Category Archives: Inspiration

Just ComeHome

It was time. It was time for Daniel to make a dreaded phone call, and the only place to get privacy in a frat house is the bathroom. Humiliated and sitting on the lid of the toilet, a stack of porn magazines in the corner, Daniel starts to dial the number, but he stops.

“I can’t do this,” he tells himself. “There’s no way they will understand. I’ve really messed up this time.”

Daniel was a college freshman and thought classes would be easy. Ignoring the advice of his parents, Daniel joined a fraternity a couple weeks after arriving on campus. Life was fun until he failed all his classes and lost his scholarship. He had gone as far as he could go, and now it was time to make the dreaded phone call.

“But there is no way they are going to understand,” he kept telling himself. “I’ve messed everything up. I didn’t listen to their advice, and I’ve just messed everything up. What am I going to do?”

After about 30 minutes, Daniel decided he had to call. So, he picked up his phone, dialed the number, and his parents answered.

He told them what happened, and they immediately responded. “Just come home,” they encouraged. “Just come home, and we’ll figure everything out once you get here.”

Daniel’s parents show us a picture of grace. They are an illustration of God’s grace. “Just come home,” they say. It doesn’t matter how badly Daniel has messed up. Daniel, their son, is hurting, so they just want him home. Everything else can be pieced together after he gets home.

You might be Daniel. You might be the one needing to make the dreaded phone call. If so, the Lord will respond in the same way Daniel’s parents responded. “Just come home,” he says. “We’ll figure out the rest after you get here.” God’s grace is unconditional love, which invites us to come home.

 

My thought for Daniel’s story originated with The Easter Experience.

Lurking Monsters Don’t Live Under the Bed

“I keep my faith intact. Make sure my prayers are said. Cause I’ve learned the monsters ain’t the ones beneath the bed.”

I love how the Lord’s message can be wrapped in the lyrics of a song. For me, it has a way of grabbing my attention and driving home a point.

Monsters by Eric Church is one such song.

BUY the album Desperate Man at Amazon

The song reminds us there are “monsters” lurking for an opportune time to ambush us. Every mistake cannot be avoided. You and I will mess up, but the Lord will be there to help us. We should keep our faith intact and our prayers said to defeat the “monsters” that do not live beneath the bed.

What is grace?

What is grace? Ask 20 people this question, and you will receive multiple answers.

Completely understanding God’s grace is difficult for us, so you and I may have doubts concerning the reality of God’s forgiveness. Here are 6 workable definitions of God’s grace, a picture of his grace, and how grace plays into our lives.

Here are 6 practical definitions of God’s grace.

1. God’s unmerited favor.

We do nothing to earn grace. God gives it to those who ask.

2. Unconditional Forgiveness.

In this way, grace is inclusive. God invites us to come as we are; grace meets us at our place and helps us get to a better place.

3. God’s one-way love to us.

A person may not love the Lord right now, but the Lord loves him or her. It is out of his love the invitation to grace is extended.

4. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person.

You and I are invited to come as we are. Our lives do not have to be perfect before grace comes into play. The Lord meets us where we are and takes us to a better place. Whether we do or do not deserve grace is not a question the Lord asks. He invites us all.

5. Grace sets us free.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free.”

Grace can help us live a more fulfilling life.

6. Grace is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed, and you can not take credit for this. It is a gift from God.”

Here is a picture of grace.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a son wanting his father’s money. The son goes to his father and asks for his share of the inheritance. In the context of Jesus’ story, inheritance was usually given upon a parent’s death. So, the son is basically saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead. Give me your money.”

The father agrees and gives the young man his portion of the estate. The young man leaves home, plays hard in life for a time, and looses all his money. Fast forward a little, and we find the young man caring for pigs with nothing to eat.

Hungry and watching the pigs eat, the young man decides to try going home. He feels his father will at least let him be a servant. He does not believe being a son again is an option after the way he has acted. He heads for home, and the father’s response is a true picture of grace.

