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God-COnfidence

Realizing our weaknesses, gives us strength through God’s ability, not ours. Once we recognize our need to trust God with everything, we can relax and enjoy the journey set before us with God-confidence. That does not mean we don’t have to put an effort into doing the right things and making the right choices (which He helps us do). There is action on our part as we travel the path God sets before us, but it does mean we do not have to fear what is next or rely on our own abilities to see us through.

With God-confidence and determination we can conquer any mountain in front of us. I remember, a few years ago after a tragic car accident that broke my back, a few people told me I should change hobbies and not attempt to run again. I did not want to hear that. But it put a determination in me to prove them wrong; and maybe an ounce or two of stubbornness- which is not always a bad thing. Couple my determination (actions- not giving up), with my new relationship in Christ (that was emerging every day afterwards), that strengthened my faith and gave me the God-confidence I needed to get back out there and keep running. I remember telling God if He would allow me to run again, I would honor Him with it every day. That is exactly how I use the time. If I am not thanking Him almost every step of the way for everything – I am meditating and processing the messages He gives me. In fact, He gave me this very message on a run.

Today, I give God all the honor and glory for allowing me to run again and for allowing me to share messages with others, it is my hope and prayer that His love and my faith always shines through to give Him all the Glory. With the seasons changing and the mornings becoming less humid, with a hint of fall, the crisp fresh air has improved my pace as I am able to breathe easier. I just had my fastest pace in a very long time. It is only by the grace of God that is even possible. It was only God who had my doctor fight for the insurance company to use cadaver bone in my back instead of cement- which he assured me would not have allowed me to continue running.

It was only God who created me with the tenacity and determination (and stubbornness) to keep fighting as I recognize my deep dependence on Him. Every day is a gift that I am grateful for! It is only God that allowed me to live through that accident and gave me the treasured gift of writing that I am even able to share these God-given messages with you. I know on my own I am nothing. But with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26, ESV). My God-confidence comes from seeing what He has already done for me and knowing He will do it again. He always comes through. It is only through Jesus Christ that we have the freedom and grace to fuel our determination to make every day a God-honoring day.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. I am in awe of God. Every. Single. Day.

Innocence

Lotus: A beautiful bloom that emerges from the mud

I love God’s heart. For a lot of us our childhood memories come with a sense of innocence. I had a ton of great memories on our front porch. It brings back so many images to my mind. A place of firsts. Firsts certainly contain a load of innocence. First memory, first word, first step, laughter, singing, loss, tears, family and friends, music out the bedroom window, swinging, pets, long conversations, sleepy eyes, fireflies, hellos, and goodbyes.

First bike, first car, first crush, wedding day jitters, first house, first job, first baby, singing lullabies. I could go on and on. Even though our front porch saw a lot of these firsts, for me, it also was the place I first lost some of my innocence. But that one memory does not have to taint all the others. I was reminded that God restores our innocence. Through all the things we have done since our more innocent days of childhood; We can rest assured God has redeemed it all through His Son, Jesus.

Not only to our level of childlike memories, but to His superlative standards of innocence. That brings a new level of renewed hope and joy, as we travel the high road, looking to the Rock for our comfort and protection. God loves us that much. His heart is so full of love for us that He chose to save us and restore our innocence so we can be free.

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the nonday sun. Psalm 37:6

The Little Girl

Before I became a Christ follower, I didn’t know what it meant to put God first instead of myself or others in my life. I was not in a great place although I hid it well. It makes me realize that we never know what someone else is going through and the battles they are fighting internally.

One night, during this time, I dreamed I was driving down the road where I grew up. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a little girl sitting in the backseat. Just as we made eye contact, she stuck her tongue out at me. That little girl was me. She didn’t like me very much.

After becoming a Christ follower, I was sitting in prayer and quiet time with the Holy Spirit and was reminded of that dream.  Just as quickly as that scene appeared, I was whisked away to one of my fondest childhood memories. Swinging on the front porch with my mom on a summer night, singing I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me.

I heard a voice ask me, “What would you tell her?”

