Categories
Christian living

The Super Power of Asking and Listening

It sounds easy, but it’s rare…

There are a lot of ways to show we care about someone. We can tell them. We can buy them a present. We can give them a hug. We can do something nice for them.

One of the best—and most neglected—ways to show we care about someone is to ask them questions and then to intentionally, carefully listen to the answers.

“What’s going on in your life?” This simple question opens a dialogue. It says you’re interested in that person. Everyone wants to share their story with someone. An interested person who asks a question could be the best thing that happened to that person that day.

Jesus asked questions all the time. “Why are you afraid?” “What do you want me to do for you?” “Where is your husband?” “Who do you say I am?” He cared about people and asked questions to show his compassion and also to lead them toward spiritual revelation.

“How are you doing?” Technically, it’s a question, but how often do we ask it, receive the stock answer, “I’m good,” and then move on without learning anything about what’s going on in that person’s life? How often are we more interested in what we will say to them than what they are saying to us?

Philippians 2:3 cautions us to, “…put others first and view others as more important than ourselves.” In verse four, we are advised to have, “…a greater concern for what matters to others instead of our own interests.”

If we want to share Jesus with others, it starts with being genuinely interested in their lives. That interest often shows itself in the form of a question.

Be on guard—the question loses its impact if it isn’t followed up with sincere, active listening. James 1:19 says, “…Be quick to listen, but slow to speak…” So often, we’re exactly the opposite. We’re quick to speak. We love the sound of our own voices. We are compelled by the importance of the happenings in our own lives. But we aren’t so good at listening to the circumstances in the lives of others.

Most people don’t listen to understand. They listen to reply.

Stephen Covey

People want to tell someone about their job, their children, what they had for dinner, and much more. They may be dealing with a sickness in the family, financial problems, or wondering about the purpose of life. Everyone needs someone to listen and to care, and we can be that someone.

Listening does more than just allow someone to vent. It creates a relationship. And a relationship may lead to an opportunity to share Jesus.

So, ask the question. Commit to listen more than you talk and to be more concerned about the other person’s concerns than your own. Asking questions and genuinely listening to the answer could be the start of change and healing in someone’s life.

 Be brave and be interested. Be compassionate. Be like Jesus.

Heavenly Father, make me a better listener. Give me a genuine interest in others. Help me ask wise questions and give me the ability to listen with empathy and compassion. Use my interactions with others to show your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
End Times

Tent Life

Hard wood floors, maybe?

I don’t know if people still go camping in tents. And I don’t know if tents have improved since my parents took me camping back a million years ago. But, from my experience, tents have no HVAC and no indoor plumbing. They leak and tear. Tents may or may not keep out the bugs. And if a bear wants to eat you, it’s like opening the refrigerator door—one swipe of a paw and dinner is served.

Don’t get me wrong—I enjoyed camping. But never, ever did I confuse a tent with a house. We never put hardwood floors in our tent. We didn’t hang works of art in our tent. We didn’t put a sectional and a TV in our tent. Why not? Because a tent is temporary. We don’t plan on living in a tent forever.

In 2 Corinthians, chapter five, Paul compares our earthly bodies to tents. Just like a tent, these human bodies are temporary. Our tent bodies are subject to aches, pains, viruses, wrinkles, gray hair, disease, injuries, wrinkles, and death.

“We inwardly sigh as we live in these physical “tents,” longing to put on a new body for our life in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:2). We instinctively know our earthly bodies are temporary and come with limitations and problems. From scraped knees to heart disease, our “tent bodies” show their temporary nature.

That’s the bad news. The good news is these tent bodies will one day be replaced.

“For we will discard our mortal “clothes” and slip into a body that is imperishable. What is mortal now will be exchanged for immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). When Jesus returns, every believer receives a shiny-new, indestructible body. What now is susceptible to bee stings and frost bite will be impervious to both. The diseases that now wreck our tent bodies will no longer affect us.

Nothing can hurt Superman, right? That’s the kind of bodies we will have, except better, because even kryptonite won’t be able to weaken them.

When Jesus returns, death is defeated forever. Death will have no power over our supernatural bodies.

