Overpower Your What Ifs With These Whatevers

The pilot announced it would be a rough flight. So unstable, in fact, he was asking the flight attendants to remain in their seats for most of the two and a half hour trip.  I am a really fearful flyer. So, you can imagine my knee-jerk reaction to the news our captain relayed as we prepared for take-off. Thankfully, Paul’s words in Philippians brought godly wisdom to my worried mind. I had a choice about what I would focus on.

Silence the negative voice-airplane

I could allow my focus to be on the things I had no control over (for example, the turbulence). Or, I could place my attention on God and keep my thoughts within the scope of stewardship He had given me.

While the Holy Spirit can equip us to know things we couldn’t possibly know on our own, we sure make things easier when we do our part to prepare our minds and hearts to hear from Him.

All the time I’ve been investing in studying and meditating on Philippians in preparation for my upcoming class, meant the words of Scripture were primed and prepared for the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind.

Philippians4_8

 

Long-time readers know I struggle with fear even on the smoothest of flights. I’ve written before about this issue.

My mind tends to fill with images of every story of airline catastrophes I’ve ever heard, read, or seen. I race through the “what ifs” and let my imagination spin terrifying scenarios.

  • “What if the mechanics missed tightening some bolt and a critical piece of the aircraft fails?”
  • “What if the pilot is tired or distracted or incompetent.”
  • “What if…”

Stress increases whenever I try to control anything beyond the realm of stewardship God has apportioned to me. Paul’s admonition from Philippians 4:8 reminded me of this.

So, I quickly went through my checklist of what my Creator had placed within my control:

Realm of Stewardship

Mental Realm

I have been given dominion over my thoughts, attitudes, desires.

Emotional Realm

I can determine how I respond to circumstances and the behavior of other people. I control my emotional response in terms of my feelings and whether and how I will choose to give and receive love.

Physical Realm

I have authority over my body and to a certain extent my material possessions.

Spiritual Realm

I may decide what I believe, value, and think about God. God allows me the free will to decide if I will accept the truth He reveals of Himself.

Practical Application of My Stewardship

As the plane taxied to the runway, there were many variables over which I had absolutely no control and which were screaming for my anxious attention.

As the jet bumped along the final few yards of contact with the solid ground, I prayed that God would show me how to apply Philippians 4:8 to each of these areas in which he gives me responsibility.

Being that I was presently engaged in prayer, I naturally started with the spiritual realm.

What do I know to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy about God? As rubber separated from asphalt and we began our ascent, I mutely sang out to God (with the help of my carefully chosen playlist of praise songs blasting through my earphones) all the reasons I could think of that he was completely trustworthy; whatever the circumstance.

Then, as I noticed my hands clenching and my body tensing, I applied the truth that even soaring through the clouds, I had stewardship of my own body. While I couldn’t control the weather, the plane, or anyone else on the plane, I could determine my own physical response to my setting.

I focused on taking deep breaths, relaxing into the seat, and resting in the knowledge that the One I had just praised and acknowledged as good, sovereign, loving, and for me was in control of all the variables over which I wasn’t.

While that didn’t mean the outcome would be what I wanted, I realized I could trust God to be with me in whatever we would face during the flight. Just like I can trust Him to be present in whatever circumstances I face each day when my feet are firmly on the ground.

God is Lord of heaven and earth. What is true about Him, me, and creation when I’m at sea level remains true at 35,000 feet. I focused on that and headed off any thoughts about the unlovely what ifs. I exercised dominion over the thoughts I let hang out in my brain.

I chose an attitude of surrender and trust. And I chose to love God because of who He is rather than whether or not He was giving me the smooth, fear-free ride I wanted.

I focused on naming God’s attributes, His noble, pure, admirable, lovely, and praiseworthy characteristics and acts.

As I silently praised Him and recalled all the ways He has demonstrated his love for me in the past, I felt His peace settle in on me.

The entire flight (with the exception of about 15 minutes) was turbulent. However, because I focused on God and not my circumstances, I never had a panic attack. I actually was able to focus on studying and make a little progress in preparing for class. But most importantly, I had two and a half hours of worship rather than worry.

How can you apply this in your life?