The father sees his son coming down the road, so he runs to meet and embrace him. Picture the scene Jesus paints. The smelly, dirty son who had been tending to the hogs being embraced by his father, who a short time earlier received a death wish. Not only did the father embrace the young man, he throws a celebration because his son is home.

This is grace. Unmerited, undeserving, unconditional forgiveness and love.

Here is how grace plays into our lives.

The same way the father ran to meet the son, The Lord runs to meet us. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, we can always go back home.

Acting

What has grace done for you? Take a moment to thank the Lord.

What can grace do for you? Go back home.

Please share this post with anyone who would find it encouraging.

 

His Friends Didn’t Quit

Overwhelming circumstances and situations are hard, and they can be a barrier to accomplishing goals and fulfilling dreams. We become overwhelmed, so our natural response is to quit. Mark and Luke introduce us to four friends who encourage us not to quit. The Gospel writers introduce these four men through a fifth friend who is unable to walk.

Totally reliant on other people, the man spent his days on a mat. He was unable to move, and his friends cared about him. They made sure his needs were met. They wanted to help the man as much as they could, but there was only so much they could do.

The friends heard how Jesus was performing miracles and helping all kinds of people. “if they could only get their friend to Jesus,” they thought, “what could he do?”

Jesus came to their town one day, so the friends carried the man to see him. They arrived at the house only to see the crowd was large. They had to get their friend to Jesus, but it seemed there was no way to get any closer.

It would have been easy for the friends to quit at this point. They could have given each other a high five for trying and went about their day. What would have happened if the friends quit? There are times in life when it would be easy for you and me to quit. What happens if we do?

Thankfully, the man’s friends decided not to quit. Their persistence helps us understand what it looks like not to quit.

Not Quitting May Be Unconventional

The four friends faced what seemed to be an impossible task. They had to carry a man through a large crowd to get Jesus’ attention. They devised a plan to bypass the crowd and go through the roof. Their plan was unconventional and risky. They could fall; the man could fall, and deroofing might upset the homeowner. To spite the risks, the men proceed.

The friends practiced what John Maxwell calls the Law of Victory. They did not give up when obstacles were standing in their way. They were determined to get their friend to Jesus. “Fulfilling a dream often does not come easy or within the realm of the conventional,” Maxwell says. In this case, the men had to proceed with a plan built on faith. Realizing their goal of placing their friend before Jesus meant stepping out on faith.

We, too, must build our plans on faith and step out on faith to see our dreams fulfilled. Obstacles may stand in our way, so we must be determined to allow the Lord to help us step around them. While it may be risky and unconventional, not quitting may require us to step out in faith.

Not Quitting May Exercise Our Faith

In He Still Moves Stones, Max Lucado says, “Faith does these things. Faith does the unexpected, and faith gets God’s attention.” It certainly did in this moment. Jesus was so moved by the men’s faith that he healed the man lying before him on a mat. The man who couldn’t walk into the house was able to walk out of the house. And, it is safe to say the crowd stepped aside so he could walk through the door.

Though facing overwhelming odds, the four friends were determined to get the man to Jesus, so he was able to walk out of the house. They stepped out on faith rather than quitting.

You may be facing overwhelming odds today. Life may be in a horrible place right now, but please don’t quit. Rather than quitting, devise a plan built on faith

Stop and think about your plan for a moment. Ask yourself these questions.

  • What’s the next step in accomplishing my goal?
  • What’s the next move in fulfilling my dream?
  • What can I do to start going around the overwhelming obstacles? Perhaps it is getting more information, enrolling in a class, asking for help with my resume, or taking the first step to reconcile a relationship.
  • What action step can I take today to start the plan in motion?

Follow the example of the four friends and put your plan in motion. I can’t promise the outcome, but I can relay a promise the Lord gives. That is, he will always be with you. He will not ignore your faith.

Acting

Identify the obstacles standing in your way and enact a plan to overcome them. Ask the Lord to help you each step of the way.

