Steady Heart

“When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:26-31

I can relate to Peter in this story. He was brave and stepped out in faith, keeping his eyes on Jesus. But when he saw the storm and the wind around him, he doubted his decision. I’ve done this many times. I courageously stepped out in faith, starting my real estate business. Then, when money gets tight and closings are slim, I have a panic attack and begin to doubt. “Did I hear you right, God?” I question. “Maybe I should’ve done something more stable,” I scold myself. But Jesus lovingly takes me by the hand everytime and says, “Keep your eyes on Me. Trust Me. I’ve got this.”

He is faithful and He leads us into miraculous places if we simply trust Him. Remember Peter? He was the only one that got out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus. Where were the other 11 disciples? They were back on the boat watching this miracle from a safe distance. So even if I have moments of self-doubt and I don’t know what’s around the next corner, I’d rather be like Peter and step out into the unknown to follow The Faithful One.

Listen to this song and focus on His Faithful, Steady Heart.

Who Am I?

If someone asked you right now, “Who are you?” most of us would respond with what we do, our job, our function, our strengths or weaknesses. So often we wrap our identity up in our activities. The things and actions that fill our days. I could say, “I’m a mom, a business owner, or ministry leader.” But then when one of those titles is compromised, we lose our identity.

The Word of God tells us that our identity, our success or failure, the very core of who we are is not defined by what we do. Instead, it is defined by God’s infinite and perfect love for us.

There is so much freedom in the realization that I am a child of God and I am no longer defined by the mistakes of my past, but by His everlasting love. When I respond to that infinite love, everything else fades away. It’s just me and my Daddy as He rocks me in His loving arms.

Listen to this song and declare its chorus: “You’re a Good, Good Father. It’s Who You are… And I’m loved by You. That’s who I am…”

 

No Plan B

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan and a purpose for your life. That may not be an earth-shattering revelation for some. We’ve all probably heard some version of this idea. But then we look at the mistakes and messes in our lives and we can’t possibly understand how this is all part of God’s divine plan.

Let’s look at King David for a moment. Have you ever heard the story of the shepherd boy that killed a giant? It’s a pretty amazing story. But it doesn’t end there. That shepherd boy grew up to be king of God’s people, Israel. Moreover, he is the only person in history that God went on record calling him a “man after His own heart.” Does that mean David was perfect? No. Far from it. He was actually really good at making mistakes. Big ones. Lots of them.

Then what made him so special? I believe it was because he was also really good at repenting. He continually recognized God for who He is and honored Him. David was also a worshipper. He wrote a majority of the Psalms which were the praises of a shepherd’s heart, recognizing God and ruler of the universe. He lived a lifestyle that magnified God. God blessed David because of his heart.

In fact, God chose to use what some of us might’ve deemed David’s biggest mistake to carry out His plan. David had a queen, but he chose to go after someone else’s wife. Not just anyone’s wife, but one of his head military captains’ wife. He committed adultery with her and then tried to cover it up when she became pregnant out of the affair. Worse, he had the husband killed and took her as his own wife. Most of us would pass harsh judgement on that. But which lineage what Jesus born through? Not the “honorable” marriage. Nope. God used the murderous, adulterous marriage to produce The Savior! He redeems that which we think is ruined!

God had a plan from the beginning to use David’s bloodline to bring forth a savior. Even though David messed up royally (pun intended), God used that mess to create a message of redemption! He still accomplished Plan A, using less than perfect people. He is a God of redemption. Whatever is stolen or broken, He redeems and uses for our good.

God has a similar plan of redemption for each of us. Did God want me to be sexually abused as a child? No. Did He desire for me to endure abusive relationships? Absolutely not. Other men with free will infringed on my rights. It breaks God’s heart when those things happen. But God is able to take what is intended for evil and use it for good.

God has a plan and purpose for your life. And He has no plan B. No matter what terrible things may have happened, whether your fault or someone elses, God will use it for your good to fulfill His plan. God redeemed my story of abuse to be used as a story of healing and grace! No matter how far we think we’ve strayed from Him, we are never out of His reach! God will use all who are willing to allow Him to lead them to accomplish His purpose. What is that purpose? That all should be saved. That all should be called children of God.

Let the pressure subside as you realize that God does not have a Plan B. He has one perfect plan. That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but that He isn’t afraid to get messy with you to accomplish His plan and work it out for your good.  Give Him whatever broken pieces you have and watch Him turn it into a beautiful stained glass window to shine His light through.

