My sun porch

My sun porch

Monday, January 31, 2011

Faith - What is it?

Good Monday morning!

This week's memory verse:

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exsists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6

Hebrews 11:1 says that Faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

We can't see God, we have never met Jesus, we can't see or know what heaven is then can we keep the HOPE alive that those things exsist AND believe the promises we have read about are true and have faith in them?

Even if you have a SLIVER of faith...even if you have a belief that you had as a child sitting WAY in the back of your mind...even if you WANT to believe and learn more about this "God thing"...Jesus says that is ENOUGH for God to work with...enough to GROW!

Matthew 17:20 records Jesus saying "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move."

The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, but it can grow into a 12-15 foot tall plant! If you have that small that nags at you or that tugs at your heart...making you WANT to learn more about this "God thing"...then it's up to you to plant that seed, feed it, water it, nurture it and ask God to help it grow! Have FAITH that God can and WILL help it to grow!

In KidsPraise, we help the kids understand that by reading the Bible, you are doing just that...feeding, watering and nurturing your faith seed by communicating with God through His word. There are stories in the Bible of people...people that are just like you and me (even if a few thousand years separate us)...people who sinned, were weak, but people who allowed God to take their small faith and make it grow.

There are many examples in the New Testament of Jesus commending those who show their faith to him.

Matthew 9:2 - Men bring a paralyzed man to Jesus to be healed...because of their faith, Jesus says, "Take heart, your sins are forgiven."

Matthew 9:22 - A woman touches Jesus' cloak and asks to be healed. Jesus says, "Take heart, your faith has healed you."

Matthew 8:5-13 - A Roman soldier asks Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus asks if the soldier wants him to come heal the servant, but the soldier says that he is not worthy to have Jesus under his roof, and knows that Jesus only has to speak it and the servant will be healed. Even a ROMAN soldier, non-jew...the enemy...knows who Jesus is and has FAITH that Jesus is who he says he is and has the power to heal! Because of "such great faith"...the servant was healed!

A.B. Simpson wrote, "True faith drops its letter in the post office box and lets it go. Distrust holds on to a corner of it and wonders that the answer never comes."

I think if you looked at faith in my life...there have been times you would see me holding on to the corner of the letter. Even now, I think there are certain areas of my life that I am still holding on to that corner...I just need to LET IT GO and have FAITH that God will take care of it!If I have FAITH that I am going to heaven...and I do...I need to trust that faith and that these few years that I have on earth are just the beginning of my life, really. I will have ETERNITY to enjoy the JOY God wants to give me in heaven! Why worry about things and hang on to control of things that really don't matter in the long run?

My faith started out pretty small...even up to a few years ago. I believed in God and accepted Jesus in my heart...but I really didn't KNOW enough about God to be able to watch that small seed of faith do much of anything in my life. the last few years, I have studied, prayed and allowed God to have control over more things in my life, instead of hanging on to them...And in return, I have seen my small seed of faith grow and grow. I can now share my faith with others. I can look at my husband through God's eyes instead of just my own, and that has made my marriage better. I now have more peace about the "hard stuff" in my life because of that seed that has grown into a plant. plant is not that tall yet. It still has a LOT of growing to do. I have MUCH more to learn and there are still areas of my life that I am still holding on to. We are never done nurturing our "little mustard plant" faith...until we reach heaven.

Father God, thank you for allowing me to "see" my faith grow. I ask that my friends reading this might take those seeds of faith in their own hearts and nurture them enough so they can "see" them grow too! Thank you for letting me share my FAITH with people in this way!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Belief + Faith = Hope

This week's Memory verse:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Today's message is all about what you believe. This is the nuts and bolts of our Christian faith. It's NOT religion with strict rituals and procedures you must is in the heart...what do you BELIEVE?

I have said many times that my faith is the one thing that gets me through the gives me the HOPE to keep going even when I feel like giving up. Where does that hope come from? From what I believe.

You may be reading this and NOT believe the same way I do. I have to respect what you believe because I want you to respect what I believe as well. This blog is my way to share what I believe with others...not pushing it, not arguing my points, just sharing.

In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus gives us hope for our future. Read it for yourself...I'm going to paraphrase it. If we believe in God and believe that Christ is the son of God and that he came to die for our sins and is God's gift to us, our savior, and we remain faithful to those beliefs...then we will be blessed even when we are insulted, slandered and persecuted for those beliefs. Our reward isn't here on earth. Our reward is in heaven. The gift of eternal life with our creator is our reward. All the pain, suffering, conflict and trials we face on earth will be worth it! The joys we experience on earth are JUST A GLIMPSE of the joys we will experience in heaven!

Jesus again speaks of heaven in John 14:1-4. He says he is preparing a place for us in heaven. In heaven there are many rooms...enough rooms for all of us! When we are troubled, we shouldn't worry, but rely on our faith - we believe in God and in Christ- we need to trust his promises!

Our Bible study book asks the question: if we as believers base our faith and hope on the knowledge of eternal life in heaven through Jesus Christ, why is there so much fear and despair in the world? I think it's because we get so wrapped up in our own problems and issues, we forget God's promises. We lose our connection with our living God because we don't take the time with him we need...we get lost in despair, forget about God and then figure he's not there or not powerful enough to deal with all the problems. In my opinion, that's why we are in the situations we are in in this country and all over the world. We lost sight of our God because WE stopped communicating with him.

The thing that continues to give me hope, even when I contemplate a world that has forgotten God...HE HASN'T GONE ANYWHERE! It is us...the human beings that He created that have run away from Him...HE IS STILL THERE! His promises still hold true...even if we don't believe him!

