My One-Two Punch for Victory

Today had a tough start.

I forgot how Satan was out to defeat me, to use my weakness as a springboard to create a stronghold of failure.

But then, by God's grace, I remembered 2 Corinthians 12:9:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Yes. Satan tries to master my weaknesses, but I serve a powerful Master who manifests His own perfect strength in and through my weaknesses ... for His glory.

More strength for today:

"In the day when I cried out, you answered me, 
and made me bold with strength in my soul" (Psalm 138:3).

"I can do all things through Christ
who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

I've got a sure one-two punch for victory!


7 Ways to Honor Mom (or Dad)

I'm thinking about Mom today. I just saw her this past week, on the other side of the continent. It was hard to leave, never knowing if I'll see her again. But I rejoiced in the opportunity.

Although I'm focusing on my Mom todaysince Daddy is in heaventhe truth is, I'm really thinking

about parents in general.

Many years ago, I learned one way to honor God:  honoring my parents. Honoring the parents the Lord gave us is a sign of respect for them but also obedience to the Lord.

The honor of obedience as children (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2) should flow into mature respect as adults (Deuteronomy 5:16: Ephesians 6:2).

In some cases, it may be difficult to obey and tough to honor. Parents are human with their own set of weaknesses and strengths. There will always be hard cases and "impossible" people, and it's especially hard when that's in our own homes. Dealing with that could fill another post.

But in general, there are many ways to honor our parents, and I want to consider seven of them today.

1. Give Respect

Respect is a hard sell sometimes. Yet the scriptures show God expects us to respect all authorities (Romans 13:7b; Leviticus 19:32). We are to regard their God-given position.

Honoring parents is one of the most overlooked of the Ten Commandments, but Jesus repeated the Old Testament command to honor parents (Matthew 15:4a).

I learned about respect for authority as a young girl: to respect my teachers even if they were harsh, to respect the police officer even if he was foul-mouthed. Respect for position is not the same thing as admiration. It is simply giving honor where honor is due.

Part of that respect is speaking well of our parents both in private and publicly, rather than cursing themrunning them down (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9).

Even if we have a dysfunctional parent, we can still respect their authority and appeal to that authority for change (after much prayer and in a spirit of humility).

If your parent has passed on, consider if there is still some way to honor their memory.

Do you respect your mom (or dad)? If not, isn't that an issue to take up with the Lord?

2. Show Esteem

To esteem is to combine respect with admiration, to recognize and declare value.

We can respect a parent and still not admire them, but when we do find things to admire, we should express admiration.

I knew a woman whose dad was an alcoholic. She respected him, even though she didn't admire his lifestyle. But she prayed, asking God to show her some element in her dad's life that was praiseworthy.

God opened her eyes to her dad's tender heart of compassion. Because he so often felt out of control, he understood others caught in the trap of addiction. The woman was touched to watch her dad, in his sober moments, reaching out to encourage the down-and-out. She expressed high esteem for that quality in him. And he responded in brokenness and love.

Ask the Lord to help you "see" the qualities in your parent worth esteeming.

3. Express Kindness

Most parents experience the hard knocks of life and some develop a hard shell to protect themselves. One way to break through the shell and gain their trust is to express kindness.

Kindness is a given for the believer. God's children are to "put on" kindness regularly (Colossians 3:12), and the Spirit of God enables us to be kind (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul said, "Be kind to one another...." (Ephesians 4:32a), and there's no better proving ground for kindness than in the family.

How can you show your mom (or dad) kindness today in a way that will touch their heart? 

4. Practice Forgiveness

The other half of Ephesians 4:32 includes these words: "...forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

This is a tough one for many adult children. Parents fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and need the grace of God to transform their lives . . . just like their children. (Parents fall short of their own expectations, too, not just their offspring's' expectations.)

Deep wounds in the home linger like old, unsightly baggage. They threaten to destroy relationships.

But Christians are not left without hope. We learn forgiveness from the Savior who forgave us on the cross and continues to forgive (Luke 23:34a). He is our model of forgiving grace. We CAN forgive parents for hurting and wounding usin Christ. 

Forgiveness does not take hurts lightly or excuse them. Forgivenessyielding to the Lord our pain, bitterness and angerhands over hurts to the Lord, the righteous Judge, who handles all offenses in His own time and way.

Do you need to forgive your mom (or dad)? Can you trust the Lord to enable that?

