Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Christmas Day has come and gone. Can you believe it? Another year is slipping away.
As the door closes behind us on 2016 and we wait in anticipation for the door ahead of us to open, I pray we will walk into 2017 by faith, bold and courageous, completely trusting God with whatever this year holds.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your faithfulness over the years in reading these blog posts. Without you, the words from my tiny corner of the blogging world would just be journal entries floating in space, but because you follow or visit from time to time, it's become a place to meet new people, make new friends, learn and to grow up in our faith in Jesus Christ - together.
So, for you I am deeply grateful.
As we turn the corner, something new is on the horizon!
Because of how I'm wired, I love to change things up every now and then. Just ask my husband. He can leave for a few hours and upon his return, the furniture has magically moved around.
We should never be afraid to try something new. A new paint color, the rearranging of a room, a new hobby. The same ole' same 'ole can become stale. So, to stay fresh and up-to-date, I'm moving forward into 2017 embracing something new.
For many years, I've shared my greatest Pleasure (Jesus Christ) with you under the blog title "Pleasures Forevermore Psalm 16:11." I believe, as a writer, this blog space is an extension of who I am in Christ, and I want to extend myself to you in a more personal way through an addition to my blog incorporating more of who Christ has called me to be.
This new element is called a vlog (a blog entry via video) and is titled "The Red Carpet."The reason behind the name will be explained in detail in my first vlog post.
The blog furniture may be rearranged a bit, but the address will stay the same - melanieshull.com.
Consider this your personal invitation to join me on The Red Carpet in 2017. I can hardly wait to meet you there!
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Do you believe in miracles?
A miracle is the impossible which cannot be explained in human terms.
A miracle is the demonstration of God's power; an act of love, mercy and grace.
Christmas is full
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." (Luke 1:30-31 ESV)
The angel Gabriel spoke with Mary about her being chosen to be the mother of the Son of God.
Mary's response. The Magnificat. Read Luke 1:46-55.
When the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, overshadowing her with His power and presence, she conceived, even though she was a virgin.
Joseph, already engaged to Mary, considered divorcing her secretly.
But as he considered these things, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
Joseph could have divorced her or had her stoned. But he didn't. He did what the angel Gabriel told him to. He married her even though she was pregnant.
An angel of the Lord appeared to some shepherds watching their flocks out in the fields during the night and the angel said, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14)
The wise men who studied the stars followed the Bethlehem star for many months to reach the young King.
The angel appeared in a dream again to Joseph and told him to take the baby Jesus and Mary to Nazareth, escaping infanticide.
Miracle after miracle, the glory of God is revealed through the Christ of Christmas.
So you and I can experience the best miracle of all.
When we believe what the Word of God says about Jesus Christ, confess Him as Savior and Lord of our lives, then through the power of the Holy Spirit, God overshadows us with His presence, moving into the womb of our hearts, and new life begins.
The miracle of rebirth.
This is the holy, mysterious Christmas miracle Jesus wants to gift you with if you haven't received Him already. Once you unwrap His gift of love, Christmas will never be the same. It will fill you with awe and wonder that never grows old. And isn't this what the first Advent was all about - waiting for His hope, His peace, His love, His light?
Well, the waiting for the Messiah to come and bridge the gap back to the Father is finished. He has come. He lived in skin. He revealed the Father's heart to us. He was crucified, buried and arose on the third day. For those who believe, Christmas is now about rejoicing. It's a celebration of His first arrival. He has come to seek and save the lost. He has brought all we ever hoped for and more. Not just for a season, but for now and through all eternity.
Now, we wait again. We wait for His return which will be an even greater miracle.
Do you believe? Have you experienced the best miracle of all? If not, don't wait any longer. He wants to create a miracle in your heart today. Receive Him and celebrate with real joy this Christmas.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Before Halloween, Christmas decorations began appearing on the store shelves and the Hallmark Channel began the flow of Christmas movies.
Some sigh with frustration when they see a Christmas ornament before Thanksgiving, while others are ecstatic in anticipation of the long awaited holiday season.
Which person are you?
I'm of the latter persuasion and struggle with how anyone cannot be excited about celebrating the birthday of the King.
The Advent Season has begun. It means waiting in anticipation, hoping for something wonderful to come.
The words of Advent are Hope, Love, Peace and Joy. Each week during Advent one word is reflected on in many denominations leading up to Christmas, reminding us of what God's people were watching and waiting for - The Messiah.
But, for the purpose of this blog, I'm jumping right into JOY.
I absolutely love Christmas and all that comes with it: the brightness in a child's eyes full of imagination and anticipation, trimmed trees, glowing lights, decorations, family time, making memories, shopping, wrapping gifts, movies, nativity scenes, Christmas music, baking and the absolute JOY the season brings.
On that glorious night, some shepherds were watching their flocks in a field when suddenly...
JOY overcomes fear and anxiety.
How do we define this exhilarating thread woven into the fabric of a Christian's life?
1. Is JOY an emotion?
2. Can JOY and sorrow be present at the same time?
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).
3. Is JOY a state of mind?
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth
(Colossians 3:2 NASB).
4. Can a believer lose their JOY?
David seemed to. With a repentant heart he cries out to God in Psalm 51...
So I believe the answer to all of the above is "yes" and JOY can be defined as follows:
JOY is a mindset. A mind set on the glorious outcome of an eternal story.
JOY is an ingredient which unleashes the soul to rise up and worship.
JOY takes our breath away while simultaneously filling us the Breath of Life.
JOY keeps the Hope, Love, and Peace alive 365 days a year as we anticipate His coming again.
Pure, undeniable, incomprehensible, life-giving JOY!
