Monday, April 17, 2017

Because of the Cross

The day after Resurrection Sunday...what is on your mind? Last week as I spent time reflecting on Jesus' final days and words before the cross my thoughts shifted to things that happened because of the cross. We must spend time at the cross to better understand the because of the cross, but both are important in the life of the believer.

Sometimes we can make this complicated. I can overthink think things and analyze them way too much, but last week while I was in the Word the Holy Spirit kept it pretty simple. So today I'm going to share the basics - the ABC's. I pray the following blessings of the cross will encourage, convict and offer wisdom as you walk thru your day after Easter. Friend, we've just celebrated our risen Lord and Savior, now may we walk with Him and live for Him!

A - Abundant

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Jesus came to this world because His Father, our God, sent Him. By His presence He brought much and through His example we learn much, but because of the cross we gain much. His death brought life - eternally for believers in heaven and abundantly for us while on earth.

B- Better

"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)

Through Jesus' death and resurrection are lives are better? How can that be? Eternal life is something many believers quickly understand, but this verse gives great insight for the here and now. Jesus told His disciples that it would be good for them that He was going away. Other versions say it was for their advantage and a gift. Why? Because now instead of being in Christ's presence, He would be filling them with His Holy Spirit. Friend, the same is true for you and me we don't simply celebrate the resurrection and God's resurrecting power we have it in us. Because of the cross, we are filled with the Spirit of the One true God!

C - Commissioned

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Have you ever struggled with what you should do with your life? Are you a young mom thinking you don't have a purpose when all you do is change diapers, make meals and do laundry? Are you an empty-nester thinking your job is done? Friend, regardless of our roles, our jobs or our age, as a disciple of the Lord we have a purpose. Jesus explains that purpose in some of His final words. We are His disciples and we have been commissioned to make more disciples. We don't have to "go" to the ends of the earth, though He may send us there, but we can also do this in our homes, our communities and our work place.

These ABC's may seem pretty simple, but they are critical. My young son is learning to read and without his knowledge of the ABC's it would be an impossible task. The same is true for you and me - we all want to shine our lights for Christ and these foundational "because of the Cross" truths will help us do just that!

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Lord God, thank you for the cross - the work you did through it and life we can live because of it. Help me remember that I can have abundant life - keep my eyes focused on you and continue to reveal your bigger picture to me. Thank you for sending your Spirit, may I continually be filled with it and yield to it. Father God, you've commissioned me and called me to live with you and for you. Help me live my faith first so I'm able to share it well. Thank you for your promise to always be with me; I go with you now. In Jesus' precious name I pray, Amen

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Finish

Is it easier for you to start something new or finish the work you've already begun? Personally, both situations present some challenges, but if I had to choose one it would be finishing. Carrying something thru takes time, work and endurance. We face temptations, wrestle with doubts and wonder if it really matters. But if we're truly called to start something, God also expects us to finish it.

I've been challenged and encouraged by the idea of finishing this Holy Week. I've spent time reflecting on Jesus - our Passover Lamb, been given an example by Mary to be a woman who does what I can and been reminded to be prepared. But yesterday as I read through the story of crucifiction and reflected on Jesus sacrifice for me, "Finish" was the message I received.

In John 19:28 we read, "Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Friend, Jesus was hanging on the cross, He'd done his job of being sacrificed for sin, but yet He still submitted to the Father. He did what God sent Him to do.

John 4:34 states, "My food is to do the will of Him sent and finish His work." While John 12:49 says, "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." Even to the end, in unbelievable pain and distress, Jesus was obedient.

John 19:30 states this clearly, "When He had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

Stop and think about this for a minute. When it was hard, people didn't understand and the pain was unbearable Jesus didn't quit. Can you say the same? I can't, but I've been convicted, and encouraged, that I need to change. God equipped Jesus to finish what He started, I have to believe He can do the same for me.

