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


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 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 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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Stay the Course

March is upon us, which means the madness is beginning. For my non-basketball fan readers, I'm referring to March Madness. This is always a fun time of the year for me! My husband, girls and I are looking forward to cheering on the Iowa State Cyclones and our boys even get in on the fun of a family bracket contest. There's bound to be upsets and last second shots. We'll even see some heart- breaking losses and maybe even questionable game deciding calls. All in all it's an exciting time for sports fans, but today I found myself thinking and realize it can be a lesson learning experience for every believer as well.

Chances are you my reading friend are not directly involved with March Madness, but does your life ever get a bit mad? I mean does your schedule get crazy? Are there moments of difficulty? Are there challenges you didn't expect? Times when the task is overwhelming? Are you waiting for something to happen? Or just ready for something to end? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you can relate to March Madness.

If you can relate, I believe you can benefit from some wise words from our Cyclone coach - "Stay the Course!" These are words I've heard him say more than once after a close win or loss. He keeps the game in perspective and has the ability to look at the big picture. It's good when we do the same as believers. It's easy to get caught up in or frustrated with a bad day or a change in plans. Instead, like Coach Prohm suggests we must remember to look at the season, or better yet our life as a whole. One loss isn't going to ruin the Cyclones season and a day isn't going to ruin our life. CP encourages the guys not to get too high after a win or too low after a loss. He often talks about humility and even mentions submission. As we stay course as believers, we too will benefit by walking in humility, submitting to authority and embracing the joys and trials as part of life.

With this phrase CP is also reminding his guys to persevere...difficult games happen and when they do the guys must press on though they may be tempted to quit. Oh friend, you and I must do the same as we walk in faith. The ball won't always bounce our way and sometimes the shots won't fall. As we attempt to live out our calling and do the good works God's prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10), there will be challenges and setbacks, but that should never be a reason to quit or an excuse to stop. Like Paul, we must make the words of Philippians 3:13-14 our own - "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

"Staying the Course" includes learning from mistakes. When the Cyclones lose a game or play bad in a win, they evaluate the game tape and attempt to recognize and correct their mistakes. Friend, we must do the same as believers. As we pursue our calling and live as who God created us to be, we must acknowledge our sin, confess it and turn from it. Just like bad habits or poor fundamentals will keep a team from achieving its potential, our sin will hinder us from glorifying our great God. So let's follow the advice found in Hebrews 12:1-2 - "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Finally, a big part of "Staying the Course" is focus. Coach Prohm often uses this key word in interviews as well. As a former coach and athlete and current sports mom, I know this is a huge part of athletics, but as one who's been trying to follow Christ for nearly 20 years I know it's an even more important part of a life of faith. In Luke 9:62 Jesus said, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."  Whether in a game during March Madness or a moment out of our daily life, there will be temptations. Temptations to quit, retaliate, be anxious or depressed, but we need to decide in advance to handle these situations rightly. Then we must be prepared to press on and keep looking and moving forward.

Friend, I don't know the specific course God has you on, but I do know He is a good Father with a perfect plan that has an eternal purpose. I hope our Cyclones will stay the course and win a championship though many say it's impossible, but I truly pray you and I will stay the course and bring God glory may we always remember - with Him nothing is impossible!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Process and Product

In the recent weeks I've found myself thinking about healing...our 12 year old daughter, Joy, is walking through her first injury. She suffered a high ankle sprain and was just recently given the green light to set aside her crutches. (Well at least indoors on level ground.) At the same time our month old nephew, Gideon, is walking through more in his first weeks than most of us do in a lifetime. Meconium aspiration led to his first helicopter ride and 5 heart defects have led to 2 surgeries. We have found ourselves praying much, and often, for healing here on the Beran farm.

We are commanded to pray, but prayer is about more than the final result. I'm learning God often gives us insight while we pray and He builds our relationship as well. The other day as I thanked God for the healing work He's done in Joy's leg and asked Him to reveal more of His healing power in Gideon's little heart, a few words came to mind - wait, work, wisdom coupled with patience, pain and physician.