And when that which is mortal puts on immortality, and what now decays is exchanged for what will never decay, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says: “Death is swallowed up by triumphant victory!”

1 Corinthians 15:54

I hate death. I believe God hates it, too. Death wasn’t part of God’s original plan for us. Death entered earth because of sin. The power of sin has already been broken. And one day, the Lord Jesus will return to earth and the power of death will be defeated forever. Our bodies will be transformed. What is now subject to injury and illness will be free from that tyranny.

Let’s not miss out on this. Let’s place our faith fully in Jesus so we are ready for his return and ready to have our earthly, fragile bodies transformed into immortality. What a day that’s going to be!

Dear God, place a picture of heaven in my heart. Let me bring you glory while I am serving you on earth but help me remember my eternal destiny. Thank you for the transformed body I will receive when you return. Thank you for loving me, forgiving me, and saving me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
End Times

Where Is the Promise of His Coming?

Never forget the promise…

The Bible is filled with promises—over 8,000 of them. There are promises for healing, blessing, forgiveness, peace, and provision. In different seasons of our lives, we cling to different promises.

But one of these promises is different. It is a promise that changes everything. This promise reminds us we aren’t home. It points us to the day when Jesus returns for his church and takes us to our forever home in heaven:

 “…I go to prepare a place for you to rest. And when everything is ready, I will come back and take you to myself so that you will be where I am” (John 14:2-3). The promise is sure. He WILL come back. It’s not a maybe or a hopefully—it’s a definitely!

When the time is right, Jesus WILL return for us.

Peter gives us some valuable insights about Jesus’s return in 2 Peter, chapter three.

  • In the last days, many will not believe in the promise of his return. Mockers will question the promise, pointing out that time has been marching on and Jesus hasn’t returned. (See 2 Peter 3:3-4.) Don’t be swayed by those who don’t believe Jesus is coming back. They are acting out of their own evil desires.
  • Jesus will return unexpectedly. Jesus will return like a thief sneaking into a house when the owner isn’t looking for him. He will command the dead in Christ to rise from their graves and the living Christians to join him in the air. He will take us to heaven to be with him for eternity. (See 2 Peter 3:10.)
  • The promise isn’t to scare us, but to comfort us. Regardless of what craziness is happening in the world, we know our future is secure. Though the world may be shaken, the people of God are unshakeable as they await his return. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.)
  • We live in readiness. Every new day could be the day Jesus returns. Do we really believe in the promise of his coming? If not, we are probably living more loosely than we should be. But if we believe, we will be living godly lives, filled with the love of God, and sharing the message of Jesus with those who do not know him. We will be ready. (See 2 Peter 3:14.)

We live each day knowing this could be the day our Lord returns for us. The secret of living well is a deep belief in the return of Jesus. When everyone around us is worried, we’re at peace. When others doubt, we trust. We are faithful and fearless.

We don’t obsess about our past, because it’s been forgiven. We don’t worry about the present, because God is always with us. And we don’t fear the future because our Lord is preparing a home for us. One glorious day, he will return and take all of us home. That is our promise and our hope. Let’s be ready.

Dear Jesus, I am comforted by the promise of your coming. I know you will return for me. Help me to be ready and help me point others to you so they will also be ready when you return. Keep heaven in my heart and let the promise of your return shape the way I live. I ask this in your name, amen.

Categories
Handling Life's Problems

A Change of Seasons

Seasons come and go…

I like to laugh. Who doesn’t? I like it when everything in my life is smooth and easy. Who doesn’t? Personally, I would prefer not to ever have any sadness, problems, or even challenges in my life. How about you?

Life’s not that way. Life has seasons. There are times of laughter, but also seasons of tears. There’s a season to plant and a time to harvest. Just as we see spring turn to summer, and summer turn to autumn, we see seasons come and go in our lives.

Psalm 126 describes seasons of laughter as well as seasons of mourning. See if you can identify with the season of laughter:

It was like a dream come true when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion! We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness. All the nations saw it and joined in, saying, “The Lord has done great miracles for them!” Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed!

