Moved by Compassion – Moved to Action

As I write this article, many are focused on what is happening with our nation’s tallest dam in Oroville, CA. More than 100,000 people (some news agencies reporting even 200,000) were told to evacuate from areas near the Oroville Dam in Northern California. Officials feared that an emergency spillway could fail, sending huge amounts of water into the Feather River, and other waterways which would have a profound and devastating impact on multiple communities.

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With the first evacuation ordered, people had to get out of town. The roadways were a mess. My heart was heavy thinking about many great friends who were in the throws of this impending danger. We were staying in communication with them, watching and praying.

And, then I noticed something. I noticed not once or twice but over and over again an outpouring of compassion from the greater surrounding areas as people opened their homes to those who had to flee theirs. I saw people begin to network with places housing people (like churches) to bring in additional items like blankets or clothes that those who left in such a hurry needed.

For a moment people were not fighting about politics and they weren’t debating about executive orders. They weren’t marching and protesting either. An entire region of people no longer focused on what divides them, but rather, focused on what they can do to love and serve one another. What one valued or believed to be “true” was not the focus – but rather, the person in need was the focus of their attention.

Have we lost sight of what Jesus said about loving our neighbors? Or even, loving our enemies? Do we hide behind the “submit” button of our social media outlets only to tell off those we disagree with? Have we lost how to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment? Does it take tragedy to awaken the people of God to be the people of God who are on mission with Him in our every day lives?

I do not know what will continue to happen with this situation in Northern California but I do know that we, as Disciples of Christ today, need to focus on three things. First, repentance. Have you failed to genuinely love your ‘neighbor’ and be a true conduit of God’s grace and redemption just because they differ so much from you? If so, then seek forgiveness – both of God and of man. Second, restoration. For each of us this will look differently – and I believe that is on purpose – but whatever it is that moves you to respond with compassion, then use that as your fuel to restore the brokenness found in failure. Live a life that will connect others with God’s heart to redeem and restore all things unto Himself. And third, respond. Do something. Don’t just post something on social media. Don’t just call your neighbor to tell them what you think. Go and serve. As you go and meet the need, do so in the mighty name of Jesus. We do this, in love and in grace, so that God will be glorified and that those who see our actions and efforts, will praise our Heavenly Father.

With more weather expected in the Northern California region, the need for great compassion will continue. And yet regardless of what happens there, we need to respond to loving others and pointing them to Jesus in each opportunity that God has placed within our reach.

(Originally written for the “Nevada Appeal” on Feb. 18, 2017 – Adapted)

Priorities.

We live in a day marked by pressure in almost every arena of our lives. There are family pressures, world problems, economic problems, personal problems, and the problems of friends and loved ones. In the midst of such pressures, there is one thing that will determine the course of your life: YOUR PRIORITIES.

Let me ask you a question: what matters most to you? Not just for this day, but in regards to the legacy you are building – what will your life show about your priorities?

Our priorities determine our future because they speak to how you spend your time, with whom you spend your time, and how you make decisions. Your priorities keep you from being battered around by the waves of pressure and help you to steer a clear course toward the proper destination.

I have heard it said, that “if you want a deeper relationship with Jesus, feast on Him until you loose your appetite for anything else this world offers.” Priorities—godly priorities—are so vital and a genuine thirst for the Lord should be your chief aim, your greatest priority in every season of your life.

Psalm 63 reveals the priority of a man of God under pressure and it shows us that David’s priority was to seek the Lord. Seeking after God should be our most important priority. No matter what pressures come into your life, you will be able to handle them properly if you maintain this one priority above all else. God must saturate every area of your life. He must be at the center of every decision you make.

He must be the Lord of every relationship you have. You manage your money by considering what His Word says about it. There is no area of your life, be it your business, your family, your education, or whatever, where God is not an integral part. There is no division between sacred and secular; all of life is related to God.

And so here is David in Psalm 63, his kingdom is in a huge mess, he is on the run while seeking to protect his people. It would be understandable if God were temporarily squeezed out of the picture. But David is “following hard after God,” as the King James Version puts verse 8 of Psalm 63. God was at the center of David’s present and his future. There no area was off limits to God and there should be none in our lives as well if we truly will thirst for the Lord in all our ways.

