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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Do you allow the unknowns to hold you back, or have you laced up your running shoes? The other night my

photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

daughter and I were talking about her future, plans, and God’s call in general. She wondered why so many people end up in jobs that make them unhappy. Though I doubt there’s a simple answer to that question, I do believe a common one is fear or lack of surrender has prevented many from embracing their call. Fear of the unknown, motivating Christians to choose that recession proof job, or perhaps lack of surrender that allows materialism and greed to take hold, motivating them to choose a higher salary over that which they were created to do.

Today a sweet friend and woman I admire, Jan Pierce, shares how God challenged her to step out in faith, even Jan-137acrop1when the road felt uncertain and unclear, and the results of that first step. As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her book, Homegrown Readers. The winner (from the continental US only) will be randomly selected from the comments left on today’s post.

But first I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Sherry Popovic, congrats! You won a copy of Stephanie Landsem’s novel, The Tomb. I’ll be contacting you shortly to chat about how to best get that to you.

“Help, Lord, I don’t know what I’m doing,” became a common prayer. He answered, “Just go through the next door. Just take the next step.”

The Next Step by Jan Pierce

Psalm 37:23 says “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way.” The NIV says it this way: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.”

Ten years ago I was a busy, frazzled schoolteacher wondering when I could retire. Please don’t misunderstand. I loved teaching and I loved first and second graders. But I’d begun my teaching career in 1967, and nearly forty years had gone by since I was a skinny twenty-one-year-old novice. I was tired.

My husband had been traveling to India. A retired pastor, he’d found exciting projects to take on—house church planting, education scholarships for orphans, homes for abandoned widows. I was still home, living the less-colorful life of an educator.

Then in 2007 we were able to sell my husband’s business, pay off our home, and put me on the blissful road to retirement. The circumstances came together rather suddenly, and I hadn’t given a thought to what I’d do after teaching. Sleep? Shop in stores during daylight hours? Sit in a favorite rocking chair and read endless novels?

God had other plans.

I remember the evening I sat with my husband and close friends and, speaking of India, out of my mouth popped, “I might go

Photo by Noppasinw taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Noppasinw taken from freedigitalphotos.net

too.” The words surprised me as much as everyone else, but as I spoke them I knew them to be true.

Shortly after, I attended a women’s conference and took a workshop on the importance of story. Yes, I agreed, people’s stories are important. Another attendee directed me to a writer’s conference put on by Oregon Christian Writer’s. The minute I entered the doors I found kindred spirits.

God did something big in my life in 2007. He knew all along that we would start our NGO, Teams India, and make regular trips to the hectic cities and dusty villages of India. He knew I’d take to writing like a duck to water and begin the use the words that had always roamed around in my head and heart.

By nature I’m a chicken. And, I hate to make mistakes. Well….God has a sense of humor. India is challenging, but invigorating. And writing requires a never-ending series of risks and mistakes and then the task of fixing those mistakes. At sixty years of age I began two of the most exciting journeys any person can take.

“Help, Lord, I don’t know what I’m doing,” became a common prayer. He answered, “Just go through the next door. Just take the next step.”

I could do that. So I attended conferences, I got a web site, I learned to draft and submit. I took baby steps.

I traveled to India and taught children to read English. I failed, but we had a great time together. I taught Bible study methods to women in India. I learned lessons about humility and grace and received much more than I was able to offer them.

I chose to take the next step God revealed. I wrote devotionals, short inspirational pieces, parenting and family life articles and stories of India. I did a lot of listening. “What’s next, God?” When I became anxious or stressed about all the things I didn’t yet know, I remembered, “Just the next step, that’s all.”

Homegrown Readers coverThis month I released a new book for parents. It’s called Homegrown Readers: Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read. (Buy it here!) For many years I sat across a table from parents during those dreaded parent-teacher conferences. There was so much to share about learning to read but never enough time. Now there is. I’ve shared a lot of practical ways to support children as they learn to read. Often it’s the little things that make a difference, a prompt here, an encouraging word there.

Holding my own book in my hands was a red letter day for me. It marked the culmination of a long series of next steps. And guess what? The Lord has already given me a new assignment—a book on homegrown family fun.

