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Wants And Needs

Anyone who knows me knows I like to paint.  I like to paint the different rooms in my house.  I have been known to carry various paint swatches in my purse.  I carry the swatches to help me choose the coordinating items I need to go with the room I painted.  Well maybe I don’t need the perfectly coordinated items but I really want them.

This has been a long standing issue in my life and I suspect in the lives of many others as well.  I have a hard time understanding what I want and what I really need.  Sometimes we can’t tell what we really need until we are forced to make the choice.

When our daughter Alexa was born, in 1999, we did not have much money.  We literally had $20 in our bank account.  We had cut out many luxuries we thought we needs and realized we could live without them.  It became crucial to our families survival to truly examine what was really needed and what was not a necessity.   We suddenly realized cell phones, cable, gym memberships and many other things were all wants.  We didn’t truly need any of those things.

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Is Everything Permissible?

1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “Everything is permissible for me” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible for me” – but I will not be mastered by anything.  This is a fully loaded verse.

Paul is referring to sexual immorality in this verse.  I think we can take this verse a step farther and use it in our everyday life.  There are times we think something is ok to do just because we can do it.  It’s easy to get caught up in something you never intended to do.

These issues can be embarrassing for us but they can be horrible if we ignore them.  Paul’s message may be a little more direct than we want it to be but it gives us freedom and love from God.  The enemy would rather have you sit in your puddle of sin than to let you see the freedom God offers you from sin.

God is aware of what we are doing.  God can see right to our hearts.  He knows our intent, we can’t hide it from Him.   We must come to realize that our bodies are not our own.  Our bodies belong to God.  When we realize this we will learn to take care of our bodies.

Freedom in Christ does not mean we are free to do whatever we want.  When we come to Christ and we follow Him we want to be helpful.  We do not want to continue to be slaves to our former way of life.  Let us remember the cross, Jesus died so we may have life, abundantly.  We have free will to do whatever we want but is that how we want to live?  In our hearts we know what we should do, let us surrender our old selves and become helpful in the kingdom of God.

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Running To Surrender

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is the story of the Israelites being freed from captivity.  It’s really hard to believe Pharoah was so thick headed that he refused to let God’s people go after all the plagues unleashed upon him and his people.   Pharoah refused to release God’s people from slavery even after the plagues of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness.

The Bible tells us many times that “God hardened the heart of Pharoah”.  I thought it was odd at first that God would harden the heart of the man who was holding God’s people in captivity.  I thought the whole reason for the plagues was to soften the heart of Pharoah.  The more I read I started to realized that perhaps the plagues were not persuade Pharoah to let the Israelites go but to show God’s power.

Pharoah and the Egyptians were under the impression that Pharoah was all powerful, God stepped in with the plagues it showed everyone who was all powerful, God.  Pharoah may have thought he was in control but as the plagues progressed it showed that Pharoah had no control over them.  Pharoah’s heart was hardened out of anger, he realiezed there was nothing he could do to stop the plagues, except to give in and let God’s people go.  Many times in our lives God uses tough situations to show us who is in control.

It it easy to believe we are in control, but then something happens in our lives to make us realize that we are not.  God is always in control and we need to be reminded of that often.  We need to completely surrender to God, it’s the only way to live.  When we give God the glory for all He gives us we will have a life that is complete and truly faithful to God.

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Running From God

Our pastor, Andy Stanley, has been doing a great series entitled White Flag.  He is using the story of Jonah to show us how we run from God and the results of running.  The main idea of the series is that we can run from God but we can not outrun God.  It has been a very thought provoking series.

God had asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to all the wicked people there.  Jonah, however did not agree with God’s plan so he decided to run away.  He thought he could outrun God.  He tried to run as far away from Nineveh as possible.  He embarked on a journey to Tarshish.  Many of us know the rest of the story.  God causes a violent storm.  Jonah is thrown overboard and into the ocean.  He is swallowed by a big fish.  In the big fish he prays to God and asks for forgiveness.

Andy shares a great thought about what happened next, God is generous with his grace and thorough with his discipline, not to get us back but to bring us back.  What a comforting thought.  Just as we discipline our children, God is thorough with his discipline with us.  He loves us so much that he does not try to get us back for our rebellion but he wants to bring us back to Him.

