Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Need Your Help!

I'm conducting a short survey for my new book and I need your help!  Would you mind taking this survey for me? It will be anonymous and the results are going to be tremendously helpful for me.  Thank you so much and have a Happy New Year!

Click here to take survey

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Your John 20 Moment Is Coming

We've all been through stuff.  Hard stuff that makes our hearts sick and makes us feel like the world is going to crash in around us.  We all struggle.  Some of us are struggling this moment and some of us have just come through the fires of struggle and are finally on the other side.  Nobody has it all together - it's just some of us are better at pretending than others.

Whether it be childhood abuse, addiction, rejection, divorce, or whatever else your struggles in life have been - you can empathize with those who are going through those same struggles.  Maybe you're in a struggle with God right now.  Is He asking you to give something up that you don't want to let go of?  I've been there.

If you are in the middle of a struggle, just know you are not alone.  And if you've been healed by God either physically, emotionally or spiritually, maybe the Lord helped you to overcome those trials and struggles for such a time as this? We have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ here on earth - to allow Him to live through us as we reach out to those around us who are hurting and feeling hopeless.

It's a privilege to be used by God for this purpose.  With this privilege of being Christ's hands and feet, we cannot lose sight of something very important: The hands and feet of Jesus Christ were pierced on the cross. When we look at the Greek word for pierced, we find the word nyusso, which means "to pierce through, often of severe or deadly wounds given one". Our severe and seemingly deadly wounds have been nailed to the cross and our new lives reflect the same resurrection power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead! We are a new creation, created to do good works in Christ which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:10)

Some of us want to follow Christ with all of our heart, but like the rich young ruler in Luke 18, when Jesus asks us to let go of the things we think matter the most to us, we refuse to do it.  We think we cannot live without those things in our life.  And it pierces our hearts to imagine letting go of something we consider to be so important and think God is unreasonable for asking us to let go.  I remember when He asked me to let go of alcohol.  I thought it was unreasonable and ridiculous.  But when I finally surrendered it to Him and let go of that stronghold in my life and allowed Him to heal me of that addiction, I finally experienced the freedom I so desperately craved in my life.  But it was hard, I'm not gonna lie.

Are you feeling pierced today? I want to encourage you to read John 19-20. John 19 is the dark, frightening time in Jesus' life when He was scourged, beaten, pierced, scoffed, whipped and ultimately crucified. Things looked bleak. All seemed lost. It seemed as if the enemy was winning. But then came John 20. Hope. Truth. Victory. Resurrection!

There is a "John 20 Moment" coming in your life - hang on and wait for the Lord. Resurrection is a beautiful thing - but death must precede it. This is not a physical death in our sense, but a spiritual one.  We die to ourselves - to our lusts, our passions, our sinful hearts - in order for Him to resurrect us into our new life with our new heart, given by God in His mercy, which beats in us with His passions, His desires and His ways.  What a beautiful gift!

Salvation is a free gift, given by the grace of God alone - but it does cost us something....our life.  We often mistake this as a bad thing. But God's ways are so much better than ours!  Those things we hold onto and think we cannot live without (though we know it is not in God's plan for us to keep holding onto them) are destroying us and keeping us from an intimate relationship with God.  Let go, my friend.  Trust Him.  He knows what is best for you and He loves you more than you could ever imagine.  Abundant life - that is what He has for you.  But you must let go.

We must relinquish everything to Him - every part of our heart.  Yes, it is painful - piercing to the heart, if you will.  But remember our piercing is part of our story and our story is what God can use to reach out to a hurting, hopeless world.  May we all have the courage to allow Him to pierce our souls with His truth, allow Him to pry our tightly gripping hands off of our unfulfilled lives and reach out to the world as a new creation, being His hands in feet to the nations in 2012!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cleaning Up

I knew when I reached into my purse for my wallet that I was only scratching the surface of the gummy mess that awaited me in the rest of my purse.  See, I get tired of gum pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, the other day I got tired of it and put it in a piece of paper and was not in an area where I could toss it in the trashcan, so I threw it in my purse to throw away later.  Problem is...I forgot it was there.  Before I knew it, the gum had escaped the piece of paper and had attached itself to every item in my purse - including my cell phone, my lip gloss and my wallet.  It was a mess and honestly, quite disgusting.

But it got me to thinking.

I realized that I'm like that with sin in my life at times.  I am finished with the sin - ready to get rid of it - but instead of dealing with it fully, I tuck it away conveniently in my heart somewhere, intending to deal with it when it's more convenient.  Before I know it, it is attaching itself to my thoughts, my intentions, my motives and my desires.  It begins to destroy me.  What I thought was temporary now becomes messier than ever.

Is there anything in your life right now that you need to deal with?  Me too.  I'm so tired of the messes that I allow to creep into my heart and my life.  My intentions to deal with it "later" don't ever work the way I plan.  Today is the day.  Waiting is not an option.  It will only get worse.

