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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

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 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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Horace quote

“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

It’s time. Time to change things up again. Time to get back to some basics. Time to confront old habits and create new ones. Time to encourage others to be all God wants them to be. Time to “play detective” on myself and be the best “me” I can be.

Today marks Day 1 of my 90-day journey to renewing my spirit, soul and body. I’ve used a book by Donna Partow called “Becoming the Woman I Want to Be” at least twice before, and I’m picking it up again. The last time was almost 4 years ago so I’m sure there are a few things I’ll need to review and remember this time around.

There won’t be any surprises within the content of the book – Partow focuses on helping the reader concentrate on the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and journaling, as well as developing healthier eating and exercise habits. Since the last time I completed this journey, I’ve lost 30 pounds so I can testify to the success of the eating/exercise disciplines, at least in my own life. We are all unique so I cannot guarantee anyone else’s success but it never hurts to eat more veggies or take a walk every day.

I’m hopeful for a few unexpected turns in the road. Even though the book’s content is known, the way the Spirit of God will lead me this time will be new and different. He is a creative God and I’m looking forward to hearing His voice with fresh ears and listening to His instruction with a clean and receptive heart. This 90-day adventure includes 18 passages of Scripture to memorize – which has never been my strong suit – but I’m committed to giving it my best shot. The Bible says if I study and read God’s Word, it will always be valuable in my life. It is never a waste of time and energy to meditate on Scripture. Looking forward to seeing insights I’ve never noticed before. The Scripture at the top of the blog is my first one to memorize…I’m working on it. Thankfully no tests – yet.

Partow includes a daily affirmation to read out loud…a way to transform my mind with positive statements of Biblical truth. I’m very sure these encouragements will bless me every day. And I’ll probably share a few on social media. Apologies in advance.

I’m going to continue through my own personal Bible reading guide. I’d fallen behind but instead of cramming to “catch up” to where I should be, I’m just continuing where I left off. There is no condemnation from God and no list to check-off that anyone sees but me. Letting go of my “Bible Reading Guide OCD” and embracing freedom today!

Today’s affirmation spoke to me (and I hope to you as well) – “I forget those things that are behind me, including all of my personal shortcomings in the area of spiritual disciplines, diet and exercise. I am pressing toward what lies ahead: a bright future filled with health in my spirit, soul, and body.”

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Sean and David 1

Parenting is hard.

In fact, the actual act of giving birth is the easiest part. Once those big brown (or green or blue) eyes look into your soul and those little fingers get a grip around your heart, you are toast. And the pressure to be everything they need is overwhelming. It’s really the hardest and longest battle of any parent’s life ~ the battle to let them go.

It starts around age two. Some call it the “terrible 2s” – not sure why – just because my beautiful compliant baby has now learned the word “no” and refuses to wear clothes in public?

We work so hard to help our kids learn right from wrong. We teach them colors and numbers and letters…we listen and love…doing fractions homework and science fair projects…agonizing together through middle school, watching them struggle, succeed, struggle, succeed, over and over and over.

This parenting gig is gut-wrenching.

High school – late nights listening for the garage door to open or the text to ping. Meeting new friends… people of both genders passing through your living room. You pray the lessons on purity and kindness and integrity are being lived out away from your watchful eyes. Attending the “last” of anything brings out the waterworks – last band concert, last baseball game, last youth group, last family vacation, last Christmas together in one house.

That empty nest feels like a staycation…for about a week. Then the house is too quiet, the bedroom too picked up, the laundry basket and kitchen sink too empty.

It is not easy…releasing the chick to fly on his own. And now I know – releasing would be easier if you absolutely knew they would never encounter any obstacles.

So I sit and pray…listen and love…give advice only when asked but trusting always in the wisdom that only the Holy Spirit can give…to me and to him.

He must face life now, somehow without the seat belt we buckled him in 20+ years ago. The pressure on him is intense…pressure that I know can crush. If I didn’t trust in the only One who loves him more than I do, I would be lost. He faces struggles unknown – financial, emotional, mental – as all of us do in this life journey. The adventure which was once exhilarating is now lonely and dark and fraught with danger and shadows. Fear of failure threatens him – broken dreams and battered promises line his path. He must now rely on his own faith journey, without me or his dad as a buffer.

Parenting never gets easier. A pattern never develops. There is no book that has all the answers (even the Bible couldn’t help me with the “why won’t he wear clothes?” question).

I’ve gone from parent to teacher to coach to cheerleader with stints as referee here and there. Just when you think you’ve got it, you either have another kid who is the polar opposite or the first one changes personality and temperament overnight.

My husband and I pray every morning that our kids make good choices, that doors will open and doors will close, that they would be salt and light wherever they go, that they would have favor and financial provision and wisdom. Always wisdom. May they have the courage they need to fight each battle with bravery and conviction. And that they would never give up on themselves or their dreams.

I’ll pray the same for you today…as you parent your children. We love these little bundles of joy and heartache ~ may you be armed with strength and courage, love and kindness, hope and long-suffering. May the Holy Spirit guard your mind from doubt and give you wisdom for the darkest nights and brightest days ahead.

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Holidays are more than dates on a calendar. They are usually markers on a memory timeline and most families have at least one tradition for each major holiday. With Easter Sunday less than a week away, you have time to create a new memory, a special new tradition, to mark this very unique holiday.

