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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Moving, and Making New Friends

Making new friends

Banana chocolate chip muffins remind me of making new friends. That’s why after we made our most recent move, I made a double batch of them in an attempt to meet our new neighbors. Unfortunately, it didn’t go like I’d hoped. (You can read more about this in my post “Making New Friends in New Places” at (in) courage. However, the my first encounter with banana chocolate chip muffins and new friends turned our far better.

One of our family’s eight moves took us all the way from the hot desert of West Texas to the cold, beautiful mountains of Alberta, Canada. A couple of days after we moved into our new home, the neighbor directly across the street welcomed us with warm banana chocolate chip muffins. The muffins were delicious and JoAnne’s offer of friendship was a blessing!

JoAnne and Kelly’s daughter was the same age as one of our daughters and their son was the same grade as our son. The two boys especially became inseparable and Joanne and I became good friends. That was 20 years ago, but their family came from Alberta to Louisiana for our son’s wedding two years ago. And it all started with banana chocolate chip muffins!

My post last week at (in) courage prompted at least two requests for the recipe, so I promised to share it here. My only request is that when you make them, you share them with a friend. Maybe you can even use them to make a new friend!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. Combine egg, milk, and oil in another container. Add the egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin cups or line with paper bake cups, fill 2/3 full. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden. Makes 10 to 12 muffins.  (Download and print the PDF version of the recipe!)

Wish we could sit down together over coffee and a warm muffin! But we can talk here. What are some ways you reach out to make new friends?

Some other posts on friendship you may find helpful:

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What’s the “Good” of Romans 8:28?

Romans 8:28

Disappointments, grief, difficulty, trials, and strife fill our lives. These things have touched each of us. It is the human experience. But in the midst of suffering, we cling to a promise found in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome:

“For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28, NIV

Christians find comfort, encouragement, and hope in these words. And rightly so. Unfortunately, many of us have misapplied this well-known verse. Our understanding is shortsighted. We slap God’s promise on the current and temporal, expecting our physical circumstances to soon look “good” – better even than when things went awry.

Isn’t that what Romans 8:28 means? After all, it says that God “works all things together for our good!” Doesn’t God divinely control all the events and circumstances of our lives to make things turn out great for us?

In order to understand “all things work together for good” accurately, we must not only consider the entire verse, but also the context of the larger passage.

In Romans 8:18-39, Paul is comparing present, earthly suffering of believers with the eternal glory to come. (See Romans 8:18.) On this earth, we “groan” or experience difficulties because of the effects of sin. But God has conquered sin. In His sovereignty, He is working out His plan to save, sanctify, and glorify those He has “called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28-30).

The Who, What, and How of Romans 8:28

With the larger context in mind, let’s discover the “who,” “what,” and “how” of Romans 8:28:

  • Who is the promise for? – This promise is only for Christians, those who have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus. Not only did Paul write this letter to believers, but the verse itself defines the “who” – “those who love [God], who have been called according to His purpose.” We cannot apply this verse to all people.
  • What is our “good?” – This is probably the most often misunderstood and misapplied part of this verse. “Good” does not mean our happiness, physical comfort, or material abundance. The larger context of the passage refers to our spiritual condition and sure hope of one day sharing in Christ’s glory. God’s purpose for us is to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (verse 29). This is our calling, God’s goal – and “good” – for us. In His power and sovereignty, God is working through the circumstances of our lives to make us like Jesus and to bring us to our eternal glory.
  • How does God accomplish it? – God works in and through our trials, difficulties, and pain and suffering to move us toward His will (Romans 8:27) which is conformity to Jesus and future glory with Him (Romans 8:29-30). (See Romans 5:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, and James 1:2-4.) In order to be like Jesus and share His glory, we must also share His sufferings (Philippians 3:10-11). God uses and works through our physical circumstances to bring about the spiritual condition He desires in us.

God’s “good” is eternal

God’s “good” for us is far greater than our temporary, physical circumstances. His plan is spiritual in nature and eternal in scope. God intimately knows our physical needs and cares greatly about each one (Matthew 6:25-33). But He cares even more about our spiritual condition. He wants us to be like His Son.

Is this understanding of God’s “good” for us different than you’ve understood it in the past? In what way?

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Reasons the Cross is Not Enough

resurrection, Easter, cross

Jesus’ death on the cross is not sufficient to provide the abundant and eternal life God has promised us.