As these words floated through my mind, I was reminded healing is a process. It involves waiting (patience), work (pain) and wisdom (Physician). This was enough to get my mind going and I realized healing isn't just about the process, it's also about the product. Healing brings results - wellness, a witness and the ability to walk alongside.

Friend, I don't know if you are in need of physical healing like we are here in Iowa, but chances are you might need emotional, relational or spiritual healing. If so, I pray this insight, and especially these verses, speak to your heart. Proverbs 4:20-22 says, "My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body." 

My daughter quickly learned healing doesn't happen overnight. At her first appointment, the Dr. predicted she'd need crutches for a week and I think she thought - 7 days will pass and life will return to normal. Not's been 3+ weeks and she's starting to walk, but a ways from running up and down the court. She has had to wait and it's tested her patience. The same and more could be said for lil Gideon and his parents. This waiting time involves steps forward and steps back, wonderful success and unexpected setbacks, but our patience will be rewarded.

Isaiah 40:31 tells us, "But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Friend, we can have a plan and expectations, doctors can give their diagnosis, but only God knows the future. While we wait for healing, we must trust the One who knows and is able to heal.

This process also includes work - my daughter is doing rehab and Gideon's nurses are working and watching around the clock. Sometimes the work also includes pain...Joy's had to learn the difference between good pain and bad and develop the attitude the most important work happens when nobody is watching. Friend, the same is probably true for whatever healing you need. Have a broken relationship? You will have to do the work of forgiveness and reconciliation. Struggle with a strong holding sin? It will require the work of confession and repentance. If we want healing we must remember and apply Proverbs 13:4 - "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied."

Finally, in order for this process to fully unfold we need wisdom and when it comes to healing that comes from the Great Physician. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." We are grateful for the wisdom of doctors, nurses and therapists, but friend we ALL need the wisdom of the Lord. No matter what healing you need, I encourage you to apply James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you."

There is something special about the product that comes with this process - we don't have to arrive and wait for the journey to be over - the results happen as the process unfolds. Most obviously the process of healing brings wellness. We need and pray for healing because we want to get better, we desire wellness. Little by little this Joy found healing is gradual and the same is true for relational, emotional and spiritual injuries. In Luke 17:9 we see this - "Jesus said to him, 'Rise and go, your faith has made you well."

Another product of the healing process is our witness for Christ. I tend to be a person who likes to figure things out, I appreciate understanding why and want to find the answer. That's a great philosophy when it comes to algebra, but it's much harder to apply to life and faith. The other day as I wrestled through some of this thinking in regards to lil Gideon Jesus' words in John 9 came to mind. Here we find Him and the disciples meeting up with a man who'd been blind since birth and the disciples, like me and maybe you, found themselves thinking why, why did this happen. Jesus' response brings perspective - "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3)

Friend, as you and me walk through hard times and seek healing the world is watching. They see our attitude, our worries and our faith. God never said following Him would be easy; actually Jesus assured us in this world we will have troubles. Sometimes those hard times are consequences of our sin and others they are a result of God's sovereignty - regardless of the why, let us not forget the what - God can use them for His glory.

Finally, a product of our healing process is the ability to walk alongside another. When we walk through something we are better able to understand and relate to someone else who is doing the same. I'm already seeing this in my daughter - the other day we were watching college ball and a guy on the opposing team was shown on the bench in pain. My other daughter quickly and with little compassion says, "What's wrong with him?" Joy instantly responded, "I know just how he feels."

Joy will forever see injured athletes differently...she's walked in those shoes and felt the pain. This injury will make her a better teammate, not just on the court, but in the game of life. Stop for a minute and think about the healing work God's done in your life, has He used it to help someone else? 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

Again, I don't know what you are walking through, but I pray God met you here today and encourages your heart as you walk through the process of healing and look forward to the products. I appreciate your prayers for Gideon - he had another unexpected discovery yesterday and more healing is needed. If you'd like more details, you can visit his CaringBridge page HERE.

