Monday, September 30, 2013

More than Enough

After I wrote about my awkward faith moments (click this link to read it) in my last post, I started thinking more about those kind of moments and God's light.  I realized there's some more to this conversation.  God's light is a big deal in our lives.  It deserves time and attention.  That's why I want to zoom in a little bit today.  Jesus says,

You are the light of the world.

Man, that is a loaded statement, you know?  When you think about it, God is giving us a huge responsibility.  Tell me again, God, what exactly am I supposed to do with that?  What are you really saying?  It can be overwhelming and intimidating.  If we aren't careful, we might find ourselves guilt tripping over these words.  I know I do.  I catch myself running when God's light means putting myself on the spot with others.  It is a struggle I face.  My walk with God is both similar and very different to believers around me.  How confusing!  Me God?  Are you sure you need me for this?  You want little, inexperienced me to be a light in this big, scary world?  I am just one ordinary person with lots of baggage.  It's hard to grasp that the omniscient, omnipotent Lord of Heaven and Earth is talking to me, much less using me.  But, friends, that is just what God does as soon as we let Him into our lives, so we might as well get used to it and start talking about it!  

Sometimes it's easier to hear and see the big picture in the details of someone else's story.   So, I want to share a true story about a nine year old boy, baseball, and some shining light.  The boy played on many baseball teams in the past but one particular coach made it a habit to pray with the team before every game.  That simple routine had a huge impact on the boy.  See, that praying coach made a decision to let God's light shine through him.  Months later, it was still shining when the boy joined a new travel baseball team.  The travel coach did not pray before games.  The boy talked to his parents several times about how he wished the team prayed together before games.  Then one day after Sunday school and a lesson on Samuel, the boy said he felt like God was talking to him.  His Sunday school teachers were obviously shining God's light in the life of that boy, too.  The conversation went something like this:
The boy:  Mom, I feel like I can hear God talking to me. 
The mom:  (Surprised) Well, buddy, what's He saying to you? 
The boy:  He's saying I need to pray before my baseball game.  He said not to be scared because He's going to help me.  He will be with me.  I am still scared though, Mom.
At this point, the mom was so moved by what her son was saying, she paused to get her thoughts together.  This was big stuff for a nine year old.  It was big stuff for the mom too.
The mom  Well I know God does talk to us.  If you feel like this is weighing on your heart, I am sure God is talking to you.  God works through us.  If you think God is telling you to pray, I know you can do it.  
In the car on the way home that day, the boy talked more about what was holding him back.  He wasn't afraid to pray, he was afraid of his coach's reaction.  He didn't know how to approach his coach, and he was worried about what his friends would think.  He wasn't sure how they felt about God.  The unknown bothered him, and he was trying to work through it.  Sound familiar?  How many of us can relate to this nine year old's struggle?  It hit the mom at that moment in the car.  She couldn't possibly expect her son to step out in faith on his own when she and her husband were as scared as he was.  So, the boy's dad agreed to discuss the whole thing with the coach.  The dad even agreed to say a prayer for his son and his team since his son was so nervous about the situation.  This became as much a leap of faith for the dad as it was for the boy.

So what do you know?  God plays baseball too.  After talking to the boy's travel baseball coach, the parents learned that he loved the idea of praying before the games but had not done it for "political reasons."  The dad was prepared to pray for the team; but before he could, the coach asked the boy if he wanted to say the prayer.  And without an ounce of hesitation, the boy said yes.  The coach had a conversation with the team about praying, and the boy prayed a nervous, short and very sweet prayer with his team.  It was a God moment.  It was the biggest win the team could have had that day.  Friends that, from a nine year old baseball player at a baseball game, is how you let your light shine!  When we let it shine, we never know how far it will reach.  When we see and experience divine light, it awakens our hearts.  It is contagious.  We are inspired by it.  In case you were wondering, that boy was my son, and praying before games has become a routine for his travel team.  Now, he has said several team prayers.  His faith has strengthened our faith.  And just the other day, another kid on the team, asked to say the team prayer.  That's the power of God's light.  It started with one simple and faithful prayer.  Like I said, it's contagious.    

Let's just take another look at God's words for us and break this down.  Let's figure out what it means for you and for me.  It's pretty amazing to think about this simple and empowering truth ( and visit for more Bible verses on God's light). 