Those who serve Jesus never truly retire. There is so much to do. My two great joys in this segment of life are missions work in India and writing. I never would have believed I’d be doing either one. But God knew my steps and He ordered them especially for me.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her book, Homegrown Readers is available on Amazon.com. Find her at www.janpierce.net

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Has God showed you your next step? If not, pause, draw near to Him, and ask Him to show you, and quiet yourself to trust His leading, determining to focus not on the unknowns ahead but rather that very next step. If He has shown you what your next step is, are you taking it? If not, why? If so, share the feelings that arise as you follow His plan for your life. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

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Susan Aken’s title says it all, summing up our greatest cause for praise:A Call to Praise icon 2

Please Don’t Give Me What I Deserve!

“Hey! I have a right to be in this lane. Get out of my way!”

“Why is my pizza cold? I have a right to receive it hot and fresh. I paid for it.”

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

“Why isn’t my cable operating? I have a right to good service.”

We love to talk about rights in our culture. We feel entitled to many things. We deserve to be happy. We believe we have the right to everything from unhindered access while driving to being first in line at the grocery store to having our family the way we want them. After all, we have the right to life, liberty and the

Photo by Susan Aken

Photo by Susan Aken

pursuit of happiness. Don’t we?

But do we deserve all that? To “deserve” means to be worthy, to have a claim to or be qualified for (reward or punishment), to be entitled to. It implies that we have earned this right.

What have we earned the right to experience?

The Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10 and “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a

Since we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death, what we have “earned” the right to is death. What each human being “deserves” is eternal separation from God. This truth is what makes Psalm 103:10 some of the most wonderful words ever written:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Praise God He does not give us what we deserve!

Why not? He is perfect and holy. He has the right to punish our sins.

Instead He chose to rescue us. He sent Jesus, His perfect Son, as a baby who would grow up, suffer and die for us as hopeless

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

sinners. Why would He do that?

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him.” Psalm 103: 8,11

His great love gives us what we don’t deserve.

I have brief moments when I think I am good. Than in an instant I am filled with envy, jealousy, unkindness or selfishness so much that I know I don’t deserve His grace. My heart apart from Him is wicked.

Those moments help me realize that I don’t “deserve” anything but I am given grace in everything.

That He could love me in spite of knowing what my sinful heart is like overwhelms me.

     Father, thank you for loving me so much you were willing to send Jesus to die for my sins. Thank you that you do not give me what I deserve. Thank you that I am free from the penalty of my sin. Nothing can compare to you! I cling to your grace. I rest in your abundant love.

Susan013Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings and check out her inspiring photos at SusanAkenInspiringPhotos

Amazing Hope: Reflections on Hope in the Midst of a Crazy World:Amazing Hope - cover sunrise and sea

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s devotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

For those following our Call to Praise Blog Hop Posts, visit the following:

April 2: Marji Laine hosted on Asslyson Carter’s blog, discussing what it means to live anew in God’s grace.

April 4: Susan Aken will visit Delia Latham’s blog to share her thoughts on Psalm103:14, discussing the what it means when Scripture says God knows we are weak

April 9: Carol McClain will post right here, on my blog, discussing God’s sovereignty and power.

April 11th I’ll tie up our series on Ginger Solomon‘s blog, calling each of us to be fully present when we praise.

And before you go, to help us truly appreciate what Christ did for us, fellow Faith, Friends, and Chocolate blogger and biblical fiction writer Carole Towriss wrote a powerful story on the resurrection, told through the eyes of one of Jesus’ executioners. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

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When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, (Ugh. Did I really just admit my illness, one with so many myths, judgements, and misconceptions surrounding it, online???) I felt ready to break—physically and emotionally. I thought the intense pain shooting through every ounce of my body would last forever.

I’ve since learned those waves, or flares, as the medical community calls them, won’t last forever, and knowing that brings incredible peace. Knowing there is an eventual end to the pain makes it bearable. And knowing God has a purpose in my pain, which He does, makes it glorious.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Stuck in the muck, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and defeated, to focus on the tumult rather than our Savior. But today my sweet friend and highly-valued critique partner, Majie Lane, MarjiLaine-260x300shares some encouraging thoughts on these “waves of life” we all go through and what each one can do for us.