My Pleasure and Merry Christmas,
(All Scriptures used from Bibleway.com)
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Just the other day our daughter received an A on an education project which she put a ton of work into. She was thrilled and relieved once her grade posted online, especially since it is one third of her grade for the class. Whew!
An A marks the mindset of staying the course and never giving up. An A means Job well done.
The month of November also has the mark of an A. It's National Adoption Month.
A is for ADOPTION.
In honor of all families who haven't given up on their dream of having children, as well as those who've already received an A, I want to say, "Thank you for never giving up and for opening your heart and home to children who have received (or will in the future) an A stamped on their life story."
My forever parents were still childless after being married for nine years. They didn't give up on their dream and chose the loving option of adoption. They wanted to start a family right from the beginning, and though God would give them their desire, He chose to close the womb and open their hearts instead. God had created two baby girls just for them. These girls would need their love, security, a hope for a future, and a family where Jesus Christ was Savior, Lord and King.
I was the first child brought into their lives through private adoption. The moment they walked into the room, I stretched out my chubby arms and wrapped them around my forever daddy's neck (and I never let go). When the lady told them they would leave me with them for about 30 minutes to decide, my daddy said, "No one needs to go anywhere. We're not leaving here without her!"
I was placed in foster care at the age of three months and adopted 57 days later.
March 27, 1963 is my A-Day, or as some say, my "Got'cha day." It's the day my life changed course. I left there to start a new life: a new name, a new birth certificate, and a new family.
Adoption was always talked about in our family as something very special. I've always known I was adopted and never once has it been something that made me angry or sad. Actually, it made me glad and grateful for the very difficult decision my birthmother made. It's a part of my story I deeply treasure and wouldn't trade for anything.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:15-16 ESV).
God affirms this to Jeremiah when He tells him, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).
Every Child is a masterpiece, designed with a specific purpose by the Master Creator.
Two years after I was adopted, God brought another baby into our family. Her A-Day" is May 5, 1965. I remember going to Charleston to get her. I was going to be a big sister. When the lady placed her in my tiny arms as I rocked in a small, white wicker rocking chair, I told my mama and daddy, "We've got her. We can go home now." They named her Michelle.
Michelle has her own A-story to tell, but I'm so grateful God chose her to be my sister. We were loved and raised by the best parents anyone could ask for. No parent is perfect, but ours were perfect for us.
Throughout my life, I've met many adoptive parents and adopted children. I even have three cousins who were adopted. Every story is different and I love to hear how the A-day has affected their lives.
Right now, a young couple (the wife is a former student of mine) is waiting for their forever child. It's been a long, tough road of foster parenting, the ups and downs, loving and letting go, but they know God is sovereign, and when the time is right, their forever child will join their family. It's an honor to pray for this precious couple and to be included in their adoption journey. Never give up!
So, before National Adoption Month ends, I want to challenge and honor the adopted children I know personally. Casey, Sarah Caige, Bradley, Courtney, Dawson, Elena, Joni, Judah, Callen (and to any others I've left unnamed, it's not intentional):
Wear the A well, knowing your heavenly Father was looking out for you
when He selected your amazing parents. Never take them for granted. Honor them all of your life.
And, with a spirit of humility, never stop telling your A story.
It brings much honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
And, with a spirit of humility, never stop telling your A story.
It brings much honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
Do you have an Adoption story? Please share in the comment section below. Use your story to encourage someone today.
Monday, October 31, 2016
The purpose of a fairytale is to teach a moral lesson through clever story-telling about the battle between good and evil, where good always wins.
One of my favorites includes cute little characters with funny names: Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Dopey, Bashful and Doc.
Evil is represented by a wicked Queen who is full of jealousy toward the good character, Snow White; all because she's young and beautiful.
A talking mirror is the queen's go-to for value, worth and purpose. But, when the mirror tells her she is no longer the most beautiful in the land, she becomes enraged and sets her evil scheme in motion.
Snow White, in the meantime, is totally unaware of the plot against her. She is out in the garden, singing, being her sweet, innocent and kind self, playing with the animals.
Once the evil plan is brought to her attention, Snow White retreats to the woods where she stumbles upon a small cottage. The seven little men with the funny names take her in to protect her from harm.
In the meantime, the queen discovers her whereabouts and disguises herself as a poor, old woman. She makes her way through the woods to the little cottage to deceive Snow White with a poisoned apple.
Because Snow White is naive and good-hearted, she bites what the old woman offers. To her detriment, Snow White falls into the state of a deep sleep, separated from her prince forever. The only cure for her is the kiss of the prince.
The poisoned apple didn't come with a warning, but don't you think Snow White should have had her guard up knowing the wicked queen's heart and desire to kill her?
Well, you know the rest of the story.
Hopefully this fictional scenario reminds you of a non-fictional encounter in Genesis 3?
Satan, one of heaven's most beautiful creatures, desired to be like God. There is only one true God and the Kingdom of God already had a King - Jesus Christ, so Satan was cast out of heaven, never to return. Since then, he has devoted his entire existence to deceiving and scheming to take as many people with him into a horrible, dark eternity where the presence of a perfect, loving God does not exist. (See John 10:10)
In Genesis chapter 3, disguised as a serpent, Satan enters the Garden of Eden to trick his first victim, Eve. By placing doubt in her mind and securing her trust, he entices her to bite from the forbidden fruit.
This fruit came with a warning.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV).
BEWARE: IF YOU EAT OF THIS TREE, YOU SHALL SURELY DIE.
Not a Surgeon General's Warning, but a direct warning from God Himself.
Eve ignored the warning, choosing to believe the deceiver over the Deliverer. Death became a reality. And Adam, who should have been Eve's protector and spiritual leader, fell into the trap right along with her. Both chose not to heed God's warning.