Friend, He can do it for you too. Let's go to God and ask Him to help us persevere and let's look to Jesus as the example of One who finished well.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for again speaking to me through your living and active Word. Use it to penetrate my mind and soul, transform me Lord so I can be like you. Thank you Jesus for finishing the work you started, for dying for my sins and fulfilling Scripture. May I learn from your example and be more like you. I'm also reminded that a wait followed the completition of your work, help me remember that and trust your timing Father. This Easter season may we celebrate your resurrecting power, our victory over sin and death and the reminder that finishing is important. Father God, you are good, your are mighty and you are worthy of our praise. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What will you do?

As Holy Week continues I find myself still reflecting on the Passover Lamb and reading passages about Jesus' last days. This morning I was in the last few chapters of Mark and these words from 14:8 haven't left my mind - "She did what she could." 

This is a sentence Jesus spoke about the woman who annointed him. In other Gospels we learn this was Mary...sister to Lazarus and Martha. The one who had earlier sat at Jesus feet was now annointing them.

Stop for a minute and think about what she did and how she did it. She broke open a bottle of expensive perfume; some historians believe it was worth a year's wages. She poured it out, not saving any for herself.

She placed herself in a position that most likely would be questioned. As a woman, she was among men. She used her hair, a sign of her glory, to wipe Jesus' feet, a job reserved for the lowest of low. She had humbled herself and broke free from the fear of what others would think.

Friend, chances are you've read this story before, but have you let this story read you? I feel like God's been examining my heart all day thru the lens of this short story and even smaller sentence.

Mary did what she could. She didn't rely on her position, but took advantage of her opportunity. Do I do the same? Do you? Every day we have an opportunity to do what we can do, but do we?

Granted Jesus is not here in the flesh and His body no longer needs to be prepared for burial, but His people are here and His body (you and me) have gifts to use and roles to play.

When it comes to work, I'm not talking a 9 to 5 job, but the life you live - Are you doing what you can or simply what you have to or worse yet what you want to?

When it comes to worship, again not just a Sunday morning service, but in our daily life - Are we doing just what's necessary or are we doing all we can?

These aren't quick, easy answer questions, but they are important, powerful self-examination tools. As we prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, may we quiet our hearts, ask God to examine them and prepare to give Jesus all of them.

Mary sacrificed her perfume and she also surrendered herself. May you and I do the same. Jesus did what He could, I pray we will too.

Our external actions may not change, but our internal attitude will...instead of a focus on self, may we live with the desire to serve. Rather than holding back and fearing what others think, may we walk in faith and set an example for others to follow. May we worship the One who's worthy instead of wasting time on idols that are truly worthless.

Friend, I don't know what these 5 words stirred in your heart, but I'm praying now for God to use them in your life to help you do what He created you to do. It cost Mary and we too will pay a price, but may we remember it's an investment that will never fail! Today let's do what we can do for the Lord we love.

Heavenly Father, I want to be a woman who does what I can. Help me stop being one who does what I must or have to, but one who serves You wholeheartedly. May I count the cost and be willing to pay the price. May I throw myself at your feet and love you without fear. Help me worship you without worry. Father God, thank you for drawing me close and helping me know You more. Your Word truly is living and active, continue using it to transform me. Father, I thank you for the gift of your Son and the filling of your Holy Spirit. May I do what you created me to do...glorify you. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Passover Lamb


"Do you want to try and sell those lambs?" My husband's words in the early morning had my attention. He had mentioned this briefly earlier in the week, but this time instead of going to my head his words went to my heart.

Our kids have been raising 4 orphan lambs and they will eventually grow up and be sent to market, but my reaction to putting them up for sale now, while they are still young and kind of like a pet, hit me. The thought of someone using them - Skittle, Beefy, Oreo and the lamb with a changing name, for a passover meal made me sad.

The conversation didn't go any further, but my thoughts continued to run and they led me to the Word. Friend, we are in the midst of holy week and for the first time in 41 years, I find myself thinking about the Passover lamb in a real personal way. I encourage you to do the same in the days to come.

Did you know during the original Passover, the lamb played a significant role? First of all in Egypt, a lamb was sacred, it was considered to be a god of sorts and was worshipped by the Egyptians. Clearly, the Lord had their attention when He commanded the Isrealites to "take a lamb for their family" (Exodus 12:3). The Isrealites exercised their faith and courage by obeying this command.

