Why did Jesus die?

Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll two weeks ago. The tallies are in . . . Drum roll . . . The winner? It’s a tie. Looks like all four categories will share the platform:

  • Bible Study . . . . 25%
  • Original pictures . . . . 25%
  • “Surprise me” . . . . 25%
  • Other: Evangelism . . . . 25%

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I thought on this Good Friday, Jesus’ own words about His death, burial, and resurrection pave the perfect way for studying evangelism, which will be my topic for the next few weeks.

 Jesus Explains Why He Must Die: John 12:23-33 (NIV)

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me . . . . Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! . . . . (vs. 32-33) But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Living in an area surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of wheat, I appreciate and relate to Jesus’ word picture.

Living in an area surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of wheat, I appreciate and relate to Jesus’ word picture.

Unless a kernel of wheat is buried, it will not take root and become a blade of wheat producing many more seeds. Seeds generally store energy. When the seed is planted, the bit of energy within is sacrificed in order to establish the new plant.

Similarly, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice was dying in our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death at Easter. Because He is the sinless Son of God who paid our sins’ death penalty, He alone offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe in Him.

In response to His sacrifice, Jesus calls us to follow Him by crucifying our sin and self-centeredness. God is raising a crop of righteousness. Jesus sets the perfect example of service in John 13 as He washes His disciples’ feet—a job that was reserved for the lowliest slave. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, the hard work of transferring control of our lives to Christ by serving God is worth all effort and discomfort. When we embrace Christ and His ways we receive eternal life, genuine peace, lasting joy, and showcase Christ to others.

Is there anything in your life that needs to die in order to experience the fruit of God’s joy and peace?

Benefits of Suffering

kdmanes:

             Shannon Moreno’s post, Benefits of Suffering, really ties into the theme of Faith Writers’ book, Trials and Triumphs. Shannon has also written a great inspirational book called: Finding the Light (Prayerful Poetry). You can find it here: http://revelationsinwriting.wordpress.com

But before you read Shannon’s post, a little business is in order: CONGRATULATIONS . . . .
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You’re the WINNER of:

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Speaking of trials, I’d appreciate your prayers for our neighbors’ family and community. Our neighbor (a special dad, grandpa, farmer) was recently killed in an ATV accident. Our small community mourns his loss, and has seen more than our share of tragedies in recent years . . . . Thank you.

 

Originally posted on Revelations In Writing:

Trials and troubles touch the lives of everyone, eventually. Often, when the struggles squeeze, people begin to wonder why. Though I know not all the answers, I appreciate the footnotes found for 2 Corinthians 4:17  that speak of the following benefits of our suffering : (1) They remind us of Christ’s suffering for us; (2) they keep us from pride; (3) they cause us to look beyond this brief life; (4) they prove our faith to others; and (5) they give God the opportunity to demonstrate His power.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Not only should we recognize the opportunities presented in our suffering, but also…

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Trials and Triumphs book give-away

Yes, I promised last week I would give away Faith Writers Trials and Triumphs to a lucky winner.Trials_&_Triumphs_Final_Cover For those of you who would like more information on this book, click on Amazon’s link: Trials and Triumphs. I am privileged to have my testimony included in this anthology along with 39 other writers. Although we are a diverse group, we share a unifying saving grace in the person of Jesus Christ.

But first, will you please fill out my poll? Don’t forget to click “vote”. I greatly appreciate your feedback! (Don’t worry, your name won’t appear when you vote, only percentages.)

Blessings,

K.D.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Primary Spiritual Gifts

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”          Romans 12:6-8 (NIV)

Every believer has one primary motivational gift

According to the above passage, the seven motivational gifts are:

  1. Prophecy
  2. Service
  3. Teaching
  4. Encouragement
  5. Giving
  6. Leadership
  7. Mercy

Not only does the Bible command the church to lovingly exercise all seven of these motivational gifts, but every believer also needs these seven areas in order to grow as God desires.

Do you know your primary motivational gift? It’s our job to discover what that gift is. Spiritual gift inventories may be helpful, but I’ve found the best way is to jump in and try an area of service that seems fitting, (see God’s Masterpiece & Sublime Design).

Taking a class at church and/or talking to someone who knows you well will also help you discover your primary gift. I really like how our church encourages and gives people permission to volunteer for 90 days in an area of service. By the end of three months, the individual has a pretty good idea if he/she has that particular gift. If it’s not a good fit, we’re encouraged to try another area of ministry.

We are most effective for Christ when we lovingly use the gift(s) He has given us, (see 1 Corinthians 13). But this shouldn’t be an excuse for not occasionally taking out the trash, or lending a helping hand for someone whose primary gift isn’t service.

I love that God shapes us uniquely. Our gifts will look differently in the way they are expressed through a variety of ministry. When we exercise our gifts through ministry, the Holy Spirit is the One who determines what impact another believer will receive (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

How do you know what your primary gift is?

The following indicators result when you exercise your primary gift:

  • Joy
  • Fruitfulness

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 Next week I invite you to take a poll on whether you want to explore more on the specifics of spiritual gifts. Also, I’ll give you the opportunity to win a FREE COPY of Faith Writer’s Trials and Triumphs. So spread the word and come back next Friday! Have a great week!  – K.D.

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God’s Plan for Spiritual Gifts

You are a paintbrush. God uses the paintbrush in your hand (your gifts) to help change and transform others in the body of Christ. And God uses others in your life to make you like Christ.”  – Chip Ingram

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God’s ultimate makeover is to produce the life of Christ

I found Chip Ingram’s analogy of spiritual gifts and paintbrushes interesting (Your Divine Design). This is my paraphrase:

  • Some believers’ gifts are like a paint roller: although they may not be as personal, they are more effective in a large group setting with their broad paint strokes
  • Some believers’ spiritual gifts are more like a refined artist, patiently painting detailed color and techniques on an individual’s canvas/heart.

You get the picture . . . . There are different paintbrushes for specific jobs; God uses different spiritual gifts for His specific purposes.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV) says: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Where does God do His extreme makeover?
  • In His people—the church (Ephesians 2:18-22)
  • In the believer’s heart (Ephesians 3:14-19)
How does God do His extreme makeover?

Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and Satan is witnessed through spiritual gifts in His church (Ephesians 4:7-13).

10 Principles for Understanding Spiritual Gifts

(Source: Chip Ingram)

  1. Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts.
  2. Many believers have received more than one spiritual gift.
  3. Spiritual gifts are given the moment of regeneration, but they may lie undiscovered and dormant for a long period of time.
  4. Spiritual gifts can be abused and neglected, but if they are received at regeneration, it would appear that they cannot be lost.
  5. Spiritual gifts are not the same as the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  6. Spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit.
  7. Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents.
  8. Some spiritual gifts are more useful in local churches than others because they result in greater edification of the body.
  9. Charismata literally means “grace gifts”. These gifts are sovereignly and undeservedly given by the Holy Spirit.
  10. Gifts are God’s spiritual equipment for effective service and edification of the body [church].

Do any of these 10 principles surprise you? If so, which ones? Why?

Related posts:

God’s Plans—Where? How?

Last week we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10 to find the who, what, and why of God’s plan/purpose in giving believers spiritual gifts: Who and what we used to be without Christ, who and what we are in Christ, and why does God do an extreme makeover in us?

This second post will focus on where and how God does His extreme makeover as a background to spiritual gifts.

Where does God do His extreme makeover?

  • God does His extreme makeover in His people—the church

Ephesians 2:18-22 (NIV): For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

  • God does His extreme makeover in the heart

Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  PENTAX ImageHow does God do extreme makeovers?

  • Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and Satan is witnessed through spiritual gifts in His church

Ephesians 4:7-13: But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men. (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

According to Ephesians 2:18-22, what is the church?

Have you ever been helped by someone using their spiritual gift?

*Next week: Principles for understanding spiritual gifts.

God’s Plans—Who Me? What? Why?

Good news! Faithwriters Trials and Triumphs is now available for purchase on Amazon. You can view and purchase the book here:
http://www.amazon.com/Trials-Triumphs-Circumstances-Life-Changing-Testimonies/dp/099148840/ref=la_B00E3DHXTG_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393806056&sr=1-3

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

Rain Princess by By Leonid Afremov (Etsy.com)

Rain Princess by By Leonid Afremov (Etsy.com)

God—master artist, architect, builder, designer—knows exactly where and how to apply His creative techniques on us, His canvas. I like Chip Ingram’s analogy (Your Divine Design, Living on the Edge): “Believers [in Christ] are in process . . . process of an extreme makeover.”

In order to understand God’s plan/purpose in giving believers spiritual gifts, we need to first understand the context.

Who? What?

Ephesians 2:1-3 explains who we used to be:

  • As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts [prisoners of the world system].  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

 Ephesians 2:4-6 explains who we are now in Christ:

  • But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Why an extreme makeover?

Ephesians 2:7-10 explains God’s purpose:

  • . . . in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (vs. 10)

Is your life different now because of Jesus? How?

What work is God doing in you?

More to come: “Where and how does God do extreme makeovers?”

Plans – What does the Bible say?

He [God] does have surprising, secret purposes. I open a Bible, and His plans, startling, lie there barefaced. It’s hard to believe it, when I read it, and I have to come back to it many times, feel long across those words, make sure they are real. His love letter forever silences any doubts: His secret purpose framed from the very beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7 NEB).”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

f96657d9087eeb784d83297772cb6a9aHow are your New Year’s resolutions going? My exercise/diet resolve has wavered a few times since January 1. But I’m getting back on that horse! Past times I’ve reasoned: If I ditch my plan then I can’t fail! (Yes, this is an area God is patiently working with me on.)

Plans . . . . Are you a planner? God is. Just as He has purposed to save and sanctify us, He also has specific plans in which He wants to use us—individually and corporately—in His kingdom service. His plans require us to die to ourselves, but when we follow Him, we experience the highest calling, greatest joy, and purposeful living possible.

I’m planning a plan series for my next few posts. Yes I know, it sounds nerdy, but God’s Word is worth exploring this topic amongst others. The following is my rough outline:

  • God’s plan involving spiritual gifts
  • Aligning our plans with God’s purposes
  • Monitoring and adjusting our plans
  • What about when our plans fail?

Have you made any plans lately? How are your plans going? Do you have a specific area you’d like to explore on this broad topic? I’m willing to dive in if you are!

Have a wonderful week!

God’s Works

www.pinterest.comGod didn’t put a small amount of thought and effort into creating the universe and creating us.

Brian Clegg from The Observer wrote (Saturday 26, January 2013): “Many of the most exciting discoveries in all fields of science are being played out in the human body.”

