Month: July 2021

  • Choose Wisely

    Do you know that look that kids can give you? You know the look a child gives with raised eyebrows and a slight-sort-of-but-not-really smile that asks, “Can I be doing this and if not, can I get away with it anyway?” Or the look that questions, “how far is too far?” As a Children’s Ministry Director for 10+ years and an active Auntie, I have seen “the look.” Children push the boundaries day in and day out, especially as they are trying to declare their independence. However, I have also seen this look in many adults as well who are asking themselves “What can I get away with and still call myself a Christian?”

    On a daily basis, we are faced with thousands of choices and most of the choices we make in life are not really a matter between good and bad, but rather it’s about looking at what’s best for you and/or what will be most beneficial to others.

    You say, ’I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial”.

    1 Corinthians 10:23

    God doesn’t give us a nice little list of rules to tell us what all the answers to every situation should be and where all the boundaries are, rather He wants us to look at how our decisions and our habits are helping us to grow in our walk with Him and helping us become a better person.

    At the beginning of the pandemic, my job shifted like a lot of other people to working from home. The restaurants were closed, so I began the routine of making my own lunches. I would whip something up and sit down at my kitchen island, which has a straight view of the TV in my living room.

    One day, I found myself turning on the TV to watch an episode of a show like Virgin River or Sweet Magnolias on Netflix before I went back to my workday. Well, as most people who have watched shows on Netflix know, once that episode is done it quickly transitions into the next episode. Pretty soon I was watching two episodes. Then I caught myself trying to multitask and do my work with the TV on in the background so I could “watch” some more episodes because I was beginning to be connected to the lives of these characters. Then one day it dawned on me (pun intended): “This does not make me a better person or coworker. It has no redeeming value and it is keeping me from doing things that could add value to my life or other people’s lives.”

    It wasn’t that this behavior was necessarily evil or even bad, but the question is not “is there anything wrong with it?” or “how many episodes are too many?” The question is: “is this helping me or hindering me?” and “will this help me become more like Jesus?” God has given us freedom and free will but it is our choice how we use this gift. We have the freedom to choose how we invest our time, who we hang around, what we eat, what we do, etc., but not everything we may choose is beneficial for us. We can say whatever we want to our frustrating neighbor, but is what we are saying beneficial? Does it lead that person closer or further from God?

    God has the ultimate perspective of where our free will can take us–good or bad. His character is to lead us toward the very best He has for us. Like a father who keeps his toddler from having cake for breakfast or from running out in the road. He loves us and has only our best interest at heart.

    So dear friend, I would challenge you to take some time to spend with God in prayer and ask Him to reveal to you anything you do or habits you have that may not be God’s best for you. As He reveals those things to you, ask Him to show you what you can replace those things with that will help you grow as a Christ follower. As you begin to choose God’s best for you, your actions and habits will impact other people to grow in their relationship with Jesus as well! Let’s be intentional in seeking God’s best life for us and experience the true freedom we have in Christ.

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  • Spirit of Freedom

    This year, my family missed out on watching fireworks for the Fourth of July. It’s been so hot and dry in our area that the city completely banned them due to fire risk. We were totally bummed out – especially since it also happens to be my son’s birthday and he loves them! But at the end of the day it was all ok because we still found other meaningful ways to celebrate.

    It reminded me that the way we celebrate isn’t really what matters most – it’s what (and whom in our case) we’re celebrating that matters. Fireworks or not, we found ourselves incredibly grateful to be alive and free and together. And that was enough.

    Since the beginning of time, people have yearned for freedom; sometimes to the point of spending their entire lives trying to gain it or protect it. We honor those heroes and their sacrifice because freedom is worth fighting for.

    But as we sit with this, we need to remember that not all freedom looks the same. We tend to think first of the physical freedoms of a country – its laws, economy, and practices. But the internal freedom of our hearts was fought for too – bought with the life and death of Jesus, offered to us freely by God, and experienced through His Spirit. (Gal. 3:14; Col. 1:13-14; I Tim. 2:5-6). That’s the best news we’ll ever hear!

    So what exactly does our God-given freedom look like?

