Today

It should have been me.

The thief up on the cross next to Jesus was sentenced to die for the bad things he had done.

That was me….before I put my faith in Jesus.

My rebellion, self-centeredness, and lack of compassion are a few of the reasons I should have been on that cross.

The Great News is Jesus was up there on the cross for me…..and for you.  He who knew no sin became sin for us.  He bore the weight of all of the world’s sin – once and for all.  You and I can be redeemed from spiritual death by accepting the free gift of salvation that only Jesus can give.

As I read this account in Luke 23, I visualize Jesus turning to me, looking me in the eye and saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” vs 43.

For the thief, it was that day.  Oh, glorious day!

For me, it probably won’t be today – although it could be.

And I’m ready.

There will come a day for me when it is ‘today’ because I have committed my heart and life to Jesus.  This passage in the Bible reassures me.  The thief did nothing to earn his way into heaven.  He put his faith in Jesus and it was done.  He didn’t say a prayer or say specific words and he was never baptized.  Jesus knew the thief’s heart just like Jesus knows my heart.

This passage also tells me there is no waiting – no purgatory, no additional steps.

Today.

In paradise.

Thank you, Jesus 

He Prayed for Me

And he prayed for you.

One of my favorite things about the Chronological Bible is we are reading about Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

It’s so appropriate!

The holiday reminds me to be thankful and God’s Word reminds me the most important thing to be thankful for – Christ’s sacrifice for me.

For God so loved the world…

Life everlasting with my Abba Father.

I love reading the prayer of Jesus in John 17.  He included us as he prayed to his Father for his disciples. “My prayers is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (vs 20-23)

We know Jesus because the disciples faithfully shared with others the Truth they had seen and heard.   And we pay it forward by sharing what we have seen and heard about the Jesus with others…

in gratitude for what Christ did for us.

May we be found faithful witnesses to your love and grace, Abba Father.

I Will Have Trouble

Heart-ache

Despair

Broken Relationships

Hatred

Emptiness

Jealousy

Confusion

Loneliness

And much more.

We all experience these trials, in some variation, at different times,

sometimes several at the same time making it hard for us to see the light.

Hard to see anything good.

Hard to make it through the day.

Jesus isn’t surprised. He tells his disciples – and us – ” In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Some of our troubles are consequences for bad decisions we have made.

And some of them happen to us because we live in a broken world which is increasingly influenced by the Prince of Darkness.

Many of you know that the level of trouble in my life increased exponentially 6 years ago when my son, who was a Phoenix Police Officer, was killed in the line of duty.

Yes, I will have trouble.  I have a painful understanding of that reality.

And I have a choice to make in how I respond to these troubles.

I can choose to get lost in self-pity and focus on what I have lost.  I can get stuck on the edge of the big hole in my life and let the rest of my life be about what I no longer have.

Or I can choose to let God grow my faith through these trials.  I can let him become even more real in my life – a strong anchor in the storm, my faithful shepherd who lovingly leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.

I am choosing to ‘take heart’ like Jesus tells us to do.  I am choosing to believe that Jesus has already claimed victory over evil and this is all part of his plan.

I have come to understand much more clearly now that this world of sadness and hatred and lack of respect is not my real home.

Heaven is.

And Jesus has prepared a place for me there.

If you are a believer, he has prepared a place for you as well.

Until then, we will have trouble.

Words that Changed My Life

They challenged me.

They held me accountable for what I had been saying my entire life.

About 30 years ago while reading my Bible, I heard Jesus say these words to me,

“If you love me, keep my commands”.(John14:15)

If I loved him?  I was shocked.  I had been saying I loved Jesus since I was old enough to talk.  I was brought up in a Christian family who lived out their faith in a small Christian town.  For much of my childhood, I thought everyone was a Christian because everyone in my life went to church.

I remember seriously being in love with Jesus when I was younger.  I read my Bible and talked to him all of the time.  Somewhere along the way, I slipped into being more of a ‘cultural Christian’ than actually having a relationship with God.  I went to church, I served at church, I gave money to the church, I participated in small group Bible studies and I talked about loving Jesus but God really didn’t have a big place in my daily life.   My Bible was gathering dust, but I still said I loved Jesus.

Then the Holy Spirit convicted me with these words, “If you love me, keep my commands.”  He made it clear to me that he wasn’t talking about the 10 commandments in the Old Testament.  Jesus had fulfilled all of the old law and given me two new commandments.  The Holy Spirit pointed out only two.

The first – I need to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul.  The second – love others as myself.