Friend, you often hear from me, but I'd love to hear from you - is there something I left out when you think about the process and product? Have you had a healing journey you can share that would encourage those in the midst of the battle? What verse do you cling to while you wait for healing to come? Are you in need of healing and need prayers? Share in the comments - we can lift one another up, be encouraged and glorify our great God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Diagnosed with a Defect

In the midst of praying for my new little nephew, I was struck with a different perspective on his condition. On his 6th day, little Gideon was diagnosed with 5 heart defects. Our little "mighty warrior" has already been through 2 heart surgeries and is currently making baby steps of progress. We continue to pray for him daily and ask God to heal His heart. 

Yesterday as I did this, I was feeling bad for the little guy and hurting for his parents. I prayed asking God for patience and perspective. And He gave me some unexpected insight. He reminded me that I too have been diagnosed with a heart defect. And friend, you have one as well. 

Yours and mine won't show up on an x-ray or scan, but God knows they are there. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us - "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Other versions use words like wicked, sick, incurable and exceedingly corrupt. 

These aren't pretty, feel good words. Chances are they aren't ones we willingly choose to describe ourselves, but yet they are words God chose for His Word to label the hearts of His people. 

As I thought about this, I compared my situation to Gideon's - 

A defect doesn't defer a parent's love...Matt and Jackie love little Gideon just like they love their daughter Vanessa. My heart defect and the sin it leads to separates me from our holy God, but my heavenly Father poured out His love for me while I was still a sinner. He knew the condition of my heart and still sent His Son to the cross. Friend, don't let the diagnosis of a heart defect distance you from our loving Father, but instead may it draw you to Him. 

Defects can't be treated until they are diagnosed. Gideon was in the hospital with breathing difficulties shortly after his birth. He was initially treated for meconium aspiration and making great progress, but suddenly things changed. It was then they discovered the defects and were able to make a plan. When doctors knew what they were dealing with they could treat the problem. Friend, our heart problems won't show up on a echocardiogram, but we can ask God to examine our heart. (Psalm 139:23-24) While doing so we should remember these words from Mark 2:17 - "On hearing this, Jesus told them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" 

Defects can lead to death. We are so grateful Gideon hadn't been released from the hospital before they discovered the defects - we don't want to even think about what that may have meant. A baby needs his heart to function to live and friend we need hearts that our pure if we want to live eternally. Just like Gideon couldn't fix his heart on his own, we can't either. If we don't accept Jesus as Savior and confess Him as Lord our heart defect (our sin) will lead to death. Even after we've made this decision, we still have heart issues which can lead to the death of dreams, callings, relationships, so we must continually see the great physician for a heart check-up. May this line from Psalm 26:2 be a daily prayer - "Test me Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.

Defects can be improved. We are so thankful for the technology that is available and the doctors and nurses who are caring for Gideon - his condition is improving and we thank God for that! And friend, our heart defects can change as well. Ezekiel 36:26 says, "I will you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." God has the power to change us from the inside out! That too is something to be grateful for!!

God can be trusted with the defects. I was visiting with Gideon's mom today and it was great to hear updates and God stories. He is at work in this situation and through it. None of us can fix the little guy's heart, but we can entrust him to the One who made it and holds it. In the same way we can trust God with our defects and we must "trust Him with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5) We won't always understand the work He has to do or the way He chooses to do it, sometimes it may bring pain and often it will require patience, but in Him we can trust.

We continue to pray for Gideon and the condition of his heart and now as I do, I also pray about the condition of mine. I encourage you to do the same. Acknowledge the work God has done and praise Him for it. Ask Him where it's defected and allow Him to help you change. Let Him melt it and mold it into a heart that looks like His.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." 
Psalm 51:10

'I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, 
and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.' 
Jeremiah 24:7

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pause & PRAISE

Friends, thank you for joining me in prayer for our little Gideon James Beran. We are once again reminded God hears and answers prayers. Doctors are pleased with how surgery went and we continue to lift our mighty warrior as recovery takes place and he moves towards healing. If you want more details on the day and thoughts from his home, visit Gideon's CaringBridge page HERE.

Today I found myself praying and waiting and wondering. I also spent some time in Judges 6-8 reading more about the Biblical character with the same name. He was a mighty warrior...a man I've studied and at times have related to - specifically with the fleece situation. I understand the struggle he dealt with and perhaps the doubt he experienced.

