Are You More Like Mary or Zechariah?

We often read the book of Luke at Christmas time. It tells the story of the birth of our Savior. But it also illustrates two different ways we respond to God when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

There are two accounts of a birth being foretold. The first is Zechariah being told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth is with child. Zechariah responds in astonishment but he makes a serious mistake as he speaks to the angel. He asks, “How will I know this?” He’s asking for more evidence, more proof.

The second account is of the angel telling Mary she will conceive and give birth to a son. Her response is not “prove it.” Instead, she says, “How will this be?” She’s asking in wonder for she knows she is a virgin. She wants to know HOW God will do it, not IF He will.

How do you respond when God gives you direction that seems impossible? Do you say, “yeah, right. How can THAT happen?” Or do you say, ” Yes Lord, show me how You want to do it. I’m ready to do it your way.”

Big difference.

Zechariah lost his ability to speak for months because of his slip of the tongue. But it was much more than that. It revealed what was in his heart. His doubt was made clear.

When we respond to God, we are to do so in faith and not doubt. What has God been saying to You? And how will you respond?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

 

 

God Wants Us to Pour Out His Love On Others

When God blesses our lives it’s for the purpose of equipping us to share His love with those around us. We aren’t supposed to keep it all to ourselves, we’re supposed to generously pour it into other’s lives. But how can we have enough to pour out if we are constantly allowing God’s blessings to leak out of us?

A while back I wrote a piece called Stopping the Leak where I talked about the remedy for the leaking. But perhaps it would also be helpful to consider the cause of the leaks so we can avoid them in the first place.

Some of the things we chose to do can create leaks. When we leak, the blessings God gives us drain away. When we complain or speak negatively about our circumstances we shoot a hole in our barrel and the blessings begin to leak. Also, being unkind, impatient or judgmental of others can shoot more holes than we can imagine.

If all the things God gives us are to equip us to bring His Kingdom to people, how will we be successful in doing that if we allow everything to leak out? We are to POUR out! When you find yourself exhausted and too weak to cheerfully share God’s love perhaps you should examine your barrel and see if there are too many holes.

“He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior  so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” – Titus 3:6-8 (CSB)

 

What Does it Mean to Live Life Loud?

If you do an internet search for the phrase “live out loud” you will  find a trendy definition along these lines:

“Being yourself , genuine, open, trustworthy, with sass , spice and flare . Living on purpose, loving others and yourself, living passionately for your values, no matter what.” – Urban Dictionary

But what does it mean for Christians to live their lives out loud?  What if you were to become mute today and couldn’t speak another word for the rest of your life? Would your life speak loudly enough that others could still see Jesus in you without words?

Perhaps it would be a good exercise to take some time, especially during the Christmas season, to practice showing Christ’s love without depending on your words to convince others of your relationship with Jesus.

Are you up for the challenge?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16(ESV)

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. –  1 John 3:18 (ESV)

You Can’t Follow if You Don’t Move

Ever played follow the leader?  One person leads and all the others have to follow what they do. The kid’s game called Simon Says is the same principle.

If you’re playing either of those games you would get strange looks from the other players if you just stood there. In order for either game to work, you have to move. Either by actually following the leader’s actions or listening carefully to what Simon says and doing exactly what you have been told to do.

So it is with saying you are a follower of Christ.  If you are following… you have to move. You can’t just sit in your favorite seat at church every Sunday and then go home and sit on your couch the rest of the week. To be a follower you have to be DOING something. What is it that you should be doing? And this is not about works. This is about imitating Christ’s behavior while He walked on Earth.

Here is a sample list. There are certainly more things that you can add yourself after searching the scriptures.

Pray when He says to pray

Serve when He says to serve

Love when He says to love

Give when He says to give

Jesus set the example for everything He wants us to be doing. Paul also said, “follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:11)  Paul made it clear that we are to become leaders to help others follow Jesus.

Are you following? And are you learning to lead so others will follow?

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” – John 12:26 (ESV)

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12 (ESV)

Faith is Believing What You Cannot See

It’s a cloudy day. A man who has lived in a cave all of his life comes out of the cave. He’s been told there is a glowing orb in the sky called the sun that provides heat and light. He looks around, sees only clouds, and concludes, “there is no sun.”

No matter how you try to convince him that you have experienced the sun, he can’t believe because he thinks he must see it for himself. If he goes back into his cave and the clouds clear and the sun returns, he will never know.

He has no faith.