Know a friend who may benefit from this post? Please share it with him or her.

 

 

Feel like quitting?

Feel like quitting? You should meet Joseph Grunfeld.

Joseph is a 62-year-old New Yorker who has defied odds all his life. “Born with a heart murmur,” according to the New York Post, “he’s had three back operations, suffered a stroke that left one arm entirely numb, and has mild to moderate rheumatoid arthritis.” And earlier this month, Grunfeld defied odds once more.

He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro’s peak of 19,340 feet. Grunfeld, who has difficulty walking, said it was not easy. He had many people, including doctors, tell him no along the way, but he refused to give up. Grunfeld was able to climb the mountain with the aid of walking sticks and a team of volunteers. Joseph Grunfeld was able to accomplish his goal and fulfill his dream because he didn’t give up.

How often do you feel like giving up in life? Seeing a dream realized or obtaining a goal becomes hard, so we want to stop. A long-term relationship enters a rough season, so we just want to bale. It may be tempting to quit, but Joseph Grunfeld’s story reminds us pressing on can bring victory.

Our victory may mean defying odds and staring down stereotypes, but we can.

Defying Odds

You and I may face overwhelming odds, but we can defy them. Statistics are just numbers on paper. They do not chart the course of our lives if we do not allow it. Maybe you’re facing odds that say you’ll never earn a degree. Odds are you won’t be successful in that career path, but it is your passion.

For you and me to realize our dreams and achieve our goals, it may mean we have to ignore the stats. It may take us longer than it does everyone else. We may have to take a different approach than others, but that is okay. Hard work and persistence will overcome stats. You and I can defy the odds.

Staring Down Stereotypes

You and I may have to face down some stereotypes. Society tries to place people in boxes which do not fit. I’m sure you are aware of any stereotype you face, but it does not describe you.

You and I can not allow stereotypes to play games with us. We must do our best to ignore them and press on. Breaking through stereotypes gets society thinking which may make it easier for others in the future. So, not only are we realizing our own dreams, we are helping shape the future.

Where can we find strength?

We can find strength in others who have went before us. Their stories may encourage and inspire us. Most importantly, I believe we can find strength to defy odds and stare down stereotypes in the Lord.

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Realizing dreams and achieving goals can be hard, but don’t quit. You can defy the odds and stare down the stereotype.

As for Joseph Grunfeld, he has no plans on quitting. He has climb one mountain and has a second in mind. “I’m revved up,” Grunfeld told the New York Post.

Acting

What is the next step you need to take in realizing your dream? What’s the next step in achieving your goal? Identify it and do it. You may need aid and extra time, but that’s okay. You can do it.

 

 

Recalculating

Recalculating is a word many of us hear as we use Google Maps, Apple Maps, or any of the GPS guidance products. We miss a turn so the app must find a new way to our destination. Missing a turn doesn’t result in being lost forever; it just means it may take a little longer to get there and it may be a little harder route.

Grace can work the same way. It can recalculate the direction our life is going. If you do not like the direction your life is going, the Lord’s grace can recalculate you to a path of hope and peace. Many people have allowed grace to change the direction they were headed.

Grace has recalculated many lives.

Here are some examples of recalculated lives.

Peter

We don’t have to look far past Jesus to see one such story. Peter was called to be one of Jesus’ disciples. He has a reputation for being spontaneous and sticking his foot in his mouth. He denied knowing Jesus three times on the night Jesus was betrayed. John tells us Jesus visited one-on-one with Peter after his resurrection, and Peter was forgiven of his mistake.

Peter was going in the right direction until he made a wrong turn, but he was not lost forever. The Lord’s grace allowed Peter to recalculate his direction, and he became instrumental in spreading the Good News.

Paul

Paul is an example of grace changing a person’s life. He spent time persecuting, even killing, Christians. In his resume of sins, Paul calls himself the chief sinner. However, in Acts 9, the Lord uses grace to recalculate Paul’s life. Paul was appointed as an Apostle and became influential in the growth of the church. It has been said Paul had to be blinded in order to see the light.