5. Seek Wisdom

It's common today for grown children to proudly reject their parent's wisdom, but it's foolish when they do. Even the most ungodly of parents can teach their children practical wisdom in some area of life.

The Bible pairs youth with foolishness and age with wisdom (Job 12:12; Proverbs 20:29) for a good reason. They have walked the path and experienced many of the potholes! In general, parents have learned a thing or two, and a wise adult child will intentionally seek out this knowledge and apply it.

When facing a big decision, seek your mom (or dad's) wisdomeven if you decide, ultimately, not to "receive" it as your own wisdom.

Think about what your mom (or dad) has been through. Is there some question you might ask to gain wisdom for your own life? 

6. Offer Support

There are many ways to offer a parent support that have nothing to do with finances.

For one, we can let them know we still "see" them. They haven't become invisible. There's nothing more troubling to the elderly than being older and isolatedalone and lonely. The psalmist expressed this in terms of feeling "forsaken" (Psalm 71:9).

The adult child can assure parents of ongoing love, concern and emotional support. Healthy support includes encouraging words and actions. Perhaps an occasional note or letter. A phone call. An encouraging text message.

"Be there" for them as they become feeble. Understand how devastating their loss of independence can be and allow them to do as much as they are able to do. Be their "backup system."

Validate their emotions, even if you can't understand them. Listen with compassioneven if they tell the same story for the umpteenth time.

If parents are believers, encourage them to "bear fruit" in their old age (Psalm 92:14). One of the most godly women I know was a fervent prayer soldier. Another mentored younger women as long as she could. Consider if there's some way to help them be more "fruitful" in ministry.

Where does your mom (or dad) need your emotional support? How can you be creative and offer it in practical ways?

7. Provide Assistance

In 1 Timothy 5:3-8, Paul reminds Timothy to honor widows in the local church. He addresses two principles regarding provision. Children are to provide a "return" to parents and family members are to "provide" for members of the household.

The overarching principle is this: Don't let a family member struggle with needed provisions. That doesn't mean we cater to every want and whim, or indulge foolish appetites. We don't want to contribute to foolish choices. But we do come alongside to figure out how we might help with legitimate needs.

We may have limited resources ourselves, but there is always something we can share, some way we can assist in our loved one's care.

Think about your mom (or dad). Is there some way you can provide assistance today? Do you need to ask some questions to see where the real needs lie?

Honoring our parents is our duty, but it can also be our delight as we ask the Lord for His heart of compassion and begin to see Mom and Dad through His eyes.

If you are estranged from your parent, the Lord
 can change that in an instant, or over time. 
But in the meantime, is there another "mom" or "dad" 
who has influenced your life and nourished your growth? 
Don't forget to honor them too!


Trifling with Eternity

I had a great discussion with a friend after church about 1 John 3:2-3. 

Jesus will return...
 "and everyone who has this hope in Him 
purifies himself just as He is pure" (HCSB).

I grieved over a friend who is a believer who has absolutely no desire to break sinful habits and become more like Christ.
Shouldn't knowing Jesus will return motivate us to evaluate our hearts, root out sinful thoughts/habits, and desire to do (in the power of the Spirit) what He wants every day? 
I'm not talking about legalism, but rather grace-filled obedience.
None of us is perfect. 
We need God's mercy every day. 
But I can't fathom people calling Jesus "Lord" and then absolutely not caring about growing to be more like Him. 
We all are "prone to wander." 
That's why. . . 

My heart cry for myself, and for all my Christ-follower family and friends, is that we will truly live for Him and ENCOURAGE each other to live in light of His coming. (Titus 2:13)
The Bible teaches His return is imminent.... the time could be very short.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of trifling with eternity.
The same God who saved us wants to purify us. And I want to cooperate.
Don't you?
Graphic adapted courtesy of cohdra at Morguefile.


Building a "Zone" around Your Marriage

The media practically devoured Vice Present Mike Pence for his admission (in a 2002 piece for The Hill) that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and for other "boundary"-type choices.

Once again, the left was quick to criticize Pence and his wife Karen for their Christian choices.
Butfind this couple refreshing. In an anything-goes era, it is not so much their conservative, middle-America values that shine out, but rather their evangelical Christian discernment.

The Vice President is not a sexist, as the left claims. I'm sure he will deal with meetings with top female leaders (like England's Theresa May or Germany's Angela Merkel) in God-honoring ways.

