It is an amazing thing to truly know that God loves us; to feel His love engulf us.  I wish I could live inside of that feeling all of the time, but we live in a broken world and I am a broken vessel.  That means that there are often times that I feel broken and alone.   It is a difficult, lonely place to be.  And yet we are called to reach out and love others with the love of God.  I struggle with being able to do that.  How can I help the broken around me when I feel broken myself?

This, I believe, is why God tells us that we should make every effort to join a body of believers.  (Hebrews 10:25)  When we are broken it is so easy to withdraw and allow ourselves to become focused on our own brokenness to the point that it consumes us.  When you isolate yourself, you begin to lose sight of the joy in the world, of the reality that you are not alone in your brokenness, that you may not even be as broken as you think you are.  The devil loves to take a small insecurity and blow it up into a big thing in your mind.  When we are around our brothers and sisters in Christ they can remind us of the truth: we are all broken (Romans 3:23), but God is very near to us (Psalm 34:18), and He will heal our brokenness (Psalm 147:3).  I believe that when we join with other believers we can find encouragement and they can help us to refocus; to turn from deceptive thinking to the truth of God's love.

 But it is also our role as a follower of Christ to step outside of the church and to share Him with the world.  (Matthew 28:19-20)  Not an easy task when we feel just as broken as the world.  Fortunately, we have something the world doesn't - Christ in us.  (Colossians 1:27)  That means that even in our brokenness we can call on His strength, His protection, we can lean on Him. (Psalm 18:2)  In our brokenness we need only remember how He sees us, and then it becomes so much easier to reach out to those around us so that they too can see themselves as Jesus sees them.
You see, our brokenness gives God an opportunity to shine in the world, then the world doesn't see us.....they will see God in us.  So how can we help the broken?  By first recognizing who we are in Christ.  And how do we recognize who we are in Him?  We turn to His word, we join His body, and we realize that His truth applies to us.  He isn't just a God of the world, He is a personal God.  We recognize that the Bible was recorded for us to read and internalize in this time, at this moment, in a personal way.  And once we realize that, we share it and watch His love spread.

You are Welcome

Just as I was about to walk into church the other morning, I said good morning to one of the older youth members who was on the porch. This young man has a great sense of humor and a love-filled heart for God. He smiled innocently at me and said “You’re not welcome here,” as he continued to strum his guitar. I laughed at him and proceeded to enter the church.

It hit me in the middle of worship, how, (I know he was only joking), sometimes I feel like I’m not welcome there. Not by God and not by my congregants. My insecurities suffocate me with people. I look around and, while I’m friendly with just about everyone there, and great friends with a few, I feel lost and out of place. Which often mirrors how I feel with God. I feel like they (God included) just deal with me, because they have to- ‘it’s the Christian thing to do’. I don’t feel comfortable, secure or wanted. I find myself alone and feeling like I don’t belong. I want to turn around and walk out the door before anyone notices I even entered.

It’s in those times that I know I need to stay. It’s those times that God is calling me to sit down and be still (Psalm 46:10). It’s those times that, when I feel the emptiest and loneliest, I must let my insecurities go and allow Him to fill me and befriend me. God wants me, all of me, to be with Him at all times. If I’m feeling lost and alone without Him, all I need to do is call out to Him. He never left me; (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5) I inadvertently walked away, or at the very least turned my back.

While I can’t speak for my congregants, I can speak for my God—and He wants me there. His sole purpose in creating me (and all of us) is for a relationship (Genesis 1:27, John 14:23). He wants to be mine, while I am His. (1 John 3:1) He doesn’t allow my past (and even future) mistakes to cloud His judgment of me. (Luke 23:43) He loves me, in spite of and because of my imperfections. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) He knows that my sin will eventually pull me closer to Him. It’s because of His love that I want to be better, try harder; for Him. Regardless of what I have done (and will do), God wants me. Nothing I have done, or could ever do will push Him away from me. He will never leave me, nor forsake me. His house will always be open to me; His ears will always hear me; His heart will always love me.