Earlier I spoke to those who might be reading this who DON'T believe as I do. Now, I want to speak to those who DO believe as I do. Jesus gave us a job to do in The Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations. I believe in my heart that is what we are to do: To help others see and find belief, faith and Hope in God. BUT, I also believe that we need to follow Jesus' example in EVERY STEP of that job. We are to treat ALL people with respect, even those who believe differently than we do. Live your life in kindness, make friends of other religions and them that you act as you believe. Let God do the work in their hearts...that is HIS job. Our job is to share what we believe...not give others reasons to run the other way! I'll step off my soap box now! ;-)

There is hope for this crazy world! That hope comes from God. Hang on to that to keep the hope alive in YOUR heart...and share it with people around you!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hope from encouragement

This week's memory verse:"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Sharing Hope

You MIGHT remember (or not!) the old Dr. Pepper commercial..."I'm a Pepper, she's a Pepper, he's a Pepper, we're a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?" (HA! Now that song will be in your head all day long!) My reason for the little song break is that I would like to change the words..."I'm an encourager, she's an encourager, he's an encourager, we're encourager, wouldn't you like to be an encourager too?" The words may not fit the old tune as well, but we should ALL be encouraging each other, every day instead of arguing and trying to get our own way and claiming that our way is the RIGHT way all the time. We ALL need encouragement from time to time...I know I do...and I am lucky to have very loving and caring friends and family who do encourage me every day. Do you ever think about how many people in this world don't have ANYONE in their lives to encourage them? No wonder there are so many sad, angry and discouraged people in the world!

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-13. Paul, who is in prison with little hope of being released, writes a letter to his friend Timothy. It is a letter of hope and encouragement for Timothy. Paul does many things in this letter that we can use as examples of how to encourage others.

First, he thanks God for his own life (even though he is in prison!) and then compliments Timothy on his work. Giving God glory for our lives shows we can put God first. And, what person doesn't want to hear praise from a mentor? It makes us feel good about ourselves! A good place to start!

Paul then goes on to give Timothy instructions - to go fan the flame of God's tell others about God's plan through Jesus Christ. Since he knows that this might be a scary task in a world that has put him in prison for doing the same thing, he reminds Timothy of the gifts that God has given him, a spirit of power, love and self control. He is saying...don't be afraid...God is with you and has made you to be bold!

All the things that Paul tells him are like one big pep talk...we can and SHOULD do this for each other! For example...Our First Place for Health group, which is working on hard, life-changing life skills...we should be complimenting and encouraging each other as much as possible! The things we are doing are hard and it's easy to fail and get discouraged. But if a friend, who is going through the same thing, gives you a call, a text or an email of encouragement, that could be just what we need to keep us going!

Paul then makes a statement that may not sound so encouraging...he says Timothy should join in "suffering for the gospel." Now, what person wants to get involved in something, KNOWING ahead of time that they are going to suffer? And what do you mean suffer? I thought I was to find JOY in the gifts of the Lord???

I believe that Paul knows that Timothy will face jeers, disbelief, anger, prejudice and probably danger because of his telling the good news of the gospel. "The world" or those outside the faith, don't understand the blessings and amazing gifts of the gospel. Misunderstanding can lead to anger, prejudice, hatred and other dangerous acts, as we see today. When sharing your faith, you too may face some or all of these things.

That is why Paul's message to Timothy holds so much meaning and promise for us today. We are GOING to face suffering in this life...when we remember that we can find joy IN the suffering knowing that Christ saved us and leads us to a holy and eternal life with God through his gift...then we can hold on to that and gain strength and courage from it to get THROUGH the suffering. We need friends and supporters to remind us of that promise because when you are in the middle of the struggle, it's sometimes hard to remember. And, please remember, those that don't understand the blessings of the God's gifts...THEY NEED THIS MESSAGE... we can't stop telling the world about the gospel and our faith in it just because we are afraid of their reactions! Be bold! Maybe SOMEONE is ready to hear it and your sharing will be at JUST at the right moment!

Who can YOU encourage today? When you strengthen the faith of others through encouragement, you will be strengthening your own faith as well. Sharing HOPE with others builds HOPE around the world!!! Would YOU like to be an encourager too!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This week's memory verse:"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future" - Jeremiah 29:11

How do we get hope? A friend of mine sent me a message that encouraged me and praised me for always being positive and having hope in all situations in my life. He encouraged me further by reminding me that it was that hope and positive attitude that would get me through other struggles that will occur in my life. I was touched and humbled by his words. It made me happy to think that others had taken notice to how I live my life.

It also made me wonder...why can I, little old Linda from a very humble, yet blessed family, keep hope alive in a crazy, scary, selfish, greedy and fallen world? Where does that hope come from?

Our Bible study book talks today about verses in Romans that talk about where hope comes from...

Romans 15:4 - even though they were written LONG ago, the stories in the Bible about the struggles of God's people teach us lessons about endurance...God always came through. Those stories can encourage us and give us hope in our struggles today.

Romans 12:12 - "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer."

Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

THAT'S IT!! All my life, those three things, reading God's word, prayer and trust in God, have stuck by me. Even during a time when I ran away from God...when I rebelled, did what I wanted even though I knew it was wrong...I KNEW those three things were still there. That HOPE never left me. That HAS to come from God, and not from myself because I KNOW I am not that good!

