Why Summer 2016 is the Summer of Freedom!

Ah summer… sleeping in late, lazy days by the pool sipping a cool drink and reading a best-seller. No worries, responsibilities, or stress. [wait for it…] Yeah, right! Summer doesn’t usually pan out to be like that fantasy. If I am by the pool, I’m trying not to melt while watching the kids and reminding them for the millionth time to put on sunscreen. The tedious treadmill of the Monday through Friday school week is replaced by a chaotic stop-n-go madness that has the kids bored one week and exhausted the next. By the time the fireworks go off on July 4th, the “freedom” I was looking forward to celebrating during the summer has been replaced with a longing for school to start and temperatures to fall. I think this Summer, I’ll pursue a different type of freedom. One that will prove much more satisfying and less illusive than my typical summer daydreams. Want to join me on the adventure to real freedom?

Featured Image Blog Post-rev

Last week I tested the waters to see if anyone was interested in studying Galatians this Summer. Well, quite a few of you have said you’d like to join in on my quest for true freedom. So, it’s time to claim your spot for whichever format/session works best for you.

You can choose from four options:

Georgetown Groups – Tuesdays Morning or Evening

If you live in town and are available on Tuesdays, join me in person. The morning session meets 10 – 11 am and the evening session is at 6:30 – 7:30 pm. These local classes will meet at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown, Texas. Tuesday groups will begin on June 21 and wrap up on August 2.

Online Groups – Thursdays Morning or Evening

Need another option? Sign up for one of the Thursday sessions which will be live, interactive webinars. That means we can interact live and in a private group where we don’t have to worry about internet trolls disturbing us! You can choose to interact via typing in the chat box to ask your questions and share your comments or you can jump on camera and address the group! It’s like a Google Hangout or a group Skype call. Cool!

The morning webinars will happen at 11 am Central Time and the evening ones at 7 pm. Class will last about an hour. Thursday groups will begin on June 23 and wrap up on August 11 (we won’t meet on July 7).

Why, of course, there’s a workbook!

I’m in the process of preparing lessons and creating a workbook for you! There probably won’t be a lot of commentary in the workbook. I’m envisioning it as more of a guide to note-taking. If you’ve ever done a Precept Upon Precept study it will be along those lines.  But don’t worry, if the Precept marking and color coding drive you crazy, this will be very flexible to fit many different styles of study.

Use of the workbook is totally optional! Our primary text will be the Scripture. The workbook will just be a tool to help you get more out of your study of the Word.

Here is a sneak peak at the workbook cover…

Workbook-Cover - 300 px

Worried about missing some sessions?

Don’t fret, I’ve got you covered. It is Summer and many of us have vacations planned, and with the kids home, schedules can be less predictable than ever.

But don’t let that stop you from getting in the Word with us.

I’ll  record each group’s sessions and post those recordings in the Making It Real Member Area. You’ll have a user name and password that will allow you to access the videos (along with your workbook and any other goodies I come up with) whenever it suits your schedule.

So what are you waiting for? Claim your spot now!

Seven sessions of Bible study, a workbook, video recordings of each session, and I’ll probably come up with one or two additional goodies by the time we’re done. All this for only $19! That is less than $3 per session! So spread the word and let’s explore our freedom this summer!

You can get all the details and register for the group using either of these buttons…

Button Get More Info-YellowButton Claim Your Spot-Green

 

What do you think of this cool idea for summer?

Study Galatians with me — in person or online — your choice!

The past few weeks of teaching the pilot students of my soon to launch online course about setting healthy boundaries has reminded me how much I love teaching and interacting with other people as we study God’s Word. And I don’t know about you, but I always do a better job of consistently staying in the Scriptures when I’m part of a Bible study group. For a while now, God has put it on my heart to study Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is a relatively short book (only 6 chapters) which makes it a good choice for a summer study. So, I’m putting this idea out there to see if any of you are interested. I don’t have all the details set yet; I’m just testing the waters for interest at this point. Your feedback will help me fill in the details. So here’s the scoop…

Summer Bible Study Galatians

Summer is often associated with freedom: freedom from routines, to go on vacations, to sit by the pool and relax. So what a perfect time to study a book of the Bible that reminds us of the freedom we have in Christ. I don’t know about you, but I have some strongholds that I wrestle with. I think Paul’s wise words will help me find some freedom from those this summer.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.Galatians 5:1, NIV

How this will work…

I’m thinking we will need six or seven sessions to study the entire book of Galatians. I’d like to start the week of June 21 and wrap up the study the first week of August.  Don’t worry if you have vacations planned and will have to miss one or two sessions. I’ll try to record the sessions (very rough – no fancy editing and the lighting might not be great), and have those for you to download if you miss a session.

I’m planning to keep this very simple. Our primary text will be our Bible! I will create a PDF workbook that will provide you some structure for taking notes as you study, but it won’t be a polished, published workbook. I’ll email that to the registered participants and you can print it out and put it in a binder or folder.

The cost will be $19. That’s less than a grande latte or Iced Caramel Macchiato per session. Pretty sweet! Invite your friends!

