this one’s a keeper!

Order this book!  Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $200.  Just order this book and hold a treasure!

If you have ever navigated the rocky waters of marriage or parenting, frustrations with finances or your physical body, failures or friendship, or simply the exhausting ups and downs of your own fickle heart in its deeply personal dance with faith in Christ, this book will meet you right where you are!  Lisa-Jo welcomes you in with a generous bear hug, abundant smiles, genuinely compassionate eyes . . . and maybe her favorite tacos!

I’m talking about The Middle Matters.  I devoured it in a matter of days.  Then immediately turned back to the beginning to read it again.  I highlighted so many sections that I quit taking notes and just let the beauty of (extra) ordinary wash over me.  Her words are memorable enough to declare careful record-keeping unnecessary!

I nodded, I chuckled, I sighed.  I let the tears fall freely.  I broke into heaving sobs.  I laughed out loud.

Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book will take you on that journey.  You will visit completely opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, and every point in between.  Why?  Because it is a collection of stories about life.  Real life.  And that is exactly the glorious, mysterious, maddening, terrifying, but also thrilling and wondrous adventure each and every one of us are traveling!

Lisa-Jo throws open her bright blue door, urging us inside to hang around her kitchen table with the remains of last night’s art project still lodged in its cracks!  To join the conversation, unabashedly sharing our own stories!  Encouraging us to look around, notice, and celebrate the smallest to biggest moments.  To tell it like it is!  To welcome others to step into our moments, give words to sights and sounds and smells and ALL the feels that make connections with perfect strangers and declare them sisters!

Months have passed since I first read this book, yet essay titles and catch-phrases from The Middle Matters keep popping into my head, offering understanding and clarity to so many of my own (extra) ordinary moments!

Friendly reminders:

. . . that it’s more than OK to “love like superglue,” to treasure a “pocket full of friends” that grows fuller and deeper with each passing year, and to understand and appreciate any opportunity to give “the gift of words,” especially lingering over a cup of hot tea!

. . . that there is a never-ending wedding “ring” that surrounds me more than any band around my finger, and that extraordinarily ordinary moments are truly the romantic and sexy ones in our marriage!

. . . that “parenting is do-over times infinity,” whether I am the parent looking for grace or the daughter offering it to my own mom and dad, that there are other moms who really do “sob in the mini-van” when their son or daughter finally, FINALLY overcomes their toughest challenge, and that a mother’s heart can promise things like “I will always come for you!’

. . . that the true beauty of a woman is not measured in inches or pounds or wrinkles or saggy arms, but in first breaths and steps, gotcha days, late nights, misunderstanding and forgiveness, heart-to-heart conversations, strength and never, ever giving up…

.  .  . that more than anything, we have a Savior who loves us like crazy, is big enough and strong enough to field any fiery question we launch and still offers truth and grace, who will always (always!!!!) be so thrilled when we seek His face, who will stop everything to meet us where we are with a jubilant and convincing welcome of “I’m just so glad you came!”

The Middle Matters is a keeper!  It is worth reading again and again and again.  Share a chapter with your hubby, your son or daughter, your girlfriend.  It will give you words for ALL the THINGS you want to say.  It will help you grieve what breaks your heart, but also help you rejoice in the smallest to biggest gifts!  Lisa-Jo’s heart and insight will alter your own, helping you to celebrate and treasure it all – the good, the bad, but especially the in-between.  Because the middle matters!

The Middle Matters by Lisa-Jo Baker, published by WaterBrook, is available wherever books are sold (also in audio, voiced by Lisa-Jo, herself!).  Be sure to listen in to the Out of the Ordinary Podcast on Wednesdays, with Lisa-Jo and her long-time friend, Christie Purifoy, to enjoy more and more stories that will touch your heart!

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#whythemiddlematters #bookreview #itsakeeper #buythisbook #tellyourstories #connectandencourage #extraordinary #outoftheordinarypodcast #HewelcomesusHome #truebeauty #lovelikesuperglue

 

 

 

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forever changed!

Have you ever met someone who captivated your attention, enlightened your thinking, touched your heart, and left their mark on your life in such a way that you knew you would never be the same?