Perhaps he recognized the contrast between the darkness of his cave and the light outside but since he cannot see the sun, he isn’t willing to believe it exists. He doesn’t understand but he won’t trust the word of another.

So here’s the question. If you know there is a sun, and you tried to tell him about it, do you just walk away if he rejects your story? Does he only get one chance to believe?

How about returning another day and going into his cave? How about building a relationship with him so he trusts you? Then you can share your experiences and perhaps he will be more willing to listen.

God calls us to plant the seed. He asks us to testify about who the Son is and what we’ve experienced. We may see no evidence that the seed took root.

But don’t give up!

“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” – Romans 10:17 (CSB)

Keep sharing the message and God will use it to bring in the harvest.

Who can you talk to today?

 

For God to Get the Glory, You Have to Tell the Story

I came across a phrase a few weeks ago that has settled in my heart in a big way. Here it is. “Everything that God allows to transpire is for our good and God’s glory.”

Everything.

How can this be? I can think of a lot of situations I’ve experienced that don’t look like they are that great for me or God’s glory… at first. But then I discover something that happened along the way. I see how I have been changed. I see how God has shown His power or His mercy. Watching my husband grow in his faith after a staggering diagnosis or watching a son and his wife grow stronger after a miscarriage causes me to thank the Lord. While I am not saying we should be thankful for terrible events in life, we can always be thankful for how God uses them to change us.

A few months ago I wrote a post called, “Tell Your Story.” I talked about how people needed to hear firsthand the things God is doing in the world. How will they know unless we tell them?

But I’m seeing a trend that makes it much harder to tell your story. It’s the idea that we all deserve privacy. At this point in the history of our country, we have more ways to communicate than ever before but we’ve decided what goes on in our lives is nobody’s business. We’ve become good at saying, “yes, I’m fine,” when we really aren’t. Or perhaps we’ve even convinced ourselves that we are.

The thing is, if we stop sharing our lives with others, they will never see the victories. They will never know God has the answer to everything humanity will ever face.

The choice is ours. We can continue to hide in our self-made bubbles, thinking we need our privacy OR we can learn to be transparent and allow others to see us going through our stuff. If we remain silent, God never gets the glory. Others won’t believe they can ever be overcomers if they never watch anyone overcome anything. Sure, it involves risk. It involves stepping away from pride and self-sufficiency. But in the end, it is for your good and God’s glory so how can you lose?

I’m not saying this is an opportunity to air our dirty laundry in public places, but I AM saying when God is nudging us to share our story, no matter how hard it might be, He will bring good from our obedience. To be vulnerable isn’t a bad thing. It gives God a pliable platform to work in amazing ways. It requires trust and strength that you can’t get from inside yourself.

Tell your story. Tell others how God has been faithful to you. How He’s being faithful to you now. Share the hope that is in you. It might be the most important conversation you will have.

And God will get the glory.

“And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” – Mark 5:20(NASB)

 

God Invites Us to Help Him, Even Though We’re Not Perfect

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, you have no doubt been asked to color.  Crayons, markers, doesn’t matter, just something to add color to a coloring book or computer printed picture. Kids don’t really care what you color, they just want you to do it WITH them.

A while back my four-year-old granddaughter invited me to the table to color with her. She had all the crayons and markers lined up and she had a selection of coloring books to choose from. I picked a book and flipped through the pages to find a picture that wasn’t already colored in. She did the same and we settled into a quiet conversation while we colored together.

As he colored, she kept looking over at my picture. Finally, she scooted her chair closer to mine and held her marker above my picture. She said, “Grandma, I could help you color that part right there. It will be so pretty!”

Now some of you are cringing at the thought. You are working on this masterpiece and YOU want to finish it yourself.  Be honest, you know you do! I did too, for a split second, then I remembered it wasn’t about some simply drawn picture that I wanted to finish, it was about spending time with my little one and letting her think she was helping me.

Suddenly, God showed me a picture of how He sees the very same thing in us. He has a perfect plan that He can accomplish without help. He doesn’t need to even think about how to do it because everything He does is perfect.

But He looks at us and pushes his coloring book closer to us and says, “sure, you can help.” He already knows we won’t do it perfectly, we will color outside the lines, we will make mistakes. But it’s okay. He just wants us to do it with Him because he loves to spend time with us.

God the Father invites us to help Him manage His creation. He lets us participate even though our efforts aren’t perfect. He loves us and welcomes us into His work without hesitation.

C.S. Lewis said, “He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in a twinkling of an eye. Creation seems to be delegation through and through.”

