Unity may come easier for some, depending on how your bent. Some of you may love being on a team, while others of you consider yourself more of a lone wolf. Regardless of your natural bent, we are called to oneness as believers in Jesus Christ!
Summer can be a deterrent from the very thing we are called to as believers. Summer often affords the ability to break out of our normal routines. Our schedules are more flexible, vacations are often taken, the demands of life often simply reduce during summer. Don’t get me wrong, a break from routine is very welcome, and much of the time extremely needed! However, we must continue to keep our focus on what God requires of us most. Is it time for us to refocus our focus on unity?
“For there is one body and one spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” Ephesians 4:4 (NLT)
God is not asking us whether we are an introvert or an extrovert, or even an ambivert. He is not asking us which animal we are, on the personality profile test. He is not even asking us which number we are on the Enneagram. God is telling us that if we are to shine his light to this world as believers in him, then we must walk in unity, serve in unity, fellowship in unity…we must be one in Him!
As we finish up the last few weeks of this summer series, let’s focus on making the truth of this passage come to life by committing it to our mind and heart and by putting it into practice!
Doing life together, joining in community together, serving together, all to the glory of God!
How can we fall so fast from being on an absolute mountain high to plummeting to the depth of, “IT’S OVER?”
If you have ever been on a great vacation, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You pack your suitcases with great expectation! You check your list once and you recheck it twice. Nothing is left behind! You arrive at your destination, and from the first day to the last you are on a thrill ride of happiness!
Then it happens, two days are left and you push through holding tight to the shrill of excitement you are experiencing. Then you wake up the next morning and there’s only one day left. What do you do? You pack it full of more fun than you’ve had the whole entire time! You go to bed exhausted and no matter how late you stay up or how hard you try to hang on…The day ends and the next morning dawns, It’s time to go home!
So what are we supposed to do? How can we stop the vacation ends blues?
I only know ONE antidote!
I am the worst at the “vacation ends blues!” In fact if you ask my family, please don’t, but if you did, they would say that I start two days in fighting the “Vacation ends blues!” I start to get quiet, which scares absolutely everyone around me because I’m not normally quiet. I get melancholy, which also scares everyone around me because I’m never melancholy, unless something great is ending! I have even been known to shed tears.
So what do I do? I turned to the word of God and I follow his course of action for turning our sorrow into joy! I put his word of truth into practice in my life!
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”Colossians 3:16
I practice an attitude of gratitude!
I take all the gratitude my heart for such a wonderful time, I turn it into thankful words and songs to Him for all he has given, shown and done for me!
I take the sadness that I feel and I began to show gratitude to God for all he has done for me through my words and my songs of praise and thankfulness to him!
HAVING AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE REPLACES OUR SADNESS WITH GODS JOY!
I pray you are able to let his truth sink in, wash over you and turn those blues into gratitude!
At the ____ age I am at, I may not “jump” out of bed as briskly as I once did. I admit there are more faint noises of creaking bones than there used to be! But I do wake up each morning with breath in my lungs and the ability to put both feet on the floor and say, “Thank you Lord for another day!”
It is a gift that I can easily take for-granted!
The Word of God speaks this Truth loud and clear;
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
I can quote this Truth, speak this Truth out loud, even share this Truth and still turn right around and take it for-granted!
Every Summer for many years now, my family has received the blessing of a Beach House vacation. Because of the GIFT of a beautiful friendship, grounded in God and His love for us, our friends GIFT us this time.
We play in the sand, lounge in the sun, ride the waves, and enjoy the moderate temperatures of Newport Beach!
I never want to take for-granted what a GIFT this is! Not only could my husband and I never afford to indulge our family like this. But even more so, only God could create such a friendship that has stood the test of time, trial, triumph, tragedy, and testimony!
God has given us the GIFT of true friendship, grounded in Him and sustained by Him!
As I sat on the sand watching my family body surf the magnificent waves of the Pacific Ocean, my heart was reminded to never take the Creator of ALL GOOD AND PERFECT GIFTS FOR-GRANTED!
