Different is good!

Different is good!

Be the one God created you to be! Be YOU! Don’t hand over your “you” to anyone! We all need you!! We aren’t supposed to be the same, but we can live in unity and purpose with our differences and glorify God

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Versus Me

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My unresolved guilt festered for nearly a decade. When we began attending a church populated by a number of adoptive and foster families, I wondered if God had hit the family reset button for us. The finances required for adoption were daunting, to say the least, but we thought we could try foster parenting and see where it took us. Our kids were excited at the prospect of having a little baby come to live with us for a while. The social worker that evaluated our family and home prior to granting us a foster license told us we were a perfect family for the task.

She knew this was going to be a part of our family’s ministry but had no idea that foster care was both penance and prayer for me. My unvoiced hope was that maybe one of the foster babies would be left with us—things like that happened once in a while, I knew—and it would be a sign that God really had forgiven me and that I was worthy to mother another child in spite of my decision to have a tubal ligation a decade earlier.

My grief in the restaurant the day Rhiannon left us was sadness at letting her go, but also a revelatory moment when I began to come to terms with the fact that I could not go back to fix the past. My regret had long anchored me to that single disobedient moment in time. My response to the remorse I felt was to beat myself up with my failure in my own wrongheaded attempt to somehow make myself right with God. I wanted so much to be able to right my wrong, to turn my “if only” into a do-over.

I felt a new wave of sorrow as I accepted the fact that there were not going to be any do-overs in this area of my life. Jesus had been waiting and working through all of this to free me from my self-punishment habit. That fresh sorrow marked the reality that I’d finally begun to surrender to God by allowing remorse to do its work in me. The Message paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 7:10 ex- plains the work of this kind of godly sorrow: “Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

I also began to discover that day how our loving God can redeem our regrets.

The Past on “Repeat”

Regret serves a training purpose in our lives. One of the first things newborns discover is that their cry creates a response from the world: warm milk, comforting arms, a dry diaper. This cause-and-effect interaction with the world teaches babies how the world works.

It doesn’t take long before we graduate to some version of the old “the dog ate my homework” dodge to avoid uncomfortable short-term consequences. As we move toward adulthood, one of our greatest strengths is our idealism. The passion that fuels our idealism also feeds idealism’s trigger-happy pal—impulsiveness. When we’re young, we’re prone to making quick decisions without considering long-term consequences. As a result, we’re also prone to accumulating a nice collection of unprocessed regrets that we may not fully realize until we approach midlife.

I wonder how many times Adam and Eve replayed the moment they bit into the forbidden fruit throughout the rest of their long lives (Gen. 3:1-7) or how many times Esau cursed himself for his impatience at trading his inheritance and his father’s blessing for a bowl of lentils (Gen. 25:24-34). Judas’s regret at betraying his friend Jesus drove him to suicide (Matt. 27:1-5).

In the weeks after my lunchtime meltdown, I took a small first step in facing my regrets by intentionally choosing not to keep hitting the “repeat” button on my decision. I wanted to be intentional about reflecting on the good God had brought into my life despite my bad choices, something I really hadn’t done very often. The exercise offered me a new appreciation for the sovereignty of God. If it is true that God weaves all things together for both our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28), then it follows that he is able to redeem our sinful decisions in order to serve his purposes. I realized that while my life may have been less fruitful as a result of the consequences of my choice, it hadn’t been exactly barren. Mothering three beautiful children, helping my husband as he finished college while working full time, caring for friends, doing the work God had given me, learning, serving in a couple of meaningful ministry roles—each one bore the imprint of eternity. The exercise didn’t instantly erase every regret, but it did serve to interrupt the unhealthy cycle of self-recrimination in which I’d been trapped with some spiritually nourishing, God-glorifying thanksgiving.

Pausing my endless loop of “if only” opened my ears to the lyrics of that tired song to which I’d been dancing and dancing and dancing. It was time to learn some new steps.

Reflection Questions:

1. What are some of your longest-standing regrets?

2. In what ways can you see how your past regrets have affect- ed your present life? How do they shape the way you think about your future?

3. What is one positive thing that has happened in your life as a result of a past regret?

4. If you were going to write a letter to a younger version of you just before you made a decision you now know would lead to regret, what would you say to yourself? What do you think God might say to that younger version of you?

Taken from If Only by Michelle Van Loon, ©2014 by Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. Used and reprinted by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved. Visit our website at http://www.beaconhillbooks.com to purchase this title.