Traditional Live Local Group or Live Online Group

So, here’s the different options as far as when and how we could meet:

In Person in Georgetown

Many of my readers live close enough to Georgetown, Texas (my hometown) to be able to join me in person.  So, for those of you who prefer getting together in person,  I’m tossing out a couple different options.  We could have a Tuesday 10 – 11 am group or we could have a Tuesday 6:30 – 7:30 pm group.  The location will be someplace in Georgetown (I’ll determine the exact location once I know how many are interested).

Online Live Interactive Class

For my out-of-towners or those who prefer an online experience, I’ve invested in the technology that will allow us to have interactive, live class via the internet. I know it might sound scary if you aren’t used to doing webinars or video chats. But if I can figure out how to do this, anyone can! With my software, you will have the option of being on camera along with me or participating without being visible to the rest of the participants. Basically it will be like a Google Hangout or a Periscope/Blab except I will have the ability to limit attendance to only those registered. No weird internet trolls posting inappropriate comments!

The only technology you will need is a computer and an internet connection. If you want to appear on screen you’ll also need a webcam and microphone (most newer computers have those built in). You may also be able to use your smartphone or tablet (ipad). I need to double check that, but I’m pretty sure that is the case. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you step-by-step through how to navigate the tech!

I’m thinking the online class will meet on Thursdays at either 11 am or 7 pm.

Isn’t it cool we live in a time when geography doesn’t limit our ability to gather together in fellowship and study of the Scriptures! Awesome!

So, which group would you be interested in?

Summer Bible Study Galatians Iced Tea

If enough of you are interested, we’ll move forward with one or more of those options. I’ll figure out the details and send you a link to officially enroll. For now, just let me know if you would be interested in getting more info and possibly attending one of the groups.  You’ll do this by clicking the button below that corresponds with the group in which you’d most like to participate. Then I’ll email you with more information really soon so we can get started in June!

CLICK ONE OF THE BUTTONS BELOW TO LET ME KNOW YOU’RE INTERESTED!

Tuesdays In Person In Georgetown

Exact location to be determined. Morning class at 10 am, evening class at 6:30 pm. I’ll set up my iphone and microphone and post a recording within about 24 hours of each class in case you miss that week’s session.

I’m interested in the Tuesday Morning class

I’m interested in the Tuesday Evening Class

Thursdays Online Live and Interactive

I’ll send registered participants a link to join the online class each Thursday. Morning class will go live at 11:00 am, evening class at 7:00 pm. If all goes well with the tech, I’ll send out recordings of the class within about 24 hours or so after we end the broadcast.

I’m interested in the Thursday Morning online class!


I’m Interested in the Thursday Evening Online Class

I can’t wait to see which button you clicked! Feel free to share this with your friends using the buttons above and below the post! The more the merrier.

Why We Can Count on God to Be Faithful

Waiting is hard but knowing who we wait for makes it easier to wait expectantly.

My prayers lately have been increasingly filled with intercession on behalf of many who are enduring illness, grief, uncertainty, and trials of many kinds. And as I look around at our world and the rampant chaos and suffering, I, like the prophet Habakkuk, cry out to God: “How can a holy and just God allow this suffering? How can you let the wicked prevail and let good people suffer?” This morning, God answered me by taking me on a tour through Habakkuk, Colossians, and Second Peter. In the words of Scripture, God answered my question. “Wait for it…”

Wait for It

God reminded me, as he reminded Habakkuk, that just because I can’t understand why God works the way he does, doesn’t mean I can’t trust God.

And just because God doesn’t work according to my time table, doesn’t mean he isn’t working.

Over and over through the history of God’s interaction with his Creation, he proved his ways and timing are good and just; that in all things he is working to restore and redeem. In all things, and using the most unlikely and even unseemly people and circumstances, God always fulfills his promises and reveals himself to be holy and just.

So when we struggle and face unfair suffering, we can call out to him and he will reassure us of his faithfulness, goodness, and justness.

When we can’t count on anyone or anything else, we can count on God to be faithful.

We Want Either; God is Both

Ironically, when we are the ones sinning and suffering we plead for mercy. But when others sin against us, in our humanness, we cry out for vengeance and swift justice. Depending on our circumstances we want God to be either merciful or just, but God is always both merciful and just.

God repeatedly warns his people not to confuse his patience with permission to sin. He shows mercy and long-suffering because he desires to see all redeemed (2 Peter 3:9). But he is just and thus all wrongdoing must be accounted for.

In fact, we know that he has poured out his wrath on sin. He poured it out on the cross.

Every sin, every injustice, every act of rebellion was met with God’s holy and just wrath poured out on Christ who bore all of humanity’s sin.

Our sin and the sin of those who sin against us were all covered by Christ’s blood.

Are You Offended by God?

Habakkuk was offended when God declared he would use a brutal, pagan people to bring his own covenant people to repentance (see Habakkuk 1-2).

Likewise, we can find it offensive to realize that the same blood that covers our sins is the blood that covers those who sin against us.

But let’s not be like the unmerciful servant who refused to forgive a small debt despite having his own massive debt forgiven (See Matthew 18:21-35).