The Waves of Life by Marji Lane

My latest release, The Love Boat Bachelor is set on a cruise. It had me thinking all things oceans. Looking back on the last few years which comprise my writing life, I can see how waves of circumstances can change the way I think. Even the way I live. I could get fancy like the Starbucks down the corner and call the different waves Tall, Venti, and Grande, but I think I’ll just call my waves small, medium, and large.

The small waves are circumstances that mold us. The way God teaches us through daily life. They tend to take on the appearance of seasons – football, holiday, busy, vacation. Even more seasons if you still have kids in your home – prom, musical, contest, performance, the list goes on. All seasons that enrich, but also complicate our lives.

These small waves can give us a beating when attitudes are sour or other waves are overwhelming.

Medium waves are those that are more of the way we define ourselves. Our jobs, locations, and relationships make up the medium waves. I’m a wife and an author. I’m also a wavesmom and a teacher. I’m a
Texan. I’d find it very hard to change that, but we’ve come close a time or two.

The medium waves aren’t usually the overwhelming ones, but they can throw in turbulence when they have a change. Even then, they only change our title and sometimes a perspective. They don’t actually change who we are.

The deep-water waves, those are the ones that can have the largest effect on us. They comprise the broader seasons of our lives: years with babies in the house or school children, supporting aging family members, retirement, having teenagers, being the aging family member that needs support.

wave 3In deep water, the waves seem to move slowly, almost imperceptive from the height of a cruise ship. In the same way, these particular waves of our lives change over periods of years, decades even.

It’s when any of the waves, especially the large or medium ones, are jarred that the Lord works in our lives. When the water shifts unexpectedly, He’s there supporting and strengthening us through huge directional adjustments.

But Jesus said He’d never leave us comfortless. (John 14:18)

When we are at our most vulnerable, we tend to listen to Him better. Pay attention more willingly. And we’re the most malleable. So that He can perfect us, His creations.

He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

When we are broken and humble before God, He can use us to do the work He needs us to do. And true contentment comes when we’re able to look at the waves we’ve been through and know that none of them conquered us. We can throw back our heads and smile at God, knowing full well He holds us close and will give us whatever we need to accomplish His work.

Your turn: What waves are you dealing with right now, and how is God using them to strengthen you?

Marji Laine, a homeschooling mom, lives with her husband, their four grown and almost-grown kids, and a spoiled black Lab in the Dallas area. When she’s not fighting for quiet time and a space of her own to visit with her characters, she’s indulging in photography, watching NASCAR, and lately helping her oldest with wedding plans.

She works part time as the children’s music director at her church, leads a college-aged Bible Study, and teaches high school writing. She loves acting in stage plays, sings in small groups and a large choir, and has a passion for sharing about the relationship that the Lord wants to have with His children.

She has so loved being involved with Write Integrity Press and their last four collaborative novellas. “What an amazing group of creative and talented people!:” Contact her at MarjiLaine.com or find her on Suspense Sisters ReviewsFacebookTwiiter,Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+.

TLBB CoverThe Love Boat Bachelor:

Romance is a joke.

After the love of Brent Teague’s life came back into his world only to marry someone else, Brent is through with women. He might be through with being a pastor, too.

Brent was so sure that God brought Mara Adkins home to him so they could marry and live happily ever after. Six months after her wedding to another man, that theory is obviously a dud. If Brent could be so wrong about that, who’s to say he’s not mistaken about God calling him to pastoral ministry?

Tired of watching Brent flounder for direction, Brent’s feisty older sister boots him out of Spartanburg and onto a cruise ship. Brent’s old college buddy manages the ship’s staff, and he’s thrilled to finagle Brent into the role of chaplain for the two-week cruise.

As the ship sets sail, Brent starts to relax. Maybe a cruise wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But there’s just one little thing no one told him. He’s not on any ordinary cruise. He’s on The Love Boat.

What’s a sworn bachelor to do on a Caribbean cruise full of romance and love? He’ll either have to jump ship or embrace the unforgettable romantic comedy headed his way.

Grab your copy here!

