Are your Roots Showing?

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I passed by this sad looking, toppled over tree the other day. This winter wasn’t very kind to this fragile tree.

All I could think of when I saw it was, I guess the roots weren’t strong enough or deep enough to keep it standing tall. It made me appreciate that all the other trees on the block must have had tough enough roots to withstand the brutal winds we had this winter.

It also got me thinking about what the Bible says about our spiritual foundation. How do we make sure our roots are strong enough so that we don’t collapse under pressure?

Let’s take a look at the apostle Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus.

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Don’t miss that. Paul is praying that we believers be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and be rooted and grounded in Jesus’ unlimited love for us! We are supposed to be filled by that love!

Let’s receive that love even now!

And let’s allow God to continue working in us. Once we’re filled with that love, we’re supposed to pour out on others and bear fruit.

Are the winds howling around you right now? Remain grounded in Christ’s love for you. He will give you the strength to keep standing.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

A great song to help you through your storm is “Stand” by Donnie McClurkin. Blessings!

If this encouraged you, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Adventures in the Amazon

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This month marks four year since God allowed me to go on my very first short term missions trip. It was to the town of Arumanduba in the Amazon jungle in Brazil! The mission was to build the church you see pictured above.

The church stands as a testimony to the power of prayer. The people in that community had been praying for seven years for a church to be built there. They had no idea how they would be able to pay for it or who would do the actual manual labor!

The church is also a symbol of what a small army of folks dedicated to the Lord can do.

There’s so much I could say about that trip. A group of 12 of us flew from New York City amid a snowstorm on March 2, 2009. None of us city slickers knew quite what to expect as we joined our leaders from Amazon River Churches (ARC) on this extreme adventure.

Our goal was to build a church in a week. The only problem was that it was during the rainy season, and our team was made up of 7 women! That was the most females ARC had ever had on a team.

How I even got on the team was a shock to me. I remember our leader Steve sharing a video of a previous team building a church and him asking the congregation, “Do you see yourself doing this?”  My immediate thought was, “No!’ All I saw were men at a construction site!  I had no construction experience. All I had ever put together was IKEA furniture.

And going to the Amazon jungle!  No way!

But for some reason I kept going to the meetings, asking questions, and God kept giving me peace about moving forward.  What finally drew me in was the thought of sleeping in hammocks on a boat on the river and going on home visits to meet the locals. My plan was to “get through” all the construction in week one so I could enjoy the home visits and evangelism during week two. That was my goal. And despite the fear that the place would be crawling with more bugs than that infamous scene from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” I boarded the plane to Rio, flew to the city of Belem and boarded the van (or combie) to the town where we boarded the boat that would be our home for a little more than a week.

When we literally had to walk across a plank to get on our boat, it hit me that we were not in New York City anymore!

In this post, I’ll only focus on the church building part of the trip and how God s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d me during that time.

When we arrived at the construction site, the foundation had already been finished by local workers. Our job was mainly to put up the walls, raise the roof and paint the church. But it had been pouring all the days prior to our arrival, so our first assignment was the lowly task of using the top halves of plastic soda bottles as shovels to scoop out the water from the holes where the posts for the walls would go. So there I was, my first day in the jungle, literally on my hands and knees getting all muddy as I put my hand in some holes and scooped out water with my makeshift shovel. It was quite humbling for me, but I knew it needed to be done so I did it unto the Lord.  It helped that my fellow teammates were also down on the ground.  We had come prepared to work.

My Dad’s pep talk to me before I left was simply, “Get the job done.”  That’s what I planned to do.

After the scooping was done, we assembled a bucket brigade to pass along concrete (or masa) to fill the holes. Then it was time for the part I was dreading the most. The 50 pound placas (or concrete slabs) needed to be moved so that they could be stacked up to create the church walls. We women paired up in teams of two and just hustled as we moved those heavy suckers around. I still say God gave the team the strength of Samson during those days.

Amazingly, by the end of Day 1 the walls were up!  I don’t know why I thought we’d be moving placas for days and days!  Day 1 did have a few hitches including me getting “bit” by a placa. It happened while we were sliding the concrete slabs into place. A little piece of the palm of my hand got caught in between two placas. It immediately started to swell up and I started thinking, “Oh no, man down! Man down!”  But I had little time to feel sorry for myself as I soon found out that one of my teammates had stepped on a nail! I was impressed by how calm she remained. So after icing my hand for a bit, I sucked it up and went back to work. And that meant helping to put primer on the outside of the church walls. That’s when I saw a snake in the distance and was reminded that not only was I on a construction site but one in the Amazon jungle!  Oh, what we do for the love of God!

