What love is . . .

handsheartAnother Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Cards, flowers, red candy hearts and romance. Some may call it a glorified Hallmark holiday, but hey I’m all for any holiday that celebrates love. Us women, we’re just naturally hard-wired to love, God created us that way.

Valentine’s Day originally got it’s origin from an early roman Priest named Valentine. At the time, Claudius the emperor, was persecuting the early church of Rome by not allowing soldiers to marry. Claudius did this with the presumption that unmarried soldiers fought better than married ones who were worried about their families back home. Valentine, because of his faith, secretly took it upon himself to marry these soldiers and was imprisoned and eventually put to death for this act. He died a martyrs death for a cause he believed in, marriage.

The media paints a picture of love that is primarily driven by those fuzzy wuzzy feelings swirling around inside of us. But is that truly what love is all about? What happens when love gets tough and the fuzzy wuzzy’s disappear? Is true love really all about romance?  All of us girls would like to believe in the Cinderella story, but all to often real love turns out to be anything but a fairy tale. True love grows only through sacrifice. The bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). Even our ability to love is given to us by the one who is love himself. God created us for himself, to love and be loved.

The bible tells us . . . This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10. God’s love came down from heaven and put on human skin for us. Love paid the penalty of our sin with his death on the cross. Then Jesus arose from the dead so that we could find new life in him . . . and live.

The bible tells us . . . we love, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). God’s love story for us is written in the pages of His Word. God pursues us, redeems us and then calls us is beloved bride. True love is selfless. True love is sacrificial. It sacrifices itself the well being of another. God demonstrated this for us in this . . .  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). True love is not defined by feelings but by the deep abiding truth of God’s love for us. Once we accept his love for us. . . only then does it free us to truly love others with God’s pure and sacrificial love towards one another.

1 Corinthians 13 describes this love to us like this . . .  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your amazing love for us. Thank you for sending Jesus to us. To live for us, to die for us and to redeem us from the penalty of our sin. What an amazing love! Help us in turn to live our lives for you and in obedience to your Word! Thank you for who you are and for all you do for us . . . and thank you for showing us what true love is . . . Thank you sweet Jesus!

Experiencing His Presence

Raindrops_in_a_Puddle_AbstractThis morning I was sitting here at my computer with my head turned towards the nearby window. I was sitting and staring and the rain cascading down outside. This was more than our typical mist-type rain. It was really coming down pretty hard.

All of a sudden urge to go outside and stand in the rain. . .  and so I said, “Ok Lord,”. . . and I did. Bare feet and all I waltzed outside and tiled my head back opened my hands and just stood there in the rain. I began to feel every single drop hitting my face and arms and something about it was so beautiful, it almost felt magical. I was thoroughly enjoying it.

I stood there for what seemed about five minutes till I was completely wet and chilled enough that I thought I’d better retreat back inside. Call me crazy or what, but I thought that was a bit odd for someone who typically doesn’t like being wet and especially doesn’t like the feeling of clingy wet clothing.

As I sat here afterward I was thinking what was that all about, a thought came to my mind of something I had prayed earlier this morning. I prayed to feel a touch from God and I believe the rainfall was an answer to that prayer.

So often I look for God in the big things but he wanted me to know that he’s there in the everyday things. I often feel God presence when I stare at the ocean, watch a beautiful sunset, or look in the eyes of a newborn baby, but I must confess that sometimes fail to see him in the ordinary everyday events of life.

This reminds me of the truth that the more we start to look for God, the more we start to see Him everywhere and in everything. Sometimes I forget this, and need a reminder. I am so thankful for a God who answers prayers and see’s to it that he always gives us just what we need. I had to laugh because we as humans can tend to be super forgetful (some especially more than others, and especially me, teehee).

I also am reminded that in order to experience God, we sometimes have to enter into our surroundings and be willing to let ourselves get wet. God is there in the common as well as the uncommon. Often times when we step out in faith we strongly feel his presence with us, but I think he wants to remind us that he’s in the everyday experiences as well, walking through life with us.

I am reminded of the verse found in 2 Chronicles 16:9 which reads: “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” God wants us continually looking to him so that he can show himself strong in us and in the everyday things of life. Thank you Lord for a reminder of this truth.

