desperately in need

 

My family went to a livestock auction this weekend where sheep and goats were being sold to farmers. As I saw the size of the sheep I thought of young David watching his flock. The size of the sheep and the way they behaved made me realize how strong David had to be to control them. He also had to be caring because they truly behaved with a herd mentality.

The sheep didn’t want to go where they were led in the arena. Instead, they gathered into a corner and stood almost like they were playing the statue game. When they came into the small arena they walked in a circle, like a tightening top.  When the shepherd was trying to protect them, they still went straight for trouble.

Image result for sheep

As they entered the arena I noticed the sheep who were cared for and the ones who were not. The sheep who had a good shepherd had wool either clipped and clean. The others had wool in great matted messes, with sticks, brambles, and dirt imbedded in it.

Without a good shepherd to care for them, they would carry around unneeded weight and things that were picked up in their day-to-day lives which could cause infections and sickness. It was all about the difference of good shepherds caring for their sheep.

No wonder we are compared to sheep in the Bible. As believers we need a strong and compassionate hand to guide us and correct us when we head in the wrong direction. God is ever patient with us, guiding us to the safe places where we can rest and grow without fear of harm. He protects us from the enemy who only wants to maim and destroy us. Ultimately, God saves us from our own foolishness.

Dear Ones, we have this sweet relationship with God that allows us to be cared for, protected, allowed room to grow and mature in our faith, to be a blessing to those around us in our daily lives. It’s all a matter of whether we are going to embrace the Shepherd’s directions or not. Whether we are going to accept that we are truly desperately in need of the Savior we have been given.

Will we accept His great grace, the yoke He promises, the correction we need, and the peace that passes all understanding ? Or will we be like the sheep that has gone astray, lost, without protection, able to easily fall and not be helped up? It is all about our pride and the simple reality of whether we admit our desperate need. O Best Beloved, let us admit it together- we are desperately in need of the Savior who loves us and calls us to Him. Will you come with me?

 

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not partial

As believers we have a tendency to make our faith into a country club, exclusive only to those found worthy enough to enter. I have watched many Christians make the process of salvation become a multi-step, graduate level course, instead of the simple statement, “Father, forgive me, I am a sinner in need of Your Grace.” No hoop jumping or fees required.

God is not partial to one people group, He calls us all to Him so we can have an intimate relationship with Him. Acts 10:34-35, 42-43 is clear, Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. . . He [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  

When we say that someone is not worthy of being saved, we act in God’s place and we are totally wrong. Remember when Peter saw the vision of the unclean animals in Acts? God was explicit about who was eligible to receive His great grace.  Acts 11:9, 15, 18 describes this truth. “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’ (v.9) As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning (v. 15).  In other words, everyone is eligible to receive God’s grace. Whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, male, female, on the left or the right. 

With this in mind, we should respond as the Jews did in Acts 11:18, When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” The word Gentile simply means a person who is not Jewish. So, all of us are offered repentance- nothing keeps us from God- not our past, not our family lineage, who we hang out with, nothing. Only our choice to not come to Him. Let us be honest O Best Beloved, God isn’t keeping us from Him, we are staying away. God is not partial.

Romans 8:38-39 clearly says, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Second Peter 3:9 shows God’s amazing patience for us as well, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. When He could send the final judgment at any time, He chooses to wait a little longer.

Join me, Dear Ones, in sharing this impartial, amazing love and grace offered by the God we say we love and serve. Let us join with those who have gone before us to spread the Gospel to a lost and dying generation until He calls us home to Heaven.

 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3:18).

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benched

I have spent most of my life standing on the sidelines of a sports event: football, wrestling, track, basketball, cross country, soccer, baseball. Whatever the event, I have stood cheering for my home team, encouraging them to play their best and leave it all out there.

One of the hardest things about being on a team are the times when the coach decides to have the player sit out and “warm the bench.” It is discouraging to the players who want to participate in their favorite sports and help bring a victory to their team. I have watched players who are so excited at the beginning, yet with one action of the coach or even a teammate, their spirits are squashed.

