The Second Time Around

I am learning that there is no such thing as failure with the Lord. God is so imaginative and all-powerful that even what we see as defeat can be merely a set up for a future victory. God does not view events through the limits of time; rather, He views the complete fulfillment of His plan in our lives as they appear in eternity. Jesus has the ultimate victory, so we are victorious in Christ—no matter our falls along the way. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57 NIV). Esther is a prime example of this. She has two dinner parties with the king and her enemy, Haman, who is dead-set on destroying her people, the Jews. Esther invites both the king and her enemy to dine together with her. What an awesome example for us today! When we are being attacked by an enemy, we should always invite the King of the Universe to come to the table. “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him” (Esther 5.4 NIV). The King is ALWAYS ready to sit with us! “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks” (Esther 5.5 NIV). Esther organizes the first dinner party, but nothing happens. Was she scared? Did she chicken out? She didn’t ask for the king’s help to save her people, and that night she may have felt like a failure. Thankfully, though, she organizes a second dinner party for...

To Evacuate or Not to Evacuate

Watching the Weather Channel, I had to make a decision. It was Thursday late morning and I was just about to work out, but a tropical storm was becoming Hurricane Harvey and it was heading our way to Corpus Christi, Texas. Whether it would wobble south or north, I would not know until it made landfall. However, evacuation in my city was recommended at this point, not mandatory. My kids were enjoying their last few days before school started, and I had to choose a direction. I was faced with two different, yet uniquely difficult paths. 1) I would have to prepare my kids for evacuation, hurricane proof my house, find a hotel that allowed pets, grab everything dear to me, pack my car and get on the road away from the coast. Or 2) I would stay in my house, hurricane proof everything, live without water and electricity for days and hunker down through the worst of the storm. Neither decision sounded good, but I had to act quickly. I decided to beat the traffic and get on the road. My husband, who was at work, stayed behind a little longer to close down shop, board up our house and then fight through endless traffic to evacuate. Less than two days later, we watched in despair as Hurricane Harvey ripped through Rockport, Texas, a town only thirty miles from our home. The choice to evacuate our city (Corpus Christi) was voluntary, but it was mandatory for Rockport and Port Aransas and other coastal towns just north of us. Some of my family and friends stayed behind to weather...

New Phone Line

  Recently, we bought our first-born son a new phone for his birthday, so we gave his old phone to his younger brother. My husband took our middle child to the store to get a new phone line for his phone. He was so excited to have his very own number. The only problem was that the person who owned the phone line previously apparently had run up a lot of debt. The phone was getting calls by several collectors daily wanting information about the previous owner. I had to take each call for about two weeks and explain to every person that the phone line had been purchased by a new owner. The debt from the old owner no longer applied to my son’s number because the phone line had been bought with a price. “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6.20 So many times we as Christians drag around the debt of our old selves even though our sins have been completely paid for. Our old sinful self is dead, and we are now a new creation in Christ. Jesus died to pay for our sins from the past and every sin we commit each day. Yes, we are to learn from our mistakes, but we are not called to carry the weight of what’s been wiped clean. We make the mistake by allowing the old debt to apply to our new life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5.17...

The Epaulette Shark

The epaulette shark walks on land….well, kind of. It is the only shark that lives in water so shallow that when the tide recedes at night, the shark is literally landlocked. It is able to live more than one hour without oxygen by slowing or shutting down many of its major bodily systems. Then it uses its club-like fins to push off the seafloor, moving along the land with ease. While other sharks have to retreat in low tide, the epaulette shark can “walk” from tidal pool to tidal pool, eating its fill on all the prey left behind. This shark is undisturbed by other predators and the transient land becomes its feeding ground. God designed that specific shark to go where other sharks can’t go. Just like the epaulette sharks, God designed each of us to enter places other people can’t go in order to reach His people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are all specifically wired to enter certain “tidal pools” of darkness, bringing the Light of Christ with us (Matthew 5.14). However, many times we don’t realize that we have these special abilities until God recedes the waters of our comfort zones. When we feel like fish out of water, we must not retreat back to easy currents. God will bring forth capabilities that we never knew we had, which are only triggered by this “transient” situation. We may flounder a bit at first, but God created us into a unique masterpiece perfectly suited for our new environment (Ephesians 2.10). We will soon adapt and excel. For this reason, we should never compare...

A Necklace and A Movie

“Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.” – Jeremiah 33.3 (NLT) Two recent life experiences have taught me a powerful spiritual truth. The first one happened with a necklace I wanted to buy for a friend. And the second with a movie I needed to watch with my husband. My friend’s birthday was coming up and she had just spent several hours editing one of my books, so I really wanted to bless her with a special gift. When she was younger and doing missions around the world, God spoke to her in a far-off country with shooting stars. She asked to experience Him in a tangible way, and that night He lit the sky with dozens of shooting stars. So I felt like I needed to give her a shooting star necklace. When the desire came to me to buy her a necklace, I instantly wanted to start looking for it, but I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to wait for His timing. I put the necklace on the back-burner of my mind, and almost two months later, God said it was time to look. I found the necklace in less than a minute and it was perfect and on sale. That was the necklace God had chosen for my friend. Another day, I felt like my husband and I needed to watch a movie on the following Tuesday. I kept looking through the movies playing at each theater in town, but nothing looked interesting. I was going to buy tickets for a movie that I really...