Let’s talk about this. I know many of you are going through some very painful times. First, to those of you who have shared your struggles with me, know I’m praying for you. For all of us, may we draw ever-nearer livingbygracepic.jpto Christ when we feel ready to ship-wreck, for He is our strength, our comfort, and our closest friend.

To repeat Marji’s question, posed above:

What waves are you dealing with right now, and how is God using them to strengthen you?

I encourage you to prayerfully consider the latter part of that question, because that’s the glory-phrase. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

I’ll share mine. Living with chronic pain has a way of centering one’s heart in eternity, which in turn gives passion and focus to my ministry. Each day I’m reminded that this sin-and-pain-ravished world is not my home, and that’s a reminder I need.

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We have a winner! Pam Bock, congrats! You won your choice of Becky Lyles’ books! I’ll be in contact with you shortly. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog last week! And to everyone else–bummed you didn’t win last week’s book give-away? No worries! We have another book give-away today. :) The winner will be randomly selected from the comments below.

headshot red alternateToday pastor’s wife and talented author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter takes a trip back in time…some 2,000 years, well before air conditioning, manis and pedis, and wifi.

What Would I Have Done? by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh
unto the sea.

22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

I can’t focus on this Scripture without mentioning what happened before this. There was no rest for Jesus that day. He’d already calmed a storm and cast out demons, then journeyed across the sea. Again. Why? Because the people asked him to leave. Only the demoniac Jesus had returned to his right mind was grateful.

As soon as he got to the other shore, a crowd awaited him. Jairus fell at his feet, begging Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus immediately went with him only to be thronged by the crowd.

I’ve wished so many times that I could have lived back when Jesus walked the earth. Me—put aside my love for electricity, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing? Yes.

I like to think I’d have been one of the ones who fell at Jesus’ feet. Who would have sold everything to follow him. Who would have railed and mourned when they killed him. Who would have been waiting for his resurrection because he’d said it was so.

But would I have? Or would I have been frightened by the Gadarene’s healing? Would I have been one of the people praying Jesus to depart from my coasts? Would I have been in the press thronging him, getting in his way, and distracting him from Jairus’ daughter. Not because I knew who he was, but because I’d heard of his miracles and needed one.

The people living then didn’t know who Jesus was. They were looking for the Messiah, but they expected a king not a carpenter. Some didn’t recognize him. Even the disciples didn’t understand the big picture.

Would I have recognized him? Or would I have fallen asleep in the garden instead of watching? Would I have denied him like Peter? Would I have been one in the crowd crying for the release of Barabbas? Would I have doubted him like Thomas?

Knowing my short-comings and how I often fall at Jesus’ feet only after I’ve tried everything else, I think I’m glad I didn’t live back then.

Arkansas Weddings coverArkansas Weddings:

Arkansas Weddings: Love’s never easy in three Arkansas romances. Pastor Grayson loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. He knows he needs to move on, but it’s not until florist Adrea Welch arrives at his church that the seeds of healing are planted in his heart. Laken left home eight years ago and never looked back. Who knew when she applied for the promotion to postmaster that she’d end up in Romance, Arkansas, and much too close to her past—and Hayden Winters? Shell doesn’t have a good reputation. But no matter what everyone in Rose Bud, Arkansas, thinks of her, she’s back in town with a job to do. Ryler also has reasons for being in Rose Bud, and they don’t include Shell. But God’s love can soften the hardest heart and overcome the darkest past. These hearts may not know it, but they’re about to change.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife. Her debut novel won the2011 Inspirational Readers’ Choice AwardWhen not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband, their son, and church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch. Visit her online!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter – 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award
WHITE ROSES, WHITE DOVES, WHITE PEARLS – barbourbooks.com
RODEO DUST, RODEO HERO, RODEO ASHES
RODEO REGRETS July 2013, RODEO QUEEN, RODEO SONG – 2013 – 2014
http://www.shannonvannatter.com   http://www.shannonvannatter.com/blog
http://www.inkspirationalmessages.com

