Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Day We Missed the Miracle

God is still in the miracle performing business. If you haven't experienced one, my question to you is: have you looked up lately?

Last week I witnessed a miracle and I didn't even realize it. 

If you didn't already know, I'm a nurse at the hospital on a cardiac step down unit. Our patients can crash at any minute and we're trained to handle that should it happen, but on any given day things go the way they are supposed to and all crises are avoided. However, last week, during a single shift, we almost lost three of our patients. 

On days like that you get extremely behind on your work. You most likely either miss lunch or stuff your face with the unhealthiest of meals in 5 minutes flat. You're overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted. You wonder why you even became a nurse.

So on that particular day, I was all of the above. Overwhelmed, hangry, exhausted and questioning my career choice. I called my husband on the way home (at least an hour and a half late) to complain about how terrible my day was.

As I reflected on the day when I got home, I realized that my perspective was all wrong. 
Yes, it was awful. Yes, we were all at work way past our usual time playing catch up. No, none of us got a proper break. Yes, three people almost died, but glory to God three people LIVED! Three lives were saved and I'm close to tears as I write this because I'm just realizing what I experienced. How could I not see the miracle that happened right in front of me, the miracle that I got to be a part of?

In Mark 6, we see Jesus' disciples experiencing something similar. The disciples are on their boat heading to Bethsaida. They are in the middle of a storm and having a terrible time crossing the sea. Jesus sees that His friends are struggling so He walks out onto the water to help them. When the disciples see Him walking on the water, they are frightened and think that He is a ghost. It seems like a legit reaction, but here's the thing, the disciples had just witnessed Jesus turn five loaves of bread and two fish into a meal for 5000 +! You would think they would have realized who Jesus was and what He was capable of. But the bible says that the disciples had not yet understood what Jesus did with the fish and loaves and their hearts were hardened. 
If you go back and read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, you'll see that the Bible doesn't tell us the disciples' reaction to the experience. I think that maybe their reaction wasn't what it should have been. 12 people feeding 5000 sounds like a lot of work so I can imagine that they were busy. I'm sure they were exhausted. They were probably starving and maybe just a little aggravated because they would have beat the storm had they not been there so late. 

I think that just like my coworkers and I, the disciples were still surprised by Jesus because they actually missed the miracle He performed that day. Sure, they knew what Jesus had done. They were there; they helped him. My coworkers and I knew that three lives were saved, but instead of experiencing the miracle, we were focused on what the miracle was costing us. 

How often do we miss the amazing things God is doing both around us and through us because our perspectives are all wrong?  We allow our emotions to cloud our circumstances until we can't even see what's right in front of us.

My pastor always says "the servants see the miracles" and I believe that, I really do, but I think sometimes we servants forget to look up. In the midst of all of our serving and busyness we get on sort of an autopilot mode. We pray, we serve, we give. God provides. We check it off the list and move on, never stopping to appreciate His power. My call to my husband that night should have been one of celebration, but my focus was on all the wrong things. So instead, I complained when I should have been rejoicing.

Last week three people could have died, but they didn't.

God is still in the miracle performing business. If you haven't witnessed one, my question to you is: have you looked up lately? It may have just passed you by.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

To the Childless Woman on Mother's Day

To the Childless Woman on Mother's Day

 I'm writing you this letter today because I know that this week of celebration may be sparking some sadness in you. There are commercials on TV and the radio, cards, flowers and balloons in every store reminding you of what you already know: Mother's Day is coming up and you still are not a mom. While most every holiday magnifies the fact that you don't have children of your own, none stings quite as badly as this one. 

I don't know why this Mother's Day finds you childless. 

Maybe you're still single even though you always thought you'd be married with at least a couple of kids by now.

Maybe you are married, but your husband isn't ready for a baby.

Maybe you've been trying to get pregnant for what seems like an eternity. 

Maybe you're recovering from a miscarriage or mourning the devastating loss of a little one.

Maybe you've been given the heartbreaking news that you'll never have children of your own. 

Maybe you're impatiently waiting for a phone call that there's a child waiting for you to adopt or foster. 

