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Meeting God in the valley

19 023 004 in the valley
I remember a kid—we called him Goldilocks—he was going to beat up my brother after school. At the appointed time, we all assembled. Goldilocks and his cronies. My brother and me. There was a lot of talk. It was going to be ten to one—the whole gang against my brother. And, if I wanted to get beat up too, then I was welcome to hang around.

I had a policy when we were growing up. Anybody who touches my brother deals with me. So I hung around.

Goldilocks and I stood chin to chin while the wolves circled, drooling for blood. I really didn’t know what I was going to do, except I knew I couldn’t back down. So I planted my hand on his chest, and sent him flying.

I think I was as surprised as he was. I didn’t know I had it in me. But, suddenly, the wolves had somewhere else they needed to be, and, after that, Goldilocks was always real polite to my brother and me.

We really don’t know God until we come to know Him in the valleys. There He shows up for us, and shows us what He’s really all about.

From the Bible:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by David Stanley, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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God leads us in the right path

[God] leads me on the right path because that’s who He is. Psalm 23:3 The Easy Bible

Let’s review what this verse DOESN’T say. He doesn’t guide me because I’m a really nice guy. He doesn’t lead me because I’m a real man. He doesn’t teach me because I think I’m spiritual, or because my second grade teacher put stars on my papers.

God guides me for a reason bigger than me, a reason outside of me, a reason that doesn’t depend on me.

I don’t know about you, but I need verses like this one, and also Psalm 25:8 (God instructs sinners in His ways—it’s easy to qualify for that one!), Philippians 1:6 & 2:13 (God is at work in me). I need these verses because apart from God I’m not such a good guy, I need a God who is going to work with me even so.

If, like me, you don’t trust your own spirituality, your own commitment to Christ, rejoice that you can count on God’s commitment to you.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Hans Clough

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God meets us in our place of weakness

19 023 001 Inner working
A few years ago, I tried coming up with a testimony to give at a small group I belonged to. I couldn’t figure out how to put my arms around what God has done in my life.

That bothered me. So many people have dramatic testimonies—God saved them from booze—or God saved them from bankruptcy—or they left their lucrative business and followed God to the mission field—or whatever. My life has been transformed by God, but I couldn’t figure out how to show that to someone.

Then it came to me. The real testimony is not that God got us out of debt (though He did), or that He kept me from getting run over by a train (though He did that also), or that He put money in my mailbox anonymously (yes, He did that too). The real testimony is this: He restores my soul.

I realized that my testimony is deeply personal. God showed up for me in the dark places of my heart—in my bitterness, in my frustration, in my feelings of inadequacy, in my loneliness, in my arrogance. With kindness that I confess I don’t understand, God is gently rebuilding my identity so that I am less and less a lonely, paranoid, bitter man and more and more a son of God.

I hope and pray that you can say the same, that God is meeting you in your places of weakness and filling them with His strength.

May that be true for you today!

From the Bible:
He restores my soul. Psalm 23:3

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Hans Clough

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God is ready

Kaye Ratia
Even though I lived, briefly, on a sheep farm, I don’t know much about sheep and shepherds, except that sheep aren’t very smart. Sheep munch on grass and don’t pay much attention to anything else, except when the shepherd’s dog races out to round them up.

If it wasn’t for the shepherd, the sheep would have no water (on our farm it needed to be pumped into the troughs), they wouldn’t get out to pasture, they wouldn’t get back to the safety of the barn at night, they would never get any medical attention.

The shepherd had to figure out that they needed all this. But the shepherd doesn’t get angry or impatient with the sheep for being so dull and dependent. He (or she) just anticipates and takes care of the sheep’s every need.

I’m glad God knows what I need, even when I do not. I’m glad the Holy Spirit prays for me, even when I don’t know what to pray for myself.

We may have needs and dangers that we don’t even see, but God is there, our Shepherd, ready with the answer.

From the Bible:
The Lord is my shepherd… Psalm 23:1

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Kaye Ratia, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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6 things you need to know about suffering and evil

45 08 18 Six things
#1 God hurts when you hurt. God weeps when you weep. Jesus was a man of sorrows. He intimately understands pain. God cares.

