Beyond my comfort zones

When they told Mordecai Esther’s words, he had them respond to Esther: “Don’t think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you’ll come out of this alive simply because you are in the palace. In fact, if you don’t speak up at this very important time, relief and rescue will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. But who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family.” Esther sent back this word to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and tell them to give up eating to help me be brave. They aren’t to eat or drink anything for three whole days, and I myself will do the same, along with my female servants. Then, even though it’s against the law, I will go to the king; and if I am to die, then die I will.” So Mordecai left where he was and did exactly what Esther had ordered him. ~Esther 4:12-17(CEB)

Esther was in a difficult place. She faced a life-threatening decision. She could take a stand for her people or she could play it safe and do nothing. Have you ever been faced with a situation that you felt pressed to speak up? I haven’t been in such a critical position as Esther where the fates of thousands were affected. Or have I? When I look through the homeless, when I ignore the hungry, when I turn a blind eye to the suffering am I ignoring God’s call to reach out? In my silence how many people are affected? I do not think God won’t send someone else in my place if I don’t heed the call but who all will die as they wait for someone to answer? Help eventually will come but for some it will be too late.

Today I might be called to go where I am not comfortable going. The situation might be scary. It might push me beyond what I think I am capable of doing. But what if I remain silent? Will my stepping out bring someone life? Will my silence bring someone’s death? Each of us is God’s first choice for the task of bringing love to the world. I know that God is working all around me every day, and I want to be ready to step up to his task if God needs me. I don’t want to remain silent. I don’t want God to have to choose someone else for the task that should be mine. If God chooses me, I want to be ready.

Heavenly Father, help me to see with Your eyes, hear with Your ears, feel with Your heart. Give me Your courage and strength to be more than I am. Amen.

Faith to see yourself in God’s eyes

You are from God, little children, and you have defeated these people because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. ~1 John 4:4

It is so easy to judge ourselves by what others think of us. I often forget that my true value is through God’s eyes. My value is not from the people who surround me. If I base my significance on what others think I can be lifted up as high as the sky by their praise or I can find myself plummeting quickly be their disapproval. This creates such a roller-coaster effect on my emotions and is very dangerous to my well-being.

Instead I need to look in the Bible to find my self-worth. Who does the Bible say I am? If I look through the Bible I can find many references. One of my favorite verses on “who I am in Christ” comes from Romans 5:1 “Because of Christ and His redemption, I am completely forgiven and fully pleasing to God. I am totally accepted by God. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” My favorite part of that verse is that I am accepted by God, just as I am. No, I am not perfect. Whether I am at my best or at my worst I am still totally accepted by God. That is not always true of fellow humans. If I based my significance on others approval I begin to fear rejection. My fear of rejection can begin to control me and my self-worth. My dependence on others for value brings bondage and darkness.

God doesn’t want us living in darkness so He sent Jesus into the world to seek out those who find themselves in bondage. He came to speak truths to our heart about God’s love and acceptance. Taking this truth into our heart brings freedom and joy. I want to live in the light where freedom from bondage of what others think of me exists. I want joy in my life so I hold a simple truth in my heart, “I am a beloved child of God” (Gal 4:7). The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear (Psalm 27:1)

May I live securely in Your love and acceptance of me oh Lord. Help me this day to remember that my relationship with You is what matters above all others opinions. Hide deep in my heart Your truths of who I am through You. Amen.

Basic questions

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments. This is the love of God: we keep God’s commandments. God’s commandments are not difficult, because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son? ~1 John 5:1-6(CEB)

“How do I know that I love God?” “How does God want me to live?” “How do I know that I belong to God?” 1 John 5:1-6 tells me, everyone who believes that Jesus is Christ has been born from God. God wants me to love all His children. I show my love of others and of God by keeping God’s commandments.

This isn’t the only scripture speaking to me of God’s love and how I should remain in His love. John 15:9-12 says “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.”

So I show my love of God by keeping His commandment (1John 5:2). What is His commandment? Love each other just as I have loved you (John 15:12). In verse 13 of John 15 Jesus tells His disciples “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” How much did Jesus love me? Jesus died on the cross so that I might live. Wow, and I am to show that much love to others? How do I die to self so that others might know Jesus’ love? One thing is time I give up to serve others, to I help the hungry, to minister to the lost. When I put self on a shelf even for a little while, I find myself in Christ’s love as I become his hands and feet to those around me. Verse 11 of John 15 tells us that Jesus has told us these things so that our joy might be complete.

