Treasures

a devotion in preparation for Christmas…

I used to make myself almost crazy at Christmas. When my son was very young, buying Christmas gifts for him was an absolute chore. He had very specific and particular interests. He enjoyed playing with dinosaurs, construction trucks, and he liked to draw. He never asked for much. He wasn’t materialistic, but his face would light up anytime he saw a new version of a toy in any of his acquired areas of preference.

I remember well one Christmas when he was about four or five years old. I had scoured every store imaginable in search of the perfect gifts. At the time, there wasn’t a huge selection or variety of dinosaur toys, and the toys for construction vehicles were often too large for his hands. I purchased what I could find, but it wasn’t much. As a parent, I felt defeated and actually almost guilty, because I thought it didn’t amount to very much. I figured my son would be disappointed this Christmas. There wasn’t a large quantity of gifts under the tree. Then I stumbled upon a dry erase large marker board. I thought, “How perfect. He can draw to his heart’s content with a variety of colors, it has a large surface, and he will really be able to be creative!” So I bought it, several markers, and wrapped it up.

Come Christmas day I was excited to give. I couldn’t wait to see how thrilled my son would be. There was one little problem though. My son at his young age, didn’t know how to appreciate gifts that weren’t in his area of taste. I knew this. He didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the displeasure he displayed if he opened a gift that wasn’t a dinosaur or truck was apparent. You could say it rivaled throwing a fit. Before birthdays and Christmas, I always coached him, “Now, whatever you open, be thankful, be grateful. Make sure you tell them, thank you.” This Christmas I was nervous. Not only were there my gifts for him, but also gifts from other family members, and I had no idea what they were giving him. Thoughts of pretty clothes, maybe race cars, and other boy toys were running through my mind. How would he react? The way he responded would certainly reflect on my parenting skills. I didn’t want to be embarrassed by his behavior.

Turns out the others’ gifts weren’t awful; however, I think he had expectations that his mom would come through with the good stuff. I pulled out the wrapped marker board. The shape of it already had him looking unsure. It was square, thin, and he was sizing it up. No dinosaur or truck could fit it that package. He didn’t even want to open it. I approached to help him encouraging him to tear off the paper. He did, and then fell into the floor, crying. He didn’t understand this blank canvas. He didn’t see the potential.

After I composed myself, and perhaps threatened his life because of his reaction, I demonstrated how to use the gift. I drew on it and asked him to help me. And there it was, a huge smile. Long story short, we had that marker board in our home a very long time. It became one of his favorite gifts ever.

Have you ever been really excited to give someone a Christmas gift? A gift you put a lot of thought into because you loved them so much. You knew what they could use and what they really needed. Maybe it wasn’t something they asked for, but you had the perfect gift in mind because you knew it would make their life better. It would be a gift they would treasure, they would use all of the time, and certainly they would think of you when they used it. It would be perfect. Then you give it to them, but it’s not received with joy and enthusiasm. They didn’t treasure it. They put it up, perhaps bringing it out on special occasions, but not using on a regular basis. They tossed it aside, not knowing the value of it, or how much love was put into it. I wonder if this scene replay is often how God feels about His gift to us – Jesus.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to appreciate You. Let me not get so wrapped up in the cares of this world, that I forget Your gift to me which was Your ultimate sacrifice giving me eternal life. May I know the joy of receiving You and knowing You. Thank You for Your love, mercy, and compassion. My lips will continuously praise You as Lord Almighty, Savior, and King. Give me the grace and ability, Lord, this upcoming Christmas season, to invite You into this season of giving. For those who do not know You, let me show them the way; for those already within Your family, may I be an example in faith and in giving. Thank You Lord for all You have given me. I treasure You. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

Equal Space

a devotion in preparation for Christmas…

We get distracted, especially during the holidays. It becomes difficult to concentrate our thoughts on the Lord, much less, focus to outwardly reflect the light and passion of Christ within us.

