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All of me

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
We were challenged this weekend to love God with all that we are. Easy concept, right? Umm, no. Not so much. Not when you really take a good hard look at yourself. And that, my friend, is no fun. 

The challenge began with “Who is #1 in your life?” Well, I’m at church, on a Sunday night. The Sunday school answer is “God”, right? But when the question was asked again at the end of the challenge…the answer wasn’t God, if I was being honest with myself. And that is tough stuff right there. 

Love God with all my heart. What does that mean? As I have thought about it, I see it as loving God with all my emotion. Our heart is the center of our emotional state. When I love God with all my emotion, I make everything about Him. I choose to see His hand at work in my life. I allow Him to change and mold my attitude. Now, does that mean that I go around gushing and acting all cheesy? No. I believe that you can love God with all your heart by acknowledging Him every opportunity you get. You are deferring your emotion to Him. You are choosing to allow Him to guard and guide how you feel and respond. Loving God with all my heart.

Love God with all my soul. I think about this in this way – loving God with my eternity. My soul is something I can’t see; I can’t touch; but it is something I can give. I can give my soul back to it’s Creator by choosing Jesus as my Savior. I can allow God to have control over my eternity. Loving God with all my soul.

Love God with all my mind. Some days, I do okay with this and others days, it’s just plain ugly. In my way of thinking, this is loving God with thoughts. This is allowing God to control my thoughts. This is choosing to see things in the scope of eternity. “What would Jesus do?” It’s not wearing your heart on your shirt sleeve but rather seeing all things in the light of the love of Christ. Letting Jesus control my thoughts. Loving God with all my mind.

Love God with all my strength. To me, this is my actions. These are the things that I do or don’t do on a daily basis. This is reading my Bible. This is going to church when the doors are open. This is preparing for VBS. This is the physical action of the group. This is loving God with all my strength.

There are times when I get parts of this challenge spot on and there are times when I fail miserably. But you know what, God wants me to try my hardest. He wants me to make the choices to do things right and to seek Him daily. He knows when I am doing the best I can and when I am doing just enough to get by. This is where grace and mercy come into play. This is where I really need grace and mercy. And praise God, they never run out.

So this week, ask yourself “Who is #1 in my life?” And don’t just give the Sunday school answer. Really look hard at yourself. Ponder where your priorities really are. Happy Tuesday. 

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Identity Crisis

1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭KJV – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”‭‭‬‬

I have an exercise for you today – get out a piece of paper and write “I AM” on the top of it. Then below that, I want you to write words that describe you – character traits, career choices, hobbies – anything and everything that describe you. Then, I want you to cross out all the words that describe your personality, your career, your hobbies and anything else that describes you. Now, I know that you are thinking, “Good grief Melissa, that was dumb to write it all down and then cross it all out.”

Here is the point –

We tend to think of ourself in certain ways. We see ourself as defined by words that man has made up to describe things and actions. But is that really who you are? Are you really nice? If I had to guess, if you’re like me, not all the time. Are you really hard-working? If you’re like me, laziness creeps into your life sometimes. You see, the words that we describe ourself with are temporary and unreliable. In reality, they limit us. They put us in a box or in a column that restricts who we can truly be. 

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, oh dear, you are so much more than adjectives on a page. You have been created and designed for a special purpose that it is your duty to fulfill in this life we live on a daily basis. Adjectives on a page don’t begin to describe the beauty and purpose that God has in store for you.

BUT, you have to make a choice. You see, you can see yourself as the world sees you all day long. Or, you can see yourself in the Light of Heaven and find freedom. 

Those adjectives you used to describe yourself are bars around you that keep you from reaching your full potential. The world will tell you – “It’s your life. Live it how you want to live it.” Oh, that may sound like freedom and options and all sorts of wonderful things, but in reality, when you are in control of your life and you are trying to figure out how to live it, things get messy and restrictive. 

But when you let Jesus drive your life, when you let Him describe who you are and what He wants you to do and how He wants you to do it, things begin to loosen up. You are no longer bound by the limits the world places on you. You are allowed to dream big and hope fully. And you can do this because you don’t have to worry about how things are going to work out. You know that when Jesus is in control that everything works out in His time and according to His will. You just have to follow and not stray onto your own path. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately trying to tell me how to be the best version of myself and how to improve my quality of life and so on. But the one thing that all of these “professionals” have failed to mention is the importance of Christ in my daily life. He is the One who makes every little thing I do worthwhile. 