Again, only the TRUTH of God speaks to this GIFT;
“You rule the oceans.
You subdue their storm-tossed waves.
You crushed the great sea monster.
You scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours;
everything in the world is yours—you created it all.
You created north and south.
Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon praise your name.” Psalm 89: 9-12
“He spoke, and the winds rose,
stirring up the waves.
Their ships were tossed to the heavens
and plunged again to the depths;
the sailors cringed in terror.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards
and were at their wits’ end.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
and stilled the waves.
What a blessing was that stillness
as he brought them safely into harbor!
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.“
GOOD GIFTS COME FROM GOD AND SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED!
Like the GIFT of a Good Friendship, a Good Family Time, a Good wave to ride, a Good beach to visit, a Good walk at sunrise or sunset or a Good breath breathed in deeply as a new day begins, ALL GOOD GIFTS ARE FROM GOD AND SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED!
Have you ever tried to get out of something that you found yourself trapped in?
You are hemmed in on all sides, the pressure continues to mount, and you feel like there is no escape? When I was 8 years old, I went to a lake with my family to swim. My cousins and my aunt and uncle were there with me and my family. Two of my cousins were older than I was. They were challenging me to go out into the deeper water with them. I felt a caution, not that I couldn’t swim, but that the waves from the boats were making the water rough. Not wanting to fail the challenge, I kept stepping out further and further. I remember looking back at the shore to see if my mom and dad could see me. I was feeling quite proud of myself at this point. In a split second it happened: the waves overtook me and I felt myself go under. Being a lake, it was murky water, and I couldn’t see anything. The waves kept crashing on top of me, and I kept flailing to reach the top. I know that a human body can only go a certain without air, but it felt like an eternity under water. As hard as I struggled, I could not reach the top. I was trapped, hemmed in on all sides, and I felt like I could not escape. Just as I felt my mind going from panic to blackout, I felt an arm scoop me up. My dad carried me out of the water and onto my beach towel.
Maybe like me, you have been in a physical place of no escape. But have you ever been in a place of emotional “no escape”? Words were said that you wish you could take back. Self control was lost that you wish you had demonstrated. And way too much time had lapsed between a needed conversation.
Forgiveness can feel like being trapped, when we don’t want to do it. If we follow Jesus, there is no escape clause when it comes to forgiveness. And it goes both ways. We are called to forgive one another when they offend us, and we are called to ask for forgiveness when we offend someone else. And the kicker is, either way, we are called to initiate the reconciliation!
Time and time again. Remember when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times do I have to forgive my brother?” And Jesus said, “70 x 7”, which meant “as many times as it takes” (Matthew 18:21-22). Then Jesus went on to tell a parable about a debtor who had his own enormous debt forgiven by the Master, but then wouldn’t go out and forgive a small debt toward someone else.
Friends, if we are to live life with our heads above water and shine our lights for Jesus, we never shine so brightly, as when we forgive, and when we ask for forgiveness. Both ways call us to put away our pride and put others before ourselves. We have to let go of our rights. We have to value the relationship more than who was right or wrong. “Go and be reconciled to your brother.” Just like Jesus did, just like Jesus does!
We never shine so brightly as when we forgive another!
Freedom isn’t free. It was paid in full by Christ on the cross.
Have you ever been given something for free? I’m not just talking about a birthday gift. I’m talking about something unearned that cost you absolutely nothing!
When our son was a senior in high school, I absolutely loved taking him back and forth to school at the crack of dawn. He always had honors classes or early morning practices before the first class period began. The time he and I shared in the car back and forth to school was priceless to me. I had his undivided attention, and he needed me for transportation. Truthfully, we each shared many important concerns, questions and overall experiences. I wouldn’t have traded the time for anything in the world.
But as all good things do, it needed to come to an end. My son was growing up and I needed to continue letting go, so that he could become the man God intended him to be. He needed a car!
Easier said than done, right?
