Paul’s Prayer…

and mine.

I join with Paul today as he prays for us in Ephesians 3,

“I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.

You are awesome, Father.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

Please give us your strength, Father.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.”

Make your home in our hearts, Jesus, and teach us how to grow our trust in you.

“Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Grow our roots, Father and keep us strong.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”

Please give us the power to feel the perfect love you pour out on us each day, Jesus.

“Then you will be made complete with all of the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Only you can make us complete, Abba.  The power to live a full life comes from you.

“Now all glory to God , who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

We believe, Father, that you can do anything – things beyond what we can imagine –  and that you want to accomplish your plans through us.  We are your hands and feet on earth.

“Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Amen.  Love you, Father.

Reconciliation

Conflict.  Emptiness.

Despair.

Our world is full of people who are without hope of things ever getting better.  Its a tragedy that so many people are choosing suicide as a way out of the muck and mire that defines their lives.

I believe that the underlying cause of a lot of this pain is the lack of a relationship with God.  We were all created with a God-sized hole in our soul.  We can try to fill it with all kinds of things – new possessions, people, drugs, and a lot more – but we will still be empty.

I have experienced this.  As a young adult, I wandered from a relationship with God to try out all the ‘fun’ things the world had to offer.  After several years, I was very empty and tired of all those things that looked like fun but were dead ends.  So I started working hard on different goals and got everything on the list in the next 10 years – a great husband, two awesome kids, a good start on a career, a nice house with two cars.  I had everything I wanted but I was still empty…. and very tired.  It took a lot of work all day every day to keep everything going.  If this was all there is to life, if this is what I was going to have to do for the next 60 years, I didn’t want it.

I was going to church at that time, singing in praise band and teaching Sunday School.  But I was not investing time and effort into a personal relationship with God.  So I was empty.

Then God opened my eyes to the fact that what I really wanted and needed was more of him.  As soon as I committed to putting God first in my life, I could feel his love and grace filling up the hole inside of me.  His light began to overflow into all parts of my life, giving me joy and a purpose.

God reconciled me to him.  I had accepted Jesus as my Savior as a child so I was redeemed and I was going to heaven.  But it took me many years to take the next step in reconciling with God.  I didn’t have strong spiritual habits or feel like God and I had a good relationship until my mid-thirties.

God is on a mission of reconciling with everyone who will put their faith in Jesus.  Accepting salvation through Jesus Christ is the first step.  Putting God first in our lives is next.  It lets us feel his grace and his love and his power moving in our hearts and minds here on earth.

Paul tells you and I today, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Col. 1:22 & 23

Did you hear that last part?  That’s what I was missing as a young adult.  That’s why I was so empty.  I was not continuing in my faith.  I was not building my life on the Truth.  I was not letting God transform me through the hope of the gospel.

After I did these things, God was able to take over my heart, giving me peace and a plan for the rest of my life.

All of the emptiness is gone.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

I Am a Child of the Promise

I am  Abraham’s offspring.  I am his child by faith.  If you are a believer like me, you are also a child of the promise.

Paul explains to us that Abraham gave birth to the Jewish nation by the physical birth of Isaac but Abraham’s offspring are all those who believe.  We are Abraham’s children.  “In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” Romans 9:8.

As children of the promise, our roots go way back into ancient Biblical times.  When the new year starts in just a couple of weeks, I will be turning back to ‘In the beginning’ as I start with page 1 of the Bible again.  The Old Testament.  Some people question why we study the Old Testament.  Why do we memorize it?  Why is it important to understand God’s words to us in the Old Testament?

It’s extremely important because this is where we come from.  Who we are was created in the Garden of Eden.  The sin and violence which fills our TV screens today is the same rebellion against God that fills the pages of the Old Testament.  We get the chance to know more about God as we read about his interactions with our biblical ancestors before the Light of Jesus full of truth and grace came into our world.

Every year as I read the entire Chronological Bible, I spend 2/3 of the year in the Old Testament.  Most of God’s Word is in the Old Testament.  Why?

Abraham is one of our fathers.

This is where we came from.

Children of the Promise.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Abba, Father

I am adopted.  God is my father.

I have known this all of my life because my earthly parents raised me in a Christian home.  But this means more to me now than it ever has because both of my biological parents have gone home to heaven.  My earthly father went to heaven when I was only 21 years old and my mother went home 16 years ago.

I remember flying back after my mother’s funeral feeling like I was a 47 year-old orphan.  I was very close to my mother and it felt like I had lost my anchor.  I was drifting.

Until I remembered that my Father God had not left me behind.  He had been my heavenly Father my whole life and then he also became my earthly Father when I was 21 and now he had become my only parent on earth.  He is and always will be my anchor.

That’s how I feel about him.  He is here, guiding me and loving me.  My perfect parent.

Paul says to us in Romans 8, “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father’. For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15b & 16.