I absolutely love a good story, and these are the best ones!  The things that touch us deeply enough to permanently alter us.  The events, yes, but even more so, the people!  The wonder of the human spirit, and how it responds to life’s defining moments, is mind-boggling.

I’m so curious!  I want to know what other people saw, felt, thought, questioned.  I wonder what touched them most and why?  Was a deep need met?  A question answered?  Sudden “light-bulb” understanding granted about something troubling them?  Wounds healed, emotionally or physically, or spiritually?  Did they make a new discovery? Did their own response surprise them?  Frighten them?  Excite them?  Were they spurred into action in some way?

When I have the chance to hear someone else’s story, I am all ears.  I do my best to listen well, without asking too many questions.  But in times of later reflection, I often ponder how their story helps me understand my own.

My absolute favorite stories are about women in the Bible.  Ladies just like me who encountered the one true GOD in the Old Testament or met face to face with the LORD JESUS in the New.  The LORD revealed Himself to each of them in wondrous ways and they were forever changed!  Their stories are real and raw, but also firmly grounded and gloriously lifted by HOPE.

Through CHRIST we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, we rejoice in hope of the glory of GOD…

and this hope does not put us to shame, because GOD’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:2,5

I was recently introduced to a kindred spirit in Dorothy Valcárcel.  In the introduction to her new book, The Women Who Met Jesus: New Testament Stories of Lives Transformed by the Savior, she tells how her life-long love of libraries and great stories began when her mother gave her a library card at age seven.  Her appreciation for the very best stories drew her again and again to the Bible:

“My insatiable desire to read motivated me to seek out books on historical events, classical literature, philosophy, and religion.  But of all the books I read, one of the most fascinating was the Bible.  This book was filled with personal experiences that plumbed the depths of human love and tragedy.   I was fortunate to have parents and teachers who not only supported but encouraged my study of the Bible, even when it meant I asked some difficult questions and, at the same time, demanded answers to some of life’s most perplexing problems.” (p.11)

Dorothy also shares that this book was birthed from a skeptical challenge from a close friend who couldn’t imagine that the Bible could be relevant to her life or that JESUS knew anything about women!  As Dorothy studied, her heart swelled to realize just how MUCH He really does know about each and every individual, women included!  And more importantly, how tenderly He loves them and how abundantly He provides for them!  It was equally stunning to her to realize that every woman who met JESUS face to face experienced life-altering transformation!

It has been a joy to read her insights about these Bible stories, woven amongst her own personal experiences (followed with scripture references for my own study and wonderful questions for reflection)!  I encourage you to let Dorothy help you get to know these precious ladies in the New Testament.  You will not be disappointed!  Their stories are touching and the discoveries about our Savior are sweet!

In her conclusion, Dorothy echoes my own heart:

 “These stories originate with the Man who loves women.  He is the same Man who loves women today.  I have fallen in love with JESUS all over again.  I hope you have too.  Because if you have, His love will fill the empty spots in your life and make you whole.  His love will change those things about you that you may have thought were unchangeable.  And His love will empower you to do things you never thought you were capable of doing.  You’ll have the courage to shout from the rooftops that your “Dad” loves you just the way you are.  You’ll go to the ends of the earth if He asks you to, because His love will give your life purpose.  And you will give everything you are to this Man who has given everything He is to you.” (p.260-261)

Take a fresh look at the stories these women tell, of real life, and of a Savior who makes all things new… and be emboldened to share the unique piece of His story He has given you to tell!

“We love to tell the story… of JESUS… and His love!”

Katherine Hankey, 1866, Philadelphia

go and tell

Dorothy Valcárcel’s book, The Women Who Met Jesus: New Testament Stories of Lives Transformed by the Savior, published by Revell Books, is available wherever books are sold.  Also, be sure to visit TransformationGarden.com, “a global website designed to encourage women in their walk with JESUS.”

#facetofacewithJESUS  #foreverchanged  #transformation  #loveagoodstory   #Biblestoriesarethebest  #welovetotellthestory  #JESUSandHislove  #RevellReads  #bookreviewblogger

love that meets hard questions

There is an ache than never really goes away.  Not as long as there are people around me who do not know the LORD JESUS, who may even be convinced they don’t want to know Him.