Aren't we guilty of the same? We skirt God's warning about sin for just a moment of pleasure and then after, our eyes are open to what should have remained hidden.
God doesn't give warnings to keep us from pleasure, He gives them to protect us from destruction.
But, for those who believe, there is hope!
Our Prince, Jesus Christ has provided the cure for the stronghold of sin by taking our place through His death on the cross. This true kiss of love from the Savior allows us to bypass the deceitful kiss of death, raising us up to a new life with Him immediately through the power of the Holy Spirit, and a continued life forevermore in the glorious, eternal presence of God later.
Our good God defeated Satan, sin and the grave. God always wins!
When you compare the real people throughout the Word of God with the original intent of fairytales, fairytales are just another way to portray that good wins and evil doesn't pay with fictional characters.
So, to answer the first question, "Do you believe in fairytales?," my answer is, "Yes!" Along with believing in the truth of God's Word, I believe in the telling of fairytales when the goal is to reveal God's truth in fictional, creative ways.
I'd love to know what you think. Please leave a comment.
(picture credit, Pixabay.com)
Thursday, October 27, 2016
When the first crisp, cool nip in the air arrives, I know fall is almost in full swing. I love waking up in our 60-something degree house, slipping on a sweatshirt over my pjs and meandering into the kitchen to fix my morning cup of bliss. A mug of piping, hot coffee.
I love all the things fall brings:
football games, the State Fair, Halloween costumes, mums and pumpkins, scarecrows, the brilliance of color and marshmallow roasting over a toasty fire.
These simple pleasures of fall are as anticipated as my morning routine of coffee and Jesus.
Along with stirring up coffee, I'm looking forward to a new simple pleasure - Living Real Magazine's Out & About events.
Our first one kicks off tonight with the sound of jazz flowing through the street along with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, pumpkin bread, and other desserts wafting through the The Haven Coffee Shop in downtown Lexington, SC. The evening is designed to stir a sweet blend of grace and love into Jesus-centered conversations about how real faith affects real life.
The art of conversation is a simple pleasure quickly becoming a lost art.
No matter how technology seems to better connect us, the fact is, it is disconnecting us from human contact. Since the creation of man, conversation has proven to be the best form of communication and relationship building.
Isn't this what Jesus did? Didn't He engage people in conversation to reveal His Father's redemptive message? God knew face to face contact was imperative for His story of redemption to move forward, so before the beginning of time, He planned to send His Son into the world to unveil Himself in human form. He touched people. He healed people. He cried with people. He loved people. The plan to restore our broken relationship with God continued to unfold as He stepped down from heaven into a sin-full world to show His undying love for all people and break the stronghold of sin through His life, death, burial and resurrection.
Jesus used every opportunity while wrapped in flesh to engage people in the eternal conversation through large and intimate gatherings.
Those eternal conversations transformed many lives forever and are still changing lives today.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, every day should be about intentionally stirring up eternal conversations to impact lives for Jesus' sake. Conversations can ignite around the breakfast table, at work, over lunch, at school, in a check-out line, the car pool line, walking the dog, and at the dinner table.
Carving out space in our day to dialogue with people about what really matters is what we are called to do - make disciples and to be salt and light in the world.
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples... (Matthew 28:18-20). You are the salt of the earth; (Matthew 5:13a). You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14a).
Personal stories of how real faith affects real life speak louder than most preachers on Sunday.
Since discipleship is our calling, it just makes sense to talk to each other about our journeys, encouraging one another to stay the course, and hopefully bringing a non-believer along to begin their journey with Christ.
Conversations can lead to eternal transformation.
With whom will you start a conversation today?
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
It occurred to me we all are born blind, dumb and deaf to the Truth. Our spiritual eyes, ears, and mouths are dead at birth, so it's easy in our deadness to see evil, speak evil and hear evil when the loudest voice in the room is the prince of the air (Satan).
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts (Ephesians 2:1-3a NIV).
We have no trouble seeing, speaking and hearing what the world wants us to when we are blind, deaf, and mute to spiritual truth.
On an ordinary day, a man born blind encountered Jesus as he went about his life as usual - sitting and begging outside the temple. Because Jesus is all-knowing, he knew this man wanted to see. Until Jesus placed the mud mixed with His spit on the blind eyes of the lifetime beggar, he lived in utter darkness. Until the Creator gave him his sight, creating brand new eyes formed from the dust of the ground, this lonely man couldn't see Truth, speak Truth, or hear Truth. Even those in the synagogue had cast him aside because they believed his own sin or the sin of his parents was the cause of his affliction.
This is when I realized something else.
Before the man could see, Jesus had to cover up his blindness to keep him from seeing as the world had always told him he should see. Jesus covered up what the world had been telling him all of his life so he could only focus his attention on what God was saying to him in this powerful moment.
Jesus covered his blindness to blind him to the distractions of the world so he could give glory to the Creator of the world with new eyes.
Before the man could be healed, he had to be obedient to the words Christ spoke after covering his blindness with mud. "Go and wash in the pool of Siloam."
Why didn't Jesus just heal his eyes right there on the spot?
Why did He send him to wash in the pool?
Both questions have extensive answers, and those will have to wait for another time. But ultimately, I believe both answers have to do with obedience. The blind man wanted to be healed so he did what was asked of him. He acted on his newfound hope and faith.
- By faith he did what Christ asked of him.
- By faith he believed he would be healed.
And, by faith he was healed physically and spiritually.
Can't you hear him shouting, "I was blind, but now I see!"(John 9:25)
It became so clear to me that before the scales can fall off, we must desire to see Truth. God then muddies up our eyes, blinding us to the distractions of the world, to see Him, hear Him, and speak truth with assurance, clarity, and boldness.
