Why Me?

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When life has gotten really hard, have you ever asked this question? I have. It is tempting to question God’s plan for our life, even if we lived many years trusting Him. Some days we feel plain targeted by the devil and we are. When we feel overwhelmed, God wants us to press in and overcome. He doesn’t want us to give up. God is refining us in those difficult places to go deeper with Him and love others even more.

Moses and Jonah were also familiar with the question “why me”?

Moses, after questioning God’s plans for delivering Israel over and over, says, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 4:1) Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness being prepared to lead his fellow people out of their slavery. You’d think he would be eager to put his new skills into practice – to show off his patience, his trust in God, and his strong relationship with the Lord. What he may have failed to remember is that it would be God working through Moses to accomplish the entire liberation of the Israelites and that he didn’t have anything to be afraid of because it wasn’t up to him.

Like Moses, Jonah did not want to be God’s spokesperson in Ninevah. After receiving God’s instructions, Jonah went in the opposite direction. He was brought back in God’s chosen mode of transportation for deserters – a whale.

In sharp contrast to these two eventual witnesses, was Isaiah. Read about Isaiah’s response to God’s call in Isaiah 6:8. You’ll find it a breath of fresh air!

you are beautiful and loved!

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When was the last time you paid yourself a compliment?  It can be difficult to think positively about ourselves due to our natural tendency to be critical. We compare who we are with everyone else (or at least what we can see about others). I want the message you receive today to be uplifting – and what’s not uplifting about the fact that Jesus loves you and you are beautiful!

We all need to hear that Jesus loves us. And we need to hear it often. I want to tell you today that Jesus really loves you and is crazy about you!! Like it says in Ephesians 3:18, God’s love is deep. Deep love is not superficial; it’s conscious, deliberate, and it penetrates multiple layers. God’s love is not here today, gone tomorrow. He purposed to love you long before you were born, and His love will last long into the future. He loves all of you – He sees you as a whole person in Christ. Rest today knowing God is protecting you and loving you right where you’re at! If God is for us, who can be against us?

Not complain…really?

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“Do everything without complaining…”

Philippians 2:14

 

Have you ever tried to live out Philippians 2:14? Have you been able to successfully complete a day without complaining? I have not. Even if I spend the whole morning and early afternoon without complaining, I will inevitably bump into someone who is talking badly about some situation in their lives. In an effort to empathize, I will end up joining in and letting the person know I have been in a similar situation and know exactly how they feel. Then afterwards, I want to kick myself for getting dragged in. It is so frustrating!

This got me thinking…what is the problem…what skill have I not yet acquired that will help me guard against negative thinking?? I think I might have an answer – acceptance! When I can accept my current situation, whatever it is, I feel peaceful and have no inclination to blame, complain, or criticize. It is only when I want things (or people!) to be different than what they are that I get into thinking I know what is best and then out come the complaints.

I am realizing it is important to remember these things throughout my day:

  1. I may want to know it all, but I do not
  2. I can be fearful, prideful, and insecure and so I need to be aware of how I am feeling
  3. My situation is my situation for a reason, and I need to learn from it
  4. God can work everything out for His good, and my job is to give Him the time to do it
  5. There is forgiveness when I mess up

Learning acceptance and trusting God for all things will be a lifelong journey, I am sure. But at least we can get started now and learn to praise God in all circumstances!

Be Successful…Even Today!

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How do you define success? We are all working towards a goal or multiple ones, but what does your goal say about you? If your goal is to get a bachelor’s degree in a particular area of study and then to get a certain position at a certain company, what are you really saying? Is your definition of success a lifestyle, position, prestige, appearance, or temporary satisfaction? I am asking because no one ever asked me. I was 25 and had a dream job at a big financial services firm. I had my own townhouse and brand new car. People said I was climbing the corporate ladder fast and I had big expense reports to prove it! And then I met Jesus.

