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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! 

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Gifts

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
This last weekend, my daughter was in a school performance of “The Little Mermaid”. There were so many talents displayed – song, dance, prop prep, costumes, sound management, makeup, acting – just to name a few.

And these kids had worked hard. They had been practicing for weeks and weeks to prepare for these few nights in April. They had long rehersals, extra time at home and an occasional Saturday meeting. There were lines to memorize. Dances to learn. Props to prepare. Costumes to fit to people. Seriously…hard work.

They presented this hard work beautifully. These young people are incredibly talented. They are hard working and dedicated to the task at hand. I have seen this over and over again in the last 3 years that my daughter has participated in the spring play. There may have been a year that they weren’t too excited to present the play, but they still gave it their all and didn’t quit until the curtain went down on the last night. 

They were all using their gifts. 

When we think of gifts, we think of big things like presenting God’s Word or teaching or being a missionary or singing in services. But our gifts can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are obvious while others are inconspicuous. But regardless of the attention they receive (or don’t receive), they are important. And we must use them – daily. 

For example – I am a planner and an organizer. I like to know what is coming, when it will get here and how I will handle it. I plan out lunch and dinner every day. I have the menu listed in my kitchen for everyone to see. I do this to serve my family and to provide a sense of stability to our day – things may be crazy today but at least I know what is for dinner. Crazy, I know, but this is how my brain works. Not everyone can plan things. For me, this is a gift. 

You see, I think that we overlook little details like planning and chalk them up to just being able to do things like that. But I choose to see it as a gift that I can give my family. Occasionally, I will let that gift seep over into other areas of my life. I have been known to plan events at church. I create treatment plans for my patients all the time. I help plan vacations for the family.  I organize the house on (what seems like) a daily basis. 

But in all these instances, I am serving someone. That’s the part I think we miss – the reason behind what we are doing. Yes, I do it to make my life feel easier but the main purpose is serving. And in serving, I am helping the people around me. I am showing them Christ in my life. 

I don’t know what gift(s) God has given you. I don’t know if they are flashy or private, obvious or inconspicuous but I do know that your gift(s) are important and God means for you to use them to bring Him honor and glory. I know that He is disappointed when you don’t use them. I know that He gave them to you for a reason. And I do know that you and I both need to get out there and use them more and more. You never know when His gift He has bestowed upon you might lead someone to the greatest Gift anyone could receive – salvation through Jesus Christ. 

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.

Be an Angel

Luke 2:9-14 – “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I was listening to Christmas music again the other day and I heard a song proclaiming that we should be more like the angels. Hmm, be more like the angels. Be good? Be singing all the time? Be observing and stepping in to help others? Be dressed in bright clothes? 

How should I be more like an angel?

Praising and proclaiming. That’s what I need to do more of – praising and proclaiming. These Heavenly beings have the tremendous duty to praise God, all the time, no matter the circumstances, regardless of the weather or time of day.  I can look all through the Bible and find instances of angels making an appearance and helping someone see God more clearly. Isn’t that what I am supposed to do? Isn’t it my responsibility to help people see God more clearly? Be an angel.

Sometimes I see angels protecting people from bad decisions. Remember Balaam and the talking donkey? There was an angel ready to destroy Balaam before allowing him to make a bad decision. The angel meant business. Sometimes I have to be the one stepping in and calling someone out. That’s a tough place to be but it’s a necessary place to be. We all need that person in our life that isn’t afraid to call us out. Be an angel.

In these verses of Scripture, I see the angels praising God. Here was the event they had been waiting for – the birth of the Savior. It was finally time! God took on flesh and was ready to dwell among men. What a glorious time this would be! Everyone needed to hear about it! Break out the chorus and bring on the praises! I have so much to be grateful for in my life. I have blessings upon blessings that I could name for days and days. Yet, how often do I break out the chorus and bring on the praises? Oh, in my heart I may be praising God, but I need to let my heart overflow. I need to proclaim His praises more often and more boldly. Be an angel.

Being an angel isn’t about the clothes you wear or how good you are or anything like that. Being an angel is really just fulfilling the instructions of Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”  That’s it. That is what it means to be an angel – fear God and keep His commandments. Fear is obedience. Keeping His commandments includes telling others about Him, praising Him, glorifying Him and being kind and compassionate to others. Now, this isn’t an exclusive list – no, it’s more like the tip of the iceberg. 

So this weekend as you wrap gifts, bake cookies, attend Christmas parties and do whatever else you have to do this weekend, be an angel. Happy Friday.

Listening for the What

Philippians 4:19 – “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

We have been a shoebox packing church these last few weeks. It all started when we had a youth rally and invited other churches in the area to bring items that we could collectively use to pack shoeboxes for children in foreign countries (or possibly our own country). It is called Operation Christmas Child. It was a great time and a huge blessing. We were able to pack 100 shoeboxes on that day. 100! That’s a lot for a group of little congregations! 

However, the cost for shipping each box is $9. That’s $900! How in the world could we possibly gather that much money?! We shouldn’t have even let that thought cross our mind. We asked the people to give and did they ever! We were able to gather enough money to ship those boxes, plus some!

That brings us to yesterday. 

My son is going on a mission trip to Haiti in January. His school is collecting a little bit different type of shoebox for that trip. We took our youth group (and young adults 😉 yesterday and filled shoeboxes for this cause as well. We invaded the local Dollar Tree after a pizza lunch and packed until our boxes overflowed. It was so much fun! And the super thing about it is that my son may have the opportunity to hand out some of the very boxes that we packed. Some little child will be able to play and appreciate what we chose to pack into that plain brown box. Those boxes cost $7 to ship. And you know what, that is covered already – before we even packed the boxes.

My point is this – God is ready to supply all we need and more each and every time we choose to serve Him with our words, thoughts and actions. All He is asking us to do is go. Go and do. Go and try. Just Go! We don’t need to worry about the why or the how. We just need to listen for the what that He wants us to do.  

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. 

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.