I don’t know what challenges you face today, but whatever you come up against, confront it with God and in His strength.

Whatever your need, surrender it to Him.

Take your “whatevers” and “what ifs” and apply Paul’s “whatever” exhortations of Philippians 4:8 to them. Exercise your God-given authority within your realm of stewardship and leave everything else to God.

For it is God who is effectively at work in you, to strengthen, energize, and create in you the longing and the ability to work out in your realm of stewardship the transformation He has worked in you. Therefore, let your fear and trembling be because you acknowledge how holy, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy your Savior is. (See Philippians 2:13)

Want to study Philippians with me?

If you would like to dig in to the Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi and mine it for the truth and grace applicable to all believers across time and in whatever circumstances we face, I would be so excited to have you join me.

Class will be held on Tuesdays (chose either 9:30 am or 6:30 pm) beginning April 18, 2017. I’m partnering with my home church, Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown, Texas. Classes will be held there and free childcare (with pre-registration) will be offered.

At this time, I’m not offering an online version, but I may, in the future, create an online video series to accompany the workbook for my out-of-towners!

I’m not quite ready to open registration as I’m still finishing up my lesson plans and the workbook. But if you want more info check out my “coming soon page”.

Learn More!

 

Do you have the same mindset as Christ?

A meditation on Philippians 2:5-11

We are called to have the same mindset as Christ. What does that even mean and how in the world do we do that? I’ve been meditating on Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. In chapter two, verses five through eleven, Paul calls believers to have the same mindset as Christ. Then he goes on to illustrate what that mindset entails. Listen…

When we have an ethos which conforms to the attitude and disposition of Christ, we consider how we can serve others. How can we use who we are and our circumstances to make a difference in the lives of others?

Consider the words Paul penned just prior to the beautiful hymn about Christ.

Philippians 2_2-4 NIV

 

Verses 2 through 5 illustrate how Christ exhibited his mindset. Verses 2 through 4 illustrate what it looks like when we express the mindset of Christ.

Humble and Other-Focused

The mindset is one of humility about self and valuing others highly. So highly, in fact, we will put their needs above our comfort and rights.

Jesus is divine. All honor and glory are his by rights. Yet, because of how much he values you, me and all humans, he set aside the glory, power, and worship due him as God and humbled himself to meet our need for salvation.

God became human for us.

The creator and Lord of all creation entered the world as a tiny, helpless, impoverished infant.

Philippians 2_7 NIV

Because of our sin we could not be present with our holy God. But because of his love for us, he became human to be with us and to die the death due us. He bore the penalty of our sin by allowing himself to be put to death on a cross, the most humiliating and awful means of execution.

He wore our cross so we can wear his righteousness.

When we contemplate how much our Savior was willing to give up and take on for us, our hearts and minds are transformed.

We Work Out What He Works In

So we have a little bit of an understanding of what we will exhibit in our actions when we have in our mind the attitude and disposition of Jesus. But how do we get that mindset in our self-centered selves?

Our mindset becomes conformed to our Savior’s as the Holy Spirit works in us to make us more and more who God made us to become. He is the one at work changing us. As he changes us we will naturally express his character more and our sin-marred character less. He is how.

Philippians 2_12-13 NIV

Paul reminds us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) We don’t work for our salvation, we display it through our attitude and actions. We don’t bring about the change, God does.

The fear and trembling is the awe and overwhelming humility one feels as one reflects on what Christ has done for us. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

He accomplishes our transformation. He changes us from the inside out.

Our outside exhibition of character changes as a result of what God does in our heart, minds, and will as we submit to him and recognize his authority in our lives. 

This week marks the beginning of Lent. This season invites believers to prepare our hearts and minds for the wonder of the Cross. It is a season in which we spend time meditating on the cross so as to more fully comprehend why and what we celebrate on Easter morning.

As I’ve written before, it is a way of standing at the cross before we rush to the empty tomb. As we contemplate our profound need of the saving work Christ did for us on the cross, we will again be awestruck and tremble at just how good the good news of the gospel is.

So I invite you to spend some time this week reflecting on what God did for you in Christ.