I would like to challenge you this season to reserve equal space for Christ. Purposefully allow and keep Jesus in your thoughts. Let Him occupy and replace the areas in your mind where doubt, loneliness, despair, financial concerns, overwhelming weariness, etc., drift into your awareness.

If you are thinking with the mind of Christ, you are acting with the mind of Christ. Too often, I think we set aside designated times to be with God. Maybe you have prayer time in the morning or you try to grab a quick moment before bed. Then we set Him aside until it is time to bring Him back out during our routine the following day. But He is with us always, if we allow ourselves to identify with Him.

I am not implying that Christ is second place. But a practical application is to consider it multi-tasking. As you go about your day, whatever the activity, whatever the moment, give God equal space. Holidays can stretch and tax our bodies and our emotions.

  • You are stressed and running late; no problem, equal space, God’s timing is perfect.
  • Your funds are low and your worries are high; you’ve got this, equal space, God is your provider and He gives you everything you need.

Develop a plan of responses to your circumstances defined by what the Word of God says. And in the times, when nothing comes to mind, just whisper, “Jesus,” and He is there.

Equal space must first become an intentional habit of discipline, but soon your thoughts, all of them, will become Christ-centered. Joy and constant fellowship with the Lord will be your reward that will serve you past the busyness of the Christmas season.

Prayer:

Lord, I invite You to occupy my thoughts. Give me recollection of Your Word that I may have victory in every area of my life. I acknowledge Your authority over all that brings true peace. Today, I surrender to You the old thought patterns that have bound me and kept me hostage to worry, anxiousness, or fear. Live in me, Lord! In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen


Scripture:

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:7-8)

Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

 

What’s in a Name?

a devotion in preparation of Christmas…

As soon as a woman learns she is to become a mother, a flood of emotions, thoughts, and joymaybe even a panic-stricken urgent list of things is compiled to have completed before the arrival of the baby. One item certain to be towards the top of the list is potential names for the child. The name of a child in many cultures is of utmost relevance. The name is either descriptive of the baby or implies the type of life that child will have.

I remember when I first learned that my household would have a “plus one.” The internet was available, but not the pinnacle of information it is now. I bought books of baby names and watched the credits to movies all in search of the perfect name. I was a woman on a mission. I discovered in my research for names emerging trends in the name game. Cycles defined not necessarily by geographic region, but by generational time frames. Every few years certain names were more popular. And there were categories of names. You could choose traditional, Biblical, faith-based, or non-gender specific names. Not only did you have the sound of the name to consider, but also its origin or meaning. I don’t consider it shallow that parents take the name of their child into such serious consideration. The shifting list of popular names seems to denote our need to set our child apart and not be a copycat, but an original. After all, we want our child to leave a mark or impression on the world.

Mary didn’t have the responsibility of naming her child. It was assigned. Her child’s coming was foretold:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14-16) *Immanuel (Hebrew)  Emmanuel (Greek)

Emmanuel is more than a name. It is a regal title with a promise, GOD WITH US, bringing God the Father to us and the invitation to have a personal, intimate relationship with Him through His son. Emmanuel signifies what He is to us, “and they shall call Him Emmanuel.”

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)

When Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, it was made known to her the name of her child:

merryNow in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Not only was Mary given the name by which her child would be known, but it was also confirmed in a dream to Joseph, her betrothed.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a peace1dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:20-24)

Jesus was a common, ordinary Jewish name. Jesus is a Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, meaning Savior. The relevance of giving Him an ordinary, earthly name, was that “Jesus” was God in the flesh. It was the beginning of the setting of events that would bring salvation to the world.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11)

Never in history has a name been of more importance than the name Emmanuel and Jesus. These names pointed us towards GOD and became the foundation upon that which everything else has been built upon.

“His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

None of these titles were Jesus’ actual name, but these were descriptions people would use to refer to Him forever.

Emmanuel, God with us, sets into action an availability to know God and have Him with us through His son, Jesus, who is our Savior.