It’s a humbling feeling to know that you can never disappoint our God. You will never lose His love. You will never lose Him. Despite your sins, He loves you. He doesn’t love your sin, but He loves you. He knows you are so much more than your sin, (Psalm 103:12, Psalm 139, Isaiah 43:7, Jeremiah 1:5, Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7) and because of that He forgives you. At your repentance, He accepted and let it go. (1 John 1:9) It’s time for you (and me) to let it go. When you enter His house, or even when you bow your head at the table, or drop to your knees by your bed, let it go. Give it all to Him; your past, your insecurities, your faults. (1 Peter 5:6-7) Allow Him to take the burden away from you. (Matthew 11:28-30) Allow Him to welcome you into His home and into His Kingdom. It’s where He wants you to be; with Him; for eternity. (John 5:24, John 6:27, John 11:25-26)

Yesterday, Tomorrow, Today

I came across something I painted about 10 years ago while cleaning out some closets that really hit me.  A simple keepsake box.  It isn’t especially important, just a craft I did with several other preschool moms while our kids were in school one day, a time waster.  The box didn’t really hit me.  It is what I wrote on the front.

For many of us, me included, it is difficult to remember that today, this moment is what matters.  Not what has happened before or what may happen later, now.  It's hard for me to live in the moment.  I have a tendency to be haunted by my past at times, or to focus on what is to come (can't wait to meet You, Jesus!), but the present......I seem to overlook it to often.

For those of us focusing on the past, let me first say that there is a time and a place in which we should examine the past.  Romans 15:4 tells us - The things written in the past were written for our learning.  I believe this applies to the things written in the past of our lives as well.  We should not forget them, but learn from the things of our past.  However, we should not dwell there.  Had Jephthah held a grudge against his brothers in Judges  11 he would not have saved the people of Israel.  He had been one of the sons of Gilead, only his mother was a prostitute.  His brothers forced him away from his home to prevent him from gaining anything from the family.  When the Ammonites attacked Israel the elders came and begged him to not only return and fight as commander, but to lead the people as well. He returned, defeated the enemy and led for 6 years.   He isn’t the only one in the Bible who could sing the blues and yet had to let go of the past in order to do what was right.  Joseph did, David did, John did, Jesus did.  It seems to be a theme that people experience hardship before God uses them to do great things.  Are you hanging on to hurts?  Are you hanging on to fears that are a result of things from your past?   Are they preventing you from stepping out and doing what you have been called to do?  Rather than hang on to the hurt, let it go and learn from what has happened.  Allow God to use it to prepare you for what is going on NOW and for what is to come.

Not all of us are hanging on to past hurts though.  Some of us are still living in the past, wistfully wishing that things were now as they were then.  This can be very dangerous.  Look at Lot’s wife, a woman who enjoyed her life and was blessed to have a life she felt was good.  Her husband was prosperous, they had a sturdy home, she probably had a place of esteem among her neighbors.  Then she was told she had to give up everything and leave it behind.  She couldn’t do it.  Rather than look ahead of her as she was told to do, rather than looking to saving her life, she turned back.  She paid more attention to what she had before than what she was doing at that moment.  As a result she was turned to salt.  She became something that prevents future growth.  If we dwell on what was, on what we had rather than what we are doing NOW we can’t grow.  The time for what was past has gone.  We have learned that lesson and we need to move on.  Dwelling there won’t change what has happened.  Lot’s wife staring longingly at what she was leaving, at what her life had been, didn’t stop the destruction.  It didn’t change the fact that she no longer had that life.  It won’t change it for us either.  All it can do is cause us to become like salt, a place in which nothing can grow.

There are also those of us that are living in the future.  I realized that this is where I tend to live when I'm not in the present.  The land of “One Day”.  "One day I will finish my degree." Or,  "One day I will get to spend time alone with my husband".  Or, "One day I will get to go to the bathroom by myself!"  (Those of you with young children will understand that!)  This thought process is just as destructive as living in the past.

