. He was mean and full of nasty, but the grace of God changed him forevermore. He became a man of God who gave until it hurt. That is a question that will shake us to the core. When is the last time you gave until it hurt?

Paul did more than speak the gospel. His very steps showed the world that there is more. While in chains he shared the Word of God. He continued to love throughout every situation in his life. He didn't give up. He followed the example of his Savior. Where is our example to the world? Too often as we doing just enough to get by, we end up giving up on people. Doing just enough to get by is selfish. I was selfish when I was young. I wanted to do it my way and nothing else much mattered. Sadly, that is the attitude of many Christians today. I'm not pointing fingers, friends. I am right there with you. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, my life is no longer my own, but His. Surrendering my life for the life He created for me is boundless beauty. The sky is the limit when Jesus is leading the way.

Don't we do the same? As Christians we go through the motions. We speak many words, but our actions don't quite follow. I'm afraid living a life by doing just enough to get by is a life lived with regret. I have already had regrets. I don't want to get at the end of my life here on earth and face my Savior with regret of not using up everything He gave me.

I want to wake each day and uncover what He has for me. I want to walk with passion. In every conversation I want Jesus to shine. I want my life to be used up for the glory of God. That cannot be done when I just give enough to get by.

We do this in our every day lives. We go to work only doing enough to get by until the weekend comes and then we are ready to live to the fullest! We go to church on Sunday ready and willing, but then when Monday comes and the Lord is calling, we fall short of moving on His behalf.

We expect so much from others. How can we expect such from those around us if we ourselves are not willing to go the distance and beyond? Friends, it's time to do more than just talk the talk. We are to walk the walk until our feet are tired. As we grow tired God will fill us up as He meets each and every need of ours to complete His will in our lives. After all our Savior gave for us, is it really too much of Him to ask for us give our all?

Until we begin doing more this world isn't going to see the Jesus we preach. Until we get our hands dirty and get sweaty work is doing to go unfinished. We have to be willing to do more. No, it isn't a competition. We aren't to compete with others. We are simply to do all that Christ calls us to do. In doing His will in our own life we won't have time to wonder what Joe or Sally are doing.

It's time for us to have an attitude of, "What's Next, Lord?" If we are busy in His work our minds will be focused on Him and our hearts will settle for nothing less than pure love for our neighbor.

How do we do more? We set aside our life for a life of Christ. We search to have a heart like His. We get in the Word. We surround ourselves with people who inspire us and encourage our walk. Find a church home where you can grow and serve. Most of all we need to change our attitude from loving just me to loving those around me. Find a great study and dive in deep. Seek out a mentor to help you stay accountable to your walk with Christ. Our options are endless. There is so much to be done. We don't have to do everything, but we are called to to do may we do so with a passion and purpose.

Friends, when it really comes right down to it, we are out of excuses. Just as I was little and excited to hear my dad say he was proud of me, I now want nothing more than to hear my heavenly Father say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Job well done, My daughter."

"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified." 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one received the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Chasing Francis (A Pilgrim's Tale) by Ian Morgan Cron

The latest book on my review shelf is, "Chasing Francis", by Ian Morgan Cron. This work was first published in 2006 and is due to release again May 7. In reading the back cover you get the gist of the book. Pastor Chase Falson is going through the motions. He is beginning to question everything he has been taught. The church is seeing this change occur in their pastor and they too are questioning his motives. Nothing is making sense. The church asks Chase to leave until he can get it together. He is off to spend time with his uncle in Italy. On his visit there he learns the teachings of Saint Francis.

I opened this book not really prepared for what I was about to uncover myself. Ever question yourself, "Is this all there is?" I have. Leaving church I too have wondered, "There has to be more." As we take this journey with Pastor Chase we come to see that when the heart leaves behind the things of this world and searches for nothing but Jesus, you find Him.

I found this book to be surprisingly good. Not every book comes with a study guide in the back. I must say I found the study guide to be helpful. Questions were asked so that you could reflect upon the journey Chase had taken and compare it to your own journey as a pilgrim.