Jesus:

  • Name above all names
  • Every knee shall bow and tongue confess
  • It is in His name we pray
  • It is in His name we receive forgiveness of our sins
  • It is in His name we have eternal life
  • It is in His name and remembrance of Him that we partake in communion
  • It is in His name we know God, the Father…

Christmas is merely a day on a calendar; observe the day as Christ’s birth. Remember His name. Celebrate Him. Join in the chorus of praise to HIM:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Prayer:

Lord, today I pause and reflect on Your Holy Name. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I need Your peace and understanding of who You are. Give me revelation of Your nature. I want to know You more. Thank you, Lord, that You are with me always. Thank You, God, for the gift of Your son, Jesus, that through Him, I am saved. Thank You Lord for (insert what you are thankful for).

May I bring my specific prayer requests to You now: (insert your requests).

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

merry-christmas-tag

 

Love

With the plethora of recent events it gave opportunity for me and my 15 year old son to have conversation and an exchange of views in the safe environment of our home. Regardless of the event we discussed, a common theme soon emerged in all of our dialogue and in voicing our different perspectives. The common thread had two tracts: love-the-wordOne, how do you love people and two, how do you love America while loving and embracing the melting pot of people, cultures, and traditions that have now become a part of her DNA.

My son has been raised in a Christian home and goes to church, but he also attends a public school. I was interested in his insight. Not only is he a different generation from me, but his existence in a multicultural social and learning atmosphere has influenced him. His experiences are different from mine, as is his thinking. It became apparent that we might have been saying the same thing, but the “how” and “why” we came to our conclusions very much differed.

The big difference in discussion was the comparison of compassion and humanity verses love. Which brings me to the questions:

  • What is love, and how do you show someone that you love them?
  • Can you love without loving them unto salvation? Or in other words, is the greatest expression of love wanting to know that person has eternal life through knowing Jesus as Lord?
  • In absence of their acceptance of Christ, what should be our response? How do we love those who are opposed to us in their beliefs?

For me, personally, as a Christian, this has been my greatest challenge. I have always thought salvation was the ultimate goal. It’s easy to love those who believe as you do, but how do you love those who do not accept what you value or live by your same morals or standards? Aren’t we to try in every possible way to not only reach them, but also teach them the Truth? Is compassion towards all humanity a false state of love without the recognition of Christ?

Truth has become subject by definition in America. What one has repeatedly been told or taught has become their truth. What one repeatedly hears can ingrain and become their truth. Truth, right or wrong, is what you believe; it is your known version of the truth. Truth can also be a thought pattern developed as reality in response to reoccurring circumstances. It is almost impossible to change another’s opinion; to change the heart is a different matter, and to know Truth, totally another.

While in discussion of current events, my son shared with me that many of his Hispanic love-treeclassmates are fearful that their family members will get deported. My son being aware of where our President Elect stands on this issue, I asked him if he comforted his classmates by explaining not only the proposed plan, but also how in the end it would benefit them.  His reply was that he had not spoken up. This is where I think love comes into play. When one side only sees intolerance, knowledge spoken in love is essential. This was a missed opportunity. Hearing one side without all the facts results in fear and panic. The truth is that many immigrants are here illegally. The truth is they want the American dream. The truth is that currently the immigration system does not work. Many have suffered because they have been stuck in the process, wrapped in red tape as no working governing system is in order to procure citizenship. Currently, it is mayhem, and it needs to be fixed. Citizenship will result in rights, privileges, and benefits. It is not really “land of the free” until those who want to live here can do so legally. Legally, they will have rights, be free, and not live in fear. I heard, “Bring them in as citizens, let’s unify as a nation.” Others heard, “Throw them out, keep them out.” The plan is actually inclusive, not excluding a minority. I believe it will bring healing to our nation. It will have a positive affect on attitude towards foreigners. To abide by our laws and to adopt our ways is not conformity, instead it is a matter of respect. It is a privilege and honor to live here, not a right, not an entitlement. We cannot take our liberties for granted.

