Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Free Ticket: Your Debt is Paid

Can you imagine being completely free of debt? No mortgage, no car payment, no student loans, no credit cards, no bills… you owe not a dime to anyone for anything. How free would you feel?

Let me ask you another question – how would you feel if you were up to your eyeballs in debt (like the commercial!) and someone stepped in and paid your debts for you. Rather than winning the lottery, a person came in and just wrote a check for your personal debts. Can you imagine someone who would do that for you? How would you feel about him?

This happened to a woman who Jesus encountered. Read her story below:

Luke: 7:36-50  Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii [a day’s wage], and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Rather than just paying off a person’s debt, Jesus paid for this woman’s sins and said that because she was a “known sinner” she should feel all the more grateful or loving.

Have you ever felt like maybe you’re not worth saving?

Possibly you think that you’ve been trapped by the sin in your life for too many years that you don’t think you can change. Perhaps you don’t even WANT to live apart from what you know to be wrong at this point. Maybe you don’t want to give something up that you feel God is calling you to let go of. And worse, you know that other folks know and it makes you want to hide from reality all the more.

Today I heard a song on my way home from lunch (which I put below) that says “Who, Oh Lord, could save themselves, their own soul could heal? Our shame was deeper than the sea, Your grace is deeper still.”

I have good news today for anyone willing to listen. God CAN save anyone from any sin. Even the person who was hanging on the cross next to Jesus was promised paradise that same day simply for believing (Luke 23:43). There is no sin that separates us from the love of God (Romans 8:39).

We often start to feel like we’re not worth saving, that God couldn’t possibly love us or change us, simply because we’re focusing on ourselves rather than praising the loving and compassionate God who created us. Sometimes we feel that way because we see “church-going” folks around us pointing their fingers at our less-than-ideal life circumstances.

We need to believe only what Jesus says about us, not what the world says (even those who are in the church who may or may not mean well). We need to remember that we are all sinners, saved by grace. Those of us who have been saved from a life we have royally screwed up have all the more reason to love Jesus and have mercy on others.

If you’re a believer and find yourself pointing your finger, remember the sin and life that God saved you from. Aren’t we all simply blessed with a gift from heaven? Can we love much, both Jesus and those who we are called to minister to in His name?

It is with joy that I can say “My shame was deeper than the sea, but HIS GRACE was deeper still!” I am so in love with God because He cared to save a wretch like me!

If you feel that you want to be saved by this same Jesus who spoke to the woman above, I invite you to pray and ask Jesus to save you from your sin. It was her faith that healed her, so start by believing that God can save even you from your own mistakes. Even if you don’t have the desire to yet change, start by asking Jesus into your heart and allowing Him freedom to change your desires. See the change that ONLY God can make!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for providing a way out, even while we were still sinners. You didn’t leave us off in a corner by ourselves until we cleaned up our messes. Instead, you allowed us to take the first step to come to you and say “I believe in You.” Then incredibly You allow the blood of Jesus on the cross to pay our debts. We are so in love because we could never save ourselves! We needed the forgiveness of this huge debt to bring us into relationship with You. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t have even half the answers. But, we have You and that’s truly all we need. We invite You to live in our heart. We ask You to change our will and desire. Please help us take the next steps in pleasing You and leaving our life of sin behind. May we go in peace, thankful and joyful that even we can be saved by grace. Thank You, again, for the work of the cross. We humbly rejoice today and ask that you would help us show others a life that’s changed because of You. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!

 

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America’s Got Talent – So What’s Yours?

What’s your talent? Take the time now: name something you’re good at (out loud).

We’ve all got things that we’ve been told we do well or that we feel that we excel in. What hobbies do you like? Do you love singing, playing an instrument, playing a sport, or writing? Maybe your talent is something else like collecting coupons, holding babies, making others feel comfortable in a social setting, or knitting. Are you good at juggling or encouraging others or drawing? Can you decorate a room, re-purpose old furniture, cook meals that make mouths water or run faster than the average person?

No matter what your talent, how are you using it for God’s glory?

This morning I was reading a book that my sister had given to my kids. As they listened to the Parable of the Talents, I was feeling convicted.  Here is the story from the Bible:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went to work at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!’

The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master’s happiness!’