They didn't just take any lamb...it had to be a year old male without defect. (Exodus 12:5) These animals were in their prime and were the best of the flock.

The lambs weren't simply selected and quickly sacrificed...they were chosen on the 10th day and slaughtered on day 14. (Exodus 12:6) In between they were cared for...typically in the home. Think about what took place in that time. I'm sure there were messes and noise. There was also time to grow attached and hours set aside to inspect. The people were surrendering normalcy and eventually something they loved.

This story mirrors what took place years later in Jerusalem - Jesus rode into the city and was welcomed as the One who would save. For the next 4 days, He too was set apart and inspected. Just like the lamb, He was found to be spotless and without defect. (1 Peter 1:19) During that time, the people saw him work, learned from His teachings and grew to know Him more.

Friend, chances are you celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday and like the people of years gone by said, "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" You may have plans to attend a Maundy Thursday service or a Last Supper Remembrance meal later this week. Countless services are scheduled for Friday and Sunday of this coming week as well. These events are important and powerful, but I challenge, and encourage, you to treasure the days to come.

We will not be bringing a lamb into our home, but I've invited thee Lamb into my heart. In the days to come I long to learn from Him and grow closer to Him as I prepare to reflect on His sacrifice and praise my Savior. I hope you will consider doing the same.

Heavenly Father, 
Lord, thank you for continually speaking into my heart and revealing more of yourself. I'm humbled to know you care and know me in such a personal way. As this Holy Week unfolds, may it be a time of reflection and relationship building. Draw me closer to Yourself as I sit with you, study your Word and experience your presence. Thank you for being my passover Lamb - your sinless life saved me from the sin in mine. Increase my understanding of this and gratitude for it. Today I struggled with the thought of giving up one of our lambs for a meal, but Father God you gave up your Son for me - thank you. May I give up my life for you. In Jesus' Name, Amen



Jesus, You are my all in all...Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is your name - Friend, may these words bless you, remind you of Truth and encourage you to worship our Lord and Savior.




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Word of the Week - Obedience

Last week I was constantly being reminded of the word obedience. I had been studying it as I worked on a Bible Study, our pastor preached on it, I read it in my morning devotional and helped my son memorize a verse about it. We all know obedience is important - our parents, teachers and coaches expected it of us as children. Now as a Mom myself, I have the same expectations for my children, but we must realize there's more to obedience than a child doing what the authority figure tells them to do.

In Matthew 11:28 we read about Jesus commanding us to come to Him and His promise to provide rest. This is something we all need in one way or another as we live in a world that constantly demands our attention and calls for our service. But did you know we can also experience rest thru obedience? The very next verse (29) records Jesus saying, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Friend, Jesus tells us He will give us rest in verse 28, but then immediately follows that up saying we will find rest in verse 29. So what's the difference? It's true He will give us rest when we come to Him, but this rest tends to be the eternal rest and hope of heaven, the peace that accompanies the knowledge of knowing we are saved. This rest is a result of His death on the cross. 

The other rest, the rest we can find is based on us following His command of taking up His yoke. It's a rest that involves surrendering control to Jesus and dying to self so He is our Master. This rest includes a peace of mind and the freedom from a burden stealing our joy and creating anxiety. This rest is a result of our obedience and comes from following the example our Lord and Savior set while He walked this earth and living out the commands He provides in His Word. 

So, obedience leads to rest, but it also results in so much more. Scripture tells us God blesses obedience, but as I study and walk out my days I'm reminded that partial obedience is actually disobedience. Like my little people I may want to think my half way job is good enough, but God's Word clearly shows us differently. 

Look with me for a minute at a short story about Moses, one of the greatest men in the Bible. In Numbers 20 we read about water coming from a rock. Verse 8a says, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water." 

God had worked through Moses earlier, so though this seems like a crazy command, he knew God was able and had been faithful. So they gather the people together and verse 11 tells us what happened next - "Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff." We read on in that same verse and see God was faithful to His promise - the people had water to drink.

Let's not pass over what went wrong in these verses though. Let me ask you a question - "Did Moses obey?" Read verse 8 again. What did God tell him to do to the rock? Now reread verse 11. What did Moses do to the rock?