I could totally relate with Pastor Chase in the reality that he just wanted to leave, to get away. He didn't leave Jesus and his faith. He was simply questioning. Some may think that questioning makes for a weak Christian. There is nothing wrong with questioning our faith. That is how we grow. Along this journey Chase reached out to those he knew would lead him. As the book begins we see Chase going through a change. It was his last sermon preached at the mega church he was pastoring that put the deacons over the edge. As that last sermon hit them wrong, there was one who reached out to the pastor and shared that it was his best sermon ever.

See, Chase, preached from his notes. Never leaving what he had prepared. On this last sermon he began with his notes, but left them behind and truly opened his heart. He was no longer hiding behind the motions, but poured it all out, being as real as he could be. This is what Jesus wants from us and this is what I can take away from this book. Get out of the humdrum. Leave the comfort behind. Change the scenery and go all out searching for the will of God. Once Chase left behind the normal he found the perfect will of God. He found himself while searching for Jesus.

This book was a gift from Zondervan for writing my review of, "Chasing Francis".

Ian Morgan Cron is an author and nationally recognized speaker. His spiritual memoir Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir...of Sorts was a Wall Street Journal bestseller and a featured title in the Barnes and amp; Noble Discover Great New Writers program. Ian lives in Tennessee with his wife, and three children. Website: www.iancron.com.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Circumstance of Faith

April 20th is a day that will forever be just a memory away. It's the day my dad died. He had battled cancer for a year. That was twenty-seven years ago and at times I can recall it just as if were yesterday. I was nineteen when my dad died. Only nineteen. That was a life changing moment for me. In years I was a woman, but in so many ways I was still a little girl in need of her daddy. My life went spiraling out of control.

So, in April of this year when my mom got a call from her doctor it sent me back all those years ago. My mom had gone in for her check up. An x-ray showed something unusual. She was sent for a CT scan. The days waiting for the results were difficult. I'm much older than nineteen now, but when this is your parent, I don't think your age matters what bit. Your still scared. Just as when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer I tried to be strong. I'm not really sure I ever cried in front of my parents that entire year.

My mom was nervous. In her mind she already knew she had cancer and was dying. She announced, "I don't care what it shows I will not have any kind of treatment. It is what it is." My mom is a woman of faith, but I knew she was frightened. She had seen my dad go through a terrible trying time and she didn't want any part of that again. I had to respect her wishes.

Unlike twenty-seven years ago, I am now a woman of faith. I knew in my gut that this was nothing. I feared what it could be, but I wasn't even going there. Not yet, anyway. The nurse had told my mom, "There is a mass in your lung and we have to find out what it is." Those words brought deep anger to me. My dad had found out through a phone call that he had cancer. I wasn't about to allow my mom the same. I called the doctor. I didn't get answers, so I went into the office. I read the report and it wasn't a mass. It was "something" that was two centimeters in diameter. Once my mom heard the word mass everything stopped. She was no longer thinking clearly, but found herself in fear. All I wanted to do was comfort my mom. I could imagine my mom going to bed that night with a pillow covered in tears.
I began praying. I remember when my dad was sick I would pray. I didn't know Jesus as my Savior, but I knew there was a God. At least I did until my dad wasn't getting better. Then I was angry. I was bitter and I knew without a shadow of doubt there was no God. Now as I look back, even though I refused to believe in God, He was right there with me. He was creating an opening for me to come to know Him. Oh, isn't that how we are? When things are going the way we wish God is real and great, but the moment things begin to go a different course, Jesus isn't real at all. He couldn't be. If He were, He would show Himself real, right?

That's not how believing works. I know that now. While waiting on the results of my mom's tests I poured my heart out to the Lord. When I was all alone the tears came easily. My thoughts were, "Lord, not again. Not my mom." I could feel fear welling up in me. I grabbed my Bible and began reading His Word. I could feel Him easing my doubt. With each prayer, with each word uttered, I could feel His strength and His tender mercy washing me into peace. It was then I knew that whatever happens I will still believe. Faith is trusting in the Lord when you can't see what's about to happen. I spoke through tears and said, "Lord, whatever Your will. That too is what I want."