The biggest example of how destructive living in the land of “one day” can be is the Jewish nation today.  As a people they have spent thousands of years examining prophesy and looking for the Savior to come.  They have already decided what it would look like, and how it would happen in their version of “one day”.  However, because they have spent so much time and thought about what it would be, they missed what it was when it was happening.  They still miss the gift of Jesus today as they continue to live in their "one day" land.  When we are so focused on what will be, we easily miss the gift of what is.  We miss the beauty around us, we miss the opportunity to join in on what God is doing.  We miss the miracles He has for us.  Jesus went home to minister to his own town.  They were so stuck in "one day" thinking that they missed out on what Jesus had come to do for them.  They refused to see what He truly was.  How many times have we missed our miracle because we didn’t see it, so focused on our "one day"?  How might our present be different had we been living in the moment in our past?

Let us look at Mary and Martha, a story familiar to most of us.  Luke tells us that Jesus arrived at the home to visit and Mary sits with Jesus and talks with him.  Martha rushes about trying to make preparations, probably trying to scramble up enough to eat for Jesus and his disciples, find places for them all to sleep.  You can imagine everything that needed to be done when a group of unexpected guests show up at your house.  Martha was focusing on providing for the future.  Martha missed out on the present.  She invited them into her home, they didn’t seek her out or even show up uninvited.  However, Martha couldn’t take the time to live in the moment and be with her guests.  Instead she was stuck in “one day” mode and was more concerned with what happens next rather than now.  Jesus tells her, when she complains that Mary isn’t flitting about also, that Martha was worried and troubled about many things, but Mary had chosen the good thing (to be in the moment with Jesus) and that it would not be taken from her.  Jesus wasn’t about to take away Martha’s worries and troubles for the future, He knew what the future held.  Jesus only wanted Martha to be in the moment with Him, because they only had that moment at that time.  Mary and Martha became close friends with Jesus.  I hope that Martha heard what Jesus said to her and stopped fretting about later.  I hope she sat down with him.  The Bible doesn't tell us of her choice.  What we do know is that they must have spent some time together because in John chapter 11 we learn that Jesus loved both Martha and Mary.  How many relationships with family and friends have we missed out on or weakened because we were making preparations for later rather than being in the moment with them?  If we live for “one day” we miss today.

People will get upset if you start living in the moment.  It goes against the world view.  That is nothing new.  Even Jesus and his disciples had to deal with it. In Mark 2 Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees because he and his disciples were living in the moment.  John’s followers and the Pharisees were fasting as was customary, a tradition of the past.  Jesus and his disciples were not.  Now they could have just held up the tradition, or they could have been worried about what people would say later when they found out, but they weren’t.  Jesus tells the Pharisees when he is confronted,
“ How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”  In other words, the disciples were living in the moment.  There would come a time that fasting would be appropriate for them, but for now, they needed to do what they were doing, they needed to be in the present.  Do you think that God would have been honored or glorified any more had the disciples fasted rather than spend time with Christ?  No.  Had they been focused on anything other than their present they would have missed what it was God had for them to do.  Had they fasted without Christ it would have shown that they trusted tradition more than Jesus.  
I am not saying that we don’t need to think about the future.  We do.  We need to put money aside for retirement, we need to make plans for our children’s future or for dinner later tonight even.  We need to look to the future, to the day Christ returns for us.  We need to learn from our past and prepare for our future, but LIVE now.  It is when our now becomes a less important than the past or the future that we have problems.  When our lives become entangled in the snare of the past or future that we stagnate.

Galatians 5:17  You have to live by what you KNOW, not by what the flesh feels.  I know that God will use the past for good (Romans 8:28) and that He has the future in His hands (Jeremiah 29:11).  The flesh tells you to worry about how the past is going to affect now, or to worry about how the future will turn out.  God tells us to not worry about those things because HE will take care of us.  When we focus on and worry about the past or the future WE AREN’T TRUSTING GOD.  Either we don’t believe that He can handle whatever life throws our way, that He doesn’t have plans for us, that He can’t overcome our mess ups and make them good, or that He just isn’t who He says He is.  Are you trusting Him?  Are you living in the moment?