The great news is that no matter how long we have been running He will always be waiting for us with open arms.  God’s love is greater than anything we can imagine.  If we come back to God, He is gracious enough to embrace us not matter what.  Are you running from God?  It’s time to stop running and let God bring you back to Him.  He is generous with His grace and will embrace our return.

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Family Portrait

I love looking at family pictures.  I think the pictures tell us all about the family.  You can see the family members personalities.  My husband is a photographer and I get to help him with photo shoots when he needs me.

I think it’s interesting how different families are while you are taking their picture and what they are portraying in the picture.  The parents do everything from threatening their children to bribing their children.  I will admit I have done both.  Parenting is a hard job.  If you are a parent you know it is not for the faint of heart.  When parents ask God to step in and take control of their family things start to change.

It’s important to show our children who is in charge, God.  I love Proverbs 22:6, “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Our most important job is to train up our children in God’s way.  If we lay this down as a foundation for their life when they are older they will return to it.

Many parents believe this Proverbs verse means that our kids will never leave God’s path.  This is not true.  This verse tells us we should lay the right foundation for our children.  This does not guarantee our children will always stay on the same path.  This verse does tell us that our children will come back to God’s path if they leave it.

Parenting is not easy but with God on our side it can make difficult situations go smoother.  Our children will have trouble but they will be armed with the right tools to deal with life’s difficulties.  We need to make sure we train up our children “in the way they should go.”  This will not assure that they will not depart from it but it will assure that they will return someday if they do depart.

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Storing Up Treasures

You have probably seen the bumper sticker that reads, “he who dies with the most toys wins.”  I just saw it again recently, it made me think about this issue again.  We can all fall into this way of thinking if we lose focus on our relationship with the Father.

I have heard about people being buried with special things they loved. I always thought that would be such a waste.  When we focus on storing up stuff for ourselves here on earth it becomes a lonely existence.  Matthew 6:19 tells us, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and dust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

It’s no surprise to know that we are here on earth for a very short time in the large scheme of things.  We should spend our time here on things that have eternal value.  Our relationship with God should be our number one priority.  When we have our relationship with God in order then we have our priorities in order.  God will be by our side in good times and in difficult times.

Last Sunday our pastor, Andy Stanley had a great illustration about this very topic.  Andy said when we are in a jam we don’t cry out to our stuff.  We don’t say, “Oh car please help me out of this problem”, or “Oh computer please help me get through this tough time in my life.”  We cry out to God, not to our stuff.

Matthew 6 goes on to tell us that our hearts are with what we treasure.  We need to be careful what our hearts treasure.  Are you treasuring something that does not have eternal value? Ask God to help you walk with Him.  Prioritize according to eternal value and not earthly value.  Pray for guidance and pray that God helps you focus on eternal rewards.

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When In Doubt..

When tragedy strikes your life, many ask God: “why did God let this happen?” “why didn’t God answer my prayer?”  We can even turn on ourselves and wonder if we did not have enough faith.  It is hard to share these insecurities with others and even with God.

I was ready Psalm 13 and it really gave a voice to all these painful questions.  God is not surprised by our struggles with doubt.  God is ready to help us and comfort us in these times.  God is always faithful to us.  It’s ok with God for us to talk openly with Him about our true feelings.

There is no doubt we live in a broken world.  God is our only hope.  When we feel like struggles are raining down on our lives, we have someone who stands with us.  Psalm 13:6 reminds us of what we should do and remember, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

We all have times of doubt in our lives, but one thing we don’t ever need to doubt is God’s love for us.  God sent His son to die on the cross for us.  We did not deserve what He did for us, but God loved us so much He did this so we would not perish.  God wants to spend eternity with us, there is not doubt in my mind.

Pray and ask God to help you overcome your doubts.  God knows your struggles in this broken world.  Call to Him and He will comfort you and help you.  God wants us to know it’s ok to doubt for a time, but then we need to cling to Him for help and comfort through those times.

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The Plank In My Eye

I am going to make a confession.  Last week I watched part of Tiger Woods apology statement.  I will say up front I have never been a fan of Tiger Woods.  I will also say I was very surprised at what was going on in my heart as I heard his statement.