My first reaction was to tell her, “Don’t do it!”

But just as I finished thinking those words, I had another thought. If I hadn’t gone through those tough life experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today; at least I wouldn’t appreciate what Christ did for me as much as I do now. Being in the valley for so long made me appreciate the mountaintop that much more. I use those experiences to share my story and help others who are where I was at that time in my life.

So, I told her this, “You will make mistakes, there will be heartache and pain, but you will persevere. YOU WILL PERSEVERE!”

I heard a whisper in my heart, “She likes you now. She is proud of who you have become.”

What a beautiful and sweet message from my Heavenly Father. I try to be mindful of thanking God every day for saving my life and changing my character.

“Always have something beautiful in sight, even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!         (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)

He Loves Me, He Loves Me

Many of us, myself included, have plucked a daisy, in our youth, and innocently recalled the phrase, ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, allowing the random number of petals dictate if our crush of the day returned our affections. With God’s love, the number of petals doesn’t matter, and His love is never random. There is never a time when God does not love us. He takes the ‘not’ out of the equation altogether.

He may sometimes be displeased with us, but His love never changes. It may feel like it sometimes when we are going through trials, but that is the lie of the enemy. Sin makes us feel distant. That is why we need to be intentional to choose each day who we will serve (Joshua 24:15, ESV), at each waking moment, when our feet hit the floor, or better yet, when our knees hit the carpet. Our quest for joy is determined within this decision.

Don’t let the day dictate your joy, let your joy dictate the day.

God loves you fiercely and wants you to choose Him every day. He awaits your attention as soon as you open your eyes to the mercies of a new day. When our desire to please Him outweigh our desire to please others and ourselves we know we have made the right choice. Joy will follow no matter what each day brings.

“Give thanks to the God of Gods, for His steadfast love endures all day” (Ps. 52:1, ESV).

Did you know, besides the verse above, there are over 40 more verses in Psalm alone that tell us that God’s steadfast love endures forever? What an amazing reminder that our Heavenly Father wants to be close to us, and in relationship with us, and that we can do absolutely nothing to change that fact. Parents, we can relate this to our own children. We want the best for them, so when they make mistakes that could harm them, we are displeased, but we still love them with all our hearts. That is the reason we want them to obedient, because we know it is what is best for them. It is no different with God and us. We are His little children, whom He calls to be obedient, because He knows what is best for us and loves us dearly.

What Does God Say About That?

When you have something troubling you, do you take it to God and seek His word on the subject?

I would like to encourage you to do just that. Especially when it relates to a new teaching that you may not understand or it sounds too good to be true, or even the other side of that and it causes you to stress and worry or leaves you wondering what to believe.

Maybe with the things that you are dealing with in this season of life, you are grasping on to the wrong teachings for comfort and confirmation or this just added to your stress level.

I don’t know – but God does. I can speak from experience when I say this. If you want to know the truth, go to God’s word. Ask Him for knowledge, wisdom, and discernment and how to apply it and live it in your own life.

You may argue that this ‘new teaching’ isn’t anything ‘new’, it’s been around for years. But I believe God’s definition of ‘new teaching’ is anything that is not of the Bible or His word.

The things that sound too popular to be true, usually are. It’s like a popsicle – they sprinkle just enough truth, love, and affirmation to make it sweet to the taste. Then when they have you hooked, they begin to weave in the beliefs of the world and conform it to the behaviors that go against God and His word.

That only leaves the door wide open for the enemy to get a foothold in your life. He sends in doubt so that your faith is weakened. When you start to believe the new teachings, and the heat of the enemy is breathing down your neck, soon, all you are left with is the stick. That kind of teaching can’t hold up.

But God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His word is the foundation we can stand on against the enemy’s lies.

We can’t just apply the scriptures we like and dismiss the others because it doesn’t agree with the world’s views. In essence you are tearing out those pages and throwing them into the fire. Could you ever imagine yourself doing that? I would be too afraid to ever dare do such a thing to God’s word.

Ephesians 4:11-13 explains the gifts (not a comprehensive list) God gave to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. It goes on to say this will continue until we all come to a unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son, that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full standard of Christ.