Does that statement shock you? Maybe even offend you? You may not want to read another word. But if you’ll hear me out, I think you’ll agree with me.

The apostle Paul firmly believed the cross alone was not enough. Read what he wrote to the Corinthian Christians:

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 1 Cor 15:17-19, NLT

Peter also knew that our eternal hope depended on the resurrection of Christ:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1:3-4, NIV

So why do we so often leave out the Resurrection when we share the Good News of Jesus? We don’t forget to talk about the Cross. And yes, praise God, the death of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary provided the payment that my sins – and yours – had earned. Our sins deserved the death penalty. Our sins brought us spiritual death and separation from our holy God. But Jesus Christ took that penalty on Himself. Without the cross of Christ we would still be condemned by our sins. But that is only part of the Gospel message.

Without the resurrection, the Gospel message is incomplete

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul succinctly expressed the Good News of the Gospel. In this passage, he boils down the message to its most important components.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  1 Cor 15:3-4, NIV

5 reasons we need the resurrection

Yes, Jesus’ death paid the price of our sin, but His resurrection provided our hope for life – both now and eternally. Don’t miss these important truths:

  1. Jesus’ resurrection proves everything He said and did was true. See John 14:20
  2. Jesus’ resurrection defeated death! That victory is His and ours! See Romans 6:9
  3. Jesus’ resurrection provides us with new life in God. See Romans 6:10, Col 3:1
  4. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our physical resurrection. See Rom 8:11, 1 Cor 15:20-21
  5. Jesus’ resurrection gives us power for this life. See Philippians 3:10, Romans 8:11

The resurrection is the power of God for those who believe! We will be raised because Christ has been raised! Believers, we have the same power living in us that raised Christ from the dead! Let’s shout it out!

Do you tend to forget about the resurrection? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the power of the resurrection in your life.

Other posts you may like:

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6 Ways to Impact Children with the Message of Easter

Easter
Rich memories of childhood Easters keep popping up in my mind. I can still feel the cold metal of the folding chair as I sat with my family in the church parking lot waiting for the first rays of the sun to make their appearance. And with the sun, the somber notes of “low in the grave He lay…” became the joyous thunder of “up from the grave He arose (He arose), with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.” After prayer and singing, everyone escaped the chilly air and enjoyed pancakes and sausage in the church fellowship hall.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the impact Easter had on me as a child. I also have wonderful memories of Christmas, but Easter took root in my soul from an early age. Even then, I must have sensed the eternal significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. As parents and grandparents, we have a great opportunity – and God-given responsibility – to make sure our children understand the great truth and power of Easter.

6 Ways to Share Easter with Your Kids

Below are six easy, but memorable, ways to help your children understand the Easter story. Make sure you check out the links for details and more information:

  1. Make a set of Resurrection Eggs – This is a fun way to “concretely” share the Easter story with your kids. You can purchase a ready-made set, but putting them together with your kids is part of the fun. Here are the instructions for making your own Resurrection Eggs.

2. Watch a movie together – One great way to start a conversation with your children about the Easter is by watching a movie that portrays the Easter story or illustrates its truths. Several great ones are available. Just choose one that is age-appropriate for the kids in your life. Here are a few suggestions:

3. Attend a Good Friday service or event – Many churches have services on Good Friday to help us remember Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. This is a great opportunity to talk about Jesus’ death and what it accomplished for us. Cochrane, the small town where we lived in Canada, had a “Cross Walk.” Members from all areas of the community met downtown and prayerfully followed the cross as a volunteer carried it through the streets.

4. Make Resurrection Cookies – Use this tasty object lesson to teach your kids about the empty tomb. Make them on Saturday night and enjoy them first thing Sunday. Here’s the recipe and how-to’s for Resurrection Cookies.

5. Share the Gospel from Scripture – Your kids are never to young to hear that “Jesus died to save us.” Of course, the way you share this truth needs to be age appropriate. For instance, tell the biblical Easter story using tangible objects such as 30 coins, a large nail, and a small wooden cross as visuals to keep their attention. See this article on Crosswalk.com by Sandy Coughlin. And here are five Easter Mini-lessons for your family from Focus on the Family.

6. Experience the Easter Sunrise – Like the women who went to the tomb, be up and ready to greet the first light of Sunday morning. You can do this at an official sunrise service or in your own backyard. Friday was somber. Sunday is a celebration! (And don’t forget the pancake breakfast!)

I’d love to hear about your childhood Easter memories! Also, please share ways you celebrate Easter with your kids, grandkids, and other children in your life.