Day 2 included caulking and painting. It was fun getting to know my teammates as we painted and repainted the walls. By this time we had attracted quite a crowd of locals who had come to see what the crazy Americans were up to. Thankfully, a few pitched in to help us.  As I stood in the muck and mire in my work boots, I was shocked to see the kids running around in the mud barefoot. But they wanted to be part of the action, too.

To my surprise, all that was left to do was to finish painting and to put up the roof.  I affectionately call Day 3 my “bi polar” day as I found myself laughing, and then crying, and then laughing again.  I felt so honored to get to help paint the front, right-hand side of the church. I was so overwhelmed by what God had allowed me to be a part of.  Little me who had only assembled IKEA furniture and had never painted so much in my life. God had allowed me to help create a beautiful church in this remote part of the world.

Looking back, I see that while I was busy helping to build a structure, God was at work building some character and faith in me.

God did so many amazing things on that trip!  I have never been the same!

Miraculously, God held off the rain in our area during our work hours. When it did rain, it was as we were putting up the roof! That just added to the fun we had while passing all the tiles along to each other to place them on the steel beams to finish the roof.

To our amazement, God allowed a team with 7 women to help build the church in record time – 3 1/2 days!

One of our favorite songs we sang while working was, “What a Mighty God we Serve.” That is an understatement.

The icing on the cake was being able to invite the locals to come to the inaugural service that Sunday.  People traveled quite a distance by boat to get there. It was standing room only during the service.

As I soaked in all the celebration, I noticed I was standing right near the spot where I had been “bitten” by a placa. Things had come full circle. My blood, sweat and tears literally had gone into helping to build this church that I was now worshipping in!

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I would be remiss if I didn’t include some takeaway lessons for you as well:

Don’t be afraid when God calls you to join Him on an adventure! – I was at such peace while painting in the middle of the jungle. I know it was all the prayers of the saints! When God calls you, He will be there protecting you every step of the way!

Let God change your “no” to “yes” – I would have never signed up for a construction trip, But God….

Don’t put God in a box – He really can do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Let your light shine – That church stands as a beacon of hope because a few men and women obeyed the call from God to go and bless His people in Arumanduba. And what wonderful people they are! Such humble people. It was our honor to serve them.

What is God calling you to do? It may not be as extreme as going to the Amazon. It could be to volunteer at your church, to sign up for a small group, to try out for the choir or to speak to someone about Jesus.  Once you figure out what God is asking of you, pray and then ask God to help you do it!

Has God recently asked you to do something completely out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Not so Fast

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I recently noticed this picture by one of the fire exits at my job, and it made me chuckle. Ever feel like dropping whatever you’re doing and just running for the nearest exit and not looking back?

Ever just want to hop on the next train, plane, taxi (enter your ideal escape vehicle here _________) and just go anywhere but where you currently find yourself?

I think we’ve all been there at some time(s) in our lives. While it’s tempting to want to run away when life’s problems and circumstances are weighing you down, many times it’s wiser to stay awhile and to get your bearings before you make any sudden moves.

There is something to be said about not rushing out of situations (unless they are life-threatening) and just remaining where you are for just a bit longer.

“Be still and know that I am God,” is what we’re told in Psalm 46:10.

Yes, sometimes God wants us to rest and be still for awhile. As our Good Shepherd, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:22-3)

Some of us are so good at running away that the thought of slowing down can seem so foreign and even dreadful.

But it’s only when we slow down and get quiet before the Lord that we can hear Him more clearly.

When was the last time that you spent time being silent before the Lord?  Could you hear God speaking to you in the midst of the chaos you were in? What did you hear Him say?

I’m reminded of Elijah and how he literally ran for his life, got exhausted and depressed, and how God in His mercy met him right in the middle of that trial. How did God present Himself to Elijah? It wasn’t through the rushing wind, the rumbling earthquake or raging fire. It was in a gentle whisper. (I Kings 19:1-13)

If Elijah hadn’t slowed down, he could have easily missed his divine appointment with God!

Let’s try not to be in such a hurry.

