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Do You Want To?

Verse of the Day: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” ~ Isaiah 6:8 (NASB)

 

When my children were toddlers, I discovered (like many parents out there) that the best way to get them to help around the house was to make it fun. Almost anything could and would be made into a game or song. And they loved it! They loved helping. They would beg me to let them help do anything and everything. They would actually fight over whose turn it was to help mommy.

Fast forward twelve years. No amount of singing the infamous Baby Bop’s “Clean-Up” can coax them into doing anything that isn’t their responsibility to do. The plea for help usually goes a little something like this:

Me: Will one of you put the clothes in the dryer, please?

Teen 1: I did it last time.

Teen 2: No, you didn’t! I did it last time.

Teen 1: No, I did! You put them in the washer last time!

Teen 2: Well if I put them in the washer last time, why should I have to put them in the dryer now?

Teen 1: Because I put them in the dryer after you washed them. So if mom put them in the washer this time, it’s your turn to put them in the dryer!

Teen 2: But that’s not fair because it’s my turn to wash dishes today. I shouldn’t have to put the clothes in the dryer AND do the dishes!

Teen 1: That makes absolutely no sense!

Me: For crying out loud! Somebody just put them in the dryer!

Teen 1: Ugghhh! I guess I’ll have to do it just like I have to do everything else around here!

Does any of this sound familiar?

Maybe it’s in your home with your own families. Or perhaps there are a few adults who come to mind. What about in your workplace? Your church?

We are always quick to shoot our hand up to volunteer for something fun or if it benefits us in some way. But if we ever feel that it’s someone else’s turn or it’s out of our comfort zone, we tuck our arms down tight, refusing to budge… Until no one else raises their hand or speaks up either.

“Fine, since no one is going to do it, I guess I will. I have to do everything else around here, I might as well do that, too!”  And we ever so reluctantly raise our hand or sign the volunteer sheet.

There is a key phrase in our thinking and daily conversations that we often overuse. Have to.

We don’t have to do anything.

Someone’s saying, “Except pay taxes and die,” right about now. But that isn’t true either. You can decide to not pay your taxes and deal with the consequences of being audited or penalized or prosecuted. And some of us may not ever die before we witness Jesus return. And if we do die a physical death, we don’t have to die a spiritual death.

That’s the wonderful thing about volunteering. You don’t have to. You want to.

And our decision to follow Jesus and to obey God’s commands are the same way. It’s a want to.

God didn’t command Isaiah to go and preach to the tribes in the north. He didn’t force him to go. He asked him to go.

The only thing that mattered was that Isaiah was willing.

It didn’t matter that he was a man who had sinned. Or that he was living among a sinful nation. God forgave him (Isaiah 6:5-7). It didn’t matter that he had no idea how he was going to accomplish it or how the message would be received or if he would die in the process.

The only thing that mattered was that he was willing to do what God had asked.

 

Search Your Heart

Is there something that God has asked you to do? What’s holding you back? Are you afraid that you aren’t qualified for the job? Do you feel like someone else should do it instead of you? Do you feel unworthy to be used by God? What would happen if you said, “I’ll go. Send me.” ?

 

Today’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, there are times that I feel so busy that I just can’t say “yes” to any more jobs. And I admit there are times that I just don’t want to.  Please give me a servant’s heart. I want to be available to be used in when You need me, Lord. Help me to remember that I don’t have to be a perfect person or have all the answers. I just have to be willing. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

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Shaken, Not Stirred

Verse of the Day: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

 

Years ago, my grandparents owned a little country store. Every day after lunch and again, right before closing, my PawPaw would bring his bucket of empty cans over to the bench nestled against the large side window where he had mounted a small can crusher. I would watch in amazement as he would carefully place a can on the ledge, pull the lever, and raise it back up to reveal a perfectly flattened disk of aluminum. Then he would let me have a turn.

At first, I would slam it down as hard as I could. After all, I was a little girl, and he was a big man. Surely, it would take a greater degree of force from me than it did from him. Each time, the can would fly off the ledge just as the lever hit it, and it would ricochet across the floor.

Have you ever felt like that aluminum can?

Sometimes, things happen in our lives and we just seem to ricochet through it all, and pick ourselves back up with nothing more than a scratch or a dent.

