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Friends

Proverbs 18:24 – “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Yesterday, our youth group completed our annual pizza date and collection of items for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We had several teenagers join us on this excursion. And man, did they ever have fun!

I loved looking down the table at lunch and seeing all those glasses of soda hovering around plates of pizza. I enjoyed listening to them laugh and poke each other. I was grateful for their kindness and respect to those around them.

And then when we got to the store to collect our items, I was touched by their heart in gathering so many different items for their individual shoebox. They were concerned about this child’s hygiene, eating utensils, toys/entertainment items and other things that they could use around their home. 

And after the needs of the shoebox were met, that is when the laughing started. I could hear my son and several other boys just giggling and having a grand ole time. I went to search them out and what did I find? They had found the masks and was trying several on. It didn’t matter that the masks were too small. It didn’t matter that they were being stared at. All that mattered is that they were having a great time.

Then they went to the church house. After practicing for a puppet show and working on some music, they began playing spoons. It’s a card game that can get very intense, but they love it. It is a tradition for them. They laughed. They yelled. They were reaching over one another and knocking down chairs. They were having a great time. It was spectacular!

I tell you all of this to remind you of this – friends are important. Godly friends are even more important. It is needful for you to have fun with your friends. It is needful for you to serve with your friends. God has given us the opportunity for friendship and He wants us to enjoy it. Schedules are busy and life gets hectic, I know. I am right there with you. I wish I had more time for friends. I miss girls night out. It seems like I am so caught up with all the activities my kids are involved in that I forget to make time for my friends. 

So this week, let’s do something about it. Even if it is just sending a text or an email, reach out to a friend. Let them know that you are thinking of them. Let them know you are praying for them. 

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Life in grace


2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

How do you like my tablecloth? It is probably one of my favorite fall tablecloths that I have. (The other one is the one with the foxes. So cute!)

I have heard grace defined so many times that I struggle to remember each one I have heard. The most popular definition is “unmerited favor of God”. But I have also heard it described as “God giving you what you do not deserve”. 

The term “grace” is also used to describe a person’s actions and behaviors. The word “grace” has been used in conversation in the place of prayer – “Would someone like to say grace?” Grace is also used as a name. 

But what should grace be in our life? And how in the world does it relate to this Bible verse? How is grace a way to live?

We do not deserve what God has given us in our life. We have blessings in abundance even on the hardest of days. We have the opportunity to spend eternity with Jesus despite our constant and devious desires to do things that are wrong. We do things out of duty rather than out of love. We moan and groan when things don’t go just as we had planned. We do not deserve what God has given us in our life.

Yet, He has given us the opportunity each and every day to put away the old things that may have gone on yesterday. Each day is a clean slate, a new opportunity. Each day should be seen as a challenge to truly put away all those old ways and truly become new. 

And grace plays a part in all of this. Grace is remembering what God has done for you and living your life in newness so that you might, in some small way, say thank you. You can’t earn grace. You can’t buy grace. You can’t construct grace. Grace is one of those beautiful gifts that you have to accept by faith. It just is. 

So this weekend, as you notice the chill in the air and see the newness of color in the leaves or just appreciate a slight decline in the temperature, remember grace. Remember the beautiful, free gift that it is and the fullness it has to offer you in your life. Live life in grace. 

Love, true love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a – “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…”

My husband and I have been married for 22 years, 4 months and 13 days. It’s always the years that gets me. I have been married over half of my life. 

Our 22 years have been far from perfect but they have probably been as close as one can get this side of eternity. God has been good to us, not because of anything we have done or deserve. No, God has been good to us because He loves us and we each loved Him before we loved each other. 

Society has a warped view of love these days. They have no clue what it is or what it means. They see the things that Hollywood tells us should be love and attempt to base their thoughts and feeling on that. And that just does not work. The ideas and actions we see on our television and movie screen are far from the long lasting love spoken of here in 1 Corinthians 13. 

