faith, God, Jesus, spiritual

Weakness and Faith

Photo by luigi diamanti

I’m weak. I fully admit it. I don’t measure up as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I’ve been selfish. I’ve participated in gossip. I’ve neglected people I love. My mouth needs a muzzle at times. Sometimes I am just a mess and I’m sure my witness for Christ has suffered for it. And this makes my heart hurt.

John’s sermon Sunday was on Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, and it was a message I so needed to hear. This chapter lists great heroes of the Bible who were heroes because of their faith…their belief in God. Faith was the foundation of their lives –  no matter how often they failed. You see, these great heroes of faith were not perfect.

Abraham doubted God’s ability to give him a son. He lied about his relationship with his wife. 
Jacob deceived his father and also played favorites with his children. 
Moses killed a man.
David committed adultery and murder.

All of these were commended for their faith…and they were sinners. And this gives me such hope, because I am a sinner whose sins are covered by faith in God and belief in His Son, Jesus. Though I fail at every turn, I still have faith in God and that is my foundation for life. Yes, I need to learn to live in the presence of Jesus and muzzle my mouth and learn to serve in love, but I am covered with God’s love because of my faith in Him.

“Know that I love you. Accept my love,” he whispers.

There is a peace that passes understanding in knowing His love and accepting His love.

I promise to try to live a life worthy of the calling God has place on my life, but I know this…I will continue to mess up. So please forgive me if you are at the receiving end of my mistakes. Know that I love you and never want to cause you hurt or harm.

And then just slap me upside the head and tell me to get over myself!

God, love, spiritual

Hearing God

Photo by graurraznationut

I miss God. I mean, I know He is with me all the time, but I miss feeling His presence. I miss hearing from Him. What happened to shut that off? What have I done to hinder that feeling?

There was a time when I reveled in God’s presence. I could feel Him close. I could see Him at work around me. Every day was an adventure in what He might do. I felt I was part of His kingdom, doing His work…the most fruitful and fulfilling work there is. And now….nothing.

In Amos 8, the Lord says He will send a famine through the land – a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People would stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. People were running away, turning away, pushing away from God. And so God let them be.

A famine of His presence…His word.

What can we do to fix that? What can we do to stop the famine and hear Him again?

PRAY. In one of Beth Moore’s studies, she said that God would grant every prayer that was in line with His will. And would could be more in line with His will than loving Him more? Pray that you would desire Him above all else. Pray that you would want to read His word daily. Pray that God would give you a passionate desire for Him. Pray that you would hear Him daily. How could he not grant such a request?

READ. Be in the word. The Bible is God’s words to us and it reveals His nature, His power, and His love. We must know God in order to love like Him and be like Him. So read it daily. Spend time with Him.

SIMPLIFY. We are bombarded daily with materialism. Commercials trying to get you to buy more stuff. New gadgets and technology. Entertainment abounds. Just so much STUFF that woos us away from what is really important….God and His kingdom. We get so busy and the world gets so loud that we cannot hear God anymore. Tune out the world and listen. He is whispering to you.

What are you doing to hear God more? 

*This post was inspired by John Ketchersid’s sermon on July 21, 2013.

church, God, Jesus, spiritual

What’s So Important About Church?

Photo by Deb Spoons

Why go to church? I can have a relationship with Jesus all on my own. I feel God more out in nature than I do within four walls of a sanctuary. It will be more important to go when I have my own kids. I don’t get anything out of going to church. Church just doesn’t speak to me.

I’ve heard these statements and have really pondered the question: What’s so important about church?

Well, John’s sermon yesterday gave me an answer that I feel makes sense. Yesterday was Pentecost, the Sunday we remember when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ followers awaiting the promised gift. John spoke of three things we receive when we accept Jesus and are given the Holy Spirit: Peace, Joy, and Mission. It was when he spoke about our mission in this world that I truly began to understand the importance of church.

The original word for Holy Spirit is BREATH. God breathed on the disciples and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, just as God breathed on Adam and gave him life. This breath of the Holy Spirit is special, because it gives us purpose and can give us passion.

Psalm 150, the last psalm listed, speaks of the purpose and mission of those who have the breath of God.

Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals. let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

It is a mission of the church…the universal church, the church world-wide…to praise the Lord. We praise the Lord with our lives because He has given us breath…not only physical life, but life life in His Spirit.
The church is a group of believers who gather together to worship God. To praise Him. To love Him. To honor Him. If our mission as Spirit-filled believers is to praise the Lord, then  we need to join together as believers worldwide to praise God and lift up His name. There is great power in the collective worship of God.