Let us take to heart Paul’s words to remember what God has done for us:

Since you’ve been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed—and he is your life—you, too, will be revealed with him in glory.Colossians 3:1-4

We have even more reason than Habakkuk did to trust in God. We have the Holy Spirit, the deposit that guarantees the fulfillment of God’s promise to make all things new in Christ.

And because we are filled with his Spirit, in our suffering, he will supply us with his strength to persevere. He will fill us with his Spirit so that we can join Habakkuk in declaring:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.—Habakkuk 3:17-19

Wait for It

We don’t have to know when and how God will fulfill his promise of making all things new. We know he will.

Peter, encouraged believers facing unimaginable hardship and persecution to persevere in their faith. He called them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as they waited for God to fulfill his promise to make a new heaven and a new earth free from sin, pain, injustice, and sorrow. Those ancient words are also for us.

So, I will lean into my good God and entrust to his grace and mercy those who are hurting and suffering. I will confess that I have mistaken his patience with permission and allow his discipline to restore me to his path. I will bring my confusion, sorrow, and frustration to the cross and trust God to redeem it all in his way and in his timing.

Will you join me in waiting expectantly for God?

Something to Help You Wait Expectantly

If you’re in a difficult time of waiting to see God act, I highly recommend my friend Wayne Stiles’ book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing. Want a sample of the rich Scriptural wisdom you will find in the pages of his book? Download the summary sheet I made listing my favorite “takeaways” or principles presented in Wayne’s book. Just click the picture or button below to get your free copy of this summary sheet.

Waiting On God Principles

Yes! Send me the summary!

Your turn.... What helps you trust in God’s faithfulness when you face difficult circumstances or people? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What Happens When We Bring Our Brokenness to God

Grab your copy of the FREE Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthening Your Relationship with Christ!

When my youngest son, Justin, was about 5, we bought him an Indiana Jones action figure set. He loved it and played with it all the time. But, one day I noticed he hadn’t played with it in a while. In fact, he had tried to hide it.

When I asked him about it, he hemmed and hawed and made some lame excuse for not playing with it anymore.

I knew something had happened to it.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I knelt down and looked in his sweet, chubby little face and said,

Justin, I love you, no matter what. And if something has happened to your toy, if you’ll bring it to me, I’ll help you fix it.”

He looked up at me with such relief and he ran and retrieved his little action figure out from under his bed.

He brought me Indiana Jones —like this:

Indiana Jones Story

Somehow Indy’s head had come off.

Justin knew what was wrong. He just couldn’t fix the problem himself.

But as soon as he was honest with me about his problem and brought it to me, I fixed it for him. And he was able to take his restored action figure and get back to using it for its intended purpose.

From Broken to Whole

That is exactly how it worked for me when I first came to Christ. I knew something was broken in me. I just wasn’t able to fix it no matter how hard I tried.

But God could and he wanted to. He wants to for everyone.

I didnt have to do anything except bring God my brokenness and trust that what he had already done on the cross was sufficient to redeem me and make me whole.

In that moment of initially getting real with God and accepting his grace, he gave me a new identity. I was now his child.

My new identity brought with it a new kind of security. Because I am his child he will never leave me or forsake me. Wow!

In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, John describes this transformation  in verse 12:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God “— John 1:12 (NIV)

New Identity, New Security

Our identity as believers is that of God’s child, and our security is found in that relationship.

But it took time for that new identity and security to sink in, and for me to consistently live out of that new reality.

I had to grow in my understanding of him and his love for me. And as I grew in my relationship with God, I began to understand the implications of that relationship for all of the other relationships in my life.

Getting real with God, becoming his child, is just the beginning of the journey.

We have entered the gate and are secure in his sheepfold. (See John 10:1-18) But once we are in the gate, we are to follow our Good Shepherd, growing and maturing as we go.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus described these two aspects of a relationship with him:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Did you catch that, he calls us to not only come to him but to learn from him.

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, walking authentically with him and learning from him, we experience more and more the life he came to give us.

This new life as his disciple is a process, not something that we will master instantaneously.

If we are not nurturing our relationship with Jesus, we can quickly forget where our identity and security truly come from.

When we pull away from Jesus, we limit our ability to tap into our source for abundant living.

Our pulling away or ignoring him doesnt change the reality that we are God’s child, but it limits our experience of the abundant life he gives us.

Listen, we live in a corrupt, broken world, and it can take a toll on us.

  • It beats us over the head with messages that we are not good enough,
  • batters us with a never ending stream of trials and temptations, and
  • fills our calendars with so much busyness that it shoves us off track from spending time on the truly important things.

It isn’t enough to just go through the religious motions.

We must consistently bring that real self—the one that has been beaten, battered, and shoved off track—back into the presence of God and let him remind us of who we really are—his beloved child.

If we don’t go to God, we will end up going to the world and other people for our identity and security.

Get This Free Step-by-Step Guide

()ptimized_Strengthen-Broken

If you need a little guidance as to how to

  • grow closer to Christ,
  • bring your true self to him regularly, and
  • find the peace, purpose, and passion for life that Christ intends for you to have, then…

Grab the FREE GUIDE I’ve made for you. It will walk you through some simple, practical steps to strengthening your relationship with him.