My mom's tests came back and there was nothing unusual in the CT scan. I lifted my hand and said, "Praise Jesus", before my mom was even off the phone. I told her, "See Mom, I told you everything would be okay. No matter what, I told you Jesus would take care of everything." I wish I had known that kind of faith when I was nineteen. It would have brought me through a time in my life that almost destroyed me. But just as the Lord brought me through then, He has carried me through other trials that I didn't think I would survive. By the grace of God I am here to tell you that God never leaves our side. As He brings us through one trial, He is preparing us for the next. My faith has grown deeply as I have witnessed Him move in my life. I can honestly tell you, I was ready to hear the worst of news or the best of news. Whatever it was to be I knew that the Lord would guide us. I knew that no matter what He would bring us through and be with us each step of the way.

This April was the anniversary of my dad's home going. My dad was saved just a few days before he died. Again, God is so good. He had a plan and that plan included bringing my dad to salvation. In that I have peace and comfort. I know without a doubt I will one day see my dad again. It was during this same week that all this was happening to my mom. I think this is one reason it hit her so terribly hard. I'm not sure my mom will ever totally heal from losing my dad. Does anyone really? That pain is just one memory away always.

In my journey with the Lord I have learned that I either believe in Him or I don't. I either trust Him all the way or I don't. On this journey of faith I have come to that place that no matter what I still believe. My prayers were answered and God's answer happened to be what I wanted to hear, but what about in those times in the future when my prayers are said and they have reached heaven, but the answer is no? What then? Prayer isn't about getting what I wish for. Prayer is a conversation between me and my Savior. In faith I must be willing to accept His answer whatever it may be.

I say this now, but more trials will come. My faith will be tested. This world will try to shake me. No matter what changes come we serve a God who is never changing. I am to pray for His will. After all, He sees what I cannot. He knows the outcome and if I'm willing to follow Him all the way, He will show His mercy and grace. His plan will unfold before my eyes and if I'm focused on Him I'm going to witness His boundless glory.

We can't allow the circumstances of this world to shake us. Our core must remain solid in Him. But friends, it's through those very trials that we learn more about Him. In learning about Him we learn more about ourselves. There is no Goliath too big for God. He knows every detail to every situation we face. We don't have to fear at all, for He is already there ahead of us preparing a way.

We must walk in hope and we can with our Savior. We can be encouraged through His Word. We can be inspired by His life. We can be transformed by His love. Sometimes the unexpected is going to come. We can't be prepared for all circumstance that touches our life, but we can be so firmly planted in Christ that when those life altering moments come He is the One we turn to for support. It's okay to scream. It's okay to cry. We are going to be angry. God created us with emotions. We feel pain. We hurt and confused. But friends, that's the beauty of having a Savior. We can go to Him and be honest. He is accepting of us and He will meet our needs. He fills that void. He comforts where nothing else can. He eases burdens. He gives strength when we are weak. He is there for us. I have come to realize that He is my all.

I know that there are other issues my family will face. Life is filled with trials and pain. It's part of our walk. It too is filled with love and laughter. It's the journey with Jesus that changes everything.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" Philippians 4:6-7

You Just Gotta Have It!

My husband has beautiful feet. I look at his feet with envy. How many of you ladies are with me? Yes, my husband's feet are prettier than mine. My heals are cracked. I'm telling you if one wasn't careful you could fall in those cracks and never be found. My husband says my feet should be labeled as deadly weapons. Okay, I may laugh about my cracked heals, but they are so cracked that at times they are downright painful.

I was watching a program a few weeks back and seen a miracle cream for all. I just knew it was too good to be true. A dermatologist was saying, "Yes, this is a magical cure for just about everything." I was intrigued and curious. So, I gathered myself together, and headed out to get some Aquaphor. I came home and was so excited to apply this cream to my elephant heals. I stand before you today and I can proudly say that after using this stuff for just two weeks my feet are looking just as purdy as my hubs feet! Yes, I am won over by this miracle cream. My heals are so smooth. No more getting lost in those ugly cracks.

