God is good!!!

My devotion this morning. After reading this Philippians 4 immediately popped into my head.

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

God is good and most definitely in control!!

God vs. Our Giants

by Charles R. Swindoll

Read 1 Samuel 17:1–16

“There’s no reason for your entire army to be involved in this. Just send a fighter, and I’ll take him on. I am the champion. I am the greatest.” Goliath didn’t issue this challenge one time and then leave. No. His challenge went on forforty days (17:16). Every morning and every evening for well over a month, he strutted out there, flaunting his size and his strength, daring someone to take him on.

How applicable to any “giant” we encounter! That’s the way with the giants of fear and worry, for example. They don’t come just once; they come morning and evening, day after day, relentlessly trying to intimidate. They come in the form of a person, a pressure, or a worry. Some of you have fear that hammers on your heart every morning and every night, day in and day out, yelling across the ravine in your own personal valley. Few things are more persistent and intimidating than our fears and our worries . . . especially when we face them in our own strength.

I want to look again at something that occurred prior to that battle, when the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Literally, God said, “for man looks at the face, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

We, being human, are subject to that same problem. We are impressed with, or not impressed with, individuals because we judge on the basis of surface appearance. We look at the externals, and we form opinions that are usually erroneous.

If God’s statement ever applied, it applied in the story of this battle. Goliath had all the things that would normally impress and intimidate. In this instance, however, David had been given the ability to see as God always sees, and he was neither impressed nor intimidated. Because no matter how big the giant might be, God is greater. And no matter how powerful he might be, God is all-powerful.

Charles Swindoll

Christianity: More than a lifestyle

I have been writing for over three years now about faith and God’s work in my life.  I have tried to encourage and share what God was showing me. During this time, my beliefs and convictions changed dramatically.  Now I do not want to dismiss or throw away any of the previous things I have written.  They are all still true but my perspective has changed in regards to Christianity. I have been through a storm that has changed my life as well as my walk with the Lord and so now, I am starting over.  This may sound extreme but track with me.

As I read Twitter and receive my daily devotions online from many respected Christian leaders, I am left confused at times.  Between John Piper, Rob Bell, Charles Stanley, Max Lucado, Rick Warren, Beth Moore and Joyce Meyers, I am left trying to decide who has the answers.  Who speaks total Truth?  Who can I trust?

My conclusion, none of them.  Now I do not mean this in a negative way toward any of them.  I believe that each, from what I have read, love the Lord, strive to serve Him, share His Truth and mean well.  The problem is that each one of them is human making them sinful.  Scripture tells us that no one is incapable of living a sinless life.  (1 John 1:8) NO ONE.  What does this mean?  It means that each one of these people is capable of falling into sin just as I am.  Whether it is pride or envy, gossip or lying, they each are susceptible to sin.From there we are able to conclude that not one of them can serve as “THE” mouthpiece of God.  They can however share their convictions and their interpretations of scripture but it does not make them right 100% of the time.  This means that we should take what we are taught and what we see and test it against the Word of God. (1John 4:1)

I spent years believing that being a Christian meant that you looked a certain way.  You had to dress a certain way.  You had to quote an enormous amount of scripture.  You had to pray a certain way.  You had to attend church a certain amount of times each week. The list goes on but that is just what it is, a list. It is a lifestyle.  Jesus spoke out against this type of thinking and lifestyle.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.<sup value="[a]”>[a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. 
Matthew 23:1-4

At the age of nine, I accepted Christ into my life.  I remember it as if it were yesterday.  I believed in Him.  I believed that He was the Son of God and died so that I might have eternal life but I also believed I had to fit a certain profile in order to receive His love, grace and forgiveness.  My problem was that I felt I could never match up to those around me who seemed to meet the profile of a “Christian”.  I tried but always failed. I reached a place of hopelessness.  I felt rejected.  I just didn’t “feel” good enough and so I gave up. 

