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No Portion Control Needed

Ever wish for a healthy indulgence that is fat free, calorie free, allergen free, full of nutrients, and makes your heart yearn for more? Well, that does not just exist in your wildest foodie dreams, its existence is as real as you and I, and its benefits are far better than you can ever fathom. There is one thing you must do, however, before partaking in this delicious treat. You must give up all other cravings for which you get the munchies because it requires your whole plate. This dream food cannot coexist with any other items on your plate, but if you give up all your other snacks this treat promises to completely satisfy.

Are you ready to accept this challenge? The treat I speak of is God. God is made up of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit who are all one God. He loves you unconditionally from the beginning of time, before your birth parents ever met. Although you were created by Him he allows you to live with freewill, but unlike any of His other creations He gives you the opportunity to return to Him so He can adopt you into His family.

Here are some scriptures that will make your mouth water for more:

  • [The judgements of the Lord are] Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Psalm 19:10B
  • As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. Psalm 42:1
  • Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
  • Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35
  •  But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” 17 They *said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. Matthew 14:16-21

I encourage you to turn from all the habits, strongholds, temptations. Repent (ask for forgiveness and tell God you will turn from them) of those areas where you have fallen short (sinned). If you need help ask God, wise counsel (a more mature believer), a prayer group. They will all help you overcome. It also helps to memorize scripture that relate to what you are struggling with. When your spiritual plate is cleared off, you’ve let go of all of that, I promise you will experience something far greater than any of those things. God will even give you a taste before you can get your plate clean.  Welcome to indulgence where everything nourishes and tastes so sweet.

For more on the character of God watch this Youtube video. “That’s My King” by Dr. S.M. Lockridge.

Uploaded to Youtube on Jul 22, 2008. Visuals set to the audio of the famous sermon “Seven Way King” (aka That’s My King) as spoken by Dr. S.M. Lockridge. The audio is slightly edited for a better flow in the video. The music in the background was performed live by the GCC band while the video played on the screens. It then led directly into the worship song “Here is Our King” (To see the performance in it’s entirety go here: gccwired.com/mediaplayer/playeropener.as­p?id=478 )Created entirely using After Effects with footage from the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. The video took 30 hours to create plus around 6 hours of rendering. The final After Effects project file totaled well over 600 layers.
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Pushing Past Glue and Gravity

Gravity stabilizes our world. Without gravity things wouldn’t stay put. In the Lego movie there is an evil president who plans to glue all the citizens in place in an effort to control the world. Like gravity, glue, the very thing that stabilizes also stops things in their tracks. Gravity says you can only jump so high, you can only throw so far. When we lack self-esteem it is like we are affected with a powerful gravity, a super sticky glue.

We think we can only go so far in life. We sit in church every Sunday hearing about so-and-so off in Africa serving in an orphanage or building houses in Mexico, and we think, ‘Good for them, but God won’t call little old me to do that.’ Then we go to work and we hear that our coworker is being promoted, bought a house, and is getting married, and we think, ‘I guess God forgot about me.’ Let me tell you, friends, God didn’t forget about you. You forgot that you were made in his image with the purpose, not only, to love Him and others but to love yourself (Matt 22:37-40). When we love God first and then love ourselves our perspective has changed and our value becomes well-placed.

Aside from recognizing our value and the fact that we are made in God’s image, an image above all others, we must also remember that God knitted us in our mother’s womb for a specific purpose. While we all have the broader purpose to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor, we also have a specific purpose for which God uniquely designed us. Our lives did not come with an owner’s manual telling us our specific purpose. That is why we must see the sky as the limit. If God created a man that could walk on the moon, invent electricity, or part the Red Sea then why would he stop at you or me?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Hmmm… So not only does God promise to prosper you and not harm you, but he promises that during trials and periods of doubt you will have hope and a future.