Only 3 years before my husband and I had done everything we could to buy a car for his sister. She was going off to college and we could no longer transport her. How in the world were we ever going to be able to pull off another car payment for him?
I was at my women’s Bible study group one night, and I shared a prayer request for God’s wisdom and leading in getting our son a car. A few nights later, Jim and I received a phone call. One of our good friends who was a part of my group and heard my request had gone home and spoken with her husband. They were getting a new car, and wanted to give their Toyota 4 Runner to our son. They wanted absolutely nothing for it but $1.00 so we could exchange the title at the DMV. We tried to offer something for it. We felt so humbled and didn’t want to take such a wonderful gift, but they both insisted!
Our son drove that car through his senior year of high school, all through his years at college, into his marriage and through grad school, and then all the way to Northern California for his first full time ministry position.
The story gets even better! When our son and his wife decided it was time to buy a new car, they gifted the 4 Runner to a young couple in ministry! He still drives it to this day.
When we receive something that is “free,” it may be free to us, but it cost someone else something. Our friends could have sold or traded in their car to buy another one. Instead, they freely gave it to us!
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” John 8:32,36
True disciples of Jesus Christ are set free indeed!
When receiving a gift that is free, it is humbling, and yet empowering. When someone cares enough to freely give you something of value, you feel seen, appreciated, and loved! No one displays this any greater than Jesus. He is our true Liberator! When we choose to follow Him, this not only gives us freedom, but value and worth. It costs us nothing. He did at all. He loves us so much, that He sets us free!
Yep, it’s Summer! There’s NO denying it! I see my family and friends “leaving on a jet plane,” for all places warm and tropical, and I am not jealous one single bit!
Now, “flip the script,” it’s January and the Facebook posts have turned from sandy beaches to snow covered slopes. Now, I am fighting jealousy that could take a swift turn to COVETING, which is a sin! But the mountains beckon me! There is a literal call in my spirit that draws me to them. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, I LOVE every season in the mountains! Summer for me is even tolerable in the mountains. The cool mountain air, the crisp feeling in the morning as the sun rises over the mountain top. It’s still cool enough to hold a mug of steaming hot coffee in your hand and watch as the horizon turns from barely pink, to clearly golden.
Then as the sun sets, I grab a soft sweatshirt and pull it on over my head as the sun exits or the day. But nothing compares to the shiver that runs up my spine when my toes touch the icy cold water of the Sierra Mountains.
If you are as lucky as I am to live by Lake Tahoe then you know exactly what I am talking about. The snow runoff from the Sierra mountains that surround the Lake make its water icy cold and so refreshing on Summer days.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. It boasts 122,160,280 in acre feet and trails only the five great lakes as the largest in volume. The depth of Lake Tahoe is what astounds me! For years there were depths no one had even measured. It is now known to come in at 1,645 feet making it the second deepest Lake in the United States. As phenomenal as this large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada is, it pales in comparison to God’s Love for me.
For years as man attempted to measure the depth of Lake Tahoe they failed to reach the bottom. It took many failed attempts and the development of sophisticated tools to find its true depth.
This is how I feel as I try over time after failed time to understand the depth of God’s love for me. It is so vast, so wide, so long, so high and so deep that my human brain cannot reach the bottom of it.
It is not until my human heart connects with God’s Holy Spirit and His Truth and presence fills me, that I am able to read the words of Ephesians 3:17-19 and realize the depth of God’s great love for me.
“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19
“FILLED to the measure.” That is what my broken heart needs! That is what my frustration at being misunderstood longs to hear! That is what my disappointment and feeling of failure needs to know!
The Love of God for me is so deep that it fills me to the measure no matter the pain, hurt or grief I feel.
THE DEPTH OF GOD’S GREAT LOVE FOR ME FILLS ME TO THE MEASURE!
Friend this week as we speak these words of TRUTH over ourselves may we be reminded and KNOW that God’s love for us runs deeper than our biggest fears, our most painful wounds, and our worst failures!