Writers & Bloggers, Ryan & Selena Frederick of FIERCE MARRIAGE believe “that a Christ-centered marriage takes a fierce tenacity that never gives up and never gives in.” They have shared a simple reminder of how we can keep our priorities clear and simple each week. They said “keep it clear and simple: First is Jesus, second is your spouse, third is your kids and family, and fourth is everyone (everything) else.” This practical advise is a good reminder for us to consider on a regular basis – especially as you begin to plan out each week. Seeking God, following hard after the Lord has to be our very first pursuit and planned action each day.

So how is it with you and God? Take some time to review this past week or even this past month and ask yourself, “Did my schedule reflect that seeking God was my number one priority?” You say: “Well, that’s my priority, but I’ve been under a lot of pressure!”

Pressure is what reveals your true priorities. When the pressure is on, everything but the essential gets set aside.

The Holy Spirit is telling us through Psalm 63 that “A THIRST FOR GOD IS ESSENTIAL!” If it’s not essential for you, then you’ve got to join David, the man after God’s heart, in making it so and you can do this by turning to the Lord, soaking up His truth from the Word of God, and by surrendering yourself fully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

(Adapted. Originally written for Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – July 2016)

Encourage Me!

Everyone wants encouragement, right?  And yet, far too often we fail to build others up in quality ways.

Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus taught what it means to love others. He told them, “love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

When we as disciples of Christ truly love and encourage those around us, we then can be genuine conduits of God’s mercy and grace. Encouragement, Christlike saturated encouragement, is an avenue in which those seeking to be faithful disciples of Jesus can separate ourselves from lukewarm or even hypocritical Christians that are tainting the mission of Christ and who are making living for God more about their agenda and preferences. Most of the world that is apart from Christ has a view of Christians that doesn’t reflect God’s love – they have a view that Christians are judgmental, or even hypocritical. After all, they see churches “competing” with one another and see those in church gossiping about one another or putting down other churches!

Scripture gives us a pattern of encouragement to follow. Hebrews 3:13 says, “encourage one another day after day…” In 1 Thessalonians 4:18 we are told to “comfort one another” with words, and in the next chapter, in chapter five, verse 11 it says to comfort or “encourage one another and build up one another…”!

God’s heart for encouragement isn’t focused on complementing someone’s haircut or telling them how good their homemade lasagna tastes. That kind of encouragement is nice, but Christ saturated encouragement is rooted in the love of God and in seeking to build His kingdom through this work. Christ saturated encouragement is shared with the hopes that it will point others to the Lord. It points out evidences of God’s grace in another’s life to help them see that He is at work. It points a person to God’s promises that assures them that all they face is under His control.

Thought the book of Acts, we see encouragement at work in places like Acts 13:15, or 16:40, or 20:1-2. What they did was they share Christ statured words of encouragement with one others in order to push people towards God, to inspire one another on in faith, hope, unity, joy, strength, fruitfulness, faithfulness, perseverance, and to the truth that God is coming again. Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to one another. God doesn’t just say: “encourage someone else if you feel like it or if it easy to do so.” Encouraging others is a command of God for those who call themselves His disciples.

So what should you do? Start by praying, asking God to make you an encourager. Then take to study people in the Word of God who had true hearts of encouragement. This will help you to make encouraging others a daily discipline in your life and it will allow you to be in tune with the Holy Spirit so that as He reveals to you needs, you will be able to hear and respond with Christ-saturated encouragement. After all, we should be praying regularly, asking God to show us who we can love and how we can encourage them and how we can point them to Him.

If you need something to encourage people with then run to God’s Word. Nothing encourages us like promises from God’s Word. Make a list of Scriptures that God has used in your life so you are ready with that list of promises to share with others. And when you encourage, be specific in what you say, and be honest and real. Don’t blow smoke. Don’t just look for something to “celebrate” and try to be nice. Love doesn’t lie. Love is honest and real. Regularly look for ways you can encourage your family, your friends, people at your job, even your pastor and church leadership. Take your eyes off of yourself and let God transform your heart for reflecting His love and heart for encouragement.

So go get started! Who can you encourage right now? Who has encouraged you recently that you can thank? How might God use this action to speak His message of love and hope and redemption?

May we seek God and to reflect His love for others and His heart to seek and save the lost and hurting of our community. And may God create a culture of encouragement in your life, in your church and in our community.

