What We Believe Matters

Have you ever been so hungry that you would eat almost anything that was placed in front of you? Throw all diets and checking for nutrients out the window, you needed to appease the hunger pains and accept the consequences that come with it later. When we are desperate enough to accept anything – the first thing that is offered to us that sounds appetizing is almost immediately consumed.

When we are hungry for truth and begin to search for something to fill our needs, we must limit our diet to God’s word first, then as other dishes are presented, we have a filter to check the nutrients before we consume just anything that looks or sounds good to our famished flesh.

All false teachings sprinkle enough seasonings to make it appealing to our appetites and tantalizing to our taste buds. It is not until we begin to digest it that we realize how detrimental it is for our mind, body, and soul. Sadly, we may not see how bad it really is for us until much later. We can invite the Holy Spirit into our reading and decision making when looking for truth and allow Him to guide our choices and make sure we are testing the spirits to discern and filter out the toxins before we digest them.

What we believe matters because it drives our actions and dictates how we see and treat the world around us. Our whole value system is aligned with our beliefs and therefore are vital to our well-being. If we are grounded in the foundation of God’s word our mind, bodies, and soul will benefit. James 1:22-24 points out that it is not enough just to hear and believe, but we must be doers also. If we are called to be doers of what we believe then what we believe matters and should align with God’s Word.

“But I say to you, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 ESV

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I John 4:1

It’s Not About Me

I don’t run because it is easy. Some days it’s the farthest thing from it. I do it because it is worth it. The benefits far outweigh the difficulty, every time. Our obedience to God is the same way. The benefits are eternal; no matter how difficult it is for us, it’s worth it.

Believers in Christ are not immune to heartache, sickness, or loss. This is a broken world because of sin, and everyone is subject to it. But we do have a guarantee that our salvation is secure through Jesus for eternity and that gives us the hope to remain steadfast while we await his rescue from this world.

We do however have a job to do while we wait, and it is sometimes difficult to find the courage and the words. That is to share the gospel so others will hear the good news and, also accept Jesus Christ as their Savior so they can be with us in the Kingdom of God. Whether it be fear of rejection or the risk of being different, we can let it get the best of us and do not do what we are called to do; be bold and share the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). Jesus told his disciples not to worry about what to say, because the Holy Spirit would give them the words (Matthew 10:19-20). The same is true for us today. It is not our job to fix or change anyone. It is our job to love them where they are, just like Jesus does for us, and let our lives and actions point them to Christ, looking to God’s word for truth. If we are faithful to share what God puts on our hearts, and intentional about how we love and serve others, the Holy Spirit will give us the words when we need them. 

I am beginning to see that the ramifications of not sharing the gospel with others is far more detrimental to us and them than if we risked it and went for it, no matter what others think. It is God whom we need to fear, not man. In Matthew 10:33, Jesus goes on to say, “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Clearly, that is not something anybody wants when that day comes.

When things are out of my comfort zone, it is my nature to want to avoid them. But when God calls me smack into the middle of it, I know I need to say yes. When I realize it is not about me and go where God sends me, it changes me. There is great spiritual growth, and I gain a new perspective. Not only that but it puts me squarely where God wants me- in total dependence on Him and others will not see me, but they will see the image of God reflected in me, which is my goal in this life.

Lost Art

I find myself at a loss of understanding for why ‘they’ stopped teaching cursive writing in school. Not only do we have a generation that cannot write in cursive, but guess what? They cannot read it either. I realized this recently when my 12-year-old mentee received a lovely note from a lady at church, and when he opened it, he told me that he could not read cursive. I gasped out loud and after I picked my chin off the floor, asked why, thinking silently ‘oh my goodness he is that far behind and is going in the sixth grade this year’! His answer is what floored me and made me think about this issue. He said, when he was in second grade, they stopped teaching it. Wow. I wonder if ‘they’ thought of the consequences before making such a rash decision? Who decided for the world that this would stop anyway? How else are we going to recognize who has doctor  potential?! (Insert cheesy grin)

I remember not particularly liking my signature or the way I wrote certain letters for most of my youth, so I decided to work on the skill to improve it. I spent a lot of time practicing achieving a standard I considered acceptable. I still write a lot of handwritten notes personally and professionally and I know some others who do too. But this is another thing that is fading away as technology overshadows it. I still enjoy sending (and receiving) them. Am I the only person who sees this as a problem or at the very least a sad reality that our up-and-coming kids will not be able to write a nice, cursive letter to anyone much less read one they receive from our generation? I will be very careful as I step down from my soap box as to not stumble. But I thought this was worth sharing with you.

