From Intention to Action By: Kathi Lipp

From Intention to Action Kathi Lipp

Today’s Truth

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Everyone had gone home. It was just me, my husband and my mom cleaning up after the celebration.

The celebration of my dad’s life.

We’d held the memorial service at my church, and then invited everyone back to our tiny house for Italian food and my mom’s homemade cookies (my dad’s favorites.) After the people had left, the three of us spent some time opening the cards that had arrived and looking at the flowers that had been sent.

Tangible reminders. That in our deepest grief, we were loved.

That was six months ago. And I still look at the cards, and remember the people who loved on us in tangible ways.

Yes – there were hundreds of Facebook messages and email. But those cards? The flowers? The people who showed up to serve at my dad’s memorial? Those are the ones that stick with me.

Right after the memorial, I thought about all those people who loved us in tangible ways. How often had I been the person to send the Facebook message? My intentions were good – but that’s all they were. Intentions.

After my dad’s death, I wanted to be the kind of person who didn’t just think about doing the loving thing. I wanted to be the person who moved from intention to action. I wanted to be the person that others saw Jesus in because of my actions. (“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35)

If you are in that space – where your intentions are good, but you don’t write the thank you note, you don’t make the phone call, or bring over the casserole, I get it. I was there too. But the good stuff from Christian community comes when we go beyond ourselves and move from intention to living out the servant love that Jesus taught. Both with his words and actions.

Since my dad’s death, I’ve worked to be sensitive to those people in my life that need that fleshed out encouragement. It is never done perfectly, (I’m sure that each of my notes contains at least one spelling error…) but they are sent. And they are sent with love.

Moving from Intention to action requires a plan. Here is what I did to stop thinking about loving others and got busy doing it.

  1. Pray Pray that God would show you who needs encouragement today. I often find these are friends on Facebook, someone at work, or a neighbor that I may have passed by in the past.
  2. Set Up Systems I have challenged myself to write three notes a day to people in my life. This requires a lot of stamps, some cute stationary, and updated addresses. Prep yourself for the things you need to encourage others – some casseroles in the freezer? A stack of $5 Starbucks cards. Set yourself up.

God has put people in your path. Who needs your encouragement today?

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, I want to reflect your love for a hurting world. Give me eyes to see and hand that take action. Always in your name, Jesus.

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

What is the one way you would love to encourage someone in your life today? Tell us specifically so that others can be inspired to their own good works!

Unplugged By: Mary Southerland

Unplugged Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me(John 10:27).

Friend to Friend

Prayer really is so simple. We try to complicate it, and if I do say so myself, we manage to do a fairly good job of it.

Everyone prays when in crisis.

When the house is on fire, the kids are driving you nuts, the job is in jeopardy, the health challenge is serious, the finances are failing – it is amazing how even the ungodly will resort to prayer. It is built into our very being to cry out to God when we are desperate.

But is that all prayer is? Is talking with God only for desperate people in desperate moments?

I really do want to know God’s will for my life. I desperately need His wisdom to get through every day. I just tend to look for it in the wrong places.

Instead of first looking in His Word, I scour the pages of self-help books. Now there is nothing wrong with those books – as long as they take second place to the Word of God.

Instead of instantly dropping to my knees to pray, I call a godly friend for a quick-fix solution. Now there is nothing wrong with looking for wisdom from godly friends – as long as we understand that they should be confirmation of what God has already told us.

Our questions about the best and highest plan for life should be directed to the One who created that life – the One who knows us best and loves us most – God.

Here is the good news. If we ask Him, He will tell us. And the way we ask is through prayer.

Prayer is simply communication with God, a heart-to-heart conversation with Him. Prayer is our source of power and strength. And we need to stay plugged into that source.

In one of her books, Bible teacher Evelyn Christenson tells a story that drives home the importance of prayer in our lives. She needed to drop something off at her church office and decided to take a shortcut through the auditorium. When she opened the auditorium doors, she ran into the janitor, a man who had worked there for years. Unfortunately, he was losing his memory due to an illness, but the staff chose to keep him employed until retirement.

As she chatted with him, she couldn’t help but notice that he was drenched in sweat and had obviously been working very hard. When she asked what he’d been doing, the man smiled and proudly explained, “Why, I just vacuumed the whole auditorium!” Evelyn glanced around the huge auditorium and then looked down to see the vacuum cleaner cord lying on the floor. It had never been plugged in.

How sad! Maybe. But what is even sadder is the fact that many of us try to live the Christian life – unplugged – separated from our greatest source of power – prayer.