You.  You might as well face it.  Yes, God is talking to you.  There's no denying it.  In my case, he's talking to me.  That's because, as believers, we are personally responsible for following our Savior.  We have the freedom of choice.  While God's love, mercy, and grace are universal, what, when, why, where, and how He calls me is directly related to who He knows I am. (Jeremiah 1:5).  It's important for me to find security in the fact that my call to be God's light may quite possibly look completely different than your shining light.  That's part of it's beauty.  God is able to call each of us in His perfect, person-specific way so we all have the potential to shine.      

Are.  I am a child of God and so are you.  No two people in this world are alike.  We are "fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) by God in His image.  When we follow Him, we begin to realize that awesome potential.  We can take comfort in the fact that the same God who created us and knows us is the same God who calls on us and counts on us for His glory.  It's scary at times to step out in faith and let our light shine, but that's why He created us.  We are perfectly capable.

The Light.  First, I have to notice that "the light" is very specific.  "The light" in the context of this verse is light that comes from God, divine light.  God is light and all that is good and pure and true, the way to eternal life.  It's a light I cannot manufacture or control on my own simply by turning on and off some light switches.  Jesus was our light in the world (John 8:12).  He was God and all His love in the flesh.  And when Jesus died for us, He became our saving grace for all time, the Holy One who lives in us through the Holy Spirit.  That's why, we can be certain that believing and accepting Jesus means we have God's divine light in each of us.  It's waiting to be discovered and used as a perfect blessing to others.  

Of the World.  We are promised eternal life in Christ, but we cannot just sit here and wait on that day.  God needs us to live in connection with others for Him.  It can be dark out there.  We are God's hands and feet, just like Jesus.  And even though we are not perfect like Jesus, even though we get lost in this imperfect place in which we live, our light is perfect.  It is our help and our way.  God means for me to be a shinning light no matter where I am in this world, dependent on Him and the gifts He gives me, His divine light, to reflect His perfect, extravagant love (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

So what light does this shed on our situation?  God lives in You.  He lives in me.  He is here.  He is now.  He is the source of our light for this journey we are on day to day.  Our gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses, experiences, and resources, ALL GIFTS FROM ABOVE, have the potential to be reflections of God's light.  This is such good news for us.  With God's light, what we don't know can be every bit as powerful and valuable as what we do know.  With God's light, our failures can be as usable and transforming as our successes.  With God's light, the most unlikely among us can shine the brightest.  With God's light, our everyday, simple, routine acts of faith can be extraordinary life changing moments in the lives of others.  With God's light, random acts of kindness are never random.  They are Godsends.  Sharing God's light means others can encounter Christ through us.  God wants us to hear Him.  He shows us ways to light up the world with His amazing grace and abounding love.  He gives us all we need to do that for Him.  If you think there's no way you have it together enough to be the light of the world, if you think you aren't good enough, strong enough, experienced enough, old enough, knowledgeable enough, courageous enough, outspoken enough, eloquent enough, confident enough, bold enough, spiritual enough, wise enough, whatever holds you back enough, I hope you'll think again.  God is always more than enough.  You.  Yes, you, soak in this beautiful "Sonshine."  You are the light of the world.  

A prayer for today-

Dear Almighty God,

I thank you for the light of Your truth and Holy presence in my life.  Thank you for all those people who share Your light with me, shining and inspiring me in my own faith.  Forgive me for thinking I am not capable enough to shine Your light in the world.  You, Lord, are always more than enough.  You are all I need.  I pray you will fill my heart with new ways to be "the light of the world" for Your glory.  Show me where, when, and how to shine for You.  Give me the strength and courage I need this day and always.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

May You see the face of Christ in everyone you meet, and may everyone you meet see Christ in you,

**To read the post that got me talking about our shining light, click here... Awkward Moments.

Zechariah 11-14

Zechariah 11-14 is full of complicated, symbolic visions of the future.  Like I said before, I don't always get full understanding of what I read in the Bible, but that never stops God from speaking to my heart.  So, I keep reading and learning.  Today, I keep thinking about God's sovereignty in the world.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Zechariah 4-10

