My Super Power

Over analyzing is a super power I have. Only…it’s not so super. It definitely has power over me though. Someone ignores me, says something that I feel hints at an issue in me, defriends or blocks me on social media, or doesn’t text me back and I’m sent reeling. Wondering what I’ve done..thinking through every interaction with them or around them. Have I hurt them somehow? Was I insensitive or unkind? Was I too blunt about something and not careful with my approach? Or am I just super annoying??? While all of those things could be true, especially the last one 🙈, I can’t focus on those things unless someone tells me. If I don’t know something is true, it does me no good to worry, stew, or imagine every scenario.

I need to think in a Philippians 4:8 kind of way, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And then just seek to be obedient to what I know I ought to be doing..loving God and loving people. Sometimes this means approaching the person who seemingly has an issue with me and checking in. But mostly? Mostly this looks like me choosing to be thinking on truth, assuming the best of someone, and praying for them.

It’s not easy. And I stink at it a lot of the time. But, like Philippians 4:4-9 says, when I do things God’s way, even my thinking can be controlled and at peace because of Him.

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Think of ways to encourage

Three years ago, my husband, our son, and I left our first full time ministry job. Dan had been the youth pastor at a church in Illinois. We loved the church family there, but the Lord was leading us on. As we sought to follow Him in obedience, my heart ached at the thought of leaving the friends we had made. The believers there were kind, thoughtful, faithful servants of the King and we were privileged to serve alongside of them.

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When the time came for us to go, a sweet sister in Christ gave me what is pictured here–a 3×5 card organizer filled with encouragement. Scriptures, jokes, and quotes fill these note cards. She used colorful post-its to organize the cards and highlighted key ideas. On some of the cards, she even reminded me of truths I had encouraged her with in the past.

Because we recently moved into a new home, I rediscovered this gift of love and wanted to share with you today some ways to encourage.

We all need it. It’s that push to keep going. It’s the reminder that we aren’t alone. It’s being made aware of God’s Truth in our current situation. It’s the emotional hug we need to continue in obedience when our feelings are up and down. That’s encouragement.

As much as we need it, though, we need to be looking for ways to give it. Philippians 2 gives us the example to look toward. Christ is and always will be the perfect picture of humility, grace, and love. The passage reminds us to, like Jesus, look outside of ourselves and consider the needs of others. Jesus could have stayed in the comfort of heaven. He could have decided that His own feelings were most important. But, He didn’t. Instead He, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. He saw our deepest need, grace, and extended His time, energy, and attention to meet that need. This passage reminds us of what we have received of Him, but also, it challenges us to pay attention to what’s going on in the lives of those around us and love people enough to put aside our own ‘interests’ and take interest in others.

Serve. Love. Build up.

I want to do this more.

When someone puts effort into showing me kindness in ways like this, it’s easy for me to accept it almost as if I deserve it. That’s hard to admit, but often my gratefulness meter doesn’t go as high as it ought to and I forget to relish in God’s goodness being shown to me through another person.

So, my desire is fairly simple today. Look for practical ways to see outside of my own interests and encourage someone…anyone. My current ideas include basic things like writing notes, sending texts with Scripture, going further on social media by noticing God’s gifts, grace, and goodness in others posts and commenting about it, and praying for others and letting them know specifically what I’m praying about. And, beyond these things, I want to notice when someone else is looking outside of themselves too and thank them for being like Jesus in that way in my life. Reminding others that their encouragement is a picture of Christ can push them to continue.

This is how the body can work better together. Serve one another as Jesus serves, recognize and be grateful for the encouragement we receive, and challenge one another to continue showing grace and love to the world around us.

by His grace,

Laura

My newsfeed needs Hope

Post after post of horrifying events.. that’s what my Facebook newsfeed has seemed to be as of late. Yes, there are the usual family photos and encouraging blurbs, but those aren’t what have stuck out. They haven’t stuck out to me mostly because I can hear it..the resounding ring of the hurting in their outcries has taken over the noise in my heart..tonight especially.

I, myself, have given a few outcries lately. None of us are immune.

I don’t know the author, but someone once very wisely said, “In the midst of the disappointing realities of life, we need eyes to see Him.” In a world filled with pain, stress, sickness, and sin we need hope. And, by the grace of God, we have it. By the grace of God, we have HIM. Jesus Christ. The One who is the very same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. (Hebrews 13:8) The One who chose to be made in fashion as a man and take on the form of servant and then, not only did He, the God of the universe, take the time to struggle as we do with sin, but then, he DIED and rose again to defeat it. (Philippians 2:8)

You see, He knows what we are going through. (Hebrews 4:15) He had to make the very choices you and I do each day..Do I focus on myself or do I focus on my God? Do I look around me at all that is wrong or do I look up to the God of hope? Do I give in to my flesh and allow sin to rule my life or do I let my Maker take over and become a slave to righteousness? This Man..this God..was wounded and killed for the very same horrific stories of sin we are seeing on the newsfeed of our social medias.

