In the Know

Do you feel special when you are one of the first to know something? You have the privilege (if it is good news) and maybe the responsibility (if it is bad news) to be the one who informs others. This can bring a sense of importance like carrying a torch.

Sometimes when we are not in the know we feel left out or insignificant when we finally hear the news from another source other than the person, we thought would have told us first. Could this be another form of jealousy? For that answer we must dig deeper and ask the One who knows our heart to reveal anything we need to discard to make more room for God. We need to get over ourselves.

Maybe this is how we feel when we do not know what God is working on. We think we need to be in the know with everything He is doing; but the truth is we could not handle it. God knows how much to give us and at just the right time. If we rush that process, we will not be ready. He is always working and knows the bigger picture and plan. But He also prepares us for the outcome- that is the journey we can enjoy along the way, until He reveals the final picture and brings it all together.

When we rush it, we are controlling it; even if we think we are not. If we can truly let go and wait for God to do His job then the outcome will be so much better. We cannot imagine the half of what He is doing-our minds are too small and our vision too narrow. But God has a higher view over our lives and can direct us on the right path for what lies ahead.

The times I have been able to see if from this perspective and truly let Him have the reins-there is an indescribable freedom. The weight is lifted off my shoulders and put squarely on the Father who knows best.

Form this view I can safely carry on about my day waiting for Him to drop a crumb to show me the path He is laying before me, one step at a time. I can enjoy this God-given journey without fear or worry about what is next. This requires staying in communion with Him, aligned to His will, not mine, being in tune to His presence. He has it under control.

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21

Grand Central Station

Central Park

Have you ever been to Grand Central Station? Was it a hurried trip to get to another destination or was it a leisurely excursion that allowed you to take in all the intricate details of the architecture and explore each nook and cranny where even a whisper can be heard across the hallways?

Most people who travel through this area are not taking the time to slow down and admire the artwork, design, or listen for anything much less the echo of a whisper. They are rushing through with only their destination in mind. Such is life.

When is the last time you slowed down to admire the handy work of God’s architecture? His landscapes? Have you put much thought into the colors He used to accentuate the astonishing design of each season or take in the wonder of a snowflake? To listen for the echo of His whisper as you take it all in and meditate on the power and thought that went into every detail that was woven into the fabric of the world around us. It leaves me breathless.

This should be enough to cause every person to pause and take notice of the God who created us. But that is not always the case. Despite overwhelming evidence and obvious visible architectural surroundings there are those who refuse to believe it and instead make up foolish ideas that only make their minds dark and confused (Romans 1:19-21). These things only condemn them. According to Paul in 1:20, “they have no excuse for not knowing God.” In many cases, we trade the truth for a lie. “…they worshiped and served things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Romans 1:25) Anything we place above our Creator is an idol.

But God still uses *natural revelation to awaken people to the reality of the one true God. When coupled with the empowering work of grace, beauty, and intricacy of the world, it can encourage someone to search for the Creator, the one true God, who offers salvation through Jesus Christ. By reading of Scripture and meditating on His word, one can receive **special revelation to know and experience His salvation. Believe. Accept. Redeemed. Eternal joy.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4 )

*when God speaks to people indirectly through the world of nature, he has created

**when God speaks to people directly through his word

What Do You Believe?

What we believe matters. It determines what we think and how we act. If we believe Jesus is who the Bible says He is, it changes everything. But if the Bible is a lie and Jesus is not real, we are in big trouble.

If it is true and Jesus died for our sins, if we really believe it, and accept Him as our Savior…it truly does change everything. It gives us hope for the future. I do not know about you, but I rejoice in the fact that this life is temporary and that we can have hope for eternity – a better home to look forward to.

I know I cannot save myself or anyone else. This world is broken. But God…gave us a remedy to our sinful nature…his name is Jesus. He died on a cross so we could live.

What know that what we eat and choose to feed ourselves will determine our overall health. In the same way, what we feed our minds will determine our mental health. That is why it is so important to be in God’s word everyday. I have had to eat my own words so many times- they are hard to digest. What the world wants to feed us is like poison to our minds. But God’s word is like honey for our souls.

There is a filter found in Scripture that we can use to determine if it something we should think about. Philippians 4:8-9 gives us a list that we use as a guide. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (bold added for emphasis) According to the ESV study Bible, “the Philippians are to fill their minds with things that will inspire worship of God and service to others. Beyond having a proper spiritual outlook, the Philippians are to practice what they have seen Paul doing. As they make progress in this way, they will find that it is not simply the peace of God but the God of peace himself who will be with them.” As we see in other areas of Scripture, Paul’s life follows the example of Christ.