Today is one of those days.  My body and my brain are exhausted from my week.  Do you ever feel that way?  Zechariah 4-10 is symbolism overload for me this morning.  In my post, Life Changing Words, I mentioned how I don't always get everything I read in the Bible right away.  Well, this is one of those times.  But I think it's important to point out, it is okay that there's stuff I don't get.  Life in faith is like that too.  We experience things we don't understand, but that does not mean God is not with us or that we are somehow not capable enough for God.  We just have to hang on to what we know to be true in trust.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Haggai 1-2 & Zechariah 1-3

Priorities.  That is what comes to mind this morning as I read Haggai and Zechariah.  These two prophets deal with the same topic.  God wants His exiled people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild His Holy temple.  Seems like common sense, right?  As Christians we all say God is a priority.  The problem is, God's people are so busy with their own houses, they are neglecting God's House.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Habakkuk 1-3 & Zephaniah 1-3

Today, I read Habakkuk and Zephaniah, two more of God's chosen prophets, speaking to God's chosen people.  These two men may have been living before Christ, but they are speaking to me loud and clear.  And even though they point out the wrong in the world around them, it is not unlike our world today.  I have felt just like Habakkuk at times,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Micah 6-7, Nahum 1-3

I finish up Micah this morning and also read the book of Nahum in full.  Both Micah and Nahum are prophets.  It's the same sort of story we've heard before, warnings of God's wrath if people do not turn from their sins and turn to God.  Just FYI, after doing some research, I realized that Nahum is like a "take 2" version of Jonah that I read a few days ago.  He is speaking to Nineveh.  Apparently, God's people in Nineveh repented to God after being inspired by Jonah, and then drifted back into their old sinful patterns many years later, so in comes Nahum the prophet.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Little "Sonshine" Goes a Long Way

Micah 1-5

Micah is another one of God's messengers.  It's one of those, don't kill the messenger kind of messages for the people of Samaria and Jerusalem.  Micah has to tell the people what they do not want to hear.  The Lord is coming to bring disaster to His people so that they will turn to Him instead of their own ways.  As always, God promises to rescue His people in trouble.

“I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;
    I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,

    like a flock in its pasture;
    the place will throng with people.
The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
    they will break through the gate and go out.
Their King will pass through before them,
    the Lord at their head.”

The scripture I highlighted this morning just reminds me that our troubles are not without purpose, God's purpose.  And in our troubles, God assures us He will be there with us, "opening the way" before us when we use our freedom to follow Him.  That's the comfort I needed this morning.  How about you?

A prayer for today-
Dear Sovereign Lord,

Thank you for being with me in my times of trouble.  Thank you for comforting me with Your presence and guidance.  Even though what lies ahead is unknown to me, it is not unknown to You.  You are already working it for good and holding my hand on Your way.  Help me share Your comfort with other.

In the name of Jesus I pray

Peace of Christ,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Obadiah, Jonah 1-4

Today's readings take me through the books of two more prophets in the Bible, Obadiah and Jonah.  Jonah is the one I want to focus on today.  This is one of those classic Bible stories for sharing with our kids.  It is such a wonderful, fun, simple illustration with many powerful messages, perfect for all ages.  There are times in my life when I have a "whale of a decision to make," no matter how old I get.  Just like God calls on Jonah, He calls on us to do things for Him, and we sometimes have tough choices to make because of that.  God knows best, and we cannot run from Him.  That never works out.  Not only does that hurt us, we can hurt others unintentionally.   And the hardest part is, God's choices for our lives don't always make sense to us in the moment.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Awkward Moments

How many of you have ever suffered through a really awkward situation?  Uggh.  Awkward moments.  They happen despite our cool, collected, and preparedness efforts.  They catch us by surprise.  How many of you know, some of us are a little more awkward than others?  You know what I am talking about.  In fact, when you read that, someone's name and face probably popped into your head.  

