Archive | God’s Word for Today

8 Tips for the Perfect Re-gift

Have you ever received a re-gift? Have you ever re-gifted? The term “re-gift,” first coined by Jerry Seinfield on his hit TV show, means to give as a gift something one previously received as a gift. For instance, on my 40th birthday a teacher friend of mine gave me a nice bath salts ball neatly wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon. The gift label firmly stuck on the cellophane read, “To Mrs. Smith, from your student Susie.” Whoops! (By the way, names were changed to protect a not-so-savvy re-gifter.)

Christmas, regiftMy re-gifting friend could have benefited from the re-gifting rules below. Please keep these in mind as you finish up your Christmas shopping – whether at the mall or in your closet. (Keep reading to the end of the post to find out about the perfect re-gift!)

Rules for Re-gifting

1.      Check your motivation – do you have good intentions? Don’t re-gift simply because you ran out of time. Make sure the item will be desirable to the recipient.

2.      Update the wrapping – do not re-give a gift in its original gift bag if crinkled or torn, or even worse, in the wrapping paper it was in when given to you. Most importantly check for original gift tags and cards. These are a dead giveaway as I well know.

3.      Don’t re-gift something you’ve used – this includes partially used gift cards; one gift receiver found a few grains of rice in a “new” rice cooker she was given. Continue Reading →

Read More »

Messy Christmas

Christmas treeThis post originally ran December 2012.

Christmas often comes with high expectations. We think everything has to be just so. Perfect decorations. Perfect family. Perfect gifts. Perfect meal.

Our culture perpetuates this fantasy. In the dozens of made-for-TV Christmas movies, the girl always finds her soul mate, the estranged father is always reunited with his family, the boy always gets the puppy, and the table is always laden with beautiful food (which must have been made by Christmas elves because you don’t see anyone slaving away for hours in the kitchen).

But here’s the problem with high expectations: many of us will be disappointed. Life will never be perfect – not even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. The arrival of December 25th does not magically heal broken relationships or ease the pain of loss or pay the bills.

In fact, Christmas tends to intensify any grief, anxiety, and sadness we feel because we compare our imperfect, messy lives to that unrealistic perfect image. When our lives don’t measure up, we lose hope. Without hope, Christmas becomes a time we have to get through instead of a joyful celebration.

Here’s the good news: Real hope for Christmas is not in a golden turkey or a new Kindle or a happy family gathered around a gorgeous tree. Real hope is in a babe in a manger. God come to earth to be with us. Immanuel.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… In Him was life and that life was the light of men… We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.  John 1:4, 12, 14

This life is messy and will be messy until Jesus comes back for His children. In the meantime, we will encounter trials, pain, death, sickness, divorce, heartache – oh, just name! However, in the middle of all our mess we can find strength, joy, and peace in the Savior. The birth of that one tiny baby long ago provides hope – for this life and eternity.

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, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

Does your life feel messy this Christmas? Lay it all at the manger. Find your Christmas joy and peace in the Child of Christmas. In your Savior.

Are you struggling with a messy life this Christmas season? Share a thought about the hope, joy, and peace you can find in Christ!

Read More »

It’s Not Me, It’s You

I realize this statement is usually the other way around. “It’s not you, it’s me” is that classic breakup line that’s supposed to make the other person feel better about being dumped. By the way, why do we try that? No one ever buys it.

Sadly, I’ve used a version of this once or twice myself. One time I used it though it didn’t stick. Two years later we got back together. And tomorrow is our 30th wedding anniversary!

The familiar line – It’s not you, it’s me – reminds me of how self-centered we humans are. We are so self-focused that breakups aren’t even about the other person. We make everything about us. We talk and act like the world revolves around us.

Just in case you were wondering, the world actually revolves around the sun. I think I learned that in Science class somewhere along the way.

It's YouThe world may physically revolve around the sun, but it exists for God’s glory. You exist for God’s glory. I exist for God’s glory. Here’s a sampling of what Scripture says about this:

  • God designed the created world to bring Him glory (Psalm 19:1).
  • God extended His mercy to us for His glory (Romans 9:23).
  • God created us for His glory (Isaiah 43:7).
  • God saved us for His glory (Ephesians 1:11-13).
  • We will spend eternity giving Him glory (Revelation 1:6).

