Christian, Christian Blog, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Podcast

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Picture from Pexels

Today’s podcast I am reviewing is “The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman: Episode 154 Remembering Who You Are.” I realize I mention this every time I review her podcast but I adore listening to her. Her voice is smooth and light, it reminds me of listening to a grandmother read her grandchild a book or one of the meditation apps you can listen to relax your thoughts after a hectic day.

The motivation to review this podcast was more selfish than magnanimous. It is a topic I must review from time to time as I tend to be hard on my endeavors and question if I am doing what God is asking me at this time?

Emily begins the podcast stating “Today I want to talk about Jesus. I can’t talk about the importance of remembering who you are without talking about who I am. And to talk about who I am, I have to talk about Jesus.”

“I was taught as early as I can remember that the gospel is the plan of salvation. Jesus wants to live inside my heart.  It is not that this narrative is wrong but it is incomplete.   The gospel is not a step-by-step process on how people can get saved.  It is an announcement that the kingdom of God is real and Jesus is the King of that Kingdom.”

“What does that have to do with remembering who I am?  If the gospel is just a formula, then who I am is simply a formula keeper, a rule follower and a box checker.  But if the gospel is an announcement that the Kingdom of God is here now and not only here but within me then that changes everything.  I am not a formula keeper, I am a imager bearer.  Shaping our identity in Christ and determining how we live in his Kingdom.  The stories that we believe about God, ourselves, and the world will always determine how we live.”

Such truth in those words. How many times have you listened to a fire and brimstone sermon and thought that doesn’t sound like a loving God to me? Perhaps your view of the Kingdom of God within you shifts and instead of being a loving presents in you it becomes a harsh hard sentiment.

AW Tozer says that “what we believe about God is the most important thing about us.”  Emily states “If that is true then a true view of God will form our lives in Him and a false view of God will deform us away from Him.  Knowing who I am in light of who God is, might be the most important work I do.  As a parent, a friend a wife a writer a teacher a leader this is easy to say difficult to practice.”

“The most profound gift I can give to the people I serve is to honestly, humbly, and regularly practice exposing the false stories I carry and replacing them with the narrative of the God Jesus knows.  Scriptures says if we see Jesus then we have seen the Father.  If we want to know what God is like then look to Jesus.   The power by which we can know the Father and the Son is through the Holy Spirit living within us.  That is our triune God, three in one self, always exalting the other members.”

“We have a good and beautiful God who is filled with love for us. Discipleship is more than a quiet time, and the gospel is more than conversion. It is available life in the Kingdom of God and this is the narrative of how we should then live; as people in the Kingdom of God.  What does that mean in our daily lives, for our relationships, our morning routines, and that annoying person at work?”

“I want to continue to learn the delicate art of walking with Jesus into the lives of other people.  To gently untangle false narratives of God and to affirm true identity in Christ.  This is where true discipleship begins and continues.  Now that King Jesus has come and his Kingdom is here, we have a new choice, a new hope, a power alive within us.  We have been empowered to make God known to the world.  Does this make a difference in how you live?  In Christ you are fully accepted and  a completely loved image bearer and co-creator with him, working toward the renewal of all things.”

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30

I love how she focuses on the Kingdom of God within us and how our narrative of God shapes how we perceive God in our lives and literally in us. “What we believe about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer. If we believe God loves us and know he is for us and never against us, then we can show that love to others. Without it we cannot emulate love to others and fulfill Christ’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Emily was very passionate about this topic, not that she isn’t on other topics, you could sense it was meaningful to her in the highs and lows of her voice. I recommend listing to the entire podcast.

What are those false narratives about God that you are carrying around? Do you believe you will be punished if you don’t pray every morning or every day for that matter? Does God look like a warden to you waiting for you to do something wrong? What is the shape of the Kingdom of God in you? If you feel moved, share your experience with us in the comments section.

I pray you have a wonderful week and keep pushing against those false narratives while sharing the love of Christ in you to those in your daily circle.

Inspiring article on how one woman in Ohio is helping underprivileged in her community with locally grown produce. Hometown Hero.

The Next Right Thing: Episode 154 Remembering Who You Are.