In the notes of my study bible, it gives these definitions for the people/gifts mentioned in these verses.

Apostles: divinely commissioned missionary evangelists

Prophets: speak messages from God for His people

Evangelists: proclaim the Good News

Pastors (or shepherds): care for the people

Teachers: expound Scripture and God’s truths to the church

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever, they sound like truth. Ephesians 4:14 Notes: Mature Christians, with a well-grounded knowledge of the Good News and of Christ himself, will be able to discern and resist false teaching.

I challenge you to seek His word in your own life and ask yourself- “What does God say about that?” before you allow these new teachings to sink into your heart and mind.

Misdirected Missions

There have been some amazing discoveries over the years with space exploration and now to think that someone, if they have enough money, can take a fifteen -minute ride to space just because they want to make history or whatever other reasons motivate them to spend $5.5 Billion for the short adventure. It is mind blowing. I am not dismissing the fact that NASA has come a long way in the last few years. But all of this takes money- and a lot of it. We have much bigger issues in the world that this money could go along way to solve. There is no reason a child in the United States of America should go hungry, a veteran should be homeless, or our poorest neighbors (at home and globally) should not have the vaccinations they so desperately need but cannot afford.

People are made in the image of God, (Gen. 1:27, ESV) and they are more valuable than other creatures; (Matt. 6:26, ESV). I believe that also applies to space exploration and fifteen- minute space travel. We are to take care of people when they are in need and love our neighbors (Matt. 19:19, ESV). When we throw  more money into space (literally) than we do the human condition, and caring for others, the brokenness of this world is magnified more than the billions spent. What does this say to the hurting people of the world?

I am not writing about this to brew up trouble, but rather stir minds and hearts to pray that these entities and billionaires who are casting their money into space would wake up to the fact that directing even a fraction to our most vulnerable would have a huge impact.

I cannot be the only person who sees a solution to our biggest problems. By diverting money to help find a cure for cancer, pay for immunizations in other parts of the world, who have never had their first dose yet, simply because they are poor; provide housing and food to our homeless, ensure our kids are fed and well-educated, and the issues go on and on. You get the point.

After writing this, I did a little research before continuing and posting. I am indeed not the only person who sees this as a solution to many of our biggest issues. The Global Citizen also made a similar observation recently listing seven things the money Bezos spent on his 15 minute ride could have solved or accomplished around the globe to help the condition of humankind.

To his credit, I also read where Bezos awarded two people, whom he felt could and would make a difference, the sum of $1M each for what he is calling the courage and civility award. He announced this at a press conference immediately following his landing which, as I previously stated, cost $5.5B. You do the math. The press conference was strategic and intentional in its timely display- even though I am happy he did something- it is not enough.

I realize there are probably many red-tape issues with diverting government dollars to other programs. But haven’t we had to do just that in other areas recently with the pandemic? Why not divert money from one government entity to help those in need, who are losing their homes to floods, fires, and soon evictions, just to name a few.

This is not just a soap box message. This is a call to action. We have a powerful resource in our toolbox called prayer. Let’s use it. Pray fervently, with passion, and desperation, that God would have mercy on us and our neighbors around the world facing these issues and that He would reveal Himself to the lost, lonely, and hurting people. That we would be brave and bold in our walk with God. That He can use us to show a lost and hurting world the love of Christ in honorable and humble ways that represent a Holy Creator who designed us to be in relationship with Him and others, to use our gifts and talents to help each other, on a mission for Jesus and the heart of His people everywhere.

Love God. Love People. In that order. If we do this to the best our ability, everything else will fall into place. Yes, we will still live in a broken world, but when we put God first and show others the love of Christ, it puts everything into perspective. When the proper perspective is achieved, we will generously give our resources to help others who are less fortunate. Sharing is caring. Those who have been in need and know what it is like are traditionally the most generous and give more than those with much Mark 12:42 is a great example of this.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 ESV

Distinctly Different

Sometimes when you cannot take a photo…you improvise.