#2 God did not create suffering and evil. He created humanity. We humans create our own choices. The world we live in—with its suffering and evil—is a result of the collective choices of billions of people.

#3 God heals the hurting and repairs what’s broken—in His way and in His timetable, in this life or the next. God works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:6) Jesus went about doing good and healing all… (Acts 10:38)

#4 We get to help in the healing process. You are the answer to someone’s prayer. You have the power to alleviate someone’s suffering somewhere in the world by your prayers, your resources, your actions.

#5 No suffering is permanent, unless we choose to reject God forever.

#6 It will be worth it. The good that’s waiting for us so totally outweighs our little troubles that there’s no comparison. Romans 8:18 The Easy Bible

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Lima Pix, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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The suffering of God

43 11 35 Jesus wept
Jesus wept. John 11:35

We can never understand human suffering without taking into account the suffering of God.

Why did Jesus weep? Why didn’t He smile? He was the only one present who knew that the grief of Mary and Martha would soon give way to delirious, dancing joy. He was the only one present with the power to reverse the tragedy, and He fully intended to use that power.

Yet He wept.

God is not aloof. Even moments before our deliverance, His heart feels every bit of our pain.

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Brisbane Falling, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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10 thoughts about your online presence as a Christian

max max
You gotta be smarter than the other fish in the pond if you don’t want to end up in the frying pan.

#1 What an honor to speak into lives of people all over the world! You are a person of influence. You are designed to make a difference. You are created to bring eternal good into many lives. Online communities make the world your next-door neighbor. People all over the world will benefit from you.

#2 What an opportunity to learn from people all over the world! We are each a work in progress. Others sharpen us, encourage us, and help us to grow. This is a good thing!

#3 We are ambassadors for Christ. What you post or don’t post can make the difference between whether someone comes to Christ or not. Jesus doesn’t have a Plan B. You are His representative. If you are kind, then others know that Jesus is kind. If you are courteous, then others know that Jesus is courteous.

#4 Accent what God is doing right rather than what people are doing wrong. Yes, there is a need to call sin what it is. But the role of the accuser is already taken.

#5 Pick and choose your fights. Better to win the person rather than the argument.

#6 Others are watching. A heated argument about the fine points of theology does little to win others to Christ.

#7 Pause and pray before posting politics. I have friends on the right and on the left who sincerely believe they are advancing God’s kingdom with their provocative political posts. Most of them aren’t winning any converts to Christianity or to their political party. They’re just alienating the people who disagree with them. There’s a place for political conversation, but be careful about how you approach it.

#8 Pause before posting humor. What is funny to one person can sometimes be deeply insulting to the next person.

#9 Don’t be surprised if you’re persecuted. I’m not saying be paranoid or have a martyr’s complex. But there are people out there who hate God, hate Jesus, hate the Bible, and hate you because you’re connected with them. Sooner or later you’ll run into them. Pray for them; they need your prayers.

#10 Defend the name and reputation of God without getting nasty. Hey, we’re on the winning team. Nobody is as good and great as our God. We know this. We want our world to know it. And we can make this known while being confident, courteous and kind.

From the Bible
We want everyone everywhere to know and speak the truth about You, so that all may honor You for the good and great God you are. Matthew 6:9b The Easy Bible

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by max max, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Take the high road

45 12 14 high road
What do you think? When atheists, Muslims or others who don’t share our Christian faith hang out in an online Christian community, is that a problem? Or is it an opportunity?

I think it’s an opportunity to show them the love of Jesus.

How do we do that?

#1 We welcome. Mahatma Gandhi was exploring Christianity as a young man and considered converting to our faith until a church man barred him from attending church and threatened to throw him down the front steps of the church if he didn’t leave. Why? He was the wrong color. Wow! How would history be different if that church man had opened the doors to that very important visitor.

