Saturday, November 30, 2013

1 Corinthians 13-16

We finish up another book in the Bible with 1 Corinthians 13-16.  Paul wraps up his letter to the Corinthians.  He's still "telling it like it is," at least as he sees it.  He urges people to be more orderly in worshiping God, and he does his best to remind people of Jesus and the power of the resurrection.  As always, Paul's words are powerful today.   Most of it, I love hearing.  He also says some stuff that confuses me a little.  Maybe you can help?

Friday, November 29, 2013

1 Corinthians 9-12

In 1 Corinthians 9-12, Paul seems to talk about a little bit of everything.  He reminds the Corinthians of the Lord's Supper and it's sacredness.  He brings up the old days of Moses and the Israelites and the Lord's ability to test His people and reward faithfulness.  He discusses our freedom as believers and the tradition of covering one's head in worship (an interesting conversation).  In the end, Paul tries his best to convince the Corinthians that they all have important and necessary roles in the body of Christ.  

I love Paul's description of God's gifts for each of us.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

It makes sense, since the Holy Spirit is the giver of my gifts and/or services, that I should also look to be guided by the Holy Spirit concerning those gifts.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

1 Corinthians 5-8

I am posting this reading a little late, but better late than never.  In 1 Corinthians 5-8, Paul is still talking to the church in Corinth.  It seems many of the people have gone in directions that are not good for their faith.  Sexual immorality, idolatry, greed, drunkenness, and bad lawsuits among believers are a few of the issues at hand.  Paul is trying to caution people and encourage them to make healthy choices that draw them closer to God.

When I first started reading this I got a little tense.  It just felt like Paul was being a little "preachy" at times, trying to convince me to follow a bunch of "do's" and "don'ts."   Then I realized sometimes I need just that.  We all need some blunt, to the point correction at times when we are really missing the point in our faith.

The Truth About Holidays

It's that time of year.  I'm talking about Thanksgiving; but if you set foot outside, you might be a little confused.  That's certainly understandable.

After all, I've been to the grocery store six times this week.  Hustling and bustling is how we seem to be rolling.  Traffic jams, crowded parking lots, and not enough parking spaces become the way it is these days.  With every trip, I pass the beginnings of decked halls.  I turn on the radio and the music world is starting to fill the airways with Santa Claus coming to town and jingle bells.  Elves are popping up in houses and kids are quickly filling up their Christmas lists.  Festive lights are already brightening the night skies!

Let me just be honest.  These symbols of good tidings are starting to stress me out.  I can't help it because I haven't had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving yet.  When I see the sea of red and green, my mind starts drowning in all the things I have to do to get ready for the holidays that I HAVEN'T DONE YET.  I begin to feel overwhelmed.  I get tense and nervous that I haven't done enough at this point, that I won't be able to get it all done in time.  Before I know it, I am stuck worrying about my tomorrows.

Yep.  Holidays are funny, really.  We assign ourselves certain dates to do what we should do everyday.  I am not suggesting we eat holiday-style every day, of course.  I am just saying holidays are a time we mean to stop, enjoy, and be appreciative.  Yet, if we aren't purposeful, holidays easily become another giant distraction, an item on our to-do lists, another part of our routine from which we so desperately need a break.  

I fight it year after year.  

Here's the truth.  Holidays aren't about the glitzy decorations, the place settings of fine china and polished silver, the clean house, the stylish outfits we wear, or the deliciousness of the food we eat.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

1 Corinthians 1-4

We hear more from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1-4.  He writes a letter to the church in Corinth.  It seems the people have become a little lost.  They are not getting along.  Their hearts are not in the right place (with Jesus).  Selfishness and self-righteousness are taking over.  Members are going their own ways instead of growing in Christ.  Paul writes to encourage them and give them a little wake-up call.  He reminds them of their beliefs and hopes to inspire them to draw on the strength and unity they have in Jesus.  

Even though Paul writes to a church in Corinth way before my time, his message is just as relevant today.  The issues and weaknesses Paul addresses are timeless.  Not only do Paul's words apply to churches (as congregations), but they also apply to me as an individual who believes.  

We all get a little distracted, even completely lost sometimes.  It happens way too easily right before our eyes, and we don't even realize it.  This world we live in is crazy like that.  