I hope you’ve had many times of joy. Perhaps a wedding, the birth of a child, deliverance from illness, a new job, or a long-awaited vacation. I hope you’re in a season of laughter right now.

But, if not, check out Psalm 126:4:

Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory! May streams of your refreshing flow over us until our dry hearts are drenched again.

Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, tells us there is a season for every activity under heaven. It says there is a season for crying and grieving, but thank God there is also a season for laughter and dancing. Seasons come and go. They aren’t forever—they’re for a certain time. As one season ends, a new one begins. Psalm 126:5-6 says:

Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing.

Friend, if you’re in a difficult season now, lift up your head and look to your Father. This season will pass. Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). A season of tears gives way to a season of laughter. A season of grief turns to a season of dancing. God has an overflowing harvest of blessing planned for your life. Be confident—God hasn’t forsaken you. He will walk with you through this season and bring you triumphantly into the next.

Dear God, strengthen my faith. Help me believe you are in control, both in seasons of laughter and seasons of tears. You are God in the storm as well as the calm. Remind me that I’m in a season and that seasons change. I lean on you for strength, guidance, and peace. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
love

Your Place in the Family Is Secure

God doesn’t love like people love…

My parents loved me. I knew they loved me. But on a few occasions, I would be disobedient. Or do something I knew would displease my parents. Sometimes, I would wonder if they would stop loving me.

Anytime I questioned their love—even in the slightest way—their response was always the same: “You don’t have to worry, little girl. Your place is secure.” Deep down I knew it. Still, the reassurance didn’t hurt. My place in the family was secure.

Our parents may or may not be good at making us feel secure in their love. Our spouses, our children, our friends may or may not be good at making us feel secure in their love. People are sometimes fickle and sometimes love temporarily or conditionally.

Thankfully, God doesn’t love like people love. God will never…NEVER…stop loving us. Through our failures, through our mistakes, through our sin, in spite of our bad decisions, our heavenly Father will ALWAYS love us.

Let’s slow-read Romans 8:35:

“Who could ever separate us from the endless love of God’s Anointed One? Absolutely no one! For nothing in the universe has the power to diminish his love toward us. Troubles, pressures, and problems are unable to come between us and heaven’s love. What about persecutions, deprivations, dangers, and death threats? No, for they are all impotent to hinder omnipotent love.”

Do you hear the words used to describe God’s love for you? Endless love. Undiminished love. Omnipotent love. Nothing can separate us from God’s eternal, steadfast, powerful, outrageous love.

Friend, our place is secure. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing we do, nothing we experience, nothing that comes against us can cause God to stop loving us. It’s just plain impossible.

So, relax. Take a deep breath and breathe it out slowly. We are held safely in God’s hand. We hold a place of honor in God’s heart. We are now, and always will be, deeply loved.

Dear God, thank you so much for your outrageous love. It fills me and surrounds me. Help me to love you and love other people with my whole heart. Help me live a life that brings glory to you. And when I mess up—and I will—remind me that absolutely nothing will stop your love for me. Remind me that my place is secure. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
God's presence

The Magnitude of Our Father’s Power

Our heavenly Father is invincible…

Maybe you remember the feeling of safety that came from knowing your dad was there and nothing could hurt you. Maybe you didn’t have that experience in your family here on earth, but your heavenly Father is always there to protect you. He is all mighty and all powerful, and his power is always available to his children.

On some level, we all know our heavenly Father is powerful, though we may not fully comprehend the magnitude of His power. The better we know God as our father, the more we understand how powerful He really is.

In Ephesians 1:19, Paul prays for believers to grasp, “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” God’s power is unlike any power on earth. Think electricity is powerful? God invented it. The power of a hurricane? One word from God halts it in its tracks.

Here’s the shocker: Almighty God chooses to apply His immense power in the lives of ordinary humans. As unbelievable as it may sound, it’s true. Because of our faith, we are part of the family of God, and the immeasurable power of our Father constantly works in us and through us.

