The Passion of the Christ

I finally watched “The Passion of the Christ” two nights ago with a friend and with my daughter.  We wanted to watch it right before Easter weekend.  This was the first time I had seen it.  I have no idea why it took me so long to watch it.

Wow.  I was blown away.  I, of course,  know the story, I’ve read it many times, but watching that movie somehow made me feel the love of God even more than I did before.  Not only did Jesus endure the pain and suffering, but his Father in Heaven watched as His own son was tortured.  All because they love me and wanted me to be in Heaven with them for eternity.

It’s an incredible story.  It’s the best story there is.  It’s the Great News!

My daughter had a lot of questions after watching the movie, so we talked and we looked up verses in the Bible.   I originally had some fear in her watching the movie.  She did turn away quite a bit, but I came to the conclusion that if this story is burned into her memory for the rest of her life, Hallelujah!   I want her to remember all the pain and torment that Jesus went through just for us, because He loved us.  Because He loves her.

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Stuck

A group of 5 of my friends and I just finished Stuck by Jennie Allen.  It was such a real, and honest and deep study.  The group that God brought to my house each Thursday to go through this study was a precious gift.  We all had many places we wer stuck and together we worked through them.  This study is beautifully written and really digs deep into those places you don’t always like to go, but need to!

Jennie is so real and transparent, and extremely passionate about God.  She is completely honest about her struggles and that makes her so easy to relate to.   She is truly a gifted writer that God is using to penetrate the hearts of women who are stuck for one reason or another.

The topics each week hit home with all of us, I think we all struggle with each one in some form or fashion.  The two that hit home the most with us were Mad and Overwhelmed.  With those we spent extra time digging deep and letting God work and reveal our sin.    Jennie has some powerful concepts and new ways of thinking about, and understanding God’s word.  I find myself thinking back to her words often.  Especially her words in the Mad chapter.   Not only does she tell some great stories, provide Bible verses to back everything up, but she asks some very hard questions.  She gets right to the point and digs deep to the source of our “stuck” places.  

You will be inspired and challenged and comforted all at once. 

We used the discussion cards each week to allow each of us time to open up and become more transparent.  We could also see God’s work over the weeks that we met. During our last meeting (last week) we shared what God had done within us and what He is continuing to do.  Jennie has lit a spark in each of us, and through her words God is healing our stuck places and leading us closer to Him.  It was a great journey for all of us and we can’t wait to do another one of Jennie’s studies!!

Book Review: “Essentials For Life” by Marcia Ford

I am a member of  BookSneeze which is the book reviewing arm of Thomas Nelson Publishing.  I love it.  Each month or so they have books available for you to either download or get a free copy of to read and review.  It’s a win-win. 

I just finished a book they mailed to me called “Essentials For Life” by Marcia Ford.  I really enjoyed it.  It’s a great book to use as a reference for years to come.  Marcia really simplifies different strategies and goals that pertain to your walk with God.  She uses Bible verses, examples and quotes to help you understand and put together your own plan of action.

In some ways it’s a “to-do” list, but more importantly it’s full of great reminders and inspirations that I plan to use in my daily life.

She covers all areas from how we see God, to knowing the Spirit, understanding the Bible better, spreading the Good News, cultivating our relationship with God,  serving and dealing with our time, relationships and money.   I can’t think of many topics or concerns we have as Christians that Marcia doesn’t cover in this book.  It’s easy to read and set up in a very organized manner.  You could even treat it as a devotional and read one chapter a day.  Each chapter is only 3-4  pages, but filled with great information.

For instance, one of my favorite subjects to talk about with people is spending time with God.  Marcia has a chapter devoted to this topic, of course, and in that chapter she gives some great inspiration.  For those that feel overwhelmed in making time for God she speaks truth about common obstacles (fear of solitude, annoying sounds, etc.).  She uses quotes from very famous authors about how important time with God is, despite our fears and distractions.  She ends with the mere reminder to ask God to help you find the perfect time for Him.  She quotes A.T. Pierson  in saying ” God knows how to save for you the time you sacredly keep for communion with Him.”  I love that.   He will help us save that time…if we let him.

