There are things God is telling me to do, but I am not doing them. I rationalize, negotiate, and flat out ignore. That is a hard thing to type. I feel like a fraud and hypocrite.
In my New Testament class full of 8th graders, we tried to make a list of what we could do for Advent this morning; what we would sacrifice, or spend time on, or clear from our schedule to really focus on the anticipation of the birth of our Savior.
They are great kids, but they didn't take it very seriously. I was a little taken aback.
"You really aren't willing to do anything mildly inconvenient for the One who saved you?" I asked.
"What if Jesus came and said, 'You know, I have the power to save these people, but I'm not going to. It will be hard and painful and inconvenient. I’m pretty comfortable right here in heaven.'" I asked.
"For less than a month - Advent, Dec 3-Dec 24 -- are you not willing to do anything different to prepare for the birth of Jesus?" I asked. "He DIED for you," I reminded them.
Little, easy things were shouted out. Big things were shouted out...then quickly rescinded.
Are they really this unwilling to do even the smallest thing for Jesus? I wondered. Are they so sucked into the culture and status quo that they can't even take this seriously? Do they think that little of the magnitude of what it meant for God to come in Flesh to die for us...to SAVE US?
But here I sit hours later. Convicted. I'm the one unwilling to step into scary obedience. I'm the one unwilling to be a little uncomfortable or inconvenienced or sacrificial. And anything I would or could even do pales in comparison to what Jesus came to do.
I'm taking a long hard look inside today. I’m praying hard about it. I’m asking God for help me to be brave...to use Advent as a launching point for steps God has been telling me to take for some time now.
Are you in the same boat? If so, I’m praying for you too!
God, give me the courage and will to do what I know You want me to do. What I know I need to do. What will be in my best interest, like everything You ask of me...even if it seems painful and impossible now.
Abraham approached the rock and stuck it with his staff (Numbers 20:8-11)...After all, that’s what worked before, he likely pondered. (Exodus 17:6)…but that wasn’t what God instructed this time (Numbers 20:8 ,12).
King Saul, impatient and without authority, sacrificed an offering to God (1 Samuel 13:8-9)…After all, that’s what has to be done for God to be with us in battle, he must have thought. But that wasn’t what God instructed through the prophet Elijah (1 Samuel 10:8).
God wants a faith follower, not a formula follower.
He knows if there is a formula, we will follow that instead of Him. Plus, He is far too creative to work in the same ways over and over again.
Sometimes God shows up in spectacular miraculous & unexplainable ways.
Sometimes God quietly uses His people to be His hands.
God even has healing properties built into His creation. In nature, in people, in compassion, in opportunity, in hope for a better future.
Our job isn’t to find and follow the formula (though that is our natural inclination). Our job is to have faith. Our minds can’t grasp the ways God is working.
God works in subtle ways, often not noticed, pulling puzzle pieces together into a beautiful glimpse of His kingdom.
This background photo is a purple tea farm. I recently discovered purple tea. Have you heard about this? It grows in Kenya and offers incredible health benefits with less caffeine than green tea. Check out these links for more info… here, here, here are just a few.
The tea leaves are purple because they contain anthocyanins...the same antioxidants that make all purple plants have this color, like blueberries and pomegranates. Purple Tea is the only tea that contains these super antioxidants!
AND the best part, it is creating hundreds of new jobs in rural Kenya. I see God’s hand at work in pictures like this, His creation + people willing to step into it to make a difference.
JusTea helps bring Kenyan tea to market, providing over 200 jobs in an otherwise hopeless environment. PLUS, they are also proving reading and writing programs to the children in Kenya.
I love how God pulls His creation together to make the world look a little more like His kingdom.
TEA GIVEAWAY!!! I’m partnering with JusTea to give away a tin of purple tea and a hand-carved tea spoon. To enter, follow @justeakenya on Instagram (here) and also comment on this picture in the Giving Squared Instagram (here) “done” so we can find you. I’ll also send a few surprises to the winner from some of my other favorite give-back orgs. We’ll pick a winner Friday at 5pm ET.
JusTea is alsooffering 25% OFF...if you want to give purple tea a try...or any of their teas and accessories...AND provide good jobs and literacy programs, use the code “GIVING25” for 25% off EVERYTHING in the JusTea shop!