How has he worked in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose? How can you display the mindset of Jesus Christ to those you encounter each day? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

How to pray without ceasing (or seizing).

It’s difficult to focus on something continually without either becoming distracted by something else or neglecting other areas of importance. So how in the world are we to pray constantly?

Pray without ceasing

As believers, we are commanded by the Scriptures to pray continually. Here are a few passages to consider:

  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
  • Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
  • Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

A Kaleidoscope Moment

When we have been in the Word a long time, we can get locked into seeing the words from a set perspective. The fresh eyes of a new believer can function like a kaleidoscope and help us see the old familiar passages in new and surprising ways.

“What does pray without seizing mean?” Not seeing the Scripture, just hearing someone else use the phrase, “pray without ceasing” caused this young lady some confusion. It was a sweet misunderstanding easily cleared up by clarifying the words.

Yet, her question stuck with me. I’ve been turning the phrases over and over like a kid peering through one of those magical toys filled with colored bits of glass and mirrors.

My mom has a collection of beautiful kaleidoscopes. These fascinate adults and kids alike. As you peer into the eyepiece a beautiful scene is beheld. Then turn it ever so slightly and a new scene arranges itself before your eyes.

Pray with out ceasing; pray without seizing. I just kept turning those phrases over and over in my mind.

kaleidiscope cross

Pray Without Ceasing

Clearly this was an important concept in the early church. The apostle Paul included this instruction in one way or another in most of his letters to the churches of the first century.

So first, let’s allow the meaning of his words to come into focus.

To cease an action is to stop it; to discontinue our endeavor; to allow it to come to an end.

Paul admonishes believers to not stop when it comes to praying. No matter the circumstances, regardless of the odds, keep bringing everything to God.

He also repeatedly connects the concept of gratitude and thanksgiving with this adventure of continually lifting our prayers to God.

As I rolled these ideas around in my noggin, I realized when I am grounded in gratitude for what God has done in Christ, I have a holy perspective on the people, problems, and petitions I bring to God.

By that, I mean I think differently about them than I do when I am looking at them through my human, worldly eyes.

In the Spirit, all occasions become opportunities for God to be revealed and glorified. Whereas from my human position and capabilities, the situation may very well be impossible. However, with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) And that is why Paul insists we are to never give up, never decide something or someone is beyond God’s ability to redeem. 

Our job is to pray without ceasing, with gratitude and expectation. God’s job is to bring about the outcome.

Praying continually can also mean living our lives in an attitude of prayer. A friend of mine has modeled this so well. I hear her praising and petitioning Jesus for everything: “Thank you Jesus for this beautiful day.” “Jesus help me know what to pray.” No matter is too small or too big. And she doesn’t stop what she’s doing, she just overlays it with prayer. I’m trying to follow her example.

And as I read Paul’s letters, I’m paying more attention to how he infuses prayer into his every circumstance. There are any number of ways we can pray steadfastly.

Pray Without Seizing

Now let’s turn the cylinder and allow those the bits and pieces to glide over the mirrors and show us something new.

Seize has several possible meanings*:

  • to take hold of suddenly or forcibly
  • to grasp mentally; understand clearly and completely
  • to take possession or control of
  • to resort to a method, plan, etc., in desperation
  • to have moving parts bind and stop moving as a result of excessive pressure, temperature, or friction

Have you ever had something that weighed so heavily on you that it seemed to choke the life out of you?

Know what I mean? It grabs your attention and blocks out everything else, including God’s Word and wisdom.

It seizes you and you seize it.

I’ve done that. I think I’m praying about it but upon closer examination, I’m actually just worrying about it.

I’m wrestling with it in my own power, trying to come up with my solutions for it, and just dressing it up as prayer by sandwiching it in between holy sounding phrases like: Dear Heavenly Father and In Jesus name, amen.

That’s not praying with out ceasing. And, Paul would probably tell us to knock it off and pray without seizing, instead.

We don’t have to understand something or someone to pray for them. 

This is a little different from allowing worry to seize our prayers. I sometimes struggle with knowing what to pray for. So, I just don’t. I seize up.

Again, I have a feeling Paul would remind me to cut it out and get on with my praying.