Amos 5-9

Reading Amos 5-9 today, was one of those hair raising kind of experiences.  God is just flat out fed up and disgusted with His people and their sins against Him.  He shows Amos some really horrible stuff that will bring total destruction, sparing no one.  That is scary to me, and I have a hard time reading Bible passages like that.  Why?  Because I am not sure what to do with them.  They are the verses that bring the fear of God into my here and now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Amos 1-4

Moving right along in the Bible today brings us to the book of Amos.  I am drawn to what Amos has to say because he is just a regular guy, a shepherd, sharing God's word.  Like the other prophets, Amos is trying to get the attention of God's people who are so caught up in their ways, they don't realize how far they have drifted from God.  I am definitely seeing a pattern here.  How about you?  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Joel 1-3

Joel is another prophet from the Old Testament.  As I was reading today, the thing that kept jumping out at me was the power of turning to God when my ways are not His ways.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hosea 8-14

Today we finish Hosea.  One thing that stuck out to me was the many names for God in
these verses.  He is called "your helper," "Lord," "Lord God Almighty," "Holy One'", "God Most High," and "Savior."  God truly is our EVERYTHING!  That is awesome.  Sometimes the hardest part is waiting for Him to do His most perfect, powerful, wonderful thing in our lives...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hosea 1-7

So, this is where I am in reading the Bible right now.  Since I am starting a new book today, I  used Know Your Bible: All 66 Books Explained and Applied to give me a little heads up on what I am reading.  Hosea is one of the the Old Testament prophets.  

The Word of the Lord comes to him, and he shares it.  Basically, the kingdom of Israel and God's chosen people are messing up pretty badly and God is upset.  Hosea marries a promiscuous woman.  She cheats on him and nearly destroys their marriage, getting into all kinds of trouble.  God uses Hosea's unfaithful marriage as an illustration for His relationship with His people.  My first reaction was, "Thank goodness that's not us today," but keep reading...

Monday, September 16, 2013

You are invited...

Over time, this blog has turned into a place for me to share my faith journey with you.  And I don't share because I have it all figured out, but because I definitely don't.  I may manage to look like I have it all together at times; but the truth is, I don't.  Nobody does.  There is power in following this road together, God power.  We learn, we grow, we are strengthened and built up in our faith when we share and pray through even our messiest experiences in the safety of God's loving arms.  I do it out loud, for you, because it took me so long to realize just how much God wanted me to let Him in, not just during earth shattering, life-changing moments but especially in my ordinary day to day moments.  For the record, it is still a leap of faith for me every single time I put myself out there with a blog post.  But when I read through old posts, I realize how much God is at work here, not only in my own life, but in this blog.  

One of my biggest struggles in trying to live out an everyday faith is figuring out, moment to moment, what God wants me to do next.  Even if we have our own "sweet spot" in spending time with God, hearing and knowing what He is trying to tell us can be a process.  Reading the Bible is key, and that, alone, can be confusing and overwhelming.  Don't worry.   I've been there, done that, and been terrible at it (if you don't believe me, just read my post, "Life Changing Words").  We don't have to do it alone, though, and that is the point of this post.  

I am inviting you to join me on your own time and in the comfort of your own space with your Bible.  Let's start reading and magnifying God's word for our lives together, going straight to the source.  I am willing to share and talk about what I am reading each week.  I can even add things that I find helpful as we go along.  I hope you will feel free to do the same.  It will be an on-going, come as you are, jump in any time, simply see what happens when we read the Bible every day adventure!  God has something to say to each of us.  Spread the word, invite others, and let's do this!  

"5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home 
and when you 
walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

If you are reading this blog, I am thankful for you.  God is with you right now because I asked Him to be.  He's trying to tell you something today.  He knows the good plans He has for you.   What is weighing on your heart?  Whatever it is, big or small, happy or sad, undecided or decided, weak or strong, it does not matter.  He knows, and He is here to love you.  God wants to bless us beyond our wildest dreams.  What next step is God calling you to take?

A prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for blessing me with all that I need on my walk with You.  Thank you for giving me others to support me along the way.  And most of all, thank you for filling my heart with your unfailing, all-powerful love.  I pray you will speak to me, lead me, and comfort me every time I read Your Holy Bible.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray,

Peace of Christ,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Wake Up Call

Stillness.  Quiet.  Comfy PJs.  Fresh brewed coffee.  My Bible.  God.   Ahhhh.  It's priceless.  I never know what God will say, but He is always there with me.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know how much I have come to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my morning devotional time.  It is my essential start to the day.  I wrote an entire post a while back about taking time to be with God, "We Can't Make Time But We Can Take It."  Notice though, I said "I have come to love..."  Without telling you how old I am, let me just say that it wasn't until this past year (10 years of marriage and three kids later) that I finally found this routine that works so well for me.  I look forward to my alarm going off every morning no matter what time I go to bed, how much sleep I get, or how early I have to be out the door.  I wake up before everyone else in my house.  That's the key for me.  I need this time with God like I need my coffee in the morning.  