(Originally Published in the “Nevada Appeal” – May 2016)

Finding Contentment

While at the store, I watched a parent respond to their child’s request. The child said, “I want it, and I want it now.” To which their parent said, “not right now, be content with what you have.” In one way or another, most of us can relate to this desire. Contentment is an illusive commodity today. In fact, there is this deliberate effort in our culture today that tries to make us feel dissatisfied with life by making us believe that we are not significant if we do not posse the best or the newest. Yet wanting something more, isn’t always a bad thing. The problem comes when our desires are never satisfied, and we are no longer are able to fully enjoy life because we always feel like we are lacking something.

The Word of God sets the standard for contentment. Godly contentment is a state of satisfaction that is anchored in our confidence that is found in the Lord, one that produces a joyful celebration of life every day. When Paul wrote to the church in Philipi in Philippians 4:11-12 he said: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” His contentment was anchored not in circumstances or in having something. His contentment was anchored in personally knowing God was for him and with him in all that he faced.

I believe each person wants to have a content life. Contentment is something we learn, it doesn’t come naturally. Contentment is not about possessions or circumstances. Contentment comes in our lives when we grow spiritually and learn to appreciate all that we have in Christ.  It begins to grow when we come to understand that our greatest treasure is our relationship with the Savior. Discontentment comes from feeling that we have been deprived. But when we understand what we truly “deserve” and compare it to what we have received in Christ, then we will be able to say that nothing else matters other than having Chris30-March_Learning-Contentment-fc36036f49a1ccb99bbc82869d59dd3ct. Our contentment is anchored in relationship. We are encouraged by Paul to know that we can face and know joy in any and every circumstance because of the strength we find in Christ, so we must purpose to abide in Him.

I have also learned that we can find contentment in the grace of God, in the providence of God, and in the promises of God. It is only when I have realized the value of God’s grace in my life that I began to also find contentment. We draw our sense of satisfaction from the providence of God. Our comfort comes from the truth that God is in charge. He is overseeing the events of our
life and using them to deepen and develop us. We can have contentment in the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the enjoyable and the painful times of life because we trust the one who guides the of circumstances in our life. Paul believed that God was using and building him in the hard times and putting him in a position to bless others in the good times. We find contentment in the fact that God has promised that He would take care of us. No matter what the circumstances of life, the promises hold. He will protect. He will defend. He will guide, and He will strengthen all who follow Him.

Do you want to know contentment? Then be present, in the present moments of life. Don’t focus on what might have been or what could be. Enjoy today. And understand that material things are just tools to help, not an end in themselves. Contentment comes as we grow in our love for God each day. Do you really want to know contentment? Then run straight into the arms of Jesus. Receive His grace, believe His promises and trust His providence in your life. And as you turn your eyes upon Jesus, you will find “that the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” And, when that happens you will begin to enjoy all the moments of your life. Leave the worries about tomorrow with the Lord and accept every situation as God’s wise classroom for your growth and transformation. When this happens you will find that in good times or bad, pleasant or painful, you will find contentment.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for Your love – for Your faithfulness – for all that You provide us with for living a life of truth and purpose. May we not loose sight of the greatness of Your love. We look to you for true joy and fulfillment. Forgive us of us the things we have said or done that make contentment about what we can do apart from You and lead us afresh into trusting in You, abiding in You and pursuing You every day of our lives. May we exalt You in all we say and do, we pray, in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen. 

(Originally written for the  Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – February 2016)

Living the Kingdom Experience

As we begin a new year, my heart is drawn to 1 Corinthians 4:20 which says: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” Warren Wiersbe writes that “the church has known for 2,000 years that Jesus is coming again, and yet many believers have become lethargic and drowsy. They are no longer excited about the soon-coming of the Lord. As a result, there is little effective witness given that the Lord is returning.”

Is this you? Be honest here – are you an effective witness for the Kingdom of God or are you just a lot of dull talk? Do you have an excitement for sharing about the Good News of God’s love with others? And, have you ever truly responded to the Good News of God’s love for you?

The final part of the Matthew 25 addresses the final judgment of the entire world. Leading up to this, there are four parables that (Matthew 24:43–25:30) have all alluded to judgment, and have concentrated on right living in this life. So although this last part is told using illustrative language, like a parable, with the final judgment being compared to a shepherd separating sheep from goats, it is not a parable. Jesus ends his teaching here in Matthew 24 & 25 with an emphasis on the eternal judgment of the entire world.