So, my challenge is simple. Point to Him. Give evidence of the hope that is within you through the God of the universe. As you’re scrolling, and sharing, and commenting, don’t just share your opinion, or give a courtesy shake of the head, or a “what a shame”…Give Hope. Share Christ.

Isaiah 35:3-4 says, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” And we know this to be reality because of John 3:16.. Say it with me to remind your heart of Truth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

by His grace,

Laura

Mercy

I’m sitting here reading my Bible, sipping coffee, my sons video game in the background, and my heart realizing I need mercy.

I was reading in Psalm 57. This Psalm was written at a time of desperation in David’s life as he was fleeing from Saul. Saul wanted him dead. And not just in the “I wish he would get out of my life..” or “I wish he’d move far away..” kind of way. No, Saul wanted David gone from the earth. If he could, I think Saul would have erased all people’s memory that David was ever alive! That, my friends, is hate. It was at this time that David wrote this Psalm asking God for mercy.

The first two verses of the passage read, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass me by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me.”

As I was reading this, the first place my brain went was to wondering why on earth David was asking for mercy! If mercy is “someone (God) not giving us what we deserve”, why did David need it at this moment? Saul was chasing him, not because David had done anything wrong, but because God had anointed him to be the next king of Israel and been using David for His purposes. What could David possibly deserve except protection for being obedient? And then it hit me, he needed mercy because he did deserve death. As do we all.

David must have known some very important theological truths. He knew, without having a full copy of the Scripture like you and I do, what Paul meant in Romans 3:23. All people have done wrong and can’t attain to God’s amount of goodness. As people, we tend to downplay our sinfulness. “Nobody’s perfect” is the way we say, “the wrong I choose is no big deal because everyone chooses wrong”. But, God doesn’t. God can’t be around our sin because of His holiness. That’s where Romans 3:24-25 comes in. (And, aren’t we glad it comes right after verse 23..)

We go from realizing we are sinners who fall short of all God is to “…being justified [declared free of the guilt of sin, made acceptable to God, and granted eternal life] as a gift by His [precious, undeserved] grace, through the redemption [the payment for our sin] which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed publicly [before the eyes of the world] as a [life-giving] sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation (propitiation) by His blood [to be received] through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness [which demands punishment for sin], because in His forbearance [His deliberate restraint] He passed over the sins previously committed [before Jesus’ crucifixion].” –where not getting what we deserve is the theme of the passage. That is what David had to have known about his God. Not so much all the truth of who Jesus would be or maybe not even what He would do, but that his sinful heart needed a holy, perfect God to show him mercy at all times.

I need that mindset. I need to recognize my daily need of God’s mercy and go back to the truth of who God is, what He’s done, and who I am in light of His grace. Because of Him, I have purpose. Because of Him, I am a daughter of the King. Because of Him, I have been granted mercy in the midst of my daily failings.

Lord, help me to, because of all You have and continue to do for me, grant mercy to others as well.  

by His grace,

Laura0106497581e1ba21e9050c0778ca1930

Life Perspective

 

It’s time for a different life perspective.

We must seek to push aside the world we think we know. Fight to see things as God does. He has made us to worship Him and in that design we have the ability to seek Him. A thorough daily search of the Scripture to know the One who made us is the only way to get a better glimpse of life as we ought to see it.

This life we think we know..friends, family, school, church, work…its surface. It’s peripheral. Life as God sees it is focused. It’s driven by the need we have to know God and lift His name higher in this world. Life as God sees it was given to us to do the “good works He has prepared for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10) so that “others may see them and glorify His name”(Matthew 5:16).

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With all of life centered around who God is, we need not wonder what life’s purpose is. We need not search for meaning. We can know it. Our life’s purpose is to stand in awe of who God is. And then? Oh, dear friend, and then that awe can spill out all over our interactions with the people in our world.

When we filter our life through the perspective of our purpose, we look at life events, media, and how we should respond to the latest cultural issue through the lens of God and His ways rather than ours. After all, as believers, don’t we believe He knows better than we do?

By His grace,

Laura

Gifts

Today, I’m most thankful for uniqueness. God has this amazing way of creating each of us so purposefully and differently. As I think of members of my family and friends, I can’t help but recognize that each of them have their own unique attributes that define who they are. But, more than that, my friends and family who have personal relationships with Jesus have unique attributes that define WHOSE they are.

Some examples? Glad you asked. 🙂

My mom. My mom is unique in her ability to remain steadfast. She’s a loyal and devoted follower of Jesus who faithfully prays for those around her while also working as a reliable and trustworthy nurse.

My dad. My dad is unique in his ability to be a giver. He’s constantly giving of his resources, energy, and time to meet the needs of others. I’ve never known anyone to give as cheerfully as my dad.

My husband. My husband is unique in his ability to have faith. His trust and unwavering belief that God is in control has helped our family weather some intense storms.

I could go on and mention my sister and her loyalty and determination..my friend, Anna, and her ability to listen and encourage..my friend, Mandy and her ability to be authentic..my friend, Becca, and her ability to challenge me straight to my core.. And many, many more who have deeply impacted my life. But, reality is, these aren’t abilities at all, are they? No, rather, they are gifts.