Most will avoid the conversation altogether.  To keep peace, we all know the rule – “steer clear of topics like politics or religion.”  BUT, with this ache growing into burning passion in my gut, this longing for those around me to be SURE they are making a truly informed decision about the One who gave everything to be their Savior, I press on to find a way to begin that exact dialogue.

The truth is, the conversation I long to have is not about “religion.”  Religion, to me, speaks things like “set of beliefs,” “rituals,” “traditions & ceremonies,” what one might do consistently or repetitively, with commitment and possibly pride in their devotion to those beliefs or rituals.

The conversation I long to have is not about rituals or ceremonies.  It is not about what I or anyone else can DO at all.  It is about a Person!  A wonderful Savior who has already FINISHED what needed to be done to place me in right standing before a holy GOD.  Who continually does for me what I am incapable of doing for myself.  The One who longs to have an intimate relationship with those who trust Him.

Our LORD JESUS is the One who created us, who redeemed us.  The One who pursues our hearts, so He can deliver us from what binds us, and give us the very best of all things – eternal life, light, peace, joy, and love, just to name a few!  The One who steps into our hard places and transforms them – and us! – from the inside out.  The One who offers us truth that is worthy of our trust, eternally unchanging, a solid foundation on which we can always stand.  The One who guarantees lasting security, come what may.

Yes, I press on to have these conversations because I don’t want ANYONE to miss what Almighty GOD longs to give them.  I don’t want ANYONE to misunderstand the very real and eternal danger in rejecting Him.  He has given each of us the freedom to choose.  I simply feel compelled to share the truth that has changed my life, to be certain anyone I come in contact with has heard that truth and given it fair consideration.

Ray Comfort, author of  Faith is For Weak People: Responding to the Top 20 Objections to the Gospel, has spent decades pursuing those conversations too!  He admits that fear holds most of us back from engaging others about their souls.  We truly do not mean to offend or to make anyone uncomfortable.  But we believe there is far too much at stake to stand by and say nothing.

With suggestions of conversation starters as well as stories from his personal experience, Ray encourages his readers to be brave and step forward … out of LOVE for those who do not know the Savior.  Our genuine concern for their well-being can and will overpower any fear within us.

From those who are willing to engage in these conversations, there can be a wide range of comments and questions to navigate.  We may fear that we do not have the ability to debate well, that we do not have the “right answers” or any answers at all for their objections.  But Ray urges us not to be paralyzed by those fears, but instead to enter those conversations with a little insight.

Our first lines of preparation are always prayer, trusting GOD’s Spirit to guide our words, and growing our knowledge of His Words that will always speak truth.  In addition, Ray also provides perspective and possible responses to his top 20 objections to the gospel.

This book is not written to those who present these hard questions, but it is written with a deep love and passion to reach those people in their objections and find a way to lead them to the Savior!  Ray is writing to believers who share this ache.  He helps us to understand what thinking or hidden agendas might lie behind those questions, what misinformed assumptions might be creating stumbling blocks to hearing and receiving GOD’s truth and offer of salvation.  More than anything, Ray urges us to find a way to move from an intellectual debate to an appeal to the conscience, to trust the LORD to touch someone’s heart and reveal a tender place where He can draw them to Himself.

Some questions we will never be able to answer.  But, with GOD’s help, we can still respond!  We can always speak the undeniable truth of our own experience of being redeemed and reborn!  We can trust the Holy Spirit to bring Bible verses and thoughts to mind that encourage someone else to do their own digging.  We can always urge someone else to find out for themselves – to read His Word, cry out to Him and ask Him to make Himself real to them!  We can always be confident that He will hear and answer the call of a soul sincerely reaching for Him!