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens; He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1:17 

Many of us have heard that God is in control. Even those who don’t believe have probably heard this. But what about when something bad happens? Disaster strikes, a diagnosis is given, a loved one is lost… then what? Did God make that happen? How do we reconcile that an all powerful, loving God is allowing things like cancer, murder and rape to happen?

God IS good. So then do we blame everything bad that happens on the devil? We do have an enemy. He would love nothing more than to keep us from fulfilling the divine calling on our lives. However, I think the devil gets too much credit. Scripture says he is a liar and a tempter. His tricks have not changed over the years. I’m sure he’d love to take credit for everything we blame him for.

The fact is people have free will. God loves us so much that He gave us the freedom to choose. In the very beginning, when God created humans, He designed us with free will. He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden so that they would have the opportunity to choose to love and be in relationship with Him. He walked and talked with them every evening. They were naked [vulnerable] before Him and each other. And THAT was perfection. But they chose to disobey the one rule God had given them. That was when sin, illness, shame, and death entered the world. That is the moment when God allowed all the bad things to happen. Now let’s get one thing straight. God never wanted evil things to happen. He is the source of every good and perfect thing! He is a Good, Good Father! Allowing and wanting are two very different things.

So why give man free will? Why put the “no-no” tree there to begin with? If He knew from the beginning that we would screw His perfect creation up, why give us a choice? Because free will is love. Control of our will is dictatorship. Have you ever been in a controling relationship? I have. And it’s definitely not love. If we were forced to love God and had no options, that would not be real love. Ever heard the saying, “If you love something, let it go?” God invented that. God’s love is perfect. Which means He loves us enough to give us the freedom to make mistakes. He sadly watches as we fumble and abuse ourselves and each other. He painfully allows us to choose to deny His very existence. Not because He is helpless or standing idly by, but because He loves us enough to allow us to make choices and mistakes. Sometimes peoples’ free will even hurts others.

But here’s the good news: God is in the business of redemption! He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price, buying grace. He paid to redeem our stories. There is nothing so broken it is beyond God’s healing touch! His mercy and grace are everlasting. You may think you’ve messed up too much for God to fix it. Or that others have damaged you beyond repair. But that IS a lie from the devil!

God loves us enough to give us a choice. Because of that there is death, sickness and people who hurt others. Life is messy. But God is not scared of your mess. He loves you so much He sent His Son to die a cruel and painful death so He could get in the middle of our messes. God didn’t kill Jesus. Religious people did. We did. But God allowed it, not because He wanted it, but because He would then use it for our redemption.

When you read scripture through the lense of  a loving parent, you will see that the story of the humanity unfolded in the Bible, is not one of a vengeful God, just waiting to bop us on the head. Instead it is a story of a Father Who loves us enough to give us a choice. Like any good parent, He allows us to stumble (a lot) in order to learn how to take wabbly steps towards Him.

Today, run into your loving Father’s arms. He’s waiting for you to make that choice so He can finally heal and repair all your brokenness!

No Longer Slaves

Fear causes us to react poorly in every situation. Addiction, codependency, anger, control and a multitude of coping mechanisms are  a product of fear. We fear the unknown so we take control. Of everything and sometimes everyone around us. We fear people’s opinions of us, so we cope with a thing called codependency or people-pleasing. We fear pain, so we escape with unhealthy ways of coping that develop into addiction. We fear loss of control, so we exhibit anger. This is how so many of us have moved through life: responding to fear.

But God sent His Son to pay the ultimate price so we could be called sons and daughters of God. Shed the identity that fear has enslaved you with and step into your true identity: a loved child of God. That title comes with authority and God-given power to walk out deliverance! Whatever your unhealthy coping mechanism is/was, that is no longer your master once you believe that God loves you and Christ paid for you to be FREE!

As we are moving into this new year, shed the old you and begin to put on the identity of a child of God! You are LOVED!

“But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”  -John 1:12

Resolution Revolution

It’s that time of year again. You know. The time when we all come up with some resolution for the new year that we may or may not be resolved to maintain. But we do it because we feel obligated. Mostly because society says we should.

It’s a new year. A time for new beginnings and a forward-thinking attitude. Hopefully a positive one. We think of all we’d like to accomplish in the next year. Some of us may put a lot of thought and consideration into what our resolution will be. Others of us (like me) decide on a whim so we’ll have an answer when someone inevitably asks what our New Year’s Resolution is.