Other times, the slightest amount of pressure from the outside world or inside our own minds, and SMASH – we crumple like an empty can.

So what is the secret? How do we face our trials and tribulations with unrelenting faith and perseverance like the disciples?

We must remain filled with the Word of God. We must remain filled with the Holy Spirit. He is our Comforter, Healer, Teacher, Defender, and Counselor.

  1. Devote time every day to reading and studying the Bible.
  2. Pray regularly.
  3. Encourage one another using scripture.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask others to pray for you.

 

Search Your Heart

  • What obstacles are you currently facing in your life?
  • Do you ever feel like you are surrounded on all sides by negative people or circumstances?
  • When faced with adversity do you push through or collapse beneath the weight of it all?
  • Do you ever feel like giving up?
  • Are you taking necessary precautions so that you are able to stand when everything around you is unstable?

 

Today’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, life is so hard sometimes. There are days that I feel like giving up. There are moments that I feel like if one more thing comes against me, I may be buried beneath the rubble. Help me to stand firm in my faith. Help me keep my focus on You and things that are eternal instead of focusing my attention on things that will not matter in the end. You knew what I would be facing at this very moment in my life. You went before me and prepared a path for me. Help me to stay on that path. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Shelter in Place

Verse of the Day: He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day” ~ Psalm 91: 4-5 (NKJV)

 

KABOOOOOOM! Do you remember being so scared as a child that you ran and jumped in bed with your mom and dad? Maybe you were frightened by the crashes of thunder that shook the ground as a storm approached. Perhaps the shadows of trees dancing on the bedroom wall seemed eerily similar to large, creepy burglars stalking outside your window.

Do you remember how your heart felt as it pounded wildly inside your tightening chest? The room closing in on you with each passing minute? Each breath, faster and more shallow than the last?

Did you lie in the bed for a few moments with the blanket pulled over your head, hoping that when you ever…so…slowly…lowered it from your eyes, all would be right with the world, only to discover it wasn’t and you hit the floor running as fast as your little bare feet would carry you to the safety of your parents’ bed?

And just as soon as you were tucked between them with their loving arms around you, snuggled up together, you were fine again. Safe from everything that might want to hurt you.

My children still do this and they’re almost grown.

They know that no matter what it is that they are afraid of and no matter how much bigger it is than me, I will do anything and everything in my power to protect them.

Sometimes that mighty Mama Bear moment involves nothing more than checking that all the doors are locked and leaving the bathroom light on.

Then there are the times that something a little more extensive or personal is required.  Like a mama bird protecting her young, I open my arms, welcoming them into the warmth of my embrace, their heads pressed into the familiar, rhythmic drumming of my heart. And we are just together. Still. And they are safe.

But there are times that as their mother I won’t be there to protect them. Times that I can’t be there. Times that the imagined threat of yesterdays is actually an imminent danger.

And that time comes for all of us.

We’ve all experienced it. And we will experience it again. As long as we are on this earth, there will be trials and tribulations and snares. There is no escaping it.

Life gets pretty stormy sometimes. Does it not? I know mine does!

Circumstances beyond our control, free will and its consequences, and sin. They are the ingredients to a perfect storm. Even in an only slightly conducive environment, they can orchestrate a massive whirlwind of blinding rain and violent winds.

When that happens and you hear the storm warnings flashing in your head, what are you going to do? Are you going to make a run for the gas station across the parking lot, hoping you’ll outrun it? You were pretty fast in track. And it’s really not that far. Or should you anchor down and shelter in place?

Anyone will tell you that if you live in an area like Tornado Alley where there are frequent, sometimes violent and deadly storms, you better have a safe place if you plan on surviving a direct hit. It has to be ready at all times. A  great shelter is one that is well-constructed. Strong. Dependable. Solid. Secure.

Thank You, Lord, that You are willing to be that shelter for us!

When you get the call that your child has been in a serious car accident and you collapse in a heap on the floor, He will be right there to catch you and nourish you with love and truth so you can be strong.

When your coworker is telling lies to your boss in an attempt to get you fired, He is there, defending you with His shield against the arrows of deceit.