If you want the truth, what I truly believe in my heart, I believe that God placed the Holy Spirit in me because I invited and welcomed Him in. Even through my times of doubt, fear, disobedience and sin, that HOPE that God was there and that He would take care of me...that was always there. I didn't have to DO anything really...just believe and trust.

THAT is why I try to encourage others all the time. THAT is why I am the peace maker. THAT is why I always try to find the positive side of things...THAT is why I write this message every try to encourage others to open their hearts to the HOPE that is available to them. This world can be a scary place. Why not rely on God?

Some have said that Christians are like sheep...they blindly follow a God that never makes himself known...they rely on their emotions instead of thinking with their minds. How COULD such a God exist today? Christianity gets a bad rap theses days, and many times, rightly so. All I am saying is what works for me. I believe that my hope comes from the God who created me. I have faith that this can work for you too!

Give it a try! Read God's word...say a little prayer...let your trust in the God who loves you grow. You too can see your HOPE grow and you will see getting through each day with that HOPE is a little easier!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The promise of hope

This week's memory verse:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Hope against hope...a saying that's heard when a situation seems "hopeless," but you keep hoping that one day it will change. I am not someone who likes to think of anyone or any situation as hopeless, but I must admit that sometimes it does get hard to keep hoping for the best when all you see is the worst.

Our book leads us to read about and think about Abram and Sarah. (Genesis 12, 15:1-6) For YEARS God had promised him that he would be a father and that his son would be the beginning of many nations. If God spoke to you and made you a promise like would put some stock into that promise, wouldn't you say? But what if even MORE years went by, and you and your wife were over 90 years old...your body would be tired, weak, and everyone knew they were beyond the childbearing years! Can you imagine the conversations that Abram had with God over the years that are NOT recorded in Genesis? Come on God! What in the world are you waiting for??? I am an OLD man! My wife's body can't withstand childbirth at her age? Were you just being symbolic with your promise? Are you for real?

When he was 99 years old, Genesis 17:1-8 says that God again reminded Abram of his promises, and changes his name to Abraham, which means "Father of many nations." It was TEN MORE YEARS before a son was born to Abraham and Sarah.

Paul says in Romans 4:18 "against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations."We have many promises in the Bible, which is God's instrument of communication with us, of how things are and how they are to be. It is hard for us to live in this scary and fallen world, and hang on to those promises, isn't it? But we are on this earth for maybe 80-100 years...God made these promises THOUSANDS of years ago...we have seen miracles, we have seen what faith and hope can do in our lives. Surely we can keep remembering God's promises!

There are situations in my life that I have sometimes felt were hopeless...My weight has been one of them. I have been heavy my whole life. I have had over 40 years of bad choices and bad habits...what makes me think that I can change all that now? I am learning to change those thoughts into...with God's help, why CAN'T I change? Of course I can!

My money situation seems hopeless every month when I pay my bills. There just doesn't seem to be enough to go around. My debts seem so HUGE...How am I ever going to make enough to dig out of this? I hope against hope that SOMETHING is going to happen...that I can change bad habits, make wiser choices, get a better paying job...that will help me with this stressful situation. I don't believe God is going to RESCUE me out of this...I believe and HOPE that even though it seems hopeless, God is going to lead me OUT of it! I am going to keep believing and hoping until the day I die!

Dear Lord, I ask that today, you restore to me and to my friends reading this message the gift of hope so that we may please you as Abraham did. Help us to commit all of our situations to You and wait on your timing. Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blessings From the Sun Porch: HOPE

Blessings From the Sun Porch: HOPE: "This week's memory verse:'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you ..."


This week's memory verse:"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

I have said many times that hope is the thing that keeps me going, and that hope comes from my faith and trust in God. There have been many times when worry and despair have clouded my days, making it hard to see a future without that heavy feeling in my heart. When you're in it, all you can see is the pain. But, because of that hope that is buried deep in my heart and soul, I did not give up during those dark times...I KNEW God was with me and I hung on to that promise in the verse above...God has plans for prosper me and not harm me, AND I knew I had a future!
The hard situations in my life are nothing compared to things that have happened to others, I know. Just look at the life of Job. He lost EVERYTHING! We can only imagine the depth of despair that he found himself in. But, after losing his wealth, possessions, his CHILDREN...he didn't lose his faith! He did morn. He tore his clothes and shaved his head...but then he fell to the ground in WORSHIP. Then he lost his health as well. His wife had had it and chastised him for his continued integrity and hope...just curse God and be done with it! STILL he did not give up. He said we live with the good, why not live with the bad. "Because even if he killed me, I'd keep on hoping. I'd defend my innocence to the very end." Job 13:15
Job is a good example for us. God wants us to have hope in Him. There are many verses that God gives us to remind us of that fact. Look up the following verses for your self so you can be reminded to keep your hope alive, even in the midst of your worries and troubles.

Psalm 25:3

Psalm 33:18

Psalm 33:20

Psalm 147:11

I pray that you never are in a Job situation, but whatever life issues you find yourself in, I pray the patience and hope of Job for you!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All you need is love...

BRRRRR! Good COLD morning!

This week's memory verse:"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

Today's message is meant to be more interactive, or thought provoking on your part. Think about the questions I'm going to pose today...if you don't keep a journal, this might be a good time to start one, or at least take a few minutes to not down a few things today. Journaling isn't everyone's cup of tea, but keeping track of who you want to pray for, action steps you want to take, etc. will help you hold those things in your mind and your heart, and will help you hold yourself more accountable.