I think too often, in our attempt at compassion, we omit knowledge and remain silent. Our desire to sympathize leaves them merely in the state they were in before. Although comforted, it does not invoke lasting change. We must show love, give hope, encourage, and share knowledge. I do believe that we have a duty as Christians and Americans to be informed and knowledgable. Ignorance only leads to death. There are many voices speaking in America today. When it is biased or portrays only one side, we must, as Christians, outshine and give equal voice to our side.

Sometimes we must wait for that open door to share Christ, which means being a friend, gaining trust, and proving ourselves in character. Love affords us the opportunity and the forum to introduce ourselves into their lives and welcome them into ours. Hate cannot do this. Hate closes doors. It ends discussions. Ends all dialogue. It opposes truth. It causes offenses.

And what happens after we have loved as best we could, but there is no heart change? We leave it in God’s hands.love-scripture

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

As to my son’s conclusions, I think perhaps his generation is keenly aware of our past mistakes and does not want to repeat them. He is not close-minded, instead he is very agreeable to listening and learning. He, as many his age, wants the courtesy of respect in his views, but welcomes ours as well. They don’t want to be told how to think, but rather want to receive all the information and then decide for themselves. Perhaps, too common, is that they receive only partial information, or information from the wrong sources. I believe there is value in what they think, and we have to give them credit for their hearts towards humanity. We must steer them, but not control them. It was surprising to me that his take on disagreement with anyone was seen as being judgmental, and having intolerance and hate, which implies he, and perhaps his generation, equates love as tolerance. The more we talked and explained our views, the more unified we came into agreement. Perhaps, we should all talk more with our children, and communicate in general with others.

Love for most has a continual learning curve. It is learning the difference between tolerance and intolerance; acceptance and disagreement; respect and irreverence; grace and entitlement; and compassion as opposed to aggressive persuasion.

I am not attempting to placate your opinions with my own. I hope to bring awareness or planting-seedsinvoke questions that will guide us to understanding. America’s identity, at the core, must be rooted in love. To change hearts it must involve God. No one wants anything forced upon them. It causes them to feel violated and dominated. Love is where I think we all get tangled up with opposing views of how it is achieved. How to love seems to cause conflict or at least conflict in how we interpret and define it in action. Whether to love with the end goal of Christ or to love because of Christ is really all the same. We are all only planting seeds.

For God and Country and with love to all the people of this land,

Julie


scripture

Scripture considered in above article:

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man… (Matthew 15:19-20)

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25-27)

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. (1 Corinthians 10:23)

My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Since you priests refuse to know me, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten the laws of your God, I will forget to bless your children. (Hosea 4:6)

Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.  (Matthew 15:8-9)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. 

For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. (1 Peter 2:12-25)

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? (I Corinthians 3:4)

Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. (Matthew 15:11)

America, the Irreverent

I want “America the Beautiful,” not the morphed version of America, the Irreverent!

The hearts, attitudes, and character of many have become obvious with the upcoming election. Yes, everyone is certain to their opinion, but that opinion or preference was formerly called casting your ballot. There seems to be no escape from the display of unseemly conduct, vocal loathing, and uncivil discord.

Disrespect of authority has slowly crept into America. It is not a sudden thing only brought to light because of the election. It has been a low-lying, festering wave of dissension heightening to a crescendo through a series of events.

What are we teaching our children? Are we setting an example of how they are to treat teachers, coaches, their future bosses, and anyone in authority over them, including parents? The way we speak of our leadership, will our youth ever want to go into politics, become a police officer, or become any leader in the public eye? Our children are listening; they are watching us. What is our irreverence costing us in regards of our future? We are setting a precedent by our disposition. Are we willing to once again pay the price because we failed to do the right thing while we had the opportunity to correct it?