So, today is Thursday. The weekend is just around the corner. Take some time to think about how you see yourself. And then, ask Jesus how He sees you. And then, make His perspective, your perspective. When you realize that your identity isn’t found in the limits of the world, you’re scope opens up in a whole new way. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭KJV)

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Chocolate cake

‭‭James‬ ‭4:13-17‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
It is a problem that we all are guilty of participating in at some time or another – choosing not to do what is right when we know better. Yes, I know, it is also known as sin – intentional sin, at that. 

Let me set up the situation.

Let’s say that you know that you have a few pounds you need to lose. It is not drastic, you just know that if you lost them (and never found them again) that you would feel better physically and emotionally. But you are at an event and they are serving chocolate cake – your all time favorite dessert. You know that you should not eat that cake. You know that it will show up on the scale tomorrow morning. You know that it is too late at night and eating that cake will result in a restless night of sleep. You know all these things. You have rationalized it over and over again in your mind. Yet…you still eat it. You really, really, really want that chocolate cake. You know the consequences and yet you do it anyway. Sin has caught you with a fork!

I tell you this to say intentional sin is tough. We can push unintentional sin under the blanket of a forgiveness prayer. But when it comes to the sins we commit knowingly, well, that requires more effort to get rid of. Yes, I know, I’m stepping on your toes, but guess what, mine are paining too!

The problem is that it is these sins that are keeping us from a closer walk with Christ. These sins will build a wall between you and Him that if left unchecked will cause serious problems down the road. That is why it is so incredibly vital that we keep that wall destroyed. It’s like letting weeds grow in a garden. If you don’t stay on top of them and get rid of them when they pop up, before you know it, the garden is overtaken with weeds and you have to spend an enormous amount of time locating what it is that you planted one day, way back when. 

So my challenge to you, and to me, is to keep those intentional sins in check. Or better yet, when you hear that still, small voice saying “don’t do it…don’t do it”, then…don’t do it. God wants you listen to Him. He wants to guide you on the path of righteousness but He won’t make you make the right decision. He wants you to do that on your own. Gotta love free will. 

But it can be done. You can say “no” to that chocolate cake. You can walk away knowing that tonight there will be no consequences because you made the right choice! 

Part of a story

‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:7‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
We had junior church on Sunday. My husband and I always enjoy those Sundays because it gives us an opportunity to interact with the younger ones. They are so fun. They have great stories. They love to giggle. They get excited over the smallest things. And they have a heart for others that fills the room.

We were studying about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. We were talking about getting out of you comfort zone and talking to others about Jesus. We were talking about being obedient even when we don’t understand what God is telling us to do. 

And then, someone encouraged one young man to tell us what he was doing on that Sunday. He shyly admitted that he was going forward to let everyone know that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. We were all so very excited! This young man has been coming to church for some time. He has been attending junior church for as long as he has been coming. 

The way this really touched me was that God whispered to my heart that part of this joy was mine. It really belongs to all of us who have spoken Jesus to this young man in any way, shape or form. We rejoice. We know that it is God working in his heart. We know that we helped plant the seeds. We know that God drew him to His side. And we rejoice.

I love that God gives me the opportunity to be a part of someone’s story. I know in my own life, I can look back at friends and family members who demonstrated Jesus and taught me the lessons of the Bible in so many different places and at so many different times in my life. Our journey to Christ and with Christ is one of people and relationships. It is learning from others by their words and actions. These experiences help to write our story in such a manner that each one is unique and extraordinarily special. 

I don’t necessarily have any deep, spiritual advice or words of wisdom on this subject. I just want you to be aware that you never know how God is going to use you in someone else’s story. Each story is beautiful and unique and each story is longing to have Jesus be the Author.

Black Monday

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭KJV‬‬- “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Monday was a tough day at my house. Before we even left for school, my daughter received a text from a friend informing her that a boy she had gone to school with last year had died in a jet ski accident on Sunday night. 

At school, they had an impromptu assembly to discuss the matter and pray for the family and friends of this young boy. This really brought it home to my daughter. Someone, her age, had died – never to return. It broke her heart. And on top of it all, the incident occurred at the home of another boy she knew. He was the one that witnessed the accident. He was the one who pulled his friend from the water. She was heartbroken for this boy.

How do you console a 9th grade girl over the loss of a boy she really didn’t know? How do you guide her to something close to understanding so that she is able to process all of this? 

The things I tried to talk to her about were understanding different ways to grieve. She was getting frustrated with some people and their constant talking about the situation. She needs time to think it through and process it all. Some people have to talk it out to understand it. 

