Tag Archives: Jesus

Love you the best…I Win!

I love you this muchMy children and I play a game, it’s one of those quirky things that you come up with your kids that becomes part of the daily routine. I’m not sure how it started but one day, after telling Marcus I loved him, he said, “I love you more”, then I say “no, I love you more”, and on, and on it goes. Well, one day my highly competitive, then 4-year old ended the non-stop game of one-up about who loves who the most by exclaiming, “I love you the best…I win!” He was so triumphantly emphatic that I had to laugh and agree he did indeed win!

This fast paced competition of who can get to ‘I Win’ spread to all of my children and is now part of our morning and bedtime rituals. It reminded me of a book I had been reading to my kiddos since they were very small. I actually bought it for our oldest daughter when she was four (she’d now be 25), miraculously it has survived relatively unscathed.

The book is called, “Guess How Much I Love You“, by Sam McBratney. It’s a wonderful story about a father and son Hare. The son keeps telling the father how much he love him. Then the father replies with an even larger illustration of love. The book ends with little nut brown hare telling his father that he loves him “right up to the moon”, as the father tucks his son in to bed he replies, “I love you right up to the moon – and back”.

This is such a great illustration of God’s love for us, one that we often have a very difficult time comprehending.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

There is no love so deep, so pure and so complete as the love I feel for you. There is no place you could ever run to that I would not find you. There is nothing you can do that could ever cause me to love you less or more than I love you right now.

My love for you is deeper than the sea, wider than the skies and more infinite than space and time. You may turn your back on me, hide your face from me, run from me and fill your life with false images meant to replace me; my love for you will remain and I will wait for you to return.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20b

Our understanding of God’s love is so limited that we content ourselves with quoting scripture like John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Not only did God save us from ourselves, He did so while we were still a mess and in a such a way that our salvation could never be taken from us.

Then He wrote to us… yes, He wrote to us. He wrote us love letters. Letters to share His deepest desires for our lives, His great despair at our disobedience, His provision for our restoration and His unfailing commitment to our future in Him.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

No matter how much we’ve been shown love, understand love or our expectation of love, it is nothing compared to what God feels for us, expresses toward us and freely gives us. He loves us to eternity and back, the proof…He was willing to leave paradise and sacrifice Himself that we could be restored to Him.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

No word from God will ever fail!

my ways are not your way

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

If God is for us, who can be against us…Powerful words, words full of promise and commitment. Words to encourage and assure us, words that fully express God’s passion for His children. Just a few verses later it states, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

So, if God is for us and nothing can separate His children from Him, then why are we so fearful? Why do we doubt His love and His care? Why do we think and act if things are either out of His reach, to big for Him to handle or too small for Him to care?

Is it a lack of faith? I believe that, at least in my life, it’s a lack of understanding. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

I don’t understand why I had to struggle so much in life; death, loss, more death, trials and tribulations…why? I asked that a lot. What I have experienced recently however, is a growing sense of who God is, through my relationship with Jesus Christ, and through that, a better knowledge of how little I know, or as Socrates put it, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

Isaiah 41:10“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

I can’t comprehend the passion and fullness of God’s love, or of Jesus’s sacrifice for me. I can only understand through the lenses of my life’s experiences, without the Holy Spirit. And there it is…with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life I can begin to experience and understand God’s ways, who Jesus is, and through that the unthinkable grace that’s been given to me.

Cory Asbury expresses this so well in his song Reckless Love“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

God is sovereign. Nothing gets by Him, nothing is beyond Him, nothing surprises Him, and He can and will work ALL things for His Glory and our good. More than that, there is nothing that will surprise Him, shock Him or rock Him.

Jeremiah 32:27“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

So, back to my point, if God is with us who can be against us? Knowing that there is nothing God can’t do, nothing is too big or too small for His attention and that He will always provide for our needs, then why do we still doubt and fear? I believe it is because we have a very hard time, without the help of the Holy Spirit, fully comprehending who He is.

The remedy is easy, get to know Him better. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to discern His ways, pray for understanding, read His words. None of us would attempt to write a biography on a famous individual without spending considerable time with that person, reading about them, studying their actions and decisions. Why then do we throw our hands up in the air and yell, “why Lord”, when we haven’t been intentional in our efforts to know him better?