If we are thinking about such things that are not true, honorable, just, pure lovely, and commendable, let us choose to not think about them. Let us believe in the truth of God’s word and meditate on them instead of the lies and sinful things the enemy wants us to think about and believe. When we wake up each morning, knowing God is with us, and He is still in control and wants what is best for us, our hearts can be full of joy- no matter the circumstances around us. Believe the only One who is worthy of our praise. The One who created us and loves us and wants a relationship with us.

If we diminish what Jesus did for us on the cross or make Him smaller or less than in our lives- we also diminish our hope of salvation. I for one want to believe it is TRUE. May we see others the way God sees us, through the lens of love. Look in the mirror- it starts with that person…you and me. Do not believe in just anything….believe in the saving grace of Jesus!

When we change our thoughts and what we believe – it changes how we act and our character. To change the world, we need to change the way we think and what we believe. Share the Good News. Jesus is real. God is in control. The Holy Spirit lives in us. Do not let anyone rob you of that truth. Start today. Begin again. Believe in someone higher than yourself. Believe in the truth of God’s word; speak truth with grace and love; let our actions show it by loving God and loving others. That is not just a catchy phrase or bumper sticker…it is a command. The most important command.

Do you believe Jesus died for you? Are you living like you believe it is true?

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Roman 8:1

Mind of Christ

Sometimes we do not recognize the bad things in our lives until we have something better to compare it to. I alternate running in two pairs of shoes. The other day when running, I noticed my right leg was a little more fatigued than usual. I stopped to stretch it out and continued my run. This week as I was running in the other pair, I noticed how great both legs felt. I realized, after running in the better pair, that the issue was the other shoes. If I had not had a better pair to compare it to, I might still be running in ones that caused the stress and never know it was the shoe causing it.

The best person we can compare everything in our lives to is Jesus. If we try our best to model after the example He set while on this earth in human form, we can know we are living our best lives. It is not always an easy task, but that is why staying in prayerful communication and thankfulness to God is so important. Last week was an emotional week, in a good way. My classes started again, and I am reading a book for class by Gutierrez, 2015, entitled, “Thinking Like Jesus: Understanding the Mind of Christ,” that focuses on Philippians 2:2-4. It has really touched me and given me yet another new perspective on being more like Jesus.

It encourages us to share with our friends and family- so here goes.

In a very relatable, practical application, that simplifies how to live out the mind of Christ within these passages. We sometimes may think that we are not capable or apt enough to apply and explain it, but this book has turned these verses into a simple checklist that we can measure in our own lives to see if we are living out the mind of Christ and if not, how to do just that.

Living out the mind of Christ is a three-fold mind-set: unity, humility, and selflessness. The word ‘mind’ in these passages means attitude or thinking. Which implies ‘action’ is needed. We must change our thinking to have the Mind of Christ. Circumstances never change a heart. They can only provide the environment in which a change of heart takes place.

The checklist:

Unity:

  • Affection
    • Love one another (reflecting the mind and example of Christ)
  • Spirit
    • In one accord (A deep commitment of love and know others)
  • Purpose
    • Keeping our focus on the reason why we are serving (Christ-centered, God-filled work)

Humility:

  • Not promoting self or stealing the Glory of God; The enemy of humility is pride- it is wise to acknowledge the daily safeguards that we must implement to protect us from our flesh.
  • It is not our words that reflect the attitude of humility rather the heart behind the words

Selflessness:

  • Not just one action but a continual/intentional action of support to others through spiritual and physical needs.

I realize I cannot put every great point in this one little blog post, but I hope you are able to take something away that helps you live out the Mind of Christ in your life. I encourage you to take time to meditate on these verses and ask God to reveal any areas in your life that could use some change of attitude towards others and help you think more like Jesus. We can begin by asking for forgiveness of our sins, so we can have a heart that acknowledges our need for Jesus, so we can experience true, God-honoring praise.

“Fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, [being] of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind we in you which was also in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:2-5

Is Negative Thinking a Choice?

I am an optimist; in case you did not know. I believe the best in people, until I am proven wrong. Even when people have bad intentions, I have seen God change their heart or bring good out of the situation.

I have experienced firsthand God’s mighty power and transforming my lemons into lemonade, time and time again. So, I can have faith that He will do it again, in any circumstance. It brings me peace to be positive. Does that make me naïve? For a very large portion of my life, I would agree. I was very naïve. But, God…you know the rest. Today is a very different story. I came through the fire and I am still positive. I know there are people I cannot trust as far as I can throw them- which is not very far; but I do not dwell on that.

