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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Most of you know me well enough now to realize that I love to encourage people. I don’t just see the glass half full…I see the glass at least 3/4ths full, maybe even more. I try to always find that silver lining. When I tutor my students, I combat low self-confidence all the time. I love motivating them – to see themselves as accepted, intelligent, capable, and productive.

I also enjoy motivational sayings. Facebook and Instagram are full of images of beautiful lakes, flowers, mountains, seascapes with a lovely motivational quotes about working hard, staying positive, “just do it”. I brought a couple to show you.

Fail_Stop_Trying_quote          Make_It_Happen_quote

 

What a great saying to get me up in the morning.

River_Rock_Persistence_quote

Aren’t these great? Don’t you feel motivated to tackle that task you’ve been avoiding?

And I made one just for this morning.

Quit_Before_Its_Too_Late

Wait – what?

Quit before it’s too late? How is that motivational? Let me tell you…

1 – Give up…Let it All Go

This is a perfect topic for Mother’s Day. Moms are not quitters…ever. We persevere through any trial, work hard every single day, strive to take care of our families, keep track of everyone’s schedules, make sure the dogs get fed, the kids do their homework, the church gets cleaned…we work, volunteer, run our kids to sports practices and games, dance lessons, 4-H club meetings, decorate for birthday parties, serve on church committees…and then we cook, clean, do laundry, mow the lawn…doing, doing, doing.

And we get it done. Somehow. But at what price?

We’re tired, grumpy, emotional, stressed, discouraged and certainly hardest on ourselves if we feel we failed at any one thing. We’ve set our expectations so high that we are often disappointed in ourselves for not “doing more” or “doing better.” Maybe we feel we’ve let others down when we just can’t do one more thing. Sometimes, when we don’t get everything done that we’ve put on our list, we mentally and sometimes, verbally, blame ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our bosses. We think we can do it all…or worse, expect perfection…from ourselves or others. Inside we’re discouraged, condemning, feeling like failures…when in reality there is only one thing we need.

We need to quit. We need to give up and let it all go.

2 – You were designed for more

Have you ever heard of the No Thumbs Challenge? It’s a little YouTube sensation where a couple of people very securely tape their thumbs down into their palms and then attempt to do a variety of normal activities…such as opening a bottle of water, writing their name, operating a can opener, peeling a banana. Some are easier than others, but overall, the tasks are made much more difficult without the use of thumbs.

This is an object lesson for what we do in life. God gives us brains, strengths, talents, gifts – and we can accomplish a lot without ever asking God to help us. We can be super-successful on our own. Many people in the world accomplish great things without once considering God. But they, and we, are going through life with our thumbs bound…yes, we can accomplish a lot…but think of how much more we could do – if we quit trying to do it on our own and ask God to help us.

We are designed to work best when we work WITH God’s guidance – when we work WITHIN His design for us (Psalm 139).

You’ve put up with a life “without thumbs” – learned to do everything we need to do with only 4 fingers – but it’s been a struggle, a hardship, sometimes a failure…let’s quit trying to do without God, when with Him, it is more than we could ever imagine.

Luke 18:27 – “But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’”

3 – Embrace the ASK

We need to admit we need help. That can be a real battle for some. We like that good ole American work ethic…that “git ‘er done” mentality. We’re proud of our accomplishments. But at what cost? Our health – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Even if we do consider asking God for help, we don’t (or won’t).

“God, you’re great and all, but probably pretty busy with important world issues, like famine and war and cancer…so I’ll just go ahead and do my little stuff on my own. I got this. No sense in bothering You with my little things.”

But asking God for help, no matter what we need, is like being set free to do more, to see Him working through you. God wants to free you from the bondage of pride and self-sufficiency – He wants to release you – set you free and empower you to do more and better, as He intended.

2 Corinthians 12:9“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul goes on to say – “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we ask for God to help us, we become stronger than we are alone. When we admit we are weak without Him, then His power takes over. Instead of apologizing for bothering God, you should see how excited He is when we ask him to overcome our weaknesses with His strength.