Prayer ushers us into God’s presence. And in His presence is everything we need, wrapped in His perfect will.

As we walk in daily obedience, God will direct our prayers and shape our desires so that His plan becomes clear. Oh, we won’t see it all. But we will see enough for the next step. And that is all we need.

1 John 5:14 “This is the assurance we have in approaching God. That if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”

We cannot hear His voice or experience His power without spending time with Him. It is that simple. And the thing that really rocks my world is that He stands – waiting and wanting to spend time with me.

With. Me.

My God wants to spend time with me.

He longs to hear my voice.

He loves me, and He really does long for me to come to Him in prayer.

And the same is true for you.

Come to Him today.

Just come … and pray.

Let’s Pray

Father, I come to You right now … pouring out my heart and soul. Every dream, every fear, every longing, every hope … I lay it all at Your feet. I want to know Your plan for my life, and I want to live out that plan. Please guide my steps. Teach me how to follow You and honor You all the days of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Do You Remember Me? By: Gwen Smith

Do You Remember Me? Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV)

Friend to Friend

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a woman who is easily distracted. More times than I care to even discuss. Sigh. I would love to say that the detail-oriented-woman in me rocks my days, but that’s not always the case. One crazy day, a few years back, the absent-minded-scatter-brain in me dominated big time. Here’s what happened…

After I dropped my kids off at school, I swung into the local gas station and ran inside to prepay. I handed the cashier forty dollars in cash and headed out the door to pump my gas. As I left the mini-mart, I held the door for the woman behind me. As she passed in front of me, we recognized each other. She is the secretary for a local church where I had ministered in the past. We chatted for a few minutes and then each went to our cars and went about our days.

My next stop? The coffee shop.

I grabbed a piping hot dark roast, added a happy little splash of half and half, and settled down with my Bible and journal for some one-on-One time with the Lord. In the hour and a half that followed, I read, prayed, and chatted with a few friends that came through. It was a very peaceful, pleasant morning… until a horrible realization hit me full force: I never pumped my forty dollars worth of gasoline!

Oh. My. Glory.

Earlier, I had pulled up to the gas pump, paid the cashier in cash and then drove away!! And, to answer the question you’re surely asking, “no…I didn’t even have a receipt to prove that I had paid.”

This was not good.

The detail-oriented-woman in me hid as the distracted-absent-minded-woman in me wallowed in the awfulness.

A cold panic washed over my heart. My husband and I run our household on a cash budget. We try hard to be good stewards of our money. To make wise financial decisions.

This was a forty-dollar blunder!!

In a flash, I was out the door and on my way back to the gas station. I felt like such a ding-dong! I prayed the whole way there, “Please Lord, let the same cashier still be working. Please let her remember me!”

I screeched into the parking lot on two wheels {kidding}, ran inside, and blurted out, “Do you remember me?” The cashier turned to me with a smile and a receipt in her hand and said, “I know exactly who you are! You are paid in full. Go ahead and fill up!”

I thanked her profusely and breathed a big sigh of relief.

As I pumped my gasoline, the panic faded to peace. In that moment, the Lord spoke to my heart as if to say, “My sweet daughter, so many times you pull up a chair to spend time with me and fill up your soul on my daily bread, only to be distracted and leave empty. Rest assured, each time you return to my heart and to my Word, my response is the same to you: “I know exactly who you are! You are paid in full. Go ahead and fill up!”

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV)

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, Who am I that You are mindful of me? Thank You for always remembering me, and for engraving my name on the palms of your hands. Would you please be my peace today?

True Self Worth By: Sharon Jaynes

True Self-Worth Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash(Matthew 7:26-27 NIV).

Friend to Friend

I have learned a lot from Charlie Brown, which is a little scary. Here is one truth that his psychiatrist, Lucy, taught me. She is counseling Charlie Brown at her lemonade-stand-counseling booth. Charlie Brown is all ears.

Frame 1: “Your life is like a house, Charlie Brown.”

Frame 2: “You want your house to have a strong foundation, don’t you?”

Frame 3: “So don’t build your house on the sand.”

Frame 4: (A strong wind swooshes by and blows Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the makeshift stand into a heap of rubble.)

Frame 5: Lucy’s final advice: “Or use cheap nails.”

There’s a lot of talk about self-worth in our culture. But true self-worth is not an issue of giftedness, talent, intelligence, or beauty. Those are cheap nails. When we base our identity or our worth on the accomplishments, opinions of others, or appearance, we are in danger of crumbling to pieces with a word of criticism, a bad hair day, or hint of rejection. We will always fall short in our quest to be better, look better, or accomplish more.

