Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Music is a very important part of my life, so I often have lyrics from songs running through my head. These lyrics often form the basis of what I write. This post would be another one of those.

For the last few weeks I've had one line from a song on repeat in my head. The song is called What Faith Can Do by Kutless. The lyrics stuck in my head say: "Impossible is not a word, it's just a reason for someone not to try." The first time I heard those words a few years ago, they were a challenge I needed to hear. And today, they're still a good reminder for me.

How many times have you felt like there is something you should do and then talked yourself out of it because it sounds like it might be "impossible"? Or it seems like too big of a challenge for you? If you're like me or lots of other people I've talked to, you've probably done that at least a few times in your life. Maybe you're wrestling with that right now.

Sometimes God gives us dreams of things to do that seem impossible when we look at it. Often, they would be if we tried to do them on our own. And that makes it easy to talk ourselves out of it. We use the word "impossible" to give ourselves a reason not to do it.

We don't want to try something that might not work, so we don't try at all. We think if we try something and it doesn't go exactly as it should that we are failure. So, it's easier to just declare it to be impossible beforehand so that we don't have to take the chance.

But, I wonder how much of what God has for us we miss when we do that. What lessons do we miss? What opportunities do we miss? What would happen if we tried at all? What would happen if it didn't go the way we planned?

If we try something and it doesn't work, the world won't end. And it doesn't mean we're failure. It just means that what we tried didn't work, and if we seek to, we can learn from that experience for the next thing we try.

Impossible is not a word, it's just a reason for someone not to try

Over the last year or so, I've sought to remove the word "impossible" from my vocabulary. Instead, I've tried to replace it with acknowledgement that I may not be able to do it on my own, but if God is telling me to do it, He will help me to do it.

What about you? Have you missed things because you decided they were impossible? Do you need to remove the word "impossible" from your vocabulary and replace it with something else?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hebrews 11

Over the summer I've been slowly working my way through the book of Hebrews. There's a lot in it and I often find myself stopping after just a few verses because there's so much in them. There is one chapter though that I found myself wanting to take in all at once, but still wanting to take slowly. I've spent most of the last week in Hebrews 11.

Growing up I commonly heard this chapter referred to as the "Hall of Faith." But I think I like the heading my Bible gives this chapter better: "Faith in Action." And the chapter is full of people who lived their faith, so "faith in action" seems like an appropriate title to me.

There are two verses in this chapter that really seem to me to be the basis for a definition of faith.
Verse 1 says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." And verse 6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." These verses make it pretty clear that faith begins in our minds - with how we think.

But, as I read and re-read the rest of the chapter, it becomes pretty clear to me that faith is about more than how we think. Those who were commended for their faith in faith are overwhelmingly commended for what they did by faith. They are mentioned because of how what they believed in their minds was played out in their lives. It changed how they lived. It impacted the actions they took.

Just a few of the examples in Hebrews 11:
  • Verse 7 - Noah built an ark when God told him too, even when there was no sign of the flood God said was going to come.
  • Verse 8-9 - Abraham left all he knew to go to a new land because of a promise God made to Him.
  • Verse 17 - Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, the son of the promise, to God, because he believed that God could still fulfill His promise.
  • Verse 24-28 - Moses led Israel out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land without knowing the end result of it.
  • Verse 30 - The people marched around Jericho according to God`s instructions because they believed that God would bring victory that way.
  • Verse 31 - Rahab protected the spies that came even when it put herself and her family in danger.

As I spend time in this chapter, I find myself challenged anew to put my faith in action. I`m reminded that while my thinking is important, it's only the beginning. Faith begins with choosing to think a certain way, but it is proved by how I live. My faith needs to be "faith in action." What I say I believe should be evidenced in how I live my life.