Two Anonymous Ladies

A couple of unnamed women serve as examples of life-changing grace. First, Luke 7 records Jesus having dinner at a Pharisee’s house when a woman from that town began anointing Jesus. She was so grateful for his grace she could not contain her emotions. She wept on his feet, then dried them with her hair. All we know is that she lived a sinful life. To what extent of sinfulness, we are not told. She may have made a few mistakes, or she may have been a seasoned prostitute. Either way, she was forgiven, and her life was changed.

Second, John 8 tells of a woman supposedly caught in adultery. Adultery was punishable by stoning; however, Jesus gives a classic answer, “The one without sin can throw the first stone.” The crowd slowly leaves until only the woman and Jesus are remaining. Jesus grants her grace and sends her on her way to live a new life. Scripture speaks of many lives being changed because of grace, and we find the same to be true in more recent history.

John Newton

Perhaps one of the most famous illustrations of a life being recalculated by grace is that of John Newton. Newton is the writer of Amazing Grace.

After becoming established as a seaman, Newton entered the slave trade. He made many voyages with people as his cargo. Somewhere along the way, he heard of Christ and His offer of forgiveness. He became a Christian, but it took ten years for him to completely realize the horridness of human trafficking. We like to think his transformation happened overnight, but it took a few years for the Lord to form Newton’s heart. Keep in mind Christians in Newton’s day did not believe there was anything wrong with slavery. The Lord changed John Newton’s heart, his life, and used him to pin a familiar hymn.

Recalculating can take time.

Like Newton, it may take you and me a little time to get back on track. We start going in the right direction only to make another wrong turn. It happens, so don’t give up. Grace will recalculate your life once more.

It doesn’t matter how many wrong turns we’ve taken. What matters is going in the right direction now. The wrong turns are in the past, and we must leave them there. Our attention needs to be given to following the right directions when we are on the right path.

Acting

Remember to allow grace to change your direction the next time you make a wrong turn.

 

 

Grace is Enough

God said no. Three requests were made for God to remove a thorn from Paul’s flesh, but each was met with a no. “My grace is all you need,” the Lord told Paul. “My power works best in weakness.”

Are you struggling today?

Life is filled with struggles. Everyone struggles with something, and I don’t know of anyone who enjoys struggling. Our struggles are hard. They cause stress, overwhelming feelings, and anxiety. It seems struggle has a way to latch onto our weaknesses and pull with all its might. Struggle is real, and the Bible has some encouragement for us.

You and I may be struggling with several difficulties today. It could be a physical disability daily. You may be struggling financially. You are out of work, and you are having trouble finding a job. Our struggle may be watching a loved one make mistake after mistake. As we struggle, the Lord assures us, “My grace is all you need. My power is made perfect in weakness.”

God’s grace is enough in our struggles.

Paul was no stranger to struggles. He had been imprisoned, shipwrecked, beaten, and had to spend a day and night in the open sea. He shares his struggles with us, and in 2 Corinthians 12:7, he tells us he has a thorn in his flesh, but he does not reveal the source of the thorn.

There is much discussion surrounding the source of Paul’s thorn. Some scholars believe it was a visual impairment caused either by malaria or his conversion experience in Acts 9. Other scholars believe it was Paul’s past. The fact he could not forget his mistakes from the years gone by.

A better explanation is the source of Paul’s thorn was intentionally not disclosed. He knew everyone struggles with something, so Paul chose not to give us the detailed source of his thorn. One person may struggle with a physical disability, while another person struggles with a cognitive challenge. A third person may have difficulty forgetting his or her past. No matter the source of our struggle, the Bible’s encouragement to us is the same.

2 Corinthians 12 says Paul asked the Lord to take the thorn away, but God answered, “My grace is sufficient in your weaknesses.”