Maybe you're a stepmom who never feels like you're good enough.

Maybe you don't want children at all, but you struggle with feeling like less of a woman because society tells you that motherhood is your primary purpose in life. 

Maybe you've lost all hope.

I know I could never begin to understand the pain of your circumstances, but whatever your situation, I know you're hurting while everyone else is celebrating. 

I know that you force yourself to put on a brave face even though you're dying inside. When people ask you when you're going to start a family or what you're waiting on you answer with grace although you can't stand everyone's invasive questions. I know that you lie to cover up your pain when you tell people you enjoy your freedom and your quiet, "easy" life. I know you feel like everyone is talking about you. You bet they're wondering if you're struggling with infertility or if your marriage is falling apart. 

I know what it feels like for your heart to ache as you hold someone else's baby and I know how it feels to be numb, not even wanting to be around babies anymore. I know that you sometimes roll your eyes when you see another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. I know you feel guilty for you lack of excitement for others. I know that you feel left out and like you don't fit in with your friends anymore. They seem to walk on egg shells around you as to not hurt your feelings.

I know about your Pinterest board; the one filled with nursery designs and pictures of irresistibly cute babies. I have one too. I know that sometimes you sneak over to the baby section at Target, imagining what it would be like to be shopping for your own baby while deep down feeling like you've lost your mind. 

I know that you're hurting. I know you feel empty. Lonely. Impatient. You feel hopeless. I know that sometimes you even feel angry. You ask God "why me?" But Jesus wanted me to tell you something this Mother's Day. 

He wanted me to tell you that childlessness does not define you.

Jesus wants you to know that your identity is not found in your circumstances; your identity is found in Him. You are not broken, unworthy, inadequate or less of a woman because you don't have or can't have children. The truth is, nothing in this world can dictate who we are. The only One who decides our identity is the One who created us. And the One who created you says:

You are loved

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." Jeremiah 31:3

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:17

You are chosen and you are God's special possession 

"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6

You are God's masterpiece 

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10

You are valuable

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

"What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor." Psalm 8:5

You are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." 1 Corinthians 6:19

You are worth dying for

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

You are redeemed

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

You know what I realize when I read those statements about my identity in Christ? I see that God's love and His favor over my life do not require anything from me except that I believe and receive them. His promises don't say "once you are married, then you'll be redeemed" or "when you become a mom, then you'll be valuable to me." He takes us just as we are and He uses our pain for our good and His glory. 

I hope that your future is full of tiny fingers and toes, little league games and carpool lines, but until then I hope you will allow God to replace your sorrow with joy, your hopelessness with faith and your emptiness with the fullness of His love. I pray that you would come to know that your identity in Christ is unchanging and unconditional. Rest in that this Mother's Day. 

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 
Psalm 34:18

Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Take Hold of a Life that's Flying By

Make the most of your time

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." 
Psalm 90:12

I remember riding in the car with my dad one night many years ago as he played a song for me. It was a significant song, one he wanted me to hear so that I would learn something. Neither one of us can remember what song it actually was, but I have always remembered one of the lyrics was "you can only count on time" (Google has convinced me I misheard the lyrics and that no such song exists). Anyway, wrong lyrics or not, it has stuck with me ever since. 

Aside from God, time is the one thing in our lives that is constant. It cannot be changed. You can't slow it down or speed it up. You can't rewind or fast forward it. A minute will always lasts 60 seconds, an hour 60 minutes, a day 24 hours. Time goes on. If there's nothing else that we can put our trust in, we can trust that time will go by. I have found comfort in this on hard days, but in this, I've also found great fear. The years speed by faster the older I get. A school day used to feel like an eternity, now a week comes and goes before I can catch my breath. If you let it, it will utterly terrify you. 

The concept that our time is short is nothing new. Almost every great artist has written a song about it. There are countless quotes reminding us of it. But did you know that even scripture warns us of our limited time and urges us to spend it wisely?

"Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." 
James 4:14

"Man is like breath; his days are like a passing shadow." 
Psalm 144:4

"So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish but learn what the Lord wants you to do."
 Ephesians 5:15-17

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” 
Psalm 39:4-5 

So what do we do with this assurance that our time is short? In a world obsessed with instant gratification and shortcuts, how do we slow down and savor the time we've been given?

