Friends in Low Places

Sometimes help comes from unlikely places.

I was studying Joshua Chapter 2 this week. In this chapter, Joshua had sent two spies into Jericho. The King sought to capture the spies, but Joshua’s men were hidden by Rahab….a prostitute.

A prostitute.

I have two takeaways from this passage of scripture…

1) God uses unlikely people to carry out good work for the Kingdom. A prostitute. A tax collector (Luke 19). An adulterer (John 8). A murderer (Acts 9). We should never doubt our ability to be a vessel for God’s work!

2) God doesn’t care about our past. He is focused on our future. He is concerned about our potential. He loves a repentant heart. No matter what sin we’ve committed or bad choices we’ve made- God loves us anyway. We need to embrace this love and grace…and boldly look for ways to share love and the good news of Jesus.

My prayer this week is to find clarity for my purpose. I want to get beyond my shame and brokenness and become a better disciple for Jesus.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Wounded

I’ve been acutely focused on wounds these past few months.

My dad has struggled with diabetes for many years, but recently it’s gotten progressively worse. Recent surgeries have caused both physical pain and emotional hardship.

There are lots of unknowns related to his future. And the uncertainly can take you to dark places.

The New York Times recently reported that from 2016 to 2017, the proportion of adults who described themselves as more anxious than the previous year was 36 percent. In 2017, more than 17 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode, as did three million adolescents ages 12 to 17. Forty million adults now suffer from an anxiety disorder — nearly 20 percent of the adult population. 

These are the known cases of depression. The actual numbers must be astronomical.

Wounds have always existed. There are many examples in the Bible:

  • The woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11)
  • Struggles with family, like the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-18)
  • Persecution because of following Jesus (2 Corinthians 11: 23-28)

 

We hurt in many ways. Wounds of regret of past sins. Wounds of illness and sickness. Wounds of broken relationships (perhaps the toughest of all…)

Fortunately, we have a Savior that has borne wounds for us.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  2 Peter 2: 21-24

By His wounds we have been healed.

How do we begin to heal? I suggest three ways:

  1. Learn from the pastAn intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15. We must learn from our mistakes and acknowledge our forgiveness. (“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:45). We must also seek forgiveness from others when necessary.
  1. Focus on the presentSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
  1. Realize the potential of the futureTruly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life. John 5:24. Finally, remember that suffering always precedes glory, as the Savior said of his own wounding (Luke 24:26).

 

I don’t know what you are struggling with today, but I do know that there is relief. My prayer focus this week will be for the millions of unknown issues across our world that are creating wounds.

And if I can pray for you specifically and confidentially, please let me know.

God bless you.

 

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Pause

We’ve entered the busiest time of the year.

End of year deadlines at work. Holiday travel. Last-minute shopping. Receptions, events and special holiday programs.

It’s also a stressful time. A recent study suggests that 62% of people report elevated stress levels during the holidays. The main culprits? Family and financial pressures.

And during this time, we can also squeeze out time with Jesus. Yep. I’m guilty too.

I suggest that we all need a pause.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Take your cares to Jesus…and He will give you relief and rest.

Pause for five minutes today. Intentionally take time to pray. Focus completely on your blessings and needs. Offer up your hopes, desires and fears. Jesus craves this time with us.

And He will provide relief.

My prayer this week is to pause each day and spend more time with our Lord and Savior.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Skipping Thanksgiving

We’re skipping Thanksgiving this year.

The stores in my hometown are already filled with Christmas decorations. Holiday wreaths adorn neighborhoods mailboxes and doors. Social media is filled with photos of friends displaying their Christmas trees. Holiday music is on the radio.

I’m not sure why. Thanksgiving is an important season of reflection and gratitude. A time to pause with family and friends. A time to count our blessings.

But we’re barreling right past it toward Christmas. A missed opportunity to celebrate all that we are thankful for in our lives.

It’s not surprising, actually.

How often do I stop during the day to reflect on the blessings in my life?

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 106:1

God has richly blessed me with a great family, incredible friends, my health and a job that I love. I’m so blessed.

Yet I don’t pause and say “thanks” nearly enough.

I skip thanksgiving every day, if I’m not careful.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

My prayer this week is to pause more often…to stop and thank God for the blessings in my life. My family. My health. My friends.

And especially, Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to skip thanksgiving ever again.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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Tug of War

The college where I work really celebrates Homecoming in a big way. One of the student traditions is a huge tug of war competition called “Rope Pull.” Literally hundreds of people- including alumni- come out to watch student groups compete against one another.

As I watched this week, I couldn’t help but think about my own personal tug of war. The daily struggle between doing good or allowing my selfish desires to take control.

Pride. Selfishness. Anger. Resentment. Greed. All of these feelings cloud my thoughts and let the pull of sin take over. A losing battle of tug of war.

Fortunately, Jesus won the fight over sin. We may lose a battle, but Jesus has won the war.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the means of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While our sinful nature can cause us to stumble and fall, we can be confident that God will always provide hope, escape and relief.