If everything in you is itching to run, could I encourage you to take a moment and wait upon the Lord? His timing is perfect, so try not to go rushing ahead of Him. Enjoy the quiet time with the Lord as you would if you were spending quality time with your friend or loved one. See if that doesn’t give you a healthier perspective about your situation and give you that peace that only Jesus, the Prince of Peace, can give you. (Isaiah 9:6)

That time of refreshing will strengthen you for the next leg of your journey.  I guess that’s why we’re called to “walk” with the Lord instead of to “run” with Him!

Did this help you take your running shoes off for the moment? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

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Order My Steps

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Here’s my attempt at re-creating the iconic “Footprints in the Sand” image. I took this shot while in Florida last March. It was fun walking in the sand, hopping off to the side to make sure my shadow didn’t appear in the picture and then taking some quick photos before the waves would rush in and erase my footprints. Not bad, eh?

I can’t look at this photo without thinking of the famous poem which ends with the powerful line, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

It also reminds me of how all throughout the Bible, God promises to order our steps.

Ever go through a season when you weren’t sure what to do next? Maybe you’re in it right now. Are you trying to decide if you should take that new job? Go back to school? Move to that new city? Marry that person? Visit that exotic place, etc….

Many times in our eagerness to act, we make our plans first and then we ask God to bless them. But if we slow down a bit, we’d realize that we have it all backwards. As Christians, we’re called to pray first and to ask God to show us what He’d like us to do next.

The Bible says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

How sweet it is when we consult with God before making any major decisions! He is our Creator. He wants to guide us along the path He has for us.

One of the key ways God guides us is through the Bible. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) The more we spend time in His Word, the more in tune we are with our Maker’s heart.

Want to know the true secret of success? It’s not really a secret. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)

There’s no greater feeling than when you’ve prayed about something, talked to wise counselors about it and then had the peace that this is something that God is asking you to do or allowing you to do. Nothing beats living in the center of God’s will for your life. Nothing.

So if you are at a crossroads right now, I’d like to encourage you that God has a good plan for your life. Ask Him to show you what He has in store for you, and ask Him to guide you all the way there. Those are prayers that He’s longing to answer! He may not take you the easy way, but remember that in the tough times He’ll be there carrying you through it.

Feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how this post helped to encourage you!

A proud part of Bonnie’s Faith Jam this week.

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Beyond the Fog

Lessons from the Bridge

Duncan Rawlinson / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

 

Over the years, I’ve traveled upstate to visit my sister and her family hundreds of times. The best is when there’s no traffic and the sun is lighting the way. That’s when I can relax and enjoy the beautiful mountains in all their splendor.

Of course, the sun isn’t always shining. That’s just part of life.

One of my most harrowing drives upstate was during a nasty rain storm a few years back!  There I was carefully trying to navigate the wet road and desperately trying to stay in my lane as other cars splashed by me on the New York State Thruway. Then I got to the infamous Tappan Zee Bridge that extends for miles and miles over the Hudson River. On a clear day, I enjoy glancing around and seeing the pretty scenery which reminds me of my trip to Alaska.

On this day though, the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see the other end of the bridge ahead of me nor the mountains and water around me. All I could see was the bumper of the car directly in front of me and the occasional car to my left that was battling the fog on the southbound lanes of the bridge. My mind started playing tricks on me, and I started to worry that the other end of the bridge might have somehow disappeared and that I might be driving right into an abyss. The only thing I could do was focus on the car I was now following for dear life. I had to trust that the driver knew where he was going and that neither he nor the cars in front of him would suddenly slam on their brakes and cause an accident.

In that moment, I had to choose to stop thinking about what I couldn’t see up ahead or about the storm that I was literally in the middle of. I had to focus on what I could see in front of me and I had to trust that God would safely lead me to the other side of the bridge so I could get to my family. Thankfully, I did make it across the bridge and eventually to my sister’s house! But the lessons I learned during that trip have stuck with me.

Many times when we’re in a storm, we can’t see things clearly. The road looks so long or too dark. Sometimes it feels like we’re going to fall into some great, big pit before we ever reach our destination. The future looks so bleak and uncertain.

It’s precisely in those storms that we have to lean and trust in God all the more!  He’s the Good Shepherd who goes ahead of us leading us and guiding us to safe pasture. He’s the one that can see the other side of the bridge even when we can’t. In fact, He’s the one that is holding us up all along the way!

If the road looks foggy and unclear to you right now and you’re in danger of losing hope and faith that you’ll ever make it to the other side of your bridge, I’d like to encourage you to call out to Jesus!  He wants to walk with you every step of the way. He really is always just a prayer away!