So how do you go about asking God for help?

James 1:5“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” In Psalm 46:1 we hear that God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.

He doesn’t just listen to me, and not to you. He delights in hearing your requests. He delights in YOU.

Once you’ve asked for God to free you from your own pride, and give you wisdom in your daily life, expect to see a difference. John 8:36 says “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” All four fingers and a great big thumb!

I challenge you to test God. Test His Word. Begin each day asking God to help you in every situation you encounter…both the planned and the unplanned. Ask Him to guide your steps, to give you wisdom when you don’t know what to do…to give you words to speak life and encouragement to your family and friends, even your enemies. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to do when you’re confused or discouraged. He promises He will.

A number of years ago, the Chicago Bulls had a couple of pretty good basketball players…maybe you’ve heard of them. Michael Jordan and Stacey King. Of course, everyone knows Michael Jordan…but Stacey King was a decent player himself.  One night the two of them had a great game, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the game, reporters interviewed King, quoting him in the next morning’s newspaper:

“I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points.”

Wouldn’t that be a great game? Of course. But the part King left out…Michael Jordan scored 69 points and King scored only one.

But that’s how it is when we partner with God. God only asks that we are willing to score our one point, and He’ll take care of the rest. He’s a big God and He can and will help you to meet and exceed the challenges each of you face each day. Beyond your expectations.

Let’s pray.

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Do you have a favorite promise from God?

Maybe you are like me and have a new favorite every day.

Today, my go-to promise is:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut 31:6

Tomorrow I may grab onto:

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5

I could go on and on…

God promises to keep us secure and safe (Job 11:18) with unfailing love (Psalm 52:8). He promises to protect us (Psalm 12:7) and provide for us (Psalm 65:9)…and not just food and water.

God tells us not to worry because He provides everything we need.
If the flowers in the field are small_purple_flowersclothed in beauty, how much more He will do for us, His children. God says we only need to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) God also provides us a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13) and strength when we are weak (1 Peter 4:11).

However, we can believe all of this because of Jesus. According to 2 Corinthians 1:20, “…no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”

Because God sent Jesus as the Promised Messiah, we can believe every single one of His promises.

Jesus is our refuge in times of trouble…God will pour His Spirit upon our children…The Lord will fight for you and save you from your enemies…God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.

Help – I can’t stop. There are soooo many!

“You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5

“ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Take a moment and find a promise from God to hang onto for whatever you are going through today.

He will not fail you – He promised!

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Every day we wake up to choices. Get out of bed or stay in? Bath or shower? Coffee or tea or water or…? Read my Bible or watch TV? Workout or sleep longer? Go to work or call in sick? 

Each choice brings a set of consequences, some immediate and some we won’t feel for a long time. Some consequences are the result of years of choices, made well or made poorly. For instance, the dark chocolate M&Ms I’m currently munching on give me short term happiness, but long term weight gain issues. Obviously I’m choosing instant gratification over long term consequences. 

View from a Cedar Rapids skywalk


Despite the rainy, gray spring day in Iowa, I chose to take a long walk today. I knew I may be uncomfortable in the short term, but glad for my choice later in the day when my Fitbit celebrates 10,000 steps. 

Tonight our children’s midweek church program ends until September. Though each adult helper I’ve talked to seems glad for the break in activities, I know each made the choice to serve in this area because of the long term consequences in the lives of these precious children. They know their choice to help in music or crafts or youth may not reap rewards today, but each child encouraged or fed or loved on will benefit for years to come. 

How are you doing on your choices today? Settling for the short term, or banking rewards for the future gain? 

Choose well. 

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” Psalm 119:30

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My favorite five missions or charitable organizations (in no particular order)…

Great_CommissionI can’t narrow it down to five total so I picked five which operate nationally or internationally (which I’ll blog about today) and five which are more local in nature (next Friday). Each is unique in who they help – from women and children in Uganda, to women and children in Cedar Rapids, Iowa…I love missions, spreading the love of Jesus and helping those in need.

