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I am Clueless

Have you ever been wronged by someone who had no idea she had done anything? It may have been hurtful words or inconsiderate actions. But she was completely clueless. It’s happened to me. And I know without a doubt that I’ve done it to others as well.

I read a Psalm recently during my quiet time that I’ve read dozens of times. However, this time God showed me something I had not really noticed before.

Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Ps 19:12-13

At first read, it’s easy to understand “hidden faults” as those things we do we don’t want others to know about. The things we do in the dark, hide from others. But the surrounding statements shed a bit of light. David realized that he was not capable of even recognizing all the ways he sinned against our high and lofty God.

Let’s read it again from the New Living Translation:

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep me from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. Psalm 19:12-13, NLT

Sometimes I sin against God and don’t even realize it. My sinful heart keeps me from being able to recognize the depth of my transgression against our holy God. I’m clueless. My sin nature blinds me to my own sin.

The psalmist, David, asked God to forgive him for the sin he was not even aware he had committed. Then he asked God to protect him from yielding to blatant temptation. David longed to be blameless – innocent in thought, attitude, and deed. And not in just the things that people would notice. David wanted to be innocent in the eyes of his holy God. Wow!

God has brought me back to these verses several times in the last week. Do you think He’s trying to tell me something? Every time, my prayer has been David’s prayer:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Ps 19:14 

Are you brave enough to ask God to reveal your hidden faults?

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5 Things to Do When You Feel Discouraged

When was the last time you felt discouraged? Maybe it’s today. Perhaps you face difficult circumstances or everything just seems to be going wrong. You don’t have to give in to discouragement.

The Apostle Paul had plenty of reason to be discouraged. Daily, he endured hardship, danger, pain, suffering, and uncertainty. More than once he looked death in the face. Yet he claimed to not only be content and at peace in any and every circumstance, Paul even rejoiced!

No matter the concern or difficult situation, Paul was at peace. Whether fed or hungry, he was content. Whether in need or in plenty, he was satisfied. In every event and every season, Paul chose to rejoice. Seems impossible, doesn’t it? What was Paul’s secret?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:4-13

Paul purposefully developed an active trust and confident dependence on Christ’s provision and power. Paul took every small need, big need, and in-between need to God in prayer. Peace filled Paul because he chose to trust that God would provide. He did not allow his mind to dwell on the “what ifs.”

Paul experienced contentment in every difficult circumstance or physical need by relying on the strengthening power of Christ working within him. He found total sufficiency in trusting Jesus. And Paul could rejoice because he depended on God’s gracious provision.

We can also experience peace, contentment, and joy when we follow Paul’s example. Here are a few practical tips to get us started:

  1. Take every concern and need to God in prayer.
  2. Choose to trust Him with the answer.
  3. Discipline our thoughts. Focus on God’s provision and not the “what ifs.”
  4. Ask Jesus to strengthen us in times of discontentment. Then rely on His strength.
  5. Choose joy over discouragement.

Bury these marvelous truths in your heart, then share them with others. Jesus is far greater than our need. His power mightily overshadows our discouragement.

What one thing discourages you the most today? What truth from God’s Word today speaks encouragement to you?

 

 

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Are You “Blessed?”

Today’s devotional thought was written by Kimberly Texidor, minister, Bible teacher, and leader of the Facebook group “Soul Tired: A Walk 90-Day Walk through the Psalms for the Weary Traveler.”   (It’s not too late to join in!) This devotional is based on Psalm 1:1-3.

We just met “Harvey.” My family and I live and minister in the Houston area where we hurricane Harvey recently left devastating flooding in its wake. As the community mobilized to help with the cleanup process, there was an urgent need for what they call “mudding out” homes. It is as gross, smelly, and difficult as it sounds, but the work is vital to the survival of the property. 

As I scrolled through social media one afternoon, I came across a photo of a family’s soggy, ruined possessions tossed onto the street along with sheetrock, carpet, insulation, and a lifetime of memories. On the top of the pile lay a cutout sign that probably once adorned their mantle. It simply read #Blessed. 

I have to admit, I’m often perplexed by this “blessed” movement. So often the hash tag comes alongside photos of smiling families, cute children, new cars, or luxury vacations. What does it really mean to have a “blessed” life? What am I actually telling someone at the grocery store or coffee shop when I tell him to have a “blessed” day?

What does it mean to be “blessed?”

For the Psalmist, this “blessed” life was more than a collection of stuff or a season when everything goes according to plan. In the original language, this word is literally translated “happy”. This kind of blessed life is a deep-running happiness that endures outside of circumstances, seasons, floods, or feelings. 