I'm grateful for the encouragement we glean from these few chapters -

God was with Gideon and He is always with us. In Judges 6:15-16 we read this, "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." Alone this calling was too much for Gideon, but with God nothing is impossible. There have been times when things seemed too difficult for me, but when I depend on God, His strength and grace carry me through.

God can use little to do much. In Judges 7:7 we read, "The LORD said to Gideon, 'With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands." It is figured the Midianites out numbered Gideon's soldiers 50 to 1 - that's not very good odds. Yet God was faithful to His Word and Gideon was victorious. Friend, when your back is against the wall and you feel defeat is a given, remember this - God can use little to do much!

I'm also humbled by the wisdom and warning we find in Judges chapter 8. This is a part of Gideon's story I'm not as familiar with, but today I found it interesting and insightful. Here we read of Gideon killing Zebah and Zalmunna - scripture is not clear if this act of revenge was God led or Gideon acting on his own. Friend, we must be sure to always seek God for direction and then be willing to obey. We may think our plan, way or method is best, but God is the One who knows - seek Him, trust Him and obey Him.

We also find Gideon giving us a powerful reminder in Judges 8:23. The people have just cried out asking him to be their ruler when he responds, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you." Friend, we must never forget God is the authority figure, He is our judge and the one we will answer to, may we surrender to Him and live to serve Him.

Gideon, one we find in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) follows up his words of wisdom with a strange request. He asks the people for an earring from their share of the plunder. Then verse 27 tells us of the final recorded event of his life - "Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family."

Gideon may have had pure motives in making a way it may have been something similar to the stones of remembrance Joseph had the people lay down. Regardless of his motives the people took to worshipping this ephod instead of God who'd given them victory.

Friend, as I read these words earlier I thought about our call for prayer for our little Gideon. I believe our motives were pure, but I don't want it to end there. Tonight we are pausing to praise. God did much today and we want to acknowledge Him for it all. He is mighty and able. He is our provider and our peace. He is the great Physician and tonight we praise Him.

Will you join me?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Lord, you are the Prince of Peace and we thank you for filling us with it today. You Father are the One who promises to never leave us or forsake us - thank you for assuring us of your presence today. You were with Gideon, his parents, his medical team and all those praying and waiting. You are our great Provider - we asked you for much and you gave more than we even know. Thank you Lord for your goodness and grace. We are grateful for the work you did on Gideon's heart and in our's as well. Lord, we asked to see your glory and now I pray you get all the glory!! So Lord I close with these powerful words from Your Word - Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him, to You Lord be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! In Jesus' Name, Amen

Pause & PRAY

Friends, this post doesn't include an insightful story, a powerful illustration or Biblical teaching, but yet it's important and necessary. In a few hours, our new little nephew, Gideon James Beran, will undergo his second heart surgery in just 16 days. At 7 AM on February 14th, our "Mighty Warrior" is scheduled for open heart surgery to repair a hole in the lower chambers of his heart. If you'd like more info, please visit his CaringBridge page by clicking HERE.

Now at 2 AM, I'm up attempting to do what scripture commands - pray without ceasing.  Our family would greatly appreciate you joining us in prayer and I encourage you to pause & PRAY for all God has on your heart today.

God commands us to pray, He hears our prayers and will answer according to His perfect plan! Let's go to Him now...

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Lord we approach your throne with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. We know you are our good, good Father and our great God - we trust you, help us trust you more. Right now I pause and pray for Gideon. Lord, I put him in your hands and thank you for the gift you've given. You knit him together and know exactly what is going on. I ask you to heal his heart, protect him in surgery and may you continue to breathe life into his little body. Father, Gideon means mighty warrior - thank you for the battles the little guy has already one, may you grant him continued strength for the ones yet to come.

I also lift Matt and Jackie to you now Lord. Thank you for the strength and faith you've given to them over the last 15 days. I pray you would continue to give them the grace and belief they need for the day and days to come. Assure them of your presence, fill them with your Spirit and give them peace. May they know without a doubt you are with them, Gideon and Vanessa always. And Lord, continue to be with little Vanessa - she's young and doesn't understand all that is going on, but her world has changed. Thank you that she is doing well...continue to care for and comfort her through those who are watching over her. 

