Real Friends

I need real friends.

You need real friends.

Real friends are people who care about us, easily forgive us and want the best for us.  They are the people in our lives who cheer us on in the good times and listen well with extra tissues ready during the bad times.

I am fortunate enough to have several real friends in my life.

These friends love me enough to speak up if I’m getting off track.  They hold me accountable for behavior that is not good for me.  They subtly (and not so subtly) ask questions about my choices when my behavior is not going to help me reach the goals they know I want to achieve.  They love me enough to speak truth into my life at the right time.

These friends also have shared this journey of faith with me.  They have walked beside me as, together, we experience the transforming power of God in our lives.  They continue to encourage  me as God molds me into the person he created me to be and they celebrate with me when I find victory in my life through my relationship with God.

They help bring me to Jesus.

This is just like the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus in the second chapter of Mark.  Their friend couldn’t move, so his four friends carried him around on a mat.  They heard that this man, Jesus, was healing people – even paralyzed people – so they were determined to get their friend to Jesus.

You might think they would have been discouraged when they arrived and saw the huge crowd of people around the house that Jesus was in.  They didn’t care – this was their friend and this was going to happen….today…..right now.

So they carried their friend on his mat up to the top of the house and dug a hole in the roof right over Jesus’ head.  Then they lowered the mat down in front of Jesus.

Seeing the faith of his friends, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ” Stand up, pick up your mat and go home.”

“And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat and walked through the stunned onlookers.”  (Mark 2: 11-12)

Jesus honored the faith of this man’s friends and healed him by the touch of his hand.

I know I have friends who need to get to Jesus.

Do you?

Are we good enough friends to help them get close enough to be touched by our Savior?

Please help us be good friends, Abba Father.

One Very Important Sentence

This one sentence does a great job of summing up the Good News – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If you wanted to memorize just one verse of the entire Bible, this would be it.  John 3:16. 

God loved us so much that he sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for all of our sins for all time on the cross.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, those of us who put our faith in him can have an eternal relationship with God which starts here on earth and ends in heaven …. forever.

This is the most important news anyone can ever hear.  People who are not Christ-followers don’t know it, but they are looking for Jesus.  They might think they are looking for a better job, a better spouse or a better house, but they are really looking for Jesus.  We were all created with a God – shaped hole which only God can fill.  There will be an emptiness in our lives until we accept the salvation offered by Jesus and live in his Light.

This emptiness explains a lot of what we’re seeing go on in our world right now.  People are looking for something and they aren’t finding it so there is anger, frustration, confusion and unrest.  Evil thrives in this kind of environment.  This will continue until they look to Jesus to fill that hole.  He’s the only answer.

I cannot remember a time in my life when it was more important for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus to share our stories, share the Good News, share our trust in God and share that we know how this story is going to end.  Judging those who do not know Jesus is not the right response to what is going on.  Jesus tells us today that loving those who haven’t accepted the free gift of salvation yet is the right answer.

God has already claimed victory, we’re just living through the mess that Satan is masterminding.  Satan is winning some battles, but we have nothing to fear – God has won the war.

Amen!  Hallelujah!

This Is It!

It’s what I need!

As the mountain of craziness in this world around me grows, I need to find a way to stay grounded on what is good and right and helpful. Jesus shines his light on my path as I read the account of his discussion with Satan in the dessert.

Satan is confronting Jesus after he has been fasting for 40 days. My first thought was that the human part of Jesus were probably in a weakened state after all this time. After thinking about it, he has been in constant communication with his Father for 40 days straight so physically he may have been weakened, but spiritually he was strong and well fed.

Satan tried three times in three different ways to try to tempt Jesus to show off his power and rule the world like an earthly King.  Instead of giving in, Jesus quoted scripture – God’s Word – back to Satan.

God’s Word is the truth and it stood up to all of Satan’s lies over 2000 years ago. Just like it stands up against all of the lies Satan is spewing across our culture today.

Reading, studying and applying God’s Word to my life is the only way I’m going to be able to navigate through all the lies, fake news, wrong thinking, lack of integrity, manipulation and secret agendas that are swirling around me today.

This same crud is swirling around you.

Are you looking for something solid to hang on to through this storm? God and his Word to you is the answer.

Thank you for your Truth, Abba Father.

Am I Good Enough?

