My first job was during tax season at a tax preparation office as a receptionist. When I received my very first paycheck I asked my mom to help me open up a student checking account at the local bank. It wasn’t high finance but I learned some important things with that experience. You don’t write checks for money you don’t have in your account. And it is better to ‘reconcile’ your account each month when the statement arrives.
Reconciling my check register to the monthly bank statement was pretty easy until ATM’s came along. Forgetting to enter cash withdrawals caught up with me on more than one occasion. If my register was off by even a penny – it drove me crazy! Agreeing with what the bank said I really had in my account, or reconciling, became a dreaded activity pretty quickly. Making one equal the other?! Let’s just say there were a few times that I just skipped a few spaces, drew a line…and started over.
God threw out all the math, all the equations that never came up equal, every way that man tried to find his or her way back to right-standing with Him when He sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us back to the Father. Our life would never be reconciled to God without God’s willingness to draw a line and give us the opportunity to begin again.
2 Corinthians 5:18 (NLT) says “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”
Not only did He reconcile us to Himself, but He gave us the task of helping others find reconciliation in Him as well. God has given us the beautiful gift of reconciliation.
When we were kids we learned to say ‘grace’. “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for this food. By His hands we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread.” We teach our kids to say grace and there is something so sweet that happens around the table when we hear our children thanking God for our food. We are helping them to be grateful for what is provided before them. They are learning to talk to our Father God….out loud.
And that simple prayer….grace….is also one of the first experiences we have with the grace of God. When God gives us what we do not deserve….that is His grace. We were born in sin. God has blessed us in so many ways that we could never have earned on our own. And there is something beautiful that happens when we realize our position in life and the abundance of blessings God has bestowed on us and continues to pour out on us each day.
Ephesians 2:8 (CEV) tells us “You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own.”
God’s grace is giving us what we do not deserve. God has given us the gift of His Grace.
We are creatures of habit, aren’t we? Think about where you sit in your church service. We sit in the same area most of the time, within a row or two, right? And so does everyone around us. So we sit with pretty much the same people week after week. That can be good and bad. We get to know those around us every week. But we might also miss others in our church family.
The most amazing thing happens when I sit in a different area. It almost feels like a different worship service. It’s the familiar. The worship and the message that I know and love. But I also find myself surrounded with different ones in our community of faith and it feels….a little uncomfortable…but fresh.
It’s good to shake things up a bit sometimes. It’s good to have a different vantage point. It almost awakens our senses to participate from a new place. I love that God is the same yesterday, today and forever…and…yet He chooses to surprise us in new and fresh ways throughout our days. Just when we think He will do something a certain way…He answers our prayer in a unique way we never imagined.
Isaiah 43:19 (CEV) says, “I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands.” Routines can keep us from watching for the new. May we never grow so set in our ways that we miss the new that God is orchestrating around us!
I reached for the extra strength head pain medicine and I wondered what we did before there was extra strength medication. At some point, someone decided, I think we can do better. I think we can bring more to the table. There are going to be times when somebody is going to need some extra!
Have you ever wondered how medication knows where to go to do the most good? Like how does migraine medication know you need it to go to work easing pain in your head? I think it has something to do with how God designed our bodies. Every part of our body is made to work in harmony together. And when one part of our body is in pain…every other part of our body is on notice and working to try to relieve and heal what is hurting us.
Such is the body of Christ. When one of us is hurting God’s design for us was to be alert to the pain in each other and work together to help relieve and heal. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27 teach us to be mindful of one another. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”
We can’t do everything on our own. We were never designed to live that way. We need the extra strength of one another.
My husband, Ken, and I went white water rafting…twice. I considered that I might be in over my head when I was required to sign a waiver before strapping on a life jacket. Then I heard things like “if you fall out of the raft, point your feet downstream and do your best to face upward”…and I KNEW I was in trouble.
It was a good thing I was listening to the instructor because while I climbed IN to the raft determined NOT to fall out – I later found myself OUT of the raft. Our raft hit a large rock that was unseen just below the surface of the river and bounced me right out! Almost immediately, hands reached over the edge of the raft, grabbed my life jacket, and hauled me right back over the edge to safety…at least until the next rapids.
Something fascinated me about those rapids. The swirling waters in the river were created by rocks and other things that collected under the surface. The water is flowing so quickly that when it meets up with obstructions in its path it finds alternate ways to move. Creating quite a wild ride for those who are willing to brave the waters.
Isn’t that a lot like life? It can be a beautiful, swirling, crazy ride with sometimes undetectable objects in our path. The wonder and relief in this life is that strong, mighty hands help to guide us, and keep us, along the rapids of this world. Just when we think it’s too much God helps us find another way.
Isaiah 43:16 & 19 is a promise we can hold onto. “This is what the Lord says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,….I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” No matter what circumstance you find yourself in today you can trust that God will make a way. Especially when there seems to be no way through. He is our Waymaker.
It all began when I agreed to fish sit for a co-worker while he was away on vacation. His little aquarium and goldfish came to my office and after a week – I was hooked! Pun intended:) When my co-worker came back to work two weeks later he retrieved ‘goldie’ and I drove right to the pet store to buy my own tank…and fish….and all that goes with it. It wasn’t long after that that we had a fish tank at home in our kitchen as well.
