Called to be me

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He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. ~Eph 4:11 (CEB)

A few years back, I was picking my daughter up from her last mission trip. As we gathered her things to go I told her that every time I pick her up from a mission trip someone tells me “Your daughter is a good digger”. She looked at me with all seriousness and said, “Well, when there is a lot you don’t know how to do, you find what you can do and do it well.” In one heartbeat I went from laughing with my daughter to being proud of her. We could all do well to remember this in life. “Find what we can do and do it well.”

It is humbling when I look around at all the great things people seem to be doing. Always before me, I can see what I don’t do well. But instead of focusing on what others are doing and what I seem unable to do, I need to remember that God doesn’t call me to what others do well. He calls me to what I can do well through Him who will give me the ability to do His will (Phil 3:14). God calls me to be me. If it is digging holes while others build decks, He will give me the strength to dig those holes. If it is to quietly sit with someone whose heart is broken while others lead thousands to Christ, God will give me the strength needed to hold that dear hand.

Paul addressed the Corinthians about this in the first letter to them, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:4-11 (NRSV)

What God calls me to do is for the common good. He doesn’t call me to a work to make me feel good about myself. Ephesians 4:12 says our ministry is for the building up of the body of Christ. Galatians 5:25-26 reminds me that my work is to be guided by the Holy Spirit and that I am not to become conceited, competitive or envious of what someone else may be called to do. So even though I may think someone else’s work is more glamorous than what I have been called to do, I am to keep my eyes on Him and walk only this road His has given me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the strength You give so that I can be all that I am meant to be. Help me to remember that all work is for the common good and not about me. Amen.

Love beyond all limits

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Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that~ smelled sweet to God. ~Eph 5:1-2 (CEB)

Even if you have not grown up in a church I feel confident that you have heard that God loves us. Maybe you have heard of God’s love through the simple children’s song, “Jesus loves me”. In church, the concept of God’s love is taught but not necessarily known. It takes life experiences to begin to understand what God’s love means in our heart. But this journey towards understanding just how big, how wide how deep how great God’s love really is (Eph 3:18-19), begins with misunderstanding just what love means

For many reasons we find ourselves misunderstanding God’s love. That it is absolute and unlimited for each one of us. The reasons that it is difficult for us to receive, trust or see His love are as numerous as there are people in the world. The relationships we have with others impact us and affect our views on what love means. How we interact in relationships can be reflected in how we interact and relate to God. Somewhere along the way, we may be taught that love is based on performance, control comes with conditions… When we take our first step on our journey of who we really are in Christ, we can begin to understand the concept of God’s perfect love for us just as we are right now.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, standing over her crib watching her sleep that I began to get a taste of what God’s love is for us. I also began to understand just how human I really was and that I could never love her enough. Matthew 7:11 says ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” If  I with all my faults, love my children and want so much for them can I not begin to take to heart the love God has for me? After being a mom for 20 years, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this kind of love.

Our journey towards grasping the concept of God’s love begins with this verse in Romans 8:38-39, ” But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”. God’s love for us knows NO limits.

Sometimes understanding is beyond our reach when life has caused deep wounds, Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, has this to say, ” How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love -fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the cruelest torture are able to choose love. By choosing love they become witnesses not only to enormous human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”

I walk a narrow path of hope in the midst of a world that has only hatred and fear to share. I look not to the world to define what love means. I look to the Source that is love. Sometimes the people in my life are here to show me what love is not. Sometimes I am blessed with insights of what love truly can be.

Heavenly Father I thank you this day for Your love that has no limits. I thank You for those people You have placed in my life to love and to love me. May I be an example of love to all I meet this day. Amen.

What is the point?

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What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before him. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.~Ecc3:9-15 (CEB)

What is the point of it all? I have been reading Ecclesiastes so I know that I am not the only person to ponder this question. Earlier in Chapter 3, the author talks about how there is a time for every season in life. A time to be born… a time to die… There are times in my life that everything seems to be going well. God gives me these times so that I can show the world how to live a life of blessings while still fully in tune with God. Other times I find life miserable and full of difficulties. God has allowed these hard times so that I can show the world how great our God is and that being His child brings great peace and joy despite hardship.

It is easy to become disillusioned with the circumstances of life compared to others’. The Psalmist writes about this in Psalm 73 “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.… Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.… When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:3, 13, 16–17) When I come into God’s presence He gives me peace and joy that surpasses it all. When I read the Bible it helps me to keep my focus on Him and not my current situation.

So what is the point of life here on earth, whatever moment I find myself in? The point of my life is to bring Him Glory. From the coffee break I take on my porch swing, to the words I say to a friend, to the boundaries I set for my kids and the walks I take with my husband, it should all point to Him. “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for Gods glory. “ ~1Cor 10:31 (CEB)

May my life this day Lord, point to Your glory. From the words I speak to the actions I take may it all be done to reflect Your love and grace in my life. Amen.