I mean look at it – “suffereth long” – long suffering is not a quality I would say that most people have. “Envieth not” – really, you don’t want me to be jealous of my special someone? The world teaches that jealousy is something that is a positive quality; it drives a person. “Vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” – pride. Need I say more? “Doth not behave itself unseemly” – inappropriate behavior toward another person is everywhere. “Seeketh not her own” – self-centered behavior, the hallmark of our modern world. “Not easily provoked” – wearing your heart on your shirt sleeve – political correctness? “Thinketh no evil” – “get them before they get you” kind of an attitude. 

See, it is really tough to see true love in our world. That is why we are encouraged to find all the answers in Christ. When we look to the world, we have to remember that the devil has his grubby little hands in everything in the world. If he can get us to warp our view of love and see it as the world sees it, he can bring us down to the depths of his misery. And we all know that misery loves company. 

Jesus is our perfect example of love. His life, His ministry, His death and resurrection all show us how, when and why we should love. And the love that is spoken of here isn’t just for the people choosing marriage. No, this love should be blanketed over everyone in every situation and saught after in every circumstance. 

So let me encourage you today, to love. Read these verses and let them sink in and let them change the way you do things today. Put on love and let it guide you today.  

There is a time…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I get impatient sometimes. I like for things to happen when I want them to happen. I want things and events to follow my schedule. And when they don’t, it frustrates me. I feel that I am so busy in my life that my calendar becomes the all controlling factor in my life. If it isn’t on my calendar, then it will not happen, or so I think. Rarely do I give myself the opportunity to be spontaneous. But every now and again, I will clear the day and let happen what may. Those days are fun.

In this passage, Solomon is trying to teach us that there is a time for every thing. And he doesn’t just state the fact and move on, no, he has to elaborate and leave no thought untouched. The items listed here pretty much sum up a life in general. A time for every thing. 

In my line of work, I have the opportunity to speak with people often about different chapters in their life. It is the only way I know to get across to them that it is okay to be scared and frustrated and mad. They are writing a new chapter of their life. They don’t know how to write it. They don’t understand why they have to write it. They don’t comprehend why their chapter had to change. And they don’t like where this chapter is leading. They don’t like that they are in a different time. 

But if I can ever get them to understand that it is okay to be mad and frustrated and confused about the why, I can help them to write this chapter beautifully. I can’t write it for them but I can show them how to write it more efficiently and more safely. A time for every thing.

I don’t know what chapter you are writing in your life. I have no idea what problems or issues or celebrations you have going on right now. But I can tell you this, you do not walk or write this chapter alone. Every event listed above is an opportunity to love and trust God. It is a time in your life to show others that He is the Author and Perfector of your faith. He is the One who brought you to it, and He is the One who will bring you through it. Happy Monday.

Baby Believer

1 Peter 2:2 – “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”

My daughter has a good friend that accepted Jesus as her Savior this school year. Since that time, she and my daughter have been reading and discussing the Bible together. It’s really cute, if one forgets to read a chapter, they have to give the other one a dollar.  If they neglect to read more than one chapter, they have to buy a spirit ribbon on Friday and the other one gets to decide where they wear it, like on their forehead. Not something I would do, but it is the way they hold one another accountable.

Last night, they were face timing and discussing what they had read the night before. My daughter’s friend had made a list of questions to talk to her about. She is a new Believer who is hungry and thirsty for the Word. She has been taught so many different things from so many different people that she just wants to know what Jesus says about everything. And what better place to find it than the Bible.

When was the last time you and some close friend of yours had that sort of discussion? When was the last time you were hungry for the Word of God? When was the last time you made a list of questions to discuss with someone about what you read in the Bible?

Heart pricking, isn’t it?

The older we get, the less likely we are to ask questions. We don’t want to look foolish. But this young lady doesn’t care what she looks like to others. She wants to know God more and more. And her questions are thought provoking. They make you stop and consider what was going on, who Jesus was talking to and why. It’s a great way to learn. 

I also think that we ebb and flow when it comes to reading God’s word. We have times when we are really diligent about it and other times when “stuff” gets in the way. Maybe we all need some sort of accountability partner to keep us reading. I think it would be good for us. Maybe it would get us to sincerely desire the Word of God in a whole new way. 