I’m not affiliated with or compensated by JusTea...i just love their ministry and want to help spread the word. Together we can make a difference!!!! And for fun or more info, you can visit their Facebook page on Saturday mornings to chat live with different tea farmers!
Too often we look to Jesus only as the pattern...the example of how to live....if we just follow this pattern perfectly, cut a little here, stitch a little there, add a few embellishment here, we think.
And Jesus IS the perfect pattern, but He is more than that.
He is the original piece. He is the fabric. He is the sewing machine. He is the Savior. He is the Gospel...the good news.
No matter how talented a seamstress we become, we will never make it on our own.
The Gospel is Jesus as Savior BEFORE Jesus as pattern.
When we try to follow the pattern first, we only fail, wasting valuable time & resources, and convincing ourselves we are failures at this.
Only when we put our faith in the work and person of Jesus alone can we sit at the sewing machine and begin to follow the pattern.
And this time, His hands are on ours, guiding our every stitch.
I’m planning on going through Galatians slowly over the course of Advent (I know...strange choice), so I’ve been reading over it a bit in preparation for my deep dive.
What strikes me is the ease in which the Gospel can get distorted when man inserts his will.
We are so quick to exchange freedom in Christ for bondage in man-made add-on’s.
Our pride and desire for control/credit feel the need to add something to what Jesus did for our salvation.
For the Galatians it was Jesus + circumcision; Jesus + the Law of Moses.
We can (and do) easily fall into the same trap, robbing ourselves and unbelievers of the simplicity and sufficiency of the Gospel...of faith in the work of Jesus alone.
What’s in your morning alignment toolbox? Mine includes coffee or tea and devos I love... @first5app (this is a quote from @lysaterkeurst devo there this morning), @myutmost , and @thouartexalted ...all by the lights of the Christmas tree.
It never fails that i just don’t run right during the day without my morning alignment.
This was written roughly 750 years before Christ came to earth as an infant. Israel was in a state of destruction and turmoil. Isaiah was offering hope of what was to come. Some good news for a weary people.
Gospel means Good News. There are four Gospel books in the New Testament that tell of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection – the Good News of our salvation, believing in what Jesus did for us. Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the 5th Gospel because it contains so many descriptions of Jesus as our Savior.
Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most well-known and cited prophecies, particularly at Christmas time. There are so many beautiful and meaningful descriptions of Jesus in the short passage recorded nearly eight centuries before Jesus arrived on the scene.
Let's dig into each...
Do you ever feel like you take two steps forward and one step back...over and over and over again?
Yeah, me too.
But it is worth celebrating because it is still growth.
And that is all we are asked to do. Keep abiding, keep leaning in, keep refocusing our eyes back up.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Philippians 3:12
Even our small purchases can have a BIG impact.
Holiday gift giving can get expensive, so I’ve compiled a gift guide with over 100 ideas $25 or under from over 70 different orgs that all GIVE BACK!
I want to help you shop for a cause this Christmas.
There are so many great gift ideas for anyone on your list. I am not affiliated with or compensated by any of them...I just love what they are doing and the causes they support.
It is truly a win-win when we purchase with purpose!
Click here to go to the gift guide.
Like a tea bag steeps in water, soaking to extract and release flavors and nutrients.
When we soak in seeking God first, above all else, we extract that which God wants to provide for us. Without the steeping of tea, we don’t get the flavors and nutrients, just hot water.
Likewise, without the steeping in God, we don’t get wisdom, discernment, direction, nearness, peace of God, just exhaustion and emptiness.
And directions for steeping tea will tell you to steep for a shorter time for a milder flavor and a longer time for a stronger flavor.
We want the strong, intense, full power of God working in our lives. Like the tea bag, it requires us to soak longer in His Word, in His presence, and in communication with Him.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
Are there any doors in front of you today?
Do you hear the knocking?
Have you been ignoring it too long?
Is it getting louder?
Spend Sabbath quietly listening to the voice behind the door.
Ask for discernment.
Ask for courage to open it at last.
God forgives us.
So also we need to forgive us.
We need to accept the full and complete payment by Jesus for our repentant mistakes.
The beautiful thing is that God not only forgives, He will use it for good in ways you could never imagine.
This is my favorite time of the year.
I love all things Christmas.
I love the lights and decorations and excitement.