As I’ve been contemplating my New Year’s Resolution (a little late, I know), I’ve noticed that society would say that it should be to lose weight, fit in a smaller dress or get slim, trim and toned. Even Oprah told me last night on a commercial that we should both be working towards “our best body ever.” Yuck! My value is not based on the number on a scale. Oprah’s success has never been based on what size dress she was wearing at any given time. She’s getting paid to endorse a product. I get that. But that doesn’t mean I have to buy it!

I’ve been giving a lot of thought the last few weeks to what I’d truly like to accomplish and where I sense God is leading me in the coming year. During all this introspect, not once have I thought, “I need to be a size 2 in order to attain happiness and success this year.” I have, however, realized I need more energy to do everything I aspire to.

More importantly, my goal in 2016 is to be intentional in everything: family, career, and ministry goals. All of which require mental, emotional, spiritual and physical discipline (that scary word). Building character like integrity, perserverance, self-control and trust in God are far more valuable than losing 10 pounds!

I challenge you to not fall prey to society’s pressure for your new goals in this year. Instead, focus on God’s goals for you. Lean in to the areas He would want to develop you in. God has always been more concerned with the heart matters. Whereas society focuses on the external and visible. The grocery store magazines will tell us we need a “new year, new you in a size 2” but God says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” -Romans 12:2 [NLT]

Rather than setting a goal of enhancing your physical appearance (which is probably doomed to failure by February), set a goal to know and understand God. Choose something like memorizing one new scripture each week (that’s 52 in a year, in case you aren’t gifted at math). Or decide to pray/meditate each day. Take time to listen to God’s leading and follow that. Choose something sustainable that you can realistically stick to for the whole year, creating a new habit and deepening your relationship with our awesome Creator!

Comment below with your non-conforming resolution! I’m interested to see what you are aiming for.

Look Ahead

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” Philippians 3:13

As we embark on a new year, it is naturally a time for reflection. We look back at 2015 and determine whether we qualify it as a “success,” “failure,” or somewhere in between. We may have regrets, remorse or mourning in the last year. There may have been trials and pain. Or we may have victories, growth or gain. There may have been what I call “mountaintop moments” when you overcame obstacles and could survey how far you’d trekked. Or it may be some combination of the two.

Whatever the case and however you feel about the last year, it’s important to keep perspective. Imagine life as driving a car. It’s okay to glance in the rearview mirror occasionally and briefly. But don’t set your focus there or you’ll eventually crash. Look through the windshield. Keep your eyes on the road ahead.

In the verse above found in Philippians, Paul was sharing that although he’d had some victories in his ministry, he realized that he had not “made it.” He had the wisdom to know that he couldn’t dwell on his past, whether victorious or challenging. There were still things God had ahead for him to press forward and accomplish. And it is the same for all of us.

God has a plan and purpose for you in 2016! Forget the past (good or bad) look forward to what God has ahead. This is a time for great expectation and anticipation of a new year and a fresh start! This is an excellent time to step out in faith, trusting God’s divine purpose for your life. Focus on the direction you sense God is leading you and be brave enough to take steps towards that.

 

Leaving the Comfortable

I was walking across a parking lot when all of a sudden, it hit me: “I keep praying for things that will make me more comfortable and secure, but is that what God desires for me?” Jesus’ whole message was about stepping out of our comfort zones and pursuing selflessness and sacrifice. Jesus’ life exampled exactly that.

Like a punch to the gut, in the middle of that parking lot, God pressed in, “What are you doing for Me?” Here I’ve been asking for His blessings, success in business, more financial stability, and bigger, better things. But what am I willing to sacrifice for the kingdom? Am I willing to give up luxuries and comforts to be a good Samaritan in someone else’s life? Am I truly willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus and what does that mean?

I’m not suggesting we should break out the sackcloth and ashes. But I have been convicted recently of wanting more, more, more. However, God has called me to be blessed so I can be a blessing! I’m to be a conduit of His generosity. Not a miserly Scrooge, piling up stuff for the mere selfish pleasure of having stuff.

For the last few days, I have been processing and asking myself: “Am I honestly willing to say, ‘Here am I. Lord, send me?'” Whatever that means. Not qualifiers or exclusions. I don’t want to put a bunch of exceptions on the end. “Lord, send me… except to third world countries. And not anywhere uncomfortable. And not if I have to be poor and struggle. And not if I have to be single forever. And not…” I know God has called me (and you) to something specific to further His kingdom.

Like so many, I’d prefer to know all the answers up front. “Show me the big picture, Lord. Give me the full plan and then I’ll decide if I can agree to it.” But that is not at all how God works. That would not require faith or trust in His plan. Nor would comfort and complete security require our faith and trust in Him. The miraculous most often happens just outside of our comfort zone.