The key is being intentional, you can’t read a scripture, pray Sunday morning then throw your hands up that it’s not working. It takes time, effort and commitment…the fruits of which however, will be immeasurable; thirty, fifty and a hundred-fold more than you could ever imagine.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Bringing Holiness Home

holinessYes, my title is a bit misleading, Holiness should begin at home.

I was doing some reading last night on the word Holiness. Biblically it is primarily used as a descriptor of our Lord however, I did find a definition that I believe accurately portrays our journey toward personal holiness. “Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance.”

This past week has been full of the activities of life; work, kids, Father’s Day, Church activities and opportunities. It struck me as Pastor was talking Sunday about the position of blessing and responsibility parents hold to be Godly examples that it is much easier for me to focus on The Father while going about my church opportunities than it is when I’m home with my family. How backwards is that!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

So, I shared my struggle with a friend and she too experiences similar challenges. At church we are surrounded with the sacred; our brothers and sisters in Christ, prayer, scripture, study, worship, teaching, the Holy Spirit is there…we expect him to be there. As I spend more time focused on knowing Jesus better, I experience the sacred in so many areas of my life, outside of church. But, when I get home to my place of comfort where I can relax, I let small things slide, react to quickly, in the familiarity of the environment I focus less on the example I should be.

I don’t enter my home expecting… inviting the Holy Spirit to be there. I ask him to be with me when I study the Word, pray and work on Church business, but do I ask Him to be in the midst of my conversations with my husband and children, my responses and reactions to them? I desire to have the same expectation of Jesus working in my life at home as I do everywhere else.

In Deuteronomy 4:9 it says, “… take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—”

It’s easy to step into our old selves when we are faced with the day to day activities of life. It’s easy to let slide. My struggle is that it’s too easy with those whom I love the most, and feel the most comfortable. But, it’s those same people who need me the most to be a Godly example…my family. I should share my prayer time with my children, teaching them the importance of spending time with Jesus so He can be part of their everyday lives, daily. I need to walk into my house expecting Jesus to be there, because He is!

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17

If, indeed, personal holiness is a work of gradual development carried out under many obstacles, then I must dedicate more time to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance in my home and with my family.

Contrary to my opening statement, holiness begins at home. Even when it feels like your words fall on deaf ears or your actions go unnoticed, seeds are planted, little eyes are watching and ears are listening. Your faithfulness and obedience will bear fruit in yourself and your family.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Am I Talented?

TalentedMatthew 25:29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

I have been on an all-out quest to know Jesus better. I want to be a sincere and authentic disciple, I want to know Jesus so well that sharing Him with others is just as natural to me as telling people about my children’s crazy antics. The best way for me to know Him, is to bury myself in His words (Bible) and though prayer, talking with Him daily.

I love a good story and believe it or not the Bible is full of them. Reading through the gospels is like experiencing the times and culture of Jesus day. We can glean so much from His words that resound so clearly today…yes, His words from some 2000 years ago resound today.

One of my favorite parables is that of the talents. A fav but one I still struggled to fully comprehend. In this story Jesus tells of a man who is traveling far away, so he places his possessions (talents) in the hands of three servants. To the first he gives five, the second two and the last one. The first went out and “traded with them” and made 5 more, the second took his two and gained two more, but the servant who received one talent went and buried it.

When the man returns to settle his accounts; in the instance of the first two servants he was pleased that they each had taken what they were given and increased their masters money, expanded his portfolio, enlarged his estate (you get the point). Their lord says to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21 & 23) Pretty amazing praise of you ask me!

Yet in the instance of the final servant, his response was very different. His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags’. ‘ For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”  (Matthew 25:26-29).

Seems pretty straight forward, right? Use your talents, money, gifts, faith, etc. for God and more will be given? Why then does this scripture intrigue me? Because its relevance is so real today. It’s a practical and applicable interaction with Christ!

Whatever it is that God has given you (which by the way is everything) blessings and challenges, need to be used to glorify Him! We are to take WHATEVER He has given us and increase it.