My prayer this week is to examine my heart for hidden sin and bad habits- and to have the courage to pray for strength to deal with it.

God loves the humble in spirit! Let’s recognize our struggles and resolve to do better.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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When Life Kicks You…

IMG_2788My son is a kicker on his high school football team.

It’s a tough position.  There are so many ways that kicks can go wrong.  There are bad snaps, holds and blocking. The wind, rain or cold air can impact the trajectory of the ball.  And sometimes- you just miss.

We often talk to our son about three things when he has a bad kick:

Learn from the past.

Focus on the present.

Realize the potential of the future.

Think about what’s happened and try not to repeat it. Turn your attention on the current kick, and try not to think about the last one. And finally…visualize a good, solid kick.

It’s a parallel to our lives as Christians, isn’t it?

Past mistakes and current struggles can separate us from Jesus. We are our own worst enemy….feeling stuck in sin and drowning in a state of despair.

Jesus offers hope.

Learn from the past. An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15

Focus on the present. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

Realize the potential of the future. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24

This week I want to focus on how Jesus defeated sin on the cross so that we might experience grace and forgiveness. My prayer will be to learn from my past, accept forgiveness and move ahead a better, stronger person.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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What Makes a Team

In January of 1969, the upstart New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in what was considered one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

Most people remember Joe Namath’s famous prediction of a victory over the heavily-favored Colts. The bold statement made national headlines just days before the game.

What’s lost in the story were the contributions of the coach, Weeb Ewbank, and an eclectic mix of veteran and rookie players.

The Jets were successful because of their team environment.

What are the traits that create a successful team? I think that there are five:

  • Show gratitude
  • Invest in people
  • Listen
  • Celebrate achievement
  • Be someone worthy of trust

Coach Ewbank did all of these things in 1968. It was a true team effort.

We know that the Bible has quite a bit to say about teams:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Jesus Christ died to give us freedom from death and power over sin. While He suffered alone, He never intended for us to face life’s obstacles by ourselves.

We need teams.  We need spouses, family, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Christianity, my friends, is a team effort.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Who are your teammates in your daily walk with Jesus?

My prayer this week is to strengthen my team…to encourage and lift up those around me so that I may also be encouraged.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you!

 

 

 

 

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Beware of the Lions

I had the pleasure of traveling to Africa several years ago. It’s a fascinating continent and the beauty of the terrain and the warmth of its people make it a wonderful place to visit.

I’ll never forget the lions, either.

There’s nothing more incredible than watching lions in their habitat. They are stately, handsome and powerful creatures. Lethal hunters too. Watching them stalk and attack prey from the safety of our vehicles was an incredible…and eerie…sight.

Beauty and death. All in one package. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.

Isn’t sin like that too? It’s enticing and fun to watch. It feels good too.

And while we are warned of the devil’s power, his tactics of deception often times make sin hardly detectable. Sin creeps into our lives and clouds our vision…changes our hearts. Before we know it, sin can overpower us.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The enemy is real. And he is ever-present.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

My prayer this week is to take an honest assessment of the sin in my life. I don’t want the attractive nature of sin to take my focus away from a full life with Jesus.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Cheap Easter candy

Easter has come and gone. And- as with all holidays- the retail stores have marked down the Easter-themed decorations and associated seasonal items.

The biggest surprise for the Carver kids has been the discounting of the celebrated Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow peeps are now 75% off their original price. Just over a week ago the aisles of the local stores were filled with colorful packages. Now the remains of the holiday treats are contained in a couple of bins near the check out counter.

Cheap candy. Valued one day, forgotten the next.

But to be honest, I’m often guilty of cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus and diminishing the blessing of His resurrection.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Easter Sunday is filled with great sermons about the fulfilled promise of salvation. We should be careful that we don’t limit this celebration to a few special occasions.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

While the Easter holiday has passed, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is something that we should appreciate every day.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I Peter 1:3-5

Pray for me to be more diligent in my study of the life of Jesus and His powerful teachings.

And please let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

reprinted from April 2015

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Unexpectedly seeing Jesus

I was preparing to leave campus for home tonight when I saw a small sign posted on a bulletin board…”Open Bible Study; Thursday evenings at 7pm; room 215.”

I don’t know why, but it surprised me. Surprised by the sign. Surprised that I saw the announcement among a host of other flyers.

I walked to room 215 to see what was going on. And there they were…four students huddled over their Bibles talking about the quest for perfection through Jesus Christ.

We run into Jesus in unexpected places.

The Samaritan woman ran into Jesus unexpectedly in John chapter 4. In a period of pain and shame, He gave her a thirst for “living water.”

In John chapter 8, an adulterous woman received grace from Jesus.

Zacchaeus was considered a cheat and a sinner…a tax collector…yet Jesus called to him and invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home. We see this in Luke chapter 19.

Where have you last seen Jesus unexpectedly? Was it in a random act of kindness from a stranger? Perhaps it was an encouraging note from an old friend.

This week my prayer is to continue to seek Jesus everyday. And to illustrate the love and compassion of Jesus in my own, public walk.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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