As we are in the midst of this Christmas season, I am reminded of the greatest gift God gave mankind. He sent his one and only son for us, our Immanuel (meaning God with us Matt. 1:23). God help us be mindful that you are always with us, that you never leave or forsake us and that you take great delight in us. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for our sin. Give us eyes to see you in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary! Help us to live lives worthy of the hope you have placed within us! Thank you for who you are and for all have done and for your continual and faithful expressions of love towards us! To you be the glory both now and forever! AMEN



Making Room

manger-crossWe are amidst one of the busiest seasons of the year and everyone’s keeps asking the same question, “Are you ready for Christmas?” My honest answer, no. Why, I’ve barely started my shopping and my decorating is only half done AND there’s still programs to attend and parties to be had.

If we are not careful, the business of it all can often times leaves us feeling quite wearied. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these things in and of themselves, they are fun and festive. But sometimes the very things which are meant to put us in the mood for Christmas, are often the same things that can rob us of the joyous reason we celebrate it.

So how do we make room for all of these things without losing our joy? How do we hold tight to the true meaning of Christmas? The answer can be found in the story of Jesus’ birth in the book of Luke. Caesar Augustus made a decree to the Roman Empire that all people return to their hometown for a census. So Joseph traveled with Mary, his fiance’ who was VERY pregnant and about to give birth, to the town of Bethlehem, to register for the census.

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:6-7

I’m always in awe of God’s amazing love for us. Love came down. He left his place of glory to come down to earth. He put on human skin so that we could know him and relate to Him. He was fully God and yet fully human. He came to show us the way. . . and to ultimately accomplish His father’s will by dying for our sins.

And yet as the story goes, they were looking for a place to stay, a place for Mary to give birth, and there was NO ROOM for them in the inn. No room for the Savior of the world to be born! Preparing our hearts for the coming of Christmas requires making room for Him. The question is, “Do we make room for Jesus in the inn of our lives?” “Do we daily make room for his presence?”

The author and the creator of your life wants to be in your life. Not just a small corner of your life, He want’s to be your life. He doesn’t just want us to know of Him, but he wants to make himself known to us. He did this by coming to the earth in human form. He put on flesh and was born as a baby just so that we may know Him. He was born in a stable, dark and dirty, not quite the Christmas Card portrait of his birthing place. And in the same way He comes to us in our sin infested lives so that we may be born anew in him.

Hope for humanity was born on Christmas day! The glorious birth of the Savior of the world who took on our sinfulness so that we could have a right relationship with Him. God longs for relationship with us. Is there a place in your heart for Him? Are you making room? Christmas is about inviting him in.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Father God, thank you that love came down at Christmas! Thank you for sending Jesus to us and for us. To live for us and to ultimately die for us, so that we didn’t have to. Thank you for the relationship we can have with you because of what Jesus did for us. Thank you for this gift . . . help us to make proper room for You.

Come . . .

lighthouse3In response to a Facebook challenge, this morning I took a walk out on the break wall to snap a few photos of our local Battery Point lighthouse. My challenge was to post a black and white photo onto my Facebook page for the next five days in a row. I really love taking pictures, so I thought this would definitely be a fun challenge to participate in.

The vivid colors of grey-blue sky contrasting the red-toned roof of the lighthouse would make for quite the beautiful photo, but then again, the challenge was for black and white photos. To me, the thought of removing all the color from the scene would make the shot seem lifeless and dull. So I patiently waited and watched the lens to light up so I could quickly snap a photo while the light on top of the lighthouse was shining brightly.

As I stood there in front of the lighthouse, the following scripture came to mind:  “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 I thought about the boats out on the water and how that very light was a guide to many a mariner out on the ocean. A guide that would lead his boat safely back to the harbor.

I have never been out on the ocean in a boat, but as a child my dad owned a small cruiser boat and we would occasionally take out on Lake Michigan for a little recreational fun and fishing. A time or two on our boating excursions, my dad drove out pretty far on the lake and eventually the shore was longer visible from the boat. As I child, I remember that being quite an eerie feeling to be surrounded by nothing but water.

This reminded me that just as the lighthouse is a guide for the mariner, Jesus Christ is the guide for our lives. The one who created life is the light and is also the one who knows best how to guide the vessel in the open waters and how to bring it safely to shore. When we follow the light we have no need to fear because we can trust in the one who is leading.