#IfOnlyBook #IfOnlyTour

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Speak.

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No subject is unsuitable for discussion with GOD. Our tendency is to avoid certain subjects with GOD even though this not taught to us in scripture. 

It doesn’t take long when reading in the book of Psalms to discover a writer that went to GOD about everything. The good, the bad, the ugly. Even anger and vengeance. The anger expressed is intense and graphic – directed at GOD because they are intimately aware of GOD’s justice. Vengeance – or action taken as a result of something they have done – is to be carried out by God (Proverbs 20:22, Romans 12:19).

In Psalm 59, we see David’s angry outburst against Saul’s pursuit. The Man After GOD’s Own Heart never took personal revenge on Saul. He always freely spoke His mind to GOD, having confidence that He could sort out what was meant and what was felt. Pray with that same confidence – GOD can be trusted with your heart

Some of you haven’t suffered intense cruelty on a personal level, but love someone who has. And it hurts. Bad. Your heart breaks because, through no fault of your own, you weren’t there to rescue them when it happened. And you just want to stop their pain. You want to go back in time and rescue them. Just thinking of what your loved one endured stirs up so much emotion and grief. 

I’m holding your hand and saying I know. Boy, do I know. Let’s stand strong together and pray for GOD’s intervention. 

Speak

Yell. Whisper. Scream out to God if you want to. He can handle it. He can be trusted with your heart. He knows the real you and how you feel. No subject is unsuitable for discussion with GodSpeak up for them and advocate for them now (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Some of you have suffered such intense pain and hurt inflicted by others that you can’t breath…and still….years later….you are awakened by the same frightening nightmares. Like King Saul in Psalm 59, they chase you. The scars you bear are deep and wide. Your past isn’t your past because it’s right here. Right now. In your present. You’re dying inside. Your body physically can’t handle the secret anymore. It impacts everything about you – how you relate to everything and everyone in your life. 

I’m holding your hand and saying, I know. Boy, do I know. Don’t hide anymore. 

Speak.

Don’t keep quiet. Bring it out into the Light. Drag it kicking and screaming if you have to. Speak out. Scream it out with God if you want. No subject is unsuitable for discussion with God. He’s a big boy. He can handle it. He can be trusted with your heart. I see you. More importantly, GOD sees you. You will sing songs of victory over this. I’ll be even do a Jesus jig with you. 

Do not fear the scars. Do not fear the victory. 

When GOD heals you – and He WILL if you let Him – don’t be ashamed of the scars of life that GOD healed for you. When Jesus appeared to His disciples, He showed His scars openly. No one escapes suffering in this life. Even the innocent. Jesus was innocent. He connected with the disciples…with us…through His scars. He brought redemption through His scars. 

We all need to offer our scars to the world. Not only as proof of what we’ve been through, but as tangible proof of the healing power of Christ in our life. To show not only that we are human, but that we are healed. 

Someone is waiting right now for you to speak out and speak up. We connect to others through our scars – thereby connecting them to Christ through our scars. 

Speak.

We think we have to pretend the scars don’t exist and that we have it all together. Wrong. Lies. There is something intrinsically broken inside everyone. Jesus comes as the Great Physician. Jesus is redemption. The Rescuer. Restorer.

Sometimes He heals the scar completely and it isn’t seen anymore.

Sometimes He allows the scar to be seen as a reminder.

Someone is waiting to connect with you – and Christ – right now.

Speak.

Show them your scars. 

GOD still listens. 

GOD still answers.

GOD still heals. 

GOD still forgives. 

GOD still leads.

GOD still directs.

GOD still cares.

GOD still loves.

GOD is still here.

GOD is alive!

(Some of you are the very ones inflicting pain on others. Verbally, physically, emotionally, whatever. Stop. Now. Remove yourself. And run. Run to a professional. A hospital. The first police officer you see. Get away and run for help not from your problems. Run to GOD. Grace was made for people like you (Grace was made for all of us). He knows all about it anyway, and vengeance is still His. But, I’m standing here telling you that I’m having none of it. Stop what you’re doing and step away from that precious child, that precious girl or precious boy. That precious woman. That precious man. Whoever. I love them, and what’s more…GOD loves them. They are not yours to vent on, abuse, hit, take your own hurts and frustrations out on, or whatever else you are doing to them. Seek help. Seek a professional help. Stop. S.T.O.P. GOD will forgive you. But, you need to stop.) 