Often I get comfortable where I’m at. I think, ‘God can use me wherever I’m at. I don’t want to go chasing after money or the world’s definition of success.’ But I forget that pressing on is not just about enduring where I’m at now, but believing that there’s something bigger and better in store. We can’t just sit around waiting for that bigger, better thing to happen when God has given us tools to push ourselves, improve our lives, and become more skillful. Push past the glue and gravity toward passion and purpose.

Published on Jul 31, 2013. Music video by MercyMe performing Move. (C) 2010 MercyMe

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Saying the Hard Stuff

Sometimes in life we are faced with situations we don’t agree with. As Christians we often think we need to keep the peace by keeping quiet. That’s the nice thing to do, right? But what if keeping quiet causes harm. Perhaps we think that our words don’t make a difference, we will offend someone, or our words have to be “happy.”

Let me ask you this, were Jesus’ words happy when he drove out the money changers’ tables in the temple? They probably didn’t like him referring to them as “robbers.” Maybe they saw themselves as trying to help people attain their sacrificial animals. Just because they marked up the prices doesn’t make them robbers, does it? The fact is God calls us to speak truth in love. This does not mean as my friend and I say, everything is kitties, clouds, and rainbows. No, those are things of my childhood Lisa Frank stickers. This is by far not the only scriptural instance of someone saying the hard stuff. Paul said a lot of hard stuff in the letters he wrote. Can you imagine writing to all the churches you’ve ever been a part of and saying, “You know, you guys need to deal with your greed. You are constantly chasing after people for their money”? Or how about, “I know I saw the minister’s husband looking me up and down when I was in my swimsuit at the church camping trip last summer. You guys need to deal with your lust issues”? It would be a little awkward. So, maybe God doesn’t want us to say or write those things to the whole church, maybe sometimes he does want us to shed some light on sin in the presence of others. That’s something we have to discern on a case by case basis, but we know that he always asks us to speak truth in love.

So, what is truth in love? It sounds good. Is it sugar coating the truth? I think it means to come from a place of love and compassion toward another and letting the Holy Spirit speak through you God’s truth. This last weekend a family member challenged a Proverbs verse I put on my Facebook page, asking if my “faith” required constant words of reaffirmation. I wrote and rewrote my response thinking I would really show her for writing something that sounded so degrading in my mind. I could just imagine her sarcastic, know-it-all tone as I wrote. Somehow I just couldn’t leave it alone. Finally I was driving home and this voice in the back of my head kept saying my comments were not being said in love. They were being said in pride and arrogance. Now, is that the way God would want me to respond? The truth is I don’t know what her tone was when she wrote that comment. Maybe it was a completely innocent question. Perhaps my response was not a response to this one Facebook comment. Maybe it was a reaction to all the times she has tried to challenge my faith. So, what did I do? I stopped right there and deleted my responses. All 3 of them! Because being God’s ambassador is not about memorizing the most verses, following the most rules, or thinking you are better than someone else. If you think that’s what it’s about, check again. It’s about loving, not just the easy-to-love people, but everyone. When you do that, that’s when you are able to speak truth in LOVE.

For now I am waiting on the Holy Spirit to give me His response to my family member’s words. I believe at this time I just have to be patient and leave it up to Him. Perhaps there are no words for her right now because sometimes speaking truth in love is simply showing that you may not agree with the other person but you love them anyway, and that is beyond words.

Published on Nov 26, 2012. Words is the latest single from Hawk Nelson and features Bart Millard from MercyMe.

 

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33 going on 3

When I was a child I used to imagine that there was a machine that recorded my every thought. If every thought were recorded since my birth I would probably be in prison for life. Thank you, God, for not playing back the audio for the whole wide world to hear. Despite a child’s declaration that they hate you and never want you as their parent, sister, friend, ever again, overall their minds seem quite innocent.