He and his wife are not fools. They are concerned about integrity.

This power couple's overall commitment to each other and desire to protect that relationship should be applauded, not decried. 

Their "gut check" relationship protection is something to be admired, and it's not really that different from most conservative Christians who care about guarding their hearts and homes from harmful, even divisive distractions and temptation.

The scriptures are clear about the importance of "watching" out for temptation.
  • "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
  • "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
  • "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
The heart connection between Mike and Karen Pence is genuine and exemplary. She is his subtle but influential partner, valued ally and consistent prayer warrior.

But back to their decision to not have Mike Pence meet alone with other womenI get that.

Pence, again in his interview with The Hill, said their decision is akin to "building a zone around your marriage." In this wicked culture, there are many opportunities for temptation to creep in, and appearances can be deadly as well. 

The practice of careful public boundaries has gone out of fashion with some, but it's still a valid choice.

My husband, a pastor for many years, would not counsel any female without his study door open and the church secretary at her desk in the adjacent room.

This was not only for his protection against possible false accusations, but also for the counselee's freedom. My husband did not want to give any "opportunity" for the enemy to destroy what was meant to be a positive counseling experience.

In reading about Karen Pence, I discovered she was married once, quite young. They grew apart, her former husband said, as he spent long hours at work. Perhaps this failed marriage is one reason Karen Pence is so committed to staying near the Vice President. Perhaps they know by building a "zone" around their marriage, they will actually experience greater freedom to serve others.

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a young bride came from a wise elderly woman in my husband's church:

"Guard your marriage," she said. 
"The enemy is real, and he would love to destroy your home."

For some people, that boundarythat zonemight be called a "hedge of protection." 
  • It presupposes there is something of value worth protecting. 
  • There's a desire to protect marriage from perceived or real threats--and that could take on many forms, like the "other woman/other man" or even pornography. 
  • Within this protection there is a greater sense of relational freedom centered in trust, not a lot of "what-ifs." 
  • It includes the concept of becoming accountability partners. (Even if both partners are not willing to build in protective boundaries, God can bless the efforts of the spouse who does.)
If you are married, recognize its value. Be sure to build strong boundarieshedges of protectionin your marriage. If you are not married, commit to protecting others' marriages. Don't allow yourself to become the "other."

Marriage is a portrait of Jesus' relationship with His church, 
and as such it is precious and valuable, well worth guarding.

I think it's up to Christians to determine what that "guarding" looks like as a couple. For the Vice President and his loyal wife, that means clear boundaries.

  - Graphic, adapted from Leylandii Hedge, Evergreen Hedging.


No Bunnies Died for Me

It's almost Easter (or what I prefer to call "Resurrection Day").

And everywhere I look, I see bunnies. Chicks. Chocolate eggs and jelly beans. 

But so few lambs. 

I enter into the secularized fun of the season. Pinterest is full of ideas for a colorful holiday. I color eggs and create lovely spring bouquets and wreaths.

But once you know the real story, everything else misses the mark.

This special week is all about a perfect Lamb.

It's about Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), the prophesied Savior, the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

The Old Testament prophesied the coming of this Messiah, the anointed One and our "guilt offering" (Isaiah 53:10). The perfect Savior would provide "atonement"--reconciliation between God and man (Romans 5:10-11; Hebrews 2:17; 1 Peter 2:24). He who knew no sin would "be sin" on our behalf to bring us to God (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21; Galatians 1:4).

I remember the first time I fully understood the significance of the Jewish Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:11-13) and the feast of the Passover. This Jewish celebration commemorated the Israelites' deliverance from bondage. The applying of the blood of the Passover lamb to the doorposts of the Israelites' houses, which was to protect them from destruction by the angel of death, was a meaningful picture of the coming Messiah's work as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7b).

Later, the Jewish priests sacrificed innocent lambs daily in the Temple in Jerusalem to cover the people's sins until the promised Lamb of God arrived on the scene (Exodus 29:38-42). That Lamb would be led to the slaughter to redeem or ransom His people (Isaiah 53:7; Jeremiah 11:19; 1 Timothy 2:6). In other words, the chosen Lamb would deliver His people from bondage to sin by paying the ultimate price, His own death for us.