Take Your Eyes Off of the Screen

We live in a society that has a need for constant stimulation. I don't know about you, but I can't wait in line or at a stoplight without pulling out my phone to mindlessly scroll through Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. I find myself reaching for my phone to distract me in times of stress and worry or simply out of boredom. 

An hour flies by in an instant as my face is buried in my phone, consumed by the lives of others as my own happens around me.

I see my happiest days through my screen as I take a ridiculous amount of pictures in a desperate attempt to hold onto the moment forever. Pictures that will be forgotten, lost among pictures of last night's dinner and screenshots of hairstyle inspiration, until I'm forced to delete them to make room for more fabricated "memories." 

We worry so much about taking the perfect picture or crafting the most compelling status update to make our lives appear interesting that our lives actually become dull. Our attempts to impress others steal our attention and rob us of the present. Filter enhanced pictures and staged snap chat stories take the place of real life experiences. 

Now I'm not saying that our phones and social media are all bad or that we should never take pictures. We just need to be mindful of how much time we're spending on these things so that we can recognize when we are using them for good and when we're just wasting precious time. 

To really experience our lives to the fullest, we need to get more intentional about actually living in the moment instead of living to document it. 

Stop Rushing to the Future

My husband and I are very future oriented people. We're planners. We don't make decisions without considering how they may affect our lives down the road. It's good, really. There is a sense of security when you live that way, but there's also a nagging little voice inside of my head that reminds me we aren't promised the future. 

Are you living so much for the future that you're missing the present? Do you have the mindset of "when I get here, when I have this, when I meet this goal....then I'll be happy, then I'll start living, then I'll enjoy my life...?"

It's great to have goals. It's great to set yourself up for a secure future. But it's not okay to trade today for uncertain tomorrows. Proverbs 27:1 says "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." 

I've had patients tell me that they spent their lives working nonstop, planning to finally start living once they retired. But then they got sick and so far their retirement has been spent in and out of the hospital not feeling well enough to enjoy anything, their hard earned money being depleted by the cost of medications and doctor bills.

The thing is, we can plan, we can put money aside, we can work hard and we should, but we never know what tomorrow will bring or if tomorrow will even come at all. So if we want to be good stewards of our time, there has to be a balance. 

1 Timothy 6:6 tells us that wealth is found when we are fully content with what we have right now (my paraphrase). Today is full of so much blessing and promise, stop rushing through it to get to tomorrow. 

But Stop Wasting Time

Can you imagine how it would feel to get to the end of your life and realize all of your dreams are still just dreams? Either out of fear or procrastination, you never accomplished anything you hoped to. I'm not scared of death. I know that Heaven is going to be far better than life here could ever be, but I am scared of wasting my time, of not living to my full potential.

I love what Ecclesiastes 11:4 says: "whoever keeps staring at the wind won’t sow; whoever daydreams won’t reap." 

God doesn't honor our plans, He honors our actions. As His children we are equipped with everything we need to be successful. So that dream you've been scared to go after, chase it. That job you've always wanted, apply for it. That talent that you keep hidden, use it. Live your life confident in the favor of God instead of in surrender to fear and doubt.

Just like that old song my dad and I can't remember despite it's impact, life comes and goes so live it while you can. Dale Partridge said, "we can't do anything about the length of our life, but we can do something about its depth." 

Can you change the way you're spending your time to add depth to your life today?  

Friday, April 14, 2017

What's So Good About Good Friday?

Today, Christians everywhere are celebrating Good Friday. The story behind this day is familiar to most everyone. It is the story of a king who lived a spotless and pure life. He performed miracles, granted healing to people who had been sick for years, fed the poor and loved everyone he met. Despite all of this, his people turned against him and sentenced him to death. This is the day we call Good Friday, but you may be wondering what exactly is so good about it. 

Let's look at this story through the eyes of the king today. Look beyond the blood, beyond His wounds, beyond the cross and beyond the tomb and we will see that Good Friday is a day to celebrate because the death of Jesus was good indeed. 