God wants us to join Him in building His kingdom. He’ll let you color His picture and even supply the markers.

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” – Titus 3:5 (ESV)

“He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” – 2 Timothy 1:9 (CSB)

 

Are You Getting Excited About Heaven?

Think about your last vacation. Maybe you planned a cruise or a hiking trip to the mountains. When you settled on a date you put it on your calendar and even though it might be months away you began to think about it.

Perhaps you planned what you would pack and what you would wear. You might have planned meals or favorite restaurants you wanted to visit on your trip.

As the weeks passed and the day of departure got closer you got more excited, imagining what a wonderful time you would have.

Are you as excited about Heaven?  Do you think daily that the time is getting closer? Do you imagine being with Jesus in a place where there will be no more tears and no more sorrow?

We should be planning for the trip just like we did our best vacation even though we don’t know the exact date. We don’t have to take anything with us and a banquet will be prepared for us upon our arrival.

So instead of planning what we should pack…we should be thinking about who we want to take with us. Who do you need to talk to about making the trip to Heaven with you?

“How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? “ – Romans 10:14 (CEV)

What Does Learning to Swim Have to Do With God?

This summer I had the privilege of watching my 4-year-old granddaughter learn to swim. First, she got comfortable putting her tiny face in the water. Then she would jump into my arms and let me catch her after she was completely submerged. Finally, she got brave enough to hold on to the side and swim to me.

She would hold the side of the pool with one hand and hold her nose with the other. When she mustered up the courage she would take a deep breath and let go. The first time she needed me to be only a few inches away. Then she got a little braver and let me back up a bit. Sometimes she would lose her courage and say, “come closer!” and I would move a step toward her. Each time, right before she was ready to go, she would say, “and you’re not going to move?” And each time I would assure her that I wouldn’t.

After many attempts, she began to say, “Grandma back up just a little,” and after I did, she always added, “and you’re not going to move?” I would assure her again and she would scrunch up her face and let go of the side.
Now she can swim halfway across the pool into my arms. She always knows I will catch her, and she knows I will keep my word and not move the “finish line” when she isn’t looking.

God wants us to trust Him in the same way my little granddaughter trusts me. He will not trick us and move the goal farther away. He won’t get distracted and forget to catch us. He will encourage us and challenge us to expand our ability to trust Him just like she was able to let me get further and further away. God wants us to grow in our faith. He expects us to trust Him for bigger things as we mature in our walk with Him.

When my precious little one jumps off the side of the pool or musters the courage to push off from the edge in water that is over her head, she is trusting me with her entire self. She is letting go with abandon and feels completely secure.

That’s exactly what God wants us to do.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5(ESV)

“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.” – Proverbs 4:25-26(NASB)

 

 

How to Be a Friend of God

When was the last time you ordered food or coffee from a drive-thru? Maybe you visit the same place frequently. Perhaps you have become familiar with the person who takes your order every day.  You might even know their name.

But do you really know them? You may exchange “good mornings,” on a regular basis but you really know nothing about them. You order, you pay, you smile and say thank-you as they hand you your order. Then you drive away.

Isn’t that how we sometimes treat God? We know where to go for what we need. We can express our needs in a clear way. We pay our dues by trying to do the things we know God expects. Finally, we thank Him for all he does for us and then we… drive away.

Beth Moore said in a devotion I read recently, “We cannot have a drive-thru relationship with God and expect to behold His glory.”

God wants more from us than a list of requests and a few words of appreciation.  He wants relationship.

Think of your best friend. Does that person know things about you that most people don’t? How did that happen? They know you because they have spent time with you. Probably LOTS of time. When you are with your friend, wouldn’t you rather go to a nice restaurant where you can sit and talk and laugh together instead of going through the drive-thru? Or maybe you would have them over to your house for a meal and an evening of visiting. God wants us to spend time with Him like we do our friends. He wants to tell us things that only His closest friends know.

A while back I wrote a devotion called, “Do You Have a BFF?”  where I talked about how well God knows you and wants to bless you. He knows everything about you. But He wants more than a relationship where He knows you. He wants you to know HIM. He has so much to tell you!  Spend some time just sitting in His presence and listening to His voice.

God is who He says He is but how will we believe it unless we get to know Him? How can we trust Him if we don’t know Him? And how can we get to know Him if we treat Him like a Drive-Thru God?

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”– Jeremiah 29:13(ESV)

“So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend” – James 2:23 (HCSB)