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Archive | God’s Word for Today

Whose Handiwork are You?

It’s really hard not to be self-focused. For starters we live in such a self-absorbed culture. Everything we hear and see encourages us to put ourselves first. Then there are the day-to-day necessities involved in keeping ourselves alive and properly presentable.

So too often when we sit down with God’s Word, we bring the same self-focused attitude. See if any of these thoughts sound familiar:

  • How can God’s Word help me in this situation?
  • How can God’s Word encourage me today?
  • How can God’s Word make me feel better about myself?
  • What guidance can God’s Word give me today?

Ephesians 2:10Lately, God has been showing me that I far too often approach the Bible with selfishness and even pride.

I’ve been reading “Women of the Word” by Jen Wilkin. In the first chapter, she writes about several ways we wrongly approach Bible study. Here’s a collection of quotes from her first section “Let the Bible Speak of God:”

“From beginning to end, the Bible is a book about God… We must read and study the Bible with our ears trained on hearing God’s declaration of Himself… The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is… If our reading of the Bible focuses our eyes on anyone other than God, we have gotten backwards the transformation process. Any study of the Bible that seeks to establish our identity without first proclaiming God’s identity will render partial and limited help.”

Did this hit you like it hit me? While intellectually I know that the Bible is about God – and not me – I still had to admit that I often think about me first when I go to God’s Word.

I’ve been working to purposefully think of God first and foremost when I open the Bible. So, when I read I familiar passage the other day, I saw it in a different light:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

In the past, when I read this verse, I focused on the idea that I am God’s poem, His beautiful handiwork. And while that’s true, God should be the primary focus.

To emphasize this point, let’s take a step back and read this verse in its larger context:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has miraculously saved us by His grace. Our salvation is His work from beginning to end. Since we cannot do anything to save ourselves, there is no room for pride. We cannot boast about our accomplishments. God is the One who has done it.

Yet, we get to verse 10, and we make it about us.

Read verse 10 again, out loud this time. Once with the emphasis on the word “handiwork” and once again, with the emphasis where it should be:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We are saved only because of His gracious work on our behalf. We are who we are only because God has created us anew.

No room for pride. No cause for boasting. Only praise and thanksgiving.

Did your out loud reading give you a new perspective on Ephesians 2:10? If so, how?

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Do You have Vision?

VisionDoes your church have a “vision” statement? Maybe you even have a personal vision statement, purpose statement, or mission statement for your own life. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it directly reflects God’s vision and purpose for your church or your life.

Unfortunately, some of us have developed these “vision” statements to communicate our own hopes, dreams, and goals. And sadly, sometimes we recite Proverbs 29:18 to back up this practice. You’ve probably heard the KJV version of Proverbs 29:18.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18, KJV

Sadly, Proverbs 29:18 falls near the top of almost every list of Bible verses that are misunderstood, abused, or taken out of context. As we humans so often do, we look at it from our perspective instead of God’s perspective. We want to be the one with “vision.” We want to pursue our big hopes and dreams.

So, let’s take a look at the original meaning of Proverbs 29:18 to discover how we should understand and apply it. Considering the meaning of a few of the Hebrew words from this verse will help:

  • Vision (English word used in the King James Version) – means “to see with the eyes, either physically or spiritually.” Here, given the context, the spiritual is obviously meant. Therefore, “vision” in Proverbs 29:18 refers to a “revelation, oracle, or prophecy.” In other words, “divine communication.” It originates with God and is given to mankind through His prophets or the Bible. We “see” it and “understand.” This “vision” does not originate with us.
  • People – Refers to “people or nation.” This verse does not necessarily speak to individuals but groups of people joined in some kind of relationship like a nation.
  • Perish – Means “undisciplined, let go of all restraint, run wild.”
  • Keepeth – Means to “observe” or “give heed.”
  • Law – Generally “teaching, doctrine, direction, or instruction.” It can also refer specifically to the Law of Moses (Torah).
  • Happy – Means “happiness, blessedness.”

Properly understood, Proverbs 29:18 gives us very wise advice indeed. Those who don’t observe God’s revelation live undisciplined, unrestrained lives and suffer the consequences. But those who live by God’s Word will experience His blessing.