When I see others who lean on the side of negative thinking and pessimistic views, I wonder- is that a choice? Is it in their DNA? Have they genuinely tried (with God’s help) to choose another path? The path of peace. Can they envision the concept of making lemonade? What if they were able to intentionally push out negative thoughts every day and choose to think positive? Would that be a life changer? I am truly curious and ask out of sincerity.

For any pessimists out there- please do not take this personal and respond too quickly without taking time for thoughtful reflection. I do know that I have times of doubt and fear- I do not linger there. I ask God to help me push it out so I can return to a place of peace. I guess I choose to think positive in that way. So as a natural optimist- is it easier for me? Probably. But does that mean it is not possible for a pessimist to do the same thing? It may be more difficult – but I think it is possible. What do you think?

Big ‘G’ or Little ‘g’

I thought I would expand on the Scripture I used in last week’s blog to dive a little deeper into Joshua’s challenge in 24:15 to ‘choose this day whom you will serve’. By this time in Joshua’s journey, he was in the last stages of his life, and he had seen many people be disobedient and the consequences that came from it.

As an assistant to Moses, he saw firsthand the idols and gods the previous generation worshiped in disobedience to God’s commands. He also had the opportunity, as a faithful servant, to succeed Moses to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

We can relate the gods and idols of that generation to ours today. Anything we place ahead of GOD is an idol and a god (little ‘g’). I would venture to say we have many gods, although not in the form of a golden calf, but still just as detrimental to our lives if we place them before God and allow them to become the ultimate thing in our life instead of putting Jesus at the forefront.

Joshua was challenging the generation whose fathers had been disobedient. He was setting an example and asking them to choose if they were going to fall back into the patterns of the generation before them or serve the one true God. They continued to choose to serve God as they had seen what He did for them as they overcame many obstacles, saw miracles when God parted the water for them to pass, when the walls of Jericho fell after circling it for seven days, as God instructed, and the land given to them that God had promised, not to mention the many battles that were conquered with God’s help due to their obedience and putting God in His rightful place in their lives.

We may not have the same circumstances, obstacles, and challenges that generation had, but there is still a lesson to be learned. Just as we see the promises fulfilled in the OT in Moses and Joshua’s day, we can trust God to fulfill His promises through eternity by way of Jesus. Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew- symbolically, by faith and obedience to God, Joshua led Israel into physical salvation in Canaan, and Jesus leads all who believe him into eternal salvation.

The importance of Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel is still relevant to us yet today- “choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)  

But God…

Today, many of us are reflecting on the past year as we all want a fresh start, a do-over, and an end to the virus, hate, and injustices seen the last few months. In my reflection this morning, I was reminded of all the great things God has done this year. Even during a pandemic, God showed up in a big way to bring good to many. We can rest assured He is with us and still in control.

At this time last year, I had no idea I would be in school, working from home, and getting ready to welcome a new daughter (in law) to our little family. I sit in gratefulness and awe of an amazing God and Father who loves us and wants good for us. I am reminded of Ephesians 2:4-10 when Paul makes what the ESV study Bible calls, “the greatest short phrase in history of human speech”. “But God!” (emphasis added) Just before this, Paul paints a bleak picture of our sinful nature. We are hopeless and helpless on our own, following the devil and his sinful nature that we, as descendants of Adam, inherited at birth. Just when things are the darkest and all hope is lost…God steps in with mercy, kindness, and love; for those who are joined to Jesus Christ are saved from the terrible consequences of their sin and enjoy the benefits of Christ’s resurrection.

Have you ever loved something or someone so much that you set it free? You did not want to keep it, control, or manipulate it into staying with you just because you wanted it to so much. That is the picture of true love. You want to offer a choice to be with you because of love for you. God does that for us. He gave us the free will to choose Him. He sent His Son to die on our behalf so we could have eternal life, but He also asks us to choose whom we will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Do you want to choose this broken world and our sinful nature or the Father who loves us and wants the best for us for eternity?

I look forward to a new year, to see what God will do, what surprises He has in store, as I rest in the knowledge of His love, truth, mercy, and goodness. I invite you to join me in celebration of that truth, not fearing what is next because God is with us. Let us stand on a firm foundation, rooted deep in faith, serving and loving others as He loves us. I choose God. I choose joy. I encourage you to read and reflect on Ephesians 2:4-10 and just what that means for us.