God’s power in us is a game changer. What problem could we possibly face that His power can’t handle? God’s great power raised Christ from the dead, and that same power works in us (Ephesians 1:20). At times, we may feel weak or inadequate, but God’s power remains strong and active in us—directing our steps, fighting our battles, vanquishing our enemies, and leading us to eternal life.

Heavenly Father, when I feel weak let me rest in the greatness of your power. There is nothing too difficult for you. You are omnipotent—the all-powerful Father God of the universe. I place my life and my family in your strong and loving hands, knowing there is no better place they could be. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

Categories
Christian living

Housekeeping Matters

The family keeps the house in order…

When I was a kid, my family had fun times. We went camping, roasted marshmallows in campfires, went on hayrides, and swam in almost-always-cold Lake Michigan.

But we also had a lot of work to do to keep our house in order. If everything we did was just for fun, we would end up in a mess. To make things orderly, we all had work to do. My brother cut the grass and took out the trash. I swept and did dishes. My parents worked, fixed the cars, and paid the bills.

If someone in the family was sick, we took care of them. If someone was sad, we hugged them while they cried. If someone was happy, we all celebrated.

Some people may have had maids or yard people or nannies, but not my family. If the work was going to get done, we had to do it.

The family of God is not all that different. Everyone in the family of God has a role to fill to keep the house in order. If the work is going to get done, we have to do it.

Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace...

1 Peter 4:10

Every believer has a gift to be used to serve the house. No one is exempted. God has something for each of us to do to keep the house functioning well, to help members of the house, and to reach the community with God’s grace.

Peter gives us some examples of these gifts and how to use them.

For example, if you have a speaking gift, speak as though God were speaking his words through you. If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you…

1 Peter 4:11

There are so many grace gifts given that to make a complete list would be nearly impossible. If you are a baker, use that gift to glorify God. An artist, a carpenter, a computer programmer, a teacher, a doctor—wherever your gifting lies, be assured it can be used to bring glory to God and edification to the house.

Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves…

Galatians 6:4

It’s a blessing and an honor to be part of God’s family. It’s a privilege to be part of carrying out the work of God’s house. When we are committed to working in the house with excellence—using our own unique gifts—we are filled with joy, and the house fulfills its purpose of discipling Christians and leading the unsaved to Jesus. Everything works better when we all work together.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for allowing me to be part of your family. Thank you for giving me a gift to use to serve the house. Help me work in the house with excellence. Fill me with your joy. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
. God's plan

Adopted into the Family

With all the benefits that go with it…

The Bible has several stories of adoption. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Esther was adopted by Mordecai. Jesus was treated as a son by Joseph, even though Joseph was not his biological father.

Adoption is amazing. It turns strangers into family and turns orphans into sons and daughters. But the deepest, strongest, and most amazing act of adoption is not when people adopt children, but when God adopts people.

For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One…and this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure!

Ephesians 1:5-6

We are more than just God’s creation. We are more than just his servants. And God is more than just our judge. He is our father. When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of God’s family, with all the benefits and rights that come with being his adopted child. Our God-planned destiny from the beginning was to be adopted into his family.

It’s hard to believe, but it gives God great joy and pleasure to adopt us. We weren’t cute, cuddly, and captivating. On the contrary, we were a mess. We were all born with evil, selfish natures. Our lives expressed the depravity inside us, as we pursued any wicked thought springing from our selfish nature. We deserved God’s anger. Yet, when we were unlovable, he still loved us. God loved us so much that he adopted us. He made us his very own children.

What does that mean? When someone adopts a child, they make that child part of their family forever. They give that child their family name, invest their time in that child, bear the necessary costs to support that child, and make that child an heir of their estate. Adopting a child is a huge, weighty, life-altering decision.

God made that decision for us from the beginning. He knew how much trouble we would be and the price it would cost, but he never wavered. He adopted us and gave us the right to call him, “Daddy.” He didn’t do it out of obligation or pity. Our heavenly Father adopted us out of love. We are part of the family of God, dearly loved, forever.

If you are a Christian, you are a child of the living God, adopted into his family. Because you are his child, God loves you, protects you, and provides for you. He will never leave you. He will hear and answer your prayers. He will make a way for you. Always. That’s what a good father does…and God is a very good father.