Confession time now because that's what I do with you.  I already told you it took me forever to get this whole daily devotional thing down, and I am still changing it up from time to time.  I knew devotional time everyday was important and many believers did it; but I still didn't really get it.  For a while, it was just another line item on my to-do list that only sometimes made it to the top.  It was another one of those things I knew I should do, but I had a million "buts" that took its place day after day.  Devotional time was hit or miss.  I had no idea what to do, when to do it, or how to do it, and asking for help meant admitting my inexperience and lack of knowledge.  People my age have all this stuff figured out, you know.  Please don't read this post as any sort of guilt trip because I have been the world's worst at daily devotional time.  My first attempts at it, embarrassingly enough, involved some bathroom reading material and depended on "nature's calling," not God's, if you know what I mean.  Really. 

Why in the world am I telling you this?   Because I wish someone had talked to me about it in a conversational way.  What I am learning as I get closer to God is that my relationship with Him is as I am, handmade by Him, one of a kind.  My time with God cannot possibly be defined or confined to a simple Wikipedia definition.  It is less about words and more about the experience, nurturing my personal relationship with God.  What works for me doesn't necessarily work for you.  God makes us unique on purpose, His purpose.  How we experience daily devotional time is just another example of His divine plan for each of us.  I will share a few things that have helped me grow in my daily time with God, transforming it from another item on my to-do list to a regular and necessary wake-up call for my soul.  

  • {Intentional Time}
I make a date with God everyday.  I have to plan it and actively make the effort to be with God.  For me, that means same time, even if it's a different place, each morning.  This way, time with God is not subject being swept away by my potentially crazy day.  It is a guarantee.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to 
you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." 

  • {Quiet}
I need quiet so I can hear God and feel His presence.  It is very hard to hear His voice over the noise of busyness.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. "

  • {Conversational Prayer}
I sometimes get hung up on "how and what" to pray each day.  The truth is, God just wants 
us to talk to Him about everything and everyone in our lives.  My daily time with God is a 
conversation, not just a time to give God my requests.  Prayer is a two-way street.  Like any strong relationship, we can't do all the talking.  Listening to God is crucial to giving our lives to Him.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

  • {My Bible}
This Holy book is the key to my daily time with God.  It is His Word for us, even today (see my post, "Grab a Bible" for more).  The Bible is how God speaks to us, guiding us with examples, filling our hearts with His promises, and showing us His will for our own lives.
"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."

  • {Various Trusted Christian Influences of Your Choice}
I am learning that God keeps me on my toes.  I know I want His path for my life.  His Way, though, isn't always obvious or easy to find in the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives.  I am easily distracted by my circumstances, and there is always more to learn.  So, I have to be sure to renew my mind with God's positive influences- people, places, words, books, music, and media that are full of God's living presence in the here and now.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of 
your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- His good, 
pleasing and perfect will."
  • {My To-Do List}
I started giving God my to-do list.  You heard me.  I pray about the people and things that are on my list for the day.  I had to quit compartmentalizing my life, similar to the separation of church and state that is so popular in our culture right now.  There were things I naturally and easily share with God on the one hand.  And on the other hand, there are things I need to quit trying to handle on my own, things I am not used to handing over to God.  But the more I get to know God, the more I am certain He wants all of me and all that comes with me.  The more I give to Him, the more He is able to use me for His amazing purposes.  The same goes for any of us who are willing to trust Him.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for The Lord, not for human masters."

I encourage you to keep searching for your own Godly "sweet spot(s)" when it comes to spending time with your Creator, your Lord, your Redeemer, your Mighty Counselor, your Savior.  Expect changes with time.  Embrace them because God always knows exactly what we need.  And as always, I hope and pray that this post will help or inspire you in some way.  

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank you for loving me, everything about me.  Thank you for being with me, for hearing me when I talk to you, for speaking to me, for guiding me, for comforting me, and for filling my heart with the peace of Christ.  I pray You will help me grow closer to You and breathe new life into my daily relationship with You.  You, Lord, are my rock, my redeemer, my Savior.

In the name of Jesus I pray,