This book is filled with wonderful nuggets of truth and inspiration just like I described above.  I want to read it over and over again to remind myself of these truths and simple acts that can keep me grounded and focused on what truly matters. 

I really think this book offers some great “how-to’s” for living intentionally, simply, and on purpose.  I would highly suggest buying this book, reading it once and then going back and reading it once a year to keep you focused and on track.  Our lives get so busy and we need to always remember the essentials!

For Such A Time As This

I’ve been a Christian now since 2005 and ever since God and I started getting to know each other, He has been putting on my heart that His plan for me is to work with young women.  For many of those years I just felt this on my heart,  and had no clue how it was going to happen or what it would look like.  Basically I had no idea where to begin.

Well, as always, God knew what He was doing all along.  He has literally been preparing me for “such a time as this” for really my entire life.   And the past few years He has been preparing my heart.   Last night began this journey for me.  The one God has been preparing me for.  I sat among 600+ college freshman at UT at a Young Life Club meeting late last night in a huge lecture room on UT’s campus.   It was incredible.  That’s all I can say.

I looked around the room and thought…wow!  All of these 18-year-old kids have their entire futures in front of them.  If only they could fully understand how much Jesus loves them and what they can do for Him if they just give their lives to Him now.  Not wait until they are 34 to do so, like I did. 

However, as I looked around the room and thought that, I knew exactly why God had chosen me to do this.  Because I can share with them the reasons God asks us to obey Him.  I can give them real and painful examples of what happens when we don’t.  I can also share with them what Grace really means and what it looks like.   I knew in those moments last night that I was there for a very specific reason and God planned it a long time ago.  And now it was so much clearer to me.

At church yesterday, Matt Carter said exactly that.   That we are here and live where we live because God planned it to be that way.  There is no other reason.  It is not an accident, it was planned.

Let me illustrate that a little bit.  Brian and I made some decisions last year that were made for a few particular reasons (or so we thought), but now I can see God orchestrating it all the entire time.  We sold our house and planned to move to Central Austin, the we got involved with a new church in Central Austin.  In doing so, I met someone who led  me to  College Young Life and the person in charge of the girl’s small groups (after a year of going to this new church).  Then my church merges with the largest college age church body in our city at the very same time I’m about to begin this journey.  

So, let me go over that again.   I now literally live 4 minutes from the UT campus,  my church has now merged  (as of 2 weeks ago) with the church that has the highest # of UT students, and I am now (as of two days ago) going to be a small group leader for College Young Life.    Happenstance?  I think not.  I know not.  God had this all in his back pocket way before he even put one teeny notion of working with young women on my heart. 

Today I will receive my list of girls.  The young women that will be in my small group.   I will have the opportunity to meet these girls next week and then love on them , guide them, share the love of Jesus with them, and be there for them for the next 4 years of their lives.  I cannot wait. 

God knows what He is doing.  Trust Him every step of the way. 

He will prepare you and when the time comes, you will also think to yourself that you are where you are  “for such a time as this”.  Just like Esther.

When God puts something on your heart, it’s not your job to think of the ways to get there.  Just listen and obey.  Do the next thing.  He won’t give you the destination, He’ll only give you the next leg of the trip.  Follow Him.

For I Know The Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ”  Jeremiah 29:11

This is one of my favorite verses, it’s so comforting and reassuring.  God cares enough about me to have plans for my life, and He actually thinks that what I do can be important….for His kingdom.  Those thoughts alone could get me through each day. 

Today during my quiet time God spoke this verse to me through the Holy Spirit.   At the end of my prayer to Him I sat quiet.  Which is what I always do.  I wait, very quietly to hear what He has to tell me.  And after I prayed for my job and for Brian’s job and what God has in store for us, all I heard was this verse and it gave me hope for sure.

It strengthens my trust in Him, when I’m reminded all I have to do is trust Him. 

