Enough Said

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So no matter what I say, what I believe or what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Enough said.

1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (The Message)

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Listen & Obey

Imagine this: You, along with your entire family, have been oppressed within the confines of a foreign land, ruled by foreign peoples, and rooted in foreign customs for nearly 430 years (Exodus 12:40).

Now imagine that the very person tasked in securing your deliverance was an 80-year-old runaway named Moses (Acts 7:30). And as unfathomable as this scenario was, this mass exodus would not take place solely on the backs of the latest factory edition model donkey or alongside a freshly paved city highway.

Why not? Because God desired for the Israelites to never forget who He is and what He had done. And He wanted to use Moses to accomplish this.

“So the people of Israel walked through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” (Exodus 14:22).

What exactly was Moses supposed to do with a few million Israelites who needed a reminder of who the God of their ancestors is, and just minutes after their feet would step onto higher ground?

Enter: The Book of Leviticus

The very purpose of Leviticus was for God to establish a guidebook for holy living. These were His people and they were to be set apart from the nations that surrounded them. They had to be different. No longer were the Israelites under the reigns of Pharaoh. They now belonged to the authority of the One, Holy God.

Do you know that Holiness is mentioned more times in Leviticus than any other book in the Bible? 152 to be exact. Living among and worshipping a Holy God required God to constantly instruct Moses with His Holy commands. “Then Moses told them, “When you have followed these instructions from the LORD, the glorious presence of the LORD will appear to you” (Leviticus 9:6).

Obedience is the foundation to holiness.

The “when” is the first step in understanding the “why” and ultimately seeing the “Who” behind it all. Obeying God’s commands in your life, whatever they may be, glorifies Him. Friends, it is so incredibly easy to seek out glorious acts of God in our lives without submitting to His commands of obedience first.

So, let me encourage you. Before you are tempted to petition God to part the seas of your life, ask yourself one important question first: What is He asking of me?

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG Ministries, Author

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A Moveable Heart

The world is silent but my mind is buzzing. It may or may not be 3:00am-ish and this may or may not be the 100th time I’ve sat down to compose this writing and I may or may not have had to utilize the 90 calming seconds (multiple times) brain scientists say it takes to flush out the rush of frustrated emotion that comes when you work hours perfecting half a novel that is SURE to inspire the WHOLE world...just to have it not save, or to get locked out of your account, or to have the internet crashing!

90 seconds… deep breaths.

Yesterday I thought this can’t be what God wants me to do but yet here I am unable to sleep with the same message on my brain…. A Movable Heart.So, this is attempt number 10,009,876 to scribble down something He put on my heart.

Yesterday I read in Ezra how the Lord moved king Cyrus’ heart to release the Jews from captivity yet so very few took advantage of that freeing.   Why not?!  Why stay where I am when the Lord sets me free?  Fear, insecurity, past failure… But Proverbs 31:25 says "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."  Why? How? Because of Psalm 31:14 "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God. My times are in your hands.'" And Jesus is a God of second chances (think of the story of Jonah).

John 8:36 states "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  Wow!  Our God is able so why do we hesitate?  Ezra 1:5 says "Everyone whose heart God had moved prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem."  Do you see that? Everyone whose heart God had moved!

Oh, Lord take my heart and make it movable! Help me pray with all sincerity “Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

This is far from the perfected half novel I had planned but my little placed in His mighty hands is more than enough so I'm trusting Him with this message.

For further reading: Jude 1:24-25

Janette Kieffer
Author

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Bitter Beauty

Did you wake up with dirt on your face today?  Not because you didn’t wash it last night (because we all know we are to wash and moisturize every night!), but because of something that happened yesterday?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Dirt sometimes gets smeared all over our faces.  The dirt of words – when someone says something to us we don’t think we deserve to hear.  The dirt of disappointment – when a situation happens that breaks our heart.  The dirt of fear – when we're afraid of what the day will bring.  No, it’s not actual dirt, but we can’t seem to get rid of the way it sits on us and we want to shake it off.

You know your weaknesses but sometimes harsh things can smack you in the face and you don’t handle it well.  

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

You know your strengths and sometimes they don’t seem to help you in times of struggle. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 

Pray.  And then pray again.  Ask God to fill you with His grace and His love so you have His power to get past the dirt.  

Talk to Him about the details and ask God to help.  He’s not a magic genie with a wand to grant your wishes but God created you with your specific personality and limitations so He knows exactly what you need to clean off the dirt.  

