Come Follow Me

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. -Matthew 4:20

Recently, I have been obsessed with this verse.  I constantly wonder where God is calling me.  Is it Africa?  Mexico? Is it adopting Asian babies?  Is it writing?  Is he calling me to be a missionary in marriage ministry, women’s ministry, to feed the homeless, Haiti?  Suddenly, God told me!  He is calling me to follow Him.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew.  They were casting their net into the sea, as they were fishermen. “Come follow me…” Jesus said…At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)

He is calling me to follow Him. He will make my paths straight. He is leading me by still waters to simply follow Him!  “Duh!  Of course, He is calling me to follow Him.” Honestly, this is so profound for me. This was such an A-HA moment, as well as another moment of surrender. I want to drop my nets and follow Him.  I shared my A-HA/God moment with my sister.  Her insight was also profound and eye opening…I am like a dog.

This was her response, when I shared my story with her:

“I feel like you are Ralph (my nephew’s dog).” When my nephew says 'sit' and just leaves him, Ralph just stands at attention. Occasionally, he’ll lay down before my nephew even says lay down or he’ll start to do another trick thinking that’s what he wants him to do.  He whines a little, just eager and waiting. Sometimes my nephew makes him sit and stay extra-long because Ralph is behaving that way.  Then when my nephew says, “Come'” you can just see Ralph totally relax when he finally realizes what he is supposed to do and he is so happy to just walk with him.”

I am Ralph the dog.  Eager to please my Master, jumping ahead, sitting before He calls me to, chasing my tail in distraction, running when He says stay…and then somehow, He adjusts my focus and says, “Come.”

The amazing thing is, Christ loves me as I walk with Him.  He loves me despite my clumsy and distracted self.  He still calls me to Himself.  “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” –Psalm 23:1. I lack absolutely nothing. He loves me more than I could ever dream or imagine. I am not sure if you too are a dog (or clumsy, distracted, or a mess) like me.  Wherever you are, you are loved.  You are loved more than you could ever dream or imagine.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. -Ephesians 3:18

Lisa Foster
Author

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Space Priority

Create your own space.
Make boundaries.
Take time for you.

These are statements we have heard often.  And, while we probably agree with the concepts, we just don’t dedicate space to our daily routine.

How many times have you been in a quiet space and thought to yourself, “Ahhh, this is so nice.”

Then, your mind starts thinking about what’s for dinner, the grocery list, the bathrooms that need to be cleaned, those pesky weeds that should be pulled.  For a few moments, you were in the “Ahhhhh” place, weren’t you?

What if you allowed yourself to just sit?

What if you convinced yourself to make that quiet space time to recharge?

That space priority is exactly what will get you through the day. Some like the early mornings before the day begins to be in that space priority.  Others carve out a time in the afternoon to recharge.  Whenever it is, morning, the middle of the afternoon or evening, it centers you as you just sit and let God calm you.  Whatever time it is for you, make it happen.  And often.

Last fall I was challenged to set aside time each Sunday at a specific hour to sit, pray and listen. That’s all – just sit, pray and listen. Amazing things happened within those weeks.  Not only did I get centered on my personal priorities, I heard God tell me something I had never heard before.  It wasn’t an audible voice but a clear thought that occurred over and over. Enough so that I understood how important it was for me.  It gave me excitement and bold courage.

If I hadn’t sat down, turned off the schedule in my head and shut my mouth, I would have missed it.

Life rushes by and we can miss the moments God prepared for us because we are not focused.

Close the door. Breathe deep.  And start your quiet space time with these words:

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Psalm 23:1-3 (The Message)

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

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Double “Feet-tures”

Years ago, my daughter used to tell me I had such perfect looking feet, I should become a professional foot model. Whenever we shoe shopped together, every sandal I tried on looked amazing on my perfectly formed feet that were free from bunions, corns or any manner of foot-related defect.

My feet are still pretty cute, but what looks good on the outside is hiding a plethora of problems on the inside.  I’ve suffered for many years from plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and arthritis.  Any one of these problems is extremely painful alone but all three combined have created a trifecta of trouble and debilitating pain that can at times be off the charts. But still – these are nice looking feet.

God in His goodness has taught me that like my unseen foot pain, every day we are likely to encounter people who are hurting and broken inside – even though on the outside, they may appear happy and put together.

The fact is, EVERYONE has a story of some kind. No one escapes this life completely unscathed and untouched by trouble or trials. So even when someone may say, “I’m fine,” that may not always be the case.

In this fast-paced, rat-race, running on empty, crazy world we live in, it can be difficult to take the time to listen to what people may not be saying when their lips are moving. God tells us in Colossians 3:12: … Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

It can be tempting to concentrate on our own problems and live in a bubble of self-preservation and ignore those around us. But when God tells us “clothe ourselves with compassion,” this implies action on our part. When we get dressed every day, we PUT our clothes on our bodies. We don’t wake up fully dressed --we have to physically make an effort to put on our shirts, shorts and shoes. In the same way, we have to make a conscious effort to put on compassion and kindness.

The signs that someone may be hurting are limitless.

A forced smile from that snarky cashier; the waiter who is distracted and gets our order wrong; the co-worker who snaps at us for a simple error.

We can never know the effort someone may put into covering up what could be festering inside of them.

It may be easier for us to ignore the subtleties of a hurting heart, but in order to become more Christ-like in our behavior we must PUT ON compassion and kindness ... a great double feature of God’s love.  It’s never too late to jump in with both feet and make an effort to care! Otherwise … what’s the point of calling ourselves Christians?

*For further study, read The Parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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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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