God has put on my heart a few to-do’s for Him.  At least as of now, I believe this is where He is leading me.  I’m working on them and as it unfolds I will know for sure if I’m headed in the right direction.  For now, He just wants me to respond and obey to where I feel led and that’s what I plan to do. 

I’ll explain more later, when it’s time.  For now, I need to get busy with the “plans” God has for me.

Fill The Void With God

This morning I read Matthew 12:43-45 and this is what Jesus said:

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none.  Then it says “I will return to the person I came from” so it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order.  Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there,  and so that person is worse off than before.  That will be the experience in this evil generation.”

Yikes.  If that’s not scary I don’t know what is.  The moral of this passage is, if you rid yourself of a sin in your life, you must (MUST) fill it with God, and obedience to God, or the devil will move back in tenfold. 

The passage says the “evil spirit” will come back but with seven more spirits even more evil than the first.  I don’t know about you, but I want no part of that.

If you begin to make good changes in your life,  don’t fall prey to the devil and fill that void you feel with God.  He is the ONLY one that can fill it and heal you.  If he is calling you to change, then let Him help you every step of the way.

When we turn away from sin, we must turn to God……not just turn away to nothing.  That can lead to worse sins.

In my Study Bible this is what it says after those verses: 

“Just cleaning up one’s life without filling it with God leaves plenty of room for Satan to enter.  The book of Ezra records how the people rid themselves of idolatry but failed to replace it with love for God and obedience to him.  Ridding our life of sin is the first step.  We must also take the second step: filling our life with God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.  Unfilled and complacent people are easy targets for Satan.”

Have you ever quit something or turned away from a sin only to become more tempted and tormented to do that sin?  Now you know why.  Change is something only God can help us with and through.   Without Him leading us,  we are vulnerable to even more evil spirits.

Fear of Change

This morning I was reading in Matthew.  Specifically, I was reading Matthew 11: 2-19.  What stood out to me this time when I read this passage was how Jesus pointed out that sinners would criticize John when he was living for God better than anyone else.  Isn’t that just like us to judge and criticize others when what we really need to do is take a long hard look at ourselves!

The sinners did not want to change their lives so they justified what they were doing and then criticized John, and eventually Jesus. 

It’s sad.   And what is even sadder, is that it’s still so prevalent today.  How many times have you justified or excused something you’ve done knowing that it wasn’t glorifying God.  Sometimes we hold onto to that one sin we struggle with….afraid to let it go…..afraid to find out what it would really be like to live without it.   To me, that is a sign of not fully trusting God.  It means our heart is focused more on ourselves  than  on God.

What we should be afraid of, is what our lives will be like if we don’t let our sins go.  Give your sin to God. Our lives would be so abundant if we put everything we have into following Jesus.  Instead, many of us, put everything we have into justifying our sinful behavior, no matter the degree.

I think we have to look at where that gets us, what good is that doing in our lives.  Hanging onto sinful behavior may feel good for you, it may be “instant” gratification, it may be comfortable, but I can promise you in the eyes of God, it’s not  truly good for you.  He has so much more in store for you that blows away any instant gratification you could imagine.

After I read these verses in Matthew I read my Study Bible notes and this is what it says about verses 11:16-19.  “Too often we justify our inconsistencies because listening to God may require us to change the way we live”.

Amen!  It WILL require us to change the way we live, but in doing so we gain so much more.

The Daniel Diet

Last fall I was doing my daily reading in the Bible and I decided just to flip to something new and read it.  Well, I landed on the book of Daniel.  These are the verses I read that day (and I’ve been reminded of them every since):

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

“Please test your servants for ten days:  Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the king’s food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”

“At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” 

We have to believe God put this in the Bible for a reason, right?  I felt as if he was speaking to me that day,  presenting me with a challenge.  Or maybe He just wanted to have a good laugh because this topic was on my mind.  I had one of those moments when I’m reminded that God truly knows everything I think about.  As scary as that might be, it’s true.  He knew that I had been asking Him to help me to make healthier choices and to stick with them.  This, I assumed, was his answer. 