I visited some friends of mine in Portland a couple weeks ago. My friend there has two daughters; 6 and 9 (I think). They are just full of wonder, but I can already see that the 9-year-old is already losing that sense. She’s already not asking as many question, much to the relief of their mother, I’m sure, but her imagination is still quite vibrant. If you enjoy children like I do, you travel into their childhood with them just being in their presence. You experience the joy of discovering new and exciting things. You roll on the floor laughing as they exclaim, “Nobody puts deodorant in their armpits! That’s for your face!” You giggle along with them as you tickle their toes, and you can’t help but smile as you watch them soundly sleep.

God created man in his image, and that to me says that God is joyful, good humored, excited, and quick to forgive just the same as children. Yes, he is all-knowing, but he is also innocent. He is sin-free, and therefore, he experiences these fearless emotions that the very young experience. When we repent of our sins we not only know they are forgiven, but we get to experience this holy freedom that comes with slates wiped clean, new beginnings, the wonder of discovery, and renewed innocence.

Repent of your sins now, known and unknown. Let God search your heart of those sins unseen. Then go discovery something new or discovery something again as if you never knew it existed. Smell a rose, climb a mountain, turn over a stone, call a long-lost friend. Experience the air with new breath, for you are sanctified.

“Shake” by Mercyme on their “Welcome to the New” album
© 2014 Fair Trade / Columbia
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Going the Distance

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 3:13-14

The View from Claremont Canyon Trail

The View from Claremont Canyon Trail

Last week my good friend Maura and I went hiking at a very steep trail in Berkeley, California. Hidden behind a beautiful, historic hotel, I at first underestimated its difficulty. This, however, was my second time hiking it, and I was determined to convince Maura to only hike half-way. After all, we had some important work to do that evening. At about the half-way mark we stopped to look back at the view of San Francisco and the whole East Bay. She looked at me and said those magical words, “Do you want to go back now?” “Uh…yeah!” I exclaimed. She laughed to herself and said something to the effect of, “We can’t go back now.” After much coaxing I began following at her heels, but complaining all the way. Finally my pal wisely suggested we name our strengths instead of our weaknesses. We spend so much time focusing on our weaknesses that we rarely recognize our strengths.

So, on we hike up the treacherous trail leading to a nearly 360 degree view of the Bay Area. “Let’s start!” After a moment of silence we began pouring out the silliest list of strengths ever. “I can pick up almost anything with my toes.” “I have a big nose with big nostrils to breathe and smell.” On and on our list went until suddenly we reached our destination, the top of the hill. Once we changed our focus it was much easier to carry on. It seemed to only take an instant to reach the top. I even found myself saying, “Let’s go a little further.”

When faced with challenges, whether it be the ups and downs of the everyday or a more permanent road block, if we change our focus to the gifts God has given us, focus on our true identity and all the ways God has made us resilient, we will go the distance. The journey is not about how fast we get there, nor is it about weighing failures with successes, but it’s about our ability to get back up and try again.

Reflect on Biblical “heroes.” Are they known for their lack of failure and constant success? No, they are known for the changes they allowed God to make in their lives, and by their unique strengths which they grew to recognize and nurture. Now that you know you are a resilient Son or Daughter of Christ, will you go the distance? Or will you continue to focus on the barrier preventing your growth?

Music video by Building 429 performing Press On (Official Music Video). (C) 2014 Provident Label Group LLC, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment

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Epidemic Evangelism

Last night was my birthday and, wow, did I have a good dinner. My boyfriend and I went to Burma Superstar, an amazing mix of cultural dishes packaged into one bustling Oakland restaurant. I could not write enough Yelp reviews, tell enough friends, or Instagram enough photos to explain the absolute heaven it was to my taste buds. This is how I feel about Jesus.

Despite our somewhat fanatical culture of Tweets, Instagrams, and Yelp people still run in fear of their evangelist neighbor. Could the evangelists of yesterday (or maybe the movies) be painting an ugly picture of today’s everyday evangelists? Perhaps the fear lies in the guilt and shame of having someone virtually hit you over the head with the Bible. Even Christians fear the bully evangelist.