But most of all I love that it is the season when unto US a CHILD is BORN. A SON is GIVEN...our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace...who came to die...so we may live.
I love the manger.
I’m grateful for the cross.
Specifically in prayer today for those who are feeling burdened.
For those who didn’t have a joyful Thanksgiving.
For those struggling with gratitude.
For those suffering deeply.
For those trying to claw their way out of a pit.
For those with bloodshot eyes this morning, still missing the one who should have been in that empty seat yesterday.
Praying for extra courage to give their burdens to God.
For extra humility to hand them over to God...the One who is eagerly waiting with open arms to carry them.
“Throw all your worry on him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7
Here’s to my people avoiding the crowds, shopping online for gifts that give back, and dreaming big DREAMS for 2018.
God, let us not be afraid to step into Your mighty plans for us this year!
Let our will to please YOU outweigh our will to please ourselves or the world.
I'm a huge homebody. I LOVE home and my family. I can't imagine how much I will love my permanent home.
Among the wonder of our new home, I sometimes picture movie night in Heaven. Maybe we'll be too preoccupied to care about answers to our mind wandering, and sometimes painful, questions...BUT, MAYBE...
Instead of Netflix, we'll sit on the clouds with strong coffee, comfy pjs, and popcorn while we watch film projected on the night sky.
We'll watch Eve take that bit...no! Don't do it!
We'll watch Esau take the stew for his blessing...ugh...idiot!
We'll watch Jacob wrestle with God...look how he really won't quit until he gets his blessing.
We'll watch the Red Sea part...ahhh, that's even cooler than I imagined... and SOOO many Israelites...I never realized how many.
We'll watch Rahab's family get saved...then marry one of the spies...I never tire of this movie!
We'll watch Ruth work tirelessly in Boaz's field...she is nonstop...look how she will do anything for Naomi.
We'll watch Elizabeth jump in surprise when John leaps in her stomach as Mary, pregnant with Jesus, walks in the room...crazy, John already knows Jesus is our Savior.
We'll see the wise men enter the manger and see Jesus for the first time...look at their face, they know He is a king.
We'll watch Jesus in His childhood, interacting with His friends and family...with James...He really is fully human and fully God...look how he plays with His siblings...look how he is a kid, but yet doesn't do anything wrong...look at Him learn to read...so cool!
We'll watch the pharisees interact with Jesus...why don't they see who He is?
We'll get a close up of what Jesus wrote in the sand when they tried to stone the adulterer...ahhhh...that's what it was...that makes perfect sense!
We'll watch the risen Lazarus walk out of the tomb...look at everyone's faces...priceless!
We'll watch the witnesses come face to face with the risen Jesus...incredible.
We'll peek into the room the believers were in at Pentecost...so, that's what tongues of fire on their heads looks like.
We'll watch Paul meet Jesus on the road to Damascus....ooohhh, he has no idea what is coming!
We'll watch the early church grow in miraculous numbers...I love this part!
Oh, the movies we'll see of how our pain, trials, suffering were used for good...it's true! God did use all things for good. He is amazing!
This homebody can't wait to be a homebody in the perfect home waiting for me!
Shhh...come closer...I have a little secret....
You have EVERYTHING you need to live out this life set out for you by your Creator.
You have the courage you need, the skills you need, the experience you need, the creativity you need.
You have it all.
When we look ahead or to the side, we think we are severely lacking. But the portion of manna we need is in our grasp. The potion set aside for us to gather is the exact portion we need to sustain and launch us. No more, no less.
I heard this quote from Ashley at The Shine Project and have always loved it.
So true that sometimes we just need to push past that crippling fear.
Just twenty seconds of insane courage with God on your team.
It’s not always easy on the other side of it, but we made it.
Before the miracle, not because if it, Jesus gives thanks.
In anticipation of the miracle, not after it, Jesus gives thanks.
BEFORE feeding thousands out of practically nothing, Jesus gave thanks (John 6:11)
BEFORE raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus gave thanks (John 11:41)
BEFORE Jesus would be betrayed, separated from God for a moment, nailed to a cross, risen from the dead — the miracle, mercy, grace of our salvation — Jesus gave thanks (1 Corinthians 11:24)
Tonight i am thankful for what Jesus has done and what He WILL DO.