Hang in there, my Friend! Hear God’s Word for you today, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

So keep praying, reading your Bible, and listening to all that God is saying.  And be sure to stay connected to your local church. Before you know it, you’ll be safely on the other side of your bridge!

Did this post encourage you? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Promise Keeper

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My 7-year-old nephew came bouncing out of Sunday school during my visit last September, and happily showed me the wallet he had made in class. As he held out his handiwork for me to see, I was so blessed by the simple, yet powerful message, “God Always Keeps His Promises!”

I don’t think my nephew realized that his project was speaking volumes to me. It was the exact message I needed to hear. What a sweet reminder that God is Faithful!

It can be easy to get discouraged or disappointed when things don’t seem to be going your way. Perhaps you didn’t get the job you wanted, your car finally went kaput or someone let you down. The possibilities are endless.

The point is that we can quickly lose focus and take our eyes off of Jesus. When that happens, we start to get preoccupied with our problems and start to obsess over what we don’t have.

We forget all the promises that God has for us in the Bible. The one that is speaking to me right now is, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

That’s right, all things may not be good in our lives but God PROMISES to work it out for our good. So we can thank God for closed doors and start rejoicing over the new doors He’ll be opening!

What are you believing God for today?

I encourage you to open up the Bible and write down, memorize, and meditate on some of the promises that speak to your heart. God has given us so many promises in the Bible. God is the ultimate promise keeper!

Perhaps you’re not familiar with some of His promises for you, or you could use a friendly reminder. Allow me to share just a few of God’s awesome promises for His children:

  • “…no weapon forged against you will prevail…” (Isaiah 54:17)
  • “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
  • “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) 

God cannot lie! Hold on to His promises for you!

“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

(Isaiah 55:10-11)

Do you have a favorite Bible promise that you’d like to share? Feel free to write it below.

If you’re not familiar with the song “Promises” by Sanctus Real, click here and enjoy!

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Love is in the Air

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I was walking to my car one afternoon last spring when I looked up and saw a small plane right in the middle of skywriting. Most of my fellow shoppers didn’t seem to notice the plane as it maneuvered around in the shape of a backwards question mark. It caught my attention, so I waited around to see what design it would make. To my delight, it formed this beautiful heart in the sky. I just smiled and thanked God for that wonderful kiss from heaven!

MiraculousLovely moments like these are precious, aren’t they? They serve as little reminders that God loves us!

Sadly, I think many times people go through life trying to earn, keep or run from God’s love. Some may be completely unaware that God loves them. Others, who may have vaguely heard about God’s love years ago, doubt that God could ever care about them now.

And some people are so focused on how much they love God that they overlook how much God loves them! Yes, we are called to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). There’s no doubt about that.

But what does the Bible say about God’s love for us?

“We love because He (God) first loved us.” (1John 4:19) Isn’t that beautiful? God Almighty loved us first! We didn’t have to do anything to “earn” His love. He just loves us. Doesn’t that make your heart want to sing?

And God proved His love for us in the greatest of ways. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Yes, Jesus came to redeem us because of His love for us!  And He did so even before we had any kind thoughts towards Him! Talk about unconditional love!

No matter how you’re feeling today, repeat after me, “God loves me!”  That truth is so profound that you might want to say it a few times just so it can sink in.

“God loves me!” Can you say it without it warming your heart? “God loves me!” Doesn’t it make you smile?

Once you get a revelation of God’s love for you, it transforms your life. It changes your perspective. Your friends, loved ones or co-workers may come and go from your life, but God’s love remains. The Bible says God is love!

He may not love everything you say, think or do, but God loves YOU! He longs to be in a relationship with you where you spend time with Him on a daily basis, talk to Him and listen to what He’d like to share with you.

If you’re already a Christian, I pray that you will grow in the knowledge and grace of His love!

If you’re just learning about Jesus, I pray that you will receive His love, walk in that love and pour out that love on others! For more information, please feel free to visit http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/ or the Info for New Believers/Seekers page.

The song “How He Loves Us” by the David Crowder Band is a great way for all of us to rejoice in God’s love. Enjoy!

If you have a MiraculousLovely moment you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below.

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A Picture of Perseverance

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This photo that I took last year is very special to me. It’s more than just another pretty flower. When I look at it, I see the power and beauty of one single rose standing on its own.

To me, it embodies what it means to persevere.

This rose isn’t surrounded by a whole garden of flowers. It’s just in full bloom by itself.