Our pastor recently preached on this passage and during the children's sermon he talked with the kids about cleaning their room. They all knew it wasn't enough to just clean one side of the room or hide clothes under their bed. Even if they followed some of their parent's directions, it wouldn't be enough. The kids said their parents expected them to "do what they said."

Friend, God is our heavenly Father and He expects the same. When He gives us a command, half-way isn't good enough. His directions are to be followed completely. And we can return to Moses' story to find out that there are consequences when we don't follow through.

Verse 12 says, "But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." I'm sure Moses could have come up with reasons why he did what he did and he could rationalize the changes he made to the command God gave, but in God's eyes it didn't matter. Moses hadn't obeyed all the way. He struck when he was commanded to speak. Clearly this lack of obedience was something God did not take lightly.

Scripture tells us God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow - friend that Truth often brings comfort, but there are times it should also bring conviction. Is there something God is asking you to do? Has He given you direction, but like Moses you've added your own twist? The answers to these questions are between you and the Lord, but my prayer is like me you will take some time to think and more importantly pray about them.

Finally to close, I pray the word that's been showing up for me this week speaks to your heart as well - wholeheartedly.

"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." Numbers 14:24

"He gave them these orders: 'You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord.'" 2 Chronicles 19:9

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people..." Ephesians 6:7

Friend, today may we walk in obedience wholeheartedly!

Dear Heavenly Father, You are a good, good Father. You not only want what's best for me, you know what's best for me and you've planned what's best for me. Help me remember who you are and trust in the promises You will faithfully follow through on. Lord, I know obedience is important, but I also know I fall short. I pray I can live out the slogan I've taught my kids and ask you to help me obey right away, all the way! In order to do that I need to do it wholeheartedly Lord, so I ask you for a humble, tender heart that's willing to trust and able to resist the temptation to rebel. Do a transforming work in me Father God so that I will do the good works you have waiting for me. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Spiritual Stop-Light

Rest...is this something you are in need of? Do you get enough? What keeps you from rest? I've found myself knee deep in a study on rest for the last 5 weeks and friend, there is much to this simple little word. We need it in a physical sense, but it can be hard to get and sometimes we fight it. We're also dependent upon it in a spiritual sense. Rest affects our body and our mind. It refreshes our heart and our soul.

When it comes to faith, we can talk about eternal rest, Sabbath rest and sanctifying rest. In the Bible, God rested, the land rested and people rested. We are commanded to rest and it is a side effect of trust. The Isrealites found out rebellion led to no rest, while Jesus taught submission would bring rest.

Friend, these are all important facts to know and Truths to remember, but can I share an illustration with you that made this a bit more personal?

The last couple of weeks I've been battling a sickness, so I haven't been feeling the best and on top of that I'm feeling a bit behind. I've found myself pressing on and doing what needs to be done, but last Saturday it was as if God said, "Sometimes you need to STOP." Life just happened to make this work and I, the gal who never takes naps, slept for 3 hours in the middle of the day. Clearly my body needed rest.

The following day I found myself thinking more about God's whisper and the importance of the Truth that was impressed on my heart. Spiritually sometimes I too just need to stop. I don't know about you, but sometimes my mind can race and my feelings can rattle. My thoughts can get so far into the future that worry and fear take over or sometimes I can dwell on the past and guilt and shame settle in. My focus can drift to my circumstances rather than on my Father. My eyes wonder to the what if's, instead of being set on Jesus, my Lord and Savior.

This was all still on my heart yesterday when I went to town. You see here on the farm, we don't have stoplights on the gravel roads or in our small town, but as I drove the streets of what my little boys would call a big city a stop-light gave us much needed instruction.

As I approached a light it turned red and I recalled the Holy Spirit's whisper along with the words of Psalm 46:10 - "Be still and know that I am God." Stopping at an inersection in town keeps me safe, but being still on my spiritual walk keeps me connected. Friend, you and I need to know God and that doesn't happen when we are racing through life. We must take time to stop, read His Word, pray from the heart and lift His holy name.

