Work With What You’ve Got

IM000282.JPG“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”   Philippians 4:12-13

Every spring Holland, Michigan has a tulip festival. Usually during that time the whole town is alive with the colors of tulips. The streets are lined with them. The tulip farm is ablaze with every color imaginable. In May, 2012 it was a different story. We had a very hot spring that year resulting in the tulips blooming too soon. By May, in time for the festival, the tulips were gone. all that was left were stems as shown in the picture. However, that didn’t stop the festival from taking place. The name of the festival just changed.T-shirts were printed with, “Welcome To Stem Fest”. The city of Holland worked with what they had in 2012 and it was still a great week.

The Apostle Paul did not have a perfect life. He was spreading God’s message but endured many hardships. Some days were great. Other days were horrible, but he continued the work he was given to do. He knew, no matter the situation God would help him do what he was supposed to do.

Writers, listen up! We need to also carry on with our work even tho’ at times we don’t feel equipped to do it. Sit down and write anyway. Let the words flow. Work with what you’ve got. In times when your head is full of ideas and in times with very few ideas floating around up there, remember that God is there to give you what you need. Write, even if initially it’s gibberish. God can help you develop that gibberish into something that makes sense.

The Tulip Festival wasn’t cancelled because there were no tulips. Paul didn’t quit when he was hungry, shipwrecked, or beaten. We can’t quit either.

Work with what you’ve got and let God do the rest. Who knows? Some of your best writing may show up on the page.

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Will You Open The Door?

DSCN8455“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me.”    Revelation 3:20

I am really showing my age here, but some of you might be able to relate to this. When I was a child there was the Fuller Brush Man. (Some of you are smiling because you remember). He was a door-to-door salesman. Whenever my mother saw him coming down the street we would hide, making sure we were away from the windows. When he knocked on the door we’d be very quiet so he’d think no one was home. Mom did not want to open the door to him.

A couple years ago someone knocked on my door at 3:30 in the morning. I wasn’t going to open my door at that hour without knowing who it was so I called out, “Who is it?”. It turned out to be an officer from the Sheriff’s Department. There’d been a break in next door and she wanted to know if I had heard anything. When I knew who was knocking I chose to open my door.

Jesus tells us that He is knocking at our door – the door of our heart and soul. He won’t come crashing in. He waits patiently. He is not going to enter without our permission. He knocks again, still waiting for a response. Do you open the door or do you run and hide?

Maybe you’ve chosen to keep the door closed at this time. Jesus is not discouraged. He will try again to get you to open that door even if it’s only a crack. He wants everyone, including you, to invite Him in so He can share the glory of His salvation.

Jesus has a marvelous free gift of His grace, mercy, and love to give to you. However, He can’t give it unless you open the door to receive it. You must make the decision. Will you ignore His knocking or will you open the door of your heart to all He has to offer?

The time is now. Do you hear Him knocking?

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Answer The Call

DSC_7051“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”   Isaiah 6:8

There is a modern Christian song which tells of a man angry at all the evil in the world. He shakes his fist at God and says, “Why don’t You do something?” God’s rely is, “I did. I created you.”

God uses people to carry out His work. He calls out to mankind to answer His call just like He did to Isaiah. The Lord waits for a response and Isaiah answers, “Here am I. Send me!”

Are people so willing to be attuned to the call and then to answer in the affirmative? Missionaries do it all the time. However, how many has God called to do mission work who responded, “No way. Not me.” ? And they walk away.

For some people the call is to spread the word through writing. I wonder how many hear this call and let their fear and insecurity stand in the way of taking on the job?

Those of us who are writing for the Lord have answered His call and are doing something about it. We are writing for Him. When I received the call I was one of those people filled with fear and insecurity. It’s been several years, but I am so glad for the support I’ve had to keep writing. The joy I experience now when I’m writing only confirms that I’m doing what God called me to do.

Christian writers – keep up the good work. Answer God’s call and continue to spread the Word in print. However, don’t forget that part of that call is also to encourage others to do the same. God wants every writer He calls to answer, “Here am I. Send me.”

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Earnestly Seek and Find

IM000838.JPG“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart”.   Jeremiah 29:13

The words of today’s Old Testament verse were given by God to Jeremiah to be passed on to His people. At this time in history God’s people were captives of the Babylonians. They’ve been taken from their homes and forced to live in a foreign land for 70 years. They are wondering if they’ll ever see Jerusalem again. God tells them, through Jeremiah, not to lose hope, but to remain faithful and diligently seek Him. Then their faith will be restored and God will lead them out of captivity.