My heart was changed within two years and the paychecks and power meant nothing to me. I felt empty and I couldn’t believe it. I had worked so hard for so long to get where I was, and now I wanted nothing more than a shack to live in, my Bible, and the opportunity to work in full-time ministry. Now your story may not be as extreme as mine is, but one thing I know – if you don’t stop and define success for yourself, it will define you.

As the new school year begins, take a moment to jot down if you are going to consider service to the less fortunate or all A’s your biggest contribution this semester. Are you going to invest in a Christian friend or are you going to finally get that guy to ask you out? Are you going to demand your professors help you with every assignment or are you going to ask them if you can help them in any way? At the end of the week, month, semester, or school year, measure how you did. Did you have the right impact and if you did – give God thanks and treat yourself. Then get going with next semester’s goals. Success can be anything you want it to be- let God’s Word set the standard. Blessings!!

Looking for a Sale?

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There are many sales out there today, but God is having a one that’s better than the rest. Through Christ, God is reconciling every believer to himself for free!! There is no Sunday ad or coupons that you’ll need, just a heart that is ready to finally surrender itself.

Since the first sin, God has longed for his people to be reconciled to Him. I love Merriam-Webster’s definition of reconcile, “to restore to friendship or harmony.” We can definitely say we fell out of harmony with God when we took what He said to us in the garden, and did the opposite. It’s hard for people to accept that they are sinners and in need of the grace that only God can give. It is hard because it places them in a position in which they are not the authority on their own life and they need something from someone else to survive. They have to accept they are not “top dog” like they had once thought; and I know personally how difficult that decision is (though worth it a million times over).

Once a person understands and fully accepts God’s position in their life, a strange thing happens. They are filled with peace and love and they believe they have, through Christ’s death on the cross, been forgiven. Life no longer seems so burdensome and a glorious future in heaven now waits for them.

The gift of reconciliation then must be passed on. For each person who has been reconciled to God, that person now must be reconciled with his/her brothers and sisters. Asking for forgiveness and restoring broken relationships is the automatic response for a heart that has received pardon. Being forgiven and forgiving sets us free to be all that we were meant to be.

Michelle

Where is God when evil strikes?

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The answer is the same place he always is – on his throne. So why doesn’t he stop bad things from happening? Is it because we are sinful people living in a sinful world? Yes. Bottom line: there is no other answer. But God’s motivation for free will (or our power to choose what we do) is because he loves us. He didn’t create us and then force us to love him or to follow his ways. But rather he created us with the power to choose him or not. He wanted his kindness toward us to draw us to him and furthermore bring about repentance. (Romans 2:4)

If we think our God is not mourning in the midst of tragedy, our God is too distorted.

“God is love.” 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16

Never give up

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If there was ever anyone who should have given up on his life’s pursuit, I think Paul would have been the ideal candidate. He said himself that no one could compete with the misery and suffering he’d experienced. (2 Corinthians 11:21-29) Yet with each injustice his resolve must have grown stronger – how else would you explain his persistence to spread the gospel? Paul excelled at “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”. (Philippians 3:13) He didn’t just write those words, he lived them. He doesn’t offer advice on a topic he is unfamiliar with and that’s why those words are extra inspiring!

Are there any areas of your life in which you cannot understand why you have had to suffer or suffer tremendously? I know I can look back at my life and see many areas in which I was allowed to suffer. Though times can be rough, the character that is built is worth it. Of course, it’s only worth it if you value such things as I do. I believe that when we go to heaven, we take our character with us. I certainly don’t want to get to heaven with a greedy, rude, and self-centered attitude. I hope to get there having been refined by the fire through perseverance in difficult times.

For more on the character God desires, read about the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23

For more about Paul’s wisdom on suffering: Romans 8:18-21

Philippians 3:7-11

A special day for celebration – do you have one?

