May 23

CLAIMING JESUS’ LOVE

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image from Pixabay.com

 

The Gospel of John is definitely my favorite of the four Gospels—filled with evidence and explanation of the deity of Jesus along with a history of Jesus’ ministry. One thing that has always made pause though is that John refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” None of the other three Gospels refer to John that way.

During a sleepless night last week, I had a revelation. Whether it’s what John meant or not is irrelevant. What’s relevant is how I can apply the revelation to my own life.

John refers to himself five times in his Gospel as “the disciple Jesus loved.”

John 13:23

John 19:26

John 20:2

John 21:7

John 21:20

We know that Jesus, Peter, James and John had a close relationship, because Scripture records that those 4 were together at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28; Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2). Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him where they were privileged to witness God the Father declare Jesus to be His son.

But maybe  something else was going on that led John to refer to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. I believe it was a title John claimed.

Many Christian women (as do I) say “I am the daughter of the King.” It is a title we claim. It is a recognition that I am part of God’s family. I am the daughter of the King of the universe, now that God has adopted me (Ephesians 1:5). So is Juanita. So is Trudy.

Other Christians say: “I am a child of God.” That’s also a recognition of belonging to God. It’s a recognition of that person’s identity in his relationship with Christ. I am a child of God. So is Harold. So is Nancy. So are you, if you belong to Jesus.

Those titles are a recognition of our relationship with our Savior. They are a recognition of our identity to God. They are deeply personal but they are not exclusionary.

Clearly Jesus loved all 12 of His disciples—even Judas who betrayed Him.  Prior to Jesus’ ascension, he told the other eleven

As I have loved you, so you must love one another”  (John 13:34).

Jesus loved all of His disciples, just as He loves you and I. John surely knew that. But John took his relational love from Jesus personally. John gave himself a title and claimed it. John claimed he was the disciple that Jesus loved.

We who follow Jesus today are Jesus’ modern-day disciples. And Jesus loves us personally. We—like John—can claim that relational title for ourselves.

I am the disciple Jesus loved.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? In what ways do you see that you are the disciple Jesus loved?  In what way do you still need to claim the title John gave himself?

 

 

May 16

LEGACY: Mentoring

 

 

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In our small group Bible study, we  came up with a short list of the characteristics of mentor-ship:

  • Being an example

  • Trust

  • Confidentiality

  • Being non-judgmental

  • Accountability

  • Love

  • Guidance

  • Being compassionate/caring

We also came up with some ways to mentor others:

  • Study together

  • Teach or explain theology or biblical principles

  • Remind others of God’s plan or promises

  • Pray for and with others

  • Be accountable to each other for doing what we say or how we should live

  • Help set goals or daily practices for devotion, meditation, prayer

  • Model life

  • Create a testimony and share it: what life was like before Jesus, how we came to Jesus, how life is different now

  • Let others see Jesus’ light through us

  • Look first to mentor our children and family close to us

Then our assignment was to return the following week having picked one way we could mentor others—and do it. I pondered the list for a while and then focused on teaching/explaining theological principles with others. That felt like a natural for me, since I write Bible study books. Homework done. Next project?

But as  I was reading my daily devotional, Hope,  Billy Graham cautioned against people whose motive is  “to impress you with how wise and perfect they are” (March 8). That got me wondering about my own motives. Do I want to write Bible studies and mentor others in order to impress people?

That got me praying. Fortunately, what God ultimately led me to understand that morning was that I don’t write Bible studies to impress people with how much I know. I write to engage in the process of learning myself.

I begin the studies not knowing what God has in mind for me to learn but  with a heart that wants to learn. I write the studies with an excitement as God opens the pages of Scripture and pours them into my heart. I share the studies with an enthusiasm to explore God’s character with other people and what God is (still, in an ongoing way) teaching me.

For me, the aspect of teaching others about God’s character and plan is a matter of sharing and learning something together. Haven’t you ever been in the process of teaching and saw something new you’d never seen before? Or that the teaching enlightened it, made it clearer, or that you suddenly found it easier to do?

We mentor each other. We can also mentor ourselves. And that mentoring of ourselves and others can be part of our legacy of faith.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Is mentoring part of your legacy? How might it become a bigger part of what people remember about you?

May 09

CARNATIONS REMIND US OF JESUS

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day—a time to remember and honor the women who raised us. Traditionally, the flower most often given on Mother’s Day is the carnation, which is the flower of the month for January. I’m presently finalizing a book that includes information about the flowers and birthstones for each month and how they remind us of characteristics of Jesus or His plan. Here’s an excerpt from Flowers, Gemstones & Jesus about carnations.

♥ ♥ ♥

The flower that represents the month of January is the carnation. Legend says that Jesus’ mother Mary shed tears as she watched Jesus carrying the cross upon which he died. Legend further says that when her tears fell to the ground, they became carnations. Carnations thus became a symbol of mother’s love.