Think about the people in your life who are easy to love, those that you show PHILEO (brotherly, affectionate) love to. You might want to make a list of those people. They might be family members, friends or coworkers. Now, think about HOW you show them PHILEO love? In other words, what do you do that lets them know you love them? You may also show these people AGAPE love as well, by giving of yourself to them...putting their needs ahead of your own.

If nothing else, making a list of the people we love reminds us how blessed we are by the people in our lives! My list is a pretty long one!

Now that you have done that, think about the people that God may be trying to get you to love more...those people in your life who are harder to love, or perhaps even like! Those might be the people you NEED to show AGAPE love to. It is easier for us to think about showing AGAPE love to the people on our other list, isn't it?

I truly believe God places people in our lives for reasons. There are people in my life who are there all the time that may annoy me, anger me, upset and frustrate me. I feel God working in me to think of these individuals in a different way. I don't have to like what they do, condone bad behavior they might have, or become best friends with them. BUT, I do feel God moving me to love them more...or to be loving more to them instead of letting my feelings about them lead me to treat them disrespectfully or even hatefully. Remember what 1 Corinthians 13 says about love? All those things love is and isn't? I think THAT is the real lesson from the "love passage." God wants to show that kind of love, AGAPE love, to the frustrating people in our lives!

Wow! What a revelation! So, that frustrating colleague I have who makes me angry...I am to be patient and kind to them? I am to be slow to anger with them? I shouldn't keep track of all the wrongs they have done? I should work on treating them with kindness and protect our working relationship, hoping that these actions will help our relationship improve? God, are you kidding??? Nope, I believe God is NOT kidding. Can you imagine what our work places would look like and be like if everyone treated each other with THIS kind of love? It's not the hugging, kissing, "I LOVE you" kind of's the AGAPE love...where you out away childish feelings and actions and lead by example.

Is this easy? ABSOLUTELY not!!! We are not capable of showing this kind of love to the difficult people in our lives WITHOUT the help of our heavenly Father. He IS capable of loving the unloveable (thank God!) so take these people to Him in prayer. Daily pray about and for the people on your SECOND list. Ask God what you can do show these people AGAPE love...ask Him to give you strength and wisdom and to soften your heart to their needs.

I'm sure God has blessed you in many ways. Now it's your turn to share that love with others, even those who seem "unloveable."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Love is...

Good Snowy morning to you all!

This week's Bible verse:"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Love is...Most of us have attended a wedding where the "love passage" was read. It is the well known 1 Corinthians 13 that most couples want to start out their lives together with. It sounds so idyllic...the way a marriage is "supposed" to be, right? I have come to realize, however, that this passage is much more than a primer for is God's direction for us in learning to show AGAPE love to everyone!

The beginning of the passage explains that you may have a lot of may be a good speaker, you may have faith that there is a God and there is a heaven and you think you are going there when you may even appear to be very generous and faithfully give to your church and other charities. Paul, who wrote this book, explains that those things are all well and good...but, if you don't have love...this self-sacrificing AGAPE love, you really have nothing and are missing out!

Love is PATIENT, love is KIND, it does not ENVY, it does not BOAST, it is not PROUD, it does not DISHONOR, 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. Love never FAILS.

Don't we all WANT that kind of love bestowed upon us!!! But, Paul next explains that we can't be selfish about AGAPE love. Children are very egocentric...they are all about THEIR needs and wants...Gimme gimme...Paul says we need to put away childish ways, and think about others more than ourselves.

Love amazing gift, isn't it? And, a pretty tall order, if you think about it. There are a lot of ALWAYS and NEVERS in there...I don't know about you, but I know I haven't been able to live up to those standards and to be honest, I don't ever think I will...on this earth. After teaching us about love is and isn't, Paul then gives us hope for our sorry selves...we will not reach perfection here or now...but THEN, when we reach heaven and are with our Father, THEN we will really know and understand and be able to demonstrate AGAPE love!!!

Faith and hope are amazing gifts...the things that keep me going everyday in this crazy world. But, Paul says that love is the greatest gift, AGAPE love...I believe he is absolutely right! When I FEEL AGAPE love, from friends, family and from God, I feel treasured and protected. When I GIVE AGAPE love, I feel honored and grateful and blessed. "Because He first loved us..."

How have you practiced AGAPE love to others in your life? How can you in the future?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Agape Love

This week's memory verse:"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

I "love" to learn more about LOVE! Most of the New Testament was written in Greek. In the Greek language, there are two words to describe our one word- love. PHILEO- means a special interest or affection for a person- like "brotherly love" or a strong connection between people. AGAPE - which is self-sacrificing love. Think a mother staying up all night with a sick child, or the ultimate example of agape is Jesus giving up his life for us.

Jesus instructs us to love our enemies and to lay down our lives for our friends- He was encouraging us to demonstrate agape love. It doesn't say you had to FEEL anything for those people, agape love is intentional, a deliberate choice- an act of obedience and commitment. I had never thought of love in this manner before.

There are many verses of the Bible that I have read many times, that have become familiar to me...I think I know what they are trying to say and teach me. Today I saw one of these verses take on a new meaning in my mind. Read John 21:15-19

Now, according to the Bible study book I am reading, when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, he used AGAPE, but when Peter answered, with "of course I love you" he used PHILEO. BIG difference there. My book also leads me to understand that when Jesus asks "Do you love me more than these," THESE is referring to the HUGE catch of fish that they had just caught. Since he was using AGAPE, he us saying "Do you love me enough to give up your possessions, like the reward of this HUGE catch of fish?"

