How to avoid doing what I did Saturday night.

I was a time-bomb waiting to blow. So when the lady started bossing around me and everyone else in the concession stand, snipping at us over the most trivial little things…Kaboom! She snapped at me and I snapped back. I should have been able to have more patience. I know it would have been better to take her aside and talk calmly and with grace. Yet, my claws came out.

At that moment, I felt as Paul described in Romans 7:19:

romans-7_19

I know better. I want to act better. So, why didn’t I.

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

And in his letter to the Galatians, Paul reminded believers to live by the Spirit so they wouldn’t gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16) He exhorted them to keep in step with the Spirit.

As the summer gave way to the new school year, I felt as if someone cranked up the treadmill to top speed.

via GIPHY

Since my Bible study class ended and and football season began, I’ve haven’t been regularly studying the Scriptures and nurturing my relationship with Christ. With both of my boys playing ball at two different schools and Matt on the Board of the Booster Club, my mind has been on decidedly earthly matters.

I’ve gotten out of step with the Spirit.

It’s easy to do. It is the pattern of the world around us.

But I’m not to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). And to avoid doing so I must renew my mind daily with God’s Word.

Scripture reveals to us God’s character and will. His will and mine are not naturally in sync.

So if I am to keep in step with the Spirit, I need to actively listen to Him and cooperate with Him.

There is a reason the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We can’t possibly fulfill the second, “Love your neighbor as yourself” unless we are are actively doing the first.

Actively listening and spending time with God doesn’t mean I need to sit down for hours and do an in-depth Bible study.

We can cultivate a deeper connection with Christ throughout our day using simple strategies.

I’ve made a checklist for you of five of my go-to methods (which I’ve reviewed and begun using again myself). Just click the button below to let me know you want it and I’ll email it to you instantly.

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Cultivate Connection Checklist Blog Image

How about you? How does being in or out of step with the Spirit impact your ability to love others as God loves you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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

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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

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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.

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  • 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.

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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!

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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

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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!

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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.

Five Benefits You Can Expect When You Follow the Christian Calendar

FREE Printable Calendar

Have you ever thought of how many different calendars influence our lives? What goes on your schedule at any point depends on which type of year you are focused. For instance, the recent changing of the calendar year on January 1 set off an avalanche of New Year’s resolutions. The fiscal calendar brings to mind budgets, bills, and taxes associated with various checkpoints of time (end-of-the-month, quarters and year-end). And for all of us parents, the school calendar dominates many of our plans. In fact, a look at one’s calendar quickly shows where one’s priorities are. Does the calendar framework you use keep the first thing first? What should be our first priority? Well according to Colossians 1:17-18, first place goes to Jesus Christ! And guess what, there is a calendar framework that is ideal for helping us keep Jesus in his rightful place.

But many people are only vaguely aware (or maybe not at all aware) of the Christian calendar. I’ve decided to intentionally structure this year’s ministry calendar on the foundation of the historical Christian year because of the many benefits it provides. If you’d like to reap these same rewards in your life, keep reading and be sure to grab the free calendar I’ve made you!

Unlock Five Wonderful Benefits By Following This Calendar

If you don’t have a background in a liturgical congregation, you might be unfamiliar, and possibly even uncomfortable, with this calendar. You may hear the word “liturgical” and think ridged, monotonous, arcane rituals. Or, you might just scratch your head and wonder, “So what?”

Or, perhaps you are somewhat familiar with the seasons of the church year. The words Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are not total strangers to you, but these seem like islands in an otherwise unconnected tide of days, weeks, and months.

A Proven Method for Building Unity in Diversity

The concept of reverently experiencing and sharing the story of Jesus and the Gospel message through a Christian calendar dates back centuries upon centuries to the time of the early church. Yet, no place in the New Testament do we have God commanding set dates and schedules for observing feasts, fasts, and other sacred days as God did for the Jews in the Old Testament.

