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Grace is Better

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“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 NIV

Because this past Saturday was Epilepsy Awareness Day and this has been my favorite verse since I was diagnosed with epilepsy I thought it was fitting that this be the verse of the week this week.  No matter what our current storm is, we know that God’s grace is enough.

It is in our weakness that God shows His power through us.  We need to be willing to admit that we can’t fix it or control it so that He will work in our lives.

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 NLT

The only way we get to this point is by admitting our inability to control things.  The same Paul that wrote to Corinth about the thorn in his side was telling the Philippians that he could do anything through Jesus Christ.  Just as Paul could do anything God honoring, even “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties,” we can.

Often, and throughout Scripture and the history of Christianity, following Jesus directly results in having more weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties.  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be like a “cure-all” for diseases, finances, and every other trouble you may have?  To that, I say seriously please go read your Bible and shut off the pastors on TV until you have read your Bible enough for yourself to be able to stop and say —“Whatchu talkin’ bout?” when you need to. I beg of you.

Following Jesus while on this earth isn’t pretty; He never said it would be.  But it is rewarding.  Having God’s grace is better than the lack of any of those things.

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The Hard Times

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You never think that the things you see on the news would happen to you or someone you know. But they do.

I never thought I’d see a high school 20 minutes away from mine where my two best friends were enrolled on the news after a stabbing. But I did.

I never thought I’d have to attend a student in my high school’s funeral. But I did.

I never thought I’d be standing in the hospital bathroom crying, asking God not to take my grandma (and He didn’t, thankfully), but I did.

Sometimes things happen that you’re not too surprised at, such as when my parents divorced.

These things happen, but why? We find ourselves questioning the trials of life. I know I do. And we find ourselves saying, “Why are you doing this, God?” We think we’re being punished. But that’s far from the truth.

The way I see it, it’s a learning experience.

We are put through these trials to be made stronger. And when we are facing the hard times in our life, we can look to the moments that brought us joy. Walking across the stage at graduation, getting accepted to a university, seeing your best friend get baptized, watching those same best friends at that high school get engaged. Those are moments of joy in my life.

In those moments of trial, fear, and doubt, we can look to the cross and our failures are lost, like they say in Glorious Ruins by Hillsong. When the mountains fall and the tempests roar, He is with us.

And because He is with us, we can take up that cross because we are stronger.

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Silent Saturday

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The one they placed all of their hope in was gone. Saturday was the day they didn’t know if Jesus was coming back.  He said He would, but He was now in a tomb.  What were they supposed to do? What were they supposed to think?

“Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law.  He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.”  Mark 8:31 NLT

I can’t imagine the feelings of the disciples and others close to Jesus.  He was their friend, their leader, they believed He was the Messiah.  And He was dead. He was the only one who said He was.  Those close to Jesus spent Saturday waiting.  Hoping.  It was the Sabbath, so it was even more still and silent than we would already imagine because they wouldn’t be working.

We spend a lot of our lives living out the Saturdays of life in between the valleys and the mountaintops.  A lot of the time, this can be the best season of opportunity and growth, but we don’t necessarily see it as that.  We want to skip to the joy of Sunday.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5 NLT

We all to often live for the mountaintops, not to grow.  But we need to realize that our lives are often not defined by the sorrows of Friday or the joys of Sunday, but by a bunch of Saturdays; periods of waiting to see how God is going to move.  And in the mean time we need to be faithful.  We need to keep watch, because both Fridays and Sundays will roll around in our spiritual walk.  We will have times of great joy and great sorrow, sometimes both.

If we use the stillness of Saturdays to grow, when we experience a Friday or a Sunday we will be well equipped to handle either the sorrow or the joy.  Saturdays are for gaining wisdom, understanding, and growing closer to God and others.  But sometimes we don’t realize that until it’s too late.

My personal Saturdays have been the times that I have had to wait to drive for six months after having a seizure.  At 16 and 17 years old, let me tell you, thats a looonnng time when all I wanted to do was drive.  There were times I didn’t choose to use these times wisely and there were times that I did.  The times that I did I am incredibly thankful for now.  But I had no idea then that I would be.  I didn’t know that the time I spent just complaining about not being able to drive I would regret, wishing I would have spent it better.

The Saturdays of our lives aren’t always a blast, but are definitely important in making us the people God created us to be.

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The Holiday I’ve Never Understood

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I can’t be the only one who hasn’t thought that calling the Friday before Easter “good” made any sense whatsoever, can I?

Nothing inherently good comes to mind of the events that happened on “Good Friday.”  Let’s take a look at the events of the day, shall we?

Judas was a close friend of Jesus had already betrayed Jesus.  What does he do on “Good Friday?”

“Very early in the morning…Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”  Matthew 27:1,5 NLT

He began to feel remorse for his sin and, unfortunately, he took his life because of it.

The night before, Peter vows to Jesus that he will not betray him.  But..

“Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.  A servant girl came over and said to him, ‘You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.’ But Peter denied it in front of everyone.  ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ he said.  Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath, ‘I don’t even know the man.’ he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said ‘You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.’ Peter swore, ‘A curse on me if I’m lying- I don’t know the man!’And immediately the rooster crowed.'” Matthew 26:69-74 NLT

Both Judas and Peter are focused on in their betrayals of Jesus.  But it is clear that each of the disciples betrayed Jesus between the Last Supper and Jesus’ trial:

“‘Tonight all of you will desert me.  For the Scriptures say, God will strike the Shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'” Matthew 26:31 NLT

Why did we need accounts of both Judas and Peter, though?  Judas was an example of allowing sin to overcome our lives.  Peter was an example of allowing grace to overcome our lives.  We need to see both to be able to choose.  Still, on “Good Friday”  it wasn’t good.  We can see the outcome now, but that particular day Jesus was betrayed by His followers when He needed them them the most.

Jesus is then put on trial where the crowd is given the option to free him or a murderer and they free the murderer.  They mock him, spit on him, whip him then take him to be crucified.

Here’s where we make our turn from what I’d call worst Friday ever to maybe what we should call “Best Friday Ever.”  Because of three words:

“‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30 NLT

He’s saying “Done.  Complete.  You don’t have to wait until Sunday to know that I’ve already finished the job.”  The disciples walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, ate with Jesus, watched Him work miracles and all of a sudden Saturday came around and somehow those words fell on deaf ears, though.  They knew his promises, they knew that He was coming back.

Jesus went through the suffering of Good Friday to say three words that have changed my life and the lives of countless others.  Jesus carried out Luke 19:10 on Good Friday.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” NLT

It was so much more than just a “Good Friday” because in just three words, Jesus made it clear that we had the option to have a different destiny.  He provided the sacrifice necessary to atone for all of our sins.

Go check out my post about “Silent Saturday”

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I choose to rejoice.

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Our verse of the week this week is Psalm 118:24.

“This is the day the Lord has made.  We will rejoice and be glad in it.”  (NLT)

I’ve feel like I’ve been running around like crazy lately.  I just can’t seem to function without my head spinning.

So..this psalm speaks of Israelite victory over their enemies.  Of course they were praising God.  That’s what Psalm 118 is about.  Let’s look at other some key verses:

Psalm 118:10-11says “Though hostile nations surrounded me, I destroyed them all with the authority of the LORD. Yes, they surrounded and attacked me, but I destroyed them all with the authority of the LORD” (NLT)

Although I’ve never had any literal enemies surrounding me personally, I have walked through some difficult times.  I was having some very unexpected and definitely unwanted side effects from epilepsy medicine changes just a few months ago and I ended up coming closer to God through that.

Even though we all have our own “hostile nations,” we can know that

“This is the day the LORD has made” Ps 118:24a NLT

He has control of every day that every was and ever will be.  Rest in that thought; then respond with action as a result;

“we will rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24b NLT

However, often as soon as this cycle occurs, it seems we end up back in the same place, which the psalmist displays quite clearly by including verse 25:

“Please, LORD, please save us.  Please, LORD, please give us success.” (NLT)

Even in this ‘victory’ the Israelites still needed God and they knew it.  We seem cling to God at our lowest, but let Go when we’re at our highest, because we don’t think we need Him anymore.  We’d be bold enough to think sometimes, I just want to do this myself, wouldn’t we?  That’s when we fall flat on our faces.

We need God all day, every day.  Whether we’re on a mountaintop or in a valley.

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Break the Fall

I was outside with my 3 year old sister a few months ago and we were playing in the backyard. We have a clubhouse kind of thing that the kids play on. There’s this ladder to climb up to the top so you can go down the slide. Well, I was being cautious and was standing behind her as she was climbing up. But she saw me there and said, “Don’t hold me. Don’t hold me.” She wanted to climb all by herself. And I knew that if she fell, I would be there to catch her. But what would’ve happened if she fell and I wasn’t there? She most likely would’ve gotten seriously injured. She doesn’t understand the consequences if she falls and she doesn’t have the instincts either. A 3 year old doesn’t know to stick out your hands to try to break your fall. She would’ve fallen and hit her head most likely. And I feel like that’s how we are with God sometimes. We are climbing up this ladder in life and God says, “I’m right behind you.” But we say, “No God. I don’t need your help. Don’t hold me.” Sometimes we make it up the ladder all by ourselves with success. But sometimes, we fall down and get “hurt.” And sometimes, God can’t break our fall. We pushed Him away. And there’s a lesson to be learned here. When climbing a ladder in life, let God help you. Let God hold you. Let Him break your fall.

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Why I Love Jesus and America

and it’s okay.  

Why do I love Jesus?

“All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.  God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.  We love each other because he loved us first.” 1 John 4:15-19

I love Jesus not because of any amount of love I could possibly give, or anything I could do. But before I was born, knowing that I would sin as every other human does, except Jesus, He died for me.  I love Jesus because He gave me the only opportunity to have abundant life here and forevermore.  On Judgment Day, I won’t have be responsible for my sin, because He provided the sacrifice for my sin.  Even more, He provided the sacrifice for anyone willing to accept the offer of it and follow Him.  He provided the sacrifice for everyone who won’t accept his invitation to follow Him.  How could I not love such a Savior?

How could I possibly love America while simultaneously loving God?

America was never meant to be a nation about the government.  It was meant to be centered around the people of the country, focused on those people, their needs, their concerns, their issues.  Not the other way around.

This isn’t what America looks like anymore.

If America was a nation created for the people of the country rather than the government, I believe that loving America means loving the people of America.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Christians must fight pride, yet still are called to love the members of their nation.  All of them.