#1 – Amazima Ministries

One of my favorite books is “Kisses from Katie,” the story of an 18-year-old girl who gives up her comfortable life in the United States to become the adoptive mother to thirteen girls in Uganda. katies-story-buttonIt was a life-altering book for me and I’ve been challenged while following Katie Davis’s story of radical love. Katie started Amazima (“truth” in native Luganda language) Ministries, with a mission to help educate and empower the people of Uganda with God’s love. They operate The Amazima School, a scholarship program, the Masese Women’s Beading Circle, medical care outreach and a farming outreach. One year for Christmas I gave some special friends earrings formed from beads made in the women’s beading circle. They were beautiful and I loved knowing I was helping, in a small way, to give these women a purpose and an income.

#2 – Youth With A Mission

In a nutshell, Youth With a Mission (or YWAM) is a global movement of Christians who have dedicated themselves to serving Jesus, no matter where He calls them to go. Originally intended just to get young people involved in missions, YWAM now involves people of all ages, in more than 1,100 locations in over 180 countries, with a staff of over 18,000.  I did my own two-week YWAM intensive when I was 15 years old. It was terrifying to think about spending two weeks with total strangers going door-to-door telling people about Jesus. By the end of that time, I was bolding stopping people on the street and inviting hitchhikers to receive Jesus as their Savior. If you are looking to invest in missions around the world, YWAM has done it well for over 50 years.

#3 – JDRF

I’m sure I don’t need to say much about juvenile diabetes. We all have friends and family who suffer from this life-threatening autoimmune disease. The JDRF organization, through volunteers who either have the disease or parent children who suffer with it, works tirelessly through various events to raise money for research to find a cure. My best friend in college recently passed away from the effects of a life-long battle with type 1 diabetes. Improvements in treatment have been made since her diagnosis back in the early 70s, but so much more needs to be done. I love walking with my friend Sandi and her daughter Celia as we inundate the NewBo area of Cedar Rapids for the One Walk event each May. It is inspiring to be even a small part of this movement to find a cure.

#4 – Samaritan’s Purse

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God,” famous words from founder Bob Pierce. Samaritan’s Purse’s mission is to follow Christ’s example by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope of the Gospel. They do this in so many different ways: medical missions, feeding programs, clean water & hygiene education, construction projects, human trafficking prevention and discipleship training. Sam_PurseThey are on the front lines of any disaster relief efforts both in the U.S. and internationally, especially in the current refugee crisis, earthquake and flood recovery and in war torn regions of Iraq. As a family, we first started working with Samaritan’s Purse through their Operation Christmas Child program, where we bought small age-appropriate gifts, packed them in shoeboxes and sent them off to the Samaritan’s Purse center in Minneapolis. From there, hundreds and thousands of shoeboxes are sent each year to children all over the world.

#5  – Child Hope

We have sponsored a number of little girls through Latin American Child Care, or as it is now known, Child Hope. We started way back when our youngest son started asking for a baby sister. Not happening. But he seems satisfied with the little girl we “adopted” through LACC. For $36 a month, Child Hope provides a safe environment where a child receives a Christian education alochild hopeng with preventative medical and dental information. More times than not, that monthly stipend provides a school uniform, hot meals and needed medical attention. At
Christmas and birthday time, we send a little extra so our little girl receives a special present just from us. We have welcomed each picture and personal letter throughout the years. We are on our third child since they grow up and move out of the program eventually, but each one is special and we are blessed to be able to assist a small child hear and learn about the love of Jesus.

Jesus said that we were to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Though we can’t all go away from home, we can pray and use our resources to see the good news of Jesus spread all over the globe. I hope you have a favorite charity or missions organization you give to regularly. It is one our greatest joys to give so others can hear and know about Jesus.

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Do you have a favorite Bible lesson? Maybe it was something you learned as a child. The stories of David and Goliath, or Jesus walking on the water or feeding the 5000 illustrate some great Bible truths about God’s power on the earth.

Possibly, as an adult, you gravitate more toward the deeper spiritual lessons on forgiveness or faith or grace or trust.  You know there are endless lessons we can or have learned through the years.