I stopped attending church for about a month this time last year.  I lost trust in people.  I lost trust in “the church”.  I did not want anything else to do with any of it.  Then I had a special week that ended with the desire to find a church.  Here you will find the story of how I found the church that changed my life.

About a year ago, I began attending this special church.  It is a church that has taught me things that I needed to hear. It changed my life as well as my walk with the Lord.  The pastor introduced to me a Jesus that I had never known. There have been those that have said that I go to this church because I am hearing what I want to hear.  I guess you can say that they are right.  I am hearing that I am loved beyond measure.  I am hearing that I matter.  I am hearing that I have a purpose.  I am learning that all of this (Jesus) is about a relationship not a religion. 

The key I have learned is that when I trust in Christ and strive to surrender to Him, all other things will fall into place.  It is not about doing a bible study.  It is not about reading my Bible for a specific amount of time every day.  It is not about giving X amount of dollars to charity.  Instead, it is about loving God with all of my heart mind and soul.  It is about putting Him above all else and surrendering.  It is about having a relationship. When I do those things, I become more like Him and begin living a life reflective of who He is in my life.  That is what I want!!

We can “do” a lot for the world to see.  We can put on a good show for those around us but ultimately it is useless if are like the Pharisees and do it only to be seen.  We then are whitewashed tombs.  Hypocrites.  We are beautiful on the outside but filled with dead bones on the inside. Outwardly we look righteous but inwardly our hearts are filled with hypocrisy. (Matthew 23:27-28)  That is NOT what I want!

My desire is to:
Be the type of person who serves those less fortunate than me.
Be the type of person who loves my neighbor.
Be the type of person who chooses integrity.
Be the type of person who loves my enemies.
I want to BE the person who is constantly in the process of becoming a different kind of follower of Jesus.

I want a deeper relationship with Christ.  I want to KNOW Jesus!  I want to HEAR Jesus! I want to be EMPOWERED by Jesus. I want these things not because of the things that I do but instead I want it to come from the natural overflow of my relationship with Him. I no longer want to live a life of doing but instead a life of being.  I want to be like Jesus!!

Mocha Club -Join the team

Mocha Club –

I am asking for you to take the time to read about the Mocha Club. It was introduced to me and I am excited to introduce it to you today.
Mocha Club is an online community of people giving up the cost of 2 mochas a month – or $7 – to fund relief and development projects in Africa. We work in five main project areas: Clean Water, Education, Child Mothers + Women At Risk, Orphan Care + Vulnerable Children, and HIV/AIDS + Healthcare. For as little as $7 a month you can help someone have clean drinking water. You can help provide the means for a young mother to leave the streets of prostitution and gain an education.
I’m asking that you join my team today and help make a difference in the lives of these women.
Nicole Greene
“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?”
Matthew 25:44

Quiver full of arrows

Article first published as Judging Others: A Quiver Full of Arrows on Blogcritics.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Matthew 23:27-28

I am aware that judgmental and critical people exist.  I am in fact guilty of being judgmental and critical. We are all guilty. The church (as well as the world) is full of judgment.  Typically, there is not a place safe from the negativity and criticism of people.

I always dismissed judgment as unimportant as long as I was not doing it.  I have done my share of making a snap judgment call against someone but it is something that I am keenly aware of and convicted of when I do it.  For me, I overlooked it in others.

As I have gone through my trials over the past couple of years, I have experienced the judgmental tendencies of God’s people first hand.  I have experienced the crippling effect of the harshness of words and actions. The results that follow are devastating and lead people even further from God.  Because of my experience, I have met many others who have experienced the same devastation in their own lives.

Before going any further, I want to say that this particular posting is for those who have been hurt by “the church”, by their “church family” and by the words and gossip of “God’s people”. 

I am quite certain that at one time or another we each have been harmed by the malicious words of another.  With that said, let me explain that for many, you know nothing more than the pain that comes from being gossiped about or left out by a group of people. Yes that hurts but this posting is not for you.  Those who have been spiritually bulliedby a church know they have been bullied.  They know the kind of pain and the loneliness that envelopes you.  They know the feeling of being “kicked out” of church and the feeling of betrayal. This posting is for you.