As I stood there on the break wall listening to the crashing waves interwoven with the blaring sound of the foghorn, it was very peaceful and yet powerful, serene and yet persistent in its nature. In the same way that the light becomes no longer visable in the fog or storm, the mariner then listens for the foghorn. As I stood and listened to the horn, it was as if it was a beckoning call. . .Come . . . this is The Way. In the same way God invites us all to come to him. Come follow me . . . (Matt. 4:19). His word proclaims that “He is the way, the truth and the life (John 16:6).

God didn’t create us to leave us in the dark or to be tossed back and forth by ceaseless waves of life, but gives us the light of his Word as a guide for living. The Bible is Gods voice, His love letter to us and it is a guide for knowing Him and navigating life. God’s voice echos on the pages of scripture, I love you, I want you. . . Come . . . “come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) . . . Let me guide you safely home.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world . . .He came to the earth in human form, a precious baby, born of a virgin (Luke 1:27).

that he gave his only begotten son . . . His purpose for coming was for you . . . and me (John 10:10). He came to do his father’s will (John 5:43), to pay the price we couldn’t pay with the only sacrifice that would do (Romans 8:3), the innocent blood of his one and only son.

That whosoever believe in Him should not perish . . .He did come to rule from a throne but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). We have a choice either to accept or to reject him.

But have everlasting life” . . . He defeated death and rose on the third day as the scriptures foretold (1 Cor. 15:4). When we choose to follow him, we pass from death to life, old things have passed away and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17). Our new reality becomes eternity with God our creator (John 3:16).

Father God thank you for your amazing love for us. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to pay the price for our sin. Thank for your Living Word which gives light to our path. Guide and direct our steps as we seek to follow you. Thank you Sweet Jesus for who you are and all you do. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:1-5

THANKSGIVING – Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

thanksgivingI was reading the words penned by Paul this morning in the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. Paul was encouraging the believers and reminding them on how to prepare for the second coming. At the end of the chapter in verses 16-18 Paul admonishes them to be joyful always; to pray without ceasing and the be thankful in all circumstances. I’ll touch on the first two of that mandate but I really want to focus on the last part which is being thankful in ALL circumstances.

REJOICE ALWAYS! – I truly believe that joy comes from keeping all things in life in proper order. A short acronym for this is J-esus, O-thers, Y-ou. Joy is a fruit of the spirit that flows from an abiding relationship with Jesus. Joy is seeking Jesus first and foremost and then in turn following and obeying God by loving others. Joy is not dependent on circumstances, but rather in keeping a continual focus on God which helps us keep a proper perspective in all circumstances. Joy should be a natural outflow of the spirit filled believer based on what God has done for us. Philippians 4:4 tells us “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

PRAY CONTINUALLY! – God’s ultimate goals for us is that we live in surrendered obedience to Him. Our prayer life is a direct reflection of our inward heart attitude. In Acts 17:28 it says that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” In essence our lives would then become a spiritual act of worship to God. Prayer should be a natural outflow of a person abiding in the love of Christ. We need to follow Jesus’ example and to pray in all circumstances and without ceasing. In James 4:2-3 it says, “you don’t have because you don’t ask and it says that when you do ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives.” When we learn to pray correctly which is God’s word over circumstances, this IS the will of God. Knowing God’s Words is understanding the heart of God and James 5:16 tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

GIVE THANKS! – Verse five says, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Many would say, well that is a good goal to aspire to, but really, to give thanks in ALL circumstances? It’s easy to thank God when life circumstances are going in our favor but it’s a little different to thank him when we face hardships and difficulties. I truly, believe that when we give thanks especially in the most difficult of circumstances, that there is a blessing that flows from this act of obedience and it is the “Peace of God” that exceeds any circumstance (Philippians 4:7).

Gratitude is an attitude we choose based on proper perspective. We can either choose to focus on the problem or we can choose to focus on the One who holds the solution, our creator. I believe when we continually choose to focus on our lack in any area of our lives, we get stuck in a cycle of self-preservation versus living the abundant life that God promises to us as believers. An abundance doesn’t mean we have all “we” think we need, but rather God freely gives us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of himself and through the promises of His Word (2 Peter 1:3).

If it were not for difficulties, trials and sufferings in our lives we wouldn’t understand our need for Christ, the one who offers us hope. Romans 5:3-5 put it this way, ” We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

I believe rejoicing in sufferings means cultivating an attitude of gratitude amidst our trials and suffering because we know that God (who is the source of all good), is working all things for our good (Philippians 1:6).  In Him we have forgiveness of sin (past, present and future) and a hope for an eternity with Him forever, where there will be no more tears, death, mourning or pain (Revelation 21:4). Because of these great and wonderful promises we offer thanksgiving because of who Jesus is, our loving Father, our precious Lord, Redeemer, Savior and Friend. We praise Him because of what he did for us on the cross and offer up a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving because there is . . . no greater love than this (John 15:3)!

