Bible Epiphany

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Do you ever read God’s Word and literally hug it? I do! About 6 years ago I gave myself permission to take the rest of my life to learn the Word of God. I’m not a bible scholar and as far as I can tell God is not calling me into full-time ministry, so I thought, whether I have a couple of days or another 70 years, why not go deep into God’s Word? Rather than rush through it or follow some plan that would put pressure on me to finish it – I would just take it one chapter, one day, at a time.

So here I am, 6 years (almost to the day) later that I started this blog and I started reading my bible at Genesis 1:1. I invited you on my journey back then, but after a short time, I felt convicted that I was making bible reading and blogging another box to be checked off of my daily to-do list. God clearly doesn’t want to be a “task”, He wants a relationship, so He showed me the opposite, “Remain in me and I will remain in you”. (John 15:4)

Confession: I have missed days and I have deviated from scripture to attend a bible study or five, but this is my marathon, not my sprint.

To date, I just finished up the book of Daniel and am well on my way into the depressing pages of Hosea. I think I may be on pace to be in the Genis Book of World Records for longest time taken to ever read the bible cover to cover. I googled it actually and there are some pretty hysterical records, and to be honest, I’m convinced that even the best bible scholar of today would still admit they have more to learn and it’s a book you can never put down. Here’s the bottom line, it’s not about how fast you read, it’s about knowing who God is. When you read the bible and spend focused time with God, un-rushed, and you can really absorb, even a mere glimpse of who God is, you hug Him, or at least the closest thing to Him, His written word.

My latest ah-ha is how much I wish I would have paid attention in history class. All of the historical significance that validates the accuracy of scripture is mind-blowing. Then, I always was under the belief that the bible was written in a timeline and in some sequential order; like the editions of encyclopedias. Oh – No – No! They are, in fact, written in perfect intertwined chronology. This makes it even more mind-blowing that the same facts that were witnessed and reported, where almost always written by complete strangers – who were not even related. *Poof goes my brain*.  For example. Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived at the same time, but never knew each other, yet what they write is 100% accurate from two completely different geographical locations and vantages points. God used them and their books are spot on – verified and validated by the other. I scratch my head, “How many times and how many ways can people be warned about their sin and idols and still neglect to acknowledge the one and only true God.” It hits a little too close to home, doesn’t it?

I pray that if you’ve read this far, that you adopt the same philosophy of committing your lifetime to knowing God and giving His Word a squeeze every now and then, in awe of who He is.

What Really Happens At Family Christian Stores?

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If you’ve been following my blog you would know that I have been in a job search for almost 8 months. Until God reveals what he has planned for the next chapter of my career life,  I decided to take some of the financial burden off of my husband and get a part-time job. Not only to get out of the house, but to have a little income to buy gas, groceries and this year’s supply of girl scout cookies. Who can turn those little peddlers down?

I decided to apply for a part-time position my local Family Christian Store in Appleton, WI. They hired me despite the disclaimer that I was an active job seeker and was unsure if this would be a two week or two year commitment. They were also willing to uphold my uncompromising rule that I would NOT work Sundays. As a compromise, I agreed to help during the holiday season; “If” I was still there next year.

Much to my surprise, this store is so much more than a retail store; it’s a mission field, which is the exact reason why I want to write about my brief 3 month employment before the store closes in April 2017 and petition for the body of Christ to rally and invest to save your local Christian Gift Stores across the country. Please read on…

There has not been a day on the job that I haven’t cried. My first day, first DAY, a homeless man named Mark walked in our doors. Mark was shivering from the cold January air and humbly asked, “May I just sit here [on the folding chair that we had next to our imprint station] to warm my hands and toes?” He continues, “I missed the bus twice, it never even stopped and I need to get to the warming shelter before 5:00 PM ‘cuz if I don’t they will close the doors and I have nowhere to go tonight.” I tried to explain to Mark that he was close, really close, and if he would just go out our back door and take the street located behind us and he would be there – it would be a shortcut. He started to cry, “Ma’am, I’m not from here, I’m not sure where it is exactly.” Honestly, neither did I and I didn’t even know if the route I was recommending would actually take him there. A 4:15PM I called a cab. After paying the fee for the short 4 block delivery I realized that more than half of my earnings from my four hour shift would not only afford him a hot meal and a warm bed, but I could sleep that night knowing he would be okay (at least that night.) As if that wasn’t enough, while we waited for the cab to arrive, my associate gave him a bible (which I assume she paid for out of her pocket) and then she proceeded to pray with him. As I watched with amazement, I observed this dirty, scruffy, humble man sobbing and through his tears proclaiming, “I love Jesus, I love Jesus! Thank you!”