Where is our hope? Where is the honor and the pride of America? Let’s get back to “America, the beautiful,” not America, the irreverent.

  • Is there a correlation between our inability to accept earthly authority and our willingness to accept the highest authority, God?

  • What does the Bible say on the topics of respect towards authority?

  • Are we ever excused to be irreverent because we disagree with those in leadership?

  • How are we to handle disagreements?

  • How do we keep our faith in this world now?

Publishing soon, we will talk about how to get back to “America the Beautiful.”

The Epidemic of Self

Divorced and Dating, The Big Double D’s, or The Epidemic of Self, whatever title this particular article was to have seemed extremely important. As I looked past the title to the substance, I understood it was a huge challenge to engage readers in a subject that certainly took even myself out of my comfort zone. How do you attract someone, anyone, to a topic that might possibly hit home and perhaps even slightly sting? But ere go, The Epidemic of Self.

When I first felt that perhaps the Lord was leading me to write this article, the reasons I didn’t want to do it far outweighed the reasons that I should. This was the world I lived in and I wasn’t particularly interested in opening that up to the public. My arguments with myself were that it would be perceived only from my perspective. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted it to inspire change. I wanted it to turn hearts. No one can inspire as the Holy Spirit, so I pray this is infused and anointed with revelation. The only way to do this is go to the source, stick with the facts, and use Scripture as reference.

The mere title alone in it’s original version, “Divorced and Dating,” might compel some to read no further. You might have convictions that it is wrong to date after divorce. I do not desire to debate with you. The reality is many or most will at least consider or want to date after divorce. I am not judging. I am not condoning; we all are responsible for our choices. But if you will continue reading, this applies to more than those who are divorced. It applies to almost everyone, single, or in a relationship.

There is nothing that challenges us more to have Christ-like behavior than relationships. To hold one’s tongue, to not speak in anger, to be a giver and not a taker, to respond with kindness even when wronged, to be humble and truthful, and to uphold commitment.

Perhaps this is why God chooses relationships as a vessel for us to grow and develop. Relationships are everywhere. You may not be single or divorced, but how you interact in your relationships with friends, family, your children, peers, or co-workers has an impact.

I am not advising that anyone should remain single or marry. Whatever situation you are in, do you stay there because of self? I am asking you to examine your heart. I am asking you to remain open to the possibility that selfishness is keeping you from God’s best.

In my previous article, Divorced and Dating, I posed a few thoughts or questions.

  • Is dating after your divorce not what you expected? Or not happening at all? Are you wondering like many other singles where the good ones are hiding?

I don’t think they are hiding. They are out there. You may scan a room and see only couples, but in reality, more than 100 million people are not married (over 45% of the population). So why can’t those who want to be in a relationship find their significant other? Obviously, there is a problem. The popularity of dating web sites and services is extremely high. Maybe that is part of the problem, it is dating, it is looking and sampling, but it is not commitment.

We have become ravaged by an intruder, and that is selfishness. The world is a difficult place. It leaves us broken and wounded. Our life experiences leave us less wanting to gamble with our hearts. We can heal from pain, loss, denial, anger, discouragement, depression, rejection, and bitterness, but often what remains and is hidden is “The Epidemic of Self.” We justify this wrapped in the neat, pretty package of protecting ourselves. We might sense an entitlement to being independent and not answering to anyone. We might desire the freedom of not having the responsibility of a relationship. We might believe the benefit of being alone outweighs the risk of putting ourselves out there. Perhaps we don’t want to take the effort to build a relationship or to keep it. Whatever the reason, the root of it, is selfishness.

  • Is the single life what God has for you? Is this the best way to live? What is all the buzz about needing “alone time”?