I was angry.  I had not been affected by this mans actions in any way and here I was upset.  I had to stop and pray about what I was feeling.  Why was I so angry at this man?  I searched my heart and came up with the answer, John 8:7.  I am not without sin.  I came to the conclusion that I was no better than Tiger Woods.

We have a tendency to categorize sins, we think some sins are small and some a bigger.  In the eyes of the Lord, they are all sins.  I think as I was sitting there listening to this statement from Tiger Woods my heart deceived me into thinking I was somehow better than him because I had not committed the sin he committed.

I read through more verses in the Bible and came across Matthew 7:3.  Jesus talks about this very issue in these verses.  He tells us that many times we get fixated on others sins  because we are trying to distract from our own sins.  The verse says, “why do you look to the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

I am one of four girls.  When my sisters did something wrong I did not help them hide it I would make sure they got what they deserved for disobeying.  As I grew older I realized this behavior was tantamount to playing God with my siblings.  I was not paying attention to the plank in my eye because I was too concerned with the speck of sawdust in their eye.

Let us be careful not to judge others for their sins, this is God’s job.  Tiger Woods did not owe us an apology, he only owed it to God and to his family.  He did not have to speak to the public at all about this matter.  Its time for a heart check.  Are you too concerned about the speck in others eyes?  Are you oblivious to the plank in your eye?  Time to turn to God and as Him to show you what you need to do.

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Wanted: Greatness

Have you ever thought about being great? I don’t mean great at something but just great.  I have to admit I have thought about it.  I have read God’s word many times and found a plan for greatness.  God wants us to be great for Him.

Matthew 18 tells us who God considers to be the greatest in the kingdom.  We are to come to Him like little children.  Verse 4 explains, “therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I think many of us have problems with humbling ourselves like children.  Is our desire to be great in the eyes of the Lord or is our desire to be great in the eyes of those around us.

Being great in the eyes of the Lord requires much of us.  Do we want to make God smile?  When we humble ourselves and put others before ourselves we make God smile.  This requires sacrifice from us.  Are we willing to put others before us?  Are we willing to become the least?

If we want to be great in the eyes of the Lord then we need to decide if we are willing to put others before ourselves.  Put aside your selfish desires and serve others.  Are you prepared to love your enemies?  Greatness does not come easily, but God has a plan for us.  If we ask, God will help us.

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Faithful With Little

Matthew 25 records a wonderful parable that is a great guide to me.  The Parable of the talents starts in verse 14 and continues through verse 30.  I know Jesus is using this as a hypothetical story and not based on a true story but it is helpful regardless.

We have all been given varying amounts of gifts and blessings in this world.  Some of us are like the servant who was only given one talent, some of us are given two talents and a few of us have been given five talents.  It is easy to look around and say, it’s not fair.

We can easily become discontent with what we have because it is not all we had hoped it would be.  One thing we must understand is that God’s judgment is always fair.  We could never even begin to understand the absolute knowledge our God has about each of us.

Just like in the parable God wants us to not only be faithful when we have five talents but he wants us to be faithful when we only have one talent.  It is easy to be upset about only having one talent but look at what people have done with one talent.  I have recently started reading the story of Scott Rigsby in Unthinkable.

In a freak 9 seconds of his life everything changes for Scott.  He ends up losing both his legs.  He struggles for years to make sense of the one talent he ended up with.  Scott decided one day that he could not be a patient for forever.  He wanted to do more than just be an angry man.  He trained and became the first double amputee to complete the world famous Hawaiian Ironman Triathalon.

Scott realized he could do a lot with the one talent.  He used it to bring glory to God.  God in turn showed Scott he could do more than he thought he could.  Scott is a wonderful example of how we can be faithful with little.  Just because we have little does not mean we could not do much with it.

I think this quote from Scott in the January 2008 Runner’s World magazine interview sums it all up, “I want to stay the course and show people that you can take the life that God gave you and use it to do something extraordinary.”  In other words, we can take our one talent, two talents or five talents and squander them or we can stay the course and do something extraordinary with what we have.

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