What won me over was the truth being told about the product. I could hear from others who have used it that it did wonders for different ailments from diaper rash to eye cream. People were astonished. This stuff has been around for years. I had seen it on the shelf and I had always just passed it up. Just a little goes a long way. I am now telling everyone about this cream. I've told friends they must go out and get some for themselves. I mean after trying it and seeing just how fantastic it is, how could I not share with others?

Last night while laying in bed I proudly pointed to my feet and said, "Take a look at these beauties! Your not the only one with pretty feet anymore!" My husband laughs, but he has to agree. He says, "That must be some good stuff your using".

So now I have something I feel everyone needs to be using. I sat down and pondered a few things. I'm so excited over this cream that I am willing to make a fool out of myself so others will try it too. Where is my excitement to share Jesus? Why am I not calling everyone I know and telling them about His miracle called grace? When it comes to sharing Jesus I can come up with every excuse under the sun. I wouldn't want to offend anyone. Okay, so I'm concerned about the callused and rough heals across the world, but what about the callused and hurting hearts in need of healing?

Just has these women won me over with the truth about this product, I too need to win people to Jesus with the Truth. I know of His love. His grace is evident in my life. I have seen what our God can do. Think about it. Our lives are a platform for share Jesus. We can be walking billboards pointing everyone to knowing the Savior that has changed our lives.

It's okay to be excited over something great. We get excited over many things, but shouldn't we be even more excited to share Jesus? We are in a time and place in history where it's easier than ever to share everything. On Facebook all we have to do is hit a like or share button and it goes to all our friends.

Our lives are a living testimony of Jesus Christ. Our walk will either bring others closer to Christ or lead them farther away. We share great recipes with others. We share great books that touched our hearts. We tell others about a new restaurant we enjoyed. Movies, television programs, products, ect.. The list goes on and on. Our excitement is alive for all sorts of things from concerts to sports. We stand and cheer. We celebrate victory.

Friends, victory is coming when our friends and family are won to Christ. Victory comes when we live in such a way that our lives make an impact for Christ. We need to share Jesus more than ever. As each day passes He is another day closer to coming. Do we really have time to rest? If we are excited about Jesus and what He has done and is doing in our lives, then we too should be excited to share with others.

Is Christ calling you to share with someone, but your afraid of offending? Don't be fearful of sharing Jesus. Share Him through an example of your life. Should we really be concerned if we offend someone? I would rather they be offended that I stepped out in faith to share Jesus with them now, than for them to be offended later when it's too late and they are left asking, "Why didn't you share Jesus with me?"

Share Jesus through the gifts you have been given. Those gifts are not just for our use, but they are to bring glory and honor to God. Be bold in Christ. He is worth sharing. People want to hear about Him. They want to hear your witness. They want to see the Truth in your life. People can tell whether something is fake or real. Jesus is the real deal. We just need to be the vessel in sharing His goodness with others.

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13

Desert Temptations

Are you waking this morning already battling temptation? Temptation is everywhere, isn't it? Even before I crawl out of bed my thoughts cause me to say, "Whoa, where did that come from?" I don't care what anyone says, we all struggle with temptation. Each and every one of us battle Satan on a daily basis. He knows us well. You know, unlike Christ, Satan cannot be everywhere at one time. Think about that. So, how does he get all his meanness done? He has help. There is spiritual warfare going on all around us. If we could actually see the battles taking place all around us we would rethink the special effects of the next action flick we see.  

We pray for His protection. I pray a hedge of protection around my family daily. I pray they are guarded by the Holy Spirit every moment of the day. It's important that we pray the will of God. We can become so busy that we leave that prayer for later when we have time. Prayer is powerful. Speaking the Word of God is power.

Check out this verse. "Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from  the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry." Luke 4:1-2

Jesus was led into the desert after He was baptized by John. He was about to begin His ministry. Ever feel when God calls you to move Satan is right there to block your path? Satan knows the blessings that are about to flow and he is going to scheme every which way to stop you from your calling. He would rather see you fall. However, Jesus has other plans!

Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and He was tempted by the devil. He wasn't just tempted once in a while. Scripture says for forty days He was tempted. Have you ever felt like you just couldn't catch a break? Like just when you got through one thing something else comes and hits you from behind? I know I sure have felt that way.