Another man who could see quite well had a "blind" encounter of a different kind with Jesus after the Resurrection. This man's name was Saul, later changed to Paul. (To read the whole account, see Acts 9:1-31) On his journey to Damascus, Saul was seeking ways to murder Christ's disciples and others who were following the Way. As Saul was seeking evidence against believers, Jesus would be presenting evidence to reveal the real Truth. So, on the road to Damascus, Christ chose to blind Saul to get his undivided attention to hear the evidence. The Truth. He didn't use mud this time, but He did muddy up Saul's vision with the Light of the World, on purpose and for an extraordinary purpose.
Paul's physical eyes would be healed, but only if he chose to act in faith by going to Ananias' home. [And] immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. (v.18)
The result? With eyes wide open, Paul began to preach Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, fearlessly!
Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. (v. 23)
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
Do you see the parallel with these two stories? How does your life parallel with these guys?
Do you see God's purpose unfolding? How is His purpose unfolding through your story?
Neither could speak truth, see truth or hear truth until they encountered the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Until the Lord blinds us from our worldly blindness we are unable to fulfill our purpose in the Kingdom. Through the Spirit's blinding power, Jesus calls us to our purpose; to further His glorious Kingdom by hearing Truth, seeing Truth, and speaking fearlessly the Truth of Jesus Christ.
Paul's purpose is still proving that Jesus is the Christ today through the power of the Word of God.
The formerly blind-from-birth beggar's story is still fulfilling God's purpose through the power of God's Word as more and more people are called to shout, "I was blind but now I see!"
Oh God, how I want to live out the purpose You have called me to. Protect my senses from the world's distractions. Deafen my ears to hear only Your voice, blind my eyes to see only Your face, and allow my mouth to speak only Your truth. May Your greatness be proclaimed through the story You are writing with my life from now until forevermore. Amen.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Why are people suffering if God is love?
Everyday, bad things occur. We see it in the lives of family. We see it in the lives of people we come in contact with at work, school, recreation. We see bad stuff happening all around the world. For centuries, people have asked these same questions, especially when chaotic circumstances have encroached on their personal space.
Why is God letting this happen to me?
When Evil rears its ugly head, it seems as though the first one blamed is the good God who isn't supposed to "let" anything bad happen.
But, when good happens in the world, humans jump to take the credit and the good God conversation is no where to be found.
In seeking to make sense of what doesn't, I've learned to go the source of truth, Jesus Christ, and ask for clarity to understand what His word says about such things. In studying the Bible, I've learned to search for details, things I may have missed before and examine original meanings of the text in the Greek or Hebrew. In doing so, we get a better understanding of what God is saying to us.
According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek word for good is agathos.
Definition: intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether it be seen to be so or not.
God's nature, the essence of His being, is good.
Taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8 NIV).
Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (ESV).
In my experience, when Romans 8:28 is quoted, it's often summarized to say, "God works all things together for good."
Really? Is that what it really says?
This verse has been used to explain God's goodness in dire situations, but I rarely hear anyone emphasize the key words in the verse - for those who love the Lord.
God is working all things for good, but for the good of those who love the Lord, for those called according to His purpose. If someone doesn't love the Lord, we cannot with a straight face tell them things are working for their good because it's just. not. true. In fact, for those who have yet to receive, or have refused to believe the Truth, Scripture tells us things are not working out so good for them.
For whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (John 3:18 NIV).
God is just. (2 Thessalonians 2:6)
All this is evidence that God's judgement is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just; He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10a NIV, emphasis mine).
God is love. (1 John 4:8, John 3:16)
God is also long-suffering (extremely patient). By His Spirit, He draws to Himself those who have yet to believe through the evidence of our lives, and until He returns, He will continue to woo them so He can work all things together for their good as well.
The Lord is not slow about His promise (His return), as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9 NASB, emphasis mine).
This is why I am so passionate about a real, living faith, sweet friends. Our faith reveals our love for the Lord. Our faith dictates how we respond to what life throws at us, not only in times of prosperity, but also in times of desperation, trial, temptation, and even terror.
As the evil acts unfolded from the weekend on the news, a gentleman working on our home renovations began to share his Armenian great-grandmother's story of terror and slaughter during the Armenian Genocide during and after WWI. He knows first hand about what the Koran teaches and about the Caliphate they are seeking. His great-grandmother and her family were taken from their homes, lined up on their knees (just like what we have witnessed through horrific terrorist videos) and asked if they were Muslim. She was a Christian, a Believer in Jesus Christ. Holding onto her Bible, she watched as the radical Islamists beheaded her family one by one. Then, they did the same to her.
So how can we say God is working all things together for their good, for those who love the Lord?
With full assurance we can say so, because our Lord promised that where He is we will be also (John 14:1-6), and there's nothing "more good" than to live in the glorious presence of the King of kings for all eternity.
Do we have that kind of faith? A faith so woven into the fiber of our being that we're willing to die for the Author of our faith?
Oh, I hope so, because that kind of faith can change the world!
Faith in God is believing in what's unseen and still trusting Him to work all things together (the good, the bad and the ugly) for our best interest and His glory.
How about you? Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? I don't mean if you believe He was a real person who walked the earth or not. I mean, is He Lord of your soul, your life, your all? If not, He wants to be. He wants to begin a relationship with you today if you're willing to turn away from your own way and trust Him with your life. And yes, even with the hard stuff.
If you are a Believer, the next time someone asks you a 'blame-it-on-the-good-God' question, how will you answer them? I pray with love, grace and extreme patience.