To request your copy, just click the button below and I’ll email it to you instantly!

Yes, send me the guide!

 

Your turn...  What does it feel like when you bring your messy, broken self to God and let him put you back together and make you whole? What helps you do that? What makes it difficult? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How do we ALWAYS Love and Not End Up a Gullible, Complicit Doormat?

FREE "How to Love Like God" Cheat Sheet

I recently spoke at an event about how we can love God and one another at all times, even the hard times, if we love with God’s agape love. And that brought up the question: If love “always protects, always trusts, always, hopes, and always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7), then how can we love like that and not end up a doormat? That is a great question! So, let’s take a look at how we love like God and why his kind of love never fails! (1 Corinthians 1:13:8)

Love Always

By the Power of His Spirit

Apart from God we can do nothing. In our humanness, we will never be able to love like him. It is only when the Holy Spirit lives within us and we cooperate with him that we can love the way the apostle Paul describes godly love in 1 Corinthians 13. So, if you want to love more like God, lean into him, worship him, be aware of your need for his Spirit to empower you to love others as he loves.

1 Corinthians 13_4-8NIV

In this post we will focus on the final two verses of that description. However, if you’d like to dig deeper into the other aspects, I’ve made you a Cheat Sheet that breaks down each element and prompts you with some questions to ask yourself when you are faced with loving difficult people or in challenging circumstances. Click the button below and I’ll email the Cheat Sheet to you instantly!

Yes! Send me that FREEBIE!

Keeping the context in mind, let’s look at that group of “always” characteristics of God’s love.

Always Protects

This phrase can be translated several different ways, each capturing a little of the original meaning.  Listen to some various translations and see what I mean:

“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes” —The Amplified Bible

“Love bears all things.”—NRSV and ESV

The literal translation is  “Love all things covers quietly ” (The Interlinear Bible).

Now at first glance that may sound like love covers up wrongdoing, but since Paul already clarified in the previous verse love “rejoices in the truth,” we know he isn’t saying love always covers up sin.  Rather, love protects the dignity of the wrongdoer while addressing the wrongs they have committed.

I heard a pastor tell of how a four-year old in his congregation described how you know someone loves you. He said, “Your name is safe in their mouth.” When you speak of someone who has wronged, disappointed, or irritated you, is their name safe in your mouth? If so, you are exercising agape love. If you catch yourself gossiping or sniping about them, stop! Confess to God your actions and your struggle to love them and pray for them. Ask God to help you love them as he loves them.

You can, and should, speak the truth in love to someone who is engaging in behavior that is self-destructive or harms others. To stay quiet or cover-up wrongdoing makes you complicit in the sin. Just be sure you allow the Holy Spirit to direct your words and actions so there is an appropriate balance of grace and truth and your motivation is really love for the person.

Always Trusts

Love always trusts, a word that can also be translated “has faith” or “believes.”  So you will see this phrase translated variously as:

“Love believes all things”—NRSV

“believes all things [looking for the best in each one]”—The Amplified Bible

never loses faith” —New Living Translation

Obviously Paul is not saying that agape believes anything or is gullible because we’ve already seen how important truth is in the exercise of agape.

I think it is more like, love believes that in God all things are possible.  There is no situation or person beyond the ability of God to bring about change, healing and wholeness.  We can trust in all situations that our sovereign God is able to accomplish His will and purposes.

When we’ve been harmed, God commands us to forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean we have to believe every promise made by an unreliable person. We, like God, can and should set appropriate limits as to what behavior we will accept and what we won’t. We need to have healthy boundaries that protect us from the choices and behavior of an unsafe person.

Forgiveness only requires our willingness to forgive the other person. Rebuilding trust in the relationship between us requires both parties to engage honestly and with love for each other. In other words, forgiveness takes one, restoration of a healthy relationship takes two!

When we speak of agape always trusting, we are saying we always trust in God’s ability  to work in the situation and people involved.

Always Hopes

In biblical language, hope is never about pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, it is a confident expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises and the truth of his Word.

So when we love like God loves, we live and relate with others expectantly. We anchor our hope, not in the circumstances, but in God’s ability to bring to pass that which is best for us and which accomplishes his purposes.

Always Perseveres

Are you noticing how interconnected these “always” characteristics are? Because love is anchored in who God is and a confidence in his Word, we are able to trust him to be at work in the people and circumstances that cause us such pain and frustration. We can keep on keeping on when human common sense tells us there is no point – just give up.

When our hope is in God’s ability, not human ability, we find strength and motivation to keep cooperating with him and letting his Holy Spirit direct us through the hard times.

Love Never Fails

So, beloved child of God, lean in to him and let him strengthen and equip you to persevere. Worship him, talk to him and listen when he speaks, study his Word, engage with other believers and let them encourage you and hold you accountable.

Loving as God loves is all about relationship, first and foremost with God, and from the overflow of that love we will be able to love others—even the most challenging and in the the most difficult circumstances.