Interesting discoveries about the body (Brien Clegg)

  • An adult is made up of around 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.
  • Just like a chicken, your life started off with an egg. Not a chunky thing in a shell, but an egg nonetheless. However, there is a significant difference between a human egg and a chicken egg that has a surprising effect on your age. Human eggs are tiny. They are, after all, just a single cell and are typically around 0.2mm across – about the size of a printed full stop. Your egg was formed in your mother – but the surprising thing is that it was formed when she was an embryo. The formation of your egg, and the half of your DNA that came from your mother, could be considered as the very first moment of your existence. And it happened before your mother was born. Say your mother was 30 when she had you, then on your 18th birthday you were arguably over 48 years old.
  • We are used to thinking of genes as being the controlling factor that determines what each of us is like physically, but genes are only a tiny part of our DNA. The other 97% was thought to be junk until recently, but we now realise that epigenetics – the processes that go on outside the genes – also have a major influence on our development. Some parts act to control “switches” that turn genes on and off, or program the production of other key compounds. For a long time it was a puzzle how around 20,000 genes (far fewer than some breeds of rice) were enough to specify exactly what we were like. The realization now is that the other 97% of our DNA is equally important.

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Next time you feel unimportant, remember the One who fashioned you: “You created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”    Psalm 139:13-16

Do you have as much respect for yourself as your Maker does for you? God has a special purpose and plan for your life.

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Power of Love

The power of love is a curious thing. Make one man weep, make another man sing.”

I remember well this catchy tune by Huey Lewis and the News in the eighties. No matter the genre—music or literature—love is the most celebrated, analyzed, and agonized topic. 218187_364190660328477_349698182_nEveryone desires to love and be loved. And there is no shortage of advice about how to love and/or how to be loved. But what does the Bible say about love?

*The following article is used with permission. ©2014 United Church of God, an International Association. Published as a free educational service in the public interest. http://www.ucg.org/booklet/marriage-and-family-missing-dimension/divorce-proof-your-marriage/different-kinds-love-menti/

The Different Kinds of Love Mentioned in the Bible

The Greek language in which the New Testament was written uses several words translated “love.” The first two listed below are found in the New Testament. Understanding their meanings helps us better comprehend God’s expectations of us.

Agapao (verb) is a special word representing the divine love of God toward His Son, human beings in general and believers. It is also used to depict the outwardly focused love God expects believers to have for one another. Agapao (including its noun form, agape ) is “the characteristic word of Christianity, and since the Spirit of revelation has used it to express ideas previously unknown, inquiry into its use, whether in Greek literature or in the Septuagint, throws but little light upon its distinctive meaning in the New Testament . . .”

This special type of Christian love, “whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Love”).

Reflecting the fact that human marriage is modeled after the divine relationship between Christ and the Church, husbands are told to love their wives with this kind of outgoing, selfless love (Ephesians 5:25, 31-32).

This kind of love is perhaps best expressed in Jesus Christ’s statement in John 15:13, “Greater love [agape] has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus Himself perfectly exemplified this kind of love throughout His lifetime, continually giving of Himself and His time and energies to serve others and ultimately offering up His life as a sacrifice for all of humanity. This is the kind of love God wants each of us to exemplify in our lives and particularly in our marriages.

Phileo (verb) means “‘to have ardent affection and feeling’—a type of impulsive love” (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary , 1995, “Love”). This is the natural, human type of love and affection that we have for a friend and is often defined as “brotherly love.”

In John 21:15-16, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with the agapao type of love and Peter responded that he had the normal human phileo type of love for Him. Later, after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter would be able to genuinely demonstrate agapao -type godly love, serving others throughout his lifetime and making the ultimate sacrifice in martyrdom.

Eros (noun) refers to sexual, erotic love or desire.

True love, as explained in the Bible, isn’t focused on oneself and one’s feelings or emotions, but is instead outwardly focused on others —wanting to best serve and care for them. True love is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (NIV). 425239_457108351048200_531874565_n

Trials and Triumphs

Simplicity was a popular trend in 2013, ranging from simplifying gadgets to simple and clean architectural lines. We desire to simplify and understand the why’s in our complex world. For life is anything but simple.

Complexity

How can a person press on despite crippling illness, abusive relationships, the loss of a child, or even the confusion of homosexuality? Does God sometimes forget us, leaving us to maneuver through a muddled painful maze? Or is He near, guiding and supporting us in the middle of the mess?

Trials and Triumphs Trials_&_Triumphs_Final_Cover

I’ve been blessed to be a part of FaithWriters online community. I’m also honored to have my testimony included in their new book, Trials and Triumphs, along with 39 other people facing daily challenges.

In the “Coming to Faith” section, there are stories about discovering the need for a personal Savior. In the “Faith Under Fire” section, you will discover how God helped many people—including me—through various problems.

Trials and Triumphs will be released soon in book format. I will let you know when it’s available for purchase. For information about contributors, author links can be found here: Trials and Triumphs.

Come and journey with us through our challenges, victories, and intimate God-realizing moments. There is hope for the confused, abused, downtrodden, and for those who are suffering.

I hope you have a great week!

K.D.

Growing in Faith

We find God to be the One on whom we can depend to bring us to our destined goal, and One who already in Christ gives us rest for our souls.”

God doesn’t call us to a neurotic dependency on Christ, but rather a simple childlike trust. Rather than automated fulfillment of rules and rituals, He desires that we develop a fulfilling relationship with Him, rooted and ignited in faith (Romans 1:17).

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  – Hebrews 11:1

These two qualities—sure and certain—have a secure beginning and ending point.

Beginning Point of Faith

Receiving Christ as Lord is the seed that contains life with Christ. Our faith and salvation are not drummed up by self-determination. They are gifts from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary . . .
(Napa Valley Vineyard by Jim G., Flickr)

(Napa Valley Vineyard by Jim G., Flickr)

How does your faith grow?

Faith blossoms through the following:

  • Believe in Christ’s Perfect Character: Jesus doesn’t just save us the moment of our salvation, but continues saving us . . . freeing us from captivity to sin, ourselves, and Satan’s deception. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority,”  Colossians 2:6-9.
  • Meet Together: “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:25). We all struggle and falter at times. An infant doesn’t start out running . . . . Neither do we spiritually. When one falls down, let’s help each other up.
  • Abide in Christ: John 15:1-10 depicts a vineyard with Jesus as the true vine, God the Father as the gardener, and us as 7ced8b92bf7312392af52a495b28b9d8the branches. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (vs. 5). We remain in Christ by submitting to him through prayer and obedience. Our faithfulness to the will of God in this life will be examined in the next life (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12).
  • Hear God’s Word: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17).

End Point of Faith

Lastly, believing in God’s promises anchors our hope in Him, resulting in life and peace.

Which promises of God have helped you lately?

Peace Through Christ

Whether we’re shopping for insurance, cars, clothes, or a house, we want the best bang for the the buck . . . the complete package.

The Apostle Paul wrote the New Testament book of Colossians not only to combat errors in the church, but also to show believers that everything we need is found in Jesus Christ.

One of the strongest statements about Christ is found in the following reference:

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Jesus—the express image of the invisible God—is equal with the Father. He is pre-existent, omnipotent, and eternal. He not only desires a relationship with us, but also deserves to be our highest priority. Jesus Christ, the fullness of God, is the power source for living the Christian life. He is our leader and the head of the church.

Jesus is the most comprehensive, perfect, and complete package “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Unlike the most expensive car, clothing, or house, He offers us eternal life free of charge. Christ’s gift of salvation and forgiveness covers us now and throughout eternity. We don’t even have to meet a deductible to receive these benefits. This is by far the greatest, most gracious offer ever given.

Salvation by trusting in Christ’s work on the cross sounds too easy for many. But self-effort only leads to disappointment or pride, and then eventually eternal death. I love that Christ’s simple way can be understood by children. His provision is the only way that leads to abundant, eternal life.

Are you connected to Jesus Christ? Have you placed your trust in the One who lacks nothing? I believe this is the greatest decision a person will ever make . . . to accept and follow Jesus Christ, or reject His offer. Eternal life is at stake and the consequences are serious (John 3:15-18, 36).

If you haven’t seen Billy Graham’s second video in My Hope America series, I encourage you to watch the following 30 minute presentation. If you have questions about receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, or about Christianity, please ask in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer. :) Have a great week!

Training—Our Goal as Believers

“No pain, no gain!” This familiar motto echoes from many coaches’ lips. As the discipline of training is required to excel in athletics, so we must also discipline ourselves in the Christian life. Such training takes time, vision, dedication, effort, and persistence.

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Training for the Christian Life

The Bible lists three metaphors to describe believers spiritual training:

1. A race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

  • We are told to go into strict training in order to get the prize by focusing all of our energy toward winning the race. Our focal point—Jesus Christ. We can forget the past by confessing our sins to Jesus, our High Priest and advocate (Hebrews 4:14), and repent (turn away from sin, turn toward Christ). Like an athlete pressing toward the finish line, we too can persevere because we know our outcome at the finish line is worth any discomfort: spending eternity with God—sin free, pain free.

2. Exercise (1 Timothy 4:7-10)

  • Repeated exercise tones the body. Repeated spiritual exercise also tones our spiritual muscles, shaping our faith and character. The results? We will live according to God’s will and attract others to Christ. This benefits us now and for eternity.

3. A fight (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

  • That’s right, a fight! We’re called to be soldiers—fighting against real evil forces from without (Ephesians 6:10-18) and temptation from within (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As commitment is needed to succeed in athletics, the same holds true in the Christian arena. As an athlete must learn the rules to compete, believers also must learn God’s rules in His Word (2 Timothy 2:5).

Bible Reading Plans 3765fcc6f0a2d02b1b119d198bd27653

I’ve found Bible reading plans helpful to keep me on track. If you don’t currently have a plan, the following links provide a variety:        Ligonier Ministries
Bible Gateway

I hope you had a wonderful New Year! Let’s train to win this year!

Related Article: Training or Trying?

Greetings 2014!

New beginnings and fresh starts are like . . . . mint on the tongue—refreshing!

A recent study suggested the following 10 New Year resolutions as most common:

  1. Eat healthy and exercise regularlyChristmas lights
  2. Better work/life balance
  3. Learn something new & read more
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Drink less &/or quit
  6. Get organized
  7. Get out of debt & save money
  8. Spend more time with family and friends
  9. Help others
  10. Finish those around the house “to-do” lists

These are noble goals. I’m committing to several. But where is the mention of God?

When I’ve resolved to seek, honor, and follow Him, He has always helped me in the big and small challenges.

Proverbs 28:14 says: Blessed is the [one] who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.

To fear the Lord means to honor and revere Him.

Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6). He spent His life for us so we might live fully now and for eternity. “[Jesus] humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Vs. 8) Why? Through His sacrifice, He is bringing many people to glory—into His family—through His atoning sacrifice and forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 2:10-18).

We’ve celebrated Jesus’ birth as a baby during Christmas, but Revelation 19:11-16 portrays Jesus returning as the mighty King of Kings and Lord of Lords, “dressed in a robe dipped in blood,” bearing the name: Word of God.

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One day, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, (Philippians 2:10-11). Why not do it now, under His favor?