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Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I love this story of Joshua in which he makes a bold statement of his dedication to God and tells the Israelites to do the same. Joshua urges God’s people to choose which side of the fence they’re on and to make a decision to serve Christ once and for all.

Even if your church never has an “altar call,” you can still choose to give your life to God in a special time between yourself and God. You may be a new Christian or have been a believer for years, but if you have never set yourself apart for God, now is the time to do so. Tell God that you are His and that you want to do His will every day for the rest of your life. Call a friend and tell them what you did and celebrate!

The point to all this? It is to have a concrete moment in your life that you can be sure you made it clear to God and yourself that you belong to Him. When I did something similar to this, my life changed dramatically. I no longer could be apathetic about my faith – I felt energized to serve God. I wasn’t drifting through life knowing I believed… I was committed. I said “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) God did send me and I have been holding up my end of the deal. It is sort of scary to tell God you’re His and that you are “all in”, but baby it’s worth it!!

God or Money – but not both

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I was recently struck by the exclusiveness of whom we serve. We can either serve money or we can serve God, but He says that it cannot be both.  Therefore, a decision has to be made by every individual at some point in their life. Money, though a form of power, is merely the means by which we exchange goods and services. God (as if I need to make a case for him) is a living, eternal, and all-knowing person.

I think the reason that God has to lay this out so plain in scripture (Matthew 6:24) is because money gets us what we want when we want it. Money is tangible and people of all creeds, colors, and ages readily accept it; and it appears that the more you have, the better people think of you. Money can make us look good, feel good, and give us a false sense of security.

Now what about God? We are told to wait on him, have a healthy fear of him, and obey him. Let’s face it – that sounds a lot harder than just taking care of our own needs. We have to wonder if He has heard us, if He cares about us, and if He is faithful. The trade off though is a higher-quality life, more joy, more peace, and a relationship with our creator. The trade off is that we get what we really need and we get what is best for us because God can see the whole picture.

Have you ever wanted something that you didn’t get, but in the end you are glad you didn’t get it? I think it’s important to know that God wants what is in your best interest and can be trusted. Take a moment to thank God for being faithful to you. And Merry Christmas!

Michelle

How do they do it? And why am I such a mess!?

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Do you ever wonder why some people have more self-control than others? Why is it certain people have more discipline in their lives? Could this be a genetic trait or is it a learned behavior or maybe even some  sort of Eastern meditation practice that gives them this edge? I have often wondered these things and now I know the answer: the Spirit helps people overcome their flesh (human passions and lusts).

We read in Galatians 5:17 and Romans 8:5-11 that the Spirit that lives inside of us desires what is godly and is at war with our flesh. Our flesh does not desire the things that God desires and in fact, craves what is sinful. (Thanks Adam, thanks Eve!) So we have this ever evolving conflict going on inside us each day and we have to learn to be obedient to what the Spirit wants for us and change our behaviors accordingly. It is only in this way that we can overcome and become more and more like our brother, Jesus. I say evolving conflict because as we overcome one defect we should be working on the next (known as sanctification in the formal church).

Now I have met plenty of people who seemed to have it together and were in fact not following Christ’s example. We will not concern ourselves with this type. It is disciples rather who have learned to develop this very important fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) that we should learn from. If we knew someone who loved the poor in sacrificial ways, we’d model them, right? Or if we knew a Christian woman who had more joy than the ordinary person, we would find out their favorite scriptures, right? So what do women who possess self-control do to develop stronger “muscles?” I think the following is a short list we can use:

  1. Acknowledge the internal tug-of-war is going on inside you
  2. Recognize that by yourself, you cannot win these battles
  3. Accept God’s power to help you overcome
  4. Surrender daily to God and ask him to help you listen to the Spirit and live in victory

You can do it!

Galatians 5:17 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=galatians%205:17&version=NIV

Romans 8:5-11 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans%208:5-11&version=NIV

Galatians 5:22-23 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=galatians%205:22-23&version=NIV

Michelle