So today, I leave you with some questions that I've been thinking about as I've spent some time in this chapter of God's Word.
How would you define faith?
How does that compare with what this chapter of Scripture says faith is?
What impact does that have on how you live? In other words, what does "faith in action" look like in your life?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

noticing God

These days I often find myself seeing ideas for things to write about in all sorts of things. It's something that has seemed to come with placing a greater focus on my blog and having a schedule I'm trying to follow. I pay more attention to things - whether it be what I'm listening to or reading or something I'm doing.

It's not that I normally go through life oblivious to all these things. I've always paid attention to what is happening around me because it interests me. It's more like I'm learning to notice more of what God is up to in the world around me and in my own life.

It's easy to go through life without really paying attention to all the ways God is at work - especially when life is going relatively smoothly. But, I'm beginning to see that I miss so much when I do that. God is always at work in our world, we just have to be on the look out for it because it's not always in the big things. Sometimes the most amazing way to see God at work is to notice all the seemingly little things He does everyday.

How are you doing at noticing God at work in the lives of those around you?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

forgive yourself?

What does it mean to forgive yourself?
Do you really need to forgive yourself?
Does Scripture ever say anything about needing to forgive yourself?

Those are just a few of the things I've wondered at different times in my life. Usually in those times when I've done something I know I shouldn't have done and I'm trying to make myself pay for doing it. As futile as it is to beat yourself up over something, it is something I have done quite frequently - and still do.

Recently, I was listening to a song and was struck by a part of the chorus. The Line is from the song "Forgive Yourself" by Downhere and says: "Nothing ever frees you more than just believing that you've been forgiven." When I heard those words they stuck in my head and I found myself continuing to mull them over in the days to come. As I've thought about it more, I've started to realize that those words describe essentially what I think it means to forgive yourself.

No where in Scripture do we find anything that says we need to forgive ourselves for things. We're told to forgive others, but not told to forgive ourselves. But, that doesn't seem to really deal with the issue of what we do when we feel like we've done something "stupid" and should be punished for it.

That's where I think the words from the song portray a truth we need to hear. Usually when we feel so poorly about ourselves because of something we've done, the biggest issue is that we don't see how God could forgive us - how we could earn God's forgiveness. We feel completely unworthy of His forgiveness and subsequently struggle to accept His freely offered forgiveness. We'll confess what did, but we don't accept what is offered when we confess.

But, the truth is that we are set free when we begin to really believe we've been forgiven by God - not when we finally do enough to earn it. When we begin to make that reality a part of our thinking and our life, we find freedom. It's not so much that we need to forgive ourselves, but that we need to accept forgiveness that Jesus offers to us - even for the times we've done something really "stupid." God's forgiveness brings us freedom.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

James 5:13-20 - Part 5

One last week of relfections on this passage in James 5. Previous weeks can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

The final verses of James 5 say this, "My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way, will save that person from death and cover over a multitude of sins." (vs.19-20)

These verses are probably the ones in this passage I have the hardest time wrapping my head around. Parts of them make sense to me and other parts are a little more difficult. But, I guess that's often the case with Scripture.

James says that bringing someone who wanders back saves that person from death. That seems straightforward enough for me. If that person were to stay lost and not turn back to following God they would miss out on eternal life with God. So helping them turn back so that they are saved from death, makes sense.

But, the part that confuses me a bit is the part where is says that turning a person back to following God will cover a multitude of sins. I don't really understand what exactly what it means, so I really don't have anything to say about it. I guess over the years I've come to realize that it's okay to not always understand every detail of what Scripture says all the time. We shouldn't be content to stay there. We should seek to understand better each time. But we have to be okay with admitting when we jsut don't understand it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

finding your way

Road signs tell us what is coming up. Maps give us directions to get where we're going. Both are important in those times when we get lost to help us find our way again. Without them we would have a hard time getting back on track or even staying on track.