Prayer: Jesus, you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Help us resolve—and desire—to keep you first and center. May we continually seek you, “work[ing] out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) through daily Bible reading, prayer, and following your lead. You are more than worthy! In you alone, Lord, is an unending reservoir of life, strength, peace, and hope. Give us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so [we] may know you better” (Ephesians1:17). Amen.

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The Supreme Gift

Why am I in a cleaning out frenzy lately? My husband attributes it to female nesting. Hmm . . . possibly . . . . Or maybe:

  • Anticipation of a new year?
  • Seeing the contrast between my home and Better Homes and Gardens January issue: Simply Organized?
  • Cluttered drawers; forgotten, broken stuff; tripping over my daughter’s toys and boys’ clothes?

Yep . . . all of the above.

Clutter drives me nuts. I feel great after organizing a drawer, but maintenance . . . now that’s an ongoing project! Papers crumple, paint peels, toys break, carpet stains. Eventually, everything material crumbles and fades.

I’m really not trying to downplay giving gifts. I really do love Christmas. Baking, decorating, giving and receiving gifts, watching the kids’ excitement (which begins on Thanksgiving), attending their basketball games and concerts, spending time with family, sending and receiving Christmas cards . . . . It’s all good!

But I have to say, all of the above dims in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ. And I have to ask myself: Is there room in my heart for Christ’s reign, or is it cluttered with other stuff?

A Babe in a Manger

I love that God came down to earth in a poor and lowly place, in the form of a little baby. Jesus–Immanuel–God with us came to bring salvation to everyone, even the poorest and lowliest. As God’s Son, He came to save us from our sins and give us new life. The One who fashioned the universe (Psalm 104:1, 5) also clothed Himself in humanity so we can relate to Him.

Although Christ traveled ancient paths (John 1:1), He’s in the business of restoration and abundant life. Although “the mountains melt like wax before the LORD” (Psalm 97:5), He transforms and renews the surrendered heart (2 Corinthians 5:17). He never fails, breaks down, fades, or changes. His love is bigger than the universe He created.

His Name:

 Jesus Name Tree

(Created by K.D. Manes at tagxedo.com)

What’s on your Christmas list this year? Have you received the supreme gift of Jesus Christ–eternal life, adoption, forgiveness, restoration, healing, love, joy, peace, hope, purpose, friendship, abundant life? (For more on the supremacy of Christ, see Colossians 1:15-20.)

When Jesus was born, there was no room in the inn. Is there room in your heart for Him today?

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Share the Gospel in Asia

I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to transform lives, and that EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, should have the opportunity to hear.

In countries hostile to the Gospel, the government bans radio stations from broadcasting any type of Christian content. They also block websites that produce Christian content, or the Internet in general is just not as accessible.

Christ has called us as the Church, and me individually as a follower, to do something about it.

That’s why I’m fundraising for FEBC (Far East Broadcasting Company), a global missions organization focused on getting the Gospel to these people so that they can hear. They’ve developed a method called the Gospel Chip.

 It’s a MicroSD card that can go into most cell phones, computers, and MP3 players. The Gospel Chip contains audio messages of sermons & Scripture, all in the local language.

Using contacts with underground churches, FEBC can discreetly distribute the Gospel Chip to people without detection. 96% of people in these target countries own a cell phone. This means that almost every person in the country has the means to hear about the love of God through the Gospel Chip.

The amazing part is that it only costs $5 to develop and distribute a chip to someone who hasn’t heard the Gospel.

Stewardship is taken seriously at FEBC. Charity Navigator, EFCA, and BBC are among some of their accrediting agencies. You may view their past audit reports and annual 990 forms at: http://www.febc.org/about-us/financial-accountability.Will you help me raise $250 so that I can send 50 Gospel Chips for 50 people to hear the Gospel? You may safely contribute online at this link: http://donate.febc.org/fundraise?fcid=291542.

Thanks so much for your help!

K.D.

The Christmas Story

My family and I enjoyed visiting the Okanagan Valley and West Kootenay region of B.C. Thanksgiving week. Kootenay Lake, Slocan Lake, and Arrow Lake—nestled between giant mountain peaks—stretch on for miles. The pine blanketed forests and rugged wilderness reminds me of God’s great creativity and power. IMG_2205_1

Holiday Time

The holidays can bring both joy and stress. Amidst busy preparations and seasonal activities, I hope we’ll all find time to relax and delve a little deeper into God’s Christmas treasures.

Last Christmas I bought a short reading guide, The Christmas Story, published by Zondervan in 2010. It highlights Messiah prophecies to the miraculous birth of Jesus. This book also features questions and summaries to help individuals and families better understand corresponding Scripture passages. The following references may be adapted according to your schedule and/or family’s ages.

Christmas Scripture Reading Plan

Old Testament Prophecies and Background of Messiah’s Coming

  1. God’s Promise to David: 2 Samuel 7:1-17
  2. The Sign of Immanuel: Isaiah 7:10-8:10
  3. A Child Is Born: Isaiah 9:1-7
  4. God’s People Ask for Salvation: Psalm 80:1-19
  5. The Branch from Jessie: Isaiah 11:1-10
  6. God Will Come To Save: Isaiah 35:1-10
  7. A Promised Ruler from Bethlehem: Micah 5:1-5

Events Surrounding and Including Jesus’ Birth

  1. The Birth of John Foretold: Luke 1:5-25
  2. An Angel Announces Jesus’ Birth: Luke 1:26-56
  3. Joseph Has a Dream: Matthew 1:18-25
  4. The Birth of John the Baptist: Luke 1:57-80
  5. The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1-7
  6. The Shepherds and the Angels: Luke 2:8-20
  7. Mary and Joseph Present Jesus at the Temple: Luke 2:21-40
  8. The Visit of the Magi: Matthew 2:1-12

Jesus: The Son of God and Channel of God’s Loving Forgiveness

  1. Jesus, the Son of God, is Baptized: Matthew 3:13-17
  2. From the Beginning: John 1:1-18
  3. God’s Great Gift of Love: John 3:1-21
  4. Jesus Christ Is Supreme: Colossians 1:15-20
  5. “Let All God’s Angels Worship Him”: Hebrews 1:1-14

May God’s great love and redemption plan seep into our hearts this Christmas . . . . I love the following rendition of Drummer Boy.

Holy Spirit’s Filling—Part 3

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  – Jesus (John 7:37-38)

Jesus used the term living water in John 4:10 to symbolize eternal life. Living water in 7:38 (above) refers to the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Holy Spirit is accepted, Jesus brings eternal life. (Related post: Thirsty?)

This summary caps my final review of the Spirit’s filling, taken from the following key verse:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery [wickedness]. Instead be filled with the Spirit.”   – Ephesians 5:18

The Apostle Paul contrasts the effects of alcohol here—associated with selfish desires and the old way of life—as a temporary high to being controlled by The Holy Spirit, which results in lasting joy.

Although I’ve sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in church services and in my own life, I haven’t dwelt on the following question until recently.

How Does The Holy Spirit Fill Us?

God’s ways can’t be pinned down to formulas, but He doesn’t leave us clueless either. Tony Evans suggests that Paul’s following remarks in Ephesians 5:19-21 explain the process of the Spirit’s filling:

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord: always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

(Paul also urges us to hold our own private worship services, Romans 12:1.)

Practical Application

How does this practically relate to Christians?

  1. Communicate with one another: Christians should regularly reinforce—and be reinforced by others—to keep our focus on Christ and stay on track spiritually (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  2. Communicate with the Lord: Pray . . . . Pray . . . . Pray (John 16:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  3. Give thanks: for everything in Jesus’ name (Ephesians 5:20; I Thessalonians 5:17)
  4. Be subject to one another: This doesn’t mean the demeaning, subservient thing defined in many circles. But rather, reflecting the servant spirit Jesus beautifully demonstrated.

I don’t know about you, but in comparison to an inflated balloon when filled by the Holy Spirit, I admit—I rapidly deflate at times—spinning wildly before crashing to the ground (especially before my morning cup of coffee, or after too many cups!) 68b9b998e8bfb984213c7a440b36ceedMaybe that’s why we’re told to consistently meet together and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). I for one need this!

Results of The Holy Spirit’s Filling

In Christ—when controlled by the Holy Spirit—we have a higher and longer lasting remedy to depression, tension, or boredom. When filled, we benefit from the following results:

  • Christlikeness: (Romans 8:5; Galations 5:22, 23)
  • Help: in daily problems and in our praying (Romans 8:26, 27)
  • Empowerment: to freely serve God and carry out His will (2 Corinthians 3:17; Acts 1:8; Romans 12:6)

The Spirit’s filling brings peace and life (Galations 5:16-23). The quantity and frequency of submitting ourselves to the Spirit’s control directly relates to our spiritual growth. (Related post: Training or Trying)

God loves you! Come to Him right where you are . . . . I was blessed by Steve Rebus’ testimony. Here is a link to his page: http://steverebus.com/about/. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

The Holy Spirit’s Filling—Part 2

Is it possible to be a Christian, yet be unwise, unproductive, and asleep spiritually? c20d7b4da71b4a62ab8144883dd5c38dThe Apostle Paul thought so when he penned the following:

This is why it said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   Ephesians 5:14-17

What Is The Lord’s Will?

Paul continues: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery [wickedness]. Instead be filled with the Spirit.”  – vs. 18

A synonym for filling is control. Paul is contrasting the negative influence/control of alcohol to the positive influence/control of the Holy Spirit.

Four Observations About The Spirit’s Filling           

(Source: Tony Evans, The Promise)

  1. God’s CommandInterestingly, there is no biblical command to be baptized by the Spirit or indwelt by the Spirit. Those are automatic blessings when we come to Christ through faith. But we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This relates to our daily experience of His influence. Our sincerity alone is not enough.
  2. For Every BelieverEphesians 5:18 is plural in the Greek text. Although the Spirit’s filling isn’t automatic, every believer is commanded to submit to the Spirit’s control.
  3. God Does It – This command is passive: We are to “be filled,” not fill ourselves. We are the object of the action—filling of the Holy Spirit. If our soul is full of something other than the Holy Spirit, our life will be very unfulfilling. God has no provision for filling, satisfying, and giving us His power other than the filling of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Keep It UpThis plural, passive command is also in the present tense. In Greek, this means to be a continuous process. Another translation could be rendered: “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Why? Sin, people, and circumstances take our attention away from God. But unlike a car emptied of fuel, the depletion of the Spirit’s filling doesn’t mean He has left us (Hebrews 13:5). Rather, depletion of His filling means our loss of experience and enjoyment of His full benefits.

Can you think of a time when you were spiritually asleep, drifting through life? What woke you up?

I’m learning a lot from this study and hope you are too. Next week I will explore the process of being filled and share an inspiring testimony from a brother blogger. So stay tuned!

Be blessed. Be filled . . . Rather, be filled and you will be blessed! :)

If you haven’t watched Billy Graham’s recent message, I encourage you to view it. His consistent, faithful witness is admirable.