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“My grace is all you need,” the Lord says. Through his grace he strengthens us when we are weak. Through his grace he helps us with that physical disability or cognitive challenge present in life. Through his grace he wipes away yesterday’s mistakes and helps us not focus on them. His grace is all we need.

When you and I struggle, the Lord helps us through his grace. Because of the Lord’s grace, our struggles cannot prevent us from doing some amazing work.

Because of grace, our struggles can’t prevent us from doing some amazing work.

God’s grace enabled Paul to overcome barriers and do some amazing work. He authored several New Testament books, started many churches, and introduced countless people to the Lord’s grace.

God’s grace will enable you and I to overcome barriers and accomplish the purpose for which we have been called.

Acting

What is God calling you to do? Allow his grace to help you overcome struggles to accomplish your purpose.

 

 

3 Keys to Remember when Others Judge you

Have you been unfairly judged by others, or maybe even yourself? Here are 3 points to remember.

It was time to choose a new leader. The current king’s reign was coming to an end, so Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. This was a secret mission since Saul was still on the throne, so Samuel was to anoint the future king at a private event.

Jesse’s family was invited to the dinner. As the family entered, Samuel took one look at Eliab, and thought, “Surely this is the next king. His credentials say he’s qualified.” The Lord told Samuel it wasn’t Eliab, nor was it any of Jesse’s sons who were at the dinner.

Samuel discovered the one the Lord had in mind was not even at the dinner. He was still in the field tending the sheep; he was the youngest, and no one even considered it important for him to be at the dinner. He had to stay behind caring for the sheep.

They sent for the young man, and when he arrived, Samuel was instructed to rise and anoint him. For he would become the next king of Israel.

Substitute a few details, and we see this scene played out in modern times. Resumes and credentials are heavily weighed, while character is a secondary consideration.

We naturally want to place a higher value on things we can see rather than things we cannot see. We value credentials, appearance, and accomplishments because we can see them, but a person’s heart may be a little harder to see so we don’t spend as much time there. The Bible tells us there is a better way; in fact, we are taking an upside-down approach.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height. For I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Bible suggests we put the heart first in our evaluation of others. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world in which this does not always happen. You and I may be evaluated unfairly; we may even judge ourselves unfairly. When this happens, here are 3 points of encouragement to remember.

1. God sees your heart.

God knows you and me. The Lord knows us better than anyone else, and he sees what is genuinely in our hearts.

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord looks at the heart.”
  • “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards according to what their actions deserve,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 17:9-10.
  • 1 Chronicles 28:9 advises, “…learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him, but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”

God knows our ideas and motives. He knows what drives us. When others negatively judge us for making decisions, the Lord knows why we made those decisions. The Lord knows our hearts, and he does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

2. God sees our potential.

No one thought David would be the next king. He was not even at the dinner. The family left him behind to care for the sheep. Samuel, Jesse, or no one else realized David’s potential. I wonder if David even realized his own potential. Perhaps the only one who knew what was possible was God.

We have a tendency not to recognize our own abilities. We want to go after that goal, but we don’t think we have what it takes.

You and I desire to accomplish goals, yet we say to ourselves, “I can’t.” We do not recognize our own potential.

God knows our potential though, and if he’s put the goal in our heart, we can trust him to get us there. No one realize David’s potency until he beat Goliath. No one may recognize our potential until you and I accomplish a goal. When you judge yourself unfairly, remember God does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

3. God will prepare you for the next stage.

For the most part, I don’t like clichés, but this one fits. God does not call the equipped; he equips the called. You and I are qualified for the first stage of a project; however, we look down the road four or five stages and convince ourselves we are not qualified, so we do not allow ourselves to act.

We are not the only ones who have ever struggled here. Moses and Jeremiah did, and the Lord responded by saying, “I will give you the qualifications.”