The New Living Translation reflects the correct meaning in modern language:

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.” Proverbs 29:18, NLT

Is His vision our vision? Or are we operating under a vision of our own making? Our spiritual and eternal well being – as individuals yes, but certainly as communities and nations – depends on our obedience to God’s Word. When we scoff at or turn away from His divine law we suffer the results of our unrestrained living. But when we keep and observe His Word, our obedience will be “blessed.” (Side note: that doesn’t necessarily mean physical prosperity. God’s presence and His spiritual, eternal blessings are far greater!)

So, what is your “vision?” What is the “vision” of your family, community, nation? What results of that “vision” do you see around you?

 

 

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The Real Promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13

1 Coriinthians 10:13You’ve probably heard – or maybe you’ve even said – “God will never give me more than I can handle.” Sounds really good but there’s just one problem. The Bible doesn’t teach that.

Many people point to 1 Corinthians 10:13 to back up this “Christian teaching.” But is that what Paul meant when he wrote: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear?” Let’s pull back and look at this sentence in the context of the larger passage to find out what Paul was talking about. (See this post for more information on “biblical context.) The context, the topic of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 is temptation and being prepared to resist it. Keep reading to discover the real promise found in verse 13.

At the end of chapter 9, Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to practice strict spiritual discipline like he did. Take note of the “for” in 1 Corinthians 10:1 (NIV). Paul wanted them to be self-disciplined because he did not want them to follow the bad example of Israel in the wilderness who gave into temptation and disobeyed God. Because of their disobedience that generation died in the desert and never entered the promised land. Their story was recorded as a warning for the Corinthians and for us (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Then in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul elaborates on what we should do instead of giving into tempation and falling into sin. Here are three truth points for us from this passage:

  1. Thinking we are too strong to fall into sin makes us vulnerable. We must keep up our guard.
  2. No temptation will come our way that hasn’t already been part of the human experience. We won’t be tempted with something “new” or “unusual.”
  3. God is faithful. He will not allow any temptation to come our way that is too great for us to resist. He will always provide a way for us to say no and the strength to bear up under the pull of sin.

Okay, did you see that? Number 3 is the real promise of verse 13. God will never allow us to be tempted to sin beyond what we can resist. 

So what about this question: “Does God ever give us more hardship than we can handle?” The short answer is “yes.” But let’s turn to another one of Paul’s letters for a more in-depth explanation.

In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote about hardships he experienced in Asia:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV

The same biblical author that wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13 also wrote 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Paul knew that God would allow him to experience more hardship than he could bear. He had lived it. He had pressure in

Asia that was far beyond his ability to endure.

Why? Why did God allow Paul – and why does God allow us – to experience trials and difficulties, grief and pain, more than we can bear? So that we will rely on God and not on our own strength and power.

Hear Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:10:

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. 2 Corinthians 1:10, NIV

When we are unable to deliver ourselves, God is able. We we are unable to stand up under the pressure, it will be God’s strength in us.

No, God does not promise that He will never give us more than we can handle. Instead, He holds out His hand and tells us to lean on Him.

Have you ever misunderstood the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13? What comfort can you take in the real promise?

 

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Do You Misuse Philippians 4:13?

It’s probably the most well-known and oft-quoted verse from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13, NKJV

Philippians 4:13Unfortunately, it’s also one of the verses most often taken out of context. We love that one verse so much we pull it out of its home in the surrounding verses. We hold it out on its own and say, “Jesus gives me strength to do all things.” But is that what it means?

Unfortunately, when we take it out of context we lose the original meaning. We even begin to assign meanings to it God never intended.

Let’s say, for instance, I desire to do something big for the Kingdom of God. I have an idea, a vision, of what I’d like to do. But it’s big, really big! Well, if “Jesus gives me strength to do all things,” then doesn’t that mean He will give me the power and opportunities to not only pursue this dream, but also to succeed?

Is that what Philippians 4:13 means? Does it mean that Jesus will give me the power and strength to do whatever I desire to do for Him? Or maybe it means Jesus will give me the power and strength to do what He calls me to do?

We know from other Scriptures that God does gift and guide, equip and empower His children to carry out His purposes for our lives (2 Thessalonians 1:11; Ephesians 1:19-20; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:11-13). But Philippians 4:13 does not promise us that God will give us strength to follow our desires or even to carry out His purposes.

So what does Philippians 4:13 mean?