Father God, thank you for your amazing love for us. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price for our sin so that we didn’t have to. Thank you for the relationship we can have with you because of what Jesus did for us. Help us to cultivate that relationship with a continual attitude of gratitude in all things, even the most difficult things. Help us to fix our eyes on you and empower us through your Holy Spirit to do all that you have called us to do. We give you praise and thanks our precious Lord and Friend! To you be the Glory both now and forever! AMEN

Do you have Power?

lightbulb2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Seems like every Fall we get some rip-roaring storms that cause power outages throughout our county. The strong wind and rains will bring down limbs and sometimes entire trees come crashing down into nearby power lines. Just recently we had one such storm.

The funny thing is that when this happens, it seems to bring lots of cheering and excitement from my silly kiddo’s. For them it is a time when we light candles and oil lamps, start a cozy fire in the wood stove, play games, and get to be creative trying to find something to eat by cooking outside over a camp stove.

After having been through enough of these power outages, I seem to enjoy the initial first hour or two without power, but then after any length of time, it seems to get old super quick. I find myself hoping and praying the power comes back on quickly so I can enjoy simple things like, flushing the toilet and/or taking a hot shower (since we are on a well and have our own private septic tank).

Since almost everything we own requires power, life can get pretty limited without it. We can often take everyday things like power for granted, but when you are without it for any length of time, it seems to make you all the more appreciative of it when it does come back on.

This reminds me of some parallels in our faith. We as believers in Christ Jesus are given incredible power when operating through the power of the Holy Spirit of God living inside us. It also makes me think, “Do we really appreciate and appropriate that power?

In the Gospel of John the fourteenth chapter, when Jesus was talking to the disciples at their last meal together before his death. The disciples were perplexed at what Jesus was sharing with them. They were is followers, they walked beside him. The thought of him leaving them frightened them. They had many questions and still didn’t quite understand the enormity of who he was and what was about to happen.

At one point Philip in verse eight says, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus responded by saying, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! Here he was giving them little picture of the trinity but they could not yet understand because God’s plan had not yet reached it fulfillment. Jesus was man (God in flesh), who continuously consulted his Heavenly Father and was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the will of God here on earth and accomplish God’s ultimate plan for the redemption of man.

Down a bit in verse fourteen Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

Those are some pretty powerful words right there. Ask anything in my name and I will do it. Wow, really God? This is no name it claim it theology. It’s a matter of knowing the will of God through knowing his Word and then asking in Jesus’s name to do the things God asks of us through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. How many of us believe and are operating out of the authority and power of that promise given to us by God? I know I am not, forgive me Lord.

Down a few verses Jesus gives the Disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit who will be them as their advocate (helper). He promises that he will never leave them and that he (the Holy Spirit) will guide them into all truth. These promises are for us! This is the Holy Spirit working in a through us. We need to operate in his power and leading in order to be effectual for God’s kingdom purposes. Faith without the Spirit’s empowerment is limited. But Spirit led faith is powerful and effectual!

Although most churches would say they believe in the Holy Spirit. I see so few operating in His Power. If we as a church try to down play the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church, in essence we are removing God’s Power to accomplish his purposes for us here on earth. Unfortunately, without the work of the Holy Spirit, churches become “religious organizations” with little to no effect for God’s kingdom.

The same power and authority given to the Apostles to carry on the work of Jesus in the book of Acts, is the same power and authority given to us today. If you are a believer, you are an ambassador for Christ and we are all called to continue on the work of Jesus here on earth. We cannot do what God is calling us if we do not have or appropriate the power of His Holy Spirit working in us.

The Holy Spirit IS the life of the church. Just as our spirit gives life to our physical bodies, God’s Holy Spirit is the life of the believer and the gives us the power to accomplish all that God has for us. If you feel like your faith is lifeless and powerless, I pray today that you ask God to fill you with his life-giving Spirit!