I was involved in a legalistic church but did not know it until God removed me.  I feel men who were much like the Pharisees led this church.  Their concern was more about outward appearances and rules.  They preached grace and mercy but did not practice it.  They talked the talk but did not walk the walk.

Within church communities, you will often come across those riding into town on their beautiful white horses, flashing their shiny badges and pointing out those who have “sinned”.  They torture and humiliate those “sinners” into repentance believing that they are doing “good” in the name of God.  The truth of the matter is that God weeps and is heartbroken over these kinds of actions.

Jesus was our perfect example.  He constantly reached out to the “rejects” of His day.  He did not criticize or condemn. Instead, He loved.  The prostitutes, the lepers, the thieves and adulterers, when the world cast them to the side, He showed them the love of God.
When there are life-altering decisions confronting someone, we are quick to judge. Those people do not need criticism.  However they do need our gentleness, patience and love.  As someone who dealt with judgment instead of love, I know firsthand where it leads and it is a dark and scary place.  I fell into the dark pit of depression.  I found myself desperate and weak.  I found myself confused and doubting my faith.  I found myself down a sinful path. 

This is what we as Christians NEED to know.  There can be NO condemnation when a person is in the middle of a life-altering crisis.  When a person is choosing to do what they believe is right, we HAVE to strive to offer some kind of support, even if it contradicts our own beliefs. If we truly desire to steer them in the right direction, then we must choose to walk beside them.  Instead of criticism and judgment, we should use prayer.  Instead of writing them off as a “sinner”, we should see them in the way in which God sees them, His child.

In my situation, I was written off.  Judgments were made based on gossip and appearances.  It was said that I walked away from God and church.  It was remarkable to me the conclusions that people based on judgment and gossip.

I understand how very easy it is to judge another person as well as judge the decisions they make or the things that we might see.   We declare them as cold and uncaring because their choices were not the choices we would have made.  The church is plagued with people who are wounded.  They were made outcasts because of choices they made in a moment of weakness or desperation.  What I have witnessed is that many Christians have a quiver full of arrows aimed and ready to shoot at those who they feel have “messed up”.  Those people totally miss that they should be pointing those same arrows back at themselves.
We should remember that we are ill equipped to take on the massive task of judgment.  We, simply put, do NOT have enough information.  The fact is that not one of us is smart enough to judge anyone.  God, on the other hand, can handle it all.
When we take on the challenge of judging other people, we pretty much push God out of the way.  It’s as if we’re saying, “I’ve got it God.  I can take it from here.  This person has sinned and needs to be judged now.  This cannot wait for Your time.  If I don’t step in now they just might escape.”  Sound familiar?  Are we not a conceited group of people? Do we really want to sound like that? Of course not but we do.
We all are guilty of breaking God’s Law.  If we each are guilty then where do we find that we have the right to judge others?  How can we judge when we don’t know all the facts and we certainly do not know the hearts of anyone else? We have a hard enough time knowing what’s going on in our own desperately wicked hearts.

God is the only Judge that doesn’t make mistakes; we usually do nothing but make mistakes. God knows our innermost thoughts and the intent of our hearts; we know little or nothing.

As the body of Christ, our time needs to be spent supporting and praying for one another instead of judging.  If we actually invested our energy in helping one another deal with life situations instead of condemning, we could actually make a difference in the lives of those around us.

We are all so incredibly guilty of sin.  No one is innocent and if we claim that we are, we are in fact in sin.   The next time you are shot down by those judgmental arrows, remind yourself that the one shooting is just as guilty of sin.  Pray for them and forgive their sinful ways.  You are only harming yourself by holding on to the anger and hurt that come from their judgment.

Here is an interesting link that I found on Spiritual bullies.  My situation is a little bit different but the part of the church is almost identical except there was never a withdrawal from their wrongful discipline. If you have never experienced spiritual bullying, you need to know it exists.  It may even be happening in your own church.  People you know may be walking away from God because of bullies within your church.  Be aware and informed. 