When Jesus was ready to begin His ministry, John the Baptist declared Him the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When our Lord died, His blood "covered" those for whom He died--all who believe (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:23-25a). There is no more "spiritual death" for those who trust in His once-and-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-12).

I know this whole concept bothers some people.

As a child, I wanted nothing to do with this "bloody sacrifice." I thought God too cruel to demand it. I thought I should be able to somehow "earn" my way into acceptance with Him.

It took me many years to clearly see the ugliness of sin that separated me from a holy God (Romans 3:23; 6:23), that His perfect provision for my soul required a blood sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11). I had to understand the depths of my Father's love (1 John 4:10).

As the apostle Peter explained,
"...it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God" (1 Peter 1:18-21, NIV).
No bunnies died for me. Only the perfect Lamb.
No bunnies were buried in a borrowed tomb for three days, and then raised from the dead to release me from my darkness and bondage to sin. No bunnies ever gave me eternal life. Only Jesus did these things (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Only the perfect Lamb.

The Lamb who became my Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

He is our worthy Redeemer (Revelation 5:9), and I will thank and praise Him forever.

"Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us 
to share in the inheritance of the saints 
(God's people) in the Light. 
For He has rescued us and has drawn us to Himself 
from the dominion of darkness, 
and has transferred us 
to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 
in whom we have redemption 
[because of His sacrifice, resulting in]
the forgiveness of our sins
[and the cancellation of sins' penalty" 
(Colossians 1:12-14, Amplified).


Let's Not Sanitize the Cross

"A real Christian is known not by the cross he wears," Steve Lawson said, "but by the cross he bears."

I have three crosses in my jewelry box. My favorite is a black cross with a silver "X" across the cross bars. It reminds me Jesus cancelled out the ugliness of my sin, and I bear the consequences of my sin no more.

I don't wear my jewelry crosses often, but when I do, I always reflect on why the cross is so important. It's a reflection of the One who loved me enough to die for me, and also a reminder there is a "cross" Jesus expects me to carry as His disciple.

The world sees this "symbol" of Christianity without giving it much thoughtexcept for those in other religions who try to stamp out the "people of the cross."

But go back some 2,000 years ago and a cross made everyone shudder!

It was a means of execution, an ugly and repulsive symbol of death. Victims suffered during this method of capital punishment for days, eventually dying from exhaustion and asphyxiation. 

So why is the cross such a sign of faith today? 

Christ-followers understand the cross, which was so full of meaning for Christians, is the powerful first chapter of the story of what Jesus did and continues to do for us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 10:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23Colossians 3:1-4).
  • Chapter 1: the CROSS; the death of Christ to atone for the sins of mankind
  • Chapter 2: the RESURRECTION; the empty tomb
  • Chapter 3: the RETURN. Jesus coming back for His own so they can live with Him in eternity.
Without the cross, there isn't a gospel story. 

All have sinned and the soul that sins, the Bible says, only deserves death; but God demonstrated His love toward us in the death of His Son on the cross as our holy substitute (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4b; Romans 5:8). 

Remove the message of the cross from Christian theology and you have nothing left but an empty shell. A joyless, powerless religion.

In today's culture, Christians often reject uncomfortable topics like the sacrifice of the cross, preferring to focus on the love of Jesus. But the cross is crucial to our faith. 

People might say, "Oh, I prayed the sinner's prayer." But the sinner's prayer isn't the true basis for our salvation. There will be many "professing" Christians who never actually trusted Christ for salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). They trusted works, good feelings about God, positive thinking and countless other substitutes for God's provision.

Salvation is not about our works or even our "Christianized thoughts." It's all about what Jesus accomplished for us in paying the penalty for sin. There is no forgiveness, the scriptures say, without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). 
Bloodless Christianity is fake Christianity.
Sadly, I've noticed Christians, in the busyness of ministry, sometimes forget the power of the cross and the efficacy of the blood of the spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:18-19). 

If you are a Christ-follower:
  • Do you recognize how estranged from God and in rebellion to Him you were before He rescued you? 
  • Do you understand the power of the gospel, not just for salvation, but for victorious daily living?
I have to admit, sometimes I act just like those who never experienced the power of the cross. I resort to old "works living" and lose the joy of trusting the Lord moment-by-moment for His plans and His strength.

But, praise God, there is power in the blood of Jesus. Remember the old hymn?