Have you ever thought about how a platypus was created?

I never really thought about them until I dreamed about one a while back. But now they seem to appear in my thoughts quite often. I have never seen one in person since they are indigenous to Australia and I’ve never been there.

The design itself intrigues me if nothing else. So, I decided to dig a little deeper into this bottom feeder and see if I could get some insight on this remarkable mammal.

The first thing that impressed me was how they have many similar qualities of other animals. Their characteristics resembles that of many different species.

Here’s the list:

  • Duck (bill)
  • Beaver (tail)
  • Otter (feet, body and fur)
  • Lizard (legs sprawl out to the side of the body when they walk)

And to add to this quite extravagant list- they are also amphibious. When they are not using their webbed feet in the water to swim, they are able to retract the web exposing individual nails that allows them to run on land. Oh, and they also lay eggs. One of only two mammals that do.

Although they don’t have teeth and use their cheek pouches to hold food until they can mash it up and swallow it, they do however have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to defend themselves with a toxic venom that is quite effective when needed. They are non-life threatening but powerful enough to do some major damage to their victim.

All this said, it would appear this hodgepodge creature has many features of other animals but oddly enough these familiar qualities are what makes it unique and distinctly different from the rest.

It can certainly relate to the duck by how it uses its bill and the beaver by how it uses its tail to maneuver through the water gracefully. And the otter and lizard by how it uses its feet to swim and run, awkward as it may be.

It is a combination of many things yet very different in its own way. We, as children of God, are also given many different and unique qualities. The combination of gifts is unique and special to each of us. But we can certainly use our past experiences to relate to each other.

Even though we are all different we have many of the same qualities and all of us, like sheep, have strayed away. None of us are perfect. Only Christ is perfect. It is by grace we are saved. He extends grace to us so we should extend it to others and to ourselves. Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than anyone.

It all comes together for the good of God and those we serve. He made us on purpose exactly how we are, in His own image. We can accept everything just as it is- flaws and all. The flaws are perfectly us and no one is exactly like us.

You are special just as all His creation and little ones are special and unique. Love yourself as He loves you without regard to your mistakes, flaws, blemishes, or brokenness.

If you could see yourself as He sees you- through the lens of love- you would be happy with yourself because of your Creator and the love He has for you.

Write a reminder to yourself on your mirror: God deeply loves you just as you are.

No matter how you see yourself- you can go forth with confidence in what God is doing in and through you. Obedience is key.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s path to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53.6

But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. I Thessalonians 5:8

The Path

Imagine this scene with me for a moment: For many years you passed by the entrance to a serene pathway lined with cobblestone. It was appealing to the eye, but there was a sign posted by God that read, “WARNING: DO NOT ENTER- HOT COALS!” so you went on by, although curious where it went.

One day, as you were walking by, a man was standing at the opening. He seemed like a wise man, in fact he had credentials and boasted of being a scholar and teacher. But today he tells you the sign is wrong. The path is all cobblestone- it is okay to enter. So, after many years of passing by without entering, you decide to go in, because the man says God is wrong.

At first it is everything you thought it would be. The forest floor is beaming with colorful flowers, and you have never seen trees or grass this vividly green or bright. But after a little while the cobblestone disappears, and the only way out is over hot coals, the light is dimmed by a shroud of darkness.

Does this story remind you of anything? It highly resembles the story of how the world became broken in the first place. When Adam and Eve were in the garden and were naked and not ashamed (Genesis 2:25, ESV).  God blessed them with a peaceful paradise and only one rule- not to eat the fruit of one tree. They probably passed by it many times without stopping to eat it, but one day there was a serpent near the base of the tree, and he told Eve God was wrong– the fruit is so sweet- you can eat it. (My words) You know how that turned out. That is why the world is broken today- because of sin and rebellion against God; we are all born into sin. But God’s Word is still truth, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). His authority still stands. We cannot ignore the warning signs just because culture and society tell us it is okay.