I don’t have to know the details of a situation. I don’t have to know someone’s name. I don’t have to have a plan for solving the conflict or problem.

I need only lift it to the One who knows all and is sovereign.

When I follow Paul’s counsel to continue steadfastly in prayer, I also remind myself to be watchful and thankful for God’s hand in the situation.

I may or may not get to see how God works the details out. That’s not why I’m called to pray.

If I’m praying with an understanding the outcome is squarely in His hands, not mine, the pressure is released and my prayers are freed up to flow. I can be watchful for an outcome, but whether I see it or not, I can be thankful. I can be confident He is at work to bring it about.

What do you think? What do you find helpful in praying without ceasing (or seizing)? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

*Source:  dictionary.com

Need Inspiration? This Should Do the Trick!

Watercolor magnolias printable set featuring lyrics to a beloved hymn...

I just love the hymn, Come Thou Fount. The words resonate with my wandering heart. I love God but am easily distracted. I know I don’t always demonstrate my profound gratitude for being reconciled to Him by the unimaginable sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However, whenever I sing this hymn, or contemplate its lyrics, I can’t help but worship my Savior and be moved to share God’s love with others.

That’s why I want a beautiful copy of the lyrics in my new office. I’m hoping to move into the new space soon. This will be where I host coaching clients and possibly some small group Bible studies and discipleship groups.

My office will be in an old farmhouse we recently relocated to our property and are fixing up. We still have a ways to go before we’ll be ready to move in, but I’m beginning to daydream about the decor.

I made this set of 8 x 10 watercolor printables using the lyrics of Come Thou Fount. I’m planning to frame these and hang them in my new office.

Come Thou Fount Printable Set

My favorite verse will go in the center and so I surrounded it with a heart-shaped wreath of magnolia branches, leaves, and blossoms. I thought you might enjoy and be inspired by this set of printables as well. So, I’ve made them available to you in either a PDF you can print out on paper and cut to 8 x 10 size to frame. Or request the set of 8 x 10 digital prints if you prefer to print via your favorite photo processor.

Request your printable set!

Inspiring Lyrics

So maybe printables aren’t your thing but you still want to be inspired by the lyrics. No worries. Here are the lyrics to Come Thou Fount. I find they make a wonderful prayer!

Come Thou Fount

by Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

Verse One

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Verse Two

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

Verse Three

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

In the printables, I put verse three as the central verse because it is my favorite.

What is an “Ebenezer” and why raise it?

If you just read through those lyrics and got to verse two and said, “What in the world is an Ebenezer?” you’re not alone. That always bugged me when I sang the hymn in church until I looked it up.

The word is the name of a place and it means “stone of help.” The prophet Samuel created a monument and named it Ebenezer on this site of the battle in which the Philistines were finally beaten by Israel  and the land restored to God’s people.(see 1 Samuel 7:10-13)

God’s rescue of his people from the Philistines prefigured the ultimate rescue that would come on the cross. And it is the cross that is our Ebenezer. It is the symbol of God’s means of helping us when we were powerless to help ourselves. By his grace and mercy, we are reconciled to him through Christ.

When we contemplate how helpless and lost we were and how God rescued us, we really remember how we are in debt to God’s grace. His goodness and mercy anchors me to Him. I don’t worship and obey his commands to earn his acceptance. He has sealed me with His Spirit. So when, in my still in-progress state of being conformed to his character, I wander and stumble, I can rejoice that it is not my goodness that assures my status with God, but His.

Question: What hymn, prayer, or song inspires you to remember how wonderful God is and how much he loves you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why Doing and Saying Nothing is Not a Biblical Option

And why how we respond matters so much to God.

A tired and ragged man approached my small group sitting in the courtyard of our downtown church discussing our lesson. He asked if we could help him. We all looked at each other and back at him. None of us twenty-somethings knew what to do so, I’m ashamed to say, we awkwardly did nothing meaningful. As the man walked away he was probably wondering what the point of the church was anyway. That happened over twenty years ago and I’m still haunted by it. The Holy Spirit hounded and convicted me in my prayer time in the days following that encounter. I vowed if I God would give me a “do over” I would behave differently.