Other posts you may find helpful:

How to Know Jesus

Keep Watch with Jesus Tonight

5 Reasons We Need the Resurrection

Top 10 Bible Verses for Evangelism

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3 Ways to Respond to Hurtful Words

Hurtful Words

(This post is a giveaway!) A good story transcends time, culture, and history, grabbing our hearts in a way no other medium can. A good story even has power to give a voice to the voiceless, hope for the hopeless, and the power to overcome hurtful words.

But no story offers entrance into the world of relationships like the greatest story ever told—the Bible. Full of romance, conflict, betrayal, and more, these true stories reveal the power of real love transforming the lives of real people. People just like you and me.

I’ve held my Bible close through the years, but it seemed to come more alive for me during a particularly traumatic time in my life. Somewhere in the midst of grief and healing from a crushing relationship, I found a story in the Old Testament that literally changed my life.

The True Tale of Two Wives

This story centers on a man named Ephraim and his two wives. (See 1 Samuel 1:1-20.) Peninnah had many children. And although Hannah had none, she had the love of her husband. These facts alone make the story ripe for conflict.

This true story is filled with lessons on both healthy and unhealthy behaviors for relationships. If the cameras of reality TV had been rolling in 1083 BC, these two women would have been catapulted into stardom, starring in The Real Housewives of Ephraim or perhaps guest stars on an episode of Sister Wives.

Imagine how the juicy storyline would have filled today’s social media:

“Poor Hannah—Unable to Give Her Husband a Beloved Firstborn Son.”

Or maybe,

“Motherhood is hopeless for Hannah. Bring on the next woman!”

And if the shame of infertility wasn’t enough, Elkanah’s second wife, Penni—who was more than fertile—relentlessly flaunted her fertility. First Samuel 1:6 says, “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”

The Bible Speaks Wisdom for Today

In order to irritate her. I really tried to give Penni the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t have it easy. But I finally realized I couldn’t sugarcoat Penni’s unhealthy, negative, hurtful presence in Hannah’s life. Penni was Hannah’s rival. Plain and simple, she was not a nice person.

Sadly, the world hasn’t changed. Mean-spirited people still exist. And they still purposeful work to hurt others with their words and behavior.

But Hannah’s story spoke wisdom to my story. Her response to her situation and to Penni, helped me know how God would have me respond to my own relationship trauma.

Hannah purposefully chose to respond in three ways: Hannah chose to pray, cling, and love.

 The more Penni spoke hurtful words, the more Hannah opened her heart to God in prayer. The harder Penni pushed, the harder Hannah clung to God, with the same relentless pursuit. And the hardest thing Hannah did that has the potential to change everything? When Penni chose hate, Hannah chose not to retaliate.

When those in our lives choose to act in hurtful ways towards us, we too have a choice. We can choose to act in kind or we can choose love. Is it easy? Oh no. But it is empowering.

How do you respond the last time someone spoke words that hurt you? (Comment to enter the giveaway!)

Overcoming Hurtful WordsToday’s post is by Janell Rardon, author of the new book Overcoming Hurtful Words: Rewrite Your Own Story. Hurtful words can steal joy, distort truth, and create long-term struggles with understanding your worth and purpose. In this powerful new book, counselor and life coach Janell Rardon, MA, equips you to address and reframe negative words and labels that have hurt you in order to achieve healing and lasting freedom.

Download Chapter One of “Overcoming Hurtful Words.

Free small group study guide for “Overcoming Hurtful Words”

Janell Rardon

Janell Rardon is an event speaker and board certified life coach (AACC) who specializes in marriage and family relationships, She loves nothing more than helping others speak healing words that help them live a rich, meaningful life. She loves traveling to Kenya with Tree of Lives, a non-profit serving the African family, with a particular interest in serving the Mamas of “The Joy Village,” a family-modeled orphanage to care for abandoned, abused and neglected children of Kenya.

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Want to Be a Part of My Book Launch Team?

Caring for Aging Parents

Word of mouth is always, always the best advertising. That’s why I’m looking for a few dozen enthusiastic and well-connected folks to be part of the book launch team for my soon-to-be-released devotional “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.”

This book is very personal to me, as it reflects my current stage of life and how it impacts my relationships, including my relationship with God. If you are – or have been – a caregiver for your parents or other aging relative at any level, you know that their journey is also your journey. This devotional book combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents. (Find out more about 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents.)