It reads almost like an exact description of what will happen when Jesus comes again, as if Jesus wants to make explicit what was implicit in the parables. This is a very moving and very solemn passage. It reminds us of certain things that will be true about the return of the Lord. From this passage there are four things we learn about the return of the Lord. First, He returns in glory (v. 31). Second, He returns as the Judge & for final judgment (vv. 32–33). Third, He returns to bring us into His Presence for Eternity (vv. 34–40). And fourth, He returns to confront wickedness (vv. 41–46), a truth that should compels us to not delay in seeing others come to know Jesus Christ personally – to be fully committed to daily living the Kingdom experience this next year.

So how do we do this?

We have to actually apply these truths from Matthew 25 to our lives. Start by pointing others to His glory by living a vibrant, Holy life. Secondly, let God, be God – let Him be the Judge others. And lastly, we must not forget that others need to know the truth about Eternity in His Presence. Much like the first truth we learned from Matthew 25, we must also recognize that with all of our holy living that the conversation about eternity must still happen. Being “Christian” is just the start to this – sharing Christ consistently with others is what makes the good news of Jesus Christ powerful, real and authentic – so share your story!

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We must not forget what 1 Corinthians 4:20 said: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” When you and I are living by God’s power, there should be an infusion of the Holy Spirit within us that makes us and our way of living refreshing & exciting to those around us. Are you an effective witness for the Kingdom of God or are you just a lot of dull talk? Are you living the Kingdom experience daily?

What Jesus shares in Matthew 25 was meant to clearly communicate what it means to be ready for His return & how to live until He comes. We must be an effective witness for the Kingdom of God and we must not waste our opportunities. You may feel as if you may not have a great deal of ability to reach others, to impact them, but you can choose to be faithful with what you do have – for all of us must be faithful, as we daily seek to live out the Kingdom experience by pointing other to His Glory by living a vibrant, Holy Life; to let God, be God – to let Him be the Judge of others; and to be faithful to share with others their need to know the truth about Eternity in His Presence forever.

May you live the Kingdom experience throughout this year and may those apart from God, see your action, your desire to live by God’s power each day, and praise Him for it – drawing closer to the Lord as their Savior, their Creator, their Healer and Redeemer!

(Originally written for: Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – December 2015)

legacy

At a retreat, the gathering was asked to break into groups and discuss: “what will your legacy be?” The gathering broke into various, mixed groups. I walked through the groups and heard a variety of people respond. And yet, the majority of the responses were very similar. From males and females, from young and old, the responses to this question were very similar. The majority of the answers answered the question by looking into the future of ones life, at what they saw as the end of their life.

Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 & 10: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”bigstock-legacy-dictionary-definition-17668370

When we talk about “leaving a legacy” for others, then looking far into the future or close to the end of our lives, that makes sense, but perhaps we are missing some valuable opportunities in the here and now. This truth in First Peter reminds us of what matters right now.

The job you currently have, well it may not be your job in another 5, 10 or 15 years. The home you live in, the neighbors and friends you have now – you might move, they might move – things will probably chan
ge. And things like jobs and relationships, our neighborhoods and communities we live in currently, they all have huge and far-reaching impacts on our lives right and we need to see to it that we have an impact and legacy in those arenas
we are in, right now.

Even if you only serve at one job for a few years, or live in a certain place for a short period of time – you will leave a legacy, so what will it be? You don’t have to be in one place for a multitude of years to make a forever impact. I’ve heard this to be true with kids in foster care. They had this brief encounter with a volunteer, a foster parent, a coach, a teacher, that perhaps didn’t last long, but in the midst of a long season of personal turmoil, that one person in that short moment made that forever impact on their lives.

As disciples of Christ, we are called to live in such a way that we make a forever impact on the world in which we live, but for the glory of God. The dynamics in your home, in your marriage, or with your famil
y may be very difficult – but don’t loose sight of how you are to live for Christ in the midst of personal chaos and even pain. In the midst of hurt and pain, shine all the brighter now for Christ. Live a life worth following, no matter what season of life you are in now, so that you can build a legacy that is going to point people to God, right now. Our legacy is important. Living a life worth following, that honors and glorifies the Lord, is highly important. It is our responsibility in the here and now to “proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

We exist so that people can look at us and say, “What a great God they serve, right now!” We exist to know God and to make Him known, right now. Yes, we are building a legacy for the future, but don’t loose sight of the fact that a change might come your way and your legacy in this season, with this group, in that arena, will be done. Will you have lived in such a way, a life worth following, that no matter how short the season, that people when they have encountered you will have been pointed to Jesus Christ in meaningful, genuine and Christ-honoring ways?