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3, NIV

What can we learn from Psalm 1 about this “happy” life? First, the text says this abiding happiness comes from a disassociation with the wicked and an attachment to God and His Word. (vv1-3). This happy person recognizes the sneaky nature of evil that would cause a follower of God to first walk, then stand, then take up a seat and sit with influences that bring harm to our souls. 

Second, this blessed person is consciously and consistently spending time in and meditating on God’s Word. In a changing, uncertain, storm-ravaged life, the blessed person chooses to focus on God’s eternal promises rather than temporary circumstances. As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

How Can I have a Blessed Life?

The truth is, if I base my happiness on the people, influences, or stuff in my life, where will I be if it all blows away? If I build a life on unhealthy relationships and decisions, will I feel happy when I see my own face in the mirror? To use the illustration of Jesus, if I’m building an entire life on a castle made of sand, who will I be when it falls? (Matt. 7:24-27)

But we can build a different life, a blessed life, even a happy life. We can build a life based on God’s Word and on living connected to Him. This person, according to Psalm 1, will be a stable, steady, well-fed, blessed person, through all the storms and seasons of life.

Apply these Blessed Truths:

  • Would I describe my life today as “blessed”? Do I base my feelings of blessedness on people, things, circumstances, or something else?
  • Are there unhealthy people or influences in my life that are causing me to walk, stand, or pull up a seat and sit in places where a child of God doesn’t belong? 
  • What commitment do I need to make in regards to meditating on God’s Word?

It’s not too late to join the “Soul Tired” community! There you will find the 90-day reading plan for the Psalms, daily devotionals and lots of discussion in a loving community!

 

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Family Devotional Guide for Your Summer Vacation

family devotional guideWhen our kids were young we did a lot of cross-country driving. Combine little money for airfare with living far away from grandparents and you’ve got at least two long days in the car – one way.

It’s not easy to keep 3 kids under 10 restrained in the back seat for hours on end. I did everything I could think of to keep the kiddos occupied. Lots of snacks – healthy and not so healthy. Games like I Spy and 20 Questions. Books and toys.

While vacations offer adventure, rest, and relationship, they can also be opportunities to teach our children more about God. Travel time, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, provides a captive audience! But we must be prepared.

While you’re packing the swimsuits, sunscreen, and car snacks, grab this 7-day family devotional guide to use during your family vacation. You can use it in the car, on the beach, or around the campfire.

Each Scripture reading is about a biblical journey. Questions are provided each day to get your family talking together about the truth presented in each story. Family Vacation Devotional Guide Print it off and pack it. It won’t take up much space!

Would love to hear from you! What do you do to keep your kids occupied during long car trips?

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Delicious Comfort Zones and a Giveaway

Rhonda and Kaley Rhea are my guests today! Keep reading to find out more about chocolate and comfort zones, and to enter for a chance to win a copy of their new book, “Turtles in the Road.”

We both love a nice, cozy comfort zone. By “comfort zone,” about eighty percent of the time we probably mean “chocolate zone.” Did you hear about the recent study that determined that 10 out of 9 people love chocolate? It doesn’t even matter that the math doesn’t work. Know why? Chocolate.

Since people are finding more ways all the time that chocolate is good for your health, we’ve decided that we shall never at any time of our lives think of ourselves as “overweight.” We shall forever refer to it as “chocolate-enriched.”

That’s our comfort zone and we’re sticking to it.

Turtles in the RoadWe just recently somewhat stepped out of our non-chocolate-related comfort zone to write a romantic comedy about a gal who was forced outside her…well, on theme…outside her comfort zone. The book is titled, Turtles in the Road and, not to give anything away, but our deliciously funny character finds laughs, grace and all kinds of adventure in her most uncomfy places.

There are comfort zones, and then there are comfort zones. When God commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses, He gave Joshua instructions about the new land He was to possess. He said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Sometimes God calls us to step out of everything comfortable. We see it all through Scripture. God called Moses to step out before the mantle was passed to Joshua. God called Abraham to leave his home and everything familiar to him to take off to zones unknown. He called Samuel, He called Isaiah, He called so many more. Jesus called His disciples to step away from their nets, out of their comfortable lives, and to follow Him with abandon.

There aren’t a lot of things in this life we can promise will happen, but we can promise this. At some point you will be called to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t think you’re being reprimanded. And even more importantly, don’t think for a second that He is not with you in that less-than-comfy place. Be strong. Be courageous. Know He is with you.