I put the surgeons, doctors and nurses in your hands. Lord, you are the great physician and we ask you to work powerfully through Gideon's medical team. Give them wisdom and a steady hand. Thank you for the advances in medicine and technology; use them powerfully today we pray.

I also pray for Gideon's extended family, his church family and loved ones. May we storm the gates today, give us a heart for prayer and help us be a source of encouragement for his family. Help us be your hands and feet Father. I especially lift up the little ones and young cousins...thank you for their childlike faith - may their example encourage us all.

Lord, in this time of wait - waiting for surgery, waiting for news, waiting for recovery I ask you for patience, perspective and peace. Don't let us waste our time and be anxious, but instead be intentional and trust YOU. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts that understand. Thank you for the gift of faith and if times of doubt arise, help our unbelief. In those moments we don't know what to do, help us set our eyes on you. Through it all may we remember who you are - our faithful Father, our powerful creator and our God who sees. Lord, you have a plan and you will keep your promises. Strengthen our faith through this and increase our dependence on you. Thank you for the privilege of prayer and the power in it. Today may we see your glory Lord! In Jesus' powerful and precious Name I pray...Amen

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now what?

"Are you ready?" a question I posed in my last post. One that obviously resonated with people and is important to consider. The main point was we must be ready to face eternity by knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior. This decision not only prepares us for life after death but equips us for the trials we will face while walking this earth.

But today as I ponder and pray about current trials, I'm reminded preparing is a great and necessary first step, but it's not enough. The Falcons and Patriots prepared 2 weeks for the Super Bowl and their lives for this moment, but they still had to take the field, play the game and fight to the finish. Think how long a woman prepares for her wedding. But, she still has to live out her vows and work on her marriage daily.

Today as my little nephew, 11 day old Gideon, faces heart surgery my heart is heavy. I think of him, his parents, the surgeons and nurses. The mom in me is often thinking of his mom, Jackie - my sister in law and friend. The gal I do ministry with and our family farms with. I can't imagine being in her shoes; sometimes I try to do that and tears fill my eyes. It's a hard place to be, a stressful one too. One that could consume and fill you with fear and anxiety.

I don't know if Matt and Jackie ever specifically prepared for a baby with 5 heart defects; none of us can possibly be ready for all the different situations life can bring. We can be ready in a spiritual sense though like I posted about previously. We can build our faith on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ and put our hope in a great and mighty God.

This preparation is vital when the winds blow and the storm hits, but when the trial comes the time for being ready is over. It is then we must cling to what we know, stand for what we believe and do what Scripture commands us to do.

Friend, I don't know what trial you are walking through, but can I share a few Truths I've been going back to as our current trial unfolds.

2 Chronicles 12:20 says, "Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were being attacked. The leader was alarmed, but he resolved to inquire of the Lord and as he closed his prayer, he made this statement.

Chances are you aren't in a physical war, but in life we do have moments we don't know what to do - in those times we must make the king's words our own - we must keep our eyes on God. Like the song says, we are prone to wonder. For me it's often my mind, not my feet, but regardless we need to stay with the One who not only makes us ready, but is able to carry us through. And we must remember there is a spiritual battling raging...physically there may not be anyone attacking us, but Satan is always on the prowl looking to steal, kill and destroy.

Psalm 46:10 reads, "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'" Friend, chances are this is a familiar verse, specifically the first phrase. It's a verse Christians can be quick to share, but do you know what it means when read in context? This too comes out of a moment of physical attack and war. The psalmist is in a difficult situation. The whole chapter gives insight into the trying circumstances and great understanding. This writer acknowledges God - who He is and the power He has. It's good when we do the same.

As I dug deeper into this passage and studied some of the original language, I realized there's more to this familiar verse than I realized. This "Be Still" is more than just a quieting of our mind - it's a letting go and surrendering of our heart. Going back to the Hebrew it was used when two soldiers were fighting and they wee told to drop their weapons - once the fighting stops they can let go and surrender to the one in control. Friend, that is what I need to do in a trial - whether I'm fighting with another or battling thoughts in my mind. I need to stop, so that I can be still. Another commentary I read referenced the idea of being silent as well. Being still refers to not just our physical state, but our minds and mouth as well.