Religion but no relationship

“What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,<sup class="footnote" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: 0.5em; vertical-align: text-top;" value="[m]”>[m] but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

 43 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. 44 Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”

Luke 11:42-44
(For more on this story click the verse link)

I was listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon a couple of weeks ago on the Pharisees and their religion. It led me to spend some time praying more about the difference between having religion and having a relationship with Christ.

When you’re struggling, often times turn to those around you for wisdom. You seek out those that appear to have it all together or appear godlier. That is not always the wise way to go. Many people have religion. They know all the right things to say, can answer all the questions, can quote scripture and are always seen at church but that is where it ends.
Many have what it takes to follow Christ. They know what to do, what to say and who to follow but their heart belongs to something else. The relationship with Christ is missing. They do not know Him in a personal and intimate way.
This morning during my quiet time, I read the following devotion and I began to think about how misguided our thoughts can be about others and ourselves.  I have often compared myself to those around me wishing that I was as “godly” or knew as much as they did.  God has been working on me. I am learning that people are not always what they appear.  If actions do much match up to words, then it is quite possible that they live according to rules and religion and are lacking a relationship with Christ. Many claim His name but have never really known Him.
When you begin to doubt who you are in Christ, just ask Him.  He’ll answer.

Judas, The Man Who Never Knew

I’ve wondered at times what kind of man this Judas was. What he looked like, how he acted, who his friends were.

I guess I’ve stereotyped him. I’ve always pictured him as a wiry, beady-eyed, sly, wormy fellow, pointed beard and all. I’ve pictured him as estranged from the other apostles.

Friendless. Distant. Undoubtedly he was a traitor and a quisling. Probably the result of a broken home. A juvenile delinquent in his youth.

Yet I wonder if that is so true. We have no evidence (save Judas’s silence) that would suggest that he was isolated. At the Last Supper, when Jesus said that his betrayer sat at the table, we don’t find the apostles immediately turning to Judas as the logical traitor.

No, I think we’ve got Judas pegged wrong. Perhaps he was just the opposite. Instead of sly and wiry, maybe he was robust and jovial. Rather than quiet and introverted, he could have been outgoing and well-meaning. I don’t know.

But for all the things we don’t know about Judas, there is one thing we know for sure: He had no relationship with the Master. He had seen Jesus, but he did not know him. He had heard Jesus, but he did not understand him. He had a religion but no relationship.

As Satan worked his way around the table in the upper room, he needed a special kind of man to betray our Lord. He needed a man who had seen Jesus but who did not know him. He needed a man who knew the actions of Jesus but had missed out on the mission of Jesus. Judas was this man. He knew the empire but had never known the Man.

Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Christ.

We learn this timeless lesson from the betrayer. Satan’s best tools of destruction are not from outside the church; they are within the church. A church will never die from the immorality in Hollywood or the corruption in Washington. But it will die from corrosion within—from those who bear the name of Jesus but have never met him and from those who have religion but no relationship.

Judas bore the cloak of religion, but he never knew the heart of Christ. Let’s make it our goal to know … deeply.

From Shaped by God (original title: On the Anvil) Copyright (Tyndale House, 1985, 2002) Max Lucado

Ray of Sunshine

One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him.
 16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Luke 18:15-17

Four years ago today, late on a Friday (the 13th) evening, I was blessed with my precious ray of sunshine.  My fifth baby was born and my world changed forever.

From the age of four, my oldest daughter had prayed for a baby sister.  Not long after her sixth birthday, we were shopping at Target when my little girl picked up a pair of tiny ballet slippers. She wanted to buy these tiny slippers for the baby sister that was in my tummy.  I laughed for there was no baby in my tummy. For the next few minutes, we argued back and forth about the baby that was not in my tummy.  After many minutes of the back and forth banter the four year old finally won and I bought the pair of slippers.  Three days later, I had a positive pregnancy test in my hand.  I was flabbergasted.  My six year old was thrilled.  I asked her how she knew that mommy had a baby in her tummy and she said, “Because I asked Jesus for a baby sister.” 