All of a sudden we just know in our hearts things don't feel right.  They don't look right.  We become unsettled and restless.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Romans 14-16

We finish up another book in the Bible with Romans 14-16.  Paul explains that our faith is very personal.  And, our relationship with Christ is a two-way street.  Christ accepts us and loves us for who we are.  So, we are supposed to love and accept others in the same way.  That is no small task.  We each have our own special relationship with God to help us.  It's the one relationship, as long as we nurture it, that is certain to give us all we need.   We live and die to serve and glorify Him.  He fills us with His blessings when we live for Him.  And even after death, His blessings do not stop.  We have a promised happily ever-after waiting for us in Heaven.  

I will say it again and again and again.  The more we give ourselves to God, the more He is able to do in us, through us, and for us.  

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13


Little things or big, God is all around us.  

He's In the everyday, familiar moments and the new and exciting moments.  He's even in the most unwanted and difficult moments.  

His love, His peace, His joy, His power- all here for each of us in every moment of every day.

Will I be too busy or tired, too distracted or hurried, too selfish and self-sufficient to notice Him?  

Or, will I look for Him and find Him in all His glory?

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that is at work in me.  Forgive me for  so easily falling into the habit of being so self-sufficient that I miss You.  You are everywhere I am.  I pray you will help me focus on the blessings that You pour into my life every single day, no matter what the circumstances.  Fill me, Lord, with your joy and peace and hope.  I trust You.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Joy and Peace,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Everyday Reading Project: November 24-30

What happens when you read the Bible?  Whoever you are, wherever you are, however you are, God has something to say to you.  I want to invite you, even challenge you.  Read and see. 

I'd love for you to join me anytime.  No worries, you don't have to know what you're doing to give it a go.  Lord knows, I don't!.  Here's where I am in the good book this week…

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank you loving me.  Thank you for loving me so much that you want to fill my life with your grace and joy and peace.  Speak to me through your Holy Word and guide me with your Holy Spirit.  Inspire me to nourish my relationship with You in new ways.  

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


Romans 10-13

Paul gives us more on how to live in our faith as Christians in Romans 10-13.  God brings us to Him through our hearts.  We claim our faith in Jesus, but we do so because of God's call, His work in us.  It's that still, soft voice pulling on our heartstrings.  Anyone, anywhere who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior WILL be saved.  Paul knows, too, we need constant reminders that we are saved by God's grace, not our own mindful doings.  And because God so loves us, the most important thing we can do for Him is love and serve each other with the gifts He gives us.

Paul is talking about God's life changing stuff.  It's Good News for believers.  It's also humbling.

God blesses us with thoughtful, reasoning minds.  It's also my mind that allows me to fall into the trap of thinking I am in control of things.  I get comfortable with my situation, and I think I have things figured out.  I am learning something, though, in my temporary periods of comfort.  God always reminds me that He knows more.  He knows best.   Paul puts it this way,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[a] knowledge of God!

    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”[b]
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”[c]

Yes, I am "A Mind-Maker-Upper."  I have made up my mind to live for Him.  I choose God over my own limited understandings.  I trust Him in all situations.  I am deciding to seek Him and find Him in all circumstances.  

I know I am very far from perfect.  I know I mess up all the time.  I know I fall-short often.  I know I completely fail sometimes.

I also know, most importantly, that I have to thank God in all things.  I thank God because, it's by His grace, I am saved from myself for a greater purpose- His purpose.

God powerfully uses all my steps, even my missteps.  That's where His joy comes in and makes it all worth it.  

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

I owe it all to Him who blesses me immeasurably more than I could ever imagine.

How about you?   Are you "A Mind-Maker-Upper?"  What does that mean in your life with God?

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank you for your sovereignty in all things, especially my own life.  I thank you for all that I am and all that I have.  Help my mind to stay focused on You in all my circumstances.  What do I need to do for You, God?  I am Your work-in-progress.  Keep me.  Change me.  Use me.  I love you, Lord, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength.  

In the name of Jesus I pray,

May God's love fill your hearts and minds,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Romans 7-9

Paul is talking about some really heavy stuff in Romans 7-9.  While these chapters have some of my all-time favorite scripture, they do not come without a huge sense of responsibility for me.  Paul is trying to explain that Christ's death means things of this world also die in us when we believe.  Through our faith, we are called to let go of old ways and embrace all the newness we have in our risen Christ.  Thank goodness God knew we couldn't do it on our own.  The Holy Spirit is a crucial GPS system for all of God's children.  

Paul points out that we can't help ourselves.  We mean well, but we mess-up and get tangled in sin all the time.  Even with the Holy Spirit in our lives, we still make mistakes and wrong turns.