I love to read. If I have any down time, you can find my nose in a book. I can’t help it. And I often put off things I need to do in order to ‘just finish the chapter’, or ‘find out what happens next’… and before I know it, it’s bedtime, which is fortunate since I’m still in my pajamas from the morning. I’ve literally lost hours and even days from reading. I love to get lost in another world. Which leads me to what I read. More often than not, it’s fiction. I prefer to not think about it, and just enjoy. (I’m the same way when watching television- which is a rarity for me- but if I’m going to bother- it’s going to be a thirty-minute sitcom that makes me laugh over an hour long drama)
While I can admit that I easily will procrastinate and ignore things that need to be addressed (chores, cooking dinner, paying bills- and I’ve even taken personal days from work for a good book) - I will acknowledge that the first books I open in the morning are my devotionals and Bible. I can’t start my day, regardless of what I may or may not intend to do, without them. Even when my plan is to sink into my hopeless romantic novel, I begin with the ultimate romance novel: the one where Christ gave everything up because He loved me. I know it sounds trite, but it’s true. Believe me when I say that getting lost in His Word far outweighs being lost in this world. And like my fictional romance novels, I can easily spend hours reading my Bible; not that I do that very often. Usually my weekends allow me to devote more of my mornings than usual to delve into His Word (and naturally enjoy more coffee as well).
I guess what I love the most about reading is being able to forget this world and live in another one for a while. I don’t have to think about the daily routine of life that I’m obligated to, or the people that I don’t want to deal with, or the circumstances that are out of my control. I can forget it all for a moment, and relax and enjoy the other world, where none of those things or people matter. I can concentrate on falling in love- with the story and the characters; losing myself. I can let go of everything of the ‘here and now’ and enjoy the ‘there and then’. My ultimate escapism…
And that’s the beauty of the Bible as well. When consumed by His Word, it’s easy to see how trivial all we are encompassed by in this world really is. We’re reminded that there is a greater story and character than our own. And the ‘here and now’ of this world is nothing compared to the ‘there and then’ of eternity. And just like when I finish a phenomenal book (the type that causes me to call off work and keeps me in my pj’s all day) that leaves me rejuvenated and wanting for me, so it is when I read His Divine Book. The hope that is given to us through His Word is a complete and total transformation from the hope in this world. There is nothing of real value ‘here’, the true value comes ‘then’.
I can only hope that there are plenty of books ‘there’; and coffee. (Though I’m willing to bet there won’t be a need for either.)



“In your patience possess you your souls”
~Luke 21:19  KJV

Patience isn’t something we naturally have, or at least I don't.   I struggle with waiting whether it be waiting for something good to happen, a bad situation to end, an answer to a question, traffic to move, or a line to end.  If only I had the patience that Paul describes Jesus as having: limitless patience. (1 Timothy 1:16)  I'm glad that His patience is limitless.  Especially when I think about how patient He has had to be with me.  He waited for me to finally realize I need Him.  He waited for me to start giving Him control of my life.  He waited for me to trust in His plan (many times!).

Acts 14:22 tells us that life is going to be hard, not just occasionally, but often.  Peter tells us not to be surprised by trials (1 peter 4:12-13) we should expect them.  Why do I talk about trials?  Because we experience trails so that we may gain patience (Romans 5:3)  We all know the story of Job, a man who had it all, lost everything, went through a terrible ordeal emotionally, physically, financially etc.  He remained steadfast, he is even referred to as patient in James 5:11 (KJV), and in the end he was rewarded.  Let me point out that Job complained.  He cursed the day of his birth, he begged for death, he complained in the bitterness of his soul.  Kind of goes against our modern definition of the word patience (the quality of bearing misfortune, provocation, annoyance, delay, hardship, pain etc with fortitude and calm and without complaint anger or the like)  Even God complained when the Israelites repeatedly turned from him.  Patience is not putting on your big girl or boy britches and your happy face and pushing through it.  Patience is hanging in there and making the best of it without sacrificing your faith, your purpose, your beliefs, your trust in God.  Did you get that?

  Patience is trusting that God has a plan in your life and that He knows what He is doing.  

In the end Job received much more than he had to begin with.  It wasn’t the same, it was better.  He gained twice as much as he had before he was tested, his daughters were the most beautiful in the land.  We too have a reward for our patience.  Matthew 24:13 tells us that “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”  James 1:12 tells us that “blessed is the (wo)man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised them that love him.”  2 Timothy 2:12 tells us that “if we endure, we will also reign with him (Jesus)”

You abide under all circumstances because you know He is in control.  You strive for patience because you are an imitator, a follower, of Christ - who is Himself patient.  And you remain patient in trials because you know that this world is fleeting, and our reward will be great!