When the second Sunday in May was selected as a day to celebrate and honor motherhood in the United States, Ann Jaris, the leader of the “Mother’s Day Movement,” chose the carnation as a symbol of a mother’s love. A colored carnation is worn if that person’s mother is alive. A white carnation is worn if the person’s mother has died.

As for the meaning behind the word, some scholars believe that the word carnation comes either from the word coronation (to crown the king) or corone, which were flower garlands used as Greek ceremonial crowns. The flowers in those crowns traditionally included carnations. Either base word reminds us of King Jesus.

Other scholars believe the word carnation originated from the Greek word carnis (meaning flesh), referring to the original color of the flower. Carnis can thus remind us of the incarnation of God made flesh—Jesus.

Unlike more delicate flowers, the carnation is strong and sturdy—staying fresh for many days. Also, unlike the sweeter fragrance of others flowers, the carnation is spicy. That spiciness can remind us of the spices—frankincense and myrrh—brought by the Wise Men as a gift to Jesus on Epiphany [celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas].

 

Flowers Gemstones FRONT COVER

Coming in 2016 from Amazon.com in print and Kindle

May 02

WHY I LOVE IDAHO

 

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One year ago, Jim and I packed up our two U-Haul trucks and made our new home here in Idaho. Over the past year, I’ve posted several reasons why I love living here.

Here are two more reasons.

1. Last month, we received official notice in our utility bill from the City of Middleton. The Middleton police are cracking down. It’s practically a crime wave: Too many people park their cars facing the wrong direction on the street.

Although it’s the law to park correctly, that’s not such a bad type of crime wave to have.

What’s so great about the crackdown is the reasoning behind it. Our fine police officers have nothing more dangerous to do than get folks to park properly.

I love Middleton, even when the cars aren’t parked just right.

2. Every morning on the non-Christian radio station Jim listens to, the regularly scheduled music stops and a version of the Star Spangled Banner is played. An hour later, the music stops again and the station heads to an elementary school in the region. There, we hear the kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance. When they’re done, they shout “God bless America!”

There are things wrong with our country, but it is still our country and God can still bless it. It’s nice to have that reminder each morning and it’s nice to know that kids here are being reminded to start the day focusing on God and country.

God bless each of you and please, God, bless America.

Apr 25

FOR FAITH: Psalm 77:14

Psalm 77

God is in the business of performing miracles. Sometimes He even lets us see them displayed. Praising God for His power and goodness.

Apr 18

SHADOWED VALLEYS

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Once in a while we have glorious, spirit lifting experiences where we feel as if we have just spent time atop the mountain with God. The key is to take the experience, the lesson and the emotion back down with us when we descend the mountain and  head into the valley.

Even if the valley we descend into feels like that valley of death.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23: 4 ESV)

When we think of being in a valley of the shadow of death, we think anxiety and uncertainty, misery and pain. But there are other things going on.

GOD’S SHADOW IS RESTFUL

Remember the way the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary? It was God at His best, blessing Mary and protecting her. When the angel spoke to Mary, he used the Hebrew word episkiazo, which was the same word Matthew and Mark both used when talking about the transfiguration of Jesus. The overshadowing was a bright cloud covering Jesus, Moses and and Elijah as God the Father exclaimed His joy and love for Jesus.

It reminds us of the way we can rest in the shadow of His wing; we can retreat from the terrors of the world and rest in the shade he provides. See also Psalm 91:1-2, Psalm 17:-8-9; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 63:7; Hosea 14:7. Shadows can definitely be a good thing.

SHADOWS OCCUR WHERE THERE IS LIGHT

If there is a shadow, it means there is light on the other side of the shadow. Specifically, the shadow is nothing of substance. The light of the world however  comes from just one source: God. Remembering that God is the light, shining through the shadow, can give us encouragement for the journey.

DEATH HAS NO MEANING

When Psalm 23 was written, Jesus had not yet come to live in the world. He had not yet been crucified. He had not resurrected to prove to us his power over death. We have the benefit of seeing Jesus live again. We have the understanding that we are eternal beings. We need not fear evil in the valley of the shadow of death because we know that Jesus has triumphed over both evil and death. The valleys are no longer the valleys of the shadow of death. They are just lovely, restful, pastoral valleys. We might as well enjoy their beauty.

♥ ♥ ♥

Mountain tops are awesome. They provide us with a vision of the grand and amazing. We are able to see vistas clearly and get a sense of the big picture, literally and spiritually. But the valley is where we live. And when we look for Jesus in the valley, He is right here, walking along side us, whether the valley is shadowed or lit with heavenly sunbeams.

Enjoy the journey.

Apr 11

GOALS: Q1 Goal Review

 

Goals

 

 

Those 2016 goals you set in January? How are you doing moving toward accomplishing them? Do you need a reminder? Do you need to recommit to them? Or revise them?

In January, I selected my one-word focus for 2016: Legacy. I was convinced that one word reinforced my decision to work on my young adult novel with the working title: Legacy. So I set my writing goals for 2016 to work on that novel along with my other writing commitments.