19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Jesus is such a necessary gift from God.  How many times do I catch myself doing the very things I said I wouldn't do because I know they are wrong?  It's too many times to count; I can tell you that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Romans 4-6

I read somewhere that the book of Romans is known as the "theology textbook" for Christian life.  I think I see why.  We are getting a crash course on how Jesus' resurrection changes things for us in Romans 4-6.  Paul reminds us of the faithful example we had before Christ in Abraham (remember the really old guy who left everything he had to follow God).  Then, Paul explains that Jesus is here for eternity so that we have hope and peace, not from our own efforts and works, but through our faith in Him.  He died so we can live.  Jesus offers us a new life, free from our sins.  

What does this new life look like while we are still in the world?  Paul tries to give us a picture… 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Romans 1-3

We hear more from Paul as we begin reading Romans today.  This man really has a way with words, doesn't he?  He writes to the Roman Christians on his way to Spain even though he had never met them.  He's so good at encouraging people in their faith and explaining God's grace through faith.  We can learn so much from Paul.

Paul inspires me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Acts 26-28

We finish up Luke's book of Acts, as we read chapters 26 through 28.  Just when I think Paul has really done it this time, God swoops in and saves the day.  Paul seems to be like a cat with nine lives.  He continues to share Jesus' story and God's work in his own life.  Through trial after trial, prison, stormy seas, and a shipwreck, Paul continues to bring others to Christ. God is with Paul, and He takes care of him every step of the way.

Paul finds himself in the middle of a storm on a boat.  It reminds me so much of the story in the gospels when Jesus calms the storm with the disciples.  It's a very scary situation.  Things don't look good.  And then, God shows up, in all His power and glory, and takes care of everything.  Paul's close relationship with God, encourages and comforts others at one of the scariest points in their journey.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Acts 23-25

Paul is a troublemaker for the Jewish leaders in Acts 23-25.  He is brought to trial, in fact.  His accusers are confident the truth about Paul will prove his guilt.  Paul, in their opinion, is wrongly turning their laws upside down. The truth (even though Paul does jail time) sets him free.  Those who hear Paul's side of the story have a hard time finding any guilt.  And in trying to quiet Paul's voice, even more people are drawn to his story.  He continues to win hearts for our Savior.

How does he do it?  How does Paul stand all the trials he faces?  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Acts 20-22

Acts 20-22 is tense.  Man.  It reminds me so much of the time in Jerusalem right before Jesus is murdered on the cross.  Paul has spread God's Good News of grace to so many Gentiles.  He has never been closer to God.  Paul is in the hot seat, and he knows it's about to get worse even before it happens.  Paul prays, and like Jesus, spends time with his closest friends.  I am amazed at how Paul uses his bad situation, yet again, as an opportunity to share what God has done in his life, shining some light on the power of God's grace.

Paul recalls what God did for him.

15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

God worked Paul's past mistakes for His good purpose.  Paul's baggage shows God's extravagant love and power.  God wants to do the same for all of us.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Acts 17-19

Paul's determination and faithfulness get him into all kinds of trouble in Acts 17-19.  He is trying to reconcile the Old Testament Law with God's saving grace we now have in Christ.  The trouble seems to spread to many who choose to support his ministry.  Paul's strongest resource is God's word, the truth.  The news is good, but not everyone has heard the full story.  And when Paul shares it, not everyone believes it.  That was then, in Bible times, and we still face the same reality today.  

Funny how truth works.  The truth will set you free.  And as Paul and his crew find out, it can also put you in the middle of a mess.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Acts 14-16

God is busy at work in Acts 14-16.  There is opposition and struggle along the way.  Paul, Barnabas, and Silas (and their crew) keep traveling all over the place spreading God's good news about Jesus.  These missionaries meet hostility at times, face abuse, even serve jail time.  Those struggles prove to be powerful faith builders in their own right.  They are the places and times when God does some of His best work.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Acts 11-13

The Good News just keeps spreading in Acts 11-13.  Saul (also known as Paul) and Barnabas baptize more disciples at Antioch, and they call themselves Christians for the first time.  Meanwhile in Jerusalem, tensions are rising for Jesus' followers.  James is killed, and Peter's strong voice lands him in prison.  Miraculously, by the grace of God, Peter escapes prison and wins even more hearts for Christ through it all.  Disciples are traveling all over the place, doing things they could not have imagined.