Being ‘good enough’ is not my goal.  Getting my act together is not my goal.  Checking all the boxes – keeping busy with ‘God’ stuff – is not my goal.

The historical account of Jesus’ baptism tells me what pleases God.

I do.

When I trusted in Jesus and was redeemed by his sacrifice on the cross, I was adopted by God and became one of his precious daughters.  ‘Joint heirs with Jesus’ – as an old hymn describes it.  What Jesus did for me makes me ‘good enough’.

While reading about Jesus’ baptism, I realize that Jesus hadn’t started his ministry yet.  He hadn’t DONE anything for God.  But God spoke from heaven to let everyone know that Jesus was his son and he was ‘well pleased’.

Let’s take a moment to let that soak in, my brothers and sisters.  Jesus was God’s son and God was pleased with him – before his ministry began.  Before he did any miracles.  Before he did any teaching.

Accepting salvation through Jesus makes you and I children of God – and he is pleased with us.i-am-pleased

Feel his smile shining down on you.

Feel his unconditional love.

Feel his forgiveness for any guilt that is weighing heavy on your shoulders.

Feel his peace flow over you in a supernatural way.

Feel his strength flow through you as he walks right beside you each day.

Let his joy fill your heart today.

Don’t DO anything.  Just feel the pleasure he has as he looks at you.  He sees himself in you.  We are all created in his image, yet each one of us reflects different aspects of him – making us all uniquely his.

I am important to God.  He has made me special.

You are very important to him.  He has made you special.

And he is pleased.

Thank you, Abba Father.

Watch It Happen

When I see something that needs to done or fixed, my first inclination is to make a plan, figure it out and get it done.

God regularly stops me and tells me there is a better way. He challenges me to bring the issue that is bothering me to him and let him take care of it. He promises that the outcome will be better if I let him take control.

So I have to smile as I read Zechariah’s story in the book of Luke.  Zechariah was a priest. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were old and childless when the angel of the LORD appeared to him.  Yes, Gabriel showed up again.

Zechariah was “gripped with fear” when he saw Gabriel.  Angels like Gabriel must be awesome creatures because the first thing they always say to us humans is, “Fear not”. Then Gabriel went on to tell Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were going to have a son who was going to do great things for God. They were to name this son John and he was going to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Immediately, Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?” He and his wife were obviously way too old to have a baby.

Gabriel looked at him (my paraphrase), rolled his eyes and, with a hint of frustration in his voice, said, “God, the all-powerful creator and sustainer of the universe, the Great I AM, the most Holy One, sent me to tell you this great news and you ask that silly question?  You need to stop talking and just watch God make it all happen just as he has said.”

Zechariah could not speak again until the baby was born.

I have learned that sometimes I need to stop asking questions, trust God and watch him work things out for my good right in front of my eyes – through his power and on his own timeline.  It can be very difficult for me to patiently wait for him to move but, when he does, it’s the right thing at the right time, every time.  It’s truly amazing to watch as God opens doors, moves mountains and orchestrates blessings in my life.  

This hasn’t been an easy lesson for me to learn. It takes a lot of trust to give problems, issues and situations to God and leave it all in his hands.

But – believe me – it’s worth it.

Thank you, Abba Father.

He Shines In the Darkness

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. It’s hard not to get sucked into the darkness.

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.

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.

This can be very hard to do 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 focusing on 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 worrying starts 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 thoughts become 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.

His Light shines in the darkness.

Thank you, Jesus.

400 years of Silence

I can’t imagine it – God being silent for 400 years.

That’s the amount of time between the Old Testament and the New Testament.   So it is said that God was silent.

But was he?  Really?

It’s hard for me to imagine that my Father God who loves us and cares for us so diligently each day would be quiet for 400 years.  I think it’s very possible that he was speaking and interacting with people at that time but none of it was meant to become part of his revelation to us so it was not included in the Bible.

When I think about how much I need God each day and knowing that there were some faithful people during that time as well, it doesn’t make sense that he was actually silent for 400 years.  It doesn’t sound like something he would do.

But we know that there were 400 years between the two parts of the Bible.  For some reason, God put in a significant break before he begins the account of his greatest Gift of all time – salvation through his son, Jesus Christ.

Mark’s account starts with, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the son of God”.

John’s account starts, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

The Light of the World was arriving – we would never be the same.