Emily P. Freeman’s website

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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, Faithful, Jesus, Podcast, Word of the year

How Can One Word Keep You Faithful?

Photo by Skitterphoto

You may be asking why do I need a word for the year? How will this help me in my everyday life and in my walk with God?

The podcast I am reviewing this week is all about that word of the year and how it can help you feel better and see where God is directing your focus. The name of the podcast is “More Than Small Talk” with Holley Gerth, Suzanne Eller, and Jennifer Watson. They are all authors and real-life friends who talk about conversational topics and faith.

“Many people are looking for direction from the Lord and having a word gives you that guidance”, Suzanne Eller.

Start by spending some time in prayer and asking the Lord if He has a word for you to concentrate on this year. Listen to what rises up in your heart. This will take time and you may have to come back to it more than once.

Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Bible, says “Faithful is long obedience in the same direction.” Faithful, is Holley’s word for the year. She states, “I am going to show up in my relationships and in faith. Continue to be faithful and not measure everything.”

Goals are great and they are what motivate us to get things done but if we put too much pressure on ourselves and don’t meet our own expectations, then we end up going down into this pit of self-criticism. God has a different plan for our lives, he sees us as fearfully and wonderfully made.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful. Psalm 139:13

Forward, is Jennifer’s word. “Those small steps forward, toward progress, how powerful just moving forward can be. We don’t give ourselves credit, we are too hard on ourselves.”

I am extremely task oriented, give me a to do list and a few hours, I am happy. You should see what I can do with a pad of paper and a pencil. Turn that around, if I get nothing done because I had to help my daughter most of the day or I wasn’t feeling good, boy can I beat myself up, and end up in that pit! God does not want us to beat up on ourselves, He loves us and wants us to enjoy life to the fullest!

Here is a pivotal point that Holley makes, “Consistency is the secret sauce. Showing up and doing the small things over and over again adds up to a lot over time. Remember God is always faithful. This helps on the days when I feel overwhelmed or it is hard. I remember God is faithful.”

When you focus the word, that God leads you to, daily, and celebrate the small wins each day your mood will be buoyant. For example, my word this year is love. To show love and to realize God’s love in my life every day. The day I spend driving my daughter from one activity to another I am showing her love by being there for her, showing her support. It is important for me to come back to that word daily and see how it is fitting into my life. I can easily get frustrated at driving her around instead of perceiving it as an act of love.

I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:5-6

“Ask the Lord how can I partner with you today? What does it look like? It can be small. There is value in listening to the Lord and putting that in front of you. Be open to where He wants to take me next,” Suzanne Eller. For those who don’t have a word for the year, Suzanne is right there with you. Suzanne reminds us “That God knows the plans He has for us and He knows what tomorrow holds. Just being open and saying Lord whatever direction you want to take me next, whatever miracle you are trying to do inside of me, I am open.”

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. Jeremiah 29:11

Jennifer asks, “What will help you move forward and tune into the Lord this year? Maybe it is taking care of yourself more. Take a nap in the afternoon or rescheduling your plans. Whatever will help you move forward and stay faithful and tune into the Lord this year.”

Once you have a word what is the best way to remember it daily? Placing it somewhere you would see it assists, a post it note on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, or on top your devotional that you open every morning. Some people get fancy and have a sign made with the word. Whatever works for you. I have incorporated mine in scripture that is part of my email signature.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17

These three ladies complement each other and their banter will put a smile on your face. I enjoyed their stories and how they apply their word of the year to their lives. This past year has been difficult, let’s give ourselves grace as we move into a new year, seeking to find God’s will in our everyday lives.

The link to this episode is below and the following podcast Holley hosted as a follow up called “A Little More: Our Plans, God’s Purpose.” I recommend listening to both episodes, Holley’s commentary is insightful and compliments this podcast nicely.

“More Than Small Talk” with Suzanne Eller, Holley Gerth, and Jennifer Watson. “What is Your Word of the Year” (Episode 108).