Knowing Him will bring rest...when life wears us out or worry weighs us down, we can remember He is the God who restores, always provides and is forever present. Knowing Him helps us rest in His presence and on His promises.

We quickly came to another light and this time a different word came to mind along with another passage. COME and Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest." 

Friend, this life has a way of leaving us feeling wek and heavy laden. Would you agree? I don't know what's on your shoulders or your heart, but you don't have to carry it alone. Sometimes we're going at such a pace we forget this truth and others we're so consumed with a desire for control or condemned with shame we feel we can't go to the One who can help. Let me point out another key word in this verse - ALL. Jesus is calling for all to come to Him, so the next time you approach the stop-light make sure you make a turn and go to Jesus.

Finally, just like the lights a 3rd key word came to me and another verse - PEACE. John 14:27 says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Friend, when we are still and come to Jesus, we not only know Him and experience rest, but we also receive peace. In the world we live in this is a blessing. Peace helps us keep perspective and provides power to persevere.

No matter what your day holds or where your walk leads, I pray God gives you a spiritual stop-light and reminds you to be still and come to Him so that you will be blessed with His peace!! Then may we GO, so that He is glorified!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Don't Settle

After a watching our Cyclones win the Big 12 tournament, I've found myself thinking about another phrase the players and coach tend to use - "Don't Settle!" When asked about the game plan following the teams semi-final win, our soft-spoken big playing Deonte Burton said, "Coach tells me not to settle, so I didn't." Burton and his teammates were aggressive, they made the extra pass and won big. 

I didn't watch the other semi-final, but I have to admit I was kind of hoping West Virginia would lose as they were the only team to beat us twice and they play a style of ball that's been difficult for us the last few years. As I thought about this, I figured the team was thinking differently. All along they've said the old cliche, "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best." They wanted a rematch. They didn't want to settle for the easy route to the championship. 

The Mountaineers won by one, which set up a title game which the Cyclones were picked to lose. The outside doubters didn't affect our team that seems to be disciplined, playing with focus and staying the course. The guys started slow, but they didn't settle. They didn't compromise the coach's game plan, nor did the grow complacent and give up. 

Friend, you might not find yourself playing for a championship anytime soon, but this little phrase could be insightful for whatever the future holds. What does settling look like in your life? As a mom, do you settle? How about as a wife? Or an employee? Most importantly what about as a believer? 

A coach never wants his or her players to settle on the court, but how often do we do that in life as a follower of Christ? I encourage you to pause and think about this question for awhile. Better yet pray about it; ask God to show you how, where and when you settle. Do you settle when it comes to reading God's Word? Are you complacent when it comes to prayer? Do you compromise when you are tired, anxious or upset? 

I don't know the answers to your questions, but I think there's power in asking these questions. Friend, living life and glorifying Christ is so much more important than playing ball and winning a trophy. If an athlete shouldn't settle on the court, we shouldn't either. Are you comfortable where you are? Is God calling you out of your comfort zone, but you're willing to settle and do what you've always done? Is God leading you to take the extra step and asking you to forgive one who may never change? Will you settle and struggle with pain that will never change or will you do the work and follow God's lead? 

I don't have any great answers or illustrations for you, as I'm pondering these questions myself, but I have some verses that may encourage your heart as you strive for excellence rather than settle for complacency. 

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied." Proverbs 13:4

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15


"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." Ecclesiastes 9:10










Friend, again I encourage you to think and pray about this idea of settling. May God convict our hearts where they've grown complacent and change it so we concentrate on who God is and concerned with His plan, not our own. 







Dear Heavenly Father, Lord I confess for settling, please forgive me. I ask you to examine my heart and open my eyes to see where, when and how I settle. Don't let me grow complacent in seeking and serving You. Help me want what you want, go where you lead and do what you ask. God, I pray for a humble heart and a submissive spirit. I also ask for discipline to obey and faith to believe. I know you will provide all I need out of your glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Help me strive for the best Lord, not for my success but for your glory. I'm grateful for the opportunity to play on your team! Thank you for being a coach who encourages me not to settle. In Jesus' Name, Amen