Let’s drop Philippians 4:13 back into the verses immediately surrounding it and see what it means in light of its context. (For more on the “context” of a biblical passage, check out this post: “4 Things to Consider for Biblical Context.“) In Philippians 4:10-14, Paul thanked the Christians in Philippi for the financial gift they sent him. He appreciated their gift, but he was not in desperate need. In fact, he had learned to be content no matter his physical circumstances. Paul had discovered the secret of contentment whether he was in physical want or plenty.

And what was his secret of contentment, whether he was fed or hungry? Paul had experienced Christ’s strength within him to endure any and every situation. He found total sufficiency in trusting Christ. Paul gained strength from Jesus to be content with whatever God provided for him.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” never meant Paul could do anything because Jesus would give him the power to do it. It meant Paul could endure any difficult circumstance or physical need through the strengthening power of Christ.

Great, incredible truth. Although Philippians 4:13 does not obligate God to empower our plans. Oh no, it’s far better than that! Jesus will give us the strength we need to endure desperate need. His empowering presence will be with us through every difficult circumstance.

Have you gained a better understanding of Philippians 4:13? Does it encourage you today?

 

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Is God Still Good When Our Circumstances Aren’t?

God is Good all the TimeI often hear other Christians say, “God is good!” I heard it when the life of a sick child was spared. And when a biopsy returned benign. And when a job in jeopardy was saved. And when a rebellious teen turned back to God. But is God still good when our circumstances aren’t?

But what about when the child dies or it comes back “cancer” or the job is lost or the teenager never returns? Is God good then?

Yes. God is good all the time. The Bible says so. God cannot be good one moment and not the next. He cannot be good in one situation and not another.

A Facebook post I read not long ago caused me to reflect on this truth. The FB friend wrote, “God is good!” And then she detailed all the recent positive happenings in her life as the proof.

This really troubled me. See, we flawed humans tend to declare God’s goodness only when things turn out the way we hope they will. This implies that we believe God is good because our circumstances are easy. But what if our circumstances are hard? Does that mean God is not good? Or that He is good only to those who don’t have trouble and difficulty?

Our circumstances do not dictate or define God’s goodness. God’s character dictates His goodness. God is good all the time. No matter the circumstances.

The Bible says that God is Good All the Time

Here are a few truths from Scripture to help us develop a correct understanding of the goodness of God:

  • God’s will for our lives is good (Romans 12:2). Sometimes – in fact, often – His will includes trials and difficulty that He uses for our refinement.
  • In all things, in all circumstances, our good God is working for our good. “And 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).
  • The assurance of God’s goodness enables us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to declare in easy times and hard times, “God is good!”

4 Tips to Help You Live the Truth that God is Good All the Time:

How should these truths impact our daily lives? How should we upgrade the way we live and talk and relate to others? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Remember that God is good all the time. Not just when things are going the way we want them to.
  2. Thank Him for His goodness in every life situation.
  3. Be sensitive to those around you who are facing difficult and painful circumstances.
  4. Declare His goodness in every circumstance, particularly in the hard times.

Upgrading our attitudes about God’s goodness can change how we approach every circumstance of life and each person we encounter. God is good, all the time!

Let’s talk. Have you ever been guilty of declaring God’s goodness only in times of ease? Forgetting His goodness in times of difficulty? What are some things we can do to remind ourselves of His goodness in every situation?

 

 

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9 Bible Verses to Comfort the Lonely

Bible verses on lonelinessHave you ever been lonely? Perhaps you’re lonely now. You can feel lonely even in a crowd without a close companion by your side.

People leave. Death and distance separate loved ones. Relationships dissolve. Trouble and time tear us apart.

Even the most loving and dependable people will eventually leave us. Christians will face hardship, loneliness, and a multitude of other trials. But there is One who will never forsake us. One who is always for us.

May these Scriptures from God’s Word give you peace and comfort as you draw close to the One who will never leave you.

  1. Deuteronomy 31:6 – God is with you in the midst of any and every fearful and difficult circumstance.
  2. Psalm 118:6-7 – The LORD is with you! He is your Helper and Victor.
  3. Psalm 9:9-10 – The Lord’s sheltering presence is safe and reliable. He will never forsake those who seek Him.
  4. Psalm 68:5-6 – God draws close to those who are lonely and provides for them. He is a “father to the fatherless” and He “sets the lonely in families.”
  5. Isaiah 41:10 – God holds you in His hand. He will help you and give you strength.
  6. Lamentations 3:22-24 – The LORD is all you need. He is faithful, loving, and compassionate to those who wait for Him.
  7. John 14:16-21 – The Lord’s presence is permanent and intimate.
  8. Romans 8:39 – Nothing can ever separate you from Jesus and His love.
  9. 2 Timothy 4:16-18 – Even if everyone else deserts you, the Lord will stand at your side and strengthen you.