Do Something

A few months later, my friend and I were loading our car in the deserted church parking lot after class one late afternoon. I looked across the campus and walking toward us was a man who looked eerily familiar. My companion said to hurry up and get in the car, but I told my friend I would be right back. I took off across the lot toward this man as if he was a long-lost friend and I silently thanked God for this second chance.

It was not the same man as before, just another in a similar situation. I smiled and shook the man’s hand. I asked how I could help him. He seemed surprised by my eye contact and friendliness. He only wanted some directions to the nearby assistance center run by the city.

I gave him directions and asked if there was anything else I could do to help. Did he need food? Did he have a place to sleep? He assured me he was fine and just needed directions. He thanked me for helping him, smiled, turned and walked down the street toward the assistance center a few blocks away.

As I returned to the car, my worried friend asked why I had done something so seemingly reckless. I told her I wasn’t about to run away from the second chance for which I had prayed.

The man really didn’t want anything but directions so it wasn’t like I did much. But the attitude of my heart had been so different this time and I was keenly aware of having done something instead of nothing. I treated the man with kindness, dignity, and respect and provided the directions he asked for. Not much in the scheme of things, but it was far more than I had done in the previous instance of need.

I watch for opportunities now in a different way than I did back then.

When we see need, injustice, or oppression God expects us to move toward meeting the need, working for justice, and lifting up the oppressed. And he expects his children to do so in a manner that reflects his character. 

There are many Christians who provide good role models for doing this. We find the accounts of the earliest in the book of Acts. The many letters in the New Testament also record example after example. And in modern times, we have many role models as well.

MLK Blog Post FI

MLK Wasn’t Just Eloquent, He Walked the Walk

During the 1960s, “while others were advocating for freedom by ‘any means necessary,’ including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals.”(1)

We can learn much about living out our faith in Christ by the example set by this courageous preacher and civil rights leader.

I’ve been reading through some of his speeches, sermons, and letters and have compiled a few favorite quotes to share with you. I hope the principles Dr. King voiced and modeled as he worked tirelessly for social justice inspire you to live out your faith and calling with passion and integrity.

MLK Nonviolence

When eight Alabama clergymen directed a statement to Dr. King, he answered their questions and confronted their spiritual hypocrisy from his jail cell in Birmingham.

In this famous letter, Dr. King explains why it would be wrong to ignore the injustices occurring in their city just because he lived elsewhere. If you haven’t ever read the Letter from Birmingham City Jail, I highly recommend you take a few moments today and do so.

MLK Injustice anywhere-rev

While he spoke specifically of racial injustice, the principle applies to all types of injustice. If we ignore when someone else’s dignity and worth are trampled, we will inevitably find ourselves impacted.

Repent of Indifference and Silence

It isn’t just violence we must repent of and guard against. It is also apathy and silence in the face of injustice.

During World War II, Winston Churchill cited a quote from Edmund Burke in order to jolt those in his nation who were complacent when it came to the atrocities committed by the Nazis elsewhere in Europe.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Dr. King articulated that same thought when he addressed the graduating class of 1964 at Oberlin College. This commencement speech, Remaining Awake During the Great Revolution, is also worth reading!

MLK Repent of Indifference 

Truth and Justice Go Hand in Hand

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is In The Loop with Andy Andrews. One of those episodes introduced me to the joltingly relevant book, How Do You Kill 11 Million People: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think.

This book examines how the terrible injustice and oppression in Nazi Germany happened at that time in that country. And with chilling and timely insights into how such horrors could unfold again anywhere good people turn a blind eye to evil and deception.

I urge you to read this book. Don’t worry, it’s not a politically slanted tirade. Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, you’ll be captivated by the careful reflection on why we must demand truth and justice.

Read it to your kids (I did) and discuss with them our responsibility to take action and speak up when we see injustice and to use our votes to support people who tell the truth not just what makes us feel good.

In the book, Andy recounts the eyewitness testimony of a congregation member at a church near the railroad tracks on which the Jewish mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents were packed and transported like cattle to the death camps.

We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.

This very kind of indifference was addressed by King Solomon in Proverbs. He challenged the people of his day (and through the Scriptures, us) to speak up to rescue people in situations precisely like those on the trains in Nazi Germany, in the firebombed churches of Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement, and anywhere people trample over the vulnerable.