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. (I Corinthians 7:32)

Does this support your reason for remaining alone? Sounds like either a good plan or a great excuse. Some of you might say, “See, I knew I was doing the right thing, I don’t want the complications of a relationship.” Let me challenge you to look at the rest of this verse and perhaps the most important aspect of it. The significance to remaining single is to spend time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please Him and doing whatever will help serve the Lord. You might have your “alone time” down to a science. You might thoroughly enjoy your quiet solitude. For the second part to the verse, I ask, “How are your using your “alone” time?” What are you pursuing during this time? What interests are preoccupying you? Are you trying to fill a void with something, an earthly passion, a hobby, or recreational activities? Are you so busy being busy that you don’t confront the real issue? Check your motives for wanting to remain single. Are they based in selfishness?

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment. Proverbs 18:1

  • Over and over again, I hear men and women make statements like, “Until I would rather go home to someone instead of going home alone, I will stay single.”

This sounds like logic. You want peace. No drama. I understand that. But this is passive peace keeping at best. It is easy to have peace when you keep to yourself and live in a bubble. It is easy to have peace when nothing challenges that peace. However, how are you growing and exercising Christ-like behavior in your isolation? If someone threatens your peace, how do you react? There is an opportunity to glorify God by how you respond. Just as Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

[ Paul’s Final Greetings ] Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22)

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

You cannot live in harmony and peace by yourself. It involves others.

  • Why are more and more people opting for solitude over relationships? Is commitment a thing of the past?

  • Why the decay of family and togetherness? What is tearing this structure apart?

Marriage was God’s idea. Family was God’s idea. Interaction in relationships was God’s idea. The church is modeled after family, all working together, individually functioning, all important to forming a whole. (Which by the way, our inability to relate to the concept of family has become one hindrance to the church. We can no longer identify with family because we have lost that structure in our society.) Satan has gone to work on the family unit. He has been at it a very long time. We are now seeing the consequences of it at epic proportions. His plan is to keep us divided, not unified, tear us apart, or even better, turn a society into believing it is better to be alone. Relational dysfunction is one of satan’s master deceptions. Scripture tells us the truth.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (Genesis 2:18-25)

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! (Genesis 11:5-8)

When individuals enter into a unified relationship, they increase their power to such a degree that God declared they could accomplish any task. God does not exaggerate. Two are better than one. Unity strengthens prayer. It brings the supernatural. It is a command. We are urged repeatedly to strive for unity in our relationships.

If you struggle in any area, whether financially, emotionally, or spiritually, unified relationships can encourage and lift you up. Together is where more is accomplished.

Maybe you bought into the Hallmark Channel fantasy of life happily ever after. Sorry, but that is not the real world. Relationships take work, but come with so many benefits. Don’t expect a man or a woman to come rescue you. That signifies being a taker; instead, be a giver. To be blunt, it is not about you. It never has been. The last event of Jesus before He was crucified was the washing of His disciples’ feet. He set the example of serving to the people he trusted to go, carry out His mission, and emulate His behavior.

You have something to give. You have something specifically unique to give and share with others. Don’t let the epidemic of self rob you of the benefits of giving or rob others of the gifts you have.

Don’t believe the lie that others do not want you or need you. Believe the truth that you are valuable. You are here. God created you for His purpose. His purpose is relational.

Align your thoughts and actions with His will and be a giver. Know that the picture is bigger than what any of us see. Your role is not to be isolated.

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). 

The true cost of commitment to Christ is gain. Ironic, isn’t it? The more we give, the more we receive, and in abundance. That is in all of our relationships: sacrifice, selflessness, plus service, equal gain.

Step up my friends. If the epidemic is diagnosed, then the cure is there also. The cure to The Epidemic of Self is putting another first. Trust God to give you what you need. When we push for our desires in our own strength and ability, it only causes more issues. God does not want us to boast of our achievements, but of His. Allow Him to bring it to pass.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33)

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:3-4)

Prayer:

Lord, I ask You to examine my heart.  Where there is hurt, please heal; where there are deep wounds, please mend.  I want to be whole.  Lord, complete me.  I don’t want to be selfish.  Please show me the areas I need to give to You. Help me to not cling to my old ways and patterns where I feel safe.  Free me to live unselfishly, trusting You to give me all I need. In Jesus Name. Amen

Thank you for being here. I have enjoyed our time together.