~ To read stories of real people living out real faith in real life, check out livingrealmag.com
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
One of my husband's many nicknames he's acquired through the years is the human Quicker-Picker-Upper. Without fail, every time he walks in the house he starts picking up and putting away any and everything out of place. You may say, "Wow! I wish my husband was like that," but before you go craving the grass on the other side of the fence, it can be quite annoying. Especially if you were just about to get to it and he steps in and does it. It makes you feel like you've failed him somehow.
I know. Weirdness, but true.
When we were dating, we would go to his house between college classes (which is now our home) and make sandwiches. Before I could even finish making mine, he had put all of the condiments back in the refrigerator. Who does that?
I tease him often by calling the paper towel his security blanket because he loves to wipe down the counters. Even if I've already wiped them down, he comes behind me and wipes them again. He seems to always have one in his hand or in his pocket. The worst is finding them torn to shreds in the washing machine because he left it in his pocket.
I told you, it can get quite annoying.
Through the years though, I've learned this is his love language and not just an obsession with "everything has its place." He loves me by helping me and being intentionally involved in household chores. He has a true servant's heart, a very rare quality these days. I've even had friends ask him to teach "How To Be a Good Husband" classes.
Well, as perfect as my husband sounds, he's not. He's human. Born with a sin nature, he battles the flesh like the rest of us. No one is perfect. Only Jesus.
The Perfect Husband:
- loves His Bride deeper than any human can ever love
- is always faithful to Her
- layed down His life for Her
- honors Her
- is patient with Her
- keeps His promises
- protects Her
- provides for Her
- satisfies Her every need
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I just started facilitating the Book of Hosea for our small group Bible study. It is so full of the heart of our true Husband, Jesus Christ. A heart devoted to His chosen even when she strays. A heart that's faithful even when she's not. A heart that woos her back to Himself time after time when she sins because He loves her deeply. He knows she's safe with Him and finds true satisfaction in Him alone.
And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD (Hosea 2:19-20 ESV).
The beauty of Hosea and Gomer's love story is also God telling His own love story with His chosen -you and me. As we study this intriguing book we will watch His story of Redemption, Love, Forgiveness, and Grace, as well as see the harsh truth about consequences when we turn our affections away from Him. I'm so excited to dig deeper into this amazing picture of God's heart.
Fabulous but flawed, I love my husband. God has blessed us and taught us so much through our 31 years of marriage. I'm forever grateful for how God designed him and chose him for me - to love me with a heart like Christ's - as Christ loves the Church, willing to lay down His life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
Loving and serving my husband is my pleasure, but loving and serving my Perfect Husband is my Pleasure Forevermore.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Last week was filled with nail guns, saws, the constant opening and closing of doors, and tracking in and out of our home. I wouldn't be surprised if our CPI security voice is a little hoarse from calling, "Den door!," every time it opened.
We finally bit the bullet and put in new kitchen floors, extending down the hallway, and a new backsplash, all of which was needed. It is absolutely beautiful, and I couldn't be more pleased.
We still have the new range hood to be installed. But, our new washer and dryer, both of which were in dyer need of replacement came yesterday and renovations - Phase One - is almost done!
I read this somewhere recently: Our homes are not show places but sanctuaries.
Don't you just love that?
Many have graced our home over the years for parties, wedding and baby showers, and Bible studies. Others have entered in times of grief, or in need of Christian counsel. We're OPEN - 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week to meet needs, listen and love on those who need it. It's who we are. It's what we do.
The art of making people feel at home isn't some hidden secret. You just have to be willing to do life with people. Be real, inviting them into your successes and struggles, pointing them to Christ and the Scriptures.
Our homes are a type of sanctuary - a sacred place of refuge for family and others.
In the Old Testament, the Temple walls surrounded the most sacred of places where the sanctuary was housed; a place that only the high priest could enter into once a year to ask for the forgiveness of sins for himself and on behalf of God's people. The sanctuary was called the Holy of holies, where the Ark of the Covenant (the presence of Yahweh, Jehovah God) dwelled with His people.
After Christ redeemed us on the cross, the sanctuary or temple (the place where the presence of God dwells) is now inside of us - God's people. It's not an intricately God-designed mobile tent of worship with extravagant accessories and decor, filled with sacred symbolism, or a brick and mortar, breathtaking structure of meticulous architecture and art. The moment Jesus gave up His spirit, the heavy veil of the Holy of holies split in two signifying God's dwelling place would now be in the hearts and spirits of those who follow Christ. It's where the Holy Spirit resides, and we don't need a human priest to intercede for us anymore.
We have access to the sanctuary of God, and our High Priest, Jesus Christ, sits at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. Because we believe in Him and have received Him into our hearts, we now live in His presence moment by moment, day by day.
Therefore, wherever we are, we house His sanctuary. Doesn't that just send goose bumps running up and down your spine?
Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary (Psalm 96:6 NIV).
Strength and glory are in His sanctuary - in us!
So, shouldn't our homes also be a physical sanctuary filled with His strength and glory? A place where love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness abound? Where calm, peace, protection and refuge are looked forward to with each opening of the door?
How would you describe the atmosphere of your home? Does your home breathe a sweet release for those who enter? What renovations need to be made in your heart's sanctuary so peace can spill over into your home today?
I pray we will begin to see our homes from this perspective, recognizing the focus of home is sanctuary, not showplace.
- Where we learn from our messes, not focusing on never making messes.
- Where our speech is filled with kindness, not harshness.
- Where we listen to each other, not talk over one another.
- Where God's Word is the center of our conversations.
- Where Jesus isn't just an honored guest, but the Head of our families.