Would you be free from your burden of sin? 
There's power in the blood, power in the blood. 
Would you o'er evil a victory win? 
There's wonderful power in the blood. *
It's almost Good Friday ... a time:
  • To pause and reflect,
  • To remember, and 
  • To praise God with gratitude.
"Every time you see a cross," Dr. Charles Stanley wrote, "remember what it really was."

Let's not "sanitize" the cross. 

And remember too: unlike others who were crucified, Jesus was not a "victim" of the cross. 

While we were "yet sinners," Jesus chose to die for us (Romans 5:8). Our Lord was willing to endure the horrors of the cross, despising (disregarding) the shame" for our salvation (Hebrews 12:2; John 15:13). Five times in John 10:10-18, we learn Jesus willingly gave Himself up to the cross for our salvation. In the prophecy of the Messiah in Psalm 40, we "hear" Christ saying He delighted to do His Father's will (Psalm 40:7-8).

Your redemption was birthed in His pain 
so your new birth could abide in His joy.

Oh, I have a "cross" to bear in this life, I need to put to death my own plans and desires and commit my life fully to my Lord (Luke 9:23; 14:27). 

But my "cross" is nothing compared to the cross my Savior bore. It had eternal consequences for all humanity.

"Thank Jesus that He was willing to be crucified," Stanley wrote, "so the Father could forgive you of sin." 

Let's do that right now:

Lord Jesus, give me a fresh vision of the cross. 
Help me see it from the Father's eyes. 
Thank you, Father God. 
Thank you, Jesus.

- Charles Stanley Quotes from 
* Hymn: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/1009 


Satan's False Premises and Promises

Like slick, conniving snake oil salesmen of days gone by, modern-day sales reps and advertisements
can also offer too-good-to-be-true promises.

Satan was the original snake oil salesman, promising Eve one thing, but giving her quite another (Genesis 3:1-6). 

Though his words were partially true, he meant something entirely different. His premise was selfish and a terrible reflection on God. And the devil's promise was false too.

Here are some EXAMPLES of how our enemy works:
  1. He uses lies to blind the spiritual eyes of people so they will not understand the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he hinders our gospel witness to them (Matthew 13:19).
  2. He keeps people in bondage to sin (the "gods" we set up in our lives) so they will not respond to the Lord (Galatians 4:8).
  3. He lies about and slanders God, casting doubt on His words, and ultimately, His goodness (Genesis 3:4-5).
  4. He uses "sons of the evil one" (even "fake" Christians) to deceive people and create disunity in the Body of Christ (Matthew 13:38-39; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). 
  5. He encourages us to believe false doctrines (lies) and compromise biblical theology (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
  6. Our adversary prowls, cleverly using our weaknesses (and even strengths) to set us up for ultimate failure and destruction (1 Peter 5:6-8). 
  7. He tempts us to deceitfully impress people, rather than live authentically for the Lord (Acts 5:3; John 8:44).
  8. The evil one outright tempts us to do wicked things (Matthew 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), because he's a destroyer of all that is good and holy.
  9. He slanders Christians before the Lord (Revelation 12:10), especially after he "sifts" us to see how committed we are, and we give in to temptation (Luke 22:31).
  10. He uses emotional turmoilespecially discouragement, doubt, depression and despairto attempt to cripple us (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
  11. He instigates persecution for our faith and godliness (Revelation 2:10).
  12. He tries to confuse our minds and steer us away from the simplicity of Christ and power of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11;3).
  13. He subtly suggests we ignore (or even thwart) what God desires to do (Matthew 16:21-23).
  14. He promises thrills outside God-given boundaries for sexual intimacy (2 Timothy 2:20-211 Corinthians 7:5).
  15. Our enemy constantly fights our progress in Christ (Ephesians 6:12). He attempts to rob Christians of joy, peace, happiness, purpose and a host of other things the Lord wants to bless believers with in their walk with Christ. 
At the base of all his other agendas, Satan wants us to worship and serve anything and anyone other than our Father in heaven, and to believe anything other than the pure Word of God. 

He wants us to find satisfaction in things other than what God provides for us. He lures us to value anything or anyone more than Christ. 

When we succumb to our enemy's temptation to yield to misplacedeven addictivedesires, we will likely end up broken or damaged, maybe even destroyed.
Basically, the enemy uses false premises and promises to make us FUNCTIONING IDOLATERS.
Dr. Tim Keller wrote:

"Sin isn't only doing bad things, 
it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. 
Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, 
even a very good thing, more than on God. 
Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. 
Sin is primarily idolatry."