It’s good to remember that stepping out of our comfort zone is also stepping into the comfort of His Holy Spirit. It’s amazing—even in discomfort, there’s comfort! Real comfort from The Comforter. It’s comfort not in a place, not in a possession, not in a food—it’s in a Person, the Person of our mighty God of all comfort.

As you step out in faith, you’ll find there’s growth in every new place the Lord leads you. You can rest assured He will never ask you to step out of one zone and into another without His presence, without His purpose or without His empowering.

It’s a God-enriched life. And as awesome as a chocolate-enriched life is, a God-enriched one is infinitely better.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of “Turtles in the Road,” share your most comfortable comfort zone in the comments! Winner will be drawn Thursday, May 11th at 8am! 

Rhonda Rhea, Kaley RheaMother/daughter writing duo, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea, are the authors of Turtles in the Road, an inspirational humorous romance that’s just releasing. They are both TV personalities for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Rhonda is also a nationally-known speaker, humor columnist and author of 11 other books, including Fix-Her-Upper, a soon-releasing nonfiction project coauthored with Beth Duewel. Rhonda is married to her pastor/husband, Richie Rhea, and they have five grown children and two grandbabies. Kaley works at Missouri Baptist University and she and Rhonda both live in the St. Louis area. You can find “Turtles in the Road” at Bold Vision Books and Amazon

 

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Why Do You Follow Jesus?

Follow JesusThis isn’t just a rhetorical question. I am asking it of myself this week. Why do I follow Jesus?

The question came up during my daily Bible reading in the sixth chapter of John. Jesus had just fed more than 5,000 people with just 5 small loaves of bread and 2 little fish – a miraculous, supernatural feat that displayed Jesus’ power and authority.

The next morning the crowds came looking for Him again. But they didn’t come to worship or to seek the things that only He can give.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

John 6:26-31, NLT

The people looked for Jesus because He had filled their bellies, not because they had allowed Him to fill their souls. They missed the point of the miracle. They failed to see past their own physical circumstances. And even after Jesus pointed out their eternal, spiritual need, they simply asked what else He might do for them.

They asked for less. They looked for things that don’t last. It was all about a full belly and the here and now.

Sometimes I do the same. Often I am consumed by my temporary, physical circumstances and turn to Jesus solely because I want Him to “fix” things. I lost sight of the bigger picture. I allow the short-term to overshadow eternity. I spend all my energy worrying about things that don’t last when instead I should simply come to Jesus for the spiritual food only He can provide.

What about you? Why are you following Jesus today?

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Work is Not a Four-Letter Word

workMy Dad instilled a strong work ethic in me and my brother when we were growing up. First, he led by example and second, he made sure we got plenty of practice by giving us chores around the house.

Of all my family responsibilities, the task I disliked the most was sweeping the pine straw off the patio and driveway. The dozens of pine trees in our front and back yards dropped lots and lots of needles. Plus, the concrete of the patio and driveway wasn’t smooth. It had lots of little pebbles in it that caught the needles. It seemed I would never finish.

Although I hated that particular task back then, now I appreciate Dad’s purposeful training. He cultivated the patience required to stick with a tedious task and helped us experience the joy of a job well done. He not only equipped us to work, but he also prepared us to benefit from the God-given sense of fulfillment that comes from work.

Sadly, work is way under-rated today. It seems many in our culture view work as bad. Some try to avoid it as much as possible. Others merely endure it as a “necessary evil.”

God created work to be good

But “work” is not a 4-letter word. Although sin has made work more difficult (Genesis 3:17-19), God created work as good. Before the Fall, He gave work to mankind as a gift (Genesis 2:15). In its right form, work brings fulfillment, a sense of purpose, and joy.

Even this side of the Fall God declares hard work to be wise and laziness to be foolish (Proverbs 6:6-11). Those who work will have abundant food and those who “chase fantasies” will lack (Proverbs 28:19).

I know circumstances prevent some from working who want to. Who long to. But those are the exception. My purpose with this post is merely to get us thinking about God’s good purpose in giving us work and for us to evaluate our attitude toward it.

God wired us to work. He created us with a need to invest ourselves in something. To create. To form. To produce.

And the benefits are boundless. Not only do we reap the fruit of our labor and earn our keep, we also experience a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and joy. Yep. God really knew what He was doing. Work. It’s a good, God thing.

How do you feel about work?

 

 

 

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4 Questions Answered about Real Love

Real LoveWhat is real love? If you believe the movies, it’s defined by two beautiful celebrities locked in a passionate embrace. Our culture equates “love” with sexual attraction.