In the New Testament we are told that at the time of Jesus’ birth Wise Men (Magi) followed a star to find the new king of the Jews. They traveled for two years guided by that star. They had no idea where they’d find Him. They just knew they had to keep going, against all odds, until they reached the destination. These men were Gentiles, yet they went on this lengthy quest to find this child and worship Him. They would not stop until this was accomplished.

Both accounts show us that we, too, are to search for our Savior, Jesus Christ until we find Him.

During this Christmas season how much time are we spending on finding the “perfect” gifts for the people on our list vs how much time is being spent seeking Jesus?

Christmas should be a time of tracking down the Christ child first, worshiping and spending time in devotion to Him. We still can put up the decorations and exchange gifts, but we must look at our priorities. Has Christmas become a big commercial spending spree full of anxiety or it is the time to focus on why we began celebrating Christmas in the first place – the birth of our Lord and Savior?

The story of the Wise Men is not about giving gifts to each other. It’s about giving gifts to Jesus. Here is a guide to follow:

1.  Seek and find Jesus.

2.  Present your treasures to Him.

3. Leave a changed person.

Enjoy the time with family and friends, celebrate together, have fun, but don’t forget to pursue Jesus. It will not be easy to do because we are bombarded by the worldly idea of Christmas. However, it will be a quest well worth your time and energy. Seeking and finding Jesus first will give you inner peace, allowing you to joyfully experience this time of year without all the advertising hype and chaos.

Earnestly seek and find the true reason for the season.

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Is Our Writing Hindering Others?

IM000762.JPG“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.”   2 Corinthians 6:3

Christians should be held to a higher standard. After all, we are supposed to represent God’s love and values here on earth. The sad thing is this doesn’t always happen. Some people who profess to be Christian use foul language, are sexually promiscuous, and/or do not live a lifestyle which demonstrates a love for God.

Non-Christians see this behavior and get a very skewed picture of what Christianity is all about. The people who are Christian in name only are stumbling blocks and give Christianity a bad taste to non-Christians. From this behavior all Christians are grouped together as hypocrites.

Because of this we must look at our writing. If we are known as Christian writers does our writing portray that?

James N. Watkins in his book “Communicate to Change Lives in Person and Print” wrote, “The questions I constantly have to ask myself as I write my weekly newspaper column are these:  Is the column ‘full of grace’? Will this draw my opponents and ‘outsiders’ closer to Jesus, or drive them further from Him? Or to paraphrase 2 Corinthians 6:3, ‘We try to write in such a way that no one will be hindered from finding the Lord by the way we write’.” (page 80)

Our mission is to bring people to the Lord through our writing. None of us want to be a stumbling block to someone who is seeking Jesus.

However, our writing isn’t everything. We also need to be living as Christians should. We are influencing people through all aspects of our lives, our actions, our writing, our speech. Let’s make sure we are not a hindrance for people wanting to enter into a relationship with the Lord.

Examine your writing. Is there anything in it which could produce stumbling blocks?

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Frame of Mind

DSCN1782“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  Colossians 3:2

The Christmas season is upon us. Chaos sets in, which started with Black Friday sales. There are gifts to buy and send, cards to get in the mail, meals to plan, parties to attend, the list goes on. Everything seems so hectic this time of the year it’s no wonder people can’t wait for it to be over.

Is that the way Christmas was intended to be celebrated? Everything is so focused on the commercial side of Christmas. What happened to the true reason we celebrate at Christmas time?

We have set our minds on what all needs to be done before Christmas. Our frame of mind is centered on earthly things. What if this Christmas we zoom in on heavenly things. Buy fewer gifts, plan simple meals, decline some of those party invitations. Instead, spend quality time doing things as a family, provide a service for someone in need, take time to read the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus and think about what that event means to the world.

A year from now the kids aren’t going to remember everything they found under the tree, however, they will remember the family watching a favorite Christmas movie, decorating cookies together, attending church on Christmas Eve.

This Christmas season try something different. Slow down. Enjoy the time with your family. Make memories money can’t buy.

And most important of all, set your mind and heart on the real reason the for season – the birth of our Lord and Savior.

What frame of mind are you in this Christmas?

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Are You Seeking The Lost?

sheep“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”   Luke 19:10

(Some of the information in today’s devotional comes from the sermon I heard this morning at church)

Children wander away from their parents and get lost. People driving to a location they’ve never been to before take a wrong turn, becoming lost. But there are also millions of people around the world who are lost in another way. They are spiritually lost.

Some of these lost souls don’t realize they are lost. They’ve never heard of Jesus Christ and His saving grace, so they don’t know they need a Savior.

Others don’t want to admit they’re lost. They may know they are missing something in their lives, but they’re too embarrassed to let people know they are lost and could use some help.

Still others know they’re lost and they don’t care.

A 4th group realize something is missing and they begin to ask questions.