(Originally written for: Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – November 2015)

America, the Church & Abortion

Recently, the world mourned the loss of Cecil the Lion. This majestic and famous lion was tragically killed when it appears he was lured off of a protective park in Zimbabwe. The international attention to this killing has sparked outrage among animal conservationists, politicians and celebrities. Good, or bad. Right, or wrong. Everywhere I turned and everything I tuned into, it was talking about this tragic loss of Cecil the Lion.

As tragic as the killing of this animal was to so many people, an even greater tragedy is facing us: abortion. Many, especially in the church, are confused on this issue and have remained silent or have tried to make this about politics or cultural changes. Abortion is a spiritual problem that has huge political and social ramifications. The death of one lion, an animal, should not emotionally outweigh the deaths of millions of human lifes in America.

The church must rise up and speak to this issue with love and truth. For far too long the church and its leaders and its members have mistaken abortion as something political, and thus say or do nothing because of a belief that politics and the church should notlife-hc-pic go side-by-side. But because abortion is a spiritual issue first, the church must rise up as conduits of God’s love, His grace and His mercy when it comes to the issue of abortion in America.

The majority of babies being aborted are not from vicious rape situations or due to critical health concerns for the mother – the majority of babies aborted in America come from the choice a woman makes, and this might sound harsh, but that choice has less to do with the life she is carrying and more to do with her life circumstances and conveniences. Now is the time that we must take a stand, and help those in tough places get the right information about the sanctity of all life, even the life of an unborn child.

Many within the church have experienced abortion first-hand or are weighing their options regarding abortion. To those women and men, please know this: I do not condemn you nor wish to shame you. I do, however, long for those considering abortion to become informed before they make their choice, and for those who may be hurting from a past abortion to find true healing through Jesus Christ.

In my community, we have a wonderful resource to help you where you’ll be treated with compassion and without judgement and it is called Life Choices Community Pregnancy Clinic, located at 1201 N. Stewart St. #110 in Carson City. Go there, please, or call them (775-241-8161) and let them share with you about the options you have, the hope for your circumstances, and the restoration from your past choices. For those in other communities, I encourage you to find a pregnancy care clinic where you can get informed and helped. Visit www.care-net.org for more information on a clinic close to you.

Esther, a queen, was reminded of her divine purpose: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Disciples of Jesus Christ, the world is reminding us, the church, of the challenge, and we must rise to the occasion before us and boldly, courageously and compassionately declare the whole truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – which includes the sanctity of human life. We must be the leaders in seeing the end to the legalization of abortion. And, we must rally around support networks like Life Choices and help those who have been hurt or who are wrestling with an unforeseen pregnancy. We must compassionately help them understand their options and how important their choice for life truly is.

As followers of Christ today, we must be a voice that declares, without shame or fear, that all lives matter and that abortion is tearing apart the very fabric of our society. Let us then, without fear or shame, be voices of God’s truth. for life and may we be active demonstrations of His love as we take a bold stand for life.

America needs to know that the abortion industry destroys and devalues human life. The church must address this spiritual issue for what it is and the church must demonstrate the power of God’s grace and redemption for all those touched by abortion. Let us join together to be champions of God’s love as we confront this issue that is affecting so many people. And may the church be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, being obedient to God first and foremost as we move beyond our personal beliefs and represent God’s truth for all life.

(Adapted for my blog. Originally written for the 8/29/15 Nevada Appeal, Faith and Insight Article – August 2015)

Cupcake Earrings

I had a very cool dad moment yesterday. This past year, my oldest daughter wanted me to take her, on her birthday, to get her ears pierced. Yesterday, while at the play area of the mall, we realized she had lost one of the earrings we originally had bought for her. So, I rushed down to the store and bought her a new pair of earrings.

I brought back gem-packed, sparkly, cupcake earrings. I knew she’d love them – the gems, the colors, and the cupcake shape…I hit all of her favorites. Now, I had to buy the more expensive ones. Not because she is some diva-in-the-making, but because she needed the better quality ones, the right type of medal, to help from infection, etc. And, she needed something right away, or that piercing could possibly close up.