If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited. Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’ won’t He who weights hearts consider it? Won’t He who protects your life know? Won’t He repay a person according to his work?”Proverbs 24:10-12

Let’s open our eyes and ears. Let’s repent of our inaction in the face of injustice. Let’s repent and repudiate violence as a means of protest.

10 “King Rules” That Guided MLK

Alveda King, Dr. King’s niece, shares the principles that guided her uncle and the entire King family in her book, King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper. I found it to be quite compelling and insightful.  She tells the story of seven generations of her family through the lens of ten biblical principles that have guided and directed each generation. It was these ten truths that gave them courage to work for change in an unjust society, strength to overcome immense tragedies, and joy through the good and bad.

It is noted in the book that while the title “King Rules” conveys the fact that the King family was guided by these principles, these are really the rules of the King, Jesus Christ. These values endure and empower because they are eternal.

I’ve made you a cheat sheet of these ten principles. If you’d like a copy, just click the image or button below and I’ll email you a copy right away.

I’d like the FREE Cheat Sheet!

Your turn: What helps or hinders you from taking action or speaking up in the face of need or injustice? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

(1) http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king

Are you resolving or surrendering?

When we place our trust in Christ, He places His power in us.

Have you ever noticed how the theme of surrender shows up over and over in the Bible? From Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the prophets, Ruth, the Apostles, as well as Mary and Joseph (just to name a few), the common thread of surrender to God’s will and power weaves its way through the story of each person’s relationship with God. None of them were qualified for their calling. None were worthy. And obedience was usually a bit inconsistent. Maybe you feel that way, too? I know I do. But we can learn much from those who trusted God and moved forward in His power.

trusting-in-christ

Click the image to request a 4 x 6 digital print. MORE FREEBIES AVAILABLE BELOW

In every case the power to fulfill their calling, and the knowledge of the next step of obedience to take, came not when these frail and flawed human beings resolved to accomplish the goal with their knowledge and power, but rather when they confessed their lack of understanding and ability, and declared their need for and trust in God to empower their obedience.

The same is true for me and you. God calls us to much bigger, scarier, sacrificial lives than any resolution or goal we could ever set for ourselves.

How do we respond to God’s call?

We don’t have to know every step we will take in obeying God, we just need to remember the crucial first two steps:

  1. Remember who we are called to follow.
  2. Surrender to Him.

Believing the One who is in us is greater than any obstacle, lack, or opposition we will face equips us to entrust ourselves wholly to the One who calls us out of the comfortable and known and into the uncomfortable and unknown.

One of my very favorite expressions of this kind of surrender is voiced by John Wesley in his Covenant Prayer.

covenant-prayer

⇑ CLICK THE IMAGE TO REQUEST A 4 X 6 DIGITAL PRINT OF THE COVENANT PRAYER. ⇑

Obedience is tied to surrender.

Praying those words of Wesley reminds me of how dependent I am on Christ’s ability to empower me to even say those words, much less live them out.

You see, I know (sooner more likely than later) I’ll think, “I’ve got this!” and begin to trust in my ability, knowledge, and sufficiency to walk out my calling.

Whenever I respond in this fashion, I come up far short of where God desires to take me. Or, more likely, I fall flat on my face in humiliating failure.

I’m not alone. I see this familiar pattern recorded in the Biblical accounts of people who sought to follow God. And I know it from my own past experience.

We need God in order to obey and follow him.

That is why no resolution will be as effective as complete surrender when it comes to trusting and walking in faithfulness to God.

Will we respond like Mary or Zechariah?

Recently I read Timothy Keller’s book, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ. In chapter five, he guides the reader in a detailed examination of Mary’s call and her obedient response. Keller contrasts the responses of both John the Baptist’s father (see Luke 1:5-23; 57-64and Jesus’ mother (see Luke 1: 26-38).

Zechariah’s response illustrates the struggle to believe God’s message when we are not willing to relinquish control to Him.