When we turn away from God’s truth and authority we might get a little way down the road, but eventually we are going to get burnt. We cannot ignore God’s warning signs because of what the world tells us. The world is broken. People are not the problem. Sin is. Once we identify the problem, we realize there is only one solution- Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through Me.” Jesus is still the only way to the Father; when we genuinely repent, believe, and accept Christ with our heart, we secure our eternal salvation.

Even in the OT God’s authority speaks and there is only one way for anyone to present sacrifices and approach the temple. When two of Aaron’s sons come in drunk and burn incense on the alter, they are immediately killed by the fire. Aaron could not say anything because he knew they were in the wrong (Leviticus 10:2, ESV). They went against God’s authority and made a mockery of the temple.

In essence that is what we are doing when we go against the Bible and God’s authoritative Word. When we defile the temple of God (which is our bodies) and make a mockery of His Word, there are consequences. We cannot pick and choose the portions that we keep or obey. Tearing out the pages is not an option, and neither is redaction.

Are we going to take man’s word over God’s just because it sounds better to the world, which is broken?

The Race

I used to run in several 5K races and then I took a break; now I run in my neighborhood, on my own, at my own pace. I have become accustomed to the terrain and my routine. I still run 3 miles most days, but I don’t worry about my pace and therefore I just enjoy my time in nature, with God, thanking Him for all His good graces, while I process and contemplate upon whatever Scripture or people God put on my heart that morning.

Recently, a notice for a race I participated in several times throughout the years, came into my inbox. It captured my attention more than usual and I begin to think about it the next morning as I was running. That is when it struck me, life can be compared to running. We can get too comfortable in our own routine, running alone in our neighborhood, not encountering others. When we enter a race, we may have bigger hills to climb and rougher terrain, and there will be people and distractions along the way. These are the times we rely on the Holy Spirit even more, knowing He will help us.

It’s not about how fast we go or even if we win, its about how many lives we impact along the way and how much we glorify God in the process by sharing the Good News with them, even when it puts us out of our comfort zone. If we surround ourselves with like minded people, going the same direction, with the same end goal, keeping Jesus at the center of everything we do, the journey will seem easier and the tasks more rewarding. We can encounter others with truth and grace, for the joy it brings.

I realize when God gives us opportunities to share the gospel with others, it is not just an opportunity for us; but it is also an opportunity for the other person, to hear and accept Jesus so they too can be saved and share the good news. If we do not listen to the prompting and miss the opportunity, we are also robbing another person of the opportunity to hear how they can be saved. It is like carrying a torch for the team. We pass it on to the next person and it keeps going. We cannot let the flame go out or the race end, until God Himself brings it to an end.

I recently attended a meeting at church where a former drug addict and convict gave his testimony. It was very enlightening. He looked out at the room full of people and said he had never heard about Jesus or had anyone even invited him to church; that is until one man listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go and tell others. He visited the prison where the man was, and after hearing the gospel for the first time, he accepted Jesus, and God began using him inside the prison walls to carry the torch to others. We are not meant to go it alone or to stay in the comfort of our own terrain, we are meant to go and tell and live, in community, on a mission for Jesus; so that others will have the opportunity to choose His saving grace too.

Do you remember when you first realized your need for a Savior or the first time you heard the Good News, that Jesus came to cover all our sins because we are not capable of saving ourselves? May we be found carrying the torch to light the way for others when our Savior returns.

“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV).

God Idea

One time, several  years ago, I had an idea and pitched it to my work, and they used it for a promo give away to our donors at the time (I work for a non-profit). The outside read, ‘CHANGE STARTS HERE” and then when you flipped it open, it was a mirror. In other words, change starts with you. I thought it was clever; and I guess it was. But as I reflect (no pun intended) on it now, I see a flaw in the message. Real change always begins with God. Only He can bring about the transformative change within a person’s heart. The change that really matters.

There are ideas, there are good ideas, and then there are God ideas. God ideas require action on our part, but they start with God. If we do not act upon it, He can move on to someone else who will. As believers, we are vessels for the Lord, chosen for a purpose. Let us be still and listen for our next God idea and then carry it out with courage, giving God all the honor and glory.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”

(Romans 12:2, ESV).