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Archive | Monday Minute in the Word

Could You Swim from Cuba to Florida?

Could you swim from Cuba to Florida? It’s only 103 miles of shark-infested waters. Diana Nyad did it. Her story caught my attention last week. Video images of the 64 year-old endurance swimmer arriving on the beach in Key West filled the news.

The Florida Strait is a stretch of more than 100 miles. It’s prone to sudden, violent storms, dangerous currents, and jellyfish. Diana Nyad swam it in 53 hours and earned the great distinction of being the first person to do it without a protective cage.

This was Diana’s 5th attempt. She was 29 when she tried the first time. Tries two, three, and four happened between 2011-2012. She failed not once, not twice, and not three-times. Four attempts ended short of the Florida coast. Four times she did not reach her goal.

Do you know what amazes me most about this story? It’s not that Diana Nyad swam 103 miles straight in dangerous water. What amazes me most is that she kept trying until she did it. She never gave up. She didn’t decide she was too old or that it was too hard. She just kept pressing on toward the goal.

Philippians 3:12-14

Press On to the Goal

I won’t ever attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. But as a believer, I have a continuing responsibility to pursue God’s purposes for me. If you’re a Christian, so do you. We must continue to push forward, to strive for God’s goal for us.

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, NIV

We have a partner in this race. The One who called us and saved us will faithfully complete His work in us through the indwelling presence and power of His Spirit.

We can be confident of this:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

God calls us to strive, to press on, and then He gives us everything we need to reach the finish line. Hallelujah!

What obstacles have you encountered recently in your Christian race? How has God helped you to overcome?

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More Powerful than a Tornado

Four weeks ago today, a tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. This powerful funnel cloud tore through schools, businesses, and the hospital. It killed 24 people and left thousands homeless. The tornado, with winds exceeding 200 mph, was given an EF5 rating, the strongest ranking possible. This rare twister left a path of destruction 17 miles long and almost 1½ miles wide. Powerful and destructive.

tornadoNo one could stop it. No one could divert its course. No one could change the outcome. That’s the power of nature. Yet the power of that tornado – and the ones that hit Oklahoma again 10 days later – cannot compare to the power of Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark gives us a glimpse at His power in action. It had been a long day in Galilee. The people kept coming and Jesus kept teaching. But when evening fell, Jesus and His disciples climbed into boats and headed across the unpredictable Sea of Galilee.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  Mark 4:35-41, NIV

Jesus’ power is not destructive power like the storm, but rather authoritative power. All it took was a word. And there was calm.

The roaring waves had made the disciples fear for their lives, but the calm terrified them even more. Who was this man who had authority and power over nature? They should have worshipped Jesus. They should thanked Him for their safety. Instead Jesus’ holy power frightened them.

Jesus’ power is mightier than any tornado or army. Stronger than any natural or supernatural force. He is able to heal bodies, restore relationships, instill faith, give hope to the hopeless, comfort the grieving, and save the lost.

What situation in your life needs the power of Christ? Cry out to Him today!

 

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Deep Roots, Abundant Fruit

Earlier this month, my husband and I visited New York City. The ultimate tourists, we took in a concert at Madison Square Garden, two Broadway plays, a walking food tour through Greenwich Village, and a Yankees game.

One of the highlights of our time in Manhattan was the four hours we spent Sunday afternoon exploring Central Park. Although we did not plan it, our trip coincided with the blooming of the cherry trees.

Meditating on God's Word, Psalm 1The first cherry trees planted in Central Park were brought from Japan about 100 years ago. Today, two different varieties stand on a gentle slope named Cherry Hill, overlooking a large lake. People come to admire the blooms and relax on the scenic hillside.

Year after year, the trees bloom in season. Year after year, the people enjoy their beauty.

The site of the blooming cherry trees reminded me of one of my favorite passages of Scripture.  The very first psalm likens those who delight themselves in God’s Word to a tree that bears its fruit each season.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners of sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3, NIV

Those Central Park cherry trees don’t worry about whether they will bloom and produce fruit each year. Yet they do because their location provides everything they need to fulfill their God-ordained purpose. Their roots soak up water and nutrients from the surrounding soil. The result is beautiful and fruitful.

We don’t have to worry whether our lives will be of use to God or benefit others. If we simply “plant” ourselves in God’s Word and soak it in, He will fulfill His purposes in and through us.

Green leaves. Beautiful blossoms. Nourishing fruit. The natural result of a life rooted in God’s Word.

Where are you planted? Do the roots of your life go deep into the eternal truths of God’s Word? What can you do to purposefully grown your roots deep into His Word?

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3 Reasons for Joy

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalTrials fill our lives. This shouldn’t be surprising; Jesus said we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33). Not only do these difficult circumstances bring grief and pain, they also threaten to steal our joy. But believer, Jesus also promised His followers  “no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22). So how should we understand this?

I’ve heard it said that, unlike happiness, Christian joy has nothing to do with our circumstances. Yet, when I looked up the meaning for the Hebrew and Greek words most often translated as “joy” they have essentially the same meaning as “happiness.” Biblical joy can be defined this way:

 Joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness; the opposite of grief and sorrow; feelings that result from circumstances

The difference in fleeting joy and the joy no one can take away is the circumstances on which we base it. If we look to our temporary, earthly circumstances for joy, it will be stolen from us time and again. But if we rely on our eternal circumstances, our joy will be firm and secure.

Although I know my list could be longer, here are three reasons for joy God gives us in His Word:

  1. Salvation (1 Peter 1:5-9) – Peter beautifully shows how rejoicing in our eternal salvation far outweighs the grief of our temporary earthly trials. In the midst of our trials we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
  2. God’s Love (Romans 8:35-39) – Paul experienced great hardships and persecutions in this life. In spite of these things he experienced the joy of Christ (Philippians 1:18). How? No matter what he suffered, nothing could separate him from the love of God.
  3. Intimate Fellowship with Christ (John 15:5-11) – On the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus wanted to make sure His followers knew how to find their joy in Him. As we “abide” in Christ – stay closely and vitally connected to Him in obedient relationship – our joy will “be complete.”

Are you experiencing this kind of joy? You can! Read these Scripture passages and ask God to show you how to find joy in your eternal circumstances!

What other “reasons for joy” do you see in Scripture? Let’s share them with each other today!

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The Church is Like the Mall Food Court

Have you ever noticed the international flavor of the food court at your local mall? If it’s anything like ours, choices abound from all over the world. Italian, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Japanese, and Cajun. It’s a veritable United Nations for the taste buds.

Diverse origins, unique spices, specific tastes, they each appeal to different shoppers and satisfy varied culinary desires. Yet each restaurant works together to enrich our mall shopping experience. Not only do they share the same floor space in the mall, they often share seating area, signage, and condiment kiosks. Together they are the food court.

Church, Mall food courtLike the Church, the mall food court exemplifies unity within diversity. (Okay, I admit it. It is a bit of a “cheesy” example, but just go with it.)

Unified Diversity of the Body

Had the food court existed in the first century, Paul may have used it as an example himself. But instead, he was left with using the human body to illustrate the unified diversity of the Church. Here’s a taste from Paul’s writings.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, NIV

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 11So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:3-7, 11-13, NIV

One for All

God calls the church to complete unity even as each member fulfills her unique calling within the body. In fact, God purposefully joins a variety of individuals together for the common good of the body.

When we each operate from our diversity to serve others the entire body will also be working as a unified whole to grow the body and build the Kingdom of God.

Different gifts from the same Holy Spirit. Different work for the same God. Unique individuals unified by our one Lord, Jesus Christ.

No one but our great God could have designed that!

What examples of diversity within unity do you see in your own church?

 

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6 Reasons for Joy

Real, lasting joy is based on our circumstances.

Does that statement contradict what you’ve heard about joy in a Christian’s life?

You’ve probably heard that joy is different from happiness. More than likely, you’ve been told that “happiness” is a reflection of our circumstances, but we experience “joy” in spite of our circumstances.

Well, according to what I see in Scripture, that’s not entirely accurate.

Yes, the Bible says believers can – and should – be joyful even in the midst of life’s trials (James 1:2-4). Because God uses these difficult circumstances to refine our character and purify our faith, we can rejoice in His miraculous work of making us fit for His use.

Reasons for Joy

Believers find joy in our eternal circumstances

But real, lasting joy is also based on circumstances. Wonderful, glorious, eternal circumstances. These circumstances don’t change with the economy or age or loss. The apostle Peter elaborates in his first letter:

 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. This inheritance is 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. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9, NIV

6 reasons to rejoice

I spotted six specific “circumstances” Peter mentions that should fill us “with an inexpressible and glorious joy!”

  1. New birth – We were dead in sin, but God has given us new life.
  2. Living hope – God will resurrect believers like He did His Son.
  3. Eternal inheritance – Jesus has prepared a place of eternal rest for us.
  4. Protected by God’s power – No one can take us away from God.
  5. Refinement of our faith – God even uses the painful things in our lives.
  6. Love relationship with Jesus – We have an awesome Savior that loves us!

The main Hebrew and Greek words translated as “joy” in the Bible all have similar meanings. They simply mean “joy, gladness, pleasure, happiness” and are used as the opposite of grief and sorrow.  Scripture uses “joy” to refer to feelings that result from circumstances.

So what’s the difference between worldly joy and the joy believers can experience? The difference is which circumstances. The shifting, changing circumstances of this life produce joy that’s fleeting at best. But the eternal, spiritual circumstances, which are founded in a saving relationship with Christ, foster joy that cannot be overshadowed even by the harshest earthly circumstances.

Where does the world usually look for joy? Why can’t we trust our earthly circumstances to bring us joy no matter how great they may be?

 

 

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The God who Heals, Sees, Provides, Protects…

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalMany of us need healing in one way or another. Whether we face a physical, emotional, or spiritually “illness,” we long for God to intervene, to show His power, to fix things.  And usually we often wonder why He allowed this trial into our lives in the first place.

Recently, God taught me something new through a passage I’ve read many times (See Exodus 15:22-27). Don’t you just love it when He does that?!