Ray closes with this: “I have the privilege of preaching the everlasting gospel… GOD doesn’t need you or me.  Yet He has chosen to use you and me to bring the message of eternal life to this world.  The pauper is allowed to speak on behalf of the Prince.  Privileged indeed, beyond words. … Therefore, don’t let anything stop you from appreciating this honor.  Cast off fear, apathy, discouragement… Fear only GOD, love the lost, cultivate a tender conscience, pray for wisdom, and let your little light shine… prepare the way of the LORD so that lost sinners will one day see His glory!” (pages 207-208)

Ray Comfort’s  Faith is For Weak People: Responding to the Top 20 Objections to the Gospel,  published by Baker Books, is available wherever books are sold.

go into the world

#BakerBooksBloggers  #loveovercomesfear  #truth  #proclaimtheGoodNews #JESUSlovesyou  #starttheconversation  #couragetorespond

bedside prayers

The alarm clock jolts me awake when it is still dark.  A few intentional blinks help the digital numbers across the room come into focus and my brain finally remembers what day it is.  A swirl of sleepy commotion consumes the house for an hour until our teenagers are on their way to school and my husband is stepping bravely into a new workday.

The sun is starting to pierce through the canopy of trees just beyond the walls that fence our patio.  I soak in the quiet as I linger over breakfast-for-one and the Words from the One who will map out the day ahead.

.   .   .

This is a typical Monday.  Before long, I find myself navigating very ordinary tasks:  tidying the house after a weekend of activity, shifting loads between washer and dryer, and delivering laundry to empty rooms upstairs.  Many of those Mondays, I feel the nudge to pause, to find my knees beside each bed and lift the absent occupant to the Father.  I scan their rooms, my mind sifting through the struggles and joys of each of their hearts.

Sometimes, thoughts and prayers roll off easily.  Other days my mind feels blank.  It is not uncommon for me to ask His Spirit to form words on my behalf when I can’t begin to know what my loved ones need most.

A huge answer came recently in the form of partner releases from Revell BooksPowerful Prayers for Your Daughter and Powerful Prayers for Your Son, by Rob & Joanna Teigen.  These scripturally based prayers are specific to various situations, phases of growth or changing needs.  They are intermingled with touching and timely “prayer stories,” real and raw testimonies of the power of prayer experienced by families just like ours.

For our daughter who will step bravely into adulthood soon, turning 18 and graduating from high school in the next year, these few prayers caught my eye:

When she needs wisdom

When she’s worried

When she needs to work hard

When she’s choosing her words

When she’s lonely

When she needs rest (junior year is no joke!)

When she needs a mentor

For our son, just a few years behind her, and navigating his own unique joys and challenges, these few prayers gave words to my heart:

When he’s afraid

When he’s looking for GOD

When he needs wisdom or courage

When he’s bored

When he’s one of a kind

When I don’t know what to pray

For both, I especially lift these earnest cries for their hearts:

“Keep my daughter from becoming devoted to lesser things.  Turn my daughter’s heart to You.  Reveal Yourself so she can see Your power.  Give her faith to believe You are her Creator, deserving all her worship and praise! … May You be as real as anyone she can see face to face.  Keep her close to You forever.” (page 173, “When she needs to love GOD with all her heart”)

“Give my son a heart that seeks Your will for his life. … Fill my son with devotion to You.  May he offer his life and dreams fully to Your control. (page 62) … Write Your Word on his heart and mind.  Keep my son from settling for an easy, shallow relationship with You.  Let him wrestle with belief and trust until he makes his faith his own.  Keep him close to You every day.” (page 157, “When he needs to stay close to GOD”)

.   .   .

In their purest form, I believe our best prayers for our kids are authentically and spontaneously inspired by His Spirit, offered unplanned and unrehearsed.  But I also believe there is a sweet time and space for praying the words of another, and definitely GOD’s own Words in scripture, as we lift our loved ones to the Father.

I am grateful to Rob & Joanna Teigen and the way these two books have tuned my own heart to the deepest needs of my daughter and son, to honor GOD in how I pray for them and what I speak into their lives each day.  The “real-time” stories from other parents assure me I am not alone in desiring the LORD’s best for my soon-to-be adult children – rejoicing in the growth and promise I can see, or feeling anxious about the areas of concern I also notice.

What a joy to leave our children in the care of the One who created them, the One who redeemed them, the One who pursues their hearts more passionately and faithfully than I ever could!  And how positively challenging to be reminded that prayer is POWERFUL!