Amen.  Hallelujah!

Thank you, Abba Father.

It’s Hard to Wait

When we want something to happen,

when it’s going to be good,

when today isn’t that great.

But we have to wait.  It’s hard.

The Old Testament ended on a high point of the Israelites turning back to God, listening to his Word and trying to obey.  Then came a 400-year break in God’s Word to us.

We know the Israelites continued on with their lives during that time.

They were waiting….

expecting the Messiah to show up.

How long were they going to have to wait?

I’m blogging through the Chronological Bible which means it is re-organized so it resembles the actual timeline that things happened.  And it’s October.  So 3/4 of the Bible is the Old Testament.  If three-quarters of what God wants to reveal to us is in the Old Testament, then I’m very glad I read and study the Old Testament every year.  After spending 3/4 of the year reading the Old Testament, I have a better understanding of how badly the world needs Jesus.  My anticipation of the coming Messiah rises as I read over and over again of the Israelites turning away from God, getting lost in idol worship, paying the consequences and repenting.  Then they get their spiritual act together – but just for a short time until they start wandering again.

Oh, how badly they needed a Savior!

It was hard to wait.

You and I live under the New Covenant with God.  The Messiah has come.  There is no more waiting.  Jesus was sent to earth to offer free salvation to everyone who would put their faith in him.  And it’s really clear right now that our culture needs saving just as badly as the Israelites did.

The last 1/4 of the Bible is so much easier to read than the Old Testament because Jesus’ love, grace, truth and light shines out of the New Testament.  Jesus is our role-model for how God wants us to live our lives here on earth.

A smile spreads across my face as I begin to read the New Testament for the 10th time.

No more waiting.   The Messiah has come.  This is the really good stuff.

Thank you, Jesus.

It was loud!

When the wall around their city was finally finished, the people of Jerusalem rejoiced because ‘God had given them great joy.” Nehemiah 12:43.

Everyone celebrated!  All the men, all the women and all of the children were happy and they showed it.  We read in the Bible that the sound of Jerusalem’s celebration could be heard far away.

That’s really loud!!  They were so filled with joy that they couldn’t keep quiet.

And this is not unusual in the Bible – God’s people celebrated a lot!  They had joy!  They worshipped God!  They were loud!  When thousands of angels filled the heavens, singing for joy and praising God, they were very loud!

So where do we sometimes get the idea that our weekly church family celebrations and worship should be quiet?  There is certainly a time and place for reverence and meditation when we get together.

But there are also many reasons for joy and excitement and celebration as we worship together and are blessed.  Our traditions should enhance our worship, not restrain it.

Thousands of years ago, God’s people showed us how to express our joy, celebrate and worship God.

And it was loud!

Please give us joy, Abba Father!

I’ve Got Your Back!

When we want to accomplish something big, it takes a team.  One person can only do what one person can get done.

But when a group of people join energy and brainpower to tackle a goal together, unexplainable synergy happens and their efforts are multiplied.  Success rolls in when a team of people are engaged, committed to working together and helping each other achieve a goal.

And when God’s involved – there is a supernatural factor that is truly astounding to witness.  Projects turn out much better than planned.  Blessings pile up.  We see our faith growing as, together, we experience the power of God in our lives.

Has this happened to you?

I’ve experienced this many times and its exciting every time it happens.

As a result, I love reading the historical account of Nehemiah leading the Israelites in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  The Jews were being attacked regularly by their enemies who didn’t want them to complete the wall.  They were very discouraged.

Nehemiah refused to stop building.  He knew that he had been sent back to Jerusalem to lead this project so he couldn’t stop.  He organized the men into teams – half of them did the work while the other half watched the worker’s backs with spears, shields, bows and armor.  They protected their brothers with everything they had.

Working together,

protecting each other,

they accomplished the goal together.

They could not have done it without each other.

Our Spiritual family is like this.  We need each other.  Each one of us needs to use our spiritual gifts in order to build each other up and fulfill our purpose of reaching others for Christ.

We watch each other’s backs – loving and forgiving each other in supernatural ways.

And we love those who don’t know Jesus yetblue-blob-ive-got-your-back

while our Spiritual family supports us and cheers us on.

We can do this, because He first loved us…

and He has our backs.

Thank you, Abba Father.