This reminded me of the letters in the Bible. 21 out of the 27 books in the New Testament are in the form of letters. Thirteen of them were written by Apostle Paul, (called the Pauline letters), for a specific purpose and were read aloud to the congregations he sent them to. Although he used an assistant whom he dictated some of his letters, he did however, write a portion of them in his own hand. The NT letters were generally divided into three parts: the address (which consisted of the identification of the person writing the letter and who it was to, an opening greeting, and prayer), the body (held different elements depending on the purpose), and the conclusion (final blessings and greetings to specific acquaintances).[1] Consider the time, effort, and thoughtfulness that went into each heartfelt, Spirit-lead, letter. Once it was finished it had to be hand delivered to its recipients. What an intriguing artistry to appreciate as we re-read each one and consider what was involved in its development. With mailboxes at our front doors, pen, and paper at our disposal, we surely take for granted and do not appreciate the magnificent design and gift we have at our fingertips.

[1]  Brand, Chad, et.al., eds., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, B & H Publishing. Nashville, TN, 2015.

Sea Glass

Have you ever thought about how long it takes to form sea glass? I bet it is a long time. Maybe several decades. The salt water adds to the beauty giving it a frosted appearance. A lot of people hunt it and use it for making jewelry and other unique pieces of art. But it did not start out this way. It was not instantly a finished work of art or even very pretty. It more than likely started out as a jagged piece of broken glass from a beverage bottle. You could say it was just a piece of garbage. It was rough around the edges and painful if you cut yourself on it.

Isn’t that how we start out? Our hearts are rough around the edges, and we cause others pain if they get too close. We could say we are sometimes discarded by others as trash and end up in a sea of troubled waters. Then God lifts us out of the murky waters, just as we are. He begins to shape us and smooth out our rough edges. But just like sea glass, it takes time. It is a work in progress; we are God’s masterpiece. He created us in His own image and although we are not perfect because of sin – He wants us to strive to be more like Jesus, not in our performance but in the way we love, treat, and serve others. Our lives are like shards of brokenness awaiting transformation that is only accessible through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“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)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16 ESV)

Angelic Presence

A while back I asked God what He wanted me to write about. His answer was the title of this message. I did not take to pen and paper or computer/keyboard right away. Frankly, I was not completely sure what to write about in that arena. I know a little about them from what I have read in the Bible, but to write about them felt a little intimidating at first. I know I cannot do it on my own by any means.

I began reading a book my friend gave me for my birthday entitled, “Angels” by Billy Graham. I received this gift a few months earlier and had not pick it up to read until then. I believe it was no coincidence that she gave it to me.

It also was not a coincidence that two days later I dreamed about mom and dad. Mostly dad as he stood over me watching me sleep. When I woke up (in the dream) to see him standing over my bed I knew he was there to protect me. I got up and he gave me the best hug! This was a special gift, even in a dream, as when I woke up it made me very happy and stayed with me all day like a warm smile from an old friend.

The next day, my sister called and began to tell me how angels had been on her mind that week. I told her my dream, but I still did not write about them just yet. I forgot about it for a couple of weeks and had not read any more of the book about angels either until one evening I picked it back up and this sentence stood out to me like a sore thumb, “we are not to pray to angels.”

The next morning, my scripture reading led me to Hebrews 1:14- “Angels are only servants, spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.”

He showed me that prayer is a form of worship, and we are only to worship God the creator of all things. Angels are not higher than Jesus and should not be worshipped.  

The next morning, my reading led me to Revelation. 19:10, where John is reprimanded for attempting to worship the angel who was delivering the message. “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, no, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God.” In the notes section of the NLT study bible, it gives this reflection: “God still has angelic messengers, but they are creatures who serve Him, not divine beings to be worshipped. Faithful servants of the past, including Mary, are human beings. They may be honored in our Christian memories, but they have no claim to divinity, and they should never be worshipped.”

I believe and have experienced that God can send messages through many forms, including angels, who are also here to protect all believers everywhere. The presence of angels can be comforting, but most of the time we do not even realize they are with us. They can come in different forms that are unseen or in physical body form, but we may not always know when they are here.  God can send angels to protect and save us from danger as He chooses.