Romans 12 helps us to understand what this means for us in verses 3-8. Paul begins by challenging each of us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should but to, rather, focus on our purpose. I believe that each of us have been placed on this earth for the same reason..to live in fear/awe of God and for that to come out in each aspect of our lives. But, within that purpose, God has uniquely designed us to fulfill different roles. As believers, we are described in this passage as the “body of Christ” with every appendage, organ, and body part serving a specific function. We are called to work together, using these unique gifts, to care for one another. You see, not one part of the body can fulfill the purpose given by itself. We need and were designed to work as a unit–recognizing one another’s gifts that have been given by the grace of God and using the gifts we have been given to fulfill our unique role within the body.

This has been on my heart for some time because most of us struggle to be a part of the body as we should. We either seek to take on life on our own, believing that we can handle it, or, with the swing of the pendulum, we rely so heavily on others in the body to fulfill the purpose we’ve all been given that we don’t put any effort to using our gifts as God intended. Paul answers this issue in the verses immediately following the passage about our gifts being used within the body.

Verses 9-13 from the amplified version of God’s Word teach us how we ought to interact within the body of Christ:

“Love is to be sincere and active [the real thing—without guile and hypocrisy]. Hate what is evil [detest all ungodliness, do not tolerate wickedness]; hold on tightly to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor; 11 never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; 12 constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], 13 contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.”

We have the responsibility to trust God’s plan in creating the body of Christ. Using the gifts we’ve been given, we are to love on, diligently serve, and pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. My desire is to hear of and see more Jesus followers becoming engaged in their local churches and using their gifts to help fulfill the purpose of the body of Christ as well as encouraging fellow believers to do the same. Let’s, together, lift the name of Jesus high, live in awe of who He is, and work together to serve Him by sharing this Hope we so securely rest in with the world.

You and your unique gifts are needed, important, God given, and useful. How would God have you use them today?

by His grace,

Laura

Something only God can do

My 4 year old son asks a lot of questions. It’s been said that the average 4 year old asks IMG_1734about 437 questions a day. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that, at the very least, it sure feels like that! Lately, though, he’s been asking important questions. Ones I don’t mind answering so much because they’re just that crucial. Questions about Jesus..who He is..what He’s all about..and why He’s so important.. Of the 437 questions in my day, these are the ones I want to answer most carefully. See, it’s important to me that my kids not only know who God is but that they understand that they, personally, can have a relationship with Him through Jesus. I don’t want them to accept what we say as fact just because we say it. I want them to know Truth and Hope because they understand who God is, what He’s done, and who He promises to be in their lives. I want them to understand their life has purpose and it’s not anything that this temporary world has to offer. My kids life purposes are the same as yours and mine.

Life’s sole purpose is to fear His name. In the fear of His name we will stand in awe of who He is by walking according to His truth, resting on His promises, and living to champion His cause!

Today, as I opened to John 6, I was welcomed by familiar words. Jesus feeding the 5,000..Jesus walking on water..Jesus giving the words of eternal life. My mind wandered back to yesterday when, yet again, I had opportunity to share with my son. He asked what I was reading and I was able to share with him and read to him from the Word of God. I explained that these were not just stories but actual accounts of Jesus performing miracles. One of his 437 questions of yesterday? “What’s a miracle?” I had that moment to tell him that a miracle is something only God can do.

After reminiscing about that moment with my Carter, my eyes searched the page for where I had left off. Where I had ended and began again today is important for it was about Jesus as the “bread of life”. He’d just fed the 5,000 and traveled away from the crowds by walking on water. What else was He going to do?! The people were eager to find out and even chased Him down to see what else this Man was capable of doing. Some believed who He was and followed Him for those reasons..but still others were skeptical. They were impressed with His provision of food and wanted more of what He had to offer. Jesus knew the hearts of the people and answered them beginning in verse 35 with the Hope of life.

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Of all the great things Jesus had said and done to this point, this was His greatest claim yet. He was promising salvation. He was promising eternal hope. He was promising to take care of all sin. To say those who were listening struggled with the idea is an understatement! They grumbled, argued, and misconstrued the message as they talked amongst themselves. They did not understand what we now know through the scope of Scripture. Jesus was telling them how He would be the great sacrifice for their sins..how He would rise again defeating sin..how He is the hope of their lives..how He had come to restore them to their purpose.

Many of the people that day still did not understand, including His followers. But He didn’t end with that one explanation. In verse 63 of the same chapter He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Jesus told them of Hope that day but the book of John does not end there. He went on to tell more of who He is, share hope and truth with all, and do more things that only God could do. Why? Why would the God of the universe give so much explanation and proof of who He is? He didn’t have to. He’d already told them. So, why? Because of love. Because of grace. Because of Hope.

No, this isn’t the typical Easter story. But, as we celebrate Christ this weekend, let us remember that He is the ever patient life, hope, and purpose giving God who loved enough to tell us more of Himself. Even after the 437th time we ask Him for a better understanding of who He is, He answers. He delights for us to know Him because He made us to fulfill our purpose of walking according to His truth, resting on His promises, and living to champion His cause!

by His grace,

Laura