With each passing week more stories gripped my heart. Me, the unemployed corporate professional finds herself deleting job notifications, anxiously anticipating my next opportunity to serve the next broken heart that God would bring through those doors. A gambling addicted woman, a mom searching for the perfect gift to bring encouragement to her daughter who just delivered a stillborn baby. A father who tearfully searches for a book to encourage his wayward son, the mom who is seeking comfort from just learning her daughter has been sexually assaulted by her husband, she pleads, “I need her to be OK, she shutdown, I need to give her something that can help her.” A former convicted felon who found Jesus during his incarceration eagerly seeking a Christian CD by Zach Williams, “Chain Breaker” to play for the inmates he teaches in the local Jail Ministry. I will never listen to that song without thinking of him.

I prayed with women, emphasis WOMEN, with cancer and widows in their loneliness. I hugged veterans and prayed with numerous broken soldiers who suffering from PTSD and countless patrons who have been physically disabled from war, car accidents and workplace incidents. I fielded countless inquires in search of help for a prodigal son/daughter, a suicidal teenager, a rebellious teenager and an unfaithful spouse. People seeking how to face the hurt of an unequally yoked marriage, an emotionally abusive relationship and pornographic, alcoholic, drug addicted and eating disorder strongholds.

So here is my request:

Church – Wake up! I know you are a hospital for the broken, but your local Christian Store is the emergency room. Some of you have outreach ministries in food pantries, coffee shops and thrift stores, but seriously… when you have people who don’t even know what versions of the bible are and yet come to buy a bible because they want to start reading it is not your ordinary day in ministry!

Pastors – STOP COMPETING! I’m sure you have some statistics to measure your success whether it’s weekly attendance, percentage of giving or hearts surrendered to Christ, but we are the body! In the words of Casting Crowns,Why is His love not showing them there is a way?” Churches don’t have an open sign that welcomes people in. I know you welcome people on Sunday’s and I have referred many people and have coached them to muster up the courage to walk through your doors. We can be partners, we can be friends.

Christ Followers – Some of you really get it. You stop in for your greeting cards with scripture printed in it, buy those great theological reference materials, you buy the Jesus paraphernalia and home decor; you are an amazing witness to God’s redeeming power. But even Matthew 25: 40 says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Please consider what you can do if you fund, start up or contribute to your local bookstore? It’s missionary giving and if you are all up on current events you would know that there is no greater mission field than the United States of America today.

This world does not have a shortage of pain, nor does it have shortage of aggressive online competition, but if there is one brick and mortar store that I think we need to fight for it’s the local Christian store. At a minimum, please pray and if someone finds the passion to open a store or keep one open, will you please respond? This is an urgent request and I have a feeling that Appleton, Wisconsin isn’t the only store that has witnessed the great need.

I thought about creating a Go Fund Me Page because I hope that you will be so moved, but that feels self-serving to me. Instead, if you are in a community where a local Family Christian is closing, will you please unite. Your community, your churches and successful business leaders can do it! There is a local manager and employees that would be honored to serve you. We don’t do it for the money, Lord knows Family Christian significantly underpaid. We do it for the people, the lost, the broken, confused and hurting!

The last thing I can say is fight. The employees are going to be without jobs or already are. The Family Christian chain has already sold out to a liquidation store and the days are numbered. The time to act is now.

My favorite scene from watching Little House on the Prairie was when the whole church got up and marched singing,

“Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle
See his banners go!

Onward, Christian soldiers,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod.
We are not divided,
All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.”

 

To The God Girls In My Life

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Sing it with me, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me.” I’ll spare you the rest because I have no intentions of making this about Sister Sledge or worse, getting this catchy lyric stuck in your head. However, I do wish to recognize that today was a day that I particularly appreciated having my sister’s in Christ alongside of me and for those of you reading this, I want to remind you of what a beautiful gift God has given to us in our godly girlfriends; read on…

The best part about a life surrendered to Christ is that God gives us this amazing peace and if we keep our eyes on Christ, it is truly amazing how it can seem as if our world is falling apart, but there is still the assurance that God is sovereign over it all.