Thus, there is not one, uniformly adopted version of the Christian year. There are many variations as to the specific dates, vocabulary, and color-schemes associated with the liturgical calendar across the church universal (and even within some denominations). For example, the pattern and dates used by Eastern Orthodox believers differs from those used by the Protestants and Roman Catholics. Even within denominations, you’ll find variations in how the calendar is observed.

However, as I researched this topic, I discovered that despite the many variations, all versions of the Christian year are anchored by the two high holy days of Christmas and Easter. Whatever the date, color-schemes, or names given, the calender lays out a clear cyclical progression beginning with Advent and concluding with a time of growth in our discipleship as followers of Christ as our sovereign King.

Both from my study and practice, I believe you will experience at least five benefits from making the Christian calendar the foundation on which you build your schedule and through which you evaluate all the other calendars fighting for control of your life.

Colossians 1:17-18 NRSV

Five Benefits of Ordering Your Life According to the Christian Calendar

When we familiarize ourselves with the cyclical pattern of the Christian calendar and begin to build all of our others upon this foundational structure, we will experience many benefits. As we observe the different seasons and study their corresponding passages in Scripture, we can expect to:

  1. Recognize the presence of God and the rhythms of our relationship with him in our day-to-day life.

The secular calendar insures we remember to honor our Mother, Father, Sweetheart, Veterans, and so on, but only the Christian calendar keeps Christ front and center. As we purposefully prioritize our relationship with and worship of God, we will more readily be sensitive to his presence and prompting.

The time-tested format provides different perspectives on and opportunities to engage the mysterious yet revealed Emmanuel (God With Us).

  1. Counteract the priorities and values espoused by the world with those espoused by God.

Intentional journeying with Christ through the trials and triumphs of his story disciplines us to avoid the lure of instant gratification, hedonism, and pursuing our own personal agendas at the expense of heeding the call to self-denial, sacrificial service, and the taking up of our cross to follow Jesus.

As one whose been in a life-long (and often losing) battle for self-control, I’m looking forward to the rest of this year-long trek with Christ producing a harvest of that particular fruit of the Spirit. Of course, I realize I’m probably in for a season of pruning before I see that harvest.

  1. Be equipped with both the truth and grace necessary to live victoriously in a fallen world.

As we regularly and deliberately abide with Jesus, we will better recognize our need for him. And in truly experiencing our need, we better appreciate and enthusiastically receive what our Savior provides.

The framework of the liturgical calendar prevents us from skipping over the uncomfortable parts of Christ’s story (and our own) so as to hang out in the less challenging events, Scriptures, and doctrines. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never grown when I was comfortable.

  1. Unite more closely with the Body of Christ as a whole by focusing on what we have in common rather than on the less essential differences.

Instead of seeing our brothers and sisters in other congregations as “the competition” for church attendance and tithes, we will recognize and embrace the reality of our shared head, Christ Jesus.

As we come together across denominational lines to worship, serve, and glorify God we will gain new appreciation and affection for one another. And in the process of doing so, we may find our faith deepened and enriched by taking the time to listen to why and how others do and think differently on the less essential aspects of the Christian faith.

  1. Cultivate our understanding and experience of traditions, rituals, and celebrations.

For example, the Christian calendar provides a lens through which the many and beautiful facets of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism become apparent. Consider how our hearts will be quickened in a slightly different way as we receive the bread and cup during Lent as opposed to during the Christmas season.

We will become more conscious of how the various themes, stories, events, and people of the Bible fit together in one overarching story of the redemptive work of God in Christ.

How I’ll Be Using the Christian Calendar on the Blog

Actually, I’ve already been using the calendar to inform my choice of topics for my blog posts. So you may not notice much of a difference. Since the ministry officially began in late 2013, I’ve struggled to stay ahead of my deadlines. This year, I’m doing more intentional planning for my editorial calendar. It just makes sense to be guided by the traditional liturgical pattern.

By sticking to the historical framework, I will better cover the whole of Scripture. At times, that will no doubt prove more challenging than just writing whatever happens to be on my mind that day. However, I have no doubt the Holy Spirit will reveal new things I need to work on and areas in which he wishes to help me grow. Hopefully, the process will serve you well and we can all grow together as we experience the benefits listed above.

Get A Handy Printable Calendar

I’ve created a calender for you to print out and keep at your desk, on the fridge, or wherever you generally do your scheduling.

On one page, you’ll find the seasons and special days along with their themes explained. On the second page, you’ll find the dates specific for the 2015-2016 Christian year. [FYI, this is now updated to show 2016-2017 dates!] I’m using this as I plan my blog content and classes. I hope you find it helpful as you make your plans, too.

If you’d like me to email you this calendar to print (or to keep on your phone or computer as a PDF), just click on the button below. I’ll email your copy instantly!

Send Me the Calendar!

And the winner is

Last week I asked for your help in selecting the cover for my newest resource. I’ve designed a Sermon Notes journal with many helpful features for recording and retrieving key insights and Scripture references. It will be available in both paperback and spiral bound versions and it could also be used to take notes in a Sunday School or Bible study class. I just couldn’t decide on a cover.

So, I asked my readers and social media followers to help me out. The votes are in and the as the chart below shows, Navy/Silver won with 51% of the vote!
voting results

FYI, a few people left me notes and even an invitation to coffee but didn’t leave a name in their survey comments. So I don’t have a way of identifying and contacting you. If you left me a note in your survey response, please shoot me an email and I promise to respond!

Thanks for your help! I’ll be sending the book to the publisher later this week. If you’d like to learn more about the book or to be notified when I start taking pre-orders, please just click the following button! I’ll send you a coupon code for a special pre-order discount!

Get Coupon Code!

 

 

Clear the Clutter Crowding Out Time For God

2015 Scripture Memory Team Verse 22

In the wee hours this morning, as severe storms thundered across the Dallas/Fort Worth area, my sister’s family awoke to the sounds of sirens blaring the dire warning of a tornado in their area. Lynette, Derek, the kids, and the dogs all made a mad dash to their tornado shelter.

Proverbs 18:10, NASB

Thankfully, the threat was soon over. As she recounted their frightful encounter, I thought of our own tornado shelter and wondered if we could even get in it should the need arise.

You see, in the years since we had it built, we haven’t had to use it for its intended purpose. So, it has slowly but surely become more of a closet for our clutter than a safe haven.

What would happen if the warnings blared in the night and we had to run for cover? Would the clutter hamper our efforts? I bet it would.

And that got me thinking how extraneous clutter in our schedules—especially at this time of year—can fill up and crowd out our true shelter, our relationship with the Lord!

As preparations for the holiday season swing into high gear, the gift-buying, party-planning, guest-hosting swirl of activity can easily crowd out our time with Christ. I know I’ve succumbed to that trap in the past.

So the conversation with my sister was a great wake-up call for me. It’s time to clear the clutter in our house and in my schedule so I can shelter in the strong and safe presence of Christ.

If you’re participating in the Scripture Memory Team with me, we are on Verse #22. I chose Proverbs 18:10 (from the NASB translation) as a way to remind me to where my security and focus need to remain.

()ptimized_Prov 18_10 NASB

I’ve made 3 x 5 Chalkboard Memory Verse Cards you can download and print out. There is one for each of the twenty-two verses we’ve covered so far this year, plus a cute cover featuring Psalm 119:11. I put mine in a little index card spiral but you might like to display yours in different places around your house or car.

Free Chalkboard Memory Verse Printables

If you’d like me to instantly email you the sheets with the Scripture verse cards, just click the image or button below!

Click Here to Get Your Printable Verses

How about you? Do you ever feel like your schedule gets cluttered and it hampers your ability to feel God’s presence? You can leave a comment by clicking here.