I brought back these little gems…

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She hugged and thanked me. She was so happy.

Then it happened. Then, that cool dad moment happened…

I watched her go around to all of her “friends” in the play area, pointing out her new earrings, and telling others – even those young boys who could care less – telling everyone: “look at my beautiful new cupcake earrings, with gems, that my daddy bought – my daddy loves me.”

After she did this to about 4 or 5 other kids, our eyes met and the smile on my face must have been as big as the sun because she came over and asked: “why are you so happy daddy?” I told her, that her joy is contagious and it makes me happy to see how she wants everyone around her to know her joy. We hugged for a few moments and she ran off to play again.

As I was reflecting on that great moment I had with my daughter, the Holy Spirit impressed this verse on my heart: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:5)

In a day and age when everyone fights to be an individual, to make a way for themselves, to be their own person – we forget the tremendous value we have in knowing that we belong to God, and that He delights in us.

In our longing to be an individual and unique, we’ve rejected our true identity in Christ. 

No wonder so many today suffer from feelings of rejection, self- hatred, insecurity, great fear, being a people-pleaser, loneliness, and various unfulfilled cravings for approval, etc. No wonder so many people have lost sight of who they are in Christ: His beloved, a treasured and highly possession, one that can declare His goodness to all those they encounter.

When we are consumed with doubt, hurt, or selfishness, we cannot clearly reflect our belonging to God. We reflect then, that we belong to that doubt, or fear, or hurt – rather than our Redeemer and Restorer.

Many of us need an intervention from the Lord. What we need is for the Lord to breakthrough our wish-washy “feelings” and birth in us a hope and peace that only He can provide. But are we actually wanting this type of experience with God? Are we willing to let go of our desires to be known for what we can do and to be known for who we truly are in Christ alone? 

We have tremendous value, not because of what we can do, but because of who we are. We seek to add value to our lives through the things we do. And although experiences in life add much to our lives, they do not make us greater – our life richer perhaps, but they do make us more valuable.

My daughter has no idea the quality, nor the cost – the value – of those cupcake earrings. What she does know is that her daddy hand picked them for her, and they were the best, not because of the quality of medal, or the cost, but because I gave them to her. The value of those earrings to her, that produced great joy – joy that she shared with everyone – the value came from me giving them to her, something that demonstrated my heart to provide for her and her needs.

Run to your Heavenly Father today. Allow Him to speak to the deepest needs in your life. Do not let any other relationship, a promotion, success in the gym, or any other accolades in life to fill you with true value. That is fake value, temporary stuff that fuels that emotional tug-of-war in your mind and heart – and it is only temporary.

We have tremendous value, apart from what we can do on our own, in our own strength. We have value because of who we are in Christ and what He has done, and given, and poured into our lives.

So for those suffering from feelings of rejection, self- hatred, insecurity, fear, people-pleasing tendencies, loneliness and unfulfilled cravings for approval – run to your Heavenly Father. Feast on His Holy Word for your life. Let Him define for you, your value. Let Him replace your sorrow with His Hope. Let Him take away your pain and put on you His peace. Let Him provide for your needs by trusting in His provision and timing.

Run to your Heavenly Father. Abide in Him. Trust in Him. Obey Him. Deuteronomy 26:17-29 says: “You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.”

God has spoken. Let your Heavenly Father fill your mind and heart with the truth of who you are. Let Him remind you of who you really are and how He will address every feeling, every concern and every problem in your life, according to His Holy and Divine will. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

That moment I shared with my daughter and those cupcake earrings, it made me feeling like a million bucks. God, He is a victorious warrior and the greatest hero of all – and He, as we seek and obey Him in all things, will rejoice over us and fill us with a joy that we won’t be able to contain. And what God longs to do in your life, it will be greater than a pair of cupcake earrings. Run to Him, let Him fill you with His presence, with His truth, with His will for your life.

Transformed by Humility

At various points and places in life, we come face-to-face with our past.

In some experiences, this moment is thrilling and exciting. And at other times, that moment can be a shaming, sorrow-filled reality.