Father, I am thankful to be adopted into your family. I’m overwhelmed that you loved me enough to adopt me and make me your child. I want to grow into your image. Thank you for your grace, your presence, and your overwhelming love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Christian living

Where Do I Belong?

We all want to feel we belong…

There’s an old sitcom about aliens who come to earth in human bodies to study people. They never quite feel like they fit in (duh!), until they attend the Pendleton Badger football game. They wear Badger shirts and join in the Badger cheers. Suddenly, the high commander understands what it’s like to fit in with humans, and why humans love their football teams.

Sometimes we feel like aliens, like we don’t fit in, like we aren’t understood or accepted. All our longing to belong will ultimately be met through our relationship with God.

Where do we belong?

  • We belong in God’s family. “Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honor of one another” (Romans 12:10). When God saves us, we become part of his family. We become his sons and daughters. We are no longer orphans, but dearly loved children of the most-high God. We respect, honor, and love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they do the same for us.
  • We belong in our heavenly home. “But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). We live on earth. While we’re here, we have a spiritual family. But we are destined for better. We have a home in heaven prepared and waiting for us.

Hebrews, chapter 11, talks of great men and women of faith. These faithful people, “acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth.” They were journeying through earth on their way to their heavenly homeland. (See Hebrews 11:13-15.) We’re on the same journey as these people of faith. We are aliens here on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven.

Yes, we all have a desire to belong, to fit in. And we do belong in God’s family and in the church. We find love and acceptance here on earth through our relationship with God and others who serve him. But our desire for belonging will not be fully met until we reach our homeland—our eternal home in heaven. In that place, we will experience perfect love, complete acceptance, and ultimate belonging.

Right now, we’re on the journey home. It has ups and downs, good and bad. But, y’all, the destination—heaven—is going to absolutely blow our minds. We’re going to finally and eternally be in our perfect home, right where we belong.

Dear God, help me remember that this world is not my home. I’m traveling through on my way to my eternal home in heaven. Place me in the family of God and the body of Christ as you see fit. Help me look for belonging from you rather than this world. Give me love and acceptance for others on the journey. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
The Heart

Out with the Old, in with the New

Maybe it’s time for some changes…

Have you ever had a sofa such a long time that the legs were getting wobbly, the fabric was wearing thin, and the grape juice, ketchup, and gravy stains were painful to see? When we make the decision to buy a new sofa, we shop around and find just the right one. We’re super excited when the delivery truck pulls into our driveway.

Can you imagine anyone having the delivery people put the beautiful new couch on top of the old couch? Just stack it on top of that dirty, worn, broken down couch…said no one, ever! No, we get rid of the old couch and replace it with the new.

But sometimes we’re not as careful with our hearts. We try to put our beautiful God stuff on top of our old, messed-up junk. And that’s a mistake. Our hearts need to be maintained carefully, and that includes getting rid of untruths, bad attitudes, and incorrect thinking.

Jesus didn’t come to tidy us up a little. He came to make us brand new.

“Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This includes our old identity, our old thought patterns, and our old sinful behavior. We aren’t just tweaked a little—we’re made completely new.

There’s danger in allowing the old things back into our hearts. We must be on guard to keep the junk and mess out. Proverbs 4:23 says, “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” If we’re not on guard, if we’re not paying attention, our heart can become cluttered with things that don’t belong there.

To check our hearts, we can ask these questions:

  • How do I spend my time?
  • How do I spend my money?
  • What do I think about?
  • What words are coming out of my mouth?

Our time, money, thoughts, and words are pretty good indicators of the status of our hearts.

Let’s offer it all up to Jesus and ask him to help us get rid of attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that are cluttering up our hearts and our lives. Growth happens when change happens. Maybe it’s time to declutter our hearts. Maybe it’s time to cast aside thoughts and behaviors that are old and need to be replaced. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the old and replace it with the new.

Dear God, I never want to fall back into the person I was before I met you. Help me guard my heart. Reveal to me any junk in my heart that needs to be replaced. I offer all that I am to you. Help me continue to grow in you. In Jesus’s name, amen.