Beyond Satan's lies, he uses other means in his attempts to destroy us. He is a murderer (John 8:44). He uses fleshly afflictions and diseases to harass us and try to shut down our effectiveness (Job 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:7). And Satan tempts believers to find quick fixesunbiblical answersfor their problems. Then he robs them of joy, peace, happiness, purpose and a host of other things God has for His children.

So how are we to deal with Satan's agenda to conquer us?

We must never take Satan or his agenda to destroy us lightly. 
What lies of the enemy are you believing today? What are the false premises and promises that may have ensnared you and hindered your worship and service for the Lord?


How to Cultivate Unfading Beauty

My mom used to say, "Pretty is as pretty does." Boy, is that true!

Some of the prettiest women in the world don't behave attractively (and vice versa).

For me, "pretty" isn't the issue. 
It's the condition of a person's HEART.

I know some people the world might reject who have the most beautiful souls.

A Powerful Scripture about Beauty:

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment,
such as elaborate hairstyles
and the wearing of gold jewelry
or fine clothes.
Rather, it should be that of your inner self
the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Yes, beauty does fadephysical beauty. But spiritual beauty becomes more glorious and attractive as a person grows in love and grace. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).

Writer and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has often said she wants to grow to be a wise old woman. She walks in wisdom as a child of light, living out what is "good and right and true" (Ephesians 5:8b).

What I have noticed is, the wiser she becomes, the more beautiful she appears. 

Living in the fear of God, with respect for Him and His word that causes us to walk in wisdom, is indeed the best "beauty treatment" any woman can enjoy.

Would you say you have a beautiful soul? What would God say?


Good Intentions Are Not Enough

The Lord spoke to me through a teabag tag.

I read my Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tag and mulled over the words:

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." ~ Henry Ford

Now Ford didn't sit back, "intending." He got busy and built an automotive empire that earned him a place in industrial history. What adult in America does not know the name "Ford"?

But I believe my Father God doesn't want me to focus on building a reputation for myself.

Oh, he wants me to have a good reputation. "A good name is to be more desired than wealth..." (Proverbs 22:1a). We are to do our best to "maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men" (Acts 24:16). Paul recommended Christian leaders have "a good reputation with those outside the church" (1 Timothy 3:7). No Christian should bring reproach on the name of Christ by bad behavior.

But for the Christian, it shouldn't stop there.

I want to build a reputation for the Lord. 
Not that He needs it, but that it is His due.

I want to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9-10), and I want to magnify His name (Psalm 34:3). God will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). Our goal must be to bring Him glory in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).

The funny thing is, God honors those who honor him (1 Samuel 2:30b). But how many of us stop to think about how we can honor God?

I say I want to do that. I talk about it all the time. I intend to honor God. But I can't just think and talk about it. I must take action.

Deciding to do is not the same as actually doing.

Doing is often linked to obedience.

I am grateful I learned obedience to the Lord in a revival ministry, Life Action, in the early 1970s. By God's grace I am still taking action to please the Lord. (But sometimes I need a reminder to be more intentional - like that teabag tag!)

If I want to glorify God, I will want to: 
  • Obey Him,
  • Serve Him (with joy),
  • Demonstrate Christ-like love
  • Stand up for righteousness in the culture, and
  • Bring Him honor and glory in all I do.
Good intentions are not enough. 

I have to go beyond intentions to commitment, and then act on those commitments in daily choices.

What are some of the choices you will make today to bring glory to the Lord?


Praying for the President's Wife

I have been praying for the President, because I believe that is biblicalalways have (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

But today I am also praying for President Trump's wife, just as I prayed for every President's wife. I remember how Michele was viciously called names. I hated that. Now it's Melania's turn, apparently.

We simply have little respect and grace these days.

Will you join me in prayer for Melania?

I am praying she knows Jesus (in other words, that she is not just religious), and if she doesn't know Him personally, she will come to know Him soon. That is the most important thing to me.
  • Out of that, I would pray for godly purity, strength, integrity, wisdom and kindness to reign in Melania's life.
  • I am praying for her as she mothers her son, and as a wifethat she will support the President and cultivate respect for him. 
  • This high calling has a tough learning curve. I am praying Melania will be humble and teachable, and especially receptive to the Word of God during these tough days. 
  • I am praying she will be a woman who models love to this nation that needs to understand what love looks like on so many levels these days. 
There are no perfect people. There is no perfect President or President's wife. So we must pray for our leaders.