I am still amazed at the transformation in Saul's faith in those days.  He is such a determined
missionary and witness for Jesus, and it rubs off on people.  Just look at what he is doing.  He follows God's call to preach in far off places in the Jewish synagogues.  I know, as Christians, we are called to be "witnesses" for Christ, but something about that word has always made me a little nervous and shy.  And don't you know, there's nothing more discouraging than a bad "witness!"  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When You Give It Up | A Work in Progress

Today, I want to spend some time visiting my friend (and fellow blogger), Courtney over at A Work In Progress.  I love her thoughts from Friday.  Simple.  True.  Beautiful.    



Monday was ordinary. 
Tuesday was confounding. 
Wednesday was a trial. 
Thursday was a gift. 

Ever have one of those weeks? 

I've tried to write about it, but it's rambling and boring and the details don't really matter. What matters is that on Thursday morning I woke up and literally wrote to God, "Thank you for the stresses of the week. They bring me closer to you." I really, truly meant it. I sort of had this light bulb go on that, Hey, at least I can go to God about all this

And what do you know? Thursday turned out all right. 

It was a gift because it was back to ordinary, but I had more love in my heart. I had more patience with my kids, and I found myself with this weird thing called time on my hands. I got to one place early, and then had thirty unexpected minutes of free time for one more fun(ish) errand. Sure I forgot my checkbook later and there were plenty of brotherly squabbles to referee, but somehow, it was all better.

So if you've had a few bad days, really serious bad days or just the usual life stuff, sometimes it helps to find a quiet place. Put your elbows on the table. Open your palms and say, "Lord, I give it to you. And thank you even for this . . . stuff. Because at least I'm sitting here talking to you. Now, please show me what to do next."

You might be surprised by what happens.

Happy Weekend.

Acts 9-10

Jesus has died and gone to heaven, AND Jesus is still very much here, there, and everywhere in Acts 9-10.  Jesus has made God's grace possible and accessible to all who believe, not just for the Jewish people but for Gentiles too (and you and me).  Saul and Peter are well aware of that, and they spread the Word.  Saul goes from persecuting Christians to saving them.  And Peter, well, he is stronger than ever in his faith.  God is taking him all over the place.  He is faithful to God's voice, and his biggest gift seems to be his ability to talk to people.  That's good news for talkers everywhere...

God's grace is so beautiful, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Acts 7-8

Stephen in today's reading, Acts 7-8, makes me want to back up a little bit.  He is a leader from the start.  He enters the picture in Acts 6 as the apostles become a little overwhelmed meeting all the responsibilities that come with spreading Jesus' good news.  They realize their need for help.  The apostles want to focus on praying and teaching God's word, and seven chosen men, who are "full of the Spirit and wisdom," serve in meeting the day to day needs of the people.  The apostles pray over these men and lay hands on them.  This is the start of Stephen ministry.  (Ahh, that's the story behind that ministry.)  And God's ministry keeps growing...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marriage, Faith, and Blogging Tidbits

A little bit of everything for a Monday morning...

As many of you know already Seth Adam Smith got me thinking with his viral post, Marriage Isn't For You.  I loved it.

Smith inspired me to write more on marriage in my response post on Friday, Marriage Isn't For You.  Me Either.

Words are powerful.  

And just as I am growing in my faith, I am also learning so much as a blogger.  There's so much to learn!  

After lots of feedback from my marriage post on Friday, I realized many people don't know that the green font on my blog is a link. That means that you can click on anything green in one of my blog posts, and it will take you to some more, also important, information.  I link to websites, blog posts, Bible verses, and even previous posts by me that I think add to what I am saying.  

So, if this link clicking thing is new for you, feel free to give it a try. 
  1. Here's a link to my post, Marriage Isn't For You. Me Either.
  2. Once it takes you to my post, try clicking the green link to Seth Adam Smith's article, Marriage Isn't For You.  It is the background that inspired my post.  It's well worth reading.
  3. Don't forget to come back and hang out with A Mind-Mind-Maker-Upper after you're done checking it out.

Okay.  Back to marriage.  Words are powerful.  So are pictures.
I took what was on my heart about marriage and tried to make a visual too.

What do you think?  

And guess what?  The picture is a link.  If you click on it, it will take you to my post from Friday!

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank you for all that you teach me, and all the ways you guide me in my day to day experiences.  Help me to hear your voice and follow You.  Use me to share your love with others.