I say “if we keep your eyes on Christ” because it is so easy to take our eyes off of Christ as the apostle Peter shows us in Matthew 14, Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Are you getting this? The dude was walking on water, but when his eyes started to look around at his circumstances, he sank!

In truth, that was me this morning. I was having one of those heart-to-heart’s with God on my morning commute. I started out pretty well, but instead of telling God all the things that I am thankful for and focusing on all the blessings that are so overwhelmingly evident in my life, I adopted the “wandering in the desert like an complaining Israelite” attitude instead, and starting whining about “stuff.” By the time I got to my first meeting, my attitude changed from gratitude and joy, to discontentment and discouragement. Of course I walked into my meeting imposing all of my woe’s onto the first set of ears that could hear. “Oh wretched man that I am”, to quote the apostle Paul in Romans 7:24.

Fortunately, my meeting was a group of strong, God-loving women and they could tell I was metaphorically drowning and guest what they did? They prayed! Not only did they pray, but they prayed in a way that helped me get re-centered on truth and put my head back on straight. It is so beautiful to have that kind of acceptance, support, love, encouragement and concern without judgement and rejection.

Solid, Godly, Christian friends are like medicine to the soul. Thank you Sonia, Trish and Heidi for being there and putting my eyes back on God where they needed to be.

 

 

 

Holiday Havoc

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If you are ridden with anxiety as Christmas events begin, I want to point you to a convicting story and remind you (and me) of those heart cutting words of Jesus in Luke 10:42, “but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In this scene Martha, Mary’s sister, is frantically stressing out over the preparations and there’s little Mary, distracted and sitting around at Jesus’ feet. Martha pipes up, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Allow me recite the voices in my head… [Insert whiny voice]… “How come you guys are sitting around watching that dumb football game when I’m stuck with all the cooking, cleaning, serving and garbage removal. How come for the past month I’m the one doing all the shopping, gift wrapping, tree decorating and cookie making?”

Yep, that’s me. Embarrassing isn’t it? I imagine God sitting on His mighty throne shaking His head. “Oh Sarah, when are you going to learn?”

So, just as God is God, he shows up in scripture at just the right time to remind me about what is important and how He wants me to conduct myself today and every day.  Which one of these verses speaks to you?

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jeremiah 4:18 ““Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!”

Galatians 6:4 “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Titus 1:16 “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

So if you needed to hear this, as I did today, I hope that you and I will remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, God’s son. God did not send His son to increase our stress, turn us into nagging, selfish, crabby wives and mothers. On the contrary, He wants us to mimic the thoughts, words, actions and deeds of Jesus so we can bring glory to him today and be a blessing. Let’s pass this chaotic Christmas finish-line with joy in our hearts, love in our actions and kindness on our lips.

Come, With Joy

Joy

Today’s Devotion: Deuteronomy 16

Today’s Theme is about Three main feasts: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles. Exodus 12 gave us the real details of the Passover. The Feast of Passover was instituted as a memorial to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and their adoption as Jehovah’s nation. The Passover is a festival that laid the foundation of the nation, Israel’s birth into a new relationship with God.

In verses 9-11, it says that they were to number seven weeks after Passover, which would be forty-nine; then the next day would be the Sabbath, the fiftieth day. Because the Greek word for “fifty” is pentecoste, this Feast of Weeks is known as Pentecost. It is also called the Feast of Harvest or the Day of First Fruits. It celebrated the first or earliest fruits of the harvest.

Verses 16-17 expand on the tabernacles. These are the three feasts which were to be celebrated in Jerusalem, which all males were required to attend. Three times a year they were to travel to Jerusalem to keep these feasts. It was to be a time of rejoicing and they were to come before the Lord with joy.

How often do we come to the LORD with a laundry list of wants and we through it all on Him. I’m guilty of that. I have burdens for people and events. I try to be sincere when I ask God about the things on my prayer list, but do I always come to Him with joy? Unfortunately, no.