Then the man who had received one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and sent out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” Matthew 25:14-30

While this passage is obviously talking about money, I think we can relate it to actual “talents” that we possess. How can we use the things that we’re good at (whether it’s a lot of things or a few things) for God’s glory? If you’re good at playing with children, your church can use your help! If you’re good at collecting coupons and getting groceries cheap, maybe you could consider donating to your local food bank. If you have great organizational skills, maybe a local ministry could use an hour or two of your time. If you know how to work a computer, maybe you could help your church’s A/V team. If you know how to crochet, maybe you could consider making baby blankets for the hospital like my mom does.

Even the most time-deprived person can serve the Lord with the gifts He’s given. But do we get started?

  1. Consider the talents God has given you. Write a list of things that you’re good at. It doesn’t have to be related to how you’ll serve yet, but it’s a good start. Chances are that if you’re good at something, you’ll also enjoy it!
  2. Pray about how to use those talents for God’s glory. I recently read in Jeremiah about how he would prophesy. It was interesting to hear him say that he just spoke the words that the Lord would give him or things he had seen that the Lord had showed him. In addition, he said “But if I say, ‘I will not mention [God] or speak any more in His name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9. I’ve been praying for this kind of fire. May we know what we are to do and not be able to NOT do it! May God give us a burning desire to do His will and work on earth!
  3. Take action. Don’t hide it under a bushel – NO! Let it shine! Ask your church leader how you can serve, look up local organizations that may need your help, ask a neighbor or a friend if you can be of service, or look for other ways to give God glory for your talents.

And now’s a great time to remind you that God gives us the talents to start. When we just serve out of the goodness of our heart in a position we’re not called to, it can quickly feel burdensome. But, when we use a talent that God has given us, we can feel great satisfaction in glorifying Him by using our talents for His purposes!

They don’t have to be “showy” talents like preaching on stage or leading worship on your guitar. Maybe you can do something “silly” like balance a pole on the edge of your chin – I just saw a children’s show where a man did exactly that and he talked about the love of Christ to those little ones in the audience. Wow! I heard another friend of mine say that she feels like she is good at counseling young newly married gals; I’m sure there’s a lot of women who could use some advice! I would have loved a mentor! I have another friend who’s a great cook who said she signed up at her church to bless people with meals when they have a need.

Maybe your ministry could be encouragement – are you good at remembering to send cards or postcards (hey, feel free to even leave a comment on a blog post!). Maybe your talent is in math or accounting, writing or proofreading, speaking or even cleaning. If you’re good at something, there is a place for you in God’s kingdom work!

I encourage you to not waste your life in the humdrum of everyday and forget eternity. Who can you bless? How can you glorify God with what He’s given you? What is He calling you to today? Let’s pray and ask!

Dear Father God, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for blessing each one of us with talents. Whether we have several things we’re good at or just one thing, we realize that we are to be using our gifts for Your ultimate glory. And Lord, when asked what is most important, You tell us that it’s loving You and then loving others. How can we use our talents to show You love or to bless others on earth? What does it look like to use our talents for Your glory? Where do you want us and how can we serve? Please open doors of opportunity and give us the instinct to immediately obey. May we not lose the eternal for the things that are passing. May our lives be for Your ultimate glory – it would be a joy to hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ when You come back for us! Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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Saying Grace – the ‘Blessing’

Have you ever wondered why we sit down at meal time and bless our food?

I recently read an article that denounced meal time “blessing” with a good point that we’re often more focused on what we’re about to consume than the God who provided it for us. The article was worth reading and can be found here:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/why-food-matters-faith

Yet, I don’t think it’s wrong to pray before we eat. First, Jesus gave thanks before He broke bread with His disciples (Matthew 26:26). Likewise, we should thank God for providing for us the food we need to sustain our bodies. Food isn’t the ‘enemy’ in our desire to be healthy and thin. Our over-indulgence and self-gratification is really the culprit rather than the gift of God of something He gives us for our enjoyment and energy. Meal times can be a wonderful time of bonding with family, a reminder to come together and love on and talk to one another. Giving thanks to God for this incredible blessing is an important part of this ‘ritual.’

But, truly, the author wasn’t asserting that we shouldn’t be thankful. He was saying that there was no “magic” in blessing our food. And here is where I think the author is wrong (or maybe misguided is a better word). We ask God, the giver of all good gifts, to bless our food because of His promise in Exodus 23:24-26: “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.” I think it’s wise to ask God to bless our food and water and make us healthy. He alone has the power to take sickness away from us.

The verses start, though, by reminding us to WORSHIP the Lord Your God (and no other idols). We can’t worship the food and expect God to bless it.