I have experienced the death of a spouse at the ripe age of 24, lived through the death of my first born from cancer. The loss I have experienced has equipped me to be comfort to those who are traversing similar roads. I have been gifted with a wonderful career that enables me to access a network of contacts and resources to help with finding jobs, medical care and so much more. The blessings and the pain can be used to grow the Kingdom…my ‘talents’ are plentiful and have nothing to do with my income.

This parable isn’t a diatribe on giving your money or a treatise on making sure that you are serving in your church; as it is often used. This is Jesus telling us that EVERYONE has been given something they can use to glorify God. Everyone has been given a means to reach out to those around them. EVERYONE is equipped right where they are to expand His Kingdom.

Not everyone is a great preacher or evangelist, not everyone has been blessed financially or with wonderful musical skills… everyone has been gifted… what you choose to do with that gift is up to you. You can use it to increase the kingdom or take your light and hide it under a basket.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

It’s not about the bread!

bradIn Matthew 4 we find Jesus being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know that he fasted for forty days and nights, and that the bible clearly states (as I checked this against 5 different versions) that, “He was hungry.”  Forty days and forty nights, yea, he’d be hungry. He’d have a hunger inside of him that would literally make him sick, weak, faint and at this moment of weakness what should happen… The tempter came. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Remember how hungry He must have been… his reply?

Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this part of scripture, but when I was reading it this weekend something struck me, one word, shall.

Just last night, I was having dinner with my parents at an Italian restaurant and of course there was bread, I love bread. Mom asked me, “would you like a piece of bread?” Of course I’d like a piece of bread, but you know man can not live on bread alone. Yup, that’s what I said. It’s what I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard, lots of people say. “You know what the bible says…man can not live on bread alone.”

WAIT! The scripture says, man SHALL not live by bread alone. BIG DIFFERENCE FRIENDS! I thought to myself when I read this again last night… how did I miss it? So I went searching through every version of the Bible I have in my house, and do you know what I found? They all say the same thing.

King James: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

New International Version: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Revised Standard Version: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

New Living Translation: People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God.

The Message: It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Yes, I am telling you that man can live on bread alone, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. Bread may feed our bodies but not our souls. Only the word that proceeds from the mouth of God can feed our souls, make us whole, bring freedom, forgiveness and salvation. Bread may keep your body alive but will not give you life.

One of the definitions of the word ‘shall’; expressing an instruction or command, “Man shall not live by bread alone”, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where Moses is exhorting the people of Israel to remember how God cared for them in the desert for 40 years stating in verse 3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your father know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

It’s not about the bread! It’s about living by the word of God. His promises are many and cover ALL our needs. We don’t need to focus on the immediate hungers of the flesh, we need to keep our eyes, hearts and hopes on him. Everything else is just a distraction and will keep us from fully living the life He has planned for us.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Out of the mouth of Marcus

ED00393x_Eqyptian_Gods-EDMarcus is my 7-year old son (almost 8). He is bright, energetic (to put it mildly), intuitive and quite often very insightful. Right now, he is into watching bible movies, and to be honest, I’m loving every minute.

Last weekend we watched the animated story of  Joseph the King of Dreams and Moses back to back. While watching these movies, Marcus noticed that the Egyptian gods didn’t look quite human.

“Mom, did the Egyptian gods actually look like animals?” he asked. “I mean, in real life were they part animal, did they actually look like that?”

To which I replied, “no son, they didn’t look like that in real life. The Egyptians fashioned their gods out of a combination of human and natural/ animal characteristics.”

Marcus lifted one eyebrow (which I LOVE that he can do), and said the most amazing thing…”if the Egyptians made them, then how can they be god?” A pretty deep yet accurate question for my 7-year old.

I find myself lately in more and more conversations with individuals who seem to have a sincere desire to experience God, however they are incredibly uncomfortable with committing. They tell me that they believe in a supreme power but think that there is a lot of “truth” in all religions. They begin to fashion for themselves a ‘god’ that aligns with their wold view; part Buddha, part Christ, part Native American or New Age, whatever fits into their perception of a reality they craft for themselves. Then they are unsatisfied that this ‘god’ they have created doesn’t fulfill their desire to connect to the divine.

