Love

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” – 1 John 4:16

Waiting in line to pick up the kids from school the other day, I heard a great verse on the radio and I needed the reminder, “God is love.” I looked up the verse and saw this phrase mentioned more than once in this chapter. Another verse stuck out to me, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (vs. 18). I needed these words from our God. It also helped me recognize that anytime fear is used as a means of control, it is not from God.

I might have told you this before, but even the word “love” is a big deal to me. When my husband and I started dating, he told me he would never tell me he loved me, unless he was going to back it up with, “Will you marry me?”. There is a commitment that goes with love and he wanted to follow through. There is also security that comes with love and it makes all the difference to ones heart. Fear is not part of the equation in love. And anytime fear is used, recognize it for the weapon it is to manipulate and control behavior, feelings, actions and support for negative. Love has the same effect but for good.

As we go throughout our day, let us be mindful of our words, actions and intake. Run them all through the filter of love. Test them to see if they are rooted in fear or love. You might be surprised. And another measure is found in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8. Real love can make all the difference and we can rely on the love of God, for it is who He is.

Need

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 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. The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs…(Isaiah 58:9-11).

One of the kids asked me to pick her up in a different spot yesterday so she could have more time with her friends. An easy request. I pulled into the parking lot and out of the corner of my eye, saw something red on the curb down the way. This object began to move and I realized it was a child in a red sweatshirt! I watched for a minute to see if they would get up, but nothing happened. Nobody seemed to see what was going on. I drove down there and went to the child. He was walking home and had tripped in this hole and could not get up. He was on the phone with a friend. We talked for a minute as I helped him up. Turns out he is in the same grade as one of our kids. He was hurt and did not think he could walk the rest of the way home. He said I could just take him.

I told him we needed to call his mom, but we did not get ahold of her. His friend did not answer again either. Finally, his friends mom came to pick him up and I was thankful, but of course my mind went a million directions. If he so easily wanted to get in the car with me, a stranger, how easy could harm have come to him if it had been someone else? He was left unprotected. How many more children suffer the same?

A prayer quickly formed of protection for this sweet boy and the many others who go unseen by us, but are an easy target for evil. Lord, give us eyes to see. Take our attention away from what is distracting us and give us clear vision to see the oppressed, hungry and unprotected. May the evil one not gain another child today. Shine Your light in the dark and guide us to the unseen today. And when we see someone in need, may we not ask them to qualify their need or think over if they are worthy of our love, but let us serve them like Jesus. Love in action. In His mighty Name we pray, Amen.

Stories

I read a phenomenal story today that you need to hear. It was about a coach going into a championship game. He had called in a mental coach and spent time with him. The wisdom he shared should be taught with anyone that has influence over children. The main point shared by the mental coach was that the coach needed to let the players know he loved them unconditionally, not for their abilities or if they won or lost. They needed to know he loved them and trusted them. Something so simple made all the difference in these players hearts and minds. Can you imagine how different kids would be in school if they walked into the classroom, having come from homes that they knew they were loved unconditionally and trusted? I wonder if we would have more teachers? What if we had more teachers that took this mindset on?

Unconditional love is the most impactful gift we can give children. How else will they first catch a glimpse of their Heavenly Father? Love based on condition, keeps one guessing and unsure. Let that go on long enough and many just give up. Trust is a bit harder. Maturity grows trust and ultimately a child will make their own decisions and live with the consequences, good or bad. However, I wonder what kind of decisions a person would make if they had the unconditional love piece factored in? You do not have to agree to love someone. It could make all the difference in the world.

By the way, the book is entitled greatness, spelled with a lowercase g on purpose, and it’s by Dr. David Cook.

A Tale of Two Hills

“One day Jesus saw a vast crowd of people gathering to hear him, so he went up the slope of a hill and sat down. With his followers and disciples spread over the hillside, Jesus began to teach them…” (Matthew 5:1-2TPT)

I have been studying Matthew chapter five lately, especially the first half of the chapter. The opposite way of life teaching of Jesus draws me in. It does not make sense, but it is how Jesus lived while on earth and asks us to live now with the help of the Holy Spirit. The thing is, I cannot seem to fit this teaching into what we witnessed on Capitol Hill. Over two thousand years separates these events. The words spoken all those years ago carries over to today and impacts many. What will be written about January 6, 2021? How will this event, words and actions influence history?