It's all in the presentation...


How true that is?!? Have you ever had to sit through a class, a meeting or even a sermon and walked out of it with a negative opinion of the speaker and/or the message? Countless times for me. Most of my college lectures, some of my work meetings and sadly a few of the church services have left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I went to school for Journalism (as I love to write), but I actually had a professor tell us in our Ethics class (Journalism ethics- as they have different standards than the real world) that if we were walking down the street and saw a house on fire, with a person trapped inside calling for help, we were to stop and get the ‘story’ (film it, interview bystanders and victims, etc.) rather than help save the life of that person. After he stated that ‘fact’ I sat there wondering how sad it was that this was considered ‘ethical’ in a journalistic world.  I walked out of that class mad at the professor, disappointed with my colleagues that they seemed to agree, and irritated with myself for even being there. It was that day that I realized Journalism was not for me. I can tell you that I don’t think the professor is a bad person. He was making a point that we were to report the story- not become part of the story. But that’s certainly not what I walked out of there with.

Many Christians lack the same presentation skills. To our credit, we want others to know about God. To our detriment, we don’t teach Him well. We talk about His Laws, His Judgment and sometimes His Love. We stand on our soap boxes and talk down about ‘hot topics’ in politics and how anyone that believes or participates (aka sins) that way is wrong and going to hell. We spout off His commandments (Exodus 20:2-17), reiterate the stories of Old. Rebuke their ways that are wrong… (I won’t even point out that we do plenty of wrong things, too- that’s not the point of this message). But what about the New Testament? How about we start with telling them about how much He loves them (John 13:34-35, Romans 5:8); He forgives them (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 11:28, 1 john 1:9); He wants them to spend eternity with Him in Heaven (John 14:2, Philippians 3:20-21)… Get them excited for all that He Is (Revelation 1:8), then when they want to learn more, lovingly explain to them the sacrifices they have to make in this world (Matthew 10:39, John 14:6).

My grandma was like that. She had a heart for Jesus. She wanted everyone to know about Him. And she wanted everyone in Heaven with Him. But she often started by telling other sinners what they could or couldn’t do to get to Heaven. She blatantly told them they were going to hell for their sins if they didn’t get to know Jesus. Her mind and heart were right- but her presentation was off. For years she turned away her own son by speaking of God’s Judgment and Laws, and not reinforcing His Love.

We do this, too. In jest one night, a friend of mine was rebuking her own son about lying. (I say in jest, because he was telling obvious lies to make us laugh- we knew this). And she spouted off ‘Thou Shalt Not Lie’… Without missing a beat he retorted with “Gheesh mom, read the newer stuff, it lightens up a bit.” We all laughed. But how true is that statement? Yes, the Old Testament is true, God does have Laws we are to follow, He does judge sin… but if we just follow the Old, then perhaps we should be Jewish, not Christian. The New Testament brought the Good News that despite our breaking His Laws and sinning, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins (John 3:16). He forgives us when we accept Him into our life. He loves us (all of us- Jews and Gentiles alike) (Romans 10:12) regardless of what is in our past, and remarkably despite what our future brings (Romans 8:38-39. He Loves; that’s what we need to be presenting to people.

Start your presentation with all the Good that He Is. Get them excited for Him. Make them want Him in their lives. Once they’re really listening and open to Him, they’ll be open to what they have to do to have Him.

What is worship?

Tuesday Stacie reminded us that God "wants you to worship Him- and not in a deity way but in a Godly way, as in a way that doesn't separate you from Him but draws you closer," and that is absolutely true.  I don't know about you, but I struggled with what worship was.  How do you worship?  What is the "correct" way to worship?

When I was serving with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies I was introduced to a study method that I have become very fond of, a word study.  It's pretty basic in how it is done but it really helped me to grasp some important Biblical concepts in a much deeper manner than I might have otherwise.  Let me share the process with you.