It may sound too simple but I know from experience it is not.  Prayers like that are hard and messy but thankfully God is more powerful than any situation we are in.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Pray it.  Trust it.  Let God give you grace and love.

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Bitter Beauty

A few months ago, I watched an interview program with a former Olympic ice skater.  Caught up in a skating scandal more than 20 years ago, this woman was forced to resign from the U.S. Figure Skating Association and withdraw from all competition. She was left with a felony conviction, steep fines, community service responsibilities and probation.  At 23 years old, this young woman lost her livelihood, any and all plans for endorsement deals and a bright, prosperous future.

Now at 47-years-old, she appears much, much older than her actual age. Public humiliation is the likely culprit for her premature aging. Upon hearing her full story though, one possible reason for her haggard appearance could be due to a lifetime spent harboring bitterness and unforgiveness toward her mother.

She credits her athletic downfall to her difficult childhood. She places much of the blame on her alcoholic mother whom she has yet to forgive and wants nothing to do with. Her hatred was quite palpable, practically spitting through the air waves into my living room.

This athlete may have gained physical or emotional strength for surviving her upbringing on “the wrong side of the tracks,” but it appears to have come at a cost. Her unresolved bitterness seems to have robbed her of more than outward beauty. Her unfolding story gave little indication that she’d lived a peaceful or joy-filled life.

Ephesians 4:31-32 tells us, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." 

It’s fairly impossible for us to know what another person has suffered until we’ve walked in their shoes. No doubt this Olympian suffered much. Her story haunts me, moving me with compassion and prayer on her behalf. Hopefully she will eventually realize that forgiveness is rarely for the person who has hurt us, but rather for our own self-preservation and peace of mind.

Bitterness and unforgiveness will eventually eat away at the fabric of our soul, stealing the joy from our heart and robbing us of a better life. Over time, unresolved anger and buried pain has the ability to make us old before our time.

Are you hurting and having a hard time forgiving someone? Why not take your pain to God and give it over to Him?

Don’t end up as a bitter beauty … “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Lifestyle Goals

Have you ever seen the show Mansions & Millionaires?  Remember the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?  They both visually show extremely wealthy people’s properties in the most beautiful places.  I guess shows called Middle Class and Happy or Lifestyles of the Wish-I-Had-That and Wannabes don’t have an audience even though most of us fit into those categories.

Here is something to consider; changing your lifestyle to worship and celebration can move you in a positive direction.

Psalm 100 sums it up nicely:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lordwith gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lordis God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lordis good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

It takes practice to worship and celebrate every day.  Start today.  The day started because God allowed the sun to rise and you opened your eyes.  Thank Him for the promise that Jesus is right in front of you.

Remember that the Bible is true and He wrote the words for you as a guide.  The Psalm above tells us to Shout, Worship, Sing, Know, Enter and Give Thanks.  Those are all actions you can do in your own way at any time.

Your past may be nasty or you are involved in something wrong right now.

You are trying your best and can’t seem to get ahead.

Things are going smoothly but there is an emptiness.

You can start a Psalm 100 lifestyle to turn that corner.

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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Eye On The Ball

Recently I was yet again on my way to Walmart in the evening (in the freezing cold darkness) to get my crew another six gallons (yes, SIX gallons) of milk for the week (yes, a week at best). Even though it would probably be cheaper to keep a cow in our backyard until the Lord grants us the farm, we will continue to be thankful for our nearby Walmart.

When I’m driving Jesus just has a way of romancing me like no other time with His spontaneity.

All of a sudden this GIANT sized ball (the moon) caught my eye! I so desperately wanted to get a picture but alas, I was driving. Even so, His message continued to radiate in my heart.  

"In the game of life keep your eye on the ball, not the scoreboard. You can only reflect Me to the degree that you face Me. The extent to which you let this world come between you and I will determine how much and how well you reflect My glory.

Where are your eyes? Comparing, judging, trying to just be good enough? News flash: I never made anything to be 'just good enough.' The King of Kings only does mighty and awesome! Keep your eyes on the Light!

Jesus said 'I am the light of the world' (John 8:12). AND I am always moving!"

I was amazed when I left Walmart (6 gallons of milk later) that the moon was now small and VERY high in the sky. In John 5:17 Jesus says "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working."

If my eyes are not on the ball I might miss where He might want to accomplish His purposes through me. Let's fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). If you've lost in the past or failed and fallen short Romans 3:23 says we ALL have!

Our God is King of the comebacks. Remember three days after the cross? He blew out of that tomb ALIVE! It’s all about Jesus.