Don’t forget your Cheat Sheet!

Learn more about this godly love. Grab the FREEBIE I made for you that covers all the characteristics of agape love discussed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Click that button below and let me know where you want me to email it to you. Then check your inbox for some tips and insights that will help you love the hard-to-love people and bear up under the challenging circumstances you face.

Love Like God

Yes! Send me that FREEBIE!

How about you? What do you find most challenging about loving like God loves? What helps you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Your Power Is NOT in Yourself But in His Spirit

FREE 4 x 6 Print to Encourage and Remind You

Even when we are excited, energized, and eager to pursue God’s calling on our lives, there are inevitably times when it gets scary. And if you’re not periodically frightened by the challenges you face, may I respectfully suggest you are probably living within your comfort zone rather than truly running hard after God’s purpose for your life. He rarely calls us to the safe and comfy boat and regularly beckons us out on the wild waves. So, for those moments when you feel in over your head, repeat the words of encouragement on the photo below.

By the power of His Spirit-2

Get a FREE Printable

I’ve made you a free 4 x 6 high resolution version of the gorgeous photo by Roberto Nickson shown above. It includes the encouraging words from this post to remind you where your power comes from when you get discouraged! Click the button below and I’ll instantly email you a file that you can upload to your favorite photo printer (Shutterfly, Walgreens, Target, etc. or your home printer) and have prints made that will fit in a standard size frame.

Send me that photo!

The Water May Not Always Be Smooth But Don’t Be Afraid!

One of my favorite passages is found in Matthew 14:22-33. This is the account of Jesus walking on water. Immediately after he miraculously feeds more than 5,000 people with five small loaves and two little fish, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and head off across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus remains behind to dismiss the crowd and spend some time alone with his Father in prayer. Sometime between 3:00 am and 6:00 am, Jesus walked across the lake to catch up with the guys in the boat. They were battling waves and wind which can be fierce on the Sea of Galilee. Seeing what they thought was a ghost, the men were terrified. But Jesus said to them,

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Then Peter does the most astonishing thing—at least I find it extraordinary. He asks Jesus to call him out on the water with Jesus. And Jesus says, “Come.” Then Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus! 

It was only when he became distracted by the wind that he faltered in fear and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus who immediately reached out and caught him. Jesus chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” And when they both boarded the boat, the wind and waves calmed and those with Jesus declared,

Truly you are the Son of God.”

It is easy to head out on your mission when the lake is smooth as glass. It is much harder when the winds whip the surface into threatening waves. Yet, either way, getting out of the boat would not be my first inclination. So, I’m impressed with Peter’s faith and out-of-the-boat/box” thinking. He has the right idea. He wants to be doing what Jesus is doing and be where Jesus is. I want that too.

May God give me and you the courage and faith to follow Jesus onto the crashing waves.

Take Courage2

 

Praying Scripture for You

The same strength that raised Christ from the dead is the the power God places in us by his Spirit to empower us to do what he calls us to do. Like Peter, we may slip and fall sometimes, we may let the doubt and distractions creep in and crowd out our concentration on Jesus, but when we cry out for help, he will be there.

I couldn’t remember exactly where in the Scriptures I had read that the power we have access to is the same power that raised Christ. So I looked it up (It is found within Ephesians 1:15-23, by the way). Paul mentions it in a section of his letter where he conveys what he is praying on the recipients’ behalf. It was so beautiful, I want to pray those same sentiments over you now.

Glorious Father God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may you give to all whose eyes fall upon these words the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know Jesus better. I pray also that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which you have called them, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is like the working of your mighty strength, which you exerted in Christ when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And you, God, placed all things under Christ’s feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

When we feel doubt or fear, remind us of the power that dwells within us. Help us fix our eyes on Jesus, grasp hold of his outstretched hand, and rise above the challenges to complete the work you have called us to. In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

Don’t forget your FREE Printables

After making the second graphic above, I decided I wanted a 4 x 6 of that for you as well. So click either or both buttons below to let me know which photo(s) to email to you. Enjoy!

Photo #1 is

 
Send me photo #1!

Photo # 2 is:

Send me photo #2!

Your turn... What causes you to become afraid or overwhelmed while trying to answer God’s call on your life? What helps you through the fear/overwhelm? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why You Need to Stand at the Cross Before You Run to the Tomb

Holy Week invites us to deeply reflect on the cross and resurrection. However, the pain of the cross tempts me to skip right to Sunday morning and run with John to the empty tomb. Yet, if I will make myself stand with him at the foot of the cross I know the celebration of Sunday morning will be so much more profound.

Holy Week 2016

The cross is difficult to look at. Not just because of the brutality, but also because we come face to face with our sin and its cost.

It Is Easier to Focus Outward than Inward

It is always easier to focus on the sin of others rather than our own. Those who waved the palm branches and shouted blessings and praise as they welcomed the Messiah to Jerusalem were likely doing just that.

The crowds thronged the city to commemorate Passover. In light of that Exodus theme on which they were focused, they praised Jesus as the Messiah who would save them from Roman oppression, inflicting the punishment Rome deserved. Their focus was on Rome’s sin and they cast Jesus as the bringer of death to their enemies.