“All I know for sure is that he (she) needs You.  Thank You for the gift of prayer.” (page 192, Powerful Prayers for Your Son)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to GOD.  And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ JESUS.  Philippians 4:6-7

He bends to listen

facing the impossible

“The impossible is GOD’s comfort zone!” – Mike and Kate Battistelli

For most of us, “impossibles” are the exact opposite. They challenge us. They stretch us. They cause us to fear and to doubt.

What is GOD calling me to do?  Where is He leading me to the bottomless ocean of trust?  What has He spoken to my heart?

I asked myself these questions and spoke the same words in prayer after listening to a podcast in which Kate Battistelli described the heart and message of her new book, The GOD Dare.

Two very clear things echoed back:

(1) “Look up!  Bear witness to My majesty!  Soak it in, breathe life eternal, glimpse glory.”

He knows I long to find just the right words.  To string them together in a way that touches hearts, speaks truth, offers hope and courage.  Many times it seems bigger than I can tackle.  I get in my own way, tangled up in my own ambitions.  I believe He delights in my passion, yet reaches out to steady me with His pace, and His plan.

More than anything I will ever write, He invites me to LIVE this story, His story written on my heart.  To go where He sends me.  Love like He does.  To let others see JESUS in me!

His Spirit is training my heart not to worry about what comes next.  To let Him write the rest of this story.  Every single day of it!  To watch Him give me just the right words, at just the right time, and just the right place to share them.

(2) “The guidance you are seeking for your daughter’s college search, asking what will position her best for any future pursuits?  There is no better earthly mentor for her than you.”

“LORD how? I don’t know what to tell her!?!,” I thought.

His Word tells me that He will guide me, just as He will guide her.  That there is no greater prep for her, to position herself for the path forward, than to find her knees more than any counselor or internet search.  Those are only tools.  The LORD is the Guide.  The best and only true option.  Always.

This is a very real and present weight on my heart.  I can’t pass this one off.  I need to stay in the game.  The most important part is the final mile, the last quarter.  He urges me that I am needed NOW more than ever!  To hold her gaze.  To encourage her heart.  To lead her back to Him, however many times that is necessary!

So many times, that job seems over my head!  But He keeps lifting my chin to keep my own eyes fixed on Him.

.   .   .

“What hard thing has He asked me to do, to give up, to risk everything to answer His call?”

Reading Kate’s book, I continued to process these same questions.  The LORD reminded me of other “impossibles” through which He has gently and kindly walked with me.

More than anything He has asked me to *do*, there have been things He has asked me to hand back to Him in surrender, trusting His bigger plan:

(1) a ministry opportunity that seemed to be falling into place that I was truly excited about stepping into, confident He had been preparing me for it, eager to see how He would work through me, if I was just brave enough to step forward … until the door slammed shut and I asked Him to hold me until it all made sense again as hot tears of disappointment and confusion spilled down my cheeks.

(2) when I realized I was battling crazy homesickness and had to confess I had grown weary of His call for us to leave PA and move south 12 years ago … that I had prayed for a job change for my husband that might take us back to the northern hills, only to have that door slam shut as well… and in the end, I needed to humble myself before Him and hand “home” back to Him, recommitting to wherever He leads us.

My heart broke both times, with fog and pain and questions that seemed impossible to sort out or overcome.  BUT, there was utter freedom in surrender.  A flood of peace that couldn’t be explained, and fresh joy in what was right in front of me.  I can confidently say that the better choice both times was a wide open door to simply follow JESUS and hunger to know more of His heart!

.   .   .

Our “impossibles” challenge us.  Stretch us.  Cause us to fear and to doubt.  Ask of us what seems more than we are able to give.  Sometimes break our hearts.

But GOD.

He longs for us to bring our “impossibles” to Him, to ask Him how we can meet them with His help, His wisdom, His power.  The LORD intentionally presents us with opportunities to face the impossible – not to crush us with defeat, but to draw our hearts to understand just how capable HE is and how He desires to do impossible things through us!

What are you facing that seems impossible?  Something bigger and “crazier” than you ever pictured yourself tackling?  Something desperately outside of your control?  Or is it simply impossible to imagine the GOD of the universe speaking His plans directly to your heart?  Or that He would ever declare value and eternal purpose over the countless moments in your life that seem unseen, small, or insignificant in your eyes?  Or that His plans for you could stand undeterred by a part of your life you struggle to overcome?