Benefits of Being a Book Launch Team Member

  1. A free book – Every member of the launch team will receive a printed copy of the book from New Hope Publishers.
  2. New connections with some awesome people – I’ve already begun building the team and it already has some wonderful, fun, godly people on it! You will all enjoy the new connections.
  3. Encouragement and support – If you are currently a caregiver for an aging parent or relative, then you will be surrounded for a weeks by folks who get you. They know what you’re going through because they’ve either been there or are there now.
  4. My sincerest gratitude – I can’t get the word out about this great new resource by myself. I need help. And I will be so thankful to everyone who lends a hand.

What are the Expectations for Team Members

I know you are busy! But if the thought of committing to anything else makes you break out in a cold sweat, then please don’t read any further. But, if you’re still with me, I promise to make being a launch team member as easy and painless as possible. And, you don’t have to do it all. You can help in one area, a few, or all, based on what your schedule allows. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the ways launch team members could potentially help:

  1. Social Media – You could either initiate posts and memes I will make available in advance or you can share things I post. (There will be a private page on my website full of promotion resources.)
  2. Reviews – Review of the books on Amazon, Goodreads, ChristianBook, and Barnes & Noble are always helpful!
  3. Guest blog – If you have a website or blog, I would love to be your guest. I could provide a topical guest post and a book for a giveaway.
  4. Preorders – Although launch team members will receive a copy of the book from the publisher, preorders will help push the book up in the rankings on release day. If you have someone who would enjoy getting the book as a gift, a preorder would be helpful!
  5. Launch party – If possible, I would love for you to attend the Facebook launch party. (The date is still to be determined.)
  6. Caregiving groups – If you are a part of, or know of, any groups for caregivers that would benefit from hearing about this book, I’d love for you to share it.

Launch activities will begin the first or second week of May and continue through the launch date, tentatively set for May 21st. There will be a private Facebook group just for the launch team so you will know what I’m doing and when. You can pop in only when you have time. And after the book is fully launched, that group will end.

Want to Apply to Help?

The number of spots on the launch team are limited. So, if you would like to help, fill out and submit the application below today! I will let you know as soon as possible.

Apply Now to Join the Book Launch Team!

With the vast number of books and resources available today, this helpful devotional could easily be lost in the crowd. But with a little help from a few friends, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents can stand out!

 

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Do We Worship the Provider or His Provision?

Worship Provider

This past week, while reading a familiar Bible story, I saw something I’d never noticed before. Of course, it had been there all the time. But isn’t that just like God? He is constantly teaching us. His Word is living and active, applicable to every situation of our lives. Relevant today and tomorrow and always (Hebrews 4:12).

But, I digress.

I was reading the story of the Israelites worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-35). Moses had been on the mountain speaking with God and the people had grown impatient. They were tired of waiting on Moses to bring back God’s law. They were tired of waiting on God.

So, instead of waiting on the Unseen, the majority chose a path of their own making.

They seemed to have forgotten how God had already provided. He raised up Moses as their leader. He brought ten plagues on the land of Egypt. He brought them out of Egypt with plunder from the Egyptians – gold, silver, and clothing (Exodus 12:35-36). And He divided the sea so they could cross on dry land.

Worship gone wrong

Now, just a few short weeks later, the people traded an all-powerful God for a god of their own making. They essentially ganged up on Aaron and demanded him to provide an idol – a god they could see. A god they could control. And Aaron complied.

Aaron gathered the plunder from Egypt – the gold God had prompted the Egyptians to give. And he used it to fashion a golden calf, an idol.

He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Exodus 32:4-6

The people rejected God and instead worshipped the thing He had provided.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? And yet we do it all the time.

Do we worship the provision or the Provider?

God provides us with jobs, homes, relationships, money, clothes, and cars. And while we may not literally bow down before them and offer an animal on the altar of sacrifice, we worship them just the same.

We make them our priority. We value them above all else. We give them our first, our best, our devotion. We worship the things God has provided instead of our Provider.

So, what is your golden calf? What threatens to take God’s rightful place in your life?

Other posts you might like:

 

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Have you settled for good enough faith?

good enough faith

I think I’ve settled in many ways. Settled into a life of faith that’s comfortable… easy… doable. After all, I’ve  grown and I’ve gone and I’ve served. Surely I can keep this comfortable pace. Isn’t this level of faith good enough? Isn’t “good enough” faith, good enough?

