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Trusting God with the Moment That Matters Most

Moment That Matters“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” –John 4:39-42

One of my college professors used to say that faith is more caught than taught. I saw this in action when my children were little. As a mom who loved Jesus, I looked forward to the day when I could pray with my children, leading them to invite Him into their hearts, knowing they were saved and walking heavenward with me.

It didn’t happen quite that way. We took our boys to church—that was a given, us being a ministry family. But we would have done that anyway. We studied the Bible together. My husband and I shared our testimonies. We prayed with our boys regularly. As my oldest son entered fourth grade, though, that longed-for moment had not yet come . . . his decision to give his life to Jesus . . . at least as far as I knew.

Then he brought home an essay he’d written for school. He was attending a private Christian school at the time, and his teacher had asked the kids to write their testimonies. Justin told how he’d been alone in his room when he decided to invite Jesus into his heart. He’d prayed all by himself. And I knew from both his character and the words he’d written, that his young faith was absolutely real.

That’s probably when I first realized that God works differently in different people and that Jesus doesn’t enter people’s hearts when they say a few prescribed words. He brings salvation when they believe that He does. Each individual knows when that moment comes, whether another leads them directly to it or not.

Not that we didn’t lead our children to it. Like the Samaritan Woman in Luke 4, we told our children what we’d experienced, what we believed. But like the people of the woman’s community, our children had to hang out with Jesus for a while in order to decide they believed for themselves. This is something all people must do! I still love the sweet sentiment of a mother or father praying with their children to lead them to Christ, but it’s that moment of belief in a person’s heart that’s really the most beautiful thing.

Does this mean we shouldn’t tell others about Jesus, instead leaving them to find Him for themselves? Absolutely not! The Samaritan Woman couldn’t help herself; Jesus had told her everything she’d ever done! We can’t help ourselves either. If we walk and talk with Him daily, Jesus will amaze us on a daily basis! And so, we tell. Who He Is. What He has done. How we experience Him. What we’re learning from His Word. We live it; we talk it. It’s what we do!

Then we pray. We pray that people who hear our stories will invite Jesus to hang out with them for a while, so they can get to know Him, too.

And then we trust that the God Who has done so much for us, the One Who told the Samaritan Woman everything she’d ever done, will speak to our children, our friends, our acquaintances, too. We may not be there for the moment of belief, but the One Who matters will be, and He Is faithful to save.

Jesus, help us to live what we believe. Give us opportunities to show and to tell. Then help us to trust as we pray. You’ve invited everyone into Your Kingdom. Now You’re waiting for everyone who will to accept that invitation. Please wait patiently. There are many yet to be saved. We thank You, Lord, for speaking to each heart—through us and all around us. Use our lives as You will to honor Your name. Amen.

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Of Dead Keys and Fruitless Fig Trees

The Dead Key BagIn our house, I’m the Keeper of the Keys. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s similar to being the one who is expected to carry every else’s papers and books at church because I’m the one who carries a purse. (I usually refuse to live up to this expectation, but it’s there just the same.) I don’t carry a purse around the house, yet I’m still the one who gets to keep track of all the spare keys.

Whenever we move into a new home, every responsible inhabitant gets a set of house keys—and I get any extras to keep in a drawer—just in case. Every time we purchase a new padlock or security box or file cabinet, I get the spare keys for those, too. And because there’ve been times when a family member couldn’t find a key and the spare key couldn’t be found in its appointed place for one mysterious reason or another—most likely because said family member never gave The Keeper of the Keys the spare key to begin with, though said family member prefers to think The Keeper of the Keys misplaced the spare key—I’m a little bit obsessive about hanging on to all the keys that have ever come into my possession—ever—from the beginning of my mysterious appointment to this role.

The result of this obsession combined with our tendency to move is what I’ve come to call The Dead Key Bag. It’s a plastic, zipper bag stuffed full of keys that I have no idea what they open but feel compelled to keep—just in case. I laughed out loud when the lady who packed our house for our most recent move found my dead keys, brought them to me, and asked, “Are these important? Do you need to carry them yourself or should I pack them?” I told her that I didn’t know what they belonged to, so she could go ahead and pack them. She looked a little confused but took them back to pack anyway.

That’s when I realized I probably could have taken them and thrown them away right then. (The packer was probably thinking this, too.) We were moving. I had all keys-in-use on my key chain. Any keys in that bag were most assuredly dead. I’d be getting new keys. It was the perfect opportunity to free myself of The Dead Key Bag. Since the lady had already packed them, though, I decided I’d toss them when I found them in my new home.