    There’s a moment I love in Luke chapter 4 where we find Jesus returning to His hometown Nazareth after 40 days of testing and temptation in the wilderness. He goes to the synagogue and stands up to read scripture. As they hand him the scroll of Isaiah, He searches until finding this passage:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19)

    Then He dramatically rolls up the scroll and sits down, saying to the speechless crowd, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21)

    This story gives me goosebumps. I can just imagine the shocked, maybe doubtful looks on everyone’s faces as they look at this familiar yet unrecognizable man – the one they watched grow up from a boy – filled with the Holy Spirit and fulfilling prophecies. Jesus the Christ was boldly proclaiming His identity! He was filled with God’s Spirit, and He knew exactly who He was and what He’d been sent to do – to bring freedom. This was God’s plan all along – for all people to have access to His kingdom, healed and free through the power of His Spirit.

    All throughout the Bible when the Spirit of God is present, incredible and miraculous things happen. People who were bound up with disease and illness are healed, demons are cast out, the last become first, the “unlovable” are loved, and we are all set free from the grip of sin and death itself through Jesus.

    It’s all too easy to find ourselves looking at the world around us for the keys to our freedom – things like having a picture perfect life, or climbing the ladder of success, or believing that electing the “right” politicians will magically solve all the world’s problems. But none of these things will fill us up or save us from despair. John 8:36 tells us that “who the son sets free is free indeed.” Nothing and no one on this earth can bring us true freedom except God through His Spirit. As our creator and savior, He is the first and best advocate for our freedom that has ever been or will ever be.

    His Spirit at work in us leads to freedom from comparison and striving for others’ approval, so that we are no longer held captive by the world’s definition of perfection, beauty or success. We can live freely in our identity as beloved daughters of the King! Friends, let’s take our eyes off all the constant distractions of life, rally around each other in support, and draw closer and closer to God, the source of our ultimate freedom.

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  • Approaching God with Freedom & Confidence

    I cannot wait to see Jesus. Not because I need an escape from the troubles of this life–though I totally get that and have been there before. I just can’t wait to finally see Jesus face to face after all that we’ve been through together. 

    In my mind it plays out like one of those old cheesy movies where two people who haven’t seen each other in ages run in slow-motion toward one another. Tears of joy stream without shame and my face is radiant as I look into the eyes of my Savior that has loved me through it all-the good, the bad and the ugly. I won’t slow down as I get closer, instead I’ll throw myself into the best hug I’ll ever know, wearing the biggest smile I’ll ever smile. 

    It wasn’t always that way though. For a long time, even though I knew God loved me, and knew that He had sacrificed everything for me, I only felt guilty and undeserving of His love and sacrifice. I hadn’t yet experienced the love of Jesus in a way that I felt free to approach Him with confidence. I felt like I was perpetually on shaky ground, with the memory of my most recent screw-up fresh in my mind. I didn’t feel excited to talk to Jesus in my prayer time, let alone see Him face to face.

    I think a lot of us have felt like that, holding our breath each time we stumble and fall, waiting for God’s grace to finally run out. 

    Dear friend, making us second-guess God’s love is one of the devil’s oldest tricks. He will twist our thoughts and parade our failings before us until we shrink away in shame and self-doubt. He’ll tie us up in knots, until we are prisoners of self-loathing. He wants to make us forget who we are, and believe that we’ve wandered beyond God’s reach.

    It’s the biggest lie ever. 

    Eph 1:5-8 reminds us of the truth:

    “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” (NLT)

    God is the God of freedom and grace, not used up chances and unforgiveness. It makes Him happy to bring us to Him through Jesus, and make us part of His family unconditionally, forgiving our sins and lavishing His love upon us.

    Ephesians 3:12 says “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

    Because of this truth, we can run right up to God, heart in hand, and let Him scoop us up into His arms like a beloved daughter. We can be confident when we go to God, not because of our own strength or goodness, but because of Christ’s faithfulness. Not because we are perfect, but because we are forgiven and loved. When we make mistakes, we can go to Him and ask for forgiveness and He gives it tirelessly because He delights in us as His children. 

    So my dear friend, if you have been shying away because of past mistakes, or feeling unconfident in His love, please let these truths settle deep into your heart: 

    You are never too far that He won’t run to meet you in the middle of your mess. 

    He loves you and has planned all along to adopt you as His own. It is His desire and His delight to call you His daughter.