“More Than Small Talk” Commentary by Holley Gerth. “A Little More: Our Plans, God’s Purpose”

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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Loneliness

Picture from Pixabay – YD Drasil

We can feel alone even when we are with other people. If you are a single parent working from home it can feel like you have no one to talk to. No one to chat with over coffee about how hard it was only getting four hours of sleep the night before or how the kids took all of their toys out and strewn them around the house for you to pick up later. That is after you make dinner, help with homework, cleanup the kitchen, put the laundry away, and answer a few emails. It can be very lonely but thankfully we have a God who is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23

And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

This season of COVID has made loneliness a more formidable mountain to climb. As much as I want to go out to eat with friends I am choosing to stay home and talk on the phone or over Zoom. As you know, it is not the same, Zoom is slightly better than the phone. At least you can see facial expressions and read some body language. It is still not the same as a handshake or a warm hug.

The podcast that I am reviewing this week is “Rhythms of Life” hosted by Rebekah and Gabe Lyons. They are interviewing the infamous Max Lucado; the episode is called “The Cure for Loneliness.” Max is a teaching Minister at Oak Hills Church, San Antonio, TX and is an author of many books, devotionals, and bible studies.

Gabe asks Max “Has COVID put a spotlight on loneliness? Has it made it more clear to people or has it helped people find those they love and start to rectify some of that?” Max’s reply, “What I have been surprised at the negative impact loneliness has on our physical bodies. Severe loneliness has the same impact as a pack of cigarettes a day. Depression is up.” Rebekah states, community support is not there anymore.

Gabe inquires “The gospel of John gets into this perspective. What is so unique about the gospel of John as you approach loneliness?” Max states “The unique feature of John’s gospel is he declares at the end of the gospel why he wrote it. He explains I collected these events so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that by believing you may have life in His name. Deep and abundant joy and life. What is it about this miracle that will help someone especially if they need life and feel lifeless?”

Rebekah points out that there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. “Solitude means you are still with the savior. Emmanuel, He is right there, sometimes that presents is more potent when you are quiet with Him. You can sense His nearness.”

Rebekah wraps up the podcast with asking Max for a parting thought. Max says he has a “hip pocket sermon” and it goes like this, “Let God love you, let God heal you, let God hold you, and let God have you. Be quiet before the Lord and let the Holy Spirit nourish your heart and soften it.”

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. Ephesians 3:16-18

When you are feeling lonely try spending some quiet time with God. He will meet you there, He will listen, He will love you, and He will send people to love you and be with you. If you are feeling overly anxious or depressed please see a professional councilor. I see one when it is needed and it is nothing to be ashamed about.

I pray that this has been helpful to you if you are feeling lonely. Leave me a comment if there is any way I can be praying for you.

This song was playing this morning and thought it was uplifting and appropriate for looking to God during the tough times. Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue”

Rhythms of Life podcast with Max Lucado, “The Cure for Loneliness”

Max’s new book “You Are Never Alone”

Max Lucado’s website

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Christian, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Will You Speak Up?

We are called to speak up for those who cannot but many times we do not. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

I know I have mentioned this in a previous post but for those who have not read it, there have been two times in my life when I knew I should have spoken up and did not. Why is that? I know for myself I am a people pleaser and am working on shifting that to a reformed people pleaser. For we are not called to please man but to please God.

So, I lean toward people pleasing and not rocking the boat but at times that will traverse into not standing up for someone of another race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, etc. This is ascribing to the racist narratives that have plagued our country for centuries. When I think about this, I know I have to do better than my ancestors and that will require me to break outside of my comfort zone and not be a people pleaser but a God pleaser.

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “10 Things To Tell You” by Laura Tremaine and her guest is Jenna Arnold. The name of this recording is “How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations”. Jenna Arnold is an educator, entrepreneur, activist and mother who lives in New York City, currently the Chief Impact Officer for an impact investing platform, Rethink, funding companies working to solve some of the world’s most complex problems: equitable education, food distribution, climate sustainability, community growth and empowering women and minority populations. Plus, she has a new book out called “Raising Our Hands”. Wow, that is a lot!

They start out the conversation with Jenna stating how other people describe her as a disrupter and she thinks that has a negative connotation to it. She likes to think of herself as a pot stirrer. “I’m most enthusiastic about posing challenging questions to myself and other people and practices and sometimes those answers can be disruptive. I’m ok with getting to an answer we are not proud of and that being the fuel to propel us.”