So this week, I want to challenge you to read His Word diligently. Let His words so seep into you that you are contemplating long after you close the Book. And ask questions. Teachers always tell their students at the beginning of the year that there is no such thing as a stupid question. And it is so true. More than likely, someone else is thinking the same thing. Go, learn and grow.

Just like me…

Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

I’ve been struggling with this concept the last couple of days – What if everyone acted just like me – in regards to family, church, work and community?

It’s what we want, isn’t it? We wish that everyone around us was as smart as we are, made similar choices that we make, and were as dedicated as we are. We see ourself without flaw, without blemish. 

But deep down, we know that’s not true. We know that deep down we get upset when someone does something different that we think that they should. We get frustrated when we have a plan and someone steps in and changes that plan all together. We want to throw a fit and yell at someone when their decision to stay out of things is not the option we would have chosen. We get all flustered when people don’t perform like we know we would in that situation. 

Pride. It’s pride that makes us feel that way. You see, whether it is at work, church or at home, the devil is doing his best to drive a wedge in our heart between us and God. If he can get us to look more at ourself and see only the worst in people and their decisions instead of seeing the beauty of variety, then he can get us to walk further and further from our Savior. 

And it’s so easy to do. It is easy to get frustrated when we don’t understand what is going on. It is easy to get mad when things don’t go the way we think they should. It is easy to want to yell at someone when their choices are wrong in our eyes. 

But here is the thing – we can’t control others; we can only control ourself. We have to trust that God has whatever thing we are dealing with under control. Staying awake all night worrying about it won’t make a difference. Getting mad and yelling at someone will not help the cause of Christ. Not doing your best as a punishment to those who are making what you see as a bad decision will get nothing accomplished. 

Jesus has given us all different gifts and talents. I’m not responsible for my husband using his gifts. That is his can of worms. I need to be focused on whether I’m using my gifts. But I can’t let my focus shift from me doing my best for His glory to me doing my best because I know I’m right. 

It’s hard, but you can’t let people have power over your decision to do things for His glory. Focusing solely upon Jesus will have far different reaches that focusing solely on you and what you do. Pride is an ugly beast that too often rears its head in my life. Pride is what makes you think your way is the best way. Pride is what makes you fail to see your flaws. Pride is what makes us want everyone to act like just like us. 

Praise the Lord

Isaiah 9:6 -“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

I was listening to one of my favorite artist yesterday, Crowder. His music is very raw and really hits home to me. He has a song called, “Praise the Lord.” When you first hear the lyrics, they sound almost disrespectful, but if you keep listening, you hear the real message. Here is the gist of it.

How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him as a magic 8-ball that you occasionally ask a question to? Do you use Jesus as a gun, shooting down thoughts and feelings that are different from your own? Do you swing Him like a hammer, forcing your ideas and beliefs upon someone else? Do you keep Him under the steeple or in the Book? Or do you use Him as a prescription – only when something is wrong?

That is not Who Jesus is. That is not His purpose or His plan for you. Praise the Lord.

Sometimes we think that His love is more of a river rather than an ocean. Narrow and wide, deep and shallow, we fear that it will run away. But His love is more of an ocean that is vast and deep and constant. Others might think of His love as a song, wrapped up with a neat beginning and ending. But His love is more like a symphony that is filled with all kinds of notes and instruments that is woven together to create the most beautiful melody.

We try to make God’s love so difficult, so challenging. But Jesus is way more than we can ever imagine if we just let Him love us and be Who He is supposed to be in our life.

When we consider Jesus and who He should be in our life, we need to remember that He is endless – He always has been. I don’t think we can ever truly grasp it. It is a mystery that will one day be revealed when we are with Him. But the decision to be with Him needs to be a joyful choice, not a fearful leap. 

I think that too often we try to put Jesus in our neat little box or use Him as a weapon to drive fear and coercion into people. That’s not Who He is. Jesus isn’t a genie in a lamp or a lightening bolt throwing being or a fair weather friend. No, Jesus is so much more than that – Praise the Lord.

Jesus is The Leader. Jesus is Wonderful. Jesus is The caring Counselor. Jesus is The Mighty God. Jesus is My Everlasting Father. Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Praise the Lord.