The Holy Spirit’s Filling—Part 1

“The Holy Spirit can be in you, and yet you can know very little of His power and influence. The issue we always have to deal with is not how much of the Holy Spirit we have, because we [Christians/believers] all have Him. The issue is how much He has of us . . . . The filling is crucial to experiencing the Spirit’s benefits . . . . The absence of this is spiritual defeat and, ultimately, disaster.”  – Tony Evans

The Bottom Line

It is impossible to live the Christian life on our own (John 15:5).

Christianity—A Supernatural Life

When we were saved, we did not lose our sinful desires. (If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know this is true.) I used to think: If I just try harder, then I will succeed in my Christian walk. 

XXX

Self-improvement programs don’t work long-term (Romans 7:18-21). The only solution for the “flesh” (sinful desires) is crucifixion with Christ (Galations 2:20). Because the Christian life is a supernatural life, we need supernatural help. This is why God gave us the Holy Spirit—“He who is in you” (1 John 4:4).

Tony Evans writes: “The Spirit’s filling is for every believer . . . . We have to appropriate or claim it because it is not automatic. Every Christian has been baptized into the body of Christ, and every believer is indwelt by the Spirit. But not every Christian is filled with the Spirit. If we were, a command to be filled would not be needed.”

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit . . . .” – Ephesians 5:18

The Holy Spirit’s Enablement

When filled with the Spirit, He enables us to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). He also empowers us to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8).

I love Ephesians 1:18-21: I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

How can a believer know he/she is filled with the Holy Spirit?

Next week—part 2—I will explore the meaning of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Have a great week!

The Holy Spirit—A Purposeful Person

I love the changes fall brings. Farmers’ Markets boast fresh produce. Traces of winter wheat peek their green blades through fertile fields. Bright pumpkins adorn porches. Sweet plum jam, pear cobbler, and wafts of cinnamon spiced cider linger in the kitchen. The extra hour of sleep is also nice. :)

K.D. Manes

(K.D. Manes)

But perhaps fall’s crowning splendor is the glowing foliage. It seems an oxymoron that these color-dyed leaves peak in beauty while simultaneously dying (fading away).

Likewise, when the believer dies by saying “no” to sin and instead follows God’s leading, the Holy Spirit’s beauty is released in that person’s life.

The Holy Spirit—A Unique Person

Like the wind, the Holy Spirit—the third Person of the Trinity—is invisible and intangible. Spirit in the Hebrew and Greek means “wind, breath.” He is the very wind, breath of God who exerts incredible power (Ephesians 3:16-20). But, unlike the wind, He is more than a powerful force just to be used. He is the invisible presence of the perfect loving God—whom we can know and relate to—residing in the believer. (Source: The Promise and Scripture)

The Holy Spirit’s Attributes

  • Intellect: He knows things with His mind (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
  • Emotions: He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30); we are not to sin against Him (Matthew 12:31; Acts 5:3)
  • Will: He acts with purpose (1 Corinthians 12:11)

The Holy Spirit’s Primary Goal

The Holy Spirit isn’t here to bring attention to Himself, or to ourselves, but to glorify Christ (John 14:16). He desires to glorify God through our words and actions.

The Holy Spirit’s Method  

One role of the Spirit is to progressively conform the believer into Christ’s character (sanctification) from the inside-out. He’s in the business of disciplining, refining, and removing sin’s impurities. He prepares us for service here and for living eternally with Him. How does He do this? Tony Evans writes: “God will deal with us in a way that cracks open the hard shell of our sin-scarred soul to release our spirits to live under the control of His Holy Spirit.”
Ouch! But it’s for our own good. And, we have access to . . .

The Holy Spirit’s Limitless Reservoir

Trials are exhausting, but we can be encouraged because He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But if we want the Spirit’s help maneuvering through life’s obstacle courses, we need to prioritize glorifying Christ since this is the Spirit’s main objective. The Spirit’s presence in the believer is ongoing. He is the source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:23). He is in the business of change—changing our sin hardened hearts into an oasis of abundant life and freedom in Christ. Verses 23b-24 state: “Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  – vs. 25

Is anything holding you back from experiencing the Holy Spirit’s release in your life?

Related articles

The Holy Spirit In the Believer

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17

Jesus spoke these words the night before his betrayal at the Last Supper. Jesus anticipated returning to His Father in Heaven, but He would not leave His followers helpless and alone. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit would be with them—giving them comfort, guidance, and strength. But instead of being with them physically as Jesus was, the Holy Spirit would reside in them (See also 1 Corinthians 3:16).

I think this is one of God’s greatest (and mysterious) miracles: giving us new life through the baptism of His Holy Spirit—spiritual birth (John 3:3-8).

When we understand that Christ died in our place for our sins, rose from the grave, and we place our complete trust in Him for salvation—the Holy Spirit comes and indwells the believer. The results of Jesus victory over sin, His sacrifice, and resurrection are huge!

Security in Salvation

Believers can be secure in their salvation. We are sealed by Christ through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus, who is stronger than the grips of death, is our Sealer. His seal is the Holy Spirit, “given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Believers are chosen [in Christ] before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6). Why? Paul says: to create a family of people who are passionate for God’s honor and glory (Ephesians 1:10-12). This is made possible through the Holy Spirit.

God’s children now have direct access to Him because Jesus has made us acceptable in His sight (unlike the Old Testament era when people could only approach God through priests, operating under the old sacrificial system, Hebrews 10:19-23).

Benefits of the Believer’s Security in Christ        (Romans 8)

The Holy Spirit plays an active role in the believer’s life by:

  • Removing chaos and confusion with life and peace
  • Protecting against Satan
  • Assuring no condemnation
  • Uniting us with Christ, (no separation from God)
  • Preserving and protecting what the Father brings into being

Have you been sealed with the Holy Spirit by placing your complete trust in Christ?

Is it possible to grieve the Holy Spirit? How?

How can believers cooperate with the Holy Spirit and glorify God?

The Holy Spirit–Third Person of the Trinity

The truth of the Spirit transcends, but does not contradict reason. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one and only one God.”  – Herbert Lockyer

My finite mind certainly can’t grasp everything about the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three distinct Persons, yet one in essence. But the following analogy helps me better understand the Godhead relationship.

WATER

Water (H2O) is a compound composed of three common states: solid, liquid, and gas. According to Wikipedia, water may take many different forms on Earth: water vapor and clouds in the sky, seawater in the oceans, icebergs in the polar oceans, glaciers and rivers in the mountains, and liquid in aquifers in the ground.

Each property of water plays a unique and vital role not only in our lives, but also in our ecosystem. Without water, life would cease to exist.

THE TRINITY

The Bible clearly states there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). The term Trinity signifies the “threefoldness” of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Spirit (Genesis 1:26; 11:7; Matthew 28:19). In reference to these three members, the Greek term homoousious means: “of the same essence or substance [God].” All three are coequal and coeternal.

Of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Lockyer writes, “Each has some characteristics which the other does not. Neither is God without the others, and each with the others is God . . . . The Father loves the Son—the Son honors the Father—the Spirit testifies of the Son.”

  • God the Father is the original Source of everything (Genesis 1:1).
  • God the Son follows in the order of revelation (John 5:24-27).
  • God the Spirit is the Channel through which the blessings of heaven reach us (Ephesians 2:18). (Source: All the Doctrines of the Bible)

How important is the Holy Spirit’s Work?

I like what Tony Evans says about the centrality of the Holy Spirit:

Without the Holy Spirit, humankind wouldn’t be here. There would be no creation or principle of life. There would be no Virgin birth, or victory over Satan in the wilderness (since the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted). There would be no Bible, no Christians, no one to restrain sin in our world, and no hope of Christ returning.”

Without the Holy Spirit, there would be nothing.

The following music video features the song “How Great Thou Art” sung by nine year-old Rhema Marvanne. Enjoy!

Coming next week: The Holy Spirit’s Uniqueness.

Five Reasons to Study the Holy Spirit

Although I have experienced the Holy Spirit’s goodness, power and witness in my life, I can’t fully grasp and explain everything about Him. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d want a fully explainable and predictable God. There’s adventure, curiosity, and beauty in His mystery, especially when realizing God’s character is steeped in truth and love.  a0a02b4f6a9ba17d5fcfcd6983b11064

I can imagine the character Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story saying of God’s Spirit: “He’s to infinity and BEYOND!”

After all, He is Co-Creator of the world and of people.

As a student who is dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I approach this subject carefully and in awe.

Why study the Holy Spirit?

Herbert Lockyer writes, “It is imperative to grasp the truth of the Spirit for many reasons,” [mainly]:

  1. Because it is a neglected doctrinef05477f27e516a79df01596db16d8e6a
  2. Because it is a misunderstood doctrine
  3. Because it is a perverted doctrine
  4. Because it is a Scriptural doctrine
  5. Because it is a practical doctrine

Realizing that God’s Spirit can never be contained, or placed in a neatly labeled box, my next few posts will be a simple summary of the Holy Spirit’s characteristics and ministry from a biblical view. For a more in depth study, I recommend Herbert Lockyer’s excerpt “The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit” from All the Doctrines of the Bible.

Tony Evans book, The Promise, is also enlightening. Tony writes:

To talk about a relationship with the Holy Spirit is at the same time to talk about a relationship with the Father and the Son. Yet, because the Spirit is a distinct Person in the Godhead with a distinct ministry, we also benefit from His unique ministry . . . . The vast resources of the Spirit are for every individual within the church.”

What is your understanding and relationship concerning the Holy Spirit?

Have a wonderful week!

Bible Study–The Holy Spirit’s Role

The Holy Spirit is not merely a nice addendum to the Christian faith. He is at the heart and core of it. He is not merely a force or an influence. He is the third Person of the Trinity, God Himself.”  – Tony Evans, The Promise

One of the Holy Spirit’s role is to illuminate Scripture—guiding believers to understand the meaning of the words that the Spirit Himself already inspired           (2 Peter 1:20-2:1). This ministry of enlightenment is the process by which the Spirit enables believers to grasp and apply God’s truth in daily life.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV) states: . . . . These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Abide in Christ

When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit translates God’s very thoughts to us!         (1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 John 2:20-27) He acts as a transmitter to and through our human spirit (Proverbs 20:27). Although my mind can’t fully grasp all the workings of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, I stand amazed by this mysterious truth.

The Holy Spirit Sheds Light 

(Source: touchn2btouched)

(Source: touchn2btouched)

The Holy Spirit, part of the Godhead, knows the deepest thoughts of God. We can trace His role of Illuminator back to Creation—hovering over the earth, dispelling darkness when God said: “Let there be light.”

Our natural minds don’t speak God’s language. Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, our understanding is muddled. He desires to help us by clarifying spiritual truth.

Results of the Holy Spirit’s Illumination

Clarity, order, peace, faith, and hope dispel confusion, chaos, turmoil, fear, and despair when we communicate with the Holy Spirit.