Sounds like everything really is about Him. Not me. Not you. So why do we live like it’s about us?

Join in me in an experiment. Let’s make today really all about Him.

How might today look different if we make it about God instead of about ourselves?

Read More »

Are You a Grace Tightwad?

I’ve experienced it several times – the miracle in the Starbucks’ drive-thru line. That thrilling experience when you order your drink, pull around to the window, and the barista announces that the person in front of you paid for your coffee.

My first reaction is always “Wow! That’s awesome!” Then almost as quickly I think, “Man, I should have ordered a venti!”

Somewhere in there my gratitude fosters a desire to buy the coffee for the next person in line. But before I pull out my wallet I check out the vehicle behind me to make sure it’s not a 12-passenger van carrying a high school basketball team.

I mean, I want to pass along the blessing, but there are limits.

graceDo we ever feel that way about sharing God’s grace? Are we stingy with the kindness God has freely given us?

As believers, we have an abundant supply of His grace. In Ephesians 1:3-8, Paul beautifully describes the overflowing nature of God’s grace towards us. We have been lavished with the riches of His grace!

The Greek word “lavished” in Ephesians 1:8 means to “exceed, to exist in abundance, to be left over, to abound, to overflow, to furnish richly so that one has an abundance.”

We have more grace than we need. In fact, we are swimming in it! Yet, so often we hold it back from others.

Ironic isn’t it, that those of us who have been so richly blessed by the miracle of God’s grace are so hesitant to share it. Why is that?

In his book “Putting a Face on Grace,” Richard Blackaby makes a profound statement:

“We are not called to just bathe in grace; we are called to shower it upon others. Grace has not been fully experienced until it is fully expressed to others. The deeper our understanding of grace, the more we see the necessity of making it the fabric of our lives.”

I believe one of the primary reasons we fail to be people of grace is that we have failed to recognize how desperately we need it ourselves. We underestimate the depth of God’s grace working in our own lives. If we truly understood the magnitude of God’s grace to us, we wouldn’t dare withhold it from those around us.

I think another reason we are stingy with gracious words and actions is that – whether we will admit it or not – we don’t feel the other person “deserves it.” And you know what? Often they don’t. But you know what else? We don’t deserve God’s grace either. It’s just that simple.

God calls us to be people of grace. To “live a life worthy of the calling we have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Let’s reflect on the depth of our own need for His grace to foster and attitude of gratitude. Let’s open our hands and extend His grace to others.

Have you been a bit stingy with God’s grace? Is there someone in your life who needs to experience it today?

Read More »

God is Now Optional

Have you heard the news? God is now optional. You can choose for yourself whether or not you want to acknowledge Him.

Last week, the Air Force Academy announced a decision to make a phrase in the honor code “optional.” Now cadets can decide for themselves if they would like to commit to resolve to do their duty and live honorably with or without God’s help.

Air Force AcademyAccording to the Academy’s official statement by Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, this change helps “build a culture of dignity and respect” among the cadets by giving them “freedom” to choose their religious preference.

What the Lt. General does not realize is that her “freedom” to not acknowledge God is really great foolishness with eternal consequences.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness…  Romans 1:28-29a

Maybe you heard the news story and shook your head or said “so sad.” Maybe you’re thinking it’s just a small thing. But God said this would happen. It’s another step along the “last days” path of destruction for our society. God warned us through Paul’s letter to Timothy:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT

Does any of that sound familiar? Just look around. The Air Force Academy cadets can now choose to abstain from lying, stealing, and cheating under their own power or with God’s help.

“We will not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and live honorably, so help me God.” Or so help myself.

Those who choose to leave out the phrase “so help me God” are “rejecting the power that could make them godly.”

In reality, every one of us makes that choice every day. Will we live under God’s authority and accept the help and power that can only come from Him? Or will we choose to reject Him and be our own god? One choice leads to life and one leads to eternal destruction.