When your doctor tells you that you only have three months to live, He is opening His arms, waiting on you to run into them and rest your head against His chest. Whispering, “Fear Not.

 

Search Your Heart

  • Has there been a time in your life when everything seemed out of control like a giant tornado?
  • How did you handle it?
  • What do you wish you had done differently?
  • Does trying to fix your own problems result in a better or worse situation?
  • When you seek shelter in God, do you truly allow Him to fight your battle or do you try to work out Plan B or provide back-up?

*What battles or storms are you facing right now? Are you finding it easier or harder to seek shelter with God? Comment below.

 

Today’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that You allow me to draw near to You. When I am scared, worried, or upset, I know that You are there with Your arms wide-open, waiting for me to run into them. You are such a loving, protective God. Thank you for always being there when I need You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Oh, Baby!

Verse of the Day: Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”  ~  1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)

 

I love babies! Those sweet angelic faces. The way their tiny hands grasps your finger. Their toothless grins and giggles. Just thinking about them melts my heart like a bowl of ice cream in July.

But while babies are so adorable and precious, any one who’s had the privilege of being a parent, baby sitter, or even a sibling to one, knows that they are also demanding little boogers!

They want to be held. They want to be fed. They want their diaper changed. They want to play longer. They want the toy that the other child has. They want to go to Grandma’s. They don’t want to put clothes on. They want to play in the dog’s water. They don’t want to take a bath. They don’t want to eat. They want to be carried. They want to walk by themselves. They don’t want to take a nap.

Does it matter to them that you only have thirty minutes to get the shopping done before you have to pick up their brother from school? No. They want what they want when they want it, how they want it, and they are going to let you know it! Usually by screaming at the top of their lungs.

In a baby’s world, it’s ALL about them.

Jesus said in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven we must all be born again. We become like new babies. Our faith is innocent and new. But someone has to take care of us. We don’t know what to do.We don’t understand the things we read. We need someone to feed us. We fall down when we are learning to walk. Just like the infants we were when we were born to our mothers. But are we supposed to stay in our infancy state?

Just as babies grow, we too, are supposed to grow as we learn more about the true nature of Jesus. The things we want aren’t as important as the things others may need.  Just as we learned to obey our parents, we learn to obey God. When God tells us to do something, we don’t question His will or reason. We do it. We don’t sit on our pew and pout or lie on the floor kicking and screaming because we’d rather watch American Idol.

So what does a mature Christian look like?

We are to be givers, not takers. We are to forgive willingly – just as Christ forgave us. We should consider others more than ourselves. Our ultimate goal is to be Christlike. To be obedient, kind, and faithful. To be love. Because that’s what Jesus was. That’s what He is.

Does He expect this maturity to happen overnight? Of course not. But He does expect it to happen.

After all, would you send babies into battle? Neither would He.

 

Search Your Heart

Are you growing and maturing spiritually? Or are you still teetering around, wobbly and uncertain? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I get upset over the smallest things? Am I easily offended?
  • Is it always “my way or the highway?”
  • Am I more concerned with my own wants or needs than those of others?
  • Am I still battling the same issues that I was battling when I first became a Christian?
  • Are there areas I have grown in? What are they?
  • What areas of my life still need work?
  • Do I seek understanding and wisdom from God or do I seek other people’s opinions first?

 

Today’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me time to grow. Thank you for being patient with me as I mature in my walk with You. Please help me to put away childish and worldly ways and desires. Help me to focus on Your will and not my own. Shape me and mold me into Your likeness, Lord. In Jesus’ Precious name I pray. Amen.

Put Me In, Coach!

Verse of the Day:  ” Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. ” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

 

Guess what?!

I made the team!

And you can, too!

No try-outs required. No drawn out application process. No age restrictions. No educational requirements. No uniform policy or special equipment needed.

There are, however, a few characteristics that are beneficial to your success on the team. You can find a list of these qualities below, but don’t worry if you don’t possess them all right now or if they are currently below optimal performance level. There will be workshops and extra practices for those who need it.

1. Trust. You must trust in yourself and your abilities. Most importantly, you must be able to trust your coach – God. He has chosen you for this team for a reason. He has placed you in your chosen position for a reason and for a season. Trust that when He is keeping you in the game that you still have what it takes to complete the task. And when He is pulling you out of the game to warm the bench on the sideline, trust that He puts you where He needs you for that moment. It may not be that you have messed up. It just may be someone else’s time to play.