I pray for restoration of relationships, and that God will close the gaps on the many divisions occurring among Christians and family members, the enemy is trying to destroy. But most of all, I pray that you will welcome the intimate relationship God is offering you today.

Happy New Year to all!  May the God of peace be with you in the coming year and beyond.

Recipe

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. ~Proverbs 2:10

We should not add Jesus to whatever we are doing like an ingredient in a recipe to justify our actions. We need to be willing to search the scriptures for His truth and change our ways to be like Him.

We can ask God for wisdom and understanding. Jesus should come first and direct the rest of our actions. If this means our actions change, at first it is uncomfortable, and we resist. But if we trust Him fully and let Him lead us, the result is even better than we can imagine.

Our plan of action leads to sin and dissatisfaction.  Jesus’ plan & God’s will in our hearts leads us by the Holy Spirit and ultimately His plan for us. Let Him lead the way to the kingdom= JOY!

On the flip side of that coin, just as we should not add Jesus to justify, we also should not leave Him out. Everything in the Old and New Testament points to Christ. This is God’s story of redemption to bring His people to Himself. Scriptures are written for our instruction and the lessons are timeless. (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11-12) Cultures come and go but God remains the same throughout the ages and His word still stands today. Christ died to give us eternal life. It is not a secret society; it is an open invitation with eternal significance and our choice has eternal consequences. Thank you, Jesus! Merry Christmas!

For the time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The Hot Seat

Siting in a meeting, several months ago, I noticed one of my co-workers squirm a bit. Then he reached into his back pockets and pulled out two hand warmers he had placed there in anticipation of a cold meeting room. We had a little laugh and that was the last I thought of it, until one chilly morning run, a few weeks later, when I inserted hot hands into my gloves. As my body heated up my hands felt quite toasty, and that is when it hit me; the vision of him literally being in the hot seat.

When we are in the hot seat for something we’ve done- we begin to squirm. We try to explain ourselves or blame others. It wasn’t our fault or maybe we try to justify our behavior, like a child who gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar or with icing all over their face and still protest it wasn’t them. We’ve all been there at some point to some degree.

But what would it look like if we came clean now? If we faced those things from our past that haunt us and keep us awake at night; and instead of squirming and justifying- we owned it. What if we took it to God and talked to Him about it, asked for His forgiveness, for the part we played and laid it all out, instead of hiding from it? It is at that point God’s grace kicks in and we can have full realization of His redemption. Isn’t it better to receive that now so we can have peace than to wait until we are truly in the hot seat later? If we have taken it all to God already and allowed Him to redeem it and restore us through the blood of Christ- then we won’t have to dread facing Him later.

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. I John 1:9

So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

Marathon

Here is an interesting fact I learned recently in my Western Culture class; do you know where the name ‘marathon’ originated? During the Persian invasion of Greece, a man named Phidippides (fi-DIP-i-deez), was the messenger who ran the 22 plus miles from a town called Marathon to Athens, to tell of the Greek victory over the Persians. (Rawls, 2018)

Since becoming a runner about nine years ago, it has never been my goal to run a marathon. The longest race I have completed was a 10K (6.2 mi.) and the longest run on my own has been 7 miles.  These days I do about 2-3 miles each day.

My main goal is to run for my health not to harm it. For me, that is what I would be doing if I trained for a marathon. Finding out I have the first stages of osteoporosis and that running is good for my bones only added to the many beneficial reasons for continuing this sport. I enjoy running and spending that time with God. I do not want to turn it into something I dread. I have learned to listen to my body and give it a day of rest when it needs it; that helps my muscles recover and I feel the difference the next time I run. Besides, this is where a lot of these messages come from…my time with God in nature. I have the time to process, pray and receive. God teaches me a lot, but I realize it is not just for me, so I share it with others in hopes it blesses them as well.

However, when I think about the things God is preparing us for it reminds me that the opposite is true. It is in God’s timing. Most of the time He must remind us it is a marathon, not a sprint. We can celebrate the milestones along the way, remember to take breaks, rest, and enjoy the beauty of the journey. We may not know the end goal of our trainings, but God does. We can slow our pace and take one day at a time.

Our experiences and lessons along the way can be used to help others. Sometimes, we think we know where we are headed only to be shifted in a completely new direction and focus. If we are staying our course, with God as the leader, we can rest assured we will get wherever we are going at just the right time. We should not settle on anything less. It may take a little longer but that is the nature of the marathon. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)