Good Friday

We see blood, He sees salvation!

For my Jesus loving heart, it is painful to recount what Jesus went through on the day of His death. He was betrayed by His beloved followers. He was mocked. He was tortured and beaten until He was nearly unrecognizable then He endured an agonizing death on a cross. The Son of God, the only man to ever live a sinless life, wrongfully suffered the brutal punishment of a criminal. 

Right about now you're wondering where the "good" comes in, right? Hebrews 9:22 tells us that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." As Jesus hung there on the cross every evil deed, every selfish thought and every act of rebellion was erased. 

So the good is that the spilling of His blood was the cleansing of our sins. 

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

We see pierced hands, He sees Healing

As Jesus was nailed to the cross, the sin of the entire world was driven into His hands and there it remains today. Human strength could never bear the burden of sin so it was placed into the hands of the one who has the strength to hold the world.  

When the weight of our sin and shame is too much to bear, His nail scarred hands serve as a reminder that through Christ, we are healed.

"He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on Him and by His wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

We see a cross, He sees victory!

With a voice, tired and weakened, Jesus declared "it is finished" as He took His final breath on the cross. 

While our thoughts of the cross may echo death and defeat, Hebrews 12:2 tells us "for the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross." Jesus understood that the glory waiting for Him and for us on the other side of the cross was worth dying for.

The cross is not a symbol of death and defeat. The cross represents victory!

"Death is swallowed up in victory! Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:55

We see a tomb, He sees eternity!

Jesus told His disciples that although He would die, after three days He would rise again, but as the stone was rolled over the door of His tomb, I can imagine they began to doubt His promise. Their beloved mentor and friend had died and was now dwelling in a tightly sealed and guarded tomb. 

To us, death is final. It's the end. All hope is lost. But, Jesus' death was different. There was no tomb sealed tight enough and no guard strong enough to contain him and out of Jesus' death, eternity was born! Because He conquered the grave, we can have confidence that we too will experience the eternal life He has promised us.

"For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16

So today, we celebrate. Celebrate His blood that bought our salvation! Celebrate His wounds that healed our own! Celebrate the victory of the cross! Celebrate His death that lead to eternal life! We celebrate because today is a good, good Friday!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday: 4 Reasons to Praise

4 Reasons to Praise

Today is Palm Sunday. Today we celebrate the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem for His final days on Earth. It marks the beginning of what we call "Holy Week," the week leading up to Easter. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem that day on the back of a donkey, a symbol in that day of peaceful intentions. Palm branches were spread on the ground, a symbol of victory. What I want to talk about though, is the praise of the people who were there when He arrived. 

As Jesus rode in to the city, His people lined the street. They shouted "blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" They celebrated because of all of the amazing things they had seen the Lord do and because they knew He was the messiah and had come to rescue them. 

The Pharisees who were in the crowd did not appreciate the praises of the people so they told Jesus to silence them. Jesus' response to them is so powerful. He says, "I tell you, if these were quiet, the very stones would cry out!." What He is saying is there is nothing that can stop the praise of our God! He is worthy of praise therefore He WILL receive it. 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad: let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them: let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord.
Psalm 96:11-13

I hope to stir your heart a little today with some reasons to praise God!

Testify of His Goodness

When we praise we are celebrating God for who He is and for everything He has and has not done. When we begin praising our hearts begin to recall, not only His present faithfulness, but His faithfulness throughout our lives. Our praise has the ability to spill over into the lives of people around us. I can remember when I was a new believer and I would watch other people worshiping with such joy and freedom or hear them speak His praises in such an intimate way. I longed for what they had. Praise is contagious. 

So praise to tell of God's faithfulness.

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His faithful love endures forever!" Psalm 136:1

Praise Changes Our Perspective 

Thursday night, on my way to church, I was in an off mood. It was just one of those days when you feel weighed down by nothing in particular and you just seem to have misplaced your joy. I honestly thought about turning the car around and heading home, but I am so glad I didn't.