It is easiest to run straight towards those exciting past experiences – it was a moment of great joy, one you are proud of and most willing to recall and even repeat. But those moments of our past that we face, those saturated in sin and self, we often choose not to run towards those things, but rather, we choose to run away from them.

quotes-on-humility

Friends, it is in those moments, when we are confronted the shame of our past, it is those moments that running away from the past brings no healing, no forgiveness and no redemption. Facing our past, or mistakes, our sin – it is never easy. And yet, how we deal with our past mistakes and sin, that speaks volumes to the world around us about how deeply we understand the grace and redemption of God.

See, the Word of God tells us in 1 Peter  5:6 & 7 to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” The word picture here of “the mighty hand of God” is a powerful symbol in the Bible of God working in the experiences of men, always accomplishing His divine and sovereign purposes.

We often choose to run away from the very process in which God has designed to use in our lives to purify us and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Seeking humility as we face the past, it positions us before God to truly receive His correction, His guidance and His empowerment to press on. 1 Peter 5 continues in verse 10 by saying: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” God will work through our struggles, our sin, to produce His strength and character in us if we remain humble and let God work and transform every thought and every action we have.

We have to remember that Lord will not waste any pain that we face. Yes, we need to get serious about dealing with our past. And yes, we need to get serious about sin. For as disciples of Christ, we need to be radically committed to the spiritual discipline of confession and repentance so that we can fully abide in the powerful and majestic life-shaping grace of the Lord.

Most of us do not want to be humbled, so choose to be humble – choose to seek humility daily, staying devoted to having a contrite heart before the Lord, letting Him speak to the problems you have and thus allowing Him to restore and redeem you.

Remember, God is never closer than when He is pruning and refining us, and action which is a very “hands on” moment in your life. God is faithful to transform us when we address the discontent, the discouragement, the despair, the fear, the lies, and all of the other “stuff” from our past.

So choose humility. Run towards transformation and redemption. Abide in Christ, so that He may lift you up and out of the shame of your past.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – June 2015)

mercy-grace-21585658I went to the grocery store with all three of my children. The youngest is buckled in and the older two walk beside the cart, holding on. This is standard protocol for the Emery kids. We got some fresh fruit and then some milk. My youngest is learning that he can’t just have whatever he wants, whenever he wants it – he is not even two years old yet.

As we walked past the greeting card section of the store he saw an inflated ballon and really wanted it. He got loud about his want. My face turned red as heads turned and stared at me like I was a three-headed monster. What was only like 15 seconds of instruction and redirection seemed like an eternity.

With things now calm, we grabbed a few other essentials and headed to the check out stand. Hanging there at the top of the isle was another ballon and little man saw it and quickly asked for it. Now before he even got upset and loud, the person behind me sighed loudly and told me to get my child under control this time.

That loaded statement, small and maybe intended to be innocent, it was hurtful.

We think things that are judgmental, and maybe we don’t even realize it. And we say things that are judgmental too. No one, myself included, as not struggled with being judgmental. Rather than operating with an abundance of mercy and grace, we can be quick to judge others. And the scary part: we try to justify our judgmental tendencies. And yet mercy, should triumph judgement. Being judgmental is hurtful. And our judgmental ways are hurting our impact on the Kingdom of God.

God’s perfect work of mercy, can be displayed through imperfect people. James 2:12-13 says: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Whatever we say or do – we will be judged by it and often mercy lacks within us because we have a poor understanding of God’s mercy for ourselves and for others. It is easier to be judgmental, than to be conduits of mercy.

As disciples of Christ, we must talk and act like one who is centered in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. We must still speak boldly to the issues of our culture that are contrary to the Word of God, but we must act and speak from a place of mercy, not judgement. And if we cannot display mercy to guy in the car next to us, or to that parent in the store, then how will be able to operate from a state of mercy and grace with bigger issues – eternal issues – Biblical, Christ-centered issues – ones that we must address and speak to as disciples of Christ?

We must never compromise the standards set before us in God’s Holy Word. Nor should we compromise God’s calling on our lives to not just experience His mercy, but to be conduits of His mercy and grace. We have never been commanded to be the judge of others. Yes, we can and should assess and judge others actions by the fruit their lives produce. And yes, we can see the consequences others face because of their decisions and make an assessment, or judgment on that.

As followers of Christ, we must speak and act in such powerful ways of mercy and grace that those we encounter will see God in us, because of the extravagance of mercy and grace that we display in our lives. When you speak and act, do people see Christ in you? Regardless of the situation, big or small, do others see God at work in you and at work through you?

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – May 2015)