#2 We listen. It’s easy to post all kinds of things about what we believe, but we get further by listening. I remember a social media post where a person said that even though she was a Muslim, she still loved Jesus. Someone blasted her with a long reply asserting that the Jesus she loved was demonic, and she was deceived, and so on. Even if all of that were true, how does that help her? All it does it teach her that it’s not safe to open up around Christians. Let’s work hard to be a safe place for others to process their journey. After we’ve built the relationship, then we earn the right to tell our own story and to explain why we believe what we believe.

Remember: Winning an argument is easy. But we aren’t called to win arguments. We’re called to win people to Jesus.

#3 We learn. Let’s not assume that we can’t learn anything from those who don’t share our faith. God has the power to speak into our lives through anyone, including non-Christians. That doesn’t mean that we give up or compromise our beliefs. Not at all! Like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), we test everything against the word of God.

#4 We take the high road. If others post something provocative, we respond with grace, if we respond at all. If they call us names, we do NOT call them names. We are courteous without being a doormat. (Of course, if someone posts something abusive or pornographic, we flag it. We have standards, and all members of the community need to respect those standards.)

#5 We pray. Everybody needs the presence of God in their lives including our friends who don’t (yet) share our faith. Many people, especially those who are hostile, are hurting deeply inside often without even being aware of it. Their bristling sarcasm is just a way of covering up deep wounds. So we pray. You never know—your prayer might be the one that tips the scale and brings that person to faith.

#6 We speak the truth in love. Both are needed. Truth and love. We follow the example of Jesus and listen carefully for the leading of His Spirit in our lives as we pick and choose what to say and what to leave unsaid.

From the Bible:
Are people persecuting you? Take the high road. Don’t curse them. Speak prayers of blessing over their lives. Romans 12:14 The Easy Bible

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a picture by Daniel Weinand on Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Plenty of time

picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr
We imagine ourselves to be very busy and terribly short on time. We must understand that this is a lie. God is not stingy. He has not shortchanged us on time. We have time in abundance.

It is a joy and a privilege to finish a task, but God will release us from every unfinished work that didn’t fit into His perfect plan. We have time for God-ordained interruptions, time for acts of kindness, time for wonder and reflection.

As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time for everything.

From the Bible:
Like a shepherd takes care of his sheep, that’s how God takes care of me. Do I need anything? He’s already on it, thinking ahead, making sure that I am well provided for. Psalm 23:1 The Easy Bible

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr, Creative Commons License

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An act of worship

19 139 014 worship
The human body is made up of about 100 trillion cells and contains millions of different kinds of molecules. The blueprint for your entire body is somehow contained in each one of those 100 trillion cells, but nobody fully understands how to read it. You could argue that your body is one enormously complex chemical reaction, but no chemist can predict exactly what your body will do, or tell you how to fix it if something goes seriously wrong. From brain surgeons to cancer specialists, no doctor can claim to have all the answers. Even if you combine the insights of all the doctors in the world, there are many more questions than there are answers about how our bodies are made.

None of this surprises us.

But stop to think about this: Intricate though they are, our bodies are disposable; our inner selves are eternal. Jesus died on the cross not to save chemical reactions, but to save people—eternal people. The time will come when we toss this body aside and claim a far superior model. Meanwhile, God salvages what is of eternal fascination to Him, the part of us that receives His deepest love—our inner selves. All of this seems to say that our souls and spirits are probably far more complex than our bodies.

Letting people be complex is an act of worship. For many years I acted as though people were nothing more than sinners who needed repentance and salvation. While it is true that we need to repent, and while it is true that we need salvation, I was making an enormous mistake: I was turning people created in the image of God into stick figures, cardboard people like the targets we used to shoot at on the police pistol range.

I believe that God wants to engage us as the complex people that we are. Put another way, He wants to validate us. No, He doesn’t approve of everything that we do. But He is here to begin an eternal relationship with you—a relationship so multifaceted that we will never get bored, and only eternity is big enough to contain the wonder of what we discover in Him.

From the Bible:
God, I am in awe of You because of how You created me. When we look at anything You design and craft, it leaves us in wonder. I stand amazed. Psalm 139:14 The Easy Bible

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!


Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Michael Bentley, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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