John 7:37 says, "Whoever believes in me (Jesus), as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.' By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive." Friend, in moments of trial there's much we need - we may not have a physical thirst, oh but do we have a spiritual one. In those moments, we must be intentional about where we go and who we let lead us. Jesus promises to provide and meet our needs (Phil. 4:19) while God, our good Shepherd will lead us beside still waters and refresh our soul (Psalm 23:3), but we must go to them and trust them. Will you do that?

I'll close with a song that's been on my heart and another request for prayer - little Gideon is being prepped for surgery as I type, his parents are walking a road that is new, but they are trusting a Father they know - one who is powerful and faithful. If God brings them to mind, would you lift them up? Thank you from the depths of our hearts. May you meet Him at the river today...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Are you ready??

Facebook does this thing were it shows me what I've posted on this days in the previous years and this post from 2012 spoke to my heart today and continued my thinking. I pray the following words from times in the past do the same for you. I also am asking God to use my concluding thoughts from today to stir up some thoughts of your own.

From February 5, 2012-
I typed the words, "Are you ready?" and in my mind could hear Hank Williams Jr. singing, "for some football, for a Super Bowl party!" In case you didn't know the big game is today, but chances are you do and have maybe even been getting ready for a party this afternoon.

I've put some food together and even our little Jesse man is ready for his first ever Super Bowl! He's even sporting colors of one of the teams!

But last night the title of this post was on my mind for another reason. I'd just received a call that loved ones were involved in a car accident after they'd left the hospital visiting loved ones who were sick. Thankfully it's just the vehicle that's a loss and not someone's life. I thanked God for answering specific prayers we'd prayed earlier for safety. He is good!

Though I was grateful and at peace my mind was still at work as I reflected on yet another day that didn't go as planned. It began with a loved one on life support, 6 of the 7 people in my house getting sick, a friend's mom having major surgery for a brain tumor, my dad tipping over his skid loader and then the accident yesterday. Honestly it has been quite a week and as I thought about it all I said, "Wow, could have been much worse."

I am beyond thankful that it is not, but I know this is not a perfect world and someday the news won't be what I want to hear. As I thought about this, the opening three words to this post came to mind...I could hear God whispering, "Are you ready? And the ones you love, are they ready?"

Honestly thoughts of dying are not ones I prone to ponder, but this post keeps begging me to write it, so I will.

Personally when I ask myself this, I'm not ready when I look at things from an earthly perspective - my kids are young, they need me, their mom to raise them up; my husband and I have many years in front of us; I have dreams and desires I long to see unfold, but I know that's not what God is asking.

He's asking if I've accepted His Son, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior and yes, yes I have. Romans 10:9 says, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." That I have done and that I believe, so I know when my time comes I will be saved. I am ready.

Friend how about you? Are you ready? Remember being ready isn't accomplished by going to church, being a good person or growing up in a christian home. Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" God doesn't desire rituals or religion, He wants a relationship. Friend being ready is about knowing HIM!

Perhaps today, maybe even right now He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. If you hear HIS voice and open the door, He will come in. (Rev. 3:20) Friend I encourage you to do that now! Make yourself past week is proof that we don't know what tomorrow will bring.

The Giants and the Patriots have spent two weeks preparing for this game and some of them will say they've spent their life working towards this goal, they are ready!! But when the whistle blows and the game ends, win or lose life will go on. Those athletes are preparing for a game, but today I pray you will apply this question to thoughts about your eternal home!

From February 5, 2017 -

Friend, we need to be ready for our eternal home, but we also need to open our hearts to Jesus to be ready for the trials that will come during our time on earth. This past week has been full of surprises...not the fun, enjoyable ones. Our newborn nephew experienced his first helicopter ride on the day he was born, little Gideon is in the NICU and undergoing more tests. We didn't see this coming. 

On a much lighter note, yesterday our oldest daughter experienced an injury at a basketball tournament. Thankfully x-rays showed no broken bones, but we're experiencing crutches for the first time and lots of ice. This was not in her plans or mine, but it happened. 