Like many of us, Zechariah’s response focused on his own ability to bring about the results God promised. Zechariah’s pride doesn’t block God from bringing about his purpose, but it does result in God humbling Zechariah as the Lord reveals how His strength is made perfect in Zechariah’s weakness.

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Mary, on the other hand, models what a faithful Christian response entails.

The message and calling the angel conveyed to to Mary went against all she had ever been taught about God. She wrestled with questions, but there was a crucial difference in her questioning and that of Zechariah. Mary’s “How can this be?” was clearly an attempt to understand God’s revealed truth rather than an attempt to stay in control.

Ultimately, she chose to embrace the mystery of God’s plan and surrender to His sufficiency to accomplish it by using her in all her frailty and humanness.

Use these FREE PRINTS to remind yourself from whom your power comes…

As we seek to obey God and fulfill our calling, it helps to remind ourselves often why and how we will be able to reach the goal. It is by the grace and power of God that we can go where He sends us and do what He calls us to do.

I’ve made a few freebies based on the images in this post. You’re welcome to request a copy of any that will help you deepen your trust in Christ.

Freebie #1

By the power of His Spirit-2

If you want to print out and frame the above photo as a memory jogging tool, just click the button below and I’ll email you a link to the file. You can either print it at home on your printer or upload it to someplace like Walgreens or Target and have a 4 x 6 photo made.

Send me that photo!

Freebie #2

Would you like a 4 x 6 print of the Covenant Prayer by John Wesley? Click the button or image below and I’ll email the image file to you.

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Freebie #3

Here is a vertical adaptation of the featured image at the top of the post. It is also 4 x 6 so it will be easy to print at your favorite photo processor or print at home. It should slide in a standard frame or just pop it on your fridge, the dash of your car, or put on your mirror as a little reminder of what trusting in Christ is and is not!

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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

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Photo # 2 is:

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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.

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.

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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.

Send me the FREE 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.

How to Get the Most Out of the Sermons You Hear

Download Your FREE Tip Sheet

In the eighth chapter of Luke, Jesus tells and then explains the parable of the sower of seed. (See Luke 8:4-15) Of course we want to be the “good soil” — “those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

If that is our desire, then we would do well to take to heart Jesus’ advice in Luke 8:18:

So be careful how you listen; for whoever has a teachable heart, to him more understanding will be given; and whoever does not have a longing for truth, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.” (AMP)

Good soil rarely just happens. Care must be taken before, during, and after planting so as to produce a bountiful harvest.

Luke 8:15 NIV and 23 Tips to Get the Most Out of the Sermons You Hear

Intentionally Prepare Before the Sermon

Pray for God to prepare your pastor, the congregation, and yourself.

Ideally, pray throughout the week, but at the least, pray before your pastor starts preaching.

Prepare your heart, mind, and body to be ready to receive what God will reveal.

Get adequate rest the night before, eat breakfast before heading off to church, allow enough time so you’re not rushed, cranky, and distracted.

I don’t always do these things and I can see a direct correlation to my receptivity, or lack thereof, accordingly.

Be expectant and prepared.

Enter the worship service expecting to encounter and hear from God. And be prepared to capture the insights God has for you. This mindset and preparation allows you to reflect on those gifts of wisdom and insight God will give you and apply them in your life.

I’ve had my heart and mind moved by something God spoke through my pastor. And at the time, it is so vivid and clear I can’t imagine not being able to remember it later. Yet, if I haven’t written it down, I inevitably find myself groping helplessly to retrieve that golden nugget from my feeble mind a day or so later.

So prepared with an open heart and mind as well as some means of collecting what we expect to receive, we are ready to hear God’s Word proclaimed.

Actively Participate During the Sermon

Having arrived prepared and expectant, we still must actively receive and retain the seed that is sown. We can listen without truly hearing and heeding if we are not engaged with our body, mind, and soul.

Notice and note.

As you listen to the sermon, notice when God quickens your response to a particular Scripture, story, or concept.

Record those, as well as any questions or ideas you want to explore later, on whatever note-taking device works best for you.

Allow the message to critique you.

Instead of critiquing the message (or the messenger), allow the message to critique you and show you where you are doing well and where you need to grow or improve.

The purpose of a critique is to help improve the one evaluated. Come humbly before God and let him reveal what yet needs to be refined in you.