Recall

Another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work is the power of spiritual recall (John 14:26). This usually doesn’t mean remembering word for word passages (at least not in my case), but rather remembrance of a point or paraphrase of Scripture previously read. Countless times the Holy Spirit has counseled me–opening my “spiritual eyes” to His objective truth–helping me in various situations.

Qualifications to Receive Spirit’s Benefits

The promise of the Holy Spirit’s teaching and recall ministry is for all believers. What is Jesus’ condition for receiving the Spirit’s indwelling presence and His benefits?

 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.  – John 14:21

Honestly, I struggle sometimes hearing the Holy Spirit speak through His Word. Sometimes He is quiet. But most often, there are  competing signals—busy thoughts, worldly attractions, sin, Satan’s distractions, etc. So I have to ask: How is my spiritual antenna? Does God have my undivided attention? What signals might be jamming up the communication lines with God?

How’s your communication going with God? . . . . More to come: The Holy Spirit.

The B-i-b-l-e

Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll last week, posted under Back to the Basics. I asked: What do you believe about the Bible? At last check, a whopping 100% of you agreed that the Bible is God’s inspired Word to us.

I don’t want to preach to the choir, but want to follow through with my theme from last week.

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The B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God.

I hope the following summary might be useful to you or someone you know.

What’s so unique about the Bible?

  • Through sixty-six separate books, 1,189 chapters, the Bible is divinely orchestrated and inspired by God—a claim the Bible makes for itself (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:2).
  • Although God’s Word was composed by 40 different authors in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) over a span of 1,500 years on three different continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe), it is a unit from beginning to end.
  • The Bible shares one extraordinary message: God loves you.
  • The Bible proves God is intimately involved and concerned about people. His unconditional love is shown in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. His sacrifice for sin allows anyone to be in a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus’ work.

Interesting Facts

(Source: Study Bible Apologetics for Students, Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission)

  • Hundreds of biblical prophecies have been fulfilled (e.g., Isaiah 13; Daniel 2; Luke 21:5-6).
  • The Bible has been confirmed as being historically, archaeologically, and geographically accurate.
  • The Old Testament is 99% accurate when compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls dating from 200 B.C.
  • The New Testament is 99% accurate when compared to more than 5,600 partial and complete NT manuscripts dating from the first three centuries A.D.

80844cdbbb4f82927197b3b167c6afdbDo you regularly read God’s Word, the Bible?

Coming next . . . . “Why Study the Bible?”

Back to the Basics

401_1 My chicks have flown the coop, temporarily anyway. 393_1

It’s that time of year—back to school.

Whether you have school children or not, I hope you’ve had a great summer!  We have, despite my Jonny breaking his arm  from a rollerblading fall on the second day of vacation. :( But it could have been worse.

Yes, it’s back to the basics of learning and applying fundamental academic skills: Phonics, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension, arithmetic, science, history . . . . All these foundational building blocks got me thinking of the following.

CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALS

Have you ever come across teaching that contained biblical truths, but contradicted another part of the Bible?

I remember being part of a women’s small group. The leader shared some great biblical truths. She was a beautiful, gifted, charismatic teacher who often recited Scripture from memory. If I hadn’t consistently read my Bible, I probably would have believed every word she said. She spoke with conviction.

But the more I listened to her teachings, the more uncomfortable I grew.

One time I asked her for Bible references to verify some of her statements. Instead of giving me a reference, she scolded me. “I’m older than you, and know more. I’ve grown beyond the basics of the Bible. I don’t need to keep studying it because the Holy Spirit is my teacher.”

Hmmm . . . .

Hmmm . . .

Have you had a similar experience?

The working title for my next post is Why the Bible? I thought I would experiment with a poll. I’d appreciate your feedback. Please click on one of the following bubbles and then click vote. Thanks!

Lighthouse – Shining God’s Light

We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining–they just shine.” Dwight L. Moody

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GOD’S LIGHT SOURCE

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”  – 2 Corinthians 4:6

According to this verse, knowing Jesus Christ is the source of having God’s light and knowledge in our lives. (Related post: Knowing God.) We don’t acquire the light of His salvation through morality, religion, or good deeds; although good deeds follow genuine faith/trust in Christ (James 2:18).

GOD’S LIGHT CARRIERS

I’m glad God doesn’t reserve His glory for the smartest, strongest, wealthiest, or most talented people. I certainly wouldn’t qualify.

God operates differently than the world’s standards. His thoughts and ways are much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). God’s light carriers are described as jars of clay.

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Like jars of clay we are fragile. We crack. We crumble. We break.

But in our weakness—especially in our brokenness—God’s light shines brightest (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

 HOW DO WE DIM GOD’S LIGHT?

We dim God’s light by the following: (1) denial of His light, (2) failure to confess and/or repent of our sins, (3) neglect of sharing our faith, (4) ignoring others’ needs, (5) disobeying God, (6) failing to spend time and/or abide in God, and (7) going along with the crowd.

(This isn’t meant to be an inclusive list.)

HOW DO WE SHINE GOD’S LIGHT?

On a positive note, applying the opposite to the above will result in God’s light shining through us.

Perhaps, we shine brightest when we apply Jesus’ words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”    Matthew 22:37-40

WANT EXTRA POLISH AND SHEEN?

(It’s free, but like the above, requires focus and resolve.)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”    Philippians 4:8

How’s your shine?

Related articles

Salt and Light

I must have been about eight when I hid a bowl of cookie dough under my bed. Our family outing prompted me to take action to keep my brother from eating any.

0f0272b0a9d411e2974222000a1fbdac_7Mission accomplished.

However, the adage “out of sight, out of my mind” rang true for me. My goods remained under my bed until my Mom’s discovery a month later. No scent or taste of warm Chocolate Chip Cookies enjoyed from this batch. Not even bugs or mice could penetrate this hardened mound.

My prized dough became useless, losing all flavor and luster.

Flavor and Shine for God

Jesus shared a few words concerning our effectiveness—or lack of—to Him.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”  – Matthew 5:13

And . . . .

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”   – 5:14-16

Our Usefulness to God

I don’t want my heart to harden like that mound of cookie dough–losing Christ’s seasoning, or hiding His light. My guess is that you don’t either.

How do we lose or gain our usefulness for Christ? How do we positively flavor society and let our light shine?  I invite your input.

Morning Star

The night I wrote my last post, From Darkness to Light, our electricity went out. Thankfully, my oldest son brought me a candle when the house went black.

d6b9c109d99fb4a851625cbb14a7a4c3In the middle of the night, I stumbled outside onto our deck to gaze at the stars. Without any street lights, the stars sparkled like polished diamonds.

I was reminded: Jesus is not only the light of the world (John 8:12), but He is also the morning star (2 Peter 2:19; Revelation 2:28; 22:16).

A morning star appears when the night is coldest and darkest, just before dawn.

In Revelation 2:18, Jesus is described as “the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.”

A Letter to the Church of Thyatira

This Revelation chapter 2 contains a letter from Jesus to the Church of Thyatira, one of the seven churches that He addresses. Jesus commends their deeds, love, faith, perseverance, and increase of service. However, He warns:

I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.”   – Revelation 2:20

Jezebel, a pagan queen of Israel, was considered the most evil woman who ever lived (1 Kings 19:1-2; 21:1-15; 2 Kings 9:7-10, 30-37). Jezebel may have been the name of the woman in the Thyatira church who promoted sexual immorality amongst believers, or Jezebel may have been a symbol of the evil God abhors.

When Christ gave this woman time to repent—turn away from her sins and follow Him—she refused, sinking further into spiritual darkness and God’s judgment.

Jesus’ words are weighty, but clear:  “I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. . . . Then all the churches will know that I am He who searches minds and hearts, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds . . . . To you who do not hold to her teaching: Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will until the end, I will give authority over the nations . . . . I will also give him the morning star.”  – Revelation 2:22-28.

Are You Prepared to Meet Jesus Christ?

When the world is at its darkest, Jesus will rush onto the scene. Shining in brilliant glory, He will expose evil with the light of His truth. He will also bring His promised reward. Until that time, He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us and shed light on His truth in the Bible.

Are you prepared for the dawning of The Morning Star?

Let’s ask the Lord to search our hearts and help us overcome any sin that holds us captive. Let’s seek His will and persevere in it.

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”  – Isaiah 30:15

From Darkness to Light

Have you ever stumbled out of bed in the middle of the night and ran into a wall? I’ve done that a few times, mostly when away from the familiarity of my home. . . . Thank goodness for light!

Light . . . I love seeing the sunlight streaming through the clouds, painting the evening sky. I love viewing God’s creation in radiant color and clarity. I also enjoy the sun’s warmth on a cool day, and the ability to see while biking so I don’t crash into the bushes.

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SUNLIGHT

For all of you trivia fans, here are some interesting facts about the sun (source: http://www.goldenkstar.com/facts/sun-interesting-facts.htm):

  • The sun makes up 99.86% of the mass of our solar system.
  • The energy being emitted from 1 square centimeter of the sun’s surface is enough to burn 64 light bulbs of 100 watt.
  • The earth receives 94 billion megawatt of energy from the sun. This is equivalent to 40,000 times the power requirement of the United States.
  • It takes up to 50 million years for energy produced at the core of the sun to reach its surface.
  • If a drop sized matter from the core of the sun is placed on the surface of the earth, no living organism will survive for a distance of 150 km from that drop.
  • An area of the sun’s surface the size of a postage stamp shines with the power of 1,500,000 candles. . . . That’s a lot of candles!

SON LIGHT

Shortly after the last night of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles celebration—where large torches lit up the skyline—Jesus spoke to the people from the temple where offerings were placed (John 8:20). Candles were burned here to symbolize the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the desert at night (Exodus 13:21-22). The pillar of fire represented God’s presence, protection, and guidance. In this context, Jesus said:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  - John 8:12

Without Christ, we are spiritually lost due to our sin. This ends in spiritual death and eternal separation from God. I doubt we can fathom just how dark and horrible such an existence is.

Is Jesus the light of your world? He will lead you to safety, wisdom, victory, and truth.

Knowing God

“Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesmen to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”                                                               – J.I. Packer, Knowing God

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Trafalgar Square

What we believe about God and what we believe about ourselves shape how we pray (or don’t pray). Some people view God in the same vein they see their earthly father. Some see Him as an angry authoritarian. Others view Him as a disinterested bystander. Sadly, many have been hurt by a church. These people may view God as a bully, hypocrite, or suffocating perfectionist. From cosmic genie to “people are their own gods,” the list varies from person to person.

So, who is the true God?

What if our understanding of God is skewed? I know I’ve been guilty in the past of placing God in a neatly packaged box.

Hebrews 1:1-3 says:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His own Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

God is not whatever, whomever, or however our minds construe Him—apart from the Bible. To clearly understand God we need to get acquainted with His Son, Jesus, “the exact representation of God’s being.” God gave us the Bible, not just for the sake of knowledge, but also that we might come to Him and personally know Him.