Weigh Your Decisions

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The sermon this week was teaching on fear. Specifically on fear of failure. It made me remember some notes that I made a few weeks ago and I wanted to share all of this with you. Because, dear friends, fear can cripple you. Fear can stop you in your tracks. Fear can corrode our confidence in God’s goodness. What you fear tells you where you trust God the least. Did you catch that? Chew on that a minute.

Fear can rob you of your joy of living…..

….If you let it.

Fear lies. 

Don’t believe anything fear says to you. Ever. It’s a trap to keep you frozen and ineffective for the Kingdom. It’s that simple. And it’s that complicated.

Fear always bugs us with those crazy “what if” questions.. What if I fail? What if I mess up? And baaad? What if I’m not enough? What if…what if….what if…..(insert your version here)?

Fear asks who will be watching when I fail? Who’s watching…that’s the big one. The possibility of someone seeing us fail is what we fear most of all because, whether we admit it or not, we have a deep need of the approval of those around us. We aren’t as fearful of failure if others won’t know about it, right? Even bigger than our fear of failure is the fear of who will SEE us fail, don’t you think?

It’s true that you may mess up. In case you didn’t know, let me tell you something: everyone messes up sometime or other. No one is perfect at everything. But that failure isn’t final, and the labels people give you don’t matter. The world will always try to tell you that you’re less than who He says you are.

Always.

And, hey, since we all know that, why measure ourselves by the world and it’s standards anyway? Why claim those labels? Why? Why? Why?

We shouldn’t. 

We don’t have to.

So let’s stop that. Deal? And while we’re asking all these questions, let me ask you another one: what if you don’t fail? What if you actually go out there and rock it? That’s a way bigger risk! That is just not worth passing by.

Decisions become easier when your will to please God outweighs your will to please the world

Find out what pleases God and do it (Ephesians 5:17). Why? Because He is the ultimate Master you’re serving. He is the One from whom all blessings flow. He is the One who is madly in love with you and thinks you’re to die for…..and proved it. 

We don’t overcome fear by being passive. We overcome fear by attacking it. We overcome fear by the victory King Jesus has already won. We put on our Ephesians 6 armor and do as Jesus did….we remember, BELIEVE, speak, and claim the promises of God. We remember that we are the child of the one true King. THAT’S who you are. THAT’S your name. Believe it.

The next time the enemy tries to remind you of your past…..remind him of his future! 

God Uses the Unlikely and the Unexpected

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God uses unexpected people to spread His message. We have our own preconceived ideas of who is worthy, but God doesn’t play by our rules. I’m glad. He’s a much better leader and coach than we are. I’ll let Him call the plays. 

Let’s look at John 4:4-47

On His way home from Jerusalem, Jesus stopped in Samaria—an area most Jewish people avoided. Jesus didn’t have any concern for the prejudices of people around Him. Instead, He chose to minister to everyone who was willing to recognize Him for who He really was. 

We don’t know much about the woman at the well. Her villiage knew who she was. They knew she was woman not to be trusted or a woman to be admired. But, when she met Jesus she knew her villiage needed to meet Him too. Telling her villiage was not up for debate or a choice; meeting Jesus was not a story that could be contained. So despite the risk, despite the ridicule she knew could come, she ran to the villiage and told them the story about how she met a man who knew everything about her. 

Her villiage was never the same. 

GOD used and unexpected woman to impact her whole Villiage with her story. She was repurposed. Her story ended differently than it began. Hallelujah!

Because It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish…

GOD used the story of a divorced, relationally plagued woman to move the hearts of a whole town. One woman’s story brought the whole town to Jesus. This was the tool that GOD used to bring His message to a lost world. 

Maybe you feel like the woman at the well. Maybe you have done some terrible things. Sexual sins. Bad relationships. Things you’ve said. Bad habits you can’t kick. God still wants to use you. He wants you to get in the game. He wants to work through you. 

None of us were created to sit in the stands. We all need to get out of the stands, off the bench and into the game. 

What is your circle of influence? If you had been at that well, and you had immediately left to go back to your circle of influence, your network, where would you have gone? Your family? Your school? The sport team you play on? Your neighborhood? What circle of influence has GOD put you into? Where has He planted you? 

Where did God find you?

Where did He take you?

Whatever your story, it’s not a story to be contained. You must reach out wherever God has you….EVERYWHERE that God has you…and tell the story of Jesus.