I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s assertion that we were created with a hole in our heart that can only be filled with God. Instead we try to fill it with any pleasurable alternatives we find, including eating food we don’t need, for sheer enjoyment. Yet, if we think about our actions long term, we certainly don’t enjoy the effects – the tight clothes, the muffin tops, the obesity and eventually for some the fall into diabetes or even death. Maybe if we take the time to pray before meals, we can search our hearts and ask God if we truly need the food we’re about to partake. We can give thanks that we live with plenty. We can also ask for Him to be our all in all – our center of worship and adoration as the One and ONLY true God – and that He will fulfill His promise to bless our food and water and take sickness away from us.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your truth in Your Word. Lord, we want to take the opportunity to pray to You at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17), with thanksgiving in our hearts. Thank You For blessing us with an abundance. We have so much wealth in our country that we struggle with eating too much. Please forgive our sin and help us fill the hole in our heart with more of You rather than the food we don’t need. We desire to worship You only, and we ask that You bless our food and water and make us healthy (and thin!) and give us a full life span. May we live to glorify and honor You in all we say, do and consume. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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What’s the Point?

Have you ever come to a place in your weight loss journey where you wonder “what’s the point?” After all, working out is taking time away from your family, friends are asking you to eat out, and you wonder what is the purpose of denying yourself something that you enjoy in this fleeting life.

It’s at these exact times that we need to reflect on why we started losing weight in the first place. What motivated us? And if all the reasons were selfish, chances are this is where we give up, go back to our old habits and gain the weight back that we’ve lost. For truly if we ‘re losing weight to please ourselves, we can also convince ourselves that the food we’re missing is also pleasing and start gratifying our sinful nature. There has to be something more that compels us to keep going when the going gets tough.

This morning my reading included Isaiah 58:4-11, which says:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.

So, when you are fasting (or denying yourself something you crave), why do you do it? I would encourage you to list the reasons and see if there are more you can uncover from the above verses. For me personally, here is a list of why I began and hope to continue on this journey:

  1. To Untie the Yoke and Be Set Free – I want to be able to say no to food and not feel like I am a slave to my eating habits. I want to be set free from a body that holds me back from being able to run and jump and play with my kids. I want to be able to live life to the fullest and part of that is feeling good about myself and feeling healthy in general.
  2. To Not Turn Away from My Own Flesh & Blood – I want to be the wife that my husband desires. I want to be the mom that my kids aren’t ashamed of. I want to be there for all the important moments and not having to sit on the sidelines to catch my breath while they keep going. I want to be able to have fun with the people in my life who matter the most.
  3. To Do Away With Malicious Talk and Pointing Fingers – I want to clean up what’s going into my body and what’s coming out. This may be seem selfish, but generally speaking, I want to be more like Christ and seek ‘perfection’ (while unattainable) and hope for ‘excellence’ in all areas of life. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to God!
  4. To Share Food With the Hungry, Clothing With the Naked and Shelter to the Poor Wanderer – I’ve been praying lately about how I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. After reading a book where two children were orphaned and a woman took them in and raised them, I began to wonder if I had the same open home and open heart that God desires. Would I share what I have with those who need it? What does that mean or even look like? And if I’m too self-conscious about how I look or too exhausted and out of shape to be helpful, am I really serving God in the way He would desire? Can I be “fit for service” and offer my body to the Lord to be used by Him to help others? Literally, with Jesus in my heart and the Holy Spirit guiding me, I am the physical presence of God on earth, if I’m taking the time to get my eyes and focus off myself and rather onto loving God and loving others as we are called to do.
  5. And sure, I want to look good. I want smaller clothes to fit. But, I also know that beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive. If I’m only seeking selfish gain in my looks, I probably will again seek selfish gain in food. For being self-centered only leads to more selfishness.

If you’re feeling tired, if you’re wondering why even bother, maybe it’s time to reflect on WHY you felt called to try in the first place. Remind yourself of what being healthy will mean for those around you and even God’s future plans for you. It’s going to be worth it! After all, God promises to meet our needs and strengthen our frame.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word and Your love. Thank You for reminding us to not only humble ourselves for the sake of ourselves but for the sake of others. What does it look like to loose the cords of injustice? What does it mean to share with those in need? How can we best serve you? Please renew our minds and strengthen our spirits as we seek ways to please You and love others. Are there people in our sphere of influence who need to see You? Show us how to be obedient in answering Your call to help. May we be healthy and thin and fit for service. May our healing come through You! And may You be honored as we fast and seek Your will. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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