The choice seems easy. So why do so many choose the way of destruction? The real truth of it is that when we choose to reject the one, true God we are worshipping ourselves. We have set ourselves up as “god.” Lord, have mercy on us!

We can’t choose for the cadet. Or for our spouse. Or for our neighbor. But each of us can choose to live our life dependent on God. What will you choose today?

 

Read More »

Our Battle with the Green-Eyed Monster

wisdom, proverbsJealousy is a beast. Often referred to as “the green-eyed monster,” it hungrily devours our peace, contentment, and joy leaving nothing but decay in its wake. Shakespeare, who coined this metaphor for jealousy in his play “Othello,” knew it’s destructive power. Perhaps he had this proverb on the side of his coffee mug.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30, NIV

I’ll be honest with you. I have green eyes, both literally and metaphorically. Jealousy is something I’ve struggled with over the years. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think most women share this struggle.

One of the biggest areas of envy is the comparison trap. I know it has caught me over and over.

She’s thinner… prettier… funnier… smarter… richer… more popular… (insert your own particular source of jealousy here)… than me. I wish I had/was that. I don’t like her. I’m unhappy. I’ll never be happy.

A drop of jealousy can begin a downward spiral that spins us right into decaying despair. Rotting bones.

Jealousy is a strong, even overwhelming emotion. We see a possession or quality that belongs to someone else and we want it. And we don’t want them to have it. Jealousy is hostile, disruptive, and consuming.

Think about the last time you felt jealous. What did you see that you wanted? Who possessed it? How did you feel about that person? How did you feel about yourself?

Jealousy plants decay in our hearts and souls. It eats us up from the inside out. It derails the abundant life Jesus says belongs to us in Him. And we do it to ourselves.

envy, jealousy, Proverbs 14:30Oh, the world is filled with an endless supply of things that can spark jealousy. How can we kill that dreaded green-eyed monster?

King David – who definitely had some experience with jealousy – reveals the kill shot in Psalm 37.

1 Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.  Psalm 37:1-4, NLT

We get jealous because we’re focused on ourselves. We must focus our eyes, our hearts, our desires on Jesus instead. The more we look at Him, the more we want Him. The more we want Him, the less of everything else we’ll want. Then what we desire and what God wants to give us will be the same thing!

The more of Him we want, the more of Him we’ll have. And unlike the stuff of the world, Jesus will complete satisfy our “wanter.” Isn’t God miraculous?

Focus on Jesus. Slay the green-eyed monster. Experience joy and satisfaction.

What is your weak spot? Where in your life does the green-eyed monster most often attack? What have been the repercussions in your life?

Read More »

What is Wrong with Parents these Days?

I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not the perfect parent. My kids aren’t perfect either. They’ve messed up. I’ve messed up. We’ll all mess up again.

But there’s a difference between my imperfect parenting and what I’ve seen in the news recently. Though this post is a bit different than what I normally write, two specific stories caught my attention and won’t let it go.

Brian Holloway’s House Trashed

teen with phoneLabor Day weekend, more than 300 teenagers partied at the vacation home of former NFL player, Brian Holloway. Unfortunately, Holloway was not at home. Nor did he know that hundreds of drunk, rowdy party goers were “enjoying” his home. Not until his son happened to see photos and posts pop up on Twitter and other social media outlets.

Holloway called the police but when they arrived the only thing they found was the aftermath – trash, graffiti, broken windows, beer and urine soaked carpet. Holloway estimates the property damage at around $20,000.

Instead of immediately insisting on arrests, Holloway organized a cleanup, but none of the partying teens or their parents showed up. So, in an effort to get the teens to come forward, take responsibility for their actions and change their behavior, Holloway reposted their partying photos on a website he created called HelpMeSave300.com.

How many do you think came forward after that? None! Unless you count the parents who’ve threatened to sue Holloway for posting photos of their delinquent teenagers online. Seriously?!

Twelve-year-old Bullied to Death

The second story resulted in consequences far greater than property damage. On September 9, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from a water tower after suffering months of bullying by a group of 12 to 14 year-old girls.