I’m not sure I have a favorite or even if I have one I’m more grateful for than another. Mostly it depends on what I’m going through at the moment. However today, I had to pick out a Bible lesson for my blogging calendar and my morning Bible reading in Numbers 22 highlighted an exceptional lesson…the story of Balaam and his very wise donkey. I’m not going to tell you the whole story so read Numbers chapters 22 and 23 to get the complete picture.

Balaam was an interesting guy. He wasn’t a follower of the One True God, yet he spoke to God and God spoke to him. Balaam practiced divination during the time when the children of Israel were wandering around the desert. He was more concerned with lining his own pockets then with doing the right thing. When Balak, the king of Moab, needed someone to curse the Israelites, he was confident Balaam was the man for the job. Funny thing was, Balaam would not curse the children of Israel because God instructed him not to. However, he still kept Balak on the hook for his divination fee.

While Balaam was riding his donkey to see the king, the Angel of the Lord stood in the road ahead of him. Balaam couldn’t see the angel with his sword drawn, but Balaam’s donkey could, and it turned off the road into a field to get away. Of course, the animal got a beating from his master as a result. This happens two more times until finally, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth.

Donkey“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?” Now, I don’t know about you, but hearing an audible voice from my donkey would be disconcerting, however, Balaam doesn’t seem bothered at all. He proceeds to have a conversation with his donkey, in the middle of the road, until the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes and he sees the Angel. Finally, Balaam gets it and he prostrates himself before the Lord.

God informs Balaam that He used the donkey to stop Balaam from taking a reckless path against the children of Israel. If the donkey had not turned away each time, God would have killed Balaam (but spared the animal). I think that probably got Balaam’s attention. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have let it get that far – I hope the talking donkey would have made me pay more attention.

I distinctly remember the first time I read this story. I was a pastor’s wife before I ever heard about the donkey who talked. I guess I’d never made it through Numbers in my hit-and-miss Bible reading back then. For some reason, I easily trusted all the other stories throughout the Bible. I believed He created the world from nothing, formed Eve from Adam’s rib, destroyed the earth by a flood, parted the Red Sea, turned water to wine, calmed the wind and waves, raised Lazarus from the dead, healed the multitudes of various diseases and cast out demons. No problem with any of those. But a talking donkey? That one seemed to stretch my faith. And I’m not sure why because the first talking animal in the Bible wasn’t Balaam’s donkey – it was Satan as a talking serpent in the Garden of Eden. I never had any problem accepting that story either.

My takeaway from the adventure of Balaam’s talking donkey is simple: If God can use a donkey to see the supernatural and give wisdom to his master, then there is hope for me. If a donkey can be an approved vessel of God, then I hope I would be faithful to His work as well. If I am willing, He will fill my mouth with His words. My purpose in life is to bring glory to God, whether it is by speaking or remaining silent.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:11a

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

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Do you ever catch yourself in a mindless fog, moving through traffic without any idea how you got where you are? Me too. Scared myself.

On the other side, I have also over-thought myself into inaction. I thought about something for so long and hard that I came to no conclusions…only saw the situation from every point of view available…and then did nothing. This is a talent for which I’m very skilled.

I have another talent – looking on the bright side. Occasionally, I will get down (who doesn’t?) but for the most part, I’m the person who sees the glass half full. Or as my science-geek friends would say,  completely full…half with liquid, half with air. This particular talent has served me well most of my life. I enjoy happy feelings. I like being the “up” person until…I’m the only “up” person. Then it feels like work. I feel like I have to pull everyone else up and I forgot my weight-lifting workout.

I realize that my natural tendency to look on the bright side is God-given (and annoying to some). God made me with the desire to encourage and exhort others, to help people see the positive side of a situation, to give others indisputable evidence that in all things God works for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

It’s a trait I am most thankful for…

But…

I can’t do it alone. Will you help me today? Will you give others a boost? Will you encourage someone who’s low and looking lower? Thanks – I appreciate it. I’m glad I’m not in this work alone.