The Holman Bible dictionary defines an angel as, “created beings whose primary function is to serve and worship God. Unlike God they are not eternal or omniscient.” Angels carry out God’s will as He directs them. (Ps. 148:2-5; Col. 1:16) They also preform tasks as mediators. (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Rev. 1:1; 10:1)

Some people think cardinals are a visit from a loved one or an angel. I am very fond of cardinals. One evening, during this time, a cardinal flew up to the living room window and tried to perch multiple times. I feel God sends me multiple messages until I finally write about it. Perhaps this was another reminder. Angels continued to show up in my reading as I read the book of Revelation. There are some very beautiful imageries in this book if you get a chance to read it again.

I will leave you with this: “And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is the light.” (Rev. 21:23)

The Light

I was sitting in my car at the traffic light this week waiting for it to turn green when my gaze drifted to the cars passing by in front of me. I attempted to read the sign on each truck that sped by and see each person driving them. It was chaotic and hard to keep up, until I diverted my eyes back to the light realizing I needed to be ready to move when it turned green so I would not get honked at if I hesitated even a second (it happens).

When my focus was on the right place, I did not feel overwhelmed by the distractions around me. The same is true, as we go through our day, when we have our eyes on everything going on around us, it can be confusing, busy, and distracting. But when we remember to look up and keep our gaze on God we can be ready to move when He gives the signal. I need to remind myself of this when the things around me seem chaotic or I get too busy; I need to remember to pause and turn my eyes back to the ultimate ‘light’, which is Jesus.

It makes it easier to drown out the noise around us so we can hear God’s voice and discern the direction he wants us to go when we are in His word daily, praying for discernment, and keeping in step with the Spirit.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2, ESV).

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

God-Honoring Life

Through the divine nature all around us, we have no excuse for not knowing God (Romans 1:20). There is a difference in knowing of God, his existence, and attributes, and honoring Him above all things. Most people miss the whole purpose of life when not honoring God. Romans 1:21-23 describes this kind of knowing and understanding God through creation, yet not doing what is right based on that knowledge.

I know in my personal experience, for most of my life, I knew God existed, I knew He was good and that He created all things, but I did not know how to put Him first in my life or that I could have a personal relationship with Him. It was not until I completely surrendered my life over to God and began to study His word and genuinely seek His truth that these things were revealed to me. I realized how much I had missed in not pursuing God in this way. Our relationships with God can look a little differently but will include the same principles once the Holy Spirit is activated inside our hearts. My journey has consisted of conversations, praying as well as listening, correction, love, grace, guidance and a lot of mercy and forgiveness. It is the ultimate Father, daughter relationship where I can take everything to Him, knowing He cares and wants the best for me. It is a daily routine of meditation, prayer, reading His word, and humbly seeking direction so I can become who He created me to be for such a time as this. Reading His word and letting it saturate our minds and hearts will help us guard against the lies and false teachings of the world.

Are you tired of fighting battles alone? What if your life never changed from what it is today? If you have not done this, I encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart and activate the ultimate Helper to fight the battles you are facing from the enemy, so you can live your best life. The Holy Spirit gives us strength to break the strongholds in our lives that we cannot do on our own. It is only through Jesus that we have access to the Father and the Holy Spirit in this way. Because of Jesus we have forgiveness and freedom.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV

Baby’s Breath

With the Father by His side, the Groom awaits His bride

He walked the earth to be by her side

He searched the fields for the perfect bouquet

Everlasting love in a fragrant sachet

Mere words fall short and express only in part

The beauty He sees within her heart

A magnificent love story waiting to be told

As their paths cross the journey unfolds

Grace and honor hold hands, their fingers intertwine

In the unity of truth, His glory divine

Made for this moment, their hands finally meet

Their purpose intact, the puzzle complete

A picture of hope for a new life

They come together as husband and wife

Respect, honor, and peace shine through in love

Their Father looks down from Heaven above

A past forgiven, new hope springs forth

A memory shared, their hearts rejoice

All creatures great and small circle around

To witness the union in reverent awe

Baby’s breath, so tiny and sweet

A reflection of purity, His purpose complete

For this moment He died upon the cross

With a loving heart, He bore the loss

To save His bride and live a life

As God intended with the bride of Christ

The kingdom of God awaits us all

An inheritance of joy when we heed the call

Have faith and trust in a mighty God

Who loves us fiercely and forgives our flaws

A servant’s heart He asks of us

We fall on our knees, lift our eyes in trust

Conversations with God

Do you sometimes wonder what to pray for specifically? I pray for a lot of things and a lot of people, but the other morning I was sitting in my quiet time and decided to ask God what He wanted me to pray for instead of my usual list.  God wants us to have conversations with Him and we can ask questions and then listen and pay attention for the answers.