What do you say we give ourselves a gift for Christmas?  A clean heart and conscience.  I can't think of a better gift for not only myself, but the ones who love me the most.  King David said in Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, renew a loyal spirit within me."  That's my prayer this Christmas Eve.  Our messes are never too messy for God!  He loves us and only He can clean our hearts and make them pure again.

Merry Christmas, friends.  Praying God's grace, peace and joy over each of you today and into the new year! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Blessing of Child-Like Faith

I was reading Isaiah 11:6 and I was so struck by the words "a little child shall lead them". It made me think about how precious children are and how much we can learn from them.  Jesus tells us in the Bible that we are to come to Him with the faith of a child. I love that thought because it’s really obvious to me that children have a very sweet innocence about them that over the years seems to fade away due to disappointments, hurts and frustrations with others. There is also a sense of imagination and enchantment that is lost over the years. But God’s redemption plan in Jesus Christ is actually quite enchanting! Is that a scary word for you? It was for me, too, until I realized what it really just means “a feeling of great liking for something wonderful and unusual”.

Children don’t question – they trust. They are honest and real about their feelings and there is no pretense until people begin to lie to them or ask them to lie. They believe what you say will happen if you say it will until they begin to get let down by those who don't always do what they say they will do. They are humble and know that they are not in charge and willingly submit to that until they see someone else question authority and act out of ignorance.  They get excited when Daddy’s around and jump into His arms with no reservations or doubts that he won’t be able to handle their weight until Daddy doesn't come home anymore and their world begins to shatter. 

I think the reason children are so precious to God is for those reasons. They may be born into sin, but they are a lot more teachable and believing than we are.  Maybe that is why God chose Mary, not more than a child herself (scholars say she was anywhere between 12 and 15 years old) to carry His Son, Jesus.  He knew she would believe Him and accept the call He placed on her life without question.  

I love that the first thing sweet Mary did was run to an older, wiser woman - her cousin, Elizabeth - for advice and encouragement.  That is our role, older friends.  We are to come alongside of those young folks and encourage them, not discourage them.  If you look in Luke 1, earlier on before Gabriel, the angel, came to Mary, you will notice he also paid a visit to Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband.  He told him what God was going to do in his life - God was going to give him (though he was old in age) a son who would grow strong and would announce the coming of the Messiah - but he didn't believe.  He thought it was crazy.  So the angel told him he wouldn't talk until after the baby, John, was born.  

I wonder if that is because God didn't want him speaking unbelieving words when Mary would come around to visit his wife to find encouragement?  Maybe it was a gift - sometimes I kick myself for the unbelieving things that come out of my mouth.  Being struck dumb may have saved Zechariah and many others some unwelcome pain!  It could probably save us and those in our lives that pain at times, as well.  Especially those children who believe in God so whole-heartedly until they examine us speaking words of unbelief and begin to wonder if it's all a lie.

This Christmas, the best gift we can ask for is the faith of a child.  The best gift we can give our children is to exercise that faith in their presence.  I don't know what your situation is, but I know that if God said He is sovereign, He is sovereign over that situation.  He has not forgotten or forsaken you.  He has you covered and He will give you peace that passes all understanding.  Believe it, my friend.  He has promised it.  

As Elizabeth told Mary, I'm going to tell you (from Luke 1:45), "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mary



Merry Christmas, friends.  You've been chosen as a vessel to carry very precious cargo when you are a believer in Jesus Christ!  Let that sink in for a moment.  And once it does, let it spill out into the lives of all you know and meet this Christmas season as you love, serve and give.  After all, we have the perfect example: Jesus, Himself.

Leslie

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Left Behind

My mom lost me at the Piggly Wiggly when I was five years old (for you who are not in the Southeast, that is a grocery store believe it or not!).  I remember it vividly.  I was terrified!  I couldn't find her so I decided to go out to the car and sit on the hood and wait for her.  I mean, in my mind it made sense because eventually, she would leave, right?  Little did I know, she wasn't going anywhere without me.  She was in a total panic inside the Piggly Wiggly as I sat outside, waiting.  

About thirty minutes later, I saw police cars drive up.  Police were running in, sirens were blaring.  I wondered what was going on in there, so I decided to go look and see.  Oops.  They were looking for me!  My mom came running over to me, sobbing, picked me up and swung me around in the tightest hug I'd ever received.  She said "Where have you been!?"  I said "I was at the car...I knew you'd come there eventually."  The police left and I thought I'd be in some big trouble at that point but she didn't seem to be mad.  I think her relief trumped her anger.  Whew!

As a mom, I now understand why she didn't leave the store. We don't look for our children who are missing and then say "Oh, well.  I suppose I'll just go home now.  Too bad I can't find my child but life goes on!"  No, we search frantically.  We search without abandon.  We love our child and the thought of something happening to our child will send us into a complete tailspin.  I've lost my children briefly and I can tell you, the world seems to stop.  It's terrifying!