I shouldn’t have waited. Earlier this summer, I told you about this particular packer and how she collected all the night lights in the house and packed them together in one box. Well, on the other side of the room from the drawer where I kept The Dead Key Bag was a drawer where I kept current spare keys. Spare keys that I could identify. Keys currently in use. My efficient packer friend found these keys—in their different drawer on the other side of the room—and thoughtfully added them to The Dead Key Bag.

It’s a key nightmare! Now I have to keep the dead keys or risk throwing out a key we still use.

The other day my son Seth asked for the spare key to his car. With a sinister gleam in my eye, I handed him The Dead Key Bag. He dumped it out, and we examined its contents together.

“Mom, these little keys are luggage keys—for the little padlocks on your suitcases that anyone can open with a toothpick. They’re useless. You can throw them away.”

I didn’t.

“These are the keys to Justin’s, Alex’s, and my first cars. We’ve sold the cars. You can throw these keys away.”

I think I’m going to have them bronzed—like Grandma bronzed her children’s baby shoes!

“This is the key to Dad’s Ranger the lady hit and totaled two years ago.”

That one needs to be plated with gold! My husband walked away without a scratch. Thank You, Lord!!!

“The rest of these look like house or padlock keys. We should melt them down and make something useful out of them.”

I have no idea how to do such a thing, but Seth will figure it out if I give him permission. In the meantime, I’m putting The Dead Key Bag back in the drawer for a designated project day when I’ll toss every key for which I cannot find a lock.


This reminds me of the parable of the fig tree found in Luke 13:6-8. The owner of a fig tree goes out to search for fruit. For the third year in a row, he can’t find any, so he tells the caretaker to cut down the tree. The caretaker begs him for one more year and promises to give extra attention to that tree for that year in order to help it produce fruit.

The tree’s purpose is to produce fruit. A key’s purpose is to open a lock. A person’s purpose is to find God, accept His gift of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, and spend eternity enjoying a loving relationship with Him.

The world is full of people who haven’t found their purpose, but God is patient “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Like the owner of the fig tree and The Keeper of the Keys, however, God has chosen a day when His patience will end—a day known only to Him (Matthew 24:36).

Until then, those of us who know God are like the caretaker in the parable. We walk and talk with Him daily. We love Him and strive to get to know Him better. We serve Him faithfully, doing whatever He tells us to do. We’re fulfilling our purpose, while doing all we can to lead others to Him. The end of the year/designated project day is coming. We must help lead people to our Lord.

How do we do this? We do what the caretaker did!

  • We plead with God on their behalf.
  • We offer them Living Water, like Jesus offered it to the woman at the well (John 4:1-26).
  • We give them the nutrients of God’s Word as opportunities arise.
  • We pay attention to their needs, loving them in Jesus’ name as we love ourselves.

There isn’t much we can do for a bunch of dead keys. They’ve served their purpose; they are done. But we can pray for and love people who haven’t yet discovered the purpose for which they were made. Our God is patiently waiting, reaching out to all. Let’s ask Him for a greater awareness of opportunities to help people come to Him.

Father, thank You for salvation. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for sending Your Son to save us from our sins, so we can enjoy an eternal relationship with You. We thank You now for Your patience with those who haven’t found You yet. Please continue to wait. And while You do, please send Your Spirit to help us do all we can to help lead these souls to You. We love You, Lord. We want them to love You, too. For their good. For Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Book Review: “Gospel Formed”

Gospel Formed“The power that raised Jesus from the dead is also for everyday life.” In his book, Gospel Formed, J.A. Medders helps readers understand this truth and apply it to life. The book contains 27 short meditations full of Bible verses to consider, simple teachings to grasp, and a quirky bit of humor to entertain while clarifying the point. (Evidently, I am a member in good standing of Medders’s diet soda denomination. You’ll have to read the book to learn why.)

The book is divided into five sections that progressively take the reader deeper into the gospel-formed Christian life, from the starting block to worship, identity, community, and mission. The section on community was my personal favorite. Under the title of each section’s introduction page, Medders has placed two simple definitions of the term he’ll be exploring within. These were useful points of reference to return to as I encountered these terms in each chapter; they kept my thoughts on track.