As a believer there are times when God calls us over and says to take a seat on the bench. We tend to wonder what we have done wrong, analyzing our last actions, trying to figure out why God doesn’t want us to participate. In reality, we may be called to sit out a play or two because there are others who are gifted in one area or another and it is their time to shine.

When God decides to bench us, it is for a greater purpose. We may be needing rest and restoration because we have been on the field and God is giving us time to recover before our next time to run out and join our teammates.

God may also be calling us to the bench because He has need to correct our focus and redirect our attention to the goal. We have all watched sports events when the coach calls players over to help them reset their purpose. Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate coach, striving to grow us and stretch us to become who we were created to be (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Dear Ones, may we remember that when we are benched it is not to be for the rest of the game. We are to sit on the bench to receive rest, instruction, redirection, and correction so we can go back on the field to serve with purpose (Philippians 3:12, 14).

 

 

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water, water, life

Image result for images of trees by streams

The picture above is a beautiful example of growing where there is life-giving water.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

When my sons were little we had a pool in our backyard. Every day that didn’t have snow on the ground, they wanted to be in the water. I am not a water person, I like to look at it, but I do not enjoy swimming. However, as Mom, I found myself in the pool most days to allow the boys time in the water.

A few years after we moved from that house I came across the verse above. I thought of my sons’ desire to be in the water and feel the pressure of the water as it held them up. To splash and be refreshed during the warm summer days. These are the same qualities I seek from walking with God. I long to be held up and be refreshed by His Spirit.

This lost world is much like a desert, dry, without hope, without refreshment. With God, we can find a never ending supply of life-giving water (John 7:38) if we are willing to put down our roots into the stream. What would that look like for you, O Best Beloved?

Does putting down your roots mean being consistent with attending church so you get an on-going meal of God’s word? Does that mean becoming involved in a Bible study? Or being a part of a service group, working in the community? Does that mean focusing on the spiritual growth within your home? What kind of fruit would you bear if your daily activities included growing your roots deeper with purpose?

We may be the last generation to introduce the world to Jesus before we all stand before Him (Philippians 2:9-11). I pray we will use our time wisely, seeking to grow in Him so we can encourage others to seek Him.  My heart, Dear One, is for us to seek God and let the fruit of our growth bless others.

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seeking to please

As a young believer, I attended a Christian college where much of my foundation was laid. I learned about who God really was, not what the world said. I took in the rich teaching at chapel services where I heard people from all over the world sharing their love and stories of God’s goodness and mercies.

One of the things I didn’t fully understand as a young believer was the verse that was part of the college seal. First Thessalonians 2:4 says,  On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 

I had grown up striving to please all people I came in contact with daily. My parents, brother, grandparents, other family members, classmates, whomever, including strangers. Even when it was detrimental to me and my soul, I was determined to make everyone happy. In the process, I made myself fearful, anxious, even sick. I had not learned how to live out the last half of 1 Thessalonians 2:4, We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. I had not gone through counseling at this point. I didn’t have healthy boundaries or the understanding of how to forgive and receive mercy and grace from others.

God tells us that He can see our hearts, He looks at what is inside not outside of us and judges us on those things (1 Samuel 16:7). He does not care if we have the right clothes, houses, or cars. Our hearts are what matter. Now, over twenty-five years later in my Faith journey, hours of counseling, healing, honesty, and difficult truth-telling, I can see the wisdom of seeking to please God.

O Best Beloved,  do you understand the freedom of seeking to please God only? We are released from all the struggles of trying to please finite creatures. Mankind is fickle. We choose to love today and hate tomorrow, based on our every changing emotions. God is faithful, ever constant, immovable. We can choose to seek His approval because He is worth pleasing. Let us be people who seek to please the God of the Universe who loves us forever.

 

 

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Coming home

Today I went to my “home” church for services. It was a precious time to reconnect with sweet friends and visit with former students. As I walked in the doors, my heart seemed to exhale and the deep breaths that followed were full of new life and depth of peace that have been missed. My church in Nebraska is filling – but there is something about walking into the church that fed me and then my whole family for over 15 years. 