So, whether you are a mountain girl like me or a beach, sand, surf and sun lover like so many others, remember God created it all, and His love for you is deeper than the deepest lake or sea.
This is it! The “OFFICIAL” first day of Summer! You can run, but you can’t hide!
It may have been feeling like Summer for weeks now. You may have taken that plunge into the pool over and over again by now, but regardless, today is the day!
It is what is known as the ‘Summer Solstice.’ The astronomical calendar marks the first day of Summer as the Earth’s axis is pointed directly at the sun.
So what does all of this mean?
It means it’s the LONGEST AND HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR!
Now, all of the scientists in the room will point out that it could have happened yesterday on June 20th, or will happen tomorrow on June 22nd, or in fact could be today June 21st, and this is true. BUT IT’S HAPPENING! Summer is officially here!
The truth is, for someone like me, who loves the rain and milder temperatures, it can send us into the “DOLDRUMS!”
Yes, that is a real thing.
The definition of DOLDRUMS as a plural noun is:
“A state or period of inactivity, stagnation or depression.”
How do I keep myself out of the “Doldrums,” and walk in victory instead of defeat even on the longest, warmest day of the year?
I read God’s TRUTH about me and step through the “inactivity” of the doldrums, into the “activity” of believing what God says about me.
“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
I AM A CHILD OF GOD!
That TRUTH can breakthrough any doldrum we go through. We are a child of God. He is our Father, we are His sons and daughters.
I am a daughter of The King! I am a princess! I am royalty! My name is written in heaven! Someday I will live there forever with my Father, The King!
Just read Ephesians 1 if you need any more proof.
God chose us before the creation of the world to be His sons and daughters!
My feet are too far off the ground after this proclamation, to be stuck in the doldrums of life!
I AM A CHILD OF GOD BECAUSE THE KING HIMSELF CHOSE ME!
Walk in the victory of that TRUTH today my friend, even if it is the longest day of the year!
One of the reasons Summer can be a tough season for me to navigate through is because I can wake up in the morning hot and sticky! Do you know what I am talking about? My hair can be stuck to the back of my neck and my pajamas feel like I put them on with one of those storage bag suckers! Do you know the ones I’m talking about? You put six puffy sweaters in a bag, seal it and then attach this device that sucks all of the excess air out of the bag and renders your sweaters flat. It’s amazing and great for storage, but not so great if you are a person who feels like all of the water in your body got sucked out during the night!
So, how do I turn this hot, sticky seemingly defeated Summer morning into a victory?
I open the Word of God and let its Truth about me, bring me victory!
I AM FORGIVEN AND FREE NOT BECAUSE OF WHO I AM BUT BECAUSE OF WHO CHRIST IS!
“Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
I am not only a beloved child of God, sticky, hot and sweaty though I may be, but I am forgiven and free from condemnation! The beautiful part is, my freedom and forgiveness does not come from anything that I have done. My freedom and forgiveness comes through Christ Jesus and what He did for me!
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
So, receive this free gift from God my friend, open it and walk in the freedom He has given you. No matter if you are sticky and hot through the Summer or refreshed and warmed, you are FORGIVEN AND FREE!
If that does not turn your day from defeated to victorious, NOTHING WILL!
This is the first week of June and that means SUMMER! For all of you ‘Sun Soakers,’ that means extra Vitamin D as you absorb every ounce of these long Summer days.
For those of us that are PLUVIOPHILES, we just hit the pause button on happiness.
The new urban term for those who love the rain and actually find joy and peace of mind during rainy days.
Does this mean that I cannot find joy in the sunniest of days? Absolutely NOT! I can focus my mind on the joy that Summer brings, even if it is not my favorite season.
I can look forward to early morning walks around Spring Lake, near our home, and grab a cup of iced coffee instead of hot coffee. I can BBQ dinner later in the evening since the sun is still out. I can look forward to Beach trips and longer days spent with my family. I can make frozen fruit pops and enjoy them with my feet dangling in the pool as I watch my grandkids swim and splash. I live in California, so the fact that I can get fresh fruit and veggies all year long does not change much from season to season. But red ripe strawberries do begin to appear for sale on every corner and sweet corn on the cob never tastes so good! All of these things help boost my mood in Summertime, but there is only one thing that moves me from defeat to victory, and that is GOD’S WORD!