2. Self-motivation. Just like every player before you, you must take responsibility for your own participation on this team. Your pastor, your best friend, spouse, nor God is going to force you to read the play book (the Bible), get up early, go to bed late, miss your favorite television show, or show up to the game on time. It is your responsibility to do the necessary work to be the best that you can be. It is up to you to decide what is more important.

3. Resilience.  I’m not going to lie and tell you that all of our wins are going to be easy. There are going to be some hard times. You are going to get hit. From multiple directions. Sometimes all at once. You will be pushed, knocked down, kicked, and stomped on. It’s okay to take a brief time-out if you need it. Just keep your eye on the prize, brush off the muck and mire, block out the pain, and get your mind, body, and soul back in the game.

4. Flexibility.  Sometimes God needs you to switch positions with another teammate. You must be willing to play other positions other than the one He originally assigns to you. You may start off as the quarterback, but there may come a time that He needs you to be the water boy. Sometimes He may need you to be both. Be willing to accept the position He places you in, regardless of your ability to do much more or the ability to do it better than someone else.

5. Endurance. The season is a very long one… a lifetime to be exact. Every day. All day. At first, you may tire easily. There will be times that you want to quit. People who make you want to throw up your hands and walk away. Opposing teams that tell you that you will never make it –  that you aren’t good enough.  But with proper training (prayer, Bible reading, obedience, faith), you will overcome. And God will lead you to victory!

 

Search Your Heart

Are you ready for the big game? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I training regularly?
  • Do I trust God and what He says I can do through Jesus Christ?
  • Am I easily distracted by events or other people in my life? Do I allow them to take my focus off of Christ?
  • Do I learn from my mistakes and refocus on the task at hand?
  • Where do I need to make improvements?

 

Today’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, I want You to use me on Your team where You see fit. I accept that the position You give me may not be the one I want, but I trust You and Your infinite wisdom. Help me keep my eyes on You, especially when I feel like giving up. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.

Are You the Sword or the Balm?

Verse of the Day: “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of the sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” ~ Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

 

Growing up as a child, it was pretty common to hear my mother tell me how proud she was of me. She would gush over each “A” I brought home and tell me how smart I was and that when I grew up I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer. She would tell me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. Sitting on my bed at night, she would gently brush my long hair until all the tangles were out while telling me I was beautiful and how much she loved being my mom……..

Actually, that’s not true….None of it’s true.

My mother was a weapons manufacturer. Her favorite? The sword… And I’m not referring to the Word of God.

She would look at the “A” on my tests and demand to know why it wasn’t an “A+”, and proceed to call me every synonym for the word “unintelligent” that she could think of. *Slice*

She would tell me how I was going to be a nobody when I grew up and that I would never find anyone who wanted to marry me and that if I did, he would only want me so he could keep me barefoot and pregnant. *Jab* 
She never brushed my hair unless you count yanking hunks of tangles out with the hairbrush  while screaming at me to stop crying or she would shave it all off and let everyone at school make fun of me. *Thrust*

And when my sisters and I made her really angry, she would rage and shout that she should’ve had abortions and killed us. *Stab. Right. Through. The. Heart*

But my sisters and I were always there for each other, soothing the wounds that were left in the aftermath. A few hugs, a few kind words, and a few songs sang together made everything right as rain again. We were each other’s balm. The cuts didn’t vanish and there were scars left behind, but it definitely made the healing process a little easier.

Swords are designed to cut, maim, and kill our enemy. That’s why God tells us to use the Holy Bible as our sword when battling Satan. The only problem using a sword? You have to get up close and personal to use it.

Would you pick up a sword and swing it at a checkout clerk because someone in the parking lot took your parking space? Would you hug your friend and stab them in the back because you heard a rumor that she said something mean about you? Would you pick up a sword and thrust it through your child’s heart because they are not the perfect miniature adult you want them to be? That is what we do every time we spread rumors and gossip, or spout off words out of anger, spite, jealousy, or just plain carelessness.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of someone’s sword swing at some point . Some wounds have been deeper than others’, but they all hurt. Do they not?