Jesus came to seek and save the spiritually lost. Aren’t we as Christians supposed to follow His example? How are people who don’t go to church going to hear about mercy and grace through Jesus Christ if we don’t tell them?

I know what you’re thinking – “I’m not an evangelist. I can’t do this.”  I do not have the gift of evangelism either. I become very anxious just thinking about sharing the Gospel with others face to face.

However, there are three things we can do:

1. Seek the lost. They are all around us. Think about someone you know who doesn’t know Jesus Christ.

2. Pray for the heart of Christ. Ask Him to open your eyes and heart for reaching out.

3. Take in a big view of the Good News. Evangelism is not only going door to door telling people about Jesus. It can be done through random acts of kindness, showing the love of Jesus. If people see you doing this consistently they will begin to ask why you are doing it. This will open the door for you to share your testimony. You can also share your story through writing, like I do.  Send letters to unsaved friends and family members telling of God’s grace. Today’s social media is a great way to reach people with the Gospel.

Some day Jesus will return. In the meantime, we need to do our part in reaching as many people as we can with the love and Word of God. What will your role be in this all-important mission?

Dear Lord Jesus, The word “evangelism” makes me very nervous. I want others to hear about You, but I’m scared to take that first step. Please show me ways I can spread Your Word. Give me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone to become a messenger of the Good News. Help me to plant seeds in people’s hearts and minds. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

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Be Courageous

IM000377.JPG“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Joshua 1:9

Moses had died. Joshua was now the leader over the Israelites. They were at the brink of entering the land God promised to them. However, other people occupied those cities and battles would be fought. God told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. . . your God will be with you.”

As we live our everyday lives we face battles which can sometimes create a strain on what we believe and know is right. Satan puts thoughts in our heads causing us to doubt decisions we make.

Writers are plagued with thoughts of insecurity, doubts, and fears. “My writing isn’t good enough.” “Why would anybody want to read what I write?”

God’s encouraging words to Joshua are encouragement to writers as well. We need to be courageous and write what we know God wants us to write. God gives us the ideas, however He is not going to put those ideas onto the paper. That’s our job and God will not abandon us as we do this work.

The devil likes to mess with our minds. Don’t let him. God told Joshua, “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.” He’s telling us the same thing. God would not have given us the passion to write without also giving us the strength and power to defy Satan in the process.

Be courageous. Keep writing. Don’t let the evil one convince you that your writing isn’t important. There is someone somewhere who is waiting to read what you write. God is preparing the way. Heed His command and continue on your journey.

Dear Lord who is over all things, Erase these fears and doubts from my mind. Please be my constant reminder that my writing matters to someone, even if that someone is only me. Instill in me the courage to continue my writing journey to the fulfillment of Your plan for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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God’s Command

942436_10200539607545673_710765186_nIn the book of Exodus we find the account of Joshua leading the Israelites to fight the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). While the fighting commenced, Moses stood on a hill holding up his hands. As long as his hands were held high the Israelites were victorious. When the battle ended God issued a command to Moses:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’.”    Exodus 17:14

God wanted to make sure future generations knew what took place on that day. The only way people in years to come would remember it would be if someone wrote it down exactly as events unfolded. This written word could then be passed down and read from generation to generation.

God has placed a story in your soul which needs to be put on paper. Maybe it’s a journal or a memoir. Perhaps it’s a story conveying good Biblical principles in a way others can easily understand. Whatever God is laying on your heart to write, WRITE IT.

Do you have a nagging feeling in your soul or are you experiencing a tugging inside the pit of your stomach to write a particular story, poem, article? There’s a reason for that feeling. God is telling you, just like He commanded Moses, to write it down.

God has a plan for your writing about which you have no clue. It could be a member of your family or a stranger miles away who needs to read your story. Listen to God and obey. Start writing.

Dear God, I feel that You want me to put a certain story down on paper, but it is difficult for me to write. I’m asking, Lord, please help me to get started and then send me encouragement to keep working on it til it’s finished. In addition, I ask for Your guidance as to who You want to read it, whether it will be just for family or if I should pursue publication. I cannot do this on my own. Please be by my side every step of the way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Book Review – Churchless – Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect With Them

978-1-4143-8709-3The Barna Group, a research and resource company, conducted nationwide research interviewing more than 20,000 churched and unchurched adults. This book is the result of that research. The first few chapters provide a lot of statistics that may be difficult to get through, but continue reading because in the later chapters the editors bring all the information together and provide insights for churches regarding how to reach the unchurched.

Ministers, church leaders, and lay people who have a heart for reaching out will find this book eye opening. They will see that churches today cannot use methods from the 50’s – 80’s anymore. Churches need to enter the 21st century and approach outreach in new ways. “Churchless” is full of information to do just that and it’s easy to read.

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes)

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