First, you pick the word you want to study, in this case 'worship'.  Look up the modern definition for the word as a starting place.  "1. the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god : the act of worshipping God or a god   2. excessive admiration for someone" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Next, we turn to Strong's Concordance.  This is a concordance in which every usage of a word in the King James Bible is cross-referenced.  In addition to discovering every mention of the word in the Bible, it also gives you the original Greek or Hebrew word and its definition.  In this case the word 'worship' is used 108 times in the KJV and those words stem from 6+ different words.

Then, read each of the instances in which the word was used.  I'll leave the looking up of all 108 instances to you.  Write the verses down.  Read how it was used.  Listen for God to speak to you heart about it and write that down also.  I tend to do this over a period of time.  My pastor actually keeps notebooks for different words in which he records the verse and God's whispers to his heart as he comes across them in his personal study time.  I love this idea as I have found that God speaks differently to me depending upon what I am dealing with, my maturity in my relationship with Him, and what I am seeking at the time.  

So what is worship?  My take away is that worship is a physical act of showing respect to God.  It is bowing down and at times even laying down before Him as an acknowledgement of who He is.  Worship is a heart condition in which I revere God, where He takes His place as being King of Kings and Lord of Lords and my Saviour.  Worship is an act of service, in which I chose to do His will rather than my own, or rather it is a choice to make His will my own.  And worship is how I chose to live my life - in reverence of who He is, what He sacrificed for me.

Does God desire our worship?  Absolutely.  And when you chose to worship Him it will draw you closer to Him, you will begin to discover just how awesome He is and to understand the depth of His love for you.  

Praise Him.

Worship always makes me think of songs and singing praise hymns. But true worship is praising Him- not just through song, but prayer, dances, thoughts and talk. Anything that humbles yourself and glorifies God. He enjoys every little thing you do to bring Him glory.

He only wants you to worship Him- and not in a deity way but in a Godly way, as in a way that doesn't separate you from Him but draws you closer. When you are letting it all go and surrendering it all to Him, He fills you completely. The more you give yourself to Him, the more He fills you with joy. (1Peter 1:8) He fills you with His Spirit. (John 4:24) Give Him thanks and praise for all that's in your life- the good and the bad. (Philippians 4:6) For, from the bad comes good. (Romans 8:28) When giving Him thanks, you're accepting His goodness, and accepting that He cares for you and provides for you, and that in turn is accepting His security. You're acknowledging that He has complete control of your life- and there is nothing He can't give you. The lower you bow down before Him, the higher you lift Him, and He in return lifts you higher. When He raises you up, accept that He loves you. And there is no greater love than His.

Knowing God is in control, and that He loves like you don't understand, and gave His Son for you (John 3:16) should be enough to make you want to sing from the rafters, shout from the rooftop, dance in the streets... Worship Him with unabashed, unashamed, abandoned love for Him. And when you surrender it all to Him, worship Him for a Who He Is, Was and always Will Be- He will fill you with His Peace. (2Thessalonians 3:16)

And Peace is what we all strive for, isn’t it? (Philippians 4:7) Worship Him and be given His peace. Praise Him and receive His security. Thank Him and accept His love.

Be an encouragement to others.

It doesn’t matter that you’re a Christian or how long you’ve been one- there will always be times that you will feel down; need uplifted and encouraged. (Philippians 1:29) We’d like to think that once we accept Christ as our Savior it only goes up from there. And while in the long run that’s true, we will still face problems and uncertainties while on this earth; it’s a sinners world, and we, unfortunately are sinners.

God tells us that we should be grateful for the troubles that come our way. (Psalm 119:71, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4) We should pray to Him for strength and thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17) But in His infinite love and wisdom, He gives us each other to help us get through the tough times. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) He is always with us (Psalm 23:1-4, Isaiah 41:10, John 14:16-17) - you know that; and you feel Him there, too. But there are times when we need a physical being to be there with us. To cry with us, listen to our sorrows and encourage us with uplifting words and pray for us. We can’t make it through this world alone. And when our friends and loved ones need encouragement we need to be there for them. (1 Thessalonians 4:18, John 15:12-15, James 5:16) We must help each other. (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:9-11)