We have no excuse for giving into temptation. We can't sit back and say, "Well, Jesus had the Holy Spirit to fight for Him". So do we. When we accept Jesus as our Savior the Holy Spirit comes alive within us. There is no temptation that can hold us down!

We see that Satan tempted Jesus in three ways. He first temps Jesus by saying, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." (vs 4). He doesn't stop there. Satan continues and says, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this had been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." (vs 6-7). Now we see that Satan brings Jesus to Jerusalem and set Him before the pinnacle of the temple and says to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here." (vs 9)

Now, let us go back to the verse we began with. It says that Jesus WAS TEMPTED! Yes, our Savior battled temptation just as you and I battle temptation. When I read these words it was as if a light bulb burst brightly before me. An "aha" moment for sure. Jesus, our Savior, is without sin. For He is perfect in every way. He battled temptation for forty days. How did He overcome? Not on His own, but with the power of the Holy Spirit!

Each and every time Satan tempted Jesus, He answered him with the Word of God. With the first temptation Jesus answers Satan and says, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.'" (vs.4) Jesus had been fasting. Satan knew his hunger and knew exactly how to tempt Him. But with the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus overcame!

Next we see Jesus reply with the words, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" (vs.8-9)

Satan hasn't given up yet. He is still tempting Jesus. As he takes Jesus to the pinnacle of Jerusalem, he tempts Him again, but once again, Jesus has an answer. "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" (vs.12)

Want to know why we need to know the Word of God? It is our power and protection. Yes, it brings us comfort and peace, but that isn't all. It is to help us overcome the trials and temptations of this life. The Word of God is powerful and there is nothing that holds power over the Word. Satan knows this. Can you imagine the look upon his face as Jesus calmly answered him each time? I can imagine his anger flaring and he thinking of other ways to try to knock Jesus down.

Isn't that what he does to us? He tries every single possible way to knock us down and keep us there. Friends, Satan has NO POWER over us! We can stand against the evils of this world by knowing and believing the Word of God.

In verse 13 it goes on to read, "Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time." Satan lies in wait for us. He knows when we are going to turn the corner. He knows the roads we travel. He knows our fears and our flesh. Yes, he knows what we battle against and it is those very things he is going to continue to throw in front of us. It's kind of like going to the grocer and standing in the check out line. Children are faced with treats that momma is going to say no to and we are faced with magazines that tempt us with the world. There are going to be times we can turn and run the other way and there are going to be those times in which we must face our temptation face to face and have the strength to say, "No way!"

Remember, during Christ's time on earth, He was all God and all man. That is mind boggling to me, but true none the less. As man, He faced every temptation we face today. He knows and He understands. In His example we see that we can answer Satan and temptation with the powerful and grace filled Word of God.

What I love is that Jesus answered Satan's every temptation with the Word of God. He didn't argue His point. He isn't screaming and tossing just any words out of His mouth. He offers up the powerful Word of God. Scripture is empowering! Scripture is freeing! It brings strength to a fearful situation. It can calm us in the storm. It brings peace to a confrontation. Knowing the Word of God arms us with everything we need for every possible situtation.

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." 1 Peter 5:8

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that you may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10

How do we battle Satan? We put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). We live  in the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). We walk in the Spirit and know our temptations (Galatians 5:16-21). We leave our old conduct behind and walk in the new (Ephesians 4:20-32). We change our thinking to what is pure and holy (Philippians 4:8-9).

We are not defenseless humans walking about with no choice. Friends, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us. He directs our paths. He sets before us all that is good. We must make a choice daily, moment by moment, to live accordingly. We are without excuse. Jesus gave us an example. He is the pattern for us to follow. Think you can't do it? Is it too hard? Try! Try again and again and again, never giving up. Never giving an inch to Satan. It begins with choice.

There is no temptation too big for you to overcome. Stop thinking you can't do it. With Christ all things are possible! (Philippians 4:13)

This desert filled land of temptation is not our home, but while we are travelers here we can live a life that will shout to the world, "Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Light!" Take courage, my friends. Be bold against the attacks. Satan has nothing on you!


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