In Luke 2, we read about how Mary & Joseph lost Jesus once.  They were leaving Jerusalem after the Passover feast when He was twelve years old.  They traveled with a large group of people because they assumed Jesus was with them in the group somewhere.  (This kind of reminds me of the movie Home Alone, but I digress...)  They traveled all day and that evening when they went to look for Him, they couldn't find Him.  The Bible says it took three days for them to find Him.  Wow - can you imagine?  My heart races as a mom as I think about the lack of sleep, the guilt, the fear, the total panic they must have been feeling!

When they finally found Him at the temple, they didn't know what to think.  Mary said "Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere!"  He asked "But why did you need to search?  Didn't you know I must be in my Father's house?"   He was genuinely amazed that they didn't know where to find Him - especially since they knew who He really was, the Son of God.

Have I ever been comfortable, surrounded by people, focused on a destination or goal of going somewhere, only to leave Jesus behind?  When I go searching for Him, will I blame Him for not coming with me or will I realize that in my confusion and lack of focus, I just assumed He had come along?  I must search for Him and make sure He is with me before I go anywhere.

You've probably heard the saying "If you feel like God is not with you, just remember, He's not the one who moved."  This is a prime example.  I cannot blame Jesus if I feel distant from Him.  I probably got distracted, probably got caught up in being busy or in a goal and just assumed He was following me.  But is that the way it works?

Jesus says "Follow Me."

If there is anything in your life today that is pulling you away and distracting you from the most important relationship in your life, I urge you to seek the Lord's guidance on how to find the balance you need in order to seek Him first above anything else.  Is it another person?  A task?  A goal or a dream?  What about a hobby, the computer or television?  He has not left you - He loves you and He wants to connect with you but sometimes we need to consciously disconnect in order to recognize our distractions can become idols in our lives when we put them above time with Him.

Jesus is genuinely amazed when we don't know where to find Him, just as He was amazed that His parents didn't know where to find Him.  He says He will "never leave you, never forsake you." So where is He today?  "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"  1 Corinthians 3:16

He's in the temple, of course.  Not a temple made by human hands, but in the hearts of those who believe in Him. 
 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baby Steps

It's very rare that I complete everything on my to-do list.  Maybe that's because I'm a lofty-thinker and think that I can do more than I actually can, but sometimes it's because quite frankly, I am a poor time-manager (something God is definitely working through with me!).  When I don't accomplish everything, I tend to be very hard on myself.  But lately I've been feeling accomplishment because of something I've figured out.

Even if I do nothing else to clean my house for the day, I make my bed.  It's the one thing that I know I must do.  It's a decision I made and I'm not going to go against it.  My mind is made up!  It's my first step, I suppose you could say, to trying to be more time-efficient. And it's really amazing how good I feel!  I've never been a bed maker because I figure I'm just going to be getting back into it that night, so why bother?  The only time my bed every got made before was when people were coming over. Otherwise, it went unmade.

But for the past few months, I've made a decision to change that.  My mentor once told me that if the bed is made, the room looks 70% clean, no matter how unclean it really is and I can honestly say she is right!  The bed makes up 70% of the room and if that is made, it gives the illusion of clean and for some reason in my mind it makes me feel accomplished and I've been a lot less hard on myself as a result when I don't finish the rest of my "to-do" list!

Baby steps are all that are needed in making changes.  I think I overwhelm myself with getting everything right instead of getting a few things right.  I think I assume the whole house must be clean when really it's just a few things a day that will keep it tip-top.  I can't believe it's taken me so many years to figure this out!
 
It's like this spiritually, too.  When we become a Christian, often I think we expect that everything will be completely different right away, but really God doesn't over-whelm us - He is patiently working in us but will do it one step at a time, gently and methodically.  Once that one thing is improved, He moves on to the next.  It's a gentle and amazing super-natural thing that only He can do in us.  When we put pressure on ourselves to get it all right at the moment we surrender, we end up discouraged and frustrated.

I think about when my kids took their first steps.  I didn't yell at them and scream,"That's not good enough - you need to learn to do it right before you start walking!"  Rather, I was proud of them as I watched them take a step, fall down on their cute little diaper butt and get back up (about a hundred times!).  I know that's how God feels about us.  He's proud of us for trying and not angry with us when we fall down.  He just wants us to get back up again.

Yesterday I didn't make my bed.  It was the first time in months and honestly when I went to bed last night I felt discouraged.  I thought that it was the beginning of a downhill slide.  But as I prayed as I lay there before going to sleep, I felt God whisper to me, "Just make your bed tomorrow. Let it go."

In life there will be times when things we thought were improved in our life - like a bad habit, an ugly emotion or a destructive pattern - will come back to taunt us.  This is not the beginning of the end!  This is just real life.  But the key is to remember that you wake up the next day with the attitude of, "I may have messed up yesterday but today I'm back on track", instead of the natural human thought process of "Oh, man, this is the beginning of the end.  I messed up so now I'm doomed."

Changing the way we think can work wonders.  Don't allow discouragement keep you from moving forward in your walk with God.  If you fall, just get back up again.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Got Questions?

GotQuestions?org