3765fcc6f0a2d02b1b119d198bd27653The New Testament Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—present the life and teachings of Jesus. Each book focuses on a unique facet of His character. If you have never read any of them, I recommend beginning with John. Led by the Holy Spirit, he provides clear evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and by believing in Him we may have eternal life.

How has your understanding of God been shaped by family, friends, culture, church?

Do you know the truth about God?

Do you know God?

Humpty, Hubby and Me

Several years ago I discovered a cracked egg in my fridge—plastered in scotch tape. Like the king’s horses and men who tried piecing Humpty back together again, my son tried repairing our cracked egg. :)

cracked egg_1This picture came to mind as I reflected on a much more serious incident that happened to my husband last winter.

Several of you already know this story. But it’s a good reminder to me of the following: We—like egg shells—are fragile; our time here is short, take advantage of God given opportunities; God is the One who holds us together and gives us our every breath (Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17); we need each other; and, God works powerfully through the prayers of His people (James 5:16).

After fighting a cold nine days, Eric came down with the stomach flu. This set the stage for the “perfect storm.” I was shocked how quickly his breathing became labored. After driving him to the ER, the doctor confirmed a bad case of pneumonia on his left lung.

“He will need to stay in the hospital on antibiotics for a day or two,” the doctor said.

But our two days turned into 10 long days. (I realize that sounds short compared to what some people have gone through, but with both of us being active and healthy, this completely caught us off guard.)

Although the doctor did everything by the book, the medicine wasn’t reaching the infected areas. In fact, the bacteria spread to the other lung and into his blood.

Not a good sign.

After the fourth day, my hopeful outlook began to dim. “I won’t mince words,” the doctor said, “this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen.”

Watching my once healthy husband struggle to breathe—even with an oxygen mask—unnerved me. “If he doesn’t improve by tomorrow morning,” the doctor said, “we’ll need to move him to a larger hospital and connect him to a ventilator.”

Another bad sign. That would disable him from breathing exercises, which the nurses stressed as extremely important for his lungs to get back in shape.

The next morning, Sunday, I needed a break from the hospital. I went to church with my Mom and my sister’s family. At the end of the service, the pastor opened the altar for prayer. I didn’t want to go down because I knew I’d lose it. I’m pretty private (believe it or not). But when I set my pride aside—and yes, lost it—God met me there. His Holy Spirit comforted me with His peace.

I didn’t know what God had in mind for Eric. Lord, are you really calling him home to heaven now? I prayed. His rapid downhill condition indicated yes. But he’s not even 40! Although I knew we would meet again in heaven, the thought of raising our three kids alone and being without him increased my anxiety.

But the Holy Spirit prompted me to trust and wait upon God (Isaiah 64:4-5). During that time, I daily battled to replace my fear and anxiety with His peace and comfort through reliance on Him. I’m thankful He loves us unconditionally, through all the doubts and fears. In fact, He shines brightest during our darkest moments. I’m also thankful for the support from family and friends.

Although I don’t remember the outcome of my son’s taped egg, I’m grateful to share: God has completely restored Eric back to health. He doesn’t even have signs of scarring, which the doctor had predicted.

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June 2013

I credit God’s intervening hand to the many people who prayed for Eric—many who don’t even know him, yet faithfully lifted him to God’s throne room. I can’t predict how or when God moves and works, but I know He hears our prayers (1 Peter 3:12). He chooses to move through our requests that align with His will and purposes.

Whatever difficult circumstance(s) you might be facing, don’t give up. God wants you to come to Him right where you are, even in the middle of your mess. “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. . . . Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18) Nothing is too difficult for Him.

Have a great week!

~ K.D.

*This article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://bit.ly/1dW0z7p.

In His Time

I love to water ski. Gliding across the water gives me a sense of adventurous freedom.

Kelli waterskiing_1Of course gliding only happens after mastering standing up, which is the most challenging part. But my Dad taught us kids a cool trick.

If we timed it right, we could step off the dock with our ski and presto—sail across the water atop our slalom ski. By holding a body’s length of rope in the left hand while holding the ski handle in the right, we’d wait. . . .

As the rope straightened between us and the boat, we stepped.

Of course the following usually occurred when stepping too soon: We dipped under the surface before flying over the ski; or the ski handle jerked out of our grasp; or both.

When we stepped too late, we jerked forward landing face first.

Timing

Thankfully, God—who marks the seasons—knows when we’re ready for the next step in our life journey.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Maybe you have availed yourself to God and are waiting for His direction. It takes courage, surrender, patient trust, and determination to step out in faith to follow Jesus to unknown places.

Maybe God has birthed dreams and desires in your heart, but your God sized dream sits dusty and defeated on the shelf.

If you are struggling and feel stuck, don’t give up. Keep seeking God. Be faithful in the daily responsibilities where God has planted you. Our sovereign God has a reason for our waiting seasons. Being loving and protective, He doesn’t want to send us into His service unprepared. He knows what we need and is intimately engaged with us in every step of our journey.

Just as God has marked the physical seasons, he also has marked our personal seasons.

All the days ordained for me were written in your [God’s] book before one of them came to be.”  - Psalm 139:16

God’s timing often differs from ours (Isaiah 55:9). In my post, My Lifeboat, I share how I struggled through a waiting season during my college days. A more recent trial and waiting period is shared in Humpty, Hubby and Me.

When our God inspired dreams appear like a mirage and Satan flaunts our flaws, it’s the perfect time to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

It’s also a good time to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). He wants us to cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He can handle all our frustrations and disappointments.

The great “I Am” intervenes in His perfect timing.

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.”  – Isaiah 64:4-5

When God says “go,” let’s step with Him. The water may be choppy at times, but He will enable us to cross the waves. He will be our shield and rampart (Psalm 91:4).

*Check out Justin Ng’s Timelapse of Mount Bromo in Indonesia that he filmed over a period of 10 days—an awesome reminder of God’s power and creativity. (Hint: if the video loads slowly, you can click the blue HD and bars at the lower right.)

Grandma’s Weapon

“Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”                                                                 - Mahatma Gandhi

Upon returning home from visiting relatives in southern Idaho, I’m thankful for the opportunity to once again see my 93 year-old Grandma.

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About four years ago, chemotherapy for Lymphoma exhausted Grandma. So she opted out of treatments. At that time, we thought we were saying our final good-byes until heaven.

But Grandma’s family and church family kept praying for her. I recall my seven year-old (at that time) daily pleading with God for her healing.

Grandma’s cancer has been in remission ever since.

I’m not advocating a prayer formula. Sometimes God answers “yes.” Sometimes He says “no.” Sometimes He says “wait.” Other times, healing and rewards don’t come until heaven (Hebrews 11:37-40). But God’s grace and presence is always available to the seeker (2 Corinthians 12:9).

My Grandma has been an amazing lady—a Proverbs 31 kind of lady. Her closeness to the Lord results from persistent prayer, Bible study, and obedience. Her life is graced with wisdom, integrity, strength, and resourcefulness. Love, joy and peace also characterize her hospitable life.

Grandpa made these clocks. Grandma painted them. They gave them to their Great Grandchildren.

Grandpa made these clocks. Grandma painted them. They recently gave them to their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. . . . A reminder to pray at all times.

When I think of Grandma, I’m reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Grandma persistently prays for each of her family members. (For more on persistent prayer and faith, see Luke 18:1-8.)

How many times has the Lord protected myself and loved ones from unknown dangers due to her prayers? I don’t know, but my guess is a lot. I credit her prayers for saving me from what could have been a potentially abusive relationship before I married.

God upholds and works on behalf of his children.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  – James 5:16

We’re not promised a trouble free life, but we can rely on God’s faithfulness and strength when troubles arise.

Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”  – Psalm 50:15

How is your prayer life? Where or whom do you turn to when troubles come?

Of Preteens and Curve Balls

“Mom, watching Grizzly bears are for little kids!”

I’m not sure when my boys first decided that being seen with me, their Mom, was uncool. But this morning was no exception.

Disgruntled may be a mild term when I “dragged” them out of the house. It’s an opportune time, I reasoned, for mother-son bonding. We had three hours to hang out during my daughter’s VBS session. However, I forgot the stores wouldn’t open for an hour.

STRIKE ONE.

Can’t go wrong with Italian Sodas.

HOME RUN! Oh, no . . . foul ball—a little more month left than money. Oops!

Well, the surprise library visit to watch the Guinness World Record holding magician will be a hit.

Guess I didn’t know the record he held was for bouncing bubbles. Read the fine print K.D.! Maybe the fine print also stated his primary audience—preschoolers. My boys didn’t crack a smile when he dangled nine spoons from one arm and one from his nose while pulling out a six foot spoon from his bag.

STRIKE TWO.

What’s on my windshield? A parking ticket?!

 “Way to go, Mom!”

A few sparks erupted, but not the holiday ones.

STRIKE THREE.  “You’re out!”

Good thing I imagined this Ump, or I might have tackled him!

Good thing I imagined this Ump, or I might have tackled him!

Finally, we arrived home. Then I discovered . . .

9330cd9c1ac6d921820401e11faf527amy blouse is inside out! Lovely.

STRESS

We all experience stress—frustration in relationships, work, finances, sickness, unmet expectations, or just the daily grind.

The Apostle Paul shared the following while chained in jail:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation . . . . I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”          Philippians 4:12-13

Did he say in every situation?

Positive Paul—confined inside a smelly cell—knew excruciating poverty, abundant wealth, and everything in between. But he learned to find real joy independent of changing circumstances. How?

He threw all his energy into knowing and obeying Christ (Philippians 3:8, 12-13).

Paul also knew the guilt of striking out because he once persecuted Christians. But as Christ transformed him, he shared how to overcome the guilt of failure:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”  – 3:13

When our hope is in Christ, we can look forward to what God will help us become.

How do you respond to life’s curve balls? If you—like me—blow it, don’t give up. The game’s not over.

Let’s keep our eyes on the ball—Jesus Christ. He supplies inner strength and joy, even when facing unpleasant circumstances.

New Life

Disney’s adventure Oz the Great and Powerful first portrays shady illusionist Oscar Diggs struggling in a small town circus. After being swept away by a tornado, he pleads with God to save him from the storm.

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Oscar, nicknamed Oz, plummets into the land of Oz. Here, the following changes transpire:

  • Black and white fades into vibrant color and visual dazzle
  • Oz finds a second chance in life
  • Despite the challenges, Oz finds purpose by using his talent to help the people of Oz
  • Oz finds that the greatness he yearns for is found through a different path than how he first envisioned

Changes

On the grander stage of real life—over 2,000 years ago—Jesus shared how one can make a major life altering change.

  • Change that miraculously begins under a new Masterc3908503a6a55ef561b255330fa6d226
  • Change that cleanses sin ridden hearts and creates new life within
  • Change where dullness fades to vibrant light and color due to a relationship with the living God
  • Change that positively affects us and our relationships in this life and in life after death
  • Change that results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, comfort, and purpose

Why do we need to change? Change from what?