Some families research and observe some or all of Holy Week, the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. You can google any one of the days of the week and find the unique observances surrounding each one. For instance, did you know that the Wednesday of Holy Week is often called “Spy Wednesday?” This day is observed by many Eastern Orthodox believers as the day Jesus was visiting Simon at his home in Bethany. While there, Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with costly perfume. Jesus’ disciples were indignant at the waste of money. Tradition says this was when Judas Iscariot decided to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:1-10).

Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. The word “maundy” is Latin and refers to the part of the evening when Jesus’ washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). The night concludes with a meal, which provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist or Last Supper (Luke 22:7-23).

Good Friday always seemed a misnomer to me. It is the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary (Matthew 27). In many areas of the world it is a legal holiday, including 12 U.S. states. Why is it called “good?” There are disagreements about the exact meaning, but many believe the “good” simply meant “pious” or “holy.”

Johnny Hart, Good Friday 2

Most Protestants don’t observe it, but Catholics often refer to the next day of the week as “Black Saturday.” There are unique traditions for both western and eastern Christian religions for this day.

Of course, the celebrations abound on Easter, beginning with sunrise services in many churches. New clothes, egg hunts, baskets filled with gifts and candy, joyful hymns declaring Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead! (Matthew 28:1-15)

What a great season to start a new tradition in your family. Observe a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service in a different church than what you are used to…Give Easter baskets to a women’s shelter or orphanage…send Easter cards to servicemen and women…Read the scriptural accounts of Holy Week to your kids, celebrating each day as Jesus may have…Have a foot-washing service with your small group…Participate in communion on Thursday night.

Enjoy this spring time holiday as you never have before ~ create something fresh and new or resurrect a family tradition from your own past. Either way, make a memory to last a lifetime.

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Be_A_Barnabas

There is a man in the book of Acts who has fascinated me for years. If you’ve never read Acts, you won’t get it, but this guy’s life is very compelling. Acts is the book written by Dr. Luke, detailing the lives of the disciples (now apostles) following the ascension of Jesus. Full of adventure and intrigue, good guys and bad guys, shipwrecks, beatings, miracles, signs & wonders, court room drama, and more protesters than at any Donald Trump rally. The story begins with Jesus telling his followers that He needs to go away for awhile but He’s going to send Someone to help them. So, in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit shows up…pretty dramatically…and the world has never been the same.

In chapter 4, a certain man is mentioned for the first time…Joseph, from Cyprus. He is a believer and I assume, because of evidence in his life, the apostles call him Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” At that time the believers were meeting together, living together and sharing in everything. Barnabas owned a field, sold it and gave all the money to the apostles…and this begins the story of the man responsible for the spread of Christianity around the world.

You thought that was Paul, didn’t you? Well, Paul usually gets the credit. We talk about Paul’s missionary journeys and Paul’s letters to the churches (which make up most of the New Testament) but in reality, this little known man called Barnabas is the real hero. And here’s why:

If it wasn’t for Barnabas, the world would never have known Paul. Before Paul (then known as Saul) had his roadside conversion, he was a very nasty guy. He was the original persecutor of anyone who followed the teachings of Jesus. Just the name “Saul” would strike terror in the hearts of believers in Jerusalem. But after his conversion, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and started preaching about Jesus being the Son of God. Needless to say, some were a little skeptical. It would be like a high-ranking ISIS official trying to join your church, claiming to be a Christian. But Barnabas shows up, takes Saul to the apostles in Jerusalem, and vouches for him…puts his own “son of encouragement” reputation on the line for Saul.

Not only is Barnabas known for being an encourager…and a man who champions those who are looked down on, but he was also satisfied with stepping out of the limelight to allow God’s plan for the world to move forward. When the church in Antioch sends out their first missionaries, it’s Barnabas who is the senior member of the team. But it soon becomes apparent that God is moving powerfully through Saul (now known as Paul), and Barnabas is the “other guy.” But he seems fine with it…he continues to travel, preaching and teaching about Jesus, working as a team with Paul to spread the gospel to Jews and Gentiles.

Our last real encounter with Barnabas may seem as though he has fallen out of favor, but I look at it differently. In the end of Acts chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas have a strong disagreement over the future involvement in their ministry of Barnabas’ cousin John Mark. Young J.M. had travelled with them in their first journey, but had quit for some unknown reason. Maybe the journey was tougher than he thought, maybe he was ill, maybe he was just homesick or immature in his faith – but for whatever reason, he went home. Now, in preparing for their second trip, Paul doesn’t want John Mark to join them, and Barnabas, once again, stands up for the little guy. (Remember, Paul? When he did this for you?) So Paul and Barnabas part ways and we really don’t know what happened to Mr. Encouragement after this. What we do know, from some of Paul’s letters, is that John Mark ends up back with Paul at some point. Barnabas has once again brought an immature young man to maturity and future ministry. And not just any future ministry, but a companion to both the Apostle Paul and Peter, as well as the author of the book of Mark, the second gospel. Pretty good mentoring job, Barnabas.

So, now you see why I find Barnabas to be one of the crucial men in the New Testament? If he hadn’t stood up for both Paul and later, John Mark, we may not have had the gospel preached, or the New Testament written. Obviously God would have found another way, but He used a little known Levite from Cyprus. Barnabas was an encourager to everyone, he stood up for the little guy, and he was willing to put his pride away and allow others to get the spotlight. I want to be a Barnabas.

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