When you’re feeling down and alone, and when praying just doesn’t seem to help (in the short run- it always helps in the long run) – call a friend in Jesus. Don’t discount talking it over with someone who can encourage you, someone who loves you, loves God and can remind you of both. It’s easy when we’re down to forget how much God does love us, (Romans 5:8, John 3:16) and how much He hurts when we hurt. (Lamentations 3:31-33, Hebrews 4:15)It’s easy to distance ourselves from Him. Allow your friend to keep you grounded, and walking His path for you. He is always with us, spiritually. But when we need someone physically, He gives us each other. It’s one of His gifts, a sign of His love. Take advantage of it.

And when a friend calls you for encouragement, be there for them. (Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 17:17, Matthew 22:39) Sometimes all they need to for you to listen. And sometimes they just need your presence. And sometimes they just need you. And we all want to feel needed. God uses all things for His good. (Romans 8:28) Maybe a friend’s pain is to be used for your gain. Maybe your friend in needing you, is God showing you how much you’re needed. A nice little reminder the next time you’re feeling down and insignificant.

Just a thought.

You've Got Mail part 2

I don't know about you, but I get a lot of email.  I have several email accounts, one for close friends and family to use, one that I share with the world, one for work, and one that is supposed to serve as my junk email.  You know, the one you use when you enter contests online or you sign up for something and you just KNOW you will get a lot of unwanted email from them.  Most of my accounts I have imported to my computer using an aggregate email program.  This allows me to keep everything in one place rather than get lost flipping back and forth.  As an added benefit, even my accounts that aren't "junk mail" accounts have spam filters.  Still, even with my efforts to keep all the junk mail confined to a junk email address or a separate folder, the spam gets through.

Those lovely emails that tell me that I have won a million dollar lottery overseas.  They are from someone with a familiar first name asking me to click a link leading who knows where.  They tell me all about this exciting product to 'enhance' my life.  At first, they just trickle in.  One or two in my spam folder.  Not a big deal.  But the more I use an email account, the more I share my email address, the more junk mail I get.

It is so easy to become overwhelmed by all these emails.  I stop looking at the subjects when I visit my spam folder and just hit 'delete' repeatedly.  But spam filters aren't perfect.  Occasionally an email gets mislabeled and is placed in my spam folder.  If I let it go, it can get to the point that I miss an important email from a friend who is struggling in her marriage, or a reminder of an important meeting that I can't miss, or a message from a family member that wants to share the news of the blessing she received.  Before long the spam begins to overtake the important messages and that is all I see, everything else fades into the background.

Our prayer life can be like that too.  We segregate our world into neat little compartments and choose which ones we will allow God to work in.  Last week I wrote about how we can pray but not be looking for God's responses, totally ignoring what He is trying to communicate with us.  That isn't the only way we can miss it though.  Sometimes we are looking for His answer and yet it gets lost in everything else we have going on, our worldly spam.

For me this tends to be a battle of the mind.  A little thought wiggles its way into my head: doubt, fear, unworthiness - spiritual spam.  At first they are easy to identify as spam, messages that don't belong and aren't intended specifically for me.  They are messages intended to sidetrack me, to harm me, to draw me towards something I don't really need or want.  I delete them.  But when my vigilance drops, when I stop deleting them, they can easily overwhelm me and I begin to miss the real messages, God's truths.  This is why God tells us to take every thought captive.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You see, Satan doesn't have to get you to "click" one of those messages.  He doesn't even have to get you to believe one.  He simply needs to get you to miss the important messages: you are loved by the King (John 3:16), no sin you have ever or will ever commit can change that (Romans 5:8), nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:35-39).  If we don't take the time to filter out those 'spam' messages, we can easily end up 'deleting' one of these.  The truth gets lost in a sea of lies.

This is why we need to spend time with God, with the Truth.  It prevents our spam filter from getting confused and resetting, allowing the lies into our inbox.  We need to examine our thought-life and purge those that don't belong - immediately.  The longer we allow the distraction thoughts to linger the more tempted we are to open, examine and dwell in them.  Let them go.  When you do, you will find those important messages from God, and you will be able to focus on those.