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we are born with this sin problem (Psalm 51:5). Our sin offends God, displacing Him from His rightful reign in our lives. The end result?

For the wages of sin is death. . .”

But . . .

The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – Romans 6:23

Do I hear an amen?

In a land that applauds the notion that truth is relative, the message of Christ being the only way to God the Father and to spiritual life is unpopular, but this is the truth that never changes.

What is the difference between accepting and rejecting Christ?

Heaven and hell. Life and death (John 3:36).

And it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. . . .”  – Hebrews 9:27

Surrendering to and following Christ is worth any temporal sacrifice.

We each must choose. None of us, who are able to understand, will be exempt (Romans 1:19-20).

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him [God] who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  – John 5:24

“Eternal life”—new life and a relationship with God—begins the moment one accepts Jesus as Savior. This life is completely dependent on God and lasts forever. When one accepts this free gift, the Holy Spirit resides within the believer. And physical death is only a prelude to living forever with God and with each other. This is the great news of the gospel.

Thirsty?

Nothing beats a cup of cold water on a hot summer day.81abe43416489ac66371805e106cd390

Just as our bodies hunger and thirst for physical food and water, our souls hunger and thirst for spiritual food and water.

One of my favorite Bible stories is Jesus talking to the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). No respectable Jewish man would be caught talking to one like her. For she was a despised Samaritan woman, a member of the mixed race that the Jews hated. She was also known to be living in sin.

I love that Jesus crossed all barriers to share the good news of the gospel with her.3b369e614d01db8539a984f32a156ac4

In the heat of the day, Jesus stopped by the well where she was drawing water. He said to her:

Will you give me a drink?”  – John 4:7

Surprised, the Samaritan woman said:

You are Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” – v. 9

Jesus answered:

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water . . . whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  – vs. 10, 13-1456c8bd70bcf235d876ca31a292cb3b51

What did Jesus mean by “living water”? Several Old Testament verses speak about thirsting for God as one thirsts for water (Psalm 42:1; Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 13:1).

God is called the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9) and the spring of water (Jeremiah 17:13). Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah by forever quenching a person’s thirst for God (John 4:25-26). Only the Messiah can give this gift that satisfies the soul’s desire.

Are you spiritually thirsty? There is only One who can forever quench your thirst. His name is Jesus.

Today’s Word

May I share a word with you?

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The Apostle John continued:

Through Him all things were made . . . . In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”  – vs. 3-4

John’s use of the Word in Hebrew Scripture is linked with Genesis 1. God created by speaking the universe into orderly existence. Hebrew thought also associated Word as the source of God’s message through His prophets (Hosea 1:2) and God’s law—His standard of holiness (Psalm 119:11).

The philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535-475 B.C.) used the Greek thought of Word/logos as the divine logic, “an ordering principle for the universe.

John used the Word to describe Jesus as God–a guy he knew and loved, but at the same time was Creator of the universe who perfectly revealed God the Father’s character and holiness.

The educated Greek reader would have understood John’s summary as Christ being the truth; not only the guiding principle of the universe, but also of every person’s soul. Thus, by the person of Christ—the Logos—one may attain harmony with God and His creation.

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 When Christ became human He became:

  1. the perfect teacher who showed us how we should think (Philippians 2:5-11)
  2. the perfect example who showed us not only how to live, but also enables us to do so (1 Peter 2:21)
  3. the perfect sacrifice that satisfied God’s requirements for the removal of our sin (Colossians 1:15-23)

Jesus is not only our Creator and Sustainer, but He also holds our universe together (Colossians 1:15-17). If we try to live apart from Him, the purpose for which God made us will be void.

To all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God–children not born of natural descent. . . but born of God.”  – John. 1:12-13, NIV

Anyone who welcomes Jesus Christ as Lord of their life is reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God. Just as being born physically makes you alive and places you in your parents’ family, being born of God makes you spiritually alive and places you as His child (John 3:1-6).

By trusting and receiving Christ, the Holy Spirit will dwell in you (Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 13:5). God won’t force Himself on anyone, but He will breathe new life into the surrendered soul. He will also rearrange attitudes, desires, and motives.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Have you asked Christ to make you a new person? It’s not too late. This new life is available to all who place their confidence in Jesus Christ, ask for His forgiveness, and confess Him as Lord (Romans 10:8-10).

Works God Requires

School is out and for the summer. My kids are electrified.

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Wish I felt the same. Actually, I am excited to go biking and camping with Eric and the kids, and visit relatives. With baseball season extending through June, then swim lessons and basketball camp, summer will come and go all too soon. I began planning my next posts, afraid my writing will become jumbled with my kids being home. (My desk is the kitchen table. Sigh.) So please be patient if I become more scattered—makes for a good excuse anyway! :)

Since I haven’t written much about “Service,” I thought I would explore there. And I am, but not sharing what I envisioned in terms of hands-on ministry ideas and examples, at least not yet. The Lord keeps reminding me of the following passage:

 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”  – John 6:28-29

In this passage, pisteuō is the Greek word for believe. It means not just to credit as real: “Even the demons believe (in one God)—and shudder,” James 2:19. But this term also means to trust; be persuaded of; place confidence in. It implies reliance upon.

God’s satisfaction with us is based on our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, not on the works we do.

Yes, “faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26), but our service, obedience, and following God are not substitutions for salvation or earning God’s favor. Rather, our service to God verifies our faith in Christ.

My next few posts will center on God’s saving faith through Jesus, the eternal God.

I have been blessed and challenged in sharing God’s truths here, as well as encouraged by reading several others’ posts. THANK YOU to everyone who has encouraged me in this pursuit. The Lord laid this blogging thing on my heart when my husband was sick in the hospital last winter. After some prayer, He made it clear what I should write—which I’m thankful. (Trust me, you don’t want to read about my daily tasks or what we ate for dinner.) :) Anyway, I enjoy digging into God’s Word. I love how the Holy Spirit speaks personally to the sincere seeker.

Is there a topic you are interested in? What are your summer plans? Anyone planning a vacation? Camping? New job? New hobby? Old hobby? Any prayer requests? I would love to hear from you!

Lose and Win

Heavy load coming through.

heavy load

Proceed with caution.

Jesus didn’t mince words when He spoke about the cost of discipleship.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross cannot be my disciple.”  – Luke 14:25-35

Jesus wasn’t encouraging family conflict, disobedience to parents, or neglecting family responsibilities. But He often gave commands in light of His listeners’ real motives. Love of family is one of God’s laws, but even this can become an excuse not to serve God or do His work. Jesus challenged the crowds to evaluate their enthusiasm for Him and encouraged the superficial either to go deeper or turn back.

In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus compares the factors that go into building a tower to the cost of discipleship.

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If a builder doesn’t calculate the cost correctly, his building may be left half completed.

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 Likewise, if we don’t count the cost of following Christ we may be tempted to turn back when trials and persecution come.

To take up our cross and follow Jesus means being willing to publicly identify with Him. Commitment may separate us from loved ones and friends because of conflicting values, goals, and purposes. As Christians, we will most likely experience opposition and face suffering–possibly even death–for Jesus’ sake.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  – Luke 9:24-25

Christ calls us to a higher mission than settling into the comforts of this life. Earthly status, riches, and comforts can not repay for loss of eternal life. Following Christ is hard work and costly now, but compared to eternity, our time here is like a blink of an eye. In the long run, following Christ is well worth any sacrifice. 

Wandering

Last weekend, Eric (my husband), took me for my second ride on my dual sport motorcycle. (My first experience riding is posted under Driving Knowledge.) This time I drove down a gravel road.

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My boys are better riders than I am. . . . But I’m getting off track.

  And that was my riding problem. I found my bike dancing on parts of the gravel, unsure of which track to take at times. Eric calls it wandering. (Don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t crash. I just felt like I might.)

I learned the following tips when caught wandering:

  • Don’t fight the bike as it moves. Speeding up helps. (I kept slowing down, which made it worse.)
  • Pick your riding line, (more compacted car tracks), in the distance and follow it. (I wanted to look down.)
  • Keep your arms relaxed, but firm. Don’t over-correct steering. (Pliers might release my grip from the handlebars!)
  • Transfer weight to the foot pegs, like you’re going to stand up. (My position? Hunched forward; tight.)
  • Lastly, don’t over-think it. (What does that mean?!)

Sounds like an accident waiting to happen? I know . . . but don’t worry, I won’t be riding near you—at least not on purpose.

IMG_0446_1_1If the following spiritual analogy wanders a bit from my motorcycle 101 lesson, I’ll be on track with my theme, right?

Peter’s Wandering

After Jesus fed the 5,000 plus people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He sent His disciples ahead of Him by boat across the lake so He could spend some time alone in prayer (Matthew 14:22-32). Several hours later, the disciples found themselves caught in a storm and tossed about by large waves.

It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  – Matthew 14:26, NIV

           Jesus said: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  – vs. 27

 You know the rest of the story. Peter said:

          “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

I imagine Peter experienced a fair amount of wandering as he got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus on the water.

But to his credit, he got out of the boat.

Look to Jesus

When Peter’s vision transferred from Jesus to the surrounding high waves, he panicked and began to sink.

But to his credit, he reached out to Christ, the only One who could help.

Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’”  -vs.31

When we become serious about following Christ and join Him in His kingdom work, we will eventually run into some rough places. Although the disciples lost sight of Jesus, He did not lose sight of them. Recognizing Jesus’ presence is the cure to fear.

When we find ourselves wandering, let’s look to Jesus–not our inadequacies–or we may also despair and sink.

Bread, Anyone?

When God calls His children to follow and serve, He often tests and stretches our faith.

(This post article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://bit.ly/123dYn7.)

Evaristo Baschenis - Boy with a Basket of Brea...

Evaristo Baschenis – Boy with a Basket of Bread – WGA1404 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd followed Him because of His miraculous signs.

“Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with His disciples. . . .When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.”                                                                             – John 6:3, 5-6 (NIV)

Knowing there was no human solution, Jesus highlighted the miraculous act He was about to perform.

Philip answered Him, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”   – vs.7

Enter Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother:

Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”            – vs. 9

Can’t you see, Jesus? We don’t have enough!

Wait. . . . . Rewind. Didn’t the disciples just witness Jesus’ miracles, healing sick people? (John 6:1-2)

Incredible!

And yet, how many times does my faith waver, as I take stock of my own limited resources when facing seemingly impossible circumstances?

Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ . . . . The men sat down, about 5,000 of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”  – vs. 10-11

After they were stuffed, Jesus told his disciples to gather the left overs—twelve full baskets!

Jesus wanted to teach Philip that financial resources are not the most important ones. The disciples most likely had more resources than the boy, but their reasoning probably kept them from giving. In contrast, God used what little the boy gave, and turned it into something spectacular.

I love that God not only abundantly gives, but also uses what we offer Him—resources, time, ability—and multiplies its effectiveness beyond our wildest dreams. Age is also no barrier to Christ.