These are it.  Everything else falls under these two commandments.

The Holy Spirit told me if I really loved Jesus, I would strive to keep these two commandments.  If I didn’t start sincerely trying to obey these two, I needed to stop saying I loved Jesus.

I was blown away!  I had never taken the commandment to love God first seriously.  I was a wife and a working mother of two small kids at the time.  I had so many responsibilities and things to do I just couldn’t imagine adding all the stuff it would take to love God first!

But there was no way I was going to stop saying I loved Jesus.  No way.   I knew it was a part of who I was at the center of my soul.  So I was going to have to try loving God first and figure it out as I went.

It didn’t take me long to realize when I put God first, he helped me with everything else.  He helped me be a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter and sister, a better employee, a better boss, a better friend – he made my entire life better.  Putting him first in my life made my existence so much more meaningful and ‘worth it’.  He filled the empty spots in my heart and made me whole.

When I put God first in my life, he taught me how to love others.  As my life filled with his love, it overflowed to those around me.  I didn’t have to try to obey the second command – it naturally happened as the love of my Father transformed me from the inside out.

One verse piercing my soul through the Holy Spirit changed the trajectory of my entire life.

Thank you for opening my eyes to your Truth, Abba Father.

Do It!

Do you have questions about what God wants you to do?

Do you have various options but you aren’t sure which one is the right one?

One of the huge benefits of faithfully reading God’s Word is how clearly God answers these questions for me. God is constantly pointing out my priorities.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mathew 22: 36-39.

These are the top two. Love God. Love others. I need to do these – all day, every day.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus has some more clear directions to those of us who have put our faith in him.

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13.

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14.

How am I supposed to be light? Our dark world needs a lot of light, doesn’t it? I am Christ’s hands and feet on this earth. When I share his love and truth, I am spreading his light. When my life and attitude are different in a positive way from the darkness that is quickly spreading across our country, my life shines for Christ.

How am I supposed to be salt? I need to be engaged in my culture, sprinkling God’s love over the people around me. When I’m living my faith out loud I bring the flavor of Christ – his caring, forgiveness and truth – with me where ever I go.

When I have options and choices, these scriptures help me decide. Which option helps me show my love for God and love other’s the most? What choice is the best in making my life salt and light in my corner of this earth?

What about you? What does it mean to you when Jesus says you are the salt and light of the world?

He challenging us – are we accepting that challenge?

There is no time better than today to do it!

Please light up our paths, Abba Father, and guide our steps.

All In

Have you been keeping your distance from Jesus? Do you believe he is the Son of God but you just don’t want to get too close? You don’t want to go ‘all in’? You don’t want to have to give up things you enjoy?

Many of us are like Zacchaeus. When he found out that Jesus was coming, he really wanted to see Jesus so he ran ahead and climbed into a tree to get over the heads of the crowd. He didn’t fight through the crowd so he could get close to Jesus. He kept his distance.

But that’s not how it works with Jesus. When he saw Zacchaeus, Jesus looked right at him and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly, ” Luke 19:5 Getting close to Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life forever.

And that is what we need to do if we want to experience the love and joy of a relationship with Jesus. We need to get up front and personal with him. Get out of our trees. Get out of our old habits and traditions.

The only way to genuinely know Jesus is to go ‘all in’.

That’s my story. I had a close relationship with Jesus as a child but wandered as a young adult. Then I came back to church but stayed on the sidelines – enjoying the benefits of a spiritual family but not taking my relationship with God too seriously.

I knew I was on the right track but inside I was miserable and empty. When God challenged me to put him first in my life, I felt I had nothing to lose so I went for it. That’s when I found the love, grace, joy peace and purpose I was looking for. It was almost immediate.

I didn’t have to give up things I liked. I took some things out of my life because I didn’t want them anymore. The things I like have gradually changed the closer I’ve gotten to God.

And the closer to God I get, the easier it is to hear him speak and see him move. It just keeps getting better.

If you’ve been been keeping your distance from Jesus,

you have no idea what you are missing.

God is challenging you today to go ‘all in’.

It Breaks Through

So much noise.

Too much information.

Bombarded by distractions….

and then God’s voice breaks through.

Clear.

Strong…..

making more sense than all the chaos around me.

One of my favorite images of God comes from the story that Jesus tells us in the 10th chapter of John about the Good Shepherd.  “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them on.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”  John 10:3-4.

I recognize his voice.  How?