Father God thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit living in us that is our helper, teacher, advocate and intercessor. I pray that you would light a holy fire in our hearts that burn with love for you. Give us a love for the lost, broken and hurting around us. Empower us by your Spirit to do the things you are calling us to do. Fill us with you power and help us to walk in your ways. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

The Greater Plan

mapAnd we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a kid I hated getting in trouble. I always wanted to please my parents and make them proud of me. But as much as I tried to please my parents, I would have this one little continual problem that always seemed to get in the way. It’s called self and my own sin nature.

The bible says we are born with this sin nature passed on to us from Adam and Eve. By one man sin entered into the world and through one man, (Jesus Christ) we were sent free from the penalty of that sin (Romans 5:12). Praise God!

Occasionally the (old man) still gets the best of me. Often times in life we seek to please God but still find ourselves falling short. We are in a continual battle against our flesh, but praise God that with him “there is forgiveness of sins so that we can serve him (Psalm 130:4). Christ Jesus already won the victory for us on Calvary’s cross.

So does our sin disqualify us from God’s work? If course not, the bible is full of people (sinners just like you and me) who God continued to use for His purposes. The only person who ever walked the earth and lived a sinless life is Jesus.

A few weeks back when teaching a Kid’s Church class, I was reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau. They were twin brothers with very different appearances, personalities, likes and dislikes. Esau was a hunter. Jacob liked to hang around his tent (home). Their story, as recorded in the book of Genesis, tells of the younger brother Jacob deceiving his older brother Esau out of his blessing and birthright for a measly bowl of stew. We think, how stupid is that? His hunger overruled his brain and because of it, he lost part of his inheritance to his younger brother and the designed role of leader of the family. We do the same today when we let temporary satisfaction override the long-term consequences for our actions.

As the story continues, Jacob was then afraid for his life because his brother Esau threatened to kill him so he took off running. Isn’t that the typical reaction when we sin, we tend to run and start hiding. It was the same in the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. But God knew when he created them that they would sin and God had already devised a plan to save them from it.

God had a plan for Jacob’s life and He has a plan for each of our lives. God often has a way of using unexpected people to accomplish his purposes and plans. It is through Jacob’s sons that the twelve tribes of Israel were started. This was part of God’s promise to Abraham about making him a great nation and his descendants being as numerous as the stars. Did God shun Jacob because of his sin and deception? Absolutely not, God already knew this was going to happen and weaved it into his glorious plan. God continued to pursue  Jacob and he eventually turned his heart toward God and walked in surrendered obedience to Him.

This story is a promise of hope for all of us. If we are truly Christ’s child, God continues to work through our decisions (both good and bad) to bring about his purpose in our lives. To know that should bring huge relief to us because there is no way we are ever going to be good enough, brave enough, or strong enough on our own to be used for God’s purposes. When God calls us to do something, he also equips us for the task. It is solely by his pure unmerited grace that he allows us to be part of what he is doing here on the earth and that happens through submission and dependence upon Him.

Although no one likes to be disciplined by God, because of the obvious reason that it hurts. The bible says that God disciplines those he loves. When being chastised because of my wrong choices, I can rejoice that my father God loves me too much to leave me in my sin and where I’m at because my ways are always self-destructive. Psalm 119:71 puts it this way . . . It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Just as a baby learns to walk, all of us in our spiritual growth process have to do some falling down in the process. It’s all part of God’s plan. He wants us to come to the end of ourselves so that we are purely relying upon his grace in our lives. God wants what is BEST for me and if left on my own, my path it would be one of destruction. The bible says that Jesus is the Way, The Truth and The life (John 14:6). Doing thing Gods way bring about life and peace and further’s God’s purposes here on earth.

Jacob went on to be a great God-fearing man and would eventually not make a move without God’s instruction. We can be assured that in all the trials, storms and messiness of life, that God is teaching us valuable lessons in the process. Jacob’s sin caused him to be temporarily exiled from his family but in the process he learned lessons that would further his spiritual growth and his dependence on God. God made a new man out of Jacob’s surrendered life. He eventually changed his name from Jacob (meaning deceiver) to Israel (meaning he who prevails with God). Praise Be to God for the Victory we have In Jesus!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the many lessons that can be learned from Jacob’s life. Thank you Lord Jesus that you are good and that you continue to work all things for our good. Thank you for the victory won on Calvary and that because of it we can walk in freedom and newness of life through the blood of your son Jesus Christ. Thank you that you allow us to partner with you to do your work here on earth. Help us to daily walk by the spirit into all that you have for us! To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN