The Secret to Nipping Anxiety in the Bud!

Plus a FREE Cheat Sheet with 5 Practical Strategies to Weed Out Worry!

For much of the past 18 months, I struggled with anxiety. It began as a fear of flying. We traveled more than usual in 2015 and I had to fly several times within the span of a few months. I made the mistake of focusing on my fear. As I gave it more and more attention, the anxiety became stronger and more problematic. Eventually, the fear was no longer tied to one specific issue. I began having panic attacks on a regular basis, my sleep was disrupted, and I was seeking comfort and distraction in food. Having battled depression in the past, I recognized I was spiraling down and needed to seek help. Now, successfully on the other side of the battle, I want to offer some encouragement. If you, like me and 40 million American adults, are affected by anxiety disorders, read on. And even if you don’t struggle with this issue yourself, I bet you know someone who does. Encourage them by sharing this with them.

CC-0 Unsplash | Leonardo Wong

Nip It In the Bud

Worry is like a weed. If you don’t rip it out by its root, it will continue to return and grow. If not dealt with, anxiety can choke out the beneficial things God intends to grow and flourish in your life.

This is one instance when Barney Fife had it right.

We’ve got to nip anxiety in the bud. Don’t let it take root and develop. The earlier you recognize the problem and take action to deal with it, the better off you will be.

And if you can prevent the weed of worry from taking root in the first place; even better! One of the best ways to prevent or begin to eradicate anxiety is to eliminate the environment which contributes to its growth.

The weed of worry grows in the soil of insecurity. When we focus on the things that breed insecurity, we provide the perfect environment for anxiety to flourish.

If you want peace, you must plant yourself in secure soil. The apostle Paul wrapped up his letter to the church at Philippi with this very point.

The Philippians’ reasoned their Roman citizenship provided unprecedented safety. Paul reminded these believers their true security was derived from their citizenship in heaven, not Rome, and from their Savior’s power to bring everything under his control (Philippians 3:20–21).

Paul then gave them (and us) practical ways to cultivate this peace-filled environment.

It is easy to focus on earthly things and depend on them to keep us safe. Or convince ourselves if we just mull over the scary scenario one more time, we can gain control over our circumstances. However, if we place our confidence in anything other than Jesus, we sow in the shifting soil where worries thrive.

Instead, root your hope in the surety of Christ. And keep your focus, not on your fears, but on what you want more of in your life.

If you want to see how I put this into practice on our trip to Hawaii last summer, watch the video blog post I made about facing my fears. I hope it encourages you (and gives you a laugh or two). FYI, this trip took place at the height of my problems with the panic attacks.

Anchor yourself to the unwavering stability of Christ and then keep your gaze fixed on him and all that he represents.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” —Philippians 4:6-9 NIV

In this soil, peace flourishes no matter the circumstances because our Lord is always near and in control. The right source of assurance prevents disturbing thoughts from taking root in the first place. And prayer keeps our focus on the proper things rather than allowing our fearful fantasies to run amok.

FREE Cheat Sheet: 5 Strategies to Weed Out Worry

Now that we know how to prevent apprehensive ideas from growing like weeds, we can take steps to yank our existing worries out by their root. Paul’s advice in Philippians 3:19-4:19 correlates to five strategies I have found effective for eradicating these weeds. I’ve summarized these strategies in a FREE Cheat Sheet so you can put them to work in your life. Just click the button below to request your free copy.

Get the FREE Cheat Sheet!

Get the FREE Cheat Sheet!

Put it into Practice

Recognize the difference between soil that encourages worry weeds and soil that enables the growth of peace. Then, put into practice sound strategies for ripping your worries out by the root. This will allow you to say along with Paul:

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

Trust God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Please note, I am not a therapist or psychologist. I share this, instead, as someone who has been down this weary path and emerged stronger and less fearful.

Question: What helps you keep your anxious thoughts in check so they don’t disrupt your life and relationships? Let’s help each other with this very common struggle! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why Summer 2016 is the Summer of Freedom!

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

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

You can choose from four options:

Georgetown Groups – Tuesdays Morning or Evening

If you live in town and are available on Tuesdays, join me in person. The morning session meets 10 – 11 am and the evening session is at 6:30 – 7:30 pm. These local classes will meet at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown, Texas. Tuesday groups will begin on June 21 and wrap up on August 2  June 28 and wrap up on August 9 (needed to change this to avoid conflict with VBS!).

Online Groups – Thursdays Morning or Evening

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

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

Why, of course, there’s a workbook!

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

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

Here is a sneak peak at the workbook cover…

Workbook-Cover - 300 px

Worried about missing some sessions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Button Get More Info-YellowButton Claim Your Spot-Green

 

What do you think of this cool idea for summer?

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

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

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

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

How this will work…

I’m thinking we will need six or seven sessions to study the entire book of Galatians. I’d like to start the week of June 21 28* and wrap up the study the first week of August 9*.  Don’t worry if you have vacations planned and will have to miss one or two sessions. I’ll try to record the sessions (very rough – no fancy editing and the lighting might not be great), and have those for you to download if you miss a session.

*I changed the dates to avoid conflict with my home congregation’s VBS since we will be meeting at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown.

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

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

Traditional Live Local Group or Live Online Group

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

In Person in Georgetown

Many of my readers live close enough to Georgetown, Texas (my hometown) to be able to join me in person.  So, for those of you who prefer getting together in person,  I’m tossing out a couple different options.  We could have a Tuesday 10 – 11 am group or we could have a Tuesday 6:30 – 7:30 pm group.  The location will Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown.

Online Live Interactive Class

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

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

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

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

So, which group would you be interested in?

Summer Bible Study Galatians Iced Tea

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

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

Tuesdays In Person In Georgetown

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

I’m interested in the Tuesday Morning class

I’m interested in the Tuesday Evening Class

Thursdays Online Live and Interactive

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

I’m interested in the Thursday Morning online class!


I’m Interested in the Thursday Evening Online Class

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

Why We Can Count on God to Be Faithful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Want Either; God is Both

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Offended by God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait for It

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

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

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

Will you join me in waiting expectantly for God?

Something to Help You Wait Expectantly

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

Waiting On God Principles

Yes! Send me the summary!

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

What Happens When We Bring Our Brokenness to God

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

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

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

I knew something had happened to it.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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

He brought me Indiana Jones —like this:

Indiana Jones Story

Somehow Indy’s head had come off.

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

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

From Broken to Whole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Identity, New Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get This Free Step-by-Step Guide

()ptimized_Strengthen-Broken

If you need a little guidance as to how to

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

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

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

Yes, send me the guide!

 

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

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.

Get a FREE Printable

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

Send me that photo!

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

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

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

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

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

Truly you are the Son of God.”

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

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

Take Courage2

 

Praying Scripture for You

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget your FREE Printables

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

Photo #1 is

Send me photo #1

Photo # 2 is:

Send me photo #2!

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

4 Simple Ways to Connect with Jesus In Your Busy Life

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

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

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

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

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

1. Let Jesus Wake You Up

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

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

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

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

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

2. Commune While You Commute

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Exercise Your Faith and Your Body

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

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

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

4. Tie in Faith to Your Family Conversations

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

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

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

Deut 6_7

Integration Rather than Compartmentalization

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

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

Yes, send me the checklist!

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

 

RIV Bottom of Post3

 

Do You Need Strength? Tap into the Ultimate Source!

Free Step-by-Step Guide

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

paraphrase of Ephesians 3:18

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

My Prayer for You

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

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

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

Strengthened with His Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ Dwelling in Your Heart

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

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

Strengthening Your Relationship with Christ

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

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

()ptimized_Strengthened-With-Power

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

Yes, send me the guide!

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

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.

Grow in Your Understanding of Jesus with These Reading Plans

Last week, I shared Five Benefits You Can Expect When You Follow the Christian Calendar. Based on how many readers requested the copy of the calendar, many of you want those benefits.  So, this week, I want to provide you with an introduction to the current season as well as point you in the direction of some reading plans that will help you in your quest to reap the rewards we discussed in last week’s post.

Free Reading Plans and Free Calendar

Count on Growing During Epiphany

Epiphany, which was on January 6, celebrated the arrival of the Magi to worship Jesus. Matthew’s account (See Matthew 2) highlights the message that all who are willing to recognize who Jesus is are welcome to come and worship him. This King of the Jews is Savior of all who would receive him.

Depending on denomination, the time from January 6 until Ash Wednesday, is known as the season of Epiphany or Ordinary Time (as in ordinal or order of things). The Sundays are referred to by their order after Epiphany (for example, Second Sunday after the Epiphany).

In some traditions, this season is referred to as Growing Time. Whatever we call this season, the emphasis is on the manifestation of Jesus as God Incarnate and the long-awaited Savior.

An epiphany is an appearance or manifestation of a deity. And the term can also refer to one’s gaining insight into the reality of something extraordinary through something commonplace. The counting of days as the season progresses emphasizes the concept of progression or growth.

During this season, we follow the story of Jesus growing in wisdom and stature from the infant worshiped by the Magi to the pre-teen sitting among the teachers in the Temple astounding all who heard him (see Luke 2:40-52). One of the highlights of this theme of growing in revelation and understanding is the account of Jesus’ baptism (see Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34).

Our understanding of who Jesus is continues to expand as we read of his miracles and teaching throughout the Gospels. And the season of epiphany reaches its climax in the account of the Transfiguration (see Luke 9:28-36; Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8).

Try it!

No, really. Try it right now! Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you better understand Jesus as you read the Scriptures. Then, click on those links in the previous two paragraphs and read at least one account of each portion of Jesus’ life. As you read, pay attention to what is revealed about who Jesus is.

By focusing our Bible reading on this motif of growing in our understanding of who Jesus is, we are better prepared to reflect on our need for him. We are also better equipped to see just how uniquely and completely Jesus meets our need to be reconciled with our Creator.

Helpful Bible Reading Plans

If you haven’t focused your spiritual growth and Bible reading around the Christian Year before, I invite you to give it a try and see how enlightening it can be. There are a multitude of reading plans which will help you do this. Here are just a few you might consider:

  1. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL)

The RCL is a three-year cycle of Scripture readings structured upon the seasons of the Christian Year. It is used to varying degrees by the vast majority of mainline Protestant churches in the United States and Canada. The list of readings was compiled by representatives of nineteen different denominations. The RCL differs somewhat from the Roman Catholic lectionary, primarily as to the feast days that are specifically observed by the Roman Catholic Church.

  1. The Book of Common Prayer Bible Reading Plan on the YouVersion App

This plan follows the Daily Office Lectionary found in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) used worldwide by Anglicans and Episcopalians. But one doesn’t have to be a member of those denominations to benefit from the reading plan.

  1. Daily Reading Plan by the American Bible Society.

The American Bible Society has created a nice printable 2015-2016 Christian Year reading plan. It provides daily readings corresponding to the various seasons of the Christian year in a simple format that could be tucked in your Bible.

FREE Seasons of Faith Calendar

Many readers downloaded a copy of the Seasons of Faith calendar I made for you. This calendar describes each season of the Christian year and gives the 2015-2016 [Updated: 2016-17] dates for each season.

If you want to develop your own reading plan, you can review the descriptions of the themes for each season and use a topical Bible to find relevant passages to read. (That’s what I’m doing this year.)

If you haven’t requested your copy yet, it isn’t too late. Just click the image or button below and I’ll email your copy instantly!

Send Me the Calendar!

Help Choosing the Right Study or Plan

If you need a little more help selecting which Bible study or reading plan is best suited for you, check out my guest post over at Life Letter Cafe.  llc-blogger

At the end of that post, be sure pick up the free step-by-step guide to choosing the plan perfect for your learning style and schedule. The post is called How to Enjoy Reading the Bible and Get More Out of Your Time In It. It will help you evaluate those three plans above or any others you might be considering. It will also give you some ideas for where to find reading plans and Bible studies that are best suited for your needs.

How to Enjoy Reading the Bible

How about you? What type of Bible Study or reading plan are you using? You can leave a comment by clicking here.