And isn't that just like life...things happen that we don't expect. Sometimes they are good, fun and rewarding surprises. Others they are hard, challenging experiences that bring tears, change and anxiety. 

Today as I listened to our pastor's sermon I was reminded of another unexpected event in history - Moses meeting with God via the burning bush. This is a picture of God's character and compassion. It's an example of His call and commission. Moses didn't expect this encounter, but he was ready for it and responded rightly to it.

Friend think about Jesus' words in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble! But take heart, I have overcome the world." It's a given hard times will and do happen on this earth. The question is - Are we ready for them?

We can't predict what they will be, but we can prepare for how we will respond. Will we allow fear, worry and panic to take over? Or will we rest in the promises God has for us? Will we run to Him and cry out to the One who knows, cares and provides?

We can't do that without knowing the One who is peace and offers it. Are you ready to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior? It will impact you for eternity and prepare you for the trials of today!

Saying "Yes" doesn't delete your troubles or change your problems, but it changes YOU! May we all be ready to walk with Jesus, trust the One who knows the way and follow Him where He knows we need to go.

Blessings my friend! If God brings it to mind, the Beran family would greatly appreciate your prayers for little Gideon James! He's a "mighty warrior" and we're entrusting Him to our great God!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

If God Is My Shepherd…

“The Lord is My Shepherd” -  the opening words to Psalm 23. These are familiar words and a common name for God. A name that means much and paints a picture for me…a girl who’s dad raises sheep. A shepherd brings to mind one who cares, is patient and provides. Thinking about God as my Shepherd leaves me thinking about myself as a sheep.

I’m not sure what you know about sheep, but as one who took care of them through my childhood this is a humbling comparison. Sheep are not the smartest or strongest animal. Sometimes they smell and they can make a lot of noise. When I’m honest the comparison is accurate…my mind can wonder, I am weak, my sin stinks and my mouth can get me in trouble.  

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 
each of us has turned to our own way; 
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 
(Isaiah 53:6)

But please don’t let your comparison stop there. There is a positive  way to look at this. I believe God likens us to sheep for other reasons as well. The most important being to remind us of who He is... 

I am the good shepherd. 
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 
(John 10:11)

It also gives us a glimpse of who we should be -

A Picture of Dependence
Sheep truly do depend on their shepherd...they need their care, their provision, their nourishment. Friend, we need the same from our heavenly Shepherd! What are you in need of right now? Peace, Comfort, Companionship, Strength? I don't know, but I know who can provide. Take your needs to the can depend on Him to meet them.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; 
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’  
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ 
(Revelation 7:17)

A Model of One who Listens
You can't call a sheep like you do a dog or whistle for them either, but they do listen. When my dad's sheep hear his voice or the crackle of feed in his pails, they come and remain calm. In the same way, when they hear strangers they react and seem a bit on edge. Who are you listening to? Do you know the voice of the Shepherd?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; 
no one will snatch them out of my hand. 
(John 10:26-28)

An Example of What it Means to Follow
Growing up there were plenty of times we had to move sheep from one pasture to the next and instead of loading them in a trailer, we positioned people in field drive ways and at intersections on the gravel roads. My dad would get a pail of feed, open the gate and lead the wooly animals down the road from one farm to another. This job always made me nervous, but it always went well. Sheep follow their Shepherd. Is God your Shepherd? Follow Him like a sheep...even when it makes you nervous!

But he brought his people out like a flock; 
he led them like sheep through the wilderness. 
He guided them safely, so they were unafraid... 
(Psalm 78:52-53a)

A Prototype for Peace
When my dad enters the barn or the pen, for the most part the sheep stay put or move towards him. If I on the other hand do the same, the sheep know something is different. They appear anxious and look around sensing something has changed. They have peace when their shepherd is present and friend, God, our heavenly Shepherd wants the same for us. He promises to be with us. In His Word He says He will never leave or forsake us. May we too experience peace in the presence of our Shepherd. 

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, 
that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good 
for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, 
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
(Hebrews 13:20-21)

We will never cheer for the "Sheep" at a sporting event, but may we always be sheep as we walk in faith! Blessings to you friend...grateful to be in the flock with you!