    Because of Jesus, you can throw off the shackles of fear, shame and inadequacy, and live in the freedom that His love provides this very moment. You can come to Him in prayer today without hesitation or doubt, confident in His faithfulness and love. 

    And when the day comes that you see Him face to face, you can run straight toward Him, into the best hug you’ve ever known, with the biggest smile you’ve ever smiled, confident in your identity as a daughter of the King.

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  • Identity of A Scripture Based Life

    Have you ever struggled with feeling lazy and lonely with daily Bible reading and dealing with constant guilt? Or gotten so serious about Bible reading, only to end up turning it into a mechanical routine of religion?

    It’s a trap either way, but the point of spending time with God is not to avoid guilt or to religiously maintain to-do lists. God wants our hearts. He wants our love and devotion. He wants you to WANT to spend time with Him; not out of habit and not out of obligation.

    Relationship with God, through Jesus, contrary to popular belief, is not accomplished through a one time prayer or acceptance of Him. Like any other relationship, it must be cultivated with intentionality, interest and love.

    As I look at my life and my relationship with the Lord, I realize how easy it is for me to find myself living in between guilt and habit when it comes to my quiet time. Maybe you are the same. But I am comforted by the truth and knowledge that God always gives us new mercies to start again with the right perspective and the right motives to spend time with Him.

    Here are some ways to put authenticity and genuine sincerity back into our daily devotion time:

    Read His Word as Daughters

    Think of the Bible as a gift from your Heavenly Father just for you! Little girls love to receive packages with bows and sparkles. Maybe your Bible is just plain and simple on the outside, but it’s the content and truth on the inside that is such a precious gift!

    God doesn’t use His word as a lecture, and He isn’t just sending swift text messages to His buddies. He’s written letters of love to His precious children.

    In 1 John 3:1, we are called children of God. Being a child of God is an identity changer. Once we recognize our rightful place, title and position in God’s point of view, reading our Bibles becomes so much more engaging. So, when we believe our Father God when He says that we are His precious children and daughters, we experience His scripture as a holy gift, one He’s gladly extending for our spiritual and practical use.

    Dig Into His Word as Friends

    Not only are we called God’s children, we are also called His friends (John 15:15). We are told in this scripture that we are not servants, but friends, and what is a friend? According to Proverbs 17:17, a friend loves at all times. We are God’s friends because He chose us and loves us. To show our mutual agreement to enter into this friendship with Him, He declares that, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14).

    In Scripture, we are commanded to read diligently (2 Timothy 2:15), hide the word in our heart (Psalm 119:11), be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22) and to meditate on God’s word day and night (Psalm 1:2). Being God’s friend requires that we do what He commands. So, when people question why they should read the Bible, the simple answer is because obedience reflects our love.

    Speak His Word as Mothers

    As we begin to approach our time with the Lord as daughter and friends, it prompts us to share His word as Mothers. Now, I understand that not all of us may have children, but we all have influence. Even if you are young and unmarried, you are a mentor to someone who needs to hear the Word that you’ve been reading, digging into and chewing on.

    The call that God has given all of us is to run on mission daily, carrying the baton of truth and sharing the torch of Salvation with those around us.

    Colossians puts it very plainly, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16). Mothers, mentors, ambassadors, influencers … all these roles entail teaching and guidance.

    As we spend time in God’s word, His Holy Spirit begins to change us, restore us, re-create us and fill us with His wisdom. In turn, we will naturally begin to share this with others. Our speech begins to change. Our intentions begin to change. Our outlook, advice, interests and motives all begin to change, and those around you will take notice.

    “Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

    God gives us opportunities to share His love and truth with others for the benefit of their lives, their relationships and their souls. He desires to use you to point others to Him. Just as mothers direct those entrusted to her, so we, as Christians, are called to do the same.

    God’s Word Brings Joy When We Know Who We Are

    My friends, the Bible is more than just a book. It’s more than just inspirational words or stories or suggestions. It’s God’s actual breath (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It’s His heart to us so that we can know His heart and do His will in all things. Please don’t miss the joy of spending time with Him with the right motives. Daily reading is not a superstitious act to ensure our day runs smoothly. Neither is it a burden that should weigh us down with guilt. Remember who you are: you are God’s child, you are God’s friend and you are God’s ambassador. Keep your relationship with your Lord into perspective as you read His word. It will change your outlook and your life!

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