I was reminded of this while on a road trip with some friends a couple of months ago. When we missed the turn off we needed, we had to find our way back to where we wanted to go. The road signs and maps we had were what we had to find our way again.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. We need road signs and maps to guide us along the path of life and bring us back when we wander off course. In our spiritual lives, those road signs and maps come from reading and studying Scripture, from spending time in prayer talking to and listening to God. That is how we get our directions and our maps to be able to walk the path we're called to walk as disciples of Christ. Without these things to guide us, we won't be able to stay on course or find our way when we get lost.

How are you doing at knowing the road signs and maps you need to follow the path God has for you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

little is much

A couple of weeks ago, while I was on a road trip with a friend, the lyrics to one of the songs on the CD we were listening to struck me. They weren't anything I didn't already know. In fact, they really say something I've heard for most of my life.

The lyrics come from the song by Downhere called "Little is Much"

The lyrics are straightforward and simple, but also profound in what they say. They encourage those of who don't feel like they have much to offer that they just need to offer what they have.

I know there have been times in my life when I felt I had nothing to offer, only to be reminded that it's not how much we have to offer that's important - it's that we offer what we have that's important. God can take the little that we have when we freely offer it to Him and do many thing with it.

God isn't looking for people with lots of really great things they can do. He's looking for people who will faithfully offer what they have to Him to be used by Him. These are the people who have much in God's eyes.

What about you?
When you look at what you have, do you feel like you don't have much to offer?
Are you offering whatever you have?

In His teaching while He walked on earth, Jesus taught this same principle. In Mark 12:41-44, we find the story of a widow and her offering.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and wathced the crowd putting money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coincs, worth only a few cents.
Calling His disciple to Him, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." (NIV 2011)

This passage is usually and rightly often spoken of in terms of the giving of our money, but I think the principle from it can have application in the rest of our lives too. Just as the widow was praised for freely giving what she had, we are to give whatever we have willingly and freely.

What do you have?
What are you doing with what you have?

Friday, July 13, 2012

James 5:13-20 - Part 4

My Thursday post this week was skipped for a few reasons and this one is being posted a day early for the same reasons. Sometimes family takes priority over any other plans. This week continues in my reflections on James 5:13-20. Previous weeks's posts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

James 5:17-18 says, "Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earht produced its crops."

That first sentence made me stop. "Elijah was a human being, just like us." I don't often think of Old Testament prophets as being the same as we are. I see them as super-human somehow. This is a good reminder for me that Elijah was just another human being - a person who came to be someone so significant because he followed God's call on His life.

Because Elijah believed God and followed God, his prayers were powerful and effective. That same thing can be true of our lives. Our prayers do have the ability to cause God to act. They don't guarantee He will, but it can happen.

The biggest thing I think about with these verses is that Elijah's prayers made a difference because he followed God and was obedient to God's call on his life. It wasn't because Elijah was something special or had some kind of a special power. He really was a human being like us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

when life interrupts

Sometimes it seems like we can have plans of how we will do things, and then something happens that changes those plans. I had an idea for the post I would write for today, but I haven't had time to actually write it. Life threw a wrench in that plan on Friday. That really has become my topic for my post today. It's something I seem to continue to be learning - I don't know if it's because I'm stubborn and I don't want to learn or if there's something else.

Sometimes we make plans for things, even for what seems like little things, with the best of intentions. And then life comes along and messes up those plans. When that happens we have a choice in how we respond. We can get mad or frustrated that our plans aren't happening. Or we can choose to look for the good in what has happened that changed our plans.

It seems pretty obvious which choice is the better choice to make. Even if what happened that messed up our plans isn't a good thing overall, we can choose to look for the little bits of good in it. That makes life better. Getting mad because something in life got in the way of our plans isn't going to do us any good.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

James 5:13-20 - Part 3

As long as I keep coming back to these verses in James, I keep finding more in them. They really are a wealth of challenges in the few sentences. Over the last couple of weeks, I've written about some of the first verses in this passage: Part 1 and Part 2. Today my thoughts come from James 5:16 which says: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

This verse starts with something I haven't found that we really like to do. James tells us to confess our sins to each other. Most of the time, we would rather keep our sins to ourselves. We'll confess them to God, all-though even that we sometimes do reluctantly, but we don't seem to naturally want to confess them to other people. Whether we see that as admitting weakness or to do so would breakdown our facade of being perfect or we're embarrassed by what we struggle against, we don't often confess our sins to each other. But James has a good reason for encouraging us to do so. There really is a power of sin that is broken when it's no longer a secret sin.