Even if you feel alone, you can trust that God is with you. Ask Him to comfort you with His faithful presence today.

Which verse spoke most to your heart today? Why?

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4 Truths the Bible Teaches about Itself

BibleThe Bible was the first book ever printed. It also holds the distinction of being the best-selling book of all time. In fact, the Bible continues to be the top seller of the year – year after year – with about 25 million copies sold annually in the United States alone.

According to a 2006 New Yorker article by Daniel Radosh, research shows that 91% of American households own at least one Bible and the average household owns four. Reflecting on these statistics, Radosh wrote, “…Bible publishers manage to sell 25 million copies a year of a book that almost everybody already has.”

I just took an inventory of all the Bibles in our house. The result? Twenty-one Bibles in nine different translations.

That inventory does not include the numerous translations I can read online. Or on my phone. Abundant audio versions allow us to listen to the Bible in our cars, at the gym, or anywhere else we can take our MP3 players. Access to God’s Word today has never been greater or more varied.

Unfortunately, the numbers of those who actually read the Bible regularly do not reflect the high level of ownership and accessibility. Pollster George Gallup, Jr. has been widely quoted as saying, “Americans revere the Bible, but, by and large, they don’t read it.” Polls show that only about a third of American Christians read the Bible on their own one or more times each week. How physically healthy would we be if we ate less than once a week?

Are you a statistic? Let’s foster our desire to be in God’s Word by considering four key truths the Bible teaches about itself:

  1. The Bible is literally the words of God – Although physically recorded by the hands of men, every word was inspired by the Spirit of God. God breathed out His Word through humans for humans. (2 Timothy 3:16)
  2. The Bible is alive and active today – God’s Word is working in our lives and the lives of those around us. It is not static or bound by time. It crosses all cultural barriers, language differences, and geographical borders. (Hebrews 4:12)
  3. The Bible is a mirror for our spirits – The Holy Spirit wields God’s Word like a sword to pierce our hearts and reveal our sinful thoughts, attitudes, and motivations (Hebrews 4:12-13).
  4. The Bible is God’s tool for refinement – He lays it out beside our lives as a measuring rod to teach, correct, and equip us in preparation for God’s purposes (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

God longs to lovingly apply His Word like a balm to our souls, to heal our hurts, comfort our grief, and fill us with His joy. Yet often we fail to give Him the opportunity. If we really believe that the Bible is the very words of God to us and for us, then why don’t we read it? Why do we fail to taste its sweetness?

We’ve allowed our fast-food, high-speed internet culture to shape even the way we approach the Bible. I confess, I still sometimes allow the busyness of life to pressure me to get “in and out” of the Bible and on to my full day ahead. Yet to be truly affected by God’s Word, to be transformed by the Holy Scriptures, we must slow down. Linger over it. Savor every word. We cannot experience its earth shaking power on the run.

In Thursday’s post we will consider 3 steps to creating a hunger for God’s Word. Between now and then, let’s reflect on our desire for Scripture. Do we hunger? Do we only take it in when it’s convenient? Do we make time in God’s Word a priority?

Let’s do some honest sharing today. Where are you? How often do you take time to sit down and linger with your Bible?

Note: This blog was adapted from my book “Fed Up with Flat Faith: 10 Attitudes and Actions to Pump Up Your Faith”

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Should Christians Boycott?

“I’m not going to Starbucks anymore,” my friend declared.

“Trying to cut back on the caffeine?” I asked.

“No. It’s because of their stand on marriage.”

Oh. I didn’t bother to tell her that the coffee in our cups was Café Verona. Or that I had just purchased Starbucks gift cards and travel mugs for Christmas presents.

But this encounter highlighted an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while. And with Christmas shopping upon us, it’s a good time to discuss it.

Should Christians participate in boycotts?

What does it mean to “boycott?”

BoycottTo boycott a company means to abstain from buying or using a company’s goods or services in order to intimidate or coerce. Christians often boycott companies that approve of or promote ethics or social issues contrary to our Christian faith.