Self-worth is really an identity issue. When you base your self-worth on your identity in Christ and His finished work of redemption on the cross, it is unconditional, unshakable, and unchangeable.

Listen, the devil will do anything and everything he can to keep you from believing the truth about who you are, what you have, and where you are as a child of God. Make no mistake about it, he knows that you are a chosen, holy, dearly loved child of God who has been forgiven of all your sins and created to fulfill a great purpose that God has already planned for you. He knows it, and he hates it. His goal is to keep you from believing it. And if he can keep you from believing the truth about who you are, what you have, and where you are as a child of God, then he has won.

You can access the power of God’s promises about who you are, what you have, and where you are in Christ to consistently subdue and eventually erase feeling of inferiority, insecurity and inadequacy that keep you stuck in a mediocre faith. You can replace the devil’s overbearing lies and replace them with God’s overriding truth about your identity in Him and His power in you.

If we base our significance, self-worth, or self-esteem on anything other than the strong nails of our identity in Christ, then we are at risk of collapsing when the strong winds of adversity come our way. The truth is: you are who God says you are.

Let’s Pray

Lord, help me to remember that my worth is based on who I am as Your child. According to Your Word, I am valuable, chosen, and dearly loved. Forgive me for dipping my cup in empty wells rather than in Your Living water.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

OK, so Today’s Truth was a downer, so let’s look at the rest of the verse!

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25 NIV).

So with my own version of “paper, rock, scissors,” which person do you want to be? Sand or rock? On which will you build your house?

You’re More Than a Cleaned-Up Version of Your Old Self By: Sharon Jaynes

You’re More Than a Cleaned-Up Version of Your Old Self Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

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

Friend to Friend

Most Christians see their conversion as a cleaned-up version of their old self, rather than as a brand new creation who did not exist before. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here”(2 Corinthians 5:17). The old is gone, not just spiffied up.

After high school I went to college where I met and married an awesome Christian man that I met at a friend’s Bible study. I saw him sitting on the floor with his back against the wall and his red flannel shirt rolled up his masculine arms. He had a worn Bible in his lap and an easy smile on his face. Before the year was up, I became his wife. About four years later, I became a mom.

Life was good, except for this termite-like gnawing in my gut that I just didn’t quite measure up to all the other church moms with their smiling faces. I went to Bible studies and even taught a few. However, I walked around with the fear that one day I would be found out—that one day folks would figure out that I wasn’t all that I was cracked up to be. I lived under an undefined self-imposed standard of approval.

Childhood echoes of “you’re so ugly” and “what’s wrong with you?” and “you did a terrible job” left me feeling congenitally flawed. I sat in Bible study groups like someone in a hospital waiting room: hoping for the best but expecting the worst. My greatest fear was that I’d be no closer to being free of the insecurity than I was before the study began.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I sat under the teaching of an older woman in my church, Mary Marshal Young. She opened my eyes to the truths in Scripture about who I was, what I had, and where I was (my position) as a child of God. I had read those verses scattered through Scripture before, but when she encouraged me to cluster them altogether into one list, God began a new work in my heart.

You are a saint.

You are chosen and dearly loved.

You are holy.

These truths were right there on the pages of my Bible in black and white and a few in red. I knew it was the infallible Word of God, but I felt rather squeamish hearing them, reading them, believing them.

They didn’t feel right.

They didn’t sound right.

They made me downright uncomfortable.

At the same time I was studying about my true identity, the devil taunted me with lies. Who do you think you are? A saint? Are you kidding? This stuff might be true for some people, but it certainly is not true about you.

One day God asked me an important question—one that He is asking you right now. Who are you going to believe?

That’s what I’m asking you today. Who are you going to believe?

When I decided to believe God…that changed everything. I believe it will do the same for you.

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing me! Help me to believe that I am who You say I am, even when it don’t feel like it. I am standing on the truth of Your Word with shaky legs, but I’m standing all the same.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

The One Sin I Thought Was Unforgivable By:Tracie Miles

APRIL 10, 2015

The One Sin I Thought was Unforgivable TRACIE MILES

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NLT)

The event speaker spoke the one word I didn’t want to hear. She said the one word that elicited painful memories, shame and regret. One word that left me weeping silently in the pew, hoping no one would notice my brokenness.