Later in January though, during prayer, I clearly felt God asking me why I was limiting what He could do through me. Why was I limiting my goals to just working on a single book?

More prayer.

Then revised goals. In addition to my other writing commitments, I then and there committed to working on 8 books in 2016. EIGHT books. And the original novel commitment wasn’t even included.

Note:  I didn’t commit to completing all 8 books; I committed to working on them. And I set out a month-by-month schedule for specifically what I intended to work on to accomplish those goals.

For this review of Q1, I am ahead of schedule.

I released I am Elizabeth (fifth book in the With Faith Like Hers Bible study series) in January. I released my book about praying through the writing process last month (not next June, as planned). Here it is. A book for writers about writing—but mostly about praying for your writing and the writing of others.

 

PW FRONT  COVER

 

Click to go to Amazon

I am Elizabeth flew through the production cycle and The praying Writer went together quickly. Maybe God was showing off. Or maybe God was reminding me that when He is involved I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Either way, I’m still on track for that second set of goals. Out of an 8-book goal set, six books are left to work on this year.  The goal is to independently publish one more in 2016, have one ready to release in 2017; complete one to submit to editors and write 3 book proposals to submit by the end of 2016.

Once God reminded me that my one-word focus—Legacy—didn’t necessarily refer to my novel, but to leaving behind a legacy of faith through my writing, the Holy Spirit took over and is increasing my faith by helping me put that faith into words for others to read.

Wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to help me finish up all those goals and still have time to work on that novel? I’m starting to think I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What goals did you set for 2016? How are you doing on them?

 

Apr 04

LEGACY: Smelling Roses

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One of the great sayings that came out of the 1980’s was to “stop and smell the roses.”

It’s a wisdom for the ages. When life gets too filled with busy-ness, sometimes we need to stop and simply enjoy the beauty around us.

Life absolutely is a gift. God wants us to enjoy this one and only life we have here on planet Earth. But we are meant to do more than just enjoy it. Our life isn’t just about ourselves.

My life isn’t just about me, my wishes, what I want, what will fulfill me. Me, me, me.

Yes, God wants us to experience and grow, learn and have fun. But He also wants us to share our lives with other people who are living on planet Earth.

Sometimes that means we stop and smell the roses.

Sometimes that means stopping to pick a bouquet to take to someone who may never have smelled roses themselves; or doesn’t have time to stop; or is unable to reach the roses; or who has been pricked by a thorn in the past.

Sometimes that means we plant roses to grow after we are long gone, leaving behind something we do that makes the planet Earth better for having lived in it.

Thinking about roses always reminds me of Jesus. In the Song of Solomon, we read:

I am the rose of Sharon; a lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1)

Many Bible scholars believe that this verse refers symbolically and as an analogy to Jesus as the rose of Sharon. That makes it even more meaningful to:

  1. Stop and spend time with Jesus

  2. Share Jesus with others who may not know Him

  3. Live a life for Christ, leave a legacy of faith for him; plant seeds of faith in others

Do you have roses in your life today? Do you need some? What will you do when you find them?

Mar 28

PRAYING NAMES: Leonard and Mia

Leo Mia

 

Jesus tells us that the names of people who love Him are written in His book of the lamb; that those people will live with Him in heaven.

Names are important. They mean something. I love to pray that people will live the meaning of their names—for Jesus. Here are two more names. Do you know anyone with either of these names?

Leonard: brave lion; hardy

Dear Jesus, I pray that Leonard will live the meaning of his name. I pray he will have courage in life; the courage and strength that comes from you. I pray he will stand firm in his faith in you, remembering that the lion symbolizes royalty and that you, King of Kings, will be the Lord of his life forever. Amen.

Mia: mine

Dear Jesus, I pray that Mia will live the meaning of her name. I pray she will know to whom she belongs. I pray that when she asks in prayer that you reveal her worth to you, that you will answer, “You are mine.” I pray she will keep a faith of belonging to you in her heart and knows and trusts she will be yours forever. Amen.

 

Mar 21

JESUS: Our Forever Homeland Security

We recently saw the movie, Risen—the account of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection from the point of view of a fictional Roman soldier sent by Pilate to investigate the truth. I definitely recommend the movie, but that’s not the point of my thoughts today.

 

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The point that struck me was about the actor, Cliff Curtis who played Jesus. He is the same actor who played the FBI director working with Homeland Security in the movie Live Free or Die Hard.

 

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When I mentioned that to my husband, he said, “From homeland security to Jesus—that’s quite a promotion.”

But really, isn’t that what Jesus is all about?

Jesus came to give us spiritual security here on our earthly home—leaving us the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us in all things.

But Jesus also came to die so that we have eternal security, knowing that we will be loved and safe from evil forever in heaven—our true home.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ  (Philippians 3:20).

As we walk through holy week, we look forward to Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate that Jesus died for us, was resurrected, returned to heaven to prepare a place for us and will come back to take us with Him—to our forever home.

Jesus, thank you for our forever home and for making our citizenship there completely secure.

 

 

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