Have we considered though, that our everyday actions and words speak volumes about our faith? If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ it’s likely that you discuss your faith or at least your faith in the context of your life with people other than Christians. Take for instance, and maybe I’m just a chatterbox, but I went to get my haircut yesterday. I told my hairdresser that I grew my hair without cutting it at all for the last year and a half. I had decided after my last haircut that I wouldn’t cut my hair again until after I paid off all my student and car loans. I said, “It kind of reminds me of Samson from the Bible. Do you know his story?” He replied saying he didn’t know this story, so I went on to explain that God gave Samson remarkable strength and that when his hair was cut he temporarily lost that strength.

Now my hairdresser most likely did not go home and give his life to Jesus last night, but this is a seed among many that could someday sprout. He may look back on that simple conversation one day and say, “Hey, that client mentioned the Bible to me once, and how God had given a man remarkable strength. I need some of that strength in my life.” I’m sure I didn’t offend him by mentioning this Bible story in passing because it was part of my story. When you make Jesus part of your story, it will become contagious. People will see what you have, maybe it’s debt-freedom, maybe it’s a joyful spirit, and they will seek it out. Some will seek in wrong places, but as long as we are praying for that individual, our only job is to share what He gave us to share. We cannot control that person’s heart and decide when they become Christian, but we can keep on being mouthpieces for God simply by telling how our stories have changed because of the Gospel.

…Equals Whatever We Need

At a new church opening celebration a well-meaning parishioner was praying for the offering. He said, “God is so generous because He only asks for 10%, but He gives us 90%.” My friend sitting next to me said, “That’s great. We give 10%, and we get 90%. Cool.” Many of us know that God asks us to tithe 10%, but it was said in a way I’d never thought of it. I was still thinking when the senior pastor went up to introduce a guest speaker. Before he began his introduction he paused and gave a look of hesitation, the kind you give when you don’t want to do or say something, but you feel a nudging. He said, “When we give God what we have he gives us what we need. It’s not that we give 10% and get 90%. He always gives us 100% of what he knows we need.” He went on to refer to the loaves and fishes, saying, “Five loaves and two fish equals whatever you need.”

This statement has been on my mind ever since. Jesus did not perform a magic trick nor did he run to the store like an anxious housewife and buy up all the loaves and fishes at the local Safeway. Matthew 14 tells us “[he] looked up into the sky and asked God’s blessing on the meal.” Brothers and Sisters, why do we hoard our belongings, cling to our money, our house, our car, our time when if we come to terms with the fact that all of those things belong to God and not us He will give us all we need? Jesus looked up into the sky and submitted his last five loaves and two fish to God, trusting that He would give whatever they needed.

The submission to God is where I fail. I think, ‘Okay, today I’m going to lay down my life, my all to God and it’s gonna be great.’ Then the moment something looks like it’s going to fail I pick up what I just laid down and try to work it out myself. What if Jesus had asked God’s blessing on this meal to feed 5,000 and as soon as He cut off the 13th piece thought, ‘Nope! I gave it a shot, but this isn’t going to work out’? What if He had left it at that and called it a day, only feeding the 12 disciples and himself? It would have been such a waste of miracle, and yet we don’t see the potential for these miracles in our everyday surrender to God.

If we trust Him we need to show it. Just like you tell your kids or your spouse, if you love me show it. Let’s stop saying we love and trust God and show Him by laying it all down and not picking it back up. Just leave it there at the foot of the throne and see how He provides. This is a message for myself just as much, if not more than it is a message to you because I like to control things. I like to know exactly what will happen, but I do know what will happen. When I submit to Him I will experience amazing abundance.

Heavenly Father, We don’t want money or material things or even security because we want You and in You we have all we need. We use need for control as an excuse for never completely submitting to you, but we give up that excuse knowing that You are our provider and protector, our Jehovah Jireh. In You we fear nothing, not even our need for control. Thank you, Lord, for showing us grace when we have failed to submit to you, and teach us to trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.