But I don’t get anything out of church! Church is not for your pleasure. Church is a place to collectively worship the one true God. It is a place to further the mission of God. Worship requires you to consciously think through the words of the songs sung, the prayers said, the scripture read, and the sermon preached. It requires you to come prepared to give…not receive. Don’t get me wrong, you will receive great things when you truly worship God as He deserves. But receiving something is not the purpose of coming to church.

I’ll go to church when I start my family. If the parents are not sold on the mission of God before they have kids, then their kids won’t capture that mission of God. Parents need to have their own relationship with God and be sold out for Him before they can train their children to love Him. It is not the church’s job to train up a child in God’s love…it is the parent’s job. The church can – and does – teach, but it just reinforces what is taught at home.

I feel God more out in nature than I do within the walls of a church. Yes, there is something about being out in nature that draws us to God. It is because we are truly recognizing and seeing God’s work around us. It is because we are focused on His creation and recognizing the gift that it is. But we can do the same thing at church. So often we go to church, wondering if we will get anything out of the service. We go through the motions. But we aren’t actively participating. We aren’t truly meaning the words of the songs we sing. We aren’t truly agreeing to the words spoken in prayer. We aren’t truly paying attention to God’s words spoken through the sermon. There is power in the collective worship of God’s people. We can experience His powerful presence when we truly worship in spirit and truth.

Church is not only a place to worship God. It is a place to be encouraged by other Spirit-filled believers. There are times when I am struggling with something in my life and someone in church will come up and ask about me…and sometimes even KNOW what I am struggling about. That is the Spirit loving on me and encouraging me…through a fellow believer. I wouldn’t get that encouragement…either from the church member or from God…had I not been in attendance. Church is not just an institution…it is a family.

Church attendance is not a requirement. We don’t need another thing on our “guilt list”, for sure. But church attendance is an outgrowth of our heart. We spend time and energy on what is important to us. We make time for what we love the most. What is most important in your life? (Disclaimer here: There are times when we just cannot make it to church. In today’s economic times, sometimes we have to work on Sundays. There is no shame in that. What I am saying here is that worshiping God is more important that shopping, catching up on sleep, and watching TV.)

This is certainly not a complete list of reasons for the importance of church. What would you add to my list?

God, personal, spiritual

When Bad Things Happen

When bad things happen, I used to question why. Was there something in me that deserved this bad experience? Was this God’s loving discipline? Was there something I needed to learn before all the bad goes away?

After quite a few of hardship, I believe I’m finally learning that sometimes there is just not a “why”.  He blesses the righteous and the evil. He allows hardship on the good and the bad.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:45

Sure, we may “need” to learn something through hardship. But even if we don’t need to be taught a lesson, we learn to have faith, trust, perseverance, and joy…yes, joy! When we can look at these times with trust in the One who made us and loves us, we can find the joy that will get us through. He will send blessing, big and small, to encourage you in the dark times.

Sometimes we are not in need of more lessons from God…we are just being attacked by the evil one. Look at Job! He wasn’t perfect, but Satan wanted to show God that when all of the good things in Job’s life were taken away, he would curse God. And what about the prophets? Many of them were persecuted and ridiculed while they were just doing the Lord’s work.

The evil one is out to destroy God’s mission in this world, plain and simple. What better way than to discourage God’s people?

“Does Job fear God for nothing?”<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(Y)”> Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(Z)”> around him and his household and everything he has?<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(AA)”> You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(AB)”> 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(AC)”> and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11

Well, I’m not going to let God down. Even in the midst of a home robbery, car problems, and plumbing problems (yes, the bathroom that took 7 weeks to remodel last year is leaking and has to be torn out and redone next week!), I will rejoice in the Lord!

I will <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>bless the Lord at all times;
His <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”>praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1

I praise God for His unbelievable power! I lift up His name because of the awesome God He is. And I thank Him for the beautiful family and friends that He has sent to love on me and my family during difficult times.

And really…we have such an awesome life! People across the world face death every day. People are persecuted every day! I live in a land where the norm is to have more than one car, smart phones, and 3 meals every day. I am in the top 2% on the “wealthy” scale in the world!!!

Yes, I have a great life.

What are you praising God in the midst of today?

God, Jesus, personal, spiritual

Robbed But Not Defeated

We were robbed last Friday. While we were at work someone broke into the house and stole some things. I won’t go into details, but I have to say that I was disappointed. It was disturbing to know that someone had entered my house and looked through all my stuff….and made a big mess. Drawers were dumped out, a table turned over, even Q-Tips were strewn everywhere!

And they took the pillow case off my bedding that I got for my birthday last year! The nerve!

While it is a sad thing to lose your things, I was able to keep it all in perspective given the recent tragedies in Boston and West. What’s a few electronics in the face of death and destruction?

All in perspective.