I learned some things through that experience. Some fish love company. They actually thrive when they can swim in “schools” of similar fish. And some fish, like beta fish, don’t play well with others. In fact, they mostly have to spend time in their own little boring fishbowl because they puff up to scare off the others if they’re in the same tank with other fish. I also learned that some fish will stay just about the same size as they get older and other fish will keep growing to the size of their environment.
Sound familiar? Come to think of it…we are a LOT like those fish. Some of us love to hang out with people just like us. We love the company. While some of us are just as happy to keep to ourselves and stick to the fringe. Sometimes we just don’t play well with others and we find ourselves in our own little bubble either of our own doing or because everyone else just doesn’t quite know what to do with us.
I think ALL of us will grow to the size of our environment. We were made to fill the earth! God created the whole earth and all that is in it and then He made us. This is what happened next between God and Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: “God gave them His blessing and said: Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.” (CEV)
I believe the fruitful part of that command wasn’t just about having children. I believe that as God made us in His image…the Great Creator gave us creative gifts to do amazing things. Live well. Honor God and fill as much space as we can for His Kingdom and His Glory. Keep growing to the size of your current environment and watch for God to enlarge your territory.
The smell was atrocious! There was no ignoring it as my friends and I were getting out of the van parked next to the field that had recently been ‘fertilized’. My friend Debbie said, “yep – fertilizer stinks but that’s what makes us grow!” Boom! What a mic drop moment as we all followed with, ‘isn’t THAT the truth!?!’
We don’t like it when things don’t go right. When situations are out of our control. When we find ourselves plowing through hard things. No one EVER signs up for pain and suffering. I would get in line for good times and happily-ever-afters every time if I had the choice. But this is real life. And real life includes struggles and hard places. Anxious times and stressful situations. That’s the fertilizer in our lives…and it stinks!
Thank the Lord that our fertilizer seasons are not the end of our story! We may not always see it when we’re in it. But God does. He is the Master Gardener. He knows those experiences challenge us and He loves us through them. Growing in our faith, in our love for God and for others – that is what makes it all worth it.
Philippians 1:6 tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
With the wave of his hand and his very loud, yet cheerful tone, our Jewish tour guide, Amnon, could gather us all together with one arm in the air and one word…”FRIENDS”! I can still hear him roll the ‘r’ as he called us to follow him. It didn’t take very long for us to feel like we really were friends. As we traveled he would tell us stories associated with the sites and let us know the level of authenticity for specific historical events.
When we visited Israel it was more than a sight-seeing adventure. It was a pilgrimage. Our pastor was with us to help us connect Bible stories to the places we visited. The seaport of Joppa. Mt. Nebo. The Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The Via Dolorosa. The Garden Tomb, the Mount of Olives and so much more.
Overlooking the city of Jerusalem I found myself weeping as Amnon talked about his Jewish heritage and turned to us and said, “Welcome home”. I wept at the view of this city that Jesus loved full of people that Jesus wept over in Luke 19.”When Jesus came closer and could see Jerusalem, he cried and said: It is too bad that today your people don’t know what will bring them peace!… because you did not see that God had come to save you.”
It is hard to describe the experience of walking where Jesus walked, reading His Word there, taking it all in. If you have had the opportunity to make this pilgrimage, no doubt, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it makes the Bible come to life!
Whether you’ve been to the Holy Land or not, there is One, today, this very minute, who stands with His arm outstretched, calling out “Friends!” with an invitation to come and see. Nothing compares to the pilgrimage that Jesus wants to take us on. Don’t miss the invitation to know His peace and His salvation….and some day His words – welcome home!
One of my favorite Pastors, Bill Sammons Sr., told me recently, “the most effective way to share Jesus with another is to tell your story of how Jesus changed your life.” No matter what we do for a living or how comfortable we are in conversation with others I am convinced that when we are willing to share our story of change it opens the door for others to identify that need in their own lives.
I think we can complicate it if we try to make the story about ourselves. The simplicity of the Gospel…the Good News…is that we all are sinners…lost and hopeless…until we meet Christ and open our hearts to the Savior. Jesus gives us hope for eternal life. Once He rewrites our story, no one can refute what God has done, because our story is part of His story.
1 Peter 3:15 (CEV) encourages us to “Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.”
Have you shared your story lately?
Working the early hours of a morning show for radio meant that I didn’t get to see my kiddos first thing before school so when I did have a chance to get them up, and take them in, it was a treat for me. While I prayed for my children every morning, on those rare mornings that I was with them before school, I would take a few minutes to pray with them for God to be with them and help them to have a good day.
One morning, I asked my 4 year old son if he was ready for me to pray and he said, ‘no, I don’t feel like it today.’ I was crushed! Immediately I felt like I’d failed as a mom! How could this be?! I prayed over him anyway!…because…well… I’m the mom! And I tried not to make a big deal over it. But I was heartbroken!
When I came back to the car after dropping him off, I called my dad, and told him how sad I was that my little guy said he didn’t feel like praying. I’ll never forget what my wise father said very gently to me. He said, ‘well, don’t you ever have a day that you just don’t feel like praying?’ And just like that, my perspective shifted. Truthfully, I have had occasions that I felt at a loss for words to say to God.
Whether it is anxiety, exhaustion, distraction or shame, or any other reason that can keep us from talking to God I believe that when we’re honest, God can work with that! He already knows what is going on in our hearts and minds. We could build a wall and refuse to talk to Him about it…or we can admit how we feel and ask Him to help us find our way through. And He will. Every single time.
Psalm 145:18-19 (ESV) tells us, “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.”