In the name of Jesus I pray,


Acts 4-6

The disciples are helping more and more people believe in the Lord.  I think that's what Jesus wants us all to do, really.  The apostles share their stories, their experiences, and they are not afraid to give Jesus the credit.  Peter becomes such a strong leader in his faith.  It's an amazing change.  It's pretty awesome to watch the Holy Spirit at work in believers' lives.

I love how God uses ordinary and unlikely people like you and me for amazing things.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Acts 1-3

Acts 1-3 marks the beginning of Luke's second book in the New Testament.  Forty days is significant again in the Bible, as Jesus appears to the disciples this long preparing them before He goes to Heaven.  A close follower of Jesus named Matthias is chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.  The Holy Spirit fills Jesus' disciples and followers with a violent wind on the day of Pentecost, and the church begins.  The disciples are now apostles, and they go into the world to share Jesus' message.

Look at how the Holy Spirit changes Peter and strengthens His faith.  He's the guy who denied Jesus three times the day He is crucified (John 13:31-38).  He is also the same guy  Jesus puts on the spot three times, calling His faith into question (John 21:15-25).  Now look at him!  God is using Him in amazing ways.  Peter tells us what we need to remember as Christians,

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Friday, November 8, 2013

Marriage Isn't For You? Me Either.

After reading the blog post Marriage Isn't For You that went viral this week, I have to agree with the author, Seth Adam Smith.  Marriage isn't for me either.

I have been married for 10 years and 10 months, also to my high school sweetheart.  I met my husband the summer before I started high school.  I was fourteen.  He was fifteen.  We had 10 years to get to know each other before our wedding day.  We thought for sure we knew what we were getting into.  We didn’t.

John 19-21

Scripture connections:

John 19-21 is intense but beautiful as Jesus dies on the cross and ascends to Heaven to be with God, Our Father.  He proves to the world that even though He dies, He lives.  He gives each of His believers the gift of the Holy Spirit.  And, He shows His disciples that even though He is no longer in the world, He comes to us again and again in His own way on His own time.  Jesus unites us with God forever,

Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

It doesn't matter how many times I read it and hear.  What Jesus does for us is amazing.  Because of Him, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, one big family of believers.  And not only that, Jesus asks us to talk to each other about our walk with Him.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

John 16-18

Scripture connections:

In John 16-18Jesus is basically setting himself up to be able to say "I told you so" in order that people realize He is good for His Word.  He wants us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He comes from our Heavenly Father, and His power is one and the same as God's power.  Not only is Jesus telling the truth, He is the truth by which we are called to live.  He tells His disciples what will happen before it happens, and helps them understand the amazing change that follows His resurrection.  His sacrifice for our sins means we are forever united with God, Our Father. 

24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

I don't know about you, but as I read through the Bible and God's word for His people, I have felt separated from Jesus some how at times because I was not one of God's original chosen people around the days of Abraham and the Israelites or one of Jesus' original disciples or apostles in the New Testament.  I desperately want God's Word to apply to me.  The scriptures are so promising and powerful and full of love.  I don't want to be left out.  Silly, I know because I do know better.  These are just my honest and imperfect thoughts.  What do you think?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

John 13-15

Scripture connections Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22

Love is the theme of John 13-15.  It's in the air, and I am not just talking about simple, temporary, convenient, conditional puppy love.  No, I am talking about life-saving, ginormous, incomprehensible, everlasting, perfect and graceful Godly love.  Jesus not only talks the talk, He walks the walk.  We are able to hear it, see it, and feel it in action.  He tells us,
15 “If you love me, keep my commands.

In other words, Jesus wants us to do more than just say we believe in Him.  Thank goodness we don't have to earn our salvation, but Jesus does want us to love Him by doing what He says.  He goes on to say,

21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

John 10-12

Scripture connections: Matthew 21, 26, Mark 11, 14, Luke 13, 19

God's Word is full of surprises for me today.  In John 10-12, Jesus follows up his teaching about healing the spiritually blind with a discussion of The Good Shepherd and His sheep.  I have to admit, I got ahead of myself at first because I thought I knew what I was going to read.   We've heard about this in the gospels many times.  We are the sheep.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  John's gospel surprised me, though, because Jesus reminds us that He is also the gatekeeper, the one and only way way to our Heavenly Father.  And if we want to get to Him, we have to go through Jesus to get there.  

Then, Jesus surprises me again as I read how He raises Lazarus from the dead.