But that’s not real love. That’s just physical desire. And it’s fleeting at best. Like chocolate on a hot day, it doesn’t last long.

Why do we love? If you follow the example of our culture, we “love” to benefit self. We love those who deserve it or those who can help us in some way.

But that’s not real love. That’s simply shallow selfishness.

Our culture – and even ourselves – cannot teach us about real love. Only God can.

What is real love?

But God’s Word has the answers. The Bible defines love. The Bible tells us how to love, who to love, and why to love.

Real love is divine love. God calls us to love one another like He loves us (John 13:34-35). The Greek word translated as “love” is agape. It is love of volition, not emotion. We can choose to act in love toward another. Agape is also based on the character of the one acting in love and not the worth of the recipient. God loves us because of His perfect, holy nature, not because we deserve His love.

God loves us because of who He is not because of who we are. He loves because it is His holy nature to do so. That’s why God’s love is completely unconditional. It is based on His perfect self.

God’s love should be our example. Not our culture. We love others because God loved us first. Even when we didn’t deserve it.

How should we love?

This is a tall order. Jesus said we are to love each other like He loves us. Jesus gave His life for us. He put our needs ahead of His own and trusted the Father with the outcome. (See John 15:9-14.)

Who should we love?

Jesus told us to love three groups of people. First, we are to love our fellow believers (John 15:12). Second, we are to love “our neighbors” (Matthew 19:19). Third, we are to “our enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Huh. That sounds like pretty much everybody to me.

Why should we love?

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We are to love others because God loves us. He made us in His image. He calls us to reveal the love of Christ to the world. He is a God of love and we are to be people of love.

Love others like God loved us. Big assignment. But we also have a big, loving God.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16b

Love. God is our reason, our example, and our enabler.

What do you find the hardest about loving others as God loves you?

 

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Are Your Plans Out of Control?

plansWhen our oldest daughter graduated from high school, we booked a summer cruise to celebrate. The family would spend seven days in the Caribbean on a floating resort! We researched the ports and excursions. We checked the weather to pack the right clothing. We carefully picked the flight to get us to the departure city on time. Our plans were detailed and thorough.

When the day arrived, we loaded the luggage and went to the airport. But one problem after another arose. We suffered through mechanical trouble, overbooking, and weather issues. After hours of trying everything, our disappointed family reloaded the car and went home. All our careful planning could not get us on that ship. Too many things were simply out of our control.

We humans like to plan, but our control is limited. In fact, you may be frustrated or anxious right now because you feel you have no control over your life. Be encouraged and take comfort in this firm truth: our God has complete control.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Proverbs 16:3, NIV

God’s people can trust Him with our lives – and our plans. In fact, we make the best plans when we first seek God’s direction. The word “commit” in Proverbs 16:3 implies a humble dependence on God for the direction of our lives. Ask for His will and follow it. God blesses the plans that please Him. Then, leave the outcome up to God. Our plans still may change, but we can trust God is in control.

In what ways can you seek God’s direction for your plans and then trust Him to carry out His perfect will?

 

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Are you a Stunted Shrub or a Fruitful Tree?

Jeremiah 17We’ve lived in the West Texas desert. Twice. Not much can grow there. Even the small, stunted mesquite shrubs quickly become tumbleweeds in a windstorm. But here in southeast Texas the foliage thrives. It’s green around here pretty much twelve months of the year. Something is growing and blooming all the time. The plants have what they need – sun, warmth, and plenty of water.

I’ve seen plenty of stunted shrubs and fruitful trees. Such a stark contrast. In fact, God uses this contrast in the book of Jeremiah. God does that a lot in Scripture; He gives us word pictures to help us better understand spiritual truths.

The first chapter of Psalms has been my favorite for a long time – the man who mediates on the law of the LORD is like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:1-3). But recently, the comparison God gives us in Jeremiah 17 between a stunted shrub and a fruitful tree really impacted me.

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8, NLT

Which are you? Stunted Shrub or Fruitful Tree?

Jeremiah 17

How does one get to be a “stunted shrub?” You turn away from God and trust in humans. And the results are not pretty. Stunted shrubs are cursed. They have no growth and no hope for the future.

How does one get to be a “fruitful tree?” You trust in the Lord and put your hope in Him alone. The results are far much better. This person will be blessed and secure in difficult circumstances. She will stay healthy and grow, producing “fruit” that lasts.

I would much rather be a fruitful tree! How about you?

What can you do today to put your trust and hope in God?

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