The good news is that our words don’t have to be sharp. They don’t have to be wounding. They don’t have to hurt. They don’t have to be deadly. We have the power and grace through Jesus to use our words as a healing balm.

We can send a letter or card to encourage our neighbor who just lost their job. Pick a few great qualities that your child has and point them out and praise them. Share a Bible verse with that church member who is going through a divorce. Lift your pastor and their family up in prayer.

 

Search Your Heart

If someone followed you around for a day or even a week, which would they say you are most like? The sword? Or soothing balm? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I say hurtful things to others when I’m angry or out of spite?
  • Do I ever repeat gossip or rumors?
  • When someone hurts my feelings, do I try to hurt theirs in return?
  • Do I sincerely apologize when my words have caused someone pain?
  • Do I use my words to lift others up?
  • Do I encourage those who need to hear a kind word?

 

Today’s Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, I may not remember all the times that I have caused someone pain , but I know that You do. Please forgive me for using my words to wound others. Give me the courage, strength, and humility to apologize to others when I hurt them. Help me to use my voice to encourage, soothe, heal, and love others. In Jesus’ precious name I pray.  Amen.

Blinded By Blame

Verse of the Day: “His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus,“but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” ~ John 9: 2-3

A few days ago, our community was devastated by the news of a tragic car accident involving four of our area’s youth. Two survived. And two, unfortunately, did not. Immediately, Facebook became a firestorm, with a constant barrage of posts to their families and to the teens involved. Most expressed their love, sympathies, prayers, and some shared fond memories of the departed.  And just like all tragedies that we witness or go through in life, there were questions.

Why weren’t they wearing their seat belts? Was there alcohol involved? Was the driver going too fast? Did he swerve to avoid hitting a deer?

When things happen in our lives, we seek to understand them. Just like the disciples who came upon the blind man, we want to know who is really responsible. We need someone to cast the blame on, even if it is ourselves. Do any of these questions or thoughts sound familiar?

  • He should’ve never been left alone with those kids in the first place!
  • Why wasn’t she watching her child?
  • Where was the teacher when this was happening?
  • Why didn’t they have the gun locked in a safe?
  • I will never be the same because of what she did to me.
  • If she hadn’t tried to abort her baby, he wouldn’t have been born like that.
  • She shouldn’t have been dressed like that.
  • If my parents had stayed married I wouldn’t have these issues.
  • I should have been a better wife and mother and he wouldn’t have left us.
  • If God truly loved me, He wouldn’t have let this happen.

I don’t know about you, but that last one stepped on my toes.

So who is to blame for the things that happen to us? Sometimes accidents just happen. Sometimes people make bad decisions. Sometimes that person is us. Is it wrong to want someone to answer for the things they’ve done or to want justice to be served? Absolutely not! Does that mean we should be so preoccupied with seeking or placing blame that we become blinded to the works God has already performed through our circumstances or the miracles that are waiting to be done? Of course not!

When the disciples asked Jesus who was responsible for the blind man’s plight, He replied that no one was to blame. He said that God had made him that way so that His mighty works could be displayed through him. Then He spat on the ground, mixing his saliva with the dirt and rubbed the mud on the blind man’s eyes and told him to go wash it off in the Pool Of Siloam. And when the man did, he could see. The man who had been blind since birth could see! God allowed him to be born without sight so that he could later tell everyone of the miracle that was performed on him.

Search Your Heart

Are you facing a tragic circumstance in your life right now? Are you like the disciples? Do you automatically assume that when something happens that someone is to blame? Is there someone who has to “pay”? Do you tend to tell yourself over and over that if only this person had not done this to you or if that had not happened then your life would be different? Or do you look at your circumstances from Jesus’ perspective – that whatever has happened to you or ever how you were born was so that the mighty works of God could be displayed through you?

 

Today’s Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,  I do not completely understand why You have allowed certain things to happen in my life. Help me to trust that You do have a plan. I ask that You search my heart and mind. I don’t want to be so preoccupied with blaming others or myself for the circumstances of my life that I miss the mighty works that You want to work through me. Remove any animosity or vengeance from my heart, Lord, and replace it with Your perfect love; a love that covers a multitude of sins, even those done against me. These things I ask in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.