Heavenly Father, I want to find myself in Your love this day. Help me set my own wants and desires aside when someone’s need is great. Give me eyes that I may see these needs. Give me a heart to love others as You would have me love. Amen.

Be God’s mouthpiece

For those who want to love life and see good days should keep their tongue from evil speaking and their lips from speaking lies. ~1 Peter 3:10

The words we speak can be a blessing or a curse. Once words are unleashed they can never be retrieved. We can ask for forgiveness for the words we have said but we can never take them back. How differently would we live our lives if we thought about this fact before we ever said a word? If I thought ahead how hurtful my words might be before I say them would I ever say them in the first place? Often I think I would not. What is said out of anger or carelessness many times brings regrets and deep sorrows.

I want to live a life of love. I want to see good days. If this means that I need to slow down my own reaction to situations before I respond, if it means that I need to not take offense so quickly then I want to work harder on my part of the picture. I want to take that deep breath before I let words fly. I want to think about the reason the other person may have acted or said what they said. I want to be a solution not an aggravation to the problem.

I can think of a relationship or two that I have lost because I did not slow down and think ahead. Misunderstandings can have disastrous results. Some bridges can never be mended. I don’t want to live a life full of regrets or long for relationships that could have been different. I want to live and love as Jesus would have me do.

Heavenly Father, help me to guard my words. May the words that I speak be carefully thought through. May I be known as a reflection of your love even in the things that I say this day. Amen.

A great adventure

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” ~Matt. 28:16-20 (CEB)

“Many priests today are said to be abandoning prayer. One simple reason for this is that they have never experienced the power that prayer brings. Those who have once experienced that prayer is power will never again abandon prayer for the rest of their lives. Mahatma Gandhi put it well: ‘I am telling you my own experience,’ he said, ‘and that of my colleagues; we could go for days on end without food; we could not live a single minute without prayer.’ Or, as he said another time, ‘Given the type of life I am leading, if I ceased to pray I should go mad!’ If we ask God for so little it may well be because we feel the need for him so little. We are leading complacent, secure, well protected mediocre lives. We aren’t living dangerously enough; we aren’t living the way Jesus wanted us to live when he proclaimed the good news. The less we pray the less we are likely to life the risky, challenging life that the Gospels urge us to; the less of a challenge there is in our life, and the less we are likely to pray.” ~From Contact with God by Anthony de Mello

Sometimes I wonder… what if Jesus really meant what he said. If so than I am not living dangerously enough. There are no risks that I take no challenges that I have taken up for the good news. It would be easy to put Jesus in the box of “another good teacher”. That would be a safe place to put him. That would be the easy path to take.

Lead me on a wild adventure O Lord. May I never ask so little from You that I cease to live. Help me to see in this day how I can really live for You. Amen.

The Spirit’s Role

And that all this assembly may now that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand. ~1 Sam. 17:47 (NRSV)

“The practical question is: Do I adequately acknowledge the Spirit’s role in the good actions I perform every day, or do I attribute them only to my own initiative and hard work? The scriptural model insists that if the action was good, the Spirit was present from the beginning to the end. Since I am a teacher of theology it is most important for me to acknowledge God’s role in this area. Do I see the desire in me to teach well for the love of God and others as coming from the Spirit? Do I recognize that the strength and insight to carry out the good desire well are also infused by the Spirit? At the end of the day, do I adequately acknowledge God’s role in my successes and give [God] appropriate thanks? In addition to my teaching, I must do the same review for my counseling, my committee work at the university, my writing, my prayer, my helping others in any way throughout the day. I have allowed grace to be present and operative in myself to the extent that I have tried to do my daily service for the love of God and others. To this extent the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus our Lord has been dominant over the pressures on me not to serve with love. To the extent that I have not served in love, I humbly admit my faults and as for a greater increase of grace to transform these areas. My reward for living in the Spirit is the habitual peace and joy I experience.” ~From In His Spirit by Richard J. Hauser

May all glory and honor be Yours O Lord. May I be infused with the Holy Spirit as I walk out into Your world this day in Your service to those I meet. May Your love over flow through me to all Your children. Amen.

Shook up

After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence. ~Acts 4:31 (CEB)

“In all your experience of Christ, it is wisest for you to stay away from any set form, or pattern, or way. Instead, be wholly given up to the leading of the Holy Spirit. By following your spirit, every encounter you have with the Lord is one that is perfect. . .  no matter what the encounter is like.” ~From Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon

I get so locked into a schedule that I set for myself. How often have I missed out on God’s leading because I was focused on what I thought I should be doing?