And of course, there is the security that knowing God is present in all our circumstances…good or bad. When my husband called me to tell me the news and I got into the car to head home, the song that began to play on the radio was Blessed Be Your Name. Yes, indeed! Whether the sun is shining down on me or my road is marked with suffering, still I will always say…”Blessed Be Your Name, LORD!”

God also spoke to my heart in Bible class Sunday morning. Listen to our scripture for the class:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(V)”> where moths and vermin destroy,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(W)”> and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(X)”> where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Y)”> 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6: 19-21

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AC)”> about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AD)”> Are you not much more valuable than they?<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AE)”> 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life<sup class="footnote" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="[e]”>[e]?
<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AF)”>
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AG)”> was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AH)”> 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AI)”> 33 But seek first his kingdom<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AJ)”> and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AK)”> 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6: 25-34

Amazing, isn’t it? I love that God reminded me that my treasure is not here on earth. It is stored in heaven, awaiting me there. I love that He reminded me that I do not need to worry about “things”. I don’t need to worry because He will take care of me and my family. He loves us so and has showed us through all the hugs, prayers, calls, texts, and emails.

I am so incredibly blessed to have a God and friends who care and love so unconditionally.

Christian, God, Jesus, spiritual

The Reoccurring Recall

Photo by Stuart Miles

Have you ever experienced purchasing a product only to have it recalled? Disappointing to say the least. Yes, you get your money back, but the recalled products are not to be used again. EVER. Why? Because they are rejects…worthless…unusable.

In John 21, Jesus once again appeared to his disciples after his resurrection. One might wonder why Jesus would return to these disciples, for they certainly didn’t have a good track record. These were the disciples who deserted Jesus when he was arrested. Peter denied Jesus three times. Thomas doubted Jesus’ return. Deserted, denied, and doubted – not a great basis for building God’s kingdom upon.

But Jesus returned to these men to do a disciple re-call. He had called them to follow him years ago and he is now re-calling them to the same mission he had originally called them to…they just didn’t understand it back then.

Jesus’ disciples needed to learn a lesson about God’s kingdom, and the greatest way to learn that lesson was to re-call them to the same mission. To give them a new start. A do-over. They needed to learn the lesson of grace and mercy…of forgiveness and restoration. This was the essence of God’s kingdom, and a re-call was the best way to experience that kingdom.

The great thing about God’s kingdom is that we, too, are recalled. We are the recipients of grace, mercy, forgiveness and restoration. We are given a fresh start to become a part of God’s mission here on earth and the life to come.

The best part is that this recall is a reoccurring recall. 

Yes, God recalls us continually. We will mess up. We will desert. We will deny. We will doubt. But God offers his forgiveness and restores us to His kingdom. We need only to open our hearts and receive it.

Aren’t you thankful for this kind of recall? 

***Kuddos to John Ketchersid for an outstanding lesson on Sunday. He always makes me think and leads me to a better understanding of God and His mission.

God, Jesus, spiritual

The Scarred Body

Photo by luigi diamanti

Our society is obsessed with youth and the perfected body. Women devour anti-aging products, do hundreds of sit-ups to diminish that sagging middle, and lather on the tinted lotions for a sun-kissed glow. If you have money, you can even lift, tuck, and suction your way to the body you once had…er, kind of.

While we may strive for the perfect body here on earth, the Bible gives us hope for better body in the life to come….eternal life with the perfect body. Our body now is like a tent (2 Cor. 5:1-3). In heaven our bodies will be like Jesus’ body (Phil. 3:20-21).

We long for…hope for…a resurrected body that is perfect. We don’t want bald heads, stretch marks, cellulite, and long ear hairs (just to clarify, I do NOT have long ear hairs!). We don’t want the aches and pains that old age brings. We want a strong, healthy, good looking body, fit for the kingdom of God for all eternity. And we shall get it…with one exception.

The resurrected body is a wounded body…a scarred body.

After he arose from the grave, Jesus appeared to his disciples in bodily form. He showed them his scarred body…the marks from the nails in his hands and feet and the spear thrust in his side. He still had the scars. Yes, his wounds had healed, but he carried the scars even after death. Those scars are the badge of honor that spoke of his sacrifice for the world.

We, too, will carry scars into heaven. For the resurrected body is a wounded body. Healed, yes, but scarred for eternity. As Christians, we will have battle wounds. Every wound for the sake of Christ will heal and bear the mark forever.

The scars we bear, whether visible or invisible, become signs of grace and mercy. They are a reminder of God’s provision, His love, and His acceptance. They are the mark of triumph.

What scars will you carry with you? 

***Thank you, Chris Dowdy, for an excellent and thought provoking communion meditation during our worship gathering yesterday. Your words touched my heart.