It’s simple but not easy.  After reading the entire Bible 10 times, I know when God is speaking to me because he is speaking his words – the words I have read over and over.  I recognize his truth because I have seriously studied the Bible for over 30 years.  I’m not a pastor or a theologian.  I’m just an average person who really wants to hear God and know the truth.

I have been asked, “How do you know it’s God and not just your own voice telling you what you want to hear?”  When what I hear lines up with what I’ve read and studied in God’s word, I have no doubt that it’s his voice.  He often brings scripture into my mind that answer questions I have.  Many times God tells me something I’ve never thought of or even wanted – then I definitely know it’s him.

Important point – messages from God will be consistent with more than just one verse in the Bible.  The only way to really know it is from God is that it lines up with what God says about this topic throughout the entire Bible.

One verse can steer me in the wrong direction.  One or two verses taken out of context can tell us lies – nothing close to what God really meant.

Be very careful with the ‘life verse’ concept.  The only way that works is if you understand what God says about that topic through the entire Bible.  Otherwise, it can be a shortcut that takes you down a dark path – a path where you hear what you want to hear because you are not recognizing his voice.

The closer I get to God, the easier it is to hear his voice.

Thank you for being my good shepherd, Abba Father.

Surrounded

“I have a problem with anxiety.”

“I’m going to need to take an extra anxiety pill”

“I get so anxious”

“My whole family has issues with anxiety.”

I’m hearing these statements from people in the world around me and I feel like I’m surrounded by anxiousness.

Don’t get me wrong – I have moments of anxiety. Who doesn’t in our crazy culture?

But then I remember what Jesus says to me in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

‘Burdened’ means ‘anxious’ to me. You and I are burdened when we start to worry about all the things we’re not in control of. We are burdened when we focus on all the negatives in our lives. We are burdened when we become afraid of the unknowns – all those terrible things that could happen to us and the people we love.

Jesus gives me rest for my soul when I listen to his voice and lay at his feet all the things that make me anxious. His yoke is easy and his burden is light because he can be trusted. He loves me and has promised to work it all out for my good.

Nothing is impossible for him.

As I keep my eyes focused on Jesus each day, anxiety fades away.

Thank you, Jesus.

I want to be…

like the Samaritan Leper.

Jesus healed 10 lepers and “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.”  Luke 17: 15 – 16.  Jesus healed the whole group of lepers and this man was the only one that came back to say thank you.

Jesus had redeemed the leper’s life from pain and death.  And the leper made an effort to show his gratitude for what Jesus had done for him.

Jesus has done the same thing for me.   He redeemed me from hopelessness, death and eternal separation from the only source of good things in this universe – our Father God.

After reading this passage many years, ago, I decided to start all of my prayers with thanking God for who he is and what he has done for me.  I still do this today and I find it puts me in the right mindset to have great conversations with God.  He has already done so much for me – lavishing his love on me, forgiving my rebellion and self-centeredness, pouring his blessings down on me, giving me purpose and peace…..I could go on.  So starting every prayer with ‘thank you’ helps me avoid the trap of treating God like Santa Claus just going down my list of prayer requests.

For the rest of my life here on this planet, I will be like the leper who came back to say ‘thank you’.  I will live my life in gratitude to God.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Pushing the Darkness Away

Wow, this is a dark time in our country, isn’t it?

Disrespect, discord, distrust, disgruntled, discrimination, discontented, discouraged. The ‘dis-es’ are one of the biggest pandemics infecting our culture today.

Do you find it hard not to get sucked into the darkness?

I do.

Until…

I look to the Light.

Love, peace, forgiveness and strength come from the Light and his name is Jesus. When I focus on Jesus, the darkness fades away.

Have you tried this when the darkness overwhelms you?

There are times that I forget darkness is not the opposite of light, it is the absence of light. When I let the Light of the World fill my mind and heart, the darkness is pushed away. ” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

It can be very hard to focus on Jesus in the blackest part of the night when worries and fear creep in.  For many years, when my thoughts became anxious in the middle of the night, I would talk with my Father God.  Eventually I started to find myself thinking about all of the ‘bad stuff’ instead of praying about it and the night would gradually become darker and heavier on my soul.

Recently, I have begun to fill my mind with praise songs when the negative thoughts start and the darkness threatens. Remember – darkness is the absence of light. When I let the words and the melodies of some of my favorite praise songs repeat over and over in my mind, my brain becomes filled with the Light. It doesn’t take very long before my fears and concerns are replaced by reminders of Jesus’ love and care for me. He brings peace and security…..

and sleep.

Go ahead and try it.

His Light shines in the darkness.