Let’s talk about this. For me, it’s so easy to slip into pride and overconfidence. When things are going well, it’s like I don an invincible suit–my faith is strong; unshakable. I can handle anything! Yep! On fire for Jesus and ready to take on the world. Until trials hit, then suddenly, nastiness bubbles forth–nastiness that was always there, hidden beneath a layer of complacency or comfort. What have I learned, having received those surprising glimpses into my sinful heart? That I really don’t know how I’d behave in a certain situation until I’ve been there. :) So, in answer to Shannon’s question about how I might have responded to Jesus had I encountered Him some 2,000 years ago? I don’t know. I hope I’d be an instant follower, because He alone brings life and fulfillment. But then I must also remember, He is so much bigger than my frailties and faithless moments. And praise be to God for that. So, although I have no idea how I might have responded, I have full confidence that my Savior would’ve gently, persistently, and lovingly drawn me to Himself.  Because unlike us, He doesn’t give up or lose patience. :)

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace. 

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Today, my guest, James Willcox, author of Choices,  tells us of an encounter he faced that radically changed his view on life. Although you and Iimag001 likely won’t face a life or death experience, God gives us each the same choice: to live or die. There is only one way to truly live …

What will you choose?

***

Prov. 29:25

The fear of man brings a snare,

But he who trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

         Fear…does it move or paralyze us? The choice is always ours. Do we need fear man? Not really. Do we need fear God? For sure…if we fail to accept Him. Unfortunately, we usually fear man the most. No one wants to be rejected. Yet, when we seek after the things of God and not the world, we often fear rejection by others.

lighttunnelOn September 21, 2011, I had a life threatening heart attack. While still at home, I had a wondrous encounter with the Lord! Death was very near. At first, it terrified me! Suddenly, I found myself enveloped in a soothing light that is beyond description. Next to it, extending into endlessness was blackness beyond imagination. Every object I now saw was either white or black. Jesus asked me…“do you want to live?” Immediately, I answered “yes.”

You see, I was in an extreme drought stricken part of my life. This condition was due to family situations, business conditions, and other factors that, from time to time, we all face. For several months I had been asking God ‘why’ He continued to let me live. Interestingly enough, when first confronted with death, I still wanted to stay here.

The pain in my chest was excruciating! This rancher was now leaning against the tire of a tractor. For a moment, I reasoned if I were to lie down, I would feel much better. Something deep inside told me ‘no.’ To voluntarily do so would be giving up and result in certain death.

The car was about eighty feet away and getting it was one of my jobs that morning. This journey took me through ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death.’ During this walk and for a short time afterward, I have no memory of chest pain. As I proceeded toward the car, the darkness tried to penetrate the wondrous light that protected me. At one point a voice spoke…“What if you fall down?” It was Satan himself who asked the question.

My response…“if I can’t help it, I needn’t be worried.” God’s safety was already surrounding and indwelling me.

Reaching the car, I leaned against it. Jesus again asked me if I wanted to live. Somehow, I knew my answer needed to be delayed. I now found myself in a unique room. It was rectangular, had a hard wood floor, a door with Jesus standing behind it at one end and the other end open to the world I knew. Colors could be seen out the open end but everything else was white and black. Having no desire to try and get to that familiar world, my focus became centered on the door to heaven and the figure behind it. I knew I could choose to go through that door and would be welcomed, leaving everything behind, including my troubles. Perfect peace dwelt deep within me in that amazing setting and it seemed as though time itself were standing still.

Have you ever been asked a question thinking there were only two possible answers? From a human perspective, that’s the kind of question I reasoned had been set before me. It wasn’t long before I knew it was time to answer Jesus’ question. Being led by the Holy Spirit, I suddenly realized there could be a third response. It was time to exercise my faith, knowing I would reside in absolute safety regardless of the outcome. My answer to the most important question I had ever been asked was, “You decide. It’s up to You.” Instantly, I was back in the world I knew, the chest pain once again overwhelming.

Our local hospital is a small, rural facility, not equipped to handle a major heart attack victim. A Flight for Life helicopter took me to a hospital one hundred miles away. Given the way our medical system works, I should have been taken to a hospital about half the distance. God went before me and prepared the way for emergency triple bypass surgery that same afternoon. Even though I had a major heart attack, there was no damage to the heart muscle. PTL!!!