I’d never settle for a lukewarm latte if I ordered “extra hot.” And my husband and I didn’t live with it when the painter used the wrong color on our back door. So why am I satisfied with a good enough faith?

God calls us to push the boundaries of our comfort zone. To step into unfamiliar territory. To obediently follow Him into areas of service we can’t tackle in our own strength. Because only then will we depend on Him. Only then will He get the glory.

So why do I settle? Why do you settle?

Maybe it’s fear. Maybe we’re afraid that God will ask us to give up something we don’t want to give up. Or maybe we fear ridicule or failure.

Or maybe we simply love where we are too much. We don’t desire where God wants to take us. We don’t long to see His miraculous activity in the midst of our meager offering.

Paul didn’t settle for good enough faith

The apostle Paul never, ever settled. And he never shrunk back. He planted churches, shared the Gospel with kings, resuscitated the dead in Jesus’ name, and endured great persecution for Christ’s sake. Yet he never felt as though his faith was “good enough.” He never felt as though he had “arrived.”

Paul had been a rising star in the Jewish world. He had the world by the tail. But he left it all to follow Jesus. Yet even then, he wanted more. He would not stop pursuing Christ until he saw Him face to face:

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

I guess the real question is this: Do I want Jesus more than I want to stay where I am? Do I long for more of Jesus more than I long for easy, comfortable, doable?

That’s a good question.

What about you? Do you long for Jesus more than… Or is your “good enough” faith good enough?

Other posts you might like:

7 Characteristics of a Mature Christian

6 Things you Might Not Know About the Apostle Paul

No Such Thing as Spiritual Holding

 

 

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Does Jesus Speak to You?

Does Jesus speak to Christians? Does God communicate with those who love Jesus and follow Him? That question came to national attention last week.

A Quick Review of the Controversy

It all started when former White House aid Omarosa Manigault Newman made derogatory comments about Vice-President Mike Pence’s faith on Celebrity Big Brother. Omarosa said Americans should be worried about the possibility of Pence as president because:

“He’s extreme. I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things… It’s scary.”

Then the cohosts of the TV talk show “The View” picked up the topic. Joy Behar, who says she is a Christian, said:

“It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

A couple of the other cohosts worked to balance her opinion, but the audience obviously sided with Behar. The conversation ended with the tone that anyone who claims to hear God speak isn’t quite right in the head. 

Then Vice-President Pence responded. He called for ABC to take a stand for religious tolerance, citing the millions of Americans who cherish their faith.

Does Jesus Speak to Christians?

I noticed that both Omarosa and Behar claim to be Christians. Yet, they think people who “hear” Jesus speak to them are either crazy or scary or both.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what Omarosa or Behar or anyone else thinks. What matters is the truth. Does God speak to Christians?

The short answer is “yes.” God does indeed speak to believers. The Bible tells us God speaks to us.

In the well-known Christian book “Experiencing God,” written by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, the authors make this statement:

One critical point to understanding and experiencing God is knowing clearly when God is speaking. If the Christian does not know when God is speaking, he is in trouble at the heart of his Christian life!

What does the Bible say?

Although this topic needs much more time and space than a brief blog post, we can hit the highlights to confirm the truth that yes, indeed God speaks to us today.

The Bible tells us that before Jesus came, God spoke to His people through the prophets and in various ways (Hebrews 1:1). Examples fill the Bible – angelic visits, dreams and visions, fiery bushes and more. Now, in these “last days” – the time between Jesus’ post-resurrection ascension and His return – God speaks to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2).

Jesus is present with His people, speaking to His people, today. The Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – lives inside every true believer (Romans 8:9-11). We can hear God speak to us because His Spirit dwells with us.

The Spirit’s Job in Believers

Here are just a few of the things the Spirit does within believers that helps us to hear from God:

  • Gives Spiritual Understanding – The Spirit helps us understand the Bible and the things of God. Much of this seems like foolish gibberish to the world because they don’t have the Spirit to give them understanding  (1 Corinthians 2:9-12).
  • Testifies to Jesus – The Spirit always makes Jesus known to us. He reveals truth in our hearts and minds about Jesus (John 15:26).
  • Teaches and Reminds – The Spirit not only gives us understanding, He helps us see how God’s truth – the Bible – should be applied to our lives. He helps us see how God’s principles throughout Scripture work together. And when we need specific truths or principles for specific life situations, He brings those things to mind (John 14:26).
  • Guides into Truth – The Spirit helps us recognize God’s truth and distinguish it from error and false teaching. The Spirit shows us know how to specifically apply those truths to the current situations and relationships of our lives.