“I hope we serve as a conduit, not an educator, but a conduit, to those who can speak greater truth to the questions we are trying to ask.” Jenna Arnold

The hypothesis of the book, in her words, is “If I can help white women ask harder questions of themselves it will get them closer to clarity. A decade ago, I didn’t think I saw color and it was because of a close friend of mine who said ‘you don’t see what you don’t see and that is problematic.'” Which lead Jenna to say, “there is an opportunity for certain folks to get in a different place in line as it applies to the solutions and sometimes it helps to have someone else who has had that lived experience to say hey here it is over here.”

Laura points out that Jenna is still learning but perhaps a few steps ahead of many of us who are just starting out on the racial, social economic, religious healing journey. “White women don’t know what to ask or where to start and you give them the basics, the 101 course, about race, inequity, and the white washing of history.”

Jenna points out that “I found it hard when I entered into this work to jump into the AP class on this subject without going back to my ancestors and asking why didn’t they do anything?” She then performed a listening class of different circles of white women. Asking questions like “What are you willing to fight for other than your children? What is your biggest regret?” She asked these questions of women with similar life experiences as her to figure out what was getting in the way of them caring about these issues.

Laura brings up the fact that Jenna in her book references “The privileged side of silence. I see this in my feeds, in general people are trying to keep harmony in their families and extended families and in their community. There are lots of reasons that we stay silent, mostly because it’s easier. I don’t want to deal with the backlash of this, I don’t want to have a hard conversation with a family member.”

How do we start those conversations then? Jenna states not to try and throw around facts, they can be stubborn and used in various ways. “Start with your feelings not facts. You can say I am really really scared about what is happening in our country and I don’t know if I can articulate it properly. I don’t know who to believe and I am not sure if our systems are accommodating people the way they should. I am scared, how are you feeling?” This makes a lot of sense by relating to a situation with how you feel makes it more personal and human. Facts seems cold and controversial.

Toward the end of the interview Jenna made an enlightening statement, “We can’t try to figure out how to exactly and perfectly move in every moment. Us as people are trying to figure out if we have the capacity and the will to wrangle our ego’s enough to make sure our species survives. You are going to mess up and when that happens the job isn’t to say I’m not qualified I’m out. It is to say I’m sorry, what else. These are words people should constantly be saying. Get out of your own way and join this front line. We don’t have the luxury of time anymore.”

There really isn’t much else I can add to this podcast, other than I challenge you to speak up the next time you hear an injustice. It is as much a challenge to you as it is for me.

Praying you have a wonderful start to fall. The uplifting piece of the blog is from the Good Newsletter:

An Iowa restaurant owner, Willie Fairley of Willie Ray’s Q Shack, is giving out 400 free BBQ meals every day to storm victims. He is firing up his grill to supply hundreds of free meals for his community after thousands fell victim to a line of devastating storms. A powerful derecho tore through the Midwest, damaging homes and leaving millions without power throughout Iowa and Illinois. Full article here. Kudos to Willie for being the hands and feet of God.

“10 Things To Tell You” by Laura Tremaine “How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations”.

Jenna Arnold’s book “Raising Our Hands”

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Christian, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Tension, Rest, Disappointment, and Joy. Recap of IF:LEAD

IF:LEAD 2020 image

This post is unlike previous weeks, I am not reflecting on a podcast but am reviewing/recapturing parts of the IF:LEAD virtual conference I attended on August 15th. IF:Gathering was started by Jennie Allen and its mission is IF:Gathering exists to equip women with gospel-centered resources, events, and community so that they may learn about who God is and disciple other women right where they are.

During the IF:LEAD conference there were many well-known, knowledgeable, Christian leaders who spoke and I will not be able to include every speaker here but I will spotlight 4 that I thought were very relevant and educational. The theme for the conference was how are you disciplining yourself in these times of tension and disappointment. Are you leaning into what comforts you, like watching Netflix, sleeping in late, snacking all the time, or are you ministering to your spirit, spending time with God, going for a walk or exercising, and reading? We are called to bear good fruit but it is difficult to do that when we are continually giving into our fleshly desires. (Jennie Allen) I know I have done it myself, and have to recalibrate, get back on track, to focus on the one who holds us in His right hand and says follow me. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16.