Jehovah Rapha

The Israelites were fresh out of Egypt. Seaweed still clung to their sandals from the floor of the Red Sea. They had witnessed the miraculous power of God as their Deliver from a front row seat.

After three days of traveling through the Desert of Shur, the people got really thirsty. But when they arrived at Marah, they discovered the bitter water was undrinkable.  Of course grumbling and complaining commenced.

The people needed for the water to be “healed.” Moses cried out to the LORD. The LORD instructed Moses to toss a piece of wood into the water and it became sweet.  The people drank.

Physical need. God’s divine intervention. Healing.

Our need is an opportunity to experience God in a new way

God revealed Himself as “Jehovah Rapha” – God Heals – through the Israelites’ circumstances. If they had not needed healing then they would not have experienced God as their healer. If there had been no need, their understanding and experience of God would not have been expanded.

God often works through the circumstances of our lives to reveal His nature to us. In the midst of difficulties, we experience God in new and deeper ways. For instance, in illness, we experience the healing power of Jehovah Rapha. In trouble and loneliness, we discover that El Roi sees us, knows our trouble, and cares. (Genesis 16:13). And our needs are provided by Jehovah Jireh (Genesis 22:14).

The Lord is My Rock

Unshakeable Faith in THE Rock

These are just a sampling of the descriptive names for God in Scripture. Psalm 18:2, which is one of my favorites, is filled with beautiful words that help us understand God’s nature and ways toward us.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield, and horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I love, love that God is my Rock. Time and again He has proven Himself to be a Rock. He is my Selah, my firm foundation, my unshakeable place, my safe fortress.

In what ways has God made Himself known to you? What descriptive names of God have you personally experienced? I would love for to share experiences and/or Scriptures with us!

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What is love?

What is 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.

Real Love Defined

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.

God is 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 to 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 to 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’s sound like pretty much everybody to me.

Why 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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Do you need a makeover?

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalAmerica loves dramatic “before and after” stories. We can’t tear ourselves away from The Biggest Loser, What Not to Wear, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We cheer with the crowd when they shout “move that bus!” We impatiently wait on the edge of our seat for the ugly duckling turned swan to be revealed. And we groan when the number on the scale is far too small.

I’d like to propose a new reality show. This “before and after” will last much longer than any fashion update, hairstyle makeover, or home remodeling. In fact, this “before and after” will have an eternal impact:

Extreme Makeover: Spiritual Edition

Let’s consider the show’s premise. “Before” the makeover the contestant was truly ugly. Her life was futile and dark. She was separated from God, insensitive, and given over to all impurity and greed. But then the truth of Jesus was applied to her heart. She was transformed and her old life became new! (See Ephesians 4:17-24.)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV

The “after” is indeed glorious! She looks more and more like Jesus every day as she seeks to live a righteous and holy life. She clothes herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 She is patient and quickly forgives others as God forgave her. And most importantly, she covers herself with love. (See Colossians 3:12-14.)

Now this “before and after” is truly something to cheer about. Are you cheering? Crying? Sitting on the edge of your seat?

And what about you? Have you had a spiritual makeover? It’s never too late for an “after.”

What changes have you noticed in your “after salvation” life?

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Christmas Miracles – Do you believe?

Do you believe in miracles? How about at Christmas? Eight years ago, I witnessed a Christmas miracle.

It was December 24, 2004. Our family had moved to Houston just a few months earlier. It would be our first Christmas in the south after six years in the Canadian Rockies. To me, balmy south Texas did not feel much like Christmas.

Our new church had rented snow machines and excitedly announced there would be “snow” for the Christmas Eve service. But the promise of fake snow did not excite me. It only seemed to highlight the sad fact that we would not be enjoying the view of white-topped mountains from our window on Christmas morning.

snow covered moutains

Then the impossible happened. Middle of the afternoon on Christmas Eve snow began to fall across southeast Texas. And it continued off and on for 24 hours! I danced around in the backyard. Then my daughters and I rushed off to Starbucks because snowfalls are even better with lattes.

The National Weather Service deemed our Christmas snow to be “historic and rare.” South Texas had not had such a snowfall since 1895! Just south of us, Galveston Island received as much as 10 inches of snow and people built snowmen on the beach. I felt like God had worked a miracle just to encourage me. And all of southeast Texas got to benefit from it.

By definition, a miracle is an unusual occurrence that transcends the normal bounds God established for our physical world. He accomplishes these acts by His supernatural means to prove His power and authority. They confirm the working of His grace in our lives (Acts 14:3).

Although that Christmas Eve snowfall in southeast Texas was physically possible, it was indeed rare. In Scripture, we see God working to fulfill His purposes through both supernatural miracles and the manipulation of His natural laws. The way I see it, on Christmas Eve 2004 God manipulated nature into the “perfect storm” to bless His discouraged child.

Do you need a miracle right now? Between now and Christmas, we will be taking a closer look at the miracles of the first Christmas and consider how God could work in a similar way in your life today. When God’s supernatural power collides with your natural circumstances your life will never be the same!

What area of your life needs God’s miraculous work today? Do you believe in miracles?

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