Before I close, let me confess that I am guilty of not following my own advice. I fail again and again. I can be too concerned about messes. I speak harshly sometimes. I don't listen as I should (just ask my kids). I don't multitask, especially if I'm writing or reading on the computer.
We all need to renovate our homes at times, especially because of the hidden, crumbling spaces the eye can't see. But, we also need to be alert and aware at all times of the status of our hearts, allowing the Spirit to clean out sin and renovate. Then, instead of the musty, stale odors our guests would inhale, they will breathe in the sweet aroma of Christ and find refuge - a soothing sanctuary for the soul.
(Renovation - Phase Two - starts Thursday. Bring it on!)
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
"Dinner's ready! Come and get it!"
We've also been called when it was time to go somewhere.
"Hurry up! Let's go! We're gonna be late!"
Some of us have even been called names. Some endearing, and some, not so much.
Christ called the first disciples using two simple words:
Jesus invited these ordinary men to walk with Him, sit with Him, live life with Him, and learn from Him.
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20 NKJV).
In the Gospel According to Luke, there is more to the story. Large crowds are pressing in around Jesus to hear the word of God. There are so many people that He asked a fisherman named Simon, who was cleaning his nets, to take Him out in his boat a ways so He could speak to the multitudes easier. After He finished speaking, He performed a miracle by telling the fisherman to put down their nets. Stating that they hadn't caught any fish all day, Simon agreed to still comply with the Master's request. Alarmed at the large catch of fish in their nets, they shout for their fellow fishermen to come and help them. Simon Peter falls on his knees in the presence of Jesus, for he truly sees himself as he really is for the first time. After the boats had been brought into the shore, four exhausted, nasty, stinky fishermen drop everything, leaving all behind to be with Christ. (See Luke 5:1-11)
And today, Jesus is still calling us to the same.
To be in His presence - settling into the sacred place where we see Him for who He is and ourselves in the Light of His glory; where we renew our minds with His Word. There's no greater invitation in all the world than to be invited by the Creator of the Universe, the King of kings, to come and be with Him.
Being with Jesus is the safest, most secure place to bring our realness.
There's no pretending because He already knows our weaknesses.
There are no masks because He sees our hearts.
There's just being with the One who knows us best, loves us most, and will complete what He started.
I love the picture chosen for this blog because it speaks of the sweet intimacy Christ offers us. Can't you just hear Jesus saying, "Here. Have a seat. Come sit with Me a while." It gives me a sense of Ahhh and awe as I humbly and gratefully slide into my reserved seat.
Being with Christ is the essence of a real disciple's life.
It's in His Word and through the power of prayer that:
- our ears hear His tender voice
- our minds are washed with the Word
- our souls are refreshed
- we confess and converse with the Lover of our soul
Jesus is all about being with His followers and His followers being with Him. Seems to me that our nets would naturally catch more if we would be intentional about being with Christ.
Are you missing out on the part that will make you a much better fisher of people?
Then have a seat at the table. He's inviting you to simply be.
Picture credit: Pixabay.com
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Spectacular or simple.
Gift bags adorned with colorful tissue paper. Boxes carefully wrapped with crisp creases and fancy ribbon.
Anticipation fills the air as the giver waits and watches for the recipient to open the carefully selected treasure.
The Summer of 2016 has been full of unexpected gifts. Somebody knows me well and has carefully placed on my doorstep unsuspecting packages, reminding me of His deep love and affection for me.
Well, not literally on my doorstep, and nope. Not my husband.
These gifts have arrived in the form of long-time friendships wrapped up tighter than the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. As I've opened these precious treasures, each has put a smile on my face and filled my heart with that squeal-out-loud-skip-a-beat joy.
As I blogged earlier this season about the different levels of friendships we experience, I had no idea God was wrapping up some of my own friends I haven't connected with in years and would be placing them on my stoop all throughout the summer.
Gift #1: A friend of 30 plus years and her husband connected with me while they were in France learning about the refugee crisis and how to best meet the needs of those fleeing from their homes. These missionary friends were coming back to South Carolina for a sort-of sabbatical. God used my husband and me to meet their need by providing them with a home to stay in while they sought the Lord's direction for a new season of ministry. Inside this unsuspecting package were dinners out, morning coffee chats, lots of laughing, praying, and catching up. What an incredible gift!
Gift #2: Another friend and her husband are in the process of moving to South Carolina from Virginia. This friend and I sang together in ministry for a short time, but connected with a bond that has lasted through 20 years. Although we've had little contact except through Facebook, we've picked up right where we left off. God is so good.
Gift #3: My former hairdresser and long-time friend attended church with us. Before moving to go to seminary, she was my right hand during eight weeks of bed rest while pregnant with my daughter. At the end of June she literally shows up on my doorstep for #SummerBookClub2016. What a treat to have her back in my life and to reconnect after almost 20 years. She even brought me a gift - a wreath she made in Carolina colors with football ribbon. Oh, she knows me well.
Gift #4: Just a couple of weeks ago, God sent another surprise package in the form of a precious friend whom I've stayed in contact with, but not like I would have liked to. She just moved from Georgia back to South Carolina and I couldn't be more ecstatic! We met for lunch, caught up, and it was like she never left. What a kindred spirit we share. Afterwards, I walked to my car thinking, God is absolutely amazing. I needed this encounter today and He arranged it all. I love how He loves.
This intimate Lover of our souls knows us inside out. He created us with certain likes and dislikes, and He brings people into our lives for us to choose from to connect with on this earth for friendship, encouragement, to love and be loved, to rejoice and weep with, and to build one another up in Christ. He knows we need each other. He knows we need friends.
Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17, paraphrased).
How has God gifted you this summer? Look around. I'm sure He's watching with great anticipation for you discover, unwrap and enjoy the gifts He's picked just for you!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
There. I did it. In three words.