Ways God Speaks Today

So, how does the Spirit’s job translate into a Christian hearing God speak?

  • The Bible –  The Bible is the primary way God speaks to Christians today. In His Word, God has revealed Himself, His purposes, and His ways. As we read, and the Holy Spirit does His job, we “hear” Jesus speak. His Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12-13). The Holy Spirit wields it like a sword – to pierce our hearts and prick our minds with God’s truth. (See 11 Tips for Spending Quality Quiet Time with God)
  • Prayer – Christians have the very Spirit of God living inside us. When we pray we aren’t just tossing words into the air. And it isn’t a one-way conversation. In prayer, God uses His Spirit to bring us into alignment with His truth, with His will for us. The Spirit miraculously works in our hearts. The Spirit brings Scripture to mind that God wants us to apply to specific situations. The Spirit reminds us of ways we need to act, reach out, love, help, forgive. And when God speaks, we should respond.
  • Secondary Ways – Although the Bible and prayer are the primary ways God speaks to His children today, He will often confirm what He wants us to know through circumstances and the counsel of godly people. But, God will never “speak” to us in ways that contradict His Word.

So why does Omarosa, Behar, and many other “Christians” deny that God speaks to His children today? I can’t answer that for every individual, but there are two primary possibilities. First, they may be members of a religious group, but don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the truth that God speaks to His children sounds like crazy foolishness. Second, they may be new, immature believers who are just beginning to learn God’s truth.

What about you? Do you hear Jesus speak? What would you say to a “Christian” who scoffs at the idea of God speaking today?

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Grace Trumps Failure Every Time

Thank you to today’s guest, author Sue Edwards! She knows all about experiencing God’s grace through failure. This post is also a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Sue’s new Bible study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.”

grace failure

I learned about God’s grace through failure. And I learned that He is the God of second, third, fourth – infinite really – chances!

Discouraged by Failure

My first failure in ministry came while leading a small group in a community-wide Women’s Bible study. I’d only been a Christian three years, but I was on fire for Jesus and eager to serve Him. I was determined to be the best small group leader in the entire study, but every week, fewer and fewer women showed up.

Naïve and self-dependent, I called the women weekly, with urgent questions about their attendance. Of course, that only made things worse.

As I faced the looming reality that my first attempt at leading a small group might bomb, the enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered discouragement. As yearend drew closer, I wondered if the leadership would give me another chance. I wasn’t sure I wanted one. But when I met with the leader to discuss the possibility, she said,

“We are only called to be faithful, not successful. You have been faithful.”

This significant life lesson taught me more about God’s grace.

Too Insecure to Succeed

The second big ministry failure came several years later, after I had led several small groups that bonded and thrived. The leadership of the community Bible study asked me to take on an administrative position and I said “yes.”

One of my duties was to recruit small group leaders for the following year. But when several of the current leaders decided they could not return, I took their resignation personally. The enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered “This is about you. They don’t want to work with you.”

Obviously, I was not ready for this role.

New in faith and still insecure in heart, I crumbled under the pressure. With less than a month before the study was to kick-off, I called the leadership and resigned. My immaturity caused the leaders to scramble to replace me, amidst much angst I’m sure.

But, amazingly – and graciously – they kept me on as a leader, and continued to pour into my life to build my spiritual and emotional strength. Another example of God’s character and grace.

Now, after almost forty years of ministry, I thank God for these dear women who continued to forgive me and invest in me. My service to others builds on the shoulders of these women who mentored me in my early Christian life. They did not give up on a naïve, insecure woman who loved the Lord but failed miserably many times. Their grace reflected God’s grace to us all.

Jesus is about second chances, and third, and fourth, and fifth. I’m constantly reminded of His grace and mercy. God’s grace–what an unspeakable gift!

Oh, Lord, help us all to remember our own failures and your tender mercies, and pass it on.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Sue Edwards new Bible Study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.” The winner will be drawn Wednesday, February 14th.

Sue EdwardsDr. Sue Edwards has over 40 years experience as a Bible teacher, overseer of several megachurch ministries, and author. Now, as Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership, she teaches full-time at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has trained women leaders in Russia, Africa, and Germany. She is the author of 5 leadership books and the Discover Together Bible study series. Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice is the newest in the series. Find out more about the series at www.discovertogetherseries.com 

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