Ever have one of those seasons? Where you don’t fit it in with the crowd? When a storm has hit and wiped out everyone else, but you?  When you felt like you were down to nothing?

It’s in those moments that God steps in and meets us. It’s when He reminds us that if we have Him, we have more than enough.

I love how the rose defiantly stands against the odds and gives you no choice but to notice its beauty. Take a look at how barren things look around the rose.

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It’s really a wonder how the rose could even flourish in that environment. What happened to all the other flowers?

I don’t know what you are going through today. Perhaps you are walking through a dry valley or a season of drought or despair. Perhaps you’re feeling like no one else around you cares or understands your struggles.

It could be because of a loss of a job, loved one or your health. It could be a transition time or a time of uncertainty.

Whatever you are facing today, be at peace knowing that God is Greater than your circumstances. He has not abandoned you. He is right there with you giving you the strength to stand and to persevere.

The Bible says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

In short, don’t give up!

When you feel like wallowing in a corner or backing down, I hope you will remember this rose (and the verse above) and that you would be encouraged to keep standing tall. Whatever you’re struggling with, it is just for a season.  God will see you through it.  He will give you the grace to endure it.

If you’d like to share a prayer request below, please feel free. I’d be honored to pray for you.

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Help is on the Way

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I once heard a sermon where the pastor mentioned that we pray one thing and God does 10,000 things in order to bring to pass the answer to our request. The photo above helps to remind me that God does hear my prayers and that His answer is on the way.

Just because I don’t see an instant response to my prayer request doesn’t mean that God is asleep, has forgotten me or is ignoring me.  It just means that some prayers take a longer time to get answered. God’s answer could be yes, no or wait.

During that waiting period, God is growing us, maturing us and testing us. He’s also bringing people and circumstances into alignment.

The Bible says,“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; He who seeks finds; and to Him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7)

We obviously need to be praying according to God’s will for our lives and should repent of any unconfessed sins. As Christians, we can then leave the rest to God.

The Bible doesn’t say how long it takes for the answers to come. It does say we are to be persistent in our prayers and we should pray with faith.

God is not a genie so He doesn’t just automatically give us everything we want exactly when we want it. However, He does like to give His kids good gifts so get ready!

If you’re waiting on some of God’s promises to be fulfilled in your life, I’d like to encourage you by reminding you that God is working behind-the-scenes.  At the appointed time, you’ll receive your answer! When you do, make sure to come back and share about it here!

 

 

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Cleansed

Back in March 2009, I had the extreme privilege of going on a short-term missions trip with Amazon River Churches (ARC) to the Amazon jungle in Brazil.  We traveled by boat to a remote little village called Arumanduba. Our main mission was to build a church for the community of believers who lived there. That is a wonderful story for another time!

Once the church was built, we had the pleasure of taking a mini-speed boat ride to visit the neighbors and invite them to the inaugural service. The custom over there is that instead of knocking on someone’s door, you clap as you approach their house as a way of announcing your arrival.

In one of the houses we visited, there was a man and a few of his friends who seemed very excited to see us. During that visit, the man invited our group to see the well he had in his backyard. Not realizing how far we would be walking, we thought nothing of leaving our shoes by the front door. We ended up walking quite a distance barefoot, over a make-shift walkway made out of long, thin tree trunks. Thankfully, it wasn’t so high, but it was still quite a balancing act. When we arrived at the well, we rested and our host was kind enough to cut down some coconuts from a nearby tree and split them open for us to drink.

While that was all quite an experience in itself, one of the things that stood out to me the most from that home visit was watching the man pour the filthy well water into a water filter he had in his home and watching the murky water instantly come out clear of impurities and clean enough to drink. Amazing!

As I watched the gunk being transformed into drinking water, I got a picture of what happens when someone is born again so I shared it with one of the men there. I told him that that is what happens when we give our lives to Christ.  We give Jesus our junk, our mess, our sins, our brokenness and His precious blood wipes away our sins and cleanses us and restores us and makes us brand new.  Now that is truly awesome!

Today, if you are struggling with old ways of thinking and living, I would like to remind you that as a born-again Christian, you are a new creation! You are a blood-bought, redeemed child of the Most High God! Don’t let the enemy fool you! There is no sin too awful that the blood of Jesus can’t wipe away! That is His promise to us!

If you’re just starting to learn more about Jesus, I invite you to visit http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/ or the Info for New Believers/Seekers page.

I’m proud to be joining Bonnie’s Faith Jam this week!

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