Love and blessings….J

Divorced and Dating

Is dating after your divorce not what you expected? Or not happening at all? Are you wondering like many other singles where the good ones are hiding?

Statistics: The numbers tell a straightforward story. In 1970, there were 38 million single people in the U.S, and they made up just 28 percent of the population. In 2014, there were 107 million and they comprised 45 percent of the population.

Over and over again, I hear men and women make statements like, “Until I would rather go home to someone instead of going home alone, I will stay single.”

  • Is the single life what God has for you? Is this the best way to live?
  • Why are more and more people opting for solitude over relationships? Is commitment a thing of the past?
  • What is all the buzz about needing “alone time”?
  • Why the decay of family and togetherness? What is tearing this structure apart?

We are changing people, and it’s not a good thing. This weekend we will dive into the culprits robbing us of the value and intent of marriage. Check back Saturday, and we will discuss “Divorced and Dating.”

Let’s Talk About This “Wall.”

No. Not Trump’s proposed wall. A Different Wall.

Nothing but stones and ruble, was all that was there until Nehemiah returned on the scene to rebuild the wall at Jerusalem. He returned without any fanfare and quietly accessed the condition of the broken down remains. What followed was a rebuild in record time. What did he do that was so effective? How did he get it done?

  • He prayed
  • He accessed the condition
  • He developed a plan
  • He organized
  • He recognized the enemy
  • He stayed on guard
  • He encouraged

Much can be said about Nehemiah. He was a brilliant planner, organizer, and motivator, but two key verses stand out that go to the root of the rebuilding process:

“But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.” Nehemiah 4:9

“We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset…We carried our weapons with us at all time.” Nehemiah 4:21

  • Pray: Invite God into the equation. (Interestingly enough, prior to the physical rebuilding of the wall with Nehemiah, God chose Ezra to return and rebuild the people spiritually.)
  • Guard your city, day and night: Be diligent in taking control of your thoughts. Be mindful of what either builds you up or tears you down. Speak and live a lifestyle that honors God. Keep the door closed to areas where you are susceptible or weak. Pray for God’s strength and wisdom. Keep a vigilant watch over your heart and your mind.
  • Work early and late: Develop discipline. Combine prayer with thought, preparation, and effort. Too often we pray without looking for what God wants us to do. Pair your faith with action.
  • Carry your weapon with you ALL the time: Recognize the enemy, his schemes, and his lies. How does he manipulate and deceive you? What buttons does he push regularly that cause you to react negatively? What areas does he tempt you or cause you to be fearful? Fight back with the Word of God. The Bible is our greatest weapon. It is the source of truth. Our spiritual armor is truth, the righteousness of Christ, the gospel of peace, the readiness of sharing of our testimony, and faith (Ephesians 6:10-18) (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Just like a gun without bullets is a useless weapon, so is a Christian without the knowledge and wisdom from the Word of God.

jerusalem_wall_p1140752Nehemiah didn’t accomplish the rebuilding of the wall on his own. Everyone had to participate and take responsibility in their role. Sounds like work, doesn’t it? It is. Maybe that is why we fall prey and become the victim in our circumstances. The good news is that we have been given everything we need to succeed and accomplish impossible tasks.

Today maybe this is your story. Maybe you need a rebuild, a do-over. Are you overwhelmed, paralyzed by fear, and don’t know how to pick yourself back up from the stones and ruble? I encourage you to take that first step and search your heart in prayer. Start there and let God give you a plan.

If you have read this and need renewal and a rebuilding with God in your life, I earnestly pray with you. Be encouraged. God is the master builder, the cornerstone, the rock, and firm foundation. You are on the right path to victory.

Standing with you and sending much love,

Julie