When I was in my twenties, I could go for long periods of time without sleep, constantly on the run, sleeping wherever I happened to be. As I get older, I find myself looking for the places that allow me to rest and refill after a busy week at work, or even to allow me to restore myself after being under the weather. Home fulfills all these needs. When I leave home again, I am able to go into battle because I am equipped for the next situation. 

A woman approached me while at church, asking if we had any Bibles to give away to a couple who were receiving help through the homeless ministry. I immediately went to find some Bibles. I know that they may not have a physical home, but they would be able to find a home with Jesus as they read and studied the verses. 

Walking with Jesus does the same thing for me. When I meet with Him, listening and learning from Him, letting my spirit be corrected as it needs, then I can walk forward ready for the next step in His purposes for me. I wonder if you understand what I mean, Dear One. When you spend time with Jesus do you find your heart expanding? How do you feel when you don’t? 

Someday when I die, hopefully many years from now, I will come face to face with Jesus. I will finally understand the trials and triumphs from Heaven’s point of view. The only thing that will matter to me at that time will be that my soul will be home. I will breathe in and out for all eternity in the joy and the presence of the Jesus I have prayed to, cried to, and sang to in my life.

 I will be home. O Best Beloved, what will happen to you on that day? Will you stand before Jesus and find a familiar stranger or a familiar friend? 

 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him (John 14:23). 

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the day before

Thirty-nine days have passed and tomorrow my sons and I drive to my folks’ to spend a week with them. We are all excited to spend time together, to catch up on stories, share meals and laughter- for one last time before my oldest goes off to college. At this time, all of our plans are still plans. Nothing has occurred yet, we are still preparing for the trip.

In Joshua 3, the people of Israel stood at the edge of the Promised Land. The last act of faith would be to cross the swollen river Jordan rushing in front of them.  The priests were going to carry the Ark of the Covenant in front of all the people, leading them through the river to their new home.  Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5). 

The next day, after the people were prepared and consecrated, the priests began to walk with the Ark. They stepped into the swirling river and with the next step, they were walking on dried ground. The LORD had stopped the river to allow them to cross over, a miracle not seen by the new generation (Joshua 3: 11:13).

I wonder if the Israelites even imagined the kinds of things God was going to do when they woke up in the morning. Sure they had watched God defeat their enemies in extraordinary ways (Jericho for instance), but when Joshua tells them, “The Lord will do amazing things among you” it is because he knows Who God is and what He is capable of doing.

I think of the night before I met my husband, the day before I accepted his proposal, or the day before I married him. Each night before those life changing events seemed like just another day. I thought I would just wake up, go through my scheduled plans, and then go to bed to do the whole thing all over again. I didn’t know that the next morning my life would be changed.

July 15, 1990 was just another day. I was working at a summer camp, meeting people, working, enjoying my summer of freedom. I had no idea that I would accept the amazing grace God was offering the next day. I had no way of understanding the soul-washing waves that would crash over me when I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, cleansing me from my hurt, pain, regret, fear, and sadness. When I went to sleep that night of the 15th, I didn’t know it was the day before I met Christ.

What about you, Best Beloved? Can you recall the day before you met Jesus? Who were you then? Who are you now? Who will you be tomorrow? Today could be the day before something amazing– are you looking for what God may have in store for you?

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If, then 

Grammar was one of my favorite subjects to teach. Each participle, noun, adjective, and preposition was like a piece to the puzzle of the English language.  The words if and then are the same way. Like a scale, where one word is, the other word must also be, to bring balance to the sentence. 

I’ve learned that no where else is this balance more true, than in my faith journey. 

As I continue on the path I am on, I discover how true God is in His promises and love for us. If God is who He says He is, then the plans and purposes He has created for me to fulfill are important. I am not created for my selfish wants, but for His selfless plan to show His love through me. 

If I say I am a believer, then my words, actions, and interaction with others will reflect Him like the moon reflects the sun. But if my outside doesn’t reflect the faith I have inside, then my behavior could cause someone to stumble or turn away from God. 

The same goes for God. If God tells me He loves me (Isaiah 43:4) then I can stop trying to earn it and rest in His love instead. If God tells me He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) then I can trust Him to be by my side no matter how dark it may seem. 