As Jesus approached the city, he wept over it and the people’s inability to recognize their true need and his ability to meet it. He came, not to judge the world, but to save it (see John 3:17 and 12:47). Jesus was the Passover Lamb whose blood would protect them from the death they deserved.

They shouted Hosanna (a Hebrew expression meaning save) but had no clue of their true need for salvation from sin rather than from Roman oppression. Like them, when faced with our own sin, we scramble to project, rationalize, or minimize it.

Harmless Housecat or Lethal Lion?

Our culture of relativism has de-clawed and de-fanged sin. Or, rather it has given the illusion that our self-centered actions and attitudes are without consequence.

Defanged Sin

You can claim the cat has no claws, but as soon as the antagonized animal rakes his paw over your offending hand, you find the claws are very much still present. And it isn’t the cat who is at fault for the bloodshed; responsibility lies squarely on the one who committed the transgression against him.

When we ignore the path set out for us by our Creator and declare we will go our own way and do whatever is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25), we deceive ourselves into thinking the paws of the Lion of the tribe of Judah have no claws. We couldn’t be more wrong.

God’s holiness and justice are incompatible with allowing sin to go unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7). The lion’s paws swipe out to eradicate sin. On the cross, blood drips from the wounds inflicted by our transgressions against God.

But instead of our bodies bearing the wounds, God himself steps into our place. His mercy and love compel him to pay the price on our behalf.

His back receives the stripes of the whip. His hands and feet receive the nails. He drinks the cup of wrath to the last drop.

He died the death due us.

The Rest of the Story… Mercy and Redemption

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end at the cross on Friday. But without his death on the cross on Friday, there can be no meaning in the empty tomb on Sunday.

His death on Friday brings about the mourning of Saturday. At the cross we recognize our poverty, our desperate need, and the cost of meeting our need for forgiveness. As we mourn for what our sin cost our Lord, we find comfort in his mercy and love.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.—Matthew 5:4

Transformational Love

As the truth of how much he loves and values us sinks in, we find comfort. We also find freedom and redemption.

Experiencing his forgiveness and mercy, transforms us.

Recognizing we deserved retribution but received redemption causes us to look upon our rebellious ways in a new light. The light of truth.

It is as if we have been stumbling along in the dark through the brambles and briers down in the ditch we have chosen as our path. As the sun rises and sheds light on the pain and struggle our way brings, we turn and joyously and thankfully accept God’s rescuing hand and allow him to set us back on his path.

And the forgiveness and mercy God showed to us fills us with compassion for others.

Instead of desiring retaliation for the wounds they inflict on us as they flail about in the mire, we offer forgiveness. We seek to cast light into their darkness and show them a better way forward.

Saturday’s mourning gives way to the celebration of Sunday’s Resurrection. The tomb is empty, he is risen!

Grab this FREE GIFT before you go!

Grab the free cheat sheet of Simple Ways to Connect with Jesus in Your Busy Life

I’d love to help you find some simple ways to connect with Jesus – not only during this Holy Week, but in your day-to-day life all year round. I’ve created a little cheat sheet with some ideas for how you can:

  1. Wake Up with Jesus
  2. Commune While You Commute
  3. Exercise Your Faith & Your Body
  4. Tie in Faith to Your Family Conversations

If you’d like me to instantly email you a copy of this cheat sheet, just click the button below and I’ll send it on its way to you!

Yes, send me the cheat sheet!

How about you? How do you prepare for Easter? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

4 Simple Ways to Connect with Jesus In Your Busy Life

Experience more peace and less stress without undergoing a major schedule makeover!

Life moves fast these days and it seems like our schedules are more jam packed than ever. It’s easy to get so caught up with the world that I can’t seem to see or hear God. Personal experience and Scripture confirm neglecting my connection with Christ leads to becoming empty, burned-out, and not pleasant to be around. And the more compartmentalized I make my faith, the harder it is for me to find time to focus on Jesus. On the other hand, over the years, as I’ve integrated time with God into the everyday moments of my busy life, I’ve grown closer to Him, more at peace, and less stressed. Here are four simple ways I connect with Jesus in my daily routine.

Grab the free cheat sheet of Simple Ways to Connect with Jesus in Your Busy Life

I say four ways, but really these are more like four general ways with many specific ways you could tailor each one to fit your particular preferences, resources, and routine. So, take these principles and get creative. You’ll be abiding more in Jesus without having to undergo a major schedule makover.

I’ve even made you a handy little checklist with ideas, apps, and other resources you might find helpful as you take these examples and customize them to fit your lifestyle and daily routine. Be sure and grab that checklist before you go!

1. Let Jesus Wake You Up

I hate—no make that HATE!!!—getting up in the morning. I’m a natural night owl who battles insomnia on a fairly regular basis. So once I get to sleep, I want to stay there!

My husband and I used to wake up to either the jarring sound of the alarm or the the inane chattering of the DJs on the local pop or country radio station morning show. Irritated, I then drug my bleary-eyed self out of bed at the last possible minute before I had to get my son up for school.