My life is not my own. I belong to him as well as all that encompasses my life. I am sealed. Repurposed. I must go and tell about a man who knows everything about me…….

I Am Second: The Movement

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What a beautiful picture of freedom in Genesis 2:25:

Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame….

Absolutely nothing hidden. Honesty with themselves, each other and best of all with God. What a pure, beautiful way to live. So inspiring!

There’s only one way to get that kind of life and that’s by living second. We live in a culture that all about being first at whatever the cost. Where lives are lived in secret and where money and me, me, me is what counts. It’s exhausting. There is no joy.

I am on the launch team for the I Am Second Organization. We launched  a new and improved book this week. It’s updated with even more content and inspiring stories about God making extraordinary differences in ordinary people like you and me. Real stories. Real people. Changing lives. 

I know the people in this book. I know them because I saw a little piece of me in nearly every story. Maybe you’ll see a little of yourself in the pages too.

No matter what walk of life we come from, we all experience pain. Some caused by others and some caused by us. One thing for sure….no matter the cause of the pain, the one and only freeing way to live is second.Living second is living surrendered to God. Fully. Him first and upfront, center stage and having His way with you in every area of your life. No secrets. No holding back.This book is full of evidence of the powerful hand of God that moves freely and victoriously once He is given the freedom to. These ordinary people surrendered their lives and allowed God to use the platform they’ve been given. He blessed them for it. And, He’ll do the same through you and me.

The words “change me” are the two mos

t powerful words a Christ follower can say. Once said, God began doing a work on all of the heart ache, pain, punishment, prostitution, hate, drugs, pride, pornography, alcohol, bitterness, shame, and loneliness and more. God is a God who can do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We see this truth in this book. This book is about victory.

The stories in this book will warm your heart, draw you closer to your Savior, and inspire you. Get.This.Book.

Do you know someone that needs encouragement? Someone that needs a Savior? Someone screaming out for help in the wrong direction? Someone you want to reach with the Gospel? Get.This.Book.An

d.Gift.It.To.Them.Now.

A person on our team shared this verse and I agree that it does a great job at summing up what this book is all about and what the people in this book are doing:

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me. Psalms 66:16-20

This isn’t just a book. It’s a movement. 

Here’s the link to purchase the book on Amazon: I Am Second

A few quotes from the book:

The Scruggs Q3Michael W Smith Q2

Michelle Aguilar Q1

Annie Lobert Q1

Chris Plekenpol Q1

Lecrae Q2

Brian Welch Q2Karen Green Q1

*I do not profit in any way from this book. I get no money whatsoever from the sales. We here at E3 are about Encouraging, Equipping, and Empowering others. This book is a holy hallelujah touch down in accomplishing this and so we pass it on to you. We are honored and blessed to be a small part of the team*

He’ll Bring You Back

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God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden to rule on His behalf.

But, they chose to disobey God’s one command and through them, sin entered the world. They were banished from the Garden and their fellowship with God was broken.

Their.Fellowship.With.God.Was.Broken. This, my friends, hurts my heart. The mere thought of sweet fellowship with my beautiful Jesus being broken just grieves me. It grabs me deep and my soul screeches and pours out, “noooooo!” We’ve all felt further away from God in those times in our lives when we smother Him out and don’t keep Him a priority. But, broken?! Oh, how they must have HURT!

Take this world, the magazine articles written, the speaking engagements, the classes taught, take it all. Take this world and give me Jesus! I’ve GOT to have Jesus!

But, friends, we have an amazing God who is more addicted to fellowship with us than we are to Him. God immediately set into motion His plan to bring us back. This is the story of the whole Bible.

Everything God does is a solution.

God continually works to redeem us for Himself. He wants to lovingly bless us with good things as we seek and find our hope in Him. He is the source of all good things.

No matter what we do, or how we mess up, EVERYTHING God does is a solution to bring us back. Get us back to where we are supposed to be. Back in the game. Back on track. Back in the joy of our salvation. He meets us where we are and never leaves us there. 

The story of the whole Bible is God redeeming His people and bringing them back. It also tells us who God is…it reveals His personality, His character, and His plan for us. And, it also reveals His deepest desire: To relate to and fellowship with the people He created. His deepest desire is a passionate, loving relationship with YOU.