Heavenly Father, help me this day to be led more by the Holy Spirit. Guide me in the direction that You would have me take for this day. Amen.

Kiss of the Holy Spirit

When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak. ~Acts 2:1-5 (CEB)

“Most of us have lived long enough to have thought or said, ‘I could never do that!’ It is a common response of ordinary people like us to a task that seems to demand extraordinary wisdom, strength, or faith. However, the Bible is filled with stories of those who told God they could lead, witness, or perform the task they were asked to do. Of course they were right! They could not do the difficult- or even the simple and easy –on their own. The biblical stories from Abraham to the first-century Christians point out that only with power from beyond themselves could the faithful fulfill their calling.

What are you planning to do that you cannot possibly achieve without help from beyond yourself? What do you feel God is calling you to be and do that is impossible without God’s intervention in your life? These questions move us quickly to the realization that we often live our lives on the easy path of the least faith and effort. To observe the church is to see that we are not alone in choosing the easy path. Yet we know there is a better way and a higher calling for us as individuals, as congregations, and as denominations.

The early disciples were told to wait upon God until the power came. They waited and the power did come. The book of Acts is a brief record of how the early church carried on its life and ministry with power from beyond itself. The record of individuals and Christian movements that have transformed the world within and around them is testimony to their capacity to receive power from beyond themselves to fulfill their calling. This power was given to ordinary people who were called to live in an extraordinary way. Could that be your calling today?” ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Almighty God, send Your Holy Spirit upon me this day that I may perfectly love You and faithfully follow You today and always. In the name and spirit of Christ. Amen.

Joy in the moment

A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones ~Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

Looking at the big picture can seem overwhelming sometimes. Too many times I forget to live in the moment. I see the bigger picture looming ahead of me and I don’t see my son’s little dances, don’t feel my daughter’s hugs or appreciate my husband sitting on the porch swing with me. I forget to smell the jasmine, to see my blooming flowers or my vegetable garden grow. I forget to laugh at my dog as she takes serious her task of chasing the rabbits. I forget to listen to the bird’s songs or listen as the wind rustles the leaves.

Seeing things piece by piece and searching for the joy in the moment helps to lighten my day. When I get to worrying about all the things that I have no power to fix at this moment, those things that are out of my control, I allow those things to steal the simple joys from my heart. Missing out on these simple things soon finds my spirit hurting.

God doesn’t want me to live with the weight of the world on my shoulders. He has put things in my path to help me enjoy life. He created flowers and bird songs for my enjoyment. He gave me my family for comfort and love. May I remember each day to appreciate all that he has blessed me with down to the simplest and smallest of details.

Heavenly Father, help me to remember to stop and smell the flowers, to hear the birds sing, to hug my family. May I not take any of these joys for granted. May they ever be fresh on my heart. Amen.

Chosen for a priesthood

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are Gods own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. ~1 Peter 2:9 (CEB)

The first few words in this verse jump out at me and grab my heart. I am chosen. If you know a little Bible history you know that once it was the Jewish race that was chosen to carry God’s truth to the world. When Jesus came into the world He established a fulfillment of the law and all races are now the chosen. But what have I been chosen for?

I am part of a royal priesthood now. My character my behavior, everything I say and do should reflect the fact that I am part of Christ’s royal priesthood. I have to admit I sometimes don’t act very royal. I also forget that I am to share with others that I once was in darkness but that Jesus came into that darkness, brought me up out of that darkness into the light of his saving grace. I forget that I am to seek out the lost and share with them the truths that I have learned and stored in my heart. 2 Thes 3:5 says, “May the Lord lead your hearts to express God’s love and Christ’s endurance.”

Sometimes it seems strange to think that I have been “saved” so that I might go out and speak to others about God and what He has done for me. 1 Peter 2 is built around this verse 9 and calls us to a Holy Living. Our new birth is not a magical event that changes us instantly into the likeness of Christ but a daily journey. Part of that journey is seeing those along my way that need someone to reach out to them. In sharing my salvation story it not only could provide someone with a hope but also reminds me of where I have been. This reminder helps my personal journey and helps to keep me on the right path.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for what you have done in my life. I thank you that you sought me out in the darkness and walked with me until I was ready to come out into the light. May I in my thankfulness remember to see with your eyes those who may be stuck in darkness. May I help them to see there is a hope and that hope is You. Amen.

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