Keep your eyes on your own paper.

Focus on how the Word applies to you rather how it might apply to others.

We’ve all done it: elbowed our spouse or kid when the preacher said something. I know I’ve been guilty of that more than a time or two.

Funny thing is, God always seems to zing me back a few moments later. It’s like he is reminding me, “Keep your eyes on your own paper!”

Focusing on what we can learn and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by thinking, “Man, I wish So-and-so was here to listen to this!” insures we will reap far more from the sermon.

0ptimized_Luke8-8NIV

After the Sermon, Tend What You’ve Been Given

We can prepare the soil of our heart and receive the seed sown, and yet that still doesn’t insure we will produce a good crop. Just because the seed gets in the soil, doesn’t insure it will thrive once it meets resistance.

What we do after we leave church has a lot to do with whether those carefully recorded ideas, questions, and insights bear fruit.

In the parable, Jesus described three possible responses to the seed sown:

  1. Receive the word with joy but not allow it to take root. (Luke 8:13)
  2. Allow what is planted to be choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures. (Luke 8:14)
  3. Persevere in producing a crop. (Luke 8:15)

How do we tend our crop with perseverance?

Pray and reflect on what you have received.

Set aside some time that afternoon or evening to review your notes and pray for understanding and wisdom to apply the insights given.

Identify application opportunities.

Where in the coming days can you immediately apply what you have heard?

The more time passes between receiving and responding, the less likely we are to reap a harvest of good fruit. The more likely the tender shoot will be choked out by the daily routines and distractions.

Move from planning to doing.

Put the Word into practice. Write the card, take the meal, sign up for the study. Whatever prompting God gave you, act on it so it bears fruit.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”Matthew 7:24 NIV

Dont wait until it seems easy.

Rarely does God call us to do things we think we are fully equipped to do.  Usually, he asks us to take action in spite of not feeling ready or able.

Then we lean into his strength not our own and the fruit produced glorifies God not ourselves. He is the foundation. He is the one who will cause our obedience to produce something.

Just as the power is not in the preacher but in the Gospel that is preached, the result of our efforts is not from our ability but from God working through our willingness to let him use our weakness to show his strength.

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NIV

Some of us are blessed to have pastors who are well-prepared, passionate, and gifted preachers. But remember, whether or not your pastor is eloquent, organized, and erudite, if you come willing to hear, God will sow his Word into your heart, mind and soul.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” —1 Corinthians 3:5-7, NIV

0ptimized_SermonNotes 1 Cor 3-7

23 Tips to Get the Most Out of the Sermons You Hear

I want you to produce much fruit that glorifies your heavenly Father (see John 15:1-9). So, in addition to the ideas I’ve shared in this post, I’ve created a Tip Sheet with twenty-three tips and ideas to do before, during, and after a sermon so that you can reap the biggest possible harvest of fruit from it!

Request your copy of this free Tip Sheet by clicking the button below and I’ll email it to you instantly!

Yes, I want that Tip Sheet!

How about you? What helps or hinders you when listening to a sermon? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Would You Like to Have More Self-Control? This Might Help…

FREE Gift: Scripture Bookmark Set

I’ve struggled with self-control my whole life! And whenever I try to rely on my strength and willpower, my efforts fall decidedly short of the mark. However, I’ve discovered why Paul teaches that self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

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The more I depend on God and look to him as my source of strength and restraint, the more self-control I am able to exhibit. It comes from him, not me.

Since September is a “fresh start” time for many of us with the start of the new school year, it’s a good time to assess how our lives are going, where we need to make some changes, and what we need to celebrate. No matter what goals you set for yourself or what struggles you face, the issue of self-control is likely to play a large part in achieving your objectives and overcoming your trials.

So today, I’ve made you a little gift of five bookmarks with some Scriptures that have helped me cultivate a bigger harvest of the fruit of self-control. Click here to get your bookmark set now!

Five Scriptures Related to Self-Control

The following passages have helped me lean in to God’s instructions with regard to the importance and source of self-control. It is the Holy Spirit within me who provides the power but I must make every effort to submit to and tap into his power.

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