The primary issues in recent years have been homosexuality and abortion. For instance, some Christians have boycotted companies that offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees or that give money to organizations that provide abortions like Planned Parenthood. A few of the companies that show up on almost every “boycott list” include American Airlines, Disney, Home Depot, Target, and Starbucks.

So what’s a Peppermint Mocha loving girl to do?

Some Biblical Guidelines

I have searched Scripture and prayerfully decided what I should do about boycotts. I don’t believe my conclusion is the only right one or even right for you. Faithful believers fall on both sides of this issue. Unlike murder, adultery, gossip and other topics, there are no direct commands regarding boycotts in Scripture. However, there are biblical truths and principles we can apply.

  • Not like the world, but not separate – Jesus sent us out into the world, to spend time with those who need to know Him (Luke 5:29-32), to be light and salt in this dark and dying world (Matthew 5:13-16). He commands us to be in the world, just not to adopt the values and behavior of the world (John 17:15-18).
  • Don’t judge “the world” – Christians must call other Christians to repentance and obedience. But it is not the Christian’s place to judge the behavior of those outside the church (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Paul commands us to separate ourselves from immoral, unrepentant Christians. He said it’s impossible to separate ourselves from immoral unbelievers.
  • Interacting with the world – Scripture calls us to interact with “outsiders” with respect, gentleness, and grace. In this way, we draw people to ourselves, making the most of every opportunity to share Jesus (1 Peter 3:15 and Colossians 4:5-6).
  • Consider your conscience – At the end of the day, when Scripture doesn’t speak specifically, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, consider how your behavior will affect others, and then follow your conscience. (See 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and Romans 14:1-8.) Believers disagree on the boycott issue and that’s okay. We can each seek to glorify God without condemning another Christian’s decision.

How Does a Boycott Impact the World?

Probably the point that’s impacted my decision the most is how boycotts look to the lost world. Do they glorify God and point others to Jesus or do they simply leave a bad taste in their mouths for Christianity?

An article I read by Russell Moore presented a very valid argument on the “no boycott” side. Moore essentially said that boycotts are the way the world fights.

A boycott exposes us to all of our worst tendencies. Christians are tempted, again and again, to fight like the devil to please the Lord… But we don’t persuade our neighbors by mimicking their angry power-protests. We persuade them by holding fast to the gospel, by explaining our increasingly odd view of marriage, and by serving the world and our neighbors around us, as our Lord does, with a towel and a foot-bucket.

We cannot change the world and its ways from the outside in. The Holy Spirit is the One who transforms our thinking and behavior to conform to God’s. Our job is to introduce them to Jesus.

Will a boycott further the Gospel? If I refuse to purchase Starbucks coffee will it help me engage my neighbor about spiritual things or create opportunities to share Jesus? And what about Christians employed by Starbucks who earn their living from the company?

My Personal Decision About Boycotts

Choosing to boycott is a huge can of worms. What are the guidelines? What company policies are “anti-Christian?” Do you stop at company policies or also consider the views of management? The slant of the advertising? What about all the items a store has on their shelves? Would I stay away from iTunes because of some of the music they sell? What about the policies of my electricity provider or mortgage company?

As you can tell from the direction of the post to this point, I don’t plan to give up lattes, burn my Disney movies, or stop shopping at Target. But, I understand why other believers take a different stand. If the Holy Spirit and your heart leads you that way, then that is what you should do. This is one of those matters where believers can differ yet still live in unity.

I do consider the primary purpose of the business before making any final decisions. For instance, Starbuck’s primary purpose is to sell coffee. That’s why I give them money. But, if a company’s primary business purpose is to sell something like pornography, then I would say emphatically that Christians should not give them their money. And I wholeheartedly support Christian-owned businesses with my money and word of mouth. I choose Hobby Lobby over Michael’s and Chick-Fil-A over every other chicken sandwich.

To boycott or not to boycott, that is the question. The answer? Which action best glorifies God and furthers His Kingdom?

What about you? How has God led you regarding the issue of boycotts?

Two related articles to check out:

“Should Christians Boycott Starbucks?” by Russell Moore

“Can Christians Do Business with the World?” by Robert Rothwell

 

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I’m Trying to be Grateful, But I’m a Slow Learner

Reach Out 2014There’s a particular lesson God keeps teaching me over and over again. He wants me to be grateful and act like it. He’s brought it up from multiple directions over the past couple of years. You’d think I’d be an expert by now. But apparently I’m a slow learner.