I like thinking that eating any other way is “defiling” my body…it sort of helps me make better choices.   It just sounds bad and I don’t want to be “defiling” anything.  Let alone, my body.  Now…here is the challenge, and it’s a doozy.  Daniel ate nothing, NOTHING but vegetables (and I’m going to assume fruit) and water.  That’s it.  Nothing else.

I looked this up on the internet and wow, I found all kinds of “Daniel’s diet” sites…with detox diets, etc.  I guess I’m not the first to pay attention to these verses.   Shoot.   Anyway, all of these sites have different “rules” etc.   I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out.  It says he ate vegetables and water.  That’s it.  It does not say he ate soy bacon with his almond milk latte.  It says, he ate NOTHING but vegetables and water.  Nothing.  It’s pretty clear.   AFter 10 days Daniel and his buddies were healthier than their cohorts who feasted at the king’s table.  Go figure.

My husband and I use that as a joke now…”the king’s table”.  When we talk about or see certain foods we refer to them as “king’s table” foods and we are trying to stay away from that table.  We’ve been a guest of the “king’s” one too many times I’m afraid.  It’s time we joined Daniel, or at least that I join Daniel.  Now, I realize that this seems a little ridiculous to some and just way too extreme for others.  But…remember, it’s in the Bible!  I feel like God wants me to at least try it and see how I feel.  So, mark this as the day that I decide to officially take the Daniel challenge, absurd or not.  I’m not going to do the altered versions I read about.  I’m going to do the following for the next 10 days.

1.  Eat nothing but fruit and vegetables.
2.  Drink water.

I’m a little scared.  I’ve told my husband I was going to do this a few times and on Jan. 1 I got really close.  For 7 days straight I eliminated dairy, meat, caffeine, and sugar.  In the past week I added back in caffeine and sugar.  In doing this I’ve noticed a decline in how my skin looks, and the way I feel and I’ve noticed a gain in my middle region.  I do actually have some food allergies as well and they do affect my body and how I feel.   So…I am ready to go 100%.  If my skin, my energy, and my body feel a lot better afterwards then it’s worth it. 

Why wouldn’t  I want to take care of this temple that God has given me.  I’m 40 now, it’s time I really start taking care of my body.  Really this time.  I promise God, I heard your challenge.  I’m ready to take it. 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”1 Corinthians 3:16-17

There Is No Such Thing as “Self-Help”

I heard something the other day that has really stuck with me.  “Self control is not about self controlling self.”   Self cannot help self.  Only the Holy Spirit can help self.  We MUST rely on the Holy Spirit to help guide us to self-control.  We cannot do this alone.

I don’t know about you, but that is a relief to me.  I know the problem is that I’ve relied on mySELF to control self and I continue to fail over and over again.  I canNOT do this alone.  I must allow the Holy Spirit to live through me to gain self-control.

Just as the Bible says in Galations, that self-control is a fruit of the spirit.  It’s not anything I can gain myself, it’s only gained through my life being led by the Holy Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  Galatians 5:22-23

What Do You Turn To?

When we get scared, lonely, worried, and bored we all turn to something. What do you turn to? What bad habits do you have?

Some of us turn to food, some to alcohol, others to isolation.  Shouldn’t we only turn to God in these times?  I’ve decided to be more intentional. When I want to eat something unhealthy just because I’m bored or worried, I will turn to God.  I will use that urge to pray.  When we have that need to make ourselves “feel good” we should pray and ask God to take away whatever feelings are weighing us down.  Instead of just wanting to “feel good” for the moment, we should want to DO good for God.  Turn that desire into a need to honor God.

I also thought about boredom the other day.  What if every time you felt bored you looked up some sort of volunteer activity you could do?  Some way to serve others.  Then eventually that feeling of boredom would be your internal indicator that it is time to serve.

Just think about turning all of those bad habits into GREAT God honoring habits instead. Think through each one and how you react, then create a new reaction that turns you to God.  Isn’t that what he wants us to do anyway?  When we stop wasting time with things of this world and we turn our focus to God, imagine what is possible!

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”  Romans 12:2