Today, although life is still hard at times, I constantly abide in God’s comforting love, peace and safety. It’s my prayer that you openly seek God, bask in the safety only He can provide, thereby avoiding the snares of man.

James Willcox is a lifelong rancher in southern Colorado. He and his wife, Bobbie, have been married nearly forty four years. They have three adult children and enjoy being grandparents. James knows first had that God does give people second chances and is very aware of His love for us. Visit him online.

imag002About his book, Choices:

Does God really give us the freedom to make our own choices?

Even though Jim and Rick are lifelong friends, their lives have taken very different paths. Jim, as a devout Christian and follower of God, has spent countless hours trying to lead his best friend down the path to salvation. When Jim and Rick are involved in a terrible accident, the depth of Jim’s faith as well as the depth of his love for his friend will be put to the ultimate test.

Jim and Rick see and experience many incredible things as they discover that which awaits believers and nonbelievers alike. Follow these two friends as they realize the eternal consequences of their Choices.

***

This past month, during my morning Bible reading time, God has been sharpening my focus on those things that are eternal, encouraging me to not let my heart become dulled by the concerns of this life but that I would instead keep alert to His mission (and man’s condition) at all times. (Luke 21:34-36)

Because tomorrow is promised to know man.

 

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StrollingThroughProverbsWouldn’t it be nice to live life without regrets? To always know the best course of action, the right thing to say, the best path to follow? If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve determined to read through the book of Proverbs, focusing on one application to live out each day. Yesterday we focused on wisdom–wise living. Guest writer, Emilee Hendryx encouraged us to seek out God’s guidance in our daily choices, then reminded us of the promises God made should we do so. If you missed her post, I encourage you to read it. You can find it here.

Wisdom–living God’s way, seeking His will.

Why?

Proverbs 2 is full of promises of what we’ll receive should we align our hearts with God’s. Emilee pointed out numerous. We receive common sense, God’s protection and guidance, joy (Prov 2:10), safety, protection from others (v. 12-15), and protection from ourselves (v. 16-19).

But is that why we seek wisdom and strive for right living? This morning, as I was contemplating this in light of Proverbs 2, God convicted me of how often my desires are selfishly motivated–even my desire for wisdom! So often, I cry out for insight not to please God but in order to find a solution to some problem or steps toward achieving something I desire. But do I cry out for righteousness with the same passion? Do I search for right living with the same urgency as I would for a treasure? Do I hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Sadly, not always. Today, that is my goal–to approach God’s Word, to seek God’s wisdom, not for what I will get out of it, but instead, as an act of worship and with an open heart, asking Him what He would desire of me this day. In fact, as I approach my Creator, the One worthy of my admiration and submission, may He empty me of everything else but a desire for Him–to know Him and walk in moment-by-moment fellowship with Him.

For if I do that, if I completely surrender my thoughts, my heart, and my will to Him, I believe wisdom will enter my heart–the core of who I am, changing me from the inside out–and knowledge of who God is and what He desires of me, will fill me with the joy that can only come from Him.

Today my desire is to be so filled with God, so aligned with Him and His purposes, that like Jesus, I can say, I do only what I see my Father doing (John 5:19).

Let’s talk about this.

Join me at Living by Grace as we talk about surrendering our hearts completely to God and crying out for wisdom with passion and urgency.

Here are some questions to ponder or discuss:

1. Focus on Proverbs 2:10. “For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will fill you with joy.” When I read this, I instantly thought of Jesus’ words in John 5:19: Jesus did only what He saw His father doing. In other words, at every moment, Jesus was in complete unity with the Father. What if we lived in the same way? What if we were so connected to God, so in-tune with Him, our first reaction was that of obedience? What are some ways to achieve this? Do any verses come to mind?

2. As I read Proverbs 2, verse 20 stood out to me: “Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous.” I’ve heard it said we all need Timothys and Pauls in our lives. In other words, at every moment, we should occupy two positions–that of mentee and that of mentor. I believe God is sovereign and always at work in and through us. Which means, those we encounter in our lives are there for a divine reason–to help us receive God’s truth and grace or to receive God’s truth and grace through us. Who are you actively and purposefully learning from right now? Who are you trying to encourage and support?