Amen!  I hear God telling me I am his child and I feel his arms wrapping around me in confirmation.  His Spirit joins with mine in the depths of my soul, confirming that I am his daughter for eternity.

Thank you, Abba Father.

A Very Bad Trade

If I watch enough of today’s news….

and read enough Facebook posts….

and hear enough ‘discussion’ on talk radio or podcasts……

I will be very confused on what is true.  I won’t know what’s really going on.  I will hear some opinions that I agree with – so they are right 🙂  – and others I don’t agree with – so they are obviously wrong.

If I listen to all of these voices, my own perspective will lean one way…..

and then the other.   Oh, that sounds good – I’ll climb on that bandwagon!

I see this happening every day.  If I had to pick one word that I think describes our current culture the best, I would have to pick ‘confused’.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new.  Thousands of years ago, Paul nailed it when he said, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised.  Amen.” (Romans 1:8)

Amen is right!

There are way too many loud voices in our world spouting all kinds of lies.  Since we are so digitally ‘connected’ these lies continue to spread and start to look like something people generally believe.  Maybe it’s true?

It’s not true – its scary.  Because it’s still lies, no matter how many people believe it.

I am reminded of what is true whenever I sit down with my Bible in my lap.  It gives me the chance turn off all of the voices around me and listen to God speak truth into my mind and heart, feeding my soul.  God’s words cut through the cacophony and confusion, providing a solid foundation that does not change as the winds of the world shift and swirl around me.

God is my compass and he is the solid ground I stand on.  His Word is my map which he is using to point out to me – one step at a time – the path that is taking me home…

where I will praise my Creator forever.

Amen.  Let it be so, Abba Father.

Knocked Down

This COVID virus pandemic is unbelievable. I’ve been on this planet for awhile and I’ve never experienced anything like this before.  It’s creating all kinds of unique struggles for us that don’t appear to have good answers.  It’s attacking all different parts of our lives, changing things for the worse, bringing mountains of hurt with it.  There are so many issues, so many concerns.

When is it going away?

Paul talks to us about how to respond when we have multiple trials in our lives –

“We are pressed on every side by troubles but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.  We get knocked down but we are not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4: 8 & 9)

I need to know – how can I not be crushed and destroyed by the trials and tragedies in my life?

God is telling me – and you – today that I can persevere because the Spirit of God lives in me, giving me strength, peace and hope.  The Spirit reminds me that this earth is not my home – my forever home is with my loving Father.

This is how the Spirit translates Paul’s words in my head as I read them –
I  may have troubles coming at me from all directions but, when I stay close to God, he will not let me be crushed by them.  I don’t always understand why struggles and issues come my way but I know God is in control and he is a Good Father and I can stand firm on these truths.  Even when Satan hunts me down, God never leaves my side.  I’ve been knocked down by the horrible tragedy of my son being murdered but God has given me the strength to get back up.  He will always be by my side.

I say this knowing there are more storms are coming my way. There are more storms coming your way.  COVID is not the last issue I will struggle with.  It is not the last problem you will have to deal with.  It’s not a question of ‘if’ there are more trials coming, the question is ‘when’.

Thank you, Father, for teaching me how to respond.

He Uses It For Good

When I make a bad decision, I often experience negative consequences.

When I make a bad decision, you might experience negative consequences, too, because we live together in this broken world.  A couple of examples of this are deadly car accidents and forest fires started by a person throwing a cigarette out of their car window.  There can be huge consequences to many people when one person in these situations makes a bad choice.

People often ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  This is why.  We all experience the pain and results of other people’s bad decisions.  My world blew up when a young man decided to kill my son who was a Phoenix Police Officer.  The hurtful consequences of that choice have been huge, wide-spread and never-ending.

I have learned that my best response to this tragedy has been to turn to God.  I’ve been getting as close to God has I possibly can.  He is my comforter and my anchor in the midst of this dark storm of loss.  And I have watched him pick up the pieces of my broken heart and use them for good.  God has given me the opportunity to share my journey on this extremely tough road of grief in a different blog – Myfamilybleedsblue.com – and many people have told me it has helped them put words to their own experience and not feel so alone.

Paul knew that this was one of the positive ways God uses bad things that happen to us.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God”. (2 Cor. 1:3)

It was a huge blessing to me when God have my pain a purpose.  I can’t change what happened, but I can share the comfort I have received from God in the middle of my heartbreak with others.  I can let God use my ‘bad thing’ and bring something good from it.

Only God can do that.

Thank you, Abba Father.

 

The Mysteries Make Sense

I don’t understand everything I read in the Bible.  I will never understand everything God has already revealed to us.  So it’s very interesting to watch God point out different truths to me each time I read his Word.

Paul says, “we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.”  (1 Cor. 2:7) He goes on to say that it’s obvious the leaders of his time didn’t get it, otherwise they would not have crucified Jesus.