The lesson is easy to understand. It’s just hard to retain.

God wants me to be a giver, not a taker. He wants me to reach out with full hands, not empty ones. He wants me to store up treasures in heaven, not pack my closet with clothes.

The lessons began a couple of years ago. I had been growing increasingly uncomfortable over not only the excess of our culture, but also the excess in my own life. (See this earlier post.) Then God dropped a life-changing Bible study in my lap called “The 7 Experiment” by Jen Hatmaker. In fact, I publicly worked through the study here on my website and then led it with women at my church.

I know God was teaching me to be more aware and responsive to the needs of others around me. To be far less self-indulgent. To use the vast resources He has given me and my family to help and bless others.

And I did. For awhile. Oh, but old habits are hard to break.

Recently I realized I had taken two steps forward, but then one step back. “Recently,” as in, just this week. And God’s lesson was refreshed in triplicate.

  • First, on Sunday, our pastor’s sermon was titled “Treasures in Heaven.” Yep, from Matthew 6:19-24. And he challenged us to give to mission work in India our church has partnered with.
  • Second, the team leader of BFF (an advocacy group I’m part of for a girls’ center in Bangladesh) wrote about the possibility of a big endeavor we might take on.
  • Third, I got a message from my writer friend Shellie Tomlinson (The Belle of All Things Southern) asking me to participate in a November gratitude drive called “Reach Out 2014.” This is the one I want to share with you today.

Reach Out 2014

In Shellie’s words, the Reach Out campaign asks “writers and readers alike to kick off the holiday season with a commitment not to simply articulate our thankfulness, but to express our gratitude in a tangible way on behalf of those who could never in their wildest dreams conceive of the type of holidays we’ll soon enjoy. We’ll take the 30 days leading up to Thanksgiving to give and to help motivate our own circle of friends to give with us!”

Shellie not only challenges us to show our gratitude in a tangible way, she offers a great opportunity to do it in a way that supports God’s Kingdom. She has partnered with “Hope without Borders” to raise $20,000 to build a Hope Center for children in Nicaragua.

I’ve already donated. You can find out more, join the Reach Out effort, or donate on Shellie’s site.

Of course this is just one way to show your gratitude. God may lead you in another direction.

But, either way, please join me this month of Thanksgiving to show our gratitude to the Giver of all things by giving to others in return.

In what ways have you been blessed? In what ways could you bless someone else?

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10 Things to Pray for Christians in Iraq

Pray for persecuted ChristiansThis past week, stories of persecuted believers filled social media. As I read still another tragic account, the need to pray overwhelmed me. Yet, I felt so inadequate about how and what to pray for Christians in Iraq.

Recently, God has been shifting my perspective on Christian persecution. I know from His Word that He works in it and through it in a unique way and uses it to expand the Kingdom. Prayers solely for the persecution to end did not seem adequate.

So I asked God to show me. “Lord, how do I pray for your people enduring great suffering for the name of Christ?”

Then the Holy Spirit prompted me to look up passages in God’s Word about sharing in the sufferings of Christ. For that is what our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria and other parts of the globe are doing.

These passages give us some direction, some catalyst for our prayers. The following are 10 things I pulled right out of Scripture we can pray for these dear, suffering believers:

  1. That they would experience the overflowing comfort of Christ through the very real and abundant presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
  2. For their lives to produce patient endurance (2 Corinthians 1:6-8).
  3. That they would learn to rely totally on God (2 Corinthians 1:9)
  4. That God would help them maintain an eternal perspective, keeping Christ above all earthly things (Philippians 3:7-9).
  5. That they would know Christ deeply and intimately (Philippians 3:10).
  6. That Christ’s resurrection power would flood their lives (Philippians 3:10).
  7. That their suffering for Christ would be a clear, strong testimony to Christ, bringing Him glory (1 Peter 3:15-16).
  8. That they would experience overwhelming join as they participate in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-14).
  9. That their hearts would swell with praise for God (1 Peter 4:16).
  10. For their ultimate deliverance and glory in Christ (Romans 8:17-18).

Join me in praying for believers around the world who are being persecuted because of Christ!

How have you been led to pray? Voice a prayer in the comments below.

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