In order to walk in victory and not defeat every day regardless of the season, I must put the word of God in my mind first and let it absorb into my heart and spirit.
So, while summer sizzles, our spirit can soar!
My blog series this summer is simple… each week I will write a word of truth about who God says we are, and I challenge you to take that word of Truth and commit it to your mind and heart with me!
First Word of TRUTH:
I am a beloved child of God held in His arms.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8
As we step into Summer, I pray that whether you are a Lover of Sun or a Lover of Rain, you will know that you are loved by God!
GOD’S LOVE FOR US IS UNFAILING AND HOLDS US IN HIS ARMS!
Today we close out the month of May, and the end of our “Wheelbarrow Rider Series,” ‘Faithful Women in the Bible.’
So, let me begin with a question…
What event in your life do you find yourself talking about over and over again?
Is it your wedding day, the day your child was born, the day your grandchild was born, the day you received a promotion, earned a degree or finally sunk that hole in one?
Significant moments hold special places in all of our hearts. Sharing those memories not only brings us joy it also helps us relive the significance of the occasion.
But what about the moments, memories or occasions we’re not so proud of? What about the times we feel failure, pain, brokenness and hurt?
These are not normally the times we talk about over and over again. Unless of course we take a note from the life of our next wheelbarrow rider, a faithful woman of God who hears the words that save her life!
“Whoever drinks from the water that I give will never get thirsty again.” John 4:14
This woman was not, not only NOT talking about her life with others, she was avoiding others at all costs!
The Samaritan Woman we encounter in John chapter 4, was going to the well to gather water, carrying her heavy water jugs and trudging the long walk during the hottest part of the day to avoid seeing or talking to anyone.
She was living a sinful life with five failed marriages and a current live-in boyfriend. She felt shame, defeat, rejection and sadness. Yet, Jesus met her where she was at!
He didn’t wait for her to “get her life together,” “change her circumstances” or “clean up her act,” He went to her and asked her to share with Him.
Their conversation was unique in every way.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.” John 4:10
First of all, Jesus is speaking to a woman alone. That was not done, and even more unique is the fact that she is a Samaritan Woman! The Jewish people, remember Jesus was a Jew, looked down on Samaritans as pagan, unclean and a threat to the pure life that Israel boasted of. No Jew would take a cup of water offered by a Samaritan!
But Jesus did!
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”” John 4:7
Second, Jesus did not simply speak to the Samaritan woman, he had a theological conversation with her. Culturally, this was not done! Women were not seen as equals intellectually or any other way. But Jesus saw her as equal! Jesus discussed spiritual matters with her. He discussed authentic worship of God with her.
Thirdly, Jesus reveals both His humanity and divinity to her. Jesus being both fully God and fully man reveals His thirst to her and asked for a drink. And then Jesus does something incredible. For the first time and recorded record, Jesus reveals that HE IS THE MESSIAH!
Step by step, through a single conversation and communication, Jesus brings healing and hope to a desperate woman! Jesus turns the conversation from his physical need for water to the woman’s greater need for spiritual water.
“Jesus said, “Everyone Who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well if water springing up in him for eternal life.”
This faithful woman trusted in a faithful God! And she didn’t just keep it to herself. She jumped into the wheelbarrow and shared it with her entire town!
“Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? They left the town and made their way to him.”
THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS QUENCHES OUR THIRST AND GIVES US A STORY WORTH REPEATING!
The Samaritan woman at the well certainly had a story to tell. We do too! She jumped in the wheelbarrow, shared her story with anyone who would listen and we can too!
As we conclude our study of six faithful women in the Bible who trusted in their faithful God, my prayer is that we will become more faithful in our lives for God by their example!