I have to admit, I am a bit amazed that Peter doesn't use AGAPE. I mean this whole scene is taking place AFTER Jesus died...he appeared to these men AFTER they witnessed him hung on a cross! Just seeing Him alive would cement in their minds that he WAS who he had claimed to be - the son of God, right?

But, Peter three times answers Jesus by using PHILEO, and actually gets his feelings hurt at the question. OF COURSE I love you, my brother. Jesus is trying to make him see what He wants Peter to do with the rest if his life...give up his plans, desires, possessions and wishes and "Feed my sheep." Jesus has a job for start His church, to take care of His people.

Our book asks me where I think I am in my relationship with God in regard to the kind of love I am giving Him. I did some real soul-searching...I WANT to show agape love to God...I want to think of myself doing that. But, I think I GIVE Him PHILEO love. I am so like Peter! I forget what He has done for me...what miracles and blessings I have received because of Him! There are STILL things I hang on to control STILL act in very selfish ways most of the time. I need to search my heart some more for ways that I can be deliberate, intentional, and obedient, and show AGAPE love to the people around me, even people I don't even phileo love... THEN I would be moving toward AGAPE love to my creator.

Some may ask what all this learning about love stuff has to do with healthy living...don't we have to LEARN how to be obedient and do what Christ taught us in order to learn to love ourselves? True happiness and contentment comes from NOT putting ourselves first, but by putting CHRIST first! It's a learning process!How can YOU move to a deeper relationship with God? How can YOU show more AGAPE love to the people in your life? Can you learn to be more intentional about it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Walk the Talk...

This week's Bible verse:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

It's a phrase we've heard before...we need to walk to talk. If you want the rewards, then you have to do more than talk. It's one thing to SAY you are a Christian...How are you living? Are you being Christ's hands and feet on earth? Or, are you all talk?

"If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." - Matthew 10:42

What the heck does a cup of water have to do with my life??? It's all about WHAT you are doing with your life that matters. It's about putting your own needs, wants, desires and feelings aside to show LOVE to others around you.

Have you ever said, "I hate that guy! He makes me so mad!" What one of us hasn't said something like that at some point, right? Well, according to 1 John 3:15, to hate someone is the same as being a murderer, and murderers don't get eternal life (without forgiveness)...I am sure you don't consider yourself a murderer, but if you hate, or act in a hateful manner, you might as well be in God's eyes. WOW! It looks like I have some work to do! How about you?

Those verses go on to say that we should be willing to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. I don't think this is only speaking about our physical lives...but also our personal wants and desires as well. Go back to the person you said you hated... What about that person don't you like? Do they do something you don't like? Act in a way that you don't like? Even if they ARE acting in a terrible seems it's all about what YOU don't like, right?

If we are truly followers of Christ, then there are 2 things we are told to do...BELIEVE in Christ (I think you have that one) and love each other. Do you think the OTHER there means only the lovable? I don't think so! Now, I know there are those in this world that are HARD to love! No one said this was going to be easy...but we need to TREAT those people with love as well. That doesn't mean we have to hug everyone, or become close friends with them. But, it does mean we should never say we HATE someone, talk bad about them behind their backs, or treat them unkindly. Treat EVERYONE you come in contact with with kindness. If someone needs something that you have the means to help them with...HELP them, even if you don't WANT TO.

1John 3:19 says that if we do this...believe in Christ AND treat EVERYONE with love and kindness...then we can quiet our minds during those moments of self-doubt and self-criticism...we are doing what Christ taught us to do, so we are OK!Search your there someone(s) in your life you need to stop "hating"...someone you need to treat kinder...even if you don't want to? Have you seen someone in need, knew you COULD help, but you chose not to? What can you do TODAY to make those things right with God? If you call yourself a Christian, ya gotta walk the talk! I know I've got some work to do with my own walk...I need to work on making a few things right. How about you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

God's Plan

Good morning!

This week's memory verse:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

It is taking me a long time, but I am finally realizing that God knew what He was doing! EVERYTHING that happened from the moment Eve bit into that apple...all the lessons that God tried to teach the was all leading up to His plan to give us a way out for our sin!I don't know about you, but the old testament killing of animals as a sacrifice for sin...reading about that always gave me the creeps. As a kid, I can remember thinking how glad I am that we don't do that anymore...Now, as an adult, I still am glad we don't do that any more, but I am SO GLAD that I am coming to understand the reasons THEY had to do it.

If our ancestors had not had to learn the tradition of sacrificing an animal for our sins...that SOMETHING had to take the place of the sins we as humans commit every day...we would never understand the concept of the loving gift that Jesus gave us through giving up his life for our sins.

Leviticus 1:4 explains the ritual of animal sacrifice. Read that to understand the steps that a person had to take to be cleansed for their sins.

According to God's plan Jesus came to earth and did away with the Old Testament Law of animal sacrifice. Read 1 John 2:1-6

Doesn't it feel better to know that we have an ADVOCATE in Jesus? He was that perfect sin-less sacrifice made for us AND the sins of the world! His blood, his pain, his death takes the place of our own death through our sins.

John continues to tell us more about God's plan by saying that if we obey God's word then God's love will be made complete in us! What a promise!! If we believe that Christ gave his life for us, then our sins are forgiven. If we read God's word and follow what He tells us, ask for forgiveness when we do sin, THEN we will come to know and understand and FEEL God's love! If you know and believe that, then NOTHING can separate you from God's love!