The faith of a child.  There is nothing like it and nothing more precious. Why can we all not have that kind of faith in God? 

Before we are corrupted by sin and the world, our faith is great.  We believe that God can move the mountains if only we ask.  I see that in my now four year old baby girl every day.  When it rains, “mommy, God is giving the snakes water.”  When she eats “thank you God for my mommy’s good food.”  When she plays “God lets me have lots of toys.”  She understands where things come from and does not question.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like the children.  We have to believe as our children believe.  We need to see the world and those in it through the eyes of our children.  Wow.  That is tough.

It is amazing how when dealing with difficult and big things, God seems so much smaller. As I dealt with depression, I went through many days of questioning God.  God became a lot less big to me than He had in the past.  He felt so much farther away from me. Why did God bring this little girl into my life, the world?  Here was my beautiful little girl who would never remember what it was to have mommy and daddy together on vacation or for birthdays.  It brought so much anger into my heart.  For me, it was not acceptable.  I was wrapped in pain and hurt and my world was dark. 

One evening I was tucking her into bed and said her prayers.  I went through the normal thank for …. where we name everyone in our family. Part of that prayer included praying for daddy and that God will keep him safe.  Once we were done praying, my sweet little girl looked at me and said, “Mommy, I love you, I love granddaddy and grandmommy and I love daddy”.  Now the first part of that sentence was the norm.  She always said she loved me, granddaddy, and grandmommy but this was the first time she said daddy.  Now don’t get me wrong.  It was not that she suddenly realized that she loved her daddy.  The kid is crazy for her daddy.  Instead, it was a God moment.  He spoke those words through her to my heart.  Tears streamed down my face as I looked at her and said “and mommy and daddy love you so very much too.”  My sweet girl put her little hands on my face and said “Mommy don’t be sad.’  I told her I wasn’t sad. That mommy’s tears were happy tears because she was such a special little girl.  I kissed her goodnight and said “mommy and daddy love you very much and we will always love you very much.” 

That moment was huge for me.  The sun began to pierce the darkness of my heart.  The hurt and anger began to melt just a little.  God was using that precious little gift that He had given to me to soften my heart and love when I just didn’t feel like loving.  To forgive when I just didn’t feel like forgiving.  To move forward when I just didn’t feel like budging. 

God knew what He was doing when He created my special sunshine.  Throughout the past two years He has used her so many times to remind me to love above all else.  To smile when it would be so much easier to cry.  To cherish every moment and everything, recognizing that they all are precious gifts from God when we are so undeserving. 

Happy Birthday to my sweet ray of sunshine!

Is God not hearing you?

Is God not hearing you?

Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!

Exodus 14:15 NLT

When God waits

There are a lot of why questions that we lift up to God. Every day people are looking to heaven and crying out in frustration, “Lord, why aren’t you doing something about this? Why is this happening to me?” We saturate the airwaves with the why questions of life.

I’m convinced that God has one answer for almost every one of those questions. He says, I’m just waiting on you.

When Moses and the Israelites stood on the edge of the Red Sea watching the Egyptian army close in on them, they cried out to God in fear. They began praying that God would somehow rescue them. And look what God said: “Tell the people to get moving!” (Exodus 14:15). To paraphrase, “I’m just waiting for you.”

Too often we spend our days waiting for a miracle. When trouble comes, we cry out to God for help. When things don’t move fast enough, we blame God for taking his time. And all the while God is saying to us, I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m just waiting on you.

And what is it that God is waiting for? Often he is waiting for us to lay aside our own agenda and trust him.… Whenever God waits, he waits for a purpose.

And when we finally come to our senses and do the thing that we know he wants us to do, he moves with a vengeance. The Red Sea parts, and things start to happen.

From a devotional thought by Frank M. Martin in Embracing Eternity