We also talked about taking each and every opportunity to share Christ with others. The saddest part of this whole situation is the fact that she isn’t sure that the young boy had accepted Jesus. She knows that she can’t make someone believe but she is learning the importance of living a life that honors Christ. 

And we talked about prayer. Sometimes prayer is the only thing that we can give to someone who is going through a tragedy. We can pray for the family. We can pray for the friend. They all need our prayers right now. My daughter said to me yesterday, “Mom, I’m just scared that he (the friend) will turn to things that aren’t good for him to cope.” Pray. That’s the most important thing we can do for him right now – pray.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer on this one. I just felt the need to emphasize the importance of numbering our days. We never know if we will have 14 years or 99 years. But what we do know is that we must use each and every opportunity, every day, every moment to honor God and share the salvation message He has given us. 

And enjoy life. Live it fully. Live it wisely. Live it joyfully. Today, Wednesday, is my son’s regional final soccer game. And believe you me, I will be cheering my heart out! I will be living life as full as I can while encouraging the boys out on the field. 

Christ came to give us life and to give it to us more abundantly. But let’s not forget in the midst of living to number our days for Him.

Rejoice!

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭32:11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”

It is a time of rejoicing at my house. The boys’ soccer team at school has advanced to regional finals. For us, that is HUGE! It is the first time in the school’s history that this has been accomplished. We are super excited!

You know, I believe that if it is important to us, then it is important to God. I feel that He desires to be intimately involved in everything we set out to do and accomplish. I believe that applies to everything from grocery shopping to school sports to major life decisions. God wants to be a part of it all.

I know that in the scope of eternity that winning these games really doesn’t matter. But was does matter is how we approach them and how we win them. Do we do it with integrity and a desire to be fair or are we in it to win it no matter what? Do I tell my son to play hard and fair or do I encourage a hateful attitude toward the other players? Soccer games can get rough but it is the heart behind the actions that I want to be upright before God.

God already knows the outcome of all these games. I leave it up to Him. I’m just so very proud of my son, his hard work and his dedication to the team even during the difficult times.

So whatever you have going on this week in your life – rejoice. Remember, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We rejoice and be glad in it.”

The Lone Surfer

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:116‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.”
My husband and I were in San Diego last week. Your thinking, oh, that sounds great – sun, sand, the ocean. Well, let me tell you. It was great. But the ocean was vicious. It was very windy for a good portion of the visit which made the ocean very “angry”. It churned and crashed like it was nobody’s business. 

Yet on one day when the waves were particularly high and the wind was whipping, my husband and I went for a stroll along some cliffs – just to take it all in. As we were staring at the ocean in awe, we saw a little dark figure paddling out further and further. This person had quite the challenge on their hands – battling the waves. It was a surfer who was bound and determined to catch some waves. He paddled. He ducked under waves. He fought against the current. And he watched. He watched diligently. He was looking for just the right opportunity to enjoy the surf for a few moments. And he did. It was marvelous watching him sail across the waves that would have sent terror into my heart. He rode the waves with grace and beauty. 

As we continued on our little hike, we came back to watch him once more. And upon further inspection, we realized this guy wasn’t young. He wasn’t some “crazy young fella”, nope, this was an older man! We were shocked and amazed!

So, what does this have to do with the Bible, you might ask. 

Passion. This older man out surfing the waves of California on a brisk and windy day had passion. He loved surfing – he had to to be out there in those conditions. He didn’t let fear keep him out of the water. He was not ashamed of the hope that he had that he could surf those waves. He knew he could do it if he only tried. He was passionate about surfing. 

Passion is something that drives us. It keeps us going through the toughest of circumstances. It gives us hope and opportunity. Passion is what seperates the casual from the dedicated.

But here is the question – what are you passionate about? 

Is it work? Is it your children? Is it yourself? Is it serving God?

How many of us could truly say that we are passionate about God? I would venture to say that would be a sadly small number. I know in my own life learning about God and serving Him is very, very important. But passionate? I’m not so sure. And that’s not as it should be. 

So, based on this verse, what does that mean? Am I ashamed of my hope? Goodness, I don’t want that to be the case!

Speaking for myself, I need to be more passionate about serving and learning about God. I need to decide that I am going to face adversity and problems in my life with the dedication of this surfer that I talked about here. I need to wait more upon Him. I need to look for opportunities to serve Him. I need to not be afraid to do something that no one else is doing. I need to be passionate.