There are times when my thinking mind gets in the can this be true? It sounds so far fetched! That's when my heart overpowers my mind! I would much rather believe in something bigger than my mind can comprehend that brings me peace and hope, than live in a hopeless world of logic, disbelief, hate and anger. I thank God that my mind and my heart are open to Him! I thank God that I can live in the hope of His promises and share his love with others! Don't you think THAT is part of His plan too!

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Place 4 Health and God's Love

Good Morning! This Blog was really created out of messages that I began sending to each member of my First Place 4 Health group. In July of 2009, my church began a healthy lifestyle, life-balance program called First Place 4 Health. It's more than a weightloss program, although weightloss has been one of the outcomes for many of us in the last year or so. We currently have 3 groups going, one that meets on Tuesday nights, one for men, and mine is a mother/daughter (although not exclusively) group. Our teens were having trouble getting motivated to do the Bible study, so I began sending a daily message through Facebook, hoping that it would encourage them to read, study and be motivated. This became a journaling tool for me, encouraging me more than it did the teens. Others starting requesting that I send it to them, and my good friend and fellow group leader Donna encouraged me to write a Blog so more people could read it. Each 12 week session of our group, we have a Bible study book. That is what my messages are based on. We have been on a break in the last couple of months, but today starts the beginning of another 12 week session. If you want to, you can participate in our Bible study, even without the book. Feel free to ask questions, chime in with comments or just read. This is just my way of showing God's love in a practical way!

This week's Bible verse:"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

God's love IS an incredible gift! Learning how to put that gift to work in our lives should be something that we do every day of our lives. I think if we study God's word, we will find new things about that gift every time, and if we can then use those new things we learn, we will find that we are learning to let God lead us through our lives.

Read what John has to say about God's love in 1 John 4:7-16

* Why should we love each other?

* John states that those who do not show love do not know God. Do you think that is a permanent situation or can those who do not know God learn about Him and change their lives? (this question is NOT in our is my question)

* Think about your own life. What are some ways that you are showing God's love by the way you treat the people in your lives?

God is love. Loving others and treating people with love SHOWS God's love. In this world, there are SO MANY examples of people NOT loving each other. Just turn on the TV to the news, or to any reality can be overwhelming how much greed, hate, selfishness, and self-gratification there is in our world today. We might think and feel there is not much love left in the world.But, I think that people are SO HUNGRY for love. They want it, and want to give it too. The problem is, so many people have run away from our loving God...they don't KNOW him so they don't have His example to live by. How would they know how to treat people with love if they haven't been loved themselves and won't allow themselves to feel the love of God?

Don't you think that this is one of God's missions and jobs for those of us that DO know him? Shouldn't we SHOW people...ALL PEOPLE...God's love? Shouldn't we DEMONSTRATE how to live generously, unselfishly and WITH God? Through First Place 4 Health, we are learning how to live a balanced, healthy life. When people see good changes in you, they may want what you have...they may ask what you are doing and you can LOVINGLY share with them. Think about that...You can be an instrument, bringing God's love into a world that desperately wants and needs it! What an awesome responsibility, but what an awesome opportunity and honor!

What can you do TODAY, to show God's love to people you come in contact with? Have that on your heart and mind in everything you do today!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writer's block...not quite!

I don't know what to write today. Since I started these messages many months ago, I either had our First Place devotional or another book I was reading to inspire me...usually what I wanted to say to you just came to me. I assumed God was leading my words...

Today, I seem to be at a loss as to what to write, so I will just write what comes into my head.

I think I may be at one of those moments in my life when I'm at the edge of something...what, I don't know. But did you ever get the feeling that something was coming????I have learned so much about God in the last few years, so much that I feel Him to be a friend. I still think that God is AMAZING and know how powerful He is and marvel at his works. But lately, when I talk to God, it's on a more personal level, you know? I find myself having conversations with God when I'm in the car...when I'm trying to figure something out at work. Those of you who know me well might just chalk it up to just another one of the many voices in my head! You might be right...but I am learning to find peace in this relationship with my creator...what a blessing it's been for me.
"Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36

In this world filled with troubles, wars, unspeakable violence, worries about having enough money,etc. It is easy to get overwhelmed, dissatisfied and unhappy. I have had a bit if that in his last year. There have been times in the last year that I haven't liked my life or myself very much and I spent some time thinking about the grass on the other side of the fence. If I had another job...if I had a different kind of marriage... If I lived in a different place...BUT... As we all know, that grass isn't greener. The problems we had just follow us or we just develop different problems.

I am learning to take my problems and dissatisfied feelings to God...through conversations with Him, I work try to work out solutions...try to figure out what I can do differently to make living in these circumstances more bearable. Talking to God about it...since He doesn't TALK back to me and participate in a "normal" conversation with me, (I haven't seen any burning bushes or hear God's booming voice...) some would say it makes no sense to talk to God. But, I know differently because I have experienced that peace that HAS to come from God, and I know that God is with me.So...since I had nothing to write about this morning, I'm going to do a bit of "The Journey." or show you how this simple journal writing was part of it.

Worship and prayer- I feel that speaking the praises of our God to others is a kind of worship. Thank you Lord for all you do in my life, making it possible for me to get through each day.

Study- I search for Bible verses that are applicable to the situation I'm in. I don't always memorize, but it does help me to see that God's word is a living and breathing tool that He has given us. Yes, if you try hard enough, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to. That's why it is important to stay in contact with God and allow Him to guide you through the Bible so His meaning stays pure.