The idea of confessing our sins to each other is so that they can pray for us about it. Sometimes when we're in the midst of something we might not know what to pray, but when we share it with others, they are able to pray for us and that can help to make the difference in that area of our lives. Being able to pray well for each other is why we confess our sins to each other.

When confessing our sins to each other we do need to keep in mind being appropriate in what we share. To confess our sins, we don't have to give all the detail if it could cause the people listening to stumble. Share just enough for them to know how to pray for you.

The second part of this verse tells us that "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." For those of us who are disciples of Christ and have had our sinfulness replaced with Jesus' righteousness, we righteous people. That means our prayers are powerful and effective. That's an incredible truth to embrace. Our prayers have the ability to change things, because of Jesus's work on our behlaf. That should motivate us to pray.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

quiet time & formulas

Have you felt that there are certian things you're required to do in your quiet time? Or a certain time of day you have to do it? Or a certain amount of time you have to give to it before God will speak to you?

I konw I've often felt like there was a formula I had to follow to have a successful quiet time. I've also spent a lot of time trying to figure out the "magic formula" for getting God to speak clearly to me. Only to discover there is no such thing. There's no one way that is the secret to how to have a quiet time. Each of us is different and for each of us our quiet times will look different.

What is important about a quiet time? What really matters?

A quiet time is really all about building relationship - growing deeper in how well we know God.It's about taking time and making it a priority. In the same way, we make spending time with family and friends important in our lives, we need to make spending time with God important. What we do will probably look different than some of our friends, but that is okay. In fact, that's a good thing, because we're different people.

For me, my quiet time looks different depending on the day and time of year. Sometimes it's in a coffee shop; sometimes outside; sometimes at my dining room table; sometimes sitting in a comfy chair. And it could be morning, afternoon, evening. But, what I've discovered is that most important thing is that I make the time each day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

romantic language

Over the last couple of years I've heard and read a lot of people who were talking about the use of romantic language to describe our relationship with Jesus. When I read two different people talking about it last week, it was something I began to think about a lot. I had definitely noticed the language before, but I hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about it until now.

To be honest, the language in some songs I've heard lately has not really been language I'm a fan of. I've struggled to sing songs in worship that I feel like could be sung to a boyfriend. If I can't tell when I listen to a song whether it's written as a love song to Jesus or to a boyfriend, I really do have a hard time with it as a song in corporate worship.

I don't mean that we shouldn't love Jesus. I don't want to devalue anything about Jesus' love for us. It's a vital part of our lives as Christians. We need it. But, I sometimes struggle with the language we use when speaking of this.

I don't find this struggle only with worship music. I've also struggled with using the language "dating Jesus" that I've heard at times. It's important that we spend time with God and deepen our relationship with Him. But I've always seen that as spending time with Jesus like you would a friend. To me spending time with friends it listening, talking, laughing, crying. and just overall being together. To me, that's what spending time with Jesus should be as well, and I don't feel that I need to "date Jesus" in order to do so.

Really, when I'm on a date, I'm often putting up my best self. I'm not usually being myself on a date. I'm trying to impress someone and present the part of me I want to have seen and known. But, when I'm out with friends, I'm usually more myself. I'm more likely to let the "real me" be known. I guess that's why I've often had a problem with "dating Jesus". It just doesn't seem like it can be as real to me.

I guess my conclusion about this is that, while we are to love Jesus and loved by Him, we need to be cautious in our use of romantic language to describe that relationship. To me, it seems that when we go overboard with that kind of language, we can actually push people away rather than draw them in.