Am I in a position that I can see Him? How much of the world is blocking my view?

"Jesus lift my eyes, keep my eyes on You."

Additional reading:  Psalm 19:1-4.

Janette Kieffer
Author

 

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Sandpaper Friendship

Every time she calls, I’m in danger of losing my salvation. It takes a strong will and superhuman strength to hold my tongue with her.  Well, that -- and massive amounts of prayer are usually in order just to carry on a conversation with her.

 

She’s a friend I’ve had since childhood and while we’ve drifted far apart in more ways than one, she’s still a part of my life - mainly because she doesn’t have a wide circle of friends. I’m all that she has left. 

She’s what I call my “Heavenly Sandpaper Friend.” To say she “rubs me the wrong way” would be an understatement. I remain friends with her because she’s been a lifelong project.

My mission? To lead her into a relationship with Jesus Christ and to help her transform from simply being “a spiritual being,” as she likes to refer to herself, to a full-blown follower of Christ. Because she’s such a difficult person, she’s left a long trail of broken friendships in her wake.  I fear that if I don’t continue our relationship and my tenacious pursuit of sharing the Gospel with her, she might never get it. As difficult as she is, as her friend, as a Christian, and as a human, I would be crushed if she were sentenced to a life in Hell.

Regardless of someone’s bad behavior, or even if their lifestyle pushes them to the head of the Hades check-in line, the thought of anyone burning in Hell for all of eternity should make all Christians uncomfortable. Some may argue that my friend doesn’t deserve to go to Heaven. I don’t disagree. But then again, I don’t deserve to go to Heaven and neither do you … or any of us, for that matter. We are ALL sinners.

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” Romans 3:23 (NIV)

Maintaining a connection with this individual has made our relationship complicated, and I’ve come to realize that our friendship is as much for my benefit as it is for her.  Those “rough edges” that are being “rubbed off” of me are defining my character and making me more Christ-like. I believe the difficult people that cross our paths are frequently put there by God’s design and are His way of fine-tuning us for the future He has for us.

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Matthew 5:46

It’s easy to love the loveable – but loving the un-lovable? That’s where God comes in. Is there someone in your life who rubs you the wrong way?  Rather than walking away from them, perhaps it’s time to let God smooth out your rough edges as He crafts you to be more like Him.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34 (NIV)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

 

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Alone-liness

My husband and I are addicted to a TV show on the History Channel called Alone.  This is a hardcore survival show featuring 10 participants. These survival experts are dropped at 10 separate isolated locations on a remote part of Vancouver Island. Each are equipped with several cameras for filming their journey. They each have 10 survival items of their choosing (no guns), and all are furnished with an emergency radio that can summon help if they are injured or choose to quit. They are utterly and completely Alone. No camera crews … no food related reward challenges … no one to talk to or help them in any way.

Their very survival depends on what they can catch or trap for food. A certain skill set is necessary to set up a camp that will protect them from the harsh environment, including dangerous animal predators and poisonous insects. The premise of the show is to see who can survive the longest all Alone.  The last man (or woman) standing is awarded a huge cash prize.  But at what cost?

The thing that seems to take most of these people out is that they cannot handle the total isolation. A certain degree of “temporary insanity” seems to take over as they lament the pain of being separated from loved ones. Grown men are reduced to infantile weeping once they start fixating on how much they miss their family. Once they let their emotions go there, it a rather quick slide to their elimination.                                                                                                       

There’s actually a reason for that. God did not create us to be solitary individuals, but rather He designed us to need each other.

Throughout the Bible Christians are referred to as a body of believers or the family of God.  Both of these imply more than one. While most of us don’t mind occasional alone time (and that’s okay), we don’t want to ever completely cut ourselves off from people. Too much alone time isn’t good for us. 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

If you lean towards being an introvert (like me), interacting with other people can prove challenging. Sometimes we may need a nudge from God to push us out of our comfort zone.  Church small groups, book clubs and Bible studies provide great opportunities to hone our social skills. And of course, there’s always Mama’s sage advice of: the best way to make a friend -- is to be a friend. 

A little quiet time Alone with God isn’t a bad thing. But don’t neglect fellowship and human interaction! Strive for that healthy balance. We need each other!