Connect and serve- I love to talk...I love taking with people and learning from them. Being a very social creature has made me want to reach out through tools like Facebook and my I can share what works for I can show God's love to others in a practical way. No, I don't claim to be an expert...I don't claim to have the answers...I just want to share with others the joy I find in the Lord.

Whew! I guess I did have a lot to say today! God is good to me! I'm glad I have the opportunity to share that fact with you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good morning! 1-11-11 (THAT won't happen again for a while!)

My First Place group is getting ready to start our next 12 week session on Sunday...we prepare our hearts, minds and spirits for the challenges ahead of us. We already know that losing weight and changing our unhealthy lifestyle habits is a hard thing. But we have seen what works and that's what we need to duplicate.

First Place 4 Health teaches us and encourages us to put Christ FIRST...and teaches us about how we are 4 sided people - spiritual, mental, physical and social. AND as we talked about Sunday, Rolling Plains is beginning "The Journey" which focuses on 5 habits that make us more like Christ - worship, study, prayer, connect, serve. Doesn't it seem like these things are so closely related and will work together?

Spiritual - worship and prayer

Physical - serve

Mental - study

Social - connect

I am also reading a book about change. We all know that change is hard. Our minds want us to make changes that will make us healthier and those same minds try to make decisions that will direct our behaviors. The problem is that our emotions rule our behaviors much more than our minds do. That is why will power alone is not enough to make real change that sticks. Here is the exciting part - the part that makes me very excited about the next 12 weeks - to affect real change we need a definite PATH that is planned out so that our minds have less to worry about and can make those decisions that our emotions can live with and cope with, even in stressful times.

Planning is probably one of the hardest parts...but we are going to work TOGETHER in the next 12 weeks, encouraging each other to worship our AMAZING God through daily moments and Sunday God's word on a daily basis so we can communicate with that AMAZING God...serve each other and our church with our time...connect with each other through daily messages and in our group meetings...and PRAY, both for ourselves and for each other.That sounds like a LOT to accomplish doesn't it??? Sounds like too much to accomplish given all the STUFF we have to do with school, family, work and friends, doesn't it??? Is it too much??? I don't believe it is. We already have a good start...I think we are off to a great start and we can help each other stay DETERMINED!!!!

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7

Dear Loving Father, I'm knocking!!!! I'm asking that you place your loving hand on our First Place 4 Health members and friends. Guide us, and strengthen us and give us the wisdom to use the amazing tools You have placed in front of us to not only make our bodies healthier, but to make our hearts and spirits healthier too. I ask that EACH person who begins this journey this coming week will reach out and knock as well. Open the door for them, and let them see and feel the HOPE that You can give them that will give them the determination they need to succeed! Amen
That prayer also is for those who read this Blog and want to become healthier in mind, body and spirit as well!
Stay safe and warm in the coming snow storm!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Since I am "determined" to "finish what I start," here are a few more nuggets of wisdom from that KidsPraise song.

"It takes courage not to give up

The reward is better when you finish up

I know because I've been there before

So keep on moving til you make it

I know that life gets hard

But don't give up

No, no, no

I'm not going to quit until I'm finished

I'm not going to stop until I'm done

I'm not going to walk away until it's over

I'm going to finish what I start

'cause determination is my motivation...

"You might be saying, ok Linda...that's all well and good. It's a nice song, but I've tried and tried and I just can't seem to lose weight. I'm there with you! I have the same problem. I've had more success this past year than I EVER have before in my YEARS of diets and exercise trials. I have to look at what I am doing this time that's's the connection to God on a daily basis, relying on Him instead of on my own. The following verse has helped me:

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

I want renewed strength! I want to run and not be weary! I want to walk forward and not faint! When I rely on my own self own determination, I fail every time! When I realize and admit that I am powerless without God, that's when he reaches down and gives me the strength, wisdom and determination I need!

Another difference this time is our group. I'm not doing this alone...several of us are working on this tough stuff together. If we come to our group meetings on Sundays (or whenever your group meets) and we participate in the discussions and see that others feel just like we do, we see that we are not alone. That is very valuable!

I am looking for ways to improve our Sunday mother-daughter group meetings. One young person in our group has confided in me that our Sunday group meetings are boring...all we do is TALK and cry. (teens just don't seem to understand what an emotional thing it is for some of us!) So....what can we do in our short meeting time to make it more fun, while also getting some of the Bible study in there too??? I am open to your ideas. We need to help each other stay determined and finish what we started! We won't give up!

If you are reading this and you are not a part of First Place 4 Health, or any other support or small group, I encourage you to pray about it and look for a group near you. Perhaps there is a group at your church, community center...we need someone supportive in our lives to help us stay accountable and to encouarge us when we feel bad about our progress. God made us social beings for a reason...we NEED each other!

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, January 6, 2011 stop worrying!

I had an experience this week that reinforced the fact that worrying about things doesn't accomplish anything except making us sick. My furnace stopped working Tuesday. I spent a COLD night worrying about how I was going to pay for a new furnace. I shouldn't have worried!Even if I had to replace my whole furnace costing thousands of dollars, God would have provided and helped us through it...I have faith that is true. Yes, it's easy to say that AFTER I found out I just had to replace a part instead of the whole thing...but as I look back at my life, God has ALWAYS been there to help me through whatever situation I found myself in. Lord, I ask for the grace that will help me remember that when the next situation arises!

That kind of brings us back to the topic of determination. We have a lot of hard tasks and problems in our lives to deal with, including trying to eat right and in a healthy way. It takes determination to keep going. Here are more words from our KidsPraise virtue song...