So today I challenge you to search your heart and begin to trust God’s plan for you… however uncomfortable that may be.

180 Degrees

“Jesus said, ‘But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.'” Acts 26:16

In Acts, Paul recounts his conversion on the road to Damascus. Paul had been traveling the region, persecuting, imprisoning and killing those who proclaimed faith in Jesus. But his world was turned upside down when Jesus showed up and told him He had other plans in store.

It struck me as interesting that Jesus not only stopped Paul in his tracks, but also chose Paul for a very important mission. I can’t imagine Paul’s confusion in that moment and the paradigm shift that happened shortly after. Paul went from being a Christian-killer to planting a large number of the early churches, writing two thirds of our New Testament, being imprisoned several times, and eventually martyred all in the name of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had a plan and a purpose for Paul. He knew the potential and ability that he had created inside of Paul. The point that hit my core was that God had a ministry and mission for Paul while he was on the road to Damascus in order to persecute Jesus’ followers. Try to wrap your mind around that. Jesus caused him to do a complete 180 degree turn in his life’s mission. Here Paul was, thinking he was doing good things for God by irradicating Christianity and in that exact moment, Jesus recruited him to be one of the founders of the faith.

Jesus is still doing that same miracle today. He shows up in the middle of our path of life, in the center of our sinfulness, and says, “You’re mine and I have bigger plans for you.” Stop and ponder the wonders He has done in your life, even when you were defiantly doing things your way.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8

Not a Gumball Machine

Every commercial that comes on the T.V. lately is Christmas marketing mayhem! Each toy is this year’s must have item. Every dolly and truck and Lego set we see in the store is a necessary item that my kids CAN’T live without! My children will periodically and randomly ask, beg and whine for a variety of gifts, toys and gadgets.

As easy as it would be to go overboard and buy them every thing they ask for, I realize as a long-sighted parent that giving them whatever their whims dictate is not the best thing for them. My desire is to cultivate grateful, servants’ hearts in them rather than a demanding sense of entitlement. We’ve all seen those children in Wal-mart (some days “those kids” belong to me). And we’ve seen an entire generation of “those kids” become selfish, demanding, entitled adults. I refuse to have my children contribute to the problem our society faces currently. Instead, I hope to raise compassionate, selfless, problem solvers. Being mindful of that goal (and my finite budget), sometimes I have to tell them “no” or “not right now.” It doesn’t mean I don’t want to bless them with everything their heart desires or that I’m a “mean mommy.” It means the heart issue is more important than the things. Maybe they need to work to earn the toy so they will value it more. Maybe I can see that it’s a frivolous toy that won’t satisfy them for very long. Or maybe they need to soften their hearts towards those who have far less. Whatever the reason, as a loving parent, it’s my job to tell them “no” and cultivate a heart of generosity and community consciousness within them.

How often do we behave like entitled children towards God? We pray for financial blessings, a bigger house, a nicer car, and other luxuries. God is a good, good Father. He wants nothing more than to bless us. I believe that with all my heart. But maybe our perception of “blessings” is off track. I find myself often praying “I want… I want… Give me…” Meanwhile, God has provided a wonderful home, nice vehicle and plenty of food in my cupboards. Yet I catch myself wanting more, bigger, and better things. Things that may be frivolous in the grand scheme of things and will not satisfy my soul. Our heavenly Father is far more concerned with our heart and how we are furthering His kingdom. That is something I can take with me at the end of my life.

A friend of mine and I were having lunch awhile back when a similar conversation arose. She equated this behavior to treating God like a gumball machine. “Put in a quarter; get out a gumball. Put in a prayer; get out a promotion. Put in a prayer; get out a new car. Put in a prayer; get out a million dollars.” As though God, the Creator of the universe in all his infinite wisdom is nothing more than a genie in a bottle or a gumball machine just waiting to grant our wishes or spit out gumballs. It sounds ridiculous put in those terms, but isn’t that how we act sometimes?

In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, talks extensively about how the accumulation of things and pursuit of the world’s idea of success is as futile as chasing the wind. I suppose I’m coming to that realization. Nice things are great and I’m certainly not condemning affluence or suggesting you and I should sell everything and live in poverty. I’m merely pointing out that maybe when we pray and ask God for whatever tickles our fancy, sometimes He may say “no” or “not right now,” because He is a good Father Who is developing each of us for His high calling.

Today, be content and grateful for everything the Lord has blessed you with. And instead of praying for a Christmas wish list, ask to be used for His kingdom.

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after thewind; nothing was gained under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11