Regardless of who is in the position of power to make laws, we all will be impacted in some way. The impact can be good or bad. However, just because something is a law, does not mean we are given freedom if it goes against the word of God. For example, just because laws may change and choices becomes easier, does not mean we are now free to live however we want. So what will we do? Education is an excellent start, but I think there is more to be done. How about we parents, relatives, anyone who has an influence over children, teach them another way? What if we teach them about the incredible value of life, how each person is made in the image of God and has a purpose?

If it is not this next wave of government, it will be another. It is our responsibility to teach another way, the way of truth. We have been given an incredible privilege and we cannot rage in fear just because doors of evil are opened wider. We do not have to walk through them and neither do our children. The choice is ours to make. I am not afraid for my children. They are learning from another teacher on a hill. And this teacher died for them. I pray you know the Teacher too.

Standing

“All you who stand today before the LORD your God; your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel. Your little ones and your wives – also the stranger in your camp… that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself and that He may be God to you…” (Deuteronomy 29:10-13).

I read this passage this morning and was encouraged by God’s clear instruction. Our assignment as believers is clear today, while the rest of the nation is in turmoil. We stand before God and renew our covenant with Him. We are His people and He is our God. No other person, object, desire, nothing is to be our god. Why are we wasting so much time debating, speculating and opinionating? What you can do is stand up before God. Renew your covenant with Him today. We can ask the Lord to search our heart and see if there are any idols, false gods and remove them. The choices we make today will impact generations. Many are looking to us who are a bit older to see how we will handle today. What will they see? Will they hear fear, speculation and judgement or will they hear words that speak life? How about we stand together and speak words that will plant seeds of wisdom, encouragement and strength. Words that overflow with trust and dependence on our God. We each have been given a choice today. May we stand up, set an example and our every word and action point to the One we serve.

Availability

I spent the morning with our oldest. We went grocery shopping together, just an ordinary errand turned sweet with her presence. She sipped on a kale smoothie, evidence that she is mine, and I just smiled. This girl is more than I could have ever imagined. You think as a young mom, this day will never come, but here we are. Despite all the mistakes I make, here we are. With so many unknowns ahead of her, here we are.

I have watched her fold out a plan and move forward. It was much harder and did not go as planned. I have watched her regroup and pivot a bit. She moves one step at a time with many dreams held loosely. Her faith and perseverance amaze me. She started a new job the other day and the number of humbling experiences made her laugh. She did them all with a true servants heart.

One day she will be doing her own grocery shopping for her own family. We might not live close and we will have to swap kale smoothie recipes over the phone. So for today I choose to be grateful that she is here. I will be mindful to be present and listen. I want to hear her heart and help sort things out as she goes along, but mainly I want to watch the plans God has for her unfold each step of the way. It is like watching a bit of your own heart on display and today it made me smile.

War

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Romans 7:14

Do you remember what it was like before you became a believer, a follower of Christ? Even the early days as a new Christian? For years I had this idea that if I could just do all I could to not mess up, then I would be accepted as a Christian. When that became too much, I took to judging others by the law. Somehow it made my guilty heart feel less guilty if I could find others not as “good” as my outward behavior. I lacked grace and mercy that should mark every believer. Thankfully, the Lord has corrected me as a good father does.

When I look back at my way of thinking and how wrong I was, it makes me have so much more compassion for those with whom I disagree. When your mind and heart are not under the rulership of God and His Holy Spirit, self reigns. You become king and your thinking stems from the flesh and it’s carnality. So if anyone tries to put a law on you, your natural response is rebellion. We see this playing out with the fight over our country. One ruled by the Spirit would say, one nation under God. The one ruled by self would fight not to be “controlled” by God or man.