I wouldn’t connect with God until after I got the kids off to school and I settled in to read my Bible or devotional. This was usually an hour or so after I crawled out of bed. And, if I wasn’t intentional, I easily became distracted with my to-do list and skipped my morning time with God completely.

I knew I needed to connect with God in a meaningful way first thing in the morning if I wanted my day to start with less stress and more peace. So, I asked my husband to change the alarm to the local Christian music station. That simple alteration transformed my mornings. Now, I wake to a praise song and am able to lie there praising God before my eyes even open.

How could Jesus become a part of your wake-up routine? Check out the Cheat Sheet I made for you. I’ve listed several ideas and apps you may find helpful.

2. Commune While You Commute

Transform the time in the car to time to worship and commune with God.

With today’s technology, running errands, driving carpool, or heading to and from work are great times to integrate Scripture, prayer, and worship into your day.

I subscribe to several podcasts featuring sermons from great preachers (See the cheat sheet for a list of my favorites). I listen to these on longer drives and it helps me reflect deeply on God’s Word and his action in my life.

Shorter jaunts are great for some on-the-go prayer and Scripture “reading”. The daily prayer on the Abide app now features the daily Bible verse from the YouVersion Bible app. YouVersion has a feature that let’s you listen to the Scriptures so it is easy to hear the context of the daily verse. Before you back out of the driveway, cue these up and you’ll transform that time in traffic into time in prayer and the Word.

And of course, you can listen to Christian music as you drive. I made a playlist on my phone that features my favorite hymns, Gospel, and praise songs. I call it my “Worship on the Go” playlist.

I’ve linked to a few additional ideas and resources for drive time devotional ideas on the cheat sheet.

3. Exercise Your Faith and Your Body

I must confess, this is one I’ve neglected lately and I need to get back to it! Why walk alone when you can go with God? Pop in some earphones and turn on that “Worship On the Go” playlist and take a walk or hop on the stationary bike at the gym.

Alternately, if you have a workout buddy who is also looking to build more time with God into their daily routine, plan a way to incorporate a spiritual discipline into your exercise plans.

Maybe start with a short time of praying for each other, work on memory verses, or discuss the Scriptures you’ve studied. Be spiritual, as well as exercise, accountability partners.

4. Tie in Faith to Your Family Conversations

Another confession: I have not done a great job of training my kids to have set times of Bible reading and quiet time. That is something I really regret not establishing before they were old enough to push back. I am unstructured and didn’t grow up doing that myself.

However, I do try to naturally bring faith into the everyday conversations we have. Essentially, this is just putting God’s instructions (see Deuteronomy 6:7) into practice.

As they tell me about their day and the challenges they’ve encountered, I weave God’s character, his commands, and promises into the conversation. I want them to see their whole life is connected to God, not just Sunday mornings or “quiet times.” And I want them to value the wisdom of God’s Word and apply it to what is going on in their daily life.

Deut 6_7

Integration Rather than Compartmentalization

As we find ways to practice an awareness of and communion with Jesus in our daily lives, we develop confidence in Christ’s faithfulness and ability to sustain us in our ordinary moments. Challenge yourself to discover ways to worship God as you participate in your daily activities.

And don’t forget to grab the Cheat Sheet with a list of apps, podcasts, and resources you might find helpful. Just click the button below and I’ll email you a copy instantly!

Yes, send me the checklist!

 

How about you? What helps you connect with God throughout your day? Share a tip or idea in the comments and help the rest of us out! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

RIV Bottom of Post3

 

I give up! Ever feel like that?

Will you help me break through my writer's block?

Do you ever just get so sick and tired of fighting through something that you just give up? I have been struggling with writer’s block for a couple weeks now and today I finally just threw in the towel. The more I prayed and begged God to spark an idea, to show me a passage about which I could write, the less I felt ready to write. And so I now humbly reach out and ask for your help. I’m here to serve you but the best way for me to serve you right now is to to ask you what you need. What questions do you have? What are you struggling with in your daily life that you could use some perspective from Scripture and a fellow believer?

Help me break through the writer's block! Send your ideas and questions, please!

Ironically, as I’ve gotten into the Word more and more for my own personal devotion and spiritual growth these past few weeks, the less and less I felt like I had something to share here on my blog. God and I are walking some things out, and one day I trust this time spent with him and his Word will produce fruit I can share here on the blog. But right now, I feel like a tree in a dormant state when it comes to writing these blog posts.

Two are better than one!

Our faith journey is not meant to be lived alone. God never intends for us to struggle through tough times alone. We grow and thrive when we have a community of believers to encourage, support, confront, and strengthen us.

So, while I would rather you think I always have my act together, never struggle or stumble, and my ducks are in a nice, tidy row, that’s not reality. And to pretend otherwise would be a disservice to both of us! We need each other. And we need God in our midst.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. —Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17

Questions and Answer Series

I’ve been enjoying a series on one of my mentors’ blogs in which she is responding to her reader’s questions. So, since God is working with me on some things I’m just not yet ready to share on this platform, I think it is the perfect time to do a Q & A series. To make it successful, though, I need you to send me your questions.