And, by the way, if you’re one of those who have a tendency to see the glass half empty, take this Scripture and post it everywhere you can. Think_About_These_ThingsIt will help. Because God promises that He will never allow His Word to return empty and if you have your mind fixed on things above, and not on the circumstances of life that change, and drift, and sink your soul…you will be lifted up.

I appreciate my positive outlook and general happy perspective but God did not give it to me just for me…

He says, “Kris, go pass it along to others. This world needs to know that I haven’t given up on them. I will never leave them. I will never forsake them. I’ve got this all under control. Be salt and light and watch Me draw people to Myself.”

Cool, huh?

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Impossible.

My 30-day gratitude list asks: “What book are you grateful for?” Really? Singular? One book? Impossible.

You need to know this about me before I can continue. I love books. I have always loved books. I learned to read before I went to kindergarten and I’ve been reading ever since. I love all types of books…most genres (except horror, yuck)…many different authors and styles. Some of my greatest lessons have been learned while reading stories to my boys. One of my favorite series of children’s books are about a little raccoon named Adam.

adam_Raccoon - 2Adam Raccoon is the brain child (brain animal?) of Glen Keane, who both writes and illustrates all of the books. Formerly an animator for Disney, Mr. Keane wrote eight books about this little fun-loving fellow who lives in Master’s Wood along with his best friend, King Aren, and other friends (and enemies). In Adam’s many and varied adventures, he invariably learns a lesson or two, and always, always, King Aren pulls him out of whatever pickle Adam finds himself in.

My favorite Adam adventure involves a race he runs up Victory Mountain. Adam is very excited. He has new running shoes and is full of confidence that he will win the race, no question about it. King Aren, as always, is a wise and strong friend, who tries to dispense advice pre-race…but Adam thinks he knows it all and doesn’t listen well. (Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.)

One of my favorite lines is King Aren’s encouragement to Adam before the race begins.

“It’s easy to get off track. But when you do, get back on course and finish the race.”

Each of Adam’s books include a character meant to get him off alone and without King Aren’s protection. In the Race to Victory Mountain, the dark enticement comes from a bat who gives Adam a map of a “short cut.” Don’t we all want a short cut to the top? Don’t we all get tempted to cut corners and still reap the rewards? Yeah – it doesn’t work so well for Adam either.

The important thing to remember – for Adam and for us – “What counts is finishing the race. Everyone who stays on course and doesn’t quit will win.” More wisdom from King Aren.

As the race begins, Adam enjoys a comfortable lead. He is running great…until he hits Ruby’s Honey Stand. The temptation of fresh biscuits and honey get him off the course and a few pounds heavier before he realizes he needs to get moving. Then he encounters the old deserted fairgrounds. The various rides and attractions quickly become his latest distraction and time quickly gets away from him. He’s trying to make up some time when he remembers that short cut map.

At one point, Adam is standing at a crossroads. He sees King Aren’s course flag, and remembers the words, “Stay on course.” However, he’s worried he’ll never finish in time, so he heads off down the other path. As you can guess, this is not his best decision. He ends up hanging from a broken bridge slat over a raging river, “I quit.”

Nevertheless, to the rescue is King Aren, who encourages Adam to get back in the race. “You can still make it if you don’t delay!” So accompanied by his royal friend, Adam gets going, and as the last rays of sun fall over the mountain, Adam makes it to the finish line and receives a trophy, just like everyone else who finished the race.

Simple story. Yes. Timeless truth. Absolutely.

I go back to this story over and over because it so easily comforts and encourages me while I’m running my life race. I also have a king who is my best friend. King Jesus never leaves me, always provides the encouragement and advice I need, through His Word, to run my race with endurance. I can rely on His map (the Bible) and don’t need any short-cuts to a victory.

I’m grateful for this little book which showed my kids (and me) the way to live (race) victoriously – staying on course and never giving up.

“So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way. And we should remove the sin that so easily catches us. Let us look only to Jesus.” Hebrews 12:1b,2a

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