This is a great perspective for us to keep in mind as we enter into prayer with Him. He does say “cast your burdens on Him and He will care for you” (1 Peter 5:7) and I’m certain God can handle it, but what if someone saw you, walked up to you and just started hammering you with a list of “I wants?” You would be confused. No sincerity, no compassion, not even a half-hearted, “How are you doing?” If we had people like that in our lives, we may avoid that person in the future.

I know God doesn’t avoid us, but I do believe as we approach the God of the Universe, we could (and should) be respectful, communicative, appreciative and joy-filled. This is a perspective that is a good reminder to us, especially me, that God is not my dumping zone of worries and woes. He is God and we are so blessed to be able to go directly to Him, in fellowship, with our lives.

You Are A Treasure

Treasure

Today’s Devotion: Deuteronomy 14

Please excuse me while I get a little mushy today. Out of all the verses about food (what to eat, what not to eat and then a brief topic on tithing) I found one little verse that appears to be completely unrelated, but it jumps off the page and directly touches my heart. It’s Deuteronomy 14:2, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.”

To whom is Moses referring to? Who has the LORD chosen as His treasured possession? – Answer: Believers!

A treasured possession. When is the last time someone told you that you are treasured. Hearing that we are loved is one thing, but treasured?…. that’s love at an entirely different level. Over the century people have died for things they treasured. Huh, could that be why Jesus died for us?

When I think of a treasure I think of value. I think of something that is desirable, unique, special, significant, important –  nothing else comparable. God calls us [believers] his treasured possession in verse 2 and throughout the bible. How do we wrap our minds around that idea with out letting it go to our heads, literally?

Then you have the word, possession. That is a possessive word that means selfish, unwilling to share, not willing to part with or in the words of a toddler, “Mine!” Put those two words together, “treasured possession” and WOW!

We can’t wrap our minds around it. We have to rest in it, have confidence in it, accept it and live it. I think there are so many truths in the bible that we simply can’t comprehend, but God wants us to take Him at His Word and know that He is God. (Isaiah 46:9)

So if you’re feeling insignificant today or perhaps you are carrying a burden of some sort, these are Words for your soul. They are for mine and I am grateful and feeling very blessed by this verse. Funny how God has a way of telling you exactly what you need to hear. Each phrase in this verse speaks powerfully to my heart. Let’s read it again and allow His Words to bring perspective for us today… “For YOU are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen YOU to be his treasured possession.

Walk with your head held high today Girlfriends. God loves you, you are His treasured possession.

Stand Up For Yourself

Walked on

Today’s Devotion: Deuteronomy 13

I remember my parents used to say, “So if your friends jumped off of a bridge does that mean you will too?”

I don’t remember the context anymore, but I’m sure I did something wrong and justified my actions with, “…But my friends did it!”

As a finale, in the disapproval of this excuse, they would say, “Well why don’t you stand up for yourself, don’t let people walk all over you!”

Deuteronomy 13:3 has something to say about following others, namely prophets and dreamers. “You must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

In his commentary, John MacArthur, says, “God, in His sovereignty, allowed the false prophets to entice the people toward apostasy to test the true disposition of the Israelites’ hearts. And while the temptation was dangerous, the overcoming of that temptation would strengthen the people in their love for God and obedience to His commandments.”

It’s a test. God is testing their hearts and if they have the courage to stand up for themselves, it strengthens their love for God and gives them confidence to be obedience to His commandments. I think this concept is incredible… hard to do, but incredible.

Just yesterday I found an article about Natalie Grant and posted it on our Godly Girlfriends Facebook Page last night. The article explains how she left the Grammy Awards – She took a stand. Not a belligerent, holier than thou, in-your-face-for-Christ type of stand. She left in a subtle way… she was guarding her heart and her mind (Philippians 4:7) and taking her thoughts captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5). She passed the test!

I had the privilege of meeting Natalie at a Women Of Faith Conference on my 40th Birthday and have always admired her singing talent. Now I admire her for her courage to model Jesus in an environment void of any morality. This leads me to ask the question, “Will I take a stand for Christ? Will God test me to find out if I love Him with all of my heart and soul?” Just like our Godly Girlfriend, Natalie, I hope we all have the courage to stand firm in our faith. (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Meeting Natalie

Thank you Natalie for being an example for us to follow.