Franklin Graham wrote in 2014:
"Prayer is the Christian's greatest weapon in a world that seems to be coming apart around us."
We need to pray for our leaders and their families and stop shredding them apart.

Graphic of Melania Trump from wikipedia.


Uncommon Love

Valentine's Day our hearts will turn to love, especially romantic love, but there is another love that defines and motivates me today.

I call it "Uncommon Love."

I made hopeful stabs at this kind of love for yearssacrificial and selfless lovebut the truth is, I could not live out this true kind of love until I knew the love of the Lord for me and in me.

"This is love: not that we loved God, 
but that he loved us and sent his Son 
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

I learned all my efforts to love selflessly would never obligate God to love me back. I am flawed in countless ways, and particularly in my ability to love wisely and well.

But then I read 1 John 4:19.
Because the Lord first loved me, I am able to express uncommon love.
That understanding changed everything!

It is the Lord's effectual love and work in me that enables me to conform to Christ and love as He would, for God is love (1 John 4:16b). He defines and is the pattern for love.

As Christians, God's love is engraved on our souls.

And God wants to perfect His love in us. He wants to direct our hearts to His kind of love (2 Thessalonians 3:5) and causes us to express that love in practical, helpful ways in the church especially, but also to others throughout the world—to those who look and act like us, and those far different.

He wants us to express love:
We must remember God loved the world so much He sent His Son to die to redeem people who were hopeless without Him (John 3:16).

Imagine such love.

That's why hatefulness—any lack of love toward a brother or sistershows we do not truly KNOW or LOVE the Lord of the Bible (1 John 4:19-21). In fact, John says, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar" (4:20).

I've thought a lot about love recently. Voices in the culture demand we "love" in many ways, often in hateful tones (great hypocrisy). Even within the church, there seems to be a disconnect about what loving God-loving others looks like.

We get in our holy huddles and clutch our material possessions without compassion; we only love in word and speech—not in action and truthwhen God calls us to "lay down our lives" for those He loves (1 John 3:17-18). He wants us to love each other as He has loved us, modeling His love to a watching world (John 13:34-35).

I believe love must be connected to the redeeming, sanctifying, heart-changing Gospel, or it is not true love. Anything less, while admirable, may alter culture temporarily or alleviate some stressful situations, but is it the transforming love that comes from a change of heart and change of mind?

There is so much to unpack in 1 John 4so much that is misunderstood by our culture. And I will admit I am a toddler when it comes to expressing godly, agape love.

But this I know: the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (4:14), and it is only by acknowledging our need of Jesus and His righteousness, and allowing the Spirit of God to transform us, that we are made holy and truly loving in the Son.

And it is this holy love from God in usnot the love of religion or even the syrupy, politically correct "love" of the God we think the Bible describesthat gives us "confidence on the day of judgment" (4:17) and best motivates us to love others and meet their needs.

I still have much to learn about loving others in our hurting world with uncommon love. And I have even more to learn about this amazing God who love us firstthe most incredible love of all.


The "What If"s of Parental Worry

Are the "what if"s of parenting crippling you?

I spoke with a young mom recently who was almost paranoid over the many "what if"s of motherhood. I grieved inwardly as I watched and heard her beat herself up over her mothering skills when she is such a fantastic parent!

The episode reminded me of a chapter in Cindi McMenamin's book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom.

Cindy wrote about some of the same "what if"s my young friend voiced:
  • What if I'm not involved enough in their lives?
  • What if I'm holding them back?
  • What if I'm too strict?
  • What if I'm not strict enough?
  • What if my own dysfunction is rubbing off on them?
My young friend wasn't the first mom I've heard beating herself up over her parenting abilityand truth told, I did too. (That last "what if" question was a big one for me!)

The culture doesn't make it easier with unreasonable expectations from well-meaning educators and even church leaders.

True, there are some genuinely "bad moms" who make terrible choices for themselves and their children; and God can, in His grace, change them and rescue their families. But too many good and godly women are sinking under false guilt, blaming themselves when there's absolutely no need to do so.

I took after my dad, a worrierhis nickname was "Wartie," short for worry-wort. I worried about being the "perfect" wife, and later, the "perfect" mother. It was horrible, because I could never measure up to my own "perfect" standards, let alone anyone else's.