Another lesson I have learned is that if I don’t like a situation and I know that I can be a part of changing it for His glory, then I better act on it. Whether it’s helping the homeless in my town, loving on hurting teens in a small group setting, or caring for my family- if I see that need, then I can be a part of filling the need. 

Dear Ones, what is your if, then statement? What thing do you see and realize is a part of the plan you were created to fulfill for God’s glory? Are you praying about it? Seek His wisdom and God will provide it (James 1:5). He is faithful and He will act through us, if only we allow Him access to our hearts and hands. 

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give it up

This past Wednesday began the season of Lent. I didn’t grow up in the Catholic or Lutheran church, so Wednesday was another day on the calendar. Nothing more. I saw a few people with an ashen cross marking their foreheads at work. I remembered that meant that Easter wasn’t that far away.

I know there are people who faithfully give up chocolate, social media, red meat, coffee and the like for the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. While I do not want to belittle what may be a real sacrifice for them, I wonder still at the heart of the matter.

Why are we giving up something as we prepare for Easter? Is it piety? Is it tradition? Is it to show others how devout you really are in your faith? Where is it written that we need to give up things to show our faith? Haven’t we already done that if we have fully accepted Christ into our heart and lives?

When I said yes to Christ, I said no to selfishness, for He was selfless for my sake.

When I said yes to God’s grace, I said no to trying to follow all the laws, presumptions, and beliefs of others.

When I said  yes to God’s mercies, I said no to holding grudges and trying to make people pay for the hurt they caused me.

When I said yes to Christ, I said no to following my own plans and time line, to trying to figure it out on my own.

When I said yes to Jesus, I said yes to the love and grace, mercy and joy that comes from the very Throne of Heaven.

I respect the centuries-old tradition of Ash Wednesday, but for me, I need to approach each day as Ash Wednesday and  Easter Sunday combined. My heart needs to remember what Jesus gave up for me and who I am because of what He gave up for me. So I am going to give it up every day, not just twice in the spring.

I am going to give up my heart, my song, my story, all to Jesus. And this can be your story, your song, too. It’s all about what your heart is willing to give up, Best Beloved.  Let us walk into this season and celebrate what our lives are thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection to cover all of our sins.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long. 

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released

Prior to counseling I struggled with an unhealthy perspective of tasks. Whether it was cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cleaning the stalls on the farm, I would take on the tasks without asking for help. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and fully frazzled.

Now, I find myself feeling a sense of peace as I go through my day. I accept the tasks that are mine and leave the ones that are not. My wonderful husband has a mathematical mind and organizing schedules is his specialty.With four people’s schedules and two vehicles it can make the scheduling all the more challenging. 

This week began with our younger son having soccer tryouts from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m., my husband working until 7 p.m., and our oldest son working until 9:15 p.m. I was off work at 4 p.m. My sweet hubby had me go home and he stayed in town until the last event ended and the three men came home together.

Once upon a time, I would have played the martyr and stayed in town.  Now I celebrate the freedom to go home and not worry about whether things will be cared for, my hubby has it covered. This same perspective can be found in my relationship with God.

By recognizing what is my responsibility and what God takes care of each day, I am released from the need to figure out how to make everything come together. I can let it go, allowing God to work out His perfect plans through the world.

When I studied Galatians in college I found the challenge from Paul. You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 3:1). Paul wanted them to remember that the law is what bound them before they knew of Christ and it was the grace through Christ that freed them. Yet, they foolishly walked back into the prison cells and closed the doors. Somehow they felt more comfortable behind the bars than released from them. 

So too, am I, if I am honest. If I allow myself to forget all the amazing things God has done in my life, I will find my feet turning back to the broken I knew- because it is familiar. Not good for me- not even close- but it is what I knew well. 

But if I turn to embrace all God has taught me, challenged me to see, and asked me to let go of- for the best He has to offer– then I can stretch out my soul and my heart and my life to take hold of all He longs to share with me. 

If only I push open the prison door for the last time and walk out– forever. 

What about you, O Best Beloved? Are you standing in the prison still? Don’t you realize that the door is opened? Jesus was the key to our freedom- so embrace it. Celebrate your release from the walls you have created and reach out for the God who has been holding you all along.

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