During my journaling and Bible reading that followed, I did what I sometimes do when I am not sure where to read; I held up my Bible and asked God to open it at a place He wanted me to read. On this occasion, it opened near the back of my Bible past all the books of Scripture. At first, I was not sure what to read, but it did not take long to notice one of the headings that read, “God Gets the Glory; We Get the Joy” under the section called “Reading the Bible” in the back of my study Bible. As I began to read the first paragraph, there it was, in the first sentence: “The Bible shows that prayer is near the heart of why God created the world” (English Standard Version). I am still amazed when God does these things. This is one of the many reasons I am in awe of Him every single day. It went on to say that when we pray, God gets the glory, and we get the joy.

In summary, this led me to three specific prayers that we should pray for as we make our longing for God’s name to be hallowed in the world, as central to our prayers. #1: For God’s church (all over the world) to be filled with the fruit of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God (Col. 4:3-4). #2: For the Gospel to spread and awaken faith in Jesus, among all nations (Romans 10:1).  #3: That the many who do not believe would be saved (Romans 10:1).

The aim of God’s word and the aim of prayer are the same: For the Glory of God and salvation of the nations through Jesus Christ. As an example, Jesus told his disciples how to pray as we see in Matthew 6:9-13. To hallow God’s name is to make it holy, greatly revered, and honored. We also see another prayer by Paul for spiritual strength in Ephesians 3:14-21. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.

The prayer for awakened faith reminds me of a song we sing at church that has stuck with me this week and was prominent on my mind at every waking moment during the night. It is called, God of Revival by Bethel Music. This is also a beautiful prayer for our city and people. I know in my own journey after becoming a Christ follower, it felt like I had just woken up from a self-induced stupor and that I had slept walked for most of my life. I hope you will join me in praying for a great awakening and revival and if you get a chance listen to this song.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Beware of Traps

One particularly chilly morning after a rainy day, I stepped out on the pavement before taking off to run to check for ice. It seemed wet but not icy, so I ventured out. I saw a bridge covered in water ahead but forged on to cross it in an area of low water thinking I could squeeze by without getting my feet wet. As soon as I hit the bridge my foot slipped, and I immediately come to a screeching halt. I tiptoed over to the sidewalk and got past the danger zone before I continued.

This is so like the enemy. Just when we think it is all smooth roads ahead and we are happy, the enemy will try to trip us up. He lays in wait to attack us at any moment with traps of all kinds that appear to be good but are not at all. He makes bad things look good and tries to convince us to do that thing you have been thinking about. Truth is he is the one who put the temptation on your mind and makes it look good to us.

The best way to defeat the enemy and stay continually cautious of his tactics are to study the Word of God. The more we know God’s truth the easier it will be to recognize the enemies’ lies. Matthew 16:10 says, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’. Have you ever wondered what that means? I was directed to this in my Bible reading while working on this message; so, I looked up the definitions. A Pharisee is a self-righteous person, a hypocrite. A Sadducee is someone who denied the afterlife and lived only by the law. In other words, these are false teachings from people who try to trip you up. Yeast is a symbol of sin and evil- deceptive teaching falls into that category.

My dad used to tell a story from the pulpit about a young banker who wanted to make sure he did not accept any counterfeit bills, so he began to study them. An older banker asked what he was doing and when he told him he was studying the fake money so he would recognize it, the older wiser banker told him that was unnecessary, if he studied the real thing, he would easily recognize the fake. (the day after I wrote this message, I read almost the exact story in my “100 Ways to Brave” devo by Annie F. Downs-A powerful little book by the way!) What a great message. Study God’s truth for yourself and you will recognize the counterfeit (or false teaching) others try to pass on to you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil., He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. Ephesians 6:14

Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees- religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. Luke 20:27 (verse that led me to Matt. 16:10)