Let Kate Battistelli take you by the hand and help you revisit accounts of men and women just like you.  Their names may be familiar (David, Esther, or Joseph; Abraham, Hagar, or Jonah), but take a closer look at their stories, as they encounter the one true GOD, hear Him speak His plans and purposes to their hearts, and watch Him transform their “impossibles” into mind-boggling reality that draws their hearts to awestruck worship!

Kate concludes with the most precious appeal of all… the greatest invitation the LORD extends to each of us.  To follow JESUS.  To live like He does.  Love like He does.  Stand firm and unhurried and unwavering, confident in the Father’s plan!  His purposes are always moving forward, undeterred, and right on schedule!

Left to our own devices, we are just not capable of such a goal.  But GOD.  JESUS gave everything to redeem us, to breathe new life into us, and to supply any and every need we have.  His Spirit dwells within us, remaking us from the inside out.  So our hearts can beat along side of His.  So our character can reflect His.  So our choices will align with His!

Read.  Consider.  And be encouraged!  I, for one, am so grateful to be reminded that we can trust the LORD to meet us in our genuine desire to hear from Him.  We can trust Him to reveal His heart to us.  To equip and direct us as we step forward to fulfill His purposes for us.  He longs to show us how His redeeming love and power can transform our “impossibles!”

“GOD still seeks those who will say YES, even when saying yes makes no sense, even when it’s hard, even when it’s costly.” – Kate Battistelli

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.   .   .

Read more here…

For we are GOD’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things which GOD prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

With man it is impossible, but not with GOD.  For all things are possible with GOD.

Mark 10:27

Commit everything you do to the LORD.  Trust Him, and He will help you.

Psalm 37:5

 

 

 

our new ride

“Ride the wave,” I told myself.  I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, while my adept husband braved the stormy seas of negotiating a used car sale.

I fell asleep praying the night before and woke whispering the same petition.  “Guide us, O Thou Great Jehovah.”  I was still in shock that the vehicle that had served us faithfully for over a decade had suddenly reached an urgent “needs to be replaced” status.

We sweat the beating summer sun to empty out the personal items and drove to the dealership.  The test drive in our best replacement choice was a dream and I felt the much needed shift in my heart to receive this gracious provision from our Father.

Then, the storm began.  The debate over dollars.  NOT my comfort zone.  I felt yanked, being asked to risk it all on the table, my fragile excitement about our new ride, trusting the right path to emerge from the tense exchange of words.

I stared at my feet, pretending to check my phone.  I sipped from the complimentary water bottle.  I glanced up, briefly, trying to read faces as both sides worked hard for their best deal.   Were they honest men?  Would my husband sense a clear nudge from His Spirit to reconcile the numbers or walk away?

The steadying efforts rolled along in my head.

We NEED a new vehicle.  GOD will provide.  I told myself again to ride the wave, to consciously settle my racing heart and just trust!  The LORD has always been faithful. Faithful He will remain. 

And just like that, they shook hands.  Exchanged relaxed, contented smiles.  Done deal. The signal that I could breathe again.

90 minutes later (paperwork is no joke!), we were cruising south on the turnpike toward home in a new-to-us mid-SUV.  In my favorite cranberry color with cool grey interior and a combination of cup holder placement and spacious ride that will be just perfect for our summer road trips to the northern hills.

Why, I ask myself, when I can manage a cool-as-cucumber exterior, do my insides always have to be so dramatic?!  Father GOD indeed is faithful.  He not only meets our needs – He loves to lavish us with abundance!

.   .   .

Without a doubt, I believe the LORD went before us to provide for that very moment.  Sudden and unexpected to us.  But not to Him.

He knew exactly when our faithful vehicle would reach its last useful day.  I believe He orchestrated those events to protect us and position us to be confidently decisive.

In the coming weeks, we have two long road trips planned to the northern hills (with more than one rather steep mountainous climb!).  What grace that we will not embark on those journeys with concerns about the reliability of an aging vehicle!