I especially recommend this book to growing Christians, those who’ve experienced the thrill of salvation and are ready learn how to serve their great King. Medders helps readers discover the life part of the Christian life. I enjoyed reading his book and am passing it on to someone else whom I know will enjoy it, too. I thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: “Citizen”

CitizenCitizen by Rob Peabody wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was a great book to read. Peabody, founder of the Awaken movement in London, takes the biblical analogy of citizenship and explains every facet, every implication for life. As Christians we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, living here on earth. Jesus died to save us from our sins, but He also saved us for life in His Kingdom—a life that begins right now, not after we die.

In the introduction, Peabody gives his personal testimony and explains how he ended up moving his family from Texas to London to launch a new ministry. That move itself provides many illustrations for this book on being a citizen of one country while living in another. But the Bible is the foundation for all of his ideas. He has taken the teachings of Jesus and clarified for Christians of today.

Personally, I thought the first two chapters dragged just a bit, but I realized as I read them that they were foundational—defining. By the third chapter, I was engrossed. I appreciated Peabody’s easy-to-read, storytelling style. I enjoyed the quotations at the beginning and scattered throughout each chapter. I loved the way he took this simple, yet profound analogy and fleshed it out into a well-written book. This is one I recommend.

I received my copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for this honest review. I thank them for the opportunity to read this book.

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Acts 10:43 on My Mind

NewOMM“He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”Acts 10:43, NLT

God had to get creative in order to help Peter learn this lesson. It started with a vision of forbidden-to-be-eaten animals that a voice from Heaven ordered Peter to eat. God presented the vision three times.

While Peter was still trying to figure out what the vision meant, a group of Gentiles came to his door, asking Peter to be Cornelius’ house guest. Cornelius was a Gentile, but he had met the one, true God. He needed someone to introduce him to Jesus Christ, though, to welcome him into the Christian faith, so to speak. God told Cornelius to seek Peter; God prepared Peter’s heart for Cornelius. (You can read the whole story here at BibleGateway.)

You see, eating in a Gentile’s house was just as forbidden as eating the animals in Peter’s vision would have been. But Cornelius’ men arrived at just the right time for Peter to understand God’s message: Jesus came for everyone who believes in him! Peter’s words to Cornelius found in Acts 10:43 suggest to me that once Peter understood his vision, he came to see the testimony of the prophets (found in our Old Testament) in a whole new light, recognizing God’s desire to reach all people, not only the Jews.

As we grow closer to Christ throughout our lives, if we study God’s Word regularly, God’s Spirit will shed new light on familiar verses granting us deeper understand of God’s will and His ways, too. We put the information into our brains; God’s Spirit, at just the right time, reveals more of its truth.

That gives us two reasons to commit this verse to memory this week! First, we learn the verse so we’ll remember that salvation is available to everyone who believes, but like Cornelius, they can’t believe unless they hear the message from someone, perhaps from someone who looks like us.

Second, we learn the verse so we’ll remember why we study God’s Word each day. God may not always grant us new insights, but we can trust that He’s preparing our hearts for whatever understanding we will need, understanding that will come at just the right time.

Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and rise again, so that everyone who believes can be saved. This is the best news ever! Please give us the opportunity and the courage to share it as often as we can. We do want everyone to know.

And help us to study Your Word faithfully, knowing that Your Spirit will grant us all the understanding we need, right when we need it to fulfill Your purposes. What an honor it is to be used to further Your goals. We love You, Lord. Amen

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Tell Them

DSC02051e“Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.’ Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.”Jonah 1:14-16

I wonder if Jonah ever went back to tell his story to the sailors who threw him overboard—you know, after the whole begrudging-the-Ninevites-their-salvation thing. (See Jonah 4:1.) According to Jonah 1:14-16, those sailors were scared, grieved, distraught. Even after they had done all they could to get back to land without throwing Jonah overboard and knowing that this action alone would save their lives, they were sorry for resorting to that action. They probably could have used some serious counseling.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what became of Jonah after that little worm killed his shade plant. (See Jonah 4.) But I hope he came around, let God adjust his bitter attitude, and then paid a visit to the folks God used to set Jonah on the right course to begin with. Those sailors deserved to know that Jonah lived to tell his story.

Can you imagine the blessing of learning that God had used you, in spite of yourself, your beliefs, your desires, and your ideas of what was best, in order to set up a monster-sized fish miracle—and to save a whole nation of people to boot?! Those sailors may or may not have ever known the part they played in God’s plan. Likewise, we may or may not know until we reach Heaven some of the parts we’ve played in God’s plan. But, when we realize that God has used someone else to bring us or someone we love around to His way of thinking, if at all possible, I think, we should go back to let them know.