  • In Exodus 4:10-12, “Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been and I’m not now even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue tied and my words get tangled.’ Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go. I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct in what to say.”
  • Jeremiah 1:6-8 says, “O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, “I can’t speak for you. I’m too young.’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say I’m too young for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you and don’t be afraid of the people. For I will be with you and protect you, I, the Lord, have spoken.”

God qualified Moses and Jeremiah, and he will qualify you and I for what he has called us to do.

Many stages of education and training are required to be a doctor, but if God has called you to be a doctor, he’ll get you through the stages. It takes several steps to be a teacher, but if the Lord has given you the desire to teach, he’ll guide you in taking those steps. God qualifies us so we can be in the place he wants us. When you are unfairly told you’ll never be able to accomplish your goal, remember God does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

Acting

What desire has the Lord given you? Make a list of steps you can take toward accomplishing your goal. Start taking those steps, and remember as you go, while the world may judge unfairly, the Lord does not judge unfairly. He sees your heart, knows your potential, and will guide you through the stages to your goal. God is fair and just in all he does.

Know a friend who may benefit from this post? Please share it with him or her.

 

 

Jesus Can Take the Wheel

“Save me from this road I’m on. Jesus, take the wheel.”

Song lyrics have the power to cut right to our heart, and the Bible’s message of forgiveness can be place in lyrics without us realizing we are hearing it. Here is one such song.

BUY Jesus, Take the Wheel at Amazon

Jesus, Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood reminds us it is never too late for a fresh start. Forgiveness is always there for us. The Lord is not going to run out of grace. A new start is always offered to us.

Perhaps it’s time for a new start. This may be the first time, or it may be fresh start number 100; there is no limit to the number of fresh starts you and I can make. Love is patient and kind. It keeps no record of wrongdoing, so God is patient and kind. He keeps no record of wrongdoing.

The start number is not important. Our past is back there, and we must leave it. Now is what matters, that we make this the start which sticks. Today’s choices will chart tomorrow’s course and determine our destination.

The young lady in the song prayed, “Jesus, take the wheel. Take it from my hand. I can’t do this on my own. Save me from this road I’m on.” If this is you crying out, God promises he will.

5 Reasons to Look Through Appearance to the Heart

What would happen if we looked through appearance to the heart? Here are 5 improvements we would see.

We live in a culture which places a high premium on appearance. An individual is judged on his or her looks or popularity. Leaders and potential spouses are chosen based on looks. Online dating apps use a single photo as the first layer of filtering. If someone doesn’t like your photo, they scroll to the next person. Many decisions are based on appearance.

A guy asks a girl to go on a date based on her appearance. An interview candidate receives points based on his appearance. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” may be true, but I believe there is a better way. You see, one picture cannot tell a whole story.

What would happen if society readjusted our focus from the person’s appearance to the person’s heart? What would happen if we concentrated on a potential spouse’s personality and emotions rather than looks? What would happen if appearance was not considered in choosing a leader? Here are 5 improvements we would see.

1. There would be a rise in self-esteem.

As a society, we would stop beating ourselves up because we were not pretty enough. We would stop comparing ourselves to others’ social media appearance. Self-esteem would rise as we would be more confident in ourselves.

2. New friendships would be cultivated.

We would not be turned off by someone’s outward appearance; rather, we would take time to get to know our neighbor and may discover he is a cool person.

3. Marriages would last longer.

Psychologists state the key to a long and happy marriage is a deep emotional connection. While dating, if more time was spent connecting emotionally, the relationship would be built on a better foundation.

4. Society would be more at peace.

An increase in self-confidence and happier relationships would bring more peace to the world. Bullies would have friends so they would not feel the need to bully. The color of our skin would no longer cause friction. Peace would result as we looked through appearance to the heart.

5. God’s leaders would excel.

Leaders chosen on character without any consideration to appearance would result in the most competent leader always being chosen. The heart would outweigh the outward ability to capture our attention, be entertaining, or the life of the party.

Acting

Will you join me in setting a goal to pay less attention to appearance and more attention to heart? How do you believe making this shift would change our culture?