Dr. Anita Phillips spoke and she began by stating this is a season of trauma and we are responding to it physically. We have to listen to our bodies, our nervous systems are activated and it causes fatigue, racing heart, and anxiety. Leaders feel like they cannot feel this way but it is ok to acknowledge these feelings. It doesn’t mean Jesus is not with us. We have to show ourselves some humility. Be willing to be in the presents of pain. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 Some advice Dr. Phillips gave to alleviate the symptoms are: slow down, meditate on the word, take a walk, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket and read, pray, and sleep well. Good advice that I am taking and putting into practice!

Beth Moore’s speech was on how to embrace tension with grace and obedience. She began by referencing the story of Jacob and his brother Esau in Genesis 32. Jacob had to wrestle with God and had his hip put out of its socket. While he was wrestling with God all night Jacob was close to God. Beth emphasizes to stay close to God and love on purpose. Obedience comes from love and from a pure heart. Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 She ended her talk with we all have to wrestle with God at some point in our lives. Jacob limped from his wrestling. During these times of tension make sure you are leaning on God!

Angie Smith’s talk was on being joyful. She began by stating we are commanded to be joyful and the way we define joy is many times incorrect. These were her three points: (1) Find joy: Joy was given to you by the Holy Spirit and we never lose it. It is not our job to find it. We do need to recognize and acknowledge it. (2) Joy is not synonymous with feelings. It can make us feel happy but it doesn’t have to be. It is a settled peace from God. (3) It is not something we need to fake. We do not need to show it all the time. You can experience it and acknowledge it during the hard times. Many times, we feel like we are owed joy. God does not want our joy to end with each experience we have. Our lives are a gift we praise, we thank, and return it back to Him. The greatest gift of joy is returning it back to Him! It is more important to spend time being thankful for our lives instead of looking inward at ourselves.

Ann Voskamp’s conversation was reminding us that you are NOT alone. You cannot lead without God. When Ann feels anxious, she pictures herself as a helpless lamb in the arms of Jesus. As the disciple John stated: You are the disciple whom Jesus loves! Choose to be wooed by God and you do this with daily gratitude’s, write them down. Grow in the hard times by abiding in God. The difference between being a Jesus follower and a Jesus abider is as a follower you are still relying on your own strength and doing it your own way. Abiding in Jesus is knowing He is our only strength. By following you can go wayward, abiding is obeying and going with God. Abiding gives the grace to obey. Let us do everything in His ways and His will. Be wooed by God and know you are cherished and chosen by Him.

This conference was rich with information, many other leaders spoke and gave great inspiration on how to lead during these trying times. The other speakers were Jennie Allen, Chrystal Evan Hurst, Kirk and Tammy Franklin, Katherine Wolf, Shelly Giglio, Cheryl Luke, Jada Edwards, Christine Caine, John Mark Comer, Eugene Cho, and many others that did their own breakout sessions.

You can still purchase a digital copy of IF:LEAD 2020 for $30. I will include the link below. I will also link to one of Jennie’s podcast below that has a few snippets from the conference.

Personally, I took a lot away from this conference and I am looking forward to watching all of the breakout sessions. In the spring they will do another IF conference called IF:Gathering. It is intended for you to gather with your friends and watch and discuss each session together, to disciple each other. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

We are all leaders, if you are a CEO or assistant, if you are a teacher or day care provider, a stay at home Mom or Dad, we are ALL leaders. As leaders we must continually look to our great leader, provider, sustainer, comforter, healer-Jesus, for support, guidance, love and grace. These IF conferences help lift our eyes back up to Him and give us the means to assist others to do the same. I hope you will find this helpful in leading during these uncertain and stressful days.

The lighthearted piece to the blog is this comic from Facebook:

IF:LEAD 2020 digital purchase

Jennie Allen’s “Made for This” Podcast: Practical Help for Life in a Pandemic.