So Paul didn’t understand everything, either, but he is declaring that what God says is true.  So I am.  And it makes sense to me that there will be mysteries surrounding the Creator of the Universe, the Great I AM.  I’ve only got a 3.5 pound brain.  No matter how intellectual I am or how long and hard I study, I’m just not going to comprehend it all – and he wouldn’t be God if I could. 

Even more intriguing is the thought that what we have today is Bible 101.  The Beginner’s Bible.  I believe we will continue our studies in Bible classes 201, 301, 401 and 501 and so on in heaven.  God is much greater and complex than we can possibly imagine.  He has only revealed the tip of the iceberg – there is so much more.

These are the mysteries of God.

I don’t have to understand it all to know that God is good, all the time.  I know nothing is impossible for him.  I know that he wants the best for me and is working all things out for my good.  

I trust that God has all of these answers and will reveal what I need to know when I need to know it.  I know that I’m on the right path when I heading towards God.  

As my trust in God grows, I have watched the number of mysteries in my life shrink. He is always speaking to me – loving me, guiding me and pointing out my next step just at the right time – not a day early.

The God of Mysteries proves over and over to me that he has it all under control – especially when I don’t understand it.

Thank you, Abba Father.

They Weren’t the Superstars

They aren’t the people in the Bible who get quoted all the time.

There are no statues of them and very few babies have been named after them.

There are a couple of people in the Bible who weren’t the superstars but they stick out of the crowd to me and their lives encourage me.  Their faithfulness inspires me to continue to grow in my relationship with God.

In the Old Testament, my favorite second lead actor is Caleb.  He was Joshua’s sidekick.  I’m sure you remember Joshua – he was the one who led the Israelites into the Promised Land and brought down the walls of Jericho.  You may not remember Caleb.  He was the other faithful spy who went into the Promised Land with Joshua.  They were the only two who came back saying that they knew God would keep his promise and give them the land no matter how big and intimidating the people currently living there were.

Caleb wondered the desert with the rest of the Israelites and was the only Israelite other than Joshua who was over 40 years-old when they entered the Promised Land.  He shows up later when the land is being divided and given to the different tribes of Israel.  Joshua gave Caleb a territory belonging to the Anakites who were giants.  Caleb didn’t care how big and intimidating they were.  He had no problem clearing the land for his people because he trusted that God would keep his promises.  Caleb was not the prominent character in the Bible that Joshua was but he was just as faithful and obedient.  I’m inspired by his life.

Now I’m reading about Barnabus in the New Testament.  You probably haven’t heard very much about Barnabus.  There aren’t any sermons written about him.  The first mention of him in the Bible is when he sold a field and gave all the money to the Way – the first name of the early, struggling Christian church.

The next time I read about him, he is standing up in the middle of the controversy about the recently redeemed Saul.  Saul was a Christ-follower killer who was now filled with God’s Holy Spirit and his name was changed to Paul.  Barnabus was in tune with God and knew God was moving, doing something big with Paul.  So Barnabas brought Paul into the group of disciples – a brave thing to do –  and vouched for him, helping the others to accept Paul and his ministry.

Later, Barnabus shows up at Antioch where he encourages the Gentiles and ‘a great number of people are brought to the Lord.’ (Acts 11:24)  Barnabus became Paul’s wingman during Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.  You’ve heard a lot about Paul, haven’t you?

But we don’t hear a lot about Barnabus.  He was faithfully following God and significantly helping to grow the church, most of the time in Paul’s shadow.

Since God has not given me a ministry up on a stage or in front of a camera, I am drawn to these people in the Bible who followed God faithfully and sacrificially, supporting the superstars and ministering in their shadows.

Are you like me?  There a lot of us.  Regular people, loving God with all our hearts and obediently serving God with whatever he has called us to do.  We are not the Christ-followers in the spotlight that everyone hears about.

But we are faithful – like Caleb and Barnabus were faithful.  Their examples encourage me and I know they have already heard “Well done, good and faithful servant” from our Father God.

Amen!  Hallelujah!

The Best-Selling Book of all Time, By Far

“If it’s from God, you will not be able to stop these men.”

Gamaliel was a smart man.  As a religious leader, he took part in the debate about how to get rid of Peter and the other apostles after Jesus left earth and returned to heaven.  The apostles were creating a growing threat to the established religious authority.  They had be ‘dealt with’.

I can see Gamaliel now.  Frustrated by the lack of insight into what has really been going on with Jesus, he stops the debate, “Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  If it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:39)

It is now over 2000 years later.

And we know the answer to Gamaliel’s question, don’t we?  Christians make up almost thirty percent of the global population.  It is estimated that more than 5 billion copies of the Bible have been sold.  It’s the best-selling book of all time in the entire world.  No other book is even close.

No one has been able to stop the spread of the Gospel because it comes from God.  It is not ‘from human origin’  like all the other religions.

The Truth has come from God and his name is Jesus.

Thank you, Abba Father.