The minute the worship band started playing something in me changed. The heaviness that I felt was lifted as we belted out "Your Love Never Fails." Taking time to step outside of myself and worship the One who is deserving of all praise is so good for my soul. It can realign my priorities, adjust my opinions and strip me of my selfishness. 

It's not just my own praise that changes my perspective. Sometimes during worship someone else will catch my eye. Sometimes it's someone who I know has been through heartbreaking circumstances, but has their hands lifted. Other times it's a man, who usually looks bored, clapping along. Occasionally it's an unashamed teenager at the altar. Whoever it may be, the praises of other people deeply move me. 

So praise because praise shifts our focus from ourselves and places it on God.

"You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever."
Psalm 30:11-12

4 Reasons to Praise

Praise Makes the Enemy Flee

There are multiple accounts in the Bible when God's people obtain victory over their enemies through praise. 

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are in prison. While they are praying and singing hymns, an earthquake shakes open the prison doors and loosens the bonds of the prisoners. After witnessing this miracle the jailer himself receives Christ and sets Paul and Silas free.

Joshua and his people defeat Jericho (Joshua 6) by circling the city wall seven times while praising the Lord. 

In 2 Chronicles 20 we see Jehoshaphat and his army praising God. As they do, their enemies get confused and begin fighting among themselves until they completely destroy each other, leaving Judah victorious.

So praise because our praise defeats the enemy!

"You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you."
Psalm 8:2

He is Worthy

We really don't need any reason to praise other than because Jesus is worthy of our praise. He traded a life in Heaven for a life on earth. He took on human form. Undeserving, He suffered rejection, physical pain, abuse and a humiliating death on a cross. He did it all for us so that we may know Him and have everlasting life with Him in Heaven. 

So praise because our praise belongs to Jesus alone!

"Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure His greatness." 
Psalm 145:3

I want to encourage you to spend this week in a constant state of praise. Keep a list of things to be thankful for each day. Keep your radio turned to worship music. Thank Him just for who He is. Thank Him for what He has done and what He has yet to do. Most importantly, in the spirit of Holy Week, thank Him for the sacrifice He made on the cross!

"Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" Psalm 150:1-6

Friday, April 7, 2017

What You Should Know About Becoming Like Jesus

Becoming Christ-Like

There have been times in my faith walk when I have asked God, "when will I stop struggling with this? I know you have set me free so why am I still falling back into these feelings, these actions, these habits?" Maybe you've felt this way too. Like no matter how much you pray, no matter how much you believe that in Christ you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), you just can't break free from your old ways. Perhaps you're not a follower of Jesus at all. You believe that Jesus won't accept you because of your past, your addiction, your friends etc. Whatever your situation, I want to tell you that it's okay. You don't have to have it all together because we have a God who does. Yes, His desire is for you to become more like Him, but there is freedom in realizing that becoming like Christ is a process that takes time. The Bible calls this process sanctification, which is a fancy word that simply means "to make holy." Despite what you may think, becoming holy doesn't happen immediately when we accept Jesus as our Savior.

Even Jesus' disciples who were with Him every day, witnessed first hand His power and knew His promises to be true struggled in their faith. In Luke 8:22-25, we see them terrified of a storm even though Jesus is with them. A few chapters later (Luke 11:1) we see that they were unsure how to pray. Phillip questioned who Jesus was (John 14:8-11). Peter was ashamed to admit his faith (John 18:17). Judas betrayed Jesus for money (Matthew 26:14-16). Thomas doubted the risen Lord's identity (John 20:24-29). So if Jesus' very disciples were not perfect we can be confident that He does not expect perfection from us either. 

Know that you're accepted, but also know that staying the same isn't acceptable

The great news is that Jesus accepts us just as we are. The Bible says that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Did you catch that? Jesus died for us while we were still stuck in sin. He didn't wait for us to clean ourselves up first. He saw us as we were and He gave up His life for us anyway. Before you even had the opportunity to deny Him, Jesus paid the ultimate price for you. If you think that you're too broken to be loved by Jesus, rest assured, He already loves you, just the way you are. 