Is there some impossible task you believe God wants you to do? Don’t let your analysis keep you from taking it. If you take the first step in making yourself available to God, He will not only meet you, but also greatly use you to further His kingdom.

Where God guides, He provides.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  – Proverbs 3:5-6

AND THEN THE END WILL COME!

While I don’t personally know Brandon Andress, I have enjoyed reading his blog (http://brandonandress.com). When he asked me to review his book—AND THEN THE END WILL COME!—I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the topic, along with his cartoon-like cover, compelled me.

Brandon’s writing tone is down-to-earth, conversational and witty. Even his unconventional capitalization matches his lighthearted poking of the many “end time” speculations. His writing style reminds me of flash fiction, only he writes truth—without confusing theological terms. I believe his book will especially resonate with young adults.

Amidst all the “end times” theories and survival tactics, he presents a Biblically balanced approach for believers.

I appreciated Brandon’s teaching of Jesus’ parables; use of scripture documented in the back of the book; and, his “LITTLE EXTRA” chapter clarifying original Greek words.

His book can be read in a day. But don’t let the plentiful white space fool you—he will challenge your worldview.

Brandon reminds believers that it is not enough to accept God’s forgiveness and eternal life, but we must also roll up our sleeves and get involved in His kingdom work . . . . Now. In classic Brandon style:

No.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Matter.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Cost.

Brandon admonishes believers to take the following actions: Obey Christ’s teachings; live God’s abundant life presently by having a correct interpretation of our hopeful future with God; determine today to remain faithful to God as earthly conditions worsen (foretold in the Bible); be intimately connected with Christ; walk in His strength and light; and, refuse to give in to fear.

His message resonates with Joel 3:14-16:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision . . . But the Lord will be a refuge for His people.”

After reading AND THEN THE END WILL COME! I felt as though I gained a wise counselor-teacher friend who truly cares about the church.

Brandon’s book begs discussion and makes a great Bible study companion.

AND THEN THE END WILL COME! is available through Amazon.

Brandon Andress is also the author of UNEARTHED: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

Driving Knowledge

I nervously saddled up for my first ride on my Suzuki DR650SE dual sport motorcycle. My husband’s backup plan―if the motorcycle riding isn’t my thing―will be an economical commuter for him. My twelve year-old also assures me that he can ride it if I crash.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that’s comforting!

After riding behind Eric, (my husband), down a nearby canyon dirt road, and maneuvering through a herd of cattle, we stopped at an empty lot for my first lesson.

“Remember, clutch first,” he said.

“And which side is the clutch on?”

“Left,” he pointed a second time. “Your brake is on the right . . . . Remember driving a stick shift car? It’s the same, only your clutch is here.”

I haven’t driven a stick shift in 15 years! Maybe we should just go to McDonald’s and enjoy a romantic moment―without kids―over a strawberry smoothie. The thought was tempting, but my boys were wagering on my resolve.

Eric, however, remained calm. “Gradually twist the throttle and release the clutch. Let the bike balance you. Don’t put your feet down until you come to a complete stop or they will drag behind you. Start in first. It’s the only gear you push down.”

“Which side are the gears on?”

“Left . . . . The right foot controls the rear brake. But when you brake, do it together with your right hand, which controls the front. And, you’ll need to brake while clutching when the engine begins to lug.”

Uhg, so many rules! But he certainly had my attention. He really believes I can drive this. I swing my leg over the seat. This is a lot bigger than my old mini bike! . . . . Clutch first. Replaying his instructions in my mind, I went through the motions step by step. And . . . .

I cruised!                                                                                     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well, I cruised slowly in first gear anyway, but I didn’t crash―thanks to Eric and his patient instructions. Like a child graduating from training wheels, I progressed to third gear. Okay, I admit that I killed the engine a couple of times. But the freedom of riding motivates me to learn this new skill.

Sorry boys, I may not be motocross material, but I’m not ready to hand over the bike!

Rules. Most of us chafe under directives, including Yours Truly. Why? They appear to constrict our freedom. But I’m grateful for Eric’s driving instructions. He saved me from kissing the pavement.

Similarly, God desires our safety in our daily journey. His directives are laid on a foundation of love, fairness, and compassion. Although it takes time, discipline, and hard work, consistently reading the Bible unwraps God’s truth, wisdom, and map for our earthly journey.

Although God’s holy standards reveal our sin, because we have all failed to keep his laws perfectly (Matthew 5:48), when we seek God’s salvation and forgiveness in Christ, we have freedom from sin and oppressive guilt. I am so thankful for Christ’s provision on the cross. We no longer live under the old covenant period, which was a shadow of the real Christ (Hebrews 8).

God knows what’s best for us. He knows we can only follow and obey Him through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 1:19-20). Obeying God’s precepts frees us to be all He designed us to be. His guidelines make a way for us to participate in His holiness and avoid paths that lead to destruction (Deuteronomy 8:10-20; 11:26-27). If that’s not enough, our obedience to Him stores up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33).

Interestingly, Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and chapter in the Bible. We are repetitively instructed to meditate on God’s Word. God’s promise to “preserve life” is alluded to 11 times in this chapter. No wonder the psalmist writes of rejoicing in God’s statutes: “as one rejoices in great riches” (vs. 14).

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” 

- Jesus  (Matthew 24:25)

The following are a few links for a more in-depth study of God’s laws:

http://www.truthforlife.org/blog/law-leads-christ-and-redemption/

http://www.moodyradio.org/uploadedFiles/nq070412.pdf

http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Christians-Must-Obey-Gods-Law

http://www.keyway.ca/htm2005/20050805.htm

I found the following video both funny and inspiring:

http://www.godvine.com/Simon-Cowell-Made-Fun-of-This-Gospel-Singer-Then-Everyone-is-Blown-Away-3177.html

One For All

Amidst the heinous bombings at the Boston Marathon shine the heroes who risked their lives to help the wounded. One story in particular keeps replaying in my mind.

Runners cross the finish line of the 35th Mari...

(Photo credit: United States Marine Corps)

Carlos Arredondo, the “Latino cowboy” immigrant, cheered for a friend who was running in honor of his son, who died fighting in Iraq almost 10 years ago.

Immediately after the blast, instead of running away, he ran toward the scene. He crossed the street and tore pieces of a fence that separated the runners from the crowd. Then he scaled the fence and tended to victims.

This American hero reminds me a little of my action hero.

God the Father―who also knows the pain of losing a son―cheers for us as we run our Christian race (Romans 8:31; Hebrews 12:1).

Jesus crossed the universe, defied physics, and hurdled time by entering earth’s history (John 1:1-15; Isaiah 7:14).

Instead of running away from sinners, the light of the world ran to us (Luke 15:2-7).

Jesus tore away obstructing sin that separated us from our holy God (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9).

Through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, God triumphed over Satan’s rule of sin and death (Hebrews 2:14).

After Jesus ascended to heaven, He distributed His plunder by giving gifts to His children/church (Ephesians 4:8). Paul, during his imprisonment in Rome, compared Jesus to a conqueror marching to the gates and taking tribute from the fallen city (Psalm 68:18). The following links open to a study of these spiritual gifts:

http://www.bible.org/seriespage/spiritual-gifts-1-corinthians-121-11

http://www.qualityoflifeministries.info/purpose-of-gifts

Christ’s resurrection helps us find meaning, even in great tragedy.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  - Hebrews 6:19-20

All For One

Before my 10 year-old attended camp, my husband and I told him: “Remember, you represent us.”

Translation: “Behave!”

Before the apostle Paul taught about spiritual gifts to the Ephesians, he admonished:

Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”   – Ephesians 4:1

Translation: “Behave! You are Christ’s own. You represent the King. Therefore, be humble, gentle, patient, understanding, and peaceful.”

About five years earlier, Paul appealed to the Corinthian church to be unified. Their spiritual gifts had become symbols of spiritual power, causing rivalries instead of God’s intended purpose of building and edifying the church.

How important is unity to our Lord? On the threshold of His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for us―future believers:

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know you, (God the Father), sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  – John 17:22-23

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane), oil painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann (Heinrich Hofmann). The original is at the Riverside Church (Riverside Church, New York City). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul continued on this thought:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit―just as you were called to one hope . . . .―one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”    – Ephesians 4:3-6

I counted nine ‘ones’ in the above two passages. Working together in unity is extremely important to God. Thankfully, our oneness doesn’t make us clones. Wouldn’t that be boring! God’s work involves many different individuals with a variety of gifts and abilities.

As the body of Christ―God’s church―we can accomplish far more together than we ever could individually.

God’s oneness of believers is opposite of society’s definition of being number one (Luke 14:19). By seeking God’s approval we can avoid the  superstar syndrome.

How can the church be one and avoid division with our diversity? I would love to see your comments.

Sublime Design

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”   -   Psalm 139:14

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You are not a mistake.

Psalm 139 testifies to God’s grand love and design for us. God is in the business of molding all our circumstances, confusion, shattered dreams, past mistakes and sins into a beautiful pattern―for those who love God (Romans 8:28).

The following acronym is helpful for me in determining my vocational work and place in God’s kingdom-call:

DESIGN

Desires: Consider your interests. Pay attention to stories and songs that stir your heart. I empathize with lost and hurting people. I also love God’s Word and desire to share His freeing truth. What are your heart’s desires?

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”    -  Psalm 37:4

Experiences: What do you know? What skills do you possess? How has God helped you in past challenges? I went through a difficult time in college. I’ve shared how God used and helped me through that painful season in Faith Writer’s book, Trials and Triumphs, along with 39 other writers. I would love to hear your story!

Spiritual Gifts: These are gifts given from the Holy Spirit, meant to be used in service of God’s church (Romans 12:4-5). The Holy Spirit empowers believers to contribute to the church’s unity and growth: both in numbers and in maturity. The following passages mention these spiritual gifts: Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10; and 1 Corinthians 12:28-30.

Individual Style: Are you more compliant or dominant? Introverted or extroverted? Detached or compassionate? Cautious or Adventurous? I fall in the middle of introverted and extroverted. I am more compassionate, conscientious and adventurous than not. How about you? What are your dominant personality factors? God wants to use your unique style.

Growth Phase: God wants us to be lifelong learners in His Word (2 Timothy 2:15), in our kingdom-call, and in our vocations. What steps are you taking to grow in knowledge? My first priority is reading/studying the Bible and prayer. It’s where I learn to hear God’s voice/direction. Next, I want to grow as a parent and wife. I also want to develop my writing and photography skills through practice and classes.

Natural Abilities: God has given everyone abilities. I am not mechanical like my husband. But I have a vivid imagination. He helps me with the nuts and bolts. I help him see endless possibilities. :) What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at?

God has good plans for you! (Jeremiah 29:11)

Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”   -  Psalm 139:16

The following link will take you to a Disney favorite, “When I Grow Up” by Colin Hesterly. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxLnph4JqdA&playnext=1&list=PL5518FC3758234754