It started over a boy late last year at school. Physical attacks. Terrorizing her online. The school knew. The parents’ knew. Rebecca’s parents resorted to homeschooling. But it continued. In fact, it continued even after Rebecca unsuccessfully attempted suicide last December by cutting her wrists.

So far, Florida sheriff Grady Judd has arrested two girls, charging them with felony aggravated stalking. And he hasn’t ruled out charging the parents too.

His reasoning? “It only can happen when parents don’t parent their children,” he said. “You need to know what they’re talking about online. You need to know who their friends are. You need to know if they’re bullying people at school.”

The arrests happened after one of the girls made an self-incriminating comment online last weekend. The parents’ response? “Somebody hacked her Facebook account.”

These two stories have some sad similarities:

  • Parents who refuse to take responsibility for the behavior of their children.
  • Parents who have not taught their kids that actions have consequences.
  • Parents who’ve absorbed or taken care of the consequences of their kids actions.
  • Parents who’ve fostered an atmosphere of entitlement.
  • Parents who’ve never taught  their children to care about or respect other people.

I realize that some kids will behave like this even when their parents have taught them these things. But in the aftermath, when a kid makes a bad choice, a good parent makes them stand up and take responsibility for their actions.

They don’t make excuses for them. Or blame someone else. Or sue the victim.Help me understand this. Am I making too much of this or is our society on a downward spiral?

In the wake of his experience, Brian Holloway has started a movement to encourage parents to teach their kids to be responsible for their actions.

What can we do as the church? What can believers do to help the younger generation change the direction they’re headed? What can we do to teach and encourage young parents?

Let’s share some ideas today!

Read More »

3 Things to Remember to Never Forget

The time to prepare for a storm is before the first raindrop falls. Before the sky turns dark. Before the wind begins to whip. Because once it hits, it’s too late. Too late to run to the store for batteries. Too late to stock up on non-perishable food.

Never ForgetLikewise, the time to prepare for life’s storms is before they come. Before the struggle. Before the grief. Before the loss. Before the pain.

Because when we’re in the midst of them our emotions rise up and we forget. We forget the important truths about God that can help strengthen and sustain just when we need them most.

There are many glorious truths about God we could grab hold of and cling to through the next storm. But I want to point you to three. Three truths that you can use to combat the confusion of your emotions and the lies of Satan that will threaten to overtake you when your world gets tossed around.

1. God loves you and will never leave you.

Over and over in His Word God declares His love for us. Yet when hard times come, sometimes we doubt this eternal truth. We think, “If God loved me He wouldn’t let this happen.” Yet, God never promised this life would be easy. In fact, Jesus clearly warned us that we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33).

And even though we may have to endure difficulty, we are not alone. God is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He walks beside us and strengthens us. He may allow the waters to rise, but we will not be swept away (Isaiah 43:2)!

2. God knows and cares about your every need.

Our all-knowing God is aware of our every need – physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. He knows when the bills are greater than the bank account. He knows when you’re weary from life’s daily demands. He knows when you need a friend. He not only sees and knows, He also cares (Matthew 6:31-33). He wants to be your provision. He will move to meet your needs as you turn to Him (1 Peter 5:7). Don’t wait!

3. God will work through your trouble to accomplish His purposes.

God does not waste anything He allows into our lives. He uses trials and troubles to refine our character and shape us to look more like Jesus (James 1:2-4). And in ways I can’t pretend to understand, He also orchestrates all the circumstances of earth to fulfill His divine plans and purposes. Anything man does with evil intent, God can and does use for good (Exodus 50:19-20). Any difficult thing He allows into your life, He (Romans 8:28) can use for your benefit. Trust Him to work out the big picture in His timing.

Remembering these three truths can make all the difference when trials and difficulties blow into our lives. They’re easy to remember, but also quick to get buried when the rubble starts piling up.

Let’s talk! How can we remember to not forget? Give us your ideas! For instance, we could type them up and put them on our fridge or write them inside the cover of our Bible. Share your thoughts!