"I am determined just to make it through these tasks

Sometimes it's hard for me to do

My chores and homework right after school

I cannot let it overtake me

Other times when the going gets rough

I've got to stick it out and be tough

I know I have all the right stuff

And I know that I can make it."

"Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

What are you DETERMINED to do today? Don't worry about tomorrow....what can you do, with God's help and guidance, TODAY?

I hope you all have a wonderful, productive, determined and worry-free day!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I help out with a children's program at my church called "KidsPraise." Each month we focus on a different virtue and this month's virtue is determination. We usually have a cool "virtue song" each month to drive home the meaning of that virtue. This month the song's title is "Finish what I start." While it's meant for kids, I thought the words of the song are very appropriate for those of us on the journey to a healthier life. This week, I thought I would focus on parts of the song that could be good motivation to us.

The problem with starting a program for "living a healthy lifestyle" is that it's not something you can put on a "to do" list and cross it off when you can NEVER finish...until you're dead! Therefore, it's just that much more important to find ways to stay motivated and determined each day.

"Determination is my motivation

I'm not going to quit until I'm finished

I'm not going to stop until I'm done.

I'm not going to walk away until it's over

I'm going to finish what I start."

Our path to a healthy lifestyle is about DETERMINATION to meet several smaller goals we set along the way. "Living healthy" is such a broad term...SO MANY actions and behaviors go into it. All sides of our personalities need to be in balance and that takes a lot of time, planning, prayer...and determination.

Goals are easily set, easily adjusted, and easily given up on. But, we are learning that small attainable goals that keep us motivated to keep moving, and DETERMINATION is what it takes to MEET those larger goals and will lead us to a more healthy lifestyle.

So...How about you? Let's start the year out together making some small goals for ourselves. Spend some time alone, and with God. Begin to think, plan and pray about what small steps you can take to get you moving toward a healthier you. Here are some thoughts to get you started:

Physical - How many pounds and inches could you safely lose in 12 weeks? What small amount of exercise time can you add to your daily routine?

Spiritual - How can you spend a few more minutes with God each day? What are some strategies you can use to memorize a few Bible verses that you can use to keep you motivated when you are low?

Mental - How can you plan for challenges before they happen? How can you plan to finish what you start?

Social - How can you rely on others, either family members, small group members, or close friends to keep you accountable and motivated? How can you encourage and motivate others?

Tomorrow we'll look more at this motivational "determination" song. What a fun way to get started in 2011! Feel free to comment and add your 2 cents as well!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy NEW Year!

Happy New Year to all!

2010 was a year of growth for me. I learned to learn about myself. I learned that I don't have to be perfect. I learned that it's natural to feel restless and dissatified sometimes. I learned that just because you are feeling restless and dissatisfied it doesn't mean that anything is really WRONG! I learned that it's a good thing I don't have to rely on myself so much. I have a God who loves me and sends me supportive family and friends to help me with the feelings I go through. I learned that God is not finished with me yet!

That leads me to the clean slate of 2011! Isn't it refreshing to think about new beginnings? I recently read a friend's Facebook post that said that New Year's Day is kind of like the first day of gives us HOPE of new and better things to come. That is my wish for myself and for all of you! While we look forward to new and better things, we don't always think of the change that comes with it. Change is hard. I am rereading a book called Switch: How to change things when change is hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. There is MUCH sage advice in this book, but the one that sticks with me...if you want to change something, SOMEONE somewhere has to start doing something differently. Being that SOMEONE is hard. Especially when there is so much change going on around you. It is easy to get exhausted by the effort it takes to work on change in so many different areas of your life. For example: I am trying to CHANGE the way I eat and the amount of exercise I get each day. That takes effort to plan and carry out. At my work, technology is causing the library field to change faster than we can keep up with. That takes effort to learn and adjust. My daughter is a teenager and is testing me every day. While she has always tested me, the WAY she is testing me is different as she is now more confident and wants more independance. THAT takes effort to adapt (and not wring her neck in the process!) I am getting older and my body and mind isn't capable of all that it used to be...the world is changing...gas prices, grocery prices...CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE. No wonder I can't keep my calories under 1300! It's just too hard to keep up!

But, as I have said in other posts, it's a good thing I don't have to try to do this on my own. I need to remember to lean on God and allow Christ to give me the strength that He so willing provides. I need to allow myself to rely on friends and family to help me, even if I just ask them to keep my efforts in their prayers.

I have to give a brief testimony tomorrow at church regarding how First Place 4 Health has made a difference in my life. This program is all about life balance. I have 4 sides, the emotional, spiritual, physical and mental. All sides of me have grown and changed in the last year. I have grown closer to God, and I invite Him into my life every morning through my Bible study and daily devotional. He allows me to share what I learn with others through my First Place messages and now through this blog. My Sunday First Place group has become a very supportive family to me and I am thankful for every one of them. We study God's word, laugh, cry and help each other through our daily struggles. While I still have a LONG way to go before my body is where I want it to be, I think my spirit is a lot closer to where it needs to be. Nowhere near perfect, mind you...THAT will never happen. But I have more peace in my life on a daily basis than I ever have had in my life. I still have my moody and depressed days, but they don't last that long any more. I have too much to be thankful for and too much to look forward to!

So, bring it on 2011! I am ready to begin again! I am ready to keep working on that life balance and learn even more about how to deal with CHANGE in my life!

I hope you come along with me! Enjoy your first day of 2011 and may it bring you HOPE, JOY, PEACE, LOVE and DETERMINATION!