Perfect love casts out fear

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 1 John 4:18 (NRSV)

For about 3 or 4 weeks now, every time I turn around I have heard messages about the “spirit of fear”. 1 John 4:18 tells me that love and fear cannot hang out together. In fact, perfect love (God’s love) casts out fear. The Bible tells me that fear does not come from God: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. ~2Tim 1:7 (KJV). I love how the King James Version says that God gives a SOUND MIND. When my heart is anxious there is no soundness to my thinking!

On Saturday I heard a wonderful speaker/author, Jana Spicka, give a message on relationships. What kept jumping out at me was how the destroyer of many relationships is fear. Fear leads to self-loathing, doubt, indecision, fear of outcome, exaggeration, control… but perfect love casts all these things out.

Now this morning I open my email to read the daily Henri Nouwen post I subscribe to and find these words: “The world enslaves us with fear; the Spirit frees us from that slavery and restores us to the true relationship.  That is what Paul means when he says:  “All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons [daughters] of God, for what you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father!'”  (Romans 8:15).”

God will equip me for His good work (Heb 13:21) All I must do is remain in His love. To remain in His love I simply need to allow myself to be guided by the Holy Spirit remembering to whom I belong. Not to the world, but to God. Perfect Love will cast out my fears.

Heavenly Father I thank You for surrounding us with words that speak straight to the places where fear lives. I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to conquer the world so that we do not have to be defeated and enslaved but instead can be confidant, living as a child of God.  I thank You for the spirit of power, love and sound mind that You instill in me. Amen.

Direction

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I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.~Jer 29:11-13 (CEB)

While I was using the navigation app on my phone I missed an important turn. Right after I took a right I didn’t realize my phone was telling me to stay right for another turn. When I realized what the app wanted me to do, it was too late to make the turn. My phone could have said, “Well that’s it. Since you are too stupid to understand what I am telling you, I am going to leave you to figure out what you need to do next.” No, my phone didn’t ridicule me or berate me for being confused. It simple recalculated the road to adjust to where I was at the moment, leading me to other roads that ultimately got me to my intended goal.

I have seen the Holy Spirit working in my life in the same way. When I think I know the path that I am supposed to be on but then realize that I am lost and confused, I do not find myself abandoned by Holy Spirit. No. I cannot mess up God’s plan for my life. When I take a wrong path the Holy Spirit simply recalculates  to adjust to where I am at the moment, continuing to lead me in the way I need to go. Now I could be upset with the detour I have taken or I can sit back and calmly realize that God is still in control of my life. His plan for me includes those times that I take back over the direction I am headed.

There are no words to match the feelings that well up inside me when I realize that there is NOTHING I can do to mess up my God-given-destiny. Despite myself, God will get me where He plans for me to be. That’s kinda humbling.

Father  in heaven, thank You for never leaving me where I am at but taking me on to what You have planned for me. Amen.

A letter written for me

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All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. ~2Tim 3:16-17(CEB)

One of many things that fascinate me about the Bible is how it can speak to me as an individual. This is what sets scripture apart from all other writing. It speaks to every person from every background and every generation. In order to accomplish this it was written in symbolic language.

“A symbol is a representation of a greater reality. The symbol is not the reality but points to it. In order to grasp the truth of a symbol one must not look “at” it but through it to the greater reality that awaits discovery but the one who has eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt 11:15).” ~ Rueben P. Job

Jesus spoke in parables so that his teaching would have universal and singular appeal, and for that reason he taught through parables (Mark 4:33-34). If I carefully search each Bible story it will reveal hidden truth that suits my life’s situation. If I do not take the time to search the scriptures deeply, the symbols will remain nontransparent.

It is important that I take time every day to read scriptures as if it was it was a letter written just for me – as if the writer was thinking only of me when writing. Through analogies, metaphors, parables, I can enter into a personal dialog with God. There are questions that I can ask to help me understand what insights God is trying to speak to me: (1) What is this scripture saying to me about God? (2) What is this scripture telling me about myself? (3) What is the scripture saying to me about how God calls me to be in service to Him?

Heavenly Father, I stand amazed at how You speak to me today through something written over 2,000 years ago. Train me in the way that I need so I may be equipped for Your good work. Amen.

Prayer for the reader

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Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. ~Matt 21:22 (NRSV)

Not just in the Psalms can prayers be found but throughout the Bible. They are beautiful and I love when I come across them in my Bible reading. Here is a prayer that I want to share with you. Paul has written this prayer to the Ephesians but we can claim this prayer for ourselves today.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~Eph3:14-21 (NRSV)

Heavenly Father, I embrace this prayer as my own today. Grant strength and power through you Holy Spirit. Allow Christ to dwell in my heart so that I may know that love that surpasses all knowledge. I pray for You to work in me to accomplish abundantly more than I can ever imagine for Your glory and honor. Amen.

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