  • Who has God used in His efforts to get or keep your life on course?
  • What role did that person play in God’s plan?
  • How did that person influence or encourage you?
  • Where were you on your life journey at this point in time?
  • Where are you now?

Make plans to tell the story to a relevant participant as soon as you can. If this person is a Christian, he or she will be encouraged to continue serving faithfully. If this person isn’t a Christian, God may use your story to draw this person to Him!

Father, help us remember to encourage and thank others as they become part of Your plan for the development of our spiritual lives. And thank You for making us part of Your plan for others, too, whether we ever learn of our role or not. You work all things together for good: for the glory of Your Kingdom and the growth of each citizen. We love You, Lord. Amen.

Note: Jonah’s book of the Bible is only four chapters long. If you aren’t familiar with all the details, you can read them here at BibleGateway.com

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Born Again? Absolutely!

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’”John 3:3, NIV

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an article listing phrases the author thought Christians should stop using and why this was his opinion for each. One of those phrases was born again. The author, a Christian himself, said Christians shouldn’t use that phrase because it confuses people.

DSC01954eI’ve been thinking about that.

You see, Jesus actually coined that phrase. Jesus! Our own, eternal Master, Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Son of God, Jesus said that people need to be born again.

He introduced the concept to Nicodemus, a religious leader who visited one night to ask Jesus questions about His teachings and miracles. True. The concept did confuse Nicodemus, who asked, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4).

But that’s the point. Nicodemus’ confusion made him curious, and his curiosity gave Jesus the opportunity to explain. In fact, that conversation led to Jesus presenting the single, most important Truth that all people, everywhere, throughout all time need to know: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

It seems to me that this one, little phrase has been used effectively ever since then to open doors, eyes, minds, and hearts to the good news that Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for people to be saved from sin and to enjoy eternal life in the presence of God.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, His followers continued to use the term. Peter used it: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). James, Jesus’ own brother, also used the concept: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:18). Instead of rejecting the phrase, these followers of Jesus listened to Him, absorbed the Truth, claimed it for themselves, and shared it with others.

We can do this, too!

If the concept perplexes you, and you fear you’ll only confuse people if you try to explain it, I encourage you to read, ponder, pray, and study it for yourself until you make it yours like Peter and James did. Until then, share God’s Truth with others in your own way as the Spirit leads. This Spirit has an infinite number of ways to lead people into God’s Kingdom. As opportunities arise, say what you feel led to say.

If, however, the Spirit prompts you to talk about being born again, please don’t hesitate, fearing this is wrong. If you’re using the words of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit leads, God will help you speak, and He’ll help those who listen to understand. The God Who loves the world is faithfully helping His born again children to deliver His Truth to whoever is ready to hear it, believe, confess, and be saved.

Father, thank You for the privilege of sharing this good news. Please give us opportunities to tell others about all that Jesus has done for them. Fill us with Your Spirit and give us just the right words to say. We love You, Lord, and we know You love Your creation. Please help us to share Your Word and to encourage each other as we do. Amen.

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Deuteronomy 4:9 on My Mind

NewOMM“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” –Deuteronomy 4:9, NIV

My grandmother used to tell me all the family stories—of ancestors who came over on boats or traveled across the country by wagon or train. I’ve recorded these carefully to share with future generations, yet some details have been lost to time. Grandma couldn’t answer all of my questions because she either didn’t remember or hadn’t been told a particular detail of interest herself. And, as I think of new questions now, it’s too late to ask them.

Among these stories are very few about my ancestor’s salvation experiences. I know several were Christians. I know which churches some of them attended. I know that my great-grandfather enjoyed attending revival services wherever he could find them and got to hear some of the greatest evangelists of his generation in person. But I don’t know, specifically, how most ancestors came to Christ. I would so love to know these stories. For now, I can only look forward to listening to my ancestors tell them in person in Heaven to honor Jesus someday.