(And yes, fellow writers, I even used the forbidden alliteration.)
In a writer's workshop I attended recently, we were asked to identify our blog's personality.
Identifying our personality traits helps us in understanding how our message is being communicated.
Makes sense. Right?
Our personality flows through our communication.
Being aware of how people perceive us is key to how we craft and deliver our message. Although this workshop was specifically for Christian bloggers, the principle relates to anyone proclaiming a message. Whether through print, social media, or face to face...
In examining my own blog's personality, I've concluded:
1. Sassy can be funny, but it can also be offensive.
We need to know our audiences and gauge the "sass-ometer." If our audience has a good sense of humor or knows us well, then this personality trait will not hinder, and may even help our message, drawing them in.
But, if our audience is more serious-minded, or simply lack-luster in the humor department, then Sass would be a pass.
2. Simply speaking, we can never go wrong with simplicity.
The K.I.S.S. method, for instance, has been around for eons. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.
And, guess what. It still works.
I labor long and hard on my blog posts. Sometimes, too long. It could be days before I publish. My goal is not to lose your attention with too many words or cause you to have to reread a sentence that's difficult to follow. I want my carefully, selected words to flow so you will be moved to reflect or act or both. The quantity and quality of words is very important.
Simple can mean less, and less is usually best.
3. Seriously though, there's a time and place for serious discussion, and we mustn't be afraid to go there.
Sometimes we're pressed for time, or we just sense an urgency to share a message of utmost importance. It's okay to get straight to the point, but with respect, love and grace.
Serious means our hearts are heavy and concerned.
- in your marriage?
- with family?
- with friends?
- in business?
- through social media?
Christ has given us a mission, a purpose, and a voice. We must be aware of each as we proclaim His truth. And through whatever platform He gives us, we must consider our words and sparkle with our own, one-of-a-kind personalities.
Please, dear Jesus, as we seek Your face,
Season our words with love and grace.
Bridle our tongues from speaking harm,
And fill us with Your loving charm.
From today's beginning until the end,
Stir our speech with a sacred blend.
With respect and grace mixed just right,
May we speak Your words both day and night.
Monday, July 18, 2016
A few days ago I was reading in my new favorite devotional book, Dwelling Places by Lucinda Secrest McDowell. Her word selection for that day was Still.
This past week with all of the horrendous events around the globe and here at home, I'm reminded again to still; to not get caught up in the media frenzy as a depth of evil I've not witnessed before plays out right before my eyes - over and over again.
As fierce storms rage and breath-taking fear overwhelms, God's call to His people is to calm down.
Like the story of the boat filled with Jesus' disciples sailing straight into a mighty storm.
Read the whole account. Mark 6:45-52.
Jesus sent His disciples on ahead to the other side of the lake. He knew the storm was brewing, but He sent them anyway. It was time for them to experience a strong, dangerous storm to refine their vision. He needed for them to recognize Him in the storm, away from the multitudes.
This vision and recognition was specifically designed for those closest to Him.
And, as His disciples today, we need our storm vision refined too.
In every storm I've personally sailed into, God knew it was coming. He knew how the blistering, raining down of hard circumstances would bring me to grips with who He really is and challenge the roots of my faith. And I'm forever grateful. My faith has increased, my understanding of who He is has deepened, and my level of fear has drastically diminished.
We're inside of a terrible storm right now. But, while the thunderous world pounds in our ears, the strikes of hurt and pain gnaw at our souls, and the winds of senseless chatter cloud our minds, God is calling out to those who are closest to Him, His disciples, "Do not be afraid."
To those of us who know His voice, He's calling us to still in the calm of His presence.
I am here. I know what's going on in and around this cruel world. And, I also know how it all ends. Remember, I've already won the victory over sin through my Son, Jesus. Justice will be served. Evil will perish. Righteousness will prevail. But to get there sweet one, we must go through the storms. I AM with you through them all. I love you more than you could ever know, My child. Stay calm. There is absolutely nothing to fear.
Every generation marches closer to the final prophecies of Scripture being fulfilled. The Father has already established the exact moment in time when the page will turn, signaling the final chapter of His Redeeming Love. But, in the meantime, He is full of patience, loves perfectly and does not desire that any should perish.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16, emphasis mine).
When we still in His presence, He reminds us of where our strength to endure comes from; the Root, Jesus Christ- from where all that is good and perfect and sacred flows.
Today, as I still, I wanted to share this bit of Good News with you. Christ is calling out to all of us who are listening to remember that He is God...
in the midst of,
and on the other side of.
Stay calm and sail on.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
What catches your eye when you look at this picture?
The red heart or the wall of gray?
If you're like most people, the color stands out above the gray.
This past spring we painted from our den, through the kitchen, into the breakfast room and out into the florida room shades of gray.
Gray is the modern, neutral color of choice. The number of color schemes that stand out above the gray is limitless. And, what really freshens and lightens up a gray room is the bright, white trim.
But gray is never a good choice when it comes to living out our purpose as followers of Christ.
We are called to be His Light in a dark world. We seek to know God, love God and obey His Word. All of which distinguishes us from the world.
We are never called to neutrality.
We are called to be holy.
We are never called to blend in.
We are called to stand out.
Gray living is what the Church has embraced - a life of comfort, complacency and mediocrity, where there's no clear defining of Truth and very little 'standing out' in the crowd.
From the stage to the pew to the bar, is there any difference?
How did we get to a place of blending in with the world?
- By allowing the graying of Truth to justify our acceptance of destructive lifestyles.
- By adopting the philosophy of a godless culture: There is no right or wrong.