My eyes were closed, but I sensed God’s eyes were wide open and focused directly on me. Part of me felt afraid and confused, but a bigger part of me felt peace in light of the gift God was offering.

Amid the flood of hot tears that burned in my swollen, tightly shut eyes, I pleaded with God for His forgiveness of the one sin — the one word — that I felt was unforgivable. I meekly, humbly and reluctantly dared to ask God, once again, the prayer I had uttered so many times, yet never believed could be answered.

Could You … would You … possibly … forgive me for that, Lord? Really?

If You could forgive others for their sins, could You maybe, just maybe, forgive me too?

If You can still love them, despite their pasts, can You love me too?

Will You still love me, God?

I felt like a little girl sitting at her daddy’s feet, asking forgiveness for not listening to his words of instruction, and longing for him to scoop her up and reassure her of his love. My heart was gaping wide, and I waited, anxious for God to fill me with all the things I never thought I deserved to ask for, much less receive.

I felt sure God was wondering if I were a broken record instead of a broken soul. I had asked for His forgiveness for 14 years, never feeling worthy of it and never expecting Him to actually grant it. But this time, in this place, I actually believed I was forgiven.

I felt the lightness and freedom of a prisoner set free. Joy caught in my throat, and I could hardly swallow. The unbearable, heavy burden of my shame, regret, sorrow and haunting memories were all lifted the moment I embraced God’s promise that ALL sins are forgivable through Christ. Including mine.

Abortion. The one word that made my heart shudder — that was a tragic choice made by a scared 19-year-old. And unfortunately, statistics show that more than 56 million U.S. women may have shuddered at that one word as well, since abortion became legal in America.

Yet despite the reasons we made bad choices, God longs to offer forgiveness. The enemy doesn’t want us to believe that truth. He wants to keep us in bondage to shame and secrecy … to prevent us from living as a testament of God’s grace and power over sin. As our key verse notes, Scripture states quite the opposite: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

The “one word” you dread might be very different from mine, but God can free you from whatever keeps you from embracing how much you are adored by Christ. Might today be the day you learn to fly in the freedom of His forgiveness and peace?

Father, You know the “one word” that makes me shudder. Forgive me and cleanse my heart. Fill me with overwhelming peace and acceptance of that gift. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 1:7, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” (NLT)

1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (NLT)

Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (NIV)

Drop The Facade By: Sharon Jaynes

Drop the Façade Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 NIV).

Friend to Friend

Tradition tells of a time in 1787 when the Empress Catherine II made a visit to a recent conquest—the Russian Crimea. In order to impress the Empress, Russian minister Potemkin erected fake villages along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River. Façades of settlements were erected far enough away from the riverbank so that the monarch and her traveling party could not tell that they were only façades as they sailed by. The glowing village fires were meant to comfort the monarch and her entourage as they surveyed the land, but the reality was her conquest was a barren impoverished wasteland. From a distance, the plywood storefronts, homes, and village buildings gave the appearance of a thriving village, but it was a lie.

For many years after I became a Christian, I was like a Potemkin village. On the outside, I looked pretty good, but on the inside, I was a mess. I feared one day someone would come close enough to discover my put together façade was a fake.

Even though I had the borders of the puzzle in place with promise of heaven, I felt like I was missing key pieces to complete the picture. From the time I was fourteen until I was in my early thirties, I always felt like there was something wrong with me spiritually. I had an uneasiness—like I had walked into a movie twenty minutes late, trying to figure out what was going on. I wondered why I struggled to live the victorious Christian life.

By my mid-thirties, I had a wonderful husband, an amazing son, and a happy home life. I even taught Bible studies at a scripturally-solid church, and surrounded myself with strong Christian friends. But in my heart, I new something wasn’t quite right.

Simply put, I was stuck. I was stuck in my spiritual growth and the harder I spun my tires, the deeper they sank in the muck and mire of the land of in-between. At fourteen, I left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, but somehow got stuck in the land of in-between, never quite making it to my Promised Land. And then God brought another woman into my life to shimmy the plank under my tires and help me get on my way.

You know what helped? An understanding of my true identity as a child of God. Do you know who you are? What you have? Where you are as a child of God? Do you believe it?

I encourage you to click on this link, print off the page, and start believing the truth of your new identity. You don’t need to put up a façade. This is who you truly are.

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, sometimes I feel like a big fat fake. Help me to believe the truth about who I really am in You. I know I don’t need to pretend! Help me to walk in the confidence of a child of the King who is truly loved, completely forgiven, and totally free. Thank You that I am equipped by You, enveloped by Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.