When we proclaim to be His followers, however, God calls us to a higher standard. We can't let the fact that Jesus accepts us as we are drive us to complacency. Our purpose as Christians is to make Jesus known and we do that by showing people who He is through our own actions. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to "put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; and be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." We come to Him imperfect, we're accepted, but we must strive to change.

Embrace the Process

There's purpose in the process. God doesn't perfect us the moment we receive Him because if He did we would never truly realize His power and our desperate need for Him. It is when we witness Him lift us up out of the pit of sin that we realize both how weak we are and how very strong He is. 

The work that He does in us shapes our testimonies and our testimonies minister to others. This is the joy in the journey.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3). 

Keep Seeking

You know how when you spend a lot of time with someone you start to act like them? The same is true when we spend time with Jesus. Take an active role in your sanctification process. Study the Bible, spend time in prayer, find a community of believers to do life with and hold you accountable. The more you seek Jesus and saturate your life with Him, the easier it becomes to live a life that honors Him. 

"Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you." Hosea 10:12

Receive Grace

The process of becoming more like Christ can lead to a lot of frustration. There will be times when you feel you will never change, like the standard is just too high to meet. You'll feel you've made progress, then a situation will arise that will cause you to backslide and leave you feeling hopeless. This happens because, truthfully, the standard is too high to meet. None of us will achieve a completely sinless life. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) because the glory of God is beyond our human ability. This is where grace comes in. God's grace is sufficient, it covers our weaknesses and our failures. Give yourself permission to receive grace, pick yourself up and allow your moments of weakness to shape your future. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Back to the disciples. Despite their failures, their weaknesses and their spiritual immaturity, Jesus trusted them with the Great Commission (to make disciples) and He trusts us too because He is there to guide us. He is not intimidated by our shortcomings. Following a perfect God does not require us to be perfect, but it should make us better. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Cost of Your Excuses

Excuses. We all make them. We use them to justify things like why we can't lose weight, can't get out of debt, can't get that job we've always wanted and more. Robin Sharma said "excuses are just the lies your fears have sold you." Have you ever stopped to consider the reasons behind your excuses and what your life would look like if you stopped making them?

I want to share a parable with you that I hope will challenge the way you think about excuses.

What has God prepared for you that your excuses are getting in the way of?

A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, "Come, the banquet is ready." But they all began making excuses. One said, "I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me." Another said, "I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me." Another said, "I just got married, so I can’t come." The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, "Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame." After the servant had done this, he reported, "There is still room for more." So his master said, "Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet."
Luke 14:15-24
 I hope the last line of that parable shakes you up a little bit like it does me: "None of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet" Like the man who prepared the banquet, God has made incredible plans for each of us, but just like the banquet guests we tend to make excuse after excuse in our spiritual lives. We make excuses out of fear, laziness, lack of time, lack of resources, lack of confidence. The list goes on. But as we continue to make excuses, we continue to miss out on what God has for us.

For a long time I felt God calling me to be on my church's prayer team. I longed to stand at the altar and lift up people who were hurting and rejoice with those who were rejoicing, but I had more than a handful of excuses why I couldn't. Most of my excuses came from a place of fear. I argued that I wasn't qualified, I wouldn't know what to say, I was too young, no one would want to pray with me anyway. I justified my disobedience by believing that "someday" I would be spiritually mature enough. 

Despite my resistance, God continued to nudge me, despite his nudging I continued to make excuses, for over a year. Eventually I decided I would no longer ignore God's voice and I finally joined the prayer team. Throughout the first service my heart pounded, I couldn't relax, couldn't focus on the sermon. Even my sister who was sitting next to me commented on my nervousness. When it came time for the invitation, I stepped out of my seat and hesitantly headed to the altar and took my place next to people I considered much more qualified than myself. Immediately my fear was gone and I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. 

That's the thing about saying "yes" to God's plans for our lives, when we do, all of our excuses are made void. If it's time you don't think you have, He'll make it. If it's confidence you're lacking, He'll provide it. When you believe you're unqualified, He qualifies you. What I've found is that the things I excuse myself from are typically the things that God wants to use to stretch me, to develop me into the person He created me to be.

My questions for you today is what has God prepared for you that your excuses are getting in the way of?