- By compromising the Truth to the point where Truth is no longer recognizable.
The authority of God's Word has been painted over with shades of gray creating a culture of chaos and confusion. How can the world know what to say No to if the Church is saying Yes to everything?
Satan's favorite color is spiritual gray.
So what can we do?
In my last blog, I wrote my views on the state of the nation from a believer's perspective and stated that the reason for our lack of influence on the culture is:
The Church's unwillingness to repent.
If the Church is going to be the change the world needs to see, then She needs to strip herself of the gray of our culture and humbly walk back into the Light of His Kingdom.
- The Church cannot continue to compromise the Truth of God's Word. Just because someone may be offended is no reason to go gray. Jesus said, I did not come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34 NKJV). Jesus also says that if we love anyone more than Him, we are not not worthy of Him. (See Matt. 10:37-39)
- The Church cannot claim we are living in Truth if we continue to live in disobedience. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15 ESV).
- The Church cannot continue to defend those who consistently refuse to obey Truth. If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32 NKJV).
The misconstrued Truth being spoken in many circles today is, "We just need to love everyone." Well, that's true, but the world interprets love as merely human kindness, the tolerance and acceptance of all beliefs and behaviors. That is not the cross-bearing type of love and truth Jesus lived and taught.
The Church has bought into the world's "politically correct" mindset. We have failed each other in the love department because we've ignored the truth of God's Word and therefore have confused those around us about what real love is.
The Church has bought into the world's "politically correct" mindset. We have failed each other in the love department because we've ignored the truth of God's Word and therefore have confused those around us about what real love is.
Speaking to the Church of Laodicea, Jesus says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent (Revelation 3:19 NIV).
I believe the 21st Century Church is being rebuked and disciplined. Just because we've received and believed does not mean God gives His people a pass to sin more or to remain in a sinful, destructive pattern of worldly behavior. His love, mercy, forgiveness and grace saves us from eternal punishment for our sin and separation from the Father, but His holy character defines His loved-filled discipline when we stray. We are corrected so we can enjoy the abundant life He offers here on earth.
Sin always results in consequences; saved or not.
If an entire Body of believers, or an individual continues to live in sin and refuses to adhere to the counsel of the Word, they will receive discipline from the Lord. Consequences are designed to change bad behavior. No consequences, no change. No change, no impact. No impact, more chaos.
Sincere repentance is key to reconciling and restoring relationships. First, with our Savior and then with the Body. We are doing our spiritual leaders and the Church as a whole an injustice if loving discipline and accountability aren't common practice. But sadly, this is an area where more churches than not are afraid to tread. Accountability helps us run our race well. Discipline helps us turn away from destructive living, getting us back on track. It's for our good and His glory.
If we are to stand out above the gray, we must look, act, and live differently from the world. Our lives must "pop" like this daisy, away from the gray wall, if we want the world to see Jesus in and through us. No more blending in, indulging in the things of the world thinking we can reach the world with worldly things. Gray is weak. Gray creates confusion. No more gray, Church!
The world is looking for those who are willing to stand above the gray. Let's step into the bright Light of Christ so He can shine through us again for His glory!
Friday, July 8, 2016
Just four days ago we were united in celebrating our independence as a nation.
Today, we are united again as we grieve as a nation.
From friendly fireworks and backyard BBQs to fearfully running from sniper bullets.
Oh, what a difference a few days make.
Watching the protests in New York City, and the pandemonium unfold last night in the streets of Dallas, my heart broke.
What are we doing? What are we becoming? There is no stability, moral fiber, or common decency anymore. Where are the REAL leaders? We have plenty of REAL agitators, but REAL leadership seems to have become extinct.
As I followed the camera man running through the streets to capture whatever he could to tell the story well of what was happening, all I could think was...
Where is the Church; the Body of Christ?
What is She doing? What has She become? Why has She lost Her vision, purpose, stability, moral foundation, and even Her common decency? Why does She not have influence like She once did?
Because, as someone put it so well today, the Church is fractured. Broken. She has lost her first love and is seeking to survive a broken heart without the healing power of Her Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
The bacteria of sin has been allowed to fester and to spread freely without any form of treatment or prevention. It's become dangerously infectious, and now, I believe has spiraled into a septic state.
Sepsis is a form of infection that is very heard to treat. My mother died from sepsis. Once the infection is in the blood stream, little hope is left for recovery. The only way we will heal from the sepsis running through America's veins is by the healing power of the Almighty.
Listening to the vile and crude things oozing from the mouths of those in the streets last evening protesting against the very institution that stands along side them in the streets to protect the screamers and agitators made my stomach curdle.
And you know what? It's our fault, Church.
We relinquished our responsibility to lead and we've compromised the Truth.
The serious problems that need to be addressed and fixed in our nation will only get worse if we, the Church, continue to ignore the root of the problem- our sin.
Mine. Yours. Ours.
If the Church is to turn the ship around, we must bend the knee, cry out to God, and repent. We must turn away from the vile winds of destruction and begin sailing with the healing winds of the Holy Spirit.
A powerful movement of God's Spirit begins when one heart repents and turns toward the Savior's face.
How much longer will the Lord linger and be patient with us to live out His Gospel, love on His people, and steer those who are lost in the direction of the Savior?
My fear? Not long.
Now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV).
Awaken my soul to the desires of Your heart, O Lord. Give me the strength to step forward to lead and re-route this ship. Hear my cries unto You. I repent of my sin, my straying, my shirking of my responsibility as a part of Your Church to be Your eyes, hands and feet in a world so distraught, and infected with spiritual sepsis. If it's Your will, Lord Jesus, heal our land. Search our hearts and fill them Your love, Your compassion, and Your truth. In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.