Believers, truth will never change, but the laws of our country may. The way we respond will show the world who ultimately rules us. Will we join in the loud carnal followers or will we be led by the Spirit? May the Lord so capture our hearts that the choice will always be Him. For He has accepted us and calls us His. Why would we want to remain alone? And may we walk in the grace and mercy in the days ahead. For there are many whose lives are a constant battle and they do not even know it. The war against flesh and spirit is always raging.

On Our Own

“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.” Isaiah 40:29

Every year about this time I get a bit hesitant about sending the kids back to school. What awaits them this semester? What challenges will they face? What accomplishments will they be proud of? Will kids be kind or mean? Will they be kind or mean? Will they see the unseen? This year we have the added concern of a pandemic and the challenges it brings. Do you see my hesitation? Will what they have been given each morning be enough to sustain them for the school day? Will the truth of scripture, prayers prayed and encouragement sink deep long after the breakfast dishes have been cleared?

In the next few days, students will once again flood the classrooms. Teachers are preparing for their arrival. I wonder how they are feeling? Do they already feel defeated? How many know Jesus? If they know Him, are they dependent? Do they go to Him for the strength they need each and every morning before they step into the classroom? Are they relying on their own strength? Who will pay for this lack of dependence? It will be the ones sitting in those desks who will suffer. And these students, are they given truth each morning and being brought before the throne of grace? Teachers, staff and students will notice.

Times have changed and laws are in place that strip teachers and students of their source of truth and strength. However, as parents, grandparents, relatives, anyone who loves children, we can pray for them during the school day. We can send letters of encouragement, slip scripture and kind words in their lunchboxes of our kids and we can speak life whenever we are being given the privilege of an audience. Teachers and students need us to stand in the gap these days. Nobody can do these days we are living in by their own power and strength. Look around and you will see how that has worked for us. Let’s do all we can in these days ahead, much is on the line.

Misery

We did not know that when we sat down at lunch, we were sitting next to misery. I listened in on the conversation and heard a list of criticisms in regards to the just attended church service. They brought up points of disagreements in theology and programs. The list was long and painful to hear. My first response was judgement and then conviction. How many times have I done the same thing? I am sure that is what every church staff person needs from their congregation. And so I repented. The look of misery that comes from judgement will not be forgotten.

I read something recently about judgement being a form of rejection of a person and a defense mechanism. Maybe it works to keep us safe and disengaged. I would take it a step further and say it reveals a brokenness in us. This family might have been hurt by the church at sometime. Maybe they have never felt accepted. I will be praying for them and maybe some of us too.

May the Holy Spirit convict us quick when we think or say miserable words of judgement. May we have eyes to see our own brokenness and ask the Lord to heal us. May we know deep down in our hearts that we are loved and accepted by Him. And when we need to speak up for truth, not judgement, may the Lord give us His words. I have a feeling they will sound a lot different.

Cleaning Out

“Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:12

This passage is so hard to read. When we read it knowing the words, “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16), more conviction comes. During the days that Jesus walked the earth as a man, He lived with purpose and accomplished what He came to do. The boldness of His temple clearing amazes me. Can you imagine if this happened today? And yet, do we not all need a good cleaning out before this new year begins? Will we be brave enough to ask Him? In light of this scripture may we ask that He search us, see if there is anything that does not belong and drive it out.

Lord, at times we become thieves of your glory, wanting attention and the praise of man more than we want you. Drive this desire out, for it is not of you. Overturn our tables of loud opinions and information that proves our point. May we return to prayer and humility. We have cut ourselves off from others because they do not go along with our plan and have our mindset. Reconcile us, Lord, for this is not your heart. You came to save sinners. May our actions point to you, for I fear we have abused others with our words of judgment. How your heart must break. We have sold the lie for so long that we only accept/love those who agree with us. Have mercy, for we once did not agree with You.

Come in and overturn the chairs of pride and comfort that keep us from being desperate enough to bow at Your feet for our every need. May we be humble enough to be wrong and accept correction from You, our loving Heavenly Father. And at Your feet may we find grace and mercy. Give us another chance to reflect You with a purity and holiness that was not there before. Have your way, Lord, as we walk into this coming year. May we look back with 20/20 corrected vision with eyes of love. Amen.