Exodus 20:2-4, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth…”

If you can create it, it’s not a creator. If you can chose it’s name, it’s name has no power.

John 1:1-4, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

We create our idols/gods as a result of an innate desire to connect to the divine,  that desire is from God. But out of our fear, we design a version of god that doesn’t challenge us, or hold us accountable or to whom we must be accountable. A god that allows us to continue with the status quo, not telling us what to do or how to do it. Never expecting us to be more than what we are. We create an idol to say we believe in something, then become disgruntled when that idol does not fulfill our deepest need to connect.

Then we talk about how, “we tried religion” or “we gave God a shot, but it didn’t work out for us”. Did we really give God a chance? More likely than not we were too afraid of what He’d ask of us so we backed off, created our own version of truth and when that didn’t fulfill us, blamed it on our own man made macaroni sculpture.

Matthew 11:28-30, “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…”

God doesn’t want to ruin or control your life. He wants you to come to him of your own free will. He doesn’t want you to settle for less that the very best He has for you. Choosing Jesus is choosing a life of love, abundance, peace, joy, fellowship and fulfillment. It isn’t a choice to make lightly as it will change your life. Consider the alternative, a life with your favorite macaroni sculpture and endless one sided conversations or a life fulfilled with a loving God, personally involved in your life every day.

I saw a sign on social media recently, it simply stated, “If you are right and there is no God then I’ve wasted my life, if you are wrong and there is a God then you’ve wasted your eternity.” (unknown author so I ask for forgiveness if I’ve misquoted).

I chose eternity, and apparently so does Marcus.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

What comes First, Grace or Gratitude?

I know, I know, it sounds a lot like a chicken or egg conversation. Well to be honest, it kind of is. I was struck this week by how many times my children were telling me they loved me. We had a busy week preparing for summer…at least summer temperatures, we live in Arizona. We had to go out and get some warm weather clothing, “I love you mom!” Then it was the sandals, “you are the best mom ever!” Then it was spring cleaning, pulling out all the old stuff; clothes, shoes, toys, making the rooms look like rooms and not junk piles…yup you guessed it, “Mom, I love you so much, I couldn’t have done it without you!”

No this is not a tirade on whether or not my children love me, I know they love me. I have never doubted their love for me, even when they aren’t yelling it at the top of their lungs. While I don’t doubt my children’s genuine love for me, I often think of how they’ve learned to express it, only after a blessing. How do they learn that flow of gratitude? Yes, I do know the answer, they learn it from us. We teach them the ‘please and thank you’ from the time they begin talking. Making sure they give hugs and send thank you notes to grandparents after a gift. We teach our children that gratitude is expressed after a blessing.

God, however doesn’t want us to praise him only after he blesses us, so why do we teach our children that? Ephesians 5:19-20 tells us to, “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father, for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It doesn’t say, “when God give you what you want, then give him praise…it says always giving thanks to God the Father, for everything. Always and everything…big words.

The Psalms says it best, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods”, Psalm 95: 1-2.

If this is the case, as scripture tells us, then why do we seem to primarily express our affection, our love for our Lord after He blesses us? Are we in love with who He is, or with what He provides? Does He bless us because we praise Him or because that is who He is?

Natalie Grant has a song playing now that I absolutely love it says, “Help me want the Healer more than the healing, help me want the Savior more than the saving, help me want the Giver more than the giving. Help me want you Jesus, more than anything.”

Do we love Jesus because he heals, saves and gives or do we love Jesus because he is the Healer, Savior and Giver? Do we love Him because of the gift of grace or because He is the Sovereign Lord of the universe, because He is?

I have found myself lately expressing my gratitude, my love to my savior for no reason at all. He is mighty, glorious, righteous, just, and loving; there is nothing out of his reach or control. His love for me is perfect and mine is imperfect but He loves me with a love that surpasses my understanding or comprehension.

Do I only tell my children I love them when they are good, no. Do I only bless my children when they show me gratitude, no. I love my children because they are my children, I want only good things for them. I want them to experience all the greatness that life has to offer. My God who is goodness personified, loves us infinitely more than I love my children, and wants us to be happy, blessed and have the fullness of his riches. Ephesians 2:6-8, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God…”

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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