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  Genesis 2:18

Kathy Kurlin
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Inflatable Snowman Faith

If you drove through our neighborhood this Christmas season, you’d see some pretty impressive displays.  When you live in the desert during the holidays, it takes a little extra to really catch the holiday spirit.  And people are delivering.  Lights on every tree and bush, PVC archways creating tunnels of flashing festivity over driveways and sidewalks, nativity scenes, tribes of inflatables waving and greeting, even Chewbacca and Yoda are making an appearance of Christmas spirit in a number of yards. Rooftop displays include even more lights, giant tinsel lighted snowflakes, and Santa and his reindeer (of course).

Our own display is low-key and understated (translate – we’re not willing to create a budget line for “Outdoor Holiday décor”).  We have a few strings of lights outlining our eaves and our little front porch while a single inflatable snowman smiles, unmoving, his hand in a fixed waving position, a singular bastion of inflatable Christmas friendly…

when he’s not laying down on the job.

Our Snowman has a little trouble staying upright.  We make the standard jokes that he’s into the eggnog again while I adjust the strings that stake him to the ground and (supposedly) keep him from falling over.  The biggest problem is that when he does fall, he seems to do so backwards, and the little fan that is supposed to inflate him is trapped downward in the rocks where he stands. The fan continues to spin, but with no air to draw from, bit by bit he deflates, until he’s just a pile of fabric bearing little resemblance to the friendly festive symbol of Christmas he is when he’s at his best.

I sometimes feel a little like my fallen snowman friend. Although I might be physically standing, emotionally, psychologically, even spiritually, I’m just in a heap, barely resembling the woman God created me to be. There are days that life feels completely overwhelming, my devotional life isn’t what it should be, my prayer life is in shambles and although I’m going through the motions to keep things rolling along, internally I feel deflated and empty.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he offers up this prayer for Spiritual strength:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19

In this single paragraph, Paul explains the how, why and where-from of strength as he explains the role of each person of the trinity.  The Father.  The Spirit.  The Son-Jesus.

I read this today shortly before I went outside to once again revive our fallen snowman and as I readjusted the deflated fabric so his little fan could get air, I suddenly saw myself – not my best self, but my sometimes collapsed and discouraged and flattened self.

The collapse often hits gradually – for me it begins when I get a little “off center”.  When the place from which my little spiritual fan should be getting air gets crowded out by other things.

I wish I could say that this never happens to me, but it does.

And not usually in times of real crisis.  In those times I am in the Word and on my knees – often literally. And my God always meets me there.  Not always with the result I want, but certainly with the strength to move through it – whatever “it” turns out to be.  Over the last 8 years that I’ve tried to faithfully follow Christ, I can truly say that my worst times in life have been my some of my best times with Jesus.

No, for me the real danger zone in my spiritual life seems to be when things are…regular.  Status quo.  Nothing amazing and nothing bad. It is then that I become lazy in my prayer life and less diligent in the Word.  I feel a little tinge of stress and maybe I eat a cookie (or three) to make myself feel better.  A lousy day and I’m off to the couch for a date with Netflix.  A blow-out with my son and I retreat to Facebook (because looking at everyone’s highlight-reel of their perfect lives and perfect kids will surely make me feel better about my dirty dishes, unfolded laundry and the tirade of 8-year-old back-talk I just dealt with, right?).

Suddenly I realize I’m just “off”, and although I’m doing all these different things to feed my feel-better fan, none of it is really doing the job – at least not in any sustainable way. I find myself down and discouraged, and yes, just like my snowman friend, deflated.

I need to readjust and make sure the air I’m getting is the air I need.  If my fan is in the dirt, it doesn’t matter how fast it spins, it’s not going to fill me.

Nothing fills me like the Almighty God can.  Nothing fills my emptiness like a God who has infinite riches from which to revitalize me. Nothing refreshes my soul like the Holy Spirit who speaks to the depths of my spirit and pours out his refreshment upon me. Nothing soothes my hurting heart like my precious Savior, Jesus, who loved me enough to sacrifice himself for me. I want the revitalization, the refreshment, the soothing, the fullness that Paul tapped into to find joy and peace in a prison cell as he wrote this letter to his beloved friends in Ephesus.

I'm probably not going to get THAT from a cookie, no matter how good it is.

We are filled when we immerse ourselves in the things of God – when we read and meditate upon his Word, when we pour ourselves out to Him in prayers of both gratitude and grief, when we worship Him for His holiness, His power and His unfathomable love for us.

What we need most is found only in the fresh air of God.  Let Him fill you with it.

(There’s more!  Read it in entirety at: https://redletterlifeblog.wordpress.com/)

Catharine Phillips
loveSTRONG ministries

 

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