I know a lot of you are shy about leaving comments. So, I’m going to give you three different ways to submit your question(s) or post idea(s).

3 Ways Send Me Your Questions/Ideas

  1. Click this link to fill in a Google Form.
  2. Click this link to send me an email.
  3. Click on the “Comment” button above and leave your idea in the comments section of this post.

Another Way to Help: Complete my 2016 Reader Survey!

One of my very favorite things is getting to know the people I write and speak to and serve through this ministry.  

And while I would totally love it if I could take each and every person who visits my blog out to lunch or to Starbucks, that just isn’t possible.

So, each year I do a quick little reader survey to help me get to know you better.

I’m so excited about my brand new reader survey!

2016 Reader Survey - Speech Bubble

I’ve totally changed up the questions and I know that if you’ll take just 2 to 5 minutes to complete it, I’ll be able to serve you so much better.

Of course you’re welcome to take longer than 5 minutes if you want! Shoot, the more you tell me about yourself, your interests, hobbies, challenges, hopes and goals, the better I will know what you want me to write about. And the more relevant my posts can be for you and what is going on in your life.

To take the survey, just click the yellow button below.

Sure, I’ll take the survey!

Thanks so much for your help and willingness to share your ideas, thoughts, and questions.

I just hope I don’t end up feeling like Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…

IMG_3369

Well? What questions or ideas do you have for me? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Do You Need Strength? Tap into the Ultimate Source!

Free Step-by-Step Guide

I’ve been feeling a little disconnected from my church family lately. I used to teach in both an adult Sunday School class as well as our Women’s Bible study group. Last year, I stepped down from both of those positions. It was the right time and it has been the right decision. But I have missed the blessings that only come from walking alongside others in a small group. So, as Lent approached, I decided to seek out a small group which would challenge my spiritual comfort zone. Last week I began participating in a spiritual formation class which is certainly stretching some spiritual muscles I haven’t exercised in a while. And one of this week’s exercises led me to pray a passage of Scripture specifically for you.

paraphrase of Ephesians 3:18

I’ve prayed Ephesians 3:14-21 for each of you who are a part of the Making It Real Ministries community before. It is how I closed the post How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Christ in Ways that Work with Who You Are and Your Season of LifeAnd this week, I did so again.

My Prayer for You

Using the words penned and prayed by Paul, here is what I prayed over and for you:

I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name and  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)

Strengthened with His Power

While most of us like to think we can live life in our own strength, the truth is we can only live powerfully through the power of his Spirit dwelling in us. Our weakness allows God’s strength to be all the more apparent to us and others. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Much like one is better able to see the stars illuminated in the night sky of the countryside rather than in the harsh glare of the city lights, one is able to recognize the capability of God when it is contrasted with our inability.

Flipping a light switch on and filling a dark gloomy room with a comforting glow can make us feel self-sufficient, while standing alone in the inky isolation of a rural Texas pasture gazing up into the heavenly lights brings to mind the Psalmist’s words:

Psalm 8:3-4, NIV (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)

It is precisely in those moments where our unworthiness is most vivid that we find out how well rooted and established in love our faith is.

This foundation upon which our faith rests is not the Hallmark love of cards, candy, and fleeting sentiment, but the deep, abiding, never-failing love of God; a love so solid, so amazing that we can only grasp the breadth, width, height and depth of it by the power of God’s Spirit revealing it to us.

God’s self-sacrificing, redeeming, and transformational love transcends our human understanding. It makes no sense to creatures who naturally are self-centered. Yet it is the very manifestation of God’s nature. God is love. (1 John 4:8,16 NIV )

When Christ dwells in our heart, we are able to face the true answer to the Psalmist’s question: it is not because of who we are that God is mindful of us; it is because of who God is. It is not our worthiness but his grace.

He knew before he even created us that we would need his forgiveness and redemption (see Ephesians 1:3-10). And in his mercy, he planned to sacrifice himself to meet our need.

Christ Dwelling in Your Heart

Christ dwelling in our heart can bring about more than we can ask or imagine. As we submit to him and cooperate with him, we will stand amazed at what he brings about.

In my own life, I’ve seen him transform messes into messages, cynicism into hope, and division into unity. I’ve tasted the fruit produced from abiding in his presence. It is glorious. And it leaves no doubt as to its divine source.

Strengthening Your Relationship with Christ

If you are not feeling rooted and established as deeply and strongly as you would like, maybe, like me, you need to step a little further out of your comfort zone and let him reveal himself to you in fresh new ways. Or, maybe you need to find ways to relate with God that are more in line with your current season of life.

Whatever the reason, if you desire a stronger, more intimate fellowship with God you might find it helpful to go through the process outlined in this free step-by-step guide.

()ptimized_Strengthened-With-Power

I pray God will use it to guide you to meaningful ways of abiding in him and him in you. Just click the button and request your copy and I’ll email it to you instantly.

Yes, send me the guide!

 

How about you? How is your relationship with Christ? What do you do that helps you abide in him and keep you aware of his presence in you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.