When we needed an expedient trade-in, the local dealer just “happened to have” a used car in the exact make and model we preferred, with low mileage, in good condition AND in my favorite color.  What extravagant grace!

I am so grateful.

#newride  #Heisfaithful  #graciousFather  #Hegoesbeforeus  #trustingJESUS  #northernhills  #herewecome !

.   .   .

Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things…  Matthew 6:32

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory for ever and ever!  Ephesians 3:20

people of GOD’s promise

reflections from a year-long study about “People of the Promised Land – Part I” with Bible Study Fellowship …

In a world of uncertainty and unfaithfulness, Almighty GOD was faithful. He chose a people for Himself.  And He made a covenant with them – it was a sure thing!  Not one of His promises failed.  All game to pass!  (Joshua 21:45)

Parts of this study caused us to wrestle.  To squirm uncomfortably as we saw key players act in ways that disappointed our expectations.  From Joshua stepping in because Moses had stumbled, unable to enter the promised land because He failed to honor GOD before the people in a moment of frustration, to Eli, to Saul, to David and then Solomon.  The LORD chose them and placed them.  He was faithful to them, and yet they faltered.

Scripture doesn’t pretty it up.  The LORD doesn’t hide those missteps.  They grieved His heart more than ours.  But He tells it like it is because He wants us to know that NONE of us are capable of a pure story.  He wants us to realize we need Him and to reach for only Him to meet us in the pain and destruction that sin has brought.  To humble our hearts and lift our hands to Him, open to receive what He has longed to give us all along.  His redeeming love and power that sets us on a new path and refocuses our efforts on His plan, His way.

There were some sweet spots along our journey with GOD’s people.  The not-so-key players, whose humble, servant hearts and statements of courageous faith in the LORD and His perfect plan had resounding impact – not just in their small circle of interaction, but for generations after them.  Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Abigail … Jonathan.

How precious that a lot of them were women.  The LORD did not call them to be military leaders or priests or prophets or kings.  But their words and actions were clear.  The one true GOD had made Himself real to them.  They poured out their hearts to Him and risked so much to align themselves with His plans for His people. And He used them to touch hearts, to change the course of history, to draw others to honor GOD by their example.

Maybe the faithful few understood with clearer vision the sure thing promised to them.  By the only One whose words of promise are always true and unchanging. They could risk it all on Him because He never fails!

We will fail.

Sin brings pain and destruction into our lives too.  But the one true GOD still reveals Himself to us today!  He makes Himself real to us and pursues our hearts.  We have the same opportunity to respond to Him.  To reach for Him with humble hearts and lifted hands.  Open to receive what He has longed to give us all along.  –  His new covenant sealed with the blood of JESUS.  Chosen people of GOD.  Held and beloved with promises that never fail.  Our very own sure thing that is ours today.

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Will I treasure His gifts and align myself with His perfect plan? Will I take whatever steps are necessary to stay close to Him, to keep my heart in tune with His, so I am less likely to be distracted, drawn away and deceived into believing the lie that anything else can satisfy?

Will I have compassion for faltering moments – in others and in myself?  Will I understand that none of us is capable apart from Christ?  Will I quickly recognize my own detours and desire to find my way back?  Will His correction cause my heart to bow in praise, to receive His mercy with a grateful heart, to seek His face to guide me back into His ways?

Will I honor His faithfulness by simply choosing to be faithful – to Him and to whatever role He calls me to, especially as a not-so-key player?  Will I trust that in His narrative there can be ripples of impact I couldn’t imagine?  Opportunities to draw hearts to Him and change the course of history in unseen but powerful ways – priceless opportunities that I don’t want to miss?

I join with those who believe He is precious.  He calls me Chosen.  He offers me His faithful promises.  They will never fail.  It is the only sure thing.  It is mine.  Because JESUS died for me.

hold fast

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Read more here…

Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel

Know therefore, that the LORD your GOD is GOD, the faithful GOD who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations.  Deuteronomy 7:9

Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.  2 Timothy 2:13

The LORD is faithful, who will establish you and guard you.  2 Thessalonians 3:3

The LORD’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!  Lamentations 3:22-23