If your parents are Christians, do you know how they came to Christ? Have you told your own children about the day you invited Jesus into your life? These testimonies are priceless for several reasons:

  1. This isn’t mentioned in Deuteronomy 4:9, but our salvation stories honor God. When we share them with others, we’re talking about what God has done. Telling true stories about other works of God in our lives brings glory to His name, too.
  2. Testimonies of God’s work in our lives encourage our children and others we know to get to know Him, so they can begin to see His work in their lives, too. Our children are our primary mission field. Anyone else God brings into our immediate sphere of influence is part of that mission field, too. Let’s brag on God’s amazing work whenever, however, we can.
  3. Telling our experiences to others helps us to remember them with more clarity and for a longer time. In fact, if we write about them in our journals (or on our blogs), they’ll be available for us to review whenever we need to be reminded that God is faithfully at work.

As Moses commanded God’s people, let’s do whatever we can to keep our true, faith stories on our minds, in our hearts, and in our loved ones ears. Let’s be careful and watch ourselves, so we will not forget.

Father, we thank You for Your continual work in our lives. Help us to see it. Help us to share it. Help us to remember in honor of Your name. We love You, Lord! Amen.

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Book Review: How to Talk to a Skeptic

If you’ve ever found yourself challenged by a skeptic, you know it can be a daunting experience. If the skeptic simply wants to share ideas in a mutually respectful manner, the conversation can be beneficial for both of you. Sometimes, however, the discussion can take a nasty turn, so that suddenly, you find the skeptic no longer presenting ideas and trying to understand yours but determinedly trying to destroy all your beliefs. Even if you’re standing on rock solid ground regarding your understanding and practice of faith, this situation can be more than intimidating.

Dr. Donald J. Johnson’s book can help prepare you for this. His goal is to help you, when discussing the Christian faith with skeptics, to keep the conversation on pleasant and mutually respectful ground. I gave my highlighter a workout as I read this book.

In the first section, Johnson helps readers understand that the Christian faith is not a product to be sold. It’s simply the Truth. Our job as believers is not to sell this Truth, but to present it. Those who listen will choose whether to accept it or not. God’s Spirit does the hard work of helping us present the Truth and in drawing others to believe. Johnson goes on to present ideas on how to go about doing your part effectively.

In the second section of the book, Johnson talks about some common misconceptions about what Christians actually believe. I recommend this section to every Christian since many, as Johnson points out, buy into these themselves. Johnson does a fantastic job of presenting Christian doctrine clearly and solidly, according to God’s Word.

In the third section, Johnson gives examples of how to talk with a skeptic by presenting a few possible conversations that might come up and how he would handle them. He makes it very clear at the beginning of this section that it is in no way comprehensive. He has just chosen a few familiar topics as illustrations for readers to consider and learn from. He closes this section with a deeper look into the mind of the skeptic, so readers can better understand what motivates this attitude and, therefore, handle it more compassionately or recognize when it’s time to walk away.

I appreciated the information in this book and enjoyed reading it, too. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy for this honest review. It’s one I recommend.

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Revelation 22:17 on My Mind

NewOMM“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” –Revelation 22:17

I think this must be one of the happiest verses in the Bible. Can’t you feel the excitement? The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” It’s a party invitation. And this party includes free water of life for all who are thirsty. Life. Joy. Everything we need.

A key part of this verse, though, can be found in the first few words. Look who’s doing the inviting: the Spirit and the bride. The Spirit, of course, is God’s Holy Spirit, the One Who draws people to Christ, the Source of the free gift of water in this verse. (See John 4:10-13.) The bride, though, is us! If we’ve received this living water and are on our way to the party (eternal life in Heaven with our Lord), we’re not to be silent about it. We’re to yell, “Come!” As we travel, we tell everyone we meet where we’re going and that they’re invited, too. Just picture yourself walking, or maybe even running, toward the great feast in God’s Kingdom that you’ve been invited to. As you go, you reach out toward everyone you see along the way, eagerly taking their hands, looking in their eyes, and urging them to come with you.

“Come!” you say.

“Come!” the Spirit says.

Those who recognize what they are thirsty for will be happy to go with you.

I’ve written this verse on an index card and placed it where I’ll see it often this week. I invite you to do the same. As we meditate on these words, perhaps even coming to memorize them, let’s remember where we’re going and ask God to help us invite thirsty people to come along. In our prayer time, our thoughts on this verse will help us remember to pray that God will cause all people to recognize their thirst and to realize the truth: Jesus is the living water Who can satisfy their needs for all eternity.

Father, thank You for these joyous words. Help us to think of them often this week. Remind us, as we face whatever comes our way, that we’re on our way to eternity with You. Show us how and when to invite other people to come along. We’re looking forward to that future, happy day. We love You, Lord. Amen.