Are you at a place today where you are desperate for God? Empty and needing a Savior? Well, guess what….He wants that even more than you do. It’s called grace. So, don’t be shy. Nothing you’ve done will make Him love you any less. He’s better than we humans about that. Go right on up and climb into Daddy’s lap. He’s running to greet you now.

See: Genesis 1: 1-2:4, Genesis 3:1-24, Luke 15:11-32, James 1:17, John 3:16

New Future With A Past

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“Agreed,” she replied. ” Let it be as you say.” Joshua 2:21

It wasn’t unusual for strange men to appear at her door. She was, after all, a prostitute. The Israelite spies came to Rahab looking for a place to hide, and they put their lives in her hands.

Who could have failed to hear about the Israelites? They had been in the desert for 40 years and now were headed straight toward Jerico. But Rahab told the spies she had heard of the God of Israel and the deeds He had done on behalf of His people. It was as if she was waiting for evidence of Him in her own life. When she saw her chance, she did not hesitate. She joined the cause of this God whom she believed to be greater than the gods worshipped by her people: “for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11).

What if these men betrayed her? What if their God failed her? There could be no turning back. Risking her own death, she was obedient to the conviction of truth within her–no debate, no consultation, no wavering.

Within minutes if her decision, Rahab revealed her extraordinary heart. Rahab interceded for her family’s safety as well as her own. Her family heeded her, for when the walls of Jerico came down, her relatives were with her.

Over the ensuing years, Rahab surely needed to learn a new way of relating to men. Perhaps her restoration required the greatest faith of all–everyday choices, without drama or spotlight, to be chaste, to forgive, to trust again. Scripture reveals that she continued to hold on to the God who gave her a new beginning. Matthew 1:5 lists Rahab among the forebears of Jesus. But she is not called “the prostitute,” for the stigma of her past is overshadowed by the honor given her by God. And by choosing her–a Gentile sinner–God confirms that He is the Savior of all peoples, for all time and in all circumstances.

Is there a hope for a woman with a past, someone who has made bad decisions and given herself to a life of sin? Our enemy wants us to believe that nothing good can come of such wreckage. But Rahab’s life demonstrates the benefits of believing God instead.
When Rahab chose Him, He gave her a completely new life. And He set no limits on her potential as His child. NONE.

Read about Rahab in Joshua Ch 2

{the picture above is of a scarlet cord that hangs in my office window as a reminder of Rahab and of the great God of redemption I love and serve.}

Rescued and Redeemed, walk in it: Colossians 1:13-14

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

We have been rescued! We needed rescuing from the domination of the enemy. His ways are meant for our destruction and harm. Let’s speak the truth….he’s after us.

Thanks to Jesus and His redeeming forgiveness of the cross, we reside under his dominion no more!!

    God rescued us from darkness to light….
    from slavery to freedom….
    from guilt to forgiveness….
    from hell to heaven….
    from the power of satan to the power of God.

The enemy no longer has any dominion over us. We are freeeeee!! Thank You Jesus! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Sweetest name I know!

Paul mentions we are rescued AND redeemed:

Rescued: to save someone from a dangerous or distressing situation; keep from being lost or abandoned; to set free from danger; a deliverance

Redeemed: Do something that compensates for poor past performances or behavior; to recover ownership by paying a specified sum

Isn’t that cool? Rescued and redeemed….that’s what we who accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior are! Saved and set free……paid for and under the power of a great and wonderful God!

Any bondage we are in is by our own doing.


My husband puts it like this:

Imagine being raised by a mean man….mean to the core. This man continually tells the child, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” or, “You must do this, you must do that.” One day this man dies, and that child is on his own. He comes to know that the old man was wrong about everything he said; that there is freedom in Christ that’s been there all along.

We need to start listening to the right Man! You see, we are co-heirs with Christ. This means everything Jesus has, we now have. Everything. We have put ourselves in bondage to things in this world that we are free of.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

(For more in relation to the former life read Ephesians 4:17-32)

But before we can have a former life, we have to gain a new life in Christ. I ask you now, if your life ended today, would you go to heaven? The Bible tells us all about how we can claim our salvation: read here and then come back and tell us about it, and let us celebrate with you.

Our sin debt is paid. We have been redeemed and and rescued. Our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west to be held against us no more(Psalm 103:12). Let’s walk in it!

There’s an awesome song that speaks so well what we’ve talked about today. Go here and allow this song to speak to you in worship of our risen Savior.

I love you deeply. Walk freely with the King.