Read More »

Push-Button People

You know who they are. Those people in your life who know just how to push your buttons. There’s one or two – or maybe more – friends, neighbors, coworkers, or family members, who seem to have the extraordinary talent to say or do just the thing to “get your goat,” “rub you the wrong way,” or just generally tick you off.

refinementIf we spend more than a few minutes around them we will probably soon be angry, impatient, jealous, grouchy, irritated, or depressed. They just have that effect on us.  And it’s their fault. Right?

Well, maybe not. This past weekend I heard something that really got me thinking. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, founder of The Praying Life Foundation, spoke at my church. Saturday afternoon we had a two-session conference on prayer. Sunday morning, she shared a message about living an “altar’d” life.

An “altar” (the noun) is the place we lay our offering down before God, where we yield that which we hold and control. In her book, “Altar’d: Experience the Power of the Resurrection,” Jennifer turns the noun “altar” into a verb. To live in an altar’d state means to live surrendered to God, yielded and free. It means to put to death our sinful, fleshly ways and lay them down before God. “Altar’d living frees us to live in the power of the resurrection.”

So what does push-button people have to do with altar’d living? Our “buttons” are those spots where our sinful flesh still rules and reigns. Those areas of our lives we have not yielded up to God are the very ones that light up when the push-button people come around. Jennifer called them “pockets of flesh” that rear their ugly head when engaged by the words or deeds of people we encounter.

Selfishness. Anger. Impatience. Greed. The desire to control. The need to be right. Should I go on? Ouch, I really want to stop now.

The real problem is not the people who push the buttons. The real problem is the buttons. That means the fault is within us. Our ugly, fleshly human nature.

Here’s the good news: God wants to use those push-button people in our lives to make us more life Jesus. Whenever our buttons get pushed, the Spirit says, “Did you feel that? That’s an area that needs to be laid down, given over, altar’d.” God points out these areas of sin in our lives because He wants to refine them, clean them out.

I’m tired of having my buttons pushed. I hate how it feels. But this weekend the Holy Spirit showed me that God can use push-button  people in my life for a greater purpose. Now I’m praying that God will help me give every “button” over to Him. When one lights up and I feel that little jolt, I want to turn it off for good, to altar it before God.

What do you think? Do you have any push-button people in your life? How can God use them to make you more like Jesus?

Read More »

This Might Be My Favorite Bible Story

One particular miracle of Jesus captivates my attention. Every time I read it I get goose bumps. Literally. While action and edge-of-your-seat suspense pack the story, it’s what it teaches me about Jesus that enthralls me.

The event occurs right on the heels of Jesus calming the storm in the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). I’m sure there’s nothing like a near-death experience in a furious squall to rest up from a full day of teaching the vast multitudes. But it was Jesus’ demonstrated authority over nature that left the disciples shaking in their sandals.

Mark 5:1-20Still reeling from that experience, Jesus and the twelve were greeted on the opposite shore by a character straight out of a horror flick. Possessed by demons, no one was strong enough to subdue or control him. People had tried, but he tore chains and broke apart the iron bonds.

Now he lived among the tombs in the hills, crying out day and night and cutting himself with stones. He was helpless and hopeless. Tortured and tragic. Then he encountered Jesus and everything changed.

The demons within the man immediately acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus. Based on the fact they called themselves “Legion,” there could have been 6,000 plus demons in residence, but they knew they were no match for the Son of God. (See Mark 5:1-20 for the full story.)

Jesus freed the man with a word. In an instant everything changed. This prisoner of evil had been released by the Holy One. This man who had been feared and shunned by his community could now return to his family. Everyone had given this man up for lost. Everyone but Jesus.

This story demonstrates not only the power and authority of Jesus but also His grace and compassion. Jesus doesn’t merely have the ability to work in our lives, He also desires to work in our lives because He cares for us.

This event gives us a glimpse of what Jesus can do in our own lives. Our Savior is loving and kind, but He is not wimpy. He is able to accomplish what He desires to do in your life.

Is there a stronghold or problem in your life you’ve given up on? How can reflecting on Jesus’ compassion and power renew your hope?

 

 

Read More »