3. What are some ways you can dig deeper into God’s Word?

Here are some tips/suggestions I’d like to share, and I’d love for you to share your ideas with us either through the comments, at Living by Grace, or in our Yahoo Bible Study Group. (The link is provided below).

*Underline action words like Emilee did yesterday. Pause to consider ways you can perform those actions then commit to putting one of those actions into practice that day.
*Use a lexicon to look up words that stand out to you. (A lexicon shows you the original Greek or Hebrew word used in the text, along with its meaning.) You can find a lexicon here.
*Read a verse or passage in multiple translations. This is helpful because often, the Greek or Hebrew word/words used by the biblical writers might not always transfer to modern day English fully. By reading numerous translations, we’ll often get a fuller understanding of the passage.

If you’d love to discuss Proverbs fuller, would like encouragement and support in memorizing weekly verses, and would enjoy the accountability of connecting with other believers desiring to grow closer to God, join our online Bible study group:


Click to join ProverbsStudy

Click to join ProverbsStudy

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I’ve enjoyed reading the various “Reach Out” stories posted this month, and each one inspired or challenged me for different reasons.

Here’s what I learned:

Mary Ellis reminded me to focus on the human element–to be careful not to allow the task to overshadow the person I’m doing the task for. This is true in all areas of life, isn’t it? So often, we can begin a project as an act of love only to become consumed by the project itself. But what people need most is time–human connection.

Here’s a snippet of her story: “But most of all, we prayed with them, listened to them, and demonstrated lessons taught by the Savior. Several of them joined our church afterwards. What did I gain from the experience? There, but for the grace of God go I. These people were no different from you or me. Loss of employment or a serious illness could place any of us into dire straits. I get down on my knees each night and ….” (Read the rest here)

Mary hinted at numerous truths in her story. I’d be curious to know what you gleaned from it.

In Love For a Felon by Kenneth W. Bangs, I was reminded of the importance of maintaining an authentic welcome mat, and of staying alert for divine appointments. God’s timing is always perfect, and He never wastes a moment. May we, as His children, never close a door He’s opened nor walk away from a wounded soul.

Here’s a blip of Kenneth’s story: “He nodded and started talking…told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so many times before…so hard, so violent. I prayed with him and told him to enjoy the fishing. He brought his grandson by several times and then stopped. I got a call from a local pastor. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and asked if we could help. …” (You can read the rest here.)

I’d love to hear how Kenneth’s story impacted you.

Cara Putman’s Reach Out story reminded me that God is ALWAYS there, especially during the storms in life. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Jesus with skin on.” God’s love is never-ending, always flowing, but often, it comes to us through others. May we, as God’s children, daily be conduits of God’s love as we reach out to the hurting.

Here’s a snippet of her story: “After the tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, last year, I’ve been burdened by their horrific paths of destruction. I first asked God what I could do when I saw the horrific images of Alabama. Then the weekend storms hit Joplin. A third of the town…gone.

It’s almost too much to fathom.

But the burden wouldn’t leave.” (Read the rest here.)

What impacted you most in Cara’s story?

Our final story this month comes from Ada Brownell. This one was very dear to my heart as I’m passionate about reaching out to the next generation. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s often said this current generation is the “unloved generation.” Our youth are craving adult interaction, acceptance, role models, unconditional love. It’s easy to point fingers and complain about “how things are,” but love goes a bit deeper and focuses on how things could be. Love looks past the behavior to the hurting heart beneath.

Here’s part of Ada’s story: “According to the last statistics I gathered, five million elementary-age U.S. children grow up with no supervision after school. Twenty-two million adolescents are unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. on a typical day, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Child Care Bureau.” (Read the rest here.)

What impacted you most about Ada’s story?

More importantly, how have these stories motivated you to reach out this month? What have you done to actively share the love of Christ? Share it here so we can be motivated to do the same and so we can rejoice at the giver of love, Jesus Christ, who stirs us to act according to His will.

Once again, I want to give a loud shout-out to April’s reach out donors!

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “Reach Out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

Come back Thursday to see who won the gift basket and give-away.

(If you have a reach out story to share, send it to jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.)

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