A Loopty-loop Life

My daughter, the third child and last born of our family, leaned her back against the measuring stick. Her head was several centimeters into the green area of the line. I couldn’t believe it. She could go on the rollercoaster ride. I could go on the rollercoaster ride! We stepped into line, and my heart raced with excitement. This would be the first time I rode a rollercoaster ride complete with loopty-loops since my first child was born over twelve years ago. The line went quickly, and several minutes later we stepped up to the closed gate as we watched the people in front of us board the rollercoaster seats. They strapped in, and I explained to my daughter about the seat belts and the overhead guard that would lock around us. Then I watched my sons standing with their dad in the line to the right of us. They would be sitting in front of us on the rollercoaster. Here we were: a family of five about to experience something together that we have never done before. I used to watch other people get onto rides. With a baby at my hip and toddlers running around my feet, the days of independent movements seemed to be over. But they weren’t. I stood with three kids that my husband and I had fed, changed, clothed and cared for over the years. And they stood tall and independent like olive shoots. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128.3 NIV) (emphasis added). Olive shoots grow...

The First Step

“First step towards redemption is repentance.” I tweeted this quote the other day. In my mind, I could see an entire process of repentance and redemption taking place in my life, but on Twitter I only have 140 characters or less to explain a Biblical Truth: Repentance leads to Redemption. The first and most important example of this truth is salvation. “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19 NASB). REPENT. RETURN. REFRESH. When we realize that we are sinners and ask Jesus into our hearts, He’s able to redeem our entire lives supernaturally and reconcile us back to God. If Jesus can redeem us from hell, He can certainly redeem us from the symptoms of hell—defeat, depression, poverty, bitterness, heartache, pain, etc. We can now host “the presence of the Lord” on earth because we have righteousness through Jesus Christ, and we enjoy a “refreshing” relationship with the Holy Spirit. The process of redemption starts when God replaces our eternity separated from Him (hell) with eternity reconciled to Him (heaven). “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 NIV). But that’s only the first step. The process of repent, return and refresh can be seen like a wellspring in our hearts. The Seed of Salvation springs to life when we receive salvation. It has supernaturally saved us, but now God wants to work that salvation into all the natural parts of our...

Saint Patrick: A Blessing

  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 15.20 NIV). Saint Patrick was not Irish, but he is now known as the patron saint of Ireland. How did this English young man make such an influence in Ireland during the fourth century AD? God was able to use what was meant for harm to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Patrick’s real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, and he was kidnapped at the age of 6 and sold into slavery in Ireland for about 6 years. He finally made his way back home and dedicated his life to God. He spent the next 12 years studying under his mentor, St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. When he became a bishop himself, he had a dream that the people of Ireland were calling out to him. He received the Pope’s blessing to return to the very people who enslaved him, and he began a massive spiritual awakening in the hearts of the pagan people. Not only did he win many souls to Christ (including both the rich and the poor), he established monasteries, schools and churches all over Ireland. Because of Saint Patrick’s time as a slave in Ireland, he knew the language and culture and could preach to the people in a way that made sense to them. He had so much zeal for the Lord that even after being arrested many times by the Celtic Druids, he still continued his quest to win the hearts of the Irish...

Reading Music

    My son has been playing piano since he was four years old. Now at age 12, he is very good at playing solo music. He has an amazing gift of listening to music and finding the keys by hearing. Whenever he plays a song, he memorizes the music first. This can be a good thing because he can play music without having the notes in front of him. But it can be a bad thing because he reads music slowly since he leans so heavily on his hearing. He can’t just sit down with a piece of music and play each note. He has to study each note first, memorize their order and then play the song. This happens a lot with piano players since much of their study is done alone. In order for my son to get better at reading music, he tried out for our local youth symphony. He made the string ensemble, but the maestro understood that although my son plays very well, his music reading is slow. My son will have to work on reading each note as he plays them and develop that skill. At the first rehearsal, my son felt lost. Not only had he never played with other instruments before, he also fell behind in playing the music. He couldn’t read the notes nearly as quickly as the other students playing violin and cello who had learned to play their instruments among the orchestra. My son who excels in solo playing appeared disoriented and slow. Although he has been playing piano for 7 years, his talent did not show...

The 10-Day Challenge

  “Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days” (Daniel 1.11-14 NIV). Many times God wants to make a change in our lives. We can sense the change, but we don’t have the full vision of what God wants to accomplish. Since we can’t see the end result, it is difficult to make the strenuous steps towards change. Change is hard—no matter how good it is for us. But there is a way to get a glimpse of the power behind this change. We can follow Daniel’s lead and take the 10-day challenge. Daniel replaced royal food with vegetables, and examined to see whether this change had benefits or not. At the end of his 10 days, Daniel was 10 times better than all the rest of his peers! The 10-day challenge is an easy gauge that will help us better see what God is trying to do in our lives. And once we commit to doing our change for 10 days and see the amazing results, the total transfer of habits will be easier to accomplish because we can finally grasp God’s bigger plan. We can do as Daniel did and test what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us, trusting that God always has our good...