Growing up, I saw dysfunction in families around me. I didn't want that for myself, and certainly not for the husband and children I would have.

And that was a good thing. But I went about avoiding that dysfunction by creating some dysfunction of my own. And believe me, perfectionism is about as dysfunctional as a church-going Christian can get!

Cindi cites a Barna Group report (2014) that explained part of the problem. "What once was 'You can have it all' has now become 'You need to have it all.' [emphasis mine] You need to have the perfect job, the perfect husband the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect play dates and craft nights and date nights and do-it-yourself Pinterest projects and #nofilter Instagrams."

Cindi quotes a mutual friend, Stephanie Shott, who wrote, "It's pretty hard to be all and do all when you're really just overwhelmed by it all." *
The answer for all my parental worrying came when I stopped carrying a load the Lord never intended for me to carry. 
God's only expectation for me was to depend on Him, not to shoulder the load of perfection.

The verse that spoke to me most was "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me... you will find rest for your souls...  my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

For so long I was yoked to expectations. It was a relief to allow Godmy Perfect and Faithful Fatherto yoke me to Jesus. His "burden" was so much lighter than the one I constructed and carried.

The Lord took care of all my "what if"s as my boys grew through their teen years in to manhood.
  • I learned I could trust the Lord and cast all my worries and cares on Him (Psalm 55:22). 
  • Whenever I became anxious, kicking in with the worry-cycle, I could run to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). 
  • Just remembering that He is God and I am not (Psalm 46:10a) solved a lot of issues! 
Do we really believe God wants the best not only for us, but also for our children?

In a post for Crosswalk.com some time ago, Cindi wrote: "I've recently come to see how many of my fears and worries, throughout my daughter's childhood and now into her adulthood, were unfounded because I know and love a trustworthy God. Because God hears our prayers and answers them according to his infinite knowledge about what is best for our children, We don't need to waste our time worrying. 

"Praying? Of course. But worrying? Never."

Do you struggle with perfectionism? 
Are you living with regrets about parenting? 
Are you worrying... or praying? 
What would trusting God with your parenting look like?

Cindi's book is practical and will not only help you upgrade your trust in our faithful Lord, it will help you improve your parenting as you cooperate with and rest in Him.

* Stephanie Shott, The Making of a Mom


Inauguration Day - a New Beginning

Inauguration Day reflections: Someone asked where I stand on "unity" in America. I think we can be unified as Americans without having all the same experiences and even the same religious beliefs.

I personally believe we were founded as a Christian nation, but with arms open to others who do not agree in "The Land of the Free".

Americans should recognize three things: (1) God's blessings on our nation and our responsibility before Him; (2) The wisdom of the Constitution to guide our republic; and (3) Our responsibility to care for each other in love and compassion.

I am not big on rehashing the sins of our pastexcept to acknowledge and confess them. Dwelling in the past is not the way of wisdom. I believe that for all Administrations. We all need to learn from our mistakes and foolishness and seek God's wisdom to move forward effectively together.

Such unity can bring peace, even in the midst of strong disagreements. "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14). We may not always agree, but we can still be civil and try to understand other viewpoints, while holding true to our most cherished values. It's hard, but possible.

"Father God, help us."


Heart Tuning

"Come Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise."

My heart felt out of tune today. I didn't feel so blessed.

Grumpy. Tired. Frustrated. Critical.
A mess.

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love."

I needed that song. I needed to remember I am a debtor to God's grace.
He rescued me.
He is changing me.
He will never leave me.
He will accomplish His purposes in me.
And it's all because of His "sovereign grace."
I am memorizing Ephesians 1, and I was captivated this
week by these words:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us

in Christ ... he chose us in him ...
that we should be holy and blameless
before him. In love he predestined us
for adoption to himself...
according to the purpose of his will,
to the praise of his glorious grace,
with which he has blessed us
in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption ...
according to the riches of his grace,

which he lavished upon us....."
(Ephesians 1:3-8, ESV)

I needed to remember God is the origin of every blessing I enjoy. I needed to believe He can help me discover blessings even in the tough times.

It's a choice to praise Him, and it's an easy choice when I meditate on what He has done for me.
Does your heart need "tuning" too?
* Hymn lyrics to "Come, "Thou Fount of Every Blessing"